While we struggled a bit getting past the security tests for our non-Lamba custom skill, Hangman was finally published today. Utilizing card images, audio clips and a large variety of greetings in addition to a 60,000 word database, we created this game primarily as a learning experience and just because it was fun to do. We would really appreciate any feedback the community would like to share on this skill - admitedly, we are kind of pleased at how it turned out. Thanks, Laurie
Hi Skillsai, great skill! I was wondering if you would be able to pass along the code for this? was interested in making my own category and putting in some custom words to support a specific project I am working on. Would this be possible?
>At least the likes of the Huckster.io competition should increase the number of high-quality skills.
Color me skeptical. The entries, so far, are mostly along the lines of OMG I WANT A FREE ECHO. People just throwing any old thing up in the hopes that they will win prizes. Just like all the T-shirt competitions.
The first page of the 33 entries breaks down like this...
Fortune Cookie: 1
API Wrapper: 9
Home Automation: 3
Nothing here I would class as a "high-quality skill". However, it's not up to me. It's up to the people who glutted the skill list with template skills by giving free T-shirts away. That's the team that will be judging these...
Yes, my inclination was to play the underdog as well :) I will have to find some time to have a proper go now I know it couple of tips. At least the likes of the Huckster.io competition should increase the number of high-quality skills. It will be interesting to see how many entries they have and even more interesting to see the code and read about how they were developed.
I had not noticed that Google was searching for skills rather than skillsai (which auto-correct just made into skills). Once I forced it to look for skillsai it found you and signed up to your newsletter. Silly of me not to just try
skillsai.com! My unique customers went up to 44 after my post yesterday so at least this Showcase has some effect.
>I found your StarLanes skill via a mention on an article rather than in the skill store
We've been trying [i]very hard[/i] to get press mention. It's about all we can do. We can't do an ad-buy because there is no permalink to send people to that gracefully degrades.
>the competition looked a bit one-sided when I looked at the leader board.
Hitotsu is pretty high on things. However, there's the challenge of playing the underdog. :-) (I play Futatsu!) One advantage is it's pretty easy to rise up the ranks and become faction leader. And, in any event, the way the geography is set up, you can just flip your configuration into a courier, and a half dozen or so skips and you are in unexplored territory, and can carve out your own niche.
>Is there something for actual Echo/Dot/Tap owners such as a mailing list from Amazon of new skills?
Amazon put out a weekly newsletter. But it's pretty lame. 90% is promoting their own stuff and intrinsic features. 10% covers skills, but as often as not it only covers big name vendors who they have commissioned to be there.
The newsletter is done (I believe) by the marketing team. What exactly their aim is for the Echo, I haven't quite been able to work out. They did something crowing about the number of skills there are, and listed a whole bunch of icons. The selections was... odd. All the big brands, of course, but for the rest they seemed to mostly choose at random.
I would have thought something like StarLanes would be a god send to them. I mean, it's an MMO! On Echo! There have been top users who spent up to an hour a day playing. That is phenomenal engagement. But they seem more interested in promoting some portal-2 quiz game. I can't figure their angle.
Mark, thank you so much for your kind words! We are currently polishing up a write-up for the Hackster contest that goes into pretty good detail about how we built Hangman - it should be up tomorrow. Single letter utterances works really well, except for the letter E - which is, of course, the most used letter in the English language.
No matter who says it, Alexa translates an "E" response into an "I," but we reported that to the Amazon dev team via Dave, so hopefully they can figure it out. But our work around was to allow any word starting with the letter and then we strip that off. We are, in fact, a team of coders. We started Skillsai with the express purpose of creating skills for this platform, and have quite a few things in process. Hangman was the first skill we created just to get to know the vagaries of the platform and what it took to certify a custom skill that doesn't use the Lambda service. We weren't even going to publish it, but then the Hackster contest came out so we thought that it could be fun to try for the prize. Our much more complex skills certainly benefited from creating the game. Don't know why you couldn't find our website - it's just
www.skillsai.com. Hangman only got published fairly late in the day yesterday, but I would be happy to share our usage numbers--when we have some. ;-) We do have one more game we are going to publish in a couple of days, and then we will be focusing just on our primary products. But we have a list of more than 30 things we'd like to build, if only we weren't all still working our day jobs...
Thanks for the usage info jjaquinta. I'm not sure if it makes me happier or more sad though! I found your StarLanes skill via a mention on an article rather than in the skill store. I have to admit I've only run it once as I have not had time to spend a decent amount of interaction with it and the competition looked a bit one-sided when I looked at the leader board. Thanks for the info on EchoSubWar - I've had a quick look at it already. At the very least I will study the code for tips on what is possible. Good luck in the competition! I agree with you on the glut of narrow interest skills, particularly basic trivia skills. As I'm in the UK I am running Amazon Voice Services on a Raspberry Pi 2 rather than owning an Echo. Is there something for actual Echo/Dot/Tap owners such as a mailing list from Amazon of new skills? If not Amazon should be offering a daily or weekly digest of new skills to encourage their uptake. If they do so they would of course need to use Amazon's superior email functionality that it uses for lists rather than the forum software that does not seem to work!
> I am a bit disappointed with this given there are supposedly "millions" of Amazon Echo customers. Discoverability is my #1 issue with Amazon right now. Given the glut of narrow interest skills, wide interest ones are drowned out. Once you slide off the "recently released skills" page, you are lost. No one will ever find you. My top skills once hovered at around a thousand unique users a day. But I've got these very depressing graphs showing that decline, over time, as the skill tab gets glutted. Now they are down to a tenth of that. If you are happy being part of a bigger project, rather than the sole creator of a small project, you might look at
https://github.com/jjaquinta/EchoSubWar This is closed to submissions, for now, as it is an entry in the hackster.io competition. But at the end of may it will be open for community submissions. If you want to work on enriching the second multi-user interactive skill for Alexa (StarLanes was the first), that will be an interesting project. :-)
I tried your skill out this morning and am very impressed and sad :( Having recently published my first skill, Daily Buzzword, I had been looking for something a bit more challenging to write and had decided Hangman looked like a good bet just 3 days ago! I had found it on a website about games to play by text message on a mobile phone. Your implementation of the skill is excellent! I was thinking of using ASCII graphics rather than card images as I thought they would take me longer to create. I had also wondered about single letter recognition and was thinking of taking the first letter of a word as you do, which works fairly well. I was wondering how best to handle my dictionary of words. Can you tell us any more about how your skill is implemented? I like that you have not only allowed for the use of different word lengths but also categories. You certainly have put a lot of effort into the skill! Are you a team of coders? I could not find skillsai as a website. I would be interested in your usage numbers for the skill. So far I have had 15, 16 then 5 unique people using my skill each day (1 of whom is me!). I am a bit disappointed with this given there are supposedly "millions" of Amazon Echo customers. Off to try and think of another project now!