By MARGARET DWIGGINS
Fans of word games such as cryptograms and crossword puzzles have a new way to indulge their passion for play with an Apple game application developed by a team of local business partners, with a little help from a teenager.
The game, Crypto-Search, was the creation of Scott Berndt and Rob Weber, owners of Weber and Berndt Enterprises, and their attorney friend, Jeff Fort. Although the partners had a clear idea of what they wanted the game to be, they didn’t know how to create it. A friend of Berndt’s recommended her computer whiz nephew, 16-year-old Kevin Bartchlett, a student at Liberty-Benton High School.
A meeting with Bartchlett convinced the men the kid knew what he was talking about.
Weber admitted he was skeptical at first at hiring a high school student, but Bartchlett “showed a lot of tenacity putting this together,” he said.
“We felt very comfortable if he didn’t have the knowledge he could gain it very quickly,” Berndt said.
Weber and Berndt Enterprises is a partnership between Weber and Berndt that was formed to develop electronic guides for professionals in the environmental and emergency industries. Developing the game app grew out of their discussions on how to build their professional applications.
Both Weber and Berndt are also engaged in other professions.
Berndt, an Army veteran and environmental consultant who also dabbles in inventing, said he came up with the idea for Crypto-Search in 2005 when he was part of the command staff during the Hurricane Katrina cleanup in Louisiana. The staff was issued a daily newsletter which included a word search puzzle. Doing the daily puzzle led him to invent his own game.
Crypto-Search, he said, is “simple cryptography,” with each letter of the alphabet assigned a number. Each puzzle comes with two hints to get the player started. Once the code has been broken, players then do a word search and a word scramble.
The basic app provides simple games. More advanced games are available for an additional fee.
“The harder ones really start taxing your brain,” Berndt said.
Although the app is free, there is potential for profit from upgrades and ad sponsorships. Berndt said he and Weber have not aggressively started advertising yet.
“We discovered that Apple has over a million apps available, so it takes a little work to get it out in front of people,” Weber said.
The app is available through Apple’s App Store.
As of now, Crypto-Search is only available for Apple customers, but Bartchlett is working on an Android-compatible version which he hopes to have completed within the next year. Ironically, Berndt owns an Android so can’t even play the game on his own phone.
Berndt said a printed version of Crypto-Search is featured every month in Findlay Now magazine.
Bartchlett started working on the Crypto-Search app last summer and finished it this spring, and continues to work with Berndt and Weber to work out some bugs. He had no previous experience in writing applications, but has always had a knack for working with computers.
“I taught myself everything on the apps, from programming to publishing,” Bartchlett said, adding that he stayed up late most nights doing extra research.
Pretty impressive, considering that he also plays varsity soccer, participates in Liberty-Benton’s Z-Club and student council and carries a 4.0 grade point average.
He said he made 120 puzzles in all, which required writing millions of lines of code. Each game had to be tweaked for every version of the iPhone. Bartchlett expects he will have to do some code rewriting to make the game compatible for iPhone 6 when it comes out this fall. Software updates may also require rewrites.
Bartchlett’s mother, Jackie, said she and her husband, also named Kevin, knew their son had a high intellect early on. He solved Rubik’s Cube at a young age and started memorizing the digits for the number pi in fourth grade, she said. By his freshman year in high school he had memorized out to 500 digits.
As he enters his junior year of high school this fall, Bartchlett said he has his sights set on college, where he plans to major in engineering or technology. He is in Liberty-Benton’s gifted program and will begin taking some college classes next year.
Jackie Bartchlett has found that Crypto-Search is “not an easy game. You have to be good at brain teasers. It’s a thinking game.”
Bartchlett said his compensation for the Crypto-Search job was a new Macintosh computer and a cut of the profits.
“Right now there is not a lot of profit,” he said, “but it has potential.” Especially if the game would happen to catch on and become as popular as games such as Candy Crush or Flappy Bird, he said.
“It was good experience and a good opportunity to learn,” Bartchlett said.
After successfully developing Crypto-Search, Bartchlett said it was much easier to develop his own game, called Blue Fall. Without any advertising, it was downloaded by over 350 people the first day it was released, he said.
The success in creating Crypto-Search and Blue Fall led Bartchlett to start his own business to build apps and websites for other clients, which he named Salamander Development. His parents supported him in this decision, helping him set up a meeting with an accountant. Bartchlett said he also received some legal advice from Fort.
His “office” is a corner space in his room. While his room is typically messy for a teenage boy, his desk and files are neatly organized, Bartchlett’s mother said.
Berndt said he has already asked Bartchlett to work on another app for him.
“I think the kid’s a genius,” Berndt said.
Dwiggins: 419-427-8477 Send an E-mail to Margaret Dwiggins
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