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Where did June go?

6 Jul

It’s been over a month since I posted anything here.  Let me catch you up on what I’ve been working on.

Last night I submitted my 5th app to the App Store: Old School Treasure Generator.  The name is a mouthful, but it does what you’d expect if you’re a user of Old School DM.  Enter the treasure codes from the Monster Manual listing, tap Go and you get a randomly generated treasure hoard.  It’s a simple, one-screen iPhone app.  This started off as a new feature for the Old School DM app, but decided to release it as a stand-alone app for now.  It’s free, so don’t complain too much that it doesn’t generate the values for each gem and piece of jewelry (yet) and roll the random magic items for you.  It’s exceedingly unlikely that I’ll ever add the random magic item generator–primarily for copyright reasons, but also because it would be a PITA to enter all the necessary data.  And besides rolling magic items is fun and (at least in my experience) requires quite a few “thumb-on-the-scale” non-random adjustments by the DM.  Look for this app in the App Store next weekend.

I’ve also been working on two other apps: Old School DM and a new app I’m calling 3″ x 5″.

Old School DM is being updated to work properly on the iPad.  This will be added to the existing version as an update (although I’m sure you all would have been thrilled to buy the app again for the “HD” version like some companies offer, right?).  No ETA on this yet.

The new app (should have been my 5th app, but it will be my 6th since the treasure one was quick and easy), is a spin-off of Hex Map Pro.  Instead of tokens on a hex board, it has 3×5 cards on a table top.  Personally, I like to brainstorm and organize my thoughts on index cards, and since the Hex Map app was (I thought) 90% of an index card sorting app already I decided to create a new app.  Then I started to get clever, excited, greedy, grandiose, or something and added extra features.  It turns out that determining which arbitrarily rotated rectangle is “close” to which other rectangles is non-trivial.  In any case, it’s probably a couple weeks away from being ready for release as a 99c app.  It’ll be competing with plenty of free somewhat similar apps (note taking/to-do/brainstorming) apps and some paid ones, so I have no idea how well it will do.

Once that gets released, it’ll be time to show Old School DM some love and get a new version of that out.  Then back to Hex Map or perhaps a quickie 1st edition AD&D character generator.  That would be another free app to serve as a “gateway drug” for Old School DM and/or Hex Map Pro.  I implemented the logic for that app in Perl a few years ago, so it should be fairly easy to turn it into an iPhone app.  Famous last words of course.


1.1 out; 1.1.1 coming soon

17 May

Hex Map Pro 1.1 was approved today (a week after being submitted, just like every other time).

I’m working on a help/support page which you can find here.  Too bad one of the minor bugs in 1.1 is that the link to the support site doesn’t actually work on the iPhone (and I forgot to add the link to the iPad version).  D’oh.

While I waited for 1.1 to past muster with the lovely and talented App Store app screeners, I found a few non-showstopper bugs.  These have all been stomped out, and I’m submitting Hex Map Pro 1.1.1 tonight.

Fixed with 1.1.1:

  • Fixed the Support link on iPhone; added link on iPad.
  • Fixed the font not always updating correctly in the token control panel.
  • Fixed the background color of the “prior position” “ghost token” when a custom color is used.
  • Fixed a long standing bug where deleting a token selects the oldest token instead of the one created just before the one deleted.
  • Deleted three slow-loading background images that I was using for debugging and weren’t intended for inclusion.
  • Maybe one or two other things that I’ve forgotten.

New features:

  • A new token shape: rectangular!  (hey it’s a bug-fix release what do you want?)

Look for Hex Map Pro 1.1.1 this time next week (unless I hear reports of other bugs that I need to fix and thereby restart the one-week app approval clock.

And for you patient Old School DM users, good news: the updates to make it work natively on the iPad are well under way.  This app has my attention now after Hex Map Pro monopolizing my spare time for the past few months.

Back to basics

10 May

Now that Hex Map Pro 1.1 is in the bag (see prior posting), I’ve decided to return to my roots.  Way back in the summer of 2011, I started iPhone development with a little app called Old School DM.  Over the past few months, I’ve been spending 10-20 hours a week on Hex Map Pro, neglecting my first app.  Now it’s time to rectify that.

The good news is that my work on Hex Map Pro has made me at least moderately proficient with the challenge of writing a “universal” app that can work natively on the iPhone and the iPad.  So I’m ready to take a crack do this for Old School DM.  I think it will be really cool.  And I’m sure you’ll appreciate that I’m not going to try to gouge you by selling a separate iPad only version (“Old School DM HD!”).

Might be a month or two until I’ve done this, but hang in there.


19 Mar

I’ve got another version of Hex Map submitted to the App Store (1.1.2, not to be confused with 1.1.1 that was just released a few days ago).  It fixes one or two minor things (the link on the help page points to the wrong app in the app store, oops).  It also adds one cool new feature and one probably ho-hum one that turned out to be a lot more work than I anticipated.  Now when you have two or more game pieces/tokens centered on the same spot they each get a little red number circle so you can tell you have a stack.  (It look a lot or work to get that to show up in just the right place on the token depending on the size and shape.)  I also added a third style of grid that I call “rotated hex.”  If, for some reason you want the east-west axis to have the straight line rather than north-south, now you can.  That was a pain in the butt.  Back to my geometry/trig scribbles to make sure the hexes drew right and the tokens centered right.  As I said, that has been submitted to the App Store so look for it in about a week, unless I find a bug in which case I’ll resubmit and the 1-week clock will start over.  (I’ve heard people complain about the Apple App Store approval process, but in my experience over the past year, they have published my app pretty much exactly 5 business days after I submit it each time.)

I have my first update to Hex Map Pro well under way.  I’ve added the two features mentioned above of course, and I’m trying to decide what else to add in this first minor update.  I’m playing around with allowing you to pick any color for the token color, but if I run into any snags I’ll ditch that for now.  The next release won’t include any Earth-shaking new features.  Those take time to implement and test.  Expect some cool stuff later in April, but the next release will be simple stuff.

Someone posted a comment on the App Store (5 stars, yay and thanks) that puzzles me, so maybe you can help.  The comment says that the chess board is no longer aligned right.  For both versions of the app, on both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad, they seem to be just fine.  If someone can reproduce what the comment is referring to, please let me know so I can fix it.

No news on the Old School DM front I’m afraid.  I will get back to it, but I’ve been swamped with the Hex Map/Hex Map Pro work lately (to say nothing of my day job).



19 Jan

I had a little trouble getting Old School DM 1.2 out the door, but it’s done.  And I’ve mad significant progress on Hex Map.

Let me give you a little peek into the iPhone app development process.  A couple of months ago, after I had my first “universal” app done (meaning an app that runs on both iPhone and iPad with different interfaces), I thought “why not make Old School DM universal.  So I clicked the button in XCode (the application Apple provides to do iOS development) to make the app universal.  This basically creates some placeholder code so that I as the developer can implement rules about how the app should work on iPads and iPhones.  After a couple of hours I realized that, frankly, Old School DM as my first app is rather kludgy and would be “non-trivial” to make universal.  I’d rather spend the time implementing new features in Old School DM or working on Hex Map than making Old School DM work better an iPad.  So then I settled down to implementing the new features and forgot all about this “universal” stuff. 

Until Monday, when Apple released version 1.2 to the App Store.  I quickly starting rounding up the iPhones, iPod touches, and iPad in the household to update the app on each.  Imagine my chagrin when I started up the app on the iPad and it didn’t work right!  Instead of seamlessly taking the encounters I had created in the app and presenting them within a new “Misc. Encounters” adventure, I’m looking at a screen titled “Items” with none of the expected button.  Oh crud.  After confirming that the problem was confined to the iPad, I posted a warning to the forum and added a warning to the description in the App Store (basically “If you have an iPad don’t buy this app or upgrade!”).  That was no fun.  Then I fired up XCode to figure out what’s wrong.  I had tested the app on the iPad, right?

Remember that proverbial button I pushed to make the app “universal?”  Well, when I decided to abandon that and switch back to iPhone/iPod touch, I didn’t do it right.  I did it well enough so that resulting app was clearly identified as, and acted like, an iPhone app, but it still had some iPad specific code.  So when the app was run on an iPad instead of an iPhone, the user was presented with a mix of my app and some placeholder code.  Oops.  I would have seen this immediately if I had tested the app on the iPad or even on the iPad simulator.  But I hadn’t, so now I was in the awkward position of having a wait a full week for Apple to get around to re-reviewing and re-approving the app.  Or maybe not.  It turns out that Apple has an Expedited Review Process for emergencies.  To make a long-story a little shorter, Apple approved my request for an expedited review and the fixed version 1.2.1 version was posted to the App Store about a day after 1.2 had been release.  Yay, thank you Apple for bailing me out even though it was my own darn fault.

On a more interesting note, I have made substantial progress on Hex Map over the last week or so.  Users are no doubt aware that the current version (1.0.2.) doesn’t save their work.  So every time you leave the app, you have to cross your fingers and hope your map will still be there when you come back.  (Technically, the way this works is that if another app needs more memory than is readily available, the OS will tell every background app “free up as much memory as you can or I’m going to shut you down.”  If, after all the apps have tightened their belts, the running app still doesn’t have enough memory, background apps are shut down.  A well-behaved app is aware of this possibility and saves its work, so that when the user comes back to it, it can restore the session and the user never even knows that the app had been shut down.)  I’ve fixed that.  Now the app continually saves your work so that you can pick up where you left off no matter what.  (As it should have all along, but I was learning a lot of new stuff with this app, so it made some sense to simplify by deferring that piece.) 

In some ways that’s a “big deal.”  It took quite a bit of work to implement that and it addresses a critical limitation of the app.  But on the other hand, it’s not very exciting.  I had been thinking I would hold off on releasing this version until I could include some of the more substantives suggestions people have been making, but I think I’m going to after all.  The upside to releasing a version that just adds this save capability is that people immediately get a more stable product to use.  The downside is that people might think “In the two months since the last release all they’ve added is some back-end save thing that should have been there from the beginning?? Why are they ignoring all the suggestions people have been making?”  To which my answer is: a. there is no “they;” it’s just me and I have a day job; b. no I’m not ignoring the suggestions; I’m looking forward to working on them; and c. forgive me for investing my time on the app that people have actually paid for for a couple months.  Does that sound too defensive?

So anyway, that’s where we are.  Look for a new (boring) release of Hex Map shortly (available in early February probably) and a more substantial release to follow.

Old School DM 1.2 submitted (again)

10 Jan

Last night I submitted the next version of the app to the App Store.  Actually I did it a week before but then I wanted to add one more feature…

Now, in addition to keeping track of hit points and attacks for the monsters in your encounter, you can also keep track of any conditions affecting them.  For example, they could be asleep, entangled, stunned, etc.

This feature was on the short list of features when I first thought up this app in July, but frankly I forgot all about it until someone posted it as a suggestion in their App Store feedback.

I think you’ll dig it.

Almost done…

30 Dec

I’m putting the finishing touches on the next release of the Old School DM iPhone app.  Then I’ll get back to work on Hex Map.

Here’s what’s coming soon to an update near you:

  • The “Encounters” tab gets renamed “Adventures” to reflect a new top-level to the hierarchy.  Rather than you just having a jumble of encounters, you’ll have Encounters organized by Adventure.  Based on the feedback I’ve been hearing, some of you use the app to create adventures or dungeons between gaming sessions.  This update is for you.  So now we have Monsters contained with Encounters contained with Adventures.
  • For each adventure, you set which of four “rules editions” you’ll be using: AD&D 1st, AD&D 2nd, OSRIC, or Basic/Expert.  The only effect this has is to have the to-hit values calculated correctly based on your preferred rules.  For those of you that play different versions, you can have 1st edition and B/X adventures (for example) living side-by-side in the app.
  • Each Encounter now has a place for a description.  Use this to enter any information you want to remember about the encounter between the time you create it and the time you run it.  This could be some combination of “what you see when you open the door” text, strategy notes for the encounter, treasure to be found, etc.
  • You can now remove/delete monsters from an encounter at any time.  We all make mistakes, right?  Now you can fix a few more.
  • Need to modify the to-hit odds for a class of monsters or an individual monster (e.g., for those stirges that “attacks as if they were creatures with 4 hit dice rather than 1+1” or that ogre with the cursed -2 sword)?  Go for it.  You’ll see the THAC0 value computed based on the various rule editions and can override them as necessary.  (Special thanks to Dramaman for his help getting me 2nd edition and B/X rules, testing my logic, and providing the stirge example.)

I just need to clean up the location of some of the controls and add in an adventure summary page that’ll show experience earned across all the component encounters (and test across various devices I have handy), and I’ll be ready to submit it to the App Store gnomes for their blessing.  Hopefully this weekend…