Monday, January 26

A Digital Digression

As I've discussed over the last couple of weeks, one of my goals for this year is to get back into hobby publishing, like I did in the early years of Reiver Games. I've got all year to do that though and there are more pressing things on my plate - like the NaGa DeMon Winners' copies of Dragon Dance (and bonus Zombology) to finish and get in the post.

I've made no progress on either of those things this week though. Not even taken any more pre-orders for the as yet unannounced game (still at 4/50!).

Instead I've been focusing on a couple of my Windows Phone apps. I'm technically a programmer by profession, but over the last few years I've been moving into more of a project management/team leadership role, so I don't get to do much actual coding anymore. I still enjoy it, but with little practice in the office my skills are atrophying, so I've been making a few apps for my Windows Phone (bought because I could make apps for it in the languages and tools I 'use' in my day job). Several of these apps have an audience of one (Codename: Vacuum randomiser and recorder anyone?), but a couple of them, while written for my use and as a coding exercise, potentially had a bigger audience, so I've uploaded them to the store.

The first of those, BGG Last Plays was an app version of the excellent Last Plays by BGG User Heroku App. I wanted this as I'd set myself a goal of playing every game I owned at least once last year, and I was using that webpage to keep track (but I wanted a few extras that were easier to implement in app format). One of my goals for this year is to make another version of this which makes it easier to keep track of this year's gaming goal: To have played every game in my collection at least ten times.

The most recent app I've added to the store (which is starting to get some downloads finally) was a pass-and-play version of the Martian Dice game by Scott Almes.

I had a trip away for work this week, so I had an evening to kill, plus five hours on trains, so I took my laptop and decided to work on my apps. The first priority was fixing a crash in Martian Dice that had been reported three times in a week (despite only 16 people owning it!). I had a stack trace showing me where it happened, but couldn't reproduce it myself. Still the stack trace was enough information to fix the problem. No soon had I done that, then my mate Mal pointed out a rather glaring bug in the undo functionality: if you rolled any tanks in a turn you could forget them by clicking undo! That totally broke the game :-( So I fixed these two problems (and made a couple of usability tweaks recommended by a user on BGG).

With the urgent things fixed, and still some time to spare, I moved onto making the Last Plays app support my new goal. I've added the ability to sort by the number of games played, and to select a number of plays below which a game is highlighted. 26 days into the year and I've already completed one of my goals for the year! I've also added a link to the game's BGG page if you press and hold its listing in the app.

On Saturday night I published both of these updates to the Windows Store - they should both be available now.

With these out of the way, I can now focus on the NaGa DeMon winners' copies of Dragon Dance and Zombology. I've printed and made the games, it's just the rulebooks and box labels outstanding. I've got a few hours on Tuesday night while babysitting for some friends that I can apply to this task, plus if necessary a bunch of hours on trains on the weekend, while I go down to Bedford to see my mates down there for a games day.


GamesBook said...

Your audience *might* be bigger if you were coding for Android. But if getting users is not an objective, and this is more for "tinkering", then have fun!

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Derek,

Yes, were I writing Android or iOS apps the audience would be many times larger, the Windows Phone market share is still quite small. But as you say, I'm not in this for the fame or the money, I'm writing the apps for myself and sharing the ones that others might be interested in just for fun!