Happy Halloween! Here’s a pumpkin for you…


A while back I started playing with live wallpapers for Android and wrote something I called Rainbow Circles. A circle follows your touch on screen and can be flung across it, bouncing off the edges of the screen, with a trail of colorful circles following it. The fun part was that it counted the number of bounces. It quickly became a game among my friends to see who could get the highest number of bounces.

I never published that live wallpaper, but when someone on Google + mentioned they were looking for Halloween apps, I thought it would be fun to throw a theme on it and publish it. Instead of a circle, you have a pumpkin which illuminates when bouncing. The beautiful background art was created by Anna Gibson. You still have the trailing circles and bounce count to challenge your friends and see who can get the most! (There’s a trick to getting a lot of bounces… this is easier to pull off on some phones than others. A friend with an Evo ended up with over one million bounces!)

Happy Halloween!



What’s shaking at Shaking Earth


Well, a lot has been going on, but few posts have gone out.

A while back I decided to pull the Camera Streak app from the market. It simply never performed as well as I wanted it to, and while there were certainly people who liked it, there were some really negative comments that I just didn’t want to deal with. If ever I find myself with more time on my hands I’d love to revisit the project to see if I can get it to work as well as I’d like.

Spellbook – D&D 3.5 got a huge update! I finally implemented multiple spellbooks and gave the app a big face-lift. It was obvious that not everyone knew about certain features of the app, so I added an action bar to expose the most obvious features  (search being most prominently featured). Big thanks go out to the creators of ActionBarSherlock, who made my work a lot easier.

before

Before

After

After

I also implemented in-app purchases to try to get some sort of return from this app. The response to this has been pretty mixed. A few of people complain and call me greedy. Some don’t like the tiered structure and feel there should just be a paid app (a pro version, so to speak).
First off, I took off 2.5 weeks from work to develop this version. That’s 2.5 weeks unpaid. So no, I’m not greedy. I really like programming, and I really like D&D, too, but you can’t just ask for features and expect them to come from nowhere. Everything takes time, and sometimes you just have to pay for stuff. Realistically I’ll never get back the amount of money I lost by not working those 2.5 weeks.
There are 3 options for purchase: 15 gp for $0.99, 75 gp for $2.99 and 1000 gp for $9.99. 15 gp gets you one new spellbook, whch is the only thing you can use the gold pieces for right now, though more things are coming. Why did I set it up that way? To give people options, and also just to see what happens. For $2.99 you get enough to add 5 more spellbooks, giving you 6 total. Most people don’t have that many spellcasting characters. Let’s say you add 3, then have a bunch of gold left over for other features. It’s pretty reasonable, I think, and the best deal out of the bunch. But hey, some people don’t want the commitment, so for the minuscule sum of $0.99 you can add another spellbook. This is a great option if you don’t change characters much and just need to keep track of one more, or maybe want to keep another list. Finally, there’s the $9.99 purchase, which gets you 1000 gold pieces! If you’ve been paying attention, that 1000 is probably more than you can ever spend. If, however, you did manage to spend it, there’s a little surprise for you: It comes back. That’s right, you’ll never run out. One other nice thing about this purchase is that it’s available across all your devices and also comes back if you replace your device. If you have an Android tablet or loose your phone, that 1000 gp will be waiting for you as soon as you try to add another spellbook. Dungeon Masters are an obvious choice for this purchase.
Finally, a LOT of people are now asking for the ability to add custom spells. It’s coming. I’m working on it. It’s a bit tricky, but you’ll see an initial version sometime soon.

Other than that, I’ve been trying to figure out where to spend my time. There are a lot of things on my plate. I have to bring multiple spellbooks to the Pathfinder app (which I want to do very soon, since I just started playing another caster myself). I also got very excited when Google launched the API for Google +. Admittedly I’m slightly addicted to the new social network. I started working on an app which will pull pictures from your stream and set them as your background using a live wallpaper. There isn’t quite enough functionality in the current API to make this happen, but I’m laying some of the groundwork. I’m also doing a lot of research and experimentation with user experience elements and different ways of interaction. Based on feedback from my apps I can tell that not everything that should be obvious to people, is. I’m always trying to come up with new ways to display information, new ways to interact with elements which give you a richer experience and make using my apps a fun and simple experience. Making my life easier is why I started this whole thing in the first place!

-Jens



Spellbook – D&D v1.9.1


A small update to the Spellbook – D&D app was published to the market on Monday. I’m preparing for a large update, which will be coming soon, and made a few preparatory steps in this update. Primarily I’ve implemented Google Analytics to track page use. There’s already been a small backlash from this, which is unfortunate. Google Analytics requires the use of the INTERNET and NETWORK STATE permissions, so of course some people are freaking out. However, all data is completely anonymous and handled by Google, not me. Anyway, I hope to use the data to improve the app. For example, during the first day I noticed that Sorcerer seems to be the most popular class among users of the app. That tells me that I should really spend some time to implement filtering or sorting by schools of magic.
Here’s another fun fact: The most popular spell (so far) is Magic Missile, followed very closely by Detect Magic.

In addition to implementing Google Analytics, I also made a few minor tweaks to layouts, making them a bit tidier in landscape mode, and I implemented a new About page.

I used a lot of new (to me) techniques in this, which was also a nice way to prepare for some future user experience improvements in the app. You’ll notice use of images (A cleric bugdroid) as well as small animations when clicking on items. I hope to add more details like this throughout the app to make it more fun to use and more polished overall. I hope you like it.



Using Camera Streak to photograph fireworks


It’s the 4th of July and the US is celebrating. As bbqs end and the skies darken, people gather to see a fireworks show in the sky. It’s a perfect time to ooh and aah and take some fun pictures to share.

The 4th of July provides ideal conditions for the Camera Streak app: Dark skies and bright, colorful flashes of light. Here are some tips on how to make the most of it tonight:

Fireworks Streaks 



Here are some example pictures taken in Streak mode. Streak simulates long exposure photographs, so you can capture streaks across the sky as rockets fly up and explode. Streak performance is unfortunately not realtime, so you have to pick the right settings to get a good result.  The pictures above were taken using a Streak Resolution of 320×240 and a Picture Resolution of 1024×768. If you want crisper images and care less about smooth streaks, up the Streak Resolution setting to 640×480. You might also find that you get better results by lowering the exposure. Do this by clicking the – button a few times. It will darken the sky even more and bright lights won’t be as blown out.

Bursts & manual pictures 

If you want to create some high quality compositions of fireworks, set the picture resolution higher (try 2048 x 1536. Anything higher and you might get an Out Of Memory warning, but it varies by device) and manually take multiple pictures, or use Burst to quickly take a few pictures in succession. You can play with framing and timing to create some cool compositions. Try capturing different color fireworks in different parts of the frame, to create one picture with lots of colorful fireworks.

 

All pictures were taking using the Lighten composite operation (under settings). Screen might also give interesting results, though Darken and Multiply should be avoided in this situation.

Grab Camera Streak from the Android Market and have fun shooting pictures tonight. Share your pictures in the morning!

 

Note: Not all devices support the same resolution settings, so use the settings above as guidelines.

 

 



Spellbook – Pathfinder v2


I FINALLY managed to get a new version of the Pathfinder spellbook app out. I’ve been working on this update for months now, and it’s been a bit frustrating, simply not having enough time to get out a good update. It’s still not exactly what I want it to be, but there are LOTS of great changes in this version.

First and foremost, Advanced Player’s Guide spells and casting classes are now in the app! I’ve added full support for Oracle Mysteries and Patron spells, and I’m quite proud of how easy it is to use them. Mysteries, Patron Spells and Cleric Domains will now properly show in the My Spellbook section along with other marked spells when sorting by class.
Another big change is how spell descriptions are displayed. You might find that they are now easier to read, and that tables display properly.  Additionally, spells now link to each other in their descriptions. Simply click a link to go directly to that spells description.
There have been interface tweaks throughout. In the all spells list, you’ll now see a little mark next to spells marked as favorite. I think this little change makes a huge difference, and I want to get it into spell lists soon. You’ll also now get a helpful popup when scrolling through the list of All Spells, indicating the first letter of the spells you’re browsing through.
Search now works everywhere in the app. Apparently before it would only work in certain views. Just click the search button on your phone anywhere within the app, and search will be activated. I realize that some phones do not have search buttons, and I’m working on a solution for that issue.
Finally, the app no longer installs to the SD card by default. It can still be moved there, but every now and then it seems to cause an issue on someone’s phone, so I decided that I shouldn’t choose the location for them, and instead leave it up to Android to figure out.

I’m very excited to have this update done, and I’m already thinking about the next update, which hopefully won’t take this long to complete. There are a lot of things to look forward to, including many UX improvements and full tablet support.

As always,
Happy Gaming!



Spellbook – PF v1.4


Seems like it’s been a while since I’ve pushed out an update. I got an e-mail about a cleric domain spell not showing up in the My Spellbook section when sorting spells by cleric level, so I went ahead an fixed that, and also added another feature I’ve been meaning to get in. You can now add spells to your spellbook from any spell list, such as the All Spells list, or when viewing class spell lists, by long clicking on the spell, which will pop up the option to add it to your spellbook. It makes it quick to add a bunch of spells in a row and should help when first populating your spellbook.

From Android

I’m looking into adding a spell counter, which would let you keep track of spells cast & memorized, but I still haven’t found a great way to implement it. Some classes have to memorize spells while others can cast away as they please. I’m trying to find a way to appease both.

A note about spells from the Advanced Players Guide. They’re coming! The spells are published under a different license, so I’m not allowed to sell them, or charge for access to them. My plan is to change the app to be free, so that I can include the spells, then charge for the core spells and My Spellbook functionality using the new in-app purchase system Google is releasing in the near future. I’m still figuring out the logistics to make sure everyone who has already paid will not be charged again. I’m aiming for a smooth transition, but can’t make any promises yet. UPDATE: I’m an idiot. I had an exchange with someone at Paizo, and I was wrong about the license. Expect the spells added soon!

Finally, I’m looking into tablet support. I’ve gotten my hands on a Xoom, and there are a few bugs that popped up with the Spellbook app which I need to fix. Additionally, I’d love to make use of all that extra space to consolidate different parts of the app for a better tablet experience.

As always, happy gaming!



Spellbook – D&D 3.5 v1.8, & 10,000+ downloads


So, I had to push out a quick update this morning. It seems that users who had not updated the app in a while were getting a database error. Thanks to Android’s error reporting I was able to find the issue quickly. Hopefully this only affected a few people who were on a much older version.
I’m also continuing to add small screen support, and am tweaking the layouts to work better on those screens. Doing this makes me realize how much I like Android’s theme support. It’s making these changes a breeze.

Oh, and did I mention that I passed 10,000 downloads? It seems like only the other day I was bragging about 5 thousand. I expect it’ll take a lot longer to get out of the 10,000 – 50,000 downloads category, but it’s a nice place to be!

Finally, I added a promo graphic, as a new version of the Android Market is rolling out, which makes use of this. It seems I did it just in time, as the market just updated on my phone!

Alright… back to work.

Happy Gaming!



Spellbook v1.7


A new version of Spellbook – D&D 3.5 has just hit the Android Market. With it comes a much requested feature: the ability to sort spells in My Spellbook by class. Simply click the menu button and select Sort By Class Level.
I also added support for small screen devices, such as the HTC Wildfire or Xperia X10 mini. The layouts on those phones may not look perfect yet, but at least you can get in on some spell casing action.
Finally, I’ve made a few tweaks to the layouts, and clicking on spells in a list should be easier now, as you can click on any part of the line instead of the word directly (thanks Dave!).

Along with working on small screens, next on my list is a tablet friendly version. I’m really liking the Galaxy Tab, and I think there are some ways I can take advantage of all that extra screen space.

As always,
Happy Gaming!



Spellbook – PF


Announcing the launch of the Spellbook – PF app on the Android Market!

Spellbook – PF serves as a quick way to reference spell descriptions for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

It’s goal is to make gaming sessions run smoother and with fewer interruptions. Using the My Spellbook feature, you can store a list of spells for you character for quick access. Each spell includes a notes section, where notes pertaining to that spell can be stored. A good example of this is storing monster stats with a Summon Monster spell. You can also store spells by alphabetical order, or by spell level (accessible as a menu option).

I hope you enjoy this app, and that it makes your roleplaying game sessions that much more fun!


Legal: Pathfinder and associated marks and logos are trademarks of Paizo Publishing, LLC, and are used under license. See paizo.com/pathfinderRPG for more information on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.



Announcement : through the clouds to the moon


Dreamworks

This has been the hardest decision I’ve had to make in as long as I can remember. When Asylum suddenly went under, I was shocked. Never before had I been in the situation where the future was unclear.  I’ve only been married for a few years, and we bought our first home just one year ago. We got a dog, picked up a stray cat…  we were building roots, and suddenly it seemed like all of that was in jeopardy.

I instinctively reached out to my friends,  and before I knew it, people were reaching out to me from all over the city, and even distant parts of the world. It may not seem like it at times, but the visual effects industry is a tight knit group of people who care, and are there for you when it counts.

Suddenly the fear was gone, and the question of how will I do got replaced with what will I do. I had a good thing going at Asylum, and it would be hard to find something similar. But the opportunities I was presented with were all unique and interesting in their own way. In the end it came down to two very compelling options, which would take me in very different directions. In the end I made a decision which surprised me and probably surprises quite a few people that know me. I guess after the company you spend your days at,  the family you were with all this time, gets broken up, you look for some stability in life. So here I am, I’m going to Dreamworks!

But in no way do I think I compromised. There are some very big and very creative challenges that I look forward to tackling when I get to Dreamworks. They have put together an amazing team over there, and I’m looking forward to pushing things in new ways, to creating art in effects. There was a lot of dancing going on in my home when I finally made the decision (me, the dog, the cat…)

Wish me luck!

-Jens