New Android App In The Works

Day 1: Exploring layouts for the main screen.

So last night I started work on my second Android app. While I very much want to make a Pathfinder version of my Spellbook app, I decided to go with something totally different, which will hopefully expose me to different features in Android, which then might make their way back into the Spellbook app. Someone somewhere (link forthcoming) created a challenge to create a game and make $1 from it in the month of October. Meanwhile, Meg has been blogging away on her site, and we thought it might be fun to make a game that ties into her battle with the queue.

While not a lot has been finalized yet, we’re leaning towards a trivia game with intermittent moments of frantic action. The app will also let you view her reviews and her Netflix Queue.

I’m thinking of some fun areas to explore… live wallpapers of movie posters (for the app, not the home screen, though I suppose it could go both ways), notifications of new articles, etc. And of course I have to figure out how to code up a game… should I use openGL or vanilla Android stuff? The coming days will tell…

The schedule is pretty short, and I have a large project coming up at work at the end of the month, and I’m out of town this weekend… so really it’s not looking very good as far as actually making the deadline. But who knows?  I might as well try!

Spellbook, v1.6

One of the most requested features has finally made it into the Spellbook, D&D 3.5 app. You can now view spell lists & domains for all the standard casting classes. They are presented as collapsible lists, so you can click on the Level or Domain header to open or collapse a group of spells. You can also access the Menu to collapse or expand all spell groups. I’ve also added short descriptions to each spell in this view, as you would find in the Players Handbook. I hope this will make spell selection and planning easier.

I also added a What’s New dialog popup when you first launch the app or upgrade to a new version, which will inform you of any changes, and also addresses the most commonly asked question:
Q: Can you add more spells from the Compendium or other books?
A: Unfortunately only spells from the SRD are open gaming content. Spells from the Spell Compendium or any other book are copyright protected. If you do find additional Open Gaming Content, I’ll be happy to add it in.

If you open up to the first page of the Spell Compendium or PHB2 or other book with spells in it, you’ll find some legal information stating that the content can absolutely not be used without written permission. I’ve gone ahead and written in for permission, but Wizards of the Coast has not gotten back to me.

I hope you enjoy this new version. Next I’ll be adding sorting by class and level for spells you’ve added to your spellbook.

Happy gaming!

5000 Downloads & Programming Snags


The Spellbook – D&D 3.5 app has hit 5000 downloads (5112 as of this morning)! That puts me in the awesome 5,000-10,000 category in the Android Market. I’m getting more comments all the time, and the feedback has been great. I’m definitely listening to all the suggestions, and I’ve been hard at work on the next release, which will finally let you view spells by class and level. This release has taken a lot longer than I expected, and along with several life things I’ve had to deal with, I’m hitting some real road blocks in Android programming and Java. I’m still working my way through a Java book, but on the Android side I’m having a harder time figuring out the source of errors than usual. That being said, I really do hope to have it done this weekend, but that involves overcoming one giant hurdle I’m battling with right now (and I keep rolling 1’s!?!).

One interesting thing I found is that even though I haven’t had many updates, the download rate only dropped a small amount. I’m very curious about how people are finding the app. Feel free to leave a note about it in the comments.

This weekend I also hope to get back to our D&D game, which has taken a bit of a hiatus. Assuming I can figure out what to do with cleric domains (there’s really no good way of fitting them into an organized structure), I hope to get some more play testing in :).

If you  have any good recent gaming stories, I’d love to hear them.

Cheers & happy gaming!

Spellbook, v1.5

With Megan’s help, we updated over 100 spells to cross-link to one another. So if a spell refers to another spell, getting there is now even easier.

spell links

Spell linking

This week has been particularly busy, but I’m looking forward to the upcoming 3 day weekend to get in some of the most requested features. Also, I’m reading Head First Java, which I highly recommend if you want to learn Java programming (which you’ll need if you want to make Android apps.)

Happy gaming!

Keeping steady

While the official numbers I have on the Developer Console are 6 downloads short, I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt and will go ahead and say that my Spellbook app has been downloaded 2000 times now. That comes 8 days after I reached 1000 downloads, which also took 8 days to reach. That means the app is continuing its very steady pace, which I find somewhat fascinating.

I don’t have statistics about who is downloading my app, but based on visitors to this website, it’s being downloaded all over the world, though the vast majority of people are from the US (and then Germany, for some reason… maybe cause I have family there, so I’ll consider that stat to be skewed).

It’s been a very busy week at work, but I’ve gotten a little bit of programming time in, and am hoping to post a new update this weekend. The research I’m doing will also help me put together the Pathfinder version, which I really want to get to soon, now that I’ve started playing a new spell caster in my pathfinder campaign.

Finally, a word on my recent programming experience: I’d just like to say that content providers in Android suck. Maybe it’s just me, but while they seem like a great idea, I’ve spent way too much time actually getting them to work, and all the benefit seems lost on me right now. Maybe if the documentation and examples weren’t so spread out and incomplete I would feel better about the whole thing. Here’s  hoping I don’t have to work tomorrow, so that I can get some ‘work’ done.

Spellbook, v1.4 (oops)

Oops. As much as I’d like to spend hours testing every version before I publish it, I barely have time to code at all. As such, I had my first ‘oops’ just now, though it wasn’t really a bad one.
The new Notes field in each spell is working fine, except that on spells with short descriptions, where the text enter field is already on screen, the on-screen keyboard would pop up automatically, which was rather annoying.
I’ve implemented a quick fix and published a new version. I’m hoping not too many people had to upgrade twice.

Spellbook, v1.3

It’s been another busy weekend coding, and v1.3 includes some helpful features. A lot of people have been asking for ways to keep track of various information. I’ve added a generic Notes: field to every spell, which I’m hoping will come in handy. You can use it to keep track of rounds, spells cast, modified attributes, etc. While I intend to at some point implement a better way to keep track of some of that information (such as spells memorised & cast), this is a temp solution which will likely have many other uses, such as the one in the screen shot below.
I’ve also started to implement proper search. From anywhere in the app you can now hit the search button on your phone to pull up the standard search box. Type any word or partial word and hit enter to be presented with matching results. The one piece of this which I’d like to improve upon is search suggestions, so that as you type in the search box, you are immediately presented with matching spells. I’ve found this to be particularly difficult to implement, so it didn’t make it into this weeks release.

I’ve also changed the scrolling on the About page, which seemed to not work for people with Samsung Galaxy S phones.

Finally, I’ve gotten a lot of requests for the functionality to store multiple spell lists. I guess a lot of you play multiple spells casters, which is cool. It will require some amount of restructuring of the app, and adds some amount of complexity to the interface, but it is something that will make it into the Spellbook app. It just might not make it in the next few weeks.

As always, happy gaming!

1000 downloads & plenty of ideas

After just 8 days,  there have been over one thousand downloads of the Spellbook app. The feedback I’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive and helpful. That says a lot of things about both Android and D&D, I think. For one, the download rate is pretty steady. To be honest, I’m not sure how people are finding the app… I had the most daily downloads on the day I published, probably due to it being in the ‘Just in’ section, but since then it’s been very consistent. Since the app is targeted at a very specific audience, I have to assume that people are searching for it and spreading it through word of mouth. As Dungeons and Dragons is a group game, one could assume that if one person in the group tries the app, they’ll at least tell the other people about it, who might then download it as well, assuming they have an Android and are playing a spell caster (and maybe even if they don’t… I mainly use the app as a DM).

It’s also nice to see that so many people are still playing 3.5. I was listening to a podcast the other day which reminded me that fourth edition had been out for 2 years already. Based on an extensive survey, most people have moved on to either 4e or Pathfinder. I find myself in the 2nd group, and getting out a Pathfinder version of the app is something I want to do very soon. One thing I’m not sure about though, is where to spend my efforts first. Below is a mind map of feature requests, bugs, and things I’m working on. I think that as is, the app is already very helpful, and I’m using it during gameplay all the time, but to make this app truly awesome, there’s quite a bit of work to be done, and unfortunately it requires a lot of rewriting of code. So the question is, do I get the Pathfinder version out as is, or do I spend the time rewriting the code and implementing features, so that I can just do it right the first time (for the second app, anyway)?

spellbook ideas

Spellbook ideas

Spellbook, v1.2 & play testing

I’ve released v1.2 to the Market:

  • Fixed Polymorph Any Object
  • Tweaked formatting on a lot of spells

After finding another broken spell (thanks J M!), I spent some time reformatting some of the spell descriptions. The biggest issue I’m having right now is with tables being legible. I’m trying to figure out the best way to rearrange them in a way that makes them easy to use on a small screen. You can check out Prismatic Wall to see what I’m talking about.

We also had another D&D session last night (with bbq, yum), so I got to do the first bit of play testing since the release of version 1.1. While there weren’t a lot of spells cast, I did however find that spell filtering came in very handy, but I agree that it’s not as obvious as having a search feature. I like how the contacts app works: if you hit the search button, it launches the search, or if you just start typing, it launches the search. I’ll have to see if I can get something similar going.
Another bummer was that the SRD is already showing it’s limits. There were several spells that my wife couldn’t add to her spellbook. Really it was only a tiny fraction of her spells, but it’s an issue to consider. Adding the ability to insert your own spells is something I’d love to add to the app, but it will require some restructuring.

If anyone has used the app during game play and would like to pass along their thoughts, please do!

Spellbook, v1.1 & 500 downloads

4 days after first publishing,  Spellbook has it’s 500th download.   The feedback has been great so far. I’ve been busy coding all weekend, and have released version 1.1 with some new features and a few fixes:

The biggest and most helpful feature I added is filtering, when viewing All Spells. Simply start typing, and the list of spells will be filtered down to match your query. The nice thing is that any part of the spell name will work: Typing ‘magic’ will display both Detect Magic and Magic Missile. In addition, when scrolling through the list, you now get an overlay displaying the first letter of the topmost spell, which should help you find your spot when quickly scrolling.

Tip: If you’re using a phone without a physical keyboard, you can pull the keyboard up at any time by holding down the menu button. This will work for anywhere in Android, and enables you to filter the All Spells list in the Spellbook app.

Additional Changes:

  • Improved book cover image (texture fixes)
  • Updated Summon Monster and Summon Nature’s Ally spells. Previously the list of creatures one could summon was listed as its own spell. This has been broken up and moved to each appropriate spell by level.
  • Fixed Summon Nature’s Ally IV
  • Fixed Nightmare
  • Updated About text
  • Various behind the scenes code changes

I’ve gotten some great feedback and suggestions. I’m collecting all the info and will check out what’s feasible. If you have a thought, don’t hesitate to e-mail me (use the e-mail link in the Android Market).