EpicTable Status Update – February 2016

Posted in EpicTable Blog on February 14, 2016 at 3:18 am

Some of you have asked how things are going on EpicTable. Some have even asked if EpicTable is still under active development. Obviously, an update message like this is long overdue…

EpicTable is very much still under active development. I’m working on a mix of things, and I’ve been reluctant to post about them, because the timing is difficult to predict. You might reasonably ask why that’s the case. Predictability is difficult because EpicTable is a labor of love for me. Many of you already know this, but for those who don’t. EpicTable is a nights and weekends project. I have a full-time job and a family. Rest assured that I still love working on EpicTable and don’t have any intention of stopping.

Those of you who have been with me for a long time may have noticed that it’s taking longer than normal this time for me to get out the next update. Here’s the deal with that: for years–literally years–I worked on EpicTable almost every night, seven days a week. There were usually a couple days of Gen Con (note that I don’t say all four days) during which I took a night off, and sometimes a night here or there on a family vacation or holiday, but it was rare for me to be away from EpicTable for more than one night. EpicTable has been worked on at Disney World resorts, cabins in the woods, hotels in Seoul when my wife and I adopted our kids, hotels London on business, airplanes, cruise ships…you get the idea. I was absolutely consumed by the need to get it to a viable state.

As you might guess, one makes sacrifices in exchange for that level of focus. For me, those sacrifices were sleep and exercise. I made a deal with myself that once EpicTable was on its feet, I’d re-balance a bit and not drive myself into an early grave. While the EpicTable you have is still not the EpicTable that’s in my head, I have to acknowledge that it’s met the criteria for my backing off a bit. So, these days, I still work on EpicTable, but it’s not every night. I sleep a bit more. I exercise first, then work on EpicTable. This is dragging out the development work, but it hasn’t halted it.

So, what’s coming up? There’s an update in the works that has some bug fixes. I actually could/should release that, but I’m always a little reluctant to put out an update with just bug fixes when it’s been so long. In addition to those fixes, here are other things in the works:

  1. a rewrite of the chat window in WPF to address issues some of you have seen on newer display hardware. This is coming along well. I’m just forcing myself to be disciplined about it rather than rush to get it out there.
  2. enhancements to the character token to let you attach conditions, value trackers (e.g., AC, hit points, etc.), and dice rolls. As with everything EpicTable, this will be system-neutral and end-user configurable, so that takes a bit more time. I’m toying with the idea of putting out a beta (or alpha) release of this in a system-specific form to get feedback on the basic feel of it while pursuing the more difficult configurability of it. Interested?
  3. integration of the Fantasy Art Kit from Raymond Gaustadnes. I’m not just dumping this on the disk. I’m integrating it into a new file chooser, so that when you choose a character token, for instance, you have the option of selecting a token from that art kit.
  4. cloud-based resource distribution, which is a fancy way of saying that when you use an image for a map or a character token or portrait, EpicTable will handle making that available for download by all of your players from a central source that isn’t you. This means that you’re no longer bound by the upload speed of your computer, which has been an issue for some people.
  5. bulletproof boots for people selecting resources like images for maps, handouts, character portraits, and tokens. This is often the larger part of the resource distribution challenge discussed above. People sometimes shoot themselves in the foot by selecting resources that are way, way too large for their intended use. I’m not throwing stones at anyone. It’s easy to do–I (allegedly) know what I’m doing, and I’ve selected resources that are too large. Here’s what can happen. You’re selecting a map background. You find this beautiful map done by Christopher West over at Maps of Mastery. But Chris’ maps are usually meant to be printed out on a plotter for use at the physical tabletop. They’re huge–often 6000×6000 and 600 dpi. That’s never going to be used on the virtual tabletop. Your monitor doesn’t even display 600 dpi (here in 2016). So, you pay to load all of that across the network (once per player until that “cloud-based resource distribution” is done), pay to load it into memory (if your system even can), and then most of it gets thrown away by Windows as it’s adjusted for your display. That’s an extreme example, but a more common one is selecting a 1000×1000 image for a character token. By default, character tokens are displayed at 50×50. Lets say you zoom in to 300%. That’s still only 150×150. Yet, you’ve transferred and loaded 1000×1000—and it’s worse than you think, because it’s not linear. 1000 is only about 6.667 times 150, right? But a 1000×1000 image is 44 times larger than a 150×150 image! So, EpicTable, as the “user-friendly virtual tabletop”, should just never let you do something like select an image that you can’t reasonably use. But also, EpicTable, as the “user-friendly virtual tabletop” won’t just tell you “don’t use that image”. It will scale it down to reasonable proportions for you and/or suggest options for dealing with large maps that you don’t necessarily want to scale past a certain point. For instance, you can chunk maps up. Ultimately, the EpicTable in my mind, would chunk the map up for you and load pieces dynamically, and you’d never know–basically what Google Maps’ satellite view does. But first thing’s first, right? Start by making it harder for you to do something that’s going to create a bad experience for you.

There are many other things on the horizon, but those are the near-term things. I won’t say how near-term, because you know–sleep and exercise–but they’re at the top of the list.

Cheers,

John

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