EpicTable Box Set

Posted in Announcements on September 16, 2012 at 3:47 am

EpicTable Box Set CoverFor a limited time, there’s a new way to get your hands on EpicTable.

As a tip of the hat to the old D&D box sets of the 70s, we’ve put together our own EpicTable box set. There’s a limited number of these, and they have lot of extra content for a modest bump in price. All the details on on the EpicTable Box Set product page.


Please Upgrade to the Latest Release (1.0.24.1)

Posted in Announcements on August 31, 2012 at 7:23 am

I’ve received a flurry of automated error reports this morning from people running 1.0.23.0. There is a known issue that’s causing you trouble, and for that, I apologize. Fortunately, this is an issue that was fixed last week, so all you have to do is go to the support site (http://support.epictable.com) and download the 1.0.24.1 update installer. (The full install will work just fine as well. The update installer is just smaller.)


The End (of the Beta) Draws Nigh!

Posted in Announcements, EpicTable Blog on August 30, 2012 at 12:03 am

The EpicTable beta officially ends September 1. As mentioned in a previous post your beta license converts to a 30-day eval license thereafter.

The latest version of EpicTable 1.0 is available from the Download page. This is the best place to get EpicTable on an ongoing basis. There, you’ll find separate evaluation and guest versions. Right now, there’s no difference between the guest and the eval. A consequence of this is that, as a guest, you’ve started your 30-day eval. Don’t worry–I don’t want you to use up your 30-day eval as a guest any more than you do. I’ll release a guest version soon that doesn’t start an eval and resets the clocks on evals triggered by a guest version.

Thanks to all you beta testers who helped to bring EpicTable to this point. It’s a better product because of you.
— John


Beta 21 Update: A Squelching of Small Evils

Posted in Announcements on August 7, 2012 at 11:04 pm

There’s an update available for Beta-21.  For those keeping score, the “original” Beta-21 is 1.0.21.4.  This one is 1.0.21.6.  No new features, just a couple fixes. I didn’t want to start selling 1.0 with these things, and while I was fixing them in the 1.0 GA release, I didn’t want to see them in the beta either. As always, if you don’t want the play-by-play, feel free to skip to the bottom and just download the update.

The Changes

A Recurring Villain, Vanquished

One issue in particular has been an small but irritating thorn in my side. It gets reported about once a week. There’s a bug in a third party component I use in the chat window and the notecard editor (or in all fairness, maybe a bug in how I’m using it). I’ve never actually seen it myself, but it’s reported enough to put a little black cloud above my head every time an automated error report comes in. I rewrote the notecard editor to remove the troublesome component completely. I couldn’t do that so easily to the chat window, but thanks to all of your automated reports, I could pinpoint the (thankfully) one place the problem was occurring and fix the component itself. I really think this will put an end to that particular error. Without being able to reproduce it myself, though, there’s a chance that, like the end of an 80’s horror movie, once the heroes walk offscreen, the villain appears in the final frame, not fully vanquished after all. I’m hoping this is a case in which the sequel never gets made. [Cue the 80s-hair-metal and roll credits.]

Friendly Fire

I hate when I break things for you guys…. I broke the feature that lets you use the arrow keys to move things around on maps and tabletops. I unbroke it in this update.

Assembly Dropship

EpicTable carries around many assemblies (i.e., .NET components or libraries), both my own and third party assemblies, inside EpicTable.exe. This was to make things less complex. At one point in the past, EpicTable was a single executable, which I found kind of appealing. There are downsides to doing that, though, and at least one of you ran afoul of them. I think I can best (or at least most entertainingly) illustrate this with a scene from a sci-fi movie.

The “assembly dropship” lands, and just as Joe goes to run out the door, .NET says, “Hey, that’s okay, Joe. You just sit tight. We’ve got our own Joe out here already. We know he’s not a clone or android or Cylon or anything else that’s apt to kill us when we least expect it, so we’re going to go ahead and stick with him, m’kay? Thanks.”

When that happens, you can end up running something EpicTable’s never been tested with. The fix was to stop embedding these assemblies in EpicTable and just install them alongside EpicTable.exe, where they’ll be loaded in preference to (most) other things in the environment.

Predatory Layout Bug

In 1.0.21.4 (aka “Beta 21, The First of His Name”), it was possible, under certain circumstances, for a new EpicTable user to find the layout of the chat window and portrait panel…um…sub-optimal, relative to the rest of the app. If you happen to have used EpicTable quite a bit, you could probably figure out how to get yourself out of this predicament by unlocking the panel layout and dragging them into more appropriate positions. Ironically, this would almost never affect anyone unless they’d never used EpicTable. A bug that preys on the most vulnerable members of the herd? In 1.0.21.6, EpicTable puts things into a known-good layout unless you’ve already moved or resized panels to where you want them.

Getting the Update

You have a decision to make this time.  If you already have EpicTable Beta-21 installed, you can give the update installer a try.  It’s a mere 8MB download and installs wicked fast, as we like to say in the Northeast.

New, shiny, wicked fast 8MB: EpicTable 1.0.21.6 Update Install
 (Use this only if you already have EpicTable Beta-21 installed.)

Safe, familiar, 30MB juggernaut: EpicTable 1.0.21.6 Full Install


Beta 21 – Map Updates, Episode 2 – Drawings and Things Thought Lost

Posted in Announcements, EpicTable Development on July 17, 2012 at 3:21 am

Beta 21 contains part 2 of a large set of map-related updates. If drawings confuse you, if you asked for more control over tabs back at the dawn of time and think I’ve forgotten about you, read on.

I’m about to ramble on for a bit, so if you want, you can just Download Beta 21, and you can get a much-abbreviated version of this in the Revision History page.

For the rest of you….

Here’s what’s in it:

Drawing Just Got a Lot Less Confusing

The Case of the Disappearing Ink

One of the stranger things I’ve ever seen was the appearing and disappearing drawings of one of the beta test groups. I joined their session to see what was going on. Otherwise, it would have been hard to believe. But there it was–a drawing on a map…drawing itself, then un-drawing itself. Other drawings were popping in and then winking back out. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.

Like most weird issues, though, this one had a fairly simple explanation–one that has a lot to do with my having written the initial freehand drawing support for EpicTable at 3am on the second day of Gen Con last year.

I’d pictured the GM drawing on a map, just like he’d draw on a wet erase battlemat. That’s how I demoed it, that’s how I tested it, but you guys are a lot more creative than that.

The Messy Realities of Drawing

My image of a GM drawing while everyone else looked on didn’t match the reality. The reality was a lot messier. Multiple people drawing and people staying in draw mode for substantial amounts of time were both things I hadn’t considered. So, my drawing updates, which were simply broadcasts of the new state of the entire drawing, led to the bizarre effects mentioned above.

  1. Alice would draw a red circle, and so this new drawing consisting of a red circle would get sent to everyone.
  2. Meanwhile, Bob has drawn a black rectangle, and that gets sent to everyone.
  3. Alice sees her circle disappear, replaced by Bob’s black rectangle.
  4. Bob sees Alice’s circle replace his rectangle.
  5. Joe, who got Bob’s message last, sees the rectangle.
  6. Sue, who entered draw mode and has been sketching out a room, doesn’t see any of this. She exits draw mode, and her sketch gets sent to everyone
  7. …but Joe’s entered draw mode already to draw an arrow pointing at Bob’s rectangle, so everyone knows where it’s supposed to be. He exits draw mode, wiping out Sue’s room with his arrow and Bob’s rectangle….

You get the idea–it gets very confusing very quickly, and you see “old” drawings reemerge because someone had it “preserved” by being in draw mode while all the new work was going on.

The Fix, Slaying the Erase-by-Pixel Hydra, and Other Tales

No way around it. I had to rewrite the drawing update mechanism to be stroke-by-stroke rather than entire-drawing. It was a bit of a bear–not made easier by the fact that erasing by pixel results in new strokes. Just like chopping the head off a hydra, when you use the eraser to, say cut a stroke in half, two new strokes are created…but they weren’t drawn, so I don’t get any events for these new strokes–they’re just there. It was a nasty beast to slay, but now, you can have multiple people drawing at once, happily receiving each other’s new strokes. Now, if you both use the pixel-based eraser on the same stroke…well, the monster’s got to win sometimes or it’s not a good story, right?

 

Hidden Moves

“I’m in the room.”
“No, you’re not.”
“What room?”

Have you had one of these conversations? Here’s why.
Prior to beta 21, when you were in drawing mode, you were drawing on top of a snapshot of the map as it appeared at the time you entered draw mode. This works pretty well when you draw, everyone watches attentively, and you exit draw mode once you’ve dazzled everyone with your sketch of the Lizard King’s Throne Room. But that didn’t always happen. Sometimes you’d stay in draw mode awhile. Sometimes people would move around while you were in draw mode.

I say “you” in this vaguely accusatory way–like you should know better. Well, “you” includes “me”. More than once I found myself in a cold sweat over what looked like fundamental synchronization issues. And then I’d say, “Oh, hey–I’m in draw mode.” Clearly, something had to change. You shouldn’t have to know that you’re in a weird state of suspended animation when you’re in draw mode–you especially shouldn’t have to know about this if I can’t even remember it. So it’s fixed.

What changed? Now, when you’re in draw mode, you’re no longer looking at a static snapshot of the way things were when you entered draw mode. You see actions on the map just as if you were out of draw mode. There’s no reason for it to be any other way.

Set Focus (aka “Everybody, Look Over Here!”)

Long ago, several of you requested a feature that would let the GM draw everyone’s attention to a specific map, even a specific part of a specific map. Lots of conversation ensued, and while I was sympathetic to the idea (especially when motivated by the projection setup one of you guys have), there were lots of other things that kept robbing this of the priority needed to get it done. I never stopped thinking about it, though, and as beta-21 was wrapping up, and I was absolutely out of time for another feature…I decided to squeak in another feature.


“Set Focus” allows the GM (or more accurately, people with the right to do so–more on that later) to direct everyone’s attention to his current view. When the GM right-clicks on a tab and selects the “Focus” item, EpicTable notifies the other participants of the GM’s request to switch to a specific tab and center their view on the GM’s view. This notification is presented in the form of a little popup message in the lower-right, such as this one.

Screenshot of the Set Focus notification popup

Let’s dissect this popup a little bit. The requestor and the target map or tabletop are identified in the text, and the user is asked to receiver the focus change. The receiver has a number of choices at this point.

 Accept – You’ll immediately be taken to the GM’s tab and your view will be centered to the same point as the GM’s.

 Decline – Dismisses the notification without taking any action.

 Always Accept – Like “Accept”, but your acceptance will be automatic for future focus requests.

If the receiver does nothing, the note will fade away after about 10 seconds, effectively declining the request. (Later, the fade time and the response-upon-fade will be configurable.)

There are some other options the user has beyond simply answering the request:

 Move the note – you can drag it to a move convenient location, if you like

 Postpone – pinning the note allows the receiver to postpone his decision. The notification won’t fade away while pinned.

 Close it – if you’ve pinned the note and others have come in, or it’s just not relevant anymore, you can close it.

There’s no difference between closing, declining, and letting a not fade away.

Unleash the Drones!

Some of you don’t want the user to respond. You have a computer connected to a projector or big screen, and you want it to just follow your lead. No problem, you can set that computer up to auto-accept focus requests. This setting is located on the “Preferences” tab of the new application menu (hiding under the round dragon button).

This is the same setting that gets checked when you hit the “Always Accept” button. So, if you’ve decided you really don’t want to follow your GM’s every whim, here’s where you’d change revert that “Always Accept” decision.

More Tab Goodies

Sharing the Easy Way

To make a private tab shared, you used to have to close it, go to the map or tabletop gallery and open it as shared. No longer. Now, you get share and unshare options when you right-click on a tab.


Bullet-Proof Shoes

Many of you requested restrictions on the tabletop–not necessarily to reign in out-of-control players, but to stop people from inadvertently shooting themselves in the foot. One of the way people could do that was to hit the close button on a tab. This unshared it, which led to lots of conversations like, “Wait!” (alarmed) “My map just disappeared!”. Now, by default, there is no little red X button unless you’re the owner of the map or tabletop in that tab.

Table Options

“But we liked the fact that EpicTable was wide open! We play GM-less indie games, and we all co-author the world we play in.”
Don’t worry–I’m right there with you. Thus was born the Table Options panel. This is available from the little gear icon on the Main tab of the ribbon.

From here, you can choose between the “GM-Controlled Table” and “Open Table”. The “Open Table” is the “anyone can do anything” EpicTable some of you have grown to know and love. The “GM-Controlled Table” is the new default. It’s still fairly open, but it puts more control in the hands of the GM. It’ll become a little more restrictive over time–right now, it mainly affects tabs and who can share or set focus. Later, it will expand to limit interaction with characters that are not your own.

The Table Options panel is the new place for setting your game’s visual theme. You’ve been able to do this for awhile, but now you have a neat little gallery with sample images that expand when you hover over them.

More Visible Support Options

There’s actually quite a bit of EpicTable information available, but it hasn’t always been easy to find. This tab under the application menu (the round dragon button) aims to help.

What Else?

There were other little bug fixes and things. For a full list of what’s in beta 21, check out the Beta 21 Release Notes.


Beta 20: Map Updates, Episode I

Posted in Announcements, EpicTable Development on June 7, 2012 at 3:09 am

Beta 20 was to be a rather large set of map-related updates. Day-job and family commitments have delayed some of the work I’d planned, so I’m cutting beta 20 into a couple pieces to get you guys some really important fixes.

Download Beta 20

Here’s what’s in it:

Pan/Scroll Lag Fixed

Some of you have noticed significant lag when scrolling the maps (and tabletops), especially under zoom. That’s much improved in this release, which is much more careful about what gets repainted.

Object Placement Under Zoom

Additionally, several of you reported difficulty placing objects when zoomed, or even getting wildly inaccurate object placement. The issue was that zoom wasn’t being taken into account–neither in calculating the landing spot, nor in calculating the bounds of the surface. This is cleared up, and you should have a much easier time of it now.

Themes and Chat Backgrounds

Finally, just a little weird one–I noticed that when changing the theme, only the leftmost chat tab got its background changed. That’s been addressed as well.

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for the next release, which I’m rather optimistically titling: “Map Updates, Episode II: An End to Drawing Weirdness”.


Beta 19 Reloaded: Whispers

Posted in Announcements, EpicTable Development on May 6, 2012 at 2:02 am

Ugh…. I know it’s a beta, but I still hate regressions. It tells me that I’m rushing and that I don’t have enough test automation.

In beta 19, as released Friday night, there was a bug in the chat window that affected whispers. Essentially, each player could only whisper to players who’d joined later, and as a result, no one could whisper to the GM, and the last person to join couldn’t whisper to anyone!
It’s fixed now, and you can download the new beta 19 (1.0.19.3) now.

If you’ve already downloaded Friday night’s beta 19 release, you can just install this latest one over top. If you’ve not already downloaded beta 19, just pretend that this never happened. 😉


Beta 19: Persona Fixes

Posted in Announcements, EpicTable Development on May 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Beta 19 is ready. I call this one “Persona Fixes” because many of the changes involve character personas in one way or another.

Below are some of the highlights of this release.  For a full list of the fixes and enhancements in this release, check out the what’s new page

Just give me the beta! If you just want the beta download, without all the discussion of what’s in it, go ahead and jump down to "How do I get the beta?"

Features and Fixes

Give another player control over a character

Prior to beta-19, you could only speak as and only edit characters you introduced. Now, the GM can reassign control of a character. This enables scenarios like:

  • The GM creates a set of pre-generated characters to pass out to players.
  • A player is absent and one of the other players will run his character.
  • A player’s going to run an NPC (because his paladin just charged bravely into the jaws of a purple worm)

Give control to...

Giving another player control over a character

To give another player control of a character, you right-click on the character portrait in the gallery (on the Characters tab) or in the portrait bar (which by default, sits just below the ribbon, on top of the main tabbed area for maps and tabletops), and select “Give control to…”.

You’ll see a list of players, including yourself. The player list is pretty bare bones right now, but it does the job. Select one and hit okay. EpicTable will transfer control of the character to that player. This means that the character will appear in his character gallery and will be added to the list of available characters in the persona selector of the chat window. Likewise, if control is taken from a player, by assigning it back to yourself or by assigning it to another player, the character is removed from his gallery and his chat persona selector.

A few rules about how this all works:

  • Only the GM or game organizer (which are, for now, the same person) may reassign characters.
  • The GM always can speak as any character and control any character, so he won’t notice any change to his gallery or chat persona selector.
  • Characters can currently only be controlled by the GM and one player. This was done, not so much out of a desire to constrain players as to avoid overwhelming them with characters to choose from. There’s an open feature request to allow any player to speak as or control any character. I plan to implement that feature, but only after 1.0 and when I can make it configurable.

Response to Auto-Reported Errors

There were a number of errors reported via the automated reporting tool (thanks) that I’ve fixed. These had to do with:

  • Character portrait handling in the chat window
  • Character portrait handling and in the character editor
  • Allowing the user to remove all the chat windows

What Didn’t Make Beta 19?

Map Issues Under Zoom

I’ve worked with some of you on map issues–especially snap-to-grid and map (mis)behavior when zoomed. Something’s clearly gone wrong with zoomed maps. They’re very sluggish. What’s more, positioning a token while zoomed has issues that are more than just sluggishness (though that certainly doesn’t help). I’m somewhere between embarrassed and reassured to be able to say that I know maps didn’t always behave this way. My group used maps under zoom a fair bit and didn’t see this problem until recently. Regressions are really embarrassing, but the glass half-full perspective is that this worked before and there’s probably some small, stupid, easy to fix thing behind this. Getting maps working properly under zoom again is my top priority. I almost held beta 19 up for it, but the other fixes were all in the final stages of testing before I became aware of the map issue, and it’s worthwhile getting the resource handling fixes, in particular, out to people.

Edit: I found the source of the sluggishness. It has to do with a change to how I draw the background. It was introduced when I added scrolling of texture-backed maps and tabletops. Looking into a fix now. In the meantime, you’ll find that image-backed maps and tabletops perform far better than texture backed maps. That also helps explain why my group missed it at first–we were using maps from a Paizo adventure path a lot, so we normally had image-backed, not texture backed maps.

Map Drawing Weirdnesses

I’ve observed some of the oddest things with a couple of the beta test groups…. There are some map drawing issues that are spectacularly bizarre. I actually have some theories about these. They’re next in line behind the zoom issues.

How do I get the beta?

Download the full EpicTable installer and run it. (No need to uninstall first.)

To those of you who have already installed the beta:  My apologies–the auto-updater won’t work for this release.  My goal is to distribute updates automatically, so you don’t have to visit this site to know that there are updates.  Sadly, the approach I’d been using for that has turned out to be less reliable and less flexible than I’d hoped.   I plan to replace it before the 1.0 release.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to distribute updates in installer form.

Thanks for your participation in the beta!

– John


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