Posted in EpicTable Development on May 5, 2013 at 7:05 pm
I’m sitting in front of the computer, and my 5-year-old daughter, Elaina, calls over, “Daddy, aren’t you supposed to be fixing that drawing?”
(She’s talking about an issue with resizing EpicTable 1.1 character tokens that I showed her earlier.)
“Well, why aren’t you focusing on it?”
“Because I’m returning an email, ” I said with an amused smile.
“But you’re supposed to be focusing on fixing that drawing.”
(laughing) “I know, but this is a customer email.”
“But you’re supposed to be focusing, Daddy.”
Okay, admittedly, EpicTable 1.1 has turned into a larger project than I’d planned, but I want to know which one of you has resorted to paying my daughter to hound me about it.
Posted in EpicTable Development on April 13, 2013 at 12:19 pm
I did some EpicTable 1.1 testing last night with part of my Friday night gaming group. It’s looking much better than last week. But what would one of my status updates be without a weird looking bug to show you? This one, I call the “Player Horde”.
I’d like to tell you that I just have lots and lots of friends named “Scot” and “chris”. Sadly, that’s not the case (for who could ever have too many friends named Scot or Chris?). It’s far more likely that there’s a bug in my participant tracking. If I were to guess, I’d say that the New and Improved Participant Tracker and the Old and Somewhat Inattentive Participant Tracker are furiously reacting to each other’s notifications, each engaged in an existential struggle, trying to be the guy in the know:
“Hey, did you hear Scot just joined?”
“Yeah—I was just going to tell you that. Chris joined too.”
“I knew that, oh and I hear Chris—”
“Before for you go on, I need to tell you: Scot and Chris just joined.”
“Sure, but did you know Scot joined too?”
I’ll get in there tonight after the kids go to bed and break that up.
Where does EpicTable 1.1 stand?
At this point, everything that I expect to work does work. There are just a couple things that need to be re-implemented in the new technology, and they’re fairly low risk things:
- Context (right-click) menus for objects on the map/tabletop.
- Grid drawing
- Snap and size to grid
A lot of this is already done outside of the view and it’s just a matter of reflecting it appropriately in the new view.
There are some things that I’ve been improving or adding opportunistically while I have certain parts of the code open. I really want to talk about a couple new things, but I don’t want to force myself into releasing them if they end up taking too long. I’ll put together a whole “What’s New in 1.1” to make sure I wring every drop of appreciation I can out of the work I’ve put into this release.
Posted in EpicTable Development on April 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm
I haven’t had a bug this interesting since the multiplying coins of 2009.
I was working on EpicTable 1.1 tonight, modifying the dice tray and the way dragging is handled. I have this neat little routine that creates a cursor from an object you’re dragging and the existing cursor. I use then when you start dragging an object, and ordinarily, I reset it to normal when you stop dragging. Here’s what happened when I neglected to reset it.
What you’re seeing there in the red circle is a custom cursor. It’s the result of dragging a d12, then a d20, a d4, a d6, and finally, a d8. It should look like a d8 with the little cursor arrow. Instead, it’s a d8 with a little d6, with a little d4, and so on, as long as you keep dragging dice. Not very functional or intuitive, as cursors go, but kind of interesting.
Speaking of version 1.1, expect it soon. I’m trying to get a build ready for a second internal test this weekend.
Posted in EpicTable Development, Screenshots on March 7, 2013 at 3:27 am
Long ago, a very wise artist/designer/musician, in between trying to coerce me into implementing playing cards, entered a feature request for drop shadows. I had them for some types of notes, but under the old technology I was using, it was just to difficult/time-consuming to implement drop shadows for everything. Now, though, with the new tech going into EpicTable 1.1 for other reasons, drop shadows are quick enough to implement that I can make good on this long-standing promise to “look into it”.
They do add a little spiffiness…. Notice that they’re not limited to rectangular objects like the 1.0 shadows.
It’s less obvious, but borders are at work here as well. The dark grey border around the image of the girl is EpicTable’s doing. Essentially, as I add the 1.0 objects to the 1.1 tabletop, I’m hooking up the Format tab, which in 1.0 is active only for text fields. This gives you access to borders and shadows and other visual tweaks to the objects on the tabletop.
Don’t worry—I’ll get on to more important stuff, like cards and vision/fog-of-war, but as I’m hooking things back up, it doesn’t take that long to add some consistency and polish that 1.0 was lacking.
Posted in EpicTable Development, Screenshots on March 4, 2013 at 2:00 am
EpicTable has had notecards for a long time. But they’ve always been very plain. The text fields in EpicTable 1.0 are all kinds of fancy, but that’s not the case for the other objects in this weird trio made up of notecards, rich text notes, and text fields.
They’re distinct partly because they’re used differently and partly because they were implemented at different times. The downside of their being distinct is that when I made text objects super cool, I couldn’t easily do that for rich text notes and notecards. Now, in the technology overhaul tabletops are getting for 1.1, I have to change these objects anyway. While I’m doing that, I’m taking the opportunity to unify these concepts. From a code perspective, these are all going to be the same thing. That’s good for you, because it means that all these note-like objects will get the same treatment that text fields have in 1.0. As you can see here, notecards get a significant boost in functionality as a result.
There will still be some out-of-the box presets for notecards vs. text fields, for instance, but you’ll have a lot of customizability, and you’ll be able to save your creations. So, if you love mint green notecards, you may applaud now.
Posted in EpicTable Development on February 10, 2013 at 2:42 am
Posted in EpicTable Development on February 5, 2013 at 10:31 pm
I’ve been hard at work on the next version of EpicTable. This will end up being called 1.1 and it’ll be a free update for existing EpicTable users. It’s not done yet, and it’s turned out to be larger in scope than I’d planned, but I’m really excited by some of the improvements–particularly with respect to tabletops and maps. There are several bug fixes, but it’s the major change to the way tabletops and maps are handled that has me most excited.
Here’s a screencast, where I’ll give you a preview of some of what’s coming in 1.1.
You can view it in-page, below, or see the full-sized version on Screencast.com.
Posted in EpicTable Development on December 2, 2012 at 12:33 am
It’s been a busy Fall. I don’t normally talk about what I’m about to update until it’s ready, but it’s close….
I’m in the testing stages on a couple bugfixes for automated error reports that you folks have sent in. (Thanks.) I’ve also done a substantial amount of work on the way zooming and scrolling is handled–especially when you’re drawing. As anyone who’s spent time with the drawing tools in EpicTable knows, you can’t zoom and scroll while drawing…which is kind of sad. The model I had in my head was: “Here–let me sketch this out quick–okay, back to the action.” Of course, that’s not how it worked out. People stayed in draw mode, wanted to zoom and scroll around in draw mode, and badness ensued. Addressing that was surprisingly difficult, but it’s done, minus some testing and polishing. I’m also hoping to throw in a couple surprises, but we’ll see how the next couple nights go.
Again, thank you guys for sending the automated error reports, creating support tickets, or pulling me into your games. I can only address what I know about. I have a really puzzling resource retrieval issue that I’m looking at tonight. I’d really like to get a fix for that in this release, but if it looks like it’s going to take much longer, I’ll finish testing what I’ve got and post an update. Stay tuned!
Posted in EpicTable Development, EpicTable News on July 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm
At long last, EpicTable is ready to cross the line from beta product to released. Note that I don’t call this a finish line. It’s a milestone, but it’s not the end–not by a long shot. There’s a lot I still want to do with EpicTable. There are features which didn’t make the 1.0 cut, and there are brand new features that I can’t wait to get started on. So rest assured, EpicTable is going to continue to evolve, expanding in some areas and deepening in others. There’s plenty left to do.
I want to thank all the beta testers. Your forum posts and emails have made EpicTable so much better than it would have been without you.
What Does the End of the Beta Mean?
As you know, EpicTable is a commercial product. Instead of getting into a big philosophical discussion about why it’s commercial and not free, let me just say, it’s commercial but its pricing and licensing scheme are meant to be friendly to the typical gaming group. You can read more about that in the [forthcoming] article about EpicTable’s "Kitchen Table License Model". I hope many of you will make the transition from beta users to licensed users. To those that don’t, you have my thanks for your participation in the beta. I’ve endeavored to give you a gentle off-ramp, so you have time to move your game.
Transition from Beta to 1.0 Release
- The beta won’t expire until September 1st.
- After September 1st, your EpicTable beta license will convert to a 30-day evaluation license.
- You’re welcome to use the beta right up to the end, if you like.
- The beta will no longer be officially supported, and all new work will be on the 1.0 product
- You can’t have a group mixed, with some running the beta and some running the released product. However, there’s no reason to do that, due to the Kitchen Table License Model.
- Your games from the beta will load just fine in the released product.
What About Features That Didn’t Make It Into 1.0?
The short answer is that I’m continuing to work on them. I’ll continue to take feature requests through the support site and discuss features there and in the forum. There’s nothing that’s been cut from the product—just things that slipped over the 1.0 line. Foremost among those is TrueVision.
So, what’s up with TrueVision?
For those unfamiliar with TrueVision, that’s EpicTable vision and lighting model. There are many reasons why it’s not in 1.0, and they all kind of boil down to my making decisions based on ensuring that EpicTable fulfills its mission to enable you to play any game you want, online, without hassles and technical issues. On a couple of occasions, that’s meant spending time on an area that I’d not planned on, rather than work on TrueVision. With that said, I think we’re arriving at a point where EpicTable can absorb a large new feature like TrueVision, and I know the need is there.
I’ve felt the pain of getting by without it—I was grinding my teeth while running a Pathfinder adventure in an old monastery that just screamed to be run in TrueVision. Not only did I have to live without the feature, but I had to live with the irony that it’s the very first thing I worked on when I started EpicTable. I could swear, if I looked hard enough at the screen, that I could see the dormant code there, desperately wanting to help me out. You see, TrueVision is actually sort of in there—that’s the salt in the wound. Of all the big new features on the EpicTable drawing board, TrueVision is the one with the most code behind it. Some of you have even seen a demo of it at our Gen Con booth. It works…but it’s incomplete, and putting it in would send a release-killing ripple through the product right now. Not so much due to the fact that it’s incomplete, but because so many people have been waiting for it that I expect the feedback and enhancement requests from this one feature to be at a volume similar to that of the 1.0 beta.
So, TrueVision’s not in 1.0. It was a bitter pill for me to swallow, even though, as early as last Gen Con (August) I was making uncomfortable noises whenever I talked about TrueVision and its chances for 1.0. The feature’s not dead. I’m giving myself the time to handle TrueVision right. I have a lot of time and thought invested in TrueVision, and I won’t let it just drop off the list.
What about my feature requests?
Life remains startlingly similar in the post-1.0 world. I’ll still be enhancing the product. In general, I think about the support requests as falling into these buckets:
- Bugs with existing features
- Small enhancements to the way an existing feature works to make it better (e.g., many have requested smaller dice in the chat window)
- Extensions to existing features (e.g., new dice roller options, or new object types to put on the tabletops and maps or new things you can do with them)
- Totally new features (e.g., TrueVision, character sheets, combat trackers)
My plan is to release periodic updates at a similar or slightly lower frequency than the beta builds to address bugs and small enhancements. Larger things will be targeted at larger releases. Honestly, I’m trying to walk a line between giving you more information and inadvertently misleading you about when a feature will emerge. The last thing I want is for someone to buy EpicTable for “tomorrow’s feature” and then tomorrow never comes. I’ll be working on a roadmap, and I’ll share that when it’s ready. What you might see on that roadmap, in addition to some idea of where features stand relative to each other, is some insight into…the “EpicTable value system”, for lack of a better word. That is, how features are weighed against expressed values of EpicTable. That will help you judge how close a feature is… or such is my hope.
Where/When Can I Get EpicTable 1.0?
Here. Soon. Very soon. And at Gen Con next month. We’re doing a bit of a site redesign and getting the e-commerce site setup. As soon as it’s ready, we’ll flip the switch. I hope you’re as wow’d when you see the new design as I was. (Thanks, Brennen.) Seriously—it looks so nice, I almost bought EpicTable! All kidding aside, those who have seen our Gen Con booth or been involved in the beta know that the site branding is out of sync with the rest of the product branding. I just didn’t have the heart to deepen the rift with more of the new product branding entering the scene, in the form of the e-commerce site, CD jacket art, the box set…. Oh—did I say “box set”? Hmm…. Maybe I should talk about that in a bit.
In Closing, Thanks
Whether or not you follow EpicTable from beta into released product, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback, for discussing it in the forum, for telling me what’s important to you. EpicTable is a different product than the one that was in my head back in (I hardly want to say it) December of 2007, when I first introduced EpicTable to the community. I cringe when I think about how long we’ve been talking about EpicTable, but it’s a much better product as a result of all that discussion. In response to your feedback, I’ve released 21 builds since the start of the beta, over half of those since last August. At one point, I knew personally everyone who’d used EpicTable. Now, close to 1,000 people have used EpicTable, and the usage continues to climb month after month. To those who have lent your time and talent and support to EpicTable: Thank you all for helping to turn EpicTable into a reality.
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.
- Alice would draw a red circle, and so this new drawing consisting of a red circle would get sent to everyone.
- Meanwhile, Bob has drawn a black rectangle, and that gets sent to everyone.
- Alice sees her circle disappear, replaced by Bob’s black rectangle.
- Bob sees Alice’s circle replace his rectangle.
- Joe, who got Bob’s message last, sees the rectangle.
- 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
- …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?
“I’m in the room.”
“No, you’re not.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.