GameTimer – Getting closer to a “Beta Release”

January 24, 2013 by
Filed under: GameTimer, iOS 

As I’m not working on a project in January, I was able to spend some more time on GameTimer. To recap, GameTimer is a multi-person timer allowing you to measure how much time each player spends during a board game.

Progress

I’ve spent a lot of time designing the interface. A good part of it was to make it “look good” (and the associated exploration of Core Graphics), but also to make the interface easy to use and suited to the task of measuring time during a game without undue distraction. For example, the first workable version used portrait orientation, and there wasn’t a good way to make the buttons large enough – so I switched to landscape only.

Here’s a look at the current state of affairs:

GameTimer 13 01 24

Each player has his button (similar to people sitting around a table to play a game), displaying his name and the time he has used so far. The screenshot shows that there is some way of coloring the buttons with the color each players uses in the game. (The screenshot shows no color, wood, white and black, but I’ve also coded red, orange, green and blue and can easily add more colors if needed.)

The game can be started by tapping the ‘Start’ button:

GameTimer 13 01 24 active

A few things happen:

  • Player1’s button gets a green glow to indicate that it’s his turn. Also, his time display starts to advance.
  • There is a subtler glow for Player2’s button to indicate that he is the next player. (In the first screenshot this “next player glow” was shown for Player1 to indicate that the game would start with him.)
  • The ‘Start’ button turns into a ‘Stop’ button to suspend timing. (Then the active player becomes the next player and when tapping Start again, the game continues with him.)

There are two ways to advance to the next player: You can tap Player1 or the ‘Next’ button. Both actions make Player2 the active player and Player3 the next player. After Player2 finishes her move, you can either tap Player2 or the ‘Next’ button – the ‘Next’ button works for every player. (I’m also thinking about handling random order, but haven’t found the right interaction for it.)

Limitations

Of course there are quite a few obvious limitations (and some not so obvious):

  • No way to reset the clocks (This is next on my list – the workaround “kill the app” is not exactly user friendly ;-). )
  • No countdown schemes (For now, the app just measure how much time is used, but I want to use different count down schemes. Also need way to indicate time is up.)
  • iPhone only (I want to develop a universal app. Actually, the iPad may be better suited to the use case: The iPad may be placed on the table along the game board, and each player has to press his own button when his move is done)
  • Can’t set the players’  names (The buttons should display the name of the associated player. I also need a way to choose a color for the player. There will have to be another view for this.)
  • Fixed number of players (Currently, there are four players, but the final product should work for two to four players, maybe up to six players on the iPad.)
There is a number of smaller issues that I also have to address (e.g. iPhone5 support, help screens, avoid lock-screen) before being able to release.

Plans

Nonetheless, I’d like to get some user feedback as soon as possible. If you are interested, you can play around with the current state of the app (just send me an email and I’ll make it available to you.) The route that I’ll probably take is to release a minimal version of the GameTimer through the AppStore as soon as possible. While the app is not completely polished, I could make it available for free, get the apps into the hands of potential users (more than in a “private” beta test), get some feedback and may also be able to generate a few positive reviews. Have you tried out this strategy or had success with other approaches? Please let me know in the comments!

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