Next iPhone app: GameTimer

January 16, 2013 by
Filed under: GameTimer, iOS 

Recently, I’ve started to work on my next iPhone app. The working title is “GameTimer”. It’s purpose is to keep track of how much time each player in a multi-person board game uses for his/her moves.

Game Timer: Usage Scenario

GameTimer is very much a “scratch-you-own-itch” app: My wife and I love to play board games with friends, especially strategy games that require some thought and do not purely rely on luck. (Some classics in this category are “The Settlers of Catan”, “PowerGrid”, “Carcassone”, or “Ticket to Ride”. In Germany, we also have a series called “Game of the Year” that makes it easy to identify new, exciting games.) One constant issue is that someone takes much more time than the others to make his move. (I’m saying “his” on purpose, as it’s mainly the men that get accused of this behavior.) 

Inspiration: Chess Clocks

When I was younger, I played a lot of chess. In competitive games, you always play with a chess clock such as this:

  ChessClock

The following description is take from the wikipedia article on game clocks:

game clock consists of two adjacent clocks and buttons to stop one clock while starting the other, such that the two component clocks never run simultaneously. Game clocks are used in two-player games where the players move in turn. The purpose is to keep track of the total time each player takes for his or her own moves, and ensure that neither player overly delays the game.

Chess clocks also have a mechanical way of indicating when “time is up” (called a “flag”) which is raised by the minute hand and then falls to indicate the exact moment the player’s time has expired. Chess has also come up with different timing schemes, such as “blitz chess” (every player has 5 minutes for the full game) or tournament versions (40 moves in two hours, then 20 moves in one hour) and interesting time control variations.

Extending the idea

It would be relatively simple to code the app-equivalent of a chess clock (and in fact there are some apps of that kind in the app store), but the main disadvantage of a chess clock is that it can only be used for exactly two players, so it can’t be used for the usual strategy games, typically with four players.

So the idea of the GameTimer app is to provide a way of controlling the time in games with two and more players in the form of an iOS app. I’m in the very early stages of designing and implementing the game, but here is a first draft of what the user interface may look like:

GameTimerDraft

Each player is represented by a button with his name, also showing how much time she has used already (or how much time she has left). Some adornments may show whose turn it is and who is next. By tapping the button, a player (or a designated “timekeeper”) can indicate that his move is finished and it’s the next players turn. I will play around a bit with the interface, maybe I’ll also provide a large “Next” button to switch to the next player. Together with my friends I also want to determine if using a single timekeeper works well, or if each player should finish his move on his own. (With a physical chess clock, each player “presses the clock” after making his move on the board.) Obviously there also has to be a way to set up player names, the time control to be used etc. 

So there are quite a few open questions to be answered before I can release a finished app, and I’m very much looking forward to work through them in the next weeks. If you want to keep informed about my progress, please have a look at the marketing page for GameTimer and subscribe to my mailing list. Of course, I also welcome any feedback on my idea!

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