MTG Tracker 6.1 – Supporting casual formats

We just published version 6.1 of MTG Tracker, and is all about casual formats.

We were the first ones to support EDH more than 3 years ago. Long before it got the name changed to Commander. We love casual formats, that’s why It was time to include some other formats that are getting more and more popular lately.

  • Tiny Leaders is getting steam quickly, it is a smaller Commander mode with cards of converted mana cost of 3 or less, decks of exactly 50 card, 25 life points and no Commander damage. Check it out at the official site.
  • Pauper is a format when you can only use commons. Very cheap to build, lots of fun. It has been a format for Magic Online for a while.
  • Duel Commander is a modified version of Commander designed to play one-on-one. Different ban list and 35 life. Check the official site for details.

These formats have now a slot under the formats section, a deck type that checks for invalid cards and in the case of Tiny Leaders and Duel Commander, a game mode.

New Formats

Also, business as usual, the latest set “Dragons of Tarkir” has been added to the app. The cards from “Duel Decks: Elspeth Vs Kiora” have been also added.

Enjoy.

MTG Tracker 6.0 – Material Design

MTG Tracker has been updating a lot, usually UI changes are made gradually, but sometimes they are big. This update is one of the big ones, and I want to take the chance to look back to all the journey.

MTG Tracker UI journey

The app started with a single screen with a life counter for 2 players. Nothing really flashy. New features were added as tabs, Mana Pool, then Stats, then Decks. Tabs were cool on the early days of mobile apps.

1st_versionThen the ActionBar was presented, and with that, MTG Tracker moved to ActionBar + Dashboard. That is the other time the app had a considerable redesign.

dashboard_4.2

Moving forward, and adding features, at some point the app had so many features that a Dashboard was not enough. Also, a new pattern was emerging: Menu Drawers. So, we added one, not a big change, but still important.

02_dashboard_with_options

MTG Tracker with Material Design

And with this, we get to Material Design, the big push from Google with Lollipop. We are adopting quite some new patterns. An image is worth a thousand words.

material design_small

Toolbar replaces ActionBar

The new toolbar has a more obvious drawer icon and the icon is removed from the bar, leaving some space for options and titles. It also has a very nice animation when opening the menu drawer.

There used to be a blue bar under the action bar for extra options on some screens. This is now part of the toolbar, giving am ore consistent look and feel.

Bonus points: Decks also have a Quick Return Header pattern, which hides part of the header when you scroll down and shows it again when you scroll up.

Floating Action Button

In most of the screens, there is a floating action button for the most prominent action (like add a new deck or add cards to a deck or a list).

Popup Menu replaces Quick Action Menu

The extra options for elements on a list were displayed with a quick action menu, which was cool when we started using it, but now everyone is moving to the popup menu with 3 dots, which is also more clean, so that has changed as well.

New simpler, cleaner icons

We also changed the icons of the home screen and the drawer to simpler, more clear versions of them.

Search is now an option on the menu drawer as well as in the main screen. It is much more accessible there than from the icon on the action bar.

device-2015-01-12-144523

Deck Edit is no more

Deck edit has disappeared. It was confusing and was not adding much value. The decks can be edited now at any time. As it was for Card Lists and Trades.

Something else?

I want to change some other parts of the user flow, but that will have to wait another update. No spoilers on that one.

But of course, there is a bit more:

  • Added cards from Fate Reforged
  • EDH banned list has been updated.
  • Fixed a problem when adding the card “_______” to a deck or list.

MOGA controllers and Android TV

I just released SpaceCat HD for Android TV. What it should have been a very simple and straight forward process turned out to give me quite a headache.

If you have a game that is gamepad-ready. Chances are that you are supporting MOGA controllers, simply because they are one of the best. If that’s the case you may also have this problem.

The not-so-obvious problem

If you want to publish for Android TV, you essentially have to do a few things in your manifest (see the full article on developer.android.com):

  • Declare a TV Activity using an intent filter of the category CATEGORY_LEANBACK_LAUNCHER.
  • Add a banner to the application (android:banner=”@drawable/banner”).
  • Declare it as a game (android:isGame=”true”).
  • Specify that it knows how to handle controllers.
  • Specify that touchscreen is not required.

All these are very straight forward, but some of them require you to compile with targetSDK=21 (a.k.a. Lollipop) because is when they were introduced.

Another interesting change on Lollipop is the requirement of all service intents to be explicit. Any non-explicit one will throw an exception on runtime. This requirement is triggered when you compile with targetSDK=21.

And, obviously, the MOGA library does use a service with a non-explicit intent.

The invalid approaches

The first approach is to compile with a lower targetSDK, but then you can’t be on Android TV since the required manifest options aren’t available.

The second approach is to remove MOGA support, but then, the people that has those controllers will stop to have it supported.

The third option is to have multiple apks, one for Android TV with targetSDK=21 and another one for everyone else with a lower targetSDK. This sounds reasonable, but there is no clear way to separate Android TV from the rest and -as I was told by a Google Dev advocate- this was done in purpose.

But hold on, there is one more option, and it is the most obvious one, once you think about it.

The obvious solution

You just need to modify the code of the MOGA library to make it be an explicit intent. Except that the library is not open source.

It was pointed out to me by Robert Broglia, developer of Snes9x-EX+, that you could just use a decompiled version of the library, and then modify the init method. As you can see on his github project.

I’m really not a fan of having full libraries inside the source code, so I tried to just extend the controller to replace the init method for one using the explicit intent, that would have been a few lines of code, but the class is final.

At the end I created a new Controller that uses the explicit intent (and basically everything else is the same) and placed it under the package com.bda.controller.

It could have been easier

All this could have been much easier if

  • MOGA had updated the library
  • The Controller class wasn’t final

If you have a game that is MOGA-enabled and you want to port it to Android TV, I hope to have saved you some headaches.

Kendama SpinOff 1.0 Released

A while ago, the British Kendama Association released SpinOff, a physical game for kendama that includes several wheels with tricks and even 3 play modes.

Now, that game has made it to Android Phones (and to iOS soon), making it the second kendama related app of Platty Soft.

Screenshot_2014-12-15-16-29-15_framed

 

So, if you are a Kendama player and are quite bored of same old games, give SpinOff a chance!

Note: You need a real kendama to play this.

Kendama SpinOff on Google Play

Leonids Lib 1.2 – Meteor Shower

I just released an update of Leonids Lib. It includes feedback from previous versions both from github and the workshop I gave at GDGFestDublin.

Changes

From this version on, speed and acceleration are using dips. This makes a lot of sense, since the library should work together with the standard concepts of the Android framework. Animations should me much more consistent among different pixel density screens now.

Previous versions were using pixels, so you may want to review your parameters when you update.

New Features

There are some new configuration options:

  • emitWithGravity: Allows you to emit from a specific side of the View and particles will be emitted along all the edge of the View. i.e. Gravity.BOTTOM will create a rain-like effect. Default is Gravity.CENTER.
  • updateEmitPoint: Allows to dynamically change the point of emission for the particle system (useful to follow the touch along the screen)
  • stopEmitting: Will stop creating new particles, but the existing ones will keep animating (this is different from cancel, which also stops the already spanned ones)
  • emit now has methods to emit from a specific point on the screen given x and y instead of from a View.

New Examples

Also, new examples are being included to showcase the new features:

  • Emit with Gravity: Simulates a rain-like effect using Gravity.BOTTOM.
  • Follow touch: Creates a trail of stars following the touch on the screen.

libdemo_rain

You can also check Leonids Lib github page and/or get Leonids Demo from google play.

KendamApp 2.0

There is a new version of KendamApp – The Kendama App out there. It includes 32 new videos and my favourite feature so far: Self Certification.

MTG Tracker on Google Play

Self Certification

Until now you could track your accuracy per trick, and then see how close you were to pass an exam, but an actual exam… that is another story.

This new feature allows you to try for a self certification. It tracks all the attempts of all the tricks and it tells you if you passed or not the grading.

As in a real exam, you don’t have to keep going with a trick after you’ve completed the required hits, and as in a real exam, you stop as soon as you miss one trick.

It also keeps track of your attempts to the grading. Note that the tricks performed during the self certification are not added to the trick tracking feature, it is a different feature.

An image is worth a thousand words, so here’s a screenshot of the self certification in action.

KendamApp Self Certification

Happy clicking!

Accessing expansion patch files bug (and solution)

You may have used expansion files on Android. They are very handy when your app goes over 50Mb which, for games, happens pretty soon. In my case I have KendamApp – The Kendama App which has an extensive library of videos included.

The expansion files are organized on a main and a patch files. Each of them can be up to 2Gb. Since uploading them can be a pain, you can reuse them from one version to the next.

There are 2 libraries provided with android SDK to help managing expansion files:

  • downloader_library: Which purpose should be obvious.
  • zip_file: Which is a nice utility to manage expansion files via a content provider. You should be using it if you are using videos.

Also, if you are going to use videos, do not compress them when zipping the obb file.

Updating only with a patch file

Essentially, if you are going to add a few assets, it is better to use a patch file and reuse the main file. It will save lots of bandwidth and time.

You don’t have to re-upload the main file and users do not need to re-download it. Everyone wins.

Except that it may not be too straight forward when using the zip_file library.

The first pitfall (a.k.a. the undocumented feature)

First thing first, you should know that if you do not add some meta-data to the AndroidManifest, the library is going to look for the versions that match with the version number of the app. I don’t recall reading this in the documentation. I actually figured it out by reading the code.

So, the content provider on your AndroidManifest should look like this:

<provider android:authorities="com.plattysoft.zipprovider" android:name="com.plattysoft.provider.ZipFileContentProvider" >
   <meta-data android:name="mainVersion" android:value="17"/>
   <meta-data android:name="patchVersion" android:value="18"/>
</provider>

The second pitfall (a.k.a. the terrible bug)

Then, I realized that every time I tried to watch one of the new videos the app was crashing. I checked for the main and patch files and they were properly downloaded and inside the obb directory.

Something weird was going on.

Digging with the debugger, I ended up in a function that is supposed to return an string array with the name of the available expansion files based on the version numbers and after checking that the files do exist.

static String[] getAPKExpansionFiles(Context ctx, int mainVersion, int patchVersion) {
   String packageName = ctx.getPackageName();
   Vector<String> ret = new Vector<String>();
      if (Environment.getExternalStorageState().equals(Environment.MEDIA_MOUNTED)) {
         // Build the full path to the app's expansion files
         File root = Environment.getExternalStorageDirectory();
         File expPath = new File(root.toString() + EXP_PATH + packageName);

         // Check that expansion file path exists
         if (expPath.exists()) {
            if ( mainVersion > 0 ) {
               String strMainPath = expPath + File.separator + "main." + mainVersion + "." + packageName + ".obb";
               File main = new File(strMainPath);
               if ( main.isFile() ) {
                  ret.add(strMainPath);
               }
            }
            if ( patchVersion > 0 ) {
               String strPatchPath = expPath + File.separator + "patch." + mainVersion + "." + packageName + ".obb";
               File main = new File(strPatchPath);
               if ( main.isFile() ) {
                  ret.add(strPatchPath);
               }
            }
         }
      }
      String[] retArray = new String[ret.size()];
      ret.toArray(retArray);
      return retArray;
}

Except that it was returning a single string and not two. So, paying extra attention I noticed this specific piece of code.

if ( patchVersion > 0 ) {
   String strPatchPath = expPath + File.separator + "patch." + mainVersion + "." + packageName + ".obb";
   File main = new File(strPatchPath);
   if ( main.isFile() ) {
      ret.add(strPatchPath);
   }
}

Of course it couldn’t find the patch expansion file, it is constructing the name using the mainVersion number instead of the patchVersion. Event the File variable is called main!

Copy and paste is an anti-pattern.

I have checked the latest version of this library that comes with the android SDK and the bug is still there. I’d check where the code is and send a push request. In the meantime, you know what you have to change to fix it.

Safe scenarios

You would not encounter this bug if:

  • You are not using the zip_file library.
  • You are not using a patch file.
  • Your main and patch files have the same version number (you update both).

MTG Tracker 5.9

It’s been a while since the app became version 5.X, hopefully this will be the last update before we move to 6.0, which will include material design.

But let’s focus on this release. Commander 2014 is about to hit the shelves and here is another update of MTG Tracker.

MTG Tracker on Google Play

ChangeLog

  • Added Commander 2014
  • Added Duel Deck: Speed Vs. Cunning
  • Improved filters on card lists (notice of filtering and option to clean the list)
  • Fixed CMC sorting (cards with 10+ CMC were out of order)
  • Fixed name of Valor, Call of the Herd & Altar of Dementia

Card Lists in detail

Until now, there was little to none information about if a list was being filtered or not, just the amount of cards displayed Vs. the total cards in the list.

In previous versions, the filter criteria was shared among card lists, which was a bug that has been solved. Now each card list has now its own criteria.

Also, filters are now cleared when you exit the card list. Before this version they were stored even among application runs, bringing lots of confusion. Combined with the previous bug, it was quite confusing. I hope to have solved all that issues.

Finally, there is a new easy & prominent way to clear the filter of a list as soon as some cards are being hidden by the filter.

device-2014-11-07-162517_framed (3)

Happy taping.

GDGFest Dublin & Playful Design

Playful design is a term that comes from the games industry, it means juiciness, it means maximum feedback for minimum input, it means delight the user.

In my talk at GDGFest Dublin,  I talked about animations, transitions and how playful design fits into material design.

Playful design works at subconscious levels on the users, they prefer to use your app to another one, but they won’t be able to tell why.

This has been one of the big differences between Android and iOS: How the default components managed the transitions. It seems minor, but devil is in the details. With material design Google has made a big statement of just how important playful design is.

It is very easy to improve the playfulness of any app with very simple animations that are available on the Android framework. That will make your users happier, without them being able to tell you why.

The slides of “Playful Design: What, Why and How” are available on Google Docs.

IMG_20141101_122952