Who's First?

Over the last few days I've been working on improvements to the Android app I released last year. The driving force for this has mostly been a co-worker regularly asking me when I'm going to add "start order" to the app.

I've spent more than a reasonable amount of time avoiding giving a proper answer to this question; this has been mostly as a result of my brain being stuck on the "List Start" implementation seen in the Start Player iPhone app.

I left the request brewing in the back of my mind for a few weeks.

What is Who's First?

Who's First was written as a quick and easy way to choose the starting player for tabletop games.

I'd grown weary of weird suggestions in rulebooks: "The player with the pointiest ears"; "The youngest player"; "The player most recently in contact with the police",  and so on.

Spending time rolling and re-rolling dice is valuable time spent not gaming.

Entering a list of player names into an app is needlessly time consuming.

I wanted something that worked as quickly and easily with eight people as it did with two.

Simple and Easy

It made sense that the easiest way to select one player from any numberwas to use the device's multi-touch capabilities and have one digit per player pressed to the screen.

Although I've never met anyone unlucky enough to not be able to fulfil this requirement for themself another player can always volunteer an extra digit. 
More often this is useful to represent the player currently occupied setting up the board. 

This was the first release of the app. Until recently I expected it to be the last.

Choosing player order

Maybe I don't play enough games that require a starting order, or maybe it's just because I'd never considered extending my app; either way it took the persistent requests from a friend to set myself and the application on our most recent journey. 

I wanted to maintain the ease and simplicity of the app. A randomised list of names was a non-starter. The flow would be severely disrupted and technically this would involve far more experience in developing Android Apps than I've been able to cobble together from numerous searches on Google.

It took some time for me to reach the chosen solution and convince myself that I would have more than a moderate chance of successfully impending it.

Always On

I added numbers to the final circle positions - it seems so simple in retrospect.
I was initially reluctant to place the numbers inside the circle; I wanted players to be able to see their, and others', value before lifting their fingers from the screen.

I released a beta version with what I now call "values in notification bubbles". I wasn't convinced about the colour choice but hoped the layout was acceptable.

I was quickly talked into the "values inside circles" style by the beta testers.

Leaving the notification bubbles hidden away for a rainy day I started work on the next change.

Let there be choice 

I didn't want the player order numbers to be permanently visible - I really like the simple First Player look and feel for the app. As my gaming group happily used the app for months with only this option I decided that it would make a good default behaviour.

I knew that there ought to be some indication of the app's behaviour before the countdown completes - those multiples of three wasted seconds soon add up.

As with everything about this app, I wanted the solution to feel like it's not there until you need it. Toggle buttons were used for my sanity during development; and completely eradicated at the earliest opportunity.
Checkboxes, toggle switches and various widgets were all considered - and dismissed.

I admitted defeat and went in search of suitably licensed images that could form the basis of my solution.

I spent a magnitude of time longer searching for an Android-only image editing app that supported transparency, more importantly the preservation of it, and didn't insist on saving edited work as a JPEG. Although slightly non-intuitive at first, Image Editor came out a winner here.

Combining this with a public domain Meeple I was well on my way to solving the latest challenge. Two images later and I was the proud owner of subtle but informative icons.

How will they know? 

I didn't want ugly menu buttons to change modes, so I settled on a horizontal swipe to switch between the two modes, and a "swipe hint" that remains visible until you complete your first countdown.
If you manage to miss the hint... sorry!

Under the hood 

Along the way I've made some changes that should be invisible to the user. My apologies if they leak through and cause a negative experience.
I may write a more technical post some day. No promises.

You can help too!
This is my first attempt at writing, releasing and maintaining an Android application.
I've kept the whole thing fairly low key.

I now think the app is in a position where I can try to increase the username, community and general awareness of it.

This is where you come in:

  • if you have an Android device and haven't seen the app: install it from the Play Store 
  • if you have an older version of the app: update and explore 
  • if you have left a rating for an older version of the app: please take a minute or two to re-create with the latest version 
  • if you haven't rated the app at all: please take a little time to do so 
  • join our fledgling community on Google+
  • tell your friends, family, gaming buddies about the app 
I'd like to make more of my tiny little contribution to the world but I can't do it without your help. 

Get it on Google Play

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