Rolling Dice on iOS

This is a quick review of some dice rolling apps on iOS, specifically ones that let you make custom dice.

For this example, I’m recreating dice from Roll Through the Ages, an excellent dice game from Gryphon Games.  It’s a six-sided die (d6) with images on each side. In each app I will use the same 6 images and background to recreate these dice.

Here’s what the dice look like in Roll Through the Ages


The Apps

Dicenomicon ($4.99)

This is a deep program, that offers lots of options.  You can set up dice-rolling equations for the most complex and arcane dice math you could ever need.  However, it has so many features that it’s somewhat confusing to use.  It took reading a tutorial to figure out how to create a custom die. It is also not very stable, especially when creating custom dice.  It took me 10 or so attempts to finally get the dice created (when scaling my images to fit on the die face it would crash). The actual dice rolling works nicely, and has good physics. It requires a couple taps to “hold” a die


Photo Dice ($0.99)

The exact opposite of Dicenomicon is Photo Dice – almost no features, but what it does is very easy to use. Creating a new die (only d6, as opposed to Dicenomicon which can do any number of sides) is a couple taps, and assigning an image to each side is super fast and easy (and no crashes!).  Dice rolling is similar to Dicenomicon, but holding dice and moving them around only requires a single tap, so it’s quicker.


Mach Dice ($1.99)

The next step up from Photo Dice is Mach Dice, by the same developer.  It takes the ease of use of Photo Dice and adds the ability to create more than just d6 dice. It also has 5 playfields, so you can set each playfield with a different background image and dice configuration and switch between them.

Mach Dice does have more of a learning curve than Photo Dice, but nowhere near that of Dicenomicon. You create a custom die with a number of square images, then when you add a new die to a playfield, you specify the image set to use for it. The only difficulty here is that all image sets are square images, if you use those images to create anything other than a d6, the images will be mapped on the die face and masked to that shape, so for example a d8 will use a triangular section of the square image you have set.  Knowing exactly where the image will be cropped for any given die requires a lot of trial and error, this could have been made much easier by providing a template for each die face.

The die rolling area is similar to Dicenomicon – unlike Photo Dice, there is some space taken up by a header bar, so plan image placement accordingly for backgrounds.  Dice rolling itself is great, with the same system for holding and moving as Photo Dice.

Dice Forge ($4.99)

Similar complexity to Mach Dice is Dice Forge.  However, creating custom dice is a multi-step affair that you can’t actually do in the program itself. It will export templates (simple unfolded texture maps) that you then have to edit it Photoshop or your editor of choice, then re-import into Dice Forge. It’s not something you can easily do on the go, so you’re going to need your computer to make new dice. Once you import the texture, you add dice to your dice pool – which is an extra step compared to Dicenomicon or Photo Dice, where you just tap a die to add it directly to the table. The die rolling is lackluster, small dice fly across the screen when you click “roll dice” – rather than using the gyro to allow you to shake the dice like Dicenomicon or Photo Dice, Dice Forge uses a “shake” to simply re-trigger the throw animation, which has nothing to do with how you shake the phone. It makes the dice feel less physical. When you hold dice, instead of anchoring them on the table when you reroll, like the other apps, Dice Forge moves them offscreen to a “held” dice pool, so it’s extra steps if you want to view all the dice after rerolling some. There is also a “flyby” mode where the camera rotates around the table showing your roll. It’s pretty but serves no purpose. Overall, Dice Forge has the least satisfying rolling experience of the three. There’s also no option to change the background image.



Dicenomicon has all the features you could want, however it has a learning curve and hasn’t been updated in a while and has some annoying bugs.

Photo Dice is basic but fun to use and cheap – if all you want are custom 6-sided dice, this is the app you should get.

Mach Dice keeps the ease of Photo Dice but adds different die types. Not as many features as Dicenomicon, but also easier to use. Making dice other than d6 requires a little trial and error to see where the crops will happen, but overall this is my favorite of these dice apps and the one I’d recommend most.

Dice Forge has the flexibility to make custom dice of any type, but little else.  The dice are tiny and the rolling doesn’t “feel” as good. Overall it feels overpriced at $5.


PDAs I have known

I was thinking about it yesterday, I’ve had quite a few PDAs over the years.
I’m probably forgetting one or two, but here’s the ones that come to mind:

Casio BOSS organizer
I actually had 2 or 3 of these in succession, but I don’t remember the brand/model of the first ones. The Casio BOSS was handy – it fit easily in my pocket and stored all my phone numbers and schedules. It didn’t have any fancy extras, but it got the job done and had great battery life.

Casio Databank calculator watch
Ah, what nerd hasn’t had a calculator watch at some point? I was really fond of this one, though – although the memory was limited, it was still plenty to store all my phone numbers and schedule. And being a watch, the battery lasts for YEARS.

Palm Pilot
The first PDA I got with the ability to install apps. The Palm OS was lightweight and efficient, and there were a lot of people releasing free apps for the Palm. Good times.

Palm III
The Palm III improved on the Palm Pilot’s screen and memory and was just better in general.

Palm IIIxe
The PalmIIIxe was the same as the Palm III, but with more memory and I think a faster processor.

Kyocera Smartphone
Combined a Palm with a cellphone in a form factor that was not unlike duct-taping the two devices together. Still, I could check my email when out and about, and even though the web browser was hacky and barely better than Lynx, at least it was something.

Dell Axim X5
A capable PDA with a color screen. Bulky in design, but a nice device. Running Windows Mobile, it was more capable than Palm OS, but also not very optimized. There were also less apps than on Palm OS, and unlike Palm, most Windows Mobile apps weren’t free.

Tapwave Zodiac
I really wanted to like the Zodiac, it used the Palm OS and had a pretty color screen. The controls were perfect for games… however, the underpowered processor, small RAM, and terrible camera meant I ended up returning it after a week or two.

Dell Axim X50
A big improvement over the Axim X5, the X50 had a beautiful full VGA screen (even today, many PDAs are lower-res than that), a fast CPU, and WiFi. The mobile IE was pretty bad, but usable. App selection was ok, although one flaw with Windows Mobile is that if an update to the OS was released, each PDA manufacturer was responsible for working with Microsoft to create a custom build of the release for that PDA. Which meant that you were pretty much stuck with the OS on the PDA, and could only gaze wistfully at updates.

Danger Hiptop 2 (aka Sidekick 2)
Sexy design with a swiveling screen. However, a crappy CPU, crappy camera, poor app selection, and bad web browser had me returning it not long after getting it. It did do AIM real well, but that was about it.

iPhone 3G
My current PDA. Sleek and powerful, it comes at the expense of battery life. I didn’t get the original iPhone because at that point there were no apps for it. With the 3G iPhone, Apple launched an app store and a flood of applications quickly appeared. Interestingly, the main menu GUI is pretty much the same as the Palm Pilot, from way back when.

One thing I have noticed: over time, CPU and RAM has gotten better, but batteries really haven’t improved much. Which means I have over time gone from a PDA that could run for weeks or even months on a charge, to the iPhone, which can go maybe 2 days.

iPhone 3.0 beta

Important to note:

if you are a developer, if you download the beta of iPhoneOS 3.0, if you install it on your phone, you cannot go back to an earlier version of the OS!

This means you’d be stuck with 3.0 beta on your phone until the final 3.0 release comes out sometime this summer.

Also, if you download the 3.0 SDK, you can’t submit anything you develop with it to the app store until after the final 3.0 release this summer.

Important gotchas to keep in mind.

That said, I doubt I’ll be able to resist the temptation to try it out.

iPhoneOS 3.0

There’s an Apple announcement today, so of course the nerd world is all a-twitter.

Apple just announced the features of iPhoneOS 3.0.

To sum up:

* App paid expansion packs (i.e. Buy City Guide app, then buy a city pack for it)
* Push Notification (apps can get alerts when not running, like IM alerts for example)
* Peer-to-peer Bluetooth connection (for exchanging business cards, 2-player games, etc)
* Accessory communication (create custom accessories, like a glucose meter that talks to the iPhone via Bluetooth or dock connector)
* Turn-by-Turn navigation is no longer banned (expect to see GPS apps soon)
* Google Maps API (put Google maps in your app)
* Cut, Copy, Paste, Undo (copy and paste between apps)
* Landscape mode for standard apps (use bigger keyboard in Mail and Message)
* MMS (send photos and audio clips to other cellphones – no video tho)
* Voice Memos (record audio clips, you could do this before with 3rd party apps, but now built-in)
* New Calendar file format support (support for standards used by google cal and others)
* Stock app features (now with news)
* Spotlight Search (search in standard apps, such as iPod or Notes, plus global search)
* Stereo Bluetooth (for wireless headphones)

Available NOW as a beta for developers, later this summer for release.
Will be a free update for iPhone owners, $10 update for iPod Touch owners.

I’m excited, lots of good stuff in there, and other minor stuff not mentioned.

Betcha the servers will be bogged down when I try and get it tonight. =)

iPhone gripe

So I really like my iPhone. Yes, it has flaws, both hardware and software, but there is one hardware limitation above all others that I run into every day: the pathetic 16GB of storage.

It might seem like a fair amount, but coming from an 80GB iPod, it’s not nearly enough. I can only put a fraction of my music library on the iPhone, and every time I want to add a new album, I have to remove one, a dark sacrifice to appease the Apple gods.

This morning, I thought I had enough space to add a new album without removing one – no luck, only half the new album would fit.

16GB is just *too small*! 32GB would be great, 64GB would be fantastic.

Ok, rant done.

LiveJournal iPhone app!

About time!

Using the web interface was cumbersome, using the email posting method was OK but limited in functionality… but now there’s an app for it. Yay!

One thing that seems to be missing from this app is the ability to set the “mood” value. I had to set that through the web interface. =(

Also didn’t test the “Music” field, to see if it auto-populates with the song you are listening to… I think iPhone keeps that info hidden from non-Apple apps, so not sure it could do that, so that might be another missing field…

And landscape support would be cool, to allow a bigger keyboard…

WIth those few changes, though, they’ve got a clean little app for posting!

(Also note: the “location” is my GPS coordinates when I posted! kewl.)

— update —

On his LJ page, the guy who wrote the app says the next version will add “Mood” and “Music” fields, though he’s also not sure if it’s possible to get the current song from the iPod app.

iPhone Case

I got a case for my iPhone – previously I had just been using an old dice bag.

The thing that caught my eye about this case is that it actually adds a feature to the iPhone that was missing.

It’s the Griffin Clarifi and it has a little lens that you can slide in front of the iPhone camera to give it a macro mode for close up shots.

The normal iPhone camera has a focal length of like 2 feet, so trying to get any kind of close up shot is an exercise in blurriness. The Clarifi not only seems to be a decent case, but the lens actually does the macro thing pretty well.

Here is a comparison of shooting without the Clarifi lens and with it.

iPhone camera without Clarifi:

iPhone camera WITH Clarifi:

It still doesn’t change the fact that the iPhone camera is pretty low-res and generally poor, but at least now I can take pictures of notebook doodles and other documents, which is a nice thing to have handy.

p.s. In case you’re wondering what the nutritional label is from, it’s Cactus Jerky. Spicy Teriyaki Cactus Jerky.