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Feedback in 0.13.3

Version 0.12.7 introduced a largely hidden feedback form (accessible from the release notes page, and small note on the local network multiplayer page).

0.13.3 brings an improved about page making the feedback form is now more visible, so I figured I would also make it more apparent here.

The feedback is gathered via a Google Form, and has some optional fields that will be auto-populated if you access it from the game.

Provide feedback

Home screen 0.13.3
  • Made the landing screen more colorful.
  • Added a dedicated About page, with links to feedback, the blog and Google Play.
New icons in 0.13.2
  • A new color for all users: YELLOW.
  • Two new colors for Prime users: DEEP BLUE and BLUE GREY.
  • Five new icons for all users: plus, square (outline and filled) and diamond (outline and filled).
  • Four new icons for Prime users: five and seven pointed stars (both outline and filled).
  • Added a news item for local multiplayer.
  • Fixed release notes not appearin on first load.
  • Fixed spectate mode crashing when trying to spectate a multiplayer game not yet started.
  • Cleaned up how inactive games are handled in the multiplayer UI.
Load game in 0.13
  • Added Local network multiplayer.
  • Cleaned up how player details are shown on game setup and in game.
  • Improved consistency of many small bits of UI.
  • Load game UI updated to make game options more discoverable.
  • Moved game results on to the game screen,
Multiplayer in 0.13

0.13 brings the first multi-device network play to Tic-tac-toe Collection, local network play. With this post I will explain some of the details about how it works and why I made certain descisions.

There are a few types of multi-device play I want to support, but I felt it was important to start with local network. The most important is that I strongly believe as much of the app should work offline as possible. In the long term, it should also continue to work if I stop maintaining any server infrastructure it uses. Another point is that local network play has fewer security considerations. I make a pretty big assumption that you trust who you are playing with, since they will likely be in the same room.

There are two quite separate parts to multi-device process, and these two parts will exist regardless of whether the game is local network or over the internet, private or matchmade, or pretty much anything else. They are device discovery, and actual game data exchange.

For local network device discovery I chose UDP broadcast. The game sends a short message to every device on the network, while simultaneously listening for broadcasts from other devices. It’s possible for networks to block broadcasts (and is quite common for public WiFi hotspots to prevent devices from seeing each other at all) but for most people at home, this will work. No real data is exchanged at this point.

For the exchange of actual game data there are quite a few options, but for the first release I decided on HTTP polling. A big reason for this was simplicity, but also the knowledge that in the future much of the code would be the same when running over the internet.

The HTTP server is implemented using EmbedIO, a small HTTP server that supports .NET Standard. The client uses Refit, a library that generates REST clients from interface definitions and my default choice for HTTP clients.

The structure of the API and data exchanged during play is really simple. There is one GET endpoint for getting the current state and another POST endpoint for sending a change. Additionally, ETags are used to avoid sending state data if nothing has changed.

Overall, the technical side of implementing multiplayer was straightforward. The hardest part by far was designing the updated UI for showing player details, both on the player setup screen and in game. I think there are still improvements that can be made.

A feedback form has been added that is accessible from the About page.

Fixed a single, significant, bug. Custom games of Drop Four allowed the user to play pieces anywhere.

Preview of multiplayer in 0.13

0.13 will bring the first iteration of one of the biggest features I’ve wanted to add since I started work on Tic-tac-toe Collection - multi-device multiplayer.

This first version brings multiplayer to devices on the same local area network - generally devices connected to the same WiFi.

All the options currently available to single-device play are available to multiple-device play. You can join with any number of players from each device and games can be saved and then resumed later. For the first version, they have to be resumed with the same devices (although not neccesarily the same host), but I plan to lift that restriction in the future (it requires more complicated UI flow).

I hope to have a version in the beta channel shortly. I am still working to make the process more resilient to various problems that are common in multiplayer games.

As I said, this is just the first iteration of multiplayer. The next step is likely to be private games over the internet, followed by match-made games over the internet. How soon that will be, I do not know. I have other features I want to add in the meantime. So, watch this space…

Mid-game

Tic Tac Toe Free

Review skipped due to unreasonable permission requests.

Reasonable permission requests:

  • Photos/Media/Files.
  • Wi-Fi connection information.

Unreasonable permission requests:

  • Device ID & call information.

Refusing to install an app because of unneccessary permissions may seem harsh, but is something I think more people should do.

Sadly however, in this case the app is probably not doing anything wrong, but is merely old. It supports Android all the way down to 1.5. In Android 1.5 all apps automatically had access to device ID and call information, therefore all such apps have to require that permission when installed on newer versions of Android, even if they don’t access any of it.

The solution is to release a new version of the app targeting 1.6 and above, which would not need those permissions (the 1.5 version could be left as is and would still be available). But… the app was last updated in June 2013 so that seems unlikely.