Monday, April 9, 2012

Dicenomicon Review: Digital Dice?

Introduction

Dicenomicon is a physics based dice roller app for the iPad & iPhone. I believe it's
Universal (one purchase works for both versions, always a sign of a quality company).
The cost fluctuates, but tends to sit around 5 bucks. I will mostly focus on the iPad
version, although both are pretty much identical. The only real difference is the interface
is a bit condensed on the iPhone. It takes a few more taps to get where you are going,
but it really doesn't hurt the user experience - most of the focus is still on the dice
themselves and the most screen real estate is given to that.

There are other visual dice rollers out there, but, in my experience, none have even half
the capability of Dicenomicon. I've heard of non-visual rollers that have the same power,
but if I'm going to use a roller, I want to closest possible experience to actually rolling
dice. Technology should simplify, not completely alter an experience.

UPDATE: Looks like they are working on an OSx version - that is fantastic. According to their forum, it will be able to import "Game Rooms" from the iOS device to the OSx machine.

UPDATE 2: Got a message from the developer, they are working on Local Sharing and other forms of distributing your custom content. 


Interface

The interface is clean, intuitive, and skin-able. It's not often you get to say all three of
those things. In portrait mode, the iPad functions identically to the iPhone version. A
majority of the interface is hidden and the focus is on the dice. A switch to landscape
opens a new panel that holds saved "favorite rolls." To access this panel in portrait, you
only need to hit the little "F" button in the top left.



Portrait

Landscape




















































I tend to work exclusively in landscape, storing all the rolls I know I will need often. For
DnD, this means storing my Initiative roll, To Hit, Damage, Saving, etc. In Storyteller
system games, I merely store a list of rolls labeled "1d10" through "12d10." this allows
me to quickly add my stat and skill, subtract the situation modifiers, and immediately
roll the appropriate number of d10s. In my layout, these rolls automatically total the
successes, including 10-again exploding dice.

The bottom bar is present in both views and quickly allows you to chuck out as many of
whatever type of dice is required. Tap d4 and a d4 goes flying into the dice box - follow
that up with a d20 and a d20 joins the d4. You can do this until you hit the clear button.

There is an ink-quill-looking button that allows you to quickly type in a roll macro on-the-
fly. If you understand the macro programming system, you can use this button to enter
a macro that will roll 10 blue d6 and 4 black d6, for a target number of 5 where the blue
dice add successes and the black remove them. Yes it is this powerful.


Features

Dicenomicon can handle ANY dice requirements. Yes Any. Limited only by your desire
to learn how to write macros and make your own custom dice.

Custom Dice

Yes, I said custom dice. Any number of sides with anything written on the sides. The
interface is relatively unintuitive, but you'll catch on fast if you really want to. It's main
formats are "numerical dice" and "textual dice." numerical dice have numbered sides
(they don't have to show a number on a side, they can show anything, but each side
must have a numerical value). Text dice can also have anything on their sides, but the
value of each side is a text value.

Example of a numerical custom dice: dFudge.

Example of a textual custom dice: Happy Birthday Robot's "And/But" dice.

Custom Dice Window



Roll Macros

The good news: The fine people at Grandreas have provide a pretty good manual.
The bad news: there is a heavy expectation that you have programming experience.

Don't worry, their forums are great and you probably won't need to write 20 page
macros. Let me show you what a basic d10 Storyteller roll looks like:

4 d*10 >_ 8

4 is the number of dice
D 10 is the type
The * means it explodes (10 again)
Greater-than-equal-than sets the target number as 8 or above.




See, not that hard. They even give you a special keyboard of those commands:





It can get pretty complex pretty fast, though, if your system, let's say, uses 2 colors of dice - where successes of one color add a success and the other color removes one.

If your system is crazy and you don't feel like figuring out the macro code, you can always just throw dice like you usually would and figure out your own success.

Programmers, you can make this thing dance. I'm still digging in its functionality. I'm pretty sure there is a way to have it prompt for a variable, but I haven't figured it out just yet.



Game Rooms.

You can store each game you play as a separate "game room" to keep your DnD rolls from getting up in your Savage Worlds. Each game room can have its own rolls, background for the rolling surface, dice color, lighting, mood, etc.  once you set up your game room, you can switch between them in a few taps.

Character Sheets

There is a remedial character sheet function built in.  You can choose from several prebuilt games, including DnD.  It allows you to easily roll a stat by clicking on it.  I haven't used it extensively so I don't know it's short comings (I tend to use interactive PDFs for my character sheets). I do know it isn't very attractive.






Customization


I'd like to just write "damn near everything."

Dicenomicon is really designed for everyone from the most casual player who lost their monopoly dice - through the dice connoisseur. You can select color and texture, even make entirely custom dice with PNG files for sides (your face, kittens, whatever).



A variety of d6 textures and colors.


The most superfluous feature of customization is easily the ability to change how the dice box is lit. You can set the mood in the dice box with dim lighting.


Lighting, all the same dice under different conditions.

Got your lighting right? Now You can customize the physics to your wildest desire:
I know you always wanted to roll d7s with your face on the sides, under moon gravity. It's ok, you can admit it, and dicenomicon can make that dream a reality.

Some Physics Options



What does it lack?

I wish I had more complaints - I'm not a sales rep, for crying out loud. All the features that I feel are essential have already been included. You have the ability to store your favorite rolls for each game, as separate "game rooms". Custom dice. Auto calculation. There is even limited export for your game rooms.  So where is the weakness?
 Exporting.

It's there, but it's really basic and unintuitive. I put dozens of hours into getting my game room perfect, then iTunes decided it wanted to erase my iPad. I lost it all. Also, if I want to transfer a game room from my iPad to my iPhone (since I prefer to make my macros on the big screen) it should be simple.

The only thing dicenomicon lacks is the ability to quickly, easily, and intuitively export a single roll macro, or all "favorite rolls," or custom dice, or the whole game room as a single file that I can quickly email or upload to Dropbox. A simple one button back up to Dropbox, etc.

I can make anything in this program, and that's beautiful, but I feel like its too trapped in my device. I should be able to quickly transfer elements between game rooms.  Currently all you can do is save a backup of the whole game room into the documents that can be accessed by iTunes. I shouldn't have to hook up 2 devices to my computer to quick transfer a game room between the two. If I'm at a game night, and my buddy made an awesome game room for the game we are playing, he should be able to send it to all of us, not have all of us hook up to a computer to transfer. It's a wireless device, as a GM, I should be able to easily give it to my players.

That's it. My only complaint. I was greatly surprised, every time I thought "I bet it can't do this!" and every time it could - maybe not in the way I expected, but having all those features is impressive - even if sometimes unintuitive,

Summary


This program tries harder than any I've ever seen to meet all of your dice needs. Dice are a personal thing (we choose how they look and how we roll them) - they are the extension of our characters possibilities, they are fate and god. I feel the designers of this app understood this fact.


The Good

  • What you need it to do, it can do.
  • If you are looking at a digital dice option, you will not find better than this.

The Bad

  • It doesn't export very well at all - only the bare minimum capabilities for export.
  • Some things are a little unintuitive.
  • Crazy complex dice macros require some basic programming knowledge.