Introducing Quint Dice!

I’ve been working on a game for the last few months in spare time. It’s a dice game called Quint Dice, a social dice game. What makes this different from so many dice games out there is that it’s based on dice that have color pairs, and you can play it with more than two players.

What I’d like to avoid with Quint Dice is pay to win forms of revenue. Currently there are no bonus rolls. I’ll eventually add some, but you won’t be able to buy them or stock pile them to gain advantage over your opponents. I think I’ll add one bonus roll per game, and if you don’t use it in that game it goes away. I may also add a second bonus type – an extra dice. The idea is to add a level of strategy and flexibility to the play, without allowing a fundamental shift in advantage for one player or another just because they paid for an advantage.

The only revenue source built into the game at launch is a small banner ad at the bottom. I’d also like to add custom dice packs, and maybe some full on themes. I’m hoping this will be enough to turn this into something that pays for itself. I may also play with interstitial ads, but only as a voluntary way to earn points to buy custom dice packs and themes without shelling out cash, for users who prefer that route. I like this better than pestering players with involuntary interstitial ads as a way to get them to pay. Annoying players is not my favorite model, no matter how common it is in mobile gaming. Finally, there will eventually be an option to remove the ads.

I built Quint Dice with Meteor and React, and I would like to eventually port to React Native, but I’m using Cordova for the time being on Android and iOS (soon!). Like so many of the projects I play with under the unFocus banner, this has mostly been a learning exercise. But I’m happy with the results, and thought I should probably dust off this blog, and may start to share some thoughts I have as I develop these things.

To kick that off, I’ll share a couple of things I learned while getting this out the door, in no particular order. If you’d like to know more about any of these items, please leave a comments, and I’ll see about writing a follow-up post.

  • Facebook integration is easy/hard. Getting notifications to work seems pretty easy, but getting a canvas app to work posses some challenges, particularly where advertising is involved. You can’t use AdSense inside an iframe, which is needed for FB canvas. Instead you’ll need to go with one of Facebook’s approved ad vendors. They all have that institutional feel to them, if their websites can even be reached. Not a fantastic dev experience. The solution I’ll probably go with is to create a Facebook canvas based landing page, and then flow my users to my domain from there, instead of having them play within the canvas page.
  • Meteor’s accounts system is awesome! With very little effort you can get up and running with a full accounts system, and there are a ton of Meteor packages to expand functionality. I ended up building custom UI in the end, but to get started I used the off the shelf accounts-ui, so I didn’t have to wait. I’ll probably be using a link accounts package to add the ability to associate facebook, google+ and maybe other third-party accounts services (Amazon perhaps) to existing Quint Dice accounts. I may also use an account merge package to make it so users can merge their accounts if they accidentally sign up with two different auth sources and want to combine their accounts into one. There are two different packages for that – and these are the kinds of things that make Meteor so fantastic! I can’t think of another platform where something like that is so easy to set up. Setting this up has some interesting challenges in terms of user flow, and it’s probably worthy of a blog post or two.
  • My on boarding process is a mess in the current iteration. I hope to fix that with the above mentioned packages link and merge packages. I may also play around with having an anonymous user for anyone who comes to the site and is not logged in. That way they can just get started.
  • Finding players is another messy area so far. I basically only collect one bit of information from users – a username. To start a game with other players, you are presented with a giant list of every player. This clearly needs work. Eventually I’d like to add Facebook friend support, and maybe even a friends list internal to Quint Dice. I’ll also add more profile data and some way to search on that (this is on my short list).
  • Push notifications are relatively easy to set up on Android. Relatively more complicated on iOS, but I should have that out soon (this is the only thing hold up an iOS release). I did figure out how to get a nice black and white notification icon to work, and that maybe warrants its own blog post (see this Meteor forums post for now). I’m using raix:push package in Meteor for that.
  • Meteor’s React support is build around a React Mixin, which basically wraps a single method on a component to make it reactive. This makes sense given that Meteor typically doesn’t enforce any kind of application architecture on the developer (a good thing IMHO), but I will probably switch to using something more Flux like. For non-reactive data sources and application state, I’m already using a Flux like pattern/architecture (using SignalsLite.js), but I may look into something like Reflux (or maybe Redux, or Alt) and then figure out how to move my reactive Meteor handling to that level. This probably warrants a blog post or two.
  • I used Adobe Animate CC to create the animated dice roller (output as HTML5 Canvas of course). CreateJS is pretty sweet, even on mobile. I may experiment with OpenFL for new dice packs, and see how well that runs. I’m thinking that custom dice packs will stay in HTML5, even if I eventually transition to React Native, so that they can be truly cross-platform. The only challenge with that might be an eventual port to Apple Watch, and AppleTV, which don’t support WebViews. I’m curious though if there is a way to use the JS behind my canvas based mini-apps, and render that through some HTML5 canvas wrapper from within a JavaScriptCore instance (is JSCore on Apple WatchOS and Apple TVOS?). When I figure this out, I’ll almost certainly blog about it. Of course, I may not even need all that if I go with OpenFL, because they have a native c++ compiler.

Going forward, I’ll try to post more, probably when I make an update. There are a ton of other important packages (aldeed:simple-schema and aldeed:collection2) and technologies to cover, and I’m sure I’ll mention them eventually.