Saturday, January 18, 2014

Beta 9

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 9 is now available from our Beta Program page.

Although beta 8 cleared up a lot of the launch-and-quit issues, some have lingered. In this release, we hope to make improvements on two serious problems.

Bug ID 39 should now be fixed. This one was preventing Solitaire Till Dawn from quitting when you select the Quit menu item, or press cmd-Q. It happened when the drawer was still open in the game window, and we fixed it by making sure that the drawer gets closed whenever the application tries to quit.

Bug ID 43 was a weird one. Some users reporting always seeing the same saved game, whenever they opened Solitaire Till Dawn, instead of seeing the last game they had played. And that was followed by getting the same series of shuffles in new games, instead of getting an unrepeating sequence of new games. I have to blush about this: you can quit Solitaire Till Dawn by simply closing the game window, but I forgot to make sure that the current game gets saved when you do that! So now I've fixed that, and the problem should not happen again.

I'm still tweaking the card graphics. In this release, the "10" rank is different: it uses a more standard font, and stylistically looks better and more like the other ranks. This should solve Bug ID 37, where some users saw the "10" in a very tiny font.

For the few users who use the Players feature, the My Favorites list is now correctly updated when you switch Players. The Game Info panel displays the game description text correctly in all cases. And finally, users who had custom cardbacks in the old Solitaire Till Dawn were seeing blank cardbacks until they chose a cardback from the ones offered in the Decor panel. Custom cardbacks will not be supported in the first release, but now such users will see a default cardback image instead of a blank one, and will be told why.

Poll Results
Thanks to the well-over-150 people who responded to our poll! The results were interesting, if a bit confusing in places.

The first poll section, The Beta Program, was meant to evaluate how many people were actively participating in the program. Somewhat to my surprise, only a bit more than 2/3 of the poll respondents answered that they had actually downloaded and used any of the beta releases.

That initial result has an effect on how we interpret the rest of the questions. If only 2/3 of the respondents have actually used the beta, then we must assume that only 2/3 of the answers to the rest of the questions are really relevant. The rest are either answering about their experience with the old version of Solitaire Till Dawn (our fault: we should have made it more clear that we wanted answers about the beta versions only), or else they just like taking polls.

But it doesn't matter very much. We were looking for clear evidence of portions of Solitaire Till Dawn that are hard to understand, and fudging the percentages a bit doesn't make that much difference. Here's what we think we learned:

  • Most people can find and use the Preferences window, and the Decor window. That's good.
  • Most people can find the built-in Help and use it, though many did not bother to do so.
  • Few people took the tour that is offered at first launch, but most of those who did take the tour found it useful.
  • Most people seem able to use the Game Browser to read rules.
  • Only a few use the Game Browser to find more solitaires that they might like.
  • Few users know about the many keyboard shortcuts that Solitaire Till Dawn offers.
That's mostly good news. I would like to increase the number of users who take the Tour, but it may be that most of you beta users already knew about new features like the Game Drawer by reading my pre-beta blog posts.

Not many people are using the Game Browser to find new solitaires; but most people seem to like to play just a few favorites, so perhaps that's natural.

My biggest concern is the keyboard shortcuts. Some of those are very useful, and there are a lot of them. I'd like to make them more visible.

For now, if you're a beta user who hasn't been using the keyboard much, I suggest you open the Help, scroll down to the bottom of the Table of Contents, and click on Keyboard Shortcuts. You might learn something cool!

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