Wizards has officially launched their official app for Magic, chock full of all sorts of interesting goodies. The app just showed up in the iOS App Store in the past couple days, and it’s expected to land in the Android Marketplace any day now.
You can download the app off the App Store at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/magic-the-gathering-toolbox/id491192015
Anywho, I’m going to work through the different components of the app and babble some thoughts. Let’s start with the Life Tracker.
First, some groundwork. I’m using an iPhone 4S on Verizon, with the phone plugged in, running on WiFi. I’m curious to see how quickly the app sucks the life out of my battery, how it does on 3G, and a couple other things, which I’ll probably try to test out later.
This is the screen you get when you fire up the app. First impressions, I can get down on them putting a cool picture and whatever they’re trying to push at the time on the front of the app. It’s not too intrusive, and definitely serves a purpose from their perspective. The problem? I took this screenshot on February 1st — the prerelease has come and gone. So, either this is just a stock graphic that they’re going to have to keep updated, or they didn’t build in a mechanism to update it outside of the App Store, or both. I would think if they wanted to do this, they would have made it just plain text and have some sort of Web service that could pull down the text they wanted to display at a given time, but whatever.
Another thing to mention about the loading screen is that it did take a noticeable amount of time to fire up, and this is on a 4S. Running this on a 3G or 3GS would probably be decently painful. I’m not sure if this is just because it was the first time starting the app or what, but it’s worth mentioning that part of the reason I took the screenshot at that point on the loading bar is because it had sat there for a significant amount of time.
Anywho, after it finally loads, this is the screen you get:
Snazzy, right? I’ll go into all of these eventually, but for now, let’s jump into the Life Tracker.
This is the basic screen you get when you start the Life Tracker (except I took the screenshot after I had already fiddled with names… Normally it would say Player 1 and Player 2). A quick rundown on what the buttons do:
- The upper left corner has the Card Lookup button.
- The buttons in the upper right allow you to reset the Life Tracker and change Game Options
- The yellow button with the house on it takes you back to the main screen
- The plus sign over the 20 is how you (GASP) increase life totals. The minus sign beneath is how you lower them.
- The crossed swords in the upper left of each player’s block lets you change player settings, which I’ll talk about in a second
- You can start the clock in the middle by tapping it
- The Last Event button at the bottom brings up a list of saved games, if you have any.
Let’s go down the list and see what Wizards has cooked up:
First, it’s pretty handy that they make this easily accessible from the tracker itself instead of having to go back to the main screen to access it. Beyond that, the card search is a feature unto itself, so I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s pretty cool. You’re tapping straight into Gatherer, which is good. On the flip side, its sorting and filtering options are a dumbed down version of Gatherer. I would have liked to see this take some hints from MagicCards.info, but it’s still usable.
The “reset game” button is pretty self explanatory, so let’s jump straight to Game Options.
The first two options here are pretty simple to understand. They basically both restart the Life Tracker, but depending on which option you choose, a log will be saved or won’t. If you choose to save the log, you can find it in the Last Event section of the main Life Tracker screen, which I’ll show in a minute.
Next come the interesting “Mode” options.
- Two-Player is more or less designed for kitchen table, you and another dude. You can add additional trackers if you need them, but it’s basically just a life counter for you and your opponent.
- Tournament is basically Two-Player mode but with the clock turned on. Supposedly it allows keeping track of notes about the gamestate too, but I had trouble finding where.
- Commander is suited for, well, Commander. It automatically turns on trackers for number of times Commanders have been cast as well as the amount of damage Commanders have done.
- Custom is probably the coolest part of this section.
By tapping the cog next to the button, you can set up a custom set of how you want the life tracker to be laid out whenever you pick the Custom Option. You can rename it, turn the clock on or off, change the default starting life, change the default number of players, and set up to 4 default trackers (such as poison, deck size, commander stuff, etc). I personally will probably use this more than the other options.
I skipped a few buttons, but we’re going to assume you are not a single-celled organism and can figure them out for yourself. Hitting the crossed swords next to a player on the man Life Tracker screen will reveal something like the screenshot above. From here, you can:
- Change the background of each player
- Add additional players
- Handle times when you need some randomness in your life
- Turn on additional trackers, such as Poison, Deck Size, etc.
After adding some trackers and an additional player (and changing background colors! whoo!), the tracker looks something like this:
- You pick which player you want to fiddle with at the top then the bottom switches to show their info. This is contrary to two-player mode where the top is player one and the bottom is player two.
- For an OCD person, the counters drive me insane. When you switch from, say, life to poison to deck size, it repositions the order they show up on the right. I’d rather poison and health always switch in position one and the rest just stay put, but it’s not a huge deal.
- The storm counter seems like an afterthought, and it’s pretty clunky. It reminds me of Cockatrice’s funky counter mechanism
Clicking the Last Event tab at the bottom brings up a screen similar to this, though if you haven’t saved any games, it’s likely empty. I went ahead and saved a game to illustrate. Tapping on that game shows a screen like this, which details all the changes you made to the tracker while the game was going on, in reverse chronological order:
While I think this is pretty cool, I’m not certain it’s 100% necessary or if it will get used much. Still interesting to have.
That covers the basics of the Life Tracker. Overall, I think it’s got a nice degree of gloss and that it works pretty damned well. I’m not sure it’s OMG AWESOME enough to pry me away from just keeping track of this shit on pen & paper, but still, there’s plenty of kids out there that will put this to good use. There are a couple of quirky bits (especially the storm counter), but all in all, no big complaints.
Next, I’ll take a look at the Deck Builder. Stay tuned!