Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fonts of Wisdom

Previous versions of Solitaire Till Dawn have always used carefully-drawn bitmap images to display the indices (the rank and suit of the card, shown in the upper-left corner). I did this because in the old days (you know, when we all used steam-powered computers), pixels were large and screen space was limited. I needed to know exactly where each numeral or letter would be placed, how tall it would be, how wide it would be, and how it aligned vertically and horizontally. I couldn't leave that to the vagaries of a computerized typesetter; if I did, all kinds of things wouldn't be right. The 10's would be absurdly wide; the suit symbols wouldn't line up vertically in columns; the letterforms wouldn't be thick and black enough for instant recognition; the fonts wouldn't look good at tiny sizes... you get the picture.

But it's a new age, people. I may be slow in realizing it, but I get there eventually. Bitmap images are a bad idea these days, precisely because they don't scale well as screens get larger and pixels get smaller. Using the system's text-display features takes care of that. And it turns out that the Mac's (and for future reference, iOS's) font tools are really flexible. This evening I finished substituting genuine font-drawn letters and numbers for my old bitmap images, and they look great.

To get the pixel-perfection I demand, I had to do some strange things. These included building tables that yielded the exact font size and baseline height needed for each separate card size; calculating string widths carefully for precise horizontal positioning and then adding offset adjustments for certain characters; and squeezing or widening some characters so their widths wouldn't differ so much. I even played with kerning to adjust the distance between the 1 and the 0 in "10", though in the end I found that I didn't need to do that.

I'm pleased with the results. The new letters and numbers almost precisely fill the space of the old ones, and are much better-looking. I think you'll like them.

I haven't done the suits yet. That comes next.

11 comments:

a2dmusic said...

Isn't it all fun -- learning the new tools, and the new possibilities?

I find it fascinating. Anyway, cheers - and pleased to hear that progress continues!

Peter N said...

Got a new MacBook Air a few weeks ago, completed the migration last week – and then realized that STDX does not work with 10.7. Sadness! I had hung on to 10.4.11 for a long time, but when I had problems with my tax software on ye olde MacBook last year I knew it would be time to move on soon. (I do love the new laptop.) If I complete my taxes without issue under the "roaring lion" and get a refund I will gladly pay for (the new) STDX all over again! Good luck finishing your undertaking.

Unknown said...

STD was always my favorite time-waster, and since I "Lionized," I've found no adequate substitute. Keep up the pressure, Rick. Your admiring fans are waiting...

Jean said...

Wow. Who knew? Fascinating.

lesley said...

Upgraded to Lion only to discover I couldn't play STD anymore. So glad to see that a new version is on the way. Its only been 2 days and I am suffering withdrawals so badly.

GraGoose said...

Many of us have not bought new laptops because Lion won't run STD. Have you asked Apple for a grant to help you finish? I'll bet the increase in sales would be awesome. (I returned my MacBook Air when I found it wouldn't run STD.)

Krista said...

I loved this game. You are awesome!

Artie Kay said...

Rick,

Thank you for blogging your progress reports on STD. I, too am addicted to this game. I put off moving to Lion as long as I could because I did not want to give up STD. But, I had to make the move. I am considering resurrecting one of my other Macs or getting a second macbook just for STD. In the meantime, I appreciate all your efforts in bringing out an updated version of STD. I can't wait to try it.

Rick King

Margot said...

I've only been using Lion for a day and I'm going through withdrawal. Will keep on checking in to check your progress but in the meantime thanks for all your hard work. Solitaire Till Dawn is a real gem!

DanK said...

Hi Rick,

How about a July update? We are all curious as to how STD is progressing

singinsooie said...

Thank you for keeping on! I look forward to playing again with OS X Mountain Lion.. Yours is the best solitaire out there....and easiest on the eyes.