Thursday, November 26, 2009

myNotebook Blue DSiWare review


I have just downloaded a DSiWare program called myNotebook: Blue by nnooo. I'm a sucker for app type DSiWare. However, I can safely say that you should stay away from this one as far as possible. This is one of those program that is poorly designed.

I'm not saying that a notebook program for Nintendo DSi is a bad idea. In fact, it is a terrific idea. However, the execution for this program is very much lacking. The music is intolerable, and the first time I turn the music off, it didn't turn off! I had to lower the volume down to 10, save, quit, and re-run the program before it will take.

There is no exit button to the DSiMenu. Huh?

Unlockable paper type: a very bad idea. Can you imagine having a word processor that requires you to use the program before it gives you "unlockable" fonts? Especially, if there's no way for you to know how to unlock it? What's the big idea?

You only get 2 paper types: Lined and Square. No blank pages?

No zoom function. I know not many people want it, but I do.

No color yellow.

Pen type: Thick and thin line is provided. 2 rather indistinguishable pen types and an eraser.

Writing on pages: This really annoys me. You have to turn the Nintendo DSi upside down for writing even-odd pages. This you MUST do EVERY SINGLE TIME! Of course, the press material says that "you CAN ..." I think there is a big difference between "CAN" and "MUST". "CAN" implies that you can use the program either left or right handed. "MUST" implies that unless you can read and write upside down, you'd better practicing turning the device often. It is the latter, and the official video either skip this info or glossed over it. In this case, "MUST" means unless you do, better accept that you'll be skipping every other pages.

No Photo import/export function.

Playing paper games? Flipnote Studio does it better!

Okay, enough ramblings. Now for the things that they should have done to make this a good offering:
1. Custom paper design: I've been photographing paper and use the Graffiti function to do this. A dedicated notebook program should be able to do the same or better.
2. Color choices: A pallette choice would be great, even if it is limited to 256 colors or even websafe colors.
3. Don't make the user flip the device on every pages! Have it shown 1-2, then 2-3, then 3-4, and so on. Trying to conform exactly as real-life paper counterpart is counter productive.
4. If you have lined pages, a typewriter (keyboard) function would be nice, and then provide fixed pitch and proportional spacing font.
5. Skip the unlockables, please.
6. Respect DSi convention by providing exit button, even if you do it via select menu.
7. Skip the nearly indistinguishable pen type, and subtitute marker capability. Especially nice with expanded color pallette.
8. Import and Export to Photo. Ability to crop picture would be a plus. You can do a scrapbook style project. A much more worthy capability than "Playing paper games (not included)" statement.
9. Playing paper games: Better provide them on your website. Like I said: Flipnote Studio does it better. Photo Graffiti not too bad either. Without ability to import custom paper type, this claim is useless. It's like claiming you can play chess by drawing and erasing playing piece. Technically, that's true, but it is very, very inconvenient.
10. Organizing note: Flipnote Studio does it better with the calendar capability. And Flipnote is FREE.

In conclusion: If you feel that I keep saying Flipnote Studio does it better a lot, then you are absolutely correct! Skip this myNotebook offering, and download Flipnote Studio instead. What's more, if you do play paper games, you can upload your games to Hatena website and share the games with a lot of other people. And yes, with Flipnote Studio, you can import from the camera, thus giving you an unlimited custom paper design.

Normally, I don't give bad review since I am of the opinion that if I think it's bad, I must have misjudged the product. However, I don't know anybody who is sane who would be willing to use this considering that it is very inconvenient to use and of limited capability. Had Flipnote Studio not exist or is much more expensive, then this may have a chance. As it is, I wouldn't download it, even if it's free.


Anonymous said...

Judging by the way you type, i'd say you're a person who's sure in their opinions. But then again, so am I. I'd like to say--"I respect your opinion, but I have a differing view", so I guess that'll do. I really really like mynotebook. The multiple paper designs make for a fun little customize able part of the "notebook" [i've already unlocked 10 of the 18. In one day. It's not that hard. >>]. Flipping it back and forth? Gosh you sound so lazy. Are you really so afflicted with arthritis that you can't simply flip the small box in your hand 180 degrees? And pen colors? I'm perfectly fine with Black, White, Red, Blue, and green. The difference between the pencil and the pen is that one is thicker, and one is thinner and smoother. I personally don't mind the fact that you can't write in every color of the rainbow. I never do.

Basically, I completely disagree with you, and the fact that this is only 200 points shocks me. 2 dollars for endless pages, and lack of paper-waste? HEAVEN. I would've bought it at 500 points. I'm about to go buy red and green--because I loved blue so much, and I completely admit to playing with it every single day. [Don't knock my paper games. >> -harrumpf-]

Sorry to burst your bubble, but I think your opinion is a little off. :3 I'd like to see you take the time to create a game this smooth on the DSi--an incredibly difficult to master hand-held. [I speak from experience, working with my dad who owns 3 computer/software/video gaming companies]

Oh, and just as a side note? Maybe people [like me -cough-] don't want to have to use a program like flipnote [which btw, only has about 4 colors (3 usable at any one time)] in order to write down directions to someone's house.

~Someone from the internet.

Simpleton Geek said...

Thank you for your comment. You talked about a lot of issues, so I'll give you a long answer, but the short relevant answer would be:
Did you see the review at See how you get 2 pages side by side? How you don't flip the screen? I want it JUST LIKE THAT. Nic Watt had the correct model right in front of him, and he didn't do it. See the grey box "To write on this page..." obscuring the page? See how you MUST flip the device every other page? What happened?

The long answer:
Actually mine is not only an opinion. It's old standing design issues, user interface, and all that. I'm sure you'll learn in time. So you'll buy it for 500 points? From your comments, you'll buy it for 600 points, and will gain not only extra 64 pages (32 pages per color) but also 4 unlockables. You'll need to buy pop plus for the last unlockables. If you think that's a good deal, then fine. I have no problem with it.

You mentioned arthritis. Here's a few more just top of my head: Ride a bike? Skateboard? Fell down and twisted your wrist? How about holding shopping bags, phone, and umbrella while trying to jot notes? Flipping the device may not be a big deal in ideal situation, but we live in less than ideal world. Furthermore, it's also a design issue. Which is better?
1. Press a button to flip to next page.
2. Press a button AND FLIP THE DEVICE OVER to flip to next page.
If you work as a programmer in a computer company (as you imply you do for your dad), then I'm sure you understand that the art of optimization demands elimination of unnecessary motion? Easier to program, to boot.

Finally, regarding the user interface issue: I believe this is faulty design. It's as if Mr. Watt was thinking that DSi opens like a notebook, therefore he created a noteBOOK design, instead of the single touchscreen therefore a better design would be a notePAD with extra page for viewing. Do you think DSi users are so stupid they can't handle notepad design? Let's see some market research backing up that assertion. We don't want to deal with OPINIONS, after all.

As for the expanded color schemes, they're optional, sure. However, I'm surprised that the reason you chose to present was that YOU don't use them. Of course, you don't use them WRITING. You use them DOODLING. You don't draw, do you? If you do, then it'd save you 800 points for Arts Academy. If you create software and want to be successful, you have to be able to understand people's habit other than your own. I suggest learning empathy.

A better reason for omitting such expanded colors would be memory limitation. That can be alleviated somewhat by letting the user choose.

And, no, the difference between pencil and pen isn't line width. That's the tools at the top. The pencil/pen difference is that one has blue underline. A marker function would be better. What? You don't miss that function?

Also incorrect is the "endless pages" claim. It's 32 pages. If you want endless, I guess Camera, FlipNote, and Arts Academy can be considered endless because they save to memory card, which you can have many.

There's opinion, and there's fact. Please do your homework and check your facts.

I'm not knocking paper games. Connect4 makes a fine paper game. I have it in Camera Graffiti. I have a few more paper game designs with custom templates. I'm knocking the fact that myNotebook cannot import custom templates into it, like FlipNote can. In fact, FlipNote is best because you can replay moves! Try it, you'll see.

I don't use FlipNote to jot a quick direction. Neither would I use myNotebook, though. That's what (MySim frame) Camera function is for: Snap a map section, doodles direction on it. In fact, between Camera and FlipNote, you can do a lot. It's inconvenient to go back and forth, and that's why the notebook program is a good IDEA, but this IMPLEMENTATION isn't good.

Simpleton Geek said...

You "completely disagree" with me? If you're looking for a fight, you need to do better than that! :) Reading your comments, what you're saying is that "I don't mind that myNotebook has limited function, annoying music, and extras I have to pay for." What I do not see is any comment that says "It would be a huge mistake to have more colors, marker functions, no unlockables, camera import/export capabilities, etc". Part of design skills is seeing things that aren't there. I suggest you learn it if you're really interested in making computer games.

Why do people think computer programming is such a hard skill, anyway? Read the reference materials, write a few demos. You're done! Design skill is much harder to get right. There would be nothing to tell you that you did wrong...until after the fact. Forget to account for left handers? 10-15% of the market down the drain. Write in colloquial English? 30% worldwide market is gone. Forget to account for color blindness? Deafness? etc? Well, you know. If you get programming wrong, then you'll crash and burn right away and can fix it. If you get design wrong, then golden opportunities would missed and you wonder why there's no market, or even whether or not it can be more successful.

For example: Annoying music. You can set the volume to 0. This is trivial:
if (MSC_VOL>0) { //Insert music code here }
if (SFX_VOL>0) { //Insert soundfx code here }

Who cannot do that? Why is the bug there?

I may not know DSi platform, but I did learn GBA, and DS platform from homebrew. They're not hard at all. DSi platform with more memory and CPU can't be harder. I concede that music program is hard due to real-time requirement and lack of memory. If I had to do it, I'd do it interrupt. Interrupt based programming isn't the easiest method to code, but neither it is the hair pulling frustration you make it to be. Ever tried STELLA programming? Ask Chris "Mr. Atari" Crawford how much he loves coding his Wizard program. Not at all. The original Gameboy (pre GBC) was also a dreg to program. DSi? Hah! Cakewalk! Would you agree you need more experience?

Besides, I've never found a well-designed program a chore to implement. If you have trouble coding it, then most likely the design needs to be streamlined.

Yeah, I know. Simpleton Geek says "Design, design, design!" So? It'll help you in the long run. You'll write portable code, clean user interface, and maybe even something useful people don't mind paying money for.

my $0.02