by Martin Bruse

I have never been a true Diplomacy fanatic. I have, however, been fascinated with the concept since I first heard about it. I don’t even remember when that was, but it was a fairly long time ago. Unfortunately I was not at that time able to find a group of people to play with, so it never grew beyond being a fascinating concept.

Years later, back in the late ’90s, during a discussion about Nomic games with some colleagues of mine, the subject came up again. I decided that if I was ever going to play Diplomacy I would have to do something about it. Hence I badgered a few of my friends into playing, and it was sort of a success. Fun was had and country specific hats were worn.

Since then I have played a few face to face games, not often and not regularly, but the interest has never left me. What mainly stopped me from playing was the problem of organizing seven like minded people into meeting up for several hours.

I tried a few electronic interfaces, BOUNCED and webDiplomacy if my memory serves, and they were good and useful. The problem was that I never managed to check my email often enough to stay alive more than a few years through the games, and sadly I gave up on them.

Then I got my first Android phone, and thought about what wonderful games and apps I would install from the Android Market. Interestingly, as I have later been made aware, I was not alone in firstly searching for “diplomacy” in the game section of Android Market. I guess that says something about the perceived convenience of the smartphone format in regards to Diplomacy games.

Unsurprisingly I found no Diplomacy game for Android phones. This was pretty early on, Android 1.6 was just released, and Market was pretty empty.

I thought about using the existing web interfaces in the j on my phone, but they were sort of user unfriendly even when using a proper computer. This is not intended to be disrespectful against my competition — I freely admit that my own website is no better.

Even if I found no dippy game for my Android an idea had taken root, and during the following months I found myself thinking more and more about the problems I would face were I to build one myself.

After a few experiments with different judges I figured that jDip, a really nice open source Diplomacy app written in Java, would be simple to integrate if I wrote my server in Java. The map problem was worse, both from an intellectual property perspective and from a purely technical perspective. I wanted a map that felt fast and crisp for the user, possible to pan, zoom and click to enter orders.

After even more hacking I managed to create a vector based map using Inkscape, a free vector graphics editor, and display it on an Android screen using the native vector graphics of Android. Finally, after managing to send push notifications to the phone and authenticating the user with Google, I felt ready to start.

After a surprisingly short period of time I had a game where you could actually enter orders, get them adjudicated by the server, and see the results of your actions. You could chat with your co-players via the phone and they would be notified immediately of all messages you sent.

Again I strong-armed a bunch of friends into testing the app with me, and realized that I had never had so much fun with dippy. It was actually even more fun than face to face games since I had more time to think and plan, and could create much more elaborate plans, lies and relationships with my fellow players than what I usually had time for in face to face games. In contrast to the email and web games I had played earlier I could mostly respond to diplomatic messages within seconds, and therefore ran less of a risk of being left behind diplomatically.

That was the beginning of a long and difficult journey making Droidippy ready for release on Android Market, and later on making it good enough to be able to charge money from the most ambitious players.

It took half a year and a horrible amount of late nights to get there. Droidippy now seems to have a stable player base with members from all over the world with all levels of dippy experience and skills. Still, the journey will probably never end. I now make enough money to cover the server costs, and perhaps a couple of beers now and then, but the TODO list is longer than ever and the possibilities for further development are more numerous than ever.

Still, I enjoy playing the game, and there lies a certain satisfaction in having made it possible for both me and others to enjoy the fantastic game that is dippy whenever and wherever we want…

Martin Bruse

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