Saturday, 6 April 2013

White Dwarf for iPad Review

With a six hour plane ride home from holidays and no White Dwarf in sight at the airport news stand, I purchased the latest edition of White Dwarf via the iBooks online store and waited patiently as the (rather slow) airport wifi did its thing. With the promise of being able to zoom in on battle report photos, play extra video content, and greater navigation with links and digital Contents page (not to mention cheaper price and no need to store the physical magazine at the back of the cupboard for future reference) I was unashamedly excited by the prospect of some 21st century Games Workshop content.

As you can see this particular issue is dominated by the release of the Tau Codex, along with the usual columnists, new releases, miniature showcases and general hobby articles. Navigation was a breeze, with a slider across the bottom of the page, individual sections accessible by moving the contents page vertically via the red titles, and individual pages a single tap away.

There was a fair amount if effort to make the digital version different from the print version, with text and/or photos appearing at different stages, highlighting certain points and making it feel more interactive. There's a fine line between interesting text animations and irritating high school PowerPoint presentations but I think Games Workshop got it spot on.

What was a problem was the navigation within the miniature showcase section. Here the text stays on the page while you are supposed to 'slide' the next photo into view as shown the by the red arrow, and the four little dots below the photo. Above we can see the Eldar are the second of four photos on this page, as shown by the shaded dot underneath. You are then able to slide to the next group of photos by swiping along the bottom of the page. With no zoom function, and read on my iPad mini, each of the models ended up about two inches high on the screen with no option other than to squint for detail. No different to holding a magazine up to your nose I guess, but it would be nice to use the whole screen to view the models in the digital version. At one point the whole thing froze leaving no photos at all!

Where the zoom function was offered, as part of the battle report, it worked really well. You could zoom in on the individual areas where models would otherwise have been lost in the scale of the photograph. In the photo below the Space Marines are completely lost amongst the rubble on objective A, but by zooming in you can see exactly what's happening. It's also offered the chance to get a really good look at the scenery made especially for this battle report.

The scenery, or gaming table, was also the subject of a time lapse 'making of' video which was a really cool addition to the digital magazine. It really showed how much effort was required to get this table ready, and it was funny to see some of the newer staff members running around all over the place, while the more senior members sat relatively still in classic managerial style (albeit with a paint brush or two in hand). The slightly compressed quality let it down though, and I was unable to rotate it to landscape mode either, possibly something in the settings I missed.

I had a lot more screenshots to share illustrating the nifty swipe, zoom and navigation links throughout the magazine, including links to prices of models by clicking next to them, rather than using up screen space with advertising, but I realised most of them actually including spoilers of the battler report and such so no bueno. One of the things I enjoyed most was the extra artwork and full screen photographs of the new models. With any Apple device you can easily take a screenshot at any time so it was great to be able to use the full screen photos for wallpapers straight from the magazine, and to store and edit pictures for later painting reference. You can always just open up the digital magazine again at a later date as it's all there on your device.

As you can see I have limited this review to the digital format rather than content of the new White Dwarf, there are plenty of reviews of both the old vs new White Dwarf, bemoaning this and that and calling it nothing more than advertising, but I think the magazine comes across a lot more professional in its digital format. There are no prices unless you go looking for them, no endlessly long retailer lists, and at a cheaper price and (for me personally) more convenient format I will probably not buy a printed White Dwarf in future.

As for what they can do to improve it in the future, I would like to be able to zoom in closer on the model showcase, and content wise more information regarding rules is a must. The last White Dwarf I purchased for the launch of 6th Edition made heaps of references to new rules, and even without explaining them in detail it certainly whet my appetite for the new edition. Rather than little breakout boxes for new Tau rules I had to read all about Tyranid rules from 2010 in equal measure throughout the battle report, and it would have been nice to see the Tau paired up with another 6th edition Codex for some side promotion and to let us know they hadn't forgotten about something they released only two months prior!

As for their amazingly quick release schedule? That's a whole other topic!

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