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iPhone: IGN Editorial: The Abuse of Updates

12-16-2008, 02:16 PM
#1
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 26
IGN Editorial: The Abuse of Updates

IGN Editorial: The Abuse of Updates

IGN put up an editorial today about the state of app updating on the App Store. On the whole, I have to agree with their premise. The update system is abused too often, and we're asked to trust devs with our money in many cases. There are certainly developers who reward that trust with great updates, fixes, etc.

I do believe, that if Apple is going to push the iPhone platform, as a platform to compete with the other mobile game consoles...they are going to need to find some balance to the indie-dev environment they've created, with a level of quality assurance with regard to what you're buying. Some developers are investing time into testing their apps and releasing complete products, while others are not.

It's really a big question right now as to how Apple can encourage developers to release completed products vs. beta products promising fixes and upgrades. And then what constitutes a complete product? I don't know what the answers are, but I do know Apple will need to figure out the answers if they want to go toe-to-toe with the DS and PSP.

In some places, and with certain apps, they are already competing on that level. We have indie developers who approach their wares with the responsibility and quality of a larger publisher/dev...and then you have both large and indie devs rushing products to market before they're really ready.

I know personally, I've become much more prudent in resisting the urge to purchase apps when they're first released because of price integrity, and quality issues. And there are certain developers who you can see emerging who have earned that trust, and many who have yet to do so.

I hope that Apple can continue to foster this indie environment of development, but find a way to hold all apps more accountable regarding the quality of their product. The App Store and iPhone platform, are still very young, and it does seem with time, some of these issues are getting ironed out...but I think there's really a long way to go and this article hits on that pretty squarely.

Quote:
Editorial: The Abuse of Updates
Updates are being used too frequently to fix broken games, not refine them.
by Levi Buchanan
December 16, 2008 - One of the features most lauded about the App Store is quickly becoming its biggest crutch: updates. Developers are able to constantly refine their games and applications by uploading new versions to the App Store, and through a simple icon on your iPhone or iPod Touch, you can instantly update the program. In theory, it sounds like a great idea. Content you already purchased can be enhanced, such as the case with Fieldrunners, which recently added a new map. Constantly adding value to your game is a good way to foster loyalty. Gamers will know that you care about your game and the value of download dollars. In return, they may be more inclined to stick with your products -- something that is very important as the App Store explodes with hundreds of pieces of new content every week.

But there is a dark side to updates: games pushed on to the App Store that never should have launched in their first incarnation. Gamers are asked to drop anywhere between one and ten bucks for a game. That's a trust issue. And if develoeprs shove your game on to the App Store in shabby condition, they erode trust in not only their games and their companies, but also in the App Store itself.

After struggling with Namco's I Love Katamari this weekend and reviewing it, I was struck by just how incomplete it felt. All of the game pieces are in place, but control and performance issues really hobble the overall title. I sincerely doubt a game in this condition, with frame problems that bring the game to a stand-still and controls that require constant fighting, would have made it on to XBLA, WiiWare, or PSN. At least, I hope it wouldn't. I'd expect Microsoft or Nintendo to send it right back to the developer with a list of things to fix. Apple needs to do this, too.

I Love Katamari could be rescued with an update that addresses performance issues. But the problem is that gamers should not be asked to pay full-price for a game that is obviously a work-in-progress. There are many, many games likes this on the App Store. -- games that debut in working shape, but hardly in optimal condition. It's a trap. I caught myself thinking that Katamari maybe wasn't that unplayable and an update would make everything all better. But then I remembered I paid $7.99 to download it. It was not free. And it wasn't free to the hundreds of gamers that have downloaded it thus far. We all deserve better.

1112 Episode 01 is another game with this problem. When it originally debuted, the game featured an unfriendly interface that added an unnecessary layer of distance between you and the game. There were inconsistencies to the logic. The in-game text had translation issues. An update (1.1.0) added instructions on how to actually play the game and use the interface, as well as fix the text. These are not bonus features. These are things that should have been in the game in the first place. I'm not against a tough-as-nails puzzle game, but being obtuse isn't fun. I'm certainly glad the game was updated, because the idea is interesting and the art is awesome. I'm just sorry that there was a period where gamers that bought 1112 Episode 01 had to swim upstream. Perhaps they will be better served by Episode 2.

I love the idea of updating games to perhaps address a little fix that gamers noticed or add a new map. Refinement isn't a bad thing at all. But expecting gamers to lay down their money and then hold while developers repair stuff that never should have made it out of the studio certainly is a problem. Use updates wisely, don't lean on them to solve major problems. Paying customers are not beta testers.
p.s. I should say, other consoles are not immune to these same problems, unfinished or buggy products that require updates and fixes. But I think the level of ease with which anyone can publish an app, lends itself to creating a greater problem on this particular platform. Sony/Nintendo/MS(Xbox) retain a much tighter testing an approval certification for any wares published to their respective platforms. One could argue, that the iPhone platform, is really no different than publishing something on the Mac platform, from freeware, shareware, to packaged software. All a matter of perspective I guess as to the nature, and intentions of the iPhone platform.

Last edited by WolfgangK; 12-16-2008 at 02:23 PM.
12-16-2008, 02:27 PM
#2
Joined: Nov 2008
Location: San Pedro (Port of Los Angeles), California, USA
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apple would have to hold these companies accountable... something they are not likely to do

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12-16-2008, 02:28 PM
#3
Joined: Nov 2008
Location: San Francisco
Posts: 430
It's a cute article, but just another journalist spouting off about whatever.

In reality you need to look at the bottom line.

You want to X amount of features into a game. Those will cost you Y dollars (either in time costs of not being first to market, or dev time or both).

So, Y-X=N. N is the amount of money you think you will get, based on predictions and pricing. If N is negative you will go broke. If N is positive you will have a successful product.

But the App store offers a way around this time old issue. Chop X up into smaller bits. Then release with Y-.5X=N. Then if N is great enough, you can add back more of the X features you had to cut.

The iPhone is foreign territory, what is a success in some markets is a flop on the iPhone. Testing the waters with features removed is a sane and market safe approach. If the game is a hit, you can add more in, and also get feedback.

None of this is to defend truly broken apps. But in the case of Fieldrunners, they had no way to know they would get such success. And there is nothing wrong with them adding in what some people would consider are features that should of been present from day 1.

I've made a lot of games. You've played them.
12-16-2008, 02:37 PM
#4
If I understand it correctly, every single app has to be submitted to Apple so they can assess it. If a game is broken, or not finished, then Apple should not allow it onto itunes for sale until the developer has fixed any problems. The question remains, why do these apps get through in the first place?
12-16-2008, 02:39 PM
#5
Joined: Jul 2008
Location: Orlando, FL
Posts: 4,491
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippieman View Post
It's a cute article, but just another journalist spouting off about whatever.

In reality you need to look at the bottom line.

You want to X amount of features into a game. Those will cost you Y dollars (either in time costs of not being first to market, or dev time or both).

So, Y-X=N. N is the amount of money you think you will get, based on predictions and pricing. If N is negative you will go broke. If N is positive you will have a successful product.

But the App store offers a way around this time old issue. Chop X up into smaller bits. Then release with Y-.5X=N. Then if N is great enough, you can add back more of the X features you had to cut.

The iPhone is foreign territory, what is a success in some markets is a flop on the iPhone. Testing the waters with features removed is a sane and market safe approach. If the game is a hit, you can add more in, and also get feedback.

None of this is to defend truly broken apps. But in the case of Fieldrunners, they had no way to know they would get such success. And there is nothing wrong with them adding in what some people would consider are features that should of been present from day 1.
+1

Logic backed up with math FTW!
12-16-2008, 02:49 PM
#6
Joined: Sep 2008
Location: The 3rd Rock from the Sun
Posts: 994
Quote:
Originally Posted by Angel Summoner View Post
If I understand it correctly, every single app has to be submitted to Apple so they can assess it. If a game is broken, or not finished, then Apple should not allow it onto itunes for sale until the developer has fixed any problems. The question remains, why do these apps get through in the first place?
The purpose of the approval process as I understand it is not quality control but to ensure malicious code, illegal content etc doesn't end up on the app store. I would assume that Apple's process is automated and they have some code that checks for malware and the like. They don't spend hours/weeks playing games, using apps just to find bugs! That the developers job - or their beta testers!!!
12-16-2008, 02:53 PM
#7
Joined: Nov 2008
Location: Utah
Posts: 149
I see the argument but here are somethings I'd like to present to it.

The update system is great cause I'm not aware of other games (not looking into downloading songs for Guitar Heroes, expansion packs for World of Warcraft, etc.) that will add to the game, fix the game, and change it up for the holiday season (example TouchSports Tennis 09)

I understand the money issue but in the end I feel we mostly do get our moneys worth on the games we purchase. They get updated, fixed, and the developers listen to our complaints.

I don't feel hurt by the promised updates... but again this whole system is new the app store has only been around for less than a year... and its doing great!
12-16-2008, 02:55 PM
#8
Joined: Oct 2008
Location: Coram, New York
Posts: 356
Send a message via AIM to Herp
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippieman View Post
It's a cute article, but just another journalist spouting off about whatever.

In reality you need to look at the bottom line.

You want to X amount of features into a game. Those will cost you Y dollars (either in time costs of not being first to market, or dev time or both).

So, Y-X=N. N is the amount of money you think you will get, based on predictions and pricing. If N is negative you will go broke. If N is positive you will have a successful product.

But the App store offers a way around this time old issue. Chop X up into smaller bits. Then release with Y-.5X=N. Then if N is great enough, you can add back more of the X features you had to cut.

The iPhone is foreign territory, what is a success in some markets is a flop on the iPhone. Testing the waters with features removed is a sane and market safe approach. If the game is a hit, you can add more in, and also get feedback.

None of this is to defend truly broken apps. But in the case of Fieldrunners, they had no way to know they would get such success. And there is nothing wrong with them adding in what some people would consider are features that should of been present from day 1.
Agreed.
12-16-2008, 03:20 PM
#9
Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 224
Hippieman, although I can't fault your math, I think what you're referring to is the removal of features, rather than features that are just plain broken, which should never factor into the calculation you've presented. Unfortunately the app store is full of such failures, and I've been saying for months that devs should not be releasing half-assed code and making people buy pre-release quality. In a lot of cases not even beta quality. Or, indeed, any quality.

The original article is spot on and I'm glad somebody in the more visible online press has said it. Releases that just don't work, don't do as advertise or don't offer a polished first iteration make it more difficult for the devs that do because customers just get tired on paying for something that should never have seen the light of day without considerable further work.

I'm glad you picked up on Fieldrunners as well. Fieldrunners lacked some things that most people would consider basic, like sound effects. But it got away with it for one very good reason - what was there in the first iteration was polished, playable, well produced and fun. You can do the maths and remove features, and as long as what you do present in the first instance is well done and worth the customer paying for it, it won't count negatively.

PS. Hello all, haven't been here in a while. Had to put iPhone dev on the back burner for a while, what with the way the world is at the moment. Have to spend time on my bread and butter.

"Arthur & Charles Present Create & Play" now available on the App Store
iTunes - Arthur & Charles Website
12-16-2008, 03:27 PM
#10
The update system is what makes the iPlatform a viable system for everyone. The name brand developers & publishers usually find success with their apps in the first week. Smaller developers need time on the market to gain recognition and improve the quality of their apps. The best thing about this setup is that these games become more like services than products and they cost almost nothing.

Case in point: Dropship vs. BiiPlane

It took Dropship a single day to break into the top 50 while BiiPlane took sometime to do it. Now the small developer behind BiiPlane has an app which is sitting right next to Dropship in the top 10 (Simulation Games). Ngmoco ; ) is funded by the iFund and run by a former EA executive. They've obviously got many more resources at their disposal so their version 1.0 was more polished than BiiPlane's first version but through the updates system a small but determined developer can find success too.

This system is what allows for cheap prices as well. If you want to pay $20 - $60 per game go right ahead. All you get are fewer experiences for more money and less innovation. In addition to that you get a very volatile system for game developers to work in. The iPlatform is a win, win, win across the board.

Last edited by Midnight Status; 12-16-2008 at 03:29 PM.