And so do the iOS and Android marketplaces.
We do a considerable amount of app downloading in the collective of BRINK. With the ever-evolving devices and wide open marketplaces, it is becoming a stronger reality for normal people to deliver high quality, entertaining or useful applications. Anyone that’s developed a mobile application for the iOS App Store knows the restrictions and “quality control” imposed upon the developers. Good for them. Standards help us all raise the bar and deliver the best product… or so it would seem.
Last week alone our research guys had tried out many, many apps in the free games section in the iOS App Store, and we have pretty much concluded that Apple’s strict standards and quality control are a COMPLETE MYTH! It is absolutely appalling how many apps are pushed to market with no sound at all, rancid visual errors, heinous controls, obvious “Engrish” and a mile long list of other offenses too shocking to mention on the innocent pages of the internet. Seriously, with the introduction of retina you guys have FOUR display variations to consider and almost NO other differences in code for the single platform! Android we can kind of understand since there are hundreds of different devices and variations to work with, but even that is not particularly difficult.
Sadly, there’s no way to enforce a strict standard on apps. Trash will always get in and pollute the results, drowning out the great apps and leeching attention when it is clearly not deserved. Here’s what we wish we could see in the iOS and Android marketplace (I’ll be speaking specifically about games, since covering all apps would take a lot of endless scrolling):
- TEST IT! Don’t provide an app that crashes when a phone call comes in. It doesn’t end there, lazy pants! Put it in the hands of a kid. They will almost certainly push the sweet spot on the screen that crashes your whole device. Either way, if it fails, we will give you ONE star and a scathing review!
- DO NOT RELEASE 2 VERSIONS! No free, lite, crippled versions sitting side by side their full counterparts! If your free app performs as well as your paid app then you have nothing to worry about. Provide the free version and make it shine. Then let us in-app purchase the full version. If your app is good we WILL buy it.
- ADS KILL! And giant pop-ups in the middle of a game or covering important UI elements are the worst kind. We understand, you need to get paid, got it. But please be graceful about it. If your ads respect us we will respect them. If not, you can expect the app to be closed, deleted and you will get ONE star with a scathing review.
- BE FAIR! In app purchases are ideally the driving force of the marketplace. But you know as well as we do that your silly balloon popping game is only played by toddlers. If you put in a giant in-app purchase button that will charge us $10.99 to increase lives from 3 to 5 then you are clearly a vulturous criminal who deserves a ONE-star, scathing review. At least make them SPELL something to get to the purchase page.
- RATINGS ARE EARNED! So if you shove a pop-up demanding a five-star review every 20 seconds you will get a ONE-star, scathing review instead! Yeah, a reminder every so often is ok, so long as we can opt to never again see the message. Annoying pop-ups get old VERY fast, so make sure you choose them wisely.
- DESIGN IT! It’s ridiculous how many apps look like no effort was put into design. If you can’t draw, find someone who can. The word “animation” doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be crappy tweens. You can actually do frame animations in these apps, you know. A little effort will make all the difference for your app.
- BE ORIGINAL! We understand making a game that fits into a genre, but outright shameless copies are worlds of disappointment when there is a better, polished version we already know and love. You know what you’re cloning. If it’s not BETTER, please spare us. We know a truly original idea is hard to come by, but at least adding a good spin on an existing idea may be enough. Look at Angry Birds! There were hundreds of angle/velocity games before this one and yet they are constantly on top of the marketplace.
Your voice can be useful to help cleanse the marketplace of trashy, incomplete or just not useful apps. If you have a blog, facebook page or twitter feed, create a post with a useful title like “My favorite iPhone apps” and list them out. Tell us what you like and why you like them. You could list the ones you don’t like as well but people tend to search for good ones and not necessarily what to avoid.
An example of a few of our favorites:
World of Goo - Possibly one of the most unique puzzle games out there. It is very well designed, easy to use, fun to play, has a phenomenal soundtrack they allow you to download for free, it’s available on all platforms that matter, a bargain at $5 and enough fun to make you sad when you finish the game cause you want more. On top of all that, it was made by 2 guys in their spare time! I’m not sure about porting and localization, but you get the idea. That alone should give hope and show you that a good game doesn’t need to come from a game development giant with millions of dollars in funds behind it.
Toca Boca anything - If you have kids you will find a certain Godsend in these games. There are lots of them, they have a great time playing them and they’re all mostly well designed and easy to use. From 1 year old to teenagers, it’s a great way to reward your kids or just occupy them while you clean up the room for the tenth time today. This is a link to just one of them.
Scrabble - The origin of the wildly popular Words With Friends. While either could be considered excellent forms of multiplayer crossword fun, Scrabble is the actual game Words With Friends ripped from. For those of us who truly excel at the game, the original is just plain better in all ways. Balance, scoring, features, etc.
Both have advantages, naturally, and you might find yourself using whichever one your friends use. Whatever blows your hair back.
Crate 360 - A nice addition to the puzzle games category. It is simple, easy to use and a pretty good pastime. The free version was complete enough to show you how much fun the full version is for the very reasonable price of $1.99. If only all apps had the ethics of these people.
These are just a few. There are tons of apps we actually like, but if we reviewed all of them here we might not get any work done. With your help we can guide people into supporting the developers who made great apps and deserve the recognition and income from them. If we’re lucky, our support will cause the next popular app to become another cultural phenomenon and the malls will be filled with kids adorning Angry Birds, Fruit Ninjas and whatever else we foolishly overhype. We’ll prove Gotham deserves a better class of parent as well, but that’s another story.
-Kai Miller, web & mobile programmer