Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Scramble With Friends

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Oh how excited I get when a new “With Friends” game from Zynga appears on the App Store. The joy of another word game to lose my time to! :) Despite the disappointment Hanging With Friends turned out to be (it’s just a weird game concept… and seriously, how is dropping your opponent in molten lava ‘family friendly’?!) I was eager to try it out :)

It looks much as you would expect it to look. The same old styling, but now in green! Oh, except there’s that odd Tokens bar at the top… which I’ll rant about shortly ;) Yes, we still get stuck with the Updating Games spinner in the middle of the screen for random lengths of time, and to me, it feels like there’s an awful lot of buttons on that opening screen. But at least it didn’t try to make me create a character like HWF did ;)

I found it slightly amusing that the Help screen doesn’t actually contain any help relating to the game, and it feels glitchy and unpleasant and not like an iPhone table view should!

It’s good that it’s been through QA and that there’s space for long names on the screen… oh wait, there isn’t! My name isn’t even all that long!

From the chat screen there are two back arrows… styled slightly differently… which go to different places! :(

And our favourite “Copy/Paste” error – “Your move”? Really? Fairly sure this game is played in turns, not moves, visit this link for more information!

Oh, I almost forgot the tokens… “what are they for?” you might ask, as we did too! There’s no explanation whatsoever. There’s an animation suggesting you use one each time you make a move take a turn, and a count down to you getting a new one. There’s also the option to buy more tokens… though we don’t know why we want them! Basically, Zynga don’t seem to think showing us adverts is making them enough money, nor is us buying the full version as that still has tokens as IAPs! Apparently, they feel a need to try and charge us to play the game so that they can show us more adverts. I’m completely confused by this!

Ah yes, and the other reason for tokens? To give you cheats in the game! One of the things many people said to us at various conferences was that players who spend more money shouldn’t get to cheat! Give them pretty things, or different ways to play, but don’t let them cheat!

Basically, totally unimpressed with the lack of QA testing which has gone into this game as within minutes Chris and I were both complaining about weird stuff happening, and obvious bugs! Also unimpressed with Zynga feeling a need to shoehorn extra IAPs into a game which don’t need to be there. I’ve not yet run out of tokens (though I’m not playing all that many games simultaneously) and I refuse to ever buy in game currency!

That said, I love Scramble games! Always have and I suspect I always will :) Feel free to challenge me to a game, I’m StarlitSkies (on all the Zynga with Friends games) and I’ll play you just as soon as I have enough tokens… ;)

Vegas – Day 4 – Magic Mountain (LA)

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Today was our first visit to an American theme park together :) We were awake far too early, and yet still managed to leave after our “9am at the latest” decision! After stopping for fuel we made it to Six Flags Magic Mountain without too much difficulty, and collected our tickets.

Worcle Ball at Magic Mountain

Then the day started to go downhill somewhat… our first stop was the Orient Express to get us up to Tatsu quickly… but it was closed. Okay, lets do Revolution since we’re next to it, but nope, that was broken down after a few minutes in that queue. Fine, let’s do X2 since that’s the big, exciting one with long queues and it was still very early and most of the school kids who seemed to be swarming the park had sounded terrified by it! RideHopper, the clever little app Chris has, told us that the queue time was 15 minutes. When we joined it looked like about 30-45 minutes but that was fine by us.

We moved slowly… there were some interesting boards to read and some music, then a guy came out and started asking random quiz questions, got us to sing Happy Birthday to people, generally kept the queue entertained. He made a joke about it being 2 hours till we got on the ride… at least, we all thought it a joke at the time and I’m sure he did too… :( As we stood there, we started to see people in event staff tshirts walk past… then noticed the coaster going round with only one person on it! Then we saw someone in a “Scream If You Know The Answer” shirt and suddenly the wait made sense… *sighs*

We did see the host, Duncan James, walk past a couple of times, but I don’t think that made up for the wait very much! Basically, they sent round two coasters of actual park guests, then there was a 10-15 minute wait whilst they did some filming, then they sent the ride round with contestants (1-3 people) and then another 5-10 minutes before the next 2 coasters of park guests. Repeat for many hours! At least as we got close there were steps to sit on… :(

This was a sucky way to start the day. Every one was totally fed up. They weren’t giving us any information, there was no indication of wait times, nothing to console us for the waste of a quarter of our day doing nothing. Most of the queue you couldn’t even see much of anything, so the wait felt even longer!

The ride itself was pretty awesome! Not what we expected even from the few glimpses you get from the queue, and good fun. More curiosity than thrill as Chris put it. It was not, however, worth waiting over two hours for!

We came off angry and grumpy at the waste of our morning and hunted out something to eat and drink. The cheeseburger was okay and started to help improve the day.

We decided to head over towards Apocalypse and Deja Vu as they were both showing reasonable (35 minute) wait times on Chris’ app, but stopped at Ninja on the way as it was right next to us and looked like a short queue. Apparently it’s “The West Coast’s fastest suspended roller coaster”. The wait was slowed down by people trying to put tiny children on the ride who weren’t tall enough, but quick enough to cheer us up a bit. The ride was pretty good, nothing spectacular but it was in the mild rides section ;) We also stopped at Gold Rusher as that was nearby – the parks’ first roller coaster! It was a run away mine train type ride, but not wooden, and quite a fun ride :)

Next up was Apocalypse. Here our grumpy moods returned as what we expected to be a 35 minute wait turned into 90! The queue looked reasonable, until you realised it was barely moving, and twice the length you could see! Seems they only had one coaster going, so it was managing about 22 people every 4 minutes… this doesn’t get many people through a ride! :( It was the only ride we went on which had any real theming to it, though that didn’t really make an appearance until you were almost at the ride, which was a shame. They could have done a better job of keeping us entertained in the queue if they’d interspersed the adverts on the TV screens with some of the videos we saw later on. It was a good coaster, very fast for a wooden one :) But again, not really worth the amount of time stood still!


Next up was Deja Vu, which we’d been watching whilst waiting for Apocalypse. The queue was much longer than the app told us again, but because we had a great view of the coaster the whole time, and the queue was actually moving, it didn’t feel so bad (apparently we were there 70 minutes, but didn’t feel so long!) This ride was awesome! :D Totally out of your seat, a fabulous loop, and then reversed! Beautiful views from the top, and great moments of suspense waiting for the drops. Finally there was some smiling and feeling like the day might improve.

Checking RideHopper again we decided to skip past Riddler and Tatsu which were nearby but had hideous ride times, and headed over to the far corner for some coasters with much shorter queues. Colossus came first which was a lovely short queue (about 20 minutes!) and a lovely old wooden coaster :) A long ride with some lovely drops :) It’s a dual track ride, but as is so often the case, only one side was running :(

The exit to Colossus is right by the entrance to Scream, so clearly that was next up :) Another short queue time of about 25 minutes and we were onto a lovely ride! :) Lots of great loops and turns! I think it claimed 7 inversions, I wasn’t counting! ;)


The next closest was Goliath, we got into the queue then checked the time, looked at the length and re-evaluated since we only had an hour left! It looked like a long queue, whereas others we wanted to go on were down to 5 minutes! So off we went to Revolution instead :) This was the first looping coaster ever built and yet there was quite a lot of ride to go with it! There were some good drops and turns, and an amusing build up to the actual loop! The loop was the kind I like and the ride had you well stuck in your seat! :) There was one rather painful stop thanks to the strange harness, but otherwise all good :)

We went from that one over to Viper which I had spent most of the 2 hour queue for X2 looking longingly at, as it had many awesome looking loops :) A lovely short queue, and then into the back row. The ride was great, lovely loops and a corkscrew :) Unfortunately, the seats could do with some padding! It was very hard and we came off feeling very bashed and bruised! :( Ouchy!


With only 20 minutes before park closing we dashed up to Tatsu and joined a rather long queue… but they let us in, so we knew we were riding it :) This coaster is like Air, in that it is a flying coaster :) Oh, how I love flying coasters :) It was a very smooth ride – longer, taller and faster than Air :) There was a slight problem with the harness slowly but surely imprinting the car keys into my leg (OUCH!) but the ride was awesome :) A great end to the day! :)

We finished the day with a stop at the closest Panda Express for some dinner. It was horribly busy and noisy, but the food was good :)

I feel a need to rant a little more about Magic Mountain… the rides are good. Very good infact! However, the general guest experience really isn’t. I know the filming screwed up our day more than a normal day (we’ve been checking ride times for weeks so we knew what to expect, and this wasn’t it!) They didn’t handle the filming well. They should have just closed the ride and let them film, then let us ride after, rather than having a whole lot of very angry guests stood in a line all morning!

The park lacks any wait time indicators on most of the rides. By the end of the day they finally had boards up outside a couple of the rides with wait times on, which were changed by hand not electronically so no indication of accuracy! There are no “30 minute wait from this point” signs on the queues like at many other parks. You just had no idea how long things might take! The RideHopper app was our only indication, and relies on other people using it (which thankfully at least a few other people were!)

The queues were mostly very dull. There were a few boards of interesting facts on a couple of the rides, but these were infrequent. A number of the queues lacked much shade (quite thankful the day started rather dreary!) The toilets were not kept very clean. The churro machine was broken so they tempted me with the smell but wouldn’t sell me one!

On the bright side, no one tried to steal Chris’ glasses so he got to see on every ride :)

Hanging With Friends – A Rant

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Apparently my return to blogging is going to begin with a rant. A rant about Apple and about developers releasing unfinished products. Particularly “respected” developers, or at least, a company you would expect to have a QA process.

I was quite excited yesterday when on my Facebook stream a post appeared from Words With Friends announcing their new game. I’ll admit to having spent many hours playing WWF, and not just so I could chat to my now partner. It’s a well written version of Scrabble which has become an expected app on everyone’s iOS device.

Obviously this meant I was expecting a lot from their new game. Something fun, addictive, skill based, and easy to play. I won’t deny that it ticks some of those boxes, but I still have plenty to rant about.

First up, the app knew I had WWF installed… How? This seems like something they shouldn’t know… Or perhaps I’d just rather I was the only one who knew how many games I have installed? So it told me to log in to Facebook to use the same account, fair enough. It actually used the crazy FB app switching single sign on nonsense which I’ve been avoiding in my code because it looks so strange to users.

I get back into the app and I’m welcomed by the beginnings of a tutorial… It said something about avatars but I have no idea what as at that point the app crashed!
How exactly did this get past a review team? Any review team? Any testing?
Also, it wasn’t just me. Moments later Chris installed and it did exactly the same for him!

So off I go to settings to find an avatar since the tutorial didn’t reappear when I reopened the app. What do I see here but a button marked “Coming Soon”! Now, this is a big no no in the Apple world. We have had an app rejected for a button which said coming soon (and ours was there so that Game Center features were ready as soon as it came to iPad, not something we hadn’t written yet!) There’s a coin store feature coming soon, yet we seem to be collecting coins in game, and have no idea why or what for! It’s odd! It’s also an instant reject for most developers!


Then there’s the fact that the tutorial wasn’t quite working. It popped up help about things on my third time doing that action, and there are some things I still don’t understand which I was expecting it to explain.

It seems to get confused when you’re playing multiple people sometimes and I’ve seen it have all the wrong names and words, and not had anything to show whilst replaying guesses. Also, if you tap back during the animation at the end of your turn, it keeps playing the sounds, and then sometimes shows the advert over whatever screen your on… And sometimes it doesn’t! The animations aren’t all that smooth and you have to wait for them to finish before you can play your turn.

Another gripe is the theming. I understand the reuse of the letter tiles even though they look a little odd. I like the use of balloons rather than hanging for this re-imagining of the traditional hangman game. What I just don’t get is why we’re dropping the loser into a pit of lava? If this is a cutesy alternative to hanging someone, why do they meet a gruesome end? And they look horrified about it too, the poor little avatars! Couldn’t we be floating over a paddling pool? A bucket of gunge? Something more child friendly! It’s just unpleasant for no good reason!


I also have slight problems with the lack of skill… It’s mostly a game of luck, you guess right, all goes well, you don’t, you fail. There’s very little thought required, which is just so different to their other game, scrabble or chess.

Not only have Apple approved an app which crashes, has obvious bugs, and a big Coming Soon button, they’re promoting it! It’s the Game of the Week! Seriously? How does something this buggy get that honour? It is rather disheartening for us when our games have yet to get any good featuring and we know they’re great!

All that said, I do seem to still be playing the game. It’s quick to play a turn and when I’m not fighting against the interface it has some cuteness. Though I’ll be hoping for an update soon!

If you’d like to play Hanging With Friends or WWF with me, my username is ‘StarlitSkies’.

What game has failed to meet your expectations? How do you feel when an application crashes? Do you persevere if the user interface is clunky?