Posts by Tag / TOPIC: Consumer Experience (64)

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Jetpack Joyride Minus

It’s the ones you love that can hurt you the most.

On September 1, 2011, Halfbrick Studios released Jetpack Joyride on the iOS App Store. I was already a fan of Halfbrick thanks to games like Fruit Ninja, Monster Dash, and especially Age of Zombies. But Jetpack Joyride was on a whole other level, immediately becoming my favorite mobile game, my favorite one-button game, and my favorite auto-runner. It might, in some senses, still be all those things.

I bought Jetpack Joyride on iOS when it came out. I loved it so much that I then bought it again for my PlayStation Portable in 2012 and a third time for my PlayStation Vita in 2013. And now, I’m… pretty glad I did that. Because after revisiting the phone version in 2017 in order to finally review it, I found it had changed a lot. The game started as a paid purchase with some microtransactions, but now it was F2P with a lot more microtransactions and a daily reward system. It started adding even more engagement rewards in the form of limited-time events, and then Apple’s rules changed and in order to keep playing it I would have had to explicitly consent to Halfbrick harvesting my data. So I stopped playing it. But the PlayStation versions had been left behind by the updates and still hard arguably the superior version of the game. Certainly the less-obnoxious, less-greedy version.

It’s one of the standout examples to me of the failures of the app store model. I bought Jetpack Joyride in 2011. I paid for it. Then it went free to play and made a bunch of changes and became a product I no longer wanted. And on my modern iDevices, I had no recourse. The old version of the app was no longer compatible. (I do still have a first-generation iPad laying around, which does play the old, better version of the game. It also has other quality iOS games that you can’t download anymore, like Mirror’s Edge and Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty.)

So I was - perhaps naively - quite excited when I saw that Jetpack Joyride+ was coming to Apple Arcade. It felt like a poetic example of what I’d hoped Apple Arcade could do for mobile gaming - change the incentives to reduce sleaze. Uncoupled from the need to push microtransactions and prevented from harvesting user data, Jetpack Joyride+ could be a much less obnoxious and more enjoyable experience again.

And, like… it is? Basically? But not how I expected it to be.

On Apple Arcade, a game makes money if people keep playing it - and the relationship is direct through getting a share of those players' subscriptions, not indirect through the IAP to which those players have increased exposure. There’s no way to apply concepts of “fun pain” and “whales,” so you aren’t putting content and quality-of-life improvements behind paywalls. Instead, those are now valuable as more things to earn through play over a longer period of time. They’re ways to keep people playing.

But that’s not the approach that Halfbrick have taken with Jetpack Joyride+. Instead, everything that was tied to IAP or the daily rewards or timed events in the non-Arcade version is just… missing. This is a stripped down version of the already-free game. It’s not Jetpack Joyride+. It’s Jetpack Joyride-.

That’s already sad, but what makes it rude is that it wasn’t even a clean cut. You can still do the daily reward task, and the first time you do it you clearly get the first-day reward, and then it tells you you’ve completed day one of five. The second time you do it… no reward, and you’ve completed day one of five. The third time… no reward, and you’ve completed day one of five. It’s just broken.

It’s still a very good auto-runner and I’m still playing it for now. It’s, what, the fifth time I’ve started the game from zero in the past ten years? But it’s disappointing, and I mourn the loss of the Halfbrick I once loved.

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Alto's Adventure wants me to wait

I hate how Alto’s Adventure won’t let you keep playing until it uploads your score to the leaderboards, even if the server is slow to respond.

At least, that’s what I assume is going on here. I don’t know what else it could be. I don’t have this problem on PC where I have my firewall set to block the game from connecting to the internet. On Switch, you can’t set that per-game so I have to put the Switch into airplane mode to prevent this.

I wouldn’t even notice this was happening if it didn’t block me from playing. Like how it’s easy to forget how commonplace day-one patches have become until one gets delayed, this problem in Alto’s Adventure makes me realize how bizarre it is that it’s become routine for games to connect to remote servers and upload information without any kind of permission. I never agreed to share my scores and there don’t appear to be any in-game settings to disable this behavior. I have absolutely zero interest in the leaderboards for this game, but it’s acting like there’s nothing the least bit rude, presumptuous, or problematic about it disrupting my play in order to go online and use my bandwidth to broadcast my scores without my consent.

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PS5′s limited storage

It’s hard for me not to scoff at Sony’s claims that they “aren’t hearing” that the PS5’s storage is too limited (even before Masahiro Sakurai complained about it). I’m pretty sure “not listening” is a more accurate phrase.

It’s rare I can install a game on my PS4 without deleting something else first, and game sizes are only getting larger. (And it only makes things worse that so many games, even if you buy them on disc, still install 20 GB or more onto the hard drive.) And while I do applaud the PS5’s level of backward compatibility, the fact that it can immediately play existing PS4 libraries (not to mention the PlayStation Plus Collection) means a lot of players already can’t fit their library onto their console.

Not acknowledging that storage is quite limited feels like denial of customer reality - the time and cost of having to download and re-download huge games because you can’t have them all on your drive at once, as well as the fact that the store will eventually be taken down preventing any future re-downloads. If that happened right now with my PS3, I’d mostly be okay - it’s got all the games I really care about installed right now. If it that happened right now with my PS4, I’d lose a lot.

(By comparison, on my 3DS, Wii, Wii U, and Switch, I have never once needed to delete a game to free up space.)

I think it’s plausible that given SSD costs, launching the PS5 with relatively low storage makes sense - but claiming that the feedback isn’t happening just makes Sony look out of touch.

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DualSense is always listening

From Reddit: First time Souls player. I didn’t realise that the PS5 records your microphone’s audio whenever you get a trophy. Whoops.

Let’s unpack this a bit.

By default, the PS5 saves a video clip whenever you get a trophy.

Of course, the PS5 can’t know when you’re about to get a trophy. So that means it’s always capturing video; it just discards most of it unless you get a trophy or manually save a clip.

But the PS5’s DualSense controller has a microphone array that cannot be removed or deactivated. It can apparently be muted, but it’s on by default with no indicator. And audio from this mic is, by default, included in the trophy video clips. Which means that by default, your PS5 is constantly capturing audio from your controller mic, though in theory it simply discards most of it.

How in the world are people okay with this? How is anyone okay with being surprised that their internet-connected game console is continually recording them without asking permission?

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The Platform is the Playstyle: Missions and Monetization

A while back, I got Jumping Joe & Friends for free on Switch - one of many free games I’ve gotten from being in QubicGames' ecosystem. It’s a simple reflex-testing runner-like game (though you jump vertically rather than run horizontally) that you can get into a good rhythm with, so I felt like it would be a better fit for mobile, and of course it actually is a port of mobile freemium title Jumping Joe! I picked that version up, and while the gameplay is indeed well-suited to the sort of casual kill-a-few-minutes experience that mobile enables, it’s both better and worse as a mobile game. Worse for the standard freemium reasons, but better because it has missions - side objectives to complete during runs that provide extra variety and depth to play.

Missions are great for this sort of game. They’re what elevated Jetpack Joyride from good to great. They add another layer to gameplay that keeps things fresh far longer. I don’t understand why the Switch port of Jumping Joe doesn’t have them. Why are they mobile-only? Why can you only get them if you also get the scummy monetization? As is, I find the Switch port dulls quickly and the mobile version feels obnoxious and greedy, and I stopped playing the game pretty quickly.

A bit later, I finally tried Mario Kart Tour, which I’ve complained about before. (Don’t judge me; it was for the mission to get the stupid Mario pins that ran out of stock in five seconds anyway.) And I found that in adapting the experience to mobile, Mario Kart had made several changes that felt like straight-up improvements.

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DualSense violates privacy by default

The PS5’s DualSense controller has a microphone array that is on by default in multiplayer games. It sounds like it doesn’t even light up to indicate that the mic is on - it does so to indicate that the mic is muted.

With no visible headset or microphone, no light, and no opt-in to the mic being on, there are ZERO CUES that you are transmitting audio across the internet. No cues for you and no cues for anyone around you. You can easily forget this and broadcast a private conversation with a third party who has absolutely not opted in to this and may not even know it’s possible.

I can’t understand how this happened. It is so obviously a bad idea.

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It turns out that more people are playing...

It turns out that more people are playing CrossCode on Xbox Game Pass than on Switch and PS4 put together. This is wholly unsurprising.

On console and on mobile, subscription models mean that price is no longer a barrier for individual games. Once the monetary cost of trying a game is literally zero, players are far more willing to try way more games. And it’s clear that the greatest beneficiaries of this are weird indie games that players wouldn’t otherwise be confident enough to spend money on.

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