Simogo quits iPhone and iPad gaming, and points the finger of blame at Apple

Simogo was my favourite mobile developer. Its games include Device 6, Year Walk, and the amusingly audacious one-thumb stealth/puzzle/platform/route-finding hybrid that is Beat Sneak Bandit. But, as you may have gleaned from the tense used in that opening line, the company has – for now at least – quit iOS.

Apple should treat this as a body blow. Simogo has consistently been one of the best developers on the platform, pushing the boundaries of gaming in new and interesting directions. Device 6, in particular, remains a masterclass in touchscreen game development – a strange puzzle/adventure hybrid, where you explore corridors composed of the very words in the game’s narrative. Sure, it could be made for a traditional console or PC – but it’d make far less sense.

But sadly, Simogo elaborates in a blog post that Apple is the problem, and I suspect the company remains largely oblivious to the pain it’s putting developers through, not only in terms of supporting games, but also regarding the longevity of their output.

Some choice quotes from Simogo’s writings say everything:

Let’s get the rough things out of the way first. This year we spent a lot of time updating our old mobile games, to make them run properly on new OS versions, new resolutions, and whatever new things that were introduced which broke our games on iPhones and iPads around the world. We’ve put months of work into this, because, well, we care that our games live on, and we want you to be able to keep playing your games. Had we known back in 2010 that we would be updating our games seven years later, we would have shook our heads in disbelief.

I’ve heard similar from other developers. It’s such a shift from when I visited an EA developer press event around 2012, when indies they’d got on board were brimming with excitement about iOS gaming. Then, it was a breath of fresh air – less hassle with platform issues and gatekeepers alike. But iOS has become a moving target in a way it never used to be.

This year, a lot of time we had planned to spend on our current project, ended up being spent on just making sure that our games would not be gone from the app store. Because sadly, the platform holder seems to have no interest in preservation of software on their platform.

This in itself is quite curious. I suspect Apple has no senior advocate of gaming. I’ll be amazed if anyone in Apple leadership is a big gamer. Much of the evidence points to Apple still largely considering gaming broadly throwaway. There’s a kind of ‘read and burn’ mentality, which is at odds with how the company thinks about movies, television, music and books.

We can criticize and be angry and mad about it all we want, but we don’t think that any efforts we put in can change that direction.

Developers feel powerless. They feel that Apple isn’t listening – and doesn’t care.

So, instead, we’re thinking a lot about how we can find ways to preserve our games, and our own history, because it is inevitable that our mobile games will be gone sometime in a distant, or not so distant future, as iOS and the app store keeps on changing and evolving. We don’t have a definitive answer, or any final ideas how this would be possible, but we’ll keep on thinking about it, and try to come up with solutions, and we welcome any input and ideas on this from you too!

I at the time wrote about the appocalypse. Many games have since been updated, but then the iPhone X threw another spanner in the works. Regardless, even 64-bit support feels like a stay of execution. Come iOS 12, how many games will fail to work and just disappear?

The response to all this is perhaps inevitable:

As you can imagine, this has led to thoughts about platforms in general.

Simogo notes that the iPhone changed everything, and the ease of mobile development drew the tiny studio to making iPhone games, but:

it’s getting increasingly financially unviable, tiring and unenjoyable for us to keep on making substantial alterations for new resolutions, guidelines, and what have you, as they seem to never end.

The appeal is gone. And, crucially:

Before we started Simogo, we had made console games, and had grown really tired of the clunky processes, politics, certifications and primitive development environments that was involved in making a console game. Today, a lot of that clunkiness is gone, and sadly, for a small developer like us, mobile has become more difficult to support than consoles.

In other words, the advantages mobile had – iOS had – are gone, while console gatekeepers have slowly recognised and removed barriers to entry.

The next Simogo game therefore won’t grace the iPhone and iPad. It feels like the end of an era.

December 12, 2017. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, iOS gaming, Opinions

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Reading between the lines of Theresa May’s Christmas 2017 letter to EU citizens

Theresa May’s written to the 3 million. Again. She’s even finally mentioned the EEA/Swiss nationals living in the UK. A positive step? Perhaps. But I can’t help feeling you should read between the lines…

As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I am proud that more than three million EU citizens have chosen to make your homes and livelihoods here in our country.

Although not enough to unilaterally guarantee your rights over the past year and a half, nor stop my ministers referring to you – and using you – as bargaining chips at various points.

I greatly value the depth of the contributions you make – enriching every part of our economy, our society, our culture and our national life.

But especially the taxes you pay.

I know our country would be poorer if you left and I want you to stay.

And I mean that literally. As in, money.

So from the very beginning of the UK’s negotiations to leave the European Union I have consistently said that protecting your rights – together with the rights of UK nationals living in EU countries – has been my first priority.

Which is why it’s only taken a year and a half to cobble together this deal to protect some of your existing rights.

You made your decision to live here without any expectation that the UK would leave the EU. So I have said that I want you to be able carry on living your lives as before.

Even though the deal that we’ve reached doesn’t actually enable you to carry on living your lives as before.

But I know that on an issue of such significance for you and your families, there has been an underlying anxiety which could only be addressed when the fine details of some very complex and technical issues had been worked through and the foundations for a formal agreement secured.

Or we could have just unilaterally guaranteed your rights, but we had no bargaining chips of our own, so three million of you had to do.

‘When we leave the European Union, you will have your rights written into UK law.’

Which we can change on a whim. Good luck!

So I am delighted that in concluding the first phase of the negotiations that is exactly what we have achieved.

Read the fine print is all I’m saying.

The details are set out in the Joint Report on progress published on Friday by the UK government and the European Commission.

When we leave the European Union, you will have your rights written into UK law. This will be done through the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill which we will bring forward after we have completed negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement itself.

So: no rights for you unless all this goes through. Good job everything doesn’t hinge on a few dozen of my most rabid backbenchers, and the whims of the DUP!

Your rights will then be enforced by UK courts. Where appropriate, our courts will pay due regard to relevant ECJ case law, and we have also agreed that for a period of eight years – where existing case law is not clear – our courts will be able to choose to ask the ECJ for an interpretation prior to reaching their own decision.

We know you wanted lifelong rights here, but we realised we could throw UK citizens in the EU under the bus to get the EU to compromise. Which is a win-win for me.

So as we take back control of our laws,

Oops. My UKIP klaxon just went off. Sorry about that.

you can be confident not only that your rights will be protected in our courts, but that there will be a consistent interpretation of these rights in the UK and in the European Union.

For eight years. Unless we change our minds. Or none of this happens anyway. In which case, your guess is as good as mine.

We have agreed with the European Commission that we will introduce a new settled status scheme under UK law for EU citizens and their family members, covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

If you already have five years of continuous residence in the UK at the point we leave the EU – on 29 March 2019 – you will be eligible for settled status.

Probably. If you’re not paying taxes, some of my ministers have said we might actually tell you to naff off, but then people who don’t pay taxes aren’t really human anyway, are they?

And if you have been here for less than five years you will be able to stay until you have reached the five year threshold.

Unless you’re not paying taxes, in which case we’re considering reserving the right for Boris Johnson to catapult you across the English Channel using a giant trebuchet.

As a result of the agreement we have reached in the negotiations, with settled status, your close family members will be free to join you here in the UK after we have left the EU.

For a bit.

This includes existing spouses, unmarried partners, children, dependent parents and grandparents, as well as children born or adopted outside of the UK after 29th March 2019.

Ish.

Your healthcare rights, pension and other benefit provisions will remain the same as they are today. This means that those of you who have paid into the UK system – and indeed UK nationals who have paid into the system of an EU Member State – can benefit from what you have put in and continue to benefit from existing co-ordination rules for future contributions.

More or less.

We have also agreed to protect the rights of those who are in a cross-border situation at the point of our withdrawal and entitled to a UK European Health Insurance Card. This includes, for example, tourists for the duration of their stay, students for the duration of their course and UK nationals resident in another EU Member State.

Although you are of course all Citizens of Nowhere, and I’d sooner you never darkened our shores again.

The agreement we have reached includes reciprocal rules to protect existing decisions to recognise professional qualifications – for example for doctors and architects.

Someone told me the other day that all the doctors are leaving.

And it also enables you to be absent from the UK for up to five years without losing your settled status – more than double the period allowed under current EU law.

We really wanted this to be two years, but the EU said “non”. Bally foreigners.

There will be a transparent, smooth and streamlined process to enable you to apply for settled status from the second half of next year.

Because British IT projects are the epitome of streamlined, robust, and reliable.

It will cost no more than applying for a passport.

Sidebar: suggest raising the price of British passports next year to £500.

And if you already have a valid permanent resident document you will be able to have your status converted to settled status free of charge.

Although a valid permanent resident document must be one signed by The Queen, hand delivered by The Queen, and submitted while The Queen stands by your side being Queenlike.

We are also working closely with Switzerland and EEA Member States to ensure their citizens in the UK also benefit from these arrangements.

Someone reminded me last week that these places existed.

I have spent many hours discussing these issues with all of the other 27 EU leaders over the last eighteen months as well as with President Juncker, President Tusk and the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier. I am confident that when the European Council meets later this week it will agree to proceed on this basis. And I will do everything I can to ensure that we do.

So right now, you do not have to do anything at all.

Trust us!

You can look forward, safe in the knowledge that there is now a detailed agreement on the table

Although only currently on the table, and not in law.

in which the UK and the EU have set out how we intend to preserve your rights – as well as the rights of UK nationals living in EU countries.

Unless they wanted free movement. But then only Citizens of Nowhere want that.

For we have ensured that these negotiations put people first.

Albeit 18 months late.

That is what I promised to do and that is what I will continue to do at every stage of this process.

Although not to the point of having the Home Office right now stop enforcing CSI in a manner the EU vehemently disagrees with, because that would be too easy.

I wish you and all your families a great Christmas and a very happy New Year.

In limbo.

December 12, 2017. Read more in: Politics

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iPhone X Home indicator, go home. (As in: away. Forever.)

You probably know by now that in its desire to eradicate buttons, Apple’s ditched the Home button from the iPhone X. Instead, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go Home. (Control Centre is now activated by dragging downwards from the top-right of the display.) Presumably to help people get used to this, a Home indicator sits at the bottom of the screen. Which is fine. But it never goes away. Which is not.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. If you’re watching full-screen video and don’t interact with the display at all, the Home indicator temporarily buggers off. But if you’re playing a full-screen game, or using a full-screen app? It’ll be lurking, in all its glory, like someone’s scrawled across the bottom of your screen in pen. Bafflingly, it also turns out the thing sticks around on screen grabs, which will be just wonderful for journalists. And notably, developers are forbidden from hiding the indicator when interaction is happening on screen. The most they can do is fade it a bit.

Apple got heavily criticised for a lack of affordances when iOS was stripped back to Ive-level minimalism a few years ago. But the problem there was primarily in not knowing whether buttons were buttons. You had to tap things to discover whether or not they were interactive, which is terrible design. The Home indicator, though, feels like a really weird decision. By all means, have it there to begin with. And for those users who need the reminder, let them keep it. But for everyone else, there needs to be a setting to banish the thing for good. Having it sit there permanently is a distraction that feels decidedly un-Apple.

November 7, 2017. Read more in: Apple, Opinions, Technology

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Dear news outlets: please drop your drop tests for iPhones and other devices

A number of years back, I was getting out of a car, and my Nintendo DS took a tumble on to the tarmac. On retrieval, I discovered it was in a bad way. More recently, I’ve had an iPod touch fly across the office and survive entirely unscathed, and an iPad Air hit the floor with a sickening thud, but that was found to be totally fine when examined.

Oddly, I didn’t feel the need to write articles for major newspapers about these events, because they weren’t news. When you drop stuff, it might break. That’s not news. If the things you drop happen to have glass screens and surfaces, they might break. That’s not news. And yet today I was pointed at a ‘news’ piece about the new iPhone X. It wasn’t news.

The publication dropped their new iPhone on to tarmac from three feet up. The screen cracked after the first drop, which they argued was “not good”. On what basis? What’s “not good” is this type of bullshit clickbait article that is ultimately entirely worthless. (And, no, I’m not linking to it.)

Still, presumably said publication is ensuring its various stupid, wasteful tests are all equivalent, so they can accurately gauge the relative strength of the various devices they’re ruining?

Tough to say, because none of our tests are scientific

You just hope when these idiots arrive at the Genius Bar, Apple knows who they are, notes they dropped the device with the intention of breaking it, notes some kind of AppleCare condition they’re in breach of, and hands over a roll of gaffer tape rather than a replacement iPhone.

November 6, 2017. Read more in: Apple, Opinions, Technology

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Apple didn’t send me an iPhone X review unit. Here’s what I’m going to do about it

Apple didn’t send me an iPhone X review unit. Clearly, I should now be outraged or something, and so here’s what I plan to do:

  • Get on with my life, continuing to write about Apple as I see fit, working with my existing iPhone that’s only a couple of months old, and which I’m actually perfectly happy with anyway.
  • Keep an eye out for iPhone X coverage, because I’m naturally interested in it, and may well upgrade to that line when next year’s model’s released.
  • Pop into a local Apple Store when the iPhone X is on display and the crowds have died down a bit, to play around with one.

Here’s what I don’t plan to do:

  • Whine about Apple giving some people who aren’t wealthy white guys iPhone X review models to talk to their readers about.
  • Complain about Apple further widening its reach beyond tech bloggers, by giving people in other areas of journalism (including YouTube) a chance to talk about the new phone.
  • Conflate people being seeded with a review unit with them seemingly getting a bit of hands-on time, to make a short video.
  • Call out and insult the 19-year-old nephew of a writer who was provided a review iPhone X, because said reviewer gave the kid the iPhone for a bit to see what he thought about it.

Because that would be a shitty thing to do.

October 31, 2017. Read more in: Apple, Opinions, Technology

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