Following the success with my Spider Solitaire Sudoku puzzle, I think now is a good time to talk about estimating the legitimacy of a game product.
We’ve all been there. We happily downloaded the latest match-3 game. The graphics are slick, the music is polished and – well – the game turns out to be completely rot13(fuvg). Those with good memories may recall the Evony controversy involving some interesting images that had nothing to do with their game play. And the less said about those incessant Hero Wars ads on Facebook, the better.
There are some really shoddy products out there. The worst I’ve seen is a game called “Jewel Swap” by Shanghai New Dragon Restaurant Ltd. Yes, that name is not a typo or a cut-n-paste from the wrong document. A restaurant means what you think it means and it has nothing to do with the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. One level had “6 purple gems” in the goal section increase to “7 purple gems” for no reason at all – and the player had to earn their purples. They also had a different game with the exact same levels, same music but different graphics. The lesson I learnt was some developers are so egregiously bad they don’t even know how to hide the fact they are cheating.
Here are some indicators of a good or bad game:
Location Location Location:
A company’s location must be easily searchable. If Joe Bloggs Ltd sells happy star widgets but I need to pay an arm, leg and sixteen hours of my life just to find its location then forget it. Similarly, if you were applying for a job at Joe Bloggs Ltd you ought to know where it’s located. Like it or not, we have a thing called “competition” and users can easily find a better product out there.
Check the reviews.
Ideally a review should mention something specific about the game, or at least give some impression the reviewer has actually played the game. Otherwise, it fails the lost-sense-of-smell-due-to-COVID test. In other words, if a review is favourable then ask yourself “is it plausible that Joe Bloggs was bribed to write a good review despite knowing nothing about the game play?” If it’s not plausible then there is a good chance the review is legit. If all the reviews mention nothing specific then the flag is coloured red. Reviews should obviously be independent of the company otherwise Joe Bloggs Ltd can cherry-pick the good ones.
Social Media presence:
A good game will have lots of positive user comments on Facebook or Twitter (or some equivalent). A great game will go the extra mile and find creative ways to engage users, e.g., an informal fan art competition. A good example of a great company is UsTwo (of Monument Valley fame). A bad game will have Joe Bloggs Ltd singing its own praises with very little interaction from users.
Does the game stink after a dozen levels?
This is a double-edged sword since it’s easy enough for poor players to throw around incorrect accusations of cheating. One interesting example is Backgammon NJ for the Android Phone. But if you know your match-threes (*) you can quickly get a sense of when something doesn’t add up. If the other dot points above point in the same direction, then the flag is definitely coloured some strong shade of red. Obviously “dozen levels” doesn’t really apply to Spider Solitaire, but you get the gist.
(*) or substitute suitable game-genre here
Does Joe Bloggs Ltd have form?
If the company has other bad games then that’s a strong indication something is off. Although I didn’t mention this in my paper, the company that developed the “rogue” Spider Solitaire software had an even worse “Mah-Jong Solitaire”. We all know how many words a picture is worth so I will dump this gem below and let the reader judge for himself. Of course, I am assuming the reader has elementary knowledge of Mah-Jong tiles.
Needless to say, the company that developed the Spider Solitaire server failed miserably on all the above dot points.
What are your thoughts about good or bad game products? Are any important indicators missing? Do you have any favourite examples worth sharing? Of course, favourite examples don’t have to be bad!
2 thoughts on “Is Joe Bloggs Ltd a legit company?”
I’m from a different era. I wrote serious programs on IBM punch cards, and was a valued C programmer in the 1990s. As a buff of Avalon-Hill war games in the 1970s that were played with little cardboard counters, it was the most amazing dream that something like Sid Meier’s Civilization would ever exist.
I know very little about evaluating companies and am glad to read what you wrote. I use the TreeCardGames version of Spider for one simple reason — you can make most moves with just a click and no need to drag, which is hard on my 66-year-old arms with an RSI past. If anyone knows another version with that feature, I would be delighted to switch. I’d even pay money.
I don’t know how TreeCardGames make money (does my ad blocker stifle their efforts effectively?) or what else they might be in it for. Making a program that gets harder if you do too well seems like extra programming effort for no discernible benefit to them — and likely a cost. One of my earliest computer games was rogue, which was extremely difficult to win. Since then it seems games got easier to win with snazzy graphics, but at the cost of game play. RR Tycoon I was a favorite (still play it) but I realize that for instance to plan routes you need to look at a grid of elevation numbers and do lots of mental subtractions. Probably limited the market so it got dumbed down with graphics next time around.
I treasure my laptop running Windows XP, as it’s the last O/S that runs Civ2, which remains a favorite (and I have a backup XP machine for when that one croaks). Some might say I’m stuck on old games of that era — Master of Orion #1 is another, and Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri another. My independent streak would argue that they are a good balance and later versions were not improvements in what matters to me. There’s an assumption that you would get bored with the old version of a computer game and want to go on to the next… but why? Fans of chess and bridge do not agitate for going on Advanced Chess or Bridge: the Next Generation. They find a game and are happy to play it their whole lives.
More broadly than games companies, the need to distinguish spam and phishing from real useful web sites and emails is in itself a major headache for me. A 1982 Ph.D. from M.I.T. doesn’t really help. Maybe there should be an adult ed course on it, though it would maybe need to update the curriculum too often to be effective. I gather smart young people get a feel for this much more easily than I do, which is typical of how the world works — young folks learn better.
I have obviously strayed from your topic.
Thanks for your comments. You correctly ask why would TreeCardGames make their games harder for a winning player. My best guess is the developers just “don’t get it”. The developer may think that in a match-3 game level 50 should be harder than level 10, therefore they extrapolate to say that a Spider player should have a more difficult hand after 50 wins than 10 wins. Of course this is complete bobbins because the whole point of playing Spider on the computer is to remove the tedium of shuffling cards – which is supposed to be completely random. I can’t imagine some autistic child using red/blue/yellow/green tokens to manually play Toy Blast and roll the dice to determine the colours of subsequent tokens after every move 🙂
If you want a different RSI-friendly non-corrupt Spider Solitaire server try https://www.spider-solitaire-game.com/