Little Alchemy

Little Alchemy

The Rubbish

Luckily I’ve played an Alchemy style game before or I would have been totally confused by this application. There’s a big empty area on the left and 4 elements on the right. You can drag an element out of the right and if you combine two correctly (simply place on top of one another) a new item will appear. With a trackpad on a laptop this is a very frustrating UI (not that I can really think of a better way!)

The images are a little odd, and I’m not sure why plant + fire = tobacco either. It could really do with an introduction, some kind of in game hints, and, of course, a store logo! Impressively, it does continue to function in Snapped mode!

Failure Reasons

  • No app icon

Store Details

Games / Puzzle
Age rating: 3+
Developer: Recloak

Description

Simple yet addictive game.

Start with four basic elements. Then mix and match them to create more and more awesome things.

Combine the elements by simply dragging and dropping one on the other to make something new. See how many elements you can come up with.

Features

None listed

Link

http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-us/app/little-alchemy/f2b2fd6b-15fe-48c6-89bf-bb128b12bd75

Gingerbread Man v. the Smiley Faces

Gingerbread Man v. the Smiley Faces

The Rubbish

I have to admit that the name made me smile and I was really hoping for something awesome hiding behind the lack of a logo and the less than inspiring screenshot. Alas, I was disappointed.

If you can get past the lack of a logo and actually launch the game, there’s no splash screen either. Then there’s a gingerbread man sitting on a red line and smiley faces randomly appear. If you tap and drag the red line you can launch the gingerbread man around the small white area of gameplay (which is quite diddy on my large screen!) The physics is a little, erm, interesting as he likes to spin crazily. If you hit the smiley faces sometimes they spawn into two, sometimes they appear to get sliced in half. I really don’t know if I was supposed to hit them or avoid them. There’s no scoring, absolutely no indication what the gameplay is supposed to be!

Failure Reasons

  • No store logo, app icon, or splash screen
  • Does not work in snapped mode
  • Doesn’t appear to do anything!

Store Details

Games / Action
Age rating: 3+
Developer: Sayonara

Description

The gauntlet has been thrown, and Gingerbread Man must battle the Smiley Faces back balance and harmony to the universe.

Features

None Listed

Link

http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-US/app/gingerbread-man-v-the-smiley/9f47dcd5-69f8-4b00-b46d-daf5a9566576

Clarifying “Rubbish”

Well hello there everybody! My stats have gone totally crazy! Apparently there are a lot of you out there now reading this! Wow!

I feel like I should just clarify something. The apps I’m highlighting aren’t just apps I feel shouldn’t be in the store due to having limited functionality, terrible UI, icons drawn in MSPaint. The reason I’m naming and shaming these apps is because they should have failed.

Microsoft has strict guidelines for store submissions. They even have a very thorough review process from what we’ve seen with our apps. They spend time checking things, making sure everything is good, and that they will not crash. At least, they did with us, and many others we’ve spoken to who have been frustrated by the difficulties of getting approved.

Yet here are all these apps which managed to get into the store with no icon, without a functional snapped mode, without a privacy policy, with crashes which appear within moments of testing. These apps should NOT have been approved because they don’t obey the rules!

How do some developers bypass these rules? Why are some people allowed to submit broken rubbish whilst others fight to get awesome apps into the store because of minor issues? How do the awesome apps get seen when lost amongst all of these?

I will keep posting the rubbish in the hopes someone at Microsoft reads this blog and does something about it!

In good news, both Pavan and Kusuma appear to have taken down most of their apps. They did both apologise and say they would so I’m pleased to see they’ve followed through. There is still hope… if I can just contact every developer and get them to see sense!

Swagatam Mukherjee – Conversionist!

We’ve already met this developer, for his tapping game which I couldn’t make do anything! Back then it didn’t occur to me to check what other exciting offerings a developer might have. It would seem Swagatam likes numbers, and converting them! As long as you only want to do one conversion at a time, and only in one direction…

Please take a moment to marvel at those icons and imagine how glorious they will look on the start screen of your fancy new Surface. I should really learn to make my icons in MSPaint it clearly allows you to bypass most of the review process!

In amongst those apps you’ll notice that there’s 2 hex to decimal converters – yay for more cloning. The Multiplication Tables for Kids managed to have a store logo, but no actual app logo once installed!

None of these apps worked in snapped mode, or portrait. They all only convert in one direction and do simple maths which you could use a calculator (or even your own brain!) to do. The layout of items on the screen wasn’t well thought out, and once an onscreen keyboard was visible many of the buttons became untouchable.

A number of the apps are aimed at children. I can’t imagine many children sitting and learning their numbers or timestables whilst looking at such a dull screen!

Surely the better approach would be to create a single “Popular Conversions” app which has the ability to do all of these, and even in reverse. Maybe even with an icon I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have on my start screen. That could be a useful app, one people might use more than once. I might even write to the developer now and suggest that!

Interesting Developments

Last night this blog got noticed by people in America – my stats got rather exciting looking!

Then, at 6:05am I received 2 emails. Yes, at exactly the same moment. From Pavan and Kusuma. Both would now like to retract their previous comments about Pooja and would like it known that she’s great, and very supportive, and didn’t tell them to submit the same app over and over. It was all just a misunderstanding. Apparently.

Interestingly, Pavan’s looked like a forwarded message, by the interesting indentation and markings.

I’m sure it’s purely coincidental that the moment this blog gets found by someone in the US, both Indian’s who’ve blamed someone at Microsoft simultaneously change their minds.

I never heard back from Nikhila after the message stating “I was told to do so. I know this serves no purpose.”, but I doubt he would name Pooja now.

Amar, on the other hand, has been rather more defensive about the whole thing. He appears to be part of the Microsoft Student Program, and rather than apologise as the others have, his response was “I do knew that am using sample codes. But almost every people are doing the same…” Obviously just following the crowd… except that most people have at least tried to make the games their own.
Regarding submitting multiple times – “by the time I finish my application there wont be any cool names available. So I just did that to reserve cool names.” I look forward to seeing how he uses 8 Balls, Crash Ball, Maze Ball, Hop Ball, Ball Balance and Dragon Balls for these new games he’s working on! Interestingly, he was also the first to ask who I am!

I have at least one more developer I’d like to talk to about pointless app cloning, although I suspect the responses will be more guarded from here on out. It’s a shame, I was hoping for a third developer to confirm Pooja’s involvement, rather than have the first 2 change their minds.

Of course, even if they weren’t told to do this, there’s still the question as to how these apps are being approved. Broken snapped mode, no store logo, demo code, missing privacy policies, and the out right cloning. These should all be reasons to fail, and in fact are reasons apps have failed if you follow the complaints from other developers. Is there a special “this came from India, just let it in” policy? Do apps which have stolen clipart and logos drawn in MSPaint get fast tracked? Is the number of the apps in the store really that much more important than maintaining a standard of quality? Do Microsoft really want to be seen endorsing this kind of rubbish?

Now Cloning SDK Examples!

I almost overlooked this developer as the first couple of apps I found were different and looked okay. Then I realised that the apps are grouped by colour! Then I noticed “8 Player” which from the screenshot is clearly an SDK Example (though I can’t actually find the original).

There are 6 different apps in amongst those 23. Two of which are definitely SDK examples which I have found, the others look like they might well be, though I couldn’t even make Fun Camera do anything!

Fun Camera

Fun Camera

The Rubbish

I have no idea how he managed to make that screenshot as I can’t manage to make the app do anything! I just have a grey screen and a couple of buttons but nothing seems to work.

Store Details

Productivity
Age rating: 12+
Developer: Amar Zeno

Description

Want FUn? Want to edit your photos with ease??
This awesome application allows you to take photos and tweak the pictures with variant filter opions.

Features

Variant Filters

Link

http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-us/app/fun-camera/3b583f8b-8cca-415e-89d4-9ee6d49260a5

Touch Ball

Touch Ball

The Rubbish

I didn’t really understand the game – you have to tap the ball as many times as you can before it hits the walls a certain number of times. There are highscore tables and it sort of works in snapped mode, and there’s a credits page… for the guys at Contoso who actually made this! The original example! Well done to the developer for changing the title and logo and then submitting this!

Store Details

Games / Arcade
Age rating: 3+
Developer: Amar Zeno

Description

Wan This game allows you to test your precision skills by hitting a ball in motion.

Features

Precision test
Motion Ball

Link

http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-us/app/touch-ball/863cbe76-bc1a-4f26-9026-d52f559f4509

8 Player

8 Player

The Rubbish

From the layout of the application it is clearly an SDK example. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original despite much searching. The “Web Videos” link is particularly useful since the application doesn’t request permission to use the internet so it can’t do anything. Also, I managed to make it crash a few times by selecting different options.

Store Details

Productivity
Age rating: 12+
Developer: Amar Zeno

Description

This application allows you to play video files.

Features

Video playback

Link

http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-us/app/8-player/59f8ac5c-fb98-4a90-8140-c5825193533a

Ball Balance

Ball Balance

The Rubbish

I was really quite impressed with this game. It’s a fun little maze game with some physics and even high scores! I was just writing it a nice review (other than the whole cloning issue – only 6 copies of this one!) when I thought I’d better check snapped mode. It worked, it worked too well. A quick google later and I found the SDK Example for this game – Direct X Marble Maze Game. The developer has renamed, added their own logo, and submitted it to the store 6 times!

Store Details

Games / Arcade
Age rating: 12+
Developer: Amar Zeno

Description

Balance a ball and kill the time

Features

Ball Balance

Link

http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-us/app/ball-balance/9822eb5e-0a0f-4a32-a08b-196e41de4ea7

Colour Rain

Colour Rain

The Rubbish

Given the description, I was foolishly expecting an application where I could make and save images. Except that once you’ve drawn your masterpiece and hit “Save as Image” it politely informs you that it can only save handwriting. Choosing “Save as Text” then cancelling as it feels like a silly thing to do with your image causes the application to crash!
After it said the word handwriting I realised the R button recognises handwriting and turns it into text… but why?
Also, that X button in the top left – it closes the app – why?
Oh, and it’s been submitted 11 times!
Given the references to handwriting recognition and the fact that it won’t save images, I suspect this is likely taken from example code somewhere too.

Store Details

Productivity
Age rating: 12+
Developer: Amar Zeno

Description

This is an awesome paint application

Features

Painting

Link

http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-us/app/colour-rain/d477082a-b423-4b7a-977f-3efb3065b3f4

Puffles

Puffles

The Rubbish

This is a reasonable sliding tile puzzle with a choice of background colours and even the ability to set the background to a wallpaper of your choice. Sliding the pieces feels a bit weird, like they’re on elastic rather than following your touch. Also, there’s no score board or reason to replay.
Oh, and it’s in the store 3 times under slightly different names but with an identical app!

Store Details

Games / Puzzle
Age rating: 12+
Developer: Amar Zeno

Description

Want to kill time by the most simplest form of puzzle?

Then this application is for you

Features

Time Killer
Puzzle

Link

http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-us/app/puffles/d466c902-29fc-4089-abb2-75262ed7e80d

After two definite SDK Example copies and one highly suspected, it’s hard to believe the other 3 apps could actually be unique. I have contacted the developer to ask why they felt the need to submit the same app multiple times and also why they’ve submitted SDK Examples and claimed them as their own. I’ll post updates when I have them!

Another Cloned Memory Game

First up today we have a developer called Nikhila Divya who has submitted the same memory game to the store 28 times!

How do I find these developers? Have a browse and spot the icons which look like they’ve been made in MSPaint!

The game is fairly simple. You choose a level from 4 and are shown an image for 15 seconds. Then you have to answer questions about the picture to test your memory. The game is unfortunately littered with typos like ballons and Goofie. From the latter you might have guessed that it also uses images from Disney which I seriously doubt they have the rights to use.

The layout of the buttons changes sometimes. In some of the versions the instructions are hidden away on a second screen. None of the versions worked in snapped mode. Though they have taken the time to upload separate screenshots for each copy!

I contacted the developer asking why they had submitted the same game so many times and their response was – “very sorry sir. I have no intension of doing this. I was told to do so. I know this serves no purpose.” It seems the developer knows this is pointless but was just obeying instructions! I’m following up to find out if it’s the same person behind this as told Pavan and Kusuma!