It was just under a month ago that my frustration with a long-time favorite game app -- Astraware Word Games (US$2.99) -- reached a peak and I grudgingly deleted the app from my iOS devices. I vented my frustration in a post titled "This is what happens when a developer ignores an app year after year" in which I wondered why a developer would just abandon such a well-designed app. I'm thrilled to report that Astraware Word Games has now been updated and works quickly on all of my favorite iOS devices.
Not long after that original post ran, the CEO of Astraware took the time to apologize for having ignored the app for a while. Howard Tomlinson explained that the indie development company now consists of just two developers, himself and David Oakley, as he explained that "like many other indie developers we've slimmed down with the times as the app business isn't as generous as it used to be."
Tomlinson also agreed with my comment that app stores should warn potential buyers of "stale" apps or even remove them if they're out of date: "The article raises a really good point about OS updates leaving apps behind to fall out of compatibility with the latest version, actually we'd be supportive of app stores messaging to warn that a particular app is getting out of date (say 2+ years ), and then removing it if it gets to 3 years or is no longer compatible with the majority of devices. Some stores kind of do this, and some stores also work by having the developer specify devices/OS versions that the app does work on, so new devices simply don't see that app unless it then gets updated too."
Well, Tomlinson and Oakley did some amazing work in a short amount of time, updating the app not only on iOS, but also on Mac OS X. Astraware Word Games now supports all of the highest resolution devices and OS versions, and they've added to the size of the in-game directory so that it now has a whopping 150,000 words. To be honest with you, I wasn't even aware that there was an OS X version -- I'm buying Astraware Word Games for Mac ($4.99) to round out my playing experience and spend even more time exercising my brain.
Revisiting Word Games to update it brought back some good memories for the development team. Tomlinson says that "While we were updating Word Games there were lots of points where David and I stopped and said 'I'm really proud of this bit!' as we saw bits that we'd taken lots of time on originally, which aren't main features but we felt made it an interesting product - in particular the books, page turning, doodles, and stacks of books in the 'rating' page. Oh and including your own pic in a sepia tone on the bookshelf (see image at right). Things we know most people won't notice, but give us a sense of pride when we see them."
So there you have it. Indie developers like Astraware are, by and large, responsive and have more pride for their products than some of the big names in the business (I'm looking at you, Electronic Arts, for ignoring your classic Monopoly game...). Support your indie developers by purchasing their products, and don't be shy about asking them for an update on occasion!