Sloppy Ports

This blog post borders on gossip, but I couldn’t help but repost a rather long rant I wrote in the comments of another iOS board games blog post over on BGG. In it, the author, Gabe A. links to the latest Carcasonne app blog post by The Coding Monkeys, which ended with the following awkwardly worded dig:

Yeah, it sure takes us a lot of time to get these things done. We’re sorry for making you wait. We love the game and think it deserves the time to make it truly great, instead of doing a quick but sloppy port, like it unfortunately happens so often on other platforms and to others of our favorite board games. We want to do better. Thanks for having the patience to let us do so.

Gabe had this to say:

Strangely, they also the word “sloppy” in making a veiled reference to “others of our favorite board games.” Eh, what’s that about?

…and here was my comment:

I don’t think this is strange at all.

Carcassonne by The Coding Monkeys is to iPhone app board game conversions what the iPhone is to smartphones in general. Basically, it’s just a million times better. Sure, there are little nitpicky things that I would like to change (it’s impossible to please everyone), but overall, the experience is far superior to the competition.

Companies like Codito and Tribeflame should definitely be applauded for dedicating their development efforts to iOS ports of these games we all know and love, but they should also take a page from The Coding Monkeys playbook, and spend a bit more time and effort to polish those games until they shine before releasing.

I really wanted to like Through the Desert for iPhone. It’s one of my favorite (if not actually my favorite) board games in real life, and I was pleased as pie to be able to finish a game in half the time on my iPad as it would take to finish a game with all the physical bits. Unfortunately, that’s where the pleasantness pretty much ended. The game is not as buggy as EVERY SINGLE RELEASE FROM Codito, but the multiplayer has basically never worked for me, and another couple of weeks spent polishing the user interface would have gone a really long way, IMHO.

In contrast, Carcassonne was, for me, one of those played out games relegated to the back of the closet. Don’t get me wrong, I played a lot of the game back when I first discovered it in like 2004… but it hadn’t seen the table in ages. The Carcassonne app pretty much turned that around overnight. I play more Carcassonne now than I ever did before. And it’s certainly not because the game got better. It’s all about the awesome implementation — asynchronous play and ELO especially.

Now, I understand not every game is going to have the luxury of a year of development, and budgets obviously factor directly into how much spit and polish a game is liable to get, but I personally feel like many of these board games — especially the ones near the top of the BGG list — deserve better than they have been getting from their developers. These are games that have already stood the test of time. I just hope their app counterparts can do the same.