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08 July 2015 @ 07:35 pm
Zombies Run! When an update goes bad.  
Zombies Run! is a very neat running app. It has a nice central concept - you listen to a story while you run, but the story is framed so that you, the runner, appear as the main protagonist and is played out via the radio messages you receive. In between radio messages you can listen to your own music. I've been using it for about 18 months now and was pretty fond of the app. It broke up the monotony of running, the story (given the constraints of the format) was well constructed and the voice acting was good. I even upgraded my phone specifically so that I could hear season 3 of the app which was iPhone 5 only.

For several weeks the blog, which I also vaguely followed, talked excitedly about the new version of Zombies Run! which would be released to coincide with the appearance of season 4 - a whole new set of episodes to listen to. I'll confess I wasn't paying a lot of attention, being less than half way through season three, but there was a lot of gushing about the wonderful new graphics, the attention being paid to story flow, reworking of some parts of the earlier seasons for new players and so on.

Then the update happened.

So, credit where its due, the Zombies Run! people obviously recognised that the core of the game was story-while-you-run-plus-own-music and that aspect remained more or less rock solid. But it was a shock to discover there were a whole bucket load of extra features I had become accustomed to that were no longer present. For instance

  • The app used to sync my runs with RunKeeper. I was using Runkeeper for all the runs I didn't do with Zombies Run! so the ability to sync the two together meant that there was one place I could get a complete overview of my run history. I used to get little emails from RunKeeper congratulating me on the fastest average time over a month and so forth - now I get little emails from RunKeeper asking why I'm not running regularly any more.
  • The app had a web interface were I could view the details of the runs I'd done, this included brief summaries of the story segments that had played, an interactive map which correlated to a speed graph so you could see where you had been running fast and where you had been running slow, and a list of all the songs you had listened to. It turned out that I was making more use than I had realised of all those features.

To be fair the web interface has partially reappeared. I can view a map of my run, but I can't correlate to speed, see summaries of story segments or view the songs I listened to. Moreover, after you've finished listening to an episode the app switches into "Radio Mode" where you get a second, less tightly focused, story centred around a radio station operating through the apocalypse. Radio mode no longer appears on the the web interfaces run logs, so its impossible to get the full picture of the run.

Radio mode also reset when the update happened, so I'm having to listen through a whole load of radio segments I had already heard.

For a while the blog continued to gush in an excited fashion about the update. In particular the exciting fact that the app was now free (previously you had to pay for each season as it was released). As someone who was halfway through listening to a season I had paid for, the fact the app was now free to listen to did not get me as excited as it might have done.

Eventually the blog manned up and mentioned the words "technical debt". So, I understand the concept of technical debt. Sometimes in order to scale a computer system up to the realities of its usage level, you have to do an awful lot of backend restructuring to recover from bad decisions that were made early on in order to get something up and running quickly. DreamWidth devs, as a case in point, spend a lot of time paying back technical debt inherited from the early days of LiveJournal. As a contrast though, DreamWidth, while it may not have added new features a fast as the user base would like, has been careful not to remove whole swathes of features while it fixes the technical debt. It's also been scrupulous about letting the user base know what is going on.

As I say, the core of the Zombies Run! app still works. I'm not going to be abandoning it. But I do resent having had a load of features stripped from the app without warning as part of an "exciting" upgrade. They've lost a whole bucket load of my goodwill and I shall probably not pay for the "Pro" features (which seem to be early access to episodes) where I was more than happy to buy seasons for the older version.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/163808.html.
wellinghallwellinghall on July 8th, 2015 07:42 pm (UTC)
This at least explains why you were being chased by a zombie when you fell the other week.
louisedennislouisedennis on July 9th, 2015 01:53 pm (UTC)
I wasn't being chased by a zombie though, I was being chase by an unexplained psychopath with a gun. The psychopath remains unexplained even though I've now listened to all of that episode. Hoping for enlightenment in the next episode, though I'm a bit concerned that the somewhat dippy hippy I've taken shelter with is going to turn out to be working for the baddies and has spiked the ginseng tea...
wellinghallwellinghall on July 9th, 2015 02:16 pm (UTC)
Erm, right ... I see ... I think ...