An infinite distance left to run

The App Store is a strange and capricious place. Once an app reaches a certain level of market awareness, success becomes a self-perpetuating phenomenon, regardless of any characteristics of the app itself. There’s no other way to explain, for example, the continued existence of the extraordinarily terrible Beautiful Boobs near the top of the free-app charts. Despite thousands of one-star ratings (the app’s overall score is an extremely generous 1.5) and the presence of countless superior free lady-ogling apps (which is to say, all of them), the mere fact that it’s in the top 10 causes more and more people to download it, keeping it there and shutting out more worthwhile titles.

The same problem also afflicts the paid-app charts, which is why Doodle Jump has been the No.1 paid game for about the last 50 years despite not being particularly great and there being an army of similar titles that are better (eg PapiJump+) and/or free. And such extended systemic bed-blocking sometimes causes very obviously brilliant apps to inexplicably fail to reach the heights they richly deserve.

The unhelpfully-named Run!, by the splendidly-named indie coder Arthur Ham, may possibly be my all-time favourite iPod game (in Quick Mode, that is). It’s very cute, highly addictive, has great catchy music, can be grasped by anyone in five seconds, and doesn’t involve any tilt controls. It’s got sharks, zombies, chainsaws and asteroids, and lots more besides. It’s got comprehensive online leaderboards and achievements, and a variety of modes including one where you can customise the game any way you like and then challenge your friends to play with your custom rules. And it costs just 59p. Yet bar a brief flicker on launch (assisted by being an App Store featured game) it hasn’t troubled the top 100 since being released back in August 2009.

And while almost every other decent iPod game I own has a well-populated OpenFeint friends leaderboard, Run! offers just a single opponent (with an absurdly feeble high score of 24, suggesting a game that lasted a maximum of 15 seconds) from the dozens of people I know with iPods and iPhones. Far more people bought Canabalt, despite it being a very similar but shallower game, no better made and three times the price.

Now, titling your game with a short generic word like Run! is pretty stupid. But a game this good ought to have risen to the top by now on word of mouth alone, and WoSblog is at a loss to explain why this one hasn’t. I mean, we’re talking about a game you only need one finger to play, and yet in which you can still bounce off a springboard over a leaping shark to pull off a flying kung-fu kick and take out a zombie parachuting from a helicopter, while blowing up a flaming meteor and a falling bomb with a rocket, and punch a wizard in the face when you land. It’s like I don’t even understand people any more.

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15 Responses to “An infinite distance left to run”

  1. Totally agree—apart from the bit about Doodle Jump, obv.

    • Well, I’m prejudiced against tilt control, especially portrait-orientated tilt control, and double-especially against tilt control that also requires you to tap the screen.

      On the other hand, you like Eliss and Galcon, so shut up.

      • That’s ’cause Eliss and Galcon are fab!

        As for Doodle Jump, weren’t you a fan of PapiJump at one point, or am I having a senior moment? (PapiJump being like Doodle Jump – 33% quality, and PapiJump+ also having the ‘tap to fire’ mechanic.)

      • I do mention PapiJump+ in the piece, and it’s a FAR better game. It has eight very different game modes for a start, and only one requires screen-tapping. (And it’s much less rubbishly done than Doodle Jump’s.)

        Doodle Jump is stupidly easy until about 20,000 and then suddenly gets randomly and unfairly hard. The bit (only encountered once so far) where you have to drag the platforms into position is just wretched.

      • Erk. Don’t know how I missed the PapiJump+ ref. But – we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. For me, PapiJump+ is like Doodle Jump with all the bits separated out and made less fun.

        Sometimes Doodle Jump can be a little unfair, but I usually get to around 30k before things get too fast for my fingers to work properly. The exploding platforms are the only thing I can’t stand, but the draggable ones are OK. (Note that if you hate all that stuff, there’s the built-in ‘remove all the new shit’ mode.)

  2. i got the game, am i the one with the feeble highscore? oops, should play this more..

  3. And this is why I don’t make iPod apps (and what is depressing me about making games generally):

    Marketing matters more than whether it’s any good.

    Three times more, apparently:

    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/marketing-influences-game-revenue-three-times-more-than-high-scores

    • “Marketing matters more than whether it’s any good.”

      Unlike games for DSi, PSP, Xbox, PS3 and PC, which purely sell on quality.

      • Andy Krouwel Says:

        Oh no, it applies equally to everything.

        It doesn’t depress me that it applies to iPod apps I don’t make, it does depress me that it applies to DS and Wii games that I do make.

      • Fair enough. It does seem, though, that an indie has a much bigger chance of breaking through on the App Store than on any other platform. And despite Apple’s stupidity regarding the approvals process sometimes, it’s a hell of a lot easier to get a commercial game on an iPod than on, say, a DSi.

  4. sausageandbun Says:

    Ooh, this is very lovely. Cheers for the heads up. It does make Canabalt look far too over priced (How nice it is to think games that cost £1.79 are expensive these days). Although to be fair the style and atmosphere of Canabalt endear it to me greatly.

    I am currently doing my best to pursue your score, as I believe I’ve added you (and some other WoSers) to my friends list on OpenFeint but don’t actually know if you will see me or not. Does it have an approval process?

  5. sausageandbun Says:

    Ah, see I’ve just noticed you mentioned QuickMode as the only one that counts (of course) and I’ve been slogging away at wimp mode thinking your score is reachable…. Damn it!

    I shall now try the quick mode, and no doubt fail…

  6. Tripled my score. Still feeble

  7. sausageandbun Says:

    I believe I have now bested your quick run score sir with a mighty 918.

  8. Big Plate of Chips Says:

    939. A HEROIC run ended by a bastard itchy nose. The traitor.

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