Take in all that 32-bit goodness

When it comes to Slitherine titles, iOS 11 truly is an App-ocalypse

I was wandering over at the old digs yesterday and stumbled on an interesting comment at the end of their review of the Slitherine-published, Carrier Deck. It concerns the upcoming transition to 64-bit-only apps that we’ll see in iOS 11 and the many, many Slitherine titles many of us own.

The news ain’t good, folks.

The comment referred to this comment on the Slitherine forums concerning the change to 64-bits. Let me quote it for you:

In the last few years Apple have changed their operating system from 32 bit to 64 bit. Over the last few years Apples operating system has supported both 32 bit and 64 bit applications. However we expect Apple to end 32 bit support in fall 2017. If Apple decide to do this it means games written in 32 bit will no longer run on that operating system. The games which are affected are:

• Battle Academy
• Battle Academy 2
• Pike & Shot
• Hell
• Quadriga
• Commander the Great War
• Legion
• History Egypt Engineering an Empire
• History Egypt HD
• Great Battles Medieval
• Conquest! Medieval Realms
• Ice Road Truckers
• The Tudors
• Magnifico

We have a number of games that were released a number of years ago that are 32 bit. To update the games to 64 bit requires significant engine level rewrites and even if using a system like Unity can still require major updates to fit with the latest version of that software and then further updates to work with the latest version of iOS. It would take many man months of developer time per game to adapt and test the new versions, and updating the iOS versions would require all other formats to also be update exponentially increasing the work.

It is much the same as Windows XP games not running on the latest version of Windows.

Fundamentally it would cost far more to make the changes than any revenue we could hope to make out of it, this late in the product lifecycle and we’re talking orders of magnitude more.

Obviously, we’d prefer it if Apple didn’t remove 32 bit support but we’re completely at their mercy here. We’d really like players to be able to continue to enjoy these games. The only way you’ll be able to continue to play them is if you do not update your device to iOS 11.

Those are some pretty high-profile titles, many of which cost $20 not including the buckets of money spent on expansion content. Their point is a good one: there’s no way to recoup the costs involved with updating the apps to 64-bits. Then again, every other publisher is in the same boat and most of them (even one-man operations that don’t publish games anymore) are doing the work to convert their apps to 64-bit. This, apparently has more to do with the types of games that Slitherine produces:

The internal games listed here are in custom engines, which is required to make the kind of wargames we do. We also worked hard to allow modding and this is why the engine is so tied to 32 bit. If we did not support modding and used off the shelf engines to make more generic games then it would be easier to update. We don’t and while I understand your frustration it is not through lack of effort or bad choices on our part. The games would not have been possible if we took the easier route to update. When we made these games updating to 64 bit was not an issue. It didn’t exist. As I say I understand your frustration but it is simply not something we can do anything about and is absolutely not our fault.

The games developed by 3rd parties (GBM, Quadriga tec) are in a range of engines but the developers have said they don’t have the time and money to update them. Even if we thought it made sense (which we don’t!) we don’t have access to any source code/materials to actually find a team to update the software to 64 bit so its a total impossibility.

If you’re a fan of these Slitherine titles (and I’m pretty sure everyone is a fan of Battle Academy), this makes updating to iOS 11 a difficult choice. Slitherine has updated the app descriptions to indicate that the apps will not be updated in the future so new buyers are warned, but for those of us who have been playing these games since way back when Owen was raving about them, we might have to keep our iPads on an older version of iOS.

Disclosure: I used to work for Slitherine , specifically for Wargamer Ltd.

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Notable Replies

  1. I do not know much about programming, so take what I say with a grain of salt. First and foremost, I primarily blame Apple for creating an operating system that seemingly continually breaks applications. It isn't even just iOS 11 and the upcoming appocolype; it seems that every major update breaks something.

    That said, I think it is a big black eye for developers who do not update their software along with Apple's changes, and I think they should be called out, shamed, flogged, and possibly tar & feathered so that consumers know going forward that certain developers are less likely to support their applications as the operating system changes. Is it a burden on them? Of course, but some developers seem to make it work, so I'd imagine others can, too, if they took the time and effort. I'm not blind to the fact that it costs money and that these developers may not find the cost and effort worth it, and that is a legitimate business decision. But it is a legitimate consumer decision to give them crap for it.

    I'd also like to mention that in an economy where .99 is the norm and $20 is borderline astronomical, it seemingly compounds the issues more that many of the expensive apps may be going the way of the dodo - a slap in the face to consumers in my opinion.

  2. I still don't understand why Apple doesn't require a big caveat front and center on any app in the store that is nothing more than a couple months rental at this point.

  3. I'm all for culling. In fact, I desperately want a culling. Culling helps get rid of the broken apps, the unsupported apps, and the blight of three App Store - the lazy clones of bad games that exist only to make quick money from an uniformed consumer base. That active developers can't be bothered to update their premium, and often expensive, titles and will willingly allow their software to be culled is sad. Slitherine, and others, seem happy to let their apps ride off into an abrupt sunset with the likes of Super Flappy Turbo Bird and This App Love You Long Time...

  4. AppShopper also works through the web at appshopper.com, so you can still get the functionality out of the service there. I actually ditched the app in favor of the browser.

  5. If you want to rent a game for a month, all these apps are apparently on sale now.

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