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. Goose says:

    Oh that is not good. I could not live without many of those…

  2. 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.

  3. I’ll never, ever understand why Slitherine gets such support here, and why the same was true when many of us were hanging out at That Site That Used To Be Good, But Which Is Now A Pathetic Shell Of Its Former Self™.

    After observing the debacle that was the Pocket Tactics purchase/Fernando disappears saga … after excuses (and now silence) concerning the Gettysburg Kickstarter thing … after buying one too many awful ports of a PC title haphazardly pushed onto the App Store … and while currently hearing nothing but excuses while some one-man shops are hustling to actually serve their customers … well, let’s just say I’m not a huge fan.

    Slitherine has always struck me as a money-first, not customer-first, operation. My personal boycott of anything they touch has been going on for a couple of years now. Their current “It’s all Apple’s fault!” attempt at misdirection just ensures that our sun will go supernova before they ever see another dime from me.

  4. So, Slytherine should put its iOS apps on sale then. Nobody in their right mind is going to buy them for $20 when they are already announced to become obsolete. They are good games and it would be a shame to see them die in the coming app-ocalypse. Maybe if they tried pricing them more in line with other iOS games they could generate enough revenue to justify the admittedly onerous costs of iOUpdating11. I feel like I could just as well make this post on PT as well, but somehow this is my new gaming home… and I’m not sure where I would post it there, I don’t want to be a harbinger of doom, I still like them, although not as much as during the Owen days, and hope their parent company doesn’t find them obsolete too. Or we could make a Kickstarter campaign for Dave to do a leveraged buyout of Slytherine’s properties?

  5. 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.

  6. Thanks for the information. I have an iPad 3 w/ Retina display that stopped at iOS 9, it’s not supported by iOS 10, much less 11. I’ll continue to hang on to it to avoid the 32-bit appocalypse, and will be sure to keep it populated with these that I don’t want to lose.

  7. That’s a good point. I’m an Apple fan (although way less than I was like 4-5 years ago), but I’ll be the first to admit that they often seem entirely tone-deaf on issues that upset consumers.

    Apple’s current POV seems to be: “Hey, this 32/64 thing was first announced in early 2015.” Which is fine and all, except that the conversation to this point has mostly been conducted by tech nerds at tech sites. The generic user of an iPhone (or other piece of hip tech) does not visit forums, gaming sites, Reddit, or anything else like that – they just use their phones to make calls and launch angry birds.

    And those people are going to be pissed once they see some of their favorite apps not working. If for no other reason, Apple should — as you pointed out — start getting warning messages onto the App Store sooner rather than later.

  8. I don’t have any of the Slitherine games, but I’m concerned about other developers taking this attitude. Understanding what level of support to expect from a developer is a consideration when buying a game. Will I be able to play this game for as long as I care to? This 64-bit app-ocalypse is showing what type of support to expect in the future from each developers.

    This makes me wonder about games that are not super popular any longer (or ever), but provide online multiplayer. Who pays for the servers to support these games? If people aren’t buying the game in droves anymore, how do the developers keep the servers running?

  9. I wonder whether this might be deliberate on Apple’s part. They’ve struggled with discoverability and large numbers of terrible games in the App Store. Simply requiring a big up-front fee to list there would be pretty anti-indie, but periodically culling the listings of anything which isn’t actively supported is much less so. Slitherine fall into a weird hole, there, because of the custom engines, but that’s pretty rare, is my impression.

    Anyway, my impression is that even highly-regarded games like Battle Academy are a lot like back-compatible XBox games–a very small proportion of users will actually use them, and the attention the issue gets is out of all proportion to its effect on what most people actually play.

    Of course, I say that having recently fired up the old Crisis in Command series, and with the understanding that game preservation is culturally important and too often ignored.

  10. 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…

  11. I am with MireFox here.

    This approach to updates and product development is a deliberate ploy for what could be many reasons. Cleaning up the App Store without discrimination, keeping the buy cycle going, or ensuring that the supported pool of products is within an acceptable range. Regardless, it is by design.

    As a consumer, I don’t mind too much. I have bought maybe 400 apps in my purchased history, and most of them are trash purchases I care very little about. A few games I have “finished” and a few I still play regularly. However, there are more games than I can honestly play. I can’t even remember the last time I opened Nightfall or Puerto Rico.

    The other part is that it reminds you not to overspend on games at top dollar. I bought battle of the bulge and played it three times. shrugs my loss.

    Combining MMOs that close (Fury anyone?), CCG’s that cycle out your collection (Hearthstone), apps that disappear (ios11), nothing is that real or permanent. Do I expect to hand my grand kids my Steam or Apple collection?

    In Sum. Don’t really care if the apps get left behind. Hopefully something better rises from their ashes.

  12. Puerto Rico has already been upgraded to 64bit.
    i have nearly always been playing a game every now and then.

  13. Let’s keep in mind that Slitherine isn’t the only party guilty of this. I know the Shadowrun games are not going to get updated, SE had a lot of players wondering about the future of a number of (expensive) Final Fantasy titles, and whoever owns the Civilization and X-Com licenses seems to have neglected them.

    To compound this, dome of these titles are having holiday sales. X-Com, for example, just dropped from $10 to $3, a steal I normal times but unaware buyers might only be getting the game for a few weeks.

  14. That is also some scummy and anti-consumer tactic here.

    I actually found ONE(!) premium game while browsing my extensive appshopper wishlist stating in the “whats new” update list that they will remove the game when the app-ocalypse happens and reduced the price to free in the meantime.

    And that is actually pretty obscure to find information to begin with (at least for the absolute lazy ones who don’t browse the net, forums or even the app store desxcription of a specific app)…

    Which reminds me…appshoper is 32bit…and probably will be doomed as well… maybe the “deals, sales, etc” thread over here will get a revival out of that…

    The culling might be a good idea…but it should be done intelligently not “chainsaw to the neck” like it is now envisoned.
    I sure as hell don’t believe that the flood of crapware, knockoffs and stealware will be reduced over the long run…remember all new approved apps since Feb 2016 were required to be rolled out in 64bit already. so released crapware since then won’t be affected at all unfortunately.

  15. 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.

  16. Going to miss Qvadriga, whatever the excuse. In and ideal world the dev would update it once Mare Nostrum is out. looks hopeful

  17. This is an easy problem to solve. In my house there are 3 iPads. So if you have more than one iPad, keep one for older games and never update the iOS to 11. If you don’t have more than one iPad and you really want iOS11, get a new one for that and never update the one you have now.

  18. That pretty much describes my plan.

    I have an iPad Mini that I got practically for free for signing my soul over to AT&T. The plan is to use it for nothing but games, and to never upgrade it to 11.

    My main devices, though … I’m upgrading, for sure. Tech moves forward – always relentlessly forward. I gave up worrying about it at least 20 years ago.

  19. Same plan here.

    old iPad (3rd gen) (traded it back with my brother for my old Air when I upgraded to Pro) with iOS 9.X.XX
    (Factory reset gives you the latest supported iOS so i couldn’t go back to 8 or 7 without jailbreaking it) many games broke with iOS 9 hopefully not that much from my backcatalogue.

    iPad mini (4th gen) stays at the iOS 10.

    iPad Pro (10,5) will be upgraded.

    On a side note… for the first time in 4 years I had the 3rd gen iPad (first retina iPad) in my paws. Its incredible how fast tech changes (speed of booting stuff and safari browsing) and how incredibly heavy and clunky it feels compared to the Air and Pro.

    Many people complain about the “small” incremental changes over the years…I think they aren’t THAT small at all.

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

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