Developing Perspective

#31 - Temple Space Verb


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:05   news of note in Apple iOS and things like that. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm an independent

00:00:09   iOS developer. I'm based in Herner, Virginia. And Developing Perspective is a show where

00:00:13   I talk about topics of note, topics of interest to iOS developers, people who like iOS, people

00:00:19   who develop applications, things like that. Today I'm going to be talking about a kind

00:00:24   of a funny situation that's currently in the App Store. And this specifically is related

00:00:28   to an application called TempleJump.

00:00:31   And so TempleJump is what you could probably charitably

00:00:36   call a bit of a scam.

00:00:38   It's for a little bit of a back story.

00:00:41   There's an app called TempleRun, which is incredibly

00:00:43   popular in the App Store.

00:00:46   It's currently the number two grossing app.

00:00:47   It was the number one grossing app for a long time.

00:00:51   It's typically in the first one or two in the free apps

00:00:54   category in the US.

00:00:56   It was written by actually some people I know, some local

00:00:58   developers in DC, Keith and Natalia, and you know it's a great app. I mean I've

00:01:06   wasted many a, well wasted is, I've enjoyed many an hour wasting away my

00:01:10   time, you know, running away from demon monkeys as I escape a temple and you

00:01:16   know it's a great game. And what someone has done basically is they created an

00:01:19   app that is seeking to benefit from that success by creating an app that doesn't

00:01:28   doesn't really do much of anything, but in the same style in terms of the graphics, and

00:01:36   with a similar name, you know, "Temple Run," "Temple Jump," "Temple space verb."

00:01:42   And it's kind of an interesting thing, because there's a bit of a brouhaha in the community

00:01:46   about that, which I think is sort of fair enough and makes sense that it doesn't feel

00:01:53   right.

00:01:54   this app which is written by a developer called Anton Sineshkov. I brutalized that

00:02:02   last name but let's call him Anton. You know he is a developer in the App Store

00:02:07   who has created a couple of apps like this. There's a couple you know he has

00:02:10   Angry Ninja Birds, he has Tiny Birds! Catch the Birds, Bird Cart,

00:02:15   Numbers with Friends, Angry Grandpa, Zombie Jump, you know it kind of goes on

00:02:20   and on that it seems like the way he, you know, he has 68 apps in the App Store that

00:02:27   kind of seemed to be on this line where he's kind of taking what someone else has done

00:02:32   and sort of jumping on it.

00:02:36   It's like he has plants versus zombie rather than zombies.

00:02:40   And he has a whole variety of these apps that are just, you know, they feel scammy.

00:02:46   They feel like they're being disingenuous to the user, that they're capitalizing on

00:02:50   on someone's expectations that they're related

00:02:52   to something else, but in reality they're not.

00:02:56   And as an app developer, as someone who makes my living

00:03:00   here in the app store, this doesn't make me feel good.

00:03:06   This doesn't, it feels like it cheapens or diminishes

00:03:10   users' expectations of what they can expect

00:03:12   from the app store, which is bad for my business,

00:03:18   is bad for all of our businesses if people start having this expectation that, "Oh, apps

00:03:26   in the App Store are not so good."

00:03:29   But it's kind of difficult and complicated though, because when I look at this though,

00:03:35   I don't think that you can ... Some people say, "Oh, Apple needs to pull this out from

00:03:41   the App Store."

00:03:42   And as much as I don't like it, as much as ... I know the people who made the app that

00:03:47   that they're kind of ripping off and sort of profiteering

00:03:50   from, you know, they made a great app

00:03:52   and then someone else is profiting from, you know,

00:03:56   a bad version of that.

00:03:58   I struggle with if there's a way to,

00:04:02   on an institutional basis, sort of take that good taste

00:04:05   and you look at something like this and you're like,

00:04:06   that's just not in good taste.

00:04:08   You know, it's like irrespective of how the app is,

00:04:10   if it was a great app, if it did awesome things,

00:04:14   you know, it's like, irrespective of those things,

00:04:16   it just feels in bad taste to take the work of an independent developer who had a wild

00:04:20   success which is awesome.

00:04:22   As an independent developer myself, that's the thing that keeps you motivated is when

00:04:26   you see people do that.

00:04:27   And then to kind of cheapen that by being very successful by kind of ripping them off

00:04:33   and taking it, and a nap that's nowhere near the same level of polish, nowhere near the

00:04:37   same level of quality, and putting it out there.

00:04:40   That just doesn't feel right.

00:04:41   That doesn't feel good.

00:04:44   But I don't know how you would address that.

00:04:47   'Cause I mean, the thing is, in this app,

00:04:50   he's very careful and seems to be very conscious

00:04:54   that it's not, he's not trying to make people think

00:04:58   it's Temple Run, which would be certainly clearly wrong.

00:05:02   Some of his other apps, I think,

00:05:04   are on the wrong side of that line,

00:05:07   where it's like Plants vs. Zombie

00:05:09   versus Plants vs. Zombies,

00:05:12   That's clearly sort of disingenuous and deceptive.

00:05:15   TempleJump is a different name, you know, and fair enough, it's trying to associate

00:05:20   itself with that.

00:05:21   I mean, I remember back there was the big thing about the Doodle apps and whether DoodleJump

00:05:26   could kind of copyright doodle something, but then everyone sort of started to do that.

00:05:31   And it's like, can the Imangi, you know, can Keith and Natalia claim temple verb as whatever,

00:05:38   you know, sort of that's theirs and they can do what they want with that?

00:05:41   Or is that too much?

00:05:44   Is that pulling it in?

00:05:46   And you look at the app itself, its icon

00:05:49   is very reminiscent of their one.

00:05:52   But it's different.

00:05:53   It looks like it was made by another artist who

00:05:59   was said, hey, here's an app icon that I like.

00:06:02   And I'm staying in the style.

00:06:04   And could you make me something that looks similar to it?

00:06:07   If you think the best of the guy in terms of his motivations,

00:06:10   You could almost imagine it as in the same way that, you know, master painters copy other

00:06:16   master painters to become better at what they do.

00:06:19   You know, it's, I don't think people consider that necessarily disingenuous.

00:06:22   It's like you're trying to, you know, Temple Run is one of the best games in the store.

00:06:28   And so it makes sense that if you're trying to make a game in the store that you would

00:06:32   be trying to do that.

00:06:34   Kind of, you know, sort of being in that style, following along.

00:06:37   I mean, in some ways, the imitation is the sincerest form of flattery kind of a thing.

00:06:43   So that's fair enough.

00:06:45   He doesn't seem to be breaking copyright in that way.

00:06:48   He's more just being deceptive in a sort of disingenuous way.

00:06:52   And so, if you kind of have those, if it had been like Temple Run!

00:06:57   I think that'd be totally reasonable for Keith and Natalia to make a copyright or trademark

00:07:03   Claimed to Apple and Apple's typically in my experience been very good about pulling things and I'm pulling apps down or at least reviewing and investigating

00:07:08   It's you know when they have complaints like that

00:07:10   I'm putting this case. It's like what do you do like the app? I haven't downloaded it because

00:07:15   I'm not last thing I'm gonna do is support someone I think is ripping off

00:07:19   you know a fellow fellow indie especially local indie but

00:07:23   You know from kind of accounts. It's it's it's a game. It works

00:07:27   It has looks like cuz you know somewhat custom artwork in it and things like that

00:07:31   It's just not very good.

00:07:33   But it seems kind of harsh to say like, well, because it's not very good, it shouldn't be allowed in the App Store.

00:07:38   You know, tens of thousands of people have downloaded this app in the last day or two.

00:07:44   And it seems kind of harsh to be like, well, I'm sorry, your app's not good enough to be downloaded by people.

00:07:50   Those people shouldn't be allowed to download it.

00:07:52   Like you start getting the very slippery slope when you start saying, well, this isn't good enough to be in the App Store

00:07:58   because it isn't as polished as one of the best apps in creation.

00:08:03   I think that's the thing that I struggle with.

00:08:08   I don't think this is the case for Anton, but if you think the best of it,

00:08:13   say for example, it's someone learning to make games.

00:08:18   They think the App Store is super cool.

00:08:23   They see a game like Temple Run, they play it, they love it,

00:08:24   and they decide, "Hey, you know, I want to make something kind of like that.

00:08:28   I want to learn how to make games, and I want to build something like that."

00:08:33   And they go off and they work on it and they work on it and they work on it,

00:08:36   and they make it, and they put it in the app store.

00:08:39   They're so proud of it.

00:08:40   Like, should that not be allowed?

00:08:41   Should they not be able to sort of put an app in the store

00:08:43   because it's inspired and similar to something else?

00:08:48   I mean, if you look at Temple Run, and it's like, it's like the stylistically,

00:08:53   It's clearly based on the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

00:09:01   Whichever Indiana Jones begins with him running out of a temple

00:09:05   with a shrine, with a giant ball rolling, a boulder rolling after him.

00:09:10   They replace the boulder with demon monkeys, which is a substantial

00:09:15   difference there.

00:09:16   But it's in the style.

00:09:17   It's the guy with the hat and the look of-- it's Indiana Jones.

00:09:21   and that feels fine.

00:09:24   That's a remix.

00:09:25   That is taking something that's part

00:09:29   of the popular culture and the mindset of people

00:09:32   and saying, hey, we're going to make a game that's

00:09:34   kind of fun like that.

00:09:36   And it's like, they didn't call it--

00:09:38   their main character's name isn't Indiana,

00:09:40   or it isn't Illinois.

00:09:42   It's that they took that and they went far enough away

00:09:47   that it feels like it's in good taste.

00:09:49   And what this guy did is he took something and he didn't go far enough away from it,

00:09:55   is probably the best way to say it.

00:09:57   And so it's not in good taste.

00:09:58   And so it feels dirty and scammy.

00:10:01   And I wish it wasn't in the app store.

00:10:05   But I can't think of a way to make it go away in a way that, if you institutionalized, would

00:10:09   be reasonable.

00:10:13   Wherever you draw the line, people are going to be sitting there constantly trying to find

00:10:17   because as soon as you, there's a tremendous amount of money

00:10:21   to be made just on the razor edge on the other side

00:10:24   of that line.

00:10:26   And I mean, in some ways I'd love for Apple to move

00:10:27   that line really far along.

00:10:30   I mean, you can think of all kinds of crazy things

00:10:32   that they could do.

00:10:33   It's like maybe if they, you know, you cost $1,000

00:10:35   to submit an app to the app store.

00:10:37   Rather than $100 per year, it's like it's $1,000

00:10:39   to make a new app.

00:10:41   Then the number of people who just kind of throw things

00:10:43   up there and hope they work, I mean, this gentleman

00:10:45   has made 68 apps that a lot of them kind of look like

00:10:47   they're kind of have that vibe of it.

00:10:49   It was like, well, let me throw something in,

00:10:51   let me see if this works, see if that works,

00:10:52   see if this works.

00:10:54   You know, it's like if that had a substantial

00:10:55   financial cost, that would likely be, you know,

00:10:59   sort of dramatically reduced.

00:11:01   Or, you know, but at the same time,

00:11:03   that would really hurt smaller indie shops who,

00:11:05   you know, couldn't, maybe not indie shops,

00:11:10   but just individuals, kind of people learning the platform,

00:11:13   learning how to do things, it's kind of fun

00:11:15   to be able to put something in the store.

00:11:17   You know, so then you're like, well,

00:11:18   should there be like two different stores?

00:11:20   Should there be a fancy store and a not so fancy store?

00:11:25   And so that kind of feels weird too.

00:11:29   Like, can you really say, well, it's like,

00:11:33   well, this is where we put all the really good apps,

00:11:36   and all the really good apps are in this store,

00:11:37   and then here's kind of like the sketchy side neighborhood

00:11:42   where all the bad apps hang out,

00:11:44   or an app has to sort of prove itself there,

00:11:46   and we pull over the cream of the crop from that.

00:11:51   But, you know, I just don't see it.

00:11:54   And so it's frustrating, but I think I'd rather

00:11:58   live in a world and work in a world

00:12:00   where Apple is reviewing apps to get rid of.

00:12:04   I think I imagine they're cutting out 90%

00:12:08   of just horrific apps that I'm sure are being submitted,

00:12:11   and then only letting through the good stuff.

00:12:14   And that may feel kind of,

00:12:16   when you see something like this get through,

00:12:17   you're like, "Ah, man, I wish they kind of had pulled that."

00:12:20   But I don't know if you can kind of do that

00:12:24   in a systematic way that doesn't feel unfair,

00:12:27   that doesn't feel, you know, to someone else who

00:12:31   is making an app that is, you know,

00:12:35   has the best intentions.

00:12:37   And sort of to cut them out,

00:12:39   I think I'd rather let the market sort it out,

00:12:41   that apps like this get toasted,

00:12:44   and it currently has 315 one-star reviews

00:12:48   and 28 five-star reviews.

00:12:50   Clearly, it's not a good app.

00:12:52   Maybe that's the way Apple should handle it,

00:12:55   that rather than doing rankings based on charts,

00:12:58   based on sales and volume,

00:13:00   it's like to have some weighting there for quality

00:13:03   and basing that on, say, customer reviews,

00:13:06   which is not the best measure,

00:13:06   but you can throw that in there and say,

00:13:09   even if you've got lots of sales,

00:13:11   you kind of have this, if you're really poorly reviewed,

00:13:15   there's kind of like an anchor around your neck,

00:13:17   but you'd have to have tremendous volume

00:13:19   to kind of offset that.

00:13:21   Maybe that's the way to do it.

00:13:22   I mean, that seems pretty reasonable to me,

00:13:24   and maybe that's kind of where I'll conclude this,

00:13:25   and to kind of say, Apple, please do something like that,

00:13:28   so that low quality apps don't make it high in the charts,

00:13:32   'cause then it kind of self, it feeds on itself.

00:13:35   And I think there's a number of apps

00:13:36   that come to mind that would meet that criteria.

00:13:41   You have all the very scammy

00:13:43   flashlight or lock screen apps or things like that

00:13:51   that just don't,

00:13:53   aren't very high quality,

00:13:56   but if you could find the way into the top list

00:13:58   and then just live there forever

00:13:59   because once you're in the list,

00:14:02   that's what's easy to stay there.

00:14:03   Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

00:14:05   That's it for today's show.

00:14:07   You can hit me up on Twitter.

00:14:08   I'm @_davidsmith.

00:14:10   And otherwise, my blog at david-smith.org.

00:14:14   I'll probably be talking about this a bit more today.

00:14:16   Hope you enjoyed the show.

00:14:17   If you like it, please tell a friend.

00:14:18   That's the best thing you can do.

00:14:19   Rate it on iTunes if you want.

00:14:21   Or just generally enjoy it.

00:14:22   And I'll talk to you later.

00:14:24   Happy coding.

00:14:24   Bye.