Monday, August 06, 2012

War Room: A history and review

So I posted on the Steam-Powered Gamer facebook page this morning that I will be going on hiatus this week due to a last-minute move between apartments, but something special happened today that I had to break my hiatus for:
Pretty much everyone in the Warmachine/Hordes community should be aware by now that War Room has officially been released!
There's been a lot of drama swirling around the War Room release and the numerous delays.  Well, the wait is over!... sorta.  Let me provide a brief history for those who might not be aware of what has happened leading up to this historic release and my impressions of playing with the application itself for the past few hours.

Originally slated for a spring release, War Room was announced amid cheers of excitement and adoration from fans at Templecon 2012.  We got to see the great potential of the app then and it looked nearly finished from the video that was presented.  Fans were even more surprised that they'd only have to wait 3 months to get their hands on such a great product that not only made their cards irrelevant, but could totally change the way miniatures games are played.  Then came the first delay.

"What's going on?  When's War Room coming out?"  These questions would become infamously symbolic for the development of War Room.  Privateer Press then announced that there would be a delay.  They were 'adding functionality' to War Room - specifically, Privateer Press mentioned in their press release that the fans had requested list-building features and so they needed more time to incorporate that (and other) functionality into the app.  The "official" release date was pushed back to July 6th.  When the day arrived, however, fans' hopes were dashed away when Privateer Press announced that the app had been submitted for approval by the various app stores (including Google Play and iTunes).  Hardly the "Release Date" the fans were looking for.

Still, some held out hope while others began to complain more loudly.  "Why are they only submitting the app now?"  "Shouldn't the product be available for download on the release date?"  These were good questions which brought into question the foresight of Privateer Press and Tinkerhouse Games.  Privateer Press made sure to emphasize to fans that "this is our first mobile app and we've learned a lot of lessons," but did this appease the fans?  To some, it did.  Until the next round of bad news.

By this point, fans were restless.  Not only had the product been delayed from it's initial release window, but even the delayed release date had proven to be delayed even further by an approval process that many weren't even aware even existed.  The worst injustice (to certain fans) was that the app was completed and finished for Android operating systems - the delay was due to Apple's approval process.  Privateer Press insisted that they believed that a "simultaneous release" was more important to them and so Android users had to wait until Apple finished approving the desired changes to the app before they could get their completed version.

In the afternoon hours today, Privateer Press confirmed the release of War Room!  Warmachine/Hordes fans rejoiced!... sorta.  Well, it was a little ironic that the iOS users had access to download War Room first, considering the platform was the reason for the delay.  Privateer Press had been working overtime on customer service throughout the day, updating Android users that the problem was with the Google Play servers and that the release was coming.  They even provided an external link for Kindle Fire users to install, even when it wasn't up in the store yet.  Privateer Press has been running damage control for an already slightly bitter fandom population.  Finally, everything was released and finalized this evening so everyone is playing around with the app, figuring out it's inner workings.  My verdict?


Don't get me wrong - I think this has potential to be absolutely earth-shattering.  Just... not yet.  There are lots of bugs still.  While the app works fine on my phone (HTC EVO 4G), there are many Android users out there who can't even get the program to run.  The UI is a bit clunky, but that might be due to years of using iBodger.  Some bugs include attachments not going where they needed to, Shredders being FA: C, Merc/Minion options aren't sorted properly for your faction/list, and theme forces tell you what you're allowed to take if you read the description, but don't actually limit how you build your list, nor do they apply discounts appropriately.  I foresee some awkward lists including models/units that aren't actually in the theme force, but are there since the program allows them.

My favorite bug is that even if you buy the "ultimate bundle," the program still allows you to spend money on faction decks or other bundles.  In fact, if I try to add the Woldwrath to one of my Circle lists, it tells me I don't have the card and asks me if I want to buy the faction deck - even though I've already dropped $60 on the program.  That's the same cost as a brand new, blockbuster Xbox 360 game, and it can't tell that I've spent money already.

It's also apparent that Tinkerhouse was not intending the app for usage with Android at all, since key buttons on Android phones (the Menu, Back arrow, and Search) have no value in the program, and you instead have to touch the appropriate buttons in the program.  It shouldn't be hard to re-route these functions to the actual hardware of the Android OS, yet it's not there.  Also the fact that you have to touch the "okay" button every time you're finished entering text adds to the overall impression of a really bad port to Android of what was clearly intended to be an iOS program.  The ironic part is that Apple was the company to delay the release of the product, when clearly more work needed to be done on the Android version.

All that said, the program delivers what we were promised: we can make lists, we can make games, and we have a digital reference/replacement for cards and rules.  Like I said, it has the potential to forever change the way we play miniatures games... just not yet.  There are a lot of bugs and I hope that the deluge of revenue and the current Google Play Store average rating less than 2.0 will inspire Tinkerhouse to work hard for the next two weeks to fix this sub-par product.  Personally, I'm glad I own the app but I will likely still use iBodger to build lists and I'll still bring cards to my games until the app is fixed.  I'll play around with it if my opponent has it too and it'll be useful to have all of the relevant rules references there with me, but I'm pretty under-whelmed right now and hope Privateer Press is listening to their disappointed fans.

Overall I rate it a 3/5, with the potential to be 4/5 if the fix the bugs or 5/5 if they actually make the Android version appropriate for the platform instead of just a bad iOS port.

UPDATE: Privateer Press is working hard to fix any problems that users are facing.  If you're having problems, please click here for information on reporting bugs.  The fact that Privateer Press is working so hard to resolve these lingering issues fills me with hope.
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