30 October 2011

Trial Version

A number of people have wondered why there’s no trial version of King of Dragon Pass. After all, we know that our Windows/Mac demo, which ends after one year, helped convince people to buy the full game.

 In fact, we think a trial would be the best way to introduce people to the game. (The casual game industry did a fair amount of testing, and found that sales were best when they offered a 60 minute free trial.)

But, according to the App Store Review Guidelines,
2.9  Apps that are "beta", "demo", "trial", or "test" versions will be rejected
which is pretty definitive.

So we would need to come up with something that is a self-contained game. A common approach is to offer a “Lite” (sic) version with say 10 levels, and a paid version (ideally through in-app purchase) with 100 levels. But King of Dragon Pass is really not this sort of game. What kind of story just stops arbitrarily after one year? Or even ten? Many games would make this more acceptable by having a score, but again, King of Dragon Pass tells a story, not a number.

So far we haven’t come up with any ideas that seem likely to pass App Store review. So we’ve been putting development energy into things like VoiceOver support or an iPad version.


  1. The App Store policy is just begging to be cheated.

    There are many ways you could offer a limited KoDP, just a few off my mind:
    -No clan member generation so that eventually you'll run out of people.
    -Limited map and/or limited NPC clans
    -Only 1 or 3 HQs, disabled shrines and blessings
    -Or you might "cheat" the AppStore policy by jacking up the apocalypse events.

    etc etc.

  2. Careful there! “If you attempt to cheat the system (for example, by trying to trick the review process, steal data from users, copy another developer's work, or manipulate the ratings) your apps will be removed from the store and you will be expelled from the developer program.”

  3. I do think Outis' ideas #2, 3 are good ones. Limit the game options with fewer clans, smaller map, no or limited exploration and no shrines. All things that are fun and really helpful, but not essential.

  4. I still think you could release a lite version that runs for X number of years. It doesn't matter that KODP isn't the kind of game that can stop after a short period of time; it's supposed to be a lite version that gives potential customers a taste of how the game looks and plays. Nothing more, nothing less. A game that costs £7 needs and should have a lite version.

  5. £7 is a bargain for a game of this calibre. Just because we've been spoiled by ultra-cheap mass market games shouldn't make us short-sighted about the value of more complex and subtle offerings. The App Store has skewed the cost-value equation beyond all recognition.

  6. Don't get me wrong; I have no issue with paying for quality iPhone games. I have spent in excess of £150 ($200) on games for my iPhone and I have no issue with supporting decent developers. I'm just saying that a relatively high-value game like KODP should have a lite version as there is no real reason why it shouldn't. With all respect to the developer, their explanation above isn't really convincing. I am not suggesting their product is overpriced; on the contrary, the sales figures speak for themselves and show that people are happy to pay for quality. It is not pricing I have issue with, it is the fact that there is no lite version when there really should be.

    Anyway, it is not for me to judge them. If they would rather concentrate their efforts on honing the existing game, then that is commendable.

    The fact that app prices are so low is neither here nor there; no one is forcing developers to produce apps for the iOS platform. If you want to get rich, then with very few exceptions, the App Store is not the place to do it.

  7. Hi, everybody!

    I think this discussion misses the core question here: "Would it possible to publish a free verison of K.o.D.P on the AppStore?".

    Despite the pros and cons on it, the answer is quite clearly: "Yes, it would be possible!". Other publishers have proven that it is possible, with many many other games in many many different ways. K.o.D.P. is a game, and not that very special, to make it an exception to the rule.

    I want to encourage you to publish a free version. I think I really would like to buy the game. But: no try, no buy!

    I don't say it would be easy, just like 1-2-3. But it would be possible! And to hide behind the AppStore regulations, to spare you the effort of it, really is not a strong argument.
    If you wanted to do it, you could do it. So it seems more like, you don't really want to do it, for whatever reasons.

    As for myself, it all comes down to simply this: if you want to sell a copy of K.o.D.P. to me, then put a free version of it on the AppStore. Or, alternatively, go on a limited sale for 0,79€ (0,99$). But, I will definitely NOT buy the game for 4,99€ or even 7,99€ without having had an oppertunity to get an experience on what I will get, if I put my money into it. Sorry!

    Besides all of this: I think it is a pretty good idea to look for ways to violate the bloody Apple regulations, when it is in the app buyers' interest and not too likely to harm the app seller. I didn't sell my soul to Apple and I wish for you you didn't either. Kick their balls. They sure deserve it for putting pressure on you and me like this.

    Freedom of choice is a value! And creativity can beat the system. And when the system is about to crunch us, we have all rights in the world to BEAT THE SYSTEM! DO IT!

  8. No, the core question is really: what would a free version *BE*. We don’t have a great answer yet.

  9. Can you limit the number of years that can be played in a day? One year per day leaves you asking for more, doesn't ruin the narration and it would be a perfect solution for a "just one more turn" experience like KoDP.

  10. That sounds exactly like what Apple would limit ("demo" or "trial")…

    The problem is coming up with a version that is limited, but not limited in the ways Apple prohibits. Games with levels have it easy. Angry Birds an give you a complete, 10-level (or whatever) experience, that you can play at your own pace. The structure of KoDP makes that a lot harder.

  11. So, while I'd really like to carry on the argument about what the core question here is ... Wouldn't get us anywhere. ;-)

    David D. said: "The core question here is: what would a free version *BE*. We don't have a great answer yet."

    I can't tell, if the proposals made concerning the features of a free version, are a great answer to that question. But they are: proposals, ideas. So, there is something to start from.

    What David says here, is always pointing in that one direction: "Sorry, we can't make a free version because of AppStore regulations and the very special kind of game K.o.D.P. is, compared to others.". I really don't agree with that attitude!

    David: it is YOU to think and come up with an answer to THAT question. And again: it would be possible! But instead, you keep declining all proposals and critics, over and over again.

    I get a feeling, there really is something else behind all of this and we won't get to know what it is. Make a move! It's YOUR turn to come up with some answers and a solution to a free version!

    I really don't like your attitude. Come up with something or I and hopefully a lot of other people interested in K.o.D.P. will be gone for good.

  12. Thousands of 'lite' versions really make this a non-existent problem. Does anyone seriously think there are no 'demos' or 'trials' on appstore? Honestly? I've got half a dozen installed right now! Angry Birds Lite wasn't rejected, nor were any of the hundreds of other hits you get if you search the appstore for 'lite'. Apple even gave developers in-app purchases so users could upgrade from 'lite' versions to 'full' versions by paying money ingame.

    There are articles many years old about these guidelines, like http://www.tuaw.com/2009/02/08/app-store-demo-no-lite-yes/ . I hope this helps clear up what is a very bizarre confusion.

    'Of course, there's a grey area there -- what features are central to the app, exactly? But Erica boils it down to words: putting "Lite" or "Free" in the title are fine, but releasing "Demo" or "Beta" versions are not.'

    Case closed. The real issue is how you'd cut KoDP down, and not whether it's 'allowed'. I suggest you ask some Apple representative if limiting years is acceptable, because limiting levels and requiring purchases to unlock more is obviously fine.

  13. I agree with pnakotus and AEN (though AEN is being pretty rude). A lite version of KoDP is very possible and would REALLY be beneficial for you.

    The person who phrased it as 'cheating the system' spoke poorly. Implementing a lite version wouldn't be cheating the system any more than the thousands of other lite games out there. If you're worried about the possibility of being expelled from the developer program - don't be. If you were to submit KoDP Lite and Apple decided that they didn't like how you implemented the restrictions they wouldn't see it as you trying to cheat the system and expel you, they'd simply deny the app.

    Possible ideas for lite restrictions:

    A VERY simple way which would probably be the easiest one and could maybe be done without any further restrictions (except maybe the following 3) would be to have saving disabled in the lite version. No restoring on the saga screen, no resuming with your clan if you shut the app down or turn your device off and on again. THIS HAS BEEN DONE BEFORE BY MANY APPS AND WOULD NOT CONSTITUTE CHEATING THE SYSTEM IN ANY WAY (you can see this by looking at the app Civilization Revolution Lite, right at the bottom of its description). This lets people play the game and see as much of it as they like (someone who kinda likes it will play a little bit, someone would is really enjoying themselves will try really hard to keep playing for as long as they can but will eventually but the full version).

    Only allow a fixed clan to be made in clan creation (have it exactly as it is now, but have all the options but "whooped with Orlanth", "we were hostile to the dragons", "we took in the Nalda Bin as family" greyed out with a little disclaimer saying that they're available options in the full version.

    Restrict the game to a Short game of Normal difficulty with a Balanced clan.

    Restrict lite players to only having a choice of 12 or so potential ring members, fixed across all games. Every new game they play they only have access to the same few characters.

    Have every event the player gets fixed. This would let someone really get a good feel for the game, but it means that playing it more than once would practically necessitate buying the full version. In the lite version you always get the baby raised in a shield event, then the duck people, then the dragonmen dancing with bee hives on their head etc.

    Restrict the map size. Just add colour tinting to all of the regions outside of a certain sized area around the starting area and when the player tries to explore said areas they're told it's too dangerous to venture that far away from the tula (and that they should buy the full version in order to explore the whole map).

    Disable all hero quests except those needed to win the Short game.

    Above all the easiest one to do would be to have the game exactly as it is now, but implement a limit on the number of years. I really do not think Apple would have a problem with this.

  14. I think I may have read about a tutorial in this version, what about making that free?

  15. The Tutorial is only 1 year, that's really far too short to give anybody a feel for what the game is like, except in terms of the very basic interface.

    Lots of other games have survived fine in the App Store with a trial version. One examples is the Assassin of Orlandes gamebook from Tin Man Games. In the free version you can play something like 20% of the book, then the game stops, offering you the choice to roll up a new character and start over, or purchaing the full version (which is quite good, by the way).

    A trial version of KoDP in the App Store is perfectly doable. Just limit the game to 10 years, i.e. from 1329 to 1339. And yes, the number 10 is carefully chosen. I think 7-8 years is too short, and 12-15 years would sort of make the free version too much fun, allowing for a lot of free riders.

    If in doubt, contact Apple and ask for advice, and be sure to point to the many existing companies which un-sanctioned have offered up trial versions, such as Tin Man Games, and also be sure to point out that you *already* have a full version and that the trial version is there to drive sales.

    Apple obviously - visibly - are *not* opposed to trial versions of games. It's possible their terms of use are phrased very badly, or phrased in an ambiguous way, either deliberately or through incompetence.

  16. Except that Apple’sguidelines still forbid trial versions. And they don’t do consultations.

    I have had too many odd rejections to intentionally go against the guidelines. (Which say that pointing to similar apps from the past is not grounds for approval.