#zombiesrungame v4.0 or how not to roll-out a software update

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way first. I love the zombies, run app; I paid for the all access pass, it’s my most expensive purchase in the app store; if Six to Start claims there are 1 million users then I’m one of a million.

So I should be all over the new version, right? Existing players instantly get seasons 1-3 plus interval training plus race missions. Prettier interface, recaps of prior missions, autoplay next mission, spotify support, adjustable chases, integration with healthkit. All sounds fabulous.

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I expected great things when I opened the updated app, and it did look pretty. But I was quickly disappointed. Many many issues, and from fb / twitter it seems like I’m not alone (phew, I guess). Here’s a quick summary:

the good

  • brilliant graphics — the old app was pretty, the graphics on v4.0 really popped
  • time based missions — big improvement on before when the duration of a mission was a) based on the normal or long setting; b) a guessing game on exactly how long. Now I can see that a mission is 40mins, and I can set the intervals of the clips (announcements) to fit a mission into my run
  • most of the other functionalities seem to be there, plus some new ones
  • my township hasn’t changed, although the old-styled graphics aren’t up to par with the new design

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the bad

  • space hog — its easily the app that uses up the most storage on my iphone, aside from music and photos. I remember i had to delete apps and mp3s from my old iphone 4 because I was running out of storage space
  • pay-to-play — a legacy runner would have paid around US$25 if they’d purchased each module at full price; an all access pass up to season 3 was $18 full price or $10 if we were lucky enough to get it during one of the sales. The new pay-to-play costs $20 a year (or $8 for legacy runners) and includes all modules up to season 4. This means a dedicated user, having spent $25 already, will need to pay an extra $8 a year. A new player only needs to spend $20 this year. Doesn’t seem very fair to legacy users. That said, the other option is to not get sucked into the subscription model and wait for each mission to be rolled out. I’m only at season 2, so I’m perfectly happy to wait it out, by the time I reach season 4, most if not all the missions would have been rolled out
  • missions reset — this was the biggest shock and frustration in the new version, to see that I’ve been reset to s1m01. The odd thing is, my run log shows my runs so it means the data is there somewhere and they haven’t ported it to the new version. Why they would do that, it’s puzzling
  • all settings lost — had to redo settings like units, not unusual when there are new features but not good from a customer experience point of view
  • had to redownload all missions — I think it’s related to the data migration, I have to download all missions from scratch, it’s very annoying
  • missions after May missing — more data migration issues, the zombielink webpage is down, and they say it’ll be back soon. Again, it means the upgrade to v4.0 was not seamless and actually was a backwards step
  • many report of crashes — the first few days over the weekend the fb page was full of reports of the app not opening or crashing. Fingers crossed I don’t have that issue, I feel sorry for the people experiencing the problems
  • music cut off for mission clips — this is supposed to be an improvement, but it’s proving to be a bad user experience. There I was, happily listening to music while running when it suddenly stops and I hear silence for 5 seconds, then the story clip plays. At the end of the clip, there’s again silence before music plays again. In prior versions, clips played after a song finishes, not in the middle of a song, it’s jarring and very annoying, especially the silence. Music fades when we pick up a supply or material, why can’t clips play with the music faded in the background?
  • story clips not audible — the volume is set too low or something, I can’t hear the clip properly, I want to listen to Sam and Janine and everyone
  • radio abel — doesn’t play after mission is completed
  • new players get 3 materials per mission vs 1 for legacy players — small gripe, typical of new versions of games, new players always have it easy
  • fewer chases — in prior versions, there were about 2-3 chases every 30mins, now there’s a good 30-45min gap between each one. I don’t always use chases, because I may be stuck at a traffic light when a chase is on, but it can be an issue
  • automatically continues to next mission, no radio abel — this is what I read on fb, I don’t know if turning off automatic continuation will solve this

the ugly

  • lack of response on issues, FAQ not updated — aside from a few lame “sorry about that, please log in again” replies, the devs have not responded to the majority of fb and twitter comments, the FAQ has a known issues section, which hasn’t been updated. Most of us are used to updates and glitches in software, where a company succeeds is when they are upfront about the glitches and at the very least acknowledge that there are issues and they are working on it
  • product rolled out without proper testing — seems to be a classic case of a product rolled out without adequate testing. Whether or not it’s due to commercial pressure or what, we don’t know. I’ve been involved in implementing new software, upgrading software or introducing new features into software, and the number one most important thing before approving a rollout is that the product has been tested to death. Rolling out a snazzy looking new version that forgets a user’s progress, especially in something like running training, is a fatal error. Are the devs runners themselves? Do they use the app? Did they take it out for a run during UAT? The issues like crashes and progress reset would have been blindingly obvious if they’d beta tested properly. Remember all these bad software updates? Yep, people still remember them

It’s the worst thing, when data is migrated properly everybody starts where they left off and all is good. If they are still working on data migration now, what will happen to runs and missions while the migration is taking place? Will new missions be merged or overwritten? I didn’t want to randomly select a mission, or even pick up where I left off in season 2, so I did a supply run. Worst case scenario, I lose the supplies I picked up. Again, it’s okay for a running app, imagine it’s people’s finances or a company’s HR roster. If a bank rolled out a new version where people’s bank accounts are reset to zero balance, they would be out of business by the end of the week.

If all this sounds negative, it’s not really. It’s one person’s account of experiencing an update. My app works, I have a workaround and it’s not the end of the world if I have to restart from s1 or hold off building my township for a while. I’m okay about waiting till data is ported over. Like one fb poster who put it succinctly:

just embracing the chaos