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Game Over – End of the Trivially Era in the iOS App Store… (and now open sourced!)

What’s the average lifespan of an iOS app?

Our Trivially app first appeared in the iOS App Store on 6/30/2011. This version relied on Bluetooth for communication with players, requiring the use of the companion Trivially Remote app.

Frankly, it worked just OK… but Bluetooth wasn’t really suited for what we were trying to do with it.

A complete rewrite ensued, moving to a web page-based experience for players that communicate with the iPad console app via Web Sockets. This version first appeared in February, 2012.

It supported in-app purchase of additional trivial contests, and a completely new UI design, designed around the fabulous and fun art of Ed Fotheringham.

Six more updates followed, adding the ability to download custom contests created in Google Spreadsheets. The last update, 2.6.5, appeared in the App Store on 2/22/2015.

It was challenging, and fun, to figure out how to deliver a web-based experience to as many remote players as possible; the solution we settled on was to serve the web experience from the Trivially app; the app includes an embedded web server (based on Cocoa HTTP Server), with player responses from the web page communicated back to the app with very low latency via Web Sockets. It works pretty well!

Somewhere in there, based on requests from a number of customers, we offered Trivially Pro.

Like Trivially, Trivially Pro allowed customers to create contests with their own questions and answers. However, Pro took this one step further, allowing customization of the appearance of the app: colors, photos, video, text, fonts, and so on. For the initial version of Trivially Pro, we worked with a customer who had a set of very specific requirements in mind; as we figured out how to support their requirements, we made sure to generalize the capability so that all customers would benefit. We think that as a result of this close collaboration from the start, the initial version of Pro, which appeared in the App Store on 7/20/2014, was an especially robust app.

Unfortunately, we never got around to adding multi-user capability to Trivially Pro… it started as a single-user experience and stayed that way. The intention was to scale beyond Trivially, which requires users to be on the same Wifi network as the iPad and limited the number of users to 11. We actually spent quite a bit of time exploring high-scale options for a multi-user experience, and settled on using Firebase. We probably got to about 70% of a complete implementation, but never completed it. We think that a Firebase-powered Trivially Pro app should have been able to scale to about 20-30 users on a new iPad (and higher on newer iPad Pros).

We’ve heard from many customers over the past 6 years; it was gratifying to hear how our apps were used in schools, bars and restaurants, community gatherings, conferences and companies, for trivia nights, to help teach kids, entertain wedding guests, kick off business meetings, or draw in convention-goers. 

However, as the code base enters its 7th year, as we face the fact that a new round of investment is needed to keep the apps competitive and modern… we’ve decided to retire them from the App Store. It’s unfortunately, but we’d rather make a clean exit than risk exposing customers to a poor experience.

We also decided to share the source code on GitHub (Trivially, Trivially Pro), in the hopes that someone might find something useful or interesting there. The GitHub repositories aren’t complete; for instance, the graphics assets aren’t there. But 35k lines of CoffeeScript you’ll find there that represent the core of the apps might be interesting to browse, or learn from. We hope it helps someone!

Thanks to everyone who helped make these apps a reality… many people helped directly, and many helped in any number of small but significant ways, along every step of the way.

And thank you to our customers, who provided great feedback and showed us how our apps were injecting some fun into everyday events.

Problems with the new Google Drive Spreadsheets when publishing your Custom Trivia Pack?

For reasons known only to itself, Google broke Trivially’s Custom Trivia Pack feature when it started rolling out the latest version of its Google Spreadsheet service.

In previous versions of Google Spreadsheet, you saw these options when you “published” your spreadsheet (as outlined here):

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 3.06.43 PM

 

In particular, note the options under “Get a link to the published data”… Google offers options to publish the data as an HTML page, a CSV file, or in other formats.

As Google rolls out the latest version of Spreadsheets, this is what you might see instead:

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 2.59.31 PMNote that there is no option to control the format of the published data. This confuses the current version of Trivially.

We’re working on a fix for this, but in the meantime, here are some workarounds for this problem:

  • Make a copy of an existing spreadsheet and modify it for your Custom Trivia Pack
  • Click on this link to create a new spreadsheet in the old format: http://g.co/oldsheets. This is an undocumented capability that Google provides, perhaps to assuage their guilt at breaking Trivially. Note that you’ll need to be signed into your Google account to make this work.

We apology for any inconvenience this has caused. We wish Google had (i) announced their intention to drop this much-used capability and (ii) provided a new way to accomplish the same result. So far, Google has not acknowledged that they removed this capability and have not documented any workaround. It’s been crickets.

 

Trivially 2.6 – Now, with more cowbell*

A really rewarding aspect to shipping Trivially is hearing how people are using the app, especially the Custom Trivia Pack feature. Lately, we’ve heard about large and small companies creating their own trivia packs for internal and external events, and a number of schools and church groups working up fun quizzes and study guides in the form of custom trivia packs.

And we’ve also been hearing from folks who build their own custom trivia packs for use in pub trivia night events: run Trivially on an iPad connected via cable to a flat screen (details on this page) or, via AirPlay, project it to an Apple TV box connected to a flat screen. Run Trivially in the background during the day, or as part of an active contest at night.

Which brings us to this new release, version 2.6. Really, only one major new feature comes to life with version 2.6. In previous versions, the number of seconds you could choose to display a question ranged from 10 seconds to 30 seconds, in four increments,. Now, the upper limit is 9 minutes, 30 seconds, with a number of steps in between. That’s literally 9 more minutes of fun per question at your disposal!

This is what the upgraded “Time Per Questions” option looks like on the Start Page (in the oval):

CrowdGame Trivially - Console  - Start Page - new Time Per Question

 

 

 

 

 

 

We added this feature because we’ve heard from pub trivia players that 30 seconds might not be enough time for some of the (presumably tricky?) custom trivia packs they were putting together. Enjoy!

PS: in case this doesn’t make sense to you, see this.

PPS: there’s a little present in this version of Trivially… we’ve let slip through a little bug that might just be worth your time to try to find, especially since it involves a cool feature that typically costs MONEY but is now FREE – at least until we can ship a fix through the Apple App Store. Can you find it?

Trivially and iOS 7 – new version available!

As of right now (Thursday, October 3, 2013 – 4:50pm PST), a new version of CrowdGame Trivially, version 2.5 – is available in the Apple App Store (at least, in the US store – with more to roll out within hours).

This version requires iOS 7. We made dozens of fixes and minor improvements and upgrades to ensure a high-quality experience with iOS 7.

Download Trivially v2.5 from the App Store here.

Please give it a whirl and let us know what you think… we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Trivially and iOS 7 (Part 1)

This is the first of two posts detailing our plans for supporting CrowdGame Trivially on iOS 7.

Wrapping our heads around iOS 7

We’ve been using early versions of iOS 7 for a while now, and are excited about most of the decisions Apple made about how to move iOS forward, from an end-user experience perspective.

However, now that Apple has changed the operating system, the apps must follow. For the most part, existing apps should mostly run as-is under iOS 7 (as to why “mostly”, see below regarding Trivially).

However, Apple’s vision and intention is that app developers follow Apple’s lead with the new design; Apple would be happiest if all existing apps were updated to use iOS 7’s new features and design overnight. Based on its experience with previous releases, Apple expects the vast majority of its iOS users to upgrade to iOS 7 within weeks. It’s really astonishing how quickly the millions of iPhone, iPad, and iPod users take up Apple’s major new iOS offerings.

To that end, we’ve been working to figure out where and how we should change Trivially to adapt/adopt to iOS 7’s new design and capabilities. Generally speaking, the changes are fairly specific and targeted, since Trivially is a fairly customized full-screen experience. And a bit of the work is “under the hood”, where the magic happens. 

As of this writing, we’ve identified the backlog of work that has to be done, and have made good progress on doing the work. And so, we thought we’d share what we know so far.

The current version of Trivially, 2.3, runs “mostly” fine on iOS 7

The first thing we did was test the current version of Trivially on iOS 7. The good news is that it works fine EXCEPT: sound does not work. So, if you can live without sound for a while, please continue to enjoy version 2.3 of Trivially once you upgrade to iOS 7.

The next version of Trivially, 2.5, will be iOS 7 only

At this point, this is what we can tell you about this new version.

Version 2.5 of Trivially will only run on iOS 7. Taking this approach allows us to focus on ensuring that Trivially delivers a robust and entertaining experience on iOS 7, which we expect the vast majority of our users to upgrade to within days or weeks of iOS 7’s release.

According to our analytical data, about 10% of our current users enjoy Trivially on iPad 1 devices. Since iOS 7 doesn’t support iPad 1, those users won’t be able to upgrade to Trivially 2.5. Those users will need to continue with Trivially 2.3. This was the difficult part of the decision for us. While we’d like to always have all of our users using the latest and greatest version of Trivially, we don’t have the resources to ensure that it works excellently on both iOS 7 and pre-iOS 6 devices. We suspect that many, if not most, of the smaller app development houses will take this approach, and that Apple expects us to.

Remote experience on Mobile Safari

The experience that remote players have – in multi-player situations where each player visits joincg.com to join the game – will be degraded slightly due to Apple’s changes to full screen options in Mobile Safari.

Prior to iOS 7, we could control more aspects of the experience, so that the player saw more Trivially on the screen, and less iOS (specifically, the browser address bar). Now, however, iOS no longer allows Trivially to hide the address bar, with the result that the player will need to scroll the page up slightly to see his or her player name at the very bottom of the screen.

While this is hopefully just a slight annoyance to the user, it’s much more of an annoyance to us, since we designed that screen carefully, down to the last pixel.

As far as we know, there’s no way to automatically make use of the full page in iOS 7, as was possible in earlier versions. We’ll be keeping an eye on this.

Next Steps – Trivially 2.5

We’re working as fast as possible to release Trivially 2.5, to address the sound issue and other work that we’ve identified. We expect to submit this new version to Apple for review within a week or so.

Watch this blog for more info, as we get closer to releasing Trivially 2.5. And, as always, thanks for your support!

 

 

Any requests for the next version of Trivially?

We’ve been working on the next version of Trivially, and would love to hear from you: what features would you like to see?

(And, I suppose, we should also ask, just for completeness: what bugs would you like us to fix?)

Drop a note to “support@crowdgame.com”, hit us up on Twitter @crowdgame, or leave a comment below.

We’ve love to hear from you…!