Apple has come under fire recently as more and more developers voice their opinions over the ambiguity of the App Store’s approvals system, not least of them being beleaguered iPhone C64 emulator developer Manomio.
Pocket Gamer exclusively revealed the fascinating retro gaming project and ran a hands on preview that really seemed to strike a chord with the iPhone gamers out there. Manomio knew it had a hot product on its hands, but was fully prepared for the difficulties of getting an emulator published on the App Store.
Perseverance evidently paid off, however, as after its third submission to Apple, and a great deal of discussion with the people in charge, C64 finally went live this weekend. Chief executive officer and co-founder of Manomio, Brian Lyscarz, tells us about the trials and tribulations of going retro with Apple's hot handset.
Pocket Gamer: Can you tell us about Apple's reaction to the first time you submitted C64 to the App Store. Did it give you any indication as to why it was rejected?
Brian Lyscarz: Apple's reaction was very canned, simply quoting section 3.3.2 (the infamous clause related to no interpreters) and a paragraph saying 'if you believe you can make the necessary changes so that C64 does not violate the iPhone SDK agreement we encourage you to do so and submit for review'.
Did you expect it to fail approval the first time?
I was hopeful it wouldn't be rejected, although I was prepared that it would. Unlike many of the apps on the App Store, ours makes a bold statement (for reasons of nostalgia) that we're emulating a C64, but in a very restricted way to try and satisfy Apple.
Did you speak to Apple to ask them why they'd failed it after you'd already been told it should be okay?
If you may recall, the first rejection was during WWDC and during this time it was widely published that the review team and process is very closed (there was no one available to talk to about the review process or rejections).
We contacted our Apple UK rep, who now highlighted this fact and that he was going to have trouble helping us as he had no control, or even any say on rejections.
What did you do to try and get it ready for a second submission?
Despite grabbing at straws, we decided to remove BASIC and we renamed one of our tabs, which indicated it was a 'store' that actually had links to other apps available in the App Store. This will be updated from our servers to list all available games as they are released for C64, providing a better experience for our users.
What was Apple's reaction the second time it was submitted? Why did it fail again?
Not surprisingly, it was exactly the same canned response. Frustration was setting in!
Did you consider giving up on C64, or taking it in a different direction (releasing individual C64 games, for example), after it failed the second time?
We hadn't considered giving up yet, but we were looking at alternatives. Our model for selling separate titles and the agreements in place were around this approach (C64 and separate games), so it would have been back to the drawing board and a lot of work.
What did you have to do to get Apple talking about why it kept failing C64?
We were given another contact in the US, who turned out to be very helpful and got things moving for us again. Things were certainly looking positive again from these initial conversations. So far there was no mention of making more changes to C64.
How did you manage to get Phillip Shoemaker on the phone, and how did the discussion go?
He contacted us, and asked a few questions about the implementation of C64. Apple was most interested in whether our app allowed the download of arbitrary games (which it doesn't).
They also asked about how the add-on games worked. The discussion also highlighted that Apple had never intended to block apps like C64 - a confirmation of what we had been saying all along.Did you have to make any further changes before submitting C64 a third time?
We just added a splash to the black screen to replace BASIC.
What sort of changes would you like to see with the App Store submissions system to make it more accessible for developers?
Most people would say get rid of the review process, but I don't see that happening. My suggestion is to have two store fronts - the premium store and the open store. The premium store is what the App Store is today, and Apple continues their standard review process - you'll find paid and free apps. Perhaps the minimum price is raised for this store.
The open store would bring something like "Cydia" in, allowing any and all applications - again paid and free. The open store would be reviewed and policed by the community. For the wary guardian, the Parental Controls feature could include an option to lock out the open store, given the lack of "Reviewed by Apple" badge.
It's unrealistic that Apple would not continue to be a watchdog over the open store, and would still have the power to pull apps.
Will you continue to develope for the iPhone if no such changes are made?
Of course - and we have more great retro goodness baking as we speak. We hope fans will appreciate our efforts again, as we're putting a lot of care into this one too. We're also spending a lot of time on Twitter, and scouring the web looking for comments and feedback for C64 and we will address a couple of the issues (such as LH/RH controls) in a 1.1 update.
Has anything good from this whole experience, other than finally getting C64 to the game playing public?
Yes, it's renewed our confidence in Apple and that they are trying to work through the App Review issues. We had a lot of people at Apple involved, and want to say thanks to all those that helped get this through.Thanks very much to Brian for taking the time to chat with us, and we wish him all the best with C64. Hit the 'Buy It!' button to check out C64 on the App Store.
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