You only hurt the ones who love you

As I’ve mentioned before, I recently upgraded from an ancient Nokia to a Motorola V557 and Bluespoon AX2. It may not be a RAZR or some other height of technology, but it suits my needs. One of those needs is to be able to play games on my phone. I’ve been stuck with the snake game for years and am now in the wonderful world of J2ME MIDlets. Naturally, being the RPG-lover that I am, I’ve been seeking out good RPGs for my phone.

There are surprisingly few, and this saddens me.

Gameloft has one or two, as does Digital Chocolate. However, I am completely unable to figure out a way to actually buy the games from the latter, so the former seems to be my only option. Problem being, Gameloft tries to save their users from themselves by doing phone-based version-locks on their download process. My V557 will play everything that the V551 will play, but when you go to their site you see scads of games for the V551 and almost no games for the V557. Gameloft’s silly version checker will let you buy the game, but it then won’t let your phone download it if it doesn’t like the version of your phone. You get a nice message instead saying “your phone is not a V551”.

Being a web guy, that throws up a red flag for me, and that flag says “server-side user-agent validation”. Yeah, right. As if I can’t get around that one. Sure enough, two minutes later I’ve browsed my site with my phone, opened the logs to find the user-agent string, and a call to wget -U later and I’ve got my JAD file instead of some lame XML error. Another wget -U and I’ve got my JAR. Bluetooth it over to my phone and voila!, everyone is happy.

My analogy here is this: I go buy a new car. I want to get my oil changed. The model of car I have bought has been using the same oil for 10 years, but the mechanic refuses to service it because it’s not on his list … a list which happens to be a year out of date. But, I’ve already paid for my service and the oil, so the only way I can actually get the oil out of the mechanic’s hands is to point to a previous-year version of my car, say I’m going to put the oil in that one, and run away before the mechanic can figure things out. I then have to change the oil myself when I get home.

I can see both sides. Really. But it doesn’t make me any less rant-y.

Now, seriously, what’s the lesson here? I figure they probably implemented the version-check to limit the number of support requests they get from people royally screwing things up. I would believe that was an altruistic gesture, except that their refund policy is that there are no refunds, no exceptions. Fair enough, but at that point you need to keep your frickin’ database current so those of us with phones newer than a year old can buy from you! Zheesh! What are the folks who own V557s that don’t know how to spoof user-agents supposed to do? Live with suck games?

Oh, and if anyone knows of any good RPG or strategy games for their cell/mobile, let me know.

Categorized as Rants, Web

By Rick Osborne

I am a web geek who has been doing this sort of thing entirely too long. I rant, I muse, I whine. That is, I am not at all atypical for my breed.