iNetHack protection fee

After seeing that 1.3 was ready for download, I checked the iTunes page to see if everything was correct and I could indeed download it. That’s when I noted that there are an awful lot of 1-star ratings (about one third of all ratings). What’s worse, this number seems to have grown over time, even after 1.1 remedied a lot of the shortcomings of iNetHack’s 1.0 debut.

This made me think that since it’s free, users who don’t even know NetHack will give it a try, and of course they are utterly repelled by it. iNetHack in its current form never was intended for beginners. Which led me to something many devs have experienced too (and I have seen very clear examples of that behavior): Making your app free just invites 1-star reviews. It hurts to see that in other free apps, and it certainly hurts to see it for iNetHack. I know that my next publication for the iPhone will certainly have a fee (clarification: publications that are not an open source port). This is certainly no excuse for the current UI. Making it much more beginner-friendly is on my todo list. But I won’t change the core gameplay or add save games.

So what do you think? Do you see a future for an iNetHack protection fee or not? Please vote in the poll to the left and leave a comment!

Update: Thanks for all your feedback and votes! The poll leans very clearly to keeping iNetHack free of charge, and so it will be.

14 thoughts on “iNetHack protection fee

  1. Anonymous

    I hope you wont change the UI too much, i absolutely love it the way it is right now, very fast an easy.

    There is NO way to make nethack newbie friendly anyway, so i don’t think you should try too hard.

    But what we the, the fans, can do, i to make a positive review (which i didn’t do yet).

    So don’t worry, inethack is just great, it’s not your fault that some people don’t like nethack.

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for iNethack! My only experience with rogue-likes prior to inethack was a game called Ragnarok, which I played for days on end as a child. I never knew about nethack before I dnlded your app a few months ago. I can honestly say I have spent multiple hours per day playing since then; it is the best game on the iPhone by far (Ive almost ascended once, dying mere squares away from my altar on the astral plane *ARGH!*). Since I’ve been playing, I’ve studied up a bit on rogue-likes, and I’m really praying for an iPhone port of SLASH’EM. Do you know if anything is in the works for one?

  3. Dirk

    With the iNetHack codebase getting more and more stable SLASH’EM is becoming probable. Btw how did you find out about iNetHack if you didn’t know about NetHack?

  4. Anonymous

    Don’t mind what the losers say. The real Nethack fans are probably the guys downloading your game (and if they dislike yours, they’re probably wishing for a -5 star review they could give to the other Nethack app).

    It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s good. I reckon these are the same guys who absolutely HATE Nethack on the PC as well. To make it easier, you could incorporate aspects of Interhack as a *spoiler mode* or newbie-friendly mode for the people who’ve never played it before.

  5. Anonymous

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Any serious nethack player who gets an iPhone/IPod touch and finds out about this application is going to try it, regardless of what the rankings say. Your intended audience isn’t going to be dissuaded at all by a bunch of one-star newbie reviews on the app store.

  6. Anonymous

    On this same page, only four posts down you say “iNethack is free and always will be”. I think that answers your question.

    You are unlikely to get Nethack-naive users who first decide to try the iPhone version.

  7. Anonymous

    In reply to your question, Dirk:

    I searched the RPG sub-category of the Games section in the App Store, found RogueTouch, dnlded it, and loved it. The App Genius recommended iNethack, which I tried because it was free… I haven’t played iphone another game since! Moral of the story: FREE IS GOOD!

    BTW: Do you know if there is anything like the Absurd tileset for SLASH’EM? I’m trying to play it on my netbook, but Absurd’s graphics have spoiled me… I know the graphics are superficial to the gameplay, but its hard to go from playing a masterwork painting to playing a DOS cartoon, if you know what I mean…

  8. Dirk

    As for absurd, I don’t know about a version for Slash’EM. You can always beg the creator for one, or make it yourself (by mixing NetHack absurd with an existing Slash’EM one for missing tiles).

  9. Dirk

    I’ll try to port them all in order of difficulty: First the various Hacks, then the bands, then the crawls 🙂 The last time I looked at dungeon soup code I made a mental note that it would probably be hard to get another UI working on top.

  10. jonathan kaplan

    I have not reviewed the licenses under which NetHack was published, but you’d want to be careful here; the terms of most of the FOSS/GPL/GNU licenses require that a contributor make the source code available. Although I haven’t tried to rebuild iNetHack from sources yet, but assuming you have kept the sources and build procedures current in the SVN repository on Google, I believe you have honored the letter and spirit of any FOSS license.

    Silicon Valley is littered with companies that have tried to directly profit from open source intellectual property. Although some have successfully exploited a few loopholes in the GNU, most effort have failed, and rest have prompted radical changes in the GNU Public License itself (eg: GNU GPL v3). Those who have been successful and ethical have focused on providing a outstanding levels of support and professional services.

    So, does recompiling the code on a new platform, eliminating bugs, answering questions and running an ongoing open beta count as excellent support? I believe it does.

    However, I’d caution you that any incremental benefit you might reap might easily be offset by the potential risk to your reputation. NetHack has a long and splendid history, and an unfavorable Slash-dot posting might awaken the elder gods who cut their teeth on VAX hardware and incur the wrath of the Blogoshere…

    If you’re goal is to prevent people from downloading a “free” application just because its free, and then quickly “giving up” and giving a bad because its not what they expected, then charging a minimal fee may indeed solve the problem. This is your effort, if you’d like to charge the typical 99 cents, go for it.

    But if your primary goal is to increase the popularity of iNetHack, your might first appeal to your community to blog about it and spread the word: the “classic” is now available. Give it a few months. If you want more enthusiasts you could port the code to the Android emulator and get help with the testing from that community of users as well…

  11. Dirk

    Yes, the sources for iNetHack are available exactly as I’m using them to build all distributions. I’m not a lawyer, but the NetHack license seems a little ambigious regarding this, which might be interpreted by some as not having to make platform code open source, but most do, as does iNetHack.

  12. Jordan

    @jonathan Open Source licenses explicitly do /not/ prevent anyone from selling them. You’re welcome to sell any GPL project for any amount you like. Most folks just won’t pay for it if it’s unreasonable.

    That said, when someone has done as much additional work as Dirk has, it’s often reasonable to charge for it as long as the license is followed (and it’s often polite to inquire as to the wishes of the original authors if you’re extending another project, although it’s certainly not required).

    In this case, however, I’m ambivalent. I wouldn’t mind paying a small amount for iNetHack–it’s certainly superior to many other games I’ve paid for, but at the same time, I do tend to prefer GPL-based projects be free, and especially because the original intent was to not charge as well.

  13. jck

    [Jordan: I didn’t think I implied otherwise; thank you for making sure this was clear.]

    My point is when sources are available, it becomes trivial for anyone else to republish the “non-free” application as a “free” application. (For example, this happened quite a bit in the OpenWRT community.) This is why the GNU eco-system works.

    Personally, I agree with your feeling that FOSS/GPL projects should keep to the spirit and intent of the original developers; but iNetHack presents an interesting edge condition.

    When I have worked on open source projects, I was quite “invested” in getting favorable feedback. I suspect the very nature of the app-store is causing the unfavorable scores, and I am sympathetic. As long as the sources (and build procedures) are kept available in a public repository, I believe it is important to support and respect the developers’ choice.

    Here’s and idea: charge $0.99 and contribute all proceeds to the Free Software Foundation or the EFF. If someone thinks Dirk is overcharging, they can republish as a free app. We might even get the FSF/EFF to provide a little free advertising 🙂


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