The tragic tale of Tetris for Android while roaming

Daniel Bader

February 6, 2012 8:14pm

Tetris is my game. It’s my wind-down, end-of-day, got-a-minute-on-the-subway game. And, since I use a Galaxy Nexus as my daily driver device, I’m often happily playing it on Android.

Last week I took a few days off and went off the grid — somewhere with no 3G or WiFi. It was, dare I say it, freeing. For the most part I had a great time: sunshine, ocean, daquiris. But I also discovered an aspect of the Android platform has needs to be rectified, and quickly. Due to some early-onset software pirating, many software developers such as EA, who publish Tetris for Android, require server-side license authentication when entering a game. Once approved, whereby the software detects a unique purchasing key from the Marketplace via the Android Licensing API, it allows you to play your game.

The problem arises when you do not have access to a network, either through 3G or WiFi, and the app cannot verify with Google that you in fact did pay for the app. While publishers have the flexibility to vary the period of time that passes between verifications, it would require one to open and authenticate every app/game that incorporates licensing before leaving on vacation, and even then some may not work without internet access. As a result of this oversight, nearly half the games that I had played only days before my trip would not open once I was beyond a cell signal. The worst culprit, and one of my favourite games, Spirit HD, even allows you a brief teasing moment of gameplay before it spits you back to the homescreen in a fit of licensing betrayal.

Since the release of Android 4.0 and its consolidation of app and SD storage, the time has come for Google to overhaul its licensing requirements for paid apps. There must be a way of locally and securely caching purchasing data from the Android Marketplace that would allow you to play your games, regardless of network status. Indeed, if I want to treat an old Android device like an iPod Touch, I should be able to.

According to the Android Developers page, the paid app licensing procedure is compatible with devices running Android 1.5 or higher. Now that we have moved well past that, and most users are on Gingerbread, we need a more user-friendly solution that doesn’t punish one for not having an internet connection. With talk of Ice Cream Sandwich bridging the gap between iOS in form, function and aesthetics, this would go a long way to ensuring Android users are not put off by a litany of foreseeable, and preventable, frustrations.

  • Alex Perrier

    Agreed, but never ran into an issue like that because i haven’t canceled service or roamed.

  • whocares

    Who cares? If you can’t play one game, play another, there are a million to choose from.

    • tdee

      lol if he wants to play the game that he paid for, how is it your business?

  • koko

    Check out BB or the iPhone/iPad.. no problem with this kind of bullsh*t….

  • ehoustoun

    I really doubt this is an android exclusive issue. Can anyone verify that this game can play without authentication on iOS or bbOS platforms?

    This sounds to me more like EA trying to incorporate strict drm policies (which they do with games on all platforms) in order to prevent piracy. I mean, are there any apps that experience this issue that arn’t games from major developer studios? I can confirm that anomaly, edge, world of goo, and osmos can all play without market authentication and they’re all indie developers…

  • Jacquio

    It does sound like typical EA.

  • Mark

    Good article, and agreed 100%. Unfortunately this is EA we are talking about here. They’re moving more toward this kind of authentication every year. And I fear many other will follow.

  • GrimConch

    The irony of DRM is that pirates never have to worry about it. Just get a cracked version! Smart folks in all entertainment industries right now know that the only way to fight piracy is to provide a better service. You obviously cant compete with pricing. This is why vinyl has made a comeback. This is why Steam has become synonymous with PC gaming. EA’s strategy has been the opposite, and guess who piracy is a problem for?

  • Ivan

    Solution: don’t pay for apps.

  • Steve Dion

    Not bashing, but this is soo typical Android, this kind of stuff, buggy UI overlays (Sense & TouchWiz) crappy update cycle (delayed updates based on carrier, country), lower quality apps (ex: ebay), only reason it is selling well is because they are giving it away on cheap phones. Many Americans cannot afford to pay 175$ for an iPhone so they settle for Android at 25-75$. And before you bash i use a Nokia N9 and NOT an iPhone!

  • M

    Same happens with applications like Flickr Golf, Flickr Soccer. I went away on vacation and could not play it at all, was very dissapointing.

  • WP74Life

    This is sad.. but I’m glad this is happening.
    People will slowly begin to realize how painful, laggy, atrocious android devices are.
    Then they will have no more god to believe in..
    But one day, they will try a WP7, they will realize that you don’t need custom roms or OC to make your device worth the price you paid.
    One day my friend, one day..

  • Spartacustomer

    @WP74Life
    Unfortunately most people don’t want static\widget tiles with choice of colours. You might want to consider that some people like custom ROMS. It’s sad that you have to pledge allegiance to a platform that you had nothing to do with\didnt create. You are not in an exclusive club, and your market share isnt getting healthier.

  • Blumer

    This has nothing to do with Android and everything to do with the developer’s implementation of the LVL. Google simply provides the service, and it’s up to the developer to decide what the behavior should be should a license not be able to be verified. Some devs shut down the app completely, some disable a couple features, some let the app proceed as usual if there’s no network connection present, and some don’t do anything at all. The developer is also able to adjust the length of time that a validated license is good for before running another check. Bottom Line: This is not Android’s problem.

    • khk

      This is an Android/Google problem. It doesn’t happen on BB or iOS.

    • andy c

      it’s is partially an android problem because they allow games/apps to behave in this manner.

      google’s “miminum standards” for the android market are alot lower then the AppStore’s sometimes draconian policies.

      i’m sure there is a middle ground somewhere.

  • Zagabog

    I was super happy that my new PlayBook came with Tetris for free. Just sayin’.

  • Jason

    Stop buying apps?