The primary focus on this update is attempting to address the huge black hole of sorrow and despair that is My Colony for Android. Of all versions of the game, Android has the most technical issues in terms of stability and performance. In fact, My Colony on Android has a force-close rate of almost 7%, which is really very high. Unfortunately, the crash reports coming in look like this:
As you can see, not much to go by at all. Obviously the crashes are happening with the WebView, which is powered by whatever version of Google Chrome the user has installed on their device. Sadly, this is an issue that has been impacting many Android users since at least last June, with an ongoing issue submitted to Google here, which has yet to receive any meaningful resolution. Many think it's due to Google's own AdMob ads, but it is also occurring for Premium users with no ads, so it is hard to tell. It may also be related to memory constraints, since on many devices Android only allows 128mb of RAM per app, regardless of how much RAM the device actually has. Sadly due to the limited crash reports, it is very hard to tell exactly what the problem is.
Due to the high crash rate on Android, Google has essentially blacklisted My Colony on Google Play, reducing downloads from the 3,000 per day range down to the 200 per day range. Since a vast majority of the installs for My Colony come from Google Play, this has made the game financially nonviable, no longer even generating the funds necessary to maintain the server required to support online play.
Because of the gravity of the issue, if My Colony cannot be fixed on Android, I will have to lower it's priority and focus on other apps that can bring in more revenue so that I can actually eat and support my family. The task is made difficult by the lack of information available on what is causing the crashes.
I suspect the primary issue is the game hitting Android imposed RAM limitations. As there are now nearly 400 structures in the game, over 50 units, and many terrain elements, many graphical elements have to be loaded at run time. While the engine already delays loading graphics until they are used, large colonies that have essentially all types of buildings are a larger drain on RAM. Also, large map sizes exponentially require the about of RAM needed for path-finding operations while moving rovers around the map.
There is no good way to clean up these issues on Android without limiting choices available to the user. At some point though, reality needs to set in and a mobile game simply cannot have all of the full features available on a Desktop class game, which is how My Colony is designed. I believe some things on Android will need to be "nerfed" in order to fit in with the power and memory constraints imposed on the platform.
For the reasons mentioned above, the bulk of today's updates are aimed at reducing memory overhead on Android devices. Some of these changes are as follows:
- Video-ad gifts from the Galactic Emperor no longer appear on Android
- On new map creation, Extra Large and Mega maps are no longer available on Android
- If a previous force-close is detected, the game is automatically switched into lo-res mode on next launch, unless the user has previously set the graphics resolution manually.
- Banner ads no longer show up on Android
I suspect the most controversial change will be the removal of the Extra Large and Mega map sizes. I do like to give users maximum choice, but the reality is that most users automatically pick the largest available map size every time, despite the in-game warning that performance may be impacted. This leads to slower performance, out-of-RAM crashes, and therefore bad reviews.
The removal of the emperor Video Ads and the Banner Ads on Android was done since there is strong evidence on the Google support group that Google's own ads are causing a lot of these crashes. This was tough to weigh, because the loss of revenue due to the removal of advertising will be significant, although it will probably be less than the loss of Premium Upgrade revenue due to the blacklisting from the crashes. I will just have to wait and see if it makes a difference and if it helps. I need to have some way to pay for the server and also make a profit on the game in order for it to be worth my time, but if the ads are killing the game then there is no point in having them. It is something of a lose-lose situation, since My Colony was designed with an extraordinary amount of free content, largely possible because of the advertising. If the ads are killing the game though, that mix might need to be reevaluated.
So as I said, I will monitor Android and see if I can get the crashes reduced and the game revived. Maybe the above changes will help, or maybe they will do nothing. As I showed, the crash logs really do not show anything meaningful. They also made a change recently where the feedback users can send to Google Play when the app force closes no longer makes it to the developer, so you can't see what people said about what they were doing before the game crashed. That is a little FYI to everyone on Android, don't waste your time adding comments when you submit a force-close report to Google Play, since the developer never sees them anymore.
So anyway, apart from the Android specific changes, Desktop users will see a new 'filter' option at the bottom of the build sidebar.
As you might imagine, this lets you type in the name of a building to do a search, instead of scrolling through everything to find the building you are looking for. And before you ask, know that similar functionality will be coming to mobile editions of the game in a future release.
In addition, Human players get a new alien-tech structure, the Alien Plastic Factory. I saw a suggestion for it in the suggestions forum, and decided to throw it in there real quick.
The Cloning Facility has been added to the Immigration build category. It isn't really an immigration building, but it adds people to the colony, so it was the best fit available.
Finally, several bugs have been patched in this release, including a bug associated with uploading a screenshot to your colony homepage and a gamepad control issue on Amazon Fire TV devices.
So anyway, that is it for today's update. I apologize to the Android users for the ongoing crashing issues. I have been trying to fix them for some time now, but the error reports are extremely unhelpful which has made the issues hard to pin down and correct. I suspect more changes will be coming to Android users over the coming updates, so stay tuned for that. And thanks to everybody for playing the game, hope you enjoy!