Friday, February 17, 2012

Android App Review : MicroShakespeare

So, I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting mobile Shakespeare apps. Even more so since I switched from Apple to Android, because my kids' Kindle Fires run Android and if I can find Shakespeare apps for those, then, well, score.

Brand new on the scene is MicroShakespeare, where you get an animated talking Shakespeare character who laughs and dances when you touch him, and swings his arms dramatically when speaking his quotes.  Cute.

The app itself contains :

  • touch Shakespeare to have him recite a quote.  That's probably the main purpose and the thing everybody would use this for.  I haven't yet explored whether he's only got the most common quotes that we all already know, or if the database is bigger than average
  • a "test your knowledge" game.  More on this in a bit.
  • a mini-biography of Shakespeare (pointless for this crowd, really) which is just a page of text.
  • a "magic 8 ball" feature where you're supposed to ask a question and then shake your phone, and have Shakespear give you an answer. Amusing, I suppose, if you like such things.
It's quote clear that they have an engine for generating these things, and there's a whole line of "Micro-" famous people that you can get.  I assume that there's just a little database they're filling up with trivia questions and famous quotes.  Then they get a designer to whip up an animated version of the famous person, and presto, new app!

Let's get back to the game, which I find the most interesting part. You're asked 10 multiple choice questions and then given your score out of 10. I did keep getting new questions, so that's good. That means I can play until I've seen all the questions.  Unfortunately, if you get one wrong all it does is say you got it wrong - there's no spot where it tells you the right answer, and most importantly why that one is the right answer.

My problem is that I think it's getting some of the answers wrong.  Maybe I'm having a senior moment, but could somebody please tell me whether I'm understanding the following questions correctly?

  1. A question asks how many of Shakespeare's original manuscripts exist, and it tells me that the answer of "none" is incorrect.  Is there a way to interpret that question so that the answer is more than zero?
  2. A question asks when all of Shakespeare's plays were performed, and the answer of "daytime" is considered the correct answer. But didn't Blackfriar's and its candles allow for performances at any time?
  3. A question asks which play contains the line "A horse, my kingdom for a horse."  Tells me that Richard III is not the right answer.
For the asking price of $1.50 it's a cute thing for Shakespeare fans to have.  I'll probably see if I can contact the developer to ask about the questions, once one of you good folks tells me that I'm not losing my mind.

Then again, given that I learned of this app just this week within days of its launch (because someone named "RK" posted a comment on an old Android post of mine), I'm going to assume that the guys that wrote it are trying to get the word out and may actually see this post.  If so, hello developers!  The game's only been out for a few days and even though the market says it's been downloaded less than a few dozen times, it's already got multiple 5 star (and only 5 star) reviews.  That makes it pretty obvious that you are writing your own reviews (or having friends do it).  My favorite is how all 5 reviews were all posted from a Samsun Galaxy devise.  That's one heck of a coincidence!  You may want to tone it down a bit and try to generate some real positive reviews from real users.  Just a suggestion. :)


Reynaldo Makefoil said...

"Original manuscripts" could be looking for the number of quartos printed before the folio, so 18? Or more if you count the poems? Bad phrasing, in any case.

Depending on the exact phrasing of the question, "daytime" might be the only right answer because, e.g., not all plays had a nighttime performance but all plays had a daytime performance. But they were probably just thinking of the Globe.

For the Richard III question, was "none of the above" an option? Because technically "A horse" is repeated twice?

Anonymous said...

Maybe they're thinking of the Sir Thomas More manuscript? Other than that, I got nuthin'.

Fretful Porpentine said...

I'm pretty sure afternoon performances were the standard at the Blackfriars, too, even though evening ones were technically possible. There was a curfew in early modern London, after all, and a high enough crime rate that people probably didn't want to be wandering around at night anyway.

catkins said...

A manuscript is written by hand ("manu" = "hand"). The answer is correct. There are no known existing copies of any of Shakespeare's works in his handwriting. The portion of "Sir Thomas Moore" is not definitively known to have been written by Shakesepeare, and one could certainly argue that even if it were, it the entire play could not be called one of his manuscripts.

Saqib said...

From the developer!

Dear Duane,

Ironically I stumbled across this blog post looking for other Shakespeare related material.

Firstly, thank you for your review and feedback, its a very thorough assessment! And very correctly, the developer did read your post!

Regarding the trivia questions debate in your post, I discussed the matter with our question writer and also examined the programming code - the following should solve the mystery:

1. Yes it is Richard III for the quote - this was an error in the code - this is now corrected for version 1.01 coming soon.

2. The answer is "none" for original manuscripts - again an error in the code - this is now corrected for version 1.01.

3. Daytime is the answer for the timing of the plays. The question phrase has been altered slightly to ask "when were the vast majority of plays performed" thus leaving the answer clearly daytime.

MicroShakespeare himself has 25 audio quotes and 15 advice phrases. I am glad you found him cute.

Regarding the 5* feedback and the Samsung Galaxy, our programmer simply posted on Facebook for anybody interested to download a character of choice and give any feedback they wished. Shakespeare was interestingly the most popular character. :) Samsung Galaxy is a very popular phone in the UK.

Future versions are planned of MicroShakespeare if the character proves to be popular.

Your review and feedback have been very helpful and it would be wonderful to discuss further with you regarding any ideas you may have for improvements of MicroShakespeare or increasing the trivia bank of questions. We can certainly increase the question number from 50.

Many thanks,
Saqib, MicroMadHouse Team

ps - version 1.01 will be uploaded soon so feel free to update the app with the three trivia questions updated.

Duane Morin said...

Hello Saqib!

Thanks very much for responding to my questions. I take back my presumption that you were writing your own reviews. You do need more, though, and you need more that are not 5 star. That's what helps know they're real, when that 1 guy always wants to give 1 star because he couldn't make the app work on his device. ;)

I do like the app, and I definitely appreciate the animated character to play with rather than just a plain text interaction. I haven't checked yet, but if the app is in the Amazon store as well I'll get it and put it on my daughters' Kindle Fires. Nice work.

Saqib said...

Hi Duane, thanks for the comment. Yes im sure the other reviews will come with time, thr market place is huge and its only thanks to blig posts like yourself that people will find the app.

The app is intended to be educational but with a fun, interactive and inspirational feel, allowing people to get to know some of thr greats from history. I find microgandhi and his wisdom and music helps me to sleep hehe

The app has not been uploaded to amazon store yet and the app has not been tested on the kindle. I would be happy to give you a free copy of the microshakespeare app for you to try it on the kindle in thank you for pointing out our trivia errors.


Saqib said...

Apologies for the spelling! :) Sunday morning on my android!