The Spin: Dear Sega, Please Fix Sonic Runners

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Disclaimer: The views in this piece may not reflect the views of TSS or other writers on the staff team. The intention of The Spin is to promote debate and discussion of an issue or something that’s happening in the fandom or the world of Sonic.

*During this article I will be writing about information which is based on secondary research which I cannot personally test or verify, I have used the information in good faith that it is correct, however should evidence come to light which puts that information as being wrong, take that information over the one detailed in this article.

I really hate having to do updates like this… I utterly hate it, I also find myself saying this a lot but my god it’s becoming harder and harder to say it with sincerity. Believe it or not, I want Sega to do well, I like Sega, I like the people who work there, I love the games they put out and they’ve entertained me for hours.

When you have the CEO of Sega Games admitting that they have betrayed the trust of fans and pretty much admit problems have existed within Sega, you might be thinking ‘well maybe times will be changing.’ Then you have the news that Sega are downsizing, greater focus on mobile games and strengthening the Sonic brand

Now let’s turn our attention to Sonic Runners, a mobile game which we found a lot of fun and has had a lot of support, but as a technical game it is very poor. But ever since Sonic Runners went into global release, I think Sega really need to take a big look at because this game could potentially be a great mobile game, but right now is so badly made I question if any Q&A has gone into the game other than ‘test as you go’ or if frankly, they do not care about the product and reflectively about their customers.

Lets go over some of the inexcusable problems that this game has.

Sonic Runners Uses Between 0.1GB – 2GB+ of Memory

According to the Google Play Page, this game needs only 30MB of data. 

This isn’t quite true, the game needs around 100MB after installation…

However that’s not the problem, the problem is why the hell is the game using anywhere from 1GB to in some cases over 2GB worth of storage memory!

Here is a screenshot of the Sonic Runners folder on my phone.

sonicrunnersdatahog2

1.62GB!? That is larger than the Rise of Lyric patch! It is larger than some of the games in last months Playstation Plus offerings, it’s larger than most digital only games on the Playstation Network and XBLA!

Yet a mobile game needs 1.62GB!? Sonic 4 Episode 1 & 2 combined isn’t anywhere near this!

Why!? Well… short answer, bad and lazy programming.

The issue can be found in a folder within Sonic Runners called ‘UnityCache’ what is this folder? This folder is 1.58GB on my device, here is a screenshot of that folder.

sonicrunnersdatahog3

 

What is in that folder which means Sonic Runners is not a 30MB game but a 1.6GB game? Basically, old files that the game NO LONGER USES!

Every time Sonic runners updates, or a new event is run, the game downloads more bits of data, this data is stored in the UnityCache folder. Now say a new update comes, or a new event starts, or an old one ends and is replaced by something new. The old data is NEVER DELETED! 

  • The game doesn’t ever remove or delete the old data.
  • The game never prompts you to delete or remove the old data.
  • There is nothing in the games documentation that you need to manually delete the old data.

This is happening on every single device which is running Sonic Runners, iOS or Android, or even BlueStacks or any other emulator you use. Sonic Runners constantly downloads new data but never deletes the old absolute data. In the short time that it’s been out, there has been nearly 1.5GB old redundant data which is taking storage space from your device.

But wait I hear you say, you’ve checked your storage app? And it only shows something like 60MB? That’s the wrong folder, you need to connect your phone to a computer or use a specialist app to look at the files stored on your phone in order to find the right one. I too thought my device wasn’t having this problem, imagine my horror when I discovered that it was.

Why is this a problem? How much storage space does the average phone have? It’s around 8GB, even if you don’t count the storage needed for default apps and the running of the device, Runners takes 20-25% of your devices memory, because the developers didn’t bother to include a method for it to identify and delete old unused data.

And it’s not an isolated case either, just asking on the TSS Twitter I got a lot of replies, all varied depending on when they installed the game.

runnersbloated

 

Our forums are also full of people confirming the same problems. 

This is a disgrace, this is a mobile game! It is not a digital title on Steam, the PSN or XBLA, at most a game like this should only ever be between 100-300MB. But due to bad programming and design, it is using around 1.6GB and for some users over 2GB of data because the game does not delete/remove data it no longer needs.

And it doesn’t end there. Runners also never removes some of the notifications either.

runnersbloated2

 

This is only a small sample, some of these images are still in use within the game e.g. the NiGHTS event, however some are no longer in use and can never be used again since all of these image files have dates on them! Some of these images are from the soft launch version of the game! Why does this game still keep a notification image of the Chaotix being added onto the wheel with the message “From 3/5/2015 6am to 3/15/2015” Why has this not been removed from the game data yet!? Nearly half of the content in the folder with these notifications cannot be used again. Why are they not removed?

You might now be thinking ‘can I delete this folder?’ Yes you can! Deleting this folder will bring your game down in size to just over 200MB with no ill effects, all you are doing is removing the old unused data. You’ll have to download the newest data, but it’s tiny, well within what you would expect for a mobile game.

Sonic Runners Gets Hot & Drains Battery Due to Unnecessary Server Requests

This section contains information I cannot personally verify, I have used it in good faith that it is correct (see notes at top of article).

Most games which are connected to a server will at some point carry out a request for data or provide the server with updates to pre-existing data (account updating). Some games will do it more than others at a more regular basis.

For a game like Sonic Runners, ideally a 5min long game should probably use 1 or maybe 2 requests for data. Sonic Runners doesn’t do that, Runners does something else which results in over 250 requests for data!

Two users on our forms performed an experiment to see what Runners was doing when it run, they both game very similar results. According to the first user, this is the second half of requests he saw in a 5 min period of playing the game.

runnersphonehome2

Based on the file name, you would think that these are advert requests, however the second user casts doubt on this. In his experiment he found over 250 requests to the server, the majority of which were player updates/data requests, all encrypted. But the game is calculating and sending data whilst it is running.

This is incredibly inefficient and is probably one of the main causes for poor performance, overheating devices, and poor battery life which have been reported since the game was launched.

The thing with mobile devices is that using services such as wifi or the radio at certain frequencies can rapidly drain the charge held in a battery used by mobile devices, in addition, these components require a lot of power, which means your battery gets hot. Now if your game is making 250+ connection requests in a period of 5min… your battery life is going to plummet.

This gets really technical as to why, if you want more information on this, google search “LTE Battery Life” and you will find a lot of sources talking about the issue.

This should not at all be happening in a game like this, the game is making far too many requests for data, it needs to be dramatically cut down or redesigned in order to correct this problem.

How Did This Get Past the Q&A?

In every single release of Sonic Runners, there has been a problem, sometimes it’s localised to either the iOS or Android build (usually Android). Some of these problems appear random and require a lot of testing, some however are downright unforgivable, e.g. “Android version crashes on startup due to server requests”.

Why is this still a thing which keeps happening!?

This is a new bug which (verified by myself and Sonic Retro staff) now occurs in Sonic Runners ever since the last update, there is no way this should have got past Q&A given the nature of Sonic Runners and the aim of the game.

Here is a bug which now generates following the NiGHTS update.

 

runners restart bug

That screen will remain on the screen and you will never progress past this screen to the next menu. You have to close down the app and restart to get past this.

How to do this bug (Android confirmed).

  • 1: Start Sonic Runners and get to the episode screen.
  • 2: Press ‘back’ on your device to get a message saying ‘return to title screen’ select yes.
  • 3: At the title screen, tap the screen to re-start the game.
  • 4: Bug now generates, game freezes on this screen, you have to force the app closed to fix it.

Why is this a problem? When the game starts creating ‘random’ levels, if you get a level you don’t want, quitting runners/returning to the title screen and then re-starting the game generates a new level.

Every single person in the higher leagues does this since it’s the best/most efficient way to get levels you want to play on. Yet now it results in a crash, but it’s not an exploit since it’s using an actual in game design feature, which has now generated a game breaking issue.

Then there is this in the English version of the game.

runnersstreamlined

 

How is this even remotely possible!? You redesign/change a mode in the game, you check it in Q&A and see it’s not in English, how does this get a pass!?

Why is Facebook Support Disabled When It Works Fine?

Following the worldwide release, we were told that Facebook support was temporarily disabled for… reasons.

Well it’s actually not disabled and it works fine.

It turns out if you have a Facebook friend who has the game and you play in the same league or they’re in the global top, if you see them on the leader-board, tap their name and you can still send them a free revive!

The functionality still works, so why is it disabled!? I don’t want to claim a micro-transaction conspiracy here, but I really can’t see any other reason why this is disabled.

Why is All This Other Stuff Still Broken.

I could easily go on.

Sega… we want you to do well… We like Sonic Runners and want to support it, underneath all the adverts and the broken elements is a fantastic little game. We see you say stuff like you’re moving more into mobile & PC and are supporting/strengthening Sonic. But right now, with the current state of Runners, you won’t win back the fans who feel betrayed, this is another potential example which can still be turned around.

Please fix Sonic Runners, it’s a great game which has a lot of problems which could so easily be resolved and you’d have a nice little game which your user base would love to play.

30 Comments

  1. I had the red rings reward at the end of an episode get taken away several times. It hasn’t happened in a few weeks, so I’m hoping it doesn’t come back.

  2. Woooowwww….

    I mean, I get that games often need files that are only useful for installation, but still, if the files are never to used again, its standard protocol for any software to have processes to eliminate them. A properly compressed game is a happy game, and happy games make for happy consumers.

    I can’t believe that they left JAPANESE TEXT IN THE GAME! Its not like this game has hundreds of text boxes or something– this is essentially a prompt to change how your system processes the game. Not picking the right option could lead to problems down the line.

    The levelheaded rationalist in me says that the game was rushed like pretty much every Sonic game since Sonic 3, accounting for the poor QA work. Hopefully these problems get fixed ASAP– the game is doing well on the App Store so Sega and Sonic Team would be stupid to abandon it. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if there’s more to this, because the game was pretty good before the worldwide launch… Hmmm…

    1. Although I have to admit Omochao is kind of funny in that error screen. I mean, the game is locked on a perpetual loading screen and all he can say is “Buddies”!

      On second thought, maybe that’s actually disturbing…

  3. Glad to see you guys wrote this up. I was close to doing it over on Retro too.

    I stand by my statement with that bug. If I was project manager of this game, I’d have fired quite a bit of the team. That’s just stupid and lazy to not detect, and the fact no one can be bothered to actually try to optimize the game for Android is even worse.

    Are your programmers in Sonic Team that stupid, Sega? I’m not even an experienced programmer and I could probably fix that mess up since I have a pretty good idea where it’s chugging.

    I almost say let Hardlight handle the game since at least Dash ran competently. And shock, their game is ALSO made in Unity! Hmm!

    1. If I were in your position, I would still write an article about it. The fact Runners has been released in this condition is ridiculous and the more people talking about it the better.

    2. I feel like programmers are being misblamed in your post. With the exception of the bloated file issue, most of the bugs stem from bad quality control. Programmers aren’t perfect or psychic after all, and they can’t feasibly catch or anticipate everything (or a lot of things, really…). That’s why we have QA teams– to run a fine toothed comb through the game and ensure that every feasible player action is accounted for and fully functional. In this case, however, the QA team either barely did its job, was rushed, or didn’t communicate well, rendering the programmers unaware that the issues existed and so unable to fix them before launch.

      And even so, you assume that these issues were sourced at the programmers, when they could have just as easily been following orders from the higher-up. After all, if the producer decides that the game isn’t to include a file clearing protocol, a programmer can’t do much more than explain why such a thing would be a bad idea and hope that said producer listens. Equally, if an executive decides that the game WILL be released on a certain date regardless of the state of the game, a programmer has simply got to work with it. Actually, so has the QA team and everybody else who doesn’t carry some kind of veto power. For all you know an executive could be at fault for all this, and its unfair to punish a programmer or a QA guy for something s/he didn’t decide.

      “I’m not even an experienced programmer and I could probably fix that mess up since I have a pretty good idea where it’s chugging.”

      Ok then, please design and code a file clearing protocol that works properly on all mobile devices in common use, doesn’t delete anything important, and doesn’t miss any files in need of deletion. Then please find the malfunctioning code that results in the after NiGHTS loading screen bug, and create a patch that makes it work properly. Oh, and be careful, programming is very sensitive to changes in code and if you don’t go about it properly, you’ll create more problems than you solve. Also make sure that your patch isn’t too large of a file and works on all mobile devices commonly in use. Otherwise, older smartphones will struggle with downloading it. Then repeat that for the multitude of other bugs. And while you’re at it, better study up on Japanese because that pop-up isn’t translating itself.

      I’m not saying that a bugfix is impossible, or not worthwhile. Believe me, Sonic Runners needs to be fixed. What I am saying is that fixing problems is hard, and requires a good deal of experience with programming and how a game processes things to pull off successfully. Video game development in general is hard. Your self-admitted inexperience would result in a patch that makes the game worse, especially since I seriously doubt you have the relevant knowledge regarding how Runners works to know where to apply the changes.

      1. See, but a lot of that stuff you listed aren’t things that should be happening if the people making the game knew anything about Unity. Unity is very open but can also be very hand-holdy. My experience is largely in hand-coding my own engines with the help of opengl to facilitate graphics.

        I’m certain a lot of the lag stems from these:

        -The game phoning to the ad server constantly
        -Graphics being poorly compressed and making the game load a ton of objects then doing so in an efficient matter. Sonic Runners in later segments can easily have 100+ sprites on screen at once. That alone would require having to redo data structures across several areas and I feel that stems from just wanting to get the game done rather than be efficient.
        -The wide swath of support on the Android side. The problem is the Android version is set to support from as far back as Gingerbread. That’s Android 2.3.3. We’re already sitting on Android 5.1.1, with Android M around the corner. To support that far back means using deprecated and inefficient methods, which I feel is also hurting the game on newer devices. This game should not be as bloated as it is and should not be chugging on devices like the Galaxy or the Nexus line circa 2013. That again goes back to the development cycle.

        And yet, I feel that none of this matters because I’m 100% certain Sonic Team doesn’t test the Android side because the game is developed with iOS in mind then a flip of the switch in the Unity environment to crap it out in an Android friendly format. As we’ve seen, VERY few Apple owners are complaining about the game besides the occasional lag spike. It’s not shocking to see Android treated as a second-class-citizen OS, but I’d expect better from so-called experienced devs.

        But this IS Sonic Team, and their debugging and QA record for the past 17 or so years is questionable at best.

        I know game development is hard. No need to talk down to me there. But I stand critical of Sonic Team since they got their jobs to do this very thing and some have for quite some time. They should not be developing this game like a bunch of amateurs.

          1. I think you sort of missed the point. I never claimed that this was acceptable, for one. It really isn’t, and these issues better get fixed with some free red star coins for android users for putting up with this. My point was rather that the programers may not even be the source of the issue. Yes, its very possible that they could be failing spectacularly. But it could be executive meddling that’s preventing them from making a technically functioning game. Or amazingly terrible QA that prevents them from resolving problems. Or perhaps a bit of all three. Either way, your statement of “Let’s fire most of the programmers!” seems a bit impulsive– if they’re not the source of the problem, they shouldn’t be fired. A better solution might be to fire the people who ARE the source of the problem, or if everybody involved screwed up somehow, give each section a reprimand.

            I’m sorry if I came off as condescending, but its a major pet peeve of mine when people say “OH I WOULD TOTALLY DO THAT BETTER!”. I get that you would be upset and some things would slip out, but it contributes nothing as I don’t know if you even have these programmer skills and it begs the question of “Well, if you’re so much better, why haven’t you done it?” I guess I let my own personal grievances come out there.

  4. About sonic runners in a new update it seems to have tikal & chaos 0 from adventure series…Can you post this info please…?

    1. Soon as it becomes official I will… yeah I know it’s in the games assets but there really isn’t much of a story here until they go live, especially if they just end up being randomly added with no fanfare.

  5. the frame rate is a huge pain i couldnt put up with and i hate to lose so i stopped playing .
    the game needs precision at some places but with that frame rate and input latency woow you just cant progress easily as if the game was designed to challenge your obstacle predicting skills

  6. I guess the reason I’m one of the few Android users who hasn’t been having that many issues is because I barely have anything on my phone, that and it’s fairly new. They seriously gotta gix that cache cause soon enough even my phone won’t be able to handle the game.

  7. This why I’m not a fan of things like unity it lets devs be lazy and multiplies it, the unitycache feature explains this beautifully if the dev itself had to build that from the groundup they probably would have implemented a feature for it to be automatically cleaned, instead they just implement what Unity already built from them and call it a day. Unity allows easy porting to various platform like iOS to Android, this isn’t perfect though as can be seen with Runners.
    Streamlined mode is as confusing as it is hilarious, you’d think it would be a simple toggle to rate the framerate at 30 FPS and lower the polygon count especially for level geometry (seriously take a look at a screenshot of windy hill it’s not simple flat textured boxes look at how the checkerboard pattern aren’t flat they either eat into the poly budget or use normal mapping), instead it does a bunch of random things like disable sound effects. The new update made this even more confusing by offering two untranslated options that are still just as confusing even after being translated.

    My biggest problem personally is the collision detection with midair platforms, if you jumping through the seams of the floating platforms at just the right angle you’ll get sent flying back and will almost certainly screw with your flow. My theory as to why this happens is that it’s triggering the edge detection that causes the wall run to happen on the ground but because this is triggering on a tiny platform it glitches out. It also seems that these platforms are pieced together to form longer platforms will keeping their edges much like a set of legos so this collision problem can happen even when you’re jumping through what looks like the middle of one instead of the actual edge.

    1. i was so confused when i first downloaded the game – i didnt know it defaulted to streamline straight away.
      i had to check videos to see if ring sound effects were actually in the game.
      lowering the Polygons would make much more sense since theres a lot going on on screen.

  8. Couldn’t agree more, Hogfather. I like this game. Underneath all this poor optimization and abundance of bugs, this is a really good mobile game. But there’s just so much about it that is clearly not acceptable. Today, I totally lost my marbles because the game froze for the 4th time during an ad, making me lose my super high score and all the rings/items I used for the run. What on Earth is happening?

  9. I got rid of the original Canadian version I had and redownloaded the more recent edition since it launched in the US Play Store. It is about 400mb for me when I look at the installation folders, but the app under settings lists it at 500mb. Weird. I use the 2013 Nexus 7 running 5.1.1 Lolipop. It does seem to eat as much battery as more complex 3D games and while the battery doesn’t seem hot, the processor sure does.

  10. This is fucking inexcusable. My theory on Sega’s Quality Assurance and Debug/Testing team closing down after Sonic 3 and Knuckles was completed is just having more proof.

  11. so far iv experienced:
    – ‘free continue’ advert not loading and not giving me a free chance.
    – either roulette wheel constantly spinning.
    – daily challange not resetting to day 1 (although thats good for the player).
    – daily challange resets mid-run so you reset to day 1…
    also … all the times for events are not regionalised… im not in America, thanks game.

    not to mention any notifications from other apps will lag the game for the rest of your run. adverts causing the game to crash. requiring 24/7 internet connection meaning this game is useless outside my house.

    1. Wow, really? I remember when Sonic Dash had this issue but that game could be played offline. Maybe your phone or tablet is low on RAM or has bloatware running background processes? Not that this excuses their poor optimization, but I havent seen notifications affect Runners for me yet.

  12. The game has stopped making my Z3 overheat after the latest update, and is now only slightly warm, but yeah they really need to get their shit together. This game isn’t gonna last at this rate.

  13. Yeah Hog father I agree with you Sonic Runners should update some problems about roulette characters & more plus Hog Father did you see the roulette in Sonic Dash to update? Was amazing but seriously Sega no more Roulette in every Sonic games okay Sega because you make our fans insane then I do so please remove the roulette in Sonic Runners & Sonic Dash also that it will be 100 percent Mobile Sonic games on every Devices!!!

  14. I’m suprised the game has this many issues, SEGA don’t make you’re fans play a broken game.

    This is unrelated to the article but you can pre-order Sonic boom fire and ice on Amazon now (I think its around £30 in the UK).

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