3D Tremendous Face Pain Slots Is Very Popular With Terrible Users
March 22, 2019 12:46 PM   Subscribe

A dev trained robots to generate “garbage” slot machine games—and made $50K.

At this year's Game Developer's Conference, two experienced mobile devs explained how they got sick of working hard to make good games that got no traction on cutthroat mobile app stores, so they built an automated system to crank out paper-thin reskins of a terrible slot machine game for a game jam.

At one point, it was generating 200 ad dollars a day by carpet-bombing the Google Play store with "games" like "3D Rough Elbow Slots", "3D Mild Dogwood Slots", and "3D Inexperienced Great Horned Owl Slots."

Cautionary tale, or business plan? You decide. (SL Ars Technica)
posted by murphy slaw (29 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Christ, what the hell is the takeaway even supposed to be here. So fucking bleak.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:55 PM on March 22, 2019 [13 favorites]


There are so many bad games on these app stores I'm surprised there's only these guys doing this.
posted by bleep at 12:55 PM on March 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


"We found a use for Bing," Schwartz said in a phone interview with Ars. "Its image search had a number of things that were looser. I'm not trying to knock them, but they have a reputation for being second class. That felt like a kindred spirit for what we were trying to achieve here."

*snicker*
posted by jacquilynne at 1:02 PM on March 22, 2019 [21 favorites]


I'm surprised Google even bothered to limit the number of apps a single developer account could release in a day to 15. I wonder how they chose that number, which seems... high?
posted by jjwiseman at 1:05 PM on March 22, 2019 [7 favorites]


So fucking bleak.

On the other hand, that picture of Richard III Slots has at least added something to my day.
posted by trig at 1:08 PM on March 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


there are/were a number of consulting firms that make custom apps for small businesses. for example, sometimes local restaurants or small chains will have a custom app for online ordering, thereby avoiding fees from Grubhub. A company like that might have a legitimate use for publishing 15 new apps on some days.

just generally though the whole thing is very grim. my only hope is that, like with clickbait articles, people eventually develop an immune system for this stuff and it stops working. i wish there was data on who is clicking on the very sleaziest of online ads, downloading the crappiest apps, and so on. i assume it's mostly elderly people and children but i don't really know.
posted by vogon_poet at 1:10 PM on March 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


The most scintillating name they went for at that point was "3D Sexy Librarian Slots."

By the power of Dewey, I sentence them to Hell!

Judgment declared!
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:12 PM on March 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


The good news is that eventually the Google Play store caught on:
"Our half-joking argument: by offering the largest target of low-quality garbage apps, these marketplaces became optimized to remove our content," Schwartz said to Ars. "You could almost say that our company trained their algorithm so that what we were doing could eventually not be possible. But we were the first to bring it to that level."
The bad news is that they were doing it for a lark, and the people who are doing it for the money have the incentive to keep trying to bypass the roadblocks Google throws up in their way.
posted by murphy slaw at 1:16 PM on March 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


There are so many bad games on these app stores I'm surprised there's only these guys doing this.

And on today’s episode of unfounded assumptions.... :-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:17 PM on March 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


Oh, Jack Lumber is actually fun, like a twist on Fruit Ninja, but different enough to be its own thing. Shame if that wasn't profitable.
posted by RobotHero at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


In the comments is pointed out the list Signal to Noise Apps. 3D Imaginative Food Slots! 3D Dalmatian Concierge Slots! 3D Outrageous Jaguar Slots!
posted by readinghippo at 1:30 PM on March 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


The iPhone App Store has uncountable numbers of garbage shovelware apps keyword-optimized to get a free ride on whatever legitimate thing you can think of (There are over 170 entries for apps whose names begin with "minesweeper" as I post this, and that's a pretty weak example). Whenever an app becomes a hit, shitty knockoffs immediately flood the store as well, waiting for people to accidentally buy theirs because it's cheaper or free, or because they misspelled their search, or misunderstood what the app's name was, or thought the app icon with the popular character from some other game was the game they were looking for, and so on.

And that's the perspective from within the walled garden. The new age of ubiquitous, persistent connectivity has spawned some really weird hell-children.
posted by at by at 1:34 PM on March 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


I like the insight about users clicking on ads to get away
We had an epiphany: our game looks so fucking terrible, but people downloaded it for some reason. When they see an ad for a much better slot machine or casino, they click it because... of course you do! That's a greener pasture! A way better future you could be having! We think the quality was so low in our shit that the ads were a portal to a better world.
What's really distopian about this observation is everyone wins. The garbage game maker and Google pocket some ad revenue. The advertiser gets a new customer. And the gamer (eventually) gets to a game they might like. In some sense these pranksters built a honeypot for electronic casino gamers.
posted by Nelson at 1:34 PM on March 22, 2019 [28 favorites]


Putting it that way it seems like a case of a terrible Nash equilibrium.
posted by vogon_poet at 1:41 PM on March 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


One wonders how much more profitable they'd have been if they tried some non-english keywords.
posted by pwnguin at 1:42 PM on March 22, 2019


When they see an ad for a much better slot machine or casino, they click it because... of course you do! That's a greener pasture! A way better future you could be having!

TBH, that's how real slot machines work, but people tend to lose way more money playing them.

It would've been interesting if they ran a parallel project that was...I dunno...similarly crappy chess apps. Sexy Librarian Chess! Great Horned Owl Chess!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:44 PM on March 22, 2019 [12 favorites]


i might be able to beat an inexperienced great horned owl at chess
posted by murphy slaw at 1:49 PM on March 22, 2019 [25 favorites]


I continue to think the closing scene of Burn After Reading is the summation of our time.

I'm gonna go play some 3D Tremendous Face Pain Flappy Bird or something.
posted by nubs at 1:56 PM on March 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


3D Tremendous Face Pain Slots
3D Outrageous Jaguar Slots!

Sooooooo close to face eating leopard slots. It's like their algorithm is just circling around it now.
posted by Avelwood at 1:58 PM on March 22, 2019 [11 favorites]


"A crappy song would play, then use text-to-speech to sing the word 'dolphin' in the Google Translate monotone voice. It'd play that every time you won. It'd say the name of your game in the music," Schwartz said.

I really want to hear this, any version, but especially the one generated for 3D Tremendous Face Pain Slots.

I see how this is bad and indicative of a soul-sucking tech dystopia, but somehow my brain (usually so sensitive to soul-sucking tech dystopia symptoms) cannot get past "BAD COMPUTER GENERATED WORDS FUNNY" and I just collapse into giggles.
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:59 PM on March 22, 2019 [9 favorites]


These devs may have a bright future for those scratch off tickets I see in every liquor store on the planet. Every time I glance at them on the counters there, it seems there are half a dozen new ones. Dogs, cats, owls, sports, toys...always very cartoonish just like 90% of the apps out there.
posted by CrowGoat at 3:01 PM on March 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


In the comments is pointed out the list Signal to Noise Apps.

I can't tell if my favorite is

3D George Eliot Slots - Free
or
3D Affirmative Action Slots - Free
posted by murphy slaw at 3:08 PM on March 22, 2019 [11 favorites]


this was in 2013! what's changed?
posted by lalochezia at 3:20 PM on March 22, 2019


I miss the days when artists could only top the charts by producing art finely tuned to the zeitgeist, for example the story of a duck who could disco.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:51 PM on March 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


i was too impatient

the winner is clearly

3D Bad STD Slots
posted by murphy slaw at 5:42 PM on March 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


the winner is clearly

3D Bad STD Slots


What does it give you?





Oh.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:33 PM on March 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


The advertiser gets a new customer.

They didn't, that's why the somewhat quality advertising network dumped them. Most of the people clicking through probably don't know how to get rid of ads and clicked the wrong place or bailed as soon as they saw that the advertised product wasn't free.
posted by Candleman at 7:08 PM on March 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


Who's to say there were people on the other end of this experiment? I mean, I've mostly outsourced my MetaFilter commenting to a just-not-quite-liberal-enough AI version of mysel Free + Must Have Works well alongside to
posted by sylvanshine at 7:52 PM on March 22, 2019 [5 favorites]


3D Bad STD Slots

Just slide your finger to win big!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:06 PM on March 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


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