Lucky Frame

unVerse, not coming to iPhone and iPad

Category : Lucky Frame, News, Projects 路 by June 7, 2012

image from LF favourite “Rejected

All three of us here at Lucky Frame are first and foremost artists. We each come from different artistic backgrounds (design, music, printmaking) but we prioritize creation, meaning, and experience above all else.

We also like fun and beautiful things. That鈥檚 why when we saw Ian Snyder鈥檚 unVerse, a Flash-based music generation system, we got in touch with him right away.

Ian makes some really amazing art and games (check out Star Swing for a really interesting and pretty one-button game), and unVerse is a super beautiful little generative music system. It uses a minimalist system of white points floating on a black screen. When two points approach they will connect and push each other away, generating a musical tone. Dragging your finger across the screen pushes the points, creating stunning patterns reminiscent of shooting stars.

When we played with his Flash version we quickly realized that it would work really well on iPad/iPhone, since clicking and dragging is a bit clunky but glass screens are really quite conducive to gliding your finger. We contacted Ian about making an iOS version, and he very graciously agreed.

So in our spare time (well, Jon’s spare time) we made a pretty little app version of unVerse. We eventually submitted it to the iTunes store and we were very excited to release it to the world. And then Apple rejected it.

Yes, that’s right, we were rejected on the grounds that unVerse is “not very useful”. Hmm. Strangely, an app that plays a sound of an airplane appears to have more use than our generative music system. Anyway.

To continue with my narrative, I decided to respond to our rejection:

We strongly believe that our app unVerse provides significant entertainment and artistic value. It is a beautiful application of a complex generative system, offering an accessible way to explore procedural music creation. Far more than a simple soundmaker, it fits in with our company philosophy by introducing powerful musical concepts through an aesthetically interesting and understandable interface.
unVerse looks beautiful, sounds beautiful, and is fun to use and play with. That makes it a worthwhile app to have on the store.
Thank you,
Yann Seznec
Director, Lucky Frame

Their response was rather unhelpful.

Thank you for the feedback. However, it would be appropriate to incorporate additional features and functionality to resolve this issue. If you wish to appeal your review, you can submit a request to the App Review Board.

I took them up on their offer, and submitted a request to the App Review Board. A few days later I got a call from an Apple representative in California. I should say at this point that the representative was very nice and respectful throughout the conversation, and I enjoyed speaking to them.

In a nutshell, they told me, the app needed more ‘features’. “I love this app, I really do,” they said, “it’s beautiful. It just needs…more.” They explained that this could take any number of different forms – different sounds, different colors, different movements, anything. It just needed more.

This is infuriating. There seemed to be no comprehension of the inherent contradiction between “this is great” and “but it needs more”. The whole reason unVerse is great is precisely because it does so little. It is a study, a little glimpse into a musical and physical interaction. If the app had more options and things to change, it would artistically break down and lose its way. “Oh Mondrian, your paintings are great, but they could just use a couple of curves”.

This line of reasoning is essentially “if it’s not right, add something”. This really goes against any design philosophy that Apple has, not to mention standard design or user experience practice.

While other developers (I strongly dislike using that word, but that’s a different story) might go ahead and add some extra features and re-submit, we have chosen not to do so. It is against our artistic and creative philosophy to arbitrarily add features, and it would not make sense from a company standpoint to invest more time in an app that could very well be rejected once again for not conforming to some random reviewer’s idea of what constitutes “useful”.

Instead, we can offer this video (and this website) that shows what could have been.

We have also made the source available to all, if you want to have a play around.

As a post-script, I should add that I don’t mean this to be a giant condemnation of the App Store, or Apple, or anything like that. Without the App Store we would not even be in a position to complain about how we can’t distribute one app to millions of users worldwide – our previous apps have been installed on thousands of devices, and of course that is absolutely amazing. My criticism in this case is more to do with how we evaluate creative output, and it’s a problem that could be applied to any number of situations, from apps to music interfaces. An unfortunate byproduct of consumer-focused digital media is that perhaps more than ever it prioritises adding “stuff” rather than trying to really explore and experiment with specific interactions, reactions, and interfaces.

(23) comments

Mark wright
9 years ago 路 Reply

Wow what a pain.
Beautiful app by the way.
That’s a problem with Apple’s walled garden.
There is always android 馃槈

Tom Otvos
9 years ago 路 Reply

Hmm, I didn’t quite get the app on your description, but the teaser video showed how brilliant this is. As a developer, I get your friction with adding more just for the sake of it, but I also don’t quite get drawing such a hard line in the sand. Surely there are a couple of things that could be added to appease Apple and yet not contradict your “less is more” philosophy.

Two things leap to mind: save as (mp3, YouTube), and AirPlay. Imagine concerts, or a YouTube channel of music videos.

Good luck!

9 years ago 路 Reply

shame it was rejected. shame nether side will compromise.
This is a wonderfull looking app and would be great to see it on smart devices.

I dont see what would be a big issue to add small featers though. I understand why you say you would not but simple one that dont take from the app and there are many that can be done.

1. inverd the colour so it is black donts on a whith backround.
2. make the dot tream multi colour again optional.
3. have sound recordable into a ring tone, mp3
4. record video and upload to youtube
5. A pause/cameraoption to take a still of the screen for backround use

all of the listed there i would think does not remove from the app and what you wish to achieve with it. why not speak with the rep again and ask if you added the above would this be enough?

9 years ago 路 Reply

What a shame. It looks like a beautiful, minimal and fun app.

[…] releasing it as open source. You can read more about the submission on their website including some thoughts and opinions about the process. we evaluate creative output, and it鈥檚 a problem that could be applied to […]

9 years ago 路 Reply

This was beautiful.

I strongly feel for you. The above comments are very helpful and yes, there certainly are features that “could” be added that would make it “more” without compromising with the philosophy. What the commenters perhaps miss is that once you have been rejected for unexplainable reasons, without any clear definition of what is lacking, trying again becomes torture for the soul. Every second you spend trying to appease their unknown needs at this point will simply cast you further and further into depression and despair.

If it means anything, simply the teaser has made one person more enchanted today.

Joe Cavers
9 years ago 路 Reply

Ahhh Yann, that sucks to hear. So surprising as well 馃檨 Completely see your reasons for not compromising. Well done for standing up for what you believe in and not folding under the pressure.

To future endeavours!

9 years ago 路 Reply

Why not release it for Android?

9 years ago 路 Reply

That is unbelievable! I have often defended Apple’s “walled garden” and tight control as something hat guarantees an improved user experience but to evaluate apps on the basis of whether there is a use for it or not seems bizarre! Surely he ultimate test for that is the “open” marketplace of the app store?

Well done on executing the implementation of the idea to an app, it looks absolutely stunning!

9 years ago 路 Reply

Release it for Android.

Kurt Koller
9 years ago 路 Reply

Imagine if there were a governing body that didn’t allow, say, Korg to bring their Kaossilator Dynamic Phrase Synth to market. Not only would that little box of awesomeness not exist, all of the interesting ways in which people chained them into other things, and the complementary products that came out afterward, would also not exist.

9 years ago 路 Reply

You could add a button to turn it into a flashlight, and another button to make fart noises. Then you’d have added two additional apps right into your app! They’d have to approve that.

In short: light and farts.

Aaron San Filippo
9 years ago 路 Reply

Wow, that’s rough. Have you considered maybe adding some subtle color to the dots or something, perhaps in sync with the notes that they produce?

Still, this seems ridiculous.

9 years ago 路 Reply

The video says it all…what a beautiful app. It does not need “more”, as Apple has stated, and everyone who looks at it and appreciates what the app is trying to accomplish understands this. Sorry to hear it will never be released.

9 years ago 路 Reply

Android version.

9 years ago 路 Reply

Just curious, why did you (or Jon) port it to obj-c, when it was in flash and would’ve been easily (well, maybe not easily …) converted to an iphone app? Would it’ve been too slow?

9 years ago 路 Reply

Just put it on Android, screw apple. It’s okay for there to be a fart app and a fake pokemon app, but not this?

Eric Carl
9 years ago 路 Reply

That is really disappointing. The app looks great. Like you said, that kind of feedback seems to go completely against Apple’s standard design philosophy.

“Yeah, about that iPad… we think it needs more. I mean, it’s just a big glass screen. And there’s only one button? Can you add a few more? What if you put a kickstand on it, that would be another feature. Or a foldout physical keyboard. It just needs more features.”

Sean Clark
9 years ago 路 Reply

I’m not against the walled garden as such, it’s just the lack of consistency by the reviewers. We have a series of news apps made for various clients, after three apps getting through without a problem the fourth was rejected on the “not useful” clause – same core functionality as the others, just different news sources and design. It was accepted straight away on appeal, but it ended up taking two extra weeks to go live.

Maybe submit it under a different name – you might find it accepted then!

9 years ago 路 Reply

The app is beautiful… but I can actually kind of see their point (*dons flame-proof suit*)

Whilst the sparseness of the UI and simplicity of it all in this case is intentional, it does (inadvertently) resemble the rough kind of UI you’d see in a techdemo, for example. I don’t mean this as a slight against the app, because as you say, the simplicity of it is intentional.

But I think they’ve seen the appearance of it, taken it to be techdemo-y/unfinished and misinterpreted the solution to be ‘add more features’. What they’re actually trying to articulate, I think, is to add more ‘polish’ to make it say “This is a simple musical toy, but it is not a techdemo – it’s a finished product”.

[…] “Yes, that鈥檚 right, we were rejected on the grounds that unVerse is 鈥渘ot very useful鈥. H… […]

Akash Menon
8 years ago 路 Reply

I love this so much. In fact, the flash version has been my homepage on my browser for a while! Have you considered releasing this as a cydia app? Or perhaps packaging it as an ipa and releasing it unofficially for those who don’t have the means to compile the source code themselves?

[…] unVerse by Lucky Frame: […]

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