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Well, I tried again


fizzymagic
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I had time today so I decided to try the Adventure Lab app again.  Lots and lots of bonus caches popping up all over, so it must be better by now.

 

The good news:  the problems I had last time where the app's GPS location would freeze after each stage appear to have been fixed.

 

The bad news:  The Adventure Lab app is still terrible and the experience is not ideal.

 

The story:  I went to do a 10-stage (!) Adventure Lab that showed up in my town.  The 10 stages require driving a total of about 20 miles.  Staring out, I decided to do the adventure from one end to the other in a natural progression.  The kept trying to direct me to the closest stage, which is in the middle.  After about 10 minutes of fighting it, I finally got it to agree to go to the beginning stage.

 

Question:  Why was it so hard to figure out how to do the stages in the order I wanted to do them?  And no, I am not stupid or technically illiterate.

 

Next, I did the stages.  The app required me to be within 20 feet of each point in order to even bring up the question to be answered.

 

Question: Is that distance set by the app or by the Adventure Lab creator? 

 

I was doing fine, starting to figure out how to get to the spots and bring up the questions (although the only cue that there is a question that needs to be answered is a weird little question-mark symbol at the top of the details page that gives no feedback about whether it is enabled or not).  I got to one spot, found the answer, entered it, and NETWORK ERROR.  No cell coverage at the spot.  No information of any kind about how to deal with the situation.  "No problem," I thought.  I will just write down the answer and enter it when I get back to coverage.

 

Nope.

 

Another spot with no coverage, and finally one with some coverage again.  This time, I had left the answer from that last spot still on the screen so somehow magically it went through before I had a chance to enter the new information from the current spot.  I tapped the location of the spot where I had originally had the NETWORK ERROR to enter that answer.  Wouldn't let me.  Not close enough.  So I had to drive 2 miles back to the spot, get close enough to the point, enter the answer, drive back to where I had coverage, and submit it.

 

Question:  Is there any reality in which that behavior is acceptable?  How hard, exactly, would it be to build an app that could remember that I had been at a spot and allow me to enter the answer later?

 

I finally finished the AL, having wasted an hour jumping through meaningless hoops in order to prove I had been at certain locations.  The locations themselves were moderately interesting, but the jumping-through-the-hoops thing for 10 (!) waypoints seemed kind of excessive.

 

Conclusion:  The app has had another year to mature and is still embarrassingly bad.  It is abundantly clear to me that the app designers have consistently chosen style over substance ("does it look cool?" vs "is it usable?").  The gameplay requires a constant data connection. For a company like Groundspeak, who you would expect to understand that data connections are not ubiquitous, it's beyond disappointing.  The complete lack of any kind of help in the app is likewise less than professional.

 

So maybe I will try again in a few months.  For now, that's a Nowhere Near Good Enough.

 

 

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I'm sorry to read that you had a bad experience with that Adventure.  I think, however, that judging the current app on the basis of one Adventure is like judging geocaching after finding one guardrail cache with a wet log jammed into a broken pill bottle.  I've completed seven Adventures just this month alone, and I haven't experienced the issues you reported.

 

It sounds like the geofencing settings for this Adventure were frustrating.  They are set by the creator of the Adventure, and are customizable.  I've never seen one set at 20 feet.   That would be maddening!  More typical values are 50 or 100 meters.  I used 50 for my Adventure - a tour of public art in my city's downtown - because signal bounce in an urban environment can be considerable.  The documentation for Adventure Lab creators says that the minimum range is 20 meters, so I'm puzzled by your report.

 

The Adventure Lab creator was also counseled by the documentation to make sure they chose locations with good cellular coverage and, if cell reception is weak, to overcome this by applying more liberal geofencing.  Geofencing is important in order to deter cheaters who derive pleasure from logging Adventures from their couch.  Here is the relevant guidance:

 

image.png.e153aeb4fe2d734473483f1752d7df94.png

 

 

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7 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

The story:  I went to do a 10-stage (!) Adventure Lab that showed up in my town.  The 10 stages require driving a total of about 20 miles.  Staring out, I decided to do the adventure from one end to the other in a natural progression.  The kept trying to direct me to the closest stage, which is in the middle.  After about 10 minutes of fighting it, I finally got it to agree to go to the beginning stage.

 

Question:  Why was it so hard to figure out how to do the stages in the order I wanted to do them?  And no, I am not stupid or technically illiterate.

If an adventure isn't linear you can open the adventure, click on the map on the bottom that should enlarge and then you can click on any of them. By default clicking on the start button will show you the closest one.

 

7 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

Next, I did the stages.  The app required me to be within 20 feet of each point in order to even bring up the question to be answered.

 

Question: Is that distance set by the app or by the Adventure Lab creator? 

 

I was doing fine, starting to figure out how to get to the spots and bring up the questions (although the only cue that there is a question that needs to be answered is a weird little question-mark symbol at the top of the details page that gives no feedback about whether it is enabled or not).  I got to one spot, found the answer, entered it, and NETWORK ERROR.  No cell coverage at the spot.  No information of any kind about how to deal with the situation.  "No problem," I thought.  I will just write down the answer and enter it when I get back to coverage.

 

Nope.

Like Leprechauns said the minimum metric distance is 20m (65 ft). Don't know the imperial. I think the minimum should be 50m (165ft) because my phone GPS takes some time to adjust sometimes.

 

If there are no cell phone coverage the AL CO shouldn't have chosen those spot. But normally you are able to answers the question even if you leave the zone so not sure why you had to come back. Also my phone vibrate when I enter the zone.

 

7 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

I finally finished the AL, having wasted an hour jumping through meaningless hoops in order to prove I had been at certain locations.  The locations themselves were moderately interesting, but the jumping-through-the-hoops thing for 10 (!) waypoints seemed kind of excessive.

Don't try to do multiple adventure at the same time and geocaching you will pull every hair from your head from jumping those hoops.

 

7 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

Conclusion:  The app has had another year to mature and is still embarrassingly bad.  It is abundantly clear to me that the app designers have consistently chosen style over substance ("does it look cool?" vs "is it usable?").  The gameplay requires a constant data connection. For a company like Groundspeak, who you would expect to understand that data connections are not ubiquitous, it's beyond disappointing.  The complete lack of any kind of help in the app is likewise less than professional.

 

 

So maybe I will try again in a few months.  For now, that's a Nowhere Near Good Enough.

At the current rate they are improving it I would suggest come back in a few years. We are still waiting for the map integration promised twice for last year that should have been there since the beginning.

 

The only updates they did last year was to introduce an icon for new AL that nobody understood because there are no help manual, a AL notification for New AL that nobody knows the range it pop up and finally be able to hide completed adventure but not those that you own because they are expecting you to log your own...

 

For the constant data connection it was to eliminate armchair logger but they didn't completely succedded and didn't give AL CO any tools to delete those logs.

 

Groundspeak decided to reinvent the wheel be creating the AL app but they should have just introduced it like a new icon on the Geocaching app that you need to send answer like earthcache but automatically check your answer and give you a smiley. Now it so badly integrated that for example you can't even increase your regions/country stats with it or knows when someone are finding your Adventures without hoping they left a message if they find them all...  

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Nearly all issues you had should not happen.


Q1: The app is assuming the first interesting spot for you, is the nearest one. You just need to unclick it and choose a different one. How is that fighting with the app? I mean okay, it can be a little annoying when you decide on a completely different route, but it would not influence my experience at all.

Q2: The owner sets the fence radius. When the owner sets it to the minimum (which is 20 meters) it is sometimes hard to get into the zone. But that is not really AL's fault overall, it was a decision made by the owner. I can agree that it would be nice to have some more info in the creator to let the owner know, that if the stage is in a city for example, people may find it hard to get into the zone because of the small fence radius combined with poor GPS signal.

before Q3: When entering a zone, your phone will vibrate to let you know of that. Check if your phone is not blocking anything because this sounds odd.

9 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

"No problem," I thought.  I will just write down the answer and enter it when I get back to coverage.

 

Nope.

Q3 + above: That's exactly what you can do and I can't understand why you couldn't do it. I did at least one scenario which was in the middle of a forest and I also had the same issue, but the app remembers that you were on the spot and lets you answer later. The only real problem here is, that with no cellular data, when answering wrong you get: "Wrong answer", and when it's correct you get: "Network problem" instead of an information: "Your answer is fine, but you need internet connection". But even with the current version it's easy to get used to that and understand what the app is telling you. It may be the case that you run into a bug here, but I can only assume that. Maybe you clicked a different location or you overlooked something.

 

9 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

It is abundantly clear to me that the app designers have consistently chosen style over substance ("does it look cool?" vs "is it usable?"). 

Three times yes! The app only looks great, but on the inside it's nearly empty. Nevertheless app usage isn't hard it just takes a moment to get used to it. I think you just don't understand the app yet and it's influencing your experience way too much. Give it a little more time, try a different scenario and let us know ;)

Edited by sernikk
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Thanks to all for the good advice and feedback.  The app is definitely improving and maybe there are some good adventure labs out there.  The experience feels very different from geocaching to me,  but that is probably a good thing. The adventures don't have an "adventure" feel to them so much as a "guided tour" feel. 

 

But that is probably what the market wants and I don't have any fundamental problem with that aside from the profusion of bonus caches I now have to ignore.  I'll probably try a few more just to be sure I am being completely fair,  and I continue to hope that the app gets better. 

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The app isn't very good, but I've gotten used to it enough to think it's not flat out bad. But that's only because I've learned to use it, which mainly means not doing those many things that seem obvious but turn out to be entirely wrong. Like, for example, it sounds like you did the very logical think of saying "start". Even on a lab with an obvious order (like the Lincoln Highway lab I think you were doing), start always takes you to the nearest. To tell it where to start, you have to, instead, scroll down to a map you can't see and have no reason to think it there where the steps are laid out so you can pick the one you want to do next.

 

It sounds like the main problem you had was because that lab was out beyond even cell coverage. I've never run into that because all the labs I've done are all contained in a smaller area within easy cell coverage. I agree that this connectivity requirement is a pain, but in this case it sounds like the real problem is the lab, not the app. I hesitate to tell you to try a different lab, though, because I know you like adventure, and the other labs I've done are really far less adventurous than the Lincoln Highway drives. I've heard some ideas for implementing an actual adventure with an adventure lab, but the ones I've taken were what you call guided tours. (I recently heard someone call them "magical history tours".)

 

So, in summary, I'm satisfied with the app, but I understand why you aren't and I don't blame you. There's definitely room for improvement, no argument there. I'm not sure "what the market wants" has anything to do with anything. I see this as GS and the AL creators feeling their way, more intent on what might work than satisfying any market. Yeah, I'm seeing a lot of people doing ALs, but I don't see anyone that seems like a big fan or would particularly care if they hadn't been invented. Specifically, I'm not seeing anyone that's switching to ALs and leaving geocaching behind.

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10 hours ago, dprovan said:

The app isn't very good, but I've gotten used to it enough to think it's not flat out bad. But that's only because I've learned to use it, which mainly means not doing those many things that seem obvious but turn out to be entirely wrong. Like, for example, it sounds like you did the very logical think of saying "start". Even on a lab with an obvious order (like the Lincoln Highway lab I think you were doing), start always takes you to the nearest. To tell it where to start, you have to, instead, scroll down to a map you can't see and have no reason to think it there where the steps are laid out so you can pick the one you want to do next.

 

It sounds like the main problem you had was because that lab was out beyond even cell coverage. I've never run into that because all the labs I've done are all contained in a smaller area within easy cell coverage. I agree that this connectivity requirement is a pain, but in this case it sounds like the real problem is the lab, not the app. I hesitate to tell you to try a different lab, though, because I know you like adventure, and the other labs I've done are really far less adventurous than the Lincoln Highway drives. I've heard some ideas for implementing an actual adventure with an adventure lab, but the ones I've taken were what you call guided tours. (I recently heard someone call them "magical history tours".)

 

So, in summary, I'm satisfied with the app, but I understand why you aren't and I don't blame you. There's definitely room for improvement, no argument there. I'm not sure "what the market wants" has anything to do with anything. I see this as GS and the AL creators feeling their way, more intent on what might work than satisfying any market. Yeah, I'm seeing a lot of people doing ALs, but I don't see anyone that seems like a big fan or would particularly care if they hadn't been invented. Specifically, I'm not seeing anyone that's switching to ALs and leaving geocaching behind.

I would agree all of your comments and a great summary of the current status. The main problem I have had is temporary issues with the app locking up when mobile coverage is flaky. I think more work definitely needs to be done with remembering where you are on the app screens, specifically which lab you were doing.  The app seems to take ages trying to reload all local labs and takes an age to time out which is very frustrating.

As to whether they are good or bad the jury is out for me but it certainly allows you to be taken to loads interesting locations that would not be suitable for a physical box. One question for me is whether the number of ALs should be limited.  Also in the current troubled times I find it great to be able to get out and find some "caches" without the physical boxes. I am certainly against trying to over complicate in the future. Keep it simple and get the basics working should be the only priority.

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On 1/20/2021 at 1:24 AM, fizzymagic said:

The gameplay requires a constant data connection.

Not true! I only have WiFi and it works fine when I get back to within WiFi range. It is annoying when the owner has made the AL sequential. I know, that is sometimes needed for a bonus cache, but when it is done willy-nilly NO!

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On 1/27/2021 at 9:50 PM, ecanderson said:

No, pieces of the bonus solution can be sprinkled among the five journals.  Done properly, there is nothing about adding bonus cache clues that requires that the AL be sequential.

 

I did an AL where, in order to find  the bonus you had to follow/find road signs that were show after solving each sequential stage. Very difficult if the stages were not sequential.

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One AC in my general  area is in a large state park. There is no cell coverage at one  location so the owner set the  geofencing for that location  to several miles so that  one can log it elsewhere in the park. Almost all in my area are in  populated areas and  one (at Niagara Falls)  has no problems with  the nearby Canadian cell coverage interfering (Rogers Communication-just across the river).

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2 hours ago, wally_k said:

 

I did an AL where, in order to find  the bonus you had to follow/find road signs that were show after solving each sequential stage. Very difficult if the stages were not sequential.

Operative word was "can".   It is definitely possible to design an AL either to require sequential discovery or not.

 

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On 1/19/2021 at 11:24 PM, fizzymagic said:

How hard, exactly, would it be to build an app that could remember that I had been at a spot and allow me to enter the answer later?

I have an iPhone (6s) and my experience has been that it does remember I was there and does allow me to answer the question later. In one case I answered the question at home, hours later,  well outside the geofence, after completing other locations in between.  

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