The End Of The Line
With a heavy(ish) heart, I'm setting an official date for end of support: December 20, 2019. After that date, no further updates will be issued (though keep reading).
That's only two years after launch, which I think a lot of you will agree isn't very long. For better or for worse, though, the mobile world moves fast, and several changes have come or are coming that make it impractical to continue updating Firefighter VR+Touch much longer, even on a bare-minimum keep-it-working basis.
The last content update was back in 2018 and I've very much moved on to other projects, but I was hoping to keep this game available and playable for years to come. In fact, there have been a few non-content updates since then, to comply with GDPR, comply with changing Google Play requirements, and fix critical bugs.
To be frank, as a solo developer with a lot of other stuff going on, updating old apps just so they can stay up is a stressful experience. I think a lot of these changes are positive changes for users, and I don't think it's too much of a burden for professional mobile developers. But as a side thing it's hard to keep up with the changes, and I'm moving away from the mobile space in general.
With all that said, there are two changes that will make Firefighter VR+Touch effectively unplayable in the near future.
The first is the transition to 64-bit apps. Most Android devices have moved to 64-bit hardware and a 64-bit OS, and Google is now pushing for 64-bit apps to match. As of August 1, 2019, Google Play stopped accepting new apps and most app updates without a 64-bit version. Games built with Unity 5.6.x or earlier, like Firefighter VR+Touch, may receive updates until August 1, 2021. On that date, such updates will no longer be accepted and no 32-bit-only apps will be served to 64-bit devices.
In other words, August 1, 2021 is a hard end date for Firefighter VR+Touch.
It would be possible to update Firefighter VR+Touch to a newer version of Unity, but it would take a fair bit of work. There have been quite a few changes between Unity 5.6 and Unity 2019 (the first version with a useful LTS period past 2021), and building for 64-bit means switching from the Mono scripting backend to the IL2CPP one, which has its own set of caveats. Still, I was considering this before another issue came up that may make the whole endeavour pointless.
The second issue is the discontinuation of Google Daydream and the uncertain future of Google VR. Back in October, Google discontinued the Daydream headset and announced that no more phones would be certified for Daydream, including the then-new Pixel 4. The next month, Google open-sourced the Cardboard SDK, albeit with a vague promise of support.
Daydream was the platform Firefighter+VR was built around, with Cardboard support more or less a fallback for phones that didn't support Daydream (of which I was expecting many more). Now, Daydream is effectively dead, and Cardboard has an uncertain future. By 2021, there may be no supported VR platform for Firefighter VR+Touch at all.
You're probably wondering why I'm setting December 20, 2019 as the end of support date instead of December 20, 2020. The long and short of it is that I'm expecting 2020 to be a busy year, and I'd rather spend the time I have working on new experiences like Ascension III instead of trying to coax Firefighter VR+Touch along. It's clear at this point that it's at best a dead man walking and at worst already dead- I have reports of the game not working on newer phones at all.
What will happen after that date? Firefighter VR+Touch will likely be taken down from the Google Play store; I'd like it to remain available for people who already own the game while not allowing new purchases but I'm not exactly sure how this works. It will remain available here on itch.io, and will be made free either on that date or some time in the near future.
I have to stress that I really do want Firefighter VR+Touch to remain playable in some fashion, ideally as close to the original experience as possible, into the future. Games becoming unplayable are a big problem for software preservation and it's only getting worse every day as we move toward live-service, connected experiences. As a retro enthusiast this issue is near and dear to my heart. I'll admit that Firefighter VR+Touch is an indie game of little importance in the grand scheme of things but it still feels like a loss.
I am looking into ways to make this happen. But I don't have a good answer for that yet, not something that will be worthwhile and that I can accomplish with the limited time and resources I can spare for this project. If I come up with something, I'll let you know.
So, in summary:
- Support for Firefighter VR+Touch ends on December 20, 2019. No further updates will be issued after this date.
- Firefighter VR+Touch will be removed from Google Play in the near future. It will remain available here on itch.io and will be made free at some point.
- Changing requirements make maintaining this project difficult with my limited time and resources
- Daydream VR is effectively discontinued and Cardboard has an uncertain future, potentially leaving Firefighter VR+Touch without VR
- I am looking into ways to make Firefighter VR+Touch playable in the future, but I don't have a good answer yet
Thank you all for coming along this journey with me. I hope you enjoyed the experience while it was available, and I'm deeply sorry if you feel you're having the rug pulled out from under you.
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