Fix This App: Draw Something

[We spend a lot of time with mobile apps. We know what we like and what we don’t—sometimes within the very same app. Each week in Fix This App, we’ll take a mobile offering that’s not without its share of flaws and try to nudge it a little closer to perfection.]

You would think an app that would convince someone to part with a cool $200 million would be pretty close to flawless. And to be fair, Draw Something—the drawing game that convinced Zynga to snap up developer OMGPop—is a lot of fun to play. But it’s far from perfect: In fact, even after a recent update made some badly needed improvements to the app, Draw Something could still stand an enhancement or two.

What it works on: On the iOS platform, the game runs on an iPhone 3GS or newer, a third-generation iPod touch or newer, or any iPad; you’ll need to be running at least iOS 4.0. Android users need version 2.3 or newer of that mobile OS.

What it does: Draw Something is essentially Pictionary With Friends, or it would be if Hasbro didn’t employ an army of lawyers. As in the classic board game, you’re trying to guess what someone else’s scribbles represent. But the true focus of the mobile game is for you and your friend to keep a streak alive, alternating doodling pictures for one another and guessing what the other one drew. There’s no winning or losing; if you simply can’t figure out what that picture your friend scrawled out is meant to represent, you pass, and your streak resets to zero.

It’s pretty simple to scribble out an image in Draw Something — and fun, too — but the drawing controls could be a little more precise.

What it gets right: There’s a reason Zynga was willing to drop so much coin to snap up Draw Something developer OMGPop—the game is both fun and funny. The app’s delightfully simple to use: Pick your color, pick your pen size, and draw. And the innovative approach of letting you watch both your friend’s drawing process in pseudo-real-time and the guessing process—so that you can know whether your pal guessed “Bieber” before you drew that speech bubble with the word “baby” and some musical notes—adds a substantial amount of fun.

What it gets wrong: Draw Something’s most recent update added an option for sharing your own pictures, but there’s still no means to share your friends’ drawings (unless you use your device’s screenshot-taking shortcut—assuming it has one).

Oftentimes, you’ll end up guessing your friend’s drawing early in the process, but your friend keeps drawing‚ perhaps creating a mobile masterpiece—one you’ll never see. That’s because Draw Something auto-advances after you guess, instead of prompting you to tap to continue. That’s all the more maddening since Draw Something does force you to tap to continue in other situations where it’s unnecessary: You tap to say that you’re ready to start your turn, and then tap a second time before you can start drawing or guessing. But the worst Draw Something navigation flaw is that once you start a turn, you’re stuck in that game until you’ve guessed and drawn; you can’t back out to try a turn in a game with someone else if your current friend’s drawing has you briefly stumped.

Draw Something also recently added in a sorely-needed chat feature, which is especially useful for applauding, mocking, or questioning your friends’ drawing skills. But you can only send chat messages after finishing a drawing or a guess. Given that the game isn’t exactly a cutthroat competition, it would be ideal to allow players to ask their friends for a hint or two during the guessing stage. As currently implemented, the chat feature doesn’t allow that to happen.

Most frustrating of all, though, is Draw Something’s drawing. The game cries out for a fifth pen size, between its smallest option and the next one up. And when you use that smallest pen size, your positioning seems a bit imprecise—the virtual ink doesn’t appear quite where I expect it to.

How to fix it: Draw Something’s update last week was a good first step in addressing some of the game’s glaring weaknesses. But a subsequent update still has plenty left to tackle.

  • Speed things up a little. Draw Something should add options for fast-forwarding to the end of a drawing after you finish guessing, and streamline the process of starting your next turn or switching to another game.
  • Talk to me. Expand the new chat capability by allowing some sort of in-game hint—even if it’s limited to one hint per round, it would still be a welcome addition.
  • Fine tune those drawing tools. Sure, it’s just a game and not a professional painting app, but more precise controls would go a long way toward making Draw Something feel like a $200 million app.

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