Quizarium the multiplayer trivia app is nearly ready for prime-time

Quizarium [free], a multiplayer iPhone/iPod touch trivia game, arrived in the App Store today. I got a chance to look at a pre-release copy and I found some problems with the interface and flow of the game. Some problems will be solved either upon release, since an update is being approved right now, or within a few days after release. According to Anthony Almanza, one of the developers at Lithuanian software development firm On5, Apple has gotten much quicker with approving updates. I spoke with Anthony at length about the app and offered a number of suggestions that will be implemented quite soon.

Quizarium uses the Plus+ social play network which allows many players to compete against each other by answering trivia questions in a number of set category rooms, or in new rooms that can be created by users. A server problem was found yesterday (and a revision quickly submitted), so room creation may or may not be activated upon release. I really didn't get a great feel for how a multiplayer game would look since, at most, I played against two people from On5, but I can imagine that the action will be pretty intense.

To play, you flick the screen up to view the entire list of category rooms, and when you tap on a room, the game starts. You are shown with a trivia question for 60 seconds, or until someone gives a correct answer. You can see the minute tick down by watching a progress bar at the top of the screen. Hints are given as time passes, showing you how many letters are in the answer and, as time is running out, you'll see the first few letters of the answer appearing. If you are the first with the correct answer, you gain points and receive awards courtesy of the Plus+ network. Tapping the Plus+ button on the main screen shows you your awards and takes you to the leaderboard where you'll see just how well you've done. Weekly leaderboards will be updated every Monday night. There is also an overall Plus+ network leaderboard.

As with other Plus+ network enabled games, when you first run the app, you enter a username, password, your real name, and your email. You'll get an activation email and you're ready to play. This is a one-time process. You also get to choose an avatar from a somewhat limited selection, since for now, the list of avatars is not fully populated.

Game play is quite good and will get much better when playing against opponents. The space that you type your answer is also a comment line, so you can communicate with your opponents. Along with that are a thumbs up and a thumbs down icon. If you don't like the question, tap on thumbs down. If you like it, thumbs up. This makes sense since the difficulty level of questions in the same category room vary widely.

The questions also need a good proof-reading. Two somewhat frustrating examples are: 'Who falls asleep at the tea party in Alice in Wonderland?' The correct answer is 'doormouse' but the game will only accept 'dormouse'. Another asks 'What was the Back to the Future time machine car?' The answer is 'DeLorean', but the game prefers 'DeLoren'. This is just sloppy, but I can see these problems being fixed quickly as people rate questions. There is also the option of sending an answer to Twitter or Facebook, which earns you more points.

Along with playing in competition, there is an offline mode which I feel needs a bit of work. When starting it downloads 100 questions and when you get through with them another 100 will be downloaded. That's fine, but the problem is that there is no 'Next' button as yet. So if you are really stumped, you'll have to wait a full minute to get to the next question. I was told that this would be fixed very soon.

Quizarium is free, and tosses up an advertisement every four minutes or so, but either a paid version, without ads, or an in-app purchase to banish the ads is on the drawing board.

I found that the buttons on the main screen where you choose colors and themes, along with the buttons offering you options in setting up a personal room, are too small. The picture above is a slight enlargement of the screen, so the color buttons are even smaller than they look. Try as I might, I couldn't use a finger to choose a color. The only way I found to make use of these buttons was by using a stylus. Again, I was told that this would be changed.

It seemed in talking to Anthony, that the app is a work in progress and he expects to fine-tune everything as feedback comes in from users. What he is banking on is that the update submission process has gotten very speedy and changes can made almost immediately. For example, we found that there was a problem with entering a created room. He had an update submitted to Apple in 40 minutes and he informed me earlier today that it was already under review.

Quizarium, though quite attractive, seems to be a work in progress that will evolve as user feedback comes in, with a good number of revision planned for the first few weeks after introduction. But for all my carping, I like the app and can see a great deal of potential for Quizarium. I like the idea of a casual multiplayer game and I've always liked trivia. I would really like this app to succeed.

I think it would be intriguing to download Quizarium today and watch it evolve. The pre-release version I played with was admittedly a bit rough, but if On5 keeps to their plan, it will be a really great game after the first few revisions.

Take a gander at this gallery of colorful screenshots.