More than once have I complained about my dislike for achievements in games. Most notably in a special earlier post:
Just a few hours ago Apple announced a "Game Center" with among other things achievement support.
Another major announcement today was Apple's intention to provide a centralized Game Center that offers users a way to track achievements, high scores and offer matchmaking services for online multiplayer. The system sounds similar to Microsoft's Xbox Live service which has been very popular.
This is in no way surprising and even though I overall dislike the concepts of achievements to measure the size of ones gaming e-penis, I'm still very fond of this Game Center.
Partly because it shows a strong sense and will to get serious about gaming from Apple's side and partly because with a communication device such as the iPhone, it's obvious that you should try and connect players. And by doing so in a centralized manner is a great thing for developers and consumers alike!
I just got Wolfenstein RPG for my iPhone because I felt I wanted something RPG-ish to play and I hadn't yet played any of the Id FPS RPG-thingies, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
Anyhow, the thing I wanted to share with you was something that happened to me. Have a look at this first screen and look at the top of the screen and then in the center at the syringe that's referred to.
When I noticed the open hand icon and the text "Evade Syringe" I thought; "Whoah! That was close. I almost stepped on the syringe! I'd better avoid it.", so I left it alone and moved on.
I read the open hand as "Stop!" and "Evade Syringe" as a warning. But lookie, lookie, what I noticed shortly thereafter:
The hand means to pick up and not to stop and the text was the name of the object. The "Evade Syringe" was a usable item that I could use to gain some evasion skill for a short duration.
It's not a huge deal, and I won't be making that mistake again. But the hand in combination with that name sure fooled me.
So lesson learned for me, when making user interface you have to think on how it's read.
This is more how a pick up hand looks in my head:
I guess I'd have a roll of 15 in Strength or something in D&D and the Default Body in a character maker tool.
Not extraordinary in any way regarding my pshysique and I rarely (read: never) work out. If I did, how would I get the time to blog?
But the thing is, there's this iPhone App; "100 Pushups" that's an application you run every second day and it tells you how many push-ups to do (at least) for you to be able to 100 of them within six weeks. (There's also another version that's "200 Situps".)
Basically, it does:
- Keeps track of the day and week for you
- Adjusts the program to suit you level after each exhaustion tests
- Has a rest timer so you don’t need to remember the time between sets
- Allows you to do follow the six-week plan wherever you are and without the need to be near a computer
The brilliant thing here is, it works! Well, I don't know if I'll be able to do 100 when it's all over, but it actually makes me wanna try and keep on doing it because of one simple thing:
It shows me how many I've been able to do each time and if I do well, it increases ever so slowly. It's a highscore table, damn it!
They've created a real world meta game for me to play. I want to really push it to be able to get the real high scores.
There's just one tiny problem. I haven't been able to try it more than once, because after my first day I got muscle inflammation because of over exertion. FAIL! And now I have to wait for it to go away before I can continue.
So really, all we (I?) need to change my way of doing things is a highscore table? Looks like it.
This case is really a lot like what Carnegie Mellon University Professor, Jesse Schell talks about at DICE at one point. How "games" are reaching into the real world.
It's a great vid and I highly recommend it. He talks about several interesting things, some of which I'll discuss later here on my site as well. But in it, he talks about how Fords 's new hybrid cars have a field with leaves in the dashboard. Depending on how environmental friendly you drive, the leaves increase, increasing your "highscore".
It's absolutely fantastic! A simple display with some vegetation on it change how people drive!
It, in turn is just like "The Fun Theory", where they make people take the stairs instead of escalator and throw things in the trash instead of on the ground, by making it fun. It was initiated by Volkswagen.
Amazing power is to be had if making things fun.
I haven't been home where my PS3 and 360 is for over a week now, so I've had to make due with my DS and the iPhone, so I thought I'd write a short post about what I consider to be some of the great iPhone games I've been playing and what they make right. I've chosen only to include games that have one thing in common; less is more. And just to make clear, this isn't a list of the best games ever for the iPhone.
Doodle Jump is a success both in sales and when it comes to reviews. You control it by simply tilting the device left and right and you can fire at enemies by touching the screen where you want to shoot. It's very simple and even people that can barely be called "casual gamers" can master is. A session takes anywhere from couple to 10 minutes, depending on how well you play. My longest game was about 6 minutes.
Rat On a Scooter XL
Yeah, that's what it's called. You're a rat on a scooter out to score by grinding and getting cheese. The entire game is played by touching anywhere on the screen to jump. The strength varies depending on for how long you press it. A game takes a couple of minutes. It's one of many brilliant extremly simple games from Donut Games.
One of my favorite games I've ever played on the iPhone. You're a little dude swinging through levels with a grappling hook. You just touch where you want the hook to latch on and a level takes a couple of minutes to complete.
Dance Dance Revolution S
DDR for the iPhone is just like the DDR-games for consoles and a dance pad but you touch pads on the screen instead. Arrows fly across the screen and you gotta get the timing down for hitting the right direction out of four. "Easy to learn, difficult to master." One song takes a few minutes to finish.
It's a puzzle/action game if you can call it that in which you control a ball by simply tilting the device. The controls are extremly good and very exact and the level design is very interesting. Outbreak Studios is developing the sequel. A few days ago I had my girlfriend, her sister and the sister's fiance try out the game, and all of a sudden they were all playing it at the same time, loving it. One level takes a few minutes to finish.
Now, there are many more games I like but these are a few of them. As you probably noticed, two things are shared among all of them.
They're extremly easy to control and more importantly the game is over after a few minutes, which result in people having an easy time to play just "once more" a million more times.
I like games like Rolando and Asphalt too, but I rarely play them because they feel like they "require" me to invest more time and effort into them. I can play a song in DDR any time. Yesterday when I was out with my girlfriend and she started trying out clothes in a store, I played some Doodle Jump and Rat On a Scooter. 'nough Said.
I think many developers get that part wrong.
Last year (http://arcadeberg.com/game/christmas-games/) I complained about there not being any real christmas games except for indie stuff.
I'm still not completely satisfied, but I must say that I'm not as depressed this year. With the explosion of iPhone-games and how easy it is for developers (and in the end, the consumer) to update them, I've seen a bunch of games becoming christmasified.
As an example, I'll show you Doodle Jump. A great game (my currect highscore is 58'000 points) that's usually not very christmasy at all.
But a little while ago, they released their update that makes the game more in rythm with the holiday spirit. The same game, but new graphics. And you can still turn them off if you want to.
I think it's great!
Now, I want bigger games on PSN and XBLA to do the same. But the relase of an update is no walk in the park, unfortunately. But still, this is a great step in the right way.
Will we see a Doodle Jump with bunnies and eggs during Easter?
But now; Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas!
I just had an idea.
One thing I really like with the iPhone is it's "hidden" screenshot feature. If you press the Home-button and the Lock-button at the same time, you take a screenshot and save it to your image-folder. It works anytime and anywhere, no matter what application or game you're running. I'm using this a lot to take screenshots from different games and some cool apps.
I would really love if there was an additional button on the controllers for the PS3 and 360 right above the Start-button. I want a shiny "Screenshot"-button there, which if pressed takes a screenshot of what's on the screen and saves it to my console's harddrive.
You often find yourself in situations where you'd want to take a screenshot but can't.
A lot of people take screenshots when playing on the PC, because it's so simple. You either use a program for it (like Fraps), some games have built in screenshot-keys or you snap a picture from the screen and paste it into an image program like Photoshop or even MS Paint.
And this isn't something that I only as a developer want, I know me and many gamers want it because we like looking at, creating and spreading screenshots. And personally, I don't think the developers/publishers of the games should have a problem with it, because all you do is getting people to notice your game. Unfortunately, many of them do care... A lot. Because they don't want the game shown in "uncontrolled" ways.
So, give us this feature you dirty console creators!
I was sitting in wait for an appointment today and like most of the times when I'm away somewhere and bored, I checked if there was anything new to buy/download on the AppStore for the iPhone. At the featured list I saw Beneath a Steel Sky for a fair price. For those of you who don't know about it; it's an old point & click adventure game and is by some referred to as a cult game.
Right away I thought about buying it but in the end, the meeting began and the choice was made for me.
I've decided not to buy it, because I can't see myself dedicating that much time on a game for the iPhone. I just can imagine spending hours and hours on a visual adventure, holding the phone while playing it.
Is iPhone a great or lousy platform for point & click adventure games? (Yes, my world is black and white. There is no gray.)
I can really see some potential here. The first and most obvious one is the way of interaction. What do you do in those games? You click on stuff? What's the iPhone's main way of interaction? You point and touch on the screen. Fantastic! So you can just touch on the stuff you want to interact with.
In addition to just clicking, I think it would be possible to use some really nifty multi-touch and accelerometer-features in an adventure game developed exclusively for the iPhone! They could be incorporated into the core gameplay or just add them to some form of mini-games. Mini-games in adventure games actually have been proven to be a lot of fun with games such as Indiana Jones: Fate of Atlantis for example. It would add some variety.
It seems that adventure games is a perfect genre for shorter adventures. Just look at Sam & Max and the Tales of Monkey Island from Telltale. They're released in episodes that are only a few hours each. Of course this is a marketing strategy, but I (as a gamer) think this is great, because adventure games (again, me, as a gamer) can get much less fun if you spend way too much time with them. And if there's something that the AppStore does well, it's the distribution of smaller apps and episodic updates/releases.
Since adventure games most often aren't real time dependant, you can stop playing them at any time and you can play them for any short duration of time. This is perfect for a game on the go. So if I had a great (and adapted) adventure game on the iPhone, I could play it on the bus!
I wouldn't necessarily call these things "bad", but maybe "challenges" as they can be worked on.
Adventure games are seldom "pick up and play". Sure, the mechanics are simply, but the games usually require you to invest some time into it to get hooked. Anyone can pick up Tetris and have a go at it. With so many games on the AppStore, I think you must really hook the player at once. It's no way near impossible, but something you have to consider. Then again, in the end, as long as people buy the game it doesn't matter if they play it or not. Right? (Wrong!)
If you're to have voice acting in the game, the file size will increase quite drastically (not to mention development cost). It doesn't have to be a problem, but if the game is 100mb, I can't download it while I'm away, waiting for that meeting.
To be honest, I don't know much about any adventure game out there for the iPhone except for some ports from PC. I love Monkey Island (oh god, how I love those games...) but I have no interest in playing The Secret of Monkey Island Deluxe Edition on my phone. The PC-games are made for screens of 15" and up, not 3.5".
The same goes for Beneath a Steel Sky.
For an adventure game to be really, really great on the iPhone, you have to consider the specs from day one and have big things to interact with or something. Once again, not difficult, but it "has to" be done.
The more I think and write about it, the more I want to have a go at it! Hey people, let's do a kick ass adventure game for the iPhone! Ideas are already popping up in my head!
I think Project Natal can prove to be a stroke of genius from Microsoft’s side if the technology actually works.
But the one big issue I have with it is that it is input only.
I’m not in any way saying that this will cause it’s utter and complete failure, but it is something that every “Natal game designer” will have to work on.
If Natal actually works, it will be able to pretty much keep track of your entire bodies motions, facial recognition, color recognition and voice recognition. These are all inputs. It gives nothing in return.
What the player will get is audio/visual feedback from the TV/speakers just like with any other game and the designers will have to make that part top notch if it is to provide a great gaming experience.
A “normal” controller gives lots and lots of feedback! Not only does is shake/rumble that might be the first thing people think of, but every time you press a button you can feel yourself doing it, you can feel when it’s pressed and when it’s released. When you’re pulling the sticks, there’s a force applied to your thumb that along with its position and angle tells you how far you’ve pulled it.
Some might argue that Natal is like Wii with its motion sensors, but I disagree. You still have the physical Wii-mote, its weight and its buttons. I don’t think it’s anywhere near Natal.
I think even the iPhone would be a better comparison. There are tons and tons of games being released for the iPhone and many of them suffer from not being able to give the player enough feedback when it comes to controls. I get sad every time I see an iPhone game with a D-Pad smacked right onto the screen. It really never works.
But games using the accelerometer and make games that you lean and tilt the iPhone to control, they work like a charm, because you get 1:1 feedback. I lean the iPhone, I lean what’s inside the iPhone.
Another input only gaming device are microphones used in singing games, like Singstar. The microphones don’t give any feedback to the player and the great thing is; they don’t have to!
Just as Singstar single handedly proves that it doesn’t have to be problem, a game for Natal could easily do the same. But I’m really hoping that all Natal designers out there will work hard on this issue and create something other than karaoke games and “dodge the ball”-stuff.
I have no doubt in my mind that it’s possible.
And btw, no one said you can’t have a game that uses both a normal controller and the Natal-camera, right? Enhancing!
Is the iPhone the new indie game developing platform? It could very well be.
Indie game development has for a long time been pretty restricted to PC by self distribution via communities and other channels on the Internet. Indies haven't been able to get their games on the consoles by Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony.
This is finally changing with Microsoft's Community games and Apple's AppStore for the iPhone and the iPod Touch.
This is how the 40 million iPhones and iPod touches, a figure given by Apple at the WWDC Keynote, stack up against actual consoles.
- Gizmodo (11/6/09)
Sure, the DS has sold way more units but the only way for you to get your game on there as an indie is to create a "homebrew" and hope for people with Flash-cards to download and try it out. And I can tell you that there aren't 100 million of users with Flash-cards. And amongst those who've actually have one, the chances are slim for them to try out your product.
The big thing with the AppStore is that you can distribute your games in a pretty unrestricted manner. You just have to pass Apple's check, basically meaning it shouldn't crash or contain pr0n. When it's out there, it's on the same terms as with all the big companies.
Of course, it's harder for you pump $100'000 into advertisment but it's still there. Try making your game famous on the PC; it aint all that easy either.
In about 5 months I've downloaded and tried 107 apps to the iPhone. 51 of those were games. That's way more than I've done with the Xbox. Why? Because it's simpler, easier access and it's fast.
This isn't the case for most people, but for people like me it's also nice to know that 60% of what I pay for the game goes directly to the developers.
If you want me or other people to try out your game by accident, I think there's a greater chance of that happening on the AppStore than on the PC.
Now, you do as you wish but I want to make games for the iPhone.
Apple recently announced the new version of the iPhone; the 3GS where "S" is for Speed.
Yeah, great phone to be sure. But I am personally sceptical for a faster version because of the App-support. Games to be more precise.
Today all Apps/Games works on both the older versions of the iPhone.
I'm worried that when the 3GS arrives there will be Games only possible to run on the 3GS, creating a gap between the different users.
I really liked the fact that everything worked earlier.
Will the Games be released for all versions but with crappy performance on the older ones? Will there be requirements for being able to download the heavier stuff?
What will then happen to the market as a developer?
I'm all for a quicker phone, but I'm not sure I like this...
EDIT: It seems as if some developers have decided not to make 3GS-exclusive games. I'm glad!