All Posts By Jeff Scott
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
While simultaneously mocking and yet contributing to the App Store clone madness around Flappy Bird, Hodappy Bird has been released by Madgarden. And the whole Flappy Bird thing implodes upon itself. As Ryan Evans described it, it’s “the Citizen Kane of Flappy Bird clones.”
It’s the ultimate move of App Store ridicule, mocking them from within, Eli Hodapp of Touch Arcade fame now has his own themed version of Flappy Bird, and well, it’s a thing I guess.
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, this clone of a clone is meant to both capitalize on the Flappy Bird craze and also to poke fun at it. It’s basically Flappy Bird with all of the quaintness replaced by annoying free to play tactics. Methods like offering a continue for three coins – which can be gathered rarely by playing or watching video ads for other apps you probably don’t want to play. Nice touch putting the watch video ad button right where continue button should be. Skewering free to play and the clone madness in one game.
It’s all in fun and it is funny, sure. Is it a sad statement about the App Store? It’s that too. Is it worth your time, eh. Perhaps it’s a bit too much of an inside joke for most. Did you notice that Hearthstone is out?
As reported by Touch Arcade late yesterday, Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff was released on the App Store for a short while in New Zealand, probably as the result of a mistake. It was quickly taken down and Fox apparently went all nuclear about people showing the game. Trying to erase history, just as their news channel loves to do, the Fox lawyers decided that it never existed and filed copyright claims and take down notices against the people who are likely the biggest fans of the Family Guy franchise.
Being ever so brave and handsome, our good friends over at AppSpy decided to throw caution to the wind and stream the game anyway. Fight the power! And all that. Things turn ugly almost as soon as they start the stream…
The game is officially released tomorrow — which means it will likely be out at the usual time tonight. But with this fiasco, who knows. We are still trying to decide if we want to even further cover a game with such a hostile company behind it.
Expect to some some really pretty, graphically rich, 3D Flappy Bird clones soon.
Epic announced today a move that makes the Unreal Engine development kit available to all, at only $19 per month. In a risky move to counter other 3D engines in the mobile space, Unreal Engine 4, launched today, is available to anyone that wants to pay the $19 per month fee. That engine can be used to deny games to both desktop and mobile games. Previously the engine that powers Infinity Blade would cost millions and require a negotiated deal.
Unreal dies require that developers that make money from games developed with The engine, from premium, free to play, or ad supported, to pay a 5% gross license fee.
The engine is available to download now at http://www.unrealengine.com/.
Crazy Taxi: City Rush, is the upcoming casual arcade title from Sega, inspired by the great classic, Crazy Taxi. In the original game (also available on iOS here), you drive around a city inspired by San Francisco looking for fairs and delivering them to their destinations. City Rush takes similar gameplay and makes it feel a bit more like an endless runner – but keeps the Crazy Taxi wacky flair.
In its decidedly early state, the game shows a lot of promise. Set up to be a free-to-play game (you can tell by the in-game currencies and an energy system), it will all come down to how restrictive the energy system is. A restrictive energy system will kill a good game as it saps your will to come back after a while.
But, gameplay monetization aside, the game is fast paced, fun, well made, and I’m always happy to have more Crazy Taxi. We’ve got exclusive video below of a couple runs with the game. We are expecting the game to launch later this year, though it’s in soft launch now.
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Backflip has been around the block a few times. Starting with their original smash hit Paper Toss all the way through their recent hit Ninjump. In an plan to use their knowledge of making great games, and perhaps to utilize their installed base for cross promotion, they have decided to start third party publishing mobile games.
The first two games announced are from HandCircus and Lightbox Interactive. HandCircus are most famous in the iOS world for creating the first famous iOS platformer, Rolando (side note: oh how I miss Rolando). Lightbox has yet to release an iOS game.
First up, Seabeard from HandCircus. From the looks of this it’s a casual title influenced by games like The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing. Take a look at the trailer below for an idea of how the game feels. From exploring the seas, farming, and questing in dungeons, there’s a wide variety of game types covered here. I had a short time with a very early version of the game and it holds great promise; doubly so with a pedigree of HandCircus and Backflip. Keep an eye on this one.
Here’s the teaser trailer for Seabeard.
Not to be ignored, the first mobile title from Lighthouse Interactive also looks amazing. Sort of a FTL + space simulator + arcade, Plundernauts is a cell-shaded space strategy that I can’t wait to play. Take a look at the trailer below for some idea of what is coming. Yeah, this could be pretty darn good. This game is currently in soft launch in Canada and we’ll have more soon.
Disney has released Disney Movies Anywhere app that gives access to any Disney, Pixar, or Marvel digital movie purchased via Disney or iTunes, all in one place. This app introduces something we haven’t yet seen, deep ties and content license sharing with iTunes. Here’s how it works.
Two logins are needed, a Disney ID and an iTunes ID. Once signed into the Disney ID, the app will prompt the user to tie a Disney ID to an iTunes account by launching iTunes on the iOS device and asking for permission. See the screenshots below.
Once the two accounts are linked, the magic happens. Any Disney, Pixar, or Marvel movie purchased in iTunes now shows up in the app. In addition, any Disney digital movie purchased (usually as part of a DVD & digital copy bundle) that is associated with the Disney account now appears as purchased in the iTunes account. That’s something we haven’t seen before. A deep integration and cross license system between iTunes purchases and a content owner’s own system.
And beyond that, there is every single Disney, Pixar, and Marvel movie ever made available for purchase in the app. That’s pretty magical. All of my childhood favorites are here, even the non-animated ones like Old Yeller and The Love Bug. The prices are high, as is common for Disney, but they are all there.
In addition, the app also includes special features, shorts, etc. all of the content associated with each release is included with a purchase. As a special offer, anyone who downloads the app and sets up the connection between Disney and iTunes will be gifted a free copy of Pixar’s The Incredibles.
Jamie Voris, Chief Technology Officer, The Walt Disney Studios comments on the release.
“Disney Movies Anywhere is an adaptable digital ecosystem designed to help consumers consolidate their Disney movie collections and enjoy them for years to come. The beauty of this technology is that it enables us to work with iTunes and future provider partners to ensure movie lovers have streamlined access to all of their favorite Disney titles no matter which device they are on. The intuitive layout of the website and app creates an easy and enjoyable browsing environment for the whole family.”
I hope we see a lot more of this type of integration in the future with content rights holders integrating with iOS and iTunes. It’s a loosening of digital rights, just a tiny bit. And does so in a way that’s refreshingly logical and customer friendlier than most services launched these days.
I have a suspicion that this is an example of what we may see once the Apple TV strategy is finally revealed.
Here’s a short intro for the service.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Hop has created one of the most unique takes on email. Their iOS email client is a bit more like a messaging app than it is an email app. The update released today adds the two most requested new features, multiple account support and iPad support. Hop has also reduced response time in the app by beefing up their servers making the app even more speedy.
The multi-account support allows both individual inbox views and a unified inbox view. Customizations are available to make the email app fit they way users need to use it.
What makes Hop unique? As it turns out, tailoring the app to quick conversations, making it more message app like, speeds up usage. And that might be what mobile email should be. In speaking with co-founder Erez Pilosof, he noted that in their look into how people use Hop, they discovered that people act on many more emails, and do so quicker, using Hop over other email clients. The theory behind that is that the shorter messages lead to shorter, more casual responses, which lead to quicker conversations.
I also spoke to Mr. Pilosof about security. Since email security has become a bigger concern, especially so since Hop will have copies of users email on their server – a requirement for the service to work so quickly. He was quick to note that Hop takes security very seriously. Mr. Pilosof has past experience in security and they go above and beyond what other email clients do. Each message is individually encrypted with a unique key. Every single message. In addition, those keys are changed daily. This makes a mass breach of email almost impossible, at least on the Hop servers.
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
It was announced today that Facebook would buy the Whatsapp company for $16 Billion in stock and cash. As part of the acquisition, Whatsapp founder, Jan Koum, will join the Facebook board of directors to help shape the future of Facebook. Though it was noted that Whatsapp will maintain independence and operate separately from Facebook much the same way as how Instagram operates. So it doesn’t look like Whatsapp will be replacing Facebook Messenger anytime soon.
This move gives Facebook a foot in the door in this quickly growing segment just as it’s user base starts to contract. Whatsapp has 450 million monthly active users users, around half the numbers of users Facebook reports.
Not so many years ago, every phone came with a built-in loop for attaching a wrist strap. Not so much any more. While there are a few cases that support a lanyard loop, not many still do. And there’s the Netsuke from Poddities that adds a loop to the Lightning connector.
A lanyard or wrist strap can be a great feature for safety, especially in high “Apple Picking” crime areas like San Francisco, New York City, or just about any tourist destination worldwide. Not to mention it can help keep a phone from hitting the concrete when pulling it from a pocket.
Here’s a quick and easy way to add a simple lanyard to the new iPhone case. I’ve done this with a few different cases now, and even look for cases to use that fit what is needed to do this. The main feature to look for in a case that this technique will work with is a very sturdy sidewall, made of hard plastic. It needs to be a sturdy build to keep the lanyard from cracking or tearing the case. A soft silicone type case won’t work for this.
Choose a lanyard or wrist strap. A variety of them will work. There are probably a couple in the junk drawer left over from an old camera or maybe even an ancient cell phone. Make sure the loop part of the lanyard is at least an inch long to allow space to connect it. If there are none around, I’m a big fan of these from Rokform. Sturdy and just the right size for a wrist strap.
Next, I choose the side – either left or right. Both work. Choose the side that matches the hand the phone is usually held in. I usually hold my phone in my left hand, so I chose left.
Make two small holes about 1/2 inch apart on the side of the case using a 3/32″ drill bit. This will leave enough space so that the case left between the holes won’t easily break with a little tension. The spacing also needs to be small enough so that the loop part of the lanyard can go from one hole to the other and back.
When drilling, make sure to let the drill do the work; no need to push it through with force. Also, be careful to keep your fingers away from the drill bit and away from the back where the bit will emerge.
Next, loop the lanyard through the holes from the bottom outside through the back of the top hole. If the lanyard string is thicker, something like a paperclip will be needed to push the string through. Slide the lanyard through the loop and then insert the phone and ta-da, a lanyard on your iPhone! Simple and easy.
I have also successfully tried this on the Mophie Juice Pack Air Case, the Olloclip Flip Case, and the official Apple iPhone 5s case. As mentioned above, rubber or silicon cases don’t work as they tear easily. If you chose to do this, make sure all common safety rules are followed and it’s not our fault if you destroy your case, drill through your hand, or burn down your home.
Monument Valley, the upcoming puzzler from London-based ustwo, has raised quite a lot of interest since first being teased a few months ago. It’s uniquely MC Escher inspired interactive 3D puzzle style has piqued the interest of many. It seems to be on-track to be the next indie hit for iOS. I recently had a chance to sit down with Dan Gray, Producer, and Neil McFarland, Director of the game to discuss and play through the game. Let’s find out if all of the early accolades are deserved.
Ustwo has a reputation of quirky, yet quality games with a very unique visual style. Their office in an old warehouse in the Shoreditch area of London is just what I would imagine from a company that makes games like Whale Trail. A large number of bright, interesting, inspirational, funny, and oddball bits and found objects all over the offices and common spaces fits that perceived personality. It’s as though their offices were in the world’s largest art student dorm room. A perfect environment to foster the unique styles and somewhat off-the-wall games. Their previous iOS hit, Whale Tail, is the perfect illustration of their unique style in action. It combines a visually interesting look and bright color pallet with fun game mechanics and music.
Monument Valley takes a slightly cleaner, reserved aesthetic over Whale Trail, though it maintains a very oddball game mechanic. In this game the main interaction is rotating parts of the screen, mechanical or otherwise, leading to illogical optical illusions that create new paths for the characters to travel. It’s these unique puzzle elements that require that you put what your mind thinks of as spacial reality on hold. Swinging platforms and stairways connect in seemingly impossible ways by rotating the entire structure or small sections on screen. It seems illogical, but when it fits, it’s genius.
The game is designed with flat colors and intentional lack of detail that lends perfectly to the logic defying geometric puzzles. The lack of color and detail is almost the exact opposite of what would be expected for a game that moves in this way and stresses perceived logic so greatly. Where detail is given in the game, it is intentional to draw the eye to an available action or clue to how to progress. Tremendous thought has been given to the many levels of puzzles in this game. Maddening levels of trial and error have lead to some of the most unique puzzle and maze elements I have experienced.
For some reason the game reminds me of what a sliding 15 tile puzzle would look like if MC Escher designed it during a month long bender on absinthe and peyote. It’s absolutely visually compelling and draws you in, wanting more and more. Moreish as the English say. It’s relaxing and stressful. Balancing that line perfectly.
Ustwo takes pride in making unique and interesting games and it shows in Monument Valley. We can expect to see it released at some point this spring or early summer. It will be a premium game, priced reasonably the developers tell us.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Originally released by Gameloft in 2010, Blokus disappeared from the App Store last year. Turns out Gameloft no longer holds the license for the game by Mattel, but a company by the name of Magmic now does. This new version supports single player and online multiplayer. Available now in a $1.99 paid Universal version and a free version supported by ads.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
In a surprise release from developers Limbic Software, the followup to the massive hit TowerMadness has just been released. TowerMadness 2 builds on the original which was released way back in July, 2010, with updated graphics, all new levels, weapons, enemies, and characters. Basically the only things it shares with the original are the name and that it’s a tower defense game. And who doesn’t love a tower defense game?
The game is out now and is a $4.99 Universal app. We’ll have a review up as soon as we get a good chance to put the game through it’s paces. For now this video will have to do.
iOS is yet to have its cornerstone first-person shooter franchise. While it has a couple of really good ones from Gameloft and a few good ports from older games, we have yet to see a truly deep and original mobile-first FPS franchise. Especially one that takes advantage of the touch screen and doesn’t just try to adapt button controls to a screen. In short, iOS needs it’s Halo. Industrial Toys might be the people to do it.
Let me clear this up. There is no shortage of first-person shooters on iOS. Gameloft has released some really good ones like NOVA 3 and Modern Combat. We’ve even seen classics like Doom and Call of Duty ported. But the fault these all have is they were conceived on or derived from controller-based shooters. This invariably leads to problems when playing, no matter how good the controls. Thumbs will always cover important parts of the screen, they will slip from the correct virtual control. And for FPS vets, the most important factor: touch controls are slower as it takes time to look at the virtual buttons.
Ben Cousin’s Scattered Entertainment released The Drowning last year, which hoped to be exactly this. Tremendous amounts of thought went into the game and it’s original control scheme, yes, and it was developed exclusively for touch screens. But it just didn’t take. It was not well received by the press or users. There is still some hope for The Drowning as a franchise, but it seems unlikely at this point.
I’m also not saying that I want Halo on iOS. What I want is an original franchise, conceived for and developed for touch screens and connected devices. One with a deep original storyline, endless multiplayer capabilities, perfect controls for a touch device, and a future. No matter how how close others have come, we just don’t have that. Yet.
This is where the team from Industrial Toys comes in. This LA-based company certainly has the chops to make a killer FPS franchise for iOS. The company was founded by Bungie co-founder/co-creator of Halo Alex Seropian and Tim Harris (Denuo, Alley Cat Comics). Their team for this project includes superstars of music, art, and story; including comic artist Mike Choi (Marvel/DC) and author John Scalzi (Old Man’s War, Redshirts). Seems like they have the talent they need and our first look at their upcoming Midnight Star game shows great promise.
The first experience most will have with the game will be through the interactive comic, Midnight Rises. This comic ties in with two-way communication to Midnight Star. The story, set 120 years from now, starts when first contact is made from outer space. The interactive comic will lead the reader through the build up to the launch of the USSM Joplin, the craft fitted to communicate and intercept the source of the signal. Along the way the story will introduce the characters in the game and provide backstory.
The comic app will also provide potential players the ability to pick up items that can be used in the game. And this is just the tip of what make this dual app approach so interesting. The choices made in the story app influence the characters in the game. And progress in the game unlocks new parts of the story in the comic app. It will be interesting to see how such an integrated dual app approach works out.
Midnight Star starts off after something has gone wrong and the crew of the Joplin is fighting an alien force, as the story of what happened unfolds. The game features a new take on touch controls for a first-person shooter that looks quite good, even in the pre-release build I saw. It also features nearly endless multiplayer capabilities both in the form of friend challenges and leaderboard type challenges.
In one of the most original forms of asynchronous multiplayer, a player can create a challenge for other players – either friends or open to all. That challenge can be a speed run, high score, accuracy, or other challenge on a particular level in the game that lasts for a set amount of time. Each player that accepts the challenge enters an amount of in-game currency set by the originator into the pot with the top players in the challenge splitting the winnings.
Melee type combat has been a sticking point for touch games. How to accurately and quickly they make the player react has generally been less than perfect. With Midnight Star, melee will take for form of quick reactionary tapping of on screen symbols. Each symbol will need to be touched a designated number of times in a certain amount of time to ward off the attack.
Progressing will provide new weapons and parts to upgrade current weapons. The game is clearly set up to be a free to play game, but at least in my limited experience with it this doesn’t seem to get in the way of the gameplay.
Looking at the screenshots included with this post doesn’t really do it justice. Industrial Toys are not ready to release in-game video just yet, but this Unreal built game looks amazing with very smooth gameplay. Here’s the previously released teaser trailer.
Is Midnight Star the Halo-like franchise I think iOS so desperately needs? It would be presumptuous to say yes at this point, but I have hope. It will certainly be a huge step in the right direction. The guys at Industrial Toys are very experienced in the area and committed to the idea of bringing a Halo-like experience to touch screens.
Look for Midnight Rises (the interactive story) in the spring, and the game Midnight Star soon after. We’ll have more news on Midnight Star as it develops.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
News Republic has just been updated to 4.0. The update adds a new One Feed view showing the top news from all subscribed topics in one view along with a fresh new look. News Republic has long been a great option for keep track of key news items in topics of interest, but this update adds even more brains to the process as it learns what the reader views and presents related items more often in your topic feeds.