Senior Writer with the 148Apps Network since June 5, 2010
I'm Carter Dotson, freelance writer based out of Chicago. I've been a fan of portable gaming since the days of the black-and-white Game Boy, but now mobile gaming consumes my life. Along with writing about mobile gaming. Which is why you see all these posts below. Also, check out The Portable Podcast, every Tuesday here on 148Apps.
Wahoo Fitness is terribly close to bringing their RFLKT+, the enhanced device that turns an iPhone into an advanced bike computer, to fruition thanks to Kickstarter. With the campaign over on Friday, September 20th, the team took time to answer my questions about the RFLKT+ and how it improves over the original RFLKT accessory.
148Apps: What are you trying to do with the RFLKT+? How are you trying to improve it over the RFLKT? Wahoo Fitness (WF): The RFLKT+ adds in ANT+ connectivity. ANT+ is used in over 60 million devices on the market and is the current standard for wireless technology in the cycling industry. Most cyclists are currently riding with some sort of ANT+ device, whether it be heart rate, speed and cadence, or power. RFLKT+ gathers all this info via ANT+ and then using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sends the data to the iPhone and integrates it into your cycling App. The iPhone combines the ANT data with GPS info and then BLE’s it back to your handlebar mounted RFLKT+.
148Apps: For those who aren’t well-versed in the specific protocols, why should cyclists, even those already using RFLKT, be excited about RFLKT+ and the ANT+ protocol? WF: It connects the iPhone to basically every cycling sensor on the market. Whether it be BLE or ANT+ the RFLKT+ will harness that data and put it to use in your app and on your handlebars. Makes it extremely easy to get everything you need pre, post, and during your ride all in one place on the iPhone. By allowing cyclists to leave the iPhone, screen off and in the jersey pocket, you keep it safe and save your battery.
148Apps: Why turn to Kickstarter to fund the RFLKT+? WF: It presents an amazing opportunity that you rarely have, to validate demand prior to hitting market. The Kickstarter community provides high level and immediate feedback for your product and your company. It’s one thing if Wahoo thinks they’ve come up with a great idea, it’s another for Wahoo to have thousands of outsiders say prior to the product hitting shelves ‘Yes we want that!’. Two, it also provided a chance for Wahoo to reach beyond the target consumer and out to a more broad group that will also have an important use for Wahoo products.
148Apps: How much does trying to promote and appeal to backers for a fitness Kickstarter compare to other types of Kickstarters, if you’ve researched this? Was the success of something like the Pebble an inspiration to go with crowdfunding? WF: Yes. The Pebble watch kind of put Kickstarter on the map. Its very enticing to think that something can just really hit like the Pebble. Definitely with being something specific to cyclist, you do limit yourself a little more than a smartwatch or say a Bluetooth speaker. But in general cool, smart technology seems to resonate with people on KS.
148Apps: As a company working in the field of fitness technology, how much has the market changed since you launched RFLKT, both in a business and a consumer sense? Where do you see the future going? WF: It’s changing everyday. Sleeker wearables, more data, and most importantly “valuable” data will shape the future. Its not tracking everything, its tracking the data that helps you reach your goals and tracking it in the most seamless way possible. Most people are already running and riding with their iPhone, why also have a $500+ bike computer? The iPhone is the most powerful bike computer on the market when paired with our tools. Harness that power and get your music, text, calls, fitness info, cycling data and run log all-in-one place. No need for syncing, transferring, etc. The iPhone is with you all the time anyway, might as well put it to work.
Thanks to the team at Wahoo Fitness for their time.
Graveck talks about its new game Strata, goes back in time to talk about the games that put them on the map, 10 Balls 7 Cups and Skee-Ball, and the future for the series, along with if they can live up to the greatest iOS trailer of all time.
I have a reputation for being able to go toe-to-toe with developers at their own games, beating their best times and high scores. This is Carter vs. the Developer.
Mike Meade, one of the namesakes of Mikey Hooks, the game he co-created with Mike Gaughen as BeaverTap Games, is a speed-running champion. He’s dominated the leaderboards on games like Super QuickHook. So I’m up for a formidable challenge as I try to beat one of the best in the world at the game they made! I have ten minutes to top Mike Meade’s time on level 4-1 of Story Mode. Do I have the precision turning ability to beat his time?
BitMonster, the creators of last year’s Lili, have a brand new game called Gunner Zthat they’ve just soft launched in Canada and three other countries. As such, I scarfed some poutine and readied myself to take down some zombies.
This is an on-rails shooter where players control a gunner who must take out waves of zombies and the occasional human zombie sympathizer driving weaponized vehicles. Why humans are sympathizing with the zombies is unexplained, but it’s rather progressive!
Visually, and in gameplay, there’s a large debt owed to Zombie Gunship and to a lesser extent, Razor: Salvation. The truck players fire from moves periodically between waves with occasional targets to hit while moving, but the majority of the game is fending off zombies from a static position; with the only movement coming from the ability to raise or lower the height of the gunner to get a better angle on the enemies. Lower heights make it easier to get headshots, but higher heights give splash damage weapons like rockets an aiming advantage.
The gunplay is important: the rockets are powerful but limited, and the standard gun has unlimited ammo but is generally only suitable for taking out single enemies at a time. Of course, there’s upgraded guns and rockets to take advantage of, too, along with different color schemes for the trucks. But considering everything’s seen through a monochromatic color scheme, it’s the ultimate cosmetic enhancement.
There’s a good chance that Gunner Z doesn’t see the light of day worldwide for a while. According to BitMonster’s announcement post, they’re not even sure if the game will be free, and they have a lot of tweaking to do with difficulty balance, in-game currency and how it’s handed out, and even how much content is in the game. This may be a longer testing session than some other soft launches, more akin to The Drowning’s several-month test than a server stress test like what Madden NFL 25 wound up doing. This should be an interesting game to follow.
Carter and Tom Eastman sit down, like actually in person sit down, and discuss his studio’s first two games, Color Sheep and Orion’s Forge, and why the former may have succeeded where the latter did not. As well, the third of their planned launch trilogy and why it didn’t work out is discussed.
Does a game need narrative justification to be good? As Tom mentions that he’s playing Where’s My Perry? Carter counters with why he thought Where’s My Mickey? was the much better game because its concept was actually justified.
iOS 7 is imminent. With Apple announcing new iPhone(s) this week, the final version of iOS 7 seems imminent. Thus, it’s time to prepare to upgrade in case anything goes wrong. Here’s what you can do to ready yourself for iOS 7.
If you download and install the update on your device, you will naturally want to make sure that you have room to download the file, of course. But you will also want to have plenty of room to update your apps. Many developers will be issuing updates to their apps to ensure that they are compatible with the released version of iOS 7. Many ensure that their apps work with the betas, but things can obviously change between now and then. Especially for large games, it’s recommended to free up some space around this time. As well, you need enough free space that’s double the size of the app in order to update it. Might be time to do a good spring cleaning?
Know how to update!
You can obviously update on your device itself since iOS 6 introduced this feature, but you may want to download and install the update via your computer. iTunes will let you download the file on to your computer, but you can also obtain it through other sources like downloading through a web browser or through a mirror (since Apple servers will likely be hammered) and install iOS 7 from the downloaded file.
Installation will take time. App downloads will take time. Developers may be slow to update apps because many developers are not large faceless corporations, but actually just individuals or small teams working part-time. So be patient: you likely won’t be able to get everything you want right away!
I have a reputation for being able to go toe-to-toe with developers at their own games, beating their best times and high scores. This is Carter vs. the Developer.
I take on Kevin Pazirandeh’s (Auxbrain, Inc.)high score in Zombie Highway: Driver’s Ed. With the agreed-upon rules of starting at level 7 in experience with the second upgrade for all vehicle parts and the first popper upgrade bought, Kevin set a high score of over 110,000, which you can watch for yourself. I have ten minutes to best that score. Can I do it? Watch me try below.
War game fans love tanks. So for the Russian game publisher and developer Game Insight, it seems only appropriate that their next title be a game all about tanks. And with their current focus on mid-core games, Tank Domination should be a perfect fit for the studio when it releases later this year.
Demoed on iPad 4 tablets, I got a chance to take part in several online multiplayer battles with other members of the media, Game Insight’s US staff, and some of the devs – a look at the webcam pointed at them showed them to be focused and determined on the matches at hand.
Tank Domination is a 10-on-10 tank battling game. While Game Insight does focus on free-to-play titles, there’s actual gameplay, not just hands-off simulation! Players drive a tank of their choosing around an open war zone, taking place in a dystopic near future that hopefully won’t come to pass, where mercenaries settle their differences with tanks. Actually, that sounds pretty cool.
Matches are divided into two teams on opposite corners of the map. Each team must try to either take out the other team in its entirety, or to conquer their base, at least in the matches I took part in. There are four types of tanks: light, medium, heavy, and artillery. The lighter the tank, the faster it moves, but the less punishment it can take. The artillery can shoot at enemy tanks that are visible on radar, making the light tanks valuable for scouting out enemies for the heavy hitters to take on. There’s text chatting supported, but the ability to partner up with friends could help out with the cooperative elements. Plus, playing with other people and laughing at them when they’re destroyed is fun.
The game is classified as “mid-core,” bridging the gap between the kinds of free-to-play casual games that have a wide appeal, to the kinds of traditional core games that can be inaccessible to new audiences. The controls are basic, with a single virtual stick to move (and auto-forward option) and a virtual joystick to aim the turret. While figuring out how the tank movement works may take some time, to dive in to it is pretty simple and finding games is clearly meant to be easy. This will help with finding online matches as well – the more seamless, the more populous the multiplayer. The free-to-play monetization aspects come in with currency and credits being earned to buy more shells with different stats, new tanks, and combat enhancements. How free will the game be? That remains to be seen, particularly since the game is clearly still being localized – lots of Russian text remained in the game when I tried it out!
Still, considering that Game Insight is experimenting with a game that features actual, tactical online multiplayer, it’s the kind of advancement in the free-to-play business model that I want to see. There’s no reason why the free-to-play model, which is here to stay, has to exclude the kinds of experiences that satisfy core gamers. Tank Domination, with plenty of tank deathmatches, should definitely be just that.
Nexercise, the app for tracking exercise among friends, has always been about gamifying the workout tracking experience. But for the recent 2.0 revamp, Nexercise has undergone major changes in order to make it more game-like, and to hopefully make its users more effective in getting out and exercising. With multiple rewards systems like Kiip and Pocket Change, President and COO Gregory Coleman hopes that his app can be a smashing success. I spoke with him recently about what his company is trying to do with Nexercise.
148Apps: With the major revamp to the app, what were your goals in changing and improving the experience?
Gregory Coleman (GC): We wanted to make the entire experience easier, more intuitive, and more elegant. We want new users to quickly figure out what to do and how to do it. We felt like some aspects of the old version created some confusion and friction points.
148Apps: Many of the new features resemble the kinds of rewards and tactics that a lot of free-to-play social games use. Was this intentional? And if not, did you do any further research into how they could help you out?
GC: This is intentional. The key to casual games is that they are quick to use, easy to learn, and fun to play. Our goal is to accomplish the same thing with Nexercise and we deliberately tried to tie into the same psychological components.
148Apps: Have you seen actual users taking advantage of the rewards and social features?
GC: Absolutely! According to surveys of our users and our own internal data, those are two of the most popular aspects of the app.
148Apps: How do you ensure that users don’t try to cheat the system?
GC: If a user allows us to use the smartphone sensors to actually track the exercise session, we give them bonus points. This also allows us to do some pattern matching on the backend to validate the activity and reject cheating. As far as self-reporting, it is an honor system. However, our community tends to police itself and is pretty quick to call out cheaters.
148Apps: Do you encourage certain behavior patterns for users?
GC: Yes. Our mechanics are based heavily on the psychology of exercise. We reward behaviors that are scientifically proven to make people more successful in living an active life (exercising first thing in the morning or on Monday for example).
148Apps: What are your plans in the near future for the app?
GC: We’re looking very heavily at integrations with the other tools that our users use. We currently integrate with the RunKeeper app and are evaluating what, if any, other tools we want to connect with.
Halfbrick’s first published title is Band Stars by Six Foot Kid, a free-to-play band manager that shows some promise, or at worst the ability to be amused by random name generators. First seen back at GDC, it’s available right now in Australia, the native country of both developers. I take it for a spin in this installment of It Came From Canada Australia!
The first step to creating a great band is to get a cool-looking band with an awesome name – with nary any great ideas coming to my head, I hit the random name generator a few times, and it came up with “The Black” – simple, succinct, and totally metal. Let’s do this. The goal is to make the band rich and famous by coming up with popular songs, training the band to be better at what they do, and hiring new people to replace the terrible old ones.
Songs are created by assigning band members of different stats to different tasks – imagine the job rankings from Tiny Tower playing a more active role. The band members of Band Stars are multitalented in a way that actual pop stars are often not, being singers, songwriters, multi-instrumentalists, and even willing and able to mix their own tracks. That they even need a manager is kind of a surprise.
Also surprising is that their only real bad habit seems to be energy drinks. Every action undertaken with a band member drains a bar of energy, which can be refilled by letting them rest on furniture or instantly replenished with energy drinks. At least the energy system makes sense as a limiting mechanic here in that a character is actually doing something in-game, rather than it being an arbitrarily-defined limit.
There’s plenty of things to spend the two currencies on. Coins are spent on permanent things like hiring new band members, buying items, and training sessions. Inspirado is used during solos to help raise certain point values on the songs as they’re being created.
How interesting this is long-term and if the monetization gets annoying are still to be seen over time as the game nears worldwide release. Until then, check out footage below of the early days of my band, The Black:
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That’s what George Hufnagl, a Chicago-based sound designer, did. In need of easy-to-use portable tools for audio and video editing, he set out to do just that. And the result? Pocket Audio Tools.
He partnered with Canada-based Christian Floisand, who is also a programmer but learned Objective-C specifically to make this app, to help bring Pocket Audio Tools to life. The app itself is a bit technical, and of use primarily to certain audiences, which George Hufnagl was glad to show me in this demo video running down the various features:
The app currently has four features: a tempo finder for finding the BPM based on a region’s duration, beats, and the type of notes being played. This relates to the Modulation section, where particular tempos can be modulated to different values when trying to slow down or speed up a piece for particular uses. The SMPTE section allows those who work with audio along with video to calculate particular frame values based on SMPTE (Hours:Minutes:Seconds:Frames) timing or frame timing, to help get audio down to the specific value they need it to be at, with the ability to save favorite values.
The scale frequency section is the only one that actually features sound output! This lets sound designers see the frequencies of certain notes, their MIDI key equivalents, and to output that frequency to test how it will sound. Different scales based in different notes can be chosen to help get the exact frequencies necessary.
But most importantly, this is an app that George says that he uses regularly, especially the tempo finder in the sound projects that he works on.
This is just the beginning for Pocket Audio Tools: the app is planned to be updated over the next year with additional features added in (the Feedback link will send an email to the programmer, Christian) as per users’ requests and with plans to bring the app to other platforms including desktops. This is a tool meant to be handy for audio professionals, and considering that the creators are audio professionals themselves, they don’t just have to live up to their users’ standards: they have to live up to their own.
Zynga’s back with another game in their series of -Ville titles. This time, it’s all about building a magical kingdom in CastleVille Legends, currently available in Canada and Australia. I take it for a run in this episode of It Came From Canada!
There’s plenty of the initial hand-holding that many of these building games are prone to have: it starts off by showing everything that’s possible, and giving helpful hints as to what exactly the premium currency, crowns, can be spent on. Because of course that’s necessary. Items that serve as resources can be farmed and used to craft new items which can be sold for gold coins, which help make the castle’s land bigger, which necessitates more gold and more resource farming, and so on ad infinitum. The timers are thankfully short early on, though it’s hard to imagine them staying that way – these games depend on lengthy timers!
Heroes play a key role: they can be sent off on ‘quests’, which means “their avatar disappears for a period of time, after which the player gets a reward.” It’s not a very creative system – signs that anything beyond the idea of questing are not exactly present.
While the game’s mechanics tick off a lot of the “free-to-play gaming by numbers” that many titles have, at least Zynga is focusing on production values here: the art is highly-detailed and everything is well-animated, so it’s one of the nicer-looking experiences of the sort.
The game is currently in testing in Canada and Australia, and it’s likely that its monetization in particular is being put to the test – will this game make any money over time? It’ll be up to how Canadians, Australians, and those pretending to be from there decide it to be. Get a taste of the game now with our video footage.
Have issues with firewalls on a local network? Need to connect to work networks for reasons of work? Just want to get privacy while browsing? Setting up a VPN is easy on iOS.
To set up a standard VPN connection, start by going to Settings -> General -> VPN. Tap Add VPN Connection. Choose the protocol that your VPN connection uses from the three protocol choices.
Use Description to create a name for the service. Server will be the server that gets connected to – this may be a URL or an IP address. RSA SecurID may be used by your VPN connection, toggle it if necessary. If off, then the Password section will appear. Put your password in this section. Encryption Level will determine just how much of the connection is encrypted. Send All Traffic will determine if all traffic gets sent to the VPN or not.
To enable the VPN, you can either turn on the connection by enabling it in the VPN section, or by turning on the new VPN toggle that appears in the main section of Settings. If the connection works, a VPN icon will appear in the status bar to indicate when you are connected to the VPN.
Some specialized VPN connections, like OpenVPN, require being set up in an app. For example, OpenVPN Connect, the official app from the creators of OpenVPN, works for opening those connections up. They require loading a file with the connection information in it, which can be added either by importing files from Private Tunnel, an OpenVPN Access Server, from iTunes local file storage, or by opening up a file from another app.
Once you input your credentials, you can sign in using the app you originally used to sign in with. The credentials will appear in the VPN section, but you must connect through the original app.
While many VPN services are paid, there are some free ones out there: a great way to try out the feature is through VPNbook.
The Rich Dad Company, which promotes books, seminars, and now interactive media based off of the financial teachings from the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” which has sold 30 million copies (but not without its criticism from financial writers), is taking its message to mobile with the launch of Rich Dad Interactive. Their first app is a learning app called Clutch, and with it and future apps, they’re returning to the idea that sparked “Rich Dad Poor Dad:” teaching through gaming elements, or gamification.
Clutch is a learning app that will “take the physical [aspects] of Rich Dad, turn it into a mobile app, and gamify it a little bit, and teach people [in] the way that we’re all really learning today, through videos like YouTube, through activities, using social media and being able to share…’bragging rights,’ or what class you took or what investments you made,” according to Director of Technology Shane Caniglia. He says that gaming elements are there and play a key part of what Clutch will be, with social media functionality, “there’s unlock features in there that you have to make it through certain phases in order to unlock the next, and the last thing, I think the most importantly, the ability to simulate the experiences of investing in real life through Clutch as a tool.”
Gamification is nothing new to the Rich Dad Company – author Richard Kiyosaki and his wife Kim (an author of financial books herself) created a board game in the mid-90′s called Cashflow 101 that tried to teach the income philosophies he espouses: namely, having assets that generate more income than one’s expenses in order to be independently wealthy. Ironically, Caniglia says that when Kiyosaki “created the board game, the lessons didn’t necessarily translate from the game to the players. So he actually wrote the book as, this is kind of a funny story, as a marketing brochure to support the lessons in the game.” And then it wound up succeeding as a New York Times bestseller and kind of supplanted the gamification that was attempted with the Cashflow 101 game.
But with Rich Dad Interactive, it’s a return to that kind of gamification strategy. Times have changed, and gamification is a more robust concept, and that’s what Clutch will try to do. It’s adaptable, too: Caniglia says “we created it as a framework, so we can plug any type of content that we want in it, so it’s completely flexible and agile in that world, and that was a mission of ours from a tech standpoint.”
Caniglia sees this move to apps like Clutch and the upcoming mobile version of Cashflow 101 as key for the future of Rich Dad. “The general population just does not have an interest in attending seminars. The transition for us to digital is actually a fairly easy one – it’s the only way the brand can survive, number one. Number two, because we started out really as a board game… it’s a very easy transition for us to take our IP and turn it into these fun, interactive tools that we can now deploy on the mobile platforms. So the time is right for Rich Dad in order to reinvent itself as a brand but also to get to a younger demographic that, their lives are built around their mobile devices.”
After taking a year to experiment with Madden NFL Social, and then pulling it from the App Store never to be seen again, EA Mobile has decided to try again with taking Madden and making it into a free-to-play turducken. Madden NFL 25 is not the 2025 version of Madden, but is instead named in honor of the series’ 25th anniversary (and quite possibly a way to make next year’s version Madden NFL 14 without anyone being the wiser).
This entry in the preeminent series of American football isn’t actually available in America – well, the United States at least – as EA has decided to test the game in Canada first. This is despite Canada playing a weird game of football with only three downs, longer fields, and something called a rouge. This is American football, exclusive to Canada, making this one strange set of circumstances for an episode of “It Came From Canada.”
The opening tutorial reveals that with the touch controls, this is a much simpler game than the full console versions. But all the important functions are there, all done with gestures. Teams can be built and improved upon through card packs, which can add players from other teams to one’s own team. Yes, it would be possible to get Aaron Rodgers on the Bears, sacrilegious though it may be. There’s the ability to play just standard games, but the bulk of the game seems to be set in challenges and missions, with an energy system to boot.
There’s an asynchronous multiplayer mode where it’s possible to take on someone else’s team, but they’re not actually playing defense; it’s just taking turns playing offense against a computer-controlled defense. The personal element comes in taking on their customized team lineups.
It’s likely that this is as much a test of server load more than it is with monetization as many limited-local releases tend to be, so with the console versions of Madden NFL 25 releasing on the 27th, it’s quite possible that this will be available worldwide on or around then. Until then, enjoy our hands-on footage of the Canadian version of the game.
Gameloft has released updates for all three of its Order & Chaos titles. This includes Order & Chaos Online, which adds a new dungeon for players over level 70 and more gem slots on weapons for upgrading. Heroes of Order & Chaos celebrates its first year anniversary by adding two new heroes (Evistix, the Bone […]