All Posts By Jennifer Allen
With the announcement of iOS 7 came plenty of expectations and hopes. While some were realized (hello better multitasking and improved notification center), I think one very important area has been overlooked: the family market.
I don’t have kids of my own but I’ve heard the woes of many friends of mine that do. Apple just isn’t cutting it for them. This is an area where Android is currently ahead and it’s something that I was really hoping that iOS 7 would catch up on.
Take a look at the latest Android update, Jelly Bean. In one deft move known as restricted profiles, it’s covered a lot of ground for the family user. Owners of Android tablets can now set up profiles for everyone in the household. Want to keep the kids away from using specific apps or viewing mature content? Just want to split up everyone’s high scores? It’s possible through setting up their own profile, without leaving everyone else using the tablet to suffer from such restrictions. It’s not perfect, given that developers have to allow their users to be able to restrict such things, but it is a major step forward.
iOS does have one significant advantage here in that users have total control over app-related permissions, but its restrictions tab is really pretty, well, restricted. Without the option for multiple profiles, users can hand over their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad but they need to turn restrictions on or off each time. Multiple profiles are just so much simpler and require less maintenance, plus there’s the advantage that everyone has their own workspace to deal with rather than the clutter that comes from using one device across an entire family. I know a few families that struggle with the finer details of things like restrictions. If it was just a matter of setting up profiles, I could easily do it for them and they’d be set up for the future. Even better, such profiles would ensure that each member of the family felt like they had some kind of ownership over the device. Something in particular that kids get a real kick out of from technology.
While we prefer to not cover rumors at 148apps, there is an significant one that could relate to this issue: the prospect of a fingerprint sensor built into the iPhone 5S. There’s no guaranteed proof as of yet, and we’ll have to see what’s fully announced in September, but this could pave the way to multiple profiles.
For now though, parents are stuck with the option of using separate apps such as Disconnect Kids rather than a simpler, more comprehensive, built-in solution. However, the potential is great if the fingerprint reader comes to fruition. And if it doesn’t? Well, families may find themselves even more tempted towards an Android tablet purchase, and who can blame them.
Everyone loves interactive fiction, right? Ok, I might be a little biased due to my huge love of the genre, but I’m certainly not alone there. Plenty of people love the dark world created by H.P. Lovecraft, too, and his work has proved a fantastic inspiration for many great games and other forms of media. One such title that’s set to capture this spirit is The Moaning Words: a game currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign and looking rather promising.
The game is written by Science Fiction author, Alan Dean Foster, and follows a dark investigation across 18 episodes set to be released daily. Players will be able to shape their own adventure through the choices they make. Uniquely, the app will also offer a form of social adventuring with the ability to share one’s story with others as well as invite friends to unlock new content.
Continuing with an original twist on the interactive fiction idea, a card game of sorts will also feature alongside numerous riddles and conundrums. Plus, there’s set to be even more options thanks to the free writing tool that will allow users to create their own story! Not bad, eh?
We talked to co-founder and designer, Manea Castet, to learn more about this ambitious project.
148apps: Did any other books, games, or films influence The Moaning Words, besides H.P Lovecraft?
Manea Castet (MC): The design of The Moaning Words was influenced by the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books and popular video games Heavy Rain, Baldur’s Gate, and the Dragon Age series. In fact, our interactive fiction is built around different video games mechanisms. These mechanisms were specifically taken into consideration when writing the alternative [choices] and when designing how players interact with the story.
The first influence of our story is H.P Lovecraft’s body of work. Our app is designed to be a tribute to this well-known author. We believe it will please veteran readers of the “Lovecraftian” stories. It will also be a very good start for people who discover the Cthulhu Mythos for the first time. The story, written by Alan Dean Foster, is contemporary and its events will take place in many countries around the globe.
148apps: Some of the Kickstarter pledge rewards involve gaining a pack of gold to use in game, how will these help in game? Are they crucial to progression?
MC: In The Moaning Words, gold is the virtual currency. It can be obtained for free through card games for example. Users will not necessarily have to purchase gold to progress. Every time a user wins a card game, he or she will gain gold.
When people purchase our “Curious” Pack on Kickstarter, we will provide a ‘huge pack of gold’ to start with. Players will then experience the game with more freedom at the beginning. However, anyone can experience the whole story and progress through the 18 episodes without having to purchase anything with actual money. As in many free to play games, the players will have access to premium optional content if [they] decide to purchase it.
148apps: Will it be vital to recruit friends in order to progress, or will it be possible to see everything the game has to offer without?
MC: Although recruiting friends will never be vital in order to progress in the game, we think this feature is a lot of fun. Friends will help you shape the story in a different and meaningful way. They have the ability to transform your own adventure. They can also give you information about what happened in their story. You can experience the whole story without inviting any friends.
148apps: How open-ended is the story? How many different endings will it offer?
MC: The story has 6 different main endings arcs. However, each arc can and will be modified by the player’s decisions. Each one will be drastically modified by previous choices and by the final decisions. Different characters in the story can disappear or become insane for example. The changes can affect the environment on different scale, grand or small.
148apps: How simple will it be to create your own story?
MC: At any time in the app, players can access our writing tool for free. They can either use it directly in the mobile app or on their computer. It is a simpler version of the tool we use. We want it to be as complete as possible. Users will be able to write their fiction, add choices, grant mental sanity points and implement card games in just a few clicks.
No development skills are required to create an interactive fiction; the writer will only need to have a clear idea of the kind of interactive fiction he or she wants to write. Writers can publish their stories directly through the app and will be rewarded if the story is well reviewed by other users.
The Moaning Words sounds like it’s shaping up to be quite an interesting twist on an increasingly popular genre. Keen to be a part of it? Take a look at their Kickstarter campaign for the pledge rewards available.
We’ll be sure to keep an eye on its development. It’s currently set for release later this year.
No one really likes in-app purchases, do they? Sure, sometimes the flexibility is great when they’re done well, but far too often it all feels a bit cynically done and to the detriment of the player’s bank balance. How good would it be to have a new system that aims to make things much clearer and much fairer? That’s the idea behind Play Nice, a system set up by UK-based developer, Strange Flavour, and set to be a particularly eye catching part of their forthcoming game, Any Landing.
We had a chat with CEO and Lead Coder, Aaron Fothergill, to learn more.
148apps: How did the idea for Play Nice come about?
Aaron Fothergill (AF): We dipped our toes in the freemium games market a few years ago with the free version of Flick Fishing, which went on to earn far more than the paid version had when it was at the top of the iPhone games chart, so it was pretty obvious to us just how profitable freemium could be. The problem was, we also saw some of the crazy side of freemium and noticed a trend in other games that was causing the press to start kicking up stories about games designers “deliberately targeting children” or “iPhone gamer gets sudden $3000 bill” and so on.
As with a lot of other game designers, our initial thought was that it’s really a parenting issue. The controls are in place to restrict your children from auto-buying consumable content and Apple even tells you to set the parental controls. However as the issue grew, we realized that we weren’t thinking the ‘Apple way’. Rather than the industry needing to teach players how to work their phones. If we don’t want players to accidentally run up huge bills while still having the benefits of consumable IAP, we need to redesign how we use consumable IAP to suit the way they play.
From that, we first thought of a simple cap, but realized there were issues with that and the way IAP works and then developed it into what we’ve now got for Play Nice where we can set an upper limit we think is a fair amount players can spend on the game, but where any consumable purchases up to that point are actually deducted from the top price, so you don’t lose anything by trying a consumable item first. (Actually, because of the way the IAP system works, you actually save a few pennies by buying the consumables first)148apps: How long has the system been in development for?
AF: On and off for about a year, mostly using our upcoming Any Landing game as a testbed. It was planned for release in June originally, but then I went to WWDC and saw a lot of shiny new code things I wanted to play with and of course that took us back a few more months.
148apps: What challenges have you guys faced in its implementation?
AF: The biggest challenge was working out a way to use the current iOS IAP system to get the specific effect we want in a way that’s not confusing to players (the whole point is that it’s meant to be transparent and fair) and not cause issues in approval.
The other issue is actually in balancing the game itself, as when you’ve bought the ‘full’ IAP package, that effectively gives you whatever power ups you want and would drastically change the game’s balance. So a lot of time has gone into making sure that it actually works well as a game.
148apps: Are you concerned about there being any difficulties getting through Apple’s Approval process?
AF: We are. The method is a bit of a jumble under the hood and while it’s not doing anything technically bad as far as Apple’s rules are concerned it could look like it’s trying to abuse the system. Because of that I’ve kept Apple support in the loop to check we’re not doing anything that could be construed as dodgy. It still has to go through approval of course, but we’ve done quite a few unusual new features in the past on iOS, so I’m confident that we can keep everything within the rules.
AF: This is one feature I’d actually be quite happy if other devs copied it. Once the actual workings of it are out there, it’s pretty obvious (if slightly fun to implement) so we’d be happy if other devs wanted to give it a go.
148apps: What’s your opinion of the conventional in-app purchase system? Are there any titles that you think use it well or particularly badly?
AF: In itself, it’s a useful system. There’s a lot of confusion about IAP, especially about consumable IAP (which is the one that is easiest to abuse) and non consumable. For instance, if you wanted to do a ‘shareware’ type game on iOS where you unlock the rest of the game after playing demo levels, that’s entirely practical with a non consumable IAP item. (the only rule is you aren’t allowed to call anything a demo, as Apple doesn’t allow demos on the App Store).
What consumable IAP does well (and where Play Nice aims to improve) is it lets you design a game where the skilled players who like to put a lot of time into their gaming can play through the entire game without paying for anything extra to speed the game up or make it easier, but players who really want to play the game but can’t afford as much time, or aren’t quite as skilled, can purchase upgrades to adapt the game to the way they want to play. This is one reason why freemium is so successful. It doesn’t pitch one game at everyone with specific skill levels and free time, it allows players to choose how they want the game to play. Two of my favorite examples of this are The Blockheads (by Majic Jungle Software) and Nimble Quest (by Nimblebit) which both have an optional non consumable purchase that effectively doubles how fast you play (in The Blockheads it halves the time everything takes to craft and in Nimble Quest it adds red gems that effectively double the rate you collect gems). Both use consumable IAP in a reasonable and entirely optional way that doesn’t force itself on you.
The abusive part is where games focus entirely on being nearly impossible (or actually impossible) to play unless you keep spending money on consumable IAP. They’re effectively targeted at the same people that would be spending a fortune on gambling games, i.e. children and the surprising number of people with compulsive issues.148apps: Do you think the freemium model is here to stay?
AF: Absolutely. Developers can’t make a living on just the paid model and the big developers are making a lot of money on freemium. There’s nothing actually wrong with IAP itself (or freemium for that matter), but some publishers are really going to have to be careful to balance making crazy amounts of money with the risk destroying the system that makes all that money by triggering potential legislation that restricts or bans it if it’s seen as too abusive.
The Play Nice concept has certainly piqued our interest. Anything that helps make things clearer for gamers has to be a good thing. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Strange Flavour’s work and Any Landing’s progress. Thanks to Aaron for taking the time to answer our questions.