Posted by Tre Lawrence on February 26th, 2014 iPad Only App - Designed for iPad
Corel Inc. has released an app called Roxio MediaBooks, and it aims to please. The app has the ability to compile images, videos, text, and audio to create and share digital storyboards – multimedia ebooks, if you will.
The creation process promises to be easy with professional templates available, and gives the user a large amount of control over the creative process. The applications are endless: scrapbooking, social interactions, even business publications can be crafted with the app. Creations can be shared to iBooks as well.
The basic app is free, and there is advanced functionality (stuff like unlimited pages, filters, video trimming, and more) available via in-app purchase for $4.99.
Additionally, the app will be offering the advanced functionality free until March 31. As noted previously, Roxio MediaBooks is currently available for free on the App Store.
Ah, the Great App Store Pricing Debate. For years people have been arguing over the cost of mobile games. What constitutes “too much?” Where’s the line when it comes to free-to-play monetization techniques? Should developers have deep discounts and temporary giveaways? Should consumers simply expect everything to go on sale and wait accordingly?
The recent Dungeon Keeper debacle is a good example of this. Gamers and critics alike have railed against it for using various monetization techniques and associating itself with the classic PC strategy series, and many point to it as an unpleasant indication of where the video game industry (especially mobile) is headed. It’s an issue that’s almost as complicated as the initial Freemium vs. Premium debate; so let’s take a closer look at everything and try to make sense of it all.
The game itself is frantic, reaction-type game that almost begged for some sort of online functionality, so the update should be welcome when it is introduced formally on February 27. Teggle is available for $0.99 on the App Store.
Galaxy on Fire – Alliances and its developer, Fishlabs, have been through quite the tumult over the past few months. Fishlabs went through financial trouble and was eventually acquired by publisher Deep Silver, a rising force in the gaming industry known for publishing Saints Row IV and the Dead Island series. Throughout it all, Galaxy on Fire- Alliances has been chugging along: beta tested and released among these turbulent times, the game is now available worldwide and just received a big content update. Kai Hitzer, Marketing Director at Deep Silver Fishlabs took the time to answer some questions about the game’s unique approach and development.
148Apps: Alliances seems to start up a lot slower than what many free-to-play games do: it has a very lengthy and involved tutorial, and doesn’t get into the bulk of the game for some time. Was this a purposeful design decision?
Kai Hitzer, Marketing Director at Deep Silver Fishlabs
Kai Hitzer (KH): Yes, that decision has been made on purpose. If you want it to be, Galaxy on Fire – Alliances can be a very complex game that really sucks you in and offers you a multitude of differing options and possibilities. But at the same time it also allows for a less challenging gaming experience for players who don’t want to get into the matter too deeply, but prefer to focus on the core features and basic actions only. No matter which way of playing you prefer, you always have to know your stuff and that’s why we settled for a rather lengthy and extensive tutorial. Once you’ve performed all the tasks asked for by your Personal Assistant, you will not only be familiar with the most basic gameplay mechanisms, but you will also have earned enough credits and experience points to be well prepared for the transition from your save home instance to the PVP space.
The save home system, which can neither be seen nor attacked by other players, constitutes another important element of the starting phase of Galaxy on Fire – Alliances. To make sure that all players have enough time to become acquainted with the game, we’ve made sure that everyone’s got a secure resort from where they can plan and execute their operations at whatever pace they prefer. Once you’ve mastered the first couple of steps successfully and feel well-prepared for the next round, all you need to do is open up your jump gate and start your endeavors in the “real” galaxy. But even then you will not abandon your home system, but you will still keep it so that you can continue to build it up and use it as the centre of your dealings and ventures.
148Apps: Alliances, with its complexity, feels very targeted to a core gamer audience. Did you feel like this segment was being underserved on iOS? KH: As a company that’s always been eager to bring truly immersive gaming experiences to mobile – in terms of graphics as well as in regard to the depth of gameplay – we have been catering to a rather hardcore-oriented user base for years. And Galaxy on Fire – Alliances makes no exception here. We’ve always said that we wanted to show with GOFA that it is indeed possible to bring free-to-play and hardcore gameplay in accordance with one another. And we still stand by this claim as much as we did when we first proclaimed it.
With mobile devices becoming more and more powerful and capable month after month, we believe that the number of people who want to play demanding core games on their smartphones or tablets will continue to grow constantly. When you’ve got a device with you 24/7 that’s capable of running apps in current-gen console quality, why would you want to use it only to play titles that look and feel like browser or flash games from 10 years ago? Don’t get me wrong, pretty much everyone here at Fishlabs is totally enjoying their occasional dose of casual games as well, but we still believe that there’s more to the mobile platform than just endless runners, match-3s, and physics games.
148Apps: How casual-friendly do you consider this game to be, if at all? KH: As said earlier, one of the beauties of Galaxy on Fire – Alliances lies in the fact that the players can decide for themselves how they want to play it. If they’re looking for a challenging, deeply engrossing hardcore gaming experience, they can join an ambitious alliance (or even form their own alliance) and closely interact with others to constantly widen their reach and fortify their dominion. When you choose to play the game like this, you will be able to coordinate large-scale attacks with dozens of fellow players, command backup troops to secure strategically important positions, carry out feint assaults to throw your enemies’ defense line off balance and actively participate in a vivid community of aspiring star base commanders.
But if you want play a bit more light-hearted and easy-going, you can also stay in your private instance a little longer and then, when you leave it, colonize a couple of planets outside of the areas of war and conflict. There you should be able to progress in a relaxed but steady manner and build up your empire without much interference from pushy players or hostile alliances. So at the end of the day, it’ll be entirely up to you – you can spend 10 hours a day, 10 minutes a day, or anything in between playing Galaxy on Fire – Alliances and you’ll always experience meaningful gaming sessions and make reasonable progress.
148Apps: By making a game that’s complex – at least compared to many of the successful free-to-play games out there – were there any changes to the free-to-play and monetization structure that you felt had to be made because many core gamers are so vocal against free-to-play games, especially on mobile? KH: Personally, I don’t think that F2P mechanics themselves bug the core players, but rather the bad implementation of said mechanics. A lot of games still focus on monetization first and gameplay second. For us, those two aspects have always been on par and we’ve tried our best to bring them in accordance with one another. There’s no denying that we have to sell in-app purchases at one point or another in order for GOFA to become a success. But at the same time, we also want the game to be fully accessible and fun to play regardless of the amount of money you invest.
The formula’s simple: on the one hand, players should be able to undergo a challenging, engrossing, and exciting gaming experience even if they never buy a single in-app purchase in Alliances. But on the other hand, they should also not become invincible overnight just because they spent a hundred or even a thousand dollars on credit packs and limit extenders. Therefore, we’ve set various rules and regulations that make sure that paying customers can indeed proceed faster than non-paying customers, but only to certain a extent. The general rule of thumb is that two non-paying players, who team up and support each in their attacks and defenses, will always be able to stand up to one heavy spender.
148Apps: What did the beta test help you change about the game to make it better? Were there any significant changes that you saw? KH: Listening to our fans has always been at the heart of our efforts, and the closed beta has been of tremendous help for us, providing tons of useful and insightful user feedback over the months. From update to update, Galaxy on Fire – Alliances has gone through dozens of severe changes in all crucial areas, such as game design, balancing, usability, and performance. By evaluating data from the closed beta, we’ve not only been able to fine-tune important aspects such as structure building times, commander level-ups, and mission rewards, but we’ve also been inspired to add all-new features such as carrier names, leaderboards, and structure take-overs. And, of course, the closed beta has also helped us to locate and fix quite a lot of bugs and other issues as well.
Calculords, from Ninja Crime, is out on iOS. It’s an interestingly themed game with old-school flair and several different elements. The gameplay itself is set in outer space, and it runs in single-player mode. There are 200+ cards to collect, and cards are cast using number puzzles. Cards disappear after being used, and if all cards are cleared the coveted “Calculord Bonus” is awarded.
The whole adventure is presented as a battle for planetary expansion. Success in the card element advances units across the battlefield to overrun the the enemy’s base. Thus, strategy is an important consideration, and potentially adds to the experiment.
Calculords is available for free on the App Store.
Posted by Tre Lawrence on February 25th, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
As our world becomes increasingly mobile, it only makes sense that content will (has to) follow suit. Mobile content management is such an important feature for so many consumers. Accordingly, RealNetworks is stepping up by rolling out its RealPlayer Cloud service internationally.
The RealPlayer Cloud allows users to access and share cloud-stored videos from supported internet-connected devices. Previously uploaded content can be accessed without the need to convert formats and/or carry cables around. RealNetworks founder and interim CEO Rob Glaser describes as as “essentially Dropbox for videos.”
The basic service offers a decent 2 GB of free space; for folks who want to go even bigger, the optional RealPlayer Cloud 25 will net 25 GB of storage for $49.99 per year via in-app purchase. The service adds in a referral program (which awards extra space for new accounts) and SMS sharing functionality.
The base app is now available for free on the App Store.
Posted by Tre Lawrence on February 25th, 2014 iPad Only App - Designed for iPad
Child-friendly apps are always of a premium, and games that help shape admirable behavior are even more desireable. Development house If You Can is introducing a new app called IF …, which looks to help kids get a hold of that which is sometimes hard to control: their emotions.
The process is framed as a role-playing adventure. Through various interactions in different social situations, the player gets to explore responses to said situations. The first chapter is free, and the developer promises more levels are on the way. IF … promises nice graphics, surprises, and simple sequences.
IF … is currently available for free in the App Store.
Shellrazer, the collaborative indie hit that dropped in mid-2012, will be seeing a major expansion on Feb 27.
The expansion is called “Bugzkrieg,” and gives our protagonist turtle new enemies in the form of bugs decked out in lethal alien technology. It adds a total of 30 new enemies and a new weapon: the bloop singularity cannon, which is able to dispatch undesirables via a miniature black hole.
Shellrazer is available for $3.99 in the App Store.
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.
148Apps and Android Rundown (both via Steel Media) are holding a 2014 reader survey for the week, and taking a couple of minuted to answer some basic questions will give you a shot at winning an iPad Mini! Just go here and fill out the necessary info.
You can also check out the terms and conditions here if you’re so inclined. If you’re interested in entering I’d suggest hopping to it sooner rather than later as the survey will only be going until March 4, 2014. Telling us we’re awesome isn’t a requirement of course, but we love compliments all the same.
After Flappy Bird’s surprise success and stunning departure, it seems like a million developers want to make the next Flappy Bird; that next smash viral hit. But too many have taken it literally by making their own Flappy-style games. To make a fun viral hit, it requires many factors to come together perfectly – and not necessarily flapping. Threes is that next Flappy Bird because it nails many of those same factors that make it an effective and successful game.
While Threes comes from Asher Vollmer and Greg Wohlwend, developers far more established than Flappy Bird’s Dong Nguyen was, their game still succeeded in large part in spite of traditional ways of being successful. Threes didn’t have a big marketing campaign, and had a non-prominent feature by Apple. Despite this, the game has peaked in the paid games list at number one on iPhone and number two on iPad, having been sticky in the top five for the past two and a half weeks since its launch. It lost its top rank temporarily on iPhone with the release of Card Wars – Adventure Time, but regained it a few days later. Point is, it’s done enormously well despite it not having much in its favor marketing-wise.
Now, whether or not one considers Flappy Bird to be a ‘good’ game, it was a major hit because it was effective at what it did, and Threes is effective in much the same ways.
Both games are very hard to do exceptionally well at. Flappy Bird has punishing physics and little margin for error. Threes is a much more strategic game: there are a lot of systems in place with the cards all moving simultaneously that require a lot of practice – and a lot of patience – in order to master how they work, just like Flappy Bird’s physics.
Yet, despite the challenge these games present, they’re still exceptionally easy to play. Flappy Bird just requires one tap, and makes it easy to restart. Threes just requires swipes, and its addition-based rules are simple enough to glean once learned.
It’s that classic combination of “easy to learn, difficult to master” that makes them tick. As well, there’s just enough chaos involved in the design to make players feel like they have a shot. All it takes is a good card draw in Threes, or a set of pipes that’s manageable in Flappy Bird, and it’s one step closer to a high score. It’s that mix of “out of control” plus “I know I should be doing better” that makes both games so addictively fun.
But plenty of games can get that mix right. What makes them popular? Part of it is the personality: Flappy Bird‘s used a charming semi-flightless bird protagonist and art styles like the obstacle pipes that resembled retro gaming that were endearing in a specific way. Threes’ characters with their voices forge an emotional connection to the player, and it makes them more than just score objects. As well, it’s an accomplishment to unlock higher card values and new characters.
Also, scoring highly in each game feels like a milestone. Flappy Bird‘s scores are a rather literal representation of progress. Threes’ scores are effectively a bit fudged due to their four-or-five-digit nature, but they still represent a clear indicator of progress. Someone gets a higher score because they created more valuable cards. They did better, there was no fudging why they did better. All it takes is to look at the final board of a player to see how well they did and why they did better. This makes it so that players know just what they need to do in general to get better scores. This makes them very shareable.
And the ease of sharing in each game was a key factor in its virality too. Flappy Bird had a tweet button that was frequently used to share scores before it was removed. Still, it offers easy access to Game Center leaderboards, where friends’ scores can be seen. Threes not only tweets out scores, but it also tweets out the image that sums up the score, what the maximum card was, and the final board. It succinctly shows just what happened. And each high score and each tweet is a call to arms – it temps those with the game to try to beat it. And then they share their successes. And all this talk inevitably snags in more people to play, and it just takes off from there because the games are so effective at getting their hooks into the players.
It’s that mix of effectiveness and emotional connection that has made each game become so popular on their own scales. So while Threes might not involve flapping, it is inextricably linked to Flappy Bird regardless.
We had an opportunity to look at smart calendar and automatic to-do list app 24meand were reasonably impressed with the feature set and functionality. Now, in its latest update, 24me adds a new feature it calls “Assistants for Everyone.”
According to the developer, the latest addition makes the app smarter and allows for better control of hard-to-do tasks “by automating the things they were putting off.” In addition to this, the assistants are dynamic in the way the react to listed content, such as offering delivery services for packages or cleaners for housecleaning.
So little time and so very many apps. What’s a poor iPhone/iPad lover to do? Fortunately, 148Apps is here to give you the rundown on the latest and greatest releases. And we even have a tremendous back catalog of reviews; just check out the Reviews Archive for every single review we’ve ever written.
Juggling multiple social networks can feel a little like hard work at times. This would explain why there are many companies out there looking to hire social engagement managers, simply to get the word out efficiently. What about for those of us with small businesses or simply trying to build a community around one person’s content? Postcard has it covered. It’ll require a little bit of setup for those keen to integrate it with their WordPress blog, but it’s still a pretty simple and effective way of sharing content to numerous different sources. I’d recommend that those planning on hooking up WordPress to Postcard do so straight away. Fortunately, it takes a matter of a few minutes and I didn’t come across any issues. Setting up separate social media accounts within Postcard is similarly easy, with support offered for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, amongst numerous others. The free version of Postcard restricts users to three networks, while charges of $0.99, $2.99, or $4.99 unlock more options. –Jennifer Allen
With a keen sense of humor and a dash of tongue-in-cheek attitude about it, Another Case Solved has a lot going for it. From the makers of Puzzle Craft, this game knows how to get under one’s skin. However, an increasing reliance on using consumables to progress and a restrictive energy system proves ultimately quite off-putting. Players take the role of a private detective in a world in which candy has been banned. There’s quite a conspiracy going on underneath all that, and those keeping up with King’s copyright saga associated with the use of the word ‘candy’ will enjoy what’s said here. At its heart, Another Case Solved is a Match-Three game but there’s more going on than that. –Jennifer Allen
Oh Bug Heroes. It was such a a deceptively great game, wasn’t it? It didn’t look like much but it was packed with upgradable characters, made great use of action/defense style gameplay mechanics, and was a lot of fun to boot. Now Bug Heroes 2 has come along and pretty much topped the original in every conceivable way. Much of Bug Heroes 2 will be familiar to fans. There are still food stashes to protect and hordes of enemy bugs to fend off, and they’ll continue to hunt for food in order to both heal their character and keep the stash well-stocked. Another large roster of insect (and non-insect) fighters returns, each with their own particular strengths and weaknesses. And, of course, they’ll be progressing in waves MOBA-style; with character upgrades largely contained to a given round rather than carrying over. There are some rather significant (and fantastic) differences however, with new heroes, enemies, co-op and versus multiplayer, and permanent unlockable perks being the most obvious changes. –Rob Rich
Taking full advantage of the Unity3D graphics engine, The Descent presents itself as an effortlessly-designed FPS that will take players on a wonderfully visual journey of discovery and adventure as they aim to uncover the mysteries behind life. With ancient artifacts and age-old mythical legends as its base, one assumes the role of father and avid historical explorer John, who is in search of his lost daughter, Liza. Having found the cave where the ancients put the “Book of the Dead” to rest long ago, Liza soon realizes that dark forces are surrounding her. The disappearance of her boyfriend, Steven, pushes Liza to enroll the investigative services of her father as fears soon begin to rise over her own personal safety. –Arron Hirst
A little over a year ago, everything changed. My daughter, Peregrine (Pip, for short), was born, and along with the myriad recalibrations, adjustments, and joyous changes that birth brought with it, I also finally came to terms with the true value of the iPhone camera: baby pictures! Hundreds and hundreds of them (no exaggeration) were taken by me, by friends, and by family, and then scattered over hard drives, social networks, and of course iPhones. The problem then became figuring out how to organize and store them privately and securely. As a devoted Mac user it’s easy enough to keep photos stored on iPhoto, but that’s a local option only, with limited cloud storage and sharing (those 1,000 photos on iCloud? Please!), and god forbid my hard drive crashes without proper backup.
I thought all of my problems with cloud storage for photos were solved when Everpix came along. Here was a fantastic, well-designed app that also had great web-based software and a Mac-based uploader. Best of all, it could load in all of my photos from various social streams, eliminate or hide duplicates, and handle a potentially unlimited number of photos for a reasonable monthly or yearly price. There was just one big problem though; Everpix went out of business. –Chris Kirby
Pigeon Presents: Mo… on the Go! is a fun collection of activities based on the books by Mo Willems; a children’s author and illustrator whom my family adores. Titles from both the Elephant and Piggie as well as Don’t let the Pigeon Ride the Bus and the others from this series are favorite books of my son and are some of the first stories he read out loud by himself. Because of this, I was interested in checking out Mo on the Go! – an interactive app that includes interactive activities based on a Mo Willems storybook. This is in addition to a drawing section where children and adults now have the chance to interact with Willems in the Mo’s Squillems! area of this app; allowing children to complete simple illustration with their own flare, be it first drawn by mo himself or with the help of a friend, also with the choice of saving one’s work as well as emailing as a postcard. –Amy Solomon
Other 148Apps Network Sites
If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:
Only One starts off in dramatic fashion: a giant sword floating in the air, giving off a radiant aura. It descends to the ground, and is picked up by the protagonist, standing on a giant circular platform where the only exit is a steep drop to one’s death. He screams to the heavens: “I will become…the only one!“ It’s a bold intro, yet a bit silly because the voice acting sounds hardly professional, but it perfectly encapsulates the Only One experience: it’s a bit silly, a bit crudely-made, but a lot of fun. –Carter Dotson
Loot Hero is a simple game from VaragtP that matches simple sidescrolling fun to delightfully retro graphics. It’s all about being a hero and defeating dragons. It uses a purposefully grainy 2D motif to highlight the action. The gameplay is your basic side running fare: left to right running action — with a twist — facilitated by touching the right side of the screen. The goal is to dispatch the goons by depleting their life bars, all while keeping that of our protagonist runner up. Dispatching baddies and collecting goodies yields gold coins and action points that help leveling up. The twist is that it is also possible to run from right to left, which is great, since it allows for the player to go back and dispatch the baddies that regenerate after being destroyed. This yields even more rewards, and is a great way of doubling up on benefits. –Tre Lawrence
Cubot is a fun little tile from Nicoplv. It’s a cute sliding cube puzzler that uses color to highlight the gameplay. The basic premise is to move colored cubes to colored tiles on the playing grid within a specific set of movement rules. The rules are basically based on the color of the blocks/cubes in the specific level. An example of the gameplay is shown in the early levels, and there are tutorial animations to help folks through. The playing area is rendered in mostly stark wihite, with a 3D grid made up of square blocks, and it begins with a blue block which has to be moved to a blue square on the playing grid. The general control mechanism is via swipes; at this base level, a swipe in any direction moves the blue block one step in that direction. The overall idea is to get the blue cube to the blue resting place in as few moves as possible. –Tre Lawrence
And finally, this week Pocket Gamer put together a complete guide to Tengami, picked the 10 best simulation games on iOS, taught you how to turn your iPhone into a Game Boy Advance, played Crytek’s The Collectables, and found 7 intriguing indie games in Amsterdam. All this, and loads more, over at Pocket Gamer.
Posted by Rob Rich on February 21st, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Screens VNC‘s latest update has added a few new things amidst the various (and probably expected) improvements. The app now features support for Dvorak keyboards and the iCloud Keychain, the ability to manage Screens Connect records from inside the app, and a trackpad mode for those times when you just don’t feel like using the typical touch-based gestures.
If you’re already using the VNC client, you can go ahead and update it whenever you feel like it. If you don’t use it, you still have the option of downloading it off the App Store for $19.99.
Posted by Rob Rich on February 21st, 2014 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
And the Wow that’s Ridiculous Award for the month of February goes to… Sock-It!
This incredibly bizarre yet oddly clever app hauls the age old tradition of hanging a sock on your doorknob into the 21st century. The gist is that when you need to tell your roommate(s) to spend a little more time outside of the apartment/dorm room, you switch on the app. Once activated it will automatically notify your roomies when they get within a certain range, and let them know it would probably be best (for everyone) if they went and got a cup of coffee or something.
Sock-It is really a real thing, and you can download it now for free.