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Real Racing 3 - The History of an App Store Icon

Posted by Rob Rich on January 30th, 2013

The soon to be released Real Racing 3 is on a lot of iOS gamers' minds these days, especially many of us here at 148Apps. Because of this we thought it would be a good idea to recap the series. In fact, we might have gone a bit beyond that and created a trilogy. First we'll be taking a look at the series' history and the history of Firemint, the Melbourne based studio that created the series. After that we'll be taking a look at the design factors and what when into creating the first two Real Racing titles as well as a little of the third. And in the third part of this series, we'll take a look at the new Time Shifted Multiplayer found in Real Racing 3.

Humble Beginnings

One of the best-known examples of how far developers can push Apple’s new iPhone 5 hardware is looming just over the horizon. However, it wasn’t always so. Sure the Real Racing series has steadily become pretty much synonymous with near console-quality visuals on mobile platforms, even going so far as to have a permanent spot on the App Store’s Big-Name Games and Racing Games lists, but there was once a time when no one knew the name Firemint. This was around four years ago, when most mobile games were still easily distinguished from virtually every other platform. You know, when Solitaire and box-pushing puzzles came preloaded on everything and acquiring new games wasn’t anywhere near as convenient as it is now. Oddly enough, the developer’s first major innovation wasn’t even based around graphics.

According to Kynan Woodman, Real Racing 3’s Development Director, the original Real Racing was actually more of an experiment than a real game. Specifically they were trying to figure out how to rig up accelerometer steering for a Nokia handset in a way that wasn’t awkward or unnatural. Keep in mind this was back in 2008, and up to that point attempts at such a control scheme would tilt the view along with everything else which wasn’t exactly conducive to a driving game. “To solve this problem we tilted the horizon dynamically to counter your steering of the device," he said, "so that regardless of where you moved the horizon in the game would match the real world. It seems obvious now, but no one had done it at the time.” Firemint didn’t just find a work-around for a common problem, the team developed a solution that set a new design standard for accelerometer controls.

Building A Unique Race

Once it had the horizon tilting figured out, Firemint began to construct the game that would eventually become Real Racing around it. “There was a lot more to the Real Racing franchise than great controls," said Woodman, "but it started with that as a key innovation.” As it turns out, innovation ended up being Firemint’s calling card of sorts.

The developer’s second major task was to construct an interior view that the series has come to be known for, “... so players could actually see the steering wheel move as they steered," Woodman said. It’s a feature that isn’t uncommon in console racing games these days (Codemasters’ Race Driver: Grid is a prime example), but it’s not prevalent in many - if any - iOS racers. The added level of detail, and by extension immersion, goes a long way to enhancing the “simulation” experience.

The decision to create a racing game built around closed tracks was made fairly early on in the cycle, however, but the rest of the design evolved as the game was developed. No one at Firement (now Firemonkeys) expected their project to become such a juggernaut on the App Store or to be the target of much speculation when early gameplay footage (above) was first revealed on PocketGamer in August of 2008. “We particularly enjoyed all the comments from consumers about how it was ‘clearly fake,’” said Woodman. Encouraged by these reactions, Firemint continued its work on through 2009, listening to fan and potential consumer feedback all the while. “We had a good idea of what people would like from the game," he said, "because we could read comments and talk to press and consumers about it. Although we couldn't do everything that players would like, we did use their feedback to help us focus the game design.”

Not Just A Racing Game Studio

Amidst all the hullabaloo surrounding console-quality visuals and innovations up the wazoo it can be easy to forget that Firemint doesn’t only make racing games. In fact, before Real Racing came out, it was already flying high (*rimshot*) thanks to the success of Flight Control. This casual mobile rendition of a day in the life on an air traffic controller began as a simple experiment concocted by Firemint CEO Robert Murray. It was meant to be a simple design exercise created over the winter break when the studio was shut down for the holidays, but garnered so much attention around the studio that fellow Firemint designers, Alexandra Peters and Jesse West, hopped on board to help turn it into a full-blown game--a good call considering that it’s sold over half-a-million copies in its first month and well over three million to date.

Award Winner

The original Real Racing went on to receive plenty of accolades, including 2010’s Apple Design and IMGA’s Excellence in Connectivity Awards, as well as a Best App Ever Award for Best Racing Game, Best Graphics, and Best Simulation Game in 2009. It’s also sold a whole bunch--and that’s just the first game. Not surprisingly, after Real Racing was launched in June of 2009, work on Real Racing 2 began roughly 6 months later.

The sequel to Firemint’s critical darling turned its fair share of heads as well when it was released in December of 2010. In addition to carrying over all the new concepts and special features that made the original Real Racing so noteworthy, Real Racing 2 added plenty of new items to its pedigree. The career mode was greatly expanded upon by allowing players to earn cash to purchase new cars and even upgrade their current ones. More camera options were added along with a special TV broadcast-style instant replay system. Vehicles were given damage models so that particularly rough races would leave telltale signs all over the racer’s cars. Online save options were added to allow players a chance to carry over their racing career when they installed the game to a new device. It was one of the first games to incorporate Apple’s Airplay technology which allowed players to view their games on their TV, using their iOS device as a stand-in for a controller. Actually, it allowed up to four players to view their games on the bigger screen all at once by way of the special Party Mode.

Last but not least, and in keeping with the whole “innovation” thing, Firemint also managed to include 16 player races (against AI in single player or 15 other people online), which was a first for iOS games at the time and no small feat in and of itself. All of these various features reportedly pushed Real Racing 2’s development costs to over $2 million. So it wasn’t just a first for iOS multiplayer, it was also a first for iOS development costs. Real Racing 2 has received a fair share of success with a combined (critic) Metacritic score of 94 to date along with taking the Best App Ever Awards for Racing and Graphics in 2010. With so many hits on Firemint's hands, it’s no wonder large publishers like EA took notice.

Big Changes

The following year, Firemint was absorbed into the collective that is Electronic Arts. Some were understandably concerned about the acquisition, as it’s not uncommon for smaller studios to lose most of what makes them special (or get dismantled entirely) once they become a part of a much larger whole. However, Firemint CEO Rob Murray, as well as EA Interactive’s Executive VP, Barry Cottle, were quick to put those fears to rest by recalling the developer’s history. Many of Firemint’s pre-Flight Control and pre-iOS releases (Need for Speed Most Wanted, Madden, etc) were created while under contract for EA Mobile. One could even argue that EA helped to shape the folks at Firemint into the dream team they are today. Getting bought by one of the largest video game publishers in the business while being able to maintain their creative freedom made for an exciting opportunity for the already quite successful developer. But it didn’t end there. In July of 2012, Firemint joined forces with IronMonkey Studios (Dead Space, Need for Speed Undercover) to create Firemonkeys. I hope they braced for all the inevitable Infernape jokes beforehand. Since then, EA’s involvement has most likely influenced Firemint’s/Firemonkey’s pricing structures, but overall it seems like they’ve left the developer to do their own thing, which is to make fantastic games.

A more recent and potentially troubling development was the announcement that Rob Murray--former CEO of Firemint, mastermind behind Flight Control, and Executive Producer at Firemonkeys--would be leaving to spend time as a full-time dad. It’s a perfectly good reason to step down and Tony Lay, EA’s Melbourne Studio GM, has more than enough experience to see Real Racing 3 to its release as the new Executive Producer, but it’s difficult not to have a little concern over what this means for Firemonkeys. Development heads come and go from time to time, as is the nature of the industry, but sometimes major shakeups can be difficult to shake off. There have also been rumblings of another kind of shakeup for Real Racing 3. The App Store is still a tough market to predict when it comes to pricing structure, and it’s rumored that Firemonkeys might do away with the premium price tag for their new racer. In fact, if the rumors are to be believed Real Racing 3 just might be free-to-play. It’s not definite by any stretch of the imagination at this point, but it is possible.

It’s impressive to think that Firemint accomplished all of this--several multi-award winning games, millions upon millions in cumulative sales, and a significant acquisition by a major publisher--in about three years' time. Where they go from here is anybody’s guess, but with Real Racing 3 looming on the horizon, the future definitely looks exciting, and pretty shiny.

Tomorrow, we'll delve into the design decisions and what it took to make the premier iOS racing game series, so stay tuned.

Four Player Split Screen Comes To iOS Via Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on November 16th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: FLY WITH ME :: Read Review »

If you like aerial combat, you probably already have Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy. If so, then you'll be able to grab the update today, which brings up to four player multiplayer to the AirPlay option for split screen goodness on the big TV in your living room. The game also has 12 new levels, putting you up against new drones, carriers, and UFOs. How cool is that?

How-To: Improve AirPlay Mirroring Performance

Posted by Carter Dotson on October 29th, 2012

AirPlay Mirroring is great – in theory. Beaming an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch screen to an Apple TV without having to fuss with cables at all? Wonderful! However, apparently beaming HD video across a wireless network is not easy! For those getting blurry video, or latency so slow that it feels like communicating with the moon would be faster, here’s some tips to make AirPlay Mirroring work far better.

Get close to the router

Rule number one of wireless communication: the closer you are to the wireless source, the better the signal. In this case, video will look a lot better. What may help is to set up a second router near your TV as an access point, using a physical ethernet run to the main router. This may be most easily done via powerline ethernet adapters.

Plug the Apple TV into ethernet

Look, the great thing about wifi is that there’s no cables to fuss with. However, because wifi is essentially sound waves traveling through walls and and other waves, as opposed to beams of concentrated light sent on a direct path like with ethernet, a lot of issues can come up because of this. So, if possible, plug the Apple TV in to the router via ethernet. Performance will get better instantaneously as only one the iOS device will have to be wirelessly communicating to the router.

Upgrade that old router

That old Linksys router with the curious blue front and black body may still work fine for many tasks, but even wireless-G is something of a speed and latency dinosaur. Upgrading to a wireless-N router will find video quality and latency much improved. A dual-band router, one that uses both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz bands, may find improved performance all around.

Upgrade that old Apple TV

The 2nd generation Apple TV, released in 2010, can decode 720p video sent by AirPlay. Just not very quickly. Upgrading to the newer Apple TV, bolstering an A5 processor, can help. But really, there’s one step for getting high-quality, low-latency AirPlay Mirroring:

Get a Mac.

It’s not an officially-supported feature, but there is a third-party app that can do AirPlay Mirroring on the Mac, called Reflection. It’s $15 with a free trial, and it leverages the powerful processor in a Mac (generally more powerful than the ones in Apple TVs) to provide AirPlay Mirroring at probably the lowest latency possible. I was able to get six-digit scores on Punch Quest, and while some latency is definitely noticeable still, it’s the best possible experience. Just get an HDMI cable and plug that bad boy in to the flatscreen!

AirPlay Mirroring will never be perfect because wireless communication is inherently imperfect, but these tips will make the experience far better!

The Portable Podcast, Episode 147

Posted by Carter Dotson on July 24th, 2012

TV party tonight!

On This Episode:

  • One of the developers of Run for Peace discusses the inspiration behind the endless runner Run for Peace, and the message Game Cooks wanted to send with this game, made in Beirut. As well, he discusses the challenges that come with developing games in a country like Lebanon, without an established development culture.
  • Matthew Braun, the developer of SketchParty TV, talks about what made him make an iPad game designed to be played on TVs.

  • Episode Cast:

  • Host: Carter Dotson
  • Guest: Lebnan Nader, Game Cooks
  • Guest: Matthew Braun, Magnate Interactive
  • Contact The Show: Email | Twitter


    How to Listen:

    Apps Mentioned in this Episode:

    Professional Exercise Workout Videos From FitPlay

    + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
    By Jennifer Allen on June 13th, 2012
    Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar ::
    Download workout videos according to your needs.
    Read The Full Review »

    playGO AP1 is the Next Generation of Audio Streaming

    Posted by Jordan Minor on May 23rd, 2012

    With all of Apple’s relatively recent success in the smartphone and tablet market, we can forget sometimes that what kicked off their modern dominance was a device that simply played music. BICOM, Inc. has been recognizing how important music is to the company with their playGo series of iOS receiver systems. The newest model, the playGo AP1, is their biggest leap forward yet.

    Previous playGo models used USB interfaces but the playGo AP1 instead streams audio wirelessly using Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Apple’s own AirPlay functionality. Music from iOS devices, iTunes and other services like Pandora, Rhapsody, and Spotify are wirelessly pushed to speakers with their high-fidelity audio intact. The playGO AP1 also retains built in USB for compatibility with older devices.

    Unfortunately, the project is still in need of funding. However, interested buyers can check out the playGo AP1 Kickstarter page and purchase one early for $199. The funding deadline in July 5th and if it’s a success, expect to see the playGo AP1 released shortly thereafter.

    Reflection Puts Your iOS Screen on the Mac

    Posted by Brad Hilderbrand on March 6th, 2012

    One of Apple's coolest features, AirPlay, is also one of its least-utilized. Currently, users can easily stream content from their iOS device right to their Apple TV, and the service will be extended in the new OS X Mountain Lion update to allow Macs to do the same. However, there's never been a way to stream content from an iPhone or iPad to a Mac, until now.

    Reflection offers a simple solution to the problem, simply run the app on your Mac, connect your iOS device to the same wireless network, enable AirPlay and viola, you're all set. While you still control all of your iOS apps on their native device, you can now display them on your Mac, which should make for some pretty impressive gaming sessions at the very least.

    Reflection will run you $14.99 for a license on a single Mac and $39.99 to install it on up to five separate computers. This being the first version of the app there are still some bugs and crashes, as well as a bit of input lag, but we're sure that will get tuned up in future updates. In any case, we're pretty impressed that someone got AirPlay running from iOS to Mac, and in a surprising twist it wasn't even Apple.

    [via iMore]

    Sports Illustrated Launches Swimsuit 2012 App

    Posted by Brad Hilderbrand on February 21st, 2012
    iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

    As a companion to the 2012 Swimsuit Edition, Sports Illustrated has officially launched its companion iPhone app. The free version of the app allows access to a selection of photos for each of this year's models, while those who pay the $6.99 upgrade will get every single photo from this year's issue as well as exclusive videos, the ability to rotate the photos, and more. Those who already have a subscription to the magazine can grab the premium version of the app for free, all you have to do is punch in your subscription info and the upgrade is yours.

    For those who want to show off to friends, the app also supports Airplay, so if you happen to own an Apple TV you can easily stream all the content directly to your HD television. Furthermore, due to "popular demand," SI has included pinch-and-zoom capabilities, so you can get up close and personal with all those beautiful... bikinis. What? You're just checking the labels to see what sort of swimwear to buy your wife, right? Yeah, that's what we'll tell her.

    Jurassic Park Roars Its Way To The iPad 2

    Posted by Jennifer Allen on November 16th, 2011
    + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
    Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: LACKING :: Read Review »

    Exciting times dinosaur fans! Jurassic Park has hit iPad 2s! Not literally obviously as no one would like a T-Rex to crush their beloved gadget. No, I'm talking about Jurassic Park: The Game, hotly anticipated since Telltale Games announced it earlier in the year.

    Maximizing the processing power of the iPad 2, Jurassic Park: The Game promises breath-taking cinematic scenes and some darn impressive graphics. Players will be taken back to Isla Nublar during the events of the first Jurassic Park film and be able to interact with the storyline in a brand new way. While many locations will be familiar to fans, there will also be plenty of new areas to explore as we discussed earlier this week.

    Jurassic Park: The Game also comes with AirPlay functionality so that players can see the action on their Apple TVs for even more impressive visuals.

    Jurassic Park: The Game is out now for the iPad 2 priced at $6.99.

    Pangea Software Updates Apps To Include AirPlay

    Posted by Jennifer Allen on October 18th, 2011

    Another week means another game developer jumping on board the AirPlay support bandwagon. Previously, Firemint and The Binary Mill announced AirPlay functionality, now it's the turn of Pangea Software's line up.

    Six of their titles have been updated to provide native support for iOS 5's AirPlay streaming: Bugdom 2, Cro-Mag Rally, Nanosuar 2, Otto Matic, Quarters, and Enigmo 2. Each title can be played at 1080p with the Apple HDMI adapter or 720p via AirPlay. It'll work on any iPad 2 or iPhone 4S running iOS5.

    As well as that, Cro-Mag Rally and Nanosaur 2 have had a new 'Spectator-Cam' mode added to make the most of AirPlay support. This means an unique view of the game is sent to an HDTV, making it much more entertaining and sociable for others to watch.

    All of the titles have also received a graphical overhaul with new higher resolution artwork implemented to ensure they all look great on HDTVs.

    All of Pangea's updated apps are available now.

    iCloud Support Added To iWork Apps

    Posted by Jennifer Allen on October 13th, 2011

    It's kind of like Christmas for iOS device owners this week. With the huge wealth of new functionality that iOS5 brings, so the numerous app updates flow. In this case, it's Apple's flagship iWork applications that have profited from updates that incorporate iCloud functionality.

    Numbers, Pages and Keynote have all been updated to version 1.5 adding the ability to automatically store content in iCloud and thus keep documents up to date across all the user's iOS devices. As well as that, documents can be downloaded to a PC or Mac at https://www.icloud.com/ as a number of different useful filetypes such as Excel, Word, Powerpoint, Pages '09, Numbers '09, Keynote '09 and PDF format.

    In the case of Pages, voice dictation functionality has also been added to enable users to create and edit documents in iOS5 on their iPhone 4S. Keynote users can benefit from AirPlay support to enable them to show their presentations wirelessly via Apple TV.

    Numerous other minor updates have also been added to the three iWork Apps. Each update is available now.

    Radio Pro Review

    By Kevin Stout on August 2nd, 2011
    Radio Pro is an internet radio app with Dropbox support and Airplay.
    Read The Full Review »

    Real Racing 2 HD To Offer AirPlay

    Posted by Jennifer Allen on June 9th, 2011
    iPad App - Designed for iPad
    Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: REAL FRUSTRATING :: Read Review »

    Jeff already discussed the potential of AirPlay mirroring and it sounds pretty exciting. Now, the idea is becoming reality.

    Consistently revolutionary Real Racing 2 HD, already famed for going 1080P when using an external monitor, has extended this further by offering streaming.

    It's impressive stuff but come the release of iOS 5 later this year, it'll be possible to stream Real Racing 2 HD to a big screen TV over AirPlay providing a completely wireless experience. It all sounds wonderfully futuristic being able to transfer the iOS gaming experience to a TV without even needing any wires.

    Real Racing 2 HD already looks gorgeous on the iPad 2 so it'll no doubt look just as tremendous when it hits the big screen.

    The update should come along around the same time as the release of iOS 5 in the near future.

    Real Racing 2 HD is available now for the iPad priced at $9.99, with iPad 2 owners being able to view it in 1080P via an external monitor and adapter cable.

    Sonos Does AirPlay Their Own Way

    Posted by Jeff Scott on May 13th, 2011

    When devices that supported AirPlay started showing up at CES this year it left Sonos at a bit of a disadvantage. Airplay requires special hardware for it to be supported in a consumer device and the Sonos devices didn't have that chip. But that's not the end of the story.

    The engineers at Sonos put their heads together to find a way to make AirPlay work on Sonos devices like the S5 which we looked and loved at last year. It's a bit of software and a bit of hardware. But if you have an Apple AirPort the you have all the hardware you need.

    To make AirPlay work on the Sonos, you connect an AirPort Express directly to your Sonos S5, both the Ethernet and audio cable. Once connected and configured properly, when you play something on the AirPort via AirPlay, the Sonos will pick it up and switch to play the audio from that device automatically. Boom, instant AirPlay.

    Ok, it's a bit of a kludge, but damn, it works great.

    New Pioneer Receiver Could Be iOS User's Dream Box

    Posted by Jeff Scott on March 8th, 2011

    The Pioneer VSX-1021 is a $549 receiver that works great with an iOS device via AirPlay, Bluetooth, and with a direct connection via the front panel USB port. This really is the iPhone and iPad owners perfect receiver. Not only can you connect via the direct connection and control your music playback via the receiver, you can also stream music from your device via Bluetooth, and AirPlay.

    Pioneer have also created a couple interesting apps that interface with this new receiver. First up, iControlAV2, a universal app. This app lets you throw away the remote and completely control the receiver from your iOS device. Every aspect of the receiver can be controlled. From simple things like switching inputs and the volume, to complex tasks like renaming the inputs and configuring the sound for the room. Take a look at the screenshots below for an idea of the polish of this app.

    Next up is a party app called Air Jam. This app lets up to four iOS devices create and control a playlist assembled from the music on the devices. The music is then streamed to the VSX-1021 via Bluetooth. A couple shots are below.

    Here's a quick rundown on some of the features that set the VSX-1021 apart from some other receivers and make it a true iOS users dream.

    Partial Pioneer VSX-1021 features:

    - 7.1 Channel
    - Front panel USB port for connection to iPod, iPhone, iPad
    - Playback of audio / video from enabled apps
    - iOS device charging, including iPad
    - AirPlay enabled
    - DLNA enabled
    - Internet Radio with vTuner
    - App Enabled with iControlAV2 and Air Jam apps
    - 5 HDMI inputs

    The Pioneer VSX-1020 should be available later this month at most major retailers and Amazon.