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Hero Bears: Christmas Capers Brings 90 Missions Full of Christmas-Themed Endless Running to the App Store
Hero Bears: Christmas Capers is a Christmas-themed endless runner where players must tap and swipe to avoid traps and overcome obstacles. There are over 90 missions for players to partake in and 21 achievements to unlock as they leap over giant snowballs and more!
Hero Bears: Christmas Capers was created and released for free as a thank you to all of those who supported Help for Heroes: Hero Bears, which helped raise money for the Help for Heroes charity.
With the release of iOS 7 upon us and a whole plethora of juicy new features for consumers and developers alike to enjoy, we took the time to ask some popular game developers just how they feel about it and what features they're looking forward to getting more intimate with.
Look and Design of iOS 7
The look of iOS 7 is a huge change for many, which explains why so many pivotal apps are changing their appearance; to make sure it ties into the new style of doing things. How about with games, though? And do game developers appreciate such a significant change?
For the most part, it's been considered a positive change from those we questioned. Andrew Smith of AppyNation and Spilt Milk Studios explained, "I like it! I’m a fan of refreshes – and although when I first saw the new look I wasn’t completely sold, since using it in studio on the betas it’s won me over." Stephen Morris of Greenfly Studios reinforced that view, emphasizing that the "redefining of the experience... it certainly feels fresh and more efficient."
Some apprehension was felt, though. As Richard Brooks of Rodeo Games explained, "a veteran iOS user may find it a little jarring at first," pointing out that, "the new look will split the room," from his personal experience of showing it to others. Ben Britten of Tin Man Games felt the same, pointing out that some people will love it and others will, predictably, hate it.
It's not all plain sailing though, as Martin Linklater of Curly Rocket explained, "to be honest the colours are a little garish for my tastes. Maybe in iOS 8 Apple will tone it down a little. It's not quite got the subtlety that Apple is known for." Aaron Fothergill of Strange Flavour felt the same, diplomatically pointing out that he's "getting used to it."
Even those who weren't a fan had to admit that they, for the most part, appreciated the cleaner interface.
More positively, few issues have been encountered thus far. For the majority of the people we asked, covering developers such as Hello Games, Hammer & Chisel, AppyNation, Spilt Milk Studios, Strange Flavour, and Green Fly Studios, hardly any issues were reported. The only few problems that did occur related to third-party tools, although noticeably Ben Britten of Tin Man Games found no issues with Unity3D. There were some early day problems with Rodeo Games's Warhammer Quest as explained by Richard Brooks, "The devices we were testing with were crashing a lot and it was very difficult to get anything working. Warhammer Quest didn't work at first due to some bugs in the iOS 7 main libraries, so we just had to sit back and wait. After about 4-6 weeks these were dealt with and are mostly good now."
It's a pretty positive sign for developers that iOS 7 should prove quite beneficial in the long run, given the limited issues that have been encountered so far.
Arguably most significant of all for many game developers is the introduction of official controller support. How do they feel about it?
"For us, this is the biggest new feature of iOS 7." explained Aaron Fothergill, "The fact that they’re a standard is the important bit as we can actually design them into our game with the standard features in mind, so we can do it properly. We’ve already got test code in SlotZ Racer, Any Landing, and Apple Dash and we’re just waiting on controllers being available for us to actually test with and perfect the controls before we release games with them in and then we’ll be considering MFI controller as integral design parts of all our games."
Simon Renshaw, of PUK fame, has similar thoughts. " I love that its possible to play iPhone games on the big screen with Apple TV mirroring, latency is an issue though, as is battery life, so I kinda hope we'll see a controller bundled with a magical iPhone-charging HDMI cable!" Martin Linklater also thinks that the controller could be the "real killer feature," at least once adopted more frequently.
Hello Games' Sean Murray explained that "touchscreens are great for lots of games - like, I’m really proud of what we managed to do with the touchscreen design with Joe Danger Touch. There are some games that just benefit from buttons and thumbsticks though, and as a gamer, my thumb just feels comfortable sat on a nice analog button. Having officially supported controllers could be fantastic for broadening gaming on iPhones even further than it is today, bringing in the controller snobs like me! We're working on making something of all this right now, something that makes use of both touch and controller. We're throwing ourselves into it completely... I think people will be surprised how well it works."
Consider us fascinated as to what this will mean for Joe Danger on iOS!
Andrew Smith is keen, but as he points out "[it's] hardly going to sell the games to more people. The vast majority of iPhone users and gamers are perfectly happy with good touchscreen interfaces, so we’ll be happy to continue to provide those!" Greenfly Studios feels the same way, with Stephen Morris explaining "our mobile games are currently more focused on the casual consumer but it doesn't mean we're not open to exploring the new niche!".
Richard Brooks also found such support less than essential, pointing out that Rodeo Games' titles are "designed entirely for mobile and tablet devices with touch screens and implementing controller support would make them worse." A fair point indeed. Jason Citron expressed similar views, explaining how Hammer & Chisel is "laser focused on building original high-quality games for tablets. A big part of that is taking advantage of the unique interaction a large touch screen affords."
With so many of the best developers doing a great job of providing touch-based interfaces, is there really a need for controllers after five years of perfecting touch controls? Perhaps not, but it'll be fascinating to see how things develop.
Revamped Game Center
For the most part, the revamped Game Center has been quite appreciated by those we asked. Andrew Smith puts it well, "it's really neat!" although does admit, while inventing a new word, that the icon is a little un-game-y. Stephen Morris particularly loves that there's a way to combat cheaters at last, which means "we can focus on providing consumers fun and realistic challenges." Like any self-respecting iOS gamer, Sean Murray explained "Seeing insane hacked scores on any game makes me sad. I’m... going to really appreciate the added security for score and achievement data, because it’ll hopefully mean there isn’t so much leaderboard hacking."
Richard Brooks points out what we've all been thinking in terms of old Game Center's looks, "I'm glad they've gotten rid of the horrible green felt style though!" because as Simon Renshaw says while describing the old interface as archaic looking, "what young person recognizes the connection between a black jack table and their favorite shooter?".
So, it's a fairly positive change for iOS 7 and some of its finest game developers. Understandably, there's some apprehension as is always the way with such a significant change, but the future is looking pretty bright. In particular, it'll be fascinating to see what comes of controller support, as well as the new and extra shiny Game Center.
Thanks to Curly Rocket's Martin Linklater, Strange Flavour's Aaron Fothergill, AppyNation/Spilt Milk Studios's Andrew Smith, Greenfly Studios's Stephen Morris, Rodeo Games's Richard Brooks, Laserdog Games's Simon Renshaw, Hammer & Chisel's Jason Citron, Tin Man Games's Ben Britten, and Hello Games's Sean Murray for taking the time to answer our questions.
AppyNation is a publisher that's a little different from the rest. Just one glance at the company's website will tell you that. A cheery and vibrant looking site, its main page focuses on the games it has released (such as Fluid Soccer and Ninja Ranch) as much as a look at the indie games movement. Most famously, it has introduced a "Hall of Infamy," focusing on review sites that charge for coverage.
Describing itself as a "revolution in games publishing that favours independence and collaboration between developers and publishers," it all sounds pretty exciting and unique within the virtual wall of AppyNation. Most impressively, it's even been recognized by the British government and described by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey as "exactly what the games industry needs to grow," which is precisely why we decided to delve a little further into why AppyNation is a publisher that's very much worth keeping an eye on.
We checked in with Communications Manager Andrew Smith, previously best known for his sterling work on Snake/Geometry Wars crossover, Hard Lines.
148apps: AppyNation is described as a collective of developers. What makes you different from other publishers?
AppyNation: Exactly that – we’re not some monolithic presence that sits on top of a pile of developers telling them what to do. We are a pile of developers. But, y’know, slightly better organised than that suggests. It means our priorities come from the ground floor, from the trenches of development, from where they really should. We then feed everything we learn from every product back to all of the developers in the group, rather than storing it for our own means. The success of the group is down to the group, not just one or two superstars, and we’re not throwing tons of content out on the off-chance we get one or two mega-hit games. That’s just not how the Nation rolls. Boiled down to one word, what sets us apart from the others is love. Or hugs, the popular internet version of love.
148apps: How do you decide what developers become a part of AppyNation?
AppyNation: We were founded by a group of developers identifying a need for a publisher that’s truly on their side, and we’re still a bit young to be out there hunting down new members – but our doors are always open and we often get enquiries about what we offer and what kind of things we do that set us apart. When we do open our doors, it’s only for committed, talented developers with either a proven track record of quality output, or the promise of wonderful things to come in their near future. We also insist on a very open, flat structure and share knowledge 100%. Nothing is kept secret, no tricks of the trade go unshared, and the ups and downs are shouldered by the group as a whole. Again, this came from the needs of the founding members, after years and years of being taken advantage of and exploited by the more ‘traditional’ publishers out there.
148apps: Is it a conscious decision to stick with UK based developers or are there any expansion plans afoot?
AppyNation: Right now we’re all based [in the] UK, but that’s a circumstantial thing rather than something we’ve decided on. The UK is a hotbed of development talent – we’re so proud of our heritage in this aspect and we have a really bright future to look forward to, but that said we’re always on the lookout for like-minded developers to talk to and work with.
148apps: As founding members of O.A.T.S., we're delighted to see others stand up to app sites charging for coverage, which has been the case with your Hall of Infamy. How did it all come about?
AppyNation: We’re really glad it’s been supported so widely! It all started when a delightful PR lady by the name Charley Grafton-Chuck (who works at Johnny Atom) bemoaned the practice on twitter, and it got us thinking… everyone at the Nation HQ had seen this happen in the past, but had assumed it was dead and gone, nasty thing that it is. Seeing it crop up again in 2012 just seemed crazy. We took it upon ourselves to make a stand. AppyNation really does want to improve the industry for everyone – we fundamentally don’t believe that competition is mutually exclusive to collaboration – and this is just the beginning. We hope to keep publishing informative articles that really get people talking. Debate about issues is the best step towards resolving them.
148apps: There's a real sense of community about the AppyNation site. Was that a conscious decision in the planning stages?
AppyNation: Absolutely! We’re not interested in being a company that sits between the fans and the developers, or a figurehead, or anything like that. We want to be more of a flag that highlights the way to great games, interesting articles and blog posts, and that sort of thing. The developers we’re made up of are the lifeblood of the Nation, without them we’d be nothing. With them, we can do great things – and that’s why we wanted the website the way it is. Glad it worked!
148apps: Fluid Soccer (Fluid Football in the UK) has been your most successful release so far. How is it performing now that it's been out for a short while?
AppyNation: We’ve been so happy with Fluid Football, with nearly half a million downloads so far! A couple of weeks and one update down the road, it’s settled a little in terms of sales, but we’re still seeing thousands every day. The initial success was a great way to make a splash and some headlines, and we’re in a great position now to really grow the fanbase (not just installs, we want passionate fans!), expand sensibly into more territories around the world (naturally it’s been doing really well in football-friendly nations already) and really double down on updates. We’ve got another chunky update coming soon (after the bug fix and IAP Sale updates… which is still going on by the way!) and a very exciting plan for the long term. As long as the fans are there, we’ll be pushing out great stuff for them to enjoy.
148apps: What's the next step for AppyNation? Have you got any other games currently in the works? Able to divulge anything on them just yet?
AppyNation: We’ve got several games in the pipeline, with a really great puzzle game coming up next. I don’t want to tease, but it’s really good fun, a twist on a classic, and we’re all very excited about letting the fans get their hands on it. One thing we don’t want to do is limit ourselves to a particular genre, style, audience or even monetisation model. We firmly believe the game should determine that, and forcing something into such a delicate mix as a good game is asking for trouble – we all know it’s tough enough as it is to make a good game without voluntarily adding more complications. The developers we’re working with are always making great strides, and if the pace keeps up we’re going to be struggling to manage them all properly!
To find out more about the work that AppyNation does, check out its website.