SimCity BuildIt has been teased here and there, but specific details have been a bit sparse. That is, until now.
We recently had the chance to ask EA Mobile’s Vice President and General Manager, Jason Willig, some questions about the series’ new mobile outing. I was also able to get a live demo at EA’s recent Naughty & Nice event in New York, so I’ve got some serious impressions to share. After the questions, of course.
Posted by Jessica Fisher on June 19th, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Wardens, rejoice! Heroes of Dragon Age, the visually stunning squad-based battle game that Electronic Arts released last year, has received a big update. Now players have access to the Fortify feature, which binds characters or creatures to heroes in your squad and in-turn ups their stats. EA has also improved the Consume ability to add new fortify slots to upgrade your units.
Best of all, now Heroes of Dragon Age offers ally codes. Now you no longer have to wait to battle someone before asking them to join you. Players can send a unique code to their friends to find them in the game. So grab your buddies, fortify some beasts, and battle your way to infamy.
Heroes of Dragon Age is available on the App Store for free.
At E3 yesterday, EA and PopCap announced all-new content coming to the ever-popular tactical gardening game. Fan favorites like the Sun-shroom and Hypno-shroom are making a return, along with a new plant called the Sun Bean that makes any zombie that eats it toss out sun energy when struck. The Dark Ages update also includes a bunch of new medieval zombies like the Knight and a tricky Jester that actually chucks seeds back at your plants.
The Dark Ages update for Plants vs. Zombies 2 will be available later this summer.
The app features info and updates presented as notifications, as well as information on the Titanfall universe, characters, and more. The app gives players the ability to review player stats, and can even serve as a second-screen map when when connected to an Xbox One Console.
The Titanfall Companion App is available for free on the App Store.
Posted by Carter Dotson on May 12th, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Like a child’s fleeting fantasy, EA Mobile is celebrating a momentous occasion by getting a pony. With The Sims FreePlay having reached 100 million downloads worldwide, the game now has horses. Players can feed, groom, and ride 6 different breeds of horses in their new stables, all part of the Saddle Up update. Also, on May 22, there’s going to be a unicorn. Tina Belcher couldn’t be happier.
Posted by Tre Lawrence on April 17th, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Ultra-popular racing game Real Racing 3 (from mobile stalwart Electronic Arts) has just received a pretty hefty update that adds in a whole new experience.
Now the game has open wheel vehicles in its arsenal – cars such as the Caterham Seven 620R, KTM X-Bow R, Ariel Atom 3.5, and Ariel Atom V8. Additionally, the roster has expanded, adding in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo and Porsche 911 RSR. Drivers are invited to get ready for the renown endurance race with The Road to Le Mans live event.
The update also expands the customization and photo mode, and opens up the option of visiting the collections of others.
Posted by Stephen Hall on March 12th, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Real Racing 3, known as that racing game from EA with breathtaking graphics, has received an update featuring a massive number of new car customization features. After you’ve used these new features to tweak your ride’s height, its rims, and you’ve given your car one of a multitude of new vinyls, the update also lets you share your creation with friends using a new “Photo Mode” – allowing you to stop the action mid-race and capture a beautiful shot of your car.
Other new features in this version 2.1.0 update include new cars – Aston Martin’s DB9, Vanquish and V12 Vantage S – to add to your Real Racing experience, support for your favorite MFi iOS 7 controller, “Gold Achievements,” and a “New All Star Vendetta Series.”
You can get Real Racing 3 – and all the beautiful car tweaking features available in this update – on the App Store for free.
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.
Posted by Rob Rich on February 14th, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Attention all Dragonborn-no, wait, wrong game. Attention all Chosen-nope, not that one either… Attention all Wardens! Yeah, that’s the one!
Heroes of Dragon Age has recently been updated to include a new player-versus-player mode, allowing players from across the globe to fight it out with opposing teams for rare banners, even rarer rewards, and the ability to rub their success in everyone else’s face. In addition to the more permanent PvP update, you can also get your hands on Slave Fenris, who is apparently a rare warrior that can induce stun on opponents, for free until February 18 as a sort of Valentine’s Day show of appreciation. It’s kind of twisted when you stop and think about it, actually.
Anyway the update for Heroes of Dragon Age is up now. And don’t forget to grab your elf while you’re at it!
Posted December 11th, 2013 by Arron Hirst Our Rating: :: TOO DETAILED
Part of a genre where every strategic battle title begins to look familiar, Heroes of Dragon Age separates itself with highly detailed artwork and gameplay to match. However, initial long load times and semi-auto gameplay might put some off.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on November 22nd, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Real Racing 3 makes all Ferrari fans happy once again as it receives new vehicles from the popular car manufacturer. The update adds the Enzo, 458 Spider, and 599 GTO Ferraris along with weekly time trial tournaments and 4 New event series that hold over 100 new events within. The update also adds race replays that let users view the entire race with a full cinematic camera. Talk about a great time to add that feature with the three new Ferraris in town!
EA Sports is bringing FIFA 14 to iOS for free this fall. It’s going to be packed, too. Over 600 teams from 30 leagues, online multiplayer, and an all new set of touch controls. It’ll also feature the popular “FIFA Ultimate Team” (FUT) mode, which will let players pick their own play style, manage their own team, and compete to earn coins in order to improve everything. And if that isn’t enough, EA SPORTS Football Club Match Day will add an extra layer of realism to your games by adding in-game stories pulled straight from the real world such as injuries and suspensions.
Three premium game modes (Manager Mode, Tournament Mode, and Kickoff Mode) are also available for any players looking to “upgrade their game.” Sounds cool, right? Well FIFA 14 will be coming to the App Store for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch this fall. Presumably around the time its console big brother releases in late September, but it’s just a guess so don’t quote me on that!
Posted by Andrew Stevens on August 21st, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Real Racing 3 has received a new update that adds even more cars to the game, including muscle cars from Dodge and Shelby. The update also includes a new series of events to go along with the theme of classic muscle cars.
There are a few enhancements to note as well, such as faster and more accurate skill adjustment for better competition and improved cameras that provide an even better sense of speed.
Check out these classic beauts in the trailer below!
EA is one of the most prolific first party publishers on the App Store with hundreds of games for iOS available. While it has seen its share of problems and growing pains, it has successfully launched everything on iOS, including high-priced premium franchise games and top grossing free to play games. Let’s talk with Nick Rish, VP of Mobile Publishing, about how the App Store changed EA.
148Apps: How has the App Store changed the way EA does business?
Nick Rish, VP of Mobile Publishing, EA: Developing for the App Store was not as big of a transition as one would think, since EA was an early adopter of mobile gaming development. In 2004, before most were considering the mobile app revolution, EA established a mobile team to develop games with access to EA veterans and IP. Then we made a very smart acquisition of JAMDAT mobile which solidified us in the #1 position on mobile and multiplied our mobile development experience in house. When the iPhone launched in June of ‘07, we were making games for feature phones and Apple’s click wheel iPod. When we first saw the iPhone, we immediately saw it as a game changer and as an incredible challenge. Although we knew how to build for shorter development cycles, the interruptible gameplay sessions, quick load times and limited screen space posed a lot of new challenges that we needed to prepare for. Discoverability for instance. On the carrier feature phone decks, you sat alongside a thousand unbranded games and let your brands do their work. On the App Store, the number of games quickly became tens of thousands of games, so we had to adapt marketing practices to become more similar to the online world where the market is crowded. We needed effective keywords, as well as icons and titles that told a story in a small amount of space. We also were presented with new development challenges such as touchscreen, accelerometer, landscape & portrait view, etc. This meant sharing best practices with multiple teams became critical.
148Apps: If you have one single success within EA you’d like to highlight from the past five years on the App Store, what would it be?
Nick Rish: If I’m picking one success, I think it would be the limits we pushed with Real Racing 3 for the iPhone 5. We work closely with Apple to create the most innovative experiences for their devices, and no other company has the mobile scale that EA does to release quality content on such a short timeline for new devices. We could have followed the market and made a freemium drag race game or an arcade-like experience, but the Firemonkeys really wanted to push the limits of the a true racing experience with Apple’s new device. The authenticity of the cars, the lighting effects, the detail of the tracks and the stunning racing environments make me incredibly proud to work at EA. This is the type of game that when done right, sits itself above the competition.
148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence EA five years ago, what would you say?
Nick Rish: I would say to embrace free, live services as they are our future. Build expertise internally for those models within Studio and Publishing. We were running a premium house five years ago focused on shipping a game and moving on to the next one. Now a game needs consistent updating to keep users engaged. The shift is evident when you look at games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out which has been on the App Store leaderboards since its launch 40 weeks ago has had 20 updates since then. It’s like we were in the music business releasing individual tracks and now we’re putting out television shows that may go on for many seasons. It’s really important to create new stories, characters and episodes that our players will enjoy. When I looked at the App Store Sunday morning, 9 of the top 10 grossing games were all updated within the last 30 days.
148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of EA, that has surprised you most?
Nick Rish: The technology of these devices has improved greatly, yet most games have not felt the need to press the limits of these innovations. Five years ago if you showed me the tech specs of the current Apple devices, I would have predicted big, one time download games dominating the charts. Franchises like Need for Speed or Battlefield. It’s been quite the opposite where well-polished, lighter strategy games are dominating the charts. Gamers on this platform are willing to forgive a lack of deep storylines, realistic characters and epic battles in place of great text, cute characters and engaging mini-battles. Think Clash of Clans or Plants vs. Zombies. In fact, we’ve yet to see an FPS emerge that can stay in the Top 25 Grossing for any significant period of time. It will get interesting when we start to see billion dollar franchises engage their years of experience and resources towards making lighter strategy games that are optimized for richer graphics, deeper stories and epic battles.
148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Nick Rish: Yes and I’d like to also give you Wednesday’s Powerball numbers… I believe the environment will be still be full of rich content. Probably less Publishers, but still a lot of games. It will support different types of devices, because Apple never stops innovating and EA will continue to be there in full force. We are committed to Apple and its users and will rise to any challenge that’s placed in front of us.
To celebrate 5 Years of the App Store, we’re giving away 5 of EA’s most popular paid games (Ed: See the full list on our sale round-up page.) The giveaway starts today and runs for a limited time.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on June 13th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Summertime is upon us and so is a hot new update for The Simpsons: Tapped Out. New buildings, characters, quests, and waterfront properties are now available in this summery update.
Players will also notice that the land has been expanded, with over 30 new plots of land, including areas that are next to the water for great waterfront properties. As for the characters, seaside entertainers have made their way to Springfield, including Sea Captain and Handsome Pete. Players can check out Sea Captain’s quest to find his place on dry land or out at sea.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on May 17th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
The Simpsons: Tapped Out has been updated with new locations and a familiar face, says Pocket Gamer. Agnes Skinner is now available in the game with a quest that revolves around her and her son, Seymour. She is also tasked with winning at bingo and taunting the elderly. Also, with the update, is an increased level cap of 29, new buildings, and more.
Electronic Arts and The Walt Disney Company announces an exclusive multi-year licensing agreement that allows EA to develop and publish Star Wars video games. EA will develop and publish Star Wars titles for core gamers on all interactive platforms while Disney keeps the right to develop new titles on mobile, social, and online games.
“Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe,” said EA Labels President Frank Gibeau. “Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. DICE and Visceral will produce new games, joining the BioWare team which continues to develop for the Star Wars franchise. The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay.”
Posted by Andrew Stevens on March 4th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
The Simpsons Tapped Out has added new items to help with your rebuilding process of Springfield. The new items that are available in the latest update include buildings, decorations, quests and a new character, making things just a bit more fun and providing some staying power for current players.
Features from the App Store
• New Buildings – Finally Chief Wiggum can stop loitering in the streets and get settled at the Wiggum House. If you’re hungry after the move, enjoy some chemically complicated cuisine at El Chemistri. After dinner, spend time viewing your city from a higher vantage point than you ever thought possible on the Escalator to Nowhere – just watch out for that last step. Once that’s done, build the Popsicle Stick Skyscraper.
• New Character – Have Ralph eat crayon sandwiches or play wiggle puppy.
• New Decorations – Patrol your town with a new police car or spruce up your backyard with a swing set and tetherball.
• New Quests – Springfield is in the middle of a health crisis; join Lisa as she tries to fight the fat. Will she succeed or will Springfield be crowned America’s Fattest City?
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on January 31st, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
The folks (Electronic Arts) behind The Simpsons: Tapped Out must have love on their minds, as they’ve just updated their free, universal app with new stuff for Valentine’s Day. Decorate Springfield with limited-time decorations, collect Hearts from around town, and send Valentines greetings to your friends.
• New Buildings – Pick up some love handles a la mode at Phineas Q. Butterfat’s, capitalize on insecure relationships at Howard’s Flowers, and even lose some golf balls at Sir Putt-A-Lots.
• New Characters – Send Shauna around searching for young love, get Homer and Marge to snuggle in the Golf Castle, and send Valentines with Lisa.
• New Decorations – Sweeten up your Springfield with rose bushes, cherub topiaries, and the “I Choo-Choo-Choose You Train.”
• New Quests – Join Bart on his quest for love. Will Bart and Shauna enjoy a blossoming romance, or will Bart be left sulking in his room?
• New Event – Visit your friends’ towns, send Valentine’s Day cards, and generate limited-time Heart currency.
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.
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.
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.
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.