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.
This week at 148Apps.com, we got ready for some much-deserved rest with a comprehensive overview of all major Labor Day app sales. Site founder Jeff Scott writes, “It’s another holiday weekend here in the USA. Burning Man, end of summer, Labor day — pick your favorite. And that means it’s time for another huge sale on iPhone and iPad apps. These apps are on sale and they have to go!”
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2011-12-15 :: Category: Games
Over at GiggleApps.com, reviewer Amy Solomon dug deep into the earth and discovered Auracle-Fossil. She writes, “Fossil tells the story of a girl finding a fossil on the beach, and the story of where her mind goes as she imagines this dinosaur alive long ago, as well as the process that this bone must have taken to be transformed into a fossil.
Fossil is beautifully illustrated with striking water colors, as these original illustrations found in the published book work quite well in terms of translating these paintings. Here, the double page spreads from the book are formatted to fit the screens without losing much real-estate, allows readers to see both these pages together without the need to pan and scan, a feature that works in other apps, yet is simply not necessary here.”
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2012-07-25 :: Category: Education
Finally, 148Apps.biz writer Carter Dotson reported on an unusual trend in the world of free apps: “Fiksu has released its latest Indexes tracking how much it costs for brands to acquire loyal users, and how many downloads the top free iPhone apps are getting.
The Fiksu App Store Competitive Index tracks the average combined volume of the top 200 free iPhone apps. For July, the Index indicates that daily downloads decreased month-over-month by 5.6%, down to 4.37 million downloads from 4.63 million in June. The number has remained relatively stable after a drop from 6.35 million in February. This may be due to a residual after-effect of the holiday season, which saw steady increases after the launch of the iPhone 4S.”
More big stories are on the way from the App experts at 148Apps! Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook to keep track of the latest sales, reviews, news items and more. See you next week, football fan!
It is hard to deny that Bejeweled has become the choice addiction for iOS gamers in a pinch. When it comes to gem matching, the game is pretty much unparalleled, unless you count the hoards of other imitators on the marketplace. But once again Popcap took a look at the competition and decided to raise their already exceedingly high bar of perfection.
Folks who have already purchased Bejeweled will be treated to a brand new update, adding in the shocking Lightning Mode that has been available in the console version of the game for quite some time. The new gameplay mode plays very similarly to Bejeweled Blitz, with the ability to extend the round beyond a single minute through matching other like time boosting stones.
For those wanting to see what all of the excitement is about, the game is available for only $0.99 and $3.99 from the App Store. Check out the new feature and let us know if it is worth the price of admission in the comments below.
Need for Speed Most Wanted for iOS shows promise of being a great racing game. While EA wouldn’t comment beyond it was developed by EA Australia, I think we can assume that it is running on the Real Racing core. No wonder it’s so fantastic. All the clues were there — including the dangling bumper. The acquisition of Firemint was a damn smart one for EA.
There are no reported features or release date, though I think we can assume it will be around the October timeframe of the console version. The game will have the Autolog feature from the console version, but EA wouldn’t comment on if it would be connect with the console version. It’s assumed that they will both run under Origin – so we can hope there will be some sort of interaction.
Did we mention it’s early in development? We won’t even show you the screen shots they gave us as they were clearly renders and not actual game screens. Touch Arcade did get some video of the game in action – take a look below.
I love race games, and the Need For Speed franchise is one of my favorites. Throw in the best in mobile Real Racing engine and I’ll be tracking this one closely.
Create and customize a wildlife reserve. Manage various park minutiae. Upgrade facilities and inhabitants in order to bring in the big bucks. It sounds fairly typical of a good number of freemium park sims, but Fantasy Safari twists it up a bit. By adding fantasy creatures, naturally.
Dragons, frozen wolves, phoenixes and more. It’s a bit of a departure from the usual fare, to say the least. Now, thanks to EA Mobile, we can all try our hand at running our own zoo full of non-existent animals. 40 different non-existent animals, at that. 40 non-existent animals that can learn new abilities (i.e. fire breathing) as savvy players futz with their enclosures.
Anyone looking to try their hand at managing a theme park/zoo with a bit more… “flavor” can do so right now. Fantasy Safari is already on the App Store and, like most (read: all) free-to-play titles it doesn’t require any money to get started.
Granted, there are far more Sims titles available for the PC, but the App Store has certainly seen it’s fair share. It may need a few dozen more releases in order to catch up, but Electronic Arts is definitely doing their part to give the series wings on iOS devices. Their fourth attempt at miniaturizing the drug addiction-like voyeur/god simulator has resulted in a hand-held rendition of The Sims Medieval.
In this newest installment of what will inevitably boil-down to a game of interior decoration murder (we all eventually try to kill them, there’s no shame in admitting it), things have gotten decidedly more fantasy RPG-like. This is primarily because of the inclusion of quests and a legitimate medieval setting, but those aren’t the only reasons. There are new avatar options such as a dungeon keeper or vampire, the ability to create a guild and get help with various quests from sim-friends. There’s even the inclusion of a first for the entire Sims series: combat. That’s right, players can finally collect and use weapons in duels with other sims. And, of course, there’s the always-present home customization.
The Sims Medieval is available right now for $4.99. It’s time to get busy with the questing.
The critter-launching, match three (or more) semi-classic Snood has been something of a mainstay on PC as well as a number of portable devices for some time now. People really like to match colors and clear shapes, I suppose. Just in case there are any folks out there who have avoided this game due to a lack of funds, it’s worth noting that Electronic Arts has decided to release a free version. So no more excuses, really.
Now anyone with an iOS device and a soft spot for flinging critters at other critters of the same hue and watching them cease to exist can try out the oddly-named classic for absolutely zero cost. This isn’t a handful of levels, either. Snood Free contains over one hundred puzzles and five different difficulty settings; much more content than an average “Lite” version. Some concessions had to be made in order to give players some reason to possibly want to buy it (note: it’s a dollar), including ads and the inability to play any multi-player games, but the overall single-player experience doesn’t suffer for it.
Match-three (or more) junkies don’t have any more excuses. They, and anyone else who’s interested, can grab Snood Free on the App Store right now for… well, for free.
When it comes to big publishers embracing iOS, it would be hard to argue that EA is not among the top of that heap. Many of their biggest franchises including the likes of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and most recently, Dead Space, have not only been released on the platform, but have in some circumstances raised the bar for other development studios. This wide acceptance and general acclaim has not stopped the team over at EA Mobile from trying to continuously win over the constant adoration of their fanbase.
In an effort to continue in the general lovefest, EA is announcing this week’s exclusive Deal of the Day promotion. The official skinny from their PR team is as follows:
In a effort to give back to our community we have launch [sic] a new Deal of The Day promo that will deeply discount games or even make them free. The Deals will last all week with Saturday the 26th being the last day. The promo will include both iPhone & iPad codes over the 6 days, each day being a different mix-up of genre & style of game.
On Friday morning we put up a vote globally for users to choose which game they wanted a deal on for Day #1 & now that game has kicked off our Deal of The Day today!
This promo is worldwide and users from every corner of the globe can benefit from the on Sale and Free games.
Today the sale kicked off by dropping the price on Mirror’s Edge for all devices to a mere ninety-nine cents. So what could be coming next? Your guess is as good as mine, but if the image on EA Mobile’s Facebook page is to believed, we may be seeing a discount on more than one title come Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Do you have any games that you would like to see get discounted? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Chillingo, a division of Electronic Arts most recognized for its creation of Angry Birds, which sits almost always as the #1 paid application in App Stores across the world, announced today that Cut the Rope will receive a special update for Valentine’s Day, February 14.
“The new Cut the Rope 1.2 update marks the annual celebration of love and affection with adorable Om Nom as cupid in a special Valentine’s Box filled with 25 gorgeous levels. A romantic and fun, “split-candy” gameplay is also introduced to challenge players as they strive to slice the right ropes to feed the insatiable green creature. Brand new artwork and a distinctive Valentine’s icon make Cut the Rope the perfect gift for your special someone” reads the official release.
“This 1.2 update is our gift to you this Valentine’s Day for being the greatest fans out there; we hope players love the new box, levels and features just as much as we enjoyed creating it,” states Efim Voinov, CTO of Zeptolab. “Thank you for the continued support, we are already working closely with Chillingo to enhance the game and think fans will be extremely delighted!”
Such holiday updates are becoming more and more popular, even within Cut the Rope’s own development. In December of last year, 148Apps reviewer Brad Hilderbrand announced the Christmas update of the popular application, which to date has now sold more than six million copies. Conservatively, that means Cut the Rope has generated over $4 million in revenue (after Apple’s 30% commission), not taking into account the price difference between the iPad and iPhone version of the immensely popular game. It stood as the sixth most popular paid-for iPhone game in 2010.
When 148Apps reviewed the game last year, writer Carter Dotson awarded it 4 stars. “Cut the Rope is ingenious, following a similar formula to Angry Birds – charming graphics, simple gameplay that gets complexity steadily layered on top of it in a way that feels natural, almost without even feeling like it’s getting more difficult” he writes. “That is just brilliant game design, and with more levels promised, Cut the Rope has an exciting future, but is still great with even just the core game content.”
Available for $0.99 on iPhone and $1.99 for iPad, a free lite version is also available to download, allowing you to try-before-you-buy. A sneak peak video of the update is available below:
Angry Birds developer Chillingo may cease to be an indie darling in the near future, as EA has bought the company. Reports put an the deal at $20 million cash, but the future of all the studio’s properties are still up in the air.
Chillingo was already a hot commodity after Angry Birds, but the massive success of the recently released Cut the Rope has truly turned the UK developer into a den of rock stars. While companies like Activision, Gameloft and even Intel were vying for the studio, EA was able to close the deal.
“By acquiring Chillingo, EA Mobile is increasing its market leadership on the Apple Platform as well as reaffirming its position as the world’s leading wireless entertainment publisher,” EA’s Holly Rockwood said in a statement.
It sounds like EA wants to keep Chillingo in the mobile space, but we can’t help but wonder if the studio will be asked to dabble in consoles and handhelds as well. EA has dabbled with physics games by publishing Boom Blox on the Wii, but the series has stalled and perhaps the company is looking for a new franchise to bring to non-Apple audiences. There’s also the distinct possibility EA could request a totally new IP from Chillingo, one which could be backed with a big budget and marketed across all platforms.
Where things may get tricky is in regards to ownership rights of games published under the Chillingo banner. Rovio created Angry Birds, while ZeptoLab made Cut the Rope, and, at least according to Rovio, the development studios still own those properties. A Rovio spokesperson says his company “controls the Angry Birds brand and any future products,” so at least that franchise may remain apart from this deal.
At any rate, let us be among the first to congratulate Chillingo and wish them the best of luck under the new ownership. They’ve already proven what talented, dedicated people can do when they put their minds to it so they deserve all the success and wealth they’ve earned. Well done guys, keep up the good work.
RISK is an epic, sprawling strategy game with a diehard following. But while this app delivers the core of what makes Risk fun, it's also lacking in important areas. No global multiplayer, house rules, or extra maps make this port one of dubious value.
EA, being the large gaming corporation that they are, have released their upcoming summer and fall lineup… and it’s huge.
Madden NFL 11 – iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch – Fall – Everyone’s favorite NFL game is back this year, but with a few cool features that will make the game even more intuitive on a touch device. The new “Gameflow” feature is the one that I’m most excited about, as it gives players the ability to spend “less time in the playbook and more time on the field”.
“Coaches don’t go into a game with their full playbook like you do in our game. When it’s 2nd down and 3 yards to go, they don’t thumb through a 3-ring binder with 350 plays in it. They find tendencies before the game and build a game plan to exploit the other team’s weaknesses. This means they call plays based on the situation.”
To make the game quicker, and more realistic in the process, “Gameflow” has the “coach” pick the play based on the situation you are in and then radio it to you, letting you see the play on the field like you normally would. If an audible needs to be called, there is now the ability to draw hot routes anywhere, letting you devise whatever route you would like, on the fly.
Check out our hands-on article here for a more detailed look.
Reckless Racing – iPhone, iPad – Summer – Remember the amazing looking tp-down racing game, Deliverance, that never came out? It turns out that it was bought by EA, and has been renamed Reckless Racing. Reckless Racing “mixes old-school top-down racing game play with state of the art graphics and engaging multiplayer features.” EA seems to be touting its online features more than anything else, promising “fully stocked internet multiplayer mode, on-line leaderboards and the ability to trade ghost races with other players from all over the world”. If the game plays half as good as it looks, you’ll see me playing Reckless Racing non stop when it launches later this summer.
For a more in depth look, check out our recent hands-on article.
NCAA Football – iPhone – Now – NCAA Football is EA’s first app designed specifically for the iPhone 4. While it doesn’t have all the new bells and whistles that Madden will have, it does have over 55 of the most well known colleges so you can support the team that you love… and it does look pretty.
Sim City Deluxe – iPhone, iPod Touch – Summer – EA seems to have addressed all the glitches in their first attempt at Sim City, and have made an app that is much more playable. All of the menus have been redesigned, and the glitch that has buildings disappear when you zoom out should be gone. Also added are the famed Sim City disasters, which could possibly bring over the Pocket God set that have sites on tormenting even more souls. There is also a rumor about an iPad version in the works, but nothing has been announced… so don’t get your hopes up.
The Sims 3 Ambitions – iPhone, iPod Touch – Summer – There aren’t many details about this one floating around, but it does seem to be the iPhone counterpart to the PC expansion pack with the same name. According to EA, in “Sims 3 Ambitions, players decide whether their Sim will be the brave town hero or cause loads of mischief among their neighbors. Their future is entirely in the player’s hands!”
Sims 3 Ambitions will add many often requested features to the Sims on the iPhone. New large features like careers, babies, and building new structures make this a pretty huge new version.
Yahtzee – iPad – Summer – Everyone’s favorite dice rolling game is coming this summer, and it will surely be prettier than the thing that you have to unpack out of the box.
Risk – iPhone, iPod Touch – Summer – I’m not sure what took EA so long to come out with Risk, but this announcement will surely make many people happy. I liked Lux DLX alright, and think that Strategery is a great Risk alternative, but there’s nothing like the real thing. As long as EA gets the AI right, this one will be a winner.
R-Type – iPhone, iPod Touch – Summer – Just like you remembered it, R-Type is keeping “100 percent true to the original game allowing fans to get back to the ‘80s video-arcade experience in the palm of their hands.” As I wrote in an earlier preview article, the original R-Type is “the most frustratingly difficult game outside of playing a Don Bluth game in the arcade”. There is a distinct possibility that my iPhone will end up thrown across the room.
Be sure to check after the jump for some more great screenshots.