Touch controls can be a tricky thing to master, especially for designers. Too many inputs can clutter the screen, fingers can get in the way, and sometimes virtual controllers just don’t cut it. That’s why I found Caonpy’s Sensus iPhone case to be so intriguing.
The Sensus attaches to your iPhone 5 or 5s (with future support for more devices planned) and protects it from bumps and scrapes like most other cases can and do. What’s different about it is the inclusion of touch sensors along the back and side that can work as extra control inputs – that use variable pressure, no less. This means that it measures the strength of your taps to create something akin to virtual analog button sensitivity. It also means that, potentially, you’ll be able to use the back and side (or top if you’re playing with a landscape orientation) of the case to control what’s happening on-screen.
A lot of what happens with the Sensus is dependent on whether developers embrace the technology and what they decide to do with it, but there’s so much potential there. No more obscuring the screen with a finger when playing a game. Entirely new control methods that measure how hard you press down on the sensors. Honest-to-goodness virtual shoulder buttons in a place that feels natural!
Canopy is planning to release the Sensus in mid-2014, and the case will retail for $79.99.
Action RPG KingsRoad has been doing pretty well for itself on Facebook, and now it’s on its way to the iPad.
In addition to the touch-centric interface and controls, it will also feature cross-platform play for a total of three different players. With drop-in, drop-out play no less. Weapon enchantment and socketing, guilds, in-game chat, and a constantly updated list of dungeons.
KingsRoad should be hitting the App Store early this summer for free. With no energy timers, either!
Funcom’s upcoming Lego Minifigures Online that we told you about at the beginning of this month was demoed extensively at GDC 2014, focusing in particular on the previously yet-to-be-seen Pirate World.
The game is going to feature a large number of playable characters, this time being the standard Lego Minifigures rather than the licensed famous characters seen is many of Lego’s other games. The ability to unlock different characters and use them to play through the countless adventure maps and battle bosses is definitely the main allure to this game; each character has its own set of special abilities for you to play with.
The game is planned to be available as a public beta sometime this summer and is going to see a release this “fall.” As for pricing, Lego Minifigures Online is going to be free-to-play, but there will almost certainly be in-app purchases to more quickly unlock those bags of characters. While you wait, be sure to check out the previously-unreleased screenshots of the game’s Pirate World below.
Coatsink demoed a pair of their upcoming games at the UK Interactive Entertainment booth at GDC: one coming to mobile now, another more likely for the future. Chip is a puzzle game where players must redirect electricity in order to succeed. Expect this one on iOS and Android relatively soon.
As well, they demoed Shu, a floaty platformer where players must outrun the end of the world by controlling a variety of characters floating and using their various abilities throughout a wide array of worlds. A PC/console release is planned for this with mobile down the road. As well, Superglad, an adventure game based on characters first seen in Fatty, was demoed and likely coming to mobile at some point in the future.
Sets & Settings’ Trestle takes the core combat of Mega Man Battle Network (the Game Boy Advance series of card-battling RPGs), gets rid of the cards, and mixes in some Super Crate Box elements. The game, still in development and planned for mobile down the road, presents fast-paced action built around surviving enemy waves to collect the crates and use a variety of weapons to manage the enemy threats. The game is still well in development, with enemies still being added, and release planned for “when it’s done.”
Fixer Studios is formed of veterans of PopCap Games, a studio that has become prominent because of games that appeal to a very wide demographic. Sinster Dexter, Fixer’s first game, will not be anything like that – and they know this game will only appeal to a certain segment of gamers.
Built around gameplay inspired by multi-user dungeons of the 80s created by Richard Bartle, players will trade spells with players online, comprised of various in-game hand signals. Multiplayer will be asynchronous, and there will be detailed information on how players have acted before, so serious players can study how their opponents have reacted in similar situations before. Sinister Dexter is still early along in development, with some public testing planned soon.
Madgarden, the solo developer label of Paul Pridham, is hard at work on Death Road to Canada, his second collaboration with Rocketcat Games after Punch Quest. According to him, the game’s not really ready to show off quite yet – much of the work being done is under-the-hood stuff that will form much of what will be the actual game. But Madgarden doesn’t just stick to one thing: between quickie projects like Chillaxian and Flapthulhu, he also has a variety of prototypes he works with occasionally.
He showed off a couple of them at GDC: Roguebot, a dual-stick shooter with hacking elements and a chill-out pace. As well, there’s Mars Brutalis, an arena-combat game where players must swing around their fists and sacrifice their weapons to advance. The final existence of the games isn’t a known quantity at this point – he jumps around a variety of projects – but there’s something quite compelling about just what could be.
Wadjet Eye Games is pretty much synonymous with point-and-click adventure, which is why it’s great to find out that they’re bringing the Blackwell series to Apple Devices in the near future.
For the unfamiliar, the Blackwell series is all about guiding a spirit medium and her spirit guide as they investigate ghost sightings and attempt to help the lost souls come to terms with their deaths. Of course there’s also plenty of intrigue and hidden agendas to keep the story moving along.
These noir-style adventures, beginning with Blackwell Legacy, should begin appearing on the App Store this summer – with the hope of eventually releasing Wadjet Eye’s entire back-catalogue in the future. No specific pricing information is available yet, but they’ll most likely sell for under $4.99.
Virtual Reality was a major theme at GDC this year, but Seebright’s prototype head-mounted display (HMD) stood out to me for one very important reason: it’s not a gadget-filled headset, but rather a frame to hold your iOS device and turn it into an affordable, self-contained VR headset.
The device is still in the preliminary stages, and as such will undoubtedly be seeing some deign tweaks in the future, but what I was able to see during my hands-on demo was quite promising. Using special software, the iOS device will display two separate images at slightly different angles. Once it’s placed into the headset interchangeable mirrors (one for a translucent heads-up display and another for a more solid image meant for gaming) reflect the images back to the user’s eyes and create the 3D image. What’s more, it’s able to use the device’s own motion tracking technology in order to allow users to look around in their virtual environment.
Personally I’m quite interested to see what Seebright does with their prototype in the coming months. The combination of accessibility (due to pricing) and the fact that it use preexisting iOS technology certainly opens it up to all manner of possibilities.
It’s not exactly a secret that Peter Molyneux/22cans deity simulator, Godus is coming to iOS. However, we were able to learn about a few more specifics here at GDC.
Godus was really designed with mobile in mind from the beginning, and it shows when watching the game in motion. “My passion has been to reinvent a genre of games I stumbled upon back in the early 90s called Populous,” said Peter Molyneux, “I wanted to reinvent the genre around this beautiful, wonderful, incredible device. What you’ve got here is a god game reinvented for this touch device, and reinvented for the audience.”
What’s more, the game will feature a sort of continuous form of multiplayer – kind of like an MMO. When you play, you’re playing with however many other players/gods are on at that moment (possibly into the tens of millions), all at the same time. And all of their lands are connected as a part of one extremely large and continuous world filled with other islands and other gods.
This even carries over into the game’s cross-platform functionality as changes made to your land on the iPad, iPhone, or PC will display in real time on any of the other platforms. “You’re connected to thousands, even millions, of people,” explained Molyneux, “We tried this out on this crazy app called Curiosity, and we connected together hundreds of thousands of people who simultaneously touched on the cube. Well now we’re connecting millions of people together. We did a cube, and now we’re doing this vast planet.”
It’s also been confirmed that Godus will be free to download for iOS, but no specifics have been given on its approach to monetization. The plan is to encourage players to want to spend money, but not force or require them to. “I love free to download. I never want to go back to having to pay money before having an idea if I’ll like something,” stated Molyneux. “What we have to do is get people to want to spend money, rather than need to spend money,” he continued, “I’m inspired by the way that the supermarket, especially American supermarkets, tempt you to spend money. We call it ‘Invest-to-Play’.” Personally I’m rather curious to see how all of this will work in practice.
Godus will be soft-launching in select territories (New Zealand, The Philippines, Sweden, Ireland, and Denmark) within the next few weeks.
My.com has unveiled Evolution: a hybrid base builder, base defense game, and RPG.
Players have access to both story missions and a player-versus-player mode, and will have to protect their base from hostile forces using a mixture of automated defenses and direct interaction (i.e. tapping on badguys). Combat, on the other hand, has a much larger emphasis on player interaction. Your character will fire automatically but you’ll have to swipe vertically in order to defend and pop out of cover, tap incoming grenades to deactivate them, swap between weapons manually, and activate consumable items like grenades and health packs.
Evolution is set to release in early April, and will be free to play.
The original Doodle Grub was pretty popular (to put it lightly). Well, Pixowl is getting ready to release a sequel, simply called Grub.
Grub will use a similar series of accelerometer controls, naturally. However it’s also going to include new power-ups, new enemies, new obstacles, and bigger maps that scroll to follow the grub as he crawls along. You can also save and share video replays with your friends to see who’s grubbiest. There’s even the possibility (possibility – it’s not a certainty yet) of simultaneous multiplayer in future updates.
Much like the original, Grub is going to be free-to-play. You can keep an eye out for it in the App Store at the end of April/the beginning of May. Or you could always request access to the beta right here.
Mutants: Genetic Gladiators from Kobojo is a monster battling/breeding game that looks like it might make a fair number of waves. It’s sort of like a combination of monster training games like Pokemon and the battle system from games like Final Fantasy VI, with a really nifty art style and some pretty crazy-looking characters.
As your mutants battle they’ll level-up and store up energy that they can use to ‘breed’ with other mutants in order to (potentially) create stronger fighters. It has a lot of player-versus-player elements to it, but there’s also a fair amount on hand for those who’d prefer to avoid fighting other people. There’s a pretty hefty collection aspect to it, with most of the available mutants sporting three or four different forms/skins. That’s all in addition to the planned monthly rare recipe additions and player tournaments.
Mutants: Genetic Gladiators should be coming to the App Store as a universal release in mid-April, for free.
The original Ruzzle was quite the cool little multiplayer word puzzle game. So it stands to reason that a follow-up would be on the way. Hence Ruzzle Adventure: a solo rendition of the familiar Ruzzle formula, with a few changes of course.
Ruzzle Adventure spreads wordly challenges across 100 levels (probably double that once it launches in the US), and lets you see your friends’ progress as you move through the map. Gameplay is also a little more varied this time around, with multiple game modes involving trying to clear special blocks with a limited number of turns, racing against rising water, or just trying to make a lot of words.
At the moment Ruzzle Adventure isn’t available in the States, but once it is it’ll be free to play and universal.
Talisman: Prologue was a pretty great adaptation of GamesWorkshop’s rather popular board game, but many seemed to view it as incomplete. I mean it was purely a solo affair, so that sort of makes sense. However, now Nomad Games is getting ready to release Talisman: Digital Edition and appease those who were hoping for a more multiplayer-driven affair.
Talisman: Digital Edition will still let you play against AI if you’d rather keep things solo, but it also offers asynchronous play. In case you’re wondering how that works with spell interrupts, it basically uses a combination of push notifications and a timing window for players who want to try and counter an opponent’s casting. Nomad also has plans for continuous support by adding new cards every few weeks, making new expansions available every few months, and even offering a curated library of user-created content.
You should be able to find Talisman: Digital Edition on the App Store for the iPad at the end of April for $7.99.
Ravensberger has been busy! The board game/puzzle designers have been hard at work on several new projects lately.
The item on the list is the SmartPlay, which is an intriguing device that you can use in conjunction with your iOS device in order to make it act as the rule keeper/game master for a physical board game. You just attach your device to the stand so that the camera has a view of the board and the app will keep track of piece movement, dice rolls, rules, and so on. The SmartPlay will be releasing in Europe this September (so probably next year in the US) in conjunction with three games (one of them is a reprint of King Arthur!), and will most likely be adapted to work with older games down the line.
Microminds is a similar idea, only it’s a self-contained game for kids. A bunch of little aliens have crash-landed on Earth and need help with fixing their ship and getting home. Kids will use the game board, cards, and tokens – along with their iOS device’s camera – to find and scan the appropriate elements in order to create new ship components, and hopefully get the lost little guys back to their home planet in the process. Microminds is also due out in Europe this September.
Finally there’s Ravensberger Puzzle, which is a rather large (and ever-growing) collection of digital jigsaw puzzles. You’ll have your own personal collection to play around with, and the app will track your completion percentages and times for you. Lots and lots of puzzles are available across lots and lots of themes, and you can easily change the number of pieces used for a given image using a slider (all the way up to 500, with no duplicate shapes). Ravensberger Puzzle will actually be available as a universal release in the App Store next week on March 27, and will sell for $2.99.
SomaSim‘s 1849 is a sim about the California Gold Rush in the same vein as older objective-driven simulations and city builders. It’s also got a surprising amount of puzzle-like elements as you’ll quickly find yourself trying to figure out the best way to make use of the limited space you’re given.
The core idea behind 1849 is balance. You need to mine gold and other precious metals to earn money. You also need food and lodgings for your citizens and workers or else they’ll abandon ship in a heartbeat. But in order to do that, you’ll also have to make sure to provide other amenities such as schools and access to a saloon to keep the citizens of your ever-growing city happy. The catch is that every city (of which there are 20, each with their own overarching goals to complete) has a limit to how far it can expand. So in order to create a successful self-sustaining city you’ll have to pay close attention to where you place what buildings and how many you construct.
SomaSim is aiming for an early May release. A specific price point hasn’t been locked-in yet, but 1849 will be priced at a premium and offer additional content packs in the future.
Tucked away amidst all the rather incredible demos at this year’s Indie Megabooth was an interesting little shooter about robots and their apparent infatuation with frozen dairy products. I’m talking about Robots Love Ice Cream.
Robots Love Ice Cream is all about driving an ice cream truck around spherical worlds and launching the delicious treats at invading robots who are bent on stealing it all. Different types of ice cream will have different effects (standard blaster, rapid fire, spread, etc), and there are a number of different robots to gum up the works as you try to keep the Earth’s citizens (and ice cream!) safe.
Keep an eye on the App Store, because Robots Love Ice Cream should be releasing later this month.
GDC is upon us, and a number of industry folks are gathering San Francisco in order to take part – myself included. Since it’s about a 6 hour flight from New York I decided to load my phone up before I left with the idea that I’d have a massive selection of games to occupy me. In addition to what I normally have on there I also decided to add games like Brandnew Boy, Out There, and Starbase Orion. But the game that really occupied the majority of my time is one I didn’t expect: Calculords.
Perhaps it was because I slept for most of the flight and didn’t have the time to play everything. Maybe I wanted something to get my brain moving again after I was done napping. Or maybe it’s just excellent and I wanted to keep playing it. Whatever the reason, I played Calculords significantly more than anything else on this trip. It kept me entertained, woke me up (all that math!), and it’s just, well, fun.
This is, of course, not to say that my other picks were bad in any way. Quite the contrary, really. But Calculords really is something special. I might be a tad biased because I have a soft sport for card games, though.
Pocket Gamer.biz reports that the Big Indie Pitch will be returning to GDC this year. Several developers get to speed-pitch their projects to a whole lot of game journalists; even including some 148Apps folks!
The Big Indie Pitch will be taking place on Thursday, March 20, from 12pm – 4pm (PDT). If you’re interested in attending and are a member of the gaming press, a developer, or just want to come and watch, you can sign up at the Eventbrite page.
Set some twenty years after the events of Ultima 4, Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is a completely redesigned, fully realized MMO for your iOS device. Our time with the game at GDC this year showed an amazingly faithful full-on MMO on the iPad, something we haven’t seen to this day. The game should release in the next few months, and we’ll be keeping our beady little eye on it until then.
Big Fish Games previewed their new match three game, Zombies Zombies Zombies, for us today. The mechanic actually works well, here, as you tap same-color zombies in triangle patterns to have your apocalypse survivors blow hem to smithereens. There are a ton of fun power-ups, and playing it was super easy to get into, and very satisfying to play. Look for it to come out this summer.
Josh Boggs of Australian gaming developer, Loveshack, showed us an early build of Framed, a beautifully designed puzzle cum comic-style storytelling game. We played through the first few episodes, moving animated panels around to change the outcome of the story in each level. The studio hopes to build the game out to a feature movie length in the coming months.
We sat down with Thomas Bleyer of Ravensburger, the veteran of board games both analog and digital, for a quick coffee meeting this morning. We took an early look at Las Vegas, a new game from the studio that involves dice and a frenetic pace. Check the VIne video below for a sneak peek, and be ready to check the full game out in a couple of months.
If you’ve played any of the Bloons TD games, you know how frantic–and downright fun–the tower defense with balloons and monkeys game can get. With the upcoming Bloons TD Battles, from the Ninja Kiwi/Digital Goldfish dream team, you’ll get to test your skills against real opponents on the same iPad or over the internet. Get ready, ’cause its gonna get insane.
2012 was an amazing year. It was full of new things, old things, and big changes. But of everything that came about in the past year, these are my favorite things:
“Super” Challenging Games
In particular, Super Crate Box and Super Hexagon both left me in states of constant desire, wanting to get that high score while tackling the immense difficulty both games presented. Yet there was one consistent thread in both: failure was usually my fault, the factor of poor execution rather than random chance. It makes success feel all that more empowering. The byproduct of it is constant failure, and frequent profanity usage.
The Story of Mikey Shorts
Another one of my favorite games of the year, and one of the cooler stories too. Developers Mike Gaughen and Mike Meade met on the TouchArcade forums while competing for high scores, and eventually they got together to make the kind of speedrun game that they wanted, and they absolutely stuck the landing on this one.
The indie spirit lives on
2012 was not an easy year for indie developers, and it didn’t get easier. Yet, there were still so many great games from small studios, trying to just execute a great idea or hopefully hit it big. I fear for the future of indies on iOS, but the fact that they keep on trucking is inspiring.
Getting to Attend Game Developers Conference
This was my first GDC, and it was an amazing experience. To go around and talk to the people who create the games we love to play in person is a fantastic experience. And it’s refreshing to see that even those who have hit the mobile gaming jackpot still talk with those who have not had that kind of success get. And hey, nothing makes you feel important like having a press pass and getting into exclusive events. And San Francisco is a beautiful city.
But Chicago is now my home. 2012 was a year of big life events for me, and I finally was able to make a big move, to leave Texas (where I had lived my entire life) and move out far away on my own. I live in a bustling and exciting city, I get to talk to a community game developers and writers that also live here, and the food ain’t bad either.
Note that this is a list of my favorite things of 2012 – I keep getting reminded that winter is coming and it is awful. As such, Chicago may not be on my 2013 list.
Finally, 148Apps. Being part of one of the best app review sites on the Internet has changed my life in innumerable ways. The two and a half years I have been here have opened up new opportunities for me, and allow me to pursue the things that I am passionate about as a career. So for everyone that reads the site and listens to the podcast, I thank you for your support.
We sat down with publisher BulkyPix today to talk about a slew of upcoming games for iOS, including The Sandbox, Lightopus, Kung Fu Rabbit, Saving Private Sheep 2, and Gnu Revenge.
Pixowl led off the meeting with The Sandbox, previewed on 148Apps here. It’s exactly what its name implies: an open-ended game with retro-pixel charm and a TON of things to do, play with, and create with. We’re pretty excited about the potential of this little toy/game, and look forward to it’s release, hopefully in May of this year.
Lightopus, developed by Appxplore, comes out this coming Thursday, and has a neon-colored look with some surprisingly subtle gameplay mechanics. Players take on the role of a protozoan-like creature who must gather its babies, while avoiding and attacking enemies with those very same babies. The gameplay feels a lot like fl0w or the initial level of Spore, which isn’t a bad thing, and has a relaxing electronica score. Stay tuned here for a review soon.
Kung Fu Rabbit features a cute but dangerous rabbit with all the right kung fu moves. Previewed here a week or so ago, the game tasks players to take on the role of the aforementioned rabbit, out to save rabbit babies from the evil shadow man. Kung Fu Rabbit looks adorable, but make no mistake, it’s a tough platformer to beat. This combination of tough yet cute could be a winner when it releases March 15.
Saving Private Sheep is getting a sequel, the cleverly named Saving Private Sheep 2. Militant sheep aim their hedgehog at the exposed parts of their nemesis, an evil fox. The mechanics may look familiar; aiming and powering the slingshot full of hedgehog feels a lot like Angry Birds. However, the actual content is more puzzler than physics destruction, as players need to find the best way to pass the hedgehog ordinance from sheep to sheep.
Gnu Revenge is a humorous puzzle game that uses the concept of gravity and acceleration as its main, pardon the pun, thrust. Players shoot a wacky-looking gnu at a dastardly crocodile in a spaceship, saving fellow gnus from some horrendous-yet-unspecified fate, shooting around planetary bodies with various amounts of gravitational pull. Using just the right amount of boost to avoid crashing into planets or flying off into space is tricky yet strangely compelling at the same time. Look for this one to come out at the end of March.
Three other titles, releasing in April and May of this year, include a hidden object game based on the point and click PC game, Runaway, and a darkly mysterious app titled Yesterday, which features a serial killer and the homeless with some beautifully gritty graphics.
We will, of course, be keeping our eye on all these titles as they release. Our thanks to BulkyPix for spending time with us at the conference today.
Remember iSwifter and its impressive capabilities in terms of bringing Flash to the iPad? That same cloud-based technology has gone one step further now, with news coming out of GDC, that the firm will now be offering a licensing program for PC-based gaming applications to be streamed to iOS devices.
As co-founder of iSwifter, Rajat Gupta, explains “It is virtually impossible for developers to bring PC games to mobile as quickly as we can through our lowest cost streaming cloud service, and to provide a native-like user experience with automatic enablement of touch gestures,” so this is potentially huge news for iOS device owners. The lofty ambition, according to co-founder and Chairman, Peter Relan, is to “do to applications what Netflix™ did for movies.”
As always, we’ll keep up to date on the latest progress with such a move. While waiting for companies to embrace this concept, why not check out the current iSwifter app?
We’ll be covering the famous Game Developers Conference this year en force, and wanted to let you know about it. The conference is scheduled for March 7 – 9, with some pre-show sessions on the 5th and 6th. It’s a fantastic time for developers, vendors, and press covering the games industry to get together and talk about games. Game developers and publishers go to present on their latest game ideas and upcoming releases, gaming hardware and middleware companies go to show off their wares in the exhibitor hall, and the press gathers like excited gadflies, tweeting, posting, and emailing with abandon.
If you’re a publisher or developer of iOS (or Android!) games, and you’d like to schedule a meeting with us, shoot an email to us at editor [at] 148Apps [dot] com and we’ll figure out a mutually beneficial time to meet up.
Keep an eye on this space and on our twitter accounts (@148Apps, @portablegamer) for all the important news from the show floor.
As you probably already know, GDC or the Game Developers Conference in San Fransisco is an annual conference at which game developer get together to share development, tools, tips and technologies. This year, independent development companies Semi Secret and Backflip Studios were quick to share just how successful their dive into the App Store has been. Between the two of them, they have 8 paid applications on the store.
Yesterday, co-founder of Semi Secret, Eric Johnson revealed to Pocket Biz that the company had sold 115,000 copies of their popular side-scroller adventure Canabalt. Whats interesting though is these download statistics he said were based upon Canabalt selling at the $2.99 price point over 5 months. He was also quick to estimate the ball-park piracy rate of Canabalt, which he put at 20 percent over those 5 months.
Similarly, Backflip Studio revealed it had generated $2.5 Million in around nine and a half months of being on the store. The company stated these figure were based on enjoying a staggering 22 Million downloads overall, revealing 17 Million of those came from just one of their App Store titles – Paper Toss. On a side note Backflip also announced mobile advertising is making them a substantial $1 Million in just six months and $379,000 in December last year, alone.