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.
Posted by Jeff Scott on October 23rd, 2012 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Timehop is an interesting idea. It goes through your social history, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Foursquare, and even the photos on your phone and looks for events. It will then show you what you were doing on this date a year ago, or more. It’s your own personal “This day in history” app.
Planning a vacation or day trip and want to learn some great historical facts along the way? Give HISTORY Here a try.
The app comes courtesy of the History Channel and offers an interactive guide to thousands of historic locations across the USA. Users have the option to choose any location they wish, or they can let the GPS functionality do its magic and give places of local interest.
It’s possible to search for various historic points of interest for inspiration, as well as view everything as part of a zoomable map. Features like this should prove ideal when planning ahead.
Images for each place are included, along with an overview of the venue and any relevant details such as contact phone numbers. Even if you think you know an area well, you’re bound to be surprised by something from this app.
Though you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s still alive from the day the Titanic sank, the public’s fascination with the doomed ocean liner has only grown over the years. The Titanic has been the subject of countless books, movies, TV specials and documentaries, and now you can add a new iOS game to the mix. National Geographic and PlayWay have officially announced Titanic: Unsolved Mystery, which will provide the most interactive experience with the famed ship yet.
The game is divided between present and past as heroine Lillian explores the wreckage of the Titanic, which is now an underwater museum. Lillian’s quest is a bit of a tragic one, as her great-grandmother died when the boat sank and she would like to know more about the woman she never knew. The hidden-object gameplay is set in historically accurate recreations of the ship’s interior just as it appeared 100 years ago.
Titanic: Unsolved Mystery is slated to launch sometime in the second quarter of 2012.
Most of us already know that February is Black History Month, but how many of us truly understand the history and culture of African Americans in our own communities? More Than a Mapp (MTAM) seeks to change all that by showing users significant contributions to black history right in their own neighborhoods. MTAM uses the iPhone’s GPS to pinpoint your location and showcase locations of historical significance all around you. Furthermore, the app’s crowdsourcing features allow users to upload their own points on the map, complete with photos and descriptions.
MTAM is part of PBS’s More Than a Month initiative, which is reminding the populace that African American history is not confined to the month of February and the contributions of African Americans should be remembered and celebrated year-round. Regardless of your ethnic background this free app gives you an opportunity to learn history lessons you probably didn’t previously know, right in your own backyard.
February is Black History Month in the US. It’s a time to reflect on the past of a people who have journeyed from slavery to the Oval Office and look at the heroes, sung and unsung, who made the transformative journey possible. It is also a time to look forward, for people of all races and ideologies, and to continue the quest for true racial equality in America. Apps are great educational tools so we’ve collected our favorite four that look backwards and forwards at this epic struggle to show by word and deed that all men – and women – are indeed created equal. If we missed an essential please let us know in the comments.
Then and Now Series: Black History
A look at the lives of 100 historically important Black people in a simple easy-to-use app, Then and Now Series: Black History focuses on the people behind the struggles and successes. Seek out more information on the names you’d expect to find or browse to discover lesser known, but equally important, figures from Black History. The app also allows users to print or share their discoveries with anyone who also wants to learn more.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-08-11 :: Category: Education
Black History In An Hour
While Black History In An Hour is long overdue for an update it still allows those who want to learn more without investing too much time to get the most important facts on the most salient topics. This app goes beyond the US to the rest of the West and into Africa, but it focuses mostly on key events in the history of African Americans particularly during slavery. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive eBook, just a starting point for discussion or further study.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2010-10-08 :: Category: Education
Black History Facts
Another basic guide, Black History Facts does not focus on the struggle for racial equality in the US alone, but rather explores Black History from around the world. The app offers over 530 snippets of information including 15 that were added as recently as january of this year. The app’s stated purpose is to foster deeper inquiry and provoke discussion.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2010-12-15 :: Category: Entertainment
The Root for iPad
Brought to iPad by The Washington Post and The Root, The Root for iPad looks not at black history as recorded in the annals, but black history in the making. This app aggregates relevant web news as well as curated commentary from highly respected African American writers. The app tackles the current implications of race in American society and myriad related issues. It even has podcasts on hot topics. The newest of the apps on this list, it’s optimized for iOS 5 and incorporates a host of sharing features to spread the best stories around the web via social media to open debate… and minds.
Whether it’s simply out of curiosity or due to an urgent employment or family need, it can be immensely useful to be able to run a background check on someone. Numerous firms offer such a service for a price but a new app by the name of Background Check offers a free way of checking up on someone.
Background Check is a free app but one with limitations. One free check is supplied each month with extra checks costing $0.99 for each extra use. Once a check is conducted, users can then consult details such as current and past addresses, relatives that live in the same house, property details and the all important ability to check past criminal records.
All the data is collated from BeenVerified and it appears to be quite accurate in the checks I conducted. It’s worth noting the app only supports US checks though. Users can search for a specific name or they can search through their contacts.
An email address search also allows users to find someone’s photos, videos, social networking information, blogs and pretty much everything else possible online. It’s a pretty powerful tool indeed.
Background Check is available now for all iOS devices and it’s a free app with in-app purchases available.
A Nation divided. North vs. South. Brother vs. brother. The Civil War stands as one of the most tumultuous times in American history. It helped shape the future of a nation, and has been the source of many fascinating retrospectives, across all kinds of media.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the America Civil War, the History Channel has released The Civil War Today for the iPad, bringing us a very modern, interactive window to the past. The app is structured as a slick-looking, tablet newspaper, with visual representations of many historical documents, photos, maps, newspaper clippings, etc.
With this format in mind, The Civil War Today is set to have daily updates for the next four years, from April 12, 2011 through April 26, 2015, as a pseudo, real-time recounting of the events that occurred 150 years to the day. You will be able to follow the events of the past like they were happening today, and with all the graphical and technical embellishments that the iPad has to offer.
The app offers a variety of content such as quotes of the day, letters & personal diaries from 15 people who experienced the war, photo galleries, battle maps, newspaper broadsheets, articles & video on featured topics, etc. There’s also a daily North/South casualty counter that highlights the ebb and impact of the war, as well as daily quizzes. The Civil War Today supports Game Center, where you can earn achievements for interacting with all these elements of the app, as well as twitter integration that simulates sending a message via morse code.
There’s no doubt that The Civil War Today is an ambitious project, and it feels very much at home on the iPad. It is a decidedly modern take on historical events that aims to provide a bevy of interesting content and educational value that not just history buffs will find entertaining.
Ever have one of those moments where you’re desperately trying to remember something but you can’t? Particularly when it comes to something like Rock & Roll? In which case, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame might be exactly what you need.
For the mere price of $1.99, this app gives you a list of more than 600 of the most influential and famous Rock & Roll songs of all time. Each of these songs has been chosen by various knowledgeable staff from the Museum of the same name as well as many Rock critics and historians. You can look through according to decade and track the evolution of the genre, or you can search for specifics if you’re itching to remember something.
Each entry comes with album artwork as well as a brief bit of information on the musical selection. Plus you can use the app to listen to song samples as well as download them to your iOS device. You can even then build a playlist from these entries in the Hall of Fame.
Simply put, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame looks set to be a fantastic app for the Rocker hidden in all of us.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is available as an universal app for both iPhone and iPad and is priced at a keen $1.99.
It’s quite astonishing to think that it was 50 years ago, on April 12th 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to enter space. Thanks to that 108 minute flight, our perspective on the world changed in a way that people of this generation probably can’t fully comprehend. It’s a pivotal moment in history and rightfully deserves its place on the app store in the form of 108 Minutes Flight.
The app, soon to be released on the App store, promises biographies of Yuri Gagarin and Chief Designer Sergei Korolev, a diagram of the flight plan and a photo gallery. It also comes with a counter that displays how much time has passed since Gagarin’s flight and the ability to send old fashioned Soviet style holiday postcards dediated to the date in question.
Even better, the app in question will be entirely free to download, making this surely an ummissable purchase for space and history fans.
We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the release of this app.
The British Library has entered the smartphone age, with the venerable institution launching its first ever app. the program, called Treasures, allows users from all over the world to take a peek at the museum’s extensive collection, showcasing such wonders as a 1215 original copy of the Magna Carta, Elizabeth I’s famous Tilbury speech before the Spanish Armada and famous manuscripts from composers like Mozart and Handel. There’s plenty more where that came from, as the app currently features over 100 different items alongside sound recordings and 50 short videos. The British Library has also promised to regularly update the app, adding new exhibits and paying special attention to new arrivals in the museum.
In addition to a standard iPhone edition of the app there is also an HD iPad version which offers slightly higher resolution pictures. iPods and iPhones running iOS 3.2 or above can view the app, while the iPad requires utilization of iOS 4. The app retails for $1.99 on the iPhone or $3.99 on the iPad.
It’s wonderful to have such an extensive collection from a revered source such as the British Library being opened to the public to view on the go. The information included with the exhibits alone is well worth the price of admission, but the video and audio clips that accompany them really push the app across the finish line. This is a terrific app for lovers of history and those with an insatiable appetite for knowledge. We can’t wait to see what new features and updates are added in later versions.
One of the knocks on American architecture is that we rarely ever save our old buildings. Sure, we keep major historical sites like George Washington’s house or Independence Hall, but most of our buildings are eventually torn down to make way for newer, bigger buildings. But now a new app lets you see at least one city the way it used to be, as Time Shutter San Francisco lets you spy the City by the Bay in all its former (and current) glory.
Time Shutter uses old photographs and illustrations to created detailed recreations of major SF landmarks from roughly 100 years ago. Users can then take a picture of the current structure standing at the historical site and then watch as the app combines the two images in a sort of “then and now” transition. Even better, all the historical images come with a quick history caption, so you may also learn a little something along the way. The app currently contains over 140 pics of various city landmarks, and a helpful map allows you to easily figure out which sites are in the near vicinity.
This is actually a pretty cool app that adds a new dimension to tourism. SF is a history-rich city, but if you don’t know the town well it’s easy to miss out on a lot of really neat architecture and information. This app provides a great way for kids and adults both to learn more about the city while they visit and do something other than just ride cable cars and go down to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s even possible that some locals may enjoy the app just so they can learn more about the city in which they live.
For all of you living in other areas don’t write this app off yet just because it’s aimed at San Francisco. The team at ISL Consulting has told us they’re already working on a New York edition of the app, and we’re sure even more cities will be added as time goes on. In the meantime though, if you find yourself in the city famous for the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Rice-a-Roni here’s a fun way to get a bit more out of your trip.
WordDigest is a dictionary app with a huge database and a number of useful features, including bookmarking, browsing history, a thesaurus, and more. If you're looking for a solid dictionary, this is one to consider.