iOS is yet to have its cornerstone first-person shooter franchise. While it has a couple of really good ones from Gameloft and a few good ports from older games, we have yet to see a truly deep and original mobile-first FPS franchise. Especially one that takes advantage of the touch screen and doesn’t just try to adapt button controls to a screen. In short, iOS needs it’s Halo. Industrial Toys might be the people to do it.
Let me clear this up. There is no shortage of first-person shooters on iOS. Gameloft has released some really good ones like NOVA 3 and Modern Combat. We’ve even seen classics like Doom and Call of Duty ported. But the fault these all have is they were conceived on or derived from controller-based shooters. This invariably leads to problems when playing, no matter how good the controls. Thumbs will always cover important parts of the screen, they will slip from the correct virtual control. And for FPS vets, the most important factor: touch controls are slower as it takes time to look at the virtual buttons.
Ben Cousin’s Scattered Entertainment released The Drowning last year, which hoped to be exactly this. Tremendous amounts of thought went into the game and it’s original control scheme, yes, and it was developed exclusively for touch screens. But it just didn’t take. It was not well received by the press or users. There is still some hope for The Drowning as a franchise, but it seems unlikely at this point.
I’m also not saying that I want Halo on iOS. What I want is an original franchise, conceived for and developed for touch screens and connected devices. One with a deep original storyline, endless multiplayer capabilities, perfect controls for a touch device, and a future. No matter how how close others have come, we just don’t have that. Yet.
This is where the team from Industrial Toys comes in. This LA-based company certainly has the chops to make a killer FPS franchise for iOS. The company was founded by Bungie co-founder/co-creator of Halo Alex Seropian and Tim Harris (Denuo, Alley Cat Comics). Their team for this project includes superstars of music, art, and story; including comic artist Mike Choi (Marvel/DC) and author John Scalzi (Old Man’s War, Redshirts). Seems like they have the talent they need and our first look at their upcoming Midnight Star game shows great promise.
The first experience most will have with the game will be through the interactive comic, Midnight Rises. This comic ties in with two-way communication to Midnight Star. The story, set 120 years from now, starts when first contact is made from outer space. The interactive comic will lead the reader through the build up to the launch of the USSM Joplin, the craft fitted to communicate and intercept the source of the signal. Along the way the story will introduce the characters in the game and provide backstory.
The comic app will also provide potential players the ability to pick up items that can be used in the game. And this is just the tip of what make this dual app approach so interesting. The choices made in the story app influence the characters in the game. And progress in the game unlocks new parts of the story in the comic app. It will be interesting to see how such an integrated dual app approach works out.
Midnight Star starts off after something has gone wrong and the crew of the Joplin is fighting an alien force, as the story of what happened unfolds. The game features a new take on touch controls for a first-person shooter that looks quite good, even in the pre-release build I saw. It also features nearly endless multiplayer capabilities both in the form of friend challenges and leaderboard type challenges.
In one of the most original forms of asynchronous multiplayer, a player can create a challenge for other players – either friends or open to all. That challenge can be a speed run, high score, accuracy, or other challenge on a particular level in the game that lasts for a set amount of time. Each player that accepts the challenge enters an amount of in-game currency set by the originator into the pot with the top players in the challenge splitting the winnings.
Melee type combat has been a sticking point for touch games. How to accurately and quickly they make the player react has generally been less than perfect. With Midnight Star, melee will take for form of quick reactionary tapping of on screen symbols. Each symbol will need to be touched a designated number of times in a certain amount of time to ward off the attack.
Progressing will provide new weapons and parts to upgrade current weapons. The game is clearly set up to be a free to play game, but at least in my limited experience with it this doesn’t seem to get in the way of the gameplay.
Looking at the screenshots included with this post doesn’t really do it justice. Industrial Toys are not ready to release in-game video just yet, but this Unreal built game looks amazing with very smooth gameplay. Here’s the previously released teaser trailer.
Is Midnight Star the Halo-like franchise I think iOS so desperately needs? It would be presumptuous to say yes at this point, but I have hope. It will certainly be a huge step in the right direction. The guys at Industrial Toys are very experienced in the area and committed to the idea of bringing a Halo-like experience to touch screens.
Look for Midnight Rises (the interactive story) in the spring, and the game Midnight Star soon after. We’ll have more news on Midnight Star as it develops.
Morning Star Alpha, an interactive graphic novel app and game, has released a new sneak peek video of what exactly the app is and how it works. The graphic novel app has a host of features, including an interactive timeline, personal files, and information that’s unlocked once you meet certain conditions in the game. Also, the choices you make in the app and game will effect the story telling, impacting the overall experience within the comic as well as the future game.
Check out the sneak peek video below to get a closer look at the upcoming graphic novel, which will lead directly into the upcoming FPS game from Industrial Toys, Morning Star.
Morning Star, the upcoming FPS from Industrial Toys and a dream team of video game, sci fi, and comic creators, is also going to have a prequel digital graphic novel called Morning Star Alpha, written by John Scalzi and illustrated by Mike Choi. Not only that, but the prequel digital comic will have interactive elements, in which you’ll get to make choices about characters and stories, which will then inform your actual game play when Morning Star is released later this year. Woah, right? Here’s the first peek at the cover art for this upcoming digital comic, from amazing artist Mike Choi, best known for his work on Witchblade and X-Force.
“What is Morning Star Alpha? The simplest explanation is that it’s a graphic novel, written by me and illustrated by Mike Choi, which ties into the events of the Morning Star game. But please note that this “simplest explanation” really is too simple. For one thing, Morning Star Alpha is its own app; you explore it on your tablet, and we’ve built the app and the story to take advantage of the medium we’re working in — which means it’s a pretty cool new graphic novel experience. You can make choices in Morning Star Alpha which affect the storytelling, and your actions while exploring inMorning Star Alpha can have an impact in the Morning Star game (and vice versa). You’ll learn more about the characters who populate the Morning Star universe, and what motivates them to action.”
As you can see, Morning Star gonna be a pretty fantastic cross-media experience. And Morning Star Alpha, as president Tim Harris says, won’t be one of those crappy motion graphic “bad cartoons.” Plan on a real digital comic built by the best comics folks in the business, all up in your iPad. Slick!
If you haven’t heard, all-star game development team, Industrial Toys, is putting out a new first person shooter for mobile devices, titled Morning Star. The team includes best-selling author, John Scalzi (pictured right), who–along with Industrial Toys’ CEO, Alex Seropian–spent a few minutes talking with 148Apps about the story behind the upcoming game. In addition to his authorial creds, Scalzi is also apparently a master of saying things without actually revealing anything about the upcoming game. Luckily, his answers are still entertaining, so we decided to go ahead and share them here, as well.
John Scalzi and Alex Seropian have worked together in the past, so when it came time to find a writer for his upcoming science fictional shooter game, Morning Star, Seropian contacted author Scalzi (Redshirts, Old Man’s War). Scalzi says his novels have always been influenced by video games, including Half Life, and that he’s always wanted to work in the medium. His favorite genre? First person shooters.
“Alex and I have been gamers for a very long time,” he said. “Marathon was my first FPS. We’ve been living these games for the last 15 years. You can’t be a writer without being a reader, and you need to do the same thing as a gamer/game writer. For example, Half Life was the first video game that I went back and re-read. The narrative and the gameplay made me go back again and again. System Shock two – scared the shit out of me. Bioshock, most recently, which is a commentary about one man standing alone. All of that goes into the pot.”
Scalzi doesn’t want to do the same old thing, however. “Shooters are a very rich field for SF and fantasy,” he said, “(so) a lot of the low hanging fruit has already been done.” He wanted to do something original, not use the same set up as other games in the genre. He started by looking at other games to see which elements haven’t been overused and overplayed to inform his own work for Morning Star. This gave him a set of concepts and ideas that he could use in novel ways. “It’s like doing improv,” he told us, “you’ve got a wrench, a Ciera, and Nietche: put them together and go! As a storyteller, that’s actually fun. Limitations aren’t limiting: the combinations will make or break a story.”
Scalzi notes that writing for a video game is a lot different than writing for a novel. The technology included in the game must tie in with the story, must drive the storytelling. He didn’t want to work to create a game that would simply show off cool technology, either, “like a movie with awesome special effects but a crap story.” Instead, he says that the platform itself informs the storytelling, in terms of what can be done that makes sense within that story. “We wanted to make a seamless connection between story and technology,” he said.
The process he and the Industrial Toys team worked out includes a lot of back and forth collaboration. While Scalzi spent some time putting together the universe of the game and the overarching themes, the actual storytelling is happening in deep connection with the development team.
“We figured out what the universe is, the races, the mechanics, etc.” said Seropian, chiming in. Both men said they didn’t want to just deliver story via cutscenes. “In examples of games that work,” Seropian said, “I agree with John–they programmatically move the story forward, rather than just using pre-written prose. This adds multiple layers of texture. We can deliver story through combat dialog, spurious conversation, and stuff you find in the world.”
Scalzi is also quick to point out that even though the technology is groundbreaking, and the story original, that there will be familiar things to help gamers feel comfortable, at least initially. “The game play mechanics will be innovative, but one thing you also want to do is give people some comfort to hang on to,” he said. “The set up for the story is familiar on purpose.”
Scalzi pointed out that even the movie, Avatar, with its groundbreaking visual and movie-making technology, had to have a story that was within a comfort zone for the audience, who needs to be able to understand what’s going on. Because of that, he said, “some elements (of Morning Star) will seem familiar, because of the FPS format: there will be shooting, there will be malevolent aliens, etc. Once the audience is connected, thought, there will be new game play and story elements that have been underutilized heretofore. We want to be incredible, but absolutely in our own time.”
Bottom line, both Scalzi and Seropian are putting their hearts and minds into the creation of this game. What’s next on the horizon for Morning Star? Seropian said that the team is currently working on how music will fit into the universe and the gameplay.
Scalzi says there will me more reveals in terms of the content of the story, and that there will be some cool surprises ahead. “It’s gonna be worth it,” he said. “We want you to play the game and love the world we’re creating as well.”
This is it – the first ever look at Industrial Toys’ upcoming sci-fi shooter, Morning Star, a core gaming experience made just for the iPad by industry vets Alex Seropian (Bungie, Disney) and Tim Harris (Denuo, Alley Cat Comics), as well as a superstar team of music, art, and story, including comic artist Mike Choi (Marvel/DC) and author John Scalzi (Old Man’s War, Redshirts).
The trailer shows us a maddeningly brief look at the universe of Morning Star, including the depths of space, the skip ship Joplin, and some scary-ass aliens that we seriously just want to shoot in their toothy faces.
“With Morning Star, we’re looking to change expectations for what kind of experience core gamers get from their mobile devices,” said Industrial Toys CEO Alex Seropian. “We’re breaking new ground on everything from the visuals to the story to the ongoing support we’ll provide in the way of content, events and player involvement. It’s gonna be nuts.”
The development team promises a reimagining of the sci-fi shooter, a no-brainer considering that Seropian was one of the co-founders of Bungie, responsible for Marathon and Halo. They’ve made it their mission to create an exciting, action-packed game with controls, community and competitive multiplayer features designed directly for mobile platforms like the iPad. It also uses the Unreal Engine to make it look super amazing and badass gorgeous.
Set 120 years into our future, Morning Star takes players aboard the MSRV-Joplin, a research vessel newly outfitted with military weaponry to explore a mysterious signal coming from within our Solar System. When inevitable disaster strikes, they’re transported across the cosmos to take part in an epic war that is not their own to undo a bunch of awfulness that goes down.
For more info, check out the official website of the game, which is expected to release sometime in Spring 2013. Hit the jump for even more screens and concept art.