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Real Racing 3 - Time Shifted Multiplayer

Posted by Rob Rich on February 1st, 2013

Earlier we took a look at the history of Real Racing as well as that of Firemint itself, then it was on to the nitty gritty details of the Real Racing series' gameplay design issues. Now it’s time to talk about what could be one of Real Racing 3’s most revolutionary features: Time Shifted Multiplayer.

Of Two Minds

Most iOS gamers are familiar with the idea of asynchronous multiplayer at this point; one person takes a turn and submits it, then next person takes their turn whenever they’re able, and so on. Many iOS multiplayer games use this mechanic to great effect these days; Robot Entertainment’s stellar Hero Academy, OMGPOP’s Draw Something, and Playdek’s Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil are just a few examples.

It’s great for playing anything turn-based on the go because it enables players to jump in and make their move whenever it’s convenient for them. Taking a break to get lunch, turning off the phone for a few hours during a long trip, or even taking a break partway through a match are all possible thanks to this particular form of multiplayer.

Real-time multiplayer games are a bit more difficult to execute on iOS devices. Not so much because the technology isn’t there, but because the very nature of mobile platforms creates a different sort of “flow” for users who aren’t tied down to a particular location. And Game Center is still in its relative infancy, so setting up a match among friends typically requires a decent amount of prep work. Especially given the sheer number of titles available for most Apple products these days. Capcom’s Street Fighter IV Volt and Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 are both examples of this particular multiplayer type, and both fun games, but setting up a match takes more work than it does on many gaming platforms.

The fast paced nature of the gameplay and the speed with which most bouts are completed fit the real-time online play well, but it still requires players to find a good spot to stop for a moment if they want to get a match or two in. Or they could also always play to their heart’s content while relaxing at home or any other location with proper seating and wireless internet.

Real Racing 3’s Time Shifted Multiplayer is a sort of amalgamation of both asynchronous and simultaneous play, and could very well lead to some significant changes in how we play mobile games with other people in the near future.

Thinking Freely

“What could we do if we had no limitations?” is the mantra that was used throughout Real Racing 3’s development according to the game’s Development Director, Kynan Woodman. “The answer to that question for many of us," he said, "is that we would be able to play against our friends and other real people anytime and anywhere.” It might not seem like a big deal but not everyone has the same daily schedule.

Anyone who’s ever tried to play games online with a friends who lives in another state, even one that’s in the same time zone, knows just how problematic it can be at times to try and coordinate. Being able to play with friends without needing to adhere to a specific schedule means everyone can play when they have a moment rather than having to set aside a specific time or possibly turn down an open invitation.

And thus Time Shifted Multiplayer was conceptualized. Without worrying about whether it was “possible” or not, they got to work figuring out a way to combine the accessibility of asynchronous play with the pulse-pounding action of simultaneous play. In essence, it’s meant to be the best of both worlds.

Blazing a Trail

Firemonkeys hasn’t revealed the exact details of Time Shifted Multiplayer just yet, but it has explained the basics of how everything comes together in practice. When a Real Racing 3 player begins a race against someone else it’s not actually a direct competition.

Rather than racing against their opponent directly they’re in fact racing against “... their fully interactive time-shifted double," Woodman said, "which emulates their performance and skill.” In other words it’s like racing against their ghost, only this particular ghost is tangible. This “non-ghost” can be driven off the track, react to other racers jostling for position, and all the other stuff a real player would do automatically.

Imagine racing against a snapshot of another person; a sort of virtual player that’s compiled from data based around their particular skill level and performance. If left to its own devices it’ll achieve a time similar (if not equivalent to) the player’s original run, but that’s only if it’s left alone. This is, in essence, what Time Shifted Multiplayer is.

It’s never a good idea to get too far ahead of things when it comes to speculation, but it’s also incredibly difficult not to get swept up in all the Time Shifted Multiplayer madness. It’s a technology that combines the two primary forms of online play iOS users have come to rely on for all of their games, and as such stands to create quite a stir once more and more titles begin to adapt similar techniques. Fusing the play anywhere/anytime convenience typical of most mobile multiplayer games with the more directly interactive (and often more competitive) nature of real time multiplayer certainly seems like a brilliant idea on paper.

Firemint (and now Firemonkeys) has been on an interesting road trip up to now; full of all kinds of unexpected detours, the occasional paint job, maybe a trade-in here and there, picking up a few new passengers along the way, and bittersweet goodbyes to those who've been dropped off. Of course it's not over yet. There's still a lot of road to travel. We’ll have to wait until next month to see how well everything Firemonkeys has experienced and created comes together for the newest pit stop, but the potential is definitely there.

SketchPhrase Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on December 10th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: PICTURE THIS
A whole lot of SketchPhrase's fun depends on who's playing but when it all "clicks" it can be incredibly silly fun.
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Critical Missions: SWAT Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on December 10th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: MISFIRE
It would be so much easier to enjoy this attempt at bringing a PC classic to iOS if the controls weren't such a mess.
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Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on December 6th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: THOROUGHLY MODERN...AND FAMILIAR
Modern Combat 4 is a military FPS built for mobile devices, and while Gameloft definitely brings exceptional production values to the table, it still is held back by the nature of touchscreen controls.
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Arcane Legends Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on December 3rd, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: BRIGHTER
Arcane Legends is the newest MMORPG from Spacetime Studios, and it represents a dramatic improvement on its predecessor.
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Writer Rumble Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on December 3rd, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: WORDS BREAKING BONES
Writer Rumble combines word games with fighting games. Oh, and Jane Austen gets to pummel Cthulhu.
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War of Words Apocalypse Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on November 21st, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: THE SAME
War of Words Apocalypse might look like a rehash of an all-too-familiar favorite, but that's just on the surface. Go a little deeper and it becomes a rather hectic battle of cunning, luck, and of course spelling.
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ErnCon Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on November 21st, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: GRAB YOUR FRIENDS
ErnCon is a game with online multiplayer capability that is much like Zelda, in that it's dangerous to go alone. Well, that's if one considers boredom to be dangerous.
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Shadowgun: Deadzone Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on November 21st, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: OCCASIONAL MIS-FIRES
Shadowgun: Deadzone boasts impressive cross-platform play and beautiful graphics, but poor controls and technical flaws hold it back.
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Swing Shot Review

By Carter Dotson on October 27th, 2012
The only thing more fun than commanding swinging animals to throw things at other animals is when the other animals are being controlled by a live person.
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HumStar Free Review

Posted by Rob Rich on October 2nd, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Developer: Tanla
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar
Playtime Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar


As one of “those people” who has absolutely zero musical talent and knows it quite well, I tend to avoid situations that require singing. More than once I’ve had to turn away a disappointed coworker when asked to join them in some Karaoke. It was better for everyone that way, believe me. However, while I shy away from singing I don’t have an issue with humming. It’s the sort of situation HumStar Free was made for. Kind of.

In essence, HumStar Free is Draw Something (and other games like it), only with humming pop songs instead of crudely drawing stick figures. Players set up a game, then take turns selecting songs from a track list, humming a little ditty, then sending their sample to the other player and hoping they can figure out what the song title is. Songs are categorized into Easy, Medium, and Hard, with tougher tunes yielding more coins (needed for hints or shuffling track lists) and less assistance.

HumStar Free has a solid concept behind it. It’s like singing, only it’s not. It offers turn-based multiplayer. It supports random games or games with friends via Facebook or email contacts. And it offers a sizeable selection of songs. Depending on the difficulty selected it even gives both players the chance to listen to a sample of the chosen music in addition to the humming to make figuring it all out easier. But. There’s always a but.

The track list, while extensive, isn’t 100% licensed music. This means that the song listings don’t always provide all the information necessary to figure out what the song actually is. It’s not a huge problem for more immediately notable titles but for slightly more cult classic tunes not having the artist listed tosses a big, unyielding wrench in the works. Seeing a list of three totally unidentifiable songs wouldn’t even be so bad if the songs could be previewed before selection, but they can’t. So I’d often pick a song I thought I knew, only to realize I had no idea what it was once the clip played. I’m sorry, I’m just not a huge Ke$ha fan, so don’t blame me when I have no idea how to properly hum Tik Tok. Having the humming drowned out by the background music that’s intended to act as a hint system doesn’t make things any easier. It just sort of makes noise. Lots and lots of unpleasant noise.

This is not to say that HumStar Free is a waste of time. Far from it for music fans who enjoy playing “Guess the Song” style games with their pals. I just think it needs a fair amount of adjusting before it’s ready for super-stardom.

Arcane Empires Review

By Rob Rich on August 30th, 2012
Kabam's latest free-to-play is every bit as fantastic as their last one, but that's kind of the problem.
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Wannabat Plus Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on August 13th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: (=^_^=)
Wannabat is a ringer of a one-on-one baseball game that should please fan and non-fan alike.
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Absorb Your Friends in Osmos' New Multiplayer Mode

Posted by Carter Dotson on July 20th, 2012

Osmos initially released on the iPad back in 2010 with an iPhone version releasing later, which makes the game practically ancient by App Store standards. The game just became relevant in 2012, as an update with Game Center multiplayer has been released. The rules vary based on the 6 map types available, which are based on modes with in the singleplayer game, but the goal is generally to absorb the other player, or some central object, before they do the same. Levels are designed to be symmetrical, so no one player has an advantage over the other.

This means that games often have an interesting pacing to them: a slow build-up as players try to carefully tread on their way to becoming bigger, then when a player gets the opportune moment to strike, a rapid chase occurs. Of course, sometimes what happens is that one player gets stuck, but might still win if the other player messes up. Or a player chasing after the other might think they have a clear shot at victory by absorption, before a larger mote comes along and drains them enough, sending them careening to their doom. It’s something that makes for a surprisingly great fit with the established gameplay, while adding a whole new dimension to it. The update is live on both the iPhone and iPad versions of the game.

Pocket Heroes Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on July 12th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: LOADS OF POTENTIAL
An asynchronous iOS rpg is definitely a cool idea, but as cool as this attempt at the concept can be it could still do with a bit more polish.
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