On our latest Twitch stream, we’ll be playing a pair of minimalist arcade games, one that just got a big content update in Pivvot, and another that was inspired by it in 15 Coins. Whitaker Trebella, creator of Pivvot, will discuss the new modes added to the game and the challenges of designing them. As well, Engaging Games’ Blake Johnson will discuss his studio’s own 15 Coins, and how games like Pivvot helped inspire it.
Watch the embedded stream below when it goes live at 7:15 PM CDT or click here to watch on Twitch and chat with the developers. Highlights will be available after the show.
The week is almost over, and the holidays are that much closer, but those gifts won’t find/buy/wrap/give themselves now will they? Thankfully there are people like us putting together handy-dandy holiday shopping guides for you! Whether you’re looking for new hardware and accessories, or just something a bit less impersonal than an iTunes gift card, we’ve got you covered.
Today’s guide centers around iOS gamers. These are the folks who love their portable games and spend most of their morning commute matching pieces of candy or fighting immortal titans. If you’d like to make the gamer(s) in your life have an overall more pleasant and convenient gaming experience, or simply get them some really cool stuff to play, check out our list below for some ideas.
MOGA Ace Power Gamepad
The MOGA Ace Power Gamepad ($99 – iPhone/iPod Touch) has several distinct advantages over the other controllers in this list: it’s collapsible so it’s easy to carry while still acting as an extension of the iOS device, it’s the first official MFi gamepad for iOS devices, it uses dual analog sticks in addition to buttons and a D-pad, and it comes with its own battery that will help to extend the amount of time iOS gamers can play things while away from home – or at least a charger. The noticeable downsides are that it’s rather heavy thanks to the internal battery, and it doesn’t support portrait orientation. [Our Review]
While you’re considering the MOGA Ace Power Gamepad, you should probably also think about software to go with it. I’d recommend Oceanhorn ($8.99 – Universal), Dead Trigger 2 (Free – Universal), and Silverfish ($1.99 – iPhone) since all three are not only good games in their own right but also confirmed to be compatible. I’m sure there are plenty of other games out there that will work with it as well, but if you’re trying to put some sort of package together it would probably be best to stick with what you know will work.
MOTO TC Rally
There’s also the option to mix things up and use and iOS device as the controller for something else, rather than attaching a physical controller to it – hence the MOTO TC Rally ($99 – iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch). This is more than just a RC car with an iOS controller: the free app used to control it adds quite a few gaming elements to the physical racing. Users can race their friends and cause virtual damage -that actually affects performance- through special impact sensors, use power-ups, customize their car’s performance and more.
LEGO Mindstorms EV3
The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit ($349 – iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) is another great option for those looking to venture a little off the beaten path. I mean it lets users basically build whatever the want, then control it with their iPhone or iPad. How cool is that? It’s got the universal LEGO appeal, the remote control angle, and taps into those creative juices for potentially limitless amounts of fun. [Our Review]
iKit NuCharge Battery Case for iPhone 5
The iKit NuCharge Battery Case ($89 – iPhone) is certainly something to consider for the iPhone 5 or 5s gamers in your life. The lightweight case doesn’t block any ports, and it allows users to recharge their phone on the go. Perfect for lengthy trips or holiday visits with relatives where someone (not naming any names here) inevitably forgets to bring their charging cable. [Our Review]
What games go best with a phone-charging battery case? Battery hogs. There are a fair number of them out there and they can usually be picked out by their super-pretty graphics. A couple of great-looking (and just plain great) games you might want to consider are Warhammer Quest ($4.99 – Universal) and, of course, Infinity Blade III ($6.99 – Universal). However, XCOM: Enemy Unknown ($19.99 – Universal) is by far the biggest battery-muncher and would definitely benefit from something like the iKit NuCharge case.
Mophie Juice Pack Pro
The Mophie Juice Pack Pro ($129 – iPhone) may not be the most elegant-looking case, but what it lacks in style it makes up for in functionality. This is one very durable charging case that will keep batteries going longer and protect the phone from minor splash, dust, and more serious impact hazards. It’s a good fit for camping trips or gamers who are particularly brutal with their devices. [Our Review]
The Mophie Juice Pack is another charging case, sure, but it’s also quite durable. So it should be able to stand up to a little punishment when you toss your phone across the room after a particularly rough game of Tilt to Live 2 ($2.99 – Universal) or Pivvot ($2.99 – Universal), and will let World War II turn-based airplane strategy buffs like our own Andrew Stevens keep playing Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies ($4.99 – Universal) through just about any harsh weather conditions.
Ultimate Ears Mini Boom
Doubtless we all know at least one audiophile, and the Ultimate Ears Mini Boom speaker ($99 – iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) is definitely something to consider for them. It’s easy to connect to any device via bluetooth, is durable, a good size for travel, and produces some impressive sounds even by itself. It’s a great way to enhance anyone’s iOS gaming experience. [Our Review]
Of course if you’re looking to get some nice speakers, you may want a game or two to go with it that put the enhanced sound to good use. I’d recommend The Last Door – Chapter 2: Memories ($1.99 – iPad) for those who love a good scare as it’s a ridiculously creepy game without any audio enhancement whatsoever, so you can imagine what some high-quality speakers will do to it. Home ($2.99 – Universal) is another excellent choice for the same reason. LEGO Lord of the Rings ($4.99 – Universal) is another good option because, come on, who doesn’t want to hear that epic score and the official movie dialogue on something more substantial than their iPhone/iPad speaker?
Feel free to peruse our Editor’s Choice selections for more top-rated game ideas.
I have a reputation for being able to go toe-to-toe with developers at their own games, beating their best times and high scores. This is Carter vs. the Developer.
This episode does things a little backwards. It turns out Whitaker Trebella, creator of Pivvot, isn’t the best at Berserk mode in his own game. I have a higher time than he does! So, after trying to beat his score on video almost instantaneously, we decided to flip the script. Trebella takes the helm and tries to beat my record time in what should be rightfully called Developer vs. the Carter.
The furor over two new iPhones and the release of iOS 7 may have passed, but that doesn’t stop the oncoming wave of new apps. If you want to know what’s worth your time and what’s not, just look to the expert app reviewers at 148Apps. And if you want more app reviews than you can shake a stick at, be sure to hit our Reviews Archive.
Big Brain Master is a pure puzzle game that tells a story whilst engaging the player in some enjoyable and challenging puzzles. A new and artful take on “mind” games, it’s simple and entertaining approach manages to keep players guessing without being too complex. The art style is highly detailed, with a nice, clean, and simple graphical outlook, and the puzzles are presented in an interesting format which gives it an interesting and refreshing feel whilst playing. Navigating the user interface is nice and straightforward, and the design layout is linear enough to not overcomplicate by looking too clunky or crowded. Each of the 250+ levels are divided up into seven puzzle styles that are each distinctive from the last. Although this might seem refreshing enough to most players, I personally feel that perhaps having less levels per style and more of a variety of puzzle styles would have made it slightly less repetitive, as after a while gameplay seemed to become a little tiresome and I felt like I was just repeating actions that had already become less of a challenge. –Lucy Ingram
NimbleBit has a clear formula with their bitizen-featuring simulation games, one that repeats with the third such title, Pocket Trains. They’re games that are fueled not so much by challenge, but by keeping the player interested in propelling the machine forward and not punishing them for playing the game – like so many other free-to-play simulations are wont to do. It’s why I find myself falling into the same pit with Pocket Trains where I check it regularly for weeks on end, the same as I did with Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes. This feels almost like a remix of Pocket Planes that’s been simplified a lot. Where that game had some complexity due to the free-form nature of air travel,Pocket Trains is forced to be simpler because of the fixed nature of rail lines. Only one train can own a segment between two cities, though of course multiple train lines can travel through cities on intersecting lines. The paths are thus largely pre-defined and there’s now no monetary cost for traveling to a city, only a fuel gauge that refills when a train is idling or when the player pays a couple bux to refill it. –Carter Dotson
Trouserheart is an ideal game for the mobile format. It’s the kind of thing that can be jumped into for five or ten minute sessions, while still actually achieving something in that short space of time. In the vein of games such as Diablo and Torchlight, Trouserheart is a hack-n-slasher that’s very simple to learn. Using a virtual d-pad and one sole button to attack with, it takes seconds to master. What takes a little longer is learning to dodge enemies by moving around them quickly. It’s still all pretty simple stuff, though. Vibrantly animated, Trouserheart also maintains a charming and humorous take on events, right down to the player’s quest to rescue one’s trousers. Yes, really. –Jennifer Allen
I’d admittedly never heard of the original Chainsaw Warrior tabletop game from the late 80s, but that’s probably due to a combination of me not being all that into board games back then and also being six years old. Regardless, the player-versus-game gore fest has made its way to iOS. And it is ridiculously awesome. Chainsaw Warrior is essentially every action movie in the 80s turned into a dice-rolling game. A dimensional rift has opened up, resulting in New York being overrun by horrible mutants and other monstrosities, with a shapeless dark being running the show. In about one hour’s time the rift will open further and swallow the entire city. So it’s up to the titular hero to wade through hordes of terrible monsters in a desperate attempt to reach the Darkness and put a stop to the otherworldly assault. They’ll have to fight through a deck of over 50 cards just to reach a second, which is the only place where the Darkness will appear. Dying happens a lot. –Rob Rich
Wombi Math is a cute and fun app that will encourage grade school children to work on their math skills. Set in a charming urban landscape, a brick wall is used as the backdrop for different math equations and their answers to be displayed – be it with the possible use of addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Tap on an equation as well as the matching answer to clear the board. I admire how simple it is for parents to adjust the math questions used for the abilities of a specific child as well as how the questions and answers are represented – be it in uniform block boxes or more colorful and sometimes geometric shapes. One can also scroll through a few related brick walls that include each function, whether mixed, addition, subtraction, or division – each with a nice, different use of color yet maintaining an intentionally sparse background, keeping the focus on the math. –Amy Solomon
Other 148Apps Network Sites
If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:
Outdoor survival, nicely-rendered 2D graphs with whimsical monsters and… wait for it… zombies? People: Terraria is here! The gameplay takes familiar survival staples and rolls them into a fairly complex system involving manipulation, combination and strategy. The tutorial underlines the basic stuff quite well; the first grand explains how to use the left-set control to move on either direction, as well as how to jump, scale downward… and instinctive movements, like directing jumps in either aerial direction are logical. The tutorial goes on to walk through collection of materials, protection, creations and dangers. –Tre Lawrence
Porches. Lamborghinis McLarens. All infinitely cool, but I dare anyone to show me a guy who hasn’t wanted to rock a tank at least once. Go ahead. I’ll wait. For folks who can’t or won’t do a 4-year bid just to do some infantry driving, Tanktastic is a relatively safe alternative that brings team combat, tactics and good old speed of accurate firing to bear. Jumping into a random group battle mostly describes the gameplay in all its muscled glory. The task is dropped into a terrain with different types of structured obstacles, and several other manned tanks. It’s a shameless free for all that measures speed, accuracy and cunning. The controls are straightforward, and encourage quick movement and shooting; I felt most comfortable with dual thumb controls. –Tre Lawrence
Pivvot is nothing if not eye-catching. Its stark graphics and simple gameplay demand attention. But how does it play? Pivvot’s concept is as simple as it gets. You control a rotating circle that moves along a line. As you move along you’ll see obstacles you need to avoid, lest you crash into them and die. To do so you use very simple two finger controls that rotate your intrepid circle left or right. While this sounds like an incredibly simple concept, in practice it is extremely challenging. The game starts off simple with easily avoided obstacles such as spikes that only take up one side of the course, but quickly adds in much harder ones that require exact positioning, like lines of small walls that move constantly. –Allan Curtis
And finally, this week Pocket Gamer demystified iOS 7 controllers, picked out the perfect games to show off your new iPhone 5S, reviewed hot new App Store games like Boson X and Trouserheart, and showed off this week’s iOS games in video show What’s New? See it all in PG’s weekly wrap up.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on September 12th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Pivvot, the strategic game that tests your quickness, goes free for a limited time only. In our review, Carter Dotson said, “Pivvot is a game of strategic avoidance that takes the frantic challenge of Super Hexagon and makes it just a bit more cerebral.”
Whitaker Trebella, now operating under the company name of Fixpoint Productions for his game and music work, is releasing his second full-fledged game, Pivvot. The development of the game was quite like how it plays: a long and winding path that was fraught with obstacles, but with success waiting at the end.
It makes sense because he definitely doesn’t take the easy path through life: he’s a music teacher who also does music for a wide variety of iOS games, becoming one of the most prominent composers on the platform. He was self-started, too – music submissions for Tilt to Live eventually turned into greater attention and more work to start making music for games. Then, he decided to learn how to program in order to make his own games, and he created Polymer, which didn’t make him rich but made significant income for him, was extremely successful for a first release, and was a critical success to boot. He even got married to the love of his life, changing his last name from Blackall to Trebella, a combination combined from his and his wife Dana’s last names. So, what comes next?
That was the one thing he just couldn’t figure out.
A screenshot from the final version of Pivvot. It took a while to get to this point, though.
Trebella says that “I struggled for quite awhile with what kind of game I would like to make next. I probably had at least 20 totally different ideas running around in my head, fighting for attention. I sketched out a bunch on paper, prototyped a few on the device, and showed various people a couple of the ideas I had. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do for a long time after releasing Polymer.”
There was one idea that he worked sporadically on at the time, he just never felt all that motivated to work on it because he was struggling to make it work. A talk that Rami Ismail gave, one that wound up influencing fellow Chicago developers such as Dan FitzGerald and Lisa Bromeil of Dog Sled Saga, only helped to sway him toward ditching his idea when he got up to ask about it. His question about whether he should keep pushing with his idea (one he still might pursue in the future) was long-winded, and not exuding much confidence that the idea had a future. “I thought it had potential but it just never struck me. I never had that drive to finish it that I had with Polymer. And because it was a complex idea, it wasn’t even fun to play in the early stages. Eventually, I just scrapped it altogether.”
So it was back to the drawing board. After scrapping his original idea for his second game, he says “I started making a bunch of prototypes. Out of the many prototypes, I decided on one that eventually led to the creation of Pivvot.”
A screen from an early version of the game.
Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon “very much so” influenced Pivvot during its creation. “I just really love the simplistic nature of Super Hexagon‘s gameplay. While it is a VERY hard game, it is VERY easy to understand what to do and how to do it. I wanted to get that same sort of feeling with Pivvot. Someone said to me recently that they enjoyed Pivvot because they knew what to do right away without even playing it. It’s back-to-basics gameplay. I was tempted a number of times to add bells and whistles but I kept thinking back to how awesome Super Hexagon is and how it focuses strictly on that one fun mechanic.” He even has talked to Terry Cavanagh and says “He seemed to think the idea was cool!” when he showed a version of the game to him a couple of months ago.
But curiously, it was also the core technology at work with Pivvot that helped convince him that this was the right idea.”I’m working in Unity with the Futile framework. It took me a long time to really understand how to make cool-looking shapes and objects in Futile. Once I figured that out though, it opened up a ton of options. I was able to create cool-looking obstacles, and maybe even more importantly, I was able to create the winding, pulsating path that is the centerpiece of Pivvot‘s gameplay. Once I had a winding path with some obstacles and some basic collision detection, I was able to play the game and actually have fun.”
“Once I was having fun with the prototype, I knew it had potential.”
He felt like he had nailed the core idea of pivoting around a point traveling along a winding path avoiding obstacles all the while, but making it fun was the biggest challenge. “It took an incredible amount of playtesting on my end. I would create an obstacle, then play the game over and over and over with just that obstacle until I either felt really happy with it or found something that annoyed me about it. For example, if I kept dying on one specific part of an obstacle and it started to feel unfair, I would make that part a bit easier; if a certain part of an obstacle pattern was just way too easy, I would tweak it to make it harder; if an obstacle played well but just didn’t look very cool, I would think about how to make it look better.”
Everything with the game’s art is actually generated through code. Pivvot has a very minimalistic look, consisting mostly of lines and geometric shapes. This wasn’t always the case, though: “the obstacles used to have outlines and other details on them. At first, I thought it looked very cool, but the more I played it, the more I realized the extra details really distracted from the minimalistic look of the game. Having said that, I needed to make sure it looked ‘artfully minimalistic’ rather than just ‘flat.’ ” Continue reading Whitaker Trebella’s Long Voyage to Completing His Second Game, Pivvot »