Asphalt 8: Airborne, the racing game by Gameloft, has had a lot more high-flying fun packed into the new update.
Now you can race around the new tracks in Dubai in one of five new cars: including the Mercedes-Benz Biome concept car, the Nissan GT-R NISMO, and more. Gameloft has also added a ninth season with 74 new events to keep you speeding along. Asphalt 8: Airborne now also has Twitch streaming for iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and iPad (4th generation).
You can pick up Asphalt 8: Airborne for free on the App Store.
In a gameplay style that harkens back to Pac-Man, Fluid SE by Radiangames is a fast paced, time trial racer. Guide a tiny black fish called Streak as he collects dots and does his best to avoid the specters that chase after him.
Fluid SE offers 40 levels, with 5 levels being unlocked at a time and is compatible with iOS7 game controllers. The game is available in the App Store for $1.99.
Since it’s been something of a non-stop Real Racing 3 party here at 148Apps we wanted to draw things to a close with a bit of style. Which is why we’re going to capitalize on all the spirit of Time Shifted competition and challenge you, our readers, to a race. Specifically the Pure Stock Challenge, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Nissan Silvia (S15) Showcase Cup race pictured above. I think I’ve typed that out correctly. Why this event? Because it requires one of the first cars new players will have access to and doesn’t allow for any other; providing as even and easily accessible a playing field as we could find.
All you have to do is drive your heart out. Snap a screen shot (hit the Power and Home buttons on your iOS device at the same time) of your best time and post it in the comments below along with your Game Center username. We’ll pick random winners from all of the entries and post the results here on Monday (3/4) afternoon.
The prizes? We'll give away three $10 iTunes gift cards to spend how you see fit. Although in the spirit of the contest we’d suggest something like, oh, maybe the Race Car Booster Pack that includes 65 gold and a 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR-X?
Update: We'll contact our three winners via email. Thanks for playing and look for more Real Racing 3 contests coming up soon.
The only thing more daunting than reviewing a game from a significant iOS series is doing so when it’s surrounded by both hype and controversy. It’s probably fairly common knowledge at this point that Real Racing 3 has gone free-to-play, which is where the bulk of the controversy comes from as lots of fans are understandably worried about what such a change could mean for their beloved franchise. It’s also been widely publicized that Firemonkeys has incorporated what they call “Time Shifted Multiplayer” into their new baby, which is something that they feel could change multiplayer mobile games forever. These are both complex issues that warrant some discussion but the important thing to note is that Real Racing 3 is very, very awesome no matter how people might feel about it going free to play.
As the name (and the two previous releases) implies, this is a game about racing. Many of the features found in earlier releases are still around and will feel instantly familiar to veterans and fans: Tilt steering, tapping the screen to brake, automatic driving, tons (46 to start) of licensed vehicles, and showpiece visuals are all present and accounted for. However, even if someone doesn’t like the simplified auto-drive control system there is a wealth of customization options to suit their needs. Steering can be set to a virtual wheel rather than tilting, acceleration can be set to tap-and-hold, and every single assist (steering, braking, etc) can be turned on or off. There are also a wealth of race types available in the 961 included events ranging from cups to eliminations to drag racing to speed records and more. So there’s essentially something for everybody.
Real Racing 3’s spectacular visuals are without a doubt some of the (if not the) most impressive I’ve ever seen in an iOS game. Heck, they rival some console games I’ve played. Cars display damage, paint jobs actually reflect the environment around them including other cars, real world tracks have been painstakingly recreated, and each vehicle's interior has been lovingly reproduced with impressive detail. It’s a shame that the replay feature from the second game hasn’t made its way into this release since everything is so pretty and warrants showing off. However, more than the graphics it’s the sheer volume of content that really impresses me. That initial circuit I mentioned is massive. There are four different cars available to use for most of the events and a myriad of race types to keep things interesting. I’ve unlocked 24 individual events and I’m only 50% done. And it’s only one circuit out of over 25 that are available right now. All told there are 961 races included in this initial release. Running out of stuff to do will be incredibly difficult to say the least.
And that’s without factoring in the Time Shifted Multiplayer (or TSM) that allows players to compete with their friends whenever/wherever by racing against their AI-controlled time shifted double. Sadly the feature isn’t quite as robust as I’d hoped. After some experimentation and discussion both Jeff Scott and I came to the realization that Real Racing 3 uses race times to generate AI controlled doubles that follow almost perfect paths for each race rather than mirroring their human creators’ abilities, race lines, and skill. This means it’s not really like racing against friends at all as the cars don’t do anything other than follow a path at an algorithmically determined speed based on the recorded time and cars used by friends.
The system for notifications and match ups itself is also a little underwhelming at the moment. Knowing my time was beaten in a drag race is nice, but I should be able to jump right to said drag race without digging through menus trying to find it in the first place. I also feel like there should be an option to tap on a friend’s name on the main screen and see what races they’re currently leading in, rather than sifting through menu after menu looking for microscopic avatars. Not having such a feature seems like a huge oversight. With all that said it’s still a lot of fun to jump into a game and beat someone’s time knowing that they’re about to receive a notification that they’ve just been “served.”
Another hot button issue, as I’ve previously mentioned, is the freemium model. Rather than create a paywall or punish frugal iOS gamers, Firemonkeys has created a much friendlier model in theory that ties all real time waiting and premium currency to maintenance and repairs. Well, with the exception of custom paint jobs, final part upgrades, and two cars, anyway. The way it all works is that cars suffer wear and tear as they race, along with occasional body damage when things get rough. Replacing a bumper or windshield costs a little in app currency (referred to as “R$”), but it’s never so much as to offset anything earned from the race that caused the damage in the first place.
Maintenance, on the other hand, takes time. Replacing the oil - which is probably the most common task - takes five minutes, working on the engine takes about 30, and so on. Gold coins (premium currency) can be spent to speed up the process but it’s best to simply wait it out and save those coins for upgrades or new cars. Of course once players have two or more vehicles in their garage the wait for repairs is practically negligible since they can simply hop in the Challenger while the Shelby is in the shop. Once 4 or so are in the garage there will likely always be a race to run as one car should always be repaired and ready. Just be careful when starting an event because cars currently undergoing repairs will still appear in their respective challenges with the "Race" button replaced with a "Repair" button that will automatically use gold coins to instantly finish the work. I've wasted a good many gold coins this way and really wish there was at least a secondary confirmation screen (like there is for everything else) that popped up before I inadvertently wasted my precious premium currency.
In a strange way, both of Real Racing 3’s major talking points didn’t quite pan out as expected or feared. The Time Shifted Multiplayer isn’t quite as ground-breaking as I was hoping it would be and still needs some work when it comes to the social elements, but it’s still decent fun and a good way to fan the flames of competition. Conversely the free-to-play model I’d been fearing would completely ruin the experience or even stonewall my enjoyment after a certain point turned out to be surprisingly unobtrusive and easy to work around. But ultimately neither of those things is important. What is important is that Real Racing 3 is just really darn fun to play and spectacularly gorgeous. Which is all I ever really wanted from it in the first place.
Very odd for a release time, but Speed Kills has been released today. It's a great looking combat racer built with the Unreal Engine. It reminds me a lot of Death Rally, let's hope it's as good as that. It's free, download it now and give it a try. Let us know what you think.
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.