iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
The award-winning, turn-based, simultaneous tactical game that is Frozen Synapse is now available for the iPhone.
The game boasts a bunch of interesting features that mimic the desktop experiences. Players get turn-based gameplay, single and multiplayer scenarios, social networking integration, Youtube video export, email notifications, an electronica soundtrack, and more - now in a convenient travel size.
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.
On this edition, Carter takes on Michael Bean of Pixelocity Software at the classic turn-based racing game, Disc Drivin'. Squaring off on one of the game's new mirrored tracks, the victory condition is simple: whoever crosses the finish line first wins. Game on, gentlemen!
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.
“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.
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.