Wind-Up Knight 2 from Robot Invader is nearing release, and we’ll be streaming a preview build with the developers this afternoon. We’ll be showing off the game and some of the new things that players can expect to see – and viewers can join up in the Twitch chat to get their burning questions answered. Sadly, we don’t have a DDR pad available to play the game with.
Tonight, Crescent Moon Games releases their Metroidvania-meets-Minecraft adventure game, Mines of Mars. Featuring procedurally-generated 2D worlds, players must dig through Mars to try and discover the secrets beneath it. Josh Presseisen, founder of Crescent Moon Games, joined me on 148Apps Live on Twitch to discuss the game’s origins, how Crescent Moon’s publishing helped shape the title into something radically different from a year ago, and how PC gamers approach titles in totally different ways from mobile gamers.
Catch the recorded broadcast below. (Pardon our dust -footage may be choppy due to technical issues)
We’re getting the 148Apps Live train started back up in a big way this week! At 4:00pm EST (3:00pm CST, 1:00pm CST, 9:00pm GMT), Kepa Auwae of Rocketcat Games will join 148Apps on Twitch to chat up Wayward Souls – formerly known as Wayward Saga, and as the spiritual successor to Mage Gauntlet. We’ll run through a fresh build of the upcoming game, and chat about what’s gone into the development of the game. And of course, you can ask your questions as well in the Twitch chat.
Threes is kind of a hard game to explain in words, and it’s even harder to explain why it’s a game worth playing in words. However, with its pedigree – from creators Asher Vollmer (Puzzlejuice) and Greg Wohlwend (Solipskier, Hundreds, Ridiculous Fishing) – and some pre-release hype thanks to an a mention as IGF honorable mention, and just general ‘buzz’ around the game from those in the indie community and in the know, it looks promising. But for those who aren’t in the know, just why Threes is so anticipated is still a mystery.
Greg and Asher got on the 148Apps Twitch channel to discuss the game, how the idea and design evolved over time, and just where the game’s great voices (unfortunately not heard on the video due to a bug) came from. Plus, they give plenty of great tips and help on the way to setting a new high score.
Watch the entire archived broadcast:
As well, watch the highlight of the high score run from the video:
Castaway Paradise was first mentioned to me as Animal Crossing but for iPhone, though I played the iPad version because I’m a rebel. And really, that just about nails it on the head – except Stolen Couch Games have done what Nintendo has yet to do, and that is make it free-to-play. Castaway Paradise is currently soft-launched in the tropical paradise of Canada, and I take it for a spin in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Players control a person who washes up on shore, and finds themselves in a land of fellow castaways who washed up on shore. However, no one really seems to be all that set on getting home – there’s an entire village that’s popped up, even with a mail delivery boat! So, the player is made to build a new life here, because who knows; maybe this is all the dream of the Wind Fish and leaving would be disastrous.
So players then just do tasks for the various residents, like building fences and harvesting crops. The early missions are structured to introduce players to the things they need to know to live their island experience and to see more of the village. Menial tasks to earn currency to buy more supplies and customizations is the name of the game here.
Players have the ability to customize the look of their dwelling and of their character, but the intro to the game provides one moment regarding this that needs to change. See, the game starts off with the player being just a walking glob of seaweed washed ashore, immediately forced to do chores by Viktoria, one of the villagers. Then, for some reason, she asks which binary gender the player is. This choice is the sole determining factor in how the player first appears: typically male or female.
This is incongruent with the customization options provided, because male characters can wear dresses and traditionally feminine hairstyles without anyone saying anything about it. The character’s gender doesn’t seem to play much of a role, so why is it the very first thing that players are asked to choose as far as customization goes? Why not instead let players determine their initial design based on how they want to look from a set of basic customizations, and make gender an entirely irrelevant factor in how the player wishes to present themselves in this world?
While the free-to-play elements perhaps take away some of the innocence of Animal Crossing, where everything must be earned, there’s also no Mr. Resetti here – so, win some lose some. Time will tell if this is successful, or if this is the Pepsi to Animal Crossing‘s Coke – or if it’s just store-brand cola.
Ido Yeheli’s Cardinal Questwas notable for not just being a fast-paced Roguelike, but also for having made more money than, well, Rogue, the progenitor of the Roguelike genre. After a failed Indiegogo campaign, the sequel, Cardinal Quest 2, nonetheless lives a year and a half later. There’s a mobile version being published by Kongregate, and it’s currently soft launched in Canada. So, we prepared to live only once and set off for adventure in this edition of It Came From Canada.
This is a turn-based Roguelike; meaning that players move their character one tile at a time, with enemies moving as well. The original game was posited as being more fast-paced than the standard Roguelike would be, and even in the sequel it feels a lot more combat-oriented with enemy encounters occurring frequently, even after starting. Players can use skills that they can find laying about to help turn the tides, collecting gold to spend on items at the scavenger when they’re about, and just generally trying to survive in an unpredictable environment. Of course, being a Roguelike, it’s procedurally generated. So while an overarching scenario will use similar elements, the level layouts, ability pickups, enemy placements, and just about everything else is different every time.
Interestingly, the game is going for a free-to-play model this time, and is doing so by making characters and permanent stat modifiers before the start of a game un-lockable through Morale, which is earned by completing achievements at the end of a run or by being purchased. Thus, those who want to play as a class besides the default fighter class will need to pony up right away. Otherwise, this does feel a lot different from how other free-to-play games monetize. Likewise, another Kongregate-published title, Endless Boss Fight, had a two-currency system but also was rather generous about that second one. Here, the free-to-play aspects are almost entirely structural – once in-game, they don’t play much of a role.
The game is a bit unstable at the moment, at least on the iPad Mini Retina while recording – the game crashed during the middle of levels at least twice, so there’s definite issues to sort out technically, but that’s why this isn’t a global launch yet, eh? How well this business model will perform has yet to be seen as well. Still, Cardinal Quest 2 could prove to be a rather interesting take on not just free-to-play, but the Roguelike genre as a whole.
Codemasters is the developer of numerous Formula 1 games, but what they’re looking to put out on mobile with F1 Race Stars is something of an entirely different beast. Currently soft-launched in Singapore, even it couldn’t escape the clutches of 148Apps’ global reach. This is It Came From Canada: Singapore Edition!
F1 games are usually known for being intense simulations, but if F1 Race Stars is real, I need to pay more attention to F1. In reality, this is a kart racer, one very similar to the recent Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed in style and in gameplay: there’s of course power-ups to use for boosts and taking out other racers, but there’s also a heavy emphasis on drifting to develop a turbo meter. Maintain drifts for a long amount of time and longer boosts can be had. Catching airtime will also increase the drift meter. Each game has a very similar heart.
While Danica Patrick in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was a very strange addition, having this be an F1 game means that actual racers, none of whom I have any knowledge of because I’m an American and we prefer stock cars to drift leftward, are playable. Each driver has their own Sessions energy bar that depletes with each race, so like Angry Birds Go, switching racers can be used to extend play sessions.
As I use an HDMI output device to capture game footage, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the game is TV-ready: it supports widescreen output on TVs, and the game’s controls are built to not require looking at the screen in order to play. TV support is something of a lost feature, and I’m interested to see it added in here. There’s real-time multiplayer available as well, but just as a local mode, not online.
While there’s the standard two-tier currency system – with coins used to buy boosts, and gems for more permanent features like perks and new driver unlocks – there’s one particular way that coins are used that is interesting. See, there are coin gates while racing that grant power-ups right away. These naturally grant an advantage that costs currency, but it’s also possible to accidentally trigger them. Then again, boosts are what the coins are there for. Still, seeing this as a potentially-accidental feature is odd.
F1 Race Stars feels very polished, like it’s just undergoing monetization testing to see if the business model is working, along with the last checks before they’re ready to race around the world. Whether this kart racer can stand out among the others out there will be seen when it rolls out worldwide.
Toy Rush is really an amalgamation of many different games. It’s tower defense meets Clash of Clans in the middle of a card game. See, the goal is to be the top toy rusher in the world. To do that, it requires being able to mount assaults on other toy bases while having a formidable base of one’s own. Players call in their attack units from a path at the top of the screen, and if they make it past the entrenched turrets their units attack the enemy base and collect their tickets, which are used to buy new attack units. Destroying the base entirely nets bonus rewards as well.
The rub is that the units are all disposable cards. Playing a card summons that unit, and unless it’s the hero card that recharges over time, it’s gone forever. Cards regulate the entirety of the game: cards are used to summon all sorts of units, but also for base upgrades. Players can customize the tower path of their base and lay down new defenses using cards. Buildings can be upgraded or sped up using cards.
In order to buy new cards, one of two currencies is necessary. Tickets can be collected from enemy bases and manufactured on the base, and these are used primarily to buy new attack card packs. Bottle caps are less frequent, usually earned for completing missions and as rewards for completely destroying a base, and are used to buy defense cards; including speed-ups and building upgrade cards. The tickets being rechargeable means that getting decent sets of attack cards is often just a matter of time, at least in the early game. It’s a fairly interesting currency system, and I’d be interested to see how it evolves over time.
Toy Rush features both a single-player campaign against computerized opponents, and the ability to attack random players for their loot and for pride. It’s possible to join guilds as well. All-in-all, it’s a mix of familiar elements, but in an interesting package. No real clue when this one could be coming out – it could be days, weeks, or months. Still, in a crowded free-to-play market, this game has some interesting elements to it.
For years, Ubisoft and RedLynx have taunted mobile gamers with physics-based racers that have been sorta similar to the acclaimed Trials series on console and PC, but not quite the same. But now there’s a mobile Trials game in Trials Frontier. Designed as a free-to-play game, it’s currently undergoing a soft launch in Canada. So I strapped on my helmet, revved up my motorbike’s engine, and prepared to defy death for this edition of It Came From Canada!
Trials Frontier does not dawdle. Tired of games that keep away from the action for too long? So is this game. Trials Frontier gets players going right from the initial launch, eschewing even a title screen, as it sends players through a few levels and introduces the story’s antagonist, Butch, that players (as the anonymous Rider) must race against because Butch is a huge jerk. Like, he almost kills the Rider in a rock cave-in. That’s good enough motivation to help the people of the dusty village, as they too have been terrorized by Butch. Help them by riding a motorbike through various levels, completing different objectives like performing a certain number of backflips to impress a fan, and earn rewards to upgrade and buy new bikes.
Yes, there is a two-tiered currency here: coins earned for doing well and performing stunts, which can be used to buy bikes, and gems, which can be bought or earned and are used to skip upgrade wait timers and buy certain upgrade items without getting them as a reward for completing levels. Discovery of new levels is mission-based, though any level can be repeated at any point.
There is an energy mechanic, but it largely regulates the initial playing of levels, not restarting them while in the level. So yes, restart to your heart’s content, even complete a level. On the final screen where it shows the postcard with the final time and crashes, just hit the restart button again. This isn’t necessarily a way to grind for coins while cheating the energy system, but it is a way to repeat levels to get better times and better medals without having to use energy, necessarily. It’s easy to be critical of energy systems, but this seems to be an implementation that doesn’t get too much in the way of actually playing the game. As well, gems can be earned through in-game actions and as end of race rewards, so a relative free-to-play fairness, without impeding the core game too much, seems to be the order of the day here.
With this game soft-launching so close to Christmas, I almost wonder if this is an emergency test of the monetization just to make sure that everything is hunky-dory before a likely launch before the holiday iTunes freeze. So for non-Canadians and non-“Canadians”, this one might be in the hands of the general public sooner than later.
Assassin’s Creed Pirates is not the Assassin’s Creed game you’d expected to come to mobile, as it’s more of a straight-up pirate adventure with boats than any kind of character-based action game. Of course, the recent console release kind of took its own path by shifting to a piracy theme, and the mobile game goes whole hog into the concept. Players take command of their own pirate ship, starting off with a small schooner but eventually make their way to becoming a pirate king while wreaking havoc all over the Caribbean.
Gameplay consists of several different phases: there’s a top-down navigation mode, where players can sail around looking for treasure and to take on other captains on the high seas. It’s possible to go into a 3D view of the action, and is necessary for some events, to try and chase down other ships. Then there’s combat, which involves trading cannon volleys, trying to dodge enemy attacks, and exploit their weaknesses.
The connection to the traditions of Assassin’s Creed seems tenuous at best, at least initially: there’s the famous iconography of the series but Edward Kenway, the protagonist of the console game, isn’t anywhere to be seen – at least early on. This is an entirely separate experience, though the game certainly could link up to AC4’s narrative at some point later on (I won’t give away any secrets). In reality, it gives off the appearance of trying to fit in thematically with the game, but in my playing of it, it seems to stand up well on its own.
As a whole, it gives off the vibe of being like Infinity Blade in a fleeting sense. A large part of it is the combat being based off of dodging enemy attacks, and then delivering timing and precision-based weapon strikes from one’s boat back at the enemy – or enemies! The ability to level up and get upgrades for the boat and crew feels like a familiar aspect too, but that’s true of most any iOS game nowadays. But really, it feels like the developers paid attention to making a game in the same sort of vein – of exploring and becoming stronger – but decided to use the concept to fit in with what the piratical theme.
Assassin’s Creed Pirates releases on iOS on December 5, and even for people who aren’t too exposed to the series this shows some promise as a high-seas adventure.
Rovio’s taking the Angry Birds out of the air and into… cars? Yes, it’s time for Rovio’s famous characters to make the natural leap for any popular character – star in a kart-racing game – with Angry Birds Go. While conceptually it makes perhaps a bit more sense than, say, Sonic the Hedgehog as the birds have generally needed the help of mechanical contraptions to get anywhere in the past, it’s still a bit silly on paper. However, what’s not silly business is that this is Rovio’s first free-to-play launch of an Angry Birds game, as this has been soft-launched in New Zealand ahead of a global launch. So, I take Angry Birds Go for a spin in this edition of It Came From New Zealand!
The racing has been tremendously simplified to where players really only need to concern themselves with steering, not even needing to brake, much less accelerate. Each racer has a special ability that helps them get to the finish line before their opponents, such as a floating bubble or a speed boost. Prepare to grind and become familiar with the game’s tracks. Each track has a variety of events to play on it, such as races, time trials, and a fruit smashing mode where points are earned for running into fruit strewn across the track. There goes the idea for a Fruit Ninja kart racing game, eh? Each event has a certain performance minimum, forcing players to upgrade and buy new cars.
The game steadily introduces the ways in which it intends on making money. First, there’s coins for upgrades. Then there are gems for boosts, though these can be collected in the game itself. There are IAP for better cars, including some rather expensive prices for the best ones. It’s possible to use Telepods to unlock cars, too. There’s an energy system where different racers must be used as their energies run low. Each racer has a different special ability, though the car stats remain the same.
Angry Birds Go feels like a highly-polished product right now, and it’s likely that how the game monetizes is what’s under major scrutiny here as it should be out in a couple of weeks. Just how free it is will take some time to see – and this game succeeding or failing could have a big impact on Rovio’s future releases as well. This should be an interesting one to keep an eye on.
Supercell has made an absolute killing over the past year with two colossal hits in Hay Day and Clash of Clans. The latter particularly has been a rather successful and influential game, spawning countless imitators but only in style, not in success: the game has duked it out with Candy Crush Saga for number one on the top grossing charts. But now, Supercell is ready to land on the beaches of the future with their latest game, Boom Beach. It’s currently seeing a soft launch in Canada, so we got on our boots and readied a dispatch on Supercell’s latest in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Boom Beach, like many other games including Clash of Clans, has two phases: building and combat. Building involves, well, building out a base. It’s very similar to other free-to-play building games: build resource stockades, material harvesters, and other handy buildings all set to wait timers that can be skipped with secondary currency. However, the interesting part begins with the combat.
The combat gameplay has players choosing which troops they want to launch onto the invading beach, with units like heavies able to withstand lots of blows on the front line while troopers hide safely behind them. From there on out the battles take place mostly automatically, but players can call in artillery strikes to help take out certain buildings so it’s not an entirely passive experience. Players spend gold to help uncover new parts of the world to go and attack – starting with CPU encounters before eventually getting to face other players by upgrading the radar to a higher level. Still, this is a strictly-solo affair for the early days of play.
It’s all a very familiar formula, but it’s one that’s certainly deeper than the average free-to-play game. It’ll be interesting to see how this one pans out in the coming weeks as it ramps up to a worldwide launch, and if long-term it winds up being much different from Clash of Clans. Still, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and Supercell is hardly going broke with their formula.
Heroes of Dragon Age sees EA taking the deep backstory of the Dragon Age series that BioWare helped to create and allowing players to create armies of characters throughout the series’ history, taking part in famous battles throughout the mythology. It’s a free-to-play game currently in testing in Canada, and we’re featuring impressions and a video of it in this latest edition of It Came From Canada!
All the combat is automatic, with players having no real say in what happens: just sit back and watch as everyone takes turns fighting. Players set up their lineup of fighters and then hope that they are advantageous in battle. Although there are strategy elements: using an army of the same type of character will give everyone a boost, and upgrading a character by consuming other ones can help turn even a poor fighter into someone who might help win some battles.
Yes, consuming other characters. Getting new characters is done through a card system, and consuming unused characters (really just a card system without much of the card metaphor) can upgrade a character’s stats. It’s kind of disturbing when it’s characters consuming other characters.
There’s an asynchronous battle element, too. Players can take on other players, or at least their current army, to get rewards. Of course there’s the lengthy campaign to take on as well, which takes players through various challenges with the ability to repeat them to get additional rewards, including premium currency. There’s energy systems for both multiplayer challenges and the singleplayer campaign.
Interestingly, for those who haven’t had much experience with the franchise the game’s language and characters are virtually indistinguishable from a brand new intellectual property, so don’t think that there’s a need to be previously exposed to the franchise to enjoy this one. The type of automatic combat is seemingly meant for a more casual, laid-back experience: it’s something seen in other mobile MMORPG type games as well.
Heroes of Dragon Age does have a high learning curve early on, though – there’s a lengthy tutorial section, which I explore in the video below. If all goes well this should be available internationally very soon, but soft launches are an art, not a science!
discuss Chuck’s Challenge 3D, why the game came out on Android before iOS, the challenges and benefits of developing on one platform versus another, the difference between games that are critical successes and financial successes, and the future of the industry – including if the industry may crash again in the future.
Making a first-person shooter with zombies is a safe bet for a game concept, and if Dead Trigger 2 promised to just be more of the same there’s certainly the possibility that it could do just as well as the original. After all, it has zombies and the series’ creator Madfinger is known for its gorgeous-looking games. But Marek Rabas, Co-Founder of Madfinger, says that for Dead Trigger 2, visuals were not the focus. “We didn’t focus on improving graphics quality this time around, instead, our main focus was on gameplay and other aspects of the game.”
This is the first thing that is apparent when playing Dead Trigger 2, perhaps after the still-impressive visuals: it’s a much better experience.
The core concept remains the same: players trying to survive an onslaught of the zombie apocalypse. But something just feels different. Early on, it’s a much more engaging experience. Rabas says “we have changed and enhanced [the] core gameplay. We are monitoring combat intensity and allowing gameplay to adapt to it. We have added bosses in the game and players have to change their behavior in the game when they spawn.” These include enemies like the Vomitron and Kamikaze, powerful enemies that require the player’s full attention as they can kill quickly.
The story missions feature more of a narrative backbone: there’s rudimentary interaction with other characters such as an escort mission early on, albeit with a character who knows how to handle his gun. They’re little things, but they make the game feel less like a soulless collection of missions and more like a game with actual progression. There’s still the assortment of side missions with their own challenges, but the main story mode should be more motivating.
The controls show great promise as well. It’s a version of the dual virtual stick control scheme, but set up with just swiping to move and to aim. Most importantly, aiming is incredibly accurate with the touchscreen to where I had no complaints early on. It’s a Halloween miracle!
Of course, with Apple’s MFi gamepad protocol on the horizon Dead Trigger 2 would be a natural fit. Madfinger loves their gamepads on Android – their games support them, and almost all of the controller manufacturers I met at GDC were demoing the original Dead Trigger on their controller – and Rabas says “Dead Trigger 2 supports MFi gamepads already. We haven’t tested it yet, because we don’t have MFi gamepads here. I hope we will get some before they will release them on the market.” However, the feature should be ready for when the dual-stick gamepads do come out. Until then, the touchscreen on iOS should do a bang-up job for most.
Dead Trigger 2 releases on October 23rd worldwide, and it’s showing great promise as a game that takes a familiar concept and iterates on it to make it possibly the most ideal version of what it could be.
NimbleBit and Disney have teamed up to make Star Wars: Tiny Death Star, a Star Wars take on Tiny Tower. Right now, the game is in testing in Australia (you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy) but we were able to sneak past their defenses and get a shot at the exhaust port in this edition of It Came From Australia!
Now, the game at its heart is essentially Tiny Tower but with Star Wars, and that’s a-okay. The game’s formula hasn’t been changed: players build residential levels for new bitizens to live in, and businesses for them to work at. Each bitizen has certain stats for certain job types that makes them more effective at their job, allowing players to earn more credits. One of the key gameplay additions are new Imeperial levels that help to advance the story by collecting Imperial Officers. Otherwise not much has changed, which isn’t a bad thing: there’s the two-currency system, but Galactic Bux can still be earned through VIPs and by completing certain objectives like putting a bitizen in their dream job.
The Star Wars theme is well apparent. Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader have been brought to pixelly life as bitizens, and all the other recognizable Stormtroopers, Rebel soldiers, and much of the non-human life from the series make appearances. The music is all based off of the classic John Williams music but in a light, jazzy theme. That almost justifies the game’s existence alone. The whole game is light-hearted fan service for Star Wars fans who get to build levels of the Death Star after recognizable places and themes – the developers have clearly had fun trying to cram reference after reference into the game. The whole thing is just whimsical.
There’s no telling if the Tiny Death Star will ever be blown up by a plucky orphan from Tatooine, though. The game’s likely to come out soon: it works offline so it’s quite likely that this is just a monetization test, or to see if certain elements play well with a real-world audience. So soon the game should be fully armed and operational for the whole world. Until then, watch our video below.
GT Racing 2 is Gameloft’s first concerted take at entering the free-to-play racing simulation market, one notably established by Real Racing 3 earlier this year. Much like EA and Firemonkeys’ title, Gameloft is currently doing a limited-region test for the game. I practiced my “ehs” and “aboots” and got my hands on this game before its worldwide release, with hands-on video below in this edition of It Came From Canada!
This is a game that quite clearly lives in Real Racing 3’s shadow. This is first apparent visually: the game is going for a detailed, realistic look, and even just the color scheme seems to evoke what Firemonkeys tried to do earlier this year, though blue skies will always be blue skies. However, the game launches with courses that take place at night, including one that takes place on the roads around Mt. Rainier at night.
The game definitely feels much like a simulation: braking is very important so as to not skid out of control. There are braking assists enabled by default, but learning how to drive without them so as to take the proper racing line – which is an actual displayable line in this game – is clearly of great importance.
There’s an asynchronous multiplayer mode which puts players up against the times of other racers to compete for pride, handily quantified in RP, and in-game currency. It’s not apparent on first tests if players are racing against actual ghosts of racers, as Real Racing 3’s Time Shifted Multiplayer claimed to do, or if they’re just racing against their times, as Time Shifted Multiplayer seemed to be in practice. Still, it should be less confusing since it’s a segregated mode from the standard single-player progression, which is packed with a wide variety of race types to take part in. Real cars with some damage have made it in the game as well.
The game is free-to-play, and thankfully there’s no waiting to repair one’s car, just wait timers for upgrades. Of course there are cars and upgrades to buy with the two-tier upgrade system. How well it plays for those who don’t spend is yet to be seen.
GT Racing 2 does seem to borrow a lot from Real Racing 3 at a quick glance, but its little tweaks could make for it to be a satisfying contender for the checkered flag, if not at least finishing somewhere on the podium. No clue on when it leaves the Canadian garages, but it may be soon, if all the server work and monetization balance checks out for Gameloft.
NimbleBit is following up Pocket Planes with perhaps the next-best transportation option: trains. Yes, Pocket Trains is now a real thing coming very soon, and fans of NimbleBit’s simulation games should be at home here with a refreshed take on the Pocket Planes formula when it releases on September 26th.
This is another simulation game, very similar to Pocket Planes in that players must tote cargo around the world. But instead of flying around, they travel along rail lines. Players start on one continent and must earn money by delivering cargo to various destinations, building new rail lines to more cities, trying to become the head honcho among the world’s railroad tycoons. Oh, and there’s a giant underwater rail that goes from Europe to the United States in the Nimbleverse, apparently.
The game has become somewhat simplified versus Pocket Planes in two key ways: one, because trains only travel on rails, the trains can only travel on paths, and only the rails that they have claimed, so a particularly-colored track can only travel on those colored tracks. It makes managing where everything needs to go much simpler. Secondly, there’s no negative costs incurred through travel anymore, though trains do break down and need repairing with coins or parts from time to time.
New train acquisition has been changed as well, with new parts collected through crates that need to be opened by spending bux. The crates contain random parts, with rarer special crates providing rarer parts. This is the kind of system that some developers could make incredibly IAP-driven, but bux and crates appear commonly enough while playing that they actually feel like a part of the game rather than just a monetization tool.
The bitizens don’t play as much of a role in Pocket Trains: they’re mostly just set dressing, and there’s no customization of the conductors, yet. Still, they provide a flavor that makes the game feel quite familiar. As well, there’s plenty of goofy-looking cargo: why not transport giant platforms of balloons or a giant cola bottle?
But overall, it will be interesting to see how well the simplified take on Pocket Planes goes over: it does feel a bit less stressful while still having some strategy in how rail lines should be laid out. The world will see when the game releases on September 26th.
BitMonster, the creators of last year’s Lili, have a brand new game called Gunner Zthat they’ve just soft launched in Canada and three other countries. As such, I scarfed some poutine and readied myself to take down some zombies.
This is an on-rails shooter where players control a gunner who must take out waves of zombies and the occasional human zombie sympathizer driving weaponized vehicles. Why humans are sympathizing with the zombies is unexplained, but it’s rather progressive!
Visually, and in gameplay, there’s a large debt owed to Zombie Gunship and to a lesser extent, Razor: Salvation. The truck players fire from moves periodically between waves with occasional targets to hit while moving, but the majority of the game is fending off zombies from a static position; with the only movement coming from the ability to raise or lower the height of the gunner to get a better angle on the enemies. Lower heights make it easier to get headshots, but higher heights give splash damage weapons like rockets an aiming advantage.
The gunplay is important: the rockets are powerful but limited, and the standard gun has unlimited ammo but is generally only suitable for taking out single enemies at a time. Of course, there’s upgraded guns and rockets to take advantage of, too, along with different color schemes for the trucks. But considering everything’s seen through a monochromatic color scheme, it’s the ultimate cosmetic enhancement.
There’s a good chance that Gunner Z doesn’t see the light of day worldwide for a while. According to BitMonster’s announcement post, they’re not even sure if the game will be free, and they have a lot of tweaking to do with difficulty balance, in-game currency and how it’s handed out, and even how much content is in the game. This may be a longer testing session than some other soft launches, more akin to The Drowning’s several-month test than a server stress test like what Madden NFL 25 wound up doing. This should be an interesting game to follow.
War game fans love tanks. So for the Russian game publisher and developer Game Insight, it seems only appropriate that their next title be a game all about tanks. And with their current focus on mid-core games, Tank Domination should be a perfect fit for the studio when it releases later this year.
Demoed on iPad 4 tablets, I got a chance to take part in several online multiplayer battles with other members of the media, Game Insight’s US staff, and some of the devs – a look at the webcam pointed at them showed them to be focused and determined on the matches at hand.
Tank Domination is a 10-on-10 tank battling game. While Game Insight does focus on free-to-play titles, there’s actual gameplay, not just hands-off simulation! Players drive a tank of their choosing around an open war zone, taking place in a dystopic near future that hopefully won’t come to pass, where mercenaries settle their differences with tanks. Actually, that sounds pretty cool.
Matches are divided into two teams on opposite corners of the map. Each team must try to either take out the other team in its entirety, or to conquer their base, at least in the matches I took part in. There are four types of tanks: light, medium, heavy, and artillery. The lighter the tank, the faster it moves, but the less punishment it can take. The artillery can shoot at enemy tanks that are visible on radar, making the light tanks valuable for scouting out enemies for the heavy hitters to take on. There’s text chatting supported, but the ability to partner up with friends could help out with the cooperative elements. Plus, playing with other people and laughing at them when they’re destroyed is fun.
The game is classified as “mid-core,” bridging the gap between the kinds of free-to-play casual games that have a wide appeal, to the kinds of traditional core games that can be inaccessible to new audiences. The controls are basic, with a single virtual stick to move (and auto-forward option) and a virtual joystick to aim the turret. While figuring out how the tank movement works may take some time, to dive in to it is pretty simple and finding games is clearly meant to be easy. This will help with finding online matches as well – the more seamless, the more populous the multiplayer. The free-to-play monetization aspects come in with currency and credits being earned to buy more shells with different stats, new tanks, and combat enhancements. How free will the game be? That remains to be seen, particularly since the game is clearly still being localized – lots of Russian text remained in the game when I tried it out!
Still, considering that Game Insight is experimenting with a game that features actual, tactical online multiplayer, it’s the kind of advancement in the free-to-play business model that I want to see. There’s no reason why the free-to-play model, which is here to stay, has to exclude the kinds of experiences that satisfy core gamers. Tank Domination, with plenty of tank deathmatches, should definitely be just that.
Halfbrick’s first published title is Band Stars by Six Foot Kid, a free-to-play band manager that shows some promise, or at worst the ability to be amused by random name generators. First seen back at GDC, it’s available right now in Australia, the native country of both developers. I take it for a spin in this installment of It Came From Canada Australia!
The first step to creating a great band is to get a cool-looking band with an awesome name – with nary any great ideas coming to my head, I hit the random name generator a few times, and it came up with “The Black” – simple, succinct, and totally metal. Let’s do this. The goal is to make the band rich and famous by coming up with popular songs, training the band to be better at what they do, and hiring new people to replace the terrible old ones.
Songs are created by assigning band members of different stats to different tasks – imagine the job rankings from Tiny Tower playing a more active role. The band members of Band Stars are multitalented in a way that actual pop stars are often not, being singers, songwriters, multi-instrumentalists, and even willing and able to mix their own tracks. That they even need a manager is kind of a surprise.
Also surprising is that their only real bad habit seems to be energy drinks. Every action undertaken with a band member drains a bar of energy, which can be refilled by letting them rest on furniture or instantly replenished with energy drinks. At least the energy system makes sense as a limiting mechanic here in that a character is actually doing something in-game, rather than it being an arbitrarily-defined limit.
There’s plenty of things to spend the two currencies on. Coins are spent on permanent things like hiring new band members, buying items, and training sessions. Inspirado is used during solos to help raise certain point values on the songs as they’re being created.
How interesting this is long-term and if the monetization gets annoying are still to be seen over time as the game nears worldwide release. Until then, check out footage below of the early days of my band, The Black:
Zynga’s back with another game in their series of -Ville titles. This time, it’s all about building a magical kingdom in CastleVille Legends, currently available in Canada and Australia. I take it for a run in this episode of It Came From Canada!
There’s plenty of the initial hand-holding that many of these building games are prone to have: it starts off by showing everything that’s possible, and giving helpful hints as to what exactly the premium currency, crowns, can be spent on. Because of course that’s necessary. Items that serve as resources can be farmed and used to craft new items which can be sold for gold coins, which help make the castle’s land bigger, which necessitates more gold and more resource farming, and so on ad infinitum. The timers are thankfully short early on, though it’s hard to imagine them staying that way – these games depend on lengthy timers!
Heroes play a key role: they can be sent off on ‘quests’, which means “their avatar disappears for a period of time, after which the player gets a reward.” It’s not a very creative system – signs that anything beyond the idea of questing are not exactly present.
While the game’s mechanics tick off a lot of the “free-to-play gaming by numbers” that many titles have, at least Zynga is focusing on production values here: the art is highly-detailed and everything is well-animated, so it’s one of the nicer-looking experiences of the sort.
The game is currently in testing in Canada and Australia, and it’s likely that its monetization in particular is being put to the test – will this game make any money over time? It’ll be up to how Canadians, Australians, and those pretending to be from there decide it to be. Get a taste of the game now with our video footage.
After taking a year to experiment with Madden NFL Social, and then pulling it from the App Store never to be seen again, EA Mobile has decided to try again with taking Madden and making it into a free-to-play turducken. Madden NFL 25 is not the 2025 version of Madden, but is instead named in honor of the series’ 25th anniversary (and quite possibly a way to make next year’s version Madden NFL 14 without anyone being the wiser).
This entry in the preeminent series of American football isn’t actually available in America – well, the United States at least – as EA has decided to test the game in Canada first. This is despite Canada playing a weird game of football with only three downs, longer fields, and something called a rouge. This is American football, exclusive to Canada, making this one strange set of circumstances for an episode of “It Came From Canada.”
The opening tutorial reveals that with the touch controls, this is a much simpler game than the full console versions. But all the important functions are there, all done with gestures. Teams can be built and improved upon through card packs, which can add players from other teams to one’s own team. Yes, it would be possible to get Aaron Rodgers on the Bears, sacrilegious though it may be. There’s the ability to play just standard games, but the bulk of the game seems to be set in challenges and missions, with an energy system to boot.
There’s an asynchronous multiplayer mode where it’s possible to take on someone else’s team, but they’re not actually playing defense; it’s just taking turns playing offense against a computer-controlled defense. The personal element comes in taking on their customized team lineups.
It’s likely that this is as much a test of server load more than it is with monetization as many limited-local releases tend to be, so with the console versions of Madden NFL 25 releasing on the 27th, it’s quite possible that this will be available worldwide on or around then. Until then, enjoy our hands-on footage of the Canadian version of the game.
Behold Studios, creators of the IGF-nominated Knights of Pen & Paper are in the process of making their second game, Chroma Squad; a turn-based manager game that is heavily-inspired by the “sentai” shows of the 80′s and 90′s – such as Power Rangers. And of course, it will feature plenty of the pixel art that helped to define Knights of Pen & Paper as well.
148Apps: How did the idea of Chroma Squad come about? Saulo Camarotti (SC): After making a project like Knights of Pen & Paper, with a lot of references from our childhood, we thought that we could make a game with a theme that inspired us very much when we were ten. So, after thinking about the sentai team, we realized that we could go meta-language with it, and that came to the idea of managing a sentai TV studio.
148Apps: What are you attempting to do with the gameplay of Chroma Squad that you didn’t do with Knights of Pen & Paper? SC: We want more depth. We know that Knights is a great game, but it’s limited when you try to customize your experience. In Chroma Squad, we want that the player could customize everything in his studio, and make a sentai team of his dreams. So we’re planning in skill trees, items, color and jumpsuits options.
148Apps: Why go with Kickstarter for Chroma Squad? Did the popularity of Knights of Pen & Paper push you in one way or the other with this decision? SC: Yeah sure! We wanted to make a game with the help of the community. With a Kickstarter project we would listen to all feedback and promote a game where the community felt that they belong to it. We want to create a nostalgic experience, and for that, we need all the help. With the previous experience with Knights, we managed to get a lot of posts and reviews in major websites, and this was one the biggest reasons for our project success on Kickstarter.
148Apps: Now that the Kickstarter is a success, do you feel any different pressure in developing this game versus Knights of Pen & Paper? SC: Sure thing. When we did Knights, no one knew that the game was being developed, and no one had great expectations from our team. But now, we need to deliver what they expect us to. We really hope that we don’t frustrate any one =) For us, the game is already awesome!
Why target PC platforms before mobile this time around? SC: We wanted to make a deeper experience, and for that we wanted to use a bigger screen for the game. That’s why we’re just releasing it for PC, Consoles, and Tablets.
Thanks to Saulo for his time. If you’re interested in helping Behold Studios to get Chroma Squad (hopefully out in December of this year) funded, head on over to their Kickstarter page!
Rovio Entertainment, creators of Angry Birds, has a new publishing initiative called Rovio Stars that will see its first titles Icebreaker and Tiny Thief released soon. Kalle Kaivola, Senior Vice President of Product & Publishing at Rovio Entertainment, took the time to answer some of my questions about Rovio Stars.
Why launch a publishing initiative? What advantages will Rovio Stars have over other mobile publishers out there?
Expanding into publishing games was a pretty logical step for Rovio Entertainment to take. In the course of our work we run into a lot of interesting, fun and creative game projects – things we know our fans would love. Why not help the developers of these games to give them the final polish, and let our massive, dedicated fan base know of them? Right now it’s a huge challenge to get your game known in the avalanche of games and apps that are flooding the different app stores – it’s not enough to have a good game if you can’t get the word about it out there.
Rovio Entertainment is in an unique position to do exactly that. We communicate with our fan base directly on a daily basis, and they know they can expect quality fun from us. We also have a huge amount of know-how in creating mobile content, and we have a lot to offer to the developers in terms of helping them put the finishing touches to the project. Under Rovio Stars we do a bit more than a traditional publisher does in helping with the game project, things such as lending our expertise in QA and marketing.
When looking for titles to publish, what are you looking for in these games? Rovio has been one of the chief faces of casual gaming–will Rovio Stars largely focus on casual titles as well?
We are looking for games that have engaging gameplay, memorable characters, offbeat humour, and which are fun and addicting to play. The term casual is a bit tricky in the sense that traditionally it has connotations of simplicity and a lack of challenge, but as everybody who has tried to three star their way through Angry Birds games knows, that certainly isn’t true. It’s safe to say that we won’t be publishing FPS shooters or survival horror in the future, so the Rovio Stars games will casual games in the sense of being suitable and fun for all ages, from kids to grandparents.
Why should people ultimately care about the titles that Rovio Stars will be publishing?
The sheer amount of games on the app stores is a challenge not only for the developers, but also for the gamers – how to find the great game amongst the multitudes? This is where Rovio Stars comes in. It’s the stamp of quality that tells the gamer that the game they are about to buy has the same level of polish, engaging gameplay and quality fun as Rovio’s titles.
When Deus Ex: The Fall was announced as a mobile title, the reaction could be clearly delineated into two camps: mobile gamers intrigued by this deep franchise making its way to mobile, and by ‘core’ gamers who were outraged that a new Deus Ex game wouldn’t be coming to consoles and PC. As if it had to. As if they had a right to it. As if it was somehow a lesser product for being a mobile game.
Make no mistake, mobile gaming is still not fully accepted by gamers. It’s a big deal, and those who have had fun with the countless number of creative titles of various scales from all walks of life will know that a fun game is a fun game no matter what platform it’s on. But there’s still a mindset that mobile gaming is still a lesser form of gaming, and the reaction to Deus Ex: The Fall exposes this ugly truth.
But what is it about this game that makes people so hostile to the very idea of mobile gamers getting a console-quality title on the go? Was it a presumption that since a new Deus Ex title was announced, it had to be for consoles? Still, the disappointment seemed especially amplified in this circumstance. It wasn’t just the garden-variety internet trolls who compalin loudly, though: it was high-profile outlets like IGN and even Penny Arcade Report were disappointed. PAR strives for a higher class of gaming coverage, so this still seems uncharacteristic of them.
What IGN’s announcement article said before it was changed.
IGN’s staffer who wrote the subheadline disparaging mobile, a particular insult to IGN’s own mobile coverage, which has been running since back in the days of flip phones. The mobile editor actually changed the headline a day later. Still, whlie they may have a section dedicated to mobile coverage, there’s still clearly a mindset that it’s something negative.
Despite all the great experiences on mobile devices, in genres both familiar and new, still there is disrespect. is just unfair. The people that make these games are gamers, often long-time ones. I’ve spoken to many of them. The App Store has provided new opportunities that just weren’t there before. I write about mobile games, but I’ve been a gamer for almost my whole life. Mobile games are legitimate games. That the games are using new interfaces doesn’t make them any less so.
The irony is that a game like Deus Ex: The Fall is exactly what will legitimize the platform: this is a deep game that’s being released for touchscreen devices. It’s not perfect – it uses the flawed dual virtual stick control method along with touchscreen interface elements, but everything about the game sounds like it will live up to what the series has been known for, just in a smaller, more mobile-friendly package. This promises to be a legitimate Deus Ex experience that can be played while waiting for the bus.
And while this may be coming a bit early, mobile gaming getting the ‘legitimacy’ of controllers and TV gaming is not far away. Apple just approved a controller standard, and there’s million of AirPlay-compatible Apple TV devices. On the Android side, where gamepads are already supported, consoles are already making their way out. There’s Ouya, GameStick, GamePop, and a million more.
Apple’s reference specification for iOS 7 gamepads. Will this be good enough for games like Deus Ex: The Fall for the skeptical? (via Pocket Gamer)
Because if just the presence of Deus Ex on mobile isn’t enough, what will be for those who still disrespect mobile?
So for the gamers who still disparage mobile, I say this: give it a chance. Don’t be mad that the new Deus Ex is going to be on mobile. Be glad that a new version is coming out, and that a wider audience will be able to experience it. And give mobile gaming a fair shake. It’s not all Candy Crush Saga; there are a lot of fun experiences out there in pretty much every genre under the sun. Games are games. Come enjoy these, and let go of your hate!
Carter talks to one of the people behind Pipe Trouble, the game that ran into controversy over allegations that the Canadian government was sponsoring a game that supported eco-terrorism based on its content.
The programmer of the upcoming ScooterBoy talks about his transition from being indie 20 years ago to working with big-name studios and projects, to going back and being indie with his newest project.
One of the last games I saw in San Francisco, and technically not even at GDC, still might have been one of the most promising. Dutch developer Game Oven Studios demoed a pre-release version of its upcoming iPad multiplayer game, Bam Fu, at the Indigo event at the Dutch Consulate in San Francisco.
Also serious is the competition: players are trying to tap objects on screen in order to make them their color. This is simple enough when it’s just one-on-one, but when up to four people get in on the action, things get frantic and crazy. Tapping a color turns it to another color no matter who taps it, so it’s often the fault of the player whose color comes ahead in the sequence of the victor for everyone else’s defeat. However, accidentally tapping other players’ colors will happen.
The game can get very physical; while the studio’s previous title Finglewas more intimate and cooperative, this is more competitive, and shoving opponents out of the way is encouraged and inevitable. Part of the fun comes from what happens outside of the iPad! This one is still in the works but shows definite promise in this pre-release form. Pretty much the only thing better than this game at the Dutch Consulate? The view outside the 31st floor window:
Football Heroes, Kickstarted a year ago, is coming to fruition. Michael Marzola, one of the game’s developers, showed off an early build of the game with non-final art, but this title already shows promise. It’s inspired by classic arcade football games such as Tecmo Bowl, with a dash of the brutality of NFL Blitz, and World of Warcraft. Wait, what? That’s because the players on a team can be endlessly customized, with skill trees to help make them play better and avoid more tackles. The game has a long way to go still, but expect to play this one during NFL season.
Madfinger Games has more and more zombies to kill, as they’ve demoed Dead Trigger 2 at GDC 2013. The gameplay is largely similar to the original, where players take on new types of zombies in a variety of new environments, like a sandy city, dank sewer, and a ruined city. The city really shows off the improvements to the graphics that Madfinger appears to be going for as a giant zombie that can be attacked with one of the new fixed turrets can be fought.
With the rumors of an official Apple controller, it’s a good guess that Dead Trigger 2 to support it, as multiple Android controllers are supported by both this and the original Dead Trigger, with the sequel playable on Nvidia’s Project Shield Android device with a gamepad, despite their desire to keep much of the game secret when we met with them. Dead Trigger 2 should be available later this year, and will launch as a free-to-play title.