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Second Home - Xbox Live Indie Developers on the Shift to iOS

Posted by Rob Rich on May 17th, 2013

The indie game development scene has been around for an incredibly long time; pretty much ever since people had the opportunity to program for themselves. However it wasn’t until shareware became a common method of distribution the 90s that it began to catch the notice of the masses, and even so, it took another decade to really take off. Throughout all of that there have been a number of successes and failures, as it is with most games regardless of their budgets or marketing strategies. No one remembers the duds, of which there are always many, but people tend not to forget games like Minecraft or Fez.

Microsoft even got in on the action when they made their Xbox Live XNA Game studio available. It wasn’t until 2008 that they brought Xbox Live Community Games (later dubbed Xbox Live Indie Games, or “XBLIG” for short) to Live users across the globe, but it created an environment full of possibilities for fledgling developers as well as people who wanted to get their games noticed. And now, five years later, a number of these developers have been making their way to the App Store. But why are they shifting their focus away from XNA development and on to iOS? We wanted to know. Luckily, Luke Schneider (Founder of Radiangames - Bombcats, Ballistic SE, Fireball SE, Gobs of Fun, Slydris, Inferno+, Super Crossfire, Super Crossfire HD), Jesse Chounard (code monkey for Third Party Ninjas - Happy Piggy!, Hypership Out of Control), Mike Oliphant (Founder of Nostatic Software - Sokoban for Beginners, Kung Fu FIGHT!, Quiet, Please!, Quiet Christmas, Ascent of Kings), Nick Mudry (Co-founder and CEO of Play Nimbus - Ball 2 Box, Wobbles), Andy Gibson (Art Director at Team Pesky - Little Acorns), and Martin Caine (Founder, lead programmer, producer, and director for Retroburn Game Studios - Accelerate, Positron) were willing to share their thoughts on the matter.


Exodus


One theory behind this new focus on mobile devices is that iOS’ treatment of indies is a bit more welcoming. Not to say that Microsoft is terrible or that Apple is perfect, but there have been quite a few stories of Xbox Live Indie Game headaches.

Luke Schneider/Radiangames
"I felt like I was always fighting against the grain when Radiangames was focused on XBLIG," said Luke Schneider on the shift away from XNA development. "I wanted to try to reach a broader audience and find more success. Though really it hasn't been significantly different in terms of success on iOS."

It was more a case of seeing the writing on the wall for Jesse Chounard from Third Party Ninjas. Once Windows Phone 7 came out it seemed as though Microsoft forgot all about their indie developers. "XBLIG developers actually lost access to some important features," he said. "When the phone failed to gain traction, it seemed like the blame was placed on XNA."

Nick Mudry and Play Nimbus came to a similar conclusion once the impending "death" of Microsoft’s service was announced. "We also moved away from XBLIG and to iOS because we were unable to develop with XNA for iOS," he said

In this particular case, the discovery of Unity is what ended up tipping their hand. "We stepped up and started redesigning our game's prototype," said Mudry, "and it was done 10 times quicker compared to XBLIG/XNA."

Jesse Chounard/Third Party Ninjas
Not everyone simply jumped ship from one platform to the other, however. Mike Oliphant opted to stick around the XBLIG scene while expanding Nostatic Software's reach to other platforms at the same time. "Last year I ported my game engine so that it also runs on top of Unity," he said. "This gave me the ability to target iOS and Android as well."

A smart idea that has the potential for a lot more exposure, although it also means more work to create all those ports, though he admits that more platforms ultimately means more users.

Martin Caine of Retroburn Game Studios was initially drawn to XNA because of the development tools and allure of the Xbox 360 hardware support, but it didn't seem like he would get a whole lot of publicity on the platform. "I had heard of the limited exposure and low download figures," he said. "I'm now just focusing on getting one game released but plan to release it across many platforms including iOS and XBLIG."

Andy Gibson and Team Pesky actually did things the other way around when they prototyped Little Acorns on XNA, then ended up developing it for iOS once the basic framework was in place. After a few iterations the team brought the squirrel-themed platformer back to Xbox Live.

"Personally, I was really pleased to get Little Acorns out on XBLIG," Gibson said. "The game feels great, has a good level of polish and an added split-screen co-op mode to celebrate Mr. Nibbles making it home."

Get A Taste Of Console Gaming with The Inversion Project

Posted by Blake Grundman on June 18th, 2012

A couple of weeks back Namco Bandai released a game on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by the name of Inversion.  While the game never really received a huge amount of press, the crux of the title was that the player had the ability to shift, or in this case invert, gravity, in order to manipulate the environment and gain an advantage over enemies.

Around the same time, The Inversion Project shot its way onto iOS.  This free-to-play facsimile of the console game's universe was primarily aimed to increase the public's awareness of the full release.  On top of that, this third person shooter acts to help gamers familiarize themselves with some of the core mechanic of the world.  Check out this gameplay video to get a better idea of what is in store.

For a completely free title, it looks like there are at least some innovative gameplay ideas at work.  For that price, you can afford to roll the dice and check it out.  Let us know what you think of it in the comments.

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This Week at 148Apps: June 4-8

Posted by Chris Kirby on June 11th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad only

This week, 148Apps was all about Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2012. Take, for instance, Carter Dotson's report on new Xbox 360 features that may allow iOS integration: "At Microsoft’s E3 press conference, they revealed an interesting new feature that will integrate smartphones and tablets to the Xbox 360. Called SmartGlass, this is designed to operate a second screen during games, movies, and TV shows. This means that hypothetically, a game could display a map on the tablet screen, or even integrate interactive game elements like maps and play-calling in sports games.

Read more about this latest innovation at 148Apps.com.

Our kids-centric site, GiggleApps, reviewed Give A Day HD, which, as reviewer Amy Solomon states, "is a thoughtful children’s book app that helps create discussions between children and their adults about the world bigger than their families, as this app brings the topic of less fortunate children to the attention of young readers. This app is also available as an app for iPhone as well and is also part of the PlayTales Reader application."

Read Amy's complete review at GiggleApps.com.

And finally, 148Apps.biz covered the big news that Google acquired iPad app QuickOffice. Writer Kevin Stout states, "Quickoffice, the mobile document editing software (that particularly handles documents from the Microsoft Office suite well), has been acquired by Google. Announced on Google’s official blog, Google plans to intergrate Quickoffice‘s technology in to their own Apps product suite."

Read Kevin's full post at 148Apps.biz.

Our week that was is now did and done. If you'd like to keep up with the latest reviews, news and contests, all you have to do is click the links to follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook. That wasn't so hard, was it? I didn't think so. See you next weekend, fellow chupacabras!

Xbox 360 Will Use iOS as a Second Screen with the Upcoming SmartGlass Feature

Posted by Carter Dotson on June 6th, 2012

At Microsoft’s E3 press conference, they revealed an interesting new feature that will integrate smartphones and tablets to the Xbox 360. Called SmartGlass, this is designed to operate a second screen during games, movies, and TV shows. This means that hypothetically, a game could display a map on the tablet screen, or even integrate interactive game elements like maps and play-calling in sports games.

TV shows and movies will be able to provide supplemental information and features with SmartGlass as well. Game of Thrones was mentioned specifically as an application of SmartGlass. In fact, that may be the killer app for SmartGlass, considering that there’s no way to understand what’s going on in the show without consulting the internet! SmartGlass will also be able to control the upcoming Internet Explorer for Xbox.

Despite Microsoft trying to make their own imprint on the tablet market with Windows 8, SmartGlass is going to be platform-agnostic, with apps for iOS and Android, with support for both phones and tablets. This shows that Microsoft is a very segmented company, with their Xbox division potentially removing a valuable reason to get a Windows 8 device, as well as the fact that these non-Microsoft operating systems are so prominent that Microsoft has to play ball with them. No release date for SmartGlass is available yet, but it will likely be part of the fall Dashboard updates that Microsoft releases.

Kinectimals Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Blake Grundman on December 20th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: ROARING GOOD TIME
Kids and the young at heart will love this 2011 incarnation of the Tamagotchi craze.
Read The Full Review »

My Xbox Live Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Oliver Haslam on December 12th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: Lively
It may say iPhone and iPad in the app description, but as soon as "My Xbox Live" is fired up we're immediately using a Windows Phone 7 device, and I love it. Some, however, might not.
Read The Full Review »

Rocket Riot HD Review

Posted by Rob Thomas on November 11th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Developer: Chillingo
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

[rating:overall]


After launching on Xbox Live Arcade in 2009 and making the long, slow burn over to the Windows Phone 7 platform in 2010, Codeglue’s twin-stick shooter Rocket Riot has finally landed on iOS, courtesy of Chillingo.

I could make an attempt to explain Rocket Riot’s “story’ to the reading audience out there, but by the time I finished relating this nonsensical tale of stolen legs, blocky pirates and butt-mounted jetpacks I would likely have been hauled off in a straightjacket, thus rendering me unable to finish the review proper. So let’s just say some crazy stuff happens that requires the player to hoist a bazooka, strap on one of those jet-butt devices and blow the living crap out of, well, everything.

Seriously. Everything.

The game’s stages, presented in a very neat, pseudo-3D style, are all fully destructible, with bursts of pixels cascading as each rocket tears chunks out of the surrounding structures. However, there’s more incentive to smash these levels to bits than mere visceral thrills, as hidden inside the various environments are a variety of power blocks. I hesitate to call them “power-ups,” though, as roughly a quarter of the 20 blocks offered have detrimental effects and another quarter are mere cosmetic effect changes (rainbow particle effects, firing soccer balls instead of rockets, etc.). Just keep in mind that the blocks are mostly color coded, avoid the red ones, and things should be okay.

Three different control schemes are offered, but I found the onscreen virtual stick setup to be the best, most intuitive option. The movement controls are carried out relative to wherever the player’s left thumb plops down and although the right side is limited to a defined circle for aiming and firing, it’s so generously sized that I never found myself scrambling back to reposition my thumbs. It just works, transparently fading away to the point where I forgot that the controls were even there. And that’s always a good feeling.

Objectives shift over the variously themed stages by including different match types. Most of the time players will be blasting a set number of enemies in arena deathmatches, but the pacing occasionally gets changed up with detours through Destroy the Object levels or a quick Rugby Riot match, which requires a number of goals to be scored by carrying a ball through goal posts. Nothing hugely innovative or different here, but it serves as a nice palate cleanser for when just blasting hordes of pirates/zombies/what-have-you gets a little old.

While the omnipresent theme song may get a bit grating and it sadly lacks the multiplayer modes of the original Xbox version, Rocket Riot still serves up plenty of good, mindless, destructive fun and bizarre quirky charm. Warm up those jet-butts and check it out.

Turn Based Strategy Title Greed Corp Coming To iPad

Posted by Jennifer Allen on October 25th, 2011

PC and Console gamers may well recognise the name Greed Corp. A turn-based strategy game, it was quite a hit through Steam, Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade back in 2010. Now, iPad owners will get a chance to see what all the fuss is about.

Arriving later this month, Greed Corp is all about finding a balance between harvesting resources and preserving the land in order to stay alive. Finite resources make it harder to build an effective army in order to destroy the opposing force. Offering an innovative land collapsing mechanic, Greed Corp hopes to be a cut above the competition.

There will be a Campaign mode featuring over 24 unique maps across 4 chapters, with 2-4 player battles also available for the socially minded. Cross platform multiplayer matches between iOS, Android and Mac users will ensure that there are plenty of players to compete against.

Check out the teaser trailer below for a taste of what to expect when Greed Corp is released later this month.

Mel B Helps With The Battle of The Bulge

Posted by Blake Grundman on February 28th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

It is amusing how the introduction of motion based controls on video game console have opened the floodgates that had apparently been holding back a huge number of celebrity-endorsed fitness games.  One such celebrity looking to get in on the craze is Mel B, of Spice Girls fame. Sure, she has a solo singing career and Dancing With The Stars to add to her resume in recent years, but who knew she was such a fitness guru?  Her debut fitness game, Get Fit with MelB is now available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, with a recent addition to the software suite landing on iOS.

The Get Fit with MelB app is not a stand-alone fitness tool, but rather, a tool to keep track of your personal eating and exercise behaviors while away from the console version of the game.  Some of the headlining features include:


  • Update your Dietary Diary: remember what you eat during breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack; it’s an essential tool for keeping under control your diet!

  • Full Body Tracking: keep an eye on your training results thanks to a user friendly graphics; you choose what body’s part has to be monitored, the main indicators like body mass index, %fat mass, Waist to Hip Ratio

  • Thanks to your iPhone, after each training (in your gym, on the beach or at the park) you can update your observations saving the results of your efforts! Your data will be saved on your profile and if you are at home you can check through web and print it!

  • Look at MelB exclusive recipe book: breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack ... an useful source of "slim" recipes always with you, to be consulted in each moment of your day

This looks like just what a person would need to help keep themselves honest, day in and day out.  Unfortunately, the only way that you will see much of a benefit will be if you actually own the console game and have an online account.  If nothing else you might get some interesting recopies out of the deal.  Give it a download and let us know in the comments below if it is everything you hoped it would be.

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EA Purchases Chillingo

Posted by Brad Hilderbrand on October 20th, 2010

Angry Birds developer Chillingo may cease to be an indie darling in the near future, as EA has bought the company. Reports put an the deal at $20 million cash, but the future of all the studio's properties are still up in the air.

Chillingo was already a hot commodity after Angry Birds, but the massive success of the recently released Cut the Rope has truly turned the UK developer into a den of rock stars. While companies like Activision, Gameloft and even Intel were vying for the studio, EA was able to close the deal.

"By acquiring Chillingo, EA Mobile is increasing its market leadership on the Apple Platform as well as reaffirming its position as the world's leading wireless entertainment publisher," EA's Holly Rockwood said in a statement.

It sounds like EA wants to keep Chillingo in the mobile space, but we can't help but wonder if the studio will be asked to dabble in consoles and handhelds as well. EA has dabbled with physics games by publishing Boom Blox on the Wii, but the series has stalled and perhaps the company is looking for a new franchise to bring to non-Apple audiences. There's also the distinct possibility EA could request a totally new IP from Chillingo, one which could be backed with a big budget and marketed across all platforms.

Where things may get tricky is in regards to ownership rights of games published under the Chillingo banner. Rovio created Angry Birds, while ZeptoLab made Cut the Rope, and, at least according to Rovio, the development studios still own those properties. A Rovio spokesperson says his company “controls the Angry Birds brand and any future products,” so at least that franchise may remain apart from this deal.

At any rate, let us be among the first to congratulate Chillingo and wish them the best of luck under the new ownership. They've already proven what talented, dedicated people can do when they put their minds to it so they deserve all the success and wealth they've earned. Well done guys, keep up the good work.

[via Mashable]

ESPGALUDA II In-Depth Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Jason Fanguy on April 16th, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarstarstar :: MIND BLOWING
Espgaluda II is a stunning, well-developed 2D vertical scrolling “manic-shooter” that has breathed new life into an otherwise stale, complacent genre and raised the bar for other 2D scrolling shooter developers. It's beautiful, fantastic game play and
Read The Full Review »