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Fighting Fantasy: Island of the Lizard King - Tin Man Games Releases Latest Title in its Series of Gamebooks
Fighting Fantasy: Island of the Lizard King is the latest interactive gamebook from Tin Man Games. It features dice rolling for battles, an auto-updated adventure sheet, and stat keeping as players make their way around Fire Island. It also lets users change the visuals to make the gamebook look similar to the style of an 80's printing press.
• Auto-mapping tracks your journey across Fire Island! See locations appear as you discover them!
• Iain McCaig’s famous cover brought to life. The Lizard King has never been this terrifying!
• Alan Langford’s classic illustrations colorised for the app, making full use of high-resolution displays.
• Achievements to find throughout the gamebook.
Tin Man Games' Gamebook Adventures series is currently available at 50% off. This lets users experience the interactive fantasy adventures at a reduced price of $2.99. Included in the sale are Gamebook Adventures 1 through 8: An Assassin in Orlandes, The Siege of the Necromancer, Slaves of Rema, Revenant Rising, Catacombs of the Undercity, The Wizard from Tarnath Tor, Temple of the Spider God, and Infinite Universe.
Additionally, much of the Fighting Fantasy series and other miscellaneous titles from Tin Man Games are also on sale. Now go set off on a fantasy adventure by discovering these game books!
With the release of iOS 7 upon us and a whole plethora of juicy new features for consumers and developers alike to enjoy, we took the time to ask some popular game developers just how they feel about it and what features they're looking forward to getting more intimate with.
Look and Design of iOS 7
The look of iOS 7 is a huge change for many, which explains why so many pivotal apps are changing their appearance; to make sure it ties into the new style of doing things. How about with games, though? And do game developers appreciate such a significant change?
For the most part, it's been considered a positive change from those we questioned. Andrew Smith of AppyNation and Spilt Milk Studios explained, "I like it! I’m a fan of refreshes – and although when I first saw the new look I wasn’t completely sold, since using it in studio on the betas it’s won me over." Stephen Morris of Greenfly Studios reinforced that view, emphasizing that the "redefining of the experience... it certainly feels fresh and more efficient."
Some apprehension was felt, though. As Richard Brooks of Rodeo Games explained, "a veteran iOS user may find it a little jarring at first," pointing out that, "the new look will split the room," from his personal experience of showing it to others. Ben Britten of Tin Man Games felt the same, pointing out that some people will love it and others will, predictably, hate it.
It's not all plain sailing though, as Martin Linklater of Curly Rocket explained, "to be honest the colours are a little garish for my tastes. Maybe in iOS 8 Apple will tone it down a little. It's not quite got the subtlety that Apple is known for." Aaron Fothergill of Strange Flavour felt the same, diplomatically pointing out that he's "getting used to it."
Even those who weren't a fan had to admit that they, for the most part, appreciated the cleaner interface.
More positively, few issues have been encountered thus far. For the majority of the people we asked, covering developers such as Hello Games, Hammer & Chisel, AppyNation, Spilt Milk Studios, Strange Flavour, and Green Fly Studios, hardly any issues were reported. The only few problems that did occur related to third-party tools, although noticeably Ben Britten of Tin Man Games found no issues with Unity3D. There were some early day problems with Rodeo Games's Warhammer Quest as explained by Richard Brooks, "The devices we were testing with were crashing a lot and it was very difficult to get anything working. Warhammer Quest didn't work at first due to some bugs in the iOS 7 main libraries, so we just had to sit back and wait. After about 4-6 weeks these were dealt with and are mostly good now."
It's a pretty positive sign for developers that iOS 7 should prove quite beneficial in the long run, given the limited issues that have been encountered so far.
Arguably most significant of all for many game developers is the introduction of official controller support. How do they feel about it?
"For us, this is the biggest new feature of iOS 7." explained Aaron Fothergill, "The fact that they’re a standard is the important bit as we can actually design them into our game with the standard features in mind, so we can do it properly. We’ve already got test code in SlotZ Racer, Any Landing, and Apple Dash and we’re just waiting on controllers being available for us to actually test with and perfect the controls before we release games with them in and then we’ll be considering MFI controller as integral design parts of all our games."
Simon Renshaw, of PUK fame, has similar thoughts. " I love that its possible to play iPhone games on the big screen with Apple TV mirroring, latency is an issue though, as is battery life, so I kinda hope we'll see a controller bundled with a magical iPhone-charging HDMI cable!" Martin Linklater also thinks that the controller could be the "real killer feature," at least once adopted more frequently.
Hello Games' Sean Murray explained that "touchscreens are great for lots of games - like, I’m really proud of what we managed to do with the touchscreen design with Joe Danger Touch. There are some games that just benefit from buttons and thumbsticks though, and as a gamer, my thumb just feels comfortable sat on a nice analog button. Having officially supported controllers could be fantastic for broadening gaming on iPhones even further than it is today, bringing in the controller snobs like me! We're working on making something of all this right now, something that makes use of both touch and controller. We're throwing ourselves into it completely... I think people will be surprised how well it works."
Consider us fascinated as to what this will mean for Joe Danger on iOS!
Andrew Smith is keen, but as he points out "[it's] hardly going to sell the games to more people. The vast majority of iPhone users and gamers are perfectly happy with good touchscreen interfaces, so we’ll be happy to continue to provide those!" Greenfly Studios feels the same way, with Stephen Morris explaining "our mobile games are currently more focused on the casual consumer but it doesn't mean we're not open to exploring the new niche!".
Richard Brooks also found such support less than essential, pointing out that Rodeo Games' titles are "designed entirely for mobile and tablet devices with touch screens and implementing controller support would make them worse." A fair point indeed. Jason Citron expressed similar views, explaining how Hammer & Chisel is "laser focused on building original high-quality games for tablets. A big part of that is taking advantage of the unique interaction a large touch screen affords."
With so many of the best developers doing a great job of providing touch-based interfaces, is there really a need for controllers after five years of perfecting touch controls? Perhaps not, but it'll be fascinating to see how things develop.
Revamped Game Center
For the most part, the revamped Game Center has been quite appreciated by those we asked. Andrew Smith puts it well, "it's really neat!" although does admit, while inventing a new word, that the icon is a little un-game-y. Stephen Morris particularly loves that there's a way to combat cheaters at last, which means "we can focus on providing consumers fun and realistic challenges." Like any self-respecting iOS gamer, Sean Murray explained "Seeing insane hacked scores on any game makes me sad. I’m... going to really appreciate the added security for score and achievement data, because it’ll hopefully mean there isn’t so much leaderboard hacking."
Richard Brooks points out what we've all been thinking in terms of old Game Center's looks, "I'm glad they've gotten rid of the horrible green felt style though!" because as Simon Renshaw says while describing the old interface as archaic looking, "what young person recognizes the connection between a black jack table and their favorite shooter?".
So, it's a fairly positive change for iOS 7 and some of its finest game developers. Understandably, there's some apprehension as is always the way with such a significant change, but the future is looking pretty bright. In particular, it'll be fascinating to see what comes of controller support, as well as the new and extra shiny Game Center.
Thanks to Curly Rocket's Martin Linklater, Strange Flavour's Aaron Fothergill, AppyNation/Spilt Milk Studios's Andrew Smith, Greenfly Studios's Stephen Morris, Rodeo Games's Richard Brooks, Laserdog Games's Simon Renshaw, Hammer & Chisel's Jason Citron, Tin Man Games's Ben Britten, and Hello Games's Sean Murray for taking the time to answer our questions.
Over the past five years, many thousands of developers have tried their luck in creating the next big hit for iOS gamers. While some were there right from the beginning, others have found success in only the last couple of years. I took the time to chat to four relatively recently successful developers to find out exactly why they were so interested in pursuing the App Store route, and how they've found the experience so far.
"First and foremost it was the ease of development and getting things...running quickly, with no development kits and long processes of approval," explained Simon Flesser of Simogo (most famous for the rather exceptionally spooky Year Walk). "That coupled with us being interested in the iPhone as a gaming platform and the different features it provides, touchscreen interaction, motion controls, constant internet connection..."
Barry Meade of Fireproof Studios (makers of BAFTA award winning The Room) had similar views: "As a small team with little resources to draw on, the fact you could self-publish on the App Store was a huge enabler for us...The Room might never have been made if we'd had to rely on a publisher as it was a bit too unusual...they would not have believed in the game like we did." As he pointed out, "the App Store allowed a team from nowhere to make a small game and see big success."
The Room's Fireproof Games is one such team made up of ex-AAA developers, with the studio formed by six ex-lead artists from Criterion Games' Burnout franchise. Similarly, Warhammer Quest's Rodeo Games came from such a background. Formed from executives previously working for the likes of EA, Lionhead, Criterion and Codemasters, Rodeo Games were provided the opportunity to pursue something new, thanks to the App Store.
"Well, we'd been in the AAA games industry for many years and had been talking about how to take steps in setting up our own company. The App Store was just flourishing at the time. It was this awesome, new, bold place for smaller dev teams to put their games in-front of a huge audience. So we crafted a plan with the mindset of making the very best turn based strategy games on iOS, and Rodeo Games was the result," Ben Murch, co-founder, explained.
Neil Rennison of Fighting Fantasy developer, Tin Man Games, enjoyed a similar revelatory moment, after a move to Australia, gave him the chance of starting his own indie development studio, just as the iPhone and the App Store came to fruition: "I was originally running a small games art outsource company in the UK and then...I...moved to Australia with the dreams of starting my own indie and making my own titles instead of working on other people's games."
How different do they all think things would be if the App Store didn't exist, though? "Very! Certain types of business models and certain types of games would probably not exist without the App Store," Simon reckoned. Ben offered similar views, although noted the loss of the "middle tier" of gaming: "The gaming world would be a very different place right now. Just think about how many small companies and jobs have been created just from iOS gaming alone. Before the App Store, there was this surge towards "middle tier" gaming, i.e. titles coming out in the £10 - £20 bracket. I guess that market would have grown more and become an eco-system in itself. However, thanks to the App Store, creators who were interested in that model shifted into the mobile market, effectively crippling the whole "middle tier" gaming sector."
Mention was also made, by Neil, of the fragmentation of the mobile phone operator universe, something that was a significant problem before the advent of the App Store. "Apple's stock would be worth a lot less", noted Barry. All quite rightly pointed out that none of them would be in the position they're in today, if it wasn't for the ease of the App Store.
For the most part, all four of our interviewees were very positive about the App Store's impact. Each citing how it's "paved the way for many small developers", as Simon eloquently put it, and enabled them to try riskier material. As Ben pointed out, "Without the App Store, it would be nigh on impossible to get your strange little game idea in front of....well, thousands of people would be a struggle. Suddenly, anyone can release something that has exposure to HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of potential buyers. Just thinking about that blows my mind."
Financial barriers are also lowered, as Barry explained: "The relative cheapness of mobile games development allows niche ideas to thrive." Neil reinforced that point, citing how the games industry "was slowly becoming a bloated AAA only console game market and traditional game developers were beginning to struggle as the mid-point of the market was getting squeezed. The app revolution helped give developers options and in a way created its own new market in which everyone had the same opportunities from the big publishers to the lone bedroom coder...[it] was a perfect springboard for budding entrepreneurial devs like us."
Simon was slightly more cautious, enjoying the risks that were possible to take, but also citing how it's "paved the way for some very questionable money-grabbing schemes… the market place has been somewhat flooded with low-quality software. It might have lowered the quality bar for what is considered to be a release-able piece software."
That's clearly a thought that runs through each of the developers' minds, given that each recommends changes that make it easier to find good apps and games. Ben would appreciate a better quality Related Apps section and a twist on the Genius section, "Some form of "We recommend these Apps for you based on what you've downloaded already" type thing." Discoverability is a big thing for Barry too, "There should be a lot more ways to format the lists of games when browsing the store. A chart by user rating is very needed for those smaller companies who make great games but get buried by the marketing clout of richer but arguably less skilful publishers."
Higher "quality control" is an important wish for Simon, while Neil would appreciate a way to reply to App Store reviewers.
For the most part, though, all four developers were, understandably, happy with how the App Store is performing, both in terms of business and personal use.
"I think Apple does a marvellous job at finding and promoting good games. It's so nice that they can give small developers, such as us, a big spotlight if they find something that is good...it's almost...unbelievable that something as strange as Year Walk can get the same type of exposure as a mainstream game from a big publisher," beamed Simon.
The "open territory" of the Store was appreciated by Barry, also, "You can upload a game to the store and be published in 150 countries within 24 hours - this is really quite incredible when you compare it with how difficult it was to get a game onto other platforms only a few years ago. It's pretty much a revolution in terms of enabling creativity," with Neil offering similar views.
As a consumer, it's also proved quite the hit with Ben pointing out, "it's that feeling of being able to browse a huge catalogue of games from your sofa, eventually finding something that's right up your street. They have great landing pages in the App Store making it easy to find great games that you may not have heard of previously." Neil appreciated the vast wealth of games, too, "it's enabled me to play games that I haven't played in over 20 years and also experience new innovative game designs from some truly talented people that wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to shine."
While it's clear that the App Store isn't perfect, mostly in terms of offering great visibility to the titles that deserve it, these four developers have clearly found it an overwhelmingly useful experience. Each of them, from different backgrounds, have found great and deserved success, highlighting the best of what can come out of the App Store in terms of original efforts.
We're certainly fascinated to see what will come next from these relatively new developers, part of the next generation of exciting game makers.
Being asked to sum up the past five years of the App Store, on a personal level, is tough. Partly, because I have the memory of a goldfish, but also because so much has happened in those few years. How do you highlight what's so great about a device and service that you can't imagine being without? My iPhone and the App Store, by proxy, has been immensely important to me in this time. It's given me so much information, enjoyment and even been a great outlet in times of need. Here's a feeble attempt at trying to sum up how vital it's all been for me.
Launch day: Despite the goldfish analogy, I do remember when the App Store first launched. I'd had an iPhone for a couple of months previously and had dabbled in jailbreaking, but didn't feel too comfortable with it. The day the App Store started was genuinely exciting stuff. It's hard to believe, for those newer to the Store, but it was possible to browse from start to finish, thanks to there being a mere 500 apps available. I did that, regularly, until it got to a point where there were just too many titles to look at. Like with any launch day event, these apps didn't show off everything the technology could do, but they did offer a glimpse of a thrilling future.
Flight Control: Excluding a dabble with the no longer with us, Bejeweled 2, Flight Control was my first great iOS love. It showed me how great the touch controls of the iPhone could be, and how quickly one could gain satisfaction from a phone game. My past experiences with mobile gaming had been fun, but lacking that certain something that made me think it could rival handheld consoles. Flight Control changed that, for me, and I loved spending ages battling to improve my high score. Not that I was any good at it, though!
Exploration: I like apps that enhance my life, and I've used many in the past. Star Chart sticks in my mind, however, thanks to it enabling me to learn more about an area. While at the summit of an ancient ridge, Cefn Bryn, I could load up Star Chart and work out exactly what stars were above me and where. It was pretty magical.
A career path: It's a pretty significant one, but if it wasn't for the App Store, I wouldn't be writing this. In fact, I'm not entirely sure what I'd be doing, given throughout my freelance career thus far, the App Store and iOS have played a very big role. It's changed my life for the better. It's been nearly three years since I wrote my first review for 148apps, Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter, and I'm immensely grateful for how far I, and the site, have come.
The indie uprising: I always passively appreciated the efforts of indie developers, before the advent of the App Store, but my love for them has definitely grown. Perhaps more excitingly, I feel enabled to give it a go myself at some point. While I haven't yet found the time spare to really pursue it, Xcode, Stencyl and Gamesalad are waiting for me, reminding me that the era of the bedroom coder has returned. That's got to be a good thing for creativity, right?
Beloved Apps and Missed Titles
Favorites: I've struggled to narrow the list down. Really struggled. The memories of one Saturday morning avidly playing Game Dev Story in bed, before realising it's practically lunchtime are particularly strong. Much the same as my hundreds of hours spent with Fairway Solitaire are fond, if tarnished by the time it inexplicably lost all my data and progress. Or how about the time I demonstrated the power of the iPad to my mother with the double whammy of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and XCOM: Enemy Unknown? The former being one of my favorite games of all time.
Out of them all, though, a select bunch are used nearly every day. I take photos each day to track my life and have some fond memories to look back on, so Instagram is a must have for me. I like to back up such things, as well as my social networking sharing, so Momento is always at the forefront of my recently used apps. As a writer, iA Writer completes the selection, thanks to its cloud syncing ensuring I can always write up a quick idea, no matter where I am. New Star Soccer remains the key game that I regularly find myself returning to, living my fantasy as a world class soccer player.
Apps I miss: There are a couple of apps I miss, though. Puzzle Quest being one such title, given my love of the Match-3 genre and the fact I've played it to death on all other formats. Similarly, I adored Big Blue Bubble's use of the Fighting Fantasy license, although at least Tin Man Games is doing a brilliant job of taking over that mantle.
It's been a fun five years, and given how far the App Store has come in that time, I'm excited to see what the next five years will bring. It's looking like a pretty rosy future to me!
With the recent release of Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom, it seemed like the perfect time to take a look at our favourite four Adventure Game Book Apps. The Forest of Doom isn't included here, but consider it a bonus 5th, representing just how great all the Fighting Fantasy conversions are. The Adventure Game Book genre is a strong one on the App Store, so it's been a tough battle narrowing things down!
Only part one of four has been released so far, but Sorcery! is a great conversion of the much loved series by Steve Jackson. There are nearly 50 spells to learn, plenty of decisions to make and a gripping story throughout. The combat might take a moment or two to click, deviating from typical dice throwing methods, but it all adds to the already beautiful visuals. It's a quite captivating tale.
Trial of the Clone
One of two titles featuring here from, unofficial App Store Kings of the genre, Tin Man Games: Trial of the Clone is a rare thing in the gaming world: a genuinely funny title. Written by Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal creator, Zach Weinersmith, and including the voice of Wil Wheaton, the artistic pedigree is as strong as the content. Telling the story of a clone making its way in a futuristic world, it's an unique tale that is ideal to play again and again, seeking out new endings.
Less focused on combat than the others, Underground Kingdom is the re-imagining of the first Choose Your Own Adventure book, a series popular in the 1970s and 1980s. 23 different endings are available to find, as players explore an alien world in this attractive storybook style app. The artwork is particularly appealing and while it's a shorter read than some of the others here, it's an ideal way to remember a classic series.
Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106
It was a close run thing between this and one of the Fighting Fantasy titles, but the Judge has just about inched ahead. Understandably for such a violent theme, there's plenty of dice rolling based combat here, alongside appropriate visuals capturing the spirit of Judge Dredd well. What makes it stand out all the more, however, is the record sheets that come with each perp either killed or arrested. There's always that urge to play another game, just to try to fill the database. Adventure fans, as well as comic book fans, will love this.