Laura Hudson writes about Lifeline, an ingenious text-based adventure game for iOS that uses a messaging-like interface and actionable notifications to build a story and a relationship with the main character.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, there’s something about interacting with Taylor through text messages that can feel very intimate, perhaps because we’ve grown so accustomed to communicating our most personal thoughts with our friends through bursts of text—and waiting for their responses with bated breath.
While some mobile games intentionally frustrate players with waiting periods to compel them into spending money, waiting isn’t a coercion tactic in Lifelife, but rather a crucial part of the experience. If you die several times—or win the game—you can unlock an optional “fast mode” that allows you to skip the waiting periods, although I wouldn’t recommend it. While it might offer instant gratification, it also shatters the sense of immersion you feel, flattening the urgency and anticipation of those intermediate moments.
I love mobile games that try to do something out of the ordinary, and I'm intrigued by this idea. Lifeline is $2.99 on the App Store and you can also play it on your Apple Watch.
Shaun Musgrave's story at TouchArcade about Accessibility in iOS games is a great one. Thanks to VoiceOver and the work of developers who implement accessible iOS technologies, blind and visually impaired users have been able to play games and be part of an active community.
In talking to the developers who have been able to make their games accessible, their feelings about the response from players are almost universally positive, in fact. In the case of King Of Dragon Pass, David Dunham actually implemented some code so that he could track how many players make use of the VoiceOver function. It varies over time, but in the last month or so, he reported that 7% of players loading up the app are doing so in VoiceOver mode, a very significant number. From a purely financial view, Dunham informed me, the investment was worth it. He went on, “But that’s not the only viewpoint. Not long after we released with VoiceOver support, we got email from a player who said he was a blind teenager from the Netherlands. He thanked us for making a game that finally let him feel like part of the world gaming community, because he could play on an equal level with everyone else.” Amir Rajan told a similar story about A Dark Room. “It's worth it to get a thank you email from a father with a blind daughter than can enjoy a popular game that her seeing friends play too,” said Rajan.
Related: The American Foundation for the Blind awarded Apple for their work on VoiceOver and Accessibility features.
Snake, the iconic '90s game that came pre-loaded on Nokia phones, is coming back with a new mobile version developed by its original creator. Stuart Dredge, writing at The Guardian:
Long before Candy Crush Saga, Clash of Clans and Angry Birds, Nokia’s Snake was the king of the mobile gaming world – not least because it was installed on every single mobile phone the company sold.
Now the game is returning for modern smartphones courtesy of that mobile version’s creator Taneli Armanto and developer Rumilus Design, who will release Snake Rewind on 14 May.
As you can imagine, it sounds the new Snake Rewind will implement various In-App Purchases to buy items and continue playing even after your snake crashes. I played hundreds of hours with the original Snake 15 years ago, and I'm more concerned about the control scheme. Snake could be played well with the number pad on a Nokia phone. How will this translate to touch controls?
Snake Rewind launches next week, on May 14th. You can read the official blog post here.
In the heady days of Macintosh shareware gaming, Ray Dunakin was a star. His 1990 world-hopping adventure title Ray's Maze puzzled and delighted Mac gamers the world over, despite it having been made with an early black-and-white Mac program called World Builder, and his later games Another Fine Mess, A Mess O' Trouble, and Twisted! only added to his reputation. But fate conspired to force the games into oblivion as Apple moved the Mac into OS X and then over to Intel processors.
Until now. Marc Khadpe is Ray's biggest fan. He's been the proprietor of the Ray's Maze Page since he created it in 1996. And he's spent the past decade, on and off, rewriting the World Builder engine for OS X.
Crossy Road is the rare story of success at the intersection of art, commerce, design and marketing. It's about lessons learned in hard times and a games maker who thought he might never go back to GDC after one terrible year. It's about a pair of developers who, in fact, did set out to create a video gaming phenomenon — and succeeded.
An inspiring tale of success, especially because the developers purposefully tried a different free-to-play model and didn't simply experiment without consideration. A good lesson.
There's a moment in Alto's Adventure when you realize that bouncing off rocks in a snowy downhill isn't a glitch, but a game mechanic designed to make it harder to complete certain goals and combos. This sums up my experience with playing Snowman's new iOS game, out today for iPhone and iPad.
Apple has started promoting games that don't have any In-App Purchases on the front page of the App Store. Currently featured in the UK App Store and likely expanding to the U.S. store later today as part of the App Store's weekly refresh, the section is called 'Pay Once & Play' and it showcases “great games” that don't require users to pay for extra content through IAPs.
The section is organized in Recent Releases, Blockbuster Games, and App Store Originals. The games included vary in terms of popularity and developer: Apple is promoting indie hit Thomas Was Alone under Blockbuster Games alongside Minecraft, but they're also showcasing award-winning Threes, Leo's Fortune, and Blek.
Over the past few years, Apple has dealt with numerous complaints and investigations over the nature of freemium games and how they were advertised as free downloads while effectively hiding major gameplay features behind In-App Purchases. The company brought a series of changes to the way freemium games were displayed on the App Store – it added a specific label to indicate IAPs, and then changed the button to download freemium games from “Free” to “Get”.
It's unclear whether the new section will be regularly updated or become a permanent fixture of the App Store's front page, but it's a good sign as it shows an interest in promoting quality game experiences that don't follow typical (and lucrative but potentially confusing) freemium trends.
A couple of weeks ago, NimbleBit announced that they were looking for testers for their new upcoming game called Letterpad. It's a word game that gives you a grid of 9 letters and tasks you with coming up with words from those letters that relate to a certain topic. Well, the game is just about complete at this point, and today NimbleBit have additionally announced that Letterpad will be playable on the forthcoming Apple Watch. Here you can see a mockup of what Letterpad will look like on the Apple Watch.
A couple of points to keep in mind: this will actually be based on a WatchKit extension embedded inside the iPhone app. You won't be able to run Letterpad natively on the Apple Watch initially. And, because there doesn't seem to be a way for developers to monetize extensions in iOS apps, the Watch “game” will likely come for free in the main iPhone app. Still, I think the idea of iPhone games extending to the Watch is pretty cool (imagine having remote inventory for RPGs or glanceable information for simulator games on your wrist) and I'm excited to see how others will take advantage of WatchKit for gaming.
I'm always interested in learning how the App Store market is working out for indie developers and small studios. Over the last few days, we got a glimpse into the business of iOS games thanks to numbers and stats shared by the developers of two quality titles – Crossy Road and Monument Valley.
“I played Disco Zoo and thought that video ads were a really good way to earn money without getting into people’s faces. We just needed to figure out a fun reason for players to watch them”. In the game, watching ads earns coins. Players can use coins to buy new characters that hop across the endless dangerous road in new and often hilarious ways. But it’s also possible to simply buy them with real money or just collect coins in the game.
Monument Valley, on the other hand, is an excellent premium game that allows players to download extra levels as additional purchases (the so-called paymium model). In a widely popular post, ustwo shared the numbers behind the game. Most notably:
2.4M official sales, 1.7M of which on iOS
575k upgrades to Forgotten Shores
$5.8M in revenue, 81.7% of which on iOS
The numbers, however, also include more specific and interesting stats such as the number of players who completed the game (lower than I expected) and sales by country. I find it illuminating to see the effects of Forgotten Shores and Christmas compared to winning an Apple Design Award or releasing the game on Android.
Crossy Road and Monument Valley are two profoundly different games. Monument Valley had a big budget (for an indie production), a moderately large team, and it reaped well-deserved rewards. Crossy Road uses freemium mechanics with a unique twist, respecting the user's time and commitment to the game. In both cases, they are quality games, and two examples of the multifaceted (and crowded) App Store market.