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Posts tagged with "games"

New Google Maps APIs Empowering Game Developers to Create Premium AR Experiences

Andrew Webster, writing for The Verge:

There’s been a wave of location-based mobile games announced recently, based on everything from The Walking Dead to Jurassic World. It turns out these games have more in common than just timing: they’re all powered by Google Maps. Today Google is announcing that it’s opening up its ubiquitous mapping platform to allow game developers to more easily create real-world games. The next Pokémon Go might finally be on the way.

Gaining access to a real-time mapping source like Google Maps is huge for developers, but the additional tools that go along with Google's newly announced game platform take that a step further. Google is also launching a Unity SDK to tie into its mapping data, and enabling gameplay experiences to be built around specific locations or location types.

Developers can do things like choose particular kinds of buildings or locations — say, all stores or restaurants — and transform each one. A fantasy realm could turn all hotels into restorative inns, for instance, or anything else.

This sounds like it could be a huge boon to the mobile game market, particularly when combined with tools like Apple's ARKit. Yes, it means we'll probably get tired of all the games trying to replicate Pokémon GO's success, but these new developer tools will also likely enable some truly immersive, exciting gaming experiences.

Google created a video that shows off just a glimpse of what's possible with its new Maps APIs.


Game Day: Bring You Home

Earlier this month Alike Studio released Bring You Home, a charming puzzle game about a blue alien on a quest to save its pet from thieves. It’s a delightful game that showed up one day with little fanfare. The game, from the creators of Love You to Bits, was teased almost a year ago, but its sudden appearance on the App Store means it hasn’t gotten the coverage it deserves. That’s a shame because this is a low-key but captivating game that should appeal to a wide audience.

Exploration is at the core of Bring You Home. As soon as the alien’s pet is whisked away, it leaps out the window after the thieves landing face-first on the ground. Time rewinds, and you’re shown how to swipe panels up and down until there’s a cart of hay under the window to break the alien’s fall. It’s a simple mechanic similar to the hit game Framed but executed with a style and personality that fits Bring You Home.

The goal is just as simple. By manipulating the environment around the alien, you help steer it from scene to scene in pursuit of the thieves. As you move through Bring You Home, new layers are added to the gameplay. Instead of just cycling through panels vertically, you can swap their position horizontally too. Next, the game adds multi-step puzzles, which require you to rearrange the scene, pause, and make further adjustments. Along the way, there are also collectible photos featuring your alien and his pet, which is a nice touch suggesting that it’s ok to explore, fail, and explore some more.

There is an absurd logic to each of the nearly 50 levels of Bring You Home, which rewards thoughtful examination. There are no time limits or penalties for failure, which encourages a leisurely, calm approach. Sure, you can power through Bring You Home quickly, but that’s not the point. Trial and error is part of the fun. This is a game best-enjoyed at a pace at which you can absorb each scene’s brightly-colored, playful animations.

Bring You Home is a Universal app that’s also available on the Apple TV. The game looks great on a big screen TV, but the controls work better on an iOS device, so on balance, I prefer to play on my iPad. Also, achievements are tracked in Game Center, and your progress is synced between devices via iCloud, which I always appreciate.

Bring You Home is a relaxing game with a playful, sweet personality that will appeal to kids and adults alike. The puzzles range from easy to challenging without ever becoming frustrating, which makes it an excellent choice for relaxing on a quiet afternoon.

Bring You Home is available on the App Store.

The Evolution of Alto’s Odyssey

iMore's Serenity Caldwell and Luke Filipowicz put together a great Q&A with Team Alto to discuss the making of Alto's Odyssey.

Here's my favorite bit, which only adds to my love for this game:

One of the big breaks in the new game's theming came from the lives of Team Alto's members themselves. "Things really clicked when we reflected as a group on how much our lives had changed since the release of Alto's Adventure," wrote Cymet. "The team had grown, some of us had moved away from the homes we knew to live in other places, and we had all experienced big personal upheaval in different ways.

"What we arrived at was a desire to capture the feeling of going outside your comfort zone, exploring the unfamiliar, and accepting that the concept of 'home' is related to the people close to you, not any one place. In many ways, this is what led us to the grandeur of Alto's Odyssey's setting. This idea of a fantastical place far from what you know as home, where you learn to see the beauty in embracing the unknown."


Alto’s Odyssey Review: Desert Tranquility

The sky above the desert has chosen a peculiar, almost plum-like shade of purple tonight as I’m nimbly moving past tall silhouettes of cacti and palm trees, when I see the black contours of a rock. My experience tells me that, in most cases, rocks have to be avoided, so I jump. While airborne, I glance at the dune ahead of me, and decide to attempt a backflip. The sky in the distance is a sight to behold – a full moon, barely visible among the clouds, faintly illuminates a panorama of ancient ruins left to age and crumble. In fact, the horizon is so beautiful, I don’t see another rock waiting just ahead of me as soon as I stick the landing. I hit the rock and fall face down in the sand. It’s game over.

I try again.

An angry lemur is chasing me, probably because I, once a mountain shepherd and now a tourist with a sandboard and little knowledge of lemur manners, woke the creature who was resting in his hut. His only goal, apparently, is to attack me and stop my speedy exploration. But I just need to make it to the next chasm and leave him behind, shaking his tiny lemur fist at me as I backflip over the void. That shouldn't be too hard.

He’s fast though. Suddenly, I see a potential way out: a rushing water stream connects to a narrow wall, which I can vertically ride to hop onto a vine where I can grind, jump, and backflip to build up speed and escape the lemur. Seems easy enough. My jumps are precise and I elegantly make it onto the vine. But the lemur isn’t giving up – he’s right behind me. 10, 9, 7, 5 meters behind – he’s going to catch me. But we’re at the end of the vine now, and if I jump, I’m going to land and sprint. I take the leap and start my backflip. I think I made it. Except the lemur also jumps, grabs me, and I’m face down in the sand again. It's game over.

I keep trying.

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My Favorite iOS Games of 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we’ve seen what may prove to be a shift in iOS gaming. With the recent introduction of app pre-orders, iOS may attract more paid-up-front indie games and ports of console and PC titles than in the past. Pre-orders aren’t limited to games, but it’s no coincidence that the first batch of pre-orders released on the App Store were all successful indie titles.

It’s too early to tell if recent developments are the beginning of a trend towards a more diverse and interesting iOS game market or a one-off anomaly that will fizzle, but I hope it takes hold. The prospect of the App Store attracting new sorts of games could broaden the appeal of iOS as a gaming platform, which in turn, could change the dynamic of iOS gaming in 2018.

We’ll have to wait to see what 2018 has in store, but in the meantime, the end of the year is a good time to look back. It’s always hard to pick favorites. So many excellent games were released this year, and I didn’t have time to try them all, but here are my six favorites of the 37 that I covered in 2017 along with links to each of the reviews of them.

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Rainbrow, a Game Controlled by the iPhone X’s TrueDepth Camera

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors about Rainbrow, a free arcade game for the iPhone X that requires you to raise your eyebrows or frown to move the character on screen:

Simply raise your eyebrows to move the emoji up, frown to move the emoji down, or make a neutral expression and the emoji stays still. Note that if you raise your eyebrows, and keep them raised, the emoji will continue to move in an upwards direction, and vice verse when maintaining a frowning expression.

While there are no levels, the game gets increasingly difficult as more obstacles appear. The goal is simply to get the highest score possible, but players can only compete against themselves right now. Gitter told us that he plans to integrate Apple's Game Center for multiplayer competition in a future update.

Here's a video of the game in action:

I played this for 20 minutes last night. It's genius. Using the TrueDepth camera on the iPhone X, Rainbrow can detect the movements of muscles around your eyes and thus ask you to raise or lower your eyebrows to move an emoji up and down to collect points. What makes this game feel like magic – as if the iPhone is reading your mind – is that there's no camera preview on screen and no buttons to press: you don't see your face in a corner; the game simply reacts to your expressions in real-time without an interface separating you from the actual gameplay. It's fun, and it's a good demonstration of the accuracy of the TrueDepth system.

Here's what I wrote two weeks ago in the TrueDepth section of my iPhone X story:

I've been asking myself which parts of iOS and the iPhone experience could be influenced by attention awareness and redesigned to intelligently fit our context and needs. I don’t think this idea will be limited to Face ID, timers, and auto-lock in the future. What happens, for example, if we take attention awareness farther and imagine how an iPhone X could capture user emotions and reactions? TrueDepth could turn into an attention and context layer that might be able to suggest certain emoji if we’re smiling or shaking our heads, or perhaps automatically zoom into parts of a game if we’re squinting and getting closer to the screen. A future, more sophisticated TrueDepth camera system might even be able to guess which region of the display we’re focusing on, and display contextual controls around it. Siri might decide in a fraction of a second to talk more or less if we’re looking at the screen or not. Lyrics might automatically appear in the Music app if we keep staring at the Now Playing view while listening to a song.

It might be a silly game, but Rainbrow is the kind of different application of TrueDepth I had in mind. The same goes for Nose Zone, a game that uses ARKit's TrueDepth-based face tracking to turn your nose into a cannon to shoot squares (I'm serious). While these first TrueDepth games are fun gimmicks, I believe we're going to see invisible, persistent attention awareness and expression tracking become embedded into more types of apps over the next year.


The State of Nintendo’s Smartphone Games

Great overview by Bryan Finch, writing for Nintendo Wire, on the state of Nintendo's high-profile mobile titles:

With the recent release of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Nintendo has now delivered all of its previously announced smartphone games. The shocking change in company policy that lead to the development of these titles was one of the final projects that Nintendo’s former president, Satoru Iwata, managed before his untimely passing.

These games have been a mixed bag of success for Nintendo, both in terms of quality and profits, and since all of the known games are now out in the wild, it’s a good time to check in and see where each Nintendo mobile game stands at the end of 2017.

My goal here is to examine what the games set out to achieve, how successful they were with those goals on launch, where they are today and where they can go from here.

Finch is spot-on about Super Mario Run and what went wrong with the game, and I agree with his assessment of Animal Crossing's future potential. I wonder what Nintendo could do with a future mobile Zelda game.

See also: rumors of Nintendo looking for another mobile development partner, and Pocket Camp's performance thus far.