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Posts tagged with "games"

Arcade Highlights: Sayonara Wild Hearts

How can I best describe Sayonara Wild Hearts? It’s an on-rails music-driven game, but that feels like an inadequate description. Yes it’s a game, but combining the gameplay with Sayonara Wild Hearts’ blend of immersive levels, gorgeous visuals, and incredible soundtrack, it feels more fitting to call it an experience.

Sayonara Wild Hearts was an Apple Arcade launch title, one of the few demoed on-stage at Apple’s September event. And as one of Arcade’s premiere titles, it’s a brilliant representation of what Apple’s new service represents: off-the-walls originality. Arcade aims to fund and promote a variety of creative titles, freeing developers from the restraints commonly associated with the App Store’s In-App Purchase-dominated gaming fare. Sayonara Wild Hearts offers an experience that’s so unique and, dare I say, trippy, that it clearly represents its makers’ unfiltered vision.

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GameClub Launches a Subscription Service That Revives a Growing Catalog of 70 Classic iOS Games

Last March, I sat down with Eli Hodapp at Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco. We were in town for the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC). For me, it was strange to be back in the environs of the Moscone Center for something other than WWDC. I felt a little like a fish out of water, and I sensed Hodapp did too, though for a very different reason.

You see, Hodapp had just announced that he was leaving as Editor-in-Chief of TouchArcade, after a decade of helping build it into one of the premier websites that covers iOS games. As a reader, I was sorry to see him go, but I was also eager to chat with Hodapp because what brought us together was the buzz surrounding the reason he left: GameClub.

GDC San Francisco 2019.

GDC San Francisco 2019.

Hodapp and I are both from the Chicago area, but we’d never met before GDC. What led me to contact him was a column he’d written for gameindustry.biz about preserving the legacy of iOS games that had disappeared from the App Store, a topic that we’ve covered many times on MacStories and elsewhere in the past.

In the gameindustry.biz story, Hodapp explained why he left TouchArcade:

I’ve been incredibly vocal about preserving our digital history over the years, and it’s distressing to think how many great, historically important (and simply fun!) games have been lost. That reality is my prime motivation in stepping down from TouchArcade: to raise awareness of this problem.

Hodapp had joined GameClub as its VP of Business Development shortly before GDC to help build the library of 70 classic iOS games that are launching with the service today.

Over coffee, Hodapp and I discussed the state of gaming on iOS, game preservation, and, of course, GameClub. It was still very early days, but Hodapp articulated a clear vision of how classic iOS games could be resurrected in an economically viable way. As we chatted, Hodapp outlined the very thing GameClub is launching today: a service designed to reintroduce dozens of games to a new generation of iOS gamers without ads, manipulative In-App Purchases, or other gimmicks. The business model hadn’t been locked down yet, but if all the business and technical hurdles could be cleared, a subscription service was likely.

Shortly thereafter, GameClub launched a beta program to test games that it had already updated to work on modern iOS hardware and software. I joined immediately. I enjoyed playing some old favorites throughout the summer, and watching as the ranks of GameClub’s beta testers grew on Discord.

As I checked in periodically over the summer, it was clear that something about GameClub had struck a chord. For some gamers, it was the fatigue built up over many years from the constant barrage of ads and In-App Purchases. For others, it was the delight and nostalgia of rediscovering the first games they’d played on iOS. Even in those early days, it was clear that GameClub had tapped into something special by releasing a steady stream of classics and building a community of people that cared about them.

Now, after over seven months and many more beta-tested games, GameClub has launched, and I love it. Not only is the service brimming with many of my all-time favorite iOS games, but the GameClub app itself is a terrific way to discover new games and keep track of favorites. There’s a lot going on with GameClub, so let’s dig in.

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Arcade Highlights: Card of Darkness

Do you like fantasy-themed games? How about Zach Gage’s work – Flipflop Solitaire, Really Bad Chess, Typeshift, SpellTower, etc.? Would a mobile game brought to life by the art of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward be of interest to you? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Card of Darkness should be one of the first games you download from Apple Arcade.

If you answered no to all three questions, you should probably play Card of Darkness anyways.

Card of Darkness is a roguelike game where each stage contains a grid of stacked cards, with each stack holding a random mix of monsters to defeat, weapons to equip, and potions and treasure to find. There are also magic spell scrolls that help you more easily navigate what can be a treacherous quest to get from the start of the grid to its end. You don’t have to clear every card stack to complete a level, but you do need to forge an open path to the finish line, and every stack you take even a single card from will need to be finished. As you clear each card stack, more stacks further into the grid will be revealed, slowly reducing the amount of cards that stand between you and the end of the grid.

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Mac Catalyst Isn’t Only for Bringing iPad Apps to the Mac for the First Time

So far, the most common path to releasing a Mac Catalyst app on the Mac App Store has been to adapt and release an existing iPadOS app as a first-time Mac app. However, that’s not the only route to the Mac App Store. Apple allows developers to use Mac Catalyst in a variety of ways, as Steve Troughton-Smith has demonstrated with HCC Solitaire, a Mac-only game built using Mac Catalyst. He and Brian Mueller, the creator of CARROT Weather, have also used Mac Catalyst to release new versions of Mac apps that were previously built with AppKit.

As Troughton-Smith’s HCC Solitaire confirms, developers are not required to have an iPad app on the App Store to release an app on the Mac App Store using Mac Catalyst.

The game is an implementation of classic solitaire that’s just $0.99 and displays no ads. Perhaps most interesting from a developer standpoint, though, is that you won’t find HCC Solitaire if you search for an iOS or iPadOS version on the App Store. Troughton-Smith built the game using UIKit and the tools provided as part of Mac Catalyst without also creating an iPadOS version.

Brian Mueller's CARROT Weather.

Brian Mueller’s CARROT Weather.

Mac Catalyst apps can also be swapped in for existing Mac apps. That’s what Brian Mueller did with CARROT Weather, which was launched the day macOS Catalina was released as version 4.13 of his existing AppKit app. Troughton-Smith took the same approach with SameGame, a color-matching game in which you earn points by eliminating contiguous blocks that are the same color, releasing version 2.2 shortly after Catalina’s release.

Steve Troughton-Smith's SameGame.

Steve Troughton-Smith’s SameGame.

I don’t expect either of these approaches to become the main way that Mac Catalyst apps are released, but I’m glad to see that it’s possible. Most developers will be bringing an iPadOS app to the Mac for the first time, but business models, developer backgrounds, the APIs used in an app, and many other variables play a role in the decision of whether to use Mac Catalyst. It’s encouraging to see Apple take a flexible approach and allow developers to experiment because that makes Mac Catalyst useful to more of them. However, as I noted in my Catalina review and elsewhere, that flexibility needs to be coupled with bug fixes, documentation, and rapid evolution of Mac Catalyst for it to become a viable option for a wider audience of developers.


14-Year-Old Developer Created Game for Apple Arcade’s Launch

Patrick Klepek writes for VICE about the 14-year-old developer, Spruce Campbell, whose game Operator 41 was part of the Apple Arcade launch:

“When I saw the Apple Arcade announcement in March I dropped everything and decided to build a whole new game for Arcade,” [Campbell] told VICE via email. “I thought that the games that really fit Apple Arcade will probably be designed for it from the ground up, so I came up with a stealth game that would work on all the Arcade platforms.”

Campbell has quite a personal story. As Klepek notes, the young developer taught himself to code starting at the age of 8, and when he was 12 he designed a game, CyberPNK, that netted him a BAFTA award. He also received a scholarship to attend WWDC this June, which is where he was able to personally pitch Operator 41 to Apple for Arcade inclusion. Campbell says following that pitch:

“I went back to the dorms, and over the next week I was accepted onto the service,” he said. “I’d say that was the luckiest moment of production—so many stars had to align for me to be accepted onto the service and everything went so well.”

Klepek’s concluding words put into perfect context what this story means for the potential of Arcade’s future.

Operator 41 doesn’t have many reviews. It didn’t get a big marketing push, and wasn’t on Apple’s big stage…But what’s remarkable is that Operator 41 exists at all, and shows Apple having a willingness to give people a shot. Apple Arcade isn’t a place where, like the App Store, anything can get published. There is a curation element. Campbell wasn’t signed because he made a hit that Apple thinks will bring new people into Apple Arcade. In this case, Apple decided it was worth including a game by a mostly unknown 14-year-old designer.

Arcade’s launch has been fantastic, and with the near-certainty of more stories like Campbell’s moving forward, the service’s future looks bright.

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Arcade Launches for Some iOS Beta Testers

Earlier today, a series of reviews of Apple Arcade were published across the web and on YouTube. Shortly thereafter, Apple took the wraps off the service itself for at least a subset of people running the iOS 13 or 13.1 betas. Arcade doesn’t officially launch until September 19th, but it appears that Apple is using a slow roll-out to some beta testers to test the service and create buzz around the launch.

The design of the Arcade tab is reminiscent of the App Store’s other tabs, although more space is reserved for spotlighting individual titles, and so far, there is little editorial content. It will be interesting to see how this mix evolves as more games become available and more editorial content is created. In addition to themed collections like ‘Start Your Adventure’ and ‘No Time to Blink,’ Arcade has a section dedicated to ‘New Arrivals,’ includes hint guides for three of the games and a button at the bottom of the view for accessing every game in the service.

The activation of Arcade for some users coincided with a press release from Apple highlighting four games by smaller game studios: The Enchanted World, Patterned, Overland, and Card of Darkness. I haven’t had a chance to comb through the entire catalog yet, but there are a lot of great-looking games featured at launch that jumped out at me including:

I’m looking forward to trying all of these as well as discovering new titles.

As I said on AppStories this week, I’ve been cautiously optimistic and excited about Arcade. What I’ve seen of the new service in my brief time with it so far today is perfectly in line with what I hoped for. Apple seems to have struck a nice balance among many different categories of games, and with only about half of the 100+ titles that should be coming soon, that is an excellent start.


Apple Highlights Arcade Titles in New Video

Today on its YouTube channel, Apple published a new video highlighting some of the titles coming to Apple Arcade once it launches next Thursday alongside iOS 13.

The video spends nearly two minutes providing quick glimpses at a lot of Arcade titles, while lingering for extended periods over a handful of titles that haven’t been seen much before, such as Earth Night, Hot Lava, Skate City, and more.

The demos Apple shared on-stage at its September event received mixed responses, but I would expect a much more enthusiastic response to greet this video. Everything showcased looks fantastic, offering interesting stories, gameplay mechanics, and visuals. If Apple really does have 100+ games like this at or near launch, Arcade is going to quickly become a very compelling service.


Apple Unveils Apple Arcade Game Subscription Details

Today, Apple took the wraps off of Apple Arcade, the game subscription service that will bring a curated selection of games to iOS devices, the Apple TV, and Macs. Although the service was originally announced in March, until today, few details were available.

During the keynote event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, Apple shared new details about Arcade, which will be available beginning September 19th on iOS, September 30th on iPadOS, and in October on macOS Catalina. As promised, Arcade features games with no ads, In-App Purchases, or other add-ons. Instead, for $4.99 per month, subscribers can download any of the games in Arcade’s catalog on their devices from the dedicated Arcade tab in the iOS and Mac App Stores, and a separate pre-installed Arcade app on Apple TVs. Games are available to up to six family members through Apple’s Family Sharing feature, sync progress across devices with iCloud, and do not require an Internet connection to be played.

Phil Schiller had the following to say about Arcade in Apple’s press release:

“We are so excited to launch Apple Arcade on the App Store. A curated selection of over 100 new and exclusive games from many of the most innovative game developers in the world is the perfect complement to the App Store’s existing massive catalog of games,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We think customers of all ages are going to be delighted that a single subscription gives the whole family unlimited access to the full catalog of amazing Apple Arcade games, all without any ads or additional purchases, while knowing every game must meet Apple’s high privacy standards.”

The new Arcade tab in the App Store will feature personalized game recommendations, game trailers, and editorial content that appears to be similar to what the App Store editorial team has been creating since iOS 11. Apple says:

The catalog will exceed 100 games in the coming weeks as new titles are introduced, with more games to come every month.

As rumored, Arcade will cost $4.99 per month and Apple will offer a one-month free trial.

It’s heartening to see Apple take an interest in promoting high-quality games with artistic value. I’m hopeful that the promise of services revenue will push Apple even further to make its devices first-rate gaming platforms. Helping game developers produce and promote top-notch games for its platforms is a fantastic first step. However, whether Arcade will succeed will depend largely on the undisclosed terms of Apple’s business deals with developers. If that piece of the puzzle works for everyone involved, next I’d like to see Apple address hardware limitations of its devices, especially the Mac, which has difficulty handling anything but the simplest games.


You can follow all of our Apple event coverage through our September 10, 2019 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated September 10, 2019 RSS feed.


Classic iOS Game Service GameClub Is Coming this Fall

First announced in March just ahead of the annual Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, GameClub has released a video revealing that the classic iOS game subscription service is coming later this fall. GameClub is working with developers of classic iOS titles that no longer work on modern hardware or versions of iOS to update and re-release them as part of their service free of ads and In-App Purchases.

Since March, GameClub has been running a free public beta test that has released updates of classic games like Hook Champ, Incoboto, Rocket Ski Racing, Super Crate Box, Legendary Wars, and Mage Gauntlet. During the beta period, those games have been free to play by anyone who signs up, but will become part of the subscription service this fall.

MacRumors reports that the subscription service will include over 50 titles at launch with new games released weekly, adding that:

In addition to classic titles, after launch, GameClub plans to expand into new and original premium games.

GameClub pricing hasn’t been announced, although the company told MacRumors it would be a ‘small monthly fee.’ The company has also said that if you owned one of the classic games they are bringing back, you’ll be able to download it again free of charge even if you don’t subscribe.

Apple is on the cusp of launching its own game subscription service called Arcade. At first blush, that may seem like it puts GameClub in a tough spot, but I don’t think so. Unlike Arcade’s curated collection of new titles, GameClub’s catalog is packed with proven classics curated by GameClub’s Vice President of Business Development and former TouchArcade editor-in-chief Eli Hodapp. Nostalgia for classic games and increasing efforts to preserve them in recent years puts GameClub in a unique position to carve out an important role for themselves. I can’t wait to hear the final details and try GameClub myself.