Tag Archives: mobile

Heroes of Might & Magic III HD Edition

One of my all-time favorite games has been re-released on Steam, iOS, and Android. I spent countless hours with Heroes of Might & Magic III growing up, and during my late-twenties nostalgia trip, had been itching to play again. The HD sheen doesn’t do much more than make the game look like what I remember playing, but I’m thrilled they kept the jagged animations around.

Steam | iOS | Android

[Via The Awesomer]

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Monument Valley in Numbers

An official (and of course beautiful) chart of sales figures, analytics, and other interesting stats from ustwogames. My favorites:

  • $5,858,625 revenue
  • 50% of players who started the game completed it
  • 53% of time and 64% of dollars were put into Forgotten Shores, the optional DLC expansion, compared against the main title.

Monument Valley is a truly remarkable game. Relinking my review of Monument Valley 1.0 and Neil McFarland’s thoughts on Freemium vs. Premium.

Download Monument Valley for iOS.

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Freemium v. Premium

Neil McFarland, director of games at Ustwo (Monument Valley), as quoted by Gamesindustry.biz:

Freemium effectively focuses on a niche – they just happen to be whales who spend unlimited amounts of money. Despite freemium games being seemingly for everyone, they’re not really.

[Premium’s] clearly not the best business model, but it was about our passion and the need to communicate something about gaming; a meaningful contribution to the medium, and to not overstay our welcome. Just give people something and that’s it – we’re not going to press you for endless hours of your time.

I thank the team at Ustwo for a fulfilling and concise experience. Only 90 minutes yet the sights and sounds of Monument Valley still linger in my mind. Relinking my review here.

Looking forward to the release of the Monument Valley original soundtrack by Stafford Bawler, Obfusc & Grigori.

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Mobile is burning, and free-to-play binds the hands of devs who want to help

Mobile is burning, and free-to-play binds the hands of devs who want to help

Barry Meade of Fireproof Games writing for Polygon:

In 2013 mobile games made over $10 billion globally and allegedly this is great. $10 billion sounds a lot, it is a lot, but the makers of Candy Crush alone took almost $2 billion. Throw in the top ten and there’s most of your games market gone; hoovered up by ten cute grinding games that are clones of each other. Any remaining change from that money is scraped off the table and scattered across a games industry trying to service a billion devices.

A 2 percent “engaged’ audience does not seem towering in achievement for a creative industry that looks to draw its players into new experiences. We’re living in a world where Netflix’s content inspires hysteria in grown adults, so is mobile gaming really in the same league when 98 percent of its gamers spend more on pencil sharpeners than games made by our billion-dollar leaders?

In my experience, The Room sparks the same water-cooler conversations for non-gamers that Myst did. It appears Monument Valley is doing the same, as experienced with my non-gaming colleagues. I think “the binge” has hindered the TV water-cooler conversation now that everyone is on their own schedule. Delivery of challenging and original yet “polished” and “possible” experiences can bring back the general audience gaming conversations we had on the playground.

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Mariothon

Mariothon

A Mario Kart running app.


Recently, Jane McGonigal’s “Reality Is Broken” has encouraged me to spend a lot of time pondering what it would be like to be a game designer; constantly considering the artful blend of psychology and technology and its impact on the entertainment, fitness and education industries.

“ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: wanted to break 6 mins in a mile time trial on the track; ran 5:45 and had more in the tank. ” – Christian Spicer, @spicer

#GeeksinSneaks

While on a jog with the gamified Nike+ Running app, I contemplated this hashtag. Aside from the Geeks in Sneaks meet up group and loads of gamified fitness apps (Wii Fit; Zombies, Run; Kinect Sports Rivals, etc.), I wondered if something more could be done to encourage those identified with the geek community to promote fitness regimes.

Initially, I had the lofty idea of organizing a crowd-funded #GeeksinSneaks race (5K, 10K, half/full marathon) full of cosplay, video game prizes and exclusive comics and geek apparel/memorabilia. If this idea were to draw a big enough crowd, its scale would limit the event to happening at fixed times in fixed areas. It may not be enough to encourage constant activity.

Then I thought about the Nike+ Running app. I am able to use this app on my own time. Day or night, weekday or weekend. While I appreciate the app’s gamification elements, they have now worn off to some degree; however, they were enough to get a jogging regime to stick. I now use the app simply as a fitness tracker. I wondered, “is there another way make running a gamified experience and broadcast it to a massive audience?”

Then it hit me.

Nintendo has repeatedly stated that they have a renewed focus on the smartphone ecosystem and health. They also plan to release Mario Kart 8, a beloved franchise, on May 30th. While real-life Mario Kart already exists, I was unable to find Mario Kart adapted into a running game. What if Nintendo were to release a gamified smartphone running app with the mechanics of Mario Kart built in. Lets call it “Mariothon.”

Mariothon

In Mariothon, players are able to set up a race with up to say four runners. Each player is required to where headphones with an attached button-mic to hear in game alerts and trigger events. At certain distances, players are awarded items (simulating Mario Kart’s mystery boxes) that they can use at their leisure by clicking the button on their headphones.

For example, at a quarter mile, a runner earns a lightning bolt. Once used, an in-game alert informs all other runners in the game to walk until the effect wears off. Another variation might add time to the paces of the competing runners. A banana peel might be used as a surprise attack when another runner crosses a certain geo-fence. Blue shells would have a direct impact on the leader, forcing them to stop dead in their tracks or pausing their “distance ran” meter. First to a specific distance wins!

Obviously, not every run will users want to incorporate the game element. In the event of solo runs, the app could serve as a simple run tracker with many of the same achievements offered in the Nike+ Running app. Cross-brand incentives could also award solo runs. Besting a 7-minute-mile or completing a 10K could unlock characters or tracks in Mario Kart or other console-based Nintendo games. (similar to Hearthstone’s unlockable WoW mount)

As a non-developer, I have no idea if linking players and dropping geo-fenced items is a possibility. I also understand that the initial development of this app would certainly be a huge undertaking. While this would join the many gamified fitness apps on the market, the Nintendo and Mario Kart branding may be enough for it to stick with a larger audience.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Is this something that would interest you? Does this already exist? Has fitness gamification worked for you? If so, what fitness apps are you utilizing and how are they helping?

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Image source The Augusta Chronicle


Originally published on TheStarrList.com

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Monument Valley – A Review

The beauty of brevity. The pleasure of paradox.


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Ten puzzles. Ten gorgeous, mind-bending, paradoxical puzzles. This is a video game you will complete. In fact, Monument Valley may the first video game many will complete. This is by design.

“With so many games, people never see the end, because there’s so many hours of gameplay, we wanted to make a game where you see the whole thing.” – Dan Gray, Monument Valley Executive Producer in an interview with Polygon

As a child, completing a game was a triumph. This was not due to lack time, rather heightened difficulty. Personally, my choice in games was largely based on franchise rather than quality. In turn, this provided me with a library of poorly designed “classics” such as Sonic The Hedgehog and Battletoads. Hours were spent replaying games from Stage 1-1 on to the point where I was forced to power down the console. Check points were few and far between. Save files were non-existent. When asking a video game funding parent if their child had completed any, you’d be hard pressed to receive a positive answer.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this notion has persuaded many audiences away from video games entirely. If they cannot be finished, what is the point?

Now in my late-20s, working 10-12 hours per day, fitting in crucial exercise for a metabolism that seems all but lost, weekends spent running errands that have stacked up, and nurturing a relationship with my soon-to-be wife, I find very little free time to invest in my love for gaming. The minute-to-minute time I do find is spent reading pieces on Polygon or IGN, sharing these with the greater social media landscape. Echoed in Ben Kuchera’s post “Parenthood makes gaming better by making time your most precious resource,” the value of time skyrockets as we age. The pastimes of yesteryear begin to seem wasteful, yet we strive to retain a connection to our childhood identity. After all, it is the foundation of our dreams. It is who we are and where we are headed.

Since playing Final Fantasy X (recently remastered for PS3 and PSVita) in high school, I have searched for games with rich story. Until the rise of indies, these only seemed attainable through 15-40 hour bouts of character and world building, effectively turning a game into an interactive novel. Fitting one of these epics into my day-to-day has become a near impossible feat.

This is where Monument Valley succeeds. Piling mass amounts of beautiful art and ambitious puzzle design into a bite sized experience is the video game equivalent of a decadent cake. Too much is overbearing. Not enough is unsatisfying. There is a balance.

Monument Valley immediately finds it’s footing through a rich color palette, a soothing soundtrack, and delicate animation. The player understands this world and its inhabitants. The story is used as a mysterious additive that comes secondary to exploring the gorgeous worlds built on paradoxical M. C. Esher design.

Puzzle solving through the discovery of paradox makes the player feel empowered and unstoppable. The experience of breaking illogical boundaries through new perspectives gives players the opportunity to live out their fantasies; it offers a sensation of seeing The Matrix or experiencing the paradox of Inception first-hand.

As the game progresses, the solutions to impossible geometry become more and more difficult to discover. It was not uncommon for me to consciously forget my knowledge of the real world and instead fall back on memories of mazes and Puzzlemania books of my youth. As the difficulty builds, the frustration of adulthood becomes more apparent. Our desire to know how things work is challenged to near breaking point. Even those with a basic understanding of code, animation, and design will scratch their heads and ask of the developers, “how did they do that?” Somehow, the player is able to move the on-screen character through paths that did not previously exist until viewing the vertical world from a different angle. Genius.

It seems the urgency for time has permeated the minds of the developers at ustwo. Monument Valley’s 2-3 hour play-through is the perfect amount of that decadent cake. The experience of Monument Valley is sure to please both the hardcore gamer and casual audiences alike. In fact, it is the perfect example of the importance of short and sweet, possibly introducing these polarizing audiences to a new approach in game design as seen in JourneyThe Room, or EDGE. And like that decadent cake, Monument Valley’s length, design, and puzzles are mesmerizing enough to feel satisfied yet haunting enough to warrant constant craving. If DLC is abound, sign me up.

Monument Valley is available exclusively on iOS (iTunes)


Originally published on TheStarrList.com

 

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