It’s Halloween madness as you destroy vampires & werewolves galore!
Hardcore gamers won’t be able to contain their excitement when they get their hands on Nom Nom’s summer MMO RPG release, Monster Madness Online, Battle for Suburbia. I was lucky enough to get a preview of their open beta at this year’s GDC 2014 and it did not disappoint. The fast action gameplay made it almost impossible for me to keep up, but just as important, for a first person shooter, you will not get bored for a second.
The team at Nom Nom have created their own multiplayer online service called Playverse. The service enables users to chat in real time, see those whom you are playing with, invite players to parties, support achievements, add friends, go between sessions with them, integrates leaderboards and all of it supports either a mobile, Linux, Web browser, IOS, Android, Steam experience.
Beat back the invasion with rapid fire gameplay
Think of it as Halloween on steroids! The kids of Monster Madness Online— Zack Fowler (the Nerd), Andy Gomez (the Skater dude), Jennifer Sweeney (the Cheerleader), and Carrie Rosenberg (the Goth) — are on a mission to beat back this insidious invasion, block by block, and then take the fight to the enemy’s mother ship and beyond. Nothing but vampires, ghouls, werewolves, and more to destroy.
You assume any number of characters, acquire as many weapons as you can, and choose to either go out on your own or support your team as you destroy monster upon monster. Even cooler, the game supports streaming technology. Users will barely notice the upgrades as the game downloads continually without disruption to gameplay.
Characters have access to a ton of different weapons from chainsaws to grenade launchers to shotguns to magic spells, all of which are customizable. The depth of gameplay is through the roof with very detailed weapon stats, including total ammo, how fast a weapon refires, precision targeting, to name but a few. Lots of consumables as well as you proceed through different levels.
Pros: Pure adrenaline rush for those in love with first person shooters. Lightening fast gameplay and unique online multiplayer service that will certainly attract gamers. Available on just about every gaming platform possible. Streaming technology for uninterrupted gameplay.
Cons: None (with the exception of pricing, which we won’t know until the game is commercially released)
Nom Nom has a hit on their hands and I encourage all hardcore gamers to give this one a try when it launches later this year.
Fresh from attending this year’s 2nd annual Game Monetization USA, I wanted to share some of the highlights that caught my attention.
First, for those in need of a quick reminder, the worldwide video gaming market is BIG. According to Gartner, the worldwide video game marketplace, including video game console hardware and software, online, mobile and PC games, will reach $93 billion in 2013, up from $79 billion in 2012. This bit of news correlates with some of the industry overview shared by speaker, Michael Pachter, Managing Director, Wedbush Securities. Digital product sales have grown to 13 billion, more than 300 percent for total sales of 26.8 billion in 2013. What has kept sales so high? More people are playing games than ever before on a greater number of devices. Free-to-play will continue its meteoric rise, but how are developers supposed to make money from this business model? It’s a hydra-headed challenge with some great examples to learn from.
Game failure lessons
If you want to succeed with your game in 2014 and beyond, make your game as ubiquitous as possible and duplicate the same experience on as many platforms as possible. Learn from those who are failing. For example, World of Warcraft. Its free-to-play subscription model is currently on the decline, having dropped to 7.7 million subscriptions earlier this year, representing a loss of more than 600,000 players. Zynga’s struggle to profitability and its past failures at trying to monetize social gaming is a case study worth reviewing. Banking on social alone will not make your game a success. Low barriers to entry keep some players away, including poor performing consoles as evidenced by Activision’s weak sales of Call of Duty: Ghosts.
What about the positives?
Gamers today want games in bite-size chunks. That’s why free-to-play has the right price. Candy Crush has been played more than 151 billion times since November 2012, according to Kings game guru, Tommy Palm. It’s been the #1 game on Android, Facebook, and estimates are that King takes in 875K per day. For Tommy, it’s not complicated to understand why Candy Crush has done so well. The game taps into your inner child, it’s social, provides an easy escape, and doesn’t irritate users with paid ads. Candy Crush is a true cross platform game being able to play from any device, including mobile and tablets. Most levels are not timed and it doesn’t consume all of your mental bandwidth. Candy Crush is a game where you can take your time. It uses direct app purchases to generate profit. It’s available offline and you don’t need to be connected to Facebook in order to play it. Brilliant!
Game Monetization 3.0
One of the more compelling presentations came from Chris Early, VP of Digital Distribution, Ubisoft. Early’s focus was on how to create games that will actually get the gamer to complete the story of the game itself. Microsoft conducted a gaming study back in 2009 showing only about a third of people who play a game actually finish the story. For Early, the two thirds of game players who abandon the story of any game and never bother to get to the finish line is the untapped goldmine game developers must target.
Can developers produce a game that lets people use whatever resource they have in abundance to facilitate their completion of the game itself?
Early proposes a player resource investment mix where developers create games designed to let people use whatever resource they have at their disposal, be it their attention, money, time, or creativity. Getting everyone to play the entire game instead of having two thirds leave is worth a great deal more. Early cited World of Tanks and their VIP program. Players get the opportunity to become premium subscribers, enabling them to gain more experience, increase their money earnings, and get access to special gear. Publishers need to replicate this model of game enticement making available such add-ons that feed a user’s appetite for a higher quality gaming experience. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is an example where developers offer users $1.99 technology packs that can add further upgrades to a user’s ship, for example.
Game developers must consistently show the value that their game offers to their players. Telling users what extras they can acquire taps into their additional resource.
Getting on Apple’s app store radar
Getting your game featured in Apple’s app store is a holy grail of sorts. Easier said than done. The total number of apps currently available in the App Store surpasses one million. Apple’s App store receives 26,000+ submissions every week. Faced with such daunting numbers, it pays to get a few helpful reminders on how you can increase your chances of success. Cory Lewis, an IOS product and strategic consultant along with Michael Ehrenberg, formerly of Gameloft, Apple, and Nintendo fame, both shared some invaluable tips.
Begin your relationship with Apple at the start, not at the end of your game’s development. Keep Apple apprised of your game’s development, anywhere from 6 months up to a year from launch. Get your assets approved early.
Spend time in two of the most important online game development forums, Toucharcade and Neogaf.
Contact the app store directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just because you might make a lot of money from your app doesn’t mean you will rank well on Apple’s list of games.
2014 Gaming predictions
According to Pachter:
Consoles will be irrelevant in ten years time.
Microsoft will lose the next generation of gamers (if they don’t cut the prices on their Xbox).
Sony will leapfrog ahead of Microsoft as it continues to cater to a larger percentage of next generation gamers.
PC as a gaming device will make a comeback.
Gamer demographics will broaden; smarter devices now allow the same experience on multiple devices.
Subscription packages will become ubiquitous.
Clash of Clans and Hay Day have generated more than $500,000 per day for Supercell.
What did they figure out that you haven’t?
TinyCo and 20th Century Fox spawn mobile Family Guy
Finally, in case you didn’t need more reason to go spend more time on your mobile phone, Twentieth Century Fox and TinyCo announced that the hit show Family Guy is going mobile. Funny mobile games are in as shown by the success of Electronic Arts mobile game hit, The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Family Guy’s free-to-play game will be available on iOS and Android devices in 2014. The free-to-play game will feature an all-new original story influenced by the show’s 212 episode catalogue as well as current events. “It’s really fun!” said Peter Griffin, Family Guy character since 1999. “Plus, if you play it for more than three hours it counts as going outside!”
Now go out and design your kick-ass game for 2014!
“I was thinking about a mobile game where you might bounce objects off of the skyline, like when you watch a sunset, or the horizon, and find a way to turn that little action into part of a story where people are having fun and are learning to see the world in a different way.” – Tom Meyer, founder and CEO, oMobio
Tapping into mobile CPU for a greater GPU experience
When it comes to mobile, games are essential. A good or even great game can alone sell tablets or smartphones. Mobile game developers salivate at the thought of hitting it out of the ballpark, earning their team millions, and contributing to the ongoing evolution of mobile gameplay. So when Tom Meyer, founder and CEO of oMobio decided to go for broke and follow through on his fixation with edge detection, coupled with photography, and marrying it to the power of today’s GPU, it was only a matter of time before the mobile gaming world would begin to take notice. Selected as one of seven finalists to present at the Who’s Got Game Innovation Showdown at this year’s GamesBeat 2013, Meyers presented A Vision Quest, a game where you use your phone’s camera to snap photos to help you solve puzzles, and prompting you to look a little harder at the lines and edges of what’s around you in the physical world.
Meyer is no stranger to app development. One of the earliest employees at Dropbox, he created their Android app. Meyer was also the architect and lead developer of Smule’s Magic Piano app, also for Android. A software architect, Meyer kept puzzling over the years on how to tap the power and speed of today’s mobile processors with their numerous device sensors and convert them into GPU driven applications. Spending time with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley Meyers decided to push the envelope of CPU bound algorithms and create his own mobile app game.
I pressed Meyer further on this idea of edge detection. “I was looking for edge detection because it constitutes a fundamental tool in image processing and is a core component to these algorithms. Our eyes perceive edges very strongly. In order to teach computers how to see, it’s instrumental that they understand edges and see the world the way humans do.”
What is a Vision Quest?
A Vision Quest tells the story of two armadillos, Ardee, a courageous test pilot and his ace mechanic girlfriend, Arnette. While both in love, a coyote named Istaqa, out of jealousy, uses his umbrella ray gun to blast both Ardee and Arnette into separate universes. It’s up to the user to play various levels and work on getting Ardee and Arnette back together again.
When I first observed Meyer showing me his game, I thought “easy enough,” just snap a photo and voila, you’ve integrated it into your gameplay. But then when I tried playing the game, I quickly latched on to exactly what I believe is Meyer’s true calling card. With a game that forces you to interact with your surroundings, it’s necessary you spend time reviewing its geometry. In this case, the lines and angles that you rarely spend time observing in your daily life, which now become integral players in the quality of your gameplay. Being lazy in how you photograph can cost you if you expect to easily try and finish each level. I asked Brian Blau, Research Director in Consumer Technology at Gartner about the significance of the mobile camera as a core feature of A Vision Quest’s gameplay.
“It’s refreshing to see a game make different use of the device sensors, especially the camera as smartphone users love their on board cameras for imagery and video on the go. Incorporating the camera into a game is a bold move but one that really brings the player into a deeper relationship with the game content.”
Mobile games that tap into feelings and inspire discovery
I echo Blau’s sentiments and more to the point, I believe that any game, which dives deeper into real-world constructs, can make it feel more personal and contribute to a sense of discovery. At this past week’s GamesBeat 2013, Robin Hunicke, Co-founder, Funomena, spoke about how games that inspire feelings and foment a desire to share tend to play second fiddle to game mechanics. Hunicke’s team built the phenomenally successful game,Journey,a game that relied less on “shoot’em-up bang bang” and instead emphasizes criteria like atmosphere, an original storyline, and is a multi-player game focused on cooperation rather than just killing. Hunicke said her company cares about injecting curiosity into her games, something that will reward both parents and their kids.
A Vision Quest advances the concept of unique and personal
What is the most addictive emotion possible that a game can bring out in any player? For Hunice, it’s a sense of achievement. Rewarding achievement is how you keep your fans coming back for more. In the case of A Vision Quest, Meyer is gambling on a gamers’ attraction to the real world and integrating it into the gameplay for a more personalized experience. I have to admit, when I first tried playing, I didn’t quite get edge detection. Using Meyer’s tablet, I took a photo but soon realized it wasn’t the appropriate angle that would help me finish the level. It took a few attempts to get comfortable, snap the right shot, and finally get Ardee into the next dimension, pushing me on to the next level of play. Over time, I grew to understand and appreciate how examining those lines and angles in real-world constructions naturally enables a unique gaming experience each and every time. Using the camera for each level of play is pure genius. The game remains consistently fresh and forces your eyes to spend more time appreciating those angles around you. You’re not going to be playing this game as fast as you can. Adults, teenagers, and kids who maintain their child-like appreciation of the world will be most attracted to A Vision Quest.
To my knowledge, no other mobile game is currently exploiting the camera as part of its gameplay experience. According to Meyer, A Vision Quest will be released for Android by Christmas time as free-to-play, with power-ups for sale. iOS users will have to wait until Q1, 2014. Plans are also in the mix to make available extra photo packs that consist of stock or licensed photos where you would have to hunt and find the way to solve the levels with only those pictures.
The game will launch with two worlds, one tied to a holiday-theme and the other a jungle. Myer says both worlds will start-off with a minimum of 20 levels to complete. Users can share the results of their playing on Facebook and also import photos from their friends to feature as part of their own unique gameplay.
What about the Armadillo?
When you’re busy brainstorming the types of characters for your next mobile game app, what comes to mind? Animals? Superheroes? What about two star-crossed studded Armadillos in love? According to Meyer, there’s more to an Armadillo than you might think. “Armadillos can role into a ball; they are not fast or adventurous creatures per say, but when are threatened, they can jump 3 to 4 feet into the air. Armadillos can also swim by inflating themselves.” A Vision Quest’s title refers to the native American ritual. Carlos Castenada, wrote a collection of books based on his experience with a Shaman named Don Juan. Meyer told me he was inspired by Castenada’s writings, in particular, his mention of identifying lines of force to help one cross a waterfall.
Will A Vision Quest become the next Candy Crush? Will the novelty of a camera – assisted mobile game eventually wear off? At the end of the day, is it just another puzzle game? I won’t answer these questions but will say that at a minimum, integrating real-life constructs into your gameplay is an immediate attention grabber. Photo-assisted mobile gaming is in its infancy. One good kick in the pants will certainly do wonders at pushing this novelty into the mainstream. As a blueprint, A Vision Quest sparks the imagination. I hope game players take notice.
Midcore gamers will revel in real-time tank MMO simulator gameplay
Strap yourself in because tank warfare just got a little more explosive. Because tank battles are such the rage, yes, Wargaming.net’s Word of Tanks certainly comes to mind, Game Insight felt it was time to up the ante with its entry into the midcore market, Tank Domination. The free-to-play game publisher recently previewed Tank Domination at its San Francisco office and I was lucky enough to be invited for the ride. Now Game Insight is no stranger to hit game making having published free-to-play mobile hits like Mystery Manner(20 million users to date, according to Game Insight’s Brand Manager, Andrew Park) and Paradise Island for Android (achieved #1 mobile game status on GooglePlay for six months) so expectations ran high upon trying out Tank Domination for the first time. Does it deliver?
It’s 2023, and all out war between nations means the planet is ripe for destruction. Corporate armies rule and supply armies of mercenaries with the latest in tank weaponry. Once logged in, you spend time in the hanger deck. You can select from up to 30 different types of battle vehicles, including artillery. More than a hundred tank customizations and upgrades are possible leaving you with the urge to spend more time prepping for battle than actually doing battle itself. Heavy tanks, medium tanks, light tanks, each criteria selected provides your tank with different pros and cons, impacting such variables as speed and power. It took me the second game to recognize that choosing a lighter tank gets you moving that much quicker.
Once settled upon your tank preferences, you load up with ammo, and settle on the country of choice where your battle will take place. A variety of countries and landscapes are available and our test group spent most of its time doing battle in Korea and Iraq. The rich, 3D graphics, built with the Unity engine did not disappoint. Not fully comfortable using an iPad for PvP battle game play, it took me some time to comfortably navigate my tank through the terrain. I couldn’t rest for long, though, because my enemies constantly targeted me. “We think it adds a lot of strategic depth to have a match set-up where you think you have cover behind a building until suddenly the building is blown up and you’re ripe for target and need to move on, “ said Park.
A little map in the upper right hand corner of your screen details your team’s location (highlighted in Green) and your enemy (highlighted in Red). Our team in San Francisco played the GameInsight office in Moscow. We were nearly 20 online playing Tank Domination in real-time and by all accounts it worked just fine, with the exception of a few bugs.
I found myself getting routinely stuck on the sides of mountains and hills. I was unable to move my tank. Tank Domination is still in beta so I suspect this will be corrected soon enough before the game’s Fall release. Getting comfortable using your thumb as the principal means of moving your tank also proved slightly frustrating for me. Console gamers take note. Playing PvP tank battles on an iPad requires sharper thumb coordination than I anticipated.
The future of midcore gaming
Developing Tank Domination took about a year’s time, according to Park. I asked him what he felt GameInsight was most proud of. “Real-time synchronous multi-player gaming for up to 20 people is not something you see everyday on a mobile device. Getting 20 players, head to head, on an iPad is cool stuff!”
And while I remain a peacenik at heart, I must concur with Park. Fitting in that five to 20 minute midcore range, I found myself surprisingly energized by Tank Domination. Maybe it helped that I was in a room with fellow gamers who were hooping and hollering as they piloted their tanks with abandon searching to bomb their enemy targets. Wargaming.net will soon be announcing their own mobile tank game, World of Tanks: Blitz, but for Park, it’s not about who is first to market. Engaging gamers with the highest quality of game experience possible is top of mind for Game Insight.
Hardcore game players who typically play more PC games, like World of Warcraft or Call of Duty, are now migrating towards mobile and tablets. Game Insight wants to take full advantage of this shift and Tank Domination’s 3D environments with destructible terrain and cover fits the bill.