Features reviews, previews, walkthroughs, news for the latest and greatest in casual (and not-so-casual) games on the PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Facebook.
Into The Box is a mouse-only arcade game where players guide themselves through rapidly appearing rectangles. Passing through the rectangles is the only way to progress into the next area of rectangles, which more rectangles then quickly appear within. As one can imagine, the game is not exactly friendly for players who suffer from motion sickness or have a paralyzing fear of endlessly falling through brightly-colored shapes.
The more rectangles the player passes through, the higher their score will be. Unlockables are attained once the player breaks through an established high-score tier. The unlockables include score multipliers, different soundtracks, and an "auto-pilot" mode which, at a 1500 score requirement, I may never find out what exactly that does (my best high-score is 196).
Developed by Tarik Kaya, of the Kayabros, Into the Box recently released for free on Google Play. Into the Box is also available to play in-browser on Kongregate, Itch.io, and Newgrounds. As the game continues to grow in popularity, many have questioned Kaya's reasoning for releasing the game for free, without any ads to support him either.
To answer the question, Kaya's younger brother, Taha Kaya, took to Gamasutra to explain why his older brother chose not to monetize Into the Box.
"It was a project purely born out of personal interests, and he loved developing it. Adding each feature, experimenting with the infinite depth concept, tweaking the controls and patterns and colors for months and months... He loved doing it. He loved playing with it. And he just wanted people to play it, to see and feel the special experience that this game is providing. And he succeeded."
Donations, however, are being accepted on the game's itch.io page.
Thinking back two console generations ago, I can instantly recall fond memories of lurking through the shadows and patrolling the corridors of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow's multiplayer mode, Spies vs. Mercenaries. The mode divided a small group of players into the two aforementioned teams. Both the spies and mercenaries came equipped with their own set of abilities and gear. The mercenaries were tasked with preventing the spies from completing certain objectives, and the spies needed to sneak in and out without being killed. Once the game started, a heart-pounding game of cat-and-mouse ensued, with the spies darting in and out of the shadows and the mercenaries trying to hunt them down.
Of Guards and Thieves takes the core of the Spies vs. Mercenaries game mode and simplifies it into a less-complex, but just as engaging, concept. With the game's open Beta in full swing, I gave Of Guards and Thieves a download and proceeded to let it sneak off with a few hours of my evening.
I was surprised to find a handful of servers very active when I first logged in. A common problem that multiplayer-only indie games have is that sometimes they have trouble sustaining a community because no one plays because no one else is online. Of Guards and Thieves' server population was an immediate indication of the fun I was about to get into.
The game was super easy to pick up and play. The WASD keys are used for movement, and the mouse is used to aim, with the use of the E and R keys to activate light switches and reload weaponry respectively. If a player dies within the round they respawn in after a few seconds. This helps keep a game that may only have 3-4 players feeling very active, and keeps players on their toes.
The open Beta also features a zombies vs. survivors mode where one team has guns, and the other team only has their melee attacks, but more health. It's a fun little diversion from the main game that I'm sure will continue to gain in popularity as Of Guards and Thieves population grows.
If you're looking for a quick and free game to play right now, the open Beta for Of Guards and Thieves is your best option. It's a great little game that has the potential to grow.
Download the open Beta from Of Guards and Thieves' official website.
Husband and wife development team Backward pieS are celebrating the release of their tree-growing puzzler with a 50% off discount sale. For a short amount of time, Let There Be Life is available for $4.99 on IndieGameStand, with Desura and Humble Store options coming in the near future.
In Let There Be Life, the player must strategically grow a tree so that the leaves and branches do not overshadow the flowers on the ground around the tree. Self-described as a "watercolor painting come to life", Let There Be Life presents players with a stress-free atmosphere that can be appreciated by gamers of all skill levels.
Speaking of levels, Let There Be Life boasts 34 of them - all designed as hand-painted watercolors - for players to enjoy.
Backward pieS originally developed Let There Be Life during the 2013 Edge "Get Into Games" competition. For the competition, the developers were tasked with creating a game base around the theme, "Do No Harm" and Let There Be Life earned Backward pieS a position in second place.
Speaking to Gamezebo, Backward pieS developer Jason Seipl revealed that the mechanics of the game came out of a casual miscommunication between himself and his wife.
"My wife suggested a game where the player builds trees, such that light can still get through to plants on the ground," Seipl explained. "But she meant it as kind of a maze mechanic, with paths of light twisting & turning to get through the leaves. I took her meaning to be that each added branch added to the shadows cast by the tree, and the player needed to add them in such a way that not too much shadow fell on the plants. It was only after I set up the proof-of-concept that we realized we weren't on the same page! Thankfully she liked my approach better so I didn't need to rework anything."
Visit Let There Be Life's official website and pick up the game on IndieGameStand.
The allure of loot is something that's hard to deny.
Some argue the loot-based formula, popularized by action-RPGs like Diablo, aren't actually "fun," and instead wage psychological warfare against players to make them feel like tweaking numbers is actually enjoyable. The same is often said of free-to-play games. When abused, the "pay-if-you-want" model is nothing but a shell to trick you into spending more money on a system that's designed to make you do it all over again, never really letting you play a "game" along the way.
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is a loot-based action-RPG in the style of Diablo. It's also a free-to-play game with not just a few resemblances to EA's much-maligned Dungeon Keeper reboot. Immediately the corporate cards seem stacked against any actual "game" to be found in this blend of genres.
It's mental tug-of-war; I want this here, but I don't want to spend money. Is this actually fun, or is it just gratuitously satisfying? The same push-and-pull defines Mighty Quest on a design level.
You need to earn more loot; that's the push.
It's right in the name of the game, and it's been ingrained in our role-playing brains over decades. To earn more loot you must invade other players' castles, dodging traps and dispatching monsters to feed that mathematical beast.
Gloves, shoes, chest plates, necklaces, capes: every part of your character needs tending to and creatures' corpses are happy to oblige. Beyond just numerical tweaks, however, certain weapons actually feature properties that alter the way you play the game -- an important argument against the meaninglessness for the drive of loot.
My crossbow, for instance, might shoot much faster than the one I just picked up, but this one can fire three bolts at once in different directions. Personally, I prefer one with a penetrative shot so I can cut through mobs while pulling them through choke points. It's simple variety in a lightweight game, but it smartly tacks on strategy to the concept of overwhelming force brought by loot in other such games.
Once you have that loot -- along with mounds of gold and "life-force" -- you need to defend it; that's the pull.
Doing so directly would keep you constantly busy (and thus away from the alluring loot of poorly guarded fortresses). Instead, the game has you construct your own dungeon for others to do the crawling in. Just like when you invaded their homes, other players can now make a beeline for your vault -- literally taking money from your own coffers.
What makes this work is that you can take the same ideas seen effectively in enemy dungeons and make them work for you. With gathered "life-force" you can purchase traps, labyrinthine hallways, monsters and upgrades to keep your safe... safe.
Here, at headquarters, is where free-to-play joins the fold. Surprisingly, pleasantly, it doesn't play much of a role at all. You can buy another character class (three of which can be chosen from at the start of the game, and one which comes in addition to most purchases), aesthetic upgrades to your domicile (which, since dungeon crawls are single-player, is the only way to show off to your friends and enemies) and buy boosters that increase your rate of gold/life-force/experience gathering over time. Nearly everything else (construction, upgrades, new weapons) requires dungeon-diving to collect in-game resources. And since most levels are player designed, it's hard to say the game has been tuned to trick you into spending real money on expedience.
For two concepts so often accused of spuriousness I was shocked by how lightly the loot-driven action and free-to-play defense played on a desire to spend. Further coloring my predictions was that this was apparently not the case during closed beta. Apparently the publisher thought better before public release.
Whether the game itself is worthwhile is another matter entirely. I actually think the opposing, back-and-forth styles of play bounce together well. If you're ... (Read More)
Obvious moves aren't that interesting. So when it came to light that EA founder Trip Hawkins had a new startup working on a game to teach kids social and emotional learning (SEL), it raised some eyebrows. Well, mine anyway, and possibly Dwayne Johnson's. Now that game, If..., is live, and it's no less intriguing in the way it blends high production values and dedication to its mission to create a viable alternative to much of what school-aged children might otherwise play on their iPads.
The story of If... (the title is inspired by a Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name) unfolds on a planet called Ziggurat where anthropomorphic dogs and cats once lived together in harmony. But something has happened to upset the balance, and it's up to your child's customized canine character to get to the bottom of it, starting with a special town called Greenberry. Your guide is named YouDog, a mentor figure who's one part Yoda, one part Mr. Miyagi and one part man's best friend.
Other characters follow through the portal to Greenberry in short order to help you with the literal rebuilding. This is the least compelling part of the gameplay, requiring the simple gathering of several resources to restore buildings to their former glory.
It becomes obvious very quickly that the emphasis is on the interaction between the player, YouDog and the other NPCs. All of the dialogue - and there's a lot of it - asks the player to choose between two or more responses that affect the way the rest of the conversation goes. My first grader, on the low end of the game's intended 7-to-11-year old audience, told me early in our review time that she thought she was supposed to "choose the nice things to say."
That's a simplified summary of the point of SEL, which is to emphasize the importance of getting along with others and controlling one's feelings (or just 'feels,' as the younger crowd calls them now). If... certainly doesn't hide what it wants get across, and YouDog, in particular, sometimes teeters right on the edge of going right into full New Age territory. Your mileage may vary when it comes to all of the details of the SEL approach, but it's hard to imagine anyone would find it objectionable to introduce its core concepts to kids.
Even the more adventuresome aspects of the gameplay turn out to be battles of emotion instead of physical confrontations. The land around Greenberry is inhabited by beings called Vims, each of whom is powered by one of the four traditional elements (earth, water, fire and air). It's hard not to see some Pokemon parallels as players attempt to add different types of Vims to their teams.
The difference is that the Vims aren't fighting, they're merely using their powers to perform emotional cleansings of sorts. There's still the usual rock-paper-scissors interaction between the elements, but no one gets hurt. As your companion Kibble explains, "defeated" Vims simply return to the Energy Field (similar to the Force) until someone can help them escape. It was interesting that both my kids had a hard time describing the cleansings as anything but battles; perhaps a commentary on exactly how most video games frame encounters for kids.
In terms of presentation, If... rivals just about any RPG or adventure game currently on tablets. The graphics are lush, the character models are detailed and full of personality, and the spoken dialogue from the NPCs helps make the many character interactions come alive - though my daughter asked why her character didn't talk out loud. The controls are simple, consisting of taps to move around and big, easy to understand buttons for the Vims' special abilities.
There are a few things that aren't as great. The ability to save multiple games on one device would be outstanding for families with more than one interested player. The game crashed often on my kids' iPad 2 (it ran great on an iPad Air), though a patch after launch claims to have corrected that issue. Reading skills are ... (Read More)
With so much business wheeling and dealing, sometimes it's easy to forget that China is a nation enshrouded in communist principles. This week's Chinese gaming news brings a subtle reminder of that - though it certainly brings a fair share of capitalism-loving financial actions too.
Thanks to our friends at Beijing-based Laohu.com for sharing this news round-up with our Western readers. If you're looking for Chinese gaming news daily, be sure to give them a look.
Representatives attending China's National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) have been seen fiddling with their phones. State media People's Daily responded with a diatribe against "representatives who fiddle with phones, microblog live or play games on sessions," describing such behavior as inactivity and unforgivable dereliction of duty. (Laohu.com)
Sources say Linekong, whose business has transformed to mobile gaming, will list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange by September. Linekong has been selecting underwriters from a number of investment banks. Apart from its IPO, Linekong plans to expand to the console game market. The company announced an $80m financing deal earlier this year. (Laohu.com)
Japanese consultancy Kantar published a nine country survey of mobile OS market share. In Japan, 68.7% of new mobile phones run iOS, the highest number among all nine countries. iOS only accounts for 17.4% of new mobile phones in China, which ranks sixth out of nine. (Laohu.com)
Forgame acquired 21% of Magic Feature Inc. (20% if fully diluted) with $70m (HKD 543m). Hong Kong-based Magic Feature develops and publishes mobile games, with major works including Tower of Saviors (????). (Laohu.com)
In the corporate world, even long-awaited good news doesn't mean there isn't bad news for some people in the organization.
That was the case for Disney Interactive, which despite turning a profit in the last quarter of 2013 on the strength of Disney Infinity nevertheless laid off 700 employees this week, or just over a quarter of its total workforce. Along with the job cuts, the division is closing several offices in the U.S., plus one each in South Korea and India.
As you might expect with such a drastic reduction in headcount, Disney Interactive will simply develop less games moving forward, relying on partnerships with outside studios instead. It also may avoid big ticket purchases, as many media reports are spinning the company's latest move as a referendum on its 2010 acquisition of Playdom.
In a tale that no doubt would make Zynga executives sadly nod their heads in sympathy, Playdom was riding high on its success with social games when Disney paid $563 million to buy it. To put that in perspective, Disney Interactive's operating income in its most recent quarter was only $403 million.
But even aligned with access to Disney brands and marketing muscle for titles like Disney City Girl, it's clear that Playdom wasn't pulling its weight. Marvel: Avengers Alliance stands out as notable success story, but even that game took what seemed like ages to move from Facebook to mobile.
The lesson here is that even companies as mighty as Disney could (and did) get caught flatfooted by the rapid rise of mobile gaming. The New York Times reports that Disney Interactive's mobile games have found success in Japan, but it looks like a "less is more" approach is what lies ahead in North America - and unfortunately, that means less jobs and less games.
Love it or hate it, Flappy Bird managed to touch something very primal in all of us. An urge to triumph over impossible odds; to conquer the unconquerable.
Since its removal from the App Store in January, plenty of "me too" games have flooded the App Store. Shameless clones, however, miss what make Flappy Bird great. We don't want to play a cookie cutter knock off, we want the next Flappy Bird.
And I think I've just found it.
Like Flappy Bird (and Super Hexagon, and a zillion crazy-hard reaction games before it), Tiny Car is a game with a simple premise and immeasurably difficult gameplay. You'll need to keep the titular tiny car on an ever-winding road, and your only control are left and right. Momentum will make those turns harder and harder to make, and if you're anything like me, you'll struggle to even break 10 points.
There's another element of Tiny Car that, coincidentally, feels similar to Flappy Bird - a pilfering of Nintendo sound effects. I can't say for certain, but the revving of you tiny engine sounds an awful lot like that engines in Excitebike. And some of the road layout seems to pay homage to the NES motocross classic as well.
The next Flappy Bird style success wasn't going to come from a clone - it was going to come from something equally addictive, but also unique. In the few hours I've played it (it should be less, but... addictive), Tiny Car has shown itself to be a great blending of Flappy Bird style navigation and Dawn of the Plow-style momentum and steering. It's a cool combination, and it managed to get its hooks into me rather quickly.
It's a free download, so why not hit the App Store and see if it does the same for you?
OnLive, the company that helped spearhead the concept of cloud-based gaming, is back. Alongside it is a new Executive Chairman in the form of Mark Jung - formerly of VUDU and IGN - and a host of new concepts to potentially breathe new life into the old service.
The group, which specializes in allowing players to stream PC games to nontraditional hardware over the internet, laid off all of its employees in August of 2012. A new company, also called OnLive, was started in its place, while all of its assets were sold cheaply to Lauder Partners for $4.8 million. CEO and founder Steve Perlman stepped down from his position and the service has been relatively quiet until now.
A press release sent by the company this week states their plans for a new subscription, called CloudLift. The service is meant to allow players to use supported games they already have installed on their PC across multiple platforms such as tablets, Macs, OnLive's own streaming device and certain TVs.
Apparently, any game supported by CloudLift should work despite where it was downloaded from, but purchasing a game from OnLive directly includes a seven day trial. The service normally comes at a cost of $15 a month.
That's not included with the $10 a month "PlayPack" subscription, which provides access to streaming-only games from the OnLive library.
According to OnLive's website, there are only 20 games supported currently, although some notable titles like the Batman Arkham franchise and Dead Island games are included. And, of course, they promise that more are on the way.
They've also announced OnLive Go, an MMO and "virtual world experience" focused platform. This sounds quite similar to CloudLift, except that its focus is on brining games like Second Life to tablets. At least in the case of Second Life (which OnLive refers to as SL Go) this runs on yet another subscription, except that it's paid by the hour rather than a monthly fee.
That's a confusing grand total of three subscriptions providing different benefits from a single service.
The email states OnLive Go will run on "lower-end laptops, Macs and tablets for Android," but conspicuously absent is any mention of iOS devices. OnLive did demo an iPad app several years ago (before the change of management), but so far it seems doubtful any support is coming any time soon.
Of the new services, CloudLift definitely sounds like the most promising. One of the biggest issues with OnLive's original plan is that running a game over a stream was a less optimal experience than just downloading it. If I can have the actual game to play when I'm at home and play on the go - where I expect a lesser experience for the sake of convenience - it sounds a lot more tempting.
OnLive Go is also interesting, but as much as I'd love to play EVE Online while I'm on the bus, I'm not sure I want to pay an hourly fee for the privilege.
Unfortunately, I think the most damning issue is inherent to both services - a lack of support. Twenty games at launch isn't an impressive number when I have literally hundreds on my Steam profile. Second Life doesn't appeal to me at all, either, though I suspect that's being marketed more to businesses that use it as a virtual office program. The aforementioned EVE Online or, let's face it, World of Warcraft would perk my ears, but in this week's announcement they're nowhere to be found.
CloudLift could fix the biggest problem most had with OnLive, and thereby resurrect cloud-based gaming on PC. However, I'm afraid the company may have traded one major issue for three: a lack of support and a confusing number of subscriptions that might lead to a hefty price point.
Outernauts was brilliant. We said as much when it launched back in 2012, and I stand by every single word of praise we've heaped upon it. It's arguably the best Facebook game I've played (though Marvel: Avengers Alliance could probably argue just as strongly for that title), and unlike many of you reading this, I've played a lot.
Outernauts was Insomniac Games' first foray into casual gaming, and it proved not only to be a great free-to-play Pokemon clone, but the first Pokemon clone that I found myself enjoying on par with the real thing. And don't just take my word for it - YouTube's leading Pokemaniac TheJWittz wrote the Gamezebo review of Outernauts and gave it a perfect score.
They shut the web-based game down earlier this year to focus on a mobile-only relaunch. As a fan of the original, I was more than a little excited.
That excitement was misplaced.
The mobile version of Outernauts has soft launched in Canada, and despite the name, this isn't Outernauts. It's not even close. While Outernauts was a great F2P spin on Pokemon (and considering the hundreds of games that have tried to do this and failed miserably, that's a HUGE accomplishment), the mobile version retains the same art style as the original but ends up feeling like DragonVale with an idiot-proof combat system.
How idiot-proof? It even comes with an "auto-battle" option.
Instead of having great strategic turn-based battles, the new Outernauts tasks players with drawing a line from their monster to an opponent's monster once they power up. There's a rock/paper/scissors component to which monster types are stronger than others, but an ever-present spot on the HUD will never let you forget which is which.
On the one hand, it's easy to see why Insomniac Games might have been tempted to try something different. The original game - while loved by Gamezebo - didn't manage to get that FarmVille level of Facebook stickiness.
Old school Outernauts, you are missed
But there are a few reasons why that might be, and in my mind, gameplay isn't one of those reasons. For one thing, Facebook gaming's sharp decline started right around the same time Outernauts launched. For another, it's not the sort of game that has an immediate appeal to the average Facebook gamer.
With these factors in mind, taking Outernauts and moving it to mobile - with no changes - seems like it would have been a slam dunk. Mobile gamers would kill for a proper Pokemon-alike on iOS. Much to my surprise, that's not what's happened.
It's a funny little world, when you think about it. It was only last month that I was rallying behind the changes to Dungeon Keeper, arguing that EA and Mythic had released a game smartly suited for the mobile audience (while the rest of the internet raged about changes to something they love). Now the shoe is on the other foot, and yes - I can't help but rage too.
I'll understand if you'd like to grab your torch and pitchfork and shout "HYPOCRITE!"
The difference, though, is that unlike Dungeon Keeper, the free-to-play Outernauts was already a perfect fit for mobile. They tried putting a square peg (Outernauts) into a round hole (Facebook). Now that they have a square hole, they've widdled their peg into a triangle.
Oh video games. Sometimes you really break my heart.
I'm new to the series, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I started up Frontline Commando 2 for the first time. In some ways it's about what I expected: burly dudes that almost could have come from that one really popular game about throwing bullets at one another. But it's also a well-constructed shooter that isn't ridiculously heavy-handed with the in-app purchases. I'd even call it "a lot of fun."
There's a story behind the events of Frontline Commando 2, but it's pretty much just a backdrop. Bad guys doing bad guy things has and will always be a great excuse. Each mission takes place in a fairly enclosed area with a few cover points and quite a few enemy soldiers to shoot at. There's no open movement, however - players can tap arrows on either side of the screen to move to a new piece of cover in that direction (best used for avoiding explosives or getting a better angle for a shot), but that's the extent of the movement. Instead, they'll be using the on-screen virtual buttons to focus on aiming, shooting, and reloading. And not getting shot, obviously.
One of the benefits to this less open approach is that Frontline Commando 2 looks fantastic. The detail in the environments and characters is very impressive, as is the way little chunks of cover will get blown off during each firefight. It controls quite well, too. Not having to worry about direct movement frees players up to focus on nothing but their aim; and the faster they can pick off their enemies the bigger the combos they can rack up, which leads to bigger payouts. Payouts that can then go back into buying new weapons, upgrading those you already own, or training your squad mates (you can totally unlock and assign squad mates).
The little self-contained battles are also nice in that they tend to last just long enough to be exciting and rewarding without crossing over into 'too long for mobile' territory. This is the sort of game you could easily play while on the bus or the subway, and possibly even finish a mission or two between stops. This is doubly enjoyable because there's no internet connection requirement for the campaign. Of course you'll still need to be online in order to partake in PvP (versus an AI-controlled squad made up of another player's soldiers).
For all the fanciness of Frontline Commando 2's visuals, there are some noticeable hiccups with the animations. It's only really a problem when using scoped weapons, but the occasionally janky movement will often lead to a missed shot - which isn't all that great when using a sniper rifle with a 2+ second reload time. It can also be problematic to take on some of the game's more difficult stages. Not so much because they're more difficult, but because there's no easy way to tell how much firepower is needed to stand much of a chance. Weapons that aren't powerful enough will be displayed in Caution Yellow before starting a mission, but there's no clear indicator of how much more powerful they actually need to be. Plus it can take quite a while to upgrade weapons. The improvements are quite small, but can cost many times more than what you'll earn from completing a given stage.
In addition to that, there's no real way of knowing if a mission is just 'tough' or 'don't even bother' until you're in the thick of it. Thankfully the recharging stamina meter is only tied to PvP, so you can try (and fail) the solo missions to your heart's content.
However the consumables (grenades, drones, etc) are pretty tough to come by, at least without using premium currency. Given their usefulness - and the occasional need to use them to earn all three of a level's rewards - I really wish it were possible to buy them using regular currency.
Frontline Commando 2 is complicated enough to make maximizing your score a challenge, simple enough to enjoy in bite-sized bursts, and can be played just about anywhere thanks to some honest-to-goodness offline functionality. It could do with a bit more ... (Read More)
Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is a free-to-play dungeon crawling and dungeon building action-RPG/strategy game. In this game, you construct a castle full of traps and monster to keep out other players while also creating a character to loot player castles yourself. Gamezebo's quick start guide will provide you with some tips and hints that will help you hoard your loot and keep it too!
How to Play
The future of mobile gameplay may be broadcasted and recorded, if Twitch has its way. Today, Twitch announced it is releasing a mobile SDK to enable the live broadcasting, video capture, and archiving of play in mobile games.
So what? Startups Everyplay and Kamkord have been doing this for years. The big deal is that Twitch is so ginormous that I'm using the term ginormous instead of big.
How ginormous? Twitch attracts 45 million viewers per month. That's bigger than Hulu. It's mobile app has been downloaded 10 million times, with an equal amount between iOS and Android. It's game streaming and broadcast service has created the genre of Let's Play videos on the PC, taken esports mainstream, and made League of Legends a household name. A recent Pokemon game on Twitch attracted hundreds of thousands of players.
And now Twitch is coming to the mobile phone.
With such a huge audience, this could be a game changer in the distribution of mobile games, on the same scale as when Facebook decided it was no longer a games platform and instead a multi-billion dollar ad network for mobile apps.
Imagine a world where all those people who were tweeting their Flappy Bird scores instead were recording and sharing their gameplay experiences on Twitch. Where game developers could record, broadcast, and share live tournaments that happen in their games every week for the world to see. And where Twitch could turn on a switch to start selling video ads within its video broadcast streams and become a leading mobile distribution and ad platform overnight.
The question, of course, is if there is a crossover between Twitch's audience and mobile (which there is0, and if developers are willing to integrate Twitch SDK (which they are). Right now there are probably 1000 Flappy Bird clone developers waiting in queue for this SDK.
Twitch may be big on the PC, but it could be ginormous for mobile games.
Of course, we already knew that. That's why we've been streaming mobile games on Twitch for months now! Be sure to give us a follow at twitch.tv/gamezebo.
Now that a week has passed since Facebook bought WhatsApp for $18 billion, it's time for our obligatory post about it.
Just to get it out of the way, I have no clue why Facebook bought WhatsApp for this amount. My guess is that Facebook's social network is dying (especially among teens) but its ad platform is revolutionary. Buying WhatsApp and its 450 million global users enables Facebook to remain on top for mobile and ads, though given WhatsApp owns no real data on its users, that's in theory. Mark Zuckerberg is far smarter and more successful than I, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
What does WhatsApp have to do with games? Absolutely nothing. But, messaging and chat could be the next big thing in games, Facebook and WhatsApp notwithstanding.
WhatsApp really has nothing to do with games. Just look at the famous handwritten note between WhatsApp founders.
WhatsApp has no interest in games, and the founders believe that this is partly the secret to their success. Given they just sold their company for $18 billion, they could be right.
Or maybe not. Every other major messaging app company in the world has embraced games distribution and have grown in distribution and revenues based on in app purchases:
Moreover, these messenger platforms are the kingmakers for Android games in their respective countries. If you want to be a Top 10 app on Google Play in Japan and Korea, you have to go through Line and KaoKao.
In the US, Tango has embraced the game distribution model popular in Asia. And Kik, with 130 million MAUs, is a leader in Web-based HTML5 style games (more of that in my next blog post).
A more interesting development is the imminent public launch of Layer, winners of Techcrunch Disrupt 2013, which is providing an API to enable any app to add chat, video, and voice in a few lines of code. Currently in limited testing, when it does launch, Layer will allow any game app to add its own messaging network easily.
Many game apps already enable chat. Big Fish Casino in particular does an awesome job of integrating chat with gameplay, distinguishing itself from other social casino apps which are more or less the same.
The most popular mobile games are just as popular as the world's biggest messenger apps (if not more). Imagine if Candy Crush Saga integrated messaging via Layer. It could become both the world's most popular mobile game and one of the biggest mobile messaging platforms overnight.
Will mobile games integrate chat and messaging into their apps? And does it even make sense? It will probably work well with some games and poorly with others. But with the ability to add chat, video, and voice in a few lines of codes, many game companies will try it. A startup like Layer could be far more interesting to the future of game design than Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp.
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In a blow to the hopes of people who champion the cause of microconsoles, the OUYA hasn't exactly taken the gaming world by storm since its launch. The Android-based box became a Kickstarter sensation, but some PR missteps hurt its public perception, (though Gamezebo is still pretty smitten with how things turned out).
Ah, but what if OUYA wasn't just a game machine, but a platform in and of itself? That surprising revelation came from an interview OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman recently gave to [a]listdaily, flat out telling people to look for OUYA on other devices.
Here's the money quote:
"We started with a $99 box, but we always wanted to create a console platform that can live on other people's devices. We just knew it was going to take us a little bit of time to get it ready. Now we think the software is good enough, it's ready to be embedded in other people's devices."
That's a big pivot, and the idea that it's been planned all along sounds like it could be a little bit like George Lucas saying the stories for the Star Wars prequels turned out the way he had envisioned them from the start. Of course if people never really warm up to OUYA the console, the company really had to evolve or face a slow, painful death.
As the [a]listdaily piece also points out, the rumors of Amazon and Apple microconsoles (though nothing those companies do can truly be called "micro") won't go away, and if their machines are any good, the hopes for all the little guys pretty much go out the window. "OUYA Everywhere" may or may not catch on, but it's an interesting idea that's worth a shot.
UPDATE: Shortly after posting this story, OUYA and MadCatz announced the first partnership for the OUYA Everywhere initiative. The MadCatz M.O.J.O. micro-console will be home to OUYA content, and has also received a price cut to $199.99.
Frontline Commando 2 is a third-person cover shooter created by Glu Games. It's a sort of cover-based arcade-style shooter, with a heavy emphasis on weapon and squad mate upgrading. Gamezebo's quick start strategy guide will provide you with detailed images, tips, information, and hints on how to play your best game.
BlackSoul: Extended Edition is available on Steam. At first it was labeled as a complete game, but now it's made the jump - retroactively - to Early Access. What happened?
According to the developer, as well as the Steam community, the game was released in a rather dire state.
The developer stated in an email that "we are receiving a lot of feedback and we found the game still need some more work to make it more enjoyable, so our decision is to keep supporting it with further updates..."
The email was apparently sent to multiple publications that received review codes for the game. It goes on to say the game "might also switch to Early Access," although it seems they chose to do so rather quickly, as the game is now listed as such on Steam.
The least scary BlackSoul image we could find. We scare easy.
YouTube Let's Plays and Steam reviews point out a laundry list of issues, from poor controls to shoddy animation. In the same email, the developer points out a few planned resolutions.
This sets an interesting (read: upsetting) precedent, as I can't find record of any other game that's directly switched from full release to Early Access. There have, however, been several instances of games rebranding themselves on the download service to dodge bad word-of-mouth (such as The War Z's switch to Infestation: Survivor Stories).
The very fact that Valve allowed the developer to do so seems troubling. Those who bought the game ahead of the switch are now ostensibly supporting ongoing development of BlackSoul, rather than having purchased a full product.
If we should be asking "What happened?" about anything right about now, it ought to be Steam's sense of quality control.
Assassin's Creed fans with Mac love in your hearts, rejoice! The first two chapters in the saga of Ezio Auditore da Firenze - aka everybody's favorite 16th century assassin - can be grabbed together in the latest Gamezebo Deals bundle for just $14.99.
Both games, Assassin's Creed II and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, are included in their "Deluxe Edition" format, which means more maps, more characters - more everything. You'll even get the complete movie Assassin's Creed Lineage.
What are you? A Templar? Quit stalling and click "buy" already!
Until Sauron devises the One Service to connect all mobile games, we've had to make do with a patchwork quilt of systems to serve up achievements, leaderboards, friend notifications and the like. There's GameCenter for iOS, Google Play Games for Android, and products like OpenKit attempting to cover all the bases.
But a familiar face with plenty of resources at its disposal might be entering the fray. Sources have told The Verge that Microsoft is looking to expand Xbox Live to offer mobile games some of the same features the service has provided to console games, even going so far as to create job posts looking for developers to aid in the initiative.
Whatever your opinion of Microsoft, this would be a boon for people who play console or PC games and also like to do some mobile gaming, helping keep them connected to their friends without relying on multiple services. It would also make thing easier for the increasing number of game designers who want to create truly cross-platform games. The potential downside is also obvious - insert your joke about having to pay for an Xbox Live Gold account here.
It's worth noting that our very own editor-in-chief Jim Squires predicted Microsoft would take a crack at using Xbox Live this way, though he was calling for it to happen last year. Let's assume that our boss isn't a futurist on par with Tony Stark and just call this an idea too obvious for Microsoft not to at least investigate, and it appears the company thinks it's worth making a reality.
Out There is a space exploration sim from Mi-Clos Studio. Gamezebo's quick start guide will provide you with some tips and hints to help you survive the dangers of space.
Clone_001 has made 50 trips down to the uncharted planet and has died 50 different ways. I initially planned to change her name after each death, to honor the fallen. But now I imagine every clone is given that moniker to trick them into thinking they are the first, that no horrible fate befell anyone before them, that this science expedition will be noble and safe and mostly mineral-collecting. Never mind that she's outfitted with a battleaxe and biker helmet instead of a microscope.
Some of her deaths are noble. Most are embarrassing. She tried to help a Nest Guardian in need; it turned on and trampled her. She dropped an explosive container at her feet. She jumped off a cliff while low on health. She was mauled by a defective vending machine. These things happen in Shattered Planet; they come with the bizarre and always-surprising territory. What matters is that Clone_001 (v51) gets some sweet swag out of her predecessor's demise.
Our clones repeatedly risk life and regenerated limb in an effort to map the massive surface of an unexplored planet. Their work is technically never done since the world is procedurally generated and changes with every visit. Sometimes a clone will beam down onto a section of dusty red dirt populated by cycloptic crablets. Other trips begin in a tranquil green field surrounded by mushrooms and docile mutant natives. All sections of the world, regardless of scenery, are afflicted by a mysterious black bile known as "the blight" that is slowly oozing across the planet's surface. Anything that enters this shadowy consumption becomes tainted and hostile (moreso than usual). Our ultimate scientific goal is to analyze and cure the blight, but mapping the planet and murdering its unfriendly creatures helps pass the time along the way.
Exploration and fighting are done in turn-based fashion on the planet's grid-like surface. Every step, attack, or action--such as using bandages--takes one turn. Enemies and other alien creatures roam the planet at the same time as your clone, so each time she takes a step, they will as well. Hostile creatures will pursue your clone if they spot her, but it's also possible to avoid battles with well thought-out maneuvering. Every section of the planet contains a number of rooms and hallways filled with flora, fauna, items, and events, as well as a single teleporter that leads to the next level.
Delving deeper into the planet presents greater challenges, but also bigger rewards. Scrap metal and crystals are scattered about that can be used to upgrade your clone and purchase equipment, respectively. Random events--such as rescuing an orphaned crablet or fending off leechlike blobs--offer opportunities for companions or stat boosts.
Of course, these are only fleeting. Shattered Planet is technically a roguelike, and with each failure your clone loses all items and equipment she had with her on the planet's surface. That friendly crablet pet, that pair of aviator shades, that light saber: they're all left behind and only her personal stats and collected currency remain. You'll have to use the crystals you found to create randomized equipment--deciding only on bronze, silver, or gold-level items--that she'll be decked out in for the next trip down.
The trip itself is the reward, though. Returning to base mostly empty-handed, having died a tragic death because you forgot there was a laser turret just beyond the fog of war--it's not that upsetting. The joy is not in what you bring back, but what you experience on each exploration. I found a backpack on one level and was given the option of scavenging its contents or playing with them. Choosing the former earned my clone the title of "Joyless." On another expedition, a disembodied skull winked at me and later reappeared, ... (Read More)
Card City Nights is a puzzle matching and collectible card game from Ludosity. Gamezebo's quick start guide will provide you with some tips and hints to help you collect all eight legendary cards and become a card fighting master!
Firaxis did an amazing job resurrecting the XCOM (or X-COM, if you prefer) with Enemy Unknown. Now that their alien invasion strategy simulation has its own outstanding port on iOS, it was only a matter of time before imitators made their way to the platform as well.
With a name like X-Mercs: Invasion, developer Game Insight isn't making any bones about where its inspiration comes from.
"In X-Mercs: Invasion, players will spearhead their very own military campaign," the developer's press release reads "by assembling an army of the finest mercenary soldiers in the world, constructing a military base, and researching and converting alien tech into deadly weapons to use against their extraterrestrial creators."
There are no details on pricing for the iPad game as yet, but Game Insight's track record implies free-to-play.
For as direct as the comparisons between X-Mercs and XCOM sound right now, I admit I'm a little excited to see more turn-based strategy games at all - especially of the "steal alien research and use it against them" variety. We'll see if X-Mercs can live up to the comparisons it draws to itself when it launches "soon," according to Game Insight.
The Tribez and Castlez is a town-building game from Game Insight. In this game, you build your own kingdom by clearing land, harvesting crops, and exploring dungeons. Gamezebo's walkthrough will provide you with some tips and hints that will help you get a good start on making your own fiefdom.
Feeling lost? Do some quests - There's a lot to do in The Tribez and Castlez, and it's easy to get confused. Try following the game's quests to get your bearings. Quest-related tasks can be found on the left-hand side of the screen, though some require your town to be at a certain level before you can complete them. Completing quests also advances the game's story.
Warehouse is full? Do some tasks before harvesting food - If your crops or trees are ready to bear food but are displaying red icons, it means there's no more room in your warehouse to store food. Send your villagers to do some tasks before harvesting your vittles. Don't worry; they'll keep.
Clear foliage for experience and items - Clearing trees, stumps, grass, and bushes are good ways to rack up experience. You can also find items and extra food.
Tap the green arrow to see all your resources - Tap the green arrow on the lower right-hand side of the screen to view all your menus and options at once. This is also the best way to see what's in your warehouse (the box on the upper right-hand side of the screen). Keep careful track of your food stores; if you don't have any food, your villagers can't do any work.
Log into Facebook and Twitter for free gems - Logging into Facebook and/or Twitter from within the game is a good (albeit controversial) way to earn a generous amount of gems.
Farm constantly - There is no energy system in The Tribez and Castlez, but your villagers need a steady supply of food in order to keep working on tasks and exploration. Lay down a few fields early in the game, and make sure someone is always tending to it. If your warehouse is full when harvest time arrives, perform some tasks first in order to make room.
Upgrade your houses - The higher a house's level, the more wish scrolls and experience it'll produce. With a bit of money and elbow grease, even a humble hut can yield a decent payout.
Collect from your houses often - Your houses don't generate experience or scrolls as long as it hasn't been collected from. Keep a close eye on your houses and collect often in order to keep the rewards flowing.
Simplify your review - If you're finding it a little difficult to make out your fields and houses amidst the detailed graphics in The Tribez and Castlez, open up the game's menus by tapping the green arrow button, and then tap the icon stamped with a house on a grid. This reveals a bare-bones town layout that can help you look around.
Decorate to increase your influence - Decorative items like roads and flowerbeds help improve your kingdom's influence. Influence is necessary for expansion into darkened territories. Find decorations under the main building menu (tap the hammer icon in the bottom left-hand side of the screen).
Mix long-growth crops and short-growth crops - Crops that yield a lot of food take much longer to grow than crops that yield smaller amounts of food. Make sure to have a mix of both so that you always have some food on-hand.
Keep playing to get special story-related items - You will need certain items in order to progress the story in The Tribez and Castlez. Keep playing and these items will appear in their own time.
Unlock achievements, get rewards - Open up the game's menu by pressing the green arrow icon, then tap the "I" icon for achievement information. You'll receive a list of specific tasks you can complete for rewards (for example, "Explore the dungeon five times). This is a good way to earn experience and gems, so don't forget to collect on any achievements you've completed!
Spend your allotted gems wisely - The Tribez and Castlez starts you off with a generous sum of gems, the game's purchasable hard ... (Read More)
It might not be the most popular opinion in the world, but here at Gamezebo we really dig the OUYA. Friends may roll their eyes whenever we bring it up - and at least once I've had somebody say "oh yOUYA" at my microconsole affections - but once you get your hands on one, we know you'll feel the same way we do.
Which is why you should do it. RIGHT NOW.
Our 14 day deal on an OUYA + game credit is about to come to a close - but (depending on when you're reading this) it's not too late! For $85 you can grab an OUYA (normally $99) plus a $25 credit towards OUYA games, because Towerfall.
Click here. Do the buying thing. Thank us later.
If you've got small children and a touchscreen device, there's a pretty decent chance you've already encountered a Toca Boca product or three. That being the case, we can probably dispense with the formal introductions and get right to Toca Pet Doctor, a game seeking kids 2 through 6 to help 15 different pets with their problems. The result is a colorful but brief burst of fun that should put some smiles on the faces of the baby teeth set.
When it comes to intuitive design, Toca Boca is typically on point, and that's once again the case with Toca Pet Doctor. What you see is what you get: 15 different animals awaiting attention with nary a human in sight. It's like the waiting room to the world's cutest and quietest veterinarian's office.
Tapping on an animal begins its mini-game, each of which asks the player to heal an injury of some sort before feeding the animal in snack. Not all of the maladies are created equal, as the rabbit has what appears to be a very bad multi-bone fracture but the worm simply has his tail tied in a small knot.
Identifying what was wrong was simple enough for my testers (a 5-year old boy and 7-year old girl), and healing the boo-boos usually wasn't much tougher. Some of the animals do need two-step fixes, like applying lotion followed by a band-aid, but the most difficult single task is probably wrapping an injured limb, which requires the player to swipe in a circular motion to simulate ... well, actually wrapping something in gauze.
Even after the animals are healthy, they're still hungry. That means dragging food to their mouths, learning something about the critters' diets and how they eat in the process. My kids enjoyed this part of the game, maybe even more than playing doctor.
All throughout, there's some pleasant if repetitive music playing in the background, along with the animal sounds you'd expect (there's no fox, so that mystery will remain unsolved). The animations are simple but effective, and the animals who have been helped take naps so it's easy for little ones to determine who they haven't seen yet.
You can wake the animals who have already been tended to with a tap, so if your children want to, say, hatch the snake from his egg again, they can. But when all 15 animals have been completed, that's pretty much it, or in the immortal words of Bill Paxton, "Game over man!" Whether that bothers your young gamer may depend on age. My 5-year old son was happy to go back and repeat some animals, while my 7-year old daughter literally asked, "That's it?" She was also disappointed that she couldn't interact with the other objects in the waiting room - even the trash can that appears ready to overflow.
It's probably worth mentioning, though, that she's slightly beyond the intended age range for Toca Pet Doctor. The absence of words or instructions of any kind make this more suitable for children who aren't reading yet, as they'll still be exposed to concepts like matching shapes and sizes while getting in some fine motor skill practice at the same time.
That's a semi-long winded way of saying this is another Toca Boca success, one that seems worth the couple of bucks you'll pay to download it to stay in the hassle-free, safe and educational neighborhood of mobile kids' games. Kind of makes me wish they had tablets back in the 80s.
When Orion: Dino Beatdown launched in 2012, it was a developer's worst nightmare. The critics tore the game apart, some even ranking the game as one of the worst games of the year. Orion: Dino Beatdown released as a buggy, broken mess, and Spiral Game Studios knew they had to do something in order to fix their reputation. In 2013, Orion: Dino Beatdown was rebranded Orion: Dino Horde and the game went on to receive a number of free content updates and plenty of patches to ensure the stability of the game and a future for the brand.
To entice players apprehensive about giving the remodeled game a try, and breathe life back into the game's community for existing game owners, Spiral Game Studios promoted Orion: Dino Horde on Steam through a weeklong, free-to-play event. Between February 20th and the 27th, Steam users could give the game a try at no cost. The game itself was heavily discounted to $1 (from $14.99) during the duration of the event as well.
A day after the promotion concluded, Spiral Game Studios announced that Orion: Dino Horde had sold over 500,000 copies during the weeklong sale. According to the developers, the game went from around 100 active users to roughly 3,000 active users by the promotion's end.
"Orion: Dino Horde sold over half a million copies," Spiral Game Studios posted on their website, "all of which is going directly towards the continued (free) post-release support for Orion: Dino Horde as well as development funding towards The Orion Project."
The Orion Project is Spiral Game Studios' next game, an ambitious, open-world action adventure game that the team is currently pitching on Kickstarter.
My brother and I were born only about 17 months apart. As such we usually went to the same schools, played with the same friends and watched the same shows.
We also look a lot alike. Obviously we're not twins, but those meeting us for the first time often assumed as much. Even today people confuse us, or just refer to us by our collective last name. Our similarities meant we rarely fought, except to distinguish ourselves from one another.
We expressed our distinctiveness in the language of GameBoys. Of course we each had to have our own - not just because sharing is definitely not an option, but because they had to be different. They were different colors (mine teal, his purple), we had different carrying cases and, of course, different editions of Pokémon.
Pokémon became shorthand for our individuality: different versions, different starters, different teams and different favorites. "Gotta catch 'em all" is such a part of my early sense of self that even today, when I've largely stopped playing the games, it triggers a completionist itch in every game I play.
The developers at Ludosity clearly have a fondness for Pokémon as well, though they apparently had no interest in making that sort of game.
Card City Nights has all the trappings; eight masters card players block your way to the ultimate prize while you develop one-sided rivalries and build your collection. Your collection is one of cards rather than indentured, indigenous creatures, but you get the idea.
Where Pokémon is achingly sincere, Card City Nights is a just shy of cheeky. It's not self-aware enough to call parody or subversive enough for satire. Call it two-parts love letter and one-part pastiche, then. But if this is an imitation, it's one based on the satellite material -- the card game, the anime, the movies -- not the games themselves.
Ludosity's send-up of the Pokémon franchise doesn't play like Game Freak's juggernaut. In fact, it doesn't really play like the collectible card game that its name implies. It's rather more a combination of Puyo Puyo and tic-tac-toe.
The union is played on a nine-by-nine grid with cards taking the place of falling blocks. Instead of matching colors there are arrows unique to each card that must face each other to clear a combination. Doing so can increase your health, damage the opponent or lock enemy cards on the board.
In Puyo Puyo, the act of making strong combinations also fills the enemy board. In Card City Nights, simplicity was sacrificed for customization. Decks can be designed around keeping your board clear and your health high that starves your opponent through attrition. Or, you could design a hungry, high-damage machine, built to pour damage down your opponent's pants and burn out quickly.
I prefer a more dexterous stack. My deck is filled with versatile neutral cards (which have more connecting arrows than their counterparts) and just enough damage-dealers to lock up the opponent's board.
These aren't unique ideas. They are, however, unique from one another and as it turns out play quite well together. I found myself devoting Hearthstone levels of attention to its deck building and Mean Bean Machine levels of frustration when my card matching failed. The mechanics feel as though they were related from the very beginning.
I actually appreciate Ludosity's demarcation between reference and rip-off. There's no shortage of Pokémon clones on iOS -- games with half the elegance and none of the charm. Card City Nights is a game first and an imitation second.
And it's not as though the game's charm is wholly borrowed.
The bright fields and deep, green forests of the Kanto region are replaced with dark, clear city nights. Thick, bold outlines and a simple color palette mark each character design, which usually includes half-lidded eyes and laissez-faire attitudes. It's like listening to jazz with your eyes -appropriate given the game's soundtrack is, mostly, smooth jazz.
Unfortunately, it's a world trapped in ... (Read More)
Zynga's new CEO is confident that he can get the company into the mobile future, or at the very least, to the present. But what mobile gamers can expect first are some offerings very much rooted in past successes.
Former Xbox chief and EA executive Don Mattrick is that CEO, and he's ready to face Wall Street types today for the first time. He also gave an exclusive interview to the San Francisco Chronicle that detailed what the company has up its sleeve over the next few months as it finally launches a concentrated assault on the mobile market after floundering in its efforts for quite some time.
Initially, Zynga is banking on a long overdue mobile-first FarmVille game called FarmVille 2: Country Escape. Unlike previous, half-hearted efforts to bring the brand to smartphones and tablets, this one is a full-featured game that has the company saying all the right things. Most notably, it can be played offline, and it won't require you to spam friends to advance (wait, can it really be FarmVille then?).
Mattrick acknowledges Zynga pretty much ceded the mobile farming crowd to Supercell's Hay Day a while back. Noted video game analyst Michael Pachter seems to think they can still get it back, citing the continuing successes Zynga has had with Words With Friends and Zynga Poker. Both of those titles are getting updates, including a rebuild of Poker in Unity.
For truly new ideas, we might have to wait to see what the NaturalMotion team is cooking up. Bought by Zynga in January, the studio that brought us CSR Racing should be given free rein to think a little more outside the box - particularly since one of the company's previous acquisitions was responsible for Solstice Arena, possibly the least stereotypically Zynga game to date.
That's meant as a compliment, by the way. It would be a mistake to ever underestimate the mobile/social crowd's appetite for farming, but even if Country Escape is a gem, Zynga can only mine that genre for so long. To convince everyone that the former giant is "back," Mattrick and his team are going to have to eventually score big with something new, and he seems to know it.
"You've got to keep innovating," he said to the Chronicle. We'll see if he means it.
If you're wondering, no, the game has nothing to do with saving up money to feed starving children. Feed The Children is, in fact, a comedic, top-down racing game where players must out-race impossibly fast runners. A few laps into the race, much like any frustratingly unbalanced situation, a gun is pulled out and now the player can race around the track, attempting to kill the other racers before one can compete all eight laps.
The whole situation is complicated when security guards, police, zombies, falling pianos, and other obstacles show up and get in the way. All throughout the ordeal, the text-based announcer narrates the situation with a good bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.
Players use the arrow keys to navigate the race track where they must tag the checkpoints before the timer expires. Oddly, the event organizers of the race are really picky about who they give the first place medal to, because simply killing the other racers does not guarantee you first place. When they say eight laps, they mean eight laps.
Feed the Children was developed by Daniel Bucci, and can be played on his official website. Or, if you prefer to not go blind, the game is also playable on Newgrounds.
Oh, and why the game is called Feed the Children?
"I wouldn't go looking for too much logic in this game," Bucci admits.
This isn't your grandmother's point-and-click adventure. Ever since I played the original Ludum Dare 26 build of Gods Will Be Watching, it's a game that's stuck in my memory. I was almost haunted by how well Deconstructeam was able to portray emotions through a handful of moving pixels. Gods Will Be Watching is a post-apocalyptic leadership simulator where the player has to make the tough choices that no one else wants to make.
The game was originally developed during the 2013 Ludum Dare 26 game jam, and went on to receive second place in the jam in both the Best Overall and Mood categories. After the success of the jam, the team went on to launch an IndieGoGo campaign, looking for EUR8,000 to develop Gods Will Be Watching into a full game. The campaign was a large success and resulted in EUR20,385 worth of funding.
Now, six months after the campaign, Deconstructeam has announced that Gods Will Be Watching will release this June for PC, Mac, and Linux, on Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store.
The Ludum Dare 26 build of Gods Will Be Watching is available for free, in its entirety, on Deconstructeam's official website. Follow Deconstructeam on Twitter.
It isn't often that I call a gameplay experience relaxing. In fact, short of 2013's InFlux, I am hard-pressed to recall the last time I described a game as relaxing. For a game to be relaxing for me it needs to be easy to play, require minimal controls, and have a smooth soundtrack. But most importantly, it has to be engaging.
I am happy to say that Speelbaars' Lumini, is all of the above. I played the game's pre-Alpha demo earlier in the week and, even so early on in the game's development, it is clear to me that Lumini is well on its way to being the most relaxing game of 2014.
The Lumini demo has players guiding a flock(?) of creatures that resemble flying fish through a sunken cavern. Players familiar with the mobile hit Badland will feel right at home guiding the creatures through the game. But where Badland was full of shadows, sharp objects, and a sense of urgency, Lumini is full of color, rounded corners, and tranquility.
The atmosphere within the game is very serene, even with the presence of a few antagonists. The antagonists are relatively harmless so long as the player keeps their distance and hastily glides away from the larger, hungrier, predators. I did lose a handful of critters at one point, but that was completely because I was looking around at the background instead of paying attention to where I was going.
A unique aspect of Lumini is how the player can split the flock into two separate groups and control either one simultaneously. To get through some ruins, I had to use two groups to push a section of wall in two different locations, in order to get it to move out of the way. The execution was a little clunky, but the overall idea behind it was sound, and I'm sure future builds will iron out the mechanic.
Lumini is projected to release in the second quarter of 2015. Check out the game on Steam Greenlight, and download the pre-Alpha demo from the game's official website.
Even though February is always the shortest month of the year, this one brought us more amazing new games than we could possibly handle. With Valentine's Day sitting smack-dab in the middle of it all, we have a lot of love to share for some of the best games to capture our attention in all of their shiny new glory. And could that possibly be another early Game of the Year contender I see sitting at the top of the list?
I know it must seem like I say this every time, but I really feel like February had some of the best new game releases that we've seen in quite a while. From a hopelessly addicting and charming number-based puzzler, to the most hilarious game you'll play in ages, to a breathtaking pop-up book world that you can play in real life, our top picks for the month are not only all innovative in their own unique ways, but they're all just a breath of fresh air for video games everywhere today (and the ongoing sea of Flappy Bird clones).
So did you happen to fall in love with any of the same games that we did this Valentine's Day? I know I'll personally be giving flowers and chocolate to all of our favorites. But be sure to hit the replies and let us know if you agree with our top gaming picks for the month of February, or if there were any other great games that managed to steal your heart away!
Threes! is one of those games that's so deceptively simple at first glance, but then becomes insanely engrossing and in-depth once you really start to get the hang of it. True story: I almost burned down my entire apartment while cooking dinner and trying to play Threes! when I had to wait for certain things to heat up, because the "One more game" mantra simply just doesn't cut it for a game this addicting. It's stupid, I know, but I honestly just couldn't put the game down, it's that good. So don't play Threes! while you're trying to cook something, but DO play Threes! every other chance you get throughout the day!
At its core, the game is vaguely reminiscent of a Triple Town matching experience, only with adorable numbers that must be grouped together to form larger multiples of three. Each game starts out easily enough, with an open board full of various 1 and 2 numbered tiles (each of which has a wonderfully cute personality that really shines through as you play). But once you start matching those tiles to form 3s and other higher numbers, things start to get complex and rewardingly challenging pretty fast. Sleek and elegant in design, and straight-up fun to the point of taking over all of your free time, Threes! is everything you could ever want in a mobile game experience.
It's always a great thing when game developers are able to show a strong sense of humor in their creations, don't you think? But while a lot of games today utilize some form of humor, especially the dialogue in point-and-click adventures, Jazzpunk from Adult Swim Games takes things to mass levels of hysterical jokes and funnies that we've never even imagined before. Not only is the entire quirky first-person adventure one big homage to some of gaming's biggest inside jokes and references, but the greatest fun is in actually discovering the dozens of jokes on your own as you play. And everything that's not even a direct joke is just downright funny as well, from the way the characters converse on their handy-dandy banana phones, to the graphical style that makes everyone look like flat 2D figures on a restroom sign (and their awkward self-realization of these kinds of facts).
We're all pretty big suckers for a gorgeous and beautiful game around these parts, and when it comes to shimmering presentations, nothing quite compares to the stunning Tengami from Nyamyam. There are many reasons why this atmospheric point-and-click adventure took out breath away, but the biggest one is that the entire game looks and feels like a living pop-up book, and it even plays like one too. What's ... (Read More)
Calculords is a mashup of collectible card game combat and number puzzle matching from developer Ninja Crime. Gamezebo's quick start guide will provide you with some tips and hints to help you survive the cold winters and harsh conditions.
Tips and Tricks
Another Case Solved is a match-3 puzzle game developed by Ars Thanea Games. In this game, you'll solve cases as a private investigator by completing different types of puzzles. Gamezebo's quick start strategy guide will provide you with detailed images, tips, information, and hints on how to play your best game.
Android might be the #1 mobile platform in China, but Google Play sure isn't the #1 app market. According to our friends at Laohu.com, though, that might be about to change - or at the very least, Google is taking some steps that hint in that direction.
This isn't the only interesting tidbit to come out of China this week, either. According to Laohu, their country might just be getting a mobile visit from the Avengers (in a game that sounds an awful lot like Avengers Alliance, but I'll let you be the judge of that).
Thanks again to Laohu.com for sharing this weekly Chinese news roundup with the Gamezebo audience. If you're just as intrigued by the Chinese market as we are, be sure to give them a read.
Android app developers confirm that Google is conducting market surveys in preparation for Google Play's entry into the Chinese market. Google's developer relations department has been contacting developers since Monday over Google Play's potential entry, says one organizer. When Google Play enters China remains to be seen, say industry analysts, but soliciting survey responses is a sure sign of progress. (Laohu.com)
The martial arts-themed 3D game The Three Swordsmen (???), developed by Chengdu Fengji and run by iDreamsky, is accused of infringing adaptation rights enjoyed by Jin Yong and Wanmei. Wanmei has demanded cessation of infringement by issuing letters to 15 companies distributing the game, including PP Assistant, Wandoujia, 360 and 91. iDreamsky and some of the involved distributors have apologized to Wanmei and agreed to remove infringing contents. Martial arts-themed games are widely popular among Chinese gamers but are rife with piracy and infringements, and China's gaming industry needs to improve their respect for copyright, according to Kevin Huang, commentator at Laohu. (Laohu.com)
There are rumors claiming Alibaba and Softbank are co-investing in Japan's messaging app Line. Although Line and its parent company Naver have publicly denied news about negotiations with Softbank, the participation of Alibaba has made the rumor more reliable: Line could make a breakthrough in its revenue model by taking advantage of Alibaba's e-commerce resources, while Alibaba badly needs new additions in its competition with Tencent. (Laohu.com)
Tencent Games announced this week the upcoming launch of Avengers: Superhero(?????:????), a mobile game adapted by the Chinese company with authorization from Marvel's namesake comics. Laohu had learned that it's a strategy RPG game where players can create their own team of Avengers, recruiting superheroes such as the Iron Man, Captain America, Spider Man, Wolverine and Phoenix. (Laohu.com)
Math Blaster was a godsend. It was an "edutainment" game that fell just far enough East of its portmanteau to syphon the mid-afternoon doldrums that only a fifth grader can appreciate. Thanks to that game, the Westside Elementary computer lab wasn't just a crawlspace in the back of the library - it was my Rock of Gibraltar.
Calculords likely isn't educational enough to make the cut in Mrs. Antonopoulos' keyboard class, but it does hit on a lesson I've managed to learn in the years since: Math is kind of fun.
Now, I don't mean mapping geometric proofs, but there is something about manipulating basic patterns - finding the hidden meaning in numbers - that's challenging and interesting. It's why people enjoy Sudoku; it's why we play puzzle games.
Did you catch that? I just called Tetris "math."
Calculords is less coquettish. Its relationship with addition, subtraction and multiplication is literally spelled out for you. The game itself is a dead simple card battler, but every card you play must match a corresponding number. Numbers themselves are a sort of card you draw each turn (between six and nine, depending on your level). They will, however, rarely match your units and spells' corresponding digits, and so mathematics comes into play.
You can add, subtract or multiply any number in your pool to make another number. Strangely, there's no option for division. I imagine this was done to avoid fractions but it's still quite frustrating when it gets in the way of reaching the perfect integer. If you can expend each number through the three available methods in a single turn you're given a fresh set of numbers to play with (i.e. you take a second turn).
There's an incongruous sense of freedom as you go about your rigid sums. The equations can be as simple or convoluted as you want them to be, and the latter is often best. Getting a second turn is huge and you'll likely need to do it more than once to summit the perpendicular difficulty spike. Because of this, you feel totally in control - the master of multiplication, the sultan of subtraction, the, erm, Aaron Sorkin of addition.
The sense of freedom and control comes at a cost, however. Games move at a glacial pace as you figure out your next move. You'll make liberal use of the clear button as you fit the numbers together again and again, trying to find the perfect sequence. If you, like so many others, play your mobile games in short bursts, getting through a single turn will take you a while, much less a whole match.
The pace isn't aided by that extreme difficulty curve I mentioned.
The first "boss" of the game is called Fancybot. His strength level is "polite." He's a pathologically friendly opponent that barely understands why you want to fight him, much less how to retaliate. Fancybot espouses the more charming, chuckle-worthy aspects of Calculords' goofy aesthetic. His betters, however, know not the meaning of "friendly."
After a few bouts with Fancybot you'll be leveled up and ready to face Corporal Krak. This guy is a monster, playing more cards than it feels should fit in his hand and doubling his forces every turn. The enemies fluctuate from there, but you'll likely return to the cold, kind embrace of your dapper pal to farm for cards a few times.
Unfortunately, that's where Calculords breaks down. With both your standard cards and number cards to consider, along with factoring the probability of matching-numbers deck building in this game made me nearly hysterical. It's as frustrating as a calculus exam and the game doesn't provide an in-depth explanation of how best to exploit it. It's as if the developers realized the core mishmash of mechanics was fun, but realized how difficult deck building would be and ignored it.
Now, you might think this is where I tell you how the game's challenge is stacked to goad you into microtransactions. While Calculords is free-to-play and supported with in-app purchases, I'm happy to report its model is incredibly lean.
... (Read More)
Let me tell you, there's nothing quite like looking up great gaming deals online to help distract your mind from other things that might be going on. I'll be honest right now: about 10 minutes ago I saw this ENORMOUS centipede crawling on the wall right above my desk, and I don't know where it went, and that's all I can think about, and I'm kind of freaking out about it. I swear it had like 500 legs.
But you know what? I'm not gonna think about that giant centipede anymore or what he might be up to, because now I have all of these amazing free games and sales to think about instead! While there may not have been too many new bundles to find this week, the iOS App Store sure made up for that in a big way, with an insane amount of acclaimed mobile titles going on sale all at the same time. And if that's not your thing, well there's also big savings on point-and-click adventures and indie darlings as well!
And as always, if I may have missed a great deal or two due to being distracted by things I don't need to mention here again, then be sure to hit the replies and let everyone know about them!
The Humble Indie Bundle 11 (more games added)
Pay what you want and get the following games;
Pay more than the average and also get;
ikoid's Android Legends Bundle
Get the following great games on Android for only $3.99;
GOG.com Classic Adventure Cruise Weekend Promo
Save 70% on a number of classic point-and-click adventure games. Highlights include;
The Last Door: Chapter 3 - The Four Witnesses is a point-and-click horror game developed by The Game Kitchen. In this game, you take on the role of Jeremiah Devitt as he tries to escape a fog-encased slum. Gamezebo's walkthrough will provide you with detailed images, tips, information, and hints on how to play your best game.
Overview: You begin the game trapped in darkness. Devitt is stuck within the coffin that he was buried in at the end of Chapter 2 - Memories.
Overview: Devitt has escaped the coffin but finds himself lost in a slum known as Old Nichols. He must find a way to escape not only the city but also the thick fog that has stranded everyone inside of it.
The reaction to free-to-play games that monetize by the use of in-app purchases (or IAPs, for short) depends on where you ask about them. They're a normal part of the gaming culture in Asia and looked upon with skepticism but warily accepted in North America.
In Europe, though, they're now under the microscope. Eurogamer.net reported this morning that the European Commission is huddling with consumer protection groups in multiple nations to get some clarification on parts of the free-to-play model it finds troubling.
The Commission's concerns include protecting children from IAPs (and preventing them from bugging parents to buy for them), games that opt-in players for IAPs without their consent, free games that aren't really free, and companies that don't provide a way for players to contact them by email for customer service purposes.
In true "probably not a coincidence" spirit, the Commission's investigation comes just a few weeks after the Office of Fair Trading in the UK did some similar digging and ended up proposing a list of principles governing mobile and online games that companies must conform to within 60 days. Not surprisingly, the short list checks off several of the same items the EC would like to see heeded.
Since the PR backlash of stories about kids running up huge bills on their parents accounts with IAPs wasn't enough to stop bad actors in the mobile and online spaces, it might take the force of law to change things. It's not impossible to envision that kind of scenario in North America either, especially since Apple and Google are in on the current meetings.
Until that happens, it's wise to keep this in mind: free-to-play doesn't usually mean completely free, and it's always a good idea to stay aware of any ways a game is trying to get you to pay.
Disco Zoo is a time/resource management game from NimbleBit. In this game, you rescue animals and place them in your very own zoo. When the mood strikes you, you can throw a party and double your earnings. Gamezebo's walkthrough will provide you with some tips and hints to help you get a good start on getting along with your party animals.
Level up your animals - Found one animal? Hurrah! But your quest for an awesome zoo doesn't end there. You need to find five of the same animal in order for that animal to gain a level. The higher your animals' levels, the more coins they earn per minute, and the longer they can stay awake (you don't earn money from your animals when they're asleep).
Write down animal patterns (if you don't want to pay for them) - Rescuing animals makes up a good deal of Disco Zoo's gameplay. Finding a single animal piece won't net you the whole animal, however: You need to find three or more of the same piece, depending on the creature.
Luckily, every animal adheres to a pattern, and when you have that pattern memorized, finding the critter within your allotted number of moves should be a piece of cake. If your memory isn't up to snuff, try drawing the animal patterns for future reference. Alternatively, you can pay $2.99 for a zoo almanac that reveals each animal's pattern.
Give finding priority to rare animals - If you don't have enough moves to rescue all the animals on a field, try to give priority to any rare animals up for grabs. The opportunity to capture rare animals doesn't come up very frequently. Rare animals also earn more coins and stay awake longer than common animals.
Save your DiscoBux for mythical animal hunts - Once in a blue moon you'll have the opportunity to capture a mythical animal. Since mythical animals come up even less often than rare animals, this is a good time to use DiscoBux and buy additional moves as necessary.
Save your DiscoBux for discos, too (that's what they're for!) - Don't sling your DiscoBux around too freely, however: You need those funds to throw mad parties with. No DiscoBux, no disco. As tempting as it may be to buy additional moves when you're one piece away from netting a common animal (especially if you're in a new, unfamiliar area), save your cash.
Putting the game down for a while? Throw a party first - Going to bed? That doesn't mean your animals should have to. Discos double your animals' earnings for a set time, and they also reset the animals' sleep counters. That way, your critters will stay awake for as long as possible before you play with them next. A one-minute disco costs a single DiscoBux and is highly beneficial.
Keep an eye out for tips - As you scroll through your enclosures, happy patrons may tip you with coins. Most of your tips are in small denominations, but it's not too unusual to receive 100 coins, 1,000 coins, or even a DiscoBux. Farming for tips is a good way to pass the time while you're waiting for an animal to fall asleep so you can jab them awake again.
Listen for tips, too - When visitors throw a tip, you'll hear a golden "ting!" sound. Pay attention to this sound if you're scrolling through your enclosures quickly. Tips remain on the ground for a few seconds, so you have a period of grace to go backwards and retrieve the money.
Escaped animal? Find them for big rewards - Once in a while, a few of your rabbits may lose their minds and decide to hang out with the crocodiles. The zookeeper will let you know when an animal has escaped. Find them for a big cash reward, or for DiscoBux. The rogue animal can be hard to spot if it's hiding with similarly-colored animals, but an exclamation mark will pop over the runaway's head as you scroll through the enclosures. Keep a sharp eye out for it.
The farm level offers free animal patterns - It's easy to build up your farm animals' levels because you're allowed to consult their patterns whenever you like. It's a good way to net a lot of high earners like horses, ... (Read More)
Late Thursday evening, Markus "Notch" Persson confirmed on his Twitter account that he has been discussing a potential Minecraft film with Warner Brothers.
"Someone is trying leak the fact that we're working with Warner Brothers on a potential Minecraft Movie," Persson posted. "I wanted to be the leak!"
A movie about Minecraft? That'll never work! Well I'm sure plenty of people said the same about a movie based on LEGO, and now Warner Bros. is currently sitting atop $275,000,000 (and climbing) following the The LEGO Movie's release, earlier in the month.
Details are still scarce, but Hollywood news and rumors website Deadline managed to confirm that Warner Bros. is putting The Lego Movie producer onboard for the Minecraft movie, and that it will be a live-action feature film.
The news about the Warner Brothers deal comes days after Persson announced that Minecraft has surpassed 100 million registered users.
Don't want to wait for a Minecraft movie? 2 Player Productions documentary Minecraft: The Story of Mojang is now available for free on YouTube. You can watch the whole thing in its entirety below:
The sequel to the hit real-time strategy game Autumn Dynasty, Autumn Dynasty Warlords carries some great expectations on its shoulders. And it seems to meet them quite handily at first - but the deeper you dig into it, the more it becomes apparent that this game isn't quite ready for prime-time.
Autumn Dynasty Warlords is set in a fictionalized ancient China, in which you play as one of several regional warlords vying for control of the country. Each has his or her own particular strengths and weaknesses, plus a unique military unit and an officer who can be sent on special military or diplomatic missions. Beginning with a single province, you must build your armies, conquer neutral provinces, engage or defeat your fellow rulers, and ultimately declare yourself Grand Poobah of the Middle Kingdom.
Provincial management is very simple, as each province has just one city and their boundaries are preset. You can build various structures and upgrade them through five levels, but each city holds only a small number of buildings - sometimes as few as two or three - so you'll need to be careful about what you build. Military units can only be raised in provinces in which the city has an appropriate training facility, but population growth and tax income are best supported with "civilian" buildings. You'll also want to maintain high levels of order and alertness to keep your kingdom happy and prosperous by keeping a lid on bandits, placing sentries, and if you can afford the space, building constabularies and palaces.
Once created, armies can be moved in whole or in part from province to province and require no special facilities to maintain. You don't need to worry about feeding your people, either; farms encourage growth but your population is quite capable of taking care of itself, leaving you to handle the big decisions. The only resource you'll need to worry about is gold, required in abundant quantities to raise armies and upgrades your cities.
It's a very simple, bare-bones empire management simulator, spiced up by the occasional executive decision that must be made about matters like relations with various non-aligned factions, dealing with bandits, or what to do with a captured spy. Diplomatic options are sometimes also available, allowing you to establish friendly relations, trade, or even military alliances with other warlords - or to engage in skulduggery, if that's your thing. New officers will show up now and then and offer to join your ranks, allowing you to exert more behind-the-scenes muscle, as will bands of mercenaries, who can provide specialized unit types you otherwise wouldn't have access to.
The focus of the game, however, is clearly on the battlefield. Unfortunately, this is also where things get problematic. The Autumn Dynasty Warlords tactical interface is simple and intuitive, allowing you to tap and drag to draw paths for individual units, or circle and then move them as a group. There are relatively few unit types and battles are typically limited to just six or eight of them per side, and while there is often a time limit of only a few minutes, it's usually more than enough to get the job done, a testament to its relative lack of sophistication.
But that simplicity comes at a cost, because aside from a small number of unit-specific special abilities that are acquired as they gain experience, there's no way to issue orders more complex than "March toward the enemy." Units have rock/paper/scissors-style strengths and weaknesses, but ordering even slightly complicated maneuvers is an experience in frustration. You can't send horsemen out on a sweeping arc and have them strike an enemy formation from behind, for instance, because as soon as you've lifted your finger from the screen, the arc snaps into a straight, shortest-route-possible line from your unit to the enemy's. The only option is to issue multiple separate, non-stackable commands, which completely negates the intended simplicity ... (Read More)
Another Case Solved is the follow-up to developer Ars Thanea Games' ridiculously engaging match-3-meets-city builder, Puzzle Craft. Like its predecessor, Another Case Solved relies primarily on puzzle-matching objects that are used as building blocks for progress throughout the game. Unlike Puzzle Craft, this progress is less cyclical and more monetary, wrapped in an economy that makes the noir-themed newcomer notably more challenging, but rarely malicious. With a number of variations on gameplay packed alongside the primary puzzle boards, Another Case Solved manages to differentiate itself while still offering all the trappings that made Puzzle Craft compelling.
This time around, you are not the mayor of a fledgling village, but a newbie private detective in a Prohibition Era-styled city. Sugar, not alcohol, is the banned substance and everyone from crooks to cops can be put on ice for having a sweet tooth. You'll occasionally run into cases involving sugar smugglers and donut blackmail, but as a no-name private eye, you'll also take on work that requires chasing kittens and tracking down missing documents.
All of these assignments, no matter their gravity, follow a similar format split into two camps. Minor cases you find in the daily newspaper are basic gigs that merely require you to play the match-3 portion of the game. These can be played over and over and are used to earn cash (known as "detective bucks") as well as credibility that unlocks more involved story missions. The story missions, or major cases, are brought to you by characters in need and are the meat of Another Case Solved. They not only present plot points involving recurring characters you'll meet throughout other major assignments, but require you to complete four different types of puzzles in order to crack the case.
These puzzles are the main gameplay of Another Case Solved, and they always start with the match-3 board. Much like Puzzle Craft, you'll be presented with a set of objects that turn into other objects when matched in high quantities. Each board begins stuffed with clues that are collected as you match at least three like clues together, or are turned into evidence when matched in sets of five. Clues include things like footprints, questions, and magnifying glasses, which transmute into evidence like maps, photographs, and fingerprints. Each board has a predetermined set of turns, and you must collect a specific amount of each type of clue or evidence before those turns run out.
Once you meet your evidence quota, you'll move onto the next type of puzzle: either the "city search," "crime scene investigation," or "suspect identification." The order these are completed varies per case, but each is required. City search shows you an overview map of some part of the city with the goal of tracking down the location in question, such as the scene of the crime or the criminal's hideout. You'll use clues like "It's adjacent to a railroad" to narrow down the potential city blocks to the correct spot.
The crime scene investigation places your detective in the blueprints of a building or house, requiring you to search rooms and objects for a specific piece of evidence. Every action you complete takes minutes off your limited amount of time, forcing you to make logical choices--like not searching for a cat in the toilet. The final puzzle type, suspect identification, pits you against a lineup of photographs and a limited number of questions about the criminal's appearance. Through process of elimination questions like "Do they have black hair?" or "Are they tall?" you'll narrow down the choices and collar the right crook.
Successfully completing all four puzzle types solves the crime, opens up new plot-related cases, and awards cash and stars based on how well you did. Those stars are used to level up and assign ... (Read More)
"Why?," I asked my daughter. She's only six, and when these are the first words out of her mouth after returning home from school, you'd better believe my curiousity was piqued - especially considering how many countless hours she's spent with Outfit7's Talking games over the last few years.
"Because," she replied. "There are bad men that are using it to talk to kids, and they can even see you!"
A bizarre schoolyard rumor, no doubt. I consider myself in-the-loop enough to know total hogwash when I hear it. But still, I'm always trying to instill a "safety first" attitude in my kids, and since she felt safer deleting, I didn't hesitate to let her. I explained how it's not true first, but hey - when a kid gets something in their head, it can stick there like glue.
A few days passed and I thought nothing of it. Then last night I came across an article on the Vice tech site Motherboard: So a Paedophile Hoax Sent Your Kids' App to the Top of the App Store.
It looks like my daughter's little schoolyard rumor wasn't confined to her schoolyard after all. And while her inclination was to delete it, it seems that adults who heard the rumor were all too quick to rush to the App Store and see for themselves. So much so that it drove Talking Angela to the #3 spot on the App Store's free apps chart.
So what's to blame for the app-driving rumor? According to Outfit7 Senior Brand Director Randeep Sidhu, there are two things at play: the viral nature of the internet, and how sharp the responses in the app are.
"If you say for example, 'What do you think of One Direction?' Angela would respond, 'I like Justin Bieber; I'm a Belieber,'" Sidhu told Motherboard. "And so people were convinced that kind of level of intelligence must be a person behind the chat bot. They couldn't believe that those kind of responses would be generated automatically."
This isn't the first time that Talking Angela has been the victim of negative viral attention, but it seems to be the biggest. Having said that, people who repost things on Facebook with messages like "Share this so that everybody know how dangerous this app is!" are the reason I have Snopes on speed dial.
Talking Angela is still safe, and your kids are still going to love it. Don't be scared, folks. There's no creepy ghost in the machine at play here.
It's three in the morning and I'm trying to get back to Earth as quickly as I can. My oxygen is in short supply, and soon I will suffocate if I don't find a planet with an adequate atmosphere to refill it. Speaking of supplies, I had to scrap half of my gear, including my radar, in order to get the parts necessary to repair my ship's hull after a near fatal encounter with space debris in the last star system. So without the aid of radar, I'm blindly flying to the closest system: the only system my remaining wisps of fuel would allow me to get to. I have no idea what awaits, but I'm hoping for a planet rich in oxygen, with friendly natives, and ample with the resources and fuel that I need to continue my journey.
In the deep space of Out There, luck, much like oxygen, is in short supply. I come out of my jump, just short of a black hole; a dead end. I don't have enough fuel for another jump, not that I have enough oxygen to live long enough to even attempt another jump. So, it looks like I won't be making it home.
Out There is an unfair and frustrating game. But it's also engaging and fun, at the same time. It is a game where players will curse their luck as often as they will praise it. Players opposed to gambling may be a bit turned away by Out There, as the game relies on luck pretty heavily. But then again, the life of a space explorer would more than likely heavily depend on luck. It's all part of the job.
In Out There, players take on the role of an astronaut in the 22nd Century who has just woken up from cryonic sleep to discover that his ship has totally gone off course. Now, with limited resources, the player must leapfrog from star system to star system, in an effort to get back to Earth safely. There are three main resources players must maintain in order to keep the mission going: fuel, oxygen, and hull integrity (iron). Fuel is used to jump to the star systems, travel to planets, and gather resources from the planets. Oxygen is used up gradually over time from doing just about everything, and the ship's hull will take damage from unstable planets as well as a seemingly infinite number of unlucky anomalies that players will undoubtedly encounter during their voyage home. Other resources in the form of elements can be collected and used for ship upgrades.
Specific planet types offer specific resources, at the expense of the other two resources. For example, to acquire iron for the hull, players must use fuel to fly and land on a planet to collect iron, and they will also expend oxygen in the process. Unfortunately, all the strategic planning in the universe will not be enough to get players back home. Upon entry to most star systems, players are greeted with a message. Sometimes the message is an exciting message about how the player found an abandoned ship with some salvageable resources. Other times there are messages about how an anomaly is forcing the player to make a "Hail Mary" jump back into space to a random star system. The latter message is really, really frustrating.
As annoying as these route scrambles were, and although they usually always directly related to my demise, I found myself going back, again and again, attempting to make it back to Earth. Because of the random nature of the game, the developers have tapped into that gambling mentality of "one more spin". Even though it was past three in the morning, I was ready to try to get back to Earth, one more time.
Out There is a solidly built game that I can happily recommend to anyone looking for a proper adventure game, and to players who don't mind testing their luck over their ability to plan. It's worth mentioning that the game is largely text-based, so it's suitable for players of all skill levels.
You might be able to indirectly learn something about physics by playing Angry Birds, but it's not exactly a learning game. That doesn't mean the company behind the unstoppable franchise can't try something a little more high-minded, which is exactly what Rovio is gearing up to do - with the help of some third-party developers.
Rovio told PocketGamer that it is seeking educational games from other developers to publish as part of its new Rovio Jr line. The intended audience of these games would be kids from pre-school to middle school.
Educational games can be a tricky field, but there's definite truth in the idea that Rovio can aid developers by promoting their products through its already successful brands. Teaming up would certainly help solve the discovery problem facing smaller studios, particularly since educational titles need to catch the eyes of both children and parents.
In any case, we may not have to wait long to see an announcement about the first fruits of this new program. Rovio and PocketGamer are going to be holding Big Indie Pitch Jr at GDC next month, allowing developers to pitch games they think would be suited for the publishing initiative in person in San Francisco.
And if there are any studios with reading games out there, please consider helping the Angry Birds themselves, as they're not exactly eloquent when it comes to language skills.
As I've mentioned before, every game developer I know buys ads on Facebook to drive games installs and uses HasOffers to track them. So it was a bit of a shock when Facebook dropped HasOffers as a mobile measurement partner a few weeks back.
We virtually sat down with HasOffers CEO Peter Hamilton to ask him: What happened with the Facebook relationship? Who else is out there to advertise with aside from Facebook? What gives HasOffers the edge over their competition? What to do if you have the aspirations of King.com but not $350 million to spend? And what's going down at the Mobile World Conference that he's currently attending in Spain? All in 5 questions and in a less than 5 minute read.
HasOffers leadership team; Peter Hamilton in center
1. Let's get this question out of the way. On February 12, 2014, Facebook dropped HasOffers (and Kontagent) as a mobile measurement partner. What happened?
We helped to start and create the MMP program with Facebook, invested tremendous resources, and worked closely with Facebook teams throughout the process. We have always been a fan of the mobile app ad unit and Facebook's ability to provide targeting to advertisers. In September we revealed to Facebook's auditors every nuance of our technology infrastructure and data storage policies along with questions about how to best comply. We collaborated with them and worked very hard to receive clarification on compliance issues like the storage of information beyond 180 days while also providing various options and solutions for Facebook to choose from. We were always completely open and honest with Facebook on all of these things and swift to make changes upon clarification.
At 11AM on February 11th, I hopped on what I thought was a check-in call to see how things were going on compliance. Instead I was told that Facebook had decided to remove us from their MMP program. The call was very professional, and they asked us not to contact our clients until after 4pm that day. After I got off the call, Facebook's account managers began emailing our clients worldwide.
I do want to reiterate that this was not related to privacy regulations or data leakage, and Facebook will confirm this. Though Facebook campaigns account for less than 1% of our total company revenue, they are an important part of our client's marketing mix and a major contributor to total installs. We remain very willing to resolve this and take whatever steps necessary to mend the relationship.
2. You just released a report on the top 25 mobile advertising partners aside from Facebook, which make up 75% of the total $13 billion market. What was your methodology? Who were the top 3 and why do you think they stood out?
We decided to take a completely agnostic approach to making this top 25 list. We ranked advertising partners based on the three equally weighted criteria (revenue per install, install volume, and client adoption). You'll notice that this is a very diverse list from video to banner to programmatic and incentivized.
The top three were Google, InMobi, and AdColony (in that order), and this is mainly because the they each have the combination of being able to provide highly engaged and revenue positive users along with real scale. This top 25 was measured across over 375 different advertising partners, so all of these companies have pretty tremendous scale and we see all of them growing very quickly. We definitely expect to see fluctuation over time.
3. Let's take a step back. As I've mentioned before on Gamezebo, every game developer I know at one time or the other has used HasOffers to track app installs, though you have a lot of competition. How does HasOffers work, and what is your secret sauce that differentiates you from your competitors?
The secret is really in the partnerships. We are performance marketers ... (Read More)
In the world of free-to-play, popular game styles seem to come in waves. After FarmVille, every Facebook developer went through their farming phase. After Social City, every social gamemaker thought they could make the next SimCity-lite. And back in those early days - wedged somewhere between virtual pets and restaurant simulations, the social scene had a brief but noteworthy obsession with treasure hunts.
In a nutshell, games like Treasure Isle and Ruby Skies had players "exploring" a piece of land by clicking on different squares in an attempt to find all sorts of goodies. It was simple to the point of silliness, but it also managed to have that "just one more time" hook that only the most popular free-to-play games can muster.
Disco Zoo, the latest game from Tiny Tower creator Nimblebit and Milkbag Games - the new pairing of Owen Goss (Finger Tied) and Matt Rix (Trainyard) - feels a lot like those early free-to-play treasure hunts. And regardless of how that might read at first glance, I promise you - this is a very good thing.
Players will fill the shoes of a budding zoo keeper in search of new animals. To find them, you'll journey to their natural habits - each of which happens to occupy a tidy 5x5 grid. You'll have 10 attempts to uncover the critters in question, but here's the trick - each animal will occupy more than one space in the grid, and they'll each be in a unique pattern. To uncover a pig you'll have to scratch the right four squares that make up a 2x2 pattern. An elephant takes only three squares, but in the shape of a trunk.
As you add each rescued animal to your zoo, they become money-making machines. This is good, because every animal rescue mission you start will cost a little bit more than the last. Therein lies the monetization of Disco Zoo. You'll spend money to rescue animals, the rescued animals will make you money, and you'll spend that money to rescue more animals.
The trick, though, is that you'll spend the money faster than the animals can make it - so you'll either put your phone down and wait for more profit to trickle in, or spend a little cash to make an in-app purchase. Honestly though, there's a pretty fair balance between earned currency and time spent. Once you run out, you'll have no trouble putting the phone down. While Disco Zoo is fun, it's also the kind of game that you'll want to enjoy in small doses. Just make sure to pay attention when your phone tells you "your sheep is asleep," or you'll never make a dime off those lazy buggers.
You'll also have the option to unlock new areas with premium currency to rescue different kinds of animals early, but honestly, earning your way there is half the fun.
Disco Zoo takes an older free-to-play model and does a fine job of making it feel fresh, though it can't quite shake that "all I'm doing is tapping on squares" feeling. There's a tiny bit of strategy here - if you think about the shapes of creatures and remaining squares, you can take a good guess on where they might be - but ultimately, this is a game that's about tapping on squares and collecting hippos.
If you had a fondness for games like Ruby Skies and Adventure World, Disco Zoo does a fine job of scratching that itch. If you believe that overly simple games are an offense to gamers everywhere, this probably isn't the NimbleBit game for you.
Free-to-play is the greatest thing to happen to the games industry (and gamers) since Pong. Here's the thing, though: it's common knowledge that only 1-3% of all gamers of free-to-play games pay, the rest don't. These gamers are commonly referred to as whales.
According to a new survey by Swrve (pronounced, I have no clue), that 1 - 3% is a bit off, by a lot. Only .15% of mobile gamers are responsible for 50% of total mobile game revenues. In biological terms, these players are blue whales (the largest mammals on earth) of the mobile game world.
As reported in VentureBeat, this is a classic good news/bad news story. These blue whales pay the bills for the mobile games industry and are helping to grow the market to astronomical heights. The bad news is that the vast majority (let's call them minnows) are becoming accustomed to playing games for free, and there is no clear path to turn a minnow into a blue whale.
And what happens if these super whales get bored of playing and tired of paying? .15% is such a small number, just one small drop in this bucket could have a huge impact on the future of the global gaming industry.
In Vegas, whales are comp'd with free hotel suites. How are these super blue whales rewarded in the games world?
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