Two new releases that are flaunting the usual Wednesday night release convention and just popped up on the app stores this morning. It’s anarchy, I tell you! Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.
The first is Arnhem: Airborne Assault, a scrappy little wargame from Richard Berger. It’s not going to win any beauty contests unless all of the other contestants are members of AC/DC but it seems like a pretty good little hex-and-counter wargame. It’s a WWII affair that puts you in charge of the Allied paratroopers making the ill-fated airborne assault on Holland in 1944. The combat model is big on fog-of-war, so considerations like moving your troops through forests and maintaining contact with the enemy are a big deal. There’s a couple of genuinely tough scenarios in there, but I haven’t spent enough time with the game to decide if it’s Clever Tough™ or Throw Your iPad in the Canal Tough™. You can find out for yourself for two bucks: it’s available for iPad and for Android, too. This one’s got online multiplayer for up to four players, too.
A gameplay video of this, plus another new release below.
Last summer when French developer Paul Vauvrey showed me his memorably elegant abstract strategy game Kingdoms, I noted that his only mis-step was giving the game a title that no one would ever be able to Google. Nothing less than sensible, Vauvrey has renamed his product Kindo which is rather cute, I think. Bonus: the only current Google results for that name are for this jazz fusion band from Buffalo, who look like they won’t put up much of an SEO fight.
Kindo is very close to shipping now: online multiplayer and AI are up and running, and I can tell you from having played a pre-release build this week that the AI is an absolute bear. Have a watch of the trailer after the jump to see how the game plays, and you can sign up for one of the 900 iOS open beta slots right here.
Vauvrey tells me that Kindo should be out quite soon — you’ll need an iOS device running at least iOS 7 to play it.
Ah, yes: the Marble Age. The swords were terrible, let me tell you.
Owen here, temporarily taking back the Out Tonight reins from Neumann. Oh man. I’d forgotten what it was like here in the Pocket Tactics New Release Observatory high atop Mount Hexmap. Cold and airy. A light breeze smelling faintly of freshly rezzed cyberspace. The whole infinite sweep of the App Store stretching out before you for miles and miles. It’s bracing. Stimulating! I notice that the web browsing history has a strangely significant number of searches for sexy pin-up pictures of Vlaada Chvatil. I should probably talk to Neumann about that.
Anyway, let’s have a look at the new releases tonight, shall we? This is the penultimate batch of new games we’ll see in 2014, as the App Store’s game-extruding orifices will all shut next week for Christmas. We’ll have a slew of games coming in at the very last minute on Friday, but let’s look at the ones landing tonight for right now.
What is a mobile video game worth? Quite a lot, say Square Enix, who are stubbornly sticking to their gunblades on mobile game pricing strategy. Their iOS port of PS2 JRPG Dragon Quest VIII launched back in May at the price of $20 — it’s on sale this weekend for the very first time at $15, still a vertigo-inducing price tag by App Store standards. It’s tempting to look at Squeenix and see a doddery old man complaining that kids these days listen to their music too loud and expect their games to cost a dollar.
Cas Prince of PC game developers Puppygames recently wrote that game prices are dropping so precipitously that the rich and diverse ecosystem of game creators we’ve come to enjoy is in danger. That long post includes apparently self-immolating statements like “[customers] are worthless to us[.]” But hear him out.
“Once upon a time, back in the early 2000s or so, games would sell for about $20 or so. Some developers did really well at that price point -– I mean really well. Most of us didn’t do that well, and made beer money, but we carried on making games anyway because that’s what we liked to do, even if nobody wanted them. When we got a customer we were able to treat them like royalty.”
“Then came the Humble Bundle and all its little imitators. It was another cataclysmically disruptive event… You’ve sold 40,000 games! But you’ve only made enough money to survive full-time for two weeks because you’re selling them for 10 cents each.”
Obviously, Prince is talking about one- and two-man indie studios here, not publishing behemoths like Squeenix. And casting Squeenix as the defender of the “premium”-priced game is problematic when the other fork of their mobile games strategy is pushing free-to-play bilge. But at least Square Enix have resisted the temptation to rip out Dragon Quest’s spine and turn it into a freemium cyborg like Namco did with Tales of Phantasia.
I wonder sometimes about publishing this (mostly) weekly price drops post. Am I aiding the forces pushing game prices down? I love getting a game for a dollar as much as the next guy, but many of the games I love can’t be sold profitably at a price point that low. I don’t know. I’ll keep doing it out of inertia for now, but I’m open to the notion that there’s something better to be doing on Saturdays.
Once a month, the PT staff gather around the Official Pocket Tactics Ouija Board and Comcast Customer Service Help Line and (after making the traditional offerings of ASL chits and Vimto) commune with the animistic spirits of the App Store to divine their favourite games of that lunar cycle. This past August, the rituals were particularly draining: not only were there a slew of important releases to choose from, but the App Store spirits kept erroneously rejecting our submission.
After the jump, Pocket Tactics‘ favourite games of August.
A few weeks ago we heard from Luca Redwood about his next project, an iOS game-slash-experiment called Smarter Than You. This is going to be a multiplayer-only game about duelling and bluffing whose only monetisation will come from “tipping” your opponent as a salute for a well-played duel. At the pub the other night, Redwood told me that he didn’t think it was going to make any money. I agreed.
But there’s more here than just a game — Redwood is also working on an AI called M.E.T.I.S. that he says will be able to out-decieve and defeat any human in Smarter Than You. M.E.T.I.S., it appears, has a rather healthy sense of digital self-worth. She’s got a Twitter account that she uses to remind us of her superiority. And this evening, she’s sent me a slightly intimidating email that included an image I couldn’t make heads or tails of. I tried pinging Redwood himself but I haven’t heard back. I’m sure he’s fine though! Rogue AI sending vague threats around the world from his house. He’s OK.
After the jump, a cryptic image that M.E.T.I.S. has invited all of us to decipher.
Tonight was meant to be the night for Inkle’s around-the-world interactive fiction opus 80 Days to drop — but alas, it is not to be. Inkle’s Jon Ingold emailed me a couple of days back. “We’ve been asked by Apple to move the release day back to next Thursday, the 31st,” he said. “So we are of course doing it.”
This could only mean one of two things. The first possibility: upon reviewing the app for release, Apple has discovered Inkle’s dastardly plot to use the game to Manchurian Candidate the world’s population, preparing the ground for a reptilian takeover of Earth. Or second, Apple want to feature the game next week in a prominent slot on the App Store’s front page.
It’s almost certainly the former (alert David Icke, please) but either way the result is the same: 80 Days will be here next Wednesday night. You can read my hands-on 80 Days preview if you want to see what we’re in for next week.
There are other releases tonight, of course. Let’s have a look after the jump.
Despite what the pastel color scheme might have you believe — things are about to get cut-throat.
A couple of weeks back, when I told you about how impressed I was with the elegance and simplicity of Paul Vauvrey’s abstract strategy game Kingdoms, what I really, really wanted was a video to show you the game in action. Kingdoms is so simple that once you’ve seen it in motion for twenty seconds, you feel silly for having spent five minutes trying to communicate the rules with words.
Lo and behold, Vauvrey just sent across that much-needed video. It’s terribly short, but it has a pull-quote from yours truly in it. Not like a funny one or anything. But watch it, and I promise you’ll know definitively within 30 seconds whether or not Kingdoms is going to be your cup of tea.
Kingdoms will be out for iPad late August/early September and will feature online and local multiplayer, plus AI for single-player. Watch the video below, and follow Vauvrey’s studio Space Bears on Twitter and Facebook.