If I had to name the single most influential mobile game developer of the iPhone era, my pick would be Adam Saltsman. Many developers can boast of having shipped a hit game or two, but how many can lay claim to inventing an entire genre? Saltsman can. The creator of both the genre-defining game Canabalt and the widely-used game development framework Flixel, Saltsman’s fingerprints are evident everywhere in mobile gaming.
Together with his wife Rebekah, Saltsman launched a new publishing label called Finji last week, an imprint whose stated mission is “collaborate with who we want, when we want, on the games we love.” The games in development under Finji’s tent are kaleidoscopically varied and intriguing: from grim turn-based survival game Overland to the lavishly-illustrated cartoon adventure Night in the Woods.
Over the past few days I’ve been talking to Saltsman about what Canabalt looks like to him five years later, and what he wants to achieve as a publisher.
Sometimes I work really hard to contextualise a game, or write something funny about a release. But every once in a while something just shows up in my inbox fully formed.
Halfbrick’s next title is Bears vs. Art, a game where a bear is disturbed by the installation of a fine art gallery in his turf and proceeds to destroy the works of art contained therein. This appears to be set up without even a thimble of irony.
At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, this is a free-to-play game about destroying art. The medium is the message, etc. For the record, I love Halfbrick. Jetpack Joyride is a gem. But wow, man.
Back in 2012 we were lamenting that there weren’t any wargames on touchscreens. Today, I don’t know what the heck we’re going to do with this steely cornucopia of grognard sims. Following on yesterday’s announcement of Frontline: Road to Moscow, German developers Sproing (what a name) have got another one for us.
Panzer Tactics HD (no relation) is a port of an obscure Nintendo DS game from 2007. The game offers 30 missions spread across 3 operational-level campaigns, one German, one Soviet, and one for the rest of the Allies. No sign of multiplayer but the screenshots look very pretty, though the game looks decidedly simple. Nothing wrong with that.
The new official website for the game says that it’ll be out on PC and iOS in the second quarter of this year. Just off the top of my head I can think of about ten iOS WWII wargames inbound in the next few months. I can’t think of a time when there was this many competing PC wargames coming out. We’re in a new golden age of wargames, people.
I got a fresh jolt of that uneasy brace of emotions this morning when I read Payton’s post-mortem of Republique over at Gamasutra. As an analyst of the game’s creation, Payton is unflinchingly forthright and doesn’t spare himself any barbs. One section in particular reads like a penitent’s self-flagellation:
Thinking pretty highly of myself at the time, you can imagine how horrified I was to see that one of the big negatives of the project, was, well, me… In short, I became the type of creative director that many of us didn’t want. While my decisions were not made in a vacuum, it was clearly stressing the team out.
This is the kind of easy, endearing candour that made Payton such an enjoyable interview subject. That frankness in this post-mortem also lays bare why Republique never achieved a cohesive tone and why the lacklustre gameplay seemed so mismatched with the game’s otherwise remarkable production values.
Much to my chagrin, the development of République ended up mapping closely to the Japanese style of game development that I vowed never to do again. For instance, we prepared dozens of features, threw them together near the end of development, and then tried to connect all the desperate parts together into a cohesive experience. As much as I wanted to iterate on our core gameplay loop for the better part of 2013, we only got serious about iterating on what we had in October, just two months before ship.
It’s release night, but is it a fire-up-the-Nespresso and queue-up-the-Sergio-Leone-movies-to-wait-for-midnight release night?
Yeah, maybe it is. I suppose your level of anticipation will vary based on how engrossed you are in recent releases like Calculords and Out There. I’ve got tonight’s releases all lined up for you after the jump — why don’t you have a browse and see if you can’t find something worth waiting up until midnight for.
If you won’t take my word for it that a game about mass-transit system design can be a tense, white-knuckle thriller, go play the free in-browser beta of Mini Metro yourself. You’re the administrator of the city’s subway, and stations (and passengers) are popping up all the time. The city, in its bureaucratic wisdom, allocates you just one upgrade per week: a new line, additional cars for existing lines, under-river tunnels and the like. Apply an upgrade inexpertly and the whole system suffers; misallocate too many and you’ll get fired. When your crowded metro is three days from the next upgrade and the clock is ticking slower than a sherpa’s heartbeat, you’ll know just how exciting a game about subway management can be.
Mini Metro is currently lobbying for a PC release on Steam Greenlight, but I asked Kiwi developers Dinosaur Polo Club if the game was tablet-bound. “We’re definitely targeting tablets,” dev Peter Curry told me. “In fact when we were working on the prototype we were referring to the inevitable full game as the ‘iPad version’.”
This is going to be delightfully tactile on a touchscreen, what with the core gameplay being about drawing subway lines on the map. Watch the trailer below and I’ll keep you posted about release dates.
The old received wisdom about wargames was that WWII Eastern Front games never sold as well as WWII games set in other theatres. Maybe because American and Western European audiences preferred familiar settings like Normandy and the Netherlands over Kharkiv and Kraków. Or perhaps because a war fought by democratic Britain and America against the fascist Axis was a more relatable narrative than the German-Soviet struggle led by two inhuman tyrants.
But whatever — that’s obviously an outmoded line of thinking. Eastern Front wargames are officially hot. Slitherine have just announced Frontline: Road to Moscow, an iOS-exclusive wargame that’s going into beta right now. You can add it to the slew of recent and forthcoming Eastern Front wargames that don’t feature a single hedgerow, amphibious landing, or M1 Garand: Drive on Moscow, Tank Battle: East Front, Battle Academy 2, and Russian Front.
Frontline is an operational-level wargame that puts you in the boots of the German army commander who’s ignoring that old saw about land wars in Asia. There are 35 different scenarios and (borrowing one of Panzer Corps‘ best tricks) your surviving units will carry over from battle to battle, gaining experience and upgrades. Frontline also claims to have a unique art style, and while I think the game looks lovely, it definitely bites some of its aesthetic from Unity of Command. The map art is totally different, though.
This one’s going into iOS beta testing right this hot second, so if you’ve got the time, go sign up. I’ll let you know about a release date as soon as I can suss one out.
Back at the beginning of February we caught our first glimpse of First Strike, a real-time strategy game about nuclear was that was equal parts beautiful and gut-wrenching. Swiss developers Feinheit (now working as Blindflug Studios) got in touch today to say that the game is done and releasing next Wednesday night for iOS and Android.
I’ve had access to a preview build of First Strike and I’m hugely impressed with it. Wizened old men like me shouldn’t shy away from it just because the game is an RTS. First Strike is a very board game-like affair that’s about planning and risk management and it’s perfectly playable even if you have the reflexes of a doped-up manatee, as I do.
I’ll have an in-depth review on release night next week. In the meantime, watch the First Strike trailer after the jump.