Sep 19, 2011
It’s funny to think that while iOS and Android are these seeming rivals in the mobile market, there are developers out there asking why the two platforms can’t just make up and get along already? And by getting along, I mean in the most fun way possible – playing games with each other! There’s an uptick in the number of titles that are supporting play between their iOS and Android versions.
Recently-released Muffin Knight features cross-platform multiplayer that works perfectly between the disparate operating systems; one person just creates a server, and the other player can easily discover it and join. There are no compatibility issues, everything just works as it should. It’s a wonderful and fun experience. Star Legends, the MMO from Spacetime Studios, takes cross-platform play to a whole new extreme: by logging into the same account, the same character can be used, no matter what platform is used to log in. This makes Star Legends the first game I’ve played that can be played on all 4 of my primary mobile devices: my iPad, my iPod touch, my Android phone, and my Android tablet that I have access to. I can also play with people from around the world, and it doesn’t matter what platform they are on. It just works. This game is also why I harp on cloud-based saving for developers over on iOS, especially; if this game can let me carry my progress between different operating systems, why can’t I track my physics puzzler progress between platforms?
However, Apple may be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the iOS and Android multiplayer compatibility lovefest. In particular, Game Center may be the biggest stumbling block, because it is exclusive to iOS. Muffin Knight, one of the aforementioned cross-platform games, will support online multiplayer through Game Center, excluding Android players from the fun. Game Center is sort of a double-edged sword for developers; for users, it’s the most intuitive experience, but it also locks games into that OS. OpenFeint does exist with cross-platform tools to make this a reality, but developers rarely ever integrate any Feint features beyond just standard leaderboards and achievements. At least one developer has intoned to me privately that this is because many OpenFeint features lack documentation for proper implementation.
The lack of quality cross-platform tools may be what ultimately dooms the hope of cross-platform multiplayer; either developers will be forced to develop their own tools for matchmaking, or be locked in to one platform, limiting the audience of their game. As more developers embark on the quest of cross-platform play, it will be interesting to see if new tools come out for developers to take advantage of the unique opportunities cross-platform play can provide them and their users.