Drag Racer World Review

Drag Racer World Review

Aug 8, 2012

Drag Racer World is a game about a world that I do not necessarily find myself immersed in: drag car racing. Maybe it’s because I drive a particularly lame jalopy, or my general distaste for driving in general (I don’t trust other people in high-speed death machines!) but I like my car games to be as unrealistic as possible!

But something else drew me to Drag Racer World: cross-device cloud saves. That is what this does extremely well: by linking up to Facebook, progress will carry from device to device, even across the vast landscapes of iOS and Android. Challenging other racers is a seamless cross-platform experience as well, with zero indication given when challenging a racer if they’re on the same platform.

As far as how the whole thing plays, the goal is to rev up the engine before starting, trying to hit the shift line perfectly. Then, it’s about shifting gears at just the right time to ensure proper acceleration, to try and nudge ahead of the other car at the finish line. There’s a single player mode where CPU opponents with increasingly-better cars can be challenged, and an asynchronous multiplayer mode where players can race their friends and online strangers.

The concern to me was that the game felt like it came down to one element, ultimately: could I get that perfect start off the line? It’s such a difficult thing to do consistently, but doing it properly helps make victory a lot easier. The pressure of the energy mechanic, which allows for about 10 races per hour, makes it difficult to get it right when so few sessions can be done in a short period of time. Having the turbo boost ability there as a practical “instant win” button is very tempting as well. But that’s the world of free-to-play games: gotta find some way to tempt the player to spend some money!

There is the ability to tune the gear ratios and other advanced car options; as someone who is actually not a car geek, I have no clue how exactly any of this is supposed to work. As such, I leave it alone because I always think I’m messing something up. Maybe this is a feature just meant for people who know what they’re doing, but why not have some kind of tutorial to explain it?

I will say that beyond my initial curiosity about cloud saves, I had some fun with Drag Racer World. Even though I still have zero clue about the whole tuning thing, upgrading my car was fun, and being able to play on whatever device I felt the whim to use? That’s also extremely satisfying. The core gameplay is simple, yet that also makes it easy to pick up on – this is certainly an entertaining-enough diversion.

The Hills Are Greener: “Angry” About Cloud Saves

The Hills Are Greener: “Angry” About Cloud Saves

Mar 26, 2012

Angry Birds Space launched recently, and much like a space-bound rocket, it took off to the top of pretty much any chart it could be on. One notable feature was omitted from the game – cloud-based saving. Rovio announced a while back that they were working on an Angry Birds Sync service, that has yet to materialize. How has the world reacted to this notable omission? By barely reacting at all, if the lack of discussion on social media is a reliable indicator. There are a few tweets here and there grousing about the omission, but it’s apparently not enough of a deal for people to go out and be angry about it.

So, if the biggest franchise in the world releasing a new game without cloud-based synchronization between even devices on the same platform is not a big deal, do people really care? Perhaps not. Maybe the number of people that like to play between devices is so few that it’s just not worth the headaches to implement.

And really, whenever I speak to developers about implementing cloud saves in their own games, they do mention that it’s headache-inducing. There are so many possible errors that come up, from the same game being loaded up on multiple linked devices, to what happens when a device goes offline, that many just prefer not to mess with it. While I frequently mention the omission of cloud-based saving in games (especially on iOS where the iPad/iPhone split is prominent, and iCloud does exist as a solution), it’s something not being picked up en masse.

But maybe users aren’t complaining because they don’t know that it’s something that is technically possible. The “cloud” in general is a confusing concept, one that requires explanation to non-technical people. It’s something they use every day with their email, or even accessing Twitter or Facebook, but the idea of the cloud is obscure. So, people may not even realize that it’s technically possible for games to transfer their data from one device to another, even from one platform to another.

And really, the frustrating thing is that off-the-shelf tools for cloud synchronization exist. Apple has the much-ballyhooed iCloud service that few games implement – and even fewer implement in an error-free way. OrangePixel’s games all synchronize between devices using OpenFeint – even between operating systems! OrangePixel is a one man studio from Holland. So, while it may not be easy, if it’s possible for one person to use a free service to synchronize game saves, surely my Angry Birds Space scores can transfer from my Xoom to my iPod touch?

Of course, why should Rovio spend the work implementing it if no one really cares?

Pocket Legends and Star Legends Now Playable on Google Chrome with Cross-Platform Multiplayer Intact

Pocket Legends and Star Legends Now Playable on Google Chrome with Cross-Platform Multiplayer Intact

Dec 14, 2011

Spacetime Studios have made a living off of cross-platform multiplayer. Both Pocket Legends and their most recent title, Star Legends: The Blackstar Chronicles, allow for users on iOS and Android to play with each other in live online multiplayer modes. It’s even possible to use the same character across devices, making the difficulties of cross-platform saves on other platforms seem like a pittance by comparison. Now, Spacetime Studios is adding yet another platform for players to play on.

Google Chrome users can now get in on the fun, as a client for the browser is now available. The client uses Chrome’s Native Client technology which is implemented into the Spacetime Engine that powers both games. Impressively, the game will be playable on all three major desktop operating systems: Windows, Mac, and Linux. How’s that for cross-platform compatibility? As well, Spacetime Studios claims that these games are the first to integrate cross-platform multiplayer between both mobile and desktop operating systems. Because the games run on the same server architecture, this is a major reason of why the many platforms are compatible with one another.

According to Gary Gattis, CEO of Spacetime Studios, “There have always been technical walls between players of different platforms. Now, people are free to play on the device they choose with anyone, anywhere, anytime, whether they are at home or on-the-go.” The technical feats of Spacetime Studios’ games are unquestioned, and appear to far exceed what any other developer is doing. This is just only a further step in what they have been able to do with their technology. While developers struggle with making games work properly in the cloud, even with transferring files between devices, Spacetime Studios are bringing together desktops and mobile devices with their tools. Pocket Legends and Star Legends for Chrome are now available from the Chrome Web Store.