GDC 2012: Cross-Platform Play is All the Rage

GDC 2012: Cross-Platform Play is All the Rage

Mar 12, 2012

If there was a recurring theme at GDC this year, it was cross-platform play. This doesn’t just mean games that are released for both iOS and Android, but ones that are playable between both platforms, and even with computer players of the same game. Several games at GDC 2012 showed off how these boundaries were continuing to fall between platforms.

Brick-Force will combine multiplayer level-building akin to Minecraft, with the ability to then shoot friends in their stupid faces in those same levels. The game is built in Unity, and scheduled to come to mobile. Initially, players will only be able to build levels with up to seven other players no matter what platform they’re on; the main combat mode will be unavailable due to control concerns. A shooter mode called Titan Mode that would help balance things out between mobile and computer players is in consideration, though. Open beta versions of the game are planning to launch this spring.

As well, Heroes and Generals from Reto-Moto, comprised of folks who worked on the Hitman series for IO Interactive. The game is comprised of a massive, Battlefield-esque World War II shooter portion that will allow for massive teams to take on each other. The game also includes a strategic Generals mode, where players send resources to teams currently in battle, enabling extra player slots along with extra resources. Because the Heroes portion of the game is running on a proprietary engine and will have support for massive numbers of players, mobile support is not yet planned. However, mobile players will be able to act as Generals, sending their troops about the battlefield. The mobile support is still in works while the game is in Alpha mode, but the developer showed off how actions on the computer version are displayed on the tablet version, with direct interaction currently in the works.

Pangalore showed off their suite of techonologies for cross-platform play. They have two teams working on a variety of cross-platform technologies: one studio working on HTML5 games that will work no matter what platform they’re on, whether they be web browsers on a computer or through a phone’s web browser. Their other studio is working on Unity games that will run between platforms. For example, their upcoming Knightly Adventure, an action-RPG/simulation hybrid game was shown running on PC and iPad. Pangalore also is working to have progress carry between platforms, with Knightly Adventure‘s demo showing this transferring of save progress already working. The game is scheduled to release in May.

Finally, the current lords of cross-platform play, Spacetime Studios, let us go hands-on with the latest game Dark Legends. Fans of the franchise will find a darker, more brutal entry into the series, with scantily-clad vampires, and plenty of blood flying all over the place. Health and mana draw from the same pool, so special attacks (which can now be charged up before deployed for stronger effects) require a trade-off between having extra health, and dealing with enemies. Of course, there’s always the ability to drain enemies of their blood to help get more blood and blood refills. The game is about four weeks away from release, though it will be a two week exclusive on Kindle Fire, before eventually making its way to Android and Chrome (which the game was already running on at Spacetime Studios’ demo), then iOS.

The Hills Are Greener: “And Android”

The Hills Are Greener: “And Android”

Mar 12, 2012

At Game Developers Conference 2012 in San Francisco this past week, I got to talk to a variety of people from developers and publishers alike, from small one-man outfits to representatives of multi-national conglomerates. I got to see small games with nifty premises, and titles with bigger ambitions. But the recurring strain I kept hearing from many developers was this: “Our game is coming to iOS and Android,” while they showed me their game on the iPad.

This is not a bad thing, I saw some interesting titles from across the spectrum of genres that should be making their way to Android. More quality games will mean that there will be less reason to mock Android’s gaming market, and more reasons to recommend Android tablets as gaming devices. The Transformer Prime was on display practically everywhere I went that had Android games being demoed, and its potential in both hardware and titles coming out is dramatically improving. Unity was demoing some of the more graphically-intense games out there. This is without mentioning the games I kept seeing that had Unity. Spaceport demoed their new technology for bringing Javascript and Flash games with vector-based graphics to both iOS and Android. As well, Spacetime Studios demoed Dark Legends on a bevy of Android devices.

That was the exception and not the rule, however. Everyone else mentioned the Android version of their game as something else, a footnote. While we were largely meeting with iOS developers for 148Apps, plenty were mentioning Android releases, and with the exception of the previously-mentioned Dark Legends, there was little actually being shown on Android devices. iOS was overwhelmingly the lead platform.

But really, that’s all Android is to many in the industry: a number. It’s a number of users that their product can be sold to. It’s not about taking advantage of the platform because of a love of it, it’s about finding new people to sell games to, at as little effort as possible. Whether it’s the different code base, or the dread at the thought of supporting all those many devices out there, Android is always someone else’s problem to solve. Android is just such a risk to developers that they want it handled as easily as possible. Given the limited time and resources that especially indie developers have, this usually means someone else should handle it.

So, while things are looking up for Android’s gaming scene, and new cross-platform technologies are in the works, it does not appear as if the market for original content will be improving any time soon. There’s still just so many risks, and so few successes, that it feels disconcertingly will always be that secondary market. It will always get things after iOS does. It will always be “and Android.”