The Hills Are Greener: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

The Hills Are Greener: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

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.

Muffin Knight Review

Muffin Knight Review

Sep 14, 2011

Muffin Knight from Guerilla Mob developer Angry Mob Games is not exactly the most original game ever made. It puts players in an arena, with the goal being to collect as many muffins as possible, while trying not to be killed by the enemies that roam each level. Each time a muffin is collected, players change into another random character with a different weapon, from archers that can shoot in both directions, bears that attack from up close, and a unicorn that, shall we say, “drops” land mines. Each enemy and muffin collected gets experience for the player, and each level up gets a point that goes toward character upgrades, new perks, and even extra lives.

If this sounds like PC game Super Crate Box with muffins instead of crates, and RPG elements instead of simple high-scoring elements, well, ding ding ding! This game is very much influenced by Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box. In the wake of the Ninja Fishing/Radical Fishing fiasco, this could have been a similarly huge controversy, but Super Crate Box developer Vlambeer has dismissed it by stating that they feel the games are different enough. While some elements like weapons are very similar if not identical, there are at least original levels, and this game’s killer feature: multiplayer.

This multiplayer mode, which is currently only officially supported over local wifi, pits two players in one arena, trying to collect more muffins than the other player. It is possible for players to die in this mode, and if the person who is trailing in muffin count dies, then the leader automatically wins. If the leader dies, then the other player can try to stay alive until they collect more muffins, lest they die trying. What’s most remarkable about this multiplayer, beyond that it allows players to collect experience toward their characters with a 20% bonus, is that it works between iOS and Android devices. There’s no special hassle or setup, just one device with a copy of the game creating a server, and another joining the discovered server, no matter which version is playing which version, even if it’s an iPod touch versus an Android tablet.

While the gameplay is great for pick up and play sessions, and the multiplayer is similarly addictive for its competitive elements, the game does have some issues. The multiplayer is currently only local wifi, for example, and doesn’t appear to support Bluetooth. The controls, while able to be rearranged, are very loose, and make it easy for buttons to accidentally be pressed, which is bad when walking toward an enemy instead of away from them, since one hit means death.

While those who fell squarely on the side of Vlambeer in the Ninja Fishing/Radical Fishing debacle will likely be disgusted by Muffin Knight, there’s still an original art theme, engrossing RPG elements, and the fun multiplayer as well. While Super Crate Box will be hitting iOS soon, this is a worthwhile entry in this genre, and very addictive.