App Store Gaming

Tidal Trials

Today on OHO we’re going to do something a little different; we’re looking at an app! Now let me begin this immediately by saying that the game in question was made by a friend of mine. This blog was going to be a review but you’d all be a little suspicious if I gave it 5 stars etc so instead it’s going to be an overview with a little talk about indie game development on the App Store.

Tidal Trials is the first game by newly formed development studio Digital Panda Studios. The studio consists of a small team of three people. Three; that means each person was responsible for one third of the total production. I don’t know about you but I can barely tie my own shoelaces let alone program code. Each area is broken down into three levels with the third having an end-boss. In the levels your percentage of coins collected is converted into medals (bronze, silver and gold). These coins can be spent on pets, which boost some of your features. For example the parrot give you an upward boost, sort of like a double jump, to allow you to get hard to reach coins whilst the monkey doubles the value of coins collected. The risk/reward system (shall I go for the high score and risk losing getting hit or play it safe and make it to the end) has been a staple of games as early back as Space Invaders and Mario Bros. The music, by playonloop, has the sort of bounce and pop to it of a platform game circa 1998, which in my opinion can only be a good thing. I especially like the death animations, but then again I am a bit weird. There’s something amusing about seeing a ship smashed in half with the pirate flailing his arms around as he looks at his impending doom, or the approaching fin of a shark that rears back to reveal a full set of gnashers ready to take a bit out of you. Again I’m weird. The game is also nicely optmised for the new widescreen aspect ratio of the iPhone 5 and new iPod Touch, making two-thumbed game play a breeze.

This I feel is the perfect opportunity to look at the way games work on the App Store. For all the complaining that people do about the App Store being a walled garden and not truly open it certainly appears to be open to anyone. It used to be the case that if you wanted to get a game published you either had to get a publisher to pay for you idea and commission a game from you or put the game out free as a flash based browser game. Today anyone can start a company and with a little know-how can get paid for their hard work in a truly open and free market. So in that regard it’s never been easier to make a game. The downside to this is that stores like the App Store are cluttered in all directions. When the App Store started games, like Super Monkey Ball, cost around £4. This changed however as developers realised the best way to make money was to get their game to the top of the charts and as such get the most exposure. This now means that many indie games by newcomers cost the same as games by mega-publishers like EA and has, in the opinion of many, ultimately cheapened the experience. There’s also the ‘freemium’ model for making money. Here the initial download cost of a game is free but the consumer is expected to pay micro-transactions for in game items (like spending real life currency for in game currency). This has been met with stern criticism by many gamers though it hasn’t stopped developers from embracing it (famed developer Crytek say that within 5 years all of their games will be freemium). These factors show that whilst it may be easier than ever to make and sell a game, it’s never actually been harder to get your game noticed. This move to new models of gaming will no doubt influence the new console generation, due to be announced on Wednesday with the arrival of the PS4. Sony has already begun to embrace this with their PS mobile suit of games for many devices though in its current state it doesn’t look like PS mobile will be a hit in the near future without some serious force behind it. I’ll leave you now with the launch trailer for Tidal Trials. As the games industry grows so too does the budgets for making games, this combined with ever changing models for promoting and selling games, it’s reassuring to see new indie developers making genuinely fun and exciting games that can be sold for less than £1.

By Ian Dutton.

UPDATE: Tidal Trials is now available for free on the App Store so you have no reason to not check it out!

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