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Subject: iOS Multiplayer Functionality rss

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Jim bo
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The number of boardgames being ported to the iOS platform is gaining momentum and it's great to see but what is disappointing is the Multiplayer functionality (or lack thereof) contained within them.

Judging by the number of posts on the subject I think it's fair to say that a significant majority of gamers view Carcassonne as the 'Yard Stick' when it comes to the Multiplayer functionality delivered.

Each time I purchase a newly released boardgame app I find myself asking the same questions:

Why isn't chat supported?
Why can't I invite friends to a private match?
Why are there no replays of opponents moves?
Why can't I play real time with time restrictions?

Considering Carcassonne was one of the first apps released I fail to see why many subsequent games fall short.

I don't mean to disparage the good work of developers in bringing more boardgames to the iTunes store, most are executed very well indeed in terms of the visuals, UI and so on.

I just find it frustrating that what ought to be a set industry standard if you will that is easily implemented across the board seems more like each developer having to reinvent their own wheel.

Whether an extended and more robust Game Centre or some other common solution is the answer I don't know but surely some collusion between developers, Game Centre and/or third party is required here to bring about an advancement where everyone benefits.

I feel like we're back in the early days of rail with no standardised track gauge.
 
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Jim bo
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CaptainCosmic wrote:
Yojimbo252 wrote:
Considering Carcassonne was one of the first apps released I fail to see why many subsequent games fall short.

Carcassonne also costs $10 and has never once gone on sale. It's a premium app, no doubt, but it certainly comes with a premium price tag, too.

I'd love to see more games add a more robust feature set — better online player-matching is my personal feature of choice — but I can also understand if a $3 or $4 game falls short of Carc's benchmarks.

Whilst I have no issue with an app being priced according to its features I do take exception to an app claiming to support Multiplayer when it does so in a substandard manner.

However, the point of this thread is not to criticise developers where they do fall short, it's posing the question why there's not a better way for a generally accepted generic multiplayer solution to be adopted across the board without each developer having to come up with their own solution which is duplicated effort and subject to varying levels of quality.
 
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Phil Standen
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Yojimbo252 wrote:

Why isn't chat supported?


Because people would swear at one another and get bad press when users stalked one another.

It's easier just to not do this.
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Gary Weis
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Yojimbo252 wrote:
However, the point of this thread is not to criticise developers where they do fall short, it's posing the question why there's not a better way for a generally accepted generic multiplayer solution to be adopted across the board without each developer having to come up with their own solution which is duplicated effort and subject to varying levels of quality.


You mean like OpenFeint?
 
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David Boeren
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I just want to know why some games have internet multiplayer but no local multiplayer.
 
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Jim bo
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incinerator wrote:
Yojimbo252 wrote:
However, the point of this thread is not to criticise developers where they do fall short, it's posing the question why there's not a better way for a generally accepted generic multiplayer solution to be adopted across the board without each developer having to come up with their own solution which is duplicated effort and subject to varying levels of quality.


You mean like OpenFeint?

I've not had a great deal of experience with OpenFeint but if it meets the main requirements of multiplayer gaming then yes.

Which begs the question why isn't its adoption more widespread?
 
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Erik Asmussen
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As a developer dealing with these same issues, thought I'd respond based on my own experiences.

Yojimbo252 wrote:
Why isn't chat supported?


Yes, the possibility for bad language has been a factor. It's important for me to keep the app's 'age rating category' as low as possible (to increase possible audience), and I'm frankly unaware of the legal issues around having user-generated content like that. Secondly, Game Center limits how much data you can pass back and forth between players during a turn. I'm already very close to that limit and adding text would take me slightly closer to that ceiling. Third, I would need to design a UI that presents the chat (and presumably, the chat history). Even adding one UI element can be difficult if you support multiple devices and orientations, because you basically need to design and test the UI for all those possible scenarios.

Yojimbo252 wrote:
Why can't I invite friends to a private match?


This is fairly easy to implement with the default game center functionality, so I'm not sure why this is frequently missing.

Yojimbo252 wrote:
Why are there no replays of opponents moves?


While data limitations do factor in here, the biggest challenge with replays is building a game engine that works backwards as well as forwards. For instance, in my game you can upgrade wood walls to stone walls, or you can just build a stone wall. In normal (forwards) operation, you don't care about which route you took, only that the player built a stone wall. However, in order to implement replays, you now need to remember what the state of the wall was BEFORE the action was taken, so you can then recreate that state. Same with demolishing structures, and producing resources. So when I implemented replays (and 'undo' actions) it actually involved rewriting a very large part of the app's game logic, and the debugging process was fairly involved as well due to the complexity of the change.

Yojimbo252 wrote:
Why can't I play real time with time restrictions?


Implementing real-time and turn-based multiplayer modes are structurally very different. All of the Game Center APIs are different between these two modes. So if you want both, you basically need to build multiplayer up from the ground twice. If you just wanted a single turn with a time counter (so still essentially turn-based) that is easier to implement, but it's also challenging because some of the polish options of the interface (animations and such) come at the cost of slowing down actions. So the 'faster' you make the interface, sometimes the less polished the experience is.

So in summary, yes all these things are possible, but they actually require a fairly large investment of time from the developer. In an ideal world, I'd have infinite time to add all of these features but naturally I'm limited by what I can accomplish in a limited period of time, and I also need to balance these features against ones that more people want or that generate more revenue.

A large company will throw every dollar and developer they have to make an app perfect, and this is really only possible if you have a known product (e.g. Carcassone) that they know they'll be able to charge $10 (which is exorbitant relative to app store prices) and still have a huge audience. Most other developers don't have that luxury.

Hope this provided some insight from the dev perspective!
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Bruno
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I would like to add to the set of default expected features the support of cross-platform multiplayer interoperability (like Bang!)
 
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Jim bo
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easmussen82 wrote:
As a developer dealing with these same issues, thought I'd respond based on my own experiences.

Very much appreciated Erik that's extremely informative.

I can appreciate the time constraints you face as a 'one man band' developer especially having to build a brand new game from scratch.

I have slightly less sympathy with a company that has enough resources to put a development team behind a project and are porting an already tried and tested boardgame, although I do accept that in the real world they too will still face deadlines and time constraints.

I think what the Carc app demonstrates is that even though it isn't rated as high in terms of boardgame ranking as some of the other app ports, players will be prepared to pay a premium for an app if it delivers everything they would expect in terms of functionality.

Additionally I, like many players will support a developer even if the initially release of an app is lacking in certain features if there's reasonable assurance that the developer will follow up with subsequent updates that enhance the app that fill the gaps.

In your case Erik I think the ongoing support of New World Colony and your interaction with the community has been top notch.

If I may use an example from the other end of the spectrum, Small World has not received a single update since September 2010 and still only offers 2 player mode with zero online capability. I was happy to support the Small World app when it was first released by purchasing it and both expansions in the hope that the app would be 'completed' but knowing what I know now I shouldn't have bothered.

But I digress. I think what your comments further highlight is a need for a better generic online multiplayer solution to be made available so it's easy for developers to 'plug' that solution into their respective game and allow them to focus their attention on the actual gameplay, UI and other aspects that are specific to their game.
 
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Thomas Lund
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For cross platform there are several solutions already existing.

For one there is SmartFoxServer - I am the developer of the C# and Java API (so partly shameless plug) and it has obj-c and AS3 clients as well.

Years ago we already made Monster Ball - www.monsterball.net - which featured cross platform gameplay. It does require a central server though and it works outside of Game Center. But since Game Center is iOS only anyways, that doesnt work with cross platform in the first place.

Other solutions exists out there similar to SFS - Photon, ElectroTank etc.

/Thomas
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Alysa
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dboeren wrote:
I just want to know why some games have internet multiplayer but no local multiplayer.


I never understood the need for local multiplayer, just set up the real board game if you have the room. For the few times a year that one is away from their boardgames when on holiday for example is not enough reason to want it in my opinion...


I do not buy board game apps if they do not have online multiplayer capabilities.

If I want a solo iOS game there are many, many non-boardgame related ones out there that are fun as well, so I don't buy those either...

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Aenea wrote:
I never understood the need for local multiplayer, just set up the real board game if you have the room. For the few times a year that one is away from their boardgames when on holiday for example is not enough reason to want it in my opinion...


On the other hand, I ONLY play local multiplayer.

Since you say you don't understand the need, here are some reasons:

1. Cost: I can't "just set up the real board game"; I don't have cardboard copies of my IOS boardgames. I own only digital versions of Neuroshima Hex, Tigris and Euphrates, Puerto Rico, Ghost Stories, Medici, Ra, Carcassonne, Caylus, Tikal, Through The Desert, Small World, Kingsburg and Keltis Oracle. Total cost? About the price of one "real" game.

2. Opportunity: I play these iPad games regularly with my wife. Being that we are 2 people, we would normally be constrained to 2-player games. But with the magic of AI, we can add a third or fourth player at our whim, and even play games that require 3+ players that we normally couldn't play.

3. Convenience: Often we will play a game in the 20-30 minutes before bed. We are certainly not pulling out Twilight Struggle or Agricola to play. Dramatically reduced setup/bookeeping/cleanup time means we can fit in a game where we wouldn't otherwise with cardboard, or play multiple games in the time it would usually take for one.

4. Commuting: We live in a large city, and use public transportation frequently. This often gives us an opportunity to play a boardgame together where we otherwise wouldn't be able to, which is a nice way to kill time. Online multiplayer doesn't work in the subway.

5. Sessions: Often we won't finish a game and will save it for later. Online multiplayer confines you to a timeframe for completing the game, unless it supports asynchronous play. Local multiplayer gives every game async; just minimize and forget.

To sum up, local multiplayer is the #1 most important factor in deciding what IOS boardgames I will buy. I have stopped supporting games that don't include it.

I could not care less about the inclusion of online multiplayer, as I never use it.
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Erik Asmussen
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@Yojimbo252 Agreed, if a studio is working on an established title with a sufficient budget, then it should definitely be reasonable to expect these features. Especially since an A+ implementation will have such a positive impact on the brand.

Just an interesting note on the local multiplayer issue, when I first released my game it was local multiplayer only. But I got a ton of bad reviews because it didn't have AI to play against. So selling an iOS board game as a 'classic' board game (where you need other people physically present to play) does not seem to go over well.

I'm wondering if some studios intentionally skip out on building local multiplayer because it creates the expectation that there will be AI to play against, and that can dramatically increase the difficulty of building the app.
 
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CaptainCosmic wrote:

Passing a device back and forth is a distant third, although it can certainly be fun. It has two things working against it: there's a percentage of players who will spend the whole time wondering why they aren't just playing the physical game instead; and there can be a certain tedium that comes with passing a device back and forth ... and back and forth ... and back and forth?


Why are you automatically equating local multiplayer with "passing a device back and forth"?

As mentioned above, my wife and I play games using an iPad, and in almost all cases it works perfectly fine without any "passing". When we are on the couch, I just rest the tablet on my knee between us and there it stays for the whole game. At the table, it sits in front of us, just as a board would.

Neuroshima Hex, Puerto Rico, Carcasonne, Caylus, Medici, Ra, Small World, Ghost Stories, Forbidden Island, Blokus, Kingsburg, Tikal, Through The Desert, Keltis, Hive and Fits all work perfectly well this way, to name a few...
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J Fitzpatrick
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dboeren wrote:
I just want to know why some games have internet multiplayer but no local multiplayer.


While I do understand the logistics of having both a remote server and local "server" navigate the game structure... I agree. It's really frustrating to not be able to play a game locally between my and my wife's iPads.
 
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