Of the various ideas I have been prototyping, one showing some promise is Block Rockin’ .. it’s a 3D Arkanoid or Brick-Out type game controlled by physics. Using the tilt sensors on the iPhone is a great way to control it too – your bat moves around a circular platform. The blocks are destroyed after a couple of strikes, but they also tumble about and (if they’re in a wall or henge configuration) you get quite a pleasing level of destruction.
There’s a few loose ideas for iPhone games that I’m toying with at the moment. Shiva does a nice job of physics (it has the ODE physics engine integrated) so some kind of a sandbox physics game could be nice. It all depends on the limitations of the iPhone of course – from what I’ve seen, there is a severe limit on the number of separate draw calls that can be made if you want a decent frame rate. The number of unique moving objects is apparently much more of a limit than the actual number of polygons in those objects.
‘Block Thrower’ – I have prototyped an idea where you swipe to throw wooden blocks into the scene, where they collide with other blocks. Pleasant enough, but not exactly a core game concept yet. Something along the lines of a 3D ‘crush the castle’ might work.
Some kind of turn-based squad-level combat game could work. There are a few games like this already available for the iPhone of course; but I have learned through Darkwind that this is a niche within the turn-based genre that is relatively popular. I would use the Darkwind critical hits table, one of the coolest things it has – seeing a textual description of injuries is so much better than being told ‘you hit your enemy for 5 damage’.
Back in the mid-1980s one of the games I wrote for the BBC Micro/Archimedes was called ‘Killer’ – a squad-level turn-based shooter where you could design the maps for your friends, define the routes that the computer-controlled enemies would take, and then level-up your characters and watch them die. We need perma-death, obviously. Killer was one of the most popular of my games amongst my friends.
People love to design things. Community can evolve from sharing maps, working together and participating in ‘player versus computer’ multiplayer combats. So this ‘Killer’ game would definitely need to have a scenario-designing component and some form of AI scripting component. Perhaps you could also script the AI defenders of your base if your base was attacked by other players.
Deathracer has been giving me grief the past month or two. It’s a combination of factors. The apparent inability of the Shiva game engine to run complex code efficiently enough to control the number of computer drivers that I want, when running on an iPhone, is probably the main problem. I have spent a lot of time trying to optimise code, and Paul has spent quite a bit of time reworking polycounts and textures for me.
There’s also the issue of scope creep, and of the difficulties of developing in a distributed team. I just remembered why Darkwind was always planned as a one man show..
So yeah, I probably don’t know Shiva as well as I should. I need to start working on smaller projects, just like I did with Torque in 2004/2005, before ramping up to something more substantial like Deathracer.
During a pleasant evening with Nicholas Lovell before the ‘World of Love’ conference, we chatted about Deathracer and how it might work. Now, Nicholas really knows his stuff, so some new ideas came up here.
The game definitely needs some kind of unique hook, possibly something to give it a chance of virality. I explained to Nicholas the concept of sidekicks that Brian and I had toyed with in December. The idea is that the sidekicks have different personalities as well as different skills.. so some are trigger happy, others are careful with the ammo, some may be loose cannons that don’t choose their targets wisely or according to your wishes, etc. But the key idea is that the sidekick does the shooting, while you do the driving, and that the sidekick can be influenced by your wishes but operates somewhat to his/her own agenda. Nicholas’ idea is that there could be an option to actually shout instructions to the sidekick, rather than use buttons. The image of someone shouting ‘shoot now!’ or ‘hold your fire!’ at their iPhone while playing is an interesting one.
Still on the sidekick theme, perhaps the game could be free, but you have to pay for the more powerful/interesting/sexy sidekicks, maybe $1 a pop. Nicholas has been an evangelist for the ‘power laws and whales’ concept for some time now, and he is very much an advocate of letting your players pay what they want to pay (be that $0 or $10) rather than forcing them into a ‘one size fits all’ price.
I also like the idea of a tamogatchi type thing with the sidekicks.. they get injured, and they’re unplayable for a couple of days; when you check into the game, you visit them in hospital, smiling weakly back at you.