[Note: if all you want is to play some hardcore Osmos multiplayer games, feel free to skip this post and come straight to our new forum.]
We’ve put a lot of work into Osmos multiplayer – about 3 man-years across 4 people – and (modesty aside) we’re really proud of it. Technically, we feel it’s a super smooth, polished experience. It also provides a really unique type of competitive play – highly skill-based – that rewards strategy and quick thinking, but not necessarily quick tapping. Individual matches last anywhere from a few seconds to perhaps a minute, and the player who plans the most rewarding route while optimizing their taps/propulsion will emerge the victor. We rarely play single player levels anymore (beyond testing), but when the multiplayer mode became solid, we had a blast playing each other.
But, as in any skill-based, multiplayer game, it’s way more fun and exciting to play against someone at your level. In particular, expert vs. expert play is awesome to both play and watch. Unfortunately, those kinds of games are hard to come by.
High Level Play and iOS
Top Starcraft players earn six-figure incomes. Thousands of fighting-game players and fans gather each year in Las Vegas for EVO. More than 8 million people worldwide tuned in to watch the League of Legends finals two week ago. “E-sports” are big. But they haven’t really penetrated phone and tablet gaming. Infrastructure such as MLG exists for PC and consoles, but not iOS nor Android. At least not yet.
Don’t get me wrong; there are a significant number of solid multiplayer games on iOS, and that number is growing. But it seems like the platform, or the tastes of its players, lean more towards turn-based multiplayer games (eg. Words with Friends, Ascension, Gasketball) and casual play. And maybe that makes sense in terms of the platform’s culture and affordances; most players are generally looking for bite-size gameplay — stuff that fits between the cracks. After all, serious gaming happens at your high-performance rig, with your big monitor(s), custom controllers, and comfortable chair… right?
Another aspect which shapes a platform is its infrastructure — in this context: Game Center (GC). GC is great in that it brings a ton of gamers together in a single social system, and allows developers to easily connect them via auto-matching and friend-invitations. But it’s lacking in terms of powerful matchmaking and player ranking. (For instance, there’s no way to lower a player’s score on a GC leaderboard.) As such, all the multiplayer games that use it (and there are many, including Infinity Blade, Fruit Ninja, SpellTower, Super Stickman Golf, MetalStorm, etc. etc.) are limited to “casual” play as well, in that expert players have a hard time finding each other.
There are exceptions. Some developers have built their own infrastructure: servers to host games, rank players, and provide ladder matchmaking. Such games include Street Fighter Volt, Outwitters, Battle Nations, and Magic the Gathering. One company in particular jumps out: Gameloft, who have created a cross-platform backend called Gameloft LIVE, and who seem to be going for the hardcore multiplayer market with games like Starfront Collision (StarCraft clone), Modern Combat (Call of Duty clone), N.O.V.A. (Halo clone), and many more. An interesting note is that a number of these games are getting targeted by hackers and cheaters, similar to what happens on PC. So is Game Center for that matter.
One more exception is of special interest to us: Galcon. This “minimalist” RTS has supported cross-platform (including iOS), ranked, secure online play for years now. (ie. without Game Center.) There’s even infrastructure and a community engaged in tournament play. What blows our minds is it was all developed by one man: Phil Hassey. Inspirational stuff.
Well, we don’t plan on building hack-proof tournament servers anytime soon, but we would like to spark some expert Osmos play and see what happens. How can we do this? Well, as a first step, we’d simply like to see who’s out there, and discover what high-level play actually looks like! We like to think we’re good at the game, but it would be a real eye-opener to have our asses handed to us.
So if you’re interested in playing some expert-level Osmos, come on over to the new forum we setup, where we’ll be chatting, arranging some informal (at least to begin with) “tournaments”, and brainstorming the future of Osmos Pro play!