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Osmos 2.2 for iOS

Hey everyone, we’ve released Osmos version 2.2 on iOS! Here are the details:
(note: for those of you on other platforms, you can see what we’re up to here.)

iPhone 5 support
Osmos now takes full advantage of the iPhone/iPod 5′s bigger screen! More motes, more zen.

Game progress saved in iCloud
Do you play Osmos on multiple devices, or have you migrated to a new phone or tablet? Well, your progress is now seamlessly propagated from device to device via the magic of the cloud! (Note: if you have a device with progress you want to propagate, you need to run Osmos 2.2 on it at least once to get that progress into the cloud.)

iPad – iPhone interplay
iPad players can now send Game Center invitations to iPhone players, and vice versa. We’ve also merged achievements and progress across the two versions.

iOS 6 support + Facebook integration
You can now give a multiplayer shout-out on your Facebook wall in addition to the existing Tweet button. We’ve added some other secret voodoo iOS 6 support under the hood as well.

In-Game News
We’ve added a simple in-game news system that’ll allow us to let folks know about fun multiplayer events, tips and tricks, interesting news, etc.

Steps towards multiplayer rankings
This is another “under the hood” feature. Nothing to show yet, but we’re now gathering all multiplayer session data on our server, which will allow us to authenticate tournament games, rank players in a more interesting fashion, etc. More to come on this topic in the future…

(Oh, and we’d greatly appreciate if you “refreshed” your review on the App Store. Reviews reset on every update, and we work hard on these things! :) )

Thanks and happy Osmoting!

L337 Osmos

[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.

Abs0rbed!

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!

What we’re up to…

Things have been fairly quiet on the Hemisphere blog recently. The last year saw us busy on:

  • Osmos Multiplayer, which we released on iOS this Summer, and updated soon after with voice-chat. This is where we spent most (read, a lot!) of our time.
  • The Android port, released at the beginning of the year.
  • A few other minor projects/updates, like iPad Retina, Game Center support for the Mac App Store, etc.

Then, in August, Dave and his wife Mel had a beautiful baby girl. (Congrats, Dave! :) ) And, finding myself more or less on my own for a while with nothing “on fire”, I decided to take things down a notch and enjoy the beautiful weather with family and friends.

But It’s now late October, fully into rainy shoulder season, and Dave and I are both back at it, planning what’s next for Hemisphere.

On one hand, we’re excited to be working on games besides Osmos, picking up some prototypes we had worked on between the cracks over the last 1.5 years, as well as hitting some new ideas we’ve been discussing. But at the same time we feel like there is some “undone” work on Osmos we plan on hitting over the next few months. Here’s our list, broken down by platform:

  • Android: we’re working with the fine folks at Apportable to bring Osmos Multiplayer to Android tablets and handsets.
  • iOS: We’re adding support for 4-inch (iPhone/iPod 5) screens and the iPad Mini. (It should just work “out of the box” on the Mini, but we’ll tweak the UI a bit, making the buttons and fonts a bit bigger.) We’re also adding support for iOS 6, including Facebook integration. Finally, we’re thinking of merging the iPad and iPhone versions into a single “group” so they can play multiplayer against each other through Game Center.
  • Linux: we’re working with Valve to bring Osmos Linux to Steam.
  • Mac: we just added Retina support to the version on our website, and will be updating the Mac App Store version with this soon as well.
  • Windows: we’re looking at Windows 8, Surface, etc., but the reviews have been pretty bad! We’re wondering if it’s worth supporting them explicitly. (There’s already a Win 7 multitouch version available which hasn’t generated much interest.)

Last but not least there’s some blogging we want to do, mainly on the subject of multiplayer.

  • One subject we want to tackle is “expert play”; namely, how it’s difficult to connect with other strong players on iOS. As such, we’d like to spearhead an effort to get people playing in some high-calibre Osmos matches. More on this soon!
  • From a developer perspective, we learned a lot about creating a polished, real-time, multiplayer game on iOS. During development we found ourselves wishing there was more information on this subject on the web. So we plan to share some of our experiences in the hopes they can help other developers, both on technical aspects (Game Center, bluetooth, networking techniques for physics/simulation-heavy games) as well as some thoughts on design.

And with that, it’s time to get back to it. We have plenty to do!! ;-)

Introducing Osmos Multiplayer!

Dear Motes,

We’ve worked long and hard on this one, and are excited to announce a major addition to Osmos: multiplayer!

This is a free update to the iOS versions of the game, and includes 6 distinct arenas in which players can play against each other — both locally and online — in a mote-eat-mote absorption-fest of skill and strategy. This update also includes iPad Retina support, Twitter integration, and many more audio/visual improvements.

Multiplayer Osmos

Multiplayer details:

  • Play against your friends and enemies, locally (via wi-fi or Bluetooth), or over the Internet.
  • 6 distinct Arenas: Ambient, Impasse, Solar, Warped Chaos, Epicycles, and introducing… Antimatter Impasse.
  • iPad vs. iPhone play supported (for local games only).
  • Optional handicap system to keep competition friendly. Be kind to young motes. :)

So what are you waiting for? Go show your friends who’s boss of the Blobiverse!

Get Osmos for iPad here.
Get Osmos for iPhone/iPodTouch here.

We sincerely hope you enjoy it.
Eddy, on behalf of the Hemi team