Asynchronous Multiplayer Mobile Gaming

With all the news on Friday about Apple’s release of iPhone OS 2.2, there was another iPhone news item that got less attention than it deserved. Two young iPhone developers, Danielle Cassley and Jason Citron, released the sequel to their much-acclaimed iPhone puzzle game, Aurora Feint. Aurora Feint II: The Arena (iTunes link) introduces the concept of ‘casual asynchronous massively multiplayer online gaming’ for iPhone. That’s a mouthful, merging a number of distinct terms into one. Let’s break that down into its individual pieces:

  • Casual games have simple rulesets and can be played in a short amount of time, such as Blackjack or Mindsweeper.
  • Asynchronous games allow for people to participate without playing at the same time, such as turn-based games like Chess or Scrabble.
  • Massively multiplayer online games have persistent, shared worlds, such as World of Warcraft or for you parents of youngsters out there, Club Penguin.

This combination of gaming elements is very appealing in the mobile market. It’s a perfect lifestyle fit. People want to play games in short increments of time. This may be during a commute on public transit or waiting in the doctor’s office. People want to play games on their own schedule. Not every player in a game can dedicate the same period of time to participate. People want to play games with real people, especially people they know. A shared game world provides this opportunity.

Aurora Feint II accomplishes this through the use of ‘ghosts’. A human player builds up a character in the game world that has the ability to act autonomously while the player is offline. The player’s ghost can be challenged in the game world at any time, and when the player returns to the game world, the ghost can be controlled directly. It’s a novel approach and solves a number of problems with people wanting to play with their friends on their own schedules.

Casual asynchronous massively multiplayer online gaming is going to be a hot market for game developers and it’s a natural fit for mobile devices. Expect to see more iPhone titles like this in the near future.

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