How Alto’s Adventure became your next favorite iPhone game

One of Ryan Cash’s favorite games growing up was GoldenEye on the N64. “One thing I remember so clearly is that the game was hard,” he recalled. “You couldn’t just beat the game on its toughest setting if you weren’t amazing.” Luckily for…Read more ›

Apple Campus Celebrates 30th Mac Anniversary With One Republic Performance [Mac Blog]

In celebration of the Mac’s 30th anniversary, Apple employees are being treated to a musical performance by popular band act One Republic, which is currently going on at Apple’s Cupertino campus.

(Photo courtesy of @soulo1200s)
Apple holds a bi-weekly „Beer Bash“ for employees at its campus that often include musical performances when a bash coincides with a special event. Previous Beer Bash performances have included Darius Rucker, Brad Paisley, Maroon 5, Cake, The Fray, and Phillips Phillips.

The company also decorated its Cupertino headquarters with several 30th anniversary posters, which list every employee who has ever worked at Apple by badge number, and several Apple executives, including Tim Cook, have given interviews about the Mac to celebrate its birthday.

How Jobs Director Brought ‘Brutally Honest Character’ To Silver Screen

It’s not easy making a posthumous movie about the world’s most well-known and beloved control freak. Just ask Joshua Michael Stern, director of new Steve Jobs biopic Jobs. The film delves into the early days of Apple Computer as Stern paints a picture of a man he calls a “brutally honest character.” Don’t go into […]

The post How Jobs Director Brought ‘Brutally Honest Character’ To Silver Screen appeared first on Cult of Mac.

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19 Years Later, eWorld Is Dead; Long Live eWorld

eWorld Is Where I Wanna Be

I remember when I got my first computer, ever, at the age of 24. It was a Macintosh Performa 638CD, and it came with this sweet little 14.4 baud modem that was my entree to the whole of the internet, which really wasn’t that popular back then.

I remember finding this cool little icon on the Mac with a little hand-drawn person on it, called eWorld. Hmm, I wondered. What the heck was eWorld?

Clicking through, I found an adorable little electronic village, all in that hand-drawn, gentle style. Oh, this must be like Compuserve, or Prodigy, right?

Well, yes and no. The softer, gentler world of eWorld was only for Macs, and it was my favorite place to go. Never mind that it was kind of empty; it was beautiful and I loved it.

Pr-eWorld Realities

In 1985, Apple had an internal network, called AppleLink, for employee, dealer, and eventually developer support. It was run by GE’s online service, and Apple was paying GE to run the backend. Looking to phase this out, mostly to save money, Apple wanted to purchase or build its own online service.

Soon after, Apple created AppleLink Personal Edition, a similar tech-support system for consumers, with Quantum Computer Services running the backend. Quantum Computer Services soon became America Online, or AOL, with a young Steve Case at the helm. 1987 saw Quantum running AppleLink PE, with Apple getting a percentage of the fees Quantum was charging users of the service.

When Quantum terminated its contract with Apple, and Apple cancelled the GE contract in the early 1990s, it was time for the Cupertino company to build its own online service to compete with AOL. So, Apple struck a deal with…AOL, who would run the new online service and license AppleLink PE back to Apple. It was 1993 when the new Online Services group, including the group manager for Research & Development, Scott Converse, started to work on what would become eWorld, a Mac-only online service to compete with Compuserve, Prodigy, and of course AOL.

“What we didn’t know is that AOL had already prepared it’s bankruptcy papers – this deal ultimately saved them. Steve Case had a great poker face,” said Peter Friedman, the head of the content group for Apple Online Services at the time, now CEO of LiveWorld.

The eWorld product began life in Converse’s office, as he sat planning with another creative type, Cleo Huggins. He had a habit of capitalizing words in the middle, programmer-style, so when it was time to come up with a code name for this new project, this electronic world, she wrote it on the whiteboard: eWorld. It was collegial teasing, but after all was said and done, it was Huggins’ project name that won the day.

“Marketing hired a group to come up with a name for the service,” Huggins told us. “I guess they weren’t entirely sure about eWorld and wanted an outside professional opinion. $30,000 later they came up with ‘Avalon.’ Needless to say that didn’t really stick. I think they went back to the drawing board, purchased the domain from someone who was using it and decided it would be eWorld after all.”

Trevor Griffiths worked as a programmer for eWorld, having been a key team member for AppleLink and AppleLink PE. He designed a coding language (based on a concept by a coder at Quantum Computing/AOL) that separated the data stream from the graphical presentation of that data, paving the way for the ability to change the way eWorld looked depending on the season or the function of each graphic.

“I remember flying out to Vienna, WA, holing up in their headquarters there, and arguing about functions, features, coding, etc. I was overseeing the design of eWorld – working with AOL,” he recalled.

“One of the things we had the most fun with was the design that Cleo did, and then tweaking that design,” said Newton Mail programmer and eWorld team member, Chris Christensen. “We had the capability for the first time to add things to the resource fork that would let us change the look of stuff, like eWorld on Mars, eWorld underwater.”

Huggins was an integral player in the way eWorld looked. “I had been doing all the drawings up to this point and felt a little self-conscious about pushing my view,” she told us. “We interviewed a few artists and found Mark Drury. He took the look a dimension further. He invented the fat ePeople and crafted fabulous fictional buildings. He worked with marketing to do all the advertising and collateral.  All I did on the final designs was to color them.”

Getting graphics online wasn’t the easiest or most efficient process either. “At the time there was a policy of supporting old platforms,” said Huggins. “So, I had to do a bitmap (black and white) version of all the images to support non-color monitors. Our target screen was 640 x 480, 256 colors. Constraints were normal at the time. We had to keep the graphics small for 56K baud dialup.”

When eWorld went online, however, the combination of real time chat and a distinct graphical style really made it stand out.

The post 19 Years Later, eWorld Is Dead; Long Live eWorld appeared first on Cult of Mac.

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OpenFeint Founder Tells All About His New iPad Exclusive Game, Fates Forever

Jason Citron is a veteran of both the console and gaming space, involved with developing Double Fine’s Brutal Legend in 2006, and then releasing one of the first hit iOS games in the early, heady days of the iOS App store, a match-three puzzle game with a twist, Aurora Feint. Soon after, he created OpenFeint, which was the de facto leaderboard and multiplayer matching system for Apple mobile devices long before Game Center.

After OpenFeint was sold to Japanese social-gaming company, GREE, in April of 2011, Jason headed out to engage his passion for video game development once again wiht a new company, Hammer and Chisel, and a new game, announced today, called Fates Forever, an iPad-only massively online battle arena (MOBA) game.

Citron took some time out of a busy schedule to talk to Cult of Mac about the new game, it’s mechanics and business strategy, and his own take on what iPad games should be.

Cult of Mac: So tell us about the new game?

Jason Citron: The genesis of the game, then, came from Sega. (laughter) I really wanted to play a great hardcore game on my tablet. At the end of the day, the personal motivation came from being involved with mobile for so long and just being like, “Why the heck don’t I have anything awesome to play on my tablet?”

So I took some time to think about how great games get made and where they come from. And I had an observation, which is that great games tend to be coupled with user interface (UI) changes. Usually, they’re reinterpretations of games from previous platforms for a new user interface, and you get something genuinely not new but different.

Nintendo has been doing this forever. They said, “Forget the Atari stick, let’s make a D-pad,” and they had Mario. And they’re like, “We need more buttons,” so they put shoulder buttons. Now we have Star Fox, and you can lean left and right. Then they’re like, “Screw this, we need MORE MARIO,” and they added an analog stick, and now you’ve got the same game, but in 3D. Then, they made a thing you can shake at the screen, and now Mario can…whatever.

So they keep adding these new UI paradigms, rather than inventing new games. They’re reinventing new games, reinterpreting existing games. So I thought maybe this was an interesting analog for how to bring core gaming to tablets in a meaningful way.

League of Legends is a phenomenal game. I spent way too much time playing it. And I realized you could reinterpret the controls on League of Legends on a tablet really well. It doesn’t work with a smart phone, because the screen is too small, but on a tablet, you have a large touch screen that you can do some really interesting stuff. So that’s what we tried, and it turns out that it’s fun.

CoM: So there’s been a couple of other mobile titles that have tried this. What makes yours work? You’ve talked about control schemes. How does that play into your reinterpretation?

Jason Citron: Sure, I mean, that’s the focus of (our game) right there. We redid all the artwork for it, but we invented our own world, and came up with a cool story, new heroes, and all that stuff.

But the focus of the innovation is really around how you interact with the game. When I look at the other massively online battle arena games (MOBAs) on the tablets and smartphones, the two that really come to mind are Heroes of Order & Chaos from Gameloft and Solstice Arena, from Zynga. The thing with both of them is that they didn’t innovate on the controls at all, they just took the game and put it on tablet.

Gameloft games are a fairly faithful…I would call them copies, not interpretations. In Heroes of Order & Chaos, there’s this girl that has long hair, she looks kind of icy, she has a bow and arrow, and she shoots–it’s literally a copy of Ashe; they didn’t try to do anything interesting. They were like ‘just copy this.’ So okay, fine…

CoM: That’s kind of their schtick, so…

Jason Citron: Exactly! So I’m looking at the space and how we’re different, pointing out the contrast. So in Solstice Arena, Zynga’s new game that just came out, they didn’t innovate on the control scheme at all. What they’ve innovated on, if you want to call it an innovation, is taking Farmville/Clash of Clans-style free-to-play, and they put it in a MOBA. I joke and call it MobaVille. It’s pay to win, it’s all the stuff that people like you and me who play these kinds of games don’t like.

What we’ve done is genuinely innovated on a control scheme, and I’ll tell you about that in a second, and our monetization is what I call respectful. It’s effectively what League of Legends and Team Fortress 2 and what Magic the Gathering does, where it’s based on two key values which we can get into later for the control scheme.

One example of what we’ve done is the warthog character. We’ve effectively reinterpreted the skill shot to use touch gestures. What we said is that on a tablet, you’ve got to replace those mouse-based skill shots with gesture-based skill shots, and it turns out it’s pretty fun.

So the warthog has a move called a shoulder ram, and you get this indicator that pops up. You can actually flick the character into another enemy. And it launches across the screen and hits the character, the camera shakes, and then he does an uppercut. It’s really visceral and feels really nice.

There’s a vole character, too, and he has a gesture-based move where you actually draw a line, like Flight Control. So, you draw this line out and then he shoots this like shockwave of fire that traces your finger and it does this damage over time to enemies that walk over the current ground.

The idea is basically that we’re taking these gestural mini games that people have been creating over the past few years and integrating them in a nice way with our core gaming mechanics. So the flicking of Paper Toss, (the line drawing of) Flight Control, and some Fruit Ninja stuff. And it’s turning out to be pretty fun.

CoM: So instead of sticking a bunch of buttons that create a keyboard or whatever, you went totally with gesture. That’s cool.

Jason Citron: An important thing to note though, if you look at the screenshots, is that there are four buttons on the left side. And you actually use those buttons the same way you would use the Q, W, E, and R keys on a computer keyboard to activate the moves, and then the skill shots are done using gestures. So it turns out that that hybrid approach is best. We’ve actually gone through six iterations of the control scheme, and where we’ve landed is buttons on your left and skill shots are gestural moves.

CoM: Very cool, so you found that sweet spot.

Jason Citron: Yeah, yeah. And then simple moving and stuff. You know, like, you tap to move, you tap and hold and he’ll just keep walking. If you tap an enemy, he’ll automatically approach and start auto-attacking. To stop moving, you just tap two fingers down. If you’re holding the finger to walk, you just add another finger and he stops. If you press and hold two fingers, you’ll start recalling, and if you just stop for a while you’ll just teleport back. So we’ve got some a simple but intuitive control scheme in there. In the Gameloft game, you tap a character, and then to attack enemies, you have to press the auto-attack button on the screen.

Citron talks Multiplayer and Monetization – Read More

The post OpenFeint Founder Tells All About His New iPad Exclusive Game, Fates Forever appeared first on Cult of Mac.

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