iPad as Ultimate Board Game Platform

iPadI spend a lot of time sitting around a table with friends, playing board games. I can easily imagine a future where those same friends and I all sit around a touchscreen table, playing games on that table. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when those same friends and I used to all sit facing the TV with controllers in our hands. (Hell, it’s rare, but we sometimes still do!)

Sure, there is something to be said for moving little pieces around, and handing some physical representation of money or resources back and forth, but that physical interaction can also slow the game down quite a bit. (It’s no surprise to any avid board gamer that you can finish an “electronic” version of board games in often much less time than the “real” thing, and only some of that time is spent waiting for your opponents to take their moves.)

I have now had a bit over 24 hours to “digest” Apple’s big iPad announcement, and while there are any number of other compelling touchscreen platforms out there, I have already worked in Apple’s platform, so I am am going to start working on a multiplayer game for the iPad ASAP. I think there is a real opportunity for board games to begin the migration to the iPad en masse, and I want to be part of that!

One big open question on my mind is… will the iPad lay flat? The pictures they’re providing seem to imply that it will (especially the side-on ones), but in the video, we never see it laying on a table or used on a flat surface. And the rotating 3D view they have on their website shows a (no doubt faked) reflection as you rotate it that doesn’t appear to have any flat parts. If it won’t lay flat, (or maybe even if it will) there’s probably an easy hardware opportunity out there for someone.

Lots of folks have already made a big stink about all the things missing from the iPad, camera being the one I’ve heard most frequently, so I’m not going to say anything about any of that other than to predict the next iteration will have a camera, (assuming this one doesn’t flop). I still think there is lots of stuff missing from the iPhone, frankly, and plenty of that stuff would translate nicely to the iPad as well. (Over-the-air syncing and bluetooth keyboard support are still my favorite ones to rant about.)

So yeah, I will be buying an iPad right away when they’re released, and I really can’t wait to play some board games on it.

Mobile Tetris tops 100 Million Downloads

A ridiculous number of news sources are reporting that EA and Blue Planet Software held a press conference a couple of days ago announcing that Tetris has reached the 100,000,000 paid downloads mark. EA’s iPhone Tetris has a near-permanent place on the app store’s list of “Top Grossing” apps, so it didn’t surprise me to hear that the iPhone port is doing well, but Tetris is apparently also available for 64 thousand other models of mobile device. I didn’t even know there were that many mobile devices out there!

Here’s the official press release over at Tetris.com, where they are also featuring (advertising) the iPhone app, as well as Tetris Gems — a site where you can buy officially licensed Tetris jewelry of all things. (I would definitely wear one of these rings, but I’m not entirely sure it’s worth the $329.00 asking price.)

While poking through Tetris related news articles, I read a wired article from last year about some study that found playing Tetris improves your brain. And tangentially related is a very fascinating article I read even earlier this evening by Garry Kasparov titled The Chess Master and the Computer. It’s mostly about the state of computer chess AI, but more interestingly how those programs are having an effect on human players.

Finally, did you know there is a Church of Tetris!? Neither did I.

Awesome and new-to-me Internet Tetris variants

First Person Tetris has clearly been making the rounds. (I’ve had three separate people tell me about it in the last week.) Basically, the whole screen rotates and moves while the current piece remains stationary in the center of the screen. I was actually surprised at how easy this was to play, intuitive even. Ultimately though, it’s still Tetris, with nothing terribly different about it, so it’s probably got a fairly limited replay value.

Tuper Tario Tros is tetris meets mario bros. You can also find it on Kongregate. From the developer’s description:

We were playing some Xbox Live games during lunchtime. Guillaume was really excited about “Lucidity” and the idea of playing a “Tetris platform” game… but he finally felt disapointed by the concept.

So, Guillaume decided to create a little Tetris plateformer for fun. William came with the idea to mix up Tetris with another well know game: Super Mario Bros.

This is interesting to me, because I also tried out (and was a tad bit disappointed with) the much hyped Lucidity. It’s definitely very pretty, but the gameplay just felt a bit lacking. Anyway, Tuper Tario Tros is a novel idea. You are basically just playing standard Mario Bros, but then a popup tells you you can switch into tetris mode by hitting the space bar. Then it’s up to you to build the 2d platforms for Mario to traverse using Tetris pieces. Eventually you reach the end of the level, and the gameplay switches to another mode entirely. Those folks at SwingSwing Submarine did a great job of creating not one but two new and interesting gameplay types out of it. The first part is relatively short, so I’d recommend sticking with it until you finish it so you see the second one. Good stuff.

3D Stereogram Tetris has probably been around the longest of these three. When I sent it out at work, one of my coworkers said she’d been playing it for years. It’s exactly like a Stereogram image, where you have to cross your eyes correctly to see the game, and I found out that gives me a headache after a very short amount of time. I only recently discovered this painful Tetris variant a few months back, and it deserves a place on any list of Tetris variants, for novelty alone.

It bears mentioning that Wikipedia has a nice page listing many official Tetris Variants, (I may have linked to this before) but the page doesn’t seem to have any flash games on it, and is most useful when trying to remember which version of tetris existed for which console system. I briefly toyed with adding these, and possibly Go-Tetris to the page, but I think adding my game would be against Wikipedia’s TOS.

iTunes redesign comments

I wrote a post for the Clockwork blog about how iTunes app store pages have changed. Just cross linking here cause I think it’s relevant and interesting. (Note that I did write this immediately after I noticed the redesign, but (unlike this blog) we space out the clockwork blog posts so there’s some publishing plan to them… unfortunately that means some posts can get pushed out for up to — in this case — a couple of weeks.)