Strategy in the era of Mobile Gaming

LiveStrom on August 28, 2010 in Games

Multiple Screens and the Cloud. Its a mantra that some of the big tech companies have been touting for some time now. Definitions? ┬áThe Cloud is global storage. It is where your data lives, protected from harm by redundancy, fault tolerance, and replication. What do they mean by screens? The devices that run software and can connect to the cloud: PCs, entertainment devices (gaming consoles), and mobile devices. The idea is to link these devices together so that you can use the device most appropriate for your current situation, but then access the same state you were at on a different device at a different time. Each screen has its strengths and weaknesses… the PC with its flexibility and raw power, the connection of entertainment devices to your living room and TV, and your mobile device with its ability to move and serve as a life maximizer.

How does that apply to strategy? It allows a new evolution in games. Someday soon, we will see games that will utilize each of these screens, allowing you to use the platform that bet fits your current needs. You might play a turn of a game in the morning using your entertainment device (such as an Xbox), pick up where you left off and play another game at lunch on your smartphone (such as Windows Phone 7), then use a PC to do some fine editing of details in the evening. This would work for single player games, where your game state is saved in the cloud and resumed on each device, or it could work for multiplayer games, where you conduct your turns wherever you have an internet connection.

Lets talk about an ideal turn based strategy game that maximizes these concepts. Here are a few traits it should have in my opinion:

1) Snack sized. For anyone who finds themselves busy during the day, it should be possible to play games on the road, in a bank line, or in the comfort of your home in front of your big screen TV. So much of our lives nowadays consist of snippets of information throughout the day, rather than big chunks. This game should be one that you can pick up at any point quickly, and just as quickly walk away.

2) Cloud connected. Related to being snack-sized, this strategy game should allow you to move from place to place without having to physically move files around. This can be done through the cloud, saving the state of your single or multiplayer games. From time to time, you won’t have a connection, so it will have to save locally, but then back up to the cloud when a connection is available.

3) Flexible. You should have options to play according to your style. Perhaps you have a couple hours to kill, so you want to play online. The game should allow you to do this, while enforcing that the game moves along quickly. Other times you may want a long term game that lasts over a couple weeks. The game should allow for this too.

4) Has achievements. In an era when you can find games everywhere, on your phone, on your TV through a console, on your PC, theres a lot to choose from at a given time. Many people don’t have time to complete every game they come across, so having achievements gives you goals to work towards. These are rewards that you can share, many of them socially connected through facebook, twitter, or XBox Live. I think these are important so that the games we enjoy leave a mark, while the games we Really enjoy encourage us to try out all the aspects of the game through well-targeted achievements.

5) Optimized per screen. This game should utilize the strengths of each screen. On the console, it should provide an intense experience heavy on good graphics and connections with the console’s services (such as XBox Live). On the phone, it should be quick to play, and allow you to use the phone’s “always connected” characteristics to good advantage. On the PC is where you can have level editors or other content creation tools.

Not all of the technology is quite there yet… connections between the screens are still being made, and some (like between consoles and mobile devices) are only available to those with the resources to become registered developers. However, the goal is clear, and these limitations will be overcome with time. As they are, we will get closer and closer to enabling the ideal mobile strategy game.

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