The second half of 2016 has brought a surprise for gamers. There have been great new titles, but what sets this yearÃ¢€â„¢s crop of games apart from previous years is the type of games available for the smartphone. In terms of gameplay and devices, there were three things which stood out. If you are a gamer, you should watch for more of these games:
Augmented Reality Games
Ingress had a cult following in the past few years. The game itself was a bit dry, and was only interesting for people who liked to go about taking adventure trips to waypoints. Players went to various waypoints, called Ã¢€Å“portalÃ¢€Â in order to raise the number of points for their side of the game. Within Ingress, this merging of real world places with a smartphone game was a stroke of genius although it needed another iteration before the concept really took off.
As it happens, the developers of Ingress, Niantic, teamed up with Nintendo and Google Maps to bring Pokemon Go, the augmented reality game to the real world. Pokemon Go is an immersive interactive game which uses Google Maps, and the old Ingress portals to update a 20-year old turn-based card game. Pokemon has been in the hands of players for about two decades and when it was ported to smartphones and tablets, the world caught up in the frenzy of catching them all.
What is innovative about this game is the use of the map, GPS and a augmented reality overlay. The game world exists on top of the real world. Of course, there were game elements left out of Pokemon Go, but these are minor details. Besides, real world trouble might erupt if real-life Pokemon battles was allowed between players.
Smartphones have a lot of computing power as well as all kinds of sensors. The newest smartphones being released, include pedometers, GPS, gyroscopes, and barometers. Some of these are already integrated into games. With more integration, there would be more possibilities for controls as well as gameplay.
Samsung has teamed up with Oculus in bringing their own 3D virtual-reality gear. Samsung Gear VR was priced at $99.00 when it was first released. It builds upon the work of Oculus with their own VR system. Using the Samsung phone, it projects a 3D image within the VR gear.
Google upped the ante with the Google VR based on their Dreamview specifications. This is an important step as it creates a standard protocol for Android devices to support VR. It also acknowledges that in order to run VR, the smartphone has to be fast able to run video at a fast frame rate. Although at present on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are the only smartphones which conform to the minimum standards, it is expected that other phones would try to catch up with their next scheduled model release.
VR is different from augmented reality. Augmented reality uses real-life constructs, like buildings and other objects and includes them in the game. On the other hand, VR creates a game world and presents this in a 3D world where you can move as you also move in the real world. Simulators of every kind would work well in a VR environment. Other games also fit well within this genre, like Sims or Second Life.
What Google effectively did was to lower the cost of entry-level VR equipment. Before VR came to the smartphone, VR games were developed with the desktop PC in mind. VR requires a powerful machine, and other equipment like multiple cameras and sensors and the only machines with the computing power was the PC. With Dreamview VR environment and the Android specifications, Google did all the research and initial development for other Android developers to follow suit. These phone makers did not have to shell out the money to develop their own VR. Google already did it for them.
Of course, there would be other equipment required, however, using the smartphone as the core of the system, made the costs that much cheaper. With more smartphones coming out supporting Dreamview, expect more games to follow.
The development of consumer drones has accelerated in recent years due to several factors. First off, these are cheap. Second, pairing them with cameras have made them more sellable. And lastly, the use of smartphones solved a lot of problems in terms of first person view (fpv), as well as in making drones easy to fly.
Before there were drones, RC model flyers have been around for decades. They are still popular, however, they have never reached the popularity of drones. The top-of-the-line consumer drones are up to ten times more expensive than RC planes and helicopters. However, it was not until flying was made easy did the drones really started selling.
A case in point, the Parrot Disco is a wing-like plane which behaves like other RC model planes. However, if it was flown without the built-in automated assist, it would be as hard to fly as regular model planes. With the AI, the user is limited to movements within certain parameters to prevent stalling. Stalling is when a plane loses lift and heads nose down to a dive. The DiscoÃ¢€â„¢s onboard electronics prevents that from happening.
Other features built-in to drones include collision avoidance, waypoint plotting, follow me modes, and hover. These are all made easy for the user. On top of that, these added features are all in apps. Drone manufacturers have integrated their software with apps to do everything, including viewing what the camera sees. Although drones do come with their own controllers, for most of them, the smartphone is the most important piece of equipment for hassle-free drone flying.
There are even drone headsets which use the smartphone for fpv. You only need to slide the smartphone into the headset and you can see the view from the droneÃ¢€â„¢s camera. Of course, there are warnings about using the controller while wearing the headset, but all in all it is a great view of the flight.
Drone racers are now more dependent on their smartphones for the birdÃ¢€â„¢s eye view from the droneÃ¢€â„¢s nose. With the success of this approach, it is easy to extend this capability with other drone capabilities, or even with other robots.
Smartphone games come in a wide range of genres. With the above innovations, wider applications are expected for the coming years. There would be different combinations of the above technologies. With the introduction of more powerful processors, more and better games will be coming to smartphones.