Apple wants to make games that are as good as books or movies…
As we head into the last few hours before Apple Arcade launches on September 19, the iPhone and Mac maker has published some testimonials from a small number of developers building games for its platform.
Let the games begin
What’s interesting about all the titles – or at least, this particular set of testimonials – is an accent in Apple’s messaging that seems to favour the idea of games as art, with a subtext on how games can improve lives.
That’s quite a different approach, and it will be interesting to see if Apple can deliver on these promises.
Even the opening paragraph of Apple’s report (which you can read here and below) talks about the games as titles “years in the making”.
“The developers behind them have woven artistry, curiosity and a lot of heart into a curated selection of diverse, fresh games,” it says.
Then it goes into a series of short stories about the games. These are very much worth a look (I’ve pasted them in below), but reading the descriptions the following phrases caught my eye:
- “Parents that used creativity to shield them from the violence and danger around them.”
- “Created the game as a method of finding calm..”
- “Make something beautiful”.
- “I want games to reach the place where people discuss them as if they’re books or movies.”
The inference (at least to me) has to be that Apple’s vision for Arcade gaming is to try to raise the bar on what games do. Or promise to do so.
We’ll find out in a few days if the promise matches delivery.
Here’s what Apple said:
“The Enchanted World”
In “The Enchanted World,” players take on the role of a fairy who uses puzzles and challenges to piece back together her collapsing world. For creators and friends Ivan Ramadan and Amar Zubcevic, both 33, the game is much more than that: It’s a metaphor for a child growing up in a time of war. Both Ramadan and Zubcevic grew up in Sarajevo during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s, and both had parents that used creativity to shield them from the violence and danger around them.
“Sarajevo was under siege for four years,” says Zubcevic. “There was no electricity … there was no running water, you had to go to a well … and we would go with [our parents] and help them carry back containers — it was a game for us, helping them.”
Out of those childhood memories, “The Enchanted World” was born. The game, published in conjunction with developer Noodlecake, features the music and folklore of the Balkans.
“Our game is about all those children who, with their endurance and imagination, can create those magical worlds for themselves and their friends, even in the worst of circumstances,” says Zubcevic. “That’s why their world is enchanted, and why I think that we can always do one better than what came before.”
“We wanted to make this a peaceful game and a fairytale,” says Ramadan. “We hope kids and their parents can enjoy it together.”
In Borderleap’s “Patterned,” players color intricate puzzle pieces and arrange them to complete a satisfying canvas. Nate Dicken, 43, the solo developer behind the outfit in Blacksburg, Virginia, created the game as a method of finding calm. The varied patterns were sourced from 15 designers around the world — 14 of whom are women. Nate created “Patterned” exclusively for Apple Arcade.
“The App Store made it possible for me to have a platform to do what I do,” says Dicken, who has designed more than a dozen iOS games in the last seven years. “I wouldn’t have built this game if it weren’t for Apple Arcade.”
“Overland” is a post-apocalyptic road trip adventure game from Finji, co-founded by Adam and Bekah Saltsman, 37 and 38, respectively. The couple, who live in Grand Rapids, Michigan with their two young sons, modeled “Overland” after a mishmash of their favorite classic board games, books and films. Players drive west across a rapidly deteriorating United States, rescuing survivors, scavenging for supplies and occasionally inviting a stray dog along for the ride.
What drives Finji’s creativity? Adam and Bekah credit the company’s commitment to quality of life.
“I want people to have full lives and I want people to make games,” says Bekah. “So whatever we need to do to make that work, we will do that. If my team wants to have kids — how much time do [they] need? I want to work with these friends and make something beautiful with them.”
“Card of Darkness”
In “Card of Darkness,” players solve card-based challenges that feature hand-drawn characters with a sense of humor. Solo developer Zach Gage, 34, teamed up with legendary animator Pendleton Ward to bring this game to life.
Gage has spent his life making video games and art. When the first iPhone was released, he saw an opportunity.
“I looked at [iPhone] and said this is an art platform,” says Gage. He designed and released his first game, “SynthPond” in the fall of 2008 — one of the first games on the App Store. Since then, Gage has designed more than a dozen iOS games.
“I want games to reach the place where people discuss them as if they’re books or movies,” says Gage, who sees the Apple Arcade business model as freeing for developers. “I didn’t have to spend time thinking, ‘How do I fit ads into this?’ I just got to work with incredible artists and make incredible art — Apple Arcade is letting me do that.”