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Two to four is the magic number – playing games together


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Video games that can be played by two or more people in the same room, also known as local multiplayer games, are going through a very popular phase. More and more independent developers are creating this sort of games specifically for smartphones and tablets, taking advantage of the new opportunities offered by touch screens – in this talk we're looking at some of the most successful and interesting examples.

I gave this talk on July 20 2013 during Republika Fest in Rijeka, Croatia, as part of the A MAZE. Indie Pop-Up event, where I also curated a small exhibition of local multiplayer games for touch screen devices. For the occasion I launched – a website with resources about this specific kind of games.

Published in: Entertainment & Humor
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Two to four is the magic number – playing games together

  1. 1. Two to four is the magic number. Hello, good evening, thanks for still being here. This is the last talk for tonight and after 3 days of festival some of you might be a bit tired, I’m tired for sure, so I’m gonna try to keep this short. My name is Lorenzo and I’ve been living for five years in Berlin, a city with 3 and a half million inhabitants.
  2. 2. 3.500.000 The place where I’m originally from though is a village in the Northern Eastern part of Italy, in Friuli, not far from here. The number of inhabitants there is not 3 and half million...
  3. 3. 350.000 ... it’s not 350 thousand
  4. 4. 35.000 ... it’s not 35 thousand
  5. 5. 3.500 ... it’s not 3 thousand 500
  6. 6. 350 ... But it’s 350! Despite being such a small place, like most Italian villages there’s church in the main square.
  7. 7. And most important, like most Italian villages, in front of it there’s...
  8. 8. ... A bar! A bar which during the 80s and 90s had a couple of arcade machines. This place was like a parallel school for me, it’s where I had my first video game education as a small boy, playing classics such as Bubble Bobble.
  9. 9. Thinking about the games I enjoyed the most back then and the newer ones that I enjoy the most today, I realised that what they have in common is that you can play them with other people, at the same time, one next to each other. The fun of this sort of games is all about coordination, team psychology, and the dynamic that plays out there. So the topic of my talk tonight is going to be “playing games together”.
  10. 10. Playing games together. And I’m going to do my best to share this passion with you.
  11. 11. Playing games together. On a smartphone or tablet. More specifically, I will talk about playing games together using a smartphone, a tablet or any other device with a touch screen.
  12. 12. Local multiplayer games. Technically, these sort of games are called local multiplayer games and that’s how I’m going to call them from now on.
  13. 13. The reason why I’d like to focus on touch screen devices is that I think this is still a relatively new and largely unexplored territory for local multiplayer games. When you think about it, a device with a large screen like the iPad is perfect for playing games together with other people: you can just put it on the table and have everyone sit around it, just like you would do with a traditional board game such as chess or Monopoly. Touch screen controls are generally very intuitive, which is an extremely important aspect when you want to causally play with other people that might not have the same level of experience. And yet, even though the iPad and other tablets have been on the market for more than 3 years now, the number of games of this kind is still incredibly small: I’ve been compiling a list for some time now and on iOS there are no more than a couple hundred, out of 150 thousand games.
  14. 14. 0,01% Local multiplayer games on the App Store (iOS) in the Games category That’s only 0,01% of all games on the App Store! It’s an incredibly small quantity and I wish there were more out there. I’m now going to give you an overview of some of the more interesting games available at the moment so next time you’re meeting with your friends and want to have some fun and try something new, you can maybe play one of these games. And if you make games or are going to make games in the future, you might get inspired and create a game of this kind. It’s also probably a good idea from a financial point of view, as there’s not much competition. Small note: all of the games I’m going to show are available for iPad and iPhone, some of them for Android as well.
  15. 15. OLO One of the most popular local multiplayer games for touch screen devices that maybe some of you have played already is Olo, which was also selected by Apple as one of the best App Store Games of the Year in 2012. The game feels a lot like traditional board games, the aim is to get as many of your discs into your target zone. It’s very simple but there are some techniques that more advanced players can use, such as bouncing your discs against the others so that they come back on your side and you can reuse them.
  16. 16. READY STEADY BANG Another hit in the genre is Ready Steady Bang, a quick-fire dueling game between two cowboys. Basically after you tap Start there’s a voice saying “Ready... steady...” and then there’s some silence which you don’t know exactly how longs is going to be and then suddenly it goes BANG! and the fastest player to tap the screen and fire the gun wins. It’s as straightforward as it gets but fun and with a very cute illustration and animation style.
  17. 17. READY STEADY BANG It’s interesting to point out that both Olo (the previous game I shown) and Ready Steady Bang have been made by creative agencies, both based in London, and not by traditional game developers.
  18. 18. TINY WINGS HD This is a mobile game that I suppose some of you are already familiar with, it’s Tiny Wings, which also has a 2 player mode when played on a tablet.
  19. 19. OMICRON Also using this split-screen approach is Omicron by Canupa, an indie game design studio based in Berlin. You can play this game at our exhibition downstairs on one of the iPads. The game is available for iPhone too and will be released on Android very soon. You should definitely check it out.
  20. 20. GLITCH TANK Moving away from the games with the screen split in two, we have games were both players are sharing the same area, as in traditional board games. And Glitch Tank here is actually described by his creator Michael Brough as a “digital board game in which two players control tanks and try to destroy each other by playing randomised action cards”. It looks a bit complicated and it actually is a bit complicated at the beginning, mostly because you have to learn the rules on your own, but it’s worth the effort and time spent on it. You can try this game at our exhibition downstairs as well, and if you like it, make sure you play some of the other games by the same author, many of which are available for Windows and Mac for free to download from his website.
  21. 21. GREEDY BANKERS VS THE WORLD Greedy Bankers Vs The World looks at first like one of the many puzzle games where you have to group gems of the same colour, but it features some nice variations, such as the possibility to cheat and steal gems from your opponent and move them to your side of the board.
  22. 22. TUG THE TABLE Tug the Table is a game where you have to... tug, to pull the table to your side! Don’t ask me why! I only know that it’s hilarious.
  23. 23. WRESTLE JUMP Wrestle Jump is another game by the same author which is quite similar and equally absurd
  24. 24. FINGLE Fingle is a cooperative game, which means you’re not competing against the other player, but you have to collaborate instead to win together. Two players drag buttons of one color onto their matching targets; their movement makes it impossible to avoid contact, creating some intimate moments...
  25. 25. FINGLE ... I guess this image gives an idea of what I’m talking about ;) It’s a bit like Twister, the old game from the 60s with the coloured circles that you have to touch, but you’re using your hands instead of your entire body.
  26. 26. BAM FU The games I shown so far are almost all for 2 players only, but there are some which allow 3 and 4 players as well – this talk is called “Two to four is the magic number” for that reason, because a lot of local multiplayer games for touch screen are for 2 to 4 players. By the same authors of the previous game, here’s Bam Fu, which we’re showing downstairs.
  27. 27. CENTRIFEUD Often game which allow up to 4 players are controlled with each player tapping on one corner of the screen. An example of this approach is Centrifeud.
  28. 28. KING OF OPERA King of Opera is another...
  29. 29. RING FLING Ring Fling...
  30. 30. CHICANERY Chicanery by Anna Anthropy (which Lea also mentioned earlier) is the perfect game if you want to destroy your tablet – the goal is to be the last player keeping a finger on your side of the screen, and you are encouraged to use any available means to force the other players to move away. Which basically means you’re going to push each other and it can get a bit violent!
  31. 31. BADLAND Here’s Badland – we’re showing this downstairs at the exhibition. Beautiful game, also excellent when played in single mode.
  32. 32. SPACETEAM Ok, so: all games we’ve seen so far are played on a single tablet or smarthphone, which is shared between the different players. Another approach which is less common, also because it’s technically more complicated to implement for the developers, is to play in the same room with different devices, one for each player, connected to each other via wi-fi or Bluetooth. The greatest example of this is Spaceteam, a cooperative party game where you have to control a space ship together with other people. Each player gets a random control panel with buttons, switches, sliders, and needs to follow the instructions on the screen. The tricky part is that the instructions you need to follow are being sent to your teammates, so you have to shout the command to them and they have to shout them to you and you have to coordinate because you can’t all shout at the same time! Because the game involves verbal communication, there are some external factors that can influence the gameplay, such as the accent of people, as documented by this tweet that my friend Sjors wrote during a party some months ago...
  33. 33. ... it was a very confusing match! Most of the time we couldn’t really understand what commands the others were shouting! Spaceteam can be played at the exhibition downstairs, it’s available for iPhone and iPad, it will be released for Android soon and it’s free to download so you should all try it.
  34. 34. Ok, Spaceteam was the last game I wanted to show you tonight. I hope I made you a bit curious about playing some of these games, and if you’re making games maybe you will try doing something similar. As mentioned earlier I’m compiling a list of local multiplayer games for touch screen devices, it can be found at this address: – this list will regularly be updated and I’m also planning to add more resources in the future. If you have any tips please send them over!
  35. 35. @LorenzoPilia I’m @LorenzoPilia on Twitter by the way.
  36. 36. Thank you. Thank you.