November 24, 2008

Hands-on with Aurora Feint: Real-time multiplayer for the iPhone, almost

I blogged late last week about Aurora Feint: The Arena, a fantasy role-playing/puzzle game that delivers something of a first for the iPhone: "asynchronous" MMO (or massively multiplayer) online gaming. I bought the game ($7.99) over the weekend, and I've been having a blast ever since.

Here's how it works: Once you create an account and a player (easily done over the iPhone itself), you head for the Mine to earn crystals (think money) and resources, which you can cash in for weapons and powers. The "mining" and battle sequences in Aurora Feint consist of Tetris-like puzzles, in which you slide multi-patterned tiles into groups of three or more. Sounds boring, but thanks to beautiful graphics and a brooding, pulse-pounding soundtrack, it's anything but.

Anyway, once you've spent some time building up your character, you're ready to jump into Aurora Feint's ingenious multiplayer system. First, you summon a "ghost"—that is, you play the game solo, wielding weapons (which work similar to the weapons in Guitar Hero duels) as you go. You then upload the ghost (basically a recording of your real-time gameplay) to the Aurora Feint servers; once that's done, other players can do asynchronous battle with your online ghost, or you can match yourself up with someone else's ghost. It's quite clever—and, when you think about it, it's the perfect answer to the challenges of real-time multiplayer on the iPhone (bad connections, incoming calls, lag, etc.).

I've been playing the game all weekend, and it works great; some players have complained of crashes, but I've haven't encountered any so far. And as for the asynchronous battles … well, they're surprisingly gripping.

Now, here's my challenge to iPhone gaming developers—how about adding asynchronous multiplayer to your games? Just imagine: a version of Need for Speed in which you race against, say, four or five "ghosts"? I'd buy that for $10.


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