The iPhone/iPod Touch Multiplayer Gaming Bible
UPDATE (11/22/2009): the article below has officially been deprecated. Please read http://forums.toucharcade.com/showthread.php?p=661005 instead. This thread remains only as an update catch-up thread as is also explained in Chapter 6 of the new article.
Original article follows:
Some of you may know I’m the author of the Windows Mobile Multiplayer Gaming Bible. This is why I decided to publish one for the iPhone/iPod Touch too, particularly because:
1.) to my knowledge, there isn’t any REAL comparison (or even listing) of as many multiplayer games as possible. The biggest ones I know of (see for example THIS) consist of 27 titles. Other lists (e.g., THIS) are even shorter. There aren’t many titles discussed in the dedicated TouchArcade threads either; nevertheless, these are still worth checking out. (More online multiplayer games this year! – pretty good list; Best Online Multiplayer Game? - F.A.S.T. 1st, Star Hogs 2nd, UniWar 3rd – no votes for Fast and Furious or Tap Tap Revenge 2; Best online game?)
2.) I also wanted to elaborate on the 3G S compliance of these titles. (I have some good news in this regard. In the 100+ titles I’ve tested, I’ve only found, if I recall correctly, two titles not compatible with the 3G S – at least not in multiplayer mode.)
The comparison chart is HERE (click the link!). Most of the columns don’t require much explanation (if you, however, do need an explanation of the different networking models, check out my old WinMo guide. Note that, on the iPhone, one’s life is much easier – there aren’t different Bluetooth stacks, there isn’t a distinction between BT PAN and native BT access etc. That is, iPhone gamers have a much easier life than WinMo ones.). Note that I’ve added a column on the number of players in online lounges for lounge-based games so that you can see how many other players can you reliably expect to play when choosing a given title, if you don’t want to go the always-available buddy route. I’ve also noted the date and time of the testing so that the results are more comparable. (There may be peak times when e.g. American people traditionally play on their handsets.) The timezone I used is CET.
I recommend checking out the last two columns for my recommendations and direct comparisons. You can find all the Itunes links in the second (or, in cases, first) column. I’ve also listed the version number of all titles so that you know, should I fail to update a given game’s record in the future, whether these records are still up-to-date.
Note that not all MP titles are in the chart. I’ve left out some purposefully till I get an answer from their developers regarding some problems / bugs. As usual (see my other, past full roundups and bibles – the IM one, the Web browser roundup or the radio client one), I’ll try to keep this list / chart as updated as possible. I will also post a lot of additional info when I have the time. I will too greatly enhance this introduction / text when I have some more free time (now I don’t as I have to work a lot this week; however, you may still like the contents of the chart).
Note that I didn’t bother with reviewing (or even listing) Storm8’s and PlayMesh’ (numerous) titles. They are considered very bad by many (including me); see for example THIS, THIS and THIS.
The developers of the following games promise wireless multiplayer functionality (I’ve also added the version number where this promise was (or is still) readable in the AppStore. In the meantime, new versions may have been released – iPhone gaming articles / roundups age VERY fast):
Warfare Incorporated by Spiffcode, Inc. 1.5
Battle Dot by DKM Labs 1.0 (BT MP in 2.0)
Uncross It by Schiau Studios SRL 1.1 (MP in 2.0)
Sparta by Pocket Monkey Games 1.3
Big2 Poker by Hug Life Inc 1.0
The Plateau by SpoonJuice 1.1
Tux Rider World Challenge by Barlow Software 1.0
Armageddon Squadron by Polarbit 1.0.2
Rows 3D by Pixeltin 1.7 (currently hotseat)
Top Trumps by der.heckser 1.0
Real Shuffleboard by Trapp Media, Inc 1.0.3
Snake XT by Sookie Solutions, LLC 1.3
Serpents by IMAK Creations 1.0
Jass by Yminds 1.2.1 (hotseat already supported)
Orbo by Chiedozi Acholonu & Paul Thurlow 1.0
Big 2 by GoGoalSoft Limited 1.1
memory + by Pearl Fisher Games 1.0
Mummys Revenge by Apptastic Apps 1.1
Castle Conflict by Broken Kings 1.05
Arcade SpinBall by MegaNudge Entertainment 2.3
Dead Man's Dungeon by collabtools 1.3
War 3100 by Gamer Outfit (turn-based strategy)
NFL 2010 by Gameloft 1.0.3 (will receive MP in the next update) $8
iPongo by Keith Domenicucci 1.2
Blocks2 by Florian Zitzelsberger 1.1
StickWars by John E. Hartzog 1.6
Squared by Fravic Fernando 1.01
Tank Wars by T-bone (Tank Wars 2 will support BT MP)
Anytime Pool by Electronic Arts 1.1.0 (only supports Facebook MP; no plans for true MP)
Archon by React Games 1.1
Quantum Collapse (RTS) by Javier Davalos 1.1 (MP version with voice chat will really soon be released) – also see reviews HERE
Ballz! by PurpleZoo Productions 1.0
iMobsters by Jeff Witt 1.1
Ace Tennis Online by Eurocenter 1.3
Many of these games have on-device hotseat or two-player modes. So do the following titles:
Pictoplay+ by Digital Chocolate, Inc 1.0.0 ($1, pretty funny and addictive)
Classic Tic Tac Toe by Lima Sky 1.3.2
Killer Pool by Sauce Digital 1.1 : hotseat only
Deluxeware Darts by Handmark, Inc. : hotseat only
Nukeball by Lubos Kulisek 1.0: hotseat only
Wurdle by Semi Secret Software 2.0
Playman Track & Field by RealArcade 1.1.1 (a C64 Summer Games-alike; not bad)
Guinness World Records by Warner Bros. 1.0
Pocket Mini Golf 2 by Chillingo Ltd 1.02 $3
Kamikaze Robots by Digital Chocolate, Inc. 1.0.0
Tap Memory by Cory Kilger 1.1.1
Vertigo by Underworld Entertainment Limited 1.0 - $1 ($2 otherwise)
Sound Match by spokko 1.16 ($1, very simple sound matching game, not very interesting)
Zen Pinball: Inferno by Publisher X 1.0
Brain Exercise with Dr. Kawashima by Namco Networks America Inc. 1.0.0
Miss Trivia by Iron Square 1.2
Plong by Daniel Schroth 1.0 (also with online scores)
War of the Dragon Lords by A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games 1.0
Johnny Crash by Digital Chocolate, Inc. 1.0
LD50 by Prehiti Labs LLC 1.2.1
MicroFight by Hart Woolery 1.0
Pub Darts by Vivid Reflection 1.0
iNetMania by TechPad Productions 1.0
iBacteria by Rob Evans 1.0.1
Lumina by CrossComm, Inc. 1.3
Neverputt ME by Lazrhog Games 22.214.171.124
Time Bomb by Stormy Productions 1.1
Trivial Memory by Trivial Technology 1.0.3
Deluxeware Bowling by Handmark, Inc. 1.00
Catapult by HiB 2.1.1
Spot It!: Animals by National Geographic Society 1.0
Fritz Chess by Gammick Entertainment 1.1
The devs of the latter titles, however, don’t promise any kind of wireless multiplayer, as opposed to the games in the previous group.
Last edited by Menneisyys; 11-22-2009 at 04:55 PM..
UPDATE (08/13/2009 01:46):
1. I’ve added the following titles to the chart:
Virtual Pool Online by Celeris Inc. 1.97 (a definitely recommended pool game costing $3. When it comes to the number of average other online players, it's by far the best. In addition, according to some pool buffs, it has an excellent pool engine – much better than anything else on the market.)
NanoMechs by Theorian 1.0 (a 2D Platform shooter costing $1. IMHO, WiFi Warfare by Jesse Starks is better in that it also supports remote play (and a lot of online players all the time). However, I like the graphs of this title better and the, IMHO, much superior control.)
Armageddon Squadron by Polarbit 1.0.2 (a dogfighting combat costing $4 (3 euros). IMHO, F.A.S.T. Fleet Air Superiority Training! by SGN is a better choice, particularly if you want to play others (not your buddies) online. It has, generally, far more online players. Also, (now), it's way cheaper.)
Ace Tennis Online by Eurocenter 1.3 (a tennis title costing $4 (3 euros). Recommended, if you do like tennis and/or want to play remote players (Real Tennis 2009 by Gameloft, my personal favorite, can only play local games)). Note that, in the original article, I’ve listed this (along with Armageddon Squadron by Polarbit) as a hotseat-only game.
I’ve also added a video for “Attack PRO – Wireless Bluetooth Spaceship Battle by Poulet Maison 1.0.1” showing the communication problems between the iPhone 3G and 3G S.
I’m continuing adding titles to the chart; for example, I’ll add Reign of Swords (both Episode I and II).
2. I also plan to write a more thorough elaboration on the different networking models of multiplayer games. (Just like the one in my Windows Mobile multiplayer bible.) For the time, suffice it to state the following:
- Bluetooth (BT for short) is the cleanest solution if you’re next (in the same room) to your friend. Then, you won’t need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi access point. (Which is a must with the pre-OS3 form of Wi-Fi only, local multiplayer.) Note that Wi-Fi access doesn’t work over cellular connections either, which entirely rules out playing e.g. while commuting and you have cellular data connections only (or nothing at all). This is especially useful in vehicles, schools without a public Wi-Fi network where the two of you can connect to at the same time etc.
The disadvantages of this solution are as follows:
a. It doesn’t work on 1st generation iPhones or iPod Touches (it does between the iPhone 3G, the 3G S and the 2nd-generation iPod Touch)
b. At times, you may have to disable Wi-Fi for Bluetooth to work better (and vice versa, particularly on the 3G S, where disabling Bluetooth altogether may result in significant Wi-Fi connection speed increase.) This requires a lot of additional tapping (unless you install / use Cydia-only [requiring a jailbreak] shortcuts like SBSettings).
c. BT gaming has only been introduced in OS 3. That is, if you don’t want to upgrade your 3G or iPod Touch 2G to OS3, you won’t be able to make use of it at all.
- Wi-Fi local connections requires the two (or more) of you to be connected to the same Wi-Fi access point. As opposed to the BT approach explained in the previous bullet, it works on even OS 2.x and on the first-generation iPhones and iPod Touches as well. However, it’s way more restricted than BT; for example, if you don’t have a Wi-Fi access point to connect to, you won’t be able to play. This completely rules out playing your friends / buddies in, say, a vehicle, a bus, a train etc. It won’t work even if you have cellular data connection.
- Lounge-based remote play allows you to play anyone from anywhere in the world. The advantages are as follows:
a. If you don’t have a buddy around to play but / or would like to play a stranger (instead), you may want to go for this option. If you use a more popular game with more online players (e.g., Galcon and a lot more), you have a big chance to run into someone to play you.
b. Note that you can play your local buddies too, even if both of you are connected to the same Wi-Fi access point. This needs to be kept in mind when playing a game only offering remote (lounge)-based play but not local Wi-Fi (or Bluetooth) one.
(Incidentally, note that, should you want to play your buddy, I’ve elaborated on whether you can select your buddies to play in the lounge of the games. With most titles, manual opponent selection is possible. With the rest [that is, games not offering manual opponent selection but using automatic matching instead], you can still make sure the both of you join the multiplayer server at about the same time to maximize the chances of the server matching the two of you.
The inherent disadvantages of this approach are as follows:
a. When the lounge server is down, you won’t be able to play. Upon testing, I haven’t ever run into problems like that. This, however, doesn’t mean the case will definitely be the case after three or five years. Developers may exit developing and even supporting their existing games, including running their proprietary servers. That is, don’t take being able to play forever for granted. (This also means you should ask / force game developers adding some kind of local games – preferably BT-based so that it can be played anywhere – to their games.)
b. As the connection is generally routed through a lounge server (some games do try to build up a direct, much faster and more reliable connection between the two devices but it’s only a minority of the titles), the lag will be considerably more than with local games. This is why few for example first person shooters or racing games support internet (lounge-based) play – most of them are Wi-Fi (or, lately, BT) only – with them, even 300-400 ms lag can result in a totally unplayable game. No such problems exist with less demanding game genres like board games (chess and the like).
- Direct IP entering. The three approaches explained so far also involve auto-discovery. That is, the two (or more) phones (iDevices) magically and automatically find each other. (Physically, this is done by for example using broadcast discovery protocols over Wi-Fi and the inherent discovery mechanisms built into Bluetooth.) Some (VERY few) games, however, also allow you to enter the direct IP of your buddy. (And one of them, namely, Quartz 2, mandates you to do so.) This can be particularly useful in situations like being connected to the network via cellular data only and the given game doesn’t have a lounge doing the automatic discovery. In these cases, you just enter the IP address (which is always displayed on the other party’s device) of your buddy and off you go. Note that this only works if your buddy isn’t behind a firewall.
UPDATE (08/16/2009 0:19 CET):
1.) iFPS is currently available for free. Go get it if you’re into multiplayer first person shooters. While I don’t recommend it at its regular price point, it’s still nice to have for free. You might also want to check out the user comments HERE.
2.) Let me also elaborate on the most advanced multiplayer feature: inviting buddies via the new Push feature of iPhone OS3.
If you read my Instant Messaging (IM) bible, you become aware of the brand new and revolutionary feature of the new iPhone OS: Push. It lets you notified of certain events even when the phone is suspended (by, for example, pressing the Power button – this will only work via cellular connections, not Wi-Fi ones; that is, iPod Touch devices won’t work in this state). With IM apps, these can be, among other things, new messages sent to you by your buddies.
Some (unfortunately, not all) multiplayer games also incorporate Push notification. This lets the players send out game requests in real time that will surely be received as soon as you issue them. This also means you don’t need to use the traditional, manual ways (email, IM, giving them a call etc.) of notifying your buddies of your invitation. Much cleaner, it involves much less effort on both (but, particularly, on the person that invites the other – no need to fire up an IM / mail client and enter your invitation etc.) sides and, as opposed to e-mail, it surely gets read by the invited buddy at once. That is, the person sending out the invitation can safely stay in the game: if his (her) buddy does want to play, he (she) will see him (her) joining the game in 1-2 minutes at most. The situation on the invited buddy’s side is equally easy: when an invitation arrives, he’ll be notified right away. Then, he (she) only needs to tap “Play” and will be immediately taken to the game. (Unfortunately, for example UNO doesn’t take you to the game started by your buddy – you must search it yourself. Nevertheless, this doesn’t really ruin the easiness and simplicity of the concept.)
Currently, very few games support Push invitation: currently, of the tested games (this doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t missed one or some!) UNO by Gameloft, the excellent musical instrument game Leaf Trombone: World Stage by Smule, the excellent and free poker app “Live Poker” and, finally, Storm8’s titles (which I don’t really like – but, again, your mileage may vary):
(Here, “Racing” and “Vampires” are Storm8 titles.)
Hope that, currently now that I’m recommending this for game developers, more of them follow suit and implement this functionality.
Let me show you some examples of how this works. First, let’s create a game and tap “Invite”:
Last edited by Menneisyys; 08-16-2009 at 08:03 AM..
There, tap the buddies (here: Menne2) to invite. An invitation will be sent out to him; at the same time, on the inviter’s screen, “Waiting for Menne.” will be displayed:
Your buddy’s iPhone (assuming it’s not switched entirely off [by pressing and holding the Power button and slide the “Power off?” slider], has cellular coverage and Push isn’t disabled), a new dialog will be shown telling you you’ve been invited for a game:
(Note that, here, “Menne2” should be the inviter instead. I didn’t want to swap iPhones on the sync cable and collect screenshots from two of them – instead of one -; this is why I show you a screenshot of an invitation coming from another iPhone and not the state of it)
Just tap Play and, then, navigate to online play (again, UNO doesn’t automatically take you to the game created by your buddy – you need to find it manually) and select the game created:
Finally, note that, in order to make a certain UNO instance know of another player, you will be required to send a Friend request to your buddy and approve it from inside the “mailbox” at “Gameloft Live” (accessible from the main menu). These mails aren’t delivered to your regular e-mail address but will only be accessible here. (I don’t think this is the best [read: most newbie-friendly] solution: a regular e-mail with an online activation / “make friends” link would have been much easier.):
The following multiplayer-enabled games have been released in the meantime:
Office Tanks by ET NETERA 1.0 (highly recommended for local Wi-Fi players)
Bust-A-Move by TAITO Corporation 1.0.0 (kinda like it but I think it’s overpriced and it isn’t really multiplayer [only a competitive / parallel one])
Along with evaluating an quickly reviewing these titles, I’ve also reviewed a recently released title, Tank War - Bluetooth Battle by 6tags.com 1.0.
Please see the last four rows of the chart for more info.
Also, in the meantime, the following titles have been updated:
NanoMechs by Theorian to version 1.1 (now, it’s playable on all devices)
Attack PRO – Wireless Bluetooth Spaceship Battle by Poulet Maison to version 1.0.2. (two new levels). Unfortunately, it is still suffering from the same bug when playing between an iPhone 3G and a iPhone 3G S.
ShapeShape by inXile Entertainment 3.0 is on a 66% sale: now, it costs $1 only. For this price, it seems to be a pretty good choice. In multiplayer, you need to collect the starts as quickly as possible (instead of your opponent) and, then, exit the map. Then, your opponent will have 3 seconds to exit the field. I’ve added the dedicated row in the chart.
10 Pin Shuffle™ (Bowling) by Digital Smoke LLC 1.20: a pretty cool bowling game with (of course) parallel gameplay and pretty flexible (local) play supporting both Wi-Fi and BT.
I’ve also tested AlloWin Pool by Eurocenter 1.1: it, unlike all? most? the other Eurocenter titles, doesn’t offer remote (lounge) multiplayer, only hotseat one. As it isn't very cheap ($3), I'd go right for another MP-enabled title like Virtual Pool Mobile - or Adrenaline Pool Online 2, which still only costs $3 – quite a bargain if you ask me, particularly because of the voice chat features.
(Multiplayer) gaming news (09/23/2009):
There have been several multiplayer game releases in the last month (that is, since I’ve published my last major update to the iPhone Multiplayer gaming bible)
In THE MAIN CHART of the roundup, starting with “Aera by iChromo 1.0”, I’ve listed all the new, wireless multiplayer-enabled games released lately. There are some 13 of them.
In addition to the new releases, Attack Pro has received a fix to the 3G vs. 3G S Bluetooth problems; that is, now, it’s working perfectly between these two types of iPhone.
Last edited by Menneisyys; 09-23-2009 at 11:22 AM..
And yet we haven't seen it yet.
Well that's what I can get from the giant post :\
Didn't see this one on your list
You have other pool games listed, but not the best one. Virtual Pool is playable online and works well.
How about Warfare Inc? Wonder if that will ever be released with multiplayer (probably not I'm guessing)