asynchronous multiplayer

City-building games with timers are increasingly common on mobile platforms. Xbox Windows Phone has seen a few, including Gameloft’s own Ice Age Village. These games lure players in with their initially rapid progression and lots of loot to collect. But the longer one plays, the less new things there are to see and the more the feeling of sameness pulls in. Do we keep playing them for fun or out of habit?

So the question becomes how to make a city builder with real lasting appeal – one that keeps providing players a reason to play and maybe even spend some money. Electronic Arts found a clever way to do so by adding timers to its Sims franchise and calling it Sims FreePlay. Now Gameloft returns to the genre with Kingdoms & Lords. The hook: they’ve thrown strategic battles into the mix.

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Galactic Reign is a Microsoft game that was co-developed with Canadian developer Slant Six Games that pretty much came out of nowhere when it appeared on Xbox Windows Phone 7 and 8 and Windows 8 and RT last week. For gamers who have yet to upgrade to Windows Phone 8, another Xbox game that runs on the previous OS is always a blessing. And cross-platform multiplayer is something we can all appreciate, regardless of which Windows Phone we carry.

Last week, we posted an extensive impressions piece about the Windows 8 version of Galactic Reign. This week, I’m back with a full review that covers both versions. Read on to find out whether or not this sci-fi strategy game has universal staying power.

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In a recent editorial, I complained that Microsoft has largely stopped announcing or publicizing Windows Phone games in advance. Well, this week we have a prime example of that. Galactic Reign from Slant Six and Microsoft Studios has just showed on Windows 8 and RT with Xbox features and will appear for Windows Phone 7 and 8 devices (also with Xbox features) later today.

Microsoft teased the game back in October but made absolutely no mention of platforms, so nobody really knew it was coming, and especially not as a multiplatform release with connectivity features. But other than the lack of proper PR, a new game showing up on Windows Phone and Windows 8 with cross-platform asynchronous multiplayer is always good news, so we’ll stop complaining. For now.

Since the Windows 8 game launched ahead of the mobile version, we’ve already put several hours into it. Head past the break for our full impressions, plus details about buying the game on one platform and playing it from another!

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Microsoft has never released a portable console like the Playstation Vita or 3DS, instead opting to publish Xbox-branded games for Windows Phone and Windows 8… A wise choice given the modern trend towards smartphone and tablet gaming over handheld game systems. With the Xbox 360’s excellent lineup of downloadable games, Windows Phone users rightfully expected the chance to play many of their XBLA favorites on their mobile phones.

Unfortunately, the number of robust, XBLA-quality titles released for Xbox Windows Phone to date is incredibly small. I count only Final Fantasy, Puzzle Quest 2, Castlevania Puzzle, ilomilo, Plants vs. Zombies, Sonic 4: Episode I, and Sonic CD as games with full console-level production values and quantity of content. Crimson Dragon Side Story, Hydro Thunder GO, and Civilization Revolution would be on there too if not for their Playstation One-era graphics. Maybe 11 games out of Xbox Windows Phone’s over 150 titles feel like full XBLA games and not just smartphone/casual titles.

Well, add another game to the top-tier pile because Skulls of the Shogun from 17-BIT and Microsoft Studios fits right alongside the XBLA and Windows 8 versions that released alongside it.

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AlphaJax Review: Spell it like you mean it

New Zealish developer Marker Metro hopped onboard the WP7 bandwagon prior to that platform’s launch; their indie project AlphaJax followed the platform’s debut a few months later. We’ve long considered it one of the most polished crossword games available, despite the lack of cross-platform support. Perhaps that polish and Windows Phone exclusivity are what caused Microsoft to pick up full publishing rights from the developer this year.

AlphaJax is now a free ad-supported Xbox title, with the previous free and paid versions set to go defunct at the end of the year. We’ve spent ample time with the new version in order to give you this extremely thorough review.

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Rocket Riot was among the first Xbox Live games released on Windows Phone, way back at the end of 2010. Despite the game’s age, developer Code Glue continues to pump out updates for it, with a new one arriving within the last few days. The previous patch, version 1.4 was fairly substantial as Windows Phone updates go, and yet this latest, version 1.5 actually manages to top it by adding Avatar Awards, asynchronous multiplayer, and more.

Check out the full release notes and our impressions after the break.

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Battleship: Xbox Windows Phone Review

When Windows Phone launched way back in 2010, Electronic Arts released a competent version of board-game classic Monopoly as an Xbox Live title. Board games are naturally better when played with friends though, and that port of Monopoly sadly lacks online multiplayer and costs a lofty $4.99 for some reason. Nearly two years later, EA is back with another licensed board game: Battleship. With online multiplayer, two new game modes, and a lower price, Battleship certainly seems poised to one-up its predecessor. Sadly, a number of issues threaten to torpedo the game’s fun factor.

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For Windows Phone gamers, the most exciting moment of Microsoft’s E3 2012 press conference was the announcement of Ascend: New Gods, an upcoming XBLA and Windows Phone title from Signal Studios. Boasting impressively detailed graphics and a smattering of graphic violence, it certainly caught our eyes. Later on during the Expo we had the pleasure of speaking with lead designer Ian Scott as we played the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game. Even better, he went on to detail Ascend’s cross-platform connectivity.

Head past the break for more Ascend hands-on gameplay footage and Windows Phone connectivity details!

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Even though we’re knee deep in E3 2012 coverage, the regular Xbox Live release schedule rolls on. This week’s mobile Live game, Battleship from Electronic Arts is now available to entertain the folks at home.

Battleship is an adaptation of the popular board game from Milton Bradley. In the Classic game type, two sides take turns blindly firing at each other, trying to find and destroy the other’s ships. Salvo mode works much like classic, but moves faster than traditional games because you’re allowed to fire as many shots per turn as you have remaining ships. The new Superweapon mode adds a variety of weapons to the gameplay, mixing up the traditional dynamics. All three modes feature 3D attack animations, giving the beloved game a little extra punch.

Battleship supports two forms of multiplayer: pass-and-play and Xbox Live multiplayer. That’s right, Battleship will be the first mobile Live game to support asynchronous head-to-head multiplayer! Our hands-on-demonstration at E3 couldn’t show the Live multiplayer in action due to lack of network access, but now you can simply buy it for yourself and start sinking friends’ ships. The invite system is rudimentary at best - you simply send invites to friends via email or GamerTag from the same interface. The lack of matchmaking means you'll need some friends who own the game to play online. Still better than no online at all though!

Battleship costs $2.99 (a bit more than the iOS version, unlike Feed Me Oil) and there is a free trial. Set course here to the Marketplace to get it.

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Ricky Tan has published an insightful blog post on MSDN that covers implementing multiplayer gaming on the windows Phone platform. Using UdpAnySourceMulticastClient, Ricky walks us through enabling peer-to-peer support (over WiFi in this case) in a game for Mango.

Fancy carrying this out yourself? According to Ricky, it's not as difficult as one would assume. Here's some quick points to get you interested (check out the links below for the article with full code viewing, downloads, etc.):

PlatformerGame.cs: This contains the game code and is where the sockets are initialized, and where the sends and receives are handled.

UdpAnySourceMulticastChannel.cs: This contains the UDP multicast sockets code for joining the group, sending and receiving data.

OtherPlayer.cs: This is a modification of Player.cs to add other players to the game.

Ricky has added peer-to-peer support into the platformer start kit developed by David Russet. Read more information on this (plus the full download and snippets of code) over at Ricky Tan's blog. Multiplayer gaming is most definitely in the works, we also have to keep an eye on Microsoft's progress with 'Switchboard'.

Via: Channel9; Thanks, Mark!

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Although no release date is given (curses!), Channel 9 interviews Justin Robey and John Noonan who both worked on the Crackdown 2 game (one on the console version, the other on Windows Phone 7).

The interview is mostly an overview of both games and the future of Xbox Live services, especially with the advent of mobile gaming on Windows Phone 7. Near the end they discuss how Project Sunburst will feature "asynchronous multiplayer" gaming which basically means that your Xbox friends can jump in on your map and help defend your base while you're say, taking a nap. Sounds like a great way to start that synchronous mobile multiplayer gaming that we know is coming down the road and it's also a great way to gain points and achievements too.

Combined with the Bing maps & Geolocation integration, we have high expectations for Crackdown 2 and we hope the timing of this interview indicates it's near release.

Source: Channel 9

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