Earlier this year, Skotos Tech & RPGnet released my sixth iOS card game, Michael Schacht’s Web of Power Card Game: The Duel. Because I wasn’t really writing board game articles at the time, I missed out on writing an article about the development of the game, as I have with Money, High Society, Kingdoms, Modern Art: The Card Game, and Michael Schacht’s Gold!
Rather than leave that gap in my iPhone series, I’ve opted to put together this article, somewhat after the fact. As with some of my other most recent iPhone articles, it’s a rambling look at several of the most important decisions that went into the creation of this game. However, I’ve opted to change my focus somewhat this time, by talking more about the publishing decisions we made than some of the programming specifics.
The last two years have been a programming whirlwind for me at my real-life job, Skotos. And that’s a segue into the fact that I just released my fifth iPhone eurogame conversion in 17 months. This time around, it’s Reiner Knizia’s Modern Art: The Card Game, the cardplay variant of his older Modern Art auction game.
I’ve written a bit about the development of each of my five iDevice games. You can find past article about Reiner Knizia’s Money, about Reiner Knizia’s High Society, about Reiner Knizia’s Kingdoms, and about Michael Schacht’s Gold!
One topic that I keep returning to in these articles is that of artificial intelligences, or AI — the algorithms that make strategic decisions for the computer players in my card games. When I finished Money I said that I learned that abstract seat-of-your-pants decisions worked as well as calculations did. Then when I discussed High Society I talked about all the exacting calculations I built into my AIs. When I completed Gold! I acknowledged that AIs were different for each game … and that’s the impressions that’s likely to stay with me.
Modern Art: The Card Game made me appreciate the huge multitude of decisions that players make even when playing what seems like a pretty simple game. So that’s what I’m going to talk about today: how Modern Art: The Card Game works; how my AI for it works; and what that all reveals about the game’s design.
This week Apple released my fourth eurogame iPhone release, Michael Schacht’s Gold!. It was a particularly exciting release for me not just because it was my first chance to work with Michael Schacht, but also because it was the first-ever (as far as I know) simultaneous release of a professional print game and an iPhone adaptation. Michael revealed abacusspiele’s edition of Gold! to fans at the Nuremberg Toy Fair on the same day that the iPhone edition became available in Apple’s iTunes stores.
To commemorate that release, and talk some more about the lessons learned in iPhone game designed, I’ve put together this article, discussing some of the more careful details that I had to consider when creating my newest game. If you’d like to see some of my other discussions of iPhone game design, I’ll point you toward Turning Reiner Knizia’s Money into an iPhone Game, Making Computers Think Like Auction Players (which I wrote for the release of Reiner Knizia’s High Society), and What Makes a Great Mobile EuroGame (which I wrote for the release of Reiner Knizia’s Kingdoms).
This Sunday my game company, Skotos Tech, released its third mobile game for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad: Reiner Knizia’s Kingdoms. It follows on the heels of our previous releases, Reiner Knizia’s High Society and Reiner Knizia’s Money. All told, I’ve spent some goodly portion of my last year’s work on these three games (and the MobileEuroGame toolkit I’ve been creating, which is making it easier and easier to create new games as I go along). Along the way I’ve learned some useful lessons about choosing which games to adapt to mobile devices, and I’ve decided to talk about that this week.
For me, it’s a contrast between Reiner Knizia’s Kingdoms and Reiner Knizia’s Money — both of which I play obsessively myself — and Reiner Knizia’s High Society — which I think has as good of Artificial Intelligence and User Interface as any of our games and which I think plays well, but which doesn’t quite generate the same spark for continuous play for myself.
Five Points for Great Mobile Games
Why? Here are my best guesses at five elements that make for great mobile gaming:
Last week, RPGnet released the second of my iPhone games, an adaptation of Reiner Knizia’s High Society. To celebrate its release, I’ve opted today to continue my series of articles talking about adapting tabletop games to computers with a look at artificial intelligence and how the computer players in High Society “think”.
The State of the Art
So, how do you make a computer think like a human player? Today, it’s still somewhat hard to tell a computer to emulate the intuitive, off-the-cuff things that a player might do when playing a game. Surprisingly it’s even hard to write a good algorithm that thoroughly examines gameplay and makes a best choice; what a human does without even thinking has to be painfully programmed decision-by-decision into an Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Even with all of that, you’re not necessarily going to have a good AI. Becauase there are some things that humans will do better than computers, the only way to really make computers reliable is to make sure they take advantage of the things they do better than humans.
I spent the last several months of 2009 working on turning Reiner Knizia’s Money into a fully functional iPhone game. Some 8,000 lines of code later, Money is now available from Apple’s iPhone store. If you’d like to support the continued development of good Eurogames for the iPhone platform, please consider picking up a copy.
With that crass commercialism out of the way, I’m going to spend the rest of this article talking about three of the particular problems that I faced adapting a Eurogame for the iPhone environment, focusing on depicting and playing the game. If you’d like an inside look at this sort of thing, read on.