I'm about to race a tiny, digital car through the miniature[微型的] streets of Paris—on my cell phone. But the amazing thing is that I'm racing against David Hague, who's playing on his cell phone across the room.
Hague (Gameloft): Behind me you're about 210 feet.
Hague is with Gameloft, the company that designed the Asphalt[沥青] Urban GT Racing. By using high speed cellular phone[手机] networks, you can race anyone with the same technology anywhere in the world.
Hague: It really adds a lot to all of the games. The direct competition with other people just makes it so much more real.
Cell phone games have made huge technological leaps over the last couple of years. What used to be a few simple games that came with your phone, like solitaire[单人跳棋] or brick breaker, has morphed[变种] into hundreds of selections that allow you to play in 3D or against real, live opponents[对手]. The problem for companies is that only a small fraction[小部分] of people with cell phones know how to download the games. But with the lure[诱惑] of one billion potential customers around the world with cell phones, developers are trying to unlock the secret of what people want in a wireless game.
The game consoles[控制台] like Xbox and PlayStation rely on explosive action, with these intense graphics and sound. On the cell phone, most people want what are called casual games—something easy to play while they wait for a bus.
One of the most popular games, installed on 50 million phones around the world, is Bejeweled, a game that requires you to match up similar-shaped jewels to create three in a row. If it sounds simple, that's the idea.
John Vechey (Co-founder, PopCap): It's kind of like a meditation[冥想] thing, you know—when you play Bejeweled, you sit there, and you're just doing a very simple exercise for not much time, and so it just allows you just to kinda refresh yourself a little bit, when you're in the elevator, you're on the subway. And I think it becomes this addictive[上瘾的] thing.
Vechey says the key to cell phone games is realizing that the people who use them come from a very different demographic[人口统计学].
Vechey: This is not the traditional hardcore[中坚分子] gamer of the 16-25-year-old male, you know; this is predominantly[主要地] female, it skews[倾斜] older. One of the great things about casual games is you don't have to have a history of playing games to enjoy a casual game.
With that in mind, cell phone game designers have been more open to games that require strategy instead of action that can be played with one hand and paused easily.
The design of the game will take months, but whether or not it's successful is in some ways out of their hands. Cell phone games are sold mostly through the cellular providers and people tend to buy the ones that providers prominently[显著地] display or whose name they recognize. It's telling that even with all the technological innovations, one of the best selling games for the cell phone is 20 years old: the vintage[古老的] computer hit, Tetris.
Link: The Brain Behind Plants vs. Zombies
George Fan has a knack[诀窍] for making weird ideas work. His vision of fish that poop[即poo，大便] money became Insaniquarium, which won an award at the 2002 Independent Games Festival and later became a PopCap hit. His next idea, about using plants to attack wave after wave of zombies, turned out to be one of the most popular casual games around the world.
“I thought plants actually make really good towers because they're stationary[固定的], they don't move, and you can give them a lot of personality,” Fan recalled. “Then I came up with the idea of zombies being the aggressors[侵略者]. They're perfect because they don't move very fast, they just kind of shamble[蹒跚] across the screen.”
Zombies also provided Fan with the opportunity to shake up the typical tower defense formula[规则] of planting towers and blocking off enemies. A hungry zombie can decimate[大批杀害] an entire line of defense, especially in later levels of the game.
“I don't think I'd be satisfied making games that everyone has played before. I think my job is to try to come up with new experiences for people to play. It's nice to be on a small team that has the freedom of making more unique games, and that's where a lot of the most bold ideas are coming from these days,” he said.
Link: Angry Birds Recruit!
First, why are they angry?
Peter Vesterbacka (CEO, Rovio): The birds are angry because the pigs steal their eggs. You know, if somebody would steal your eggs, you would be really angry too.
The physics-based game is addictive, getting the arc off the catapult[弹弓] just right.
Andrew Stalbow (20th Century Fox): It looks pretty simple, but it's pretty hard to master.
Andrew Stalbow is senior vice president of Mobile for 20th Century Fox. He thinks Rovio got everything right with Angry Birds: the degree of difficulty, the fact that it appeals to both kids and adults, the marketing...
Stalbow: They've created these kind of adorable little videos that just spread virally[病毒式地] across social networks, and it's something that we really aspire to in terms of the games that we've created here at Fox.
The American behemoth[庞然大物] 20th Century Fox wanted something from this little company in Finland. So Stalbow and another Fox executive flew to Helsinki. They showed Peter Vesterbacka and the team at Rovio clips of their new movie Rio.
Rovio agreed to create a new game featuring the angry birds and the exotic[异国的] birds from Rio. Now, remember, Angry Birds has been downloaded over 100 million times. Fox would be thrilled to get that audience for Rio. And what's in it for the Angry Birds?
Stalbow: The marketing power that we can bring to promote the new game on the platforms.