While iOS games started out as either simple physics or casual simulation titles when the platform launched about five years ago, the bar has gotten steadily higher and more hard-core. Midcore studios like Kabam started to rise in prominence.
Now the iOS platform might be seeing is most hardcore title to date – a very, very massive multi-player title from YC- and Menlo Ventures-backed Machine Zone.
The company, which started out doing text-based RPGs a couple years ago like iMob, is launching Game of War: Fire Age. It’s a title where players build and grow empires, train massive armies, forge alliances with other players to win kingdoms.
The game can handle hundreds of thousands of players concurrently in the same universe, which is not an easy technical feat. Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, in contrast, typically handles a few thousand players simultaneously in a single realm. All movement on the game’s map is visible to everyone else.
“We wanted to take the company to the next level and be really ambitious,” said Machine Zone CEO Gabriel Leydon. “We decided to build some things that had never been done before. We had the capital to do it and the willpower.”
Leydon didn’t hire just typical game designers to build the title. He also found people who had experience in scaling massive systems. The game’s user interface is in HTML5 and is rendered natively, allowing the company to handle different screen sizes.
The other really cool thing about the game’s social capabilities is that there is a mechanical turk-like translation system where the players themselves translate chat in exchange for virtual currency rewards. That helps Game of War have really interactive play with a proper critical mass of users who can talk to each other, even if they don’t speak the same language. The in-game chat system helps Game of War get manage slang and gamer speak, which a third-party translation system probably wouldn’t handle correctly. If say, 50 players translate the same words in the same way, then the game will start using that translation automatically.
“It’s like a highly structured Facebook,” Leydon said. “My goal as a game designer was to create a feeling of what it would be to be a king, where you’d have a lot of people under you. You’d have to subjects, wealth and land.”
Assuming say, the game grows to 1 million players, there might only be 20 kings in the game. To reach that level, players have to woo others to form alliances with them. Within those alliances, there are ranks for different officers.
“This is a very hardcore game. This is not Candy Crush,” he said. “This is a complex system with a lot of potential trees of outcomes. If you’re the type of person that’s fascinated by systems like this, then this is for you.”
Machine Zone used to be known as Addmired, and rebranded last year when it took $8 million in funding from Menlo Ventures. Leydon said this is what the company took the round for, even though its older titles like Original Gangstaz and iMob 2 were pretty lucrative early on.
In May, Google announced that its online and mobile payments solution Google Wallet would be integrated within Gmail in the coming months, but no exact time frame for the rollout was given. Now, it appears as if more users are gaining access to the Google Wallet in Gmail feature, as invitations are hitting Gmail inboxes.
These invites are arriving in Gmail’s new “Updates” tab. (Update: Originally, we were hearing they were arriving in the main inbox, but Google informs us this is not the case.)
Anyway, below is the example of what the invite looks like:
For those unfamiliar, Google Wallet is the company’s payments platform and answer to PayPal, which allows users to store their debit and credit cards in a secure service for easy access. Wallet can be used when shopping online, including on e-commerce websites, and within Android applications where virtual goods, in-app purchases, and even physical goods and services, are sold. On Android, an NFC-based Google Wallet mobile app allows for transactions at supported point-of-sale and other NFC-based terminals, but adoption there is limited due to mobile operators’ restrictions enacted because they invest in their own competitor called Isis. (Greed is why we can’t have nice things, folks).
With the announcement in May, Google informed us that it would soon offer another way for the payments service to be used – that is, within Gmail. A new dollar sign icon in Gmail will appear, allowing you to “attach money” to your message. The icon sits near the attachment paperclip icon and Google Drive icon for attaching files from the cloud in the new “Compose” experience in Gmail.
Since early beta testers could invite others to Google Wallet for Gmail by sending money, some came up with ingenious ways to invite others by sending small amounts – like a penny – to those who asked. But most of us simply waited for Google to send the invitation after registering our interest. These invites are arriving first to Google Wallet’s early adopters, before the feature is more broadly rolled out to all of Gmail’s user base.
After clicking on the “Get started” button in the invite, or heading directly to wallet.google.com/p2pAccess, you’ll have to confirm your identify in order to comply with U.S. financial regulations before being able to use Google Wallet in Gmail. This will involve providing your date of birth and last four of your Social Security Number, Google explains.
This verification process takes only a second or two, and then the new “attach money” icon will appear when you return to Gmail. (Note that users who have declined to upgrade to the new “Compose” interface in Gmail won’t have the option to send money until they make that switch.)
We reached out to Google to ask for more details as to the progress of the rollout itself, and the company explains that the invites arriving now are going to those who had previously signed up to receive the next version of Wallet at http://www.google.com/wallet.
It also appears that several users have been excited enough to post about their invitation’s arrival on Twitter. (I’m about to do the same.)
Google Wallet has hit some hurdles in recent months, following the departure of Google Wallet head Osama Bedier. Google also scrapped plans to launch its physical Google-branded payment card which had been tested as an alternative to NFC, but found to not be up to par by CEO Larry Page.
Wallet in Gmail gives the maligned service another way to grow – by tapping into a user base of some 425 million plus email users. However, Wallet for Gmail is only available to those over 18 and in the United States for now. Expansions to other parts of the world have yet to be announced.
Mozilla is working on a project that would make the browser a central repository for a list of all of your interests. Today, the nonprofit behind Firefox argues, many websites offer personalized experiences, “but too often, users unknowingly trade their personal information for this better experience.” Instead of sharing your interest graph with lots of vendors online, Firefox could divine your hobbies and interests by simply looking at your browsing history.
The organization has played with this idea before, and today’s proposal comes at a time when Mozilla is involved in a long-standing argument with the advertising industry over how it should treat cookies and Do Not Track.
The idea behind the proposal is that users should be able to explicitly and transparently share their interests with the websites they visit. These sites then would be able to tailor your experience according to your preferences without having to create their own profile of your interests. This way, a site can be personalized even if you’re visiting for the first time.
“We want to give individuals more participation in their Web interactions so they can more easily get what they want, in a clearly defined way,” Mozilla’s senior VP of business and legal affairs Harvey Anderson writes today. “Our goal with UP (User Personalization) and other innovations in this area is to increase the quality of the user experience. In order to accomplish this, interactions must provide consumers with options on how much and which types of information to disclose in order to get the most relevant content and services on the Web.”
Mozilla is currently experimenting with these ideas, but it doesn’t look as if we’ll see any real implementations of them in the near future. When Mozilla first talked about this idea, however, it noted that websites would be required not to track the information you share with them (though it’s hard to see how this could be controlled) and at the time, the idea was to give users fine-grained control over how much information about themselves they want to share.
For the time being, though, Mozilla just wants to get the conversation started – something that should be pretty easy to do, given that the advertising industry is closely watching the organization’s every move.