Dec 10, 2009

Assassin's Creed

GameLoft has been in the news lately, and not in a favorable light towards Android owners. On Nov 20, 2009 they issued a press release stating that they were significantly cutting back on Android development and cited that they sell 400x more of their games on the iPhone. Some were disappointed to see their system get the shaft from a major developer, and others made the claim that GameLoft hasn't exactly released competitive titles when contrasted to their iPhone version.

In doing this review I checked out all of the GameLoft titles currently available... about 10 or so ranging from Derek Jeter baseball to The Settlers to Assassin's Creed... and decided that I'd pick one, preferably one of the best ones, to see what's what and what's not.

First, Assassin's Creed on the Android is NOT the same as the iPhone version. Most likely this is because of memory issues that we've discussed in the past... namely there's just not enough space to store a 100 MB game without offloading the data to the SD card which isn't directly supported by the existing Android OS. Assassin's Creed on the Android weighs in at just under 2 MB... about 1/50th the size of the iPhone version. Is that fair? Who cares? Just because the Android version doesn't have the same graphics, 3D, audio, or number of levels as the iPhone version doesn't matter anymore so than the fact that the XBox 360 version is vastly superior to the iPhone. What matters is whether it's a good game.

I guess this gets down to a core issue I have with mobile gaming and the lack of a perfect platform. As much as the iPhone is a great device, with nice graphics, sharp audio, and some cool gaming features like the accelerometer it still stinks when playing games like Pac Man and Galaga. An on screen DPad just isn't the same as a real DPad (like the one I have on my Droid). The iPhone can have the most amazing games in the world, but quite frankly the ones the use an on screen DPad all basically stink from my experience. Flight Control rocks. Racing games that use the accelerometer work well. Puzzle games are a good choice. But heavy action games leave me flat on the iPhone.

Back to the Android version of Assassin's Creed: it plays well and has good graphics and sound (not great, but good). It's got those little extras that you expect from a professional developer... things that have little to do with the game, but just make it a bit more real... like the doves scattering. It also uses an on screen DPad and fails to take advantage of my Droid's DPad. Wait a second... up and down work on the DPad... left and right don't. I don't get that at all. Seriously, up and down work, but left and right on the DPad do not.

In Assassin's Creed you're assigned missions to kill various leaders after being banished from the assassin's guild (or something like that). From there's it's a 2D side scrolling platform game. You'll be jumping along the tops of building, climbing ladders, swinging on ropes ...etc. And the built in tutorial that hints how the controls work is very nice.

Assassin's Creed is clearly among the "cream of the crop" games for the Android. It's fun and plays well and is certainly more than worth the $2.99 I paid for it. In the marketplace it's in the 1,000-5,000 copies sold and from what I read there was a time that this was priced at a buck. So I'm appalled at so few sales and certainly sympathize with GameLoft. I don't know what kind of cross-platform tools they use, but for $15,000 you don't get much development (and I presume they have sold more than that as Android owners are not limited to buying from just the Android marketplace). Obviously GameLoft wants more sales, but what about those of us that think our apps should be on par with iPhone apps? Sounds like the blame is on Google for not making a standard way for storing larger apps on the SD card as the hardware is certainly capable. And, of course, everyone likes to blame Google for the marketplace not being particularly good or for encouraging purchase of apps.

In searching for info on Assassin's Creed I also read several posts from people proud that they steal all of their Android software. Good job, guys! If you want to make sure that none of the major developers support Android then please ensure that you deprive them of any profits they deserve. My only hope is that perhaps when you're trying to sell some software you've written that you suffer the same fate. I'm not innocent from software piracy in my youth, but was fortunate enough to be guided to it a) being wrong and b) to understand that I don't want people doing that to me.

I know this review has been all over the place and thus much more than a simple game review, but it wasn't just about the game to start with. It was about a company and their decision to abandon a device I've only owned for a month. It's about trying to understand why they would do so... do their apps stink and yet they expect them to sell? Or are they good and still don't sell? As for Assassin's Creed, it's a good game (and among the elite in the marketplace) that just hasn't sold well. But now's your chance... if this sounds like your cup of tea then buy it and show GameLoft that we like and want their games (and who knows... maybe something crazy might happen like them releasing an update that supports the Droid's DPad).

[In other news, GameLoft did pledge support for Android 2.0 about a week after the Nov 20th press release. However, it's all going to come down to sales... is this a viable platform for commercial games or is it just a software flea market.]

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