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Opinion

Apple’s Game Center Takes On Trophies And Achievements

And win?

Achievements changed the way many people think about videogames when they released alongside the Xbox 360 and, with the eventual catch-up from Sony in the shape of the PlayStation 3’s Trophies, PlayStation gamers fell under the same spell: competition, bragging rights and the desire to see that lovely little pop-up in the corner of your screen.

Whilst there have been a few attempts to recreate that same appeal on the iPhone and iPod platforms, it’s taken Apple themselves to finally get it right, and in some ways they’ve actually managed to go one step beyond what Microsoft and Sony had come up with, especially with regards to comparing your skills with your friends, which we’ll come to.

Game Center iphone Game Center iphone

Apple’s system is called Game Center, and is automatically added to your home screen when you download iOS4.1, which released yesterday. Once you’ve clicked the icon you’ll be taken through a few setup screens where you can claim your user ID and ensure your details are all correct – it’s typically slick and Apple, and only takes a few minutes.

The screen on the right above is the Game Center home, which shows your ID (in massive letters) and underneath that are little tallies for your Friends, Games and Achievements. The Friend system is really easy to use, you can search for friends based on their ID or their email address, and requests pop-up in real time on the recipient’s phone via the usual push notification window (or within the app if you switch your push notifications off).

Underneath all that is your current profile tag, and then your email address underneath that.

Game Center iphone Game Center iphone

If you click on Friends, you’ll see a list of all your chums and their profile tags, along with what they’ve been playing recently.  Clicking on a specific friend will bring up their home screen, with all their similar data, plus a list that both of you have in common.  In this instance, Wotta and myself both own Flight Control (and have played it since it was updated last night so that Game Center knows we have it) so let’s click on that.

By doing so, you then come to a screen that allows you to compare Achievements and whereabouts both of you are on the leaderboards.  Game Center’s universal leaderboards and Achievements are astonishingly well put together and so easy to use, and allow you to filter by global scores right down to Friend level, so you can always see who’s beating who at a specific game.

Game Center iphone Game Center iphone

The image above right shows what happens when you click on ‘Games’ – you’ll see that I currently own four games that feature Game Center functionality (more are due every day now) and clicking on them immediately brings up a list of Achievements for that particular game.  The option to ‘find Game Center games’ takes you straight to the games on the App Store that feature Game Center options, which is a nice touch but will certainly need further categorisation soon.

Achievements work the same way as they do on the Xbox 360 or PS3 – when you fulfill the requirements you get a little pop-up and your score increases within Game Center.  An interesting thing with the Games menu is that you can instantly see how many people are playing the game and where you are in the global standings – in the example above over 35,000 gamers have tried Flight Control, presumably since the Game Center update.

Game Center iphone Game Center iphone

I’m impressed – really impressed. For a platform like the iPhone with thousands of games, this is going to be an invaluable way to see what people are playing and finally there’s a way for you and your friends to compete with each other on a level playing field – the leaderboards are diverse enough to be split down into individual levels and maps (like the airports in Flight Control, for example) and update continously.

So, with one fell swoop Apple have shown what’s possible – syncing is automatic, the interface is gorgeous – and if enough developers and publishers pick up and convert their games away from the other formats like OpenFeint and Crystal (Angry Birds is already on its way to Game Center, for example) then the compulsive nature of Trophies and Achievements will once again take hold of gamers. Excellent stuff.

User IDs and email addresses have been blurred out, apart from Wotta who has given permission to use his ID.  Images taken directly from the iPhone and scaled in Photoshop.

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70 Comments
  1. YOURMUMANDME
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Wotta ? I thought someone left him in the drawer and forgot about him !? ;D
    I’ve gotta do this when I get home, cheers for the tip nofi.

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:06.
    • wotta
      Member
      Since: Feb 2010

      Still here, just on my own website made2game.com now that’s all. Anyway now that people know my ganertag I will be expecting the friends requests to flood in. :D

      Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:54.
      • exellentgamer
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        thats cool im gonna check out your website

        Comment posted on 12/09/2010 at 21:39.
      • exellentgamer
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        cool website i wanna sign up

        Comment posted on 12/09/2010 at 21:40.
  2. kevatron400
    Drake, baby.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Yeah, I’m just as impressed, although I have a few niggles. 1) I can’t find out who my friends are friends with, and I would have thought that was a social network essential (although you can’t do that on PSN or XBL either), it just seems like that would be a good way to discover people you know who are playing.

    Hmm, can’t remember the other one, I definitely had two when I started writing this.

    Anyway, all in all, it’s super-slick and it’s very impressive, and I am already at my usual place (the bottom) on any leader-board I belong to.

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:06.
    • CaptainMurdo
      In no way connected to TSA. No way.
      Since: Sep 2008

      I think you can actually find friends of friends on XBL. I remember adding some people via that method.

      Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 15:45.
  3. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Ran the update last night so will take a look later on. Top stuff, nofi.

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:07.
  4. Sevchenko
    Member
    Since: Mar 2009

    cant wait for more games to be available for it

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:09.
  5. Nauraph
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Shouldn’t this be placed on AppTilt?

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:23.
    • colossalblue
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      AppTilt only does reviews, TSA is about gaming and the games industry. Seemed a better fit here?

      Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 14:11.
      • Tuffcub
        On the naughty step.
        Since: Dec 2008

        Says “PS3 News, Xbox 360 News” at the top of my browser :D Better change it eh?

        Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 14:23.
  6. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    “it’s typically slick and Apple” – Shiney, overpriced for what it does and you will have to buy a new one every six months??

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:25.
    • smokeybeef
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      It looks low-budget and too retro to me. Not at all ‘slick’.

      Has an interface like a Nintendo DS minigame

      Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:37.
    • double-o-dave
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      In some ways you’re right tuffcub, but I fall for it every time.
      All my earnings go behind a bar or on something else I won’t mention or to apple but they always seem to set the standard.
      Now downloading the update! Sounds like you need to buy an iphone mate :)

      Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 14:28.
      • Tuffcub
        On the naughty step.
        Since: Dec 2008

        I’ve got an iPod and a Blackberry – Blackberry much better for my needs.

        Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 14:32.
    • cc_star
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Forever

      Yeah, its expensive stuff (but as with anything in life, you get what you pay for, even if that only a designer label) – but you get the choice to replace it as often or as little as you like, most people are on 18-24 month contracts so that’s a bit of a limiter as far as phones are concerned and loads of people I know still have old iPods

      Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 14:32.
      • double-o-dave
        Member
        Since: Nov 2008

        Got mine from Tesco. They piggyback off 02’s network and do a 12 month contract. They’re definitely worth the money, as sad as it sounds mines out every 5 mins in the pub using the crossword solver app!

        Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 14:39.
      • Mike
        Member
        Since: Oct 2008

        I’m with Tesco too! High five! :D

        Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 15:35.
      • double-o-dave
        Member
        Since: Nov 2008

        Good man! Now they just need to make it compatible with angry birds

        Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 16:08.
      • 3shirts
        Member
        Since: Aug 2008

        While I usually agree with the ‘get what you pay for’ I genuinely don’t believe that is true of Apple. No matter how much I use an iPhone, I cannot see why it costs so much more than a high end Android like Desire or Galaxy S.
        The same is true of many Apple products, they just seem to exploit people’s brand loyalty. I’m not knocking the business model, but it’s not for me!

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 09:01.
  7. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    “Syncing is automatic”

    Ooh

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:28.
  8. bajere
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    All looks very nice and well layed out. Must be great for those who like all that stuff. but for me, achievements, trophies, apple points, or any other phrase to name them are all pointless. Its just a number next to an icon?!?! If you could use them to purchase bits for games or even buy games with them it would be great. but as it stands, whats the point o_O

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:42.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      Well, there’s the option to compare your highscores with friends, for starters. Game Center isn’t just about Achievements.

      Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:46.
      • DJ Judas
        Epic
        Since: Aug 2008

        Surely its just a way to get more page impressions though to sell more games? Just like Ping is doing in iTunes.

        I’m becoming cynical un my old age and starting to dislike friends, achievements and status updates being force fed.

        Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 14:41.
      • bajere
        Member
        Since: Aug 2008

        i agree DJ. i’m in web development, and im sick of hearing the word ‘Social’. Kills me a little bit inside each time! Hopefully it will die on its ass once the market is saturated with it, and people get sick of all the nosing about.

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 09:05.
  9. Amphlett
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    You mentioned the ‘little pop-up in the corner of your screen’ in your article. Well this morning I rather sadly punched the air when I got the silver “Multiplayer Elite” trophy in BFBC2. Yes, I punched the air. Ah, the pleasures of ‘working from home’!

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:48.
    • yogdog
      Member
      Since: Feb 2010

      bc2 ftw! :D

      Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 14:40.
  10. Severn2j
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    I await an Android-based equivalent…

    Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 13:51.
    • PriceKitty
      Since: Jan 1970

      lol there won’t be one.

      Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 15:10.
      • DJ Judas
        Epic
        Since: Aug 2008

        I don’t see why not :/

        I’ve no interest in it but I don’t see why it wouldn’t appear on Android, apart from Googles ‘not bothered’ attitude towards social aspects…..which I like.

        Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 17:43.
      • cc_star
        Team TSA: Writer
        Since: Forever

        Its not a joined up platform, so it will only have limited impact and therefore is it worth bothering?

        by joined up I don’t mean its not good, which it obviously is, because it is fantastic!

        A game center would obviously be introduced in a particular FW version, and given that you can walk into a store and by all sorts of device which have 1.6 all the way to 2.2 and everything in between from all sorts of manufacturers across all networks who all offer varying levels of commitment to upgrading the device to the latest firmware… I don’t see how a product which ties it all together would get off the ground.

        Android’s greatest strength is its diversity, but it is also its greatest weakness.
        Apple’s greatest weakness is the closed shop, but it is also its greatest strength

        … go figure o_O

        Also, a report out today says that 70% of all Apps running on iPhones are ‘paid for’ Apps (quality games would fit into this) whereas only 30% of apps running on Android are ‘paid for’… where’s the incentive for devs to commit to making quality games of the class of Epic’s Citadel demo? which would make a Game Center worthwhile as time progresses?

        Comment posted on 09/09/2010 at 17:52.
      • 3shirts
        Member
        Since: Aug 2008

        Actually cc, I don’t agree. Google distribute a lot of their apps through the market, not built in to the firmware (Goggles, Maps, Earth etc).
        If they distributed an app like this, publicised it on the market and the web a little, and made it easy for developers to integrate it into their games, many of them would for the obvious sales/advertising benefits.

        I can easily see it working just as well as this.

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 09:04.
      • cc_star
        Team TSA: Writer
        Since: Forever

        Yeah, sure, I agree,

        What I meant was a Google Game Center could be released but might only support a specific FW version or above… so if it was released for eg. on Froyo, and someone walks into a shop to pick up an Android device, and there is a chance the device will be running 1.6 or 2.1 and you’re relying on a network to offer an update which might never come.

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 09:29.
      • 3shirts
        Member
        Since: Aug 2008

        I see what you mean but plenty of apps support ‘1.6 and up’ and I see no reason why this wouldn’t. It surely wouldn’t require any features of 2.1 or 2.2

        The games themselves are a different matter of course (I know Angry Birds is only 2.2)

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 12:03.
      • Severn2j
        Member
        Since: Aug 2008

        Angry Birds works fine on my Samsung Galaxy, which is 2.1. Just sayin..

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 14:00.
      • minerwilly
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        Over 200,000 new phones are registered daily by Google , its similar to the hare and the tortoise . Android will win ..eventually ! Angry Birds is beautiful on Android .
        People are running scared and are worried they have possibly made the wrong decision . For every app on iphone that my buddy has there is 99% of the time an equal alternative . Yes there are more on Iphone say for instance 1000 compass apps whereas there may be 50 on Android but you only need one that works .
        I have a phone equally as good as an Iphone4 (and in some opinions better http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/htc-desire-vs-iphone-4-vs-samsung-galaxy-s-702739 ) that i bought outright for £280 and only pay £10.50 a month for unlimited internet and texts +300mins .
        Having flash support and having no call dropping is really useful to.

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 17:27.
      • cc_star
        Team TSA: Writer
        Since: Forever

        I’m not dissing Android, which I said was fantastic, I was merely saying it was a bit splintered, and that they have opposite 70/30 splits between paid & free apps giving devs little incentive to develop expensive games of the class we are starting to see on the iPhone (thats not a slight against android, just a point about how the business model is shaping up)

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 17:31.
      • minerwilly
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        I had no beef with your comments CC ! It was just the way someone said “lol there won’t be one” , bit fanboyish and if it was intended to get my back up it did !
        I enjoy these mobile reviews and this looks a great little app. Ive seen some on both platforms that show which of your PSN mates are online and which game they are playing etc which is pretty cool . The fact that they want your username and password login details put me off though !

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 17:43.
      • 3shirts
        Member
        Since: Aug 2008

        I don’t agree with your assertion that the market of free apps stifles development of high quality games. Have a read of Arron La’s financials here http://arronla.com
        You can clearly see that his free/ad-supported version was able to bring as much (in some moneths more) revenue than the paid version.
        Admittedly that is an app, not a game, but the priniciple is not dissimmilar

        Comment posted on 10/09/2010 at 20:31.

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