In my post a few months back, I said that one of the things holding back mobile gaming was the lack of a system level API for external game controllers. Let’s face it, touchscreen gaming is less than ideal on its best days. There’s been a few changes since then, especially with iOS 7 releasing such an API. With that, we’ve had the official announcement of the first few game controllers and quite a few games with support.
Apple’s controller API isn’t as much a single API as a 3-in-1 proposition. It’s also a part of OS X 10.9 Mavericks in addition to the more publicized implementation in iOS 7. It allows three types of controllers: standard, extended, and extended wireless. Standard includes a D-pad, a pause button, four action buttons in an Xbox-like AB XY diamond configuration, and L1/R1 trigger buttons. Extended adds a pair of analog sticks and L2/R2 trigger buttons to the standard. Extended Wireless, which I would presume is for iPads and the Mac, has the same configuration as extended but is a separate Bluetooth controller instead of being part of a case.
Compared to existing 3rd party APIs, Apple’s has several advantages. It’s better supported, more accessible, and offers consistency. The on-screen controls should also go away when using a physical game controller. On the not-so-bright side, Apple seems to be pretty insistent on what a controller should be at the moment. Because of that, the game controllers are going to be somewhat similar in design, with the iDevice going in between the two sets of controls. Universal case designs, like the Moga Pro don’t appear to be allowed under MFI rules. So, if you use a case on your phone, you will have to remove it every time you use your controller. That is, for the time being at least.
According to my sources, there are between 300 and 400 iOS games currently compatible with the Controller API. Many have been updated for controller support as part of their patch to be iOS 7 compatible. According to iOS game developer Gameloft, it’s an important step in the evolution of iOS gaming.
“At Gameloft, we continue our involvement in the Apple ecosystem by introducing Dungeon Hunter 4 and Gangstar Vegas for the iOS 7 extended controller API and Asphalt 8: Airborne for the standard controller,” said Baudouin Corman, Gameloft VP of Publishing for the Americas. “Our goal is to be at the forefront of mobile gaming innovation, and by supporting Apple in this next step, we are supporting the ever-evolving iOS gaming landscape.”
Some of the the games that support the controller API already are exceptional. Here of some of the best I could find. Given the holiday season, they might make great (virtual) stocking stuffers for yourself or loved ones. Note, if the game has a asterisk after the price, it denotes that the game features in-game purchases. Also note that some of the games might be designed more for the standard or extended versions of the API.
Action Games & Shooters
Gangstar Vegas ($2.99*) from Gameloft is an open world crime action game. If you’ve played Saints Row or GTA, this should be up your alley.
Call of Duty Strike Team ($6.99*) The latest mobile entry in Activision’s combat franchise is a unique blend of third-person team tactics and first-person shooter. You get to position your forces and then choose a member of your team to play as.
Dead Trigger 2 (Free*) is a zombie-based first person shooter. If you want to play your part in surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, this is your game.
AVP: Evolution ($1.99*) is a fighting game similar to the Infinity Blade-series, but set in the Alien vs Predator Universe.
Storm Raiders ($4.99*) is a WWII action flight sim. It’s fun, addicting, and the graphics are great. While it has in-app purchases, they are not the predatory kind. You can play just fine without them.
Asphalt 8: Airborne (Free*) is the latest in Gameloft’s street racing series. If you’re familiar with Need for Speed or the Rush series, you’ll know where this game is coming from.
Pangea’s Cro-Mag Rally ($3.99) is for the lighter fare who would be interested in Mario Cart. It’s also online multiplayer through Gamecenter.
Dungeon Hunter 4 (free*) is a hack and slash style RPG. If you’re into the games like the Diablo series, this one might be worth checking out.
Oceanhorn ($8.99) is a Zelda-style action RPG from Munich-based Indie developer FDG Entertainment. The graphics are stunning and reviews place it as one of the better JRPGs released this year on any platform. What’s more, it’s a game with no in-app purchases. At $8.99, this could be a steal.
That’s it for part one, but later this week in part two, we’re going to give you a rundown of the controllers currently announced for iOS 7.