Commuting Cognition: Snipers vs Thieves, Crazy Volleyball Physics

What is this?

I’ve never been a big mobile game player, but I ended up working in a mobile games company (opinions are my own etc), so I’ve been trying to expose myself to more games in this market and attempt to gain an ever-better understanding of them. One of the ways I’ve been doing that is in trying out new games, seeing what they do wrong and right, and try to draw conclusions from them that I can use in the future to make our games better. One of the resources I’ve been using for this is TouchArcade (not sponsored), and their columns listing the new iOS games of the week.

This resulted in me playing a lot more new games during my daily bus rides, but I also feel the need to discuss them somewhere and keep a log of my thoughts instead of just internalising them. So, Commuting Cognition. These will be brief, bus-ride-long thoughts on these games, and should be seen less as reviews and more as first-impression brain dumps. They also may not be daily, depending on how full the bus is that day.


Snipers vs Thieves

Snipers vs Thieves is an asymmetric multiplayer game, one side being a first-person shooter, another a third-person cover jumper. Something that would sound right at home on PC, and yet it’s surprisingly thoughtfully designed for mobile.

On the sniper side, you control your sight by holding and dragging, then tapping to fire at the four thieves on the opposing side. There’s also a button you slide back and forth to zoom, in addition to a button to reload. I don’t mind the former terribly because it feels like you’re literally fidgeting with the scope, as opposed to the obvious pinching which would feel more abstract. The reloading, however, could easily have been done with a swipe down, or a 90ยบ gyroscope flick, something like that.

The thief side impressed me more; i was preparing myself for a virtual joystick, but instead you just tap on chest-high walls to signal your character to move to that cover. You do that in succession to reach a car waiting to escape with you, timing your jumps to avoid the single sniper on the opposing side. The characters move really slowly by default but have a stamina bar which is consumed for sprinting; charging stamina is done by holding down the screen, which also makes you leave cover and taunt the sniper, putting you at risk. You also have access to gadgets, used from buttons (i don’t easily see how else these could be done, to be fair), like a decoy doll that summons a copy of your character beside your cover to take in a few shots.

From my limited run, the sniper side felt a lot easier. You can take a few shots in rather quick succession before needing to reload and it’s not very hard to aim at all, especially with the slow movement of the thieves. I would’ve liked to experiment with a single shot variant, that forced you to reload immediately; this would force you to commit more to your shot and balance it out more, not to mention it would’ve streamlined the game further by removing the reload mechanic. The thief side is a lot more team-oriented but not in the sense of needing to co-operate; rather, i felt encouraged to wait for them to get out of cover and draw shots by moving further myself. If you’re the last thief standing, you’re probably dead.

Of course, it’s hard to accurately determine the balance of a game from just a few matches. At the end of the day, all i can say is it was fun and impressively well designed. Little wonder that it’s top 3 on the UK and US charts at the time of writing.

Crazy Volleyball Physics

Crazy Volleyball Physics is volleyball with craaaazy physics! Well, not that crazy.

The game starts off with its rotation locked, which is really annoying for me because the headphone jack makes the default portrait rotation uncomfortable to hold. No option to unlock that, either. Additionally, the main menu buttons have really small tappable areas, so i spent a lot longer than i should’ve needed to get into the damn game. Not a great start.

You control a team of two characters, constantly swaying back and forth for no apparent reason. Tapping a virtual button makes them jump forward in whatever angle they’re currently at, and then it’s volleyball: whenever the ball hits the ground, the other side gets a point. Seeing as you literally have one mechanic, it flabbergasts me as to why they thought a virtual button would be a better choice than just tapping wherever.

They physics aren’t wacky in the least, they just feel random. The constant swaying is completely arbitrary and, while i see what they were going for, it just feels weird, not useful nor particularly entertaining.

Additionally, the game froze for something like 5 seconds mid-game before it finally decided to show me an interstitial, so i never finished a match.

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