Catching up with Vancouver’s social games scene

Margaritaville Online, developed by Exploding Barrel Games, is expanding. Margaritaville Mobile is an iPhone version of the game that syncs to your Facebook game, and a new iPad edition of Margaritaville Online is an offline version of the game set in a world inspired by Jimmy Buffet.

Hothead Games, meanwhile, has released two iOS games: Zombie Ace on its own and Scarface for Toronto publisher Fuse Powered. Hothead is also continuing to expand Big Win Soccer with support for additional languages.

East Side Games has also been prolific, releasing NomNom Combo, an iOS puzzle game, and Zombinis on Google+ early this year.

MechWarrior Online is being developed by Piranha Games for Montreal’s Infinite Game Publishing. The closed beta launched at the end of May and early access for die-hard fans is planned for mid-July.

Infinite is also publishing MechWarrior Tactics, being developed by Roadhouse Interactive and Burnaby’s A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games. Tarrnie Williams, president of Roadhouse, said that the turn-based collectible strategy game they’ve conceived suits the MechWarrior franchise. “What we built is something that didn’t exist before but is lots of fun,” he told the Straight.

Save the World of Tynon in Upcoming Social Fantasy RPG


The first truly story-driven social game is coming soon to a browser near you

New York, NY – June 15, 2012 – uCool, Inc, composed of veterans in the
hardcore social gaming space, has officially revealed
Tynon, their new social fantasy RPG /
city-building game. From members of the team behind Evony, a pioneer of hardcore
online games, Tynon is introducing several new concepts to the social gaming
space. Combining a unique blend of action, role-playing, social and strategy
gameplay elements, Tynon will be the first truly story-driven social web game.

In Tynon, the King has come under the affliction of a dark wizard’s spell and
it’s up to players to help the elite knight Rosaline and a band of heroes to
rescue the king and save the thirteen kingdoms from the dark wizard’s magic. The
lands continue to burn while wicked goblins roam free, serpent queens plague
Verdant City, and the kingdom is threatened by disaster and slavery.

Players must also help Rosaline rebuild the Imperial City to its former glory.
With the cooperative ability to enlist the aid of friends from Facebook and
other social networks, players can upgrade and customize their cities and gain
resources by visiting neighboring towns. Hundreds of quests will be available to
earn more resources, gold and gems to upgrade your city, armor and battle
skills.

The action-packed battles, in-depth fantasy story campaign, city-building
strategies and beautiful, hand-drawn environments of Tynon will change the
social gaming landscape and will be enjoyable for both hardcore social and
casual gaming fans.

Tynon will be available this summer via web browser and Facebook. Check out a
first look at the game in the teaser trailer now at
http://youtu.be/-Klnd-fZBc4.

Key gameplay features:

  • Build an Empire ? City-building mechanics let players create their own
    custom kingdoms
  • Single Player Adventure ? Travel the realm and battle different foes
    across 100 levels, collecting unique heroes, epic loot and gold and other
    resources
  • Animated Combat ? Vivid battle scenes provide for an immersive
    single-player experience
  • RPG Customization ? Adventurers select which heroes make up their party,
    customizing them with special weapons, armor, and more
  • Interact with Friends ? Utilize the help of friends to upgrade cities,
    as well as gain resources by visiting and maintaining their towns
  • PvP ? Strengthen heroes and improve party formations to defeat friends
    and online foes, or race other players in daily resources challenges to win
    awards and recognition on worldwide ranking boards that scale by player
    level and time played
  • Conquer Quests ? Complete quests to receive gold and gems, which can be
    used to upgrade weapons and armor, level up heroes, and construct special
    buildings

About uCool, Inc
uCool, Inc is a US private corporation that provides products and services in
the social entertainment industry sector. Social entertainment is defined as the
combination of entertainment (i.e. video games, action and reward software,
contests, media) augmented with social media technologies and platforms (i.e.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster, G+). Our global operations encompass studios
located at Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Qingdao, Sydney and Tokyo.

Social networking, online games in Japan media’s sights

While much attention overseas has been focused on the ups and downs (mostly downs) of Facebook’s recent initial public offering, the Japanese media have been subjecting online gaming and social networks to increasingly critical scrutiny. The issues raised range from complaints over lax privacy safeguards and exploitation of minors by predatory businesses to reputed ties to organized crime.

“I don’t wanna become a Facebook fool,” rants Michiyuki Shimizu in Sapio (June 27). The freelance writer cites Facebook’s growing reputation as a home wrecker. It seems a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81 percent of attorneys questioned replied that in divorce cases they had handled over the past decade, text messages sent via social-media sites were submitted as a source of evidence, with the trend accelerating over the past five years. (In another survey in the U.K., a review of divorce claims showed that in 5,000 cases, references to Facebook appeared in 33 percent.)

When such a trend becomes conspicuous in other countries, Japan is seldom far behind. Shimizu cites the unhappy tale of a 40-year-old Osaka doctor who was moved to engage an investigative agency when he noticed his spouse appeared suspiciously enthusiastic over Facebook. A computer-savvy private eye managed to hack into her account (her password was her own birthday) and found amorous exchanges between the wife and a female physician. One read, “Let’s both dump our hubbies so we can be together.” Further probing determined the two women were also engaging in clandestine romantic trysts. Data captured off the screens were submitted as evidence in the divorce suit.

“What really makes Facebook so frightening,” writes Shimizu, “is how it blurs the boundaries between public and private. You might disclose something about your company to an intimate friend; that raises the possibility it will be spread to a ‘friend of a friend.’ “

Yu Arai, a researcher on cyber security, is quoted as saying it’s becoming a common practice of industrial spies to tap into SNS relationships as a means of uncovering corporate secrets.

The May 25 issues of Shukan Asahi and Nikkan Gendai both scrutinized the social networking site called “Ameba Pigg,” whose users — some 1.4 million of whom are estimated to be under age 15 — assume the guise of cute little avatars. The avatars hang out in a virtual Shibuya and Roppongi and suavely attired males can befriend females, inviting them to accompany them to a notorious subsite called Pigg H, where private rooms are furnished with beds — presumably for a session of cybersex.

Apparently some of the girls enticed to go along by offers of gifts are minors masquerading as adults, so we may be looking at a new form of virtual enjo kosai (teen prostitution). Nor is it entirely safe because it’s confined to online. As IT journalist Toshiyuki Inoue explains, “Once the participants become friendly, they can exchange email addresses under their real names and possibly even meet in person.”

Complaints over minors running up high charges for online gaming has led the major players in the industry, including such companies as Gree and Mobage (DeNA), to adopt self-imposed restrictions designed to discourage access by minors.

As potentially traumatic as addiction may be for the younger generation, Nikkan Gendai (June 12) notes that even middle-aged salarymen can become hooked on SNSs, which can lead to serious depression.

“The first sign of trouble is insomnia,” says psychiatrist Joji Suzuki. “We need to watch out in particular for people who can’t walk someplace without constantly checking their smartphone, or who constantly interrupt whatever they’re doing to check their phone.”

Last year the National Hospital Organization Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center in Yokosuka City set up a department to treat Internet dependency.

“Nationwide, it’s estimated that 2.7 million people are addicted to the Internet. But as ‘addiction’ has yet to be defined, we don’t know the actual situation,” Satoko Mihara, a clinical psychologist at the center, told business magazine Shukan Diamond (June 2). (NHK’s website noted that if minors are included, the figure is likely to be about twice as high.)

Last August the Kurihama center organized a four-night, five-day workshop attended by 10 middle school students who sought to wean themselves from their computers and cellphones.

Those who read Japanese and would like to see how they measure up can take the 20-question self-evaluation questionnaire for Internet dependency (www.kurihama-med.jp/tiar/index.html) But be forewarned: if you score over 39 points out of a possible 100, you might need counseling.

Shukan Diamond also warns that the unsavory characters lurking on the Web may include those with ties to the yakuza.

“The newcomers to organized crime tend to be … made up of the generation familiar with cellphones, the Internet and games,” Atsushi Mizoguchi, an investigative reporter considered Japan’s top authority on crime syndicates, is quoted as saying. “To keep from being charged under the new antigang ordinances, gangs are diversifying by infiltrating these areas. In some cases syndicates that lack technological know-how may tie up with tech-savvy operators.”