It might not have had the media focus of micro-transactions but perhaps the key feature of the new iPhone/iPod touch OS update - version 3.0 - is the ability to push messages to your friends within applications and games.
Officially called Push Notification, one of the first big games to use this will be the million-selling island god game, Pocket God.
We grabbed designer Dave Castelnuovo to find out how he was planning on using the new feature in conjunction with the achievement-based mini-games added to the most recent update (episode 18) of Pocket God.
Pocker Gamer: So how will you be using push notification?
Dave Castelnuovo: The feature will be part of our new in-game challenge functionality. We’ll allow users to challenge their friends at any of the mini-games that have been added to Pocket God, such as How many times can you bounce a coconut on a pygmy’s head? or How many pygmies can you catch with the underwater spear?
They will be able to choose the mini-game, choose the friend they are challenging, and then after they post their score, the challenge gets sent to their friend. If the friend is not actively in Pocket God at the time, a push alert will be sent to them instead. When the challenge is completed, the result will be stored alongside their Feint profile, which can be viewed through any Feint game.
Just to explain the Feint profile part of Dave’s answer... Pocket God uses the OpenFeint social networking platform. Any game that does can now enable a gamer profile for players and this will be shared throughout all the games that use OpenFeint. There are dozens of these including the Aurora Feint series, My Brute and StickWars.
Back to the questions: What will this add to the game?
I think it will increase the replay value of our game and give the experience more depth. When players receive challenges through push alerts, they will be urged to spend more time with the product. We hope it will have a viral effect as well, where kids want to challenge their friends who may not already have Pocket God.
How easy was it to set up?
OpenFeint is supplying all the backend functionality. We only need to work on the client side and the push notifications will happen without having to write any code.
This also marks an important shift in terms of how we utilise Feint, where we are taking the complex functionality they provide and incorporate it seamlessly into the game. All challenge screens, except for the challenge history in the Feint profile, will be in-game.
And, of course, this will only work for people who have updated to the new 3.0 OS?
Yes. At first I wanted to hold off until a majority of users had 3.0 but we found a way to take advantage of 3.0 features for those who install our game on 3.0 phones and yet get the game to still run on 2.2 devices. Those people just won’t get to take advantage of the 3.0 features.
Thanks to Dave for his time
The 3.0 update to Pocket God - which is currently available on the App Store for 99c/59p - is expected in the next couple of weeks.