May 21, 2012 2:00 PM | John Polson
Tom Sennett (RunMan and Deepak Fights Robots) has paired with Salil Malkan to create the local crowd-player Row Row Row Remote, which runs on a computer and can use dozens of phones or tablets. Though the game may look simplistic (Wii Sports didn't "look" all that impressive compared to the tech it modeled), Sennett and Malkan aim to inspire and empower developers, while exponentially increasing the amount of players involved in a local multiplayer experience and creating "new, awesome games from the ground up" instead of "shoehorning new, awesome technology into old, stagnant forms."
Row Row Row Remote asks players to use their smartphones or tablets as paddles. Each group needs to coordinate its motions to move effectively through the course. The game only uses the devices' touch and gyroscope functions, but Sennett tells IndieGames this is just the beginning.
Sennett explains that the controller part of Row Row Row Remote is a web app - accessible through a mobile device's browser. It supports iOS 4.2 and above and Android 4.0 phones along with Android tablets. The team also has a wrapped native app for older Android phones, though it hasn't been deployed yet. They aim to have native apps for both Android and iOS, along with the web app, to support as many devices as possible on those two platforms. Sennett says they'd like to look into Windows Phone, "but probably not BlackBerry because they are so horrible to develop for."
This setup may sound restricting, but the tools behind the experience are quite flexible. Sennett details, "The controller software, the server, and the game itself are all separate, autonomous entities, and can be pretty easily swapped out for different kinds of technology. So the server doesn't really care where the inputs are coming from (Android, iOS, web app, whatever), and doesn't care where they're going to (currently a Flash game, which we like because it's cross-platform and we get to use FlashPunk)."
Row Row Row Remote is really all about opening things up for developers and for crafting larger experiences than the local, four-player limit console gamers are used to, Sennett shared. "The big console makers have had a monopoly on the local multiplayer experience for decades and it's been stagnant, and we're sick of it. Like seriously, the Wii U lets you play games on your TV with ONE tablet and some Wiimotes? And that's supposed to be something cool? With our system you can play with devices of all stripes - one of which you probably already own - and with dozens of other people at the same time."
Sennett expressed that the technology behind the Wii U (its tablet+wiimote+console combination) is nothing revolutionary as far as details have been revealed. He feels similarly about Row Row Row Remote's tech: it merely involves hooking together technology that already exists.
Sennett explains, "But it's not really about the technology itself, it's the motivation behind it. We're trying to take technology a lot of people are already familiar with and use it to create accessible, novel, fun games. Nintendo's just trying to get you to buy shit. Requiring people to buy a console, a bunch of overpriced controllers that only work on your system, and some worthless little figurines to get virtual powerups might be good business, but it's terrible game design."
He further explains that motion controls and touch screens doesn't have to be a gimmick or just a marketing ploy. "People need to stop shoehorning new, awesome technology into old, stagnant forms, and instead create new, awesome games from the ground up. It's increasingly clear the AAA guys are uninterested or incapable of doing that, so as usual it's time for us indie developers to step up."
So, does that make the tech behind Row Row Row Remote better than the Wii U? "Our tech is better because it's open and flexible, but that's not really what's important. What's important is the only motivation behind it is to inspire and enable the creation of great games."