GamePlan12 Oct 2012 0
Mobile devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices.
Mobilizing your Inner-Commander
As I had written before (HERE), I find the concept of using one's iPad or other touch-based tablet device for strategy gaming to be an exciting opportunity for the wargamer. How many times did we ever fantasize about moving whole armies with the drag of a finger, or accessing unit or location data with the tap of a fingertip? Let's face it, the attraction of any strategy gamer to the possibility of commanding or organizing complex operations through touch has been around for at least six years. Although a fully dedicated mobile game that takes advantage of all of these aspects is not yet around, there are some intermediary steps that are being produced now. This is where GamePlan comes in. This application is available for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices.
GamePlan is an app which allows the user to load maps of various different types of games from real-time strategy such as Starcraft II to first-person shooters such as those of the Call of Duty series or Counterstrike. The user can then draw with utensils on these maps, or place many different kinds of pre-set symbols. All of these features are available offline, so one can plan out strategies or contingencies. The user can then choose to either host or join a map with up to sixteen players, across all platforms, so that all players can see the screens of another and have access to the same tactical data as all the others in real time. A player can even contribute with different colored signs of their own, producing a truly collaborative atmosphere.
Care for a game of Pictionary on the side?
I have to say that my first impression of the concept as I began to fiddle around with the application itself was that I was very impressed. It was an application that provided much needed real time logistical support for the many multiplayer associated games of today, and combined it with the dynamism of the social media ethos, creating something that team-oriented players could use effectively for planning. I could easily see the similarities between this application and the way American football coaches would symbolize different moves for their teams. In essence, one could create scenarios fully customized to their group or team, or even use it as an educational tool for tutorials without the need to download separate map-capturing programs and wasting time with paint programs.
To begin, I wanted to see if GamePlan could be relevant to the most played game in the world. I loaded up the map ?Summoner's Rift? from the wildly popular League of Legends as a test case for the features of the application. The ability to create linked numbered points could be used, for example, to create a tutorial on jungling paths. The plethora of icons and letters could be used for instructing players on ward placement, and the simple geometric tools could be used for highlighting areas where team fights are preferable. All of these things would be familiar to one of the millions that play this DotA clone. GamePlan can be a valuable asset to a team captain for League of Legends as his teammates will likely be spread throughout the continent.
I like to Level 2 Gank bot lane with Shyvana; what can I say?
Similarly, the availability to load maps for MMOs such as World of Warcraft whose players are usually not close enough to conference in-person makes GamePlan relevant for any guild leader, who wishes to create a playbook for his guild-mates. The same could be said for planning out strategies ahead of time for the myriad of first-person shooters. In fact, I believe it's in the first-person genre that this application becomes even more valuable. It offers an avenue for strategic considerations from a top-down perspective, as the players are limited to what they see in front of their characters in a first-person perspective. This allows for team leaders to always be aware of ?the big picture? and make them more effective team captains.
Fire Teams Beta and Delta: about to make a move.
There are, of course, limitations that I'd like to mention. In fast paced games, it's hard to make changes on the spot. GamePlan, as I mentioned before, is best used for setting up playbooks and contemplating different strategies before a battle begins. Though, I will say that there's nothing more exciting than saying something like: ?Evasive maneuvers pattern Omega Four? or ?Execute Order Sixty Six? and having your other team mates know exactly where to go thanks to having studied the maps beforehand. The interface itself was mostly intuitive, but it may take awhile for some to get accustomed to?initially, it took me a second to find out you could hold down certain buttons in the draw mode to activate different icons. Having to de-select a button in draw mode in order to pan the map was understandable, but I couldn't help but feel it was a bit clunky. The text interface was also too small for my tastes.
I don't think The Count approves.
Despite these limitations, the app itself only costs less than two dollars and there is a free version available so that your teammates can join the map room (but are unable to make changes of their own online). This translates into me highly recommending this item for any serious leader, commander or even coach! In fact, the ability to load your own custom map means that a football or basketball coach can load a picture of the court or field on their GamePlan, and call out plays to his players. Since I'm no coach, I thought about what kind of custom situations a strategy game nerd such as myself might come across to warrant the loading of a custom map. Some things I came up with included organizing a ?capture the flag? game by loading up a section of Google Maps; playing Dungeons and Dragons by loading the grid map for everyone without using the board; or, my personal favorite, taking pictures of board games to discuss strategy behind closed doors with a potential ally.
Even home-brewed Diplomacy could benefit from a little strategic planning.
In the end, although I am still awaiting the advent of epic touch-based strategy games, GamePlan represents a wonderful step forward by integrating the advantages of mobile technology and social media to enhance one's PC or console gaming across all platforms. It is not only a must have for any team captain, but even contains potential for other applications enjoyed by wargamers.
Review written by: James Tanaleon
About James Tanaleon
James Tanaleon grew up in the sunny suburban sprawl of Orange County, California and has had a long history of console and computer gaming thanks to his avid gaming father and his tech savvy friends. While receiving his education from both the University of California in Irvine and Franciscan University in Ohio?graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Western and World Literature?he never lost his enjoyment for games. During this time he also cultivated his knowledge in music, history, religion, and international studies. He currently works in Orange County as lead writer for the startup game company Diecast Studios LLC and produces freelance writing on the side. James once served as editor-in-chief of Paradox Interactive Forum's monthly magazine The AARlander, and has written over a thousand pages of after action reports in his preferred genres of grand strategy and RPG.
Forum username: Aristocrat