Beware the Banjax is out now!
Bringing split-screen 2-player gaming to the App Store
Salt Pig’s first release, Beware the Banjax, is now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, iPad Pro, and iPod Touch.
It is very loosely inspired by tank arena-based battlers such as Tank Trouble, but adds a couple of twists. The first is that it’s in 3D, and offers a few different points-of-view. In addition to the traditional overhead view, there is also a 3rd-person “over-the-shoulder” view, and an FPS-style first-person perspective. The second is the split-screen 2-player mode.
Implementing these views wasn’t just a matter of putting the camera in a different position. I found that the controls and handling needed to be subtly tweaked. So the tank turret moves slightly slower in first-person mode than it does in the overhead view—keeping it at the same speed for both views just felt too fast with the wider angle field-of-view that the first-person perpective adds.
The first-person perspective to an extent makes the game feel less tactical, and more like a shoot-‘em-up actioner. The choice of game mode makes for a very different experience. Originally, I’d planned to just offer the 3rd-person perspective. I decided to add the other viewpoints after demo-ing the game at the Mobile and Games Dev Meetup in Stoke Newington, London. The feedback from the people playing the game was fairly diverse in terms of what they wanted to see, so I decided that one-size-fits-all was not the approach to take.
I used to love playing split-screen 2-player games when I was a kid, but in the era of fast peer-to-peer and network connections, split-screen isn’t a mechanic you see very often on mobile
The most unusual part of the game is perhaps the split-screen 2-player mode. In the screenshots and videos above, it perhaps looks a little unusual, with player 2 displaying “upside-down”. Of course when two people are holding opposite ends of a mobile device, each side seems the right way up. I used to love playing split-screen 2-player games when I was a kid, but in the era of fast peer-to-peer and network connections, split-screen isn’t a mechanic you see very often with multi-player mobile games (if you know of any other split-screen mobile games, please drop a comment below). I think this is a shame, because remote multiplayer just doesn’t feel as intimate as sharing a device and a screen with another person. You see a lot of 8-bit/ 16-bit style in contemporary games (chip tunes & pixel art), but some of these old game mechanics have fallen by the wayside a little.
Touch and tactility
Some might argue that there are good reasons why split-screen isn’t seen much in mobile gaming. Gyroscopes and device-orientation present one such challenge. Banjax only supports landscape-left and (on iPads) portrait-up, to prevent the orientation flipping around in the middle of a heated 2-player match.
Then there is the matter of screen size. On 4-inch phones the split-screen 2-player mode is undoubtedly a little “cramped” (or, if you’re a glass-is-half-full type, “cosy”); you’d probably want to know the person you’re playing with quite well if you’re sharing your most personal device with them, and trust that their fingers won’t stray on to your side of the display, “banjaxing” your game. iPads however are more than big enough for split-screen. Even with this extra screen real-estate, it’s definitely a much more tactile 2-player experience than connecting via a remote server. Just remember that I’m not responsible if you drop your device ;-)