10 ideas for Apple Watch game Glances

How fast-firing Watch notifications could boost your iPhone game

10 ideas for Apple Watch game Glances

Apple would be the first to admit that the small, wrist-mounted screen of the Apple Watch isn’t intended as a replacement for the smartphone in your pocket.

It’s an extension of your personal digital network, and aims to add additional convenience to your app-centric lifestyle.

So an Apple Watch game or application is, as Apple puts it, “a trimmed down version of its containing iOS app”.

Not just a small version of whatever’s on the iPhone’s screen, but a reduced version; a small window into the bigger world of the type of games we’re already playing.

Which begs the question as to whether you should, or even want, to create a deliberately lesser experience.

Rethink your interaction

But all is not lost for those game developers who want to incorporate the Apple Watch into their ecosystem of supported devices.

The Glance function could be your saviour, despite the fact that Apple further shrinks things down by saying “a Glance is a trimmed down version of your [Apple Watch] app”.

One screen is all you get to deliver your message.

But that might not necessarily be the case.

A Glance could reasonably be described as a “rich notification”.

It doesn’t have to simply be as minimal as red badge on an icon, or as sparse as a short line of text.

It can be an image, an animation, content from within your game, or any combination of these, although it’s worth keeping in mind that a Glance cannot scroll.

One screen is all you get to deliver your message.

The new device battleground

Naturally you don’t want a wall of text, or imagery that’s too small to make out during a quick eyeballing of the watch face, but it could become the perfect way to turn the Apple Watch into the wearable companion your game needs.

So here are a few thoughts on how you might incorporate a Glance into your game.

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  • 1 Strategic events

    Strategy games take many forms, not least  real-time and turn-based. But what’s integral to all types is that strategic gameplay takes consideration; no button mashing here.

    So it’s not unlikely that your new strategy game is going to give players time to think, and not all of that time is going to be spent staring at the iPhone’s screen.

    By incorporating Glances into the mix, notifications could become a great way to keep people active within the game, but only when their interaction is essential.

    And it needn’t be text.

    By establishing your own set of icons that convey actions like coming under attack, or losing territory, a momentary look at the Apple Watch’s screen will let your players know exactly what’s happening, and what they need to do next in their favourite new strategy game.

  • 2 Persistent worlds

    More and more persistent worlds are springing up within the smartphone gaming market. These are in-game locations that continue to operate - with building upgrading and gold being mined - even when we’re not personally taking a role in their growth or operation.

    Players can’t actively watch these worlds all the time, whether they’re growing fruit or directing a battle, and knowing that things might fall apart the moment you turn the iPhone off can disrupt a game’s enjoyment significantly.

    Of course, you can’t send a Glance for everything that goes on within a persistent world, but perhaps your players could choose which notifications they want to receive to ensure their current efforts don’t go to waste, unanswered.

  • 3 Fitness fun

    Combining fitness and exercise with a game has been achieved before now (Zombies, Run! being the go-to example for this niche genre), but it’s not a simple task.

    For one thing, biometric data seems to be an essential component, otherwise how are your exercise routines and the game connected to each other? And although newer models of the iPhone can measure your heart rate, it’s not practical in the midst of a vigorous workout.

    Neither is it practical to take out the smartphone and read the screen while out running, but a quick look at a watch face is no problem. So incorporating in-game events with the Apple Watch seems very achievable.

    Glances work to inform the player of progress, milestones and events, while the sensors within the wearable provide real-time data that can drive the game’s mechanics.

    Turning the Apple Watch into a smart fitness band seems like an exciting avenue for active gaming.

  • 4 Two-player puzzles

    Words With Friends. Chess With Friends. Everything “with friends” seems to work well on the smartphone and tablet platforms.

    There’s something immensely engaging in taking your time to come up with the perfect move in a joint game, before sending it off to baffle and amuse your real-life opponent in an asynchronous battle of wits.

    Being the one who’s waiting to receive the next move is less engaging, however. The wait often feels too long, and when a response does arrive, you can be sure it won’t be at an opportune moment. Glances to the rescue.

    Even though players may not respond right away, a Glance could let them know what’s been played, be it a word, a chess move or any other personal interaction.

    It would give them an opportunity to ponder what’s going on, without the need to do anything besides a quick check of the time. Chances are that by the time they’ve taken out the iPhone and loaded the app, they already have a good idea about their response.

  • 5 Turn-based beacons

    Although turn-based games mostly fall under the strategy banner, which we’ve already considered, this isn’t necessarily always the case. Even fighting games are finding ways to add a turn-based twist, and where turns are being batted back and forth, Glances need never be far behind.

    Whether it’s time for the Apple Watch user to take their turn, or the CPU opponent, or a real-life players have made a move against you, a well-designed Glance could keep people up to speed at all times, even if they aren’t in a position to start playing. A daily base status report would be a good example.  

    The challenge here is crafting a Glance that tells a tale without a ream of text.

    That’s not to say it can’t he headlined - “Destroyed”, “Under Attack,” “Level Up” - but the number of possibilities aren’t small, even in a simple turn-based game. Yet this would be a powerful way to keep people engaged between turns.

  • 6 Locational love

    Location-based gaming is often combined with massively online multiplayers, persistent worlds and augmented reality, but all hinge on players either having their iPhone in their hand, or taking it out to check a notification when they come into range of a virtual item, or another player, within the real world.

    A game like Google's LBG Ingress would benefit hugely from firing off a Glance when players are looking for a node, or even happen to pass by one at random. Although the Glance functions as a single button, and doesn’t allow for more taps or any menus, a well-designed locational game could make use of that single tap as a gaming event.

    The image of a quick-draw game springs to mind here as two players, unknown to each other, pass in a busy street.

    Who can raise their Apple Watch and tap the screen fastest when a “Draw!” icon appears on both your wrists? Or maybe you’re targeting someone for later, or stealing from them, or even healing them as they mingle unseen within the same crowd.

  • 7 Time to play

    Notifications, and now Glances, are generally viewed as being the game’s elbow in the player’s ribs. But maybe your game could put the power of the Glance into the user’s hands, instead of the other way around?

    A lot of people sit at a desk all day, and few of us ever get around to taking those essential five minute breaks that actually improve attention, creativity and productivity. We just sit there for hours on end, until our eyelids feel like sandpaper and our fingertips are bleeding.

    But maybe setting a Glance from a favourite game to appear on the Apple Watch in, say, two hours, would provide motivation to take a break and play a quick level.

    This means offering players a way to allocate their own reminders within the settings, rather than games deciding when it’s time to put out a Glance, but it would still keep people playing and would allow them to do it on their terms.

    It could also be a great way to instill a strong sense of recreation whenever they load up your app, as it’s become a primary method of breaking away from work.

  • 8 Provisioned

    A common mechanic within free-to-play is making players wait for resources to become available, or for items to be upgraded. IAPs are often offered as a method of buying your way around such time limits, but these delays could also be employed as a call-to-action for Apple Watch-equipped players.

    A Glace can let them know the moment their provisions are ready, and get them back into the game if they’ve forgotten about actions they set in motion hours, if not days, ago.

    An game could easily go ignored throughout someone’s working hours, even though resources might be ready in plenty of time for their lunch break.

    Letting players know that their upgrades, items and new resources are ready and waiting via a quick and efficient game Glance could get them right back into the action much sooner. And the more they play, the better your chances of monetising your game.

  • 9 Back chat

    Implementing a chat system within an online multiplayer game isn’t the monumental task it used to be, thanks to a lot of social systems offering the service out of the box.

    And there’s a strong argument for including one in any game that plays heavily on the social angle.

    As with so many smartphone functions, any messages sent outside of direct interaction aren’t going to be seen until the iPhone is in someone’s hand. With game Glances, those messages could become a lot more visible, whether it’s a direct communication, a Tweet from someone within the Watch owner’s in-game network, or an automated response to a challenge or on-going game.

    Tapping the Glance could even be used as a way to mark the message as read, so the sender knows that a response is imminent.

  • 10 MMO on the move

    Some of the earliest MMOs to appear on the iPhone, such as Mafia Wars, are simple but involving games that haven’t waned in popularity, even if their gameplay has evolved along with the hardware.

    But every time you loaded up the game there’d invariably be a host of actions that needed dealing with, having piled up while you were at work, or otherwise preoccupied.

    The more established you became within the game, the greater the pile of issues you had to deal with. After a while, these tasks could become enough of a chore to spoil the experience.

    Sending a Glance for each and every one of the events within an iPhone MMO would likely be seen as wrist spam, rather than useful notifications, so control would have to be given over fully to the player. But delivering only the messages they view as being essential - such as being attacked, or accepted into a guild, or unlocking an item they’ve been waiting for - could add an immersive element to any MMO.

    Players could quickly appreciate how the game world is a living thing via its Glances, and that they exist, to some small degree, within that world now they have a convenient and direct window to its events.

Yes. Spanner's his real name. And, yes, he's heard that joke before.