GDC 2009: Star Defense, Touch Pets Dogs, LiveFire

We’ve reported on all three of these upcoming ngmoco titles before, but last week, we actually had a chance to see them up at a producer-guided GDC demo. Impressions to follow!

Star Defense is ngmoco’s entry into the already-crowded tower defense genre, and it’s coming to us courtesy of Netherlands-based developer Rough Cookie. Mechanically, the game is pretty standard TD–you’re trying to protect interstellar ore depots from resource-hungry aliens, which adds up to placing towers to waste creeps. The turrets you have to work with aren’t really new either, from what we could see.

Here’s the twist (literally): the creeps come marching along the 3D surfaces of the game’s seven planets. Some are standard globes, but others come in more exotic configurations, like a hollow cube. Spinning the world around to get the full picture on your defenses is simple with multitouch. And the graphics are highly refined.

Star Defense has three difficulty levels, three upgrades per tower type, and ngmoco’s usual suite of achievements. It will be coming to the App Store “soon,” since it’s basically done, and is likely to cost somewhere in the $5-$7 range.

Touch Pets Dogs is still in an Alpha state, so we probably won’t see it in the App Store for another few months. It’s understandable, because this is a far more ambitious game than Star Defense.

As we’ve previously discussed, the digital pooches are under the sway of behavioral AI expert Andrew Stern, so they act and learn realistically. In order for your doggie to gain new skills, you have to train it by repeating tricks and activities. If you roll a ball around, the dog will chase after it; repeat, and he’ll eventually learn to balance on top of it.

This ties into the game’s mission structure, where your dog complete tasks to progress along one of five career tracks. For example, crime-fighting canines might be called to investigate vandalism at the pet store. This requires the dog to have built up its stats to a certain level, as well as special equipment like a flashlight. Completing missions unlocks access to new items and clothes, which feed right back into gameplay by unlocking new missions and boosting stats.

Finally, we learned a little more about Touch Pets Dogs multiplayer and social features. Friendly pooches are accessible via an in-game social network–complete with a Friends feed–that allows you to pluck a doggie off the Internet for an asynchronous play date, to satisfy your dog’s need for social time. In addition, certain career tracks like “superstar” or “politician” are heavily based on social missions, which are premised on relationships rather than stats.

Touch Pets Dogs features five breeds (Jack Russell Terriers, Westies, Labs, Dachshunds, and German Shepards), time of day awareness, support for multiple dogs, and over 100 in-game items. It’ll fall on the upper end of the price scale.

LiveFire is probably the game that everyone on this site wants to know the most about… but it’s also the least finished by far. It’s basically a tech demo at this stage, although the producer assured us that it would be out later this summer.

We weren’t able to go hands-on with LiveFire, but we did watch two players go head-to-head for a quick multiplayer matchup over WiFi; it appeared to work flawlessly. The game uses dual-stick controls like Dropship to move, strafe, and look; a quick jostle of the iPhone jumps, and double-tap fires.

The game’s frame rate was capped at 30 FPS for the purposes of the demo, but we were told that it can run much faster than that. We were also told that ngmoco’s run four-to-six player multiplayer matches over 3G with no issues.