AUSTRALIA Flight Control (Firemint)
What do the Superbowl, London Marathon, Melbourne Cup, and Le Mans 24 Hour have in common? None of these annual sporting showpieces could come close to the main event tonight. This, my friends, was the Pocket Gamer iPhone Game Developers World Championship 2010 Grand Final.
After 30 days of gruelling, engrossing, and exhilarating action here in Bath and London, England, the 64th and final match of the tournament was upon us.
The pitch at iStadium was in perfect condition, reminiscent of The Crucible’s green baize. The floodlights had been checked. And re-checked. The jumbo screen replayed highlights from both of the participating finalists’ Route to the Final.
A fervent atmosphere had been building inside the great arena from an hour before kick-off. At 7.20pm, when the teams of the USA and Australia emerged from the tunnel to the spine-tingling, and now familiar, strains of the iGDWC theme, the volcano erupted.
Flashbulbs popped, vuvuzelas parped, electricity surged – the stage was set.
Much had been written in the print and online media about Flight Control and Doodle Jump’s position in the App Store’s pantheon of greats in the run-up to tonight’s titanic tussle. None of this was hyperbole.
Put simply, here were two of the platform’s poster boys, the pin-ups of the iOS gaming revolution. If neither of these titles had touched you, or indeed vice-versa, then you probably owned a Nokia 5800. Or worse.
Of course neither was a new face at these championships.
Lima Sky’s Doodle the Doodler had undergone the busier programme, having represented the Yanks on no less than three occasions, including the historic semi final clash with another icon of the app world, Finland’s Angry Birds.
Firemint’s genre-defining Flight Control had contested two ties for Team Australia, yet, like Doodle Jump, remained unbeaten. Both of the line-drawing sensation’s outings had ended in draws, but its relative freshness should certainly play a part.
The match officials for this prestigious occasion were from England, which explained the special instructions on the back of the yellow card.
Kick Off: 7.30pm, 11th July
The critical view: In front of the iPhone app glitterati – developers, producers, publishers, marketers, reviewers – Flight Control, playing from left to right, kicked things off at 7.30pm precisely. The game was on and the critics' typing fingers were poised above their overheating iPads.
And they remained poised for sometime. Rather unsurprisingly, the significance and weight of proceedings inhibited most of the early going in what was a decidedly cagey affair. Neither sides’ much-vaunted straightforward and accessible gameplay could gain the upper hand.
Flight Control’s talismanic winger was particularly starved of possession in the opening quarter of an hour. Lima Sky’s management had sketched out a cunning plan 20 minutes before kick-off to stifle Australia’s flying machine down the left, using a series of hastily-drawn moving platforms.
As we reached the half way point of the opening 45, the match was desperately crying out for a major talking point to ignite proceedings: Doodle the Doodler duly obliged.
Bouncing off a high tackle 40 yards from goal, the four-legged frontman sprang forward at warpspeed before unleashing a rocket of a shot into the top right corner.
1-0! That had brought the game to life, all right!
Realising that his team’s approach had been too predictable hitherto, the Aussie coach signalled from his control tower above the dugout for a change.
A replacement flyer crept stealthily over to the right wing, exchanging furtive glances with his ageing chopper of a captain along the midfield runway.
It didn’t take long for the sly substitute to make an impact, a rocky landing and free kick the result of a dangerous lunge on the covert threat by Doodle Jump’s overworked full-back.
All ten of Flight Control’s outfield aircraft immediately surrounded the ref, appealing for further punishment. Unseemly scenes, for certain, but a yellow card, published immediately on the US’ Facebook and Twitter profiles, was the net result.
In the Australian deadball specialist’s mind, the trajectory and speed of the perfect strike was traced out in slow motion. Pause for one second to test the wind, then fast forward 12 more to watch the Yankee goalie plucking the ball out of his net.
1-1, then, and the Antipodean attackers were applying the afterburners at every opportunity, looking to play on the shoulder of the last defender and demonstrating their aerial prowess at will.
Doodle Jump’s normally impregnable midfield platform had been knocked down three times in as many minutes, as their usually dependable attacking boards literally crumbled beneath their feet.
Flight Control was certainly proving the greatest obstacle to the US’ success to date and drastic action was needed. In trying to disrupt the (air)flow of Australia’s menacing play, the Americans’ marketing guru proudly waved the title’s Silver Award and Apple Design Award along the touchline.
Right on cue, his counterpart sprinted past, brandishing his own Silver trinket and PG 2010 iPhone Game of the Year trophy.
It was too late to disrupt Lima Sky's charges, though, who'd reacted almost immediately. Doodle the Doodler leapt prodigiously at the back stick to convert the side’s very first corner of the match.
Yet again, the Australian players were behind. With tremendous fortitude, though, and almost directly from the restart, a sublime piece of multiplayer movement - incorporating local wi-fi and Bluetooth – helped create a scoring chance for the jumbo centre back.
The Boeing 747 found himself one-on-one with the netminder, but he didn't get a nosebleed. Instead it was the 'keeper who snapped first: committing himself too early and presenting a comparatively easy chance for the big fella to power in and land an equaliser, the goalie had to endure an elaborate, celebratory flypast.
Two goals apiece, then, at the break. All to play for in the second half. Not a prawn sandwich in sight (even on the 747's upperdeck).
Half time: Australia 2 – 2 USA
The Fans’ 45: The United States' incredible support in the semis had overwhelmed the most cynical hacks in attendance that evening and, for that matter, their opponents.
If anything, the number of American faces in the iStadium tonight surpassed even that monumental total. Uncle Sam adorned banners, flags, and hats in every corner of the arena and at one point there was even a brave attempt at a vuvuzela version of the Star Spangled Banner.
Amidst this pressure cooker atmosphere, any team would have struggled and, for once, the Socceroos were no exception. Australia's finest were buckling. Flight Control had assumed confidently that it could rely on over two million supporters in Perth, Darwin, Canberra, and Sydney.
Unfortunately for Dame Edna and Tim Cahill's compatriots out there on the park, a long-running dispute over television rights to the Developers World Championship had reached an impasse among the Oz networks, leaving the game in satellite limbo and off-air.
Without the vociferous backing of the larikins back home, Firemint's finest faced a turbulent final 30 minutes.
Things were hardly helped by Doodle Jump's half time substitution, which had brought special football-themed levels and introduced a completely new playing style.
Australia's single-map updates on 72 minutes simply couldn't withstand the onslaught from the American elite. Showing neat-analog control, Uncle Sam's favourite son and tormenter-in-chief, Doodle the Doodler, sprang the offside trap and released a howitzer for his hat trick.
Devastated, the Oceanian opposition could regain neither its composure, nor the ball as Lima Sky's lithe lads ran them ragged. A fourth strike was quickly added from a free-kick that seemed to have been sucked in by the considerably overcapacity crowd that still seemed to be piling in.
If the Aussies own overrun fans had any hope of yet another miraculous comeback, it was well and truly snuffed out with five minutes left on the clock. Doodle Jump applied the coup de grâce, sending its partisan partiers into further delirium.
Doodle the Doodler turned creator this time, showing off a host of sublime little touches before supplying a killer through ball for his partner-in-goalscoring-crime to angle home a half-volley.
5-2 and the pundits were eagerly checking their own high score tables and superlatives' drawer. For Firemint's boys there would be no chance of 'just one more go' this time.
With the match over as a contest and the officials potentially fearing for the crowd's safety (the iStadia was creaking under the weight of the astonishing massed ranks of US support), the whistle blew without any recourse to added-time.
The pitch was transformed into a sea of red, white, and blue as the fans surrounded their heroic apps on the pitch and lifted them aloft amid chants of 'U-S-A, U-S-A' - even the most ardent cries of 'Advance Australia Fair' were comprehensively drowned out.
Indeed, it took literally twenty minutes before order could be restored, so that the two sides could ascend to the Royal Box and accept their trophies.
The Australians climbed the 52 stairs first, where, in the absence of their own monarchy, the three squad members received their runner-up medals and condolences from the princess of pop, Kylie, who'd just popped over from the iTunes Store. To their credit, the Firemint and Halfbrick boys accepted their silver gongs with good grace and Flight Control, Real Racing, and Fruit Ninja were afforded a generous round of applause from the fans.
Suffice to say, the volume went up to 11 moments later when Venan, Trick Software and Lima Sky joined their charges Spore Origins, Space Miner: Space Ore Bust, and, of course, Doodle Jump to collect the iGDWC trophy from an even more famous dignatory. Possibly the most powerful figure in the world right now, in fact.
Yes, that's right, the reigning Queen of the iTunes Music Store, none other than the lovely Lady Gaga was on hand to pass over the winners' medals. Dressed in a not-quite-all-there black and silver number, apparently created by Jonathan Ive using components from left over iDevices and featuring just a hi-res screensaver of Steve Jobs to preserve her modesty, the sexy starlet offered keen-eyed supporters a quick flash of her own Doodle as she handed the trophy to the US captain.
Digital champagne corks were popped, virtual Vuvuzelas deleted, and ticker-tape hewn from a million iPhone 4 sales receipts filled the air as the team celebrated a phenomenal victory which they dedicated to their adoring fans.
Commiserations then to Firemint, Flight Control and the Australian team, but huge congratulations to Doodle Jump, Lima Sky, and Team USA - you are the first iPhone Game Developer World Champions and can now be recognised as creators of the most beautiful games!
Full time: Australia 2 – 5 USA
USA are the iPhone Game Developer World Champions 2010QUICK LINKS: Final Group Tables - Fixtures & Voting - Squads - Match Reports - News & Round Ups - IGDWC Home
Confused? Click here to go to the iPhone Game Developers World Championship info page.