Second-screen experiences are all the rage these days: on TV, each show lets you know which hashtag to use. Movies are getting in on it too, like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 asking you to use Shazam during the credits to find Sinister Six teasers. And of course, Nintendo literally gave us a second screen with the WiiU. Whether any of these are successful is another matter. The latest app to debut is the Titanfall (iOS/Android/WP8), a companion to the Xbox One version of the game. It was released Friday and has, for some reason, a file size of 600-700 MB depending on the platform. I’ve been playing Titanfall with the app running on an iPhone 5S since its release, and I have some thoughts.
When not playing Titanfall, the app serves as a mini-encyclopedia; detailing levels, weapons, game modes, and controls. It also includes information on the game’s in-world history, but let’s be honest; Titanfall is neither known nor loved for its backstory. There’s also a section with advanced tips which might help newer and casual players. There are definitely some good tips there, and every player should at least give them a glance. But after doing it once, there’s no need to revisit that section.
Another function which is always available is stats. You can see your last game’s summary, your overall stats and challenges, which is good to have, but I wonder if players are so hardcore that they want to check them when not playing Titanfall.
So how does the app work while playing the game itself? It works okay, with some reservations. The map is laggy, with around a half-second delay (I’ll talk a little bit more about this later). It also gives you the option to display/not display the players’ gamertag, and to lock the map to follow your character. I also appreciate the flourishes in the app’s design, like a boot-up screen appearing when you board your titan, with the IMC or militia logo depending on your side. When not on your titan, the app changes its HUD slightly, appearing as a screen on your character’s arm.
So while technically it’s a good app overall, the half-second lag on the map is a death knell for a game as fast-paced as Titanfall. And that’s without the fact that you would have to stop watching the screen to look at your phone, which can and will mean death. This might depend on the person, but the difference in scale between the app’s map, the on-screen minimap, and my own movement was disorienting on the times I did look at my phone.
I simply stopped looking down at the app, as the information was neither timely nor useful. Even at the end of the match, the score screen was bigger and easier to navigate on my TV than on my phone. So while the app does exactly what it’s supposed to, and does it well, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be useful for many people. And that goes for other second-screen experiences too. First-person shooters aren’t ideal for these apps, even if they’re one of the most popular genres and thus can afford them. If developers want players to actually use their phone while gaming to enhance their enjoyment, they should look for other solutions. Menus in RPGs aren’t particularly well regarded; if I had an app to easily manage my inventory with a flick of my finger I’d be more likely to use it.
But that’s my take. What do you think about second-screen apps and experiences? Let us know below in the comments.
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