Game Center: First Impressions

My quarry is near, I see him on my radar, but I’m low on ordinance. Do I swoop down, grab some guided missiles, and hope the the trees will give enough cover to survive my enemy’s barrage, or do I double back and empty my clip on him?


If you’ve got an iPhone that’s been updated to iOS 4.1 then you have access to Game Center, Apple’s new gaming service where players can find matches, post scores to leaderboards, and get ranked according to his or her skills in a particular game.

Using Game Center is pretty easy; click on the app, sign into with your iTunes account (also referred to as your Apple ID), give yourself a game name, and validate your email address. And that’s it. You can ask other people to “… be my friend,” and an email invitation is sent to your potential friend. The words in the invitation are pretty silly, and, luckily, can be easily overwritten.

Once you’ve registered you can get out of Game Center altogether, it doesn’t have to be running to use its features, those appear in every Game Center compatible game.

For instance, when I opened Nanosaur II for the first time after downloading the Game Center updated version a window pops up stating that the game is Game Center ready. Another window display briefly, welcoming me back to Game Center. I assume that by running a GC aware game I’m automagically connected to GC. The game is also registered in GC as one that I own.

From there is gets pretty easy. I go into the multiplayer mode of whatever game I’m playing and I can choose GC aware options and start a game. I can invite a particular player from amongst my friends or let the system add other players.

Game Center Welcome in game

I like the simplicity of this system, but it doesn’t always work. About a third of the time players could not connect, and had to quit and relaunch the game before it could be played. I’ve only tried this with a few games from one company, but the problem was the same no matter which game I tried to played. Hopefully, Apple will be able to iron out these issues fairly fast.

Game Center First Use Alert

Ready to play in Game Center gather


Once in the game, however, things are great. I noticed no lag, and the gameplay was responsive.  

There’s chatting while that match is played, thanks to GC. The voice clarity wasn’t that good, but it was good enough to hear my opponent scream in anguish as his pterodactyl crashed and burned.

Game Center is like a newborn colt, all wobbly legs and prone to falls, but it doesn’t take a lot of horse sense to see that it has great potential.

I decide to go for the missiles. Just one of those bad boys would knock my opponent right out of the sky. I dive just as a volley of weapon’s fire light up the sky above me. I’m coming in hot on the target, I’m hoping that speed will make up  for the lack of adequate cover. I see the power up, and line my reptile for the scoop. Then the air around me bursts into flames, and I crash and burn.

In my headsets I hear my opponent chuckle. “Wrong choice,” he says, and laughs some more.