Gaming on Apple Watch has been — and still is — an exercise in futility. Mostly, anyways.
And that’s because Apple, for whatever reason, doesn’t allow native animations to take place on the wearable. While watchOS 2 will feature video support, that’s not the same thing when it comes to video games, and developers will still be largely handcuffed to providing their visuals through GIF-style (or, presumably, MP4-style) pre-rendered, triggerable events. This makes games like Tamagotchi Classic a lot less intriguing on what would otherwise be the perfect platform for the genre, and it relegates the majority of what third parties are willing to attempt to text-driven adventures and second-screen inventory management and check-ins for iPhone games.
However, the clever team over at We Make Apps has put together Pitch Out, the best workaround I’ve seen yet. Better, it underscores a bright future for one-tap gaming on the platform should native animations ever make their way wristside. Excellent iPhone games like Glu‘s Tap Sports Football and Tap Sports Baseball 2015 demonstrate the possibility for deep and engaging RPG-style one-tap games — of all genres — for Apple Watch (provided they sync with your progress on the big screen). And Pitch Out is proving the merit of that idea in a big way.
The premise of Pitch Out is that of your basic home run derby. You are the batter, and the pitcher tosses a variety of junk your way. A four-bagger is a point, and an out is game over. Your long-ball streak is all that matters, and how many you can hit in a row is the sole purpose of the minigame. Your high score is saved, and there are no further statistics to worry about.
The intriguing implementation of the randomized pitches (which are, remember, pre-rendered GIFs generated in real-time on the iPhone end) is simply that the touch zone is accurate but challenging to successfully tap. I suspect coding it was even more challenging. Developer Damien Sutevski has this to say about that:
Timing is a HUGE issue with OS1, especially with animations, and is what took us the longest to figure out…
To that end, I asked Sutevski about future plans for Pitch Out once the company gets access to the internal sensors for Apple Watch via watchOS 2. He has a few interesting ideas, and he shared them with me via email:
Accelerometer/gyro – No plans for this, but we haven’t talked about it much. I’m quickly moving my arm to imagine doing it, and it feels like that would be too much. But, maybe just quickly rolling your wrist could do the trick – that feels natural and repeatable… OS2 should make timing way easier and would let us add the direction the ball flies after a hit as well as smaller time windows to get hits. …
A vibration for a hit would be sweet. And yeah, if we have enough control, perhaps a different vibration for a whiff or perfect hit. …
Changes that we are considering/planning…:
– 3 strikes before the game ends
– animating the ball after getting a hit
– maybe a screen shake after getting a hit
– mark on the screen where the ball needed to be hit vs. where we registered your hit
– Game Center achievements
These are excellent ideas that, despite watchOS 2’s lack of native animations, should to be doable within those limitations. I look forward to Pitch Out’s ability to set the standard for what an ultra-casual Apple Watch game ought to be, and if you want to make sure development gets there, you can help it along by purchasing the app. At $2.99, the price is a bit steep, but I consider it an investment in the future of Apple Watch gaming. These guys were smart enough to do some things bigger brands couldn’t, so they’ve got a bright future ahead.
And, by extension, so do we.