App of the Week: Real Racing 3

Developer: Firemonkeys

Compatible with: iPhone 4 and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod Touch 4th gen and up, iPad 2 and up, iPad Mini, Android devices

Requires: iOS 4.3 or later, Android 2.2 or later

Price: Free

Available here (for iOS) and here (for Android)

Nobody ever expects a gaming app to match their console counterparts in terms of looks and controls. Instead, mobile game developers have learned to focus on the benefits of the format and not the hindrances in order to craft brilliant titles separate, but equal to console games, and not dependent on graphics and the like.

“Real Racing 3” has a different approach. It says screw all that.

First the obvious. “Real Racing 3” is a beautiful game that truly offers console quality graphics, and doesn’t just use it as a tagline. From the cars to the courses, everything is immaculately designed and loses no wow factor even at high speeds. There’s still noteworthy competitors, but I truly believe this is the best looking gaming app yet. You’ll never stop being impressed with this game’s looks.


But there’s more than just looks to “Real Racing 3,” as its controls are as pristine as that shiny coat of graphical paint. Acceleration is handled automatically, tilting your phone takes care of turning (and actually works, though a touch option is available), and everything from traction control to braking can be computer assisted (the level of which it helps is adjustable). Overall control is nice and tight, and I never once had to question if a bad manuever was the game’s fault or my own (mostly because I suck).

Furthermore the game’s AI is very, very impressive, and is aided by a new multiplayer concept called Time Shifted Multiplayer, which fills each race with AI versions of your friends and other racers around the world while online, meaning you can essentially still race your friends even offline as they can create ghosts of their laps that imitate their habits. However you choose your opponents though, the competition is fierce and fair.

Put all those features together, and the one limit that mobile gaming supposedly had (that it couldn’t match consoles in certain aspects), seemingly no longer applies, meaning that in all technical regards, “Real Racing 3” is the most notable gaming app in some time.

Otherwise, you’ve got your basic, though well executed, realistic racing game. There is a variety of races and challenges (900 events altogether), a nice selection of 40+ cars, real life racetracks, and in general enough to keep you busy for some time trying to beat and see everything available, and even more time afterwards trying to best your efforts.

The only other notable aspect is the freemium model of the game, as “Real Racing 3” is free, but for a price.

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Like many other gaming apps, in-app purchases are available and highly pushed by the design. See the currency in “Real Racing 3” is handled by both funds and coins. Funds are used for buying parts, cars, and the usual and are earned through career progression, while coins are used for other enhancements and are earned by leveling up. Where the dark side of this design emerges in the repair and maintenance system, as you’ll be constantly repairing and maintaining your car’s basic features such as the engine, tires, and oil and using funds to do it. However, it can take several minutes (or even near an hour for multiple repairs) for the work to be done during which time the car is unusable.

This is where coins come in. For a few coins you can make the repair and tuning process instantaneous. The same applies to buying new cars and the like, as purchasing them still requires a waiting period before they can be used, which coins eliminate. The trouble is coins are hard to come by, and you’ll never have an abundance of them to keep up with the need. Instead you are encouraged to buy coins, or cars and upgrades alltogether, with real money to eliminate the tedium.

It’s not the worst pay model I’ve ever seen, but it’s pretty bad. Every non-racing activity is a grind, and it takes forever to complete or unlock even the basics, much less the high end stuff due to how money and time is used. You can buy more coins through in-app purchases if you’re desperate, but you can never eliminate the waiting feature, and I really wish that wasn’t the case as it is a huge detriment to the game. Patience is a necessity, and not a virtue, to get the most out of “Real Racing 3.”

While I sometimes wish then that the game cost a few dollars to eliminate that nuisance, the fact it is free means you can, and should,  at least try it. Remove the freemium system, you are left with the gold standard of pure racing games for mobile devices, and a benchmark to the capabilities of the medium as a whole, as well as a game that leaves all other competitors at the starting line, and takes home the trophy for app of the week.


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SOPA inspires widespread web activism


I’ve been hesitating to write about SOPA for a few reasons, but mainly for the fact that there are a number of far more knowledgeable individuals writing about the topic. I knew I had something though when web users started targeting companies that support the SOPA bill. The most recent wave of companies to renounce their SOPA ties include Sony, Nintendo, and Electronic Arts. The movement didn’t start there, though. It started on Reddit as a force against GoDaddy, the popular domain name registrar. The social content site didn’t stop there, though. They’re also going after legislators who favor the bill, like Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan.

We’ve seen focused activism from the internet before, but never quite on this scale. In just a couple of days GoDaddy lost more than 40,000 domains and, although hard statistics are tough to nail down, something to the tune of $500,000. That’s not exactly small money. Then again, roughly the same number of people registered new domains in the same time frame, so it’s difficult to say just how much of an effect the movement will have on the domain registrar.

It is having an impact on the SOPA bill and the bill’s supporters, though, as evidenced by the aforementioned media companies’ stance change and the impact on Paul Ryan’s campaign. That’s not to say web activism is without its flaws. In another recent news story, Redditors rallied against Ocean Marketing’s Paul Christoforo, who horribly mismanaged one customer relationship over email. Unfortuntely the company that hired Christoforo for marketing was caught in the crossfire and took a lot of negative press on Amazon and other review sites.

I find this type of mistargeted web activism just as disconcerting as I find the SOPA activism heartening. SOPA is a terrible idea, supported for the most part by people who don’t understand the way the internet works today. But so much of the experience on sites like Reddit revolves around feeling like a part of the collective “we” that people often get caught up in the movement without considering where the gun is being pointed.

Lamar Smith

I do, however, find it difficult to hold activist groups to such a high standard without doing the same with the politicians crafting this legislation. Lamar Smith, who wrote the SOPA bill, said the following about Reddit:

“It’s a vocal minority. Because they’re strident doesn’t mean they’re either legitimate or large in number. One, they need to read the language. Show me the language. There’s nothing they can point to that does what they say it does do. I think their fears are unfounded.” A simple look at the GoDaddy numbers could show anyone just how legitimate a force sites like Reddit can be, to say nothing of the fact that Smith clearly doesn’t understand how vague language in a bill like SOPA can affect its interpretation down the road.