With iOS 4.1, Apple released a completely new social gaming platform for the iPhone, iPod touch and in November, the iPad called Game Center. Game Center is the mobile equivalent of Nintendo’s Wii Network Play, Xbox Live, or Playstation Network. When you download games that have been designed to support Game Center, you can interact with leaderboards, special per-game achievements, and even multiplayer support complete with VoIP.
What Games Support Game Center?
Because Game Center just launched, finding games that have support for Game Center is pretty spotty at this point. There are more games being added every day, and we’re sure that Apple is hard at work approving as many games as fast as they can.
In the meantime, you can check the list of Game Center game features that we’ve compiled. For the latest releases, you can check Apple’s Game Center listing on iTunes.
Creating a Game Center Account
In order to take advantage of all the goodness Game Center has to offer, you’ll need to create an account. You can use the Apple ID you may already have, but you’ll need to add more information to your account, including a Game Center username.
When you first launch the Game Center application, you’ll be prompted to either sign in using your existing Apple ID, or create a new one. We’ll choose to create a new one.
First you’ll be asked for your location. Select your country, then tap next in the top-right corner.
Add your date of birth.This is probably used to keep the kids away from any zombie hunting games with copious amounts of gore.
The Game Center agreement is long, seven pages long, either call up your lawyer, brew yourself some coffee for a long read or tap the Agree button at the bottom of the page.
Next in the account setup is to type in your full name, email address, password, and a secret question and answer. You’ll also be given an option at the bottom of the screen to be emailed about new Apple announcements. When you’re finished giving Apple more personal information, tap next.
Finally, on the last screen, you’ll be asked for your Game Center nickname. This will be the name your friends will see when they request to be your friend, or when they play you in games. If you want to get the most from Game Center, make sure Allow Game Invites is switched to ON. This will send you an alert anytime someone requests to be your friend or wants to play a game in Game Center.
The last option will allow you to specify email accounts that friends can use to find you by. You can turn this off if you don’t want to use it. You can also come back to this option later if you don’t want to add email address right now.
After you click next, you’ll have created your very own Game Center account. You will automatically be logged in and presented with your “Me” screen.
The “Me” Screen
The Me screen is the central part of Game Center. It gives you a quick overview of how many friends you have, how many Game Center-compatible games you have played, and how many achievements you’ve earned. In addition, you can set your current status. This is a message that will be displayed for all of your friends to see. It may be the current game you’re playing, whether or not you have time to play a game, or what you ate for dinner.
NEXT>> Managing Friends
Sending Friend Requests
If you don’t have any Game Center friends yet, you can add them by going to the Friends tab of Game Center and tap the plus button in the top-right of the screen. This will open a new screen that will allow you to type in your friends username or email address.
Tapping the blue plus button in the top right-hand corner will allow you to select a contact from your iPhone or iPod touch contact list. You can add multiple friends to this and each of them will receive a friend request. Below the To field you have the ability to type in a message to your friend. It is best to add a personal message here instead of the default "I'd like you to be my friend."
Accepting Friend Requests
When someone sends you a friend request, you’ll receive an alert almost instantly. The alert will include your gamer name, the message you typed in the invite, and the ability for the recipient to either accept or ignore the request.
If you don’t want to accept an invite at the time you get an alert, you can tap close. The next time you visit Game Center and tap the Requests tab, you’ll be able to view view and accept (or ignore) your friend requests.
The Friends List
When you tap on the Friends tab in Game Center, you will be able to view all of your friends. When someone accepts your friend request, they will be placed in this section, allowing for quick access to see their status message, and the games they played today. Pull down on the list and a Search box appears at the top. This is the best way to find your friends since your friends list isn't in alphabetical order.
When you tap on a gamer name, you’ll be presented with their Me screen, allowing you to see how many friends they have, how many games they have, and how many achievements they’ve received. If you both have the same game, you can check out their achievements.
When you tap on a game you and your friend own you can comapre their leaderboard and achievements against your own for that particular game. From this leaderboard comparison screen you can launch the game from within Game Center by clicking the Play button in the top-right corner.
If you don’t have the same games, you’ll be able to see the games they have, along with the price of the game. Tapping on a game you don’t have will take you to the App Store where you’ll be able to purchase or download the game.
Is one of your “friends” spamming you with game play requests? You can easily solve that problem by unfriending someone from Game Center. To do this, head to the Friends List and tap the person you no longer want to be connected to. Scroll to the bottom of their Me card, then tap Unfriend.
A popup will appear with two simple options. Remove, Don't Remove. Adios Spammer.
With Game Center, the game list is where all the action happens. This screen will show you all of the games you have installed that are Game Center compatible. In addition, you can see your ranking and achievements for each game. If you're interested in seeing all the games available in Game Center, Apple finally updated Find Game Center Games to launch the App Store.
When you tap on an individual game, you’ll get more information like Leaderboards, Achievements, and Recently Played.
Recently Played shows you which if your friends has recently played the selected game and how long ago they played it.
Leaderboards shows your rank among your friends and your ranking among all players. If the game supports Multiplayer, you will have two Leaderboards, one for the single player game (called Main) and one for the multi-player mode (called Multiplayer Scores). Leaderboards can be sorted by Today, This Week, and All Time.
Achievements shows specific in-game achievements that you can earn for a particular game. You can also gain points by completing different achievements, but this is defined on a per game basis. At the top of the achievements screen for a particular game you will be able to see how many points you’ve gained.
Games that support multi-player modes is really where you will see the Game Center shine. Developers can include VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) audio chatting in multi-player matches that can make the game experience feel more like Xbox Live than a mobile device.
Inviting Someone to a Multiplayer Match
To invite someone to a multi-player match, both players must have the same game installed on their iOS devices. Once you open the game and attempt to start a new multiplayer Game Center match, you will be presented with a screen with various match options.
Different games will allow you to have a different number of players, our particular game let us choose 2 players. By default Game Center will select the Auto-Match option that will pick any player at random, but if you wish to play someone in your friends list, tap the small Invite Friend button to the right of each available slot.
When you choose to invite a specific friend off your friends list, you will first need to choose the gamer name from the list of names in your friends list, then type a quick message to them. When you are done, click the Send button. An invite will be sent to the player.
You will then be returned to the multiplayer game settings where you can choose another friend by selecting the Add Player button, or remove a friend by tapping Uninvite next to the player you no longer wish to play with. When the player accepts your friend request, you will receive a notification in the player slot and you can begin the game by selecting the Play Now button.
Depending on the game you are currently playing, you may be able to do in-game VoIP. This allows you to talk with your opponent in real time, and because the audio is being transmitted over the Internet, you will not be using your cellular minutes, and the audio could sound crystal clear (depending on your Internet connection). Refer to the App Store page of the game you’re playing to see if this feature is supported as not all games do.
Checking Recent Multiplayer Scores
You can keep track of the last time you played a multiplayer game against a friend by opening Game Center, clicking on Games and navigating to the game you recently played. After tapping on the game, tap Recently Played. Your recently played friends list will be displayed.
If the person you invited doesn’t have the game on their iOS device, they will be able to either cancel the invite or purchase or download the game on the App Store. Game Center will direct them to the appropriate App Store version of the game.
Tips and Tricks
Use Multiple Game Center Accounts
Do multiple users play games on your iOS device? Don't want to let them destroy your Game Center reputation by playing and submitting scores for games like "My Pretty Pony"? No problem, Game Center has you covered. Just go to the Me tab in Game Center and click the Account button near the bottom of the screen.
An alert will popup asking what you want to do. Select Sign Out.
Your account will be signed out and you will be returned to the Game Center Welcome Screen where you can create a new account or sign back into your Game Center account. By doing this, you can ensure that your leaderboards, scores, and friends will be separate from other players that use your iPhone or iPod touch.
Add Multiple Email Accounts for Friends to Find You By
Because Game Center allows you to search for a friend by their email address, Apple gives you the ability to add more than one email address to your Game Center account. This will allow friends to add you by whichever email address you give them. Find out how to manage multiple email accounts in Game Center by reading our post by Roberto Baldwin.
Have another Game Center tip or trick that we didn't cover? Let us and other Mac|Life readers know in the comments below.
Follow this article’s author, Cory Bohon on Twitter or battle him on Game Center. His user name is: coryb