Raging Thunder is one of those games we’ve been watching since the App Store was first announced, and now it may have reached another milestone. Polarbit says that with version 1.0.3, which is in the App Store now, they’ve released online, real-time competitive multiplayer. They say it’s an App Store first, and I think they’re right — a few games have offered wifi multiplayer before (Apple’s Hold’em does, and Raging Thunder did previously), and some games have done some non-real time multiplayer (Loot Wars is interesting in that way) but allowing players to play competitively online in real-time is something that hasn’t been done much.
It’s not quite on the level of Xbox Live yet — Polarbit is offering a free beta of their server software on the website, so you’ve apparently got to have your own server running (or sign on to someone else’s) to race against your friends online. I just gave it a shot, and it worked well. The lobby system is a little awkward and without voice chat (strange how much I’ve just taken it for granted in multiplayer nowadays), it’s hard to tell whether people are playing or just waiting in a room (or why they’re dropping out of the race, as a few players did while I played). But once you get into the game, it’s Raging Thunder with other people driving the cars. Well done.
It would be nice to see player names above cars. Easier to do trash talking when you know who you’re talking about. This is only the beginning, however — here’s to many, many great online multiplayer experiences on the iPhone.