Casual Games

I’ve been thinking of applications which would suit the iPhone and iPod touch and mused about how the original iPod models had a click wheel and yet no-one managed to bring out a driving game 🙂

One area that I’d love to see some work in would be gaming on iPod touch and iPhone. John Carmack has criticised the iPhone already in this area despite not seeing the SDK and not knowing therefore what Apple’s strategy was for gaming on the iPhone.

Casual Games work because they can be picked up and dropped off. SIMCity and SIMTower (the less complex version and include SIMAnt here) were the olden days versions of Tamagotchis. They were games that you could spend an hour or ten minutes messing with and then wander off for a few hours. Come back and then see where it had got to. Tamagotchis had the same thing but with a little more tech and a little more demanding on the attention. Ignore the little device with the little animal and it died. So sad, too bad. Nothing was more fun than coming back to SIMtower and seeing that floors 9-13 had cockroach infestations and 24-30 had a fire about half an hour after you left it. So, you’d repair the problems and then wander off for dinner.

Attention is the resource we’re striving for. But we’re not looking to completely capture it.

Games like Strategy, racing games and FPS require absolute attention. We’re talking about games that will run on a phone so people might be just trying to kill time while waiting for someone to come out of a shop. So the games have to let you in quickly. There also has to be a SaveState or not much of a penalty for dumping a game. Games which require you to drop back to arbitrary save points are a pain – and why would you as a developer of entertainment want to cause your viewers pain? That would be like a TV programmer, after each commercial, show the last minute of what happened before the commercial. I’ve seen this done in the US….and I didn’t like it.

It’s a bit like Splash screens in games. Man – how annoying are the splash screens in Battlefield 2142? Yes, we know it’s EA. Yes, we know some company called DICE had something to do with it. After the first time, we don’t care who made it. At least on most Mac versions of games you can delve into the bundle and ditch the movies which make up the splash screens and the game just continues on. Saved us from the overly long sequences in the Mac version of Halo I can tell ya. These are only slightly less annoying than companies which insist on showing you splash screens after the game is finished. You quit out only to be hit by an advert. Thanks but no thanks.

We’re looking to grab the attention, hold the attention and be able to release attention quickly. So our game must load fast, not be in your face too long, and get you into gameplay as soon as possible. And when done – it should allow you to exit quickly.

iPhone countdown: 2 days to go

Having used an iPod touch now since Saturday, I can categorically say this is the best device I’ve ever owned.

In fact, the only problem I have with the iPod touch is that it doesn’t have wireless other than WiFi. If it had even just GPRS then I’d be happy. This would have been tremendously useful the last couple of days as I’ve been househunting. Thankfully my bank is willing to give me a large mortgage so my options for buying a house with her-indoors have been increased considerably. Finding houses has been a challenge however and being able to look up areas on Google Maps would have been killer. Luckily Maps on the hacked iPod touch does some aggressive caching and so you have some records of where you’ve looked. One thing that is depserately missing from MobileSafari is the option to “cache” web pages a bit like Mac OS X can save them as a zip or PDF. It would be very handy to have cached versions, maybe with a little date field?

Looking at the network options in Northern Ireland it seems we have good GSM coverage, fair GRPS coverage and poor EDGE coverage.

In terms of data:

Technology Max download (kbyte/s) Max Upload (kbyte/s)
GSM Data 1-2 1-2 SLOW
GPRS 8-10 3-5 Like Dialup
EDGE 20-60? 8-12? Like slow broadband

My S-E K800i allegedly has UMTS support as well as GPRS, it’s allegedly a 3G phone. Maybe….the few moments when I can get coverage. It’s like the old TVs with the indoor antennae. Hold it this way and you get 2K/s. Hold it this way and you get 30K/s. Just. Don’t. Move.

But it’s not just the download speed. I’ve browsed the web using my phone and it’s a torture of minimalist interfaces. Connecting over Bluetooth to my Macbook Pro makes a difference and at least I can find some lofty perch to set my phone on so I can get a good connection.

Considering the Cloud has opened at least 2 hotspots in the Province (one in Esporta in Holywood, the other I’ve seen is in Castlecourt in Belfast) and considering that iPhone gets the Cloud for free (or £3.99 a month for iPod touch users), it might be getting to the point where wireless is ubiquitous. Registering with FON might also help as BTOpenZone is doing a deal with FON so that every FON user gets free OpenZone access. Neat, huh?

So what’s my worry?

Well, firstly, I have an existing Orange contract. I’m not happy with it and am quickly coming to realise that the £45 contract with O2 would better suit my needs as I’m tending to consume more data than make calls. My base contract with O2 is about £23 a month but with data etc I end up paying more than £60 some months…

I’ve been debating this over the last few days with some friends and her-indoors.

You’re going to buy one. Why are we even debating this?

Matt – just tell yourself whatever lies you need to justify the purchase and move on.

Are you going to keep debating this even as the guy hands you your receipt on Friday?


Yeah okay.

iPhone? DrawWell? Other stuff.

The latest rampant speculation is that Apple will do for the mobile phone what they did for the MP3 player. People keep thinking this will mean some sort of multifunction device but I’m inclined to think that it’ll have few features but it’ll do the mobile phone (and presumably text messaging) really well.

DrawWell is a page layout app that I just downloaded. It looks sweet indeed. It does what it says on the tin as well – very happy with the interface though it evidently wants a 21″ screen rather than a 14″ LCD.

Other stuff? A friend got back in touch after a while, and preparing for the keynote tomorrow. All welcome at chez moi. I knew I got ADSL for a reason.