Monday, July 27, 2009

New Game : Balance Of Power

After many months of hard work and heartache my latest game Balance of Power is finally available. This game is a real departure from my last two games Wheel of Death and Perpetual Motion (both using the Box2D physics engine). Balance Of Power is a turn based strategy game. While most games are about resource depletion : a resource called health. Balance of Power is about resource distribution : a resource called influence. The more influence you have the greater your status. The higher your status the more influence you can take. The aim is to take all the influence from the enemy. When their influence is gone they will start to see things your way.

It's probably not the easiest game in the world. But like many board games it rewards the effort of learning a few basics with many hours of challenge. I actually built most of Balance prior to starting the physics based games. But I felt that it's genre would be an obstacle to it's success. In the end I came back to it and decided I really liked the game and so committed to getting it published regardless. I hope that you will give it a fair go as I think it will be worth your efforts.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

RSS vs Twitter

Like a lot of people I started out very sceptical about the value of Twitter and have gradually been drawn in. I'm finding more and more useful ways to use Twitter. I don't really get the desperate pursuit of followers but have found very real value in following a small number of reliable streams. For example, I can't imagine that I would ever stop following abcnews. But I'm still very attached to RSS through Google Reader and still defining the line where something works as a Tweet rather than an RSS. For example, I still find myself following TechCrunch on both Twitter and via RSS. Twitter offers convienience while I'm still very keen to star and share things in Google Reader. Anyway I just found a very clear example of something that works much better in RSS than in Twitter : Dilbert. I can't start the day without a dose of Dilbert. Below are two screenshots the first from Google Reader and the second from Twitter. However you look at it the Reader version is handy and the Twitter version (even with the preview addon) isn't:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Reid iPhone Reader

A growing category of iPhone apps is the eReader. Obviously they aren't as common as games and fart jokes but they are a lot more useful. Though I imagine many wouldn't consider the idea of reading books on the iPhone. Some of this is just nostalgia (the smell of the book etc) and some has to do with a poor experience trying to read on a computer screen. But I've read a few books using Stanza (my review) and I'm so taken with the experience that I've told my family not to give me an paper books until further notice. The iPhone's small screen actually seems to assists with reading and I've had no trouble reading chapter after chapter (when time allows).

The latest eReader is Minions Reid. Reid offers three unique ways of reading documents:
  1. Word highlighting
  2. Word Flash : also known as Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP)
  3. Un-assisted reading (OK this isn't unique)
Of these RSVP (not to be confused with a popular dating site) is new to me and I'm intrigued by it. Essentially the words flash onto the screen one at a time. Hence reading is easy and it's is the progression of words that provide context. A slider allows you to control the speed of the text and hence the speed at which you read. It is very easy to stop the progression of text if you need to pause and do something else. Though I found it hard to go back and re-read a sentence if I wanted clarification.

These features were developed based on usability studies and Minions provides information on the science behind Reid.

To my mind the stand out feature of the Reid is it's ability to connect to and import from your Google Docs. Consequently any text document that can be loaded into Google Docs can be read using the Reid. Readers like Stanza allow you to connect to a range of existing online book stores. Some of these sell the books (ie Fictionwise) but others provide access to free books (ie Project Gutenburg). This provides quick access to an enormous range of books and so far I haven't had any trouble finding something I was keen to read. Unfortunately I've never successfully loaded a work document into Stanza (apparently it is possible). Reid bridges this gap. Any document that is sent to you, that you create, that you find online and that can then be loaded into Google Docs is available. This is something I will definitely use. It annoys me that I will have two readers to cover my needs but I can't see an easy solution to that.

There are a couple of things about Reid that I'm not so fond of:

Firstly, it seems to only store one document at a time. Therefore if I wanted to read two or more things on the way home (where I frequently don't have network access) I can't.

Secondly it provides sliders for adjusting font size and contrast. A slight movement of these sliders seem to take me from 5pt to 50pt and I found it near impossible to get a font size that I was entirely happy with. I also think having these options on the apps menu bar is a bit distracting. Especially as it seems to reload the document after each adjustment. Stanza allows you to adjust the size and appearance through a settings page that provide a preview of the text that updates quickly while you are making adjustments. This seems a much better system to me. I think Reid's approach could work if it was more responsive.

Reid is a genuinely useful addition to the list of available eReaders for the iPhone. It offers some unique reading options and access to your Google Docs. I'd like to see it provide access to a larger pool of documents directly from the app but I will definitely continue to use it and if you need to read documents that you create or that colleagues provide then I'd recommend giving it a go.

Update : In response to my review Michael Coon from Minion has been in touch to say that a few of the issues mentioned above will be addressed in the next version. This includes looking at improving the slider controls and the ability to cache multiple documents.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Perpetual Motion : Walkthrough

A while back (OK 11 months and 2 weeks ago) my Perpetual Motion game was released. It is now available on 180 different sites and has been played 270,000+ times. It's probably a bit late but now I've finally re-done my website it seemed a good time to publish a walkthrough for Perpetual Motion. It's a bit of a task so I'm publishing one level a day until all 36 are complete (level 8 was published yesterday). If you've never given the game a go, or you got stuck on a level, now may be a good time to have another go.

GeekGlue Site Update

Over the last couple of years my GeekGlue website has become increasingly out of step with my current interests. I've been thinking more and more about how I should use that space. In the last year I've become very interested in casual gaming and have (as noted on this blog) published a couple of games. Therefore I started to think that I would like to use the GeekGlue site to support my game publishing and perhaps focus my own research into casual gaming. I was also keen to use Drupal (which we've been using extensively) to make the site more flexible. Hence the new GeekGlue is born with new games added daily, a blog posting a daily review of the best new game of the day, walkthroughs of my games (and probably a few others) as well as casual gaming news. The site is very much in a formative state and I expect to regularly add new features in the coming months.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kindle 2 vs iPhone Stanza

A few weeks ago I joined the growing throng of Apple fanboys and signed up for an iPhone. The main reason was that my last phone was one of the great GUI disasters of all time. It took about 8 button clicks to delete a single SMS message and similar hoops for many other common actions. So this time I was determined to get a phone that didn't make you want to throw it firmly into concrete after the first five minutes. I haven't been disappointed with my iPhone and in fact I have been surprised by it's versatility.

Since the first Kindle was released I've been watching that space with interest. I love to read and I love the idea of eReaders. But I've never seen an eReader I wanted to use. The Kindle seemed like an eReader I'd want to own. While I was researching new mobile phones I came across Stanza. Stanza is an eReader app for the iPhone and I was keen, though more than a little sceptical, to give it a go. What has surprised me is how much I've enjoyed reading books on my iPhone with Stanza. I've read a couple of novels using Stanza in the last couple of weeks and have my eye on a couple of others I'm keen to read. The only thing stopping me is the stack of paperbacks on my bedside table (I've issued instructions not to buy me any more paperbacks unless instructed otherwise). I could go on a bit here but probably best you take a look at Stanza's quick guide video if you want to know more.

Which brings me to Kindle. Last week Amazon previewed a new improved Kindle (see also CrunchGear's "Hands-on with the Kindle 2". Looks great but is it too late. The Kindle probably provides a slightly better reader than the iPhone (hard to tell from the preview) but it would need to be dramatically better to compete. One of the selling points for the iPhone is that I could consolidate my music and my phone into one device. So why would I want to carry another device to read a book when my phone does such a good job? Obviously not everyone has an iPhone, but I'm assuming that similar devices (by Apple or it's competitors) will become the norm in the future and that each will be able to provide a similar reading experience. So while Kindle seems like a great idea it now looks like a great idea that came too late.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Melbourne JoomlaDay 2009

Melbourne JoomlaDay 2009 will take place at Melbourne University on Saturday 7th February and Sunday 8th February. From the site :

"Joomla is an award-winning Content Management System (CMS) that will help you build websites and other powerful online applications. Best of all, Joomla is an open source solution that is freely available to everybody. Visit Joomla's official website.

Beginners will get a jump-start into Joomla, learn how to set up their first Joomla site. Designers will gain deep insight into Joomla 1.5 templating. Implementors and Developers will enjoy myriads of tips and tricks out of the core developers’ toolbox.

Joomla is an award-winning Content Management System (CMS) that will help you build websites and other powerful online applications. Best of all, Joomla is an open source solution that is freely available to everybody."

Registrations close on 21 January if they don't sell out before then (apparently it did sell out last year so you might want to get in early).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Zamak : Peugot Ad

Zamak is perhaps one of the worlds top designers of 3D characters. Mostly I've seen them as images on his blog. This morning Zamak has published a very cool Peugot ad using his robotic characters :

Wednesday, January 14, 2009