Tag Archives: iPad

Apple’s News App & News Consumption, Part Two

I could only really mess around with Apple’s News app for a few hours before I wrote that previous post about why I wouldn’t really need it and why I still use RSS. Since then I’ve discovered a little more about it, but still don’t know how much use it could ever really be to me. It also got me thinking some more about how fundamentally my news consumption has changed in the last 10 years or so.

Previously I compared Apple’s News app to RSS before realizing it actually does have a function to accept RSS feeds. If you go to a website in Safari with a certain kind of feed you can tell iOS9 to add that feed to the News app. I haven’t gotten it to actually work but there it is. Continue reading

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iOS9 News And Why I Still Prefer RSS

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With the buzz around about iOS9 I thought I’d go ahead and at least check out Apples new News app before I dismissed it. Even before the OS update and the app came out I already assumed I wouldn’t be very interested in yet another news aggregator, but it’s made me realize what’s happened to the way I get my news. Continue reading

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Yet Again We Anticipate An Apple TV App Store

Here we are once more, talking about the possibility of Apple unveiling an Apple TV that finally incorporates an app store. I’ve blogged about this and other people have talked about it like some kind of doomsday scenario for TV entertainment since iOS and the Apple TV have been around.

This new recent story out of 9to5Mac suggests gaming will be a big focus of the new Apple TV. That in itself suggests a lot of different possibilities. People have doubted Apple’s potential success with TV gaming for a long time but at the same time I think this article may be overestimating what may or may not happen. Continue reading

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What The iOS Game Removals Say About The Entire Store

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Apple’s overreaction in the midst of the recent retail push against depictions of the Confederate flag has already generated some good articles before I had the chance to write or pitch anything. I seriously suggest you read the one by Mike Williams at USGamer. It get’s to part of what I see as the heart of the matter in regards to Apple — that it still doesn’t really care about video games. We’ve gotten this feeling for a while in regards to art and serious issues, but I think this is just another sign of what’s possibly the source of all the problems with the iOS game market. Continue reading

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Mobile Computers And In-Between Devices

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It’s been about a month since I moved to Apple’s phablet model, and I haven’t used my iPad once. I’m seriously starting to re-examine where each computing form factor fits.

Obviously everybody has different needs for these things and uses them in different ways. This is just my own slice of life with these devices as they change the way we get and use software. Continue reading

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Where iOS8 Might Bring iOS Gaming, And Where I Want It To Be

A couple of the main features of iOS8 Apple announced today seem like they might bring that platform a couple steps closer to where I wish it was in regards to gaming. If you ask me it could still do a lot more.

Right now when I want to play portable games my first choice is still my 3DS, mostly because of the software but also because I still have a bit of trouble seeing my iPad as a device for games. There are things about its gaming experience that are still uncomfortable to someone like me who grew up on conventional consoles.

The obvious step forward Apple has taken is its new “Metal” development set, allowing a lower level of software overhead in regards to graphics for app developers which will mostly benefit games. I’m actually surprised Apple wasn’t already doing this. iOS as a platform already behaves more similarly to a console than, say, Windows. All its software goes through certification, and the devices running the OS fall within a general set of architecture. Letting developers code to the metal has always been an advantage of consoles against the various PCs that need DirectX to run the same games, and it makes sense for iOS to have that same advantage. Specifically this could cause iOS developers to run into less software overhead than Android developers.

The second thing that might be cool for games is Family Sharing. Family members not being able to share iTunes-bought content has bugged me for years, and Family Sharing is becoming the norm for digital gaming platforms between PlayStation, Xbox, and Steam. Being able to share paid games makes at least as much sense for a handheld. Depending on how it works it could make multiplayer between friends and family a lot more viable.

A couple other small cool things are app bundles and video previews. Bundles have been such a great part about Steam I still wonder why Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo don’t do them. Video previews are just better for app discoverability.

All that said, there are still things I’d like to see done with iOS gaming. It’s a powerful force in the gaming market already but I still don’t think it’s meeting its potential.

For instance, save file management is still tricky on iOS in my opinion. I shouldn’t have to be worried about losing save files when I delete games. Whenever I close out of an iOS game I’m still not totally sure what progress it saved. iCloud doesn’t work 100% of the time and nowhere near 100% of games use it. I’d just suggest an official app for managing data from other apps (Windows Phone has something called “Files” right?), able to be exported to iTunes. Maybe let people actually manage their save files on iCloud.

The issue of buttons is in the process of being solved but it’s taking longer than I thought for good adapters to show up. The one’s I’ve tried feel too cheap and cost too much.

The biggest issue is probably the iOS game market itself — how the standards for pricing have affected the kinds of games that show up. But I could probably devote a whole post to that subject alone (If I haven’t already).

iOS is already a great system for the quick-fix games that have grown up within it, but I feel like it’s always a couple steps away from something more.

BULLETS:

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The Real Takeaway From Apple’s Announcements

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Whenever new Apple hardware get’s announced the big thing always seems to be how much faster it is. Maybe I’m different from most people, but Apple’s hardware alone has never excited me a whole lot.

I think a lot of people would agree the main selling point behind iPhones and iPads is iOS, but for me it’s almost the only reason I ever upgrade my mobile hardware.

The only thing that’s got me really interested from recent developments is the release date of iOS7, which will run on the iPhone 4 and iPad Mini I already own. Those devices are the second iPhone and second iPad I’ve ever owned respectively. I only upgraded from my 3G because of iOS4’s crippling performance on that device and because it didn’t receive iOS5. I only sold my iPad 1 when it ran iOS5 sluggishly and didn’t get iOS6. Aside from that, the performance of the hardware doesn’t really matter for me unless apps start coming out that don’t run on my model.

I know it’s a bit typical to say that the most important thing about hardware is what software it runs, but for me that’s often the only important thing. That’s why I don’t see the point in comparing tech specs of different phones. What I think needs to be compared between different phones more than anything else is what software runs on it. I feel the same about game consoles. On a closed hardware platform I think the hardware’s horsepower has less effect on software than what developers choose to do with that horsepower. This is also why I think other phone manufacturers’ attempts to advertise their hardware advantages over Apple are largely ineffective.

Maybe I’m just weird because I don’t use my phone’s camera nearly as much as most people probably do. I’ll probably never use the iSight features. For hardware to get me excited it has to be something so fresh that it drastically affects my experience with the software.

Before the announcement of the iPhone 5C and 5S, the only reason I was thinking about upgrading is because my 16GB iPhone 4 is running low on hard drive space. Now if I upgrade I’ll probably upgrade to a larger size 5S because of Touch ID — I’m tired of entering passwords all the time. Touch ID is probably the only hardware-oriented thing about the September conference that got my interest. But man would I have loved to be able to store all my music in a 120GB iPhone.

Anyway, the “hardware” thing that has me excited most for future Apple devices is iOS7’s official controller API, in hopes that developers will start patching physical controls into their games and that a great lineup of real physical controllers comes out of this.

BULLETS:

  • Looks like Steam added trading cards to Duke Nukem 3D and the first Rome Total War.
  • Former BioWare and Riot Games developers form new studio. http://t.co/SwXJxH5CWY
  • Withcer 2 is $8 at GameStop. Unlocks through GameStop’s app, but the key should also get you a DRM-free GOG copy. – bit.ly/18aveur
  • Torchlight II half-off at GameStop. Steam key. – bit.ly/1aoUGe4
  • Castle Vidcons: Comic #118- A Glorious Thing – bit.ly/1e0taaV
  • Finally some Witcher 2 arty screenshots – bit.ly/17oU86X
  • Real life Minecraft? http://t.co/TbHDMLDRqj
  • Man. I still haven’t even touched Infinity Blade 2. iOS backlog man.
  • Xbox One infographic simplifies Microsoft’s next-gen messaging – wp.me/p1re2-3oLj
  • The 8800GT keeps truckin’ on – http://t.co/WuuBtbAL1j
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A Look At Fairune

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Consider this another “Mobile Game That Is Actually Good Alert.” Over the last few days I played through a little action adventure game called Fairune on my iPhone. It’s probably somewhere between Zelda: Link’s Awakening and what I imagine the Ys games to be like (I haven’t played them).

It’s free through ad support with no in-app purchases and I think it originally came out back in 2009. But first, let me talk about how I actually discovered this game.

For some reason upon starting a Google+ account I got invited to some Japanese pixel art group. I finally decided to take a peek after a while and remembered why I hate looking at people’s random pixel art: I always end up wishing I could play actual games made from that pixel art, games I know will never exist. Well, one person on there shared a piece that was for an actual game. Playing it ended up giving me a surprisingly well-put-together experience for something I could play leisurely on my phone.

Fairune is a game designed by people who actually understand what makes exploration appealing in action adventure games. It follows some of the same philosophies as Shadow of the Colossus or more appropriately Dark Souls by letting you stumble around to discover the world for yourself. The game gives you maybe two or three legitimate tutorial messages at the beginning, and from there pretty much leaves you to solve the puzzles that fill the small world yourself.

There’s not much of a storyline or deep lore to be found here, but Fairune presents what it does have with a real sense of mystery. The game gives you just enough visual and functional cues in the environment for you to figure things out if you think hard enough as you slowly unlock more and more of the world.

The core interface is, in my opinion, a smart compromise between the touch screen input and the interface of the old school games Fairune is trying to emulate. Like a lot of people, I don’t like virtual directional inputs, and that’s what Fairune relies on for movement, but it devotes the whole third or so of the screen to an opaque HUD including the virtual D pad and two buttons. Surrounding the actual game screen with an ornate frame creates a sort of “virtual Game Boy” look where your thumbs don’t cover any pertinent information.

For combat you pretty much just run right into enemies. Enemies slightly stronger than you or weaker die instantly, taking a small bit of your HP and giving you a bit of experience. Weaker enemies provide no experience. Essentially, you can play the whole game just manipulating the virtual D pad with one hand.

Basically, what I like about Fairune is that it successfully combines the virtues of console and handheld adventure games with the accessibility of mobile gaming. It’s sort of a micro-Link’s Awakening.

BULLETS:

  • Crazy Buffet: http://t.co/sTetXM3n8T
  • Just tried to play the Elysium 4K trailer. My processor couldn’t even keep up.
  • Should I get new XCOM for $10 if I still want to play all the oldschool X-Com games sitting on my Steam backlog?
  • New Humble Indie Bundle is up. Includes Hotline Miami, Prteous, Thomas Was Alone, Dear Esther, Little Infero https://www.humblebundle.com/  Really good bundle if you ask me.
  • Hair Haterade: Why Is The Judgment Still There? http://flip.it/DBEBm 
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On the Small Screen: 2012-2013

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Ever since the iPad mini was first announced this year people have speculated how viable a gaming device it might be compared to the full-size iPad or iPhone. I’ll admit that was one of the reasons I ended up getting one this Christmas, but my final opinion on it is kind of mixed as far as gaming goes.

First off, the fact that I decided to get one instead of a Wii U doesn’t really signify that I think it’s the better gaming device overall. I just needed it more right now because I upgraded from an iPad 1, which was struggling to run under iOS5 (it can’t upgrade to iOS6). I have a lot of other reasons to own one, but gaming is still a pretty appealing one.

Let me first say however that in general, the mini has renewed the feeling I had when I first got an iPad — of having most of the functionality of a laptop right in my hands. It’s the feeling of being able to boot up that functionality instantly and not having to sit it in my lap all the time. The mini takes this even further because I can walk around with the web, newspaper articles, and books, with real screen real estate, in one hand. That Kindle commercial showing all the benefits of that device’s smaller form factor (compared to a regular iPad) is exactly why I got a mini.

One of the peculiarities of iOS gaming is that it’s basically one software platform operating on at least two different hardware platforms. This is unique from pretty much all other platforms that run games save computer gaming. Same games work better on one form factor, such as the iPhone, and others better on another, such as the iPad.

Before I got a mini, I played most games on my iPhone. You’d think the screen real estate advantage would make the iPad better for most everything, but for me personally, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery is virtually the only iOS game I preferred to play on the iPad. Generally, I think three main genres work better on tablets than on smartphones: adventure games, strategy games, and turn-based RPGs — really any genre mostly dealing with clicking on stuff.

In my experience the worst games for the iPad have been basically any scrolling action game that requires you to touch all over the screen. Examples include Infinity Blade and various shmups. These are games where you have to simultaneously hold up the device, keep your hands near the edges of the screen for the main inputs, and tap all over the screen for other inputs. These work better the less screen real estate you have to deal with, so I prefer playing them on my iPhone. The iPad mini does a little bit better in this regard. I can play those games well enough on the mini, but likely not as well as on an iPhone.

What the mini really improves my experience with over the main iPad though is most other action games. Runners in particular like Punch Quest and Rayman Run work very well. For some reason I didn’t like the way the control layout in Super Crate Box worked out on the iPad but am much better at the game on the mini. For some reason I’ve also found myself playing EDGE and EDGE Extended more since getting a mini.

Honestly though what I really want to play on this thing are RPGs. Here I’d probably go into another rant on how many DS and PSP RPGs I wish had iOS versions. Right now I’m content with just Final Fantasy Tactics, but I’m definitely keeping an eye on Final Fantasy V. It’d be really nice to see, say, Dragon Quest get an iOS port. I’m pretty disappointed that two very good original iOS RPGs — Undercroft and The Quest, are iPhone-only. I also hope an iOS version of Legend of Grimrock really does come out one day.

Pound-for-pound though, my main handheld gaming device right now is still my 3DS, and that’s mostly due to the software library. I mostly keep my iPad at home, so if I’m going to play games on it, they’re probably gonna be games I wanna actually sit down with instead of just time-wasters. And that’s still the main problem with iOS overall if you ask me. It’s still lacking good, original examples of the genres I noted earlier were best for tablets, at least examples as good as say, Fire Emblem Awakening and Etrian Odyssey IV, which are coming to the 3DS in North America in March.

BULLETS:

  • I think this is my new jam right now: http://t.co/bdZxyQaE
  • The PC/Mac version of EDGE, which includes all the levels from both the iOS games, is $3 during the Steam holiday sale: http://t.co/FzzoOmdN
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Mobile Entertainment and the Living Room

When people talk about the biggest threats to Nintendo consoles these days, more often they talk about Apple and mobile gaming in general – which is now considered a threat to consoles in general. I don’t think I’ve devoted a whole post yet to why I disagree with that sentiment, at least not since these opinions have intensified.

I think infamous analyst Michael Pachter has said at least once (probably more than once) that the casual market Nintendo carved out isn’t buying consoles again. Of course you also have all the traditional news outlets assuming that mobile has cut into Nintendo’s financials. May 2012’s NDPs have also given a pretty pessimistic outlook on console gaming right now, with the Xbox 360 “on top” at a mere 160,000 units sold – down over 40 percent year-over-year. Most recently though you have David Jaffe declaring that mobile will indeed be the end of console gaming in the next decade.

My problem with this view is that I’m not convinced that mobile devices and tablets have conquered the living room. I’m not even convinced they’re the same market yet, but that could just be my experience.

I still haven’t seen people reconfigure their living room entertainment experience around phones and tablets. As far as I’ve seen, people who own game consoles still play them, and I still haven’t seen people directly pass up turning on the TV to turn on the iPad when in the living room.

The way I see it, people today still consume their living room entertainment in largely the same way they did 20 years ago: through a cable box, movie player, or game console attached to a TV. Over the last few years smartphones and tablets have completely changed mobile computing, but that same paradigm shift hasn’t arrived in the living room yet.

My brother, who seems to be ultimate early adopter in this regard, has started watching movies by attaching his iPod Touch to Apple’s HDMI connector, and I’ll admit the image quality is impressive for standard def. Just turning your mobile device into a set-top box makes sense – if they can just give you a way to control it by remote, which as of this typing I haven’t seen yet. There are some 3rd party workarounds but as far as I know nothing official from Apple.

The point is, I haven’t seen anything come in and really threaten to replace cable boxes and DVD/Blu-Ray players yet. There are things on the market that could eventually do this, but none of them have made it big yet.

You have smart TVs and nice set top boxes like the Roku, but none have caught on to become a standard in anywhere near the same capacity as what the iPhone became for phones. Even the Apple TV seems kind of obscure compared to its mobile cousins. An Apple TV with its own complete app store could be a big deal, and perhaps an iTV could be too, but I’m not sure yet.

How many people are really going to pay $1000+ just to get iOS in their living rooms? Much less do it periodically. There’s a chance that if Apple does release one, the games developed for it could cut into console game sales, but in a previous post I already compared software revenue between iOS and conventional gaming. I’m also not convinced mobile gaming is what’s cutting into console financials right now.

There are way too many other factors coming in. For Nintendo alone you’ve got the fact that the Wii hasn’t really had anymore big games in the last couple years along with the strong yen. Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit were big, but Angry Birds didn’t really steal their thunder – Nintendo just neglected to provide follow-ups.

For console sales in general you’ve got the fact that the current consoles are ancient by normal standards and may have reached saturation. I think we should at least wait until next gen consoles actually launch, then decline compared to their predecessors before we declare the whole market in danger. It’s also not like consoles can’t adapt.

I’ve said several times on this page already that Microsoft seems to be going in a media/app direction with the Xbox, trying to turn it into a general purpose set top box that does for your TV what your iPhone does for your pocket. Sony and even Nintendo are slowly moving in that direction, and Apple hasn’t made their move in that area yet.

In terms of actual games that appeal to the casual audience, nothing on iOS has replicated the family-oriented experience from games like Wii Sports or Just Dance. In a post-iOS world, games like Just Dance and Dance Central have even been able to gain mainstream traction. Nintendo has the former probably launching with the Wii U along with Wii Fit U and a new 2D Mario. If the audience that bought Wiis still recognizes the need for multiplayer gaming in the living room I have a feeling those games could sell a ton.

Now I could totally be wrong about this and it occurs that the mass market just doesn’t see video games as something you should enjoy on a TV screen. Maybe Apple finally does enter the living room space and changes it forever. I’m just trying to point out that right now, I don’t see a direct link between mobile gaming and console gaming.

BULLETS:

  • For some reason whenever I’ve got time to kill on the go, I’m more likely to read a book on my iPhone than play a game. The books I buy on iBooks and Kindle are much better at holding my attention than iOS games.
  • Thief II is $5 right now: http://t.co/opHLDCOE
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