Most of the tech world knows that Verizon is having a press conference today to announce they would be offering the iPhone. What I didn’t expect was that AT&T would try their best to push me away just minutes before the event started.
Continue reading AT&T: Redefining Hilarious
About 10 years ago, when I was wearing the very unique hat of “Mac gaming journalist”, I got to meet a lot of remarkable people. One such person was Corey Tamas, who I met just as he was taking over Mike Dixon’s much beloved Mac Gamer’s Ledge and transitioning it into MacGamer.com, which recently relaunched after a few years of hiatus. Corey is a family man with a huge heart, a big Doctor Who fan (like bow ties, Doctor Who fans are cool), and one of the people that I will forever consider part and parcel of “Mac gaming”. He’s good people.
That said, sometimes he writes things I just can’t agree with, which brings us to today’s “10 Reasons Gamers Should Choose a Mac Over an iPhone/iPad“. Besides being a weird apples vs. oranges comparison – why not have both? – the ten reasons range from shaky to silly to flat-out wrong. Corey has authorized me to do my worst, so as a general survey of what’s going on with iOS gaming, here’s 10 Reasons Corey Tamas Is Wrong.
Continue reading Arguing With Friends About Gaming For Fun And Profit
For all of my friends and readers with existing iPhone/iPod Touch hardware, today is an exciting day: iOS 4 is now available via iTunes. But before you go rushing to update your phone, let me give you one small piece of advice:
Apple has done a great job bringing some of the enterprise security features (complex passcodes, wipe on 10 failures, etc) to regular users as part of the upgrade. One of the new features in iOS 4 that has been underreported on is called “Data Protection“. From my understanding, Data Protection is meant to correct some of the issues with the original hardware encryption method introduced last year on the 3GS and 3rd Gen iPod Touch. It also provides developers with better APIs for encrypting your data, so that if you’re carrying around your financial data or health information, you can get an additional level of security. Additionally, there’s no discernible performance hit.
Sounds great, right? There’s a tiny catch: if you’re upgrading from iOS 3, the filesystem needs to be rebuilt from scratch to enable this feature. So if you have an iPhone 3GS or iPod Touch 3rd Gen, you need to do a backup-factory restore-data restore installation of iOS 4. To break this into discrete steps:
- Plug in your iPhone.
- Let it backup through iTunes.
- Rather than clicking “Upgrade”, click “Restore”.
- Let iTunes download the installer and do a complete restore.
- When the installation is done, iTunes will prompt you about restoring from the backup you just took. Do so.
- Wait the somewhat lengthy amount of time as all your data is put back onto your phone.
You can confirm this has been done by going to Preferences -> General -> Passcode Lock and scrolling to the very bottom, where you should see “Data Protection is enabled.”
That’s it. You will need to set a passcode to get the benefit of this (but you should have that anyhow); iPhone 4 users will automatically have this out of the box. You are certainly allowed to just do a regular upgrade, but you won’t get data protection (and if you’re in an enterprise, know that configuration profiles can check against this as a pre-requisite.) And for those on earlier hardware – sorry, you lack the hardware chip to do the encryption.
Developers who are interested in the technical details or in leveraging Data Protection should check out Session 209, “Securing Application Data”, in the WWDC 10 videos.
Enjoy the upgrade.
Very much looking forward to Shawn Inman’s Mimeoand the Kleptopus King. “Holiday 2010” better come soon.
I’ll spare you the prologue; my impressions is that this the most awaited out of all of the yearly gaming posts. So much so that I’m actually going to put screenshots in this one. You can see where my priorities are.
It was difficult to narrow this down – but in the name of brevity, I’ve narrowed it down to a dozen titles that every iPhone owner should have on their phones. As I write this, to buy all of these games will cost you $30 – probably less than any one of the console games I recommended yesterday.
The horror stories are well known about what happens when you travel internationally with an iPhone and leave “Data Roaming” on. So both of our iPhones have been ratcheted down – data roaming off, email checking set to manual (just in case), etc. We’re bridging the in-room internet into wifi so we can still use our phones while we’re in the hotel.
But two odd iPhone things have come up during the trip that are worth mentioning:
Turns out you **must** have 3G turned on to get a cell phone signal while in Tokyo, even with data roaming off. I tend to keep it off, usually out of battery concerns, but also due to this whole international traveling thing. (If the data does have to go on, at least that way I’ll be rate limited.) But there’s seemingly no GPRS signal, so as soon as I turned 3G back on, I got full signal from NTT DoCoMo.
It gets weirder: despite the settings being the same across the board on both phones, Katie’s iPhone is not able to get a cell signal. The Carrier/Network Selection menu is displaying, it sees DoCoMo and SoftBank, but selecting either throws a “Network Lost” error message. This is baffling and, admittedly, troubling. Only thing I could find as a troubleshooting tip was running a Network Reset, which has done nothing. (If anyone knows a fix for this, I’d love to hear it.)
Skype works like a charm on Katie’s laptop, but I really wish the app better defined the preferences. I had to turn off “Use Skype Access”, which is about as nebulously defined as you can get, before it would connect.
It was odd to be back in Moscone for my fourth WWDC. I was too busy draining my laptop battery and breaking my fingers for the benefit of my colleagues during the keynote, but now that I’ve had a few hours to digest, here’s some more nuanced thoughts.
Watch out: hardcore Bemani history lesson follows.
If you rewind back to the end of 1997, Konami was beginning to lay the groundwork for rhythm gaming – the very first beatmania title was hitting the market. One of the founding musicians of the series would be found under multiple aliases – n.a.r.d., dj nagureo, Jam Master ’73, tiger YAMATO – and that was Reo Nagumo.
What Naoki Maeda was to Dance Dance Revolution, Reo was to beatmania. Notable songs credited to him include 20, November (leading to it being worshipped as some sort of “Bemani day”, when it is in fact his birthday), u gotta groove (the traditional song everyone starts with when first playing 5-key beatmania), 5.1.1 (the traditional song everyone starts with when first playing 7-key IIDX), g.m.d. (which taught us all that “Konami” rhymes with “trigonometry”), and R5 (which to this day remains my favorite IIDX note chart). His work stretched across all three beatmania platforms, and well into Pop’n Music’s song lists as well.
After beatmania IIDX 10th Style saw a release in 2004, Reo would only have one more song appear on a IIDX release (2007’s DistorteD), which he claimed in the Song Production Info would be his “final opus that will erase [his] past” and identified a sushi restaurant in the US as the reason for his retirement:
Oh, baby, I decided to retire with this track.
Um, I’m going to emigrate to America.
The reason is simple, I’ve found my calling,
Someone left me a sushi place. It’s getting big in America~
I got a fan letter that said:
“The first time I heard R3, I was in middle school.” Thank you. The kids have become adults.
The time for my retirement draws near. The old men should slowly fade away, so the young ones can take over.
You know, even on the eve of the 21st century, I was
Making you guys a track. It’s crazy.
Even when I busted up my Y31, I took out my sadness by making songs.
Thank you, everyone!
I guess I eventually got kinda cool. *tears*
The world really does revolve around you.
Well, it was fun.
But as I discovered today thanks to an inbound link from Finger Gaming, Reo is still doing what he’s always been doing – not running a sushi restaurant but instead a game company, called Yudo Ltd.. Yudo was actually established in March of 2003 according to their press release, and the company statement isn’t shy about Reo’s role in the founding of some Bemani titles:
Yudo created a trend in music-based games with titles such as beatmania and pop’n music, with experience that runs deep into the management level. Yudo was founded, and is currently helmed by, Reo Nagumo, who worked as a DJ under the moniker dj nagureo. The company continues to develop and produce games and music.
With a unique planning expertise, Yudo aims to offer revolutionarily new services and games throughout the world.
Yudo is very much a casual gaming company, focusing on the iPhone and WiiWare platforms. Many of their releases thus far have been $1 games (slogan: “1$-GAMES is ‘One’derful”), including Cutie Scratch, PiyoPiyo Panic, and SpyBugRadar, which perhaps makes more sense if you’ve seen the demo video.
But of course, my admiration of Reo is for his musical output, and that’s where the Aero Series comes in. Much like the cartoon hierarchy is cat, mouse, dog, so too is the music game hierarchy: guitar, drum, synthesizer. Having heard through the grapevine that the guitar and drum versions were a bit crap, I splurged the $3 for Aero Synth Evolution. (I am unclear what the difference is between the Evolution version and the non-Evolution version.)
And immediately, the $3 was worth it: the first song on the Free mode song list is OBAMA by SUPER tiger YAMATO. (If nearly eight years of Bemani obsession has taught me anything, it’s to not question the strange capitalization of song titles or artists.)
Here’s a video of me playing it on Normal difficulty. I apologize in advance about the quality – it’s difficult to play a touch-based game while holding a camera:
(I should also point out that while Yudo has done an excellent job providing English interfaces into their software, it does suffer from the occasional Engrish – such as the “Dairy Rankings“.)
My expectations of most iPhone music games have been terribly low, so this came as a somewhat pleasant surprise. You can tap the notes anywhere along the same general horizontal plane as they are, so long as you hit it with the right timing – thus allowing you to avoid most issues with hand blockage. There’s also chords which will take some getting used to for me to be able to read them properly.
AeroSynth does hold the distinction of being the only iPhone rhythm game I’ve played that seems to really maintain it’s timing window (unlike DDR-S Lite) and not suffer from the occasional bouts of frame dropping (unlike Tap Tap Revolution).
The experience on a whole is not terribly deep – 2 modes, 6 songs, and 9 courses means it’s no DJ Max Technika – but for $3, I have no complaints. For those of you who don’t want to splurge, there’s a free version with a single song.
But that single song isn’t OBAMA.
A year ago, if you had asked me what platform I was going to be doing most of my portable gaming on in 2008, I wouldn’t have said my iPhone.
But not only has the iPhone replaced my standalone iPod, it’s replaced my DS and my PSP on the train, late at night, and during life’s lulls. Sure, there’s a lot of junk on the store, but there’s also more than enough great games. Gamers who scoff at the iPhone should be weary that they may, in fact, be missing out on something.
I am constantly asked what apps people should buy for their new iPhone and/or iPod Touch. Through sale sniping, testing games other people have bought, and a lot of Coinstar redemption, I’ve tested a lot of games. But I try to avoid clutter on my phone, so I’m limiting myself to two pages of games at any given time. This is a list of what’s staying on my phone after six months of iPhone gaming.
**2 Across** – every phone needs a fantastic crosswords client, and this one has a polished UI and lots of puzzle sources.
**Doctor Awesome** – ngmoco’s first masterpiece. Qix with tilt controls, crossed with Phoenix Wright, Trauma Center, and your address book. No one should be without this game.
**Fieldrunners** – a great Tower Defense game, with intuitive controls and great polish. Very easy to pick up and put down.
**I Love Katamari** – I have ties to Namco’s mobile gaming division, and I remain a huge fan of Katamari Damashii. The recent patch fixed the performance issues you may have heard about.
**Marple** – I had played a different version of this called Einstein on my Mac a few years back, and the iPhone version is better. If you like logic puzzles, try this one.
**MazeFinger** – ngmoco’s free Flamin’ Finger play-a-like. Quick, maze-based fun.
**mondo solitaire** – Ambrosia’s solitaire title remains the most flexible one I’ve found, although I wish the performance was better.
**Pajatzo** – a hidden gem pointed out by the GAF iPhone Games thread, Pajatzo resembles one of those arcade machines where you use tokens to win other tokens. It’s a pretty fun way to burn a few minutes, and it keeps lots of statistics.
**Pass the Pigs** – it would seem like a digital version of Pass The Pigs loses something, but I disagree. Very odd graphical style, though.
**Pop** – the same game that’s on Wii Ware. I think it works better with you having to actually touch the bubbles than waggle at them. Pretty relaxing.
**Rolando** – ngmoco’s latest masterpiece. It looks like Loco Roco. It’s better than Loco Roco. Listen to the critics: this is the most fully-realized game for the iPhone right now.
**Samurai Puzzle Battle** – I grabbed this after hearing about how shoddy the Puzzle Quest port was. It’s complicated, but it’s a Match 3 puzzle crossed with Risk. If this doesn’t sell you, there’s a lite version available.
**Scrabble** – EA’s having a great year on the iPhone too. Their Scrabble port still sets a very high bar.
**Snail Mail** – a tilt-based racer with really smooth cel-shaded graphics and fun gameplay. I am horrible at it, but I can appreciate it’s genius.
**Space Deadbeef** – the best free game you can get for the iPhone. A twist on the shmup genre, it’s a fantastic little arcade experience. Give it a try, it’s free!
**Space Ninja** – a very recent release, but a brilliant bullet dodging game using tilt controls. Really well implmented – Touch Arcade has more gushing.
**Space Out** – I can only describe this as a mashup game. Space Invaders is crossed with Breakout for some kind of wonderful retro experience.
**Star Trigon** – another Namco title, this one a little known title from the Mr. Driller team. (I wasn’t even aware it existed until the iPhone version came out.) Really simple controls, really enjoyable play experience. Perfect for the phone.
**Strategery** – it’s Dice Wars. On your iPhone. RUN TO THE STORE QUICK.
**Texas HoldEm** – Apple’s Poker implementation is still the best.
**Trism** – best block-slidy color-matchy hair-pully game in town.
**Wordabble** – (still) my choice for best Boggle-style game, featuring a daily ranked game that everyone who owns the game can compete in.
**Yahtee Adventures** – while I was originally leaning towards Five Dice, EA’s licensed Yahtzee game has a lot of extra game modes and just generally feels like a fuller experience.
(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)
In the post keynote fracas, I was asked by multiple friends if I was upgrading. My answer shocked each and every one – a fairly blasé “no”. One friend shouted over IM that I would soon cave. (I’m taking the reaction as a sad commentary on how I am perceived.)
This isn’t to say the iPhone 3G isn’t a good model; it corrects most of the gripes leveled at the original iPhone. Data speeds are faster, batteries last longer, and it has a true GPS module. The headphone jack is flush, eliminating a market of headphone extenders. The cost of the handset is far cheaper. Hell, it even comes in an additional color. Certainly, if you’re in the market for an iPhone, it’s a great model to start with – just not to upgrade to.
A $200 mobile upgrade is not the most expensive thing in the world – we are talking about a handset that started at $499 – but it’s not a drop in the bucket. That $200 gets you a double data rate, but along with that you’re stuck with an additional $10 a month on your bill. This adds up quickly over the life of your new two year contract extension. The true GPS is nice, but I’ve found the fake GPS to be working fairly well. The extended battery life is not a feature point I can wave away, but collectively, that’s the end of the feature list. All the benefits of the 2.0 software – the app store, app installation, push email support – will be on the first generation handsets as well.
Is all of that worth $200? For once, I can’t say yes. Never mind the newly discovered activation hassles. Never mind what will undoubtedly be new hurdles towards jailbreaking and unlocking (for those into those sorts of things).
The simple conclusion: if you don’t have an iPhone, it’s a fantastic phone to start with. It’s going to be the perfect time to jump in. But if you do have an iPhone, you may want to ponder whether the total cost is worth the fairly small bullet list of features.