Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Happy Holidays! And Happy Gaming!

Reindeer Crossing Sign
Greetings!  Salutations! Well Met!

Before I do anything else beyond offering you my hearty and well-intended greetings I want to wish you all a very happy Christmas!

If Christmas is not your thing than make that a Very Happy Holiday Season!

Personally I cannot help it that Christmas is very much my "thing" though I am willing to allow that the Christmas I am experiencing - and that I have been experiencing for over 20 years - is decidedly not the one I grew up knowing and loving.  I have often said it to be unnatural...  This is true.

The Christmas of my childhood was filled with sunshine, an ocean of warm water, and the gathering of friends and family at my parents beach house on the Gold Cost, where dinner was traditionally a fry to which everyone is invited, from mates and neighbors to strangers off the street...

Most of the food that made up the dinner was obtained right out of the ocean, which is basically our back yard...  You would probably be surprised at the variety of edible stuff that my older brothers (with our help of course) were able to obtain off the coast with just a mask and snorkel a set of fins and a spear.

There is also a wide variety of foodstuff to be had in the large tidal pools that formed in our back yard (the beach) at every low tide.  You take all of that and mix in some veggies from the market, and fresh fruit from the plethora of trees that are the forest of our childhood Christmas holiday, and what you end up with is a feast!

The point is that in a right and proper world Christmas should arrive in the midst of Summer.  Santa Claus should be riding about in a Ute wearing Birdwell Beach Britches and a flower patterned shirt, and when he has to use the sleigh (and that only at night) it is pulled by six huge white boomers of course!

A proper Christmas Tree in its natural setting....

A Game Christmas 2014

 A lot of you have been asking via email if the annual Christmas game articles are on track, and do I need any volunteer reviewers this year.  The answer is yes, they are on track, and yes I did in fact need more than a few volunteer reviewers!

Happily the crew of Lab Rats this year was more than adequate to cover all the bases that needed covering and you can expect to see the results of this by mid-month!  Though we have covered all of the games that need covering, and we will not be needing additional Lab Rats this year, we still want to sincerely thank each and every one of you for volunteering to help out!

We really do appreciate it and when we say that we could not do this without you, we really mean it.  And on that subject, clearly we couldn't do this without our Game On community and readers - you are all awesome!   We're just sorry that we couldn't give more of you assignments! 

You lot are pretty special, let me tell you.

SO!  Christmas 2014 is turning out to be an exceptional year in terms of games, and not just in variety though there is that!  I cannot remember when such an interesting collection of games arrived all around Christmas last - but the really cool thing is, when we look at the post-Christmas release schedule it is almost as bright!

This is truly going to be a very special and awesome gamer season!

So all of you lot, have a very happy Christmas.  We hope you get all of the games and prezzies that you are looking to, and that your consoles and computers make it through the holidays happy and whirring along!



Friday, November 21, 2014

Adventures in iPhone Land

PART 2 of a Multi-Part Effort

Adventures in iPhone Land

The iPhone 6 arrived via USPS on the afternoon of Tuesday, 18 November - which means I have had it for just under three days, and in that three days I have experienced much and have a lot to share...  Most of it good.

First Impressions
I have to admit that my first reaction upon opening the box was an eye-goggled jaw-dropped whaaa?!  The iPhone 6 Plus is HUGE.  Until the moment that I actually held it in my hands I did not truly understand the commend that my colleague Walt Mossberg made when he referred to the device as a Phablet - part phone, part Tablet.  

In almost every respect at least visually, the iPhone 6 Plus is indeed a Phablet.  But it is also a device that does not suffer from the downside of the Tablet or, interestingly enough, the wireless phone either.

What I mean by that is that where I tend to find Tablets ungainly and uncomfortable to use as a phone, the 6 Plus is actually comfortable in the hands, and easy to use as a phone.  

Note that while I was not aware that they had this feature until I actually experienced it - when you own an iPhone and an iPad, if both devices are turned on and logged into the same common WiFi network, when you receive a phone call on your iPhone it will forward the call to your iPad, so that you can take it there if that is more convenient.

And several times the iPad was closer to hand than the iPhone, and I took a few calls on it.  Even with the phone call on speaker and the device held comfortably in the hands the act of receiving a phone call via the Tablet was, to be accurate, uncomfortable.

That may be partly because it is an unusual experience, and partly due to the fact that taking a call under those circumstances leaves one at the mercy of the ambient noise in whatever environment they happen to be in at the time.  But either way, I don't recommend it.

A Question of Comfort?
While I had initial misgivings about opting for the iPhone 6 Plus once I experienced its over-sized footprint for myself, after just a few calls I have concluded that while there is a bit of getting used to to be experienced for me, personally, in the end I think I actually like the 6 Plus better than my old 4S.

Primarily I suspect that at least part of that inclination towards rapid acceptance is the fact that the 6 Plus is actually pretty close in terms of size to the sort of telephone handset I grew up using - that is to say the ear piece is just the right distance from the mic so that one is at the ear while the other is perfectly positioned before the lips.

Another strong factor for my ready acceptance is that we, as humans, tend to prefer what we know to something new.  And my comfort levels were never put to the test, because as soon as I turned on and properly charged the 6 Plus - or I should say while I waited for the 6 Plus to fully charge as per the instructions - more than a few minor matters were being attended to invisibly and behind the scenes.

While the new iPhone was charging, as I had followed the instructions with which it arrived and fully activated the device, adding my local WiFi security data, and authorizing the phone as my primary for both wireless service and iTunes, the following took place without my having to think about or actively manage them:
  • Contacts - the phone automatically - or perhaps automagically is a better phrase - reached out to the Cloud and grabbed my Contacts data and saved it to the new device.  In consequence of this, when I reached for the phone to make a call for the first time, rather than needing to look a number up on my old (and no longer connected to AT&T) device, the full Contacts were already present, so it was business as usual!
  • Weather and Other Data - while the phone did ask me to verify that I was, in fact, authorizing it to use my current location and the built-in location tracking features with which it comes as a standard feature - once I confirmed my permission for those, the new phone acted precisely as if it had been doing these things for me all along - or like my old phone basically.
  • Messages and Text - the conversations and the new additions to the same - for my ongoing set of personal and business interactions were simply there.  No need for me to seek them out; it was as if the phone knew what was important to me and made sure that that information and its associated data made the switch with my details, everything intact.
  • Important Dates and Appointments - all of the appointments on my calendar as well as the set of important dates that I had punched into my information management and productivity system three iPhones ago were just... There.
  • Images, Videos, and Backgrounds - all thanks to the Cloud present and accounted for.
  • The Apps I Use - note that I make a specific distinction here between the Apps that I actually use and the ones that happen to be on my phone because I had not gotten around to deleting them - and hey, the ones I actually used made the switch with me, without prompting, while the ones I did not - did not.
The important point to take away from all this is that I was not expecting it to be that easy.  In fact I was expecting to have to address and deal with all of this on my own, inconveniently, and over time.

The fact that none of that ended up being necessary is down to the genius of whoever came up with the programs that kick in when you upgrade phones.  Good on them!  Well done!

Second Impressions
Perhaps the most obvious point not in favor of this new and larger iPhone is the fact that pretty much all of the kit - with the exception of any Bluetooth kit - no longer works with my phone.

What that means is that some of it will have to be replaced.  In particular I will need to spend the time and the effort to seek out a MilSpec graded protective case for this bugger.  I will need to seek out and obtain a docking station for it because I use that particular connectivity convenience often in order to keep my phone and my notebook computer in-synch.

Having pointed that out though, it was very nice to be able to connect my earpiece and my over-the-ears headphones so that I could continue to use the stuff I am comfortable with and use often.

Big(ger) Screen Baby!
It is not that I am getting old, or that I have eyesight issues - but as one of the beats that I cover as a writer happens to be games journalism, and as mobile app/games play a significant part in that work that I do, the larger screen on the 6 Plus is a bloody beautiful thing.

Mark this down under the category of "you don't know what you are missing because you didn't know what you were missing" - but due to the manner in which mobile app/games of the city-building and grinder persuasion are built and played, it has been necessary for me to maintain multiple accounts and game sessions using different devices and log-ins.

I do that so that I can interact between the accounts using the multi-player side of the game play mechanics built into these games as a matter of convenience.  The increased screen size on the 6 Plus is so much bigger that I have not had a single missed - or incorrect - tap since I started using it!

That is a big deal, let me tell you.  Especially when you are playing a game like The Simpsons: Tapped Out in which you are making hundreds of taps and swipes in a single session!

So there you have it - in my opinion, for what that is worth - I find the new iPhone to be a major and easily experienced improvement over the iPhone 4S.  I suspect it is also an improvement over the iPhone 5 (all models) though having not used that generation at all, I really can't say with the sort of authoritative voice I usually use.

Keep an eye out for follow-on posts about this because I suspect, as I continue to use the 6 Plus, I will find other aspects and elements that I feel are worthy of comment.  And I shan't be shy in sharing those with you, I promise!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

The Technical Stuff...

Thanks to my trusty copy of Geekbench 3 (Version 3.2.2 for iOS), I was able to run the standard tests and here are the results:
Model: iPhone 6 Plus / Model ID: iPhone7,1
OS: iOS 8.1.1
Processor: Apple A8 @ 1.4 GHz 1 Processor, 2 Cores
Processor ID: ARM
Memory: 976 MB

L1 Instruction Cache: 64.0 KB
L1 Data Cache: 64.0 KB
L2 Cache: 1.00 MB
L3 Cache: 0.00 B
L4 Cache: 1.00 B

Processor Benchmarks Report

Single-Core Score:1620
Multi-Core Score:2907


AES Single-Core: 1127 (988.3 MB/sec)
AES Multi-Core: 2211 (1.89 GB/sec)
Twofish Single-Core: 1034 (58.1 MB/sec)
Twofish Multi-Core: 2077 (116.6 MB/sec)
SHA1 Single-Core: 4559 (494.9 MB/sec)
SHA1 Multi-Core:  8998 (976.7 MB/sec)
SHA2 Single-Core: 2542 (110.0 MB/sec)
SHA2 Multi-Core:  5063 (219.1 MB/sec)
BZip2 Compress Single-Core: 1292 (5.25 MB/sec)
BZip2 Compress Multi-Core: 2540 (10.3 MB/sec)
BZip2 Decompress Single-Core: 1544 (8.37 MB/sec)
BZip2 Decompress Multi-Core: 3069 (16.6 MB/sec)
JPEG Compress Single-Core: 1366 (19.0 Mpixels/sec)
JPEG Compress Multi-Core: 2714 (37.8 Mpixels/sec)
JPEG Decompress Single-Core: 1881 (46.5 Mpixels/sec)
JPEG Decompress Multi-Core: 3662 (90.5 Mpixels/sec)
PNG Compress Single-Core: 1581 (1.26 Mpixels/sec)
PNG Compress Multi-Core: 3137 (2.50 Mpixels/sec)
PNG Decompress Single-Core: 1490 (17.2 Mpixels/sec)
PNG Decompress Multi-Core: 2969 (34.2 Mpixels/sec)
Sobel Single-Core: 1936 (70.5 Mpixels/sec)
Sobel Multi-Core: 3748 (136.4 Mpixels/sec)
Lua Single-Core: 1666 (1.50 MB/sec)
Lua Multi-Core: 3283 (2.95 MB/sec)
Dijkstra Single-Core: 1540 (5.53 Mpairs/sec)
Dijkstra Multi-Core: 2655 (9.53 Mpairs/sec)

Single-Core Score:1574
Multi-Core Score:3103

BlackScholes Single-Core: 1746 (7.77 Mnodes/sec)
BlackScholes Multi-Core: 3461 (15.4 Mnodes/sec)
Mandelbrot Single-Core: 1146 (1.18 Gflops)
Mandelbrot Multi-Core: 2290 (2.35 Gflops)
Sharpen Filter Single-Core: 1326 (983.3 Mflops)
Sharpen Filter Multi-Core: 2604 (1.93 Gflops)
Blur Filter Single-Core: 1463 (1.39 Gflops)
Blur Filter Multi-Core: 2918 (2.78 Gflops)
SGEMM Single-Core: 1357 (3.80 Gflops)
SGEMM Multi-Core: 2648 (7.42 Gflops)
DGEMM Single-Core: 1270 (1.87 Gflops)
DGEMM Multi-Core: 2433 (3.58 Gflops)
SFFT Single-Core: 1662 (1.75 Gflops)
SFFT Multi-Core: 3284 (3.46 Gflops)
DFFT Single-Core: 1846 (1.68 Gflops)
DFFT Multi-Core: 3633 (3.31 Gflops)
N-Body Single-Core: 1969 (730.9 Kpairs/sec)
N-Body Multi-Core: 3896 (1.45 Mpairs/sec)
Ray Trace Single-Core: 2319 (2.73 Mpixels/sec)
Ray Trace Multi-Core: 4596 (5.42 Mpixels/sec)

Single-Core Score:1607
Multi-Core Score:1785

Stream Copy Single-Core: 2413 (9.63 GB/sec)
Stream Copy Multi-Core: 2411 (9.62 GB/sec)
Stream Scale Single-Core: 1452 (5.80 GB/sec)
Stream Scale Multi-Core: 1608 (6.42 GB/sec)
Stream Add Single-Core: 1361 (6.16 GB/sec)
Stream Add Multi-Core: 1590 (7.19 GB/sec)
Stream Triad Single-Core: 1401 (6.16 GB/sec)
Stream Scale Multi-Core: 1649 (7.25 GB/sec)

 Well there you have it - you compare the two - and granted they are actually separated by an entire generation... But still, whew!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Adventures in iPhone Land

PART 1 of a Multi-Part Effort

Adventures in iPhone Land

When the original iPhone launched on 29 June 2007 it joined its very well-established big brother  (and lots of cousins -- who are properly known as the iPod family and friends) to offer tech-savvy phone geeks the opportunity to merge their preferred entertainment platform with a very stylish  mobile (wireless) phone.

In theory that was supposed to be a good thing - after all  this advancement in consumer tech allowed the consumer to carry as much as three fewer devices thanks to the iPhone filling the role of wireless phone, PDA, Music and Audio Book Player, and mobile gaming device!

The only problem with the iPhone replacing all of those devices is that it only has so much power stored up in its battery.  Many users discovered that when they got around to making - and taking - the odd phone call they were usually very low on juice!

As the iPhone does not include a modular battery that could be replaced on-the-fly, what ended up happening was that power-users ended up using their iPhone as a phone and PDA, opting to carry an iPod as well as other entertainment devices, which blunted the primary selling point for the device.

I personally had already experienced that phenomenon with my Blackberry well before the iPhone came along - and as I was a confirmed Berry user I resisted making the switch to the iPhone for a good long time - in fact I did not convert to Apple until mid 2012, and I only did so then and under protest due to work necessity - I needed to be able to play iOS games to review and write about them.

My First iPhone

The iPhone 3GS was my first iPhone - and I continued to use that baby well into the following two generations, only upgrading to the iPhone 4S after the iPhone 5 released and AT&T offered me a free 4S when I re-upped my contract.

The iPhone 4S is actually a very capable computing device... As I am soon to upgrade to the iPhone 6 Plus I thought it was a good idea to do a little comparing - and see what I was getting for my money in the bargain - so I set out to benchmark my 4S in preparation for receiving the 6 Plus - which is due to arrive on Monday.

Whipping out my trusty copy of Geekbench 3 (Version 3.2.2 for iOS), I ran the standard tests and here are the results (note that if you are not a tech-head you may as well stop reading from here on as none of this is going to mean much to you):

Model: iPhone 4S / Model ID: iPhone 4,1
OS: iOS 8.1
Processor: Apple A5 @ 800 MHz (1 Processor / 2 Cores)
Processor ID: ARMv7
Memory: 505 MB
L1 Instruction Cache: 32.0 KB
L1 Data Cache: 32.0 KB
L2 Cache: 1.00 MB
L3 Cache: 0.00 B
L4 Cache: 1.79 GB

Processor Benchmarks Report

Single-Core Score: 215
Multi-Core Score: 407

Single-Core: 280
Multi-Core: 551
AES Single-Core: 16 (14.6 MB/sec)
AES Multi-Core: 33 (29.0 MB/sec)
Twofish Single-Core: 233 (13.1 MB/sec)
Twofish Multi-Core: 459 (25.8 MB/sec)
SHA1 Single-Core: 530 (22.9 MB/sec)
SHA1 Multi-Core: 1059 (45.8 MB/sec)
BZip2 Compress Single-Core: 342 (1.39 MB/sec)
BZip2 Compress Multi-Core: 650 (2.65 MB/sec)
BZip2 Decompress Single-Core: 389 (2.11 MB/sec)
BZip2 Decompress Multi-Core: 765 (4.15 MB/sec)
JPEG Compress Single-Core: 335 (4.68 Mpixels/sec)
JPEG Compress Multi-Core: 661 (9.22 Mpixels/sec)
JPEG Decompress Single-Core: 347 (8.59 Mpixels/sec)
JPEG Decompress Multi-Core: 685 (17.0 Mpixels/sec)
PNG Compress Single-Core: 383 (306.6 Kpixels/sec)
PNG Compress Multi-Core: 754 (602.4 Kpixels/sec)
PNG Decompress Single-Core: 449 (5.18 Mpixels/sec)
PNG Decompress Multi-Core: 886 (10.2 Mpixels/sec)
Sobel Single-Core: 262 (9.55 Mpixels/sec)
Sobel Multi-Core: 511 (18.6 Mpixels/sec)
Lua Single-Core: 314 (1.58 KB/sec)
Lua Multi-Core: 616 (567.4 KB/sec)
Dijkstra Single-Core: 550 (1.58 Mpairs/sec)
Dijkstra Multi-Core: 817 (2.94 Mpairs/sec)

Single-Core Score: 182
Multi-Core Score: 363
BlackScholes Single-Core: 274 (1.22 Mnodes/sec)
BlackScholes Multi-Core: 545 (2.43 Mnodes/sec)
Mandelbrot Single-Core: 233 (239.3 Mflops)
Mandelbrot Multi-Core: 460 (2.43 Mflops)
Sharpen Filter Single-Core: 182 (135.2 Mflops)
Sharpen Filter Multi-Core: 360 (267.0 Mflops)
Blur Filter Single-Core: 176 (168.0 Mflops)
Blur Filter Multi-Core: 344 (327.9 Mflops)
SGEMM Single-Core: 157 (442.5 Mflops)
SGEMM Multi-Core: 301 (843.7 Mflops)
DGEMM Single-Core: 74 (109.2 Mflops)
DGEMM Multi-Core: 153 (225.1 Mflops)
SFFT Single-Core: 156 (165.5 Mflops)
SFFT Multi-Core: 315 (332.2 Mflops)
DFFT Single-Core: 182 (165.9 Mflops)
DFFT Multi-Core: 365 (332.8 Mflops)
N-Body Single-Core: 223 (86.8 Kpairs/sec)
N-Body Multi-Core: 461 (332.2 Kpairs/sec)
Ray Trace Single-Core: 268 (316.5 Kpixels/sec)
Ray Trace Multi-Core: 527 (622.4 Kpixels/sec)

Single-Core Score: 154
Multi-Core Score: 210
Stream Copy Single-Core: 240 (983.5 MB/sec)
Stream Copy Multi-Core: 308 (1.23 GB/sec)
Stream Scale Single-Core: 137 (560.3 MB/sec)
Stream Scale Multi-Core: 238 (977.0 MB/sec)
Stream Add Single-Core: 130 (604.7 MB/sec)
Stream Add Multi-Core: 161 (749.2 MB/sec) 
Stream Triad Single-Core: 134 (603.4 MB/sec)
Stream Scale Multi-Core: 166 (748.8 MB/sec)

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Single-Core Comparative Benchmarks

Comparative (Speculative) Benchmark Scores - Note that our iPhone 4S scored a solid 213...
Unless you know what these numbers mean, this entire section will be meaningless to you... So why do I bother?  Because some of you know what these numbers mean and they are as significant and meaningful to you as they are to me, that's why :)

Device Name CPU Benchmark* 
iPod Touch (5th Gen) Apple A5 213
iPhone 4S Apple A5 213
iPad Mini Apple A5 260
iPad 3rd Generation Apple A5X  260
iPad 2 Apple A5 262
iPhone 5C Apple A6 695
iPhone 5 Apple A6 710
iPad 4th Generation Apple A6X 771
iPad Mini Retina Display  Apple A7 1384
iPhone 5S Apple A7 1400
iPad Air Apple A7 1473
iPhone 6 Plus Apple A8 1590
iPhone 6 Apple A8 1607

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Multi-Core Comparative Benchmarks

Comparative (Speculative) Benchmark Scores - Note that our iPhone 4S scored a solid 407...

Device Name CPU Benchmark* 
iPod Touch (5th Gen) Apple A5 410
iPhone 4S Apple A5 405
iPad Mini Apple A5 490
iPad 3rd Generation Apple A5X  492
iPad 2 Apple A5 494
iPhone 5C Apple A6 1243
iPhone 5 Apple A6 1274
iPad 4th Generation Apple A6X 1402
iPad Mini Retina Display  Apple A7 2495
iPhone 5S Apple A7 2525
iPad Air Apple A7 2665
iPhone 6 Plus Apple A8 2839
iPhone 6 Apple A8 2873

* Bench Score translates to "Comparative Benchmark Score" - with the score listed being a representative sample taken from each respective physical device and type.

The numbers that are contained in the benchmark we ran on the iPhone 4S are pretty meaningless until we receive the 6 Plus and run the benchmark on that - then we can compare the two and at that point the numbers will have actual meaning...

Of the numbers above the one that is obviously of the most interest to me is the iPhone 6 Plus - and believe you me I am expecting great things from it...  I expect it will allow me to walk on water simply by holding it in my hand...  I expect it will pick the winning lottery numbers for me without me having to ask - and I expect it will translate what women are REALLY saying when they say things to me...  Yeah, it is going to be freaking boss!

More to follow in Part 2...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

the iPhone 6 Plus

The newest generation of iPhone - the iPhone 6 - is a game changer literally
Shortly after AT&T announced its iPhone 6 plans - or rather its NEW iPhone 6 plans, I made the decision that, despite my dedicated reluctance to be an early adopter of any sort of new tech, thanks in part to my responsibilities with work and my need to have access to the new iPhone in order to review games that are made specifically for it, I bit the bullet.  Sort of...

Now, I qualified that with a "sort of" largely because in spite of Tim Cook's excited announcement on that stage in California, and despite the contention that the iPhone 6 is perhaps the most polished NEW iPhone to ever launch at Apple - when I placed my order for an iPhone 6 Plus with 64GB of memory on AT&T's website, I understood that there was both a wait-list and that the model I was ordering was one of the more popular - hence an even longer wait-list.

What I mean is, I understood that I would have to get in line with everyone else and wait my turn.

And wait.  Today is 11 November, 2014.  This is the first day that I *might* be sent my new iPhone.

The new Apple Watch - oh, wait, that's the TV watch from The Jetsons...  But if we could watch The Flintstones on our Apple Watch this is what it will look like...  Really!
The official notice that I received from AT&T basically explained that my iPhone was ordered - and AT&T sent me the following message:

Your iPhone 6 has been ordered and is preparing to ship!  Your iPhone 6 Plus 64GB has been ordered and it will ship to you between 11/11/14 - 11/20/14. 

They made it clear that I will get another text message when the phone actually IS shipped, but while they did not come right out and say so, the feeling I got was that it would be preferred that I did not call to ask them when my phone would ship exactly.

First of all, they made it clear that they did not actually know what the exact shipment date would be - and second, I don't want to risk having them decide I am a wanker and slowing it down even more or pushing me to the bottom of the queue...

iPhone Tech

You know, when the iPhone came along I remember thinking to myself: "Self, this is exactly the sort of cutting-edge forward-leaping technology that the writer pool at Screen Gems and the folks at Hanna-Barbera promised us..."

And let me tell you something, when I was a kid Hanna-Barbera was the last word in both cartoons and the future!  They knew, they just knew I tell ya! 

In addition to The Jetsons, they also brought us Scooby Doo, The Banana Splits, The Ruff & Reddy Show, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Top Cat, Johnny Quest, and Josie & the Pussy Cats (well watched by boys aged 12 to 15 I can tell you), in fact if you were an animated character and you planned on going to Hollywood to make it on TV you had to make Hanna-Barbera your first stop!

Computer controlled dental hygiene - in the future homes will be automated with zoned climate control, automatic lighting, and the smart bathroom that includes computer controlled tooth care as well as health monitoring and how cool is that?

iPhone 6 Plus 64GB

One of the questions I get asked whenever the subject of the iPhone 6 comes up in convo with my mates is why did I order the 64GB model and not the larger model?  Hey that is a valid question and so I always answer it honestly: because I don't need more than the 64GB model.

Frank and sincere.  And almost always replied to with some variation of "How do you figure that??!"

My answer?  Simple math and personal experience.  That's how.

OK, here is the thing...  If you look at my past use pattern and habits you will discover that I don't use my phone for entertainment purposes.  I use it as a PHONE.  

The reason for that is simple - I discovered that way back in the day when I had my first iPhone, I would use up its battery playing music and audio books, or games, and end up with a nearly dead battery when I needed to make a call - or having to tell the people who called ME that I was running out of battery so make it quick.

That is NOT an ideal use of the device I soon realized, and it was also having a negative impression on the editors I work for and the people I was ringing to interview.  It wasn't a set of circumstances that I could maintain in other words.

If you are curious where I go to check out reviews of new tech, you may find me over at the website MobileTechReview where you can find entertaining reviews of tech like the iPhone 6 review embedded above...  Check out their NVIDIA Shield review and coverage - fascinating.

Once I grasped that basic dilemma I solved the problem in a most expedient manner: I purchased a Video iPod - which at the time was also known as iPod with Video - or Fifth Generation iPod - which was brand new and cutting edge at the time.

My new iPod could hold a massive 30GB of data, music, audio books, pictures, videos, and games.  Because inside was a little town in which elves who couldn't get work at Keebler were busy keeping track of and storing all my stuff, and sending it to the screen when I asked for it, and how freaking awsome was that?!

Problem Solved

Not only was my problem solved, that iPod ended up delivering services I hadn't known at the time I would need or want, and made my life - and job - all that much better and easier.  Let me list all the ways that it accomplished all of that for me:
When you are finished driving flying it, a simple push of a button causes this air-car to fold up into an easy to carry briefcase style that totally eliminates the need and expense of paying for parking.
  • Battery Savior - Where I was using the battery up on my iPhone, I now had a dedicated batter in this new iPod device thingy with which to play games and listen to media, and a dedicated battery in my iPhone thingy with which to take and make phone calls, record interviews, and keep and maintain both my Contacts book and notes.  So win-win.

    When the battery was used up on the iPod that was all she Wrote as far as games or media was concerned for the day - or at least until I could plug in the iPod.  Because I had made a deal with myself that I would NEVER use the iPhone like I had been - for entertainment.

  • Portable Media Safe - So here is the thing...  At the time (around 2006) the idea of a collection of thumb drives with which to carry around the data and programs that we need was not a naturally occurring idea for most people - myself included.

    It is fair to say that I did not see it or understand the value of it until, sitting on the bed of my hotel in Los Angeles after a grueling day covering the video game Disney World called E3, I put my brain in neutral and was entertained by a motion picture staring John Cusack that was called Runaway Jury.

    As I watched a bad guy - a really bad guy I just knew - had broken into John's apartment and was in the process of searching it.  What was he searching for?  He didn't know. But he knew he was searching for something - a file, a hard drive, something that John had stored data on...  Secrets that the bad guy needed to uncover.

    Now bearing in mind that the movie was already 3 years old when I saw it on TV in that nice hotel room in LA - and also bear in mind that in my daypack on the corner of the bed was a large collection - I remember counting them up on the plane on the way home and being shocked to discover that I had somehow managed to collect 43 thumb drives filled with press and PR packages for games - and I remember thinking that most of the writers that I worked with hated the things because they were just large enough to be tempting but too small to be useful...

    Now bear in mind that when they said that they were actually talking about the most common sizes of thumb drive that they were most familiar with and that they tended to be handed at events like trade shows and the like: basically 128MB to around 512MB with the most common memory size that my colleagues collected being 256MB thumb drives.

    Now on the one hand these were FREE - PRs gave them out to distribute the press kits that just a few years before that would have been large bulky and heavy printed media that, by the end of the day, caused you to be hauling around 20 pounds of paper.

    As I was the only one of my peers who happened to cover the video games beat, the following was of particular interest to them in that at first they could not believe what I was telling them.  And then when they did believe it - a feat I accomplished by handing them the cigar box that contained 43 thumb drives - most of them with silk-screened studio names and logos on one side, and the name and logo of the game whose press kit they contained on the other - and invited them to slot them into their computer and see for themselves.

    Of the 43 thumb drives from that E3 all but 6 were 4GB models. The 6 that were exceptions only contained 2GB each. 

    To put this in perspective for you - at that time a 4GB Thumb Drive could be purchased at your local area Best Buy - for something like $200 that is.  In my bag - handed to me like they were nothing more than the printed press kit - was over $7K in Thumb Drives.  Absolute madness.

    But wait!  The point of this was NOT that the game studios were giving away 4GB thumb drives - rather it was that in the movie John Cusack's character was using his iPod as a Thumb Drive (sort of) and storing lots of data on it as a portable media source.

    I distinctly recall thinking - how cool is that?  I started using my 30GB iPod like that - and as for the Thumb Drives?  I copied all of the press kits to the hard drive on my notebook and passed the drives out to anyone who wanted one - because 4GB was large enough to be useful!

  • Boredom Battled - The good times there are plenty, and thanks to some special apps when I am getting ready for a long trip I will select a handful of movies I will want to watch to keep myself entertained, and pop them, one after the other, into my PC.

    Each movie is then ripped from the DVD and imported to iTunes, and once I have the ones I want and I have selected the music I want to take along for the trip all I have to do is plug in my iPad and voila!  The entertainment is transferred over.

    Later while trapped inside a metal tube rocketing through the sky at nearly 600 miles per hour I am happily engrossed in Monuments Men, Fast & Furious 6, Saving Mr. Banks, and Frozen, while I know that Danny Carnahan and the complete works of AC/DC await my desires in the wings!

  • Actual Use History - I own a 64GB iPhone 4S on which (I just checked) there are 150 songs, 2053 photos, 0 videos, 32 applications, and something like 40GB of free space.  Now granted today I use my iPad in place of the iPod I used almost ten years ago to solve the whole phone battery issue, but still...  I am barely scratching the surface in terms of storage and memory use so what would justify spending the extra money to buy more than the 64GB I already don't fully use?!

    You know, when Sister Frank told me that math would be an important life skill I confess I did not believe her.  It turns out though that she was correct...

  • Replaces my Notebook - Thanks to the detachable keyboard on my iPad I no longer need to bring my notebook to events like E3.  Instead I leave it back at the hotel, and I bring my iPad and its accessories, which weigh far less and fit into a smaller space - my daypack - and use that to do any writing or posting I need to do.  And work gets done!
The prototype for the Roomba - a robot that keeps your carpet clean.  That's right the idea was conceived in 1963 but it took over fifty years for the R&D process and battery tech to reach the point where the tech was viable!

 Really Looking Forward to the iPhone 6

So, yeah, I am really looking forward to my new iPhone 6 Plus.  Really...  Can't wait till it arrives.  Well actually, truth?  I am terrified that it will arrive...

You see when it does arrive, I will be faced with the nightmare of juggling two phones with the same phone number for the several days it will take me to transfer and install eventything that needs to be transferred and installed...

They were supposed to make that part of the process painless and easy - but last time it was anything but painless or easy...

In theory I should be able to use the cloud for this, right?  I mean it should be relatively easy to simply back up the data files to the cloud, and then make a list of the apps I use the most (and take this opportunity NOT to install the ones that I never use) restore the data files and be done with it.  Right?

Here is the question - or rather one of them: When you pause to consider that the iPhone is supposed to be an integrated member of your Apple devices community, it stands to reason that once I enter my Apple ID and other pertinent infos into the phone and save them, how come my iTunes does not automagically KNOW what should be there and adds it on its own?

A powered chair network combined with a pneumatic chair lift system that permits you to strap your kid into a chair, hand them a bag lunch, then tell the system "Get this rugrat to school!" and it will!  That's tech we could really use today, let me tell ya...
After all that seems like a task that shouldn't br all that difficult OR outside of the reach of iTunes.  Right?  Right!  Heck in this day and age the ENTIRE PROCESS should be automated.  I should not even have to think about it!  And other than asking me to approve the list of data to be copied and apps installed, it should be able to handle all that on its own!

And while we are on that subject, just where are the personal aircars that fold into a lightweight and easy to carry briefcase??

It was over fifty-years-ago that The Jetsons first appeared on the TV - first entered our homes and promised us that in 2012 (that's right, the year that the show takes place in was 2012 - you knew that, right?) would be a fantastic future.

Colonies on Mars, a fully settled Moon, personal air cars, robot maids, automatic ovens, polite children, computer managed closets, grocery delivery, and wait, what about interactive movies and games?!

Man we were so robbed.  And considering that we were in fact robbed of that rosey future, can't we at least have painless iPhone upgrades?

I just know I am going to love my iPhone 6!  Some day soon...

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Forza Rewards Program

In conversation with fans of the Forza games I find myself often mentioning the free Forza Rewards program and its website to players who are not aware of it. How they can be not aware of it still has me scratching my head, since it is not only widely discussed on the boards but has also been integrated into the most recent game in the series - Forza Horizon 2 - but there you have it.

An offshoot of the conversations brought the whole status and standing question up and that got me thinking about the very well structured system of what amounts to bragging rights that are a focus of the games... And I am speaking of a recognition system that goes well beyond the Achievements that are part of each game.

One element that the folks at Turn 10 Game Studios and Microsoft Game Studios do very well is the tracking of stats that are related to your game play. This is something that may very well have started as an off-shoot that was enabled by the Xbox LIVE Achievements scheme, but it has grown into a very deep and unique focus of its own as a result.

The actual tracking process began years ago - in 2007 to be exact, which is the year that the first sequel to the Forza Motorsports series arrived, Forza Motorsports 2.

The points earned in each game add up to your Tier level...

The Forza Rewards Platform
Between Turn 10, Microsoft Games, and Microsoft's LIVE Network, they have managed to create a very deep and interesting stat tracking system in the form of the Forza Rewards website and service, which is officially part of the LIVE network (it is hosted on servers that belong to Microsoft's LIVE Network).

A casual examination of my account on the Rewards Service reveals that of the 100+ friends and followers I have connected to my LIVE Gamertag, 37 have played a Forza game. That is not to say that all 37 are active gamers among what fans like to call the Forza Faithful - au contraire, a number that adds up to nearly three-quarters are what would be considered the most casual of Forza gamers.

Of the 37 Gamertags with at least some points earned in the Rewards Scheme, 13 of them are just Tier 1 (there are 7 Tiers so far), having less than 100 points collectively including all of the games in the series (which includes the primary Motorsports game series of Forza Motorsports 2 through 5, and the split-off special Horizon series, Forza Horizon and Horizon 2).

Twelve are Tier 2 with less than 600 points total, nine are Tier 3 with less than 2,500 points each, and one is Tier 4 (having 2,506) and another Tier 6 (having 8,013 points) - whereas I am Tier 7 with 9,490 points in total.

Points Awarded
The points scheme that is used is restricted to a set of specific activities - though which varies by specific game title - while the value for these activities tends to be a set part of the system. Looking at this from a title by title pov, the points scheme grows progressively more complicated with each new game in the two series' starting with a very basic approach for FM2.

It should be noted that the original Forza arrived prior to the creation of Xbox LIVE and the very popular Achievements scheme that is the foundation for it. That is why it is not included in the Forza Rewards system - as no data exists on the LIVE network that can included or tracked.
Starting with Horizon 2 the Rewards Program is built into the game - taking the form of the Horizon Hub.

An overview of the points scheme looks like this:

Forza Motorsports 2 (500 Points Total)
  • Achievements (500 Points)

Forza Motorsports 3 (1,000 Points Total)
  • Achievements (300 Points)
  • Cars Owned (200 Points)
  • Driver Level (100 Points)
  • Paid DLC Owned (100 Points)
  • Days Played (200 Points)
  • Miles Driven (100 Points)

Forza Motorsports 4 (2,000 Points Total)
  • Achievements (350 Points)
  • Cars Owned (250 Points)
  • Driver Level (250 Points)
  • Paid DLC Owned (250 Points)
  • Days Played (300 Points)
  • Miles Driven (250 Points)
  • Perfect Passes (50 Points)
  • Tokens Purchased (300 Points)

Forza Motorsports 5 (3,000 Points Total)
  • Achievements (500 Points)
  • Cars Owned (250 Points)
  • Driver Level (250 Points)
  • Paid DLC Owned (350 Points)
  • Tokens Purchased (350 Points)
  • Badges and Titles Unlocked (400 Points)
  • Days Played (500 Points)
  • Miles Driven (350 Points)
  • Perfect Passes (50 Points)

Forza Horizon (2,000 Points Total)
  • 1000 Club Challenges (200 Points)
  • Achievements (400 Points)
  • Cars Owned (150 Points)
  • Days Played (400 Points)
  • Miles Driven (250 Points)
  • Paid DLC Owned (250 Points)
  • Perfect Passes (50 Points)
  • Tokens Purchased (300 Points)

Forza Horizon 2 (3,000 Points Total)
  • Achievements (500 Points)
  • Cars Owned (250 Points)
  • Driver Level (350 Points)
  • Paid DLC Owned (150 Points)
  • Roads Discovered (200 Points)
  • Bucket List Items (400 Points)
  • Days Played (500 Points)
  • Miles Driven (350 Points)
  • Perks Unlocked (250 Points)
  • Ultimate Passes (50 Points)

While the games tend to give significant weight to the aspects that include spending real money for in-game objects, they also give some weight to in-game activities like the number of days played, miles driven, and electives completed. Another area that gets significant weight is the Achievements in each game, so at least in theory the typical player can obtain quite a decent Rewards Score by simply playing the game.

That is particularly true when you consider that the Tier levels are strictly point based, and do not require the player to obtain specific levels of accomplishment in a given game. It doesn't hurt if you happen to be a serious fan of racing games - or own most of the games in the series...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

. . . A Taste of Things to Come (Digital Game Distribution)

There are not many auto racing video games that are part of a game series that command the measure of respect and anticipation that the games of Forza Racing do.  That is a simple statement of fact.

On 30 September - in just 9 days - the first sequel to the newest venture in the Forza series - Forza Horizon 2 - will launch, and when it does it will be a monumental event for several reasons, not the least of which being the fact that it is the sequel to a game that broke the traditions of Forza, which for its entire existence has been a simulation of traditional track-based professional racing.

The break with tradition in the case of Horizon is that unlike the previous games in the Forza Motorsport series, Horizon took the players off the track and onto city streets and highways, country lanes, and dirt tracks.  It not only broke the tradition, it shattered it.  And it did so with quite a lot of respect on the part of the players, who just love it do death!

But that is not the bit that I am referring to when I say the launch will be monumental.  No, that bit is the manner in which a significant portion of the players will actually play the game come midnight-oh-one on 30 September...

Traditional Video Game Distribution Paths
The history of game distribution is pretty simple and easy to assess.  In the past it worked like this: the games were completed, manufactured in their retail boxed presentation, and shipped to the various outlets that sell them.

Once at the retail end, a handful of employees - and their friends - would get to buy the game early, take it home and play it, and thus join briefly with the legitimate members of the video game press in having an early go at the game.  

Their illicit access is brief compared to that of the games journos, who get the games weeks before they are released.   For example as I write this there is a copy of Forza Horizon 2 sitting on the hard drive of my Xbox One, and it has been there since last Friday.

The game - or rather a code for a digital copy of the game - was provided to me by the PRs who are in charge of that sort of thing for Turn 10 and Microsoft - and I am using it to evaluate the game in preparation for writing my review.  

That is all I can say about that, because the details of the game are under embargo until the end of the week - but FH2 makes an excellent illustration for this post, as you will shortly see...

Digital Distribution
The problem of early release copies getting out into the wild has always been the sore point in the challenge to find a way to distribute games online.  Since the introduction of broadband on a wide scale worldwide, game distribution has been headed in that direction.  But up until recently that sort of distribution had its own set of impediments...

Modern games come in two flavors these days - traditional retail boxed copies, which the gamer has to either pre-order or go stand in line on release day and hope that they can get a copy - and digital downloads, which the gamer can obtain in the comfort of their own home.

On release day though, with tens of thousands of gamers trying to redeem their digital key and download the game, issues like failure to connect to the download server and bandwidth limitations have plagued the digital side, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of many a gamer.

The release of Forza Horizon 2 though, that may change both perceptions and the experience.  Why?  Well for a very good reason!  You can buy and download a digital copy of the game right now.

Seriously - you can purchase a code online, then plug that code into your Xbox One in the Redeem a Code box, and then actually download the full game, as we speak.  I know because I downloaded the game from the standard server using a standard code provided by the PRs.  This system works!

You can't PLAY the game mind you.  Unless you also have a special Unlock Code, it will not function, will not load, and will not allow you to race up and down the streets in its virtual world, at least not until Midnight-oh-one on 30 September.  

The fact that you can't play it is not the important bit here - the fact that you HAVE it. That it is already ON your hard drive and just waiting for the release date?  THAT is the big deal.

For FH2 there will not be any slow downloads.  There will be no failure to redeem codes, or issues with the server not having adequate bandwidth or connection sockets.  In short, they have solved the problems associated with digital downloads of video games!

Now before you think, oh clever gamer, that you could buy it, download it, and then simply set the date on your Xbox One to 30 September and be playing early, no, it don't work that way.

When you run the game - every time you run the game but more important the first time you run it - it connects to the game server online to check a number of facts such as does a launch-day patch exist?  Should it update the client?  And hey, by the way, what day is it?
You were probably expecting the most modern of rides - and they are there - but were you expecting anything this bloody cool?  That is a war-vintage Willys Jeep!  How cool is that?  Massively Cool!

The Wave of the Future?
Definitely.  I don't care how you look at the whole issue of modern games and gaming - whether you think they are too expensive, or not big enough.  The many and varied ways that critics of games and video gaming have to spout their rhetoric and issue complaints do not interest me.

What interests me is the fact that some very clever people finally worked out how to sell games early and online, cutting out the necessity of dealing with the gnomes that man the counter at your typical game store and who, in my experience, enjoy feeling superior as the gatekeepers of access to the newest and bestest games out there!

I am not joking - that attitude you experience when buying a new game on launch day is very very annoying.  Words like disgusting quickly come to mind.  And these are barely educated almost children who are treating you that way.

If you ever find yourself wondering how an entire nation could go power-mad and create the sort of hard feelings and horror that leads to World War, I suggest you visit a game store on launch day for a major title.  I am just saying...

But back on topic, the method that they are using to distribute FH2 digitally is nothing short of brilliant.  Every gamer with an Xbox One who decides they want to own the Day One Edition of Forza Horizon 2 can own it.  Can buy the code and redeem it early so that launch day for them simply means loading the game and bam!  They are racing!

If the experience that Turn 10 and Microsoft have with this launch is smooth and trouble free, I think we can expect to see more games go this route, I certainly hope so.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

. . . Ptience and the Challenges of Combat Strategy Games

Among the many gifts that Apple's iPad has delivered in its promise to make life more interesting for gamers we must include the unanticipated breadth of entertainment offered by the many games in the  RTS, CSG, and RPG genres that the platform offers - many of them free-to-play!

One such title - Boom Beach - offers far more than simple entertainment, that is provided that the player is willing to exercise an element in gaming that comes in all too short supply regardless of the genre or sub-genre: patience.

I can think of no more perfect an example than Boom Beach, which while it presents the typical tools that are the meat-and-potato for such game genres, at the same time in its mixture of immediate and obvious gratification.

There is hardly a better example for the style of WYSIWYG game play - and its record of progress, thanks in no small part to the multi-player and player-vs-player elements with which the game is built.  In simple terms then, the player who is willing to trade lengthy delay for material improvement in both the strategic and tactical position will find success for the asking. 

Players incapable of that sort of long-term view or who place more emphasis upon direct action, while they will still find entertainment and satisfaction in the game, find a decidedly different sort.

Basic Premise
Boom Beach begins with a uniform set of challenges.  The players are given an island base with very basic facilities that they must defend and use as the source of supply, and a combination of naval and marine offensive forces in the form of a Gunboat and Landing Craft with which to flex their military might and muscle and, if they know what they are doing or are even a little bit lucky, can raid and capture islands, bases, and resource facilities.

The ever-present need to build a defensive position while at the same time thin out the local threats at nearby island, and the never-quenched need for more resources - gold, wood, stone, and metals, not to mention gems for making idols, and more of the same for building defenses - means that even the more impatient of gamers will still find plenty of targets.

But what of the patient?

Despite it being a game in which the player faces both computer-controlled NPC and human opponents, none of the action is instant.  That is to say none of the battles take place in real time.  The first that a player knows that his base has been attacked is when they log in and discover either smoking ruins of their base, or more often (if they are good at it) their local militia repairing the damages from a failed attack.

I have found the game to be incredibly entertaining, and even more so when the player is willing to take the long-view of things, and works towards progressively improving their position.

The iOS platform needs more games like Boom Beach - that is certainly true.  If you happen to know of any - and are interested in sharing - please do email me?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

. . . A Mobile Gaming Day Examined

My day job is Writer and Journalist - and being a freelancer I write for a number of different outlets and publications, some with by-line, some without.  It is as busy a day as your typical office worker's day in the sense that there is certainly a solid 8-hours of work in it - if it is a light day.

Unfortunately a typical day can easily run to 12 hours or more, and lately due to demands that are being placed upon me on the Gaming Beat side of my work, the days have been running to 16 hours as a result of major events running in mobile games of the city-building grinder type.

Specifically the iOS games Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff and The Simpson's: Tapped Out are factoring pretty heavily in the daily load just now, because both of those games have major events running.

That got me to thinking - what is the average gamer experiencing in terms of game play demands on their time right now?

This is actually a very sticky issue largely due to the fact that for the most part, the typical consumer for games like Tapped Out and QfS are actually men and women (but more women than men) who are otherwise regularly employed and who use their mobile devices - most often an iPad or an Android tablet - to play the games during work hours.

That is to say, they sneak time away from their otherwise paid employment to get their moves in, and this is especially true when major events are running in the games that they play, because the timers that are a foundation element in events - and major events in particular -require more frequent game play if the player is going to complete all of the missions and quests for the events!

The typical player wants to do that - complete all of the missions - largely because there are some very significant and desirable rewards for doing so.  Rewards like special characters, special outfits and costumes, special event-specific and unique objects, and perhaps more important, special buildings for their games.

That Got Me To Thinking...

What does a typical day of play mean then?  Just how much work time are these average players taking away from the time that they owe their employers?

Before I got to adding up the game play time, I decided that whatever the total was that I arrived at, roughly half of the game play time would take place outside of work - so off-the-cuff I concluded that it would be some modest and reasonable number.

Then I factored in that most of that game play would be very brief sessions - five or ten minutes at the most, during which the gamers updated their status in terms of collecting rent, defending buildings, and updating missions, that sort of thing.

I then realized that I would also have to deduct the time that I spent in actually writing up the various activities - since that is a major part of the work I do on the guides I am writing. 

So with those qualifications in mind, I created a paper log in which I recorded all of my game play session times for a single day.

There are actually three games that I am presently guiding that qualify in the city-building, grinder categories of mobile games: Quest for Stuff, Tapped Out, and The Sims: FreePlay.

Of the trio, Tapped Out and FreePlay were taking the least amount of time since their missions tend to be longer in hour count to complete - I am not sure why that is so but it is.  With FreePlay I am actually in something of a holding pattern as I work towards completing a lengthy collection of missions and quests that are, by their nature, time-consuming.

The reason I am in that holding-pattern is that I need to get all of that done BEFORE I work on the most recent of the primary story missions in the game, because if I start that one, it will alter the game dynamics in a major way by adding and triggering finite life spans for the game characters.

That being the case, FreePlay for all practical purposes does not really count for the purposes of this inquiry, so I ignored its times.

With Tapped Out, the major event that is presently running is actually in its early stages, having only recently started and having quite a while left on its game event timer yet to run (the special event in Tapped Out is the Clash of Clones Event, and it does not end until 7 October).

The event in Quest for Stuff on the other hand is a horse of a different color entirely!  It is nearing the end of its timer - it officially ends on 8 September - but it is also one of the most time and effort intensive special events that I have ever experienced or covered for this type of game.

It has lots of ongoing missions and quests to be sure, but the true nature of its time-sucking ability is the necessity to not only defend the buildings in my QfS town from attacks by mutant Stewies but also to constantly both Bomb the Stewie Minions but also keep ALL of the characters who have quests and missions that apply active with as little downtime as possible because there is so much to do in the event that if I don't, I will NOT finish them all before the timer runs out.

In fact the pace of that special event seems to have been diabolically engineered to obtain that direct result!

The QfS Comic Con Event

In the world of game geeks there are few real-world events that carry quite the massive cred as does Comic Con, so making that the theme and focus for the major summer event for QfS was bloody brilliant on the part of the wizards behind the game.

That said, the time-intensive and effort-intensive nature of the resulted in a rather shocking total play time for this average day of almost exactly six (6) hours?!

Now once I deducted the writing time - 3 hours - and then took away half of the play time that remained - 1.5 hours - under the assumption that it would be taking place when the gamer was not at work, that left a very shocking 1.5 hours of game play that must be taking place in the workplace!

Could that be right?  I asked that question seriously.

Simple math dictated that those number meant that the game was robbing employers of roughly 7.5 hours in a typical work week.  If we presume that the typical worker gets half-an-hour for lunch, what that means is that any company who is employed a gamer who plays Quest for Stuff is basically losing AN ENTIRE DAY each week!

Those gamers are getting paid for an entire standard day while they play a game each week!

I suspect that at least in corporate culture, the gamers must not be using the WiFi side of their devices to play - more likely they are using the cellular network connection - they would have to be, because the IT gnomes would easily detect their activities via the network, and if they were smart they would be blocking the ports on the network that those games use...

Unless of course it is the IT gnomes who are playing the games, in which case they not only would have a vested interest in keeping those ports open, but would also have reason not to bring the abuse to the attention of their company and its managers!

As It Turns Out

The idea that a typical corporate gamer was pulling down a paid day of gaming each week during this special event struck me as very hard to believe.  In fact so hard that I started to discretely make inquiries - first of the players who are on my friend list via Facebook and iOS's Game Center, and then by networking via Facebook, to others.

What I found out was shocking.

Not only were these gamers pretty much doing exactly what my theory suggested they were doing - playing the game at work and on company time, but they were doing so in numbers larger than I had estimated. 

When I added up the time estimates that they were admitting to it was not 1.5 hours per day, but closer to 2 hours a day!

This has to be having serious impact upon the business world - worldwide - and the next logical direction I needed to follow was to look at the corporate networks to see if they were aware of the issue and what they were doing about it, if anything?

As it turns out they are very aware of the issue, thanks to studies, articles in magazines like Forbes, and books.  In fact according to just casual research on the subject via Google searches, the costs run an estimated $650 billion a year for Smartphones alone in terms of time-wasting on websites - and games (Business Insider).
According to the book Using Information Technology: A Practical Introduction to Computers & Communications, 7th ed. (Montreal: McGraw-Hill) an estimated 8.3 hours a week are involved in non-work-related activities, particularly playing games.

Not only do they KNOW, but there is an entire sub-industry of the network apps and logging utilities whose purpose is detecting that sort of thing on corporate networks, and identifying the abusers!  Those apps generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the companies that create them.  Oof!

Chances are if you work for a corporation and you are a gamer, the company is aware of your activities on their network - which probably means as noted above, you are using your own net connection via your wireless provider, as otherwise you would probably have been fired by now.  Just saying.

When I set out to look into this topic I did not realize that at most corporations and large companies the act of gaming on the clock is actually considered a crime against the company - and the idea that thousands of gamers each year get fired for it?  Well I didn't think so but I am not surprised.

The issue - and problem - is not unique to the USA - if you are bored or have a few minutes, Google the phrase "Fired for gaming" and check out the results.  China has a big problem, as do all of the nations of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, heck, pretty much anywhere the 'net can reach.

And how was your gaming day?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

. . . Statue Updates

Official Warning

This post is a personal post - so if you are not prepared to endure a bunch of personal things, best off of you skip this one, right?

Some Thoughts About Status Updates
I don't usually do status updates.  There are plenty of places for them - Facebook has one, so does LinkedIn, but I don't do them because they always struck me as rather silly.  I mean sure, that was what I was doing when I wrote and posted the status update, but now I have a pickle!

If I stop doing what I was doing when I wrote the Status Update, does that mean I need to write a new Status Update?  That is awkward - from here on I am going to use "SU" when I mean to say "Status Update" as that will make this less ungainly and cluttered...

Of even more concern, because I said I was doing X when I posted that SU does that mean I have to continue doing X until I post an SU saying I am doing something else?  Is there an obligation?  What about the terms of service?  Do I need to worry about getting sued for playing Forza when I said I was playing Sniper Elite III?!

Wait!  What if the issue gets interpreted legally?!!  Then ALL of my SUs are in violation because WHEN I wrote that I was playing Forza I was REALLY writing that SU!  Wait, wouldn't all truly HONEST SUs really say "Writing Status Update"???

Birthday Wishes and Caviar Dreams
Thursday was my Birthday - thank you all of you who sent me Happy Birthday wishes on the different social media sites.  And email.  And thank you for the birthday cards because now I know that people still do that - send birthday cards I mean...

Family Update
I know a lot of you are worried about stuff, especially with me being on the road so much.  But so far (knock on wood) any worry is not entirely necessary.

Peter's Situation: Is approaching a resolution - he is going to have to go under the knife.  I would be totally lying if I said that I was not worried - but I have confidence in the medical arts and I am taking Sun Tzu's advice and refusing to seek the consultation of my fears.  He's my son, I love him, and I worry but I will be there for him whatever it takes.

Justin's Situation: Is not as bad as we feared.   The word is that unless anything changes for the bad he will be ready to come home in a few days.

I have gotten used to the need to take him to the hospital every few months - well, if I am being entirely honest here I have gotten used to Yvonne needing to take him to the hospital every few months.  I will never get used to the need for him to spend weeks and weeks in hospital in Boston, but they say that the Brighams and Women's Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Program (both the children's and adult ones) is one of the best in the world.  I sure hope so, because I want my other son to have a very long and happy life too.

If you happen to be a person who regularly prays, I am sure that Peter, Justin, and Sandra would appreciate you including them in your chats with God.  Just saying.

My Situation: Is largely unchanged.  I am still under more stress than is probably good for me, but I like what I do.  My work on the Business and Tech beat at the Cape Cod Times is steady and I have a bunch of interesting column subjects in the works, so good good good!

The video games and gaming beat side is seriously increasing in terms of work load and I am OK with that because like I said, I like what I do.  

Almost all of the travel is either game previews, or interviews, and since it is mostly in Boston, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia these days I am able to hit most of the appointments using the train, so that works.

One of these days I am seriously going to indulge my interests and fascination of trains and write about them and the Northeast Corridor.

I have the west coast stuff reduced to twice a year, and Vegas twice a year, which is all manageable but for obvious reasons I can't do those by train, so I still end up having to fly four times a year which sucks but what are you going to do?  It is way better than the 12-tp-18 trips I was taking by plane before!

Autumn's Situation: She has applied for and been hired for her first real job - my little girl is growing up!  She hasn't received a paycheck yet - I am eagerly awaiting the day she gets her first paycheck and asks me: "Who is this FICA person and why are they taking all of my money?!" 

We are very proud of our daughter - she researched the available jobs, weighed them, decided which one she would hate the least, and took it!  Good girl!

Yvonne's Situation: Work and health are fine, but she has been fretting lately about her blog.  And about how some of the people she knows who are also crafters and who have their own blogs seem to get a lot of people leaving comments and she doesn't.

Her Blog is called "Fifteen Cups of Tea a Day and a Cat" and you can find it at the following URL: "http://teaandcat.blogspot.com/" and if you have any interest in vintage clothing, crafting, sewing, and Evie's oddly unique view of life, the world, and everything, I heartily recommend you check it out.

I told her that in the case of the blogs of other crafters chances are that (a) they knows the people who are leaving comments on their sites, and (b) friends and family tend to be supportive and kinder in cases like that, but if she really wants to generate a lot of comments the fastest way that I know of to do that is rile people up and piss them off :)

Gotta get back to work...