Friday Reads

It feels like only earlier in the week (it was) that I lamented the lack of nonviolent verbs and then comes a review with a game with no violence at all – and it gets a good review over at RPS – Yonder. Equally, it’s nice to see people exploring sports games in Kickmen – a field that I feel is still under explored in gaming (imagine tweaking all the physics and individual rules for traditional sports on the fly (just like kids often find themselves doing)). If nothing else, the recent explosion of indie games and ease of entry into game creation has opened up the chances for titles like these getting some interest.

Perhaps rife for traditional game play, Have Gun Will Travel takes an interesting look at (in my mind at the very least) some extreme “prepping” – only a matter of time before the videogame adaptation hits your stores…

I’m a big fan of Cory Doctorow books, so the Verge’s interview made me particularly happy (since I didn’t realise he had a new book out – that’ll teach me to sign up to newsletters for such things!). I always enjoy his universes and, whilst his writing style is perhaps a bit light, his concepts are always rock solid so I’m looking forward to his latest.

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Tuesday Reads

For years the specialist press has talked about security issues but now we’re really seeing the impact thanks to Petya. The lessons learned from this are hopefully ones everyone already knows (patching) but I still see people who are apathetic around this topic – it’s not rocket science people, accept that patches are a fact of life and plan for them, not hope you don’t get caught out.

Rock Paper Shotgun totally stole one of my ideas (I’ll let them off with it) with Curated Stores: I think there’s a great opportunity for some custom front ends with specialisms in Steam but I also think there are challenges with any such approach (discover-ability and making them sustainable (e.g. pay the bills)).

Monday reads

Dead Cell’s weapon conversation over at Gamasutra is a good piece even if the type of game is a big turn off to me (difficulty levels are not my friend unless they have various shades of easy!). So many weapon choices (my FPS childhood taught me that one weapon per number key is probably optimum) and yet… The number of words gamers (and game designers) have available for use in combat is truly fascinating, and juxtaposes nicely with words for… the countryside over at the Guardian (old, but good) and makes me wonder what a game that used these words, and not the countless words the human world has built to describe pointy sticks and ammunition throwing things would look like (if it is, indeed, possible). It’s not dig at Dead Cell (which looks beautifiul and, by all accounts, looks like a great game with a lot of love behind it) but I find it interesting none-the-less to think of the effort put into the gaming dictionary and why the word list from gaming manuals would probably make for an awful corpus of text (should game manuals be the only text left after the end of the world/found by aliens trying to understand our culture).

On the technology front, I was intrigued by the idea of a “Smell Dectector” (concern that summer sun is getting the best of me is a regular feeling!) – and speaking of smelly, the news of SnapChat’s fight with Facebook continues: and reminds me that Facebook’s behavior is still pretty poor for a company that pushes heavily on it’s morale agenda (I expected more from a social network than traditional technology companies, but that’s probably just me being naive). Via LinkedIn, I came across a good piece exploring the challenges of the changing industry and the need for us to start thinking “post capitalism” and I can’t disagree that we need to build better foundations for the future rather than just carrying on relentlessly forward (there’s no need to stop progress, but it should be done with awareness at the same time). At least one tech news piece I read this morning had some positive progress – there’s some really nice features in the latest test editions of Windows Server.

Finally, the “how did this get past the editors” award goes to PC Gamers’ article on DNS servers – it’s worrying when the comments seem better structured and more technically accurate than the article itself.

Friday Reads

 

The BBC highlights the scary SATS marking – Teachers raise concerns over Sats marking – BBC News – I suspect I’d fail at inserting type font size semicolons if I’m honest with myself.

Over at the Guardian, the hyprocisy of Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg’s got some cheek, advocating a universal basic income) makes a good point- unless businesses accept responsibility (one hundred percent) no amount of humanitarian ventures they back or noises made about helping the world will make up for their bad behaviour. Whilst we’re looking at the behaviour of these companies, perhaps we should also look at the 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions too.

On the tech side, medialoot put together a nice, short and easy to read CSS Grid layout article (A Beginners Guide to CSS Grid Layout — Medialoot) which is surprisingly largely because you’d think such a thing would be plentiful, but most are unnecessarily detailed or difficult to parse.

In the gaming world, Rock Paper Shotgun’s article on why we play games we don’t like (https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/01/10/why-do-we-spend-time-playing-games-we-dont-like/) is a great piece if only because it speaks to my own idiocy with games (Zelda has reminded me that I do really love games, but only good ones. Oddly, I’m surprised this is a surprise to me. In equal levels of witty idiocy inspection, Cards Against Humanities “For Girls” Edition (https://www.polygon.com/2017/7/11/15955988/cards-against-humanity-for-her) is a worthy product to remind us that our gender biases have (in this case actual) costs.

Finally, on the gaming front of a sort, “So what the hell is Magic Leap doing?” looks at some of the (still nebulous, vague but) intriguing thoughts behind designing apps for Magic Leap – even if it turns out to be a massive failure from a tech perspective, I’m hoping we all can learn from some of the concepts around Magic Leap.

In short: the BBC highlights Google’s UK data center play – and nicely summarises the market state today (even shorter read in my humble opinion: it’s still anyone’s game).

 

Monday Read

Money, money, money- it seems like a topic I’m obsessed about and, to a degree, I am, but mainly in it’s implications for society. So the BBC’s short history of tally sticks and cheques is interesting- it would be interesting to see what a modern day intrepration of this would look like (arguably, we’re still using the mechanisms noted just swapping wooden marks or signatures for digital keys).

 

Weekend Reads

With the G20 meeting and Trump presumably kicking the Paris climate agreement further to the curb with moves to strengthen ties to Russia, it’s good to read that “nation states” are rebelling and rebelling well. I’m a fan of (and the UK has a good set of cases for) devolving power to local authorities so that they can reflect the local needs better- and this case demonstrates that in this current political climate that they may well serve the global interest better too.

The challenge for global warming thinking is not an easy one – when many still believe science does agree that global warming is real. I would love to see the UK’s opinion on the same subject and, if different, understand how we got there.

 

On the techy side, Why Serverless  is a good piece on a different way to approaching software problems (I’ve been playing with OpenWhisk recently and enjoying the model). Perhaps after Serverless, we might go computerless, and just have chips in our head, as noted in the Wired article- Why You will One Day have a Chip in Your Brain. The sci-fi geek inside of me gets very excited by the premise, but there’s a lot of challenges – not least our lack of understanding of the brain despite our strong interest in the subject. We are still mastering “low bandwidth interfaces” such as audio and visual (attention, suggestion, etc are still all fertile fields for research) so it seems risky to go straight “to the tin”. The article touches on a lot of great points (haves versus have nots, what it is to manipulate the brain, etc) but does sound pretty “hippy-ish” in my opinion in it’s short answers. Even skipping past the technical challenges, the moral minefield such technologies open up is beyond our understanding at this point (perhaps we’ll need these machine-mind interfaces to understand the consequences…).

On the gaming front, I like the idea suggested over at RPS of a Complex Inventory affected by how much stuff you try and squeeze into your robes and might explore this in a jam game soon…

Your Target Audience doesn’t exist sounds like a depressing topic that explores the long tail on Steam and is genuinely interesting- especially the key take away:

Various studies suggest that there are 700–800 million of PC gamers. It’s probably true, but it doesn’t mean much for your game. Because if you’re developing a downloadable game for Steam you’re not even fighting for 135M of its active users, you’re fighting for the attention of 1.3 million gamers that are actually buying lots of games. The 1% group.

Some very unhappy indie devs are probably all too aware of this already, but I’d love to see similar numbers for Google Play or the iTunes store…

 

For the weekend – A quick listen in the form: Is Honesty a Thing of the Past– is a great short piece on something (honesty boxes for small trade) I kinda miss being in a big town (odd that such things only exist in small, rural communities). The description touches on Radiohead but doesn’t mention it on the radio segment, which is a shame as it would be interesting to explore what makes “pay what you think it’s worth” models work in some cases and not others (as per my comments earlier in the week on different payment schemes online) and how we can build this model up.

And, don’t forget BBC Radio 4’s Dangerous Visions season is back – with Fahrenheit 451, Metamorphosis and more – well worth a listen.

 

Friday Reads

Has a stranger ever sang a song to you, with your name in it? How about a song about your local town? I previously assumed songs about small towns and custom birthday tracks where rarities, but it turns out Spotify has helped the thriving industry of personalised song alongside song spam. The Vulture offers it’s opinion on the matter in Streaming music cheat codes and point out that maybe it’s not the music we’re looking for, but it’s the music we deserve having driven the cost of music down with streaming and piracy over the last few years.

As with games, TV, and writing, the race to the bottom is both a boon and a major challenge for the industry, and people are now manipulating the mechanisms responsible with amazing results. As a blogger, I know there’s little value in a post I produce (similarly anything I’m technically capable of and inclined to make (videos, games, software) is probably close to worthless) unless I happen to get lucky. Still, I do it out of love, and this article just touches on the challenges of people working in this world along with the big players and tricksters who make it hard to work out who’s really benefiting from capitalist models in e-commerce.

I regularly pose the challenge to myself, “if not this, then what” when it comes to online pricing- and it’s hard to see what hasn’t been tried before and failed:

  1. Paywalls – Easily hacked, frustrate users (particularly when poorly implemented).
  2. Pay-per-item and subscriptions- Suffer from high friction (for small items where paying a penny or two is too hard) or reluctance to get trapped into an unused subscription (Gym membership!).
  3. Tasters and Teasers – Similar to the above, but using demos or samples to convert people are great, but it’s challenging to convert users.
  4. Advertising – let’s be honest, Google owns this now, and adverts are increasingly being blocked so making a buck out of advertising.
  5. Curation – Paying a subscription fee for “various” things, rather than just one works, but only in specialist markets.

So what’s left? Is there another way to get money from content, either directly or indirectly? It’s a challenge the digital economy will have to face head on sooner or later and I’m not sure we’ve found the solution yet…

And yet… QVC still seems to have a successful business model – buying HSN – honestly, I don’t know how these companies exist (I don’t go to the TV for much information any more, but even those I know who do, don’t visit the TV for a shopping experience). It would be fascinating to see some demographic information regarding these two- bear in mind the combined might could be able to catch up with Amazon (kinda!)- maybe they need to introduce QVC Prime!