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Has Apple’s Legal Team Made a Big Mistake?

Forget Bill Gates, forget Samsung. There’s a new enemy in town for Apple: US District Judge Phyllis Hamilton.

Apple - technology giant

She’s the plain talking lawmaker overseeing the nonsensical claim over the English language currently being made by Apple as they attempt to take ownership of the phrase “app store”, thereby preventing everyone’s favourite tax-dodging tax evading Internet retailer Amazon from using it on their collection of Android games and applications.

A number of ridiculous details have arisen in this case:

  1. Hamilton previously indicated (in 2011) she was unimpressed by Apple’s arguments and denied them a preliminary injunction.
  2. Apple claims that Amazon’s promotion of its own “Appstore” is false advertising.
  3. Apple’s lawyer, David Eberhart.

Yep, Eberhart is a bit of a character. If he’s not a complete maverick employed by the Apple legal department to pull a victory from the jaws of defeat, then he’s in completely the wrong area of the legal profession in our opinion. Apparently Apple claims that Amazon had deceived customers with by using the term “Appstore”, but Eberhart isn’t making a great case.

“They [Amazon employees] admit they targeted Apple customers, because Apple set the benchmark for what consumers expected. When you combine that with our evidence consumers associate the term ‘app store’ with Apple…”

However our new hero Judge Hamilton is completely unimpressed by this.

“Everyone who uses a smartphone knows the difference between the Apple iOS system and the Android system. Where’s the confusion? There’s some suggestion [by Apple] that if Amazon is using the ‘Appstore’ term someone might think they have as many apps as Apple does. Well, why? And how, in fact, does that contribute to any deception on the part of Amazon?”

This is a woman who has successfully brought some plain talking into Apple’s relentless attack on its non-Microsoft competitors over the past few years. Indeed, it is a shame that more of the judges involved in these cases haven’t taken a similar no-nonsense attitude.

Because, dear reader – and forgive me for bringing this up – but Apple is on the verge of losing all respect among the tech blogging community (and I mean actual bloggers, not those bought-and-paid-for technology “journalists” who are littered with shiny white Cupertino hardware every year). The once mighty company is falling into hole, becoming a shadow of its former self as it wages a 1990s Microsoft-style war against companies it deems to be using its technologies.

It’s sad, and unless there is a change in policy it’s going to have a severely negative impact on Apple’s public face over the next couple of years.

And as for apps, well I was buying them from Handango back in 2004. I don’t recall them launching any lawsuits against Apple for stealing their idea of providing an easily accessible marketplace for apps to be downloaded and installed. Which brings us back to Eberhart:

“Consumers will see this kind of advertising and import their associations with Apple service. They understand what the App Store by Apple entails—hundreds of thousands of apps, and an ease of service unmatched by any others,” said Eberhart. “When a consumer sees something like this they will be deceived into thinking the Amazon store has the same types of qualities.”

So, who invented single-click purchasing?

David Braben Launches Elite Sequel Project on Kickstarter

In what is likely to be a very popular crowd sourcing project, Elite designer David Braben has announced a Kickstarter project to raise the $2 million needed to program and release an updated version of the 8 bit classic.

Speaking to the BBC, Braben confessed that “Elite is a game that I’ve wanted to come back to for a very, very long time. It’s the sort of game that I would very much like to play today.”

Hailing from 1984 and featuring the wireframe graphics you see above, Elite possessed a surprising amount of depth, offering gamers to live the life of a Han Solo-style smuggler and trader.

Time has been very kind to Elite, leaving it as one of those rarities, a classic pioneering title uttered alongside names such as Tetris and Pac-man. However, its position as an old school title means that bringing it up to date could prove tricky, especially with a raft of modern pretenders already up and running.

Eve Online brings the concept of Elite to the MMORPG generation, while another Kickstarter project, Star Citizen, shares some similarities with Elite. At the same time Minecraft creator Markus Persson is developing a space simulation 0x10c.

You can back Elite on Kickstarter by visiting www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461411552/elite-dangerous – with just under 60 days to go, you can pledge at least £1, with rewards including having your name in the game, being part of beta testing, and even dinner with the developers!
Back Elite Dangerous on Kickstarter

Play Gramophone Records on Your iPhone!

The Apple iPhone 3G in white

Okay, so it might not be an actual record, and it might not be an actual gramophone. But if you’re looking for an authentic sound for playing back some classic (or even modern) swing, then this useful piece of work (designed in SolidWorks) might just be the answer to your bleeding gums prayers.

Found via the ever awesome Instructables.com, this is one of those iPhone speaker solutions that really makes you wonder if it is worth spending £200 on a pair of clinical white headphones or splashing out on a powered speaker dock when something like this is far more interesting, stylish and green.

Colouring the Sheeple

Are you a fan of the iPhone? Do you upgrade each and every time Apple says you can? Over the years the iPhone has devolved from a stunning piece of hardware into a device that is just “good enough”.

The immense amount of quality software for the platform and the quality of the device build is undeniable – but so is the poor quality of the OS UI, which has now gone a ridiculous five years without any noticeable development.

HTC, Samsung and Nokia all fancy their latest phones as potential iPhone beaters, and Nokia’s current Lumia 920 strategy appears to mock not just the iPhone 5’s single monochromatic release but the people who lap it up time after time…

Eternal Darkness Comes To Light

Have you ever played a so-called horror game and felt like it was lacking something? Like it just wasn’t…oh, I don’t know, scary?

I mean you can tell they tried. There were lots of dark corners and limited amounts of ammunition and/or health pick ups, but it just felt difficult and clunky. Maybe it was more of a “survival frustration game” that kept killing you with a tank-like character that acted defenseless and frail even when it came to simple tasks like turning on a flashlight and running down a corridor. The finished product is a game that is traumatizing to the protagonists, but boring and redundant to the player. These games are irritating, especially when you shell out a thick wad of hard-earned cash expecting to be thrilled and terrified.

I can empathize, my friends, but I wouldn’t be a very likable person if I just dwelt on the negative all the time, so I’m wasting a bit of your time today to talk about this little gem called Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem released for the Nintendo Gamecube. Give it a shot. You’ll be impressed by the brilliant methods they use to startle the player out of their comfort zone and with any luck you’ll be so scared you’ll forget about all that money lost on lackluster horror games.

Why You Should Care

Anyone who has ever played this game will likely tell you the same thing I’m about to: the most memorable facet of this game is the effect your sanity gauge has on the presentation. In this game you have a green sanity gauge positioned next to your health and mana. Certain events will cause your character to lose some of that sanity gauge, and that’s when the awesome stuff starts. At first you’ll see little things like the walls bleeding. It’s cool to look at, but nothing spectacular.

As your character loses more of its grip on reality, however, they may just encounter a group of invincible enemies and drop over dead. You see the game over screen and that’s that. Or is it? A sudden flash of white and the room reloads to where you were before the hallucination. This will likely freak you out enough that you’ll want to go save your game. You reach the save point and press the necessary buttons. The screen asks if you’re sure you want to delete your game. What!? No! You move the cursor to select no, but it switches at the last moment and you select yes.

Your game is deleted. The title screen appears.

You weep over the hours of gameplay lost.

A sudden flash of white and the room reloads. These are the occurrences that really make this game stand out. It doesn’t want to mess with the characters. It wants to mess with you. Such an ingenious mechanic really creates memorable fear, and I can still feel the adrenaline flowing through me as I recall my first time playing.

Another reason you may want to play this game is if you have any affection for the Cthulhu mythos created by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). While the game doesn’t officially have anything to do with “The Call of Cthulhu” story, there are many parallels, and a great deal of inspiration is obviously drawn from it.

While it may seem like commonplace today, Eternal Darkness offered players the ability to target specific areas of an enemy’s body. In the year 2002 this was a pretty novel concept, and I feel that it’s still underutilized today. For humanoid enemies this boiled down to removing their arms and eventually targeting their heads, but more complex enemies offered more diverse strategic options. Finally, when you throw the magic system into the combat mix, it makes for a lot of options that create the impression that your character isn’t pathetic while still never allowing you to feel fully comfortable with your combat prowess.

Why You Might Not Care

Even for its time, Eternal Darkness was not a pretty game. It wasn’t ugly enough to disturb the gameplay or immersion in the plot, but the modern gamer might blush at the dated graphics.

The combat system, while engaging, is kind of slow. You won’t be piling up combo multipliers nor will you be strafing or dodging. Simple aim-and-strike mechanic might bore some adrenaline junkies out there.

Is It Worth It?

This game is a classic in my opinion, and a Gamecube is cheap to buy from a retro gaming store. If you can forgive dated graphics and you love to see developers “breaking the fourth wall” this is a game that’s worth the money. Already own a Gamecube? Well, what are you waiting for? Go buy it!

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem from Silicon Knights was released on June 24, 2002. What are your memories of the game? Let us know!

Interactive Storytelling: The Strength of a Medium

Electronic games are the soaring phoenix above all other mediums. Sure, some over-zealous film student might squawk to his disinterested pals that no medium will ever beat the visceral immediacy of cinema, but videogames, being a visual medium as well, have all of the elements needed to be just as engaging, if not more so.

As for their nerdy cousin, the aging and boring book, who really reads anymore? Books have their own strength regarding introspection, but the average media consumer doesn’t want to spend 30 minutes reading a scene that takes two minutes to plow through in a visual medium. In addition, videogames have had an era of text-based games that could effortlessly compete with the various novels out there, so who really needs a bulky tome cluttering up their domicile? To put it clearly and simply, videogames are the most attractive and challenging medium to write for and are, in my opinion, the most rewarding to the consumer. If you need any convincing, look no further than the mind-boggling possibilities that accompany the ace-up-the-sleeve of all videogames: interactive storytelling.

Imagine this: you’re a scruffy, pimply, self-conscious teenager taking a girl out on a date for the first time. You have no idea what to do that you’d both enjoy so you end up falling back on the stereotypical movie date. You grab some soda for you and your date and you get seated. The dark of the theater and the booming bass of the speakers get you stoked for the film. The woman on the screen is navigating a dark hallway. You know that she has two little children back home who rely on her.

She’s human to you, and for some reason you feel responsible for her. You WANT to make sure she’s ok. Then, out of the shadows, a robed man with a knife appears and brings an immediate threat into the picture. Your date screams out “turn around!” The girl on screen responds, sees the robed man, and starts running! She finds two doorways. Your life is in her hands. What now? Two hours later you step out of the dim theater after safely guiding your heroine to safety and your date asks what would have happened if you chose the other doorway. You say you don’t know, but you’re curious to find out.

With videogames telling such rich stories, which way now for cinema?This scenario is a basic look at how videogames are superior to film: a sense of ownership over the characters and the need to constantly be paying attention in order to guide them safely through their challenges. If this film were a normal movie, you’d just be vacantly staring and watching the action unfold, but having control adds a layer of enjoyment.

Now imagine comparing the outcome of your viewing with a friend who also saw the movie. You both ended up with different endings and different relationships to secondary characters. This concept builds curiosity and inspires folks to go back and see what they could have done differently. What if Al the plumber lived through act 4? Would the heroine have married him instead of Steve the used car salesman?

It doesn’t have to stop there though. Downloadable content has made episodic storytelling possible for the gaming scene. We can see this in action in the recently released The Walking Dead game by Telltale Games, where the player guides the protagonist through the zombie apocalypse and his actions have reaching effects in the following episodes. The popular Mass Effect series by Bioware has the same appeal, although each installment is a full length game. Even the recently announced Black Ops 2 is rumored to have a branching storyline. Developers are just now catching on to this wonderful tool and I think it’s going to catch on like wildfire soon.

#As videogames have challenged our hand/eye coordination and strategic skills in the past, they are now poised to challenge our morality and worldviews, forcing us to make difficult choices outside the realm of good or bad or black or white. In the wake of the conclusions we earn for our characters we reflect and wonder “what if”.

Your move, film.

Are Sex Toys Gadgets?

Recent figures – combined with a focus on female sexual habits on TV – are leading a media frenzy that claims that not only should sex toys be classified as “gadgets” but that they’re set to be as common as smartphones within 8 years!

Website Lovehoney.co.uk estimates that nearly almost half of the UK population nation owns a sex toy, with global sales of vibrators and other sex toys soaring to £5.5 billion per year. At this rate, the figure will rise £40 billion by 2020!

Despite the fact that these figures suggest that your Sex and the City-mad parents are using dildos and Fleshlights (perish the thought!) it also seems to be a little misleading.

Naturally the figures above are based on averages – after all, there must be a few people out there who consider themselves to be moulded rabbit latex aficionados – so don’t worry about mum and dad getting jiggy with the lube and the Ann Summers catalogue.

After all, they’ve got mobile phones with vibrate settings…

..and as porn star Stoya once begged Apple to develop sex toys (iSex?) it would seem, combined with the phenomenon of cybersex – that this is an area that is set to converge and develop over the coming years…

Name Weapons for Krater!

The Krater RPG from Fatshark is set for release via Steam in June 2012

Here’s an unusual thing – a video game that is in the pre-release stage but isn’t quite finished!

Developers Fatshark have announced that Krater – coming to PCs via Steam in June (a Mac version is coming in July) – is missing names for some of the weapons in the game.

“We have three weapons that have one thing in common, besides being badass, and that thing is that they don’t have a name. There was some bad communications between the weapon designers and the name creators. And then Gunnar came up with naming them The Gunnernator I, II and III – that gave us all brain freeze.” says Martin Wahlund, CEO and Executive Producer, Fatshark. “Please help us out with naming these three weapons – or they might just end up being the Gunnernators!”

Check the trailer below for an idea of what is to come…

Great news for whoever is lucky enough to have their names adopted (submit your suggestions at www.kratergame.com/gamedesigner) – you’ll appear in the game credits!

“The three best names will end up in the game, which means that anyone picking up the game will be able to use the weapon you named. And better yet, you will be in the official game credits under ‘Senior Lead Weapon Name Creator Director’ – or something shorter.” Says Victor Magnuson, Game Designer, Fatshark. “Now be creative and save us all from the Gunnernator!”

Meanwhile, you can head to http://store.fatshark.se and pre-order the game to get instant access to the alpha build!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Yes, I’m well aware of how old this game is, but hey, I make use of the games I enjoy and have at my disposal, money was a bit tight this month so instead of buying a new game, I picked up a couple oldies that I have heard are a blast/makes you want to rage quit so hard, you’ll be begging for a red-ring to happen just so you have an excuse to not play anymore!

That mystery game’s review will come later, mostly because I haven’t worked up the courage to pop it into my console yet, but for now lets take a look at Deus Ex, and see how Square Enix did with this seemingly amazing looking game.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to a game that was released back in 2000, and while the original game was welcomed with open arms, many speculated at the announcement of a console release for this prequel, but me, being the optimist I am, was pumped, because the original was amazing. So I dug down deep, and I held onto the faith that this game might just turn out alright. Well, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that my faith was not misplaced, because DE:HR never failed to deliver in game play, story, and “holy crap! Am I watching a movie?” graphics.

You play as ex-cop, and head of security at Sarif Industries, Adam Jensen. All around bad ass, complete with the leather trench coat and gruff voice. To say that the game starts off with a bang would be an understatement. You are instantly thrown into the fray after a few brief cut scenes, and your mission is to find out what the security breach is. As you roam around the building, you run into a few enemies, nothing to shake a stick at, and all seems to be going well, until BOOM! Attack of the crazy augmented man! You’re thrown through a window, forced to watch your girlfriend die, and get shot in the head, all in the span of 5 minutes. I’ll give the game credit, it wasn’t pulling any punches with this introduction.

Fast forward 6 months. You’ve been outfitted with the latest and greatest augments, in order to save your life, although your character never wanted to be augmented in the first place. This may not be the beginning of the story, but this sure as hell is where the game began to take my attention. The RPG style game play of it was flawless, with the very first mission giving you the chance to choose how you want to play the game, slow and sneaky, or fast and gun-blazing! Not many games could handle being a FPS and an RPG, but Deus Ex does it flawlessly.

Game play is what you would expect from an FPS. AI’s duck into cover, flank, and retreat all according to how you play, which means nothing is ever scripted, and you can always play the game differently no matter how many times you play through.  If you want to snipe from a distance, expect enemies to try to flank, or if you prefer the close range combat, expect enemy snipers to begin to chip away at your health.

The mix of cover and gun play is phenomenal here, with both you and the AI making use of any cover available. Cover is not only for combat, however, it can be used to hide your presence from enemies, cameras, sentry guns, and any other nosey annoyances that happen your way. There are implants that can assist in your stealthing abilities, but it will almost always come down to the players’ ability to time their movements, and read the enemies’ movements as well, and on the hardest difficulty, even being in cover isn’t enough sometimes. If even a speck of you is showing, enemies will become instantly alerted, its a challenge, but a fun one at that!

Let me touch on the ending just a bit before I finish up, so hopefully it goes without saying, but

*SPOILER ALERT IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH!*

With a game so wrapped up into conspiracy, it wasn’t a surprise when a name as big as the Illuminati was dropped. I’ve read other peoples opinion on this, and some frown upon it but I personally believe it takes a pair to bring up something as controversial as The Illuminati in a video game, and more developers should take notes from Square Enix because they nailed an amazing story here, and although it was meant to be fictional, I’m sure I’m not the only person who was thinking about the ending for a couple days after I beat it. You know its a good ending when it sticks with you, and this one most certainly does!

If this game wasn’t a prequel, I would be in the streets demanding a sequel to it. Deus Ex: Human Revolution plays flawlessly, looks beautiful, and has characters that are not only memorable, but iconic. The “One man against the system” story may have been done before on numerous occasions, but Deus Ex does it right here, and does it uniquely enough that it won’t soon be forgotten.

Adverts On a £200 Games Console with a £40 Annual Sub?

Xbox Live set to display adverts for streamed videoMad, but true: Microsoft is about to start running advertisements on Xbox Live.

Included under the auspices of providing “break time” for users, the ads are set to appear between video and TV apps on the service, with providers such as ESPN, Last.fm, GameSpot and MUZU.TV adding their commercials to existing in-app promos from names such as UFC, TMZ, and Crackle.

Microsoft’s Ross Honey said:

“With the growth of Xbox Live, advertisers no longer have to choose between digital and TV advertising – we’re offering the impact of TV and the interactivity and addressability of digital in one platform.

“As more and more industry leaders like ESPN work with us to help monetise their content on Xbox Live, TV media buyers win with the ability to extend their standard TV spots to this highly engaged consumer audience.”

However, he and M$ (once again the acronym is apt) are completely missing the point. Users pay enough for the service as it is without being bombarded with adverts, while PlayStation 3 users enjoy a service that remains commercial-free zone (and yes, sometimes it is an uptime free zone, but let’s stick to the point).

This is a massive #fail for Microsoft, and they need to go into a quick reverse on this decision if Xbox Live is to retain any credibility as an entertainment system. After all, people opt to stream video to avoid inconveniences like advertising.

What next, news bulletins in the middle of Halo 4?