Review: Tap Titans 2

For a while I was very into an interesting niche of games. Generally referred to as ‘incremental games’, these games combine “Sit back and watch stuff happen” with “click a bunch of times to do some small task over and over again.” The games tend to lea a combination of watching things run, and ‘click something to move the game ahead’. Some examples are Cookie Clicker, the Paper Clip Game and the Kittens game.

Naturally this made me look at games like this for mobile, and after some digging around, I found Tap Titans 2.

Now, this game has a cute backstory – Titans (big monsters) are appearing around the world, and you lead a band of heroes to head them off when they appear before they wreak havoc.

The basic idea is pretty straightforward. Click on the screen, your hero makes an attack and does damage to a titan. Do enough damage, the titan is destroyed, and the next one appears. Each time you destroy a titan, you get a certain amount of gold. That gold can be used to summon and level up other heroes to help fight the Titans. Every 5 titans there’s a Boss, if you defeat the Boss, you move on to the next stage. At some point, the amount of gold you’re getting can’t level up your heroes enough to defeat the Boss, and you stop progressing. When this happens, you have the option to Prestige, which basically resets the game back to the start, but you get a ton of bonuses (skill points, artifacts, etc) that help your hero be stronger the next time through. In the beginning, getting to a point where you Prestige may take a day or two. In the upper levels, it gets down to a few hours, and then with certain artifacts and other bonuses, you can do it in 20 minutes.

So where’s the challenge and interest, and why have I been playing this game non stop for almost two months?

Well, first, the graphics are outstanding. It’s a beautiful game to watch and interact with. The developers have taken lots of time paying attention to the animation and color detail.. almost to a fault! With the game in full graphics mode, I’ll drain a battery faster than I can charge it!

The second reason is… well, it’s fun. I know it sounds odd to watch a game mostly run itself, but it’s the small changes, upgrades, tweaks to the damage boosts, figuring out when to pay for what when… it’s… fun. Anyone who plays incremental games I think has a hard time explaining why it’s relaxing and enjoyable… it just is.

Lastly, the developers did a lot to keep the game interesting. There’s tournaments every week that pit you against similarly-levelled players. There’s regular drops of upgrades, ‘fairy boxes’ (big gold bonuses), and a simplistic, but pleasant Clan system where you can team up with other people to gain bonuses. Being in a strong clan can be a huge boost to how far you get in the game.

Do I recommend it to everyone? Nah. Do I recommend it to people who like incrementals? Definitely. It’s free, and is definitely not a “pay to win” game. I played for a month without contributing, and decided in the end to buy some diamonds, not because I needed them to win (I haven’t even spent them yet), but because I felt the developers had done a great job, and this was my way of supporting them.

5 Mobile Titles Poised To Define AR Gaming

AR gaming is no longer just a concept. Thanks to Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore – development platforms allowing mobile developers to create AR games with relative ease – this form of gaming is now available on some of the most popular smartphones on the market. Particularly where Apple is concerned, we’ve already seen a lot of interesting games released, and there are surely many more to come.

The most interesting category that hasn’t quite exploded just yet, however, is that of mobile games being adapted to the AR format. These games have the advantage of familiarity and foundations of success, and could be some of the first major hits in augmented reality if and when they’re adapted. It’s a precedent that’s already been set by games like Stack AR and a few others, which are building on previous mobile titles. But if we were to bet on the kinds of AR titles people will be buzzing about in another six months or a year, these are some of the games we’d be keeping an eye on.

Angry Birds

It should just about go without saying that Angry Birds will always be at the forefront of mobile gaming. Through numerous versions, it has always been among the most popular titles in the app stores. What you may not know is that an Iranian company produced an AR version of Angry Birds back in 2012! It was said to make it appear as if the game were happening in 3D right in the room you’re standing in, which pretty much describes the point of AR as we now know it. We’re not suggesting this particular game will now make it big, but the fact that an AR Angry Birds has basically already been demo’d makes an ARKit or ARCore adaptation seem that much more likely. It’s a matter of time before this franchise moves into the new medium (and probably becomes the most popular AR game out there).

Monument Valley

AR is largely about visual intrigue, and in that regard no mobile game has ever stood above Monument Valley. Known for mesmerizing beauty, the game also happens to match the basic format and playing style of some of the early successes in augmented reality. That is to say, it’s effectively a puzzle game with a heavy emphasis on geometry and different angles and perspectives. You need only take a glance at some of the lists of the best early AR games to see that there are already a few titles imitating this style of gaming, and doing well with it. A Monument Valley adaptation could be the best of them all, and will probably emerge at some point.

Gonzo’s Quest

This could be a particularly interesting game because it’s already something of an innovator. Known as one of the best video slots available to online and mobile players, Gonzo’s Quest has been praised for its underlying story and video content (which take the game well beyond the slot reel). As one writer put it, the game creates a better sense of engagement by giving you something to focus on. We already know that a VR version of Gonzo’s Quest is being developed, and it could make the leap to AR as well – potentially establishing a new standard for casino arcade games in the process.

High Noon

High Noon is the least likely game on this list to see a direct adaptation, but the concept of this game still seems worthy of recognition in this discussion. This was a one-on-one duel shooter that made use of a sort of form of AR. Your job was to pull your phone from a “holster” position and use your screen to locate your enemy, tapping to fire. Duels were held in real-time, but players were represented by animated characters in a cartoonish old West. It’s fairly easy to imagine a newer version of a similar game in which players are represented by their own avatars, and opponents appear as if they’re in real physical space. Such a game probably won’t be attached to High Noon, but even under a different name it would redefine AR shooters.

The Room

The Room seems poised for success for the same reasons that Monument Valley is: it’s a beautiful puzzle game with a heavy focus on angles, which pretty much suits an early formula being developed for engaging AR games. We’re singling out The Room in particular though because its developer, Fireproof Games, has actually already produced mixed reality content. The company produced Omega Agent for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Samsung Gear VR, stating that it wanted to stay true to the spellbinding nature of virtual reality in designing the experience. This doesn’t guarantee that The Room will get an adaptation, but it would seem to make it more likely.

Editors note: This article was a guest contribution.

Daves Picks : Best Portable Headphones – Brainwavz Delta IEM

I’m going to start sharing some of the things I’ve found on the net that are exceptional finds, buys, whatever. There’s so much crap out there, sometimes it’s hard to find the true gems.

A bit ago I started looking to replace my wired headphones. The requirements were pretty rough:

  • Inexpensive (< $50 would be best)
  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Good for long term wear (talking several hours here)
  • Excellent audio range.
  • Doesn’t look like ass

Simple, right? Uh huh.

After going through a couple el cheapo versions (which, I have to admit, told me how BAD headphones could be), and playing with some super-expensive ones (which… were good, but not as comfortable or durable as I had hoped), I started reading reviews for the Brainwavz Delta IEM Noise Isolating Headphones (say that 5 times fast!), and started to get interested.

Brainwavz Delta Red IEM Noise Cancelling Headphones
Brainwavz Delta Red IEM Noise Cancelling Headphones

The price tag certainly is attractive. Brainwavz has ones with remote for $19, but could something that inexpensive really be any good?

I’m here to tell you – they are. Easily one of the top 5 headphones I’ve ever owned, they’re rock solid in their build, come with a tough zippered carrying case to hold the headphones and the spare silicon earpieces, and sound magnificent. They have excellent range – the highs and lows are crisp and strong across all volumes. The cord is long enough that even plugged into my laptop, it doesn’t get tangled. And they are COMFORTABLE. I can (and have) worn them for 3-4 hours at a stretch and I don’t get sore ear canals or other discomfort. Volume wise, they can keep up with me just fine… I don’t feel like at low levels I have to crank them to hear the full range of what I’m listening to, and when I really want to blast things out, they step up to the task just fine!

So, if you’re looking for affordable, top quality ear buds, I can say with some confidence the Brainwavz Delta IEM headphones will do well by you!

Dashcam Catches Tire Blowout on Mass Pike

(“You won’t believe what happens next!”)

I’ve been interested in getting a dashcam for my car(s) for a while, and when Woot had a had an Armorall Dashcam up for $29, I decided to give it a try. The verdict? This thing is worth about as much as I paid for it. Yes, it records video and audio. Yes it datestamps it. Yes it turns on and off automatically when I start the car, and yes it loops data on the MicroSD card just fine. Other than that, I can’t find a lot to recommend it. The field of view is narrow, the interface is painfully obtuse, and the mirror mount is… weird. Works, but weird.

Anyway. What did happen though was while driving to work this morning, a trailer in front of me had a tire blowout. The sound was funny, a squeaky whoosh (as opposed to a bang), and I missed seeing it happen (it’s at 7:53:17 in the video). I only understood what was going on when I saw smoke and bits of tire flying off the trailer. I backed off and put my my 4-way flashers for folks behind me, and let the guy pull over to the side. The wheel was pretty wrecked, and the sparks and tire debris were pretty dramatic.

If this had actually damaged my car or something more serious had happened, having the recording to show my insurance company and/or police would have been a huge win. But that’s what dashcams are all about, right?

And getting really cool videos like this. 🙂

Vainglory

I’ve been on the lookout for a new game to put my new Moto X Pure Android through, a device that’s extremely high powered and seems perfect for games. Ever since I saw the tablet revolution taking over gaming, I’ve been hoping for a decent, realtime, immersive game that I could get behind. (Why WoW and Eve aren’t on tablets yet is beyond me).

My son Zach was a huge booster of MOBA games before they were cool. DOTA2, and later League of Legends were daily activities. I tried them off and on, but found the complexities and knowledge curve too much for casual gaming.

Enter Vainglory.

Many companies have claimed to make the MOBA experience enjoyable on a mobile device, but this is the first one that’s gotten me completely hooked. I’m still in casual play mode, but I’m finding it intensely enjoyable. The graphics are magnificent, the characters interesting and varied, and the gameplay is perfect. It’s a dead-on implementation of the MOBA ideals (and yes, it has last hits :).

I’ve put in a couple hours so far, getting a feel for 3 of the heroes. There’s so much more to learn – if you watch the videos on the Vainglory channel on Youtube, watch the detailed rundowns of how to play each hero. The technicalities are vast and deep, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever get to that point with more than 1-2 favorites, but I’m ecstatic that the company behind the game (awesomely named ‘SUPER EVIL MEGACORP‘), spared no expense in making the game easy to get into, but also having huge depth to it.

Anyone want to team?

When Sites Get Stupid – Techspot Raspberry Pi Ripoff

I have a pretty comprehensive RSS collection, using Feedly as my portal into all things awesome. I’m also really enjoying playing with my Raspberry Pi teeny computer, so when I saw a posting come up saying “The Complete Raspberry Pi 2 Starter Kit – just $115 in the TechSpot Store – gives you all the tools and resources you need to start your Raspberry Pi experience right.“, I had to give it a look.

techspots shameful bundling
Shame on Techspot for an idiotic bundle.

What a scam. Shame on you Techspot. Take a look at that “Kit”. It’s the baseline Raspberry Pi, at a slightly higher, but still “in the realm of normal” price. An case / kit – well, okay, that’s helpful, though pricier than what you can find on Amazon with 5 seconds of searching… and 4 ‘courses’, at $200 each. Yes kids, they’re valuing information anyone can get with 10 seconds of googling at $200 a pop.

A new low Techspot. A new low.

Movie Catchup

In an effort to distract myself from Real Life, the past week or so has seen me doing a lot of “movie catchup”. Watching some flicks that have been in the queue for a while, but I just haven’t had the time…

  • Lucy – Scarlet Johansson plays a woman who, through a botched drug smuggling deal, gets an overdose of a drug that unlocks the ‘unused 90% of the human mind’. There were aspects of this movie that were a lot of fun, but my suspension of disbelief busted a gut trying to keep it’s head above water. The basic premise has been debunked for years… and while I understand Johansson’s continued detachment from humanity as she essentially went from happy go lucky girl to demigod, the ‘stony faced look’ got old pretty fast. But, hey, explosions, car chases, and gunfights. All is well, right?
  • Maleficent – I went into this hoping it would be a nice alternate take on Sleeping Beauty ala Wicked, a new perspective on an old story. It gave me new perspective alright. I’ll cut right to the chase. This movie was awful. There wasn’t anything even remotely believable about the story line, the actors, or the horrific overuse of plot devices. The visuals were “good”, in that it was vaguely pleasant to look at, but after 45 minutes of trying to be supportive to my partner (who loves the genre and this story), even SHE couldn’t hold it in any longer. Angelina Jolie tried really hard to be true to the original Sleeping Beauty character, but then tried to twist it to fit the new story arc – and in the end, it was a complete mess. There wasn’t a single character I could relate to. Not the king, the queen, Malefic
    maximus
    Maximus shows what he thinks of you.

    ent, young Aurora (played by Elle Fanning), nada. Bleah.

  • Tangled – Moar Disney, I know. This one has been sitting on the back burner for a while, but finally got to watch it. It’s fun! They toss out anything approaching seriousness and just run with good clean goofiness. Rapunzel’s character presentation was brilliant, as were all the characters. The animation was EXCELLENT (the producers even said that even though this was a 3D CGI movie, they worked extremely hard to make it look hand drawn, and succeeded quite well, IMHO).  Unsurprisingly, I thought Maximus as the Horse Who Thought He Was A Dog was delightful, if a little forced.  “Yes, we get it, he’s a dog.  But he’s a horse.  Lets move on.”
  • Shooter – In general, I like Mark Wahlberg. This flick was pretty much dead on predictable from the outset. Sniper gets snubbed in the line of duty by the military, gets set up later for a ‘special job’ after he’s in “retirement”, blah blah. Having said all that, it was enjoyable, even in it’s predictability. I found the ending absurd, to the point of “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” being voiced in the living room, so be warned. You’ll see it coming a mile away.

There’s a bunch of others on the queue as well, but it felt nice catching up on things “everyone else has seen”. This list is, alas, ever growing… hope I can keep up.

iPhone Games – Tiny Wings and Bejeweled Blitz

It’s no secret that today the iPhone is considered one of the top gaming platforms out there. Certainly overshadowing standard console games in sheer numbers of games, and, without any hard evidence to support it, I’d hazard a guess it has the most games of any platform short of PC’s.
Having those tens of thousands of titles to choose from, how do you pick out the ones worthwhile? Well, I’m here to continue my ongoing series on iPhone games, with two more recommendations.

Continue reading “iPhone Games – Tiny Wings and Bejeweled Blitz”

Addicting iPhone apps : Medieval and Warfare, Inc.

If you’re looking to preserve some of that spare time you have gobs of, perhaps it would be best to skip this post. Because I’m going to talk about two of the most addicting games I’ve come across for the iPhone. The first is just fun, the other is… well, you’ll see.
**Medieval**
This game from Brisk Mobile follows a well know simple ‘castle’ game, as implemented by a thousand flash games on the net. What makes it interesting is the variety of weapons available, the smooth animation, and the delightful artwork. I’ve been playing it pretty much dead on steady for the last 2 months, and have gotten up to level 143 – and it’s *still* challenging. Not sure how they’ve managed it, but they do.
**Warfare Incorporated**
This one has done me in. It’s hard to describe it without using the obvious connection, but… it’s Starcraft for the iPhone.
The game is a recreation of the normal ‘real time strategy’ genre, scaled down and modified to run on the iPhone. You have group unit selects, goals, manufacturing, buildings, and vehicle types. You have upgrades to units and to buildings. But unlike some of the other (rather lame) attempts on the iPhone, Warfare Incorporated has managed to make a decent plotline that, while not particularly riveting, at least keeps the game flow going. With 3 levels of difficulty and about 30 levels for the full game, the single player scenarios are quite engrossing.
To add to the wonder, [Warfare Incorporated](http://www.warfareincorporated.com) allows a form of downloadable content – you can play maps that other players have generated, as well as play against other players in realtime over the net. I personally haven’t explored those options yet, but I look forward to doing my own ZERG RUSH! against other players.
Both Warfare Incorporated and Medieval are available in the iPhone app store.

Review: Altec-Lansing Backbeat 903 – Best Bluetooth Headphones Evuh?


Ever since I got my iPhone 3g, and jumped to OS 3.1, I’ve been searching for the best arrangement of comfort, functionality, price, and audio quality in a set of bluetooth headphones. I’ve tried the Apple earbuds, but I find them extremely uncomfortable. Several others have come down the Amazon.com-driven mail pipeline, but until now, I wasn’t completely happy with the results.
The Altec-Lansing Backbeat 903 (also available from Plantronics under the same name is a permanently linked pair of on-the-ear headphones that provide A2DP and HFP profiles to a bluetooth host (such as an iPhone). The tether between the headsets is part antenna part audio wire. It does not hold the headphones in place, it is simply an interconnect. The headphones sit on the back of the earlobe (similar to older Jabra designs), with an audio component placed over the ear canal (slightly inside it, in fact, but not putting any weight on it).
Personally, I find this arrangement excellent, and I’m bothered that it’s not more widely implemented (in fact Jabra appears to no longer make this style, sad).
The Backbeats use a pair of behind-the-ear components. Each side has an adjustable rubber centerpiece that I found quite comfortable and unobtrusive. The left earpiece contains telephone controls that allow a simple pickup / drop of incoming calls. The right earpiece has music and volume controls.
Of all the headphones I’ve played with, the Backbeats have the most intuitive control setup. In general use, just tapping the outside of the right ear piece triggers ‘play/pause’. Tapping the outside of the left ear piece answers / drops phone calls. Volume control is via a sliding control on the bottom of the earpiece. The right-left functionality means you don’t need to remember what little doodad to fiddle when a call comes in. Left side is phone, right side is music. Simple!
What really brought it all home for me was the comfort level of the headphones. I’ve worn them for 6-8 hours a day for the last few days without feeling any discomfort. Even better, when not listening to music, the non-earfilling ear piece means I can leave the headphones on and carry on a normal conversation. One particular enjoyment was spending an entire day skiing and listening to music, where the simple outside button was easily tapped even through a ski hat and while wearing gloves.
The volume level and audio quality is excellent, even with background noise and wind – I had no problems hearing music while zipping down a trail at 25mph.
In summary, I would highly recommend these headphones to anyone who is looking for lightweight, comfortable bluetooth headphones for their iPhone or other A2DP equipped device.

The Portable Stack – Is there a place for the EeePC?

Recently I was successfully marketed to by Woot.com and aquired an Asus EeePC 900 Linux netbook. For those who are not familiar with these puppies, they’re hyper-small fully functional ‘laptop’ computers, scaled down to be the size of a hardcover book. The Netbook article on Wikipedia is a good summary of these devices.

The Asus EeePC 900 is an ‘older’ version (hence the reason I got it for only $149) with 512meg of RAM and a 4 gig SSD drive. It has all the basic features you’d expect for a laptop – wifi, decent screen, touchpad, USB ports, good battery life (about 3.5 hours), etc. In all respects, it should be a geeks dream. A fully functional Linux box that is only a few pounds, and can run for hours.

So why am I considering handing it off to my son?

The main problem is that in the current portable computing environment, the ‘slot’ that Netbooks like the EeePC can fill is narrowing rapidly. On the ‘full laptop’ side, there’s a trend toward longer battery life, lighter designs, and stuffing all the functionality of a full desktop machine into a portable form. Many people don’t even have desktop machines anymore, they use their laptops for all work (that’s my situation). On the other side we have the emergency of smartphones like the iPhone (which I have). The iPhone is an enormously capable device. I can read my email, chat online, browse the web, play games – all the things I’d likely do on my laptop if it were small and light – the space that the EeePC and others are shooting for.

Even in the face of all this, I really did give the EeePC a try. I carried it around for a week, trying to see where I’d use it and where I wouldn’t. I never ‘clicked’ into it in any particular fashion, due to a number of obstacles that were either filled by my iPhone or by my laptop:

  • Very small keyboard
    The EeePC has a very small and somewhat wobbly keyboard. I have quite large hands, and though I could ‘shrink’ my hands down to type away, it took some serious concentration, and really only worked when the EeePC was flat on a desk and I was sitting in a proper chair. If I were in that situation, I’d just use my laptop.

  • Wireless twitchy
    This is probably a fault of the Linux distribution the EeePC uses, but I had all sorts of problems with the machine waking up and not reassociating with any available wifi (it wouldn’t even show networks available).

  • No LEAP support
    The wireless also could not use LEAP authentication on wireless. This meant I could not use the EeePC anywhere at the office. Total loss there – I was hoping to be able to bring the machine with me to meetings so I didn’t have to undock and haul my normal laptop along.

  • Update failures from Asus
    ASUS has broken their updater. The EeePC will not software update properly from ASUS’s servers. This is a real problem. There are workarounds, naturally, but it likely means there won’t be OS updates from the manufacturer anytime soon. The answer seems to be to use Eeebuntu, a version of Ubuntu linux designed specifically for the EeePC netbooks.

  • Touchpad
    I don’t like the touchpad. I don’t know why – I just can’t get comfortable with it. The two-finger scrolling is cumbersome and prone to ‘pausing’ (this compared to the two-fingered scrolling on a macbook, which is smooth as silk).

  • Yet Another Power Supply
    I have a problem with power supplies. If I’m going to carry another laptop, I have to have another power supply with me. So now I have 2 laptops, 2 power supplies. This is not saving me anything in weight in my backpack.

Given all these issues, I find myself either picking up my iPhone to twitter or check something on wikipedia, or get out my laptop if I’m going to do any real work.

So what to do? The current plan is to reload the EeePC with Eeebuntu and evaluate that. If it’s stable, is able to browse youtube, run Python’s IDLE environment, and play nethack, then it will be a perfect upgrade for my son, as he’s outgrowing his XO laptop.

Dear iPhone Developer Community…

You see that switch on the side of the iPhone? That little switch that means “Be quiet, I’m in a place where a vibrate will do?”
Pay attention to it!
There is absolutely no excuse to write a game, app, utility, or tool that starts making sounds or playing music upon startup if that switch is set to ‘silent’!
At the moment, I’m talking to you, Ezone, and you’re Crazy Snowboard app, that, despite having the phone on “SILENT”, you start playing music loud and clear upon startup!
iPhone App Developers. PAY ATTENTION TO THE SWITCH!
Sheesh!

iDracula for the iPhone. iCarnage!!!

Just a quick one before I head off to my next meeting. My latest addiction for the iPhone is called ‘iDracula’. It’s sort of a mix of Diablo vs Quake vs Robotron. The 19th century ‘van helsing’-esque setting is beautifully rendered, and the soundtrack adds the appropriate head-banging necessary for any good vampire slaughtering.
There’s a great video of it in action on YouTube.
One thing I have to comment on – this is the first interactive action game on the iPhone that I feel gets the controls right. They use a pair of ‘wheels’ on the screen – one for motion, one for firing. Given the iphone’s lack of any other gaming controls, this seems to be an excellent compromise, allowing very easy motion and action.
There are a few known bugs. Settings aren’t being saved between games, it’s occasionally tricky to switch weapons in mid-melee, and there are occasional pauses. I picked it up off the appstore during a sale for $1, but it’s easily worth a lot more than that.
I hope the developers do continue to update it – a larger play area, or a decent levelling mechanism (finish this level, waste the bosses, move on to the next level) would be a definite win.

A Panoply of Pidgin Plugins

pidgin-screenshot-20090308.pngI have this ongoing personal philosophy. “Don’t get too wedded to a single environment, because the designs will channel your way of thinking, and those ‘new fangled’ ideas about UI’s and systems? They they may have something there, give it a try.”
To that end, not long ago I switched from KDE to Gnome. That has had it’s ups and downs, but regardless of whether it’s been a good move or not, I now understand Gnome a lot better.
One of the tools I’ve used the longest has been X-Chat – a fairly decent IRC client that does pretty much everything I want in a client. I have screenshots of me using Xchat going back many years – a sure sign it might be time to try something else.

Continue reading “A Panoply of Pidgin Plugins”