AirPlay review – the future is upon us

Today it looks like iOS 4.2, the new version of Apples operating system for the iPhone and the iPad, is being pushed back another week.
I’ve been trying out AirPlay on my iPad (the developer preview) and I have to say this is the future. In http://www.apple.com/itunes/airplay/iOS has a killer app beyond anything else in the mobile space today. I’m not kidding.

Third Party AirPlay speaker

AirPlay let’s you stream music and videos to and from any iOS enabled devices. Whole there aren’t many such devices yet this is the future of media we’ve been waiting for.

Coming home, sitting down with my iPad and than choosing what I want to listen to on my wifi stereo system is a form of media disintermediation that really takes the leap from 50s hifi systems to the visions of the future represented in movies such as Total Recall or Minority Report.

AirPlay really does change everything. Lets just hope Apple opened it up to third parties. This is the way we’ll want to consume media in the coming years. Let’s hope it get wide adoption on all platforms.

First impressions of the iPad

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad I didn’t like it. It was just to basic, I thought I’d never buy one unless they upgraded it quickly.Three months later I had just touched one and “got it”. The UI made all the difference, it IS just a gimped laptop but with an interface that makes what you can do fun.

I just unpacked my own and tried out most of the functions I’ve been looking forward to. Unsurprisingly it feels like my iPhone only the screen makes the entire experience slightly more immersive.

As I’m typing this there is no doubt in my mind that this is the future of computing, at least the near future, but should you get one? If you work on the road or need to upgrade a net book the answer is Yes. If you have a great laptop or use a desktop machine however, don’t. Not yet, let the platform mature a bit and you’ll be much less grieved.

Interactive art, game?

Every Day the same Dream is a short flash game that I think you should play.
It’s story of a faceless man who tries to break out of his routine of getting up, dressing, saying good bye to his emotionally detached wife and driving to a miserable job. It’s not exactly cheerful. It might even provoke dark thoughts. It’s conveys a sense of how valuable life is in a strange way. This game is provoking. It doesn’t provoke your ideals. It provokes how you live.

A fantastic interactive experiment that I can really recommend:

Every Day the Same Dream

Brütal Legend demo impresssions

One word: Awesome.
To tell you the truth, I had already planned to buy Brutal Legend just for the story writing and the fact that original games are few and should be promoted. But after playing the demo I have to say that the team at Double Fine has outdone themselves. This is one hell of a game, the gameplay is simple and fun while the narrative is awesome. The game has excellent polish and definitely seems worth the money.

Truthfully, I’m a bit surprised and a bit impressed. I had not suspected that the game would be this fun to play.

Uncharted 2 multiplayer beta impressions

I like Uncharted 1. Let’s get that straight before I say anything else. Because it does make me slightly biased.
But that aside, Uncharted 2 among thieves really ups the ante. The graphics are slightly better, everything is more smooth and the free running/climbing is really more integrated into the world.

The multiplayer beta is just what it sounds like, a demo that only showcases multiplayer. And its a lot of fun. Gameplay is engaging even though it’s quite slow compared to other shooters. The levels are pretty large and since you can climb you have to think vertically unless you want to get shot repeatedly by the other players climbing the ruins.

There is a modern standard leveling system and a matchmaking system that we really don’t know much about since there aren’t that many players playing it.

So far though, the beta has me convinced that the game itself is holding up to the hype. Still, Uncharted is just as much about the narrative progression as the game mechanics. And we haven’t seen them yet.

Monopoly city streets

The word wide Monopoly match is finally running smoothly without slowdowns or lag. The game is a fantastic experiment on the google maps platform. I’ve been wondering why it hasn’t  been used more for games up til now, let’s see if that changes.
There is only one problem with the game. Chance has such a small effect on actual play that the main strategy in Monopoly (buy everything as fast as possible) is not only dominant but effectively the only one. Still pretty fun though, buying your own neighbourhood.

Plants vs Zombies first impressions

Popcap have released their newest casual venture Plants vs Zombies. Basically a simplified tower defense game with levels and really cute graphics.
My first impression was, truthfully: “Wow! This is great! This is so much fun!”. Yes, I committed the exclamation fan-boy crime.

My second impression, 20minutes later was: “What? Is this it? This isn’t that much fun…”

The next time I had a conscious thought was an hour later. An hour of hard concentration trying to kill zombies. Have no doubts, this is a most excellent game. And I will get into detail on why I think this is shortly.

UPDATE:

Downloaded the demo on my girlfriends Mac, two hours later she’d bought the full game. Two days later she was stuck on one of the final levels of the game. She’d grinded the entire game. Yes, I’m proud of her!

Dawn of War 2 impressions

Dawn of War 2 is Relic Entertainments follow up on the massively succesful Dawn of War series. Relic being the only remaining RTS studio competing with Blizzard sure has it’s work cut out for it but the success of Homeworld, Dawn of War and recently Company of Heroes seem to indicate that they are somewhat good at what they do (understating for effect).
Dawn of War 2 is a game that is more focused on small unit tactics compared to the massive armies of it’s predecessor but apart from that not a lot has really changed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a big change. And for the better in my opinion.

DoW2 is simple put: fun. It’s a lot more like the classic Myth series then Command & Conquer style RTS games which makes play a lot more focused and immersive. The graphics are great and the different units with their different abilities make for interesting game dynamics. But there are a few glitches in this new way of playing.

First though, I wonder why it requires such outrageous system specs? It’s not prettier then Company of Heroes but it makes my core2duo 2,4 Ghz, 2GB DD2, XFX 8800GT 512MB machine stutter and jerk. Sure, I’m running the game in 1080p but I have no problem running CoH in the same resolution. Isn’t DoW2 based on the same engine? Recommended system specs are way below my machine so I can’t help feeling Relic somehow forgot, or didn’t have time for optimization. Please patch this up, this is just silly.

Gameplay wise there is also a question of complexity, long time readers will know by now that I’ve been an active advocate for simple games for the past 5 years but DoW2 is plain weird. It’s a game made to be simple to pick up, small units, distinct advantages for different units. Small skirmishes and simple to understand goals. Sounds great right? So why does each unit has 3 interchangeable special abilities that seem to come in enormous variety, all with different uses and hot keys?

It’s like if some part of the design was just hammered into the game without following the same rules as the rest of the game:
Overall game design “simplicity and stream lined experience”
Unit and ability control “pre 2000’s complexity comparable to text based logistic shipping simulators from the early 90’s?”
I’m drastically exadurating now but the complexity is really strange to find in this game. It just makes little sense. Why aren’t the unit abilities locked to special roles? Or at least the ability groups locked to certain units? Does a sniper really ever need to use melee-charge?
And why can’t I control all the abilities with the same keys, as I do in World in Conflict? Button A for ability A, button B for ability B and so on. No matter WHAT that ability is?

Oh, and the multiplayer gameplay is copied without shame from the original version of Dreamlords. But that’s just awesome.  😉