On the iPad: Hearthstone and QuizUp April 22, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, iPad.
Tags: Hearthstone, QuizUp
It has been a while since I have written an iPad app post.
That is probably because, in the end, I tend to use the iPad to read news and Twitter and to text my wife from the office. The iPad screen has nice big buttons that I can mostly hit correctly with my big fingers. So I am still playing DragonVale and Candy Crush Saga in dribs and drabs along with Ticket to Ride. (I am stuck on level 165 of Candy Crush Saga, a level I could easily win… if only I would pay… and I haven’t been able to get DragonVale to even launch in the last few days, so I might be done with that.)
I think there are more apps on the iPad for my daughter than for me at this point.
And then suddenly last week there were two new apps to download.
The first was Hearthstone which, after an exclusive engagement in Australia and New Zealand… presumably because the deserve something first now and again… the iOS version of the game finally showed up in the US iTunes store. I hadn’t played since the second I got my Hearthsteed a few weeks back… I have more games on my PC than I can possible play already… but the iPad seemed like the right platform.
And given that Hearthstone became a top downloaded app in the store almost immediately, I guess I was not alone in that though.
I was wondering what changes or compromises Blizzard might have to make in order to work with Apple and iTunes. A lot of smaller devs avail themselves of the Game Center approach, which worried me. I did not necessarily want another Blizzard account.
But my worry was for naught. When you bring up Hearthstone on the iPad, you log into your Battle.net account exactly the same way you do on Windows. That does mean that you need your authenticator to hand when you log in, which makes sense but which also means I won’t be playing Hearthstone on the road.
The real problem was getting it away from my daughter. Fortunately, with the standard Battle.net login, we could share the device and play on our own accounts.
So, I thought I had the new app to keep me happy when a friend suggested I grab QuizUp.
QuizUp is a trivia game for iOS and Android. There are dozens and dozens of categories to choose from. There is a competitive element in that you always take a quiz (all of 7 questions) in competition with another player, so there is a win/lose thing at the end. And for each quiz you take in a given category, you earn experience (more if you win, but still some if you lose) and level up and earn titles for that category.
Did I mention there are a lot of categories.
So clearly there is something simple but compelling for the achiever in this one as well as the PvPer.
I found it amusing, showed my wife the music categories… where she excels… and then she downloaded it as well. Now we can challenge each other across the living room. She kills in music, I am ahead in science fiction, and we are neck and neck in logos.
The nifty thing is that you can challenge somebody and play against them without both of you being live and online at the same time. You challenge, take the option to go ahead, and do the quiz. Then when the other person shows up, they take the quiz as well and you get the results.
The killer/tie breaker is that there is a time element to answering the questions. The longer you take to answer, the fewer points you get for a correct answer. In random games against strangers, time often fails to be a factor. But when head to head against somebody who is up on the topic, tapping the right button instantly for the full 20 points can be the difference between winning and losing.
Which can be annoying when your finger darts out like lightning to tap the correct answer and then, as you smile smugly to yourself on a job well done, you realize that the damn touch screen didn’t register your tap and you’ve lost a couple seconds and now you are going to lose.
I am pretty sure that is what happened in the game above.
Anyway, that was a good start. And then, just this weekend, a new category opened up: EVE Online trivia. (Under games, category EVE. Why not EVE Online? I don’t know.) And then I spent a bunch of time focused on that, often in competition with Mark726 of EVE Travel, against whom I tied three time running at one point.
It is actually interesting to see when a new category shows up, as people will jump on it just to earn titles and maybe get a world/regional ranking by playing early and often. The top player in any category gets a “world’s best” rank which, considering you get points for just playing as opposed to playing well… and you can buy a points multiplier, which is how they monetize… lends those titles a dubious air. But I guess you should reward persistence.
And, of course, as you play a category for a while, you start to see questions repeat. So if you have the memory for it, you will eventually do well. But when you first start off, get ready to lose.
I can only play in short bursts, so will never be a contender, but there are people out there who are obsessed… and probably paying money too.
So that has been the iPad focus for the last few days. If you want to friend me and/or challenge me in QuizUp, my handle is Wilhelm Arcturus.
I actually had the EVE Online background set before there was an EVE Online category. Call it being prepared. And my title is from hitting level 10 in the WWI category. While I already have two titles from the EVE Online category, the titles suck. “Nooblar” was the best somebody could come up with?
Now my only question out of this is, why is there no World of Warcraft category on QuizUp? That seems like a natural!
Of course, if I want WoW on the iPad, I suppose I could go play Hearthstone.
On the iPad – Vinylize Me April 24, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, iPad.
Tags: Burn Jita, Halftone, Vinylize Me
Apps for editing and modifying pictures seem to abound in Apple’s App Store. You can spend a long time wandering through that section.
But while I find many of these apps interesting, I don’t actually use my iPad to take pictures. To start with, the iPad is kind of bulky. And then there is the fact that it takes pictures in 720p, which would have seemed like fine resolution for a digital camera… about 12 years ago.
So who needs photo editing on a device when you don’t use it to take photos?
But every once in a while I notice an editing app… in this case because it came up in the Apps Gone Free app, which I recommend to all my fellow cheapskates out there… that does pique my interest.
In this case, the app was Vinylize Me.
This app lets you create vintage looking album covers, into which you can incorporate your own photos.
That sounded pretty neat, so I grabbed it. But then I didn’t have any photos on my iPad. So I took some screen shots of pictures from the blog in Safari and used them to make a few samples. Click on them to view as a larger gallery.
Not the best work in the world, but I think it shows some potential. I have to figure out a good use for the app, but I like the idea of it very much. You can change most of the text, tint your photos, swap out the “stereophonic” banners, manipulate the colors, and even add aging affects to make it look like an old LP that has seen some use.
The images in the gallery above are actually one quarter size of the output the app gives you. The pictures I used were low resolution… they came from iPad screen shots after all… and looked very grainy at full resolution. They would look better if I just imported the pictures from my computer rather than being lazy and taking a few screen shots.
Full resolution is 2448 by 2448 pixels, which seems to be about the size of an actual LP sleeve.
The main downside to the app is that you are limited to the templates they have provided. You cannot add your own or edit the basics of what you are given.
Technically, this is an iPhone app, which means that it is half size on the iPad screen by default. But unlike some iPhone apps, it looks okay when set to fill the screen. (Unlike, say, that World of Tanks app.)
Anyway, another goofy app that amuses me. And the results look better than the last such app I played with, Halftone.
I don’t think I quite have the hang of that one.
On the iPad – Prose with Bros February 21, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, iPad.
Tags: Magnetic Poetry, Prose with Bros
There is not much to recommend this app. You need only look at its rating in the App Store to get a sense that it has… issues.
And certainly, if you have downloaded and attempted to use it, you might begin to wonder exactly what Evil Laugh Games finds so amusing.
If you can get the app to run… which the reviews indicate is a serious challenge for some… it doesn’t exactly behave well. It comes up fine on my 16GB iPad 2. But it crashes regularly. It locks up. It is slow. The interface can be unresponsive and is often… sub optimal.
And it seems to have been designed deliberately to drain the battery of your iOS device. I can see the battery indicator drop by at least a percent with almost each major action I perform.
And then there is what happens in the app when it actually does run. You can quite easily come to the conclusion that the whole thing is a group effort to try and create new euphemisms for sex, sexual organs, and various sexual acts by using otherwise innocent words in suggestive ways. You would be shocked, for example, at the way “jamtart” ends up getting used in sentences. Reviews that aren’t complaining about the app itself often complain about the blue nature of the user content. (Somebody is searching for the app now, based just on that I bet!)
And if people aren’t turning to sex, then they seem to be succumbing to a disease that makes them add just one more adverb to an already over-burdened phrase.
So what is this Prose with Bros app, with so much going against it?
You challenge somebody… either taking a random match or picking out an individual you know or just want to match wits against… at which point you are both presented with the same set of words. You then try to construct the best… sentence, phrase, paragraph, whatever… that you can create from your limited vocabulary options.
As you arrange words in the four lines you are allowed, you can supply punctuation, and some words have different forms; nouns can be made plural, verbs can change forms. If you can get the UI to cooperate. Tap and hold… damn, it moved. Moved again. And again. Dammit, just let me tap and hold you stupid app!
Once you have completed your masterpiece, you then submit it for the approval of the mob. The entries from you and the person you are playing against are put up for a vote. Other users who log in will be able to pick which of the two of you created the best/most amusing/most sexually oriented entry.
And believe me, sex gets votes.
Sometimes your grand entry is recognized as superior.
And sometime you are clearly getting robbed.
And, once in a while, there is a tie.
I think my best entry of late was:
Mrs. Narnia was the mo-ped queen!
She packed a slamming machine!
I won with that one. I would have taken a screen shot of it and the entry I defeated, except that among the many flaws of the app, the ability to find old entries is pretty bad. Unless you specifically “save” an entry, you end up with a list, sorted oldest at the top, that contains many duplicates and has a habit of crashing if you scroll down too fast… or too far… or if it is feeling cranky… or if it is a Tuesday… or for no reason at all.
Still, this is my favorite app at the moment. And I have to admit, it is trying to do a lot, so many of its flaws seem explicable, if still annoying.
If you are interested in playing… and you can get the app to install and run correctly… you can challenge me. You can see my handle in the screen shots.
Tips for winning, based on my observations:
- Sexual innuendo usually wins
- Brevity is powerful, to a point
- Entries that flow have an advantage
- Don’t pile on the modifiers
So who wants to play?
Why I Didn’t Buy Your 99 Cent App July 24, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, iPad.
Tags: App Store, Apple, iOS
Every once in a while I run across anger or angst from developers of iOS apps about how people aren’t buying their app. It is, after all, only 99 cents!
This is my all time champion complaint:
People scoff at spending 99¢ on an app that took months to make, yet hurl money at Kickstarter projects that, technically, are vaporware.—
David Chartier (@chartier) May 17, 2012
People are spending money at Kickstarter when they could be buying his app. And he worked HARD on it.
The perception seems to be that people are complete cheapskates when it comes to apps for their iOS device.
There is a comic up over at The Oatmeal that illustrates this perception.
(Click on that link, or the image, to see the whole comic.)
Yes, that is exaggerating for comic effect, but it still implies that 99 cents is a barrier for people who think nothing of plonking down five bucks a day for coffee.
Oh, and expectations are too high.
People on the internet expect a lot for $0.99.—
Andrew Webster (@A_Webster) July 11, 2012
Not sure what that was in reference to, but I though I would just throw that in there. Hi Andrew!
Yet none of this rings true for me.
Price has never stood in the way of me buying an app that I really wanted. I have some $9.99 apps on my iPad.
I don’t think I expect a lot from a 99 cent app, though clearly there is a lot of variation in how much apps at that price deliver.
Finally, I have hurled very little money at Kickstarter projects, and none of that actually has gone to video game projects. But had I, that money hurled would not in anyway impact my iOS app buying decisions. Attempting to make that connection seems laughable at best.
So I sat down and made a list of reasons why I might not have purchased any given app, which gave me eight bullet points, which I was able to combine down to five.
These are my reasons, and might as a whole apply just to me. But I am going to guess that some of this list will apply to other people as well.
1 – I have never heard of it
Developers, the App Store is your biggest enemy.
This is, far and away, the most likely reason I have not bought your app.
I would like to rant about how annoying it is to browse the App Store, except that I find it annoying to browse things on the internet in general. Amazon, Audible.com, Steam, iTunes, NetFlix and a host of other sites all seem to fail to get right the one thing a physical store can, which is to let the customer easily browse through the merchandise.
Part of it is selection; there is too much. At a site like Amazon, which has listings for every book published in the last forty years and more, try browsing science fiction titles. There are something like 90,000 choices at the top level. In reality the list is smaller, because they list every edition (paperback, hardcover, audio, Kindle) separately. But lets say I just want Kindle versions, that still leave more than 26,000 options.
I estimated once that my favorite local used book store had about 14,000 science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, which is a lot. Yet in a physical space where I can scan whole shelves, that does not seem unmanageable. But online, viewing in batches of 8-20 titles at a time, it is an unwieldy mess on which I quickly give up.
So for me to buy an app or a book or rent a movie, it pretty either has to show up on the front page of a search or somebody I respect has to recommend it.
2 – The price point is a red flag
Assuming I found your app on the App Store, I have to admit a bias against apps that cost only 99 cents. My actual expectation is that your app will suck.
There appears to be so much crap at that price that my base assumption is that anything that is 99 cents is not worth my time. This is based on my experience with apps at that price point. If there are two similar apps that I am interested in, I will usually go with the more expensive of the two.
Looking at what is on my iPad right now, I have a bunch of apps that were $2.99-$9.99, a bunch that were free, and exactly one 99 cent app, Fancy Pants Adventures. And for a 99 cent app, that is an awesome game. If you think people have high expectations, maybe those expectations are being set by your competitors.
But the only reason I bought that app was because I had already played a version on the PlayStation 3. So, again, get Jeff Green or somebody on the case to recommend your app. Or charge more for a quality app. I will pay more for one.
3 – The store page drove me off
Bad reviews and a low overall rating screams “pass” in my ear. We are talking about something akin to an impulse buy, and nothing shuts down that impulse quicker that two stars and the last couple of reviews that say, “This version is totally broken!”
For a purchasing decision where reviews are mixed, I will usually go read the two and three star reviews, since those people seem most interested in communicating. However, the App Store makes this annoying, so I just go with the overall review most times. The App Store is your enemy.
4 – Your app appears to be an uninspired rip-off
Yes, there really is nothing new under the sun. Everything has been done. But if you are going to remake the same game, at least do so with some passion. You have have to give me a hook, a reason why I should choose your app to guide a penguin/car/elf through ice floes/Manhattan/forest to help find fish/a gas station/the peace of eternal sleep.
Of course, sometimes it probably isn’t a total rip-off. Sometimes there is a new twist. Occasionally something new is brought to the table. But your coding skills do not always translate well into communication skills, leaving me reading a few bland sentences that send me off to the next app.
5 – I am just picky
I do not like to have a ton of apps cluttering up my iPad. This is often the primary reason I do not buy an app. Once I get beyond four pages of apps on my iPad, it becomes clear that I have too many and it is time to pare down the list.
To this end, I also try to avoid cluttering up my iPad with crap in the first place. For example, I have an app called Apps Gone Free that puts up a list daily of apps that are temporarily available for no charge. It is a rare week if I download more than one app from the five to fifteen they list every day. But then, a lot of the apps that show up for free are of the “99 cents and rightfully so variety” that I am already biased against.
And, finally, any app that requires me to tilt the iPad to steer a vehicle is right out. Screw you Sonic & SEGA All Star Racing. (Also because you are really an uninspired Mario Kart ripoff.)
I realize that I may not be the ideal target market for developers making 99 cent apps.
I am old and cranky and use an iPad, which means I want full screen versions of apps, which usually costs more. For example, Kingdom Rush is only 99 cents on the iPhone, but the HD version for the iPad is $2.99. The same goes for what is probably my most played iPad game, Ticket to Ride, which runs $4.99 on the iPad. (And I have purchased all the DLC as well.)
On the flip side, I will gladly pay more than 99 cents for quality. At least if I find out about it. The App Store still sucks at just about any price point.
So how about you? Do you buy lots of 99 cent games?
Do any of my reasons ring true for you?
January in Review January 31, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, iPad, Month in Review, Rift, Star Trek Online, World of Warcraft.
After five years, I updated the About page for the blog.
The primary improvements, a relative term on the best of days, were removing my picture and rewriting the whole thing up as something mildly resembling a FAQ, despite the fact that none of the questions listed have ever been asked with any frequency whatsoever. Still, one less picture of me, so a win for the internet!
And the whole thing does give some sort of outline to the philosophy behind this blog. Read it at your peril, and remember that any promise of candy is likely to be a lie.
Then, due to an RSS feed misfire, my very first post on the blog… a “Welcome” message which coincidentally also attempted to establish some sort of blogging philosophy, though it was clearly in a much more primitive state at that point… received more views this month than it had during the entire history of the blog so far.
So for all of you who missed it five years ago, welcome.
And finally, I’d just like to say that I think the special iPad format that WordPress.com has looks pretty neat.
Of course, since it is graphically focused, my urge to make sure every post has at least one picture has been reinforced.
One Year Ago
Eschewing the predicting convention, I issued demands for 2011.
TERA was trying to win notice by telling people how they had boars in their game! BOARS! Can you imagine?
EuroGamer tried to tell us PlanetSide 2 would be out by Q2 2011.
It was time to start messing with the then new EVE Online character creator.
I used Google to tell me World of Warcraft’s five most pressing issues at the time.
Meanwhile, the Twilight Cadre was back in Azeroth in force and checking out Cataclysm. We got our first guild achievement. Our group of new characters, four worgen and a gnome, went through Westfall and all its phasing magic, wailed in the Wailing Caverns, before settling down to a pattern of doing three instances every Saturday night. I wasn’t sure if we had skilled up a lot or if the game had been dumbed down that much, but clearly the 1-60 game in Cataclysm was proving to be not much of a challenge.
There was some cool stuff in Cataclysm. I like the balloons. Redridge, never one of my favorite places, got turned into a fun solo experience. And there was the Murloc combat ability. But otherwise, the game was starting to lose us.
And, finally, Pokemon was coming to town.
Five Years Ago
Blintz, my swashbuckler in EQ2 was just digging into Zek, The Orcish Wastes, one of my favorite zones in post-cataclysm Norrath.
Scott Hartsman described some of the goals for the EverQuest II expansion that would eventually become The Rise of Kunark.
New Linking Sites
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Most Viewed Post in January
- Hulkageddon V: Unholy Union – Coming Soon
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- Remembering My First PvP Death in EVE…
- Type 59 Being Pulled from the World of Tanks Store
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- Scraping Off the Rust in the Iron Tomb
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After an eventful December in which I first ventured into 0.0 space, January has been kind of quiet. The war in Branch hit a lull and I spent most of my time worried about skills and ratting in my Tengu. Of course, just as I have been closing in on my final Maelstrom skills, the word was passed down that those with the right skills should fly a Drake. Well, that was where I started.
And now the war is back on. The corp has declared war time rules again, which amount to “knock off that carebear crap when fleet ops are active!” Maybe, just maybe, I can get on the kill boards for something other than structures, in a Drake or not.
I have been playing a whole lot of Rift. I post regularly about the instance group, but that is generally one night a week plus maybe a little bit of prep. I have to find some time to write about what I have been doing with the other 75% of the time I have been spending in Telara.
But, as a whole, I am pretty happy with Rift for now.
Star Trek Online
It went free to play and do I care? I am a lifetime subscriber. Maybe not. I keep the game patched up, but I do not play. I did actually log in after it went free to play, just to see where I stood. I have 1040 Cryptic bucks, or whatever their currency is called, and so many changes since I last logged in that I probably need to start over. We’ll see.
World of Warcraft
Hrmm… I hit level 85 and haven’t done much since.
I think I summed up my to do list above. Post about new null sec adventures in EVE (if any), write up something about all the non-instance group stuff I have done in Rift, and figure out where I stand with Star Trek Online and World of Warcraft.
Other than that, maybe something about iPad games and the PS3 and… oh, I don’t know… baseball movies. We just saw Moneyball and spring training is coming up. Or maybe not.
Joining the Tablet Generation January 17, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, iPad.
Tags: Apple, Kindle, Nook
In the end, it came down to my eyes no longer being able to focus on the type in your typical paper back book.
But being something of a Luddite at times, I clung to books in their physical form.
Until this past summer when middle age struck again, and I ceased to be able to focus on anything within “book range” of my face without a pair of 1.25 diopter reading glasses. Getting old sucks.
Oddly, I do not have problems with text on the computer screen and am able to read the default teeny-eyestrain-o-vision font used in EVE Online without having to blow it up into human proportions
Glasses are a pain. I have not built up a lifetime of eyewear management like many of my family and friends. I have to have multiple pairs of sunglasses just to ensure I can find one pair when I need them. And even that isn’t always doable.
So an ebook reader, where one can increase the size of the type to read, seemed like an idea whose time had come for me. But I wanted something backlit, light for reading being a rare commodity in our home, which left the standard Kindle devices off the list. As for the Nook Color and Kindle Fire, those 7″ screens seemed a bit wee. I like to get more than a short paragraph read per “page.”
Which left me with a muddle of Android based tablets and the iPad.
But with the holidays and money being tight, I didn’t want to face another $500 on the already potentially scary credit card bill. So my wife managed to piece together an array of gift cards that were all redeemable at one local Target that also happened to be in a Westfield Shoppingtown mall. I only had to pay the tax out of cash in my wallet.
So that was my post-Christmas present, a base model iPad 2.
I immediately downloaded the Amazon Kindle app for the iPad. I have a nearly 15 year relationship with Amazon, so that seemed the best place to start.
A couple of books in, I have to say that the iPad works find as an ebook reader.
I also grabbed the Barnes & Noble app, which lets me download any books my daughter has on her Color Nook. While all of those Warrior Cats books are not so interesting, I have been reading The Hunger Games trilogy with her.
I haven’t done anything with iBooks yet, though I see that a number of publishers have an option to buy ebooks directly that can be imported into iBooks.
Of course, with this brand new tablet, I could not just read books. I had to get some apps.
And there are apps out there for everyone.
There are lots of apps in the Apple store. But as with iTunes… and frankly almost all online shopping… browsing is a pain. If you know exactly what you want, you can get it, but just sifting through the lists of apps… not so much.
I refused to get Angry Birds, since I think we have that on enough devices already. I did indulge my daughter and let her get Fruit Ninja, a game at which I am comically bad.
And there was, of course, the Games for Cats app pictured above. A simulated laser pointed works as well as the real thing, though sometimes Trixie starts digging under the iPad when it goes off screen.
I also grabbed a few reference apps, such as the ones for NPR, BBC, PBS, WordPress, and the Internet Movie Database. I am semi-disappointed in the lot of them, as none seem to improve much (or at all) on just using their web sites with a browser.
There was a nice EVE Online app, EVE Universe, which I grabbed. It just shows information based on your API Key, but it looks good.
On the science front, among the many astronomy choices, I bought Celestron’s SkyQ app. I can stand in the family room now, waving a 10″ diagonal window around, showing my daughter the sky we would be able to see if the city lights were not so bright that they blot out pretty much anything dimmer than the moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Sirius, Polaris, and Orion’s Belt.
But so far the most entertaining app I have downloaded has been the iPad version of the board game Ticket to Ride. I actually own the physical game, but the iPad version is so good that I may never use that again. It translate the game to the tablet very well, picks up all the minor administrative tasks, and offers solo play against bots, local play via hot swap or wireless connection, and online play against strangers. (Though, par for the course, people still disconnect the moment they are going to lose. I hate that.) More games like this please, as opposed to the EA games which, if I read the reviews correctly, you pay for and then they pop up ads during play that obscure the game. Nice.
I also grabbed the Rift Mobile app, which is somewhat limited in functionality, but which does give me palanarite lotto scratcher every hour, up to a maximum of six queued up, that have been helping to feed my planarite needs in the game.
And, finally, I resubscribed to NetFlix stream and have streamed some movies and TV shows to the iPad with very good success. I have used it ala the Syp method, allowing me to watch a show and play EVE Online.
All in all, I quite like the iPad. I have to take it away from my daughter now and again, who will sit in her room and stream Futurama if I don’t keep an eye on her. Mostly it gets used for reading and playing Ticket to Ride. I have hit something of a wall when it comes to apps though. Not that I need a lot more. But every time I use the iTunes app store, I just feel in my bones that there has to be a better way to organize and display apps.