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On The iPad – DragonVale, Candy Crush Saga, and Constraints July 18, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, iPad.
Tags: , , , ,
9 comments

I have maintained in the past the idea that it is often the difficult bits… the annoying, high effort, failure prone adventures… that end up being the good part of games.  We remember overcoming adversity, defying the odds, working hard (or just staying up late) to achieve a goal, or finally defeating a boss after far too many wipes.  Heck, even long journeys for dubious purposes and misread quests stick in my mind after years later.

Basically, I would put forth that it is the constraints that make the game, and that overcoming particularly onerous constraints are what make memorable moments in the longer term, even if they are frustrating at the time.

Which, as it turns out, is bad news for the makers of casual games when it comes to getting me to give them money.

DragonVale

I have several games on my iPad that are there for my daughter.  I leave them alone and she plays them.  DragonVale is… or was… on that list.  One of her friends was playing it so she wanted to try it.  My first glance review of the game was “FarmVille by another name.”

DragonVale

DragonVale

Instead of growing crops, you are running a dragon zoo where you can breed new and different types of dragons.  The constraints are the typical time and currency.  It takes time to build or upgrade habitats as well as to breed the dragons.  And then there are the three currencies, gold, food and gems.

Food isn’t really a currency I suppose.  It costs gold to grow and is required to raise the level of the dragons you breed which, in turn, increase the amount of gold they bring in over time.  But it feels like a currency.

Gold is the easy, in-game currency that you buy most thing with, from paving stones to the floating islands that make up your dragon exhibit.  You earn this over time by just having dragons on display, though you have to open the game and collect it from time to time, as each dragon habitat

And then there are gems.  Gems are the constraint removal currency.  When a new, limited time dragon comes out, you can spend time trying to breed it, or just buy the egg outright for gems.  If that breeding cycles is 48 hours long, you can skip it for just 1 gem per hour.  And the top tier habitats, which hold the most dragons and gold, can only be purchased with gems.

All of which would have remained unknown to me had my daughter not come to me asking if she could buy some gems.

Gems! They Cost Money!

Gems! They Cost Money!

My immediate answer was “no,” after which I asked why she wanted them.

She explained that there was a limited time dragon she wanted, but since I am notorious for hogging the iPad, she was afraid time would run out before she was able to finally breed the dragon.  This lead to some negotiations which ended up me becoming the day-to-day manager of DragonVale while she was the owner/CEO.

She set policy, which was basically about what dragons to breed and how (usually helped along by web.) along with handling all of the cosmetic work.  I would make it part of my daily routine to click on habitats to collect gold, breed dragons as specified, exchange gifts with her friends (one of the ways you can earn gems in game), and a couple of other routine items, all of which generally takes about a minute to do maybe three times a day.

That left us with a game we both played and which we could discuss and make plans around without spending any money.  And the constraints drive that.

More Gemstone Dragons Please!

More Gemstone Dragons Please!

For example, gems remain in short supply for us primarily because the top tier habitat for each dragon type can only be purchased with gems.  However, the benefits… they are able to store more gold, increasing the time to full, thus allowing you to collect less frequently without “wasting” time with a full habitat as well as the ability to hold more dragons, allowing an increase in your overall population… were such that I convinced her to embark on a slow but continuous plan of habitat upgrade.  I would keep 50 gems in reserve, in case something we had to have came up, but would spend anything beyond that on the upgrades, which were 25 gems each.  We earn, depending on friends and the whims of a mini-game, between 2 and 10 gems a day.  We had a couple dozen habitats to upgrade, so this was truly a long term plan.  We are only about three quarters done at this point.

And the upgraded habitats themselves take up more space, leading to a park-wide layout redesign of paths and decorations.

Our "High Value"Dragon Island

Our “High Value”Dragon Island

All of which has made the game… well… an actual, long term game for us.

Unfortunately for Backflip Studios, it only maintains that status so long as we don’t give them any money.  Sorry guys.

Double Rainbow Dragon Pukes Rainbows!

Double Rainbow Dragon Pukes Rainbows!

Still, people do give them money.  On visiting the dragon park of on of my daughter’s friends, I noticed that she had a lot more rare dragons than we did as well as more than 800 gems in her inventory.  So clearly somebody is paying our way in the game.

Candy Crush Saga

I only found out about Candy Crush Saga because I heard people complaining about it.  Always the best endorsement of a game, right?

I would describe it as something of a Bejeweled clone, and apparently it is huge.  The Facebook version is one of the biggest game there, having eclipsed the once mighty Zynga on all fronts.  There are versions now for iOS and Android.  I have even seen ads for it on TV, and not just during the 3am Tom Vu time slot.

It is a classic “social” game in the odious Zynga style with a huge number of constraints which can only be bypassed by paying money or recruiting your friends by polluting their wall with posts.

Or by just waiting.

You only get so many losses before you have to stop playing, pay, or prostitute yourself.  And the game sets you up to lose with some pretty hard levels… though you can also pay your way out of not losing with extra turns, time, or other bonuses.  The game has absolutely no shame in hitting you up for money to get yourself out of a tight spot.

But the game itself is cute and light and fun in that Bejeweled sort of way and the constraints make progress in the game all the more satisfying.  I think I spent five days on a really tough level in the high 30′s. I would just lose until I ran out of plays, then go away until they regenerated.

No More Plays!

No More Plays!

There are occasional gates where you have to pay, post to Facebook, or pass three special levels.  But you can only do one of the levels per day, so you are locked out of progress for at least three days.

Come Back Tomorrow!

Come Back Tomorrow!

And yet, saying “no” to the constant “pay to win” offers, makes me feel all warm inside, like a Christian that has said “no” to the temptations of Satan.  And I continue to make progress, slowly but surely.

Now stuck at... level 59!

Now stuck at… level 59!

Which, I am going to guess, was not the designers intention.

Constraints Make The Game… for me

Which I am sure all says more about me than game design in general, but which does illustrate one of the problems I have with the free to play concept.  The constraints that are in there to make you want to pay money actually work as a deterrent towards me paying money, as the only thing the money would do is relieve me of actually playing the game.

Which makes me feel odd, because I wouldn’t mind rewarding the designer… I just don’t want to remove the constraints that make the game interesting.   And, really, that is the only path they have left me.

Well, I actually don’t feel odd when it comes to Candy Crush Saga.  They rub the “pay” button in my face so often that I have made it one of my missions in life to play their game without paying them.  But I think you get my point.

On the iPad – Vinylize Me April 24, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, iPad.
Tags: , ,
2 comments

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, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, iPad.
Tags: ,
2 comments

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.

2 out of 5 stars... and a lot of 1 ratings

2 out of 5 stars… and a lot of 1 ratings

And certainly, if you have downloaded and attempted to use it, you might begin to wonder exactly what Evil Laugh Games finds so amusing.

Are you laughing with me... or at me?

Are you laughing with me… or at me?

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?

It is essentially a competitive version of magnetic refrigerator poetry, something that was very popular like… a decade back?  They still sell such kits, but they aren’t such a big thing any more.

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.

Prose with Bros play in action

Prose with Bros play in action

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.

Winning!

Winning!

And sometime you are clearly getting robbed.

Losing...

Losing… to that? Really?

And, once in a while, there is a tie.

Brevity didn't quite carry me this time...

Brevity didn’t quite carry me this time…

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, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, iPad.
Tags: , ,
11 comments

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 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.

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.

The secret to success: Get Jeff Green to tweet that he likes you iOS app.  I went with him on Kingdom Rush HD and everything he has mentioned since.

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.)

So What?

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, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, iPad, Month in Review, Rift, Star Trek Online, World of Warcraft.
8 comments

The Site

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.

iPad version of TAGN

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.

The blog was listed at a Vietnamese gaming site in a top 10 post that looked suspiciously like one from Massively.

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.

DC Universe Online launched.  I played in the beta just long enough to remind myself I am not a superhero kind of guy.

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

The MMO blogesphere starting talking about generations of MMOs, and I asked if we had even gotten past the first generation, then quoted Wikipedia’s takeon the generation debate.

The instance group finished up the Scarlet Monestary and rolled through Razorfen Downs.

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.

I played in some of the Vanguard open beta, once I got it downloaded, but when the game actually launched, I declined to buy the box.

And, finally, Blizzard launched the Burning Crusade without the usual first day disasters that tend to accompany an expansion, though I couldn’t figure out why I was bothering to buy a copy.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following site for linking here in their blog rolls.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Post in January

  1. Hulkageddon V: Unholy Union – Coming Soon
  2. How to Catch Zorua and Zoroark
  3. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  4. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  5. Twelve Questions for 2012
  6. The MPAA Paints A Chilling Portrait of Things to Come
  7. What Happens After the End of White Noise in Branch?
  8. LEGO Lord of the Rings: The Video Game – It Could Happen
  9. Remembering My First PvP Death in EVE…
  10. Type 59 Being Pulled from the World of Tanks Store
  11. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  12. Scraping Off the Rust in the Iron Tomb

Spam Comment of the Month

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SWTOR Secrets is the first true strategy guide written for SWTOR, making it a massive opportunity for anyone interested in getting into the gaming niche. And because this guide is so unique and has so little competition, traffic will surge into your landing pages, eagerly eating up whatever content you provide. Conversion rates are through the roof right now, meaning you do less work and make more money for your time.Enjoy!!!

EVE Online

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.

Rift

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.

Coming Up

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, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, iPad.
Tags: , ,
11 comments

In the end, it came down to my eyes no longer being able to focus on the type in your typical paper back book.

The array of ebook readers out there was not foreign to me.  Both of my parents have an Amazon Kindle.  My daughter has a Nook Color.  A friend of ours has a Kindle Fire.

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.

Everyone in the house has played with my iPad

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.