Category Archives: iPad

My Daily Wordle Routine

I have mentioned Wordle and Wordle-like games before, as well as a few of the cinema focused variations.

A decent day at Wordle

The test of time though is whether or not you keep playing.  Somehow a few of the ones I mentioned have become part of my daily routine.

I do enjoy a routine, and Wordle is now part of the start of my day.  Most mornings I wake up around 6am.  This isn’t because I want to or because my alarm goes off… my alarm is set for 7am… it is because I have become my grandfather and now wake up at 6am under pretty much all circumstances.

On waking… and probably scooching the a cat to give myself some room… I pick up my iPad off of the night stand and look at email and the morning news headlines in Flipboard.  I do not look at the blog stats, but only because my iPad is from 2015 and out of support so the WordPress.com app no longer runs on it.

Anyway, the next thing I do is open up Chrome and do the five morning puzzles, which are:

Wordle

The original, now owned by the New York Time.  It is generally a pretty simple task judging from my stats… and remembering that I managed to solve it in be, on my iPad, at around 6am every morning.

My morning Wordle stats

And I think its simplicity is part of the attraction.  I mentioned Quordle and Octordle previously, but I don’t think 6am me is up for that.  Also, both of those really need a full monitor to play effectively, not my out of date iPad Air.

Anti-Wordle

It is hard to explain why I do this one daily, as I am pretty bad at it.  Somehow I managed to solve this in fewer moves than I do Wordle far too often.  Every once in a while I will get a good run and get to ten or thirteen guesses before I am locked into the obvious answer.  But three or four guesses are a lot more common… or feel a lot more common.  The upside of the game is that it doesn’t bother keeping stats, so it is only how well I did that day.

Tradle

This one is probably the most amusing.  As noted previously, you get total export value and the array of goods exported and you have to guess which country or territory it is.  Potshot and I toss our daily scores into a Discord channel everybody else has muted and this is probably the one we chat about most often.

Trouble spots for both of us are the Caribbean, west Africa, and the Balkans… though the Balkans are trouble for everybody historically.  They all comprise areas with a lot of small countries so you can end up playing a game of guessing hopscotch, getting slightly closer but never quite arriving in your six guesses.

We have adopted a “places beginning with ‘saint'” strategy for the Caribbean, and when faced with West Africa I go for Benin or Cameroon.  The Balkans though, you just have to be lucky.  And even with our strategies, some days the automate system throws some genuine bullshit out way.

Really Tradle? I checked, nobody lives there!

Still, even with the geographical foibles, I do okay with it.

My Tradle stats

Probably the most embarrassing thing is when you get repeats… because the country is picked daily by RNG so far as I can tell.. and you do worse when the same place shows up.  I think we had Portugal three time in the last four weeks and I got it in 2, 3, then 5 guesses.

Framed

This has ended up being my favorite of the movie themed variations on Wordle.  I like when they put up a really obscure image from a movie and I get it on the first go.   Though almost equally amusing is when I managed to guess correctly for movies I have never seen.

It has a fairly deep field of movies and, as I said in my original look at it, whoever put it together does a very good job of progression with the six images, going from pretty obscure to obvious if you’ve seen it and remember it by the final pic.  I feel like I do pretty well on this one, though my record is far from perfect.

My Framed stats

If I get it in one I probably know the film, if I get it in six it is often something I’ve never seen but they’re rubbing my nose in it with the lead actors or a well known scene.

Actorle

I thought this game was ridiculously hard when I started on it and could only solve it by cheating rampantly, using Wikipedia to match up blanked out title strings.

However, I have gotten better at it over time.  I mean, I still cheat, just not as completely as I used to.  Once I get one title from the list nailed down I am pretty good at solving it, so I have resolved not to cheat until I get at least once hit on a title.  Also, trying to match the x’d out title names with Wikipedia was a pain in the ass.

Once I get a title, usually through guessing at a few actors who have been in a lot of things… Bruce Willis is a latter day Michael Caine in that regard, and Chris Evans will unlock most of your MCU titles… then I go to Wikipedia.  So my record is surprisingly good because I cheat.

Yesterday’s Actorle with my stats

Still, I do get one now and then without cheating at all. Keanu Reeves came up one day and I got that on the first guess.  Titles with special characters, like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure are easy to spot.

However, the makers of Actorle have come up with a new version, Actorle.tv, which is, as the title suggests, based on TV roles rather than film roles, and that can be a lot more difficult.  They pretty quickly had to put a switch on the page to show only major roles, because JFC you can guess almost any actor these days and you’ll find they’ve had a one episode appearance on The Simpsons.  Still, I bang away at it.  Even with profound cheating engaged I am still bad at it, in part because I don’t know as many TV actors as I do film actors it seems.

Heardle

Finally, there is Heardle, which I mentioned in passing, but which has become a regular on my rotation, just not in the morning.  Instead, I play this in the evening with my wife who prides herself on her music knowledge.  I can get the really obvious 70s and 80s songs, but need her to get me past that.

And she doesn’t put up with losing, so if we’re on the last guess, she’ll get Shazam out on her phone to tell us what it is, so our record is completely bogus.  It is also pretty short because, as the New York Times bought Wordle, so Spotify bought Heardle and, in doing so, managed to reset our stats.

That thing about the stats, it is a lie

My wife also has no patience for scoring and often tells me to just go out to the sixth guess, which gives the maximum amount of play.  She does still get a few on the first guess, but mostly we’re there on the last guess, with Shazam helping us probably a quarter of the time.

Diablo Immortal Possibly Set for Launch by June 30th

Blizzard is going to do something in 2022 that it hasn’t done in quite a while… it will ship a new game.

Phone Diablo

Diablo Immortal is reported up on the various app stores with a text preview available.  Here is the lead-in from the Apple Store:

The Lord of Terror rises again! This time he’s bringing his limitless power to your iPhone and iPad in Diablo Immortal—the mobile debut of the celebrated action-RPG franchise.

Diablo Immortal™ is a brand-new game in Blizzard Entertainment’s genre-defining action role-playing game series set between the events of Diablo® II: Lord of Destruction® and Diablo III®. Explore the nightmarish realm of Sanctuary like never before, now a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) where angels and demons wage an endless war over dominion of the mortal realm. Join forces with countless other players on an epic quest to collect the shattered fragments of the corrupted Worldstone and prevent the Lord of Terror’s return. Fans of Diablo and new players alike will embark on an adventure across a vast open world where they will clash with armies of demons, collect epic loot, and gain unimaginable power.

Well, “brand-new” for specific definitions of term I suppose.  There was a playable demo back at BlizzCon 2018, which was also the scene of the “Don’t you guys have phones?” fiasco where the core PC and console fans were present in the audience and… well… they were not expecting a mobile game, that is for sure.  Talk about subverting expectations.

Over in the Apple Store you can… uh… pre-order the free to play app.

Is it really a pre-order if it is free?

There was an image going around online from the Apple Store that said the expected date for the launch was June 30th, though that appears to have been removed since the image was taken.  (This was later explained to be a placeholder for the final date.)

Backing that date up were past Blizzard plans from the Q2 2021 report that said the title was planned for the first half of 2022.  June 30th is the last possible moment to make that first half of the year goal, so we might even get it earlier.

Currently the official Blizzard site for the game doesn’t say anything and is still referencing beta.

As for what you get when you click the GET button to “pre-order,” well… it is just a marketing pitch for the game with some images that might be screen shots.  You can see it all here in a browser.

Now will it run on my aging iPad Air 2?  We’ll have to wait and see.

No More Words with Strangers

I wrote about Words with Friends not so long ago, a post titles Word with Strangers, since that is who I ended up playing 99% of the time.

I actually have had a number of things I thought I would write about when it came to the game.  The ads, the type of people you run into, the scammers who will chat you up (the game allows live chat, so I guess you can become friends), all sorts of things.

I was even considering a post dedicated to the various types of close buttons that ads have, ranging anywhere from an actual, human finger sized button that says “close” on it, to buttons that don’t work, disappearing buttons, buttons that looks like an “X” to close but which open up a web page, to those tiny “X” buttons that are so small that you are almost guaranteed to trigger the ad and open up the company’s web site a few times before you’re able to tap in exactly the right spot.

And then there was the creeping monetization.  The game shows you ads as a way to make money, but Zynga really, really wants you to give them some money and have over time added all sorts of dumb things to their cash shop as well as restricting what players can do to push them towards spending.

How about no? Also, that is the normal price, not 90% off.

For $12.99 I can get all sorts of new cosmetics that I’ll never use and get remove ads for a WHOLE WEEK?  Guess which finger I am holding up.  Go on, I’ll wait.

In the end though, all of that fell by the wayside because the game just stopped running on my iPad.  I was willing to make a game of the ad buttons and avoiding the monetization, but when the game crashes constantly, it is time for the end.

Now, I do have a rather old iPad at this point, and iPad Air 2.  That is about five years out of date now, so I cannot expect everything new to run on it… though I ran EVE Echoes on it and a few other more graphically advanced games as well.  And Words With Friends… it is a freaking Scrabble knock-off, how do you make that unplayable on any but the most out of date devices?

Well, that was actually pretty easy.  I watched it happen.  I could see it happening.

The Words With Friends team, like any live game team, and games like this are live games as much as any MMO is a live game, are constantly looking to update and improve and add to the game.  This is especially common in mobile games, a constant evolution towards something… or a chaotic grab bag of features thrown at the wall hoping something will stick… I can’t really tell which is a more accurate description sometimes.

Anyway, I could see the Word With Friends team piling on new features, especially over the last year, reworking how some older things played, but often just adding whole new features on top of the game as it stood.

The problem seemed to be in how things were queued up.  I would make a move in the morning and the game would want to tell me about a daily play reward, a weekly task I had accomplished, an achievement I had achieved, a different play mode that they would still like me to try, that it was my move with another opponent, and yet another person was trying to chat with me in hopes of getting me to buy then Google Play gift cards in exchange for naked pictures… all while trying to show me another ad, often of a game that wanted to load up a playable demo.

And it wouldn’t do this all nicely, one at a time.  It would pop a message for one thing, send me to another, then finally pop the ad for the last move I made… but not before freezing up for 5-10 seconds while it tried to get its act together.  (I want to say it would freeze up for 30 seconds or more, but I know that most people drastically overestimate how long they wait for something to load.  I’ve seen the studies on that sort of thing, and they are usually spot on… except for Lost ArkLost Ark does take freaking minutes to launch.  I’ve timed it.)

If had just be some lag, waiting for the app to sort itself out and get rolling, I could have probably stuck it out.  I had been a very regular player, generally play a bit in bed in the morning, then while watching TV in the evening, where I am generally only semi-attentive to the game so waiting out lag isn’t a big deal.

Then they made a big change to the task and reward system, which was not only bloated and annoying compared to the previous system, but also had the side effect of crashing the app whenever I made some progress on one of the tasks.  And since one of the weekly tasks is always “score x points” any move I made besides passing caused an update and a crash.

And, frankly, that is too much.  I can put up with a lot, but the game actually running reliable is kind of a baseline expectation that they could not deliver.  So it got the Farmville response.

Happy FarmVille Memories

So it goes with Zynga.  That always seems to be the final play.

Words with Strangers

It has come to this.  It is 2021 and I am writing a blog post about a Zynga game.  This time it is Words with Friends.  Though I guess I do have a Zynga category on the blog, so at least there is some history there.

Happy FarmVille Memories

Stranger still is that this is my third attempt at a post about the game since 2019, at least one of which got bogged down in a 750 word aside about Zynga, Mark Pincus, and that time Richard Garriott thought it would be a great idea to get in bed with the company, which all took on a life of its own and had to be abandoned.  I’ve written about all of that before.

Time to start with a fresh page.

So what is Words with Friends?

It is a blatant rip-off of Scrabble, but in this day everything is a blatant rip-off of something else, so it is hard to hold that against it.  If we turned our collective noses up at that sort of thing there would be little new to play.

And I like Scrabble.  We used to play it after dinner at Thanksgiving until it began to turn into a blood sport and we had to stop to maintain family unity.  Unfortunately, on mobile, EA holds the rights to Scrabble and have produced a monstrosity that is both buy to play AND littered with ads AND is broken every other build according to a friend who persists in trying to play it, having spent the money.

Instead I play Words with Friends because at least you don’t have to buy it up front.  Also, my daughter started playing it and asked my wife and I to play and then they both stopped after two weeks and I kept on going.

At its simplest it is an only rip-off of Scrabble, so the board will look familiar to any who have played the old staple.  And all the usual moves are there.  You can play a word, pass, swap out tiles, forfeit, or piss off the other person who is winning by taking your damn time to play.

The Words with Friends screen

I play on the iPad in landscape mode, which I find optimal, but you can play on your phone if you so desire.  Just make sure you have unlimited data or a WiFi hot spot nearby.

However, this being the online version of a board game, there are some differences and quirks.

To start with, you can only play against a single opponent.  That keeps everything simple, keeps one slug from holding up a whole group, and all that, but it does cut out some of the interesting flavor that a multi-sided game can bring.  I have been known to feed the person to my left big scoring opportunities just to be sure the person to my right… usually my mother-in-law…. won’t win. (She is a bad winner and a worse loser… but more entertaining and less insufferable as a loser.)

And then there is the fact that you can only play valid words.

This might seem like a “well, duh” to the uninitiated, but there is a whole dynamic to words and bluffing that comes into the live board game.  I once played the word “ponys,” declaring it to be the plural of “pony” in a game and, because nobody had successfully challenged one of my words up to that point, the rest of the table let it pass fearing I might pull some sort of Old English variation out of the Official Scrabble Dictionary sitting there on the corner of the table. (I was bluffing.)

So there is no bluffing in WWF.  But, beyond that, there is the opportunity for what I call the “brute force” play, where you just shove letters at the board where you have something like a triple word score hoping you’ll find something that sticks.  And since WWF uses a combined US/UK dictionary, and the two countries divided by a common language can’t agree on how to spell anything more complex than “cat,” brute force opportunities abound.

And then there is cheating.

It is certainly easy enough to put your letters into Google and see what words will show up.  And I am sure if you Google “Scrabble cheat” you will find sites to help you, or lists of words that have a “Q” and no “U,” or even apps that will help you find the optimum word.

Top of the results in the App Store

I am always mildly suspicious of people who never have a turn where they end up playing that 5 point, two letter word.  But they can be hard to suss out because the game has its own, built-in, monetized cheating as well.

Up at the top of the board you may have seen these three tokens.

The Three Sanctioned Cheats

Those three are, from left to right, Word Radar, Swap+, and Word Clue.

Word Radar shows shows you all the possible places you can play one of your tiles based on the in-game dictionary.

Word Radar in Action

It will also sell you the best scoring moves for 30 coins, coins being the primary in-game currency, which I will get to in a bit.

Word Clue will offer you a moderate good word to play, highlighting the spot on the board and the letters in your hand.

And then there is Swap+, which lets you swap tiles without losing your turn.

As you can see, I have 99+ Word Radar tokens, 99+ Word Clue tokens, and 30 Swap+ tokens, so you can probably figure out what I use the most.

There is also one more token, Hindsight, which will tell you what the best move was after you have played.  I have 99+ of those as, in most cases it isn’t much use.

Which brings us to how the game earns money.

Ads.  The game is mostly about serving up ads.  When playing against another player, after each move, you get an ad.  I may write a post about the wide variety of ads that come up, the ones that are good, the ones that are bad, the ones that are broken, the devious and downright shitty things they do with the dismiss button, and how I can tell when my wife is looking at the Macy’s web site on her computer because I start getting Macy’s ads for the things she is searching on.

The ads are a deal breaker for some.  For me they are part of the challenge, and I am well practiced in spotting how to dismiss ads in the quickest possible fashion.  The biggest downside of the ads is that they require constant network traffic to load them up which will eat into your battery run time.  Not as bad as Pokemon Go, but it is noticeable.

Ads are the baseline revenue stream, but Zynga will also happily sell you things.  Coins, for example, to buy those sanctioned cheats.

Fortunately you can also earn coins by completing daily and weekly tasks, which I always go out of my way to do.  I save up my coins and spend them on Swap+ tokens.  You can also earn the tokens themselves, which is why I have 99+ of the other three tokens I so rarely use.

And then there are whole packages you can buy with special portrait frames, colorful tile sets, emojis that you can send to your opponent with your play (which I have never seen anybody use ever), and even some ad free time, though the prices are ludicrously high.  I think the last time I saw an ad free package it was $39.99, which is a screw job level of price.

But that is all there to harvest whales.  The ads are where the steady income flows.  And you can tell that they worry about that.  Apple’s new opt-in requirement for ad tracking has them fretting a bit.

If you have 82% then you don’t need me, right?

Anyway, with all of that I still play daily.  You can find me using my usual handle, Wilhelm Acturus, if you are just dying to beat me in Scrabble.

Now that we’re here at the end of the post, I realize that I have left the title somewhat unexplained, though I imaging that you can probably guess the meaning.  Since my wife and daughter stopped playing I have ended up in matches against a host of random strangers.  There is a whole match making mechanic and it pushes likely opponents at you, so I have ended up playing against a regular group of people who are mostly women whom I tend to think of as being my grandmother’s age.

And then I remember my grandmother would have been 102 last week and has been dead for 25 years and that I am now the age I remember her being, so perhaps I have found my demographic.

TAGN on Flipboard

I think I have mentioned Flipboard before.  It is a mobile app I used on my iPad for reading the real world news.

Flipboard

Back in 2011 my company was suddenly obsessed with making mobile apps… one of those things where a senior exec reads about a trend and decides to jump on board without any real plan… and we ended up with a bunch of seminars and training classes on the subject.  I have retained very little from that period, but in one seminar the speaker recommended Flipboard for reading the news on tablets.  I downloaded, liked it, and have used it ever since.

It is light and easy to use and I tend to sit and flip through it before bed most nights.

Most major periodicals have a feed there.  While it won’t let you skip past all paywalls… though it does get you past some… even when it doesn’t you can peruse headlines to see what is going on and compare how different outlets are approaching things.  I have a pile of varied outlets there, including key foreign publications like the BBC, DW, and The Globe and Mail, the latter being the place to go for all things ice hockey.  Canadians, eh?

You can also setup your own feeds in Flipboard through the app or, more easily for me, through their web site.  I did that some time ago with my other blog, but that feed broke a while back, so I went in to try to fix it.  I couldn’t do that, but I decided to setup another feed for this blog instead.

TAGN in with those other publications

So if you have Flipboard you can search on TAGN and find that feed.  It is pretty obvious.

And, from there, you can go through the headlines and tap on articles you want to read.

EVE Online heavy on this page

Of course, if you too have a blog, you can set up a feed of your own there.  It works off of an RSS feed, so was pretty simple to setup.

I would be interested to know if anybody ends up actually using Flipboard to read the blog… or can even find it there, since the status of my feed has been “pending” for a week… or if you setup a feed for your own blog there.

Done with DragonVale

I think I last mentioned DragonVale about five years ago.  It was a game my daughter installed on my iPad which we played together for a bit.

DragonVale

It was an innocuous free to play game somewhat in the vein of FarmVille which had you breeding dragons as opposed to growing crops.  Also, it was on the iPad so there was a lot less spamming of friends on Facebook.

So the surprise bit was that, five years later I was still playing it.  For a while it was mostly my daughter, but then I took over management of day-to-day operations she decorated the place.  Later, it was pretty much just me with my wife and daughter occasionally commenting, “Are you still playing that?”

Our “High Value”Dragon Island back in the day

Yes I was.  The game was pretty raw to start with, giving you little information about how you were doing… “doing” for me meaning collecting all the dragons.  That was my goal.  You couldn’t tell how many dragons you had or which ones you were missing.  When breeding them… and the dragons have as many types and more than Pokemon do… you had to do online research to figure out which two dragons to breed in order to get a third.  And then finding those dragons on your ever growing list was a chore, and one you had to repeat every breeding cycle.

However, I will say that Backflip, the makers of DragonVale, put in a lot of effort to make the game better and, more importantly, to make information available to the player in the game.  Now in the game you can sort by types, get breeding information, and most important of all, see a list of all the dragons available and which ones you are missing.  There is a number there, a simple number, that tells you how close you are to collecting them all.

There are other things to the game, like levels.  Levels unlock the ability to have more islands and habitats.  When I left the maximum level was 125.  You could also collect dragon eggs, which were pretty.  And they also added in the ability to collect and track decor items, which was a little much for me.

But it was the dragons that I wanted.  And slowly but surely over the years I closed in on the getting them all.  It could be a slog, since they constantly introduce new ones and every in-game event adds a few more.  Still, persistence was paying off.  I bred all the ones that could only be bred at specific times, like during a lunar or solar eclipse, or during a blue moon, or when the Olympics were in session.

A Year ago and six dragons shy

I just wanted to get them all, then I could quit.  I was going to do what I did with Neko Atsume and get them all and walk away a winner… before they added anything else to the game. (I was done before it was even available in English.)

At three points during this year I was one dragon away, only to have something new pop up and thwart me.

Dragonarium says I had 428 out of 429 on May 14th

The last addition was an epic dragon, which you have to perform a long series of tasks in order to unlock.  You can, of course, pay to unlock it.  And, while I have thrown some cash at DragonVale a few times over the years, I haven’t straight up bought a dragon.

Leaving out the “hollow win” aspect of it, the prices are a bit crazy.  DragonVale has a real money barrier in that to buy your way to things you have to spend more money than I am ever going to be willing to toss at a game like this.  I am good for $5 on a whim.  But $99 to get enough special coins to unlock your new epic… I’ll wait and play the game thank you.

So I carried on doing my daily task to unlock the epic.  Basically, I clicked on something which gave me a random number of special coins along with the option to get some more if I would watch a 30 second ad.  I can manage an ad, so I generally did that as well.  And so I was progressing.

Then a new special event came along.

Special events are an opportunity for the game to get players to spend some money.  It is the time when I have, in the past, been willing to part with five bucks to get enough coins to get that one last dragon.  But Backflip has been tinkering with the special event system, trying to channel people towards that money spending point.  But they have generally been pretty good about it, in the end, being about a special currency which you can then use to buy exactly what you want.

This time however there was a new twist to the event.  There were four new dragons to obtain and a special currency.  But in between they put a new mechanic.  You couldn’t just buy the dragons with the currency, you had to buy an egg which would hatch into one of the four dragons.  A level of randomness, but with a bit of OCD on your side you could earn enough currency every day to buy quite a few eggs.  Furthermore, there were double currency earning days which also allowed you to find eggs in your park if you looked.

The odds were not posted.  But after getting a lot of eggs I could tell that it wasn’t a straight up even 1 in 4 chance.  I got one of the eggs over and over.  Eventually I also got two of the other eggs, so was able to hatch three out of the four dragons.  But I was one shy.  And as we reached the last day of the I spent the last bit of the special currency I had earned in game and still did not have the final dragon.

So I looked at what my options were, and that was the table flipping moment.

At that point my only option to get what I wanted as a customer was to spend money to buy random chances.  Random chances that seemed to have a low probability of success given my past observations.

Basically, I couldn’t get there without buying a lockbox.  And at that point I said, “Fuck you,” closed the app, and deleted it.  There went a customer with a demonstrated willingness to pay now and again.

If you, as a developer, think you are going to put me in a situation where getting somewhere in your game requires me to buy a random chance, then you are not going to keep me as a customer.

Mostly Mobile Friday Bullet Points

Another Friday post about minor items of interest.

Candy Crush and Pokemon Go Slip

Superdata Research put out their monthly chart for December 2016, which showed Pokemon Go slipping down to 4th place on the mobile list.

December 2016 Numbers

December 2016 Numbers

I think I am mostly surprised that the game is still holding out in the top five now that winter is here and that the game has clearly worn on some people during its first six months.

Also of note, Candy Crush Saga is down in 10th place.  While lower than it has been previously, I remain surprised that it is still on the list more than four years down the road.

Superdata also has a 2016 summary report that you can get for free which puts some dollar amounts to a few of their charts.

Pokemon Go Expands

This week sees the addition of creatures from Pokemon Silver & Gold into the mix players can catch.

Now featuring the Johto Region

Now featuring the Johto Region

Eggs have been hatching certain Johto Pokemon for a while, but now you should be able to find new Pokemon out and about in the world.

Pokemon Bank Update

On the 3DS hand held side of the franchise, Pokemon Bank has finally been updated to work with Pokemon Sun & Moon.  You can now move Pokemon from previous 3DS Pokemon RPG titles into the latest game.

How things line up now

How things line up now

In addition you can get the Z-crystal for Mew by scanning the QA code in the linked announcement.

Hearthstone on My iPad

After dumping Candy Crush Saga from my iPad, I found I did not really have a good “sit on the couch and play while I watch TV” sort of game left.  With the fancy new iPad able to run more modern games, I started poking around at the App Store to see what I might download.  I also went down the list of games I had already tried and found Hearthstone.  So I grabbed that.

HearthstoneWhite_450

I had not really played it since the game came out, and I only played it then because Blizzard offered up a mount for WoW players who won three games.  I had put it on the old iPad 2 as well, but never got into it.  This time around things have been a bit different.  So far it sort of works as a replacement.  I am not into collectible card games at all, so it being a dumbed down version of whatever probably means it is well suited to me.  I barely remember how the game works, but I seem to win once in a while, so it is working out.

Also, looping back to a previous bullet point, Superdata reports that Hearthstone is the highest grossing collectible card game, with the money quote being:

Hearthstone earned roughly four times as much as its closest competitor in 2016 and is forcing the digital CCG market to transform

And so it goes.  I still don’t plan to spend any money on the game myself unless I somehow really get into it.

EverQuest II Down

And,as a final item, it was reported over at EQ2 Wire yesterday that EverQuest II had to be taken down unexpectedly yesterday and problems logging on still persist as of the latest update this morning.

That is it, on towards the weekend.

I Will Play Candy Crush No More Forever

In which I finally get a post I started on about two years ago out of my drafts folder.

Five years ago we picked up an iPad 2 after Christmas with some gift cards and a bit of cash we had around the house.  The iPad was a luxury good in my opinion, not something we needed, so I wasn’t going to pull money out of the budget for one but my wife, ever the clever shopper, pointed out how we could get one without touching any of our accounts, so we went out and got one.

While it was supposed to be a device for the whole family… and I did try to share… I quickly became its primary user.

Everyone in the house has played with my iPad

I even got an app for the cats

A lot of games have come and gone on the old iPad over the last five years, but three seem to have stuck through the whole time; Ticket to Ride, DragonVale, and Candy Crush Saga.

Ticket to Ride is an example of a board game translated to the tablet just right and remains a joy to play through to this day.  I own it and all its expansions. (I still think the Windows version is crap by comparison.)

DragonVale is something my daughter wanted to play.  But then I started helping her with it, eventually becoming the sole person interested in this little “breed and collect” game.  At some point I will do a post about how this game has evolved over the last five years and how it should be a model for others who follow.

And then there is Candy Crush Saga, a horrible game from a horrible company… they literally took another company’s game, made their own version with slightly better visuals and a new name, and then, at some later point, actually tried to suppress the game they copied… that I downloaded just to see what all the fuss was about.

The game itself actually isn’t all that horrible.  It is just another minor variation in the long tradition of tile matching games that stretches back to the early days of the computer age.  Once we all had color monitors, we started matching colors to score.  And the game is actually well put together, stable, colorful, and all the things that make for success.

The horrible bit is the business model.  And the company that made it… mustn’t forget King.com, now part of the happy Activision-Blizzard family.

Candy Crush Saga uses every marginally ethical trick in the free to play book to get people to spend money on it, or at least get people to annoy their friends about it.  It is the true spiritual successor to FarmVille in my mind.  The key barrier to playing are time gates.  You only get five plays, and a play gets used up if you fail on a level.  They regenerate at a rate of one every 30 minutes, so if you’re facing a hard level.  And then, once you hit the end of a 15 level segment, you hit the 72 hour wait gate.

Pay us, bug friends, or wait...

Pay us, bug friends, or wait…

Oddly, what Candy Crush does with time gates is not radically different than what DragonVale does.  The latter has its own time gates that you can buy your way through.  However, their aggressive application differs just enough that one annoys me and one doesn’t bother me at all.

Anyway, because of their business model I made it a goal to beat the game without spending any money on it ever.

Back when I picked up Candy Crush Saga on the iPad, there was some debate as to whether or not the game was tilted to force you to pay in order to advance that far or not.  There were all sorts of hurdles and timers and levels where random chance had to fall your way to keep you from progressing.  But was that enough to deter people and make them pay?

King said it was not, pointing out that 70% of players who had gotten to the then top level, 355, had not paid them any money.  You could beat the game without paying!

Later, as the game went on King was saying that 60% of players that had beaten the game by reaching the cap, which was then level 455, had not ponied for the privilege.

With recent iOS updates for Candy Crush Saga the level count has moved past the 2,000 mark.  New levels get added regularly, I have to hand them that.  But the ability to beat the game gets harder with each new 15 level segment they add.  I mean, if you don’t pay.  I could get to the top level in an afternoon with an unlimited budget.

So King has long since stopped talking about how many people beat the game for free… I am going to guess that the percentage has continued to dwindle as the levels have increased… instead focusing on the percentage of players who chose to pay, a number that I saw reported at about 2.3%.  So 97.7% of people who play do not pay, depending on that thin slice to fork out over $20 a month on average to keep things going.

That is your free to play market place right there.  It seems to work for some companies.

My own progress towards beating the game, getting to the top level, started to lag behind.  Without spending any money the time gates and super hard levels start to hold you back.  I spent three weeks on a single level at one point, during which I think King added 30 levels to the game.  Yet I persisted.  Once I am on a quest I do tend to hang on.

However, a final problem arose.  For Christmas my wife got me a new iPad, and 32MB iPad Air 2, bringing me somewhat up to date on the iOS hardware scene.  The upgrade was due, the old iPad 2 was struggling to keep up with new apps and had developed a memory fault that caused apps to crash when they queued too much data.  So I backed it up and restored everything to the new iPad Air 2, then wiped the old one and started it up fresh as just a viewer for Netflix and Amazon Prime videos, where it still seems to be able to hold its own.

And everything ran great on the new unit.  I am quite happy with it.  However, there was one issue.  All of my progress on Candy Crush Saga was lost.  Unlike every other app on the old iPad, it didn’t store its data in a way that let me move is across to the new unit, even though it was the same Game Center ID.

So that led to a dual moment, the feeling that my quest was over before it could be fulfilled and a sense of being released from a minor obsession.  Because I was not going to start over again.

So I can report that I made it nearly to level 700.  I took screen shots now and again to mark my progress, the last one being at level 680.  I made it beyond that, but pics or it didn’t happen I guess.

Last point recorded

Last point recorded… waiting for that 72 hour timer

So we’re done with that.  Meanwhile, Candy Crush Saga continues its tenure on the top revenue generating iOS apps, and King.com keeps adding levels to make sure it stays there.  They pretty much have to since, again in the Zynga mold, they haven’t been able to remake their success through remaking the same game over and over again.

You Play the Hand with the Cards You Have, Not the Cards You May Want…

I have mentioned in the past that I am on the mailing list for a number of PR agencies who employ the shotgun approach, which means I get a pile of email about new games, expansions, albums, and what not.  Most of it just gets deleted, though I am always amused when I see a post go up on Massively OP that is based off of a press release that I got as well.

Most of it gets deleted because most of it is of little interest to me.

But sometimes a press release comes along that makes you sit back and ponder, “How is this even a thing?” or “How could this come about?” or “No, really, you’re shitting me, right?”

And so it is with Churchill Solitaire.

Paraphrase your favorite Churchill speech...

Paraphrase your favorite Churchill speech…

According to the press release, the 83 year old former congressman and twice US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, working with with a company called Javelin in Alexandria, VA, the president of which is former Rumsfeld staffer Keith Urbahn (who, among other things, was, along with The Rock, one of the first people to leak the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed before the official announcement), with the cooperation of Churchill Heritage Ltd, which represents the Churchill family for the use of the late Prime Minister’s name and image in commercial projects, is releasing a solitaire game for Apple iOS devices.  A special solitaire game that Churchill himself created that involves two decks of cards and some other complications.

On the iPad

On the iPad

If horse racing is the sport of kings, then the press release (available here) would have you believe that this variation of solitaire is the card game of diplomats, Rumsfeld having been taught the game by Andre de Staercke back when he was ambassador to NATO during the Nixon administration. Rummy is alleged to be the last remaining link between Churchill and today when it comes to this game, if the PR material is to be believed.

Of course, we have to get into the FAQ to find the price:

Q: How much does the game cost?

A. The game is available for free. The game comes with three trial deals with In-App Purchases (IAPs). Additional game packs of 25 deals can be purchased for $.99 each, or one upgrade to the premium version for $4.99 gives you access to 200 specific deals, as well as unlimited random deals. In random deal mode, there are so many combinations (1.03e166 or 1.03 with 166 zeroes behind it to be precise) that it’s likely any deal you play has never been played before and will never be played again. Hints and undos are also available for purchase.

A revenue plan only a former government staffer could love.

We’ve worked hard to replicate the game as Churchill would have played it – and believe the final version does justice to one of the greatest leaders in world history.

How Churchill would have played it… on a little glass and metal clipboard sized device, sitting on the couch while half listening to your spouse or some TV show, while is attempts to nickel and dime you.  A legacy worth preserving.  Available in the iOS store today.

On the iPad – Monument Valley

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me retweet the fact that the game Monument Valley was available for free at the App Store.  Too late now, but it was available for nothing earlier this week.

Still, I would say that it is worth grabbing at $3.99.

Like a lot of people, I became aware of the game when I saw Francis Underwood playing it during season three of House of CardsIt looked both visually interesting and like a decent little puzzle game.  I went straight to the app store to find it… and then I didn’t buy it.

I didn’t buy it because there is actually a reason why I don’t buy apps these days, in addition to the ones I have listed in the past.

I’m running on old hardware.

Often I am not buying your stuff because I have an iPad 2, which was a spiffy new piece of hardware back in early 2011, but today it is a few generations behind the curve.  It is only still supported by Apple on the latest OS because the iPad 2 was the basis for the original iPad Mini, which Apple sold for a bit longer than they probably should of.

I’ve read that older iPad hardware is a problem for Apple.  They don’t break or get stolen at the rate iPhones do, and apparently people don’t clamor to upgrade them the way they do iPhones.  My wife has an iPhone 3S when I bought the iPad 2, and has since upgraded to an iPhone 4S, and now has an iPhone 6… and I still have the iPad 2.

It isn’t that I wouldn’t like a nice iPad Air 2, which I think is the latest and greatest, I just have a list a mile long of other things on which I would rather spend that money.  And the iPad 2 still does most of the things I need it to do.  I can text my wife from it, the web browser is fine, Netflix and Amazon video both stream nicely enough, and when it comes to games, I would rather play them on my PC anyway, so I only have a few on there for the occasional idle moment.  Ticket to Ride, DragonVale, Candy Crush Saga, and Neko Atsume (now in English) are on my list for that.

But a lot of new titles won’t run, or won’t run well, on the old iPad 2.  Some, like Fallout Shelter, are pretty clear they aren’t for older platforms, while others are a bit more vague.  So I tend to err on the side of caution and, on seeing that Monument Vally was a new-ish game back then, I decided not to get it.

However, once it was available for free (additional content is available via in-app purchases, so this was giving away one part of the game to get you to buy others), I decided to give it a try.

And it runs great on my iPad 2.  So I could have been writing this post back in February.

The game itself is as charming and good looking as it seemed while Francis Underwood was playing it on TV.  It is made up of a series of Escher-esque perspective puzzles through which you must guide Princess Ida.  It starts off very easy, impressing you more with its style than any challenge, then ramps up as you progress.

I am currently stuck on the third stage of Act X, in which I am trying to rotate things in order to achieve a false perspective that Ida can then walk over.

I know I could just look up the answer on the web… what answers aren’t out there and just a Google search away… but I want to solve it on my own.  The game doesn’t have that many levels, so throwing away the challenge by looking up the answers seems like a sure fire way to make it all less fun.  Unless I get totally stuck.  I might peek then.

Anyway, that is a lot of words to say “cool game,” but there it is.