Monthly Archives: May 2012

Chuck’s Challenge 3D Beta – Package A – Full Playthrough


After sharing a short clip of the Chuck’s Challenge 3D beta the other day, I decided to record some more. There are different packages of levels, and this is a full playthrough of the first package. Keep in mind that this is only the beta. Things are likely to change.
Despite playing Chuck’s Challenge on the iPhone, I had a great time playing CC3D. Besides being 3D of course, there were a few other changes that made it different enough to keep it fresh. If you fond memories of playing Chip’s Challenge on the PC, make sure to try out Chuck’s Challenge 3D!

Guns of Icarus Online Beta Gameplay Video


I recorded my first match in the Guns of Icarus Online beta. I don’t have the intention of writing a full preview right now, but I have a little bit to say. My opinion on the game is mixed. As a proof of concept, it’s good. We’ll just need to see how popular the game is when it retails and if the bugs are fixed.
Audio is fine, and the style of the graphics is very cool. It doesn’t look to be a AAA title in this department, and that’s okay. However, the gameplay is a little troublesome. I had a lot of trouble just running around the airship. The core concept of the game is fighting with other ships; the core of the gameplay I saw was trying not to fall off the ship, especially when it felt like I’d sometimes move through the railing.
The beta didn’t have enough people playing to have full teams. This meant that I was running back and forth between gunning and piloting. I imagine the game would be much more awesome if I was working on a coherent team. Note that I said “coherent team.” Simply being on a team that doesn’t work together isn’t enough. However, if the person piloting is actually talking to the gunners, it could be very cool. The game pitted two ships on the red team against two on the blue team, I think. It would help if I could figure out whether another ship was red or blue though!
It’s too early to know for sure how the game is going to be. I’m definitely still excited to play it more. I think the true test will be when there are enough people to have full games!

Chuck’s Challenge 3D


The beta of Chuck’s Challenge 3D was released for some Kickstarter supporters recently, and I had the chance to try it out. It’s a port of the iOS game, Chuck’s Challenge, which is itself similar to the amazing Chip’s Challenge from the Lynx and PC. The video is short because it’s just a quick look at the game. You’ll have to excuse a couple times where nothing seems to be happening; I was trying various inputs just to see how it worked.

Sonic x Vapor

Sonic x Vapor | Blog | Game Boyz
Nike has a campaign called “My Time Is Now” that uses an interactive video. As the video progresses, you can click on various soccer players to read about them. You can also sometimes find areas to click that branch the video in a new direction.
One of these branches leads to a playable Sonic game, Sonic x Vapor!

Portal 2 Sounds

Portal 2 Sounds | A Portal 2 Soundboard containing all in-game quotes and dialog.
I think I may have found the greatest site on the Web. Yes, of course it’s a Portal soundboard. It lets you choose between Portal 1, Portal 1 Music, Portal 2, Portal 2 DLC, and Portal 2 PTI (as well as TF2 and TF2 Music). It also lets you search quote text and search by the speaker. It’s really easy to find your favorite quotes, which is good because I didn’t know how often I wanted to listen to Portal quotes until I found this site!

Netgear 802.11ac Router Reviewed by CNET

5G Wi-Fi (802.11ac) explained: It’s cool | Crave – CNET

Now that you can actually buy the first wireless networking products that use 802.11ac, Buffalo’s router and media bridge, it’s time you learned about the this new wireless standard. While the “ac” designation definitely does not mean “air conditioning,” I can say for sure that 802.11ac is cool.
And by cool, I mean fast. That’s the biggest difference about 802.11ac compared with previous wireless standards. But first let’s see how similar it is.

Mmmm, faster. Sounds great on paper (screen?), but the speed of my internal network isn’t really the problem right now.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for iOS | iPhone/iPod, Reviews, Fighting

Capcom recently brought Marvel vs. Capcom 2 to the iOS, and I tried it out on my iPhone. In case you don’t know, this is a fighting game featuring characters from Marvel and from Capcom. It was originally released in arcades and on Dreamcast and has since been ported to many other systems. The iOS doesn’t usually do well with games that require buttons, and fighting games really do. I was cautiously optimistic because Capcom’s Street Fighter IV did decently on the iOS. Unfortunately, I was let down by Marvel vs. Capcom 2… However, it seems like Capcom just wanted to cash in on hype for the Avengers film. At $4.99 on the App Store, I recommend you pass on this one.

Toshiba Golf League

Tomorrow will be the second week of our golf league. I’ve now played golf a total of three times, so I’m, surprise surprise, not very good yet! There are 20 people in the league. Last week, three didn’t show. The worst score you can get per hole is three over par for a total of 58. I had 57, and I was the worst. The next worst was 54 though, so I guess that makes me feel better until you realize that who knows how bad I might have been if there wasn’t a limit. Still, I ended each hole near the hole, which was good. Tomorrow Pete and I play the two best players in the league.
I just hope that I can hit the ball when I swing at it.

IRIS by Cirque du Soleil

The Chinese Theatre
For Mother’s Day, gem and I took her mom and aunt to see IRIS by Cirque du Soleil in LA. It was a lot of fun, and I took a few photos throughout the day.
We spent a few minutes talking at her parents’ house before heading up to Los Angeles. We got there around 5:30, and the show started at 7:00, giving us some time to walk around. We spent a little time just wandering (and taking photos). I also had a super delicious hot dog with bacon and lots of toppings, including whole grilled jalepeño. Why wasn’t I always putting whole grilled jalepeños on my hot dogs?
IRIS itself was fantastic. It’s about the history of cinema. It uses a lot of the “basics” (contortionists, jugglers, trapezists), but it’s very inspired by cinema. It plays a lot with light, shadow, and recording in very cool ways. Of course, there’s an overall story to it as well that involves the film industry. They even threw an awards show in the middle! Some acts were less obviously about cinema. The Kiriki act involved a group of performers in different colored costumes flipping, climbing, and balancing on each other. gem whispered to me “I think this is about the introduction of color.” I hadn’t realized it on my own, but it seems very likely. It was one of the best acts in my opinion, but it wasn’t my favorite. That honor goes to a noir scene that’s set a wonderful mood and segues nicely into a noir, rooftop fight scene heavily using trampolines. Very cool.
Anyways, it’s an excellent show. And the music’s on Spotify.

Hiking in the Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park

Path to Nature
gem and I went hiking in the Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park on Saturday. We were supposed to go with Carrie and Edward, but Edward forgot somehow. I guess signing up in advance wasn’t enough of a reminder (nor was the e-mail reminder from them). We signed up in advance for the Wilderness Access Day, which comes up every month or so and allows self-guided hiking. I don’t know why anyone would ever want to go with a guide.
It was a beautiful hike, and I’m happy that the trails were very clear. I still had a cold though, so that caused some difficulties. I had to stop occasionally when the hiking was upsetting my throat. I also gave me the chance to take a lot of photographs!

Beat Hazard Ultra

Beat Hazard Ultra for iOS | Reviews, Shooter

Beat Hazard Ultra is an awesome Steam game turned iOS title that has found a way to eat at my time even when I’m not at my computer. Published by Cold Beam Games, it’s a “twin stick shooter” without the sticks. Beat Hazard Ultra features procedurally-generated levels based on your own music. I loved the Steam version but was doubtful about the iOS version. However, I was proven wrong when I tried it and was amazed!

Chip’s Challenge, the Band


I know I’ve talked about Chip’s Challenge a lot recently, but usually I’m discussing the game. Did you know that there’s a band with the same name? (I hope they don’t mind that I’m hotlinking their logo. Well, I am promoting them.)
Chip’s Challenge is an awesome chiptunes band featuring three people from Rochester, NY. They describe themselves as “instrumental pop punk with an 8-bit flair.” It’s like I’m rocking out to an NES.

Their sampler, Halfbit Hero, is available for free.

Their first album, 1bit Wonder, is priced at whatever you want. You can pay, or you can download it for free. I’d suggest paying! I particularly like the second track, Special Beam Cannon, although Kickpuncher is really good too. I also really love how it went from Halfbit to 1bit!
If you like chiptunes or video game music, give Chip’s Challenge a listen!

Autographed Chip’s Challenge

Chip's Challenge
Chuck Sommerville, creator of Chip’s Challenge, autographed my copy of the game! Chip’s Challenge has been one of my favorite games for as long as I can remember. I’ve been wanting to get Sommerville’s autograph for a while but only recently actually asked him. He’s also the creator of Chuck’s Challenge and the soon-to-be-released Chuck’s Challenge 3D. I’ve interviewed him for Game Boyz, which you can read here.

Lithium Network Conference Part 2 – The Play

In addition to the conference proper, I got to enjoy seeing San Francisco a bit. I took a 6:40 AM flight from Orange County to San Francisco so I could have some time to see the city. After eating in the airport a little, I took the BART to the Powell St. station, which is where I always get off when I visit SF. It’s also where I always take a picture of the same building.
Powell St.
Then I headed to the InterContinental San Francisco Hotel, stopping to take a picture of the hotel, to drop off my bag.
The InterContinental San Francisco Hotel
Then I headed back to the shops near the Powell St. station. After getting bored of that, I checked out some little parks and then looked on Google Maps for interesting sites. I realized that it wasn’t far to reach the water, so I started walking that way. There were plenty of interesting things along the way, including a restaurant called Crepe & Curry in the Financial District. I had a quick snack and then checked out Justin Herman Plaza, which had a really awesome fountain.
Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza
Then I walked along edge of the bay, heading north toward what Google Maps told me was a submarine. I did stop to take some photos too of course, like this cool snack shop.
Snack shop
I eventually reached an arcade that featured very old attractions. I wouldn’t even call most of them games. Put in a coin to see the figure dance – that kind of thing. But outside was the cool part. The submarine, the USS Pampanito, was out back!
USS Pampanito
I took a bunch of pictures of it.
Gun of the USS Pampanito
I also paid to walk through it!
USS Pampanito
After I was done, I stopped to take a quick picture of a seagull before continuing on my way.
Seagull
I headed toward Fisherman’s Wharf and wandered around for a bit, getting a delicious crab sandwich. When it was time to head back to the hotel, I took the cable car back to the Powell St. station, which I guess acts as a landmark for me!
View from my room on the 30th floor of the InterContinental San Francisco Hotel
At the hotel I went up to my room and took a photo before heading to registration. I discovered that the payment for my registration didn’t go through. There was some confusion and phone calls to Julie back at the office, but things were fine of course. Then there was a fun reception full of delicious foods (mmm pork buns) and beer.
Thursday was packed full of fun and went fast. Before I knew it, it was evening and we were piled into buses to go to Bimbo’s 365 Club for dinner, drinks, and music.
Bimbo's 365 for Lithium's Heropalooza featuring Tainted Love
There was an 80s band playing called Tainted Love (who, by the way, never did play Tainted Love). They were really good. But then again, I was drinking a lot of Heinekens. There was a pair on the dance floor who were more entertaining than the band. She was really into the music and getting flipped all over. Half the dance floor must have belonged to those two!
Friday didn’t go quite so smoothly. There was an announcement of a security breach of some sort at SFO. As it turned out, it was at my terminal. “Expect delays,” they said. Well, my flight was scheduled to leave at 3:59, so I figured I’d leave the session at 11:45 to pick up my bag from the bellman. That way, I could probably catch the 12:15 BART train, get to the airport by 1:00, and still have time to get through security with the delays. If I got through quickly, great, because I hadn’t eaten anything that day and would appreciate the time for lunch.
Well, it wasn’t that easy. There were malfunctions on the tracks apparently, and they made us all get off at some random station between the hotel and the airport. We were told we’d get further instructions, but I could also see a lot of people with bags waiting at that station. We must not have been the first train to unload there. Soon after we were told to get on a train that would take us to the end of the line, just past SFO. Then a shuttle would take us to the airport. When we got to that station, we were told that now the shuttle was going to go to the station just on the OTHER side SFO. We had to take a train back there. Guess what? After getting there, they changed their minds again, and we were headed back to the other station again.
There was also the bit where they told everyone to get on the train no matter where they were headed and then said “whoops, if you were heading to the airport…” Anyways, then a train took us from that station to the airport. Having to manually flip the switches probably didn’t help. (Nor did the trains travelling at 20 MPH so that the track could be watched by eye.) My 40 minute train ride became over two hours. Regardless, my flight was delayed about a half hour, and I got through security in decent time, so I had more than enough time to eat and read my novel. And then I got to finish my novel on the plane!
I just wish I knew who got my sick on that plane!
All in all, it was very fun trip. I enjoyed the conference itself, and I enjoyed getting to see a bit of the city. I’d certainly love to spend some more time there. Hopefully, I’ll get to visit with gem next time! And as you might have seen, I spent some time after getting home uploading some photos to Instagram!

Lithium Network Conference Part 1 – The Work

Lots of interesting things at LiNC this week. I couldn’t cover all of it, but here are some highlights.
The “Me too” button was discussed a little bit. It’s a button on posts that allow people to say “me too,” like “I have that problem too” or perhaps “that solved my issue too.” I’m not sure how you’d educate forum members to use it if you get a lot of forum members, but it’s an interesting idea.
Someone brought up the idea of losing control of your brand due to social media. The response was that opinion always existed even before social media. Social media gives brands control and data on opinion.
Ipsos
Andrew Leary, Executive Vice President of Ipsos, discussing having overlaid their social network on other applications and automated escalations based on popularity. Someone could grab a tweet and publish it on the forum. When it reaches enough kudos, it would automatically be escalated to e-mail and sent to people who relate to the tweet’s content. It’s interesting, but it doesn’t exactly apply to a support forum like ours. It also would require heavy text analytics it would seem.
giffgaff
Vincent Boon, Head of Community for giffgaff, a mobile phone company in the UK, discussed how giffgaff uses social networking for all marketing. It’s kind of amazing. They have a forum, and they payback community members with points that can be used for products, donated, or redeemed for money. People create or change banner, design fliers, pass out fliers, and even create websites to get people microsim cards. giffgaff gives all fonts and logos to anyone who needs them but doesn’t hold onto the brand tightly. If people want to create their own logos, that’s fine. It’s interesting to me how responsive and willing to help giffgaff’s community is. Their forum escalation time is set to 24 hours (if a post doesn’t get a response after 24 hours, an employee is e-mailed), and it’s never been triggered.
Sephora
Bridget Dolan, VP of Interactive Media for Sephora gave a talk about the cool things Sephora is doing in the mobile space. Of all social networks, Facebook has been the most useful for them. No real surprise them. Following Facebook is Pinterest. What? Yeah, Pinterest didn’t get a lot of attention at LiNC, but it’s apparently working well for Sephora. When they relaunched their desktop site recently, they created a whole new mobile site as well. They also have iPhone and iPad apps, each with a different purpose. While Android overtook iOS last year among giffgaff users, Sephora is seeing the vast majority of mobile users on iOS, so all their focus are on that OS. The mobile site appears to focus on a similar thing as the desktop site – sales, product information, tutorials. The iPhone application focuses on being able to scan products to find more about them. Every product sold within any Sephora store can be scanned using an iPhone.
For Sephora, the iPad isn’t just a larger iPhone. It’s more for shopping and entertaining because most iPad users aren’t using them on the go. It features more rich materials, for example. It also has a “Today’s Obsession” section, showing trends as well as the latest Facebook and YouTube posts. The iPad app is designed to look like a flipbook or magazine.There’s also a promoted question, pulling people in to answer it (Beauty Talk). They also run contests, such as asking the community for nail looks. One of the coolest ideas I heard all weekend was what Sephora calls the Beauty Studio, which is like a virtual mirror. The iPad is held in portrait mode. After finding a makeup tutorial, a video is played in the bottom half showing you what to do. The top half of the screens shows what the iPad’s front-facing camera is viewing – in other words, it shows the viewer. This allows you to follow along with the tutorial video while putting on makeup.
The iPad isn’t just for use at home. Sephora is experimenting with iPads in store, both for customer use and cast member (employee) use. In-store, you can e-mail yourself steps, product lists, and YouTube videos to ensure you can replicate what was done to you in-store if receiving help. They’re also beginning to use mobile point-of-sale in stores (like Apple Stores I suppose).
Cisco
Joe Clarke and Gonzalo Salgueiro gave a talk about their implementations at Cisco. They’ve done extensive customizing that’s very cool. They wanted to create an exchange of information between internal and external support that would appear seamless to customers. They didn’t want to have solve the same case multiple times, so they focused on how to reuse solutions. They call their forum and knowledge base Tech Zone. My favorite quote of the day? “This lustful union (of Cisco and Lithium) created the love child that is Tech Zone.” Keep in mind that Tech Zone is for internal, Cisco use only. First, to promote sharing of information, they’re pushing reputation hard on the forum. There are many ranks, and when mousing over the rank, you’re shown exactly what that person did to earn the rank. That doesn’t mean saying simply “2000 posts.” It’s in full paragraph form and specific to that user. Besides rank, which is using the out-of-the-box system, they’ve also introduced a separate scoring system used for leaderboards. The reputation worked so well that when they offered their top contributor the role of moderator, he was excited but turned them down when he realized he’d lose his reputation.
When the two speakers traded off, Clarke said, talking about the PowerPoint clicker, “I won’t need this because I, like any mad an, am going to attempt a LIVE DEMO!” Very entertaining guy, and the live demo was impressive as well. Because Tech Zone was designed engineers for engineers, they didn’t want to make it look pretty. They wanted to contain condensed information. They use an expandable tree structure to browsing the forum with short sub-forum titles and mouse-over descriptions. This wouldn’t be good for a customer-facing site in my opinion because mouse-overs aren’t very helpful on touch devices, but can work well internally. To save space and get things above the fold, they use tabbed viewing.
Their very ugly case management tool for support agents uses fuzzy logic to take the call notes and determine the primary and secondary categories of the case. If the tech needs help, they can click “Post question to Tech Zone.” This takes the information from the case and creates a post on the forum, automatically populating the correct fields and placing it in the correct subforum. It doesn’t submit, however, so that the tech can make changes if he wants. He needs to set his own subject. As soon as stops typing in the subject bar, a list of related threads is shown below. This helps decrease redundant threads. It uses metadata as well, like kudos and linked cases. What are linked cases? Well, if the tech decides that some other thread is related, he can press “Link your case” to show that it helps him as well. This also makes a note on that post that it helped another case. If the thread doesn’t help, the tech can return to the form with which he was working, and everything’s still populated.
To help get things answered, there are easy to use filters showing questions without replies and questions without solutions. They also added a “raise hand” feature. The raise hand button isn’t available right away, but after a certain amount of time, the original poster of a thread can click “raise hand” to indicate that he still needs more help. This is used for the same reason bumping is but has the benefit of not increasing the reply count, making it look like the thread is already being considered. This sounds like a great tool, but I think the community would need to be educated on how it works. It probably wouldn’t work for a community that gets many people who sign up, post a couple times, and never return.
Cisco is also using Apache Wave (Google Wave) for collaboration before publishing to their knowledge base or forum. Because their KB is internal, they’ve also added a “Flag for external publication” and can pass the data to their external publishing system. It’s not all about exporting either. They have a content import feature that takes a link and will take the site, formatting, images, and call, and pull it into the knowledge base. It’s all very cool, and Cisco shares all their code. It was all created by the two speakers present at LiNC as well!
Jane McGonigal
Jane McGonigal, game researcher and developer, also gave an interesting talk. She discussed how the majority of both boys and girls now play games, and how even 92% of all two-year-olds now play video games. Video game usage can even be used to fight depression in moderation. Studies have shown that children who play video games are more creative than their non-gaming counterparts. Take that, non-gamers!
Conclusion
I’m sure I’m missing a ton of stuff. I know I have notes that I didn’t discuss here, and there was plenty of interesting conversations that didn’t end up in my notepad. However, that does provide a nice segue into another topic. I had an iPhone and an Android tablet with me. I could have brought a laptop. My note taking was done with a pen in a pocket-sized notebook. Of course, that isn’t to say that I wouldn’t use electronic devices if they were adequate. With all the advances, what happened to Palm’s Graffiti (and I’m thinking of Graffiti, not Graffiti 2). I miss it. Many other people were using devices, although I don’t know if it was for note-taking. It’s no surprise that at a conference about social networking, I saw a lot of Facebook and Twitter on computer screens!

Cinco de Mayo

Today was a busy day. We started with some less exciting mount and pet hunting in WoW. This quickly changed though. We went to the Irvine Regional Park to celebrate Carrie’s birthday. We did have to leave again to get and then come back, but the woman let us in the second time without making us pay again. Yay us.
We met some of Carrie’s friends, and everyone seemed nice. Then we headed to the Orange County Zoo that’s in the park. We had no idea it existed. There were a few boring animals, a bunch of animals we thought we were cool, and two SUPER COOL BEARS. Why do zoos even keep other animals once they get bears? I don’t know. They were adorable. Sadly, can’t hug every bear.
Then it was lunch time. Burgers, potato salad, and fried rice. Delicious. Once our lunch time was done, it was time to go back to the zoo because 3:00 was lunch time for the bears. Some zoo employees gave a talk about bears while they were being fed. They got some tasty assorted fruits and vegetables. The bears were so excited to be fed! Their names were Nacho and YoYo, and they munched everything happily.
After we said our goodbyes, we headed to a family party. A lot of Pete’s family members were there, many of whom I had never met previously. Those I had met before I didn’t remember. The meal starred tacos but had a huge supporting cast. I’m quite full now. We also got a few rounds of horseshoes into the evening. The game’s very fun!
The full moon was the biggest and brightest of the year tonight, so we took a look at that too. It appeared large and bright, sure, but not amazingly so. Then again, I guess it was only supposed to be 14% larger and brighter.
All in all, a great Cinco de Mayo.