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Gamification. It has become one the top buzz words in tech advertising. Every agency that makes websites or apps for non-gaming products have started looking at the advantages and disadvantages of this new concept.
Yes, for those outside of gaming, this concept of gamification is BRAND new. The idea of game concepts in a serious business doesn’t seem to be a normal leap. First, let’s examine the concept of gamification.
Definition: Gamification is the integration of game theory or concept to non-gaming environments to increase engagement, loyalty, and entertainment values. Simply, engage users in a better way. This can be applied to any industry from health and fitness to education and transportation.
How to apply this to your needs. First a basic understanding of your customers is key. People want to feel accomplished and recognized. Then they like to share within their social circles. Games are the epitome of the Risk/ Reward system. To apply these to your business will most likely yield great results. So let’s take imaginary company X and apply this:
No, not that Mark Zuckerberg might change his relationship status as all the news channels have been reporting. There is something more ominous for the social giant. Facebook is losing ground in the U.S. As reported by Inside Facebook, the company has lost more than 6 million users in the U.S. and more than 1.52 million in Canada. The drop is only significant in North America. Meanwhile in UK, Norway, and Russia the drop was less significant with just over 100,000 users.
TO BE CLEAR: Facebook is still growing. Countries in emerging markets are coming on strong (i.e. Mexico, Brazil, India, Indonesia, etc.) Facebook is closing in on the 687 million user mark.
The trend in the U.S. is what is more significant to evaluate. Nothing really seems to be clear about why this happened. Some noted that June comes around and students are leaving their respective schools, Facebook accounts get cancelled. Whatever the reason, this may have a larger impact if the trend continues.
Will Sony PlayStation Network get back up off the mat?
It has been six days and Sony PlayStation Network is still down. Initially, the outage as reported by IDG, Sony said the outage was caused by an external intrusion, but for five days Sony had yet to provide details.
As a gamer, I found that troubling. I could imagine the service being down for a day, but at that point, since there wasn’t any news on what was happening—the frustration was mounting.
Then Tuesday night of day five, Sony announced that PlayStation Network has been hacked into and revealed that information of PSN user accounts was accessed during the intrusion—names, addresses, birth dates, passwords, security questions and answers.
There is no way of telling the effects to the user base Sony will incure at this time, but if all things being equal, they have a long, hard uphill battle to face. The real question is how this will change the perception that Sony can compete with Xbox in the network space.
PlayStation users have been vocal on Twitter and Facebook, perhaps Sony will have to appease the angry villagers some way.
Nintendo has begun its trek to the second generation of Wii. This year, we can only imagine that they hope to grab the hearts of gamers worldwide again. Nintendo this week announced that it will have playable versions of the next Wii console at E3 2011. The gaming show will help Nintendo showcase the console, that still remains nameless but codenamed ‘Project Café’. The scheduled release of the product is in 2012. The details are sparse. Okay, there are no details except that they said it will be next generation. The news came on the back of Nintendo’s fiscal results, which were dismal. The company reported a 66% decline in profits.
So the speculation is rampant around the net. Some say the controller is completely new, while others speculate that the hardware is more sophisticated, including blu-ray DVD and HD capabilities. But so far the tight-lipped Nintendo isn’t saying anything!
So for me, I think it is wise to wait and see it at E3.
Yesterday, O’Reilly Media researchers, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden released an article exposing a hidden file that records every movement of an iPhone. All iPhones store location data in a file called consolidated.db. Warden released an OS X application to show users the significance of their discovery. The application shows each user where they have been since last July. Not only is the data stored on your phone but also your computer.
This database of your locations is stored on your iPhone as well as in any of the automatic backups that are made when you sync it with iTunes.
This isn’t the first time we have heard of the file. In fact in February 2011, Sean Morrissey and Alex Levinson previewed Lantern 2.0 at a Cyber Crimes Conference in Washington DC. Lantern 2.0 however is a commercial forensics product that retails from $600-700. And before that, Alex Levinson began work on the vulenerabilities of iPhone and iPad. Check that out by clicking here.
Game makers around the world have been trying to entertain us for years. At current the Games industry is somewhere around a $50 billion worldwide industry. Certainly the largest of the entertainment industries. But how are they made? We are familiar with movies and music but so often no one addresses the game development process. We are here to show a high level view of what goes on behind the doors of a game studio.
All games are produced by a team of very smart and talented people:
There can be more people involved, but this is the basic crew. Now that we have the team in place, let’s make a game!
Part 1: Game Design Basics
I have been asked several times on how games are made. What are the processes and activities that go into a game? Well to start, games can be very simple or very complex, but there are some overarching rules that most game designers use. Games are made of a set of simple rules that allow the player to advance through the game, but sometimes these rules become complex for the designer. Without getting into too much detail I will go over a few things to keep in mind.
First off, games are not puzzles. They are experiences that take players through an interactive journey. Games are different in that they change with the decisions of the player. Puzzles never change.
Not long ago Las Vegas wasn’t part of the technology innovation. In fact, the basic premise of Vegas has kept it simple in a way—gambling, drinking, and showgirls. The nightlife is unrivaled and the entertainment is unforgettable. “Vegas means comedy, tragedy, happiness, and sadness all at the same time.” —Artie Lange. Artie has it right! Vegas is everything to everyone. But would you ever say Vegas was a technology hub?
Not until recently did I find myself in awe of some of the technology advancements going on in Sin City. I stay at the same room on the strip, great views and superb staff at the Paris/Bally’s, but then I hit the smokey casino floor, the waitresses clad in skimpy dresses, music was loud, and the craps table had a gang around it screaming and clapping. The sounds of slots and people from around the world engaging in all their vices. I found myself at a Pai Gow table. I play poker. I enjoy poker. The cards, the drinks, the felt tables where cards float across as if on a cushion of air, and that is when I noticed. There in the middle of this table, I couldn’t believe it, a small touch-screen LCD panel the dealer keeps tapping. As I watch for the next few hands—it hits me—that screen is a display of all the hands around the table. Wait, wait wait. I have been going to Vegas for years, but I have never seen anything like this. How did it know? If players had problems setting their Pai Gow hand the dealer would simple push the according seat number on the LCD and it would say how to play with best odds and correctly.
So I inquired with the Pit Boss and he explained to me that automatic shufflers not only shuffle, but continuously monitor the cards in the deck. It knows when cards are missing, what card is missing and which players have which cards. It knows everything on that table!
Gaming has always made me happy. But now, I have proof that I NEED to play. Last year, relatively unknown game designer, Jane McGonigal gave a speech at TED that began a movement by which a new term, and industry would evolve. Jane postulated that playing games, makes us better people. And now, she is launching a book that describes in detail that theory. To be honest, this is something I already knew being an avid gamer, but what makes her “studies” more poignant is the fact that we are starting to believe the science behind Gamification.
Jane said some, at the time, outrageous thing like: “If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity, I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week, by the end of the next decade.”
Seattle startup Zipline Games looks to make mobile development a speedy process with its new platform. The new platform will allow developers of mobile, social and web-based games and applications to easily get started—up-and-running the same day. It promises to remove the difficulty of cross platform development.
“I wanted to make it possible for game developers and designers to go have a crazy conversation at lunch, then come back and get those new ideas working in the game by the end of the day,” said founder and CTO Patrick Meehan in an interview on Zipline’s website.
Zipline has released the beta version of its development platform MOAI which allows mobile game developers to write the games in Lua rather than writing for each device. Then once the games are completely developed, Zipline offers cloud hosting and royalty free distribution. This is a stand out for smaller developers. The Moai SDK can handle graphics, animation, input, physics, collisions, and more. Moai Cloud hosts your game logic, databases and additional game content.
“There’s a lot of interesting challenges in the market,” said Zipline co-founder Todd Hooper. “People want to be on board with IOS and Android and you need a solution that lets you get on board with those.”
Last week, hot news off the press was abuzz with acquisitions. Mostly business growing and expanding. The regular boring drab that keeps us business people questioning strategic decisions. But something caught my eye. GameStop buys Impluse and Spawn Labs. Normally I wouldn’t give much thought to mergers and acquisitions of a retailer, but I thought this one might be worth further investigation. You see, when I was young I loved going to video game arcades and record stores. I watched as Tower Records dominated the industry and it was always a treat when I could walk into the one on Sunset Blvd. I went to Egghead Software and eventually GameStop. But as with all things digital, Brick and Mortar stores are no longer needed. It has been no surprise that the GameStop stores are seeing a decline. But the move last week, just may keep them in business.
Impulse and Spawn Labs have made names for themselves by supplying games to consumers digitally. Spawn Labs, although still testing the technology, says it will be able to deliver games on demand to any computer with an internet connection. Impulse, as subsidiary of Stardock Systems, has been creating systems that have been delivering games digitally for over 10 years. This kind of experience is exactly what GameStop needs to stay in the distribution game.
Jonathan Rosenberg, the Chief of Product Development at Google, said Monday that he plans to step down in coming months. A nine year veteran at Google, Rosenberg makes the announcement on the very day that Co-Founder Larry Page takes the reins in the CEO chair.
San Jose Mercury News reported that as Page reclaims the role of CEO from Eric Schmidt, Google’s co-founder has asked his senior executives to make long-term, multiyear commitments that they will remain at the company. Rosenberg, a member of the executive committee that makes Google’s key strategic decisions, said in an interview Monday that he decided he could not fulfill that promise to Page, given his long-held plans to leave the company around the time his daughter goes to college in 2013.
This just can’t be good. If after all these years the tight-knitted group of the executive team begins to unravel as Page comes in, there is more a-brewing at the company than the normal anti-trust lawsuits and Facebook frenemy fighting. Clearly Rosenberg saw something that has weighed on him. Is it Page? Or is it because he was one of the trusted ones on team Schmidt? And is it important to anyone, especially Page, that he decided to announce the decision on the very day that Page starts as CEO?
It’s not lost on any of us that Google has had some retention problems. They started a mass hiring a few months back and are still trying to attract great talent. But at what cost? Google isn’t necessarily the place people love to go to work, but to be fair it’s not the most hated either. Whatever it is about the company culture at Google, what is clear is that the ship is turning and one of the top officers is about to jump overboard.
This doesn’t mean that things cannot be great or on the verge of getting better. Sometimes change is needed. This.. this is a big one!
CityVille, FarmVille, and Mafia Wars are part of Zynga’s portfolio. Zynga is considered one of the fastest growing startups with no end in sight. To be realistic Zynga is doing great, but at a big cost. Games like FarmVille do very well in the first 6 months. After that, the numbers fall drastically, in fact so much so that CityVille peaked in one month, then showed decline by the three month mark. But that doesn’t deter a company like Zynga. They reinvent the games, at the latest outing by the company, does just that.
Zynga showed up on Wall Street with a few sheep. Yes, sheep. The company was promoting FarmVille English Countryside, the expansion to its popular FarmVille. With Zynga being valued at around $10 Billion, it’s easy to see how they can march sheep around the Big Apple.
Meanwhile back at the Dukes ranch, Jesse and Cooter get the General Lee ready for…
It is unclear who the target is of the investigation, but it seems the “Do Not Track” campaign the federal government is conducting now includes mobile apps. US Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced the ‘Do Not Track’ Me Online Act of 2011 on February 11. It is the first bill of this Congress to explicitly call for ‘Do Not Track’ regulation.
I love to hear the latest rumors about the newest technology to hit our favorite-to-hate company: Apple. I have written before about the latest iPad, and now we are beginning to speculate about the newest iPhone. First, if any of the photos are true, which I am certain they are not, then the phone looks great. Not to say that Apple won’t make it a great looking product, but knowing how secretive they are with their products I am pretty certain no one in the public has seen this thing. But as rumors go, let’s spread them some more!
The iPhone 5 is reported to have a new screen, NFC (Near Field Communications chip), and the A5 processor.
First, the iPhone 5 has a purported larger screen. While the form factor for the phone is similar to the iPhone 4, they say the increase in screen size is significant. Some pictures have emerged showing this could be another big step for Apple. Edge-to-Edge screen!
The screen will use the same technology as the iPhone 4 and will remain the best in the business.
Second, the NFC chip will be a new feature for the phone. Near Field Communications chips in simple terms will allow users to complete contact-less payments. Think about going into Starbucks and buying your coffee with your phone. The ability to complete purchases with your phone brings us one step closer to removing all those pesky cards in our wallets. To be fair, the iPhone is not the first to do this, but with all the recent talk surrounding NFC, it’s clear Apple doesn’t want to be left out of the loop.
And lastly, and probably most importantly, the iPhone 5 will come with a new processor. The A5 processor, which was recently launched with the iPad 2, is incredibly powerful. Speed is the key here. The A5 processor is a dual core processor. For us this means a few things: Better apps, better battery, and speed. As if the phone wasn’t fast enough, the new A5 processor will turn your device into a very powerful computing device.
Safe to say the next generation of the iPhone will not disappoint. It will be a major step in technology advancement and we will benefit from the speed.
It seems like yesterday I was cutting and pasting html into my MySpace account to get new backgrounds and songs, growing my fledgling friends list, and enjoying the social networking game. But now, a few years later, and News Corporation’s first attempt at social networking has fallen from grace. I am not certain what happened and how, but the likes of Facebook and Twitter proved to be more appealing than MySpace.
Tech analyst Comscore put out some staggering numbers: From January to February of this year MySpace lost 10 million users, 63 million users down from 73 million users. Even though MySpace has gone through a series of changes, focusing on music, the company cannot maintain its user base. At this point, no one at MySpace seems to know how to save it.
I am an iPad user. I use it daily. But is it for the average person that isn’t “geeked out”? I have nothing against the iPad, but I have some concerns of its value for the average person. So let’s explore, and this goes even for the geeks like me.
First, here are the official specs for iPad 2:
- 1GHz dual-core A5 CPU
- 512MB RAM
- 16GB, 32GB, 64GB storage options
- Front & Rear Cameras, front is VGA, rear is 720p
- 9.7″ LED display with 1024×768 screen resolution at 132 pixels per inch
- GPU said to be 9x faster (questionable)
- Video output supports up to 1080p
- Runs iOS 4.3
- 10 hour battery life
- White & Black color options
- 3G models are AT&T and Verizon compatible
- 1.3 lbs
- Thinner build
As much as I love being indoors playing on some computing device, there are times when I want to be out playing in the sun. I am fortunate that I live in Southern California. I spend weekends exploring the many things to do from Ventura to San Diego. But something caught my eye recently. Geocaching.
What is this thing might you ask? Let me tell you.
Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is an outdoor sporting activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, or other navigational techniques, to hunt hide-and-seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches,” anywhere in the world. Simply: It’s a treasure hunting game that requires some sort of GPS. Think pirate maps where “X” marks the spot, but then add technology.
Geocaching is more similar to the 150-year-old game letterboxing, which uses clues and references to landmarks embed into stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from GPS on May 1, 2000, because the improved accuracy of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located. The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.
The state of the mobile network during and after Japan’s earthquake was in shambles. The emergency services and local authorities used what was left of the badly damaged network. But fear not my little social media peeps; during such emergencies, it seems Twitter, Facebook, and in Japan’s case Mixi all remained untouched by the natural disaster.
Ok kids, let’s explore what happens and how social networks are the best source of communication during major catastrophes.
As seen in Japan, earthquakes are monsters. The latest info and technology has been aimed at prediction and awareness. However, the latest in earthquake technology has turned to the community at large. The iShake Project developed by University of California, Berkeley Civil Engineering is using the smartphone network to help emergency responders locate the most heavily damaged areas during an earthquake through its user base. The new “social media,” and I hesitate to label it that, application uses the accelerometer to collect ground motion intensity and runs in the background of your smartphone. When an earthquake hits, it sends a report to emergency services to assess the most damaged areas so that they are able to respond accordingly.
This turns every phone with the app into an effective earthquake measuring device. The data gleaned from the application is a valuable source of information, not only for emergency responders, but for us John Q. Public. The application allows us to see the damaged areas as well through its iShake map. We then can avoid areas of heavy damage and allow the responders to get in. Through iShake people will be able to make use of their own smartphones and participate in an effective and valuable process to inform emergency responders in the event of an earthquake.
Every developer of mobile applications faces the same issues: discovery, monetization, and security. Well, security wasn’t at the forefront until something happened that changed the industry. As seen recently, the mobile world for the first “real” time has been under attack. Last week’s attack on Android has shown there are serious flaws in security. Experts in security have predicted that smartphones will be targeted heavily as more users migrate from computers to smartphones in 2011. Moreover, the attack is even new to the world of computing. For the first time hackers can send malware packets and it costs the user real money.
While Google has reportedly expunged over 50 apps on the Android Market, it is very clear that malware and piracy on mobile devices are at the forefront of the new generation of hackers. It is important for mobile developers to begin a paradigm shift in the business and technology models in maintaining a healthy marketplace for mobile users. And more importantly, for the business. In the meantime Google and the likes will have to battle quickly to change the mindset of the community. After last week’s attack Google responded with some vague notions of their plans to help in the cyber war.
I have played Mafia Wars, Farmville, Cityville, and Cartown. I don’t think I would describe myself as a social gamer, but in some respect I think I always have been. I am now rethinking my gaming habits. Like most of you in the gaming community, I have a set genre of games that I prefer playing. To be honest, I am a first-person shooter type gamer. I haven’t taken the leap into MMO’s as a type of social gaming, but as I have stated before I think I have always been a social gamer. I enjoy racing friends on my Xbox 360, as well as fighting off bands of zombies. But mostly, I enjoy doing it with my friends. But as we “hardcore” gamers move into the new world of gaming, are we really doing something we haven’t been doing for years? Yes. But, not because it is social. Rather, it is because of the types of games we play.
About four years ago I was walking the massive aisles at E3 when it donned on me, I am willing to play just about any game as long as it is fun. I have been drawn to the more realistic shooters and adventure games because of the way they look, the complexity of the games, and the stories. But is that what makes me a gamer? I don’t always need to play complex games that are rendered with some artistic beauty that stuns even the novice gamer. No, I need to play something fun.
Mobile gaming isn’t new, in fact for the last ten years there have been many that have tried and failed to succeed in the industry. The statistics, however, have been astonishing. A few myths have been busted and some unexpected results have surfaced. Whether you are a casual gamer of play to win, mobile gaming has somehow entered your life in a big way. Myths about mobile gaming are a time-tested activity in mobile gaming, from the idea that mobile carriers actually understand the gaming community to how many people play and where they play. This year’s DICE shed some light on a couple of interesting myths.
The world is changing at a rapid pace in the mobile industry. With the onslaught of smartphones, the need for higher network speeds is becoming more crucial than ever. Every carrier is marketing the next generation in speed. First there was GSM and CDMA (3G is how it is typically marketed). Now 4G has all but taken over the marketing of every carrier—reminds me of the latest Best Buy commercial; Outdated World. Funny! True. (Best Buy Buy Back Program: Outdated World.) So, what does that mean for us? Let’s start with some basics. Here is a breakdown of the current speeds and how they relate to us:
CDMA: Allowing for a maximum speed of about 3.1mbps (about 600kbps in practice), which is similar to what a DSL line has to offer and 1mbps upload (about 300kbps in practice).
GSM: 3G networks typically have a maximum speed of 7.2mbps (around 2mbps in practice) download and 1.4mbps upload (more around the 700kbps in practice). Similar to cable speeds.