Archive | August 2010

Geolocation, geolocation, geolocation

There’s murmurings that Facebook are close to launching a location based service. Some quick thoughts.

Location based services are very much in their infancy. Research by Forrester reveals that users of location based services are mainly male, such tools are a testing ground, and the onus is out there to recruit users. The problem is at the moment: why would anyone want to register for yet another service like Foursquare or Gowalla? Why would anyone want to “check in”, record their steps, and then tell the world?

On the other side of the coin, Facebook is already overwhelmingly popular, too far ahead as an online social aggregation service. Ahead of direct telephone contact Facebook is, with increasing speed, becoming the alternative central communications hub for people – if it isn’t already. The rise in the speed and connectivity of the mobile web and integration through text messages means the gap is ever closer between Facebook and your diary. How many events these days are you invited to or made aware of through Facebook? More and more people are organising through it. The key is though, these are there to get people there. Once people are somewhere, they rely on the old skool communication technique – talking. But there is a rise in people accessing Facebook using their mobile devices to provide an update.

Which is, if you can imagine a simple and lazy Venn diagram, is where Facebook could come in. Where this would leave Foursquare and Gowalla, another matter, probably flirting on the periphery using APIs to talk back and forth. One of them will probably get acquired by Facebook (the other by Google), and so the internet empires continue to grow to interface into our daily lives. (Intriguing prospects, although possibly not to those who fear the increasing fear of ‘invasions of privacy’.)

At such a move, such an alliance or acquisition could be what pushes the value, the usefulness of a Foursquare/Gowalla service to the fore. Will they replace the time honoured tradition of organising a night out? Probably not. But at their essence Foursquare and Gowalla are games, increasingly interactive and real time games but not to the point of compulsion or providing a worthwhile experience. They need to bridge that gap from being a pointless thing to actually being useful for the masses. (Aside from free Domino’s pizzas for this week’s ‘mayor’.)

That may be where the tips or routes come in, drawing people to locations while becoming a useful reference point (as well as having marketing possibilities). Real smart would be the connection across the web of a number of products, such as Ying, joining up to share/pool their crowd-sourced data to provide a far more powerful location-based service that truly serves the user. And that could be where Facebook’s location service could prove to be the catalyst.

Shift

I’m a sucker for side-on platformers, mainly as they are the one genre that can overcome looking plain ugly as long as the gameplay is bang on (as little remembered Commodore 64 classic Gods and Heroes demonstrated). They can be frustrating, but so much sweeter is the reward. And above all the best examples employ a variety of skills from pure reactionary elements (the pixel perfect jump!) to outright puzzle solving.

Sadly the advent of faster spec machines over the past decade means that the 2D platformer is an almost extinct species, hardly any grasping the furthering potential that Amiga star Another World showed 3D implementation could bring to the genre (Little Big Planet is the only modern release to keep the tradition going that really springs to mind). A shame. Luckily the rise phone’s capability to runmade for the more portable technology.

Shift is a little beauty that has held my attention recently. Objective: get your main character (which animates with shades of the agent from Impossible Mission) from his starting position on the screen to the exit door, running along, jumping off and falling from the platforms. Collect keys to move barriers that hinder your progress. So far so simple.

Shift’s twist is the ability to hit a ‘shift’ button which rotates the screen 180 degrees, placing the character on ‘the other side’ of the level. What this brings is a unique take on the platformer crossing over into maze territory.

One addional element Shift has over most other platform games on the iThing is the controls: use your left and right thumbs to move your character in the appropriate direction; to jump simultaneously press the opposite button. It’s a simple yet ingenious twist that makes the game so much more playable than if it employed a, say, touch pad mechanism so favoured by most other iThing arcade games.

It’s not the hardest game, with fleeting difficult but not impossibly impassable levels, finishable within a couple of hours. But it’s a jolly little romp has a finite ending, and one laden in dark humour. Well worth the time.

Lanquid along a beach

Walk along the concrete wave breakers, a straight line saunter with the breeze cooling along the sides of your neck.

Building sandcastles and elaborate moats, digging with spades, before resorting to the more primal scooping and crafting using your hands, and hoping the water will flow in. And stay in.

Kite flying

Flying kites, letting the string out as far as it will go to let the kite float in the sky.

Dogs standing on the edge of the tide, surveying the water, teasing and bounding the waves as they come in, before charging in to swim, their heads bobbing serenely.

Rock pool

Ambling over the flat rocks: along, over, and through the pools that have collected, some with little fishes darting round these micro communities. Stride or nimbly climb over any obstacles in your way.

Watching the waves bob up and down, the peaks crashing before they rush and roll onto the sand.

And hope one day they won’t wash away your sandcastle.