While the hype around the celebrated Nintendo augmented reality game Pokémon Go has long since died down, perhaps because everyone decided to twaddle with fidget spinners instead, the game still draws a loyal support base. For the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is an interactive game, downloadable to your mobile phone, where you catch animals from the Pokémon kids’ cartoon series in real-life locations, raise them and use them to fight opponents. In 2016, the game’s popularity reached endemic proportions, with people crowding in parks to catch rare and elusive Pokemon, and state authorities such as police, giving out warnings for people to pay attention to their surroundings when immersed in the highly addictive game.
Pokémon Go lovers will soon be able to bond and exchange their little friends in a special Community Day event, scheduled for the 17th May 2018 across the world. The Community Day offers game players, known as ‘trainers’ a chance to go out and catch Pokémon together as teams in a special and social bonding experience.The creators of Pokémon Go, in a bid to counteract the perception of gaming as an anti-social hobby, created the events, held monthly, to encourage players to get out, discover new places, and meet new people.
There are many game bonuses being released for the day, according to online magazine iMore. These include extra XP, Stardust, faster egg hatching, lure modules that last three hours, and a special Pokémon with an exclusive move. The featured Pokémon for May’s event (the Community Day occurs for just three hours on one day per month) is Charmander, a small orange fire-breathing cross between a dinosaur and a dragon.
While the event is scheduled for just three hours, start and finish times will vary according to your location. Gamers in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, can start hunting at 12 pm to 3 pm JST (Japanese Standard Time). Participants in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India will have their regional event from 10 am-1 pm UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and those in the Americas (including Greenland) can play from 11 am to 2 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time).
An image of trainers, a television and 1980s gaming items produced by an unknown artist for the clothing retailer Diesel. Featuring their new SKB model of trainer, the picture draws its influence predominately from the vaporwave art movement (combining pastel and bright colours, retro designs and 1980s nostalgic throwbacks), but with a slight nod to the photography trend known as ‘flat lay’.
The event, which takes place in London over the May Bank Holiday weekend from April 30th to May 2nd, will see attendees receive advice and insights in their chosen industry from BAFTA Award winners, nominees and the Academy’s industrial partners.
BAFTA have also released a YouTube trailer to encourage people starting out in the creative industries to come and bring their ideas and how to get a foot in the door.
Tickets cost only £6 per session, making Guru LIVE ideal for students on a tight budget.
BAFTA is a independent charity that support and nurtures film and TV talent and production in the U.K., by identifying and rewarding excellence, inspiring practitioners and benefiting the public. It offers training and networking opportunities via workshops, masterclasses, scholarships, lectures and mentoring schemes, connecting with audiences of all ages and backgrounds across the U.K. and abroad in Los Angeles and New York, U.S.A.
Owners of Microsoft Xbox consoles can now change their avatars (display pictures) while on the go with the help of their mobile phones. Mobile phone technology website phoneArena.com reported today that users of the popular console, second only in sales to Sony’sPlaystation range, will be able to use a Windows 10 equipped mobile phone and a new app, Xbox Avatar App to change their avatar ‘on the fly’.
The avatar configuration for now only applies to phone users who download the Technical Preview of Windows 10 Mobile on their calling devices. With that in place, they can easily download Xbox Avatar and remotely change their gameface. The app however is a big one, the website warns. Weighing in at nearly 147 megabytes, the app will take up a lot of space.
Xbox Avatar will enable users to create or change avatars for their Xbox online lives, including changing clothes, accessories and features. The app also bridges the virtual with the real by allowing users to take a ‘selfie’ of themselves with their avatar and then save the image to another device. The app leads on from Microsoft’s development in April of this year where a similar app was rolled out for PC users only.
Snapshots of Xbox Avatar in action can be seen on the phoneArena.com report listed in the Sources section of this article.
Okay, so I might have completely lost the punchline to this joke, but the popularity and artistic capacity for expression of the userbar certainly isn’t any laughing matter. For almost a decade, gamers, geeks and online artists have used userbars as decorations and virtual badges of honour to announce their presence and creativity on the internet.
So what exactly is a userbar?. It’s a small and slender graphic which is a really skinny version of the ubiquitous advertising banners found all over the web. The big difference though is that they aren’t ads for companies. Instead they are used to express a person’s interests, skills and passions; or to advertise their gaming level and prowess. Cramming a lot into a space usually measuring no more than the standard 350 by 19 pixels (with a border of 1 pixel thick, userbars can be larger though), userbar designers will often incorporate imagery, text and even animations and gifs taken from videos or popular TV shows. The most widely used typeface (font) for userbar text is Visitor TT2 BRK with the standard size of letters set at 13 pixels in height. The font gives a very computer generated and retro appearance to the bar and often, rather like a framed picture, designers can choose to make their userbars visually presentable by applying a ‘glass finish’ that gives the design a glossy look. The natural home of the userbar is usually forums, mainly those connected to gaming or technology, but I have seen them being attached to signatures used in a popular South Asian young people’s forum.
Userbars reached their zenith in the mid 2000’s, as the internet was already becoming well entrenched in people’s lives and gamers made the transition from downloading PC games to battling and co-operating with fellow hobbyists on online portals such as World of Warcraft. While userbars have never broken the mainstream like other ‘geeky‘ expressions of culture have done, and their popularity has declined since their heyday, userbars still retain a loyal fanbase and several thousand are being painstakingly handcrafted by forum users and passionate gamers today. There are vibrant online communities built around the designing of userbars as a hobby. One, userbars.be, is “a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about creating and sharing userbars they make ” with a showroom of more than 40,000 userbars sorted into categories such as brands, celebrities, computer hardware, patriotic, and sports. The site currently has over 28,000 members and contributors. Another, called userbars.name, is a German-based forum dedicated exclusively to the online art form, the 21st century evolution of the miniature paintings of 17th century India and Persia. It has a cult popularity among gamers from Russia and east Europe in particular.
One of the ideal things about userbars is their democratic nature, and that given such a limited space, there are countless millions of ways to express any vignette of personality or interest you like. Anyone with at least some basic graphic skills can make one, and there are sites, such as best-signatures.com, which offer easy to use userbar generators for the fresh-faced userbar novice. For the experienced artist, photo-editing and image suites like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP offer capabilities for making userbars from scratch and there are web-based tutorials and forums for anyone who wants to learn how to make them using photo-editing software. For those who don’t have the money or the inclination to get to grips with the complicated DIY Photoshop option and are frustrated by online userbar generators, there is also the option of downloading special software that creates userbars without the need for broadband. The one I used for this article is the AmitySource UserBar Generator 2.2, which is a small program that gives you the capability of designing your own bars, using images saved on your computer and your choice of colours and filler effect from a preset menu. Although not without its limitations, such as being only able to use the standard Visitor font and that only in one colour and style, the Userbar Generator is very easy to use, even if you’re utterly new to the game, like I am.
To celebrate the miniscule artistic awesomeness that is the humble userbar, I have used both best-signatures.com and the AmitySource generator to make some userbars of my own. In honour of their original spirit, I drew inspiration from other’s creations to make a series of bars that reflect my personality and interests, as well as things that are special to me. As well as the static userbars, I also found another website, www.myspacegens.com, which will quite happily take up to 10 static ones and blend them into a GIF that shows each individual bar in 2-second intervals, transforming your creations into a sort of uber-cool userbar slideshow. That’s very handy if you have a lot to say and display to your fellow gamers or forum commentators.
A brief explanation of the static userbars.
1. ANGLO MAURITIAN: This bar represent my ethnic heritage, half-English (British) and half-Mauritian. The image is a pin badge featuring the intertwined flags of the two nations
2. CADBURY’S CREME EGG FAN: In honour of one of my favourite items of confectionary and a childhood favourite. The image is of a batch of the UK version of these sweet treats
3. CASUAL PHOTOGRAPHER: I do like to pull out my phone once in a while and take some jaw-dropping pictures, and I humbly appreciate the great expression of photography as an art. The image is a Nikon camera lens or some other specialist model
4. EMOJI ABUSER: As my Whatsapp and Facebook contacts can attest, I am trigger happy when it comes to emoticons. Well it does save on typing. The image is of a gallery of emojis commonly used on messaging services and social media.
5. FREQUENT WHATSAPP USER: Whatsapp, the almost-free messaging service is very important for me to keep in contact with distant family and friends. I used the app’s logo and made the background the same colours.
6. HALF-EATEN MIND: Why should I have all the fun?. This was the first userbar I made, using the Best Signatures site. In honour of this wonderful blog which helps me express myself and keep the reporting dream alive, I used the blog mascot, Woodsy the Owl, as a background.
7. INFORMA PLC.: Made with pride to represent the company I work for, using their corporate logo.
8. KEBABISH KING: This one is to pay homage to one of my favourite restaurants, Kebabish Original (K.O.). As with the Informa bar, I used their logo.
9. KRAVING FOR KELLOGG’S KRAVE: In honour of one of my favourite breakfast cereals. Full of chocolatey goodness.
10. LONDON COMMUTER: They say if you tire of London, you tire of life. I don’t always enjoy commuting, but it is a fundamental part of my day-to-day life. I used a Transport for London (London Underground) ‘Tube Map’ as a background.
11. NEWHAM RESIDENT: In honour of the London borough where I live and grew up in. The logo is that of Newham Council, our local government body.
12. NEWSPAPER JUNKIE: I can’t get enough of that black and white, baby. In honour of a news media that has inspired my journey as a journalist and taught me so much about the world. Graphic used comes from a picture of various British newspapers.
13. POUND STERLING USER: In honour of my currency of choice when at home. This userbar features Bank of England paper money.
14. PROUD HINDU: This bar celebrates my religious identity. The symbol is ‘Aum’ the first sound to originate in the universe and an identifier of my faith. The orange colour is another marker of my beliefs.
15. REPPIN’ PLAISTOW: A little statement of local pride here, Plaistow is the part of east London where I now live and also grew up in. The logo is a signblind from the N69 night bus which cuts through Plaistow and Stratford. I used to take the daytime 69 route to go to college in Leyton.
16. SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 MINI USER: Influenced by the userbar’s original purpose, I made this one a technology special. The mobile phone in question is my current model.
17. SHANIYA’S UNCLE: I made this in honour of one of my nieces, who I’m very close to. I used a family photo of her and chose pink as a background as it’s her favourite hue.
18. SIMPSONS FAN: Depicting the yellow-skinned family at rest, this bar celebrates one of my all-time favourite cartoons.
19. TAX STAMP COLLECTOR: A homage to one of my pastimes. The picture was supplied by a fellow collector of some stamps I was swapping with him.
20. TRADITIONAL ASIAN DUDE: Paying my respects to one of my ancestral cultures. Unlike a lot of South Asians in the UK, I try to remain close to my roots.
21. WORDPRESS BLOGGER: As my blogging friends know, old WP is our bread and butter.
I hope you have enjoyed my userbar collection, and perhaps are inspired to make your own.
By the way, this will be the last article I will be publishing for 2014. This one came out on the 31st December 2014, New Year’s Eve and the very last day of this year. I will not be posting tomorrow, but will be back on Friday 2nd January hopefully. I wish you all a prosperous new year 2015.
A student inChester, Cheshire, can finally wave goodbye toPot Noodlesandbaked beansafter she recently won just over £1 million on a lottery run by a localbetting shop. Jirtchaya Klongjarn, 34 years, visited a town centre branch of the betting shop chainLadbrokes, where she placed two £1 bets for the Friday draw of the ‘49’s‘ lottery. She successfully chose all six winning numbers and netted herself a cool £1,000,990.
It was a case of ‘second time lucky’ for Klongjarn, who only began playing the 49’s lottery just four months ago. She first won £601 in June 2014 and narrowly missed out on a £200,000 windfall after selecting a different draw for her numbers mistakenly earlier in the summer. Among her lucky numbers, the Thai student picked 8 and 12 based on her birthday of 12th August, while the rest of the lucky digits were picked at random.
“I’m over the moon and I still can’t believe it,” Ms Klongjarn said in an interview after the big win. “I told my friends I had won the 49’s and that I might have a chance to win a million, then when I finally found out I was so excited. It still doesn’t feel real and I’ve barely slept. I had some bad luck earlier on in the year but this has made up for it. My friends all play the 49’s and they now say I’m the luckiest in the whole group.”
Ladbrokes’ spokesperson Alex Donohue said in an interview with betting website Bettingpro.com that the company was just as happy for their lucky punter, notwithstanding the huge payout. He commented “We couldn’t be happier for our history-making millionaire,”
“She’s defied the odds in style.”
While not as popular as the Lotto (NationalLottery) – which draws the lion’s share of non-professionalgamblersin the UK, the 49’s lottery is very popular among the hundreds of thousands of customers that visit Ladbrokes’ branches every week. Just like its popular rivals, punters chose a set of numbers and hope to match all the numbers to get the top prize. The maximum cash giveaway is £1,000,000 if a 49’s player successfully matches all six numbers in one of the twice-daily draws held.
Jirtchaya’s windfall is the second million pound pay-out for Ladbrokes in the past 12 months, after another customer in Bournemouth scooped a seven-figure sum after placing a £4 stake in December 2013.
The wins at opposite ends of the country has certainly stunned Ladbrokes just as much as the lucky winners, Donohue added: “These jackpots are won once in a blue moon so the odds of two coming along in under a year are very long”
“We’re not expecting any sympathy though and we’re paying out with a smile.”
Ms. Klongjarn plans to visitChester Racecoursewith her friends to repeat her success at the races as well as celebrate her win. She also plans to share her fortune with her mother, who is living back inThailand.
I grew up playing both wrestling and footballvideo gamesmyself. I and my younger brothers are all great football and wrestling fans and we would supplement watching intense battles of the ring and the pitch with battles against each other on our PS2 console. Whether it wasReal MadridagainstManchester Unitedon FIFA 2012, finessing our bicycle kick skills onPro Evolution Soccer, we had the time of our lives in front of the big screen. I still remember my brothers Azzy and Suraj creating wrestlers based on family members on theSmackdownrelease from probably around 2009 and then setting them up in duels against the Bigshow orBrock Lesnar. Nowadays both Azzy and Suraj regularly tussle for bragging rights onFIFA 14, while my youngest Arjun has found his calling as a football manager with some top names on his team and a very busy inbox thanks to the agents constantly negotiating player transfers with his alter ego, ‘Buju Banton’.
FIFA 15 is published byEA Sports, a subdivision of the Electronic Arts (EA) game developer. A football simulation game, it is in the final stages of development byEA’sCanadian arm and is scheduled for public release on the 23 September 2014 inNorth America, before being released in mainland Europe on the 25th and inthe United Kingdomon the 26th. FIFA 15 will be available for the PlayStation 3 and 4, PlayStation Vita,Xbox One,Xbox 360,Microsoft Windows,IOSandAndroid. On PC, this game runs on EA’sIgniteengine and boasts the same features as the PS4 and Xbox One editions. The front cover will featureLionel Messiof FC Barcelona. Posed as though he was charging around the pitch, Mr. Messi has been a hallmark of the game’s cover since FIFA 13, when he replaced Wayne Rooney of Manchester United. There will be regional variations on the covers though, so for example for Swiss fans, Xherdan Shaqiri of that country’s national side will appear alongside Messi. There will also be two versions of the title, the Standard edition and an Ultimate Team edition which will cost fans more but comes with limited edition goodies, both in and outside the game.
According to British tabloidMetro, EA Sports have promised that FIFA 15 will be their most realistic football game yet, with some observers saying that it will revolutionise gameplay for the 21st century completely, although some supporters of the Arsenal football team who have seen pre-released screenshot of their players, Mesut Ozil, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere on Twitter claim that the appearance of the players on FIFA 15 is far from accurate, with one wag claiming that Ozil resembled a ‘zombie or some kind of monster’. Despite the inevitable complications that come from rendering player’s looks in computer pixels, the pre-release hype for FIFA fans has been kept ablaze with special releases of screenshots, tidbits and rumours about what the game will feature and what exactly the improvements will be. There have been reports that a pre-issue demo of the game is in circulation, with Martin Robinsonof Eurogamer claiming as such, according to theBleacher Report.TheBleacher Reportalso claims that there are ‘rumblings’ from an organisation called the FIFAU Teamthat the demo will consist ofeight teams, two game modes and will appear on September 9. These rumours are of course, just that and nothing concrete has been confirmed by EA Sports or the licenser FIFA.
According to the developers, FIFA 15 will be the first game of the series to feature ’emotional intelligence’. A new and advanced AI machine means that your players will have their own memories of previous matches and will display emotion based on the outcome of the match. So if Balotelli gets sent off yet again, you will know he won’t look too pleased about it, and if you lift the cup, the players look as happy as you would be if you earned their massive salaries. This is a massive improvement on both previous titles and other rival football gaming titles, as there the players usually are expressionless and game developers were more interested in creating footballers with skills and the package to deliver on the hallowed turf rather than the niceties of a few facial expressions. Each player now possesses over 600 emotional states, responding with gusto to bad tackles, near-misses on goal and the spectacular epic goals. They probably won’t swear at the camera or flip a bird at a red-faced coach but FIFA 15 guarantees to make gameplay almost as convincing as watching a match yourself.
The fans too will be more responsive and realistic, with actual chants and crowd behaviours tailored to each individual team or national side. The game also has advanced bench reactions, side-line character animations, ten-man goal celebrations and more to keep you firmly interested in the progress of the match. Those matches against your friends are about to get that little bit more emotional.
You can create and manage your own teams far more easily. You can customise up to six different team sheets per club and adapt your formations, tactics and star players based on the opponent, which will make FIFA 15 perfect for aspiring managers and those who really look for the finer details in formulating that winning eleven. Goalkeepers have also been upgraded, with fifty new save animations and improved goalsaving AI. Witness breath-stopping and improved save reactions at the last second supplemented with realistic tips and deflections. You will learn to fear this goalie’s fingertips. Outside the goal, team members will react convincingly to changing play, just like real-life players. New team tactics, such as ‘Park the Bus‘ and ‘In The Mixer’ will be some cool team play features on offer in FIFA 15.
The graphics are far more advanced too. Gone are the stiff, wooden and slightly pixelated player of old, and say hello to players with fluid movement and painstaking detail in their appearance and kit. Shadows and shirt creases are reproduced faithfully, which shows that FIFA 15 really does have its eye on the ball…and on the little details. The players will look and feel powerful and athletic, and even the kits will flutter realistically as your strikers charge down towards that quick-as-lightning goalkeeper. Indeed such is the attention to detail, that even small things such as debris on the pitch, skid marks from footballers’ boots, LED advertisement hoardings and the fluttering of corner flags are there in glorious lifelike three dimensions. They have really done their research here.
The players tackle in style, with shirt-pulling and shoulder barges something to contend with when getting that ball off your opponent. Once you have won the ball, prepare to be amazed as your dribbling and touches of boot on ball are more realistic and believable. Footwork, spin and general ball control will have better accuracy and trajectories as the ball is passed on from player to player.
FIFA 15 also introduces the all new ‘Match Day Live’ feature. Powered by authoritative football site Goal.com, fans can keep updated and on the ball with their club’s latest matches, news and action using an internet connection while they make history with their FIFA 15 version. For budding managers, FIFA 15 builds upon the team management capabilities and career mode of last year’s predecessor with new ways to play, manage the squad and decide on transfers to boost up your side.
That other big game for virtual sports fans, WWE 2K15, is also a must-have for the Christmas stocking. Like FIFA 15, the wrestling version also promises to bring fans of sport entertainment a more realistic and relatable configuration of gameplay, as the virtual becomes more like the reality.
WWE 2K15 is being published by 2K Sports, with in-game development by Visual Concepts&Yuke’s – the second title being released from the well-receivedWWE 2Kseries. The plans in the works are for this title to be released sometime late October this year on Xbox 360andPlayStation 3, and will be the first WWE game to be released onPlayStation 4andXbox One. Its North American release is scheduled for October 28, 2014 and in Europe on October 31. The cover features WWE Superstar and king of the invisible John Cenaand is also the first to use the new WWE logo, which was introduced at the launch of theWWE Networkin February 2014. Unlike Cena, fans will hopefully be able to see this latest WWE video game appearing in their local superstore in only a month’s time.
The game’s designers claim that 2K15 will usher in a new era of WWE video gaming, delivering the experience fans have been searching for generations. It aims to be the most authentic, comprehensive and action-packed WWE video game experience to date. The ‘Next-Gen Superstars’ will have more realistic movements and mannerisms, with improvements to body, attire and facial features of individual wrestlers, resulting in a highly life-like and natural look. There will also be improvements to stage lighting featured in the sets on the game and better all-in-ring sound effects and acoustics.
The roster featured in the game will be one of the most comprehensive I have ever seen in a WWE game, including Hall of Famers, current favourites such as Cena, Bigshow, the Usos, Dolph Ziggler, Batista, Randy Orton and the Undertaker. There also good representations by the WWE Divas, including big names like Brie Bella, Natalya and Summer Rae. Full details of the complete roster will soon be announced on the WWE 2K website. It is believed up to sixty superstars may feature in the game as new modes are dribbled out to fans and gaming media.
Unlike FIFA, a collector’s edition of the game has already been released earlier this month. It features a copy of the game pre-released with special premium packaging, a collectible wrestling promo card signed by Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan, exclusiveFunko“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan vinyl figure, an actual piece of the ring canvas from Hogan’s appearance onWWE Rawon March 10, 2014, two playable pre-order launch exclusive Hulk Hogan characters, and two playable pre-order launch exclusiveStingcharacters. There are only 25,000 collector’s editions being made at the time of release, according to a Wikipedia article dedicated to the game.
The game has been blazing fires underneath the backsides of critics, with many applauding its faithful homage to the dramatism of the WWE’s infamous storylines, the ‘soap opera with stunners’ as giant of the ring The Bigshow once described it. Review Darryn Bonthuys described WWE 2K15 as a game which heralded the entrance into an age of wrestling games that captured both the attitude and nostalgia of sports entertainment, in a way never really touched on before. Even the detail afforded to some wrestler’s beards is astonishing, amazing even the superstars themselves. On a recent scanning for his character in the game, Yes-Man Daniel Bryansaid to Sports Illustrated “When I went for my scans, 2K had so much machinery in their studio, it’s like being in the future,”
“I get weirded-out just being around that much technology. I was like, ‘These things won’t give me cancer, right?”
The article by Bonthuys delves deeper into WWE 2K15’s obsession with detail, aided by the better graphics handling of the latest consoles, such as the PS4:
“It’s incredible what they can do now. The detail they capture is amazing. My beard looks perfect in the game. It looks exactly how it does in real life. But they also have small details like the scar on the top of Randy Orton’s head. He has this small little knick, and it’s detailed perfectly. I know when I was playing the game, when I saw the little things like Randy’s scar, when I saw how my beard looked, I was blown away.”
Grappling and other moves are more like what you would expect in a wrestling match than running up and just hitting the analogue stick. The game, despite its many visual and gameplay improvements and tweaks, is still easy for first-time and casual gamers to pick up the skills needed to lift the championship belt, while keeping seasoned gamers and wrestling fans hooked and impressed with the new 2K way of chokeslamming things. The ratio of ring to wrestler sizes is more believable and you can no longer take the easy route out by simply running around the squared circle.
The game will also feature a match history mode, tailored to be just like the bad blood and storylines of the Smackdown and Raw shows as seen on TV. The mode will pick up on past rivalries between superstars and is provisionally being called the ‘2K Showcase’. In comparison to the previous older sibling of the WWE 2K family, the story mode will be similar toWWE 2K14‘s30 Years of WrestleManiamode in that it focuses on historical events, but will be more like the Attitude Era mode where it focuses on specifics rather than generalities. The two main feuds highlighted in 2K15 are John Cena vs. CM Punk which took place between 2011 and 2013, and the Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels rivalry which began in 2002. Players will be able to relive a total of 33 matches across the feuds, where key historical objectives must be completed in order to progress further in the mode. As with last year’s game, high-quality documentary packages will accompany each rivalry. This emphasis on the nitty-gritty will also make gameplay just that more believable for diehard wrestling fans who want the perfect story of hatred in the locker room. Players will also have access to a self-operated ‘MyCareer’ mode which sees them take on the Lycra mantle of a superstar and gives them the chance to develop his or her career via the Creative Suite and to evolve and take on challenges for title belts. This mode will be exclusive to the XBox One and PS4 versions of WWE 2K15 though.
I can definitely say this about my best friend and I can say this for myself and my games-mad siblings as well. Playing these two games will be an experience that will blow away all the memories I had of previous playing PlayStation and XBox games on the sacred subjects of football and wrestling entertainment. Just the detail and dedication the designers have spent on the graphics and kinetics of the FIFA footballers and WWE wrestlers alone will be mind-blowing. Even though I do not own a games console, and am what nowadays you could convincingly call a ‘casual gamer’, a part-timer in the world of video games, I can appreciate the way these two titles will change my whole viewpoint of gaming for 2015. Just the thought of being able to play and control something that is so very near the real deal is itself a moment I look forward to experiencing. The thrills, the spills, the crossfaces and the cross-kicks. Whether slamming an opponent into the ringside or booting a ball into the net, I think FIFA 15 and WWE 2K15 are the ones to watch for sports games on the PS and others. Let’s hope my brothers have put in their pre-orders.
with Huzaifah Jearally (idea contributor) & Arjun Shah (Flappy Bird fan/review assistant)
Flappy Bird is the new game that is causing a whole generation of phones to be dashed to pieces against walls as more and more people try to guide a tiny bird past pipes without causing a collision. Yet the developer behind the runaway success has admitted that he just got lucky, according to technology news site Tech Crunch.
The game, which is influenced by the 8-bit graphical technology associated with hit old-school games like the 1980s Super Mario series, was the brainchild of a Vietnamese ‘indie developer’ named Ha Dong Nguyen, who claims to be the one-man operation behind a small franchise named .GEARS Studios, the makers of Flappy Bird. He has coded games for the past four years.
.GEARS is one of a new breed of mobile games and app powerhouses that have come into their own since the development of smartphones took off post-2005. On its website, the company’s production policy states “mostly, we’re making arcade games that are bite-sized, take no more than a few minutes of playing right on smartphones and tablets.
Our work is heavily influenced by retro pixellated games in its golden age. Everything is pure, extremely hard and incredibly fun to play.”
While his popular game has stormed the Google Play and iTunes store charts, Nguyen much rather prefers to keep a low profile. He avoids requests for media interviews and when Tech Crunch journalists sent him a list of personal questions to answer, he commented “I’m not comfortable with being exposed.” Even on the internet, that haven of anonymity, Nguyen is virtually unknown and his name appears not be mentioned on the Flappy Bird game itself. Recently however, he has opened a Twitter account and has made appearances on a web forum for game developers. His wish for secrecy also extends to his company. .GEARS offers almost no information on its development team, such as staff bios and keeps its repertoire of gaming apps largely under wraps.
In the interview with Tech Crunch, Nguyen stated that it took him around two to three days to set up Flappy Bird with both influences and artwork borrowed from other games. It is not known however if he obtained permission from the other games’ manufacturers to do so. He keenly expects Flappy Bird’s rampant successes among gamers to translate to big opportunities for .GEARS. Though Nguyen insists his studios is not a company and he is the only one behind it, the game’s popularity has given him hope of further expansion in both the payroll and the bankroll. He added “Before ‘Flappy Bird’, none of my games have 1/100th of that popularity.”.
I don’t know how my games can be so popular. Most of my players are kids in schools. I would like to thanks them for playing my game and sharing it to other people.“
“It is hard to believe, I understand. I have no resources to do anything else beside uploading the game.”“The popularity could be my luck,”
Indeed, Nguyen’s almost impossible to play homage to the humble bird-in-the-sky has rapidly gone viral, with millions of fans and new downloads per week, challenging the dominance of more established multi-developer titles such as Candy Crush (King Inc.) and Roxio’s Angry Birds games. Thousands of players have given their take on Nguyen’s money-spinner with the hashtag #flappybird on Twitter, and fans have also set up social media accounts and hobby sites for Flappy Bird without Nguyen having to lift a finger. Both friends and foes of the game have competed to write zany or less-than-complimentary reviews and analyses. Already 300,000 reviews have been posted across the internet, according to figures by Tech Crunch, and the number is growing. Some observers in the industry have suspicions however, that a garden-shed game that only saw the light of day last year has already reached epidemic download proportions, despite no clear marketing strategy or support from advertisers.
Even with the controversies over Flappy Bird’s successes in the download charts, Nguyen has more in store for the future of the anger-inducing avian. He plans to update the game as well as a couple of others in the .GEARS Studios portfolio and intends to branch out into other gaming formats.
Flappy Bird was released by .GEARS Studios, a company based in the new technology hub of Hanoi in Vietnam, south-east Asia. The game was made available for download in May 2013. By January 2014, Flappy Bird was Number 1 in the Apple App store, with two other .GEARS Studios titles, Super Ball Juggling and Shuriken Block, riding pillion at second and sixth place respectively. The success of the two other titles has been put down to dripfeed popularity from the Bird, as Ha Dong Nguyen does not cross-promote his games outside of the website. In fact a quick visit to the site by this article’s author could not find any mention of Flappy Bird, which makes for a very confusing situation in understanding the game’s popularity. Nevertheless, Flappy Bird now gets 2-3 million downloads a day on iOS and Android. The game is graphically basic, using 8-bit retro games design, a major reversal from the current trend among major gaming app developers of making their offerings true-to-life, 3D or packed with features.
The objective of the game is simple. You are a small bird of species unknown. You are given a countdown and then while cutting through blue sky vertically, you need fly through the gaps between green pipes without touching them or the ground. There seems to be no power-ups or bonuses, the more pipes you pass through unscathed, the better your high score. Though it sounds easy, playing it is a different story. Tech Crunch journalists have expressed admiration for anyone who can make a double-digit score, referring to them as ‘gods’. TC have described Flappy Bird as a game that is irritatingly impossible and yet somehow so addictive.
“As you quickly die and die and die again, the urge to press “OK,” and “Start” seems impossible to resist, so you continue to re-spawn your stupid little bird and try to pass your best score. Overheard at TechCrunch, discussing the game: “Flappy Bird is the downfall of humanity”
One reviewer, also quoted by Tech Crunch, commented “The only reason why I have not yet deleted this horrid game is the overwhelming sense of relief and accomplishment I feel when I finally beat a high score…“. Another said “I assume this feeling will soon consume you, too, but don’t say you were never warned.” “Let me start by saying DO NOT download flappy bird (sic)…People warned me about it, but I didn’t care,”. And a third dramatically stated “My life is over. Your life is over. The world is over,”
The author got a chance to experience the antics of the ‘stupid little bird’ for himself this past Friday, in an impromptu high score challenge with his younger brother. My little brother’s highest score was 32 as far as I can recollect, making him a ‘god’ in the eyes of Tech Crunch’s now frustrated hacks. My first impression of the game was that it looked somewhat cheesy, especially its silly sounding title, but as someone who has seen Super Mario in action eons ago, I did readily appreciate the look of Flappy. My first few attempts at making that little birdie fly were woefully pathetic, with the animal crashing into the first pipe. A distraction from my niece even caused Flappy to nosedive into the ground, making a spectacular thud of failure. After a couple more tries however, I managed to make a respectable score of eight. The game is frustrating (my brother admitted lugging his phone to the floor at one point in utter frustration) but the unearthly and powerful urge to top your previous best score keeps you hooked. I soon got a feel for the gameplay. Tap the screen slowly and keep your eyes peeled. Be ready for breaks in the pipes in unexpected locations. Make sure your phone insurance will cover any unexpected destruction of your handset. Flappy Bird is frustrating, even comically stupid, but it is great for training your attention span and dexterity. The graphics inspire nostalgia without wallowing in it and the gameplay keeps you hooked and focused.
“Developer Behind “Flappy Bird,” The Impossible Game Blowing Up The App Store, Says He Just Got Lucky” – Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch/AOL Inc. (2 February 2014) LINK
“Think you’ve got mad game skills?: try your hand at Flappy Bird” – Kris Carlon, AndroidPIT/AndroidPIT International LINK
“Flappy Bird record score” – Matt Tran, PR (31 January 2014) LINK
In an online world dominated by social media, there’s always a new niche to explore and cater for. We have Twitter for soundbites big and small, MySpace for artists famous and not-so-famous, Instagram for the budding and experienced photographers, and not forgetting Facebook, the indefatigable selfie mill of choice. However, despite the dominance of the big name social media companies, many audiences are not yet represented with social networks, including online gamers.
A new online journal and social network designed especially for online gamers plans to change all that. Dpadd, recently set up in Vancouver, Canada by a “one-man startup” headed by Clayton Correia, promises to give gamer guys and girls a chance to share their love of the console and keyboard with like-minded people, while keeping the dialogue spam-free unlike some competitors. Correia is a design expert who has previously worked with various other startups and technology companies before moving on to his own venture.
Operating in a similar fashion to the popular online book club/sharing website Goodreads, Correia’s concept enables users to record every game they play, rate and review titles and manage a wishlist of games they want to play. Gamers can share updates with their friends and industry professionals, meaning that gamers can not only improve on their game skills, but potentially help input into the development of forthcoming titles. Dpadd also offers an all-in-one profile for gamers to manage their existing accounts like Xbox Live, Playstation Network, Steam and Twitch.
Users can also keep track of important milestones, like high scores and trophies, giving good ammunition for some online boasting. There’s a 40,000-page games encyclopedia of both the latest releases and more established titles.
Dpadd opened its doors to the gaming fraternity on October 7 after seven months of development in beta stage, with tests carried out by an exclusive batch of invitees.
While visiting family, I got a chance to witness a spectacle that has enthralled gamers all over the world this past week. This moment is the end result of years of development that has led to something that has broken several records and is well on place to be the gaming phenomenon not just of 2013, but probably for the next few years too. Lo and behold, it’s the sensation known as Grand Theft Auto V (Five), known popularly by its acronym GTA V. If a modern PlayStation shoot-’em-up collided with a gangster action movie from the ghettos of southern California, this would be the explosion that will set the gaming world alight.
The latest in the Grand Theft Auto series published by Dundee-based games maestro Rockstar, GTA V, which has been made available on the PS3 (Playstation 3) platform, sees a return to the mythical American state of San Andreas and its capital of sin, Los Santos, first encountered in the hip-hop-and-hillbilly-flavoured previous title Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, with new characters and scenarios, and a whole new bunch of missions.
Though I have not had a chance to play GTA V myself, unlike hours spent improving my dodgy driving skills & shootouts on earlier reincarnations of GTA (most notably San Andreas and the groundbreaking Vice City), I was able to get a flavour for Rockstar’s new baby courtesy of my brother, a seriously hardcore gamer. The game starts off with a bank heist, a safe blown open with explosive charges, a bullet through a security guard’s head and plenty of cussing. It’s not one for the faint-hearted. I was taken aback by the quality of the graphics. Cinematic, like a Hollywood film with an honest budget, replete with filmy camera angles. The plot seemed very thick, dramatic and intense and you get this feeling that this is a really grown-up version of GTA: San Andreas.
Grand Theft Auto V has been a game five years in the making. The franchise itself has been going strong for more than fifteen years, with 135 million copies sold worldwide. Rockstar’s latest epic has already cost £170 million in production and marketing alone, more than a lot of Hollywood blockbusters. Three million pre-orders were placed on the retail website Amazon weeks in advance of GTA V’s première on the 17th September 2013. Twenty-five million copies are expected to be sold within the first year after GTA V’s release, netting a potential profit of GBP £1 billion in Rockstar Games’ substantially swollen bank account.
The game has generated a frenzy among gamers young and old. Here in the UK, stores such as Asda held midnight game launches and many shops in central London saw people camping outside the premises for up to a week in advance. One dedicated, or perhaps slightly loony, guy was even offered £200 by someone desperate to get a prime spot in the queue. The customer, who has even set up a tent right there on the pavement, refused the offer, hoping for better. Branches of Game, a video games vendor on the high street, reported ‘chaos’ as hundreds of people deluged their stores hoping to stake a claim on a plastic case containing a specimen of this hotly anticipated game. Even street criminals got in on the hype. A 23-year-old man in Colindale, north London, was struck with a brick and stabbed by youths after returning from a midnight store opening at a nearby Asda supermarket. Thankfully he survived.
Gamers with legitimate means and intentions are more than pleased with GTA V. Fans have been drawn to the game not only for its “thrills, spills, skills”, and of course, its kills; but also for its involving gameplay. GTA V has the superb ability to really situate the player at the heart of their personal movie, where they call the shots – and avoid getting shot. There is intense drama by the bucketload and the in-play graphics have more shine than a pimp’s Audi convertible. A lot of attention has been paid to detail and you could be forgiven for thinking you really were drifting down Vinewood Boulevard on a hot summer’s day. Even the road surface and street art on the walls of surburban Los Santos are accurate to the last stone and colour fade.
Los Santos: a sprawling sun-soaked metropolis full of self-help gurus, starlets and fading celebrities, once the envy of the Western world, now struggling to stay afloat in an era of economic uncertainty and cheap reality TV.
A quote from Rockstar Games’ official GTA V fan site….
GTA V sees the player taking on multiple character roles as one of three criminals trying to make it big in the San Andreas underworld. There is Franklin, a hustler who is looking out for some decent opportunities and a stack of cash. Then there’s Michael, the professional ex-convict experiencing a less than rosy retirement. Packing the heat with them is the twisted trigger-happy maniac Trevor, who lives every day looking for the next narcotics hit. In an uncertain world fraught with danger and antagonised law enforcement, the trio go on a series of elaborate schemes and daringly dangerous heists that will make or break them.
GTA V is available worldwide on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. In the UK, you can pick up a copy at all major games outlets as well as Asda, Sainsbury’s and Curry’s/PC World outlets among others.
THE TRAILER and OFFICIAL GAMEPLAY VIDEO (Rockstar Games’ YouTube channel :-