Squared v1.1 now available

Squared icon

A new version of Squared for iPhone and iPod touch is now available to download from the App Store. Squared now incorporates the OpenFeint gaming network which means you can earn achievements and post your best score to the online leaderboards for all the world to see.

OpenFeint logo

Squared for iPhone and iPod touch

Squared logo

My first iPhone game is now available from the App Store! Its called Squared and is basically an iPhone version of the classic pencil-and-paper game ‘Squares’ (or ‘Dots’). There are four different grid sizes and you can play against the computer and see how many squares you can get on each or play against a friend. You can also play over peer-to-peer using Bluetooth – perfect for the back of a boring lecture which is where I used to play Squares :)

Squared screens

There is also a lite version which is free but doesn’t include peer-to-peer play and is ad-supported. Its free! Give it a try :)

Squared is built using Cocos2D for iPhone framework which I thoroughly recommend for anyone looking at writing iPhone games.

Bits and pieces for 2008-11-19

  • Access your New Xbox Experience avatar
    While questions remain about Microsoft borrowing from Nintendo with regards Avatars, they have made their assets addressable which is a nice touch. Here’s me:

    Bowlage

    Can’t think what to do with him though…

  • Mirror’s Edge 2D (beta)
    Nice Flash version of the recent release from EA/DICE. Seems to be the tradition these day.

Microsoft’s surprisingly strong E3

In the lead up to this year’s E3, Microsoft were touting that their press conference would be “game changing“. While I it wasn’t up there with Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone, fanboys around the world would have been shocked when Square Enix announced Final Fantasy XIII for the Xbox 360.

The bulk of the presentation centred around the new Xbox Experience, integral to which is a complete dashboard overhaul. Microsoft have unsurprisingly chosen a different direction for the new dashboard interface to that proposed by the community but are clearly listening to Xbox Live’s now over 12 million members. Looking like a close relation of the Windows Media Centre dashboard, Microsoft do not hide the fact that the new Xbox 360 interface is aimed squarely at the living room family audience. The introduction of ‘avatars’ might be a natural extension of gamerpics but on the face of it look like Nintendo’s Miis with a few more polygons.

Identity and community have always been integral to the Xbox Live experience – something Microsoft has excelled at – and they are taking this further in the dashboard overhaul. An integrated 8-player party system means players can team up with their friends across games, media and chat. The idea of consuming media with your friends virtually is something many people have investigated (including me during my time at BBC R&D) and it will be interesting to see if the Xbox implemtation will work. I simply don’t use my 360 in that way so am skeptical at the moment but a cross-game party system should benefit casual and hardcore gamers alike.

It was a safe bet that Microsoft would continue to probe the newly expanded casual game market. Their challenge is making the Xbox 360 the platform of choice for everyone while keeping die-hard Halo fans happy. Not easy. But by stealing long-standing PlayStation exclusives from Sony, grabbing exclusive downloadable content from cross-platform titles and showing some awesome new Gears of War 2 footage, I think the Xbox’s core audience will see this as a strong showing too.

Links and things

  • Sony has introduced a new cut-price and cut-featured PS3
    And I thought Microsoft had confused the issue by selling Xbox 360′s with and without hard drives. The new 40GB PS3 will have limited connectivity and no backward compatibility and will sell for £300. I guess so long as the games play exactly the same it doesn’t matter..?
  • After raking in USD 300 Million from Halo 3, Bungie and Microsoft part ways
    Up until today Bungie studios was wholly-owned by Microsoft Game Studios but will now once more be independent. MGS owns the IP for the Halo franchise and Microsoft ‘will retain an equity interest in Bungie’ but the studio will be able to work on projects of their own choosing.

And then there were three

While I fight with the Blogger Beta to give me labels (I am a stickler for organised design), I should reflect on the launch of the PS3 and Wii (in North America and Japan at least) last week. I think the videogame-playing world needs a healthy fight between console manufacturers and games developers so we get the best entertainment. But when companies and publishers are having to gamble such huge sums of money in the process, it is no wonder why we will see another Need for Speed title next year. Microsoft lose around US$75 per Xbox 360 they ship and Sony lose upwards of US$250 for every PS3 sold. Apart from the subsidies found on new mobile phones, I can’t think of a market in which companies invest so much and are willing to take such a hit in order to invest in potential future profits. And while Sony and Microsoft continue their high technology mud-slinging, Nintendo have managed to enter the next generation with the most innovative offering, and one which the will actual make a profit on from day one. Is it possible Nintendo could pull off another DS v PSP victory over Sony? Somehow I doubt it, the PlayStation brand is simply too strong.

By complete coincidence (no, really) as the PS3 was waiting (for minutes at least) to be snapped up, Microsoft shipped its most AAA of AAA titles, Gears of War. At the end of day with any entertainment platform or service, content is king and Gears of War proves that it is the games that we should be excited about, not the badge on the front of the console. It is a truly remarkable experience and, as Gametrailers put it, a technical marvel. I hope Epic Games have room left to optimise their Unreal 3 engine because while they have set a new benchmark for the Xbox 360 and the consoles just entering the next generation, let’s hope they, or others, can push the boundaries further. Did someone say Halo 3…?

  • 1:39 am, 9th May 2006
  • gaming
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Sony revise the PS3

At E3 last year, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft announced their plans for the ‘next generation’. It was clear that Microsoft would launch first with the Xbox 360 and Sony famously announced the next generation does not start until we say it does. Following this year’s E3 Sony press conference it appears that Sony have waited to launch the PS3 in order to ‘borrow’ innovative ideas from both the Xbox 360 and recently renamed Nintendo Wii consoles. The next generation doesn’t start when Sony says it does, it starts when they have had time to poach ideas from their competitors.

The controversial original PS3 ‘boomerang’ controller has been ditched in favour of what looks like a Dual-Shock with player indicators and PlayStation ‘home’ button (a la Xbox 360) and 6 degrees of motion sensing (a la Nintendo Wii).

Are Sony bringing more to the next generation than just brute power?

Me and my Xbox 360

My Xbox 360I haven’t posted anything in a while because I’ve spent a lot of my time getting to know my Xbox 360. I was lucky enough to get one on the launch weekend and have been sampling the delights of ‘next-gen’ gaming since. I have to say I’m an Xbox fan and I like very much what Microsoft are trying to do with the Live service.

The Live Arcade is a very clever inclusion which benefits gamers, developers and Microsoft alike. We can trial and buy ‘simple’ games for a fraction of the cost of full releases, developers can write games which would not see release through the traditional channel and Microsoft have a continuing income stream.

I think the dashboard software its self is a bit of a let-down and in need of patching. Microsoft have tried to include great functionality like being able to bring it up at any time during a game but this clearly places a strain on the system – should resources be reserved for this? Downloading large game demos is also a bit of a pain. A game demo can be all of 1GB but you cannot pause and resume downloads and do other things. Navigation through the dashboard is simple, easy and fairly elegant but not a very ‘next-gen’ experience.

The Xbox 360 as a games console is (apparently) a lot less powerful than the PlayStation 3 which boasts up to twice the raw processing power and can drive multiple displays at 1080p, but will anyone be able to take advantage? Sony have stated they will not be operating a similar service to Xbox Live and will leave online gaming up to individual games developers. This is an area in which Microsoft can surely profit. At the end of the day Microsoft and Sony look to be focusing on what they do best: Microsoft on software and Sony on hardware.

The games on Xbox have always been closer to genres associated with PC gaming than the PS2 and the initial crop of 360 titles continues this. Playing the system through my PC monitor further moves the console into the PC space. If you only have a standard definition TV you have to play the 360 through a composite connection unless you purchase an RGB scart cable or VGA cable and use you PC monitor. The latter also gives you the full resolution. If you are going to create a gaming system with so much power why bundle it with an SD composite cable? It looks so bad through composite it really doesn’t do the graphics justice.

All in all I’m very happy with my purchase. The launch titles could do with a couple of months worth of polish but once your speeding along a beautifully recreated Brooklyn Bridge in a Ferrari F50 in PGR3 you can forgive the minor glitches.

  • 2:34 pm, 13th November 2005
  • gaming
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It could all have been so different

It seems the PlayStation almost never happened
Originally a partnership between Sony and Nintendo? I’m glad that never happened, Sony and Nintendo working separately keep each other (and Microsoft) honest and keep the console wars a decent battle ground :-)

Xbox 360 and iPod interoperability

When I first read that the forth-coming Xbox 360 would allow me to stream music off my iPod I was surprised and excited. Up until then I was dreading the thought of having to rip my favourite tracks on to the 360′s hard drive (something which seemed to take forever on Xbox). It turns out interoperability between Microsoft’s new games machine and Apple’s market-leading audio player is not as straight forward as it first sounded. Songs purchased through iTunes will not stream to the 360 due to Apple’s DRM system. This seems like a shame as the 360 will not be allowed to copy songs, merely play them – its much like playing your iPod through your stereo whilst playing a game. This won’t affect me at the moment at least because I have only purchased one song from the iTunes music store.

Along with full Media Centre extender functionality the Xbox 360 will also stream music from any Windows XP SP2 machine on the same LAN. Will iTunes-purchased music stream in this senario? Either way its another great feature as far as I can see and keeps the hard drive free for other things.

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