Category Archives: Video Games/Tech

Phonebloks could be the responsible future for mobile phones. Or the responsible future of awesome Lego phones.

Also: super cool.

Electronic devices are generally not designed to last. Inevitably they fail and then you’re stuck looking at either hundreds of dollars in repair costs from some sort of “Genius” or having to replace the phone entirely. This is particularly evident with Apple devices where both the software and the hardware are part of a closed system. There are some customisation options when you purchase a device, but if one part ends up failing it is often difficult and expensive for Regular Joe to replace the part. It’s usually easier to just throw it out and start again.

This is causing a huge problem for a number of reasons. It’s unbelievably expensive to replace the whole device instead of simply repairing the faulty part. Yes it’s easier and if you have more money than sense then I guess it’s not really a problem but with most new smartphones sitting around the $600-800 mark that can get seriously expensive. Particularly if you’re in the habit of dropping phones into toilets or smashing the screen as a lot of people are wont to do.

It’s also wasteful to just discard the entire device if only a part of it is faulty or no longer performing at the level you require. But because so many consumers don’t possess the technical know-how (or the devices are specifically designed to limit end-user modification) they’re often not left with a lot of options. Let’s also not forget that smartphone manufacturers like Apple work on a system with built in obsolescence. Usually after 18 months of a phone release there will be a new system designed to work on a new OS which is increasingly less compatible on older models. Try running iOS 6 on an iPhone 3G or 3Gs if you want to see what I mean.

Enter Phonebloks, a concept for a completely modular smartphone made from a series of “bloks” that are attached to a central base. Do you like taking a lot of photos with your phone? Then why not replace the blocks for bluetooth or the compass to free up some space on the base for you to install a better camera. Or if you do a lot of work in the cloud you could reduce the size of the on-board storage blok and opt for a bigger battery. Finally parents around the world could be living the dream of having a modern phone “that just makes calls” and children around the world could give their eyes a rest from all that rolling they’ve been doing every time they hear that same…joke? Is it a joke? Do they think it’s funny? I don’t know, the point is they can stop and the world would be a better place for it.

Every component, including the screen, is completely replaceable

Every component, including the screen, is completely replaceable

It’s a really clever idea and it allows the end user to be entirely in control of the phone they are buying. You wouldn’t have to compare the different HTC models (what are there, 500 now?) to find the one that best suits your needs. You could just build the phone you know you want to use now.

All smartphones come with their own app store where you can purchase and download different applications for the OS, Phonebloks would run a similar model for hardware with their Blokstore. If your needs change and you need to change the configuration of your bloks you just order the new bloks from the store and when it arrives you send them back your old, unwanted bloks. This is where the cool tech meets environmental responsibility. At least as far as they’re claiming on their website, this system is designed to minimise e-waste, since you’re not actually throwing out electronic devices. They don’t actually mention it at all on their site but there may be a market for used bloks but eventually they would have to have some sort of plan for responsibly disposing of or recycling the outdated or damaged bloks.

It seems their first prototype design would be roughly the size of an iPhone 4

It seems their first prototype design would be roughly the size of an iPhone 4

This is just an idea at this stage, the phone doesn’t exist and it’s going to be a difficult uphill battle to make it exist. The Phonebloks website contains information about their plan as well as a link to “Join the Thunderclap” where you essentially sign up for a giant, worldwide social media blast. The idea is to make hardware manufacturers pay attention and see that there is a demand for such a product. I am usually very cynical about these sorts of things but I want it to exist so bad because my phone contract expires soon and I want a goddamn mobile phone made out of Lego! So sign up for the Thunderclap, it requires about the bare minimum of effort on your part to support a really cool project and it’s cheap as free (the support, that is, who knows how much the phone would actually cost?).

Anyway, this advertorial was brought to you but Not Enough Sleep, Overenthusiastic Nerd Excitement, and Phonebloks®: The Phone Of The Future For Today™©.

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Dead Island Riptide’s Australian special edition features bloody, dismembered torso

According to Deep Silver the Zombie Bait edition of the game will feature a 31cm, hand painted resin statue described as a "grotesque take on an iconic Roman marble torso sculpture."

According to Deep Silver the Zombie Bait edition of the game will feature a 31cm, hand painted resin statue described as a “grotesque take on an iconic Roman marble torso sculpture.”

Publisher of upcoming spinoff game Dead Island Riptide, Deep Silver, sent out a press release earlier today announcing that Australia and the UK will be receiving a very special edition of the game.

Along with the usual DLC and artwork that tends to accompany special editions, Dead Island fans can expect a high quality, hand painted resin statue of a dismembered female corpse.

Not a whole corpse, mind you. Just boobs and a g-string bikini.

Deep Silver sales and marketing director Paul Nicholls said in a statement the mutilated body “would make a striking conversation piece on any discerning zombie gamer’s mantel.”

Presumably the conversation to which he is referring would be “why am I in this person’s house?”

The almost universally negative response from fans, the press and the gaming industry have prompted an apology from Deep Silver UK but see if you can spot the problem here.

We deeply apologize for any offense caused by the Dead Island Riptide “Zombie Bait Edition”, the collector’s edition announced for Europe and Australia. Like many gaming companies, Deep Silver has many offices in different countries, which is why sometimes different versions of Collector’s Editions come into being for North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

For the limited run of the Zombie Bait Edition for Europe and Australia, a decision was made to include a gruesome statue of a zombie torso, which was cut up like many of our fans had done to the undead enemies in the original Dead Island.

We sincerely regret this choice. We are collecting feedback continuously from the Dead Island community, as well as the international gaming community at large, for ongoing internal meetings with Deep Silver’s entire international team today. For now, we want to reiterate to the community, fans and industry how deeply sorry we are, and that we are committed to making sure this will never happen again.

It first appears that they are apologising for releasing different special editions in different regions but when they do get to the issue of the torso very little is actually said.

They are “collecting feedback” to make sure this “will never happen again”. This is all well and good but it ignores two key questions:

1) How did this even happen in the first place? Presumably there were a team of people who signed off on this, did none of them stop and think “hey, this is not at all OK”?

2) Are they going to remove the torso from the special edition?

At no point in their apology do they say they are going to get rid of the torso. If they were truly “deeply sorry” surely it would be the sensible thing to do. As it stands their apology reads like “whoopsie-doodle, we’re super sorry you called us out on this but don’t forget to make some space on your bedside table for the dismembered body.”

If nothing else, this news highlights the importance of movements like #1reasonwhy in helping the gaming industry evolve.

It’s time to grow up, guys.

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Humble Indie Bundle V

Dear fellow lovers of vidja games,

Head over to Humble Bundle and buy the Humble Indie Bundle V. Just do it.

For those that don’t know, the Humble Indie Bundle is a collection of independent games, released with a “pay what you want” model. Once you’ve selected how much you want to pay you can then choose how you want to divide the money between the developers, Child’s Play, or the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

So not only do you get awesome games, you also get to feel all fuzzy on the inside and help some folks out.

The fifth bundle contains Amnesia: The Dark Descent, LIMBO, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Psychonauts and one of my top ten games from 2011, Bastion. You also get the soundtracks to each of the games. I can’t speak for all of them, but the Bastion soundtrack is nothing short of fantastic.

Just do yourself a favour and check it out here.

Hugs and kisses,

Ed

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First Impressions: Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’m not super into Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPG or just MMOs). There’s something about being forced to interact with internet people in order to complete objectives that never really interested me.

However, I was taken in by BioWare‘s Star Wars MMO and, knowing some friends were equally interested, I imported a copy of Star Wars: The Old Republic from Amazon.

I had to import it because, for whatever reason, it was decided that Australia wasn’t to receive a launch at the same time as North America and Europe.

Were they worried that Mad Maxian gangs riding kangaroos would deliberately target their servers for vicious hit-and-hops?

Pictured: Australia according to Electronic Arts

Once I selected a server to play on (no Australian servers yet, obviously) I was presented with the choice of playing a Republic or Sith character.

Space racism abounds!

I like the idea of playing someone who’s kind of a dick but unfortunately, at the time, I had no friends playing Sith, so I hopped on the Republic side to roll with some buddies.

There were a handful of classes to choose from, covering the classic Star Wars archetypes: Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler and Trooper. I chose a smuggler because even though I had to be a good guy, I wanted to at least be a little bit of a wiener.

Next up was species selection and this was my first introduction to the space-racism that permeates the Old Republic. I was told that “Human’s are versatile and the norm against which other species are judged”. Um…ok, I guess I should be one of those?

The character creation options seemed pretty standard – if a little light – for an MMO. I figured it would only be appropriate to model my character, Brychan, after the great Aussie actor Errol Flynn.

I think I did an alright job of it!

How does it play?

Guess what, guys, SW:TOR is an MMO-ass-MMO game! There are quest givers with quest markers who usually just tell you to “got to X and kill/destroy/gather Y”.

You have a skill bar mapped to hot-keys, they have a cool down and you gain new ones as you level up.

BioWare isn’t trying to revolutionise the way you play MMOs, and that’s totally fine, I enjoy the combat and the smuggler has some cool abilities utilising cover that make him a bit more interesting in combat.

Where SW:TOR sets itself apart is with its story. Now I’m not going to speak to the quality of the story – it seems fine enough and keeps you interested in exploring more of the world – but the way they deliver that story is pretty great.

Every character in this game, even one-time quest givers, engage you in fully voice acted dialogue scenes, with that all-too-familiar BioWare dialogue wheel. It is here that the game feels the most like Knights of the Old Republic, which can only be a good thing.

Flashpoints

The other day I finally got out of my beginners area and played a “Flashpoint” with a friend who was playing a Jedi Sentinal.

Flashpoints are “action-packed, story-driven adventures that test a group of players to their limits, putting them up against difficult foes in volatile situations.”

Essentially they’re long quests with difficult enemies and they’re a lot of fun. Each player gets to vote on what dialogue option they want with dice rolls dictating which is chosen. This can lead to some interesting conversations.

But the best part about the Flashpoint I ran was being able to just goof around with my mate and kick some dudes in the bean bag.

Lag?

The biggest problem with not releasing the game in Australia is not that the game isn’t available locally; Amazon shipped the game in a matter of days so that really wasn’t a hassle.

The biggest issue is the lack of local servers forcing any Aussie players to look to North America or Europe.

I was worried this was going to result in some serious lag but I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. I can only think of one issue during the Flashpoint where I experienced any real issues with lag and it was only for about 20 seconds so anyone with a decent internet connection should have no issue playing in Australia.

Impressions

So far I’m having a tonne of fun in SWTOR. I’m only about level 13 so I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ll explore the Sith options a bit more and really test how solo-able the game is.

It seems that BioWare has succeeded in creating an MMO that I’m genuinely interested in. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re a Star Wars fan and like talking to people on the internet, then you should definitely give it a shot.

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Jack’s Top Ten Games of 2011

The not-quite-ten edition!

Ok so I have a friend, his name is Jack, and he plays about as many games as I do so I thought it would be fun to have him whip up his list of top 10 (or nine) games from last year. Anyone who’s actually reading this probably already knows who he is, but if you don’t you can find him on Twitter (@BigJackAttack) and on Tumblr. Anyway, enjoy!

Hey there, friends of myself and/or Ed!

I know you were expecting a list of my top 10 video games of 2011, but I just couldn’t do it. I’ve played literally trillions of games in my life (possibly all of them), but apparently I only played 9 that came out this year. I was thinking of making one up, just to fit in, but then I was worried someone would call me out on my ruse and frankly, I don’t need that kind of heat.

So here you go, my top 9 games of 2011.

9. Jetpack Joyride

I spend a huge amount of time sitting on a plane, bus, or car, and also trapped in classes like “The Fundamentals of Taxation” (not as exciting as it sounds). Now, I’m pretty good at sleeping, but sometimes I’m just wide awake and trapped in these terribly boring places, so without Jetpack Joyride, I’m not sure I would have survived through this year. I don’t know why Barry Steakfries is flying around with machine guns on his back, but it’s addictive as crap and I kind of just want to collect all the coins and fly around on a robot dragon. Is that too much to ask?

8. Orcs Must Die!

I don’t know what it is about tower defence games, but I just can’t get enough of them. I’ve spent countless hours placing and upgrading towers in any game I could (usually while not paying attention in an IT class or something).

I was a bit skeptical of Robot Entertainment‘s third-person shooter/tower defence abomination, but it’s filled to the brim with charm, chaotic (but not too chaotic) gameplay, and a few genuinely funny jokes. Orcs Must Die! was well worth the 10 bucks I spent on it.

7. NBA 2K12

SPORTS!

I know, I know, you probably think I’m biased [Jack plays college basketball – Ed], but the truth is I wasn’t too sure about this game to begin with. When video game developers are forced to put out new versions of the same game every single year, I find it hard to see how much they can improve more than updating the rosters and maybe improving the graphics.

Seeing as the last NBA game I bought was in 2006, I figured it was time to give this new one a shot and I did not regret it. Despite a few glitches, including one that  made Jack “White Lightning” Railton-Woodcock unable to win his first NBA Championship that he so clearly deserved, 2k SportsNBA 2K12 is one of the most faithful reproductions of the sport I love that I’ve ever seen.

6. Bulletstorm

Bulletstorm was one of the most enjoyable video game experiences I’ve had this year and if it wasn’t so darn short it would be much closer to the top of my list.

The game only took a few hours to beat, but those few hours were packed with beautiful graphics, a genuinely interesting story, and shooting a whole lot of bad guys in the crotch. Bulletstorm was so great because the developer made an extremely clever, well-made game, folded up neatly into an incredibly stupid one. Duke Nukem Forever could have learned a thing or two from this little gem.

5. Modern Warfare 3

The Call of Duty franchise is as popular as anything I’ve seen. Their last three games have each broken the entertainment industry record for sales in the first 24 hours, beating out any other music, film, or book release ever.

Modern Warfare 3 seemed to take the approach of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, so despite being more or less the same game as Black Ops or Modern Warfare 2, the new modes and gameplay tweaks made by Infinity Ward are just enough to keep players coming back.

I had loads of fun with this game, and despite the foul mouthed 13 year old kids, and the occasional hacker, it seems that quite a few million other people did too.

4. Portal 2

Coming off Valve‘s unexpected success with Portal back in 2007, Portal 2 had huge shoes to fill. Fortunately for us, it easily reached many of those high expectations, and became one of the best first person puzzle games ever.

The mechanics hinge on the use of the portal gun, which is easily the most awesome device in any video game I’ve played recently. It would often take me 20 minutes longer than it should have to solve a Portal 2 puzzle, just because I was tooling around with those damn portals.

With this great foundation, Valve added some wonderful voice acting from Ellen McLain (GlaDOS), Stephen Merchant (Wheatley) and JK Simmons (Cave Johnson), which made the already fascinating story genuinely funny at the same time [And let’s not forget Nolan North‘s contribution! – Ed].

I don’t often laugh out loud while I’m by myself playing video games, but Cave Johnson and Wheatley had me giggling away pretty much constantly.

3. Bastion

If there’s one thing wrong with Supergiant GamesBastion, it’s that I devoured the whole game in just a few sessions.

The beautiful art style, fascinating story, and the awesome narrator combined to make something that was just better than the sum of its already impressive parts. I really felt compelled to find out what went wrong in the city, and also to smush as many Gasfellas as I could with my big old hammer.

Easily the best download-only game I’ve ever played, and if the developer’s only crime is that they kept me wanting more, then I think they’re on the right track.

2. Batman: Arkham City

So Bane is pretty big...

Batman is awesome. That’s pretty much a given. So when it comes to Arkham City, I think their most impressive feat is that they can actually make you feel like Batman.

Everything from punching a bunch of dudes in the head, to tracking the location of a sniper bullet with Bat-vision, makes you feel like you’re running around the broken down (and kind of terrifying) Arkham City in Batman’s pointy black bat boots.

There is also a huge amount of fan service for the more die-hard Batman fans (which I don’t claim to be), with cameos from a huge number of secondary characters and villains from the comic books and TV show, including Robin, Poison Ivy, Bane, and even the Penguin.

It may sound strange to say about a superhero video game, but there was an impressive amount of realism involved in Arkham City. The whole time I found myself thinking to myself that if Arkham City were real, and I was really Batman, then this is probably exactly what I would be doing. What I was doing, more often than not, was obviously sneaking around and throwing batarangs into the bad guys’ necks, but I just couldn’t get enough.

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

So, so pretty!

Couldn’t get enough, that is, until Skyrim came out.

Normally I’m not a big fan of these open world adventures, where the game gives you brief introduction before thrusting you out into the world with nothing but a bow and four arrows. I’m just a little intimidated by the amount of choice I have and I usually just end up paralysed with fear, unable to make any decisions for myself in the real world.

Skyrim is really the whole package, from graphics to storyline to gameplay, which keeps me fully immersed in its world. As a matter of fact, I had to drag myself away from stealing a farmer’s cabbages to make soup to write this list for you, and I do believe that’s exactly what I’m going to go and do now.

Good day to you, sir/madam. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say about… the things… that I said…

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