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April 22, 2010 3:27 PM


godfinger character

The theory goes like this, if you make an element of the gameplay involve other people, such as leaving a gift for someone in Farmville, then you're more likely to return and play more due to the social obligation. Another framework is layered below that, which is to have everything take a specified amount of time to complete. Farming crop X takes 2 hours and crop Y takes 4 hours. Two of ngmoco's freemium games use these dynamics, but they follow two models. As a player, one is clearly superior in my mind (We Rule), but as a business owner, I think they got it backwards.

Note: this blog entry doesn't address the use of 'for pay' instant gratification gameplay. Each game uses it in the same way and isn't the interesting story (imho).

  1. GodFinger is a god sim where you run your tiny little planet like a god. You can raise and lower land, refresh your followers and have them do some work. Each part of the process can earn you gold (affording you the opportunity to buy better stuff and do bigger things). There is a decay model in the game that is based on time and fatigue. Your followers do work, then they get tired and they stop working. You have to log back in, make conditions right for them to be refreshed and they get back to work. Meanwhile, your friends can view your planet and 'enchant' one of your followers. Doing so, and approving it will yield some gold for each player after a certain amount of time (a day).
  2. We Rule is a kingdom sim, but you'll more likely think of it as "Farmville for the iPhone." You plant crops, they grow, you harvest them. That's the basic gameplay. Over time, you earn enough money to build more farms and a variety of businesses that will, automatically earn money for you (but slowly). As in GodFinger, people can visit your kingdom and place orders at your businesses. Approving that will yield some gold for each player after a certain amount of time.

Both games leverage a social obligation and a decay of 'stuff' in the game, to encourage you to login and do some stuff. That of course increases the amount of time you spend looking at the game which generates ad impressions. In terms of the ad supported business model, I think GodFinger should be an ad supported game, just like We Rule. Here's why...

In We Rule, I have many options for the types of crops to plant, each with its own time to maturity. Those time periods range from 5 minutes to a full day (or longer). If I know I don't want to, or can't, play for a set amount of time, I just plant a long term crop and then logoff. If someone places an order at one of my businesses, I can let it sit there for a long time before approving it. So, the bottom line is that I can control the amount of time I put into the game and how often I play it. The incentive to come back and login RIGHT NOW isn't very strong since I scheduled my crop maturity time period. Any orders placed at my business can be safely ignored since those business will generate money anyway, albeit more slowly.

GodFinger on the other hand is NOT ad supported but has a "you should come back and play right now" model that I CAN'T control. If I want to optimize my cash flow in the game, I have to log back in much more regularly to deal with things. Since, I have to log back in when the game wants me to, it would be the better game to use an ad supported model, but for some reason, it doesn't have ads and only wants me to spend money on something the game gives me anyway (slowly).



April 12, 2010 10:34 AM


ipad_overview-in-the-box.jpg

I'm writing this from an iPad, comfortably from my lap at just about the same word entry rate that I usually get on a real keyboard. I'm going to email this to my Evernote account (free) and post this tomorrow after doing some editing in TextMate (not free but is awesome). I haven't bought a single piece of software for the iPad yet and have been able to be productive. I've also had fun playing a few "freemium" games (eg, We Rule and GodFinger).

This isn't a review but here's a few things to think about...

  • The iPad is the Xbox of hand held computers. Think of it as a console rather than a "PC" and you'll be in a better mindset to make a potential purchase.
  • I'm not going to do html markup on the iPad. Getting to all the characters needed for that is slow and annoying. I'll finish this post in TextMate on my MacBook Pro (with an attached monitor, keyboard and mouse).
  • If you think about Apple's products you can place the iPod, iPad, MacBook, iMac and desktop machines in a line. If you have one neighbor of the iPad, you probably shouldn't get one, if you have two neighbors then I'd say that there's so much overlap in those devices that buying an iPad is a waste of money, for now. I agree with the sentiment that when these things are three or maybe even two hundred dollars, the industry will experience a sea change. iPhone OS4 on an iPad that weighs less than a pound at $200 would be the revolution Apple keeps talking about.
  • Due to the race to the bottom on game prices for the iPhone, I'm much more sensitive to iPad app prices. $10 feels expensive now even though I'd get a lot more use out of something like NetNewsWire than from a new Moby record (note: Moby rocks, not bashing Moby) that would cost a few dollars more. I'd buy a new record without thinking, but I hesitated to buy NetNewsWire.
  • The iPad has one critical issue, weight. It's way too heavy to be a hand held reader. It sounds pathetic to say that my hand and wrist get tired while reading on this thing, but, they do. The battery life is *so good* that I think they might have made a mistake by wrapping an iPod Touch around a huge battery. I'd think I'd prefer to have this thing weigh a half pound less and just deal with it having shorter battery life (it stays at home anyway).
I don't regret my purchase like some folks do if only because my career is better informed by having one. I also happen to like the device. If you're a open source libertarian, then this isn't for you in the same way that socialism isn't for a red state tea party attendee.

December 4, 2009 2:19 PM


socialite_single.png

As noted by John Gruber at Daring Fireball, the simplicity of a Twitter post opens up a lot of UI opportunities. As a result of that and available APIs, we are seeing more and more Twitter clients (I have four on my iPhone), but beyond that, we are seeing the start of the next logical step, convergence.

Socialite and Raindrop are the two best examples that I know. These are applications that aggregate your social footprint on the internet and attempt to wrap some meaningful UI around it all. Raindrop is still in early dev and requires you to be a bit savvy if you want to use it, but Socialite is (Mac only and) immediately available and is quick to set up, so give it a try.

Something worth looking at when using a variety of Twitter apps and these convergence apps, is how the designer has chosen to organize and present everything. If you boil things down a bit, a tweet, blog entry, Facebook update, Flickr post, rss feed and email, all have the same basic parts...

  • The person who sent it (which includes a way to reply, such as an email address or @twitter account)
  • The content.
  • A title/subject/name.
  • Some other bits of data, such as time/date, category names or tags, etc

With such a simple set of elements, there is a ton of opportunity to design a look and feel around them. The Raindrop folks have been sharing their design ideas on Flickr and you can see they have been exploring many ideas. It's not a surprise to see a 3 pane UI like you have in Outlook, Mail.app and NetNewsWire.

Socialite has completely Mac-ified that experience, and while some folks think the UI is just too intense, I think it's done elegantly and sensibly. You can see though that there is a lot you can do in the app, especially on the right side of each entry. At times there are 5 icons and one of them has a menu with 15 actions you can take. But overall, the UI is based on a use case you already understand, email.

Back to Twitter clients, compare something like Tweetdeck (which is entirely consistent from iPhone to its Air counterpart) to something like Tweetie 2. The base philosophy of these two clients are very different, but they use the same source material. As Raindrop continues to develop, it will be interesting to see if they can find a different but equally (or more!) usable format than you find in Socialite.

For a good overview on Socialite, check out Mashable's article from last week.



November 21, 2009 5:36 PM


It's cool to see performance as a way to play a video game.



November 19, 2009 11:19 AM


textPlus-app-icon_large.pngI'm talking about the 2.0 version of textPlus, which I use daily. Paying for texting makes me feel like I'm actually burning my money, so textPlus saves the day since it's free to use (but has a generally sluggish user experience).

Should you pay money for something better or deal with some frustration so you don't have to pay? Like I said, I'm using the app everyday, so I've come down on the side of "free is more important than performance" but that's not going to work for everyone.

These issues really need to be resolved before I'd recommend the app to everyone.

  • It's sluggish! Almost everything you do requires some sort of loading or syncing that takes time, and texting is an inherently "NOW!" activity. While syncing and loading whatever, the app locks up, even if you are typing. You can keep typing tho and the iPhone's buffer will hold your keystrokes until the app becomes responsive.
  • When you start up the app to read or respond to a text, it has to load up an advert, and sync your current convo from the server. Even if you've received a text and saw it on screen, it usually won't immediately show up in the app since the app is syncing with the server. I just saw the message as an alert, and a preview when I loaded the app, but when I click the person's name who sent the message, it doesn't show up until the app syncs.
  • Somewhat often it will glitch in one of two ways, it will fail to connect to the servers (I usually blame AT&T for that) or the UI won't update correctly. The UI will show two texts overlapping and you have to back out and start back up to see everything correctly.
  • New in 2.0 is a bug where you'll see the app has a number badge on it indicating unread texts AFTER you've read all texts. You can reset that by opening the app, reading the unread texts from each conversation and then going back to the conversation list before quitting the app.
  • I think this might be unfixable, but the user experience from people receiving texts from you is less than optimal. The message isn't sent from your phone number, so they have to send the name you put in the app. Most phones use the phone number together with the phone book on the phone to show who sent the text. That gets broken and the result is a fairly verbose message. My wife told me to not send texts to her from the app because of this.

Everything actually works though, so it's worth giving it a try. Hopefully, over time, the app will become a lot snappier.



November 9, 2009 2:36 PM


canabalt.pngCanabalt is an amazingly simple yet fun game to play, but that simplicity results in some terrible UI issues. The only interaction you have in the game is to touch the screen to jump. If you die, touching the screen restarts the game and you're running for your life again, but the result is that there's no way to see high scores without restarting the app.

Another issue is that you have to 'click' on the screen to jump. Many iPhone games share this issue, but since the game is a fast scrolling game, every last pixel of the screen is precious. Hovering your big fat thumb over the screen so you can jump is either a nasty side effect of the iPhone's interface, or an added difficulty bonus (ie, it's not a bug, it's a feature!). To me, it's an unfortunate side effect.

Also, I find the ease of posting to Twitter compared to the difficulty of seeing your high scores to be a funny little commentary on the game.

There's also no online leader board, so I have no idea if this 7k run is good or not. But I's only $2.99 and is a great distraction during commercials or when recovering from yet another wipe on heroic 25 man Anub'arak. You can play it online for free.



November 6, 2009 5:19 PM


This blog will turn 8 years old on November 28th so I'm going to (pre)celebrate that with a redesign.

I'll be looking for ways to integrate Twitter and whatever else so I can to make things as easy as possible. The old days of spending two hours researching an entry are long gone, but I'm still putting stuff out there all the time and I might as well use my old domain as a clearing house.

We'll see how it goes.



January 13, 2004 2:13 AM


One problem with the Communiblog section on the right side of the page here is that text in there is transient, but still gets indexed by Google. So words in there will match this page, but when the Communiblog is actively being pinged, those terms eventually disappear from the page, and searchers land here for no good reason.

One example of that is people looking for "qttask" in Google, who find this page which doesn't mention that term. but when Google indexed that page last, the was a Communiblog entry with that term in it, so people land here. That's not a great user experience, so I'm going to mention qttask here, so it gets indexed in this page (and for the record, the home page here has a "no index" rule, and tells robots to follow links to individual archives and index them) and people can follow this link to directions on how to remove/disable qttask.

November 13, 2003 3:17 AM


Samsun SPH-i500This is the acceptable form factor I have been waiting for when it comes to cell-phone/PDA combo units. I hate to say it, but holding a N-Gage, Sidekick or a Treo 300 to your head just looks dumb, and for some pathetic reason, that matters to me.

Just recently I have discovered the need/utility of a PDA and how it can help me out at work. This is a pretty big jump for me, because i have always considered an electronic note pad and phone book to be pretty useless, but there's certainly more to it than that, right? These days I have the need to know many more phone numbers, who they are attached to, and what tasks those people are currently working on, and what's coming up next. that screams out for a PDA.

Unfortunately, I have few limbs left with thumbs that can carry and manipulate devices. They are currently juggling an iPod, a cell phone, a Gameboy Advance and a digital camera (all of which I carry with me to work every day in what my mother-in law-calls my "carry all"). Adding a PDA to that mix is unattractive, especially when going to meetings, which is why I have some pretty severe techno lust going on over the Samsung SPH-i500. One of the big reasons is that it combines two devices I need (want?) into one device that doesn't make me look like a dork when I use it (I don't need any help on looking dorky, thank you).

Too bad the unit costs $600! The un-dorky form factor is probably worth an extra $75 to me, and the PDA is worth $150 to me, all over the typical $150 I usually pay when I do a handset upgrade. That's only $375.

September 24, 2003 9:58 AM


iPod 0wn34 j00!!!This idea of going wireless with the iPod and removing the hard drive is the least consumer oriented music idea I have seen so far (outside of lawsuits). What follows is a totally knee jerk reaction to a manufactured business model that seems to me to be an effort to take control away from consumers and place it in the hands of of industry.

Riddle me this: What would you get if you crossed a BlackBerry with an iPod? The answer: The future of the music business. Let me explain. Imagine, if you will, an iPod as a wireless digital ladle. It would dip into a nearly bottomless stream of continual music, scooping up any song you wanted, when you wanted, where you wanted. There would be no need for CDs, hard drives, or any other storage device. And trying to capture such music would be about as easy as trapping mist in a jar. Every song would contain a digital expiration date, so, over time, they would evaporate.
Riddle me this buddy, what happens when people see that there is a subscription model (no ownership) and the music is transient (again, no ownership, and this time no control) and no one buys into the business model? What then? Oh yeah, the Invisible Hands bitch slap you.

What happens when programming your digital, wireless only music device needs to be done in the field. Well, we can deal with by making a nice iTunes like interface that makes playlist editing easy beyond compare.... but.... this is a wireless only device, right? Oh yeah, indeed it is, and thus we'll need a nice QWERTY keyboard to edit our playlists, and demand new music when we want it... oh wait, I'm out of the service area? I downloaded that track yesterday, and I want to listen to it again, and I can't? Why can't I just store the music I bought on this thing and listen to it when ever I want?

Good luck answering those questions Mr Recording Industry. In the meantime, my iPod and I will do exactly what we want, when we want to do it, and wherever we please to be.

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