Gaming – What’s Hot, What’s Not.

It happens quite often, I’m in a game shop looking for a title and I cannot wrap my head around which title I should buy! There are tons of titles for PS3 to choose from which makes my job difficult. 4 things that help me get what I want always:

Game Reviews
First and foremost I head over to IGN to see what the experts have to say. IGN has a pretty interesting rating system that helps in making a choice, but please remember that gaming is all about personal preferences much like movies are. Always go with that gut feel while reading the review. However ratings give you that inside look as to how a game feels helps you in making an informed choice. There are other websites that offer review based ratings such as Metacritic. Also Wikipedia is another awesome choice for a one-stop-shop gaming knowledge.

Story
It’s not always the boom-booms and the melee attacks that make up for an entertaining title. A story also contributes in making the game more interesting and immersive. I have always been an Uncharted series fan throughout, to me it holds all the entertaining values that an ideal game should have. Not to mention the cinematic experience typical of an Indiana Jones movie. After aren’t games are supposed to entertain us? Pick a game that has a good storyline so even if you are tired with the gameplay the story doesn’t let you down. If you are bored to wits’ end you can always go back to play that amazing story and relive those moments all over again. With Uncharted it’s always like acting in a movie as Nathan Drake! Trust me on that.

Gameplay
Speaking of gameplay, it’s about interacting with the characters using an external peripheral such as the game controller or the Move controller (PlayStation). For instance in ‘Uncharted-Drake’s Fortune’ when Drake walks on a log you have to tilt the controller sideways in order to help Drake maintain balance or he falls down into the stream below and dies. In the Killzone series the controller has to be moved in a circular motion to unlock a door, just like you would open a safety vault. This clever tactic of using external peripherals to control the game’s story brings lot of intrigue to the game making it interesting to play, hence the gameplay is an important factor in choosing a game. The game controller or the Move controller also has the ability to vibrate at certain points during the game which adds to the immersive value of the title. Of course you can’t know the gameplay for every title before buying that game unless a friend tells you or you read it online.

Fanboy
Honestly if there weren’t exclusive titles like Uncharted, inFamous or Killzone on the PlayStation it’d have made life boring. That’s not to say there aren’t good titles available on PS3 but you get my point – it’s called fanboyism. It’s what makes you buy titles regardless of what the world says because you enjoy playing them the most. One of the deals for me for buying a gaming console was the availability of a vast library of exclusive titles and PlayStation made the cut for me. Uncharted and inFamous are my most beloved game titles and whenever a new edition is released I pick it up without hesitation. Unfortunately both these titles have moved to PS4 now.

YouTube
Another brilliant way to help you choose a game title is to watch the gameplay. Nothing comes close to experiencing the real stuff than to head over to YouTube and see the walkthroughs (or watch a friend play). I cannot imagine any game title that doesn’t have a detailed walkthrough or a trophy guide uploaded on YouTube, the gaming community needs to be thanked for this a zillion times! Not only do these videos help you choose a title – the graphics, storyline, audio, etc. can be vividly captured and reviewed, but they also help if you are stuck on a difficult story level or busy harnessing trophies. Take full advantage of this priceless medium.

Price
Speaking of price, if you are just a casual gamer the cost of a game would matter to you a lot. Games can be a costly affair and brand new titles range anywhere from C$50-70. Most games are left untouched after you play them once while some of them are left incomplete because you lose interest mid-way and gather dust on the shelf. The best part about gaming is that the fun value or the excitement is not diminished if you buy traded games. And if you are not a serious gamer this will matter to you a lot in the longer run. I prefer to buy used titles at EB Games and I have never been disappointed with the quality they offer. The difference in price can be a lot as compared to a brand new title but it also depends on the life of the title – older titles cost less than more recent ones which are traded. Pay a visit to an outlet and start browsing the games, you never know which title will hit the target for you. Also if you are holding on to a game title that you haven’t touched for many months and is lying around the house, unless if you are really a collector of titles give it up for trading and share the joy of gaming with other gamers. They will bless you for your righteous deed.

Happy gaming!

Life Disconnected

Internet just isn’t any technology. Needless to say in today’s world everything and anything runs on the power of the Internet. When it comes to me I eat, sleep and drink on the Internet. So when this service was taken away from me I thought I wasn’t alive. For 4 long days! And this was an unprecedented situation according to Bell (my ISP). Also unprecedented for Canada I suppose?

The Fibe TV network which I am a proud subscriber delivers TV/Internet/Phone through the same connection at no extra cost. In other words TV runs on Internet bandwidth (but it doesn’t count towards my actual download) and the phone too but it uses very little power. However if the Internet goes down, it takes the TV along with it, but the phone is spared.

I immediately logged a ticket with Bell and they promised to send someone across within 24 hours (12-5 PM the next day). I waited and waited the next day and the technician doesn’t turn up. So I call them up to seek answers. I am told it was a server issue and an area outage which will be resolved by 3PM the next day (but no response on why the technician did not turn up). So 48 hours without TV/Internet, I was suffocating to say the least. The burden of guilt that I was carrying for not having checked my emails for 2 long days was bearing on me. Finally I lost patience on the 3rd day and got on a marathon 3 hour call! (yes, 3 hours). I wasn’t hanging up until I got my answers. And answers was all I got.

I was told that the technician was never booked to come to my place, the dashboard was empty. I was in no mood to book another appointment for Saturday, and by the time I finished waiting and talking to the tech support, the Saturday slots were full and Monday was the only likely day to book an appointment for the technician to visit my place.I was so anguished that I wanted to move out of Bell and opt for another viable ISP in the area. I was so sure that in the time that the technician will arrive to solve my problem the new ISP will gladly accept and service my request for a new connection in 24 hours!

Finally an L3 loyalty/billing supervisor got on the line with me and things started to take turn for the better. Not only was I compensated for the downtime, I was given credit for the trauma which I faced and a technician visited my place today instead of Monday to solve the problem. The problem was attributed to a firmware glitch for the modem. The Internet is back and I am back to breathing normally. Yes, the service was far from satisfactory, the customer care lost credibility while booking an appointment and not sending someone at all, but am I glad I am back in business online. I have no further comments to make to Bell except for requesting to provide prompt service the next time I face a downtime.

Kobo And The Cloud Trouble

I own a Kobo Aura HD and love every inch of it. Being in Canada, the choice of an eReader (that supported the E-Pub format) was easier to make. Very recently I discovered that the product experience wasn’t seamless – that ‘knot’ between software/hardware and the cloud was missing.

After a software update about a few weeks ago, I noticed that there were instances of duplicate collections under Library > My Collections (collections are like “shelves” to categorise your books). I opted to remove instances on the device but realised I couldn’t delete them! It was the most frustrating experience ever with my Kobo Aura HD. I finally gave up and contacted Kobo support. The representative gave me options to resolve the issue. The Basic Reset did not work and the duplicate collections were back in business, so the executive gave me the option to proceed for a Factory Reset. It was even more frustrating to understand that the Factory Reset will wipe clean my notes, bookmarks and annotations forever. The toughest job would be to reload the digital books data for which I did not have a list with me. However the Factory Reset did not solve the issue and the duplicate collections were back. It meant that the device was communicating with ‘something’ outside my system, maybe a cloud service. I later learned that Kobo offers cloud sync of bookmarks, annotations and notes (probably collections too) only on books purchased from their online store. Since I’m a designer my books are definitely not purchased on the Kobo store. Also as a Kobo device customer it’s disappointing to know that the company offers cloud services discriminately and there’s no way to control what gets synced on the cloud.

Here’s what I think Kobo should do to improve its customer experience. It’s time they reassess the cloud sync service they offer to customers. Allow all customers to choose whether they want the service at all and how they want it. Update their free Kobo software for PCs and Macs and make it more useful by allowing customers to sync/backup ALL their bookmarks, list of books, annotations and notes from their Kobo devices onto their PCs and Macs. They also need to look at Dropbox or Google Drive to augment that offering if possible. And none of what I just described is difficult or unthinkable. That apart let’s not forget that I have lost all my bookmarks, notes and other data, and my problem remains unresolved for now.

Edit: Kobo suggested I create a new account on Kobo (using a different email ID). And the duplicate collections were gone. The tough task was to create a new collections and putting the books into it. Hope the Kobo cloud database doesn’t go berserk again, I am running out of email IDs now.

Designocracy – A Design Initiative

The designer community depends on Internet resources for learning & research. Indeed many of us rely upon Google to lead us to that particular source of design elixir. Not very long ago a bunch of my passionate graphic designer friends ran an online community fondly called Surfunion. It’s a part of history now, but the experience of critiquing our artworks, sharing our thoughts and participating in debates still refreshes my mind to this day.

Let me come back to 2012. During the course of my daily work I scour the Internet stumbling upon one site to another, and in the process, finding dollops of useful design information. Such information could mean a lot to someone in need. Then Twitter afforded me the luxury of sharing those links quickly and reach out to the designer community without great effort. This concept persuaded me to invest in a personal program which I’m calling Designocracy. The intention is to collect & transmit design insights from around the Internet. You can follow Designocracy at twitter.com/Designocracy.

Designocracy will be a repository of interesting articles and insights on design ranging from graphics design to art/architecture and will feature all aspects of usability engineering. The scope will be limited to design only since it’s one area that I’m keenly passionate about. I hope you enjoy the tweets at @Designocracy and give it all your support and love.

Edit: since the publication of this article I’ve not been able to update the Designocracy feed. And I am not sure when the motivation would return since I’m involved in other priority matters. Let’s hope sooner than later.

2011 Cricket World Cup: Team Overview

The World Cup of Cricket or simply the ICC Cricket World Cup will commence in Bangladesh, India & Sri Lanka shortly. It’s difficult to predict who the next world champion would be, but just a quick peek into the main leads of the 14 participating nations and some stats-

(RU) Runner Up Team
(W) Winners

Australia
Captain- Ricky Ponting
Coach- Tim Nielsen (Aus)
(RU) 75′, 96′ (W) 87′, 99′, 03′, 07′

Bangladesh
Captain- Shakib Al Hasan
Coach- Jamie Siddons (AUS)

Canada
Captain- Ashish Bagai
Coach- Pubudu Dassanayake (SL)

England
Captain- Andrew Strauss
Coach- Andy Flower (ZIM)
(RU) 79′, 87′, 92′

India
Captain- Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Coach- Gary Kirsten (RSA)
(RU) 03′ (W) 83′

Ireland
Captain- William Porterfield
Coach- Phil Simmons (WI)

Kenya
Captain- Jimmy Kamande
Coach- Eldine Baptiste (WI)

Netherlands
Captain- Peter Borren
Coach- Peter Drinnen (AUS)

New Zealand
Captain- Daniel Vettori
Coach- John Wright (NZL)

Pakistan
Captain- Shahid Afridi
Coach- Waqar Younis (PAK)
(RU) 99′ (W) 92′

South Africa
Captain- Graham Smith
Coach- Corrie van Zyl (RSA)

Sri Lanka
Captain- Kumara Sangakkara
Coach- Trevor Bayliss (AUS)
(RU) 07′ (W) 96′

West Indies
Captain- Darren Sammy
Coach- Ottis Gibson (WI)
(W) 75′, 79′

Zimbabwe
Captain- Elton Chigumbura
Coach- Alan Butcher (ENG)