Blog

Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade launched with iOS 13 and I’ve come to the end of my free trial month. It’s been much talked about…will it change mobile gaming? Will the quality of games encourage sign-ups? Is it just Apple trying to grab another slice of service revenue?

Sayonara Wild Hearts
100 Games

Apple Arcade promised 100 games at launch but like many products Apple launch now the details were opaque. On day one there were around 70 titles and after a couple of days they added another 3-4. Since then they’ve dropped around 5 new titles every week and on Friday 8th Nov they’ve hit 100. Impressive considering the variety of titles available.

Play Anywhere

While cloud saving meant an easy shared gaming experience on iPhone and iPad Pad, Arcade extends that to Apple TV and the Mac. For some games this works well and means you can continue that favourite game wherever you are.

However the platforms can offer really different experiences. iOS is driven by touch unlike the other two. There are games like Mini Motorways that while you can play them on the Mac or Apple TV just aren’t as good and that’s purely down to the interface. Conversely Sayonara Wild Hearts shines on the Apple TV when used with a controller while on iOS it feels a different game as the touch controls are lacking.

Of course you can pair a controller with iOS and with 13 now supporting Xbox and PS4 gamepads Apple are finally taking gaming + controllers seriously, but you are more likely to pair a pad on the Apple TV and Mac.

Value

Apple Arcade costs £4.99 a month. £60 a year. One full priced digital title on Xbox or PS4 costs £60 so do you get value for money? Yes. Will I have the same opinion in 6 months time? Not so sure.

Today’s mobile games are full of in-app purchases, adverts or a grind of some sort to get more coins to unlock some special move or worse multiple in-app currencies to unlock various things. I’m looking at you Mario Kart which is so unlike a Nintendo game it hurts. Apple Arcade games guarantee no in-app purchasing. No adverts. No grinding either – just a clean experience which is far from what we see in mobile gaming today.

Value would also be questionable if Arcade was all full of the one type of game but the initial launch is packed with a variety of genres and each type has one or two hits in their category. There’s no doubt there’s a few stinkers in there. Sonic Racing is surprisingly poor and there’s a couple of other games that have been written with microtransations in mind and had them quickly stripped for Arcade.

Guildlings on Apple Arcade

The main challenge around value is how many titles keep coming to Apple Arcade? How long do existing titles stay in Arcade? Arcade’s value would diminish if Mini Motorways or Grindstone which have a lot of repeatability disappeared from the service after 9 months. While thats an unknown we are seeing great new titles like Guildlings appear more than 6 weeks after Arcade launched so I’ve a good feeling that we’ll see more enjoyable titles into the new year.

One other aspect of value is to the developers. There’s not been much said on how developers are rewarded for titles in the Arcade store. Does it depend on number of downloads? Number of plays? Paid up front? Hopefully the first developers and studios making games for Arcade are being rewarded by Apple – they’ve certainly got the money to ensure developers get what’s due but the App Store shows it’s often a race to the bottom.

The Games

All the above doesn’t matter a jot if there aren’t games worth playing. Some of my favourites so far:

  • What the Golf – You think you are getting a golf game set in weird places, instead you are getting a more anarchic version of golf that’s so much fun. Love this.
  • Assemble with Care – A short but beautiful game in which you fix objects. Reminds me of The Reassembler with James May.
  • Grindstone – First class puzzle game. Simple at first but the more you play the more complex it gets where you have to apply more strategy to get through the round. First Apple Arcade title to get an Edge 9.
  • Super Impossible Road – I loved Impossible Road and this is a deeper version of the original that first came out on the PS4 a few years ago. It’s now on iOS and it’s very good. Has a career more and multiplayer too so a lot more depth.
  • Mini Motorways – Follow up to Mini Metro swapping trains for cars. It’s got a bit more complexity and while good, I’m not enjoying it as much as Mini Metro.
  • Where Cards Fall – It’s a puzzle game but relaxing at the same time. You play a character looking back on his life so far and it does make you think about events in your life too.
  • Guildlings – Only just out but a really enjoyable RPG/puzzle game. Seemingly short again but this is Chapter One so more planned in the future.
What the Golf

There are so many that I’ve yet to try out of the 100, but also worth a shout are Sayonara Wild Hearts and Frogger in Toy Town. Frogger was previewed at an earlier Apple event and looked a bit rough but the gameplay gets quite tricky at times and the graphics are really well done.

Should you subscribe?

For me Apple Arcade is well worth the £4.99 a month it currently costs. Should there be a dearth of new titles or favourites disappear then I might have second thoughts but so far it delivers a great gaming experience thats free of adverts, in app purchases and the grinds that have killed much of the good in mobile games.

There’s a definite focus on smaller more unique games compared to AAA titles seen elsewhere but it also introduces, for me anyway, games that I might not have bought had they appeared in the normal App Store especially if the developers were forced to cram in adverts or IAP’s. I’m looking forward to seeing what other titles land over the coming months and whether Apple can keep up this strong start. The games so far have been a nice contrast to what we usually see on the App Store or on the major consoles. Well played Apple.

Weekly Digest for Sunday 3rd November

As if politics wasn’t bonkers enough it’s election time again in the UK. This will achieve nothing methinks but the next 6 weeks will be interesting. I don’t think we’ve seen as many potential new faces in Parliament in years…I just hope there aren’t any Brexit Party faces.

Autumn in Perthshire is hard to beat

30 Year Timelapse

I do love a good timelapse. Capturing 1000’s of images and assembling into a short video, or speeding up some normal speed video, is something I like to do. I often spot more this way than I would do on a normal video. However Joe DiGiovanna is going above and beyond by capturing a timelapse over 30 years. A unique idea that I hope he achieves…and I live to see!

DSLR vs iPhone

As phones have become more camera than phone the gap between “proper camera’s” and phones have narrowed. As this tour of Scotland shows it can be really hard to tell an iPhone picture now. Partly it’s down to lens improvement but it’s also the smarts that a phone add’s to a picture. In most cases multiple shots with various settings are captured when you click the shutter button capturing an image that better reflects what your eye can see. Compare that to a proper camera which will capture one image, will need to have various dials and settings changed to optimise the image and it’s no wonder the gap is disappearing. 

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ launched this past Friday. A small number of shows are available and there have been mixed reviews so far. Wired have a great write up on For All Mankind which is one of the shows launching this week. While this is the only show I have a slight interest in, it’s not enough for me to try even the free trial. I think the problem for Apple is that the shows don’t have any “must see” appeal for me. There is so much good content on at the moment that the last thing I, or anyone, needs is another streaming station. Apple have smartly given anyone buying a new device a free year of streaming. I’ll maybe give it a try next year when there’s something worth watching.

For Fracks Sake

Late Friday, just days after agreeing an election, the tories ban fracking in the UK. What bollocks. The Scottish government have long kicked fracking into touch which has drawn scorn from the tories in Scotland. Wonder what they will say now? I’m also convinced that some polling data has shown that the tories are sensitive to losing seats over this…and I’ve no doubt that if they do stay in power there will be some new piece of data or evidence to allow fracking to commence. Never trust a politician, especially Tory ones.

Some Assembly Required

Richard Parry has an amazing set of images showing the assembly of some well known tech products over the ages. This Verge interview shows how Parry puts the images together. I was convinced these were illustrations but they are photographs – stunning. The full series can be seen on Parry’s Instagram site.

Dreamcast assembly – photo by Richard Parry

Make Your Own Emoji

Ever wonder how to make your own official Emoji? Here’s a story of how Jay Peters spent two years submitting proposals for new emoji which were approved and are now available. Yawning face is one of my new emoji fav’s.

Meet Memo

Love this story on Memo. Hard work, never giving up. If only more of us could follow those rules.

Weekly Digest for Sunday 20th October

Autumn has finally hit Glasgow. Colder mornings, shorter days but some glorious colour out there. Autumn into winter is probably my favourite season so looking forward to getting out some more with the camera and drone.

Autumn has come to Glasgow.

This is also the first of my digest posts in a long time. I’ve missed doing them but I had become jaded with them, and I think part of the reason is I’d automated much of the posting and it turned into another task on the list. I missed the crafting, curation and writing each week. Instead it was an iOS shortcut plus adding a couple of lines to get the post pushed out.

So trying something a bit different with the return of these posts. Less linkage and a bit more hand cranked and aiming but not forcing myself into doing it every week. So with that, on to the links.

INEOS 1:59 Challenge

Chris mentioned this a few days before saying he’d be watching Eliud Kipchoge hopefully break the 2 hour barrier for a marathon. I’d no real intention of watching live but in retrospect, I’m so glad I did. It wasn’t just seeing Kipchoge meet his goal but the sheer joy of his fellow athletes as they realised that he’d done it. These aren’t any old athletes either – they are all world class athletes from 1500m upwards and seeing that kind of emotion from them is so rare. I don’t mind admitting to shedding a little joyful tear after he crossed the line.

Kipchoge breaks the 2 hour barrier for a marathon

Of course there’s controversy. It wasn’t a race, he had pace setters, he was protected throughout and he was wearing shoes that a few athletes have now raised concerns about. No matter…for me this is up there with Bannister and other athletic feats over the years. If you are interested in finding out more about the challenge this short documentary series is worth spending an hour on.

Gender Gap

The gender gap has been news for years and while progress has been made it’s still “a thing”. This report in the HBR breaks the data down into 6 pretty jaw dropping charts. Progress is stagnating especially in the last couple of years. One of the biggest gaps is in politics. Western Europe is leading the way thanks to smaller countries like Iceland, Nordic countries and Ireland. The real kicker is that it will be 108 years for women to see parity with men across the globe. To think I heard a colleague dismiss the gender gap as nonsense only a few weeks ago. Sigh.

Modern Science

I read this shaking my head for the most of it – Meet the wounded veteran who got a penis transplant. Not in disgust or annoyance but at the wonders of todays medical science and the impact it can have on people. Great read, probably my favourite this week.

Best Wildlife Photographs of 2019

National Geographic Have announced their best wildlife photographs of 2019. The images are stunning although my favourites isn’t the winner but the photo of 5000 penguins trying to keep warm.

Huddle

Just Delete Me

More and more people are looking to leave services like Facebook and Twitter but finding it a bit tricky. Step forward Just Delete Me. The site allows you to search for the service you want to quit and will link you to the relevant page to start your deletion. Biggest shock were some of the difficult services, looking at you Adobe, but also the ones marked as impossible. A good list of services to avoid.

Analogue Pocket

Game emulation has never been more popular. Once it was an underground scene but now thanks to Nintendo and Sony it’s a legitimate revenue stream. It’s also a big digital market on consoles thanks to remakes or just a great way to remember the glory days of Space Harrier or F-Zero. Analogue Pocket is an upcoming handheld console that not only lets you play Gameboy or Gameboy Advance cartridges but also Game Gear and Atari Lynx plus others.

Analogue Pocket – gorgeous

It’s out in 2020 for $199 and I really want one. Plus a Playdate.

Succession

My favourite show of the year was Succession. Season 2 finished on Monday and if you’ve watched it you’ll love this article at the NYT where the writer Jesse Armstrong discusses the finale. Only read once you’ve watched it as there are spoilers. The worst thing about the finale was realising it’s a year before the next series.

Need vs Want

It’s September. It’s Autumn. It’s Apple release time. Not only do we get OS update’s across the ecosystem and this year Apple really are spoiling us with multiple iOS updates in September alone (bugs!) but we get the annual launch of new iPhones.

This years updates focus on the camera and extra battery life. I’m not triggered by the three camera’s as some were but there’s no denying the bump is getting…large. However visiting the Apple Store yesterday the design certainly camouflage’s the bump better than I expected from the pictures. I also love the smoky glass on the back compared to previous years.

The camera’s though are special. The new ultra-wide is a really nice addition to the iPhone. The clarity and tones from testing in the store today were impressive. Didn’t try the video but the embed below from Andy To is so good. For a more detailed review of the camera, Austin Mann’s write up is well worth spending time on.

One other tiny change is a slightly thicker case alongside a drop of 3D Touch but coupled with a redesigned battery gives a 4 or 5 hour increase in life if you go for a Pro model. Compelling changes…and don’t forget that new Pro colour. More speed, better screen, what’s there not to like?

Love the midnight green

Well…the price for one. My iPhone X is 2 years old and was by far the most expensive phone purchase I’d made. I said at the time I’d be moving to at least a 2 year upgrade cycle so now’s the time to move to a new phone.

But the X is still doing well. Fast, good battery life and the design hasn’t really moved on since the X. Looks exactly the same from the front and sides.

So I want a new iPhone.

I don’t need a new iPhone.

And at £1200, I’ll be giving the iPhone 11 Pro a miss this year.

Need vs want.

In the past I’d upgrade yearly and enjoy those incremental, sometimes large incremental, improvements especially in years 1-5. Now the changes are smaller and not enough to see me change yearly, even every other year. I’m also surprised that both Glasgow Apple stores still have stock of the Pro models three days after launch. Mmmmm.

Need vs want.

Still very tempted…but the credit card will stay locked away for another year.

Monthly Digest?

Life
Still not sure what to do with these posts, so here’s a bumper one that has a few weeks worth of links.

Media
Leave No Trace – loved this, one of best films I’ve watched in a while
BlacKKKlansman – great story but found the film didn’t know what it was in places
First Man – well made and great acting
Widows – good film, fell a little towards the end

Links

The Post FKA Weekly Digest

2 weeks. That how long I lasted. Although I said I’d be retiring my weekly posts I’ve missed doing them over the last few days. So don’t call it a comeback but there will be some sort of wrap-up appearing on the site going forward.

Media
Searching – really enjoyed this. Good twists although a couple were sign posted early on.

Manhunt – even though based on real life events and knowing the outcome, this was well made and acted by all.

Brexit:The Uncivil War – enjoyed it but it still feels like it was too early for this.

Apple in 2019
There’s always speculation around Apple and it’s unannouced products but 2019 has taken on increased importance. After the surprise downgrade in it’s sales forecast many are now wondering what’s next for Apple. While this is unheard of in Apple’s recent history the signs were there that iPhone sales had peaked. Smartphone saturation, increased costs, devices lasting ever longer and a sense that Apple devices were no longer “the best” to justify the premium. I’ve seen many posts saying Cook needs to come up with the next new category to drive Apple forward like AR glasses or a car but I disagree.

Apple need to do a Microsoft. Become more open, offer more services, stop locking content to only their hardware…and look to offer better value for money or start to innovate over and above their competitors. For more on why Apple got into this position and what they can do next read either Ben Thomson or MG Siegler for great analysis on what’s next for Apple.

Andy Murray
Watching Andy Murray’s press conference from the Australian Open was pretty hard. This is Scotlands greatest sportsman having to give up what he loves as his body has let him down.

I really liked this post on his career from The Independent but that was trumped today by The National’s Open Love Letter. Murray has provided so many great sporting moments and had a wonderful career but worth also remembering his support for women throughout his career. Still love the “male player” and withering “mmmmmmmm” when talking to this American journalist. He’ll be sorely missed in British sport and I hope he can finish at this years Wimbledon.

What a mess
Politics in both Britain and America are in such a mess. One breath of fresh air is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is fire and I love that she makes mistakes but admits them. She also uses social media better than most. One to watch.

And one we can’t stop watching is brexist. This topic has dominated UK politics for too long and it’s still clear the country is split. The mood is perfectly captured by Marina Hyde. I only hope the vote on Tuesday will move things on, and hopefully for the better. Brexit is such a car crash.

Open Web
RSS has been one of the open web’s success stories. So I was pretty pissed when I read about it’s demise on Motherboard. While Google Reader was abandoned many years ago I still get most of my news via RSS and the services that replaced Google Reader offer many more features than Google ever did.

RSS is also at the heart of the podcast industry and means podcasts can be heard anywhere in any client on any platform although some companies are trying to change that. What surprised me recently is that the BBC have moved one of their podcasts, Fortunately, to be only available via the BBC Sounds app. Really disappointed in the BBC and hopefully they will reconsider this over time.

Farewell 2018

The end of another year spawns yet another wrap up post, so in no particular order.

Photography
I focussed a lot more on my photography this year. Always a keen snapper but was lazy when it came to actual editing and publishing online. It took me a while but towards the end of April I started a new Instagram account and in the middle of the year sorted out a website (still unfinished) and domain for my photography.

You’ll find my photographs at one of the following locations:

Instagram – iandick_photography
Website – https://www.iandickphotography.com
Flickr – ian_d

My biggest challenge is still getting out and about with the camera although I’ve done a better job of that since October. The shorter days certainly help with the sunrise/sunsets which seem to be popular for some reason 😉

My top nine liked images from 2018 on Instagram

Instagram has been interesting. I’ve been growing who I follow slowly and finding lots of inspiration from fellow photographers. However the constant nagging from Instagram/Facebook around boosting posts, the variation in engagement and the smell of shit in general from that company is making me question the investment in time. I’ve had a Flickr Pro account for years and amazingly, despite everyone saying it’s dead, I’ve found that to be the more rewarding place to visit. Images look so much better and you aren’t constantly being socially engineered when you use their platform. They also have an iPad app and I’ve a bit more confidence in their future since their tie up with SmugMug.

2019 will see me stretching my legs a bit more out and about around Scotland. Still focussing on landscape photography although I’d love to mix in a bit of street and astro.

Health
Health has been slowly getting better. Still have really bad days with the viral chest thing I’ve got and still couldn’t go for a run yet but it feels like the running could be back in 2019. Really miss those frosty winter runs.

I have kept the rings streak going though. Today I closed my Apple Watch rings so thats a calendar year crossed off and day 657 of the streak. It’s still too easy for me to sit on my arse and do nothing so I find the rings a helpful nudge to stay active.

Finally my weight has stayed pretty consistent…but the trend is a slow increase. 1kg heavier than this time last year so need to keep an eye on things over 2019.

Tech
A pretty quiet tech year for me…kind off. The photography kit saw some upgrades starting off with a new drone – the DJI Mavic Air. Loved the size and portability of it. Also invested in Lee filters to help with long exposures. This meant the camera bag I had was just too small so bought the Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW which has been fantastic in the last six months of usage. Everything fits well, it’s really comfy over long distances and I can carry just one bag and hold all my photography kit. Version 2 of the bag has now been released and it comes highly recommended.

The Lowepro even coped with another drone. DJI brought out the Mavic 2 Pro and although I called Shak mad for selling his Mavic Air and upgrading, I did the same a week later and have no regrets. Still portable it is faster, quieter and takes better images than the Air and my old Phantom. The extra battery life also allows you to do far more with one battery. The Mavic 2 Pro is my favourite purchase of 2018.

Dawn over Loch Ard from the Mavic 2 Pro

Two other upgrades were the Apple Watch and the iPad. The Apple Watch has been great. Much better battery life, bigger screen and general speed of operation are my favourite features. The iPad is also impressive. Went for the 12.9″ screen and I love it in every day use. Design is great, speed is fantastic but it is held back by iOS. Hopefully 2019 will see some much needed improvements to iOS and across the Apple software platform in general.

Final tech mention of 2018 is web hosts. Through the summer I moved over to Linode and it’s been a great move. Host all my sites with them and despite it being more work to setup this is outweighed by the power and flexibility they offer.

All good things…
One thing that is coming to an end is my “Weekly Digest” posts. I’ve been running a weekly “what I’ve read/watched” post since March 2015 but they’ve run their course and so last week’s was the final digest on the site. Although that was the final post here’s the final final what I’ve read/enjoyed this week:

If you want to keep up to date with things I read or store for future reference then Pinboard is the best bet or the associated RSS feed. Warning – there’s a lot of stuff I throw into Pinboard. I’ve also started to make more use of Letterboxd for my movie watching.

The End
2018 for me has been fine but in general has felt a pretty dark year. So much negativity with politics, brexit and around social networks and technology. 2019 promises more of the same…if anything worse. On that cheery note, all the best for 2019 and chin up – it is always darkest just before the day dawneth.

Weekly Digest

Life
It really is Christmas Eve and this is the last update for the year. Hopefully this post finds you well and I wish you all the best for the rest of the holidays and into 2019.

This is a bumper update too…and may be the last for a while so enjoy.

Media
Red Dead Redemption 2 – Single player completed. Chris described it as a Tour de Force and I can’t disagree. A truly believable world that is so rich both graphically and due to the characters and their stories. The game isn’t without it’s issues including some predictable missions and also some repeating gameplay elements…and some not very intelligent enemies in some missions but these are minor niggles. This is the first single player game I’ve completed in years and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Cobra Kai – cheesy as hell, terrible acting, bad writing but some funny moments

The Predator – not the best, just watch the original instead.

Links

Weekly Digest

Life
Tree’s up – Christmas is here. Almost. Is it only me thats looking forward to a crazy week in politics?

Media
Venom – Load of shite. What a waste of a great cast. Better off just being an animated movie.

Red Dead 2 – 68% through story mode…closing in on the finish and still loving it.

Links

Weekly Digest

Life
It’s December. Christmas is coming…can finally have a mince pie. If only this Brexit nonsense wasn’t still an issue.

Media
Rewatched Dunkirk in 4k. Stunning. Visuals are strong but it’s the audio – so impacting.

Red Dead Online – mmm. Not convinced by this so far. Feels a bit sluggish to play. Still ploughing through single player and loving it.

Links