Temple Run Rocks

A few weeks ago I discovered the mobile game Temple Run, and was hooked immediately. I was actually introduced to this game by my niece. She asked me to play it on her iPod. After playing it, I downloaded it for myself right away. I don’t know how I hadn’t been aware of this game already. It was originally released way back in August 2011. For someone who likes to play games, I can’t believe I hadn’t already been playing this.

Temple Run is a production of Imangi Studios. It is an endless running game. Gameplay begins with your character running from a temple while being chased by some type of demon creatures. From there your character runs endlessly. It’s up to you to tap, swipe, and tilt to avoid obstacles and collect coins and power-ups. As you build your stockpile of collected coins, you are soon able to use them to purchase enhancements to the game. It is the coin collecting that has made the game so addictive for me.

In-app purchases are available for users who want to purchase coins outright, but I don’t see any need to resort to that. I think that the amount of coins and cost of enhancements is paced perfectly to keep one coming back for more. You can eventually unlock everything you need by playing the game normally.

Temple Run gets my highest recommendation. It is one of the most fun mobile games I’ve ever played. It’s available on iOS, Android, and even Windows Phone. It’s ultra-addictive. Since I downloaded the game, I’ve played it hundreds of times. If you haven’t played it yet, you must. Did I mention it is FREE?

Fans of the game will be pleased to know that Temple Run 2 was released in early 2013. I have the sequel and have played it some. The graphics are more polished in the new game. It is still true to the original, but a tad more complex and sports a few different features. Both are great games, but I’m still perfecting my craft on the original, so I’m trying not to get lured in just yet by the flashy newness of Temple Run 2.

Temple Run

My Windows 8 Upgrade Fiasco: Part 3

This article is the third and final piece of my Windows 8 upgrade fiasco. You may want to read part 1 and part 2 first.

PART 3

After 23 days in waiting, I finally received my Windows 8 Pro install disc in the mail this past weekend. Actually, the package contained two discs, one DVD for 32-bit and another for 64-bit. I created a new 80 GB partition on my computer and installed Win8 64-bit. It installed in very little time, only taking about 10-15 minutes for the whole thing. That part was easy. I went about the business of getting it updated and activated before I attempted to install Battlefield 3.

Windows Update ran and found 22 important updates, totaling 324 MB. After it attempted to install those, it said that the updates failed and it rebooted and reverted the system changes. I cringed. I don’t know what that was about. After that snafu, I went to Windows Update in the control panel and manually selected various updates in small chunks. All of them installed without issue. Odd.

I then tried activating Windows with my product number and it wouldn’t let me. I was not surprised by this. I had read online that activation only works when you are upgrading in place, not creating a clean install. That is ridiculous and all part of Microsoft’s annoying upgrade pricing, but this is well documented. I soon discovered that I could change a small value in the system registry and it would activate. It did. Whew. You can find a link to those instructions here.

My Windows 8 install experience was fine, barring the complications I just mentioned. I have not experienced any system crash like I did when I installed my last copy. This time, I immediately installed the Apple Boot Camp driver package to avoid any driver-related failures. (More on those lackluster drivers later.)

Now I come to the rough part — I installed Battlefield. After two install DVDs and a long time later, the game was on my system. The game had a slew of updates that were required after install. The download package was a whopping 7 GB. That took a while. After it installed all of the updates, it then wanted to download the expansion packs that have come since the original game was released. Those expansion packs contain a lot of map data. They totaled another 7 GB that I had to download. Again, that took a while. All in all, I had to download over 14 GB of data to have a complete install of this game.

Battlefield was able to run, but when it reached the game deployment screen, it gave me a nasty message about my graphics driver not being current enough. I wasn’t able to proceed. I could see the game menu but my mouse and keyboard could do nothing to make it go. I fiddled with this for quite a long time.

I set out to get new drivers for my graphics card. My computer is an iMac and the card is an AMD Radeon HD 6750. (AMD bought ATI a while back.) Apple provides drivers for the hardware on Windows via it’s Boot Camp software. That is all good and well, but the latest version of it doesn’t support Windows 8. It uses Win7 drivers for everything, which seem to work fine (at least on the surface.) I had no issues with the graphics display in Windows itself, but Battlefield wouldn’t tolerate it.

Here comes the rub, and the bulk of my problems. I went to AMD’s website and tried to download drivers that should work. They didn’t. I think Apple has done something to the hardware to mask it somehow. The AMD detection software (running on Windows) was not able to determine my graphics card. Hence, it wouldn’t provide me with a driver. The best I could do was use a Microsoft driver for my card that was as current as June 2012. That’s nice, but Battlefield still said it wasn’t good enough. I then found a way to download AMD drivers for my card elsewhere on the web. But when I went to update the driver in the system device manager, Windows reported it was not compatible with Windows 8 and it aborted every time. After countless hours of wrangling, I gave up and threw in the towel. I’d had enough!

I went for a long bike ride. After several hours away from my problem, I sat back down and tinkered with it again. I ended up reading user forums online for an hour and a half on issues similar to what I was experiencing. I found a guy who had the exact same problem with the same computer as mine. Someone had provided him with a link to the specific AMD driver that was needed to make it work. I tried it myself and lo and behold, it worked. It freakin’ worked! Windows 8 accepted it as valid, as did Battlefield.

The number of hoops I’ve had to jump through to play this game is absurd. I would never have done this from the start if I had known what I was in for. I’m almost tempted to advise everyone that if you want a hassle-free gaming experience, stick with Playstation and XBOX. PC gaming isn’t for the faint of heart.

My biggest concern about running Battlefield on Win8 is that I’ve read mixed reviews on the gaming performance. People have reported lagging and memory leaks. Fortunately, I have not experienced any of those problems. I’ve played the game twice on Win8 and it seems to perform better than it did on Win7. That is probably due largely in part that it is able to make use of my full amount of installed RAM. At any rate, I can say that in my usage, game performance has not been a problem. It’s a miracle.

As for my early reaction to Windows 8 itself, I’ll say that it is pretty nice. The interface is something I could get used to in time. I’m only going to use it for games, so I’m not installing any programs on it, not even Dropbox or an anti-virus. It is strictly for games and I want it to run at maximum speed. Having said that, I couldn’t help but feel compelled to delve into the tiled Start screen and customize things. It has potential. I’ve only had it for a few days so I’m not going to write any more about the operating system itself until I’ve had some time to experiment with it more.

I want to give a plug to Paul Thurrott’s website called WinSuperSite.com. He really knows his stuff. He also hosts a weekly podcast called Windows Weekly on Leo Laporte’s TWiT network. Everything you need to know about upgrading and installing Windows can be found on Paul’s site. I only wish I had read it before I started this whole process. It would have saved me a lot of pain and hassle.

My Windows 8 Upgrade Fiasco: Part 1

Preface: I wrote the bulk of this text nearly two weeks ago. I was going to wait and publish a single large post about the entirety of my experience, but I am still unhappy. I’ve decided to post what I have so far, and call it “Part 1.”

PART 1

Backstory:

I have a desktop iMac computer, 2011 model. I have been dual-booting into Windows so I can play PC games (mainly Battlefield 3). Windows XP doesn’t have drivers for my Mac hardware, so Windows 7 or higher is required to dual-boot via BootCamp. My copy of Win7 is a paltry 32-bit, so it can only see 2 GB of my 12 GB of installed RAM. How Battlefield even runs on 2 GB of memory is a mystery to me. It has to be maxed out.

Through the end of January, Microsoft was offering Windows 8 Pro for only $39. I decided to jump on it and I bought it. I figured I owed them that much for using borrowed copies of Windows in years past. Plus, I need a 64-bit Windows OS to power my gaming needs. I didn’t particularly want Windows 8, but the sale offered a cheap long-term solution and I bought it.

Issue:

Here’s the rub. In order to purchase and download Windows 8, you must first run an upgrade advisor program on a Windows machine. I did that from my Win7 OS and purchased the program via download.

I then erased my Windows partition and created a new, larger one from scratch. I completed the OS installation, only to find out afterward that my shiny new Windows 8 is also 32-bit. I was furious.

I began to read up on the matter and it turns out that you aren’t allowed to upgrade to 64-bit if you run 32-bit currently. It’s not allowed under “upgrade” pricing. At no point was I told this or warned what I was actually buying. I felt like I was ripped off.

On top of that alarming discovery, while I was setting up Windows 8 and tinkering with settings, the entire OS crashed on me and required a hard restart. I fumed.

I began an online chat with Microsoft live support and asked for a refund. To fulfill that request, I was told that I had to call Microsoft support on the phone. I called them and was on hold for about 10 minutes. I spoke to a rather pleasant woman and I explained everything to her and that the product I paid for is worthless to me and that I don’t want it. She asked if she could put me on hold for a few minutes while she worked out a solution to try keep me as a customer.

She came back on the line and told me that if would satisfy me, Microsoft will mail me a physical DVD with 64-bit Windows 8 Pro to my house. I had not expected the offer and I accepted. I had to pay shipping on the disc.

I went on to tell the support rep that Windows 8 should never have been made as a 32-bit OS to begin with, and that these days 32-bit OSes are finished. She replied, “I see.” Well, what could she say, it really isn’t her problem. I just wanted to vent. I did ask her if they’d received a lot of support calls over this upgrade matter. She chuckled and said they had.

I’m not yet jumping for joy over this. I’m still curious how this is going to perform and whether Battlefield will play nicely in Windows 8 (online performance reports differ.)

As for the unexpected Windows crash: In hindsight, I think the system crash was driver related. I had not installed the Apple driver package for Windows that puts all the correct drivers in place for the system. Out of the box, Windows liked my Logitech mouse, MS keyboard, HP printer, and D-Link USB hub, but it scoffed at some of my computer internals such as the Bluetooth receiver, iSight webcam, and others. Once I installed the Apple-issued Windows driver package for the hardware, it appeared to function correctly. Truth be told, I’d be hard pressed to tell you what components are powering this machine.

We shall see what comes once I get the DVD, which should take 3-5 days shipping. Ugg! Then I have to delete my Win partition and start all over again from scratch. What a headache.

All of this to play a damn game. In the end, it had better be worth it.

Loving Letterpress!

A couple of weeks ago, a simple word game was launched that has taken iOS devices by storm. The game is called Letterpress, and was developed by Loren Brichter of Atebits, the guy who wrote the very popular Tweetie app.

Letterpress is incredibly fun and joyfully addictive. With each turn, you must make a word from the available letter tiles on the game board. Once you do, those tiles become your color. The goal is to control as many tiles on the board with your color as you can. Once the last unclaimed tile is used, the game ends with the winner being the player that holds the majority control of the board. I’ve given a very simplistic explanation of the gameplay, but there is actually a great deal of strategy involved.

Letterpress is free to download. The free version doesn’t have any ads, but does limit the user to two games at a time. A 99¢ in-app purchase removes that limitation, unlocks multiple color themes, and provides a list of words that have already been played in the current game. I think the pricing structure for this app is spot-on, and a model for casual games going forward. Naturally, I paid for the upgrade so I can have multiple games going at once.

I am impressed with the degree of polish in the version 1.0 release of this app. The subtle visual and sound effects are beautifully implemented. I highly recommend that everyone download and play this creative, imaginative game. Prepare to get hooked immediately!

There has been no word of an Android version of Letterpress in development. I’m not sure how that would work across platforms since the game is tied to Apple’s Game Center. Still, it would be nice to be able to play with my friends who are on Android.

As polished as the initial release of the game is, I do have a few feature requests that I’d like to see included in future updates. Those requests are as follows:

  1. There is currently no way to rematch a player when a game has ended. The only way to do so is to go to Game Center, search for their username, add them as a Game Center friend, then request to start a new game. This is a glaring omission and needs to be added as soon as possible.
  2. I would like for the game to tell me how long it has been since my opponent has made a move. When I glance at the list of active games, I can’t tell which have been played recently and which have not. I’d like to know when it’s been several days since my opponent has moved because I want to resign that game and play with someone more attentive.
  3. I would like an overall tally of how many games I’ve won or lost, with a percentage of success on display somewhere. Since this game is so closely tied to Game Center, I am not sure how this would be implemented, but I’d like to see it added to the game in some form.
  4. There are currently no Game Center achievements to unlock in Letterpress. I’m not sure what kind of achievements could be added, but I would like to at least see something there. Perhaps my suggestion above about the number of games won or played could be rolled into an achievement?
  5. There could perhaps be an option to play offline with a friend where the two of you can pass the phone back and forth between moves. This isn’t particularly important to me, but some users have asked for this feature in their App Store reviews, so I think it would be sensible to include it.

It’s worth mentioning that you should enable notifications for Game Center. Make sure those are turned on in the iOS settings. When I first began playing Letterpress I was frustrated that the game didn’t announce when I’d lost. It turned out that I was supposed to be notified but I had the Game Center notifications turned off.

You can follow Atebits and Letterpress on Twitter at: @atebits and @letterpressapp.

A side note: This game has become such a hit, I’d imagine that the folks at Zynga are rubbing their hands thinking, “How can we make a slower, bloated, ad-filled game that looks exactly like this?” Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Letterpress app

Sorry! Isn’t So Sorry

I’ve found myself recounting this story countless times over the years. Let me say, before I even begin this tale, that the technical name of the game I am writing about is called Sorry! (with an exclamation mark.) In the context of this text, using the exclamation mark when I write the name looks crazy, so I’m not going to.

The sight of the board game Sorry always takes me back my days of being a kid. It’s not that I have fond memories of playing it when I was growing up; quite the opposite. As a kid, I’d never played it at all. Sorry wasn’t in our family game collection. It was, however, in every other persons home that I could remember. My brother can probably back me up on this. It seemed as though every household had this game at some point or other.

Despite that level of penetration into the masses, no one ever wanted to play it. Ever.

I can still recall my childhood days, hanging out with other kids in the neighborhood. When we’d sit down for a board game and Sorry was mentioned, it was consistently shunned. “That’s an awful game,” they would say. This has been the consensus with most everyone I’ve ever met — to this day. It has always baffled me that the same people who have repeatedly shunned the game actually own it themselves. Why did they buy it in the first place, I’ve often wondered?

Many moons ago, I coaxed my girlfriend at the time to play with me. After the game was over, I agreed that the gameplay of Sorry wasn’t all that fun. Still, it was momentous to have finally gotten the chance to play it after a lifetime of wondering what it was all about. It’s funny, I’d seen the Sorry game box at friends houses all my life but didn’t get to actually play the game until I was in my mid-twenties.

I’m bringing this all back around again because my friend Agnes has Hasbro Family Game Night on her Nintendo Wii. One of the games in the Hasbro package is Sorry! I told her my Sorry saga and we laughed. We played. And we have since played the Wii game a few times now. Once I got the hang of it, I found it not to be sorry at all. Dare I say, it’s fun! At least the Wii version of the game is fun. Perhaps I’ve been swayed by the catchy special effects in the game, but looking past that, the premise of the game itself and rules of Sorry do indeed make for a fun experience.

Whether you have a digital version of Sorry or the old fashioned board game, I suggest pulling it out and giving it another go. If you don’t own Sorry, chances are you know someone who does. Play it. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Sorry! Game

Jetpack Joyride

I’ve become hooked on a new iOS game called Jetpack Joyride. It is made by Halfbrick, the company who brought Fruit Ninja to the masses. Jetpack Joyride is an addictive side-scroller. Gameplay, graphics, and sounds are all top-notch. I love that there are gobs of achievements to unlock. It works with both GameCenter and OpenFeint. The game is a universal app that plays on both the iPhone and iPad. Jetpack Joyride is certainly worth the 99¢ price tag. Play it now!

Jetpack Joyride Screenshot