Base under construction

Rymdkapsel

Base under construction

Porting various applications and games to mobiles phones is something of a holy-grail: the screen is smaller, controls different so the simple answer is, you cannot simply port the application, you need to strip it down, to rethink it completely.

is a real-time strategy / building game where you expand your space station by building corridors and rooms, breeding minions, discover monoliths while defending against raiders. The main twist: rooms are shaped like Tetris blocks and dispensed randomly. The game supports rotation of the view and zoom, unit-allocation.

Rymdkapsel

Music: Niklas Ström
Android version
iOS version
other plateforms

Despite this richness, the game is very playable as the game UI has been stripped down to the minimum: rooms are coloured squares and units are white rectangles, whose height diminishes when they are inactive or hurt. I took me a few seconds to understand how pieces are rotated, but the tutorial is very helpful and non intrusive. The music and the sound effects are well adapted to the overall look of the game.

The game itself is very easy and gets harder and harder, it is also designed to terminate, survive to wave 28, and the game ends. The main challenge seems to reach wave 28 in 45 minutes (I managed in 70). While the game relies heavily on colours, it has a colour blind mode, it supports game center, does not pop-up any ads, in short it behaves like an upstanding app.

Rymdkapsel is the demonstration you can do interesting games on mobile phones that are cross-platform (the game is available on Android, iOS, Playstation Vita, OS X, Linux and Windows). I highly recommend it.

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Mi’kmaq Hieroglyph Prayer Book

Localisation…

 Mi’kmaq Hieroglyph Prayer Book

The WordPress 3.9 update broke by blog, it took me some time to find the culprit: the qtranslate plugin. It was causing all sort of minor problems in the past, so I decided to just turn it off. I started using it at a time when I was using way more different languages in this blog, and I never managed to find a satisfying way to use it.

The underlying problem still remains: I write in this blog in multiple languages, something the Web in general and WordPress in particular have trouble coping with, simply trying to solve it in an add-on simply does not work. Internationalisation, like security and reliability are not something you can add as an afterthought.

Mi’kmaq Hieroglyph Prayer Book by Dennis Jarvis Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

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Screen Capture of ImageOptim

Optimised images

Screen Capture of ImageOptim

ImageOptim is a really cool tool for optimising image data, the latest version also includes the Zöpfli compression algorithm, developed by some colleagues. Basically you drag/drop the JPEG and PNG files you want to use on your web-site and the tool will reduce them as much as possible, the results are pretty impressive.

For instance, I’m using the Sixteen theme for WordPress, which is nice, but the images have not been optimised. By running the tool, I brought down the size of the image set by 74K (out of 465). You can download the optimised images here. They are pixel-identical to the ones in Sixteen 1.2.1.6.

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Icon of the Barcode Kingdom Game

Barcode Kingdom

Icon of the Barcode Kingdom Game

Regular readers of this blog would probably have noticed that I’m quite interested into barcodes and the underlying standards. So when I say the gamed called Barcode Kingdom, I was curious. The game itself is a pretty standard simple RPG like game, you control a group of heroes that can be sent to various places, usually to beat up monsters – but letters are to be delivered once in a while – the heroes can be equipped with special weapons and armour, get experience, etc.

Bardcode Kingdom
Publisher: Magic Cube
Operating System: iOS

Tip: if you are difficult to clear the missions, upgrade the items

The only twist is that characters and equipment is acquired using barcodes. Some of them are common, other are rare, the barcode determines this. Now I don’t think this is related to the frequency of the underlying product code, more probably a hash. I order to scan a barcode and get some new stuff, you need some action points, which are basically time dependant.

The game has the typical toony look that is so common on mobile games. While the game is somewhat fun, it feels a bit simplistic and non-intuitive for a 2014 game, it hung multiple times and the english can at best be describe as approximative. The game is not free, it still has the usual in game purchases and many parts of the game are made artificially slower so that people can pay to make it go at a normal speed.

All in all the usage of barcodes feels more like a gimmick than something that was though out properly, in particular the monetisation. There are thousands of pay to un-slow games out there, so adding barcode scanning to this model is not going to rock the boat. Having a fun app that incentivises people to scan barcodes is a powerful way of getting usage and distribution information, so I think making the game free, letting people scan as many codes as they want, and monetising this information would have been more interesting and more fun.

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Bon Yak trailer

Biking with a Yak

Yak trailer attached to my bike

Now that I have driven around with my new Yak bike trailer, here are some impressions about its use in and around Zürich. I was initially unsure on how practical having a trailer would be, but it solves one of the drawbacks of a normal bike: I can now transport some stuff around. This can means small luggage when spending the night at some friends, or groceries, the trailer can fit four Coop/Migros shopping bags, or three if I put them into the trailer bag. Not the cargo capacity of a car, but enough to move around cumbersome stuff.

From the biking perspective, I found the trailer very stable, despite the fact it has only a single wheel, in fact when driving straight, the bike feels much more stable, like biking on rails. The trailer ads some drag, so biking with the trailer is more work, in particular if it is well loaded, but it never feels heavy: when turning, I did not feel like the rear is chasing out because of the weight, basically the trailer ads more of a feeling of inertia than a feeling of mass.

Driving in the city felt good, the flag is definitely needed, as the trailer is low and the car would not see it otherwise, currently the trailer seems to encourage cars to have a more respectful distance, but as these become more common that effect might go away. The trailer has a reflector, but I added a small tail-light, I used one of those cheap clip-on LED lights that attach to the saddle stick, I needed more rubber padding to fix it to the bar holding the rear wheel.

One of the reasons I wanted a single wheeled trailer was to be able to fit to the side of cars in traffic lines, and generally not worry about the width of the trailer. This works fine: if the bike passes thru, the trailer will fit. While width is not serious concern, length is, when crossing streets, in particular if the there is an island in the middle of the road, the island will generally fit a bike safely, but not the bike and the trailer. A similar concern is when over-taking other bikes, as I now need the full length of my convoi to have overtaking before being able to pull back in. I sometimes feel I need one of those long vehicle signs.

Another issue is parking, most of time you cannot just park the bike cum trailing in a bike slot. There is also the need to lock one more thing. While it is possible to carry a bike, for instance to put it into the basement, this now requires multiple operations, nothing critical, but requires a bit more logistics when stowing stuff away at home. A final note about the bag: I bought the trailer with the adapted bag. I was a bit sceptical, as I already have plenty of bags, but this one is really well designed and fits the trailer perfectly and has some attaching hooks.

All in all, I’m very satisfied about the trailer, which is in my opinion a good compromise between a normal bike and a bakfiets. I had hesitated between the Yak model and the Ibex which has a suspension, but things are fine without suspension.

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Dieselpunk Board

 Pennsylvania Railroad Steam 1 Locomotive designed by Raymond Loewy

I have been using Pinterest for some time to collect various pretty picture, but as I’m collecting ideas for a dieselpunk game, I created a dieselpunk board with various images and drawings I found on the web.

While there is a huge amount of Steampunk material on the web, Dieselpunk stuff is much more scarce, which in a way is strange because there are way more photographic documents available.

While Steampunk is a Uchronia, its structure is pretty straightforward, take victorian society, add some gear based technology, a bit of punk, voilà. Dieselpunk takes the same idea, but includes all the failed stuff of early industrial age: zeppelins, propeller driven trains, armoured trains and crazy planes, stuff that was built for real.

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