Before my two beloved daughters were unleashed on this planet, I used to be an avid gamer.   I still try and squeeze in a bit of “thumb action” once they’ve all gone to bed!

I was thinking that the evolution of gaming isn’t too far removed from the evolution of IT applications.  Okay, maybe I’m pushing it – but read it and hopefully you’ll see where I’m coming from.

One of my passions is soccer games.   I started off with a Vic 20, complete with a whopping 5KB of RAM, but as far as I remember I never had a soccer game for it.

Then I upgraded to a Commodore 64.  A brilliant little machine.  It had a decent soccer game in Emlyn Hughes international soccer.


Just like those other Commodore fanboys (as opposed to Sinclair spectrum fanboys), I upgraded to the Amiga.

This brought a plethora of quality soccer games, my favourite of which had to be Kick-Off.  But there were other notable mentions in Emlyn Hughes (Amiga Version), Sensible Soccer, and Kick-Off2&3.  The beauty of Kick-Off was that it encapsulated the very randomness and spontaneous nature of “the beautiful game”.  Not a single goal was the same.  You could pull off incredibly dirty tackles.  You could literally pull a goal off from anywhere.  Magic.  It was just breathtakingly simple.

KickOff  Sensi

Then the Playstation ushered in a changing of the guard.  The switch to 3D and TV style coverage.  Through the various iterations of the console we’ve seen the Actua Soccer series, a gazillion FIFA soccer titles, and we’re now up to episode 6 of the brilliant Pro Evolution Soccer.  You can even play online with players around the world and participate in remote tournaments (Soccer 2.0).

Fifa  ProEvo

Over the years, I have to say that my favourite was Kick-Off on the Amiga.  Simple graphics and simple sound, but spontaneous and unpredictable gameplay that really worked.  It was gameplay that gave users the next best experience to scoring a real life goal (not that I experience that very often).  It was simply magic.

The Lesson

It’s not about the graphics. It’s not about the full motion video.  It’s not about the teams that are licensed.  It’s all about the end user experience.  Concentrate on those parts that really touch a chord with your users.  And implement them very very well.   That’s why FIFA doesn’t do it for me.  Too slow.  Too much on the surface.  Nothing under it.  It’s just not true to the game of football. (non footy fans, at this point you’re thinking I’m crazy).

Another lesson – everyone has different tastes.   Some people want the glitz and glam.  Some people just don’t want deep gameplay – they just want a quick fix.  The sales prove it.  There’s plenty of niches to full.  When the next “EA Sports” of web apps comes along, don’t run off scared.

After all, if Burnley can beat Liverpool, then anything is possible!

[even if it was a long time ago]

Lonely Planet To Go

November 19, 2006

LP londonWhilst browsing the local gaming store with an old colleague I came across these PSP Lonely Planet Guides.

Aside from the hefty price tag, and not withstanding the fact that a PSP wielding tourist in the East End of London would last no longer than a bowl of fries amongst drunken men, it initially appears to be a really fantastic way to find out about a new place.

Combine this with online updates (PSP has WiFi), well hyperlinked content, and that the PSP is a perfect travel companion  (music, video, gaming, wifi) and you have an even more compelling proposition…..

…Until you get to the content itself.  It looks beautiful, it sounds beautiful.  But there’s just not enough.  There’s three (yes, THREE!) audio clips in the whole package.  But wait.  There’s a whopping four (read FOUR!) pubs listed.

There’s a lesson here.

Your presentation, branding and usability can be brilliant,  but if your content is crap it’s not worth Jack Schitt.

I want it ALL. I want ONE.

November 11, 2006

I lurve gadgets. I’m infamous for it. And my bank balance worse off for it! But I’m always looking to rationalise.

Here’s what I use, and why I have it:

Canon Powershot A620

I wanted a good digital camera that gave some level of control close to a digital SLR, but without the bulk. I also wanted a really good zoom and this gizmo had 4x optical. I still find it astounding that manufacturers still blab on about the “digital zoom”. Someone needs shooting over that one. It’s a great camera, but a bit too bulky to just have in the back pocket. Great piccies though.

Palm Lifedrive

I used to have a Tungsten T3, and to be honest, I wish I’d kept it. The 4G storage on the Lifedrive is good, but with rapidly diminishing cost of SD memory, I could have bought 2x2GB SD cards for much less. The Lifedrive looks and feels great though, but again a bit too bulky. My biggest bugbear with it is that its operating system is (still) quite flaky, and when you have a failure it literally takes 5 minutes to soft reset the device!

Sony PSP

Ultimate portable media device. I say media because it’s a quality MP3 player, it’s a quality video player, and it’s a quality gaming machine. Throw in internet browsing and you have a very nice device indeed. Too nice for the standard back pocket treatment however, and Sony need to start releasing more material for download.

HTC Apache

Obviously this is my phone, but most of you are likely wondering why this one. Three reasons: a) EVDO/CDMA mobile broadband, b) Windows Mobile 5 and Exchange 2003 Push Email, c) good foldout keyboard. As a phone, this device really sucks and when you’re texting you look a bit of knob to be honest. The camera is pretty naff as well – I’m still yet to see a good cameraphone. But all in all, as a single device, it fulfills many of my needs. Our corporate email is Exchange and this is a big factor. If, say, we only used gmail then I’d be really looking to change. The other major limiting factor here is the extortionate mobile broadband fees – $20 (yes, $20) for 10MB (yes MB) per month. Kinda limits you to the really small stuff, and not very often at that.

Where Next?

The PSP and the Canon A620 are here to stay.   If we didn’t have Exchange at work I’d be looking at a Palm Treo 700P, but you can’t get these in NZ, and if I got one shipped in who knows if Telecom would play ball.

Probably not.

Grand Theft Auto

Playing the PSP game Liberty City Stories, it dawned upon me how “rock solid” computer games are. Business world, please take note.

I mean, look at the sheer complexity that sits behind these games. The insanely complex gaming rules (sic. business rules), the rendering rate (sic. performance), the highly “context sensitive” sound and music (sic. integration), and the mind blowing presentation (sic. user interface). Oh – and it runs on a PSP (sic. server) that fits in my back pocket. Bulletproof. No bugs.

Nowadays, games are built just as movies are. Initial concept, tweak, get the best cast, tweak, storyboard, tweak, then wireframe, tweak, the shoots, tweak, the sound and music, tweak, post-production, tweak, marketing, tweak, marketing, tweak, premiere, tweak, etc, etc, etc. And they are made with intense passion.

Do we build IT systems like this?

Um, thought so.

We ought to.