Review: Game Dev Tycoon

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Date: Friday, May 31st, 2013, 07:14
Category: Review, Software, Software

By Mr. S

Tycoon… What is a Tycoon? Websters defines a Tycoon as “A top leader (as in politics) or a businessman of exceptional wealth and power”. So basically a capitalist that can make something out of nothing. A leader of men and a maker of things.

At some point we have all said to ourselves “I would do a much better job if I was in charge, gob smack it!” and that’s the basis of attraction for “Tycoon” games. They put you in charge and say “Here ya go, sonny! Make it happen or lose it all! It’s up to you!”. This is where Game Dev Tycoon falters big time and it’s heartbreaking considering the amount of love that went into its creation.

But more on why I don’t like it later. Lets talk about the things it does right.

Starting off in the garage of your mystery house you start the journey of a fledgling game designer from the golden era of video games, the 70’s. Like the legendary game designers from that period, you start on your Commodore 64 or PC, pumping out games for a few thousand enthusiasts. The first hour of gameplay in Game Dev Tycoon genuinely captures the magic of those times. When men wore pleats, and code was assembly. In those days, a man could spend a couple grand and start cranking out software to a very earnest and attentive audience.


Because every game studio needs a Delorean in the garage...

Because every game studio needs a Delorean in the garage…


The art direction, while simplistic, has a wonderful charm and watching your company grow from backwoods garage operation to full-on ten person studio is very rewarding at first, but that’s exactly when things start to fall apart.

The game turns into a choir of frustrating guesswork that inevitably leads to total studio failure unless you’re good friends with the app’s “save” and “load” buttons or a Web-based wiki to help guide you.

Instead of giving you a well-presented and balanced system, you’re presented with a single mystery path that forces you to try randomly at success. The game never gives you specific details as to why one of your games failed or succeeded, thereby making a core element of the experience feel hollow and luck-based. Why does having the ability to have steering wheel functionality make my football game engine better? Found a great combo? Don’t use that one again or your game will get panned into oblivion even if the game’s setting is completely different and the last game you put out with that combo was ten years ago.


The critics will love you or hate you...

The critics will love you or hate you, but good luck getting details as to why.


You’re given little room for failure, because every game has to be somewhat of a success to pay a staff necessary to sustain the studio. It feels Sisyphean when your workers have to take a week off every four weeks just to keep them happy, and then you have to waste precious time training these layabouts too. You simply fail or succeed with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Try to experiment and your studio goes bankrupt.


Expand staff where you can and you might just crank out a hit.

Expand staff where you can, and hopefully you’re lucky enough to pay them.


Proper feedback and getting just enough understanding of what’s going on under the hood is imperative to a good tycoon experience, and it’s this essential feedback that is totally missing from Game Dev Tycoon. Sure, you get the reviews from the press, but “meh” or “feels derivative” does not tell you why your Zombie Dinosaur Football Racer tanked. You know when you make a good combo, but you can’t use it again without getting horrible reviews for copying something you already did. It’s why you see little pop-up emoticons in “Roller Coaster Tycoon”: instant feedback. You know the people are digging your new toilet because they go in looking miserable and come out looking great. Vis a vie toilets are good whereas a “meh” reaction tells me next to nothing.

Game Dev Tycoon puts a blindfold on your head and chides you for not knowing the way.
It has all the elements of a great tycoon game, but ultimately fails in providing a rewarding tycoon experience. Its scope needs to be widened with a much larger emphasis on player feedback and much better info on what a certain element will add or subtract from the product you’re making in the game. Greenheart Games is an independent company with a clear love of the craft of game making and is probably painfully aware of its shortcomings. As an early supporter of the game, I hope to see it grow from this interesting idea to a more compelling experience with time, but as it stands right now it’s just not fun being a Game Dev Tycoon. :(

Game Dev Tycoon retails for US$7.99 and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

A full demo is available here for your consideration.

Rumor: Apple gearing up supply chain for September launch of next-gen iPhone

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Date: Thursday, May 30th, 2013, 08:51
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

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When there are rumblings in the supply chain, it sometimes leads to cool new stuff.

Per AppleInsider, a key Apple supplier has revealed that its largest North American customer is gearing up for the launch of a next-generation smartphone, suggesting Apple could be in the midst of preparing for a September launch of its next iPhone.

The comments come from Avago Technologies, the maker of custom wireless chips featured in Apple’s iPhone lineup. Analyst Maynard Um of Wells Fargo Securities interpreted them on Thursday as “signs of life” in Apple’s supply chain, and an indication of a likely September launch for a so-called “iPhone 5S.”

“Avago noted it is already seeing an initial ramp of a new product transition (we believe iPhone 5S) and expects a greater ramp in the following quarter (October quarter),” Um wrote in a note to investors. “We anticipate more positive supply chain news from Apple suppliers through the summer and as we get closer to product launch.”

The details put Apple’s next iPhone on track to launch a year after the iPhone 5, as that device was officially unveiled on Sept. 12 of last year. While some optimistic market watchers had hoped that Apple would launch its “iPhone 5S” at a sooner date, company CEO Tim Cook softened those expectations with comments made last month, when he signaled that major new products would arrive this fall.

Wells Fargo has maintained its “outperform” rating for AAPL stock, with a share valuation range of US$485 to US$525.

As for Apple’s next-generation iPhone hardware, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has claimed that Apple plans to embed a fingerprint sensor beneath the home button on its next handset. This addition would allow users to bypass manual password entry, and could even open up the possibility of new functionality such as secure e-wallet transactions.

Apple first signaled its interest in fingerprint scanning technology when it acquired Florida-based AuthenTec last year. That company’s flagship product was a “Smart Sensor” component that reads fingerprints and can be embedded into devices such as smartphones.

Beyond that, numerous reports have claimed that Apple’s 2013 iPhone will come with more color options beyond the current black and white offerings, while still other reports have claimed the device will include an improved camera that could capture pictures up to 12 megapixels in size.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple building GPU team from former AMD engineers according to LinkedIn profile spot checks

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Date: Thursday, May 30th, 2013, 07:24
Category: Hardware, News

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This could lead to something interesting.

Per MacRumors, Apple has hired at least a dozen former AMD graphics engineers for its Orlando offices in recent months, according to a spot check of employees’ LinkedIn profiles.

The majority of hires, which include a graphics architect, hardware engineer and others, occurred in January of this year.

AMD laid off a number of employees last year in a corporate reorganization, and fired more in January. It seems likely that Apple hired a number of the laid off Orlando AMD engineers for a new team it’s building in the region.

The company has also posted new job listings for Site Managers to head GPU teams in both Orlando and Cupertino.

These hires and new listings are in addition to job listings posted last month for chip engineers for its Orlando Design Center.

Apple’s interest in GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit) and CPUs coincides with an effort to develop more of its technology in-house. Apple is a licensee for ARM and Imagination Technology, which power the company’s iPhones and iPads.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple quietly drops fourth-gen iPod touch, offers $229, 16GB units with 4-inch screen, no rear iSight camera in its place

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Date: Thursday, May 30th, 2013, 07:45
Category: Hardware, iPod Touch, News, retail

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It happened pretty quickly.

Late Wednesday night, Apple quietly removed the fourth-generation iPod touch from their online store, replacing it instead with a modified version of the current generation. The new model features only a few differences from the fifth-gen, but the omissions are significant.

Per 9to5Mac, the updated music player features a 4-inch Retina display like that found on the current model as well as a dual-core A5 processor, but lacks the rear-facing iSight and loop attachment. Aside from those changes, the new model is identical to the fifth-generation. Unlike the larger models, the 16 GB iPod touch is only available in one color option: black and silver, as seen above.

The 32 GB and 64 GB models remain untouched, suggesting a possibility that Apple is phasing out the older hardware in preparation for iOS 7, which is expected to be announced at WWDC in June. The new model retails for US$229, which is US$30 more than the previous generation.

If you pick up one of the new units and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone screen to feature “doubled” pixel count

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Date: Wednesday, May 29th, 2013, 07:01
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

You know that pixel count you love on your iPhone 5?

It could double with the next generation of the iPhone.

Per Weiphone and Unwired View, Apple is planning to increase the resolution of a future iPhone model to 1.5 million pixels — double that of the pixel count on the current iPhone 5.

The details come from a report by Chinese-language Weiphone, which claims that the next-generation Retina display will be featured on Apple’s next-generation handset, whether it be known as the “iPhone 5S” or “iPhone 6.” The report claimed that the next iPhone will continue to have the same 4-inch display as the iPhone 5.

In addition, the report claimed that the iPhone 5 will have an even thinner bezel than its current design, suggesting Apple will borrow design elements from its popular iPad mini. Finally, it was claimed that Apple’s next iPhone will begin shipping in September.

The current iPhone 5 has a pixel count of nearly 730,000 thanks to its screen resolution of 1,136 by 640 pixels. That works out to 326 pixels per inch on the 4-inch display.

Apple introduced the “Retina display” branding for its screens with the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010. That handset featured a 3.5-inch display with a resolution of 960 by 640 pixels, double that of its predecessors.

At the time, Apple’s Retina display was a market-leading feature for the iPhone. But since then, devices like the HTC One, with a 468-pixel-per-inch display, have provided intense competition.

The HTC One crams a 1080p-resolution screen, the equivalent of a full-fledged high-resolution television, into a 4.7-inch space. That’s more than 2 million pixels, putting it at a density substantially higher than Apple’s iPhone 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple CEO Tim Cook drops hints, thinks wrist-based computing is “interesting” for users

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Date: Wednesday, May 29th, 2013, 06:33
Category: Hardware, News

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If you were looking for hints as to upcoming Apple products, this might be one of them.

Per 9to5Mac, during his recent interview at the AllThingsD D11 Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook has for the first time talked at length about his view on wearable technologies as competitors like Google and others push ahead with Glass and other wearable projects. While noting that broad range appeal with a product like Google Glass is “tough to see,” Cook said he thinks “the wrist is interesting” while calling the form factor “somewhat natural” compared to head mounted products.

“Nike Fuel Band well made for the fitness category. Works well with iOS. The ones that do more than one thing aren’t great. They won’t convince a kid who has never worn glasses, a band, or a watch to wear one. There are lots of things to solve in this area, ripe for excitement. I think there will be tons of companies playing in this (won’t respond to Walt asking if Apple will). I see this as a very key branch of the tree… referring to the post-PC era,” said Cook during the interview.

Cook did note that “people want wearables to be light, unobtrusive, reflect their fashion/style” and that it would take some convincing to show people ‘why it’s worth wearing them’:

“I’m interested in a great product. I only wear glasses because I can’t see without them. People want wearables to be light, unobtrusive, reflect their fashion/style and so forth. From a mainstream point of view, glasses are difficult. I think the wrist is interesting. It is somewhat natural. I think for something to work [on the wrist], you have to convince people why it is worth wearing them.”

This isn’t the same as Tim Cook openly admitting that an iWatch is in the works, but a decent hint never goes unappreciated.

If you want to hurl your two cents in on this, please let us know what you think over in the comments section.

Intel cites possible 50% battery life improvement in upcoming MacBooks under Haswell architecture

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Date: Tuesday, May 28th, 2013, 06:45
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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What a difference a next-gen architecture can make.

According to PCWorld, Intel’s next-generation processor in Apple’s MacBook line could see 50 percent greater battery life thanks to the processors expected to go into them, according to Intel.

In a media briefing ahead of the launch of its Haswell processor platform, Intel chief Rani Borkar said that the chipmaker had designed the line with notebooks and tablets in mind. That focus on mobile devices led to dramatic increases in battery life, with 50 percent longer operation in normal use and extending idle and standby battery life by up to 20 times.

That could mean that battery life for future MacBooks — already near the top of the industry — will see considerable improvements. A 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro’s battery life could jump from about six hours and 15 minutes to Apple’s seven-hour estimate under normal use.

The Haswell line is the latest in the chip giant’s instruction set architecture. The rise of smartphones and tablets has hobbled the PC industry, the main source of Intel’s sales. Increasingly, consumers are opting for mobile devices rather than traditional computing form factors, and Intel has struggled to gain a foothold in the mobile device segment.

The Haswell line, then, is intended to address both traditional computers and tablets as well. Some components of the line have had their power consumption reduced to as low as 7W. Intel’s tablet-tailored offerings are said to offer better performance than non-Intel chipsets, but with comparable battery life.

Intel has been talking up the possibilities of the Haswell line for months ahead of its launch. Most recently, the chipmaker released a document showing that Haswell will double or triple graphics performance compared to previous models.

Apple’s expected refresh of its MacBook line of devices is widely expected to feature Intel’s latest and greatest processor set.

Currently, retailers are running low on supplies of some MacBooks, and many Apple observers expect the company to announce the next generation during the keynote of its Worldwide Developer Conference in June.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Fifth-gen iPad to receive rear-facing mic, thinner, lighter design

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Date: Friday, May 24th, 2013, 06:09
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

A rear-facing mic might be in the next-gen iPad’s future.

Per Macotakara and AppleInsider, the fifth-generation iPad is expected to ship after Apple’s anticipated “iPhone 5S.” Reports have pegged Apple’s next iPhone for launch around September, which would be around a year after the iPhone 5 went on sale.

According to author Danbo’s sources, the next 9.7-inch iPad will gain a rear microphone next to the camera, much like Apple added to the iPhone 5 in 2012. The report noted that prototypes of the iPad mini also included rear microphones, but were not included in the final shipping product introduced last October.

While Apple apparently opted to remove the rear mic from the iPad mini in late stages of development, thus far it appears the microphone will remain on the next 9.7-inch iPad.

Earlier reports have claimed that Apple’s fifth-generation iPad will adopt many of the same design elements Apple adopted with the iPad mini, including a thinner bezel around the screen and more rounded edges. Those changes are expected to make the device 25 percent lighter and 15 percent thinner than its predecessor.

Among the internal changes expected is a “GF2″ touch panel, which would make the touchscreen component of the iPad thinner. And improved power efficiency could also allow Apple to reduce the size of the iPad’s internal battery, which currently accounts for most of the device’s weight.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple receives patents for push-to-talk, double-sided touch panel features

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Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 11:30
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents

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If you’re hankering for new hardware features on a next-gen iPhone, the patent office is on your side.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently published 26 newly granted patents for Apple, and among them were the Cupertino company’s take on a push-to-talk feature and a double-sided touch-sensitive panel, both of which could possibly appear in future iPhones.

No current models of Apple’s bestselling iPhone support the Push-to-Talk (PTT) feature that many carriers have made available for years now. Users do have access to a number of apps in the iTunes App Store that can reproduce PTT, but U.S. Patent No. 8,447,341 indicates that Apple has at least considered integrating it into a model of its phone.

The patent notes that telecommunications networks exist that enable devices to directly access each other through a digital two-way radio feature.

Apple’s invention, though, describes “a method and system to provide push-to-talk from one user to another in a wireless packet data telecommunications network.” It includes a packet data network with at least one mobile station, a radio access network, a location server, registrar, database server, and PTT server that connects PTT users across the network.

Given the company’s secrecy about forthcoming products, it’s difficult to gauge how likely PTT is to show up in a future iPhone model. In 2010, the company was revealed to be exploring PTT capabilities, but such features haven’t emerged in any models to date.

The filing lists the patent as a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/028,086, filed on December 21, 2001. That patent application, entitled “Push-to-Talk Telecommunications System Utilizing a Voice-Over-IP Network,” was originally filed by Nortel Networks. The patent granted on Tuesday was likely a part of the portfolio Apple and other companies bought in 2011 for US$4.5 billion.

Included among the 26 patents granted on Tuesday is one for a “double-sided touch sensitive panel and flex circuit bonding.” The patent — U.S. Patent No. 8,446,386 — relates to the creation of a multi-touch sensor using a substrate with column and row traces on either side. The process bonds printed flex circuits to directly opposing attachment areas of a substrate.

The patent cites the desirability of keeping “the overall size of the sensor panel as small as possible” as a reason to “have two flex circuits connect to directly opposing sides of the sensor panel.” It’s therefore likely that this technology would go toward Apple’s continual push to make each of its devices thinner than the previous generation.

Other patents granted on Tuesday include ones for “gesture control of multimedia editing applications,” “methods and apparatus for decreasing power consumption and bus activity,” “techniques for versioning file systems,” “technique for visually compositing a group of graphical objects,” a “system for optimizing graphics operations,” and a “touch pad for handheld device.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Repair costs for iPhone repairs on the rise, component prices cited

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Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 06:01
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

Ok, now this is interesting.

An article over on MarketWatch points out that Apple’s repair costs to fix an iPhone 5 with a broken screen have jumped to US$229 – more than the US$200 price of the device with a two-year contract, and more than a third of the US$650 cost of the phone without a contract. Select Apple stores offer the option of a US$149 repair. And for those who paid US$99 for AppleCare insurance, the replacement is just US$49.

The piece then cites that the replacement components for the iPhone 5 are much more expensive than similar parts for prior models — so expensive in fact that many independent repair services cannot compete. “Due to the high cost of replacement parts, we are not yet offering iPhone 5 repairs,” according to a statement on ComputerOverhauls.com, an online repair shop. “Currently, the Apple Store is the least expensive option for repairing damaged iPhone 5s.” Other services charge as much as US$250 for the repair.

Given current numbers, nearly one-third of iPhone users damaged their devices during 2012, according to a recent study by gadget insurer SquareTrade. Repairs have cost consumers nearly US$6 billion since the iPhone was launched in 2007 and apparently iPhones get abused more than iPads, only 10% of which were damaged, per the survey.

Despite this, iCracked — an independent firm that has technicians across the U.S. — charges half as much to fix an iPhone 4S screen (US$79 to US$99) as to fix an iPhone 5 (US$169 to US$199) thanks to tight control on iPhone 5 components in the market, Forsythe says. “Market forces determine the price,” he says. “Apple sells about 300,000 iPhones a day and, as the repair market grows, prices will get lower.”

“Apple controls everything from the manufacturing to the gear for the iPhone 5,” says Jeff Haynes, editor at deal site TechBargains.com. As the iPhone 5 is larger than the 4, the cost for replacement parts rises, he says. “Apple is trying to get people to sign up for Apple Care for US$99 and to rely on their services at the Apple store,” he says, “If you don’t, that cracked screen could cost you at least US$230.”

Thanks to do-it-yourself kits, it’s possible to replace the screen on an iPhone 4 for less than a quarter of that price. Adam Carey, a New York-based mobile development consultant, bought a DIY kit on Amazon.com for US$25 and followed instructions on iFixit.com, an online repair manual. The procedure took him two hours. “It’s not like snapping on a cover,” he says. “It’s like performing surgery. You need pretty steady hands.”

If you’ve been repairing iPhones and noticed a jump in component prices, please let us know about your experience in the comments section.