The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: Apple

iOS 10- Initial Impressions on a Mid-Autumn Festival

“The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” —Che Guevara

Released just two days ago, on September 13, iOS 10 is the latest iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system. With my years of experience in updating to the newest versions of iOS, I can easily say that this year’s update was by far the smoothest: I plugged in my devices, ran the installers and followed the on-screen prompts to load iOS 10. When completed, I was immediately welcomed with iOS 10’s latest feature: a redesigned lock screen that allows access to a plethora of widgets and the camera. The notifications system has also been given updates, making it easier than ever to respond to new events as they occur. Similarly, the control center has been given an overhaul, giving users separate panes to control their devices. Together with the new widgets menu, iOS 10 makes it easier than ever to quickly glance at one’s email inbox or the weather. The music app has also been given some updates and changes in organisation. I was rather fond of the system implemented in iOS 9, and the new music app feels a little unintuitive by comparison, although I imagine that with time, I’ll get used to things. I’ve only been playing around with iOS 10 for half an hour, so there are plenty of new features, including an improved iMessage client, multi-lingual keyboard and changes to the built-in email client, but so far, the experience has been relatively smooth.

  • My home screen hasn’t actually changed all that much since iOS 9 (or iOS 8, for that matter). I still organise my apps the same way I did back in 2013, although my collection of games and utilities have grown since then. One of my favourite apps is PDF Expert, an incredibly powerful and useful apps that allows for PDF organisation and annotation. I’ve utilised it to keep track of schedules during conferences and revisions to my thesis, although now that I’m done my graduate program, I’m not too certain as to whether or not I’ll use PDF expert frequently.

  • Instead of zooming in fully to a folder, the new visualisation system in iOS 10 expands a folder over the home screen as an overlay. It’s a very subtle change from iOS 9, although I’ve grown rather fond of this functionality. Pages and Keynote for iOS are visible here, now with powerful new features. I made extensive use of both apps during my thesis: I had backed up my defense presentation to iCloud as a countermeasure for if my MacBook Pro should fail, and also was quite prepared to defend using my iPhone, but fortunately, the defense proceeded without a hitch. I later would bring my iPad to Cancún for the ALIFE XV Conference and gave a pair of presentations there.

  • The new control center is much more expansive and spacious compared to previous incarnations, and I’ve immediately taken a liking to it: all of the features are out in the open now, making it very easy to make small adjustments to the iPad or iPhone even on the fly. The usefulness of the control center is such that I now can’t imagine operating an iOS device without it: it makes turning on the WiFi or Bluetooth significantly easier. The new widgets center is also a pleasant improvement, as is the new notifications center, but because tonight’s been a quiet evening, I haven’t seen it in operation yet.

  • The new music app feels a lot more rudimentary than its iOS 9 counterpart, with its increased use of white space and larger font sizes. I can still find and play songs with ease as I did with the previous music app, and while I’m not too fond of the new, larger UI elements, I can adapt. However, iOS 10’s music app has one critical omission: lyrics are gone now for all songs loaded onto the device. It’s a move reminiscent of what happened in iOS 5, and while I’ve not used the lyrics mechanism in iOS for quite some time, its absence is rather noticeable.

  • The iPad Air 2 can still handle multi-tasking flawlessly with iOS 10: I’m browsing through a webpage, reading a Wikipedia article and watching the first episode of Sora no Woto here at the same time, and each app handles smoothly. I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting an anime-related post in quite some time (the past four posts have dealt with games to some capacity, and the Planetarian review was written nearly a month ago). With that being said, New Game! is reaching its conclusion, and surprisingly, I’m reasonably caught up, so a post will be coming out within a week of the finale’s release near the month’s end.

Besides seeing my upgrading to iOS 10, today also happens to be the Mid-Autumn festival, celebrating the autumn full moon on the lunar calendar and the associated harvest celebrations. While this year’s schedule precluded a full banquet, there’s always time for Moon Cake. Further to this, the weather this year has been remarkably pleasant (after nearly a full month of rain in August), and the harvest moon looks marvelous, with its golden hue. It’s far cry from the events of two years ago, where a massive snowstorm rolled into my AO hours after sunset on the evening of the Mid-Autumn festival. Returning back to iOS 10, as with my assessment of iOS 9 from last year, the latest iOS turns out to be a pleasant upgrade from its predecessor; both my iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 handle the new system with ease. My devices lack a 3D-touch sensor and the M9 processor, so I won’t be able to capitalise on some of the more novel features that come with iOS 10 (speaking to the pace at which these incremental changes are made), but all of the minor updates, coupled with the fact that they don’t seem to detrimentally impact the performance or battery life of my older devices, means that iOS 10 will be a fine update for frequent use in the upcoming year.

Race the Sun: iOS Game Review and Reflection

“Who dares, wins” —David Stirling

Not to be confused with the 1996 movie, Race the Sun is a procedurally-generated endless-runner game where the player controls a solar-powered craft. The objective is simple enough: to maneuver around an eternal landscape of abstract obstacles and stay in the daylight for as long as possible as the sun is setting. As players make progress, unlocks that confer performance and cosmetic customisations become available, allowing players to fine-tune their craft to fit their play-style. To increase survivability and scoring, different power-ups can be collected as one is flying through a region: beyond the scoring multipliers, some give a speed boost, jumps and even a shield that saves a player from head-on collisions. The presence of power-ups, slightly more forgiving collision mechanics and the added challenge of having to outmaneuver the sun means that Race the Sun definitely has enough additions to make it stand out from the classic Flash game Cubefield, which similarly featured a craft being flown through an endless field of cubes. In comparison to the simplistic Cubefield, Race the Sun is remarkably entertaining and compels players to return, unlocking all twenty-five levels and vie for scoring supremacy in a world deadly, monochromatic obstacles.

  • I was inspired to pick up Race the Sun after watching a Rage Quit video of it, and the page quote is directly inspired by said video. In my first few hours, I was not used to the controls on iOS: touching the screen is what’s needed to turn the craft, and one must touch the bottom to utilise a jump power-up (on PC, the controls are arrow keys and spacebar, which are more intuitive), but I’m more comfortable with the game now.

  • After completing all of the objectives and reaching level 25, the name of the game is simply to last as long as possible using the vehicle configuration of one’s choice. While the “recommended” setup is magnet (for increased item pickup range), jumps (to store more jumps) and improved turning to decrease turn radius, the ship can be configured differently to simplify the completion of some objectives.

  • Having all three slots available for power-ups makes Race the Sun somewhat easier than it was as seen in Rage Quit. Contrasting games like Cubefield, where collisions immediately result in death, Race the Sun is a little more lenient: only direct collisions cause death, while glancing collisions merely detract from one’s multiplier.

  • The void is one of my favourite aspects of Race the Sun, being a space-like environment filled with multiplier-increasing pick-ups. It’s definitely more enjoyable than Cubefield owing to all of the different nuances.

  • I read one review that cleverly stated Race the Sun to act as a metaphor for life itself. Paraphrased, it suggests that the spacecraft represent people as they pursue their dreams, which are fleeting and must be chased. Like how the space craft slows down in the absence of light, shadows of out own doubt slow us down, and numerous obstacles in the environment, some being obvious and others coming out of nowhere can stop one’s pursuit. Said review goes on to encourage users to get back up and keep trying, just like in real life. It’s not often I read reviews that are insightful, but there are exceptions. With the pair of iOS game reviews now done as promised, I’ll see if I can do a talk on Alto’s Adventure in the near future.

I picked up Race the Sun for iOS and have spent around six hours in-game. There are no tilt controls: touching the left and right sections of the screen allow one to steer their craft, and tapping the bottom of the screen when a jump is picked up will activate the jump. The simple controls work well enough for their part, but in my first few hours of gameplay, I had minor difficulties in making sharp enough turns to dodge close-up obstacles. However, once the steering mechanics were mastered, it was quite fun to complete the objectives and level up (ranging from simple ones that involve collecting a certain number of points or using a power-up a fixed number of times, to insanely difficult ones that require players make only left turns through three regions in a single run, or perform twenty barrel-rolls in one life). Over time, I reached Race the Sun‘s level cap, and the game at level twenty five even more enjoyable than it was while completing the objectives. Frustrations encountered earlier, such as the magnet’s range, numbers of jumps stored or turn radius disappear, allowing players to focus solely on getting the high score. Different game modes are also unlocked, with the diabolical Apocalypse mode and top-view maze runner, providing a different style of play for those looking for something a little different. Its near-infinite replay value, coupled with a refreshing, minimalistic appearance and simple mechanics means that Race the Sun is an excellent iOS game, well worth the 5.79 CAD.

Leo’s Fortune: iOS Game Review and Reflection

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” —Charles Kuralt

Leo’s Fortune is one of the better-known games on the App Store for its beautifully crafted world, wonderful voice acting and relaxing soundtrack. Following Leo, a fluffy roly-poly, on his quest to reclaim his lost treasure in the form of gold coins, Leo’s Fortune is a stunning platformer that has a surprisingly heart-warming plot that is unveiled as Leo makes his way through a plethora of worlds. Speaking in a thick Eastern European accent, Leo himself is a highly sympathetic character whose inner thoughts are visible to the player. Entangled in the mystery of who the thief was, players are compelled to follow Leo’s Fortune to the end to figure out the culprit’s identity. From a mechanical perspective, Leo’s Fortune promotes clever gameplay, making use of the in-game physics to solve puzzles and advance to the next region. The star system also encourages players to go back and complete missions with a single life, obtain all the coins and finish levels under a time limit: these stars unlock bonus missions in a region, and together, Leo’s Fortune handles exceptionally smoothly, allowing players to immerse themselves in a fantastical world where not everything is what it seems.

  • Conceptually, Leo’s Fortune is a simple game, but its immersive factor comes from the polish in the level design, artwork and voice acting. The first region is set in a gentle, lush forest, but later regions feature a variety of more lethal-looking environments.

  • A unique feature in Leo’s Adventure is the movement system. While players can intuitively move Leo around using the left thumb, Leo doesn’t actually jump or crouch. Instead, moving the right thumb up causes Leo to inflate and gain buoyancy, making it possible for him to float over wide precipices, and moving the thumb down causes Leo to drop, which is great for dropping quickly. A combination of both will be required to beat the puzzles scattered in the game.

  • The soundtrack in Leo’s Fortune has a medieval, children’s feel to it, reminiscent of the music seen in fairy tales and fables. It’s well-suited for the game, as are the visuals. While the landscapes are highly detailed, they do not obscure gameplay in any way.

  • Players have unlimited lives with which to push through the different levels, although players must beat levels under a time limit, without losing a specified number of lives, while collecting all the coins, to unlock all of the bonus features available in the game.

  • I understand that this last screenshot and the page quote might spoil the plot, but there’s not enough context for that to occur. According to the site’s archives, it’s been quite some time since I’ve done an iOS game review for a title that did not have the phrase “Deer Hunter” in it (Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is the aforementioned review).

It was during the coldest depths of Winter 2015 when I picked up Leo’s Fortune during an iTunes sale, and I absolutely loved the experience. Beyond intriguing worlds to explore and solve puzzles in, each world (or set of levels) have their own surprises, such as wind storms, underwater segments and puzzles that demand precision from the player. Thus, when players reach the end and learn of the true culprit, it feels like a rewarding, well-deserved ending to the game. I myself was surprised at the turn of events, and the lessons learnt here are remarkably relevant in contemporary society, forcing players to question what it is they truly value in their lives. Things like fortunes and wealth can be amassed, but one must wonder if these things are the key to fulfilment. Consequently, it’s easy for me to recommend Leo’s Fortune for the experience, and for individuals lacking an iOS device, Leo’s Fortune (as of September 8, 2015) was also released for Mac and PC, being available on the Steam Store as an HD remake.

iOS 9- Initial Impressions

Apple’s iOS 9 released back on September 16; since it was announced back at WWDC 2015 back during June, iOS 9 has been one of the more anticipated of Apple’s mobile operating systems. Numerous new features, including split-screen multi-tasking for iPad Air 2 (and other useful multitasking operations that allow me to watch my anime and chat with friends in Facebook chat or Skype simultaneously, or go back to the last opened application), an improved keyboard that makes it easier to type and under-the-hood optimisations that boost battery life by an additional hour and a powerful new Notes app that allows for rich-text notes, check-lists and even drawings. There’s also a content-blocker program in place now, making it possible to download apps that block apps, streamlining the web-browsing experience. Siri is also more powerful, and the notifications centre has been updated so all of the information is more visible. All of these new features come just in time as the iOS programming course I’m TA’ing is kicking into high gear: we’re just moving past the basics of programming in Swift 2.0 (which is quite differnt than Swift 1.2 and admittedly, any other language I’ve worked with so far) and I’m just about done grading the first batch of assignments, which deals with Playgrounds in Xcode. Xcode 7’s also out now, so the students will be able to develop in Swift 2.0 for iOS 9 (their first iOS app will be due this Wednesday). I’m quite happy that the updates came when they did: I still recall that they released iOS 5 in October 2011, which would’ve been a ways into term. Had this been the case, it would’ve been more difficult for the students, who would need to upgrade midway into term.

  • Outwardly, iOS 9 doesn’t look too different than iOS 8. However, there are subtle hints that this is an iPad rocking iOS 9: the spotlight icon makes a return from iOS 6, and on the iPad, folders now store apps in four by four, rather than three by three, increasing the capacity of each folder. Since my last talk in iOS 8 and the iPad Air 2, I’ve picked up several new games that merit their own discussions at some point in the near future.

  • The new notifications centre properly capitalises on the iPad’s space to display information in a more compact manner. I prefer it over the notification centre of iOS 8, and yesterday evening, it promptly notified me of Beakerhead’s Beakernight event yesterday evening. I met up with a friend and we partook in the signature “flaming skee-ball“, watched a band perform with novel instruments, and viewed some E. coli artwork being exhibited. I ran into several friends and colleagues later in the evening and picked up a hot cocoa as the air began to cool.

  • The new iOS keyboard changes to indicate whether or not a user will be typing in lower or upper case. Though a long-present feature on Windows Phone 8 and Android, it was absent from iOS for the longest time and made it difficult to tell whether one had the shift key engaged. Though a small change, this is much appreciated, especially since the keyboard is oft-used. Siri and Spotlight are much more powerful now, and there’s even a search option in the Settings, making it easier to find certain settings to configure. With a hardware keyboard plugged in, Apple-Tab actually allows for apps to be switched between like on a desktop, and Apple-Shift-H returns users to the home screen.

  • Only available to the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3 and upcoming iPad Pro, split-screen is a powerful addition that allows the iPad to do two things at once. Though it’s limited to a handful of apps at present, such a feature will be immensely useful for productivity (such as reading a PDF and writing a paper in Pages simultaneously, or running a Skype conversation while browsing the internet). Once developers capitalise on this feature, split-screen multi-tasking will become an indispensable feature on an iPad. Whilst we’re speaking of fish and chips, I returned to Billingsgate Seafood Market on Thursday for a fish-and-chips dinner prior to this season’s first Nerd Night: the light, crisp batter and tender, flakey fish was tasty, as were the freshly-cut fries, and the Nerd Night talks were as engaging as dinner was delicious.

  • Though I’m unlikely to actually watch Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and read Tom Clancy’s Theat Vector at the same time, I am thoroughly enjoying the picture-in-picture feature, which is quite useful for when I’m watching a video and chatting with friends in Facebook chat or Skype. Coming up next will be a talk on the final episodes to Non Non Biyori, followed by a review of Metro: 2033 Redux, which I beat yesterday.

iOS 9 is an incremental update to iOS 8; despite offering no major overhauls, the subtle changes made to the operating system here and there confer major benefits to the users that far exceed the differences between iOS 6 and iOS 7. All of these subtle changes make the iPad much easier to use for both productivity and recreation. There are a few bugs here and there (such as bookmarks disappearing from the favourites bar in Safari, or the wallpaper turning black for a half-second when exiting a folder), as well. On the whole, though, iOS 9 is quite stable while providing new features that make it easier than ever to get something done. All of these features are available for the iPad Air 2 and latest iPad Mini, as well as the upcoming iPad Pro, but surprisingly enough, the iPad 2 is capable of running iOS 9, albeit with limited features and probably with a much lower performance. I predicted that the iOS 8 would be the latest operating system the iPad 2 could run, but it is somewhat impressive that Apple is continuing to support updates for the iPad 2. For the present, though, the iPad Air 2 has replaced the iPad 2 as my workhorse tablet, and rocking iOS 9 means getting more done, more efficiently.

Deer Hunter 2014: Caspian Basin, Mekong Wetlands and Thar Desert

“Hunting is not a sport. In a sport, both sides should know they’re in the game.” —Paul Rodriguez

My intuition tells me that there are still individuals who are looking for Deer Hunter 2014-related information. It’s now 2015, and given that Glu Games has not released a successor to Deer Hunter 2014, it’s safe to suppose that Deer Hunter 2014 will be around for quite some time. This is not particularly surprising, since Deer Hunter 2014’s game model of providing downloadable regions and content has allowed the game to be easily updated and run. It’s a rather clever way of extending the game’s lifespan: when I picked up the game back in November 2013, there were only five regions. Some seventeen months later, there’s a grand total of eighteen regions now on Deer Hunter 2014 for iOS, and unlocking them is a relatively straightforwards procedure: completing all of the Trophy Hunts for a region will allow the next region to be unlocked. While there are eighteen regions in total now, plus five hidden regions that require the use of a compound bow or crossbow, the techniques for staying on top of the game has not changed since my first post: it’s best to always begin saving for a weapon two regions above (so, if you’re in region fourteen, play contract hunts to accumulate enough in-game money to purchase and max out the region sixteen rifle, then, once region sixteen is reached, repeat the process for the region eighteen rifle).

  • This post deals largely with regions 16, 17 and 18: ever since November, I’ve been rocking the Grantham Foxhound as my primary bolt-action rifle, with the Rohman Shepherd semi-automatic rifle taking the place of my assault rifle, and the Plisskin Rattler as my primary shotgun. These weapons still perform adequately up to region 15, the Himalayas, and for region 14, the Matanga Hills, they’re still quite capable.

  • Completing the hunts in the hidden regions can be a challenge, since the platinum eagles awarded for each successful hunt are relatively few in number, and the costs of upgrade are comparatively expensive. Patience is key here, as the grind can be quite long, but strictly speaking, it’s not a good idea to spend gold on recovering one’s energy.

  • The latest hidden region I’ve unlocked is the Legendary City, which features some fantastical maps, such as an underground city with lava flows. Since I last played this back in December 2014, three new hidden regions have been added: the Kingdom of Gold, Ruins of Carpathia and Antarctic Crater. I haven’t gotten around to unlocking those yet, but the procedure shouldn’t be too difficult.

  • I’ve jumped ahead to the Caspian Basin: having spent between November and March on hiatus, three new regions and three new hidden regions were added to Deer Hunter 2014. Each hunt in the Himalayas only yields 64000 dollars at most, so accumulating enough money for the the Westin Bronco (7 371 610 dollars) can take quite some time. With a base damage of 57340 (upgradable to 83945), unlocking this weapon allowed me to breeze through all of the regions.

  • I’ll once again take a few moments to admire the scenery in the Mekong Wetlands region; the regions in Deer Hunter 2014 vary from being unremarkable (such as the Yellow Driver and Gobi Desert), but others have fantastic landscape and lighting that breathe life into the environments.

  • Beyond the mountains of the Mekong delta, this region also features swamps, and crocodiles to hunt. I’ve heard that there are special bounties that require shooting the crocodiles in a very specific spot, and that some players are having trouble running into crocodiles in the contract hunts. There is no real solution, besides playing more contract hunts until they are encountered. The sports drinks might be useful here, allowing players to slow time down and place their shots more accurately.

  • The Thar Desert is the latest region, and like the Mekong Wetlands, features spectacular-looking scenery. To acquire the resources for purchasing the weapon and upgrades needed to finish this region, I farmed the Easter egg hunts, which yielded on average around 280 000 dollars.

  • Similar to the Grantham Foxhound and the Plisskin Bite, the Westin Bronco is styled off classic rifles rather than the highly militarised designs of other weapons in the game. The weapon designs are cosmetic only: some of the more intimidating weapons that were seen in the game earlier on have been vastly eclipsed by weapons of the later regions.

  • By region 18, it becomes apparent that the Plisskin Rattler is no longer adequate for the job: while a fine weapon, its low damage output means it takes an entire magazine to down one animal. Thus, it makes sense to upgrade to the Grantham KG-Rook, which hits roughly ten times harder than the Plisskin Rattler. When trying the weapon out, it feels quite nice to be able to complete hunts very quickly.

  • For the time being, Deer Hunter 2014 shows no sign of slowing down in terms of content: the model of incremental upgrades and seasonal events means that Glu Games is able to continue adding new features to the game. I still play this sporadically, and over time, I’ll get around to unlocking the remainder of the hidden regions in due course, as well as saving enough for the Plisskin Bane M50: I’ve been using the Rohman Shepherd to stand in as an assault rifle, but its damage model is no longer sufficient, so I’ll need to upgrade, as well.

By this point in time, Deer Hunter 2014’s player base should be reasonably familiar with the unlock mechanics within the game. Thus, most questions in the game will concern whether or not certain missions exist on different platforms. In response to rare hunts for regions sixteen and seventeen, as well as region nineteen, has not been added yet. However, there is the presence of the , a multi-region rifle that includes region nineteen. As such, once the Easter event is over, Glu Games will likely introduce new content. Thus, it’s perhaps not too surprising to see that there is still interest in Deer Hunter 2014: while the game is a little unstable for some, it’s been running fine on my end. The lack of a cloud save feature remains Deer Hunter 2014’s biggest Achilles’ Heel, preventing me from moving the game (and the hours of progress I’ve slowly accumulated over the past seventeen months) from my older iPad to the iPad Air 2. Naturally, if the readers have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.