November 9, 2013
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It’s November now: both Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts are now out for PC. Am I turning my powerful PC’s GPU to that task? Nope. Instead, I’m having a riot lighting up animals in Glu Games’ Deer Hunter 2014, the latest iteration in the Deer Hunter series for iOS. Compared to its predecessor, it’s still the same in concept and gameplay, setting the player as a hunter in diverse regions with the objective of hunting down animals for money and experience. However, Deer Hunter 2014 differentiates itself from its predecessor in the weapons shop, where region-appropriate weapons can be purchased with the money earnable in-game. The premium currency, gold, is still the only way to purchase the superior rifles and shotguns: these premium weapons have perks that make the game almost too easy, although players with a degree of skill will find that the standard weapons are sufficient for the job. We compare this with Deer Hunter Reloaded, where the 30-06 Elkmaster was the top-of-the-line weapon that could be bought with the standard money, and rifles afterwards could only be purchased in gold. Weapons can now be upgraded to extend their functionality, as well. Some upgrades are necessary, while others are merely bonuses that simplify missions. Deer Hunter 2014 also introduces the concepts of regions, different areas of the game that are unlocked by completing Trophy Hunts. This adds a degree of diversity to the game, and makes hunting more exciting: the different locales are beautiful and detailed, as the screenshots below demonstrate.
- The controls in Deer Hunter 2014 are similar to those of Deer Hunter Reloaded. I remember playing the contract missions in region one long enough to afford the region three standard rifle, and subsequently blew my way through region two. Then in region three, I bought the rifle for region five and fully upgraded its stability and zoom, allowing me to blow through region four. The standard rifles are bolt-action and have a very slow firing rate: in the standard missions, missing a shot is tantamount to failing the mission.
- After the introductory missions, the game will ask the player to buy a shotgun for some close-quarter stampede-style hunts. The shotguns aren’t that expensive (the region five one costs some 27000 dollars) and can easily be afforded even at the lower levels. When I first bought my second shotgun, there were only four regions, and that gun was only 14000 dollars, making it ridiculously easy to purchase. The stampede-style missions are very entertaining to play, while the objective missions are far more straightforward.
- Region three (British Columbia) is the most beautiful of all the regions, featuring verdant forests and coastal tidal pools. One guide recommends saving for the next region’s weapons while players are in their current region, but I recommend saving enough to purchase the most powerful weapons and upgrading it. This does mean playing through more of the contract hunts, and as energy depletes very quickly, it will take a while to accumulate enough money for the later weapons.
- The region four shotgun is inspired by the UTAS UTS-15, a police shotgun with a 13-round capacity and weighs 3 kilograms when unloaded. For people who don’t want to buy Battlefield 4 to try this gun out in a game, Deer Hunter 2014 offers a chance to use it. Check out the graphics here: it still impresses me that a mobile platform such as the iPad now has enough power to output graphics rivaling the Play Station 2.
- Some hunts recommend an assault rifle, but they can be completed using a bolt-action rifle if the player is sufficiently skilled. The standard rifles have a very long reload time, so it is imperative to ensure that every shot hits its target. By the time I finished region three, I had the region five rifle with fully upgraded stability and optics, allowing me to effortlessly complete the Trophy Hunts. These Trophy hunts are rare animal hunts that require weapons to satisfy some minimum requirements, and the upgrade costs aren’t cheap. As the upgraded parts improve, they are imported, meaning it will take time to actually use them. The import times for the region five rifle is roughly 24 minutes.
- Get a load of that scope. It is incredibly satisfying to line up a good shot in the South Africa region: in this map, the distances to the animals are great, and the bullets will take a few moments to get there in slow-motion, making a successful shot very rewarding to watch. There’s an awareness indicator in the top-right of the screen: when it fills up, the animals begin to disperse, and sometimes, I am able to lead my shots and complete what originally was turning out to be a failing mission.
- A while back, I finally unlocked region five and was grinding contract missions to afford the best assault rifle. The other assault rifles are inferior, and since I was going to buy an assault rifle, I might as well go for the very best. Assault rifles certainly makes the contract hunts easier with their semi-automatic fire and magazines, but a sufficiently skilled player could probably get by without an assault rifle for the contract hunts.
- The Alaska update brings to the game a fifth region and new guns. The Alaskan sunrise looks beautiful, and brings to the game a sense of immersion that one is actually hunting. The graphics in Deer Hunter 2014 far surpasses anything seen in Deer Hunter Reloaded.
- Players will have the opportunity to take on wolves, deer, mountain goats, caribou, lions, rhinos, hippopotamuses and even elephants during their travels. Once the player completes the Trophy hunts and standard missions, those are locked, but the contract hunts can be played indefinitely.
- Weather and day-night cycles add an additional amount of depth into the game. While not shown here, only rifles can equip an infrared module: these are necessary to hit the correct spot in the target on some missions, and heart shots are difficult to score. Infrared batteries drain very quickly, so it is advisable to upgrade those alongside the stability and zoom attributes. These are the biggest elements for Trophy hunts: assuming a player has a powerful rifle above the regional requirements, upgrading only the stability and optics will allow a player to progress quite quickly.
Deer Hunter 2014 retains the energy concept from Deer Hunter Reloaded; while still obstructive and limiting, the amount of energy each mission requires is easier to understand and the game also gives the player a countdown on when their next unit will replenish. The only weakness in Deer Hunter 2014 compared to its predecessor is the fact that the game does not support iCloud synchronisation, meaning that removing the game will cause all progress to be lost, and that progress cannot be imported from one device to another. All in all, Deer Hunter 2014 represents a substantial improvement over Deer Hunter Reloaded, minus the lack of iCloud support, and is an ideal game to play in short intervals. As a free-to-play game, Glu Games is quick to recommend spending some hard currency on upgrades and energy replenishment, but players can nonetheless enjoy the game fully without ever spending a penny. Just like Deer Hunter Reloaded, Deer Hunter 2014 is an excellent game to play periodically, such as while waiting for a train to show up.
May 14, 2013
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Danny Choo’s Culture Japan releases yet another fun clock, Amairo*Clock, in the same lineage as its predecessor, DRACLOCK. In terms of functionality, it is identical to Draclock, being able to read back the current time (in Japanese) when the screen is tapped, notifying one about their birthday and possessing a built-in alarm. While the core mechanics are identical, Amairo*Clock features new characters from the eroge Amairo Islenauts and features voice acting from said game’s original voice actors.
- Amairo*Clock was released on May 2, 2013 and requires iOS 6.0 or later, as well as 501 MB of storage space.
- This app is completely incapable of operating in landscape mode on the iPad. However, give the image a good look and realise that landscape mode’s absence is probably not sufficient a detractor from this app.
- I was enrolled in a introductory Japanese course a year-and-a-half ago. As it stands now, I retained some of the material, but for all intents and purposes, I am illiterate in Japanese.
- The ability to use custom backgrounds is über pro: here, I have a background from Interface Lift, a site that hosts superior quality wallpapers. I use their wallpapers to liven up my desktop at the lab because said office space has no windows (we use Mac exclusively and are located at the core of the building).
- As previously, there is a battery indicator and options menu: when I wrote the reflection for DRACLOCK, I had zero iOS experience. Presently, I have programmed a few iOS apps, although the bulk of my work remains in development for Mac OS X (and more specifically, physiological simulation software).
- What I look forward to most would be a Mirai Suenaga version of these clock apps, featuring Mirai Suenaga and her sisters in a similar fashion. As I come across these apps by pure chance, I am not certain whether or not such an app would be reality.
Amairo*Clock is rated 17+ in the iTunes App Store for “Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes” and “Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity”, given that the characters can be given swim attire in the options menu. The most notable feature, though, is the capacity to choose custom images for the background. Like its predecessor, Amairo*Clock is a simple app that carries out its functions very well, and this time around, is compatible with both the iPhone and iPad.
December 27, 2012
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Vito Technology entered the market of mobile application development in 2001, but its latest applications have made it one of the best known organisations out there for developing iOS apps. Their two flagship apps, Star Walk and Solar Walk, are amongst some of the best apps that exist for the iOS platform. Star Walk is an interactive star map that can track the position of over 20000 objects in the night sky, while Solar Walk is a replica of the region within the solar system. Both apps are spectacular in visuals and functionality; I purchased them a year ago as apps to showcase the iPad 2’s graphics, but the apps have found use in locating objects for star gazing sessions.
- While not depicted here, the coolest feature in Sky Walk is augmented reality, the ability to project the stars onto the sky using the iPad’s camera. The system is calibrated using the position of a well-known object, and the app carries out the rest of the calculations.
- Navigation and usage of the app could not be easier. Users swipe to move around, pinch to zoom and tap to select objects. Menu items allow users to customise the app settings, alter the time of the view and search for common objects.
- Sky Walk costs 4.99 CAD in the app store, a cost that is considerably more economic than the 40 or so CAD the astronomy guides cost. Then again, the iPad itself makes it expensive.
- What’s cooler than being able to look at the sky at various positions and times of day? How about the ability to look up things that one may or may not be familiar with?
- Remember 100000 stars? That neat web-app could not run on Safari or iOS devices natively. Now imagine a version for iOS that does something similar for objects in the solar system that is just as visually stunning and easy to use.
- As per Sky Walk, Solar Walk uses a similar UI and navigation schema, making it easy to use one app if one is familiar with another. This cross-program consistency makes Vito Technology’s software usable- such a paradigm means that users familiar with one product from a company will be able to pick up another product with minimal trouble. From the end-user perspective, this makes it easy to get something done. From the developer’s end, it will mean repeat business.
- Tapping the screen once hides the HUD, allowing the iOS device to be used as a cool photo frame. The graphics are spectacular: years ago, stuff like this was merely fiction, but radical advances in processor technology have made some once-fictional technology, like high-resolution multitouch UIs, a reality.
- Solar Walk costs 2.99 CAD in the app store, two dollars less than Star Walk. A recent update has allowed for the app to be streamed to an HD display, further extending the app’s usefulness in showing off the coolest parts of the solar system.
Stargazing and astronomy are two pursuits I’ve had since my first pair of binoculars fourteen years ago: when I first started, things like iPads and electronic sky maps were still constrained to research institutes and science fiction. Instead, I have a small collection of astronomer Terence Dickinson’s stargazing books, which provide maps of the sky and guides for amateur astronomy. I am a binocular stargazer and have witnessed a handful of cosmic events, such as lunar eclipses, auroras, meteor showers, planetary conjunctions and the like with nothing more than the naked eye, and have found many well-known astronomical features with a simple pair of binoculars, reflecting on the fact that the hobby itself can be as simple as keeping an eye and ear open for events and looking at the sky. Of course, the shiny apps we have now augment the experience; if I were to ever bring the iPad into the field, the Sky Walk app has a nifty feature to preserve our night vision.
December 2, 2012
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iTunes 11 is the latest and possibly greatest update the iTunes media player has seen for a while. Touted as being faster and sleeker than its predecessors, the update ultimately lived up to Apple’s promise of a refreshed media player for the modern age. In particular, the UI has undergone a total overhaul to match the look and feel found on the iOS music players. The update was released late in November, a full month after Apple announced that they would require more time to polish the system.
- I’ve been using iTunes since 2005, and preferred the older organisation of music. To re-enable the old interface, Windows users can hit “ctrl-/” and “ctrl-s” to restore the status bar and side bar, respectively. I imagine that these images are high resolution enough to give people a rough idea of my personal music tastes, and admittedly, I believe myself to have some of the most diverse music around.
- Those using the new interface will find their devices listed off to the right. Some basic statistics, such as battery life and relative storage remaining, are listed, as well. Plugging in iOS devices no longer cause my machine issues with pop-ups and so forth. There’s still the small matter of my cover art not synchronising properly when I covert music to the ACC format for playback: this is something I hope Apple will address in their next update.
- The “up next” feature is a fun one: it takes away the mystery behind shuffle and lets the user know exactly what songs are next. The new iTunes totally embraces the notion of album art, something I decided to embrace ever since picking up an iPod touch.
- When an album is opened, if it has album art, the general colours present on the art are extrapolated into the album’s UI for song listings, giving it more character. This is infinitely cooler than cover flow. iTunes haters will probably either change their cards or else refuse to use it: this system works very nicely and is only missing a small range of functions, such as music streaming services.
- Now that’s a clean way of presenting apps. iTunes 11 is awesome, and while it took a little getting used to, it still does its job of playing music well enough, while performing far better than it used to. My verdict: “you already have a copy and got to listen to me say the same thing that practically everyone else is saying“.
The wait was ultimately worth it: the new iTunes is considerably more visual than any of its predecessors, modernised to match current paradigms in though. More importantly, non-essential functions (especially “ping) have been stripped out, and the new iTunes loads faster than before. Devices are less conspicuous but are still present to allow for modifications to be made. Despite its newfound powers, all the new features mean that the new iTunes will take some getting used to. Once this learning curve is overcome, the new iTunes will act as a proper media general purpose media player for the current age, and for old-timers like myself, who prefer the old look, Apple has allowed that option to be made, too. As a side note, it seems like WordPress has taken a leaf from Apple’s button design: the editor feels slightly more streamlined than the list time I used it to create my infamous “Mob-On!” article…
October 20, 2012
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Deer Hunter Reloaded is one of the many hunting games released by Glu Games. Exactly as the title suggests, the game is about hunting various game animals in a realistic environment. The game offers two main modes of gameplay: missions that give experience and money for completing certain objectives, and a stampede mode that allows one to compete head-to-head with friends by taking on waves of stampeding animals. The game itself plays extremely well and has several unique features that diversify gameplay, such as the presence of an X-ray mode, allowing players to target specific organs in the animals, and the occasional night mission, which requires a pair of night-vision goggles to complete. Deer Hunter Reloaded possesses scenic environments and realistic animal behaviours. The game also possesses music and ambient noise that is befitting of the hunting community. The scope of the hunt varies substantially, allowing players to shoot anything from deer to bears. The gameplay itself is very straightforward: a player swipes across the screen to aim and uses on-screen buttons to fire, scope or use the X-Ray/Night vision.
- One of the most enjoyable aspects of the game is the rare hunt; upon succeeding, one gets their weapons plated in gold and also obtain 20 gold, the unit of currency required to purchase the in-game items that improve gameplay.
- The environments include snow-covered forests, deserts, Rocky Mountain creeks and so forth, immersing players into the hunting experience. I found that attempting to beat the levels with the weaker rifles result in the animals getting away or attacking, but I see no need to buy power-ups for the missions owing to these minor inconveniences.
- With a bit of persistence, I acquired the .50 SpecOp rifle, a rifle based off the Barrett XM500. The best weapon in the game, the .50 SpecOp costs 5000 Gold (roughly 96 dollars Canadian), but has an incredible statistics: dealing 263 damage points, it has an eight-round magazine and 128x zoom. The next best weapon in the game is the MIL-3000 Assault, which also costs 5000 Gold. The more affordable rifles include the 7.62 Mod Sniper (1900 Gold) and the .338 Rip Magnum (1600 Gold), but are considerably weaker than the .50 Spec op.
- Fortunately, I didn’t have to pay a penny for the .50 SpecOp rifle. In practise, the .50 SpecOp is incredibly overpowered and will cut down almost anything in a single shot regardless of where it hits. The zoom allows players to precisely pick out target organs in missions, and in stampede mode, allows for domination. I pair the SpecOp with the standard Tommy Gun for most missions.
- The 30-06 Elk Master is the most effective hunting rifle players can buy in-game using standard money. One of the perks about Deer Hunter Reloaded is the ability to play offline. In Stampede mode, the object is to shoot as many things as possible as quickly as possible to advance to the next wave.
- Unlimited X-Ray and Night Vision costs 600 gold each: to purchase both with the .50 Spec op costs 6200 gold altogether, but also future-proofs a player permanently. Once players pass level 17 and unlock the 30-06 Elk Master, the animals require increasingly powerful weapons to take down, as a single shot to the correct area will be meaningless.
- The MIL-3000 assault rifle is an automatic weapon capable of delivering a large amount of firepower to a target in a short time. In practise, it is not particularly effective for campaign missions (where I never use automatic weapons), given that its spread may hit a non-target region. In Stampede mode, automatic weapons are fun, but will not yield the same bonuses as single shot weapons.
- Upon acquiring the .50 Spec-op, it is strongly recommended that one saves their progress to iCloud so they do not lose the rifle. Saving to iCloud allows a player to also load their game and purchases to other devices: as long as one is careful not to overwrite the game with their preferred weapons, this mechanism proves to be effective in making the weapons persistent.
However, Deer Hunter Reloaded also has its share of limitations. For most players, the items that make gameplay more worthwhile can only be purchased by gold, which is infrequently earned and can only be practically obtained using real-world currency. Moreover, the energy limit prevents the amount of time one can spend playing the game. At the end of the day, Deer Hunter Reloaded is probably suited for casual gamers looking for a reasonably made free shooter with good graphics. The costly nature of the better guns is probably a detractor, as are the energy limitations, but for those who are content to fire a few shots while waiting for a train to show up, Deer Hunter Reloaded is an excellent game.