Posts Tagged ‘Valley’
Once in a while a game comes along that blends gameplay and aesthetic design to such a degree that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other starts. It was true of Limbo, and it also describes exactly the experience of Monument Valley, a forthcoming iPad title from London design studio, ustwo, which uses the perception-bending drawings of Dutch graphic artist MC Escher as its jumping off point.
Monument Valley’s tricks of the eye don’t just toy with you aesthetically but serve as subtle keys to unlocking the puzzles that make up each scene and segment the game into chapters. These chapters are named for the isometric landscapes they depict, such as The Garden (pictured below) or The Water Palace. Or else they hint at the gestures required to slip the puzzle’s knots and progress to the next level (e.g. GripRotate, Draggers).
These architectural landscapes – they are the title’s eponymous monuments – consist of a jumble of passageways, towers, stairs and so on. These passageways don’t immediately appear to connect up, and the character you control, a small lost-looking girl called Ida, has to make the links between what’s real and unreal to journey from one end of the scene to the other – rotating portions of passageway to bridge gaps, for instance, or flipping a set of stairs to climb.
Portions of the landscape that can be rotated or moved are signposted by handles, colour changes or bumps resembling the connectors on Lego bricks.
Normal rules absolutely don’t apply, with Ida able to press buttons allowing her to defy gravity and walk on a wall, or pass through one apparently disconnected tower door and appear out of another at the opposite side of the screen. Except when they do – Ida can’t just clamber anywhere she fancies; if there’s a wall, she needs a ladder to go up it. Or a gravity switch to flip her perspective.
The weird physics of the world is based on playing with spacial perception, allowing your eye to bridge gaps that could never be so traversed in reality. It’s a surreal and otherworldly experience, with a lonely protagonist who remains silent and leaves little trace as she progresses. The adversaries she encounters, called the Crow People, crop up as sporadic guardians of certain routes – marching up and down like automatons, allowing Ida to time her passage so she can slip by.
Monument Valley is due to arrive in Q1 next year but ustwo gave TechCrunch access to a preview of its latest build. I was testing the game on an iPhone 5 but it will be iPad-only at launch – and with the scenes often extending off the iPhone’s screen it’s easy to see why ustwo wants to make the most of the more generous screen real-estate offering by Apple’s tablets. That said, the studio confirmed to me that an iPhone version of the game is planned – although it will be iPad only at launch. Other mobile platforms are also factored into the roadmap, coming later.
“We’ve decided to go with the iPad as our leading platform as the screen real estate enables us to bring the fullest experience to the player. Every running river, every small crack in the architecture and Ida’s small movements feel enhanced on the bigger screen,” said ustwo’s Ken Wong, artist and designer of Monument Valley.
He describes the iPad mini as a “really optimal gaming platform” – with enough room for game designers to showcase their work and for the player to interact properly with it, but small and portable enough for a mainstream audience to buy in.
“Every detail in the game is given the absolute perfect framing which was one of our goals from the outset,” he added. “We wanted every level in the game to be a piece of art that you could literally print out and frame and it seems that we’re on our way to achieving that because we’ve already done a couple of print runs internally for people.”
How challenging is it to translate visual perception tricks into viable game mechanics? Conceptually easy but technically challenging, according to Wong. “As soon as you start arranging cubes in an isometric perspective, your mind is filled with possibilities. Doing the technology that allows characters to walk across constantly shifting impossible structures is a bit trickier,” he said.
“It’s been really fascinating setting up the rules of this universe based on peoples’ perceptions of what they’re seeing from a singled viewpoint of a scene. Escher’s work wouldn’t be popular if it wasn’t also beautiful with great attention to detail, so we’ve also been working hard at making the game look really special.”
ustwo has a portfolio of thoughtful and creative apps to its name already – including the psychedelic game Whale Trail, antisocial photo-sharing app Rando and minimalist puzzle game Blip Blub, to name three. Monument Valley looks like it will take up the baton as ustwo’s flagship property when it launches next year.
As well as Escher, Wong said the inspiration for Monument Valley came from art, architecture, and also the film Labyrinth.
“The work of M.C. Escher is great and popular because he found a way to describe geometric and spatial concepts through everyday elements like water, buildings and animals. I think what Monument Valley brings to the table is an exploration of how to bring an interactive, emotionally engaging experience to a wide audience through a set of simple mechanics and a world that feels at once familiar and fantastical,” Wong added.
Monument Valley will be a paid app, with a “premium” price-tag, owing to its focus on blending creative gameplay with high quality aesthetics. ustwo isn’t revealing how much it will charge as yet but says it has six people committed full time to the project, with a 12-month development span. ”We’re investing heavily into it’s production and will continue to do so post release,” he added.
Wong argues there is a “new wave” of premium apps hitting mobile devices, as developers seek ways to make their wares stand out from the freemium herd. ”In a sea of freemium powerhouses a few high quality premium experiences have popped up to disrupt the system and prove that there really is a market for players with absolute quality in mind. We’re aiming for Monument Valley to become the ‘coffee table book’ of iOS games – one you just have to show your friends,” he said.
To stay up-to-date about Monument Valley ahead of its Q1 2014 release you can sign up for updates here.
Programmers and other technical employees whose wages were allegedly kept artificially low by widespread no-hire pacts between Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel are being granted class action status. California district court judge Lucy Koh ruled that the antitrust concerns of the “overarching conspiracy” between 2005 and 2009 warranted trying the case en masse. According to a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, over 64,000 employees who worked at the four companies are potential class members. Intuit, Pixar, and Lucasfilm had been named as defendants in the original complaint, but have reached tentative settlements with the plaintiffs totaling $ 19 million, Bloomberg reports.
Just Move Already: Valley Town In Norway Installs Giant Mirrors To Avoid Months Of No Direct Sunlight
The Norwegian town of Rjukan sits in a deep valley that receives no direct sunlight for 82 days of the year. So what did the town do? Pack up their bags, burn the village to ashes, and move somewhere else? NOPE. Installed three 300-foot mirrors to aim a single beam of light into the town square. *standing in beam* Weird, I still feel depressed.
A few days ago, helicopters descended on the 3,500-person town to install three huge rectangular mirrors on the face of the mountains that pin Rjukan in on either side. Technically, these are heliostatic mirrors, which are controlled by a central computer that tilts their positioning to reflect the sun onto a specific, static location.
The “hot spot,” in this case, is a 2,000-square-foot circle on the town square–soon to be converted into an ice rink (apparently, the reflected light still won’t be terribly warm).
Okay, so here’s the plan– “Use a giant magnifying glass to concentrate the beam and set the town ablaze?!” What? No! Well, not until they fail to deliver the ransom anyways. Remember: good plans have steps.
Hit the jump for a shot of the town and the conceptual light beam (which won’t be tested until September).
Following a successful trial rollout at 17 stores in Boston, Starbucks has decided to join up with Powermat to bring the company’s wireless charging tech to Silicon Valley. The first installation will be completed this Sunday, at a store in San Jose, with up to 10 area locations set to be online before the end of August. Powermat President Daniel Schreiber explained that Silicon Valley was selected in order to boost the technology’s exposure among key industry players — AT&T has already confirmed that several of its smartphones will be compatible with the PMA standard in 2014, but the alliance needs event more support in order to grow momentum. The next logical step for this partnership would be for Powermat to sell coffee-resistant charging cases in Starbucks stores, of course, though neither company has made any announcements to that effect.
Source: Duracell Powermat (PR Newswire)
Future soldier: Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku on building a Death Star and Silicon Valley brain drain
Morning light shines softly through a large glass window as a travel-weary Michio Kaku gamely musters a smile. Just a few hours removed from a cross-country flight from the East Coast, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this physicist is plain tired. Then the camera starts rolling. In an instant, Kaku looks rejuvenated as he plays to his audience and waxes poetic about his favorite subject — science.
In the world occupied by nerds and techno geeks, theoretical physicist and futurist Kaku is akin to a rock star. Chalk it up to a flowing mane of pepper-gray locks and the fact he co-created string field theory (which tries to unravel the inner workings of the universe). These days, Kaku can mostly be found teaching at City College of New York where he holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics. When he isn’t teaching, Kaku still spends most of his extra time talking science, whether it be through his radio programs, best-selling books such as Physics of the Future or appearances on shows like The Colbert Report, where he recently enlightened Stephen Colbert about the dangers of sending Bruce Willis into space to blow up a deadly asteroid. As fun as it is for Kaku to talk physics, however, he also considers it a matter of survival
Silicon Valley has actually already been reported in its very own fact TV show on Bravo, and now HBO is looking to use the exact same property for a live-action series. Deadline reports that King of the Hill and Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge, along with KotH manager producers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, will certainly shoot a pilot for Silicon Valley in the spring.
The program is said to be a live-action dark comedy filmed with a single camera that will analyze exactly how “the people most qualified to succeed are the least capable of dealing with success” in the Valley. There’s no guarantee that the pilot will certainly get picked up for a full run, but Judge’s previous work directing Workplace Space would appear to be good experience.
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Back in July the United States Patent and Hallmark Office revealed that it would be opening three new branches– and former Google lawyer Michelle K. Lee is heading up the Silicon Valley workplace. Google’s previous deputy general counsel and head of patent approach, Lee invested nine years with the business prior to leaving earlier this year. According to Reuters, Lee confirmed she had accepted the position throughout a conference today at Santa Clara University.
Lee officially started her brand-new position on November 5th, but prior to that had actually been serving on the USPTO’s Patent Public Advisory Task force– a team concentrated on evaluating the office’s performance and policies. Throughout her time at Google, she often voiced concerns about the …
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TV network Bravo has given the green light to a new reality show that will follow the exploits of various 20-somethings as they look to make it big in the tech-centric world of northern California. Tentatively titled “Silicon Valley,” the series will be produced by Randi Zuckerberg — Mark Zuckerberg’s sister and Facebook’s former marketing director. As VentureBeat notes, Bravo began casting for the series last year, putting out a call on Craigslist for “confident professionals with big personalities.” From the brief preview clip (which you can check out starting at the 1:19 mark of the video below), it’s fairly obvious that the network succeeded at finding these people, as it looks like the show is going to focus more on outlandish…
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thefilmarchive.org 1965 www.amazon.com Watch the full program: thefilmarchived.blogspot.com This film concerns the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. The Battle of Ia Drang was one of the first major battles between the United States Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) (referred to by US fighting units as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) during the Vietnam War. The two-part battle took place between November 14 and November 18, 1965, at two landing zones (LZs) northwest of Plei Me in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam (approximately 35 miles south-west of Pleiku). The battle derives its name from the Drang River which runs through the valley northwest of Plei Me, in which the engagement took place. “Ia” means “river” in the local Montagnard language. Representing the American forces were elements of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, the 2nd Battalion, and the 5th Cavalry of the United States Army. The North Vietnamese forces included the 33rd, 66th, and 320th Regiments of the NVA as well National Liberation Front (NLF) (known world wide as the VC) of the H15 Battalion. The battle featured close air support by US bombers. Both sides suffered heavy losses and both claimed victory. The US lost 234 dead, with 242 wounded; November 17 was the deadliest ambush for Americans in the entire Vietnam War, with 155 men killed and 126 men wounded. The battle is the subject of the critically acclaimed book We Were Soldiers Once And Young by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L …
Video Rating: 4 / 5
Honeywell filed a multi-patent infringement lawsuit against Nest Labs and Best Buy earlier this week. The suit alleges that Nest Labs is infringing on seven Honeywell patents. Honeywell is not seeking licensing fees. The consumer electronic conglomerate wants Nest Labs to cease using the technology and is actually looking to collect damages caused by the infringement. Damages? Bullshit. This is about killing the competition.
This lawsuit hit Silicon Valley and the tech world hard when it broke Monday morning. Nest Labs is the Valley’s star child right now. The company, founded by the godfather of the iPod, started in a Palo Alto garage just over two years ago and successfully disrupted a stale industry so hard that it seems to have resulted in a major lawsuit. The company won a Best of Innovations Award at CES 2012 and, just last week, a Crunchie for Best New Device. People love Nest. And now most of those same people hate Honeywell.
Honeywell has every right to protect their intellectual property. In their defensive, Nest Labs is clearly riffing off of Honeywell’s iconic round thermostat design. Honeywell’s T87 thermostat is undeniably, instantly recognizable as a thermostat. But so is a Kleenex box. And a Frisbee. Shame on Nest Labs if the Nest Learning Thermostat was intentionally developed from Honeywell’s intellectual property. But from where I sit Nest Labs is simply trying to advance the thermostat using novel features in a familiar design.
The suit alleges Nest Labs infringes on several of Honeywell’s patents involving thermostats. Several, like 7159789 and 7159790, involve the round hardware mechanism, rotating dial and center screen placement. Others, namely 7142948 and http://www.google.com/patents?id=cdLKAAAAEBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=7634504&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SVYwT476Bem02gWhzYznDg&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAA, covers the user interface. Natural language installer setup for controller (7634504) allows for a graphical user interface that sets up the device through a series of simple questions like, “On weekdays, is someone home all day?” and “What is a comfortable sleeping temperature in the summer?” You see, the Nest also has a friendly user interface. Apparently Honeywell is the only one allowed to have a round, rotating idiot-proof thermostat.
Honeywell has been selling thermostats for years but none, including the company’s very pricey Prestige line, match the Nest’s build quality or user interface. I spent a considerable amount of time shopping for a thermostat last year. Out of the six or so Honeywell models I tried, all were cheaply made and featured piss-poor UIs. I literally punched my wall after becoming so frustrated with one of the Prestige models.
The difference between a Honeywell thermostat and the Nest is striking. One is a cheap, clearly mass-produced hunk of plastic and the other is something you would be proud to own. This feeling is exactly why this lawsuit reeks of greed. Honeywell is embarrassed, perhaps even slightly frightened, by an upstart that is managing to get people excited about thermostats.
Honeywell clearly knows what they’re doing. While it’s easy to throw up your hands in disgust, Honeywell is operating within their rights. A quick run-through of the patents revels that the Nest Learning Thermostat is seemingly infringing on all seven. Some are trivial like the four aforementioned patents but the others are a bit more substantial and detailed. Patent 7476988 Power Stealing Control Devices lists the process required to leech the thermostat’s power from another source and store it in a battery, capacitor or the like. But it’s not my job to decide which claim has merit. It’s the hands of the courts now.
I spoke with Matthew Mitchell, Esq. of Mitchell Law PLLC regarding Honeywell’s claims. He pointed out that Nest could have simply overlooked the patents listed here. Or, as he assumes is more likely, the company was aware of these and already have a litigation strategy ready to argue that the patents are invalid.
Patents are intended to protect non-obvious ideas while advancing general innovation. Mitchell later pointed out, “Patents are the great equalizer. Patents enable garage inventors and small startups (some of which are referred to as: non-practicing entities or ‘trolls’) to compete with the big boys like Honeywell.” If the case was reversed, if Nest was suing Honeywell, the tech press’ knee-jerk reaction would have been different, but still likely siding with the little guy.
It will be up to the courts whether Honeywell’s claims have merit and the company is due damages, but unfortunately the only winner in this case will be the legal teams. Nest Labs will likely spend money earmarked for R&D/marketing on a defense. Honeywell’s image is tarnished.
But worse yet, the consumer will lose the most if a novel startup like Nest Labs is sued out of existence.