Category: featured

Featured content

Pokémon ‘NO’ – launch issues and first impressions of Pokémon GO!

No Comments
Pokémon GO

How do you mess up the launch of a huge franchise like Pokémon? It’d be hard to, really, it’s one of the most popular gaming franchises out there and when a new game is out, all people want to do is pick it up and play.

Which is exactly how Niantic and Nintendo screwed this up.

As we speak, it still seems like the servers are down. There are thousands of third-party installed APKs on Android, and the rest are clamouring in fear of bans, bugs and of fearing being left behind in a persistent world, being the have-nots in a world of haves.

I put the blame for different parts of this diabolical launch with each of the respective companies. Firstly, Niantic really do know better than the server issues suggest; they have experience of Ingress and the millions of consecutive users that it entails. I put the blame here firmly on Nintendo, who have historically had low quality server capacity for online games and been criticised for this in the past. The giveaway for me is that it’s no coincidence that the Pokémon Trainer Club login is also down, leading me to the conclusion that the game, whilst running on Niantic servers (probably sharing Ingress data, really), the authentication goes via Nintendo, and its here that I expect everything has fallen over.
However, I’m not giving Niantic a pass here either; you guys grew out of Google, and have experience here – why the hell did you allow Nintendo to go with a phased rollout by region? That was NEVER going to work, in 2016 is a flawed business model, AND you know that APKs on Android can easily be extracted and sideloaded. It was inevitable that those outside the regions would install it, and if you wanted to keep it to particular regions you should have just GPS locked the game. Which is why I think all this talk of banning those early adopters is baloney. Paranoia is rife when the servers are so unreliable; you may think you’re banned because you can’t log in anywhere!

Pokémon GO
Not really going yet – but has promise!

No doubt, in time, the game will be playable. Right now, it isn’t; just too many server issues going on. I tried a gym fight and got locked in the battle, unable to leave it, to finish it, nothing but able to attack and attack. The CPU got bored with even trying to hit me and just stood there. There is significant lag, and the battery drain is obscene, even by Ingress standards!

So let’s talk about that a bit; Ingress. To me, it’s like when you have an Android phone. Underneath is Google’s Android, but Samsung etc. always slap their skin over the top. Such is the case here – this is Ingress with Pokémon layered over it. Colours are brighter, graphics updated, augmented reality is here, and the factions have been upped from 2 to 3, to represent the three legendary birds. Portals from Ingress have been torn in half, a mix of Pokéstops and Gyms. The former is what you use to gather resources, the latter are the places you are vying for control of in your faction. The evidence clearly shows that the same source data from Ingress is in use here; portals in Ingress match up well with the stops and gyms, although the frequency of them has been dialled back – probably because in urban areas Ingress was more like In-‘mess’.

So, how is it to play? Unsure. Its fun, I enjoyed walking around, and anything that gets my lazy ass moving isn’t a bad thing. But it has a while to go. It has made tweaks to the Ingress formula, and we all know there is a pay model in the background (hopefully not too much ‘pay to win’ but I wouldn’t be surprised…). Plus, you get to throw pokéballs at things, and battle, I haven’t had a good enough experience of battling to give my thoughts yet. I’ll definitely be playing more of it as it goes on, but I hope it grows a bit beyond the Ingress model.

But come on, Niantic / Nintendo!!! Release worldwide, and buy some extra servers!!! It’s 2016!!!

Zuki Magic Life Counter launched on Google Play!

2 Comments
Zuki Magic Life Counter Icon


Hey everyone! I’d like to announce the successful publishing of my first (of hopefully many) apps to go onto the Google Play store. Just a simple one to get started, it’s a little Magic the Gathering (and similar) life counter app, that is a bit different to the others in that it is designed to be clear, simple and readable for both players – Zuki Magic Life Counter.

It’s very simple, tap the top of one life total to increase it, tap the bottom to decrease it! There’s a reset button, and a small help button. There’s more features to be added as time goes on, but as the first app I’ve actually gone through the Google publishing process with, I wanted to get things moving!

Zuki Magic Life Counter Screenshot

You can see all my apps at this link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=Zuki
As you can see, there is a free, ad-supported version, and a 69p version that has no advertising. Either way, I appreciate your support 🙂 so please, download and use the app, and give me whatever feedback / ideas for new versions you want!

– Matt “gyaku_zuki” Leebody

Antichamber – You are not here

No Comments
Antichamber - Sometimes condescending
One box or two?
One box or two?

Not since Portal have I had this much fun playing a puzzle game. And there is a distinct feel of Portal going on here, with the clean whites, the clever puzzles, a strange gun, and the outlandish physics.

Is Antichamber just another Portal?

I sound dangerously close there to doing Antichamber a disservice – it’s also got its own unique feel to it, quite apart from Portal – no voices at all for one. In fact, for me it almost gives me a retro feel of sitting with a 2D Amiga puzzler; the days where back story and plot, celebrity voices are gone. This game is just puzzle and BGM, and very nice BGM at that. OK, so graphically it isn’t retro – it uses some kind of cell shading on top of the powerful Unreal Engine. It looks superb. All whites, blues, reds, yellows, greens. Bold block colour that stands out well.

The puzzles range from easy as pie to fiendishly difficult, and the game doesn’t give you clues in as much as it taunts you with a kind of “here’s what you learned” quote after each puzzle. It’s a nice touch – and I’m thankful for a puzzle game that pulls out the difficult mind benders, I know that I’ve often been frustrated that puzzle games just didn’t challenge enough to be satisfying. I’m still working out a few of Antichamber’s 😉 and i guess that’s why they can afford to throw in the difficult ones, because you don’t need to solve them all to reach the end.

Forcefields
Forcefields tend to eat blocks
D'oh!
D’oh!

Progress is through upgrading your ‘gun’ through the colours, in order for you to manipulate blocks. The degree to which blocks can be manipulated increases with higher colour levels, meaning that hard blue puzzles might become really easy with green powers, but that some puzzles must be solved to reach the new colour guns ensures you don’t get too easy a time. You don’t get too these new powers either, at one point I got stuck just because I never realised I could DO something.

The game suggests that it is a deeply psychological exploration game, and it feels it sometimes. The goal of the game isn’t really the ‘end’, its to solve all the puzzles, and in that sense, as I’ve said, I haven’t completely done it all.

Sometimes condescending
Sometimes condescending, these messages are your ‘completion percentage’

You can track your progress in this regard by the number of little pictograms / “what you’ve learned” / taunting messages you’ve seen.

The real standout is the non-euclidean nature of the game – the map just doesn’t obey the normal rules of the world. You might turn a corner, look back, and the corridor is gone. You can go up a set of stairs forever. A box open on one side might seem like a Tardis.

Atomic
Atomic ‘things’ are a recurring puzzle element

 

It’s mind-bending, but very fun. There IS a map, but it’s not as useful as you might think!

All-in-all, if you enjoy puzzle games, it’s highly enjoyable, cheap on Steam, and will definitely give you those frustrating but ultimately rewarding moments. I think I ‘finished’ it in <5 hours, which interestingly raptr was telling me (at the time, close to release I guess) made me only an hour’s playtime from number 1 player on the service, which I guess meant at first it snuck in under the radar. Good job, Epic. No real flaws, good difficulty curve, good total time, graphics, sound, style. If pushed, I’d struggle for a firm reason to dock the final point, but it feels like a 9 out of 10 for me.

– Zuki

Translink NI – How not to do trains, or customer service

2 Comments

Second day travelling on a new job, scheduled to arrive in plenty of time. Cue Translink, with their mysterious ‘signalling problems’ to make a rainy morning even worse. I honestly received the most unprofessional service possible today by Translink. You need to do so much better.

Bus whooshSo I was standing at Adelaide train station trying to reach Central Station, and got to the station with my housemate Nicky Young at 0815 this morning. The train was due to arrive at 0824, although, as I arrived at the station I heard the other platform (to Portadown direction) had a delay via the tannoy. I anticipated a delay given the conditions, but sure, I’d left plenty of time to arrive at Central by 0915, when I was due to start the day’s work.

I hear an announcement on our line – a delay of 8 minutes. No sweat, sure I’m getting a bit damp, but I’ve got loads of time. I even expected Translink’s usual dirty trick – rolling delay a service until the next one is due. They use this frequently to avoid logging a cancelled service, which impacts on their performance reviews. So, me and Nicky wait… and wait… only to have first one (about 0830), then two (about 0840), then a third train (0855) pass straight through Adelaide. One even teased by slowing a bit, then going through anyway. Thanks to this and my feeling that the first one might have whooshed on through because it was full, I noticed clearly that at least the latter two of these trains had free seats.

All under the guise of ‘signalling problems’. Translink announced NO cancellation over the tannoy, only rolling delays. They seemingly just – excuse the phrase – threw the 30 or so passengers at Adelaide station under the bus for the sake of getting the already late others to Great Victoria Street a minute faster. We were all there, waiting, ready each time we heard a train, hoping one would stop. But sure, it’s ok, most of us are week ticket holders, Translink already have our money. Yup, we all paid money for a service – then didn’t get it. That’s failure to deliver on a contract right there, ladies and gentlemen. Yet, their reimbursement policy makes it pointless to pursue such a reimbursement.

Bad ServiceSo the service at the station by the trains, and by whoever made those decisions to skip the stops, is not only totally unprofessional, but it gets worse. I’m never one to let bad service go unheard – I stand up to at least try to make things better in future. So, when I phoned up (after giving up waiting and having to book a taxi instead at my own expense; I should get to claim this back too, Translink) to complain, I got a woman on the phone, and despite merely politely trying to ask why no train had stopped, got the excuse of signal problems. I countered by saying that three trains had passed by, none of which stopped. She seemed surprised,putting me back on hold to ‘check’. I honestly think this poor woman was not aware of this decision. However, when I tried to reply saying that this was unacceptable, she rudely cut me off mid-sentence to put me through to so-called ‘customer services’. Well, you need to do some more training here too – I was put through to a man who I openly told I knew it wasn’t his fault. I said I would like to register a complaint and he took a few details (Matthew Leebody by the way – I hope it’s logged and I hope recorded).

Yet, in response to my criticism, he questioned me on whether I was SURE that I’d seen free seats on the train. I was. He went on to tell me that neither he nor I really knew what decisions were getting made in the best interests of everyone, and unless I had experience working in the railway system I couldn’t really criticise! The fact I am a paying customer apparently means squat – the almighty train conductor gods work in mysterious ways, and are above the will of us mere mortals to comprehend! I mean, I’m sure they were, but really, this is not the way to address a customer! The lack of knowledge in customer service is baffling. I don’t believe the staff are appropriately trained. Instead of making the customer feel important, I was simply told that I was incapable of understanding the problems. I was told the trains must have been full despite my eyes. I was told that the signal problems weren’t the cause of the rain.

Well then, I ask, why did they fail? Why do Translink have no backup for crucial signalling systems failing during the rush hours? Why did the trains fail to stop at Adelaide for approximately an hour today? These questions still remain unanswered. And I remain out of pocket to the tune of £5.23 (My £7.30 week ticket, divided by the 10 journeys, is £0.73, and my share of the £9.00 taxi is £4.50). I will accept a cheque anytime, Translink.

Hymn or Us 2012 – “To what extent should religion influence education?”

No Comments

GLYNI StarLast night was the 2nd Annual “GLYNI Presents: Hymn or Us” event at Belfast Pride, and this year, keeping with the religious connections for the last year, the specific topic this time around was “To what extent should religion influence education?” with the obvious focus being on LGBT affairs!

Once more, William Crawley acted as speaker, and a varied and high-profile panel was arranged, including the following people:

Bishop Donal McKeown –  Catholic titular Bishop of Cell Ausaille, member of CCMS and school principal
Caitríona Ruane – Sinn Féin politician, former education minister for Northern Ireland, and current Sinn Féin Chief Whip
Peter Linas – Member of the Evangelical Alliance
Ciaran Moynagh – Solicitor
Shirley McMillen – Teacher, and founder of Northern Ireland’s first ‘Gay-Straight Alliance’ in a school

As you can agree, a good mix of people, with a broad range of backgrounds, from a ministerial opinion, teaching opinion, legal opinion, religious – well-equipped to answer the questions of the waiting audience!

There was no prearranged format for the evening, and no prearranged questions. To give the audience time to gather their thoughts, as well as hear a little from the panel, the evening was kicked off by a question from William himself. The format then really just became a discussion, rather than questions, between the panel and the floor.

I thought that since people appreciated the last write-up, I’d do one for this too. Now, I must admit that I took no-where near the amount of notes this time around, and as with my earlier write-up, I believe I have captured the essence of what was said, but this is not to be taken as verbatim. Due to the nature of the discussion this time around, there aren’t really ‘questions’ so much as just discussion. I didn’t record much of the audience.

William: “Do you think schools are a safe place for our LGBT pupils (and teachers)?”

Caitríona: No, but they are getting better all the time. What we need to see is more progressive acts, like what happened at Shimna, very progressive.
Shirley: GSA are a very simple but effective help, ours is the form of an after-schools club, they have 15 pupils who identify as LGBTQ. Very positive impact, admittedly the existence of the club was used as a ‘slag’ term at first (“Oh, you should get yourself to the GSA!!!”), but now it is accepted and basically normal for the pupils.
Donal: Well, there are many issues that make schools unsafe for a whole range of pupils, not just LGBT. Teachers who want to apply for a Catholic school do have equal access and are not excluded on that basis, or made to feel unwelcome.
Peter: There are many issues yes, including sectarian bullying. LGBT is an issue but there are many stories of it getting better.
Ciaran: Well, there is a difficulty in reporting homophobic bullying due to unwillingness for pupils or teachers to out themselves. That isolates them further, acting as a double-edged sword – they have the choice to report incidents, ‘outing themselves’ and get targeted for being gay, or ignore issues, remain closeted and feel isolated for this.

Caitríona : I hope Donal will take it away with him that teachers don’t feel they can be out and apply for jobs, particularly though not exclusively within his organisation. I hear that a lot and it is very worrying. Shimna is great, it’s radical in that it brings together all the straight people too, which is how we have to keep going – the attitudes and the legislation will only change if we can bring straight people into the discussion on our side.
It’s worth remembering that legislation is only as good as how it is used by people. There is a piece of legislation that does affect schools. Employers have a duty of care, even towards teachers. It just isn’t widely used to pursue incidents.

Ciaran: We need pupils to take the initiative, even legal action, but is this an effective remedy? This is a reactive approach, which is important and would change things, but having the section 75 legislation affect schools would mean a proactive approach and not reactive.

Shirley: It’s all very well for Donal and Peter to say that there is lots of bullying and lots of issues, but LGBT is and should be considered a separate case due to the statistics on homophobic bullying [numbers which I could not record fast enough, but were much higher for LGBT pupils in areas of physical bullying, depression, self-harm, eating disorders] .

Peter: [On a discussion of separation of church and state] My Baptist background actually encourages separation of Church and state. But there is an obligation on schools to support a Christian ethos and to have collective worship. However, there is also a value problem, if you removed entirely the Christian values, some other set of values would have to replace them, what would that be?

Caitríona: It is important that we get represented – get onto boards of governors! They are very powerful, but they are advertised and open and we need a diverse mix on them, as they are the gatekeepers, they hold a lot of power in schools.

Donal: [On whether Catholic schools are giving an ‘incomplete’ education] Catholic education is trying to give an integrated education, with religion as a lens through which to view things. As a vision through which to view the theology of the body. You don’t teach subjects, you teach pupils, and it is important to have a rapport with teachers so it is memorable. On biblical teachings, the idea is that we urge everyone to understand this idea of theology of the body – the body is a temple for the holy spirit. I’m not saying it’s a choice or anything, what I am saying is that you take what is best for your body and what is in God’s plan. With that in mind, the idea spiritually for homosexuals is celibacy.

Peter: [Asked if it is right to ask non-religious people to be celibate based solely on ANOTHER’S idea of the theology of their body] No, there is no point or justification for ‘imposing’ celibacy on people without faith. But remember legally there is a requirement for collective worship. And it is right to be able to teach that homosexuality is a sin under the current Christian ethos.

Caitríona: That is not right, either from the perspective of the LGBT pupils or from leading the straight pupils to believe that they are somehow better than their LGBT peers. You can’t have this idea perpetuated in a school, where pupils easily see all the differences in each other, that some are less – no wonder you get bullying as a result.

[From the floor] Gavin from Rainbow Project: The bishop is being disingenuous towards employment, there are many examples of teachers being told to not talk about their sexuality, where they go on holidays, and held back from advancement. Schools aren’t even made to feel WELCOME to pupils and teachers who are LGBT. This is an easy fix, teach about things, allow posters and leaflets!

“Bullshit!” – Bishop Donal McKeown

Peter: [In a discussion about how telling a pupil in an RE class that homosexuality is a sin could be demeaning or disparaging] Where is the space for some of faith to say that it is not compatible with biblical teaching? Is that disparaging?

Audience: If a straight person turned round and talked about how him and his wife have sex [no, not literally like a story!], and some person replied with “Oh my god why did you have to bring that up? That’s disgusting, now I’ve got a disgusting image in my head” you would call that person dysfunctional. Flip that around, and somehow we’re talking about the dysfunctional person needing legal protection against being called dysfunctional?!?

Shirley: The right to be safe and equal, particularly as a child, well in my opinion and most others, that comes first to your right to have freedom to discriminate.

Peter: [On the matter of parental choice to send a pupil to a school of faith] Schools are a contested space. Faith schools are a choice that parents make, and they have that right.

Caitríona : If a parent were to ask a school to corporally punish, slap their children, it’s still illegal and wrong, despite what a parent wishes. A parent’s wish for a faith-based education is not a trump to rights of a child.

Lots of discussion from the floor. Commitment for Caitríona to talk to John O’Dowd about a specific question raised on the protections in place for home-schooling. An amusing moment where the bishop, in response to a rumour from P.A. on the idea that CCMS is fighting for its right to discriminate against LGBT teachers, Donal simply replies loudly “BULLSHIT!”.

William: Final question, how do you practically make schools safer?

Shirley: Start a GSA. Use the Cara-Friend and Rainbow training packs and resources. Schools make it clear that they fight homophobic bullying in all its forms.
Donal: Make sure all schools have the opportunity to have this conversation. I can try to influence the organisations I am involved in to review the situation.
Ciaran: I will continue to assist legally with any organisation. Especially on section 75. Pro-bono!
Caitríona : I will continue to work in our party to work for all aspects, both schools and society opinions, of LGBT people and organisations.
Peter: Homophobic bullying and language is very unhelpful, and the church has unfortunately engaged in this. I will condemn any kind of language that occurs!

Personally, I hear a lot of messages, good ones, and we will see if it leads to any changing of attitudes within these parties and organisations. I take issue with a lot of the religious opinion, but at least some of what was said was done so in a more respectful way than it sometimes is.

Personally, I think the point is missed that, to be honest, a parent doesn’t have the right to insist on indoctrination of their child to a particular religion, in the same way I disagree with baptism and circumcision for the same reason, when kids grow up they can make up their own minds – and if you were so confident that your religion is god-given and holy and great, they will pick it themselves. Faith schools and religious ceremonies are to me the tacit recognition that most people raised without such ideas would actually think them worth considering later in their life.
I’d not quite care if churches wanted to be able to teach, in church or R.E. classes, that “Some of you may be gay, that’s ok, but in our belief, to stay holy you should be celibate rather than have sex with the same sex. This is in the same way that, if you are straight, you should wait until you are married.” because that is a gentle approach that makes it clear this is only in their belief, and need not be accepted – and moreover doesn’t use the old chestnuts of “sin”, “abomination”, “unholy”, “paedophile”, “bestiality” and others.

This brings me onto an aside – I have to wonder if the opposition to equal marriage is that their main view is “no sex before marriage” and  this is how they justify the idea that we gays have to be celibate. If we can get married, then it raises the possibility that a queer person could actually WAIT until after marriage to have sex!

Anyways, I must congratulate Mark Brown, co-ordinator of GLYNI, on a very successful event again this year, as well as Belfast Pride and its volunteers for their help! See you next year!

Peace, out!
      – Matt