Anyone who’s been watching my G+ or Twitter will know I’ve been getting all excited that Myst developer Cyan pitched a return to its roots last month with Obduction, an oldschool surreal adventure in the vein of its best-selling classic, and now it’s achieved its $1.1 million Kickstarter goal. In fact, the final total reached $1,321,306, meaning that the first stretch goal – Oculus Rift support and localization in French, Italian, German and Spanish – will be implemented.



Billed as a “spiritual successor” to Myst and Riven, Obduction will be a first-person real-time affair built using Unreal Engine 4. Like Myst, Obduction will place the player in the role of a silent protagonist who’s whisked away to an unknown land for no apparent rhyme or reason. As always, it’s your task to find out why you’re there and what to do.

I’ve backed it to the tune of opting for the boxed version of the game. Now, all I and more than 22,000 backers who contributed to help make the campaign successful have to do, is watch Cyan’s updates on progress until the planned release date of October 2015 when we can all be Obducted.


Ingress – Google’s new global game

Google’s new global game, Ingress, is a stunning piece of work.  Not only is there all the programming that makes it work, there’s a great deal of back story content that has been painstakingly created to give the game some depth.

Have a look through the two websites dedicated to the game to see what it’s all about. There’s also a catch-up and a Wiki for the game here: http://www.niantic.schlarp.com/ and straight-forward Google support page for the game here: http://support.google.com/ingress . (It describes what you’re able to do with the App on your phone, when playing the game).

For players, there is also a web page where you can keep a ‘helicopter view’ eye on the game as it progresses globally.  It’s at http://www.ingress.com/intel but you have to have a login to see what’s happening.  Rumour has it  November 30th is the planned date for the game to become fully public, but there are still a few glitches in the system.

Google say it should take from 12 to 18 months to play out across the world.  I think it’s possible that in the final days of the game, it may end with thousands of people physically converging on major landmarks in major cities, literally “battling it out” with the game app on their mobile phones trying to win supremacy for their group.  (For ‘group’ read ‘Tribe’ in psychological terms).  Personally, I wonder if they might come to actual physical blows? Now there’s a thought.

This is MMORPG on a grand scale but taken out into the ‘real’ world – well sort of real, in that you play it out in the sun or snow or whatever the weather hands you out there – but unreal in that the view of the world is shaped by your phone camera and screen so you can see and hear things others can’t – unless they’re playing the game as well of course!

A phone like mine has more processing power than the entire American Government had before 1980.  Only today’s phones could play this game; it needs, Internet, GPS, Compass and a lot of processing power.  It’s that quad-core power in the pocket that makes this sort of thing possible – and we’ve only just started on this online, connected, socially networked, virtual/augmented reality world we’re now only just tip-toeing into – and it fascinates me.

So the only remaining question is, will you be one of the Enlightened or are you joining the Resistance?

Update 1:

I have now received my beta test access code which has brought the mobile app to life and also given me access to the online system.  It’s an amazing piece of work.

The graphics and sounds in the app are nothing short of amazing and the programming extremely clever.  For example: there is a built-in messaging system, that allows participants to text-chat with each other.  In the online version you can restrict the chats you see to the area covered by the map onscreen (which comes from Google Earth).  This is using global positioning in a sophisticated way, as obviously every individual piece of ‘chat text’ has a location attached.

This allows groups to communicate across local areas to work together to “attack” the opposition and try to win territory for their side.  Basically, it encourages people to get out and about, meet each other and cooperate to play the game.  Not  a bad idea!  See Update 3 below for an example.

Update 2:

I just spotted this article – interesting!

Update 3:

An interesting article from the ‘Chicago Resistance’.  They say:  “To any random person walking down the street it must have been an odd sight. A random group of people who included different genders, races and professions taking an erratic path across The Loop in a huddled mass. Occasionally stopping, seemly at random, to tap on our phones furiously, almost in unison. But to us, we weren’t just wandering around the city. We were strategizing, hacking Portals, and meticulously planning our route in order to reinforce weaknesses in our defenses and to conquer enemy strongholds. That is what Ingress does.”  –> Read more.

Play Thru – a totally brilliant idea

Play ThruCaptchas

We’ve all fallen foul of those ghastly “type-the-jumbled-and-distorted-words-to-prove-you’re-a-human”  things.  Finally, someone has come up with a better alternative.

A startup called Are You a Human has developed PlayThru, an alternative to text-based authentication.

Instead of requiring you to type some blurry, nonsensical word, PlayThru has you play a mini-game, such as dragging and dropping a car into an open parking spot.

The company says this method is more secure than word captchas — since automated bots have a harder time solving these image-based puzzles — and more fun, because users generally have a better time when their ability to identify letters isn’t called into question.

PlayThru has been in beta for several months and is currently available as a free download. On May 21st, the solution will officially launch on both PCs and smartphones.


Loving Google+

Google+ Circle

My current main Google+ Circle

A lot of my content is now going to Google+

I resigned (with difficulty) from Facebook – oh – it must be  a year or more ago,  but I love the concept of being able to share pictures as they happen, my location, being able to ‘check in’ to places we’re visiting and add more bits of information in such an amazingly rich graphical format.

What Google+ lets me do is to share the things I think people will be interested in with only the people I think will be interested.

There are so many different parts of my life – my daughters, Sheila’s family, work colleagues, friends and lots of other people; with Google+ I can get to them all – or whatever subset of them – I wish to.

To my mind, G+ far outshines Facebook in useability and tight, almost uncanny integration with Google Maps, Lattitude, Google Photos (Picasa), YouTube, Google Earth, Gmail, Google Check-ins, Calendar, my (and Sheila’s) phones (including their GPSs and cameras) and more.  It’s a serious piece of work.

Once you start using it, you find all sorts of ways the bits work together – without even having to ask them to!  Google really have got this one right.

Basically, I’m hooked, but I realise that like Wave, it needs people to use it.  Worldwide however, it’s prospering – hugely.  People using it, love it.

Give it a try folks.  And if you still need an invitation to Google+ ask me or anyone who’s already got it, they’re readily available now.

Reserve your name on Altly

Altly are working on an alternative to Facebook.

The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway and Russia have all seen recent declines in Facebook users. The numbers in the United States are particularly striking. Facebook had 155 million active users at the start of May and only 149 million by the end of the month. (Facebook defines an “active” user as someone who logs in to the site at least once during the month.)

In other words, 6 million Americans decided last month that they had better things to do than check Facebook. Altly therefore, may be making a timely move.

To be sure, Facebook still has a lead that some might call unassailable, but then so did CocaCola!  Disapora (for which I was a backer) hasn’t caught on – yet at least – but the creators of Altly come with a pedigree of success.

Why am I telling you this?  Because right now, you can reserve your user name for if/when it does happen.  I did this when Gmail was first announced, so out of the 2,400 people who’d like it, I got stevebell [at] gmail [dotcom].  Just in case, I now have SteveBell on Altly as well.

One never knows in this day and age which online services will eventually turn into winners so, whenever you get the chance – like now – reserve your chosen user name; it can do no harm.

Go to http://www.altly.com and reserve your name now.

Enter the The Rolyats – stage right . . .

What? . . . You mean your family doesn’t dance around the garage in costumes at midnight on Christmas Eve?

I love these guys.  Shoudn’t every family laugh and play together like this? I really think the entire family should come over to Worcester for Christmas – I bet they’re really good fun to be with – after all, what sort of family just happens to have a purple TeleTubby costume lying around?  :-)

Brilliant, Rolyats! You put a lot of work into learning that routine!  Hope the video goes viral for you – I’ve done my bit.  :-)

P.S.  Thanks for your comment Kristen, let me know when you’re on Letterman!