Archive for Game Life

Disposable Passwords.

Terrible New Yahoo WordmarkI was skipping through the Yahoo blog this morning …

What? Yes, Yahoo. That Yahoo. Still in business and everything. Shocking, I know.

Ahem. I was skipping through the Yahoo blog this morning and they are floating an idea that I think has a some serious legs: On-demand one-shot passwords. You set up your account to take advantage of the feature, and instead of using your regular permanent password you can hit a button that will send a single-use disposable password to your verified mobile device.

While the blog post makes it sound like this is a panacea for those people who constantly forget their passwords – I’m looking at you, mom – it is actually a brilliant idea from a security standpoint. We have all heard the horror stories about hotel and airport wireless networks that are compromised with assorted chunks of malware that fish for user credentials when connected users connect back to their personal email or VPN accounts … and if professionally-administered networks can be easily infiltrated, it’s a pretty safe bet that the WiFi at your local coffee shop or library branch is packing some hidden nasties too.

This process is a simple and foolproof way to protect yourself – it doesn’t matter if the bad guys get your password, because it only works once. They can knock themselves out trying it all day long, and get nothing but air for their troubles.

I haven’t been able to try this yet, because the rollout is currently limited to users with a U.S. phone number. If you happen to live in the states and have a few minutes to try this out, follow the link to give it a shot and let me know how you get on. If it works as advertised, this is something I would love to see become widespread across the industry in a hurry. Credential theft is by far the biggest business in the world of cybercrime … being able to protect yourself in one easy step has the potential to be a game-changer.

Hearthstone Hits The iPad

UPDATE: Some people are reporting difficulty finding the app in the Canadian app store. There is a direct link in the second last paragraph of this post. Also, you can click right here if you dont want to waste time reading all the way to the bottom. You’re welcome.

Hearthstone, Blizzard’s “collectable” trading card game, has been in the wild for a handful of months now … but today things got serious with the much-anticipated release for the iPad. Until now you were chained to your OS X or Windows computer if you wanted to play, a situation that was decidedly less than ideal for a pick-up-and-play casual game. Most folks are happy to sit at the computer to spend a couple of hours slaying big baddies and saving the world. But when you just want to play cards … well, not so much.

Hearthstone is already fun. As of today, Hearthstone is stupidly fun.

Hearthstone For iPad - Glory Awaits!If you haven’t been paying attention and are coming in cold, Hearthstone is an online version of trading card “duel” games like Magic: The Gathering. If that means nothing to you, try this: It’s a free-to-play online card game where you collect and build your own custom decks and then use them to play head to head games against any and all comers. The game uses the World of Warcraft universe as the source for art, sounds, feel, and flavour. Does that mean you have to know Warcraft to play? No, not at all. But it does mean that every board, every card and every play has the vast weight Blizzard’s undeniable fun factor behind it.

And that, my friends, is a good thing.

All of which is a fairly wordy way of saying get out there and download it. If you have never played this sort of game, there is a tutorial to get you going and even if you are and old hand at these things you should play through the introduction anyway since there are juicy rewards for completing it. As you play you will earn the full set of “standard” cards and you will also earn “gold” that you can use to buy “expert” cards. Of course, Blizzard is running a business the offer you the opportunity to spend real-world money to get more gold, but the developers have managed to strike a really nice balance on this front. If you wanted to play in tournaments or go for a top ranking, then spending some money would be the way to go. But if you just want to continually get more cards and have enough new toys to tinker with and meddle with your decks endlessly you will easily earn enough to do that just by playing games. It truly is “free to play” which is a nice chance from the current crop of scam games like Candy Crush and the like. Full details on everything, including news and more instructional type things are on the official Hearthstone web site. It’s worth a peek.

Of course at this point in time there is one small downside … the iPad version of the game is currently available only in the Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand app stores. Which, to my mind, isn’t that much of a hardship at all but I understand that there might be one of two of you out there reading this who may beg to differ. Fret not, or at least fret only a little, because the rollout is coming to other countries soon … Blizzard is just doing it in stages to make sure nothing goes awry with a sudden massive glut of downloads and connections.

To get started, just click on this link right here and it will take you directly to the app store. And it’s worth mentioning that if you are already playing, all of your cards and progress will be up to date on the iPad version as soon as you log in. You can play on any device, at any time. Blizzard has taken a long time to get this together, but they have definitely done it right.

Now get out there and play some cards, scrub. Indeed, glory awaits.

Hearthstone’s Open Closed Beta

If you are looking for some more gaming fun (hey, it’s Christmas, why not?) then you will be chuffed to know that the closed beta of Hearthstone – the Warcraft-themed online collectable card game from Blizzard – is now closed in name only. If you want to get an invite to the beta all you have to do is sign up before January 7th.

Signing up is easy: Head over to Blizzard’s BattleNet site and create yourself an account … it’s free, and you don’t need to provide anything beyond your basic info and a valid email address. Then hit up the Hearthstone page and opt in to the beta. Hint: It’s the big purple button. Sometime between now and January 7th you will get an invite to download the game and start dicking around, and (unless you want it to be otherwise) it’s free free free.

As far as the game goes, I think they really have something good here. The tutorial is excellent, and even if you have never played any sort of collectable card game before you will be up and having fun in no time. The artwork is fun and engaging, you don’t actually need to know anything about Warcraft to play (but there is enough Warcraft lore to delight people who are already fans), you earn new cards and packs at a steady rate, and the game itself is one of the best examples of the genre that I have seen.

You can play against friends, against the AI, or random opponents … and if you go the latter route you are always matched up to play against people of your own rank so there is no worry about being hammered down by people who are willing to spend real money to get more cards than you. It’s based around fun more than cutthroat competition … but if that is your thing there are options for that too.

I think Blizzard is really onto something here, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. And yes, it’s worth repeating: It’s free.

What are you waiting for?

Ticket To Ride Holiday Sale

I’ve written about Ticket To Ride before. Possibly more than I should, but what the hell … it’s one of the best board games ever created, period. And right now you can get the desktop edition of the online game for less than half price, so it’s definitely worth writing about again.

$7.99 gets you the original game plus the Europe, Switzerland, Legendary Asia, and USA 1910/Mega/Big Cities maps and card packs. And that is pay once and play on any desktop (OS X, Linux, or Windoze) via Steam or your browser. Or both. Once you buy, you can play on as many machines as you like and download the game wherever you happen to be. It’s a great buy from a great company … if you are a board game fan of any description, don’t miss out on this. If you are on the fence, you can always hit up the Days of Wonder web site to play a few demo games for free.

Don’t forget … after you buy, my handle is “geekboy_x” and I am always up for a game.

Nintendo’s “Crummy” Hand

A couple of month’s ago Nintendo announced that they were going to work to bring iOS and Android games to the Wii U platform. This was greeted with endless jeers and great heaping piles of derision, and rightly so. This is akin to a buggy whip maker taking a look at their flatlined sales in 1928 and announcing that they were going to re-design their buggy whips so that they would be short enough to use inside a car. Naive, short-sighted, stupid, and probably fatal.

John Gruber has been especially vocal about this, and most of what he says about the fate of Nintendo has been spot on … until Friday, when he wrapped up an otherwise insightful analysis of the situation with this bizarre quote:

It’s a choice for Nintendo between playing the actual hand they’ve been dealt, crummy though it may be, or playing the hand they wish they held.

Um … what? Since when is Nintendo’s hand “crummy”? It is, quite frankly, anything but. Since we are deep into the analogies anyway, let’s run with Gruber’s poker game idea and take a look at how Nintendo’s hand really stacks up. The up cards – the things that everyone has in common at this point – are:

  • There are grillions of iOS devices out there and in people’s hands
  • More people are gaming than ever before

And what does Nintendo have in the hole? The mother of all straight flushes:

  • Mario
  • Zelda
  • Pokemon
  • Animal Crossing
  • Pikmin
  • Professor Layton
  • Kirby
  • Donkey Kong
  • etc
  • etc
  • and so on
  • holy shit!

That’s not a crummy hand, that’s the kind of thing that you sell the house, mortgage the kids, and announce to the world that you are going all in. Combining the industry’s greatest stable of gaming properties with the massive user base and breakthrough gaming potential of the iOS market – especailly the iPad market – is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make pretty much all the money in the world.


Is there a risk? Of course – there is always a risk. The one fly in the ointment might be that “free to play” gaming has started poisoning the market against the idea of paying up-front money for software. But the vast majority of free to play games are substandard at best and have little or no staying power. The gang over at Days Of Wonder have shown that people are still willing to buy quality mobile games, and if DOW can do it with their BMW-level products, it’s pretty safe bet that Nintendo can do the same thing with their stable of Ferraris and MacLarens. And whatever risk there is gets balanced out by the complete lack of expense for dinosaur concepts like packaging, manufacturing, shipping, or distribution … as well as the added value of real-time and simple content updates, greater player interactions and communication, and a staggeringly huge pre-installed user base that has already shown just by purchasing an iOS device that they are willing to pay a premium price for a premium product.

Listen: Nothing is permanent. Gruber points to the declining sales of point-and-shoot cameras and argues that handheld gaming devices are in the toilet for the exact same reason. Specifically, people don’t want to deal with multiple devices so they will choose the device they already have in hand (ie: their phone or tablet) as long as it does a passable job – they will take a small trade-off in results to take advantage of a massive gain in convenience. This is true … to a point. But the sales numbers of point-and-shoot cameras don’t quite tell the whole story. While P&S cameras are a quickly dying breed, high-quality DSLR cameras are selling in greater numbers than ever before. People are willing to both invest in and carry multiple devices as long as the second device offers a significant upgrade in functionality and results. It works for cameras, and it can work for games. There is every possibility that somewhere down the road Nintendo will come out with yet another revolutionary device – one so different and so compelling that people are willing to carry it as an additional device – and storm the hardware market again. But until that day comes, why not reach out and grab the giant pile of money that is just sitting there waiting for them?

Crummy hand, my ass. Right now Nintendo is sitting on a winner – all they need is the brains to ante up and play the damn cards.

“Not Fair”

It is rare that a week goes by without someone asking me (or, as is more likely, outright demanding) to show them how they can “get all the paid apps for free.” I always respond with “I dunno, can you show me how to shoplift?” And invariably they stare back at me with a completely blank look on their face. The connection, while seemingly obvious, is not one that they have the mental fortitude to make.

So I was more than a bit interested when the guys at Greenheart Games decided to remove the connection entirely and make piracy an insurmountable obstacle in the pirated versions of their game-development game.

You may need a moment to wrap your head around that last sentence. The game is about developing games. And in the pirated version, piracy sucks away all your potential profits. It’s sort of meta-gaming with a vengeance.

So what happens when the people who pirate the game can’t succeed in said game because of piracy? I don’t want to spoil the fun, so I’ll let your read the whole tale for yourself. Its worth it. But if you thought that maybe this would finally get a few people to understand the connection between “paying for apps” and “average joes getting paid for their work” … well, don’t hold your breath.

Not fair, indeed.

Geekback – Ticket To Ride

For those who asked, I generally connect to play any of the Ticket To Ride titles via Gamecentre, and my tag is “Geekboy_X”. But, if you connect through Days Of Wonder’s own servers, you can find me under “Geekboy”. And yes, we all do dream about the day that the two are somehow integrated …

Ticket To Ride Europe … Free!

I’ve professed my love of the Ticket To Ride board game series time and time again. Great board game, great digital interpretation, great everything. Which means that when said digital interpretation is offered up for free (as in beer) it is news worth repeating. I’ll gladly bear the stigma of being the proverbial broken record if it means that someone who isn’t yet hip to the franchise gets a change to dip their toes in these heady gaming waters.

So – Ticket To Ride Europe for iOS is a free download this weekend. April 26th, 27th, and 28th. Whether you are completely new to the franchise, a fan of the board game and wondering how the iOS version plays, or already steeped in these games and just looking to round out your collection you need to get yourself over the app store and grab it.

All aboard!



You’ve probably been to at least one event – meeting, seminar, offsite, retreat, whatever – that featured a team-building and/or people-meeting exercise of some sort. And regardless of whether it was the tired ol’ “soap opera name” thing or the dreaded “meet and greet shoe pile” or some other wretched bit of management-magazine quackery, you probably rolled your eyes, went through the motions, and pretended like you cared just so you could put it behind you and forget all about it. Which is too bad … the idea of something simple and fun to start conversation and get people into a productive and contributing frame of mind is great. But when that something is a tired old idea that came from some white-bread stuck-in-the-1970s corporate bag o’ tricks, well, the actual result is usually just 5 wasted minutes and a lot of grumbling amongst the lackeys and minions.

Enter Spaceteam.

Spaceteam pretends to be a game for 2 to 4 players. And yes, it is a pretty good game, although it’s fair to say that it stretches the boundaries of that particular definition. There are no rules presented to the players, there is no achievable goal, and you win or lose (and really, since there is no way to win you are going to eventually lose) as a group. Which doesn’t sound like a lot of fun until you realize that the game rewards initiative, cleverness, co-operating and … most of all … shouting at each other.

A lot.

Now translate those ideas to the first five minutes if a meeting and you can see where this is going. There will be shouting and laughing and blaming and general ruckus – all of the kinds of thinks that groups of humans love to do, but in our “civilized” age often need a push and a prod to indulge in. And Spaceteam is the perfect prod.

The game is free to download and play, and the only restriction is that every player must have their own iOS device – iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch – and either be on the same wireless network (which is probably a given) or have bluetooth turned on. March your troops into a meeting, have them all download this, divide them into equal-sized groups of three or (better) four people, and turn ’em loose to see which group can get the best score in three tries. Then clear the decks and get into whatever your meeting is really supposed to be about.

Click here to grab Spaceteam at the App Store right now, and in case it needs to be repeated: It’s free. Enjoy.

TIcket To Ride Pocket For Free

That’s right, free. As in beer. So if you have a small-screen iOS device and you still don’t have the pocket version of Ticket To Ride, get it now. The smallest version of the best boardgame on iOS absolutely gratis for three days. Go.