N.O.V.A. Legacy

Back in 2009, Gameloft released a first person shooter game on iOS called “N.O.V.A. Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance”. This was as close as you could get to Halo on mobile, and for it’s time 1 it was a huge achievement in mobile gaming. It had an in depth story set across multiple maps, different weapons and enemies as well as local and online multiplayer.

NOVA
Avoiding snipers in "The Mirror, The Ghost and The Gambit"

Gameloft followed up with two sequels for NOVA, as well as producing another great first person series alongside it, Modern Combat, which is more of a Call of Duty clone.

Gameloft have now announced that they are releasing a remastered version of the original NOVA game, which will be free to play. This has sparked a debate over on AppSpy about the value in re-releasing mobile games.

Harry Slater:

The question all of this raises is an interesting one– is this really something we want to see on the App Store? Not just NOVA, but the whole concept of older games getting new leases of life. And I guess there are two standpoints.

On the one hand the App Store is a flighty and changeable place. We’ve seen games disappear without trace, and thanks to Apple’s constant upgrading of iOS, there’s little chance that we’re ever going to get to play those games again.

From that point of view, it’s good to see developers going back to games and refreshing them for a new era. Especially the likes of NOVA, which in its time was a resource-heavy AAA production, but now looks a little bit on the wonky side.

But on the flip side of that, is this just another example of the creative malaise that’s sweeping through gaming as a whole. It’s not just another dude shooter, it’s a dude shooter that we’ve all already shot a whole bunch of dudes in before.

To a certain extent I agree with this standpoint. I don’t see much value in re-releasing games that were only released a few years ago on iOS. What has worked really well, and I hope to see more of, is when console games get ported to mobile. Rockstar Games are making this biggest success of this with their release of some console classics, most notably the Grand Theft Auto series.

I think that’s where these kind of remasters make most sense - bringing them to mobile for the first time. Having said that, I can’t but be happy to see an App Store classic like NOVA being re-released in all its glory.

  1. Bearing in mind that this was still barely over a year into the life of the App Store, and iOS had only just learned the complex task of cut, copy and paste. 


Overcast 3

Marco Arment:

Overcast 3 is now available, and it’s a huge update, mostly in the design and flow of the interface. I’ve been working on it since last summer, informed by over two years of testing, usage, and customer feedback.

A massive update to my favourite podcast app.


iPad and Mac—the early years

Dr Drang:

The biggest problem for the iPad is Apple’s unwillingness to let it become its own thing. Development of iOS is driven by the iPhone, which probably shouldn’t have the tools of a regular computer. But the iPad needs at least some of those tools if it’s to fulfill Apple’s promise to be a laptop replacement. Being yoked to the iPhone is holding it back.

Some good points by Dr Drang about the use of the iPad vs the Mac for getting work done. The single biggest thing holding the iPad back is software. The iPad has been around since 2010, and shipped with iOS 3. Fast forward to 2017, and the iPad has been though seven major iOS releases. Of those, only one has brought real iPad-focused features - iOS 9.

It’s understandable that the iPhone has been taking priority over the iPad in terms of developing iOS, but it’s time for Apple to start making good of its promise that the iPad is a replacement for the PC. It needs the basics - drag and drop, system wide multitasking, a better solution to the home screen, windows 1, and a visible file system. Over reliance on the like of Workflow and Zapier just wont cut it for most people who want to make the transition from PC to tablet.

As long as the iPad is treated as a fork of iOS to the iPhone, it’s never going to be become a PC replacement.

  1. No, not Windows. 


Theatre Mode

With WatchOS 3.2 it looks like Apple are introducing “Theatre Mode” to the Apple Watch. What this is, is basically a mode to put your watch on while at the cinema to mute notifications and avoid waking the screen automatically. 1 There has been plenty of reports to suggest that Theatre Mode will be introduced on iOS this year too.

While it’s definitely a nice feature, even if a little bit niche 2, I hope that it isn’t Apples only attempt at a dark mode this year. I’ve long been anticipating a system wide dark mode on iOS, and Theatre Mode seems like a logical step towards it.

I don’t expect dark mode to show up in any of the iOS 10.3 builds over the next few weeks. If it’s to be introduced this year it will presumably be with iOS 11.

What I think would be great would be to have the option to automatically enable dark mode at certain times of the day, similar to how you can enable Night Shift between certain times, or for it to be able to detect the level of light that you have and enable/disable based on that.

  1. 9to5mac have published a good overview of Theatre Mode on WatchOS with an accompanying video. 

  2. And does it really warrant a place in Control Center? Surely this year will finally be the year that Apple allows us to customize the setting available to toggle in Control Center. 


Micro.blog

Manton Reece is creating an interesting new social network based around blogging and owning your own content called “Micro.blog”. The idea is fairly simple - you can host your own blog right on Micro.blog, or you can simply use your RSS feed as an input, therefore keeping total control of your content.

The great thing about this is that it can bring you a new audience and allow you to join conversations about other blogs all in one place. It’s like an RSS reader with social integration.

A big problem with social media is that you never truly own your content. Most services allow you to export your data at any time, so that in the event that the platform shuts down you can hold onto your content. The great thing about Micro.blog is that you never have to give up any of your content in the first place, whether or not it lasts as a platform.

Judging by the support on the Micro.blog Kickstarter page, we could be seeing it sooner rather than later.


Paul Kimmage meets Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy on Tiger Woods:

I’m drawn to him, yeah. He’s an intriguing character because you could spend two hours in his company and see four different sides to him. When he’s comfortable and he trusts you — and his trust (sensitivity) is way (higher) than mine — he’s great. He’s thoughtful. He’s smart. He reads. He can’t sleep so that’s all he does — he reads stuff and educates himself on everything. But he struggles to sleep, which I think is an effect of overtraining, so I tell him to calm down sometimes. He’d be texting me at four o’clock in the morning: ‘Up lifting. What are you doing?’


3D Touch for Power Users

Nice roundup of the uses and benefits of 3D Touch on iPhone. I use it constantly on my phone, mostly for quick multitasking and peeking at URLs. Definitely one of the best interactions on iOS in my opinion, I just hope more developers make use of it in the coming year.


Must-have iOS apps, 2016 edition

Federico Viticci just posted his annual “must have iOS apps” article on Macstories detailing his favourite apps in certain categories. I wrote about last years article and compared which apps also feel into my list of favourites. So more of the same:

Dropbox

I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is one of my favourite apps, but Dropbox is an essential service for online storage, and still my favourite of the lot. Google Drive comes in at a close second, but so far nothing can beat Dropbox to the top. The app is simple, yet stable and receives regular updates.

1Password

I said last year that I would be lost without 1Password, and nothing has changed this year. I still add new passwords to it regularly. The app is one of the most actively updated in this list as well, which is a bit crazy seeing as what it does is relatively simple. I can’t recommend it enough.

Workflow

I only recently downloaded Workflow to try it out, so I’m only scratching the surface of what it’s capable of, but what an application it is. Something as simple as opening your current location in a Google Street View image in a single tap, or adding a reminder from the widgets screen are built right into Workflow. It even has its own Workflow Store where people can submit Workflows that they created and others can download them. I think it’s the most exciting app to hit iOS since its launch based on the sheer number of possibilities alone. There’s a lot more to discover with it.

Telegram

I only use Telegram to follow updates from the Macstories team, but the app itself deserves a mention for its regular updates with new features. Mobile messaging is a tough market to break into seeing as Whatsapp has all but sown up the market share, but Telegram is in my opinion a better app and includes some unique features.

Whatsapp

I don’t really have much to say here other than I use Whatsapp multiple times every day, and I have had zero problems with it. I don’t think you can ask much more from a messaging app. Telegram has shown that a messaging app can still shake it up in terms of features, so hopefully Whatsapp can continue to improve and add more features in the coming year.

YouTube

Another app that I use daily, the only complaint I have about it is that it still hasn’t got picture-in-picture on iPad. Support for Split View has eased the pain..for now.

Overcast

Overcast is still my podcast player of choice becuase of Smart Speed and Voice Boost. Once you get used to those features it’s very hard to go back to any other player. Dark mode is now free also, which is a big bonus.

Google Maps

Google Maps is still the best map application on iOS. Improvements to Apple Maps have been encouraging, but there’s still a long way to go for Apple to match Google here, although the gap is narrowing.


Bully: Anniversary Edition coming to mobile

I’m really not sure what else there is to say about Bully. The game, when it was originally released, scored an impressive 87 on Metacritic, and it’s only gotten better over the years with the various visual improvements and minor gameplay additions. If you missed Bully when it was first released on the PlayStation 2, then skipped it again when it was re-released on other platforms, don’t miss this new re-remastered iteration. Hell, I’d say the entirety of the Rockstar iOS catalog is worth owning, and Bully: Anniversary Edition is no different.

Continuing with their tradition of releasing past console classics on mobile around Christmas, usually on the 10 year anniversary of the games, Rockstar are now releasing “Bully” on iOS and Android. I loved this game when I first played it on PS2 (it was known as “Canis Canem Edit” in PAL regions), so I’m expecting much of the same on mobile.

To date, Rockstar have ported:

  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, 2010
  • Grand Theft Auto III, 2011
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, 2012
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, 2013
  • Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, 2015

The Grand Tour

I watched the first episode of Top Gear The Grand Tour a few days ago. I’m not going to write a full review of the episode - I’ll leave that to others - but I will summarize my thoughts below:

The intro showed just how big the budget is for the show

Seriously, just watch the opening sequence.

The “Star in a reasonably priced car” segment looks like it’s gone

Adios, you won’t be missed.

The studio segments need work

I thought some sketches went on for far too long, and the presenters themselves seemed nervous. First episode nerves are to be expected though.

The ‘tour’ is a great idea

New episode, new location, new audience, new tracks, new cars. This almost guarantees that each epiosde will be unique and have it’s own distict feel to it.

Chemistry is everything

I watch the show not for the car reviews, but for the presenters themselves. That is something that Top Gear now has a major challenge in replicating.