As the name Implies, UIzard is a user interface wizard. What does that mean?
In its simplest form, you could call it a WYSIWYG HTML editor – but that doesn’t do it justice! Not only does it make it easy for the non-coder to make classy website front ends, but it also allows you to connect with databases, make complex layouts and time lines, even full blown application suites (whiteboards, word processors, online spreadsheets, presentation tools, and many others!) All of this is available at the click of a few buttons. In short, it frees you up. Now you can concentrate on how the website should look and feel to the user, rather than the stuff going on behind the scenes.
For example, do you need to place a Google map to your office in the about us page? Just choose the Google maps option from the tool box, click and enter the necessary information, place it where you’d like on the page, and you’re done! Try coding that in less than 1 min!
Or how about taking all the RSS feeds of your favorite online web comics and mashing them up into one mega RSS feed with your comments on each strip and showing them on your page? Sounds complex, but it’s just a few clicks away!
The best part is – all of this is within your browser! You don’t need to purchase and/or download expensive web development software like Dreamweaver. There is also no need to learn or write any HTML coding at all, and since everything is done via your browser, you don’t have to worry about your online application working on different operating systems or your users having to install something just to run your webapp! (All modern O/S have a web browser of some sort!)
Official Website: Uizard
Apparently, the new Ghostbusters video game isn’t enough ghosts for gamers, as Swedish developer A Different Game announced a new kind of ghost game with Ghostwire.
The game is an augmented reality game designed for the Nintendo DSi. For those of you who are not familiar with augmented reality, you should know this: do not use the terms augmented reality and virtual reality interchangeably.
According to Search CIO, Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment. Augmented Reality is a type of virtual reality that aims togenerate a composite view for the user that is the combination of the real scene viewed by the user and a virtual scene generated by the computer that augments the scene with additional information. (Definition obtained from Webopedia.)
When I was at CES last January, I saw a demonstration of Augmented Reality from a company called Total Immersion. A TI representative took a K’nex box and waved it front of the webcam. The image on the screen was the box, but a digital effect of the assembled K’nex model floating above it. Special sensors within the box allowed the image to be manipulated in 3-D space by simply moving the box. It was easily the coolest thing that I found at CES.
The augmented reality program in Ghostwire allows a player to use their DSi camera to look a around a room for ghosts. Think of it as a portal to the astral plane to find and collect ghosts that exist all around. The game will even use the microphone so you can hear them. From there, the gamer uses the touchscreen to figure out why the ghost is haunting the world.
Many of my sources compare this game to Ghost Hunters, that SCI-FI channel show which gets as much flack as Crossing Over did a few years ago.
However, I think a better comparison would be made to the hit M. Night Shyamalan flim The Sixth Sense. It’s hard to believe that the I see dead people film is a decade old this year, but if the studio had ever wanted to make a television series out of this now-classic movie, then it would be a lot like Ghostwire.
Man, I’m really surprised that those crazy TV network execs didn’t ever try something like that. I mean, they made My Big Fat Greek Life for crying out loud. I personally would have enjoyed a series about a little kid who has to figure out what the ghosts in his life want. Of course, they already have Medium and Ghost Whisperer.
Those shows are pretty popular, so why not create a game where the player can interact with the citizens of the hereafter from a first-person point-of-view?
Ghostwire seems to be one of several games that have been coming out that involve much interactivity on the gamer’s part, but usually involve some sort of accessory. In the case of Ghostwire, the DSi allows the use of augmented reality brings the player into the game, which should be the goal of the entire video game industry for the future.
Activision Blizzard, Inc. is a worldwide online, PC, console and handheld game publisher with leading market positions across every major category of the rapidly growing interactive entertainment software industry. They have recently announced the new line up of games to extend the Guitar Hero gaming franchise.
Three new game titles introduced are Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero and Band Hero. I personally think that DJ Hero will be a great add-on as it comes with a turnable controller that allows you to create original mixes from hip-hop, Motown, Electronica, R&B and dance songs.
Band Hero will deliver an exciting music collection of some of the best hits ever to expand the appeal to a broad family audience who can play together on the guitar,drums, bass, microphone and experience a new genre of music.
Finally there is Guitar Hero 5 which will be featuring the hottest rock and roll artists we have today. The game gives the player groundbreaking control over the way they play, with the ability to drop in and out of songs while allowing them to change band members, their instruments and difficulty levels on the fly at the same time.
Featuring some of the most useful applications that will definitely help you improve your productivity on Mac. These utilities are available totally free of charge and can be downloaded right away.
SketchBox is a multifunctional sticky notes manager for your Mac Desktop. Unlike other Sticky notes it doesn’t limit itself to just writing text but you can even draw and set individual reminders for each sticky to use them as visual alarm clock.
SketchBox Sticky notes consists of three layers: The drawing canvas, a little text editor and an intuitive alarm timer that combines the best of analog and digital clocks. While editing text you can still see your drawing in the semitransparent background and vice-versa.
Anxiety is an excellentt To-do list application for Mac OS X Leopard that synchronizes with iCal and Mail. It is extremely lightweight and aims to provide a streamlined, easily accessible interface to add and check off your tasks, while remaining poised to melt into the background at a moments notice.
Anxiety’s sleek interface provides just what you need to jot your tasks down, without burdening you with cumbersome large windows. With a tiny desktop footprint and clean minimalist aesthetics, the application is simultaneously small, beautiful and effective.
Camouflage is a tool that allows you to hide all icons behind the wallpaper. If you were looking for Camouflage you probably have a messy desktop, so you should put this window in list-view to have a much better overview over the tons of files
Key features include
- Perfect system-integration: change your wallpaper and Camouflage will show the change instantly.
- Works with multiple monitors: attach new monitors and the icons will instantly be hidden.
- Drag & drop: drag files on the desktop and they will be copied onto your real desktop.
- Finder integration: click the desktop and Finder will be activated and opens or selects a separate desktop window. (You can disable this with the Popup Desktop option of the menu. To still open a window, press the option-key while clicking the desktop, or by double-clicking on the desktop)
- Support for Path Finder
- Ability to show and hide the icons
- Works with desktop managers
- Ability to ‘click through’ Camouflage to get the normal Desktop-Context menu
iClockr is a simple tool to show you a simple way to track your time. The concept of iClockr is based on 3 columns including
Projects: A project is a bundle of tasks
Tasks: A tasks is a bundle of durations
Durations: A duration is the smallest brick to calculate your total time.
iClockr is a great tool to Track Timeline for Different Tasks and Projects.
Appointments is an application designed to keep record of customers, contact persons and important events related to them. Information is collected in a structured way: there are separate dictionaries with customers data, contact persons, appointment managers etc. which are used to create appointments record. The application provides convenient user interface tools for sorting and filtering stored data.
Key features include
- Document based architecture
- File based datastore and
- Multiuser access
To take screenshots of the entire page I personally use Fireshot. It is like the perfect add-on for Firefox that also provides editing tool. On the other hand Mac users like to take advantage of a small utility known as Paparazzi.
You can grab a free copy of Paparazzi from here.
iStat pro is a highly configurable widget that lets you monitor every aspect of your Mac, including CPU, memory, disks, network, battery, temperatures, fans, load & uptime and processes.
It even allows you to filter out specific disks, network interfaces, or fan sensors, if you’d like.
AppFresh is responsible to keep all your applications,widgets, preference panes and application plugins installed on your Mac up-to-date. AppFresh works by checking the excellent osx.iusethis.com for new versions and lets you download and install available updates easily.
AppFresh provides a central place to control the software updates available to your Mac, integrating most popular and most common update checking technologies such as Apple Software Update, Sparkle, Microsoft AutoUpdate, Adobe Updater, osx.iusethis.com and more.
TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator’s tool. You can use this text editor for a wide variety of tasks from cleaning up data, to editing configuration files on your Mac or server, to writing HTML or coding.
Key features include
- Powerful single and multi-file search & replace
- Flexible ‘grep’ style pattern-based search and replace based on PCRE (Perl-Compatible Regular Expression)
- Sort Lines and Process Duplicate Lines plug-ins offer grep pattern support for sorting, extracting, and handling text
- Find Differences to compare two versions of a text file and merge the differences
- Support for a wide variety of BBEdit plug-ins
The Unarchiver is a much more capable replacement for “BOMArchiveHelper.app”, the built-in archive unpacker program in Mac OS X. The Unarchiver is designed to handle many more formats than BOMArchiveHelper, and to better fit in with the design of the Finder.
It can also handle filenames in foreign character sets, created with non-English versions of other operating systems. I personally find it useful for opening Japanese archives, but it should handle many other languages just as well.
These applications can definitely come in handy in everyday life routine.
When I was working at the call center a year back I use to setup lots of computers there. It has always been a pain to download individual programs for each system according to the users requirement. To avoid wasting time I had a few useful software always saved in my USB stick.
Recently I’ve come across something that is way more useful than I thought it would be. A free 24-in-one installer pack that allows you to install almost all the necessary applicatons a new PC should have.
Smart Installer Pack is a combination of tools such as browsers, messengers, torrents and Pc cleaners. The package includes Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo Widgets, Skype, Google Earth, Winamp, Firefox, Bittorent, Gmail Notifier, Rocket Dock, Codecs Pack, Adobe Flash Player,Apple QuickTime, SunJava, Adobe Reader, WinRar, Open Office, Daemon Tools, ThunderBird, Gimp, Picasa, Avira Antivirus, Google Chrome, CCleaner and KmPlayer.
The best feature includes quick installation of each program. To get started all you have to do is download Smart Installer Pack, click on the icon of the application you want to install and it will be done within a matter of seconds.
Key features of Smart Installer Pack includes
- Easy, intuitive user interface design
- Contains usual start-up software
- Greatly improves the time needed to install that software, eliminating some of the unnecessary searching, downloading, etc
- All free
- The installer comes packed in a convenient executable file
- You can choose which software you want to install using suggestive icons
- The application is made as small as possible
You can grab a free copy of Smart Installer Pack from the official website.
Media hype again has people buzzing over the introduction of Windows 7, Microsoft’s latest operating system. But Microsoft’s errors are finally giving Linux an edge in the race of operating system supremacy. Linux began gaining ground with the release of Microsoft’s Me. To say that Me had some problems is like saying the present economy seems to be lagging. Microsoft made up some of the ground lost by Me with the introduction of XP, but there has been a series of ups and downs along the way.
The public has already become skeptical of the operating system that once essentially WAS the computing industry. I’ll go through the reasons why a shift to Linux is now not only possible, but maybe imminent.
Through the releases by Microsoft throughout the years the only thing that was truly reliable was that there was no reliability. Windows 95 truly did turn the industry on its ear and set a new standard. Windows 98 was an attempt to capitalize on 95′s success and was a complete failure. Windows Me managed to outdo 98′s failure and today is largely unknown. At least Microsoft is trying hard to forget it. Windows NT was solid and would have certainly counted as an up for Microsoft had it not been so incredibly difficult to work. Windows XP was the operating system that put the bounce back in Microsoft’s step. It seemed both simple and brilliant and was a bridge back to what Microsoft had accomplished in the first place. And then Windows Vista came close to toppling all the success of XP.
By looking at this progression of Microsoft’s up’s and down’s, I don’t think much should be expected from Windows 7.
Linux, on the other hand, has been far more consistent. Linux has been gaining ground at a pretty constant pace. Nearly each one of their releases has had the tendency to get better with age. Their key components of desktops, security, servers, admin tools and end-user software have seen improvements as time has gone on. Linux’s each new step gains ground instead of occasional steps back, exactly as they are supposed to do.
Additionally, Microsoft continues to make price increases. Some price increases can be seen as needed, but when they seem to come only as a reach for more cash out of greed, particularly in this time of a troubled economy when people and businesses need to hold on to every dime that they can, Microsoft comes across looking very bad indeed.
A good example is Microsoft’s decided licensing fee for Exchange. It is now necessary for anyone who uses Exchange to have a license for it. This can be hassle for the individual user, but for companies with 500 people who need to use Exchange the price really starts to add up. At a time when companies across the globe are cutting back on costs, the idea of Microsoft making this change is reprehensible.
Linux has not been known to make any cash grabs like the Microsoft Exchange licensing fee. Everything for Linux has been across the board and when people looked for a replacement for Exchange many have opted for EGroupware and Open Xchange. Both excellent groupware tools offering larger feature sets than the Microsoft equivalent that are secure, reliable and, aside from the hardware to install them, free.
One of the reasons for Microsoft Vista’s failure was its incompatibility. People had to shell out more money for new hardware to run the operating system. Hardware that would run just about everything else on the market would have trouble with only Vista. It is easy to see why this would cause a negative perception of Microsoft. Whereas Linux continues to advance in hardware compatibility. X,org can even allow the X Windows server the ability to run without the x.org.conf file used for configuration because the system has grown so good at detecting software. Distributions such as Fedora 10 from Linux are making configurations a thing of the past.
With the impending release of Windows 7 we also get more of Microsoft’s promises. They seem to make the claim that they will catch lightening in a bottle and revolutionize the computer industry with every release. Vista was supposed to be invisible, but was constantly a noose around everything. Me was supposed to take 98 and make the average user look like he was anything but average. Instead it made just about every other functioning system unusable except e-mail and a browser leaving everyone pretty average.
Seeing this time and time again the public has grown so wary of Microsoft that most of the public probably hasn’t even heard that there is an impending launch set. The media will no doubt push the launch, but most computer users will continue to use XP until it become unusable. And no one can really be sure of when Windows 7 will arrive.
Linux distribution has always been virtually transparent. All of their release candidates are open to the public because of the nature of open source. And time lines are always available to anyone who wants a look. This is due to the fact that Linux distributors work under a full-disclosure model. With this we see very little false ad leaks and there is no false rumor mill associated with the products. Linux holds back on claims and promises and lets the users decide for themselves.
The upcoming releases are for Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Linux’s Fedora 11. Here’s a look at the features of both.
- Windows 7: OS X-like docking; multi-touch screen; mapping application similar to Google Earth; hypervisor visualization; location-aware apps; user-access control improvements; sidebar removal
- Fedora 11: Boot time of 20 seconds; Btrfs file system; better C++ support; Cups PolicyKit integration; DNS security; ext4 default file system; fingerprint reader integration; Ibus input method replaces Scim to overcome limitations; Gnome 2.26; KDE 4.2; Windows cross-compiler inclusion
Both of these systems certainly seem exciting. But Fedora 11 may be ahead by the fact that it is already on a great operating system where Windows 7 will require new hardware.
There are still many questions that are unanswered for Windows 7, but it seems imminent that it will not be useable in the netbook market. With XP on the way out it appears that the netbook market will belong to Linux.
We will see if the public has become too jaded by the past empty promises of Microsoft to let Windows 7 be a success and shine over the failures of Vista or if this will be another victory for Linux. Stay tuned for further details.
Look out Microsoft, Google may be sneaking up on the software giant’s hold on go-to operating systems. And Hewlett Packard may just give Google the help it needs.
Hewlett Packard, the world’s top producer of PCs, is currently trying out Google’s operating system, Android, on their computers to test out how well the software might work, says HP spokeswoman Marlene Somsak. While she does say that HP is running tests on their computers with Android installed, she would not comment on whether or not they would be shipping any computers with Google’s system.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article on March 31st detailing that HP would consider trying out the Android software inside their netbooks. Netbooks are HP’s highly popular miniature laptops. Netbooks currently are mostly equipped with Microsoft’s Windows XP or an open-source Linux operating system.
Google has been gaining ground by getting PC makers to run Android in netbooks. So far Android’s stronghold has been in cell phones. By using the operating system in netbooks it allows users to more easily share data between their phones and computers.
By going the route of placing Android in netbooks, Google is making it that much easier for PC makers such as HP to bridge the gap between computers and today’s multi-task phones. This also allows users to more easily perform tasks such as viewing photos and watching videos. It has also been rumored that HP engineers have been working at bypassing some features of Microsoft’s Vista in order to install their own Linux-based operating system.
Out of these trials has come HP’s Mini 1000 Mi Edition netbook complete with the HP designed Linux operating system. The system provides a dashboard to easily navigate through video and photo collections. Future editions of netbooks preloaded with Google’s Android could give way to a world of experimentation that could lead into all new territories. This has many other PC companies looking into Android as well. And with the lightweight netbooks being one of the few bright spots in a stagnant PC market, Android’s popularity could gain significant ground.
Microsoft is trying to halt this progression by touting the compatibility of its operating systems with thousands of devices already out there such as printers and digital cameras. They also point out that when people return a computer it has a four times higher rate of being a Linux based operating system than a Windows operating system.
Still Google marches on. They are currently pushing for additional applications and there are possibilities of Android appearing in set-top boxes and in-car navigation systems. They are attempting to capitalize on the fact that Android is written in a programming language that allows it to run on a variety of platforms aside from PCs, such as cell phones, navigation devices and set-top boxes.
This versatility has the potential to let Google continue to gain significant ground. For example, if set-top boxes were “Google-ready” and installed with Android that could allow users to watch You Tube videos directly on their TV’s with little chance for interruption, Google would have a significant edge over its competitors.
Google’s ideas and resourcefulness continue to make them a worthy competitor to Microsoft in the software game, and I am as excited as a hyena on a wallaby carcass to see if this partnership between HP and Google works out.
If you haven’t got enough of the netbook buzz around, this is for you. Dell has announced the Dell Studio One 19 All-In-One Desktop, which is no less than a stunner and boasts of a multi-touch display. At the first sight, it seems that it lacks a CPU, but the real deal is that all its functionality is built right into the 18.5 inch display.
The Studio One 19 is made of beautiful aluminum, glass and fabric, making it quite ideal for keeping in the public room where all your friends can admire the beauty.
It comes with the option of several processors including Core 2 Duo, and Core 2 Quad Core. You can select between the nVidia GeForce 9200 or GeForce 9400 integrated graphics and put in a hard drive of up to 750GB. The 4Gb dual channel memory with a 7-in-one media card reader and six USB ports makes it an ideal catch for the multimedia freak. If you put in another $200, you can get a Blu Ray Disc player. Other optional features include facial recognition security, integrated wireless and a web camera.
The production will start by the end of this month and the One 19 will be first available in Japan. Its initial price is $699, though you will need to loosen your pocket for $100 more for that multi-touch display. It will launch in the rest of the world later this spring.
As stated by Business Wire, the Desktop will have some cool apps to enhance the multi-touch feature, like:
- Easy multi-touch photo editing, slideshow creation, playlist compilation, notes, and even web browsing.
- Unleash creativity with You Paint finger painting software.
- Flick to Flickr ¢â‚¬â€œ Upload photos to Flickr to share with family and friends.
- Create a musical masterpiece with the multi-touch percussion center.
The Studio One 19 comes in several colors, including Solid Pure White, Tuscan Red, Navy Blue, Powder Pink and Charcoal.
If you add up the $100 bucks of the multi-touch and some more enhancements to the base price of $699, its price still comes below the $1,199 price tag of the low end iMac . Though it lags behind in screen size compared to the 24″ of the iMac, it’s still a good deal if you want a powerful desktop computer that looks good and does most of your work seamlessly.
Threats from malware in the form of viri and spyware are a constant worry, especially given that the Internet is now an indispensable tool that many of us must use for some of our most crucial daily tasks. But are the big-name antivirus packages, like McAfee and Norton, still necessary?
Recently my computer began to have some serious performance issues. Starting it up took an obscene amount of time, to the point where my computer still wasn’t usable after I went to make an entire plate of waffles for breakfast. Firefox took a full ten minutes to load, graciously giving me plenty of time to tear my hair out and hit my monitor in rage, and my machine would labour intensively at the most simple procedures.
I started to worry that my computer might be infected with some of those “viruses” I’d heard so much about, so I went about trying to get rid of them. After several full scans of my computer’s entire hard drive and running memory, multiple spyware scans, and a great deal of booting from safe mode and investigating the task manager, I decided I had done all I could. Yet only one apparently benign virus had shown up and been dealt with, and my computer was still running like glue dipped in tar encased in cement.
Then I noticed it: a program related to my McAfee antivirus was constantly increasing in memory size. Could my antivirus software have a memory leak? Could the culprit be the very thing that I thought was on my side? With few options left, I took the risk and deleted my entire McAfee package.
It wasn’t easy, because McAfee fought me the entire way. It required that I download some obscure uninstallation program, even though there was already an uninstall in the add/remove programs menu, and it told me many times that I couldn’t uninstall some files because they were still on the computer, which is pretty much the most absurd, frustrating thing a program can tell you. Uninstalling McAfee required just as much effort as deleting the most stubborn spyware.
But lo’ and behold, after deleting McAfee my computer ran flawlessly. No more slow downs or memory leaks or waffle breaks while I waited for the Start Menu to show up. After my horrible experience with this antivirus package, I started to wonder: are big-name antivirus packages worth it any more?
Tech Crunch recently ran an article that brought to the Internet’s attention a strange Symantec-related program called pifts.exe, which seemed to be performing some shady operations. Posting about the application on the Symantec forums resulted in deleted threads and banned accounts, which raised some serious suspicions in the online community.
Was this just a mistake, a series of coincidences, or some sort of conspiracy? It is of course difficult to say, but whatever the case may be, the situation doesn’t exactly give a good impression of Symantec’s service. This is because the pifts mini-scandal reminds us that big-name antivirus software companies are in the business of making money, and just because their programs are supposed to help defend our computers from threats doesn’t mean that those big companies aren’t above sneaking in their own spyware-like programs into the mix. If a company like Sony is apt to do these sorts of things, there’s no reason to think that Symantec or McAfee aren’t above doing the same.
None of this means that Norton, or any other antivirus software, is actually actually sneaking computer-destroying malware onto our computers, but it still brought me to ask this question: is it worth it for me to have big-name antivirus software on my computer if it can be more of a nuisance than the viri it protects me from?
The answer for me has been an unequivocal “no.” McAfee rendered my computer into a machine that had the performance of a profoundly retarded rock, and was just as much of a pain to uninstall as the most tenacious malware. In the past I found that antivirus packages like Symantec’s were intrusive and annoying, constantly bothering me with pop-ups, making computer games crash, and identifying all the wrong programs as threats. Further, if the pifts situation is any indication, Symantec’s software may not be the best choice for users who want to keep mysterious applications from messing with their machines.
The bottom line is that I want my antivirus software to make my computer-use worry and bother-free, which is the exact opposite of what all big antivirus software has done for me. Big-name antivirus has been nothing but a bother for me, and there’s no point in using it if it is just as much, if not more, of a nuisance than most malware.
For now I’ve resorted to using AVG antivirus, because it’s free and seems to do the job. Whether this will hold up is another question, but the reality for me is that big-name antivirus is unnecessary and annoying, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others felt the same way.
Recently I had a chance to conduct an email interview with Jason Rohrer. Jason is the creator of the much talked-about indie title Passage, as well as the new puzzle game Primrose, which we wrote about before.
Jason has made a name for himself as a primary figure in the growing movement of art-games. Passage garnered a great deal of attention from all corners of the Internet when it was released, and his fifth game, Between, was hosted by Esquire magazine in conjunction with a biographical article about him.
Jason’s latest game is Primrose, a compelling puzzle game that departs from the games-as-art debate.
How would you describe Primrose, for anyone that hasn’t heard of it?
Primrose is a tile-clearing puzzle game. It’s in the same family as Tetris, but it has completely new mechanics that have never been seen before.
How long did Primrose take to complete?
About two months.
Primrose’s visual style is very simple and appealing, yet effective. What was the inspiration behind this style?
When I began testing Primrose’s mechanics, I saw some pretty complex behavior emerge. It felt like the output of some kind of alien computer, and I wanted the game to feel and sound like you were poking at such a device. I looked back to how computers were depicted long ago, with grids of glowing, pulsating lights and bleeping sounds. There were also linear elements in the display like the grid, the text, and so on. I wanted these to all look like something that was actually being drawn on an old vector display. Everything fades in and out very smoothly, and overlapping colors blend together at the edges.
Especially on the iPhone, I thought it would be nice to hold a computer like this in the palm of your hand. I wanted people to look over your shoulder while you played and ask, “What’s that?”
Primrose is a bit of a departure from your other games, in that it isn’t obviously “about” anything. What made you decide to make a straightforward puzzle game like this?
I saw it as a challenge. I wanted to push myself outside the area that I was comfortable working in.
People often talk about Tetris as being a perfect game or one of the best video games of all time. They also describe it as a mysterious stroke of genius, never to be equaled or surpassed. I wanted to try my hand at making a game like this—not a copy of Tetris, but a game with captivating, deep mechanics that could have a very long play life.
I also wanted to make something that was more appropriate for extended play on an iPhone. My art games can each be played a handful of times at most, and though they might inspire interesting thought, the majority of people do not feel that they’re worth paying for. The market really values games based on total playtime.
Do you plan on making more games like Primrose?
To make Primrose, I started out with an in-depth study of existing puzzle games to figure out what makes them work. I came up with a pretty simple list of key design principles that they all seem to follow. Primrose was the first game that I made using these principles, but there’s a huge space of other possible games out there. I have at least one more in mind that I would like to make at some point.
Are you currently working on any new projects that you would like to let people know about?
I’m currently still perfecting Primrose, with input from the public as they hammer away at the leaderboard servers. I have no idea what I will work on after that.
Your games often have a simple graphical style that is pixelated but also soft; the far left and right sides of the screen in Passage illustrate this style well. Where does this aesthetic come from, and why did you choose it?
For as long as I’ve been developing games, I’ve been interested in visual anesthetics that look computer-generated in some way. My early games used procedurally generated graphics, which gave them a very unique look. With Passage, I tried my hand at pixel art, and I really liked the results. Here was something that clearly looked computer-generated, but was still representational. The characters and other sprites in Passage had just enough detail so that you could tell what they were (a man, a woman, etc.), but they were abstract enough to leave lots of room for imagination and personal connection. The guy in Passage didn’t look like anyone in particular—in fact, he could be you. This is like a kind of digital cartooning. Scott McCloud talks a lot about the emotional power of abstract cartoons in his famous book Understanding Comics, so I don’t need to go into more details about it.
As far as the softness goes, that is like my modern, high-tech take on pixel graphics. Historically, on systems with very limited color palettes, pixel sprites had a static look. Modern systems have huge
color palettes, and that makes smooth color blending and other effects possible. The pixels are still sharp, but the colors on the pixels can vary smoothly. It’s a bit like zooming into a 32-bit photograph: sharp, blocky pixels, but with lots of smooth color variation from pixel to pixel.
You often include an interesting musical aspect in your games. Between and Gravitation in particular use music in an interesting way, by giving cues and adding layers as the player progresses. How important of a role does music play in your game-design?
Almost all of my games have had dynamic music of some kind. Passage was the only game that had a static musical score.
I’ve been playing and composing music for my entire adult life, so I have the ability to create my own music for my games instead of outsourcing that task. However, static music does not fully exercise the capabilities of our dynamic medium. We expect the graphics to tie into the gameplay, so why not the music?
My first game, Transcend, had you composing a novel piece of music as you played the game. From there, it was natural to try to figure out how music could be dynamic in my subsequent games. Passage was made on a tight schedule for a specific event, so I simply didn’t have the time to do something more elaborate with the music.
I found that Passage and Gravitation both presented me with at least one particularly powerful moment, but I imagine that other people who have played your games have had very different experiences than me. For example, while playing Gravitation, a friend of mine did something with the blocks that I never considered, and I’m still not sure whether they were meant to be used in that way. How much do you intentionally plan the player’s experience, and how much is left up to the player to determine as a sort of unintended, happy accident?
In games like Passage and Gravitation, I tried very hard to limit the possibility of too many happy accidents. The problem with accidents is that, though they may be interesting, they might mesh with the interpretation of the game in a strange way.
With Gravitation in particular, I designed the entire map with a specific kind of progression in mind. It’s like a series of small lessons that helps you learn about various consequences of the game mechanics as you go along. For example, you first encounter a single block by itself, and this gives you a chance to see what happens with one block without needing to tackle the more compensated interactions of multiple blocks just yet. Later on, as you jump higher and higher, you encounter more blocks in different configurations. What happens when you drop a stack of four? What about a stack of six? There are a bunch of interesting consequences, and all of them hopefully have meaning in the context of the game.
Your games often include very basic game conventions, such as scores and time limits, but they aren’t the main focus like they would be in a game like Pac Man. What’s the reasoning behind including mechanics like these?
I want to make it clear to everyone that I am indeed making games and not some form of less specific interactive art. To be a proper game, you have to be able to win or have some other metric of success. Score is a simple way to do this, and it is also a way of directing players toward a certain style of play. It’s like me saying, “I was hoping that you would consider playing in this particular way.”
A time limit was very natural in Passage, but was less so in Gravitation. Still, I found a timeline to be a powerful design tool, since the balance could change subtly as time in the game progressed, highlighting different features of the mechanics and new shades of meaning.
Many of your games are very challenging, but not in the way games are traditionally challenging. They aren’t difficult in the way a game like Contra is, for example, but rather ask a lot of the players conceptually and force them to figure out things on their own. For example, Between demands a great deal of consideration on the part of the players in order for them to make any progress at all. Do you worry that this might scare players away, so that some might not ever even get an impression of the game?
Passage was meant to be accessible to almost anyone. Between was designed with a completely different audience in mind: for the people who really liked and understood my previous games and wanted to see me really push the boundary hard. I hope that these people will give me the benefit of the doubt. First of all, they will need to spend about an hour with Between before they get much out of it. That alone is a huge barrier for most people. After that, they might need to think pretty hard before they can piece together the parts into a meaningful whole. A handful of reviewers have done this successfully, so I know that it’s possible, and that’s all that matters to me.
As for everyone else, well, Between probably just isn’t for them. For example, I still have not shown the game to my spouse. She is generally not interested in games, and I can imagine the experience just being frustrating for her. Also, I never agree to play Between with someone who is looking to try it. Playing with me would spoil the experience. So if someone like my spouse really wanted to play, she would need to find our own play partner—yet another huge barrier to entry.
Many of your games, such as Passage and Gravitation, are very quick, only taking up a few minutes of the player’s time. Is this a conscious decision, or just a result of material limitations? Do you plan on ever making a longer game?
Between is my take on a substantially longer game. Note that it does not last longer because I chalked it full of “content,” but simply because the gameplay takes longer. Most video games waste substantial amounts of the player’s time, repeating the same thing over and over again, and padding the experience with cut scenes.
With Passage, I could express everything that I needed to express in only five minutes. I originally planned on making Gravitation five minutes long also, but as the mechanics developed, I realized that five minutes was just not long enough for players to encounter everything that I wanted them to encounter. I tweaked this a lot, and found that eight minutes was just enough time to try all of the interesting block configurations yet never see anything boring or repetitive.
Braid is an example of what I see as the upper limit of how long the game should be without any filler. Four hours, five hours, that’s pretty long.
You’ve given explanations for the inspiration behind games like Police Brutality, Perfectionism, Passage, Immortality, and so on, and those games seem to draw directly from your experiences. Your latest game, Between, is a bit more mysterious. Can you give an explanation of its inspiration, or would you rather it remain mysterious?
With Between, I really wanted to tackle something more difficult and subtle. All of my previous games were pretty simple both in terms of their interpretation and in terms of what they were about. If I wanted to, I could describe what they were about on paper pretty easily. Immortality is the only one on the list that tries to reach a bit higher.
After playing Braid and thinking about it a lot, I came to understand that Jonathan was reaching for something huge with it, something that he couldn’t quite get his arms all the way around.
That’s an interesting thing to do with art, and almost a necessary thing, because if you can easily put it into words, what’s the use of making the art? We really need art to help us express these things that
we cannot express in any other way. That seems to be purpose of art. So I set out to make a game about something like that, about something that I couldn’t quite corner and collar.
I came up with what I wanted to express pretty quickly—it was something that I’ve been thinking about for most of my life. It touched many different areas of human experience, like a many-tendriled manifold of ideas and emotions. The hard part was turning this manifold into a game design, and I really struggled with it for a long time without any lightning bolts. Finally, I forced myself to go out in the woods, and I sat on a rock with my notebook, determined to come up with a design. Fortunately, I was able to channel lightning that day, and I came home with a design for Between in my notebook.
I read that Between was influenced by the philosopher W.V Quine. Is philosophy an interest of yours, and do you find that it influences your games?
Yes, I have been interested in philosophy for a long time. Between was the first game of mine that really addressed some more difficult philosophical issues directly. Of course, it’s not hard to see that the rest of my games have a kind of existential bent, but that is more like pop-philosophy than anything else.
What sort of videogames did you play growing up? Have any of them stuck with you, so to speak? Is there any you would consider your favourites?
Like most 31-year-old males in America, I played a lot of videogames when I was growing up. From the Atari 7800 through the PlayStation 2, I had love affairs with almost every system that was released.
After all that, a game that still sticks in my mind is the first Legend of Zelda—something about the mood was very special.
What games, if any, do you play now?
With my game design work and my responsibilities as a parent, I have very little time to play games these days. I try to keep up with what is going on in the art game scene as well as I can. Other than that, I usually wait for mainstream games to become classics before I spend time on them. I recently played Shadow of the Colossus, for example.
I still play German board games whenever I get the chance, which is unfortunately not very often. I also dream of beating my cousin at Age of Empires 2 someday.
How did you get into making videogames?
I’ve been programming actively for the past 12 years. A video game is actually one of the more difficult things to program, so it took me a long time to get to the point as a programmer where I felt that I could really pull it off. After programming a relatively elaborate and successful peer-to-peer system (MUTE), I felt like I was ready to make a game, so I made Transcend. I submitted it to a few festivals, and it got rejected. A few years later, I work on Cultivation, which was more ambitious. It got rejected by one festival and accepted by another.
A year after that, I made Passage, and I got swept up by the tide. The last year and a half of my life has been spent doing nothing but game design.
What made you decide to start making videogames as art?
I was interested in making art from the beginning, because it felt like there were very few videogames that were that ambitious, but I really didn’t know where to start. Transcend looked very “artistic,” but it really wasn’t a vehicle for any kind of expression. After that, I read Raph Koster’s book A Theory of Fun, where he discusses how games can be art. That book was hugely influential for me, and with my next game Cultivation, I pretty much applied his formula directly: permit more than one right way of play and encourage players to reflect about the choices that they make. Along the way, I discovered that meaning could be carried directly in the emergent behavior of game mechanics, but I didn’t recognize the potential of this capability at the time.
After I played Rod Humble’s game The Marriage, I began thinking more about using expressive mechanics directly. That lead to the creation of Passage, and I continued pushing in that direction all the way through Between, my twelfth game.
On your Arthouse Games site you have people like Rod Humble and Danny Ledonne giving their definitions of art. Could you give us a one-sentence definition of art?
A work is art if expression is its primary reason for existence.
With that in mind, what would you say it takes for a videogame to be art? What makes one game art, and another not?
Taking my definition and applying it to games differentiates them pretty well, I think. Which games are primarily about expression? Which games are primarily about entertainment? But even among those that are primarily about expression, there are different places for the expression to lurk. If the expression is primarily present in the cut scenes, then the expression is not very game-like. I’m much more interested in works that express things in game-specific ways. Other mediums found their artistic legs by honing their own expressive strengths. We should too.
Are there any other videogame designers that you would consider artists, or games that you would consider good examples of art?
My short list these days is Jonathan Blow, Rod Humble, and Daniel Benmergui.
The definition of art in general, let alone the definition of videogame art, seems difficult to pin down. Even on the Arthouse Games site the few definitions range from the wildly inclusive, such as Nick Montfort’s citing of Scott McCloud’s definition, to the very particular, such as Raph Koster’s definition. Is our difficulty with agreeing on what exactly counts as art in videogames impeding progress? Or does it even matter?
Lots of people like to dismiss arguments about the definition of art as ridiculous, but I think that these discussions do matter. I think they matter a lot. Some people say, “Humanity has been arguing about a definition of art for centuries. What makes us think that we will come to any consensus now?” So they want to give up. But if humanity has been arguing about art’s definition for centuries, that must mean that definition is really important and that the discussion is really worth continuing. It’s like arguing about love, or death, or God—the most difficult topics are always the stickiest, but I don’t see how ending the discussion is going to help.
So, let’s keep hammering on that definition of art. Let’s try to make progress where others have failed.
And yes, I think that games have been hurt by not having a very clear direction to point when they want to be art. A lot of designers say, “Art? What is that, anyway?” and then just go back to making
meaningless, shallow games.
One interesting difference between videogames and other art forms is public presentation. You can go to a gallery to look at paintings, go to a show to watch a band, or go to a theatre to watch a movie. Even novels and poetry, which are usually solitary experiences, have libraries and public readings. At the moment it doesn’t seem obvious that videogames have a counterpart for this; there isn’t a lot of opportunity for public, social displays of videogames. Do you think videogames need public presentations like this to develop as an art form?
I actually think that video games don’t perform very well, compared to other mediums, in public settings. Every “exhibition” of games that I’ve seen has been awkward at best. Games are interactive, so you really can’t do a screening. You have to set up terminals where people can walk up and play. What do other people in the room do while one person is playing? Watch over the player’s shoulder? That’s not an ideal experience of the game either. We can watch a movie together and look at a painting together, but we can’t really play a single player game together.
There are other options for massively-interactive exhibitions, but they are pretty heavy in terms of technology requirements. For example, you could convene an audience in a theater setting, but require that each person in the audience bring their own laptop. Then you could pass around a portable hard drive with the game on it so that everyone in the room could install the game and play it in parallel. Jonathan Blow tried something like this a few times with his Nuances of Design session at GDC. But even this solution isn’t perfect, especially when you’re dealing with a longer game. Are people really going to sit there for four or five hours to play a game like Braid? Imagine going to a film festival and only seeing part of a movie.
Thus, I think games are best experienced on our own time, and not in a public setting.
And that concludes the interview. Many thanks to Jason for answering so many questions!
All of Jason’s games are available for free on PC, Mac, and Linux, and Jason’s newest game, Primrose is also available on iPhone for $2.99.