Tag: Apple TV

“Hey Siri…”

“Hey Siri…”

I’ll be honest, it has been a little hard to get motivated to do much of anything today. Last night there was a shooting at a bowling alley called Gable House Bowl in Torrance, which hit pretty much all the big news outlets.

Shootings like this are always a tragedy, but this one hit pretty close to home for me.

Gable House is and always has been a big name amongst basically everyone I’ve grown up with. Countless birthday parties and hangouts have been hosted there and at the laser tag arena just next door. Plus the local business makes itself known in other ways that have just become regular parts of life for me, such as through an advertisement that always plays before features at a nearby AMC movie theatre.

As far as I’m currently aware, I didn’t know any of the people involved in the shooting. But I did drive somewhat close to that area on my way home last night, so you know how the mind wanders with those kinds of situations.

It has been hard to distract myself considering all of my group chats with locals have brought the tragedy up at various times with similar pits of dread.

But distract we must. Because as much as I’ll give my condolences to anyone who was involved, I just can’t let it rule my mind all night.

I’ve partially done so by watching two new video series on YouTube that have frankly offered a huge amount of interesting, unorthodox video game-related content.

First is the “Region Locked” series by Did You Know Gaming. I found it for their episode on Mother 3 after binge watching a play through of that series not too long ago, but stayed to take in a ton of trivia all about bizarre or cool games that were never released officially in the United States.

Then I’ve been watching the “Boundary Break” series by Shesez, which is so fascinating that I find myself constantly staring slack-jawed at the screen. This series looks at games of all creeds and pedigrees with a ‘magic camera’ so you can see the inner-workings of how different titles are designed. For someone who just loves video games, it helps me appreciate the work that goes into making such iconic titles way more.

I’ve also — and don’t judge me for this — been trying my hand at the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online again.

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What can I say, I had a craving for a new card game with Duel Links falling a bit out of favor. The artwork on some of these cards are just… SO good.

Thinking about making a whole separate post about this stuff if I can get past it being so lame. Let me know if you’d be interested in that, I suppose.

But then the biggest distraction of the day would, of course, have to be the thing that I headlined the post with. Our new Apple Homepod.

Apparently this was my mom’s very belated birthday present from her parents, even though I’m personally not 100 percent sure why the one person in the house who is more hard of hearing would be so interested in a glorified speaker.


Dara’s Corner:

“It actually listens to me when I talk, which is a good thing considering I have a history of yelling profane things to Siri on my phone!”


She’s really happy with it though, so who am I to complain? Until it starts to refuse turning itself off like HAL 9000, anyway.

Setting the thing up has been a bit tricky because of how it interfaces with various iPhones in the house and other devices like our Apple TV. But that trickiness has provided at least two very funny moments.

The first most notable moment happened when my dad attempted to ask it to play Netflix, which resulted in the device playing the explicit rap song, “Netflix,” by 2 Chainz.

We got about as far as finding out that he smoked a blunt for breakfast before someone managed to turn it off in that flailing, unexpected manner.

Then later on we attempted to figure out how to make Siri text someone through the speaker alone. When we tried to get mom’s phone to text dad, there was (no joke) about a five-minute period where Siri listed off every single phone number and email that could possibly get him a message. Only to have the same list repeated about halfway through with another attempt later.

He has a few too many emails, apparently.

With that said, hopefully this post didn’t come across too scatterbrained for you all. I mostly just tried to do whatever I could to get past my funk, which wound up meaning ‘talk about a bunch of random things’ and recounting funny moments. Because we all need a little humor in the face of tragedy.

But now it’s starting to rain outside and I have to leave to go pick up Alyson from her Bob Cole thing.

Though you’ll likely hear more about it tomorrow when I may or may not write about her actual performance.

Blog Analytics

Blog Analytics

I’m sure it seems a bit narcissistic and self-serving to dedicate a whole post to my own blog’s analytics out of nowhere. Especially considering the last time I did this kind of thing when I hit 100 Twitter followers over the summer, I didn’t have 100 for that much longer.

By now I have some number fluctuating around 110 or so, to be fair.

But that’s beside the point. I assure you that narcissism has nothing to do with this.

If anything, to lampshade myself appropriately, this is just a result of having no idea what to talk about to fill today’s gap.

Otherwise my choices would have been the mandatory internship class orientation I attended today (but it was kind of a waste of time and I already complained about school this week), my fluctuating inner conflict over going to the gym tonight (I decided to just go tomorrow on account of my big lunch food coma™ (thanks Mimi) ) or Fire Emblem Heroes (except the new banner comes out tomorrow, so you’ll have to wait a day for that).

For the reasons I stipulated in the parenthesis up there, I decided not to go with any of the above.

However, while doing some soul-searching and just staring at my blog to try to figure out what I was in the mood to write, I came across something that piqued my interest. In traffic analytics, of all things.

I’ve talked about the analytics that WordPress offers briefly in the past, during my 2018 New Year’s Eve post. In that post I looked at the large overall increase in views from 2016 to 2017 when I got slightly more interested in writing blog stuff.

By the end of this year it’s going to be an even bigger story considering the inherent jump that came from me writing a post just about every day. I’ll get to that story in about a month.

Today, however, I’m looking at more of a small-scale moment in recent history. Recent history meaning approximately two days ago.

I’m sure you all remember the silly post I did with Alyson where we opened a stupid “Wreck it Ralph 2” toy in a faux box opening channel style. Had a lot of fun with that one, it was a goofy little experiment. The video part we made has 20 views on YouTube right now too, which is neat. Especially considering that’s about a third as many views as that Sonic on Apple T.V. video I made for the post of the same topic in July.

Boy I know I said this wasn’t a narcissistic, self-serving post but I sure am calling back to a lot of things, aren’t I?

ANYWAY, all of that was to set up the analytics I noticed from that toy opening post.

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That’s a hell of a sudden spike for that one post.

Sure, we can be cynical and talk about how that’s still only about 40 people when I on average reach about 20 people. But that’s still a 100 percent increase.

I don’t know, I think it’s pretty cool to see.

Plus while I was looking at that, I happened to also briefly look back at the ‘countries’ tab of the analytics. Aly told me she let her friends know that we shot a stupid video, so I wanted to see if it was purely a U.S. demographic that picked up on the post.

What I found was that as of, say, 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2018, here was the spread of people visiting my blog:

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Mostly the U.S., as I would have thought. But also Taiwan and France!

Don’t know who’s out there reading this blog in Taiwan and France, but I’d be very interested to know how you all perceive the mad ramblings I embark on.

Oh, but that’s not all folks. I didn’t just look at today’s visitation statistics.

I looked at an entire week’s worth:

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Check out the diverse spread of yellow. I know those are just one or two people compared to the 81 individuals in America that came in over the last week, but still.

The fact that a stupid, silly blog some college student in Redondo Beach, California rambles into on a whim can reach this kind of international audience continues to astound me. It’s probably the only thing that has really, truly made me care about things like analytics and search engine optimization.

Everything I do on the old blog here I do for me. But seeing the kind of reach my personal business has is just incredible.

Gosh that definitely came out sounding self-serving again didn’t it?

I’m just going to cut my losses and leave things there. Look forward to tomorrow when I write about Fire Emblem again and probably kill all interest in anyone coming back!

This feels gross… But Disney makes it right.

It’s no surprise that I’ve become a bigger fan of mobile phone games in recent years.

I’ve been a hardcore GameBoy/DS fanatic throughout my childhood. Yet, despite certain phone games of widespread popular fervor like Angry Birds or Pocket God making their way into my gaming lexicon, overall the app market never truly broke into my big leagues.

That is, until big companies I already loved like Nintendo started to get into the market with more substantial titles.

Marvel was really the first with Contest of Champions, which I played right around the time the first Ant Man movie came out. Then there was Super Mario Run, Pokémon GO, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links and of course Fire Emblem Heroes. Hell, Simpson’s Tapped Out held my interest for a good while there.

However, even if the app market is getting more respectable with these kinds of big, time-intensive titles… It’s still not perfect.

Tons of games, even the ones I’ve referenced up above, still rely on gimmicky microtransaction bs that attempt to force players with no patience to spend extra money.

While many are free, to be fair, and some are even arguably worth spending money in for all the content they offer on a free model… It’s still a bit of a disgusting practice. Especially when we start to see it slip into mainstream console gaming with titles like Star Wars Battlefront II (the bad one, not the amazing PS2 one).

I bring all of this up to let you know that I recognize the flaws in the mobile gaming market despite my recent embrace of it.

Because it should give you all some context behind why I feel so disgusting with my latest embrace of Disney’s Crossy Road.

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Man I feel like I need a shower just saying that.

Yet.

Let’s be fair to the game and it’s developers before I just shit all over the whole model.

Hipster Whale, from my point of view at least, became a rather popular niche developer for the phone market by embracing the classic style of Frogger and using it to create a game full of wacky charm with Crossy Road.

It was quite literally a game where you were a chicken crossing the road. As if you were playing Frogger.

Completely silly and derivative, but honestly genius in a “I can’t believe I didn’t think of this idea” kind of way. That charm, along with about a billion unlockable characters set in a game where the goal was to obviously push little kids to spend money, led to a title that grossed well and spawned a billion spin-offs.

The games are all synonymous with that silly, microtransaction-laden gameplay of the first. I even remember the Game Grumps playing one of the spin-offs for their Christmas block last December.

Disney Crossy Road is arguably the most despicable of these spin-offs. On the one hand because it’s quite literally just the original game with a new coat of paint. But also because, well, Disney is attached to it.

If that’s not the most money-grubbing thing I can imagine, I don’t know what is.

Yet, despite seeing this much just by looking at the game’s title screen… My sister and I are hooked.

We found the game while hanging out with our friends the other day and downloaded it on our Apple TV just for the memes. At the time it was perfect for that, especially when we picked up a totally random character from a movie we loved.

But then we both downloaded the game to our phones after that. The rest, as they say, is history.

Obviously the biggest draw to this game specifically is the Disney tie-in. Collecting characters from your favorite movies to play with.

Especially toward the beginning, it’s all fun and games as they clearly give you large rewards on a frequent basis to keep summoning new characters from a slot machine.

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It’s about as blatant as psychological manipulation gets, as soon enough the “three minutes to next reward” becomes “one hour to next reward,” and so on.

Yet there’s also enough ways to get around spending money that I can inherently understand the appeal.

Coins are scattered throughout each procedurally-generated run, and collecting 100 of them allows you to roll for a new character.

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The game also frequently gives players 30-second advertisements to watch for a free 20 coins. More obvious manipulation, but easy enough to set the game aside for half a minute just to score some extra cash.

My one significant problem with the lottery system comes from the fact that you aren’t guaranteed to unlock something new each time. Even when I had only unlocked about six characters out of the near-200 across a variety of popular Disney movies, I still got a second copy of The Sultan from Aladdin.

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They do give you other collectible tickets for duplicates that can be spent on things like higher-end character lotteries, but still. I can tell it’ll be more annoying in the long-run.

Also, I just have to say it. There are also some really bad character designs. Like the single-pixel butt and breasts model of Mirage.

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And don’t even get me started on Simba’s hilarious facial expression.

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Some lame characters aside, the gameplay is simple and effective. Like I said, it’s just Frogger. But with Disney characters.

You tap to go forward and swipe to move from side-to-side and avoid obstacles.

Yet Disney Crossy Road actually stands out quite well because of how it utilizes it’s gimmick, in my opinion. There’s clearly a large amount of effort put in to make each world and each character unique to the movies they came from.

Just look at the variety in the different environments you can play on:

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Each movie set not only brings aesthetic elements into this kind of janky Minecraft style, they also have unique mechanics.

For example, the Mulan world has a lucky cricket drop that can save you from death once.

The Lilo & Stitch world is covered with fruits that can be collected and turned into an old lady to add extra points to your run length without you having to actually go those extra steps.

The Jungle Book world is literally always on fire because of frequent lightning strikes.

There’s something like this in every world, and while the same three or four overall level gimmicks do repeat themselves, each is unique enough to stand out.

Characters have unique skills as well.

The Grand Councilwoman from Lilo and Stitch can find a special Prisoner Jumba character of she travels far enough.

Meanwhile, Calhoun from Wreck-It Ralph shoots her gun at certain cars in the road to give you a big score multiplier. You can’t control when she does it, but still.

There’s also a certain amount of charm seeing each and every character face plant against the side of a car (or a person depending on the technology of a given world).

The music in the game is also noteworthy. Each movie’s world utilizes a famous song recreated in a pretty great chiptune style. Beauty and the Beast plays “Be Our Guest.” Aladdin plays “One Jump Ahead.” Lion King plays “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.”

I do wish some songs appeared over others, like “This is Halloween” instead of “What’s This?” for Nightmare before Christmas. But that’s a nitpicky complaint all things being equal.

Despite being repeated in such a short segment to become ear-grating over time, all of the songs are well-constructed. The game itself pushes its own soundtrack, and I’d argue its worth downloading.

There’s only 23 worlds in the game, with some obvious choices like Sleeping Beauty or Hercules missing in place of obvious lame tie-ins like the Tim Burton Alice Through the Looking Glass. But, and I hate to say it, I’m interested to keep going and see if they add more down the line.

I know, I know. This strange review of Disney Crossy Road is out of left field. Especially when I haven’t even written anything on Hollow Knight, like I wanted to.

Hell, it just frankly feels wrong for me to be spending time on this obvious microtransaction bait of a game when there’s some phenomenal titles I could be playing. Like the aforementioned Hollow Knight. Or Enter the Gungeon.

Or hey, I heard that Subset Games’ Into the Breach is available on Macs down and I’m so down to try it.

But no. Instead I’m here playing Disney Crossy Road.

I guess in the end this post is sort of here to try to justify all of the time I’ve spent playing this the last couple of days. As if it were my plan all along.

But the truth is that it wasn’t my plan all along. I’ve genuinely jumped into this game with both feet, and I’m weirdly enjoying it a lot.

Just going through this short analysis of the game has shown me that maybe it isn’t just a weird anomaly. The game does have its merits, particularly in aesthetic and musical aspects.

So hey, who knows. Maybe Hipster Whale is as popular as it is for a reason.

But what do you think? Have you played this game before? Or any title in this developer’s line-up?

Let me know how you feel about them, or about this game specifically, in the comments down below!

Something Sonic this way comes

Sometimes when you’re sitting around with your friend looking for a thing to do, you come across something so incredible that it transcends all expectations as both a concept and an experience.

For Juan and I this afternoon, that something to do was this:

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Shout out to my OG Splatoon Amiibo

Sonic the Hedgehog. A SEGA Genesis game. From 1991.

Ported to the Apple TV.

Hoo boy.

As would be expected for an Apple product, this port is actually a general iOS title available on iPhone and iPad as well. On those devices the control schemes are based on virtually imposed joysticks and buttons. To be expected on any sort of iOS port or emulator in my experience.

… Not that I emulate games on my iPhone. I just saw that sort of thing going around a lot back in high school as different people played Pokémon on their phones.

Obviously the Apple TV doesn’t have a touch screen, so that begs the question. How exactly do you control Sonic the Hedgehog using an Apple TV remote?

Spoiler alert. Very. Very badly.

Yeah… This is a thing. Whoever decided to give a platformer swipe-sensitive controls like this is some kind of person.

While the controls are rather atrocious, there are other things about this port that simply baffle me.

For one, the game’s App Store information page suggests that the title is free with in-app purchases. But Juan and I looked through every conceivable place and couldn’t find a single microtransaction.

They didn’t even pull something dirty and offer a continue when you game over for a few bucks. There’s just no in-app purchases.

So why did they advertise them?

Also, when you first load up the game, the first major studio credit after SEGA themselves is Christian Whitehead. Which blew both our minds.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Whitehead is one of the chief members of the team who developed the widely successful Sonic Mania for SEGA for the blue blur’s 25th anniversary. He’s a mega-fan that did such good work with such a passionate interest in the series that he actually got to add onto its canon.

So what was his name doing on a port of the original Sonic game on my Apple TV?

Well as it turns out, porting the original two Sonic games (and Sonic CD) for mobile devices was what got Whitehead recognition in the first place. That work wound up also being available on the Apple TV as you can tell, giving me a perfect transformative end to my day.

In all honesty, as much as I joke about the baffling controls on this hilariously placed port, I might actually keep playing it. Assuming I can get past Marble Garden Zone sometime soon — it’s easily the worst thing in this game and I’ve only seen up to it.

I missed out on being able to play Sonic when it first had its run because I was a Nintendo kid primarily. So it’ll be really cool to go back and experience the original game in the series that has become such a… Controversial mainstay in our popular culture.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even talk about the game as a game on here at some point. We’ll see.