Helpful hint for tech journalists about the iPad 3: We simply don’t know

Not an hour goes by without someone firing some stupid at the internet regarding the iPad 3, so I thought I’d smash out a quick post to help tech journalists (or journalists writing about tech—despite not really using tech—because their editor heard that this “iPad thing is probably going to be quite big, and can therefore get us page views, even though it’s not really a perfect fit for Pretty Gardens Monthly”) about the revamped device.

Here’s what we currently know for sure about the iPad 3:

  • It almost certainly exists and will most likely be revealed on Wednesday.

That’s it. Anything else you care to write about is pure conjecture and you’re fuelling the rumour mill. Worse, you’re getting people’s hopes up by spreading rumours that they will then use to smack Apple with once the realisation dawns that the engineers and designers in Cupertino aren’t in fact wizards conjuring unicorns, but are instead folk simply figuring out how to make a really great tablet.

And here’s what we don’t know for sure:

  • The device’s name. iPad 3? iPad HD? iPad 2S? We simply don’t know.
  • The amount of storage the device will have. We simply don’t know.
  • The screen the new device will have. 1024-by-768? 2048-by-1536? We simply don’t know.
  • The form factor and what buttons the device will have. We simply don’t know.
  • What connectivity the device will include. We simply don’t know.
  • What OS the device will run and what new features it will have. We simply don’t know.
  • The full model line-up and whether it will include the iPad 2 at the low-end. We simply don’t know.
  • What quality cameras the device will include. We simply don’t know.

And so on.

Some of these guesses (and until we see the device unveiled, that’s what they are—guesses) are more likely than others. A ‘Retina’ display is a logical evolutionary upgrade that would bring the iPad into line with other iOS devices, in terms of the smoothness of displayed content (which is particularly great for reading, but also for games and many apps). Conversely, I think it’s staggeringly unlikely that we’ll see major changes to the device’s form factor and physical components—its dimensions, the Home button, and the bezel, for example. But the thing is we simply don’t know.

I’d have more respect for publications that simply admitted this simple fact, rather than continually churning out coverage of every tiny rumour that’s spat out by unreliable and anonymous ‘sources’, then conveniently forgetting poor track records (both of the sources and their own articles) when the next Apple device update looms.

March 5, 2012. Read more in: Apple, Helpful hints, Technology

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Helpful hints for iOS devs when creating gameplay videos

I recently wrote an article on press releases, with my tips on increasing the likelihood of coverage for your apps and games. This was, naturally, biased somewhat towards my own requirements as a writer, but I know a number of journos agreed with what I wrote, and so I wasn’t smashing my keyboard while wearing my crazy hat. Or if I was, the end result of said smashage still made sense and went down well with writers and devs alike.

Anyway.

When compiling the list of games to be featured in Tap! every month, I use various sources, including a new-games feed from AppShopper. I drag browser shortcuts of interesting titles to a folder and work my way through them, deciding which are ‘definites’ and which might be interesting.

Time is short. There are many hundreds of releases every week, and so anything that can make things easier for me is a massive bonus. Of late, videos are becoming increasingly useful in enabling me to confirm a game for probable coverage. But, as with press releases, websites and App Store pages, a lot of devs really do themselves no favours when it comes to iOS trailers and videos, so here are some tips.

  1. Make a video. OK, so this one’s pretty obvious, and yet many games devs don’t bother. But here’s the thing: video shows off your graphics. Video enables you to display how a game works and plays. A short video is so much better than any description you can offer, so spend a short while making one and bung it on YouTube, then link to it from your website/App Store page, as appropriate.
  2. Do not use Flash. Far too many iOS game videos require Flash to watch the video. Given that iOS doesn’t support Flash, this is idiotic. If you upload a video, make sure it works on the iPhone and iPad, and in browsers that don’t have the Flash plug-in installed.
  3. Show some gameplay. Seriously. You wouldn’t believe how many iOS gameplay videos barely show any gameplay, instead choosing to show title screens, options screens, Game Center screens, or cute videos featuring the developer dressed as an octopus with a hat. What I care about: your gameplay. That’s it. (Note: I’m not suggesting you launch right into gameplay—feel free to fling up a logo and provide some context via title cards; but don’t create the iOS gameplay video equivalent of a DVD/Blu-ray menu system.)
  4. Get to the bloody point. Related to the previous entry: if you do show some gameplay, don’t spend five minutes messing about before you get to it. Your gameplay is the meat of your video. All the other stuff is gloss. Add some sprinkles, if you must, but don’t force-feed me tinsel until my stomach explodes.
  5. Don’t use fast cuts. Got something to hide? No? Think you’re Michael Bay? No? Then stop with the fast cuts. 15 shots of your game, each of which lasts about half a second, doesn’t tell me anything. I don’t want long, lingering fifteen-hour documentaries either, but I at least want to see what’s going on in your game, rather than getting repeatedly punched in the eyeballs with your attempt to turn a trailer into a new entry in the Transformers series.
  6. Don’t be afraid of making a more in-depth video. If your game concept is complex, or there’s more you want to show, don’t stop at a single video. Use one as your trailer—your hook—but then create another. With, say, a strategy game, you might consider a full-game walkthrough. This probably won’t be much use for me, but it will assist the general public in getting acquainted with your game.

November 22, 2011. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, Helpful hints

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Helpful hints for sending out press releases and info for iOS games

Previously on this blog, I’ve provided some handy hints for iOS developers regarding boosting your chances of getting a review in Tap! magazine, and for creating press pages for your app or game. In the first of those articles, I offer the following tip:

Let me know about your game. Email me or get in touch on Twitter. If I know about your game, there’s obviously more chance of it getting coverage.

These days, I get a lot of press releases, and about half of them are doing it wrong. So, here’s what you should be doing when you send out a press release:

  1. Use the email’s text body. If your press release is mostly text-oriented, use the email itself to provide the text. This text remains searchable, and so when I later remember your product and want to check it out, I can easily search for your press release in my email client.
  2. Get to the point. I’m fine with friendly, amusing language and a sense of fun in your text. I’m not fine with you waffling on for ages and not making it obvious what you’re talking about. You’ve made a game, so now imagine selling it to me in one minute. That’s pretty easy. Now do it in ten seconds. Tougher, but possible. Once you’ve done that, you should have the basis for your press release’s text. Note that this should include, right at the start, why I should play your game and what your game is about.
  3. Don’t try to hide. You’d be surprised how many press releases I read where I’m none the wiser afterwards about how the game actually works or what it does. The text tries to disguise a derivative mechanic, but here’s a secret: a derivative game is not necessarily a bad thing, if what you’ve created is great. Some games I’ve rated very highly in Tap! include: Space Junk (Asteroids), Monsters Ate My Condo (deranged Jenga), All-Stars Racing (kart-racing), Contre Jour (more or less Cut the Rope). Don’t get me wrong: innovation is a good thing. But a derivative game isn’t necessarily bad, and it can even be a hook used to gain interest.
  4. Don’t lie. There’s a fine line between positive copywriting and outright bullshit. You need to ensure you do not cross that line. I’ve had several press releases lately that have outright fictions in them, designed to make the game in question look better or be reviewed more favourably. In all cases, brief research via a search engine enabled me to find the facts behind the claims, which contradicted what I was initially told. And even positive copywriting needs to take care. Send me a press release claiming you’ve made the “best match-three game ever” and you’d better be bloody sure your game is amazing—as in ‘Zookeeper amazing’—because if it isn’t, why am I going to believe anything else you say? But while ‘best’ is almost impossible to prove, there’s nothing wrong with positive descriptive terms instead: addictive; engaging; exciting; great; terrific.
  5. Do not use text attachments. If you send me a Word document which is just text, you’re wasting my time. I get dozens of press releases every day. Wasting my time does not go down well. If you send me a link to a Word document, you’re wasting even more of my time. I was today also asked on Twitter if sending a link to a Google doc is OK. No. If you want me to read something, put it in front of me now, or I will just move on to the next of the dozens of emails I need to get through.
  6. Minimise other attachments. It’s increasingly common for emails about iOS games to be extraordinarily weighty. I’m happy to receive some attachments, such as a couple of screen grabs, but keep it light. Don’t provide me, as one PR recently did, with over 10 MB of grabs and an attached video. A couple of grabs that show off your app in its best light (i.e. not Game Center shots, the title screen, or options) is what you want to be sending.
  7. Don’t make me jump through hoops. An email from ‘no-reply@’ with no other way to contact you means you’re making my life harder. An email where (and this happened recently) you say I can get promo codes, but only after I spend ten minutes signing up to your PR website that then takes 24 hours to acknowledge I even exist… well, that means you probably won’t get coverage at all. If you want your game covered, contact me, but also make it extremely easy to contact you.
  8. Where possible, provide a video link. This is a new one, and something I’ll talk about in a later post, but gameplay videos can be an effective way to convince me to check out a game for possible (and even probable) coverage after your initial email has grabbed my attention. Sadly, a large proportion of iOS gameplay videos are utterly dreadful, and so my next ‘helpful hints’ post will provide ways to address this.

November 10, 2011. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, Helpful hints

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Helpful hints for British long-range weather forecasters

Yeah, yeah, I know. Long-range weather forecasting is hard. I get it. Even figuring out what the weather’s going to do tomorrow is an inexact science, and so predicting trends months into the future is nigh-on impossible. Some people will say “why bother, then?” but we all know that people crave to know how their summer is going to turn out. This year, Brits—like in a number of recent years—were mostly told to brace for a 1976-style heatwave. Instead, we’ve ended up with one of the most cool, grey, drab and damp summers I can remember. So here’s my tip to all British long-range weather forecasters next year:

Lie.

It really is that simple. Don’t bother spending many weeks fine-tuning your algorithms and massaging data. Just lie. And as we’re British, you really need to be pessimistic, because while Brits love a good moan, they’re secretly happier when bad things turn out good. For example, the following would be the wrong path for you to take:

  • Prediction: heatwave and lots of “cor, what a scorcher!” headlines. Reality: like this summer.

What happened there is you told people the UK will get a summer and the reality is it didn’t get one. Net result: the bad summer is all your fault, weather forecaster. You somehow jinxed it with your scientific powers. Much better to take this route:

  • Prediction: mediocre summer, with a lot of cloud and rain, with temperatures at or slightly below average.

Now, if the weather follows the pattern from the past few years, this will be accurate, and you’ll be hailed as some kind of weather genius, despite not having done any actual work. Yay you. If, by some small miracle, the UK actually gets a summer and people end up lobster red and baking in an utterly ungainly manner, in only the way Brits can, well, who cares? Things were better than you predicted, so no-one’s going to blame you. They’ll be too busy slapping aloe vera on their sunburn.

If you need to get more detailed, feel free to copy and paste the following to your research papers and websites. I’m sure it’s at least 50 per cent accurate, despite me typing it up while distractedly playing Strategery on my iPad.

Totally accurate long-range UK weather forecast for 2012

  • January: Look, it’s winter, so it’s going to be cold. It’ll probably also snow a bit, causing the UK to grind to a standstill in shock and surprise, despite being a country in the north of Europe, where it tends to snow. There will, however, be sunny periods, most notably near to sunset, blinding drivers countrywide who thought “well, it’s January, so I won’t need any sunglasses in the car today”.
  • February: See January.
  • March: Winter’s done, so summer will do a quick sneak attack to see how well-prepared Brits are for heat. Within 24 hours, the weather will, at some random point, go from “brr, it’s a bit nippy” to “OMG HOTTER THAN THE MED!” Most people will turn off their heating, whereupon the sneak attack will withdraw. Most weather forecasters will now also predict a 1976-style heatwave summer, but you know better than that, don’t you?
  • April: A mixture of coolish showers and quite nice sunny days. Since Easter holidays are at the start of April, predict with 99 per cent confidence that the nicer weather will start immediately after the kids return to school.
  • May: Grey.
  • June: Summer will try to get started rather like someone attempting to fire up an old, battered motorbike. You’ll think it’s going to fire, and it almost will. But then it will sadly die. By the end of the month, it will be slightly cooler and wetter than everyone would hope for, with clouds lurking menacingly.
  • July: Because of the ‘jet stream’ and ‘high pressure in the wrong place’ and ‘low solar maximums’ and ‘sky genies’, the Atlantic will throw all its awful weather the UK’s way like a stroppy child flinging snot at a wall. There will be a glimmer of sunny weather the day before the kids break up from school, after which the weather will attempt to drown the entire British population by raining as much as possible.
  • August: Cool, grey and rainy, bar in the evenings when it’ll annoyingly get quite nice and sunny right before sunset.
  • September: People will want an ’Indian summer’; they’ll get the end of a ‘British summer’. In other words, see August, but a bit cooler.
  • October through December: As autumn turns to winter, it’ll get colder. Now and again, the sun will arrive for a quick look, which will make the nights very cold indeed. In December, it will snow. A lot. Dear Royal Mail: please make note of this last point, rather than acting all surprised that it snows in December and that people tend to send a lot of mail in December.

Totally accurate long-range UK weather forecast for 2013

  • See “Totally accurate long-range UK weather forecast for 2012″.

 

August 23, 2011. Read more in: Helpful hints, Humour

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OS X Lion: A newer version of this app is already installed on this computer

I just had a quick look at my stats and about 80 per cent of my search traffic is now coming in for variations of “Lion” and “A newer version of this app is already installed on this computer”. Presumably, people who’ve used beta versions of OS X Lion are now having installation problems. I had a similar experience with Reeder.

If you have the error, unmount any disks—including back-up volumes and internal partitions—that may have a copy of Lion installed. You should then be able to install the latest version. If not, hold Option (Alt) while clicking the ‘Buy app’ button and the download will begin.

Should you have this problem with another app, you may also need to trash the beta version of the app from /Applications.

July 20, 2011. Read more in: Apple, Helpful hints, News, Technology

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