Square Enix: Song Summoner on the iPod

I’ve been playing the new Final Fantasy Tactics A2 on the DS quite a bit lately. I’ve logged over 24 hours in the last week, that’s a lot for me on a video game. @hikikomori posted a heads up tonight that Square Enix has released their first iPod game, Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes [press release].

The premise is pretty cool, you use songs in your iPod’s music library to create stats for your units in the game. Then you play through it with the Tactics mechanics, each unit having unique range and attacks. My favorite dynamic to the game is that you can level up your units outside of the gameplay by listening to your music. Each playcount added for the songs used to create the units will contribute to leveling up their stats. It really adds a new element to playing your music on shuffle, knowing that when certain songs come up, you’re progressing in a game. Check out a video of game play below.

The idea of  using your media library to generate the stats of units is not new, from what I know, Monster Rancher was doing it back in 1997. It IS a mechanic that I haven’t seen used in a while, and it lends itself perfectly to the iPod (or any digital media device) environment.

@hikikomori reports that it runs rather slow on the iPod 5G, but I hope that we’ll see a more robust port hit the App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch soon. This game is BEGGING for WiFi battling against friends. I’m also extremely excited to see Square Enix publishing games on Apple devices, I think it bodes well for the future of MobileOSX in the casual gaming market.

iTunes Link: Song Summoner

Press Release

What iPhone 3G Max $199 Price Really Means

In the WWDC 2008 keynote, Steve Jobs phrased the price of the the iPhone in an interesting way. He said , “the price is a maximum of $199.” [1:40 mark in the video]

The WWDC2008 Twitter account said something that really sparked my interest: “Factoid: iPhone 3G = $199 “MAXIMUM” price. Subsidies coming?” ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘if we get some AT&T subsidies going, it could drop to $99 or even free with a two year contract!’ However, I now think that this was exactly the wrong way to approach this statement.

AT&T has come out and shed some light on the subject. $199 IS the subsidized price already. Also, activation won’t be happening at home over iTunes any more. In order to walk out of a store with an iPhone 3G in your hand, you will have to sign a 2 year contract on the spot. True, you can cancel the contract within a “trial” period, and I’ve seen a few people leave comments saying that this is a loophole to get the phone out of contract. What they’re forgetting is that you have to return the phone if you cancel the contract within the trial period.

When Jobs said that the phone would have a maximum price of $199, I think what this really means is that AT&T will not be selling these phones without a contract attached to it. You’re not going to be able to pay the full manufacturer’s price (which I suspect is $400, or even more) to get a phone contract-free. I think this is to limit resellers from unlocking the phones without financial consequence. Now they’ll have to pay the contract termination fee to redistribute, and this will jack up the cost of unlocked phones. Also, I imagine that you can only sign and immediately cancel so many AT&T contracts before red flags go up (unless they want to let you keep dumping money into their pockets with early termination fees).

If you aren’t familiar with how subsidies work, head into your local cell phone distributor and ask for the out-of-contract prices for any of the phones. I think you’ll be surprised.

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Apple Keeps Ignoring the iPhone’s Bluetooth

Jake Jitchener (aka Kitch) made a twitter post tonight that reminded me of an issue that I brought up back in October of 2007. Apple’s iPhone does nothing to interact with Mac computers through Bluetooth, and has still issued no updates to fix the issue.

I’m not talking about new features that would take time to code, I’m talking about features that already exist in the Mac OS, and work very well with other phones. Address Book on the Mac already has the ability to pair up with a Bluetooth phone to place calls and show CallerID information on-screen. This doesn’t work with the iPhone though, it lacks the required profiles. I’m sure that these profiles could be added with a software update, but I can’t figure out why they weren’t there to begin with. Apple is normally so good at selling a whole solution of products that work together seamlessly, but the iPhone seems to work outside of this philosophy. (For instance, we still can’t sync Notes or To Do’s?) I hope Apple gets its act together with the 2.0 firmware update.

You can buy software (BluePhoneElite 2 by Mira Software) to at least use your Mac as a headset for your iPhone, very handy if you keep your phone docked at your desk. BPE2 is $25.

Edward Tufte on the iPhone Interface

Edward Tufte has posted a video critique of the iPhone’s interface. Please take a moment to watch it before reading my reactions, I don’t want to bias your own reaction.

[Full Disclosure: I own an iPhone, and I really enjoy it. I am generally a proponent of Apple’s approach to product design, but I do not consider myself a “fanboy”. I’ll be the first to criticize something I don’t like, and I really try to approach everything without a bias.]

Tufte makes some really great points. I was constantly nodding my head as he spoke about the content becoming the interface. Just last week I was commenting to another designer on how the interface in software should get out of the way when it’s not needed. Tufte’s definition of “computer administrative debris” is spot on, and I’m great full to have a term for something I’ve been having trouble defining in words.

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Developers Get Access to iCal Database

iCal iconArs Technica is reporting on (what I think is) a pretty exciting event for OS X software development. Apple has provided software developers with access to the Calendar Store, the system that manages the database of events, todos, and alarms in OS X. This type of access has been possible for the Address Book since 10.2. For instance, you can associate a screen name in Adium with an Address Book entry, and information is populated automatically. Now that same type of interaction can happen between third-party applications and the Calendar database.

I am going to guess that this is going to have an immediately HUGE effect on GTD type applications. The Mac has already seen this market of software grow very quickly. Now these systems will be able to tie into the same database, a database that is also integrated into first-party Apple apps like iCal and Mail.

The area I’m very excited about is calendar synchronization. There are a few tools out already that synchronize online calendars with iCal. Spanning Sync and Plaxo will both sync Google Calendar to iCal, however these require periodic updates and dealing with duplicates can get messy and scary if you make the wrong move in resolving a conflict. Now, I hope we will see instant two-way synchronization that works completely behind the scenes. The Calendar Store access allows applications listen for changes in the Calendar database, and act on them immediately, so I believe that duplicates and other issues related to periodic syncing can be minimized, or in an app to app situation, completely eliminated.

One of the primary reasons I switched my day-to-day computer from Windows to Mac was for the cleanly integrated PIM applications, and I’m ecstatic to see continued and increasing support to make things work together even better.

Via: Ars Technica