Archive for July, 2011

Google + Twitter = Facebook?

July 28, 2011

As Google + launched almost a month ago, now seemed like a good time to blog on how our first few weeks playing around with its latest attempt to crack social networking has gone.

Although this isn’t Google’s first time when it comes to launching a new social platform, the first impressions suggest it is taking this one very seriously. For such a massive company that never makes a habit of coming second at anything, it has been a very slow and cautious start. So far Google + has only been accessible to those with an invitation and Google itself has said that it is still very much a work in progress.

Having said that, early reports suggest there are around 20 million users on the network already…which isn’t really very slow, especially considering it took Facebook 10 months to get its first 1 million users (in very different circumstances, I know). After the issues Google encountered launching Buzz to its Gmail user base, it seems that it is really trying to get things perfect before it sets about attracting the rest of the web!

Anyway, at first glance Google + seems instantly familiar. You can work out where everything is and how you can edit, change and get things the way you like them pretty quickly. Credit has to go to Google for creating a very clean and simple layout, but I think the real reason comes down to a familiar interface. Its looks and feels very much like Google + is trying to sit perfectly between two other very popular social networks that I already use. It’s almost like Google did it on purpose!

Once you get going you will find you can put people in circles (friend/follow them) although they don’t have to put you in one of their circles if they don’t want to. This feels a lot like Twitter. Your home page is laid out in a very familiar way too, with a stream (news feed) down the middle, info off the left and right and photos/profile information along the top.

Like millions of others, I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I also happen to be a Gmail user, so I guess it’s little wonder that Google + felt so familiar so quickly. At the moment it’s just geeks and cool kids that are the early adopters using Google +. The real questions will come over the next few months when the whole platform opens up. That’s when we will get to see if Google can persuade the rest of the world that they need another social network, or better yet a completely new one.

Five of the best: Game intros

July 11, 2011

They say that a good beginning is half the battle, so some of us at Skywrite towers have put our heads together to come up with our top 5 PC game intros of all time.

Quake 2:

The Quake series was never really big on plot or character development, but id Software certainly put together a perfectly balanced first person shooter. Nevertheless, at a time when intro cinematics were the status quo, the opening to Quake 2 managed to stand out from the crowd. From the creepy voiceover which fills in some back-story, to an exhilarating drop-ship sequence that’s vaguely reminiscent of Aliens, the intro movie sets the tone for the entire game very effectively – and it blends perfectly into the gun-toting action.

BioShock:

Any game that throws a plane crash at you and THEN a bathysphere ride has to score high marks. The reveal of the game’s underwater setting, Rapture, is among the most glorious of any gaming sequence. For a second it’s actually hard to believe that all this is being rendered in-engine. Nevertheless, the intro also manages to feed you some useful information on the political back-story of the city, which will, of course, come back to the foreground later on.

Freespace 2:

A year after Freespace had given the space combat sim a much needed shake-up, Freespace 2 arrived on the scene. Set 30 years after the original, the intro cinematic bridges this time gap perfectly. A ferocious space battle before the main title cuts to the aging and gutted debris of the capital ships years afterwards. Plus the voiceover perfectly sets the brooding tone of the entire game.

Half-Life:

Valve Software took a different approach to its seminal first person shooter by ensuring that all of the game’s action takes place from the main character’s point of view. Only a few games had tried this before (notably Unreal) and the intro is no different. For a game that has some of the most memorable action sequences ever created, the opening is very understated: you sit on a tram on your way to work, heading deep into the Black Mesa Facility. This sequence does three things: it grounds you inside a “real” world, it ensures you realise just how isolated you are inside this enormous facility and it hints at all not being well in the complex…

Total Annihilation:

This was a one-hit wonder of the RTS world, which never received the sequel it very much deserved. The cinematic intro sets up the conflict between the ARM and the CORE, as you move from one Commander to the other across a hectic battlefield. It’s a great way to introduce the sheer variety of tactical options that this game opened up to players and the orchestral score perfectly backs up the high-octane action.

That’s it from us, do comment below with your own suggestions!


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