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Puzzle & Dragons publisher partners with Signal Studios to announce new AAA mobile game – App Trigger

Remember the beloved puzzle stylings of Puzzle and Dragons, including the spin-off it sparked with the Mario Brothers? As enjoyable and popular as it was (as the first mobile game ever to reach 1 billion dollars in revenue), it has faded from our minds in the last year as match-3 game after match-3 game overtakes the app store and our consciousness. GungHo is ready for a new direction, it seems, which is why they announced a partnership today with Signal Studios for a brand new, AAA mobile title via press release. But what is it? We have no idea.

We can glean some clues from the past work of both studios. We can safely assume we wont see another match-3 puzzle game, though more puzzle games certainly arent out of the realm of possibility. Still, Signal Studios is fairly tightly wrapped in its Xbox and PC action and strategy game, Toy Soldiers, and its RPG, Ascend: Hand of Kul. So that leaves a pretty wide variety of game types the partnership could explore.

Whats in it for Signal? Resources. Toy Soldiers and Ascend both relied on Xbox Live Arcade, meaning their reach was limited. Going both mobile and under the umbrella of a major publisher may just give the studio the boost it needs to become a better-known studio, allowing them to explore console options again at a later date.

In the meantime, sadly, we dont know much more about what type of mobile game this might be or when we might hear more info about it. Hopefully, GungHo and Signal Studios will have more information for us soon.

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Puzzle & Dragons publisher partners with Signal Studios to announce new AAA mobile game – App Trigger

Chess Ultra Makes A Move On Nintendo Switch – Nintendo Insider

Ripstone has revealed that they will release Chess Ultra on Nintendo Switch, the first game to be crafted by the publishers in-house development team.

With stunning environments and beautiful chess sets, such as a Fire and Brimstone set that literally burns, there are over 80 chess puzzles, 10 Grandmaster approved AI levels, local and online multiplayer with an ELO ranking system, historical matches, in-depth tutorials and comprehensive time controls including Classical, Blitz and Marathon.

Ripstone also teases Nintendo specific features, that they promise to reveal more about soon.

The team here at Ripstone are delighted to bring Chess Ultra to Nintendo Switch, it gives players a completely different, intuitive way to play the game, enthused Matt Southern, head of development at Ripstone.

Theres a lot of lifelong Nintendo fans in the studio, and we love being able to support the console.

Chess Ultra will release on the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch worldwide this year.

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Chess Ultra Makes A Move On Nintendo Switch – Nintendo Insider

Checkmate is possible when Chess Ultra comes to Switch – Vooks

Ripstone has announced that Chess Ultra is coming to Nintendo Switch later this year, their first in house developed title for the system. Ripstone are bringing Ironcast to the platform next week, but no date has been released for Chess Ultra yet.

The team here at Ripstone are delighted to bring Chess Ultra to Nintendo Switch, it gives players a completely different, intuitive way to play the game. Theres a lot of lifelong Nintendo fans in the studio, and we love being able to support the console states Matt Southern, Head of Development at Ripstone.

Players will discover a variety of gameplay options available, including 10 AIs approved by Grandmasters, the best chess players in the world, in addition there are 80 chess puzzles to attempt to solve. If you just want to sit down and discover a simple game of chess, you can do that in one of the games crafted locations, like a library or museum, but if you want a little more heat to your game, you can even change up your set, one option is called Fire and Brimstone which is literally on fire.

About The Author

So, I have been gaming since controllers only had two buttons and because I wanted to, I started my own site. Now of course, you can find me writing for Vooks as well

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Checkmate is possible when Chess Ultra comes to Switch – Vooks

‘Mozak’ Lets Online Players Beat Brain Scientists At Their Own Game – WBUR

It seems simple enough: Your task is to trace lines with your computer mouse while listening to soothing music, drawing the branches of aneuron. You canrotate the block where the spideryneuronis embedded, and zoom in to see the details. Its fascinating stuff, if you think about how youre piecing together the parts and wires of your brain.

But as you followfaint signals consisting of blurry white dots, you realize that this game is less connect-the-dots, more hide-and-seek –its often about guessing where the branches lead and erasing mistakes in the process, wondering if your work is even remotely correct.

Even if you feel like youre failing, though, you keep trying for one heartening reason: youre helping advance brain science. And you’re at the forefront of a 21st century trend: “citizen science” initiatives that use data from game players to further ongoingresearch, including brain research.

This neuron-tracing gameis called “Mozak,” the Serbo-Croatian word for brain, andis among the latest entries in this category. Created by the Allen Institute for Brain Science andthe Center for Game Science, the free online game has attracted around 2,500 players since its release last November.

They’re helping to fill a major scientific gap: We still don’t really understand how neuron circuits in our brain are structured or how they work.From images of 3-D neurons inside living brain tissue, players can trace and reconstruct shapes of human and mouse neurons, which can then be classified and studied. This information may eventually help scientists understand and develop cures for brain diseases like Alzheimers.

Already, after just six to eightmonths, ‘Mozak’ has accelerated the neuroscience reconstruction of neurons by 3.6 times compared to what scientists were doing up to now, Center for Game Science director Zoran Popovi said. Now we’re looking into helping not just the Allen Institute for Brain Science but seven or eight different international labs across the world. So we’re hoping to make an impact on a global scale.

Other successful examples of such “citizen science” include “Eyewire,” from Sebastian Seungs lab at Princeton, and “Foldit,” a protein-folding game that Popovi previously worked on. Boston-based “Eyewire,” which is similar to “Mozak” in that players tryto reconstruct 3-D neurons from stacks of slices made by a diamond knife, is the granddaddy of citizen neuroscience games to date: More than 150,000 people from 145 countries have contributed to its attempts to map neurons in theretina, according to their website, and the data set has resulted in three published papers.

We have a very committed community, where some of these people have been playing for years and are really invested, Eyewire developerWilliam Silversmith said. We also had really nicely made renderings of some of our cells by our designers that even made it into textbooks.

The Eyewire team is working on a new game called “Neo,” to be released this year. It aims to have players find missing links in the brain and fix mistakes made by an AI companion called “MSTY” as it automatically builds neurons. To make the game more engaging, “Neo” will add othersuperhero characters and storylines as well.

As important as the work is, [“Neo”] is a little bit repetitive, Silversmith said. So we wanted to give people a fun story with “Eyewire” heroes and characters to relate to.

After creating “Mozak,” the first thing Popovi noticed was that neuroscientists themselves were working significantly faster with “Mozaks” new tools because they were so easy to use, he said.And since “Mozaks” scoring is based on a consensus, he said, the science coming out of it is more accurate and robust than what the experts were initially doing.

Even though we designed for complete novices, [researchers] decided to ditch their state of the art tools and use our mechanisms instead, Popovi said. And then we rolled it out to people who, over time, became better and better at this reconstruction to the point that now they’re finding mistakes in what experts originally labeled.

“Mozak”community manager Saira Mortier calls these proficient people the power players –they spend hours on “Mozak” almost every day, and are usually at the top of the leaderboard.

These people are the true game experts, she said. They know when something is amiss, and they provide crucial feedback on both existing and new features.

But why are these people, many of them non-scientists, volunteering hours of their time to play such a slow-paced game? One common misconception is that these games are addictive or give you an adrenaline rush, like “Candy Crush” or “Minecraft.” But according to Mortier, most people who play “Mozak” are interested in science, not necessarily video games.

Everyday people are making headway on understanding the most fundamental part of being human it’s incredible, and thats a real motivator, she said.

One thing that makes “Mozak” different from other citizen science games is that it takes more time for players to start making meaningful contributions, Popovi said. Its designed in a way that youll need more than just 10 minutes to become a decent player, but you can reconstruct neurons at a faster speedthan in “Eyewire.” On the other hand, “Eyewire” is more detailed, and works only with neurons in the mouse retina.

Another unique feature of “Mozak” is that players can interact with scientists in real time, so they getdirect feedback that helps them understand what theyre doing correctly or incorrectly. If youre stuck or confused about a particular puzzle, for example, you can look at hints that scientists have posted or ask other community members.

So there’s kind of a mass-scale apprenticeship process where one expert is training hundreds of people to become much better, Popovi said.

Through this online apprenticeship, the neuroscience community is growing and reaching more people.

It’s not just scientists working with the outcomes of ‘Mozak,’ but really, people are slowly pulled into deeper and deeper processes of neuroscience, Popovi said. It’s really kind of an avenue towards increasing the population of neuroscientists working on this problem by a factor of 10.

Bob Bondi, a retired software developer and active bass guitar player in a local band in Bend, Oregon, is one of those people who have been sucked into the world of neuroscience through “Mozak.”

Its made me pay attention to the news that has to do with neurons and the brain more, he said. Some of the discoveries have been absolutely amazing.

Bondi has been playing “Mozak” since it came out,normally logging around 10 to 20 hours a week. While he doesnt enjoy other video games, heplays “Mozak” because he finds it both calming and mentally stimulating, he said. He sometimes likes to think about the neurons on the screen as pearls or streams of stars.

Im pushing 69 now, so I just need something to keep my mind active, not video games that require a lot of energy to play, he said.

When players become really advanced, Popovi argues,they should be hired and paid for their work.

Some of these people have become so good that there’s a really strong rationale for a lot of these labs saying, ‘Hey, we want to pay you to do this because youre highly skilled and we desperately need that,’ he said.

While he doesnt know any labs that have actually hired players, Popovi thinks that it will happen in the near future. Hes even suggested that labs provide incentive structures for players by including funds to pay them in grant proposals.

It would pay off for researchers significantly, and its also a novel way of creating academic professions, hesaid.

Along with the traditional route of going to grad school and working in a lab, there could be an evidence-based fast track where you join the apprenticeship process, and then you become better at the task to the point where you become an irreplaceable part of the scientific process, he said.

Maybe eventually, games like “Mozak” will lead to new jobs andprofessionals, the way traditional video games have created eSports.

But even if hes not getting paid, Bob Bondi said, he plans to continue playing “Mozak.” He likes being part of a community of other players and scientists, in which he gives and receives help. After consensus is reached, he likes that he can check his work and improve. But most of all, heplays “Mozak” because of the knowledge that hes contributing to neuroscience as a citizen scientist, he said.

Maybe,” he said, “somehow, part of my tracing will be something that makes these guys sit up in the lab and discover something they didnt know before.

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‘Mozak’ Lets Online Players Beat Brain Scientists At Their Own Game – WBUR

2017 Tennessee Senior Brain Games call for teams: time to compete! – The Tomahawk

The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, in partnership with the nine Area Agencies on Aging and Disability, proudly announces the upcoming season of the Tennessee Senior Brain Games, now in its fifth year. This is an annual, statewide, team-based trivia competition designed to increase public awareness of brain health and its impact on ones quality of life.Interest and participation continues to grow every year. If an older adult organization wants to participate, this is still anyonesany teamscompetition. The only teams without a chance of winning are those that choose not to play.For the next several months, teams will compete within their districts to reach the East, Middle, and West Tennessee semi-finals. The winners of those semi-final rounds will then proceed to Jonesborough, Tennessee on Thursday, October 19, 2017 to take on the Olde Towners from the Jonesborough Senior Center, last years champions. The winning team takes home the cup for a year, earns $2000 for its organization, and gets to host the 2018 championship in their hometown.We all want to stay healthy and independent as we age. To do that, we need to exercise both our bodies and our minds. Ongoing research is helping us learn more about maintaining a healthy brain. While age and family history are risk factors, other things such as diet, exercise, and lifestyle are also believed to have an influence. You can make a difference in the quality of your life by making healthy choices and remaining active.Visit for more information about the competition and to register your team for this years Tennessee Senior Brain Games. If you have questions, call Annalea Cothron at 615-770-3901 or email her at

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2017 Tennessee Senior Brain Games call for teams: time to compete! – The Tomahawk

Review: Why I can’t stop killing a cute, puzzle-solving dog named Fidel – Ars Technica

Enlarge / That says Ars Approved for a reason.

I was already in love with the new video gameFidel: Dungeon Rescue before I realized I had missed one of its most important buttons.What greater compliment can you pay a video game? Fidel is so good that I was hooked even when I didn’t entirely understand it.

One month into my time with the game,I’m still not an expert. Fidel is among the hardest puzzle games I’ve ever played, but I keep coming back, groveling like a… you know.Fidel has everything I want in a brain-busting puzzle experience: quick sessions, a carefully balanced level generator, satisfying payoffs for intelligence, decisions full of stakes, and a dedicated “bark” button. (No, that’s not the button I was talking about.)

Walking from the start to the finish isn’t easy, especially as you manage a measly health bar and some specific enemy-killing rules.

Each run starts with a simple mini-challenge that doubles as a practical lesson. Here, you learn that these masked creatures are harmless to eat if they’re asleep, but that any noise (or chomp) next to them will wake them up.

Racking up experience is crucial to success because those “level up” moments refill your health bar. Certain enemies are a pain to take out, but doing so is sometimes worth it.

Occasional boss sequences appear to break up the puzzle rooms and force different decisions.

One boss sequence requires that you juggle your steps and the steps of a rival robo-pup.

Eating a vampire has a very different effect than eating other monsters. Also, note the ghost here: it will follow your leash and end your run, but it only appears if you’ve either spent too long in a puzzle room (you get a robust timer, at least) or if you accidentally lose all of your health.

Fidel leads players into its puzzles with zero formal instructions. Instead, each session starts with a small “you can’t fail this” challenge, followed by a suite of randomly generated puzzle rooms.After a few of these “quick lesson, quick death” instances, the game’s basics become clear.You’re a dog, and you must eat yourway through dangerous dungeons to find and save your elderly owner.

This plays out in top-down, 2D puzzle rooms, and Fidel cannot cross over any steps on his way to each room’sexit. (Because you’d trip over your own leash, you silly mutt!) The game supports a simplerewind for your steps, which is necessary because the path you take matters. Fidel must consume the dungeon’s creatures in order to gain experience points (XP), but many of the things you eat will dropyour health(shown as Zelda-like hearts). In good news, levels are full of health kits, and coins can be spent on things like health boosts and weapons, so you’ll constantly spend and refill your health.

Your challenge is to find the right path that lets you gobble up as many XP-granting foes as possiblewhile picking up crucial health packs and coins. XP is essential, by the way, because it increases your puppy’s maximum health level (and any level-up moment refills your entire health bar). You’ll have to play a few sessions before you come to appreciate how much those health bar expansions make or break your progress.

The first thing I loved about Fidel is that nearly none of its levels can be beaten perfectly. The random-level algorithm powering Fidelstarts by making players bend their brains just to find “good”paths, but once you approach that kind of mastery, you will realize: Fidelrarelylays out a neat, “this is the only obvious path” kind of room. This design decision forces players to make tough choices, and theseare key, asyour pup constantlyprepares for challenges to come. Maybe you try to scrape by with more health and less XP in one room; maybe you sacrifice morehealth in the next in order to grab a few extra coins.

No item or XPgained in a single Fidel run carries over to the next gameexcept, of course, knowledge. I got a significant taste of this once I figured out how to switch my starting point in every puzzle room.

Fidel intentionally holds this information back for a certain amount of time. You will land in a puzzle room, see an exit on the other side, and start mapping out a good path through enemies, health packs, and coins. This focuses your attention on certain tacticslike the turtle who won’t hurt you if you eat it from behind or the “boss” spiders that become harmless if three smaller spiders nearby are eaten in successionand the fact that you can’t always route a perfect path to eat some of Fidel’shigher-XP creatures.

Fidel release trailer

Eventually, after dozens of deaths, Istarted a game with a seemingly impossible mini-challenge. I would die if I approached a scene from the left, I noticed. I furrowed my brow. I tapped some buttons. Lo and behold, my sweet pup reappeared on the other side of the level. My original exit had become my entrance, and vice versa.

Whoa holy jeeps. Fidel justdoubled in size and scope. Now, I had the additional high-level question and challenge of picking my entrances and my exits in every puzzle room. I thought this might “help” me play better, but all it did was double my min-max mental workload in every puzzle room. Start from the left, and I’ll take out more simple turtles. Start from the right, however, and maybe I’ll pin down that incredibly tricky, item-destroying gnome.

In great news, Fideloffers a generous “try-and-rewind” system. Retrace any steps you’ve taken, and the game will undoany kills and restore any health lost. This reduces the agony you’ll surely face when your seemingly great strategy runs you into a dead end (which happens often, since you can’t walk back over.You can always try a brief test run in either directionso long as you don’t take any steps that completely kill you. If you do that, you have to rewind yourdeath step, then try to beat the room as quickly as possible from yourcurrent position, because a game-ending ghost starts coming for you.

At first blush, Fidel looks like one of fifty shmazillion randomly generated “roguelite” gamesthat have flooded online stores as of late. I would counter that Fidel is instead aunique twist on another classic genre: the falling-piece puzzle game. Instead of wondering which of seven tetrads you’re going to get, however, you must endurewhichever enemies and arrangements Fidel serves upand then you must be very careful in picking steps to solve or deal with them. And just like how Tetris will often dump a certain combination of pieces that simply won’t fit together (damn you, Z block!), so will Fidel create not-quite-perfect levels on a regular basis.

The line puzzle system here clearly resembles The Witness, which makes sense, as Fidel creatorDaniel Benmergui contributed to that 2016 puzzle sensation and was inspired in part by his work on it. But Fidelreally is a distinct and different take on that style of play, and anyone put off by how The Witness presented its puzzle world may be delightedeven relievedby the “get to the puzzle guts” presentation of Fidel. It’s cute. It’s quick. It’s tough. And it’s absolutely memorable. Should you be OK with its restriction to computers and its lack of multiplayer modes, you owe it to yourself to try this surprise summer delight.

Verdict: This is my favorite quick-burst, brain-busting puzzle game in years. Buy it.

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Review: Why I can’t stop killing a cute, puzzle-solving dog named Fidel – Ars Technica

Geek of the Week: Ty Taylor solved the puzzle and found success with his indie video games – GeekWire

Ty Taylor, Seattle-based creator of The Bridge and Tumblestone video games.

The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild sounds like an organization where scientists might gather to stare into telescopes. In fact, Quantum is a 6-year-old Seattle video game company a shining star, if you will, among small independent studios.

Ty Taylor, our latest Geek of the Week, is the founder and creator responsible for the success of the studio, which has put out two of the most award-winning and highly rated independent video games in the world: The Bridge and Tumblestone.

Taylorgraduated from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, earning both a BS and MS in Computer Science in only four years.

After university I immediately started working at Microsoft as an engineer on the Xbox One speech recognition team, Taylor said. But while working my 40-hour weekdays at Microsoft, I was also working 40-hour night and weekends to create my own games on the side.

Taylor kept that up for three years, eventually shipping his first game, The Bridge, in 2013 while still at Microsoft.

I was immediately making more money from the sales of this game than my Microsoft salary, so I decided to leave that company to grow my own, Taylor said.

In just the three years since leaving, Quantum has earned over a million dollars in gross revenue and has grown from just me to over a dozen contributors to the projects, selling copies of our games in every country in the world digitally, as well as creating physical discs that have been sold in Toys R Us, Target, and Best Buy.

The latest creation is the action-puzzle game Tumblestone, which just had its mobile launch on Monday.

Learn more abut this weeks Geek of the Week, Ty Taylor:

What do you do, and why do you do it?I make independent video games. Unlike major AAA games like Call of Duty or Skyrim, which have millions of dollars of budget and hundreds of people working on them, independent games are created by very small teams with very limited budgets. Like most indie game developers, I started creating them as passion projects. Playing video games was always a hobby of mine growing up, and Ive always enjoyed building things, so creating games is something that I naturally gravitated towards. But starting out, I didnt view making independent games to be a sustainable job, especially with AAA competitors who have more marketing budget to spend on a single commercial than an entire indie games budget. But once Steam (Valves digital PC game distribution platform) started to become popular, the ability to make money on a game that I created by myself in my living room on evenings and weekends suddenly became possible. And thats exactly what I did when I released The Bridge early in 2013. That enabled me to leave Microsoft and grow my own company. Weve recently released our second game, Tumblestone, which is one of the highest-rated independent games on Metacritic.

Whats the single most important thing people should know about your field?A big misconception is that game developers spend all day playing video games. In fact, its quite the opposite over the past 12 years that Ive been making games, my desire to regularly play them has dropped significantly. As a designer, I will play my own game, but only very specific sections of it as Im designing, developing, and testing the product. There are so many people whose response when I tell them that Im a game developer is that must be the most fun job ever. Well, it might be a cool and interesting job, but with over 80 hours a week put into the job, spending years on the same project, and sacrificing sleep and sanity at times to finish a project, the job transitions from fun to obsession very quickly.

Where do you find your inspiration?For game ideas, I find much more inspiration in art and the world around me than I do from other games. I like all of my creations to be very original since with so many games releasing every year, its important to stand out from the crowd. With that said, I prefer to look outside of the world of video games for inspiration. For my first successful game, The Bridge, I looked to the works of M.C. Escher. Ive always been fascinated by the impossible realities that he had created, and Ive always imagined what it would be like to walk around inside of one of his drawings. I created a game that allowed people to do just that, and because I looked towards a medium far removed from video games, I was able to create a unique and somewhat groundbreaking game out of the concept.

Whats the one piece of technology you couldnt live without, and why?A computer a device I require to program and produce video games. While I would still be able to answer emails from a smartphone, theres no way I could create games without a computer. Since thats my livelihood, I literally could not live without one!

Whats your workspace like, and why does it work for you?I work out of a Seattle-based co-working space called the Indies Workshop, where independent game developers come together to work on their own projects. There are about 25 people in an open office working on their own projects or in small teams its incredibly inspiring and helpful to surround myself with creative and talented people, and even though were not working on the same projects, we learn quite a bit from each other just from the lunches and other interactions that we have in the workspace. Plus, its in an incredible location in Capitol Hill, near almost all of the game industry events that happen in the Seattle area.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.)I used to think that the trick to this was to physically separate my work and my home, only to realize that if I put too much of a workload on myself, I wont be able to escape it no matter where I am. Ive found the best way to manage a work/life balance is to not enforce deadlines or other pressures for finishing a task within a certain timeframe. If you dont feel like working on something at a particular point in time, then dont, and if you do, then do, regardless of the number of hours youve put in that day or week already. This somewhat hedonistic work schedule has allowed me to let go of the stresses of finishing tasks in particular orders or by particular times, and has made me happier, allowed me to work from anywhere and at any time, and made me overall more productive when I am at work.

Mac, Windows or Linux?While Mac is beautiful and Linux is versatile, Windows is a necessity. When developing games for dozens of systems and using nearly a hundred tools programs in the process, Windows is the only system that really makes sense plus, as a PC gamer, a large portion of my Steam library is unplayable on anything except for Windows.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway?Han Solo. Was I supposed to name a captain from Star Trek? Id rather go to a galaxy far, far away than just within our own.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility?With a time machine, you could go into the future when a transporter and cloak of invisibility have already been invented, then come back to have all three easy decision if you blissfully ignore all the paradoxes.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would This is basically my situation now, minus being given the money in advance. But if tomorrow I were given an additional million, Id keep doing what Im doing now, just at a faster and bigger scale. I write down every idea Ive ever had in a Google Doc, regardless of how good, interesting, or feasible the idea is I write down everything. And this document is nearly 50 pages of one-paragraph game and app ideas. By myself, Ill never be able to create everything that I invent, but with a large enough team to delegate to, the dream of bringing all of my ideas to life would be a possibility.

I once waited in line for Before I started creating games full-time, I was a pretty avid console gamer. Ive definitely waited in line outside of GameStop for midnight releases of a Halo or Elder Scrolls game.

Your role models:I look up to game industry veterans who have started with a vision for a game, built up a company around it, executed well on the idea and design to bring it to life, and have created impactful experiences that have shaped the state of video games. This includes people like Todd Howard, John Carmack, and Jonathan Blow.

Greatest game in history:Tumblestone! But, I may be biased in that answer, so to name a game that I did not create, Id have to go with Tetris one of the most-played and most-influential games in the history of computer gaming.

Best gadget ever:Smartphones in general. We live in a pretty awesome future with the ability to browse the web, Google something, answer emails, send texts, and play games all from a relatively small device that fits in your pocket.

First computer:A TI-83 calculator, which is technically a computer for how I used it. When I was only 11, before having my own computer at home, I had this calculator for school, and I quickly discovered the ability to program on it and taught myself how to do so. My first video games were created on that little device, before I learned C++ and started coding on real computers years later.

Current phone:The Nexus 5X its a great phone for a reasonable price. The best part is that it works with Google Fi, one of the best cell phone plans Ive ever seen and would highly recommend to anyone.

Favorite app:Wabbitemu a bit of a hidden gem on Android, this allows you to have a fully operational TI-83 calculator in your pocket, giving you the ability to do anything from basic math, to graphing, to programming on your phone. As a software engineer, I use this app almost every day.

Favorite cause:Theres a Seattle-based charity called Childs Play, whose goal is to provide games and toys to sick children in hospitals. Some of the most emotionally impactful emails that Ive ever received have been from people with serious or painful illnesses who find escapism through games, thanking me for a wonderful distraction. Being able to use video games for so much good, distracting children in hospitals all over the country from their illnesses, is such a rewarding and satisfying feeling.

Most important technology of 2016:Advancements in clean energy sources. I think the planet is on a pivoting point for when its too late to recover from impacts of burning fossil fuels, and I was happy to see the price of solar panels drop so much in 2016, as well as the more widespread availability of all-electric cars and charging stations.

Most important technology of 2018:Advances in self-driving car technology. While it still isnt perfect, and still wont quite be in 2018, having completely autonomous vehicles on all the roads will be one of the most impactful ways that computer science and artificial intelligence will have ever helped mankind. Tens of thousands of automobile deaths happen every year, caused by human error, which can be nearly completely avoided in the future with self-driving car technology.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks:From a creativity and invention standpoint write down every idea. Even if you have hundreds of ideas that you might never get around to creating. And, as much as possible, prototype those ideas. Build quick proof-of-concepts for your inventions, because when something has potential, youll likely know it right away, or youll know to abandon the idea and move on to the next one.

Website: Ty Taylor

Twitter: @IMakeIndieGames

LinkedIn: Ty Taylor

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Geek of the Week: Ty Taylor solved the puzzle and found success with his indie video games – GeekWire

Cartoon Network’s new series OK KO blurs the line between games and animation – The Verge

The first time Ian Jones-Quartey met up with the game developers at Toronto studio Capy, it wasnt what youd call a typical pitch meeting. At the time, Jones-Quartey a writer and animator who has worked on series like Steven Universe and Adventure Time was still early in development on his next project, OK KO! Let’s Be Heroes. He liked the idea of turning the series into a game as well, and was a big fan of Capy games like Super Time Force and Sword & Sworcery. But when the two sides met up at E3 in Los Angeles, there was no formal pitch involved: instead they spent a few hours just chatting about their favorite movies and cartoons. We just sort of hung out and got to know each other, explains Jones-Quartey, with Capy president Nathan Vella adding, We didnt even know if we were going to make a game together.

The OK KO show debuted on the Cartoon Network this week, and the game is expected to launch later this fall. But unlike most tie-in game projects, the two are inextricably linked. The show and game were created simultaneously, with the teams collaborating on ideas and sharing progress along the way. As new episodes of the show were completed, they influenced the game; as the game continued to progress, some of its ideas made their way into the show. We didnt want to make something that felt like they were following our lead, or we were following their lead, says Jones-Quartey.

OK KO takes place in a world where everyone is a superhero. It stars a budding, perpetually enthusiastic hero named KO, who works in a bodega and dreams of becoming even stronger. Its inspired in part by Jones-Quarteys own life. When he was young, hed have to spend time at his moms office, and as a teenager he worked at a supermarket. Its also a show clearly influenced by the kinds of entertainment he loves, with plenty of references to anime, games, and comic books. I just sort of figured if I was going to work on this thing for a long time, I should make it something thats really fun and expansive, and that Ill never get sick of, he says. I just reached in and tried to be true to myself.

The idea has been in the works since 2011, when he pitched the concept to the Cartoon Network, which eventually greenlit a pilot. It was put on hold shortly thereafter, as Jones-Quartey shifted his focus to working on Steven Universe, but eventually he returned to the concept. It was during those early days that he first started thinking about expanding into games. In fact, when he began talking to Capy, there wasnt a lot of OK KO to show off. When we started the process we didnt have a show at all, Jones-Quartey says. We only had a couple of really rough storyboards and designs. And we basically just sat down, showed them what we had, pitched the idea, and explained, The worlds not really fleshed out, its not like there are episodes you can go to and copy for ideas. We just sort of gave them the keys to the world and the characters, and said Go crazy.

In a lot of ways Capy seems like a natural fit for a project like this. The influence of animation is evident in the studios work, whether its the Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic of Super Time Force or the vibrant, rainbow-hued world of puzzle game Critter Crunch. But the studio was wary of working on a licensed game. Capy got its start creating cellphone titles based on popular movies like Cars and Happy Feet, which often meant dealing with lots of strict rules and guidelines from bigger companies. Since then, the studio has focused on creating original work, like the upcoming adventure game Below. So when it came to OK KO, it wasnt just the property that excited the team it was the process. Part of it was like, Okay cool, its Ian and [OK KO co-executive producer Toby Jones], theyre amazing creators making stuff that were super inspired by, says Vella. But I think more if it was that it was super chill. Usually theres a process that game developers are given in order to create a licensed project. And we just had none of that.

For game director Dan Vader, the fact that OK KO was still in such an early state was also a large part of the appeal. If it was just Hey, you know OK KO? Its this huge hit show thats been out for three years. Do you want to make a game for it? we could even be fans and I think the answer would be, Well maybe. In that situation, what youre making is prescribed by the fandom of the thing, he explains. With this, the pitch was, theyre making a show right now, you can come in and be part of that whole process and make a game alongside it.

Part of the reason the process appears to have worked so well in my brief time with the game, it felt like a solid mix of beat em up and RPG is that Jones-Quartey has been unusually open with his creation. Vader describes it as a real mixtape vibe. Instead of instilling rules around style or story that partners have to follow, Jones-Quartey has instead left his world in the hands of trusted creators, and left them to do what they want with it. For me, the best part about making the show is opening up the idea and giving it to other people, he says. Im really, really a big fan of being open with my ideas and giving them to as many people as possible. Vella adds that [Jones-Quarteys] goal is the opposite of how brands are normally handled.

This openness has been ongoing. Capy and the animation team utilize Slack and weekly calls to share ideas and progress, and as new episodes and builds of the game are ready, everyone gets a chance to check them out. The sharing even extends to staff: when one Canadian-born animator was unable to get a US visa to work on the show, Capy brought him on board to help out with the game. The result is two projects that are clearly inspired by each other, yet remain distinct. Theres plenty of video game DNA in the show, even down to its structure, which has KO on a game-like quest to level up and get stronger. The in-game quests, meanwhile, are designed to act like short episodes of the show, three-act structure and all. The two have different art styles, and sometimes even conflicting stories, but they share a similar vibe.

This more open style of collaboration is something the Cartoon Network hopes to continue. Theres already an OK KO mobile game, and the network has held game and animation jams to let creators go wild with ideas, potentially generating new projects as well. The idea is that all of these different voices, from different fields, can continue to take the OK KO concept and expand it in new and interesting ways which is exactly what Jones-Quartey was hoping to do. Its like a creativity multiplier, he says.

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Cartoon Network’s new series OK KO blurs the line between games and animation – The Verge

Linelight Review: You’ve Got the Glow – Gamezebo

I should probably be burned out on abstract puzzle games that use minimal (but still somehow striking) visuals by now, but I actually cant get enough of them. Theres just something about less conventional brain teasing coupled with a unique look that always piques my interest. Its a weirdly specific preference that Linelight fits quite nicely.

Linelight looks pretty in its simplicity right from the start thanks to the use of intricate lines and faux light effects. Its like watching the sentient glow from a neon sign move around on its own. The way your movement reveals more of the environment as you progress is another very neat touch.

The approach to visuals was enough to draw me in, but what ended up cementing my regard for the games look is what happens when you hit the pause button. As the menu appears the camera pulls back to reveal the world youve been revealing in its entirety, which looks like a series of line scribbles made with light that get more and more intricate the farther you go.

Each section is its own puzzle, with things naturally getting trickier as you progress. What begins as a very simple matter of following a single track steadily opens up to add elements like multiple tracks, hazards, button-activated pathways and more. This sort of stuff is kind of a prerequisite for a good puzzle game, but I especially appreciate how Linelight always introduces new stuff in a safe manner. What I mean is, if youre seeing a new type of puzzle element or hazard for the first time, its going to be on a screen thats set up solely to show you how it works you wont have to actually figure out a solution until you move on to the next screen. This is a great way to wordlessly give players the information they need in order to work their way through puzzles, and I wish more games took this kind of approach.

Hats off to the designers for the puzzles themselves, too. It always seems like just as Im about to get tired of seeing one particular element, a new one is introduced. That, or existing mechanics that Ive already become accustomed to are utilized in new and interesting ways. Its yet another thing I wish more games, especially puzzle games, would do.

The one problem Ive run into is the virtual stick used to control your little light-thingy. It works just fine for the most part, but precision movement especially when time is a factor isnt so great. There are times when you need to make quick turns down alternate pathways with a very small margin for error, and accidentally overshooting the turn because the stick didnt register properly can get to be annoying. Ive been able to work around it by way of stubborn persistence, but I wish blaming myself for getting a solution wrong was the only frustrating thing about this. Good thing theres no real penalty for dying other than having to restart that particular screen.

Linelight is the sort of game I never get tired of stumbling upon. Its an unexpected gem slightly imperfect, but far too interesting and charming in its ambition for me to care. Not that its hurting for accolades, but if you havent tried Linelight, yet you definitely should.

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Linelight Review: You’ve Got the Glow – Gamezebo

‘Neo Angle’ Review – This 80’s Inspired Minimalist Puzzler Brings Neon Colors, and Fun, to your Phone – Touch Arcade

Puzzle games have really upped the ante in recent years to add challenge and tension to the gaming experience. Time limits, move limits, stars to earn, and points to accrue all say, “Sure you can win, but can you win the best?” There’s nothing inherently wrong with these mechanics. When employed welland not just to sell packs of hintsthey can make puzzle games more fun. Sometimes, however, you don’t want to worry about moves and stars and points and how long it takes you. This is where minimalist puzzle games find their niche. They set aside the quest to find the very best solution and challenge you to find any solution. This week’s freshly releasedNeo Angle [$0.99] is a minimalist puzzle game and well worth a look.

Neo Angle is the latest title from indie developer Dropout Games, the makers of Blyss [$0.99], which still owns a well-earned place in my iPhone’s puzzle folder. Their new offering is once again a simple and intuitive, yet challenging puzzler. In it you flip a bright neon triangleseriously, it’s bright, you won’t miss itthrough a maze of squares and seek to disarm roadblocks and traps, travel through portals (I assume through both time and space), swing around on a rotating square, and grab a number of rotating pyramids before ending up at your final destination. Makes total sense, right? Ok, it is a bit abstract and such games are tough to put into words, so check out this GIF and I’ll spare you another thousand of them trying to explain it better.

Neo Angle was created as an homage to the days of Miami Vice, the Pet Shop Boys, and giant clocks as fashion accessoriesyes, the 1980s. This retro theme is supported by a synthesizer-laden soundtrack and neon-colored graphics reminiscent of the signs behind Tom Cruise in 80’s flick Cocktail. It’s bright and stays on script when it comes to the theme, but it won’t cause your eyeballs to cry out for mercy.

Gameplay is minimalistic, as promised, it’s just you and the puzzle with none of the aforementioned stars to earn or times to beat. Your only job is to collect all the spinning pyramids and get that bright triangle to the exit without getting boxed into a corner. This is easier said than done and naturally the difficulty ramps up as you progress through the game’s many levels. New mechanics are introduced and layered on top of each other as you go.

The game’s difficulty is set just right, letting you ease into it before ramping up the challenge. The harder levels become an intriguing game of trial and error that is both relaxing and fun. My sole complaint is the lack of an undo button to take back your last move. An errant flip of the triangle can easily force a restart, which is a real bummer when you are deep into a tough level.

Neo Anglesupplies just the right mix of relaxation, challenge, and fun. Its 80’s theme is cool without distracting from the gameplay. If you’re a fan of puzzle games in general, and especially the minimalist niche, picking this one up is a risk-free decision.

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‘Neo Angle’ Review – This 80’s Inspired Minimalist Puzzler Brings Neon Colors, and Fun, to your Phone – Touch Arcade

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