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Gamescom 2017: Hands on with Transference, a decidedly unsettling VR puzzle game – Critical Hit

I briefly remember seeing a trailer for Transference at E3 this year but I have to be honest and admit that I completely forgot about it and moved my attention on to the more expected blockbusters of the year like Far Cry 3, Call of Duty or Need For Speed.However,while at Gamescom this year our Ubisoft contact managed to get me some hands on, or is that rather face on, with their upcoming Virtual Reality Psychological Thriller, Transference.

Transference is a psychological thriller and the first game collaboration between SpectreVision and Ubisoft. Bridging the gap between movies and games with SpectreVision which is an American Film Production company setup with Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah and Josh C. Waller. So,SpectreVision are bringing their years of experience of movies and the story-driven immersion and combining it with the game development skills of Ubisoft and you have something that is truly unique.

The demo started off with us being shown a grainy video of a scientist explaining that we have been chosen to participate in their experiment, where we will be inserted into the memories of a soldier suffering from PTSD who has died. Were able to look through his memories over time to piece together how it all went wrong. But nothing to be worried about, because we are perfectly safe. Perfectly safe.

I have the VR headset strapped on, get noise cancelling headphones on and then get two weird controllers that I hold with each hand. As soon as the controllers come into view my hands spectrallyappear inthe game and I now have full motion of both hands to reach out and touch things, push switches and pick up objects. I found out afterwards that these controllers are the Oculus Touch controllers and hopefully the tech behind them will be shared with all VR manufacturers as it really made the game that much better.

Read Gamescom 2017 – Hands on with PUBG, Forza and more at Xbox

I was then teleported into a rundown house. Certain walls and doors were obviously glitching out a bit, this was explained earlier by the scientist where the more severe the memory the more unstable the memory data is and these sort of glitches are fine and you dont need to worry. Im perfectly safe.So I walked forward and turned into the kitchen which was covered in dirt and flies with rotting food strewn all over the place. There was a baseball on the table which you could pick up and examine, on top of the microwave there were some antidepressants and near the fridge there were some more. I opened the drawers to find a broken picture of a father and son both smiling away.

I flicked the light switch and everything went dark and then when I reappeared and the lights were back on we were around 10 years back in the past with the house now nice and clean, travelling through time in the persons memory; I flick it again and Im transported back to the present.

The time travel ability is great for investigating things and comparing the differences between the times but its much more than that. The real kicker is that you can use it to transport things between times. So in my demo I needed to open the basement door to see whats down there. In the current version of events the door is open and if I walk down there is a young man rambling to himself and if you approach him he suddenly runs up to you and blows your head off with a shotgun. But in that version there is a basement key hanging in the kitchen so you need to then grab the key and flick the light switch and you then appear back in the past with the key and you can then use it on the door to open the basement door and then investigate the basement properly.

Read Jurassic Park Evolution revealed from the developers of Elite: Dangerous

Another neat VR trick was at one stage the entire house had disappeared leaving you alone in the blackness with some wood pieces floating in the air, you then had to position yourself in a specific spot and line up the wooden pieces which then caused a door to form which you can then go through and solve the mystery of the house.

Afterwards I asked the developer if in the full game wed be going through multiple peoples minds and he said that nothing has yet been revealed about that. But obviously this mechanic works perfectly to create visually unique puzzles. Each mind you go into can be in an entirely different setting, the look and feel can be entirely unique and the main characters can change all the time so Id say its virtually certain that the game will feature different minds. Ubisoft howeve, however, confirmed this at all.

Another possibility is that the game could be released with episodic content much like the recent brilliant Hitman series. But for now all we know is that the game will be released in the Spring of 2018 (Northern Hemisphere) and will be coming to the PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. It will be playable with standard controls or you can go full VR using the Oculus Rift, Vive or PSVR.

It is probably the most unique and original game that Ive seen at Gamescom and for that reason, along with the quality of the demo, it has received one of our very valuable Gamescom 2017 Nomination stickers.

Last Updated: August 28, 2017

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Gamescom 2017: Hands on with Transference, a decidedly unsettling VR puzzle game – Critical Hit

What Makes a Great Tutorial? – IGN

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Tutorials are essential to every game experience. In that time we learn the game mechanics, the key players, and of course the main quest. The first few hours of a game can easily make or break our opinion of it.

So what makes a great tutorial? Beyond just explaining the controls, what do some games do that hook you at the start and keep you coming back?

A bad tutorial can be boring, it can be tedious and repetitive. But a good tutorial can be funny, insightful, entertaining, and give you a great first impression of the world youre going to spend hours in.

From the Cemetery of Ash in Dark Souls 3 to Vault 101 in Fallout 3, here are some great tutorial levels and the archetypes that hold them together.

The Wise Mentor

The first tutorial archetype uses a “safe space” with a narrative figure (often older) who knows the world, the mechanics and the player quest, they teach you what you need to know before sending you on your way (spoiler: they often sacrifice themselves so that you can continue on your quest).

Horizon: Zero Dawn is a great example of this archetype. In Horizon we begin the game as a childhood version of Aloy, being raised by her guardian and protector Rost. Through the tutorial area you learn the fundamentals of surviving in the game world, hunting the machines, crafting healing items and of course the all-important stealth system.

To complete the tutorial area you need to pass The Proving a narrative gateway to being an adult, but also a mechanical test of all the things you learned thus far. Once you pass The Proving, youve officially finished the tutorial zone, youre let out into the wild world, but Aloy has also become an adult and knows how to survive outside the walls.

The Wise Mentor archetype finds a balance between easing you into the game mechanics and easing you into the story.

There are hundreds of examples of games with the Wise Mentor tutorial style, and really its derived from classic storytelling tropes. We see it all the time in cinema as well, just think about Ben Kenobi, Gandalf or Morpheus. These are all wise figures who teach the young hero about the ways of the world before giving them control over the story.

For another gaming example, Fallout 3 takes one of the most literal interpretations of this archetype. As you begin your journey in Vault 101 youre born, learn to walk, learn to shoot a BB gun and take a test to determine your starting stats. It really is about gamifying childhood.

The Wise Mentor archetype finds a balance between easing you into the game mechanics and easing you into the story. It puts you into the protagonists shoes in a vulnerable time in their lives and guides you through the first few hours in the gameworld piece by piece.

The Trial By Fire

At the complete other end of the spectrum is a group of game tutorials that would rather watch you burn than hold your hand.

These games create a challenge for you, then push you to complete it using the skills and wits at your disposal, no hand-holding in sight.

Dark Souls is my favourite example of this, but the structure itself is much older, going back to games like Metroid, Castlevania, Gauntlet and even Dungeons & Dragons. These games create a challenge for you, then push you to complete it using the skills and wits at your disposal, no hand-holding in sight.

Looking at Dark Souls 3, after character creation you find yourself in the Cemetery of Ash, with basic equipment and a health bar comparable to the shallow end of the kiddy pool. From there it throws a collection of different enemies at you, forcing you to react and respond to fast enemies, heavy enemies and archers one after another. This pushes you to learn the mechanics as you go, and persevere either through curiosity or determination.

Finally you fight Iudex Gundyr, a boss that crucially uses bits and pieces of the moves youve seen so far. At times hell charge, use wide swings, use grabs and attack from a distance and you need to use what youve learnt to take him down. When IGN spoke to Hidetaka Miyazaki about the development of the Souls series in 2015, he said that it was his studies of psychology and sociology that led to the Souls series. So its no surprise that this tutorial style mirrors how we so often learn as a child – through perseverance.

Who remembers a parent or sibling saying keep practicing and youll get better, well then, its no wonder that Dark Souls wants us all to Git Gud.

The Drip Feed

Not all games give you the complete tutorial upfront, and not all games let the training wheels off once you pass the safe zone. Our third archetype were calling The Drip Feed. These are the games that start with core skills and continue to offer new challenges in the form of new abilities, puzzles or enemies from start to finish.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a game thats close to my heart, and its also one of the purest examples of a Drip Feed tutorial style. First you acquire your sword and shield, learn how to use those and gain enough knowledge to complete the Deku Tree dungeon and leave the forest. Then you get the bombs for Dodongos Cavern and the boomerang to pass through Jabu Jabus belly.

The great thing about the structure of Zelda games and the Drip Feed style in general is that it continually gives you new abilities, then gives you a challenge that focuses on that one skill before moving onto the next. So if you dont like the forest temple, you might like the water temple or the fire temple as theyre structured differently and focus on a new core skill.

Weve seen this style replicated in games like Darksiders which draws heavily on the Zelda structure and gives you dungeons and bosses centred around a new item or ability. But also games like Pokemon, that have areas gated off or dependent on a new ability, like the HMs Cut or Surf.

The Drip Feed tutorial gives you a core set of skills at the beginning, then tests those, before giving you a new skill and testing that, this cycle continues onwards in teaching and testing until the end of the title. It builds up and up in layers, like a mechanic lasagne.

The Game Within A Game

What about the games that know theyre games? Part of the fun of having rules and guiding principles is knowing when they can be bent and when they can be broken. Lets look at Far Cry: Blood Dragon, a game that has style and 80s flare dripping from every neon-soaked pixel.

Part of the fun of having rules and guiding principles is knowing when they can be bent and when they can be broken.

For a game that starts with an epic 80s sci-fi synth soundtrack and still shots of the main character diving out of a helicopter and arming himself like an action hero badass, it sure drops you into the run-of-the-mill tutorial pretty quickly.

The session is called military navigation for idiots, and features such one line quips as moving allows you to go in many exciting directions and running is like walking, only faster. All the while our hero Rex Power Colt is swearing his head off and cursing his partner Spider for overriding his AI and forcing him to jump through these infantile hoops. Its a tutorial that knows every game needs to start with one, but that doesnt mean it has to do so willingly. This tutorial is like a smart-arse kid at the back of the class who still manages to get straight As.

Far Cry: Blood Dragons tutorial gives you the necessary points to progress, without being too expositional or getting bogged down in hand-holding. By throwing the paint-by-numbers tutorial at you from the outset, and having you sit through Rexs murder-hungry sass, it says yes this is a game, but not quite what youre expecting.

Oh, and watch out for the laser spewing dinosaurs.

The Guiding Hand

Lastly, well look at games that take a hands-off approach to tutorialising; games that encourage you to explore and learn about the world at your own pace, and use environmental or character cues to lead you to uncover the next challenge.

These are often narrative focused games, puzzle games like the excellent Hitman Go or point-and-click adventures like the Monkey Island franchise or Stupid Invaders. These games let you discover the challenge on your own, and guide you to the solution, rather than testing gameplay skills.

Most recently, games like Journey have championed this form of hands-off tutorialising by pushing and guiding the player through the landscape, rather than putting a big, shiny objective marker that tells you where to go.

When you first enter Journey, a game without any vocalised narrative, youre given some very simple prompts about moving the camera and then youre let out into the desert to explore. You then learn to activate the billowing pieces of fabric throughout the world, and see how this increases your own power. From there you follow a strange group of fabric creatures deeper into the desert, and without words or signals they guide you to free their friends and continue on your path towards and then up the mountain in the distance. How you progress is ultimately up to you, but these guides give you a gentle nudge and tweak your curiosity enough to get you moving.

Beyond this, a puzzle game like 2016s The Witness gave you a selection of puzzles and challenges to complete, but not the order to complete them and only the basic set of skills required. Without giving away the secret, there is a whole suite of environmental puzzles in The Witness, and you can play through the entire game without finding and finishing them. Whether you uncover them comes down to how observant you are, and whether you follow the environmental cues that the game puts before you.

Games that follow the Guiding Hand style of tutorialising leave a lot of the heavy lifting up to the player, but those that stick with it either through curiosity or investment might find themselves wrapped up in a game that will stick with them for years to come.

So what makes a great tutorial? It all comes down to giving you the core skills that you need to get through the game, but also giving you the emotional ammo to get invested in the experience. Whether it gives you those tools upfront, feeds them to you throughout, or lets you uncover them on your own, it needs to make you as the player feel like a valuable part of the game world and the unfolding story.

What are your favourite tutorials? What other archetypes are there that people should experience? Let us know in the comments.

Nathanael Peacock is a freelance games journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Why not say hey onTwitter?

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What Makes a Great Tutorial? – IGN

Competition heats up with ‘Senior Brain Games’ – WBBJ-TV

JACKSON, Tenn. Ready, set, go for the sharpest minds in West Tennessee.

So today is our fifth annual Senior Brain Games, Southwest Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability Director Shelley Matthews said.

Fourteen teams made up of seniors from 10 senior centers and adult housing centers put pen to paper to compete for the big trophy.

Just a way to bring older adults together and improve cognition and answer some trivia questions and fellowship with each other, Matthews said.

Each player must be at least 60 years old and each team consist of three members and an alternate.

There are three rounds of four teams, and each of those teams will answer three questions. The winner of that round will go on to play in the final round, Matthews said.

Todays winner will move on to our West Tennessee regional games, which is held here. That winner will move on to the state games in Jonesboro, Matthews said.

And the competition is real.

You have folks here from all walks of life teachers, professors, farmers all sorts of people interacting, and its fun to watch the competition between older adults, Matthews said.

At the end of the day, its a way to make sure we never forget those who came before us.

I think just keep in mind that the older adults are in the community,Matthews said. They want to interact like everyone else. They are our friends, they are our neighbors and they deserve our respect.

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Competition heats up with ‘Senior Brain Games’ – WBBJ-TV

Acclaimed VR Puzzle Game ‘FORM’ Now Available for Oculus Rift – Road to VR

Release in June, FORM is a VR puzzle game which has received top marks for its imposing, dream-like architecture and geometric puzzles. Now the game is available for Oculus Rift via both SteamVR and the Oculus store with a discount for the next week.

Form launched initially on SteamVR in June supporting the HTC Vive. Now developer Charm Games has updated the SteamVR version with proper Oculus Rift support, and also launched the title on the Oculus store. The game also picks up a new Cortex Mode which lets players listen to the games soundtrack withing the games stunning environments. For the next week the game is discounted to $12, and will return to a newly lowered $15 price point thereafter.

FORMReview

Formmay be the first VR title from Charm Games, but the clearly talented Vancouver-based studio produced an impressive work whichRoad to VRs Scott Haden called a truly VR-native experience that youll have a hard time forgetting. The game has also managed to hold down an impressive 93% positive user rating on Steam.

Good news forForm fans: the studio says theyre working on new VR experiences.

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Acclaimed VR Puzzle Game ‘FORM’ Now Available for Oculus Rift – Road to VR

The Witness and Obduction Creators Come Together to Talk Game Design – PlayStation LifeStyle

Jonathan Blow and Rand Miller are arguably two of gamings most brilliant minds, one having created The Witness, a highly lauded puzzle adventure, and the other bringing Myst into the world, a clever puzzle adventure that drove adoption of the CD-ROM format in 1993. In a fascinating twist on the traditional developer interview, the PlayStation Blog brought together these two intellectuals to talk about puzzle game development as Rand Millers latest title, ObductionPS4 with PSVR support, releases next week.

Blow begins by asking Miller about the advancement of technology since Myst released in almost 25 years ago, and having to change how developersforce player perspective with full locomotion 3D games. Miller explains the difficulty.

The nature of exploration/adventure games is that you want the player to feel like they have complete freedom, but at the same time provide some kind of path guidance that insures that the player gets the story/information they need. I think weve learned as weve transitioned to realtime 3D that the path guidance that we might have previously achieved on a per frame basis, we now have to do on a different scale.

Miller then goes on to talk about specific examples from Riven, a frame-by-frame game, versus how he handled drawing the players attention in Obduction, which is both fully 3D and in VR. In regards to VR, he likens drawing the focus of the player to keeping the attention of a three year old, because the ability and desire to look around is so natural and effortless.

Later in the discussion, Miller asks about the frustration of watching early players try to solve puzzles. Blow reveals that The Witnessdid not have early testers, and the first time people really got to go hands on with it was at PSX 2015, after the game was largely done being designed. Obductions creator then went on to talk about how he solved puzzle problems subtly.

The subtle clue solutions are the most fun for me just a little tweak that has the perfect psychological effect a flash of light on the other side of the world, a small 440 volt sign, a license plate on a desk, using consistent colors, etc. I love when those work to fix little issues, and even if they dont work for everyone, they make the experience more about paying attention then just trying to get into our (the designers) heads.

They go on to discuss core mechanics of the puzzle games, and how they each go about intersecting those core mechanics with story and environment to create an intelligent puzzle game that feels engaging to the player.

The discussion is quite interesting, so I recommend you read the whole thing over at the PlayStation Blog.You can also read ourRand Miller interview from PSX 2016 where we talked about what its like to be involved in three decades of advancements to video game technology.

ObductionPS4 releases on August 29th with PSVR support.

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The Witness and Obduction Creators Come Together to Talk Game Design – PlayStation LifeStyle

Flinn Foundation bioscience winners range from bug zappers to brain games – East Valley Tribune

What does a bug zapper and a brain game have in common?

The Flinn Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, recently announced its seven early-stage bioscience award winners. The foundation will provide $30,000 each in funding support and program services to help these companies grow as part of the Flinn Foundation Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program.

Heres a look at two of the award winners:

Phoenix Interface Technologies

Tempe-based Phoenix Interface Technologies has created a way to help eliminate disease-spreading and crop-damaging insects while sparing the beneficial ones.

The Solar Rid device is essentially a modern-day bug zapper. It uses five sensory outputs such as sound, smell and sight to attract specific insects like mosquitos, corn earworms and navel orangeworms.

The device runs on solar power. Creator Tom Brown said the machine may help decrease the amount of pesticides sprayed on crops.

Just think of the advantages instead of spraying these poisons across this whole wide area, you can have the insects come to you, then youre only killing in this little tiny spot, instead of spraying deadly stuff across acres and acres and acres, Brown said.

Officials with Maricopa Countys vector control department, which sprays for insects, said they only use about 1 teaspoon of pesticide per acre to keep mosquitos and other insects from harming crops and spreading disease.

The Solar Rid device can attract and kill bugs in a 10-acre area, Brown said.

Biosensing Instrument

This Tempe-based company designs instruments to analyze molecular interactions based on Surface Plasmon Resonance, a technique used across the life sciences and nanotechnology applications, according to the release.

Its latest invention, the SPRm 200, is a solution of Surface Plasmon Resonance Microscopy (SPRM) which combines optical microscopy and Surface Plasmon Resonance Technologies in one instrument.

According to the site, it is the only scientific solution in the market that enables label free in vitro measurement of binding reactions and kinetics of individual cells in their native environment and in real time.

Since 2014, the Flinn Foundation has allocated $645,000 in grants to local nonprofits to provide funding and services to 22 bioscience firms, according to a news release.

This years other winners include:

SMART Brain Aging: This Scottsdale-based company offers online courses for clients looking to find help outside the clinic and get in some extra activity.

BMSEED: This Phoenix-based company, which stands for BioMedical Sustainable Elastic Electronic Devices, uses stretchable gold films for its products, which have biomedical applications, including those that require soft and stretchable solutions like cells, tissue or skin.

Iron Horse Diagnostics: This Scottsdale-based company is developing a diagnostic test to rapidly determine if a patient has Lou Gehrigs disease. The firm also is working on a test to detect and monitor brain injury and concussion.

Poba Medical: This Flagstaff-based medical device company provides engineering expertise in thermoplastic balloons.

Reglagene: This Tucson-based startup uses DNA quadruplex science to regulate genes as part of the drug-discovery process, according to the release.

Times staff writer Gabriella Del Rio contributed to this article.

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Flinn Foundation bioscience winners range from bug zappers to brain games – East Valley Tribune

Get to know: Rocketship Park, Ontario-based makers of the addictive new puzzle game Block Droppin’ – Financial Post

Torontos independent game scene has become almost legendary within the industry, but theres more to Southern Ontarios collective of small game studios than shops located within the Big Smoke.

A quick jaunt to the southwest, for example, will lead you to St. Catherines-based Rocketship Park, a tiny team that just launched its first big game, Block Droppin a little puzzler founded on classic block dropping mechanics for iOS devices.

But while both of Rocketship Parks founders Jim Squires and Shane McCafferty have plenty of experience in and around the game business, its always hard for an indie game to stand out. And thats especially true when its released into the most crowded game market there is: Apples App Store.

Post Arcade decided to pick Squires brain to find out how he plans to ensure his little company will survive and, hopefully, thrive. He shared his thoughts on the ever popular free-to-play business model (which Block Droppin uses), why he thinks his game may have a leg up on the competition, and what its like living on the periphery of Torontos booming indie games community.

Post Arcade: Tell us a little about Rocketship Parks genesis. How many of you are there, and how did you come together?

Jim Squires: Rocketship Park is a team of two located in St. Catharines. Collectively we have nearly two decades of experiences in mobile games, and that keeps growing every day.

Shane McCafferty and I first met as members of our local co-working space, Cowork Niagara. While there were plenty of active members in similar disciplines, Shane and I were the only two who were fully immersed in the games space. Whats more, we both had a focus on mobile games which caught us both by surprise.

We decided to test a working relationship in 2016 with the development and release of AlphaPit on the App Store. It was a great experience, and we quickly realized that we each had strengths that balanced out the other. Whats more, we both shared a belief in a central design philosophy: That games are at their best when built around creating a specific feeling or emotion in a player. As the year drew to a close and we considered future projects, we realized how much more could be done by formalizing what we do. And with that, Rocketship Park was born.

While were a team of two, were very keen on working with community partners and talented folks throughout Ontario, and have had the luxury to do so on a number of occasions since forming the company earlier this year.

Lets talk about the studios first game, Block Droppin. What do players do? Whats the hook?

Block Droppin is a fast-paced puzzle game that mixes a few different elements together to keep players on their toes. Players slide colored blocks to create shapes by matching colors. Once created, those shapes drop into a grid below where theyll need to complete horizontal lines to score points, just like in classic falling block puzzle games of the past.

In designing a unique experience built on familiar elements sliding tiles, matching colors, falling blocks weve strived to keep Block Droppin instantly accessible to the largest audience possible.

Where did the idea come from?

As we were making grandiose plans for our first major release, we thought it would be fun to prototype a few of our smaller ideas just to see what the mechanics would feel like. The first of these was a word game with a sliding tile mechanic. While the original idea ultimately proved too complex for mass market appeal, there was something incredibly satisfying about the sliding tiles wed implemented. We focused on this, stripped out a lot of the other elements (including the alphabet), and chased a very specific player experience through multiple iterations. By keeping an open mind about what was working and what wasnt, we were able to focus on the fun in every revision until Block Droppin evolved into the game you see today.

While it might not be the easiest design philosophy for a studio to adhere to once investors and partners enter into the picture, were fortunate enough to be at the start of our journey and can let a project breathe until we believe its the game it deserves to be.

Youve chosen to launch on mobile using a free-to-play model. What business factors influenced this decision?

Shane and I both come from the world of mobile games, so focusing our first launch on the App Store just made sense. Going free-to-play though? That was admittedly a little less instinctive. From a design standpoint, developing a premium game allows developers to focus on fun over monetization and thats always the goal we should be chasing. But we also have to be realistic about where the business stands today, and mobile game makers stand a far greater chance of turning a profit with free-to-play releases than they do with paid apps.

To strike a balance, we worked hard to find the fun in Block Droppin before working to implement a free-to-play monetization model that fits. This is a somewhat backwards way of working by current industry standards, but we feel you cant make a great game unless you treat great game as your starting point.

Were also big proponents of the free-to-start model, which lets developers deliver a premium game without scaring away the larger potential audience with an initial download price. Free-to-start allows players to download a premium game for free, and experience a certain percentage of that game before being prompted for a one-time payment to unlock the rest. Free-to-start is something were definitely considering for future releases, so long as it makes sense for the game were developing at the time.

Thousands of iOS games launch every year. How do you intend to stand out?

Thats an excellent question and knowing how challenging it is to get attention on the App Store, it would be misplaced bravado to claim weve found the magic formula. Ultimately though, the games that are embraced by players, press, and platforms are the ones that demonstrate quality and creativity and this is something were chasing with every product we make.

A significant percentage of games released in the mobile market are derivative of whats come before. By simply creating a quality game with a uniquely fun formula, we feel that were putting ourselves ahead of the competition. And if that sounds like misplaced bravado, at least I warned you in advance.

Southern Ontario is known for its large and supportive indie game industry, but its mostly located in Toronto, over an hour away from you. Do you still feel and benefit from this community?

Yes, but theres no denying that the distance makes us feel more like a well-regarded second cousin to the Toronto indie scene than a member of the immediate family. Despite our location, Im a proud member of Toronto organizations like the Hand Eye Society, attend events whenever theres an opportunity, and Shane and I will even be bringing Block Droppin to this years Bit Bazaar at the CNE. But the day-to-day interactions that Toronto indie game havens like Gamma Space deliver ultimately evade us.

Luckily theres a similar (though much smaller) indie games scene thats been brewing in Niagara. Were home to studios like Phantom Compass, Pixelnauts, and Creative Bytes, and both Brock University and Niagara College are training the next generation of Niagara game developers. Niagaras games scene is a community that continues to grow every year, and we couldnt be prouder to be a part of it.

Do you have any other projects coming down the pike, plans to port to Android or Steam, or are you fully focused on the iOS version of Block Droppin for the time being?

Were primarily focused on the iOS launch of Block Droppin, but we have a few things percolating behind the scenes as well. Our immediate plans are to support Block Droppin and grow it in response to player reception and there are a lot of possible directions that could take. At the same time though, were putting some effort into planning our next project. We dont have anything to reveal just yet, but even when were quiet, you can safely assume were always tinkering away at something that we cant wait to put in players hands.

The preceding interview was lightly edited for length and flow.

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Get to know: Rocketship Park, Ontario-based makers of the addictive new puzzle game Block Droppin’ – Financial Post

Panda Pop passes 100 million users as Jam City readies for an IPO – TechCrunch

The flagship game from Los Angeles-based mobile game developer Jam City, Panda Pop, has reached over 9.3 million monthly active users and climbed above its 100 millionth download.

The tentpole game for MySpace founder Chris DeWolfes latest LA-based juggernaut of a company has certainly had its moment.

Now, after swallowing TinyCo last year, DeWolfe is likely hoping that the undiminished popularity of Panda Pop can continue to be the base on which Jam City builds its future.

Given that the TinyCo acquisition is less than a year old, its not surprising that the titles Jam City has launched and acquired have yet to hit their stride.

According to the latest ratings from App Annie, Jam City has two games in the top 100 top revenue grossing games, Cookie Jam (coming in at No. 30) and Panda Pop (at No. 43). Genies & Gems and Juice Jam and Family Guy The Quest for Stuff round out the companys top five titles and show just how far the new TinyPop titles have to go to really hit their stride.

That said, theres no denying the quality of a sustained winner, and the companys core match 3 and reliance on puzzle games hasnt let it down.

Indeed, DeWolfes approach is also taking the existing titles in the companys roster into international markets. We do some pretty deep localization in Japan, DeWolfe told me in an interview a few months ago.

Europe and Japan have been the key geographies outside of the U.S. for DeWolfe and Jam City as it looks to grow its gaming empire.

All of this is being done with an eye toward an initial public offering sometime in the next 18 months, DeWolfe has said.

The company is heading toward roughly $400 million in revenue for this year and has targeted the middle of 2019 at the latest for its public offering.

Over the past seven years, Jam City (which was formerly known as SGN), has grown through a series of acquisitions, mirroring the boom and bust cycles of the rest of the industry.

Initially emboldened by the possibility of Kings public offering in 2015, the company had set a target of 2017 for a public offering, but kicked that can down the road when King fizzled in its public debut.

Still, the TinyCo acquisition and its partnerships with Marvel Studios and Fox hold the opportunity for future content. Indeed, as it heads into its public offering, Jam City intends to launch six games in the next year alone.

Coupling that with the 100 percent annual year on year revenue growth that the company reports, and theres a recipe for one of the next big Los Angeles startup wins just over the horizon.

Forbes photo shoot at Jam City, Culver City, CA, 5/17/17.

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Panda Pop passes 100 million users as Jam City readies for an IPO – TechCrunch

Nintendo Switch Eshop Adds Three New Games Today – GameSpot

More new games are now available in the Nintendo Switch Eshop. Today, three titles have been added to the hybrid console’s digital store, with one major release following early next week.

Headlining today’s batch of new games is Forma.8, a stylish, Metroidvania-style adventure. The game puts players in the role of the eponymous exploration probe and tasks them with exploring a labyrinthine, alien world teeming with power-ups and enemies. Switch owners can pick up Forma.8 for $10/9.

Today’s batch of releases also includes the requisite Neo Geo game. This time, it’s Puzzled, a falling-block puzzler reminiscent of Tetris. The object here is to clear a vertical path in the tower of blocks to allow an airship to travel to the top of the screen. Like other ACA NeoGeo titles, Puzzled costs $8/6.29.

Rounding out today’s releases is another puzzle game, Piczle Lines DX. This title challenges players with completing hidden pictures by drawing lines between pairs of numbers. The game features 100 levels in its Story mode and over 200 puzzles in Puzzle mode, with more content set to come as free updates. Piczle Lines DX retails for $15/14.

These three games join Minecraft: Story Mode – The Complete First Adventure, which made its Switch debut earlier this week. That title includes all five episodes of Story Mode’s first season, as well as all three episodes from its Adventure Pass. Next week, August’s marquee Switch game, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, arrives for the console. We recently learned the title will have a season pass, which will give players access to exclusive weapons and additional story content down the line. Mario + Rabbids releases on August 29.

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Nintendo Switch Eshop Adds Three New Games Today – GameSpot

Five of the Best Brain Game apps – Blast

Once upon a time, computer gaming was simply sitting in front of a computer or television and playing a PC or video console game. However, now we are 17 years into the 21st century and the gaming industry has exploded in terms of both popularity and revenue. The popularity of gaming has meant that game developers have been given time and lots of money to develop a variety of wonderful games. Role playing games, shooters, strategy, simulators, these are just a few of the kind of games that developers are offering modern day gamers.

The 21st century has also witnessed the rise of esports the hugely entertaining spectator sport. Popular games such as League of Legends, FIFA 17 and Call of Duty all have their own esports scenes. Hitherto, gaming has become such a large part of modern day society that the International Olympic Committee are discussing making esports a medal event in the 2024 Olympics in order to attract a younger generation of viewers.

Modern gaming also provides the gamer with health benefits. A variety of games offer the gamer benefits including; greater numerical skills, increased logic skills, an enhancement in reflexes and superior reasoning skills. Indeed, there are also now a variety of brain training games; games which have been created in order to improve mental skills such as; reasoning, logic, memory, attention to detail and flexibility, speed of processing and problem solving. Some brain training games have even claimed to help stave off the effects of Alzheimers although this has never been proven.

These brain games are usually free to download and can be played on your smartphone. Theyre great fun and easy to use. Most of the apps record your records over time and show you where you need to improve and what parts of the brain training you are best at.

So without further ado, here are five of the best brain games.

Luminosity

Probably one of the most popular brain training games, Luminosity has a large library of brain training games for the user to choose from. Different sections include; Speed Match, Robot Factory, Word Bubbles and the popular Trains of Thought. Luminosity provides the user with an overview of his or her stats over time. Every time you complete an exercise, Luminosity records your scores and puts them into a data bank. The five categories the app records you on are; speed, memory, attention, flexibility and problem solving. The app will also ask you your mood and how many hours of sleep you had the night before. It will then compare this data and display to you how many hours of sleep you need and what mood you are in when youre at your best. You can also compare your own scores with other users from around the world

Positive Activity Jackpot

The Positive Activity Jackpot (PAJ) was designed in America to combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for veterans returning home from wars. But the app also helps treat users with anxiety, depression and those at risk of suicide. The app helps people who have difficulty doing everyday things such as meeting new people. The app uses an interactive on arm bandit to find local things to do ranging from outdoor activities to road trips, exercise and shopping based on the phone users location. For anyone struggling to get themselves out of the house or out of bed in the morning, PAJ is a great tool to get the user back on his or her feet. The app also lets the user invite friends from their contact list to join in. The one arm bandit will show you what it recommends you do today but if you dont like what it suggests you simply have to pull the lever and let the apps jackpot function make the choice.

Personal Zen

An app that promises to reduce stress in 25 minutes. Zen App is said to reduce stress and anxiety by way of a simple game played a few times every week. The app was first developed by a team of neuroscientists and mobile developers and offers users attention-bias modification training. This training has been proven to reduce stress by a scientific study. The game itself seems pretty strange youre shown a grassy field. Two blue faces appear briefly one happy and one angry, they then bury themselves in the grass. A line of taller grass then spurts out from where the happy face dug its whole and your job is to quickly trace that line with your finger. This is literally all the game is. The app recommends to play the game for 15-30 minutes, although many struggle to play any more than 10 minutes due to its repetitiveness, this is all about calming the brain and not becoming agitated. Can you last over 10 minutes? Download the app here.

Buddhify 2

My personal favourite, Buddhify 2 is an app that teaches mindfulness-based meditation through a number of guided lessons. The app includes guided meditation tracks that the user can listen to depending on what he or she is doing. The app will ask you what youre doing. This could be anything from having a walk to working online or just waking up. Each lesson ranges from 5 to 20 minutes so theyre easy to incorporate into your day even if youre working a 9-5 job. Lessons are conducted by a majority of different teachers, all with calming, soothing voices. For anyone wanting to get into meditation, this app is an excellent tool.

Happify

With this app you can actually train your brain to be happier. Research suggests that some activities help build up your ability to combat stress and negative thoughts. According to the apps website, 86% of frequent users get happier within two months. The great Aristotle once said happiness depends upon ourselves. The app uses the fundamentals of positive psychology and encourages the user to take part in small activities and write things down. Essentially, it encourages the user to feel and really come to terms with his or her feelings and thoughts.

All of these apps are useful there is no denying that. But there are so many brain train type apps on the market, so it can be hard to choose one. On the other hand, since there are so many, you should try out as many as possible until you find one that you really love.

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Five of the Best Brain Game apps – Blast


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