Thursday, 27 October 2011

BBC beta website- Homepage

Explore the new BBC BETA homepage.
►Mini Matmian:
Personally I miss the editable/movable boxes. Not too sure I’m a big fan of the new look. Seems a tad messy/harder to navigate. But that’s just me. Maybe it just my aversion to change to certain regularly used websites :)
What do you think? 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Taking a Twix twist on Brickbreaker

Play Twix FeedBreaker Game
After a great meeting with the good folks at TBWA New York during our trip earlier this year, we were delighted to get a call asking us to get involved in producing a series of games for the iconic Twix brand.
Twix, meaning “twins sticks” (hey, we know our stuff, y’know) has been around since 1979 and its current branding revolves around “Take a pause like you mean it”. Using this as our theme, we created a game concept based on the equally iconic game, Brickbreaker, and gave it a Twix twist.
Feedbreaker” features 10 increasingly difficult levels, where using the Twix bars as your paddle, you break the bricks, catch power-ups, avoid the power-downs, enjoy the techno music (mostly) and send swag to your friends on Facebook so they’ve got power-ups ready for when they play. You may find your friends’ faces appearing randomly on the bricks as well which feels slightly bizarre – but the bricks make great noises when they break, so we reckon it’s all fine! gave us a great review which bodes well for the next release, so standby for more classic chocolately fun!

Philip’s toothbrushes go for the Cosmic Clean!

Play Cosmic Clean
We’re used to surprising other people with the player stats for our releases, but it’s not often that we knock ourselves out.
Released in 2009, “Brilliant Brushers” is one of our simplest games, but has been a jaw-dropping success. Aimed at 4 – 11 year olds and their parents with a dental hygiene message wrapped up in a fun way, it has had over 18 million plays lasting almost 7 minutes each on average. Wow! That is simply breath-taking.
Created for Philips to promote its Sonicare range of toothbrushes for kids, “Brilliant Brushers” now has a sequel in this year’s release of “Cosmic Clean”. Featuring our hero of the pearly whites, Sonic Simon, and his sidekick Sonic Sophie, the daring dental duo take off for a 3 level game to spread good dental hygiene habits throughout the cosmos. The aliens of the Moons of Molar, Planet Plaque and Comet Canine are in for a toothy treat!
In all seriousness though, fun and simplicity are not to be sneezed at as successful game mechanics. And if Matmi helps spread the word about good dental hygiene for a few million kids and parents around the globe, we can live with that.

Celebrating Nivea’s centenary

Mementos of Closeness InGame
There’s nothing old and wrinkly about this competition game release for Nivea!
Taking the brand’s “Feeling closer” theme, we developed a concept around mementos – objects with emotional value that we often associate with friends, places and good times. “Mementos of Closeness” is the result – a 5-level game set in various locations around the UK featuring short, fun Nivea advertising clips that subtlely reinforce the brand’s presence during play.
Players need to collect at least 10 mementos in each level to progress – everything from gas stoves and powder puffs to rubber ducks and guitars! You may find the odd Nivea product lurking in the scenery too… (we figured that was OK; it’s their game after all).
Nivea sponsors ITV’s “This Morning” show which is our 3rd encounter with the broadcaster (“Colour of Money” and “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!”). People are going to start talking soon…..
Talking of which: “Mementos of Closeness” is a competition game and closes on 30th November so get on there and get playing! You can win an exclusive tour of the “This Morning” studio or one of 50 Nivea goodie bags – which has got to be good on the run up to Christmas (ugh, sorry, did I really just say that word?)
Anyway! Over to you and if you like the game, don’t forget to pass it on to your friends through Facebook and twitter. Big thanks to the guys at Nivea and ITV – and good luck to all players! The marvellous Matmians can’t enter the competition – which is a shame for our girlfriends but good news for you.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Apple’s Newsstand Is Already Booming For Magazine Publishers

Exact Editions downloads
Early indications are that Apple’s new iOS features for publishers have had an immediate beneficial impact.
  • Exact Editions, which says it made about 10 percent of the Newsstand app titles on iTunes Store, says downloads of freemium sample editions jumped by 14x in just a few days, whilst some titles’ actual sales have more than doubled.
  • Consumer magazine publisher Future says free container apps for its titles were downloaded two million times in three days and reports “consumer spending well in excess of normal monthly revenues”. “Future has sold more digital editions in the past four days through Apple’s Newsstand than in a normal month,” says UK CEO Mark Wood.
Although Future’s numbers have rocketed, this does not represent the “750 percent increase” being cited in some reports, which do not compare like with like. That is because, until last week, most of Future’s digital editions were not actually available as apps, only through Zinio’s newsstand.
On the same day Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) launched Newsstand, Future also pushed some 55 of these editions outside Zinio to iTunes Store as individual iOS apps. In other words, for Future, this is the difference between Zinio and iTunes Store rather than between pre- and post-Newsstand.
Even so, Newsstand’s features (automatic edition downloading, a dedicated publications folder and a new section of iTunes Store) were absolutely part of Future’s strategy in doing so. And it is so far reaping rewards.
►Mini Matmian:
Impressive growth. Whether it’s more of a spike or can be maintained (at least plateau at a higher level) remains to be seen. Personally, I too have turned to digital versions of publications more and more since Ibought a tablet.

Monday, 17 October 2011

USA Network scores with gamification on Psych TV show

USA Network scores with gamification on Psych TV show
Gamification — using game-like features in non-game applications — is paying off for brands.
NBC Universal’s USA Network found that it could double the engagement on its Psych TV show web site with a game-like competition. Jesse Redniss, vice president for digital at USA Network, said in a talk at the Gamification Summit today that game-like reward programs generated a 130 percent increase in page views for the network’s Psych show and a 40 percent increase in return visits. That adds up to a decent financial pay off.
The Psych section of the site, dubbed Club Psych, encourages visitors to become loyal fans with achievements and rewards. The show has 1.5 million Facebook fans and users spend an average of 22.5 minutes on the Psych site. Fans can play games, watch videos and answer trivia questions. If fans share something on the site, they get 200 reward points. If they take a poll, they get 50 points. The challenges are posted on the home page every week; that drives return visits, with 50,000 coming back every day. For every shared piece of content, the fan gets 10 points for every additional fan who shares the content with someone else.
“The more you share, the more you win,” Redniss said.
The Nitro-based reward system for the Psych site shows the leaderboards for who has the most reward points, spurring a natural competition among users. The network offered virtual goods for users with lots of reward points. But the engagement really took off on Sept. 3 when USA Network offered a limited number of real goods — merchandise related to the show — to users in exchange for their reward points. Within a few days, the DVDs, signed posters and other goods ran out.
Redniss said the show’s audience grew significantly during the past season. The network is planning to expand the use of gamification across a number of its other properties as well, Redniss said.
►Mini Matmian:
A great example of how to implement a simple gamification system to increase engagement and customer loyalty. Check out ‘The Office’ page for another great use of gamification for TV shows

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Topsy Review - Social Web Search Engine

Topsy Screenshot
What can you use the application for? is a new search engine that returns results from sites such as Twitter, Blogs, Flickr, Digg, Yelp, Identica and others. The site returns search results that are up to the minute, so users get the latest news from the social networking world. Results are shown in page form, in order of the number of “Tweets” each result has received on Twitter. The results page displays the option of viewing All Results, or results that were written in the last Hour, Day, Week or Month. Results can also be viewed by the top authors. Authors with the most results on the topic searched are shown first. The Topsy home page is dominated by a large search bar. Users may also enter a Twitter username in the search bar, and the search engine will return all the results posted by that user. The home page also has links to an About Us page, to the Topsy blog, a link to follow Topsy on Twitter, a link to Send Feedback, a link to Terms (terms of usage for the site) and a link to Privacy (the site’s privacy policy).
Who would you recommend the application to?The Topsy site is recommended to anyone wishing up to date search results from the social networking and blogging world. The site does a very thorough job of searching and is very easy to use. Search results are returned very quickly and are displayed in a pleasing format.Topsy Features
  • Search engine searches the major social networking and blogging sites, especially Twitter
  • Search results are ordered according to the number of Tweets they have
  • Users can filter the results to show results written in the last hour, day, week or month
  • Users can filter the search results by top authors
  • Search results are very up-to-date
Rated 4 out of 5 stars by AppAppeal Editor
►Mini Matmian:
A pretty neat little website for searching social media platforms and displaying real-time info from Twitter and Google+.
Check out the video below to see an interview with one of the creators of Topsy.
Uploaded by Scobleizer


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Return of Real-Time Social Environments

The last few months have seen an explosive resurgence in real-time environments, last popular in the late ’90s. The interesting thing is that this new zeitgeist seems to have taken root in multiple places within the space of a few short weeks.   I’ve seen this all before: I was one of the founders of an avatar chat company called The Palace, Inc. back in 1995. Although quite popular (10 million users at its peak in 1998), The Palace never found a revenue stream that worked. As Jake Winebaum once told me, Palace was a phenomenon, not a business. He was right. But that was then, and this is now.

The New Real-Time Landscape

Let’s examine a few examples. Avatar-based chat room Shaker took the gold two weeks ago at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. Created as a Facebook app, Shaker lets users enter an isometric environment that resembles a bar. You can see and interact with other fully articulated avatars that look like mannequins. Users can chat, dance, give other users virtual drinks, see which of your Facebook friends are nearby and invite them to join the party. There is no “point” to Shaker interaction; it’s simply fun and engaging.
Show original (Mashable)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Back-end web developer

Matmi (located 20 minutes outside of Manchester, UK) are looking for a back-end web developer. Interested? Read on…
Back-end web developer job requirements:
Good PHP, .NET are the core elements in this role, with knowledge of MYSQL /SQL Server working on websites and branded game releases for clients including EMI Music, Vimto Soft Drinks, Mars, Comic Relief and Cancer Research.
If you can also bring C, Objective C and/or C# into the mix, that would be great.  If not and you’re prepared to learn them en route, that suits us just fine too.  The nature of our work means that skills with Facebook and other social network APIs are always needed – but we’d expect to train people up in-house for that (not least because they keep changing so fast…).
If you’re familiar with Scrum/Sprint or other agile methodologies – great – but it’s not an essential skill. You will be trained in-house.
Finally – where d’you want to be in 10 years time?!  We’re planning to be in the same place: well ahead of the pack with cutting edge techniques and show-stopping results for clients.  That means we all live and breathe what we do, and work best in a fast paced, team focussed environment.
What’s it like working at Matmi?
Fast, sometimes frenetic and always fun.
Take a look at our website at, find us on TumblrTwitter andFacebook too – and you’ll quickly get an idea of what we’re about.  Coverage on The Drum and How Do could be useful background too.
A typical Matmian is….. there’s no such thing.  We do have some common traits though. 
  • Work is a passion and a pleasure (which means it’s not much like work).
  • Matmians are an open-minded bunch who thrive in places that other digital marketing agencies don’t even know exist.
  • We’re curious, questioning and quite intelligent on all matters of digital marketing, gaming, platforms, apps and code.
  • We’re geeks with business brains.
  • If someone says “It’s never been done before”, we’re not usually far away.
What are we offering?
  • Salary range up to £25K per annum, depending on skills and experience.
  • 24 days holiday per year, plus Bank Holidays.
  • Stakeholder pension scheme.
  • In-house learning environment in whatever business related subject you’d like to develop your skills in­!
Have you got what it takes to be a Matmian?  Contact us at or on 01625 575661 and let’s talk.  Soon.  We’d like to see some of your work too, so if you have an online portfolio, please include a link when you contact us.

Flash Web Developer Wanted

Matmi (located 20 minutes outside of Manchester, UK) are looking for a front-end developer. Read on if you are interested.
Front-end Flash web developer 
Good Flash & AS3 skills are the core elements in this role, working on websites and branded game releases for clients including EMI Music, Vimto Soft Drinks, Mars, Comic Relief and Cancer Research.
If you can also bring HTML and HTML5, CSS and JQUERY into the mix, that would be great.  If you’re prepared to learn them while you are here, that suits us fine. We also work heavily with PHP but its not an essentila requirement for the job. 
The nature of our work means that skills with Facebook and other social network APIs are always needed – but we train people up in-house for that.
If you’re familiar with Scrum/Sprint or other agile methodologies – great – but it’s not an essential skill.
What’s it like working at Matmi?
Fast, sometimes frenetic and always fun.
Take a look at our website at, find us on TumblrTwitter, and Facebook too – and you’ll quickly get an idea of what we’re about.  Coverage on The Drum and How Do could be useful background too.
What are we offering?
  •  Salary range up to £25k per annum, depending on skills and experience.
  • 24 days holiday per year, plus Bank Holidays.
  • Stakeholder pension scheme. 
  • In-house learning environment in whatever business related subject you’d like to develop your skills in! 
Have you got what it takes to be a Matmian?  Contact us at or on 01625 575661
Please send links to a blog/online portfolio if possible.

Monday, 10 October 2011

HTML5 and CSS3 - Adobe - The Expressive Web - Beta

The Expressive Web is an Adobe-curated resource website for the advocacy, support, and advancement of HTML5 and CSS3 web development.
►Mini Matmian:
Some pretty cool stuff showcased here. Check it out.

The Year of Awards rolls on…

Matmi have had a fantastic year so far regarding recognition for our work.
We have won at events such as The Big Chip AwardsThe Digi AwardsHow-Do Awards, nominated for Best Use Of Games at theCannes Lions and received a special honoree mention at the Webby Awards (first time of entering too). Enough awards to make the little Matmian eyes pop.
And our run keeps on going. Only last week we were nominated for a BIMA award for our work on the Optathlon Campaign
However, that was not the end of our amazing week. Our chief Matmian Jeff Coghlan was nominated at the DADIs for ‘Individual Of The Year’ (fear not, my fellow Matmians shall keep his feet on the ground). Matmi itself was also nominated for ‘Agency of the Year’.We are all obviously very proud of the work we do but it’s always nice to be recognised by others.
The winners of the DADI awards are based on an open vote. If you feel the Matmians and their ever-so humble leader Jeff Coghlandeserve this recognition, you can vote here:
If you need some persuading, check out our some of our latest work:
Matmi need your vote!
Thank you for listening to this self-promotion. You regularly scheduled updates will continue shortly 8¬) 
Mini Matmian.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Play ‘Iron Out’ and steam your way to victory!

‘Iron Out –the game’ puts you in control of a steam powered iron.
Avoid obstacles by either skirting round them or take to the air with the PerfectCare iron.   
Collect power-ups to help you iron out life’s hassles and steam your way to victory in this frantic distance game.  
How long can you keep flattening those creases?
To play go here:

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The PS3 Ad Spot Michael

Love or hate gaming, this Sony advert properly captures the very essence of video games. It’s about the experiences. It’s about the memories. Video games allow a person to, even briefly, become someone else, and enter their life and see a different world. Link, Ghost, and Gordon Freeman all become part of a gamer’s narrative with just as much consequence as Tom Sawyer or The Hardy Boys.
Sure, this particular video spot is for Sony and the Playstation 3, but it portrays the vast draw to gaming in general. Good job, Sony. You won the Internet today.
- via TechCrunch
Loved this advert! So many digital gaming memories brought to life. Great job Sony! 

OnLive Games That Are Coming Soon: A list of confirmed games

Over the course of the last few months, we have been come up with a rather long list of titles that have been confirmed to be coming to OnLive, either by OnLive themselves or by publishers/developers that we have been in contact with. 
►Mini Matmian:
If you read the review of OnLive from one of my partners in crime, Meta Matmian, you will probably know by now that he is very happy with it. So I thought I’d wetten his appetite with this list of AA titles to be released on the streaming service. Personally, Batman and Saints Row are the 2 stand out games but there are enough there to please everyone.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Matmi's iPhone / iPad app page

Matmi's iPhone / iPad app page | PC, Console and Mobile Gaming |

Check out some of Matmi's award winning Apps like Monster Pinball.

JUST AWESOME FUN! Monster Pinball is a blast!

Winner of the GOLD award for the best mobile / hand held game at the Roses Design Awards.

Simply the most action packed pinball game you have ever played! Six linked tables bring you into the mind boggling pinball world of the Monster Mafia characters sending you into a spin at every flick of your paddles.

Monster Pinball is not a simulator nor a retro port, it's a totally original pinball extravaganza, taking the core principles of pinball to a new level. Multiple flippers, rebounds, stallballs, boosts, bonus, freeballs and tilt are all present taking full advantage of your device's power.

Beautifully animated and presented graphics together with wonderfully crazy sound effects. A sensational 60 frames per second physics engine make it the smoothest pinball game yet. Monster Pinball is a long overdue breath of fresh helium filled air to the pinball world!

If you are interested in learning more, or perhaps having an iPhone / iPad app developed for your company please Contact us

Team Bondi Officially Shutting Down

After launching the hugely successful action adventure LA Noire, Australia-based development studio Team Bondi had gone through a rough period to say the least. Following reports of employee mistreatment, the company plunged into financial problems, in addition to the ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission)changing the studio's status to 'Under External Administration and/or Controlled Receivership.'
While this was a pretty good sign that the company is going under (not "Down Under" ahahaha!), there weren't any official reports that they have actually shut down for good... at least not until now. Today, we've learned that an appointed liquidator is to handle sales of remaining Team Bondi assets, according to documents filed with the aforementioned ASIC.
Well, a lot of people being out of work is always lousy news. On the other hand, it's probably for the best - the working conditions were clearly appalling and the company was mostly run by complete assheads.
Meanwhile, the PC version of L.A. Noire, developed by Rockstar Leeds, is on its way to stores (be on the lookout come Nov. 11).
-via Actiontrip 

Things You Didn’t Know About Your iPad

It’s the Myths About The iPad infographic created by ColcaSac. Whatever you think you knew about the iPad, I am certain there are a few more things that can be entered into that big brain of yours. After all, we can’t all know everything, right? 
Author: Richard Darell
Things You Didnt Know About Your iPad
Click Infographic To Enlarge
Source: Bitrebels

Mojang Wants to Give Up 'Scrolls' Trademark, Bethesda Suing Regardless

The people at Mojang are keeping themselves busy with a new title called Scrolls (in addition to still working on Minecraft, of course). Anyway, they’ve hit a snag when Bethesda sued them over the ‘Scrolls’ trademark. Bethesda’s latest move in the company’s legal action against the independent studio shows that the company may not really be interested in the trademark at all. Kotaku has the story.
►Mini Matmian:
Poor move Bethesda…just poor. Wreaks of desperation and an, as of yet, unknown motive for wanting to simply stamp on the Majong developers.
They should be focussing on the Skyrim release and ensuring it’s not bug riddled like most of their past releases (anyone who has experienced Bethesda’s past games know what I’m talking about).

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A Matmian’s view of OnLive

OnLive Console

So what can I do with OnLive?

With OnLive you get to play a variety of games on the most basic of computers or even simply on a TV, using a controller of your choice. And all it will really require is a good Internet connection. It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? That’s what I thought. So I decided to test the system out for myself. 
I joined the OnLive service (membership is free) and played via PC first. After a quick program download I signed in. The OnLive system starts up just like you’re accessing a dashboard on a modern day console. Even the introduction is video streaming. A rotating sweeping logo comes in to screen then fades out. Then you’re in to the menu system - a grid-like layout allowing you to browse through games in the marketplace, change your settings and even watch other people’s games currently in progress (this is live streaming after all). A nice feature I instantly noticed was the ability to record clips from your games and publish for all to see, great for a chuckle, especially recordings that point out game flaws such as walking through walls and defying gravity. 
A brief look through the marketplace and it’s great to see so many well-known game titles available to play. F.E.A.R 3 and Split Second immediately took my interest. Another great little feature is that most games are available to play for free for 30 minutes a day. The system simply disables any save abilities and brings you back to the dashboard after your 30 minutes are over.
 I start playing Split Second, one of my favourite racing games. It was at this point I noticed the screen jolt and stick for a moment or two, then a “network problem” image pops up in the top right. A few seconds later and the blip is gone and everything is back to normal. Was this a sign of things to come? 
The game played ALMOST flawlessly. Every few minutes or so the network blip would raise it’s head again. I could put this down to teething problems, and keep my finger’s crossed that the good people at OnLive are working on improving the way in which the system streams back to the user. Another issue I considered was that, while console gamers will be generally impressed by the speed of response from their gamepad, PC users may not be as equally impressed when it comes to first person shooters. The ability to spin around very fast when necessary via the mouse is one of the reasons FPS games do so well on the PC. And running via a streaming system, no matter how fast your Internet connection may be, your controls simply won’t be as quick to respond as you may be used to. Short of restructuring the entire infrastructure of Internet communication (which, impressively, Steve Perlman - OnLive’s founder, is currently working on) this will always be cause for concern. 
However, I remain quietly optimistic. And, as I mentioned before, I’m more of a console gamer than a PC gamer, so it was time to try the system out with a gamepad. I got it as a package deal… pre-order Saints Row 3 for £35.99 and get a free console (£6 shipping costs added on top) - although had I known October’s deal would be the same with a preorder of Batman: Arkham City I would have held out….doh!. 
Two days later my console arrived. My first impression of it was how nice the packaging was. Solid black box, all accessories neatly packaged in a very “Apple” kind of way. It really appeals to a modern day gadget lover like myself. The console is no bigger than a mini usb hard drive, but technologically speaking it really packs a punch. There are:
  •  2 USB ports (allowing you to wire up the gamepad if you prefer - although it’s bluetooth so there’s no real reason - or to plug in a mouse and/or keyboard)
  •  HDMI out (yes, with full 1080p support)
  •  a digital audio out (with 5.1 surround supported)
  • an ethernet port
No hard drive is required so it’s nice and light. Basically it’s just a very pretty modem with a video and audio card. However, one downside was that the console doesn’t come with Wireless connection as standard. You can still connect wirelessly, but only via a wireless bridge (so it loses a point in my eyes). The gamepad surprised me the most. I wasn’t lying when I said it rivals the Playstation and Xbox. Dual thumb-sticks, standard main controls, 4 trigger buttons and (this bit’s really nifty) additional keys to control video recordings, allowing you to very easily record, review and upload your video clips. Top that off with the usual rumblepad and menu buttons. Possibly the nicest controller I’ve ever used.  
So I plug it in to my tv, boot it up and continue my OnLive journey. As before, the dashboard comes up, and intuitive navigation kicks in, allowing me to navigate around and find my games. This time I load up F.E.A.R 3 (a game I previously purchased and played on the PC version of the OnLive system). Loading the game takes seconds, then it takes me to my last saved point. And away I go. The game plays just as well as before, but 5-6 minutes in I get the same issue I had before…”network problem” for a few seconds, then the game continues. I play the game for 3 hours and this problem only appears perhaps 3 times. So overall it doesn’t bother me. It only serves to persuade me to update my 6mpbs connection. 

Why you should consider OnLive

  • Free membership (no subscription unless you fancy additional package deals)
  • Free to play most games 30 minutes a day
  • No need for top of the range graphics and sound card
  • No hard drive required
  • Multi-platform (including when playing multiplayer online)
  • Amazing gamepad that works both with the console and the PC
  • The ability to save video clips
  • The ability to watch others play games and view trailers for games
  • The ability to play multiplayer games
  • Console is relatively cheap, very lightweight, and simple to use
  • Wireless if required (via bridge)
  • HDMI (1080p) support
  • 5.1 surround sound support
  • A vast amount of well-known games
  • The comfort of knowing the hardware and game library will be continually updated automatically
  • The ability to customise controls (if using a keyboard)
  • Can modify settings to help improve your viewing experience.
  • Plus realisation that you are playing with brand new emerging technology.

Sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch?

As great as it is, a fast Internet connection will always be required. OnLive’s biggest problem (and sole reason why the system could fail if not correctly dealt with) is that even with a decent Internet speed you may encounter the occasional second or so network delay, or too many people using the server (leading to a delay when logging in), so finger’s crossed this issue will be corrected. 
While the console does provide an HDMI output, due to the streaming process the quality is not true HD because of the need to compress the video. And the slower your Internet speed, the worse the video quality. 
The cost of purchasing a game is not much cheaper than purchasing the game from anywhere else (either online or in the shops). This is disappointing, especially due to the above issue (not getting TRUE HD quality). I would have assumed the cost would be slightly less. However, perhaps the price may start to drop if more people adopt the service. What also concerned me was that, of the many of the games I demo’d, most of the ones I wanted to purchase could only be purchased through a £6 a month subscription package deal! And I’ve never appreciated being forced down a subscription route. If I want a particular game I should be able to buy it outright, not spend the rest of my life paying a monthly fee to access it. 
The OnLive console can only support a maximum of 2 players and they only provide one gamepad when you buy the console (you can buy another separately). And after researching the multiplayer options in some of the games I spotted you can only play against other OnLive members. But I guess this makes sense, so as not to give any none-streamer the upper hand. 
Finally, some of the games in the marketplace appear to be console ports. This is usually fine, however in some games the visual control instructions presents an Xbox or Playstation control system. Or the game may be a PC only game, therefore labelling keys incorrectly (i.e. ‘press the E key to open the door’…when there is no E on the gamepad). There is also the issue of some games (ie. Saints Row 2) being ported in a sloppy manner, causing various bugs to appear (the handling of vehicles in this game is, for the most part, impossible). But that’s more down to the game developers, not the hardware. 

Halt, who goes there? Console/PC friend or foe?

So is OnLive really the console and PC gamer killer? I don’t think so, and I don’t think it wants to be either. But it is definitely a game changer, sitting itself quite happily, comfortably and perhaps permanently in-between the hard-core PC gamer, the console lover and those who don’t have hundreds of pounds to spend on either.
Should OnLive solve their little network issues out, streaming gaming has real potential to please all people and end the divide. And in time it’ll even make the tablet owners happy too. Personally I’ll keep on playing via the console rather than the PC, but I can also see myself plugging in my mouse and keyboard, just to get that extra control in some more PC-based games.
Despite my new dependency on constant fast internet access, what pleases me the most is that I no longer have to worry about keeping my hardware completely up to date. But instead I now worry whether or not OnLive can keep their hardware up to date. 
When playing with more than 2 people in the room, and with its exclusive titles and REAL high definition I’ll always need my Xbox around, plus it’s nice to physically own a game (a bit like those who still prefer CD’s over MP3’s) . But with OnLive being so cheap, sexy, unique and fun to use I’m proud to add it to my console collection, and I look forward to watching the service expand and improve over the coming months and years.
The future of gaming is here. All hail streaming media. All hail the big fluffy cloud!
by Meta Matmian

Monday, 3 October 2011

Is the future of gaming in the cloud?

A gaming passion

Being a games developer it comes as no surprise that I’m interested in computer games and gadgets. My obsession started back in the 80’s with a Sinclair +2 Spectrum (yes, I am that old).
As computers developed and graphics started to expand beyond their 16 colour limits I followed the trend with anticipation. First buying a Mega Drive (16 bit colour and stereo sound!), Mega Drive 32x (remember that?!), a Super Nintendo, a Gameboy (less colours than a SNES but my first foray in to the handheld gaming world), a PC, an Xbox (my first console with a built-in 3D card), another PC, a Wii, another PC and finally an Xbox 360. For some reason I never went down the PlayStation route much to the derision of some of my friends. I’m not biased; it was just a personal choice. My friend’s followed similar routes, but as hardware improved over the years I began to see a wedge form between the console and the PC users, and this separation still exists today.
Personally I’ve become more of a console-ist myself, partly due to the fact that I have a laptop (and no external mouse). The idea of resting my computer on my lap all night as it heats up my groin, achingly rotating my finger around the mouse pad and shouting at the screen because it thinks that by pressing the Shift key so often I must want it to start using the disabled features of Windows, doesn’t give me the gaming satisfaction I crave.

Console or PC?

Some console-ists will argue that using a console is more entertaining, offering a better gaming experience and providing a more sociable gaming environment. Others however will point out that the PC will always be the better choice simply because computer games are always demanding more from its hardware and only the PC can evolve with them.
Games companies are continually pushing the boundaries of their game engines, but console systems and PC hardware are finite and limiting in that they can only present to the user whatever their hardware and software can achieve. Sooner or later the dreaded drain on your finances will arrive, leaving you to make that same choice once again – buy the latest console, or upgrade your PC’s hardware. And there’s the rub…the one thing that binds both console and PC users alike. Either way you look at it, sooner or later you’re going to have to shell out for new technology.
This issue hasn’t gone un-noticed, and one company has been quietly working at a solution, one that solves the console/PC issues using other modern day technologies. The result? A cloud-based gaming platform!

Gaming in the Cloud

I first heard about Onlive about 4 years ago. Their chief director was discussing how they had begun developing a system that will allow any user to play a computer game with the best possible graphics and sound, and all they’ll need is a basic PC or, alternatively, purchase the OnLive box. The only requirement was that the user must have a reliable and relatively fast Internet connection. Of course 4 years ago we couldn’t afford the speeds we can get now and had the system been released around 2007 it is safe to say that it simply wouldn’t have worked. Fast-forward to 2011, where an Internet speed of less than 6mbps is laughed at, where cloud-based technology is the new buzz word and where games are more hardware demanding than ever. Onlive couldn’t have picked a better time to launch.

Cloud gaming? Explain yourself!

So what is it, and how exactly does it work? The simplest way to describe it is to imagine having a Skype conversation with your friend and asking them to put a webcam in front of their TV and boot up their console. Once the game loads, start shouting the direction you want your player to move, and your friend will navigate the controls accordingly. Technically you’re not playing the game directly, but you are in total control of it via your friend’s actions.
OK that example’s a little crude but you get the idea. OnLive works in a similar (but obviously more technical) way. You send the movements you want to make down the Internet to the OnLive cloud based servers that are running the game, and they will (virtually) instantly stream back the visual response to that movement. You are remotely playing a game through the Internet. And what’s really great is that you don’t have to worry about how good your graphics card is because you’re effectively watching a video, not rendering a 3D environment on the fly. OnLive have built an incredibly powerful piece of architecture to handle all the hardware and software involved in the game, and all you see is the final result. And as technology improves, so too will their servers.
OnLive is not available on both a PC and MAC (and soon a tablet version will be released!) but they have also released a small, lightweight console and gamepad. The gamepad rivals both the Xbox and Playstation both in terms of looks and usability. If you went for the console and gamepad it will cost you a measly £70 (but keep an eye are their constant deals. You can pick up a game and console for as little as £35 plus shipping). Simply plug your ethernet cable in (or go wireless via a wifi bridge), and use the HDMI out to plug in to your TV, press the on button and you’re ready to go in less than 3 seconds.

Can a cheap, affordable console that plays all the latest games and never needs upgrading exist? I’m quietly confident, but maybe I’ve just got my head in the clouds….
by Meta Matmian
[In my next post, I shall delve into more detail my experiences’ with OnLive - the good, the bad and the cloud]