Announced at the company’s special media event held last month, the iPad Air will go on-sale today at Apple retail stores, the Apple Online Store, and select wireless carriers in the U.S, Canada, Europe, and select parts of mainland China. Apple began taking orders for the redesigned tablet device – which arrives at a thickness of just 7.5 millimeters, and weighs in at a super-light one pound – around Midnight (Pacific Time); with the company focusing heavily on conveying the added convenience that the tablet’s new weightlessness will bring to customers looking to carry the device on them or simply hold the device for long periods of time in one hand.
However, weight isn’t the only factor new with the iPad Air. Still boasting Apple’s ‘Retina’ display, the Air also features the A7 system-on-a-chip processor. Built for both speed and performance, the new chip offers 64-bit architecture; making the iPad Air the first tablet of its kind to do so. This, Apple says, will ensure the new tablet is able to deliver “killer performance,” whilst at the same time retaining that all-important battery life.
The iPad Air going on-sale in Australia has already sent the internet abuzz with photos and unboxing videos detailing what’s new, as Apple has once again seemingly managed to convince people to line up at its many retail stores to grab a taste of the action.
Shoppers line-up at Apple Store in Sydney – [credit: CNET/CBS]
Available in both Space Gray + Black and Silver + White, the iPad Air will run anyone looking to take advantage of its new features the same $499, $599, $699, and $799 for the Wi-Fi Only models (16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB respectively), then jumping to the more premium entry price of $629 if you wish to add cellular connectivity. The line maxes out at $929 for the 128GB cellular version.
DeNA and Scattered Entertainment’s ambitious mobile first-person shooter spearheaded by former Battlefield series producer Ben Cousins, The Drowning, has finally launched worldwide. After the first hands-on sessions at GDC 2013 the game has been in an international soft launch, but the final, complete version of the game is now available to everyone. I spoke with Ben Cousins about what he thinks this initial “complete” version of The Drowning succeeds at, and how the game has evolved over the past few months.
Cousins says that he’s quite proud of the way that Scattered Entertainment experimented with new control schemes. “…We were unsatisfied with the FPSes on mobile devices, and I think from our research, I think a lot of the potential audience who are really interested in the genre have a phone or a tablet, and they’re not satisfied with what they’ve got out there.” There’s two things that he thinks they have that others don’t; “The first thing that we’ve got which the competitors haven’t is a control system which is designed for touchscreens that you can play with just one hand, with just two fingers in fact on one hand, and one that really fluidly fits in with the way that we hold these devices and the usage patterns of these devices. So we’re really proud that we’ve created a control system which kind of unlocks the potential of this genre on the platform.”
“The second thing we’ve done is we’ve really respected the usage patterns of these devices as well. And we understand that people generally don’t sit down and create time for a four or five hour session of playing a game on a smart device. So we’ve deliberately created a game structure that means within two minutes you can make progress in the game and you can shut down the device, and you can bring it up for a two-minute session at any time, and you’re guaranteed to make progress.
“So we’ve divided the game into these discrete chunks. The gameplay feels very much like an FPS, you’re killing enemies, and it’s high action, and you’re in this 3D world, but the system we’ve created enables you to jump in and jump out in a way which a more console-style mobile-FPS doesn’t really let you do, you’ve got to wait for a save point or for a cutscene to finish or something like that.”
Interestingly, though, there’s a virtual control scheme in there as well, and Cousins justifies it by saying “If you remember back on Halo 1, you could actually opt to play that with the GoldenEye control scheme. Now the GoldenEye control scheme is very different from the Halo/Call of Duty control system. So in the same way that in that transition that Halo had to acknowledge the small numbers of players who were used to the GoldenEye style of controls, we’ve kind of done the same thing, we believe that the touch system we’ve created is the future of controlling FPSes on smart devices, but we also acknowledge that there is kind of a legacy on this platform and a certain number of people want to play with a traditional virtual stick style system.” He does believe that it’s a suboptimal way to play – and that most will switch to the ‘new’ control scheme, just as how console gamers have adapted to the scheme Halo introduced.
The international soft launch helped out in several ways. Cousins states, “So we actually went out with probably, an incomplete game, just because we got to the point where just playing it ourselves and trying got work out whether a feature was working or not wasn’t really helping, and we wanted to get on to the live audience,so that’s kind of what we did, and we’ve been adding a whole bunch of stuff that was in that backlog anyway.” The tutorial got trimmed down as part of the changes, and a stars system was added, which Cousins claims helped player satisfaction: “the game’s about going into these environments, playing for two minutes, getting a score, and then getting parts. Kind of exchanging that score for parts which you find the environment that you can then use to craft more weapons. And we never really had a clear way of showing the player whether they had a good score or a bad score. So players we were thinking were probably going in there and what was a reasonable score and actually they weren’t getting enough score to get that particular part that they need from the environment.”
“So we have a very direct feedback at the end of the round of whether you got a bad score or whether you got an awesome score, and this really helps the game loop because you do two things: you know you either just failed to get a score you wanted to get that part, and you want to play another round, or you’ve just succeeded in getting the score and it’s a fantastic kind of reinforcement moment in the game loop where you’re really excited because you just got that score that you needed to proceed.”
These little things may just make The Drowning a better experience, which players can now judge for themselves, as it is now available worldwide on the App Store.
Update: Angry Birds Rio for iPhone and iPad is now live! Get the download links below.
Drum roll please… Stories have been running rampant across the internet that the eagerly anticipated sequel to Angry Birds, entitled Angry Birds Rio, should be going live tomorrow in the App Store. These rumors were later confirmed by Rovio themselves via the official Angry Birds twitter account. So now the question becomes how long do you have to wait for your next hit of furious foul?
If you are looking to get an early jump on the GameCenter leaderboards you would think that a midnight download might be in order, but if you assumed that you would be gravely mistaken. In all actuality, the App Store is usually updated at 11pm whatever your local time may be, hereby giving you an extra hour head start on the competition. I for one will be eagerly awaiting the launch from the comfort of my bed, then spending the remainder of the night not getting any sleep.
Weighing in at a healthy sixty stages, the next installment in the Angry Birds saga will take our favorite feathered protagonists south of the boarder, as they attempt to free birds that have been illegally held in captivity. There is no word yet on whether the pig infestation of the current installment make a sneak appearance in Rio, but I just have a gut feeling that we haven’t seen the last of them. The most recent trailer even featured a new boss mechanic that is bound to give players nothing but brain freezing fits.
Get ready to take aim at the opposition and plunk down a mere ninety-nine cents for your next taste of the sweet nectar known as Angry Birds. I know that I plan to be excitedly waiting with bated breath for the witching hour to arrive. If you are lucky enough to already be on the Tuesday side of the date line let us know what you think of the game in the comments. We are all VERY curious!
Following our report that international iPad App Stores began switching on yesterday, international iBookstores are also now available. Apple initially claimed that iBooks would be a US-only service, likely due to ongoing discussions with international book publishers, but has since announced international launches in countries that begin selling the iPad on May 28th. At present, only free books are available to download on international iBookstores however this is likely to change over the next few days. So far, live iBookstores have been reported in Germany, Italy and the UK with the remaining supported countries likely to follow.
At the time of writing there are 10,023 free books available on the UK iBookstore with new additions apparently stopped for the time being after almost minute-by-minute changes earlier.
We’re still a week away from the official launch of iPads in select countries outside the US but it seems that international iPad App Stores are beginning to switch on already. It is likely that Apple is adding iPad downloads to international App Stores so that all potential issues are ironed out in time for the launch of the iPad in these countries. App Stores in countries like the UK, Germany and Canada don’t currently have the iPad and iPhone buttons on the App Store front page like in the US, so users can’t yet split browsing between the two devices. App Store search results are split into iPad and iPhone categories, however. International users with US-bought iPads have, until now, been unable to access their local App Stores via the device but today should have full access despite some noted teething trouble on some stores.
Backflip Studios, the developer behind Paper Toss and Ragdoll Blaster has announced that it will be launching five new games on the App Store this month, all of which will be free. The company has also announced that it has seen over 26 million downloads in its first year of app development with many more to come. On top of this success, Backflip will also be publishing a number of games from other developers over the next few months. While some complain about apps that are supported by advertising, nobody can complain about great games that don’t cost a penny and it seems Backflip is happy to provide us with just that.
So what does Backflip have in store for us?
Strike Knight First on the roster is Strike Knight, a puck bowling game similar to arcade machines of the past, that sees the user compete for a high score while being taunted by The Strike Knight himself. This app just went live for iPhone and can be downloaded here.
Harbor Havoc 3D Free
Later this month, Harbor Havoc 3D, Backflip’s popular “Flight Control with boats” game will be rereleased as a free app.
Graffiti Ball, slated for an early June release, involves using your iPhone to direct a ball to a target while also picking up bonuses using a spray paint can and gravity.
Paper Toss HD
Of the over 20 million users of the highly addictive Paper Toss, those with iPads will be excited to see Paper Toss HD arrive in mid-June.
Coming in late June is Ninjump, which sounds like a lot of fun. The game sees a ninja, being pursued by other ninjas, climbing up two buildings, jumping between the two and picking up bonuses.