ePAD

Entrepreneurship, Linux, Review

I just bought a Zenithink ePAD tablet. It’s a generic iPad tablet made in China that runs Android as the OS. Please, consider from now on that it costs less than half of the price of the original.

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I must say that despite the whole “generic” label, its quite a nice piece of machine. It has a 10 inches screen with resistive touch sensor, which is great to navigate thru internet and reader ebooks and pdf. The processor and memory don’t rival Apple but i don’t feel it is big lack, except, of course, games.

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The Android used is the 2.1, which is good one. With Google Market fully enabled, its possible to transform it into a quite comprehensive computer. Zenithink US, the american distributor are releasing often versions of its firmware, so its possible that 2.2 “Froyo”or even 2.3 “Gingerbread”.

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The only two things that i was disappointed (which i should not be because i knew about them before buying) are the short battery life (4 hours if WiFi is off) and the ridiculous short range of its internal WiFi. If the tablet is not less then 2 meters, it simply not work! Its better to connect the net cable at this distance! There are several minor things here and there, but hey, as i said at the very beginning: it cost me less then half of the iPad price*.
I really believe that tablets are going to be the next world desired toy. Apple is in grand advantage, but this time their advantage for being the first in the market is not to last long. Chinese companies are going to flood the market with generic inexpensive hardware until they acquire experience, scale and courage to face these big guys. That is what takes in trying to create simple and copyable products with a premium status. Apple woke the dragon.

The New Business Scenario for Games

Entrepreneurship, Game

There was a time that making and selling games was simple. puf…. old times. The last years opened several options. The amount of variables now can be a bit overwhelming and inevitably will make people get the wrong conclusion. A lot money to be made and to be lost!

Indies

The indie movement is officially in vogue. World of Goo, Limbo, Amnesia, Darwinia… they made, together, quite some revenue and receive amazingly good critics. The small financial risk, the creative independence to explore some bold choices are all elements of its rise.
A important part of the emergent trend of indie games is the access of good middleware. Unreal released the same award winning engine that power AAA games in a indie-kinda-friendly license. UDK, its name, is impressively complete. Torque continue to expand. Unity 3D 3 is better then ever and even big fishes are using it. The cost of AAA tools reduced so much that the “limited only by our imagination” cliché is now more true then ever.

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Handheld

Recent data indicates that the handheld (game-only devices) market is in decline, mostly because the smartphones are now powerful enough to host not only Tetris and Bejeweled but full featured 3D games. Some games for iPhone and Android are really impressive. And because the distribution costs are really a tiny fraction from a full console distribution (Apple store and Android Market only charge a small percentage), the market is dominated by indie companies, that have a better development cycle ans scale.

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Browser

Zynga, by generating more revenue with FarmVille than Facebook entirely, proved that casual gaming can be lucrative and be a big-company business. But like the new handheld scenario, its flooded by low quality titles made by indies. Zynga also proved that micro-transactions can be considered as a serious option. Several big 3D engine suppliers are creating browser plugins so more high quality games can be placed in a internet only environment.

Consoles

With the new motion controllers and online strategies, consoles are living a new good era. The prices are going down and they are getting even more popular on south american, asian and eastern european countries. The problem in this segment is the high competition in the AAA tier. The production cost is so high that is getting more and more common to read about studios being closed or rearranged after one single bad-selling project.

Cloud

The most surprising things on gaming, almost unbelievable, is the use of external computing for gaming. OnLive is already live and sells games as service: they run the game in their computers and you only need a monitor and joystick/keyboard. No need for a top-notch computer or console. The games could be even played, at full power, in a tablet or old computer.
The amount of computing power needed is enormous. And I mean it: I cannot think that they invested less then billions of dollars in several data centers. The paradox is the servers are all in US, the very market that games prices are lowest and piracy is not a major issue. Brazil, Russia and Europe would be much more receptive to this model, but i dont think the cost would ever pay off…

The bottom line is: for major companies, the “several studios working on a single franchise ratter than several franchises being developed by a single studio” mantra will still apply. Call of Duty and GTA will continue to generate millions. But I foresee the rise of several small and mid sized companies that will focus on niches pointed above. Zynga is one of them. I believe that there will be a quite a number that will make the break even point and grow simply because the market size expanded and entry barriers lowered.
Goog luck.

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Unity 3D

Entrepreneurship, Game, Programming

started rencently to play with Unity 3D, a IDE/Plataform to develop games. I’ve heard about it because they recently decided that the indie version to be free. And because this version is quite similar to the Pro version and the Pro version is affordable, I decided to give it a try.
I am really impressed with the package. It is solid in features but what impressed me most is the easy user interface. Generally, programs that strive to be easy to use also make things too restrictive. Unity 3D is not one of them. It is a super intuitive IDE but also can be changed thru code.

As I discussed before, the competition of engines should be irrelevant to game makers because we have a lot data demonstrating that while the technology might help, the actual implementation is what matters. Good games with old/bad engines and Bad games with state of the art engines are quite common.

The main reason to choose one is… current knowledge. Learning things all over again is costy, and Unity address this by adopting several standard technologies. For scripting, you can use C# (very close to Java and C++), JavaScript or Boo. For 3D models, it imports the most used formats (3DS, Max, Ma, Blender…). The same goes for 2D (which also includes importing Photoshop native files), sound and music. All that means that your workflow and suite of programs will remain basically the same.

With the indie version being free, a huge increase of documentation and community support is expected. The same for professional assistance. Im happy to move from Torque (which uses several conceptual dogmas that Ive never liked) to Unity.

PS: with the web player, its possible to create games for web pages just like Flash… take a look in the demos.

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Alone or Around Others?

Entrepreneurship

The idea of working all alone seems pretty tempting: nothing to distract your thinking process, no stress from the jerk on the cell phone. Just quiet.
Too quiet.
Sometimes my mind gets distracted by the silence – I find myself wondering where everyone is. So, like some other people who work from home I put on the television. Sometimes that does the trick, but at other times I just really wish there were some people around. Not co-workers, not people I know, but just (quiet) people as background noise. I worked from a café the other day and I got so many things done, so many ideas just popped up in my mind. The ambient noise was a catalyst of sorts.
What about you? Are you more productive at home, working alone, or when you’re around others?

GTD

Entrepreneurship, Personal

Getting Things Done (GTD) is an organizational method created by David Allen, described in a book of the same name. The Getting Things Done method rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks.
I read the book and love it. It balances between theoretical reasoning and practical attitudes. It says explicitly that it is not about a computer program, or a special type of note book. You are free to use any system you want. Webmail, Outlook, notebook, folders, color tags… you decide. But the book is smart enough to give you hints about using them, just for the sake of starting soon and being practical.
It at least opens the mind for being more productive in our ordinary life. Just dont go crazy to think about it all the time because, paradoxically, it can be really nonproductive.
PS: I recommend you to strive to use for 3 months, forcing yourself. Its easy to start but because it requires a new mindset, keeping using the system harder and harder with time.