Monday, 31 March 2014


  "Good morning, sir, I'm calling from RTA Legal Solutions as a follow-up call, regarding a transport incident you may have been involved in."
  "Oh really, do go on."
  "Yes sir, a claim was filed for damages following the incident."
  "When was this?"
  "Within the last three years, sir."
  "You're going to have to be more specific than that."
  "Well, this is the question, sir."
  "Ah, so you don't have a specific incident in mind? You're just fishing."
  "Not at all, sir, we don't fish, I actually take exception at the use of that word -"
  "No, you have cold called me and are now trying to trick me into giving up information. Your use of the phrase 'follow-up' suggested a pre-existing relationship, when in fact -"
  "It is a follow-up, there are people in need of legal advice and - I don't have to listen to this from you -"
  "And I don't have to listen to it from you. Good day."

Friday, 21 March 2014

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Share to Enter

Back in the mists of time, Companies on Facebook would run promotions where you could share their content in order to enter a competition - effectively getting customers to advertise their product in exchange for the chance of winning one. Advertising costs were slashed, and everyone was happy.

Then Facebook said to themselves, "Hang about, why are we letting customers advertise products for free, when we can totally charge them for that?" So they added the option for companies to pay them money in exchange for increased visibility.

The Companies said to Facebook, "You are having a laugh, why would we pay you to do this when we can get punters to do it for free?" and continued with their viral-style promotions.

The cunning Facebook replied, "Because we have made it illegal under our terms and conditionsPersonal Timelines must not be used to administer promotions. See, right there."

"Oh," swore the Companies, and scratched their head for a way to get out of this one.

And then one clever rogue said to his fellows, "Ah, we cannot any longer entreat users to share our photographs to their friends. But look, here is a thing: Over the last few years people have been trained to scan blocks of text for important words. If we put the word 'Share' in quotes, while talking about how to enter our competition, they will think they have to share the photo. Even if we do not say any such thing, and are in fact telling them to comment on it, there will be a good proportion of users out there who just reflexively click 'Share'. All we need is a percent of a percent and we've saved our advertising budget for the year."

And so they did.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Beyonder

I played through the "Beyond: Two Souls" demo this weekend. Yahtzee's review seems pretty fair - it's an extended quick time event disguised as an awkward, disconcerting, hard-to-control shambles of a game.

Bumming around as a ghost could have been fun if it wasn't so fiddly and, bizarrely, restricted; the ghost-centric demo level was initially fun but it soon became apparent that it was really a matter of sweeping the area for all the little interaction hot spots, then moving the joysticks in or out or down, and sometimes (if it's a "possession" hot spot) tapping a few prompted buttons. There was no sense that I could properly roam and chuck shit about at will.

On the other hand, the human-centric sequence is (as Yahtzee says) confused and disorienting. The camera switches angles as dramatically appropriate, which is nice and cinematic, but when running down a train it leaves you confused about which way you've just come (and when driving a motorbike leaves you terrified about steering off the road). The total lack of anything but contextual controls made me uncertain about what I was expected to do in any given situation until it flashed up on the screen, either with the slow-motion "guess which way we hope you'll interpret this movement as leading" moments or a literal icon.

Zero Punctuation makes the point that Quantic Dream keep trying to explore the nature of the interactive narrative in video games but keep coming out with these confused messes. I'd say the problem is that they are focussing too much on the stories - or, possibly on the very pretty graphics - and just entirely forgetting about the "video game" part of the project. There's really nothing resembling a game here, you're just watching your TV while occasionally flapping your controller.  Beyond: Two Souls appears to be a reasonably interesting movie that is trying, not entirely successfully, to convince you that you have some level of agency or input into the unfolding events.

I might play it through if I see it for very cheap indeed, because I would kind of like to see the story and don't mind flapping the occasional button as I watch. It gives one something to do with one's hands. Plus, apparently there are hot boys in it! So that's something.