GAMETECH: Flying start for second Angry Birds

MOST of the angry birds I meet are on dating websites. 

Then again, women run into a lot of pigs online. Perhaps that’s the secret to Rovio’s unprecedented success — their game is the ultimate metaphor for the male-female dynamic.

Or maybe it’s just a game about knocking stuff down. Whatever the case, Angry Birds 2 is off to a strong start, with over 10 million downloads in its first week of release.

Those numbers are unsurprising, when you consider the series overall has been downloaded one billion times in its lifetime. The more interesting figures will come when Rovio releases data on the hard cash players are spending in-game.

Angry Birds 2 is free-to-play, unlike its predecessors, meaning people can download the full game for free, but must pay if they want quick access to extra lives and second chances.

Rovio’s goal will be to find the right balance between difficulty and satisfaction, so that players can make progress with either patience or cash, depending on their mood. Let’s be honest here — we are all becoming accustomed to this business model now. After a few years of squirming and moaning, people have largely accepted that free-to-play is the way mass-market gaming is headed.

When done properly, this approach is a great way for people to place their own value on a game. On the other hand, there is a big price to pay for that philosophy.

It encourages developers to design games that are all about trial and error, grinding or resource farming. In effect, it reduces gaming to a test of patience, an experience solely designed to trigger feelings of compulsion. Angry Birds 2 avoids that accusation, if only just. After all, as compulsive gaming goes, Rovio’s effort is more reminiscent of the 80s arcade classics. Those games were also designed to eat your money but, like Angry Birds, at least they’re honest about it.

CINEMA PARAD-OZO

Meanwhile, the egg-shaped Nokia Ozo looks like something a bird would lay, and Hollywood is already hatching plans for its use. Ozo is a 360-degree stereoscopic camera that will be used for filming high-end virtual reality (VR) video on the fly. The camera also records audio.

GAMETECH: Flying start for second Angry Birds

Nokia Ozo

The only catch — it’s likely to cost about $50,000. Ozo clearly isn’t a consumer device, which is why Nokia revealed the device near Hollywood, but it’s an exciting blueprint for where the future is headed. Nokia say filmmakers will be able to capture video on the camera and then, just a few minutes later, they can watch a low-resolution capture of that video on their headset. This process usually takes hours, but Nokia claims Ozo can do it in a few minutes, allowing directors to order a retake if footage isn’t up to scratch. Early reports claim initial video captured by the Ozo has some issues, such as unfocused imagery and strange transitions, but Nokia representatives claim this can all be fixed in post-production. One way or another, it’s a fascinating indicator as to where the future of cinema might be heading.

IT’S NOT JUST A GAME

The more immediate future of cinema is predictably franchised, however. At least, Assassin’s Creed director Justin Kurzel makes it sound that way. Even he was struggling to find a reason for making Ubisoft’s game-turned-movie in an interview with IGN. “I don’t think it’s your typical shoot-em-up game,” Kurzel said, which is good considering Assassin’s Creed is in fact an action game. “I don’t think it’s your typical one-dimensional game. It has a heart and a history to it.” Hmmm. Well, it has history, we’ll give him that. “The whole idea of memories and within us we carry the DNA of our ancestors (who) speak to who we are now - that is just an incredibly strong, human kind of curious thing. It’s no wonder it has 90 million players,” he said.

He’s right of course, the core concept could make for a good sci-fi film. With Michael Fassbender as the lead, perhaps Assassin’s Creed stands a chance after all.

“There’s got to be something more than just the fun of playing it,” Kurzel added, somewhat hopefully. Good luck, Justin!


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