Friday, 10 July 2015

New Website!

So I'd like to formally introduce my new website: http://www.hibblejaybob.co.uk/! This new website allows me to group everything I do into one place! From videos, to articles to social media, you can now find it all on my new site!

http://www.hibblejaybob.co.uk/

With my new website, I will be drawing posts here to a close. Over the coming few weeks, I will be migrating articles over to the website, you can find everything over there!

Head on over to the new site and check it out!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Not Dead!

I've been super busy with various proejcts over the past month, so I've not really had time to sit down and write. My projects should be over by the end of the month, and I'll catch up with everything that's been going on.

I am still very active over on social media and YouTube. I'm currently 23 days into a challenge to release a video a day for as long as I can! Follow me there on:
https://www.youtube.com/user/hibblejaybob
http://www.facebook.com/hibblejaybob

Friday, 24 April 2015

GTA:V First Impressions!

Had my first taste of GTA V over the past few days. I have to say, I'm pretty impressed so far! I'm only about 7% of the way in, but I like the way they've tied it all together so far. I'm much more invested in the storey than I was in GTA IV which is nice!

On the note of aesthetics: having been to the US recently, I find it amazing just how well Rockstar have accurately captured the look and feel of a US city. Admittedly, I was in Miami (so other side of the country from the city GTA V is parodying, but everything about the city is pretty accurate; even down to the sound of the sports cars racing down distant streets!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Toss Up - Election 2015 Videos

So I've been busy over the past few weeks. I'm still doing my promo work for EOTIS, and me and my friends got together to make trailers for a new release: Toss Up - Election 2015. Check out *all* the videos below:

Friday, 17 April 2015

Not that I get to be an absolute fan girl often, but Danny O'Dwyer is one of my favourite gaming journalists! So happy! XD

Saturday, 28 March 2015

I'm still here!

I've been a bit quiet the last week. I'm still a little ill, so I'm not making any review or gameplay videos for the moment.

In terms of my modding, I'm currently working on scripting alone at the moment, so I don't have a great deal to show for it at the moment. Papyrus scripting for Skyrim is a blessing and a curse: it is very similar to C++, which is the language I have used the longest and hence am the most familiar with. On the other hand, however, that level of complexity does mean it will take a bit of time to get my scripts into a working state.

Rest assured, I'm still here and I'm still working away!

In the mean time, you can check out my various social media likes here:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hibblejaybob
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Hibblejaybob
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/hibblejaybob
Blogger: http://hibblejaybob.blogspot.co.uk/

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Kjorik's Rest: a player home mod for Skyrim

So with the completion of the basic tutorials for the Bethesda Creation Kit, comes the proper start for my first mod Skyrim. It will be a Nordic-style player home called Kjorik's Rest, where I will hopefully be consolidating my favourite aspects from several other player homes, into one!

Yesterdays work made the the exterior and the entry hall for Kjorik's Rest. Here's some of the screenshots from the mod so far:
Kjorik's Rest view from the side, with the Western Watchtower visible behind it in the distance. To the right is some of the buildings that surrounds Whiterun.

The exterior of Kjorik's Rest, showing the gravel path leading up to the entrance.

The door into Kjorik's Rest. The grass visible through the floor is an artefact left over from terrain painting, and will be removed!

The entry hall of the Kjorik's Rests interior.

Looking through the grate at what will be a short hall of stories before a puzzle door that will act as the main entry (proper) into the home.

The claw for the puzzle door. In time, this pedestal will be activate-able so the puzzle door will lock. Then you can just leave the claw on the pedestal as shown, or take it with you as a key!

Gotta have Easter eggs somewhere..... This hidden pullbar opens up a secret passage to the dev area, where I will be testing scripts and setups.

The false wall pulls back to reveal the entry to the dev zone!

And finally, a veiw from inside the dev zone, currently empty! It's basically just a copy-paste of the entry hall, minus most of the doors!

Well, that's my progress so far. I'll hopefully get back to it during the midweek once my work is done!



Thursday, 19 March 2015

Finished the tutorial!

So my very first baby steps into TES modding have finished with the (hasty) conclusion of my version of the Lokir's Tomb. Lighting and AI dynamics are still a bit fuckled, but I don't plan on using combat AI in my upcoming mods, and the lighting issues are due to the unfortunate and unforeseen location of the main corridor (Skyrim can only render 8 shadow-inducing lights at once, regardless of if those lights are obscured to the viewer by wall or not).

So here's the final round of pictures from my finished dungeon. Here's the tomb's exterior:
I didn't want to be too invading into my game, so I used a simple Nordic Guard hut as my entrance, slanting the door to make it fit into the entryway. The entrance is located just opposite Riverwood (the tutorial says that the coordinates that it gives - which I used - should take you opposite Whiterun, but that's not where I ended up!).

Given there was only 2 lights in my previous instalment of the mod, I beefed  out the lighting of the cave, corridor and rooms with torches and fire pots:

Finally, I added some eerie atmosphere to the final boss room and it's entryway:

So that's it! My first, very small, not particularly well-functioning dungeon. Am I going to release it? Hell no! It adds nothing to the game at all, however it has served it's purpose in introducing me to the creation kit.

Now it's time to move on to my first proper mod, a Nordic-style player home! I would say updates to come soon, but at the time of writing, the Creation Kit wont open, so that is pending fixing. Hopefully soon!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Cities: Skylines - First Impressions





So yesterday evening, I sat down to start what seems to latest version of video game crack: Cities: Skylines. Then, at 4am, I suddenly realised that I forgot to go to bed, and then instead of actually going to bed, I decided my new metropolis needed bus routes up the wazoo! So it's good. It's forget your dinner and neglect your children good!

Looking at some of the other Steam reviews, the comparison to both SimCity and the Cities series. Many centuries ago, I remember thoroughly enjoying SimCity, so last year I went ahead and bought the latest SimCity, which was an utter disappointment: I ended up giving up on the game after just a couple of hours. However, I'm a great fan of citybuilders (Anno 2070 taught me that much), and I did really enjoy the Cities XL series.

Cities:Skylines, plays very much like a simplified version of Cities XL 2012 (which is the last one I played), which has it's pros and it's cons. What I like is that they've simplified the city zoning structure so you don't need to micromanage between low, middle and upper class housing, instead relying on low and high density zones and a levelling, which works pretty well. One of the main things I really enjoyed about Cities XL was the ability to trade with AI towns and other towns that you have built, allowing maps to become connected, which allows you to make towns tailored to a certain need, so you can export it to other towns. Trade is present in Cities: Skylines, but it is entirely automated and you cannot trade between maps, which is a little disappointing. If you enjoy city building with a high degree of micromanagement, I'd probably recommend the Cities XL series over this, but the simplification does make Cities: Skylines easier to play. I'll cover everything when I do a full review (I am currently ill and cannot speak).

Overall, Cities: Skylines has made positive inroads with the concept, providing a great fun and easy to use piece of software. Any game that makes me forget to eat, drink and sleep is definitely a worthy investment. At almost half the price of most current titles, I can see a lot of bang for your buck! Hopefully, I'll be back next week to do a proper review!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Bringing a dungeon to life...

... literally! Continuing my tutorials of the Bethesda Creation Kit, its time to make the dungeon come alive with baddies and effects. My first attempts at putting AI enemies into the dungeon have not gone well, with my Draugr gleefully standing on top of his coffin, before slowly stepping off at the moment the coffin dramatically bursts of. Then there's the other, patrolling AI, that seems content just drawing and sheathing his weapon as opposed to actually moving about.... At least the navmesh is working well enough that you can successfully stab them for their hubris!

With the inclusion of AI into the dungeon, I needed to add some more rooms. I basically copy pasted the first room, and extended the hallway to facilitate the rooms, also adding in a downwards staircase.
At the bottom, the hall narrows into the final boss room (I have subsequently added a gate).



Finally, there was the application of of lighting and light templates. I've not added many lights yet, but you can definitely see the altered feel of the dungeon. The two pictures below show the entrance to the barrow and a skylight in the main corridor.


So that's my content creation from the past few days in a nutshell. I have a few more tutorials to play about with in level design, before I move on to scripting tutorials. Then I'll be starting my own mods proper!!!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

I'm a modder! (VERY beginner, though)

So yes, as per my post yesterday, I've now taken up modding - in lieu of my Hibblejayvlog series. The series might come back in the future if I get the time, but for now I have no plans.

I'm currently planning on working on 3 mods for Skyrim - the logical choice, since that's where I've been spending the majority of my free time lately! At the moment, I'm nowhere near starting any of them, I'm just working my way through the Creation Kit tutorials. So to start with, I've made an extremely small Nordic barrow. Here's what I've done so far:
 This is the cave, looking toward the barrow entrance.

 The main entrance to the barrow, showing off the fire.

 Inside the main corridor, looking back at the main entrance, showing off some rubble and furniture scenery

 The remainder of the main corridor

 The door into the main chamber.

 Some Nordic urns with randomised loot.

 I made an alchemy station in a nook of the main chamber. Showing off some neatly placed ingredient satchels and some levelled potions above that (the potions vary with player level).

 Experimenting with the Havok-settle function in the creation kit, I made a basket filled with leather.

 The altar inside the main chamber, showing object (coins) and levelled item (the bow at the top of the image) placement.

 The loot containers inside the main chamber. This was an exercise in altering the loot inside the containers, and playing around with locks (the strongbox is locked).
 
My bowl of potions. This was to allow a slightly destructive environment: the bowl is non-static so can fall off the altar, dropping the potions across the floor.

More content to follow, once I've made it, of course!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

I'm a magnet!

It seems I've become an ambulance magnet of late, in the last few days. Today alone, I passed no less than 5 with blue lights & sirens, 8 in total, 3 battenburg police cars and another 4 marked police cars. Add that to the past few days of many more ambulance, police and fire tenders, and I've probably seen more emergency vehicles than I have done warm meals in the past week!

No more Hibblejayvlog...

For the moment I will be discontinuing my vlog, and scaling back on reviews. I'm not getting nearly as many views as my other content, so I'd rather focus my (rather limited) time on other pursuits, such as mod making and programming. If they views start picking up, and I get some time, I may consider starting them up on a regular basis again.

For now, watch out for other content!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Sofia Follower Mod for Skyrim: Hibblejaybob Reviews

 

Welcome to my review for the Sofia Follower Mod for Skyrim. I'm a little late on this particular bandwagon, but after seeing this mod reviewed elsewhere, I gave it a bash. I was extremely impressed by the mod, so I thought I'd share my opinion.



Voice Acting:
The first thing that jumps out at me is the voice acting. The quality of which is amazing; the actress really has nailed the Nord accent. In the default Skyrim, there are some speeches in which the pause between different lines is brutally obvious, and makes the whole thing seem alien. The mod author has done really well to make the transitions between lines, so smooth it seems completely natural. Overall, I think the quality of the voice acting is a league and a half above the majority of the voice acting in vanilla Skyrim.

There is lots and lots of dialogue written for the character, so much so that, despite playing 2 characters to level 45 & starting a 3rd new character, I'm still hearing new dialogue. The mod description boasts witty & humorous dialogue, and that is what you get and more! Conversations are topical, or making witty remarks about your current location. It screams out to me that is what M'aiq the Liar should have been like.

The writing is done really well, and the dialogue is kept very consistent to Sofia's character, while still being varied enough to keep her seeming natural and likeable. The only thing I will say is that does play the "I'm a cute/sexy girl" card a little too much for my liking, but I struggle to criticise it too much, because it does fit her character really well, as a boastful, confident Nord.

Balance:
As a companion, Sofia is well balanced. Generally more powerful than you, but not game breakingly so. I've seen some mods in the past that at level 4, your companion can 1 hit kill a dragon - and I play on the Master difficulty setting! That really does ruin the experience for me. However, Sofia is not overpowered, and you'll find her a competent assistant in combat. I don't know if it's just me, but I get a CTD if I try and give her arrows. Bows are fine, but no arrows it does mean she cannot use archery at all. She is, by trade, a spellsword, using magic and one handed weapons together: with the destruction magic making up the total of her ranged abilities. Fair enough if she does not use archery, but I do have to mark the mod down for causing CTD's.

Elsewhere, she's a pretty vocal follower, which is nice as it makes it her seem like more of an involved companion than just a box for all of your spare stuff who stops to stab things every now and again. I tend to play exclusively stealth characters and Sofia continues the trend of Bethesda companions by generally screwing things up. However, the Summon Sofia spell that comes with the mod means you can easily get her to wait somewhere while you stealth properly, then summon her in when shit hits the fan. On balance, I don't mark the mod down for that because it's more to do with the game AI than it is to do with the mod, and they do make up for it with the summoning spell.

Let me try and convey how good this mod is. I have 500 hours on Skyrim, and another 500 on other Bethesda RPG's. In all of those games, I never have a companion. I don't think they add anything to the experience, in fact, since I generally play stealth based characters, I'd say they take away from the experience because the AI cannot stealth. That being said, I've now done 3 Skyrim characters with Sofia by my side, and if do any more, you can bet your backside, she'll be with me again. I do leave her behind while I clear out dungeons, but at all other times, the sheer personality of character makes it worth taking her on your adventures.

Humour:
On the topic of her personality, lets talk about the humour of this mod. Some of the lines and jokes are so well written, they're not just "oh ha ha that was kind of funny", it's the proper laugh out loud material that firmly puts this mod in my top 3 funniest content in games, along with Portal & The Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3. Even the bad jokes have a spin on them where she says "that was a bad joke even for me", which still made me laugh! John Jarvis, the writer of the mod and Christine Slagman, the voice of Sofia, have done a phenomenal job of brining the character to life and I feel more empathy towards Sofia than I do to any other character in the game, and indeed most other games that I've played.

Summary:
So to summarise, the Sofia Follower Mod for Skyrim is an absolutely fantastic mod, that has, for the first time for me in a Bethesda game, made it worth having a follower. The content and quality of the dialogue is a cut above that offered in the base game, and in some of the few other follower mods I've tried out. My only significant criticism of the mod comes from the fact you can't feed her arrows, or your game will hark it ye olde crash to desktop style. Despite that, I feel that this mod is an absolute must have for a playthough of Skyrim. You can check out links to the mod in the description, and I've also put in a link to Christine's other work, which you can check out as well.

Scoring:
-5% - Game CTD's when giving Sofia arrows
-1% - A bit to much use of the sexual nature for my liking.
Total: 94% - Gold Standard!
This mod was awarded the Hibblejaybob  Gem Award for being the first mod to ever make me give a damn about a follower!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Modding Games: Hibblejayvlog

This week on Hibblejayvlog, I tackle modding and why we mod out our games. Modding is a very vast topic, and I just touch the tip of the iceberg here:



Transcription (may not be 100% accurate):
Welcome back to another week of Hibblejayvlog. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about modding in general. Although I've not really had the time to do nearly as much reviews as I'd have liked, one of the main things I wanted to show off with my channel and blog is mods, as well as full games. Mods are often programmed by an individual or small group and are usually released for free, for the enjoyment of the community. So in doing what I do, I wanted to give a little back to the authors of the mods that I use.

So why do we mod our games? Well, there are 3 general reasons. Firstly, there are tweaks, fixes and patches, which slightly alter the gaming experience to make it closer to what the developers originally intended it to be or to make the game more a more enjoyable experience. The unofficial Skyrim patches, are an example of the modding community coming together to fix various issues in the huge game that is Skyrim. A game so vast, it would take an age for the dev team to find, fix and distribute all the patches. I actually remember seeing on the Bethesda support page something along the lines of "if you're here to report a clipping issue, don't bother, we don't have time to fix it", which I thought was pretty funny.

Secondly, you can mod a game to expand upon the content that's already present. So things like new quests and new weapons & armours, etc. Those mods can vary wildly, from a few megabytes for a new weapon, up to several GB. The mod that springs to mind here is Kobayashi Maru mod for Star Trek Bridge Commander. Which weighs in at well over a GB for a game that's only a few hundred MB big, adding a whole heap of new stuff, pretty much quadrupling the original content of the game, while still letting you use most of it in the original game itself.

Finally, there are total conversion mods, which completely change away from the original game. Some of these eventually blossom into their own games, like Day-Z and Dota 2. These mods use the user interface and framework of the original game to effectively create a new game, which can range from something of a similar nature, to a completely different topic!

There are many examples of all of these different kinds of mods for literally thousands of different games out there. This is probably where I'd tell you put your search engine to work and try them out for yourself, but actually, I air on the side of caution when it comes to mods, and here's why. There are some mods out there, that while still being lore-friendly, can fundamentally alter the experience of the game. Don't get me wrong, this isn't always a bad thing, but it can detract or alter the original experience of the game as intended by the developers. Take my earlier example of Skyrim. Something like a texture pack isn't going to be detrimental to your experience, but modding the BFG 9000 into your game is going to seriously screw up the difficulty for you. I'm not saying don't do it, just be sure of what experience you want to get out of the game when you are considering putting mods on - particularly if it's you're first playthrough. In that case, I'd recommend getting a feel for the game, and getting to know what you like and what you would change. Then put on the mods you feel the game needs and try it out!

My general rule of modding is that mods are infinitely harder to get rid of than they are to install. In most of the games I run with mods, it's a case of install the mod by dragging and dropping, and uninstall the mod by deleting the entire game folder, reinstalling the game, then reinstalling all the mods you wished to keep. As someone who's never actually finished Skyrim because I've had to keep re-doing installs and restarting characters, take it from me not to just vomit every mod you come across into your game. If you're not sure about a mod, make a backup of your current install, so you can revert back if it doesn't work out. And for the love of everything that is holy, read the description! Just because all the mods you've installed for a game before have been drag and drop, doesn't strictly mean the one you are about to install is. There is also the matter of conflicts that you should be clued up on as well. Again, if you're not sure make a back up!

The other thing to keep in mind, is that mods are generally not made by large groups. Mods are not tested on a wide variety of platforms and if something does go wrong, you are likely to receive little to no support. This brings us back to the aforementioned point that mods are a lot harder to get rid of than they are to install.

Most of what I just said makes it sound like I don't recommend modding games, but that's not true. There are some truly fantastic mods out there, which impact tremendously on your enjoyment. I've even seen mods that rival or even surpass the quality of the original game! What I am saying is be wary. A good practice, albeit a tedious one, is to install mods one at a time, making backups beforehand and running the game after each install to make sure everything is working swimmingly. If it's your first time playing a game, I recommend only modding the game to what you need, but if you're returning to the game and wanting a different experience from before, then by all means knock yourself out.

Remember that mods aren't made by huge companies, and they are usually distributed for free, so share and endorse the mods you've enjoyed, it will really make a developers day!

So that's all for today. Modding is a colossal sea, that I've just taken a quick paddle in, so if you've got anything to say on the subject please post a comment below. I'd also be interested in hearing your stories of the great and the grim mods that you've experienced in your gaming careers. Remember you can find me on social media using the links below:


Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hibblejaybob
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Hibblejaybob
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/hibblejaybob
Blogger: http://hibblejaybob.blogspot.co.uk/

 
I'll see you next week! Bye!

Hibblejaybob

Monday, 2 March 2015

If you see it: REPORT IT!


I've said this on before and I'll say it again: don't be the person to pass by a fire or an injured person, thinking "someone else will sort it". If you see it: REPORT IT!

I've made a little video for it, I'd greatly appreciate people liking & sharing the video to try and spread the word & keep our communities safe!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Space Hoppers Promotional work

So I've been asked to help promote Space Hoppers! Space Hoppers is an iOS game that makes use of the latest technologies to deliver fun and active gameplay! I awarded Space Hoppers my Hibblejaybob Gem Award for it's innovative gameplay. You can check out my full review here, or you can head over to the app store and see for yourself! (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/space-hoppers/id929582857)

Here's my review video:

And here's my summarised App Store Review:
"Space Hopper's multiplayer concept is unique and well executed. You connect up other Apple devices to an iPad or Apple TV, creating a local multiplayer similar to Wii or Kinect games. The gameplay is fun and simple, making it great for audiences of all ages.

It's perfect for parties or other social gatherings, particularly since there is also an option to customise the characters and setting to photos you send in, to make the occasion even more special.

The developer also lets you distribute your customised version of the game, which is perfect as a marketing tool for companies, organisations or groups.

Space Hoppers: a great concept and well worth a look!"
- Hibblejaybob (5 Stars)


Space Hoppers promotional work (non-impartiality notice)

Just a quick line to inform everyone that I'm now working alongside EOTIS to promote Space Hoppers! My review and the majority of the script for my latest vlog video were written before I was contacted by EOTIS, but obviously I'm putting this out there for to let people know of the situation. Although my promotional work will largely be independent of my own gaming work, here & on my channel, there will be a few instances where articles & videos will be done for the benefit of our promotional goals. Of course, in such instances, I will make the involvement with my work very clear. I will also likely be using my social media links (Facebook, Twitter & Reddit) to help with the promotional work.

If there are any questions or concerns regarding my involvement with this promotional work, please email me at hibblejaybob@gmail.com.

New Hibblejayvlog Video

So here's my first proper Vlog! This was due last week, but due to a combination of some interesting news and my dog being unwell, I decided to postpone it to this week. The first topic I wanted to cover was the interesting concepts behind the two smartphone apps I've reviewed recently. You can check out the video below, or if you don't fancy looking at my phugly face for 5 minutes, you can read the transcript below. I've also put on a few bloopers at the end of the video too! Don't forget to check my various other links, and let me know what you think of the video! Sorry the video is a little dark, it got a lot darker than I expected and I didn't notice!!!!!



Various Links:
Review Videos:
Space Hoppers: http://youtu.be/wOLphrCo44w
Solve-It-Blocks: http://youtu.be/aZmMeYhCCLk
Reviews:
http://hibblejaybob.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/space-hoppers-review-smartphone-game.html
http://hibblejaybob.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/solve-it-blocks-review-smartphone-app.html
Company Websites:
http://www.eotis.com/
http://www.solveitblocks.com/
App Store:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/space-hoppers/id929582857
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/solve-it-blocks/id958941440?mt=8
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.solveitblocks.solveitblocksapp
My Links:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hibblejaybob
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Hibblejaybob
Blogger: http://hibblejaybob.blogspot.co.uk/
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/hibblejaybob

Transcript:
(Transcript is based on my notes for the video, and may not be exact or grammatically correct)
Hi Everyone and welcome to Hibblejayvlog, this is my first vlog with some actual content in it! Apologies that this video is a week late, my dog was ill last week, as well as some other news which I'll talk about near the end.

Today I want to talk about the concepts that have gone into 2 of the smartphone games I have reviewed recently. I reviewed a game called Space Hoppers back at the start of January, which has some interesting ideas behind it and this month, I reviewed another app called Solve-It-Blocks which the concept of an educational app has been done before, but the amount of research that has gone into it is amazing, and I'll talk more on that later. If you've not read my reviews or watched the review videos, I'll link them in the description for your viewing pleasure.

Starting with Space Hoppers, the primary concept behind it is Physical Group Gaming, or PGG. the EOTIS website describes it as "play in the virtual and real world together", and that's a perfect summary of what Physical Group Gaming is. The basic idea is that you use an iPad or Apple TV as a screen and you connect other iPads or smartphones up as controllers. Using the built in accelerometers, you become the controller, tilting the device and jumping about to make your character move around the screen, as you try to collect all the bubbles. Having played and reviewed the game, and looking into the concept further, two big things stand out me.

The first one is sociability, smartphone games and smartphones in general are seen to be quite antisocial nowadays, How often is it you hear "look at everyone standing around on their phones, not talking", etc. Well, Space Hoppers aims to change that by getting everyone playing the same game, together on their smartphones. And the key point there is the interaction: It's not everyone playing singleplayer, not talking together. It's a punch of people playing the same game, in the same room, bounding around the place having fun, and it seems absolutely perfect for kids parties,
student's parties, office Christmas parties.

And that brings me to my next point on the PGG concept. While I don't consider myself to be particularly in with the smartphone app scene: Space Hoppers, for the first time that I've seen, really elevates smartphones to the stage currently occupied by the Kinnect and the Wii and so on, providing the smae lever of fun and interactions, without the need for a console. If you were going away on a holiday, few people would take their consoles away with them but how many people would bring their smartphones and tablets with them? Probably most of them. So there's the argument of accessibility. Could this be the start of smartphones becoming the norm for group entertainment over  consoles?

The final major concept behind space hoppers is the customisation. EOTIS, the developer of Space Hoppers will let you send in your photos, and they'll make a customised version of the game just for you, with the characters and scenes now things from the photos you send in. They will also let you distribute that customised version of the game, making it perfect for adding a personal touch to parties, or even marketing as part of a group or organisation. EOTIS are also keen to see the PGG concept continue, and will work with game developers to expand upon the content and mechanics of Space Hoppers, into a completely new game. All this information and more, can be found on the EOTSI website, which I'll link below.

The 2nd app I wanted to talk about today is Solve-It-Blocks, which is a developmental app primarily aimed at kids. Educational & developmental apps are not a particularly new concept, but this is the first app that I've seen that you can clearly see the progression from classical children's toys, into a modern environment. The app has been constructed in such a way that is also fun and engaging as a game for all ages in it's own right. The app is the smartphone application of the real world Solve-It-Blocks which have are already marketed for schools and nurseries. The thing that caught my eye here is the amount of research done in the development of this concept. I think it's great to see the application of research done at university level, into real products, and the quality of those products are great too. The developers have really done an amazing job of bringing the concept to life and you can find out more about Solve-It-Blocks and the research behind it in the links in the description.

A final word from me with some news, last week I was asked by EOTIS to help promote the Space Hoppers app for iOS. My original review and most of this script was written before the company got in contact with me, but obviously, I need to get that out there for the sake of being clear on impartiality. And of course, if you are interested in checking out either of the apps I've discussed today, you can check out my reviews for them in description, or you can head over to their app store pages and find out for yourself!

So that's all for today, hope you enjoyed my video. Don't forget to like, comment and subscribe, and I shall see you next week! Bye!

I'm doing a Vlog!

So apparently I managed to forget to actually do a post informing peeps of my new Vlog, despite managing to do a post that Vlog was going to be late.........

So in case you missed it, here's my introduction to vlogging!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Delayed Post

Due to my dog being unwell, the inaugural Hibblejayvlog (the first non-introduction anyway) will be delayed. Should hopefully get it out before next Tuesday!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Just Flight are awesome!

So I'm a moron. Just Flight are doing a 2 for £12 pick-'n'-mix offer for the next 3 days (See the offer here), and I treated myself to the DC-8 and A320. It was only the next day, that my retarded-ass realised that I already owned the A320 and was now sitting with 2 copies of the bloody thing....... Just Flight's response was fantastic, however; responding within 5 minutes of my email, I was offered and received a replacement product for the A320 - a product also on the 2 for £13 offer - at no charge. This was as fantastic as it was speedy!

It's all too easy to whine and moan about bad service, so I though I'd celebrating the great service you can get. Good work to the team at Just Flight!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Solve-It-Blocks Review (Smartphone App)

Publishers: Apple iTunes
                   Play Store (Google)
                   Amazon
Developer: Future Fossil (http://futurefossilstudios.com/)
                   Solve-It-Blocks (http://www.solveitblocks.com/)
Released: 2015
Platforms: iOS
                 Android
Price: Free (with Microtransactions)
Websites:https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.solveitblocks.solveitblocksapp
               http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plan-It-Cube-Limited-Solve-It-Blocks/dp/B00SFROH1S
               https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/solve-it-blocks/id958941440?mt=8
Summary
Solve-It-Blocks is an educational app, primarily aimed at the development of young children. That being said, the gameplay is fun and challenging enough that it functions well as a smartphone game in its own right, as well as a "brain trainer" for adolescents and adults. In Solve-It-Blocks you solve block puzzles by arranging the blocks on a 3x3 grid, with the correct side up. In the 2D mode, you do this by arranging for the correct face and swapping other blocks to get them in the right positions. In the 3D mode, you have the additional challenge of 'gravity', forcing you to solve the puzzle from the ground up, much like you would do in the real world. In either mode you can pitch yourself against the clock or against your own memory. In the timed mode, you earn your stars by solving puzzles within a par time, with the solution always available to you. In the memory mode, you have as much time as you need, instead the solution is hidden from you and you are scored against how many additional times you need to reveal the solution.

Overall, the app is fun, challenging and built from a great concept, with a lot of research behind it. My only criticism is that the numbers and letters are limited to the Latin alphabet, which affects usability where a Latin-derived language is not the local language (Arabic, Cyrillic-based languages, etc). Having said that, a great deal of time and effort has clearly gone into the 'flags' option, which effects the various flags shown on the blocks. In this setting, all countries are catered for, and even region specific flags are provided for the USA and UK. There is also a relatively limited number of levels (when compared to other smartphone games) available free, however each pack opens up 50 levels for just £0.59.

Whatever it is you're looking at this app for, I can highly recommend it! As a developmental app, it's fun and easy to use and a lot of research has been put into the concept. As a smartphone game, it's fun and challenging enough for teens and adults to really get engaged with. As a "brain trainer", I believe that the app - particularly in the 3D, Memory mode - can be used to help tackle the struggles of dyslexia and perhaps other learning difficulties.

Development
First order of business is talking about the apps intended purpose as a development tool for young kids. The modernisation of the children's building blocks concept is very evident. The teams behind Solve-It-Blocks have gone to great lengths to research and implement the concept, producing a physicial version and this smartphone app. You can find out more information, including the published scientific articles, on the Solve-It-Blocks website (http://www.solveitblocks.com/)

The app is brightly designed and easy to use, and the gameplay is fun, providing an engaging experience which is important for keeping young children focused on the puzzles. Similar to real life building blocks, the constant exposure to numbers and letters promotes learning of language skills. Flags, vehicles and colours also feature on the blocks, further enhancing the learning experience. It's a nice touch to be able to change the flags on the blocks, so the familiarisation of the flags can be in your region. As stated above, the alphabet and numbers are limited to English (the Latin alphabet), so users with non-Latin native languages will have to deal with that for the moment. I think that will mar usability in some regions, but hopefully that might be rectified in future updates.

Gameplay
Although primarily marketed as a development/educational app for children, Solve-It-Blocks makes a convincing stab at being a smartphone game in it's own right, with fun and challenging gameplay for all ages. At the tender age of 23, I found myself being more engaged with Solve-It-Blocks than I ever have been with any other smartphone game. I did genuinely find the gameplay challenging, particularly on the 3D, Memory mode. Looking at the comments on the Play Store in the short time the app has been released, it does seem to be proving popular as a game. The only thing I will say is there isn't any kind of leaderboard (for the time mode), but including one could introduce a competitive edge to the experience, which could be detrimental to the development and education processes for which the app is intended.

Dyslexia

As I said above, I found this app particularly engaging. As a Dyslexic who particularly struggles with short term memory recall, I theorised that continued use of the app may function like a "brain trainer", helping adolescents and adults to find strategies in dealing with Dyslexia and perhaps other learning difficulties. Particularly in the 3D Memory mode,I found myself really struggling to get those 3 stars, particularly in the more advanced levels. If you too struggle from any short-term memory issues, then this app constantly forces you to utilise your memory recall, and I feel that continued use could help improve your memory recall.

Note that in saying this, I am in no way an educational psychologist and my statement above is based on my own experience and my own Dyslexia profile. There is no replacement for qualified assistance in finding the right strategies in dealing with your own learning difficulties! I have, however, asked for feedback from the Educational Psychology department at the University of Edinburgh, I will publish another article with their feedback.

Note:
Due to the use of hyphens in the title, Solve-It-Blocks can be difficult to search for on the various App stores. I recommend using one of the direct links above, if you are unable to find the app on the app stores.

Scoring:
100% - Base score: great concept, good implementation.
-1% - Diverse flags, but only Latin numbers & alphabet available in current version.

(Summary again)
Solve-It-Blocks is an educational app, primarily aimed at the development of young children. That being said, the gameplay is fun and challenging enough that it functions well as a smartphone game in its own right, as well as a "brain trainer" for adolescents and adults. In Solve-It-Blocks you solve block puzzles by arranging the blocks on a 3x3 grid, with the correct side up. In the 2D mode, you do this by arranging for the correct face and swapping other blocks to get them in the right positions. In the 3D mode, you have the additional challenge of 'gravity', forcing you to solve the puzzle from the ground up, much like you would do in the real world. In either mode you can pitch yourself against the clock or against your own memory. In the timed mode, you earn your stars by solving puzzles within a par time, with the solution always available to you. In the memory mode, you have as much time as you need, instead the solution is hidden from you and you are scored against how many additional times you need to reveal the solution.

Overall, the app is fun, challenging and built from a great concept, with a lot of research behind it. My only criticism is that the numbers and letters are limited to the Latin alphabet, which affects usability where a Latin-derived language is not the local language (Arabic, Cyrillic-based languages, etc). Having said that, a great deal of time and effort has clearly gone into the 'flags' option, which effects the various flags shown on the blocks. In this setting, all countries are catered for, and even region specific flags are provided for the USA and UK. There is also a relatively limited number of levels (when compared to other smartphone games) available free, however each pack opens up 50 levels for just £0.59.

Whatever it is you're looking at this app for, I can highly recommend it! As a developmental app, it's fun and easy to use and a lot of research has been put into the concept. As a smartphone game, it's fun and challenging enough for teens and adults to really get engaged with. As a "brain trainer", I believe that the app - particularly in the 3D, Memory mode - can be used to help tackle the struggles of dyslexia and perhaps other learning difficulties.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Banners, Scoring and Prizes



 

Banners:
In an effort to improve readability and to encourage more traffic through the blog, I've introduced banners to the top of review articles, like the examples shown above. Currently, I only have a few reviews on the site, and they are all positive reviews, but that is changing very soon!

Scoring:
Which brings me on to scoring. Since this blog started back in 2013, I've used a percentage system to convey my recommendation. I generally like to have an expectation vs reality approach to my reviews. So, for example, if I were to do a Call of Duty review, I expect that to be a mindless, simple FPS game and that's generally what I get from the experience, and so my review would generally be more favourable than some other reviews.

While I have used a similar system in my reviews up until now, I thought it time to come up with a more definite system to improve consistency in my past and upcoming reviews. So with my reviews,
 I always start at 100% and penalise for any issues I find. To standardise the penalties, I've come up with categories:
-1% - Trivial Issue - Something I don't like but doesn't effect the overall experience of the product.
-5% - Minor Issue - A minor issue that slightly detracts from the overall experience.
-10% - Major Issue - An issue that noticeably, regularly detracts from the overall experience.
Exceptional Issue - These issues are something so major it completely ruins the game play experience. I was going to standardise it at -25%, but then I decided that some issues can be so major they deserve a penalty well above that!

I am also introducing a standardised reward system that rewards products from some features. This will be used much less than the penalties as only features that impress me that are over and above my expectation of the product.
+1% - Minor feature over and above expectation.
+5% - Major feature over and above expectation.

I have backdated my reviews using the new banners and scoring scheme. In the future, I will list a products rewards and penalties in the review itself, however, I am electing not to backdate my reviews in that way. You can find our more on my scoring system here.

Award:
While coming up with my scoring system, I realised that it is possible for a product to receive several penalties, but still carry an outstanding recommendation from me. I've then created the wonderfully drawn Hibblejaybob Gem Award to give to products that have overcome my criticisms to still get a strong recommendation from myself.

For example, a product may get a good (>70%) or perhaps even an average rating because of some design flaws, but still be an absolutely must have product! Similarly, a product may have a good or gold (>90%) rating - but for one reason or another - will not receive the Gem Award. In this case, it's not to say I do not recommend the product, but in terms of games, there may be other similar games I enjoy/recommend more, and in terms of mods, it may be a fantastic mod but it doesn't contribute to the overall experience of the game for me.

This award is purely subject to my opinions of how I enjoyed the product, and unlike my scoring system, I will not specifically qualify why a product did or did not receive the Hibblejaybob Gem Award, as this award is more about my personal opinions than an objective critique. You can find out more about this award, including it's recipients, here.