My virtual life, getting back into online games, descriptions, explanations, opinions

My New Year’s resolutions, as posted on twitter, were as follows:

  • Get really good at a new job
  • Play more video games
  • Go swimming
  • Read more novels

People talk about online game addiction.  Sometimes I think – gee, do I wish!  Aside from going to parties in Second Life, less weird then you might think, I haven’t been doing any online gaming.

I’m not sure if I like online games.  What I like is being in a virtual world.  However, with nothing to do in a virtual world, no reason for being there, the world is very boring.  I know about this, having been in the world of Uru, on an off, since 2003.  There was precious little to do in Uru back in 2003.  Now, with no new content being released, there is nothing new to do, apart from socializing with fellow players.  Uru is boring.  So, you need something to do.

Most MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games) have combat as the main thing you do. I have mixed feelings about combat.  I think the games have combat as their core gameplay because the combat mechanism is well worked out, people understand it, it gives your game focus, allows you to tell a story, and it can be exciting.  I’ll do combat if I’m fighting to defeat the evil in the world.  I prefer PvE, player versus environment play, where we don’t fight each other; we battle the evil in the world.  I don’t do PvP, player versus player combat.

I don’t play online games set in a virtual world for the challenge, or to be the best, though people have been playing competitive games for as long as there have been people.  Everyone, including me, is competitive about something.  I’m just not competitive about games.  I play to relax and to be in a beautiful online world.  I don’t want to turn my online world into a competition or another job.  I like my gameplay as easy as possible.  This is not something you can generally say on game forums; many people are very serious about these games, and very competitive.

Playing with other people isn’t as easy as you would think.  When I first started playing MMORPGs, I thought – “great, I’ll make some friends and we’ll play together”.  For most games, this is not the way it works.  In order to do something “together” you have to be at the same level of expertise in the game, and you have to have a balanced party, a mix of people in the right roles, for example, a healer, a hunter, a warrior.   Your play time is structured by the group event, the quest, the instance.  Once you start your group thing, you can’t leave without disrupting your party.  This is way too much structure for me, though I might do it occasionally, with a small group.  I like being with people in an online world, but I’d rather do things in the game by myself, seeing players as I wander through the world, occasionally talking to them.

Fortunately most MMOs today have a fair amount of solo play.  You do your game things yourself (fight some monsters, find things), periodically running into other people.  In some games such as World of Warcraft, it’s easier to level (make progress) if you solo.

Another thing I didn’t know, when I first started, is that MMORPGs had end game content.  I thought you just kept playing, enjoying your world, and periodically the developers would release new stuff.  Wrong!  Many games have end game content.  Often this consists of raids, lengthy difficult structured gameplay with twenty-five to a hundred people.  You defeat a difficult enemy and see wondrous things.  I’m not joking, developers devote time and people to make the hard long things exciting and good looking, with colorful scenes and special effects and in game videos.  Another common feature of end game content is PvP (player versus player) battlegrounds.

I might play with a small group, but I never intend to do the structured play with larger groups, the ten or twenty-five or fifty person “raids”.  I just can’t do it.

Some games in the genre work a little differently.  In Guild Wars you can reach end game with a small number of people.  You can also do it yourself by having your party include characters played by the computer, using artificial intelligence.  I like that.

What am I playing now?

Rift – the beta

I participated in the beta test of an upcoming game, Rift.  This is an open beta, so we can talk about it.  Rift is beautiful game, but the intro levels are intensely combat focused, to the exclusion of everything else.  I realize the Rift world is at war, but I did not enjoy the battleground atmosphere, and the random crying and screaming of the NPCs (non player characters) did not add to my enjoyment.   The intro levels were also crowded, which made for a surreal experience.  You saw lots of people running around (no random strolling, exploring), playing solo, killing their particular set of monsters for their quests, their missions.  Since there were so many people, the monsters spawned (reappeared) at a quick rate, to give everyone enough to do.  Something about the structure struck me as more “game” than world.  I’ve read that that the higher levels have more of a beautiful real world feel, but I doubt if I’ll get there.  Rift is in beta, but I’m reasonably sure the game will be essentially the same game when it is released, this March.

Rift beta, Alliance side, just out of the starter area, January 2011

Rift beta, Guardian side, the starting building, January 2011

Guild Wars – taking a break

I’ve played Guild Wars for several years, very slowly.  I love the look of the world, the look of the player characters, and I like how the world is structured.  You see people in towns, but your adventures are always in your own copy of the world.  This is called instancing.  But, I’m taking a break from it, possibly because I’m at the point where it’s getting hard.  I’ll get back into it later.

World of Warcraft – just started

I’ve never played World of Warcraft (half an hour four years ago, doesn’t count!), but I decided to give it a try.  Online gamers who don’t play World of Warcraft criticize the game a lot – it’s too easy, other players are mean, everyone plays (not just “real” gamers!), players aren’t serious, all that.  There’s resentment that World of Warcraft is so popular, with its huge player base of around 12 million subscribers.  Apparently, popular is bad, which seems silly to me because games are part of popular culture!  Given the publicity about the new content released, Cataclysm, and the amount of criticism in the Rift forum, I decided to give it a try.  I’ve read that some World of Warcraft game servers have more mean people playing on them than nice people, though you can ignore people and they can’t hurt you.  Role playing servers, where you pretend to be your character, tend to have nicer people. I’m not a serious roleplayer, but I wanted to run into nice people, so I decided to give a roleplay server a try.

I’m playing a draenei, a peaceful race, which works well for me.  I’m a shaman, a healer.  World of Warcraft is stylized, but beautiful.  I like the look of the world, but I’ve never liked the look of the characters.  This character is ok, though she’s way too busty, a not uncommon feature of online multiplayer games.  The server I’m playing on is an established server, so I haven’t run across many people.  Most of them are probably at the higher level areas.  I ran into a couple of people, one waved.  It was nice.  I’m poking along, still at a very low level, level 3.  The music is evocative; this part of the world is eerie and lovely.  I like it.

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting area for the Draenel.  My character does have facial features, but the sun is on her face, washing it out.  January 2011

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting area for the Dreanel.  Beautiful area.  January 2011

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting area for the Draenel. My character does have facial features, but the sun is on her face, washing it out. January 2011

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting area for the Dreanel. Beautiful area. January 2011

World of Warcraft, Alliance side, starting are for the Dreanel. Those things that look like big pansies have legs and walk around. January 2011

Next time I’ll talk about Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and Lord of the Rings Online.

Merry Christmas from My California

Memories of My California.

I can still see it.

Merry Christmas.  Happy New Year.

Drakes Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California. March 2006

Palo Alto Baylands Preserve, California. Look closely. November 2008.

The Christmas holidays, or the idea of them. Decorating my phone.

Sometimes I think I like the idea of the Christmas holidays more than the holidays themselves.  My ideal Christmas is very, very low key, with no stress.  You do what you want in your own home.  If you don’t like a tradition, you don’t do it.   If you don’t care for an event, you don’t go to it.  And of course there is no snow or ice or humidity or dampness.  Snow or cold or ice does not mean “Christmas” to me!  I miss being in my home in my California.  Hawaii would be great too, for the Christmas holidays.  In Hawaii the humidity would be worthwhile.

I do like seeing the Christmas lights outside, on the houses and the streets.  And I shop in stores so rarely (online for me!) that when I do, seeing all the holiday “stuff” is rather festive and charming.

I am glad to be of help to my family and I’ve (mostly) accepted the fact that I’m not in California.  And the job scene is looking up – it might be very soon that I have a job!

Speaking of holiday decorations, I never planned to buy this, but I saw it, and then it was in my hands and I was at the checkout station.  It’s a combination night light and snow globe.  It’s nicely designed.  The small amount of heat from the light bulb makes the glitter in the sky move, slowly.  It’s like a snow globe, but I don’t have to shake it.  Isn’t it wonderful?

The Christmas nightlight snow globe combo, December 2010

I decorated my Motorola Droid, my Android OS smartphone, for Christmas, with the Christmas Tree Live Wallpaper, http://www.1473labs.com.    The picture appears on all the screen displays on your phone – my phone has five screen displays.  The snow falls and the lights twinkle.   On one screen  I added a widget, Christmas countdown.  Christmas countdown displays a little image and the number of days until Christmas.  There is a different image for each day of the week.

The wallpaper shows up behind all the icons you have on your phone, the apps, the bookmarks, the folders.  I kept one of the screens of my phone free of icons, so I could look at the wallpaper and the Christmas countdown, all by themselves.

Christmas Tree LIve Wallpaper, Christmas Countdown on my Droid. November 2010

Before I had my Motorola Droid, I used to play fun little games on my Palm TX, a pda, personal digital assistant, like a smartphone but without the phone part and without the internet.  There was a Christmas game I particularly enjoyed, a game where Santa dropped presents, and you had to catch the presents with a cart (or a sleigh, can’t tell).  It was a sweet little way to pass the time.  I haven’t found that game, but I found a Christmas version of a game similar to Bejeweled, called jewellust Xmas, http://www.smartpixgames.com.  Like Bejeweled, you manipulate the icons to make at least three identical icons in a row.  They then go away, and the icons above them roll down.  In this game, your goal is to collect all the mosaic tiles on the screen.  You collect them when you get them to roll off the screen.  The mosaic tiles make a picture.  You have a limited amount of time to collect all the tiles for each picture, but it’s not that hard.  This version of jewellust is Christmasy. The icons make bell like sounds when they drop.   The “three of a kind” icons look like ornaments.  There are candy canes and Christmas scenes.  If you play in Campaign mode, after you complete a level and fill a mosaic tile picture, a Christmas village is displayed, with a line in the snow as you go from one house to the next.  It’s just a line; you have to imagine yourself in the picture!  There are also simple tile puzzles to solve, displaying Christmas ornaments.

I love this game.  It’s a wonderful way to give yourself a little holiday break.

Jewellust Xmas on my Motorola Droid phone, November 2010.

Happy Christmas holiday preparations, if that’s your thing.

2010 retrospective. My online multiplayer world – I come for the parties

Lately I’ve been a very intermittent online gamer.   I come for the parties.  My plan next year is to actually play some games.  Until then, here’s my year in retrospective.

Swing party in the snow, Second Life, December 2009.

Second Life is a virtual world where you build things or go experience what other people build.  This was a party given by people in the Guild of Healers, a small group of people who played Uru and have a location in Second Life where they make things.   It’s a great group of people.  I always have a great time at their parties.   This was a swing party, as in…we swung on swings!  I liked the area so much I came back later and played around and took some pictures of my character, my avatar.  The people who own this piece of land in SL (yes, it’s thought of as property, as land) created this space specifically for the party.

People ask me sometimes if the parties are like parties in real life.  If you know the people from your virtual life, and if the people are sociable, it feels like a gathering.  Good virtual environments give you something to do, something that makes it seem like your persona is there.  There’s music.  There are activities such as dancing — click on something or type in a command and there you are, dancing on the screen.  Some online worlds and groups support the use of microphones, where your voice is heard.  This group tends to use text chat, mostly.  You can text chat either to the group, or privately to a person.

I met these people when I was playing Uru.  The concept of a guild, a group of people with a shared goal, is common to online games.  This guild came from the idea of expanding the traditional guild structure in Uru.

I’m the figure with the cropped pants, flat shoes, and wings, because why would you not have wings?  Even without wings, in Second Life you can fly.

People change their looks in Second Life a lot. It’s a costumey place.  I tend to keep my look the same, now that I found something that suits me.  I got some free clothes (people give things away) and paid a small amount of money to get my hair style and my wings.

Swing Party, Guild of Healers retreat, Second Life, December 2009

Swing Party. You had the option of wearing a snowman head, a fun if surreal experience. Guild of Healers retreat, Second Life, December 2009

Amarez, my avatar in Second Life, swinging by herself. Guild of Healers retreat, Second Life, December 2009

Meditation, Guild of Healers, Second Life, December 2009

I’m not much for meditation, but the group is so nice that I wanted to check this out.  I could use some peace in my life.  In this event, the person leading the meditation used a mike to conduct the meditation.  We sat on cushions in the lovely space, and the sky changed from night to day.  I enjoyed being with the people, but I got distracted.  I’m still not much of a meditation person.  As I stated before, this space was created by the people who own this “land” in Second Life.

Meditation during the Second Life night, Guild of Healers retreat. Second Life, December 2009.

Dawn, Guild of Healers retreat. Second Life, December 2009.

The meditation continues. Guild of Healers retreat, Second Life, December 2009.

Retirement party for Lord Chaos, Second Life, December 2009

Lord Chaos, also known as Ktahdn (game names) took early retirement from his job.  Sometimes organizations will offer economic incentives for people to retire earlier than they had planned.  It can be a very good deal for the person.  The Guild of Healers had a retirement party in Second Life.  We started in an indoor building in a festive space, then ended up outside.  As the party progressed and we greeted the Second Life day, we got quieter, more reflective.  Changes in your life will do that to you.

Retirement party. We talk and are festive. Guild of Healers retreat, Second Life, December 2009.

Retirement party. We move outside. Guild of Healers retreat, Second Life, December 2009.

Retirement party. We greet the day. Notice the whimsical elements. Guild of Healers retreat, Second Life, December 2009

Fifth anniversary radio show by Lord Chaos, Uru, June 2010

Uru is an online multiplayer game.  You cannot create your own content in Uru.  This means that you cannot do any customization for an event.    It is, however, a beautiful space, so people have events and parties in Uru, because they want to.   I’m rarely in Uru, nowadays, but I made sure to attend the fifth anniversary radio show given by Lord Chaos.  Lord Chaos is his game name.

Online radio shows are a feature of the internet world.   People create their own radio shows, their own playlists and private music streams for friends.  Some people provide their own commentary, like a true DJ.   Lord Chaos does that, a mixture of music and commentary. Since you can’t change the music in Uru, you turn the music in the game off, and then stream the radio show from an internet site.

Lord Chaos has great musical sensibilities, eclectic and melodic.  Some shows are dance oriented, some are more reflective, and some are a mixture of both.  It’s always a great musical experience.

Fifth anniversary radio show, Lord Chaos. The Watchers Sanctuary, Uru. June 2010

Fifth anniversary radio show, Lord Chaos. Minkata, Uru. June 2010.

Fifth anniversary radio show. Lord Chaos. At the bottom you can see we are talking, text chat. Minkata, Uru. June 2010.

Silk Road Journey, revisited, Second Life, June 2010

The Silk Road is a collection of trade routes that were used to connect China and the Mediterranean.  (http://www.ess.uci.edu/~oliver/silk.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk_Road, there are many, many other references).

In a previous post, I talked about a radio show described as musical journey along the Silk Road.  https://amarez.com/2009/06/14/second-life-the-silk-road-a-virtual-journey/.

Lord Chaos has done a series of radio shows about the Silk Road.  The radio show is structured as a journey, a trip.  During breaks in the music, Lord Chaos talks about where we are on the journey, the time of day, the weather and how we are feeling.  It’s an interesting experience, very evocative.  It has the feeling of an actual journey.  This was a very long radio show, eight hours, but not everyone stayed for the whole show, and we had breaks in the music for talking and (virtual) dancing.   Second Life is a good venue for this – a virtual stage for the musical journey.  I had a fantastic time.

The Silk Road, a musical journey. We gather around the campfire. Notice the map in the background. Second Life, Guild of Healers, July 2010.

The Silk Road, a musical journey. The setting for the journey. Second Life, July 2010.

The Silk Road, a musical journey. We start to dance. Second Life, July 2010.

The Silk Road, a musical journey. Amarez, my avatar, is dancing. Second Life, July 2010.

Ktahdn dance party, Second Life, July 2010

I went to a dance party in Second Life, at the Guild of Healers retreat.  Lord Chaos/Ktahdn (game name) was the DJ.  We danced from Second Life night to dawn!  To be fair, the day night cycle is speedy, not a twenty four hour cycle, so that’s easy to do.

Ktahdn dance party, Guild of Healers. I’m in the front, the one with the wings. Second Life, July 2010.

Ktahdn dance party. We danced through the night! Second Life, July 2010

Ghaelen’s graduation party, Second Life, November 2010

Ghaelen (game name) completed her dissertation for her PhD.  So, the Guild of Healers had a party.  It was wonderfully festive.

Ghaelen’s graduation party. Ghaelen is in the back, wearing a graduation robe. Second Life, November 2010

Ghaelen’s graduation party. Dancing the night away. Second Life, November 2010

Ghaelen’s graduation party. As we dance, we float! Second Life, November 2010.

There will be another party before the end of the year, but I’ll save that  for next time.

My avatar, Amarez, in the Guild of Healers retreat. I can fly! Second Life, December 2009

2010 Retrospective, Ocean City, New Jersey

I only went to the ocean (or the shore, as one says here) one time this year.  In August I went with a family member to Ocean City, New Jersey,  for the day, to go to the Boardwalk Art Show.

Ordinarily, even during the height of summer, Ocean City is not that hot at the water’s edge.  The breeze from the ocean cools you off.  However, this was a hot muggy day, with the breeze blowing the wrong way, towards the ocean.  Still, the sun was shining, eating at Hulu’s was great (http://www.hulasauces.com), the ocean was beautiful as always, and it was a lovely drive.  I bought a nice iconic photo of the beach.  And I wasn’t driving – I enjoyed being a passenger on this trip.

Entrance to the bridge to Ocean City. August 2010

Look closely. There is a bird resting on the railing. Bridge to Ocean City. August 2010.

Continuing on the bridge. View of Great Egg Harbor Bay. August 2010.

Welcome to Ocean City. August 2010.

The ocean, beautiful as always. Ocean City. August 2010.

Flags designating swimming areas. Ocean City. August 2010.

Seagull on the prowl. Ocean City. August 2010.

This seagull has places he needs to be! Ocean City. August 2010.

Going home. View of the islands of Great Egg Harbor Bay. August 2010.

On the bridge. I see construction in the distance. August 2010.

On the bridge. View of Sumers Point. August 2010.

Near the end of the bridge. Goodbye Ocean City. August 2010.

Interop 2010 New York was fun

http://www.interop.com/newyork/

Javits Convention Center. Registration for Interop New York 2010. It’s a big space. October 2010

I went to the Interop 2010 conference in New York City, for the day, on Wednesday, October 20th.

I’m not Interop material.  I’m not someone running a data center or a network, nor am I someone paying the bills for one.  I’ve mostly not been on the computer operations side of the fence.  Still, I like to keep up.  I like to have educated opinions on technology.  It’s fun to see what this world is up to.  I also hope, one day, to make business decisions about these things.

I went to the keynote presentation, with speakers James Whitehurst, President and CEO, Red Hat, Ben Gibson, Vice President Data Center/Virtualization, Cisco, Dirk Gates, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Xirrus.

Aside from getting what the presenters are trying to tell me, I like to see what the presentations tell me about the industry, the subtext, the background.  So I noticed that the speakers were very polished.  They looked at the audience, they moved around the stage, they owned the space; they were in control of their shiny pretty presentations. They were sincere, compelling and enthusiastic.  The slides were colorful, with attractive graphics and the right amount of text for a presentation. I’m not slamming the presenters, not at all.  It’s just interesting to note that what I call “big tech” and Silicon Valley in general is very media savvy.  The presenters move and talk like actors, like performers.  And the place is beautiful.

Keynote stage, Interop New York 2010, October 2010.

Then I looked for the passion, what you might call the hype, the evangelism, the “next big thing”.  Tech has always had a messianic flavor to it.  It’s always been about…..wandering around in the wilderness, lost in the darkness, ignorant, and, then magically, because of a new thing, coming into the light.  It’s about being saved.  And this evangelism isn’t about glamorous stuff.  I remember the zeal about structured programming and relational databases, which is about a non glamorous as you can get!

The hype in the keynotes was a little more subdued this year, probably due to the economy.  Still, there were the obligatory “laws” referenced, such as Moore’s law, generally used to reference how fast computing power is growing (definition: the number of transistors that can be placed on a circuit doubles every two years – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law)

My favorite “law” was from Dirk Gates, Amara’s Law – “We tend to overestimate the effect a technology has in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”  Interesting.

The new tropes, cloud computing and virtualization, were referenced.   Here’s a definition of cloud computing from Wikipedia – “Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing/.  There is still a fight over the definition over at Wikipedia, but it basically means that the computer hardware and software that you need to do stuff is somewhere else, rather than being under your desk or in the computer room downstairs.  You access it when you need it, on the cloud.  If you store some files on a Microsoft Skydrive (http://explore.live.com/windows-live-skydrive-access-anywhere), you are accessing the cloud.

Virtualization is more fun.  From Wikipedia, “Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as an operating system, a server, a storage device or network resources.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtualization.  What this means is that a program runs on a machine that pretends to be another machine, it’s “virtual”.  There are technical reasons why you do this, but it’s still fun to think about – interesting that something so important could be all pretend!

Dirk Gates’ presentation was a bit more technical, though still accessible.  He spoke about developing an enterprise class wireless network, not the usual mix of wired and wireless components.  This is like the wireless network you might have in your home, but bigger, more robust, “on steroids”, as I would say.  My favorite comment from him – “it’s not your father’s access points!”  I felt old – my father doesn’t know about access points! Dirk also had a demo, which was pretty swell.

I went to a couple of the free talks, which were good, though they tended to be on the salesy side.  My favorite salesy talk was the presentation on Microsoft’s CRM, customer relationship management system, something you use to manage sales and customer support.  It makes sense that it was my favorite, as the product is geared to business functions rather than operations.

I went to one talk that was part of the paid content (came free with my ticket) – Key Issues in Wireless and Mobile, with Paul DeBeasi, Research Vice President, Gartner, Alex Wolfe, Editor In Chief, InformationWeek.com, Michael Brandenburg, Technical Editor, TechTarget, Inc, and Craig Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group.  The presenters addressed issues such as device management, security, wireless 4G (super fast), the threat and promise of mobile applications….all kinds of issues.

Per the panel, there is a gradual migration away from the ubiquitous Blackberry phone to a multitude of phones, such as the iPhone and Android phones.  Instead of being satisfied with the traditional “my way or the highway” approaches of wireless operations, employees want what they want.  If the company won’t buy it, no small number of them will bring it in themselves.  They bring in their own phones, or they want the company to buy them what they want.  They want to put fun apps on their phones, such as the ubiquitous Angry Birds, which I talked about it on a previous blog entry.

From my perspective, mobile devices are becoming a person’s “everything”, a thing for work communication, personal communication, work pastimes and fun pastimes, including games, videos and music. It makes sense that fun would be included, when what you use for work blends into the rest of your life.  And people are more resistant to have the company’s wireless department tell them what to do.  I recognize the significant issues with managing a wireless network, but I thought there was an interesting subtext among some of the presenters and the audience, on wanting it like the old days, when people did what IT told them to do.  One member of the audience asked, rather plaintively, if he could convince people at his company to use the new Microsoft OS smartphone, rather than an iPhone, as it has a touch screen, like the iPhone.  The argument is that Microsoft OS devices provide more tools for wireless management.  The panel was not optimistic that he could do this.

As always, the expo area was gorgeous.  The booths were colorful, eye catching, futuristic.  When people want to sell you expensive products in tech land, this sort of thing happens.  I enjoyed walking around.

The Expo floor, Internet New York 2010. Futuristic. October 2010.

I’ll conclude with saying that I scored the best swag!  At the ScriptLogic booth (http://www.scriptlogic.com/) I got a token for a tee shirt, a monkey, and I won a drawing for an American Express Gift Card!

A monkey and a gift card, shown with my plants from California. November 2010.

Playing games on my Android phone

I used to be the sort of person who played games on my PC – big games, games in beautiful or mysterious settings.  I’ve played MMO games – massively multiplayer online games.  I’m a fan of Guild Wars, I’m waiting for Guild Wars 2, and I have a lifetime subscription to Lord of the Rings Online.   I have accounts with Second Life and Free Realms.  Note to self – I am going to get an Xbox 360, and a Nintendo WII.

In February 2010 I got my Motorola Droid smartphone, Android operating system. The screen is small, but it’s beautiful.  When I hold it close it fills much of my field of vision.  And it’s so darn convenient, and it’s right there, and the games are, mostly, designed to be played in little blocks of time – though you might end up playing them for a long time!  Something about a game being really accessible makes you want to play.

I’ve tried many games.  Here are my favorites.  The screenshots of my Motorola Droid are taken with my digital camera, as there currently is no easy to use a screenshot app for an Android phone.

Simple physics games.

Physics games are games where objects have physical properties and behave like they would in the “real world”.  The games usually involve dealing with gravity and manipulating an object that has mass.

What could be simpler than a game where you throw a balled up piece of paper in the trash?   If you get it right, the thing goes into the trash can with a rewarding clunk.  The challenge is throwing the ball in the trash basket when a fan is blowing at varying speeds.  The game is Paper Toss by Back Flip Studios, http://www.backflipstudios.com.

One of the settings of Paper Toss perfectly exemplifies the noisy ennui of waiting for your plane at the airport, the ambient noise, the announcements over the intercom, and the sounds of the annoyed passengers you hit when the ball goes off the screen.

Paper Toss, at the airport, October 2010

Toss It is a similar game, Boolba Labs, http://www.boolbalabs.com. This game has beautiful levels, including a funny one where you toss your iPhone into a trash basket!

Toss It, ready to toss the paper ball, October 2010

Toss It, iPhone setting, October 2010

Tile Puzzles

Kittens Puzzle, Playgamesite, http://www.playgamesite.com/ .  An adorable jigsaw puzzle game where you switch tiles around to make a picture of a kitten.  You can save the pictures to your SD card.  There are many levels.   The game is relaxing, and the kittens are adorable.

Kittens Puzzle, a puzzle, October 2010

Kittens Puzzle, a puzzle solved, October 2010

Games that tell a story

Kongregate has a site where you can play free Flash games – http://www.kongregate.com.  Some games are optimized for mobile devices.  The Butterfly Fantasy series, developed by Garbuz Games (http://www.garbuzgames.com) is a “click the differences” game.  You are presented with two nearly identical screens and you click on what is different on each screen.  After you find the differences, the next screen is presented.  Each successive screen unfolds the story.

The story progresses via pictures, no dialogue but a soundtrack.  It looks like a graphic novel. This is very moving story, nicely done, with fantasy elements and a beautiful look.  I loved this series.  Parts 1 and 2 of the trilogy are available for mobile devices and PC and Mac. Part 3 is not available for mobile devices, only PC or Mac.

The tag line for the first game is “What can happen when the last hope disappears and it seems there is no way out.”  What could be more evocative?

Butterfly Fantasy, it begins, October 2010

Butterfly Fantasy, wonderful scene, October 2010

Butterfly Fantasy 2, scary stalkers, October 2010

Angry Bird, Rovio, http://www.rovio.com/

The back-story is that some mean pigs stole eggs from birds.  The birds are very, very angry and they seek revenge.

You use your finger to launch the birds against the pigs’ strongholds.  This is a physics game – you have to figure out how to control the birds’ trajectory.

It’s hard to explain how addicting this game is.  The cartoon graphics are engaging.  The angry birds are very funny in looks and sounds.  The pigs are funnily “piggy”.   There are many levels.  Some levels are easier than others, but with practice you always get it.   This is one of the great games of all times.

Angry Birds. Those birds sure are angry! October 2010

Angry Birds. A pig in a piggie fort! October 2010

Pocket Legends, a big game on a little phone

Spacetime Studios, http://www.spacetimestudios.com/

Pocket Legends is an MMORPG, a massively multiplayer RPG, role playing game, very similar to games played on the PC.  You take on the role of a bear warrior, a cat enchantress, or a bird archer.  You join with other people to battle monsters and acquire money or objects that you can use, such as weapons or clothing.

There are towns where you can meet with other players and receive your quests.  There areas where you and around four other players go on quests.

Pocket Legends will automatically group you with people. You can also start a quest and have people join you (they always do), or pick a group and join them.  Quests are short.  You can get something done in about fifteen minutes.

It’s possible to chat with other people in the game, but it’s awkward.  You don’t have a keyboard and you have to move your player on the screen and shoot weapons or cast spells or heal other players (auto attack works well).   I really like this game.

Pocket Legends. Intro screen. November 2010

Pocket Legends. My character. November 2010

Pocket Legends. In town. November 2010

Pocket Legends. I get a reward. November 2010

Pocket Legends - my group defeated an enemy. November 2010

I’ll keep you updated on new games I enjoy, as I find them.