Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cloned to Death: Developers Release all 570 Emails That Discussed the Development of 'Threes!'

<Best Dealsp> 2048 [ Free] has been storming up the charts on the App Store since its release and it seems like everybody's talking about the game. It's particularly disheartening when you know that Threes [$1.99] was released a couple of weeks prior to that. In both games you slide tiles on a board until either you win (for 2048 ) or you lose (for Threes). Even though 1024, another clone of Threes, was released first, it was that gained a huge following. There's been no shortage of drama around it since the original creator of 2048 mentioned on Hacker News that he hadn't even heard about Threes before making his game. As things evolved, his website has been updated and now states that it is "conceptually similar to Threes by Asher Vollmer".

Sirvo has been fairly quiet about it up until now. Today they've released a huge article on the development of Threes featuring the 570 emails that the team sent to each other during that process. They explain how the concept was done quite fast but how they struggled with the mechanics, and much, much more. From a monster that was eating the tiles to the now popular "doubling" gameplay that was added 7 months after they started making it, you'll be able to have an in-depth look at how they made Threes and at how difficult it is to make a game that feels so simple. I really recommend that you do read it, because it's fascinating.

In any case, 2048 (and 1024 before it) perfectly illustrate how quickly clones can take over the App Store. Or, as the Threes developers put it, "We do believe imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but ideally the imitation happens after we've had time to descend slowly from the peak -- not the moment we plant the flag."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

GDC 2014: Hands-on with Tiger Style's 'Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon'

<Best Dealsp>With such hits as Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor and Waking Mars, Tiger Style are easily one of my favorite iOS developers. That's why it was such a big deal this past October when they revealed a new project through a cryptic teaser site that alluded to something called Blackbird Estate. About a month later, it was then revealed that their new project was actually a sequel to Spider, and Blackbird Estate would be the new location that you'd be exploring as an eight legged creature. Today we got to sit down and get a nice, long demo of Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon, and it looks fantastic.

If you were a fan of the original Spider, then I think Rite of the Shrouded Moon will be right up your alley. It's familiar enough to the original that it feels like an extension of the world they created, but comes with quite a few new features and secrets to discover, which is something that made the first Spider so special. Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon will be done "when it's done" but it sounds like we'll be playing it sometime before the end of the year. I can't wait.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Robinson Cano and the lineup protection myth

There's an increasing amount of chatter that says the Mariners have to "protect" robinson cano mariners Cano in the lineup or his offense will be wasted. Don't fall for it.

Superstars have a tendency to be followed by narratives. Often they write their own with spectacular performances, but other times people start to make them up to help rationalize. Many wrestle with the idea of a star player being as good as advertised, and find ways to highlight flaws to be contrary by nature. These flaws are often overstated, and take on a life of their own. That's certainly been the case with Robinson Cano, who has been bombarded with claims of being lazy through his years in New York. He's stayed remarkably healthy, but that doesn't matter because it doesn't fit. Nobody wants to hear something rational, the numbers already do that. Dispelling a narrative doesn't exactly grab the same kind of headlines that creating one does.

There's been an increasing amount of buzz that the Mariners haven't done enough to protect Robinson Cano in the lineup, and that nobody will pitch to him unless they surround him with better hitters. Part of this is based in traditional baseball beliefs, articles remembered or passed down during times of a player's struggles. It's the kind of narrative that's used to explain great production or excuse poor ones, but usually the latter. Baseball has constantly masqueraded as more of a team sport than it actually is, and the idea of lineup protection is one that enforces that exaggerated belief. Fans constantly remove responsibility from individuals and shift blame to others, a struggle to view a group of players wearing the same hat as individuals.

This blame game is typically seen with the arrow pointing straight up -- to the hitting coach, to the manager, to the general manager, to the ownership. The Mariner organization has witnessed this process run its course time and time again.

The season has yet to begin, and fans are already shoving that arrow straight up in the air. The Mariners haven't had a legit superstar position player in so long that maybe fans have forgotten how to sit back and appreciate greatness. The excuses and worries have already begun. Unfortunately, the narrative that Robinson Cano is lazy has even more legs than the idea that he won't produce unless the Mariners surround him with better hitters. And the first narrative is terrible, so what does that make the second?

The Mariners didn't have a particularly great offense last year. You can reasonably prove the Yankees offense was even worse. Though they managed to score a handful more runs, it was certainly aided by their hitter's paradise of a ballpark. Despite that advantage, the Yankees only scored 26 more runs than the Mariners. Strip away the park, and examine their park-adjusted wRC+ -- only the White Sox and Marlins had a lower ones.

The Yankee offense was unquestionably miserable last year. They were destroyed by injuries and old, ineffective hitters. Cano hit 3rd most of last year (42 games hitting 2nd), and produced a 142 wRC+, the third highest total of his career. He was undeniably the same superstar hitter that he was when the Yankee offense was stacked from top to bottom.

From 2010-2012, when the Yankees had one of, if not the best offense in the majors, Robinson Cano was an outstanding hitter. In 2013, when the Yankees had one of the game's worst offenses, he was equally outstanding. This came when Cano was bookended by hitters like Travis Hafner, Mark Reynolds, and Ichiro. Hitters that used to be good. In order to believe that Cano was protected by these hitters, you have to presume that pitchers pitch to reputation and not ability. You have to believe that pitchers are stupid. They're not. Pitchers knew that Ichiro wasn't the threat he once was, and that Pronk and Mark Reynolds were easily exploitable, or that it generally wasn't 2008 anymore.

Examine the 2013 Yankee offense.

Stats via

Can you guess the spots where Cano hit the most? Does that look like "lineup protection" to you?

Even if you do believe that reputation goes a long way in the mythical protection of Cano, then you should think Corey Hart will provide plenty of it. Kyle Seager is an upgrade on most that hit around Cano last year, and Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison probably will be as well. They won't be the 2010-2012 Yankee offense, but Cano did just fine without that support.

This isn't meant to be a commentary on the idea of lineup protection as a whole, which has been fully rationalized by writers more accomplished than I. It may apply to some hitters and some teams, but it's probably often assigned incorrectly. The biggest change a hitter may see in reduced protection is a drop in RBIs, and that comes from having worse hitters in front of him. Much of the reasoning behind lineup protection is based on traditional stats that are inappropriately associated to individuals. Even if you're into that, Cano's RBIs didn't show any particular drop last year either.

This is simply about Cano, a hitter who has demonstrated he is a star with all levels of talent around him -- including some worse than the current Mariner offense, despite how bad it has been for a number of years. Cano has been lobbying the Mariners to sign fellow Dominican Ervin Santana and Kendrys Morales. The narrative will be that the Mariners need Morales to protect Cano in the lineup, but don't bite. If he sees a decline in production this year, it'll be because of Safeco, his age, or injury. It won't be because of his teammates. He's a stud. Treat him like one, and place blame correctly.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Canucks trade Luongo to Panthers in four-player deal

(Reuters) - The Vancouver Canucks traded goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday in a stunning move one day before the National Hockey League's trade deadline.

Luongo, the subject of trade rumors for nearly two years, and winger Steven Anthony were traded to Florida for goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias, the teams said in separate statements.

"I thought my contract was immovable," Luongo said on TSN radio from Phoenix where the Canucks are scheduled to play the Coyotes later on Tuesday. "I would never have thought I would be traded before the deadline."

A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist as the NHL's top goalie and finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player, Luongo helped Vancouver reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, where they lost to Boston in a decisive seventh game.

But the 34-year-old goalie was unable to maintain his form and has been the subject of trade rumors since losing his starting job to Cory Schneider during the 2012 playoffs.

The Canucks made previous attempts to trade Luongo but his massive 12-year contract worth $64 million that was signed in 2009 proved a major sticking point in making a Promotional Codes.

Schneider was eventually traded to New Jersey in mid-2013 and it was expected Luongo would reclaim the starting job.

He filled the role for most of the current season but Eddie Lack has started in each of Vancouver's three games since last month's Olympic break.

Luongo, who spent five seasons with Florida earlier in his career, was in net for the Canadian team that won the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and was the backup goalie on the national team that triumphed at last month's Sochi Games.

Luongo, who is under contract through the 2021-22 campaign, spent nearly eight NHL seasons with the Canucks and leaves as the team's all-time leader in shutouts, wins and most wins in a single season.

"Roberto is one of the game's elite goaltenders and we are happy to welcome him back to South Florida," Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said in a statement.

"With this acquisition, we have solidified our goaltending depth with a top-tiered netminder for the next several seasons."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Larry Fine in New York; editing by Ken Ferris)

Friday, February 7, 2014



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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Kicks Deal Of The Day: 15 Best Nike Flyknit Kicks On Clearance

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Here's why Amazon Prime's price may go up by $20 or more

During an earnings call Thursday, Coupon said it was looking into bumping up the price of Amazon Prime by 20 or 40 bucks. The Prime service currently charges a flat $79 for a year of all-you-can-ship service on millions of items.

But despite staying at the same price point since its launch in 2005, Prime has been pretty lucrative for Amazon -- in fact, some research shows Prime subscribers spend twice as much on the online shopping site as non-Prime shoppers. So why is Amazon considering raising barriers to joining rather than lowering them? Because one of the psychological factors for why Prime customers spend so much is they want to make sure they get their money's worth from the upfront subscription cost.

"Though expensive for the Company in the short-term, it's a significant benefit and more convenient for customers," said Amazon CEO (and Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos in a press release announcing the service. "With Amazon Prime, there's no minimum purchase to think about, and no consolidating orders -- two-day shipping becomes an everyday experience rather than an occasional indulgence."

And what started as a risky endeavor has been remarkably successful at getting consumers to change their shopping habits. Plus, in the near-decade since it launched, Amazon has added on new perks to attract subscribers, like Amazon Instant Video, and a e-book lending library for its Kindle e-reader line, as well as offered discounted or special versions aimed at students and ( real or fake) moms.

At first glance, it might seem pretty amazing that the service managed to hold steady at the same price for that long while adding new services -- the licensing for content for the e-book and video services aren't free, after all. But Prime is actually a pretty lucrative proposition for Amazon. According to a Bloomberg Business Week story from 2010, the service "broke even in just three months, not the two years the team had originally forecast."

While the company has been notoriously tight-lipped about the total number of subscribers, statements suggest at least 20 million people have signed up for Prime. And those 20 million people spend a lot more money at Amazon than non-subscribers: A report from market research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners found that Prime customers spent an average of $1,340 per year with Amazon versus non-Prime shopper who spent $650 annually.

Statistics like that have led some to suggest Amazon should consider actually cutting the price -- or giving it away for free. So why is Amazon considering raising the price?

During the earnings call, Amazon cited higher fuel and shipping costs. But there's also consumer behavior that will likely keep Prime a premium package. Right now, when they sign up, consumers are betting that the the savings they reap in shipping costs and possibly subbing Amazon Instant for Netflix or Hulu will outweigh the cost of subscribing. In that calculus, even a $40 dollar bump to Prime subscription fees, which would be a 50 percent price increase, might not seem unreasonable to current subscribers when you consider that Netflix alone will run you $96 per year.

And, as suggested by the spending habits of Prime versus non-Prime shoppers, subscribers may feel compelled to use Amazon for as many of their day to day or online purchases as possible to make sure they're getting the most out of their investment: Why leave your house when you can get something delivered to your door? And why shop anywhere else when you can get it delivered fast, for free, from Amazon? It's this conditioning that makes Prime so effective.

And if the company is confident it can convince consumers $120 per year is still a good deal for Prime, it's hardly surprising that Amazon is considering changing the price. After all, given the at least 20 million subscribers, a $40 increase could also translate into $800,000,000 in revenue for Amazon.

Disclosure: Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is the owner of the Washington Post.