Archive for the ‘News’ Category

windows 8 apps for marketing

Jan 25

Windows 8 Apps All Marketers Should Have

Windows 8 is gaining momentum at a rate that is making competitors sit up and take notice. The new operating system from the software giant isn’t only great for the PC or the laptop, it’s designed to work wonders on tablets and smartphones as well. And with smartphone computing comes a whole range of apps you can now download onto your Windows phone, and use them on your Windows PC as well.

If you work in marketing, you want to get up to speed with the new Windows 8 OS and maximize the benefits of easier, faster, more organized computing. But what apps are out there? Here are 5 of the top apps for marketing proffesionals who just love to play with their Windows 8.

1. Skydrive – Storing files have come so far from the ancient floppy disk. An important trend to keep an eye on, and employ, is the use of cloud storage. Skydrive is Windows’ answer to Apple’s iCloud and Ubuntu’s “Ubuntu One” cloud. Skydrive lets users store and sync data online so that you can access that data on a different device in any location. And unlike both the iCloud and Ubuntu cloud which allow 5GB of free storage space, the Skydrive app for Windows 8 offers 7GB of storage. And that’s storage that you can access anytime, virtually anywhere you want.

2. Toolbox – Multitasking is the norm not only in marketing, as people are genetically wired to do many things at the same time. And Toolbox is just the perfect Windows 8 app to help you achieve this. What Toolbox does is to subdivide your screen into two, three, and even six sections so you can see your apps all at once. Switching between tabs, which would sometimes lead to accidental tab/window closing, will soon be a thing of the past with the Toolbox app around.

3. News Bento – With the top news networks and broadsheets providing you with news online with websites and apps, keeping yourself up-to-date with the latest news seems like it won’t get any easier. But with the News Bento app, it just did. It displays news headlines and pictures from different sources as multiple boxes on your screen that you can click to view in full without having to switch to a browser app.

4. One Note MX – How do you put down ideas? Do you like writing or typing them up? Or did you say goodbye to your pen and snap shots of what your boss/professor wrote instead? Maybe you record the discussion on your phone. Maybe you like to draw your own pictures. But what if you do a mix of them at the same time? The One Note MX app for Windows 8 is the best tool out there to compile all your writings, pictures, sound, and doodles so you can easily access and organize them. Keep different notebooks for different topics. You can even write your own to-do list and tick them once they’re done! It’s got more than the flexibility of writing on an actual notebook, without having to waste paper because you wanted to share a funny picture you drew of your boss.

5. Wikipedia – Some say that the main reason why people log on to search engines is to get to a Wikipedia page. Now, the ever-so-reliable online encyclopedia has its own app on the Windows 8! If you’re bored of the usual Wikipedia homepage with just the picture of a globe and a search box, entering the app version gives a whole new experience, with featured pictures at the front. And the articles you get are more phone-friendly, so there isn’t a problem with having to zoom and drag around a webpage.

“Everything at Once” is the name of the Lenka song that became the big Windows 8 catchphrase. With apps like those featured above that make planning and execution easier, faster, and more interesting, can we still disagree?

Large Format Printing

Jan 21

Designing Artwork for Banner Stands & Large Format Printing

Large format printing is essential for creating banner stands and other large marketing banners that make a real impact. However, designing the artwork for large format printing is often a challenge for designers, especially those who do not have much experience in this area. So what should you know about designing for large format printing and bannerstands before you have a go yourself?

Use Vector Images

Most readers of this blog are already involved in vector design, and this experience will be a huge advantage if you attempt to design artwork for large format printing. Using vector images allows you to work with smaller size files that will not slow down your computer, and they also scale up easily. There is no point attempting to design a huge banner to scale, so instead work at a smaller size to make things easier.

 

Font Issues

Fonts can become a big issue when you are designing artwork for large format printing. You must ensure that the words can be read from far away without becoming illegible. For this reason you should avoid using fonts that are hard to read, and make sure when you are designing the artwork that the text does not get lost in the design but stands out.

You may find that your letters are affected by kerning, which is where the letters look closer together when viewed from a distance, and this can affect the legibility. You may therefore need to add some extra spacing between the letters before sending the work to the printer.

 

Less is More

The aim of artwork for banner stands is to get a message across as quickly as possible. No matter where the banner is appearing, assume that you only have a few seconds to capture the attention of passers by. You need to make the message clear and simple to understand, and this typically involves using as few words as possible, and making sure that the image captures attention without interfering with the message.

 

Are Contact Details Necessary?

When you have the final say in the design, try to avoid squeezing in unnecessary information. For example, you may not need to insert contact details in your design because people may be able to get these from the company in the form of a brochure or business card at a trade show. However, in other forms of large-format printing, including the contact details may be more important so you have to make a call here.

 

Before You Send It to the Printers…

Large format printing is expensive, so you want to ensure that you get everything right before you send off your design. One trick is to step a few metres back from your monitor to see how the design looks from further away. It is easy to get so involved in the finer details that you forget to check how well the message comes across from a distance.

You could also print out a few sections of the design at the larger size, especially the font, in order to see what the final version will look like. Simply print off a few pages in your own printer and then stick them to the wall at the end of the room to see if there are any noticeable issues.

It’s also a good idea to print out a small version before you print out the final version. This won’t show you exactly how the final version will look, but you may be able to pick up a few errors and any issues with misalignment.

 

Experiment with Large Format Printing

If you do not have much experience in large-format printing then keep the above tips in mind. Designing for large format printing is a very different skill and takes some getting used to, but it is all a matter of practice. It may take a while to perfect your skills, but get the design right and the result will be a stunning banner that captures attention and generates interest.

Jan 17

The Nintendo 3DS – The Best Gaming Invention in whole World?

The Nintendo 3DS may be the next big section of gaming. There isn’t any doubt from video games analysts and writers that Nintendo’s future portable console will make record sales. But hasn’t Nintendo’s creative designers been releasing a brand new DS every eleven months? If so what’s the big deal with the 3DS?

The Past Inventions

It seems correct that Nintendo have been releasing frequent upgrades to their portable games machines on an almost yearly basis. Over the years we have seen the initial DS, DSI as well as DSI XL. Not one of these had been really considered important upgrades, even by the Nintendo them. The actual DS LITE had been merely a smooth version of the early, with no additional capabilities. The DSI came with minor upgrades such as the addition of two cameras, however, nothing overly amazing. The DSI XL seemed to be a bigger version of the actual DSI.

The Nintendo 3DS however, this is a different story.

It may look similar to some DS LITE initially, but it is really an entirely brand new system. Let’s begin with the most thrilling feature; a three dimensional screen which does not require glasses. This is actually the first time full of market product originates with such an element. With 3D Televisions which do need glasses costing thousands, it seemed not likely that the person with average skills would experience without-glasses 3D permanently number of many years. Nintendo shocked the entire world when they introduced their next transportable games console would come with this technology.

That is really just the beginning. When the Nintendo DS was launched six years before, avid gamers were disappointed using the quality of images. Even at release it appeared out dated. Thankfully a mixture novel control functions, unique games as well as marketing made this into the majority of successful games system of all amount of time in the UK. Nevertheless the dated images niggled at gamers getting used for HD gaming on the TVs. The 3DS solves this problem with truly amazing visuals which appear almost as great as their house games consoles.

Features in 3DS given by company

The actual dual screens of their predecessor and touch interaction continues to be. Now however, the very best screen has a broad aspect ratio with contemporary films and Television. On top of this the resolution continues to be massively increased therefore the picture looks a lot sharper, akin in order to HD televisions.

Manufacturers invented the analog controller so it appears odd that these were last to consist it on within their portable consoles. Fortunately they have right now in the type of a slide mat which doesn’t stand out in the method a standard analog stick would. What this means is you will be able to near the console upward without the stay getting in the way in which.

While previous iterations of sell Nintendo 3ds made small improvements, none of these was major update. The 3DS may be the first to perform entirely new video games (although it can enjoy the old types too). The additional power of the actual console means a lot more detailed, or bigger games are feasible. It also provides developers freedom to create exciting new video games which weren’t feasible before. On surface of that experiencing three dimensional gaming without the requirement to wear glasses truly adds extra sell Nintendo 3ds games you’re actively playing.

Commercial Post

Jan 10

Successful Mobile Apps of 2012

According to statistics from PC World, Business Week and figures from Apple’s website, Google and Apple have added over 500,000 apps to their online stores in 2012. With an exponential increase of mobile apps every month, it can be very difficult to navigate the charts and determine what apps have been successful this year. To make it easier, here are a few apps that lead their categories in 2012:

Productivity/Business/Utilities – Clear by Realmac Software

Clear is a simple to-do list app. What makes this particular to-do list app stand out from the rest is its beautiful design and easy to use interface. Clear wants to keep things simple: add a task, swipe it off the list (literally), and organize thoughts in files. Clear also connects to the cloud so backing up and storing a list is simple.

Why is it so successful? – It might seem odd that a paid to-do list app is outshining the free competition, but Clear is strides ahead of the others. The key to Clear’s success lies in the app’s simple, yet stylish UI. Creating an app with a nearly self-explanatory design pulls in more users.

Social Networking/Photography – Instagram by Facebook and Burbn, Inc.

The introduction of Instagram changed the way mobile users take photos and share them. The app allows the user to take a photo, apply effects and filters, and upload it for others to see. As is the case with other social media outlets, users can follow other people and comment on their pictures. Facebook recently purchased the app for a stunning $1 billion, which makes it one of the fastest and biggest payouts in tech startup history according to research by Pingdom.

Why is it so successful? – Before Facebook’s big purchasing move, Instagram had gained a large following. According to the New York Times, creator Kevin Systrom released a test version to influential bloggers who used it to post pictures on their sites and Twitter accounts. The trial releases created a demand, leading to huge success at the app’s launch.

Games – Angry Birds by Rovio

Angry Birds has been a clear leader in mobile gaming since its launch in December of 2009. The game now has 5 versions available on almost every mobile platform available. In addition to winning awards for Best Mobile App for Consumers from Mobile Excellence Awards and Global Mobile Awards, Angry Birds also spawned a collection of toys, books, board games, and even theme parks.

Why is it so successful? – Angry Birds proves that a game doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated to develop to be a success. The game hit the mobile market early, giving it a leg up on the competition. The continued success can be attributed to the constant flow of series updates Rovio gives its new and veteran fans. The most recent update, Angry Birds: Star Wars, was released on November 6.

What’s to be learned from the most successful apps of 2012? It doesn’t have to be complicated to beat out the competition. Mike Krieger, Instagram co-founder, attributes his app’s success to keeping things “as simple as possible.” The most successful apps in 2012 were modest ideas that applied frequent updates, offered a simple-thrills UI, and integrated social media options to promote community engagement.

Do you have an idea for a mobile app? Let Zco give you a hand. Send us an email or request a call from one of our experts to get started.

Aug 31

Achievements – a blessing or a curse?

There was a time when the fun of the game was simply playing it. This quickly evolved to beating it, and many hours were spent on consoles and many nickels were spent on arcade machine as players attempted to complete their favourite coin up classics. Home gaming then exploded, and games demanded higher price tags and in return gamers demanded more bang for their buck. Games got bigger and bigger until nowadays we have downloadable content and games which are updated regularly adding achievements, levels, game types and more. But are these achievements good for gamers or have they changed how we play games? In short, it’s both. The retro gamer in me doesn’t like to be manipulated and classic games such as Mario and Double Dragon had a clear goal: rescue the damsel in distress. Although nice and simple, this is now a relic of the past and current gamers might only see it in low budget indie titles. Nowadays you rescue the damsel, save the universe, repopulate a small town and explore the inner crevices of a sprawling city. Games have grown to include multiple narratives working in tandem whilst keeping the gamer rewarded for getting further into that narrative. I am concerned, however that on my post apocalyptic town building game ‘no more zombies’ I have just destroyed a perfectly good house. This house was not in disrepair, nor was it hit by a stray missile or stomped on by my huge mech. I simply destroyed the house and built another in its place to get the ‘knock down a wall achievement’ which was totally pointless in the gaming world but has earned me additional gamer points for my friends to see. Achievements can be a great motivator in a game developers will need to watch how they use this new power as completing a game or finding a secret area is one thing. Doing something totally pointless just so you can get 15 points on your gamer score is something totally different. Similarly I have friends who have played or rented poor games just because their achievements were easy to obtain. Achievements are also breaking through into the real world with apps like ‘Epic Win’ which rewards real world tasks with in game points. This notion of rewarding people in the digital world for real world achievements is set to increase dramatically over the next few years as companies start to grasp the idea digital currency actually having real world value. If you take for example the amount of world of Warcraft characters for sale on eBay or the person who paid $300,000 dollars for a private island in an online game you can see how the line between worlds is blurring. The zombies game is now offering me hundreds or zombie dollars if I sign up to Netflix. It won’t be long before my Xbox gives me the ‘shopaholic’ achievement for spending over 100 dollars on digital products in a day. But it’s not all bad though as I have heard that energy companies might take on the idea of digital achievement and rewards for reducing energy consumption in your home. The future looks to have a gaming layer which will have the power to shape ours and our children’s behaviour. What are your thoughts on achievements? Blessing or Curse?

Aug 23

Party Games

Gaming is definitely a main stream leisure activity now. I couldn’t believe it when I was invited to a fancy dress party with a ‘gaming’ theme. It’s not that I don’t get invited to parties… I am a geek but I am definitely a social geek.

The party was a huge success and everyone liked mine and my wife’s fancy dress costumes. We went as the king and queen of retro gaming, I donned the Super Mario costume and my good lady, after much convincing wore the Princess Peach costume. Thankfully my wife was not kidnapped whilst we were there like her digital counterpart so often is.

After 10pm it all got a bit blurry to be honest and some of the costumes I didn’t really get (some people were board games etc) but i’m not sure if this was due to alcohol or the fact that I get so little sleep nowadays due to having a baby who is a night owl.

Anyway, it was good to get out and get all dressed up…

 

game team collaboration software

Aug 06

Game Development Team Collaboration

Indie game design and development requires you to have a range of skills which include, design, development, level composition, music/SFX creation, project management and if you are planning to make money, basic accounting. Most will have a special skill such as design or development and then just ‘get by’ with the other skills. If you are serious about creating games then you are more than likely going to need a team. We have already covered assembling an indie game team in a previous article so in this article we are looking at some collaboration software to get your team talking and working together.

The type of collaboration software you use is dependent on budget, level of detail and size and shape of team. For instance, if you are happy being a two man team of a designer and developer, then something simple such as ‘Cage App’ would be a natural option. Cage App is great for adding images online, adding comments to them, and seeing the different revisions all in one place. The project owner can have multiple projects in one account and allow certain users to see and comment on them. When an image is correct there is a handy button to mark it as approved. This ‘free’ and simple application means you can work with a designer and keep a clear log of what is happening.

For a slightly larger team I would recommend Groopt.  Another free project management application that adds many more features such as calendars, file storage, contact information and various social sharing features. This app is ideal for small teams that want a central place to plan, add milestones and deadlines, upload files, and create to do lists. The design borrows heavily from the social networks and is sometimes a little slow to load but having all that functionality for free is fantastic.

Basecamp is a much more serious project management application and can be tested for free if you only have one project running. Additional projects will mean you have to upgrade your account. Basecamp allows administrators to add to-do-lists, assign team members, add time-frames and upload files. Although it doesn’t do any more than Groopt it seems to have more support and can be accessed on mobile phones and integrate with various other 3rd party time saving apps.

For something a little lighter then you should have a look at Wunderkit. The interface is easy to use and although it doesn’t do much; what is does do, it does well. In short, you can create a project, invite team members, assign to do items and write notes. Each project can be viewable by the team alone or opened up as a development log for all to see. The video on the homepage takes you through the social features of the product and I expect this to build in popularity and functionality.

Also on the market but untested by myself is Action Method from the Behance team which has associated apps on iphone and ipad. and Things by Cultured Code which organised and breaks down your to-do lists.

So if you are in or planning to create an game team, it is useful to have a central place to keep plans, jobs, files and comments and collaboration software does just that. Disorganization can lead to broken friendships, lengthy development time and substandard games so make sure that your first to do is to get your project management software in place and strongly encourage the team to use it. In the beginning it will seem like a waste of time and energy but in the middle of the build you will be thankful that it’s all in one place.

Jul 30

Game Graphics on a Diet

The casual gaming market is huge and having the ability to have your game downloaded in those dull moments such as on trains or waiting for your girlfriend in a changing room is great, but by not being inside that 20mb download limit you lose a whole slice of your potential market.

Some games, like Myst are massive and weigh in at over 500mb which requires you to be on wi-fi in order to download it, which is fine for the big players. However, a lot of indie developers have much smaller games and the 20mb download limit can be a real problem when trying to expose  games to the largest audience.

Many games find that image size can be a huge drain on space and if you are using game engines such as Gamesalad, Corona or Stencyl then you can find that using png’s all the time means it doesn’t take long to fill out your 20mb allowance.

As part of the game making process you should always try and optimize your game in order to make it as fast as possible whilst being as small as possible.  Below I have highlighted a couple of ways to reduce your images down in size and in some cases save over 50% of the file size whilst retaining the same quality as it was when it went in.

Online Game Graphic Compressors:

TinyPNG: TinyPNG uses clever lossy compression techniques to shrink the file size of the PNG files. By selectively decreasing the amount of colors in the image, fewer bytes are required to store the information. The effect is almost invisible but it makes a huge difference in file size. The site allows 20 images at a time you can download the altered images to any location http://tinypng.org/

JPEG Mini: JPEGmini is a photo recompression technology, which dramatically reduces the file size of photographs without affecting their quality. The software works in the area of baseline JPEG, resulting in images that are fully compatible with any browser, photo software or device that support the standard JPEG format. http://www.jpegmini.com

Smush.it Smush.it is another popular image optimization site that allows users to instantly shrink the image size while preserving quality and pixels. Currently you can ‘smush’ five images at the same time, and you can also install a cool Fire-Fox plugin called Y-Slow to help you optimize images from the comfort of your browser.

Mac App Graphic Compressors:

If you prefer you image compressors on your computer then I have listed a couple of contenders which are both FREE, which is nice.

JPEG Mini App: Exactly as above but on your desktop. The free version allows you to do 20 images a day so try and remember that if you are using JPEGs in your games (usually better for photos) then optimise as you go. http://www.jpegmini.com

ImageOptim: This app is really simple to use and it does JPEG, PNG and GIF which is really useful. If you are just trying to save 10% on everything then this is the app for you as its fast (drag and drop) and replaces the images. The only ‘but’ is that it doesn’t reduce the file sizes as much as the above. http://imageoptim.com/

I hope these help shrink the size of your games and if you have any other tips and tricks I would love to hear them

Jul 17

Graphic-Buffet.com is ONE year old

Graphic-Buffet.com is ONE year old… and what a cutie it is. Over the past year we have seen the product range of game graphics grow to over 70+ products and gather a few loyal customers. What began as an experiment to see if I could still supply graphics whilst need deep in diapers (as I was just about to have a daughter) has now grown up to be a full online store with a huge selection of game art.

To celebrate this momentous occasion we are bumping up our product range to 100 products meaning we are 25 brand new game graphics. We are also sending out a special coupon code to all our newsletter subscribers as well as give all our ‘members’ access to a new ‘member areas which above all has access to all of our freebies over the past year.

We are also adding ‘spritesheets’ to all new products for use in additional engines such as Stencyl and Corona

If you have any feedback on how to improve our service please let us know as we want to be the best game graphic supplier on the net.

Jun 27

Graphic User: Game of the Month

Each month I will be looking at a game that uses the game graphics available on www.graphic-buffet.com and showing it to the world.

This month we are looking at Frozen Finder which is a simple word game which utilizes the Ice GUI pack

iTunes Description:

Frozen Finder is a rich, challenging word game! With a fresh, intriguing theme, you will enjoy hours of fun with this great game. Find as many words and rack up as many points as you can within the 2 minute time limit. You will never receive the same puzzle twice; each round is generated at random. With Game Center enabled, you will be able to compete on the Leaderboards with different code-crackers all over the world! Use power-up potions to add time to the constantly ticking clock!

Will you achieve the title of the ultimate Frozen Finder?

[box color=”#666666″ icon=”” ]

Frozen Finder Highlights:

Randomly generated puzzles each round, never get the same puzzle twice! Crisp retina graphics! Fun sound effects! Game Center keeps track of your high score! In-game high scores are saved at the end of each challenging round! Potions add extra time to the clock! [/box]  App Store Link

So if you like word jumbles then why not give this one a go… the graphics are excellent 🙂