Archive for the ‘Computer’ Category

Google Chrome – inspiring advertising

May 9, 2010

The Google Chrome advertisement at the Westfield Shopping Centre

If you have been in the UK in the last 6 months, you must have noticed at least once an advertisement about Chrome, Google‘s newest browser for surfing the web. Google announced its own browser and released the beta version for Windows in 2008. It was only recently that it completed the MacOS X and Linux versions, making it a unique browser that can run in the most popular operating systems. Therefore, the time was ripe to follow the release with an extensive media advertising campaign.

Attempting to enter this specific section of the market is not an easy task. Until recently, the public did not have many choices on internet browsers, and with the demise of Netscape, Microsoft‘s Internet Explorer dominated the market. Today, even though Internet Explorer has a large proportion of the market, Firefox, a new internet browser from the Mozilla foundation, has gained widespread acceptance and has begun crunching Microsoft’s domination. Apple also released its Safari browser for Windows, and Google then followed suit with Google Chrome and the intention to build it for all the popular computer platforms. To gain a large percentage of the market, the advertising campaign for Google Chrome needed to focus on to the simple user and explain how their surfing-the-net experience can be better and user-friendly. To this end, Google’s campaign has been immensely successful, because of:

Being everywhere. In the past 6 months, everywhere you looked, you could spot a Google Chrome advertisement. They were in tube stations, in posters, in train carriages, on the press, in London buses and also on the cover pages of most free-press magazines (and sometimes suited to the audience of the particular magazine). They even made special custom-made ads, like the ones I witnessed at the Westfield Shopping Centre. In one of the entrances of the shopping centre, there were special projections on Westfield’s wall, featuring Christmas -related themes and advertising Google Chrome.

Another Google Chrome advertisement at the Westfield Shopping Centre

Being simple. Launching a new computer software for surfing the web usually involves complex statements about HTML, CSSS, mpegs, Flash etc. But those words were never included in the Chrome’s advertisement copy, which, written in a relaxed playful font, included simple statements about what the normally doing when surfing the web.

Being unconventional. You would expect to find people fiddling with their computers in a normal advertisement about computer browsers, right? This is what happened with the Chrome feature’s advertisements, but in an unconventional way. As you can see from the video, Google chose to demonstrated the advanced features of Google Chrome not in a digital way, but in a mechanical old fashioned way. Under the slow and relaxing sounds of a harp, Google described the features of Google Chrome by building mechanical contraptions and offering some behind-the-scenes insights of how these worked to deliver the image in front of the camera. The viewer can’t just wait to see what they will come up with next.

Simply inspiring, isn’t it?

Lambda.

Peggle

July 26, 2009

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You realise there is something seriously different with Peggle from the start of the game. Instead of the realistic graphics you would normally find in shoot-em-up games, you encounter carefully designed comic-like characters. And instead of ear-piercing noise, you are welcomed to the soothing sound of Edvard Grieg’sPeer Gynt Morning”, while the sun is rising.

Peggle was inspired by a very famous Japanese slot machine game called Pachinko. Like Patchinko, where you try to control the flow of balls that continuously fall from the top of the machine, in Peggle you are armed with a cannon at the top middle of your screen and you control the firing of a ball. The ball bounces obstacles and pegs at each level until it gets to the bottom, where is it either saved by the ball catcher, which moves back and forth in typical arcanoid fashion, or is lost. The pegs touched by the ball are lit, and when the shot is completed, or when the ball gets stuck, those pegs disappear. The object of the game is to eliminate the 25 orange pegs, which are randomly dispersed in the blue pegs at the start of each level. As you progress though the levels you will need to use strategy to remove blue pegs to target the orange ones, while paying attention to your remaining balls. There are some special pegs to help you: a purple peg awards you bonus points and a green peg activates the “magic power”.

One of the Peggle levels. In this snapshot, the ball has just been lost and all the lit pegs disappear from the level

One of the Peggle levels. In this snapshot, the ball has just been lost and all the lit pegs disappear from the level

Each of those special magic powers is named after an animal or plant character and gives special characteristics to your ball for a limited number of ball attempts. Bjorn, an avidly named unicorn, shows which way your ball will bounce after your initial firing. Kat Tut attaches a pyramid at the ball catcher at the bottom of the level, making it more difficult to lose a ball and helping you target bottom placed pegs. The imaginative french named Claude, a crab, attaches crab like flippers at the lower sides of the level and transform Peggle into a pinball experience. Tula, a smiling anthropomorphic daisy, will automatically light up the 20% remaining orange pegs for you, whereas Splork, an alien-like creature will similarly light up all nearby pegs with super advanced alien technology. Jimmy Lightning, a playful beaver, will clone your ball, whereas Warren will give you a choice of magic powers. Lord Cinderbottom, a phantasy inspired dragon, will transform your cannon into a destructive fireball, that will vaporize all pegs encountered in its path. Renfield, a Halloween pumpkin, will make your ball spookingly appear once at the top of the level exactly where it dropped to the bottom. Finally, the master of all the magic powers, Master Hu, a wise owl, will attempt to give the maximum zen to your ball and guide it to light up most orange pegs or to collect a high score.

Compared to other computer games, what Peggle lacks in complexity, it makes up with its creative, playful character. When you have completed a set of levels, you get awarded the certificate of the Peggle Master and unlock an exciting collection of new, and – sometimes almost impossible – levels. To successfully complete those you may for example need to eliminate all the pegs in the level, achieve a special high score, beat the computer as an opponent in dual gaming or complete several challenges one after the other. But the most exhilarating experience of playing the game is when you are about to hit the final orange peg to finish the level. When the ball approaches the peg, the area is magnified and tension builds up. If you are successful and hit your final peg, sparkles erupt from your ball and “Ode for Joy” accompanies you to the celebrations of finishing the level till your special bonus is counted.

Lambda.

P.S.: Peggle is made by Pop Cap games and is available for PC, Mac, iPhone, Nintendo DS and X-Box.

(all pictures are screenshots of the game © Pop Cap)

Poetic Spam

June 26, 2009

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In many ways, the spam messages I have receiving by the dozens every day do not differ from the avalanche of advertising messages I encounter during my everyday life. A visit at the supermarket, a brief ride in the tube, a leisure stroll at the Southbank and I am constantly bombarded with messages. Everything is perfect in the advertising world. Families exist in harmony: the dad is a successful business entrepreneur, the mother is able to balance her busy career and family life, the kids are constantly smiling and the house appears tidy and spotless. This exuberant picture is completed by the latest offering of a detergent  able to wash better,  the latest version of toilet paper or other unimportant product.

In contrast, spam mail messages do not paint a world in harmony, but a world in disarray, unless you seek solace in the product advertised. You are not complete without a prestigious degree from a famous university, the latest fake designer bag or luxury watch and you may not keep a proper relationship unless you sport a bigger size … and we are not talking about perfume bottles here. While in advertising, there are a number of tricks – colourful and sensual images, clever catchphrases and sometimes sound and motion – the only communication vehicle of the spam message is the subject line. The way it is written can make the difference between reading the message or dismissing the content without reading it.

Writing the perfect and the most appropriate subject line for the spam messages might in many ways resemble the creative process that is being followed in the big agencies to advertise chocolates and crisps. You will need, after all, to discover inventive ways to catch the attention of your victim without betraying the existence of the spam. Sometimes the subject lines fools you that this message is somethings you are expecting, sometimes it avoids common words detected by spam filters by changing letters for numbers. But most of the times, the subject line strikes a chord with something more intimate: the feeling of guilt.

The company I work for recently moved offices. While setting the new computer systems, they delayed activation of spam filters for the company’s email system, and as a result, we were inundated with spam messages everyday for at least a month. While most of my colleagues dismissed them at once, the subject lines of those spam messages caught my attention. Here are some of the subject lines of those messages:

Believe us women care about your size down there.
Every inch of your manhood proves that you are a real man.
Empower your darling night adventures.
I CAN is way more important than IQ – so get that little pill.
Now women will bring you coffee to bed in gratitude of the night.
Perform in bed like you are in your twenties again.
Reconstruct your male friend and you will love the changes.
Your immature undeveloped friend is really bugging you?
Your tool is so small she scarcely finds it in bed?

And many variations of the common theme of the above subject lines. However, it got really interesting when I realised that among the usual ones some small gems lay hidden characterised by their rhyming character:

Men will see your power in every public shower.
It easier to slide when you have gigantic pride.
Women will be funk when they see your trunk.
Now you don’t have to be depressed over men who are well-blessed.
Take a big important stride – add some inches to your pride.
You will be mega cool if you get a bigger tool.
Are you sick because the size of your stick?
Women will divulge the beauty of your bulge.
Now you will not detest men who are from nature blessed.
Give her pleasure with every stroke – we assure you it’s no joke.

But while we may delight reading a book or looking at advertisements, why do we easily dismiss the content of the spam messages, even though they use similar vehicles of expression and marketing techniques? Probably because of the brutal evasion of our personal space. Books, magazines and billboards are not parts of our personal space.  Advertisements can, therefore, be seen and disregarded just by turning the page or focusing our attention  somewhere else.  But an spam message appearing on our personal inbox is a vulgar intrusion of our personal space, something unwanted and very difficult to let go by. Immediate action is being called to remove the offending material from our world forever.

And the balance in our little world is momentarily restored – momentarily, before we receive the next spam message.

Lambda.

[pictures © LambdaPhage].

World of Goo

January 18, 2009
Making a tower in one of the levels of the World of Goo Making a tower in one of the levels of the World of Goo

Roughly speaking, there are two types of computer games for me: those that you need to be good at the gamepads and those that you need to be good at strategy. Most of the new computer games belong to the former category, whereas I am mostly intrigued by games in the latter category. Every now and there comes a computer game that does not only entertain me but aims to sharpen my mind.

World of Goo certainly belongs in this category. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to this game recently by my friend. If you expect 3D graphics, killing, kicking or blazing speeds, then you can skip the rest of the post. If you are still here, then you will learn how a simple game with inspiring sounds – Danny Elfman meets Ennio Morricone – and strategically designed levels will win you at first glance.

The object of this 2D platform game is reminiscent of an older, but yet classic game, Lemmings. Like that game, in which you had to collect as many Lemmings as possible, in the World of Goo, you need to collect a specific number of Goo balls at the pipe that represents the exit. To reach the pipe, you have to make intricate Goo structures by connecting some of the balls together. The remaining balls just hover around the structure until it reaches the pipe and sucks them. There is, however one minor detail that makes the big difference: the connections of the structure are not rigid but elastic. This gives a whole new purpose to the physics skills that you acquired – hopefully not in vain – during your high school years and makes you think twice before you make every move. As you progress the levels, you will guide your Goo balls through obstacles like hills, unusual terrains, water, away from nasty shredders and spikes, and you will also be armed with special balls, balloons and other aids.

Level completed!

Level completed!

The game is divided into 5 different chapters, all of which contain different levels. There are 47 different levels in the World of Goo and a special one called “World of Goo Corporation”. This is just a repository of all the extra Goo balls that you have saved while playing all other levels. The aim is to make the tallest Goo structure and to compare it to the ones of all the other players in the world.

2d_boy

World of Goo is the fruit of labour of just two game designers, Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler, that together formed the independent gaming company 2D Boy. And to top it all up? You need not splash a fortune to buy a new game console. For a mere $20 (£ 13.4 last time I checked) you will get both the PC and the Mac version (and the Linux one when is available). Give it a free trial: download the demo, play the entire first chapter and become an instant Goo-fanatic.

 

Lambda.

 

(first two images are screenshots of the game. All images © 2D Boy.)