Archive for the ‘Staying In’ 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.

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The Londonpaper

September 18, 2009

londonpaper image

I came to London 4 years ago. One day, after getting off from work, I was approached by a man that wanted to give me a newspaper. Assuming that I would have to pay for it, I shrugged him off. The same happened the next day and the day after that. Just as I would get off from work and would turn around the corner, the same man would wait to give me the newspaper.

On the fourth day, I noticed many other people taking the guy’s newspaper without having to pay anything. This man was actually handing free newspapers! I decided to give the newspaper a try. After all, how bad could it be?

The newspaper was called The Londonpaper and it was not bad after all. In fact, I later found out that it was a successful daily, free newspaper recording interesting fact around the world but maily the daily beat, buzz, gossip and happenings in London. As far as I could tell, it was written by young, enthusiastic people and was a combination of relaxed attitude and witty language. But above all, it would inform Londoners of what was going on in town.

Londonpaper was certainly not the only weekday newspaper in London. It competed against “London Lite”, which was distributed around the same time in the afternoon and “Metro“, typically found at tube stations in the morning. But Londonpaper easily outclassed its competitors not only for its editorial flair, its variety of regular columns and features but also for its colourful appearance and exemplary editorial design. In fact, it was featured in Zappatera’s superb book “Editorial Design” as an example of a fresh approach to editorial layout.

It was such a surprise that on Thursday, 17th September, I read that the londonpaper had only another day left before closing down. At the time of writing of this post, I had not searched for the reasons for this closure. But I am willing to take a (wild?) guess: the current economic downturn led to a rapid decrease in advertising revenue, rendering the entire project of running and distributing a free newspaper financially unattainable.

From Monday 21 September, no more restaurant reviews, no more relationship talk by Andy in his column “man about town”, no more lovestruck, no more pet of the day, image of the day, no more gay man about town by Joshua and, above all, no more city girl and Em cartoons. Luckily, some of the regular columners have already hinted to us where we will find them next after we exit our offices on Monday and momentarily feel the void of the man not being there to hand us our londonpaper fix of the day.

So, so long Londonpaper. You have been a fantastic getaway from the daily sorrows of work and the perfect way to clear my thoughts after a busy day.You have been the casual read during the tube ride, a careless browse at my couch before the gym and, above all, the perfect guide to all things London.

LambdaPhage.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

July 29, 2009

book_cover
In the past, philosophers were concerned about many facets of human activity and drew inspiration from subjects relating to existence, laws, emotions, love, truth and science. It should, therefore, come as a surprise that many of them ignored work as a subject for thought and criticism. For Alain de Botton, our job is forming a large part of our identity in our modern world. His latest book, “The pleasures and sorrows of work”, published by Penguin, is a testament to the joys and perils of the modern workplace, with an emphasis on jobs that are either taken for granted and are definitely not in the minds of university graduates. Thus, while anyone knows about the typical day in the work of a doctor, positions like a logistic workers have largely been neglected.

In the 10 chapters of the book, the author embarks upon a journey to describe a snapshot in the life of an accountant, a career counsellor, a painter and an aviation expert and the equally peculiar life of a cargo ship spotter, a rocket scientist, a biscuit manufacturer and a budding entrepreneur. Through logistics, we follow the trip of tuna from the Maldives coast, where it is captured and killed, to the dinner plate of a family in the UK, and through tracing a power line, we witness the journey of the transmission of electricity from a power plant in Kent to a substation in East London. The food in our plate or the power to use our appliances results from those activities, the orchestrated work of ten or thousands of people, that know little of each other, but nevertheless commit their time to a common cause.

The book is written with the unmistakable and imaginative style of de Botton, mixing the necessary with the superfluous and using every small detail as a vehicle for explanations of people’s ulterior motives and behaviours. While we have some reservations that the book is more of a voyeuristic description to weird and unusual professions that a philosophical manifesto of how we perceive our working environment, the book is very pleasant and easy to read.

Lambda.

P.S.: “The pleasures and sorrows of Work” costs £11.39 at Amazon or £60 for Monocle’s limited, signed edition. You may also see an interview of the author at one of Monocle’s Video Podcasts.

(book cover © Penguin books)

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)

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.

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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.)