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My Thoughts on Apple’s September 2017 Announcements

Apple held their "Special Event" yesterday announcing the highly-anticipated (and obviously leaked) newest iPhones as well as the Apple Watch Series 3 and the newest version of the Apple TV.

It's sometimes tough to know where the people in a room stand on Apple products. Some people are vehemently against Apple. Some are devout supporters who think Apple can do no wrong. I could be speaking to a room full of Android zealots. Statistically, I think over half of you are probably Apple users in some fashion.

I'm obviously an Apple user. I've been open about that for years. I like their products. I enjoy the user experience. I like how their products integrate together nicely. I don't like some of the proprietary closed-systems or their choice to make their chargers and interfaces different. I have my issues, but my choice has been Apple for mobile products.

To give you a perspective on my usage, I've owned a couple different iPads (currently iPad Pro 12.9"), an iPhone 4, and an iPhone 6. That's pretty Apple-Lite.

I want to write up my thoughts on Apples announcements and how they appeal to me as user and a gaming industry pundit.

Apple Watch Series 3

Apple Watch Series 3

The Apple watch never appealed to me because it didn't make sense to have to wear a watch that really relied entirely on your phone also being in your pocket. 

Now that the watch is basically a phone, I think it's a much better idea. It still doesn't check the boxes for me as a gamer and efficiency-based user. I use my iPhone to make my life easier, more accessible, and to entertain myself. The Apple Watch doesn't tick enough boxes for me to buy and use another device.

If/When augmented reality takes off and the watch can be used to interface with that experience, I might be onboard.

Apple TV 4k Gaming

Apple TV 4k (HDR)

I think it's time for me to get an Apple TV. I haven't felt the need really until recently, and it actually has nothing to do with the system being 4k or HDR. I don't even have a 4k TV.

I have all the consoles, so I basically have 5 Netflix machines already. So having all those TV shows and movies on-demand isn't a reason either.

Lately I have really wanted to put what's on my iPad onto my TV with the push of a button. I've become quite an iPad fan with my iPad Pro 12.9". 

I'm also sold on the idea of trying out some of these games. There was a game called "Sky" shown that seems like a platformer meets puzzle explorer where you bring light to where it's needed most to save the world in some artsy fartsy way.

I have hopes that maybe the gaming apps on the Apple TV will be even better now that it has an A10x Fusion chip inside.

iPhone 8

iPhone 8 is basically the same model as the 6/6+ and 7/7+. It's just way faster, has a cooler camera, more lighting effects, etc.

If you like that model, and don't want to switch things up too big by going to the newly redesigned iPhone model coming with the X, then you probably won't be disappointed with iPhone 8.

I'm ready for a change. I've had my iPhone 6 Plus since they came out in 2014.

iPhone X

iPhone X

I guess iPhone 9 didn't sound as cool as X, so they skipped ahead from 8 to 10. I have a lot of thoughts, hopes, and ideas for the phone.

Overall Design

I really like the design. I really like the screen taking up most of the face while allowing the phone itself to be smaller. I created a model, measuring out the specs of the screen size and the actual physical size of the phone. It's pretty much the same physical size as the iPhone 6 (regular, not plus) but the screen is slightly bigger than the iPhone 6 Plus. 

Having no home button is AWESOME. Probably the absolute best feature. I've grown so tired of having to manipulate that dang button. Funny how something being so rudimentary and a selling point of the earlier iterations became so cumbersome for me.

The swiping motions to open the phone, change apps, close apps, etc., work for me. I think they'll feel natural and create a better connection between me and my phone. Now I sound like I've been indoctrinated.

Face ID

Face ID is now possible with the A11 Bionic machine-learning chip. ​

Fun Fact: My finger prints don't work on anything. They don't scan at the DMV, at my works biometric fingerprint scanner, or on my iPhone. 

Facial ID is a godsend for me. Being able to just look at my phone and have it unlock is awesome.

This is hopefully the beginning of something really cool for interfacing with augmented reality.

Animoji for iPhone gaming

Animoji

For some reason, I'm happy about the TrueMotion camera tracking muscle movements to create animated emoji. This technology isn't necessarily new. We've been doing it on our Logitech webcams for a decade.

Having it on a phone, however, gets my mind racing with ideas. What if this can be incorporated into games? What if the same tech can be used to enhance online communications while maintaining anonymity? I can imagine a Discord-like service where you can having your avatar represented to your friends while voice/video chatting yet still being able to not have your real face there.

iPhone Wireless Charging

Wireless Charging

iPhone is finally catching up with the rest of the world to allow for wireless charging using Qi technology.

The big question I still having is whether or not wireless charging will work for a phone while in a case. If I have to remove my phone from the case to utilize the wireless charging, then I won't be doing wireless charging.

Apple is, of course, releasing (next year) their own version of a wireless charging mat called AirPower that'll be wide to hold multiple items. Using a neat tech it'll also interface with your devices while they're charging. Lots of neat possibilities there too.

iPhone X & Gaming Potential

Overall, I'm very pleased with the potential of the iPhone X. I think the price is high at $999, but I'll probably pay it anyway since it represents a relatively small payment broken up over 24 months with my carrier.

The gaming potential is pretty high. The processing power of the A11 is like 70% higher than the A10, and the GPU power is 2x greater or something. That's impressive stuff. The more advanced these devices become, the better gaming experiences we'll be able to have at our fingertips. 

Augmented reality is where this entire thing is going. We'll be seeing a lot more AR with facial scanning and bigger multiplayer integrated experiences. 

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Check Out Nexomon

Nexomon Game Icon

There are games that copy other games, and then there are games that are complete ripoffs. Nexomon is the latter. But in this case I'm 100% okay with that!

Nexomon is Pokemon. Down to every last detail, it's Pokemon.​

​I'm only a few hours into the game, but I can already tell it's worth checking out if you like Pokemon at all.

It plays well on the iPhone. Simple press and slide your finger on the screen to bring up a virtual direction pad. Essentially dragging your finger the direction you want to go. Anything you can interact with will have an "A" prompt in the lower right corner.​

Nexomon Battles

Battles are just like Pokemon expect there's a stamina feature. Each ability you use will consume some of your Nexomon's stamina. If you run out of stamina in a fight, you have to wait a turn to recover by "resting" some of your stamina back.

Nexomon Game like Pokemon

Even exploring the world is like Pokemon except for one main difference so far being the wild pokemon wiggle the grass they're in so you know where you'll get jumped. Makes for more intentional farming.

Nexomon Enemy

The main antagonist so far is this Nexomon battle lord guy who, shockingly, things he's all that. He has your mom and dad working hard on some special new device for him. He's also got the Team Rocket equivalent running amok. 

I haven't really figured it out yet if he's going to be the real villain of this story, but he's definitely a jerk.

What Impresses me a lot about the game is the scope. Right now I'm reading reports from beta testers that you can rush the game's completion in 8 hours, but considering where I'm at and what has to remain it's a whole lot more. Most people will get 24+ hours of play out of Nexomon just like a Pokemon game.

The Nexomon themselves are well-thought out too. Some of these copy-cat games end of being super generic and lacking the soul and spirit of the Pokemon. I think Nexomon does a great job matching the appeal. There 300 Nexomon to catch in this version of the game.​

There are areas to explore, gyms to battle, pokemon to catch, etc. Think Pokemon, and that's Nexomon.

​Nexomon is available for iOS on iPhone and iPad. It's only $3.99 for a game that has tons of gameplay. One big warning, though... it's a battery sucker and weighs in at well over a gig of space.

Consider this my preview (as I hope to bring more Nexomon content your way), and an endorsement to at least give it a try if you have an iOS device and a desire to play a Pokemon game "style" game on your phone.

P.S. The devs just announced PvP is on its way.​

Crash Arena Turbo Stars (C.A.T.S.) for iOS/Android

Graev and I LOVED shows like Battlebots and Junkyard wars. There was something about the idea of building something out of parts and doing battle against someone else's construction that we both find so addictive. I think that's why I'm so enthralled by this new iOS/Android game called Crash Arena Turbo Stars (or C.A.T.S. for short). 

Crash Arena Turbo Stars C.A.T.S.

Overview

The game is incredibly simple and straight forward. You collect parts and place them onto various vehicle chassis. You can upgrade parts by combining them together or wagering them on other people's battles. 

Certain chassis have different benefits and will pair better with weapons. Each vehicle, depending on how much it is upgraded, can only hold a certain number of parts based on how much 'power' they cost. This limits you and forces you to make choices of what you want to put on your chassis. 

Once you've built your vehicle, you can pit it against other people's creations either in the quick match or championship modes. Combat is automated, so you'll just watch your bot move forward (or not depending on if you put wheels on it) and hope that your configuration bests the opponent.

The more you win, the more you gain rewards or go up in tiers. The higher your tier as you move up in the championships, the better items you'll be able to use and equip.

​There are obvious strategies which coincide with the types of things I remember from watching the Battlebot shows as a kid. You can put 'flipper' on your vehicle to flip enemies over, or build yourself like a wedge to ram the other vehicle into the wall. Some people are even clever enough to purposefully flip themselves over so you can't move them.

In-App Purchases

CATS is monetized through IAPs which are pretty standard stuff. You get crates the more you win and can hold 4 crates at a time. Crates right now take me 2 hours to unlock. You can open them instantly for gems or wait. ​

Crates can also be purchased with gems. A "Giant Box" is 150 gems. Gems cost $​9.99 for 600 (other amounts for other prices exist). 

Verdict

I'm having lots of fun and spending no money at all. I'm sure as I progress further and further in the championship tiers that spending money will really start to matter. After all, upgrading items so that you maximize your attack power and health for the amount of power you're consuming is everything.

It's well made and easy to pick up. I find myself reconfiguring my ​vehicle constantly to try new things. The excitement of watching my creation battle away is worth the free download.

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WoW Legion Companion App

Remember when I said there should be an app to allow us to manage our Garrisons and described all the features? We never got that app, but thankfully Blizzard go the memo for Legion.

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  • Manage order hall upgrades and research
  • Look through champions and manage their equipment
  • Train new troops
  • Manage (Start and complete) missions right from the app
  • Actively monitor world quests

HECK YES!

This is 100% perfect for me.

I’m that guy who works 10 hours a day and keeps a schedule that’s really inconvenient for micromanaging my missions. In just the short week Legion’s been out, I’ve managed to fall several days behind in my missions because I can’t be at the computer every 8 hours like clockwork.

Now I can be at work and send my guys on missions, start that next research, and keep the flow of troops coming.

This is a huge quality of life improvement, and I’m excited to give it a go when it launches today.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X Continues to Consume Us!

I’m still having a blast in Kingdom Hearts Unchained X. In fact, my wife is too. She picked up the game almost 2 weeks after me, and is now so far past me that I’m not sure I can ever catch up. She says it’s a mixture of the Disney and the gameplay where it’s simple to understand but more strategic at times. Knowing when to use special abilities, swipe, tap, and how to build a good Keyblade are all interesting to her — me too!

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I’m around level 120, and she’s pushing 170. We both have spent a great deal of time trying to maximize what we can get for free by making sure to play each day. Every day has new quests and events to do. For example, Tuesday is red (power) exp and evolve medals. Wednesday is Blue, and Thursday is green. Friday you get the evolve medals needed to go from 1-5 stars (Chesire Cat, Merlin, and Fairy Godmother). Saturday and Sunday are the more powerful evolve medals (Yensid and Sorcerer Mickey). Each day there are also events to get munny, improve your various Keyblades, earn gems, or get special rewards. Suffice it to say, there’s always plenty to do. In fact, I regularly feel overwhelmed.

[su_lightbox type=”image” src=”https://www.keenandgraev.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/KHUX-Synthesis-Chart.jpg” class=”pointer”]KHUX Synthesis Chart[/su_lightbox]There’s a lot of meta game surrounding the accrual, leveling, and slotting of medals. Leveling medals is pretty straight forward. You put Huey, Dewey, and Louie medals into them to get them basic experience. You can also fuse like medals together (for example putting a 3* Mickey into a 3* Mickey) to synthesize that medal to increase its multiplier. Human nature of course leads us to try and find the most efficient way of leveling and synthesizing medals. The chart to the right shows the most efficient way to get to a fully synthesized medal.

Fully synthesized medals lead to a mechanic called Guilt. (Still with me?) Guilt is a trait found on 6* fully synthesized medals that acts like a second multiplier, and comes in multiple tiers based on the rarity of the medal. Rarity is probably the simplest mechanic: Some medals are common (Goofy) and some medals are rare (Mushu). Rare medals will have ridiculous Guilt multipliers, but are so rare that you’re likely to never fully synthesize a 6*. Common medals may not have as good of a Guilt multiplier, but some Guilt is better than no chance of ever having Guilt — that’s how my wife and I look at it.

KHUX Mickey Synthesis

For having spent nothing on the game, we’ve both put in a ton of time and never feel like we can’t play despite there being restrictions on how many missions you can run back to back (action points deplete). The last event was for Zootopia and had lots of neat unlocks to earn, and every night from 7-9pm there was a raid boss event for two hours where we could kill raid bosses together non-stop. That was lots of fun, and we got lots of neat little Zooptopia cosmetic items. The “end game” is the Coliseum, which I’ll talk about once I catch up to my wife who is already conquering it without me.

6 Star Mushu

KHUx has a lot more importance to the story than I initially realized. If you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan, you really don’t have a choice on whether or not to play KHUx — you sorta need to play. There will be references to this stuff in KH3. It’s free, and fun, and definitely worth playing.

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