Monday, January 28, 2013

Temple Run 2 Review

Temple Run 2
The sequel to the 2011-12 hit Temple Run has finally arrived on Android. Created by Imangi studios the Temple Run series is one of the most popular mobile games available today, second only to Angry Birds.
Like Angry Birds the Temple Run series is free to play and download. For the low cost of a few clicks you too can start your adventure. If you are looking for a great way to burn a few minutes between classes, interviews, or buses get this game.

As you start Temple Run 2 you are greeted by the now familiar Idol that you, as Guy Dangerous will swipe to start the game and enrage the monkeys.

An endless running game, the point of Temple Run 2 is to avoid obstacles, like rivers, spike wheels, narrow ridge-ways, and feral monkeys while acquiring Coins and Gems  in an attempt to escape the Temple with the Idol.

While the original was fun, the graphics and interface were clearly dated. The player felt like they were running on a flat board with turns being either left or right, yes the character could jump but even that felt flat.

Temple Run 2 is anything but flat, as reviewers at trusted reviews noted, "The most noticeable upgrade in Temple Run 2 is the vastly improved graphics. Vibrant colors and much more detailed environments add to the appeal of the lost city in the sky setting. 

The world is lush and has depth of field and play. As you start the game, every run in fact starts this way, your character leaps onto a zip-line and swings into play demonstrating that this is more than just a re-skin, ala Brave
After jumping over rivers, dodging past bricks on the ground, and sliding under low bridges you find yourself in a mining cart careening into a cavern. As you tilt your device to the left or the right the cart banks to avoid caved in tunnels and to avoid falling down the tracks that are broken away.

A further improvement was on the objective system of the first Temple Run which offered achievements to the player for doing certain tasks, like running for 500m without acquiring coins or running 500m without tripping on any obstacles. 
In the sequel fulfilling those objectives actually affects game play by leveling your character, which enables new special abilities. This adds another, RPGesque, layer to the game beyond just obstacle avoidance. Furthermore, as you level you receive additional bonuses like extra coins or extra gems.  

While the different characters, like in the original, play no differently, unlocking them does unlock other special abilities that can be given to any of the characters. Fortunately players can still customize their character to their play style. 

In the original game there existed boosts within the game, in the sequel those boosts still exist, but players also have the choice of applying one of those boosts to their character and every time they fill up their coin meter they can use that boost. I was personally partial to the speed boost, every time I collected a few hundred coins I was able to boost ahead 150m avoiding all obstacles. This simple change makes the game more fun and the increased customization options help to differentiate each play type.

There are two types of currency in Temple Run 2, coins and gems, and both can be acquired by playing the game or can be purchased via in game microtransactions. 
Coins are used to unlock and enhance abilities for your character, to power up for use those  special abilities while playing, and to unlock extra characters.Gems can be used to augment game play by “supersizing” powerups or by extending gameplay when one fails to avoid an obstacle. Gems do not appear nearly as frequently as coins but at least 1-3 appear in a short run, and many more in a long run.

Where many games developers fail, is by using this model to try and suck money out of their consumers. Imagini instead of creating a grindfest or a pay to play system that favors those who spend tens to hundreds of dollars, instead favored a “tax” on immediate gratification. John Thompson at Android police said it well, "What's great about this model is that if you don't want to spend any money, you don't have to; you can do everything within the game without spending a dime - it will just take you longer to progress as you play your way through."

If you want to unlock all the abilities and all of the characters and never have to worry about falling over a ledge and starting over, you can, for a price. If you want to enjoy the challenge of the game and are willing to sink a limited amount of time into the game you can unlock every aspect of the game. In just an hour of play I amassed a few dozen gems and enough coins to unlock a character and a few special abilities.
CNET reviewers do rightfully point out, that "In-app purchases allow for unlimited "continues," skewing the leader-boards to those who are willing to spend the money." Though for me I don't mind, since I don't competitively play. The money has to come from somewhere, if you really have to be "first" at a mobile game be prepared to finance your championship run. 

Don't forget to watch out for angry monkeys.

Prices at a glance
5,000 Coins - .99 cents
400,000 Coins - $19.99
5 gems - .99 cents
500 gems - $19.99
Temple Run 2 - Available in the Play store and on Itunes - Freemium

What is Freemium - Freemium is a business model where developers give the game away for free but lock away certain aspects of the game unless the player pays for them, either via in-game currency or via real money transactions. How this model is deployed can make or break a game. Restrict too much of the game and risk your game labeled pay to play. Charge too little, or restrict too little and risk not making any money on your hard work.

What are microtransactions - Microtransactions are simply small transactions, generally completed in game, that exchange real money, generally .99 to 19.99, for in game advantages, currency, or to unlock gameplay elements.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Infants and Expecting Moms on Campus

Think for a moment about expecting mothers, college students, and professors. What images come to mind? When one thinks of a community college student one generally conjures an image of a youngish person with few responsibilities in the world beyond making it to class on time, maybe working a part time job, and not forgetting to turn in assignments.
Similarly when one thinks of a college professor, generally the image of a wizened man, most probably with a beard,  comes to mind. If one were to go back a decade or two these two images would more or less perfectly describe the people found on college campuses.
The image of an expecting mother, however, is not likely to be associated with being a student or a professor, and yet it is increasingly common for expectant mothers to either be employed or in school when they conceive.
Today the average age of a community college student is, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, 28 years old, the median age is 23 and 57% of students are women. Meaning the majority of college students are women between the ages of 23 and 28.
On it’s face this seems a random fact, but 23-28 is an especially important age range for the average American woman, because the average age of first conception is 25.4 years almost smack in the middle of the range.

Given that nearly 50% of community college students have either been pregnant or helped in the process and that of that population some 60% drop out as a result speaks to the challenges faced by expecting mothers who are also students.
This means that community colleges have to be more than just a place for students to learn, increasingly community colleges will need to be a place for families to thrive. When a woman has to choose between her education or her career and her desire to start a family  society as a whole loses out. The challenges faced my expectant mothers will require of colleges institutions for helping to support them as they begin or finish their academic careers.

While LBCC does offer childcare for children, they do not, at present, offer childcare for infants and babies. This leaves expecting mothers with little option beyond relying on family members for support or hiring a stranger to watch their children while they are at work and school. 
There are several women who are taking on this challenge right here at LBCC Marci Bailey-Moling a professor in the Chemistry department Justeen Eliott a writer and editor here at The Commuter, and Laura Penny to name just a few.
Marci, who has been a professor here at LB for the last 7 years, will be having a baby boy in February of this term. Far from being nervous or stressed, Marci exuded enthusiasm and optimism about having a baby and maintaining her professional life. While she counted her blessings she also felt that other expectant mothers have to believe in themselves and know that they can do anything they set their minds to.

For her the biggest challenge that she has faced has been time management and planning. There are so many little things that have to be done in preparation for a new baby, not least of which was in making sure that she would have the time off she needed to spend with her newborn. 

While other women in a different circumstance might be limited to only 12 weeks, Marci’s time management practices, foresight, and accumulated sick leave will enable her to spend the entire spring with her newborn. When she does return to work in the fall her husband, as is becoming more common, will be staying at home to take care of the child while he works on his law degree.

For many female college students becoming an expecting mother means dropping out of school, at least for a time, but this is not true of all students. One such champion is Justeen Eliott, who had her first child just three-and-a-half months ago and never stopped attending classes.

During the first week of the trimester, and afraid she might be dropped if she didn't attend class,  Justeen went into labor on the evening of Sept. 26, a Tuesday night, had her baby six hours later, early Wednesday morning, and was back in class by Thursday morning and all without painkillers.  

Her determination is an inspiration to all women who wonder if they will have to sacrifice family life for work/school life. She spoke of how being in online classes, versus in person classes, really helped her in remaining in school.

In the intervening months Justeen has relied on her mother to help her with child care. Grandma watches her son while Justeen is  in class and her husband, Kent, is at work. She really stressed the need for expecting mothers to have family to rely on and a stable relationship with their partner before they embark on motherhood, “I wouldn't have been able to make it without Kent, I do not know how single parents make it.”

Laura , a straight pre-nursing student, with a five month old son, says that the hardest part of college life with a child is getting all her homework done. She said that, "Online classes help out a lot" because of their flexibility.

When asked about what she needs from LBCC she said, "I would like them to have a designated area for breast-feeding moms". A completely fair request given that there are already designated areas for smokers. Why not have them for mothers of infants, its a far worthier cause.

These women demonstrate that it is possible to start a family without giving up on your career and academic goals. It takes hard work and determination on your part and it requires academic institutions to offer services to their students to facilitate their success.

At A Glance

One such service is already offered here at LBCC, free-headstart for the children of parents registered at LBCC or at OSU from 7:45 A.M to 3:05 P.M.They have one class for three year olds, two for four to five year olds, and one class for infants and toddlers. 
Eight families make use of this program receive more than just childcare, staff at the center offer health and nutrition training for parents as well as training in developmental programs like tantrum management and bed time procedures.
LBCC Head Start Program Head Start Sites in Linn and Benton Counties
Maternal Child Health Programs in Linn County