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买还是不买 iPhone XS

前两天犹豫买不买 iPhone XS,毕竟 6s 已经三年了,最近电池似乎也不太行,总觉得到寿命了。但另一方面 iOS 12 又让他焕发了第二春,仿佛还能再战一年。

关于买还是不买的问题,我觉得有这么几件事挺值得关注的。

关于成像质量

读过的所有评测都对 iPhone XS 的成像效果赞不绝口。

John Gruber 在激动得充满脏话的评测里是这么写的:

Overall, I’m simply blown away by the iPhone XS’s results. Sometimes the difference is subtle but noticeable; sometimes the difference is between unusable and pretty good. The iPhone XS can capture still images and video that the iPhone X cannot […]

如果你没看过样张,iPhone X 拍出来的iPhone XS 拍出来的完全是两个世界,更不用说 6s 和 XS 的比较了。

还有一个评测来自 Austin Mann

Far and away the most significant camera update in the iPhone XS is its new Smart HDR capabilities. Powered by the A12 Bionic chip, in the picture above the iPhone XS is able to capture the dark shadows of the rock while maintaining strong detail in the sunlit clouds.

I’ve never worked with a camera that can balance light like this—not even close.

没有延迟的四帧实时 Smart HDR,基本上让摄影师后期处理很久的效果直接实时呈现在你的眼前。这种方便和快捷应该就是 Phil Schiller 所说 “Computational Photography” 最大的优势吧。

最后是来自钟文泽的视频评测,显然这个 Smart HDR 可以用在前、后摄像头的视频和照片功能上。所以你得到的不是一个简单的拍照效果提升,而是软件带来的整体镜头效果的升级。

关于价格

有 6s 的我心动了一秒,不过最近还是先找个工作再说吧。256GB + Apple Care + 12% 税 = $2,100 CAD。

其实想想,iPhone XS 虽然卖这么贵,现在反而是一部能用更久的手机。6s 已经服役三年了,也有不少人的 5s 能用五年。2100 块买一个用五年的 iPhone XS(当然要 256GB)比当时 1300 块钱买一个用三年的机器(iPhone 6s 64GB),似乎也不是那么亏。

先不买了。万一明年三月出一个新的 4.0 寸手机呢——我可喜欢小手机了。

30 刀的蓝牙耳机

在回加拿大前后俩月里克死了我的铁三角有线耳机和 BeatsX 蓝牙耳机。Beats 过了保修期两个月,Amazon 中国售价 880 元的耳机维修需要 612 元,我现在还记得当时对大望路苹果店 Genius 那个拒绝的笑容。

所以要买新的蓝牙耳机。心想既然售价 $179 的 BeatsX 都用不了一年,Amazon 的那些 $32.99 的潮流爆款是不是也值得一试呢?于是很快就收到了寄来的 Anker SoundBuds

不得不说,依赖于日益强大的中国制造,Anker 这支爆款蓝牙耳机确实很棒,做工没什么毛病,左右两个耳机磁力吸附带来的 “啪嗒” 一声莫名舒爽。当然这种价位的耳机往往不要对音质抱有太大的希望,作为一个非 audiophile 我也能听出来 Anker 这款耳机的低音有点太重了,只有出街或者跑步的时候戴着很舒服。由于没有 BeatsX 的芯片和技术,控制播放等操作的延迟比较明显,但是并不存在视频播放时的声画延迟问题。

我觉得最值得提的一点是它的蓝牙配对功能。由于支持蓝牙 4.2 标准,这款耳机在完成第一次配对之后无需在同一款设备里重新进到蓝牙菜单中取消匹配+重新配对,和用 BeatsX 的使用流程没啥区别—— iPhone 或 Apple Watch 上从底部呼出 Control Centre 就能控制 AirPlay 的目标了,非常好用。(垃圾苹果当时还宣传 BeatsX 配对方便,其实这是蓝牙 4.2 标准的自带功能。BeatsX 唯一的好处就是在别的设备上省掉你初次匹配的麻烦。)

如果你的耳机坏了,推荐试一下这个东西。出街还是挺棒的。

DOTA 为什么怎么都看不顺眼

这两天对 TI 8 冷嘲热讽的厉害,想说说为啥觉得 DOTA 2 一直看不上眼。

首先的问题是,DOTA 这样的 MOBA1 游戏,内生的游戏机制本身就是一个不对玩家和观众友好的设计。这分为两部分:

其一,游戏本身的获胜方式是摧毁对方的核心。为了达到这一目的,通常要歼灭对方的玩家,或是摧毁防御工事等等缩小敌方的生存空间。一场游戏持续时间五十分钟到一个半小时,这是毫无理由的——前期所有人都在无聊地对线,甚至任何击杀都不能为游戏带来任何实质性的进展,因为游戏早期玩家复活时间太短了。

而 MOBA 游戏糟糕的地方正是复活时间的设计。后期玩家输掉游戏往往是因为英雄被击杀后需要整整一分钟的时间才能复活,仿佛赢得一场游戏并非是一方的技术和策略占优,而是对方被惩罚太过深重。

其二,作为一个体育赛事,游戏每时每刻发生的事情要能清楚地反映到对输赢的具体影响上,DOTA 这一点非常糟糕。举个例子,当玩家前中期打完一场团战时,如果没有拆掉一座防御塔或者兵营,观众没有任何具体的办法可以知道这对游戏胜负产生了怎样的影响。传统体育比赛中会有计分、计时,或是竞技者并排能够看出领先落后;DOTA 则缺乏这样明显的比赛进程参照,让观众看得热闹却只能对输赢面有自己私下的、模糊的判断。

在电子竞技里,好的比赛进程参照物不是没有。Overwatch 可以依靠运载目标的推进距离、占领目标点的百分比或是防守方的剩余时间来参照。HotS 则有地图机制作为参照,能够让玩家和观众清楚知道每次占领地图机制带来了什么收益,而全队统一的经验条也是一个优势劣势最直接的参照。

在这两点设计问题之外,还有 DOTA 这一款游戏自带的问题。DOTA 本身脱骨与 Warcraft 3 的游戏引擎,当时的设计有很多限制,也有不少内容是受了当初 War 3 游戏本身内置的技能设计启发。通常而言,“A 和 B 效果不能叠加” 就是一个 War 3 引擎的限制;“拉野”2 和 “封野”3 分别都是 War 3 内置的机制和最初脚本编写时的疏忽。

可惜的是,DOTA 2 的出现并没有让这些 War 3 引擎限制带来的问题消失,而是骄傲地拥抱这些问题,结果现在的 DOTA 游戏就是一个充满不少莫名其妙所谓 “细节操作” 的游戏。

所以这些就是设计的问题。我们再说说 “人” 的问题

先说三观。

我对 DOTA 2 的开发商 Valve 一直有一个处事莫名的印象。设计之初历史遗留的 bug 抛开不提,游戏本身也难免存在一些程序上的 bug。Valve 不仅没有积极对 bug 进行修复、名言规定不允许在电子竞技中利用 bug,反而是助桀为虐,把 bug 当作一个玩家社群认同感的标志。

最有代表性的事情就是这个来自 @dota2 的官方视频:

视频里的 “泉水钩” 就是利用 bug 将敌方英雄从地图远端钩回己方基地。在顶级赛事的最终决赛使用这样的 “技巧” 赢得游戏胜利并被载入史册,这真的是 Valve 无能的体现。

要知道游戏存在 bug 很正常。但是有 bug 被利用是一回事,在专业比赛中没有禁止使用或是提出警告是另一回事,而官方一脸骄傲做了 CG 短片大张旗鼓地宣传这个 bug 就更是另一层面的问题了。

传统体育比赛中类似的事情是怎么处理的呢?看看当初国际泳协禁用鲨鱼皮泳衣这件事就知道了——禁止使用之前的结果还是被承认,但是官方会在之后想办法解决问题,也从来不会大张旗鼓地把这个当作社区文化大肆宣传。

这就是我对于 DOTA 背后开发商三观的彻底不认同。

再说审美和文化塑造。

DOTA 2 脱离 War 3,最大的挑战其实就是对于美工视觉的重构。毫不夸张地说,重构美工达到及格水平花费了 Valve 三年的时间,又花了额外两年才做到良好——毕竟和暴雪比视觉是必输的。DOTA 2 是 2013 年发行,War 3 则来自 2002 年。这十一年的差距确实能从更细腻的画面中窥见,但 DOTA 2 却牺牲了视觉上的可用性。

  1. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena 

  2. 即打一下野怪,将野怪拉到兵线上。一方面可以减轻打野的压力,另一方面在敌方看不到的地方消化己方的小兵,可以减少对方获得的经验 

  3. 即在敌方野怪出生地插一个隐形的守卫,可以阻止对方野怪刷新,妨碍对方的潜在收益 

最好的筷子

我觉得面试中国产品经理的一个好问题是:你觉得什么样的筷子才是一双好筷子?

之所以觉得这个问题好,是因为:

  1. 筷子每个人都用,天天都用,没有认知上的盲区。这个问题基本公平,也不会让人完全抓不着头脑

  2. 是哪些属性定义了筷子的好坏、什么因素影响了这些属性,而对方又对这些因素有怎样的判断——回答问题时,这些问题很能侧面看出回答者思路是否清晰

  3. 好坏有多重标准,每个人角度不同,可以方便展示各人审美品位

我的答案

一双好筷子必须好用、能够胜任该有的工作,同时在外观上体现使用者或拥有者的品位。

“好用” 的筷子需要适用中餐菜式所需要的挑、拨、戳、夹。那么好用的筷子需要以下这些物理特性:

  • 头尖。头不尖的筷子没法精确夹取精细的食物,尺寸小的食物根本不能碰到食材根部。粗头的筷子也没法在需要戳入食物时方便操作。中餐筷子头尖会更容易使用,也是细节的一部分体现。

  • 表面适当粗糙。太光滑的筷子夹不起油滑的食物——用力小、摩擦力也小,食物夹不起;为了产生足够摩擦力而加大夹取的力度,则容易用力不稳让食物脱飞或被钳断。像是宫保鸡丁的花生米,本身坚硬光滑,配上芡汁的粘度,光滑的筷子根本无所适从。沾了麻酱的粉鱼本身油滑却又不能用大力夹取,若是筷子摩擦力不足,每次只能改用勺子了。

  • 前后配重合理。筷子本身是杠杆结构,手指接近筷尖,力臂太短,做出同样动作需要手指移动更长的距离;手指接近筷尾,力臂太长,不易于精细的操作。配重合理的筷子可以让手在适当的位置进行操作,在夹取食物、重量结构改变时也能让使用者从容应对。

  • 柱面有棱角。筷托并非中国南北家居的必备物品,筷子柱面形状不均匀,能够让筷子置于碗面、盘缘或桌面时不轻易滚动。

“好用” 之外,一双好筷子还必须 “好看”。显然,一双材质得当、头尾粗细变化适当、表面样式高级的筷子已经是满足 “好用” 标准的了。

材质上,各人可以根据自己家餐厅的家装风格进行选择。个人认为,一双木质、表面经过打磨的深色或素色筷子更能体现出主人的品味。由于筷身形态简单,太过奢华的装饰往往不是优秀审美情趣的体现,颇有画蛇添足之感。尤其是筷子尾端使用金属装饰,很容破坏筷子配重,显得主人肤浅而不懂一双好筷子的真正评判标准。此外,筷身往往以一体成型为佳,否则难以体现匠艺,也有工具的廉价感。

Uncertainty in Games

I’ve recently finished Uncertainty in Games, a short but excellent book by Greg Costikyan. Towards the end of the book, Costikyan presented one idea I found particularly insightful (emphasis mine):

Typically, when designers think about tuning gameplay, they think about tuning the difficulty of existing systems […]

What designers rarely do is introduce a new and different form of uncertainty, because this is not an immediately obvious way to handle the problem. And yet, doing this can be quite powerful and lead to highly original work […]

Combining different sources of uncertainty, or injecting a novel source of uncertainty into an otherwise well-understood genre, can create highly original games and should be one of the tools in any intelligent designer’s toolbox.

Of course there are examples. Triple Town would’ve been a dull match-three without the randomness of bears; Portal would’ve been another puzzle game if it didn’t let players jump to places in the information-deprived first-person perspective…

In short, games are games because they contain uncertainty. A healthy and clever mix of different kinds of uncertainty, each tuned to the right amount, makes a great game.

The 11 Kinds of Uncertainty

In the book, Costikyan summarised there are 11 kinds of uncertainty:

  1. Performative uncertainty: whether the player can jump at the right time, land at the correct position, or dodge deadly missiles.

  2. Solver’s uncertainty: whether the player can solve a puzzle.

  3. Player unpredictability: when other players may affect your decision making.

  4. Randomness: essentially dice rolling; luck.

  5. Analytic complexity: the difficulty for a player to make optimal decisions.

  6. Hidden information. Think of war fog in Starcraft, or the shadowed areas in Civilization. This essentially drives player to explore what’s unknown.

  7. Narrative anticipation, such as a twist in story plot.

  8. Development anticipation: players can do more things as they level or progress; game developers provide more content over time.

  9. Schedule uncertainty: players return to the game and may be surprised at what they may have gained during their absence.

  10. Uncertainty of perception: whether the player can make of what they see or hear, and obtain useful information.

  11. Semiotic uncertainty. Games may design against norms to create surprises. For example, when you jump off a cliff you may get a secret weapon instead of dying.

Score Cards for Mobile & Desktop Games

Game Title 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Total
Severed X     X     X X   X   5
Factorio X   X X X X   X   X   7
Cosmic Express   X     X             2
Cuphead X X   X       X       4
Splasher X             X       2
Overwatch X   X   X X       X   5
Downwell X X   X               3
Alto’s Odyssey X     X       X   X   4
Triple Town   X   X       X X     4
Traveling Frog1       X X X X X X     6

Of all the games I love, only Splasher and Cosmic Express scored two.2 Great games are designed to be an organic combination of 4, 5, or even more kinds of uncertainty. They are designed to be full of surprises. After all, they are games.

Uncertainty in Crypto Games

Now, we’ve all seen the crypto games out there. Crypto Kitties is the first famous crypto game and it took off with the concept of digital collectibles. There is some randomness in the genome of a kitty you breed, and you cannot be sure how the market (other players) will price your kitties. As the game development progresses, different kitty traits are added or unlocked, and there’s always a sense of being unfinished with the game… Crypto Kitties may have made their name by being the first serious crypto game, but they are certainly still among the best in terms of playability.

Ether Goo, a crypto idle game made by one-man shop, is also a good example of incorporating uncertainty. You never know when you will be able to afford with the goo you’ve accrued during your absence. Without diving into the source code, you cannot figure out how the “attacking” and “stealing” actually works in Ether Goo so there’s a lot of experimenting. Then there’s cliché player unpredictability, because it’s a multiplayer game after all.

Many other games, however, are terrible examples of games. Crypto Countries, Crypto Celebs, and all those whats-its-name hot potato games have one thing in common: delicate uncertainty design was never part of the game mechanism. Yes, Kitties and Goo are both, in a sense, hot potato games; the values of the collectibles rely entirely on how other players price them. But the games themselves are fun to look at, since there’s always new stuff to experience; they provide value beyond a prospect of winning more money than you spend.

Let’s look at how they stack on the score card:

Game Title 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Total
Crypto Kitties     X X X     X       4
Ether Goo     X         X X     3
Ether Online       X       X       2
Crypto Countries     X                 1
Generic Hot Potato     X                 1

Note that the “Generic Hot Potato” is probably 20-50 crypto games out there, using some plagiarsed code.

The problem with those games is, they are only designed to be crypto apps. You can design a crypto version of roulette, but you would end up with an app that serves predictably; you do not arrive at a game.

My Two Cents

Taking a step back, I think the benefit of using blockchain concept as a promotional leverage is (thankfully) fading fast. It will be more serious business as more money flows in, and as the audience matures over time.

When designing crypto games, I think it’s important to remember we are designing games. Games are something delightful, something of surprise. Blockchain is a new technology that enables us to do things we couldn’t have done before. It doesn’t mean we have to do all of them.

  1. Also known as 旅かえる 

  2. Splasher won my heart because of its flawless execution; Cosmic Express (as well as its spiritual predecessor A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build) is a delight with mathematical beauty.