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Posts tagged with "games"

The M2’s Unique Combination of Unified Memory and GPU Performance May Reveal Apple’s Videogame Ambitions

As I mentioned on AppStories, I’m intrigued by what Apple is doing with the Apple silicon GPU and memory and what it could mean for gaming. Although no one has had a chance to put the M2 through its paces yet, AnandTech does an excellent job of putting the facts and figures from Monday’s keynote into perspective, explaining what it means for what will undoubtedly be a multi-tiered M2 chip family like the M1 family.

With the M2’s memory, Apple’s SoC picks up where the M1 Pro, Max, and Ultra left off. Like those higher-tier M1s, the M2 uses LPDDR5-6400 memory that supports 100GB/second of memory bandwidth, which is a 50% increase in bandwidth over the M1. The M2 also supports up to 24GB of unified memory, a 50% increase over the M1 Air.

That memory is paired with a GPU that can be configured with up to 10 cores, two more than the top-tier M1 Air. According to Apple, that 10-core GPU delivers a 35% increase in performance.

However, it’s the combination of more, higher-bandwidth memory and a more powerful GPU that should make a significant difference in the M2 Air’s performance of graphics-intensive tasks like rendering game assets. As AnandTech explains:

Apple’s unconventional use of memory technologies remains one of their key advantages versus their competitors in the laptop space, so a significant increase in memory bandwidth helps Apple to keep that position. Improvements in memory bandwidth further improve every aspect of the SoC, and that especially goes for GPU performance, where memory bandwidth is often a bottlenecking factor, making the addition of LPDDR5 a key enabler for the larger, 10-core GPU. Though in this case, it’s the M2 playing catch-up in a sense: the M1 Pro/Max/Ultra all shipped with LPDDR5 support first, the M2 is actually the final M-series chip/tier to get the newer memory.

We won’t know more until reviewers put the new M2 MacBook Air through their paces, but the M2 Air appears to be a significant step forward compared to the M1 model. As one of Apple’s most popular Macs, that’s important because it sets a performance benchmark that game developers need to target if they want to make a game for the majority of Mac owners.

During the keynote, Apple showed off two games running on the M2: No Man’s Sky, an older but frequently updated game, and Resident Evil Village, a game that arrived on the PC and consoles just last fall. Resident Evil Village especially caught my eye because it’s such a recent release. It’s just one game, but it stands in contrast to others that have been used to demo gaming on the Mac in the past.

It would be a mistake for anyone to pin their Mac gaming hopes on the scant details we have so far. However, the keynote made it clear to me that Apple has gaming ambitions beyond Arcade, and its unique SoC architecture has moved Macs one step closer to that becoming a reality.


You can follow all of our WWDC coverage through our WWDC 2022 hub or subscribe to the dedicated WWDC 2022 RSS feed.


Knotwords: A New Word Game From Zach Gage and Jack Schlesinger

Knotwords is a deceptively simple new game from Zach Gage and Jack Schlessinger that combines elements of multiple word and logic puzzles into a unique, fun experience.

Each puzzle is composed of a set of squares that are divided into sections. Letters in the corner of a section establish which letters can be placed in that section of the puzzle. The goal is to arrange the letters, so they spell words vertically and horizontally throughout the puzzle. If that sounds simple, it is, but like any good game, just because the rules are easy to grasp doesn’t mean the game itself is easy.

As you explore and test solutions in Knotwords, the available letters are highlighted on a keyboard at the bottom of the screen, making it easy to tell which letters remain available to play. Once a row has been filled with letters horizontally or vertically, Knotwords will let you know if your letters are out of place by scratching out the letters in pink.

Like Sudoku, solving words makes each puzzle progressively easier by eliminating the number of possible letters that can be placed in open squares. It’s a dynamic that helps ease the frustration of getting stuck on one part of a puzzle because focusing your efforts elsewhere often leads to a breakthrough in an area where you were having trouble. There’s also a built-in hint system featuring the game’s rabbit mascot, who dispenses hints in the form of definitions of words instead of the answers themselves. Also, on iOS, the game includes an upbeat soundtrack with a jazzy lounge music vibe and generous use of haptic feedback, both of which add to the overall experience.

I’m a big fan of logic puzzles like Knotwords. They’re an excellent way to unwind by concentrating on something that isn’t your work or something else that might be on your mind. Knotwords fits that role perfectly by being easy to learn and play but challenging to solve and unique. The experience is a little like doing a crossword puzzle without the clues. It’s a combination that I love, so I plan to make Knotwords a regular part of my downtime this summer.

In addition to iOS and iPadOS, Knotwords is available on Android, the Mac, and PC. The game is free to download on the App Store and includes a core set of puzzles, but for $4.99/year or a one-time payment of $11.99, you can unlock more puzzlebook puzzles each month, a daily Twist puzzle, additional hints, statistics, and color themes.


Alto’s Adventure: Spirit of the Mountain Released on Apple Arcade

Alto’s Adventure has long been one of my favorite iOS games. Originally released in 2015, the game has been updated over the years with features like zen mode and released on multiple platforms. Today, a remastered version known as Alto’s Adventure: Spirit of the Mountain is available exclusively on Apple Arcade.

New collectible artifacts are scattered throughout Alto's Adventure and unlock a new playable character.

New collectible artifacts are scattered throughout Alto’s Adventure and unlock a new playable character.

If you have played Alto’s Adventure on iOS before, your existing progress can be imported into the remastered version, which features new ways to enjoy the game. The core gameplay mechanics of Alto’s Adventure, which were such a big part of its success, remain unchanged. The new version allows players to unlock a brand new character with unique abilities and tricks by collecting artifacts as you play. Once the new character is unlocked, players can set out to accomplish 20 new goals accompanied by a new soundtrack.

Alto’s Adventure is a game that I enjoy revisiting periodically, so I really didn’t need an excuse to play it again. Still, it’s great to have a chance to replay this classic game with the added perk of a new character and goals to explore.

Alto’s Adventure: Spirit of the Mountain is available on the App Store as part of an Apple Arcade subscription.


Preserve and Play the Original Wordle for Decades with WordleForever

Playing the original Wordle offline with WordleForever.

Playing the original Wordle offline with WordleForever.

Update: It appears that WordleForever is only supported on iOS/iPadOS 15.4 at the moment, which are available as public betas. I was not aware of the fact that older versions of iOS/iPadOS had a bug in the Shortcuts app that prevented WordleForever from working properly. If you want to play with WordleForever now, you’ll have to install iOS/iPadOS 15.4.


Like many others over the past week, when I saw the news that Wordle had been acquired by The New York Times, I immediately felt a mix of two feelings: I was genuinely happy (and still am!) for Wordle creator Josh Wardle, who managed to turn a simple web game into a successful venture; and I was concerned The New York Times would inevitably ruin the beauty and simplicity of the original game. And I still am.

So in the spirit of game preservation (a topic I care deeply about) and out of skepticism regarding the future of Wordle as a NYT product, I teamed up with Finn Voorhees to create WordleForever, a shortcut that lets you back up the entire Wordle game offline – on your device – using Apple’s Shortcuts app so you can keep playing the game for the next few decades. With WordleForever, you can put the original Wordle on your iPhone or iPad Home Screen and play the original game (with the same words as everyone else) for years to come.

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MacStories Starter Pack: Frame Nintendo Switch Screenshots with SwitchFrame

Breath of the Wild, framed with SwitchFrame in Shortcuts.

Breath of the Wild, framed with SwitchFrame in Shortcuts.

Editor’s Note: Frame Nintendo Switch Screenshots with SwitchFrame is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Following the release of version 11.0 of the Nintendo Switch firmware in December 2020, I released ShortSwitch, a shortcut that simplified the process of importing screenshots and videos from a Nintendo Switch console on the same Wi-Fi network as your iPhone or iPad. ShortSwitch continues to be one of my favorite utilities I’ve built in the Shortcuts app, and it’s become my default way of transferring media from the Switch to my iPhone before tweeting it. With ShortSwitch, you don’t need to scan the second QR code displayed on the console, and you can quickly preview or save multiple files at once. It still works reliably, and you can download it here.

That said, I’ve always wondered if I could improve another aspect of screenshots captured on the Nintendo Switch: framing them with a physical device template of a Switch console, just like I can frame iPhone, iPad, and Mac screenshots with Apple Frames. So a few months ago, Silvia and I got to work. After finding a Switch template we liked, Silvia modified it, and I was able to put together SwitchFrame – a shortcut that frames Switch screenshots with a classic Nintendo Switch console featuring red and blue Joy Cons.

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WordleBot 1.1, Now Fully Accessible with Native Emoji-to-Image Conversion

WordleBot 1.1.

WordleBot 1.1.

Following the release of my WordleBot shortcut last week, I’ve received a lot of useful and informative feedback from users in the accessibility community regarding the shortcut’s ability to annotate Wordle results with descriptions. Although well-intentioned, my original approach was misguided: even with line-based scores, the grid of emoji characters still performed horribly with screen-reading technologies such as Apple’s VoiceOver. WordleBot didn’t do much to make results more accessible for VoiceOver users since it was only reformatting the grid of emoji characters with additional text.

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Wordle! Developer to Donate Game Proceeds to Charity

Wordle is the web-only daily word game that has taken the Internet by storm. The simple, free game by Josh Wardle struck a nerve, quickly spreading thanks to its social-media-friendly score sharing and a New York Times profile of the game’s backstory.

The game also spawned a legion of rip-off versions that appeared on the App Store and were ultimately taken down by Apple. However, one of the App Store apps that saw a spike in downloads last week wasn’t a Wordle clone. It was an entirely different game called Wordle! that was first published five years ago by Steven Cravotta.

Emma Roth, writing for The Verge reports that Cravotta has decided to donate the proceeds of Wordle! to charity at the end of January. According to Roth:

Cravotta says that downloads for Wordle! slowed to around one to two per day, but when the browser-based Wordle started taking off, so did his app. The app racked up 200,000 downloads in a single week, albeit from confused users who mistook it for the browser-based Wordle. Cravotta reached out to Wordle app developer, Josh Wardle, and let him know about his plans to donate the proceeds from his app to charity — Wardle sent out a tweet of his own to acknowledge the gesture.

Cravotta told The Verge that the earnings from Wordle!, which stand at just over $2,000 so far, will be donated to BoostOakland, a charity that supports tutoring and mentoring young people in Oakland, California. After the gleeful tweets by one Wordle clone developer, it’s refreshing to read about Cravotta’s plans for the windfall he received from the similarity between his game and Wardle’s.

If you’re a Wordle fan, be sure to check out WordleBot, Federico’s shortcut inspired by Wordle’s score sharing feature. The shortcut preserves the game’s iconic score-sharing graphic but adds text labels to each row to improve the accessibility of scores on services like Twitter and provide additional context to the results.

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WordleBot: A Shortcut to Annotate Your Wordle Results with Scores

WordleBot for iPhone.

WordleBot for iPhone.

Update, January 18: I have released version 1.1 of WordleBot with support for converting emoji results to a single image. You can read the article here and redownload the updated shortcut below.

I, like the rest of the Twitter over the past few weeks, have fallen in love with Wordle, Josh Wardle’s ingenious daily word game (if you somehow missed it, check out Wardle’s profile in The New York Times). It’s so refreshing to have something so disarmingly simple, yet challenging that isn’t out to scam us (although some have tried) or sell our data on the Internet these days. Wordle reminds me of Brain Age for Nintendo DS in its heyday: everyone I know does it and is talking about it, at least for now. For me, Wordle has become this nice, daily ritual that I try to complete with my girlfriend to improve our English skills.

Wordle is a web app, and it comes with a clever built-in sharing feature that lets you share your results with other people by visualizing them as emoji of different colors based on the letters you guessed in the daily puzzle. I’m sure you’ve seen those tweets featuring lots of green and yellow emoji pass by on your timeline. While I think Wordle’s default sharing mechanism is fun, on-brand, and already iconic, I don’t like how its output is not accessible or descriptive enough. Folks with visual impairments such as colorblindness may find the emoji-laden Wordle tweets nearly impossible to decipher; those blocks of emoji don’t play well with screen-reading technologies such as VoiceOver; and, I just thought it’d be useful to figure out a way to score each line of the puzzle to bring some additional context to your Wordle results.

So, I made WordleBot, a shortcut that takes Wordle’s default shareable text and reformats it with partial and perfect scores for each line. With WordleBot, you’ll be able to share results that keep the original Wordle aesthetic and format but also include scores for 🟨 and 🟩 letters on each line, like this tweet:

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Apple Names the 2021 App of the Year Award Winners

Apple has revealed its annual App of the Year winners. This year, the company picked a collection of 15 apps and games from among the millions available on the App Store, naming them the Apps of the Year. In recent years, Apple has also used its App of the Year awards as an opportunity to highlight trends on the App Store. This year, the company’s App Store editorial team picked just one trend, Connection, sharing a collection of 5 apps that span a wide spectrum of genres.

Just like last year, Apple has honored 15 apps and games as the App of the Year winners from a wide variety of categories. According to Apple’s press release:

“The developers who won App Store Awards in 2021 harnessed their own drive and vision to deliver the best apps and games of the year — sparking the creativity and passion of millions of users around the world,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “From self-taught indie coders to inspiring leaders building global businesses, these standout developers innovated with Apple technology, with many helping to foster the profound sense of togetherness we needed this year.”

Mac App of the Year, Craft.

Mac App of the Year, Craft.

This year’s app winners are:

Apple Arcade Game of the Year, Fantasian.

Apple Arcade Game of the Year, Fantasian.

Apple also recognized games on each of its platforms, plus its Arcade service:

Apple Watch App of the Year, CARROT Weather.

Apple Watch App of the Year, CARROT Weather.

The App Store editorial team sees a lot of apps every year, and the trend it saw emerge in 2021 was ‘Connection,’ a theme embodied in the following apps:

Bumble is among five apps selected as embodying the Trend of the Year, Connection.

Bumble is among five apps selected as embodying the Trend of the Year, Connection.

In addition to naming this year’s winners, Apple called out each of the developers of the apps and games in a special ‘Developers make all the difference’ story, which links to profiles of each app and game. You’ll also find features on each app and game in Apple’s App Store apps.

Apple has created a profile story for each App of the Year winner.

Apple has created a profile story for each App of the Year winner.

To commemorate this year’s App of the Year winners, Apple’s designers created physical awards, which made their first appearance last year. The blue awards resemble the App Store’s icon and are made from 100% recycled aluminum with the winner’s name engraved on the back.

Picking the best apps of the year isn’t easy, which makes it easy to quarrel with individual picks. However, I think the choices by Apple’s editorial team this year do an excellent job of capturing a wide range of the best that the App Store has to offer.

Congratulations to this year’s Apple App of the Year award winners. I always enjoy seeing developers’ hard work and contributions to Apple’s platforms recognized.