OMMA & Social Networking

I recently attended the OMMA Global marketing conference in Hollywood, California. Some of the top talent from the marketing industry was there recently to discuss the current state of online marketing, media and advertising. The Event featured a number of session tracks that each followed a specific category (e.g. media, advertising, etc..) as well as an expo that featured a wide array of organizations from social networking providers to Perez Hilton.

The focus of this two day event was to discuss the latest trends and technology that can enable marketers to excel in the ever-changing media landscape. Hot topics were how to apply social networking solutions into campaigns as well as a strong emphasis on monetization of widgets.

Some very interesting data was shared during the sessions such as in 2008 the rate of consumer adoption of social networking to internet users has reached 43.5%. Meaning 43.5% of users are involved with some type of social network. The issue for marketers though is that only 5.7% of marketing spend is being applied to reach these consumers through their social networks. With consumer adoption continuing to rise it is only a matter of time before the marketing spend around social networking solutions will begin to close the gap.

The #1 reason for the difference in % is an inherent lack of standard metric consistency. The old guard of methodology based on CTR (Click-Through-Rate) is not working for defining value around Social solutions. Focus on Social Analytics means that a big step has been taken in providing consistency by focusing not on CTR but on the actual commuinty data by providing in-depth analysis of the latest trends that lead to successfully defining ROI on a given campaign initiative.

Another interesting topic that was discussed was that there is a lot of channel confusion. Meaning a number of marketers do not fully understand how to deploy social media solutions. There are a number of options. White label & SaaS Social Networking platforms, User generated content specific applications, etc… my recommendation is to find a solution that provides an integrated platform with a flexible UI that allows for flexibility to deploy the applications that are relevant for your clients needs but one that also has a strong reporting engine as consistent metrics are the key to defining a successful campaign. Also, depending on your client you may want to position a solution that scales to meet the potential demand.

Finally, one of the other hot topics of discussion around marketing and social networking was the concern around communication control. There is uncertainty about how to manage brand messages when deploying social media solutions. As Rob Howard has stated before, conversations matter. Your customers are going to talk about you whether you have a social networking presence or not. There are ways to control communication such as positioning moderated blogs instead of more collaborative applications where the organization is controlling more of the publishing and the user has less control over the brand. But ultimately we have found that transparency can be a very good thing for businesses as it can reveal a face to the brand that might otherwise miss the crucial connection with end users who are in even more control of the messages that they receive.

It appears that social networking applied to business is about to truly enter the mainstream in terms of marketing budget allocations as the consumers have spoken and shown that they are interested in this style of collaboration. The challenge for the marketers is to develop engaging campaigns that compliment the daily activities of users. One thing is for certain though it is going to be a fun ride!

Microsoft Outing Cheaters on Xbox Live

Major Nelson announced today that Microsoft has instituted new policies to further crack down on cheaters on Xbox Live. Major stated that they have already taken action to punish “accounts we have identified as the most serious offenders who have violated the Xbox Live Terms of Use by tampering with their Gamerscore and Achievements.”

This is a great move by Microsoft. It is frustrating as a gamer who takes my score seriously and all achievements were earned the old fashioned way. It is great to see that Microsoft cares about maintaining honesty within the community.

Microsoft is going to reset the offenders Gamerscore to zero and labeling the account as a cheater for the community to see. Moving forward these users can gain new achievements the old fashioned way but cannot regain their old achievements.

It is great to see that Microsoft takes this issue seriously.

Game Review – Army of Two

ArmyofTwo360packshotTo preface this review I want to state for the record that I really enjoy co-op shooters. So this review has a positive slant from the word go because I am a fanboy of any game that allows you to blow stuff up with your buddies in real time. Electronic Arts did a great job with Army of Two as it is just a fun game. If you want to have a good time blowing things up with your friends definitely give this title a go.

Story: You represent two Ex-Army Rangers who are now working as private contractors for a corporation called SSC. Through 6 campaign missions you will step jump, co-op riot shield, go back-to-back and co-op snipe your way through a legion of enemy AI, Heavies (Heavily armored AI) and quasi boss battles in addition to a number of extra objectives that will earn you cash. But enough about the story let’s talk about the gameplay.

Gameplay: Army of Two leverages some of the better elements of co-op game play. Similar to Crackdown, Gears of War and Halo 3 while building on what has been done in the past. You can interact with your partner in a number of ways.

The best tactic in tight situations is for one of you to power up your Aggro meter. Once full one of you will start pulsing read while the other becomes transparent. This basically translates to one of you will draw the enemies fire while the other can stealthfully take out the opposition. You can also enter the Overkill mode which slows everything down or speeds things up depending on if you were the initiator.

Some of the other fun partner based elements are the ability to swap weapons so you can focus on support and aggressive roles, as well as the ability to partner in a few other game modes including the co-op riot shield where one of you wields a shield while the other shoots, step jumps, back-to-back when overwhelmed by enemies and co-op sniping.

One of the more interesting elements is the drag and heal function. Like Halo and Gears your health will recharge while in cover, but adding to the revive option in Gears you can actually drag your fallen friend to cover while they can lay down suppressive fire while being dragged to a safe location for healing. This can also be an area for bragging rights or degrading your partner. E.g. let’s just say my friend Elijah earned the field medic achievement fairly quickly while playing with me :) call it aggressive game play or just the overall inability to evade bullets we will never know.

One of the best elements of the game is actually the enemy AI. Depending on the difficulty setting they will change positions when fired upon, flank your position and basically try to destroy you in a multitude of ways. I was impressed.

One of my only gameplay complaints is when I am standing next to an enemy (Similar to the issue in Crackdown) it is very difficult to get a lock on an enemy which ends up in spinning and shooting which is not the ideal experience (especially when you are going for achievements and already have the melee achievement).

Weapons: The weapons selection ranges from Primary, Secondary and Special weapons. Your primary is chock full of assault rifles and heavy machine guns while your secondary set includes pistols and SMG’s with your specials focusing on sniper rifles and RPGs. You have the ability to upgrade some of the weapons with additional elements not to the level of COD4 but can you “pimp” your assault rifle with gold in COD4? I don’t think so.

Online: One of my biggest complaints of the game is with session timeout on the versus multiplayer. Out of 8 online sessions I only made it to the end of one session before running into server issues. I have confirmed other players have experienced similar time outs.

The main element of versus is to complete various objectives and earn more money than the opposing team of two. I felt as though there was more that could have been done here. One suggestion would be to allow for teams of Contractors to battle different enemy insurgents or Heavy’s or even sub bosses in a more team based approach like a traditional slayer match similar to GOW, Halo, and COD4. This would allow for more replayability as I am more likely to continually play a team based shooter than an objective based one.  To be honest this is one of the weaker elements of the game.

Achievements:  Your first play through of the campaign will most likely net you roughly 300-350 achievement points depending on if you are focusing on changing weapons once you receive the equivalent achievement. Note that even if you die and have to restart from a checkpoint your kills are registered so you do not have to start over. A number of achievements are based on achieving a number of kills with a specific type of weapon. Others are mission specific and there are a few that are tied to the online versus mode. I have been able to clear 700 points in about 12 hours of gameplay.

Pros:

  • You and a friend blowing stuff up
  • Aggro System
  • Enemy AI is impressive
  • Game Play Based Achievements
  • Ability to “Pimp” your weapons
  • Partner Elements (Back to Back, Co-op Riot Shield, Weapon Swap etc.)
  • Ability to “mess” with your partner (High Fives, Trip Them, Etc..)
  • GPS System
  • All weapons in a category will unlock once you clear certain difficulties

Cons:

  •  Online mode and lack of team slayer type options
  •  Weapon lock-on in close combat
  •  Vehicle Controls are lacking and feel forced
  •  Expected more interation with the environment (crumbling walls)
  •  Session timeouts in online versus modes
  •  Not enough money offered for objectives (If I were risking my life to disable multiple aircraft on a carrier while enemy fire surrounds me I would expect more than $6,000)
  •  Lack of a language filter (I am just saying…)

Rating: I give this a solid 8 out of 10 and a definite pick-up if you well have a friend that wants to play with you

Community Server 2008 Logo Unveiled

One of the fun parts of my job is that I work closely with our Creative and
Marketing teams in defining the direction of the various brands for our
products. After a number of cycles the team has unveiled the new Community
Server
2008 logo.

Community Server 2008

I am very excited about the progression of the brand over the past few years. I
feel like this iteration is a good representation of what Community Server is
all about.

Great work guys!

Telligent Voted One of the Best Places to Work in 2008

BPTW - 2008When I first heard the news that we were one of the winners of the “Best Places to work in DFW” (announced in the March 14th print edition) I did one of those cheesy jumps you would see in a very cliché movie. Person 1 gets great news/wins the game/something worth jumping about and then well… jumps… luckily that moment is not frozen in time nor will a dramatic montage highlighting random events that led to the jump be playing on YouTube anytime soon. Although you may want to check out our many Tellicasts

Luckily I was at home when I got the news and spared everyone from watching my
limited vertical leaping skillz in action.

In all seriousness it is a great accomplishment as we were selected out of 270 other companies and speaks to how we value our
employees and focus on providing a work environment that is not only fun but
allows for professional growth and personal satisfaction. It may sound like a
cliché but when we say we work hard and play hard we actually do.

Even as we continue to grow we look for specific personality types that fit the
mold of a Telligenti. If I were to summarize what makes a Telligenti it is
someone who is not only a rockstar in their discipline but someone who is a
humble team player. Someone who is willing to do what is necessary to ensure
that they not only deliver to the best of their ability but are always willing
to assist other team members regardless of group or title.

You will also find a person who is driven and goal oriented and always looking
to improve. Rob Howard our CEO recently summed it up by saying. “We are built
on the fact that our teams comprised of A level performers” meaning we want the
best-of-the-best. Individuals that have the positional proficiency and soft-skills
to interact efficiently within our organizational structure.

You will not find egos with this team nor will you find traditional divisions
that are prevalent with other companies (i.e. sales vs. delivery, etc.). What
you will find is a group of individuals who are all working towards the same
goal of developing incredible products and delivering the best solutions for
our clients while having a great time doing it.

One of the main elements that we as Telligent leadership try to ensure is that
our employees work environment is conducive to open communication and feedback, self-driven work schedules and the fact that the leadership of the company has a focus on maintaining our culture as we grow as well as ensure that decisions are about the well-being of our team members and not just the bottom-line of the business.

You can see it when you walk in the door. The CEO’s office is the same size as
all the others and our CTO resides in an open area with our interns. You won’t
find luxurious furniture, an executive break area or any other old school
vestige representing an organizational caste system. The focus is on the
individual employee not differentiating based on role.

In addition to the pranks (Cardboard RobRobbleheads), monthly Frag nights,
food and drinks throughout the week and occasional company outings . It is no wonder Telligent was voted one of the best places to work in DFW area by the Dallas Business Journal because it is!!!

Congratulations to everyone. You are a phenomenal team to work with!

Game Review – LOST Via Domus

LOSTI normally do not watch a lot of TV (Outside of The University of Oklahoma during football season) but my one obsession over the past few years has definitely been LOST. I have really enjoy the show and look forward to each new episode. The concepts and characters draw you in and I like that fact that at the end of each show I have more questions than answers and I am left to think about how it will all come together.

Being a fan of the show and an avid gamer it was pretty much a given that I would pick up the first LOST game title for the 360. LOST Via Domus is more of an adventure game with elements of strategy all tying into the LOST formula of flashbacks and intrigue.

I would definitely recommend watching at least the first three seasons before you play this title as there are a number of references that really would not make sense or at the very least be as interesting unless you have watched the show regularly.

You are in control of a new character to the LOST universe. He is a photo journalist who has lost his memory due to the crash of Oceanic Flight 815. You have to depend on a few familiar faces (Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Charley, etc…) while you begin to piece together your lost memories to uncover your background by triggering flashbacks during character interactions. Of course it would not be a LOST game if you did not have confrontations with the elusive but deadly Smoke monster and a few run ins with the “Others”. The pacing of the game feels very true to the show.

Ubisoft Montreal did a good job with the level design as the jungle backgrounds look amazing. But for a game based on an island that requires trekking to various points the game is very linear with a limited area to explore. It was also a lot of fun to “enter the numbers”, explore the various Dharma stations and interact with the rest of the LOST environment in a more interactive manner.

Looking at the actual gameplay there are a few areas worth discussion. After just completing another playthrough of Mass Effect interacting with the LOST conversation controls seem very basic and almost lacking. It was fun interacting with familiar characters and the Ubisoft team did a good job of channeling the personalities of the characters. The inventory system seemed like an afterthought and the real purpose is to house items to trade for better equipment. And the entire game experience lasted maybe 7 hours with very little replayability.

The flashback sequences were done well but the only point of contention is that in order to trigger the full memory you must replicate a picture with your camera and this can be frustrating at times. Speaking of frustrating there are a number of mini games in LOST Via Domus. In true Bioshock fashion one of the main mini-games introduces the “Fuse” game. Similar to the hacking done in Bioshock you plug various fuses into the correct socket to allow the right amount of electrical current through.

Another mini-game is again similar to Bioshock in that you can take pictures of certain items to unlock achievements. Speaking of Achievements you can unlock all 1000 points fairly easily with limited replay required. Achievements are tied to level completion and other tasks during memory flashbacks and exploration.

Pros:

  • It’s LOST!!!!
  • Interacting with the LOST Universe
  • Level backgrounds are very well done (Especially the nursery in the Medical Station)
  • The game stays very true to the LOST mythology
  • The Smoke Monster
  • Easy Achievements
  • Mini-games

Cons:

  •  Really light adventure game
  •  Lackluster Conversation engine
  •  Inventory system subpar
  •  No more lighters or torches – seriously
  •  Checkpoint reloads force you to resort your inventory
  •  Actual action segments are very lackluster
  •  Extremely Short – 7 hours to get through the game

This game is definitely for the LOST fan. It misses the mark in terms of a good adventure title and the mini-games become a bit repetitive. But let’s be honest you will pick up this game if you cannot get enough of the LOST universe. For those that enjoy the show and like to game then I recommend picking up this title. Otherwise it would make a great weekend rental. I give the game 7 out of 10 and the show a 10 out of 10.

Dead Space

One of the other game titles that I am very excited about in 2008 is the new EA title Dead Space. It was recently announced that the game will launch on October 28th of this year and the games site DeadSpaceGame.com just launched.

Dead Space is a new IP launch for EA and is the first Sci-Fi Horror game that the company has ever launched. It follows Isaac Clarke and is a survival horror epic. Isaac, a space engineer who works for the Concordance Extraction Corporation (C.E.C), a company that repairs “giant mining ships”. His company receives a distress call from the USG Ishimura, a “Planet Cracker” class ship that takes dead planets, and destroys them to extract valuable ore for the company.

In the assumption that the ship has had a mechanical failure, Isaac soon realizes that this is no ordinary distress call. He soon finds that the ship has been overrun by a mysterious alien race. This routine check becomes a race for his life….

The game features some familiar aspects such as we learn the story of what happened through in-game assets similar to Bioshock, and the main character Isaac is not a soldier. He is a common man and his tools are his weapons which leads to simple, brutal and effective combat. He is no super soldier which gives his character a sense of vulnerability which adds to the games believability (If you call deep space mining and alien infested ships believable). This title is definitely not a shooter. You will be outnumbered and low on ammo so the main point is to survive.

Regarding gameplay, that is where this title will really excel. Since this is not a fragfest you might ask how will you “survive”. Simple… dismember anything that moves with your plasma cutter. Yes, you will sever arms, legs, heads and just about anything that protrudes from the alien “Necromorphs”. This as you can imagine is a very complex system as there are multiple animation sequences that have to be considered meaning that you can dispatch an enemy in a number of ways. So this is the element of the game that will receive the most attention from the EA team.

Definitely check out the site to view, rate, share and comment on a large collection of Dead Space media including screenshots, concept art and trailers. The site features a daily blog from the Dead Space development team as well as video diaries showcasing the games origin.

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