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Retrogaming to the fore in SA coding contest

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Many games comes and go, but a few, most often the classic ones stand out in gamer’s minds for years to come and keep them coming back for more. TIMOTHY KROON of Entelect looks at these retrogames and the aspects that make them so addictive ahead of the annual Entelect R100K Challenge.|Many games comes and go, but a few, most often the classic ones stand out in gamer’s minds for years to come and keep them coming back for more. TIMOTHY KROON of Intellect looks at these retrogames and the aspects that make them so addictive ahead of the annual Entelect R100K Challenge.

Many of us remember spending hours at a time playing retro, one-dimensional video games on arcade machines and home consoles as children. Today, these classic games are no longer exclusively for children, and – in spite of the incredible advances in technology and software, rendering the make-up of these gaming platforms outdated – they have in fact become a global and local cultural phenomenon, seeing scores of children and adults alike taking up the pastime of what is now known as ‘retrogaming’.

What is it about these games that have seen their sustained popularity over the decades, in spite of the newer, faster and more sophisticated games being released in their thousands every year?

“There is something quite intangible about the cult-hit phenomenon surrounding many of these games, which sees them still revered and enjoyed by gaming enthusiasts and novice players today,” says Timothy Kroon, General Manger of Resourcing at Entelect.

Retrogaming, also referred to as classic gaming or old-school gaming, describes the playing and collecting of vintage PC, console, and arcade games.

“As most of the systems which these games were intended to run on are now obsolete, players either source the rare original hardware, or play them on newer devices through an emulation process,” explains Kroon.

According to Kroon, most retro-games which have become re-popularised were created during the 1980s and 1990s.

“Videogames were introduced to the consumer in the 1950s, but the 1970s are considered the golden age of videogames, seeing the release of still popular titles such as Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers, Sonic, Galazian and Frogger. In more recent times, these games regained their notoriety among consumers, driven by an appreciation for the simplicity and individualised challenge of many of these games, as well as a sense of nostalgia.

“This is particularly true for gaming enthusiasts as well as many members of the development and coding community, which forms part of why the annual Entelect R100K Challenge is traditionally based on a cult classic gaming platform.”

The increasingly popular R100K Challenge is an annual artificial intelligence (AI) coding competition aimed at novice to expert gamers and developers, in association with NAG and official product sponsor, Sony Mobile. Launched in 2012, the Challenge has been themed annually around a different retro-game, seeing previous years pay homage to Pac Man Battle City and Tron Legacy, while this year’s competition is based on the popular retro-game, Space Invaders.

“The personality types of our entrants, whether entering the novice or expert gamers and developer categories, show a great affiliation and appreciation for classic games, and we believe this is a key driver in the outstanding interest and enthusiasm the R100K Challenge has received since its inception,” he notes. Kroon goes on to say that these classic games have the added benefit of a simpler and more basic construction than the highly designed and complex games developed today. “This allows for easier modification and element development during the Challenge.”

The popularity of retrogaming shows no signs of slowing down, and the cultural phenomenon is permeating mainstream popular culture through various means such as social media, the press, and films such as the recently released retro-themed movie, Pixels.

“As the retrogaming culture grows and spreads throughout new audiences and generations, the increasing rarity of original hardware also makes accessories more sought after by dedicated fans. With new technologies being developed on which these games can be played, a wide variety of classic game re-makes being released, creative retrogaming projects being driven through platforms such a Kickstarter, as well as the adoptions of classic game references in large events and corporate initiatives such as the Entelect R100K Challenge, the ability of these games to influence both modern culture and business continues to grow and present new opportunities,” says Kroon.

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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