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Spicing up outer space



Review: Wing Commander: Secret Ops


Origin Systems have done very well out of their Wing Commander series of space combat simulators, Wing Commanders 1 through 5 and Privateer 1 and 2. Now they’ve released a version of Wing Commander free onto the Internet, and called it “Wing Commander: Secret Ops”. Let’s see if it passes the Gadget Four Question User Test…

  1. Is it ready to use? Well, first you have to download it. So you head over to, register for it after waiting for the Macromedia Flash web interface to download, and then download the core files, the speech pack files (if you want speech), the documentation, and any new episodes (they’re up to Episode 4, as of the time of writing). 130Mb and several hours later, you can run the installation, which is quick and easy. Secret Ops runs under Windows 95/98 with DirectX 5 or higher loaded, and supports most 3D video cards, such as the Voodoo or Direct3D-supported cards.
  2. Is it easy to use? If you’re familiar with the Wing Commander games, particularly Wing Commander 5: Prophecy, you’ll be able to play Secret Ops almost immediately. If not, it could be a while before you get used to the various keystrokes used for various functions within the game. You can play Secret Ops without a joystick, but it isn’t easy, so a joystick (preferably one with a throttle and lots of buttons) is highly recommended. The keystrokes are most suitable for a right-hander, but a leftie can get by too.
  3. Does it operate as advertised? As a space combat simulator, there’s very little on the market that can match Wing Commander. The graphics are excellent, especially with a 3D video card (I use a Diamond Viper V330), the screenplay is smooth even on a low-end 200MHz machine, and the feel of the various spaceships you fly is good, reflecting their differences. The sound is amazing, with your wingmen and the alien enemy shouting on the comm system, and the sounds of your weapon fire hitting other ships (OK, there’s no sound in space, so sue me), or the enemy hitting you. Unlike the other games in the Wing Commander series, there isn’t any action between missions. In the previous games, you would have video segments in between missions (and the video segments would take up several CDs worth of space), whereas in Secret Ops all the action is in your spaceship. Every week on a Thursday, Origin is releasing a new “episode”, basically a new batch of missions, with each episode being about 600kb in size, and you can get information relating to your missions on the web site.I had a problem with Secret Ops locking up my system, but it turned out that running my system in 32-bit colour instead of 16-bit colour fixed the problem; other than that, it has worked flawlessly.
  4. Is it value for money? Although Secret Ops is free, you have to figure in the cost of a phone connection to your ISP for several hours while you download it. If you download in non-peak hours, the cost shouldn’t be too high, and thus Secret Ops is a real winner in the “value for money” category – it’s at least as good as Wing Commander 5: Prophecy in most respects, and Prophecy sells for at least R300 (about $50) in most stores.

If you’re into spaceflight simulators, or even general flight simulators, this game is a winner.

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TikTok looks for SA talent

The fast-rising short-video platform has launched a #PickMe campaign to discover local stars.



TikTok, which claims to be the world’s leading destination for short-form videos, launches its first PickMe campaign, an effort to discover creative talents and provide a stage to express themselves in South Africa. Starting March 1, TikTok kicked off a month-long search through participants’ 15-second videos under hashtag #PickMe.

TikTok says it is committed to investing in South Africa and discovering the local talents. The PickMe campaign is supported by its local partners like Huawei, MTV Base and Digify Africa.

Local stars, including comedian and singer Lasizwe and singer Nadia Jaftha, have joined the campaign and called for users to show their talents on TikTok.

There are 5 categories of video shooting in the campaign, namely dance, acting, comedy, singing and cosmetics. Participants need to shoot a 15-second video using TikTok using #PickMe and tag @tiktok_africa to participate in the challenge. The finalists will be selected based on their video performance. The most popular and talented participants will have the chance to win prizes like Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphones, a day at MTV Base, and a once-off-presenter opportunity and attendance at an intensive video production workshop delivered by Digify Africa.

“TikTok has definitely evolved into something that everyone loves and uses. It’s given creators a space to create more unique content and also help the creator gain a whole new kind of fan base, ” says Preven Reddy, Imbewu The Seed TV-star and Megazone radio host who is also a TikTok user.

Says TikTok video creator Mihlali Nxanga: “As a young South African working towards being in the entertainment industry, TikTok has given me the platform to grow my following tremendously. Within 6 months, my fan base has grown by a whopping 90 000, and not only from South Africa, but the whole world. For me, TikTok is not just a content platform, it is a global community.”

The campaign will wrap up on March 31. The list of the finalist will be announced in the app and on official Instagram @tiktok_southafrica. For more information, please visit the TikTok app.

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Rugby fan experience transformed by digital platform



The South African Rugby Federation has embraced digitalisation as a key enabler of its strategic aspirations. It has worked with Accenture to transform fan engagement for Springbok supporters with the launch of a digital fan platform.

“Digital technology and social media have transformed how modern fans watch, support and engage with their favourite teams,” says SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “To maintain our relevance amid this new market dynamic, and grow our fan base, we’ve acknowledged the vital need to digitally transform our organisation.”

Wayne Hull, managing director for Accenture Digital in Africa, says: “SA Rugby’s ambition to pivot to a more fan-centric strategy requires digital design, content, platforms and insights because modern consumers, including loyal Springbok supporters, engage predominantly via mobile digital channels and expect hyper-personalised experiences.”

Accenture Digital’s development process started with quantitative and qualitative research, which informed the user experience (UX) design guidelines and content strategy for the digital fan engagement platform.

“To know what fans want, we needed to understand the fans themselves,” says Hull. “The Accenture Digital team mined the research data and identified multiple fan ‘personas’, which all have different content consumption, platform functionality and engagement preferences.”

The platform development team focused on three critical elements to meet these requirements – the customer experience (CX), the engagement engine and cloud-based deployment.

“To deliver a memorable and engaging CX, Accenture Digital leveraged leading digital experience software,” says Hull. “The result is a fully integrated and responsive platform that creates seamless, personalised digital fan experiences across SA Rugby’s content, commerce and digital marketing initiatives in a manner that makes fans feel recognised and connected to the players and the game.”

The new platform will serve as the first point of call for any rugby fan who wants to get their data fix with exclusive statistics, analytics and insights. The platform’s content style will include more visual elements – videos and images – with more concise articles that are easier to digest, in accordance with evolving content consumption preferences on mobile screens. This will complement long-form thought leadership and insight pieces. 

In addition, fans will enjoy exclusive access to player-related content, such as behind-the-scenes footage and game and training performance stats. SA Rugby will also benefit from the ability to track comments and mentions via the Sitecore analytics platform Accenture Digital implemented, to respond and engage in the conversations Springbok fans are having on social media about the game, the teams or the players.

To do this, SA Rugby required a consolidated view of the customer. However, data resided in disparate sites across ticketing providers and SA Rugby’s e-commerce and online magazine databases. This information will be consolidated into the CRM system, with multiple integration points available to leverage this data.

The CRM system’s functionality will help to reveal insights such as fan communication preferences and their likes and dislikes, which will place hyper-relevance at the core of SA Rugby’s fan experience and engagement strategy.

 The final element in the platform development was cloud deployment, which allows fans to access the platform from any device that has an internet connection. The platform is hosted within the Microsoft Azure environment, which is stable, secure and fully redundant. It gives SA Rugby the flexibility to manage the platform themselves, with the option to integrate or scale additional functionality down the line.

Based on the outcome, Hull believes that Accenture Digital has successfully reimagined, built and delivered a world-class, modern and mobile-friendly digital fan platform that creates a fun, immersive and engaging experience for fans.

“It’s a major step towards helping SA Rugby realise its ambition to become a fan-centric, forward-looking and nimble organisation, and we look forward to building and developing the platform further with the team as their digital fan engagement requirements evolve,” says Hull

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