Tag Archives: Kieran O’Hara

What you may need to know

1. Pokémon day was yesterday, but you probably already knew that.  It celebrates the anniversary of the launch of the first Pokémon video games in Japan in 1996 by introducing a new Pokémon called Zarude, a rogue, bipedal monkey that can’t be encountered in regular gameplay. Gigantamax versions of Grimmsnarl, Kingler, Orbettle and Hatterene will be appearing in Max Raid Battles for a limited time, as well as the the Kanto starters Squirtle, Bulbasaur, Charmander and the legendary psychic Pokémon Mewtwo. Gotta catch ‘em all!

2. This update demonstrates how publishers can continue to upsell their product long after the initial outlay, something that the Pokémon Company are masters at due to their massive catalogue of over 800 characters.

3. Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield are basically the same game, they just contain different Pokémon. Each costs €60 to download and players are rewarded for buying both with additional content. There are two expansion packs for the game due later this year that will add another 200 Pokémon to the games, at a cost of €30 each.

4. In the past Pokémon have released enhanced versions rather than expansions packs. Pokémon Red and Blue were followed up by Yellow. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were released as enhanced versions of Pokémon Sun and Moon. That’s just repackaging existing content and making players start all over again. With the Sword and Shield expansion packs, players can continue their journey without loosing the contents of their Pokédex, so no need to start from scratch, but you still have to pay for access to new content.

5. While other publishers struggle with in-game monetisation due to the backlash against in-game purchases and loot-boxes, Pokémon can lean on a 24 year legacy of recycled and upcycled content that it cross promotes through Switch, DS, mobile, TV shows, movies, cards, comics, music, eSports tournaments, toys and gaming hardware. That’s the real monster.

Kieran’s Verdict: More wallet monster than pocket monster.

Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield: currently available on Nintendo Switch.
Isle of Armor Expansion Pack: June 2020.
Crown Tundra Expansion Pack: Autumn 2020.

Two days after Christmas day, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment published the National Cyber Security Strategy that outlined how the government plans to protect the state against cyber crime.

In case you were doing something else that day and didn’t get the chance to read it, here’s what you may need to know.

1. In September 2018 the Comptroller and Auditor General reported that “The overall strategic direction of the National Cyber Security Centre is not clear. There is no strategic plan currently in place.” The C&AG also questioned whether the body was sufficiently funded. Fast forward to the final days of 2019 and the publication of the strategy covering 2019-2024.

2. The report identifies 20 measures intended to “to protect our nation, to develop our cyber security sector, and to deepen our international engagement on the future of the internet.” These measures cover the areas of National Capacity Development, Critical National Infrastructure Protection, Public Sector Data and Networks, Skills, Enterprise Development, Engagement and Citizens.

3. The measures will impact all government departments and requires specific input from a further eight as well as all of the following stakeholders; the National Cyber Security Centre, the National Security Analysis Centre, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, the Office of Public Works, An Garda Siochana, the Defense Forces, the Central Bank, COMREG, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, the Irish Aviation Authority, the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of Emergency Planning, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure UK, Telecoms Operators, Skillnets, SOLAS, the Government IT Security Forum, Science Foundation Ireland, Cyber Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. They’ve totally got this, we’ll be fine.

4. Four types of cyber risks are identified. (i) Strategic Risks that include threats from rogue actors and the risk that comes from hosting over 30% of all Europe’s data. This risk extends beyond just the data centres to include the infrastructure that supports them, both public and private. (ii) Hybrid Threats, which are defined by the EU as “combining coercive and subversive measures, using both conventional and unconventional tools and tactics (diplomatic, military, economic, and technological) to destabilise the adversary.” (iii) Risks to Critical National Infrastructure and Public Sector Systems and Data (see point 5). (iv) Risk to Citizens and Business including phishing scams and cyber crime.

5. The report gives special credence to Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) across seven named sectors (energy, transport, drinking water, banking, financial markets, healthcare and digital infrastructure). Seventy ‘Operators of Essential Services’ have been identified and are subject to a formal set of security requirements and are obliged to follow a predefined reporting process when in the event of a security breach. The NCSC has enforcement powers and can conduct security assessments and audits in 5 of the 7 identified sectors.

6. One thing the report does well is to break down each of the 20 measures into their component parts, identify each component’s owner and stakeholders and put a timeframe on each task’s completion. There are 50 tasks scheduled for completion this year, 12 of them due to be completed by the end of March. Time will tell.

Kieran’s verdict: The report, much like all cyber security, feels reactionary. It will always be a barn door closing industry, but the target of training a 5000 strong army of security personnel over the next three years should help to keep a few horses in their stables.

National Cyber Security Strategy

Not sure what to buy for the vitamin D-deficient, monosyllabic, repetitive stress-suffering, online friends but no real life friends-having, working on a screen all day and coming home to relax on a screen all night, no eye contact-making, glaucoma-ignoring, sweatpants-wearing, non team sports-playing, struggles to differentiate between reality and the online world special someone in your life?

It’s not too late to show that you understand with one of these top games from 2019 below.

Or vouchers.

Maybe just get them vouchers.

For clothes.

1. Best AAA game

Death Stranding (PS4 only for now)

You’re a post-apocalyptic postman with a side gig as an inter-colony wifi technician. A bit like real postmen, you are delivering cargo to decimated colonies following the arrival of destructive creatures from a realm between life and death.

Unlike An Post, you are encouraged to delivery your packages efficiently and with care. Impeding your work are a cabal of porters who are trying to steal your cargo so they can deliver it themselves (UPS in this analogy).

Part movie/part video game, Death Stranding stars photo realistic versions of Norman Reetus, Mads Mikkelsen and for some reason Guiellermo Del Toro, in an open world, stealth exploration story-line that is combative, sometimes insane and quite exhausting.

Buy this for: Someone with lots of time to spare.

2. Best indie game

Sayonara Wild Hearts (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Apple Arcade)

Short in length, but high in emotion, Sayonara Wild Hearts follows the story of a woman who tries to heal a recent heartbreak by restoring balance to the world. She does this by collecting hearts while sword fighting, having dance offs, riding motor bikes and deer, she sometimes rides a deer.

Each part of the world has its own theme music that aligns with the mood of the main character and which by extension impacts the mood of the player. The game’s input controls are minimalist, just one button and an analogue stick, but there is a third essential input that the game takes – the player’s rhythm.

To succeed you must tune into the patterns in the game’s soundtrack and not the patterns that you see on the screen. Do this right and you’ll align your hand and ear to the point that you don’t memorise the gameplay, instead you feel your way through.

Buy this for: Someone who considers music videos an artform.

3. Best free-to-play game

Apex Legends (PlayStation 4, XBox One, PC)

Somewhere in this game’s studio there are Post-Its on a wall from a brainstorming session where they asked everyone in the building to name what they enjoyed about free-to-play games.

Suggestions included battle royale, first person shooter, mercenaries, squads, complex maps, safe zones, loot scavenging, inventory accumulation, armor, grinding, in-came currencies, micro-transactions, content updates, flying, team communications, respawns, obscure yet pompous title and much more. Someone said, ‘good meeting team, let’s do it’, and so they did, beautifully.

While not creating anything original, Apex Legends raised the bar of every component of free to play games and made an engaging and highly playable version of Fortnight for adults.

Buy this for: Someone who also spent zero euros on your present.

PS: Fortnight is also free to play. If you’re buying a boxed version in-store what you’re really buying is in-game currency. Still a nice present, but that money might be better spent in the real world. On vouchers. Clothes vouchers are probably best, they have enough of those games. .

PPS: If Santa is bringing a console or game this Christmas, make sure he loads it up before the big day or else you could be faced with over an hour of downloads on Christmas morning. If he’s bringing controllers they might need to be charged up too. Happy Gamesmas!

Top pic via Grunge

What you may need to know

1. Stadia is Google’s foray into the $150bn game industry. There’s no console, as games are streamed up to a 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. It’s accessible via laptop, desktop, Chrome OS tablet, Pixel phone or on your TV using a Chromecast Ultra.

2. Stadia is not fully adopting the Netflix model, in that you still have to purchase most games rather than gain access to a library that you can choose from. The current pool of games is small, with headliners including Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption II.

3. A free base service will be coming next year, but for now there is only the option to pay for the Pro monthly subscription that will allow you to stream at higher rates and offer you access to some free games. To access the service you first need to purchase the Stadia Premier Edition for €129 which gets you a controller, a Chromecast Ultra and three months’ access to the Stadia Pro service.

4. Google seem to have gone to market with an MVP that they plan to iterate on. This might work for its software products, but hasn’t worked as they try to disrupt the mature console market. The product feels unfinished and is highly dependent on users’ internet speeds.

5. Stadia will improve as it evolves. More games will added, with online multiplayer, latency will improve, Youtube will be integrated, it will unshackle itself from the Pixel phone, 5G will become a reality.

6. Or… that won’t happen and Stadia will join all of the other products in the cemetery where things that we once loved are buried.

Kieran’s verdict: Still in beta.