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On February 21st, Apple released iOS 7.0.6 with, simply described as “a fix for SSL connection verification.” The story actually goes deeper than that, giving way to darker and more terrifying implications.
The recently released iOS 7.0.6, iOS 6.1.6, and OS X Mavericks 10.9.2 updates fixed a major security flaw that has existed on the iPhone since the introduction of iOS 6 in 2012. The flaw left iOS devices open to “man-in-the-middle” hacker attacks when using devices on unsecured networks.
The issue relates to how iOS7 validates SSL certificates. SSL certification is a security mechanism designed to verify the identity of whatever you’re connecting to. Think of it as a “digital signature” from the likes of websites such as Facebook or Google.
The security flaw is actually the result of a simple case of really poor programming. An extra “GoTo” command in the code caused the SSL encryption security check to be bypassed entirely. So, it’s not that the verification check failed, but that the check never actually executed in the first place. This has lead to the bug’s nicknamed of “GoToFail.”
Potentially, any data that has traveled by means of any open network, such as a public WiFi hotspot, could have been compromised if someone with malicious intent and knowledge of the vulnerability happened to be on the same network.
Security firm CrowdStrike explained the issue: “To pull off the attack an adversary has to be able to Man-in-The-Middle (MitM) network connections, which can be done if they are present on the same wired or wireless network as the victim. Due to a flaw in authentication logic on iOS and OS X platforms, an attacker can bypass SSL/TLS verification routines upon the initial connection handshake. This enables an adversary to masquerade as coming from a trusted remote endpoint, such as your favorite webmail provider and perform full interception of encrypted traffic between you and the destination server, as well as give them a capability to modify the data in flight (such as deliver exploits to take control of your system).”
The bug was limited to Apple’s apps and services, such as Safari and Messages. Third-party applications, such as Google Chrome, did not seem to be affected.
If you haven’t yet updated your iPhone to the latest version, it’s advised you update immediately and stay away from any untrusted WiFi networks until you get the chance to update.
Users of the iPhone 4 and later, 5th generation iPod touch, and iPad 2 and later should update immediately to iOS 7.0.6 either through iTunes or directly through their phone with over the air updates. Those who are running iOS6 devices should update to iOS 6.1.6. OS X Mavericks users should update to 10.9.2 using the Software Update feature on their computer.
You can test whether or not your device is vulnerable by going to https://gotofail.com in your Safari web browser.
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra
Danganronpa: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei originally released in Japan in 2010. The game’s immense popularity lead to various unofficial fan translations, which resulted in a large Western fanbase years before the game’s official English release.
This year, the insanity that is Danganronpa finally has made its official English debut in the form of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc on the Playstation Vita. There are many ways to describe Danganronpa. As a game, it’s part “Phoenix Wright” with a dab of “Persona,” and in narrative, it’s The Drifting Classroom with a dash of The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. It’s schizophrenic amalgamation of various genres resulting into one wacky game that could only be a product of Japan, and I’m happy that it’s finally here.
Danganronpa at its core is a visual novel, so the game’s only as good as its story and characters. Luckily those elements deliver, and they deliver hard. The story is the reason to play this game.
You assume the role of Makoto Naegi, an average Japanese high schooler whose luck has granted him entrance to Hope’s Peak Academy, a school dedicated to refining the world’s greatest and most talented students into symbols of hope for the future of the country. Graduating from this prestigious academy guarantees success in life, yet Makoto finds himself the odd-man-out as his classmates outclass him in every way. He has no chance comparing to likes of the celebrity pop music idol, the ultimate baseball star, or the most fabulous fashion diva in the world.
However, once Makoto steps into the halls of Hope’s Peak Academy, standing out becomes the least of his problems. His mind goes numb and he blacks out. Upon his awakening, he discovers that he and his 14 extraordinary classmates are trapped within the walls of the school.
The school’s headmaster rears his adorable little head. As it turns out, he’s a talking teddy bear that calls himself “Monokuma.” However, his cute exterior offers students no comfort as he reveals the horrific nature of their peculiar predicament. Only one student is allowed to “graduate” from this high school hell, and that’s by murdering one of their classmates and getting away with it. No one’s life is guaranteed in this “killing game,” a tale of trust, betrayal, secrets and homicide. Makoto must work with his friends to resist the temptation of despair, solve the mystery of the school, and escape with as few casualties as possible.
Oddly enough, the gameplay is NOT the reason to play Danganronpa, as it struggles to discover what kind of game it should be outside of a visual novel. The game is split into three main modes of play: free time, investigations, and classroom trials.
During free time, when the school isn’t being painted with student blood, you have the option of socializing with your fellow classmates. Even the looming threat of murder can’t keep high school kids from forming friendships! It’s these sections of the game that are reminiscent of the Persona series and other games with “dating sim” elements. You pick a character to hang out with and choose the appropriate dialogue options to further your relationship with them.
You’ll collect “Monokuma coins” by exploring the school and finishing classroom trials, which you can then spend on various gifts to give your friends. Each character has a certain taste in items, so giving them the appropriate present will strengthen your bond with them. Giving them something that they don’t like will result in a waste of your time. It’s a lot of trial and error, saving and reloading, if you want to be a perfectionist about it. As you develop your relationships, you’ll wring out interesting bits of character backstory that you won’t get anywhere else in the main game.
Unfortunately, you won’t have much time to bond with your classmates, as they might end up being a corpse the next time you see them. You won’t be the one committing the murders in this game, as Makoto is much too trusting to do something like that. Instead, it’s up to you to solve the murders and identify the true culprit to keep your friends safe from harm. Once a dead body pops up, you’ll spend your time searching the school for clues. These could be anything from witness testimonies from your classmates to objects that are strangely out of place.
Exploration isn’t a very elaborate process, as its mostly cursor based. You’ll explore the school in first-person, and move the onscreen cursor onto objects of interest with either the analog stick or touch screen. You won’t have to scour every single detail of an area to find the right clues. Pressing the Triangle button will point out all interactable objects for you to investigate. It’s impossible to miss out on important clues, as the game will not advance until you’ve found everything it deems relevant to the case.
Once all the clues are discovered, the game will automatically advance to the classroom trial portion. This is where the core gameplay lies, and where it falls apart. In a world where Ace Attorney exists, I can’t help but make comparison between those games and the trials of Danganronpa. The game knows this and tries to differentiate itself by adding action elements to what would normally be simple logic puzzles. Unfortunately, it usually ends up falling flat on its face.
Discussions play out as “nonstop debates,” timed scenes in which various characters give their thoughts on a case. The discussion plays out in real time, though you can fast forward through them to get to the relevant parts. You’re only given a set amount of time to debate, so you’ll have to do a lot of fast thinking.
Makoto wields his evidence in the form of “truth bullets,” metaphorical bullets with which he uses to “shoot” at the false testimonies of his classmates. Witness statements are represented by onscreen text, and you have to manually aim your “truth bullet” at the contradicting text in order to object to their inaccuracies.
It’s a novel idea at first, but as the game goes on, the process becomes more and more convoluted. Sometimes you’ll have to shoot down “white noise” that covers up contradictions before you can use your truth bullet on them. In the beginning, you’ll start off with only one bullet in the chamber, but eventually the game will give you multiple pieces of evidence to choose from. The game then has you create new evidence by extracting it from witness testimonies and using it as ammo. This requires going through the same dialogue multiple times: once to extract the evidence from the statement, and many more times to find the corresponding contradiction and shoot at it. There are many ways to fail here: shooting at the wrong statement, using the wrong evidence, or simply shooting and missing your target altogether. Each failure results in starting the debate from the beginning, forcing you to go through the same content over and over. The fast forward feature helps, but it’s annoying when you know exactly which statement you need to object to, but have to wait for it to come up again. These debates, despite their flaws, are probably the strongest part of the classroom trials. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t end the weird gameplay gimmicks there.
Every once in a while, you’ll be thrown into a mini-game in order to advance the trial. This either involves a very rudimentary version of the “hangman” word guessing game or a frustratingly complex rhythm game. Neither of these mini-games have anything to do with using logic to solve the case. They’re just serve as temporary distractions from the debates. For example, the rhythm game has you pressing buttons to a certain rhythm, which shoots down nonsense and completely irrelevant statements such as “Shut up!” from the person’s mental defense you’re trying to break. For some reason, completing this arbitrary mini-game reveals something new about the case. However, unlike the debates in which you use the evidence at your disposal to come to a logical conclusion, these mini-games rob you of any satisfaction from figuring out the case for yourself. The rhythm game has no relation at all as to what is happening in regards to the murder case’s narrative. It’s a random mini-game that feels desperately out of place. And, just like the debates, the game piles more and more elements to these mini-games to make them more complicated.
The game continues to introduce new elements to the game before you can even get a handle on the previous ones. There’s a high learning curve to how these trials play out, and it might take you a long time before you discover the nuances to successfully make it out of a trial. It took me at least three trials before I fully understood the basics, and the game kept throwing new stuff at me even after that.
Every trial climaxes with an interactive comic book sequence in which you must piece together the events of the crime in the order that they happened. Unlike the random hangman and rhythm mini-games, this sequence acts as a fitting and satisfying murder mystery conclusion.
Failing enough times in any of these sequences will cause you to get a game over, resulting in the theoretical death of all your classmates. However, you’re given the option to immediately restart at the point of failure, with the only actual penalty being a reduction of your overall grade at the end of the trial.
Thankfully, the game allows you to select a lower difficulty if you have trouble with any of these action-based elements. Lowering the difficulty will make the game more forgiving when it comes to mistakes. However, whenever a new element is introduced, the game will act like it’s at the hardest difficulty, so you’ll still have to endure some complications for a few brief moments.
Once a trial concludes, new areas of the school become accessible, furthering the scope of your investigations, as well as the bringing you closer to the truth of Hope’s Peak Academy many mysteries.
Once you complete the story mode “School Mode” becomes available. This mode tells an alternate story that eschews all the murder and focuses mainly on building bonds with your classmates. This acts as an opportunity to unravel more information about the characters in case you missed them in the main story mode because they were too busy being dead. The other core part of the mode is a tedious resource management game, which isn’t all that compelling, so “School Mode” simply acts as a small bonus in case you haven’t gotten enough Danganronpa by the end of the game.
While the gameplay might not be up to snuff, Danganronpa excels at style. You’ll find a mix of gorgeous illustrations, humorous pixel art, and sleek landscapes, tied together by pretty slick interface.
Every piece of art in this game is exuding with its own unique personality, which is most apparent in its character design. Just like the game itself is a mixture of various media, the characters themselves look like they’ve been ripped out of other game genres. Some characters look like your typical anime-style characters. Makoto looks to be your typical high school anime protagonist, and Sayaka, the pop idol, is the expected cute little Japanese schoolgirl (though the secrets she hide may not be as endearing). Character designs take a sharp turn towards crazy once you get to the likes of Mondo, the “Ultimate Biker Gang Leader,” who looks like a high school Yakuza thug, sporting an enormous pompadour. There’s also Sakura, the “Ultimate Martial Artist,” who looks like she came straight out of Fist of the North Star, with a muscled physique that rips through the sleeves of her sailor school uniform. Each of the 15 students has their own unique look that exemplifies their quirky personalities. The great writing manages to subvert many of the cliché tropes that you’d expect from these types of characters, making every character is memorable in one way or another. Every one of them has some sort of secret to hide, and you’ll have fun picking out the ones you love and the ones you love to hate. Becoming too attached, however, will eventually lead to despair, as you never know when one of them will end up kicking the bucket next. The game makes that very clear early on.
The game’s soundtrack, composed by video game music legend Masafumi Takada, really adds to the ambiance of the game. You’ll get stuff like poppy techno tunes to accompany your peer bonding and more dire and disturbing tracks with haunting vocals as things escalate to a more murderous atmosphere.
You’re going to be doing a lot of reading in this game, but that’s okay. The outlandish art, incredible characters and funky soundtrack make the experience an engaging one. In typical visual novel fashion, the story is presented through text boxes and static character portraits. Characters do not animate at all, unlike the Ace Attorney series, so emotion is conveyed through the constant visual changes in the characters’ emotional states. Each character has many different expressions to go through, so even though it’s not animated, it feels active enough to remain engaging. Occasionally you’ll get some voiced dialogue to go with your free time or investigation phases, but most of the visual and audible flair will come from the classroom trials.
The trials are fully voiced, and the English acting is pretty darn good, for the most part. You’ll get tons of voiced dialogue from each character, making the discussions feel like actual debates. The camera is constantly sweeping around court room, encircling the characters at their benches, giving a very dynamic feel to what’s actually just a bunch of 2D portraits standing still in one place. The music in the trials especially makes them feel fast-paced. It’s almost too fast at some points. There’s almost never a break in the action, which, coupled with the less-than-stellar gameplay, makes them somewhat exhausting. I guess it’s kind of an appropriate feeling for a murder case involving your close friends.
It’s not just static action all the time, though. Trials end with elaborate animated cutscenes that usually feature the gruesome executions of the murder culprit, assuming you’re able to identify him or her correctly. The art style here is probably the strongest in the game. It’s a nice “reward” for successfully completing a trial.
In the end, in spite of the visual novel framework, the game oozes with style and manages to present a very unique and memorable sensory experience.
Danganronpa is an extremely complex and convoluted game, but such intricacies give way to a certain charm. The incredible characters and story are good enough to overcome the shortcomings of the gameplay. Even if you can’t get a handle of the basic mechanics at first, you’ll likely be compelled to trudge through them just to move on to next crazy story beat that gets you one step closer to the truth of Hope’s Peak and the circumstances surrounding the perilous predicament these poor high school students have found themselves in. Don’t be surprise if you end up shedding a few tears along the way because your favorite character bites the dust. Danganronpa tends to cruel in that way, and it’s amazing to say that about a video game.
If you own a Vita, you’re probably hurting for good games to play on the system. Unless you really hate reading, you can’t go wrong with Danganronpa.
I give Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc a 4 out of 5.
If you end up wanting even more despair in your video games once this game ends, be on the look out of Danganronpa 2, coming out in English this fall! Just try and avoid the copious amounts of spoilers already out there on the Internet!
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra
For years video game fans have fantasized about a massively multiplayer online Pokémon game. That dream has yet to become a reality, but this last weekend, something along those lines cropped up out of nowhere. As I type this, more than 50,000 people are working together to play a single game of Pokémon Red online. This is called “Twitch Plays Pokémon,” an experiment described simply as, “I’m a robot playing Pokemon, I don’t know what I’m doing, tell me which buttons to press.”
One innovative Australian programmer thought of a way to use the popular video game streaming service Twitch.TV as a means of creating a live crowd-sourced interactive experience by allowing viewers to directly influence the progress of a single video game. The programmer did this by creating a program to interpret inputs such as “down,” “a,” “b,” and “start,” from user comments in the video stream’s chat room and sending them to the game via emulator. Such a novel idea steadily gained traction over the weekend to the point that tens of thousands of users are actively participating in the game simultaneously.
The result is an intriguing social experiment involving the ability (or inability) of a massive amount of Internet users to work together towards a common goal, which in this case is to complete the classic Gameboy game Pokémon Red. In an interview with Polygon, the creator said Pokémon was the ideal candidate due to its “turn-based gameplay, forgiving nature and its lack of reaction-based gameplay (which isn’t compatible with [20 seconds-plus] of Twitch lag).”
Pokémon Red is traditionally a single-player game, so these 50,000 people are all controlling a single character. Thousands of inputs are being sent every second, and it’s very hard to get everyone to agree on something. For every hundred players legitimately trying to progress through the game, there’s a hundred more that are actively trying to sabotage it by spamming the least desirable outcome possible.
It’s highly entertaining to watch, as the mess of inputs causes the player character to spaz out, going in seemingly random directions and engaging in nonsensical actions such as constantly walking into a wall or repeatedly talking to non-player characters. It’s a common situation for the player character becomes stuck in a small section of the game for hours. The majority of Saturday had players struggling on a section of the game that simply required the player to move to the right for a small distance. However, a deluge directional “down” commands from players hoping to disrupt the game’s progress kept them in that section for hours and hours on end. For comparison’s sake, a normal game being played by a single player would probably have them spend not even 10 minutes in this one area. To someone who didn’t know the circumstances, one could very easily mistake Twitch Plays Pokémon for a game being played by an incredibly inept player.
Yet, through all the chaos, progress is being made due to a somewhat common sense of direction and goal among most of the player base. Over a period of 5 days, the collective of users have made considerable progress through the game. Various discussion forums on the Internet have cried out the impossibilities of the collective passing certain events, and every time so far they’ve overcome the odds. It’s just taken them multiple hours to do so. In many ways, the experiment is self-correcting. As people become bored and drop out of play, the player base becomes smaller, making the game easier to control. The sudden progress in the game reinvigorates interest in the project, causing chaos to once again ensue. Then disinterest will eventually come about due to the lack of advancement, and the process begins anew.
Twitch Plays Pokémon has gathered an extensive following outside of the tens of thousands of people typing into the game’s chat. A group of users put together a public Google Doc documenting the players’ current status and goals for people to edit and add to. One user created extensive statistical lists that detail the frequency of button inputs and chat commands. Someone has even put together time-lapse videos of entire days of gameplay.
Many artistic fans took it upon themselves to express their love of the experiment with their own fan art, recreating some of the more humorous moments of the game. These works often depict the player character as a schizophrenic child with thousands of Internet user’s commands acting as the voices in his head. More memes involve the faux “religions” surrounding the various generally “useless” items that players constantly use on accident due to the bedlam of thousands of simultaneous commands.
Unsurprisingly, many copycat streams have surfaced, as well. One of the more unique spins on the project takes the chat commands from Twitch Plays Pokémon to play a virtual game of Tetris, resulting in incredibly bizarre and impossible moves (that often result in game overs). Another stream uses completely random inputs generated by a computer to play through the same Pokémon game at 500% speed, and it hasn’t come even close to catching up with Twitch Plays Pokémon. Again, it serves as evidence that the seemingly random, chaotic inputs from the human players participating in Twitch Plays Pokémon actually have a common sense of direction.
For any fans of Pokémon, I definitely recommend tuning into this fantastic experiment, or even directly contributing to it! They’re going to need all the help they can get, and even if they spend hours wandering around aimlessly, it’s still extremely entertaining to watch them struggle through the simplest of endeavors. I literally watched them spend an hour trying to cut down a bush, only to be thwarted by a second bush minutes later.
Twitch Plays Pokémon has currently been running for more than 4 days, and the creator intends to keep the game running 24/7 in hopes that the players eventually reach the game’s end. At this rate, that could be months from now, but it’ll be exciting to check in every once in a while to witness the next obstacle to plague players for the next 5 hours.
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra
Packing all those genres into one headline is an appropriate way to represent the insanity that is Jazzpunk. How else can you describe a secret agent venturing into resort towns to chase down QR coded pigs and spray Cheez Whiz into the mouth of a verbose and eccentric rich guy, right before jumping into a wedding cake for an intensely visceral exchange of marriage vows? If I included more specific context to that chain of events, it honestly wouldn’t make any more sense, but you just have to roll with it, because Jazzpunk has a lot more where that came from. The constant weirdness makes for a highly entertaining jaunt through an incredibly bizarre world.
After a fantastic graphical title sequence, you find yourself in the body of secret agent Polyblank. Your first mission briefing with The Director starts with a whoopee cushion that sets the strange tone for the rest of the game. He instructs you to take a bottle of pills labeled “Missionyol” to begin your mission to steal some technology from the Russian Consulate. Upon downing the pills, you’re immediately teleported to a park inhabited by magnetized pigeons and all sorts of shady characters. Any semblance of plot ends there. An antagonist known as The Editor shows up at some point in the story, but he’ll take a back seat to the robotic saxophone players, arachnophobic sushi chefs and cyborg elevator attendants that inhabit the world of Jazzpunk.
Jazzpunk is framed in the familiar first-person perspective, but it doesn’t play like your usual first-person game. Jazzpunk is less of a game and more of a spastic interactive comedy.
The game is split up into four main missions, with a few interludes in between. Each one takes place in its own level, in an environment unique to each mission, such as the aforementioned park and city area, a Japan Town alley and a resort hotel. Each mission has one main goal to achieve, but there’s also a variety of sidequests and minigames sprinkled throughout for players who wish to explore the levels to their fullest. For instance, on your way to infiltrate the consulate, you might assist a frog in stealing Wi-Fi from a “Starbux” buying playing a crude facsimile of Frogger. The rewards for these quests are very minor, netting you an achievement at the most, but the absolutely insane situations and their outcomes are a reward in itself.
To accomplish your main objective and move on to the next level, you’ll have to tackle a few simple puzzles, like getting a cowboy to eat some bad sushi so you can steal his kidney. There is some freedom, as there’s usually more than one way to go about solving a puzzle, and nearly all of them are sure to extract at least a giggle from you. I burst out laughing when I discovered you could fool an ID scanner by placing your naked rear on a copy machine and presenting the end product to the camera, only to be identified as “Dr. Buttly” as you’re granted access to the restricted area. The “employee of the month” portrait on the wall would’ve sufficed as well, which was probably the more obvious solution, which made the moment all the funnier. None of the puzzles are much more complex than that. Jazzpunk is not a difficult game, as its meat is in the wackiness rather than the gameplay. If you somehow do get stuck, the game offers a hint system for the first couple of levels.
There are a ton of interactive objects strewn about the levels, making for lots of side content. Most of them involve numerous sight gags or absurd dialogue from AI characters. Interacting with these objects is entirely optional, but going out of your way to find them all will stretch out the game quite a bit, as the game itself isn’t very long. If you play through the game without intent to discover these extra events, gunning only for the mainline missions, the game will not last very long. With a fair bit of exploring, I was about to finish the entire game in 3 only hours, though I’m fairly sure I’m still missing some content as I still have a few Achievements left to acquire.
Jazzpunk features a charming unique art style. It’s a mishmash of a 50s cartoon aesthetic, restroom signage, circuit diagrams and a retro spy theme. Think “Ren and Stimpy” in terms of atmosphere, rather than animation. It’s not an extremely detailed look, as most characters look like they were ripped straight from a bathroom sign, and they slide along the ground without so much as a walking animation. The inoffensive, minimalist design of these characters really just adds to the absurdity of the world.
The jazzy soundtrack (as implied from the game’s title) also adds to the goofy and frantic mood. The boisterous brass and saxophones are reminiscent of spy movie soundtracks and 1960s Batman scenarios. It’s fitting for the comedic spy thriller.
The highlights of the game are the train of gags and jokes that never seems to slow down. You’ll find that Polyblank, like the other inhabitants of Jazzpunk, lacks arms, so whenever he has to interact with an object, he pulls out a paper arm on a stick to act as his appendage, then quickly discards it by throwing it to the ground. Multiple interactions will result in a pile of paper hands at Pollyblank’s feet. No one seems to treat this as odd. It’s just considered the norm in Jazzpunk.
If you’re a tech geek, you’ll have a lot of fun with Jazzpunk’s constant technical puns, as the game has an obsession with math and programming humor. You’ll also find multiple jokes and references to other video games. If you’re a fan of Street Fighter in particular, you’re in for a real treat.
Jazzpunk is very entertaining from start to finish, but unfortunately it’s an experience that lasts little more than a couple of hours. The game contains a ridiculous amount of content in its numerous surreal jokes and gags, but it’s consumed rather quickly.
The $15 price tag for such a short game might scare away a few potential players. If you’re looking for a game with a little more substance and replay value, Jazzpunk probably isn’t for you. However, comedy is rarely done well in video games, so Jazzpunk is pretty unique in that regard. If you want something a little different from the norm, and you aren’t afraid of a few (or a bunch, in this game’s case) dumb jokes, I encourage you to step into the insane reality that is Jazzpunk.
I give Jazzpunk a 4 out of 5.
Jazzpunk is currently available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms and will be on sale for $11.99 until February 14.
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra
Facebook’s new official iPhone app released Monday this week, and it’s a fresh new take on the Facebook experience. Facebook Paper is the first product from Facebook Creative Labs, a small design team dedicated to “crafting new apps to support the diverse ways people want to connect and share.” It sounds like a fancy way of saying, “testing out new ideas without the masses flipping out over interface changes.”
Facebook Paper is a free iPhone app (no current plans for Android or iPad) that’s separate from the main Facebook application. Soon after its release, it shot up the App Store’s chart, landing in the top 5 free apps. The seeks to provide stories in an aesthetically pleasing manner and to browse through them with “simple, natural movements.”
Facebook’s main mobile app has become a bit bloated over the years, and Paper slims the experience down to its core components: viewing and sharing stories. Basically, Paper turns Facebook into your own personalized newspaper.
Your main news feed screen is separated vertically into two sections. The top square pulls various photo-related stories from you feed and automatically scrolls through them, giving you a brief overview of what your friends have been up to.
Most of your browsing will be done on the bottom half of the screen. Here you can horizontally scroll though your friends’ posts. Tapping or swiping up on a post will stretch it to become full screen, and swiping it down will return you the news feed.
Reading posts on Paper is a really easy distraction-free experience. It gives every single post, photo, video or album its own dedicated screen. Photos in particular have very unique viewing method. Wide photos will display at full height in portrait mode, and you can use your phones gyroscope to explore the photo in a panoramic sort of way.
Browsing user profiles gives easy access to a timeline of events organized by year. You can go back and view a history of your posts all the way back to the beginning. It seems much easier than I’ve found in Facebook’s other offerings.
In addition to your own personal news feed, Paper also includes additional topics of news to add to your stable of stories, bringing the whole “personalized newspaper” idea a step further. After launching the app, Paper provides you a list of 19 categories to choose from. Topics range from headlines news, celebrity pop culture, photography and sports. There’s even a section dedicated to cute animal pictures. it’s the Internet, after all.
These selected categories can be accessed by swiping to the left on the top section of your personal news feed. Navigation works the same here, except your friends’ posts are replaced from news articles and photos from various sources, such as CNN, National Geographic and Wired. Swiping up on an article gives a brief summary and a link to the full thing. Swiping or tapping on the link plays charming animation of the article “unfolding” before your eyes and opens it up within the app for your reading pleasure. Swiping downwards closes the article and brings you back to the summary page, which you can use to directly like, comment or share it like any other Facebook post.
Paper includes other basic Facebook features, such as notifications and messaging. You can even opt to force notifications to open in Paper rather than the original Facebook app. You can continue to create status updates and post photos through Paper, but more granular control over your profile seems to be absent. I couldn’t find a way to modify my profile picture or cover photo, and it doesn’t seem possible to create or organize photo albums, so you may need to keep your old Facebook around if you’re more of a power user.
Unlike Facebook’s other mobile experience, there currently aren’t any ads littered through your feed, but that could change depending on Paper’s reception. Paper feels experimental in many ways. It certainly is a more pleasing way of viewing Facebook, but it also seems like a matter of form over function. I find the old Facebook app to be easier at browsing Facebook at a glance, but for people who want a more personal experience, Paper seems to be on the right track. If anything, Paper could be seen as a preview of things to come from Facebook in terms of design.
If you’ve got an iPhone, Paper can currently be downloaded for free on the Apple App Store.
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra