Widgets of the week: September 2, 2005

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I normally use this space to review a few of my favorite Widgets, but this week I’m going to instead talk about a unique Widget contest. As reported by Peter Cohen earlier this week, developer OTEE is currently conducting a Widget-design contest based around their Unity game development platform. As explained by Peter, “Unity is an integrated game production environment that can be used to create 3D games. The software ships with an advanced lighting system, built-in shaders and includes Ageia’s physX physics engine. Standard features include skinned character animation, Javascript support and more.” OTEE invited developers to use Unity to create Dashboard games and enter their creations in the Unity Dashboard Widget Contest; 13 entries were received, which OTEE has made available for download.

Some of these games are quite good, especially given the time frame in which they were produced; here are a few of my favorites:

All Around The Wall . Remember Tetris? Imagine that instead of placing blocks as they fall, you’re actually shooting those blocks from a cannon, trying to get them to land next to similarly-colored blocks. Now imagine the whole thing in 3D, so you have to worry not just about height and width, but also about depth. Finally, imagine that every once in a while, the “wall of bricks” rotates. That’s All Around The Wall in a nutshell. Oh, and did I mention that all of this takes place in outer space?

All Around The Wall Widget

Banana Warehouse . Such a simple objective; such a frustrating game. Your goal is to use your trusty forklift to put the yellow-branded banana boxes in the yellow section of the warehouse, and move the green-branded banana boxes to the green section. Except that your forklift doesn’t exactly, well, lift , so you have to push the boxes around. And you get only 75 seconds to perform the task. Sounds easy? Give it a try and then get back to me.

Banana Warehouse Widget

Open Fire . I can’t describe this one any better than the developer: “What is there for a lone man in a tower, armed only with his trusty rocket launcher, unlimited ammo, and cunning wits, to do with an endless stream of lemming-like tanks and army jeeps? Blow them up for fun, perhaps?!” Think “Missile Command"—the 80s favorite—but set in someone’s backyard with toy tanks and jeeps. And with your “missile launcher” on a table off to the side.

Open Fire Widget

Overwhelmed Arena . In this space-based shooter, you choose one of four ships and then fly around the enclosed arena, staying alive by preemptively destroying the other ships. Your ship’s shield loses power each time you’re hit by another ship’s weapons or run into the arena’s numerous physical obstacles. Thankfully, various power-ups—shield regenerators and better weapons—are scattered around the arena for you to grab.

Overwhelmed Arena Widget

What impressed me most about these games is that they actually look and play like games . They have good graphics (including dynamic lighting), decent physics engines, and entertaining gameplay. And here’s a handy tip: press Command+F while playing any game to switch it to full-screen mode. (According to OTEE, most of the games will actually perform better in full-screen mode than in Widget window mode.) One caveat: Some of the games are still in development, so they may occasionally quit on you; this won’t affect your system or Dashboard.

Widget games are a great way to squeeze in a quick break from work, and the crop of Unity-powered games are some of the best yet. So download a few of the entries in the Unity Dashboard Widget Contest, give them a try, and then vote for your favorite.


Macworld’s own Widget

Given that this column is about Widgets, I would be remiss—and perhaps docked a week’s pay—if I didn’t mention the fact that Macworld now has a Widget of its own. You can keep an eye on the latest Macworld news, articles, blog entries, and hints by diving into Dashboard.

Macworld Widget

Via the Widget’s settings, you can choose which of our sections you want to keep an eye on; you could, for example, use the Widget to see just the most recent Mac Gems columns. (Not that I recommend that, of course, since you’d be missing out on all of the rest of the great content here on the site.) The “Most Recent Stories” item gives you a live list of the most recent stories in all but the “Around The Web” and “Mac OS X Hints” categories.

Macworld Widget settings

You can download the Macworld Widget directly by clicking here . If you’d like to provide feedback on the Widget, please comment in the forum thread via the link below.

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