Thrash Lab

United Airlines Cuts Number of Reward Miles Needed for Short Flights

Airlines are desperate for some good press after a summer of delays and widespread passenger discontent, and are doing what they can to great some. Now, according to an August 22 press release, at United, a short flight equals a sweet deal as the airline is temporarily reducing the number of frequent flier miles members of its Mileage Plus Awards Travel need to redeem for flights of less than 700 miles.

Award travel for nonstop, roundtrip flights that are 700 miles or less each way on booked on the United website, www.united.com, will be available for 15,000 redeemable miles instead of the traditionally 25,000 miles. Tickets must be booked on the United Web site by Dec. 12 for travel between Sept. 1, 2007 and Dec. 14, 2007.

In the press release, Robert Sahadevan, United’s vice president of Mileage Plus, said, “United understands that our Mileage Plus members work hard to earn their frequent flyer miles and with this promotion less miles equal more awards.”

Good press for airline, not-so-good deal for passengers?

True, but at what cost to the passenger? Per usual, restrictions apply, seats are limited, and the traveler will be giving up 15,000 frequent flier miles that could be better used for a longer, more expensive trip.

Right now, airfare is less expensive than it has been in previous months as summer vacation travel winds down and airlines try to re-gain consumer loyalty and confidence. Which means a better choice might be to just purchase the ticket and save the miles.

For $118.80, a passenger can book a ticket from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to Baltimore Washington International Airport on the United Web site. This particular trip is a Saturday to Wednesday with mid-morning nonstop flights each way. A flight from San Francisco to Phoenix costs $334.50 for a Thursday to Monday flight on a more traditional business travel schedule.

True cost of miles

At the same time, the Chicago to Baltimore trip is 621 miles each flight, earning the passenger up to 1,400 frequent flier miles. The San Francisco to Phoenix flights are 651 miles each way, again earning up to 1,400 frequent flier miles.

If a passenger redeems miles for the Chicago to Baltimore trip the miles would cost $24.15 per mile, San Francisco to Phoenix would average $23.04 per mile. These two trips are eligible for the lower redemption award. In contrast, an October trip from Baltimore to San Francisco starts at $588.80, and can be “purchased” for 25,000 frequent flier awards miles, at an average of $10.18 per mile. This trip is not eligible for the lower redemption level.

The savings of 10,000 miles might not be the best financial choice for a short trip, particularly in light of the simultaneously lower airfares. However, for emergency or un-planned for trips, or individuals who are miles-rich and cash-poor, this is good news.

United Airlines can be profitable for some while not much of a monetarily beneficial option for others so you will not find many people who would opt for it any time soon as the finances are all that matters and private flights are not something that everyone can afford with UA being one of them and is full of hassles on certain occasions.

A Glance at Indie Games

A Look Back to the Start

Ten years ago, Indie games were little more than glorified freeware titles of poor quality. Some gems stood out, but for the most part it was just poorly coded and poorly designed. They lacked much in the way of originality, cribbing on franchises like Mario, Final Fantasy, and Sonic. Ten years ago, if you had said that a game coded by one man or by a team of five was going to be any good, you would have been laughed off. Now, making a game is easy, even if you’re wanting to finally design your Doom clone. Software packages are available that take the lion’s share of programming out of the mix altogether. You also have the flexible coding bases like C# and XNA which enable a developer to quickly come to grips and develop the title with a flexible tool set.

Indie RPGs

RPGs are a long endeared genre of gaming. Taking from every source under the sun, it’s impossible to think of what they haven’t covered at this point. The market for indie RPGs is rather slim at times it seem, at least in terms of fellows that program theirs the hard way. Coding an engine, designing art, and ultimately doing your own sound work is a pretty time consuming effort. Factor that in with creating a plot that hasn’t been done to death, and you may find yourself stretched well past the limit. Enterbrain and a handful of other companies have fashioned a system that takes the hard work out of it for the most part. RPG Maker VX, their latest version, holds true to principles of their popular system. Considering user made games like Yume Nikki, Laxius Power, and Avarice, it’s hard to comprehend games of their scope even being made by a tool derided by coders for its simplicity.

RPGs gain a bit of a resurgence on portable platforms like the iPhone. Being rather easy to develop for and having a quick turn around time for the distribution, it’s easy to see small developers taking on much larger risks than their better funded counterparts. Seeing ambitious projects trying to envision science fiction worlds in a portable package seem a little out of depth for smaller teams, but it’s done on a regular basis.

Indie Games in General

Generally, Indie games are like gamer tshirts that players across the globe have been highly interested into. With its crazy features and benefits, it is no doubt that it is one of the best types of games across the industry. Arguably the runaway success of Cut The Rope and Angry Birds should do much to convince your average consumer of the power of an independently developed game. The aforementioned titles cost a paltry dollar compared to casual gaming giant Popcap’s popular titles, but they preserve a charm all of their own. Cut The Rope succeeded where few titles have gone with its initial launch, garnering a million downloads over the course of ten days. We’re talking a small tiny little title with decent marketing sure, but taking up a fraction of the processing power of the device. Gameplay sells though, and Cut The Rope certainly shows that. Angry Birds has established a brand for developer Rovio, being referenced casually on talk shows, radio, by musicians and celebrities, and so much more. Angry Birds remains the top selling app on the store in fact, having sold millions of copies.

Indie developers have a broader selection to distribute their works in these days, and reaping the benefits of that work quite gladly. Microsoft provides an interface for developers to publish their works on Xbox Live, the same going for competitors Nintendo and Sony. There may be a deluge of shovelware, but there are the few gems that make themselves known loudly and clearly. We see ably how placing the tools to implement a product for the little guy ultimately can lead to resounding success. The indie scene is flourishing now of course, no longer is it some foregone dream to think of developing your own quality game. You can polish it up as you see fit, and you can sell it wherever you want, provided you’re paying whatever nominal fees you want to pay. This can be as simple as purchasing a developer’s account through Microsoft to submitting your game for review through Apple’s interface.

So while the RPGs may seem a bit too focused on, you have to realize exactly the sort of work that goes into creating your typical Final Fantasy game. The gaming crew is composed of over a hundred members for any given team at Square-Enix, and they may work anywhere between one to three years preparing a game for release. Compare that to the team of five who work frantically at a few hours a day and creating something of comparable playability. It doesn’t stack up quite fairly, but it never will.

What Does The Future Hold?

Both indie and commercial games have their unique places in the market. Provided there are systems in place, it’ll continue to be this way. The future of indie gaming is much like any other aspect of the gaming industry, and will quite literally progress as it wants due to the lack of executive control over the smaller studios. This means less deadlines, less concessions made to the suits, and overall more things where a die-hard gamer can get a truly great experience for a mere pittance.

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