Thoughts on joining the PS4 generation…

Well, I guess it had to happen.  One of the games I play fairly often is DC Universe Online – aka: DCUO.  While I played it on the PS3, there was a limitation that I was terribly frustrated by: higher-leveled characters could use area-of-effect (AOE) spells and powers that just flat toasted my PS3’s graphics card.  The images would lag, load slow, or in worst-case scenarios the image would totally pixelate and the system would lock up.  It wasn’t just my system either – this was a problem lots of PS3 users would talk about in chat.  It has long seemed like the only remedy is to upgrade to a PS4.

In addition to that, there was another game, The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO or ESO) which a friend and I have been trying to play together, because we both like the series that preceded it and we can interact in real time even though he’s in Florida and I’m in Kansas.  ESO is not available at all on the PS3, but it IS available to the PS4.

Put both of those paragraphs together, and it was inevitable that I would eventually get a PS4.  About a week ago, I found a listing on eBay where a guy had bought a special (meaning more expensive than normal) edition PS4 as a present for one of his kids, only to find out that the kid didn’t like Star Wars (it has a  Darth Vader silhouette  line sketch on the outside of the box).  So he was selling it (still NEW, in the box) for over $100 off the usual price so he could get a different one as a Christmas present for the kid.  It seemed to me like a win-win, I get the PS4, his kid gets something he likes.

The PS4 arrived ON Black Friday.  I also ordered (via eBay) a copy of the ESO game for the PS4, from a different seller, that arrived at the same time.

First off, the setup process was a LOT more cumbersome than I thought it needed to be.  When I put in my PSN log-in information to access the account I had set up while gaming on the PS3, it went to a loading-screen that displayed a polite little animated swirling circle with the words, “PLEASE WAIT” – and stayed there for over 24 HOURS.  I still don’t know what it was trying to do, but I finally gave up and hit the “Back” button to escape whatever it was doing, and moved on.  Most of my trophies, friend contacts, and other such information seem to have been transferred alright, but I’m still not entirely pleased.

It seems that ESO has some sort of partnership with SONY beyond just making a version of the install software for the PS4.  ESO is a massive, multi-player, online game.  That is all that it is.  There is no game without being online and logged in.  But, ESO won’t even install on the PS4 unless you ALSO have a PSN Plus subscription.  The only real difference between ESO and DCUO is cosmetic, but DCUO was originally released for the PS3, and so does not require the Plus subscription.

I’m pretty disappointed with the PS4, overall.  It is not backwards compatible, which means that none of the games I already have for the PS3 will play on the PS4.  There are no PS4 versions of any of those games, except for Dragon Age: Inquisistion, which I don’t really care for because it’s so different from the other Dragon Age games it should have a different name.  I looked in the Playstation Store, and there aren’t many PS4 games at all, and the ones they do have aren’t games I want to play.

So, it seems that the only reason I now have a PS4 is to play DCUO, or take advantage of the social networking stuff.  If you have a PS4 and want to add a new friend, leave me a message with your ID, and I may hook up.  I would just put my account name here, but automated spam-bots troll the internet specifically looking for things like that.

Can you spare one?

Frustrations abound.  A couple of months ago, I realized that my PS3 wasn’t keeping up with the changes that are being made in the online games I play.  The last few major updates to DCUO (DC Comics Universe Online) have included some very powerful graphics-hogging area effect powers for characters, and every other online player who uses those is contributing to bogging my PS3 down to near non-playable status.

The only fix, of course, is to upgrade to a PS4, about $350 USD.  That’s not even anything fancy – just getting set up.

However, we’re nowhere close to having that kind of discretionary spending fund at the moment.  This last year we’ve replaced 2 coffee makers, bought an upright freezer (to replace the dis-functional freezer compartment on our refrigerator), replaced a steam kettle, and made 3 runs at the telomere supplements.  Looking at what we have planned over the next year or two, it looks like a safe bet that if we wait until we’ve comfortably saved the funds, I’ll have a brand-spanking-new PS4 about a month before they release the PS5.

Nah, I’m not really begging anyone to send me a PS4 game system.  I just thought that someone else might be interested in knowing they aren’t alone in making choices about priorities in their lives.  If that’s you, this post is for you.  I understand.

the last few days . . .

I’ve been really busy the last few days, though someone outside the house might not think so.  Last Monday a good friend who’s been out-of-touch for a few years called me up and asked about renewing our friendship.  One thing we both have in common is playing video games, so when he suggested we get our respective copies of The Elder Scrolls Online updated (and he had a TON of mods to share with me – I’ve never tried modding an MMO before) we worked out how he would share the mods with me and I started checking out which ones I wanted to use.  Two days later – the game no longer looks familiar!  Not that I played it all that much anyhow – I don’t like MMO’s unless I’m sharing them with someone I already know IRL, AND know their game-play style works with mine.

Anyhow, now I have to sort out which mods I want and don’t, based on how the game experience changes as I play using them.  The first thing I need to do is get rid of a huge dwemer-style clock that is sitting smack-dab in the middle of my screen.  LOL!

Never happened before…

I have in my game collection 4 different chapters of the “Tomb Raider” franchise.  I’ve never finished one, let alone finished it before the next chapter was released.

Until now.  Well, technically I haven’t finished TOMB RAIDER 2014 – but I got to the final boss fight, and since Lara is now out of ammo and arrows, I doubt she’s going to finish off the armored ogre (with a 400 lb. club) she has to fight.  My gaming skills aren’t that good.

Still, I’m tickled pink that I got that close to finishing the game.  I have cussed it a lot, and never been able to play it longer than about one hour at a stretch before I had to take it out of the PS3 and de-stress, but the story was so engaging that I kept going back.

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The new laptop…

As I’m sitting here writing this, it is actually 5:45 am on Tuesday, but I prefer to only post one thing each day, so this is getting scheduled for Thursday.

I’m very happy with the new laptop, so far.  I said that I was getting it for use on the internet, and it will do that nicely – as soon as I get the WiFi access set up.  That should happen later today (Tuesday). {It did}

I’ve also previously said that the reason I got the laptop was because I didn’t want to have to keep using a desktop that randomly crashes at a frustrating frequency level.  The blog that posted Monday?  The desktop crashed 3 times while I was writing it.  The laptop arrived Saturday morning, and hasn’t crashed even once since I plugged it in.  THAT is the level of reliability I was looking for.

I just wish I could get the desktop to be that reliable.  I’m getting tired of playing games on the PS3 (there just aren’t that many that I have any interest in playing).

As for the laptop, there is only one thing left to do – kick Microsoft to the curb.  If anyone has a line on a reliable Linux distro that will just install and run everything on a Dell Lenovo D830, is as user-friendly as Ubuntu 8.04 was, but is as privacy oriented as TOR – I want a copy.  Thanks!

Need a new computer…

Well, “need” might be a bit harsh, but I’m still moving that direction.

I bought this computer in Fall, 2011, wanting it to specifically be capable of playing a new game that would be released in November of that year.  My idea was that I would only need to add a high-end video graphics adapter card to make this a top-end gaming computer rig.  I added the graphics card about 2 years later.

This computer has NEVER been reliable, but it is getting worse.  It randomly reboots itself multiple times every day, sometimes when it isn’t even actively in use (like while I’m getting a cup of coffee).  Even when it isn’t rebooting at a frustrating moment, the web browser crashes at crazy times; and sometimes the screen goes black for a few seconds, and when it comes back everything looks exactly like before but for the addition of an error message telling me that the graphics card quit working.  Add to that the fact that I’ll never be able to play the game I wanted to play on a PC because I won’t set up an account with a 3rd party software verification company (STEAM) to use a disc I bought from a legal vendor, and my whole reason for keeping this computer (while cussing it) goes right out the window.

I’m thinking I need to just kick this computer to the curb, and switch to a low-cost laptop (or perhaps even a tablet) dedicated to just my internet activity. With a very non-techie-user-friendly distribution of Linux for the OS, and Firefox for the Browser.

Then, IF I ever get another gaming PC, it will be kept exclusively offline.  Which still means I’m never going to get to play a PC version of that game.

How to kill a video game franchise . . .

I don’t talk very much about gaming on this blog, because I have a LiveJournal account where that is most of what I do.  However, because I posted my open letter to the gaming industry here, I did think that it might be appropriate to look at what the industry can do wrong.  Mostly because when they do it wrong, they go big on the error.

My case study for this is the 3rd installment of the franchise Dragon Age.

This one is called Dragon Age: Inquisition.  Both of the previous installments became “Game of the Year” award winners, and I loved the games.  So my hopes were high.

First up – the controls.  Every game in this series has had a different map to the controls.  Frustration levels run exceptionally high when you are in combat situations and instinctively try to attack with the previous habit motions, but your character dies because that button/trigger now does something totally different.  DA:I takes this to a new extreme.  Where the previous games started with very simple controls, and slowly opened up new commands over the course of the game, DA:I is more complex at the start than the others were at the end.

Secondly, let’s look at in-game story continuity.  In the first game of the series, you could play as any of 4 different basic character types, with up to 10 different back stories (plus the option of playing each as male/female), and your decisions both at character generation and throughout the game had real in-game impacts on how events unfolded and how NPC’s reacted to you.  In the second game, you’re only allowed one race choice, thus only warrior/rogue/mage types, and male/female.  However, you were allowed to import your save file from the first game to fill in the back story to adjust how the NPC’s behave in the game – a first in my gaming experience, and it was awesome!  DA:I adds one new race as a playable character (Qunari), but does not support importing save files from previous games.

On to trophies.  We all want to be acknowledged for our hard work – the same is true in gaming.  So imagine the disappointment average people will feel in finding out that no matter how many times they play the entire game, they will never be able to earn a “Platinum” trophy (or Achievement on the Xbox systems).  This is because there are two trophies that absolutely require you to play the entire game on “Hard” or “Nightmare” difficulty settings, and most people who play these games won’t be able to do that.

Next up is the User Interface.  There is a HUD-type map that appears on the screen to help you navigate to objectives.  Or at least that is what it is supposed to do.  It fails completely because the compass freely spins as you change directions, resulting in you never being certain where you are or how to get to your chosen destination.

Now on to character leveling – the process of improving your character as you progress through the game.  The previous two installments of this series handled this fairly well, and with good planning it was possible to keep your character’s build ahead of the demands of the game.  Not so with DA:I – which now has a “power” stat that is the measure of the influence of the Inquisition.  The power stat goes up rather independently of the XP that you need to raise level, but is directly tied into the level of the opponents you face.  It shouldn’t be hard to imagine the pain and frustration of having a level 6 character who is suddenly facing level 10 demons!  Oh, and I’ve also had the “pleasure” of having my level 4 character run into a DRAGON.  FYI – one fireball from the dragon wiped out my entire party.

I could continue – but suffice it to say that everything my “open letter” said the video game should do differently has been done wrong by BioWare and EA in the third game of the Dragon Age series.  I don’t think I’ll be interested in a 4th game of this series.  These companies don’t care about your business or mine – they cater to the elite “top 3%” of all gamers, and this game proves it in spades.