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.

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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A $70 lesson . . .

Before I tell you my lesson that I learned yesterday, I need to back up and fill you in on some background data.

It started between 2 and 3 months ago.  The PS3 that we used for both playing video games and watching Netflix streaming videos started misbehaving.  Mind you, it is getting a bit old, so I wasn’t upset about that.  But, there was a mild bit of frustration in it not consistently loading the audio when I wanted to play a video game from a disc.  That was the only time I noticed a problem, and at first it didn’t happen very often, so I waited.

A couple of weeks ago, it had gotten to the point that this same problem occurred about half of the time.  That was annoying, so I decided it was time to replace the PS3.

However, I had what I thought was a bright idea.  Since the old system was working fine for Netflix – let’s use BOTH systems, and put the gaming load entirely on the new system, while continuing to use the old one for Netflix streaming.  The TV had an adequate number of cable connections available to do this, so it seemed a great idea.

Thursday I got a migraine, so wouldn’t you know the new PS3 would arrive on Friday.  I looked into how the data transfer utility on the PS3’s worked, and it looked like something I should be able to handle.  Perhaps if I hadn’t had the migraine, I would have slowed down.

First, I had to do a software update for the new PS3.  That was the first problem – I’d forgotten what the password is to access our wireless router.  Ok, I’ll just reset it.

Wrong.  I’m still not exactly sure what I did wrong (I had a management utility disc and thought I was following directions) – but I managed to kick the entire wireless router off-line.  After phone calls to 4 different IT departments, I learned that I’d have to replace the router to restore functionality.  Meanwhile – we had NO internet access at all.

Why did it take 4 phone calls to learn that?  I’m so glad you asked!  The first phone call was to the tech support line for the company that hosts our ISP.  Because our phone service is connected to the internet service, when they remotely rebooted the modem to try resynching it to the router, it cut off the phone call.

Call 3 was to the tech support line for the company that owned the manufacturer of the router when I bought it.  It was their number listed in the owner’s manual.  But they sold that subsidy 3 years ago, so they don’t offer support for those routers anymore.  They were nice about it, though, and looked up the 800# for the tech support people I did need to talk to.  That was call #4.

Call 4 was nowhere near the pleasure of call 3.  They were rude, and wouldn’t even discuss my problem until they had a database file on me, complete with personal information I don’t usually give to anyone over the phone.  When I finally got to tell them the make/model of the router, they said we’d just wasted all the time making the file (well, that wasn’t their point-of-view, but it is MINE) because it was old enough the warranty had expired.  So they could help me, if I wanted to pay them a set fee per half-hour for live tech support.  I have a personal rule – never pay for anything “by the hour” if you can get it done at a flat fee.  Pay by the hour is a trick shysters use to run up expenses while pretending to be busy.

So, I made a few local calls, and found a replacement router and had my wife swing by (she was out grocery shopping yesterday morning anyhow) and pick one up.  We were back on the internet before noon.

And the lesson I learned?  Never try to do anything that requires concentration and critical thinking skills while dealing with a migraine.  I should have been able to reset those security settings with no problem, in about 5 minutes.

Anyhow, as I type this (about 30 minutes after midnight, local time) the PS3’s are both fully updated, the trophies synched, and the data transfer is about 35% done.  The on-board time estimate to completion is another hour and a half.

Death of a Salesman . . .

No, I’m not talking about the famous play, or the movie version of it.  In fact, this isn’t really about a person at all.

It’s about our TV.  The LG 28″ HD TV we’ve had for about 7 years.  About 10 days ago I noticed that I was having trouble getting a picture when I first turned on the TV, but if I cycled it ON/OFF a few times, the picture would come up.  Then, last Monday my wife commented that she’d noticed that problem, so I confirmed it.  By Wednesday, I got in touch with our electronics techie, and he told me that it was either “swollen capacitors” on the motherboard, or the power supply was giving out.  He gave me the website for a company that specializes in selling repair parts for flat-panel TV’s.

Armed with that information, I went to the website, and found that while they did have a lot of parts for other LG TV’s – our specific model number was not listed.  It didn’t matter which problem our TV had, because I couldn’t confirm that we’d be able to get a replacement part.  When I told my wife that, we decided that it was time to get a new TV.

However, it was after 6:00 pm when we came to that decision, and our local Westco was closed.  I went online to BestBuy.com, and found a 32″ TV that would meet all of our needs (we don’t have cable TV or Satellite service) and we had the money in savings to cover it’s price, so I ordered it and paid for expedited shipping to get it by Friday.  I gave them our address, credit card number . . . and a blind email address I’d set up just for such situations so I wouldn’t have to give out my real email contact to corporations.  I did NOT give them our home phone number.

2 hours later I got an email that BestBuy.com was cancelling the order, “because we can’t confirm some of your information”.  Apparently invading your privacy for their database is more important to them than making a sale.

Well, that wasn’t going to fly with me.  The next morning, I took my wife to work and kept the car.  At 10:00 am when Westco opened, I waddled in and told the clerk helping me what I wanted.  He told me that, no matter what the Westco website said about availability, THIS store hadn’t had anything smaller than a 38″ TV in stock for over 2 years.  On that Thursday morning, the smallest TV he had was a LG 42″ HD TV – that was nearly double what I had already been willing to pay to BestBuy for the 32″ TV.  However, he assured me that we’d have it that afternoon – free delivery and setup.

It’s on our coffee table now.  The first movie we watched was a Netflix disc we got in the mail Wednesday morning – “The Fault In Our Stars”.  It was a great movie in it’s own right, but it was awesome for breaking in our new TV.

Oh, and the first time I fired up the PS3 to play one of my games – I freaked out.  I thought everything looked spectacular on the 28″ TV – the 42″ almost makes the games look photo-realistic.  I am eagerly anticipating the release in a couple of weeks of the new game – “Dragon Age: Inquisition”.