Jaded's Pub

Some post story gameplay, messing around with Concrete powers.

[Spoilers Below]

You get Concrete powers in the final boss battle so if you just shut down at the “The End” screen you’ll never get to play around with them, and they’re pretty potent. Creep factor is you can only recharge from downed enemies, though.

I pre-ordered Playstation VR (PSVR) as soon as I was able to do so. I guess that was back in June. On Sunday, just days before it shipped, I decided to cancel that pre-order.

There are a lot of ‘satellite’ reasons why I canceled it: the HDR pass-through issue I mentioned in my last post and the amount of money I’ve spent and am spending on other things this fall (a new TV and a PS4 Pro) being two of them.

But what finally changed my mind was stopping to consider how much of an impact PSVR would have on our living room. Setting it up would mean digging out the Move controllers and a charging stand for them and re-positioning the Playstation Camera which is currently mounted on the wall above the TV. I’d have to free up a power outlet for the Processing Unit (the PS4 is on a UPS and I’m out of battery-backed up slots, but if the PU isn’t on battery then the PS4 may as well not be either), and I’d have to find a place to store the rather large visor and its 10′ of cable when I wasn’t using it. It’s just a lot of ‘stuff’ to integrate into the room.

And that would be fine if I thought I’d be using it a lot, but considering I’d probably have to move the furniture to use it (definitely would for standing experiences, probably would for sitting and using a dual shock…might not for sitting and using the Move controllers which you’d probably hold up higher) and considering that most of the software offerings in this first batch seem more like “Things it would be cool to try” rather than “Things I’d want to play every day.”

Driveclub VR was the one game that seemed like something I’d want to play on a consistent basis and to really get the full experience I’d have to buy a Wheel to go with it.

So $400 and a re-configuration of the living room all became too much of a barrier to entry for me. I’m not really much of a PC gamer but I think VR kind of belongs in the office with the PC, not in the living room. At least not until they can offer a wireless experiences. Oculus has announced a new headset that has half the PC processing requirements of the current Oculus so maybe that’ll be the way to go (my current PC isn’t beefy enough for VR).

Or maybe PSVR will grow into something with a library of games I really want to play, and if so I can always revisit my decision then. Don’t really need to be there day 1. I’ve more than done my fair share of “early adoptering” over the years!

It didn’t help to see a video of the 3 guys from Digital Foundry talking about PSVR. While they were all pretty impressed with how well it works given the limitations of the hardware and the relatively low cost, none of them said they’d actually buy it with their own cash, and one pointed out he had a Rift and after the novelty wore off he didn’t use it much. Then there was the EP.Net review where Victor Lucas laid all the parts on the table; that really illustrated how many pieces there are to this rig. (I’ll embed these videos below.)

So while I hope PSVR does well and that I come to regret my decision, I’ll spend this fall playing conventional games at higher-than-1080-but-less-than-true-4K resolutions on my PS4 Pro. Next spring I’ll take another look at PSVR and see if early adopters are still using it and if we’re still seeing good support for it. Then I’ll re-evaluate my decision.

Next week Sony’s Playstation VR launches. VR is in a funny place right now. After TONS of chatter leading up to the oft-delayed launch of the Oculus Rift, and to a lesser extent the HTC Vive, gaming and tech sites have kind of stopped talking about VR now that it is widely available. Here comes Sony to see if its solution can get more mainstream traction than the Oculus or Vive have.

Today Sony posted a FAQ about PSVR and revealed a major issue with the technology, at least for some of us. The PSVR doesn’t pass through HDR signals.

Now let me explain that in case you haven’t been following the product.

First, if you don’t have an HDR TV this won’t impact you yet, but your next TV will probably support HDR, unless you’re buying in the next few months and going low-end.

PSVR consists of two parts: the visor and a small box they call the “Processing Unit (PU).” To hook it up you run an HDMI cable from your PS4 to the PU and then run two HDMI cables out of the PU. One goes to the visor and the other goes to your TV, for the ‘social screen’ (which allows async MP or lets people in the room see what you are seeing) and for non-PSVR content.

Now let’s talk about HDR. You might have used HDR on your cell phone to take photos, and HDR on TVs is similar but apparently not quite the same thing. Honestly I’m no techie when it comes to TV. But I do have a 4K HDR-capable TV and I can tell you that in certain scenes (outdoor scenes in particular) HDR makes your TV seem like it’s a window. The lighting is so realistic if feels like you can reach into it. (Mind you, the content you’re watching has to be coded to provide an HDR signal.)

The problem with HDR is that you have to see it in person to appreciate it. I can’t take a screenshot of my HDR TV and give it to you. If you have an HDR display you already know what I mean, and if you don’t, you couldn’t see the effect. It’s kind of like 3D in that way. Just trust me that if you have an HDR display you probably want to take advantage of it.

OK so NOW let’s talk about the Playstation 4 Pro. When it was announced in early September Sony talked a LOT about how it was 4K and HDR compatible, and there were a lot of interviews with developers who said that for them, HDR was more important than 4K. For one thing, HDR doesn’t require a lot of additional processing power so it has a low impact on the performance of a game. Sony even patched HDR capability into the standard PS4. So yay Sony is excited about HDR gaming! (Microsoft is as well, their new Xbox One S supports HDR and already there are games, such as Forza Horizon 3, that take advantage of it…in this way Microsoft is ahead of Sony in HDR terms.)

Sony wants you to experience the wonder of HDR….unless you’re a PSVR user. Because if you have PSVR hooked up, any HDR signal coming from your PS4 is going to hit the PSVR PU and die. You’ll still see a picture, it just won’t be an HDR picture. Basically PSVR removes a feature that Sony just patched into all PS4s and is including (and promoting heavily) in PS4 Pro.

So if you have a PS4 and want to enjoy both PSVR and HDR content, you’re going to have to disconnect the PU every time you want to watch something in HDR. This is not only an inconvenience (whether a major or a minor one depends on your home theater set up and how easy it is to access the back of your PS4 or TV) but it is going to put a lot of strain on your HDMI ports. Think about how many times you plug or unplug an HDMI cable in a given year. Four or five maybe? Now imagine doing it every day. HDMI ports are fairly delicate, not only the port itself but the solder connecting them to circuit boards inside your device. Constant plugging and unplugging is going to wiggle those solder connections and greatly increase the chance that they will fail. Expect a lot of broken PS4s in households that own PSVR and an HDR TV.

Some have suggested a splitter. Take the output from the PS4, split it and run one side to the TV and the other to PSVR and then to TV. Couple problems with that solution. First it requires 2 HDMI ports on your TV or A/V Receiver. Second you need to make sure the HDMI switch supports HDR: many do not. Third, of the ones that do apparently a lot of them default to the lowest common denominator. In other words the switch would detect that PSVR’s PU doesn’t support HDR so it would disable HDR to both outputs.

Any way you slice it, it’s a problem and a big one for those of us who want both the best TV picture and the experience of PSVR. The best solution I can come up with is getting a PS4 Pro for your regular games and leaving the old PS4 as the PSVR console, but of course then you miss out on the added horsepower that the PS4 Pro would bring to PSVR.

I’m so disappointed that Sony screwed this particular pooch. I was kind of excited for PSVR (weird because I never got that excited about Oculus) but now I’m thinking I might cancel my pre-order and wait for a future iteration that offers better support for modern TV technology.

I guess I should be thankful that Sony didn’t keep this shortcoming secret until after the first units shipped.

Zenimax announced that the “One Tamriel” update for The Elder Scrolls Online hits PC on 10/5/16 and consoles on 10/18/16. While a lot of people are excited about the update, I’m a bit more hesitant. I’ve already written about this and had some people disagree with me, pointing at Guild Wars 2 as a game that works the same way and that is successful.

Since that time I’ve spent a lot of time in Wrothgar, one of the DLC packs for TESO that works very much the same way One Tamriel will work, and so far I’m standing by my hesitance.

It was when I hit Wrothgar after playing through the Daggerfall Covenant that my interest in TESO started to wane. I would hit content I couldn’t complete and knew I’d never be able to solo it so I’d just write it off. I mean I already had written off Dungeons, but now I have to write off world bosses and delves too. There’s no more leveling up a bit and going back to try again since there’s essentially no more leveling up. (You’ll still have levels for some reason but will get bolster to 160 Champion Points from whatever level you are.)

So One Tamriel, for the solo player, means less content that you can do. That’s my biggest concern. Maybe once you get more than 160 Champion Points you’ll be able to do it? We’ll see. I’m only to 65 or so Champion Points so far.

A more subtle concern is that I personally kind of enjoy gated content. It feels aspirational to me. I enjoy entering a zone and running deep into it until I am over my head and then backing off, getting stronger, and heading back into that content now that I can tackle it. I also like how monster levels can help guide you through a zone. Now everything is the same level so that goes away as well. In Wrothgar all my quests are the same level and I wind up spending more time running back and forth across the zone than I do playing since there’s no logical grouping of quests based on level any more.

I certainly understand why people who love to group in TESO are excited about the change. You can now play with anyone no matter their level or alliance. I’ve just always enjoyed TESO because it felt like a hybrid of a single player game and an MMO and I have solo’d 99% of the time. One Tamriel feels like they’re pushing harder into MMO territory and de-emphasizing the solo game. That probably makes sense from a business standpoint and I don’t fault them for it; I’m just a little sad.

The one bright spot is that Craglorn is getting a make-over. Currently you need a group to do Craglorn. And when I say need I mean it; there are places where you have to stand on 4 spots concurrently to proceed. Now the story mode of Craglorn will be solo-able so I’ll be able to go and experience that.

I guess that’s the take-away. Solo players will be able to do all the story content in the game and pretty much nothing else. Everything else sounds like it is now scaled to groups.

On the bright side, the re-mastered Skyrim will be out soon and I can get my single player Elder Scrolls fix from that.

If VR takes off to the extent some seem to think it will, I have to imagine we’ll see all kinds of “VR accessories” crop up from the same companies that try to sell us controller charging stands, extra console cooling fans, and the like.

Here’s a couple of ideas to get them started. I guess I’m thirsty this morning since they both are drink-related.

1) Adult Sippy Cups. I predict a lot of spilled drinks as people wearing VR headsets reach out to grab their drink in the non-VR world. These would be basically the same as kid’s sippy cups only bigger and without the cute animals or whatever they put on kid’s sippy cups. Optionally they’d have a straw. These are for casual VR users. There’d also be a deluxe model that has tracking dots on the cup and that comes with a plug-in for your VR system so that, on command, the VR system can display the cup inside the VR world, making it even easier to grab. (Disclaimer: I don’t know if any of the VR systems support plug-ins but they should.)

2) For the hardcore VR enthusiast, there’s the VR Camelback Pack. This is a pack you wear on your back, with a long straw that runs over your shoulder and ends next to your mouth. Long distance bike racers have these…maybe some runners too. But since we’re gamers the VR Camelback Pack will have an adapter so you can snap in a can or bottle of your favorite beverage and it won’t spill. So whether you game with a beer or a Dr. Pepper, you don’t have to pour it into the Camelback but instead it snaps into a holder. The only cleanup is rinsing out the straw.

The plug-in for this one will both indicate fluid levels in the container (via a temperature sensor probably) and would remind you to drink if you go an hour without taking a sip. We don’t want people getting lost in VR worlds and dying of dehydration!

An optional accessory for the Vive or any other ‘full room’ VR systems will be a cable management arm that protrudes from the back of the camelback. You’ll run the cable from the headset through the end of this arm and it’ll just hold the cables a couple feet away from your body so you’re a little less likely to get tangled up in them. Having all those cables dangling around your ankles seems like a good way to trip yourself so this accessory will at least help with that. The arm will swivel from side to side freely so that it’s always as close as possible to your computer.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and I’m sure if we put our heads together we can beat Mad Catz, Nyko, PowerA and whoever else makes crappy gaming accessories to market. We’ll all get rich together!

I’m still playing Mad Max, that game I snagged during a sale back in June. I finished the ‘story’ a long time ago (on July 4th) but now I’m chasing Trophies.

I used to hate Achievements/Trophies (which, tongue firmly-in-cheek, I will refer to collectively as CHEEVOS from here on out). I felt like they were intrusive and as a gaming ‘purist’ I felt like you should play games because they’re fun, not to get some arbitrary bragging points. But I mellowed over the years and finally my buddy Talyn converted me to a CHEEVO fan.

In particular I appreciate them in open world games since so often you’ll finish the story and have a ton of content left untouched. CHEEVOS give that post-story playtime a bit of structure and a way to track what is left to do and even when you can finally say you’ve ‘finished’ a game. Now mind you I’ve NEVER gotten all the CHEEVOS in a full-sized game, though check back in 6 months and I should have them all in Microsoft Solitaire (I need 6 more Bronze medals and you can only earn 1/month).

In the case of Mad Max there was a TON left to do after the story finished. I’ve been vacillating between uninstalling the game and trophy hunting for a week or so, mostly because even after 3 weeks of play the game still makes me sick thanks to a camera that lags a little and adjusts itself constantly. Makes my head throbs and my stomach churn whenever I’m on-foot in an enclosed area. After the story was done one of the biggest goals I had left was taking out camps that had me, yup, on foot in enclosed areas. So on the one hand, my stomach said “Ditch it!.”

On the other hand, as a single-player title I feel like I COULD get all the CHEEVOS if I just stick with the game. I pretty much suck at playing games so almost any MP CHEEVO is out of reach because they expect me to not-suck. Mad Max’s CHEEVOS are more or less based on putting in lots of time with the game.

Last night I finished the last camp though, so from here to the 100% complete line is mostly car combat (by far the best part of the game) and clearing out a lot of little on-foot bits. But there are 190 of the latter! Damn that sounds like a job. I’m at 66% complete now, CHEEVO-wise but there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit I’ll be knocking out in the next day or two. Then we’ll see. In my mind I see myself getting all the CHEEVOS then uninstalling the game to free up some drive space.

I dunno how well Mad Max did but I hope they make another one and take into account feedback from the first game. They did a great job of capturing the feel of the Road Warrior movies when it comes to the car stuff and the setting. The first part of the game takes place in a desert that is actually the bottom of a sea that somehow drained, so its full of white salt dust and crazy coral formations that splinter wonderfully when you lose control and smash one. Tracking a convoy by following it’s dust cloud feels really authentic. Very fun.

But when you get out of the car things are less good. First there’re the camera issues, but then there’s the requirement that you go into hideouts and find a bunch of collectibles. That’s just tedious. The combat is pretty fun but gets super easy once you power up Max a bit. The boss fights are all very easy. They charge, you roll to avoid then punch them in the back a couple times and roll away. Repeat until they’re dead.

All-in-all I’d give the car parts an A and the on-foot parts a B-. I’d love to see a sequel that improves the weaker areas of the game while retaining the fun car combat.

Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter launched on PC this week, after a year or so as a mobile title. While I had taken the game for a brief spin on an aging iPad, I don’t really ‘do’ mobile gaming so didn’t spend much time with it. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, though, so I was excited to give it a go on PC.

Fallout Shelter is free to play, with revenue generated through the sales of various consumables that make running and growing your shelter a little easier.

You install Fallout Shelter through the Bethesda.Net launcher after logging in with your Bethesda.Net account. I installed it on my desktop first. Started a vault and found that it was a pretty enjoyable game. I figured it’d only be a matter of time until I bought something to try to spiff up my shelter.

A few hours later I decided to install it on my Surface tablet. The good news is it runs very well on that hardware. The bad(ish) news is, I had to start a new Vault on the Surface. For some reason, maybe because I had to login to d/l the game, I assumed that Fallout Shelter ran on a server somewhere and that I’d be able to access my vault from any machine. Not so.

And for some reason that makes me less inclined to spend money on the game, I guess because I feel like I’d need to pick a spot where I was going to play before I started investing $$ on a particular vault. I kind of feel bad about this and in fact I might still buy some stuff just to support Bethesda but it’ll be a 1-time thing.

I guess it feels like playing Civ and spending $$ in order to build something in a city, knowing that you’re spending money on just one saved game and you will probably play many more; will you spend cash every time you play? With Vaults being local to each machine they just feel like a saved game rather than a persistent thing that I want to invest in. I know this isn’t really logical; I’m writing about it just because I find my own reaction kind of interesting.

I’m a little sad that this means there’ll never be any way to visit a friend’s vault either, I suppose. I’m sure there will be trainers or hacks that tweak the save file directly to get you all the stuff you could buy, so letting us interact with other players would mean spreading hacked materials around the game’s community.

None of this takes away from Fallout Shelter, mind you. It’s still a fun little game. And I’m sure it works the same way on mobile devices; since I only have one iPad and had moved on by the time the Android version came out, I’d never noticed. This is more an observation of my own buying habits than anything, I guess.

During and since E3 I’ve read and watched a bunch of previews for VR titles, often done with the developers of those titles. One of the best trends I’m seeing is that VR developers worry a lot about player comfort. They really don’t want their customers getting sick while playing their games/experiences. This is obviously good news for potential consumers and good business sense on the part of the developers.

But why did it take VR to get developers thinking about this? There are plenty of people who struggle with “motion sickness” in non-VR games but most developers don’t seem to think about them very much, at least based on my experience as one of the sufferers. I’ve actually written about motion sickness at least twice (here and here) and the constant struggle between my love of gaming and my dislike of having headaches and nausea.

Over the past few years I’ve been kind of self-evaluating myself and motion sickness. I found some things I could do to help fight it: play in a well lit room, get enough rest, and work on acclimating myself to a game. But more and more I’ve been noticing what causes it and it’s all to do with camera control.

I recently downloaded the demo for the new DOOM. I’d heard that it was super fast so I assumed it would make me sick, but it didn’t. Speed of movement doesn’t seem to factor into my motion sickness.

Conversely I’ve been playing through last year’s Mad Max this week. The game is broken down into two basic parts, driving bits and on-foot bits. I can play the driving bits all night long comfortably, and if I get out of the car and fight in the open, I’m good there too. But as soon as I go into a building I start getting sick. This really illustrated what causes my motion sickness.

The problem boils down to games where I have to fight the camera. In DOOM there’s no head-bob and the camera (at least in the time I played) never moved itself on me. So it was completely comfortable. In Mad Max when you’re in buildings in narrow hallways, the game is constantly taking control of the camera and adjusting things. Since I also am moving the camera, this causes discomfort.

I finally came up with a real-life analogy that maybe some of you can related to. Have you ever been sitting in your car at a stop light and the car in the lane next to you starts to move, and for a split second you think YOUR car is moving and you micro-panic and your stomach gives a lurch since your eyes are saying your car is moving but your body isn’t feeling it? (Hopefully this isn’t just me!) Well that’s the same kind of situation.

I’ve been playing this game and moving the camera. My brain, eyes and thumb are on the same page and everything is good. Then the game decides it doesn’t like where the camera is and moves it (and it doesn’t have to move it much to cause issues). My brain gets confused. It didn’t tell my thumb to do anything but the eyes are saying things are moving. And the headaches and nausea begin.

Now if a game doesn’t ask me to control the camera at all, I have no problems. But when a game asks me to take control of the camera, please let me control the camera and don’t correct things on me. If I can’t see something, that’s on me…I’ll move the camera until I can. Don’t “fix” the view for me.

I hate when game players say adding a feature would be simple because we don’t know, but it seems like offering an option to turn off “Automatic camera adjustment” shouldn’t be that hard and it would make a lot of games so much more comfortable for people like me who suffer from this style of motion sickness.

This weekend I felt like I needed a break from The Elder Scrolls Online (it was starting to feel like a job rather than a game) and Sony is running one of their “Flash Sales” and have last year’s Mad Max on sale for $15, so I snagged it.

So far (3-4 hours in) I’m really enjoying it. It definitely captures the desperate, kind of insane feel of the Mad Max movies and it looks really good. You spend a lot of time in your car racing back and forth over desert roads. You can drive most anywhere but you’re much slower off-road. Combat tends to be “ram the other guy” at low levels since ammo is scarce. On foot combat tends to be fisticuffs for the same reason.

It’s one of these “open world but not really a sandbox” games, kind of like Assassin’s Creed. You have story missions that advance the plot but you can also go around doing lots of side missions and stuff. As you gain wealth and progress through the story you can upgrade both your character and his car.

It’s not perfect and you can tell it was rushed to meet some arbitrary deadline. For example you’ll come upon remnants of what was probably going to be a morality system. (NPC’s will say something like “You going to help me recover this scrap and we’ll split it, or are you going to kill me and take it all for yourself?” but you don’t actually make a choice, you just automatically go the good-guy route.) Probably scrapped in order to make a deadline. The controls are kind of odd at times too and they definitely could’ve used more polish and more customizability.

Anyway, I don’t have screenshots ready or anything but since it’s a Flash Sale I assume it ends Sunday night or Monday, so I just wanted to mention it. I’m certainly getting (have already gotten, really) $15 worth of fun out of this title and if you like the IP you probably will too. If you’re not a fan of Mad Max’s filthy, brutal world, though, maybe give it a pass.

I looked at ~gasp~ MetaCritic and it got pretty awful reviews but I haven’t read any of them to see why. All I can say is I’m having fun so far. Maybe it gets repetitive or something but again, for $15 I won’t feel bad if I never finish it. For now I gotta get back to playing…

I’ve been on the fence about Playstation VR, as mentioned in an earlier post. Last night I pretty much made the decision to go through with my pre-order, based on this video from E3. The game is Robinson: The Journey and it’s honestly not even clear how much of a game it is. It might be kind of a VR walking simulator. And that’s actually fine for me…honestly that’s the kind of experience I’m most excited about. I don’t know that I need to shoot people in the face in VR; that feels like it might be a little too real, plus the fast movement will probably make me sick.

But stuff like this seems cool, and it isn’t even the gameplay that has sold me, it’s the reaction of the guy trying it. This is one of the regulars on the channel so this is a jaded gaming journalist and I loved how his colleague had to keep prompting him to talk because he was so swept up in the experience.