Weekend Recap for September 7th

It was a 3-day weekend which means I should’ve done 50% more things, right? Sadly that wasn’t the case and now we have to get through to the end of November before another break. I think. I know we all hate Columbus now but I miss having his day off. I promise I never spared a thought for him; I just enjoyed having a 3-day weekend when I was working for a place that gave us that one.

Anyway, onward!

Movie Night — This week we watched Cruella on Disney+. I honestly didn’t expect to like it. I wanted to see it because I was curious as to how they’d make a live action movie about such a despicable character (You’ll remember in 101 Dalmatians she wanted to skin puppies to make coats out of them…that’s about as low as you can go.) Turns out this was more an alternate timeline Cruella and this one likes dogs. And I liked the movie, quite a bit, though I think a solid 60% of my enjoyment came from the soundtrack. It was a really good homage to Dalmatians with a lot of the same characters but everyone was just a little different. Would watch again.

Family TV — This is mostly a “see last week” situation. Still on Clone Wars and ST: The Next Generation. We did catch up on Expedition Unknown, which a kind of adventure-documentary show on Discovery. Imagine a ‘Finding Bigfoot’ show only instead of Bigfoot they’re looking for something real. This week it was the wreck of the steamship Pulaski which sank in 1838. Interesting stuff.

Reading — Still on book 7 of The Saxon Stories…

Gaming — Everything went upside down with my gaming. I had intended to play No Man’s Sky, but instead found myself logging into Lord of the Rings Online for a bit. And then, totally out of the blue (I blame reading some 7 Days to Die posts) I started a new community in State of Decay 2 and got HOOKED in a way this game has never hooked me before, despite owning it since it came out in 2018.

I think I’ve made more progress than I ever had before, and things are getting really interesting. State of Decay 2 is a zombie apocalypse game where you have to both fight off the zombie hordes and oversee a base. The ‘base building’ is all menu-driven but you fight the zeds, as they call them, from a 3rd person action perspective. Clear out hordes, scavenge for materials, try to keep your survivors alive and healthy. You switch between the members of your band, so you’re always playing a character but no character is “you” per se. Characters need to rest and to heal so it’s a matter of who is fit enough to go out on the next scavenging run. I’m finding it really compelling.

And that’s about it. Long weekend, short recap. I did spend a good amount of time messing the caching solutions for the blog. I’m still not 100% happy with what I’ve got but it’s stable for now, until I get up the mental energy to have another go at it.

Weekend Recap for August 23rd

Another weekend come and gone. This one was a weird one for us. We lost power Thursday night, though it was restored by midnight. Somehow that still threw our Friday out of whack. I’m amused at how ‘delicate’ we are. I can remember going weeks without power due to hurricanes when I was younger and while it was certainly inconvenient, we just kind of rolled with it. These days, 6 hours without power made us crazy. Of course back in the old days not every activity I did required a screen, so there’s that.

Anyway, let’s get started.

Movie Night — This week we watched The Suicide Squad which we’d heard a lot of good things about. It didn’t resonate as well with us. @partpurple almost called it but she started enjoying it more after the half-way mark. I liked it more than she did, but it certainly wasn’t a favorite. I can chuckle at over-the-top gore for a while, but two hours of it got old. My favorite character was Sebastian, and for those who haven’t seen it, he is a rat. Like, a literal rat. I think that says enough about my feelings towards the movie.

Family TV — The highpoint of our whole week, in TV terms, was Friday night watching episode two of What If…? on Disney+, and episode 2 of The Lower Decks on Paramount+. Both were really good. We’re really impressed by the voice casts (as well as the stories) on What If…? and this episode of The Lower Decks had us howling with laughter. Both are animated shows. What If…? is a series of stand-alone alternate history shows for the Marvel Universe, and The Lower Decks is a comedic Star Trek spin-off about the lives of lower ranking crew on board a star ship. When The Lower Decks was announced I was sure I would HATE it since I’m pretty serious about Star Trek, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Reading — Copy/paste from last week. Still on book 6 of The Saxon Stories series from Bernard Cornwell.

Gaming — I had a dumb gaming weekend. Thursday I finally re-subscribed to Final Fantasy XIV, but about 10 minutes after I did that the power went out. Friday I spent getting clients upgraded/installed on both PC and PS5, and tried to figure out where to roll a new character to get my feet wet. There is really no need for alts in FFXIV but the last time I came back I was so intimidated by the jobs and systems I’d forgotten about that I just bounced off completely. This time I decided I needed a new character so the game could re-teach me things and let me ease back in more gently.

Then I noticed that thanks to QuakeCon, the Elder Scrolls Online Blackwood expansion was on sale. I already own the expansion on Xbox but don’t know anyone else who plays there. I did have a friend playing on Playstation though, so even though I’m not nearly as advanced on that platform, I sprung for the expansion and a month of ESO Plus.

So now all of a sudden I have TWO MMO subscriptions. I spent a bunch of time researching a build for my ESO Dragonknight, and getting all the settings tweaked, plus doing the quest to get one of the Companions that Blackwood added.

And I started a new character on the Zalera server for FFXIV and got him rolling along, but now I’m kind of more interested in ESO. Typical me. I hate the forced grouping in FFXIV for dungeons. Social anxiety really spikes. ESO has grouping for dungeons too, of course, but they are optional and nothing is gated behind them (plus once you get powerful enough you can solo a lot of dungeons in Normal mode). What makes things worse for FFXIV is that if I play on the console (which is where I prefer to play) I run into the problem of no communication since, y’know, no keyboard.

I guess my next step is to get a cheap wireless USB keyboard for the PS5. It’d be useful for both FFXIV and ESO.

And because I guess I was operating under the delusion that we have plenty of disposable income these days, I ALSO bought the update/upgrade for Ghosts of Tsushima on the PS5, but thus far I haven’t even touched it. Clearly I need more gaming hours in my day!

So that was the weekend. Now we have another super hot week to get through, but September is ALMOST here. Also Gamescom is this week so there should be some gaming news to talk about to get us over the finish line of Blaugust.

Hope you’re all doing well!

My Cord Cutter Solution for Watching Football & Football

I don’t watch a lot of sports, but every year around this time I get the itch to watch some English Premiere League Football and some NFL Football. Two great, vastly different sports, one name.

Problem is, I don’t have cable. In prior years I had Playstation Vue and then YouTube TV, both of which are more or less cable replacements, only without the hardware and the contracts and the terrible customer support. I canceled YouTube TV because it was just too expensive ($65/month) for the amount we used it.

This year I decided to try something different. First I signed up for Fubo TV, which got its start as a streaming network devoted to sports. One of its draws was NFL games in 4K. Oh hell yeah!

Fubo has a few tiers but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say it too is $65/month (that’s the cheapest tier). I signed up early this week and it was fine but that price was nagging me. Would I watch enough of the footballs to justify it? I also tried watching some “replays” of various events but a lot of them didn’t allow fast-forwarding. Well, I say “a lot” but what I mean is, of the 3 I watched, 2 didn’t allow FF’ing. Maybe I was just unlucky. Anyway I don’t THINK that’s an issue if you “record” a game or event. Oh and those 4K NFL games? It was just a few throughout the season. I wound up canceling Fubo before my week-long free trial expired.

I was noodling around with my next steps when it dawned on me: “Hey, we have Paramount+ so we can watch Star Trek shows.” Paramount Plus = CBS, so BAM I already have CBS NFL games sorted. Basically I needed CBS & FOX for most NFL games, and NBC for a lot of Premiere League games (specifically NBC Sports Network).

I looked at Sling a LONG time ago but for whatever reason it didn’t appeal to me, but now I took another look at it and it was looking better. First, they actually had a post about how to watch NFL games on Sling which I found pretty helpful. The “Sling Blue” service is $35/month, so $30 less than YouTube TV or Fubo TV.

I eagerly signed up, signed in and… no FOX channel. Turns out I’m in one of the TWO markets where there is no Fox affiliate offered on Sling. News flash: when they say “markets” the don’t mean the city they list, they mean anywhere that the team that plays in that city is considered ‘the local team.’ Ah well.

But for most of the country, Sling might be an affordable solution.

In the end I wound up signing up for Peacock+ ($10/month). It won’t help with NFL games, but it carries some of the English Premiere League games. Probably enough to keep me happy (I don’t have a particular favorite team in that league…yet.)

I think, to get me the rest of the NFL games, I’m going to sign up for NFL Game Pass ($100/season). This doesn’t offer live games, but it has replays of virtually ALL the games, and in fact you can watch them in a condensed format without all the down time. Watching this way, it takes an hour to watch the games. Granted I won’t be able to jump on Twitter and spew “DID YOU SEE THAT CALL!?” tweets to annoy my followers. That’s the downside. The upside is that I can watch the teams I WANT to watch, and not just watch the Panthers every week. My NFL heart still dwells in the Northeast part of the country. Sorry Panthers fans but hey, keep pounding!

Weekend Recap for August 16th, 2021

I don’t normally do this kind of post but I figured I’d give it a try. Some folks do a post about what their plans are for the weekend (or even for the month) while others do them after the fact. I’m a terrible planner so I’m going with the latter.

So with another weekend in the rear-view. and the happy fact that we’ve made it half-way through August (I hate summer since moving to the south), let’s recap!

Movie Night — Saturday night is our movie night and for the past few months we’ve been re-watching the Marvel superhero movies in the chronological order they take place. This weekend we finished that with Spiderman: Far From Home. Technically we still have Black Widow but I can’t really justify $30 to watch a movie so that one will have to wait.

It’s been a pretty fun ride since I have a terrible memory and watching the movies one per week meant I did a better job connecting the dots. We both really love Tom Holland as Spiderman, and after watching Endgame the week before it was nice to see something a little more upbeat.

Family TV@partpurple and I finished up Season 1 of The Bad Batch on Friday, which we really enjoyed. And Star Trek: The Lower Decks is back so we watched that. I remember before we watched Season 1 of that show I was SURE I would hate it because I’m pretty serious about Star Trek, but turned out I love it. I most be getting soft in my old age.

Then last night we watched the first episode of What If…? on Disney+. This is like an ‘alternate reality’ series. The first episode posited that Peggy Carter, not Steve Rogers, got the super serum and she become Captain Carter. It was really good and had us both smiling ear-to-ear. Now I want an entire Captain Carter series, though. Oh, and they got Hayley Atwell to voice Peggy Carter, thank goodness!

Now we’re in search of another series to watch. We’ve been ‘filling in’ days when we have nothing new with a re-watch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which has been fun, though there are some really dated aspects to that show at this point.

Reading — I’m still reading the Saxon Stories books by Bernard Cornwell, and will be for quite some time. I’m on book 6, Death of Kings. I’m a terrible book reviewer so I’ll just say that I really enjoy Cornwell’s books and this series is no exception. If you’re not familiar with the books you might be familiar with the TV series, The Last Kingdom. There are 13 books in the series, though, so I’m not sure that I won’t need a break from 10th century England at some point.

Gaming — Friday evening and Saturday were devoted to finishing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris. I think I’m ready for a break from Valhalla now although there’re still plenty of things to do in the game.

With that put to bed I finally got around to trying Hades, which hit the Xbox and Playstation last week. I’m playing on the Xbox Series X thanks to it being in Game Pass. So far it’s been fun though I’ve kind of hit a wall. I think it’ll be a game I play in short spurts now and then because I know myself enough to know that just trying to power through will lead to frustration, which in turn leads to playing worse, which leads to more frustration, etc etc.

Lastly, Bugsnax. I mostly knew Bugsnax from the trailer that was making the rounds last summer, and in particular the catchy jingle:

Bugsnax was a Playstation Plus game late last year; I think it may have been the first PS5 game on PS+. I figured it was about time to try it out and either play it or delete it from the (small-ish) storage on the PS5. I had no clue what kind of game it was. Turns out it’s a first person puzzle-adventure. It is both super-cute and super-weird. You are basically tasked with catching these little creatures (the titular Bugsnax) that are all animated food, then feeding them to these weird furry townsfolk. Alive of course. When someone eats a Bugsnax a part of their body morphs into that kind of food. So if they eat a Bugsnax based on a French fry their arm will turn into a French fry. It is not clear what impact this has; it seems to be just a visual gag. I like the weirdness of Bugsnax, but I am not a fan of the cute aesthetic and I’m not a big fan of puzzle-adventures either. I’m not knocking the game; it actually got decent reviews. I just pretty quickly decided that it wasn’t for me. To be very clear, I spent less than an hour with it so PLEASE if you’re interested in the game, don’t take this as a knock on it, and do seek out actual reviews from someone who put some time into it.

And that was pretty much the weekend, aside from some random TV. The English Premiere League season has started, so I watched a replay of a game on Peacock TV (which I subscribed to just for these games because generally that service is pretty terrible). I’ve been kicking around (pun intended) the idea of re-subscribing to YouTube TV or Fubo TV for EPL and other sports, just for a month or two. My interest in sports rears its head now and then but never lasts more than a few weeks. I’m a terrible multi-tasker so when I’m watching a game I am JUST watching the game while thinking about all the other things I could be doing with that time. NFL games are the worst for this: three hours out of my short weekend just to watch a game? That’s hard to justify.

Anyway I hope everyone had a great weekend. Back we go to the salt mines!

Star Trek recaps: The Corbomite Maneuver

I’ve started another re-watch of Star Trek, the original series. This time around I’m watching them in the order they were made, rather than the order they were aired. There was the pilot (“The Cage” featuring Captain Pike rather than Kirk) then the 2nd pilot (“Where No Man Has Gone Before” which has most of the crew in place except for McCoy) and then the first regular episode made was “The Corbomite Maneuver.”

This is the one where the Enterprise encounters the scary alien shown above, but eventually they discover it is just a puppet and the actual alien is played by a VERY young Clint Howard.

Howard would’ve been about 7 in this role, though he didn’t voice the part. He was already an established actor, though. IMDB lists his first role in “The Courtship of Eddy’s Father” in 1963 — that would be the movie version, not the Bill Bixby led TV show. He was also on the Andy Griffith show with big brother Ron. His most recent listing is in 2020’s “American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules” (whatever that is). That’s quite a long career in the business. Even more random trivia: he played an Orion in an episode of Star Trek Discovery.

Anyway back to Star Trek. I was always really creeped out by Balok; hearing the adult voice coming out of this creepy little kid’s body just gave me the icks. But the episode did introduce Tranya, so that’s something I guess. And more importantly it established the Star Trek theme of taking the moral high ground. After Balok threatens to destroy the Enterprise, and then to incarcerate the crew, his ship is apparently disabled and Kirk sends aid to help him out. The rest of the bridge crew thinks this is pretty cray-cray but Kirk is Doing The Right Thing which is what the original series was generally all about.

The title of the episode refers to Kirk’s bluffing Balok, saying the Enterprise is equipped with a Corbomite device that would reflect any damage done to it back on the attacker. I guess Star Trek invented the damage shield.

I also watched Mudd’s Women tonight, but I re-capped that back in 2016 so I won’t repeat myself now.

The Witcher coming to Netflix

Before The Witcher was a series of games, it was a series of great books/short stories. Well, at least the ones that were translated to English back when I was reading them were great. I need to go back and read the ones that have been translated since then.

Anyway, now we’re getting a TV adaptation of The Witcher. Just to be clear it seems like this series will be based on the original source material, NOT the games. I’ve never actually finished a Witcher game so I can’t honestly say how true the games are to the books.

The good news is that the author of the original material, Andrzej Sapkowski, will be a creative consultant for the series, and executive producers are Sean Daniel and Jason Brown, who are the executive producers of the absolutely awesome SyFy show The Expanse (which is based on books by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, writing together under the pen name James S. A. Corey).

I have a good feeling about this. We know Daniel and Brown know how to take a written story and make it into a great TV series, and we know the author is involved, and it’s going to be on Netflix so it probably won’t be stretched or squashed or watered down.

The bad news is, I can’t find any info on a release date, so we’ll have to be patient I guess.

Finally cut the cord (drama queen warning)

This morning I turned in our cable boxes and canceled TV service, and I feel curiously melancholy about it.

I had to sit and think about why that would be. For the past few weeks we have deliberately not used the cable box and gotten by on Hulu, Netflix, Playstation Vue and assorted apps (kind of as a test run) and it’s been fine. We still have more to watch than we have viewing time.

So I’m not melancholy for any practical reason. I think for me cable TV was kind of a tradition, I guess. When I was a little kid, we just had an antenna on the roof and we got 2 channels…3 when the stars (or more accurately, weather conditions) aligned. I have a clear memory of when cable TV arrived in town and suddenly we got 13 channels. THIRTEEN! It was like the world opened up to me, particularly since one of those channels was PBS and as a budding nerd I was blown away from some of the stuff on there.

It’s hard to remember (or imagine, if you’re a younger person) what life was like before the Internet and even satellite TV (by which I mean, TV signals bouncing off of satellites so a signal could get anywhere virtually instantly). We were all much more isolated then. If something wasn’t happening in your geographical area the only way you’d find out about it was if it was on the papers or was big enough to be carried on the national news.

I was what they used to call a latchkey kid. I’d get home from school at 3:30 and my parents would get home at 6:30. There were no other kids in my neighborhood so I filled those three hours more or less sitting in front of the TV. Cable TV was my babysitter/friend, I guess. So I guess the 10 year old still living deep down in my soul is going to miss cable TV.

The funny thing is, I am NOT a person (these days) who turns the TV on just for noise. If I have TV on, I’m actively watching it. If a TV is on in the background it actually tends to annoy me. (Angela is a “TV on for noise” person, which leads to a certain amount of friction between us!)

In practical terms, the biggest impact of yanking the cable box out of our quickly dwindling home-theater stack has been losing the time display on the front of the box. We were up too late last night because we lost track of time. I do think there is some kind of technology you can get to replace that functionality. They call it a “clock” or something like that.

The weirdest bit of the whole process was I went to the Time Warner Cable office with all my stuff. There was a lady greeting folks as they came in, there was no line, and the person who assisted me asked no questions about why I was canceling cable. I was in and out of there in 5 minutes. If I’d called, I would’ve been on the phone for an hour, I imagine (and still would’ve had to go to the office to turn in my gear). It made me feel pretty good about the company, I have to say.

Anyway I think my melancholy will vanish as soon as I see that $80 bill (for 200/20 mbps Internet) where the $160 bill used to be.

Holiday weekend recap: Still a little baffled by Shadow of Mordor

Even though I had a 3-day weekend thanks to the New Year, I didn’t do a ton of gaming this weekend. Instead I watched a lot of TV. Football for one thing, and after a long and idea-filled thread at Imzy, I started in on a new (to me) anime, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, which I’m enjoying so far.

Next week we’re canceling cable so I signed us up for Playstation Vue, and I’ve been messing around with that a lot. I find the interface is taking some getting used to, but overall we’re fairly pleased so far. Anyway in the course of messing about I started watching Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel and got inexplicably hooked. It’s about some townie from Boston who travels around the world sampling various alcoholic beverages while taking in the local culture. I like booze so I’m interested in that aspect, and it’s fun to see the places he travels to. It’s much better of a show than I expected it to be.

I also watched Tiny Fey, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, based on the true story of journalist Kim Baker’s time in Afghanistan. I enjoyed that very much, and I was delighted to find it on Hulu. Since when does Hulu get recent movies?

Beyond that, we’re working our way through the DC superhero shows on Netflix. So yeah, lots of TV.

I did start up Diablo 3 again. After one session on the launch PS4, I installed it on the PS4 Pro. It hasn’t been patched to take advantage of the Pro’s extra horsepower, but it runs much quieter on that system. It’s one of those games that makes the fans on the launch PS4 start to scream in protest.

I’m playing D3 as a barbarian on Hard mode and it is still ridiculously easy, at least for the parts I’ve played (I’m in Chapter 2). And so much loot. Too much, really. As a natural pack-rat I can’t just leave stuff laying in the dirt, so I’m constantly heading back to town, trying not to be overwhelmed by all the choices I have, and feeding most of the stuff to the Salvage yard. Honestly I get bored playing D3 pretty quickly, which makes me sad since I loved both Diablo and Diablo 2 back in the day.

The other thing I played was Shadow of Mordor and man I’m confused by some of the choices the devs made in that game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast playing but I feel like the more you struggle, the harder it gets, and vice versa. I haven’t really been focusing on the “main quests” but have been roaming around the world collecting things, doing side quests and slaying lots of orcs. There are these “Conflicts” on the map that tutorial text told me were struggles between orc captains and that if I didn’t break them up, one of the orc captains would win and grow stronger. This wasn’t happening for me. I also had a bunch of skill points I couldn’t spend because I wasn’t powerful enough.

Then finally, I died. And when I did it was like time moved forward. The conflicts got resolved and some of the Captains got stronger. I also gained power somehow, which unlocked the next tier of abilities. Seemed odd that my death resulted in enemies getting stronger. Then I died again shortly thereafter (when a cave troll noticed me hiding in some bushes) and more conflicts got resolved and more Captains got stronger.

I wrote a while ago about how Shadow of Mordor seemed much easier this time around and now I think the reason is that I’m moving cautiously, gaining power while not dying much, so the orcs aren’t getting more powerful.

I’m really enjoying it though. I’ve started playing this game a few times before and it never ‘stuck’ for some reason, but this time it sure is. Even more so now that I’ve encountered this old villain:

Weekend recap

In terms of “stuff to blog about” this was a pretty boring gaming weekend. I’ve let Final Fantasy XV go for now in order to focus on Rise of the Tomb Raider. I like FFXV well enough, but I’m hooked on Tomb Raider and just couldn’t bring myself to put it aside in favor of FFXV. I also got sucked back into Elder Scrolls Online, as happens fairly often. I even fired up Destiny briefly to see if I remembered how to play. I have this idea I might log in for the holiday event that starts Tuesday but we’ll see.

Saturday night is movie night for Angela and I. We usually buy or rent some ‘new to digital’ movie. This weekend Angela had a hankering for Chinese take-out, and since we’re trying to cut down on spending I went looking for a movie to watch for free so we could get the take-out. I landed on Spectral, a new movie on Netflix. It was kind of fun in a ‘bad movie’ way. The plot was basically a bunch of soldiers vs an enemy that appears to be ghosts. It has some decent special effects and…that’s probably the end of things to recommend about it. Assuming you have a Netflix sub already, if you’re looking for something kind of mindless with lots of explosions and stuff…then maybe.

When the movie ended we weren’t quite done lounging on the couch with bellies full of Chinese take-out, so we watched the first episode of White Rabbit Project, also on Netflix. This is the new show from the Mythbusters team of Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci and Kari Byron. We really enjoyed this. They’re doing the same wacky experiments they did on Mythbusters. In the first episode they were deciding which super hero power was most practical (mind control, ice, lightning, flight and maybe I’m forgetting some). It was funny as heck, the experiments were crazy, and it was just a ton of fun. We’ll be watching the rest of this.

Speaking of TV (I know it’s out of fashion but I love TV) season 2 of Colony is coming in January. You probably didn’t watch season one, but if you can find it streaming somewhere, check it out. It takes place in a world where aliens have invaded and conquered the earth. What remains of humanity has been herded into separate city-sized zones. The twist is we don’t really know why the aliens invaded and we never see them. Instead the show focuses on the struggle between the resistance and collaborators. The obvious thought is that the resistance are the good guys but it’s not always so clear, which adds to the show. We really enjoyed the first season and can’t wait for season 2.

Elder Scrolls Online HDR patch

One of the reasons I was anxious to get a PS4 Pro as soon as they launched was that I’d heard The Elder Scrolls Online would support the new hardware with improved resolution (or ‘enhanced details on 1080P screens). It was one of the first games I tried on the new console and when I saw the difference I knew I hadn’t made a mistake. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still TESO, but the increased resolution meant more details ‘popped’ and the improved draw distances made the world feel even more alive. Mostly this is all aesthetics though I can spot harvest nodes from further away now.

Of course me being me, soon after I drifted off to other games, but I always come back to TESO eventually.

I did that yesterday and was surprised to see “An HDR video is playing” pop up on my screen when I loaded the game (that’s my TV’s awkward way of indicating it is receiving video from an HDR source). Turns out a recent update added HDR support to the game. I was delighted until I logged in and found the cave I’d happened to log out in was dark. I mean really dark. Dark to the level of having to navigate via the map because I literally couldn’t see the walls.

I went online and found I wasn’t the only one having issues, and in fact even people without HDR TVs were complaining about the game being too dark. So I think Zenimax is going to have to adjust things. That said, for me it was just a matter of tweaking some settings.

Here’s the thing about HDR. First, it’s impossible for me to show you how awesome it is unless you have an HDR display and even then I’m not sure how I, personally, can capture HDR data to share. It’s kind of like 3D or VR; without the right hardware there’s no way for you to see it. Second, it’s still pretty new tech and tends to be fiddly. You see a lot of people talking about how it’s too much trouble; these comments, I have to assume, are coming from people who haven’t experienced it. It is very much worth the few minutes it (sometimes) takes to get it right.

In my TV’s case (a Samsung KS8000) I found that I had to turn on Dynamic Contrast, which is something all the pundits tell you to leave off. With the new patch there’s an “HDR Brightness” slider. With Dynamic Contrast turned off this didn’t appear to do anything. With Dynamic Contrast set to high, moving the slider resulted in noticeable changes though it feel more like “how HDR-ey do you want this” more than an actual brightness slider.

But with Dynamic Contrast set to High I could see in caves again. Given, again, that all the pundits hate Dynamic Contrast, I then tried it set to Medium and still had good results. On Low it’s a wee bit dark. It’s dark in a way that actually feels cool in terms of immersion but maybe too dark to do group dungeon content, not that I ever do group dungeon content.

Anyway once I’d done this….WOW. The Elder Scrolls Online looks like a whole new game now. A lot of colors are brighter, the lighting is amazing and everything just feels more “real” something. It’s really hard for me to articulate what HDR does, but I really like it. Now I’m running around the world and sometimes something will catch my eye (the rays of the setting sun on water, maybe, or a shaft of magical light coming from a relic) and I’ll just stop and gawk. At one point I was looking for the source of glare on my TV screen for a few seconds before I realized it wasn’t glare, but the light from an in-game torch was just THAT bright.

I’m really looking forward to when HDR is more common and less finicky; I can’t wait for more people to get HDR religion :). One of my biggest issues now is, I’m not a TV professional and there are a lot of settings to play with. I generally look up the settings for a TV from some site like rtings.com and use those. But for this Samsung I keep getting conflicting info, and then there are settings for HDR and settings for regular video, AND then there are a few settings on the PS4 that you can mess with. So many variables! I finally say “Heck with it” and I’m letting my eyes decide. Rather than worrying about if the picture is correct or accurate, I’m worrying about whether it is pleasing to me. Still, there are a LOT of settings to tweak and it can be really confusing. I hope it gets easier over time.

Still, totally worth it though. HDR is the real deal.