Snagging Playstation Plus Games

PSN_FreeGames

Playstation Network Trick

This is a trick that my good friend Ashgar showed me some time ago, and I have talked a bit on the blog… but given several comments from my twitter feed I thought it was probably time to create a dedicated blog post about it.  One of the awesome things about Playstation Plus is the way that it synergizes between all of the available Sony platforms.  For the longest time I had only a Playstation 3, but had even intent of some day picking up both a Vita and a PS4.  At one point I think I was lamenting having to go upstairs and log in my PS3 because I had forgotten to grab that months free games.  It was then that Ash shared with me that you could in fact log in through the Playstation Network website and not only grab games for the systems you owned but also for everything that was currently available.  What was great about this is that for several months ahead of picking up my Vita and PS4 I was able to start stockpiling a library of games to play on it, so when I finally purchased them I had more than enough content to keep me interested.

PSN_PlaystationPlusGames

Having done this now for a couple of years… I have to say the Sony Network site is less than easy to navigate.  Since their site is somewhat resistant to deep linking, I sorted out the best path to get to where I needed to go in a matter of clicks.  As a way of demonstrating the path, I threw together a quick image.  Once logged into the website, from the site header click the “Games” tab in the menu bar.  On the next screen that loads click “Playstation Plus” which is confusing because there is also a Playstation Plus Specials option that doesn’t really lead where you want to go.  Finally on the next page click “Free Games” which will then get you to the area of that months games.  Now something I have noticed is that it sometimes takes a few days for the PS+ titles of the month to show up in this section.  From here it is simply a matter of adding all of the games to your cart and checking out.  The games will all have a $0 price on them, but you still have to formally check out with them to get them added to your account.  If you encounter games saying that you are “not eligible” generally speaking that means the game supports cross buy and you only need to have one copy of the game for it to work on all platforms.  The store however will be showing a separate copy of the game for each platform it is available on.  Go ahead and check out with what is available, and if you refresh the page all of the games should then show up as “Purchased” like the below screenshot.

PSN_FreeGames

Game With Gold As Well

The other thing I have realized is that this sort of trick works with Games with Gold from Microsoft as well.  Their system of releases is a little bit more fiddly as they seem to like to stagger them throughout the month, and when the next batch is released you generally lose access to the previous batch.  I have however been successfully adding Xbox One games to my account, without actually owning an Xbox One.  I figure at some point I will pick one up, and it will be nice to have a huge batch of games to play on it when I do.  The quirk with Games With Gold is that you have to check out with them individually, and often it still shows a price tag associated with the game… until you get to the final step of the checkout process.  Hopefully this post helps some folks out, because it is nice knowing that you can quickly snag your months worth of games without booting up the individual consoles.

Week In Gaming 9/6/2015

Teslagrad_20150906092630

The Long Weekend

This week was pretty crazy, and involved a whole heap of work related stress.  That said it is also the week before the labor day holiday here in the United States.  With that in mind the stresses seemed to be more manageable knowing that I had a four day weekend waiting for me.  The funny thing about doing these review posts is that I don’t realize I played quite as many games as I did until I actually sit back trying to sort it all out.  I am not sure how effective of an adult I am going to be today, because a combination of allergies and exhaustion are settling in and leaving me groggy as hell this morning.  Yesterday we did one of our whirlwind circuits of Walmart stores looking for back to school clearance… and of course for me… clearance Legos.  During the course of the day we hit six different stores in several towns just outside of the Tulsa Metro area, and I managed to get a Lego Star Wars Snow Speeder and Tie Interceptor which made me pretty damned happy.

Destiny

Bel Failing at Destiny

With all of the talk of the Destiny expansion, I decided to give the game a spin again since there are several content packs that I have yet to even touch.  That said a combination of lack of gear, and lack of skill kept me from really progressing.  I am not sure what sort of gear levels they are expecting players to have upon starting the new story content, but at 22 light it felt like I simply lacked the punch needed to chew through it.  I did have several nice weapons waiting for me when I logged in, so I guess that was awesome.  One of which was a nice hand cannon, which when I last played Destiny was the weapon I really enjoyed running around with.  I want to get in and figure out how best to increase my light score, and throw on a few levels before trying this out again.  Supposedly right now Xur has a night Titan helm available so I might boot this up after the blog post and see what that does for my total light bonus.

Grow Home

Quirky Robot Exploration Game

 

While on the subject of PlayStation 4 games, this week also saw the release of a whole batch of brand new PlayStation Plus free games.  If you own ANY Sony products… and are not a PlayStation Plus member, I highly suggest you do.  One of the big positives about the PlayStation platform is how well the various products ultimately interact with each other.  One nifty trick that my friend Ashgar showed me is that you can log in via the web interface and quickly “purchase” all of the free games even if you don’t happen to own a given platform.  So for example for the longest time I only had a PS3, but I was still picking up Vita and PS4 games every month so that when I finally broke down and bought the consoles I had an existing game library.  $50 a year ends up getting you a minimum of six new games each month.  You cannot beat that anywhere.

This month saw something slightly different for the PS+ process in that they allowed the subscribers to vote between a choice of three games for one of the September slots.  I personally voted for Armello, but it seems like the community as a whole really got behind the game Grow Home.  These is by the UbiSoft branch that does more “indie” titles, and quite honestly… it is not ready for prime time.  In my short period of time playing the game it locked up and froze numerous times on me.  It is in theory a quirky exploration game where you play a robot that has been dropped on a planet to explore it.  You collect crystals, climb surfaces, pick up items… all in an attempt to explore more.  It has some strange controls but I got used to them pretty quickly.  The only problem I have is the whole open world blocky exploration thing doesn’t quite hook me the way it used to… seeing as I have now played Minecraft for half a decade.

Teslagrad

Block Polarity for Fun and Profit

While Grow Home didn’t really grasp me…  Teslagrad absolutely did and I made the mistake of booting this up late one night…  and then ending up playing for over an hour before realizing just how late it had gotten.  The story of the game is that you live in the Kingdom of Elektropia and find yourself being hunted by the King’s guard.  You feel from them and find your way into Teslagrad the massive tower fortress of the technological wizards.  The game of course does not tell you all of this, but instead asks you to piece things together from bits and pieces of information you see in the levels of the game on tapestries and through little animatronic theaters.  The gameplay itself is simple and brutal at the same time.  The core mechanic of the game centers around polarity… hitting certain objects with your left trigger button will shift it “blue” and with your right trigger button shift it “red”.  This simply mechanic is used throughout this metroidvania puzzler to complete levels.  There is also a level of twitch gameplay as you have to use other abilities at just the right moment to get through the levels.  The challenge being that ANY damage taken will kill you.  Much like Ori and the Blind Forest the game employs a really nice checkpoint system so very rarely do you have to repeat much gameplay, allowing you to quickly learn your way through a given puzzle element through rapid succession.  The art style is this lovely hand drawn, hand painted feel that works really nicely.  I highly suggest you check it out even if you don’t have access to Playstation Plus.

Rift

Badass Flying Bike

While I did not really play a lot of it, I did spend time in Rift.  I ended up getting a code for the fourth anniversary aethercycle, which prompted me to want to return and play the game some more.  Funny how cosmetic items can do that.  I mostly spent time working on the “Intrepid Adventures” which sends you through a series of “Instant Adventure” style interactions deep within otherwise Raid only zones.  The experience was fairly slow going, but it might be an entertaining way to get to the level cap.  Right now I am 62.5 and I would really like to reach the level cap on at least one character before the next expansion lands.  I am not sure why but I have really struggled leveling in the post vanilla Rift game.

Final Fantasy XIV

ffxiv_dx11 2015-09-02 19-39-12-88

With folks at Pax Prime, it ended up being a bit strange as far as raiding weeks went.  We did not have the Monday raid and with tomorrow being a holiday I don’t think we plan on raiding that night either.  By the time we get back to work on Ravana Extreme we are going to be rusty as hell.  Wednesday night also lacked the people to meet, so instead we worked on Alexander for folks.  The 2nd anniversary event is going on in game and I highly suggest that you check it out because I think it is going away quickly.  Easily some of the most touching content I have completed in any game, because it breaks the fourth way in a good way.  Still going through a bit of a Final Fantasy XIV break, but poking my head in periodically to check and make sure everything is still going well.

Diablo 3

Greed Pays… at least when it comes to killing him

Once again this week I spent the vast majority of my time in Diablo 3.  At this point I am completely decked out in legendaries… thought not really the right ones.  I am also at Paragon 91 which makes my seasonal character far and away my most progressed character yet.  I think on the normal servers I am only something like Paragon 19.  At this point I am working on bounties and then grouping up with friends whenever folks are around, mostly for the highest chance of seeing set pieces drop.  I currently have a charge build, which helps me keep up with my wizard friends and also as soon as I can get one more piece of gear… deals a silly amount of damage.  I am having a blast, but still completely baffled that for some reason the game has just “clicked” with me where it did not for so long.  I am one achievement away from getting my season four rewards, and after I wrap this blog post I am probably going to pop in and work on just that.  It was a fun week, and I am really starting to enjoy doing these posts, hopefully you all my readers also like them.

 

 

October PS+ Line-Up

Writers Block

I have to admit the last few mornings my blog post has been exceedingly difficult to write.  For whatever reason the words that generally flow so freely have been clogged up.  It feels like I just don’t have anything of any importance to talk about, which has never really stopped me in the past.  I guess I am writing this morning to show that even if I blog every single day…  I have days where I stare at the blank screen and can’t seem to figure out how to fill it.  Generally speaking if I poke around the internet for a bit and in that effort something pops into my head.  Today however all I really feel is tired.  I’ve been trying to come down with something, and yesterday I had all but lost my voice.  I keep thinking it is just allergies since I am not running a fever or anything, but not really sure at this point.  More than likely it is since I am struggling under a constant deluge of drainage.

I think part of what is making this morning such a struggle is that last night was one of those nights where I couldn’t quite get comfortable in any game I played.  I shifted between FFXIV, Dragon Age, Spunky, Destiny and even started Persona 4.  When my wife got home I packed up the upstairs and took my Vita downstairs and hung out playing from bed.  I have to say that is one of the coolest things about buying into the “Playstation” system is that everything interoperates so much better than the equivalent.  I am even considering picking up a Playstation TV to add another screen to the equation.  Right now pretty much anything I do on my PS4 I can do remotely, but my only desire is that the PS3 remote play worked better or more often.  There are still a ton of titles that I would like to play on that system as Playstation Plus keeps releasing more of them.

Drive Club Plus

Drive-Club And there we have it folks…  I have a topic to talk about.  There has been a bit of controversy over the last few days because due to consequences Sony has had to back away from one of the promised titles as part of the October Playstation Plus lineup.  Drive Club is a brand new game that is coming out for the PS4 and has been pretty hotly anticipated I might add.  Through some financial trickery they cut a deal to offer it for free as part of the Playstation Plus subscription through a special Drive Club Plus edition.  Granted this version did not include all of the tracks or cars, but was apparently otherwise fully functional.  I was somewhat shocked when I read about it, since in essence this free copy would allow you to join clubs and race with your friends just like if you had purchased the full version.  Additionally Plus members were going to be given the option to plunk down $50 to upgrade to the full fledged copy of the game and get all the bits and baubles they were missing.

Unfortunately as the game launched the servers being run for the game buckled under the weight.  I feel like Sony made the right call here to delay giving this title away in an effort to help stabilize the launch.  The truth is that folks plunked down money for the full priced version of the game, and they should come first.  Granted this is coming from someone who has been a long time subscriber to Playstation Plus.  The natives are restless however because a number of folks decided to pony up for Plus ONLY to get their free copy of Drive Club.  The thing is that they are still going to get it…  just not quite yet.  What frustrates me is listening to the folks Rage about what is already the best deal in gaming hands down.  Where else can you play $50 for an entire year and have six titles delivered to you every month.  Even if you don’t like a few titles here and there… it is still a phenomenal deal.

October PS+ Line-Up

One of the tricks I learned several months back from my good friend Ashgar is that you didn’t actually have to log into the Playstation Store from any of your devices.  There is one handy dandy web based interface where you can access all of your free monthly Playstation Plus titles, as well as queue them to download to any of your devices.  So if you are a Playstation Plus member I highly suggest “purchasing” everything each month regardless if you want to play it or own the device.  For ages I only has a PS3 and still found it a good deal… but all the while I was picking up titles for that console I was also picking them up for both PS4 and Vita knowing that someday I would end up picking up those consoles.  When I got my PS4 I had over a half dozen titles sitting there waiting on me, and when I got my Vita I had around 50 titles that I could play.  The subscription is a great deal but even more so when you have all of the consoles they are giving titles away for.  This month seems to be significantly better than most of the recent ones, so I thought I would go into the titles available right now.

Spelunky

spelunky Available for PS4, PS3, Vita

This is a title I have wanted to play for some time, but never ended up grabbing it.  The idea is that you are a cave explorer looking for treasure, and combating the traps you encounter along the way.  What the game is known for is for being extremely unforgiving in that when you die your game is over and you respawn at the beginning of the area with nothing to show for your accomplishment.  In that aspect it feels a little bit like Rogue Legacy without the whole generations aspect.  I played it for a bit last night on the PS4 and had fun.

Pix the Cat

pixthecat Available for PS4, Vita

This title looks to be a frantic mix of Pac Man and the classic Snake game that we all played so damned much on our Nokia 5120 phones.  Look I am old… I had one of those phones and it was the only game available.  This game seems perfectly suited for the Vita but is also available on PS4, and as part of the whole Bragtoberfest event I believe it was Murf that proposed a challenge to see who could get the highest score on this game.  I have yet to crack it open but it is installed on both Vita and PS4 so I will get around to it eventually.

Dust: An Elysian Tail

dustAvailable for PS4

This is another game that I have wanted to play for some time.  Hell I even own it on steam thanks to one of the many “indie bundles” that I have picked up over the years.  The irony is that now that it is on a console I am actually far more likely to play it.  I really like the Dual Shock 4 controller… and until I pony up the $60 to buy one for my PC, I am likely going to favor playing certain kinds of games on the PS4.  Ultimately this is a really cool looking Metroidvania about a series of anthropomorphic animals as they go on a quest to do something or another.  I really don’t know much about the story, but supposedly it is actually rather good.  Looking forward to playing.

Rainbow Moon

rainbowmoon Available for PS3, Vita

This game looks really cool, and I am not sure how it was completely off my radar.  Essentially it looks like Final Fantasy Tactics by another developer to be truthful.  The gameplay looks really similar, and I am hoping it is just as detailed and in depth.  This will add yet another long form JRPG that I need to play on my Vita, as that device is quickly becoming almost exclusive for laying in bed and playing them.  Last night for example I started Persona 4 Golden.  The JRPG genre is really ideally suited for that handheld, and I am sure Rainbow Moon will be no different.

Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

DandD Available for PS3

This game…  so much love for this game.  For me at least this is the pinnacle of the 90s era arcade beat-em-up games.  This is a collection of two arcade games, one of which was super rare here in the United States.  What made it so damned awesome at the time was that you would sit down at this rather imposing looking machine with three of your friends and play your way through a choose your adventure style quest.  At various points you are prompted for what exactly you are going to do… do you save the town or do you save the docks.  Each step moves you down a branching path towards the conclusion.  I loved this game so much that I ordered the import from Japan that was only available for the Sega Saturn.  What makes this version awesome is that it supports network multiplayer just like the Steam copy, so a perfect excuse to go smash some kobolds with friends.

Batman Arkham Asylum

batman Available for PS3

So here comes confession time…  I have never beaten this game or frankly made it terribly far into it.  I have had it on Steam for ages, but when I first tried to play it, I attempted to play it with a keyboard and mouse and found the overall experience frustrating.  I simply never went back and tried it again.  What I find most interesting about this is that ages ago Playstation Plus gave away the later games, but we had yet to receive the original until now.  As such I am looking forward to playing this as I didn’t want to jump in on the second or third game without playing the original.  Something about it being on a console makes it seem more appealing.

And there you have it… this months line up of games.  While don’t get Drive Club Plus yet, there is still a ton of awesome to be had there.  What I love the most is that when they give away a game they generally also give away the cross buy rights, meaning if something is available on multiple platforms you can play it on whichever one you choose.  Cross buy is one of those features that really endears me to the Playstation system of consoles, and especially since most of the newer titles also feature cross-save letting me start a game on my PS4 and then pick it up on the native vita client.  In any case I personally think it is a pretty damned good month that will only get better when they finally unlock the keys to the Drive Club kingdom in a few weeks.

#DriveClub #PlaystationPlus

On Exclusivity and Microsoft

GamesCom Bombshell

rise-of-the-tomb-raider Yesterday was the first day of the GamesCom conference in Cologne Germany, and generally speaking during past conferences we have for the most part seen a repeat of what was just announced at E3 a few months before.  This year however we got quite the bomb shell dropped during the Microsoft press conference, in the form that they claim that Rise of the Tomb Raider is going to be an Xbox One exclusive title.  This of course caused a wave of outrage through the community in part because up until this point all signs pointed to this being yet another Square Enix multiplatform title.  In fact during the E3 event, this appeared as part of the Sony PS4 press conference and was not even shown during the Microsoft event.  The outrage that I see so far is far less about Xbone vs PS4 but the fact that at least on initial pass it seemed like it would not be coming to PC either.

If you dissect the message that was delivered you can see something subtle happening.  Every single time they mentioned that this was exclusive they played with the words a bit.  They kept repeating the carefully constructed phrase “coming exclusive for holiday 2015”.  Over and over at least four separate times they used that exact same wording.  So that screams to me that they are putting a lot of hype behind something that may or may not be the case.  There are always a number of 100% platform dependant titles on a console.  The best example of these are the classic titles that you can only get on a Nintendo console like Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Kirby and Kid Icarus to make a few.  Then there are titles that come out first one a given console, but later on ship on every other console.

On Exclusivity and Microsoft

This is after all a card Microsoft has played for years, trumping the supposed exclusivity of a given title that then not only comes out but in part becomes far more famous on another platform.  If you remember both Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect were XBox exclusives, yet in both cases the franchises came out on the PC and with Mass Effect it now exists on all of the consoles and was a massive sales juggernaut.  Similarly even during this generation both Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son of Rome were supposedly platform exclusive titles but in both cases they are being released on the PC.  There was even the situation of Ninja Gaiden II that was a platform exclusive, and then later Tecmo released the game as Ninja Gaiden Sigma II so that they could break their exclusivity agreement.  All of this leads me to believe that this is just more marketing chicanery from Microsoft and not actually a platform exclusive title.

Ultimately games are developed to make money, and right now with 5 million Xbox One units being dwarfed by 10 million Playstation 4 units, it simply does not make sense to ignore the larger platform.  Ultimately this was a master stroke on the part of Microsoft however if they manage to pull it off.  I wouldn’t exactly call Rise of the Tomb Raider a platform selling title, but it certainly helps to buff up a console that has floundered a bit in its first year.  A good friend of mine has this rule that he refuses to buy a console before there are five titles that he wants to play on it that he cannot get anywhere else.  I personally have found this to be a pretty good rule so far, and ultimately this lead me to purchase my PS4.  If I reached a point where I had five titles for the Xbox One… I would consider getting one, but for the time being I just don’t have any interest.

Results of Poor Messaging

Microsoft has reached this point out of some phenomenally poor messaging.  When the console was announced they made a series of blunders in trying to guess exactly what their console buyers would want.  All of the touting of its television features really lost me in the process.  I barely watch television, and when I do it tends to be for a specific purpose… to watch one show and then move on to the next thing.  The only channel I watch with any frequency is Cartoon Network, more specifically Adult Swim.  Even then the last time I sat down in front of the television to actually watch television on purpose was well over a week ago.  So the focus on the initial marketing message of the console by demonstrating all of the admittedly interesting things it can do with television…  really landed off in left field.

Since then he has been struggling to out message Sony who has quite frankly dominated the news cycle with some pretty innovative features.  For sake of fairness I personally own right now 2 Xbox 360s, a Playstation 3, a Playstation Vita and a Playstation 4.  So I am not exactly an unbiased observer here.  I have clearly chosen the Sony Platform over the Microsoft one in part because all of these consoles work so well together.  The other thing is that Sony has focused in with laser precision on a very specific message.  “This is a console about video gaming, and we want to provide you an awesome gaming experience.”  So far this message has worked and resounded with folks looking for a next generation gaming console and not necessarily a next generation media pc.

It’s About the Value

The primary reason why I jumped allegiance during the last generation is admittedly just how amazing of a value Playstation Plus is, or more so how disappointing a value Xbox Gold was.  PS Plus is a $50 dollar a year subscription that gives you tons of free content as a result.  I just made a list of titles I have gotten in the two years I have been subscribed to the program.

Dust 514, DC Universe Online, Ratchet and Clank Collection, Dead Nation, Unit 13, Gravity Rush, Wipeout 2048, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Hitman: Absolution, Outlast, Resogun, Pinball Arcade, Infamous 2 , Little Big Planet 2, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, Malicious, LIttle Big Planet Karting, Uncharted 3, Mod Nation Racers: Road Trip, Thomas Was Alone, Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark, Lone Survivor: The Directors Cut, Zen Pinball 2, Worms: Battle Island, Labrynth Legends, Zombie Tycoon II, Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD, Hotline Miami, Grid 2, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Payday 2, Metro: Last Light, Closure, Knytt Underground, Dyad, Bioshock Infinite, Darksiders, Saints Row: The Third, Batman: Arkham City, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, Poker Night 2, Joe Danger 2: The Movie, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Borderlands 2, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, Tekken 6, Galaga Legions, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Castle of Illusion, Jet Set Radio, Binary Domain, Vanquish, The Cave, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, Street Fighter X Tekken, Dragon’s Dogman: Dark Arisen, Remember Me, DmC Devil May Cry, Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection, Mega Man 9&10 Combo, Tomb Raider, Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, Battlefield 3, Sleeping Dogs, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Trine 2, PixelJunk Shooter, PIxelJunk Monsters , Velocity Ultra, Soul Sacrifice, Stick it to the Man, Limbo, Puppeteer, Surge Deluxe, NBA 2K14, Warframe, Flower, Strider, Towerfall Ascension, Doki-Doki Universe, Terraria, Muramasa Rebirth, Vessel, Dead Space 3, Fez, Dragon’s Crown, Metrico, Rogue Legacy, Proteus, Road Not Taken, Crysis 3

That is 94 individual titles that I have gotten for free through either the console itself or the Playstation Plus service.  In many cases those titles are available on multiple platforms and as a result I get a copy for every platform it is avaialble for.  This is a huge deal for me, and not only do most of the titles have what Sony calls “cross buy” where if you buy a copy for any platform you get it on ALL platforms… you also get “cross save” on the newer games.  Lately I have been playing quite a bit of Rogue Legacy, and I can start a game on my Vita and then pick it up later upstairs on my Playstation 4.  On top of that if I have a game I want to play on my PS4 I can pick up the Vita and use it as a remote screen and even play it remotely.  Admittedly playing from your PS4 while not on the same network is a bit laggy, but the simple fact that it exists is mind boggling to me.

Now I realize that “Games With Gold” is a thing that exists now and they have been fighting to catch up, but at this point there have been 35 titles to Playstation Plus that has released 148 PS3 titles, 14 PS4 titles, 48 PS Vita titles and 87 psp/psone/minis titles.  I am admittedly bitter however for having paid for years of Xbox Gold subscription for what amounted to the permission to play games online and watch Netflix.  Since then they have reversed this decision and made Netflix a free software, but when I initially got my Xbox 360 you had to have the full gold subscription to use it.  Sony is just as much of a corporate monstrosity as Microsoft, but they have been doing a much better job of disguising that fact and giving me warm fuzzies along the way.  Since I still have all three of their most recent platforms, and even a PSP if we want to go back that far…  they are doing an awesome job of giving me reasons to care about each and every platform and more specifically the interoperability between them.

Share Play

Hands down the most interesting thing to come out of GamesCom for me was the announcement of Share Play.  The Playstation Now game streaming service has been announced for some time, and it is currently happening playable in beta, but for the time being it just is a poor value.  What Share Play does is take that same game streaming technology but flip it around to make it extremely useful.  Right now if you want to play with a friend, you both have to own the same game and log into it at the same time to meet up and play.  What Share Play proposes is that you can be sitting on your couch and your friend on theirs, but be virtually playing the same copy of the game together.  The idea is that you send your PlayStation network friend an invite to join your current game session.  At this point the game is then streamed to their console and you are playing together in the same session.

I have no clue what the ramifications of this technology will be and what sort of internet connection you will need to make it work.  Thankfully however most of my friends that I hang out with on a nightly basis also have some pretty beefy internet connections.  So I can see us getting a lot of play out of this feature.  Want to try out a new game, awesome… pop in my game and play with me and see if you like it.  Want to work together on some achievement, awesome…  let me send you an invite and we will work on it together.  That is the thing I like the best about the PS4 experience so far is that it feels very socially connected as I am constantly able to see what my friends are playing and especially during the Destiny betas we have been able to pop around freely.  The only negative I have so far is that the voice chat system is horrible, and as a result I still prefer to use teamspeak.

Wrapping Up

I realize that I am not an unbiased voice about the whole Microsoft versus Sony debate.  In truth there really isn’t much of a debate to be had in either direction.  Buy whatever console has the games you want to play on it and ignore everyone that is spouting off about your choice.  I made my choice based on the fact that it had more games that I wanted to play on it, and with the Playstation Plus service from the day I brought my PS4 home I already had a half dozen titles to play on it that night.  PS Plus and all the other consoles do an amazing job justifying the purchase of MORE Sony Consoles.  As far as Rise of the Tomb Raider, I am taking a wait and see attitude.  I think right now that this exclusive agreement is just a carefully marketed and cleverly worded announcement.  Will it ship on Xbox One first?  More than likely… but will it be followed up within six months to a year on every other platform?  Almost assuredly so, because so far if it is popular and demanded enough most Xbox titles see a PC release…  I am looking at your KOTOR, Mass Effect, Fable, Dead Rising and I imagine every other blockbuster that gets released for a Microsoft Console.

#XboxOne #PS4 #RiseoftheTombRaider

Not A Bel Game

Thomas Was Not Alone

thomaswasalone Two significant things happened last night.  First we went out to eat and dinner did not set well with me, causing me to want to go lay down for a bit.  The second of which was that I decided to take my new Playstation Vita with me.  Now I have done this before with other handhelds, but what was significant here is that thanks to Playstation Plus I had a smorgasbord of games that I could download and play that were already attached to my account.  The first game I gave a shot was Terraria, which I have played a truly silly number of hours of on the PC.  The game almost translates to the handheld, but not quite making it so much more frustrating of an experience especially when it comes to trying to build anything.  When I decided to stop playing that, I opted to boot up a game I have heard so many things about from my friends.

Thomas Was Alone is this deceptively simple game about getting a series of different blocks with different properties through mazes.  You start off with the red block Thomas, that can jump quite a bit and thanks to the magic of the narrator we find is a rather cheery fellow.  You then add a series of blocks each with their own traits like the ability to float in water, or the ability to bounce other blocks higher that additionally have similar interesting traits that we learn via the narration.  The game reminds me in a way of Bastion, in that the game itself is somewhat lackluster but it is the superb narration and voice acting that make it really pop out there.  Thankfully this same narration is artfully displayed on screen at the same time allowing for the experience to translate hopefully to the hearing impaired.

Not A Bel Game

This game very much did not seem like a “Bel” game, as in there is no carnage, no body count… and I am forced to solve a series of structured puzzles to get through the levels.  The funny thing is… I spent most of my night playing it and next thing I know it is 12:30 and I am forcing myself to stop on the above level rather than “play just one more”.  There is something unbelievably charming about this game, and just doesn’t make sense when you approach it from its most simple parts…. that it is a game about a series of blocks.  The game tricks us into using that most human of traits, and attributing personalities and feelings to inanimate objects.  Even when the narrator is not necessarily talking from the standpoint of a specific character… as you move that block you imagine what that character might be saying in your own head.

If you are like me and a Playstation Vita owner, with a Playstation Plus subscription… I highly suggest you install the game and give it a spin.  If you are NOT like me… then I highly suggest you purchase the game because even at $10 for a what is essentially a puzzle platformer… it is money extremely well spent.  Nothing about this game makes sense at face value, that you should not want to care about a series of blocks on the screen in the way that you do.  As you progress through the levels and are slowly being trained to face new challenges you truly do.  The game does an amazing job at introducing concepts slowly and then building upon those concepts in each progressive level.  Most of the levels will involve solving a challenge with a subset of blocks and each time there is an often poignant narrative that goes with it explaining how the blocks feel about being split up.  I am shocked an amazed that I could feel this way about a series of abstract pixels.

Very Bel Game

Divinity2 2014-07-01 22-25-58-747 The other game I played a significant amount of last night was once again Divinity II.  At this point it feels like I am getting near the end, considering I am fighting through progressively larger and larger waves of mobs at a given time.  This is honestly a bit disappointing, considering the early combat was extremely interesting and involved some interesting boss mechanics, and now the answer seems to be the old tried and true throw more bodies at the screen.  That said I am still enjoying myself, but there are lots of things that end up frustrating me, like getting stunned by mobs that are halfway across the screen.  As I have progressed through the levels, it feels like playing as anything but an archer is really a sub optimal experience.  I’ve noticed that even the “Wizard” and “Healer” type mobs now fire nothing but a bow, and the overall gameplay experience at times devolves into a shooter.

I feel like maybe this is why Divinity: Original Sin did not return this game into the “behind the back” dungeon crawler.  The throw waves of mobs at the player thing tends to work fairly well in a Baldur’s Gate type game, but it just feels childish when you do the same mechanic in a first person or over the shoulder style scenario.  Thankfully there are still vignettes of smaller scale gameplay that work extremely well, and interesting puzzles to unlock… but the overall depth and granularity of the game seems to have decreased.  There are entire zones that are made up of nothing but these giant flying fortresses that you clear first in dragon form and then can clear out on the ground.  In all of them so far, it has been a focus on quantity of mobs not necessarily the quality of them.  I am somewhat off the rails right now in my play through, but I am wanting to see it to the end.

#DivinityII #ThomasWasAlone

Three Hours Well Spent

Kidneys Safe, Vita Obtained

I have a running joke with my friend Rae, that each time I go off to meet someone to make a purchase from Craigslist that I am more than likely going to end up in a ditch somewhere missing a kidney.  What can I say… I have a dark sense of humor.  Regardless of this eventual fate, I am extremely cheap by nature, or more so I cannot stand paying more for something than I actually have to.  As a result there are a handful of things I search Craigslist for a few times a week, one of them is the Playstation Vita.  For a long while I have known that sooner or later I would get one, but seeing as I have a pretty lousy track record for playing handheld games…  I most certainly did not want to pay much for it.  Essentially handheld gaming is awesome if you travel a lot…  whereas I actually actively avoid travel.  If I am at home, I am more than likely going to be on my PC or one of my consoles rather than milling about on a handheld.  That said I am still very much enthralled by handheld gaming, and the since I have a PS3 and a PS4…  the Vita remote play functionality even as limited as it might be…  seemed intriguing.

So the other day when I found a Vita that had been posted for a few days for $100 that came with two games… both of them something I would play, I honestly thought it was too good to be true.  However over the course of a series of text messages I gleaned two things.  Firstly that I suspected the person that was selling the unit was female, and that they did in fact seem legitimate.  This is my own personal bias at work, but generally I consider women far more trustworthy than men, and potentially less likely to steal my kidney.  I could not meet up that day so we scheduled a meeting for yesterday after work.  Basically I did not want to mention it on the blog, because I really didn’t want to jinx it.  There was a comedy of errors however when it came to actually meeting up.  The person lived in a town roughly thirty minutes away from the southern most point of the Tulsa Metro.  Since I prefer to meet at QuikTrip for safety sake, and that town did not have one… we decided to meet at one in Glenpool, thinking I had been there multiple times and it would be in the path she had to travel anyways.

Wrong QuikTrip

The only problem is that apparently Glenpool is big enough to actually have two QuikTrips… both of which are apparently across the street from a McDonalds.  I must have looked insane walking around the QuikTrip parking lot looking for a pink and grey Chevy cruze.  Like I was confused enough at one point that I even googled what a Chevy Cruze looked like on my phone, because I thought maybe I was not remembering which model was which.  Once we realized we were at two separate locations she came to me because I had zero clue where she was.  Everything checked out, the Vita is pretty awesome and only has a few scratches here and there on the case.  It came with the vita unit, 4 gb memory card, charge cable, car charger, soft sided case, rubberized skin for the unit, Injustice Ultimate Edition game and The Walking Dead game.  The owner had wiped it back to factory settings so all I had to do when I got home was set the unit up and I was streaming Resogun from my PS4 in a matter of moments.

The main reason why I knew sooner or later that I would get a Vita is that I have been a member of Playstation Plus for awhile.  One of the awesome things about Playstation Plus is it is blanket subscription and does not care at all if you actually own the piece of hardware it is giving away games for.  So since the moment I started subscribing I have been picking up every Vita game offered through the web storefront.  As a result I now have a library of 35 good titles ready to download to my Vita.  The only thing I need to pick up really is a bigger memory card, because quite frankly 4 gb will not hold much of anything.  All in all this makes for another wildly successful Craigslist purchase.  One of the things I am going to have to test out soon is the ability to play across the internet from my PS4 sitting at home.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about it, but just the fact that something like that could possibly exist seems awesome.  Also if you are on PSN and we are not already friends… look up “Belghast Sternblade”.

Three Hours Well Spent

I have seen the Realm Maintenance podcast a few times before, but never actually sat down to listen to it.  I tend to listen to podcasts when I can during the day because it makes the work day go a little faster.  Yesterday Godmother of Alternative Chat had linked this weeks episode, which is a special 100th episode that included her.  The podcast was rather daunting, in that it was a 3 hour retrospective of a bunch of wow podcasters being interviewed and the results knitted together into a narrative.  While it took me literally all of the day to get through it, listening in bursts here and there…  I have to say it was three hours well spent.  Listening to the collective pet peeves, advice and challenges of all of these extremely successful and popular podcasts was rather inspiring.  I would not really put myself or the work we do with Aggrochat in the same league as any of these people, but it was awesome to hear that they had struggled with some of the same issues I had.

One of the most interesting takeaways from the whole show is that for the most part, all of the podcasters list radio and more often than not NPR as being an important influence.  I guess to some extent that makes sense, because what is a podcast if not an online radio show.  If I am in my car I am pretty much always listening to NPR, and I know personally I wanted to do a podcast out of a sense of awe of everything that radio can be.  I’m a huge fan of This American Life and have even gone and seen Ira Glass in person, when he did a lecture here in town.  One of the tougher questions the various guests were asked…  was who their favorite podcast is.  Most of them gave extremely diplomatic answers, but I have to say for me at least there are two podcasts that I pretty much drop everything I am doing to listen to when they are posted.  The first of these is Alternative Chat, because Godmother somehow takes the production value of This American Life, and condenses it into a fifteen minute bite sized chunk.  It is very easy to listen to because I know, no matter what else I have going on, that I will receive this fifteen minute vignette of awesome.

The other podcast that I listen to as soon as it is posted is that of the Battle Bards.  There are two things that make this experience awesome.  The first is the chemistry that has evolved between Sypster, MMOGC and Syl.  Their tastes in music and games have this weird way of fluttering back and forth between complimenting each other and diverging at the same time.  So on a specific topic you might get two of the three to agree, but I have never really seen all three agree on something at exactly the same moment.  This chemistry aside, I love the focus of the podcast because I too am extremely passionate about video game music.  While I might not know the whys and hows like they do… or even know the composers by name…  when I am not listening to podcasts at work, I am listening to soundtracks.  Video game music has always stirred my imagination in ways that nothing else quite can.  It is this warm blanket of nostalgia that I wrap myself in regularly, and it is always awesome to listen to the Bards as they dissect various tracks that I know and love.

Overly Cerebral Morning

Divinity2 2014-07-01 22-22-07-779 As is the case with so many mornings, I sat down to write with a vague idea of some of the things I might talk about.  However as a whole this morning shaped up to be far more cerebral than normal.  I wish I had pictures to at least accompany some of my giant walls of text, but alas you are going to have to settle for a really cool shot from Divinity II last night.  When I got home from my adventure I piddled around with my vita for a bit, logged into Wildstar to claim another boom box and then after our walk settled into Divinity again for the rest of the night.  I find it so odd that I have fallen so in love with a game that is over six years old at this point.  Everything about the game still feels fresh and new to me, and I am loving exploring this world.  All my of my friends are busy and enthralled with Divinity: Original Sin… but at this point I don’t even want to look at that game until I “finish” this one.

I have a feeling that “finishing” Divinity II is going to be a lot like “finishing” Skyrim.  That there will always be something left unfinished and begging for me to wander around and finish at a later time.  The only thing that makes me question this, is that already the game has made some significant changes that caused me to lose access to a number of quests.  The world keeps getting stranger, and I am not really sure how I feel about the chief antagonist.  He keeps showing up to taunt me, and then instead of actually attacking me… sends an army of fodder at me claiming it will “finish me off”.  While I am sure I cannot take him down yet…  I am level 30 and wondering how long this game actually runs.  I am only in the second “area” so far, but not sure just how many more there are.  I know of at least one more that is connected to the area I am in currently, but at this point I have put almost twenty hours into the game and feel no closer a finish than I did at the very beginning.  I love when a game feels like it could go on forever like that.

Grinch Stole Steam-mas

Changing the Game

The first Steam sale that I can remember was back in 2008 during the Christmas break.  It was a truly magical event where we saw entire publishers catalogs neatly packaged for a specific price.  I remember picking up everything that THQ had released to date for something insane like $20 and I was completely hooked.  The deals were just flat out unheard of at the time, and I opened my wallet and gobbled up a ton of things that I had wanted to play, but never bothered to pick up.  From that point on there have been multiple tiers of interest in a game for me.  There are always going to be the games that I will preorder happily so that I can play day one hour one, but these are getting significantly fewer in number.

There is a slightly larger group that I am willing to pick up when it goes on sale for the first time, meaning that first time steam drops the price for a daily deal or a weekend special.  There is a significantly larger group that I am interested in when the price gets below $10.  Then there is another batch that I am willing to pick up if the price ever lands below $5.  Finally there is a group that I have no interest in whatsoever even if they were giving it away for free, and these mostly are made up of the sports games out there.  All the while I know in the back of my head, the game is just going to keep getting cheaper each successive Christmas and Summer steam sale.  Essentially the amount I am willing to spend on any game is now reduced because I know something like steam exists.

Grinch Stole Steam-mas

The only problem is this year it all feels so formulaic.  In part this is because the games we see for sale this year, we also saw for sale during the Christmas 2013 sale, and the Summer 2013 sale, and the Christmas 2012 sale, and the Summer 2012 sale… etc etc.  The awesome and horrible thing about steam is that the catalog never depletes.  They still regularly offer deals on games a decade old, and while these are generally pennies on the dollar…  you can only see the “FATE collection” on sale so many times before you stop giving a crap about it.  Over the last few years it has felt like the Steam sale was less an insane deal on games, and more this event that everyone wanted to participate in.  There were “games” to be played and “party favors” to collect, and a universal sense of loss of money as folks indulged in picking up all of those games they had been waiting for.

The problem is this year it just feels tarnished.  I still instinctively check the page each time a new set of games goes on sale, and for the most part there hasn’t been anything that really excited me in the daily sales.  I am not sure if this is a side effect of me just being more accustomed to preordering the games I really care the most about, or if it is a cumulative effect that over the years I have cherry picked most of the good things from these sales already.  This year the thing I have really indulged in so far is using this opportunity as a way to pick up the various DLC associated with games I already owned, since while the games go at a significant discount, it is usually the DLC that goes for pennies on the dollar during the steam sales.  I used this opportunity to pretty much unlock everything that was available for Borderlands 2, and at the same time freak people out as it spammed my steam activity thread.

You can tell the magic is pretty much gone, when there are multiple flowcharts floating around the interwebs showing users how to get the best possible guaranteed deals from the sale.  The base rule is to never buy anything unless it is on a Daily Deal, Flash Sale or Community Choice.  Daily deals of course change out around Noon Mountain time I believe, and then Flash and Community Choice swap out every 8 hours.  Then at the very end of the event, on June 30th this time around… there is usually an encore sale featuring the best deals of the entire run of the sale.  This offers a last chance to pick up some of the more popular items.  Since there is this formula however it takes almost all of the excitement out of the process.  Once upon a time it was super exciting seeing what new wonders would go on sale each day, now it feels like you have guess what games will be big sellers based on the past performance on the store.

Soured the Milk

The thing is, it isn’t just steam that has destroyed my willingness to pay “full price” for anything.  PlayStation Plus is this amazing program where you pay $50 a year and get 2 games a month for each of their three platforms (ps4, ps3, vita).  Over the course of my time being a subscriber I have gotten 150 games through the program.  This coming month we are getting Strider for the ps4, a title I would have eventually bought…. but was holding off just on the off chance that it might be a free title thanks to the PS4s currently limited software library.  Sure enough it is this month and my waiting paid off…  and the thing is, that is really way Steam and Playstation Plus and even Games With Gold has taught gamers.  If you wait long enough you will get whatever it is that you wanted for next to nothing… or maybe even free.  Sure this gives publishers a longer tail on the revenue stream, letting them make some profit off of games that have already cycled off of the store shelves, but it also lowers the total value of ANY title in the process.

At this point $60 seems absolutely outrageous to me to pay for a game regardless of platform.  If it is something I am really amped to play, I might do it…  but very rarely am I willing to pay that for something that is not an MMO.  $40 is really the sweet spot of where I start to be interested in a title, but it isn’t until it gets to $10 or so that I am starting to be willing to pick it up “just because it looks interesting”.  Essentially all of these programs have turned games into a commodity for me that I know will lower significantly over time.  As far as console gaming goes, I have purchased mostly used games for years… and even then I am not willing to pay the type of prices that GamesStop, Best Buy or even our local chain Vintage Stock has to offer.  Most of these places drop the sticker price by $10 and call it good.  In order for me to snap up a console game, it has to be at Pawn Shop prices, so $15 bucks or so.

Gaming Altruism

The Steam Sale has taught me to buy a lot more games… but has lowered the total price I am willing to spend on any single game.  The funny thing is…  this also has caused something completely different.  Every now and then there is a title that I believe in so much, that I am willing to buy additional copies and give away to my friends.  So this week Borderlands 2 was like $5 and one of my friends mentioned that they had never played the game… so BAM! I purchased it and gifted it to them, because like a really good book… I feel like that is a game that everyone should play.  This happens quite often in our little community.  Over the course of the week, I gave away several different games… but at the same time received several back from totally different people.  The prevalence of this happening has increased significantly over the years I have participated in the steam sale.

So while the total price given per item is less, there are several titles that get bought over and over to give as gifts.  A few of my friends keep a stock in their steam inventory of titles that they loved to give out to someone who hasn’t played them yet.  This has turned the whole process in a different direction for me, and when I see something like that happen it just makes me smile.  Games are to me like Books are to my wife… and just as there will always be a “must read” book that you have to share with everyone you know, there will be a “must play” game.  I am just happy to be in a place in my life where I can be generous like that without much issue.  It has always made me happy when I can turn someone onto something cool, be it a game or a song or even one of my favorite movies.  It is this act of sharing our favorite things that makes the internet such an awesome place to be.  Maybe in spite the formulaic nature of the steam sale,  there is still a little bit of magic left in that old top hat.

#SteamSummerSale2014