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.

License Portability

Golden Age of Ports

MortalKombatVersions

This morning is going to be yet another stunning example of “Bel Wants a Thing that Will Never Happen”, but I am going to roll with it anyways.  One of my big frustrations over the last several years is when I end up repurchasing the same game for a different platform.  For example I owned Fallout 3 long before Steam existed, but because I wanted the convenience of being able to play that game without having to rummage for discs every single time…  I ended up picking the game of the year edition on a steam sale.  But more often than this there are games that I have on the PC that I wish I could play on a console, or on a console and wish I could play on a PC.  Last night there was a discussion about the new Shovel Knight patch, and one of my immediate thoughts was…  man I kinda wish I had that on my 3DS since I have taken recently to bringing that to work to play.  Sure it isn’t terribly annoying to repurchase a $20 game, but it certainly feels it when you are talking about a $60 game.  Now we get to my wish…  portable licensing.  What I mean by that is the ability to swap licensing between various game systems that a game is available.  Don’t want to play Borderlands 2 on your PC anymore?  Fine trade that license in for the PS4 copy, and when you tire of that the Vita copy.

The problem is you are immediately going to tell me…  “but Bel this is how game companies make money, by releasing their game on every possible platform in the hopes that you will play pokegame with them and buy them all!”  Sure that is how things seem to work currently, but is that really a good model?  For years there was a significant amount of work porting games between consoles.  The Sega Genesis was a vastly different system than the Super Nintendo… and we constantly saw massive differences between the games that ended up on both platforms.  I took the liberty of snagging two screenshots of two different versions of Mortal Kombat II, from the golden age of porting games to multiple platforms.  You can see a bunch of graphical differences between the two based on the limitations of each architecture.  What has changed is the fact that console manufacturers do not have the same sort of pull that they used to.  PC Gaming became a major contender as has handheld platforms, and while console manufacturers still desperately cling to the notion of “exclusivity” this is a dying concept.  Systems are designed from the ground up to be essentially easy to port code to, because they know that the keys to their success is a huge library of popular games.

License Portability

2822353-sk_plagueofshadows_05

There are certain games out there that you know will ultimately end up on every single platform.  Take the example of the new Tomb Raider game that Microsoft claims to have exclusivity over.  They have not so subtly chosen their words every single time they have talked about and used the specific phrasing of “exclusive for holiday 2015”.  That means a few months after Christmas 2015 you will end up with a new launch for the PS4 and PC and whatever other platforms seem to matter at the time.  Essentially what I am proposing is to cut through this bullshit and simply sell licenses that you can move back and forth between the platforms.  I can see this going down one of several different ways, but not all of them are terribly easy to implement.  The best scenario is simply that if you purchase the game directly from a developer, you can create an account that allows you to log in and get a new license for whatever platform you happen to play the game on.  That means you are paying a non-discounted rate for the game, directly to the game developer cutting out the middle man…  and for that you gain the privilege of playing that game on whatever platform you happen to desire doing so.  There are a lot of logistics with this one, but I could see it working for someone like Ubisoft that already has their own gaming infrastructure in the form of UPlay.  That would actually turn that system from being a liability into being a positive for users, because as of right now… there is no reason for UPlay to exist other than to annoy us.

Another option would be some sort of a license swap scenario, where you trade in one license key for a new license key for the system of your choosing.  This honestly would work similar to PC software that allows you to install on a fixed number of machines.  In these cases there is almost always an online tool that allows you to unbind a license from a specific machine and install it fresh on another to allow for things like system rebuilds.  The problem being that right now there is no real way to make sure these licenses are leaving circulation, as in once a game is granted through a system like PSN, it becomes harder to revoke the game since you are having to deal with a third party company doing it for you.  The final option I would suggest is probably the easiest.  When you own the game on any platform you could purchase heavily discounted copies of the game for other platforms.  My theory is that you would ultimately end up paying something along the lines of 15-20% of the cost of the original game to get a new copy of the game for another platform. The problem here is that a system like this would be rife with potential abuse.  What is to say that I don’t buy the game on the PS4, and then get a discount key for my friend to play on their Xbox One.  The worse case scenario is after market sales of said discount keys.  None of these solutions are perfect, but I feel like if someone actually solved this solution… it would be a huge marketing point for any games they produce.  I have several PCs, a PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita, Android device, and iOS device if you limit the search to only the more recent systems.  It would be amazing to play the gamesI want to play on whatever systems they are available…  without going bankrupt doing so.

 

FFXIV for PS3 Closeout

AggroChat #49 – Road Trip Fantasies Type-0

During this show we are joined by our normal cast of Belghast, Rae, Tam, Kodra and Ashgar as we devote the majority of the show to lots of different things Final Fantasy.  We talk the release of the Final Fantasy XV Demo and how this has sent Tam back into the 90s.  We talk Final Fantasy Type-0 and how we are enjoying this very different Final Fantasy Offering.  We also talk about how the Final Fantasy franchise going to more “on rails” games turned several of us off the franchise for awhile.  Ashgar beats Ori and the Blind Forest and talks a bit about his feelings regarding the ending.  Tam talks about his enjoyment of Dreamfall Chapters and how it isn’t really required that one has played the previous games.  Rae talks about her new Noms website, where they plan on making a recipe a week and reflecting on what the various authors think of it.

I talk about my current funk with my World of Warcraft raid and how the frustrations there are harshing my enjoyment.  We also delve into a deep session once again where we talk about the differences bertween WoW and FFXIV raiding.  We also have a session of “Tam Told us So” now that the news about crafting specialization has taken some of the focus away from us all becoming Omni Crafters.  I talk about my return lately to Elder Scrolls Online and the conversion to a Buy To Play system.  I talk about a game I did not expect to like but find myself begrudgingly enjoying, and that is ZMR:  Zombies Monsters Robots.  Finally we close out the show with some discussion about the League Championship Series and the introduction of the new roaming support champion… Bard.

FFXIV For PS3 Closeout

FinalFantasyARRXIVPS3Yesterday we spent the day mostly roaming around, in an effort to get out of the house more than anything. Tis the season for post Christmas clearance in all the various stores as they start closing out one seasons stuff in preparation for summer.  This is generally an awesome time to pick up all sorts of random bits, but more often than not I am hunting for Legos.  I’ve already found several sets deeply discounted and I have reached the point where I really don’t pounce on something until it is at least half off or more from the original price.  In my journeys yesterday I noticed that it seems like all of the Target stores are closing out their PS3 copies of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn.  This creates a unique opportunity for players who have been on the fence about playing the Game.  Throughout my journeys yesterday I found it between $6 and $10 for a boxed copy of FFXIV  PS3.  Now if you act very quickly you can turn this PS3 copy into a PS4 copy with several caveats.

Firstly this offer goes away on March 31st, so you will have a limited amount to time to actually do it.  Secondly you have to have a PS3 or access to a PS3 to make this work.  You have to log your PSN account into a PS3 and bind that PS3 to your account.  Then you have to  boot up FFXIV and log into the game, thereby registering your PSN account to your Square Enix account.  Finally you have to go into the Mogstation and you can click the link that should now appear at the bottom of your account screen.  This should give you a code that you can then enter through the Sony Playstation store on your PS4 to get a copy of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn of PS4.  This is a ton of hoops to jump through but it should allow you to get a copy of FFXIV ARR for really cheap.  There are some caveats here… firstly when you claim your PS4 copy, it nullifies your PS3 copy.  Secondly this does not give your account a PC License, which would be a separate  purchase.  I did this some time ago myself but I had forgotten all of this bullshit that you have to do until yesterday when a friend was trying to make this work.  I normally play on my PC but I like having the option to play on PS4 especially since you can remote play through a Vita or PSTV.  Granted the controls are kinda wonky, but it would be well worth figuring it out for leveling and crafting as such.

City Building

Cities 2015-03-21 11-45-41-43 Another game that I have been playing around with lately is the confusingly named Cities: Skylines.  It seems like I was suffering the same confusion that so many other gamers seem to be… that Skylines was somehow connected to the Cities XL and Cities XXL franchise.  That colon apparently is there to somehow differentiate the games, because they are in fact from two different companies.  I had played XL in the past and was not terribly impressed, so when I say the buzz about Skylines I for the most part ignored it.  That was until I actually watched some game play footage and saw that the game was essentially everything I wanted the last couple of Simcity titles to be.  Overall the game feels very much like a logical successor to Simcity 2000, which was really the last big city building game that I enjoyed playing.  If you take the concepts from that game, and bring them up to modern standards you have the Skylines interface.  The game strikes this balance between trying to have mind bending graphics and being pleasant to look at and play with.

I took this screenshot because I am pretty damned proud of getting my first upgrade.  Apparently in the years since I have played Simcity 2000, I have gotten pretty horrible at city building.  The biggest problem I am having with skylines is that it seems difficult to figure out how best to build the roads and utilities to conserve space for zoning.  The above city is actually my second attempt at creating something viable, and so far it is working okay.  My first city was a complete mess because I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I have a feeling that this second city will also be a learning experience as I try and figure out how best to optimize putting in an electrical grid and such.  All I do know for certain is that skylines is definitely a way to lose an hour without realizing it.  I started playing this as my wife was getting ready to leave yesterday morning, and next thing I know she was ready.  I feel like I need to watch some people playing it to figure out how best to do things again.  The standard grid that I used to build in doesn’t appear to really work here.  If nothing else this feels like the true “next best city building game.

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

Impressive but Still Beta

Auto Update

“Wow, I’ve never seen that happen before” is generally something you never want to hear uttered from an auto mechanic.  That said at this point my wife’s vehicle is fixed and ready to go and seems to have no negative impact.  Apparently on the Pontiac Torrent there are two different sizes of bolts that can be used to attach the tensioner.  Quite simply when they replaced that part they used the wrong one, and as we were driving Sunday the vibration and force sheared the bolt off completely causing the serpentine belt to shread, and at the same time stopping the flow of motion to both the water pump and the alternator.

The good folks at Hibdon were more than willing to fix the problem, and after getting the vehicle towed there yesterday morning they had already fixed everything by mid day.  It is one one of those “honest mistake” type situations, and I don’t fault them for it… especially since they are also the ones responsible for making it right.  It was a grand inconvenience but thankfully my wife really had nowhere that she needed to go yesterday.  I cringe when I think how much worse this could have gone had the bolt sheared and she lost power to major systems while out on the highway with no place to really pull to the side of the road.  We were likely saved by the fact that it happened so close to our home and we did not drive it long enough to cause a radiator boil over.

Steam In Home Streaming

steamstreaming One of the problems with having multiple machines is that ultimately the game you happen to want to play is not installed on the machine you are sitting at.  Yes I realize this is a first world problem, as I am extremely lucky to be able to have both a nice gaming laptop and gaming desktop, but this is something I have tried to deal with for some time.  I’ve tried gaming over various versions of remote desktop, and none of them work well enough to offer a passable experience.  I am not sure who mentioned it first, but the other day I said something about steam logging you out when you tried to log in a second machine.  Apparently this has not been the case for some time.  What happens now is that you see all of the games available installed from all of the machines you happen to be logged into on your network.  The cool thing about this is instead of the play button you now see a Stream button as shown above.

Last night I decided to try this out, and I had some mixed results.  This all started because I decided that I wanted to play catch up on True Blood which meant needing to hang out downstairs with my laptop.  True Blood is one of those shows where about halfway through the third season it went off the rails and I stopped caring about it.  That said at the same time I felt like after spending that much time watching it… I felt committed to seeing it through to the end.  Like if I stopped my choice to watch it in the first place would have somehow been invalidated.  Sadly this is how I end up feeling about most television, and why I am still watching Bleach after all these episodes… when essentially every season is EXACTLY THE SAME.  All that aside the game I wanted to play last night was not installed on my laptop, so it was either steam streaming or a 10 gig download over wifi.

Impressive but Still Beta

I have to say that the actual game play was rather impressive.  The game I was streaming was not exactly fast paced and action oriented… in that I was playing Divinity:  Original Sin.  There was a minor input lag, but I seriously might be the only one who actually would have noticed it.  For example I refuse to use a wireless mouse because I can feel the slight hesitation of the wireless lag…  whereas none of the rest of the world seems to be able to.  The biggest thing I noticed is that it felt like I was watching YouTube video.  Since you are in essense streaming video across your network, there was a certain measure of blurring and artifacting of the screen.  This was most noticeable when confronted with large areas of a dark color, but it was not bad enough to be anything more than an annoyance.

The deal breaker for me however was that every time I tried to alt+tab out of the game to check something… the stream would crash out, and in a game where saving your progress is important this meant that a couple of times last night I lost a bunch of progress.  Alt+tabbing is something that is just habitual at this point, and I have done it before I even realize I did it.  So all of the problems I had with Skyrim apply here, in that either I have to force myself to NEVER alt tab… or I have to deal with the consequences of my actions.  As a result I decided to just simply deal with installing yet another game in two places.  Unfortunately since Divinity: Original Sin does not use the steamworks cloud save functionality… this also means I will be manually copying saved games between the two machines each time I decide to switch systems.

Steam in home streaming is of course still very much a beta product, and hopefully they will fix the alt+tab thing.  When they do I can see myself using it quite a bit more often, especially as my laptop ages.  What this really gives you is the ability to play games using the full horse power of your gaming machine, while on another machine that simply acts as a viewer and input device.  I’ve even seen video of someone playing games at full frame rate using a chromebook with linux side loaded onto it.  If they ever get internet streaming working, and manageable lag wise… this means there might be a time when you could play all the games on your home machine from your tablet while travelling.  What I would love to see is for this to work in a more universal fashion, so I could play the games from my PS4 while sitting at my PC or versa vicea.  I don’t think we are anywhere near there yet, but it gives me hope that maybe at some point we will be.

Old Addictions

GameCapture 2014-07-08 06-38-41-777 Over the weekend there was a point where my wife needed to get out of the house and do anything.  She had been sitting in the house for over 72 hours at that point, and just needed to see something other than the walls around her.  While we didn’t really have much in the way of errands to run, I decided to co-opt the trip and run around and visit a few pawn shops.  I’ve always loved going to pawn shops, because you really never know what you might find there.  Since I hate paying full price for anything, they are a smorgasbord of potentially awesome things for cheap.  One of the various ones we went to had a bunch of their Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 games for as low as $5 a piece.  I picked up used copies of Tekken 6, The Simpsons Game, Metal Gear Solid 4, Heavy Rain and a copy of Fallout 3: Game of the Year edition.

One of the things I have always been curious about is playing Fallout or Elder Scrolls on a console, so for $5 I could not pass the the chance to see “how the other half lived”.  When we got home I had this grand idea of testing out all of the games… but never actually made it past Fallout 3.  I booted up the game and spent the next three hours playing it before I realized how much time had passed.  This is one of those games that I can play over and over and never quite get bored of it, and I always thought it was the ability to modify it that made it so intriguing to me.  Playing on a console I have no modding at all available, so I realize it really was the game itself.  I am completely happy to wander around with wastes with nothing but a pistol, dispensing justice.

Last night after we finished our walk I went back upstairs to cool down, and made the mistake of turning on the television and continuing the journey into the wastes.  Next thing I know it is 12:30 and I am scrambling to get back to Megaton extremely encumbered, but at the same time completely unwilling to drop any of my plunder.  This will be interesting to say the least.  One of the “mods” I always install when playing the PC game is something that removes encumbrance, because I absolutely hate playing the inventory management simulation that is a Bethesda game.  That said at this point I feel committed to seeing just how well the Fallout 3 experience translates to a console.  Additionally it has been a really long time since I have played Fallout 3, as more recently I tend to play New Vegas when I get the fallout itch.  It is amazing just how much more I like Three Dog, than Mister New Vegas.

#SteamStreaming #Fallout3 #PS3

Raiding Tombs

Process Automation

One of the things I have figured out over the years is that things work really well only if you aren’t thinking about them.  For example if I have a repetitive data entry task, I can seem to do it awesome and at full speed…  only until I actually stop to think about what I am doing.  Hell even typing itself works amazingly well and I can compose perfectly at the keyboard with zero typos… until I stop to think about what my hands are doing.  At that point I screw everything up and get the sequence completely out of whack.  As a result I try and commit as many things as I can in life to a sort of ritual.  This frees me up to daydream about whatever the hell I want to, while still performing the task at hand on autopilot.  My morning routine is much like this, a sequence of events that happen essentially on their own, and works awesomely until I am forced to think about it.  When I do have to think about whatever I happen to be doing the process breaks down completely.

Each morning I get up out of bed, walk across the room to turn off the alarm clock.  I turn on the television, make sure it is on the local news channel, walk to the kitchen and turn on the keurig and then hop in the shower.  When I am out of the shower I get dressed, make coffee, deliver a mug to my wife and take mine upstairs into my office where I sit down at my computer and do a blog post.  After I’ve finished that I head back downstairs, feed the animals, give our eldest cat her medicine, run back into the bedroom to say goodbye to my wife, grab my chromebook and then leave the house.  At which point I head to QuikTrip, grab breakfast and consume said breakfast while I drive to work.  Finally about the time I reach work I am capable of physical exertion because my body is for the most part finished “booting up” and I walk leisurely the 1000 steps or so it takes to get into my office.  After sitting at my desk for thirty minutes or so checking email and catching up on my blogroll, I am finally at that point ready to engage in conversation.  All of this happens pretty much on its own, and any false step along the path causes the whole sequence to fall apart.

The weekends have naturally had an abbreviated version of this process, as a lot of the activities simply do not need to happen.  However the last two mornings I have decimated this process entirely, and I have been paying the price.  At first yesterday I thought maybe I just was not awake enough to go walking.  So I got up, sat up in bed and watched an entire episode of Pokémon, thinking that surely my body was fully awake at that point after having to explain why Ash Ketchum cares about collecting gym badges to my wife.  But still, even after that prep work…  my body had no clue what in the hell I was doing to it.  I feel like maybe I could add a walk into my existing process…. but essentially that would defeat the purpose, since I doubt I would be awake enough to perform until I have at least had a shower and some caffeine.  I think today will be the end of this experiment and I will return to my modified weekend process tomorrow, because right now I feel completely out of sorts.

Raiding Tombs

GameCapture 2014-07-04 21-46-03-894 I have to admit that I was never a big fan of the Tomb Raider franchise.  Maybe I am not “male” enough, but I didn’t find the previous incarnation with its two big breasts and two even bigger guns that amusing.  There were so many times in the games where I had no clue what was going on, and rarely made it more than an hour into the game before giving up.  So when the 2013 reboot happened I had no real fondness for the series, and was not even really paying attention to it.  That said something interesting happened… all of my friends raved about just how amazing the game was.  Even more interesting to me was how most of said friends raving about the game… were Female.  So I knew at some point I wanted to give it a try, but that said I have technically owned this game in one form or another for the better part of a year, but this weekend was really the first time I had given it a play.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 14-21-02-228 Traditionally I do not go in for this sort of game.  I have tried multiple times to play Uncharted, but the whole “playing a movie” aspect has always been a massive turnoff for me.  Something I just realized last night is that for the better part of the last two decades I have had my head firmly in one MMO or another.  During that time I have nibbled at single player experiences, but never really sat down to to the buffet.  In that time we moved from the golden age of 90s sandboxy rpgs like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout…  to a world where most games are cinematic on-rails experiences.  The dissonance of this cultural shift honestly took some getting used to.  I would poke my head out of MMOs long enough to consume the more free form gaming experiences like Fallout, Elder Scrolls and even to some extent Mass Effect that allowed me to go off the rails and wander freely, but I have resisted giving myself over to the “narrative experience”.

Stop Fighting It

GameCapture 2014-07-04 18-08-21-027 Basically I give up…  I cannot fight the direction my beloved game industry has gone in.  I have spent my time resisting it, and as a result have essentially turned into an old man yelling at the kids to “get off my internet”.  So after hearing yet another friend talk about just how amazing this game was… I decided to give myself over to the experience.  To get the full effect, and keep myself from trying to use the old crutch of “mouse and keyboard”, I opted to play this game entirely on my Playstation 3.  It was given away some time ago as part of the Playstation Plus package.  For awhile I considered trying to pick up the double special extended deluxe remastered edition available for the PS4, but I really don’t care about how pretty her hair is… or how realistic her sweat movement is.  The game looks gorgeous regardless of what platform you play it on, and in truth I kind of prefer the “clump” of hair rather than being distracted by seeing each individual particle.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-58-01-887 I like this Lara Croft so much better than the previous one.  Firstly she seems to have human proportions as well as human emotions.  The previous incarnation was essentially Wonder Woman with guns, and felt like playing a guy with tits at times.  I actually enjoyed the series of Angelina Jolie movies, but this Lara feels like a product of her circumstances, rather than someone trained and bred to be mind numbingly amazing.  In the course of this game, your character goes through some truly horrific things… things no one should ever have to.  Each time she becomes stronger for it, and you start out as this visibly naive girl and turn into a woman with razor will and a desire to survive at all costs.  Quite frankly… everything about this franchise is just better than the previous incarnations.  This is a Lara I would love to see in a movie, but in reality that is essentially what we are seeing…  movies played out through our actions.

Many Narrative Elements

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-35-03-972 One of my favorite constructs in the game is that of the “day camp” system.  Every so often in the game there is a camp spot, be it a formal camp or just a clearing with a makeshift fire ring.  When you are at camp all of these interesting interludes happen.  Sometimes it is interaction between two characters, other times it is Lara talking to herself… and then there is a series of asides that involve her watching pre-shot footage from the video camera of another of the characters.  These little moments help to flesh out the story, and the character interactions making them all far more three dimensional in the process.  This combined with the various journal entries you find scattered throughout the levels helps to create a very three dimensional feeling of Yamatai and the characters that inhabit it.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-22-49-054 I think another aspect that has helped to make me fall in love with this game quickly, is that the setting itself is extremely familiar to me.  Playing Tomb Raider is like playing out what happened to Oliver Queen on the island of Lian Yu in the television show Arrow.  The fact that the best weapon Lara has at his disposal is a make shift bow… that slowly improves over the course of the levels really underlines this feeling.  So it gave me a point of reference that I already cared about that I could latch onto with both hands and use to pull me closer to the story.  The funny thing about surrendering to the narrative, is that it has allowed me to do something I rarely am able to… Play a female character and enjoy it.  Most of my game play experiences have been about inserting myself into character character I happened to be playing.  So as superior as the writing of “Femshep” might be, I could never disconnect myself enough from the character to make that work.  Now it is not like I am playing a character, but instead watching a story unfold in front of me… and it is working.

Old Dog Learns New Tricks

GameCapture 2014-07-04 22-32-07-552 Now at this point I want to go back and try again some of the game that did not work for me in the past.  So often times I wanted them to “let me play the game” and stop with all the “cutscenes” never really grasping that the game had changed, and I was simply not prepared for that sort of a game play experience.  Another thing that has helped this process is that I have forced myself in many cases to start playing with a controller.  Earlier this weekend I was playing Bioshock Infinite with a controller, and not absolutely hating it.  I still feel like a controller does a poor job at fight targeting control, but for the most part it works well enough, and I have now reached a point where controlling my character with two thumbs has reached a place where I no longer have to think about it.  Movement and Aiming is starting to become “ritual” and as such I am rejecting it considerably less.

Not every game is going to work out to be better because of this little revelation I have gone through.  I tried to play the original Witcher again last night, and realized that “nope, it still sucks”.  That game has one of the most uncomfortable and unorthodox control schemes I have seen in some time.  No matter how awesome that storyline is…  I will likely never play it, because I cannot get past how horrible it feels.  This is the sort of game that I guess “lets play” videos exist, because while I would love to know what happens storyline wise… there is no way I am going to play it.  I’ve given it three tries, at separate times and come up with the same rejection.  I guess this is literally a case of three strikes and you are out for me.  There are many games however, namely console titles that I look forward to dusting off and trying to play again.

#TombRaider #PS3

Recording Console Games

Bombing Run

Yesterday was an interesting day, partially because I dinged another level and am now officially in my “late thirties”.  Most of the morning was spent in preparation for my wife to fly in, and doing a last minute run through the house to “pick up” a bit.  Honestly this year I somehow managed to pick up successfully as I went and didn’t really hit the point where I simply stopped caring that there was a pizza box on the kitchen counter.  So it really only took a few minutes, and I streamed some Warlords of Draenor while waiting.  For a reason that I did not know at the time… none of my voice over was coming through in the stream, but I will get to that later.

I picked up my wife around noon and we ran across town to my favorite Indian restaurant… where I proceeded to order something completely new in honor of the occasion.  My standby has always been Chicken Tika Masala medium hot, and no matter how many times I consider ordering something else… I always end up back on that.  The new dish was a sort of super spicy egg fried rice with chicken in it that they call Desi Rice.  In any fashion it was pretty freaking good.  Overall the day was pretty relaxing, and it served as the perfect break in the working week.  It was awesome to have my wife back, even if it is only for a few days as she flies out to the second conference of the year Sunday.

What completely overwhelmed me yesterday was all the well wishes from my internet family.  Both my twitter and g+ feeds were blowing up with well wishes all day yesterday, and upon logging into teamspeak that night I got another round.  I feel completely bombarded, and I thank all of you for that feeling.  It kinda feels like the whole Sally Fields “You like me, You really like me” moment.  But amazing friends aside… I find it always interesting to see which bot wishes me a happy birthday first.  This year and I believe many of the other years recently… the reward goes for the WoW Ace Forums…  who wished me a happy birthday at 7 pm on the 17th, which I can only assume is on Australian time?  In all seriousness… I am humbled by the amount of support I get from you all.

Recording Console Games

One of the coolest things about the PS4 is that it can stream live to twitch.  It also happens to be one of the most disappointing, since the twitch streaming rate is locked to 480p which shocked me.  I pretty much religiously stream in 1080p so it was frustrating the first time I cracked open one of my Destiny Alpha videos and saw how blurry the footage was.  The other nuisance is that it seems to only record MY voice chat as part of the stream, and not that of the other people I happen to be partied with.  The end result is this disjointed experience of listening to an often times hilarious one sided conversation.  I figured there had to be a better way.

For some time I had looked at a capture card, but honestly that whole concept was foreign to me.  After doing a ton of research I realized there was a huge problem there, with the way the streaming worked.  The two consoles that I most wanted to stream from were the Sony Playstation 3 and Sony Playstation 4… both of which I absolutely love.  The problem is that in both cases they use HDCP or High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection aka a screwball system that tries to encrypt the video data from the source to the television.  Apparently the Xbox One also struggles with this, and for some reason in all of these systems it is either on all of the time… or turned on the first time you play a movie and then stays on.  Normally this would prevent you from recording gameplay footage, because the recording device is not “HDCP Compliant”.

The widely accepted workaround is to plug these consoles into the capture card using component cables.  This however causes its own stream of problems as you take a digital signal… convert it to analog and then convert it back to digital.  The end result is often blurry and color shifted and just not something I wanted to mess with.  So after a lot of research I stumbled on the above video.  Basically the idea is to use an HDMI splitter to get around the HDCP lockout without actually stripping the HDCP protection and making the device illegal for sale.  All of this is voodoo to me to be honest, but I wanted to give it a shot.  I managed to find an Elgato HD Capture device on Craigslist and got a ridiculously good deal on it, therefore enabling this entire thing to work.  As of last night I had the set up going and it worked successfully, after a few attempts to work out the kinks.  Sorry for the twitch advertisement spam on twitter.

Rube Goldberg of Streaming

ConsoleStreamingSetup This ladies and gentleman is my streaming setup.  I decided to diagram it out in part because it made it actually make sense rather than the jumble of cables that I have running around my desktop.  Right now I have both the PS3 and PS4 hooked up in this fashion and will ultimately move the Xbox 360 in here as well.  For the setup I am proposing you need the following materials.

The Elgato comes with one HDMI cable and the necessary Micro to Full USB Cable.  Like I said I got mine through a craigslist deal for $75 enabling this whole setup to work.  So the only thing I was actually missing was the splitter.  After doing a lot of research on the subject it seems like only a few splitters do what is needed.  Thankfully the one I ordered and linked above is both tiny and works great.  Ultimately I want to get some much shorter usb cables because right now… having all these 6 foot cables is a mess.  Essentially you hook all of your game systems to the HDMI switch, and then hook the switch to an HDMI splitter, and then hook one of the two outbound ports to the Elgato.  That then passes the signal to the television and your computer.  You can download software from the Elgato website that does a decent job at capture, but I simply integrated all of this into my existing OBS setup.

Trial and Error

After a lot of trial and error I was able to produce a video of me playing Castle of Illusion on the PS3.  I do a rather horrible job at playing the game, but that is entirely beside the point.  Basically I could have died over and over and still would have been amused because the setup was working.  The only problem is… I seemed to be unable to record any dialog from my microphone.  I spent the better part of this video fiddling with my settings in OBS trying to make it function again.  The video however looked great, and was streaming to twitch and exporting to youtube in glorious 1080p.  The trouble with my headset started over the weekend when I decided to disconnect it from my machine and hook it to my ps4 for the purpose of grouping up in Destiny.

Being a USB headset, everything seemed to go wonky when I did this and everything from mumble, to teamspeak to obs treated the headset as though it had never been connected to the system, forcing me to remap everything.  Then I remembered… I had hooked the headset previously directly into my machine, and was now trying to go through my powered hub.  So I pulled the headset out, hooked it directly into the machine and bam… all of the sudden OBS started working again.  This second video has dialog coming across and with the help of my good friend Ashgar, I managed to sort out the volume levels so that I could actually be heard over the game audio.  So I feel like right now I have a repeatable solution for streaming HDMI connected consoles over twitch.

Now my specific setup is not a requirement… there are lots of different ways to do this.  Some folks have had good luck installing a cheap capture card in their PC and streaming through that.  The Elgato seemed like a more hands free solution to working out the finer points of video conversion.  There however are a bunch of different devices on the market that do essentially the same thing.  I wanted the Elgato simply because it did not require an additional power source and could draw power entirely from my PC over USB.  Since the HDMI switch and splitter each have their own power supplies, this just cut down on the total number of cords needed.  Right now the hole thing is a colossal mess, and at some point I want to hook it up with significantly shorter cables.  For now however it works great and I am super happy to be able to do this.