The future sucks.

I don’t want to make this a whole thing, but I want to get it written down. My Xbox One sucks. It won’t play Blu-Ray movies. It won’t play rented streaming movies. Netflix has been broken on it for months. For types of media that aren’t Hulu or WWE Network, it’s a paperweight. It’ll play games, after a long download and install time, but that’s it.

Two of these problems, the Blu-Ray movies and rentals, can be blamed directly on copy protection. I have a (relatively) old TV and I guess it’s not up to the standards Microsoft wants before it will show me the movies I’ve bought. Mind you, my PS3 and Xbox 360 have no problems on this same TV. I didn’t find out until I tried to watch my Evil Dead Blu-Ray on Halloween, and after I’d rented Iron Man 3 today.

I’m not trying to rip anyone off. I’ve bought my Blu-Rays. I paid for that rental. I’m constantly presented with anti-piracy warnings and now I can’t even watch the things I buy through the Xbox One. My old TV is huge and works great, so I have no reason to replace it so I’m stuck. I can switch to my PS3 to watch movies, but copy protection is keeping me from watching the things I bought. If I had pirated them, I would not have these problems. Even better, I could stream them from my PC through the Plex app that Microsoft has made available on the Xbox One. Microsoft has made it more convenient to be a pirate than a customer.

I can’t even explain what’s going on with Netflix. Netflix works on literally every media streaming device I own (several Rokus, Xbox 360, PS3) except for the Xbox One. Ever since Microsoft pushed a big interface change (which was an improvement!), Netflix has been unusable. I contact Microsoft support and they think my network is too slow (it’s not). I contact Netflix support and they say Microsoft botched the release of their app and they’ll fix it with a new version. I’m certain it’s been updated at least once since then and Netflix is still unusable. It doesn’t affect everyone, so I guess I’m in a minority that just doesn’t get to use Netflix on Xbox One anymore.

This sucks. The copy protection on the Xbox One is beyond ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with my TV. I’m doing nothing wrong or illegal. If the Xbox One told me on initial setup that my TV was not good enough to watch Blu-Ray movies or stream rentals, I would’ve boxed it up and sent it back immediately. I’ve contacted Amazon to see if they will grant me an exception on their return policy so I can send it back. The Netflix problem is also incomprehensible. I don’t know what they broke, but they broke something, and now the console is worse off than it was with no way of returning it to a prior working state.

I don’t know what to say. I’m pretty flabbergasted. This shit shouldn’t be so hard. This is the easy stuff; take data, output video and sound. The games work fine! I shouldn’t have to fucking struggle against the DRM to watch the things I buy. Microsoft shouldn’t be breaking their console with upgrades, and then doing nothing to fix them. I feel like I’ve been ripped off because I bought a game console and all it does is play games, but it should do more than that. And that periphery stuff should be the bits that work. What a fucking mess.

Steam Winter Sale 2015

The Steam winter sale is starting tomorrow. It’s kind of the best time to catch up on all of the games you might have missed in the previous year because it’ll probably be on sale. This year is the same in that regard, but there have been changes to how Steam runs annual sales.

Big annual Steam sales used to be pretty complex affairs! There were daily sales, flash sales, community sales, and sometimes more. Now, there will be just one sale price. Everything that is on sale will be at the same discount throughout the entire sale. In effect, everything that is on sale tomorrow will still be on sale up until the sale ends, and with no further discounts. You can run through your wishlist after the sale starts tomorrow and buy everything immediately with the knowledge that you’re not going to miss out on a cheaper price during this sale. You have a wishlist, right? They’re a great way to keep an eye on the price of games you might be interested in.

That said, I’ve pruned my wishlist and I’m ready. Obviously, I won’t be buying everything off of my wishlist, and not everything will be on sale tomorrow. I’m going to get stuff that I missed this year that really interests me, and stuff that I can keep around for rainy days. Here’s a short list of what I hope to pick up tomorrow.

  • Cradle – I love the look and I’m a sucker for a good first-person adventure game.
  • The Magic Circle – Many reviews I’ve read said that there is more to this game than what appears.
  • Axiom Verge – A metroidvania that’s obviously heavily influenced by the 16-bit era. SIGN ME UP
  • Assassin’s Creed: Rogue – I’ll be honest; I kind of hate this series, but I like to keep one on hand in case I need something to fill time until I find something I genuinely enjoy. It’s true, though, that I usually can’t stop playing them once I’ve started.
  • Her Story – I keep threatening to make my wife play an adventure game with me, and this one is getting a lot of kudos.
  • Volume – I loved Thomas was Alone and I like the idea of a lighter stealth game in small bits.
  • Nuclear Throne – Did you play Luftrausers? Because I did and it was fucking rad. I’ll be getting Nuclear Throne whether it’s on sale or not.
  • Mad Max – I’m not super interested in it, but it’s got enough going for it that I’ll probably like it if I start it.
  • Far Cry 4 – Same as Mad Max. If the price is right.
  • Civ: Beyond Earth – One of my fellow contributors at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together loved it, and it’s close enough to Alpha Centauri.

Squishy post-script: The change in the way Steam conducts their sales is (to me) kind of a bummer. I love the annual sales as much for the daily game discussions and recommendations as I do the cheap games. The daily changes to the deals gave me a reason to check the store page every day, every 12 hours, every 8 hours, or however often they changed. It also lent to common topics of discussion as people could talk about what the new sales were. As the autumn sale demonstrated to me, most of the discussion will simply happen at the start of the sale and not really long afterward.

I’m not going to be the guy complaining about a sale. The actual content of the sale is really inconsequential to me. I’m lucky to get another chance to pick up these games at a discount. And the new way in which the sale is conducted is good for people who aren’t obsessive about them like I am. They can check on any day of the sale and get great games at great prices without feeling like they’re going to miss something important. People short on cash don’t need to choose between food and a new game because it’s only on sale for 8 hours and they don’t get paid until tomorrow (sincerely hope no one is doing this, but I know someone is). But I will miss the daily discussions and the excitement surrounding constantly changing sales.

Fallout 4 Impressions

I’m seven hours in, and I’ve owned it since day 1. Given I haven’t had a ton of free time, that’s still kind of telling. I think I put twice as much time into The Witcher 3 at this point. Honestly, I’d probably rather be playing Destiny. Really early game spoilers below.

Seriously, I’m going to talk about my first seven hours with this game.

The start, the world before the bomb, looked good, it was a nice change of pace, but it was totally unnecessary. Unless they’re going to use those assets again somewhere, it seemed like a lot of effort to do something that would’ve been just as well served with a cutscene.

Everything immediately following emerging from the vault moves entirely too fast, and makes the game feel really small. I mean, I was immediately thrown into defending a “good” group of people, handed a suit of power armor and a minigun, and I killed a deathclaw. Thinking back to how hard it was to get those kinds of things, much less kill a deathclaw, in previous games, it feels like Fallout 4 is either trying too hard to make a strong first impression, or showing that these things aren’t going to be as useful in this game as they were in previous games.

Even more pernicious, I’ve already been handed several laser weapons. It’s really hard to determine if I’ve just stumbled upon a quest that’s breaking the game, or these are going to be worthless soon. Again, these are things that were hard to come by in the older games. Also, I’ve already been invited to join the Brotherhood of Steel. Knowing how the Brotherhood has been portrayed in previous games, I couldn’t possibly jump right in without getting more context.

Here we go, I’m going to say it: the settlement stuff feels dumb. I don’t want to play Sim City. I don’t want to be a pack mule to find stuff to make my settlement less shitty. A lot of the tutorial stuff wasn’t particularly well explained either. It took me a while to figure out I could use existing structures. Then assigning workers and planting didn’t make a lot of sense. Doing everything from the first person perspective doesn’t feel good either.

Inventory management, as in most Bethesda games, sucks. When I pick up new stuff, I have to do a lot of comparisons to see if what I got is better than what I have. It’s complicated further by all the weapon mods. Is a glow-sighted hunting rifle better than compensated high-powered pipe rifle? Shit I don’t know. And if it isn’t, I can’t figure out how to remove mods and slap them on a different weapon. Scrapping weapons just gives me a bunch of steel, not the individual parts I’d need to rebuild the mods. It took me a bit to figure out that I’d be better off wearing separate pieces of armor that covered body parts than a whole suit, but the first thing I ran into was a whole suit that was better than what I was wearing. When I got a piece of armor, it wasn’t better than the whole suit so I tossed it. Then I noticed I couldn’t modify the whole suit, but I could mod the hell out of the piece of shoulder armor I had. That was my hint that I should be gathering pieces of armor instead of wearing whole suits.

But here’s the real enthusiasm-killer for me: Fallout 4 doesn’t look or feel particularly different, or even better, than previous games. Combined with other Bethesda RPGs, like Oblivion and Skyrim, it feels like I’ve played this game before, several times even. The stuff that’s new (weapon mods, armor mods, settlements) doesn’t feel good, and the rest feels way too familiar. It hasn’t done anything new yet that I like.

I bought Fallout 4 on a whim, really. I didn’t follow its development much. When the release day came up, I decided to buy it outright. It’s only the second full $60 brand new game I’ve bought this year, the other being The Witcher 3. Ever since Fallout 3 and Oblivion, I’ve held the opinion that I should wait on Bethesda RPGs to get cheaper, or all the DLC is released and there’s a complete edition of the game. I didn’t stick to it, like at all, but I didn’t buy Skyrim or New Vegas without waiting at least for a sale. I really enjoyed those games and I definitely got my money’s worth. I likewise loved the hell out of Fallout 3, and I bought the super special edition of that game.

So why would I hesitate to buy Fallout 4 on release day? Because it leads to this exact kind of post-purchase questioning. I was way into Destiny when Fallout 4 came out, and I still had a handful of games I wanted to play. A game like Fallout 4, where I’m not entirely sucked into it immediately, would do better for me when I’m bored, not when I’m swimming in fun games to play. I’m certain I’ll put more time into Fallout 4, and I’ll enjoy myself, but I’ll probably put it down a few times, and play other games instead. I could’ve waited on this one.

In which I explain why I bought an Xbox One over a PS4

Hi. Less than 2 hours ago, I ordered an Xbox One bundle off of Amazon. We’ve had a run of good things happen and my reward was a new console. Katie told me I could get whatever Black Friday slash holiday deal I wanted. After giving it some thought, I decided on the Xbox One. It wasn’t a hard decision and here’s why.

The Xbox One has the exclusive games I want to play on it. The ones that aren’t going to be on PS4, probably not on PC either. There’s one game for PS4 right now that qualifies as exclusive to the console and something I absolutely want to play, and that’s Until Dawn. Pretty much everything else it has is multiplatform, or not interesting to me. I’m a huge sucker for Halo; Xbone has Halo. I’m a huge sucker for Gears of War; Xbone has Gears of War. Rare Replay is on Xbone. It’s not necessarily a deal-maker, but it’s something I’m very interested in and can’t get on any other platform. If they come to PC, I’ll be surprised. Thrilled, but surprised.

I want the new Rock Band. My plastic instruments for Xbox 360 are all trash, so I’m looking at the whole band-in-a-box. All of my Rock Band songs are on Xbox. There’s no chance in hell I’m buying a PS4 and Rock Band and all of those songs all over again. I know Guitar Hero Live is probably a better game. It won’t fit what I want Rock Band to fill. I want all of those plastic instruments, not just guitar and vocals. I want my whole Rock Band song library. If I have friends over, I want them to have a choice of instrument. I want a choice of instrument. If I feel like getting Guitar Hero Live, I can do that and it’s not like I’m losing my whole Rock Band library. I can’t do both on PS4 without spending a shitload on Rock Band songs. Again.

I’m a Windows guy, and Xbone is a Windows platform. I’m going to know how it works. It’s going to work with my PCs. I’m not going to have to fiddle with any janky PS4 interface that kind of works or doesn’t. Streaming Xbone games to my PC sounds cool. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it, but I know I can’t do that with a PS4. I don’t own a Vita, so I’m not really glued to the Playstation platform. The Xbone will fit in better.

I know that when the new consoles were announced, I was pretty much ready to write off the Xbone entirely. It sounded like a pile of bad ideas. I even pre-ordered a PS4, which I canceled months before it came out because buying any console on day one is dumb. But this is why I wait at least a year before I buy any console. I couldn’t have made this decision on day one. I would’ve owned a PS4 and I would’ve found ways to enjoy it, but it wouldn’t have solved these problems. I’d still be looking at buying an Xbone for the exclusives and Rock Band. The PS4 is still a cool console, and I still want to own one some day, but it’s not what I want right now or for the foreseeable future.

Thoughts on completing my first triathlon

Pre-swim: “Okay, the water isn’t as cold as I thought it was going to be. And the distance doesn’t look as far in person as it does on the map. I can do this.”

Five minutes into the swim: “Oh jesus. Oh god. I’m fucking dying. I’m done for.”

I saw one of the lifeguards in a canoe and thought “I’m doing it. I’m going to swim to them and tell them to pull me out. I was not ready for this.” But some other dude was closer and he wanted to hang off of the boat, and I saw another dude swimming on his back and that looked like a good idea. When I started swimming on my back, I felt much better, even if I was going very slowly.

The wave after mine went past me. That was a little demoralizing. I was on the longest swim of my life. I saw my sister, and she was having a hard time too, so I felt less bad. She was marginally better prepared than I was.

The swim seemingly took forever. I cannot understand how people can swim so fast. I learned that I am not a good swimmer. Not even close.

Out of the water: “Why is my right hand going to sleep? I am dizzy. I cannot run to transition. I’m going to die out here. This is it.”

My sister got out of transition a couple minutes before I did, but I’m better on my bike than she is, so I passed her pretty quick and that was great. I passed a few people who beat me on the swim that were having a harder time on the bike.

I got rained on during the bike ride. It only motivated me because I’m good on my bike and I know rain is going to make other people do worse. I don’t know if they did, but I felt better. I got passed by a few people, but they were on the olympic tri, and obviously in much better shape. Some asshole honked at us from behind for some reason.

Post-bike: “…”

I had no thoughts. I knew I wasn’t going to walk but I did sandbag the hell out of that run. My legs weren’t tired, but I was still totally gassed from the swim. I had some pain in my chest and that was longest 3.1 miles I’ve ever run.

Post-run: “NEVER AGAIN.”

I beat my sister, but she was so close behind on the run that she probably got a better total time. I’m never doing this again.

Then again, I said the same exact thing after my first half marathon, and then I did two half marathons on the next year.

I’m going to feel this shit tomorrow.

Danswercise E3 Challenge Wrapup!

Last week was E3, which officially marked the end of the Danswercise E3 Challenge. So how did I do?

I made it. Worked out every day. Some days were more substantial than others, but I made it work. Here’s some of the things I learned in the process:

  • Saturdays are the hardest days for me to workout on. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I don’t have a schedule on Saturdays. On weekdays, I have a clear schedule and I can slot in the workout after work. Saturdays were spent waffling between working out early or working out late. My gym isn’t open past 1 on Saturdays either, which makes those late workouts even more difficult. Sundays generally weren’t a problem because those were days I explicitly designated for a long walk, but Saturdays were my least productive days.
  • If I had counted mowing the lawn, which does burn calories, I would’ve had the Saturday problem nailed. According to MyFitnessPal, I burn about 600 calories mowing my front and back yard. That’s as much as a good workout.
  • Bike riding is a real easy way for me to burn a ton of calories. In June, I changed my Thursday run to an hour long plus bike ride. If I just ride for an hour, including travel to the bike trail, I burn about 800 calories.
  • On days where I didn’t count travel time toward my hour-long ride, I would get to the end of my bike trail before the 30 minute mark. I need to make a longer route.
  • Exercising every day isn’t for me. I’d rather have five solid days of working out and two rest days than seven days that might be good or bad, but I’m doing something to say I did. My heart isn’t in it for seven days a week.

So that’s that. Today, I didn’t work out and I’m not going to feel guilty about it. I’m done. Tomorrow is the start of a new week, and I’ll put 100% into my workouts from Monday through Friday. But if I feel like I need more, I’ll either mow my lawn or go for a bike ride on the weekend and not sweat it if I don’t.

The Danswercise E3 Challenge!

I don’t really need an excuse to workout, but I could use one to workout more. I’m already working out 4 – 5 times a week, so what’s two more days? That said, I should give myself some ground rules beyond just “workout every day”. So here’s what I’m going to stick to!

  1. Any physical activity I do for more than 30 minutes that I wouldn’t normally do counts as working out.
  2. Moving furniture doesn’t count, even though moving furniture sucks and I basically never move furniture.
  3. Mowing doesn’t count.
  4. Walking doesn’t count unless I go over my goal step count. My goal step count is 10,000. I rarely go over 5,000, and I usually go over because I’m running.

With those ground rules laid out, here’s a schedule of how I’m going to accomplish it.

  • Monday – Body Pump / strength
  • Tuesday – Run / cardio
  • Wednesday – Body Pump / strength
  • Thursday – Run / cardio
  • Friday – Weightlifting / strength
  • Saturday – A little strength, a little cardio? Or just cardio.
  • Sunday – Something easy. Maybe work on that step count.


March Madness!!! Wrap Up

This feels like it was the longest month of my life. I blame Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. Despite being a lot of fun, it was also really long compared to most games I play. I really wanted to finish South Park: The Stick of Truth, but WrestleMania ensured that wasn’t going to happen. I think I’m close to the end, but it’s April now, so it doesn’t count. I mean, it counts in that I will finish the game this week, but not for March Madness!!!

The stakes for both of us were really raised when we decided a week in to incentivize the competition with a reward of being able to spend $20 on video games guilt-free. Not that either of us really feel particularly guilty about buying video games, but it’s a coupon for $20 of video games, no questions asked. I thought Black Flag was going to be the end of me, and Katie had a few false starts. When she got moving, and I was still playing Black Flag, I was really concerned she was going to win it. I’m pretty sure the average completion time of the games on her list was fully shorter than mine, but she was more ambitious in what she put on her list than I was. But let’s take a quick look at the final stats.

brian Katie
Thief Contrast Complete
AC4: Black Flag Edna & Harvey: The Breakout Started
Mark of the Ninja Home Abandoned
Shadowrun Returns Rocketbirds
Strike Suit Zero Broken Sword 5
South Park: The Stick of Truth Sang-Froid

Winner: brian!

March Madness!! #5, Strike Suit Zero

I kickstarted Strike Suit Zero. I love space dogfighting games, particularly the Colony Wars games, and cool mecha, so SSZ made perfect sense to me. It was good when it was released, but not great. It was difficult and it took a long time to get to the strike suit. Part of the difficulty was compounded by a lack of checkpoints mid-mission. When I picked it up for March Madness!!!, I restarted it with the updated Director’s Cut, which shortened the time to get to the strike suit and added checkpoints! It went much better this time around.

Game six is South Park: The Stick of Truth. I have a commanding lead in this competition. South Park is supposedly fairly short for an RPG, and I have three days left to start and finish it. With six hours of Wrestlemania tomorrow, this might be a real challenge.


March Madness!!! #4, Shadowrun Returns

That didn’t take long. According to a walkthrough, I came back into it halfway through. Median time on How Long to Beat is 12 hours, but it took me less than 10. This is one of those games that came from Kickstarter that I thought sounded like a good idea, but not enough to put my own cash behind it. It turned out very successful, and the game is pretty good, but it’s (clearly) a bit short. However, from what I understand, Dragonfall is much longer and a deeper game. For the purpose of this competition, I’m glad I rolled Shadowrun Returns before Dragonfall, though.

With a 16 roll, the next game is Strike Suit Zero. To even the odds a bit, instead of continuing where I left off on it, I’ll be restarting the game in the Director’s Cut release. I’m only a little concerned about this one because my major complaint in the original release was that there were no checkpoints during missions, so dying near the end of one could mean replaying 30 minutes of the game.

Ne Cede Malis