Category Archives: Me and Mine

Anything about me and anyone I care about. Personal garbage.

2020 Dream of Waking Video Game Awards

Hey 2020, what a fucking brutal year. Rather than focus on the bad, I’ve made no anti-awards this year, and I’m not restricting anything to releases from the current year. I played a lot of video games, but didn’t finish a lot of video games. I watched a ton of movies and TV shows. I read, but not a lot of current stuff. Like everyone else, I’m just trying to get by. Let’s celebrate some good stuff.

Edit: fuck, my WordPress site is busted so no images. Sorry. Maybe I’ll fix it in 2021? Or maybe I’ll call it quits.

2020 Game of the Year

Death Stranding

If someone had told me last year that Death Stranding was going to be my favorite game this year, I’d have been extremely skeptical, but here we are. Death Stranding is a game where you deliver packages for likes, and I collected a lot of likes. It’s a wholly unique game that takes walking simulator in a direction that only Hideo Kojima can. I thought this game would be up its own ass by the way people talked about it last year, and it’s sort of up its own ass, but I loved it from beginning to end. Doom Eternal loses points to Death Stranding because it doesn’t have the same cool, self-assured tone as Doom 2016. It’s trying too hard.

Runner Up: Doom Eternal

2020’s 2019 Game of the Year

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

When Halo 4 finally came to the Master Chief Collection on PC, I dropped everything to play it for a second time. Over the course of this year, I’ve re-played all of the Halo games, except Halo 2, which I just re-played last year. The MCC is just an incredible collection of great FPS games. STRAFE takes runner up as I finished a run for the first time, and it was in no small part thanks to a shortened run length patch.

Runner Up: STRAFE

The Most Pleasant Surprise Award

Doom 64

It’s ugly but it’s still Doom. I’m glad I didn’t play it on a Nintendo 64, and I’m glad it exists. It got a great PC port. Runner up goes to The Solitaire Conspiracy for being a super fun, super polished solitaire that I played for more than three hours.

Runner Up: The Solitaire Conspiracy

The “I’m Never Going to Finish This” Award

Forza Horizon 4

I get a wild urge to play a racing game and this year I played a lot of Forza Horizon 4. It’s got a huge beautiful open world, an impossible number of cars, and an unreal variety of races and things to do with them. There’s so much in here that I’ll never get to the bottom of, but I love coming back to it. Hades is my runner up here, because it’s beautiful and fun and amazing, but it’s run-based and I’ll be lucky to finish one run, much less multiple runs.

Runner Up: Hades

Other Awards

Movie of the YearBatman: Mask of the Phantasm
Runner Up: The Lighthouse

Album of the YearRTJ4 by Run the Jewels
Runner Up: Inlet by HUM

Book of the YearThe Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Runner Up: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Make Old Games Work: Stalling

It’s been a minute, right? I’ve missed a couple weeks, some on accident, and some on purpose. To be honest, at this point, I’m stalling. I’m waiting. I have things in motion. I’m waiting for them to land. To kill time, how about I present a few reasons why I’m bothering to do this.

The first is that I can. I have the console hardware. I have the games. A ton of my games aren’t available on newer consoles. If I want to play these again, and I do, I need to figure something out.

Another reason is that I have enough TVs and I don’t want to buy a good CRT to play these on. That’d be the easy way out; just buy a high quality, older CRT that has the right inputs. That’s how I got around this before and it’s how I ended up with a 100lb TV in my basement. I had to gently roll it down those basement stairs to get it there. I’d also have to buy more capture hardware if I want to record any of this, and I sort of want to be able to do that.

The third reason is that emulation sucks. Oh sure, it works a lot of times. Emulator programmers are doing great work to try to make it more accurate all the time. But since I own the hardware, I’d rather put that to use than make the effort to sort out which emulators work best. On top of that, no emulator is perfect and they get worse with fringe and uncommon games, which is what I enjoy. I’m not doing this to play Crash Bandicoot or Super Mario Sunshine. I’m not saying I’ve got rare taste, but there’s a reason why a lot of the games I like haven’t been pulled up to newer consoles. They’re just not very popular, or they’re based on licensed properties.

That’s about it this week. Fingers crossed that I’ll have more fun to report in a couple weeks.

Make Old Games Work: Inventory

Before I get started on this adventure to make old video game consoles work on my modern TV, I need an inventory. I need to know what I have and what my consoles are capable of. For this exercise, I’m focused solely on the AV parts, as I comfortably have the power situation under control. For each console, I’ve made note of the particular output ports on the console and the model number as those two things will dictate what sort of video signal the console is capable of delivering.

Playstation 3

Model: CECH-4001B

Outputs: HDMI, AV Multi Output, Optical Audio

Playstation 2

Model: SCPH-30001

Outputs: AV Multi Output, Optical Audio, USB

PSOne

Model: SCPH-101

Outputs: AV Multi Output

Playstation cables: AV multi out to composite video (RCA), AV multi out to RFU adapter (coaxial)

Xbox

Product ID: 561 6026331 24902

Outputs: AV in/out

Xbox cables: AV in/out to compositie video (RCA), AV in/out to component video (RCA)

Wii

Model: RVL-001

Outputs: AV Multi Out, USB

Gamecube

Model: DOL-001

Outputs: Digital AV Out, Analog AV Out, Hi-Speed Port, Serial Port 1 & 2

Nintendo 64

Model: NUS-001

Outputs: Multi Out (matches GC analog AV out)

Super Nintendo

Model: SNS-001

Outputs: Multi Out (matches GC analog AV out), RF Out (RCA)

Nintendo Entertainment System

Model: NES-101

Outputs: RF Out

Nintendo cables: Wii AV multi out to component (RCA), Wii AV multi out to composite (RCA), analog multi out to composite (RCA), RF out to RF adapter (coaxial), analog multi out to RF out (adapter)

Dreamcast

Model: HKT-3020

Outputs: AV Out, Serial

Dreamcast cables: AV out to composite (RCA)

Multi-use cables/adapters: Playstation AV multi out/Xbox AV out/Xbox 360 AV out to component (RCA)/composite (RCA), component to HDMI adapter, composite (RCA) to HDMI adapter

That’s all for today. In two weeks, I’ll pick one of these to figure out.

Old Video Game Consoles

Okay, that time has come where I’ve decided to drag out my old consoles and try to make them work on modern TVs and capture hardware. Somebody said Disruptor and that kicked off my desire to try to play my own copy of Disruptor. It’s an early PS1 game. I have the disc. I have multiple Playstation consoles. This should work, right?

The PS3 offers many old Playstation games for digital download. Disruptor is not one of them. PS3 has no other PS1 backwards compatibility so PS3 is out.

I pull out my PS2. It’s one of the original models. I have a video cable that outputs component (YPbPr) video from a PS1/PS2/Xbox/360 input. None of my TVs accept component input, but I bought a component -> HDMI converter that works pretty well. I hook it all up. It’s working. I’ve got video. My PS2 still even has a close to correct clock.

I stick my Disruptor disc in. Disc read error. Oh hell. I haven’t touched this thing in a long time. It sat in my basement for something like the last 5 years. I’ve played some PS2 games on it, but that basement wasn’t perfectly dry. Did I kill my PS2?

Then I remember that my PS2 has been bad at reading CDs (PS1 games) for a while. That’s not new. I stick a PS2 game in and it works flawlessly. Okay. I have a backup. I have a PSOne.

I kept this PSOne for exactly this problem. I unhook the PS2 and hook up the PSOne. I put the disc in and fire it up. Nothing. No sound, no video. Now I’m digging around in my long term memory. While I can hook up my third party PS1/PS2/Xbox/360 component octopus to the PSOne, that doesn’t mean it’s going to output component video. And it won’t. It just doesn’t work.

Now this same octopus can do composite video, which is what the PSOne will output, and I have a composite -> HDMI converter, the video quality is absolutely terrible. It’s the reason why I bought the component converter in the first place. I don’t even want to dig it out. I’m stuck.

I could quit here. Disruptor isn’t the best video game. I could try to use an emulator and see how well that works. But I have this stack of old PS1 games. And I have a lot of other old consoles that won’t support native HDMI output. Am I just sitting on this more or less useless junk forever? Nah, I’m not done yet.

Let’s do something stupid. Let’s figure this out. Even if I just part out some solution and never buy it, I want to make this stuff work. To start, I’m going to take an inventory of consoles I want to make work.

  • Playstation 3 (more on this later*)
  • Playstation 2
  • PSOne
  • Dreamcast
  • Wii
  • Gamecube
  • Nintendo 64
  • SNES
  • NES

Next up, I’m going to have to make an inventory of what I have on hand and what the console will support. Stay tuned!

*Of course, my PS3 does native HDMI output. What doesn’t work is outputting to my El Gato HD60 game capture card. HDCP copy protection breaks it. So I need to do something else to make that HDMI signal clean.

Criticism about Criticism

I’m mad about two separate but related things that have to do with media criticism.

A 10 Point Scale is Bullshit

The 10 point scale is terribly common and it’s also terrible. Here’s all criticism of the 10 point scale boiled down to one simple question:

What’s the difference between a 6 and a 7?

If you’re doing qualitative reviews, and nearly every media critic is doing qualitative reviews, then there’s essentially no measurable difference between two adjacent points on a scale. You get the perfect 10, which is never used, and the garbage bin 1, which is also never used, and those are your only absolutes.

The middle of the road changes depending on whether you perceive a 5 to be average or a 7 to be average. A 5 average makes the most sense strictly from a numbers point of view, but the 7 average aligns with a C grade from school, so it’s extremely hard to escape the perception that anything less than a 7 is below average. When you, or your audience, perceives a 7 to be average, then you will use far less of the lower end of the scale, because it doesn’t matter. If it’s not the worst thing ever, but it’s less than average, and your perceived average is a 7, then it doesn’t matter whether you give it a 4 or a 5. There’s no functional difference.

Since the 10 point scale sucks, we have to look at alternatives. Of the numbered options, here are the most common:

  • 2 point (up/down, yes/no)
  • 3 point (up/neutral/down)
  • 5 point (5 stars)
  • 100 point (percentage)
  • 1000 point (percentage with decimal)

I’m going to bin three of these right off the bat. 100 point and 1000 point have the same problems as a 10 point scale. If there’s nothing quantitative to differentiate between a 91 and a 92, why are you even using a 100 point scale? I’m also going to bin 2 point up/down scales too, for having the opposite problem of no nuance. Some things are just average, or they really work for a niche but no one else, and 2 point scales don’t allow for anything but good or bad. They work for probably 90% of scoring needs, but really don’t for the rest. Criticism demands a space for something other than worst or best.

This leaves three point and five point scales. Both scales escape the problem of the 7. Both scales have more nuance than up/down. Both scales have obvious differences between scores (unless you’re doing a 5 star scale and using half stars, then you’re just using a 10 point scale). I lean closer to the 5 point scale for preference, because those extra two points between best of the best and worst of the worst can save a lot of criticism from scoring everything as mediocre. But this leads to my next complaint about criticism.

No One Uses 1’s or 10’s and That’s Bullshit

Perfect and worst scores are rare on a 10 point scale. Why? Because they represent the absolute pinnacle and the absolute pit. When you have a 10 point scale, the temptation is always there to give a 9 instead of a 10 because 10 represents perfection. But nothing is perfect. 10 and 1 are essentially unattainable; reserved for the best of the best and the worst of the worst when everything is scored at a moment in time. Even if you do something like a look-back review, your score isn’t likely to increase over time. It’s more likely to decrease if anything, because you’ve got newer works to compare it to, or because it’s being looked at outside of its bubble in time.

By making 1’s and 10’s off-limits, reserved for exceptionally exceptional works, your 10 point scale becomes an 8 point scale. 2 and 9 become comfortable because they should be 1’s or 10’s but we can’t get over that need for perfection or utter failure. Now combine this with an assumed 7 average, and you end up with the IGN problem: everything great is an 8.

I’m 100% guilty here. I’ve given 9 scores to excellent games, games that should be a 10. I’ve also been reticent to give a 1 to anything I’ve finished because, hey, I finished it right? Even worse, when I’ve tried to translate 10 point scores to a 5 point system, I’ve found myself rounding down, so those 9’s became 4’s. I’ve given reviews to things I haven’t finished a 2/5 because… why? I didn’t finish it! Isn’t that a sign that something’s very wrong?

It takes some bravery to give something a 10 or a 1, but I want to see more bravery in criticism. I want to hold myself accountable to this. Great work deserves a 10. Garbage/DNF stuff deserves a 1. Mediocre things should be a 5, because a 7 average is wrong. And all scoring of media is bullshit, because it shortcuts the actual criticism and lacks nuance, but it can be better if we stop using a 10 point scale, and start using the far ends of whatever scale we’re working with.

Pre-E3 Thoughts: Destiny 2 F2p and Google Stadia

Hey, E3 season is upon us and I have more thoughts in my brain than is worth trying to tweet out. Instead of blasting your Twitter feed, I’ll just put them all in self-contained blog posts that you can safely ignore. But maybe don’t ignore them because I take video games too seriously for being someone not in the industry.

Kotaku – Bungie Outlines The Future Of Destiny 2: Cross-Save, No Exclusives, Free-To-Play Base Game

Ever since Bungie left their publishing deal with Activision, I’ve been curious about what they would do with Destiny. Destiny was intended to be a 10 year-long supported game, and Bungie didn’t quite get through their decade of support. Would support continue like it had before, with regularly released expansions and seasonal events, or would they drop Destiny because they were tired of making it?

With today’s news, I’m going to contend that the answer is both. It’s going free-to-play, and Bungie are doing everything they can to put as many people into a common environment as they can, with cross-play and cross-platform progress transfers. Destiny has had two teams supporting it, a core development team that worked on the retail releases, and a live team that supported the seasonal events. Cross-platform integrations and offering a free-to-play version feel like a way to keep the player counts high. The game will also continue to receive “season pass” expansions.

But these feel like a way for Bungie to hand the game entirely over to the live team to babysit until it can feasibly call it quits. This isn’t Destiny 3. This is extending the life of Destiny 2 in lieu of a Destiny 3. My baseless speculation is that Bungie will use their core development team, previously working on major Destiny expansions, to make something else. Destiny’s history isn’t perfect and I personally stopped playing because I felt like I was being milked for cash entirely too often, and I think Bungie is taking this opportunity to both fulfill their commitment to Destiny with as little resources as possible, and come back later with a clean slate product.

Kotaku – Everything We Learned Today About Google Stadia [UPDATED]

Eugh. Let me get this straight. The future of gaming, a pure streaming platform that lets you play your games anywhere, is going to start with an initial investment (buying a Chromecast Ultra and Google Stadia controller for $170, not unlike purchasing a traditional console), charge a monthly fee for access, and also charge for individual games. Google says this isn’t a permanent condition, that we will be able to use Stadia with our own web browsers and without a monthly fee in 2020, but this initial launch feels like the worst of both worlds.

You have to own discrete hardware. You have to pay monthly for the privilege to play your games. You have to dump handfuls of money into individual games, and you own nothing except your Chromecast Ultra and Google Stadia controller. Combine this with Google’s nasty habit of throwing out a product as THE BEST THING EVER for a couple months, letting it rot for a couple years, and then killing it, and I’m extremely skeptical that Google will give this a long lifetime. And if they don’t, you won’t have anything to show for it besides their hardware.

Given Google’s history of poor support for less than stellar products, Google Stadia’s initial release is strictly for gamblers. It won’t be a future of gaming until it delivers on that promise of any game, anywhere, any way you want to play it. Right now, it’s just another upstart console.

2019 Goals

2018 is over and mostly successful, goals-wise. It’s time to write up some goals for 2019.

Exercise

I realized recently that I was in better shape and probably happier when I ran more. I’ve been avoiding running since I trained for and ran a marathon in 2016, which I blame for my 2016 kidney stone. While I have no intentions of ever running another marathon, in 2019, I will run more. In 2016, I ran 367 miles (counted on my Garmin). I’m not training for another marathon, but I need to log more miles than I did last year (~100).

Goal: Run 200 miles

Being a Person

I’m still looking to improve myself in non-video game things, and I’ve been watching too much Great British Bake Off. In 2019, I’m going to do better at making food.

Goal: Make a food item (not frozen or pre-made) at least once a month. (need to somehow document each thing)

Shhhh

Some goals I can’t talk about in public. It’ll either screw something up or cause drama or otherwise impact my ability to achieve the goal. This is one of them. I guess if I succeed, I can reveal it at the end of 2019, and if I fail, I won’t.

Secret Goal

2018 Goals Review

2018 is over, so maybe I should go back and look at those goals I wrote at the beginning of the year and see how they went! Introspection!

Writing/Production

Goal: One video per month

Hmm nope. But I did stream a lot of games, much more than 12. Most of that was my ongoing Stardew Valley playthrough, which is still in progress. Partial success.

Goal: One non-review per month

Not even close. Excluding video game reviews, WWE PPV reviews, and posts about streaming, I wrote four non-reviews. That’s too far from 12 to call even a partial success. Failed.

Exercise

Goal: Keep my body weight under 200 lbs.

I’ve hovered around 190lbs all year, so that’s an unqualified success. Success.

Goal: Increase max 5 rep weights

Completely abandoned after I hurt my back. I’m not even going to go back and check. I had some success here, but I’m not counting it. Failed.

Goal: Maintain the ability to run a 33:00 5K

I didn’t test this as often as I would have liked throughout the year, but I kept up this pace for every race and only dipped below on purpose (like doing a negative splits run). I ran 5+ miles today at a sub 10:30 pace. Success.

Being a person

Goal: Play each of these games once

I played half of those games. Partial success.

Goal: Go to a con

I went to two cons. Success.

Wrap Up

I’m genuinely a little surprised at how well I’ve done. I’ve been avoiding looking at my goals since March-ish because I thought I had blown all of them and I was wrong. I only completely failed one, and abandoned a second. The rest were either complete or partial success, and I’m quite pleased by that. In 2019, I will set fewer goals, but no less ambitious.

2018 Dream of waking video game awards

2018 wasn’t exactly a great year for me and video games. I played a lot of games and very few of them stuck with me. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the games, but I wasn’t really feeling much of anything. Even the two games I spent the most time playing this year, Final Fantasy XV and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, didn’t make the top of my awards. They merely consumed the most time. As I look around at other GOTY lists, I’m seeing a lot of stuff I’m either not interested in, not on a platform I own (or even compelling enough to buy that platform to play it), or some combination of the two. But that doesn’t mean that there were no good games! I absolutely loved my GOTY, and many of the others on this list! It just means that most of these are only going to have one honorable mention, and some of them may not be from 2018.

2018 Game of the Year

DUSK

Right, this was an easy choice. I love DUSK. It’s a Quake/Heretic/Blood sequel I never got. It’s ugly but fun. It’s an amazing emulation of games from the mid-90’s, but even better. Many games have tried to make neo-retro work and failed. They usually get the look right, but not the feeling. DUSK nails it all.

Runner Up: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

2018’s 2017 Game of the Year

Assassin’s Creed Origins

I’ve had a long-lived love/hate relationship with Assassin’s Creed. I almost always finish them, but I rarely enjoy them. They’re just kind of mindless filler, and after Unity, I was pretty much done with the series. Until Origins. Origins brought me back because it changed so much of the Assassin’s Creed formula. It changed so much that it’s more or less a different game entirely from its predecessors. The same could almost be said for Final Fantasy XV. This is a series that I’ve played (nearly) every game but never enjoyed them and never finished them. I enjoyed FFXV and finished it. Dark Souls 3 didn’t particularly change much of the series but it is the first one I enjoyed enough to finish

Runners Up: Final Fantasy XV, Dark Souls 3

The “I Wish I Had More Time for This” Award

Battletech

Battletech could almost go into “Wish I Liked This More” because I enjoyed the short time I’ve played it, but maybe not enough to go back. I love the Battletech world, but I’m much more of a Mechwarrior type of person. Still, I came home from Gencon and wanted to jump right into Battletech. I got humbled on my first real mission and I haven’t worked up the nerve to go back. I want to. I eyeball it. But I don’t know if I’ve got the time to invest in re-running the beginning or starting up again and seeing if I’ve dug myself into too deep of a hole to get out of.

Runner Up: Into the Breach

The “I Wish I Liked This Game More” Award

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is the clearest winner of this award, maybe the easiest choice of the year. I really enjoyed the demo for Hollow Knight, so much that I bought it immediately upon release. But the punishing difficulty, often aimless design, and awful body retrieval mechanic turned me off eventually. This is a beautiful game, fun in many parts, and doesn’t want you to enjoy it. I love a good Metroidvania. Hollow Knight hates me and I refuse to stay in an abusive relationship with it.

Runner Up: CrossCode

The “I’m Never Going to Finish This, But It’s Still Great” Award

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

This isn’t entirely fair, because Super Smash Bros. Ultimate just came out weeks ago, but there’s so much in there that there’s essentially no possibility I’ll ever see the end of it. There’s so many character unlocks, so many spirits, so many minigames, just an unholy amount of video game. Even the World of Light seems like a nearly impossible task for all but the most dedicated SSBU player. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot. The same could be said for Forza Horizon 4. It’s a fun game, but I play racing games in 2-5 hour spurts maybe three or four times a year. When I want to play one, I enjoy it, but I get my fill of them pretty quickly.

Runner Up: Forza Horizon 4

Awards for Things That Aren’t Video Games That I Loved in 2018

Best Film – Annihilation

Best Album Single – Childish Gambino This is America

Best Novel – Peter Watts The Freeze-Frame Revolution

Best TV Show – Great British Bake Off Series 6