Aerial is the Best Screensaver You’ve Ever Seen

A lot of blogs and sites have already talked about it, but here’s one more praise for the AppleTV screensaver. If you don’t know it, you’re really missing out. And there’s no reason why you should: it’s available on Mac and Windows (via unofficial devs).

If this is the first time you’re hearing about it, the idea might seem unoriginal: it’s a series of slow motion flyovers of cities and landscapes. That’s it. But don’t be fooled: they will take your breath away, in an almost meditative experience. The deliberate paths and precise slow motion do something to the images and our brains, where you yourself slow down as you see the tiny cars or the intricate patterns weave and change. The more you look at them, the more you get lost in the imagery. It’s hypnotic and delightful. Honestly, this feels like art more than technology. You might think I’m overselling it… Maybe I am, but that’s honestly the way I feel about this thing. 🙂

Saying that Apple is good at design is kind of trite (or annoying, depending who you are), but I never thought they’d find a way to make me fall in love with a screen saver. And yet they have.

Install it now, you won’t be sorry:

Mac: https://github.com/JohnCoates/Aerial

Windows: https://github.com/cDima/Aerial

And huge thanks to the devs, John Coates and Dmitry Sadakov!

December 28th, 2016 | No Comments

Thoughts on the Bethesda game reviews policy

Yesterday, Bethesda posted a short blog entry which basically said they won’t be sending advanced copies for media to review anymore. You can read it here, it’ll take you all of 30 seconds. Many people have been commenting, getting angry, getting passive aggressive. I’d like to do that too. 🙂

Oh, and before I start: this applies to tech as much as gaming. Companies in both fields (in all fields) have been on the same trajectory in the past few years, because of the new relationships they have with their customers, thanks to The Internets and “influencers”. God I hate that term… but it’s appropriate: there’s a reason the industry is not calling them “journalists”.
Anyway, Bethesday not giving advanced review copies, here we go.

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It is 100% their prerogative

They have the right to do it, and no one can tell them how to run their business.

It is also 100% about controlling their message

That’s it. Control, and absolutely nothing else. It doesn’t benefit the media, it doesn’t benefit the players, and it it isn’t healthy for the industry. It’s good for Bethesda, because it allows them to sell more copies to people who might otherwise not have purchased their games. Period. That’s it. (more…)

October 26th, 2016 | No Comments

A few thoughts on the Nintendo Switch

So the introduction video for the Nintendo Switch (formerly known as “NX”) has been released, and for the past 24 hours everyone has been pondering, analyzing and overthinking it all. I figured I’d give it a try too. 🙂

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Most of you probably already know the main bits of information we have, so I’ll go over them super quickly:

  • It’s a tablet-like machine with two “half controllers” that attach on the sides
  • The two half controllers can be used as one set, or as two controllers by two players
  • It can be docked to a base station, which immediately switches the display to the TV
  • It is supported by many third party developers, but we don’t know with which titles
  • It sports an Nvidia all in one “Tegra” chip, but we don’t know how powerful it is

That’s about it for the “solid” information we have. The rest is speculation for now. But that’s the fun part, right? Here are the questions that I believe are important (and some attempt at guessing answers):

The big one: what’s the price?

Of course this is highly speculative, but I believe it’ll be USD 299 (or the equivalent in your country).

My reasoning is very simple: higher is suicidal, lower is leaving money on the table.

Higher makes it more expensive than a PlayStation 4 or XBox One system, and these have impressive software libraries available already. The Switch can’t afford to be more expensive, or it’ll tank on that alone. Memories of the disastrous launch of the 3DS system, which was too expensive and received a very fast price cut, must still be fresh at Nintendo. I don’t believe they’ll do the same mistake here.

On the other hand, lower than $299 leaves money on the table, because I believe many people would be willing to pay that price… And as always in these conversations, I stand by my point that you can lower the price later, but you can’t raise it. If it’s a bit too expensive, they can do promotions and such. Pricing it too low is a permanent issue. (more…)

October 21st, 2016 | No Comments

HOLY CRAP, I just had my first VR “wow” moment!

As I’ve mentioned on Twitter, I bought a PSVR today. I mean, I talk about games for a living, I had to own at least one of the big ones, even if I wasn’t sure VR would ever amount to anything. Potential? Sure. Certain success? No, not certain. But I had to try it for myself, obviously.

NB: If you just want the good stuff, go to the “Batman: Arkham VR.” section directly. 🙂

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First things first: the device itself.

“Very competent” is the best way I can describe it. From a build standpoint it’s lighter than you’d think (important when you wear it on your head), and it does let a bit of light through from the sides. It also feels a tiny bit like a toy, but in a really bad way.
The screen does have a little bit of screen door effect at times, and the resolution definitely isn’t the best. The field of view is also more limited than what I imagine to be ideal; it doesn’t strictly cover your entire field of vision.
All of this is true. But the reality is: none of it really matter all that much, because the moment you start focusing on the game or the experience, these things fade away completely and you don’t notice them all that much anymore. The light from the room doesn’t matter, the quality of the screen doesn’t matter. You’re just not paying attention to them. Will this thing look insanely silly in 5 or 10 years when the VR headsets are smaller and better built? Sure. But for now, it does its job, and it is, as I said, “very competent”. That’s what matters, for now.

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October 14th, 2016 | No Comments

WoW: Tips for Leveling From 90 to 100

 

Legion is coming! I only have one character at max level! That won't do at all!!!

Legion is coming! I only have one character at max level! That won’t do at all!!!

As some of you may know, the upcoming Legion expansion has gotten me hyped, and I’ve started playing regularly again. I won’t bore you with the details of how I’ve done all the things I didn’t do in my garrison, the flying achievement I’ve accomplished, or the quest for the legendary ring I’m hoping to complete before it disappears…

What I will tell you though, is a few simple tips on how to level your characters through the current Draenor expansion quickly. This is probably not advisable for people who have never played through it the “normal way” (although it is certainly is possible), but I suspect it might help those who are coming back to level their alts to be ready when it’s time to venture in the Broken Isles.

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July 18th, 2016 | No Comments

[HotS] Five essential tips for new players

TL;DR for you impatient fools:
1) For the love of all that is holy, do not die. Retreat, go to a fountain, hearth. Do not die.
2) Play VS AI until you’re confortable graduating to Quick Match. It can take a while.
3) Don’t unlock the camera if you’re not there yet. Rather, pay attention to positioning.
4) MOBAs aren’t twitchy. Make each click and ability deliberate, including auto attack.
5) Role names are confusing. Warriors are tanks, and specialists handle lane pushing.
That’s it, now go be awesome.

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Long version:

Some of you might know I started playing a whole lot of Heroes of the Storm over the holidays (I think I mentioned it in almost every podcast I’ve done since then). I had played it here and there before, but for some reason over the month of December I went back to it and something clicked. Actually, it was a few different things that clicked… By reading and watching various guides and experimenting myself, I have come to understand a number of very non-obvious elements of the game that I very much needed to start really enjoying it, and I suspect other players new to the MOBA genre might appreciate as well.

So without further a do, here are the five (ish) things I think every new player should know when starting their journey in Heroes of the Storm. Enjoy!

1) Remember these five simple all caps words: PATRICK SAYS DO NOT DIE.

Basically, dying is the worst thing you can do in the game, period. Whatever you do, you should try to avoid dying at all cost. Even if there’s a team fight, even if you think you can get that last hit, even if you think it would make you a golden hero of awesomeness… Don’t take the risk, it’s not worth it. If you’re getting low on health or mana, just take the time to retreat, hearth, get to a fountain… It’s a much better plan overall. Do anything, but do NOT die.

Like, seriously, whenever you’re trying to decide whether or not to keep pushing the fight, play this voice in your head: PATRICK SAYS DO NOT DIE.

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January 13th, 2016 | No Comments

The sad state of Mac gaming, and why it’s getting worse

Oh the irony… Intel is making tremendous strides in the graphical power of their integrated GPUs. But I think that this, along with Apple’s primary focus on exquisite design, might be hurting the ever-budding population of Mac gamers.
Read on to find out why. TL:DR at the bottom.

There’s been a lot of debate and consternation about the fact that Blizzard Entertainment’s latest game, “Overwatch“, is officially not in development for the Mac. Blizzard have long been supporters of gaming on Mac, and Appleite gamers were distraught to hear that they wouldn’t get their latest game. Which, incidentally, is awesome and I adore. Also, disclaimer: I used to work for Blizzard. 🙂

Some have suggested that the reason for this decision is that the size of the market doesn’t warrant it. I dispute that idea: the market share of the Mac has never been higher, and Blizzard has supported it without fault until now.
Others have said that they’re allocating Mac budget to consoles (the game is coming to PS4 and XBox One). I also think that makes little sense; Blizzard is a large company, they could do it for all these platforms, and they like money. They would spend less on developing for the Mac than it would bring in.

The official word from game director Jeff Kaplan is that, essentially, the tech behind the Macs today make it challenging. Call it corporate BS all you want, I don’t think they’re happy about disappointing their fans, and I believe the answer is genuine: it’s all about the Intel HD Graphics technology.

 

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Here’s a quick and easy recap of the tech involved:

  • Central Processing Units (CPUs) aren’t great at rendering 3D graphics.
  • In the 90’s, external graphics cards ushered the era of 3D gaming.
  • The chips on those are called Graphics Processing Units, or GPUs.
  • GPUs are indispensable for 3D games, but they are also big and power hungry.
  • Laptops can’t handle big and power hungry things.
  • GPU makers started creating “mobile” GPUs with “ok” performance.
  • Those mobile GPUs are discrete, meaning they are separate from the CPU.
  • Intel, chasing 3D performance, started creating CPUs with integrated GPUs.
  • These integrated GPUs weren’t good for a long time. Apple kept using discrete GPUs.
  • Intel’s integrated GPUs have now improved a lot… But they are still poor for gaming.
  • I put together a not-at-all-scientific 3D perf scale (1-10), just to give you an idea:
    • CPU alone, no GPU: 0.5
    • Integrated GPU 3 years ago: 1 to 1.5
    • Discrete mobile GPU 3 years ago: 2 to 2.5
    • Integrated GPU today: 2 to 2.5
    • Discrete mobile GPU today: 3 to 4
    • Discrete desktop GPU (external graphics card): 4 to 10

Please feel free to seek out precise benchmarks for yourself, but I believe that this is roughly representative of the relative performance of these chips, on average.

And the bottom line is this: integrated GPUs, even today, will probably not get you satisfactory gaming experiences in anything other than the most basic games. It might work on a less intensive game (MOBAs on low settings?), but not for something more demanding. Or at least it won’t work “well” (decent FPS at decent detail levels, etc).

Ironically, the discrete GPUs from a few years ago likely gave you similar-ish or better gaming performance than integrated GPUs today. Remember this for later.

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November 26th, 2015 | 5 Comments

Just Do It – 9 Pieces of Advice for Aspiring YouTubers and Podcasters

In the past year or so, I’ve been asked this question even more than I had before: how do I get into podcasting?

And, to be honest, most of the people asking are usually looking at YouTube (and sometimes Twitch) as their medium of choice. So Here’s a list of the important things I’ve learned along the way as I’ve made my path as a P.I.C.C (Professional Internet Content Creator. And yes, that’s an official term now).

1) Just do it

There, that’s really all you need to know. You can stop reading now.

Seriously, this is the most important point, and probably the only one that really matters. Stop wondering, stop agonizing, stop thinking, just get in front of your mic or camera and start doing it. This is especially true for YouTube, which makes producing and publishing incredibly easy.

Will your first productions suck? Yes, absolutely. No one successful today started with the innate knowledge of how this whole thing works (and those who did know usually came to this new form of their media with baggage that usually hindered them). Go check out the first videos from the people you like today; chances are, they’re pretty horrendous. Just do it, there’s nothing stopping you, and you’ll get better along the way.

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September 11th, 2015 | 3 Comments

Street Fighter Daily Quests – And Thoughts on “Games as a Service”

TL;DR: I would love Street Fighter V to have daily and weekly quests! Oh, and voiced emotes for communication with your online opponents.

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I’m sure many of you loved fighting games when you were younger. Remember your high school and college years? Street Fighter, Tekken, King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat… We would spend so much time having so much fun with our friends, taunting each other and trying to land that oh-so-elusive “in your face!” combo.

But then these games kind of went away. Some of us still play them, a few of us still love them, but for most of us, it’s not the same. I’m hoping Street Fighter V manages to recapture some of that feeling.

This would need to happen in two stages. First, the obvious one: make a super fun game and get people to check it out. The series has become more popular in recent years (thank you Internet), and Capcom seems intent on making it more accessible to new and returning players (easy to learn, hard to master) so I’m hopeful many of us will want to try it out. Let’s assume that happens, and people get into it.

 

“With today’s Street Fighter IV,
there is no real incentive
to come back and play more.”

 

Then you get stage 2: keeping people engaged. And that’s even more tricky.

With today’s Street Fighter IV, there is no real incentive to come back and play more. Well, the enjoyment of playing the game of course, but pfft! everyone knows that’s not why people play. 🙂 I like seeing my rating go up, but there’s no in game “reason” to play every day or every week… I think if you see where I’m going with this. (more…)

July 27th, 2015 | No Comments

An ode to Job

When I first started watching Banshee, I thought this was kind of a crappy-but-fun show. Full of raw violence, bordering-on-pornography sex scenes, ridiculously outlandish storyline, silly comic book-y vilains… Yeah, that would be fun for a couple of episodes, and then I’d move on. Well, Banshee is all that, for sure. There is no sugar coating it: it’s trashy, and it’s certainly not for everyone. But it’s also so much more! It’s not the best show ever produced, but it is a bloody damn excellent one.

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I could get into all the reasons why I think it’s so great: visceral action (some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen, TV and cinema included), excellent acting (not only do most of the performances make these outlandish characters believable, they also make you feel for them – before you realize they’re deeply troubled and twisted people, the lot of them!), outstanding writing (more happens in half a season than in two seasons of any other show; there’s no stretching things out forever just to milk a story; finish the story with a bang – or ten – and then make another story, even more satisfyingly eye popping than the first!), and so much more. The “easy things” in this show (sex and violence) are augmented by realized characters and incredible writing and production values, in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before (at least not for something “trashy”). So I could spend 30 minutes telling you about everything that’s cool about this show, but instead I’ll focus on one thing: Job, wonderfully portrayed by Hoon Lee.

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March 11th, 2015 | 1 Comment