Checkpoint: “E3 2020” Edition

E3 2020 would have been over for weeks by now. I imagine we would have had clearer pictures of what both consoles were offering on the hardware side. We would have seen first party lineups and timed third party exclusives. We may even had pricing info confirmed by now.

But this is 2020 and COVID-19 dashed many plans including E3. Information on new console launches were divided into articles, interviews, and pre-recorded shows. Some fared better than others, but the bottom line is that both Sony and Microsoft’s plans for their upcoming console are far from complete. 

There’s still lots to announce and clarify including showing off user interfaces and the all important price. However, that will not stop me from putting down some thoughts on what we know so far.

Microsoft Xbox Series X

Despite potential for customer confusion with the Xbox One X, I warmed up to the Xbox Series X name. It sounds like the end game for their long journey with weird console names. I hope this name gives them the flexibility to expand their Xbox consoles in a logical fashion. The often rumored Xbox Series S aka Lockhart makes a whole lot of sense in this lineup. But what about the mid-generation upgrade offering? Will they simply tack on the year? An Xbox Series X (2024) perhaps?

I like the simple rectangular box shape of the Series X. I was a fan of the Xbox One S and Xbox One X designs as well, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. Microsoft laid out the design and logic behind it on their website and through Digital Foundry. I found everything they laid out was sensible and sound. 

Microsoft largely “perfected” their controller when it comes to aesthetics and comfort. So it’s no surprise that they decided to focus on the technology and reducing latency.

Microsoft gave glimpses on what their operating system will offer including industry leading backward compatibilityand quick resuming. With the hardware, Xbox Game Pass, and a bunch of initiatives like Smart Delivery and Optimized For Xbox Series X, Microsoft currently has everything in place but the software. 

Their initial software showcase was underwhelming, but hopefully the showcase they have planned in the next month or so rectifies this situation. 

PlayStation 5

The name may be boring and predictable but that console hardware design was anything but. 

My initial impressions ranged from “overly designed”, to “Alienware-esque”, to “this could work…”, and finally “it’s so weird, that I like it”. I like white electronics. Not only that I find them sleek, they also hide dust better than dark consoles. What I like more than white electronics are ones that have well designed contrasting colors like the PS5.

The reveal of the Digital Edition was almost as surprising as the console’s appearance itself. I personally don’t see why I would pick up the Digital Edition unless there’s a $100 price difference. I still have a need for Ultra HD Blu-ray drives. I use my Xbox One S and Xbox One X for their Ultra HD Blu-ray drives for movies. And if I wanted to take advantage of cheaper retail sales and backwards compatibility with PlayStation 4 titles, I will need that drive.

The DualSense controller resembles a DualShock 4 but it continues Sony’s evolution towards the Xbox-esque controller. It’s still distinctly PlayStation with its stick placement, but the shape continues to slowly creep towards Microsoft’s design. I guess the giant trackpad is becoming a part of the Sony identity; it’s a giant button for most games, but there are a few who use it in interesting ways. I’m very curious what the haptics and adaptive triggers bring to the immersion front.  

Sony’s software showcase was very good. Indies, first party exclusives, and third party timed console exclusives gave plenty of reasons to choose PlayStation 5. Not only did Sony highlight visuals that were only that were only possible on next generation hardware, they also demonstrated impressive gameplay that leveraged the speedy storage. 

What about the user interface? Or the ability to quick resume? Or how about backwards compatibility? It sounds like most if not all PlayStation 4 games will work. No word on Sony’s older consoles and I am not holding my breath. Sony may have the games, but the rest of the console’s features and capabilities are still shrouded in mystery for now. 

The Power Difference?

The PlayStation 5 may not be as powerful as the Xbox Series X when it comes to horsepower, but it does deliver data from storage to memory at a faster rate than Microsoft’s. How will these discrepancies manifest themselves in third party games is difficult to predict. Third party developers will do what they need to do to get their games looking and running great on both platforms. 

Price?

$399 CAD for a PlayStation 4 was an amazing price. I don’t believe the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X will come close to that price. The Canadian dollar has fallen dramatically since then and these new consoles feature impressive hardware. 

I think the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will launch for $499 USD or $699 CAD. I want to be wrong and for them to come in at lower price points but I’m bracing for that price. 

Both Consoles Welcomed

I owned every console since I began working full time and there’s no reason to deviate. In fact, I may be doubling down on these consoles over the PC until we get a clearer picture on the kind of PC hardware that I need to run these upcoming console games. 

Xbox Game Pass is making it very easy to stick with Microsoft’s console and Sony’s strong first party games continue to attract me towards theirs. Both companies have blanks to fill out but I’m liking what I’m seeing so far.

Checkpoint: Lockdown 2020 Edition

It’s been a while. Despite having all this time, I still haven’t found the time sit down and churn out some thoughts on here. We’ve been in this COVID-19 lockdown since March 12, 2020. What does that mean for us? We’ve been working from home and keeping to ourselves for all this time. I had to go into the office for a week’s rotation but besides that, it’s just been the two of us.

Home Life

We haven’t driven ourselves crazy. We’ve annoyed each other in playful ways but all this time together only reinforced our decision as life partners. We keep up with exercising via Ring Fit Adventure and regular 45 – 50 minute walks outside. We’re playing games, watching things, and just living out our “normal” lives. We certainly would be going more places if we weren’t lockdown but I feel at “home” with this routine.

You would think I would have more time to play games and such but by keeping up a work and home routine, we’re not truly “free” until the weekends or holidays. With that in mind, I’ve been keeping up with Overwatch and Apex Legends. Daily stints in those games along with Persona 5 Royal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons have given this lockdown a summer vacation feel.

I have a laundry list of games that I wish to chip away at in the near to immediate future:

  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps
  • Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – Started but Persona 5 Royal nudged its way in
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake – Coming within the month
  • Gears 5 – Nearing completion but just need been dragging feet with it
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3 – Nearing completion but losing steam.

Work

Nothing highlights the limitations of your workplace’s telework capabilities like a forced lockdown. Our whole world was rattled by this lockdown. In comparison, it looks like my brother’s private sector job hummed along without skipping a beat. Now people are scrambling to evaluate and implement plans to enable more and more people to work from home. I’m not surprised by any of it. Public service tend not to act on things until they’re forced to. And this lockdown is forcing a lot of departments to act. I’m just curious how much of it will stick around after the lockdown is eased.

Game of the Year 2019

I know it’s later than usual and there are fewer “parts” but 2019 was a weird gaming year for me.

Most Disappointing Game 

Winner: The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds started strong. I enjoyed just about everything on that first planet. However, the more I played, the less enthused I was with pushing further. The visual style, dialog, quests, and combat all began to grate on me. It was a tighter and more compact take on Bethesda-style RPGs like Fallout but it was still one of those games and I think I’m officially exhausted by that style of game. 

Most Surprising Game

Winner: Ring Fit Adventure

That weird reveal trailer sold me on the idea of Ring Fit Adventure. I wanted it but I didn’t want to rush out and buy it for $100 just yet. I bided my time until a sale popped up and I pulled the trigger on what turned out to be my favorite fitness game. But it wasn’t just my favorite: my fiancée has been enjoying the hell out of it as well. She didn’t take to Wii Fit U but Ring Fit Adventure has her playing 5 out 7 days in a week.

Best Old Game

Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2 [X1] 

Red Dead Redemption 2 requires a commitment to the bit. The bit? Being a cowboy. You have to love being a cowboy and that doesn’t mean just cherry picking the shootouts and horseback riding. Red Dead Redemption 2 asks people to commit to the life of a cowboy including the mundane and hardships. I was willing to commit and I loved a vast majority of it. It’s one of the best games I played this year. It might be one of the best of the generation. 

Top 4 Games of 2020 

Winner: Apex Legends

  1. Ring Fit Adventure 
  2. Untitled Goose Game 
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening 

Apex Legends is game of the year for 2019. According to PlayStation’s year end wrap up, I played over 400 hours of it. Completed 3 battle passes and I see no sign of slowing down in 2020. It clicked with me like Overwatch but without the need for a large cohesive unit. I effectively staved off the desire to get Call of Duty: Modern Warfare because of Apex Legends’ hold on me. It took a while, but Respawn Entertainment made a battle royale game that suited me.  

You would think all that time playing Apex Legends meant I didn’t have time to play other games but that wasn’t the case. A mixture of misfires and the desire to play older games resulted in a year where I didn’t have enough for a top 10 let alone I don’t even have enough for a top 5! 

Ring Fit Adventure was sneaky good courtesy of Nintendo’s ability to make just about anything fun. Gamifying exercise isn’t new but executing it this well is. It’s the best game of that genre to date and one that I can see myself “playing” for many years to come. 

Untitled Goose Game snuck in and won me over with its mischievous stealth puzzles. House House successfully created a charming stealth action game while minimizing the punishing frustrations of the genre. 

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a solid Zelda title that was marred by technical performance issues. It’s a damn shame but I pushed passed it towards the end and ultimately enjoyed my time with it.  

Here’s to 2020!

There are many, many gaps including Resident Evil 2, Control, and The Outer Wilds but that was my 2019. I hope to address those omissions in 2020.

Checkpoint: iPhone XR Edition

I bought my first smartphone on Tuesday, September 3rd , 2019. I’ve owned multiple iPhones over during the last 9 years but I never actually bought one for myself until now. My iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPhone 6 were all hand-downs from my brother. Normally, I would just wait until he upgrades and happily use his old one but he has no intention of upgrading this year and iOS 13 is dropping iPhone 6 support.  

So after some deal hunting, patience, and a trade-in involving my old Nokia 2610 handset, I got myself an iPhone XR for just over $450 after taxes.  

Why the iPhone XR?

I’m staying in the Apple ecosystem. I like it. I like how it works with my iPad Pro 10.5″ and my MacBooks. I may not like their prices but I generally like Apple’s hardware. There’s no question that I would have preferred the iPhone XS over the XR but I’m not willing to pay over $700 for a phone let alone over $1000.  

I could have picked up an iPhone 8 for less but I wanted a paradigm shift in my smartphone experience.  An iPhone 8 is essentially a faster iPhone 6 from a user experience perspective. I wanted FaceID, edge-to-edge screen and Qi wireless charging. The iPhone 8 didn’t offer that and the iPhone XS costs a small fortune, so the iPhone XR was my only choice. 

Colors of the Rainbow 

Yellow would have been my first choice. Then red. But I chose white/silver because all they had were white or black.  

I’m content with the fit and finish of the iPhone XR. It feels familiar; it reminds me of an enlarged iPhone 6 married with an iPhone 4S. It’s not as slippery as the iPhone 6 but that’s a moot concern because it didn’t take long for me to put a Spigen case on it.  

6.1″ is too big  

I think the iPhone XR’s 6.1″ screen is too big. I preferred the XS’ 5.8″ but for whatever reason, Apple decided to squeeze the XR between the XS and XS Max. The form factor of the entire phone feels excessive in my hands and my poor pockets. I was finding the iPhone 6 a little too big so this XR is just a device of decadence in this regard.  

I’m quite certain I will get used to owning such a big phone. I felt the iPhone 6 was too big at one point and now I think it’s fine. However, I don’t know if the iPhone XR will win me over completely. When I’m considering crossbody bags and fanny packs just to carry my phone, I think phones may have gotten too big for my lifestyle. 

LCDs & pixels per inch 

OLED would have been my preferred choice of display technology for a pricey phone like the iPhone XR. I would also like a pixel density closer to 458 ppi like on the iPhone XS as well. And if I were paying anywhere close to the suggested retail prices and  launch or today, I would reconsider my choice of iPhone.  

Or I would if I were purely looking at specs. 

After a week or so of using the iPhone XR, I found the pixel density to be fine; it’s just like my iPhone 6’s. I was fine with that and I’m fine with this. 

Long Time Performer

This phone is fast. Very fast. And I appreciate every ounce of its speed. Everything from Face ID unlocking to launching and switching apps is just so much faster than the iPhone 6 and I’m spoiled by it.

I also appreciate how long I can use this phone without having to charge it. With my light use of Twitter, some browsing, and Spotify, I can go 3 or 4 days before having to charge it. Incredible.

It’s a fine phone 

The iPhone XR is a fine phone. It’s the iPhone for the masses and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. With discounts and offers, this is a no brainer for anyone who’s looking to upgrade their iPhones without taking out a small loan. 

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