Checkpoint: New House Edition

It’s been a long time since I posted one of these and with good reason. It’s been a very busy time in our lives. I sold my old place and moved to a new one.

The latter half of 2020 was spent futzing over details on how to sell the house, purging/organizing personal belongings, and trying to figure out what we will need in the new place. You would think it would be easier while working from home, trying to juggle house related things while staying engaged with work is tougher than it ought to be.

Smarter House

Nest Hello, TP-Link smart light switches, smart garage door opener, smart stove, smart fridge, smart washers/dryers. I went from just a Nest Protect and Nest to everything has wi-fi now. For the most part, it works very well. The light switches are very convenient and the door bell saves us a trip to the door, but the smart appliances in the kitchen leave a lot to be desired. The smartness of the washer and dryer are a must for us considering they’re now tucked away in the basement.

Nothing Fits; Everything Must Go

We moved bedroom furniture, 5.1 surround speakers, and other stuff thinking it would work in the new space, but it turns out that’s not the case at all and we’re undergoing a post-move purge as well. Bed frames, headboards, and my entire Harman Kardon 5.1 surround system were sold or in the process of being sold. On the plus side, we’ll get stuff that better fits our new space.

Sound Bar Life

I purchased these Sanus speaker stands and it turns out they aren’t compatible with my speaker mounts at all. Frustrated and fed up with the whole setup, I’m ready to move on and just live the high quality sound bar life. Unfortunately, that life isn’t as simple as it should be and I’m better off just waiting until the latest sound bars launch and see how they fair. I was all set to either go for a Sonos Arc, JBL Bar 9.1, or the Samsung HW-Q950T, but they all had some kind of limitation or oversight that wasn’t okay with. So now I wait and live that TV speaker life.

New PC for me?

My gaming PC suddenly bit the dust. I hoped it was a power supply, but after swapping it out without any luck, I isolated it to either the motherboard or the CPU. The ASUS Z270i PRO GAMING board has troubleshooting LEDs, but only the standby lights up. I’ve been meaning to upgrade for a while; I wanted to return to AMD with their Ryzen 5 5600X. I was about to shove that new PC into the trusty BitFenix Prodigy case, but then I realized I would be building this new PC just to sit there. The GeForce GTX 1070 is very long in the tooth and I spend most of my time on the new consoles.

So this new PC will be for the fiancee who will be more than happy with the GTX 1070. She primarily plays shooters like CS:GO, Valorant, and Overwatch on a 1440p 144Hz monitor so this video card coupled with that new AMD Ryzen CPU should work well. We’ll also be able to eventually get rid of that huge NZXT case of hers. It’s just a beast of a case that I find unnecessary.

I thought it was going to be quite difficult to obtain the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X CPU, but I lucked out and managed to get my name onto a list at Canada Computers and was able to pick one up within a day or so. The challenge now is finding slim 120mm case fans which may or may not be necessary depending on how everything in the Cooler Master NR200P case that I chose for her ends up.

Gaming Limbo

I was in a bit of a gaming limbo as I purchased a copy of The Last of Us Part II late last year, but realized that it may receive a next-gen patch so I held off on it. Instead I’m just playing a lot of Apex Legends and Overwatch. I’m starting to dabble into Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on the Xbox Series X, but it hasn’t taken root yet. I will probably stick with it, but we’ll see if that is actually the case.

I realized that I didn’t do my game of the year 2020 round-up in January due to all the commotion of life. I don’t believe I have enough 2020 games for a top 10 or maybe even a top 5, but I should find the time to document it all.

Research & More Research

Blinds, sound bars, and PCs. There’s a lot of research going on around here and I’m finding myself spending quite a bit of time looking up what’s the best for us. It’s been a long time since I went down so many rabbit holes at once, but it’s been fun!

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.

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