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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Achievement Whoring Is a Pain

Over the past couple of months, I have been playing a lot of hidden object adventure games on Steam. These games can be quite fun except for the occasional annoying puzzles and they are usually characterized by cheesy voice acting, outlandish but often heartfelt story line, and colorful, exotic sceneries. I feel great that I am finally indulging myself into this sub-genre but I didn't realize that it comes with a price.

Surprising twists abound but the real shocker is how these games affect me indirectly.

Steam achievements popped up hard and fast while playing these games, which made me curious enough to check out their details and that lead to me noticing that by the end of playing them, I would normally be close to accumulating 100% completion rate. As I have mentioned many times before, I am not a fan of achievements, especially when they really don't have anything to do with rewarding natural gameplay decisions a gamer would make while playing a game. There are a good number of achievements for these hidden object games that are counter-productive, like being able to complete a hidden object scene quickly, something that is an impossibility during the first playthrough whenever the objects are very well hidden, or completing a separate set of alternative puzzles that can be solved instead of working on the hidden object scenes themselves. For some reason, I felt compelled to unlock these achievements and you know what? It wasn't fun. It felt like a chore. Yet, I was addicted to the process, like a mindless robot. I found myself replaying these games just for the purpose of unlocking achievements and it felt like a dirty deed and when I was done, the walk of shame was real. Going back to these games also took away the feeling of joy and admiration I had for them in the first place that would have stayed with me if I didn't besmirch the experience by forcing myself to replay them. Achievement hunting is even hurting my first playthrough because these games, especially from the same developer/publisher, have similar achievement setups so there is that added pressure of accomplishing something in a certain way even though doing so conflict with the natural pace of the game.

Looking for the last item on the list may result in permanent damage to your eyesight.

This whole situation has really reinforced my view on "task unlockers" in video games and it serves as a reminder to me that I should remain true to my gaming instinct and steer clear of participating in these things. I still have plenty of hidden object games in my collection and I want to fall in love with them again like I did in the beginning instead of viewing them as achievement boosters for my Steam profile - they are much more meaningful than that.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Always Back That Thing Up

Yesterday's release of update 4.50 for the PlayStation 4 brought with it the console's ability to support external hard drive for game installation among other things. It's a feature that should have been there to begin with but we know Mark Cerny has never been that bright. Still, I was very excited to finally be able to install all of my games into my console with a 2TB external hard drive enclosure with plenty of available space to spare. I don't think my PS4 collection will ever grow to anything significant in number, an alarming evident that everything I need gaming wise is being fulfilled by Personal Computer gaming, so I should have enough space to last the system's lifetime, which I am sure is pretty close to an end if the PS4 Pro is any indication - I am hating the fact that developers are now intentionally gimping playing their games on the original system instead of optimizing the crap out of them. Thank you Guerrilla Games for not doing that with their recently released Horizon: Zero Dawn, showing the other devs of their utter incompetence and partiality. The only thing that should be improved when you are playing PS4 games on the Pro would be the addition of 4K-related features because the original PS4 is certainly capable of more than most of these developers are willing to do with it these days. Speaking of the original PS4, it's annoying that the console doesn't have USB connectivity in the back because the HDD has to be connected to the front of the system:

Why did they stick that tube into grandpa?

Plugging the USB cable to the front of the system made it look like it is on life support. A rather disturbing thought if you ask me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Point to Pathos: Chapter 4, Part 3

     Clickety-clack. They used to call him clickety-clack. Clac really hated being called that.
     "No, it doesn't end with rk, it ends with a c," he explained to Molly on their first date. "But it's pronounced similarly."
     "You're kidding, it's spelled c-l-a-c?" She asked.
     "Yeah."
     "That's uh..." She started blushing. "I always thought that maybe you were one of those people who couldn't pronounce r you know... But that's actually kinda hot."
     He smiled and he leaned over to kiss her. They were lying on the grass in his family backyard under the cover of a starless night. It was rather dark and he stumbled a bit trying to find her lips, sliding his against both her right eye and nose before landing on the proper destination. She was giggling the whole time.
     "You think your parents are watching us?" She asked.
     "I doubt it. Well, maybe my mom."
     "Oh yuck!"
     "I'm just kidding. I think they left soon after you arrived."
     "How do you know that?"
     "You see that room on the second floor to our left?" He said, motioning his head backwards.
     "I can barely see it. It's really dark out here."
     "Exactly. They would never turn the light off in that room this early in the evening unless they are not in the house."
     "Oh."
     "So... We have the place to ourselves."
     "How convenient," she concurred.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: HTC Vive

I received my HTC Vive last Wednesday and as a person who had never experienced virtual reality before, I was both thrilled and nervous to try it out for the first time ever. I am one of those people who are very prone to motion sickness when playing first person shooters with horribly low field of vision - I always have to set it to 100+ to not get sick - so I didn't know how my body would react to being placed in a VR environment.

First things first however, I had to set it up to work with my Game Room, which has enough free space to accommodate room-scale VR. Getting the sensors up on two opposite corners of the playing space was very much a chore, plus it was a rather messy process. If you don't have tall cabinets lining up two opposite corners of your room, it's not going to be that easy. This process is made worse because proper drywall anchors were not provided in the box so you have to get them on your own. Instead of needing to have them plugged directly into a power supply, I wished they had rechargeable battery packs instead so that one could easily pull those out and recharge them somewhere else between uses. Hooking up the head-mounted display to the PC required plenty of wires as well, plus needing access to another electrical outlet but the link box that connects your PC to the HMD is so small and cute and you can easily set it in a forgotten space between things and out of your way.

The fusion of man and VR.

Once everything was set however, what came next was nothing short of mind-blowing. And no, I didn't get motion sickness at all*. I was literally stunned by the SteamVR tutorial. The virtual space looked real. Like convincingly real. Sometimes not as sharp but it felt like I was there. Without experiencing it for oneself, it's impossible to show how effective the VR experience provided by the Vive is but I believe the best way to describe it is that everything has depth and you can tell the relative distance of everything, whether those objects are moving or static. It's like you are really there and this illusion is further strengthened by the Vive's currently exclusive room-scale VR where you can walk around in VR space instead of merely standing or sitting in the middle of it. The HMD literally transported me to another place by replacing the view of my Game Room with a completely different, fully realized surrounding.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

From Kaos to Absolute Chaos

Two weeks ago, I got the adorable Kaos figurine. That was supposed to be the last of it. What can I say, I was weak. Skylanders Imaginators for the PlayStation 4 is now a part of my collection. As if that was not enough, I also obtained additional sensei Skylanders and.creation crystals for the game. Amazon's recent Black Friday event is partly to blame for this. Knowing how devastating collecting new Skylanders can be, I will take things a lot slower this time around. But yes, I was weak indeed. Master Eon help me.

These new figurines are so vivid and detailed. I love them!