Things I am looking forward to in September 2020

There is so much going on these days!

Just because I slowed down for a bit, doesn’t mean that the rest of the world did. And oh my – so many things have changed only in the last week!

As I enjoy looking back on my week in gaming, I thought maybe a look at things I am looking forward to for the month might be of interest.

So let’s jump into it, shall we?

PAX Online

Well, you knew this was coming 🙂

We are only a few days away, and the entire event is being kicked off by Cyberpunk 2020 creator Mike Pondsmith! NINE DAYS of streaming goodness with panels, games and all sorts of other exciting content.

Split up over three Twitch channels, it’s going to be an exciting time. I do have one teensy reservation – timezones. Setting up a global event is no small feat, and the gratitude and respect I have for the team is real. I just REALLY hope that there will be replays so I can watch panels at decent Australian times. I get up early enough to work as it is!

If you haven’t already, check out the PAX Online schedule here. Expect to see the odd thought on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook throughout PAX Online 🙂

PAX Aus, PAX West, and even EGX! This is going to be great

Next-Gen Consoles – PS5 and Xbox Series X

I have talked about the consoles a little bit earlier this year. There are so many exciting aspects to these consoles that have the geek in me in overdrive.

Why am I looking forward to them in September? They release holiday 2020, and that’s a while away yet. But this close to launch, we are surely going to get the pricing. The hammer has to finally drop, and people can working on budgets. The price is actually more important to me right now than the final release date.

Microsoft has not only confirmed the Series S is a thing but confirmed the price of USD$299. This was after the internet was hit with a bunch of photos showing the ‘secret’ console, and it had the pricing on it.

But the more powerful Series X? Oh no. Can’t tell you the price on that. Hush-hush and all that. I don’t know if this is annoying just for the sake of it, or hype maintenance brilliance. Either way, the pricing has to be revealed this month, so that is what I am looking forward to.

Availability in the holidays is going to be interesting, but all new hardware launches are like that. I just hope I am lucky enough to get a preorder in quickly!

What aspects have me excited? Well, the first one has trickled into the next thing I am looking forward to…

Forget brand fanboy - for the first time, console tech is pushing the PC forward and I love it

Next-Gen Graphics Cards – Nvidia 30 series and AMD Big Navi

This is what I have been waiting for. When the 20 series was announced (and the price), I knew I wasn’t upgrading from my 1070. Then someone that couldn’t be told sold me their 1080 Ti for a ridiculously low sum. That card is still in my machine today, and it is doing very well – ultrawide high framerates and all.

The price/performance ratio Nvidia is touting on their 30 series cards is what I have been waiting for. Let this be a lesson – if you can wait, never buy the first-gen tech – the second-gen always has better bang for your buck. And never preorder any tech without impartial reviews!

Are these cards as good as Nvidia say? I doubt it. Marketing is marketing.

And then there is AMD. They are doing the same with their GPUs as they are with their CPUs, and when I finally saw the Ryzen 3000 performance, I kicked myself for buying the i9-9900K. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t buy a ‘bad’ CPU in the grand scheme of things. There is just a better option for what I tend to do on my computer.

I can’t wait to see what AMD have in store for their next generation of Graphics cards. Will they beat Nvidia in pure performance? Probably not. But that gap is going to be considerably closer than the last generation. Future generations are going to be where the real competition lies. It’s exciting times indeed.

The tech is exciting, and wouldn't be coming to PC without PS5 and Xbox Series X

What do the consoles have to do with all this? Well, Nvidia has announced RTX IO, and Microsoft has announced a Windows version of the Series X accelerator tech is coming. What is all this stuff? This is a form of tech that lets console graphics cards get information straight from the storage.

And it won’t be as good as what’s in the consoles. I’m not knocking the tech before it comes out, it’s just can’t be. The consoles are purpose-built to work with one set of hardware. These offerings will have to deal with a wide range of different configurations, and that means it can’t be pushed as hard.

There is a bunch of stuff like this I could talk about for days, but I will stop here. Maybe I will make a video talking about it over the next few days…

Necromunda: Underhive Wars

Way back in the before times, when I was a young man, I got pulled into Warhammer. I loved the idea, the cost and the execution – not so much at times.

Then a friend introduced me to Necromunda. Similar rules, custom minis, but squads of only five. And you could ‘level up’ your members between battles. Or start a new one, because character permadeath was a thing in these campaign games.

I have been peeking into the development of Necromunda: Underhive Wars off and on since it was announced. The developers, Rouge Factor, also did the digital Mordheim which has a mixed reception at best.

Will this be a fantastic game? Honestly, I doubt it. But I think for fans of the series, a digital take for skirmish missions now and then could be a lot of fun. And it comes out today.

This is a game I will personally be ignoring reviews of and trying myself. I don’t think a tactical RPG based on a niche board game has enough widespread appeal for most people. But I am hoping to have fun with it, and you know I will let you know my thoughts in Last Week’s Gaming at some point.

Making my NES Retropie console

Yes, I have spoken about it in my streaming plans. I can’t wait to get my hands into making this little toy for my self. All I need to do is get to Bunnings, create a shelf for my desk, and then start messing with camera/microphone setups. It’s all slowly coming together!

This has been a fun project for me. Learning new skills, exploring new technologies and how to apply them – it’s been a blast. I know in terms of creating ‘quality’ content, streaming myself playing games might not be the most incredible idea. But that’s why I find this exciting – it’s something new, and if it works – great! If it doesn’t, I can change it up.

Plus, I am really looking forward to doing things in a way that will let us interact in close enough to real-time. Talking about games and other things that we enjoy, in an environment filled with like-minded others. It should be a blast!

I have all the pieces, now to get everything setup to stream the construction and first play!

Well, that’s my September

So this has been everything I am looking forward to over the next few weeks. What about you? What are you looking forward to? Shout out in the comments, Facebook, even @ me on Twitter – I would love to know!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

So, what did I mean by my ‘Streaming Plans’?

So many ideas, and now a way to get to a lot of them!

Last week I wrote a long piece about my plans and ideas for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

I think it made clear what I have planned site-wise, but I teased streaming and upcoming ‘projects’. Today, let me talk specifically on how I want to tackle streaming and what my project ideas consist of.

With any luck, that hopefully makes it clear on what I want to accomplish, and why.

What do you think? If you don’t think this will be fun for all of us, let me know. If you think this could be interesting, wait a couple more weeks and join me on wherever I end up streaming 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Site Updates and Upcoming 2020 Plans

Now that I have had a break, I have a clear head to think about things. Update plans are pretty much in place for the rest of 2020.

Hi everyone. 🙂

My break last week allowed me to recharge. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I was so drained it took me far too long to recognise how drained I indeed was. The good news is now I realise I still need a much bigger break, and I already have another holiday booked in for late November. Countdown to the relaxing!

Right now, I am kicking back on the couch with my laptop. If I tried to do this two weeks ago, I would have been trying to get in some more work before starting to write this. By consciously putting down everything for a week, I have had an opportunity to sit back and look at both work and personal from a fresh perspective.

Enzo is not impressed I am paying more attention to the laptop than him

So what does this mean for the site?

One thing I started doing incrementally was trying to make JohnHQLD.com more like a gaming business site, minus the business. I wanted to crank out reviews and do gaming news. While not a bad idea, the bottom line is JohnHQLD.com is a hobby site for me.

There are already many people in a much better position than me to do this kind of thing properly. Even people whose opinion I differ with a lot are in a much better place to give you more up to date information than I am. Not just in terms of time – being a reviewer is a full-time job, and these people/organisations have better contacts and relationships for gaming than I do.

But gaming is a passion for me. My approach for gaming is similar to my approach to people. A gamer is someone that enjoys playing games. That’s it. Some people focus on board games, RPGs, wargaming or video games. Sites that concentrate on more than one of these groups tend to have people that work with them to cover so much.

What does that mean?

From now, I am just going to concentrate on documenting my gaming experiences and talking about the bits and pieces that interest me. Last Week’s Gaming on Mondays will remain. It’s an excellent way for me to summarise what I have been playing and giving my quick thoughts on many different games.

So articles on the site will take a very personal ‘blog’ slant. There won’t be set days for content, and no timelines imposed on me. Just what I have time to write.

So you are down to one summary article a week?

Nope. I will do reviews, but I am no longer going to try and turn out one a week. There might be a spate of reviews initially as I start writing them, but it really will be just as I get time to do them justice. There have been a few reviews I have tried to get out that are definitely worse than others, and I want to take my time and get out reviews that I think do the games justice.

Crowdfunding articles will be coming back when I see projects that grab my interest. I have tried to never take the ‘easy’ path of just writing about this weeks hotness – there are way too many ways to see what is popular already. So, like my ‘Lost in Straya‘ piece, I will write about lesser publicised projects that I think fit for individual circumstances.

So, you will hardly be spending time on the site at all.

It might look like that, but in the background not at all. I will go more into what I will be spending a lot of extra time on away from public eyes below. I also have a couple of plans to stay in touch and talk to you all even more.

One of these ways involves streaming. I haven’t fully worked out how I will be doing this, but the plan at the moment is to stream a couple of times a week.

Streaming? Do you mean Twitch?

I haven’t fully worked out how I am going to do it, but I will likely be streaming on Twitch or YouTube. During this week, I have set up sound dampening panels in my office to help with sound recording.

Streaming PC/Console content I already have mostly worked out, but it’s not only video games I want to stream. I just need to work out how to set up another camera to record an area next to my desk.

There will be some video games, but I want to do lots of other things

Why do you need another camera? I thought streaming was for video games?

It can be. It’s certainly the stereotype. But even before Covid-19, there was already a lot of fantastic creative content being streamed. One of my favourite background streamers plays the piano on screen. Lots of groups have begun to stream RPG sessions. There are lots of different things that can be streamed.

So sometimes, I will stream video games. Other times, I want to stream board games. These will be solo endeavours, but it should be good to play along with me or join in on decisions I am having trouble making.

I also want to stream some new content I have in mind.

What new content?

This is the only ‘teaser’ section I have for today. Basically, I want to do a bunch of different things. For example, finding time to paint my minis. I think it would fun if I could set up a couple of minis to paint and chat with everyone while I attempt to paint some minis.

More on this kind of content will be coming up soon, but I think this kind of approach will let me have downtime while keeping in touch with everyone.

OK, you have done the teaser thing. What else are you working on in the background?

So, the site itself. Not content, the actual site to get it to you. On the desktop, I am pretty happy with how everything is working. On mobile, not so much.

I have tweaked WordPress well past my initial knowledge over the years. With a few of the significant changes in the web and WordPress itself, I have a lot of bits and pieces that keep breaking. Sometimes you can see these problems, mostly not. But I am spending on average a couple of hours a month nursing the site along, and I would rather not be spending my time doing this.

I really want the mobile experience to be much bettter than it is

So, a new site is coming. I just haven’t fully decided how. You wouldn’t see anything different (except for better load times), with a focus on much better mobile performance.

But you already have a website – what do you mean by a new site?

I could spend my time writing a ‘static’ website – just straight HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This would be easy for me to control, and much cheaper for me to run. I would lose timed publishing and a couple of other things though.

There is also the option of just making a new WordPress site from scratch. This would make my life easier in terms of not nursing old code and plugin maintenance, but it means I would probably have to repeat this process in a couple of years.

I could also go in a completely different way. The number of technologies that I work with and am more comfortable with definitely offer choices.

The bottom line though is no matter which way I go, I need to bring across four years of content. I also need to completely rework how my images have been done over the years. No matter which way I go, there is going to be a considerable amount of work involved.

So when I am not working or playing, time spent writing reviews and articles will be spent in this kind of tech work. I will probably be making two or three sites concurrently and testing them all to see which way I decide to go.

Hence, things like streaming will let me have downtime and talk to everyone without spending any extra time preparing content or editing videos. I am hoping this will be a win/win solution until the new site is up.

But what about all of your other plans?

I still want to do everything I talked about earlier this year. The program to grab and collate game collections for Board Game Geek users kind of works for people with small collections, but I am shelving things like this until next year. Or if I just want something else to work on.

My gaming challenges are mostly on track, except for the number of new games I wanted to play this year. Oh, and getting a couple of games to the table.

These things are all examples of self-imposed timelines. If I miss a gaming goal or shelve a couple of projects until 2021, it’s not going to hurt. Ultimately, I am hoping that by focusing on the site tech now and starting a couple of new ways of interacting with everyone, JohnHQLD.com will actually come out stronger. And I stay sane.

So what do you think? Is this something you would be interested in joining me in? Let me know in the comments, comment on Facebook or shout out on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Site reevaluations and big changes coming – just not soon.

It’s been one of those weeks that makes you stop and look at everything.

If you have been following me for a while, you will know that there have been lots of changes.

I started JohnHQLD.com as a way of sharing my love of gaming. That love hasn’t changed, but the demands of a full time+ career mean that my hobby site has taken the brunt of time cuts. My actual gaming time how somehow shrunk more each month. As I work on the site and my main job, giving me less to write about and putting more pressure on me.

I enjoy doing the site, and it is actually an excellent outlet for me. But the cold hard fact is I haven’t had a decent break in over three years. Yes, I have had holidays like the annual PAX trip, but there is little actual downtime in those periods.

For the last few weeks, my life has primarily been get, walk into the office, work 8-10 hours, then crash on the couch so that I can continue tomorrow. Weekends have been trying to rest enough to start the process again.

It shouldn't feel like an epic achievement when you can make some gaming time

There is just no way I can continue like this.

But what about your plans for 2020?

The changes I want to make are still things I want to do. The board game collection app is about 90% finished. I want to stream and do videos. The intention and desire are there – the physical stamina is not.

Coupled with a lot of technical work I need to do on the site, there just aren’t enough hours in the day that I can give quality time to all my projects.

So, my new plan is to buckle down and really decide what I want to do.

What does that mean now?

Basically, anything that takes me a lot of time is being put on hold. Primarily, this means reviews. Even in only written form, these reviews take me a few hours to do.

So, basically posts on Monday for Last Week’s Gaming, and some little news bits that catch my eye are all I will posting for a while.

This will give me time to do a pretty major overhaul to the site from a technical and visual point of view. But it’s not ending there.

JohnHQLD.com will still be around, but I will probably be starting a new site. Or possibly, sites. I love gaming, but board gamers don’t always want to know about video games and vice versa.

Last Week's Gaming is a fun summary, and should have more games soon!

I really want to do a tech site as well, focusing on hardware (and maybe some software). This is the first option to be axed if I can’t make time, but it is something I want to do.

So you will be adding more work to the schedule? How does that help?

Because I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to be doing, I can’t guarantee it will be more work. It sounds like it sure, but that’s why I need to sit down and adequately map out what I want to do, and how it can be achieved.

I have a week off work coming up in August. I plan to rest a lot during this period, and that is when a lot of the planning will start. Until then, things are kind of in limbo.

Bottom line, I want to be able to know I can comfortably fit in everything. If I have to spend more than 6 hours a week on everything I want to do with JohnHQLD.com, things need to be pulled back. This is a hobby site, after all!

Retro games are something I have been collecting to share for two years for sharing with the community, but I haven’t had the time to just sit and play. Simple answer – streaming! Or at least, you think that’s all there would be to it. Being able to make time to sit and play for a couple of hours a week isn’t as easy as I would like to be.

And I need to be able to do the current things I want to do. This is what I need to sit down and plan out properly. Games days with Alpal, game nights with friends, downtime, my own personal gaming, I have been cutting these out far too much.

I have a heap of these types of consoles ready to try out *Image source: Gmereactor

The key I am looking for is being able to comfortably work everything in, without pushing myself as I have been for the last few years. And that is going to take time.

So, it’s not goodbye, but I hope you understand that things will be a lot sparser for the coming weeks. By the end of August, I will have a definite plan to share with everyone. But until then, I intend to stop and just try and relax and enjoy myself for a bit. We all need a break now and then.

So until next time, I hope you are all safe and well and looking after yourselves as well.

JohnHQLD

The LEGO NES system is cool – but pricey!

Take a pinch of NES nostalgia, and mix in a high price tag. NES assembly was never this complicated!

Superfast one today. You either love LEGO and know all about this already or have no real interest in today’s little piece.

The original NES console is 35 years old this year, and to celebrate LEGO has released a unique kit. Introducing the LEGO NES console and TV!

When I saw the leaks about this earlier in the week, I thought this was cool. I still do. I have seen similar things done with paper as home craft projects, but the LEGO design is undeniably cool.

The catch? AUD$350! You can get a cheap monitor and a mini NES for that, and probably have change!

That said, there is no denying that this is a fun idea. The attention to detail is impressive, even to the point of inserting your own NES cartridge. In terms of construction, I am more comfortable building my own NES though :p

What do you think? Is the NES LEGO set something you would be interested in? Maybe you already have some of the Super Mario LEGO sets? Let me know in the comments or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter – I would love to see some of your creations!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Pandemic Legacy Season 3 is actually Season 0!

We have known that Season 3 has been in the works for Pandemic Legacy for quite some time. Now, it’s confirmed that the final Legacy chapter is actually a prequel.

I really enjoy Pandemic. That’s never been a secret. When I first started the site, I even got some of my friends to play Pandemic Legacy Season 1 for the first time on camera. You can see this on the YouTube channel here if you like!

Life and a few things have gotten in the way of my Pandemic Legacy Season 2 playthrough. Still, it was a fun twist that I enjoyed and will definitely be starting up again soon.

Last night on the Dicebreaker YouTube channel (a board gaming channel that you should definitely check out), this little nugget appeared.

Umm, ok. What was that?

It’s a teaser. There was hope that Pandemic Legacy Season 3 would be coming out (or at least revealed) late last year, but that never came to be.

The fact that the final in the Pandemic Legacy trilogy is being talked about officially at all is promising. And it’s a prequel – so the story ends where it begins? There is an awful lot that can be done with this sort of narrative play.

So, now we are back to waiting. But the groundwork is laid, and I am excited.

Well, you said officially talked about…

So Rob Daviau and Pandemic creator Matt Leacock have spoken before about a third Pandemic Legacy game since the reveal of Season 2. They said that the third game would be the last chapter of the series. No word about it being a prequel though.

All that said, over on Reddit user arankas posted the box art nabbed from the Z-Man game website. 

The cover feels right, but until official announcments treat it as speculation only

Given how easy it is to accidentally publish items ahead of time, this feels like the final cover art for Pandemic Legacy Season 0.

That’s just a feeling though. Until Z-Man officially launches the site and makes announcements, the box and anything you can infer from the art is pure speculation.

What is set in stone though is I am excited to see Pandemic Legacy Season 0 release, and I need to finish my Season 2 campaign!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

PAX Aus/PAX West 2020 Merch and Shelfie Stacker!

I love PAX. #SorryNotSorry.

Last week, I talked about the upcoming PAX Online. My love of PAX is not something I have ever tried to hide.

There are a bunch of new games coming out that I wish I had time to look into this week. One week to go for weird work weeks!

But this morning the official PAX merch was made available for pre-order. No waiting in line, no queues, and even better – free standard shipping!

Do you need any of this to enjoy PAX? Nope. But it’s still something great, and Rabbit and I may have spent a fair bit today! :p

So no whole in my PAX Bag for 2020 after all! My previous PAX hoodie was starting to get a bit worn, so I thought I would jump in and grab a new one this year.

Instead I grabbed the PAX Varsity jacket. Sure, it will arrive just in time for an Australian summer, but hey – I will be ready for next winter!

Accipitus Domum - roughly translated, "Another Home".
This style of bag has really grown on me. Huge number of uses, and more comfortable than you think

Another item that I have taken to is the drawstring or ‘cinch’ bags. These things are tough, hold heaps of stuff and are comfortable to wear. When I go on flights (not so much at the moment), now I have one or two of these in my backpack.

Why? I put my Switch and Kindle in one, and things I want to carry around with me in another. They fold up into almost nothing, but let me stow my backpack but quickly have everything for when I am in my seat.

And usually, they are great for stashing items as I walk around the PAX floor!

Am I saying you should go and buy everything in the store? No. Well, Rabbit and I kind of did, but that’s a different story. 😀

But just like PAX Online, now everybody has a chance to grab a piece of PAX for themselves without having to travel. And I find this really exciting.

Are you going to talk about games again soon?

Yes. Last week, I was going to talk about a new Kickstarter called Shelfie Stacker. Today, I will still talk about it, just in a shortened form.

Shelfie Stacker’s theme is what has attracted me to it. Organising my games collection has been on my to do list for almost 2 years. It hasn’t happened yet.

Why is this important? Because in Shelfie Stacker, that’s exactly what you are doing! Each turn, you draft a ‘delivery’ of games (dice selection) and you need to build up your game shelves.

There are rules, so early planning is rewarded. For example, you cannot put a die with one large game on top of a set of 3 medium sized games. You also can’t put different coloured dice in the same column.

I can't believe it took this long for a game like this to come about

Each round, you select a helper (card) that allows you to utilise their special power. This will let you manipulate the die to change the value, and break rules like being able to stack the ‘wrong’ colour.

You get to choose your 8 helpers from a deck of 10 choices, so again strategy comes into play. Then, it’s up to you to use the best helper at the right time.

This sounds like a potentially deep and heavy game, but Shelfie Stacker looks incredibly light in terms of game weight. This means that experienced gamers and new players have an equal chance of winning, and everyone should have enough ‘game’ to enjoy themselves.

Build the best pattern you can. It's not a new concept, but what a theme!

Are you backing it?

I am indeed. Even with the dependence on colour, I can clearly differentiate between the different coloured dice with my colour blindness. And all of the colours used are displayed on the box, so it’s an easy ‘litmus test’ for similar players to tell if they can play.

It’s also only AUD$56. For the amount of die you get in the game, coupled with some clever components and design, this is a great price I think.

Also, it’s a game designed in New Zealand. It’s nice to see more games coming from this side of the world!

So what do you think? Does Shelfie Stacker tickle your interest? Check out the Kickstarter page for more information!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

So. PAX Aus 2020 online anybody?

I reserve Wednesday’s for little snippets of things I am looking forward to. And PAX Aus is the one time of year I really look forward to – even more than my birthday!

So yesterday it came to light that PAX Aus 2020 has been formally postponed until 2021. Given the state of the world and everything, it is the right call. Still sad about it, but hey – that’s the world we live in right now.

So, the PAX Aus timer has been removed from the site. That countdown will be reset when the dates for next year are announced. You may have noticed another in it’s place though…

How is that looking forward to something? This is the opposite!

I will miss driving down to Melbourne this year with Rabbit and catching up with people I only get to see once a year. PAX Aus is three days of exhausting goodness, but what a great time it is!

While there might not be a formal PAX Aus this year, there will still be things happening. There have already been new ways of joining up with the PAX community, such as the PAX Aus YouTube channel.

From the sounds of it, there will still be ways to join in with new announcements to be made. Is it the same as being there? No. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be enjoying everything! And now, even more people can participate!

If that’s not something to look forward to, I don’t know what is.

The PAX Bag of holding gets a break this year

So what is PAX Aus 2020 online?

PAX Aus 2020 Online is something I made up in my head when I got the postponement notification. Given the lack of a physical event, it makes sense that any panels or the like that can be arranged will be online events.

This morning PAX Online was officially announced! With dates from September 12th to the 20th. Yep – EIGHT DAYS OF PAX!!!!!!

Tickets are free – you ust have to be on the internet! Obviously at this early stage there isn’t anything formally announced in terms of panels, competitions, demos and the like. But it’s all there. In a new form sure, but it’s all there!

Merch will still be available as well. I know this is the shallowest part of going to PAX, but I was going to miss my PAX Aus 2020 pin this year. Now I don’t have to – the store will be open next week to preorder items.

This is going to be interesting 🙂

The main PAX draw of meeting new people is also being looked at. Things are being ironed out, but they are offering the experience online. The notice includes creating chat rooms, tournament systems and group finding – so this should be fun!

Something I have been playing with is the creation of a JohnHQLD Discord server. I set one up for my local games group, and I think I have a pretty good handle on how it all works.

Whatever PAX comes up with, this would be a way we could enjoy it together. We might even get more people that can’t make it to PAX – that would be awesome!

What do you think? Would you be interested in chatting with others while events are taking place? I have been toying with the idea for a while, and I think it could work.

The world is full of possibilities.

So while I don’t have any firm grasp of what is happening with PAX Aus 2020 at this stage, there is no reason why the spirit of PAX needs to dwindle. While I might not be able to meet new people at a gaming table, the enjoyment of PAX doesn’t have to be postponed either.

So will PAX be the same this year? No. But there will be a PAX this year! While the team had to make some hard announcements, they are doing everything they can to make PAX Online 2020 as enjoyable as possible.

So what do you think? Are you looking forward to joining in on a ‘virtual’ PAX experience? Would you like a smaller place and group to enjoy some games and panels with people from this community? I think this could be an amazing PAX and I can’t wait for more details to be finalised over the coming weeks.

And imagine how good PAX Aus 2021 will be!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The PlayStation 5 Reveal Event Thoughts

Yes, I am a PlayStation fanboy. And this morning’s reveal was worth the wait.

So at 6 am this morning, I got out of bed and set myself up to watch the PlayStation 5 event. I have never tried to hide my loyalty to the PlayStation platform, but I am also not blind to things Sony can do better.

So like most of the internet, I thought I would share my thoughts and reactions to the PlayStation 5 reveal this morning. What I am excited about, what I am curious about, and what I wish I knew now.

The PlayStation 5 Consoles

Yep – consoles. There is a version with a drive, and one without. I have heard a lot of talk already about the digital version having a larger hard drive. I honestly think this is wishful thinking.

Why? The drive lets you load games sure, but to take advantage of all the new tech in the PlayStation 5 you will have to install everything to the SSD. This means if you buy Horizon Forbidden West physically or digitally, you install the same amount of data on the SSD. The disc is just your proof of purchase.

So, really the difference will be the cost and if you are willing to pay extra for the drive. If you get the digital-only version, you won’t be able to watch movies. In Australia, you also won’t be able to buy the games cheaper from JB and EB Games compared to buying from the PlayStation Store.

The disc version looks like it would be more stable as well

Personally, I think the new PlayStation looks great. There have already been a lot of people complaining about the new look. This is ultimately down to your personal taste.

As I said to Rabbit before the reveal, as long as I didn’t need a special cabinet to hold it, I didn’t care what it looked like as long as it works well.

On the front is a ‘normal’ USB port and a USB C port. What I really want to know is what’s on the back. For PlayStation 4 backwards compatibility and saving that premium SSD space, Sony has already said to play games from an external HDD. I don’t have a problem with this as long as there are ports on the console to support everything I want to plug into it.

A problem (depending on how you look at it) with the PlayStation 4 is you pretty much had to buy a charging station for your controllers. You couldn’t plug in 2 controllers to charge, PSVR and the dongle for your wireless headset all at the same time. There just aren’t enough ports. This was all before you plugged in an external drive to expand your storage as well.

The new PlayStation still lets you choose vertical or horizonal configuration

So until I get a look at the back of the console, I still have a few questions. But a few of these things seem to have finally been addressed by Sony. This is an excellent step in the right direction.

The accessories

They may seem like small things and are often forgotten about when people talk about console pricing. Still, accessories can make or break a system.

Proudly on display is the controller charging stand. I have little doubt this will be an extra purchase, but it’s nice to see Sony providing one at launch rather than waiting for third parties to make one.

It seems strange, but I seem to replace charging stands more than I change controllers. This isn’t great, and it’s nice to have a stand that matches the console aesthetic. Charging stands also makes charging your controllers so much easier.

Why has it taken to now for an 'official' charging station?

Next, the media controller makes a triumphant return. Only a few people will be excited by this, but I am one of them. Being able to just hit the pause button during playback again is great! Let alone fast-forwarding/rewinding something I am watching without having to remember what buttons do what (and from what menu).

It’s a first world problem to be sure, but I miss just being able to pick up a ‘remote’ and make selections. I am really glad that Sony has listened and reintroduced this peripheral.

Rewinding or title selction with a controller is such a pain

The Pulse 3D headphones should take full advantage of the new audio systems Sony is talking about. Still, they have made fabulous headphones in the past. I am just hoping you don’t need a USB dongle this time.

Also, the new camera caught me by surprise. I thought the PS4 camera would be coming across with the PSVR until PSVR2 (or whatever it will be called) is announced.

This started questions running in my head. Is it just the same camera in a new colour scheme? Does this mean that PSVR might get a bump in tracking performance with a better camera?

Time will tell!

It looks smaller than the current camera, but I really hope the optics have been upgraded

The accessory I am most curious about is a small but apparently vital one. The images released show that you can have the PlayStation 5 vertically or horizontal, but both options seem to need a stand. I really hope that Sony includes both in the base package rather than having to try and track one down for a change.

The performance

Here we go. Deep breath. Did we see the performance today? Don’t confuse marketing videos with real-world performance. Every game I saw today looked terrific in their own way. There was a lot of games across a lot of different genres. Some people will be stoked about some games others didn’t really get into.

What I did see was what I was hoping to see from the hype and specs revealed. I didn’t see anything that caused me to be concerned about performance. But at the end of the day, today’s reveal was a marketing tool.

Why take a deep breath to say all of that? Because a lot of people don’t really understand what the performance of the system means. Performance means different things under different conditions. 

So what are the performance promises?

The PlayStation development ‘Road to PS5’ in March made me excited for the possibilities of what the PlayStation 5 can offer. While I appreciate that this was made public, it really wasn’t for everyone.

As I have a hardware and software background, I understood what Mark Cerny was saying during the presentation. The catch is the entire talk was about what was possible, not what was done. Because there was no end product to point to, a lot of people probably missed the more delicate nuances on what was being discussed.

This was a wealth of information - just not for the general public

The internet is already full of Xbox Series X vs PlayStation 5 tech comparisons, and almost all of them fall into one trap. They compare a couple of arbitrary numbers and declare victors based on them.

Here we go – fanboy mode engaged.

Not at all – but I know a lot of readers will be thinking it. 

Just to be clear – I don’t think you can go wrong owning either console. Both will be great to play games on, and people can enjoy their experience. I don’t think my Xbox One S is ‘worse’ than my PlayStation Pro 4, I just prefer playing the PlayStation exclusives.

So without going into a lot of technical minutiae, one thing that has me excited about the PlayStation 5 is the architecture around the super-fast SSD. Having a fast drive is only part of the equation – the rest of the system has to keep up. This is why Sony is talking about custom controllers and the like – they have made how the system works more efficient than any PC on the market today.

Which one is better? Both will be great for playing games

This is where the often misunderstood ‘No Loading Screen’ part of the marketing comes into play. I promise – I am going somewhere tangible with this next part. Stick with me here.

There are no loading screens because the drive is that fast, right?

Sort of. People that already understand this part will point out some inaccuracies of what I am about to say, and they are right. I am going to quickly sum up a process, so the intention and outcome are accurate – but the details are glossed over.

When you load parts of a game, you load a lot of information to the system memory. The most significant part of this is usually graphics. Getting things to look that pretty takes some pretty large texture files. Multiple gigabytes large. These files are copied into the video RAM. This process takes time. 

Just think about how long it takes to copy 6GB of files on your computer to another drive. With the new PlayStation 5 architecture, developers can essentially load graphics into the Video RAM while you play straight off the SSD. No need to wait for x amount of gigabytes to load in while you wait around.

My favourite of these comparisons 🙂 Teraflops aren't everything

This isn’t just due to the insane drive speed, but because all the other parts involved can talk to each other that quickly as well. Now, this is all in theory. We need to wait until we see it in action to see how well it works. But today, we might have gotten a glimpse of it all working already.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart may have been the most important reveal in the entire presentation.

Usually, when you play a game with different worlds, you have loading screens between them. This is because everything looks so different, that all of those assets need to be reloaded.

During the reveal of Ratchet & Clank for the PlayStation 5, there were yellow ‘local’ rifts/portals to within the same world. There was also an extended sequence where the duo fell through purple rifts that took them to multiple other worlds.

When they went through these purple portals, they were pulled from the world they were in, and ‘fell’ through a void before appearing in the next world. It looked amazing and set a frantic pace for the action.

Assuming this was actual gameplay and not just trailer magic, these voids were potentially the next world’s assets loading into memory. Let that sink in for a minute. Those falling through the void sections could actually have been ‘loading’ screens. And they lasted no time at all.

This all needs to be verified, of course. Until people actually get their hands on the console and games, it’s speculation on my part. But it’s a practical example of what the potential of the PlayStation 5’s real power is being touted as.

This is what Mark Cerny was saying during that ‘boring’ Road to PS5 talk though. Makes more sense when you can see it in action.

So you are saying PlayStation is better than Xbox!

Nope. I am not even trying to say the PlayStation 5 is as good as it claims it can be. We haven’t seen one running, have we?

Also, developers will need to explicitly code for these features most likely. I suspect this means that most games will just get the benefit of loading from a faster disc, putting Xbox and PlayStation on a pretty even field again. But it does mean that games don’t have to be rewritten like in the PlayStation 3 days. Bad multi-platform experiences are hopefully behind us.

While it looks like Microsoft was more forthcoming than Sony with specs and feature information, Sony was trying to get across high-level developer concepts publicly. This is where Sony may have made a mistake, as it went over many heads. And where I say Microsoft is playing a propaganda game. Higher clock speeds don’t always mean better performance.

Will the Xbox Series X load games faster than the Xbox One X? Absolutely. Will they be able to replicate the potential loading saving of the PlayStation? Who knows. Microsoft hasn’t come out with that kind of technical detail, so I can’t even guess at a final performance comparison.

Keep in mind, with all the new information coming forth over the next few months, everything will be on a ‘case by case’ basis. Just like some games run better on different processors, some games will run better on PlayStation, and some on Xbox. Now, that is mainly in the hands of developers.

Wait until people start being able to play the consoles themselves rather than looking at straight numbers and/or video footage before deciding which console is right for you.

For me, I still intend to order the PlayStation 5 for day one. Everything I saw today lines up with the talk up to now. But I will always be reading and watching reviews of people lucky enough to play with the final version before it launches.

Wait, what about the games? You only sort of talked about one!

The games are indeed the most important part of gaming. The equipment to play them on is necessary, but only part of the overall whole.

Apart from this already being a pretty long piece, I am skipping talking about the games in detail for a simple reason. We weren’t given any real information about the games.

I am excited about quite a few titles, though. Hitman 3 caught me by surprise. I have meant to get into the ‘new’ Hitman games for ages, but time is a thing. 

Resident Evil 8 was rumoured, but I jumped up when I saw it. I hope it gets the same PSVR love that Resident Evil 7 got – that was amazing! Likewise, I enjoyed the glimpse at Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. While I haven’t gone back to finish the original, what I have played has already convinced me that this series has great potential.

A new Oddworld game is coming as well. I loved the original on the PS1, but the others not as much. New and Tasty was a remaster, so seeing a new game coming with Abe back in the protagonist role has me very happy!

Horizon Forbidden West took me by surprise. Not that a sequel was coming – like Spider-Man, I put down Horizon Zero Dawn until I could dedicate time to play it. No, what caught me out was the fact I started tearing up when I saw it. It looks glorious, and the potential of a video game telling a grand story looks like it is going to be fulfilled. People that say video games can’t be an art form needs to look at games like this.

Other titles caught my eye for one reason or another, but like the design of the PlayStation 5 itself whether you will be excited about them is subjective. There were only 2 games that I looked at and though pass. Not because I didn’t like the look of them, just they didn’t seem to be games I would enjoy.

This is something you really should experience yourself though. If you haven’t already seen the reveal, check out the video below!

The one thing I wish they did reveal today

You probably know what’s coming here. Microsoft and Sony, it’s a universal request – prices please. To me, this is more important than the final release date.

These consoles are going to be expensive. PlayStation 3 expensive at least. You don’t get next generation hardware that hasn’t made it to PC yet and massive system customisation without a cost. I don’t know about you, but I want to know how much I will have to save for either console.

Do I think the PlayStation 5 will be worth it? Absolutely. The perfomance you will be getting will be better than a AUD$2,000 laptop. This justifies a jump in cost. The only real question to me is how much is that jump?

What are the titles that you are most excited about from today? Can you guess what games I am not overly enthusiastic about? What do you think about the new consoles?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Castle Panic Deluxe is live on Kickstarter!

Castle Panic was one of the first games I used my 3D printer on back in the day. Now you can make yours even fancier!

Castle Panic is one of those ‘silly’ games that people tend to overlook. Too childish for ‘serious’ gamers, and too much for some families.

The premise is simple – you have to work together to stop your castle from being overrun by hordes of monsters. You can play solo or up to 6 players so it can be a great time with friends. It can also be a stressful time with friends.

Yes it's simple, but I made it. It's the little things 🙂

So it’s another cooperative game.

Who said that? You need to work together to make sure that the castle remains. If the castle is too damaged, no one wins.

If you manage to eliminate all of the creatures, the player with the most points wins. Everyone can lose, but only one can win!

Haven’t I heard of Castle Panic before?

Probably. It was nominated for a few awards in 2010, and quite a few spin-off games have been produced. Star Trek Panic and Munchkin Panic are probably my favourite editions.

The gameplay is very similar in all versions. You need to try and draw just the right card to keep the enemies at bay. And if you can’t, you need to convince someone with that card to use it on your turn.

So why are you excited about a 10-year-old game being on Kickstarter?

As I said, Castle Panic can be very overlooked in some game circles. But this isn’t just another Castle Panic version – it’s the Deluxe version!

What does that mean? Well, with my 3D printer, I printed and painted my own castle. Instead of having some cardboard pieces that would wear over time, I have a handcrafted centrepiece.

Now, not everyone has a 3D printer. Mine has died, and I keep thinking about maybe replacing it, but too many other good things keep getting in the way!

Now Fireside Games is allowing you to go one further than even I went!

So what’s so Deluxe about Castle Panic Deluxe?

Mainly plastic. Lots and lots of plastic. Not only will you get a plastic castle, but all of the monster tokens have been replaced with minis.

The minis themselves have a nice feature. When you play the standard game, you twist the tokens to show how much damage they have taken. In the deluxe version, the bases on the mini’s rotate to make hit tracking much more manageable!

The other nice upgrade is the monster tokens. They have been upgraded to wooden tokens. No more bent cardboard for old copies!

Why would I want to buy another copy just for minis?

You don’t have to. The base-level will let you upgrade your existing copy by giving you just the new pieces.

If you have never owned Castle Panic before, you can get a new copy as a part of the project.

can't complain about hte price - you are getting a lot for your money!

The downside? This is your only chance to grab this version. It’s a Kickstarter only edition, so it’s your one and only chance. There is a retailer pledge level, so some lucky people might get the opportunity to buy it after the fact. Talk to your local games store and see if this could be an option.

So you are backing it?

I want to. I love the idea. But even at the base level, it’s going to be expensive. It’s AUD$90 dollars for the pieces, and who knows what shipping is going to be like.

Castle Panic Deluxe is one of those campaigns that people will either jump on, gloss over, or squirm over like me.

Here’s the bottom line. Castle Panic is great, and I think a lot of people will be surprised by how much fun it is. But you can buy the game for AUD$60 without really looking. You are going to have to be really invested in spending at least double that just for upgrade parts.

But with all that said and done, check out the Kickstarter over here and check it out yourself. If you want to know more about the game, I still love watching the TableTop episode featuring the game!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD