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

Final Fantasy 7 First Impressions and Thoughts

It’s been 15 years since this has been teased as possible. Now Final Fantasy VII Remake is here.

Final Fantasy VII was my first Final Fantasy game. This is a big reason why to this day it has a special place in my heart. I have found for most people this holds true.

Before anyone jumps up and down, no Final Fantasy VII isn’t the best one. Final Fantasy IX has that honour in my opinion. Final Fantasy X until now was my recommendation for people new to the series.

But enough gushing and praise for Square Enix – want to see me play the first little bit?

As I said repeatedly, if you aren’t sure – get the demo!

This is one episodic series I wouldn’t wait for them all to come out either. It could be years before the next part. Luckily, with 30+ hours of gameplay, you will have plenty to stick your teeth into. 😀

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Resident Evil 3 First Impressions and Thoughts

Everyone’s First Impressions on Resident Evil 3? STAAAARRRRS!

Resident Evil 3 is finally here, and I have captured my first impressions! Don’t worry if you don’t get all the STARS references that will be flying around – it’s an injoke from the game, that you will get quickly if you play 😀

There is only one game I have been waiting for with more anticipation, and it is teasing me on my shelf.

It teases me :p

I am waiting for April 10th to look at this one. Not just because of the request for no spoilers from Square Enix, but day one patches and the like aren’t available. So, my plan is to do my first impressions as per normal – even though the start should be the demo that was recently released.

But enough of that teaser, on to todays game – RESIDENT EVIL 3! Resident Evil 2 blew me away last year, and the only reason I haven’t Platinumed it is because I haven’t had the time to dedicate powering through the later skill and time based challenges.

As much as I have been trying to stay away from reviews, headlines have flashed before me. Apparently the game is a ‘mixed’ experience. So what do I think after a half hour of gameplay?

Only one way to find out!

Is Resident Evil 3 a game you have been looking forward to? I can tell you from the demo, it plays equally well on PC, PS4 Pro and Xbox One S so you should have a great time playing it if you do!

Not sure if Resident Evil 3 is for you? Play the Racoon City demo – it is very representative of what Resident Evil 3 is like.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Doom Eternal First Impressions – I made a video!

Doom Eternal has the tag line ‘Rip and Tear’. I play ‘Sticky Bomb and Pray’!

So I have had some start/stop video experiments that I have shared in the past. Today, there is another 🙂 Rather than try to write up how I feel about Doom Eternal, I thought I would do a video of my Early Impressions!

My plan was to play 15-20 minutes of a game for the first time, and give my live first impressions and reactions. What do you know – even with prep, that didn’t work out quite as well as I hoped! Doom Eternal’s soundtrack in particular turned out to be a challenge. Life finds a way indeed! 🙂

You can watch the video below, expand it up to full screen and all the usual stuff. You can also go over to my YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/johnhqldplaysgames if you have trouble casting or want to leave a like/dislike and a comment. Feedback is appreciated!

So today, let me introduce you to my first ‘First Impressions’ game video, where I sit back and enjoy Doom Eternal 😀

Slightly Extended Impressions

Once I had played through the above, I was actually a little sad that I stopped recording. Not that I wanted to make a longer video, but because I found out I was only a little distance from another really cool secret!

I discovered another secret only a few minutes after finishing up my Thoughts in the video. And this secret had me grinning like crazy!

Doom Eternal has cheat codes that you can find in the secret areas!

This is such a great idea. And I had my original Doom collection on such disks!

I haven’t tried messing around with them yet, but I think these are a great idea. Plenty of times I would fire up the original DOS Doom games, throw on invincibility and all guns, and just blast away for a bit on fun for a little while.

Doom Eternal is going to let me do the same thing, and use these overpowered features to let you explore the map more as well!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD