kv0925: (Default)
So my gaming life lately has been rather focused on The Last of Us. I mentioned I picked up a PS4 back around Christmas, right? I played through Uncharted 4, which was amazing, and then went back and played the first two games in that series (having also picked up the Nathan Drake Collection). Hallie was playing through them at more or less the same time, so I thought I'd play something else while she catches up and finishes Uncharted 2. So I popped in The Last of Us, which was actually a big reason I wanted the PS4 in the first place, having heard what a great game it was.

And it is. It really, really is. The gameplay is fun, a very well-crafted mix of FPS, stealth, exploration and survival, with some RPG elements tossed in too. But the story, and writing, and performances.. man. It's all linear, of course, which puts the whole game on rails and removes the choice factor. There were a few times when I felt forced to do things I would have chosen not to do, because they were required to progress the story as written. But still, on the whole? Just an amazing experience, and one that will stick with me. Once I got through it, I played through the Left Behind DLC, and then almost immediately started back through the main game to try to find all the collectibles and see other things I might have missed or not fully appreciated the first time. And it's just as good the second time, and actually even better since I knew what I was doing in the early parts of the game. So yeah, if you get a chance to play this one, I do recommend it. And I will be very much looking forward to the sequel next year. I almost never pre-order a game, but that one I absolutely expect to. After this one and the Uncharted series, Naughty Dog have earned my trust for sure.

Otherwise, on the PC I've been playing Mafia III. I enjoyed the first game in that series, and loved the second one, so I had high hopes when 3 was announced. Reviews were not exactly glowing when it came out, but I saw a good price and figured it was worth a try. And it's not a bad game, not at all. As an open-world shooter, it's very adequate. But that's the thing. There was something special about Mafia 2, some bit of magic and serendipity, which took it up a level in my mind and made it more than just the sum of its parts. It had its weak points, but it was just plain FUN. Mafia III seems to have missed that magic, somehow. I still want to get back to it and go through it, but.. yeah, the second one is a lot better.

I've also been playing some Alien: Isolation, which is very good, but somehow hasn't sucked me in like I expected it would. I actually started it quite some time ago, and dropped it, so this time I started over again. Hopefully I'll stick with it this time.

Also spent some time with a game called The Flame in the Flood, which is pretty fun. It's a wilderness survival game reminiscent of Don't Starve, though not quite as cartoonish. Your character is traveling downriver on a wooden raft through a flooded area, stopping at dry land here and there to forage for supplies, craft, hunt, cook, etc. It's nicely done and I dig the art style and music. It's a fun diversion if you find it cheap.

Speaking of finding things cheap, a while back Amazon had the SteamLink on sale for $20, which was a price I couldn't resist. I could already stream from my main PC via the Steam client on my HTPC (which is itself rather underpowered for gaming, of course), but I figured having the dedicated device might make it even easier, and maybe more robust. And it's a pretty nifty little device, for sure. I use it with a pair of wireless XBox 360 controllers, and it works very well. My only issue is that it doesn't seem to wake up when I fire up the first controller--I have to connect the second controller too. Not that big a deal, but it seems like unexpected behavior, which I should get around to researching. ETA: I researched and it seems I might just not be giving it enough time. People say it takes the SteamLink 15-20 seconds to wake up, so I probably fire up the first controller, wonder why it isn't waking up right away, then fire up controller 2, at which point the 15-20 seconds has passed and it wakes up. I'll have to test that to see.

In other news: TGIF!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yeah, so this post will be about my new A/V receiver, and maybe some more about the Playstation 4. If neither of those things interests you, feel free to skip and you will miss nothing. :)

So yeah, the receiver. The retailer came through, despite the delay and my doubts, and it's a genuine and factory-fresh Yamaha RX-V681, no concerns there. And it's awesome! Now and then a piece of equipment comes into my grubby hands which makes me say, "This is how this SHOULD work, how did I never know that before?!" And this thing is one of them. Coming from a non-HDMI, audio-only, dumb receiver, I really had no idea how thoroughly devices could communicate over an HDMI connection these days. The Yamaha can identify the devices I connect, turn them on and off, tell the TV when it should mute its internal speakers, and even pass along remote-control commands. I was amazed that I could use the receiver remote OR the TV remote to control the PS4 menus. And when the receiver is on, any remote that can send volume control to the TV gets seamlessly passed along to the receiver. I power up a device like the PS4, and the TV turns on automagically. And the on-screen display to configure things is lovely. It's like a whole new world and it's just awesome how it serves as the nerve center to make all these devices behave like one organic whole. Color me impressed, for sure. Oh yeah, and it sounds pretty decent, too. I still need to finish running a couple more speaker wires for the surround back channels, and make sure the subwoofer connection is clean, and then run the speaker calibration routine and find the processing modes that I like best. I also haven't even tried the network functionality yet, I'm looking forward to that. Generally though, yes. Very cool.

The girls and I decided to head over to GameStop last night to look around. Kind of a mistake, because the closest GameStop to us is pretty small, and it was packed (not that it takes a lot of people to achieve that). So we ended up not getting anything, but got to spend some time looking at the PS4 games to get an idea of what we might want to get. I have my list, of course, and it's already too long. Hallie was very interested in the horror games, because that's kinda her thing. On one hand I dig it because hey, that's one of my things too! But on the other hand, she's a bit young for a lot of the games along those lines (pretty much all of which, of course, are rated M), and of course I don't want to warp her little mind too much! The wife's main complaint would be the language, though of course she's not a big fan of the violent blood-and-guts stuff either. She's indulged it thus far, and I think we've slipped a little under her radar when she plays on her PC, like the Telltale Walking Dead games, since Hallie usually plays games with the sound turned way down. But since the PS4 is right out in the TV room, Heather will definitely notice what we're playing on there. :) So I'll have to stick with T-rated stuff, at least for now. Aside from maybe Diablo III, which is rated M but I think mainly because of the imagery (which is smaller in scale to begin with). Or am I just a terrible parent for encouraging an interest in this type of thing? I'm not sure what age I was when I started reading Stephen King, but it couldn't have been much older than Hallie is now. And I'm.. well, not exactly okay, but not THAT bad. :)

Okay, enough for now. Gotta get some more work done before I can call it a day!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
The new A/V receiver was supposed to be delivered Saturday. It was coming via FedEx, who typically come around in the late afternoon, and the delivery notice said "by end of day," so I figured that would be the case. Heather's band had a concert that morning, so the girls and I decided to go to EPCOT for a walk around the world. Heather figured she'd be home by 11:30am or so, and I figured no way FedEx would come before then. But of course they did, apparently about 5 minutes before she got home. The package is signature-required, so since no one was home they couldn't leave it. And for some kooky reason they only do home deliveries Tuesday through Saturday, and their website isn't giving me a pickup option, so the soonest they can redeliver is tomorrow. So that gave me a sad.

Heh, I just checked the FedEx site again to see if pickup was an option, and it's not--it says the package is still on a truck and out for delivery, even though the scheduled delivery date is tomorrow. So maybe that means it's just getting a joyride around town today? I guess we'll see. The wife is home, so if they do swing by someone should be there. We shall see.

So anyway, since I was temporarily denied the receiver, my mind turned to getting something else instead. The new receiver gives me an extra HDMI port, which my brain figured might be handy if I ever decide to get another gaming console. The girls are all gamers like their Dad, I'm proud to say, but we mostly play solo on our PCs since PC options for couch co-op games are a bit limited. Our only current video game console is the WiiU, which we like, but since it's Nintendo it's mainly for cutesy family games since I/we generally prefer to use the PC for other stuff.

But I was in Costco the other day and saw that the prices on the current-gen systems had dropped to a reasonable range: in particular, I saw they had the PS4 with Uncharted 4 and a second controller for $250. I've vaguely had my eye on the PS4 because The Last Of Us looks really good, and then I looked at Uncharted 4 and it looked like something we'd also enjoy (especially since a couch co-op survival mode was recently added, or is about to be). So when the receiver didn't come Saturday, I got to thinking, why not get the PS4 as an early Xmas present and enjoy that? I could even basically pay for it with the money I got selling some old audio gear last weekend, and selling that Tool cd/dvd set. So I ran it by the wife and she said fine, whatever. :) So now we have a shiny new PS4 slim, and Hallie (who is turning out to be our most serious gamer) and I have been enjoying Uncharted 4.

So now, of course, I'm looking at what other games I'd like to get for the PS4. If any of you have the system and have suggestions, please chime in! As a general rule, if a game is available for both PS4 and PC, I'd get the PC version since I have a preference for the PC controls. But anything that's a PS4 exclusive, or which offers an especially good local co-op experience (since we aren't really into online multiplayer) is fair game. My list so far:

-The Last of Us (PS4 Remaster)
-Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (PS4 Remaster)
-Destiny: The Taken King
-Little Big Planet 3
-Until Dawn
-inFamous: Second Son

Now I want to go home and play, but alas, I'm stuck at the office. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Popping back in since I know a number of my friends here are gamers. Did any of you pull the trigger on No Man's Sky, PC version in particular?

I admit, I was a bit intrigued by the hype. NMS seems like such a cool concept with vast potential, and to me the visuals look nifty. My own expectations were probably toned down a bit--I don't care about online multiplayer, the lack of which seemed to offend a lot of people, and I would be fine with a more chilled-out and peaceful exploration experience than endless survival/crafting and constant combat. It seemed like something the girls would enjoy, too. But after watching videos and early gameplay footage and reading endless comments and reviews, I'm holding off on it for now. There are clearly issues and deficits in the game, and it appears that as it stands right now it should have an indie-game price rather than the full AAA retail. So I'll wait until it drops to that range, and/or Hello Games comes out with some serious fixes (a lot of complaints from PC players seem to be that the PC version is clearly a console port and lacks many PC niceties like hotkeys, not to mention graphic and optimization issues) and feature adds (like the promised base-building element).

But I was nonetheless curious, did any of you guys and gals jump on it? Any thoughts either way?
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
LEGO City: Undercover for the Wii U is pretty awesome. I guess it's best described as Grand Theft Auto, if the world were mostly made of LEGO and (naturally) it's friendly for kids. It's 1-player only, so I hadn't gotten to play it that much. But lately we've been playing it more, and it's so good the girls don't even mind watching and/or taking turns at the controls.

We're not very far into it, but part of the plot involves going into an Alcatraz-style prison, and it's rife with Shawshank Redemption nods, so of course I am loving it. There's a NPC named Blue, who sounds a lot like Morgan Freeman's Red, and even has a little sidebar where he denies being "Freeman", kinda funny. Then later, in a prison cell, there's a LEGO-fied version of the Raquel Welch poster that hid the tunnel in the film. Good stuff. :)

Okay, time to go home.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So the Steam Summer Sale kicked off today. This is a bad thing, because I am way too tempted to buy more games to add to my already-insurmountable backlog. But the few I've been tempted to buy so far today.. I'll see the game, see the price, and say to myself, "Hm, that looks pretty good for the money!" Then I click through to the store page, and.. "This game is already in your Steam library." Heh. I think if I don't even have a clue what I already own, I probably don't need to buy more, right?

Especially since I'll be picking up my copy of LEGO Jurassic World tomorrow. Exciting!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, the pool pump was a bust. The plastic goo I got is pretty neat, but it only forms a chemical bond with certain types of plastic, and I guess the pump housing isn't one of those types. So it felt nice and solid at first, but when I tightened the bolt it came loose again. So on to Plan B, which is to replace the whole pump housing with a new one, with factory-fresh bolt inserts and all. This will involve a bit of re-plumbing, but I am hoping it will be within my skill set. And if not, it would be a quick (and hopefully cheap) job for a pro.

Weekend otherwise was so-so. The wife and middle kid have both been fighting off some mystery ailment or another, so they were both a little under the weather. But we went to the American Girl store as planned Saturday morning--and now need to go back again, because I didn't think I needed to check the box of the thing we bought to make sure the thing we bought was actually in the box. But it wasn't, which we discovered when we got home. Might use my lunchbreak today to drive back down there and rectify the situation.

Last night I took the girls to EPCOT Center. It was our last chance to hit a park before the summer blackout period, and between Heather's illness and general busy-ness she could use a break from the kids, so off we went. It was a pretty good time! We did more rides than we normally do, including Soarin' (which Hallie and Amy went on once before, but it was Hermione's first time). That was a hit, of course--I think that's one of the best experiences at WDW, though we don't do it much because the line is always long. They're planning to add a couple more theaters to expand the capacity, and I think they're also going to change the film to Florida instead of California, which certainly makes sense. So we rode that, Spaceship Earth, Living With The Land, the Mexico boat ride, and we checked out the store in China and had dessert at the bakery in Norway. Mmm, good. It was a bit warm, but there was a nice breeze so overall it was a very pleasant evening.

I've been splurging a bit on games for the Wii U--I see it as playing catch-up. :) But not too bad, I've mostly been getting good deals on pre-owned games. Let's see, I got LEGO Batman 3 (good game, but now we find it a bummer that the multiplayer on LEGO games is only 2 players--hopefully LEGO Dimensions will rectify that!), LEGO City: Undercover (which is as awesome as I expected, but only 1-player), Wii Party U (we enjoy the minigame collections, lots of variety and quick to play as well), The Wonderful 101 (neat game, but pretty difficult and entirely chaotic), Rayman Legends and ZombiU (haven't even gotten to try those yet!). This Friday is the release of LEGO Jurassic World, which I think I must get immediately. :) Then I'd like to catch up on a few other LEGO games, and grab things like New Super Mario Bros. U and the Zelda games. Just checked, the new open-world Zelda game (which does sound amazing) was just pushed back to next year, that's a bummer. Oh well, lots to get in the meantime!

Amy still only ever wants to play the Mario Cat Game (Super Mario 3D World), of course. And I must say, she's getting better at it! Yesterday we were playing, and she actually outscored me on a couple levels! Mostly because we died midway and had to continue with reset scores, but still. I'm a proud gamer Dad. The other girls aren't quite as into it--they'd rather play on their PC, where Terraria, Don't Starve, and Scribblenauts are the order of the day. And Sims 2 sometimes.

Speaking of gaming with the girls, I taught them Poker recently! When I was a kid I remember lots of fun nights spent playing penny-ante Poker with the family, so it's cool that we can do that now. I started them with 5-card draw, of course, but next time I'll introduce 5- and 7-card stud. I don't know the varieties like Texas Hold 'Em, maybe we'll try that later on. I also showed them Blackjack real quick, but they didn't like that as much. They like getting more cards, they said. So I guess 7-card stud should be a hit. :)

Otherwise I've been feeling a bit blah. I dunno, every now and then I let the 10% of stuff that isn't where I want it to be distract me from the 90% that's truly wonderful, and I stew in those negative juices for a bit. Mostly I blame myself for being the cause of my own discontent, and for not seeing how I can make it better. Same old, same old, I suppose.

Okay, back to work. Or maybe I'll hit the road for the mall, grumblegrumble. Hope everyone is having a good Monday!


May. 28th, 2015 02:41 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I feel like an update is overdue, but I dunno what about, really. So let's break out the bullets.

• The Wii U has been a big hit so far! Mario Kart 8 is awesome, of course, but we've also really enjoyed Super Mario 3D World and NintendoLand, both of which were in the console bundle I got. At first the girls didn't care too much for Super Mario, but it grew on them. Amy especially loves it, for some reason--she calls it the Mario Cat Game, because one of the power-ups for the characters is a cat suit. In fact, she loves it a bit TOO much. As soon as she wakes up and as soon as I get home from work, she's asking if we can play Wii. Don't get me wrong, I dig that she likes it so much, but sheesh! I can't even play anything solo--if I try, she pops in and grabs the controller like she owns the joint. Silly kid. I also got it playing old GameCube games--that was actually even more viable on the old first-gen Wii, but for some reason I didn't do much of it. But since the ghost game in NintendoLand was such a hit, I figured they'd appreciate Luigi's Mansion too since it's more or less based on that. So far so good!

Then this week Humble Bundle did the first console-based bundle I've seen, and it happened to be Nintendo (Wii U and 3DS) so I jumped on that pretty quickly. Mostly platform-style indie games, but there looked to be some pretty neat titles, with more being added next week so I can look forward to that as well. I've only tried one (Guacamelee) so far, but it looked really good. Amy kept stealing the controller, though!

• Been having a little trouble with the pool lately. The pump has had a trickle leak for a while, which recently turned into more of a mini-geyser. Not a lot, but enough to be annoying. And it's salt water, so I really don't want it spraying all over the pump motor and other stuff over there. So I figured out one problem was a loose bolt insert, and I fixed that--but the leak persists. So I'm thinking the plastic plate that attaches and seals the motor and impeller assembly to the rest of the pump got warped at some point and isn't sealing completely. So I have a new one on the way, hopefully that will finally do the trick. With my luck, though, probably not!

• Photo session tomorrow, not entirely looking forward to it. Some clients I feel great about, some are more iffy. This one is just a tad on the iffy side. But hopefully it will all be good. I only took a half-day from work, so I'll have to come in to the office afterwards. Probably after I go home for a shower, that is--gonna be a toasty one, as usual.

Hm, I can't think of much else, so.. have a good afternoon/evening, wherever you are!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
My back is sore. I took the day off yesterday, and spent a decent chunk of it pressure-washing the pool deck. Which involves stooping over slightly most of the time, and I am feeling it today. Hell, I was feeling it while I was doing it! I really need to work out more. I'd started running around the block a couple times a week, but I've fallen off that wagon. Need to get back to it, it really did make me feel like it was tightening up my core and back muscles.

Anyway, I decided to take the day because I really haven't used much time yet this year (thanks to cancelled NYC trips and such), and we're already rounding the corner into June. Sheesh, the year is flying!

I also got the WiiU hacked so it can play Wii games from an external hard drive, so that's nice. Seems to work fine so far, though there's another step or two to get there, and an annoying prompt to format the hard drive every time I power up the system. I think there's a way to fix that, though, gonna try it tonight, maybe.

We also went to a cool book sale. I guess for a week or two every year, the Scholastic Books warehouse around here opens up for a public sale. Most of the books are a simple 50% off the cover price, but they also have books down to 50 cents or so, and one area where you can fill a box with books for $25. We had no trouble finding plenty of books, mostly for the girls but a couple things I'd wanted as well. The only downside was that it's in their warehouse, which is not air-conditioned, so it was toasty in there. They did have big fans, at least! As my wife said, it was probably good because we might have spent more time and money there if it hadn't been uncomfortable!

Back to work today, seems like a pretty relaxed day. I have a meeting in a few minutes, but then my afternoon is mostly clear. Might run out and shop for some screen to fix our pool enclosure. And maybe do some ore of this silly series of online training modules I have to do for work. Security of credit card and personal information, none of which I actually deal with in my job. But oh well.

I hope everyone is having a good week!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So I mentioned my desire for a Wii U last week. And when it comes to me and that sort of thing, desire usually turns to reality fairly shortly. :) So I looked around, and apart from used and refurb units (which typically get the stinkeye from me), the very best deal I saw was $250 for the current Super Mario World 3D bundle. Problem was, that deal was at Fry's, which is not a chain with a local presence in these parts. The deal was available online too, of course, but that's apparently the best price that's been offered maybe ever, and it sold out pretty quickly. So I'd sort of resigned myself to waiting for a price that good (or close to it) to appear again before pulling the trigger.

But still, I figured I'd go to Best Buy and see what was what, maybe drool over the demo unit a bit. And while I was there I thought I'd go ahead and join their Gamers Club thingy--it's $30, but it gets you 20% off new games 3 times a year for the next 2 years, which I figured I'd take advantage of if I did get a Wii U soon. So I did that, and while I was checking out, I asked my cashier if they happened to pricematch Fry's even though they aren't a local competitor per se. So she looked in their POS system, which apparently has a list of competitors they will pricematch--and Fry's was on the list. So she said well, they're in here, so yes! So I grabbed a Wii U bundle and a copy of Mario Kart 8 off the shelf, the system honored the pricematch for the Wii U, I used the Gamer's Club 20% off on Mario Kart, and that was that. Score!

So far the girls really like it, and I am reasonably impressed as well. Mario Kart 8 is awesome, of course, and Super Mario World is fun because all 3 girls can play it with me. And the characters can turn into cats, which they naturally love. It also came with NintendoLand, which is a sort of WiiPlay-like collection of minigames designed to show the various ways the controls can be used. There are some fun ones, like a Zelda-based one that uses the Wii remote like a sword, and a Luigi's Mansion sort of game where one player uses the big gamepad with screen to control a ghost who hunts (and is hunted by) the other players using the tv screen. That one especially is a lot of fun. :)

So now we're looking forward to getting the new LEGO Jurassic World game when it comes out in a few weeks, and I'd like to get some of the other LEGO games as well. Okay, all the other LEGO games. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I'm a teensy bit excited today, so I just have to share. Following is a bit of video-gaming geekery, so please feel free to skip if that's not your bag, baby. :)

Presently, the newest console in our house is a Nintendo Wii. For the most part that's fine--the girls and I play games on our PCs far more often than we play console games, but we do fire up the Wii (or an old-school console emulator on the HTPC) for multiplayer fun probably a couple times a week. I've considered moving to a newer console, either a Wii U, Playstation 3 or XBox 360 (the latest-gen consoles are just too pricey for me to justify, given how rarely we play consoles in the first place). But with PS or XBox, I'd be starting from scratch--I'd have to get the console, additional controllers, and games, and it would all add up really quickly, so that's a big barrier to entry. With the Wii U, I at least already have controllers since it's compatible with Wii Remotes and whatnot.

Problem is, while I have scads of Wii games, the vast majority reside on an external hard drive, and I wasn't sure if the Wii U can be modified to play them that way. We've been happy enough with the Wii anyway, so if it ain't broke, etc.

But then new games stopped coming out for the Wii, with the Nintendo versions released only for the Wii U. We're big fans of the various LEGO games, so when the LEGO City game came out and it was only Wii U, I was a little miffed. Then the new Marvel Superheroes game, which I didn't mind too much because that's not as much our style. But now the new LEGO Jurassic World game is coming soon, which I do want. And all along, I've played Mario Kart 8 a few times on in-store demo machines, and it just looks incredibly cool, so that's been tempting too.

But now! This morning I discovered LEGO Dimensions, which is the LEGO iteration of the Skylanders/Disney Infinity-type toy-to-game setups. But LEGO! And the themes they're including are pretty sweet. LEGO Movie stuff, of course, but also Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, Scooby-Doo, Portal, Wizard of Oz(!), Doctor Who, maybe Ghostbusters, perhaps Harry Potter eventually.. Really good stuff! Unfortunately, some of the properties that have been made into LEGO games like Star Wars, Marvel, Pirates of the Caribbean, and perhaps Indiana Jones are off-limits since they're associated with Disney and this system will compete with Infinity. But still, it's very intriguing and makes me want to check it out when it hits the street later this year.

So that inspired me to look into it again today, and it seems there is indeed a way to modify the Wii U to play Wii games from an external HDD, and it doesn't even look that difficult. Not that that's a dealbreaker, we can always keep the Wii for those games. But if I can get a Wii U and have it do everything, why not?

Now to talk the wife into letting me get one...

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