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[REVIEW] Elite Dangerous (PS4) and Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4
03 August 2017
Posted in Reviews

I've been meaning to write this review a month ago already, but sadly the mild depression that I already was in hit mye quite hard - I even had to start taking anti-depressives. On the other hand, because I've been in that depression, I could play Elite Dangerous a lot and because of the nature of the game (I played mainly as trader and explorer) the game eased my mind quite well. It also allowed me to get to know the game better than I already did from the time I played it on the PC and it allowed me to get used to the Thrustrmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4 as well...

As said, I've already played ED on the PC before, but that was about 55 hours only. While I liked the game, I didn't like the controls that it provided. The mouse/keyboard combination was already a big no-no for me, while controller/keyboard was kinda the same but a bit better. Like most PC ED players, I bought a voice control program (VoiceAttack for me) to talk to the PC and avoid using they keyboard completely so I could focus on playing with the controller. Yet that still felt somewhat off, not to mention that the voice program had some difficulties with my microphone at times and responded (too) late from time to time. Of course, when I decided to hop to Linux, ED became totally out of the picture because it's a Windows only game
That means that when I bought the game (Legendary edition on disc), I knew what to expect and I figured I have to use controller/keyboard on my PS4, but I was wrong about that. On the PS4 ED doesn't use the keyboard at all (aside from optionally chat, but you can do that with the virtual keyboard as well), and the controller use has been extremely well implemented. After having run the tutorial and added a few missing functions (heatsink is not configured to name prolly the most important one) and changing only a couple to what I think was more convenient, I found that the controls felt quite natural and was ready to fly into the voids of space.

But still I found that the controls didn't cut it for me at all... In the past I've bought the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4 to play No Man's Sky, but the game was not compatible with them, even while it was stated in ste sales ad. I returned them and said that I'd most likely get them again when ED would come to the PS4 (there was no release date set then) and 2 days after I bought the ED disc, I bought the HOTAS again (actually the same ones I returned 3 months ago ).
Much as with the controller, I ran the tutorials to see how the HOTAS would fly and I was immediately in love with them - using them it felt a 100% natural flying and controlling my ship. Of course, I once again had to make a few minor adjustments to the pre-set controls (gotta say that for both the HOTAS and controller, the PS4 controls have been done very well for ED - there is little to no need to remap the default controls at all), including adding the heatsink.

Ever since that I've been flying with the HOTAS and enjoying ED even more than I could imagine! There's are a few bad things about the HOTAS though...
  1. For me the stick is a bit too small. I have pretty big hands (glove size XL is a tight fit), and the stick itself might have been 5mm higher for my hand to make it more comfortable to play with. I can still use the stick normally, but I do have to adjust my hand from time to time and straighten my indexfinger to avoid strain from that bit-too-short stick.
  2. Being summer here (Europe) now, the plastic stick makes my hand sweat a lot. I have a PS3 controlled which has added silicone for a better grip, and that's also less likely to make my hands steat. I'd love to have seen that added to the HOTAS as well, but it's a minor issue though.
  3. Having used the HOTAS for a month now, the internal mechanism has 'loosened' a bit and the deadzones have to be set. While I think this is only natural because the springs (well, I guess they use springs) come tight woven from the factory and using them will strech them somewhat. Once more a minor thing, setting deadzones fixes it most of the time, but my ship does tend to fly up a bit from time to time because of this. Pushing the stick inward a bit fixes it most of the time. Of course, I could set the spring strength with the knob at the bottom, but I think that might strech the springs even more over time...
  4. Last but not least, there are only 2 PS4 games that support the HOTAS right now: Elite Dangerous and War Thunder (a 'Free2Play' game).

Enough about the HOTAS, lets spend some time on Elite Dangerous right now...
For those unfamiliar with the game, it's actually a 4X sandbox game. This means that the game has no pre-set goal like most games have (reach level X, or kill boss Y), but you determine your own goals in the game. Of course, the game does have missions that you can optionally pick up, but those are more a means to gain money and learn the ropes of the game (both are certainly true at the early stages of the game), but other than that, YOU decide what you do in the sandbox of our universe. You could decided to become a space trucker, get the biggest freighter money can buy and then buy/sell stuff from various stations or do the FedEx missions those stations provide. Youc an also become a combat pilot and play the kill missions, get faction (Federation and Empire) ranks to unlock better combat ships and get special permits to enter certain systems (Sol is a Federation permit locked system) or planets, become a bounty hunter or even a pirate (and be hunted by other bounty hunters ). You can also decided to head to Sagittarius A* (the center of our galaxy over 25K lightyears from start) for that (PS4) trophy and explore everything you encounter along the way (exploration does pay off quite well BTW).

But that's not all ED has to offer. The game also gives a good insight into astrophysics and I gotta say that Frontier (ED's developer) has done a good job at that. I wasn't the brightest light at physics at school (I have a problem learning formulas just because they are true - I need to know why thanks to my Asperger's syndrome), but playing ED has learned me a lot about physics in general. So far, almost all I've seen in the game makes sense according to the laws of physics. The only thing that I think is bugged is when you're decending to a planet at low speed, and the planet's gravity is not pulling hard enough on your ship, while at landing it is...

Graphicsally I think ED is decent enough. While space itself is a black void, the stars and planets so have some variation, but it might have been bigger. When you look on the star system map, you can pick out most of the systems immediately, making a scout for earth-like worlds and terraform canditates very easy (too easy?), while on your ship's HUD you can already see what kind of planet you're dealing with. Landing on a planet is something that might provide more variation as well. So far I've seen the same landscapes over and over again with an occasional rare flora and scattered rocks and mining nodes.
On the other hand, when flying and using the in-game's photo mode you can make some real nice shots of the game. The ED subreddit has quite a lot of them (not as much as the NMS subreddid has though).

The soundtrack of ED pretty a good. It gives you a real space flight feeling, but when flying for hour after hour it might become pretty dull. It's not like most games where you have 100s of musical scenes that change from situation to situation but instead your randomly get one of the tracks ED offers. I mostly mute the game's soundtrack and instead play some of my own music.

It's also worth to mention that ED has an online gaming mode in either open play or closed group play (as usual, PS+ required) that allows you to fly in a wing-party if you and your friend are close enough to meet - space if infinate and it might take some time to meet up. If you and your friend are 1000s of lightyears apart, there's also an option to hop into your friend's ship and take a seat there (if the ship allows it). On that seat you can take the role of gunner while flying, but if the ship has a hangar, you can also from down in a smaller fighter and fight from there (these small fighters can also be used by NPCs you can hire). Alternatively, you can also add a 2nd (or bigger) vehicle bay and the 2 of you can ride the survaces of planets and moons.

It's not all positive though. There is no cross-platform play (most likely because SONY and MicroSoft could not agree on the server sharing as usual), but the game does use one main database for all 3 platforms (PC, PS4 and XBOX 1). With the PS4 version of the game having been released 2 years after the PC version, finding new systems/planets is kinda hard. More importantly for me is that because of it, I had to start all over again - I could not transfer my old PC data to the PS4. While not a biggie (I wasn't realy far on the PC after that 50 hours ), it might have given me an extra boost

Personally, I think Elite Dangerous is one of the best games available for the PS4 right now. Last month I've spent over 100 hours flying through space (I am on my way to Sagittarius A* right now with some massive detours) and I'm pretty sure that I'll be playing ED for months (if not years) to come. And while I'm still in a pretty nooby ship (Asp Explorer with little to no modifications), exploration goes pretty well as well as fending off pirates (though I'd advice against battle when so far off from 'civilization' - there are very few ports out there and a repair unit needs quite some materials to work). In general, if you're a SF lover and enjoy sandbox games, I really can recommend to get it!

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Linux - 1 week later
29 June 2017
Posted in Linux

I consider myself to be quite the computer veteran. Having started with PCs in 1989 (after 5 years of using home computers) and used a couple of different operating systems (started with DOS with later added QEMM/Desqview for 'multi-tasking' (or rather time-slicing on a 386DX machine), then OS/2 (versions 2.11, Warp 3 and Warp 4) to hop to Windows XP in 2002 and Windows 7 in 2007). But Linux is something completely different though. While the GUI is much like OS/2 and Windows had, the system that runs thingsin the background is completely different.

Like my programming activities where I learn the system begind the language, Iḿ taking a similar approach for Linux as well. And while it sounds like 'pun intended' with Linux being a system already, DOS, OS/2 and Windows all have in common that they more or less had the same 'grand mother', being DOS itself. It was not too hard to work on the command line of those opeating systems at all. From the earliest DOS version I used (which was 2.x iirc) up to the latest (version 6 of which I still have the 3.5"discs) as well as OS/2-DOS (which actually was caller that way) and the Windows DOS prompts, they all used the same commands, both native to the COMMAND.EXE (or CMD.EXE for Windows) as well as the external 'tools' that came with the DOS versions.
Linux is completely different. While the native commands are quite similar (dis, ls, rd and such), the administrative commands are totally different. The SUDO command allowing me to get into the administrative tools (which are equal to the external tools for DOS) are quite differently though. For that I'm reading some ebooks I've bought as well as using Google a lot to see how things work. Good thing though that there are also quite a lot of GUI tools (Synaptics being the most important one) to make things easier, but as said, I much rather learn how to use the system itself than let (3rd party) tools do things for me.

Then there's the thing about my programming tools. I wanted to be 'free' of Windows, and while knowing that not every tool I need is available for Linux (yet), I also didn't want to install WINE (Windows Is Not Emulated). Sadly though, that didn't seem to be an option for me. Certain Windows tools that I've been using while programming are too important not to use again, OR the data I've already created take too much time to convert them to a Linux equivalent (like my flowchard for the Modern System Reference Document - this image is already an old version). For these old tools, as well as some of my Steam applications that I'm missing I've decided to get WINE anyway...

Gaming under Linux is something important to mention as well. While I'm gaming more and more on my PS4 for the last haf year, there are still some games that I want to play. It's a good thing thatthose games are available for Linux and I have installed those. It's also fun to point out that a game like Borderlands 2 runs a lot smoother under Linux with all settings maxed out than it does under Windows
The only thing I need to figure out is how to get nVidia PhysiX to work under Linux. While not being overly important, I think it'll be one of those fun things to get to work. I've already seen that the nVidia drivers did install Vulkan (now figure out how to use it when programming ), but using both PhysX for my games (Borderlands 2 uses it) would be AWESOME. And for programming using them both at the same time would be great as well, though I think Vulkan might be stong enough already to ditch PhysX completely...

Last but not least, the Ubuntu community. I've subscribed to the /r/Ubuntu subreddit and I gotta say that the community is great. Asking questions doesn't result in downvotes and negative comments, it's quite the opposite (and something to get used to). When I ask a question, I get a lot of upvotes, even if people don't comment on it. And those people who comment come with real good answers. If you want to switch to Linux, I'd say get over there as well for some real good help and general information!

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Migrating to Linux
21 June 2017
Posted in Linux

With the HDD problems I've had last week, I finally managed to get Windows running again as it somewhat used to. Okay, I've lost some data -mainly gaming saves-, but nothing too important to mourn about. PC-gaming was already a non-issue for me since I got my PS4 Pro late January and the other data I lost are things I can download again. The most important data I already backed up last month or is stored on the development drive, which wasn't struck by the data loss at all...

As said, PC gaming becoming a non-issue for me kinda makes Windows more and more a non-issue for me. Sadly though, I still need to reply on Windows for only a couple of development tools which are not (yet) available for Linux. The two most important one is GeoVOX, which I use from time to time to create very nice terrains in Unity. Other tools like Grand Designer and Music Maker will be missed as well, but I'm not using those too much.
Then of course there's a search to replace other (smaller) tools, like WinAmp and find a good GUI shell for RAR compression (Linux has a text based version only).

But the most important thing that I was afraid of was the transision of my Thunderbird mailclient. For Windows I use MoxBackup to backup & restore my mail, and it's not available for Linux. Luckily though, I could just copy/paste the whole ./AppData/Roaming/Thunderbird/Profiles folder into my Ubuntu install. I also could have used Thunderbird --ProfileManager to point to that folder, but that'd mean I had to mount the Windows drive every time I boot Ubuntu (and I'm too lazy for that ). Not to mention, if I really want to use Linux, I'd better let go of Windows tools sooner than later...

Then my development progress using the Unity3D engine. Well, things couldn't be easier... Just copy/paste load the same project directory and go. I do get a warning that the version is a different one (Windows uses 5.6.0f3, while Linux uses 5.6.0xf3), but since it's practically the same version, its nothing to worry about.

It's only for my Unity development that I have to keep Windows installed on my PC. If I make a game some day (currently busy on the bare basics for one through multiple small~ish projects), I do need to make sure that it'll work under Windows as well. Other than that I will try to stick to Linux as much as possible. It's also worth to notice that I was already thinking to install Linux last month and had bought the full Linux book bundle from the Humble Bundle site. Now it's time to start reading them and learn while using Linux

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The importance of multiple HDDs, backups and a new beginning
17 June 2017
Posted in Linux

  /melodamatic on
I'm writing you from my ASUS EEE-netbook right now because my PC kinda got fucked up...
  /melodramatic off

Okay, seriously now... Yes, my PC got fucked up completely yesterday. but let me start at the beginning. I have 3 HDDs in my PC:
  1. Seagate Baracuda 250Gb (which is about 10 years old) for Windows boot
  2. Western Digital Caviar 1Tb (about 5 years old) for development
  3. Western Digital Caviar 2Tb (about 3 years old) for gaming
None of these drives have ever failed, but my Windows started to boot slower the last half year or so. So I decided to check the health of my HDDs, and that Seagate drive showed it had over 48K running hours (5 1/2 years ) and had an enormous amount of seek data errors (around 3 3/4 a second), while both WD drives had no seek data errors at all. This would imply that while the Seagate drive is still working without error, there's a chance that one day these errors might end up in mechanical errors, crashing the drive completely...

So I decided to remove the Seagate drive. For that I have an anormous amount of tools, but a PartedMagic build I have that includes CloneZilla was my software of choice. CloneZilla is a real powerful tool that allows you to copy disc to disc or partition to partition, including MBR restauration so that you'll be able to continue with your system where you left off.

I wish it all was that simple While I had used CloneZilla before to backup my Windows drive to prepare for Linux, this time things went from bad to worst.
I started by halving the gaming drive and move the partition to the end of the drive so that I had 1Tb free for the Windows partition that I'd clone and still had space to install Linux along side. While the repartitioning and cloning went well, the Windows partition ended up on the other half of the drive and it would not boot at all
I made a new try on the cloning and this time I said to also create a MBR (which I did not do in the previous step). This was something I better had not done! The cloning started as usual, but exited in an error after a few seconds - an error that was extremely cryptyc (what else do you expect from something running under Linux ). When I opened the file manager, the 2Tb drive has only 1 partition and it was EMPTY!

So yeah, I've lost my game drive, but that's not a real big deal. I haven't been gaming on my PC for the last half year or so thanks to the purchase of my PS4 Pro But there was some data on that drive (including the Linux ISOs that I need) that got lost and I need to redownload again.

With the gaming drive, the solution was to disc-clone the Windos drive onto the (now former) gaming drive and that went perfect. I added a new 1Tb partition for games at the end of it and I was good to go!
While Windows booted normally, the explorer kept on crashing with every instruction I wanted to do with it. I was only able to open it and brose my files, but anything else just crashed big-time For this I could not find a real solution online (hell, I fucked up most likely), and decided to start in save mode to copy stuff I needed in preperation of a clean install, but even there the explorer kept on crashing. OH YES, I WAS MAD!

Back to the drawingboard and reconsider my options (again) and the only thing I could think off was once again start PartedMagic and backup all stuff I REALLY care about (my development drive which also holds the /My Documents and /My Music directories) and install my PC from scratch. But how?
Well, with Windows (still using 7 Ultimate BTW) becoming less and less a thing for me because I'm not gaming anymore on the PC, I figured that the 1Tb drive would be perfect for Windows and the 2Tb drive should be used for Linux. The only problem though with Linux is that some of my development tools are Windows-only. Okay, the developers of these tools are considering to make a Linux version, but that might take some time still (which is exactly why I'm still in need of Windows).

Bottom line, I'm more than glad that I have 3 HDDs in my PC and have quite some backups. This also has added some speed to my plans to switch from Windows to Linux as well. I've bought the Linux eBooks earlier this month from Humble Bundle and thought to learn the ropes slowly, but it looks like I now need to learn while working with it (and reading the eBooks).
The only sad thing though is that I most likely have lost most of my (new) Opera browser bookmarks. I have managed to back up the directory where the Opera settings reside, but when I switch to Linux, I might not be able to import those. Same might go for my eMail client. I'm using Thunderbird, and for Windows there's a real good back-up tool for it. But I'm not so certain if and how to import the backup into Thunderbird for Linux (if it even exists).

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[REVIEW] Overwatch (PS4)
12 June 2017
Posted in Reviews

Overwatch is probably the new flagship of Blizzard, and I got to admit that the game is fun up to a certain level. And it's that level that really bothers me. Before going any further, I got to admit that I'm not a real PvP player and generally suck at arena PvP games...

I picked Overwatch up during it's 1st annevercary's 'free' weekend and I've played it quite a bit with my brother (he didn't buy the game but gave the free weekend a try). It brings me back to the late 90s where I played a lot of Tream Fortress Classic. Overwatch is somewhat similar, aside from not just having 1 char per class but several to choose from. Sadly there can be only one character per team in play, which means that from time to time you have to pick an other because you're too late selecting it

Overwatch does not really show a lot of diversety in levels. Actually, the number of maps is quite limited as well as the number of different conquests on the maps. Problem with the maps though is that when you're new to them, you have no freaking clue where the health is, what save spots are or where your objective is or brings you to. But that can all be learned by playing them a lot.
The conquests are a bit so-so - it's a lot of rinse & repeat IMO. The one I think is quite funny is where you have to escort a vehicle to a location, while the one I hate is the capture/defend spots. Since I haven't played it for about 2 weeks now I'm not even sure if there's an other kind of conquest available, if so, it didn't really impress me
The vehicle conquest is also one that's abused a lot. One team has to defend the wagon and gets the advantage to enter the map first. More than once I've seen spawn camping on the opposing team's location (who has to lead the transport to their location). This is some serious bad mechanic IMO!

Then the PvP in general. Back in the days of TFC we all used mouse & keyboard, and with Overwatch I see why MicroSoft is not allowing keyboard & mouse on their XBOX 1. On the PS4 there are clearly people using keyboard and mouse over controller (while that's not possible for this game, but CronusMAX does wonders in remapping). These people are having a HUGE advantage over most players who stick with their controller. I have seen players on their kill cam (I was the one killed obviously...) who rotated their camera, moved their character around, aimed and shot me, while they jumped. This is just impossible to accomplish when playing with a controller! I'm even wondering if they are using aimbot scripts with their CronusMAX...

Then about the price for this game... I think €60 after a year is still way too much for it. Most games that are this old already are discounted to €30 to €40. But this is Blizzard who is advertizing the game like there's no tomorrow, and with 30M sold copies you can keep charging that €60.
For me it's a good thing that I bought it during that annevercary discount for a mere €30. I've played the game for a 'good 10 hours' and selling the thing will give me €25 back. And even though I'm below that €1/hour I still think I've been bought by this game. It didn't give me really that 'good feeling' when playing it that so many other games gig. Perhaps that's because it's a PvP game and I'm getting too old for it..?

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Drums please!
19 May 2017
Posted in PlayStation

Having played both RB and GH for the last couple of weeks, I decided to step up a bit and switch from bass and guitar to drums. Certainly from bass (which I already play on hard mode for a lot of songs), I figured it would not be too hard to change to drums. After all, both kinda reflect the rhythm of the song. I could not have been more wrong about that!

I started with RB4 on medium difficulty, but that didn't fair too well. I found out that the gaming chair I have (the arm rests actually) is not really suited for playing drums and that was after I figured out at what height the chair had to be set to use the foot pedal without getting too much strain in my ankle. Also, on medium difficulty, the speed is still too high for me to catch up with.

So I switched to a dining table chair without arm rests and easy difficulty in RB4, but still that seemed a bit too high for me for now. Next up I changed to GH World Tour, but the lack of difficulty levels per instrument made the pickings pretty hard. Not to mention that beginner difficulty is way too easy for me and beginner difficulty (without knowing the instrument difficulty) was pretty hard at times. Next up was Band Hero (the only GH I have game with instrument difficulty shown) and all drums start with a 2/10 rating (or 1/5 stars in RB). Sadly though, none of those songs I know and it felt totally awkward to play them, making me fail a lot. Not to mention, the RB games use the chimes a lot, even at lower difficulties, which I think is kinda lame. IMO they should have started with just the 3 drums and foot pedal with occasional chime to get used to them.

As a last resort I switched to The Beatles RB. This was the one I needed to get started! I know the majority of the songs and it has 0/5 star songs to get used to playing drums. Sadly though, having a GH drum set and not a RB drum set, I had to use the left chime as yellow drum (right chime is not working in The Beatles RB, while in RB4 it plays the green drum), and that proofed to be difficult at times. Not because it's the chime itself, but rather hopping from yellow to blue at times and missing the chime at times because of it.
In general I managed to get all songs from the 1st set on 4 stars and even 2 on 5 stars (on easy difficulty). I think that's a good start for playing an irregular drum for the game, and a good starting point to up the stakes later on. Stakes being either the 2nd set (1/5 star difficulty) or reach all songs on 5 star in the 1st set, or even up difficulty to normal for the 1st set.

An other thing I need to learn is to change the way I measure the music's beat. I normally so it with both my feet, with left being the actual count and right every 3rd or 4th beat. Well, I can't do that with the drums, because that'd cause me a lot of failures when the foot pedal is not used Instead I think I should use only my toes or heel on the right when the foot pedal is not used. With that, I do need to get used to playing both drums and foot pedal from time to time. I noticed that even on beginner difficulty that's the one thing causing the most problems (other than missing the left chime from time to time).

Of course, this does show that I do need a RB drum set as well, or rather instead of the GH drum set. I think 4 drums are easier to master than 3 drums and 2 chimes (or 1 chime when playing RB games ) for the simple reason that the drums are all on the same level and I only need to change horizontally instead of also vertically.
Sad thing though, where the GH drums are easy to get and are pretty cheap (around €30 inc P&P), the RB drums are rather expensive. The ones I've seen that work with the PS4 start at €50 without P&P, while the cheaper ones always have some 'problem' along side. I've seen one for €35 inc P&P but was never tested, while an other is missing the floor stand. Alternatively, I could buy the MIDI console for the PS3 and see if I could get a semi-professional drum set, but then it'd end up around €200 minimum (and my wife prolly would diforce me ). In general it means that for now I'll have to stick with the GH drum set to get used to it

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Guitar Hero vs Rock Band (or rather Activision vs Harmonix)
11 May 2017
Posted in PlayStation

As I've written in my previous post, I've discovered rhythm games and by now I've taken a deep dive into it. Since the last post, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X has arrived and I've played it a lot, but I've also taken my sense of rhythm to the instrument games of Guitar Hero (Activision) and Rock Band (Harmonix), and I'll give you my take on these two IPs/publishers.

Let me start with the list of games that I have acquired by now.
For Activision's (Guitar) Hero series it is Band Hero, DJ Hero 1 & 2, Guitar Hero 3, World Tour and Van Halen, with Metallica & Aerosmith still in the mail (they should arrive any day now). Last but not least, I also got Guitar Hero Live, but more on that later on in this post as well.
For Harmonix' Rock Band series, the list is somewhat shorter: The Beatles Rockband and Rock Band 4 and Rock Band Blitz (digital download), with Rock Band 3 still in the mail.
For ease of reference, I'll write GH for all Activision games & hardware (unless I need to specify a game) and RB for the Harmonix games.

Let me start with the hardware, or rather the controllers. I have 2 GH guitars (one from World Tour and the other from Band Hero), and one drums set from Band Hero. Sadly I don't have any RB controllers, but no worries there, they are exchangeble between the two publishers, except that the Mad Catz (Harmonix) guitars won't work on GH Aerosmith (according to a wikia I found - no clue why though).
You will also hear that the Activision drums are not compatible with RB, but that's not true. They are compatible, but with RB using 3 drums and 2 chimes and RB using only 4 drums, there is some kind of 'conversion' when playing. The left (yellow) chime of the GH drums is the yellow RB drum, while both the blue chime and green drum from the GR drums are the green drum on RB. It is something to get used to, but with RB drums being extremely expensive (€100 and more without P&P), the GH drums are an alternative. The RB drums set also has an 'Pro' expansion that'll add 3 chimes to them, which is not compatible with GH at all.

Then the games. Harmonix has put a lot of effort to make all games downward compatible by allowing imports of the old songs into the new games. Sadly for me though, I started too late and I can't import RB 1 & 2 anymore because Harmonix' license for these songs have expired While the track packs can still be imported when using a new copy of them (or being lucky and find an old copy with an unused key in them - I'd rather not chance it ). These imports are also compatible from PS3 to PS4 (or XB360 to XB1 - XB1 users keep in mind that you DO need to buy a legacy adapter convertor though)
GH games on the other hand don't have any import from other games. They are all stand alone games with a number of songs in them that you can play. And while talking about GH, here Activision shows it's ugly face. With GH Live, they really said to screw their loyal fans by making the old controllers no longer compatible with the new game and came with a completely new controller. Needless to say that this incarnation of the game is the least popular - when browsing 2nd hand sale sites (like craighs list, ebay on my Dutch for Guitar Hero, you see an aweful huge number of GH Live games.

An other thing that shows a clear difference in approach of the games between GH and RB is a difficuulty meter. All of my GH games, except for Band Hero, don't show a difficulty level of the instrument played, while all RB games do have one. For starting playeds like me it's something that's really required, because some songs have such a high learning curve to play (read: lots of notes to shift to and from) that playing them on hard (which I perfer) is kinda hard. Also, in RB's practive mode you can also control the speed of the song from 70% up to 100% to learn certain hard parts, while in GH you can just practive the song af normal speed. This alone makes the RB series my favorite one . Also, The Beatles Rod Band is *THE* perfect game to learn how to play rhythm games in general, solely because back in the 60s they didn't do such extreme things with the guitars in general

As a metal head, I'd prefer the Guitar Hero (not DJ Hero or Band Hero or Live) series because they hold a lot of rock and metal songs, while RB has more songs for a wider audience (pop, R&B, rap/hip hop up to all sorts of metal). But I gotta say that there's a lot of songs in all of games that I've never heard of, both rock & metal as all other genres. And those songs are the most challenging ones actually. I just play them and see where the rhythm flows me.

Last but not least, online play. GH series are all very old already (except for Live), but their online play is still available, but that doesn't mean that you'll have a chance to play with (or against) anyone though. But when you have someone on your friendlist with the game game, you can make arrangements for it.
RB(4) on the other hand has an online module for sale in the console's store (for a 'mere' €30 and it does include a couple of songs as well). I've watched streams on the PSNetwork and there's a lot of people playing in co-op mode there. This makes RB(4) a very good online game to play I'd say. Sadly though, most people playing online are playing on EXPERT mode and the hardest songs, which for me is still a long way to go

In general, I think both GH (except Live) and RB are very good games, though I lean more toward RB than GH. If you don't mind playing only career mode with a 'small' (around 65) set of songs and still own a PS3/XB360, then GH games are a good and cheap option. If you want more songs (over 500 with an ever expanding library) and optionally online play, then RB is the one for you.

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[REVIEW] Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone
01 May 2017
Posted in Reviews

If you've said to me that I'd be playing rhythm games, I'd be laughing real hard. Not because I don't have a sense of thythm, but because (opinion) they are all about high beats per minute (BPM) and thus you'll end up with house and techno pretty quick, a genre that's one I'd rather not listen to (not at all!).
That was until I decided to give Hatsune Miku: DIVA Future Tone a try. I've seen is from time to time already and it's been popping up in the PlayStation store as a possible interest for me (probably because I'm playing jRPGs a lot), so I figured to give it a try...

Hatsune Miku: DIVA Future Tone is a 'Free2Play' game, and I've put the quotes around Free2Play on purpose. Normally, F2P gives you quite a huge portion of the game, or even the complete game, and microtransactions (cash shop) are available for player convenience. Sadly tough, with Hatsune Miku, the F2P part of the game contains only 2 songs and the tutorial (Ievan Polkka). A tutorial that's not available in the F2P game itself, but is contained in one of the DLC packages. The 2 songs that are included are of decent difficulty (3 of 10 stars on easy mode), to give you a good idea of what to expect.

The DLC is there wht fun begins with the game though. There are a couple available, all with a different amount of songs. Where the 3 'Encore Pack's each contain only 4 songs for €9.99 (or €24.99 as season pack, including the Unlock for all cosmetics), the 'Future Sound' and 'Colorful Tone' packs each hold over 100 songs each from older Hatsune Miku games (also with a lot of cosmetics) for 'only' €29.99. With those 2 big packs I think the fun of the game really gets started.

When playing the game, you're shown some sort of videoclip. Most of the time I'm not really paying attention to what's happening on the screen, other than just watch the notes and rhythm, but my wife watched it a bit and thought that the models were very well animated. They dance very life like and (aside from being obvious manga), you could be watching a videoclip on tv.

There is a HUGE downside to the game though. All songs are in Japanese, and while not being bad per-se, the way the game is made it might be. Game series like 'Guitar Hero' and 'Rock Band' (bought a couple of those already - will give you my take on them later this month) are purely made on the rhythm, and you need to play the tones, while with Hatsune Mike the game switches from tones to singing from time to time. And while the sung parts are still within the rhythm, not knowing what's being sung gives a disadvantage. I've already found myself just mashing buttons at times just to (hopefully) keep up with the incoming amount of notes I have to match
It's also worth noticing that Hatsune Miku: DIVA Future Tone is not holding any story like the other Hatsune Miku games have. It's just a collection of songs that you have to play. There is no 'progress' in the game, other than that you'll get some virtual currency that you can use to unlock the tons cosmetics that are available in the game.

In general, I think that Hatsune Miku: DIVA Future Tone is really worth a shot if you're into rhythm games. The €29.99 for the over 100 songs is a bargain as well when you think that the average song is about 2 1/2 minute long and each song has 4 difficultly levels to beat. It'll take you hours upon hours (at least 20 hours if you succeed at all songs at first try) to clear all songs with at least a grade 'C', but of course, it's the PERFECT performances that you'll be aiming for

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[UPDATE] Playstation 4 review - internal HDD vs USB3 HDD
21 April 2017
Posted in Reviews

In my review of the Playstation 4 Pro, I spoke about periphals as well, including the USB3 external harddisc. I said that the speed of the internal harddisk was about on-par with the USB3 external harddisk. Now I can confirm this, but the external USB3 harddisk is a bit slower than the internal one though.

Yesterday my brother and I played Elder Scrolls online and we teamed up to do some quests together, which included a lot of going in and out of buildings and the Thieves guild. Those are the moments when the game loads it's assets from the harddisk. With my brother only using the internal harddisk and me having dropped ESO on the external one, the (slight) difference in speed became clear.
Where we both were about at the same time to exit an area (or to enter a new one - take your pick ), he was always a bit earlier in the game again then I was. The difference was about a second or so (and with ESO loading really a lot of assets for the world, it's almost nothing), there was a bit of a delay when loading from the external harddisk.

I also noticed this difference when playing Games of Thornes - a Tell Tale series (I'll give you my review on it later this month). I've bought the season pass disc with the first 5 games on the BluRay disc and the 6th one being downloaded. That download was stored on the external HDD automatically and when I reached the 6th season of the game, I noticed that the game was loading a bit slower compared to the load from the BluRay drive.

This means that (as I said), the external harddisk indeed is a bit slower than the internal one, and it's barely noticable. But when you're playing a game in multi-player mode, it advisable to have that game on the internal harddisk instead of the external one. Also, very small games (those under 3Gb, and most likely indie games) can be easily installed on the external harddisk. These games will load in one go and most likely have very little assets to load when switching maps/areas.

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Reasons for the change to console gaming
19 April 2017
Posted in General

If you've been following my blog, you know that I've been a PC gamer for the last 10 year - but that time is not quite accurate. I've been a PC gamer for the last 30 years already, it all started back in 1985 when I bought my first Atari 800XL and in 1989 when I bought my first 8088 CPU based IBM compatilbe PC (not gonna tell you how much I paid for that thing... ). During that time I've had consoles for a short period of time, but I never really could set myself to playing on them - that is aside from Final Fantasy VII on the PS1, which I almost compeltely played through.

But times change as do I. When in the past I loved to play games on my PC, these days I'm no longer really enjoying it. Partly because of my physical condition, partly for the costs and partly because consoles are no longer a 'lesser piece of hardware'.
On the latter part, I advice you to read my previous blog entry where I reviewed my PS4 Pro, and search the internet for the hype around the upcoming XBOX Scorpio. Both are extremely powerful consoles that they are at the lower to middle end of the gaming PC market. The only difference with their PC counterparts is that the consoles have fixed hardware configurations, while the PC does not. This saves the developer a lot of time to make their games compatible with every possible hardware configuration and put that development time (and CPU power) into other parts of their games.

About the physical part for the change I can be very short. With the chronic fatigue I'm experiencing, sitting for hours and play games with mouse and keyboard is just too straining. Instead I'd much rather pick up a controller and sick back on my o-so comfy gaming chair (I bought one last month and it also helped against a lot of backpain I've had the last year) and play games in a more relaxed way. Sadly though, a lot of PC games have no or very limited controller support, so that was kinda a no-go there to keep playing PC games

And then costs. This is more a two fold issue than a single one. I'm talking both hardware and software here.
My current PC is getting old. That Phenom 1090T is still running smoothly, but it's performance is (as stated in my PS4 Pro review) getting to the lower end of the PC performance already, while the GTX970 that my PC has is still okay, but beeing bottlenecked by the CPU at times (Black Desert online shows it so well). I've made a calculation what a new PC would cost me, and it ranges from around €500 up to €900 (both without buying HDDs, GPU and a case), but then I'd have the latest AMD Ryzen CPU series. A series that require me to buy new RAM (DDR4) as well and motherboards that are more expensive than the one I'm currently using, not to mention a future FORCED upgrade to Windows 10 (still running 7 ultimate and not wanting to get 10 at all - I'd much rather switch to Linux). Not to mention that to keep PC's 'up to speed' you should build/upgrade a PC every 3 years, shile consoles have a much longer lifespan (PS2 has been in production for nearly 15 years iirc). Compare that to the €400 I paid for my PS4 Pro and you see the first reason why consoles are cheaper...

The other part is software, or rather games. Where on the PC 99% of the games are digital (even when buying a boxed copy with CD), on consoles you have a choice between ditigal or physical copies (and those buying the digital copies for the same price are just CRAZY for the upcoming reason ). When I look at the Playstation Store (and I guess it also goes for the XBOX store), a digital copy of a game has the same price as the physical copy, and when a game gets older, the digital copy is in most cases even more expensive than the physical one !! But when you buy a physical copy of a game, you can play it, compelte it and when you're done with it, you can sell it again, or even trade with friends for an other game. You can't do that with digital copies of a game (aside from 5 friends on Steam who you'd give access to your library, but they'll be kicked from the game the moment you start to play).
An other very point people forget about are cheaters in games. You have them in almost every PC game, and certainly if there's competition involved of some kind. Aimbots, hacks & exploitsm cheating and more of that stuff happens a lot in PC games, while on consoles it's virtually non-existant (I know that some games have issues, but that comes more from bad coding than 3rd party software).

Will this all mean that my current PC is my last one? Certainly not! That CPU of mine is about 7 years old already and I'd be lucky if the thing will reach it's 10th birthday Not to mention, I'm still using the PC for my programming activities (though not as much as I used to / want to) and the developments on that front are still ongoing as well. I seriously think I should build a AMD Ryzen PC because of it's so well done muti-threading, but that's probably something for next year or so. I do however realize that my next PC might be one of the last one I might build/buy...

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