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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 marktplaats.nl) 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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[REVIEW] Playstation 4 Pro
11 April 2017
Posted in Reviews

It's time for my first review, and let me kick off with that one thing that I'm using for most of the reviews. Yes, that's right, my Playstation 4 Pro! While I haven't owned a 'regular' Playstation 4, I can't compare it to it, but I can make some comparison with the older Playstation 3 and my current PC when it comes to performance. Now I realize that the Playstation 3 is a total unfair match to say the least, but there are 2 games that I used to play on it (Destiny and Final Fantasy XIV: A Real Reborn) that I can use as a reference. The same goes for my PC, but the thing is pretty old and I think it's old enough (AMD Phenom II X6 1090T with 16GB DDR3 RAM and a GTX970) to make the PS4 Pro a compatitor anyway Last but not least I will also give my thoughts on the 4K features the Pro (and the upcoming XB1 Scorpio) have. Also an important note that I will not get into the technical specifications of the PS4 pro. There are already enough topics on that part on the net and while I know a lot about PC technical building, consoles is a totally different thing and (for now?) out of my legue.
I will cut this review down in the follwing parts: (loading) speed, graphics, controller and periphels and VR (not owning one [yet], but what I've read about it). I will end the review with my view on 4K and HDR in general.

(Loading) speed
Compared to the PS3 here the PS4 Pro certainly has gained a lot. I've read that the PS4 Pro uses SATA3 for the HDD input/output and you notice that a lot. When comparing the loading speed (along with the graphics buildup) in FFXIV the difference is significant. Where on the PS4 it took me about 10 seconds to zone from one map to the next and then had to wait at least the same time for all non-map objects (mainly other players, characters and houses), the PS4 zones in a couple of seconds (3-5) and the build up of the non-map objects is almost completely done when you're entering the map. I realize that this difference in time is also related to the graphical power the PS4 Pro has, but is certainly also has to do with the general HDD and CPU speed difference between the 2 consoles. On the other hand, Destiny on both consoles shows about the same speed when loading, where the PS4 wins by just a little bit.
Comparing the PS4 with my PC and then specifically The Elder Scrolls online, I think they are about on-par with eachother. I think my PC is a bit faster, but that's more thanks to the faster GPU I have than the CPU.

Graphics
This is probably the most important selling feature of the PS4 Pro, and more specifically the power to feed 4K display, but is it? I've watched a 4K/HDR gameplay video of Mass Effect: Andromeda (on 1080p though - I don't own a 4K monitopr/TV), and I thought it looked very good. But after I bought the game myself, I noticed a couple of differences, where the 4K/HDR video came short compared to my plain 1080p gameplay. One of the most distinctive differences is where Ryder 'lands' on the planet and her helmet is broken. On the 4K/HDR video she just reparis it, while on my 1080p monitor I saw gas (oxigen obviously) escape through the cracks of her helmet.
When comparing FFXIV between the PS3 and PS4 (aside from the difference of 720p vs 1080p), the difference in graphical power becomes more obvious between the two consoles. Where on the PS3 the graphics looked very good (for that old console ), on the PS4 the game became alive. The colors were more vibrant, you'd see sun rays and the floor was more detailed (texture wise, not resolution).
Comparing ESO between my PC and PS4, I think the PS4 wins by a bit, because ESO is optimized for the PS4 Pro and thus makes use of the extra power it provides, while for the PC need to use custom settings and then bottleneck my GPU through my CPU. I gotta admit though that I haven't played ESO for over 2 years on the PC though and can't tell how it looks now...
I am able to compare games between 'normal' and 'Pro enhanced'. Most games that are 'Pro enhanced' do have the option to toggle it off (WHY?) and the best example is shown with Horizon: Zero Dawn. The 'Pro enhanced' option for 1080p is a lot of extra super sampling, which makes the game even more impressive than it already is. I've also watched a couple of streamers who use 1080p and you also see the difference then between the 'Pro enhanced' and the 'normal' game. I think for this clear difference alone it's worth to buy a PS4 Pro, even more when you take into account that SONY wants more developers to make special 'Pro enhanced' features for their games.
There is one downside though on the extra power the PS4 Pro puts into it's GPU - NOISE. When playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, at times the fans of the console start to blow pretty hard (even on my 1080p with additional supersampling from the 'Pro enhanced' options). When playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, things even get worse with the fans blowing almost the entire game. Yes, that's right, the GPU generates a lot of heath when pushed to the limits, so make sure that there's enough airflow at the back. Also worth to note that while regular games and there's not enough airflow around the PS4, the fans will start to blow out heath as well, so DO NOT place the PS4 Pro in closed spaces like TV cabinets.

Controller and periphals
The controller, perhaps the most important thing for a gamer these days and when it comes to Playstation, a point of discussion. In the past (PS1 till PS3), the controllers were made for the smaller Japanese/Asian hands and we Western players had to deal with it and get cramps after a while OR buy a 3rd party controller that would fit our bigger hand better. And when comparing these old controllers with the XBOX controllers, they were REALLY TINY. It's good to report that the PS4 has a slightly bigger controller that also fits our larger Western hands. And while it's still a bit too small for me, at least I can play for hours without cramping or fatigueing my hands. Sadly though, the controller is still hard plastic and after a while, and certainly intense, playing you'll notice that it'll get moist from your hands sweating
An other important thing to mention is the keyboard, or lack of SONY making one for the PS4, while there was a very good PS3 clip-on keyboard available. Instead you need to buy a 3rd pary keyboard and the ones that are available to clip-on the PS4 controller just suck balls. Their bluetooth connection fails a lot, the battery depletes very fast and they feel cheap in general. Instead you're bound to buy a larger keyboard, either wired or bluetooth. I've bought a bluetooth one at a discounter which is intended for tablets and works very well with the PS4. The only downside though is that when in a game and I need to type a message, I do need to put down the controller
Ans speaking about periphals, lets start about the USB ports as well. The PS4 Pro has 3 of them (the PS4 Slim has 2) with one at the back. Of course, I've added a USB3.1 HUB on the one at the back to connect extra stuff, like my microphone, the LEGO NFC console. Those work perfectly fine, and I can even use it to charge my controllers. But adding an external harddrive for external storage on the HUB (possible since firmware 4.5) is a no-go. The external storage MUST be connected to it's own USB slot...

VR
As said, I don't own a VR set yet and what I'll be writing here is from hear-say. Generally, if you're totally into VR and think you need a PS4 Pro for it, then think again. There have been a lot of tests on the net on the topic. Yes, there is some difference between the representation of VR on a PS4 Slim and Pro, but the difference is so small that at times you don't even notice if you're playing on a Slim or Pro. Okey, when you see the difference, it's on the Pro, but if you already own a PS4, there's no need to upgrade to the Pro just for VR...

1080p, 4K, HDR and my view on it
I've posted a question on the MMORPG.com forums about a 24" 4K monitor and if it's wise to purchase it. There were quite some interesting responses to it with opposing opinions about size, distance and minimum width a 4K monitor should be. But one of the most interesting responses there dropped me to a chart that shows resolution vs screen size vs optimal viewing distance:

Image title

This chart shows that to benefit the most from your 4K resolution, you practically have to sit on top of the screen. In the case of that 24' monitor I saw, I have to sit 2' (60cm) away from the screen to fully benefit from it and if I sit up to 3' (90cm) away from it, it looks like 1080p already Now take this to larger (TV) screens that are 40", then the optimal distance is 2.5' (75cm) and at 5' (150cm) it starts to look like 1080p alread. When looking at the maximum on this chart (145" - anyone even has a TV like this ) you gotta sit a bit under 10' (300cm) for the optimal distance and from around 19' (570cm) it looks like 1080p (and not take into account that in Japan the TV broadcasters are already using 8K...). This makes me wonder how useful 5K is in general.

Then about HDR. I've read a post that people would benefit more from 1080p HDR than from 4K (with or without HDR) and that's very interesting. Even more that up to now there are NO 1080p HDR screens available, but instead all HDR screens are 4K (see my point just above here). But that's going to change. SONY has finally seen the light and announced their Bravia 1080p HDR line of TVs, a step most likely intended for PS4 users, but also XB1 Scorpio users will benefit from it. And I think that when these TVs hit the market later this year, the PS4 Pro might become an even better console than it already is, because now developers have choises to make when using 4K and where to cut performance. But when you use 1080p with the 'Pro enhanced' options (super sampling and more details mostly) along with HDR, gaming on the PS4 Pro might just become a bit more awesome than it already is!



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Reviewing games and how I'll be doing it
08 April 2017
Posted in Reviews

I've been reading reviews about (Playstation) games a lot lately, and I found them lacking on serveral fronts. My main complaint is that most of these reviews feel like paid reviews, where every game gets at least 9/10 while at times games feel like utter crap and totally don't live up the promises or expectation (yes I'm looking at you Mass Effect:Andromeda ). This also might be because a lot of gaming reviewers get a free copy and don't care about playing through a game within a couple of hours, while the game itself costs 65 or even more!
The other problem I have with gaming reviews is that only the 'major titles' are reviewed. When you're playing an indie game or a less known AAA-game, you have to search the internet for a (decent) review, or even turn to YouTube for some gameplay videos to see what the game is like.

With the revival of the Pages from Sages site, and me now playing a lot on the Playstation 4, I figured to start reviewing the games I play without adding a number to it. The ratings given to g ames are all personal and what I think is an awesome game, you might think sucks balls (and vice versa). Instead, I'll just write my opinion on the game (I might make vlogs later on) with a couple of points you might take into account when buying the game.

What I think is important to a game is totally different from (professional) game reviewers on some points. Here's how I'll be reviewing games:
  - Price per hour
  - Graphics
  - Music & sound effects
  - General gaming atmosphere
  - Promises / expectations (hype) vs delivery
  - Boxed vs Digital

I realize that 3 out of 6 are pretty regular, while 'Price per hour' and 'General gaming atmosphere' are the odd ones. Let me try to explain the other trhee though...

Price per hour
My brother and I have been playing computer games for over 30 years by now. We started out with the Atari 2600 system and have seen the whole gaming (r)evolution through home computers, PCs and consoles. And we both think that over time the main focus has been shifted the wrong way. Where in the past you'd have (by our current standards) ugly graphics and sounds with kick-ass gameplay that you could play for 100s of hours (Baldur's Gate and The Elder Scrolls Morrowind), now you'd have the opposite. Games tend to become more and more polished (Horizon: Zero Dawn) with almost all dialogues being voiced-over, but lacking deep gameplay, lenght of play and even re-play value (Horizon: Zero Dawn again - you can finish it in 25 hours !!).
For this reason both my brother and I feel that a 1 per hour played is a decent price. I realize that new games with this rating might not end up well though. With an average 65 for a new console game and the current trend of games becoming shorter and shorter, that 1/hour standard is hard to hit.
*I will review this feature on both retail price and what I've paid for it*

Promises / expectations (hype) vs delivery
Oh yes, HYPE. One of the biggest killer of games (No Man's Sky). Developers say that their games will be the 'next coming of Jesus' and gamers make up stuff from alpha gameplay footages that's not even there (once again No Man's Sky). While I'm no longer jumping hype trains for upcoming games, I do keep an eye out for the hype people put on games, while promises are easy to search back after the game has been released. I realize that by the time I play games (I don't have the money to grab every new game so I will go for either 2nd hand or discounts) the hype is mostly gone, but it's always easy to look back on it afterward and thus give a verdict on that as well.

Boxed vs Digital
I admit, I'm a DRM freak and I loathe the fact that most games cost the same digitally as they cost boxed. I mean, WHY? Digital content should be cheaper because it lacs the price of the physical box and distribution of it, while ditigal content only exists as one copy on a server that can be downloaded to your console (or PC). And it still baffles me that people are still so dumb to buy digital games for 65 and when they switch to the next gen console or are done playing, they can't sell th game anymore. And I'm not even talking about those 'digital deluxe editions' that come with an extra soundtrack and PDF booklet, while I can get those on CD and paper when I buy the boxed deluxe edition for the same price. I personally think that digital content should be at least 10% cheaper and that the 'digital deluxe editions' should just be ditched alltogether. But well, people are dumb enough to buy it, and where there is a demand, there's always some one to supply...
So how will I review this? Once again, I dont't have the money to buy every deluxe edition out there (though I really wish I'd have in some cases!), but I can make a comparison of what you get for the same money when you buy boxed or digital.

Last but not least, I will only review games that I play. Which would mean that there will be little to no shooters, horror & survival games and sport games will be found here. I mainly like open world and (j)RPG games and I can write about that with a passion.

Also worth to note that from time to time I will review hardware. But with consoles being quite limited in hardware, don't expect a lot of that here though. When reviewing hardware, you have to think more in the line of add-on items like streaming cards, new controllers and such stuff...


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One year later - let's recap a bit...
06 April 2017
Posted in General

I know I've already declared this blog dead twice, but blood is thicker than water they say... So before I restart the blog alltogether again, let me first recap the last year. A lot has happened on all fronts - some for the good, some for the worse.

Psychological
I think here the most has happened. For those who've followed my twitter feed and have read my programming blog might have picked up some about it. July last year my psych thought I might also have a bipolar disorder. This was confirmed that next month, when I was about to walk away from everything and step out of it. I realize that was a stupid thing to do, and luckily I'm under treatment now for both my Asperger's syndrome and bipolar disorder (no direct for my ADD, because of my intolerance of medication) For the bipolar disorder I'm on medication (Depakine) on a very low dosage (600mg a day while 2500-3000mg a day is 'normal' for my weight), because the psych ordered a DNA research, which showed that I'm 'low metabolic' for most anti-psychotics and thus need a very low dosage (this also explains why I went into a psychosis from the ritalin back in 2012).
I'm happy to report that the medication is doing wonders to my moods and my psych is keeping a close eye on the moods as well. I'm also happy to say that my 'mood swing curve' is pretty stable at around 4-5 months, meaning that whenever I'm sliding towards a depression (just got out of one), I can start on the anti-deprssives that I have.

Physical
Nothing much to report here I think. I still suffer from the Osteoarthritis in my knees and at times it aches so much that I need a cane to walk (which I refuse most of the time and just limb around a bit ).  Same goes for the B12 deficiency I have, for which I still get supplemented every other week.
On the other hand though, there are some side effects from the Depakine that I'm taking (even on this low dosage !!), which include diziness and being lightheaded. My psych thinks I might suffer from low blood pressure as side effect (something I am already familiar with), and coming Monday I have an appointment with my doctor (for the B12 suppletion) to check it. There's no real reason to be alarmed though, because I haven't fainted yet

The lawsuit - I'VE WON!
Yes, that's right. November last year I've had a hearing (again) at the UWV because I appealed for the dismissal of my invalidity social security allowance (WIA) for my work as a mailman. Luckily, the one who was handling my file was sick (again as my lawyer told me) and someone picked it up for him. She re-reviewed my file, saw the error that was made and reinstated my WIA allowance again by declaring me 68.62% unfit for work (which is actually a loss of income I'd have). This was early January, 4 days before the hearing at court. Of course, I went through with the hearing because there were still a couple of things that were not quite right yet. That hearing I lost, but the lawsuit was won
Now there are 2 next steps in the whole process:
  1. I've gone to the High Court because the judge didn't make a final ruling on one of the points we brought up, which it's a very important one. Sadly though, this might take a year or 2 before anything comes from it
  2. I've filed an other lawsuit for rejecting my appeal for the mailman part. Unlike the previous lawsuit, in this one the medication I'm taking has to be taken into account, and my lawyer and I think that they didn't do that as well as they should. And of course, the point above will be filed for as well.
If either one will come through, chances are that I'll be fully unfit for work (which, according to my opinion, I sadly am).

Now about gaming
Sadly, I've given up on PC gaming completely. The way I need to sit to control keyboard and mouse are too fatiguing for me Instead, I've bought a Playstation 4 Pro late January and amd enjoying the thing a lot! And with it's build-in streaming functions I'm streaming my games from time to time. My brother also has bought a PS4Pro only recently and we're playing a lot of games in co-op mode during the evenings for a couple of hours. The fun stuf that we encounter while playing I normally save and upload to my YouTube channel for all to watch and enjoy. I'll also be using my YouTube channel to stream as well (whenever I'm feeling good enough that is).


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The end of PagesFromSages.com #2
10 March 2016
Posted in General

I've announced last year that I'd end the Pages from Sages blog, but was talked into keeping it. Sadly tough, I'm no longer extremely active in the gaming scene and the games I am playing I will not be blogging about. As for my personal situation, things go from bad to worst and as I said back then, I will not make this blog a derge.

That means I won't renew the registration for the domain coming June and it'll be for the grabs to all. If you want to re-read the old posts, I'll keep a backup copy of the site available at pfs.erne.nl, for which I will be redirecting the site to starting coming weekend (have to make some script adjustments first).

I would like to thank you all for the support you've given me the last 9 years <3


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Phenom II X4 955 and Linux performance
25 February 2016
Posted in Linux

That was a real quick delivery. The AMD Phenom II X4 955 CPU I bought 2nd hand two days ago came in this morning. And while this CPU is getting close to a decade old design, it's still a very good one IF taken care of. Just look at the Phenom II X6 1090T in my main PC, that thing is already 6 years old and still working perfeclty (and beating the newer ADM FX-6300 series as well ). Oddly enough, the X4 955 is listed as a 125W CPU on the AMD site, while listed as 95W in the MSI CPU support page of the motherboard I'm using But I guess if MSI tells me that the CPU should work fine, all will be okay

Then the performance of the CPU under Linux... Aside from still trying to learn the ropes of Linux and figure out how all works, a testrun with XCOM: Enemy Unknown went so-so.

 photo Screenshot from 2016-02-25 18.36.45_zpsatbuyshe.png

I know 'so-so' doesn't sound too well, but the problem was not related to the CPU but rather the GPU. Instead of the on-board GPU, I decided to buy a cheap-ass nVidia GT 240 (1Gb) card to have some better performance and be able to play some games. And while the GT 240 isn't a bad card, it's an old one to current standards, and with XCOM requiring something more powerfull (nVidia 600+ series minimum), on 720p and rather low settings the performance was pretty good. I did try to play the game on 1080p, but that was clearly a no-go with 15FPS max

And while at it, I also kept a close eye on the CPU and RAM usage, as well as temperature of the GPU. And honestly, I gotta say that I was somewhat impressed by how well it all ran. The CPU didn't go over 90% while playing XCOM, RAM used didn't exceed 3Gb and the GPU didn't get over 52C, making the test a success. The only thing I might do is add an extra 4Gb of RAM, because a 64-bit operating system running on the 4Gb RAM it has now is generally considered odd...

And while it's tempting to play games on the Linux machine, that's not the reason I have it. I have it for 2 purposes:
  1. As mentioned earlier I want to change from Windows 7 (Ultimate x62) to Linux in time. If possible later on this year, but there's no real hurry for the change. I still have to figure out how to move stuff like my mail and bookmarks (in 3 different browsers ) from Windows to Linux. I need to figure out how to get certain Windows-only programs to run under Linux (I know: Wine, but how to configure it to the max I mean). And more such things.
  2. I want a machine to test the games I'll be making. I also want a machine that I can use as (test)server for an online game I want to make, be it either MMO or co-op but at least with a dedicated database behind it.

I know, lots of thought on the use of that Linux machine, but for now it's just a 'learning experience' only. I don't care if I screw up the configuration and have to reinstall Linux again (already installed it twice now)...


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