writing about tech

Month: March 2015

The Juxtaposition of Bloodborne and Dragon Age: Inquisition

This weekend, I divided my gaming time equally between Dragon Age: Inquisition and Bloodborne. It was an unexpectedly interesting juxtaposition.

I started off with Dragon Age and while I remember enjoying it at the time, on reflection, the experience ultimately felt…hollow. Like running on a treadmill; you feel like you’re accomplishing something at the time, until it’s over and you realize you actually went nowhere. It’s as much playing a game as it is marking things off of a checklist, especially given how relatively mindless the combat is. The only time a battle in Dragon Age felt remotely as fun as a battle in Bloodborne was against a dragon, and there’s only 10 of those. So, yeah.

Meanwhile, Bloodborne kept me up until 1 in the morning, and made me wish I’d started playing it that much earlier in the weekend. Even now, as I write this, the experience of defeating the Blood-Starved Beast is fresh on my mind. I’m thinking about what I want to do next in the game, where I want to go. I’m thinking about trying different weapon combination and different approaches to the same enemy and groups of enemies. It sounds more shallow than Dragon Age, but somehow Bloodborne is the one that sticks with me after I’m done playing.

I’m just not as invested in my Dragon Age experience, and I’m not really sure why. I know where I’ll go and what I’ll probably do next, but I’m not sure I care, beyond hoping to clear more tasks off of my quest backlog. The only area where it truly excels is in the characters and storytelling, but that’s a fraction of the overall experience. The problem is that, as a game, it often fails at being fun to play. Why would you fill 95% of your game with combat encounters that aren’t even that fun to go through? Why would you have groups of enemies constantly respawn when stopping to fight them is little more than a nuisance? Bioware, for some reason, still hasn’t realized that less is more when it comes to good combat encounters. It’s also probably my fault for playing on Hard, which Bioware interprets as ‘GIVE ENEMIES MORE HITPOINTS’, because grinding through larger health bars is just the best.

So why am I still playing it?  That’s…a good question. Probably because I’m already 70 hours in, and part of my brain wants to finish off that checklist, while the other part wants to see where the stories and characters go. That’s a really depressing reason to play through something that’s supposed to be fun on its own merits, but perhaps the shallow entertainment it provides at the time is good enough.

If nothing else, maybe Dragon Age can be my safe, mindless happy place on those occasions when I rage-quit Bloodborne.

My 10 Second Review of Bloodborne

I can’t stop playing Bloodborne – well, except when the absurd 45-second load times every time I die literally stop me from playing Bloodborne.

Seriously though, I can’t stop playing it. Send help.

The Force Touch Trackpad is a fantastic new MacBook trick

Arstechnica writes, regarding the Force Touch Trackpad in the updated 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro:

The only external change to the Pro is the addition of Apple’s Force Touch Trackpad, originally developed for the Retina MacBook. To accommodate that system’s thinness, the trackpad doesn’t physically move as most current trackpads do. This isn’t something that Apple did first—Synaptics has shipped a clickless ForcePad for years—but Apple’s implementation is the first that approximates the feel of a standard trackpad. It’s also pressure sensitive and can respond differently depending on how hard you press down.

I can’t emphasize enough how true it is. I went to Best Buy yesterday to try out the Force Trackpad and it’s indistinguishable from a real click, except that you now have the option to click “deeper”. It basically adds a Z-depth to the existing multitouch trackpad paradigm and it’s super, super cool.

I wouldn’t recommend going and buying a new laptop just to have this feature, but given that Apple’s laptops already outperform competitors when it comes to trackpad functionality, this is like leapfrogging the competition before they even catch up with you. It’ll be especially great once third-party developers start playing with it.

My 10 Second Review of Vainglory

Last night, I was in the middle of  very, very close Vainglory match when, to my horror, the screen froze – my iPad’s battery had finally given out. I ran upstairs, grabbed my iPhone, launched the app…and connected directly into the same match. Despite my nearly minute-long absence from the game, my team and I managed to squeak out a victory.

It was the most memorable moment I’ve had playing a video game in a long, long time.

Apple “Spring Forward” Event Thoughtstream

  • Alright Apple, game time – convince me I should spend (at least) $349 on a smartwatch.
  • Since I’m not really sure how much I actually want to wear a smartwatch, what makes or breaks my decision might come down to how well it functions as a fitness tracker.
  • I mean, let’s not kid ourselves – I’ll probably get one, but I don’t know yet if I’ll actually keep it.
  • Hopefully Apple’s live stream holds up better than last time.
  • Starting with Apple TV? Interesting. Is this just going to be an HBO thing, or are we finally getting a hardware update and/or third-party apps?
  • Oh dang, HBO Now exclusive partnership. That’s one way to get people to buy the Apple TV. Wonder how long that will last?
  • $14.99 a month. Not a terrible deal for cord cutters, especially since you can just cancel once Game of Thrones is over…
  • This Game of Thrones trailer is fucking great. Not Apple-related, just saying.
  • Apple TV price drop is a great move, especially with the HBO deal and competition in the category getting more serious.
  • Yes. More Apple Pay everywhere, please. It’s super-great, and the worst thing about it is that I can’t use it enough places.
  • Apple would like us to know that CarPlay is still a thing that exists, but honestly, unless I can get Google Maps on it…eh.
  • ResearchKit is cool, and I’m glad they’re doing it.
  • Mac stuff!
  • Looks like the MacBook Air rumors were real. Only seeing one port in that video.
  • I know it’s almost certainly a retina display, but it’d be hilarious if it had the same shitty resolution as the current MacBook Airs.
  • I’m pretty sure every journalist in the audience just had a simultaneous orgasm. I imagine the next Apple event will have a crowd full of people using one.
  • Apple just keeps making their trackpads better and better. Ridiculous.
  • “All day battery life” on this new MacBook seems like less battery life than the existing MBA.
  • The message with the new MacBook is apparently “Everything is wireless now, so we have no ports.” Not sure I buy that for a laptop.
  • $1,299. So much for the “low-cost MacBook” theory.
  • “Also this shitty old MacBook Air gets some upgrades too I guess”.
  • Oh yeah, there’s a Watch today too, huh?
  • Still waiting for features that explain exactly why I need this watch. So far they’re just showing things other smartwatches and fitness trackers do.
  • The marathon runner video hits close to home, as a runner myself, but I want actual details.
  • “Christy would show you her actual Apple Watch, but unfortunately the battery is already dead.”
  • Christy’s blog appeals to me as a runner, but…probably not many others.
  • Still not sold on this interface compared to Android Wear, which I think has the better approach to wearable software.
  • Paying with Apple Watch is surprisingly compelling, but it still requires more places actually acceptit.
  • The fact it works outside of Bluetooth range was a quick note but, to me, actually a pretty important bullet point.
  • Yup, that “floating app list” is still just as awkward as I thought it would be. Why does a watch need so many standalone apps?
  • I still think drawing messages is a cute and overlooked little feature that people will latch onto.
  • “We’re super-excited to see what developers are going to do with this great new platform because we can’t think of anything please someone tell us what to do with it.”
  • “We have a way to charge it that only Apple and a dozen other companies could think of.”
  • Unless it’s fucking adamantium, I don’t give a shit how it’s made.
  • Yup, $10,000 for the Edition. Of course it is, because, everything else aside, it’s a fucking gold watch.
  • One place no one will complete with Apple in the smartwatch category is the retail experience: buying a watch is a personal experience and requires a personal touch. This is a huge step above the current “walk into a Best Buy and maybe play with a store model if it’s turned on and charged.”
  • So much for the theory that there’d be someway to update the hardware of the more-expensive Apple Watches. The Edition is for people who think $10,000 is the price tag for a cheap dinner.
  • Still not convinced to spend $350-400 on a smartwatch, but looking forward to trying one out at an Apple Store. As I said, that’s their big advantage in this space. The question, of course, is whether or not anyone actually cares about the smartwatch space. That said, it’s easy to imagine people walking into the Apple Store for something else, and walking out with a watch. The next few months are going to be quite interesting.

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