Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Amazon Prime-arily For TV

July 29, 2016

Amazon-prime-discount_thumb800A couple of years ago my wife and I took the plunge by joining Amazon Prime, my wife for the unlimited Prime next day delivery and myself for the Amazon Prime Video.

After being a subscriber to Sky Movies via Virgin Media we had become bored with the high cost with only a couple of new movies being added each week after month’s exhausting the existing library.  Upon joining Prime there were a couple of films we hadn’t seen but it quickly became an obsolete subscription in our house and we cancelled it at the end of the year due to the lack of films.

Amazon comes in at approximately £79 p/a which is no small cost, we do certainly got our money’s worth from the next day deliveries which made things very convenient, however with the poor movie selection we just couldn’t justify the cost for a few quick deliveries.  Perhaps if the cost could have been spread across the year it would be more appealing, however with it being an annual cost it just wasn’t viable.

In the last couple of years however Amazon along with Netflix have started to produce their own TV series, which with a recent advertising campaign peaked my interest.

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My wife and I recently agreed to renew our subscription and with some Twitter followers recommendations I started to download some of the more popular series.  These series are a dream for a person who commutes to London daily, watching multiple episodes of a series across a week helps to pass the tedious travel time.  With various series available within the subscription you are hard pressed not to find something you would enjoy.  I myself have so far enjoyed “The Man in the High Castle”, “Bosch”, “Mr. Robot” and I have just started to watch “Preacher”.  Each of these series I found to be better than the programs you find on your normal TV stations and “almost” made me look forward to my next journey to see the progression of the stories I had been watching.

However, despite this new-found love of Amazon Prime there are still a few issues anyone should be aware of before forking out the substantial subscription.

Offline viewing is only available on mobile devices, such as a tablet or mobile phones.  Streaming is allowed on laptops, PCs and even gaming consoles but you cannot download the programmes to your laptop to watch on a train/plane journey.  This feature was available at some point but despite many posts complaining of this service removal, it is still not possible to download onto a Laptop for offline viewing using the normal methods.  This seems a strange decision by Amazon but I can only assume this is perhapsdue to the ability to record the programs on a laptop. mr-robot

There are however ways to get around this and I have been enjoying viewing these series on my laptop on my daily commute without the need to break the law by illegally downloading and breaching any DRM implemented by Amazon.  I simply have an android emulator called “Bluestack” (http://www.bluestacks.com/) .  By using this emulator, which whilst not perfect (slight sound buzzing), is a good enough platform I can now enjoy the many series on my daily commute.  Why Amazon cannot make this easier for customers is beyond me.

So if you are looking for some great TV series to watch I can highly recommend Amazon Prime as an alternative to buying expensive box sets, etc.

E3 2016 – My Highlights (Xbox)

July 2, 2016

Well another E3 has passed, people have been wetting themselves with excitement.  Amongst all of the hype and bling here are the few things I’ve taken away from the event focusing on the Xbox presentation:

Battlefield 1 is looking better and better with each trailer, this is one game on my definite buy list for the year.  I am hoping this may be the year BF kills Call of Duty which has grown more stale and less fun each year since it’s glory days.bf1

Titanfall 2 – This looks awesome and with free DLC maps this is sure to be a hit.

Dead Rising 4 is coming, I liked the original but this probably won’t be a purchase for me.

Forza Horizon 3 – This looks amazing, another game I would like to purchase.  I just hope the music soundtrack falls more in line with FH1 than 2 as  that was a great soundtrack.

ID@Xbox – Always like to see what comes from here but there is a lot of crap to  sort through to find the gems.  However ‘We Happy Few’ really has taken my interest, this game looks very creepy but exciting.

xbox-one-sXbox One S – Don’t get me wrong, this looks great and I love the fact the size has been reduced and the power pack is in built.  I however have very little interest in 4K TV at the moment so it’s not for me, although I do know many people foaming at the mouth in anticipation of it’s release.

Project Scorpio – This was the big news for me, what is going to be the next generation of Xbox console for Microsoft and boy have they made it powerful.  They clearly stated it would not be the death of the Xbox One but Iscorpio-2 assume it will be purely backwards compatible with games as opposed to being able to play Xbox one players with better graphics.  The cost is an unknown at this stage and also it makes me wonder if this will just push Sony to delay their next console until the can make it better, however history has shown (as with the Xbox 360) that first out of the gate can gain a massive market advantage, so here’s hoping.

 

 

 

Microsoft – Opening Up The Gaming Network

March 24, 2016

microsoftIn the last few weeks MS has announced that it will open up it’s gaming network to other platforms, with a stealthy nod towards Sony and the PS4.

This would mean that subject to a game developer deciding to go down this route, you would be able to play say a PC gamer from your Xbox One.  Also in what was thought to be a ‘never going to happen’ scenario there is the possibility to allow Xbox One gamers to play PS4 owners, that is if Sony decided to take up this offer from MS.
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I am not a tecnical guru and my knowledge is limited however I have a number of concerns with this proposal which I will detail below:

PC gamers can have an advantage through mods;
PC gamers have always been known to mod games with some even creating whole new games based upon an original game’s engine (DayZ for instance).  However the issue comes with games such as first person shooters as the PC world is plagued by servers full of PC gamers who have modded their game with things such as aim bots, disruptors to others connections, etc.  It doesn’t appear as if this issue has ever been fully resolved on the PC so how do MS propse they will prevent this on the open network?

Varying performance of platforms causing an unfair advantage.
Even if the PC gamer is more saintly than mother Teresa they may have an advantage simply by the speed their rig can display images on screen.  For example lets take the fast paced world of Call of Duty.  If a PC gamer has a top of the range rig, they may see an enemy just a split second sooner thus giving them  the upper hand.  Again how do MS propose to prevent this, or is this down to the game developers?

Is it opening the Xbox world up to more risks of attack?
As we have seen over recent years Xbox Live has probably been the most secure of the gaming networks, however even that has come under attack a few times.  Will opening up the network perhaps leave us Xbox gamers open to more risk, such as when the PSN network gets attacked yet again.  Does it make it easier for attackers to carry out a multi network hit at the same time?
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Finally do we want to play with other networks in the first place?
It may be just my personal opinion but I feel there is a subtle difference between the type of Xbox and Playstation gamer, I feel that the Playstation gamers particularly on Call of Duty are often younger and more vocal (what I call squeakers).   As someone in my 30s I don’t want to have to mute half a lobby just because the network has been opened up.

MS has already mentioned that cross network play will be optional to the user, so you will be able to specify that you only want to play with Xbox gamers, however some of the above risks would still be applicable.

I am sure this is not a decision MS has taken lightly and I am sure in time they will publiclly address these and many other concerns, but for the time being it just makes me a little nervous.

Xbox+ & PS4K – Concerns

March 22, 2016

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In recent weeks there have been a lot of rumours about the Xbox One and PS4 possibly having hardware upgrades in the future to keep up with the ever advancing graphics and processor improvements seen in the PC world.

At the moment these are just rumours but it does raise a number of concerns and questions.

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How would this work?   Is this going to be a piece of hardware you plug in to your console externally,  or is it going to need to be opened up?

Cost?   Graphics cards, Ram and processors are not cheap so is this not going to price many out of the market. I would expect this hardware to be at least  half the cost of the original console again.

How would this work between  different levels of console?   In the world of pc you have to lower your settings if your system is not powerful enough.   We can make the assumption there will basically be a choice of two settings,  normal or upgraded.   However will this not cause differing performance in games such as shooters were the upgraded system would be able to show the enemies quicker.   It just seems like it would be creating a world much like the PC world where you have  varying levels of systems and therefore varying levels of advantage,  equalling an uneven playing field for gamers.

I originally, many years ago switched from PC to console as I was sick of the cost to upgrade graphics etc which  was not  cheap,  quickly became out dated and still having to set the graphics to the lower settings. The console was much simpler,  plug it in and go. There is already the PC supremacists,  do we really need this in the console world.

Another issue is that we are just 3 years into the current generation of console and they are already talking about the next steps.   If history has taught us anything it’s that it takes a few years for game developers to get to grips with a system and squeeze every last ounce of  power from it,  so is this not jumping the gun.

These are just a few of the many questions I’ve seen on the internet and hopefully we’ll get some satisfactory answers soon. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t keep up with the gaming generations.

Update 24 March 15: Phil Spence in an interview on Major Nelsons podcast stated this was something they are considering for the future, not something that will be happening any time soon. This make me feel happier about the future if Xbox One.

Kinect-less Xbox One–Issues, Issues, Issues

May 17, 2014

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This week Microsoft announced they would be releasing a Kinect free Xbox One.  This has been met with great internet back lash.

This is showing yet again Microsoft are doing yet another u-turn on an executive decision.  My problem with this decision however is just how much of a U-turn this is.

Back last year when the Xbox One was near release, Microsoft were going on and on about how this is the future of gaming, how that by supplying every Xbox One owner with a Kinect sensor that developers will be utilising this amazing piece of tech.

6 months on and we have just a handful of games utilising the tech and most of these aren’t great.  Kinect sports is ok and a vast improvement on the previous Kinect Sports games but there were still things lacking, that I believe with time and research could be improved.

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However now that gamers will be able to buy the Xbox One without the Kinect the incentive for developers to utilise this has been removed.  I feel this was one of the main reasons the Kinect v1 wasn’t very successful or improved over it’s short life span.

Whilst I am not a massive fan of the Kinect games, it did offer some nice features to games, for instance in Battlefield 4, the leaning function felt very intuitive (you leaned on you chair, the first person view leaned).  The voice commands were also very good, although this was not so much of a draw for me as I play in the same room as my wife watching TV so I don’t really get to utilise this feature often.

phil sPhil Spencer is still saying that developers will utilise the tech but really it just means that any developer wanting to use the tech will also have to come up with a non Kinect alternative for the new owners.

I do understand why they have done it as they are falling way behind the PS4 sales, however by removing the Kinect I feel that they are not offering anything different to the PS4, other than a same priced, less powerful machine, so i don’t understand how that will draw people in.

Whilst it is refreshing to see a company listen to feedback and make major changes, it does also put the company in a bad light and make it hard to trust anything they say.  When the console was launched last year they said the Kinect was an integral piece of equipment and it was essential to the consoles success.  6 months later and apparently it is not essential and you don’t really need it.

So whilst they cannot please everyone, they should at least stop the rubbish they are coming out with regarding developers still wanting to use the Kinect when there has been little evidence of this before it was no longer a requirement for the console.

What will happen, who knows, if it does draw new crowds in then great, I am an Xbox gamer through and through and anything that prolongs the console’s life is fine by me, but please just stop the bs declarations Microsoft!

Gaming An Outlet Not Just For The Geeks!

April 3, 2014

For years the gamer has been seen as the geek, the young men who sit at home alone playing on their consoles until the early hours of the morning.  Often depicted as an overweight spotty kid with no friends.

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Over the last couple of decades gaming has become more socially acceptable with console’s such as the Wii enabling older people previously unable to understand the complex control systems to play with their families.  Last year games exceeded film revenues, evidence that gaming had become more mainstream.

However there is still an essence of the stigma of gaming that is prevalent still today.  Whilst I understand where some of the gamer stereo-types come from, it at times it can be a little ignorant.

I by no means expect to change many people’s minds,  however I wanted to highlight what I find so appealing about gaming in general and why I can easily waste a good few hours at the weekend on my console without worrying what people may think.

Firstly I’d like to make the point that gaming is now very social, yes you can still play single player games, but more often than not games today contain multi-player elements.  Yes you can find yourself in a lobby of young, idiots or aggressive hormone driven teenagers but I find the ability to simply mute this small faction means they have little impact on me.

For me what makes gaming so appealing is the ability to get lost in a game, completely forgetting any stresses of the outside world, much like a book or a film can do but there is just more interaction in gaming.  For instance I can come home from a hard day at work, angryperhaps someone has wound me up, simply switch my console on and lose myself in a Premiership football match, go to war against others joined by a band of teammates trying to become the leaders of the lobby.  It is just this variation and removal from the trials of everyday life that can bring so much fun.

Don’t get me wrong, this does need to be balanced with everyday life, we still need to get exercise, earn a living and socialise in face to face situations, but when there is not enough time for that type of socialising, an hour or two playing a game can give you that stress relief you need.

I have recently joined a gaming forum (Frugal Gaming) which I originally just joined for the cheap game listings and email offers, however this has since given me even more opportunity to meet like minded people for game nights, which makes the multiplayer games even more fun.

Whether you have never played games before, are a casual gamer or you spend a lot of your time playing games, don’t view these ‘gamers’ with any misconception.  They are just like you, they just have another outlet for all the stress of daily life.

Xbox One Mini Game Reviews 2

March 23, 2014

Since my post back in November 13 I have had the opportunity to play many of the Xbox One releases, (note to the wife I haven’t bought all of these so don’t worry).  I therefore thought I’d continue my mini reviews on these more recent games.

Need For Speed Rivals

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I have enjoyed most of the need for speed series that involved the police, often enjoying the police role more than the criminals.  I didn’t look to play this in the first few weeks of the console release as the previews I have seen did not look particularly spectacular when it came to the graphics.  I have since had the opportunity to play this and I have to say I am a little disappointed.  The game unfortunately relies on playing on the server along with other ‘real’ players, this however means that it can take what seems like ten minutes to join games.  This is incredibly frustrating as I rarely get to have a quick game as it takes so long for the game to get started.  The gameplay is your standard NFS affair, it is fast and fun, however on a next gen console you expect it to sparkle more, the game just feels like a last gen game.  It is fun don’t get me wrong but it just doesn’t feel like it warrants the full purchase price on the latest gen console.  The multiplayer is also flawed.  After waiting ages to be thrown into a random lobby there is up to 6 other real players, however they can be any variation on number of cops to criminals, therefore you can be outnumbered 5 to 1.  Also there is no real placement near to the other competitors and you can spend ages trying to track down the other players so there is no real sense of multiplayer.  Overall this game is fun to play if you treat it as a solo player game but the multiplayer aspect just outright fails and this game is a very last gen game.

Rating 6/10

Titanfall

TF-Panoramic-Overwatch (1)This game was the triple A, Microsoft exclusive title many Xbox gamers were waiting for and also the game that has persuaded some to buy the Xbox.  It won a record number of awards at E3 last year and had many chomping at the bit to play.  Created by the new development team ‘Respawn’ which was made up of many ex Call of Duty developers.  With this team behind it, it was always going to create a lot of interest.  I have to admit I was not entirely excited about this game initially, to me it just looked like COD from the trailers and reviews I had seen, however this all changed with the release of the beta.  I like many millions played the two maps available in the beta and I was hooked.  It plays and looks very much like COD but it is just better.  Whilst not as ground breaking as many had touted, it’s fast pace and fluidity was something that just worked.  The merging of the mech robots with the standard pilots works extremely well and it is just fun to play.  Unlike the elitist nature of COD the inclusion of two levels of AI competitors in this multiplayer only game make it accessible for pros and noobs alike.  If like me you are not that great then you can rack up the points killing this AI.  It is not too complicated to set up your player load outs as there are no where near as many guns/settings to choose from but this just makes it better.  They have tried to incorporate a multi-player campaign but this basically consists of a mini story to go along with just playing the random game types across a number for the available maps.  Whilst this is a nice addition, once you have played as both the IMC and Militia (the good guys and the bad) there is no real need to return to the campaign.  This game doesn’t necessarily look like a new gen game but it most definitely plays like one and is probably why the game has been the cross platform number one for the past few weeks.

Rating 9/10

Rayman Legends

This review is very short, this is basically the addictive Rayman game we have come to love over the years, been under a rock for the past two decades, then it is a cutesy colourful platformer.  This game is still addictive as ever and is a relatively low price on the new gen raymanconsoles.  I absolutely love it but as a new gen game I have to say, it looks barely any different to the last gen version and the gameplay is no different to Rayman Origins, however if you liked that then you will like this too.

Rating 7/10

Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

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This game has been a real surprise to me!  I liked the look of it after seeing many previews but I thought “This is just a first person shooter for kids” and with me owning a few FPS’s already I didn’t want to own another.  I have however today had the opportunity to play this game after it was named as the next Frugal Gaming Xbox One game night game and I have to say it is brilliant.  The characters are funny, and yes whilst it is obviously aimed at the younger generations it is being loved by the older generations too.  It is basically a defender game where as the plants you must defend your garden vs. the ever increasing numbers of Zombies.  Unlike the mobile version of these games it is more like a first person shooter with a mix of hoard mode thrown in for good measure.  What raises this game though is the fantastic multiplayer where you and up to 24 others can all play in the defending battle to take supremacy in the various gardens.  A highly enjoyable and  funny for all ages.

Rating 8/10

Xbox One & The Propriety Headset Connection

February 11, 2014

Since the Xbox One’s launch back in November I have loved the console.   I had never had a console from launch before so it was a special time for me. 

3 Months on and I am still loving the console, however one thing has really annoyed me, the propriety headset connection!

I own a less than one year old Turtlebeach XP500 headset.  At the time of purchase I looked into the compatibility with the upcoming 417RqdCulALXbox One and most websites indicated that an adaptor would be needed for in game chat, but that the game sounds would work as per the 360, but the chat adaptor would come out soon after release.

3 months on and still no adaptor, I contacted Turtlebeach a couple of times over the past few months to see if there was any news on the adaptor as there were rumours it would be out in February but I received the response

“Microsoft has not, at this time, licensed the sale of a standalone control unit”. 

I feel this is an obvious money making initiative on behalf of Microsoft, whether it be to direct gamers to buy their own accessories (of which I’ll come to an issue with that) or whether to push the bidding up for external companies to gain exclusive rights to create the accessories.

xbox-one-logo-wallpaperThe Xbox One did come with a communications headset, however this is purely for chat, no game sound comes out of it, you are either left with playing with the TV sound on and the chat headset, this not being an option for me as the wife watches TV in the same room, or you need to wear two pairs of headsets, which is uncomfortable to say the least.

Why can’t Microsoft put the gamers first, with no real first party headset, they are not making any money out of holding out on the licences and it just leaves gamers like me not being able to make the most out of what otherwise is an amazing piece of hardware.

UpdateSince 07/03/14 the adaptor has finally become available, I now am able to freely use my XP500 headset to chat, I am very happy but why has it taken this long?

C.O.D.– 2 New Game Types, Injecting Life Into a Dying Franchise!

December 24, 2013

For the first time since buying Call of Duty: Ghosts I tried the second of two new game types today.  Blitz is a team game whereby you must defend your teams zone whilst also entering the opponents zone to score points.

This is a great game which injects life back into the dying franchise, looking through the various game types showed quite a few with very low numbers of players, thus meaning I have to sit and wait for enough players to join the game before it will start.  I really enjoyed this game type though and if it can be tried by more players I think it could become a staple game type for the franchise.  One of the issues however is getting players to try the new game type out.  No matter what time of day there are always lobbies full of players wanting to play the standard team death match, however this can become tedious very quickly after so many years of playing the franchise.

Cranked is another new game type whereby once you kill an opponent you have just 30 seconds to kill another before you blow up.  The idea of this is great for players like myself who hate the FPS scumbags, the ‘campers’ however in reality it just doesn’t work that well in the new maps.  The maps are just so large that you can find yourself wandering around just trying to find someone to shoot at before the time runs out.  Perhaps if they introduce some smaller maps this game type could take off but at this current time, as proven but the low numbers of players in the Cranked lobbies, it just doesn’t work.

I think if Activision can put some real promotion into the new game types, particularly ‘Blitz’ they could find players unsure of the new game coming back to the franchise for at least one more year.

Dead Rising 3 – Thoughts So Far…….

December 18, 2013

Pre Xbox One launch I couldn’t decide whether to get Ryse: Son of Rome or Dead Rising 3.  I eventually went for Ryse as I had read that DR3 did not really show off the graphics of the next gen console. Yesterday I completed the excellent, but short campaign of Ryse and with no interest in the multiplayer I looked to trade it in at Game.  After some discussion I got a good price for Ryse which gave me the cash for a pre-owned copy of DR3.

I had played the recently released demo on the Xbox One and I have played previous versions briefly on the Xbox 360.  However once installed I have been very pleasantly surprised.  Agreed, the graphics look like last gen to a certain extent, however the sheer number of zombies on the screen at one time has to be seen to be believed.  there can be literally hundreds of the undead on your screen at one time, ready for you to mow them down in the method of your choosing. 

Dead Rising 3–Short Clip of a Zombie Slice and mowing down loads in a car!

Now this feature wasn’t a real surprise to me as I had read reviews of the game however seeing it for the first time is incredible.  A particular section of the game found me trying to avoid the mass hoard of zombies by cutting through a shop, however as I approached the front of the store I saw hundreds of zombies outside wandering the street, I knocked over an object making a little noise and suddenly the zombies attention was drawn to me and they all started to storm the store, creating an intense fight or flight situation.

After an hour or so of playing the game I discovered that this is one of the first few games to utilise the Xbox Smart Glass to it’s full capacity.  By opening the app on your the device of your choosing you turn it into an in game smart phone.  Whereas calls for side missions would normally come through your speakers or headphones, they will now come as phone calls through your device.  In my case I was using my Kindle Fire.  You can reject or answer these calls as you would do a normal phone and it just adds to the immersion into the game.  You can also look at maps, objectives, etc similar to an everyday smart phone which is a really nice addition to the game.

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The game also allows the use of voice commands through Kinect which works well, you can call zombies from across a ravine to make them plummet to their death, it all just adds to a great gaming experience.

I feel that this game should have been promoted better as a great launch title using all of the consoles new features to the max, making you realise just what a powerful console the Xbox One really is, it may not be the most powerful graphically wise, however it is still amazing graphically, but the additional features just add to an all round great gaming experience.