Gaming on a Mac, Update

We’re upgrading all the main service production computers at my church. As part of this effort, I bought 3 M1-based Mac mini’s. As an experiment, I installed Elder Scrolls Online on one of them, to see how well it would run. I expected it to be at least passable. Oh how wrong I was. It ran, and at 60 fps, but I couldn’t run it at any decent resolution. The best the game offered was 1367×768 or something. Of course, this looked like pixelated garbage on a 4K monitor. So, I consider the whole thing an abysmal failure. I’m actually glad. It’s a relief to know that a stock M1-based Mac does not, in fact, run the game amazingly, and that I’m not really missing out on this single data point with my Intel-based Mac.

Lawn Mowing Simulator’s new expansion gets medieval on your grass

Source: Lawn Mowing Simulator’s new expansion gets medieval on your grass

Lawn mowing — I prefer to call it “LARPing Qix” — has its own video game.

I was going to post some super-snarky comment about how much I hate  yard work, and therefore not being able to imagine either the desire to make a game about it, or the desire to play it, but then I remembered that I’ve been doing some fishing in ESO, despite hating it in real life, and I guess that would make me a hypocrite. In my defense, fishing in ESO is the only way to farm one of the most valuable commodities in the game, and, done in particular ways, can get you achievements, and any time there’s a two-for-one deal in a video game, I’m in.

Valve’s Gabe Newell hints at vague console plans coming “this year” | Ars Technica

Or maybe Newell was suggesting that Valve plans to revive its Steam Machines program, getting behind a line of SteamOS-powered living room consoles once more. Given the quick market death of that effort, though, this is probably the least likely bit of speculation at the moment.

Source: Valve’s Gabe Newell hints at vague console plans coming “this year” | Ars Technica

I think that Valve will, indeed, make a serious go at a console, running SteamOS (née, Linux), and I think the launch will coincide with the reveal of Half-Life Episode 3. I think they’ve been sitting on that pent-up demand to launch their console. I just think they had no idea they’d be sitting on it for 13 years and counting, now.

UPDATE: I just stumbled across a recent talk by Linus Torvalds, where he points out that he is already on record that Valve might be the one organization that could make “Linux on the desktop” a reality, because they will be obstinate about making a distribution that doesn’t make ABI-breaking package updates every few months. It looks like SteamOS is being updated — about once a year, but that sounds suspiciously as if plans to produce a proper SteamOS-based device has been discussed with him. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking. I’m very happy with my PS5, but I would love to see a Valve console come to market, for a lot of reasons.

Sony is working to integrate Discord into PlayStation consoles

Coming “early next year.”

Details on what that would actually entail are slim, and Sony’s announcement just says that the two companies are “hard at work connecting Discord with your social and gaming experience on PlayStation Network.” Whether that means a full-fledged Discord app coming to PlayStation consoles or a more limited integration (like connecting PSN and Discord accounts to more easily chat with friends off platform) has yet to be announced.

Source: Sony is working to integrate Discord into PlayStation consoles

Sounds like the first shoe to drop in the disastrous situation I described in the last couple of paragraphs in this rant. Maybe they are going to get serious about integrating the system with more and more-interesting services…

ROG Phone | Gaming Phones|ROG – Republic of Gamers|ROG Global

Game-changing smartphone with unique console-inspired design delivers epic performance, unbeatable visuals, total gaming control and endless possibilities

Source: ROG Phone | Gaming Phones|ROG – Republic of Gamers|ROG Global

So I just learned that ASUS makes a ROG-branded phone, which means that it’s marketed at highest-end gamers. Their web site boasts that the phone sports a “world-beating 2.96GHz speed-binned Qualcomm SDM845” CPU. For comparison, I checked the benchmarks. According to this website, the iPhone 12’s A14 chip is literally more than twice as fast. Apple’s lead in silicon is astounding, and will be insurmountable for years.

If you want to play games on a phone, there is no Android phone that can even hold a candle to an iPhone. Given the relatively few Android-exclusive games of note, I can’t figure why this would appeal to enough people to be profitable. (To be fair, the list of iOS-exclusive games is even less impressive, though.)

Playstation 5 and the “Control” Game Review

Control is a game that came free with Playstation Plus. I had heard relatively good things about it, but I know that PS+ games are the B- games that have run their course commercially, so I took this move with a grain of salt. Turns out that, like Red Dead Redemption 2, Control has a great game buried in there, underneath all the really terrible parts.

Control has a great X-Files-like vibe. Very atmospheric and moody. Very surreal and mysterious. It’s a great new intellectual property space. Or, at least, it will be, if Remedy ever makes another game based on the franchise. The story is great.

Control has an interesting gun play system. There’s no reloading, but there’s a pause while the gun reloads itself, so it’s all the same thing. Plus, the button that most games would use for reloading swaps between the 2 active weapon morphs in play, and muscle memory frequently leaves me hanging with the wrong weapon effect at the worst time.

That’s… about all the good I can say about it. I’m sure other people have done enough actual reviews, but I’ll give it a short run down:

  • The “control” points where you can start over if you die are far apart, and you have to walk a long way to get back to the point where you died.
  • The gun does NOT snap (by default), and the aim is unforgiving for a game like this.
  • There’s no crouching behind cover. Which is bizarre, because the enemies do it.
  • Optional missions come up at opportune moments, but you only get one shot at them. You have no idea what you’re facing, and if you die, and you simply lose out.
  • Finally, the map and the level design is horrendous, and there’s no pathing to help you navigate it.

I could chalk all the shooting mechanics up to taste, and put up with it for the story, but the last point just does the game in. I just tried the game again, and the ONLY way I can find to go forward to my objective is to go through an area that’s just too tough for me. I’ve failed to get through it twice, and there just didn’t seem to be a way to get it done. But I wandered around for 15 minutes, and concluded that this is, in fact, where I should be going, so I tried — and failed — for a third time, with literally no idea how I could deal with it.

I looked for a difficulty setting, and found that it has cheats. Well, that makes sense. So I activated them, and tried again. Despite aim snap, I was about to die for the 4th time, so I just went ahead and activated god mode. I got through the area, and found another control point, but there’s no where to go. Here’s what I see:

Control Ultimate Edition_20210214104514

And here’s what the map is showing me at that point:

Control Ultimate Edition_20210214104521

I don’t know where to go. I have an optional mission selected, and there’s no indication where that is. If I activate the “main” mission, the map indicator is in the ??? area to the northeast of my position. I cannot interpret what this is telling me, there’s no indication on how I can get where I need to go, and I can’t find any way through this section. I’m quite literally stuck, and I’m really tired of putting up with video games that force me to do a search and read some article to get past every other difficult part. At this point, I’m just going to delete the game, and hope that Sony gives Remedy access to the fact that this player quit playing the game at 18% completion, and uninstalled it, even though the game was free. That’s how big of a fail it is.

Tangentially, while trying to get the screenshots off the console, I found that it takes 4 non-obvious clicks to get to the media library, and there’s only one option for a service to upload the images with: Twitter. Really, Sony? Really? There must be a dozen prominent image sharing sites, and the only option is Twitter? Screw Twitter. Especially for sharing screenshots! And screw Sony for making that the only option. I had to resort to a USB stick. Ew.

Additionally, you can only share recorded video to YouTube or Twitter. You can only livestream to Twitch. Nothing about these options makes sense. Sony must expand these options with an update. I’m sure it’s all about the Benjamins. Sony was probably looking for kickbacks to include other services here, and no one donated, so they were forced to give us one option. Sony needs to suck it up, now that the console has launched, and move on. There’s no excuse for a lack of options for any of these ways of sharing. They need to make it like an iPhone, were you can connect your console to a service, and it becomes a “destination” to which you can share anything. (Well, I mean, they do, but they need to give us a lot more options.)

Playstation 5 and Skyrim

I’ve been continuing to play through Skyrim on my PS5, and enjoying the extra graphical power. Someone has released some mods that allow you widen the field of view, and crank up the FPS to 60 (or unlimited). Since I’m stuck at 1080p for now, naturally, it works great, and still never slows down, even with the environmental mods. I’ll be very eager to try it at 4K@120FPS some day, but, for now, it’s a very welcome addition.

Someone pointed out that Fallout 4 (which is based on the same engine) can’t be modded this way. It needs to actually be patched by Bethesda to allow for this sort of thing. Here’s hoping that they do this. 60 FPS really is quite an improvement. I played a couple of seconds of Fallout 4, and quickly decided that I won’t be doing any more of that until the mod happens.

The One Where All My Monitor Audio Dies

I’m moving my office back to the basement, and taking the opportunity to thin-out my collection of “stuff.” In the process, I’ve thrown out 2 bags of old computer parts, and I’m going to pitch at least one old computer. As part of the process, I’m wiping 4 hard drives before I chuck them in the bin, as I don’t know what’s on them. To do this, I hooked up the old PC which I used to abuse myself with ESO, and started to wipe one of them.

Then something happened to my audio. None of the audio in my monitor works any more, and my headphone amplifier — which had displayed intermittent problems before — now has a permanent, horrible ground noise. It’s like there was an electrical surge through the HDMI audio channel that blew up the monitor’s audio circuit, and then skipped over my analog mixer, and finally killed my headphone amp, which has been making ground noise intermittently for quite a while now.

Even with all I understand about engineering, electricity, audio, and computers, none of that makes sense. First, I wouldn’t think it would be possible to overload an audio channel’s circuitry over HDMI. There just has to be some sort of grounding to prevent this. Secondly, even if it did pass enough current to fry the amplifier circuit in my monitor, surely it couldn’t have hopped through the output, over the analog mixer, and then (finish) frying the (dubious) headphone amplifier.

After my decidedly un-Christian tirade that followed trying to sort out what was working and what wasn’t, I went looking again for the current news about the forthcoming, HDMI 2.1 Asus ROG PG32UQ. According to the Verge, when it debuts in Q2 2021, we should expect an MSRP of around $900. That’s pretty salty, but I’m ready.

Asus is selling their 27″ version of the ROG Swift line on Amazon for $2,400! Or $1,200, but I can’t tell the difference between the PG27UQ and the XG27UQ, which literally doubles the price. Both of these choices are significantly more than the Verge’s estimation that the 32″ will cost $900, which is scary.

What’s really fascinating here is that the Verge reports that Acer has just released the Nitro XV28, which supports HDMI 2.1, but Amazon doesn’t have a single listing for that model number. According to Acer’s press release about the Nitro, they aren’t shipping until May. There are 3 models in the family, at $900, $1,100, and $1,200 price points, but there’s no real indication on that page what the differences in price are getting you.

What in the world is going on with monitors these days? I can go to Sam’s Club, and take home a 70″ 4K TV for, like $500! I don’t understand what the extra money is buying me. The widely varying prices on monitors seem to be due to the HDR part of the specs. Getting a good implementation seems to be eye-wateringly expensive. All seem to support HDR 400, which everyone seems to agree is basically like not having it at all. Given that I’ve never had it for 25 years of gaming, it seems like I can live without it until it becomes sanely affordable.

I don’t understand what’s so hard and confusing about this, and it’s precisely why I’ve gotten away from PC gaming. The same sort of relief I felt in moving from Gentoo Linux to Ubuntu, and then experienced again in moving from Linux to macOS, is what I’ve felt in moving to using a console for gaming. It’s just SO much less hassle. Up till now, I haven’t had to spend time educating myself on niggling details between unnecessarily-similarly-named models.

I’m going to try to hold out for a 32″ model of some kind, but if Amazon is correct, and the ROG 27″ is $2,400, only God knows how much it will cost. It’s clear that 27″ is a sweet spot in LCD manufacturing. I may have to give in on that. In any case, it looks like I’m going to have to wait 3 or 4 months to finally figure this out. Again, I don’t understand that. The monitor manufacturers have known about the next-gen console specs for years. You would think that they would have been more on top of this, instead of waiting 6 months after their launch.

The best PS4 games to play right now – Polygon

A mix of originals, remakes, and remasters makes the PS4 a system with a vast library of wonderful games

Source: The best PS4 games to play right now – Polygon

I just note, for the record, and with no small amount of satisfaction, that Red Dead Redemption 2 didn’t even make the list. It’s only an honorable mention. It’s not that it was completely terrible in all aspects, of course, but I contend it will eventually be seen as one of the most overrated and over-hyped AAA titles to ever hit the market.