Archive for the Blog Category

The New Playstation Plus: Perspective From A Loyal Customer

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games on May 17, 2022 by slateman

I’m a dedicated Sony faithful who has owned every Playstation platform in the past 25+ years: five consoles and two handhelds and even some duplicates. While I’ve owned almost every other console in the last three decades as well, Microsoft’s recent offerings haven’t joined my collection. Despite this, there’s simply no disputing the quality and value of the Redmond-based company’s Game Pass. One day, whenever the Series X graces my collection, I look forward to subscribing and diving into its vast archives.

However, this generation, like the last, I opted for Sony over Microsoft – with no regrets, mind you – and so the upgraded Playstation Plus is something I’ve had my eyes on for quite some time. Much of the dialogue of the new Playstation Plus has been around its comparison to Game Pass. I’d like to discuss its value *without* comparing – by simply contrasting it to the current PS+ subscription.

For the past decade, I’ve paid $60/yr (used to be $50, no?) for the standard “free” games, online play, etc. I fully plan on continuing that trend, with my subscription extending already into 2023. Some shitty months (or sequences of months) aside, I love the service and I’m happy with my subscription.

So, while the new base-level PS+ is identical to the existing service, the real question is whether the upgraded models are worth the added bucks: $40 for Extra or $60 for Premium. Since I’m already paying my $60 – and do so on an annual basis – that’s the real question. Is the added $40/$60 worth it??? I’m not talking about monthly prices – it’s all or nothing, baby.

Now that Sony has started rolling out a quick list of titles, it’s time to look at what that value truly is.

The second tier, Extra, offers ~400 PS4/PS5 games for $40. Since I never got around to playing Returnal or Miles Morales, the subscription is likely worth it right off the bat. As a pretty dedicated gamer, I’ve played most of the games I’ve wanted to play this past decade. Virtually every offering shown in the abbreviated list is already on my have played list. But for a pair of games and the promise of others? I’d say it’s likely worth $40, though the full game list will really be the deciding factor. In lulls of new titles, diving back into an older one here or there is probably worth the $3.33/month. I think it’s worth at least the first year of subscription. Then again, I am a Sony fanboy after all. :D

The top tier, titled Premium, presents an additional ~350 legacy games for another 20 bones. That’s not bad at all – IF you really will download/play PS1/PS2/PSP games and stream PS3 games. i own all those platforms and can emulate the entire lot of them. However, I much prefer playing on console than on PC. With ~350 games on 4 platforms, there is sure to be something I’d be glad to revisit. The sneak-peek list of titles so far was underwhelming. On the flipside, that there are save states and rewind features may very well make these games worthwhile in the end. Add to the fact that prior purchases from the PSP/PS3 days will be honored, and it could be worth it.

The ‘end-of-the-day’ view of this really lies in that $40/$20 split. Worst case? I continue with the $60/yr sub that I have had for a decade. I’m happy with this sub and I rarely pay a full $60, to be honest. No – it’s not a Game Pass killer. That’s OK. No, it’s not for everyone – and that’s OK! However, while the initial lists of 60 PS4/PS5 games isn’t too convincing, I’d say one or two games would be enough for the $40 upgrade. Let us not forget that there are more than 300 games not already announced. As for the Premium tier, a $20 bill nets me 350 titles: 28 announced on legacy platforms and another 30 on the PS3. To be honest, I really don’t know if anything on here will truly tickle my fancy, but I’m also a sucker for this shit and I’ll likely drop twenty more just to revel in some nostalgia.

Were it a decade ago, in 2012, I may not have opted in. But at the tender age of 46, I’m the prime candidate for such a service and for a few bones, I think I just may opt in – at least for the first year!!!

Five Hundredth Post

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Personal on May 16, 2022 by slateman

It was just over 10 years ago, 3,733 days ago precisely, when I started this blog. At that point, I had been running web sites for more than a decade and a half. But I’d pondered doing a personal blog for quite some time and I can’t say I really know what made me pull the trigger. My early posts were all about Skyrim, DoDonPachi, cubing and some quality posts about gaming. I averaged about a post a week for a decade, far heavier at the outset than in recent times, but I thought I should celebrate i some small way.

In 2012, I was about halfway through my stint living in Maine. I had only just started cubing (my 35th birthday in February 2011). I hadn’t ever played DDP:DFK. I lived in a small house with four kids and several dogs. My life was, in countless ways, immeasurably-different from how it is now.

Since then I’ve moved around the world, published books, learned new languages, traveled and so much more. While posts are far less frequent, this remains my go-to for personal posts, timelines, reviews and the like. I don’t care if no one reads this. One day, all of these personal websites will fade with only an archiver to back them up – but no one with the knowledge or desire to even seek them out.

Master Icosamate Algorithms

Posted in Algorithms, Blog, Cubing on May 8, 2022 by slateman

This puzzle is kicking my ass. Fortunately, our hero Super Antonio Vivaldi made a tutorial (including another video with algorithms and another on the regular Icosamate.)

Step One: Get Corners On One Face

This should be done intuitively. Use a beginner’s method to move/rotate these as you go on.

Step Two: Permute Last-Layer Corners

This is a challenge and will be the most time-consuming part of your solve. First, flip the puzzle over and remember your bottom-layer colors (it’s easy to get mixed up and forget, particularly after putting the puzzle down!) Now, you’re going to find one corner to use as a basis for figuring out what the top piece must be.

You will do a DDUU algorithm as expected. This swaps the top with the front center piece and it also swaps the back left and back right. Doing the algorithm a second time returns all to their proper spots. However, it will also rotate them.

Starting on the left side, this will spin those centers clockwise. Counter-clockwise is done starting on the right.

Usually you won’t have this all land perfectly. Remember some cheats: you can move up the front L & R pieces to the back L & R. Since those back ones will swap/rotate and the front won’t, it’s an easy way to move around which pieces you want.

If you’re stuck with a pair of adjacent ones, do the algorithm once. This swaps the top and the center. Then rotate the second wrong piece to the front and do the alg again. This is how you do a three-cycle. Make sure you do the DDUU on the right to start and then return with the left to ensure the back sides don’t get messed up.

Step Three: Rotate Last-Layer Corners

Get the top center rotated properly while keeping at least one corner oriented properly. You’ll do your DDUU until the top center is right (and you keep one aligned perfectly so you know which is which).

Now you’re going to get the remaining corners. You can have two or three out – never one. This is a beginner’s method approach using R’/D’/R/D. You’ll count how many turns you need. You will be looking for a multiple of five (to keep your top oriented correctly). You do your R’/D’/R/D until one corner is set. Then, using a last-layer method from a 3×3, keep the lower-right piece in place (it’s rotated wrong now). Keep doing the algorithm a total of five times (or multiple of five). If it’s not a multiple of five, that’s OK, now use the one incorrectly-rotated center as your center.

If you’re unlucky and get parity, you’ll find yourself with everything done and an incorrectly-oriented top center as stated above. In order to fix this, place your top center how it’s supposed to be. This will mess with the other five corners. *sigh*. Yup. Now using intuition, move around these pieces to get the top layer perfect.

I’m guessing here, but you’ll likely swap a top and a front – then turn the puzzle and perform the opposite algorithm (starting on left vs right). You’ll likely need to fix the piece you just put in place. Feel free to do so (clockwise or ccw).

If you get all those pieces put in properly, you’ll likely have a few corners which need rotations. Count how many you need: hopefully you’ll end up with five rotations and go back to the R’/D’/R/D to figure it all out.

Step Four: Match Edges

This three-cycle will swap edges. This will go red/green/blue clockwise if you start on the right. Like the Face Turning Octahedron algorithm, this will require you to bring one slice down, then do a D/D/U – return slice – D/U/U algorithm.

Starting on the left will rotate them clockwise (R/G/B). You will use a face with a V in front of you (like the blue/green shown here). If you bring the left (red) piece down, then you do Right down, left down, right up – return slice – right down, left up, right up.

If you start on the right (move yellow down to the blue), then your algorithm will go left down, right down, left up – return slice – left down, right up, left up.

Now…what to do when a pair are inevitably flipped upside down? OK, so get them adjacent like you’ve been doing. You’ll be flipping these, so hopefully these are your last two edges that need fixing. If they’re the blue and green here, use a dummy piece (yellow) as a start. Now, you’re going to want to flip the green piece. Do this by the following:

You’re going to be working with the lower-right corner (LR – the green triangle) and bottom layer. Turn LR’, then D, D, and return LR LR. This will flip the piece that was originally there.

Now, do your algorithm. Then undo your flip, now by LR’, LR’ D’, D’ and LR – the opposite of your prior flipping alg. Finally, do your step-four algorithm two more times. If you need guidance, check out SAV’s tutorial (with timestamp).

Step Five: Match Petals

This algorithm is the opposite of the step-four alg. Here, however, you will move up the M slice layer, perform three moves, return the M slice and then do three more. It’s almost exactly the opposite of the one above. I need time to get to this part.

Start by moving that M slice up to put the pink petal where the yellow is. Then, using the colored center as your basis, do a Right down (x2), left down (x2), right up (x2) then restore the M slice to its original spot and do a Right down (x2), left up (x2), right up (x2).

Update: A solid week of dedicated work resulted in a full solve. One of my proudest solves. Not sure how eager I am to mix this up again. :D

Rex Cube/Super Ivy Cube Algorithms

Posted in Algorithms, Blog, Cubing on May 7, 2022 by slateman

I bought a Rex Cube ages ago but never really enjoyed solving it. The puzzle itself felt like it was going to fall apart at any minute and upon solving it, I shelved it and hardly ever touched it again.

Last year I purchased a Super Ivy Cube and despite being the exact same puzzle in a sense, it’s a lot more fun and a much more solid. However, as usual, I forgot the final step and had to look it up. Thus, the usual tutorial/algorithms for my own personal reference.

Step One: Align All Edges

This is an intuitive step and is essentially solving a Dino Cube. You should be able to get all of these solved pretty easily.

Step Two: Move Centers

This is the standard up/up/down/down algorithm and I do this intuitively as well. I try to get three mismatched centers oriented around one corner to easily swap them. If they’re all in a line, I just try to solve one before moving on.

Step Three: Move Petals Around

This algorithm is the only reason for this post, really. This will swap petals on your front faces as seen here. You will start with Right up, left up, right down, left down, then turn the puzzle clockwise on the corner you’re looking at and reverse it. Left up, right up, left down, right down. This should flip those two sets of petals. Now, it’s just a matter of coordinating those swaps and you’re gold!

Elden Ring: Platinum And Done

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags on May 6, 2022 by slateman

120 hours in and I beat the game, got the platinum and bid adieu to Elden Ring.

In looking back, I started this game on 25 February and have completed my journey on the 16th of April. Over those 51 days, I pumped 120 hours into this masterpiece. It’s imperfect. It’s got some visual issues. It’s still a phenomenal game and one of the best in recent memory.

As I look back over the best games of recent years: Deathloop, Tsushima, God Of War, Resident Evil VII…does this game transcend the awesomeness set by such titles? Such is the question.

In the simplest terms, Elden Ring will stick with me for quite some time. Its world was mesmerizing, its gameplay satisfying and its sense of adventure remarkable. For almost two straight months, I had zero interest in booting up anything but this game. I thought about it before bed, during my drive home and I longed to jump back in at every corner. I was obsessed and I loved every minute of it. As with any great game, you put off actually beating it so you can clean up things. i put off the end for at least a week.

This game addressed almost all of From Software games’ shortcomings and made things more accessible. Can’t beat this boss? Run. Stuck and overwhelmed? Escape and warp somewhere else. Underpowered? Grind & level up. Don’t want to lose runes? Use an item not to. About everything that made prior titles inaccessible is now streamlined and more user-friendly. While the lore itself was virtually impossible to comprehend, this didn’t hinder my experience one bit. Instead, the entire gameplay experience and loop was just thoroughly ejoyable. Even after scores of hours, I wanted to adventure to new corners, look up new weapons on a wiki, explore anything and everything the game had to offer.

That sense of wonder and excitement is what makes it rival the greats of the last decade. While God Of War was a new and unique experience, I can say with confidence this was one of the most-incredible titles in recent memory. Even now, weeks after completing Elden Ring, it still lingers in my memory and I would have it no other way. The prospect of diving back in for NG+ still lingers in my brain. If only the PS5 would let me download save games.

I’m going to post a crap-ton of pictures because this is my website and I don’t care. I loved this fucking game.

MF8 Regular Astrominx – New Puzzle!

Posted in Blog, Cubing on April 28, 2022 by slateman

New Puzzle! I finally added an icosahedron to round out the platonic solids.

Elden Ring: A 30-Hour, Not-Nearly-Finished Review

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games on March 7, 2022 by slateman

Elden Ring came out last Friday and by Monday, I’d plunked down 16 hours. By the next Friday: 30. By the end of this weekend: 36.

I’ve traipsed all over The Lands Between. I’ve scoured dungeons, ascended castles and toppled giants. This really is big Souls, but that’s fine by me because it offers numerous quality-of-life improvements which make it a far more playable and, dare I say, easier experience. Find a boss who one-hits you? Run away. Overwhelmed by too many enemies? Mount your horse. Need to upgrade? Grind and do so! Desire to revisit other areas? Fast travel in seconds anywhere and at any time.

I’m loving the exploration and the adventure. I’m enjoying the Souls formula with these new changes. I’m compelled to return to seek out one more upgrade and item – to gaze over a cliff’s edge for a hidden ledge – to mark upon my map locations for future days.

Elden Ring Get! A New Adventure!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games with tags on February 26, 2022 by slateman

I don’t know quite what to expect from this new From Software title. I shied away from Dark Souls due to its difficulty and only, many years later, proclaimed Bloodborne to be the best game ever. Though I jumped into Dark Souls Remaster and Dark Souls 3, I never completed either – for whatever reason. While living in Sweden, I was so excited to dive into their follow-up, Sekiro but never quite loved it. In fact, I never beat it. At the end, I opted for the bad ending, due to the difficulty, and I never even accomplished that. Ultimately, I didn’t worry too much, as the game never clicked with me.

The PS5’s launch gave us Demon’s Souls and…surprise! I never beat that either! Despite Bloodborne being fucking fantastic, I couldn’t ever complete any of From Software’s other entries.

And so here we are with Elden Ring – which at the time of this writing sits at the 12th highest-rated game of all time on Metacritic – and I’m on a new adventure. Odds are against me completing this. However, in its opening hours – which tally four in my initial sitting – it’s tremendously-compelling. I eschewed the follow-up to my Best New IP Of 2017 (Horizon) for this. I will 100% play this in the future. Anyhow, as the new game starts to truly open up – I thought I’d share a compelling image from the opening hours. This is going to be quite the adventure!!!

SFVI Incoming?

Posted in Blog, Street Fighter on February 21, 2022 by slateman

It’s no secret that Street Fighter is among my favorite gaming series ever. I’ve been with the franchise since the very beginning, as a pre-teen boy playing the first game in the arcades. Through the rise of SFII, the dearth of arcades in the late ’90s, the dark ages, the rejuvenation and the long, six-year journey of Street Fighter V, I’ve been there through it all. I just love this franchise.

And thus, with the nigh-inevitable announcement of Street Fighter VI – assuming the Capcom Countdown is true – it’s an gross understatement to state I’m excited.

Unlike most, I’m more intrigued by the roster, the systems and the timeline than the gameplay. I’m going to play it. I’m going to be average at it. But that’s ok.

There’s been a lot of speculation about the fighter list and while the reveal is possibly a mere two hours away, I wanted to poder this briefly. Deep down, I would love some deep cuts. SFII’s roster has been done to death and SFIII’s has some quirky, unlikeable faces. But the concept of Geki returning was always intriguing. Fei Long would be a welcome familiar fighter. Gouken or Goutetsu would be cool for lore. As always, I’d love to see some (all?) of Vega’s Dolls to pop up. I rue how underused they were in SFV

Luke is a shoe-in, and many clamor for G, but I’d love to see Lucia, Menat or Akira return. I love how Capcom doesn’t shy away from trying new designs and so I look forward to some of that whenever SFVI finally ships.

Even if the game is announced today, we won’t know the full roster for quite some time. I sincerely hope Capcom does a better job at the roll-out and initial launch than they did with V back in 2016. Single-player modes are a must and a kick-ass netcode will go a long way to appease all crowds. I’m tremendously-excited for what’s the come!

New 6×6 & Megaminx Records!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records on January 3, 2022 by slateman

I started cubing almost 11 years ago and in my early days, I was more focused on speed than I am now. However, while my collection is now more focused on diversity and uniqueness – I still like to dabble into speedsolving from time to time. With a new, Christmas boost to the collection – I’ve upgraded my 6×6 and Megaminx – the former, a terrible V-Cube and the latter broken in shipping. Due to these substatial updates, new efforts were made to break decade-old records and in each case, the personal bests fell swiftly.

My 6×6 record, residing at over 15 minutes, was shorn to 11:11: an improvement by over four minutes. The Megaminx took a pair of tries before it too tumbled. I only did this puzzle for speed a few times, and I don’t endeavor to break this record – a half-minute improvement – any time soon.

A pair of records brought into the current decade, now leaving but the 2×2 and Pyraminx as sole representatives of the 2010s. Oh, and the 3×3 but that’s OK. My full cubing records can be found here.