Archive for the Blog Category

Gaming In 2022

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists on October 1, 2022 by slateman

For me, 2022 has been a strange year for gaming. The shining highlight, Elden Ring, was a perfect 10 in my eyes and after dumping 100+ hours into it, I walked away, looking forward to my next gaming experience. Unfortunately, nothing since has lived up and very few things have really even caught my fascination. I grabbed Horizon: Forbidden West but after a half-dozen hours, I simply didn’t care and had no real desire to play more. Far Cry 6 was meh. I beat Deathloop and Death’s Door – both pretty cool titles and I signed up for the new Playstation Plus which gave me access to scores of games, though I’ve hardly spent much time on any. Through the service I did get platinum trophies in Intelligent Qube and later Minit – the latter of which was honestly a fantastic experience.

I finally installed The Last Of Us Part II and its obnoxious 200Gb SSD requirement and the game was tremendous. It looks fantastic and the gameplay improved on the first entry in almost every way. However, it was another game to which, upon completing, I knew I’d never return. I purchased Modern Warfare for cheap and after the same hard-drive space demands, I swiftly deleted the game, likely never to revisit.

While I was utterly fascinated with Kingdom: Two Crowns for a week, I fell off and Shovel Knight Dig, while great, didn’t lure me to return after completing it. The one other title in 2022 which is worth mentioning is Vampire Survivors – another 10/10 game. Its bare-bones visuals aside, I was captivated throughout the summer, learning weapon combos, slaying tens of thousands of enemies inn the game that made me feel more OP than almost any before it. I could’ve sworn I posted pics/review of this game – I guess not!

For the remainder of the year, my big game is the obvious: God Of War: Ragnarök. The last was my Game Of The Year 2018. That vs. Elden Ring. Gonna be hard to beat, honestly.

Beaten

  • Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare
  • Elden Ring
  • Intelligent Qube (PS1)
  • Minit
  • Shovel Knight Dig
  • Vampire Survivors

Played a lot of

  • Horizon Forbidden West
  • KeyWe
  • Kingdom: Two Crowns
  • PGA Tour 2K21
  • Returnal

2023 looks promising with Capcom’s Street Fighter VI and Resident Evil 4 leading my must-have list alongside PSVR2. All will likely land around the same time, unfortunately. Diablo IV is on the list too.

Another New Megaminx Record! WOW!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records on July 2, 2022 by slateman

As stated previously, I’m loving my new magnetic Megaminx and this morning, a quiet Saturday with a sleeping puppy by my feet, I figured I’d do a quick speedrun. It was about 1:10 before I got my first two layers done – mostly par for the course – but my middle edges/corner matching was pretty solid. This puzzle’s bright faces make it easy to identify and so for the first time, I’ve been looking ahead. A quick slip-up on my penultimate layer and some fidgeting permuting centers (my weakest step) made things a bit slow, but I’ve become much more adept at orienting corners and placing them. The end result? A staggering one-minute improvement and a mind-boggling 4:16 solve! I was blown away!

New Megaminx Record!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records on July 1, 2022 by slateman

I was really impressed with my latest Megaminx record – getting my time down to 7:21 and then an even 6:00. In light of having this kick-ass new Gan 3×3, I realized just how good a magnetic speed cube can be. Next up really should be a 2×2 or a Pyraminx, but neither are really FUN puzzles. The Megaminx, however, it an entertaining solve and with that, my order was set: YJ YuHu V2M. I lubed it up and immediately noticed just how fast and precise it was. One sub-seven-minute solve (would’ve been my record just a few months ago) was followed by a slamming sub-5:30! I was impressed by just how good this puzzle was! One more sub-6 and then I got a 5:18! FORTY seconds faster than my old record!

That evening, I revisited the puzzle, getting several close times (in the 5:20 – 5:30 range). Whether a sub-five-minute solve is possible, I’m not sure, but this puzzle is simply wonderful and it’s still just so much fun revisiting things like this and breaking records. Of course, I’m probably getting close to my limits on them all, but at 46 years old, I’m still enjoying it! So psyched!

THREE New Cubing Records: May 2022!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Cubing, Cubing Records on June 24, 2022 by slateman


The end of the school year, covid, surgeries and home renovations delayed this post, but it’s an exciting one, if I might say so myself. Moving backwards, in late April a student in my Spanish 2 class (one with a PB of around 17 seconds) brought in her Gan 3×3. Over the past 11 years of cubing, I’ve regularly updated my main – maybe once every other year or so, but my record has stood since barely dropping a half a second from it in May of 2018. This new puzzle was unlike any other I’d tried before. The magnets were snappy, turns felt super responsive and it glided like butter. I was on a mission.

Upon purchasing a Gan 356M, their middle-of-the-line budget model, I realized it was just way too loose. I should’ve opted for the model with extra GES nuts to help with tension, but I already felt badly spending $30 on another 3×3!!! When I got the cube finally tensioned how I wanted it, I couldn’t believe just how wonderfully it turned. This is the best puzzle I’ve ever owned. To put things in perspective, I had accomplished three sub-30 second times in my prior decade of cubing. I accomplished the feat six times in a week with my Gan 356. My first, an astonishing 28.6 seconds shaved almost half a second off my time. I was elated. I saw it coming. My record broken – for the fourth time in a row in the month of May!

However, that wasn’t all. Two days later, I utterly shattered my record, trimming two full seconds off! The solve was magical. Three of the four cross whites already done so I could start planning my corners ahead, something I NEVER can do. Three middle layers were super fast and I could see ahead as I placed those pieces swiftly. On the top layer, I had an L and then had to swap two corners. This left me with a fully-solved yellow face. A quick three-cycle solved the puzzle in the fastest time EVER! 26.46 seconds! While I was at it, I broke all my average records: Averages of 3/5/12/50/100 all were decimated, with my average-of-3 being sub-30!

Unfortunately, future solves revealed that without a very lucky skip, I will never match or best that time. If I can’t get the second layer done by 15-17 seconds, it’s not even worth finishing. Once you hit that stage, a lot of the fun is sucked out of speedsolving. I’ve dabbled in F2L, but without memorizing all new algorithms, I don’t see it ever happening. With my 4×4 and 5×5 records at incredible times and with good cubes alongside of them, I genuinely wonder if my days of timing myself are over.

But then I wondered if I could give the Megaminx another swing. Upon getting a new puzzle for Christmas (which itself resulted in breaking a decade-old record), I figured why not try again? Solve #1 was close to the 7:21 record from January and solve #2 was…just remarkable! 6:00.77! I trimmed my record by 80 seconds!!! I got a lucky last layer and just missed a sub-6 by three-quarters of a second!

I’m happy these old bones still have some speed in them. Three records in one month – not bad for a 46-year-old!!!

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.