November Update

A load of new games in the Black Friday offers.

New game pickups

  • Path of Exile Shadow Stalker Pack (PC)
  • Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PS4)
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition Game of the Year Edition (PS4)
  • Starlink Starter Pack and a couple of ship packs (Xbox & Switch)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration (Xbox)
  • Batman: Arkham Knight Premium Edition (PS4)
  • What Remains of Edith Finch (PS4)
  • Brothers: a Tale of two Sons (PS4)

What should have been a quiet month went a little bit crazy during Black Friday deals with some unplanned purchases. I have purchased Starlink Starter pack for Xbox One and Switch! With two of the exclusive ships packs (Scramble & Cerberus). I don’t necessarily want to spend on a full set or anything but quite like the look of the game and the concept. A game up until now I took no interest in.

I also picked up Battle Chasers and Dragon Age: Inquisition Game of the Year Edition as they were under £15 for both in a pre-Black Friday PSN promotion (and no I didn’t want the other games in the THQ Nordic PlayStation Humble Bundle). I thought Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration for £9 was exceptional value and too good to pass up.

Having got into Path of Exile I also purchased some stash and currency tabs. And just today took advantage of some of the cheap prices in the PSN Flash Sale after Cyber Monday to pick up Arkham Knight, What Remains of Edith Finch and Brothers. I owned Arkham Knight on disc when it first came out but sold it on when I barely had a chance to play it and realised there would be a complete version at some point. Under ten pounds for the Premium edition is a bargain.

Been playing (Grouvee Link)

  • World of Warcraft including the WoW Classic Blizzcon demo
  • Path of Exile
  • Hearthstone
  • Tetris

Spent a few hours playing the WoW Classic demo. Really interesting seeing the vanilla experience. Very stark contrast to what current WoW is. Combat is much slower paced, stacking skills and buffs etc as you wait for hits to land. In fact everything much slower; movement, questing and levelling too. I only played from The Burning Crusade so not sure if I’ll play this, but was really fun to play.

As noted in a recent blog post I’ve picked up Path of Exile again. Put about 15 hours or so into the Delve season, but holding off for the new season now. And finally I’ve been playing a lot of Tetris on the Game Boy. That game never gets old.

Completed/Abandoned

For the third month in a row, no games completed or abandoned…woops. WoW, playing with retro games and now PoE are to blame for that.

Updates & Up next

A few minor edits to the site, although the main one being changing ‘shelved’ to ‘abandoned’ on relevant pages – including this one.

With Christmas looming a number of games I would love to play. That said with my Game Pass subscription expiring soon I’m going to prioritise completing Rage if I can.

All the games are belong to us

When I first set up the site, I tested a few different videogame tracking websites and came to the conclusion that Grouvee was the best one for me. Indeed I ended up contributing to help support the site I liked it that much. In the months since I’ve come across some more videogame trackers, such as Completionator, Darkadia and SteamCompletionist, amongst others.

However I have just recently become aware of another videogame tracker; AllMyGames (after stumbling across the reddit feed: r/AllMyGames). This new website appears to have been recently setup this year and indeed signing up to the site awarded me an ‘Early Adopter’ badge. After trying out the site I have to say I was left feeling pretty positive about it. It’s import feature works really well and is the first time I’ve seen importing of your games from anything other than Steam.  It appears to look at your achievements from your console games to build your library. Although I have a total of 1086 games (at the time of writing according to Grouvee), the import on AllMyGames managed to pick up 841 of those. That’s very impressive.

What I liked

  • Easy and fast import process from Steam, GOG, PlayStation and Xbox
  • Clean, big screen presentation style with an emphasis on cover art
  • Can select which version of the game you are adding (although l couldn’t select the digital version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Ultimate Edition).
  • Succinct categories; might play, won’t play etc. – I love this!
  • A icon with a relevant link to HowLongToBeat.com page for each game

Would love to see

  • Ability to add own lists
  • Sort by format, as well as platform
  • I personally hate duplicates so the option to merge duplicates games with an icon for each format the game is owned on
  • Some more metadata options such as time played, or to complete etc.

I will play around with this one more, but it’s great to see another option for videogame fans looking to list their games with regards to sorting their collection or backlog. As noted this seems to be in an early stage of development so I look forward to how this website develops.

You can check out the site yourself at the following address: All My Games.

Pass on Game Pass

UPDATE 12th December 2018

Basically I did a complete 360 (excuse the pun) on the below thoughts and took up an offer for £18.97 to extend Xbox Game Pass for 6 months. The reason being: Ashen, Ori and the Blind Forest and a couple of other games still being on the service that I want to play. Ashen is only a few days old and £33.49 just to buy, so I figured given as I may not enjoy it is worth a punt for more Game Pass time instead.

Even with this U-turn I still think my thoughts from a few weeks ago are relevant. Game Pass isn’t for everyone and ideally with my backlog I shouldn’t be looking at more games!

Original Post

Microsoft Xbox Game Pass seems like an easy sell. Over 100 games at your fingertips for only £7.99 a month. Or even less if you take up one of the current offers, particularly in the current Black Friday sales. So what’s there not to like?

To be honest; not a lot. It’s a great service and adds an another option for playing games. Since getting my Xbox One X earlier this year I’ve used Game Pass offers to catch up on a few old games and complete Halo 5 and (hopefully) Rage (Xbox 360).

Microsoft haven’t delivered my free month of Game Pass from their recent PayPal offer (and they have done nothing even after raising with their CS). This has meant I’ve had to decide whether to continue subscribing. And it has made me realise there are obvious scenarios where Game Pass just doesn’t work as well, including:

  • Already have a large backlog
  • Limited amount of spare time to play games
  • Have multiple gaming platforms, or Xbox isn’t your main console
  • Spend a lot of time in particular games

Add to this you never own the games, so if they disappear off the service then you can’t play them anymore. And the games are always minus DLC or expansions being base versions to encourage you to spend more money on extra content for those games.

Even with all of that said Game Pass is still a fantastic way to play a huge number of games for a reasonable sum of money. And if you only game on Xbox it’s almost a no-brainer. Indeed it’s a shame Microsoft can’t do away with mandatory fees for multiplayer and merge Gold and Game Pass into one unique premium service. That would be a game changer in the battle against Sony.

However I’ve come to realise Game Pass is just not for me. I have struggled to play more games despite there being a number on the service I would like to experience. Simply due to a lack of time and a large number of other games competing for my attention. As with any subscription you almost feel under pressure to use it. The risk is that you end up paying more money to Microsoft whilst still buying other games you want to play. And realistically even for the small amount I have played I could have purchased the games I ended up playing. Indeed this is what I’ve done this month. £9 (80% off) during the current sale for Rise of The Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration. Which includes everything that came with the game when I want to play it.

That seems a better deal to me at the moment.

An exile again

I’ve decided to start playing Path of Exile. Properly.  And no I’m not playing because of that announcement in some sort of defiance of Activision Blizzard. Like many just over a week ago I sat down to digest the news from Blizzcon 2018 and saw the mess over Diablo Immortal although I was more enthralled with the news of a Warcraft 3 remaster than disappointment with the latest Diablo news. I do think a mobile version of Diablo could be good but unfortunately Diablo players on PC and console have been starved of content for a long time which I think reflects in some of the reactions to Diablo Immortal.

However seeing the footage of the new Diablo made me want to play a new ARPG. And it seems like no better time than to give Path of Exile a proper go. The bit that helped seal it was the Stash Tab (extra storage) sale over this past weekend and I’ve since invested in one of Grinding Gear Games (GGG) supporter packs.

It is a game I’ve toyed with before (about 16 hours) but always tried to resist the urge to get into it as I had lots of other games on the go. However I go through phases with ARPG games where I want to play them for a bit but only for a while. Although Path of Exile’s endgame can be the pure definition of ‘grind’ I think there is enough to see even as a more casual player.

I used to enjoy picking up Marvel Heroes Online every so often but unfortunately that has now gone. And whilst I really enjoy Diablo 3 I’m loathed to invest too much into a game that is clearly in maintenance mode (I’ve already got around 400 hours between the PC and PS4 versions). Support of an online game matters and in this sense GGG seems to have delivered a very compelling and fair business model. The game is the very definition of what a GaaS should be in my mind. And I think rewarding that with some of my time and money seems a fair exchange.

Odroid Go

As mentioned in my recent update I ordered some System on a Chip (SoC) hardware and one of these items was the Odroid Go by Hardkernel. It cost me £39.99 + postage from Odroid’s UK website (arrived within 3 days). The Odroid Go is a kit form handheld console which includes a small SoC mainboard and all the parts required to build your own handheld console. It was released to celebrate the Odroid’s 10-year anniversary.

The system itself doesn’t take long to build although you need to be careful with certain parts, i.e. not scratch the screen or over tighten the screws to damage the plastic (there is a really good YouTube video from ETA Prime I followed here) although the main store page mentioned earlier has some detail instructions on how to put everything together and how to compile the micro SD card. The micro SD card is the only other hardware you need to add to make everything work.

The main CPU is based on the Arduino MCU ESP32 and means that it is capable of emulating 8-bit systems from the late 1970’s to mid-1980’s. With the latest firmware the system supports: Nintendo Game Boy & Gameboy Color, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, and the ColecoVision. In addition it can also runs apps to support other systems such as the Atari 2600 and 7800 amongst others. However these aren’t accessible from the main menu and have to be loaded separately.

The Odroid Go

The hardware itself feels good. The clear plastic shell has a nice feel to it, and with everything built the unit feels relatively robust. The buttons and D-pad are fine, although I particularly like the D-pad itself which feels really responsive and a little bit more springy than the buttons. The screen is clear and well lit. It’s clearly an easy machine to modify and fit your own suitable buttons or transform the look with a custom paint job.

Emulation performance is really good and stable although there is noticeable screen tearing on the NES and Sega Master System emulation. Although you can resize the screen ratio to reduce the tearing slightly (START + Right on the D-pad) the tearing is worse on side scrolling games. It is bearable but it means that the machine isn’t ideally suited to emulating the home 8-bit consoles and there are probably other better options available. However emulation of the handheld systems is really good and this is where this little machine absolutely shines. However whatever system you are playing the machine is very quick to load and you can be playing a game in seconds. It is worth mentioning my Odroid Go is running the latest October 2018 firmware and the process to update the firmware is very simple, in that you just copy over some files from PC and upload to the machine. It also includes save states slots for every game and a quick system wide save state if you want to resume the last game played with a simple press of the ‘B’ button from the main menu.

There are a few things the machine could do better, for example the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack and it would be great if the machine had a bigger LCD screen. But overall any complaints are really minor. Particularly when you factor in the very reasonable price.

Size comparison with a Nintendo Game Boy Pocket

Overall

For me probably the perfect modern Game Boy emulation machine. Great value for money, nice hardware and ideal formfactor with all the benefits of modern hardware and software. Even as a Game Boy Pocket owner I would rather reach for this machine simply because of the modern backlit screen. I would love Hardkernel to release a more powerful Odroid handheld machine kit in the future, perhaps allowing emulation of newer systems. In the meantime though I am really happy with this great machine. Thank you!

Really like

  • SD card is easy to create
  • Firmware update process is very simple
  • Game Boy, Game Boy Color & Game Gear emulation is very good
  • Long battery life
  • Modding and customisation should be relatively easy

Could do better

  • Noticeable screen tearing on NES and Sega Master System
  • ColecoVision emulation feels pointless without number-pad controls
  • No 3.5mm audio jack