30 March 2019

Playstation Plus

The newest round of free games was announced for Playstation Plus a few days ago and it made me a little sad. It's the second month since Sony announced that PS3 and Vita games would no longer be featured in the monthly lineup of free games for members. This was inevitable; the PS3 had long since proven it could have a 10-year life cycle and even beyond, once and for all debunking that arbitrary 5-year cycle that somehow came to be accepted as fact somewhere between the 16-bit generation and the first Playstation. Still, it leaves me a little melancholy as the last 2 months of offerings have only yielded 4 games in total. It's clear Sony is trying to make up for the lack of platforms by offering fewer, but higher-end games. Before that, a player would get maybe a half-dozen total titles, most of them smaller, indie games or older titles that already had their time in the spotlight. 
Without getting into some long-winded explanation for what Plus is, the best way to describe it is a Jelly-of-the-month club. If you're old enough to remember Time Life books or if you're a fan of monthly subscription boxes like Loot Crate or Blue Apron, you've got a pretty good idea of how the system works. The important added caveat is that if you ever cancel your Plus membership, you will not be able to play any of the free games you've gotten up to that point. That's probably the dealbreaker for a number of people, that they're not so much "free" as much as they're "included," which is perfectly understandable. 
The first two games I ever got while having a Plus membership were Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, which meant that first year pretty much paid for itself. This trend continued with some dry months and a few awesome months, at no point ever feeling like I was paying too much. It was set-and-forget as far as I cared. I've built up a massive, massive library of games. I don't think it comes anywhere near the library of my PS2 back in the day, but it's sizable nonetheless. It's big enough that I feel a little guilty when I buy a game. I'll often go through the list beforehand to see that I'm not buying one type of game when I've already got a perfectly good example of the genre on hand. Unfortunately for anyone jumping on board Plus right now, they don't get that back catalog as I've taken advantage of. 
PSPlus is not for everyone, and that's especially the case now. while I don't plan on getting rid of my Plus membership anytime soon, let it be known the selection is going to have to work that much harder to impress me every month. I'm more likely to recommend PSNow than Plus to anyone getting a PS4

17 March 2019

Coffee Got Scooped

Full Disclosure: I love Kurzgesagt, and I never heard of the Coffee Break channel before Phil De Franco brought the controversy to my attention. 
Much like James Gunn's tweets from years ago being brought back by alt-right trolls, Coffee Break had to go pretty far back in the Kurzgesagt archives to find a problematic video. Specifically, the video on addiction was published back in 2015, almost 4 years ago. This fact alone doesn't do Coffee Break any favors in his effort to look like some sort of vox populi. To paraphrase Cenk Uygur, if you need to dig that far back into someone's past and that's the worst you can find, any way but straight back up is digging yourself a deeper hole.
Coffee Break is a modestly-sized YouTube channel; its 315K subscriber account is nothing to sneeze at, but it's dwarfed by Kurzgesagt's 8 million and counting. It's easy to play the jealousy card, but it's just as easy to play the David vs. Goliath one as well, and given how Coffee Break paints himself in this story, I'd say this makes us even. The saving grace of the former is that no one suffers the double whammy of a concussion and a sword in the back should the confrontation go south. 

It's absolutely adorable that Coffee Break thinks Kurzgesagt can pump out a fully-scripted and animated video in the course of roughly a month, as if the team was able to drop everything and start work on getting ahead of this controversy. The reason the deck often seems so stacked against animation on YouTube is that whenever it isn't an expensive venture, it's exceedingly time-consuming. Animation software has done wonders for lone wolves, but it's several decades and some serious AI developments away from being set-and-forget. 

Coffee Break still insists the video is a rush job spurred by his digging, and maybe it is, but the quagmire of conspiratorial accusations he attaches to this claim paints a picture of a salty, embittered nonentity's 15 minutes in the spotlight not being on his own terms. At present, the dis/like ratio on his would-be expose is almost 50/50, though slightly more folks in his favor than the factual flock. Maybe that half-and-half would have persisted regardless of Kurzgesagt's transparency, possibly with a dip in the total number of directional thumbs. Maybe Coffee Break's audience would have ruled the roost while the rest of the site continued to trust Kurzgesagt

All I want to know is how his coffee smells without his nose. (18/4/19 UPDATE: He gets it)

This story doesn't simply stick out to me because I'm a fan of the factual flock, but also because Coffee Break's situation hits me a little close to home, and I've been given a glimpse into the other side of a coin toss and all that would have emerged from it. This site has fancied itself on reviews, typically of movies, but also of the occasional bit of kit, and even some software here and there. The pattern is typically that an item is released into the public, the public reacts, voices their opinions, and then that's kind of the end of the story. It's a pattern I've been thinking about a lot lately, and over the past year or so I've come to the revelation that this pattern is not only antiquated for reasons I'll get into, but also needlessly divisive and utterly unhelpful to most involved. 
In this age of social media, production and consumption have gone from being acquaintances to practically full-blown marriage. Feedback is immediate, lines of communication are rarely closed, and the initial purchase of said media-to-be-consumed is not the end of the transaction. Those in the PC gaming master race know full well I'm going to bring up patches, a concept that's only gotten more efficient as internet connections get faster and can handle larger files. Release dates suddenly become sliding scales of quality assurance, and for the most part a lot of people don't really mind. There may be some initial grumblings among the eager few when their brand-new lost-weekend-in-a-box can't even get past its opening title screen before taking a sharp right off the road and into the leafy cudgels of a whomping willow, but few problems are so first world as having to wait a few weeks for a video game to become properly playable. The disappointment rarely lingers, and typically it may only do so as some kind of statement about a larger trend. 

I once stood poised to give a company endless grief over a discount code they gave me not working. The week before I was ready to post the review, the app went free. Suddenly, I didn't have a leg to stand on. Was I mad? No, maybe a little frustrated for all of about 30 seconds because those outlining paragraphs I'd spent time filling out being rendered wholly inaccurate. At the end of the day, I got what I truly wanted. I wanted the damn app to work. It's one matter to expose obvious fraud and deception, it's quite another to strongarm someone into a situation where their only recourse towards making the situation right is to lie.