Why I’m Waiting on the Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch LogoIf you look at my history with gaming you’ll notice a pattern. No matter what games I play or what consoles I buy, I always keep up on Nintendo’s systems. Nintendo games were my entrance into the world of gaming and I could never do characters like Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong the disservice of abandoning them when they’ve given so many great adventures to me over the years. That being said, I’m not averse to waiting a while before letting these characters into the next phase of my life.

It’s  rare for me to purchase a console immediately after it’s release as I like to let a decent library of games I know that I will love build up before I decide to commit myself to one platform over another. When the Wii U first came out I didn’t rush to get one and after enough time had passed and in store demos had been played, I picked myself up one in late 2014. I know that Nintendo consoles will always wind up with a slightly smaller library of games that I will enjoy but all of the titles that fall into this group are usually first party titles. As time has gone on and we went from the GameCube to the Wii to the Wii U I realized that Nintendo was more and more concerned about creating only an experience that Nintendo can.

With the Wii U this was incredibly evident. While Sony and Microsoft were off seeing who could pack more power into a home console with the largest game library and charging for online multiplayer, Nintendo was off not competing, turning out games staring their greatest characters, and giving their gamers online multiplayer free of charge.Sadly the Switch marks the introduction of a new Nintendo and it’s one that I don’t like.

Nintendo SwitchWith the Switch, it appears that Nintendo has stepped their game up a bit with the graphics of the system being powered by a custom chip from the Nvidia Tegra family of cards. Unfortunately, that step up means other changes too. The most shocking of those changes is that starting in the fall there will be a charge for multiplayer gaming. While no price has been announced, certain details have. The most shocking part about Nintendo’s implementation of their paid online comes in the form of the announcement of game downloads. With services like PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, each month you are given access to a number of titles for “free” that are yours to keep while you have the service. While I can’t speak for PlayStation Network as I haven’t gotten a PS4 yet, Xbox Live will revoke access to the games if your subscription expires but then restore access when you sign back up. Nintendo is taking a slightly different approach:

Subscribers will get to download and play a Nintendo Entertainment System™ (NES) or Super Nintendo Entertainment System™ (Super NES) game (with newly-added online play) for free for a month.

Based on that wording, it looks like gamers will be getting access to one game a month and only for a month, necessitating a purchase of the game for continued access to the game after the month is up. To be fair, I’m not saying that Nintendo shouldn’t charge for online multiplayer–I understand there are costs that come with maintaining the servers that are used along with other infrastructure cost. What I am saying is that Nintendo needs to prove that they are responsible enough to take payment for online multiplayer content. Nintendo has shown time and time again that they don’t understand how internet connected products should work in the year 2017 and that scares me.

Joy-ConMy next big point of contention is the accessories for the console, or more specifically the cost of them. With the Switch comes a whole world of peripherals including Joy-Cons, a Classic Controller Pro, and a TV dock.

Given the fact that the Switch offers the ability to play home console games on the go, I can understand why someone may want to have two docks for their Switch: one in the living room and one in the bedroom or perhaps one at home and one at a boyfriend or girlfreind’s house. It looks like the cost for an additional dock (which includes both the power and HDMI cables that are needed) will be $90 a pop, or just shy of a third of the cost of the $299 console.

If you need extra Joy-Cons (and Nintendo is touting this as something you will need), you can purchase either a left or right Joy-Con for $50 a pop or get a pack that includes both for $80.

Switch CartridgesI think my favorite piece  of pricing with the Nintendo Switch accessories has to be the Classic Controller Pro. Keep in mind that for the most part, the Classic Controller Pro is a standard game controller like you would use with an Xbox or PlayStation. The cost for that? $70–or $10 more than any other standard controller on the market. Some have tried to defend this by stating that the controller has an NFC reader built in for Amiibo compatibility as well as HD rumble but it’s hard to see those two features justifying the additional cost to the average consumer. I can picture so many parent going to buy these consoles for birthdays and holidays in the coming year and not knowing the accessory cost nightmare they are getting themselves involved with.

Once those other concerns are put to the side there’s only one more factor that leaves me hesitating to get a Nintendo Switch too soon and that’s the game library. I have to be honest, based on what Nintendo has shown so far there’s very little to compel a Wii U owner to rush out and upgrade. Some would say that Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would be a good reason but that will be receiving a simultaneous release on the Wii U. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks like it could be a lot of fun but there’s still not enough content to justify rushing out and upgrading. The only two Switch exclusives that have piqued my interest at all yet would have to be Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey.  This time around it’s going to take more than two or three quality titles to sell me on a new console.

There’s always the possibility that between now and Christmas more awesome games  could be announced or a bundle could be released that I’ll be unable to pass on but for the time being I plan to stick to my Wii U and see how the Switch ecosystem develops.

What do you think of the Nintendo Switch? Did you preorder one? Will you be attempting to get one on day one? Will you be waiting to see how the ecosystem develops? Let me know in the comments below!

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Byte Size Tech Tips #2 – Disable Emergency SOS (WatchOS)

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WatchOS 3 brought with it quite a few changes to the Apple Watch. One of those new features that Apple introduced is Emergency SOS. Press and hold the side button on the watch to automatically call emergency services. For some, this is a Godsend. For others, it creates one too many opportunities to accidentally summon emergency services.

Let’s go ahead and turn that off.

1. Launch the Watch app

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2. Scroll down and select General

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3. Select Emergency SOS 

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4. Set the Hold to Call toggle to the off position

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That’s it. Now you’re free to press and hold the side button to your heart’s content without risking contacting emergency services. If you do need to use the Emergency SOS feature for any reason, just press and hold the side button and it’ll show up as the third option, under Power Off and Medical ID

Got a burning tech question you want answered? Leave it down in the comments below and I’ll be sure to cover it in a future Byte Size Tech Tips

Byte Size Tech Tips #1 – Rest to Open (iOS)

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Last Tuesday, Apple released its latest mobile operating system, iOS 10, to the general public and with it came a plethora of changes. One of the biggest was the removal of a feature that’s been with the iPhone for as long as I can remember. Slide to the right on iOS 10 and you get your widgets; to the left brings up the camera. Replacing Slide to Unlock is a prompt on your iPhone to “Press Home to Unlock”.

If you’re running an older iPhone that lacks a Touch ID module in the home button, I’m sad to say that you’re stuck pressing your home button for the time being. If, however, you have an iPhone that is Touch ID ready, here’s a handy work around to save you wear on your home button.

  1. Launch Settings

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2. Select General

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3. Select Accessibility 

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4. Scroll down to Home Button 

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5. On the Home Button menu set the Rest Finger to Open toggle to on. 

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Congratulations! Now on your lock screen simply place a Touch ID registered finger on your home button and your phone will unlock. 

Have a tech question about macOS, WatchOS, iOS, or Windows 10? Leave it in the comments below and I’ll cover it in a future installment of Byte Size Tech Tips

72 Hours With The iPhone 7

On Friday September 16th Apple released it’s latest generation of iPhones to consumers and they’ve been dominating the tech news headlines since. In addition to being released at the worst possible time for rival smartphone maker Samsung, the devices have been selling like it’s no one’s business. As of the time of this writing, the Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus is back ordered until November with every other model having a lead time of 2-3 weeks.

I decided that having the larger 5.5″ screen and dual lens camera system wasn’t as important to me as I initally thought and on Friday I walked into my local Sprint store and upgraded my 128 GB iPhone 6 to a 128 GB iPhone 7. I’ve been putting the device through it’s paces all weekend and I’m finally ready to share my thoughts on Apple’s latest smartphone release.

Design

img_2585-1I really enjoyed the form factor of the iPhone 6. The 4.7″ display was sharp for the time and it was a nice upgrade from my iPhone 5s. Having skipped over the iPhone 6s I never got a chance to truly experience that phone’s form factor but fortunately that has been carried over to the iPhone 7. In lieu of once again attempting to make the thinnest smartphone ever, Apple instead decided to work with what they already have and optimize from there.

The display on the phone is the same resolution as the iPhone 6s (1134 by 750 with a ppi density of 326) but the Retina HD display is brighter than last years generation. I don’t have one of last years phones to compare this to but it also doesn’t effect me personally, as I often keep my brightness a bit lower on my phones in an attempt to conserve battery life, something I’ve done for years.

Apple did make some changes to the external portion of the phone, including relocating the devices antennae bands to the top and bottom of the device, instead of having them laying across the back portion of the phone. The earpiece on the device is also a bit wider to accommodate the additional speaker located in there to give true stereo sound when the device is held in landscape mode. The speakers are 50% louder than those in the 6s and I had fun at work this weekend blowing way all of my co-workers phones in the speaker department.

The home button has also been removed (in a sense). No longer is the home button/Touch ID sensor an actual button, rather, it is still visually represented by the traditional button but now acts in a solid state capacity, with the taptic engine creating the “feel” of pressing the button. On the plus side, this is one less part of the iPhone to break (as home buttons often do). On the downside, it’s been discovered that the button requires skin contact to activate, so using the home button may be more uncomfortable in colder climates this winter.

img_2584The biggest design change this generation, though, was the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the device. This has been the change that Apple made that has had the internet thrown into a fury with half the population being for this move and half against.

The removal of the headphone jack wasn’t for naught however. With the extra space freed up by removing the port, Apple was able to accommodate a better camera controller, an improved taptic engine, and a barometric vent…and of course, as always, a better battery.

Apple remedies the missing port on the phone in two ways. The first is that the included Ear Pods are now lighting based, not 3.5mm. If you don’t like using the included Ear Pods, they also include a lightning to 3.5mm adapter, allowing for the use of legacy headphones. Overall, this is a change I haven’t particularly felt yet, as I use a pair of Jam Transit buds most of the time. If I ever do decide to use a pair of wired headphones with this phone, I imagine that the included adapter should be sufficient.

All in all, the 7 is a beautiful phone.

Performance & Battery

This years iPhone also features an updated A10 processor with an embedded M10 motion coprocessor and Apple’s done some really exciting things with it. The most exciting part is that the device has two sets of dual cores, each with different jobs. The high performance set handles tasks like gaming and video editing, while the high efficiency cores power your basic tasks and run at a fifth of the power of the high performance ones. This means that if you don’t use your phone for gaming and other high performance tasks, you’re definitely going to see improvement in your battery life.

As far as estimates over last years generation of iPhones, Apple estimates that iPhone 7 users will see about two hours more battery life than the iPhone 6s while 7 Plus users will see about an hour of improvement. My iPhone comes packed with the 1960 mAh battery and the life on it has been fantastic for me. My iPhone 6 that I traded in when I got my new phone had led quite a life when it came to battery usage and the battery health at my last check with Coconut Battery showed the phone was holding only about 51% of its actual capacity. With as much as I use my phone (especially in the off season at work) this just wouldn’t cut it.

I’ve let my iPhone 7 take a few days to get all of my apps installed, photos downloaded, and indexes created and I’m proud to say that with the heavy amount of usage I put phone through in a standard day (web browsing, social media, checking emails, some YouTube or Netflix viewing, and a bit of gaming) I’ve been able to pull about 7.5 hours of usage before I need to put the phone on a charger. I haven’t run the phone all the way down to zero yet to see just how far it can really go but I’m quite pleased with the battery life of this device.

I really can’t say when the phone is truly done building its indexes so I plan to keep a close eye on the battery life over the next week or so to see if there are any further improvements.

Edit: It appears those 7 hour days were with indexing. My phone is at 23% with over 11 hours of usage and it hasn’t been plugged in since I took it off the charger. 

Camera

The camera is the one part of the iPhone 7 that I haven’t been able to give a proper field test to yet. The front facing camera has been upgraded to 7 MP and the rear camera is still a 12MP sensor, however it now has an f/1.8 aperture that Apple says will improve performance in low-light settings. The devices flash has also gotten an upgrade and is now a quad LED flash that gives 50% more light with 50% more reach.

I’m hoping that at some point in the coming week I’ll be able to go for a nice nature walk and take some pictures to really test the camera out. I was originally supposed to do that this morning before writing this article but unfortunately it has been raining non-stop all day.

In the meantime, I did post this photo to my Instagram earlier today, taken in extremely low-light conditions, with the iPhone 7’s camera and flash. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

Final Thoughts

Overall I’m really loving my iPhone 7 so far. The battery life is great, the phone is very snappy (especially compared to my iPhone 6), and it works great even as a mobile gaming device. Apple definitely made some bold moves with this phone, from removing the headphone jack to the solid state home button, but the phone benefits well from that. If you’re an iPhone 6s user it’s hard to recommend the upgrade just yet as the device is merely an improvement upon last years phone, but if you’re running a 6 or older I highly recommend making the switch.

What do you think of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus? Sound off in the comments below! 

I Got My iPhone 7! 

I really didn’t think that I would be able to get my hands on an iPhone 7 today. From the time the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were announced earlier this month, I knew they would be hot sellers. The 7 because of the amount of people still on a two-year upgrade cycle and the Plus because of the dual lens camera system. 

I admit that I, myself,  considered getting the 7 Plus solely for the new camera system. Being able to have a camera that powerful in my pocket at all times is a dream come true. Alas, a dream it shall remain. In the days leading up to today, I spent a lot of time analyzing how and when I use my phone and I had a realization: I’m not ready for a 5.5″ display. With the various situations I use My phone in, I still need a device that I can comfortably use one-handed. 

With that in mind, I started calling Sprint stores to attempt to locate the device I wanted: an iPhone 7 in matte Black with either 128 or 256 GB of storage. Two phone calls in, I found it. 

I made my way out to the store, was checked in relatively fast and only waited about five minutes before I was able to get with a sales rep. From there, trading in my device and getting out of the store only took about ten minutes. 

Before I finished I was pitched a free iPad Mini 4th gen but I declined due to the device only being 16 gigs. I was advised that I could apply that credit to a 32 GB iPad Pro which I also declined, but not for long. 

After getting out of the Sprint store I decided to give my mother a call and let her know about the details of our upgrade this time around. I decided to get the phone as a lease instead of buying it outright over the course of 24 months as the cost wound up being less than I was paying for my iPhone 6. 

Needless to say, my mother wanted her upgrade today as well, so, after backing up her phone, we set out to the Sprint store once again. 

This trip was a bit more interesting because the store was a bit busier (though we still got helped relatively fast) and we were buying more than a phone. On the ride over, my mother convinced me to pick up the iPad Pro as the out of pocket cost was quite reasonable and my iPad 2 is no longer supported by Apple. Over the last few years my iPad 2 has gotten slower and slower as newer iPads have come out and iOS has gotten more resource intensive. So I retried my 32 GB Black iPad 2 with a 32 GB Space Gray iPad Pro. I’m quiet pleased with that. 

And my mother is pleased with her 128 GB Rose Gold iPhone 7. 

In the next few days I’ll be positing my thoughts on iOS 10 on the new hardware as well as the phone itself. In the comments below let me know if you have any iOS or iPhone 7 related questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. 

If you were able to snag an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus today, what do you think of it? Sound off in the comments below! 

What Does the New Duke Nukem 3D Mean for Classic Duke Nukem Games?

mrtrmldrqfhw4lgla2xmIt’s been an interesting year to be a Duke Nukem fan. At the end of 2015, many classic Duke Nukem games were pulled from sale on digital platforms including Steam and GOG. The reason for this was because the licensing deal with 3D Realms came to an end and passed on to Gearbox Software, the developers behind 2011’s less-than-well-received Duke Nukem Forever.

For the majority of 2016, Duke’s future was unknown and Gearbox was radio silent on the subject until earlier this month when Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour was announced. While this is great news for anyone who wants to experience the game all over again or simply dive into the game’s new fifth episode, the announcement still felt a little empty.

When Duke was taken off of digital storefronts last year they removed all of the classic games, including the MS-DOS releases Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II. Now, when it’s time for Gearbox to play their hand, they only lay a third of their cards on the table. On the surface there appears to be several reasons for this with the two most prominent being where Gearbox feels most comfortable in the gaming market as well ass the nature of Duke’s true past.

FPS Masters and the Forgotten Platformers

duke-nukem-ii_5The first thing we need to do is determine where exactly Gearbox Software sits in the current state of the gaming industry. Between 2006 and 2016 Gearbox has released 14 games (excluding iOS titles and remaster collections). Of those 14 games 10 have been first-person shooters belonging to series such as Brothers in Arms, Borderlands, Aliens, and Duke Nukem. With the exception of Samba de Amigo for the Nintendo Wii and the Homeworld games, Gearbox hasn’t explored many other genres of game recently and so they’ve created their comfort zone.

Sadly, this comfort zone they’ve created doesn’t win the early Duke games any points in their eyes as Duke originally wasn’t the star of first-person shooter games, but rather action platformers.

 Originally released in ’91 and ’93 respectively, the games saw Duke navigating 2D maps in a side-scrolling environment, shooting enemies and collecting goodies. While shooting, collecting, and platforming are all tentpoles of a great Duke Nukem game, they don’t portray the brand imagine that Gearbox would prefer the games have.

An Uncertain Future

dukenukemI can truly breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Duke Nukem 3D won’t be going anywhere anytime soon as the game is hands down one of the greatest shooters ever made, right up there with games like Doom and GoldenEye 007. I just don’t want to see the rest of the Duke Nukem series fall the way of so many other great MS-DOS games and become actual abandonware.
 Shareware versions of the first two games are easily (and legally) accessible online and can be loaded into DOSBox (or any DOS emulator) for your playing enjoyment. Regarding these versions they’re limited to the first episode of the game’s full release to give players a sizable demo of the game before asking the player to pay out of pocket.
 As for whether Duke Nukem I & II will ever see a proper digital release again, your guess is as good as mine. I can hope that Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is just the beginning of several Duke rereleases to occur, but only Gearbox knows for sure.

What do you think? Should Duke Nukem 1 & 2 get a proper rerelease or are they best served remaining in the past? Sound off in the comments below! 

Why I’m Going Away for Now (Maybe One Day I’ll Create Again)

I guess I should probably address the elephant in the room; one that I’ve been avoiding talking about every chance I get. For a while now I haven’t been updating the blog–no reviews, no interviews, nothing. Sadly, for the time being that isn’t going to change and for a few reasons.

The first that, and I am being straight up with you, I am depressed. I’ve hit that rut in my mid-twenties where I’m working a job I can’t stand, have put myself in enough debt that I can barely stand to check the mail (or my email for that matter) and am just generally “down”, which I think is the proper term to use.

I started writing on the blog again because I had the spare time at work in the off seasons and I thought it would be fun, but in a way it was probably so I didn’t have to get in touch with the harsh truths: that I don’t like where my life is right now and everything I do feels soul crushing. As should be expected that didn’t help for long.

The second reason is time. As work pulled itself into the busy season, that spare time I had to work on the blog kinda disappeared and that isn’t fair to the readers or the many content creators I hoped to network with.

The third reason is a harsh reality: there are plenty of websites out there that are talking tech and all things geek that get thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of views a day. It’s difficult for someone of my size to even hope to compete with something of that magnitude. In a way though, it’s also the change of culture. Creating solely written content in 2016 can be difficult to sustain and even tougher when your heart stops being in it, which sadly happened for me.

There is some good that can come of all this though: if I can push myself over this slump and maybe get myself to smile again, I’m hoping to begin doing video content on my YouTube channel featuring gameplay videos and tech talk. Sure I’ll probably hit the same slump again and realize that the sooner I get in touch with reality and agree to become a drone that doesn’t take chances the sooner I can be at peace, but what the hell? Sometimes I like to live dangerously.

Something I never had the chance to do on here as much as I would have liked is to talk about myself. Not just Daniel the geek but Daniel the dreamer. If you aren’t a fan of me or the blog and stumbled upon this page by mistake I won’t be mad if you leave. For anyone who enjoyed the blog and the content I’ve created it would mean a lot if you read this. It may sound egotistical but one of my favorite subjects to talk about is myself. There’s a lot more to me than you may see at first glance.

I guess one of the biggest things about me that I never made clear on here is that I love to act. In high school I did both drama club and the musical every year, despite my inability to sing. I haven’t acted at all since I dropped out of college halfway through the first semester and while there were a few reasons behind that the biggest was a cough due to post nasal drip that I haven’t managed to have treated by any doctor despite several visits. Kinda puts a damper on any live streaming or theater work that I could do.

Based on the fact that I was doing a blog it should be clear that I love to write but I don’t just enjoy doing journalistic/blogging style work. I love to create and I’ve had ideas for everything from TV shows to movies to novels and short stories that I would love to give life to but somehow I always fall short on execution. Maybe it’s a lack of discipline that I need to learn. Who knows?

I really enjoy music too. Being a child of the 90’s I listened to more pop than I care to admit but I changed in the summer between 8th grade and 9th grade when I discovered metal. While classic rock/hard rock/and heavy metal are where my main interests lie, I can listen to pretty much anything; even some country.

Comic books, games, technology, movies, metal–these are all things that make up who I am. No one thing is dominant and everything has its place. Together they form Dan. I have regrets too though.

I’ll never forget the time I got to meet my hero, Kevin Smith. I really admire him for everything he’s managed to accomplish in his life. When he started he was nothing more than a fat geek from NJ who loved movies and comic books and now he’s managed to make something of himself in ways I could only dream. I should have taken that moment for what it was: a chance to get some guidance from someone who I look at and see a bit of myself in, and instead I squandered the opportunity–a once in a life time shot–into glorified fan-girling. While I don’t regret the things we did talk about and cherish that memory dearly, I wish I had realized that was my moment to give the slightest bit of focus to the thousands of thoughts floating in my head, and if nothing else, walk away a little bit wiser and with a better head on my shoulders.

What happens next? I don’t really know. There’s a fifty-fifty shot that the next time you see me I’ll be happily talking about tech or playing a game on YouTube or even, God willing, talking about something great that I’ve created. There’s also a chance that the next time you see me, it will be behind a hotel desk in Atlantic City, fake smile plastered on my face doing everything I can to make sure every guest I deal with has a great vacation while inside I realize I’ve settled into the monotony of life.

I’ve always believed that you can’t keep a great creator down. And I still believe that’s true, but with a catch: life can keep a great creator down. To everyone who’s read the blog or watched my YouTube videos over the years, thank you for the support. It means a lot to me in ways you’ll never know. Now it’s time to take a break from content creation: maybe for a week, a month, a year…who knows, really. Maybe one day I’ll update this page again with content or maybe it will forever sit as it is now until the day WordPress prunes its servers of inactive sites.

Regardless of the outcome, thank you for the support over the years. It’s meant a lot to me.