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iPhone 6 vs. iPhone 6 Plus vs. Galaxy Note 4

I’ve had the same iPhone 4 since 2010, and I’m finally looking to make an upgrade. I’ve never felt the desire to be the type of consumer to upgrade my phone every time a new model comes out. I’m definitely not the type of person to follow the tech blogs and watch unboxing videos explaining the specs of each new phone. The whole cell phone race is something I’ve always avoided entirely.

My iPhone 4 is a little small, it’s sluggish with all of Apple’s iOS updates adding new features pushing the limits of its capabilities, and I’m simply ready for something new. My dilemma now is which of these new phones do I choose: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Here’s what I use my “phone” for these days:

  • Texting – I use this excessively on a daily basis to communicate with family, work, etc.
  • Internet – My phone is constantly one access point to the internet these days. I’m on the go a lot and I need a quick way to look something up.
  • Games – I’m playing a lot of games these days like Boom Beach, Star Wars Commander, and Clash of Clans.
  • Organization – I like a good calendar and tools to keep me organized.

I can already tell you without much research that all of the phones out there on the market handle these things well. But now that you know that what I normally do, I can tell you a bit more of what I want it to do.

  • Take amazing photos. I’m a lot more active now that I’m engaged, and I’m going places and doing things worthy of documenting with photos. I’ve come to realize my iPhone 4’s camera is not quite as good as some of these photos I see out there lately.
  • Video chat. I want to face time and be able to video chat with my fiance and family.
  • Integrate more with the rest of my life. I feel like my phone has always been detached from everything I do. I’m a PC user which means I’ve been in this weird juxtaposition of technology having an iPhone.

I can tell you now I’m already leaning toward the iPhone 6, but here are my thoughts on all of these devices after playing around with them in the store.

iphone6vs6plusiPhone 6

The iPhone is a solid phone. I’ve used iOS for years. I’m used to it. The phone is larger than my iPhone 4, has a lot of upgrades, and would easily do everything I want it to do. My problems with the iPhone 6 are that it’s … another iPhone.  Is it different enough? I’m not one to ever spend lots of money in an app store, so despite being a pure iOS user for years I haven’t really invested so deep that my switching costs are too high to matter. That said, I still have lots of apps and keeping things consistent would be nice.

Pros: I’m comfortable with the iPhone. It does what I need.

Cons: It’s another iPhone.

iPhone 6 Plus

The “phablet” version of the iPhone. It’s big and has better screen resolution than the basic 6, but is it too big? I have large hands, but I don’t know if I want it to feel like a tablet in my hands. I don’t want to have to always use two hands when using it. I put my phone in my pocket and I’m not sure whether or not this is too big to fit nicely in my jeans, slacks, or shorts. All of my thoughts on the iPhone 6 apply to the Plus as well.

Pros: Big screen with great resolution. It’s the iPhone experience I know.

Cons: Too big to fit in my pocket? Would it be cumbersome? It’s another iPhone.

note4Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Alright… here is a tough one. I’ve never used Android except for these past few weeks as I’ve played with a Galaxy tablet I borrowed. I went into the store and I tried out the Note 4 and immediately felt somewhat turned off by the ‘experience’ of the operating system. However, I like certain features.

I like that it’s linked into my Google accounts. I’m a heavy Google user. I like the feature where multiple apps can be open on the screen at a time or ‘minimized’ and quickly brought back up. I think the Google app store (Play store?) is fine. A few years ago it was trash and this wouldn’t even be a debate, but there really isn’t much of a difference now in app offerings. It has a stylus… I’m a little weirded out by that.

Pros: Great features that trump the iPhone. It’s connected to Google and probably integrates best with my life.

Cons: It’s huge. It feels more like a tablet. I don’t like the overall ‘experience’ as much as the iPhone.

As I mentioned before, I’m leaning toward the iPhone 6. It will fit into my pocket nicely, do everything I need, keep my experience consistent, and integrate with the other people in my life despite not quite integrating well with things I do on other devices.

Anyone out there have experience with these devices and want to share your insights? I’ll probably buy within the next week or two.

Keen’s Thoughts On Heroes of the Storm Technical Alpha

hots-shop

I finally got into Heroes of the Storm technical alpha a week or so ago, and after spending several hours going head to head with heroes, villains, and well-known characters from all of Blizzards IPs, I’m ready to share my thoughts.

First impression: Blizzard polish is (duh) amazing. They enter the MOBA scene years after so many others yet create a game that just ‘feels’ great. I don’t need to go into details about the UI being great or the game running smooth. The map is standard MOBA with a Blizzard flare (more on that in a moment). It’s all flawless, and that’s to be expected. Go watch a youtube video if you want to see more.

heroes-of-the-storm-raven

Heroes of the Storm is, essentially, a dumbed down version of other mobas at least where mechanics are concerned. There isn’t last hitting or denying. There are no items. Experience is shared across your entire team. Everything is super basic, but remarkably it works.

Gameplay centers solely around improving your team’s heroes faster than your enemy. Hero customization comes in the form of choosing talents and abilities that actually make the customization in HotS significantly better than most if not all other mobas out there. As you level you get to choose to upgrade abilities, and you have to make a choice of which ability will receive which upgrade. Upgrades may make an ability do more damage or gain an effect.

hots-arthas

As you play heroes more and win games you unlock new traits for them and gain experience to level those heroes up. This encourages you to pick a hero, buy it (yay cash shop?) and rank it up.

HotS also has mounts. It wouldn’t be a F2P or a Blizzard game without mounts. These can be activated by pressing Z and make moving around the battlefield when traveling a little bit faster. They can also be customized (more later).

hots-muradin2

What makes Heroes of the Storm unique is the interesting gameplay twists. Throughout the match there will be timed events to gather things or beat the enemy team at performing a challenge. In the Halloween map ‘Cursed Hollow’ the goal is to curse your enemies by collecting the tributes. This curse makes the enemy creeps have 1 HP — a great way to push their base. Another map I’ve played had players entering into a goldmine (good ole classic Blizzard gold mines) to slay undead and collect tokens to spawn a boss that would fight for your team.

hots-muradin

The free-to-play component of HotS disappointed me. I hate games that only make certain heroes available each week. It’s like League. I prefer DOTA2’s method of giving you every hero. You’re forced to buy heroes and they ARE NOT CHEAP. Some range from $3.99 up to I think I saw one for like $10? It’s crazy. Yes, you can unlock them with the in-game ‘gold’ you earn slowly by playing normally. Other things like mounts, cosmetic skins, and the usual fair can be found. Blizzard clearly likes Riot’s business model.

Worth playing? Yep! Heroes of the Storm is a lot of fun despite being a somewhat obvious cash grab. If you’re like me you’ll look to find the most value possible without paying a cent. I can have plenty of fun for free.

Camelot Unchained is Looking Real Good

My excitement for Camelot Unchained is really starting to ramp up. Such a welcome change from the dismal outlook I’ve had on MMOs lately. Camelot Unchained is currently in pre-alpha testing. I think I get access to some version of Alpha based on my support of their Kickstarter campaign… I just can’t remember when or how I’m supposed to be getting that access.

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Camelot Unchained would look rough. I’m not a graphics whore or snob (well okay maybe a little).  When I saw the screenshots from the P.A.T. I was actually shocked in a good way. Take a look.

camelot-unchained-pre-alpha1

camelot-unchained-pre-alpha2

Pretty cool right? I’m liking how they’ve progressed from that tech demo. I think the character models already look good and have a lot of potential. I’m starting to get excited to think about playing this game and rekindling that sense of a big world of territories ripe for the conquering.

You guys know me. I’m typically a PvE carebear. When it comes to PvP I’m reluctant to participate and always have been since I started playing online games. The only game to truly capture my attention from a PvP angle was Dark Age of Camelot. It’s all about the realm, the large group, and the server battling together rather than guilds or individuals or teams. It’s grand scale stuff. My mind is creating these types of experience already in the graphical style of what I’ve seen in Camelot Unchained.

Something else I want to touch on briefly is the way in which Mark and his team are promoting/marketing/etc., CU. I love the blunt and matter of fact way in which they talk about their game. I’m a fan of the “our game is not for everyone” tone. I’m a fan of letting your game speak for itself rather than having to create marketing materials or bs videos of a dev sitting there talking. As Camelot Unchained enters a stage when they can start actually sharing the game itself, I hope the team at CSE keeps it up.

Can’t Bring Myself To Play The Evil Within

I made a similarly titled post a few days ago about Alien: Isolation and how the intensity and stress caused by being stalked made it difficult to play. I don’t have that problem with The Evil Within because so far it just isn’t scary. Even while being chased by guys with chainsaws and wading through pools of human gore all I manage to think about is how the protagonist is going to end up surviving this entire ordeal just to die from the hepatitis he is sure to contract. What makes playing the game difficult is how the game is presented and how poorly optimized it is.

My computer isn’t great but I think it’s at least mid-high. I don’t know anything about specs anymore but it can run Alien: Isolation great on max settings but with The Evil Within I’m getting FPS bouncing around the low 20’s. That is pretty bad but I’m oddly used to it having played games on crappy computers for years. What makes the entire experience something rather difficult to stomach (it’s actually the first game that has ever made me feel ill) is a combination of several factors:

The Game Seems Super Zoomed In - I think this is referred to as “field of view” and I’m sure somebody will correct me if it isn’t. Anyway, the camera is extremely close to the character even to the point where he almost completely disappears from the screen when you aim to fire your weapon.This kind of view is something I find extremely disorienting and when you run around there is a lot of camera bobbing and turning the camera creates this swooping feeling that makes my stomach drop out. After only playing for 20 minutes or so I’ll get a headache and feel nauseated.

The Black Bars – There are horizontal black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. I really have no idea why this is. Supposedly for some kind of cinematic experience or something but I just don’t understand it. The field of view is already incredibly low and now you cut off a significant portion of the top and bottom screen? Why? Why would you do this?

Low FPS – By default the game is locked at 30 FPS unless you change that with a console command. That doesn’t really help me though since my performance is pretty horrible anyway. I did say that I’m not too bothered by low FPS but when you combine it with the other factors I mentioned it creates a visual nightmare.

I probably should have avoided the PC version of the game but I’m not always one to listen to warnings, even if there are a lot of them. Even so I can’t imagine I would get any better of an experience with the console version. At least on PC you can get field of view fixes and remove the black bars. I tried doing so but it only made my performance worse. Also oddly enough I didn’t get any sort of better performance when setting the graphics options to their lowest and on a lower resolution. That’s just weird, right? I get the same performance no matter what the settings are.

Anyway, buy at your own risk but I couldn’t recommend it. Some people really do like it, though. I’m just not really one of them. Maybe I’ll revisit it later on with better hardware.

Being a raid leader was just practice

I used to think that running a raiding guild back in the Molten Core and Black Wing Lair days took a lot of preparation and coordination. We would have to crank out all kinds of food and potions, coordinate arrival times, make contingency plans, adapt to changes in attendees, figure out who to invite and not invite, and deal with all sorts of drama. I would spend hours and hours making sure everything went just right.  Turns out I was simply practicing for planning a wedding.

I’ve still managed to squeeze in some gaming time despite having my days filled with work, venues, and excel spreadsheets out my ears for everything from food to invitees. I got into the Heroes of the Storm Technical Alpha! I’ve played only a handful of matches but I’m really enjoying the gameplay. It’s simplified DOTA. Heroes of the Storm reminds me of those Hero Arena games I used to play back in the custom games for Warcraft 3. Lots of fun and I look forward to playing it more this weekend before giving even more thoughts on the game.

My Barbarian in Diablo 3 Season 1 is still coming along quite nicely too. Something about spreading my playtime very thin with D3 gives me a renewed sense of love for being able to log in, get loot, and kill lots of monsters. In one morning I went from not being able to do Torment 1 to being able to clear Torment 4 with ease. All it took was a few runs in rifts and I got 3 set Ik, 3 earth, a Bovine bardiche, and Lut socks. Now I’m leap quaking everything to pieces.

Graev picked up Civ Beyond Eearth. I’m going to watch him play it for a bit today (tomorrow?) and decide if I want to get myself a copy. If you’ve tried it by the time you read this post feel free to give your impressions. I’m eager to hear if dropping the $49.99 is worth it. Graev actually saved a bit by using some deal Green Man Gaming has going for 25% off. We’ll get our impressions up soon — Graev seems to be reviewing games like crazy these days.

I’m just glad all of the MMOs out right now suck. If something like Camelot Unchained or EverQuest Next was out I’d be really hurting. I remember every year I’d go back up to college after a nice summer break and a new MMO would launch right in the first week of classes. This is good karma coming back to me now. Best drought ever.