My experience with Steam Link and PS4 Remote Play on iOS

When the Steam Link device was released I was pretty excited about what it promised. It allowed you to stream your Steam library from your PC to any TV in the house, which sounded great for someone who wasn’t a huge fan of always sitting in a computer chair at a desk. Once I got the hardware, however, I was disappointed from the start. I never had a great experience with it, even though I had a quality router. It’s highly recommended that both the PC and Steam Link are connected to the router via ethernet, but that wasn’t going to work for me.

While listening to a podcast a few days ago I was made aware that there’s now a Steam Link app for iOS. This discovery happened to coincide with the release of Persona 4 Golden on Steam, and I was thrilled to give it a try. Persona is a game that doesn’t suffer if a little bit of input lag or drops in video quality are introduced. I quickly got the app up and running, and plopped my iPad on a table in front of our porch swing to give it a go. It worked surprisingly well, even with my desktop only being connected via WiFi. I didn’t get any pixelation or hiccups during the hour I played on the iPad. From there I got Steam Link set up on my Apple TV in the living room and continued on for another hour or so, without any issues.

I then dug out my Steam Link hardware and set it up to see if I’d get the same experience, but unfortunately little had changed from the last time I tried to use it. It was a pixelated mess, hardly playable at all, despite it being set up closer to my router than the Apple TV or my iPad.

The only downside to using an Apple TV for Steam Link is that there’s no mouse support. I have another Apple TV in my office and wanted to play Command and Conquer Remastered on it, only to find out there’s not a way to use a bluetooth mouse through the Apple TV. I ended up connecting the mouse to my desktop and used a bluetooth keyboard connected to the Apple TV and it worked, however I’m not sure it would work well (if at all) from the living room.

I ended up spending some time running an ethernet cable into my office and setting up an ethernet switch to finally wire everything up, which did make the Steam Link usable. From there I decided to give PS4 Remote Play another try on my iPad and MacBook, and while it works, it’s a much lower quality experience compared to the Steam Link app.

I played some of The Last of Us Remastered on my MacBook in the living room as my wife was watching Netflix, and while it worked, it certainly wasn’t an ideal experience. During scenes with lots of action I experienced heavy pixelation and some lag, and I often had to pause to let the quality improve so that I wouldn’t die. I didn’t adjust the display settings on my PS4 Pro (I had it set to prioritize higher resolutions) so that may have played a part in my experience, but the best way to play The Last of Us is on a TV anyway, as the scenery is part of what makes the game special.

These remote play experiences has made me wish that the experience were better for the Xbox. As far as I’m aware there’s not currently a way to stream an Xbox to an iOS device or MacBook (outside of the Xcloud beta or running Bootcamp), and even trying Xbox’s remote play on my desktop has been a poor experience. I have yet to try since running ethernet to everything, but my desktop is in the same room as my Xbox, so there’s little reason to try. I did try streaming to the Xbox app via BootCamp on my Mac and it was unplayable.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is out on iOS!

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I was browsing the app store last night and was surprised to find a fully featured port of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 on the App Store for just $4.99. It seemed too good to be true, however after reading that there are no in-app purchases I decided to drop five bucks on a game that should provide hours upon hours of entertainment.

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The game features a career mode and a sandbox mode that provides you with unlimited money and no obstacles, allowing you to construct your dream park.

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Creating rollercoasters is quite easy, but the fun begins once you test out your creations.

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You can hop onto your rollercoaster and ride it using a first person view which is pretty cool. After you’re satisfied with your ride you can open it to the public and start raking in the money!

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The game provides a large variety of options, especially for a five dollar mobile game. You can tweak settings such as the wait time between car departures down to the speed of your chain hills. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 on iOS provides you with plenty of stats about all of your rides which fuels an addictive, incredibly satisfying gameplay loop of micromanaging your park to promote maximum satisfaction and in turn maximum profit.

I can already tell I’ll end up sinking way too many hours into RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 on my iPad. It’s hard to beat the many hours of entertainment the game provides for just $5. What’s even better are once you pay for the game you have access to everything. There are no microtransactions and no limitations on your gameplay. If you loved the RollerCoaster Tycoon games you need to check out this portable version. Just be warned, once you pick it up you might not want to put it down!

A few of my favorite things: Starbucks FVL and the NYT

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This afternoon I enjoyed a few of my favorite things on a Sunday in Korea. Enjoying coffee and the New York Times became a weekly tradition last spring, and I’ve managed to continue to enjoy the tradition through my travels in Hawaii and Korea this summer.

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The setting sun glows in the hazy sky above the dorms.

Unfortunately the Fall favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte hasn’t arrived at the Osan Starbucks yet, but the French Vanilla Latte is just as tasty. I love reading the ‘paper’ (in digital form of course) while enjoying a wonderful Starbucks beverage, especially while sitting outside. I miss sitting out and watching the trees and the cars back home, but it’s been nice to enjoy a relaxing hour each Sunday as I’ve counted down the days until I return (soon!).

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Enjoying the NYT and hotel coffee in Hawaii.

 

 

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Coffee in one of my favorite mugs on the steps back in Boise.

Bioshock is now available on iOS

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So I was browsing the App Store today and was surprised to find that Bioshock is now available on iOS for $14.99. I had absolutely no idea that it was even coming to iOS, and now here it is, ready to be enjoyed on the go on my iPad Air! I was quite excited when I saw it, so I just wanted to pop in and share the news in case anyone else was unaware that this was actually coming.

I’ll be sure to share my experience after I play it a bit. Most of the reviews are quite positive so I’m excited to dig in and enjoy this wonderful game yet again!

Civilization Revolution 2: I can’t stop

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Civilization Revolution on the Xbox 360 was my very first exposure to the Civilization franchise. The very first time I played it I was addicted. There was just something amazing about trying to set up the perfect defenses to keep your Nation alive before venturing out and engaging in little skirmishes to raise the experience levels of your armies as you advance your technology and eventually make a play to rule the world.

Going from Civ Revolution to Civ V on the PC was quite the shock. Not only is it a lot slower paced, there’s a lot more to manage and keep track of. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily a quick fix type of game. At first I couldn’t get a grasp on Civ V as it was just too different (for example, being unable to stack troops makes it very difficult to navigate into tight spaces and launch an attack). Now I love Civ V just as much as I loved Civ Revolution, it’s just very time consuming.

Enter Civilization Revolution 2, the $14.99 iOS exclusive (for the moment). Having such an amazing game available at any time on my iPad is amazing, and it’s worth every penny, if not more. The game looks and plays almost exactly like the 2008 console release, with a few additions and improvements.

Playing a Civ game on a touch device is easy, and intuitive. Tap a troop and tap where you want it to go. Everything comes naturally, I don’t think I could ever go back to playing Civ Revolution with a controller. It also runs quite smoothly on the iPad Air and looks great all the time.

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I’ve already sunk something around 10 hours into Civ Revolution 2, and I’ve loved every minute of it. The only problem I have is putting it down. Most people come to expect mobile games to be quick fix games, but mobile gaming has come a long way since Angry Birds. You now have full featured games on mobile devices as opposed to stripped down iterations. A few of my Civ Revolution 2 games have lasted three hours or longer and the time flew by before I realized it. I’ll tell myself ‘just one more turn’ and before long I’m 50 turns deeper.

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Beware Civ Revolution 2’s addictive properties. Recently after finishing a 3 hour Civ Rev 2 game I immediately jumped onto my MacBook and began a Civ V game.

If you have an iOS device I highly recommend purchasing Civilization Revolution 2. You’ll get countless hours of enjoyment out of it if you enjoy strategy games or Civ games. If the PC versions of Civilization have intimidated you I also suggest you check out Civ Rev 2 as it’s much easier to get into and you’ll be having fun before you know it.

Civilization Revolution 2 is available in the App Store for $14.99

iOS 7 is here!

So I’ve been crazy excited for iOS 7 to arrive and today at 11AM (Mountain Time) it did! I had no problems downloading and installing it on my iPhone 5, but so far I’m having issues with my iPad 4. It downloaded the update but when I try to install it it says ‘software update unavailable’.

Anyway, I love the new look and feel of everything and the way it switches between apps now is awesome. I’m particularly in love with iTunes Radio. I love the design and I’ve been listening to ‘Ra Ra Riot Radio’ for the last hour and have discovered more amazing music than I ever have on Pandora and Spotify. I’m pretty certain I’m going to end up subscribing to iTunes Match as a result.

I don’t have much else to say right now, but I just LOVE the look:

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Iron Man 3: IMAX

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The last movie I saw in IMAX was The Amazing Spider-Man last year (it also happened to be my first IMAX experience besides The Hubble IMAX at the Smithsonian). I had never lived close enough to an IMAX theater to justify seeing movies in IMAX until the last year. I enjoyed seeing Spider-Man in IMAX but never felt the need to return to the IMAX theater…that is until now.

Iron Man 3 is getting overwhelmingly good reviews and positive buzz so far with its overseas release and it opens in IMAX at 10pm tomorrow night in Boise. I’m pretty certain we’re going to see it in IMAX 3D tomorrow night, despite the $15.50 per ticket price tag. My girlfriend has never seen a movie in IMAX and I feel like Iron Man 3 will do it justice. Besides, this may well be one of the last times we see Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (his contract is under negotiation, and there is talk of recasting Iron Man).

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I look forward to the experience, and the official start of the blockbuster summer movie season that Iron Man 3 rings in (following closely behind will be Star Trek, The Hangover III and Man of Steel!). Heck, I’ve even downloaded the official Iron Man 3 mobile game to fool around with in the hours before the movie premieres:

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I can finally stop using my iPad as my primary camera

So at some point this summer my iPhone’s camera took a dump and started taking blurry pictures (I think it’s because I always took it skiing). I still believe that a phone is the perfect camera, and an actual camera is an archaic and dying device much like a newspaper or paper books.

However for awhile I had to use my iPad as my primary camera, which was just a little awkward. It takes great pictures in my eye, and even side by side with my new camera I still think the iPad’s pictures look just as good.

Anyway, I picked up a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W620, slightly used on Amazon for about $30! Pretty sweet deal. I need to pick up an SD card before it can officially retire my iPad as it can only store 5 pictures on its internal memory, but I guess in the long run I won’t look like such a nerd holding up an iPad to take pictures and video.

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Below you can see a side by side comparison of the Sony Cyber-Shot and the iPad 4.

Cyber-Shot (14.1 megapixels)

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iPad 4 (5 megapixels)

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OnLive Desktop: Microsoft Office on the iPad

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You may have heard of OnLive, a company best known for it’s streaming / cloud gaming platform that allows you to play PC games on demand without downloading anything. Well now they also offer the OnLive Desktop app which allows you to access a PC in the cloud on your tablet. There are quite a few apps that will let you connect to your own desktop, however in this case you’re connecting to one of their desktops that have free, pre-installed apps (pretty much just Microsoft Office 2010 right now for free members).

Currently there are two service plans, Standard (free) and Plus ($4.99/mo) with Pro ($9.99/mo) listed as coming soon. The Standard service gets you access to a desktop (with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe Reader) as available (I didn’t have any wait at all when I tried it this morning) and 2GB of cloud storage. I assume you can access your files on another computer by logging into your account, however when I tried to log into my account on my MacBook I kept getting redirected to the login page.

The Plus plan grants your priority access to a desktop, allows you to use Internet Explorer to browse the web with Flash enabled and includes “Gigabyte speed” cloud storage and Webmail. It doesn’t specify if it includes more cloud storage than the Standard 2gb, but it notes you can use DropBox and other cloud storage options with it.

The Pro plan offers the benefits of the Plus plan with 50gb of cloud storage. There’s also an Enterprise plan and Collaborative plan ‘coming soon’ with various other benefits included.

So far my experience with OnLive on my iPad has been a decent one. I noticed a tiny bit of lag when typing and clicking (or rather tapping) on things, but this very well could be due to some slower than preferable WiFi. Otherwise everything worked as expected and looks quite good on the iPad. I could certainly imagine this being a useful tool until Microsoft releases Office for the iPad. The app and its Standard service are free, so I recommend you create an account and give it a try. You never know when you might need it.

Below are a few screenshots of it running on my iPad:

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iPad: Final Fantasy Dimensions / The Walking Dead

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I’ve used the first gen Kindle Fire and the 7″ Kindle Fire HD and enjoyed both, but I finally decided to become an iPad owner. I’d describe myself as quite the Apple fan. I love their story, I love their attitude and I love their products. I use a 13″ MacBook Pro (2012) and the iPhone 4 and love both. They’re both very solid, sleek and sexy products with great operating systems (I also run Windows 8 on my MacBook and enjoy it). I love the iTunes store and have a lot of iTunes content, and I could still access all of my Amazon content via the Kindle and Instant Video apps, so the iPad was a great investment in my eyes.

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So now I’m the owner of a white 32gb iPad 4 as you can see in the blurry as crap picture above (sorry about that). So far it’s been a great experience. The retina display is absolutely amazing, text on websites looks incredibly crisp and HD movies look absolutely stunning. The amount of apps available is a HUGE improvement over the Kindle Fire HD (sorry Amazon) and I’m glad I made the purchase.

I’ve been enjoying Final Fantasy: Dimensions a lot so far. Dimensions is a modern Final Fantasy game created in the old 16 bit style and it’s a wonderful throwback. It looks and sounds great and so far it is a blast to play. It is an episodic title and the prologue is free, chapter 1 is $2.99 and the 3 remaining chapters are $6.99, or you can buy all of the chapters for $19.99. I think I’m going to buy the chapters as I get to them because the game is about 40 hours along and I’m sure it’ll take me at least several weeks to finish and I’ll probably get distracted.

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I’ve also been playing The Walking Dead, which I’ve played on the 360 but since the first episode is free I figured I’d try it out. I’m going to play the opposite type of character on my iPad playthrough, so I’m pretty much going to be a ruthless son of a bitch throughout the game 🙂 Should be fun.

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I’ve also checked out Infinity Blade II which looks amazing. If you have any other recommendations for must play games feel free to suggest them in the comments. Anyway, I’ve included a few more screenshots below. Enjoy!