Technobabble | RBG Podcast 011 – Secret Bunkers

Join Jeff, Cynth, Dan and Kevin as they discuss the latest tech and gaming news.

Music “Pumped” is by RoccoW

Requiem for a Disaster – Sim City

When EA’s most recent rendition of the classic Sim City franchise came out back in 2013, we were treated to a customer backlash for the ages. Sim City came in like a wrecking ball…made of a balloon on some string, which bounced off our expectations and popped. It was like watching a trainwreck, except that it was by design.

 

 

Sim City’s creators had the brilliant idea to make the game online only; a move that frustrated buyers in and of itself. We all understand the benefits of online functionality, but why should the player need to sign in to create a sprawling, beautiful cityscape by him or herself?

 

The first problem was the “sign in” part, as the online servers were constantly broken. Even if, by some miracle, you managed to get signed in to the server, the game would often disconnect at crash when you attempted to launch it.

 

The second problem was that while “beautiful” actually came through for the fans, “sprawling” was intentionally sabotaged. The game imposes a city size limit that is crippling.

 

 

Fast forward to about a month ago when my friends informed me that the game was on sale for $5 on Origin, and my interest was piqued. So what does the game look like now, with a low price and 3.5 years’ worth of fixing time?

 

 

I can tell you the initial experience is far more acceptable than I had heard about back in 2013. While the connection process is still slightly confusing and the system has an inexplicable desire to log the user in to an Asian server for some reason, it actually does work. They even were so kind as to add an “offline” feature in 2014. Too little too late back then, but appreciated today. I was able to connect to the world my friend had created with only some minor manual intervention and mild head scratching.

 

Next, I moved on to the loading-the-game step….and was greeted by a friendly freeze, crash, and PC heart attack. I almost immediately gave up right then and there due to my preconceptions of the game. Turns out, Origin-in-game can cause some issues, so a quick disable of that feature and I was off to the races.

 

 

The game itself is actually really fun…for a couple hours. I rather enjoyed myself until I hit the all-too-restrictive size limit. Now, there’s a lot of optimization that can be done to make your city grow even further, but that’s not good enough in my mind. I always considered that the busy work of the Sim City games of old. Want you want is to grow and evolve your city, not just optimize and upgrade.

 

Now on to the “reason” why they limited the city size: co-op. I admit, the concept of building cities and co-operating with neighbouring cities run by your friends is a highly appealing one. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as interesting in practice. While you can share resources and the like, it’s a mostly automated process that lacks any excitement. Your only real method of expanding past that point is starting a new city in the region and working toward regional goals – a nice feature, but one that in no way excuses the severe kneecapping of individual cities.

 

 

 

In summation, the game has frustratingly unrealized potential in the co-op features that in no way compensate for its bizarre limitations in comparison to its far superior competitor in Paradox Interactive’s Cities: Skylines.

 

Android Has Games!

To start, I have no idea if these are available on iOS and I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t really care. Yep, I said that. OK, fine. All are available on iOS with the exception of Magic Circus. With that out of the way, HEY there are games on these things!

With my two latest phones I have been able to play a large amount of the latest games on Android and I wanted to cover a few of them here I think you should check out.

PinOut

This is a simple pinball game that becomes tough by making it a race against the clock. The physics are pretty good and the controls work pretty well. The premise of the game is to get further and further along the pinball table while replenishing your time left by collecting pellets and playing mini games. If you are familiar with Tron Legacy you will see where the developers got the ideas for their game design and the music. The music is so good I wish I could download a soundtrack of it separately. It’s free to play though if you want to save your progress you will have to spend a couple bucks to unlock the game. This is also one of the few that you can play offline.screenshot_20170123-091302

Nice Shot Golf

This game is almost a near ripoff of Hot Shots Golf in style but it’s a great golf game still. The developers make their money using in game micro transactions like so many other games nowadays. There are a couple items that can be bought to make the game easier but to be honest I have not had a problem playing the game with what I earn in game. You can earn different outfits that increase your avatars golfing ability and a few different currencies that allow you to upgrade your golf clubs to make you more accurate. Overall it’s a fun game but it does require a hefty in-game download to play and a constant internet connection afterwards. There is also a PvP function that I honestly haven’t played around with but it’s cool to see it there.screenshot_20170123-091603

Juice Jam

This is really a reskin of Candy Crush Saga but I prefer this version. Not much to say here other than the neat animations of the characters in game are fun to watch. The difficult ramps up rather quickly though so expect to spend some money on in game items to make it further if you don’t want to retry multiple times.screenshot_20170123-092114

Microsoft Solitaire

If you are familiar with Microsoft’s Solitaire suite on Windows 10 then you are familiar with the Android version. It works very well and is probably the best Solitaire game on Android.screenshot_20170123-092232

Magic Circus

This is sort of a modified Bejewelled clone that is similar to Candy Crush as well. It’s a bit simpler than Candy Crush but a lot mindless fun.screenshot_20170123-092337

Are there any games that you play that should get some love? Let me know in the comments.

Blue Life One X2 – HYPE!

Recently I moved from my old Blackberry Bold 9930 and Verizon to a Blu Life One X (2016) and Virgin Mobile and one of the things I’ve enjoyed is the absolute freedom to use any unlocked cell phone on the Virgin network. If you listen to our podcast you will note that a week after I purchased my Blu Life One X it was upgraded and renamed the Blu Life One X2. This new phone came with many new features for a bump in price of 60 Canadian loonies.

I was distressed by the fact that my phone had been so handily swept to the trash heap as the new phone has specs that utterly demolished the One X. So when I found out that I was getting a Christmas bonus at work I ordered the new X2. I am so happy I did.

The new phone has the same size screen though not the same screen. If you are looking for better colour you may want to stay with the One X. The screen is still more than usable however and with all the added features I can’t recommend the old phone. The back plate is really nice on this phone. Blu has went ahead and put a metal back plate on the phone and moved the camera to the centre-top. This along with the two shiny chrome-like beauty stripes on the back really make this phone look premium. It does add some weight to the phone though so if you like lighter phones you may want to look else-where.

One of the biggest changes this time around is the replacement of the Mediatek 6753 8-core cpu. This time Blu chose to go with an 8-core cpu from Qualcomm which is great in a few different ways. First, it runs much cooler. In fact I’ve never felt it heat up. The Mediatek was a heat monster in the One X. Second, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 offers quick charging making it possible to charge up to a 70% charge in half an hour. I didn’t think that would effect me so much but it has. Even ten minutes on the charger can help you in a pinch if you have to head out on an errand. Third, the performance of the cpu and gpu nearly double the performance of the Mediatek part according to 3DMark.

Blu also made some changes to the memory and storage. There are actually two versions of this phone available. The base version (what I call it at least as they don’t have a name for it) comes with the same specs as the One X but with the Qualcomm chip (2GB of memory and 16GB of storage). The premium version (again what I call it as they don’t have a name for it) has a whopping 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage. That is impressive for a phone at this price point (I’ll get to that later).

On top of all these new features the new phone still retains it’s dual sim slots and an SD card slot. You can’t remove the battery though and that remains a small sticking point for me as you could not in the One X either. On the same note though the battery life is hugely improved over the Mediatek. With my typical use which is semi-heavy I went from getting about 8 hours of battery life to 13 hours. That use mostly includes web surfing and playing music for the day with the screen brightness at about 33%.

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Blu Life One X 2016 3DMark Score

Performance of the phone is quite snappy. I regularly leave apps open now that I wouldn’t have done on the previous phone. Most games perform adequately as well but don’t expect your super graphics intensive games to run fantastic on this device. I have found that games like Nice Shot Golf and Pokemon Go and PinOut perform quite well.

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Blu Life One X2 4GB Edition 3DMark Score

The storage is something that was severely lacking on the One X and the X2 makes up for it quite well. The problem with using an SD card for storing things like apps (like I had to do on the One X) is the phone sometimes doesn’t detect the apps installed on the card for some time after the phone has booted. With the 64GB of storage you really have enough room for any app you may ever want. And if you don’t you still have an option to add an SD card.

As per usual it’s a pleasure to swap phones with Android as all of your settings are imported and the phone immediately begins to download and install your apps once you are online. The X2 comes with a pretty vanilla version of Android 6.0.1. The only extra apps I noticed were the Blu Help app and a couple apps from Amazon. Otherwise it’s a pretty bare installation. The launcher is OK that comes with it but I hate having a Google search bar stuck on my screen and as such with every Android device I own I immediately install Nova Launcher.

After all this typing I realize I forgot one of the biggest new features on the X2. It now has a physical home button with an integrated fingerprint reader! Yes folks, that is quite a premium item on a budget phone. I never thought I’d care for a fingerprint reader but now that I have one I don’t know if I would buy a phone without one ever again. It’s super convenient.

The improved camera (now at 16MP) is great especially with the new bundled camera app. It’s very intuitive to change shot styles and the phone takes pictures very quickly. Pictures come out great in regular and bright light. Dark pictures are OK but nothing to get excited about. I was impressed that the dark scene pictures were not very grainy as is typical for lower end phones. Also the laser focus is super quick and a great upgrade from the old One X’s phase data system.blulifeonex2gray

With the phone Blu sends a screen protector, a gel case and a quick-charger that works with the Qualcomm chips. If you buy from Amazon Canada beware (which I believe is the only way to get these phones except for perhaps eBay). The seller that Amazon uses apparently sold a ton of these phones without quick-chargers. This is a big deal as Blu ships all their phones with quick-chargers from the factory so for this seller to swap them out for cheap usb chargers is really ridiculous. I was fortunate enough to receive one with the correct charger. Also, never fear, as stated these phones will charge with regular chargers, they just won’t charge as quickly.

So there you have it. Another Blu phone. I’ve said it in the podcast and I’ll say it again here, I don’t understand why this company is not getting more coverage. I know it’s had a shaky past with some not so great software preinstalled on their phones but that is in the past. Their current phones are incredible for the price.

The Blu Life One X2 retails for 259.99 CAD on Amazon Canada right now.

If you are in the market for a new phone and your carrier allows unlocked phones on their network consider the X2 before you make any decisions. You will be happy you did.

The Prize At The Bottom Of The Kaby Lake

Last week, I discussed Intel’s new Kaby Lake processors and the disappointment that came from what we can probably call Intel’s laziest effort yet. It was more disappointing to me than when Post decided to remove Marshmallow Alpha Bits from our cereal aisles.

 

 

 

I was personally very excited for Intel finally releasing an unlocked i3 in the 7350K, and was even considering picking one up to play with…right up until the almighty Intel slapped us all in the face with a $180 USD/$250 CAD price point – the same price as the i5-7500.

 

 

However, there appears to be a diamond in the rough at the bottom of Intel’s new lineup that just may offer a glimmer of excellent value.

 

 

Enter the Pentium G4560.

 

 

Another first for Intel, the G4560 is the Pentium lineup’s pioneer for Hyper-Threading Technology. It comes with 2 cores/4 threads at a locked 3.5GHz clock speed with no boost, a 3MB L3 cache, and a TDP of approximately 54W. It even comes with Intel’s most recent HD Graphics 610.

 

The part that makes it truly interesting is the price: $65 USD/$90 CAD.

 

 

While the fixed clock speed means we can’t have fun pushing the chip to its utmost limits like we could with the legendary G3258, the performance results are actually quite impressive.

 

The G4560 hits well above its weight class, trading blows with Intel’s last generation i3-6100 (still priced at ~$150 CAD) and 2nd generation i5s. It also handily defeats AMD’s FX-6300, a popular processor for budget gaming PCs in recent years. At nearly half the price of the i3-7100 and only slightly less performance, one wonders if Intel might have shot their own entry level i3 in the foot.

 

 

There are also options for a tiny bit more power for a few extra bucks in the G4600 and G4620, but the G4560 has to be a top consideration for budget gamers going forward. While not having 4 physical cores may be a concern for future proofing, in the now, that value is hard to beat.

 

 

My only real complaint here is that Intel missed a great opportunity to call it the G4567 to satisfy my OCD.

 

 

 

 

Maybe one day we’ll get to see the unlocked version of this CPU. That would be a lot of fun to play with.

A Whole New Galaxy

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a cranky old man when it comes to phones:

 

I find most apps useless or even highly intrusive with their logins (anyone who read my rant against NVIDIA for requiring a superfluous login to use their GeForce Experience software probably saw this one coming) or permissions requirements (why on earth does a fitness app need access to my contacts or my…anything? It’s essentially a glorified calculator).

 

I don’t like 99% of mobile games (I let everyone else cover those on the podcast).

 

I don’t feel the need to keep up with what all my friends are doing on Facebook at all hours of the day.

 

Heck, I don’t even like talking on the phone and ignore the thing for hours on end when possible.

 

Essentially, a phone to me is a mobile e-mail checker and calendar, with the occasional internet browsing session or desperate plea to Google Maps thrown in for good measure. So with all that background information, you can probably see my reasoning behind stubbornly sticking to my good ol’ Samsung Galaxy S3 device for years without even considering putting in for an upgrade. To be perfectly honest, I would probably still be using my old BlackBerry Curve if it hadn’t been stolen.

 

It turns out one of the blessings in disguise of my recent car accident was that it effectively destroyed my S3, forcing me to make the switch into the modern era of smartphone technology.

 

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Now I didn’t get the most cutting edge tech by any means, as I ended up with the Galaxy S6. However, this new phone appears to be as superior to my old phone as the name implies – a whole 3 galaxies worth. It got me thinking how much mobile tech has improved over the last few years.

 

 

The first thing I noticed was (of course) performance. While it’s not exactly a fair comparison as my old faithful phone had years of wear and tear on it (hardware and software wise), the S6 is able to chew through my admittedly simple tasks as quickly as I can throw (or rather swipe) them at it. Tasks I had grown accustomed to waiting a few seconds for are now almost instant.

 

Next up is battery life. Again, as the S3’s battery was the original, it’s not a fair comparison. That said, with my level of use, this fresh new battery can hold me for roughly three days before a recharge is absolutely necessary – a fantastic improvement from maybe getting me through the work day. If I was lucky, and the ambient pressure was just right. And the merciful Poseidon was feeling particularly gracious.

 

 

My continued exploration of the device lead me to the camera. I always assumed that my S3 had a serviceable camera, but the difference between its 8 MP offering vs the new 16 MP is staggering, and the viewing experience is made better by the next item.

 

 

The display is a shocking difference. Although the phone is a bit longer than my already-too-big-in-my-opinion S3, the 5.1’’ screen boasts a 1440×2560 resolution. This enhanced pixel density is a huge jump in viewing experience over the S3’s 720×1280 spec.

 

 

Now of course, there are the downsides that come with any phone – namely bloatware. Why Samsung and Google feel I need a thousand apps by default is beyond me. Suggestions? Sure, but there’s no need to actually install them if I have no use for them.

 

 

 

While I would never presume to have enough experience in the world of mobile technology to give an actual review score of any kind, I must say I’m thoroughly impressed by the Galaxy S6. It has made me rethink my stance on phones….well, maybe not. At the very least it’s given me an appreciation for the advancements in mobile devices that I’ve neglected to participate in for several years.

 

If anyone is still holding out like I did, I have to say you will be impressed by a new device and (mostly) the features that come with – so long as the price is right. They certainly aren’t cheap if you buy them straight up, but I have to admit I was surprised at how much I enjoy the upgrade.

Forza Horizon 3 – A Belated Review of the Best Game Ever Made

I have been a fan of the main Forza series ever since the first iteration on the original Xbox (which by the way still looks great today – I checked). I have every edition of the game on disc except for a digital copy of Forza Motorsport 6. I’ll get a hard copy some day…268885d9-a09a-4b3c-865d-5285f29e2f92Anyways when they announced Forza Horizon I was skeptical. People were saying it was going to be a cheapened version of the game with arcady physics and so on. In fact I remember going in to my local EBGames and the guy there telling me I don’t want that one. I’m glad I didn’t listen to him.The original Horizon had a couple rough edges to it but all in all it was a great game. I often relate it to the fantastic Need for Speed Underground 2. The difference here being the cars handle much more realistically in Horizon and, lets be honest, look a lot better.

If you are new to Horizon essentially Playground Games takes the current available Forza game engine and puts an arcade racing game around it set in what they call the Horizon Festival. The Festival is held in a different region every time. You’re job is to take the festival by storm by winning all the races/events that take place on the overworld map. There are no tracks in this game. All the races use the roads on overworld map sometime slightly modified with barriers so you can’t go off track on circuits and so on. As you win races, you gain reputation and as that reputation grows you get more and more challenging things to do.

So way back during E3 Forza Horizon 3 was announced and as much as I can’t stand preordering things I did proceed to preorder the Ultimate Edition of the game. I am so glad I did. It arrived four days early as a perk for preordering the Ultimate Edition which was great otherwise it would have arrived while I was out working.3139643-s0-forza-horizon-3-exclusivite-forza-garage-interview-des-developpeurs-384251.jpgPlayground Games did not disappoint. The game is largely unchanged from Horizon 2 which I think is the best thing they could have done. They’ve added a couple new things to make the experience even better. Now on top of collecting points and credits you also collect fans. The more fans you have the more you can expand the festival. You see, this time around you are not only taking part in the festival but you are in charge of the festival. A neat concept though I’m not sure if anything of the sort would really work in reality. But this isn’t reality so lets continue on.

They have the predesigned races for each challenge/race like before but now you can create your own challenge by changing weather, time of day and the number of laps for the race.

Graphically Horizon 3 is stunning. And I’m talking about on the Xbox One. Yes it may be capped to 30 frames per second but it does run at a native 1080p. The physics this time around seem a bit more on track with the main iteration of the game Forza 6 but feel perhaps a little more arcade-like.GetPhoto.jpgI never realized Australia could be so visually appealing to be honest. Not to offend any Australian readers of course but man Horizon 3 does a great job of making Australia beautiful. The desert driving is pretty neat especially when you are on sand or dirt one moment and then driving through a river in the next.

Vehicle modification remains the same pretty well with the addition of wide-body kits for some vehicles (THANKS) and some more wheel choices. Otherwise the customization section of the game remains pretty well the same.getphoto-1They did add a Forza Vista like bit to the game where you can walk around your car, get in and so on but it’s nothing different from the main game’s Forza Vista. In fact in this version you get no descriptions of the cars. I guess that’s fair.

I have been having trouble trying to find things that need to be changed in the game to be honest. I can’t think of anything but perhaps I am blinded purely by the beauty of the game provided or even by the absolute pleasure of playing the game. This is honestly the best arcade racing sim I have ever played followed by Horizon 2 and then Project Gotham 3.loav4inThe Forza series in my opinion is THE reason to own an Xbox. I know I am of a marked few that have only purchased an Xbox One to play Forza but it is the truth in my case. Of course now with Forza being released on PC it becomes an interesting choice one actually doesn’t have to make if you buy the digital version off the Windows Store. You get the version for PC and Xbox. I bought a physical copy so I missed out on this as I still think it’s a good idea to have a physical copy of games.

Should you buy Forza Horizon 3? Yes. Yes you should. Well that is unless you hate racing games. I would say though if you are a fan of something like even Mario Kart you might be interested in this. It’s more realistic for sure but the focus isn’t on taking perfect turns and so on. In fact you get points for running in to things in some cases. There is a demo for the game. Check it out.