I am Your Density

Focus Umbral Engrams with the Prismatic Recaster to choose your rewards.

That is an actual sentence, written, presumably, by a well-paid Turbo Encabulatin’ copywriter, to explain some of the new stuff in Destiny 2. It’s also a metaphor for what the game has become — stuffed.

Bungie, the company behind Destiny, had a big live video event on Twitch this week to outline the future of the franchise, including the three expansions that will take the game into 2022.

That’s a lot of trips to the Traveler (and flying through an empty cosmos as the game loads).

I used to love playing Destiny 2. Even the expansions. But then it all just got too… dense. The story got too convoluted, there were too many nutty pre-requisites before unlocking achievements (50 pistol kills while mid-air, mixing up an açai smoothie to get the new sub-class), too many items to gather, and way too many repeat missions (hello Osiris, my old friend, they’ve made me talk to you again…).

Look. I just want to run around blasting space baddies with my friends.

I’m all for a big sprawling game that gives me my money’s worth, I just wish that Bungie would learn that sometimes less stuff and fewer options is more fun.

Maybe the developers should focus their Umbral Engrams on that.

Game console, or rejected Destiny helmet design?

The Shape of Things for Sony’s PS 5

But wait, there was another big video reveal this week!

Sony held its own online video event to announce more than two dozen games coming to the forthcoming Playstation 5 and reveal what the PS 5 actually looks like.

Of the games, I’m most excited for Spider-Man: Miles Morales. The first Spider-Man game was a blast, and I can only imagine what improvements they’ve made with the increased power of the PS 5. Other games announced include Gran Turismo 7, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, NBA 2K21, Deathloop (which looks amazing), Godfall (from the makers of Borderlands) and Stray (where you play a cat in a world full of robots?).

Point is, lots of good games to look forward to.

Sony also finally revealed what the PS 5 will look like. As you can see from the photo above, the console is two-tone. As they are wont to do, people on Twitter took a dump on the design, but whatever. It’s fine. I look at my screen, not my console when playing a game.

Still no word on the price, but conventional wisdom says it’ll be $500. And I say I’ll be buying one.

VR Super

If you’ve been sheltering in place for the past few months — good for you! You’re doing your part. One of the hardest things about the shutdown for the fitness minded has been gyms closing down.

Gonna lose my gains, bro.

While gyms have started re-opening, you may still be reluctant to go (and who would blame you?). However! You can avoid the germ-ridden gym if you have a decent sized room in your house, and are willing to strap on a silly headset, because as new 40 Bit columnist, Mike Romo writes, VR may be your ticket to staying trim.

Check out his immersive, heart racing review of BoxVR and Supernatural.

Sidenote: If you want to contribute to 40 Bit Gaming, drop me a line. We definitely do not pay anything right now, but we’re always looking for old gamers who want to gab.

We’re off to outer space, We’re leaving mother Earth
To save, the human race, Our Star Blazers

Other Bits

No Man’s Sky now does crossplay across all platforms

Retro Hackers are Building a Better Nintendo Gameboy

IGN’s Disintegration review: “A promising concept with mediocre results.”

Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft’s Xbox Series X

That’s it for this week!

Be good on your way to greatness.

-Team 40 Bit

Stuck at Home? Go on a (VR) Quest for Fitness

By Mike Romo

I stagger back and try to find my bearings, my chest heaving as my lungs suck in stale air.  My hips scream and my shoulder makes a clicking sound, but no matter; I need to press on.

I check my stance, and ready myself for the next drill. I look up and start cutting into the unending series of spheres shooting towards me, Depeche Mode blasts in my ears.

Twenty more grueling, sweat-drenched minutes of this and I am finally done.

At a time where everything in our lives has turned upside down because of COVID-19, not going to the gym and/or attending group fitness classes has been one of the biggest changes. Teachers and schools moved entirely online and supplies of free weights and kettlebells completely dried up as gym rats became bedroom/office/study/parking lot rats, doing whatever they can to keep in shape.

The pandemic has also given me a really good reason to actually use my Oculus Quest, which I bought late last year in a fit of “let’s give this VR thing a go, but maybe not tell all my friends because I feel kind of embarrassed about it, considering what a naysayer I’ve been about VR over the years”-ness.

You may have seen stories about how Oculus Quests have sold out in recent months. I’m not surprised — the Quest, no PC required, no wires, simple controls—is how VR really should be. Yes, you’re wearing a box on your head, but if you position it properly, it’s not that heavy, really—you look silly, but then again, you can’t see yourself, so “silly” is a bit existential at this rate, anyway.

Once you get used to the notion of wearing a box on your face, the real question emerges: what do I do with this thing?

I admit, at first I wasn’t sure. The demo stuff was cool, but clearly, you had to pay to really get a sense of what the platform was about. I dutifully bought Beat Saber and it was fine, pretty fun, but not fulfilling, really. Then I bought Star Wars: Vader Immortal and then it started to make sense: I really did feel like I was in a story. Sure, the 80/20 rule is in full force here—light seeps into the goggles on the bottom at certain angles and the mapping doesn’t always make sense—but heck, I was fighting Stormtroopers with a lighsaber! I was throwing rocks with the Force!

Eventually, even all that wasn’t really enough. Once you did the Star Wars game… you did the Star Wars game (all three paid chapters at $9.99 apiece!).  For months, the Quest sat in my office and I didn’t think about it.

But then we were told: stay inside. All the time. No cafes, no restaurants, no stores…and no gyms. I reluctantly bought my resistance bands, started taking online classes, and then figured I would dust off the Quest and play Beat Saber again —I remembered it being a fairly active game, maybe that would be fun? Then I looked at the store and saw great reviews for BoxVR.  I bought it, wincing a bit at the $29.99 price.

Almost immediately, BoxVR paid for itself. I used to take gym boxing classes (ie, shadow boxing, no contact) all the time, and this was basically that. Before too long, I was using it almost every day and actually felt like I was working out!  Flash forward a few weeks later when I read about Supernatural, which promised a “Peloton-like” experience with coaches taking you through the exercises—I was in.

Supernatural is hard. These are legitimately challenging fitness classes taught by actual real fitness instructors. I know this because I have been taking classes in the real word with one of the teachers, Ranier Pollard, for years (literally), and he doesn’t mess around. The app calibrates itself to your body through a series of stretches to make sure each movement pushes your body’s limits, and the actions go far beyond boxing-style target practice, these are full-body movements. It syncs with your iPhone and Apple Watch. It features actual licensed music. It costs $19.99 a month.  

What?!? $20 a month!? Yup… but how much did your gym cost?

So far, my only complaint about Supernatural is physical—I am terrible at side lunges and lunges are a big part of the routines, and they tend to hurt a lot if I over do it. However, that was also happening in “real” gym classes, so that’s just my problem, I guess. Other issues? Well, the movements takes a fair amount of room (you go around in a full circle), and it’s worth remembering that even though your body may have room…sweat can fly far.  (I don’t have a huge room, so I admit, I have to hang towels in front of my book shelf and I have started taking down the art on my walls. I am not proud to admit this.) That sweat is not confined to your personal space, either—it actually soaks into the device’s outer covering as well. I had to buy a silicon cover for the Quest, which protects it from moisture..but also makes it slippery. But I’m working out! According to my Apple Watch I burned 562 calories over two 26 minute sessions, which, hey, even if that’s not totally correct—I’ll take it.

Is the Quest for everyone? No, not yet. It’s too expensive ($399.99 for the 64GB version) for what’s basically a console that only one person at a time can enjoy, and I think you really need a bigger space than the recommend 6’x6’ to use it comfortably.  But I gotta tell ya, I have really appreciated it lately. I continue to find new fitness apps to try and now that you can hook it up to your PC without a special cable, I can play “real” VR games like Half Life:Alyx which is legit incredible (and warrants its own article).  

So, I am here to tell you: the Quest hardware, while not perfect, is really good. The fitness apps actually work and produce results. But the real question remains: what happens when the gyms open? Will BoxVR and Supernatural still be a part of my workout regimen?

Well..we’ll find out soon. Gyms open today in LA.

Mike Romo was the last kid on the block to get an Atari 2600, back when all the cool kids got Colecovision for Christmas. Since then, he’s kept up with gaming, at one point subscribing to several to PC Gaming magazines even though he didn’t have a PC or a console…just a Mac. Flash forward to the present day—Mike now works in videogames and actually has a legit gaming PC (his “rig”) and a current gen console…and zero time.

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For the past couple of months, playing videogames hasn’t been about unlocking achievements or defeating bosses (or re-re-re-defeating bosses as is the case with Division 2). It’s been about connecting.

During quarantine, it’s been the best way to connect with some of my closest friends to check in on one another on a regular basis.

But lately, it’s been a way to connect with my 9 year old son. His favorite game is Overwatch and for the past few Saturdays we’ve both sat on the couch and just played, taking turns, handing the controller back and forth.

Right now we talk game strategy (he tells me what I’m doing wrong) and favorite characters (I like Orisa, he likes Genji). But playing videogames today seems like the equivalent of going fishin’ with your ‘Pa back in the day (at least I think so, I’ve never fished).

As he gets older, it feels like playing games will be our chance to sit next to each other and talk. I least I hope so, because it may be the easiest way to get him to open up about the small stuff, the life stuff and the important stuff.

A lot of important events are happening right now. More than ever I want my son and I to connect so we can talk through them. If videogames are the way we do that. Awesome.

A quick Valorant Q&A:
What is Valorant, is it like the Dean Martin song?
Valorant is a new squad-v-squad first person shooter game released by Riot Games (League of Legends) this week. Check out the cinematic trailer.

That looks cool! Should I download it?
Well… That depends. This newsletter is for people over 40, so… no. Probably not. But hey, it’s free-to-play so knock yourself out. CNBC says it is “poised to be the next billion-dollar franchise.” (ed. note: Ugh.)

You don’t sound super reassuring.
Look, I can only speak for myself here, but in researching the game, the thing that came up was the need for “pixel-perfect accuracy,” which I don’t have, and millions of people have been playing the beta for two months already so I’m already behind, and the game makers are going after the competitive market and not interested in casual players.

As Dean Martin might have sung: Valorant, oh-oh-OH-oh – no.

DIY: Make a Switch dock smaller
Because of its portability, the Nintendo Switch was one of the best purchases our household ever made. Throw it in a bag when you go on a trip and the kid(s) are occupied the entire flight/drive/whatever. The dock that connects the Switch to the TV, however, isn’t as portable. So some enterprising folks figured out a way to make a smaller one. Pocket Gamer has the DIY details if you’re feeling sinister crafty.

Speaking of the Switch, Nintendo’s president said that the platform (which doubled its y/o/y sales in March, thank you coronavirus and Animal Crossing) is merely in the middle of its lifecycle. So if you’ve got one, it’s going to last a few more years. (via the unfortunately named TweakTown).


By Odin’s beard!
Pre-ordering the forthcoming Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla on Amazon, will get you a cool $10 discount on the game, due out this holiday season.


Wubba-lubba-dub-dub!
Rick and Morty had a pretty epic season finale this past week (the fight choreography on that show remains top-notch). Anyhoo, it was also filled with a bunch of videogame Easter eggs. Looper breaks it down for you.

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