Google Authenticator Broken and Unavailable on WearOS

For me, one of the reasons why I wanted to pick up a Google WearOS smartwatch was because I use 2FA and being able to quickly open the Google Authenticator app on my smartwatch and enter one of the 2FA codes is so convienent. The keyword here is was.

Google recently (first half of 2020) updated the Google Authenticator app. The UI got an overhaul and there was now the ability to transfer your accounts. All great things. However with this new update it would appear that Google “broke” the Google Authenticator app on WearOS. Well broke is partially correct. Essentially the Google Authenticator app is no longer present on WearOS.

One morning I tried to use the Google Authenticator app on my smartwatch but all the app would do was load. A white background with a blue spinning circle would appear. I would close the app and re-open it but nothing changed. I went into the settings and force stopped the app, re-opened it but the results stayed the same. Stupidly I uninstalled the app from my smartwatch thinking I’d just redownload the app from the WearOS app store. That was a big mistake.

If you use the Google Authenticator app on your WearOS smartwatch then do not uninstall the app. You cannot redownload it. It is not listed in the WearOS app store.

It would appear that Google has (for the time being I hope) removed the Google Authenticator app from the WearOS app store. If you search for it, it does not appear. If you go to the Google Play store through a web browser and search for the app and try to install it on your devices you may notice that your WearOS smartwatch is not a compatible device. I can see my Android devices where I am logged in but I can’t install it via the browser for my smartwatch.

Going over to the support forums to see if there is some way to fix this or what is going on shows others have and are experiencing the same problem with most accepted answers being to file a bug report in the app. Now if someone has uninstalled the app then this can’t be done. Fingers crossed the engineers at Google see the forum posts and are aware of the issue (most likely they are). Hopefully the issue is resolved soon as now if I want to use my laptop in the living room and leave my phone in my bedroom I can, but I can’t log in to most of the sites and services I use because I have 2FA enabled where available. I am back to moving my phone room to room again 😦

Using a Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse

While working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic I was in need of a new mouse to use. My work laptop is a Macbook Pro 15” and for extended periods of time using the mouse track pad is not great, even though the large size makes it easy to use. At the office I would use the Apple Magic Mouse (which I am not really a fan of) and right now using the mouse track pad long term is not an option with my current working from home setup.

Using a USB connected mouse (corded or receiver) is a little difficult, as most USB connected mice are not cabled with USB-C or have a receiver that is USB-C which is the one of the only ports my Macbook Pro has. I could buy a dock or a dongle but I’d rather get a wireless Bluetooth mouse to keep my ports available if need be and would not want to spend the extra money on a dock.

Seeing as I was going to be using this mouse for extended periods of time I was thinking of getting an ergonomic mouse and I watched a number of different YouTube videos discussing the types of ergonomic mice and good Bluetooth mice, and read a number of articles covering a range of Bluetooth enabled ergonomic mice. At the end of it all I found that the mouse which covered everything I was after was the Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse.

The criteria I had (in no particular order) for the ergonomic mouse that I personally bought had to:

  1. Cost under $200 AUD. I am not in the market for a gaming mouse and do not really want to spend a fortune on a mouse I would primarily be using for work. There are suitable mice for under $20 AUD so :shrug:
  2. Bluetooth enabled. As I stated above, it is critical that this mouse not have a dongle to connect to my laptop as my only wireless means. Happily the Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse can connect to a computer via a USB cable, a USB dongle or Bluetooth. So many options which is great.
  3. Rechargeable battery. I do not want to have a wireless mouse that takes removable batteries, and I do not want to buy some more rechargeable batteries.
  4. More than two buttons. Having the option to navigate pages, go between lines of code that I previously visited and jump across different class files helps in my day to day work.
  5. Horizontal and vertical scrolling. All mice that I pick up in the future must have this option. Not being able to scroll in all directions with the mouse wheel is a massive pain and should be standard in 2020.
  6. Comfortable for extended periods of time. This is really subjective, but what I found was among the ergonomic mice there was a general consensus whether the mouse was comfortable to use for extended periods of time and did not cause strain in the forearm and wrist.

I was a little hesitant to get this mouse even with the stellar reviews because to move the mouse cursor, you move your thumb on the trackball and the mouse stays where it is. Once I started using it though and adjusted the speed to be a little faster, it was really easy to use and I had no problem performing my daily tasks. So the learning curve is really (IMO) fairly low. Some people may take some time to adjust to not moving your arms and wrist to move the mouse cursor but long term I think it is far more beneficial for you. Plus there is a button that allows for fine grain movement if you really need precision which is a nice bonus.

The Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse is fairly heavy (which is good as it will stay put when placed), does not slide around, has the ability to be tilted at a slight angle to change the position you hold it (does not go completely vertical), and is built extremely well i.e. does not feel cheap or poorly made. The time I have spent using the mouse I have not been able to fault it. If I could change some things on the mouse I would have it support USB-C for charging as the port for charging the mouse is micro-USB, and I would support a number of different angles instead of just the two it currently supports.

There is special Logitech software that you can install which allows for greater customization of the buttons and other special features. But out of the box the mouse does everything I want it to and I do not need anything more. Having the option to pair across two devices is nice, so if you have multiple devices that could use a Bluetooth mouse this is a bonus. Overall I am please with my purchase and I hope that my right wrist and forearm will thank me for not putting more strain on them. If you are in the market for an ergonomic mouse, or a Bluetooth mouse then this mouse may be the one for you. I have not tried it to play games with but for working day to day, it does the job really well.

Self Isolation and W.F.H during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the world has led many to self isolate and work from home. I have been extremely fortunate that the company I work for (Atlassian) acted swiftly as I have been working from home for four weeks now. The only time I have gone out has been to pick up groceries or medicine, and I only do that once per week. Right now trying to “flatten the curve” is really important and we should all be doing the right thing and our part by following our respective countries rules, regulations, laws and recommendations; which for me is following social distance measures, only travelling when essential and staying home as much as possible to reduce the spread.

I really do miss going out and practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, having dinner with family (the ones not living with me) and friends, going to the local pub for lunch on a Sunday and watching the UFC events with friends. On a professional level, not being able to have lunch in person with my teammates, go out and grab a coffee together and just ask questions or chat in person has been difficult to adjust to. I imagine I am not the only one who is taking some time to get used to the new social distancing and isolation measures that are in place. Right now it is the small physical social interactions that I am missing the most.

To keep myself sane and not go stir crazy I have been trying to get together (virtually) with my friends several times a week and either chat for an hour or two discussing life and work (but staying away from the topic of COVID-19 altogether) or play some online games to relax and unwind. I work with an amazing team and getting together on Zoom is super easy so making sure my co-workers are in good spirits during this time has been painless but collaborating online is something that I am only now starting to adjust to. I don’t think I could be a full time remote worker without learning and changing some of my habits.

With no commute anymore, I have been trying to be a little more productive too such as working on personal projects and read some more. Along with trying to be a little more productive I have been watching more TV series and movies, obviously due to the amount of time I am spending indoors. Two things I have not been doing much I have noticed is exercising and getting some sun; but I am trying to change this slowly. Afternoons if the weather permits I have been trying to work outside and am starting a strength and conditioning program at home to at least keep a little fit.

Hopefully in the coming months normality returns and we can begin to return to our regular routines. But until then we need to all do our part, keep each other safe, make sure we check up on our loved ones or the people we care about and make sure they are all staying healthy both physically and mentally. Only together can we overcome this horrible pandemic and maybe, just maybe we can learn from this and make sure that it does not happen again or at the very least can stop it from spreading and affecting the people we all care so much about.

[Updated: 03/29/20] Experiencing slow Microsoft Store game downloads and updates

Update 03/29/20: It has been about 2 weeks and after changing my Xbox One X and my gaming PC’s DNS settings I can safely say that my game download and update speeds have been consistently faster. With the whole COVID-19 pandemic happening at the moment some services are slowing down their customer’s downloads speeds or reducing their bitrates, see here. Your mileage during this time may vary if you were having download/update issues from either the Xbox Store or the Microsoft Store.

Update 03/15/20: I have been playing around with the DNS settings on my Xbox One X after doing some reading, and found this page and this page. After making some changes to my DNS I can confirm that I am getting significantly better download speeds.

Instead of the several Mbps I was getting, I am now getting speeds in the high 80s. Whatever CDN I am connecting to is allowing me to download the games and patches much faster πŸ˜€

On Saturday (03/14/20) I tried to contact TPG support to see what is going on but after waiting for over 30 minutes just to talk to someone I gave up. As of right now I am not recommending anyone to use TPG as their Australian ISP and look at another provider (perhaps Aussie Broadband – seem to fairly good reviews, Australian customer support, and do not suffer from this issue). I will be checking back again in a week or so to see if this change solves my problem, and if it does then bye bye TPG.

Original: I pay for a 100Mbps download and 40Mbps upload internet connection through TPG. Generally when I do a speed test I achieve download speeds in the area of the high 80s and low 90s which is fantastic (even during peak times). But when I am trying to download an Xbox One game or update an Xbox One game I get speeds in the very low 10Mbs but mostly fall under 2Mbps. It is even worse if I try to download a Windows game through the Xbox app on my PC, where I get speeds less than 1Mbs on average. Just this morning I wanted to download Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary on PC, but was getting speeds under 1Mbps and just cancelled the download in disappointment.

What is really odd is that this has only been happening recently, I would say in the last two months. My home network configuration has not changed at all, the same devices are connected and there have been no intrusions in my network (so I know there are no unknown devices taking up my bandwidth). I am a little perplexed.

Some of my troubleshooting steps I have taken are:

  1. Restart my modem and my router (multiple times)
  2. Restart my Xbox One X console (both hard shutdown and restarting)
  3. Restart my PC (full shutdown and restart)
  4. Restart the Xbox app
  5. Cancel my game download or game update
  6. Restart my game download or game update
  7. Change from a wired connection to a wireless connection for my Xbox One X (and then back to a wired connection to a wireless connection)
  8. Change the DNS that I am connecting to for my Xbox One X (from my ISP provided DNS to Google, and then back)

None of the above troubleshooting steps have seemed to have solved or identifiy the problem 😦 What is really odd, when I check my network connection status and results on my Xbox One X I see download speeds of 90Mbps, upload speeds of 20Mbps, Open NAT, and ping of 100ms. If I try and stream video content in 4K I have no issue. Watching YouTube videos in HD I have no problem. Even downloading games and game updates on other platforms like Steam and EA Origin seem to be downloading at speeds I would expect for what I am paying for. I verified that on Steam I achieved speeds of 79Mbps when downloading Vermintide 2 the same morning as I tried downloading Halo CEA.

Navigating to the Xbox Support site is in my opinion pointless. To actually get in contact with an actual person that works at Microsoft is near impossible, which is a shame. I do not want to talk to another Xbox gamer, I do not want to post in the forums and hope for a response (looking at the support forums, much of the posts are unresolved and unanswered). The customer support AI that they have looked promising. The steps asked by the AI to help narrow down the problem are what I have performed, but in the end it could not fix the problem and asked if I wanted to talk to a real person; but that person would not be a Microsoft employee but an Xbox gamer.

I’ll be keeping this post updated with any new information that I find or experience. Hopefully this is not going to be a long term issue, because I download all my games as I have gone in all digital and there are a number of games coming out that I will be picking up soon like Resident Evil 3 and Doom Eternal. If you have experienced this problem, are having this issue, or have recently resolved the problem then please do leave a comment below.

Who steals vehicle licence plates?

After a long and hard work week, I was hoping to have a relaxing weekend. Planned on sleeping in a little on Saturday, play some video games, do some side project programming, maybe go and do some jiu jitsu and then on Sunday watch UFC 248 with friends. But after leaving the train on Friday evening and walking back to my vehicle, I noticed something was a little off. My front (and then as I walked to the back of my vehicle) and back vehicle licence plates had been stolen.

I stood there for a second, sighed and then was like “my relaxing weekend will now involve me filling in paper work in person and online, following up on my registration, getting new plates, etc”. As soon as I got home and was heating up my dinner I started to Google what I needed to do for stolen vehicle plates in Australia. The list of items was not long, but it would require me to go to a service centre, fill out more paper work, and do some more following up. The life of an adult πŸ™‚

To begin with I needed to file a police report. Now for something like this I could either visit the specific website (which I did) and fill in the required information. Super simple and easy, but the only downside is that you will not get a Police Event Number straight away (did not know this at the time). You could also ring a specific hotline, or visit the local police station. If I knew that I would not get a Police Event Number then and there I would have just gone to my local station to file the report. This Police Event Number is important if you go to a Service NSW centre the next day to get new vehicle licence plates.

Woke up early on Saturday and went to the nearest Service NSW centre. Thankfully I was the first person in line and was quickly served. I needed to fill out some more paper work. As I was filling out the form I needed a Police Event Number. The number that you do not get straight away if you fill in the police report online. So now I had to either call the hotline or go to the local police station and provide the same information I entered last night. This time I just called up the hotline, answered all the necessary questions, and got a Police Event Number (yay). So for future reference and anyone in New South Wales, Australia I recommend that you either call the hotline or visit your local police station.

After getting this paper work sorted I got some new vehicle licence plates. They were not free though. I had to pay $47 to get new standard vehicle licence plates, even though they were stolen as the RMS will not take the hit for something like this. Thankfully the people at the Service NSW centre were super helpful (as was the lady I spoke to on the hotline I might add) and all the paper work to get my registration and new vehicle plates were sorted out. Now I just have to follow up with my vehicle insurer and make sure everything gets transfered over correctly.

I was also advised by the lady on the hotline that the police will be taking prints from my vehicle, asking a couple of more questions in person and also canvassing the area where the incident occurred as apparently there has been a string of vehicle licence plate thefts in that area. Hopefully these individuals (or individual) gets caught, have to pay back each and every single person they have affected, pay a substantial fine, and do some community service. Unfortunately I do not believe they will get caught 😦

Microsoft Edge Chromium Browser Release Version Impressions

On January 15th Microsoft released a stable version of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser, you can read more about that announcement here.

Before I go into my impressions on the Microsoft Edge Chromium stable release version I just want to state that I used (not as my daily browser) the beta and dev channel versions of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser and even the legacy version of Microsoft Edge. To check out those impressions then you can go here and here, enjoy. If you are interested in trying out the beta, dev or even canary channels of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser then head on over using this link.

Now that I have that out of the way, let’s go into my impressions on the released version of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser. I tested this on both my Surface Book 2 (my main personal laptop) and my Surface Pro 3 (primarily used to watch videos online). I’m not going to break down this impressions into each device but sort of summarize what I experienced.

Nothing is breaking

As with my original two posts about using Microsoft Edge Chromium and Microsoft Edge Legacy respectively, the Chromium version (in beta and dev) had absolutely no issue in loading up web pages whereas the same pages would take longer to load, not render content correctly or not render at all. I can say that nothing has broken after leaving beta and being released as a stable version. This I believe comes down to using Chromium under the hood. Generally any site that Google Chrome can load, Microsoft Edge Chromium can load too. So off to a good start.

That seemed fast

Microsoft Edge Legacy I found generally (but not always or consistently) tended to load web pages quicker (if it could load the page). Is the page loading noticeably faster than Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge Chromium? Not really, but if you launched both browsers and navigated to a web page for the first time Microsoft Edge Legacy would load ever so slightly faster. Microsoft Edge Chromium loads web pages about as fast as Google Chrome. So again, between beta and release nothing has broken or regressed there. Again, so far so good from the team from Redmond.

Slightly ore RAM available and more battery life

We all know how much of a RAM hog Google Chrome can be. We have all seen the memes and we have all experienced our RAM slowly be eaten away by Google Chrome.

So much like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge Chromium uses more RAM than Microsoft Edge Legacy. However what I did find on both my Surface Book 2 and my Surface Pro 3 it used about 10%-15% less RAM than Google Chrome consistently. So I guess that is a good thing πŸ˜€

Now to battery life. Much like my beta impressions post, the battery life is about what I was expecting with something running the Chromium engine under the hood. It is slightly better than Google Chrome (I was seeing about 1 hour more battery life on my Surface Book 2), but Microsoft Edge Chromium is nowhere near as battery efficient as Microsoft Edge Legacy. This is especially noticeable on my Surface Pro 3 and less so on my Surface Book 2. You will not get the same level of battery performance on the Surface Pro 3 when running Microsoft Edge Chromium compared to Microsoft Edge Legacy. It mirrors Google Chrome nearly identically in regards to battery performance on my Surface Pro 3.

One point to note is that on my Surface Book 2 is there are no fans, so I do not hear anything when my CPU starts to pick up speed and my machine starts to get a little warm. This is in extreme contrast to my Surface Pro 3 where when I use Microsoft Edge Chromium and watch YouTube videos in anything greater than 720p the fans kick in and it starts to get hot. The Microsoft Edge Legacy browser did not have this issue at all even at higher resolutions as I noted in my original post, so this is something to consider.

Everything else

Much like the beta and dev channel, the appearance of Microsoft Edge Chromium is nearly identical. It looks much like Google Chrome, so if you like how that looks and are comfortable with that, then you will feel right at home.

One area where Microsoft has done a fantastic job is in regard to your privacy settings. You get a very solid choice of options and I feel it gives the user more control of what you share and with whom. Google really needs to update their browser to be a little more restrictive and enforce some stronger privacy policies. But then again it is not in their best interest as they make most of their money from advertising. So I am giving Microsoft a big kudos here in ensuring the right things can be blocked and letting the user decide who has access to what information while they browse the net.

Feature parity with the Microsoft Edge Legacy browser is coming and new and exciting features are also coming down the road; currently you are missing some sync functionality for example. Google Chrome extensions now work on Microsoft Edge Chromium which is fantastic because the Microsoft Store is lacking some extensions that you may use daily.

Overall I feel that Microsoft has made a very good browser that can keep up with the best of them (thanks to running Chromium). And by contributing to the Chromium community not only will the browser get better but so will other browser that run on Chromium like Google Chrome. If you are “trapped” in the Google ecosystem, then it may not be enough to change browsers, but if you use a Microsoft account instead and the current legacy version of Microsoft Edge then this browser can easily replace Google Chrome. Now it is really up to the web developers and Microsoft to ensure that this browser is made compatible with what is out there and ensure that it does not break over time. Would I recommend this browser to someone who does not want to use Google Chrome? Yes, yes I do with no hesitation.

Where to download

You can get the released version of Microsoft Edge Chromium using this link.

React Native: NodeJS and Expo Start Failure

Recently I was looking at doing some React Native work so that I can quickly get some Android and iOS prototypes up and running to help me build the app that I actually want to get onto the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

To help me get a better understanding of what I need, I looked at several YouTube videos. The tutorials/guides were extremely useful, however I encountered an issue that was not present in the videos. When I ran the following command on my computer:

npm start

instead of the Expo DevTools running locally in my browser until I force killed it through Command Prompt, it would crash immediately and my Command Prompt would display an Unterminated Character Class error like below:

C:\Development\Android\React Native\Tutorials\rn-first-app>npm start

> @ start C:\Development\Android\React Native\Tutorials\rn-first-app
> expo start

Starting project at C:\Development\Android\React Native\Tutorials\rn-first-app
Expo DevTools is running at http://localhost:19002
Opening DevTools in the browser... (press shift-d to disable)
error Invalid regular expression: /(.*\\__fixtures__\\.*|node_modules[\\\]react[\\\]dist[\\\].*|website\\node_modules\\.*|heapCapture\\bundle\.js|.*\\__tests__\\.*)$/: Unterminated character class. Run CLI with --verbose flag for more details.

Metro Bundler process exited with code 1
Set EXPO_DEBUG=true in your env to view the stack trace.
npm ERR! code ELIFECYCLE
npm ERR! errno 1
npm ERR! @ start: `expo start`
npm ERR! Exit status 1
npm ERR!
npm ERR! Failed at the @ start script.
npm ERR! This is probably not a problem with npm. There is likely additional logging output above.

After doing some Googling, I found this super handy StackOverflow page (answer linked) which has several answers that talk about specific NodeJS versions that have this problem and downgrading to an earlier version (I had installed NodeJS 12.13.1, which at the time was the latest recommended version to install) fixed it. Or you could modify a specific JavaScript file that was not escaping correctly.

I decided to modify the blacklist.js file instead of downgrading my NodeJS version. The StackOverflow page linked above outlines what needs to be changed in the file. If you are using an editor like Visual Studio Code then with the syntax highlighting you will notice the difference once the \ is added to line 15 of the file. It basically goes from:

var sharedBlacklist = [
  /node_modules[/\\]react[/\\]dist[/\\].*/,
  /website\/node_modules\/.*/,
  /heapCapture\/bundle\.js/,
  /.*\/__tests__\/.*/
];

to this:

var sharedBlacklist = [
  /node_modules[\/\\]react[\/\\]dist[\/\\].*/,
  /website\/node_modules\/.*/,
  /heapCapture\/bundle\.js/,
  /.*\/__tests__\/.*/
];

Now this issue may only affect Windows due to the nature of how the slashes are escaped and respected (different OS do things slightly differently). So if you encounter this problem, either downgrade your NodeJS version, or if you don’t want to do that then modify the offending JavaScript file. Also it would be worthwhile to go visit that StackOverflow page and bump up the answer. As developers we need to help each other out and share as much information as possible to help make the world a better place.

E3 2019: Microsoft Xbox Briefing Impressions

I woke up at 6AM AEST to watch the Microsoft Xbox E3 2019 briefing and I felt a little indifferent after it ended. There were some moments I was like, “yeah this is going to be awesome”, and then there were moments like “next game please”. Frankly it was not their best showcase (for me anyway). I watched it again before writing this blog post and took notes down as the event progressed so I could at least have some references and ideas to go off. You can watch the VOD here (I have time stamped it to the start of the event so you don’t have to sit through 25 minutes of a countdown timer).

Xbox Game Pass is king

The biggest take away from the entire Xbox event IMO was that Xbox Game Pass is going to be such an attractive offering to gamers on Xbox and now on PC that it would be foolish to not consider the subscription service, especially that for a limited time it is $1 for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. Nearly every single game that was announced or shown was going to be available at launch of Xbox Game Pass, which is fantastic news. Not only that but with their new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription at $15.95 AUD per month you get your standard Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass for PC. I’ve just subscribed to the ultimate service as it is too good to not use. Well done to Microsoft for offering such an enticing and worthwhile bundle. Using this service I have bought less games but I have played more games, and even games that I had held out on or was hesitant to pick up such as Homefront: The Revolution and Vampyr.

The future of Xbox

The new Xbox console was also teased, code-named Project Scarlett. With four times the power of the current Xbox One X, it is going to be one beast of a machine. It appears the focus for the new Xbox console is to have games play faster/smoother, load quicker, while also look amazing (obviously). As a gamer you should be excited by this. As Phil Spencer said, “The new Xbox has been designed, built and optimized for one thing and one thing only, gaming…”. Unfortunately we need to wait until Holiday 2020 but on the bright side I am going to have the time to save up for the console and any game I want when it comes out.

There was also a very brief mention of Project xCloud but there was not mention of the network specifics or how it will function or even how much it will cost, so we will need to wait and see for that. There is also a new console streaming service that will be available too, where your own personal console can be setup as your own personal xCloud server so that you can play your games anywhere you want which is cool.

I already have an Xbox Elite controller, but version two of the controller is going to be coming out soon. From what they showcased in the trailer (you can see that here) it looks like that they listened to the gamers and have made some really good improvements like fully wrapped grips, adjustable-tension thumbsticks, and more. Having Bluetooth connectivity is a bonus as is the USB-C connection, but I am not entirely sold on the internal battery which from the looks of it is not removable. Many people have said the first iteration of the controller was poorly built and did not withstand the use from long gaming sessions; I have not had problems with my and the grips, etc. are all still going strong.

So many games

When Microsoft said that they were bringing games to the show, they really meant it. There was a crazy amount of games that they showed but there was only a handful of games that really appealed to me from either the cinematic trailer or the gameplay trailer. A quick rundown of the games that interest me included:

  • The Outer World – I was a fan of Fallout New Vegas, and to be able to play an RPG from the creators of New Vegas is going to be great. Plus it is going to be available on Xbox Game Pass at launch.
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps – as someone who is not interested in platformers too much, the original game was absolutely outstanding and difficult. This looks to be much of the same and will also be on Xbox Game Pass at launch. However it looks like the game will be coming out early 2020.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – you can check out my breakdown of the gameplay shown at EA Play 2019 here, but the CGI trailer looked decent. However being a single player action game, the replayability does not look very high.
  • Blair Witch – horror, atmospheric and thriller games are some of my favourite. This looked to be right up my alley and gameplay-wise appears to play closely like the Outlast series. I am interested in seeing more of this and as a bonus it is an Xbox Game Pass title.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 – nothing more needs to be said about this game. It will be GOTY. CD Projekt Red are one of the best developers out there. They know how to make fantastic looking RPGs and worlds that are fully immersive. This game looks no different, but we will need to wait until 2020 for this title too 😦
  • Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition – more Age of Empires is always a good thing. As an RTS fan, and a fan of the series I will be playing this game when it launches and it is going to be on Xbox Game Pass.
  • 12 Minutes – this game has me intrigued. It is not a game that would normally interest me. I’ll keep an eye on this game and when it goes on sale I’ll probably pick this up and give it a play.
  • Gears 5 – I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on this title. Everytime I see this game I get more and more excited. The new Escape game mode looked absolutely crazy and is going to be a blast playing with two other mates. The story looks like it is also going to go places where other Gears games have not gone. Releasing in September 2019 on Xbox Game Pass makes this a no brainer.
  • Halo Infinite – it has been too long between main Halo games. The last big Halo game came out at the end of 2015, Halo 5: Guardians. Halo Infinite is going to be a launch title in 2020 for the new Xbox console. 343 Industries went forward with the campaign in Halo 4 and then took great steps forward with multiplayer in Halo 5. All they need to do is now have both packaged together, but I am not sure they can do this; fingers crossed. I have high hopes for the game and it launching through Xbox Game Pass along a brand new console might be what the 18 year old franchise needs.

The next year will be interesting, with many of the games announced coming through Xbox Game Pass and playable in 2020 they will most likely be playable on the current generation of Xbox and next generation of Xbox consoles. Bring on 2020!

E3 2019: The Sims 4 and Battlefield V Stream Impressions

Originally I was going to have two separate blog posts for The Sims 4 and Battlefield V streams, but after watching the streams I felt that from what both announced it would be better to have a single write up. There was absolutely no way that I would be able to write up two meaningful blog posts.

The Sims 4

It will be 20 years of The Sims franchise this year. I cannot believe it has been that long, and I have been there from the start. So congratulations are in order for the franchise that keeps on giving; thanks EA and Maxis on such a fun franchise to play.

Just a very brief breakdown of what is coming this year:

  • The Sims 4 Island Living (new expansion pack)
    • Will be releasing at the end of June.
    • Brand new island world with an active volcano.
    • Plenty of new Create-A-Sim (CAS) and Build/Buy items that are inspired by real world Polynesian cultures.
    • Mermaids – something that looked interesting.
    • Dolphins – great to see some more animals in the game with interactions included.
    • New island interactions – from using aqua zips to snorkeling.
    • New Conservationist career.
    • New small odd jobs including being a lifeguard, diving instructor, etc.
    • Plus much more.
  • The Sims 4 Realm of Magic (new game pack)
    • Will be released in the Fall of 2019 (unless it is delayed and pushed out)
    • More information about this pack will be detailed later on in the year 😦
  • The Sims 4 Moschino (new stuff pack)
    • Will be released later in the year.
    • New Freelance Fashion Photographer career.
    • Primarily a CAS focused pack with new items to make your sims look fashionable.

If there was one thing that I could say about this particular stream; there was not many announcements but within each announcement there were a number of new items that needed mentioning. The brand new expansion pack alone has so many new items it would be crazy to list them all. I am super excited for this one though. Some of the features that I am looking forward to include the new world that has an active volcano (that can shoot lava bombs into the world – perhaps there will be a new death method in the game?), all the new interactions with the world including entering and exiting the world’s water (great addition to make the world feel more lifelike and real), and all the new interactions that can happen with the world and the items such as sunbathing, snorkeling, etc.

So I think what Maxis has done is give what every Sim fan out there wants. There is a little bit of everything for everyone; from the individuals who want to create some amazing worlds and buildings, to the individuals who want to craft interesting and fun stories with all the new world and item interactions. Good job here, I was super satisfied with what they showcased.

You can check out the stream using this link.

Battlefield V

I knew going in that it would be a map reveal, but I was very disappointed in what maps got revealed. As someone who was an avid Battlefield player, I think DICE really have missed the mark with Battlefield V. What did get announced was for the next two chapters in the game, chapters 4 and 5 (coming in the next several months).

There is a new map set in Greece and that does not look like it is going to be a fun map to play on. It looks absolutely gorgeous but as they showcased the map it looked like it was going to be one with many choke points and be a pain in the ass to take capture points. The focus of that map looked primarily infantry as well (something I am not a fan of in Battlefield especially with the majority playing the recon/sniper class).

There is a new North Africa map that also got announced. This to me felt like an absolute cop out of a new map as it was taken from the war stories mode and reworked for multiplayer. All the Africa maps that have been in any recently developed Battlefield game have been absolutely trash and are by far the worst maps on the rotation. The only positive from this is that there is a good focus on vehicle combat due to the scale of the map.

Along with these two maps there are a number of close quarter combat style maps which are designed for squad conquest coming out in August; again something that I don’t think Battlefield V really needs at the moment. I like squad conquest but there are more important issues to resolve. Operation Underground which is a “re-imagining” of Operation Metro and coming out in October; again this looked a little lazy to me.

DICE are also going to increase the maximum level cap to 500 from 50. I don’t see the point in doing this. Why have a level cap at all? The rewards that you get from reaching certain milestones after level 50 include company coins, new dog tags, icons, etc. To me it would make sense to remove the level cap completely and let people just continue to get rewards. In September they will also finally be having the ability to have private servers through private games; this should have been there from the start.

The only redeeming announcement was that in chapter 5 you will be able to play as the USA and Japan while fighting in the Pacific. Along with this will come new weapons and vehicles. Looking forward to that the most, unless DICE somehow mess that up too. Maybe the next Battlefield game will be worthwhile playing long term.

You can check out the stream using this link.

E3 2019: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Stream Impressions

I would not consider myself a die hard Star Wars fan, but I would consider myself a fan of Star Wars. I’ve watched most of the main Star Wars movies, played most of the Star Wars games and have read some Star Wars novels. So I would say that this game would be right up my alley.

I didn’t watch this stream live because I really didn’t want to disrupt my sleeping schedule just for E3 so it was one of the first streams I watched when I woke up. I am going to say the 15 minute or so gameplay footage they showed did not disappoint and if I did stay up to watch the stream I would have been okay with it overall. As the stream progressed I noted down some of the positive elements that stood out to me which include:

  • Single player action game only
    • This is good news to me (and probably other gamers out there too). Most of the Star Wars games that I have enjoyed playing have been single player only games such as Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Outcast, etc.
  • Thoughtful” combat
    • It was mentioned that the combat was designed in a thoughtful way and it showed. From the enemy variety and placement, choice of using your lightsaber and force powers; it really was designed to have you think while fighting the enemy with many ways to go about completing the encounter.
    • The transitions between using your lightsaber and force powers looked fluid and smooth. Actually the entire gameplay was fluid and smooth.
    • At times there were “cinematic” moments while you were in combat such as when you were in the process of finishing off an enemy. The camera would pan around slightly, now I don’t know if this was done using one of the analog sticks or part of the game however.
  • Buttery Smooth Movement
    • As smooth as the combat was, so was the traversing and movement around the environment.
    • You can tell that this game took inspiration from Titanfall in regard to the wall running, clambering and climbing; it was made by the same developers.

You have a companion droid which looks to provide you with health when you are low (limited supply and you need to prompt for it, leaving you vulnerable) and it can unlock paths, provide you with Star Wars lore, and generally help you out to progress to the next area. Being an action game I know the focus will be on the combat and moment to moment set pieces, but I also really do hope that there are some puzzles in the game to break up the pace a little. We did not get any further information about the skill points and how they will be used or spent other than they can be used for force abilities. I would have liked to see that; will it be a skill tree? Or will it just be a “pick an ability” option?

If I was to be fairly critical of the game I noticed that it did not look the best or something coming out late 2019. I don’t know if it was the stream, but I was watching it at 1080P at 60 fps and for a 2019 game, graphically I had seen better looking games. It did not look bad but I would have expected some of the models and textures to look a little better. Some of the fire and smoke effects were also not the best I have seen. Lighting, shadows and the foliage were generally okay however. Having this quality shown is far better than having something look amazing and then when the game is released have it significantly downgraded, so kudos to Respawn here on that.

Maybe it was just me but the facial animations at the beginning of the gameplay along with how the character’s face was sitting looked a little off too. Now it was nowhere near as bad as Mass Effect Andromeda’s facial animations but it just did not look right. Being focused as a Jedi story I knew going in that you will not be choosing a force side, ie. light or dark. I don’t know why Greg would ask them this question. As someone who prefers the force abilities on the dark side and generally plays a Sith or dark Jedi I am a little disappointed but it is not a deal breaker. Perhaps I can choose to wield some of the dark side force abilities?

Overall from what I have seen so far of the game it looks like it is going to do well. There will be more shown at the Microsoft E3 2019 event which will be great and I will have a blog post about that whole event separately. Being a single player only game and because I buy all my games digitally now, it will be a game that I buy when it is on sale for at least 40% off; I don’t see it having much replay value (I could be surprised). If you want to check out the official Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order stream then use this link (I have timestamped it so that you don’t have to wait for the actual stream to start). Enjoy πŸ™‚