By Matt Birchler
Topic: game
Posts: 136
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Mario Golf: Super Rush Review

Mario Golf: Super Rush Review

This review is after spending about 10 hours with the game over the past 3 days. My feelings may evolve over time, but the things I mentioned below are pretty firm feelings I feel confident about. Also I have not played online modes, but my review is focused more on the core golf experience, not the wild and wacky modes the game offers.

I’m a fiend for arcade golf games. The sims are fine, but I’ve got a special place in my heart for arcade golf games, specifically ones with three-tap swing controls. This system worked 20 years ago and it works great today. As fas as my perspective, I’ve spent hundreds of hours of my life playing these games, and the ones that stand out the most to me have been:

  • Everybody’s Golf for PS4
  • Mario Golf: Advance Tour for GBA
  • Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour for GameCube
  • Pixel Pros Golf for iOS

Again, I’ve played a few more of them, but those are what I’d consider the cream of the crop, at least in terms of games I’ve sunk 100+ hours into.

What I Personally Want from a Mario Golf Game

I think Mario Golf: Advance Tour is as close to perfect as the Mario Golf series has ever gotten. There was some fun Mario stuff, but the courses were generally realistic, they offered lots of risk-vs-reward decisions, and it had a fantastic progression system that let me level up my character how I wanted. Oh, and it cranked up the difficulty of my opponents to make sure I was getting a constant challenge, even at higher levels.

Ultimately, I want to be able to pick up this game and play a round of golf easily, and I’d like to have some stats about that course or myself overall so that I can try to set some new record, no matter how small during that round. A story mode is nice and all, but that’s just the first few hours of the game. If it’s good, I’ll spend over 100 hours playing normal golf, and that’s where I want my Mario Golf games to shine.

For an example outside the Mushroom Kingdom, Everybody’s Golf for PS4 is absolutely amazing in this regard. Whenever I start a round, I know what the record score is on that course, and that score even changes based on what tees I’m using, what the wind is set to, and the weather conditions. I also know how often I hit the fairways, the greens in regulation, and what my longest drives have been. Oh, and as I play the round, my scorecard reminds me what the best score I’ve gotten on each hole, as well as what my longest drive per hole has been.

Finally, I like to have a tournament mode that I can play over and over again, and I’d like to have actually challenging opponents in those tournaments. Give me a run for my money, make me sweat, I’m ready for it.

What Mario Golf: Super Rush Does Well

I have decidedly mixed feelings about this game. On the one hand it does offer some of the things that I look for in a game like this. First off, the solo modes allow for tons of control over exactly what you want to do. I can play 3, 6, 9, or 18 holes on any course in the game, I can choose from 4-5 tee locations, I can select the wind settings, whether special shots are allowed, and even what hold of the course I want to start on.

This is a ton of flexibility, and I appreciate being able to lock in exactly the round of golf I want for the amount of time I have to dedicate to the game at that moment in time.

I also really like the progression system in the game. You start out as a slow weakling, but as you play through the story you will earn XP that you can use to level up things like your power, your accuracy, your spin, and your stamina and speed. Those last two are only relevant in the speed golf and battle golf modes, so you can actually level up your other stats quicker if you don’t care about the “fun” modes that much.

Oh, and this also does the great thing where if you put a few points in a row into power, your control and spin stats will drop, so you need to balance putting XP into your favorite stat with balancing out the losses elsewhere. I don’t know why, but I always love this mechanic in golf games.

It’s worth mentioning there are about a half dozen courses in the game, and they vary from very plain, realistic courses to things that are a little more Mario-themed. Some reviewers have been disappointed that the courses aren’t more outlandish, but for me that’s actually a feature so it’s fine by me.

I also have to mention cross country golf, which puts you on a course and you get to choose what order you go through the holes. When you get the ball in a hole you tee off right for that green, and there’s a good amount of strategy in figuring out what the optimum route is, and there are some legit Breath of the Wild moments where you are scaling steep cliff faces to get up to the next hole, or aiming at or around tornados to get your ball exactly where you want. Reviews have been pretty down on this mode, but I kinda dig it.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the moment to moment gameplay scratches that arcade golf itch, and I feel really chill playing a round of golf in this game. This is super subjective, of course, but for me I could see spending months playing this game. Little things like not being able to see how much you’re going to curve a fade before you hit it makes me need to build an intuition for how my character plays the game. Similarly, putting is a real challenge here, which is a relief because some Mario Golf games have had putting that was stupid simple.

What Could be Better

But for any game that I could play for 100+ hours, the devil is in the details, and there are a few things about this game that make it less than perfect, and I think less impressive than my current arcade golf game of choice, Everybody’s Golf for PS4.

The first thing that gets me is the shot mechanics. Instead of the traditional three click controls (start, power, and accuracy), this game has a two click control. This is basically the same auto-shot feature that all these games have had for years. Aka you tap to start the swing, tap again to set the power, and then the game will randomly set your accuracy for you. The UI for this is new, but it’s the same result, and that disappoints me because I don’t like that feature in other games, and in Super Rush it is the only option for button controls.

Super Rush does go a little further by letting you hold the joystick at any angle to shape the shot, and I do enjoy that quite a bit, but I’d like to have more agency over my accuracy.

Oh, and for completeness’s sake, spinning the ball works the same as other games, with a press or double-press of the A or B buttons to apply spin to the ball when it lands.

The second thing that bothers me is the lack of risk-vs-reward moments I feel when playing each hole. There really seems to be one way to play every hole, so I don’t have that much variety from round to round. Even as I get stronger and hit the ball farther, I’m really just hitting it further down the same fairway, not trying to do anything really fancy. I think this is compounded by the removal of power shots, as there is no way for me to try and hit the ball a little harder than normal to cut some corner.

These issues of few decisions during the round and not being able to control my own accuracy add up to each round feeling pretty same-y to me. There’s really not much variation because there’s not much I can change each time I play a course. Yes, sometimes the RNG will mean I hit a shot off course when I hit it perfectly another round, but the nature of odds-based RNG like this game uses means that over 18 holes my luck will generally even out. I love those rounds in other games where I’m just in the zone and I’m hitting perfect shots constantly and break my own high score, but I don’t get those moments in this game since I’m not actually in control, and that’s a bummer.

I’m also a little annoyed with how metrics are shown in the game. There are quite a few stats that are tracked, but you need to go to a specific page in the menus to find them, they aren’t visible as you play the game. I might see an alert that I just hit the longest drive on a hole, but I had no idea what the old record was, and I certainly didn’t know that I had a chance to beat it when I took my drive. And what’s the best score I’ve ever gotten on this hole? What’s the longest putt I’ve made? How often do I hit this fairway? How about this green? Everybody’s Golf shows me all of that, and old Mario Golf games showed many of them, but Super Rush has none of them, and that really sucks.

I was also really disappointed to see that tournaments only exist in the story mode. I would have loved to play against a whole field of opponents on the fly, but I can’t do that. My only options for solo play are to play against 2-3 CPUs in a foursome. I do love that we can all take our shots at the same time, but the CPU opponents are pretty bad and I’ve won some matches by 20 strokes, so I’ve taken to just playing solo since they’re literally no challenge at all.

Current Feelings

Like I said near the start, I’m conflicted about this game. If I could have 3 wishes for things to change about this game I would choose these updates:

  1. Add an advanced swing mode where I get to set my own accuracy. This will make the game more skill-based and make me feel more engaged with the game as I feel more in control of my destiny.
  2. Scorecards should always show the best score I’ve ever gotten on each hole so I know what ones I should really be trying to get my first birdie or eagle on as I play. These are micro-challenges that I make for myself, and they’re a huge draw to the genre.
  3. Metrics, metrics everywhere! Like I said, arcade golf games in the long run are all about micro-challenges, and showing me my stats as I play lets me constantly be playing these games as I create games inside the normal golf game to add some flavor that wasn’t there by default.

I’d love to see things like tournaments break out of the story mode and XP be gained across all game modes, but I’m trying not to get too greedy here. I’m not expecting Nintendo to add any of these post-launch anyway (we’ll surely get new courses though), but those are my two cents.

Despite my complaints, I do think the game is fun and I will be playing it for the next few weeks for sure. Everybody’s Golf truly is a masterpiece and I’m sure I’ll go back to it eventually, the only question is how long Mario Golf: Super Rush can hold onto me before I move on.

I Don’t Expect a 4K Nintendo Switch

It’s been talked about for years, and the latest rumors are that an upgraded Switch console is coming soon, this time really just adding that this new Switch will have a slightly bigger display and will upgrade from LCD to OLED. This has sparked my interest in thinking about what this mythical device is going to do.

One thing that gets thrown around a lot is that this is going to be the model that plays games in 4K, and my position on this is no, absolutely not. Most games on the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles don’t even run at 4K, and even high end PC gamers tend to cap out at 1440p, so expecting a portable console like the Switch to pull this off is a bit of a dream, in my opinion.

When we look at the state of games on the Switch today, there’s still so much room for growth at the existing 1080p max.

First off, most Switch games don’t run at 1080p in the first place; in portable mode some games run at 480p, which is the same as same as GameCube games from 2001. A more powerful processor would better be used at simply getting games to run at 1080p in docked mode and 720p in handheld. Higher would be great, but let’s hit the current target before thinking about multiplying the pixel count by 4x or more.

Second, frame rates on a lot of games are 30fps (or lower) when they are 60fps on other platforms. I think about Apex Legends, Fortnite, Doom Eternal, and many more cross-platform gams that are technically on Switch, and their conversions are achievements, but they’re harder to play (especially competitively) at lower frame rates from everyone else. Hell, even Nintendo’s own Bowser’s Fury game runs at 30fps which is very unusual for a Mario game in the past few decades.

And finally, there is general level of detail in games. Games built only for the Switch often do a good job of using assets that look good on the Switch, but most third party games look rough on the platform. It was one thing in 2017 when the Switch launched, and it’s only gotten worse since then. At this point, if a game is available on Switch and any other console/PC, I’m going to get the non-Switch version because the graphical downgrade is just too much and makes me feel like I’m playing a less-than version of said game.

So do I want a more powerful Switch? Absolutely! I just think that some parts of the press (specifically the tech press/pundits, not gaming press) treat resolution as the top indicator for how good games look, when this is far from the case. If Switch games were seen as lagging behind other game consoles by only doing 1080p games at 60fps, then I’d be on board that a mid-gen upgrade should increase the output resolution, but as I’ve argued above, the max resolution is not the limit on Switch games right now.

Stadia on Thin Ice

Last week it was announced that Google was shutting down their game studio which was going to be creating original games for their Stadia gaming service. This news has of course been meet with concern from many, but others have wondered why this is a big deal. After all, Stadia has existed for a year without original games, why should this change anything?

Commitment to Gaming

The big concern brought up from lots of people, including myself, when Stadia launched was basically this:

Google cancels products all the time, so why would I buy games from a service that 100% requires that service to be online and well-maintained?

The counter to that argument was that Google was really serious about gaming and that this was not something they were going to throw in the towel on anytime soon. They were in it for the long haul.

Closing their internal game studio is not a great indicator that they are willing to commit to video games for the long run. While this doesn’t strictly mean that the streaming service is next, it does mean that this is far from a “success at any cost” business for them and if Stadia doesn’t live up to their internal metrics, it may not be as safe as many would like to think.

Consider Nintendo

Consider this studio closing by a platform holder from another angle to get an idea of how this looks to those of us who have followed gaming for decades. While it may be an imperfect comparison, Nintendo is also a platform holder with internal game studios. Their platforms (Switch and 3DS) have tons of third party games on them, as well as their own exclusive titles.

If later today Nintendo announced they were closing their internal studios and they were just going to focus on making hardware going forward, how would that make you feel about Nintendo? Not great, right? You could certainly argue that they have tons of third party content on the Switch that will still be available, but come on…you’d be skeptical has hell about their future.

Exclusive Games Make All the Difference

Most gaming platforms have all third party games on them these days. Nintendo has Mario, Zelda, and literally dozens of other massive franchises. Sony has God of War, Uncharted, Spider-Man, and many others as well. And even Microsoft, who has fewer exclusives than those other two, has been spending billions of dollars to buy up studios to catch up in the exclusive content game.

Exclusive content matters a ton, and while you could argue that Stadia will be different, I would say that 30 years of following the games industry makes me very skeptical that they’re going to buck the trend.

Stadia’s Technical Advantage

Of course Stadia is different from the other big platform holders, right? Their games run in the cloud and stream down to your devices (any devices!), thereby skipping the $200+ investment in a home console.

But…

Microsoft has Xbox Game Pass, which not only gives you access to a huge library of games, also has a cloud streaming option that is currently rolling out to more platforms. Sony has been doing this for years with PlayStation Now, which offers mostly older games, but also has apps in numerous platforms. And even Nintendo is in the game a bit with cloud versions of some AAA games on the Switch (technically similar, but Nintendo is definitely not as invested here).

I’m skeptical that Stadia’s technical prowess is going to be distinct in comparison to their competitors for long. Game Pass already works great and I’ve used it on my Android phone a few times to great effect.

When the ability to stream games over the internet to any device becomes table stakes, then what are we going to look at to decide what platform to use? Exclusive, first party games. Just like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu compete for customers with exclusive content rather than video streaming quality, that’s going to make the difference in video game streaming as well.

Takeaway

My takeaway is simple. I have not been a fan of Stadia from the start, I don’t plan on giving them any more of my money, and right now I’m bearish on their future. Maybe they’ll surprise us and do something that changes that narrative, but right now it does not look good.

CD Projekt Red Wrecked their Reputation in One Fell Swoop

CD Projekt Red Wrecked their Reputation in One Fell Swoop

I don’t write about gaming a ton on this site, but the circumstances around CD Projekt Red and Cyberpunk 2077 are too unique to let pass by without comment.

I think Cyberpunk 2077 is a decent game with a really great aesthetic. It had impossible expectations, and the fact that it got anywhere close to those expectations is impressive in it sown right.

But I also think CD Projekt Red sacrificed their reputation, a reputation they flaunted for years and now looks pretty classless, with Cyberpubk 2077. Let me explain why.

The Issues

First, for years of marketing, the project had what seemed like an unnecessary, but unending transphobic content.

Despite publicly promising numerous times that they would not enter “crunch” with their teams, CD Projekt Red had months of crunch this year, and given the state of the game right now and their promises to fix everything in no time, it seems reasonable to expect there is crunch going on through the holidays as well.

The game was allowed to be reviewed a few days before release, which is good, but there were two abnormalities:

  1. Only PC codes were handed out, there were no console versions available to press until they could download it from the stores like everyone else.
  2. Reviewers were not allowed to publish any footage of their gameplay in their reviews. Instead, they had to use perfect footage provided by CD Projekt Red.

Over the past year, CD Projekt Red had actually shown one or two videos of the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, but it was later revealed that all of those videos were recorded from the games running on PS5 and Xbox Series X. Are you effing kidding?

When users expressed anger at the quality of the console games, CD Projekt Red directed them to get refunds from the platforms, something neither platform offers for something like this, so many gamers were upset that they could not get a refund even thought “CD Projekt Red told me I could.”

Then CD Projekt Red said they would help with getting refunds out of their own pockets, but only through December 21, 4 days before surely hundreds of thousands of copies of this game would be given to people under the Christmas tree. They have since extended that date.

Recently, Sony announced that they would process a refund for anyone who wants on, and they would also be removing the game from their platform until further notice. They did not ask CD Projekt Red to remove the game, nor did CD Projekt Red suggest it, Sony kicked off the most anticipated game of the year (decade?) because it was so bad. This has literally never happened before, and it’s a pretty shocking rebuke of the game from Sony.

But even if we move past the bugs, Cyberpunk 2077 has some major problems.

First is that fact that the game lacked a warning about having sequences that could induce seizures, even though there are numerous times in the game where you experience a real-life machine in first person that is explicitly designed to give people seizures. There were numerous reports of people having seizures during these sequences, and Game Informer got the ball rolling on this getting fixed, but the fact that this shipped in the first place is shocking.

My Takeaway

I think Cyberpunk 2077 is a decent game on PC right now, but it absolutely has tons of issues. For example, I have a bug where tiny microchips that the characters routinely put in and take out of their heads, are replaced by gun models instead. This ruined a major scene early in the game that was supposed to be emotional, but just looked ridiculous as a main character emotionally pulled an assault rifle out of their head and asked me to take it and keep it safe.

I’m also very put off by the brash marketing and “hollier than thou” attitude the company has had for years. After making fun of other companies for doing crunch with their employees and releasing games with prominent bugs, they have released a game that was not done, made their employees crunch for months, and have been kicked off the PlayStation store, an absolutely devastating statement from the biggest console platform holder.

As of today I can not recommend this game. I don’t plan on trying to get a refund from the Epic Games Store, but I do feel conflicted about supporting CD Projekt Red right now, and I haven’t played it at all in a week as it just doesn’t feel quite right to me.

From the flaunting of their “untouchable” reputation, to the dishonest multi-year marketing campaign, to the draconian review restrictions, to the poor treatment of their employees, and to the overall quality of the product they ended up delivering, I find it very hard to get behind anything this company does in the future. They may have had a “we’re not like the other guys” mystique before, but they have been reveled to be just like all the other AAA studio out there, and in some ways, even worse.

Ending note: I don’t hold this against the rank-and-file employees at CD Projekt Red, this is directed squarely at the board and management of the company. By all accounts, as upset as we are about this game and this company’s behavior, the employees inside are even more upset.

The Epic Games Store is a Way Better Experience than Steam

First off, let me say that I don't use any social features of Steam or Epic, so this is coming from a single-player focused view. If those features appeal to you, then carry on enjoying Steam, this article is not going to convince you of anything.

To start, let's look at what Steam displays on launch:

I mean truly, what a mess. Outside of using UI trends of 5-10 years ago, this is a mess of trash I don't care about at all. The pop up that shows sales on whatever random stuff is on sale right now is always an instant-close for me, and the store page is full of junk.

Going to the library page, something that you would think would be a list of my games that I could easily browse and launch a game, is a mess. I kind of get what they're going for, but this looks like an attempt to get me to interact with content pushed by game publishers and the community, when all I really want to do is play my games.

Compare this to the store page on Epic:

There is so much less content here, and right at the top are my most recently played games, followed by a few updates from the store.

If I got to my library page...

Ah, now that's what I'm talking about! No ads, not "content" from publishers, just my games a single click away.

I know the PC gaming community is down on the Epic Games Store for many reasons, but as a user who wants to find games easily, get them for a good deal, and not be bombarded with ads every time I use the service, Steam is absolute trash in comparison to the much simpler, easier to use experience Epic is delivering.

Oh, and they have a regular cadence of releasing free games that acre actually good. In the past few months I've gotten the following games for free:

  • Watch Dogs 2
  • Hitman
  • Civilization 6
  • ABZU
  • Assassin's Creed Syndicate
  • Enter the Gungeon
  • Football Manager 2020
  • Overcooked

First Impressions of the Sony Dualsense Controller (without a PS5)

First Impressions of the Sony Dualsense Controller (without a PS5)

I was able to get my hands on one of the new PS5 controllers, the Dualsense controller, and I’ve hooked it up to my PC to play for a while. Here are my impressions.

Current Limitations

I do not have a PS5, so I’m using this with my PC to play games on Steam. There is no official driver available for this controller yet, so all you can do is pair it with your computer and manually map it’s buttons to the standard array of inputs.

This kinda sucks, so I would not recommend jumping in until those are available.

Steam lets me map my buttons, as do emulators, such as Dolphin, but my Game Pass and Epic Games Store games simply don’t know what to do with this thing. And even Steam games are not ideal, since games don’t know you’re using a PlayStation controller and don’t know to put up the names of the buttons to match PlayStation’s branding.

Basically, once there is a driver available, this will all get better and things should “just work” across the board, but that;s going to be a little bit. My fingers are crossed it happens around the same time the PS5 itself launches (November 12) but there’s no reason beyond hope to think that will definitely happen.

Also, you can pair this over Bluetooth woth Android, but iOS has no idea what it is. Since Apple supports the PS4 controller, one would expect that PS5 support is coming (hopefully sooner rather than later).

Hand Feel

“Mouth feel” may be all the rage, but hand feel is super important in a new game controller, and I’m quite happy with the Dualsense so far. It absolutely 100% feels better than the DualShock ever did. I love the Xbox One controller, the Switch Pro controller is great too, and this happily joins their ranks as perfectly delightful as well.

The buttons all feel good, and I continue to really love the D-pad PlayStation has had since the start.

I have not been able to use all the new features, namely the resistive triggers and haptic feedback features, so I’m not even getting the biggest features yet.

One ridiculous detail is in the texture on the back and sides of the controller. Instead of a random pattern for the grain, there are actually the classic PlayStation X, square, circle, and triangle icons. It doesn’t matter at all, and I would bet millions of owners will never notice this at all, but it’s still pretty cool to see.

Design

I really didn’t like the look of this thing when I first saw it online earlier this year, but it looks spectacular in person. The black and white look great, and I never thought I’d say this, but the light bar is stunning: the way it fades in and out around the touchpad are just…it’s just great.

It would be insane if it didn’t, but it’s nice to have a controller that charges over USB-C. This of course means that I have plenty of cables already that work with it, so I didn’t need to get any new cables. It does not come with a cable, so keep that in mind.

I also like that they continue to have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the controller, making headphone-gaming super simple.

Takeaway

This is more of a tease than anything else. I don’t have a PS5 to use this thing to its full potential, so there’s tons of stuff left to be experienced. I’m looking forward to the embargo dropping on those with early PS5s to see how all of this comes together. And with luck, I’ll have a PS5 before the end of the year too, and you can be sure I’ll be sharing more about it right here.

Xbox Game Pass Still Isn't Coming to iOS

Xbox Game Pass Still Isn't Coming to iOS

MacStories has a good roundup of the new rules, and this one stood out to me:

Under section 3.1.2(a), games offered via game streaming services must be downloadable from the App Store. Unless changes are made to the services, this precludes apps that would allow console games to be streamed to iPhones and iPads using services like Google’s Stadia or Microsoft’s xCloud, but it would not change the status of game subscription services like GameClub. Services should also be designed to avoid duplicate payment by subscribers and should not disadvantage non-subscribers.

Let's back up first.

In 2008, Apple made a bet that the future of software was local apps. The things people wanted to do one their phones were going to be written as native apps and downloaded to users' devices. Yes, lots of apps would have web components, but they would come more in the form of APIs than interfaces. The Instagram app would sync with a web-based API, but everything in the app would be presented using elements hosted locally in the app's code. If you flipped on airplane mode, then you would expect your apps to run like normal, but without the ability to access new data from the web (obviously).

To put it mildly, this worked well for Apple, and it worked for the computing world as a whole.

The first potential disruption came in the form of progressive web apps, or PWAs. These were a hybrid approach to software, where the app itself lived on and was distributed on the web via a web browser, but could be saved locally as an app as well, giving it the ability to run locally, even in airplane mode. When you got an internet connection again, your data would sync to the cloud and you might even get an update to the app itself. Apple supports PWAs, but not nearly as well as many would like. Of course, PWAs don't seem to be that popular in the first place, so it's not that big of a missed opportunity for Apple today.

Xbox Game Pass doesn't fit into either of these two categories. If allowed, it would consist of a "terminal" style app that basically just logged you into a web service and then that web service would display content to you. When you selected something, that game would run on a remote server and the video from that game would stream to your device over the internet. As I wrote last month, this is almost exactly what Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, and every other streaming video service does today. The only notable difference is that these services can let you download content and play it back locally, while Game Pass would not allow this.

What Game Pass Wants to Do

  1. Microsoft releases an app called Xbox Game Pass to the App Store.
  2. User downloads the app.
  3. User signs into their Xbox account in the app (or they sign up from inside the app).
  4. The app shows the user all the games currently available with their subscription.
  5. User taps on a game and they play that game in the app.
  6. User quits the current game and selects the next one they want to play in the Xbox Game Pass app.

What the App Store Rules Want Game Pass to Do

  1. Microsoft releases 100+ apps to the App Store, one for each game you can stream.
  2. User downloads the app for the game they want to play.
  3. User signs into their Xbox account in the app (or create one in the app).
  4. The app boots straight into the game for that app.
  5. User quits the current game.
  6. User goes to the App Store to download the next game they want to play and installs it.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6.

Why This is Impossible

There are a couple reasons I think that this puts Microsoft in an untennable position, and I don't think that's on accident.

The 100+ Apps

First things first, this makes is to that Microsoft needs to upload and maintain 100+ apps to the App Store on day one. These apps will be exactly the same, but they will have different icons, descriptions, screenshots, and other metadata, and the code would basically have a line something like:

loadGame("Halo");

And this line would change for each app they upload.

This is a bit ridiculous on its face, and I think exposes its silliness when you compare this to the movie/TV app market. If this standard was applied to video, Netflix would have to have an app for each series they run (maybe every episode, depending how strict Apple was about this). Obviously that would be insane, but this is what they're asking Microsoft to do.

Let's move past this point for now, as I'm sure some people will argue that games and video are different, but I think we're splitting hairs, and this is far from the only problem here.

How Does App Review Work?

Apple says they want to review each game, but how is that going to work, exactly?

The app will have basically no content. The content that they are requiring Microsoft to split up is 100% server-side, so would Apple review the game code that runs in the cloud? That is a whole new level of review and does not sound like a reasonable precident to set.

Would they actually play the game in full to see if it passes review? Again, what does this even mean? they're going to play an 80 hour RPG before approving it? Since they can't see the game code, how else would they conduct a proper review? "So sorry app review time is slower than before, our team is currently playing through Cyberpunk 2077 right now." 🙃

Or most likely, would they review the code for the shell of the app, not touch the game at all, and then make the app review completely redundant? Sure, this would prevent Microsoft from sneaking in something nasty into that shell, but wouldn't it be easier on everyone involved if they just had to do this for one app?

The Very Nature of Game Pass

Much like Netflix, Game Pass cycles games in and out of its library on a monthly basis. Every month new games are added and old ones are removed. Also like Netflix, there is some first party content that will be there forever, but most third party content will leave the service eventually.

Let's say Microsoft uploads an app for Jump Force, which is currently on Game Pass. Jump Force is scheduled to leave Game Pass in 4 days. What happens to the app that the user downlaoded? Obviously, it becomes a brick. There's not even a way to let the user pay for the game and keep playing it forever (as they can on Xbox or Windows) since the game physically can not run on iOS. These aren't iOS games that you need a subscription to play (like Apple Arcade) they are PC/console games that simply can not run locally.

If Microsoft was able to have one app that had all of Game Pass's games, then this would not be a big deal, and the app would work so long as the service existed.

What I'm getting at is that this model Apple would ask Microsoft to follow is untennable for all parties, and is the worst possible solution in terms of user experience.

It's bad for the user because they need to download a bunch of "apps", most of which have a timer running from their moment they're installed, counting down to when that app becomes a worthless bundle of bits. It's bad for Microsoft because they have to maintain hundreds of apps that are all basically the same thing, but have tons of overhead with App Store-specific metadata and app review that could cause major headaches. And finally, it's bad for Apple because they're forcing this bad experience on their users and developers, two parties they are striving to make happy.

This rule simply seems like it's trying to force an unusable business model on a category of services they don't want on their platform without actually saying out loud, "we don't want game streaming services on iPads and iPhones".

Where Do We Go From Here?

It seems clear to me that the best solution here is for Apple to let Microsoft do what they want to do and release a single app that lets users play all the games in the Game Pass streaming library. It is consistent with how other subscription streaming content services operate, it gives Microsoft a reasonable developer experience that is consistent across all the platforms they support, it gives users a great experience with a single icon on their home screen that gives them a world of entertainment, and it's good for Apple because coupled with their excellent support for Xbox and PlayStation controllers, would make iPads and iPhones the best way to play the next generation of games on the go.

This rule change is clearly not about allowing the best experience for all parties, and is aimed at blocking this service from existing on Apple's platforms in the first place.

I'm sure some will say this is Apple setting clear rules for how Microsoft can proceed with releasing Game Pass on iOS/iPadOS, but as I've argued above, I would suggest this is more like Apple stating plainly that there is no room for a service like Game Pass on Apple's top platforms.

Game Pass does not fit neatly into the "one app, one function" container that has been the norm for over a decade. I would argue that what it is offering is no different than what Netflix offers in terms of streaming entertainment, but obviously Apple does not agree. You can tell me all you want how "actually this makes sense for Apple's business" all you want, but as an iOS user and Xbox Game Pass subscriber, this makes iOS less appealing to me. I'm not switching to Android tomorrow or anything, but this is definitely a mark against iOS for me.

Flying Around the World, Recreating macOS Wallpapers

Flying Around the World, Recreating macOS Wallpapers

Above is my recreation of the macOS Catalina wallpaper taken in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.

And here's a few versions of the Big Sur wallpaper.

And finally, here's an attempt at the Yosemite wallpaper.

I think they all have their own special charm, but in partial to the Catalina one because it looks so damn realistic.

So how'd I get these? Well, as far as I can tell there isn't a centralized place where you can get the GPS coordinates for these places, so you kinda have to figure it out yourself. Thanks fully, that wasn't too hard for a couple these since they were on the coast at very specific places. It was just a matter of:

  1. Finding them in Apple Maps
  2. Taking off from the nearest airport
  3. Flying to the spot
  4. Going into “active pause” mode in the game
  5. Find the position and focal length of the shot in the wallpaper
  6. Shoot

Flight Simulator also gives you full control over the time of day and weather conditions, so I was able to get those pretty close as well.

The final step was taking them into Lightroom to do some edits to get them closer to the versions Apple shipped in macOS.

Flight Simulator is a pretty serious “make your own fun” game, and this was a lot of fun. Mojave and High Sierra are going to be a bit harder but I may give them a shot if I feel inspired again.

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