Recycling your stories, yes or no?

If you are a writer who’s any good, you’d probably accumulate a huge pile of writings. And maybe up to ninety percent of those have been published somewhere.

Then there comes a day when you realised the message you wanted to share with the world is really done. Done as in you have said your piece and there’s nothing more for you to share. Or maybe you are just suffering from a serious case of writer’s block.

Now, during your journey as a writer, you’d probably also come across the suggestion of recycling what you wrote in the past and publish them again. I’ve seen other writers done it. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

From a practical standpoint, it make sense. By recycling it, you allow your new readers to get new content while you don’t need to put in any effort to write anymore. At least until you found another message to share with the world. That way, you remain relevant in today’s highly noisy world in terms of the amount of content created and published online. This is where the 80/20 rule comes in. You put in barely any effort but you get the maximum reward because you could get new followers and you remain visible.

Isn’t that a good trade?

But from a moral or ethical standpoint, it’s probably doesn’t feel right. I know because I’ll definitely feel that way. It’s like selling people old stuff. So unless you are at a thrift shop or a place that sell pre-owned goods, chances are you want what’s the latest or new right? Well, in hindsight, I suspect it’s probably the only valid reason that one have when trying to justify to oneself they shouldn’t do it.

However, we should all remember that people do have very short attention span. There’s just so many things in life to distract us. Our memory can get fuzzy too. Unless the readers are your number 1 fan, or with a lot of time on their hand to dig out all your old articles, no one is really going to notice you put out a piece of old content. Hell, I didn’t even realise I read an old post that was recycled until I notice the comments in the comment section is several years old. And yet, I realise if the person hadn’t recycle that content, I won’t have known such a great piece exist.

So the answer is yes. Recycle your old stories whenever you feel necessary. It’s also a useful course of action to take to fill in the lull period until you find your groove back.

P.S. In fact, I almost wanted to do the same thing because I don’t have anything else to share for now, but the realisation that I didn’t write any decent piece of content in the past that warrant me recycling them forced me to find something to write about instead. So I shared my thoughts about recycling old content.

My take on the future of gaming

Video games have come a long way in how they look, how they are delivered, where they are played and how they immerse players.

Let’s begin with a quick history lesson.

Initially, games released in 1950s had only simple 2D graphics that didn’t move across the screen and no sound. Those games were a novelty, not meant for consumers and ran on mainframe computers the size of rooms.

Then the 1960s and 1970s saw games developed that featured moving 2D monochrome graphics and basic sounds running on machines ranging from arcade-sized to home consoles no bigger than your modern day consoles. Games of that era are delivered via cartridges, which are clunky and prone to loading issues.

After that, games went from 8-bit colour 2D graphics to 16-bit colour 3D polygon graphics as the processors powering the game consoles and computers became more powerful and can support complex operations between 1980s to 1990s. At the same time, storage capabilities were also improving as games went from using cartridges to CD-ROM. That means games can be bigger, look better and sound better.

However, the handheld consoles didn’t progress as far. They used technology that were at least one generation behind. For example, the Nintendo GameBoy featured an 8-bit Sharp processor running at 4.19MHz with 8KB internal S-RAM whereas consoles like the Super NES featured a 16-bit CPU, a set of graphic processors called Picture Processors then and at least 64KB of main RAM. That mean the early handheld game consoles could only handle moving black/white 2D graphics. But that didn’t matter. The device was popular enough with consumers for at least a decade.

From 2000 to 2010, the gaming industry saw the release of sixth generation consoles and then the seventh generation with games using bigger disc size due to their better game assets, textures, and cinematic video. During this timeframe, the handheld market expanded. And those consoles featured better hardware that allowed games running on Nintendo DS and Playstation Portable to have the same graphics fidelity found in the yesteryear consoles like the original Playstation, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, etc., which were considered pretty good considering the small-form factor and the use of batteries.

With the arrival of the 2010s, smartphones and tablets joined the home game consoles, PC and handhelds as another viable gaming platform. Both of the smartphones and tablets soon establish themselves as the more compelling platforms than the handheld consoles because of their flexibility. They allow users to download games from the Internet via their respective App Stores. Not only that, users can also use the same device to watch video, listen to music and communicate with people. This meant that dedicated handheld gaming machines like the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita would have a hard time on the market because they can’t do what the smartphone can.

To add salt to the injury, the rapid hardware improvement of the smartphone and tablet also meant that developers could now put in better looking game assets, implement complex game logic and gameplay and have better sound that were unheard of in a handheld console. Not only that, handheld consoles are like the home consoles where it could take a while before the software library grows big enough to entice consumers to buy, creating a chicken-and-egg problem. Smartphones, and to a lesser extend tablets, can see more triple-A games due to the open nature, proper SDK support, and larger market share. One good example of triple-A game for smartphone and tablet is Fortnite.

And that’s probably why the Playstation Vita didn’t quite achieve the same level of popularity as the original and the 3DS suffered lacklustre sales initially when they were released during that period.

But it didn’t stop Nintendo from releasing Switch in March 2017. Despite featuring hardware that was a couple of generations old when compared to iPhone 7 and the iPad Pro in terms of performance, it was successful because it can be used in handheld-mode and docked mode, making it the first of its kind. That means gamers can play their beloved games on the same console in either mode without much hassle. Not only that, it has a good support from game developers, which translates to better quantity and quality of games.

One thing to note is that while the game graphics on Switch don’t come close to what the Playstation 4 and Xbox One could do due to its hardware, it is good enough since its smaller resolution can free up more GPU resources to render the game world at a higher fidelity. And some examples of triple-A games that took advantage of that are Doom, Wolfenstein 2: The Colossal Order, Gear Club Unlimited.

While the Switch is the gaming console that run best in handheld mode, Apple’s iPhone and iPad can be argued as the best platforms for mobile AR gaming due to the power of their A-series SOC. Their latest A12X Bionic in the iPad Pro is as powerful as the processor found in a gaming console like the Xbox One while consuming a fraction of the power. With that kind of power, game developers can develop not only graphically intensive games like Infinity Blade 3 and Grid Autosport but also games like The Machines, ARZombi, and AR Dragon that could allow players to interact with overlaid 3D game assets displayed on their mobile devices, depending on where they point their devices, without needing extra equipment or add-ons.

Other than AR, VR is the other thing games took advantage of. Sony released the Playstation VR in 2016 that was well received. Multiple game developers are actively developing games for it which allow players to immerse themselves deeper into the game by having them wear a special headset that project the game world into their eyes and putting them at the center of the experience. A similar effort can also be found on the PC with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive but that require more powerful computer hardware that put them out of reach for most gamers.

As you can see, the gaming industry does seem to be heading into different directions based on the different platforms. But one thing is clear. Mobile gaming is here to stay. So is living-room gaming.

Then it begs the question, what’s next?

I believe the tenth generation of video game devices would ultimately converge into something that combine hybrid nature of Nintendo Switch with AR capabilities of the iPhone/iPad. The physical device won’t be much larger than the current Nintendo Switch because of fatigue when using as a handheld. It will also come with some kind of dual camera system that allow for correct depth processing and rendering of overlaid graphics.

In terms of technical specification, these game console would most likely have at least eight cores and 16GB of RAM providing to 1.2x the performance of the ninth generation consoles slanted to be released by Sony and Microsoft in the near future. With that, the default resolution of games running on such devices will be at minimum 1920 x 1080p. 4K gaming would also be a breeze for such devices.

Furthermore, VR will also be an integral part of the tenth generation consoles through the use of VR glasses, which will definitely be smaller as compared to the current generation of headset. And despite the advantages of a touchscreen, physical joysticks and buttons won’t go away since they offer better tactile feedback and control. The experience of playing a racing game using virtual joystick on a touchscreen vs a physical joystick is just completely different. If you have sweaty hands, chances are the game won’t register your actions very well.

On the software front, the devices will come with basic internet browsing and media playback/streaming capabilities. Games will be predominantly delivered via the App Store and disc versions probably would give way to the use of game card like what the Switch uses with storage capacity achieving at least 128GB.

The platform doesn’t matter until it does…

Writers these days are spoiled.

They are spoiled because recent development in technology has given rise to online platforms that allow writers to put their work out for the world to see. From Blogger to WordPress to the more recent Medium, writers are mostly free from having to deal with middleman that served as gatekeepers to the big publication houses.

But those platforms actually don’t matter.

They are just tools, just like the pens and papers, nails and hammers, etc. The platforms don’t dictate your writing. Only you do. As a writer, your main job is to write. To put the ideas that are swimming in your head out into words for others to see. If you aren’t doing that, then no platforms is going to help. Just like the pens and papers that are going to sit in some dark corners if your hands don’t reach for them and use those tools.

And after you are done writing, only then the platforms matter. You have to use them to publish your work out for the world to see.

If you don’t understand the rules of the platform, you writings aren’t going to see the light of the day even if you hit that publish button. The platform’s flawed algorithms are going to decide that your writings aren’t worth anyone’s time and don’t bring them out for the world to see. And algorithms can change depending on the platform owner.

And now, the time you’ve spent on writing that great piece of article, essay or poem is wasted because no one is reading it.

So your role as a writer now has more responsibilities.

You have to go out there and reach out to other writers on the platforms. To comment on their writings, to like their writings, or just to say hi. Only then, you leave a trail of breadcrumbs that hopefully grab someone’s attention and bring them to your creations.

And being on just one platform isn’t enough. Neither is being on many platforms. You have to be on the right kind of platform that has the right kind of writers and readers that will contribute to your growth as a writer.

Now you see, the platform doesn’t matter until it does…

Glass full or half empty

Glass half full or half empty? This is a general litmus test to determine a person worldview when it comes to life.

When a person says it’s half full, he or she could be optimistic about life.

When a person says it’s half empty, he or she could be pessimistic about life.

But what if…

I tell you that it is simultaneously full and empty?

Nintendo Switch follow-up review

A few days ago I got myself a Nintendo Switch, did a basic unboxing and gave my initial thoughts.

Since then, I’ve been playing Diablo 3 on it and with it, I can better determine the pros and cons of the device.

First is the audio. Even though the speakers are capable of producing stereo sounds, at three-quarter of volume setting, they still sound a little weak when it comes to the higher ranges and bass. They aren’t as crisp or punchy as I would like. Maybe it’s because I’m spoilt by the speakers found on the iPhone X and iPad Pro where playing music through those would make you want to move and dance along.

And if you are attempting to play games on the device in a rather noisy environment, chances are you won’t be able to enjoy the audio properly. But the good thing is that it has a 3.5 mm audio port for you to connect an earphone, headphone or maybe even speakers to it as you play. That way, you can use a sound-cancelling earphone or headphones when you in a noisy environment or when you don’t want to announce to the whole world you are gaming in public.

There is one good thing when you attempt to raise the volume higher than 3/4 of the way when an earphone is connected. The device will actually warn you about possible ear injury when it’s too loud. And it actually stop me from attempting to push the volume any higher to compensate for noise generated by the train as it moves.

The other thing I found problematic with the audio was its lack of support for bluetooth audio. I use AirPods with my iPhone whenever I’m outside to listen to music, take on phone calls, etc. There are times when I want to play games on the Switch but I found myself having to put the AirPods back into storage and pull out the 3.5 mm wired earphones from my back before I could start playing. To play Switch I need to switch my audio output device. Nice one. To me, it’s just a hassle. That means I could I only take out the Switch when I’m seated or in a less crowded area. And if I’m on the train, I would have a hard time pulling out the earphone from my bag since it would be pack with people especially during rush hour. It was during moments like this I just wish there’s support for Bluetooth audio. And yes, I’ve been spoilt by Apple’s seamless experience when it comes to their products.

Next is the display.

Although you won’t be able to see individual pixels when you play games due to the 237 pixels per inch 6.2inch display, it’s just not that bright. So when you play games in a bright environment, you may have to increase the brightness. In turn, it will drain the battery faster and reduce your overall play time. But I didn’t go that route so I have to find a corner that’s darker to play my games or squint my eyes.

But I definitely like the screen size. It’s the sweet spot. Come to think of it, the iPhone XS Max also features a 6.2 inch display that’s nearly edge to edge. But sadly, the notch just is too distracting especially if you are gaming on it. Besides, the iPhone doesn’t have games like Diablo 3, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or even Doom on it. So that’s where the comparison ends.

The other issue was the lack of P3 colour gamut. Considering that we are now into 2018 and since then there has been various consumer-grade devices featuring P3 colour-gamut capable display starting with the iMac back in 2015, I don’t see why Nintendo didn’t put that in. It could have help to make Mario and friends look way more vibrant and colourful.

Lastly, it’s the bezel. It’s rather big by 2017 standard. Maybe Nintendo could find a way to reduce the bezel by another 10% or 20% and make use of those free space. When that happens, it would be more enjoyable.

The other thing I want to mention is the battery life. Even though it’s advertised that it can allow up to 6 hour of game time, when I was playing diablo 3, I find the device down to 15% of battery after about 4 hours. And that was spread across the whole day since I only play games while I’m on the train or when I get home. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I’m playing games like Doom (2016) on it.

But so far, I didn’t face the problem of running out battery when I’m on the go. Even then, I don’t really need to fear because I got myself a 20,000 mAh Power Bank that is more than capable of charging up a Nintendo Switch over USB-C. Based on the specification of the power bank, I can charge the device up to three times.

Now, despite all the so call flaws I mentioned, I still love the device because it is the only one so far that allow me to use conventional buttons to play serious games on the go. I just never quite like using touchscreen to play games because of the lack of tactile feedback. I want to know and feel that I have pressed a button. And it’s really satisfying when the game you play is all about button smashing. A touchscreen display can never give you that.

And if Sony Or Microsoft can develop and release their own version of the Switch with Xbox One X processing power that runs on battery in the same form factor, it could be really interesting. Imagine playing Horizon Zero Dawn on a handheld device without any graphical sacrifice.