Yesterday was an extremely strange day, because an event happened that was largely unexpected. As I have talked about over the last several months, my laptop is definitely seeing its age. At the time I got it, it was an amazing power house of gaming with dual GT 650m video cards… that could pretty much run whatever I happened to throw at it. The problem is the laptop is from 2012, and in that time a lot of stuff has changed and we have gone through three generations of video cards. So long as games were largely based on the PS3/Xbox 360 architecture everything was peachy, but as games dropped support for that generation and started to focus on the PS4/Xbox One it began to struggle. The first game I can remember that it flat out would not run in a way that I could stand to play it… was Dragon Age: Inquisition which is shockingly taxing on a video card… especially one of this age. Then came Fallout 4… and a long string of games that I had to run at 720p with greatly stripped down resolution options to get them to run at all. So since before Christmas I had been watching the local Craigslist to see if there were any options out on the market that could be snatched up on the cheap. I have a mixed past when it comes to Craigslist, because I have been able to get some insane deals like a Playstation 4 in early 2014 for only $200. I have also gotten insane run around that seemed to last for weeks over a couple of laptops that the other party simply flaked out on.
Still I was not in dire straights and part of me was wanting to wait to see what the next generation of Nvidia cards looked like before purchasing a brand new laptop… which seemed to be the direction I was heading towards. Then over the weekend I actually saw something good on Craigslist, which surprised me in the midst of all of the over priced machines… and laptops that predate my current one. Someone was selling a Asus Republic of Gamers laptop with an Intel Core i7-4720HQ processor, 16 GB of Ram, a Nvidia Geforce GTX 960m video card, with 1TB data drive and a 128GB SSD. At first I apparently texted the wrong phone number, as I missed a zero in a sequence of four zeroes in a row. However after texting the right address the guy responded pretty quickly. I asked the standard questions… like does it have any issues, why are you getting rid of it, etc… and then started making offers. Miraculously I apparently started off the bargaining in the right place, because I was able to talk him down to $600 which is a significant deal for that laptop. So last night I spent the ever so fun game of starting to install everything I “need” to be happy with a laptop, but I have to say anytime I upgrade like this there is a little bit of sadness too. I develop a personal relationship with my computers… and I guess part of me feels a little bad about kicking one to the curb to spend time with a newer model. I know that is a strange sequence of thought… but I can’t help but feel a little sad that I am moving on.
One of the great promises of the Playstation 4 was the ability to remotely play the system from a Vita, Android device, or the Playstation TV set top box. For the most part this works… but with certain constraints. The Vita appears to do an amazing job of remote play, given its limited real estate and the slightly wonky control scheme. However the Playstation TV set top box has been nothing but a disappointment. There are threads all over the place talking about how to somehow get it to perform well, but most of these involve having a hard Ethernet connection back to the same router that the Playstation 4 resides connected to. The problem here is… the entire idea of having it is to be able to extend the reach of your PS4 to another television. Basically for a long time I was looking for a way to play my PS4 somewhere other than sitting up in my office, where I have it for the purpose of recording gameplay footage. Awhile back I read about an unofficial side project that extended Remote Play to the PC, but never actually got around to checking it out. The software is currently in active alpha development, but from what I was reading online it seemed like it actually worked well. The author charges $10 for access to the alpha client… which is the only thing that had kept me from playing with it already. So last night I took the plunge hoping that I could sit there and play PS4 as my laptop downloaded and installed various bits of software.
Firstly I have to say… this thing is phenomenal. There are a few hoops that you have to jump through like registering your PC with your Playstation 4 as a remote play device. Additionally in order to get the native DualShock 4 to work I had to track down LibUSB which honestly took longer than any other part. Once installed my DualShock 4 installed on my system and was recognized by the Remote Play application. Unlike the native Remote Play options… this thing connects insanely fast to your PS4 and even the wake on lan functionality seems to work great. The real test however is if I could manage to play Destiny on my PC without being frustrated by the control input lag. Sure enough I managed to complete several duties and even hopped into some crucible where I managed to rack of some decent kill streaks… all running remote over my wireless network. Every now and then there is a slight bit of artifacting… and occasionally there might be an input hiccup… but in the grand scheme of things it works insanely well. There are some constraints… you are limited to a maximum of 720p running at 60 fps. For the most part I ran the default of 720p at 30 fps and the experience was not necessarily perfect but good enough for me not to care about any imperfections.
Where the really awesome bit comes in is the fact that the software author currently is working on mouse and keyboard controls, and for a little bit I actually tried playing Destiny with mouse and keyboard. There is some work that still needs to be done… and the mouse just doesn’t quite move fast enough yet to make game play truly viable… however since this software is actively being developed on I have a feeling that at some point soon… or with some configuration tweaking I will be able to sit on the sofa and play Destiny without the Dualshock 4. Part of me wants to throw money at this guy to get him to add more features… because seriously this thing is working amazing. Folks have already chimed in with “But Bel, Aren’t they adding official support?”. This is true, but I have a feeling that Sony isn’t going to add in all of the features that this software is already starting to support, like the ability to pretty much play with ANY usb controller and not just the Dualshock 4. I have a feeling that without any doubt Sony is not going to support Keyboard and Mouse emulation either. In any case… it is $10 well spent even if you just want to play around with it. Over the course of the night I played Destiny, Rayman Legends, and Farcry 4 all without issues. Also of note… ALL of this was while I was downloading a game from steam, a game from origin, and copying files across my network… and STILL the remote play session refused to lag.