Happy New Year

The new year is now about a week old and I’m enjoying the last days of my winter vacation. I used the last weeks to relax and recuperate. Basically at the last minute my wife and I decided to stay at home over New Year’s Eve since fighting against depression has really drained our batteries lately. Overall things have been much, much better than in the years before, but at the end of the year I felt like “butter scraped over too much bread”. So I played a lot of video games, watched several movies, had great food, and spent a lot of time on my couch.

I hope you don’t mind me writing a bit about non-RPG stuff today. There are a couple of things I really want to share and this blog is the best way to do so. I want to begin with my thoughts on a movie I watched recently on Netflix: Ready Player One. When I first heard about the book, I was pretty excited, so I eventually picked up the audio book. But – oh boy – I couldn’t even listen to the first thirty minutes of it. The book was read by one of my favorite narrators, so it was probably Ernest Cline’s writing. Regardless of what was the cause, I really wasn’t interested in watching the movie after that. When it was recently released on Netflix I thought: “What the heck, why not give it a try?”. I have to admit I was very positively surprised since I enjoyed the movie very much. It was a fun, nostalgic romp littered with pop-culture references. I had a great time watching it and immediately afterwards I ordered the Bluray disc to add it to my collection.

Ready Player One also got me interested in VR again. I’ve tried VR several times, and most of the time I was suffering from severe motion sickness. I don’t know what changed, but this time I basically had no motion sickness at all. Since I don’t own a “real” VR headset I used a Google Cardboard headset, my Samsung Galaxy S9+ smartphone and a software called VRidge/Riftcat which basically streams the VR images from a PC to a mobile device. To my surprise this worked better than expected. Sure, you don’t get full six degrees of freedom like with more expensive solutions, but it worked fine for me. As soon as I get a more comfortable replacement for the Cardboard headset, I’ll definitely play some more Elite: Dangerous and Star Trek Bridge Crew among other things.

I’ve already done some research into what VR headset to get. Both the HTC Vive and Valve Index are too expensive for my tastes, so the three candidates on my short list were the Playstation 4 VR, the Oculus Rift S, and last but not least the Oculus Quest. Since I don’t own a PS4 the PS4 VR turned out to be the most expensive solution. To my surprise the Oculus Quest came up on top. It is wireless and standalone, so you can play VR games even without a PC. There are already countless impressive games available for the Quest and more are on the way. In addition to that Oculus Link allows it to stream games from the PC to the Quest. Sure, it’s not the same thing as using a dedicated PC VR headset, but from what I’ve read the experience is very, very close. I also like that the Quest doesn’t need external sensors. Recently they also made hand tracking available for it by a firmware update, which could be extremely cool. Overall the Oculus Quest looks like it could be the perfect VR solution for me.

When it comes to tabletop roleplaying things have been pretty quiet lately. I think I already mentioned that I distanced myself from a few people. Since I did a lot of gaming with those people, I haven’t really played that much in the last few months. I also developed anxiety related to GMing. Sometimes even the thought of running a game can cause acute symptoms. This sucks! Luckily playing is fine and I joined a new gaming group recently. But I really hope I’ll able to get into GMing again in 2020. But I don’t think I’ll try to rush things. We’ll see how it goes.

Last but not least I want to give a recommendation to people looking for a really good computer roleplaying game. Over the holidays I picked up a copy of Disco Elysium and it’s as good as everyone says. It’s pretty quirky and surreal at times, but it’s so much fun to play. I’m far from having finished it, but so far I enjoyed every minute of it.

So, what have you been up to lately? Feel free to share your thoughts below. And if you have any questions regarding the things I was writing about today, feel free to ask away.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

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