Playing Apex Legends For The First Time Since 2019

Earlier this week, I tried playing the battle royale game Apex Legends for the first time since 2019, and I was really surprised how much things have changed. When I stopped playing, the game had just started its second season, but right now, its already at season eight. A lot of new legends and weapons had been added since then, as well as lot of other features.

The first thing that I noticed when launching the game was how there were now multiple different gamemodes. Previously, there was only one gamemode where you had to queue with three people, on one map, started with no loot, and was not ranked. However, now there is now the addition of a trio, duo, and ranked queue. From my understanding, the new ranked gamemode is the original one but now with an added ranked ladder. The new trio queue now has two maps in rotation and when you drop you already start with a weapon and armor. The duo queue is just the new trio queue but with two players per squad. Additonally, there seem to be limited time event gamemodes that come and go every few months.

In terms of the gameplay was that the shields were completely different than they used to be. Before, there were four different tiers of armor. The first tier gave two shield slots, second gave three, third gave four, and fourth also gave four with an extra perk. However now, those tiers of armor are no longer in the game except for the fourth. Instead, there’s now an evolving shield that players start with in each match. The more damage you do, the more shield slots you’ll fill up. From my experience, this makes playing out late game fights a lot longer since people can usually take more damage. Still, it’s interesting to see how players who engage in more fights are rewarded now, even if they don’t go looking for the best loot.

I also noticed that some legends that were previously considered to not be that good like Caustic are being used a lot more. Apparently, there have been lots of changes, but I’m not too sure about the specifics. There have also been several new legends that were added. For most of them, I have no idea what their abilities do, so that adds a few more things to learn about. Lots of new weapons have also been added as well as new attachments. I’ve tried a few of them, but I still feel more comfortable using the weapons from season one. Unfortunately, some weapons from season 1 like the Peacekeeper have been removed from standard loot and can now only be found in supply drops.

Overall, the game has changed a lot since I’ve last played. The second map that was added now has vehicles and portals, and so many legends and gameplay changes have been made it’s like playing a new game for the first time. Even though my friends and I haven’t been winning too many of our games, it’s still some good casual fun anyways.

FFXIV Early Game

A few days ago, I started playing FFXIV on a free trial and have played through a few hours of the early game content. I haven’t explored too much of the content, but I’ll write about what I’ve experienced so far.

The game starts with a cutscene of the main story before you create a character and choose a starting job. Since the game originally came out in 2010, the graphics aren’t exactly the most cutting edge, but they’re still quite good for an MMO in my opinion. The character customization options are a lot more limited compared to something like Black Desert, but I think it’s also comparable to other games like Kurtzpel. After creating your character you can choose from multiple different starting jobs that you’d eventually convert into main jobs. The one I chose was Thaumaturge which later goes into Black Mage.

Most of the actual game content for me so far has been compeleting the main story quest which gives you a variety of different tasks and also showcases a few cutscenes. The quests in the main story can range from simply delivery items across a town or having to defeat enemies and retrieve an item. However, I’m finding the actual story part of the game to be really difficult to follow. Especially with the cutscenes not fully explaining a lot of the stuff that’s going on.

Some of the things that are a bit annoying when first starting was that the default HUD was really cluttered and takes up a lot of space on the screen, so it took a few video tutorials to get that cleaned up. Additionally, some of the quests require you to navigate buildings that have multiple different floor levels, and it isn’t always clear what path you have to take in order to reach the required endpoint. A few times I found myself going in circles for different quests in the exact same building.

Since I’m not that high of a level, most of the combat I’ve done hasn’t been to exciting. Personally, the early usage of the same three to five skills kind of reminds me of playing League of Legends, but I know that the combat does get more interesting later on in the game. However, comparing FFXIV to a more action combat system like Black Desert leaves FFXIV’s early game a bit lacking.

Overall, FFXIV has been a new experience for me, especially since I’m trying more to understand the story. Supposedly it gets much better later on, so I’ll see how I enjoy it. The free trial for the game has not time limit, and is only content restricted. However, the amount of free content that they have available is quite extensive, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to get a lot of hours out of the game.

First Full Semester of Online Learning

Yesterday was the final day of class for my first semester of online classes this school year. There were both some good and bad things about the online experience, so this week I’ll be writing about what it’s been like for me.

First, I’d definitely say that at least for me, the enjoyablility of each class depended on what the teacher was like. Some of my classes were really boring because all of the material was taught through slideshows and worksheets with practically no real engaging content. However, one of my teachers was able to create more of a natural classroom environment by spending a few minutes at the start of each class to just talk about anything with the class. He made projects interesting and encouraged us to get in contact with our classmates outside of the class which made it a lot more enjoyable.

Comparing this semester to last year’s system, it was a lot better with the synchronous system learning because teachers were able to answer any questions in real time with the class. Live presentations were also possible which made things more engaging as well, and teachers could help out students by sharing their screens.

Despite all the advantages there are with the online learning platform there were also a lot of technical problems that a lot of my teachers faced. Some of them were plain connection issues, but others had problems opening certain files, using new programs, or causing audio feedback while joining with two devices. One of my teachers started using Zoom instead of Google Meets halfway through the semester which was kind of annoying to switch to every single day. Especially since, I didn’t see that big of a difference using either of the two since the pros and cons of each were similar enough to basically be the same.

There was only one class where I got to know some of my classmates because of the teacher I mentioned before. I feel like that’s a big part of the school experience, but it’s still not really the same as in person. Everyone sort of did their own thing, and group projects were usually uncommon. It also didn’t really help that almost everyone in all of my classes came from different schools, so it was kind of like starting grade 9 all over again except you don’t even know a single person.

Overall, it was really comfortable being able to attend school at home, but at the same time most of the classes were pretty boring. Synchronous learning helped solved a lot of problems I had with the previous one we were using in March last year, but now you don’t really know any of your classmates. Still, I think things are going in a good direction, and it might just take time for teachers to figure out the best way to teach their courses.

osu! Performance Points Updates

Last week, the osu! team released a blog post detailing the various changes they were going to start implementing to the way performance points were calculated. Most scores have already been updated by now, and lots of people’s ranks have been affected. This week, I’ll go over some of the main changes made and what I think about them as a casual player.

The first change that was made was a buff to maps that used an AR (Approach Rate) 11. The AR of a map determines how much time you have between seeing an object appear on your screen before you have to hit it. Normally, all maps that used AR 11 had the same scaling in terms of pp which meant that shorter maps would get the same AR 11 benefit that longer maps were. In this update, the new mulitplier for AR 11 maps scale so that shorter maps have a lower multiplier and longer maps that are more difficult have a greater multiplier. Personally, I don’t and can’t play that high of an AR in the first place, so this doesn’t really affect me. However, a lot of top players that played really short intense jump maps had a lot of their scores nerfed.

Another change that was made was towards the penalties for Miss Counts and how they were also adjusted depending on map length. Previously, missing three times on a 1000 combo map would have the same reduction as missing three times on a 100 combo map. In this update, there is a set reduction for the first miss, but they’ve created a new curve that reduces the impact of less misses on longer maps. This is another adjustment that makes misses on shorter maps more significant while making misses on longer maps more forgiving. For me, I personally like this change since I’m usually play longer maps now. However, this still makes all of the scores with only one miss a bit disappointing.

The last main changes that I’ll mention are the Speed and Accuracy adjustments. Previously, there have been some really fast maps that players could just mash their keyboard for combo over accuracy. Using the old pp system, the speed of the map would be worth more than the accuracy and players could get set scores above their actual skill level. The new update makes it so that while the speed of a map is still relevant, accuracy now scales exponentially with low accuracy scores being significantly nerfed. This change actually benefits me quite a lot since most of my plays usually have quite accuracy. In the first place, the way the new curve is calculated is based on the number of 50’s you get, which I usually don’t get too many of in my scoress anyways.

Overall, these new changes generally buff long accuracy scores and nerf short and low accuracy ones. After updating my profile, I gained around 1,000 rank after this update and ended up gaining a bit of pp. It wasn’t that much, but I think most of the rank came from a combination of other players losing pp and inactive accounts being removed from the leaderboards. In terms of the top players, a lot of the high pp scores were nerfed, but generally most of the leaderboard is relatively the same with only a few exceptions.

JBL 305p MkII Monitors

In addition to the new microphones and audio interface I received over the winter break, I also got a pair of the JBL 305p MkII studio monitors. Previously, I just did all of my mixing on either my laptop’s speakers or my Sony WX-1000XM3s which are both not really ideal. Although I still don’t have a lot of mixing experience, I will be writing about what it’s been like using the JBLs.

First, pretty much all audio that comes through is really crisp and doesn’t have any noticable muffling or distortion. I guess this is something standard with any decent pair of monitors, but compared to laptop speakers it is a huge change. Especially on the lower end of the frequency spectrum, things are actually audible instead of either being really quiet or distorted.

Another nice thing about having the JBLs is that the stereo imaging is wider compared to just using headphones. Even though my desk isn’t that big, I have the monitors spaced out so that as long as I’m sitting in the right spot, I’ll be able to have more detail in terms of where sounds are coming from. I usually have a hard time noticing how I’m panning things using the laptop speakers. Even if I have two tracks panned hard left and right. With the Sonys, there’s a lot more separation, but not as much compared to the monitors.

Of course, the main reason why I got the monitors was to be able to hear all frequencies at the same volume as they’re meant to be. Often times when using the laptop speakers the low end never really came through, and with the Sonys, the low end was often boosted and probably some other specific frequencies as well. However, the monitors play things back really accurately, and it’s much easier to tell when certain things are too quiet or too loud.

One thing that bothers me a bit about the monitors though is the hissing that they produce whenever they’re on. If you start playing something you can’t hear it, but it always comes back once there’s nothing going on. It’s not too noticeable at first, but once you hear it, it’s hard to tune it out. So usually, I’ll just reach over the back and turn them off when I’m done using them for the day.

Overall, the JBL monitors are a lot better to mix on compared to the laptop speakers and headphones that I was using before. Even just using them to listen to music sounds really good. The only thing that I’d really complain about is the hissing, but even then, I still really like them.

Rode M5 & Scarlett 2i2

Over the winter break, I got a pair of Rode M5 microphones and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. I was able to record some things with them, and the Scarlett even came with some extra plug-ins. So this week, I’ll be writing about my experience using the microphones and audio interface.

The Rode M5s came as a pair of pencil condensers which means they have a smaller diaphragm making them more responsive and detailed. The cylindrical shape also makes them easy to position. They also came with microphone clips and pop filters for each microphone which was really useful. However, I feel like the clips were a bit too tight. While they are supposed to be tight enough to make sure your microphones don’t fall out, these ones made getting the microphones in really difficult.

I’ve only used one other microphone to record with before, and although I don’t know the name of it, that’s what I’ll compare the Rode M5s to. Using a spaced pair setup towards the fretboard and bridge to record guitar I would say that the M5s definitely pick up a lot less room noise. I also think that they picked up some more of the high frequencies compared to my previous microphone, but that could’ve just been from positioning. Having two microphones also helps create a much wider stereo image compared to using one microphone.

Moving on to the Scarlett 2i2, it has four different inputs, two XLR and two 1/4″ however only two can be used simultaneously. The main reason why I ended up getting a new audio interface is because I needed to be able to have two XLR inputs available at the same time to record using the M5s in stereo. All the knobs for things like gain and volume feel really smooth and the two line outputs at the back were needed to connect the monitor speakers that I got soon after.

Comparing the Scarlett 2i2 with the previous Apogee One I was using, it sits a lot easier on the desk and has much more input options. The noise between both of them is quite minimal so there’s not much of a difference there. However, the software on the Scarlett is much easier to navigate and change settings. The different plug-ins that came with the Scarlett are also really useful as well. Some of the VSTs sound really cool, so I want to try using those soon.

Overall, the Rode M5s and Scarlett 2i2 are big upgrades to my recording setup. The M5s allow me to record in stereo while reducing room noise and getting more detail. The Scarlett makes it possible to use the microphones and also allowed me to have outputs to connect to my future monitors. Next week, I’ll write about the new JBL 305p MKIIs I got over the break as well.

Minecraft Data Packs

A few weeks ago I found out about Minecraft’s data pack feature which was supposedly added a long time ago. The way I see it is basically just a more integrated version of older Minecraft mods that you can use on the regular client. I’ve played around with a few for a while, so this week I’ll be writing about some of the data packs that I use.

First, the data packs you can find are a lot more limited compared to other mods you might have used in the past that operate on seperate clients. Most of them are usually just pretty simple game modifications that are like automated command blocks for certain functions. There are also some more impressive ones that add new items, crafting recipes, and enchantments, but I found most of them to be a bit clunky and don’t always work properly.

One data pack that I find really useful is a timber data pack. There are a lot of different ones out there, but most of them do the same thing. When you destroy the bottom block of a tree, the rest of it also breaks. The one that I use right now also destroys all the leaves on the tree while giving you the drops like sticks, saplings, and apples. Personally, I don’t find this one too gamebreaking especially if you’re just playing on a single player world since your axe will still take the total durability damage for the amount of blocks destroyed. For me, it’s just a time saver since you need wood, but cutting down trees is pretty boring.

Another data pack I use is a veinminer data pack. This is another one that has a lot of different versions, but basically it allows you to mine a lot of ore at once. The one I’m using takes durability and applies any enchantments you might have on your pickaxe like fortune. I think this one is a pretty agreeable data pack that isn’t that special. It’s just another quality of life datapack that just makes things a bit easier.

The last datapack that I use is a gravestone data pack. Using this datapack is kind of like using the gamerul keepInventory, except it’s not as extreme. When you die, instead of all of your items dropping on the floor, a gravestone is placed down that stores all of your items until you come back to pick the up. I know part of the Minecraft experience is the risk of losing all of your items whenever you die, but most of the times now I don’t want to deal with that kind of issue. At the same time the gamerule keepInventory is a bit too cheating in my opinion since you keep all of your items even after you respawn. Just knowing that I’ll be able to go back to where I died and still find all of my items is good enough for me.

You can probably tell that most of the datapacks that I use are more quality of life things that aren’t too gamechanging. You could probably find all of them in most modded clients, but for me I just like having everything in default one. I did end up trying some other ones though like the custom enchantments and a gun datapack, but they added a lot of new and strange mechanics that weren’t really for me.

Overall, the option for data packs in Minecraft is really cool in my opinion. It’s a tool that players can use to modify their game experience without needing to download too many new things. The options are quite open so players can choose different things they want to add, and other people can try making their own unique data packs if they’d like. For now, I’ll probably continue using a few data packs in most of my singleplayer worlds. When I play multiplayer though, it’d probably be best to agree on whether we play completely standard, or add a few extra things.

CS: GO Operation Broken Fang

A couple days ago Valve released the new Operation Broken Fang when people were already speculating an upcoming update. This update is another one of Valve’s big updates where they include operation missions, skin collections, new game modes, and more. Operation Broken Fang brings a lot of interesting new things to the game, but I’ll just be covering the things I find the coolest.

The first thing that I really hope sticks around is the Broken Fang Premier mode which is basically a different kind of matchmaking system similar to Faceit. The premier mode works by matching 10 players into a game, but before it starts, there’s a pick and ban phase for maps. One team gets to choose whether they’d like to get the first two bans or pass in order to get to choose the side they start on. After that, one team will ban the first two maps, followed by three maps by the other team, and then one more map by the first team. Since there are seven maps in the pool, one map is left, and the team that banned second gets to choose their starting side. This system is one that probably should’ve existed a long time ago. Third-party services have already been doing this kind of matchmaking, and it makes for a more competitive experience. The only thing I feel is missing though are 128 tick servers, but it doesn’t seem like Valve is quite there yet.

A second feature that I also hope stays is the new Retakes game mode. This is another thing that third-party services like community servers have already been doing for a long time now. However, it’s still nice to see Valve making their own official game mode for it now. The idea of the game mode is that it puts the players in a situation where the Terrorist side has already planted the bomb at a site and the Counter-Terrorist side has to play out a retake in order to win the round. Each player can select from a few predetermined loadouts of equipment at the start of each round and sometime’s you’ll be given the option of a special kit that has a better gun or extra grenades. The only thing that I could probably see improving is a half time kind of system where players can switch sides because right now you’ll continually play on the same side for the duration of the game.

On to less of the gameplay side of things, there’s the new stats page associated with the operation. The stat page shows your own statistics on things like map win percentages, weapon stats, and heatmaps for things like damage and locations on maps. Personally, I feel like this is another feature that third-party websites already do a better job of, and it feels weird having this as a temporary thing just for the operation. I’d assume they also have plans of permanently integrating this into the game as they make improvements, but if not, it’s still cool that they added it for the operation.

One last feature that will probably help a lot in-game is a ping wheel where you can communicate things to your teammates without using your microphone. You can choose different preselected options for things like asking for a weapon, suggesting a certain bombsite, and even just pinging locations on the map. This is something that other games like Apex Legends and Valorant have done, and I think that since it’s worked out in those games, Valve probably thought it was a good idea to add it to CS: GO as well. Obviously, a ping wheel will never provide the same level of communication as voice chat, but it’s a good alternative for people who don’t want to talk or are just playing casually.

Overall, those were the main new features that stood out for me in Operation Broken Fang. There were other new things like the three new skin collections, graffitis, and the return of the operation missions, but I don’t really care too much about those things. In the end, I feel like Valve should definitely consider integrating some of these features and game modes permanently, even if they’re operation exclusive right now. Despite not receiving a lot of updates this year, I think this one definitely brings a lot of really nice additions to the game.

Corsair K70 MK2

I’ve been using Corsair’s K70 MK2 keyboard for at least a year now, but I’ve never written about it until now. Since there’s been a lot of time since I started using it, I have been able to tell what I like and don’t like about it. So this week, I’ll be writing about my experience using the keyboard for things like games, but also general use.

First, I’ll mention that the model I have uses Cherry’s MX Speed or Silver switches which are have the lightest and fastest actuation out of the Cherry switches. That come’s with some pros and cons, but I’ll get to that later. The Speed switches are also linear switch which means its a straight up and down switch with no tactile bumps or clicks.

Some of the nice things I found with the Speed switches is that my finger’s didn’t get as tired compared to when I was using my old keyboard which was membrane. Especially for things like osu!, not having to press as hard to actuate the key was a pretty big plus. I still bottom out the keys a lot when I play, but if I have to press the keys really fast, I sometimes won’t actually press the key all the way down and the switch still actuates. In general, the switches just make it easier on your fingers while using them.

However, one thing that I don’t really like about the Speed switches is that the short actuation distance makes it really easy to accidentally press other keys. Sometime’s I’ll just be resting my hands on the keyboard, but I’ll accidentally hold down a key without even noticing. This also makes making typos really easy while typing, and can be kind of frusturating at times.

In terms of the build quality of the keyboard, it uses an aluminum frame and smooth ABS plastic keycaps. The aluminum frame gives it a good weight, and the cable is pretty thick and durable. The ABS keycaps aren’t the best though and started getting a bit shiny after a few weeks. Still, I think it’s still a lot better than what I used to use.

Some of the extra features the keyboard comes with include RGB lighting, macros, and multimedia buttons. To be honest, most of the times I just use the white colour for most of my keys. For a few games, I’ll only light up the keys I use for that game, but otherwise I don’t really do any other customization. I also never use the macro feature since there isn’t a whole lot I need them for. The multimedia buttons aren’t really too useful either since I can just use the arrow keys, although, I do use the volume wheel quite often. The keyboard also comes with a plastic wrist rest, but I personally don’t use it.

Overall, the keyboard has done me quite well in the past couple years. It’s definitely a lot better than my past keyboards, but there’s a pretty big difference between how well it performs playing games and during normal use. I’d say the biggest plus for me is just how light the keys are, but other than that, it’d probably be better to have some sort of tactile bump for typing. However, I don’t really feel that big of a need to upgrade yet. If I were to though, I’d definitely want to try building my own custom keyboard instead of a prebuilt one.

Online Learning

I’ve had a few months now to get used to the new online learning system that my school board has put in place. There are a few things that I like about the way they’re doing things, but there are also some things that aren’t really all that great. I’ll start with the things that I’m enjoying about the online learning so far.

The main advantage of online learning for me is how I’m just able to stay at home the entire time. This means I don’t have to walk to school, move from classroom to classroom, and can eat lunch at home. Usually, I’d have to wake up earlier to walk to school, but now I can sleep in a bit longer since I just have to join a Google Meet in order to be in class. Not having to move between different classrooms means that I can use to go on my phone for a little bit because they’re still giving us five minutes between the end and start of each class. Being able to eat lunch at home is also really nice since I can eat comfortably while also eating good food prepared by my mom.

Some of the things that aren’t so nice are mostly related to the limitations of the online classroom environment. A lot of the times in the classes the teacher’s are either talking for a really long time or nothing is happening and the class is doing independent work. If it’s something like math where you’re taking notes when the teacher is going through a lesson, you’d have something to do. However, there’s also some teacher’s that like to give really long presentations where you just kind of sit there and listen for an hour, but you end up going back to look at the PowerPoint yourself later anyways.

Unlike in a physical classroom environment, you don’t get any opportunities at all to talk to your classmates at all since the chat is usually reserved for asking questions and responding to teachers. Sometimes teachers will give group assignments, but they’re almost always “do research and put it on a Google Slides” kind of thing where everyone divides the work at the start. From there, you’re basically doing an individual research assignment.

In general, I’d just say that online learning can get boring sometimes, but I think that’s just kind of how it’s going to be for a while. I feel like the way the system is set up would be really hard to change in order to make things more enjoyable for the students without compromising learning efficiency. Presentations are boring, but demonstrations and class activities are hard to pull off. A chat where you can ask the teacher a question anytime is also nice, but it makes it impossible for students to chat with each other comfortably.

Overall, I think the current online learning model is satisfactory. If you learn well through presentations and are able to figure things out on your own then you’ll probably be fine. However, if you’re one of those people who always talks with your classmates and can’t sit through long presentations then you might have a tough time. Of course, there are small advantages and the big fact that you’re not exposed to the current COVID-19 virus. Personally, while I don’t think online learning is great, in-person learning right now probably isn’t that much better. As of the current situation, I can’t really see a reason why the school board isn’t making the decision to move everyone online.