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En-duhl-jer: The one who indulges

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How to Become Debt Free – We Just Did!

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Wouldn’t it be lovely to be in a position where you had no debt? I mean absolutely no long term debt? No student loans. No car payment. No house payment. No credit card bills. Nothing! Surely this must be some fancy dream right? No one actually thinks that this is possible…right? Well, as of March 2018, our household is COMPLETELY DEBT FREE! The last item was my spouse’s car. Kind of anti-climatic, but…it’s over.

You might be thinking, “Wow, you must be an old fart then…”. Nope. Early 30’s. “Whoa, wait a minute…OK, then you must have had a LOT of help; lottery, inheritance…”. NOPE! While my family and friends provide me support in different ways, I have received very little financial assistance (I’m talking Christmas gifts; birthday presents here…which isn’t to say I don’t appreciate them; I make every dollar count…so…thanks!) from these sources. Generally speaking, I don’t think I’ve ever received any form of “windfall” greater than $100. From anyone. Ever.

OK, OK, then what’s the secret then?” There is no magical secret. I’ve already extensively wrote about how to make good financial decisions which is the bedrock of becoming financially independent…five years ago. I then discovered Dave Ramsay shortly after that post (I’m not a zealot though…but he definitely kicked my ass into overdrive with his aggressive debt pay down mantra). What provided even more intense focus was discovering that…gasp…there’s a whole community of people that think the same way I’ve thought most of my life.  That was enough to cement, well, this is going to happen. It’s incredibly powerful to know that there are other people that have gone through the same trials and come out successful.

Some more specifics? Don’t screw up the big things: buying a car, (one major thing I agree with Dave Ramsay; cars are a major, major source of economic pain, don’t fall into this trap), buying a house, selling a house. I am fortunate that I was able to: sell a house in a seller’s market, buy a house in a buyer’s market; those are huge life changing events! But make no mistake…these aren’t accidents. This is careful planning. You’ve got to put in the work and know when to execute things.

But more importantly, don’t screw up the little things. Example: I spend $9 a month on cell service (currently provided by tello; rest in peace RingPlus…this used to be free). How many people do you know that spend $9 a month on phone service? Not many, I bet. Hell, I haven’t found one yet. Deals exist on everything, you just need to search for them. 

Let’s play math. If you’re paying $50+ for phone service. Know that I’m beating you by ~$5000 every ten years. Costs matter. Because when I can roll that into an investment (yielding 7%), that $5,000 has a good chance of becoming $20,000 in twenty years. You know, because of a little thing called “The Rule of 72“. Don’t believe me? Behold the power of compound interest. There’s a reason why Einstein called it the eighth wonder of the world. That’s just one exampleOne. It is a very critical reason why I can say our household is financially independent. Every. Dollar. Matters.

I don’t have expensive vices (well, I mean…I do really like videogames…). I don’t do stupid daily, monthly, quarterly, yearly passive things that bleed cash. But, it’s not to say you can’t ever have any fun. For example, I did just recently buy a MoviePass one year subscription for $180 for my spouse and I as a Christmas present. That’s a hell of a deal. After the year is up? It’s gone. Never get stuck into stuff that bleeds your cash. Utilize craigslist, ebay, slickdeals for buying / selling. Coupons are money. Read! It is never too late to improve yourself, your mind. This is a good list to pick from to start off. Never stop improving! Do not discount the power of doing things yourself. We live in the Internet Age. Everything you could possibly ever want to know, is most likely, available for free. I can’t stress how enormous powerful this is…

The other gigantic thing: find a significant other to be co-pilot with you as you traverse the madness of life. I wouldn’t be here without the support from my spouse. No one person can excel at everything, and it’s amazingly helpful to have someone that can cover your weaknesses and grow and learn from their example.

Finally, it’s important to be respectful that you even exist at all. Never take what you have for granted. Life is pain. But you’ve been given a wonderful gift of even being able to play the game of life. It makes no sense to not try to do the best damn job you can at it. And…I feel…that becoming financially independent is the only way to play the game. It opens up so many more doors. 

What’s next? I-I don’t know. I feel like I’ve contradicted myself in saying that more doors have opened because…now I don’t quite know what to do. I don’t necessarily have a “goal”. I’ve always had a goal (do well in school, find a good job, get better at job, find a good partner to play the game with, pay off car, pay off house, etc, etc). Until I find my next objective, well, I guess I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing. Maybe write a post on investing, as I haven’t done that yet?

Never let anyone tell you what can and can’t be done. Anything is possible with hard work.

Oh, yeah…I feel like this is allowed now (hat tip to Dave…)…

WE’RE DEBT FREE!!

Filed under Info, Life

2016-2017 Game Completion Breakdown

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It’s that time of year again. Time to chronicle and highlight all the video games I’ve completed (and due to a hacking incident on my website; a return to 2016 – as I was unable to recover that post and have been too lazy to get around to it until now; yeah…that happened…). This may be…sad. The last (and…only) “completed” game was in…August. Hmm.

This last year was, strangely, the year of the mobile game for me. Most mobile games are hard to “complete”, but I’ll spend some time mentioning them in their own category (I don’t really consider them “real games”).

I still put in a crap ton of hours into games this year, but I also started reading a lot more books and binge watched a lot of Netflix. I’m sorry. I’m disappointed in myself too. And well…I *started* a lot of games, but…oh shiny thing, what’s that! Ahem…sadly, it looks like 3DS got a big ‘ole donut in terms of playing time this year. That’s really disappointing. I’ll need to fix that this year. 

Finally, here was my post from 2015. Let’s start!

Completed games of 2017:

08/26/17: PERSONA 5 (PS4). Completion time: 152:42.

  • Whew! This was a tough year to pick a Game of the Year, but this is a very strong contender. Each Persona just keeps upping the ante and getting better and better (ehh…well, I wasn’t a big fan of 2…). Stellar voice acting, visuals, battle system, pacing, story, and well, what’s most important, it was just fun. And funny.
  • Did I mention the music? Shoji Meguro is probably my second favorite game composer; the whole soundtrack is just awesome. Some of my favorite tracks are The Day When My Mother Was TherePrice, and Blooming Villain. 
  • If you like traditional turn based RPGs you should love this game. If you have ever played Persona 3 and 4 and liked them, you will love this game (I thought 4 was amazing and this is even better).
  • The game is very long though. It’s not that grindy (it didn’t feel like it to me), it just has very, very long dungeons.
  • It took me 152 hours to get Platinum, but first run through was 112 hours for me. You have to play the game, basically, again to get Platinum (but you can skip a lot of content).
  • You do not have to play any previous Persona to understand the game.
  • I picked up the special edition because I had no doubt this game will be awesome, that said, nothing really that special with the special edition (although it is mega-rare now…). There is also a steel book edition.

Games that didn’t quite make the cut / in progress:

And…well…damnit…that’s it? That’s the only game I truly completed this year?! Unacceptable…well, I guess I’ll mention all the in-progress stuff and pray I finish them in 2018.

  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch) –  Essentially, this is “done”, but not by my anal standards. I’ve beaten the game, but I still haven’t beaten one of the dungeons (yeah…this game is pretty sandbox…). But, let’s be clear, this is very clearly a game of the year candidate. I hope to write up more about it when I actually beat it, but damn…this is the Zelda that I didn’t know I ever wanted. Many dynamics were changed that are more Monster Hunter-y / modern, including the weapon system (no more Master Sword or bust) and dungeon system (yeah, it’s…interesting…). I think the main gripe that people have with this is the dungeons. There…sort of…aren’t really any? That sounds strange, but, the world is ENORMOUS. It is incredibly fun just to traverse the overworld and complete shrine quests and find stuff. It’s that good. And…freaking beautiful. This game is stunning. Don’t miss this. It’s the reason to buy a Switch.
  • Nier: Automata (PS4) – Another game of the year candidate (well, I only really played game of the year candidates this year!). I honestly only picked it up because of all the critical acclaim. I had no idea what to expect as I have not played any other Nier. The best way I can describe it…Ikaruga (Galaga-esque) + Devil May Cry + Monster Hunter. That ends up meaning: sandbox action RPG w/ top down shooter elements (yeah, I know!). It’s very unique…and crazy fun. The combat alone is awesome and feels so fluid. I just haven’t played enough to truly judge it, but from what I’ve played so far…wow.
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) – The only other Switch game I own. Seriously, there’s really only two good games for it at the moment, haha. Fantastic. It’s a combination of every Mario template: 64 (open world), World, Original (has 2D platformer sections). I’m just really excited that we got more of a 64-ish game than the bit-sized worlds of Galaxy. The “possession” system seemed gimmicky in trailers, but it’s fantastic. This is a great platformer and is really accessible by everyone. I’m pretty close to being “done” with it, but there’s a whole lot of content to get through post-game it looks like (I mean…there’s a lot of things to find…).

Mobile games:

Mobile games…I’m kind of a video game snob and look at mobile games like they’re red-headed step-children, but, Nintendo drew me in to three different things this year (their first effort into the mobile space). Mobile games are just a…different experience. They’re designed to play on your emotions to get you to spend money, which I hate (and never will). But to free-to-play them, you have to do all kinds of grindy activities, which, well, I’ll be honest, I like. It also helped that I got a new phone that’s actually capable of running games, it’s a brave new world…

  • Pokemon GO – I’ve covered this pretty extensively in some other posts, but I played this game a whole lot. I would have to wager, I spent 600-700 hours on this…easy. I played this pretty much every weekend for at least 4-5 hours a day. This was a big, big time sink. So what’s the verdict? Well, as someone that just hit level 40 recently (max level), I feel I can truly critique this in a way most can’t. Here goes. … This game kind of sucks. Whoa, whoa, whoahow can you not like a game that you’ve spent so much time on? Answer: hope. Hope that it will get better. Hope that all the sunk cost you’ve put into the game means something. I feel like I should explore this further, let’s do a pro / con list:
    • Pro:
      • It gets you to exercise. This is one of the big draws for me. It gives me an incentive to go outside…and still do what I love (umm, play games).
      • It gets you to “Go” and explore the world. I’ve found so many parks and interesting things around my town and surrounding areas that I literally never knew about.
      • I mean, it is Pokemon. I do like Pokemon. I do like “catching them all”. I like building up Mewtwo and Dragonite. I like being able to “control” an area.
      • The social aspects can be fun. If you can scrounge up some friends, you can dominate areas of a town (like a real gang!). Otherwise, it’s pretty boring to play solo. This is not a solo game by any means (but I made it one; it helps that I have a park right near me).
    •  Con:
      • This is made from a “developer” that’s…not a developer. They make AR tech. They’re an awful game company. They don’t communicate well with their base.
      • Bugs. Oh, the bugs. Part of it was my budget phone, but I have *never* seen a buggy / glitchy PRODUCTION game. It’s embarassing. It really is. It’s gotten a little better recently, but this is still nowhere near the quality that one would expect from a Nintendo / The Pokemon Company backed game. It’s infuriating.
      • The “game” itself is boring. There is really only two “modes”. Catching. Battling. Both are extremely shallow and offer really no major incentives. But to get any “money”, you have to battle. Otherwise, you need to pay. And I’m not paying. 
    • So what’s next? As mentioned, I’m sort of “done”. Until the level cap is released, there is no real “thing” left to do. Except the fact that, by default, the game has many years of content left due to the nature of the main series. More than half of the Pokemon haven’t even been released in the game yet. It’s something I will continue to play, but I will not hit nearly as hard as I have in the past. If you have any interest in Pokemon though, I do think “now” is a good time to check it out. Generation 3 content has just been released and it’s generally very easy to level up by “raiding” with people. You can get legendary Pokemon at very low levels with very little effort.
  • Pokemon Magikarp Jump – This is my first foray into the inane, mindless mobile game genre of “hit button, see numbers go up, repeat forever”. This is licensed game featuring Magikarp (the Pokemon) in a quest to…I don’t know exactly. I guess beat the Elite Four or something. Here’s how this game goes: fish a Magikarp, feed it, train it (once every 30 mins is best you can do), have it reach max level, “fight” (I use that very, very loosely – is your “power” bigger than your competitors? Yes? You win!). Win? Go to the next level. Lose? You “retire”. Repeat. 300 more times. 300 MORE TIMES. That’s the game. I kept expecting some sort of…advanced game play mechanic that never happened. You can get other “support Pokemon” and such, but it takes forever. You need to spend “diamonds” to “buy” Pokemon that cost 400-600. Realistically you can get like 5-20 diamonds a day after you’ve exhausted all the in-game unlocks (which run out very quickly…). The game then assumes you’ve become so invested that they want you to drop cash to continue. I HATE GAMES LIKE THIS. That said, it’s not as bad as some other evil “gacha” style games (I’ll get to in a minute). The most you should ever need to spend on this game, if you were so inclined, is $40. $40 will get you an item that gives you infinite diamonds. But, then it becomes pay to win, and again, what’s the point…? Sigh…
    • Other notes:
      • I’ve been playing it over a month, and I can’t really understand why. I guess it’s my OCD with wanting to “beat” it. I’m pretty close. There’s really only a few things you can do to “beat” it: Max Level at 100 (check), max out JP at 12 trillion (at 9 trillion now), 100% Events (not happening, you need to spend money for this).
      • OK, OK, maybe I’m a little too hard on this game, but you have to know what you’re getting in to. It’s mindless, boring, dopamine clicking. There is no level of achievement. There is no skill (the only “skill” is efficiently leveling up; i.e. double berry method, google it!). I’ve almost maxed out my JP (Jump points! the point is to “jump!”; did I fail to mention that?), and then I can try to pretend I didn’t waste weeks of my life playing this. At least I know now what to look out for in the future…
      • I mean, Magikarp still is the shit, so…I forgive you Magikarp. We cool.
  • Fire Emblem Heroes – Ahh, finally. The “just right” Goldilocks equivalent of the three mobile games I’ve played this year. This is actually a REAL GAME. A fully polished and supported REAL GAME. There are no bugs. There is actual real CONTENT that is updated daily. This is a FREE game. But…it’s a mobile game, so it has some evilness to it. This is a “gacha” style game and what that means is this: 99% of players can play this game without spending money or maybe a very small amount in very limited circumstances. The game is designed to draw “whales”, which drop thousands and tens of thousands of dollars in an effort to get “all” the content. If you play games like this, you must be happy that you will never “have the best stuff” or “have everything”. You can’t. Again, the game is designed that to “be the best” you have to spend thousands of dollars. I’ll go into that more in a moment. 
    • Other notes:
      • But, what about the game? Oh man! I love Fire Emblem. I love Intelligent Systems. This is a fantastic collection of the series many, many characters. Lots of fan service. Lots of content that take many hours to plow through. At it’s core, it’s a 4 vs 4 battle versus AI from teams you put together comprising of users of swords, axes, lances, mages, fliers, armors, cavalry, etc on a 2D grid (you know, Fire Emblem). The weapon triangle from the main series is here and you can equip units with various abilities that require you to “summon” other users to inherit skills and “promote” them through EXP and “feathers”. Ehh, you’ll get it once you try it.
      • The game is pretty liberal in letting you “play”. There is no “pay to win” in the fact that everyone can only “play” as much as the next guy. You have 100 “stamina points” to use on various things. 1 point regenerates every 5 minutes. So you can expect to get 200-300 points a day. An item can be used that restores 100 points, that are generally common, but uncommon enough you can’t blow a dozen a day. It’s a fun system where you have to efficiently balance certain things. You can’t BUY these points. Which is cool. Some events take 30 points, some take 5 or less. You need to be pretty confident you can “beat” the higher level events or you just blew a third of your day! I enjoy it.
      • All right, let’s get back to the dark side. How in the world can people drop thousands of dollars on this game? Well, it boils down to “summoning” heroes; which is essentially a lottery system (gacha). Most efficiently, you need 20 “orbs” to summon five heroes. 20 orbs is something like $13. You can expect to get 20 orbs in a few days through just playing the game. But, the rub is that there are limited “banner” events where you have very little time (a few days) to “summon” very rare and / or powerful units (for example, there was just a limited-time Christmas event). So, you literally have to spend money to get the best stuff or hope that you’ve stockpiled enough orbs to  have a chance at getting something good. And if that wasn’t bad enough, to make the best units even better you can boost them up TEN MORE TIMES by “summoning” the same unit and sacrificing them. For example, I really wanted a Christmas Tharja. I “spent” 400-ish orbs and didn’t get her. At the most efficient orb buying from the shop, that would be about $200 (again, I got all those orbs for free by playing the game). I’d say the odds of getting a Tharja are about 1 in 300 (I didn’t get lucky, but I did get other good stuff, so I’m pretty happy!). So what does an impatient person that just has never learned the word “no” or rejection do? They spend and spend and spend until they get what they want. It turns into a gambling addiction. That never ends. Because there’s always a new “banner” in a few days.
      • This problem is very cleverly and accurately addressed by the the South Park episode Freemium Isn’t Free. This Kotaku post explains it by referencing some clips from that episode. The ironic thing? There’s a South Park freemium game on mobile now. And you can’t watch the episode Freemium Isn’t Free on South Park Studios right now. Hmm…
      • Here’s an example of a normal guy that got addicted to one of these games and ended up dropping $16,000 over time on it. It pisses me off. This is not the future I want gaming to head and it’s getting there. Publishers are realizing that why would you take a lot of risk making a killer game that costs $40-60 when you can make a piece of crap that you can get lucky and get some fool to drop thousands on (not to say that this game is crap; I believe it won Mobile Game of the Year in several places – it’s a good game). It hurts the reputation of the industry. It hurts real people. Yes, people need to step up and realize dropping thousands on a game is ridiculous, but there’s a line. I have to imagine there will be legislation, at some point, banning these type of games or severely curtailing them. They are, for a lot of people, just gambling.
      • OK, done preaching. The point is: if you like Fire Emblem, take a look at this game. It’s pretty great.

Game of the Year: Persona 5 – I mean there was very little choice. You honestly could take Zelda or Mario or Nier and I would agree with you. I just spent the most amount of time playing Persona this year and it was so much better than Persona 4 (which in itself was a fantastic game) that it deserves this nod! I’m really looking forward to finishing Nier though.

And you thought we were done!?

Eh, well, because I’m tired and this post has now grown enormous, I’ll be brief (ish). My original notes from 2016 in italics.

Completed games of 2016:

  • 12/5/16: POKEMON SUN (3DS). Completion time: 60:20. Very good game! Somewhat surprising. I’ve skipped 3 gens…was getting stale. Still lots more to do! Note: Ultra Sun / Moon were just recently released. Definitely pick those up versus the original release.
  • 07/25/16: ZERO TIME DILEMMA (3DS). Completion time: 20:35:51. All endings obtained. 100% on the series so far. Miss the sprites; still fun. Note: Looks like this is the last game in the series which is sad. A really great puzzle thriller (yep, that’s a thing).
  • 06/19/16: DOOM (PS4). Completion time: ~30-40 hours. Not a FPS fan, haven’t played series since DOOM 64, but I really enjoyed it. Note: Screw Bethesda. I really liked this game, but they are the worst when it comes to bugs. There is STILL a bug that exists that prevents getting Platinum. This pisses me off. They’re blacklisted (as are Ubisoft and EA). I refuse to ever buy one of their games again. They produce buggy garbage.
  • 06/12/16: SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD (Wii U). Completion time: 19:20. 220 lives, 149 deaths, All Green Stars/Flags, 80 stamps, Shiny 4 Star! Wow, what a game...
  • 06/11/16: STAR FOX ZERO (Wii U). Completion time: 13:57. 37/70 medals. All areas unlocked. Sound Test opened. Hmm, I have thoughts… Note: I can’t find my original thoughts! I think I was mad at the content. It just felt like it wasn’t finished.
  • 05/1/16: DARK SOULS 3 (PS4). Completion time: 86:42:57. Covenants done. Missing one gesture, one pyro. Time for NG+! Close to Platinum already. Note: I did get Platinum. Eventually new DLC was released. Fun fact: I have never played any DS DLC. It makes me sad, but I have my principles: I don’t pay for DLC.
  • 04/12/16: FIRE EMBLEM FATES: REVELATIONS (3DS). Completion time: 45:43. Wow, I really enjoyed that. Highly recommended. Very satisfying third chapter. Note: This was the third piece of FATES. Note above: I don’t buy DLC. But I will buy very expensive special editions if you make it special with the DLC already included! I’m weird…but maybe rich? This thing goes for a lot of money now.
  • 04/03/16: FIRE EMBLEM FATES: CONQUEST (3DS). Completion time: 31:48. Hard / Casual. Tough, tough final battle. Had to restart after getting annihilated.
  • 03/25/16: FIRE EMBLEM FATES: BIRTHRIGHT (3DS). Completion time: 45:49. Ending just kind of snuck up on me! Fantastic game, pretty “meh” story though TBH.
  • 02/10/16: DONKEY KONG COUNTRY: TROPICAL FREEZE (Wii U). Completion time: 20:47. 100% clear! Wow, that was pretty difficult! Recommended! 
  • 02/07/16: LUIGI’S MANSION: DARK MOON (3DS). Completion time: 16:13. Highly recommended. Extreme upgrade in content & “fun” from the first Gamecube game
  • 01/01/16: YOSHI’S WOOLY WORLD (Wii U). Completion time: 32:13. Completely complete! All Flowers, Stamps, Health, Bestiary, Yarn Yoshis, Badges, and Music obtained. Note: This was also on the 2015, but I finished all content on the first day of 2016.
     

Game of the Year 2016: DARK SOULS 3. I mean, FATES, was a good game (even though it went the Pokemon route of multiple versions of the same basic game), but the climax of the SOULS series? DS3 was an absolutely amazing game. Perfect amount of content, challenge, run-time, music, visuals. I have no complaints. And that’s hard for me to say.

Well, that’ll do it! Hmm, I really dropped the ball in 2017. Freaking mobile games, they corrupted me. I’ll do better next time. It was nice to look back at 2016, that was a pretty great year.

 
Filed under Reviews, Videogames

More Things You Need To Know About Pokemon GO

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A little over a year ago now, Pokemon GO launched for Android and iOS. The initial “bubble” has burst in terms of general popularity (it was a pretty huge bubble though…), but there is still a dedicated group of players (millions all around the world). There’s still a good chance today that if you see someone acting in odd ways, like standing in random locations or driving oddly through a park…they’re probably playing this game.

I covered all of the basics gameplay in this post last July. Since then, there have been numerous enhancements and changes. I’ll highlight those items, and go more in-depth into the “tools” and other useful websites associated with the game.

What’s changed since the first few months since launch?

Buddy system

Late in ’16, the first significant content update occurred in the form of being able to walk a “buddy”. Every Pokemon falls into either the 1km, 3km, 5km, and newly formed 20km tier. By walking that amount, you generate one “candy” for your Pokemon’s family.

Full list can be found here. Or here. The first list is presented better, but doesn’t seem to have been updated for “Legendaries”; which are 20km.

What’s the point? Candy is one of two critical pieces of powering up a Pokemon (other being Stardust), and depending on where you live, it’s the only real way of ensuring you’ll be able to find *any*. 

Which buddy should you walk? It depends on your goals, which is either Pokedex completion or gym usefulness. Porygon, Mareep, and mons you don’t generally see a lot in your area may be useful for the former. Snorlax and Chansey are good picks for gyms. Personally, I just walk Chansey as it’s the best defender in the entire game.

There are two hidden uses for walking specific buddies

  • Walk Pikachu 10km and he’ll stay on your shoulder
  • Walk Eevee 10km and depending on whether you evolve him during day / night, you’ll get either Espeon or Umbreon (it’s the only way to evolve a 2nd mon after using the Sakura / Tamao name trick for Eevee!)

The buddy system is a critical, critical feature for players not in multiple biome areas (like cities).

Appraisal system

Around the same time as the buddy update, the Appraisal system was introduced. Basically, it grants you a sneak peek into the internal system known as the IV system (Individual Values). This is a staple in all main Pokemon games. It’s always never been really that formally discussed.

When you touch a mon on the main screen to bring up its menu, on the bottom right, you’ll see an ability to “Appraise”. Your personal trainer will tell you a series of notes regarding it. Namely: what’s its overall ability (four buckets: crap, meh, good, amazing), what it’s best stat is (or stats), and how big / tiny it is (not used in any way at the moment).

Here is a good website to deduce what your trainer is saying (depends on your team). Each mon has only 3 values: Attack, Defense, and HP, and each can be on a scale from 0 – 15. A “perfect mon” is a 15/15/15 (100% IV). A perfect mon is the only mon that can be exactly identified from the game’s appraisal system. All others follow the main series base stats formula. See section below on IV analysis for more information on how to exactly identify your mons CP.

Why is this important? IV is the only metric that determines how good your Pokemon is. Generally speaking, you should not level up anything less than 80%. In the old gym meta-game, IVs were absolutely critical in ensuring that you had the best gym placement; not anymore, but we’ll get into that. Still, it’s recommended to keep just the mons that are in the “amazing” bucket, as it does little good to power up junk!

Events

This has been the major content update so far in the game. There have been numerous events. Here is a list of all completed and upcoming events so far.

The following things have been changed during events:

  • Increased spawn rate
  • Increased item drop rate
  • Egg Incubators drop once a day from stops
  • Double EXP
  • Triple Catch EXP
  • Double Candy
  • Buddy walk distance down (1/4, 1/3)
  • 60 minute / 6 hour Lure increases
  • Specific Pokemon changes
    • Entire world sees same: Halloween
    • Different spawns, but heavily biome dependent (Water, Rock/Fire, Grass events)
  • Items on sale
    • Special boxes
    • % off items like Lucky Eggs, Balls, Item/Pokemon upgrades
  • Egg Hatching changes
    • High chance for “babies”
    • High chance for current event Pokemon
  • Shiny Pokemon released (only two so far: Magikarp / Pikachu)

Events have been the reason to continue playing, at least for me. They have generally occurred every month or so. 

What have been the best events so far? It depends on your goals, but I believe the best events have been double candy events, which have been: Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and the “we f’ed up Pokemon GO Fest in Chicago”. The latter, that just concluded, had a combination of pretty much every reward offered so far, and it was the *first* event that has had the Pinap Berry available; which means x4 candy. Insane. Those looking to level, I highly, highly recommend simply stockpiling enormous amounts of candy, and then using a Lucky Egg during x2 EXP events (which turn into x4 EXP events; during the catch bonus, it was x6!!).

The theme so far has been…well…there hasn’t been a “duplicate” event yet. There has been a different gimmick in every one so far (although some have been very similar).

Gen 2 release, new regionals, and Pinap / Nanab Berry

Right after the Valentine event concluded, Gen 2 was released. This meant 100 new Pokemon never encountered before (well…more like…90-ish). 2 Pokemon have not been released: Smeargle and Delibird. Gen 2 has 5 Legendary Pokemon; one has been released during event (Lugia). Heracross and Corsola are regionals based on whether you live above or below a certain latitude line (Florida sees both).

In addition to new Pokemon, two new berries were introduced:

  • Pinap Berry: Double candy if caught
  • Nanab Berry: Decreases movement by certain % (not 100%)

The world rejoiced with the introduction of the Pinap Berry! There was great rejoicing. It is one of the best things in the entire game, and is absolutely amazing in double candy events (only one so far!).

Nanab…? Not so much. It is generally something that is thrown away by 90% of players (well, post gym overhaul, we’ll get to that). It’s only really useful for low CP mons that you know you can catch and you want the First Ball Bonus. 

First Ball Bonus

I don’t recall when this was introduced, but I think it was shortly after Gen 2 released. Not much here, it just seems like it’s a way to speed up leveling for low levels. First ball bonus yields 50 more EXP. You effectively get 50% more EXP a catch if you catch with the first ball. It’s a huge carrot to throw better. The advanced section will go in-depth on *how* one throws better. However, all you need to know here is try and catch everything on your first throw!

Gym System Overhaul

This was the last major update that occurred in the summer of ’17. The previous gym system consisted of being able to drop up to 10 Pokemon into a tower that needed to be up by members of the controlling team by something known as Prestiging. You could hold infinite number of gyms, and every 21 hours you could “collect”, with caps of 100 Pokecoins and 5000 Stardust (10 coins per gym / 500 Stardust per gym).

Yeah, that’s gone.

It was replaced with gyms that now hold up to 6 mon, they can be added to immediately by the controlling team (Prestiging was completely eliminated), and “decay” over time by losing motivation. Motivation is increased by feeding berries to your Pokemon. Only the controlling team can feed berries. Every ten minutes of gym control yields 1 Pokecoin. Up to 50 a day (down from 100). I believe the maximum number of held gyms at once is 20.

To compensate for drop from 10 to 6 mons in a gym, numerous other gyms were created. Also, and perhaps the best update of all, gyms now act like Pokestops that you can spin. Gyms have “levels” as well. The more you interact with a gym: fight, spin, raid, defeat, place, berry, the more it’ll level up, up to a Gold tier. Gold gyms drop a significant amount more items. A blank gym will drop 2 items. A Gold gym will drop at least 5. Team control adds 1 more item. It’s been implied that the more higher level badges you have at gyms, the more likely you are to get exclusive Raid Passes (but who knows, it seems Niantic has scrapped it’s original plan…we’ll see soon enough).

In the first few days, even more significant changes were made. Originally, mons over 3000 CP were met with a harsh CP decay; they would be at 0 within hours. Niantic, the game’s creator, labeled that a bug, and made it so that all Pokemon now decay at that harsh rate. The concept of territorial control is effectively dead as gyms can now be cleared within 20 minutes. Previously, towers would take an hour to solo. Gyms that aren’t engaged with in 10 or so hours can now be wiped by anyone…with little effort.

What has the gym update meant? Less stagnation, more casual engagement, less rewards. As someone that was always in 10 gyms, the update sucked. I imagine for everyone else it’s a welcome change. The big change has been reward reduction: Stardust bonus is completely eliminated (which is absolutely killing powering up…Stardust is in very short supply…) and now you can only get 50 coins a day. Fighting gyms at midnight is now the most effective method of ensuring coins. You need to hold a gym for 9+ hours to max to get 50 coins, and it doesn’t matter how many gyms you’re in. Say you hold 20 gyms and they all are defeated on the same day (which is almost guaranteed), you’ll still only get 50 coins. Lame. You pretty much have to play every day if you want coins now; which I guess is what the developer wants.

Raids

Right after the gym overhaul…Raids were introduced. Raids are pretty simple to explain. Every gym has a chance of randomly turning into a Raid, with tiers ranging from 1 to 5 (Legendary). When a gym becomes a Raid, a countdown appears. Raids are either immediately created or a 2-hr countdown egg appears (right now, eggs are gone, but nobody knows if it’s temporary…). When the egg countdown hits 0, a Raid starts. There will then be a Raid countdown (1-2 hours), when that expires, the gym goes back to normal.

Here is a list of all Pokemon that can be encountered from Raids. Level 1 and 2 Raids are for beginners. Anyone can basically beat these if you’re at a decent level. Level 3s…require a pretty good team. It is currently very difficult to solo these, but can be done. They’ve actually been made harder…and well, current technical bugs are making it worse (HP rubber banding, dodge glitch…but I’ll talk about that later).

Generally speaking, today, you need at least 2 people to do a Level 3 raid (which absolutely sucks, because finding a person to do one is impossible!!). Level 4 Raids require 4+ people (again, finding people is very hard…). Level 5 Raids…have just been introduced, and are generally much easier to find people because…they’re a limited time event (as far as we know; Niantic hasn’t really said much on the matter!).

Each Raid can yield the following items:

  • Revives
  • Golden Razz Berry
  • Rare Candy
  • Quick / Charge TMs
  • EXP

The higher level raid, the more and better rewards you’ll get (which is why Level 5s are very popular at the moment). You need a Raid Pass to get into a Raid. You get one free one a day. You can stockpile two by not using your Pass when you get it, but using it the next day. Spinning a stop will give you a second one. Nobody knows if Niantic can keep up this system…prior to Level 5s, most raids were pretty much inactive by most of the players (mainly because wasting your one pass is not realistic on lower raids…I really hope the system is overhauled…).

Rare Candy / Golden Razz Berry / TMs

These new items are Raid exclusives, and they’re all pretty amazing.

Rare Candy: No, it doesn’t level your mon, but instead it gives any Pokemon a candy of their family. Including Legendaries. Pretty amazing. If you want to power up a Legendary, this is probably your best and only option (as walking them takes 20km…for ONE candy).

Golden Razz Berry: Two uses: during catches, it greatly increases catch rate. You should pretty much always use these in Raid catch attempts (Level 4/5 anyway). It also, if fed to a Pokemon at a gym, completely restores motivation. If you Raid a lot, you’re going to have hundreds of these…feeding is the best way to get rid of them.

Technical Machines: Someone long requested by the community. It “re-rolls” moves. Upset about that Twister Gyardos? Tired of having Megahorn on your Rhyhorn? Fire Blast on  your Tyranitar? Re-roll! These are wonderful, and honestly my favorite reason to Raid. Quick TMs are very easy to use, as Pokemon only have TWO moves from their move pool (or one!). You’re guaranteed to get what you want. Charge moves…? Ehh…almost all have 3, so your chances at getting what you want are 50/50. You can burn through a lot of these very quicky…trust me…I know…*stares at Night Slash Scizor*. Here’s a list of optimal moves to replace.

Shinies

The first Shiny Pokemon was introduced during the Water Event. Golden Magikarp (or Red Gyarados). The second was introduced in Japan-only: shiny Pikachu. A “shiny” is just a different colored Pokemon. This was introduced in Generation II in the main series.

At some point, one would assume, more will be released (as every Pokemon has a shiny variant). Odds on catching shinies are largely unknown. But some feel the concept of “chaining”, which was a real thing in the main games, exists. Chaining refers to *only* catching that Pokemon, and doing so, will increase odds of finding a shiny on the next encounter. Some people have attempted it in Pokemon GO and swear by it. What’s generally been understood is that the best odds were during the Water Event, it seems like odds have been drastically decreased.

Lack of Stardust

Briefly alluded to, but I wanted to call this out. Currently, the biggest bottleneck in the game is Stardust. Niantic eliminated one very easy method of getting some from the gym rewards. I don’t know why. Powering things up past Level 30, where Stardust required go to 6000-10000 a power up..feels…impossible now. I have to hope they introduce some new way of getting Stardust soon, because people are getting pissed…

Plagues of performance issues

An update on Pokemon GO cannot be completed without mentioning the vast amounts of bugs and problems associated with the game. There have been many. You might have heard about the Pokemon GO Fest disaster in Chicago. That’s a start, but it’s more than that. Basically…Niantic, the designers of the game…well, aren’t very good at making games. They are a former team at Google, who at more known for their map development than making games. Their only other game is called Ingress. They’re not, to say it nicely, an experienced game developer. To say it meanly: they suck, oh my freaking God, their game is a technical nightmare.

The game falls into the haves and have nots. If you have a top of the line phone, you’re generally OK. You might have an occasional crash or hiccup, but you’re OK. For everyone else, you know, probably 70% of the user base, ooooohhhhh boy. What hasn’t been a problem?

Known problems so far:

  • Authentication issues: Early on in the game, almost nobody could authenticate for long periods of time. Today? That normally means the Pokemon Trainer Club portal is down. For those that login with Google, you’re generally not affected, but PTC users? You’re at the mercy of this crappy infra. PTC is also the source of almost ALL OF THE CHEATING that occurs in this game. There is NO WAY to change from PTC to Google. Fun.
  • GPS issues: A nitpick because this is probably the least problematic thing, and something that really cannot be controled, but GPS sometimes acts wonky and greatly affects gameplay.
  • Battling: Where to start? Death loop glitch, HP rubber banding, game crashing, “Error”, sync issues with multiple battlers, you name it. They fix a bug, a new one appears. Battling has always had problems. Currently, it’s a nightmare for me. Every update causes another regression. Right now, my game is HARD CRASHING a lot during battles.
  • Raids: Extremely frustrating bugs around dying in Raids, or “Error”, which causes you to lose your Raid pass, not get rewards, or a chance at encountering Pokemon. I’ve lost 6-7 Raid Passes / items. It’s extremely frustrating. Here’s a fun one though that everyone has: last ball doesn’t work during Raid catches. That’s how incompetent these guys are.
  • General stability: Numerous crashes, force restarts needed, hung screens, white screen of death, Potion crashing your phone, clicking on Avatar crashes your phone, memory leaks, enormous battery drain, incredibly hot phones.

Why is all this happening? Again, it depends on several factors: quality of your phone, quality of your data network, but it’s more than that. This company sucks at making games. There have been numerous threads online that have confirmed ENORMOUS memory leaks. For players with phones that don’t have a lot of RAM, this is crippling!! It has been proven time and time again that this company simply releases an update and “fixes” things later. Very basic bugs that would have been caught if any form of unit or regression testing suites existed (the click on your Avatar, game crashes was an all-timer; how is this not tested?).

It boils down to frustration over the fact that if the Pokemon license was given to an experienced development house…wow…who knows what we’d have by now…it’s just sad. People keep hoping things get better, but they don’t. The Pokemon GO Fest disaster was a culmination of that: poor planning, poor communication, poor testing, poor results.

For what it’s worth, Niantic has started to list known issues on their website. But keep in mind, for months and months, there was absolutely no communication on ANYTHING from this company. Will it get better? I sure freaking hope so…

What are some more advanced aspects of the meta-game that I need to know about?

The game does a poor job of explaining any level of game mechanics; let alone advanced ones. Here are some notes on some of the things the game doesn’t tell you about.

CP System

Here is the exact way CP is calculated. Does this matter? Not…really? Not any more. CP was the primary metric of determining how “high” you were placed in the gym tier in the old gym system. It was vastly important that you had mon that could be in the top CP-tier and had perfect IVs (this meant Dragonite, Rhydon, Snorlax, Vaporeon, Gyarados, Blissey, Tyranitar…that was it…).

Since that’s been eliminated, this number is now essentially a meaningless stat. Because, the formula HEAVILY skews toward Pokemon with higher ATK stats. That’s why things like Umbreon have such little CP, even though they’re generally pretty great. Basically, anything with high SPEED and DEFENSE have lower CP. How Niantic could just completely drop a major component like SPEED baffles me. I don’t know…it’s ridiculous. Again, IVs only have ATK/DEF/HP, it’s been significantly simplified from the main games, but they ARE using the stats from the main games to determine this. This is why every Pokemon’s CP can be determined today. Even those as far out as Generation VII.

Egg Hatching Rarity Tiers

Research from Silph Road recently concluded that egg hatching follows along a probability of tiers (just like spawn probability!). It was actually a pretty amazing conclusion after months of data collecting. The takeaway is that, each egg is in a tier of increasing probability, but not necessarily corresponding to the 1/5/10km tier. The first has a 1/14 chance, then 1/28, 1/56, and finally 1/115. This is why hatching a Chansey, Snorlax, Lapras, etc are really, really rare. You don’t have the same odds of hatching every Pokemon. It’s why you probably have a billion Ponyta.

Here’s a website that combines what Pokemon can hatch from which tiers and their associated probability. Niantic has changed probabilities and placement many, many times; normally for the better. Just because you get a 10km egg, doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. There is no direct relationship between probability tiers and distance tiers, but generally speaking most of the good Pokemon are in the higher tiers of both.

Biomes

This is a big one, and it’s not really explained by the game at all. Depending on where you live greatly influences what you will encounter. There are dozens of different “biomes”, I’m in a Grass / Water biome. Here is a list of all biomes and more information on how it works. Biomes are determined by “map data”; specifically Open Street Maps. Things like whether you are a University, industrial area, wetland, river, lake, creek, desert…things like that, all influence what will spawn. For example, never seen a Dragonite, but others have seen dozens? They’re probably in a Mt Moon Biome.

Nesting

Nesting refers to areas that spawn one unique Pokemon for a period of two week. Places that nest are almost always parks. I have very rarely found places other than parks that can nest. By far the most useful website to determine what nests in your area and where is the Silph Road Atlas. Again, every two weeks, currently Wednesdays 8PM EDT, nests will change. Going to nests is one of the best and easiest ways to fill up your Pokedex. For more on nests, here’s a good article.

Catch Dynamics

Now we get to the most IMPORTANT section of the entire game. Catching. Catching determines almost your entire experience. The better you catch, the more items you’ll have, the faster you can move onto other areas, the more efficient you’ll get with Lures / events, and just generally get nicer things. Understanding catch dynamics are enormously important for being able to catch Legendary Pokemon. I have seen reports of people being 0/21+ on Legendary encounters. I’m somewhere around 17/21? How is this possible? Math.

Learning how and the best way to throw is absolutely critical. There has been extensive, extensive research on this topic. Unfortunately, this information has not generally propagated to the general community.

However, it’s really very simple, the ideal way to throw can be boiled down to two things (parens indicate catch multiplier):

  • Throwing Standard / Curves ( 1 /1.7 )
  • No Bonus / Getting Nice!, Great!, or Excellent! throws ( 1 / 1.15 / 1.5 / 1.85 )

If you do those two things, you will generally catch greater numbers of Pokemon than your peers, and waste less resources. But there are more factors that contribute to overall catch rate, which are:

  • Razz / Golden Razz ( 1.5 / 2.5 [!] )
  • Medal Bonus ( 1 / 1.1 / 1.2 / 1.3 )
  • Ball Type ( 1 / 1.5 / 2 )

All the math behind it can be found here. Here is a calculator that will tell you exactly what your catch chance is based on different variables. The calculator is wonderful. Play around with various scenarios and see how awful / great your odds are depending on what it is you’re trying to catch. The calculator doesn’t go into it, but this list will tell you all of the base catch rates for every Pokemon. Base rate is why Lugia is impossible to catch versus Pidgey (3% versus 50%); it’s why the Catch Multipliers are so very, very important for things that have lower base rate. That said, simply throwing a curve + Great!  throw creates a multiplier that is normally good enough to catch most wild Pokemon.

Let me stress the importance of Curve Balls again, direct quote from the research article above:

According to research the Curveball is one of the most important aspects of catching Pokemon, as it increases the multipliers chance to capture a Pokemon by 1.7, which is more than using an Ultra ball over a Pokeball!

That’s right. Throwing a Curveball is like throwing an Ultra Ball! The importance of throwing curves CANNOT be understated. However, you have to throw a curve ball CORRECTLY for it to register. If you throw with your left hand, keep the ball to the left, spin it, and have it land on the left side of the Pokemon (do opposite for other side; right -> right). If it doesn’t, and it just clips the right side there is a high probability of it registering as a straight throw. Does this make sense? NO!! But this is how the game works. That said, there is still debate on this. Not everybody agrees on how to 100% register a curve ball. And it’s impossible to know. You won’t know unless you catch the Pokemon and you can analyze the catch bonus screen. Find out what works for you, if you can get curves to register with what ever method you try, stick with it. For me? I throw 45 degree angle balls from the bottom left corner. It works for me. Launch angle depends on what you’re trying to catch. Different Pokemon are closer than others. You’ll learn with experience.

Those that curve and those that don’t will find this out the hard way with Legendary encounters. To bring this home, look at an example for Zapdos. This page has information on the exact % numbers you should expect for capturing based on different throws:

Notice the vast differences if you don’t Curve and / or get ! throws. If you simply just throw a Straight throw…even if you hit Great!, your % chance of capturing is 4.5%. But if you used a Golden Razz, Curved, and Great!, that jumps all the way to 19%!

One note on Excellent!: Depending on the Pokemon, getting an Excellent! and a Curve is pretty hard. The curve won’t register. From the table above, you can see an Excellent! alone is WORSE than a Great! + Curve. Getting started, I would highly consider aiming for Great! + Curve, it’s a pretty reliable and achievable outcome.

If you are able to Great! + Curve + Golden every ball on a Zapdos catch, you should, through probability, catch it every time (let’s say you get 10 balls). For those that are 0/20+, you can see why. If you suck at throwing, a) You’re probably not hitting it ten times, b) Your % is probably <10% every time. 

LEARN TO THROW! LEARN THE SYSTEM! IT’S WORTH IT! IT’S 90% OF THE GAME!

Finally, here’s one trick (that hopefully won’t be patched), that is extremely useful (especially in Raids). It’s called the “hold” trick. Here’s a full thread and video explaining it.

Now that you know that Great! + Curve is the ideal scenario, you can use this to your advantage with the “hold” trick. What you do is this:

  • Hold the Pokeball, don’t spin or move it, but simply wait for the catch circle to enter into the Great! (or Excellent!) zone (you’ll learn where this is with experience; Great is normally <50%; Excellent is <10% circle).
  • When it gets there, “let go of the ball”. It should simply return you to the catch screen. The Pokeball will be bouncing / you’ll have to hold it again to throw.
  • What has happened is that you have *frozen* where the catch circle is!!
  • Now, you wait. Wait for the Pokemon to attack. The circle will not change while it’s attacking.
  • Throw during the attack animation, but wait long enough so that when the ball connects, the animation is done.

What this effectively does is: guarantees the circle to be what you want, almost guarantees you’ll hit it because it’s very rare for Pokemon to move / attack right after the attack animation. This trick paired with the knowledge of MATH will yield greatly more catches than those that don’t use this method. It’s that simple. It will. Why? It’s math. It’s probability. Don’t fight it.

What are some useful websites to visit?

IV Calculators

We went over IV and the importance of it in determining CP, but I didn’t properly explain the ATK stat. ATK stat is very important for Raids. It’s really the only thing that well, increases your damage output. Ideally, you want all of your Pokemon to have a 15 ATK stat.

My favorite IV Calculator website is this one. It will also tell you ideal move set of Pokemon, what CP it will be on different levels, and more.

There are IV Calculator “apps” that you can add to your phone if you’d like as well. Just make sure they’re screen scrapers and don’t require auth to your account. You will be banned if you give apps 3rd party access.

Youtube Vloggers

This isn’t essential, but there is a pretty extensive Pokemon GO Youtube community. There are 3-4 famous ones that record daily videos that go over various mechanics / events/ news, but I have only really watched Trainer Tips Nick videos. He does a good job of explaining current news, tricks, and his videos are just normally fun to watch (he loves drones).

You can check out his videos on his page here.

Advanced info

  • Silph Road reddit. Honestly, this is your best source of information on the game. Niantic itself does a piss poor job at communicating. And when they do, it’s hours or days late. The Silph Road routinely downloads new updates, scrapes the data, and explains what’s new with the update. This subreddit is very analytically focused. There’s less general discussion here.
  • Local Facebook / Discord / reddit groups. If you’re in a populated area, you probably have a Facebook group in your area. Try Googling, “city + Pokemon Go + Facebook Group”. This is your best bet at finding Raiding parties; especially if you’re a solo player.

General info

  • Pokemon GO reddit. This is more a casual place where you can talk about the game. Still a good place to get news.
  • Niantic has a Twitter account, but I’ve never followed it. Anything important is on one of the two subreddits.

What’s next?

Unknown, Niantic doesn’t have a formal roadmap, but you can guess. We’re at Generation II so far in this game. The main series has seven. That means the game will be going on for quite a long time. One would assume we’d get Generation III in a few months (if I had to guess, I’d say next February).

Given the disaster of Go Fest, I’m hoping higher priority is given to fixing the…freaking game. There are numerous bugs and issues. Fix the game Niantic!

That’ll about wrap up everything I have found out about the game over the last year! Has it been frustrating? Yes. Has it been fun? Sure! Have I got a whole lot more exercise? You bet! Have I found out that I literally have dozens of parks and other random things in my area that I never knew existed? Yep! The game has so far has been an exciting mess. Let us just hope Niantic can clean up the mess and continue to give us the same excitement everyone had when the game first launched.

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How to Sell a House

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If you are fortunate enough to have been able to buy a house, odds are, at some point, you’ll inevitably have to or want to sell it. The latest metrics from 2013, according to the National Association of House Builders, point to it being sold 13 years later. With that in mind, here is some advice on what you can do to maximize the value of your home sale.

Step 0 – Are you ready for this?

Hopefully you expertly followed my advice on how to buy a house and this process will end up being financially rewarding. There are countless reasons for selling a home, but distress sales should be avoided.

The remainder of the post is going to assume you will make a profit or at least break-even during this process. If you are underwater, stop here. You shouldn’t be selling. Or maybe you’ve changed jobs and you need to move? Hopefully your company has a “relocation” package for you. No? Consider renting it until the market returns (if that’s possible). Whatever the case may be, there is little reason to sell if you’re going to lose money. Explore all potential options first. This could be its own separate topic. The gist is: buy low, sell high / you don’t lose money until you sell.

Step 1 – Understanding your situation

Selling a house can fall into, basically, one of these two buckets:

  • Sale of second house (vacation home, rental property, bequeathed, etc)
  • Sale of primary residence

The first case is much more straight-forward and I have recently sold a rental property, so I am very familiar with this. I’ll talk more about this shortly. For the second case, the main thing I would stress is: find your new home first, do not attempt to sell first and “find later”. This is one of the worst things you can do. Think about it. Say you find a buyer for your house, and you’re scheduled to close, but it’s contingent upon you finding a new home. You’ve needlessly put a time crunch on your side. You run the risk of: a) not getting a good deal on your new home, b) settling for something you don’t want, and / or c) potentially distressing your pending sale (what if you can’t find a home in time)? The only time this makes sense is if you are simply going to rent. Then I suppose it’s fine. However, I would, again, strongly, strongly, suggest to have your new property closed on before even beginning to consider selling. If you ensure that you have a new residence in hand before selling, then both of these scenarios are essentially the same. I’m going to use that assumption for the rest of this post.

Before moving on, let’s discuss some more reasons to move before you sell because I really do think it’s very important. I, as a buyer, would prefer to see either a vacant or staged home, but this, of course, depends on the person. However, my rationale towards this is: you don’t want prospective buyers to see that you have cats (and cat pee) or dogs (and dog pee) or tattered furniture or…you get the point. You can do your best to make your house look nice, but you’re limited. You live there. Do you really want to make sure the toilet is clean every time you show the property? Do you really want to drop everything you’re doing and leave while your property is being shown? You have much more flexibility if you’re already moved out. But, it really depends. Use common sense for your unique situation. If this isn’t an option, that’s fine, you can work around it, it’s just harder. My point is: if you’re moved out, your options are vastly expanded. That’s a good thing. Try to go for this if you can.

Rental property note

One small note on rental properties that I only recently found out about…and was kind of a game changer. The IRS has a rule that if you sell a rental property that you have used previously as a primary residence, you are able to exempt up to $250,000 in capital gains if you rent it for up to 3 years. Or put another way (what the IRS says): you need to have owned, as your primary residence, the property for 2 of the last 5 years. Example: You bought a house for $100k, you sold it for $200k, you pay no taxes on that $100k gain. Note that it doesn’t have to be rented out, but the IRS allows you to rent out your property for up to 3 years before selling it (if it went past that, I suppose you could just move back in for two years; not an option for me).

Here’s a personal anecdote. I bought a property I had been eyeing for months, got a good deal on it. However, that sword cuts two ways: because the market wasn’t that great, it wasn’t a great time to sell. Selling in that environment wasn’t ideal. So I decided to rent my previous property out instead. Then I found out this IRS rule. The market came back…and…I informed my tenants I was not interested in renewing the lease and sold the house. It worked out for me pretty well. Your mileage may vary, but again: buy low, sell high. This IRS rule is a pretty good way of getting a chance for that to play out if you aren’t too keen on selling immediately after buying a new house.

Step 2 – To Realtor or…Not?

This is a critical question. One that has thousands of dollars on the line. And I’m going to spend a lot of words on it. I have my personal feelings on this and I’ll discuss that shortly, but first let’s lay out what variables are in play here:

  • Market temperature
  • How much work you’re willing to contribute yourself

That’s it. These are the only two variables I see that determine: speed of transaction, sales price, net profit. Let’s break them down further.

Market temperature

This simply refers to supply and demand of the real estate market in your area. But…what if you have no idea? Well, the Internet is a wonderful thing. Vast amounts of information are at your fingertips. You can find this out yourself, but…it boils down to how much work you’re willing to do yourself. A majority of people just hire a Realtor. However you can simply peruse the following websites to find what the market is doing: zillow.com, redfin.com, trulia.com. If you’re selling a house, you must have bought a house. Start by looking at the value of your house today. Has it gone up? Stayed the same? Lost value? Start tracking houses that resemble your own. What are they listed for? What do they end up selling for? How long were they are on the market? Redfin has all of this data. You don’t need a Realtor to gauge market temperature any longer. Do it yourself.

There are really only three kinds of “temperature” for real estate:

  • Stable
  • Buyer’s Market
  • Seller’s Market

Stable is probably the easiest as you should have comps that are fairly uniform over large periods of time. You don’t need a Realtor for this. Just look at the data. Buyer’s Market means either inventory is high and / or buyer demand is low, which ends up dropping prices (or you know, the entire banking system almost collapses…). If the market is a Buyer’s Market…should you even be selling? If it’s a Seller’s Market, demand should be high enough where you’ll get a lot of leads / showings. You definitely don’t need a Realtor in this use case…which is the kind of market you should be selling in!

How much work you’re willing to contribute

You might be starting to think that I think empowering yourself to do as much as you can is the best course of action. You’d be right. I didn’t use a Realtor. I sold my own house. But that’s jumping the gun at this point. Let’s first break down what a Realtor does:

  • Research recent comparable sales; analyzes current market temperature; creates listing
    • What you can do: As mentioned above. Use redfin.com, find this yourself. All the data is there. You can sort by any number of metrics and find sales that go back a week, a month, a year, three years, whatever. Zillow’s home owner features (say you own the house, answer some questions) even go farther…they do this for you, you tweak some things, they’ll generate a report for you. For free. Free. Or…worst case, pay an appraiser out of your own pocket. It will cost a few hundred dollars, but Realtors will cost thousands. Your call. They’ll tell you how much your house is worth if you can’t figure it out. And give me a break with creating a listing. Worst case: copy and paste what another comparable listing that sold and tweak some things. That’s what I did.
  • Creates materials to sell your home
    • What you can do: Guys, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we live in the 21st century. The Internet is a thing. No one reads the paper any longer. You don’t need to go to Kinkos. You can do this all digitally. Nobody needs to have printed documents, or special custom signs, or other promotional materials. Worst case: do it yourself. Fire up Microsoft Word, there’s templates online, make it yourself. You will find that internet traffic is more than enough to market your house. MLS is all you need for “marketing” to be honest. But we’ll talk about that in a minute.
  • Shows your home for you; schedules your home to be shown
    • What you can do: Here’s a secret. Selling agent Realtors don’t do squat. They will rarely show your house. Buyer’s agents do that. All they use is a tool called CSS (Centralized Showing Service) or some other variant and schedule for it to be shown. Here’s the website. I’ll tell you how you can get access to this later. But…wait, what about that special door thingamabob that let’s someone in through a card reader? You mean this? Yeah, you can get that without a Realtor. Again, I’ll show you how in a moment, but here’s what I did: I bought a PIN combination door lock. Put it on your door, there’s a key inside, Realtors put the key back when they leave. Realtors hate this, because they have to text you for the combination (boo-hoo; one guy basically cussed me out, cry me a river). For security purposes, I always changed the code every 24 hours, but you could very simply just put the code in CSS if you so desired. The point: there’s different options here. Again, you can do this yourself.
  • Negotiates sales price and terms
    • What you can do: So, let me get this straight. What’s more efficient: 1) Two Realtors talking to their respective buyer and seller and then playing telephone back and forth for opening bids and counter offers (at least four parties involved)…or 2) The buyer’s agent (or agent-less buyer) talking directly to you? You’re telling me that agents have this mysterious haggling power that you don’t? You can’t figure out what the market will support based on recent comps / what you’d willing to sell it for? Give me a break. This is NOTHING that a Realtor provides here. It’s YOUR DECISION. What if you have multiple bidders? You REALLY think that your agent is going to provide a service for this? You don’t think they have other clients? You think they’re going to immediately inform you of offers? Again, give me a break. Path of least overhead: do it yourself. Less layers = faster output. For terms: make sure buyer is paying reasonable due diligence / earnest money (this depends on your state; but again, look it up; worst case: hire a real estate attorney to guide you through this; again…much, much, MUCH cheaper than a Realtor), make sure there aren’t special items in the contract that are suspicious (again, if you’re worried, don’t sign a contract without having a 3rd party look over it first). However, my best advice is to simply look at the contract you signed when you bought the house. Does it deviate from your contract? This isn’t rocket science people! You can do this yourself.
  • Drafts up contract
    • What you can do: Nothing. You don’t have to. The buyer’s agent will do this for you. What about if you both don’t have agents? OK, now I would consider hiring a real estate attorney to draft this up for you. Both of you simply meet, agree on terms, and an attorney will draft it up. In addition, they’ll help you with title search. This should cost less than a grand. Again: MUCH CHEAPER THAN A REALTOR.
  • Allows buyer access to property for due diligence inspections
    • What you can do: Really? Haven’t we already covered this above?
  • Goes to closing with you and takes all of your money
    • What you can do: Don’t hire a freaking Realtor. They. Are. Not. Providing. You. A. Service. That. You. Can’t. Do. Yourself.

Did I lay it on a little too thick there? Sorry. I hate Realtors (well, to be honest, I liked my buyer’s agent). Let me revise: I hate seller’s agents. They’re worthless. They are akin to a travel agent. Do it yourself. DO IT YOUR FREAKING SELF!

Let’s say you’re selling a home worth $200k. Let’s say you negotiated, I don’t know, 2.8% commission for your parasitic seller’s agent. Did your agent contribute over FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS of value to the sale of your home? Seriously. Did they? DID THEY REALLY? Because that’s how much you just gave them (not even mentioning the buyer’s agent!). Why not…pay yourself, by doing it yourself.

The only reason why Realtors aren’t extinct or a niche thing like the aforementioned travel agent is a combination of: lack of public empowerment (I hope this post helps to inspire just one person to try and a sell a house themselves), the innate behavior of human beings to freeze when things appear scary (I don’t feel like learning this; someone else can do it), and the power of Realtors’ closed network called MLS (Multiple Listing Service). Only Realtors have access to this. It’s basically an inventory of all houses on the market for your area. Soon, very soon, I will show you a trick on getting access to this yourself.

The three ways to sell a house

With an agent, by yourself, or…with a discount broker (a hybrid of both). Like it or not, agents, still own the real estate market. I did try to sell my house myself; pure For Sale By Owner (FSBO). You’ve probably heard that lame realtor line basically to the tune of, “trust us, if you try to sell your house FSBO, you’ll sell it for less, or it will take a long time, that’s why you need a Realtor“. They’re right…on one thing. When I first put my house up for sale just FSBO…I got no leads. No good ones anyway. The leads I did get were investors trying to low-ball me. I imagine if I had waited it out, I probably would have done OK, but I was interested in a timely sale. The problem with FSBO is that people aren’t looking for them. Buyers commonly just defer to their Realtor to find them properties. There’s a trust factor with Realtors that the industry has conditioned into the general population. That you need an agent to buy a house. I’m sorry, but when you buy a car, do you negotiate with a 3rd party before purchasing? You take a car to a mechanic to tell you if it’s working. You have a house appraisal done to make sure it’s fine. What’s the difference? Again, what is a Realtor doing for you that you can’t do yourself? Just because the purchase price is higher? Please! Thankfully, there’s a third option.

Discount broker

Goldilocks’ “just right” solution. Basically you’re employing a Realtor that doesn’t do any Realtor stuff for you. They have access to the MLS network, but they charge you far, far less than a traditional agent for access. It’s essentially a loop-hole into the system. They’re also referred to as “flat fee MLS listing agents” or buzzwords of that nature. You really have to do research into this yourself. Find someone in your local area with good reviews (again, bless the Internet) and a history of sales and you should be OK. These are normally small-businesses sole-proprietors / small teams that make money by simply getting you on MLS.

They don’t do anything else for you. They don’t draft a contract, negotiate, talk with any parties, or anything a normal Realtor would do for you. They just list the property in MLS and are the first point of contact for any other agents / interested parties (mine just forwarded email to me and I did the rest; scheduling showings, negotiating, etc). These brokers, technically agents, will be able to provide you with things like the Supra door key system, CSS, promotional materials, and things of that nature. But find one that allows them as optional. I just used my own door lock and put up a FSBO sign in the yard. Less than $30 for that. Broker pricing depends on the area I would imagine, but something under $500 is a good thing to shoot for (just be careful; read the fine print, there’s a “listing fee” and a “closing fee”; make sure you know what you pay at closing, mine was $195 to list and $195 at closing – not paid if it doesn’t sell).

OK, that’s about it. I know that’s a LOT of prep, but that’s where you should spend your time. Prep. Selling a house is all about research. Do it well. Do it right. Do it yourself.

Step 3 – Repairs, staging, and listing

I did my best to educate you on how much you don’t need a Realtor. It’s up to you to conclude if that works for you. I’m not here to judge, but I strongly believe foregoing the services of a Realtor is the right way to go. However, not everyone has the initiative to do things themselves. That’s fine, just understand you’re paying a premium by waiving that right. Regardless if you’re using an agent or going it alone, you still need to get your house ready for sale. Let’s break it down.

Repairs

If you’re selling a house, there’s a good chance you know a lot about it. You should know what’s wrong with it. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of items to consider:

  • Age / condition of roof
  • Age / condition of siding
  • Age / condition of HVAC
  • Condition of lawn / trees / shrubbery
  • Known plumbing leaks, electric issues, damage to interior
  • Age / condition of appliances
  • Condition / color of interior paint
  • Condition / type of flooring

You have to balance expected return of value. Is completely redoing your kitchen and bathrooms a good idea? It depends, but probably not. You’re not going to recoup the money you put into it. Does buying a new HVAC even if it’s 10+ years old, but functional make sense? No. It doesn’t. Does it make sense to repaint your interior if you have…let’s say…interesting colors? Yes. There’s different thoughts on the matter, but I”m of the camp that says if you have more neutral colors, you have less of a chance of turning off potential buyers. Does your carpet have holes in it or in bad shape? It definitely makes sense to fix obvious things like this. General advice: If there’s visible damage fix it, if something is functional, but old…let it be. The only advantage to replacing something that’s not broken is that you can say it’s NEW in the listing. 

Staging

Your house is either: lived in, vacant, or staged with furniture. I discussed this previously and consider a vacant house to be your best bet. Staging costs money. I’m not a proponent of spending money you don’t have to.

Listing

Once the house is in selling condition, it’s time to list. Here are the items you’ll need:

  • Pictures of the house: Depends on your area; but 25 pictures is a good minimum to shoot for.
  • Listing description: Highlight items that have been improved; either your Realtor will help you write this or just read other properties for examples.
    • I like exclamation points mixed with factual information and a little bit of fluffy BS.
  • Listing time: I would recommend, especially in hot markets, to list either Friday morning or late Thursday. This gives you the weekend to get a burst in activity; with the end goal being an offer on the table (or multiple offers). You can also schedule an Open House on Sat or Sun.
  • Listing price: This was covered in previous steps, but repairs or improvements may have changed this. Again, use comps that match the state of your property. In Stable markets, this should be fairly straightforward. In Seller’s Markets, I would honestly suggest you conservatively price it; there’s a good chance you’ll receive multiple offers / generate a bidding war this way. For all cases, look for sales in your exact neighborhood.

One small note, especially for those that are either FSBO or using a discount broker. Depending on your state, you will have different disclosure laws. My state requires me to list anything and everything functionally wrong with the property. If I know about a foundation issue, I’m required to disclose it. If I know about some functional defect, I’m required to disclose it. Your state law may be different, but the best advice is to be upfront. If the buyer can see it during the showing, there’s nothing to gain by hiding it. It will be seen or it’ll come out during inspection. Avoid future problems and either disclose it…or just fix it before listing.

Step 4 – Showing the property

Not much to this. You either have a Realtor and they do this, or you speak with people that want to see the property.

Once it’s shown, you will generally hear back from the person that saw it one way or another. If you don’t, simply ask for some feedback. What did they like? What did they not? Are they considering submitting an offer?

Step 5 – Waiting for offers or going back to Step 3

Either you get an offer, or offers, or you go back to the drawing board. Hopefully you received feedback to what people liked or didn’t like. You mean need to make some repairs, update something, or simply drop the price.

Step 6 – Negotiating

Congratulations. You got an offer on your home. The following scenarios can happen at this stage:

  • You received an offer at your asking price.
    • What to do: If the terms offered by the agent (the assumption is the buyer is using an agent; almost guaranteed – if not, consult some FSBO help here, you probably need a real estate attorney to draft up a contract) are OK…well, you’re done. Unless you would like to wait for more offers. Just don’t dilly-dally here too long. Especially if the market isn’t that great.
  • You received an offer below your asking price.
    • What to do: Depends on how long the house has been on the market, whether the sale will be at a loss, etc. You are free to counteroffer at this point. You should counteroffer.
  • You received an offer above your asking price.
    • What to do: This is what you want (if you correctly priced your home at least)! One warning: Make sure it’s not a crazy offer. If the house doesn’t appraise, things can get hairy. Example: You think the house is worth $150, and comps support that, but buyer offers $220. It probably won’t appraise unless it’s an all-cash sale.
  • You received multiple offers!
    • What to do: This is what you should strive for. If you priced the house appropriately (the kiss of death to me is pricing too high; it makes this scenario less likely to happen) and the market is OK, this has a good chance of happening, especially at lower house prices. The GREAT benefit here is that you can inform all parties that there are multiple offers on the property (you don’t even have to say how many). Odds are, if an offer is on the table, the buyers really, really like it. Think about how you felt if you put an offer on a house. Most likely you did not want to lose. Well, as a seller, you understand this. You’re in an advantageous position. Get the parties to get into a bidding war!

General comments: Buyers expect an answer in a timely manner. If you just listed it though, you might want to wait 24 hours for other offers. The more offers you have, the more flexibility you have. The offer with the best price isn’t always the best offer. Terms matter. If someone offers the same price, but one is only putting down 3% versus someone who is all-cash or bringing 20%+ at closing. You have a higher likelihood of having no issues at closing. Don’t discount financing!

Personal note: I was able to get 3 buyers into a bidding war. One dropped off immediately, but the other two countered multiple times. At the end of it, I got almost 10% more over my asking price. It was so much more than I expected, I was actually really scared it would not appraise…but it did (my mantra is everybody wants their money…it will appraise, things will work out). Did I make a lot of repairs? Yes. I replaced a lot of stuff that needed to be replaced. Did I go crazy? No. There’s a balance to everything. Thankfully, my efforts yielded the highest sale price in my neighborhood…ever. I’m really proud of that. And I’m especially proud of that because I sold it myself. It’s a great feeling. You can do it if you put the work in! Nobody knows your house more than you do.

Step 7 – Closing the deal

From the chaos of step 6 will emerge a winner. You have a signed contract and now the buyer has a set amount of time (30 days is pretty standard) to obtain financing and check the place out (normally lenders require appraisal and / or inspection). You don’t do anything but let them in. I would strongly urge never to be present at these things. I would strongly suggest you never even meet the actual buyer. There’s no upside. There is absolutely no upside to ever meeting the buyer. Use your imagination on things that could go wrong versus what could go right. Here’s something that will never happen: “Hey! It’s so nice to meet you! Wow, you’re so awesome…can I change the contract and give you more money?”. Unlikely. Hell, I never even met the buyer’s agent before getting to closing. Everything was done through text, email, and the occasional phone conversation.

What will happen here is…a problem is found (there will be problems, inspectors will find “problems”, they have to…it’s their job) or you proceed to closing. But let’s assume there’s problems. My advice is to not fix anything. You should have fixed all of the major functional concerns in Step 3. Anything else is either a major problem (which is going to require going back to Step 6 and renegotiating) or there’s small things: a door doesn’t close properly, a sink doesn’t drain well, some widget doesn’t work right, etc. Get them to get an estimate for repairs. If you think it’s not reasonable, get your own estimate and negotiate. If their estimate sounds reasonable, just agree to pay. If you have the balls, this far along in the process, you could just say “no” and roll the dice, but technically they could still back out (unlikely), but I don’t know how you’ll feel, but once you get this far, you’ll be mentally exhausted. Throw them a small bone, they’ll be happy, you’ll be happy, and the finish line will be in sight. I think I paid $1k towards their closing costs as part of negotiating repairs.

Step 8 – Closing Time

You, the buyer, and the agents (if you have one) will meet at a predetermined time and place, typically at an attorneys office. You will sign paperwork, then they’ll sign paperwork. You may not even meet the buyer if you plan it properly (I would advise it; again, there’s no upside); you can simply arrive early and sign your documents.

I ended up meeting my buyer, exchanging pleasantries for about 3 minutes, asked them if they had any questions, dropped off the keys, some of the appliances manuals, and the paint swatches we used…and left. The attorney said I could stay and wait for them to sign their pieces or just come back later. I got a call to pick up the proceeds from the sale (don’t wire-transfer…it’s too risky, wire transfer fraud is a real thing, you can lose all of your money…get a check, take it to the bank immediately…never use a wire transfer) and that was that.

Step 9 – Post sale

Depending on what you sold, there are some things to note. If you sold a rental property, and you’re interested in obtaining a different property, there are tax advantages to buying another one immediately. It’s called a “like-kind exchange“. I didn’t do this, so I can’t comment on it that much, but this is a good way of deferring any capital gains on your sale if you’re interested in continuing to stay in the rental space.

For everything else, you should receive a 1099-S come tax time. As previously mentioned, if you sold the property within 3 years after it being your primary residence, you are able to avoid paying taxes on up to $250k in gains! I’m in this position…and…just barely! I was right on the 3 year mark. I may revise this part once I actually file my taxes.

But…pfff! Come on! Enough about taxes! You just sold a house! Congratulations! I hope something in the wall of text above was helpful!

Final words

I hope I didn’t come off as too preachy or too judgmental about my views on Realtors. I’m sorry, I tend to do that. There are good Realtors out there. They can provide you excellent service and earn their money. I respect buyer’s agents a lot. They do a lot of work. They find properties to show, they take you there, they tell you about it, they come with you on inspections, they keep you informed. Good ones are basically available 24/7. I personally believe there’s never a reason to not use a buyer’s agent (unless you can find a FSBO and negotiate the price much lower than what it would be with agents, but it’s rare…most sellers get greedy and want all the “savings” for themselves…but I digress…). But…for all the reasons I mentioned above, I don’t like seller’s agents. I don’t believe they are worth what they are paid.

I’ll end it with a personal story. I rented my previous primary residence for ~3 years. I never wanted to be a landlord, but the market sucked at the time. I would have sold the house for less than I bought it. That was unacceptable to me. My mortgage was in fine standing, I had plenty of equity, I just decided to wait until the market rebounded. It did. In 3 years, the price rebounded almost 30%. I got the property back from my tenant and immediately started making repairs myself / contracted out. I replaced exterior siding, repainted the entire house, put down new carpet and vinyl flooring, bought new appliances, and replaced a water heater (it broke a few days before it was to be listed!). These were all things I knew I could do myself. I knew they had to be done. I didn’t need a Realtor to tell me this. Where I was concerned was…marketing. I never really thought I could do this myself. I thought I needed an agent. I actually reached out to my buyer’s agent to help me sell it. And what he told me, was a complete paradigm shift in thinking. In so many words, he said something like:

You want me to be completely honest with you? You don’t need an agent to sell your house. The market is on fire, inventory is low, your house is a starter house and you will have plenty of offers. If not, you will have investors. Don’t put a lot of money into it, just list it on a Friday, offer 2.4% in commission to an agent, and you’ll be fine. Trust me.

I was shocked. A REALTOR told me this! Granted, I believe the primary reason was that the agency had a minimum selling price they adhered to, and just didn’t find it worth it to sell my house. But regardless, this was a huge motivational boost for me to try to sell it myself. The thing was: none of this was news to me. I knew inventory was low. I knew the market was hot. I could easily see this from Zillow and Redfin. It’s just a whole different animal to hear it from a professional. I was always considering it as an option, selling myself, but never had the guts to try it. So for that, I am eternally grateful for this advice. The main point of this entire post is to pass that along. YOU. CAN. DO. IT!

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Nintendo Switch Impressions and Future Analysis

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Nintendo Switch. It’s here. I have it. Here are my thoughts.

The Hardware

Where to begin? There’s quite a lot to talk about here, let’s break it down to what comes in the box and then go into the plethora of accessories:

What do you get for $299?

  • Switch console

 

  • What is it?
    • Essentially a glorified 6.5″ tablet. This is the console.
    • If you’re familiar with Wii U (although not many people are…), essentially they just took the guts of the Wii U console and put it in Wii U’s tablet.
    • It comes with a kickstand and can be “played” table-top by using a controller.
  • Pros
    • It feels nice. It’s got some good weight on it. 
    • Looks nice. Nice big screen.
  • Cons
    • We’ll see, but I think the gimmick here won’t have legs. I already never see anyone in the wild with a 3DS, someone lugging around a Switch seems unlikely. The device is huge.
    • The battery lasts between 2-6 hours. For comparison’s sake 3DS XL lasts 3.5-6.5 hours. Many people reporting playing Zelda at full battery is wiped out in 3 hours. Ehh….that’s not very “portable”-ish to me…
    • No backward compatibility. At all. I guess this is somewhat standard for most Nintendo consoles, but…both the Wii and the Wii U had backwards compatbility.
  • Neutral
    • Haven’t played it enough to decide whether I like playing in “handheld” mode. I really did like Wii U’s tablet, but it did take some time to grow on me. We’ll see. First impression is that it’s not very comfortable.
    • It apparently has a touchscreen (multipoint!), but I had no idea. Nothing uses it. Which is kind of concerning…will we ever be able to play any DS ports on this at all? What happens to the entire DS lineup?
  • Docking station

 

  • What is it?
    • All this does is allow you to connect an HDMI cable and a USB-C charging adapter to it. 
    • The Switch console can “dock” by setting it into the cradle. The purpose of docking is to allow it to charge and play on whatever device your have connected via HDMI (presumably your television).
  • Pros
    • It charges your system! It lets you play on your TV!
    • Hides cables fairly well in detachable back panel.
    • This was originally going to be a con, in that, it’s not really conducive for entertainment centers, but…I actually confirmed you can orient the docking station vertically or horizontally. It’s a bit awkward inserting the console this way, but it’s really the only way I can fit the thing where my TV sits.
  • Cons
    • Not very aesthetically pleasing…essentially a piece of hard plastic.
    • Major bug:  While docked and in sleep mode, it randomly wakes up and causes your video source to change. This is #9 from this list of common Switch problems. This sucks. And I want it to stop. Right now, I have to turn off the system and not put it in the dock. Because if you dock it, it turns it on. I’m hoping this is fixed with a patch…
    • It has no Ethernet port. You have to buy this 3rd party adapter…that’s officially licensed by Nintendo (currently out of stock; no idea what MSRP is…$30?!), if you want to have a reliable connection. OK…to cut costs, and making this optional, fine, I can live with this…90% of people will be fine with Wi-Fi, but it still sucks.
  • Joy Cons (Left/Right) and Shell Controller

 

  • What is it?
    • This is how you actually control the Switch Console. Arguably, this is the patent / feature / gimmick of the system. This allows you to play in tabletop / handheld / TV mode.
    • The Joys Cons “attach” to the Switch Console and draw power from the console itself. Otherwise, in TV mode, well, they’ll be discharging…
    • The Joy Cons can connect to a “shell” which functions as a traditional game controller.
    • The shell has some LEDs it can display which show you if the Joy Cons are connected (but oddly…not the current battery status…at least as far as I can tell…).
  • Pros
    • They’re pretty sweet little things. I really dig the symmetry. Each has: an analog stick, four buttons, two triggers, a + or a – button, and a “Home” or a “Take picture” button.
    • Each can be used stand-alone; so essentially the console comes with two controllers.
    • The “HD Rumble” is something that’s not really talked about, but it’s pretty nice. It’s hard to explain…there seem to be multiple areas where the device can rumble / with different intensities. It feels kind of…weird…but in a good way? Apparently some games utilize this (I’m guessing 1 2 Switch), but I haven’t played any yet.
    • I’m guessing there’s a gyroscope of some sort in both of them. They basically emulate what the Wii Remotes did, but without the need of an IR Bar. However it works…it can detect motion. For example, you can “aim” in Zelda by moving the controller. It works well. Unlike with Wii, I haven’t had any issues with losing position, so that’s pretty sweet!
  • Cons
    • There’s no “out of the box” easy way to charge these while in TV mode. It’s…actually quite ridiculous. If you, you know…what to be able to play in TV mode for a while, why…you’re in luck! Nintendo has this $30 glorified cable that will allow you to plugin a USB-C cable to another version of the Controller Shell! Whee! Why this wasn’t included as a default option is…again…ridiculous. The fact that you CANNOT charge them while undocked from the console is really, really stupid. I’m really quite mad about this.
    • Major bug: I think most people have encountered this problem…the Joy Cons, especially the Left one (most noticeable) will lose a signal while in TV Mode a fair bit. Why? The theory is that it’s using line of sight to the console in the dock. The farther away and anything obstructing you between the console can cause “lag”. For example, I have fallen off several cliffs playing Zelda. If this ISN’T fixed with a software update. This is a serious, serious, SERIOUS problem. I have never encountered issues with *any* controller in the history of gaming that has suffered “connection issues” while playing quite like this.
  • Other Things
    • Includes two Joy Con straps (never going to use…don’t fling your controllers…is this still really a thing?).
    • USB-C charging adapter
    • HDMI cable

Summary:

  • The controllers and the console itself are very nice. I think the Joy Cons are pretty comfortable; especially with the shell. I have zero issues with it. I played for 3-4 hours of Zelda with no complaints.
  • Concerns with battery life and charging…have to buy a separate $30 accessory to change the Joy Cons while playing. Crazy.
  • There are several major bugs with the system. And I hope they’re not irreversible hardware problems and can be fixed through software updates. In general, doesn’t seem like Nintendo put a lot of testing into the “TV Mode”. Which…makes no sense. We’ll see.
  • Recommend to buy right now? You just need to answer one question: How much do you love Zelda? If you answer that question in any way positive, buy it. Zelda is amazing. Amazing. Might do a separate review of it, but it’s game of the year. It reminds me of a mixture of Dark Souls / Monster Hunter / Zelda. All good things!! If not a Zelda fan, wait. There’s too much uncertainty and bugs / glitches. The Switch OS doesn’t even have Virtual Console support for crying out loud…

Concerns

  • I’m actually pretty worried. Very worried. This is a Wii U. It’s the same damn thing. It seems to have some initial hype, but this console is essentially a Wii U 2.0.
  • Now that said, I LOVED Wii U. The problem was software / marketing / lack of 3rd party support. And…a botched launch. But…Nintendo doesn’t seem to have learned much in that: the launch lineup is pretty abysmal, Zelda is great, but it’s no Wii Sports. Wii worked because it had a software hook that everyone could understand, and it was free. What does one buy on Switch right now other than Zelda…?
  • The lack of any real online strategy (what happened to Miiverse? no StreetPass either….?) out of the gate hurts. Nintendo has never been known to have seamless, hell even coherent, online functionality. I’m very concerned over this.
  • There still appears to be NO ONLINE ACHIEVEMENTS / TROPHIES. Why…?! WHY?! This is something that should have been implemented years and years ago. What the hell is taking so long? What’s the reason for not having this?? People little BUY games for this. It’s a selling point! What does Nintendo not get about this?!
  • The system is hard to come by right now, and that’s intentional and expected. Don’t pay $400+ for this. Just don’t. It should be generally available in a few months. This isn’t another Wii scenario. You will be able to find it. Let the kinks be worked out (there’s actually more hardware issues than I have ever seen for a 1st release Nintendo product; their hardware has always been rock-solid!). There’s kinks.

Future Predictions

  • It all comes down to software. It always has. Since, like, the middle of the Wii-era Nintendo’s 1st party output just hasn’t been there. I don’t know what’s happening. And 3rd parties aren’t picking up the slack. There have just been too many dead spots (dead years!) where nothing is released.
  • I just see too many other headwinds that are hard to overcome (the price is too high; too many high priced accessories; overall, the system is kind of confusing…too many parts…I can see a parent or a child baffled at how this thing even works…) to expect any kind of sustainable interest.
  • Here’s something to look at…if this things flops…what then??! Nintendo has put all their eggs in this basket by presumably killing off the DS line and merging it with their home console. Are we going to get “DS”-style games? Will they be reasonably priced?
  • Wii U sold 14 million units…and I think was their worst selling system ever? I predict Switch will sell 15-20 million units in the same time span. I hope I’m wrong…I just don’t see the thing having legs. Unless somehow the convergence of their software teams helps them crank out software hit after software hit. They have the IP. They just need to actually do it. Color me skeptical though…I guess we’ll find out!
Filed under Videogames

Almost 7 Years Later…I’m A Big Deal Again – Top Kills in Bioshock 2 [PS3]

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Not much else to say here. I’ve spent hundreds, thousands of hours, playing this game almost every week since 2010. Here is my last match that got me over the top.

Filed under Videogames

Thoughts on Election 2016

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doucheturd

So, it’s finally over. The campaign season that never seemed to want to end has mercifully reached a conclusion. The result was shocking. Regardless of who you voted for, it was genuinely shocking. I have some thoughts on the matter. Prepare for lots of text.

Trump’s Campaign

Trump’s campaign was astonishingly run. Or it could be a case of blind squirrel finding a nut, maybe both. Whether you like the result or not, if you’re a fan of political science like me, you have to give props to how he played his hand. He found a new way to win. And that fascinates me. He pulled off an election victory that I am confident we will never see again in our lifetime.

Some random thoughts:

  • He managed to take down the incredibly well-oiled Clinton machine. He was vastly outspent in advertising and was woefully behind in fundraising. But that helped his message as an underdog.
  • He literally pissed off the entire establishment of both political parties. Had very little endorsements. But that helped his message as a political outsider.
  • The media was almost totally against him. And he used this to his advantage. I think the old adage of “bad press is good press” comes into play here. Trump was able to stay in the race by getting the equivalent of BILLIONS of free advertising. And the click-bait media couldn’t resist feeding the troll.
  • He literally has no experience in politics. At all. He is not a very good debater and basically spews stream of conscious rambling most of the time. But this is his charm for his supporters. He doesn’t play by the rules. He’s an outsider. He tells it like it is.
  • He managed to evade damage from decades of politically incorrect statements by, basically, desensitizing it by saying crazier things in the present. Nothing stuck. Nothing. It’s remarkable.
  • But, let’s be honest, not all of this was a master stroke of political campaigning. This was very much trial and error…he fired and replaced key members of his campaign staff several times. He continually shot himself in the foot by attacking unrelated 3rd parties. But in the final week, he shut up. And people got a chance to generally reflect on their choices…and enough of them voted for him. But that doesn’t mean he was not an awful, awful candidate.

Clinton’s campaign

For a candidate with as much baggage and unfavorable ratings as Trump, surely there must be other reasons why he won. … Yes, there are. And it’s because Clinton was arguably worse. You literally could not have two worse candidates.

Look. I try to read and follow as many sources of news as I can to get a balanced view of the world. I listen to Glenn Beck (he hates both candidates). I listen to Hannity (he hates Clinton). I watch the Daily Show (they hate everybody; but mostly Republicans). I also watch John Oliver, Colbert, Samantha Bee, and other left-leaning talk show hosts (they pretty much just hate Republicans). I watch CNN, ABC (I like Stephanopoulos), and rarely Fox (I like Chris Wallace). I have heard all viewpoints. I try to hear both sides as best I can with the information I’m given. But what was disappointing for the last year was…Hillary Clinton generally was untouchable. Why?

More random thoughts:

  • Much like Obama in ’08, the media ran with the whole “omg first woman president” card the entire campaign season. It’s a great story…I guess? But does it not matter that, you know, umm, vet the candidate before anointing them? When the media latches onto their favorite, it’s sickening. It’s annoying. It’s unfair.
    • As a Cleveland fan, you know how annoying it was for me to hear this year about how great the Warriors are or how great the Cubs are…they’re cursed, they deserve to win. This is basically how I imagine a Trump fan feels. Like they’re getting shitted on daily. Like you’re a forgotten voice. This is what leads to the passion that his supporters overwhelming bested Clinton at. That the media wants a particular outcome to happen so they’ll fight for it. This is how I felt the entire campaign season. The media wanted Clinton to win and were willing to shrug off any criticisms of her candidacy. 
    • I’m sure Bernie Sanders fans feel/felt the same way. THIS SHOULDN’T BE HOW IT IS. Let the people decide and make up their own mind. People are tired of being force-fed lies and half-truths.
    • Trust in media is at an all-time low. Only 32% of all Americans trust the media to be fair and balanced (only 14% of Republicans). When the media fails to vet and take serious several allegations on one-side, it further cements these feelings. When Clinton continually is under FBI investigation or caught blatantly lying or being disingenuous, you would expect the media to dig deeper. But they did not.
      • It would not shock me that a year from now, the FBI finds pay-to-play shenanigans or money laundering connections with the Clinton Foundation. This is serious stuff. But I cannot say I ever heard any major news agency go any deeper than a passing reference to any of this. How is this possible?!
  • Clinton is an awful, awful candidate. And she ran an awful, awful campaign. She had no message. “Stronger Together”, “I’m With Her”…What the hell does that even mean?! “Make America Great Again” at least means something. It has tenets that can be explained. It resonates with people. Instead her entire campaign centered around, “hey, wouldn’t a woman president be great!?”. It was all vanity. When I watched the Morgan Freeman narrated Democratic convention, I was just like…”What in the hell is this?”. This isn’t real. It was an illusion. The celebrity endorsements were just cringe-inducing. No, I don’t want to see you have a concert with Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi, and whatnot. It was political pandering at its worst. I want for you to give me an actual reason to vote for you.
  • But there are no real reasons to vote for Clinton. She is lying, corrupt, say-anything-to-get-what-she-wants awful person. I wouldn’t in a million years vote for her. It has nothing to do with being a woman. It’s that I don’t trust that she has the best interests of the people at heart.
    • You could say that Trump is playing a similar con, could be, but it’s just not the same for me. Clinton is on a whole ‘nother level.

How I voted

I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed to say this in public, but…I voted for Trump. It was not an easy decision. I literally heavily contemplated voting for Sweet Meteor of Death. But I couldn’t. I could not screw with a decision of this magnitude. I knew it couldn’t be Hillary, so I had to make a case for Trump. Here’s my rationale:

  • I lean conservative generally speaking anyway, but I’m pretty moderate on many social issues. But economic issues are far, far more important to me. Unfortunately, Libertarians aren’t really an actual party at this time, so this is the best I’ve got. I don’t believe in big government, and I’m not sure Trump can do anything about that, but I do believe he can and will lower my taxes.
    • This is issue #1 for me. I’m tired of paying taxes to a government that wastes my money. I pay a shitload in taxes and I’ve had enough of it. I have had aspirations to open up a small business, but the regulations and red-tape of government have strangled the desire to do so.
  • I don’t actually believe Trump when he says he wants to do the radical things he wants to do (i.e. I don’t believe we’re going to build a giant wall; I believe maybe hiring more agents / drones / surveillance could be a “wall”). Maybe this is a bad case of Russian Roulette, but I generally believe he is opening with the most extreme position to compromise with something in the middle. He is a deal maker after all, this is what you do.
    • The best quote I’ve seen on this is, “the media/non-supporters takes his words literally, but not the candidate seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not his words literally”. This sums up how I feel as well. Could be wrong, I guess we’ll see.
  • I do generally agree that illegal immigration is a SERIOUS problem. It is not xenophobic to suggest that, *gasp*, people follow the freaking LAW! This is something that needs to be fixed and he is the ONLY person in politics that has had the balls to make it a central issue.
  • I condemn his words toward women and minorities. He can be brash, arrogant, and rude. But, other than hurting people’s feelings, I don’t view these as deal-breakers. He has been accused of groping people. But I find the timing suspect. I do not LITERALLY believe he grabs people by the pussy. He was joking. It’s slimy, but he was joking.
  • It boils down to words over actions. I’ve seen what Hillary has done. I haven’t seen what Trump can do. Would I vote for Trump over anyone else? No. But this is the turd sandwich versus giant douche I had to pick from. And I am a student of history and politics. The American system of democracy has checks and balances. He does not have unlimited power. He cannot unilaterally nuke countries. Military personnel cannot abide to unlawful acts. What if he screws up significantly? He’ll be impeached. What if he just really sucks? He’ll be gone in 4 years. We aren’t electing a dictator.
  • I will own this decision. If he fails, I will accept it. But here’s some food for thought: do you really think Trump *wants* to fail? In my mind, losing is the worst possible thing for him. I feel like he will work his ass off to “win”. Because that’s what he wants to define him. He wants to boost his brand. Clinton? She just wants power. I don’t trust her. At all. Again, maybe this is naive and Trump is just power-hungry too…but what the hell else choice did I have?
  • I truly believe Trump has the higher ceiling of the two. He seems like the most unstable, but the parallels to Reagan and the potential to unify the country seem higher to me. Say, you know, Trump doesn’t do crazy shit, and actually passes strong reforms that help many people. Is that so impossible to imagine?
    • With the Clintons? Hillary evading getting arrested / mired in scandal every week or Bill sticking his dick somewhere it shouldn’t go (I could go on and on about how baffling it is that Bill is basically near Cosby levels of predator stalking, but again, the media couldn’t care less).
  • Trump *seems* like the more Libertarian candidate, honestly. He is, well, basically very liberal / moderate on many social issues. Again, I just care about the conservative economic side…because, I’m very freaking responsible with my money. I’d like the government to be too.
  • I voted for the underdog. I’ve done it all my life. I like the story of the underdog better than the *expected result*.

Final thoughts

What I did *not* do was vote Trump because I’m: misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, or anti-woman. I’m not these things. People that make these arguments need to stop making strawman attacks. 60 million Trump voters are not racist. If you’re left-leaning or a Clinton supporter, you have to understand not everybody sees it your way. Life is infinite shades of gray. But holy crap with the temper tantrums. Let Trump actually screw up before you freak out.

Do I think Trump is an asshole? Yes. Is that worse than a perpetual liar and fraud? No. Not to me. Oh, and Obamacare. Not a fan. Analyze the exit poll data and make your own decision on what happened. The way I read it boils down to:

  • People wanted change.
  • They don’t like Obamacare.
  • They don’t believe Trump will / can devastate the country.
  • Latinos, youth, minorities didn’t show up. That, to me, is a problem with the Democratic candidate.

Insert generic Republican or generic Democrat and I think the whole thing changes. But that’s not what we got. We got a douche and a turd sandwich. And we get to do it all again in four years and hope for some better choices. We have the best system in the world and we should be proud of that. 

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