On the Subject of Remote Play

Warning: this post is about video games.

TL;DR: If remote play capability in the four walls of your home is a big deal for console choice, I suspect the Xbox One is a better solve for your problems.  It’s not like the PlayStation TV is a shit solution, but it’s sub-optimal due to its constrained TV output.  The Vita, with it’s shoddy control surface, is horrible in almost every way.  On a related note, make sure you get a DualShock 4 rather than recycling your DualShock 3s for your PS TV — the lack of a touch pad is killer.  Your PC can probably recycle your old Xbox 360 controllers, which is another plus in favour of Microsoft’s option.

Long version follows.

When I started my job with MSFT, I found myself on a plane a lot.  I also found myself relatively stressed — high pressure role, new company, lots to learn, you know the drill.  One of the ways I de-stress is by shooting things in the face.  Figuratively, of course.  When you’re in a hotel room with nothing for company aside from a nice view and a bad porn channel, things start to look pretty grim.

Enter: the PlayStation Vita.  I think we can all agree that this pretty device has a pretty shit line-up of it’s own software, but is presented — on paper, at least — as a respectable companion device for a PlayStation 4.  Remote play, baby.

The problem?  The cake is a lie.  The Vita has a great screen, superb battery life, and is very well made — for Vita stuff.  For remote play?  It has a super-average control surface for pretending to be a DualShock 4.  You want to use triggers, well those bad boys are mapped to the touch surface on the back.  This is horrible.  Despite agonised cries across the Internet for mapping the triggers to the shoulder buttons by default, well — I reckon you’re more likely to find a unicorn in Times Square than get Sony to change this (or for them to allow a configuration app).  The games that do well vs. shit is totally random — Destiny might float your boat and Elder Scrolls Online might make you want to self-harm.  And those thumbsticks — man.  Even if Destiny works, you’ll spend a lot of time shooting walls and the air and random motes of light instead of the Fallen.

I’ve relegated my Vita to my bag for playing the odd platform title that doesn’t blow goats balls (Heroes of Loot!), and instead equipped my home with a PlayStation TV for remote play “in da house.”  Sometimes the media temple is best used for playing HD versions of Downton Abbey, amirite?  When gaming needs to happen at other designated locations within the home, the PS TV is pretty good actually.  And was my gold standard, right up until Microsoft released their version of remote play for Windows / Xbox.

Wait.  It’s not like Microsoft’s solution somehow assassinates Sony’s service (although that’d be cool — corporate espionage turned to 11).  It’s because the Sony’s PS TV can’t do 1080p — it gives you a muddy 1080i (net effect being stuff looks a little blurry).  The Xbox version looks like a full 1080p — and my God, it’s full of stars.  I spent a lot of time yesterday playing Diablo 3 (remote play PS4, because Downton Abbey Christmas Special — and the finale), and today I feel like I’m going blind thanks to too much time in front of 1080i.  Contrast that to too much time remote playing Elite: Dangerous on Xbox One, which left me physically fine (but mentally drained).

The Xbox version does not work over the Internet (officially — there are reports in the wild of successful VPN or virtual DMZ implementations that work fine), but I’ve never had the Vita work in a meaningful way anyway (I challenge you to find the hotel Wi-Fi capable of pumping that kind of sustainable bandwidth in New Zealand).

For me, it looks like this:

Native play >> Xbox One remote play on a PC >>> PS4 remote play on a PS TV >>>>>> stabbing yourself > PS4 remote play on a PS Vita.

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