My Panasonic Lumix G7 with 20mm 1.8 Panasonic Lens
My G7 with a 20mm f/1.7 Lens

A couple of years ago, I bought a Panasonic Lumix G7 mirrorless camera. Folks like EposVox were touting it as one of the best budget cameras you could buy. It was capable of recording 4K video, had high-quality interchangeable lenses, and was very affordable compared to its competition. I wanted to use it to record the occasional one-off video and to use during live streams. It could produce a better-looking and higher framerate video than the trusty Logitech C920 I had at the time.

Check out EposVox’s video about the G7

I also got an Elgato CamLink, a micro HDMI cable (ugh), and a dummy battery to keep it running from a power outlet. After setting it all up, I quickly ran into a problem. When recording, the continuous autofocus on the camera seemed to track me pretty well, but you’re not actually recording anything when hooked up to the CamLink. Instead, you’re just sending a signal out via HDMI, so the camera was not autofocusing. The G7 isn’t known for having the best continuous autofocus system, which is fine, but in this case, it wasn’t working at all. So I dove into the menus.

I finally found a bit of a misleading entry called Quick AF. In the menu, it says that it will autofocus when the jitter of the camera stops. I’m not sure if this camera has a built-in accelerometer, but I thought this meant if you shook the camera body around, it would autofocus when you stopped. But what I think it means is instead a jitter in the frame. So if there is movement in the frame, when the action stops, it will autofocus. So kind of like continuous autofocus, but you don’t have to be recording. After turning this setting on, I seem to have a much more consistent autofocus-like behavior. It still isn’t the best, and it can still be slow at times, hunt for focus, and have a bit of a focus breathing problem. Either way, it’s better than no autofocus.

Back of the Panasonic Lumix G7 showing the menu system
Quick AF is on the second page of the second settings menu from the top

If you’re running into a similar issue, try checking out the Quick AF setting. I messed with some of the other focus settings in the menu, and nothing else seemed to have much of an impact unless you’re recording. Have you had any good or bad experiences using a G7 for live streaming or have a better solution to this problem?

Mario Kart 7 on a New Nintendo 3DS
Mario Kart 7 on a New Nintendo 3DS

Back in 2019, I attended the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. While I was there, I picked up all the handheld Mario Kart games that came out over the years since I skipped over them when they were initially released. So I got Mario Kart Super Circuit, Mario Kart DS, and Mario Kart 7. I planned to play Mario Kart 7 first, but it already had existing save data on the game card.

There were no data reset options in the menus, though there were in the earlier released Mario Kart DS. Also, the printed manual that comes with the game doesn’t even tell you how to reset the data. Instead, you need to launch the digital manual on your 3DS. I never even knew there was such a thing as a digital manual! I don’t want to make this data reset post a recurring theme here, but I thought others might find this helpful.

You can delete your save data by pressing and holding A + B + X + Y simultaneously after starting the software, when the Mario Kart 7 logo is displayed.

Mario Kart 7 Digital Manual
The Mario Kart 7 Digital Manual

Anyway, I got the data to reset and started the game over. It’s taken me nearly two years (on and off), but I finally fought through the hand cramps and 3-starred every cup in all four classes, 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and Mirror.

What is your all-time favorite Mario Kart game or course? I’m interested to hear.

Ten Switch games in a Game Boy clamshell case
Ten Nintendo Switch games in a Game Boy clamshell case

When planning for a trip a while back, I found a cool little hack for safely bringing ten Nintendo Switch games with me. I have the official Nintendo Carrying Case, which only has slots for five game cards. While that might seem like a decent number for a short trip, I have the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to video games, and I wanted to bring more than that. I didn’t want to take each game’s entire case with me, and I didn’t want to keep loose cards in my bag or the mesh pocket of my carrying case. So I looked around my apartment for something that could hold a few more games.

I eventually found my way around to my Game Boy collection and saw those plastic clamshell protective cases the games came in and thought of a great idea. I was sure I could fit a bunch of Switch games in one, and I was right. I managed to fit ten games with a bit of creative tetrising, and I even had some space left over. If you put three game cards horizontal and two vertical, you should have room for two layers. Then, to keep the games from sliding around, I wanted to find something to fit in that extra space. It turns out it was just the right size for a drinking straw, so I cut a piece down and fit it in snugly.

Now I’m not claiming to have invented this or being the first to find it out, but I did discover it independently. I have since found others’ posts about it on Reddit and elsewhere, but the drinking straw part, that’s all me. I haven’t seen anyone else do that. Even Hyperkin has made a retail version available, but it only fits eight games. So all that to say, if you have any of this stuff lying around, you could MacGyver yourself a pretty simple DIY Switch game case. Let me know if you try it out.

Clone Hero Main Menu
The Clone Hero Main Menu

Guitar Hero is not a game I’ve thought about for quite some time. Back in their heyday, I bought practically every Guitar Hero (and later Rock Band) game that came out. Well, except the Nintendo DS version because it looked lame, and not Guitar Hero: Metallica because fuck those guys. My inner 16-year-old still harbors resentment from when they sued Napster.

The developers stopped making these games a couple of years ago, and as console generations came and went, they kind of fell out of my mind. That was until I watched The Completionist stream Dance Dance Revolution on Twitch. What he was playing, I think, was actually StepMania, a free dance rhythm game for PC, Mac, and Linux. StepMania is obviously based on DDR, and the community has released packs that contain the songs from many, if not all, of the DDR and DDR-like arcade and console games.

This immediately made me think back to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. I knew there must exist a project that tried to do the same thing for them—compiling all of the songs from the many games into an easy and free experience. I’m pretty sure there was an official way to import Rock Band songs into Rock Band 2, but beyond that, you had to switch game discs if you wanted to play other songs. I remembered being introduced to Frets on Fire years ago, but I think that was more or less its own thing and was made to be played with your computer’s keyboard. So, after a bit of googling, I turned up on Clone Hero.

Clone Hero is, as the title suggests, a clone of Guitar Hero. It was developed in Unity by “some idiots,” their words, not mine (select Credits from the main menu). The interface is heavily influenced by the Guitar Hero games with circular notes instead of the rectangular ones found in Rock Band. It is compatible with many guitar controllers, and the community has compiled this spreadsheet full of songs and setlists you can download for the game. You can get practically all the songs from the numerous Guitar Hero and Rock Band games and DLC. If you want to know which guitar controllers work, there is another spreadsheet for that. Who knew gamers had such an affinity for spreadsheets?

As you can imagine, after seeing all of this, I was elated to finally have the full-library Guitar Hero game I always wanted. But at the same time, utterly distraught because a few years ago, I threw out all of my guitar controllers during a move. So I took to eBay, and wow, the guitar controllers sure are more expensive than I thought.

I was lucky in that I bought an “untested” Xbox 360 Les Paul guitar controller for a pretty fair price, and it turned out that it actually worked! But, unfortunately, it was covered in stickers, and all the Goo Gone in the world couldn’t have removed them. I don’t know what super nano-material those pack-in stickers were made out of. So I sanded them off of the faceplate and just re-painted it matte black. I also needed to purchase an Xbox 360 Wireless Controller adapter to get it connected to my PC. Another thing I owned in the past and regretfully sold. Now that I’m fully kitted out, I’ve been having a lot of fun playing, although I am very rusty. If you were a Guitar Hero or Rock Band fan and still have one of the compatible controllers, I really suggest you download it and try it out.

Did you have a favorite song to play in any of the games? I was a big fan of playing the Coheed and Cambria songs in the original Rock Band, especially multiplayer.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

If you happened to come across the Games page linked in the footer, I thought I would quickly share my inspiration for it. I remember a while back, probably many years now, seeing a similar list that designer, developer Shaun Inman had been keeping on his website. It inspired me to keep my own list, but I started and stopped so many times and lost older ones. Shaun even wrote a blog post about why he started his, so I guess that link is kind of an inspiration Inception.

I’ve been keeping my current list updated for a couple of years now and hope to continue doing so. It has fewer columns than Shaun’s, just ones for what I’m playing, what I’ve finished, and things I started and might get back to at some point. It’s also helpful because it’s an indicator of what you might see me play on Twitch on the hopefully less rare occasions that I do stream.

Let me know if you’d like to see me add more information to this page or if keeping it simple is the way to go.

WD Black Gaming Harddrive
My 5TB WD_Black Game Drive

If you’re like me, you’ve no doubt accumulated a large number of games throughout the previous (still kind of weird to say that) console generation. I had a launch PlayStation 4, which only had a 500GB hard drive, and then upgraded to PlayStation 4 Pro with 1TB. Even physical, disc-based games required massive installs and updates, so I constantly found myself running out of space. I always had to delete and re-install games as I acquired new ones. This became particularly tricky with multiplayer games that friends and I would fall in and out of. Once in a while, someone would want to play something and then the rest of us had to wait hours to download it again.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and purchase an external drive to use, and I sure am happy that I did. So I bought the 5TB WD_Black Game Drive. It hovers around the $150 mark but can often be found discounted. I currently have over 100 games installed on the drive, a mix of physical and digital.

I was initially worried that the performance would be slower than running games off the internal drive, but I was wrong. Performance is not an issue at all. Loading times are on par with what I am used to. And it makes it super easy to attach the drive to any of my PlayStation 4+ consoles to access my game library, PS4, PS4 Pro, and now my PlayStation 5.

While this isn’t an exhaustive or technical review, I did want to share my opinion. If you’ve been on the fence about buying an external drive or worried about the performance, I say just go for it. It has been a worthwhile investment and definitely one of the most useful PlayStation accessories I own.

And while I didn’t test it with my Xbox One (I don’t have that many games for the platform), I’m sure the performance characteristics are similar and would be just as worthwhile. Do you have the drive and an Xbox One? Let me know about your experiences with it.

I recently started playing Fantasian on Apple Arcade. It’s an incredible game from Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Mistwalker Corporation. If you haven’t played it, you definitely should. I think Apple Arcade is predominantly used on iPhones and iPads, but those who want to can get a more console-like experience with an Apple TV and controller. Since tvOS 13 released in 2019, you’ve been able to pair PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers to Apple TV (really any Apple device), giving you a much more familiar feel.

I personally have Apple Arcade running on a spare 4th Gen. Apple TV from 2015. It’s capable of full HD output and runs games well even though it is a bit aged at this point. To pair with it, I needed to find a suitable controller. Since I didn’t have any spare PlayStation 4 controllers, I looked at my Xbox controller stock. And now we find ourselves at the titular conundrum. How do you know which of the many Xbox One controller revisions are even compatible with Apple TV?

Early Xbox One controllers did not use Bluetooth but were instead running on 2.4GHz wireless. It wasn’t until later revisions that they switched to Bluetooth. The simplest way I have found to know which you have is by looking at the controller’s build. More info can be found on this Xbox Support page. If the section of the controller that has the Xbox button seamlessly transitions into the rest of the controller body, it has Bluetooth. If the section with the Xbox button is distinctly a separate piece, it does not have Bluetooth.

Once you have identified that you have a Bluetooth Xbox Wireless controller, the rest should be pretty straightforward. You can pair it with your Apple TV by going to the Bluetooth settings menu on Apple TV and pressing the Pair button on top of the controller. After a few seconds, it should show up.

Now that I have this setup, I might play a couple more Apple Arcade games after finishing Fantasian. World of Demons from PlatinumGames looks pretty cool too. Any Apple Arcade games you’re interested in playing? I would love some more recommendations.

Space Invaders cartridge in a Super Game Boy in the Analogue Super Nt.
Space Invaders cartridge in a Super Game Boy

In 1994, Nintendo released a pair of arcade classics on Game Boy. There was a really great version of Donkey Kong and this kind of meh version of Space Invaders. Like many children in the 90s, I barely left home without my Game Boy. Some games are permanently burned in my memory, and I remember playing them over and over again, like Final Fantasy Adventure. But I found Space Invaders pretty forgettable, even though I’ve kept it all these years. Not sure what I was really expecting when I bought it as a kid. With Donkey Kong, Nintendo added a lot more content, but Space Invaders was seemingly just a straight-up port.

I probably never would have played it again, but then I listened to episode 15 of the Nintendo Power Podcast. One of the guests mentioned a hidden Super Nintendo game on the Space Invaders cartridge that is only accessible via Super Game Boy. How cool is that! So what did I do? I went and grabbed the games and started it up. At that time, many Game Boy games had specific color palettes or borders on Super Game Boy. Space Invaders had to outdo them all and included an entirely different game mode.

I’m genuinely amazed that other developers didn’t wind up including stuff like this in their games after seeing it done. I think it’s such a clever idea, and there are countless very creative things you can probably do with it. So while the game itself isn’t that interesting, I’m happy I have it in my collection. Especially now that I know the secret that it holds within.

With all the talk of digital storefronts being shut down (I’m looking at you PS3, PSP, and Vita) as well as digital games being delisted (Mario’s 35th anniversary), it got me thinking. I never owned a PlayStation Vita, but I did buy a PlayStation TV a couple of years ago. If you’ve never heard of it, PlayStation TV is basically a screen-less mini Vita that you can play with a PS3 controller and hook up to a TV with HDMI. One of the first games I purchased was Adventures of Mana. It is a 3D remake of Final Fantasy Adventure, a game I played the heck out of on my Game Boy when I was a kid. It is only available digitally on Vita and on iOS and Android.

Eventually, Collection of Mana was released, but it only included the original Game Boy version, not the remake. There was also a 3D Secret of Mana remake released for PlayStation 4, Vita, and Windows. Both of these games, I think, would fit perfectly on the Switch. The Trials of Mana remake was just released on Switch, so I am amazed there is no Switch version of the other two games.

With the Vita shop being shut down, it will be a lot harder for fans of this series to play Adventures of Mana. So this is my plea to Square Enix. Please release this game on Nintendo Switch. And while you’re at it, the Secret of Mana remake on Switch would be great too. Why keep it locked on PlayStation 4 and Vita? Perhaps you can make a Collection of Mana 2 that includes all the remakes instead of the originals.

Sure it’s still available on mobile platforms, but for how long? Will they continue to be updated for newer OS versions? And let’s be honest, I just don’t like playing in-depth, story-driven, multi-hour games on my phone.

Do you have any favorite digital games that might be lost forever if more digital storefronts get shut down?

Photograph of the AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra
AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra

I recently bought an AVerMedia Live Game Ultra to replace my few-year-old Elgato HD60 S. I wanted something that can pass through 4K video from current consoles like Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. While also allowing me to downsample to record and stream in HD. And I figured it could be valuable to try out an AVerMedia product because up until now, I have primarily used Elgato.

The Live Gamer Ultra captures video and audio separately, which is a bit different if you’re used to Elgato products. The way I had mine set up in OBS is what caused my problem. I first added a Video Capture Device and set it to the Live Gamer Ultra. Then in the settings for that source, I checked the box to use a custom audio device and selected HDMI (Live Gamer Ultra-Audio) from the dropdown.

It seemed to work fine for a while, but after a few minutes of recording or streaming, the audio would drift and no longer sync up with the video. I thought it was maybe a framerate issue, so I tried both 59.94 and 60 fps, and the problem was present in both.

Ultimately the solution I found was to set up the audio as a separate source. You need to add a new Audio Input Capture and choose the correct option from the dropdown. Once I did this, everything seemed to work fine. I’m not sure if the problem is more with the AVerMedia device or with OBS itself. Still, it appears that when set as the video source’s custom audio device, the drifting issue is present, so separate the audio and video.

It makes my OBS setup a little messier, having two sources and two sets of meters in the Audio Mixer. But to avoid that, I just wound up hiding the video source’s audio meters in the mixer. Then I created a nested scene containing both the video and audio sources to add to other scenes.

I thought maybe I was clever in how I had it set up, but instead, I caused myself some problems. If you have the Live Gamer Ultra, just set it up as multiple sources instead of trying to be fancy. Things should work better, and you can get back to streaming or recording.

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