New Year, Old List: My Top Ten Favorite Video Games (as of 2020)

I have been wanting to do this for a long time and initially thought the process of narrowing down a “top ten” list for my favorite video games of all time would be easy. Fun fact, it was not. I had plenty of runner ups, and internal discussions on why something should make the list. At the end of the exercise, this is the list that I came up with and I am pretty proud of it to be honest. However, I specifically wanted to avoid rating them 1-10, 1 being the best game I have ever played. Each of these games equally is “the best game” I have ever played because each of the games is associated with partially a memory of the good times I had and the fun I experienced when playing the game. With that being said, here is my list!

Stardew Valley

Buy Stardew Valley - Microsoft Store

For me, this was an easy pick to add to my top 10 list. When Stardew Valley first released in February 26, 2016, I was not really sold. A great deal of my friends picked the game up and were instantly hooked, but I was still focused on playing Battlefield 4 and other more “mature” games than this. Farming? I did this in like, Harvest Moon on the Gamecube when I was a child! This is silly.

Flash forward to the year my wife and I found out we were expecting and I was heavily playing my switch. Stardew went on sale on the eshop, I bought it, and the rest is history. The game provides so many levels of a RPG that I long for in many games, but adds a career based element that is rewarding (yet challenging!) With the varying elements of a dating sim, a dungeon crawler, and a collectors dream haven-I was set. To this day, I have put in countess hours of this game and will continue to do so as more patches come out. I own this on almost every medium to provide myself with ultimate coverage. If you want to learn about how wholesome and humble the developer is-Eric Barone, you should check out the chapter in Blood, Sweat, PIxels: The Triumphant, Trublen Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made by Jason Schreier. If you thought you loved the game before, you will certainly gain the utmost respect for him after reading the chapter. 

Kingdom Hearts II

Amazon.com: Printing Pira Kingdom Hearts II Poster - PS2 Exclusive - Box Art  (11x17): Posters & Prints

You might be asking yourself, “Why not the first Kingdom Hearts?” Well, I would have put this on my list but once you introduce the ability to dual wield key blades, the rest is history. This series was my real introduction, as a child, to Square Enix and their world of RPGS (JRPGS to be specific, but I guess this could be a one off if you look at it the right way). I had no experience with Cloud from FF7 or know the silly and lovable characters of Dragon Quest. When it was introduced to me, I was instantly hooked on the fact that we had Disney characters involved in a JRPG style story filled with random elements of ship building and the constant battle of who to add into your party. 

While this game (and series) have some pretty telling flaws, like a story line running away in multiple directions, the game still grips me in every time I play it. I recently purchased a PS4 (yes trolls, in 2020) and bought the recent All in One collection for Kingdom Hearts, which includes the “remixes” and games that I missed over the years. In the process of purchasing the game, I also picked up the same strategy guide my parents and I used when running through the first and second game. Some people are rolling their eyes but LISTEN! They still had the stickers in the back of the book to help me track all the collectables! 

I truly look forward to making my way through the games and playing KH II again. It holds so many good memories (no a joke towards..the game…you know..) and still  holds up to the JRPGs being produced today. 

Halo: Reach

Halo Reach - Steam Gift - EUROPE - G2A.COM

I struggled with this one as I am/was a huge fan of the franchise. However, I think for most people it was all about just the game here. For me, it was different. I went further into the lore with this series and have read most, if not all, the books generated in this universe. That is why I was excited when it was announced that Halo: Reach was becoming an actual game. Halo: Fall of Reach was the first of the books I read in the Halo Universe and it immediately attached me to the characters that were never talked about in any of the existing games. When I got my hands on it, I remember playing at midnight in my dorm room while my roommates were asleep thinking to myself “Wow, this is perfect.” With the new addition of armor abilities that made sense, new weapons (including the DMR from ODST), Firefight( also from ODST), it was bound to find a spot on my top 10. 

The story, graphics, and overall gameplay was top notch, and along with ODST, were Bungie’s last call before they jumped ship from Microsoft. ODST came close to bump this off the list, but Halo:Reach truly is THE best Halo game out there. 

The Last of Us

The Last Of Us™ Remastered

At this current moment, I have not completed The Last of Us Part II, so I cannot put that on my list yet. But, I recently played through The Last of Us on PS3 at the end of 2019. Fun fact; I will remember this game forever because after playing it for the first time my wife went into labor 1 hour and 30min after I fell asleep. The longest day of my life, but it certainly will be one that I will remember for the birth of my daughter and finally being introduce to a game that would leave me hung over after I finished it. 

Simply put, this game induced every emotion in me. I would say it was not a “fun game to play” in the sense that I was jumping for joy on how joyful everything was. Not one bit. This game was challenging, but is a pure master piece. The story, the character interactions, the grief! Woof. I would recommend this game to everyone, because it appeals to all gamers in its own way. 

World of Warcraft-Legion

Legion - WoW

Now-I know what you are thinking. Really? World of Warcraft?

Then I say, really? Fortnite? 

In all seriousness, this is by far the best expansion year to date. For someone who has been playing World of Warcraft since the original game was released, this was the real winner. I continue to play on and off as it is a love hate relationship. I really enjoy the world, the ability to look for a raid (LFR), and the simplifying the talent tree as the game progressed. The level caps continue to increase but it needed something else. Legion brought that “something else” to the table with us returning back to characters I missed from the Burning Crusade and diving into the different factions of the Demon Hunters. Everything about this expansion made the game really enjoyable again to solo, or to play with your friends. I really wish there was not a subscription fee here because it is always the reason why I stop playing after time. I don’t want to be constantly thinking about the money I am spending to not play a game. Maybe they will eventually get away from that…but it is Blizzard….

The Legend fo Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Let's compare and contrast the US and European Legend of Zelda: Breath of the  Wild box art • Eurogamer.net

Cheers to the first Zelda game I ever finished! Crazy, I know, but I could never finish a Zelda game. Not sure why, but it was just not for me. But, this game changed it all. Lucious scenery, fantastic controls, lovable characters, CHALLENGING dungeons/shrines, got to have collectables, and superb DLC make this game the best open world RPG I have ever played. I don’t think I have to really convince anyone here on this, so I will leave it at that. 

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Save 65% on STAR WARS™ - Knights of the Old Republic™ on Steam

Arguably the best and last Star Wars game to date until Jedi Fallen Order came. I wish I still had the ability to find the stats for this game before steam on the original xbox because I played a ton of it. I played so much of it and needed more, I bought it for my first custom built PC, then again when it went on steam, and then again when it came to IOS. I used to play through the whole game at least once a year, every year, up until last year because I was always finding new paths I never followed, or conversations that I never had with my favorite characters. I was excited when it was announced that there would be an MMORPG game based on this universe, but unfortunately it was no where near as good as the original. Shame-Guess I will have to wait until the next equivalent comes out but my hope is pretty much lost since EA holds the future of that franchise in its hands……

Battlefield 2142

Amazon.com: Battlefield 2142 (DVD-ROM) - PC: Video Games

Growing up, I played plenty of Armored Core and one of my best friends loved everything mech. Something we also loved was Battlefield 2. So when Battlefield 2142 dropped, my best friends and I jumped on the chance to pilot mechs, fly futuristic helicopter jets, and orbital drop on or from the Titans. Battlefield 2142 took everything from Battlefield 2 and made it better. You still had your typical territory contention battles, but added a new mode “Titan Conquest” that incorporated the new Titans into the well known game type. Deploy from the Titan, man one of its many turrets, or take off from the hanger bay to take control of flag locations that housed missile silos that would weaken the enemy’s Titan shields. Raid the Titan, destroy it from within, and epically escape from the exploding ship in typical Michael Bay explosions.  I recently tried to play this game only to find the servers were all down. But! There is a pretty active community out there trying to kickstart some hosted servers to play on. I might be looking at that sooner rather than later. 

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare | Mac Steam Game | Fanatical

Call of Duty used to be known for its epic campaigns. So far, this one was the best. And…the multiplayer was pretty dang addicting too. So it may not be a shock to you that I not only 10th prestige’s my friends account by playing so much but also my own account. I would love to see the amount of hours I put into this game and I think my parents would be able to give you an idea too…

I don’t know how to describe why this game was so addicting or why multi-player did so well but I think it had something to do with the fact that it was the first Call of Duty game set in a “modern” setting, with well designed maps, and the addition of perks enhanced your gameplay made me throw countless hours into this game. I would love tell your that I didn’t miss out on social events because of this game, but that would be a big lie!

Pokémon Crystal

Pokémon Crystal Version | Game Boy Color | Games | Nintendo

It would not be a top 10 list without a Pokémon Game. Yes, I said it. I am lucky to have been alive when Pokémon Red/Blue was released. Again, countless hours poured into the Pokémon Franchise. However, I am partial to Red and Blue because of what they introduced me to. So, when Gold and Silver came out, then Crystal, it was really the best of both worlds. Gold/Silver/Crystal introduce us to a new region, but you are also able to go through the Kanto region as well! I mean, how cool! And updated graphics! I was sold. I really love the introduction of breeding here, which really made it easy to get every Pokémon you ever wanted. If you are discouraged by the graphics, try out HeartGold or SoulSilver. 

And that does it! I will add the top 10 list to the site and my twitter account for people to troll but I am glad to post this as my first post in the new year!

Non-Sysadmins can run SPs Too!

One of the things I have been focusing on lately is improving the processes that are currently in place and to automate tasks to give myself (and my colleague) more time focusing on larger projects. Most recently, I began writing some knowledge base for our help desk that would walk agents through basic troubleshooting steps. The hope was to have them gather some information up front (active connections, blocking sessions etc) to help speed up the resolution time for us. Since the agents are not system admins, they lack the necessary rights to gather certain data…or do they?

The following articles ( Brent Ozar and Adam Machanic) walk through how to create “certificates” that, through steps you can follow through, will allow non-sysadmins the ability to execute specific stored procedures. In my example, I will use sp_whoisactive (sp for activity monitoring), but ANY stored procedure will work.

Creating A Certificate

USE master 
GO

CREATE CERTIFICATE sp_whoisactiveCERT
ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = 'EnterYourPasswordHERE' 
WITH SUBJECT = 'Who is Active', 
--START_DATE = 'If you want the cert to activate at a certain time, enter it here'
EXPIRY_DATE = '9999-12-31' 
GO

Great, now we have the certificate created, we can move on to creating the user from the certificate.

Creating The User

CREATE LOGIN sp_whoisactive_login
FROM CERTIFICATE sp_whoisactiveCERT
GO

Simple enough right? The next bit is to grant permissions, and since I want this to be as “tied down” as much as possible, we are going to grant the login VIEW SERVER STATE. This will grant the ability to return server state information from Dynamic Management Views and Functions, that can be used to monitor the health of a server and diagnose issues. I do not want the agents to have the ability to anything more than that. More on Dynamic Management Views and Functions can be found here.

Granting Permissions

GRANT VIEW SERVER STATE 
TO sp_whoisactive_login
GO

With the necessary rights applied, we are ready to move to the final step. We will need to add the signature to the actual stored procedure (sp_whoisactive in this case).

Adding A John Hancock

ADD SIGNATURE TO sp_WhoIsActive 
BY CERTIFICATE sp_whoisactiveCERT
WITH PASSWORD = 'This is the same password you used for the certificate creation' 
GO

I should mention, it would help if you have sp_whoisactive installed first before you execute the last steps. But after that you are done!

Final Remarks

Huge shout out to Brent and Adam for providing the great details on how to utilize this “feature” in SQL Server, and making it easy to implement. As I said earlier, you can really implement this with any stored procedure. In a future post, I will be showing off a simple powershell script that will help you keep track of updating any of your “third-party” stored procedures that you have implemented into your arsenal across multiple servers. Until next time, thanks for reading, leave a comment below, or reach out to me if you have any questions!

Time is Relevant

In college, I remember staying up until 3am playing video games and not caring about the repercussions of waking up tired only a few hours later for school or work. Flash forward 6 years later and I can barely make 11pm on a good night even after having coffee at 8pm. Somehow, I have found ways to squeeze playing video games in between playing with my daughter, spending time with my wife, and doing life’s chores. If you know me well, I am very much a planner; so if you fit that “categorization”, here are some suggestions on how to make the best of your time (and keep everyone happy!)

Pick what you want to play, not what everyone else is playing

The biggest problem I face is the fear of missing out (FOMO) when new games come out. A perfect example is when The Last of Us Part II came out recently, IT KILLED me that I could not experience everything first with the crowd. But I didn’t have access to a PS4 and I was already heavily into finishing Star Wars: Fallen Order. So, I stuck with the itch; the itch to keep playing Fallen Order because it was what I was enjoying! Scratch that itch and do not make it complicated!

Make time for spouse first, then yourself

One factor of being a parent is your free time is either during the day at nap time or when your kids are in bed. During the day, you would take advantage of the nap time hustle to get chores or other things done around the house. Then, when the sun sets, you have time after the kids are drooling on their pillows. Hold up! I know you are thinking, “Sweet! I can go play video games every night.” For some people it may work out that way, but for me it was extremely important to make sure my wife and I had time each week where 2-3 nights we spent watching shows together, asking each other how we are doing (mental checks), and sometimes just going to bed early! The rest of the nights are yours to play to your hearts content! And, who is to say you can’t play your Switch when your spouse falls asleep!

Have a “Spot”

Having a “spot” for me to play video games or work on hobbies has been crucial. Now, that same space is where I work from home, but having a specific place to go play and relax makes the experience more enjoyable. Some nights I would just play the Switch in bed while my wife slept, but recently I have been making it a point to leave the dark bedroom (which would make me fall asleep playing because it was too comfy) and play games in the basement. With a separate spot to play, It kept me up a-little longer, I could occasionally play something with friends, and I could enjoy a few beverages some times while relaxing. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but just something where you can go and decompress.

At the end of the day (cliche), the main thing is that there has to be a balance. Regardless if you want to be an adult or not, you can’t just play video games all day. Unless you are a streamer, or play competitively, or…well..you get the point.

If you want to hear more about what I have to say about this topic,and my two other co-hosts, check out episode 86 of The Pretty-Okay Gamers Podcast: Right On Schedule.

Learning How to Log Ship

For my first real post, I wanted to share my experience with Microsoft SQL Server’s feature “Log Shipping.” This was one of my first major implementations and I am pretty proud of what it has become. I will not explain log shipping in this post, as that may be for another time. If you would like to learn more about log shipping, and how it works, check out the link below!

Books online

SQLShack

My implementation was to provide a solution that would give users the ability to generate reports off a database that was refreshed with data more frequently than 24 hours. And that is all I can really tell you to avoid losing my job. So, here are the details (from a high level, removing sensitive information) on my setup. 

Primary Server (also acting as the monitoring server)
Database: theRetroDBAdb
LS_Alert job set to 120 min
LS_Backup job set to every 30 min

Secondary Server
Database: theRetroDBAdbLS
Standby Mode Enabled with “Disconnect Users When Restoring” active
LS_Copy job runs every 30 min
LS_Restore job runs every hour, on the hour

Backup Server (accessed through the network)
Holds all backups created through maintenance plan
Under the “theRetroDBAdb” folder, two folders were created (Copy, Backup) and the files would go into their respective folders. 

Lessons Learned

  1. Remove the LS_database from any backup maintenance plan, this includes log,difs, and fulls
    • This was something that I did not anticipate being a problem, but after a colleague mentioned removing the log shipped db from the existing maintenance plan, it resolved on of our issues with the log shipping chain breaking. I had been told that the log shipped dbs were ignored, as long as the primary db was backed up. Well, by removing the log shipped db from the maintenance plan, we no longer ran into issues…until VEEAM backups were executed
    • I decided to reach out to the community to shed more light on the question regarding excluding the LS db form maintenance plans. You can follow the responses in this Stack Exchange question.
  2. If you have VEEAM backups, make sure application-aware processing handles logs (transaction logs) with COPY ONLY.
    • Another obscure issue that we ran into was due to VEEAM backups taking place and breaking the log chain. Luckily, my Senior DBA had read something prior to my pilot of the “Application-Aware Processing” feature in VEEAM. Under this feature was a setting that handled the processing of the transaction logs on db servers. The setting was set to “Process transaction logs with this job”.  
    • What we needed was “Perform Copy Only” which allows SQL Server to manage the transaction logs. Now, if we did not have log shipping on this server, I am not sure it would have been an issue. However, once we changed this setting we no longer saw log chain breakage over the weekened when the VEEAM backups would take place. 
  3. Set the alert to twice the restore timetable 
    • This is an optional thing, but I have noticed that some servers would kick off the alert because there was not a valid log backup to apply, but the chain was not broken. If I let the process continue, eventually the alerts would stop once a valid log backup was found. This caused a few panics and then quick realization that nothing was technically wrong with log shipping, it was just doing its job to inform me that no restore had taken place. Since our restore jobs were set to 1 hour, I adjusted the alert to 2 hours. This way, if something was actually wrong and the alert was triggered, I probably needed to look at it! 
  4. Seperate your data and log file (optional)
    • I chose to have the LS copy to go to separate drives than the default data file path, as I did with the log.
    • Again, this was more specific to our infrastructure, but I can see the benefit of having the log shipped copy and log file on seperate drives than the secondary’s default location. For my company, it made sense due to space allocation restraints and the ability to delete/remove the disk drive log shipping was shipping to in order to save space for the host in an emergency. Since our log shipped dbs are used for reporting, they can be removed in the case of a storage emergency. However, I think it is overall a great practice to separate, if possible, your log shipping copies from the other databases housed on our secondary server. 
  5. Entertain various restore time lines (30min, 1 hour, 12 hours, etc) 
    • We were not given a specific increment that these restore jobs needed to take place. The current solution we had in place, which utilized a SSIS package, created full backups and restored the database on the secondary server every 24 hours. Anything better than 24 hours was a win, so we started with 30 min. The 30 min restore ran into some contention as other backup jobs were writing to the backup server the log shipping copy and restore jobs were pulling from. So, we moved it up to 45 min and then an hour to make life easier for our reporting team to relay to our users the downtime (for restoring) for the datasource. Even though the restore process takes litteral seconds, as it’s just restoring a log backup, it was necessary to inform the users if they tried to run a report at the top of the hour that it would more than likely fail.

And that does it for this post. Have suggestions of your own? Or, do you have any good log shipping stories you would like to share? Post a comment below!

EXEC sp_firstpost;

Well, we are here! The first official post of theRetroDBA site, and I still haven’t given up on this yet. How about that for the “cancel culture” boomer?

All jokes aside, welcome to the site! However you got here, I am overly thrilled to have you. And welcome trolls, please feel free to comment on my blog posts. I am more than happy to have a nice glass of bourbon and laugh at the time you have wasted to try and seem like you are cool.

Anywho, my name is Justin Frye and I have too many hobbies. Funny enough, they all seem to connect in some way. Thus, here we are! You can find more about me in my “About Me” page or take a listen to the podcast I co-host with two of my friends. To fund these hobbies, I work during the day as a Database Administrator using the power of google to search the community for ways to save my self from failure, and learning from a talented Senior DBA who likes to throw me into the deep-end for fun. 

While this post will not specifically have a “theme”, many of the future posts will. It is in my DNA to try and organize everything-so you will get used to my antics pretty quickly. Some posts will be about providing the community with tips/tricks/guides on how to do something in the database realm that I found helpful/useful. Or I will post something regarding video games or the collection. Heck, I will even try a promote the podcast here too! 

So join me in this adventure, which I am sure will be a fun ride. Hopefully you can take something away after reading some of my work. Take a listen to the podcast, check out my wish list for my collection (if you are looking to sell/donate let me know), and subscribe to me through your favorite RSS readers! Yes-they still have them and I am still holding on to the best way to consume text media on the internet. 

 

Live Long and Prosper