tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Music to kick ass to

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, so here it is!

Sometimes when you play a particularly well-put-together game, there are moments when everything just comes together – you enter an awesome looking area ready to engage in an epic battle…and then the incredible background music kicks in. More often than not the music helps set the tone and the atmosphere for the upcoming part of the game, and there are some games that just knock it out of the park in this respect.

This has happened to way more times than I can count, so I thought I should chronicle some of the tracks I’ve encountered in video games that make me feel like going forth and laying waste to my enemies (in the video game, of course). I’ve also provided links to go buy these awesome soundtracks wherever possible because you should support the creative people who compose these tracks, and not be a filthy pirate.

So, in no particular order!

Rules of Nature – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

brb SLICING A METAL GEAR IN HALF

MGR:R was my personal Game of the Year for 2013, and it starts on one hell of a high note. Really, the entire soundtrack from that game could conceivably show up on this list but I’m going to put Rules of Nature here because it hits you hard from the get go with an awesome boss fight against a Metal Gear, and the game makes full use of dynamic mixing to play the best parts of the track at crucial moments in the fight.

Buy it here: Amazon.com

Storm – Serious Sam 3: BFE

WAAAARR

This is the BGM for a boss fight that pretty much comes out of nowhere. You’ve spent the last thirty minutes or so fighting hordes of aliens in the ruins of Cairo when you emerge into a somewhat more open area with harpies everywhere. You take potshots at them for a while, wondering what’s coming next – and then a giant warship teleports into the sky above you, and an angry man screams “WAAAR!”

If that’s not a perfect setup to an ass-kicking, I don’t know what is.

Buy it here: Steam (you get it as a bonus with the game, which you should play anyway because it’s brilliant)

The Time Has Come – Devil May Cry 4

Party’s gettin’ crazy

DMC4 is a game I feel rather conflicted about, since it has strong points but it does a lot of things I find irritating as well. That said, Nero’s battle theme is definitely one of the strong points. Somehow it never really gets old even after playing the game for hours on end, and considering how much fighting you do in that game that’s a huge deal.

Buy it here: Amazon

Give Me a Break – Guilty Gear Xrd

GURLFRIEND

This game isn’t even out yet (although I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy, based on what I played at Evo), but Sol’s new theme kind of rocks. The opening chords really just set the tone really well for running in and Dust Looping the crap out of your opponent.

Buy it here: You can’t actually buy the OST yet, but here’s the opening theme which is pretty awesome too

KDD-0075 – The King of Fighters XI

I love this track, but Kula is annoying

I think this was the first track from KOF XI that I heard in a match video, and it’s probably my favourite track on the whole OST. The aggressive backbeat and bass suit K’s team perfectly, which is nice because you got to hear this track a lot while playing KOF XI because of how many people picked Kula as their leader (did she really need an invincible DP, SNKP?)

Buy it here: I actually can’t find this for sale anywhere, and it doesn’t seem to be available on any digital music sites either.

This list is by no means exhaustive and there are probably a ton of tracks I missed, but here are the few that popped into my head most readily.

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E3 2014 roundup

Basically what I think this year’s E3 sealed for me was the fact that I’m going to end up owning all three consoles again this generation. As it probably should be.

As it stands these are the main things that piqued my interest:

  • Scalebound
    No in-game footage shown but it’s being made by Platinum Games and it’s being directed by Hideki Kamiya. So yeah, I have to play this no matter what. Also dragons are cool.
  • Phantom Dust
    Never played the Xbox original but I heard good things about it. Might as well jump in with the remake!
  • Assassin’s Creed Unity
    I was really intrigued by both the single-player and the co-op they showed and the setting (18th-century Paris) is probably the most interesting one they’ve used since Assassin’s Creed II.
  • Far Cry 4
    Again, great setting, looks great and open-ended, and the villain seems to be a real basket case who should be fun to take down. Also co-op!
  • Bloodborne
    Hidetaka Miyazaki’s new game seems to eschew the medieval setting for something slightly more modern (as in the 19th century) but I will be playing it since I liked Dark Souls a lot.
  • Uncharted 4
    These games have always been good so yeah, more please!

There were other things too of course – The Division continues to look stunning, Battlefield Hardline looks like a way more fun take on cops vs robbers than Payday 2 and I’m kind of torn between The Crew and Forza Horizon 2 in terms of figuring out what my next racing game fix should be.

On a random note, I do think it’s hilarious that Platinum Games is now three for three in getting me to buy consoles that I don’t own. I bought an Xbox 360 to play Bayonetta (because the PS3 version was sketchy), I’m buying a Wii U to play Bayonetta 2 (and The Wonderful 101) and now I’m going to be buying an Xbox One to play Scalebound (there were other things I wanted to play on it, but this just pushed me over the edge).

As for Nintendo, well, I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say that this was probably the best thing shown in all of E3:

Masterfully remixed

I will say the new Zelda looks nice at least, and that the new Smash Bros seems to be coming along quite nicely. Devil’s Third being on Wii U is also a bit of a surprise but it’s a nice additional incentive to get one.

But yeah, I’ll probably end up owning all three consoles again. I don’t know when I’ll buy what (will probably get a Wii U soon, a PS4 once Guilty Gear Xrd drops and an Xbox One once…Forza Horizon 2 or that Halo collection drops, but that’s just an estimate right now).

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Not quite Mach 1

I had some trepidation when I heard the next Sonic game was going to be outsourced to a Western studio with some Naughty Dog alumni, complete with new character designs and a Knuckles who looked like he had been drinking nothing but protein shakes for the last ten years. But hey, it might not turn out so bad, right?

Well some in-game footage apparently leaked ahead of E3 and it really hasn’t inspired any confidence in me:

Oh god shut up already

The main three takeaways I had were:

  1. The last time we had an ‘in-depth’ (by which I mean incredibly shallow) combat system in a Sonic game it didn’t turn out so well.
  2. I thought one of the key takeaways from Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog was that the characters really need to keep quiet. That seems to have been tossed in the bin for this iteration and I don’t know that the quality of the banter on show here justifies that decision.
  3. The platforming/speed sections look…serviceable, I suppose. I’m not seeing anything amazing that would necessitate a purchase at this point (especially compared to the daytime stages in Unleashed or Generations as a whole), but it doesn’t look bad, at least.

Overall, unless they show something else that blows me away at E3 I’m probably still going to be in ‘wait and see’ mode. I’m not going to quibble about it not being 100% like the older 3D Sonics but it appears to be rather…vanilla.

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Warning: Pedantry ahead

I’ve been watching (and enjoying) the new take on Carl Sagan’s classic Cosmos series about the universe (this time around hosted by the entertaining Neil deGrass Tyson), but I’m not too good about watching stuff when it’s initially broadcast (and I don’t have a DVR), so I’ve been watching it after the fact on Hulu.

It was during one such catchup session that Dr Tyson stated emphatically that ‘the theory of evolution is a scientific fact’.

Before you ask me if I’m a creationist or an intelligent design advocate, I don’t disagree with the spirit of the statement made. Also, I’m disappointed that you have such a low opinion of me. That said, I would hope that a programme supposedly trying to raise public interest in science would be a bit more rigorous in terms of making statements like that, i.e. something like ‘Evolution is the theory that is best supported by the evidence that we have collected so far’. The original statement implies evolution is incontrovertible, whereas the version here suggests that we may discard it and seek a new theory if new evidence surfaces that cannot be reconciled with the current theory. Which is in fact what scientists on the cutting edge of the discipline do routinely.

Probably not snappy enough for TV?

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I’m watching anime again

Which anime, you ask? Well…

poses

Fabulous.

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Unlockable difficulties need to die in a fire

I spent a good thirty minutes or so trying to think of a witty title for the piece I’m about to write, at which point a phrase I had used to describe my position on the subject to a friend popped into my head. “That’ll do,” I thought.

Enough foreplay – let’s get down to business.

Click here to read more >>

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Another late night on IRC

[23:19] <@xephyris> i was asking a friend if he had bought deus ex
[23:19] <@xephyris> it came out as desu ex
[23:19] <@Iie-Kyo> lol
[23:19] <@SonicTempest> lol
[23:19] <@SonicTempest> get on making that mod

[23:54] <@xephyris> so this desu ex mod
[23:54] <@xephyris> what should be in it
[23:55] <@SonicTempest> all UNATCO agents replaced with Suiseiseki
[00:12] <@xephyris> should call it Desu X
[00:12] <@xephyris> suiseiseki vs x-japan
[00:12] <@SonicTempest> lol
[00:12] <@SonicTempest> don’t you know
[00:12] <@SonicTempest> X Japan have some crazy powers
[00:13] <@SonicTempest>
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhoqBgpTu00 here’s my evidence
[00:14] <@SonicTempest> fwiw, correlation between the PV and the song lyrics? none whatsoever w
[00:14] <@xephyris> www
[00:14] <@xephyris> i figured they did an OP for this animation or something
[00:14] <@xephyris> no, huh w
[00:15] <@SonicTempest> no this is the actual PV for this song w
[00:15] <@xephyris> it’s got a HnK vibe for some reason
[00:15] <@xephyris> also, x japan can fly
[00:15] <@xephyris> this proves it
[00:17] <@SonicTempest> w
[00:18] <@SonicTempest> also the drummer can fire Kamehamehas
[00:18] <@xephyris> lol
[00:18] <@SonicTempest> and is apparently Jesus
[00:19] <@SonicTempest> so yes, stiff competition for Suiseiseki w
[00:20] <@xephyris> ww

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I haven’t done anything for the last six months

Or so it would seem!

I was tempted to make this a blog post about ‘games I’ve been playing’. Then I looked at my last ten posts and decided against that. Instead I’m going to talk about something a bit more technical.

Starting in June of last year I took up a position that was a new thing for me – client-side web development. Up to that point I had mostly been doing backend stuff – writing backend services, maintenance scripts, that sort of thing. The last time I had done any client-side work was all the way back in 1999, when I was designing websites for school clubs and the like.

So it was a return to something I had done and enjoyed before, but at the same time it was mostly new because 15-year old me used frames and tables liberally and had no idea how DIV tags or CSS worked. Not to mention my main use of Javascript was looking up stuff online and copy-pasting it into my HTML without really trying to figure out how it worked.

So how did 27-year old me take this on? Well, with some trepidation and a lot of help from Stack Overflow. Not to mention looking at other people’s code, and talking to the actual client experts on my team.

And it’s been fun! Well, sort of.

The one thing you learn immediately is that there is a whole new set of problems you need to grapple with. The two biggest ones are:

  1. Browser differences
    This is mostly down to IE-related issues, although I’ve seen some weirdness in my code because of Chrome and Firefox as well. Because the Web pretty much grew as organically as it did, and because MS took over the browser market back in the 90s and then spent the better part of a decade sitting on its ass doing nothing with Internet Explorer, a lot of JS and CSS has to be written with old versions of IE in mind. My sense of it is that IE9 is sort of better in this regard and IE10 closes the gap even more, but there are still lots of people out there running IE7 and 8 for whom special code needs to be written to handle stuff like..calculating offsets of page elements (and probably other things, but that’s the first thing that sprung to mind).

    Granted, there are now frameworks in place to help deal with this kind of problem (yay for jQuery) but I’m not always able to use them for various reasons. As such, it’s a challenge, but it’s also something I’ve found interesting to dig into (and make notes on, to save myself some time spent investigating in the future). Thank goodness for Quirksmode.

  2. Javascript limitations and quirks
    Javascript is yet another thing that seems to have more or less grown organically, yet it’s surprising how primitive it feels compared to other scripting languages I’ve used in the past. It doesn’t really have proper objects (although it has something called prototypes that you can twist to sort of use in the same way), it’s single-threaded (so no real background/asynchronous tasks unless you’re using HTML5 features) and because of the nature of interaction with web pages, a lot of your code ends up being event-driven.

    In fact, it only just recently occurred to me how absurd it is having a language that’s explicitly single-threaded (implying synchronicity) and yet has an event-handling model (implying the exact opposite) This realisation mostly came about because I was trying to write some code that needed to wait for something to happen, and was trying to see if there was some way to block Javascript execution without locking up the browser. As it turns out, there isn’t.

    I haven’t done a whole lot of UI programming which is probably why this feels a little odd to me, but even then I kind of know that you generally want to have a separate thread for UI vs actual program logic to prevent your program from becoming unresponsive while other stuff is going on. The Javascript implementations I’ve seen in all browsers don’t seem to do this, for what I’m sure are completely valid reasons, but which I do end up ramming my face into a lot of the time.

Still, I’m having fun, for now. I have dipped into the jQuery/HTML5 pool a little bit and want to see what else I can do there, although right now my work projects don’t seem to be taking me in that direction. Perhaps it’s time for a side project of some sort…

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A (Fighting) Game of Thrones

Some, if not all of you are probably watching HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy magnum opus A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones). I, being the poser/purist that I am, have been reading the books instead, mainly so that I can read the original story and then complain about how the TV adaptation screwed everything up. I’m enjoying it so far, and I’m about 25% of the way through the last book that has been published (A Dance with Dragons).

And then, I came across this little image on DeviantART:

game_of_thrones_excel______by_dynamaito-d4vdsmi

Which got me thinking about whether Game of Thrones would make good fodder for a fighting game or not.

(WARNING – There will be some minor spoilers for those who haven’t read the books, or for anyone who’s only been watching the HBO series. So be forewarned)

It goes without saying that combat figures heavily in the story, although it tends to be of the army vs. army variety rather than one-on-one. In addition, while there are a few characters who use signature weapons, there really aren’t anything in the way of ‘signature moves’ like you might expect in your average shounen manga. There are also plenty of characters who wouldn’t wield a weapon for any reason (like perhaps 90% of the female cast), so clearly some improvisation will be necessary.

That said, I do think of some characters that might work in a fighting game setting, although with how those characters might end up playing. Here are a few of my ideas so far:

  • Robb Stark – a straightforward character who uses ice-based attacks (I know he doesn’t use Ice, shut up) and can summon his direwolf Grey Wind to do some attacks for him.
  • Jon Snow – Seemingly cut from the same mould as Robb with a direwolf (Ghost) to match, but tilted a bit more to the defensive side of things. Might help to think of Robb and Jon as the Ryu and Ken of the game, maybe?
  • Brienne of Tarth – a close range character who relies heavily on speed and mixups due to her speed.
  • Hodor – One of the servants of House Stark who carries Bran Stark on his back and somehow manages to be the game’s only grappler. Bran can use his skinchanging ability to take control of Hodor for some of his attacks. (Seriously, I can’t think of anyone else who could fit as a grappler, and even Hodor uses a sword a bunch of times in the books)
  • Gregor Clegane – aka The Mountain. The game’s resident ‘big guy’ who relies on powerful normals and hard-hitting special attacks to dish out damage. His power is of course offset by his speed.
  • Tyrion Lannister – now before you start laughing, I don’t intend for Tyrion to be fighting on his own – cast your mind back to Chang and Choi in CvS2, or even Carl Clover in BlazBlue. The idea here is that Tyrion and his sellsword Bronn are playable as a unit, with each character being able to move independently through special button inputs.
  • Jaime Lannister – couldn’t go without him, obviously, although having him in the game post-hand removal might make for a more interesting play style. Alternatively (or additionally), put in Loras Tyrell so you can go nuts with the flower effects.
  • Melisandre – Fire. Lots of it. The game’s zoning character.
  • Thoros of Myr – More fire. Except this time on a sword. Since Thoros’ gimmick in the books is that he lights his sword on fire to strike fear into his enemies, he might work well as a character with a ‘powerup’ mode where his sword bursts into flames. He might even be able to call on the members of his Brotherhood without Banners like Anguy and Tom Sevenstrings for some of his moves.
  • Either Oberyn Martell or Areo Hotah – the former is seen using a spear in the books, the latter a poleaxe. Either would be well suited to the role of a ranged/poking character a la Billy Kane from Fatal Fury/KOF.

There are some wrinkles – for instance some characters are dead before they would normally have had the chance to meet some of the others on my above roster, and some factions aren’t really that well-represented (Pretty much no-one east of Westeros, for instance). But if anyone has any other ideas, do post them in the comments! Not that I’ll be able to do anything with them…but it might make for some interesting discussion.

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Pot, Kettle, etc

One of the big pieces of news coming out of GDC last week was this comment from Fez developer Phil Fish:

But when he asked what the panel thought of modern Japanese video games, Phil Fish (pictured) immediately replied “your games just suck” – a comment that sparked an audible reaction from the crowd, though some were cheering.

Others looked on awkwardly as the Japanese developer was then subjected to a string criticisms about game design flaws in his native country. The developer nevertheless thanked the panel for their response and returned to his seat.

As rude as that was to the man who asked the question, that’s not really what irritated me about that particular outburst. Let’s keep in mind that Phil Fish is a guy who’s somehow managed to spend five years working on a 2D platformer. Even if you take into account the fact that only two people are working on it, that seems like a really inordinate amount of time to have spent working on a relatively simple game.

Given, then, that he has yet to release anything, it seems incredibly hypocritical for Fish to turn around and relegate all modern Japanese games to the rubbish bin. Especially when such a relegation is thoroughly unjustified – in the last few years I’ve played BlazBlue, King of Fighters XIII, Trouble Witches Neo, Valkyria Chronicles, Yakuza 3, Vanquish, Bayonetta, Metal Slug XX and Hard Corps: Uprising – all high-quality games, and all made by Japanese developers. And there are even more titles worthy of attention that I haven’t gotten around to playing yet, like Demon’s Souls and its sequel Dark Souls, Deadly Premonition, Yakuza 4. not to mention countless arcade games.

My guess is that Fish thinks that the Japanese only make Zelda and Mario games, or something, or is completely ignorant of what they’ve actually been up to in the last few years. Either way, all he does is come off as an asshole and a colossal moron at the same time.


In other stupid-shit-developers-said-at-GDC-news, here’s an interview Jonathan Blow (the developer of Braid) did with Gamespot:

Ignoring for a second the ludicrousness of his statement that fun and challenge are mutually exclusive, Blow seems to be under the impression that all Japanese games are like Zelda, in that they handhold you every step of the way without letting you discover anything. Much like Fish, it seems Blow has yet to play any Japanese games not made by Nintendo. I wonder if he’ll ever get around to trying Bayonetta or Vanquish…my money’s on ‘No.’

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