tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

And now, a public service announcement

Some of you are probably aware of the imminent launch of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition for PC. You’re probably also aware that the PC version uses Games for Windows Live to facilitate its online features. However, what became clear yesterday that was hitherto unknown was the game’s form of DRM.

Essentially, if you’re not signed into an online GfWL profile, you lose access to all but fifteen characters on the roster and can no longer save progress in things like Challenge Mode. This is essentially Capcom doing its best Ubisoft impression, or would be if it weren’t for the fact that Ubisoft has in fact ditched its always-on DRM for its more recent PC releases like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Needless to say, it’s completely asinine, especially considering that GfWL has offline profiles to deal with this kind of crap in the first place.

What this means is that people without Internet access (for instance, at a tournament venue with unreliable Internet access) won’t be able to use over half the characters in the game. This is just a massive deal-breaker all around, and judging by the comments on the post I linked above lots of others seem to agree. There are several legitimate use cases for needing to be offline while playing games – in fact Ars Technica covered one angle I hadn’t considered a while back with their article about deployed soldiers being unable to play their favourite games because of a constant connection requirement.

But whatever – I’m not here to pontificate about the evils of DRM, as there are plenty of places you can go to for that sort of thing. All I wanted to say is that if you were looking at buying the PC version of Arcade Edition, and this rubs you the wrong way, go leave a comment on that news post or send an email to Christian Svensson to let Capcom know how you feel about this issue.

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Dante Must Cry

I’m sure everyone who follows gaming news is familiar by now with this atrocity:

Ebony and Ivory have never looked so 'meh'

Yes, Capcom has thrown in the towel and has handed over the reins of its next Devil May Cry game to the English studio Ninja Theory, complete with crappy new Dante design and what looks like Dante being tortured in Abu Ghraib. I know, I know, it’s all about the game mechanics, right? Except that I have no confidence that Ninja Theory will be able to make a game that lives up to the DMC name; heck, even a game that’s as good as the somewhat iffy DMC4.

To see what Ninja Theory was capable of, I played the demo for Ninja Theory’s upcoming game Enslaved (due out in about a week, I think), and while the game looks and plays ok, it in no way compares to DMC’s fast-paced action. It feels more like God of War with its simple two-button combat and half-hearted platforming, to be honest, which will please a lot of God of War fans but annoy the hell out of DMC fans who are used to being able to move around quicker, and to much faster-paced combat. From what it looks like it even features regenerating health, which no quality action game has ever done.

Maybe Capcom just saw Bayonetta and decided that they couldn’t compete, lol.

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Random thoughts on recent happenings

  • Starcraft II is out this week and I’m not buying it. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but I’m not. Part of it has to do with how I left all my RTS skills in 1998, but it’s mostly because Battle.net 2.0 repulses me. If you want to know why this is, go here and read this excellent article summarizing everything that’s wrong with Battle.net 2.0. You may retort that his point of view reflects only that of high level players (among which I surely don’t count myself), to which my response is that a company that treats its high level players – its BEST, MOST-VALUED CUSTOMERS – like dirt isn’t worth supporting.
  • King of Fighters XIII is out in arcades, and as far as I can tell the reception seems to be far more positive than the one XII received, although someone discovered an infinite on day one and new weird bugs are popping up all the time (I particularly like the one that lets Takuma and Daimon do EX moves without spending bar. Wonder if SNK Playmore is going to let these issues be or if they’re going to issue a USB patch, especially if they want this game to show up for real at Tougeki next year.
  • I was never a Marvel vs Capcom fan, but MvC3 looks like it might warrant a look from me, what with its novel character choices (Dante, Super Skrull, Amaterasu, Deadpool) and its fast-paced action. I also much prefer the art direction they’re going for with this game than the semi-realistic semi-stylized noncommittal style they have going in the SFIV series.
  • Speaking of which, SF x Tekken? Really? Was anyone asking for this game to be made? I don’t play SFIV on anything higher than a casual level, but from what I hear Super SFIV still has systemic issues that need working out (like the lack of guard breaks, and the gigantic stages encouraging defensive play). I’m sure most SF players would prefer a sequel that actually addresses those issues rather than a vanity project designed to milk yet more money from the casual gamer who will play the game for a week and then trade it in.
  • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift arrives this week! I have the PS3 version on preorder, but I also have an Xbox 360 on the way, so I’m wondering if I should get a copy of the 360 version too (I’ll need to get a stick for it too – no way I’m playing a 2D fighter on that shitty d-pad). Anyway, if you want a match, hit me up on PSN.
  • Speaking of BlazBlue, I got my Gamebridge working again so I tossed up some old BBCT replays on my Youtube channel. Nothing spectacular, but I figured I should get it out of the way. I’ll post BBCS footage whenever I can.
  • On a final note, I’ve been playing Mass Effect 2. This game is so much better than the first game it’s not funny – the combat is more challenging, the sidequests have more variety and the game is generally paced much tighter. Enjoying the game a lot so far.
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Not much to say today

Just wanted to mention that

  • I beat Beyond Good & Evil last night and started working through Lost Planet and
  • This decision is retarded and will probably come back to bite Capcom in the ass somewhere down the road

That is all.

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The season of updates is upon is

First Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All Stars, then BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, and now Super Street Fighter IV – the newest fighting games are starting to get their first updated versions. It’s pretty interesting to read about the new characters and balance/system changes that are being implemented, and speculate about how my characters’ play styles will change.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the whining by casual players about constant ‘rehashes,’ and how they’ll need to pay more money for ‘the same game with more characters.’ I have to say – this is still pretty hilarious. If anything it betrays how ignorant these guys are about how arcade games are developed and iteratively improved.

Oh well, perhaps they can’t tell the difference between one revision of GGXX and the next, but the actual players can, and that’s all that matters, really. The fewer flowchart Kens we have to deal with online, the better.

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I have the PC version of Resident Evil 5

Add me if you have it and want to try some co-op sometime. My GfW Live tag is SonicTempest84.

On a side note, the mouse + keyboard controls for this game are actually really good. You hold right-click to aim and left-click to fire, and the aiming feels pretty responsive. There’s apparently a way to use classic PC FPS weapon selection controls if you want (the number keys) but for now I’m going with the RE5 ‘live’ inventory screen.

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To make up for the whining

I have something positive to say for once – I’m playing Gyakuten Kenji and I like it so far. 3 cases in and it’s much more entertaining than Gyakuten Saiban 4.

This post is also to make up for the bitching that will ensue once I’ve had some time to compose my thoughts on this little announcement out of E3 today.

以上。

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Gaming odds and ends

This post might be a little disjointed – I’ve been playing a bunch of games recently and thought I’d just pen down my thoughts in one single post since I don’t really want to write five separate posts in one night.

Team Fortress 2

Valve has patched the game twice since the Scout update, yet the Sandman remains unfixed (although they did manage to break rocket jumping while trying to fix an exploit that made it harder for Snipers to get headshots, and they did break Natascha’s slowdown effect yet again). I’ve played in a few big games since the update, and I’d say the stun is overpowered even if you discount the fact that it affects ubercharges. I have not yet seen a single Scout that doesn’t try to tag me with the ball the moment I see them, and in a few circumstances they’ve managed to stun me for extended periods at close range, allowing them a free kill. One particular incident that comes to mind occurred on the second point of the second stage of Dustbowl – I was playing Soldier and standing on the point when a Scout ran out from the central tunnel, ran up to the point and threw his ball at me. I was stunned for a good 3 seconds or so, and this was from being tagged at close range.

The response from the competitive community has been very clear. CEVO has banned the Sandman, and from what I’ve heard a bunch of the other leagues like ETF2L have followed suit. Keep in mind that this is the first unlockable weapon that they’ve actually banned. If I recall correctly they didn’t even ban the Pyro’s Backburner back when it granted a ridiculous 50-point health bonus.

The response from the rest of the TF2 community has been less distinct. While there are a few players who recognise that the weapon is clearly overpowered, the vast majority of the community’s response has been ‘LOL LERN2TEAMWORK.’ By this they’re implying that somehow Pyros need to have their entire team with them when they try to circle behind enemy lines to attempt an ambush, so that they can successfully fend off a class that they were previously on a reasonably even footing against. And of course, if your Medic successfully builds up an ubercharge by being a good healer and deploys it on a friendly Demoman in order to take out a Sentry farm, only to have his uber rendered useless by a flying baseball, that’s his fault for not being a team player.

Surely the absurdity is obvious.

I’m hoping that, like they did with the Backburner, Valve will realise what a terrible beast they’ve unleashed and make some sort of fix. A popular suggestion seems to be to change the stun effect to something akin to the effect of Team Fortress Classic’s concussion grenades, but honestly I think they need to go back to the drawing board with this unlock. Never mind that there are a few achievements that depend on it – go back to the design phase and get it right this time. And for God’s sake stop getting your unlock ideas from the Steam forums.

I’m starting to wonder if I should be playing Fortress Forever instead…

Lost Planet

This was recently on sale on Steam for the irresistable price of $5. I’d only ever played the demo previous to this, and I thought it was alright, so I decided to see what the full game was like (even though the superior Colonies Edition is out now). I’ve played the first few missions, and it’s not too bad. I can’t quite get 60fps out of it, but shooting up giant bugs in snowy wastelands is pretty fun. My main complaints so far are that the game is kind of easy (I haven’t died once yet) and that Wayne’s default movement speed is a little on the slow side, even when he’s piloting one of the giant VS mechs. I guess I’ll see if these continue to be problems as I progress through the game.

Still, this has me interested in the recently-announced sequel – I wonder what improvements Capcom will bring to the table.

King of Fighters ‘98 Ultimate Match

I started playing KOF (and indeed, fighting games) with King of Fighters ‘99, but I respect KOF’98’s place in the order of things. Given that disclaimer, I rather like ‘98UM. It doesn’t have most of my favourite characters, but the (remarkably solid) system changes they’ve made to the original game make this a must-buy for any KOF fan, I’d say. Most of the changes they’ve made revolve around making Extra mode more interesting, and it seems to have worked. Extra mode users now benefit from the ability to cancel normals into dodges, and to cancel certain special attacks directly into MAX mode. On top of that they can choose when they want to break stock unlike vanilla ‘98 where the bar started draining as soon as it filled up.

In addition, the new Ultimate mode, which allows you to mix-and-match subsystems from both modes, poses some interesting possibilities. Do you want the mobility afforded by the roll, or will you trade that for the ability to dodge and quickly counterattack (and extend your combos using the quick dodge)? Do you want the ability to do SDMs at any life level, or would you rather have the ability to max out in mid-combo for the possibility of turning your otherwise staid B&B combo into a more damaging variant?

As for the quality of the port itself, fortunately the US version of the game seems to have turned out pretty well – progressive scan support is intact, and as far as I can tell the game has been brought over more or less unmolested, which should be a relief for anyone who was horrified by Ignition’s handling of the PAL versions of King of Fighters XI and NeoGeo Battle Coliseum.

So yeah, if you don’t have the import version already, go out and get this one. It’s $20 – you really have no excuse if you claim to be a KOF fan.

Street Fighter IV

I’m still getting used to the physics and timings, but at the very least my win ratio seems to have improved a little (in that it is no longer zero). My MadCatz Tournament Edition FightStick arrived two weeks late, but I used the Amazon gift certificate I was given as compensation to buy a PS2->PS3 controller adapter so I could use my old Tekken 5 Hori stick with the game until it arrived (makes me wonder why I didn’t do it earlier, actually). So far I’ve mainly been sticking to Ryu and Abel, with some failed attempts at using Fei Long and Dhalsim (both of whom apparently have a pretty steep learning curve). I’ve played a few games online, mainly against Orochinagi members; I’ve played a few random strangers, although I haven’t run into any of the Ken players of legend. I suppose I should be thankful.

On a side note, the MadCatz stick doesn’t work for PS2 games. I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming, as this was also the case for the Sega Virtua Stick and the Hori PS3 sticks when they were released. The best I can hope for is for support to be added in the next PS3 firmware update, I guess.

BlazBlue

Now, I haven’t actually had a chance to play this game yet, but PS3 and 360 ports were announced recently. A lot of fighter fans are understandably excited about this, but a potential issue with the port has already been raised. The arcade version of BlazBlue runs at 1280×768/768p, while both current-generation consoles are locked to outputting at 1280×720/720p (and indeed, won’t let you play the game at its native resolution). The full extent of the problem is laid out pretty clearly over at the Insomnia forums.

In short, it looks like the great sprites and backgrounds are in danger of being butchered by scaling. If the blurry upscaled sprites in all of SNK Playmore’s Atomiswave releases bugged you, well, this is just as bad. Possibly worse, since it’s one of the first high-definition 2D fighters, and really deserves more respect.

At this point, given that ArcSys can’t go back in time and re-program the game to output 720p in the first place, the only real thing they can do is to crop 48 lines from the top and bottom of the display to avoid affecting the sprites. This is what they seem to have done, but the screenshots still lack the definition of the arcade version. A rep from Aksys (the company handling the US release) has gone on the record as saying that apparently the screenshots they released of the 360 and PS3 versions were smaller in size to make them ‘download friendly’. This just seems ridiculous to me, given that stuff like this is typically distributed through special press FTP servers where presumably bandwidth wouldn’t be a concern.

We’ll have to see how this shakes out, but I am rather worried that we’ll end up getting a butchered port of one of the first high-def 2D fighters.

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So I just played the RE5 demo on my PS3

I’ve only played the Wii version of Resident Evil 4, so someone please tell me – were the aiming controls as sluggish in the PS2 and GameCube versions of RE4 as they are in RE5? I don’t mind that you can’t run and gun like you can in Uncharted, but seriously even on the ‘Fastest’ setting the cursor moves way too slowly.

The Wii version supports classic controllers, so I suppose I could go figure that out for myself…

On another, happier note, Valve has updated Team Fortress 2 today with what most people would regard as a surprisingly good update. Among the changes are a couple of things that the competitive crowd has been asking for for a long time:

  • The ability to turn off random damage at the server level (something which I alluded to in an earlier post)
  • The ability to turn off weapon models or adjust the weapon models’ FOV (to improve the viewing area)
  • The ability to turn off the ‘nemesis’ icon above characters’ heads (this was giving away enemy positions)

In addition, they’ve made changes to how critical hits and random damage work in the normal game – the ranges for random damage have been reduced from ±25% to ±10%, meaning that we should no longer see the Demoman occasionally one-shotting Scouts and Snipers with his grenades. On top of that critical hits have been changed, and for the better, I think. The base chance to crit that every player has has been reduced from 5% to 2%, and the maximum it can go is now 12% as opposed to 20% before. On the other hand, Valve has also reduced the amount of damage you need to deal in order to get a bonus to your crit chance. The idea (according to them) is to make crits less random and more based on recent performance, which is a good idea – in theory, at least.

There are a bunch of other fixes, most of which are assorted class buffs and bugfixes. They’re mostly being overshadowed by the stuff I mentioned above, though – the Steam forums are honestly going nuts right now. And this is before the Scout update has even been revealed…

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My game collection just got 200 times manlier

Played through the first level – pretty damn great.

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