tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

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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The King of Steam

It looks like EA has finally decided to set up shop on Steam. The most interesting part of this venture is that the Steam-purchased versions of their games will not contain SecuROM DRM. This deal apparently extends only to current EA releases, such as Mass Effect, Warhammer Online and (unsurprisingly) Spore, but it looks like Mirror’s Edge, Red Alert 3 and Dead Space will be joining them shortly.

Steam’s built-in DRM is far less annoying than anything else on the market, in my opinion, so this is a good move, I’d say.


On to another topic – the recent King of Fighters XII location test.

My friend Perfect Stranger has posted pretty comprehensive impressions over at Orochinagi, so if you haven’t been following the news go read up on his thoughts here.

While I still like the way the game looks, the game itself is still not really impressing me that much. I’ve sort of gotten over the fact that the game doesn’t improve on the tagging system, but there are plenty of other things to complain about.

The main thing is that the game just feels incomplete at this point. I know that it’s technically not ‘complete’ yet (there are still four months before release) but we can assume that by this point they’re not going to be adding any more characters or major subsystems since they’ve already started public beta testing. At this point, not only does the roster feel small, the characters themselves seem to be exhibiting KOF2002 syndrome with small, stripped-down movelists.

A lot of comparisons are being drawn between this game and KOF’94, but that game actually let you use far standing normals to poke and control space effectively, and had DMs that you could actually combo into. It looks like SNKP is trying to get people to get into close range to use their strong attacks, but what’s actually happening is that players, noting that their standing normals have been nerfed, have resorted to using crouch Bs and Ds to poke and start combos instead, making for some rather boring matches overall. The minimalist system just doesn’t really seem like KOF to me, not after SNKP managed to hit two successive balls out of the park with KOFXI and KOF’98 Ultimate Match (with the upcoming KOF2002 Unlimited Match looking to follow in their footsteps).

The graphical makeover is astounding, but I still stand unimpressed.

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Disappointment beckons

http://arstechnica.com/reviews/games/mirrors-edge-review.ars

It looks like my worst fears about Mirror’s Edge might have come true – great platforming mechanics hobbled by substandard level design. The best I can hope for is that the PC version comes with some sort of map editor so that the community can pick up where the developers seem to have failed.

In other platforming news, Sonic Unleashed arrives next week. I’m still not sold on the game, given that long sections of the speed part of the game seem to be on autopilot (or something very close to it) and that the Werehog sections are basically all the platforming bits that SHOULD have been in the main game mixed in with a pale imitation of God of War.

At the very least the sidescrolling parts of the regular levels remind me a little of Sonic Rush, although dumbed down – the level design is a good deal simpler, lacking for instance the multiple routes present in Sonic Rush Adventure and replacing the trick system with (of all things) QTEs.

I actually have a lot of things to say on the subject of Sonic Unleashed (as you might suspect) but it’s almost 1am so I think I’ll save that essay for another time.

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Razor sharp

A demo for Mirror’s Edge hit PSN today, so I took it out for a spin.

The demo consists of a tutorial level and what I assume is the first level of the game, that takes place on a series of building rooftops. Incidentally, this is the same level that was shown when the game was revealed for the first time.

Amazingly, I must say, the demo lived up to my expectations. Somehow DICE has managed to craft a first-person platformer that feels right. It reminds me of old-school (read: Genesis) Sonic the Hedgehog games a whole lot, as in there are multiple intertwining routes you can use to navigate the level (although the progression is still very much linear) and there’s a heavy focus on maintaining momentum through good timing and using it to pull off platforming stunts in the game world.

Where it differs, of course, is in elements like combat (which, again, focuses on disarming and incapacitating your opponents quickly rather than engaging in shootouts with them). Combat is fairly simple, in that you have a single button for melee attacks and another button for disarming. The trick is to combine your melee attacks, jumps/slides and disarming moves in such a way as to get the opponent out of your way as quickly as possible – in other words, to minimise their impact to your momentum.

In addition, there’s a mode called ‘reaction time’ that lets you slow down time briefly, allowing you to execute maneuvres like frontal disarms or precise jumps with more leeway. This ties neatly back into the core platforming since the ability to use reaction time is granted when you successfully manage to maintain your momentum for an extended period of time.

If I had to nitpick, there are a couple of things I would mention:

  • The game uses Unreal Engine 3, meaning that things like dynamic shadows have aliased/jagged edges, which impairs the look of the game for me somewhat. On top of that, while the NPCs are modeled and animated extremely well, they seem rather crap at emoting, much like Mass Effect and other UE3 games I’ve seen.
  • I found it a little tricky to use the right analogue stick to line myself up correctly for precision jumping – this is probably more of a personal preference, though, and I imagine you can tweak the sensitivity settings to get them exactly where you want them.

Overall, though, if the final product manages to maintain the quality of the level design through to the end, this should end up being a pretty damn good game. I imagine time trial nuts (myself included) will have a blast exploring the levels, trying to find that one improvement to their route that knocks precious seconds off their best times.

(Speaking of time trials, the demo also has a time trial mode, but to unlock it you need to have preordered the game on either Xbox 360 or PS3. I’ve already decided to wait the extra two months for the PC version, so I wasn’t able to try it out)

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Convention Tales

I spent most of the day at PAX today, since I’d never been to a gaming convention and there were a few games I wanted to check out. I actually didn’t get to play too many of them (the lines were way too long for me to be standing around) but I did get a reasonable idea of how some of the games I’m looking forward to are shaping up.

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A tale of two cities

I’m a big fan of the SimCity games…or at least I was, until the two-pronged attack of SimCity DS and SimCity Societies made me retreat to the safe haven of SimCity 4, sobbing like a schoolgirl. The handheld iteration of my beloved franchise was nothing short of a shoddy port to a platform that couldn’t handle the complexity that SimCity fans demanded, and Societies pretty much did away with everything that made SimCity what it was, while providing absolutely nothing to make up for it.

I suspect EA and Tilted Mill Studios are well aware of this, because last week they released a demo of the game, based on the most recent patch of the game, that supposedly adds a new strategic layer to the game. I decided to take it for a run, and for some context, I decided to compare it to another recent city simulator, City Life by Monte Cristo Software.

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Miracles do happen!

EA scales down copy protection for Mass Effect and Spore

Angry people on the Internet actually caused change…I WA SHOCK!
The new scheme still limits you to three installs, which is lame, but the need to activate every ten days has been replaced with a check every time new content is downloaded, which is more reasonable. It’s not quite perfect, but it’s about where BioShock’s copy protection was, which is slightly annoying but acceptable.

In other EA PC gaming adventures, both this and this are looking really cool. I don’t know what’s more surprising – the fact that DICE is making something that isn’t a Battlefield game, or that said game is an Unreal Engine 3 game whose predominant palette colour isn’t brown.

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Beating the dead horse

I was hoping that I could write about something unrelated to gaming today…it’s not like I’m lacking for topics in any way.

But then EA goes and pulls a stunt like this with two of the biggest upcoming PC releases; games which I had been very much looking forward to.

I guess the appearance of security (and mind you, it is only for appearances – the probability that this copy protection will be broken by an enterprising hacker is pretty much 100%) is far more important than customer goodwill.

(BTW, anyone who suggest I should buy a 360 to play Mass Effect can go die in a fire)

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