tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse


This is awesome

That said I don’t know that Sonic 2 is necessarily the best game to show that stuff off…it’s pretty streamlined compared to some of the other games.

Oh well, still funny!

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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.

Not sure why I did this

Random recording I did using my iPhone

Swallowing notes all over the place, and both my right- and left-hand techniques are rusty as hell after not practising for months on end.

(Oh and that background noise? Episode of Scrubs I had playing at the same time I was recording this)

Still, it’s a start, I guess.

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I have a TF2 server now

There it is!

Name: The Church of Wyler
Players: 16

It’s a 16-player server, and the rotation is mostly 5CP maps + Gravelpit + KOTH + the few Payload maps I can stand. It also runs Sourcemod for handy things like map voting etc, so if you own TF2, drop in sometime!

Oh, and if you’re tired of all the engineer class spam…I’ve installed a class limits plugin too. *wink*

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Just over ten years to the day it was released…

…I finally beat the original Deus Ex. And it makes me want to kick myself for not playing it back then.

To illustrate why this game is so important, it might help to make a few comparisons with more recent titles.

There are tons of games out there (mostly Bioware and Bethesda games) that advertise the fact that you can make choices in-game that have consequences. However, most of those consequences are fairly minor. For instance take Fallout 3 – one of the quests early on lets you decide whether or not to spare the town of Megaton or not by defusing or detonating its resident unexploded nuclear bomb. How you resolve this quest certain has consequences – for instance, it decides where your ‘base’ will be early on, and it will change certain characters’ attitudes towards you. That said, pretty much all the story quests are unaffected by this – they unfold in exactly the same manner, and you experience the main storyline the same way over multiple playthroughs. Sidequests might change, sure, but the main plot never does.

Deus Ex, however, has no such limitations. You can kill off major characters way before they’re supposed to have a major impact on the plot, and doing so will prevent those events from ever occurring (I actually did this). On top of that the decision making is thankfully free of the binary good versus evil distinction – heck, in most situations the options available to you aren’t really apparent unless you explore the areas and invest points in the correct skills. This even extends to the game’s conclusion – unlike Fallout 3 and so many other games that tout choice as a major selling point, there is no distinction between a ‘good’ ending and a ‘bad’ ending – once again, just choices with consequences, and you’re left to decide which choices are the most palatable to you. Believe it or not, it took me something like 30 minutes to decide which ending I wanted to go for.

Given that this game came out ten years ago, way back in 2000, it’s amazing and thoroughly disappointing that no game has managed to improve on it – not even its own sequel, apparently. Deus Ex 3 is on the horizon, but given that it’s being handled by a completely different development team, and that Warren Spector is busy making Mickey Mouse games for Disney, I’m not going to get my hopes up too much.

I’ve just started on Mass Effect 2, whose developers insist that the way the game unfolds will depend on how you beat the original Mass Effect. We’ll see, I suppose.


Oh hey, it’s finally publicly available


So I guess I can say what I thought about the beta!

Long story short, it sucked.

I got invited to the beta once a server farm near me was spun up, and I immediately gave it a try. Unfortunately my concerns with the service, which I outlined over a year ago, turned out to be pretty dead on.

My two main concerns were 1) input lag and 2) picture quality. And neither fared particularly well during my time playing. I tried both Prince of Persia as well as Unreal Tournament III, and even in a single-player game like PoP the input lag was noticeable. However it couldn’t hold a candle to the mess that was UT3, which had something like half a second of input lag, completely messing up my aim and movement. On top of that it was prone to lag spikes, during which my screen would freeze and I’d be teleported a vast distance forward five seconds later. Last year, OnLive’s CEO claimed to have some sort of magical technology that would minimize the impact of round trip times on input responsiveness – I really want some of what he was smoking.

As for picture quality, I stated in my earlier entry that they had to be using some sort of compression to get the data size down to manageable levels. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what they’re doing. The feed you get is 720p in name, in that it consists of 720 horizontal rows of pixels, but it lacks the characteristic sharpness that you would get from running a game at 1280×720 on your own machine. And of course the compression artifacts get worse as your connection experiences hitches.

A new and exciting complaint many people have about the service has to do with its pricing model. You need to pay a subscription – but you also need to pay full retail price for any game you want to play, which seems completely boneheaded to me. I know there are the variable costs of servers to deal with, but surely if you’re going to buy large numbers of copies of a game to run on a server farm, that entitles you to some sort of bulk licensing deal?

In the end I’m sort of left wondering who this product is meant to serve. PC enthusiasts are just going to laugh at it and leave it alone, while people who might want to try some PC games are going to end up with a substandard experience, shorn of all the things that make PC gaming awesome – better graphics, more control options and customization. They might as well just stick to their consoles instead.


Motion to Dismiss

So I’m playing Super Mario Galaxy 2, backlog be damned. And it’s a pretty good game, just as I expected it to be. Sure, extra lives still grow on trees much like the original game, but the stages are inventive and it usually takes me a few tries to figure out the exact timing or trick to beating them.

One thing that I’m not glad about is the persistence of the silly motion controlled-stages.

Sure, there are fewer of them, and I’ve already gotten all the gold stars in all of them, but they still reinforce my held notion that the Wii’s motion control is a dead end for games on that system. There’s perhaps one use of the Wii remote’s motion sensor that I’ve been able to tolerate, and that’s its use as a pointing device (in games like Resident Evil 4, or any number of Wii FPSes).

Super Mario Galaxy, on the other hand, has you do stupid crap like hold your Wiimote vertically and tilt it to control a giant ball that Mario is balancing on. These stages are nowhere near as interesting as the pure platforming stages, and the controls aren’t anywhere near as precise as they need to be. It’s at times like those that I wish the game supported the Classic or GameCube controller.

After my experience with the Wii, Sony and Microsoft’s motion controllers have me more apprehensive of the kinds of crap they’re going to try and pawn off on the gaming public. I’ve heard rumblings of a motion controlled version of Sonic Riders for Natal…ugh.


Shurikens and Lightning

I’ve been putting a fair amount of effort into tackling my gaming backlog recently, with the end goal of putting myself into a position where I can play something that came out within the last few months. Unfortunately, surprise sales by PC game download stores do not help in this regard. Since my last update I’ve added Call of Duty 4 ($15 on Steam at the time) and Painkiller ($6 from GoG.com) to my backlog. Fortunately I’ve also beaten one and the majority of the other in that time, so I can talk a bit about their differing approaches to FPS design.

One shot, one kill...ideally

CoD4 is of course more popular than Jesus (or so I’m told), and there’s still a significant contingent of people playing it on the PC (the less said about MW2 the better). CoD4 is very much made in the mould of the more recent generation of first-person shooters – regenerating health and all. That said, it’s not a pushover – great importance is placed on avoiding damage through taking cover or killing enemies before they have a chance to shoot you, since on Hardened and above you die in very few hits. Because of this there’s also a strong emphasis on being highly accurate with your shots, much like in, say, Counter-Strike. I’m not a huge fan of this type of FPS since my skill at getting consistent headshots is non-existent (spec me when I’m playing Sniper in TF2 and you’ll see what I mean), but I don’t mind it. That said it took some time for me to get used to since I don’t typically play games with tons of hitscan weapons and low player HP.

I haven’t tried the game online yet, but I might at some point. I don’t expect to do too well, though.

The first boss you fight in the game. Yes, that is his actual size.

On the other side of the coin, we have Painkiller, a game from a much older tradition – namely, the original Quake. There is no cover system, no headshot mechanic, and no realistic weapon damage. What there is are five well-crafted weapons, each with a unique primary and secondary fire mode (so it’s really more like ten weapons), a few million guys to kill and some gorgeous-looking levels to kill them in. That said, this isn’t Serious Sam where they just let you loose in a giant open field and throw enemies at you – the enemies are very well-designed, and taking them down while minimizing damage to yourself can often be rather challenging. To give an example there’s one level where you need to fight off tons of shotgun/bayonet wielding soldiers. There are literally tons of these guys, and they can actually outrun you, even if you bunnyhop. At the same time, though, there are bigger guys who have miniguns and are shooting at you from further away. And if you try to get into the fray and take out the little guys with your shotgun, look out for the giant guys with the flamethrowers. As a result, beating the level comes down to a frantic game of moving quickly and efficiently while firing shots and switching weapons like mad to thin the horde that’s bearing down on you and chipping away at your health. It really feels like a single-player version of Quake III Arena, which is why I’m loving the hell out of it. After you clear an entire horde by the skin of your teeth, the sense of accomplishment is palpable.

Also, there’s a gun that shoots shurikens and lightning.

Overall I’d say I prefer Painkiller over CoD4, although that’s largely a function of my time spent playing games like Doom and Quake while growing up. Your mileage will probably vary.

In other news, with Gintama finally being off the air I’m casting around for other shows to watch. I’m currently enjoying Crunchyroll’s simulcast of Durarara!!, and I’ve started pulling up older shows on Hulu, like Baccano! and Darker than Black. If you have any recommendations for stuff that I might be interested in (preferably over a streaming service of some kind), do let me know in the comments.

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Change is upon me

Don’t really have anything substantive to say right now, other than the fact that both Crysis games are off the backlog, and that Call of Duty 4 is now added to it.

In the meantime, have some moonwalking Hazama.

Watch in HD if you can!
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Random thoughts about random games

My personal life has been undergoing a bit of turmoil recently, but I’ll leave that for another blog entry. For now, I thought I’d jot down some thoughts about a bunch of games I’ve been playing recently.

  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
    Great sequel, although somewhat easier than the first game. That said, it had some great set pieces (the battle on the train was particularly entertaining) and the final boss was a lot more fun than UC1’s. Definitely worth a buy if you own a PS3, but you probably knew that already.
  • Sonic and Sega All-stars Racing
    This game honestly surprised me. It’s a Mario Kart clone through and through, but it’s a pretty good one. Decent selection of tracks, and although there are a few too many Sonic characters, there are a few interesting nostalgia Sega picks like Opa-Opa, Bonanza Bros, Alex Kidd and of course Ryo from Shenmue. The balance could be better (right now it looks like flying characters are at a disadvantage while bike characters are overpowered) but it’s still rather fun to play.
  • Crysis
    Pretty damn fun. The first half of the game lets you tackle your objectives in a fairly open-ended manner, while the second half ramps up the difficulty and throws tons of gunfights at you. Both are good fun, although the vehicle sections have some pretty annoying controls (VTOL sequence, I’m looking at you). And of course, the game looks gorgeous. I’d recommend not getting the Steam version if you have a 64-bit OS, though – for some reason it doesn’t include the 64-bit binary. On top of that the game occasionally just runs like a dog on my admittedly pretty good PC. Given that Warhead runs so much better I have no idea why the first game is such a hardware hog.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
    I’ve said pretty much everything I wanted to say about this game over at the Orochinagi forums and I don’t feel like typing it all up again, so here’s a link to the relevant thread for you to read.
  • Sonic 4: Episode One
    The more I see of this game the less it interests me. So much for classic Sonic – what we’re getting is Sonic Rush Adventure in HD with crappy physics and speed boosters up the arse. I’ll stick to my copy of Sonic CD for my classic Sonic fix, thanks.

As for the backlog, now that I’ve beaten Crysis, this is what’s left:

  1. Crysis Warhead
  2. Deus Ex
  3. PoP Warrior Within
  4. PoP The Two Thrones
  5. PoP (2008)
  6. Resident Evil 5 (STILL looking for someone to play this co-op with me…)
  7. God Hand (got to the third area, promptly got my ass handed to me)

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