tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

If this is what they mean by ‘re-birth’, screw reincarnation

Ever find your skepticism to be completely justified?

Everything about KOFXII’s game system feels weird. The game is definitely slower than XI, 98 and 2K2, no doubt about that. On top of that even stuff like jumping has had its timings changed. When I do what used to be a hyperhop in XI or ‘98UM my character flies across the screen to get an uppercut up his ass. On top of that timings for things as basic as Terry’s dB, dA, df+C, QCB+A combo have changed. The first KOF that comes to mind when I think of an equivalent in the games I’ve played is probably KOF2003, and considering how bad that game was I don’t think that’s a good sign.

I took a spin through single player mode, and immediately recalled KOF XI’s pretty good AI on normal difficulty – while not awesome, it at least tried to use human-like attack patterns on you. Iori would pressure you with hop Cs and Ds, Gato would regularly do his tap combo into punch super every time he got an opening, Kyo would try to stuff your pokes with his QCF+A autoguard, and so on. The reason I remembered this is because KOFXII’s normal difficulty AI is dumb as a brick. It jumps around randomly, spamming pokes and rolling out of the blue for no reason (making it perfect bait for a down B combo on recovery). Athena basically did her reflector something like five times in a row, only stopping after I smacked her with a DM. The only exception was Daimon who would use the bullshit autoguard on his HCF+P to blow through absolutely everything I did to him – even jump attacks.

Also if the AI somehow manages to land a critical counter on you it’s terrible of taking advantage of it. Andy tagged me with a counter close C so that he could do f+C….forward roll, nothing. And it doesn’t even get better as you get further in the game.

OK, fine, AI in fighting games isn’t typically known for being great, and the point of fighting games is versus mode anyway. But seriously, everything about this game screams ‘WE DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO FINISH THIS, BUT HERE IT IS ANYWAY.’ Practice mode doesn’t save your training settings (it did in previous KOF ports), there’s no way to go back to the character select menu from Practice mode, and there’s random slowdown all over the place in the front end, which looks like it was designed by some guy with a copy of Photoshop and a hard-on for Times New Roman.

The game also has some weird hitbox issues. I could swear my opponent and I passed through each other in mid-jump, and the hitboxes on ground attacks are messed up against opponents landing behind you. I managed to score a counter hit on someone who jumped over my Terry’s crouch C because he landed behind me and got smacked by the tail end of the hitbox while trying to poke me. Go figure.

And then of course there’s shit like this:

And on top of all that, I still think this game is a net loss in terms of depth from KOF XI.

I haven’t tried it online yet, mainly because I don’t know anyone else who has it on PS3 and because of the horror stories I’ve been hearing about people who have played it online. BlazBlue lets me play laglessly against my friend in Japan – I doubt KOF XII will give me anywhere near the same connection quality.

Oh, and regarding the sprite issue I brought up in an earlier post – I have a HDTV at home, and it is rather obvious that KOFXII’s sprites have been scaled up. While I can’t make out individual pixels on the BB sprites at about 5 feet away, it’s pretty easy in KOFXII.

On a happier note, I scored an S-video cable for my PS3 so I’m going to see if I can record some of the BlazBlue (and maybe KOFXII, if they ever fix the netcode) matches that I’ve been saving. In particular xephyris and myself had a great set of matches last weekend…I’ll be sure to post them up here once I’ve uploaded them somewhere.

UPDATE:

I tried playing online. The lag was so bad that the game was running at less than 1/2 speed, and some fuckwit who didn’t know how to play managed to beat me with his laggy Joe after I beat his other two characters with Kyo alone. RAGE

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I’ll have more on the Spy vs Sniper update at some later point

But for now, this is all I want to say.

Damn you Valve and your crappy weapon unlock system!

I’ve put in maybe 3-4 hours of game time a night for the last four nights, and all I have to show for it are two Spy items that I got in quick succession on Thursday night (one of which has since become completely useless thanks to a bug fix).

I didn’t think it was possible to make the weapon acquisition process even worse, but somehow, they found a way. What is so wrong about just giving everyone the new items and letting them run off and play with them?

Bah.

This image is really the only way to sum up the situation. And yes, there are tons of achievement_idle servers out there, with players doing nothing but standing around while AFK.

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Oh Valve, you silly people

Today’s TF2 blog update is pretty funny, for all the wrong reasons.

The first was whether or not you understand what killed you. If you don’t know what killed you, that death is failing in providing you the feedback it’s supposed to, and you won’t be able to figure out what you could have done differently. Unsurprisingly, we saw that these deaths were highly aggravating to players, and in sufficient number caused new players to stop playing entirely. Trying to reduce the number of these deaths in TF2 was done through a variety of changes. It was one of the reasons why we chose to remove the hand-held grenades that each class had in TFC, which were one of the primary causes of these deaths. It was one of several goals that led to the creation of the freezecam.

…but they added critical hits.

The second was whether you felt you were actually engaged with the person who killed you. Dying to someone you weren’t engaged with, especially when you were already engaged with someone else, was aggravating. Even worse was dying to someone who you couldn’t have engaged with, even if you chose to. In that case, you’re very unlikely to believe you could have done anything differently to survive.

but they added the Sandman.

Ah well.

Why another post about TF2 oddities? Well, my total playtime as Soldier finally overtook my playtime as Pyro, making the Soldier my most-played class. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been playing Soldier a lot more since he had a higher skill ceiling, and I’m more or less at the point where I can play the Soldier decently in public games and score reasonably high on the scoreboard. Unfortunately this has also meant that deaths due to crits have become about 100x more annoying as a result. It’s so goddamn annoying to have a decent streak as Soldier ended by some dumbass Engineer’s crit wrench because his sentry managed to kill some dipshit Spy a few minutes earlier. Or to have a Soldier that I successfully juggled one-shot me with a crit shotgun blast that wouldn’t have killed me otherwise.

And don’t get me started on Soldier and Demoman crits, even though I get my fair share of those. Ugh.

Why are there so few nocrit servers out there :(

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“I used to rule the world…”

I could say much about what I think of King of Fighters XII (and indeed, I have, multiple times), but if anything the most telling thing about the game is the complete lack of high-level match videos in spite of the game having come out more than two weeks ago. We got a couple of batches of videos out of Portland where the game first showed up, and a small set of lousy videos off Nicodouga, and since then, nothing.

I mean, even bad games like SvC Chaos and KOF2003 had tons of videos in the weeks immediately after their release. On top of that, if you check the tournaments of places like A-cho, TRF and Game41, there are no KOF XII events scheduled at all (and if you look at TRF they in fact have regular Hokuto no Ken tournaments, and that’s a game that’s basically retarded at high level).

If anything all signs are pointing to a complete lack of interest in the game (moreso than usual for a new KOF game, at least), and part of me can’t help but think that someone at least should have seen that coming.

(Before you ask, I’m still getting the PS3 version along with BlazBlue, if only because they’ll look nice on my HDTV)

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How not to port an arcade game

Suggoi! Arcana Heart 2 gets put through the blender en route to PS2

I was under the impression that the era of lousy ports was behind us. Apparently I was wrong.

(By the way, it’s not just graphical problems – there’s apparently lag as well)

In other news, I was playing some KOF’98 Ultimate Match on my PS3 today and it locked up when I tried to exit the game. Turning it off and restarting it basically yields…nothing. Looks like it’s bricked.

I wonder how annoying Sony’s repair process is…

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Writers’ block, yet again

Once again I’m finding myself casting around for something to write about. I’ve got a few ideas, but I honestly don’t think that I could do any of the subjects justice.

So I figure I’ll just start writing stuff and see where it goes from here.

Work has been pretty hectic lately – the project that I’ve been working on for about 4 months now had its first production milestone last week and my team was involved in a last-minute scramble to get everything in place. The first milestone is now done, in that my team’s contribution is more or less over, and after my week oncall I’ve shifted over to working on our next milestone. The last few weeks have been pretty hellish because of some mistakes we made early in the project, and I’m doing my best to ensure that we don’t run into the same problems on our second milestone.

As for what sort of project it is, I’m not sure I’m at liberty to say – suffice it to say that it’s a company-wide initiative that will have a pretty big impact on how all the teams in my organization do their jobs.

I actually had a dream last week where I was interviewing with some other team within the company, although for some reason the team worked in an indoor playground. Not going to bother trying to interpret that one…

I’ve started looking at apartment listings, for a number of reasons. Most importantly, Amazon is going to be moving to a new campus downtown, and I’d like to move somewhere closer to the new campus, even if it means I have to commute to work by bus for a few months. On top of that, while my current apartment is really close to work, it’s not particularly close to anything else, meaning that I have to take a bus to do pretty much anything important. And let’s not forget that the effective duopoly on Internet providers in my neighbourhood means that I get to choose between crappy cable and crappy DSL. I currently use the latter, and it’s the #1 reason why I haven’t watched any of the new anime that’s come out in the last…2 years or so. 1.5 Mbps means that even Youtube ends up being a bandwidth hog. Not to mention my pings in TF2 and L4D are awful, even to servers that are relatively close by.

My dad suggested buying an apartment, which is probably not a bad idea seeing how prices seem to be heading lower every day, but I haven’t contacted any realtors yet. Part of me is wondering if buying a property when I’m on a visa that might not be renewed in 2011 is a really good idea or not.

I guess I’ll think about it some more.

On a side note, the CEO of the OnLive service that I talked about in my previous entry has apparently been on the PR warpath, offering interviews to a lot of big gaming sites about why all the naysayers are wrong. Apparently they’ve spent seven years developing a video compression algorithm that can get frame data down to very small sizes, which is great, but that also means the stream is going to have compression artifacts, reducing image quality overall. On top of that you’re apparently locked to 720p or 480p, so if your monitor’s native resolution is something else, you can’t play in full screen mode without blurring the image.

So yeah, it’s not for me. Or for anyone with taste, I’d say.

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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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I have the worst luck with computer parts

I bought 4GB (2x2GB) of RAM during Amazon’s pre-Black Friday sales last week. I got it on Monday and installed it, and things ran smoothly…until I popped into Left 4 Dead today and my computer turned itself off. Twice.

One quick run of memtest86 later, and the result was clear – one of the sticks was bad. In fact, ONE BIT on that stick was bad. It would have passed the complete test suite had it not been for the random number test where that bit failed to get flipped correctly.

The aggravating part is that this happened to me one year ago with the RAM I originally bought to build this machine. The same exact problem – one bad stick of RAM.

On top of that, my five-year old Creative speakers finally gave up the ghost this week, so it looks like I’ll be needing a new set. I’m not into 5.1 or 7.1 setups that much (I used to have a 4.1 setup way back in 1999 but I kept tripping over the rear satellites), so I’ll probably pick up a cheap 2.1 set. There’s a Logitech set on Amazon going for $30 that’s gotten some good reviews.

Fortunately we have a pretty good returns service, so I’ve already asked for a replacement, and will be shipping this dud RAM back to Amazon for a refund. I hope they don’t mind that I snipped off the bar code to submit for my mail-in-rebate, though…

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A followup

I mentioned in my review of Sonic Chronicles last week that the music was rather terrible. Well, the folks over at Sonic Stadium have managed to get their hands on a complete rip of the game’s soundtrack. I’ve taken a listen to the tracks I didn’t get a chance to listen to (since I didn’t get that far in the game) and all they do is reinforce my opinion.

You can download the tracks here.

More disturbing, however, is the fact that the music appears to have indeed been composed by Richard Jacques. If this is true, then how did he go from composing the cheesy-yet-awesome Sonic R soundtrack and the awesome Euro remixes for the console/PC versions of Outrun 2 to making terrible synthesizer beeps and bloops? I mean, some of the tracks are remixes of tracks that he originally composed for games like the Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast, and even those are terrible.

Some samples for those not willing to do the legwork:

Original (Sonic 3D Blast Genesis version, Diamond Dust Act 1, composed by Jun Senoue)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Central City)

Original (Sonic 3D Blast Saturn version, Diamond Dust Act 1, composed by Richard Jacques)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Blue Ridge Zone)

Original (Sonic CD JP version, Collision Chaos Bad Future)
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Angel Island)

Original (Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Final Boss) – yes I know Doomsday Zone is technically the final boss but whatever
Remix (Sonic Chronicles, Nocturne)

Why did they phone it in so badly? God knows.

There may be legitimate reasons to buy this game (depending on your perspective), but the music is most certainly not one of them.

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I M SMRT

Somehow in the space of two hours I have managed to not only leave my cell phone at work, but fill my apartment with smoke. How did I manage the latter, do you ask?

Why, I cooked some instant noodles!

In the microwave.

Without adding water first.

Do you know what you get when you cook flavour powder, dried mushroom, dried rice noodles and oil in a microwave without water? You get a giant block of simmering carbon. And a crapload of smoke.

And my apartment STILL smells like smoke, 3 hours later.

Fun fact: this apartment I’m living is was refurbished after a fire accident prior to my renting it.

I really wish I could say that there was something important on my mind while I was engaging in this minor act of arson, but there really wasn’t…

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