tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

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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Ruminations on a revival

So, King of Fighters XII.

A lot has been said about the quality of the graphical makeover – I’ll say that based on the 720p screenshots and videos I’ve seen, I do like it a lot. It leaves just about everything else SNK has ever done in the dust; my only gripe is that Kyo’s flame effects still look pretty bad, particularly the ones for his uppercut and DM. You’d think they’d have noticed that by now.

In any case, while I do like the look of the game so far, I have less confident things to say about how the game seems to play at this point.

The clash/offset system seems to be an attempt at introducing something akin to parries into KOF. You cause a clash by performing an attack just as the opponent’s attack is about to hit you. In the process both sides take some damage and do an automatic backstep (or a backwards jump if one party is in midair). However both characters can also cancel the backstep animation into anything they want – a jump, a run or even another attack.

In its current form there’s clearly some risk involved with clashing – you take some damage in exchange for the chance to mount a counterattack. Unlike parries, however, a clash also resets the opponent to a neutral state, so at best you end up going from a disadvantageous position to a neutral position – high risk for a somewhat nebulous reward. On top of that you can apparently clash with fireballs, and there are already a few videos out there that show people stopping uppercuts by clashing with a jump attack (although given the backhop that results from a successful clash this might actually be a disadvantage for the player in the air). It’s definitely a major change, and I’m kind of nervous that it’ll end up breaking the game in some way.

I’m also concerned that the builds shown so far seem to lack super flashes. Just about all the DMs I’ve seen have ridiculously long startup, making them impossible to combo from anything. Since the game we’ve seen so far is so incomplete as to lack a power meter and a hit counter, and even one of the main subsystems (Critical Counter), my assumption is that DM flashes will be added in later, but given the ‘retro’ tone they’re trying to go for I have my doubts.

Speaking of said tone – I can’t say I’m a fan of it. Regressing in terms of looks is one thing, but some characters seem to have regressed in terms of movesets as well, which is…troubling. The most affected one seems to be Kyo, who’s basically gone back to his KOF’95 version. There are some glowing exceptions – Ralf and Iori seem to have gotten complete movelist makeovers, but characters like Terry apparently only have one DM, and Shen Woo seems to have lost some moves as well.  On top of that characters like Andy seem to channel their original Fatal Fury 2 incarnations rather than any recent KOF version. And needless to say, I’m still puzzled at their decision to drop the successful system they had developed for KOF XI to start from a blank slate.

I think we’ll only start to get a real sense for where KOF XII will be in terms of mechanical soundness when the game is complete and ready for beta testing. The game is slated for an April 2009 release in arcades, so that should be pretty soon.

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There's a reason I haven't been on GGPO a whole lot

I hate losing. Particularly when the gap in skill level between me and my opponent is really wide. I don't see any point in playing when the odds are stacked against me from the get-go. Yes, I know I won't learn to play better without getting beaten by other players, but I fail to see how getting hammered into the corner and dying because I couldn't react in time teaches me anything at all.

Compounding this problem is my poor execution, half the crap I want to do not coming out thanks to lag (network or input, take your pick) or the emulator turning my stand C into a C throw even though I had let up on the arrow keys a full second ago.

Maybe I just don't have the mindset for games like this.

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