Tuesday, December 30, 2008


So, I finished the Haruhi dub. Overall, I'd have to say it's pretty good, despite all my little nitpicks. Tsuruya was better in Live Alive than The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, and they left the nyoro in the dub. ENOZ had kind of generic high school girl voices, but I guess that's to be expected since they only show up in one episode.

I finally bit the bullet and updated to WinXP SP2. I was starting to be annoyed with the number of applications that had what I considered to be fabricated limitations that prevented themselves from being installed on SP1. I know, I'm a few years behind the rest of the world, and that SP3 is out now. Give me a few more years.

Something hardware-related is messed up with this computer. For a while now my internal DVD drive hasn't been working. Since MAGFest's happening effectively tomorrow (Wednesday), I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to have a working optical drive. So I shut down both this computer and my server (bye bye xbox hueg uptime :( *sniff*) and swapped their DVD drives, expecting, wishing, hoping it would work. Alas, it didn't. Both DVD drives are fully functional.

Also, the fan on the side of my case finally died. The LEDs still light up (lol) but the fan no longer spins. I guess the resulting rise in air temperature in my case is what was leading to my general inability to run Guild Wars for any real length of time. It's fine in town, but if I leave town, it starts randomly freezing up for 10 seconds or more at a time. There isn't enough time to fix it before MAGFest, and I won't be playing GW at MAGFest anyway, but I'll be in the market for a new 80mm molex case fan (preferably with red LEDs, but they aren't crucial) immediately following MAGFest.

Speaking of MAGFest, yes, technically it is January 1st through the 4th. However, for anyone who preregged (or just so happens to be staff, like myself), there's a special New Year's Eve party. Hence why I'm leaving on Wednesday. It's not that far of a drive, and as long as I don't do the same fuckup I did last year it'll happen without incident. Last year, for many miles, I noticed that the road was running parallel to a train track, and I was slowly but surely passing a train. Eventually I passed it, and thought that would be last of it. However, I got to a city, drove a block too far, crossed the tracks, and ended up having to wait for the damn train to go by to get on the road I needed to be on.

I might be able to post from the LAN room, but I probably won't. We will have internet in there, but it's not for general use. It's mostly for people with stupid things like Steam that constantly probe for updates. It's like, lrn2enableofflinemodekthx.

No major Guitar Hero news. Except that I think GuitarHeroPhenom is a pretty cool guy, eh full combos The Devil Went Down To Gergorge and doesn't afraid of anything.

Edit: Maybe it's due to me shutting down ever so briefly to safely unplug the dead fan, which did so happen to be plugged into the same string of molexes coming from my power supply as the DVD drive, but now the DVD drive is recognized by Windows again. This LG drive is funky, Windows shows it as a DVD-RAM drive and burnatonce says it can burn just about anything I can throw at it. It also supports that weird Lightscribe thing where after you burn the disc you flip it over and use the drive's laser to etch an image onto the label side of the disc, but I don't have anything installed that can actually do that, nor do I have any of the required media to try it out on.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Way It Ends

After remembering that you don't fail if you overstrum if the ratio of notes hit to overstrums is high enough, I facepalmed and realized that 3-starring The Way It Ends on Expert is retardedly easy. I've now done it twice, once in quickplay and again in career.

On the first star power phrase, you can get your SP gauge about 75% filled if you whammy the holds, so fire it off immediately after the phrase ends (even though at this point you have a maximum of a 4 note combo) and pick up the next two in the intro to get back up to half a gauge or just a bit over before the alt-strumming fun.

Get the alt-strumming speed correct and just keep strumming, only stopping on the star power phrases and resuming immediately after. Get some star power and keep it for if you start to fuck up too much. If you get into the red, fire that shit off. You'll get a lot more star power than you actually need to pass it in this manner, and the middle section is fairly easy compared to the burst strumming beginning and end, so you can spare a couple SP phrases to rack up some points.

If you have the alt-strumming speed right and don't mess up the middle, you can basically use SP whenever the hell you want to, as you'll hit many more notes than you'll have overstrums, resulting in your rock meter re-maxing after every overstrum. You can even exploit the timing window to get up to an x4 multiplier. Just strum a tad slower and you'll find that your strums will skip the pauses in the notes entirely. Only works for a little while before you end up either missing a note or overstrumming, but an x4 multiplier's an x4 multiplier.

You probably won't win any Pro Face-Offs unless you're facing someone that doesn't realize you can do this, but at least you can clear the song this way. Try it all you want, it won't work on Through The Fire and Flames. The ratio of notes hit to overstrums needs to be greater than 1. The exact ratio I'm unsure of, but TWIE greatly exceeds it, so there it doesn't matter.

Also, I got a random completely unexpected -1 run on Lay Down that should have been an FC but I strummed late on one of the chord changes in the solo.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas-themed wallpaper update

Or rather, girls dressed in Santa outfits ;)

Admittedly, part of this update is to draw your attention to a few wallpapers I already had on my Google Picasa account that I uploaded to it before starting this blog.

The first Tsuruya one is an updated version, I found a really high resolution vector of the image and took the opportunity to replace the 1280x960 version I had with a 1600x1200 version. I did a little work on the second Negima one, basically cropping and detexting a scan. On the Tsuruya one that doesn't fit with the theme, I removed the SOS団 logo in the background. Other than that, no editing by me.

You can see which ones are new/old by hovering your mouse over the thumbnail and waiting patiently for the tooltip.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Tag-based Filesystem

Filenames are nice and all, but they're a terrible way to store metadata. Imagine having hundreds of files (which technically you already do, regardless of OS, just after finishing a virgin install, but these are personal files we're talking about), all of which might have some things in common and some things unique. If you use the filename to store the metadata on each, you can potentially reach a point where you need to give two files the same name, which doesn't work unless they're in separate directories, but what if they're both photos of Ted drunk on the same vacation on the same night? The best you can really get is "Ted drunk 1.jpg" and "Ted drunk 2.jpg", and while it works, the numbering is essentially arbitrary and meaningless.

On Unix-based OS filesystems, which are case-sensitive, you could mess with the case of each letter, but that's just stupid and makes the result a pain to deal with. On Windows, it's case insensitive but case preserving. This means you can't have a readme.txt and a Readme.txt in the same directory on Windows. (try it and see)

The solution would be a special filesystem. It would allow the user to tag each file with relevant metadata, and define a tag heirarchy that could be used to build a virtual directory structure. We could drop the filename entirely. We'd still have to store it, for compatibility with other systems (think uploading an image to your website or something), but that's the only case where the filename would need to be accessed. The filesystem could pretty much just be a relational database with tags and MD5/SHA-1 hashes to uniquely identify files, and then the file stored as a blob (that's "Binary Large Object", for the uninformed).

Having the hashes gives our filesystem built-in file integrity checking. By comparing the current hash of the file with what it's expected to be, you can easily see if the file has changed. Since some websites are nice enough to give you the MD5 hash of the file you're downloading, we could have something on the order of a Firefox extension that could check the file after it downloads. Or I guess an Opera widget for the fags.

Programs could still say "hey, make a directory in Program Files with this name and put all this stuff in it." What this would translate to in the filesystem is the aforementioned tag heirarchy, which is used to build the virtual directory structure. On Windows, Firefox installs to C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox. Our filesystem would translate this into the tags C, Program Files, and Mozilla Firefox. In the heirarchy, C would be the parent tag to Program Files, which would be the parent tag to Mozilla Firefox. You could even have another tag for that hard drive (other than C, which is rather meaningless and thus defeats the purpose of having tags, but on Windows systems would have to be there for compatibility), so if you're like me and you have one drive for your OS and applications, another drive for games, and a third for downloads, you could label them as such, kinda like you already can.

You could also have other tags that don't fit into the heirarchy, that can show up anywhere. For instance, think of your directory full of vacation photos. You probably have multiple vacations stored in there. You could tag the photos from each with the place you went, the people in the photo, the specific place the photo was taken, the date the photo was taken, and so forth. Then if you say to yourself one day "Let's look at that funny vacation photo of Ted dancing drunk on the kitchen counter", then you could just look at all the photos with the tags Ted and drunk, and then from there use an image viewer to set up a slideshow. See how easily you could locate one specific file with tags?

Files could be moved easily by simply changing a tag. You could have one file show up in multiple places (wherever it's relevant) simply by adding an extra tag to that file. Some tags could be generated automatically, such as the file type, filename, and the virtual directory structure. A program could find its files easily regardless of their name or any custom tags that might be on the file, and could even check the integrity of its libraries and such before loading them.

There would, of course, be a browser and a search utility, but they'd basically be the same thing. It would be a bit weird to use with existing OSes. That's probably why the existing tag-based filesystem projects are simply virtual filesystem overlays done in FUSE.

This could make file type designations really easy, as there would just be an entry in the filesystem for the type of the file, probably the MIME type just to make other things easier.

This would also pose some problems. Viruses, Spyware, and other malicious files wouldn't have the common courtesy to tag themselves as such, and could probably hide from the user very easily by setting a zero-length tag. In addition, asshole software vendors could use the aforementioned zero-length tag trick to hide whatever they want from the user. There would have to be a check in the filesystem for zero-length tags to alert the user to them, and possibly even automatically generate tags based on the given filename when it's written to disk to eliminate this entirely. Also, there would have to be a way to prevent malicious programs from messing with the metadata and potentially corrupting the entire filesystem.

A usability problem is that it would be difficult to transfer files over the internet between two computers both using this filesystem and keep the metadata intact. We shouldn't require the user to export the metadata to a separate file and distribute it along with the file for other users to import (though perhaps this functionality would be good to have for other purposes), and embedding it in the file itself would require extending the file format and would thus break compatibility with other systems which wouldn't know what to do with the added data. Perhaps a solution could be something similar to an archive format, like tar. It would have its own extension, and simple utilities could be written for other systems to extract the file out and show the metadata.

Quite the Christmas day post, huh?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Haruhi Dub Impressions

I'm currently eight episodes through the dub, so that leaves six episodes remaining, and only a few minor characters (mainly the members of ENOZ) whose voices I haven't heard.

All episode numbers herein are original broadcast order episode numbers.

As soon as I started watching, I remembered that between broadcast and DVD production, they remastered the entire series and added new scenes to some episodes. This is slightly important since I haven't seen the new scenes before, in any language. Most of them are just logical extensions of conversations, and nothing important happens in a new scene that was therefore left out of the original broadcast.

So far, I've really liked two voices, Kyon's and Shamisen's. Next would be Arakawa's and Itsuki's, they're pretty good. Haruhi's sounds good, but something every now and then just doesn't feel right. Mikuru's has the whole timidness thing down, so it's good too. Yuki's is actually also good, she is emotionless but doesn't have a monotone (just barely not a monotone). Kyon's sister (she's never named) isn't that bad. Tsuruya's... sadly, they just gave her the "typical high school girl" voice (from The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya (episode 4), she has a line that just feels wrong, it should have a "liek omg" before it. "Can I take a picture of you with my phone?" (emphasis on the "o" sound in phone) Not the nicest thing to do to my favorite character, considering the original line is more like "Can I take a picture?") The minor characters... I guess they're good, they don't really have enough lines for me to tell. Same with Mori.

Overall, it's a pretty decent dub so far, I just wish Tsuruya had a less generic and more energetic voice. She had a weird speech pattern in the Japanese audio, with special nicknames for some people ("Nagato-chi" when she drops by the clubroom when only Yuki is there), an extra "sa" at the end of some words ("nandemonaisa!" just before giving Kyon a cloth to dry himself off with), and occasionally shortening words (she says "arigato!" as "agato!" when Yuki "tells" her where Haruhi and the others went, the fansubbers subtitled this as "Thankie!"). All of that is from Someday In The Rain (episode 9). There's also the infamous "nyoro" in Live Alive (episode 12), I can't wait to see what they did with that.

All of that has to be more or less replicated in some manner in the translation. I'm thinking mainly about what Kelli Cousins did with Kurumi in Steel Angel Kurumi, Kurumi has this "kyuuin!" noise she makes (I believe it's the Japanese onomatopoeia for a tight hug), which kinda gets lost in the translation, so there needed to be something else there to make up for it. And there was, she has all these youthfully exuberant squeals (to steal some words from the dub's director in the extras) that capture that same part of her character.

I'm kinda annoyed with how honorifics are handled in translations, this ends up with everything being really formal. For instance, it's usally "Miss Suzumiya" or "Miss Asahina". Honorifics don't really have a true equivalent in English that I'm aware of. Something needs to be done with them, and at least they're trying, but it's annoying to hear "Miss whoever" every couple of seconds. Also, if they could decide where to place the accents when saying character names, that would be great. For example (italics indicate the accented syllable): Sometimes it's Mikuru, and others it's Mikuru. They decided to use Kunikida instead of Kunikida. And I believe I've heard Nagato instead of Nagato every now and then, though maybe that's just my imagination. I personally think that names should be accentuated the same way as they were in Japanese. It's a small gripe, and nothing that would completely tank the quality of a dub, but when you're used to hearing the name spoken one way for so long and you suddenly hear it spoken differently, it's like "what the...?!?"

As I said before, I still have six episodes left, and I intend to watch the entire series dubbed. Most of what I've said here is minor gripes, so all in all it's doing pretty well so far, no major complaints except Tsuruya.

Completely unrelated: Somehow I managed to not notice that Christmas was coming up until around 1:30 AM on the 23rd, when it was mentioned in #magfest on IRC:
[01:30:16 AM] <~P2E> 2 days til christmas
[01:30:26 AM] <~P2E> I guess that means I make pizza soon
[01:31:47 AM] <XT-8147> holy fuck, you're right, it's december 23rd... the days before christmas go by really fast when you're not paying attention to them at all
Usually Christmas takes forever to get here, but this year, it just sorta snuck up on me. Not like it matters, all I really want (and all I've informed my parents of my desire for) is money (so I can buy what I actually want) and gift cards to electronics/video game stores (Best Buy, Circuit City (lol, our Circuit City is one of the ones that's going out of business)) and restaurants (Applebee's, etc.). There were a couple other things I dropped hints about as well (nice warm fuzzy slippers of some sort because I'm the only one in the family that doesn't wear shoes inside and the floor is cold this time of year, and the Read or Die OAV, which is one dvd and is pretty cheap almost everywhere). I've been pretty blatant about "Xbox 360, Mirror's Edge, Guitar Hero World Tour with instruments" even though it's not happening.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Watching Haruhi Dubbed

I know a lot of people both in real life and online that indiscriminately hate all English language anime dubs. I used to be one of those people. But then, I was bored and came to the realization that if I already own the series on DVD, I've already purchased the dub. So for a while I've had this stagnant project of watching everything I have dubbed.

I started with Steel Angel Kurumi and that's where I immediately got sidetracked. The dub is great. Both seasons. From watching the extras, it's apparent that ADV just fell in love with the series and wanted to do it justice. I have some minor complaints, such as Saki's voice being a bit nasal (Rie Tanaka's original voice work wasn't), and the pronunciation of a few of the names was off. But in the grand scheme of things, Saki's voice is tolerable and the rest are very minor details. The one thing that stood out was Karinka's voice. It just sounds like Hilary Haag got Karinka's personality dead on, and when you do that it's hard to go wrong. I dunno if any of her lines were ad-libs or if that was the translated script she voiced, but it's really good.

So for a while, I just watched the Kurumi dub, alternating watching the series once dubbed, then again subbed. It still feels strange to watch something that's animated that doesn't have subtitles. Hell, even when I watch The Simpsons, which I own the first 8 seasons of on DVD, every now and then I find my eyes scanning the bottom of the screen for subtitles.

So tonight, as the subject of this post may have implied, I am embarking on another dub, this time The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I've already watched my favorite episode, The Day of Sagittarius, so I kind of know what to expect, but some of the characters weren't in that episode. My impression after watching that one episode is that Crispin Freeman's Kyon is great. He got Kyon's sarcasm down perfectly.

What puts a slight kink in the plan is that I want to watch the dub in broadcast order. I own the limited edition versions of DVDs 2-4, which each have a second disc in the case with the episodes in proper broadcast order, but those discs lack the dub. Now, I know how the broadcast order translates into chronological order, but figuring out the DVD swaps was a small barrier. A slightly larger barrier is that they renumbered the episodes so that The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00 is episode 0, and then the rest are numbered 1-13. Until a few minutes ago when I realized all I needed to do was chuck the relevant information into a spreadsheet and sort by broadcast order. I'll reproduce my findings here (to assist anyone else who might want to do the same thing), and edit them if I find that I fucked up. If this table looks odd, keep in mind that:
  1. they renumbered the episodes (this makes episode 12 not match up in both orders), and
  2. it's looking at chronological order sorted by broadcast date. Broadcast order sorted chronologically gives the familiar 2, 3, 5, 10, 13, 14, 4, 7, 6, 8, 1, 12, 11, 9 episode order we're all used to (yeah, I typed that from memory). When you pull 1 out, number it 0, put it at the beginning, and then renumber the rest from 1 to 13, and then sort the order by broadcast date, you end up with the numbers below.
Put in this DVDand watch this episode,and you'll be watching this broadcast episode

This is obviously facilitated by having a multi-tray DVD player, and at points you'll have to hit the Menu button on your remote to go select a different episode.

This is also useful for if you only have the RE DVDs and want to watch the series in proper broadcast order.

Much, much later edit (April 8th, 2009, lol): If you don't want to marathon the entire thing, which is a reasonable assumption, you can split it up into four separate viewings that only require two of the discs for each. Just watch it 4-4-3-3.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

posting this before I forget that...

...I MADE IT THROUGH BEFORE I FORGET'S (overcharted) BRIDGE! I was flashing red when I came out of it, worked back up to solid yellow, and then fucked up the outro and failed at 97%.


At least I know that if I save a full bar of star power for the last half of the bridge that it'll carry me through it. I can play around with when I actually activate to be in better standing when the song goes back to being somewhat sane.

World Tour is going to take some getting used to... In addition to vocals and drums, a song editor, and rocker/guitar/drum/mic creators, it adds several new engine features:
  • Extended Sustains: These are pretty neato, and I know of some songs in previous Guitar Heros that needed them. Basically, some sustains have other notes you have to hit while holding the sustain that may or may not be sustains themselves. Some of the notes need to be strummed, others are HO/POs. What's weird is you can hold upper frets during extended sustains, but not during non-extended ones. I don't think any extended sustains have notes below the first sustain fret, but I haven't played everything on Expert yet. Extended Sustains only appear on Hard and Expert, and I've only seen them on Guitar, not bass. A few extended sustains end up having you hold four fret buttons (near the beginning of Mr. Crowley, I believe, for example), but I haven't yet seen any actual four note chords.
  • Touch Strip notes: These are kinda transparent, and on the PS3/360 they're connected with a purple line. If you have the WT guitar, you can (as expected) use the touch strip to play these. They're backwards compatible with older guitars though, you can just tap the fret buttons. What's pretty neat is that you never have to strum during these sections, even if you fuck up. They're kinda like HO/POs on steroids. The "no strumming" thing also makes it easy for you to move your strumming hand up to tap things, which given that most touch strip sections are complicated as all hell, you'll probably need to do. There are sustains and star power phrases within these, and they don't appear in all songs. Some songs seem to be content with massive HO/PO strings. I'm looking at you, Trapped Under Ice.
  • Open Notes on Bass: This is just annoying, really. I mean, from an actual instrument point of view, they make sense. They basically added a 6th note for bass players. If you were playing a real guitar and strummed a string without holding it down at any of the frets, this is the note you'd get. They appear as thick purple lines across the fretboard, have a hard to distinguish blue border when in star power phrases, and turn completely white when HO/POable. To play them you just strum without holding any fret buttons.
  • What doesn't help one single bit: one of the fretboards is purple. If you get it at random in quickplay on Bass, you'll have to quit the song and restart it and hope for a different fretboard, since the open notes blend in all too well with the purple fretboard. And Haruhi forbid you decide to play a custom song on bass. The fretboard they so thoughtfully force on you for all custom songs is the purple one. The Gem Color cheat can help you out with this, as it changes the color of the notes, including open notes. For example, set it to "Toxic Waste" and they'll all be green.
  • Touch strip strumming/effects on sustains: When you're not playing a touch strip section, you can tap the touch strip to strum. Moving your finger along it during sustains also messes with effects on the sustain.
  • Star Power phrases while Star Power is active: Taking a cue from Rock Band having the ability to gain overdrive while it's active, you can do the same with Star Power now. Accruing more star power while it's active extends the current activation, and whammying SP holds still works. It's kinda weird having SP active and seeing the SP gauge go up.
  • Solo Bass/Rhythm, plus drums and vocals: I guess GH is trying to compete with Rock Band now. Solo Bass/Rhythm was sorely needed anyway, as some of GH3's Rhythm parts were really fun, and none of GH3's Bass parts were fun.
Speaking of cheats, there are some interesting ones this time. There are several hidden rockers, color changes for notes, notes under star power, and the flames that appear when you hit a note, an extra venue to toss at random into the quickplay mixup, and a code that allows you to toggle all of the songs' unlocked-ness in quickplay. For those who can take it, there's also hyperspeed (adjustable per instrument, though guitar and bass share a setting), and for the truly insane, performance mode, which hides the note tracks and forces you to play from memory.

The song editor is both really interesting and kind of a letdown. Making songs is fairly simple, making good ones will be very time consuming. That's to be expected. However, they have stupid restrictions in place. For instance, Lead guitar and Bass guitar can't have any chords except a Blue+Orange, and even then it only sounds as one note. Rhythm can have chords galore, but all the fun ones do weird effects instead of playing the notes you've assigned to each color. Single notes on Rhythm play power chords for some reason. You can't place star power, it chooses where to put it at random when you save and only actually shows up when you play your song. There are options for things like song genre and artist name that you can't change (on PS2). The range of effects for lead/rhythm is pitifully limited unless you have a PS3 or 360, where entering a cheat unlocks a lot more. No effects for bass. Can't place touch strip notes (at least, not without a WT guitar). HO/POs are decided automatically by the engine (1/8th note (triplet?) timing or faster gets it) and isn't user-settable or overridable. You can make sustains and they tried to give you various ways to make sure they're the right length, but I haven't yet found a way to add on to an existing sustain or chop a bit off. They put in several example songs that I have found are either too easy or near impossible, and you can't load them up in the editor to see what they did. Last but not least, there's no way to practice a custom song, i.e. without the rock meter, with the ability to slow it down, etc.

The reasonable limitations are size constraints, but even then they seem low. You get 1200 notes (for each part) or 3 minutes (for all parts), whichever comes first. It has tools to automatically generate portions of your song for you, or even give you an entire drum beat for your song (that you can then go in and change up). And one thing that it's important to keep in mind: You're only making the Expert chart. It automatically dumbs it down for lower difficulties. This massively reduces editing time and ensures that lesser-skilled people can play if necessary (i.e. you have a console that can upload to GHTunes, the PS2 can't). Also, for whatever reason, songs on GHTunes aren't cross-platform compatible. So for the best mix of songs you might want the 360 version, since most people seem to have that. The Wii and the PS2 kinda get discriminated against. I dunno about you, but my PS2 has a hard drive and an ethernet port, and has been on the internet before. I want some DLC, dammit.

I think they designed some of the text displayed in the game to be displayed on really huge screens, because there's text here and there that ranges from really small to impossibly small. I guess I'm supposed to hunt down and drop some money on a component video cable for PS2 so I can play the game on our plasma TV without screen lag, instead of playing it on a Commodore monitor. Some of the text that's hard to read is in text entry, such as naming your rocker, instruments, or custom songs, which means when I'm fucking around in the song editor and I want to save for the first time I have to get all the way up in front of the screen to read the letters.

They changed the buttons for name entry, I guess just to fuck with us. Green now confirms the entire name as opposed to just the letter you're working on. Yellow confirms the letter, Blue is backspace, and Orange toggles caps in some cases. I agree that confirming the name needed to be moved from start, but putting it on the button that was single letter confirm? Fucking evil.

If you're not on a system that supports named profiles (like the 360, dunno about the others), then the stats screen at the end will only ever say "Player 1" (and I guess "Player 2", "Player 3", and "Player 4"). From watching FC videos where 99% of everyone has the 360 version, I can see that their gamertag goes there, as well as in the artist field on custom songs. Thanks a lot for giving us a shitty port. Though honestly I'm kinda amazed they're still releasing PS2 versions of rhythm games.

The rocker/instrument editor is pretty neat, and I could probably spend hours in it alone. For your rocker, you have lots of different clothing choices, with unlockable ones visible right then and there (so you can see how it looks before buying it), and the ability to unlock the ability to purchase more as you play through career mode. You also unlock hidden rockers (bosses) and extra instrument parts in career mode (play guitar to unlock guitar parts, drums for drum parts, and so forth). What kinda irks me is that you can't use one of the pre-existing rockers as a base for your own and be able to change all the attributes. For instance, with Midori, you can't change her hair (not even the color), or her face (to remove the hideous red eyeliner or whatever it is she has on). You'll have to make your own rocker, make her as short and thin as possible, give her Midori's hair, bullshit the face options (it takes fucking forever to switch back and forth to look, forget being able to visually compare unless you can take a screenshot), and have fun with the clothing. You can even set aspects of their stage presence, the intro, action upon clearing the song, and action upon failing the song. Like the rest of the editors, PS3/360 users got a shitton more options, and can actually make rockers that look like The Joker, Ronald McDonald, Buckethead, Slash, and other common and/or popular personalities. Wii/PS2 users... well, we can put a female rocker in a french maid outfit. I honestly haven't looked at the male rocker customization options, as I'm fairly content with my custom Midori. The option for Anime eyes just made me laugh. I should start purchasing clothing and play around with this some more. I'm not sure how many custom rockers I can make, I know it's a single digit, but the text is so small I can't read it. I think it's an 8, which is pathetically small. They could have used an extra save file for them and had a lot more slots available. Custom songs on PS2 use extra saves, why couldn't rockers do so too?

The ability to save custom instruments is pretty neat, especially since I made my custom guitar on my Midori-based rocker edit and had to transfer it over when I made the completely custom rocker. The instruments get saved anyway, but if you want to transfer them between rockers, you'll need to explicitly name and save each one. I laughed at the microphone customization options. You can change the mic and the stand. That's it. There's nothing else to customize. Drums have a plethora of options, so many in fact that they had to group them alphabetically in sections like A-C, D-F, G-I, J-L and so on. I'll customize my drums when I actually have a drum kit to play the game with. I was kinda disappointed that I couldn't use the star-shaped guitar body on a bass guitar, and that there was no corresponding star-shaped guitar head. My setup in GH3/GHA was Midori in the Puffball outfit, Maroon style (that's mostly orange) with the Star guitar using the Inevitably Dark finish, and the Nemesis 13 as bass because all the other bass guitars in those games look like shit. She looked pretty cool, and I can't reproduce that look in GHWT :( Also, her default costume is ugly as fuck, all purple and green. It just doesn't work. The item store is integrated with the rocker/instrument customization options, so you just have to select something you don't have, hit green to buy it, and then it gets put on immediately and you can go customize colors.

One thing that's annoyed me about GH3, GHA, and now GHWT: it saves even when you fail. Why? No data has changed when you fail a song. Does it update a hidden "songs failed" counter? Also, GHWT career mode doesn't save after every song, instead, it saves after every set. This wouldn't be an issue if the game were stable. But on some sets it crashes between songs (might just be because I'm running it off the hard drive), making you lose money and career progress.

Money. That reminds me: You get money for doing just about everything in World Tour. When you clear a song, it has a few bonuses like "5-Star Performance", "Hot Start", "Never Red", "Strong Finish", "Perfect Performance", and so forth that give you various amounts of money. These bonuses happen every time you play a song, even on repeat plays, and even in quickplay. For custom songs, you just get money according to the difficulty level you played it on (Expert gets $25, Hard gets $20, and I suspect it goes down by $5 for each level). No extra bonuses, but then again, I guess that was just to prevent people from making one note custom songs and getting boatloads of money for playing them over and over. Even then, the ability to continuously get money just by playing the game makes getting the purchasable stuff a lot easier, as you don't get dragged into looking for another song to clear, finding a similarly skilled friend to play something on co-op with, or to improve your star rating on a few songs to get a couple hundred extra bucks for that guitar. All you need to do is play a few more songs and do somewhat well. And you know what? As you get better at the game, you get more money to spend. With the flow of money essentially being infinite, getting all the purchasable stuff goes from previous games' methods of saving money and buying from most expensive to least expensive, to basically just spending whenever the hell you want to.

I haven't had the opportunity to check out the multiplayer stuff yet. You can't plug in a dualshock and have it pretend to be a guitar anymore (dualshock presence indicates a vocal player now), so I haven't gotten farther than the screen that basically says "um, hey, vocals might want a microphone", and I don't have a USB microphone to plug in. Vocals doesn't need a controller on PS2 anyway, as one of the guitar players or the drummer can hit Blue to become the band leader and handle song selection.

The ability to adjust audio volume levels per-track is awesome. Now I can turn down everything but bass when I'm playing bass so I can actually hear what I'm fucking playing. Speaking of playing stuff on Bass, I've played Beat It twice, and FCed it both times. My higher FC score is currently 7th on ScoreHero (look in Solo Bass on PS2). Whee. Bass is pretty easy, as I sightread FCed a couple other songs whose names I forget at the moment, and had a couple shoulda-been sightread FCs that were -1s instead.

Final thoughts on Guitar Hero World Tour:
  • Regardless of everything negative I said about the game (which is mostly nitpicks), if you're completely hooked on Guitar Hero and need more songs to play, World Tour is there for you. Lots more songs, plus they're all master tracks this time, which means no crappy covers.
  • If you've played Rock Band with a full band, then World Tour's Band mode should give a comparable experience. World Tour is even compatible with the Rock Band instruments.
  • If you're new to the whole thing... It's pretty accessible actually.
    • The tutorials are still there (though the voiceovers are downright boring in this one)
    • There's also an added tutorial that covers some of the new features, as well as tutorials for drums and vocals
    • The game has a lower difficulty all around than GH3
    • Try out the new Beginner difficulty level, if three frets are too much for you. You can learn to strum a rhythm and then work up to Easy which adds the frets in.
  • This is kinda biased towards guitar, but it's all I've got. I'll post more once I get the other instruments.
Overall, World Tour is worth getting. As for which console to get it on, that kinda depends on which one you have. I'd recommend the 360/PS3, then the Wii, and last the PS2. 360/PS3/Wii all support download content and GHTunes. Wii doesn't get patches, unfortunately. PS2 as a last resort if you're cheap or jobless like me and don't have one of the next gen consoles yet.

Through some Youtube videos, I found and reproduced for my own amusement/benefit a fun glitch in Guitar Hero 2. It enables you to pass a song while only having to play a single section. I played around with it and discovered some fun things:
  • Using the glitch hides the rock meter and your score display. Your rock meter is still active, and you can still fail the song. You can also still accrue points.
  • Using the glitch changes your fretboard to the training mode one, and your newspaper portrait is just random noise.
  • Once triggered, the glitch remains active until you reset your console.
  • Guitar Hero 2 will not give you credit for finishing the song if you get 0 points (i.e. you have to hit one note and get 50 points).
  • If you hit all the notes in the section, it will be counted as 100% and your setlist stars will turn yellow. Even if you only got three stars.
  • Using the glitch removes star power from the song.
  • Using the glitch disables all the pre- and post-song sounds at whatever venue you're playing at.
  • Using the glitch replaces whichever song you select in the setlist with the one you used to trigger the glitch, though you still get credit for completing the song you selected.
  • On the 360, you can use the glitch to get the achievement for passing Jordan on Expert easily.
  • Look at the More Info screen after clearing the song, whee...
Here's how to do it:
  1. Start up GH2 and go into Training->Practice.
  2. Select a song. Any song will do. See below for some suggestions on which song to take from a "let's make this as easy as possible" point of view.
  3. Select your part. I've chosen guitar every time, but I don't see why it wouldn't work with rhythm or bass.
  4. Select your difficulty.
  5. Select your section. You may wish to look up some note charts to find good sections. Here are my suggestions:
    • The Vocal Break near the end of Stop only has one note, which is a Blue+Orange chord sustain on Expert. If you hit it and hold the sustain all the way you'll get 150 points and three gold stars. If you strum early and release before the sustain, you'll get 100 points and three gold stars. Whee.
    • Another good section is Intro B of Carry Me Home, as it's only one measure long and even on Expert won't fail you if you only hit one note in it, allowing you to score the minimum of 50 points and even allowing you to do the encore at the end of the set, where your rock meter carries over from the previous song.
    • Whatever you choose, you'll be stuck hearing that song (with or without the guitar) until you reset your console.
    • Another thing to consider is the length of the song. If you want to glitch your way through a lot of stuff quickly, better take Trogdor, as it's the shortest song in the game (I believe).
  6. Let the section run, you don't have to hit any notes in it.
  7. After it finishes, count the beats until the menu comes up. I find it's usually three, or just before the third beat. If you're using the Vocal Break in Stop, you'll have to find the right vocal cue for the end of the section, but that's not that hard.
  8. Restart the section.
  9. When it gets to the end, unplug your controller just as the menu would pop up. If it's wireless, this means you'll have to yank the receiver. People say it works when you remove a battery, but I haven't found that to be the case and yanking the receiver is faster anyway. Done correctly, you'll get the "You're rocking out too hard" screen instead of the menu.
  10. Plug your controller back in and hit resume.
  11. If you timed it right, the note track will just scroll on forever. If you didn't time it right, you'll get the menu. Restart and try again.
  12. Once you get it, hit start and choose Exit. You're now glitched and ready to go.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This is gonna happen

I have procured a Torx T10 screwdriver. I did my usual test of ability by opening the guitar controller, closing it, and verifying that it still worked. Indeed, it does. Also, while I had it open, I took sharpies (green, red, yellow, blue, orange, and black) and marked all the wires in both ribbon cables. Black's for the ground, the other colors should be obvious. This bit of thought ahead of time will make sure that the actual operation will be successful.

Also, I took the opportunity to fold up a small piece of paper and do the paper shim mod, which prevents the neck from wiggling. Once I got the neck reattached, I had to play around with it a bit (using the fretboard on the cheats menu for reference) until all the buttons registered properly. This is only a temporary thing until I find my dad's wire stripper and some electrical tape. But at least until then, I can pre-tilt. So I can go back to getting -1 runs on Generation Rock that beat my FC scores. Yay.

As for my one worry, that there wouldn't be enough ribbon cable to join the neck and body, that seems to be gone. There's juuuuust enough room to spare. Both ribbon cables are doubled back and are actually longer than the amount of space they need to cover. I'll only need extra wire if I fuck up somehow.

While I had the guitar open, just for the hell of it, I started up Guitar Hero and navigated around the menus with the guitar opened. Whee. It was actually kind of difficult, because the neck kept losing its connection (the pins in the body that it has to make contact with are spring-loaded).

Also, I've noticed something weird with the cheats menu in GH3. Going into "enter cheat", sometimes all the chords will drop out except for Green+Red. Playing them will just make a faint clicking sound instead of the chord. I don't know if it affects cheat entry or not as I already have all of them unlocked, and the only ones you can continually get verification messages for even after using once are Hyperspeed and Unlock Everything. Hyperspeed is all single frets, which still work, and Unlock Everything is 4 note chords, which didn't make any noise to begin with.

BTW, I'm sure anyone reading this already knows, but there's an easy mnemonic for remembering the Unlock Everything code. It's YO BRO GO ROB BOB. Each letter of that phrase corresponds to the only fret button you don't hold down in each chord when entering the cheat.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mixed success

I got through Cult of Personality on Expert again. I also managed to get through Number of the Beast on Expert. Also, beat Slash on Expert and Lou on Hard. Now my stopping point in Expert Career is Before I Forget, which I will never be able to pass because of its 45 second long bridge consisting of nothing but chords. That should be single notes (if you listen to the guitar, there's only one note being played). Which means some asshole at Neversoft charted it with chords just to make it harder, which is just plain wrong.

If they were Green/Red, Red/Yellow, and Yellow/Blue chords, I could pass it. But they're Green/Yellow, Red/Blue, and Yellow/Orange. My fingers can't move like that at that speed.

I FCed Generation Rock again, with an even lower score. I think I need to stop bitching and actually fucking hardwire my guitar so I can pre-tilt without either Yellow or Green going out. On the second activation I dropped the stupid hold that you activate 1/2 beat before the end of :( And to top it off I forgot where the third activation was entirely, so I went into the fourth with a full bar. The fourth is on the last SP phrase, which is fun in GH3 on PS2 because the notes turn invisible. There's still a sparkle there to tell you where the note is, but nevertheless an interesting graphical glitch.

So, yeah... I think that's it... I wrote this and then forgot about it for a few hours before finding the tab just now, adding this (pointless) text you may or may not be reading, and hitting Publish Post.

Edit: since the post time says 11:32 AM, I'll just mention that it's now 4:30 PM. Just so you have an idea of how long I forgot about the post for.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recent Anime: ChäoS;HEAd

Chäos;HEAd title screen
ChäoS;HEAd title screen
ChäoS;HEAd's main character, Nishijou Takumi, isn't concerned with the three-dimensional world. He much prefers the two-dimensional world. He is somewhat of a hikikomori, but he does go to school on occasion. In fact, he's planned out the exact minimum number of days he has to go to school so he can graduate. His waifu, Seira-tan (a character from an anime he's watching called Blood Tune), shows up when he's alone in his shipping container on the roof of a building (that strangely enough, has power and internet). He mostly sits there and plays his favorite MMORPG, Empire Sweeper.

The anime opens with a short scene in a post-apocalyptic setting. After the opening we go to the present time, where a series of strange deaths has been occuring. These events are being called New Generation Madness, or New Gen for short. Three have occurred already.

Takumi's perfect world changes when someone named Shogun sends him some images of the fourth New Gen, showing a person pinned to a wall with cross-shaped needles. Later that night he happens upon the scene and ends up with one of the cross-shaped needles.

Other characters introduced in the first episode are his sister Nanami and Kusunoki Yua (a third-year at his school). You also see a short clip of another character who's introduced later on, and a fourth character shows up in his class at the end of the first episode who gets introduced in the second.

The plot is as follows. Some people are Gigalomaniacs, and have the power to manifest their delusions into reality. Naturally, someone is out to obtain this power and use it for their own purposes. This entity is Nozomi Group. They've created a machine that can essentially do the same thing that Gigalomaniacs can, called Noah II. There's a Noah I. Don't worry. Though it's just referred to as the prototype to Noah II.

At this point, it's unclear how Shogun and the New Gen events fit into the plot, though there's a small bit I'm leaving out about variances in gravity (GE-Rate) because I don't really feel like getting deep into it. Basically, the GE-Rate has been abnormal at each of the New Gen locations.

ChäoS;HEAd is based off of a visual novel of the same name. I guess that's why it's only going to be 12 episodes? The music for the game is good, and the opening/closing for the anime are pretty good as well. Specifically the closing. It's almost entirely in English, and m.3.3.w got one of the lines wrong in their karaoke. It almost sounds like what they have, so I can't really blame them, but still, it's kind of bad when a fansub group that subs in English messes up English lyrics.

m.3.3.w lyricsActual lyrics
You're always super special
That's why you are here with me
Miracle baby, born now blessing superstar
You're always super special
That's why you are here with me
Miracle baby, born on the same super star

Overall, it's pretty good, and m.3.3.w's releasing it in 720p encoded in h264 (with Matroska chapters, so you can just hit Next to bypass the opening), so visually it looks awesome. It's currently at 8 of 12 episodes, so catch up now if you haven't been watching it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holy fuck, Batman!

Uhhhh... wtf just happened.


It all started with an FC of Darkness Riff in One (on Expert, all of this is on Expert).

Then I bumbled around playing some other stuff for a bit.

I decided on a whim to play a song I usually have a hard time with (due to a strum rhythm that changes ever so slightly every time it comes up): Monsters. Passed it easily.

I thought "hm, do I have something good going here?" So I played 3's and 7's, which has another fun strum rhythm and some damned annoying chord changes. Passed easily. 4 stars.

I decided I needed to end this, so to commit suicide I load up Cult of Personality. I beat it. I GOT THROUGH THE DAMN SECOND SOLO. 4 FUCKING STARS.

Still trying to commit suicide, I loaded up Cliffs of Dover, figuring Intro Solo B would get me. Well, I died a few times trying to get to Intro Solo B, but when I did get to it, not only did I have star power, but I got through it. Went on to beat the fucking song. Only 3 stars here.

Do I dare... Raining Blood? Surely Mosh 1 will get me, and it would be a sightread since I've never played the song on Expert. If not Mosh 1, then definitely Flood! will get me.

Edit: Well, didn't get Raining Blood on Expert, but did finally get it on Hard. Lou battle!

Edit 2: Can someone come to my house and pass Before I Forget on Expert for me? The section of bullshit chords gets me every time. If you listen to the audio there aren't even any power chords there, so WTF, Neversoft. Overchart much?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

web browsers

Everyone probably knows about Google Chrome, Google's lightweight web browserfancy information collector. What most people probably don't know is that there's another compile of the same code out there (yay open source) that omits all of the data mining stuff, turning Chrome into just another web browser.

It's called SRWare Iron.

Let's compare.

Chrome: Collects information about your web browsing habits and sends it back to Google.
Iron: None of that bullshit.

Chrome: No ad blocker.
Iron: Has one integrated, that runs off of a file "adblock.ini" in its directory. They have a file you can toss in there to block most everything on the internet. It works pretty well, I haven't seen an ad since I set it up.

Chrome: No flash blocker.
Iron: Sadly, the same.

Chrome: Uses Windows' Internet Options control panel to connect to the internet.
Iron: Sadly, still uses it. I'd like to cockblock IE and allow everything decent plz.

Chrome: Refuses to install on Windows XP SP1 or earlier.
Iron: No such artificial OS limitation.

I'm using it to write this post right now on WinXP SP1. Just like Chrome, it crashes a fair amount, but the codebase is still technically beta, so that's to be expected. Unfortunately, it lacks the one feature other browsers have where you can press F11 to browse in fullscreen, with the location/tab bars hidden except when you need them. It's still got a long way to go, but it's a decent browser.

Iron also has a portable version that you can run from a USB flash drive and makes no system configuration changes.

The verdict: Use when you need a light and fast web browser. Funny, that's what Firefox was supposed to be, but it's a behemoth now.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I just did a 100% run on My Name Is Jonas. Not an FC because I overstrummed on the first activation (lol select button and getting used to strumming when I hit it), but still. It's even more proof I'll FC this song someday.

Score is low because of the dropped combo (my streak is 735, there's 843 notes), but I hit all the squeezes, even the ticks. 349458 points, 8/10 SP, 5.241x avg. multiplier. Yeah, it's fewer points (and a lower multiplier, wtf) than my previous -3 run. Oh well.

At least now I'll have the gold stars in the setlist.

Last night I FCed it in practice mode, lol.

I was hitting select instead of pre-tilting on the first activation because if I tilt then yellow tends to go out. Just wiggling the neck back and forth makes yellow flicker.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hot damn, sauce plz

My parents came back from their trip to North Carolina's Outer Banks last Sunday, and they brought back with them a bottle of Tortugas' Lie Habañero Peppa Sauce. After helping them get their stuff inside and handling other minor things, I broke out the chips, gave it a shake (good advice for any hot sauce, they tend to separate) and opened it.

Holy fuck it's awesome.

It's probably the first habañero-based hot sauce I've had that actually has a decent flavor to go with it. Quite simply, I can't put the bottle down, even though I'm in pain. I call it "happy pain".

The bottle's almost empty already, so I hopped on tortugaslie.com to see if I could order any more or something. Unfortunately, they don't have an online store, but there are a few physical stores that they say have their hot sauce, one of which we actually have in Charlottesville (Harris Teeter). Harris Teeter is more expensive than all the other grocery stores, but whatever.

I'll have to see if I can't pick up some more of this stuff.

Friday edit: Finished the last of it early this morning.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Guitar Hero 3, Expert difficulty, Generation Rock.

262662 points (lol)

I didn't really have an intelligent star power path outside of the first and last activations, but whatever. 9/11 SP, 4.722 average multiplier, and of course 734 of 734 notes.

Downstrummed the entire thing. It could be altstrummed, and my arm was getting pretty tired past about halfway (well, during Build-up), but there aren't any complicated rhythms at all. It's just beat and half-beat for the entire song with some rests thrown in every now and then. There aren't even any hammer-ons or pull-offs.

Let's see where that score comes in on ScoreHero... 1637th on PS2. To be expected, I didn't squeeze or have good middle activations at all. Hell, there are better 99% scores :(

Still no FC of Closer (stupid chokes while trying to squeeze) or My Name Is Jonas (haven't played it in a while, kinda want to hardwire my guitar and celebrate with an FC)

I've noticed two things that Generation Rock and My Name Is Jonas have in common: Both songs' first SP activation is properly timed by pre-tilting in the 2nd SP phrase, and both have no holds in SP phrases.

I went through and tagged any post where I mention Guitar Hero with, well, Guitar Hero. Posts that mention it exclusively (meaning, no other games) don't have the games tag.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy birthday to me

So, yeah. Another year gone. Also, that last quarter century went by pretty fast.

Tsuruya is looking really good on top of my monitor. The figure was a cheap one (it had to be assembled), but I don't really care. Maybe once I have money I'll order the good one from HobbyLink Japan or something. Also, it came with a little round stand (to be expected) and a support thing which I can't figure out why it needs it. She stands up just fine on her own. I used some scotch tape to secure the base to the top of my monitor, but that was just to make sure she wouldn't fall off.

The missing volume 18 of Negima contains chapters 160 through 168 of the manga. Maybe I can get a fellow Negima fan who's been reading the scanslations to copy them onto my flash drive or something so I can read them while hunting down the rogue volume. I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday, they had 1-17 and 19. Thinking of going again today and if they don't have it, putting it on order.

When I left yesterday to hit up Barnes and Noble (Negima 18, where are you?) and Giant (for some yogurt I neglected to get last Thursday on my mom's bill) I forgot to check the mail before I left. So I did it when I got back and discovered that my grandmother had sent me a birthday card with $25 in it. $25 I could have spent somehow. Oh well, I guess the better thing to do with it will be to put it in my account and refill my gas tank with it, since it's still practically empty from driving to/from Nekocon.

I was going through some stuff I haven't touched in years in my My Documents folder and happened upon an old website of mine that I made for a class. Out of this, I got an awesome picture of Boogiepop (from Boogiepop Phantom) which I cropped and resized and am now phasing in as my avatar. I also discovered a stupid MSPaint webcomic I made in 2004 (before discovering 4chan). I made it at work while bored, which accounts for the level of humor in it. Some of the humor kinda reminds me of xkcd, to be honest. I might post the comics here, I might not.

Maybe I should make a regular thing of it. A few times a week, I would MSPaint something kinda funny up and put it up here. The trouble with that is, if I commit to any form of a schedule, my creative inspiration is going to go out the window entirely. I made the aforementioned comics basically as the joke came to mind, not on any form of a release schedule. I might give random comic-making a try. We'll see. I'm not much of an artist, so it'll be stick figures. Themes to be expected: anime, computers, games, internet phenomena/memes, etc.

Also, an update to this post I made a while back. I got the navbar up at the top showing me as logged in, with the New Post and Customize (and Sign Out) options. It was a cookie issue, which is weird since I'm allowing cookies. I had to go into Firefox's cookie exceptions dialog and add Allow exceptions for blogspot.com and blogger.com (not sure which did it, too lazy to figure it out). Once I did that, hit Sign In, and then in the dashboard hit View Blog, it worked. The post box still randomly inserts line breaks on its own though.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Through the fire and the flames we carry on

Cleared it on Hard finally. It's my patented technique of not playing it for a while and coming back to it that did the trick. Kinda like finishing that detext for the last wallpaper update. Anyway.

I can get to Herman's Solo no problem. Somehow I had star power at that point, so I activated when I needed it and it carried on into the beginning of Sam's Solo. BSed my way through that and Herman's Solo 2 somehow, then I couldn't believe I hadn't failed. I'm like "This is 'What the...'! I got through the damn solos!" and I went on to clear the song. I also FCed Almost There... before getting 58% on You Rock!

So I immediately hopped over to Expert and almost managed to BS my way through the intro, but then right on cue Yellow started being a bitch.

So now I'm gonna go cook the taco meat I bought last night (mmm, ground bison) and have me some tacos. I have Sargento's shredded cheese blend that has bacon in it. It's gonna be delicious.


Monday, November 10, 2008

(really tiny) Wallpaper Update

I was holding off for more wallpapers, but I haven't really been downloading any lately. In addition, the first one (leftmost) is a detext that I was working on, reached a point where I didn't know how to continue, put it down and forgot about it for a couple months, then picked it up today and finished it easily.

ThreeFour wallpapers... yeah... anyway, enjoy.

We have a late addition to this update. I posted two wallpapers for a friend and he posted Kagami in return.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nekocon 11 Report


Drove down to Hampton. Pretty uneventful, hotel was easy to find, convention center a block away, blah.

Saw AMV Salad and AMV Salad 2, it's a blatant ripoff of AMV Hell that has its moments but mostly recycles old jokes. Surprise, they're making a third one that's a multi-author collaboration.

I killed my thumb on the fucking d-pad playing Arcana Heart. Since I don't know any moves for any of its characters, I was just trying random quarter circles. D-pads are awful for fighting games. Had a blister the rest of the con. Arcana Heart itself was pretty fun, though a bit slow and clunky like Street Fighter.

Went to the Giant Robot DanceRave only to discover that the only thing Giant Robot about it was the name. Speakers were too loud (I could hear what was either audio compression artifacts or sound equipment being pushed past its limits, probably also the reason why the DJ was unintelligible (either that or it was because the DJ was practically shoving the microphone into his mouth every time he spoke into it)), ears hurt for the rest of the con. Why the fuck were there no earplugs available for those of us who like being able to hear? The DJ played the Katamari Damacy theme song at one point, but that was the only redeeming thing about the entire thing. The song the DJ played "for the Youtube generation" I so wanted to be either Never Gonna Give You Up or Chocolate Rain, but instead it was some shitty techno song with Chris Crocker sound clips. The rest of the music was generic shitty techno, for example, Sandstorm. I'll repeat those two words again: shitty techno.

At about 1 AM we realized we hadn't had any food and walked to a nearby Denny's.


Went to the re-run of the AMV contest (due to having been on the road during the original run). Action category was good, Drama category was ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ... (seriously, drama AMVs are boring as fuck), and Comedy category was awesome. If only I had a ballot or could remember the names of any of the videos, I'll just have to search Nekocon 11 on amv.org and hope I recognize something.

Went to the panel titled "Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann: Piercing The Heavens" just because. It was run by people cosplaying Yoko, Kamina, and pre- and post-timeskip Simon (that's pronounced "see-mohn"). We all shouted "ROW ROW FIGHT THE POWAH" at the beginning, and there were some lulz throughout.

We decided we'd go out for "teh f00dz" early enough that places other than Denny's would be open. We were also too hungry to walk any farther than the restaraunt closest to the hotel, which so happened to be a McDonald's. Whoever salts their french fries must have been really happy.

Went to the beginning of Live Action Whack-a-Catgirl just to see what the fuck it was. It was kinda boring and the people that were the game pieces for the Fangirl Stampede card went overboard on the first stampede and gave the catgirl a nosebleed. I got up and went to the Import Videogames panel to listen to one of the dealers' room vendors talk about piracy for an hour. Bleh.

After that, I defied our danchou's orders to go to the dancerave (This one was titled Cat Scratch Fever, but according to our danchou, they didn't actually play Cat Scratch Fever, making it fail just like any other rave) and went to the game room to play some Guitar Hero 3. They so fucking obviously played favorites with the systems, because the PS3 guitar is soooooooooooooo much better than the PS2 one. The strum bar is quieter and Select/Start are where they were on the GH1/2 SG. Something was off with my alt-strumming which led me to fail One on Expert twice in the same spot, where it briefly returns to the Darkness Riff at the end of Fast Solo B (or the beginning of Fast Solo C, haven't bothered to check). At least there weren't any elitists within visual range, everyone was generally sympathetic, kinda like what would happen at MAGFest in that situation.

At this point I realized that I'd spent the con disappointingly sober, so we went down to the one of our hotel rooms where all the alcohol was and I had two rum and cokes (mixed in the coke can due to general laziness) and looked up funny images on macrochan (yay free hotel wifi) while others played Hearts and generally lulz were had.


Nothing interesting ever happens at an anime convention on Sunday. I blitzed to the dealers' room to get in as soon as it opened and pick up the Tsuruya figure I'd been debating about buying for the entire con. Gave one last futile search for volume 18 of Negima!, went back to the hotel room, lamented about my failure to pick up a cup of coffee from the hotel's continental breakfast on my way to the con (the continental breakfast closed at 10 AM, the dealers' room opened at 10 AM), and packed up.

We went to Denny's for lunch and then left for Charlottesville.

And one of the guys in my car left his towel in my trunk, so now I get to make the "no matter where you go, you always need to know where your towel is" Hitchhiker's Guide reference when I give it back to him.

Merchandise Haul (more like Merchandise Pickup, it's not nearly enough to be classified as a haul)

Negima! volume 19 (I'm missing 18, couldn't find it at any of the three vendors that had manga)
The Third volumes 1 and 2

A panel from the Nyoro~n Churuya-san doujin with Churuya going "nyoro~n"

Yakisoba cafe maid uniform Tsuruya for the win

A button I saw in Artists' Alley that had a cute looking chibi Yomi on it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Guitar Hero level up!

So, coming off that detachable neck rant, and maybe this is a testament to how random my controller is, I feel like I've levelled up in Guitar Hero now.

Just today, I:
  • 4* One on Expert (holy shit, first completion was 4 stars, wtf)
  • Beat my high score on Holiday in Cambodia by almost 20,000
  • Got through the first part of Solo 2B in Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll without dropping combo, though I still keep fucking up Solo 2A
  • -3 My Name Is Jonas (dropped in Solo 2 under star power, dammit), 8/10 SP with near-optimal path (2-2-S1-2-2-S1), 5.276x average multiplier, 351750 points (beating my old high score by almost 20,000) THIS FC WILL HAPPEN AT SOME POINT, I FUCKING SWEAR
  • Beat my high score on Paint It Black by over 26,000
And yesterday I practiced two hand tapping thanks to the section of GH:A's Living On The Edge titled Two Hand Tapping 101. I need a step up from that now, thinking about slowing down the tappable parts of Thunderhorse in practice mode.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

another detachable neck rant

Honestly, I'm surprised that there hasn't been greater backlash, a recall, and a sincere apology from RedOctane. They claim it's that way to make it easy to store and transport. I don't know about you, but I've never had a problem storing or transporting my guitar controller with the neck attached. It's a stupid gimmick that makes no sense and needs to be eliminated and never done again.

My controller is completely random now. It usually works fine. Sometimes yellow will flicker or go out entirely, this is guaranteed if I have the guitar tilted to activate star power or if I try to whammy a chord containing yellow and green or red.

Just today I noticed red flickering. I'm beginning to hate songs with HO/POs because I'll randomly lose my combo when I shouldn't have.

A few days ago I had problems with blue and orange dropping out immediately on holds or if I hit the whammy bar.

And a while back, I had problems with green that were so severe I couldn't navigate the menus.

That brings the fret buttons I've had problems with up to all five of them. They effectively shipped the game with a defective controller. The community is owed a recall, a redesigned single piece guitar controller (available for free to anyone who participates in the recall), and a huge apology.

The ideal redesigned controller would have a more sensitive tilt sensor (I have to get mine vertical before it goes off, and I can't send powerups in quick succession in battle without stopping playing, looking down, finding select, and mashing it, tanking my rock meter in the process and offsetting any advantage the powerups may have given me), a more sensitive whammy bar (I have to push mine down past halfway to get any whammy to register, making short holds impossible to whammy), and select/start positioned where they were on the red SG, where select can be easily hit with the side of the hand as opposed to having to play with your hand cupped over the whammy bar (leading to dropped combos) and a finger planted on the select button (leading to accidental activations).

And, like I've said in previous posts about this, whoever had the idea for the detachable neck really needs to be shot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I think it's working

Killed the red line, centered the image, and scripted a quick Show/Hide button. Works on Firefox.

I think whatever this is that I have (the seasonal allergies + chest congestion thing) is getting worse. I coughed for about half an hour straight until I managed to breathe deeply for a bit and quickly drink some soda. That seemed to soothe my throat a little and the coughing subsided after that.

I wonder if I'll even be alive for Nekocon at this rate. I mean, I hope so, otherwise only about seven people or so can actually go unless they get Greyhound tickets.

I can barely play Guitar Hero, if that's any indication. Up until last night, I was able to get through the intro to Holiday in Cambodia on Expert in the green with the rock meter close to or at max, but last night I just barely squeaked through in the red. It's like "hello, two months ago when I could barely get through the intro!"

I've noticed that playing a lot of Guitar Hero 2 has made me better at Guitar Hero 3. Since the HO/POs are more strictly timed and all. Playing Misirlou a lot has made alt-strumming fairly reliable for me now. I mean, now I can get the first star power phrase in Knights of Cydonia somewhat reliably, and a week or so ago I FC'd Breakneck Desperado (but not Breakneck Desperado 2, sadly). Even though I haven't yet, FCing Solo 2A in Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll isn't far off, which being repeated pulloffs I have some trouble with but generally I can manage to BS it somehow. Occasionally one of my fingers just doesn't want to make it to the button on time or something.

Speaking of FCing things, an Expert FC of My Name Is Jonas is imminent for me. I can FC every section, I just haven't done it all within the space of a single playthrough.

And on a slightly different note, I can 5* Bulls on Parade in performance mode. Whee.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm playing around with stuff

Trying to get my MyAnimeList signature image in here somehow in a manner that's easily visible but also looks good. Haven't quite arrived at it yet, but I'll keep working on it. I'm kinda tired, and I'm sick, so I think I'll go get some sleep.

I say I'm sick, but it's really just a (rather nasty) combination of seasonal allergies and chest congestion. Several of us were coughing periodically throughout the showing earlier tonight, dunno if we all have the same thing or what.

I'd kinda like to get better soon, since I just found out last Thursday that I am indeed going to Nekocon with CAINE, after all the effort I'd put into ignoring the planning for it. The group needs at least one more car (we're all friends, but I don't think we're friendly enough to try and cram everyone plus everyone's bags into Tom's van) and they offered to cover gas/hotel/con badge, so I can't really complain, right? My original reason for not being able to go was lack of money.

As long as Tom brings alcohol and there's a decent selection in the game room I'll be fine. Rum tends to make my throat feel better, I'll have him mix me up something with that. As long as I can stumble from the hotel to the convention center without getting arrested and start playing games, I'll be fine.

I had an idea on how to work the MAL sig in here, using some Javascript to dynamically hide/show it with the click of a button. I'll have to tweak the CSS of the widget so it doesn't have the red line beneath it also.

I suppose I'll need to eat at some point during Nekocon, we'll see how that works out. Maybe my NEET gene will kick in and I can get my mom to give me some money for the weekend. I really should get a damn job.

Hitting Publish Post now before this becomes really long.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Alcohol-fueled rant

Rumble Racing is a great game. Sure, it could be better, I even have a long list of improvements it could have done to it. But for what it is, it's a great game. Let's break it down and examine it a little more closely.

Being an arcade-style racer with powerups, you expect some crazy action, and indeed it does deliver. All 8 cars can be on screen jousting for position and using powerups and the game doesn't even think about slowing from a solid 60 frames per second. Sure, it was a launch title and doesn't really use the full power of the PS2, but Ridge Racer V was also a launch title and has slowdown, with no powerups. Think about that for a bit.

Those powerups themselves, let's compare them to other, similar games, for instance, Mario Kart. Each competitor in Mario Kart has their own special unique powerup that is usually rare but powerful. In addition, there is the blatantly overpowered Blue Shell, which seeks out the leader and blows them up, with an area of effect that can get a close-by second place. These can be dodged, but it is a dark and arcane magic. Other than that, Mario Kart's powerups are somewhat balanced.

Rumble Racing has no definitive anti-leader powerup. If you've played the game you may be screaming "Tornado! Tornado!" at me, but honestly, the Tornado is too rare (and only guaranteed much too late in the race) to make a difference. If you're lucky, it'll take a shortcut and you'll go up from 8th to 5th or so. It's not the black and white "if you launch it in a shortcut, it takes all shortcuts, if you launch it outside of a shortcut, it doesn't take shortcuts" difference that's clearly noticable in Rumble Racing's predecessor, NASCAR Rumble. The Tornado was much more prevalent in NASCAR Rumble than in Rumble Racing, mainly because computers could get them, and that they weren't any more rare than any other powerup and not running order-restricted. That and they would go around the track for several laps causing mayhem. I agree that the Tornado powerup needed to be rarer and restricted to the lower positions, making it human player-only was nice but not really needed, but overall it's too rare.

Comparing rarity, the lower positions in Mario Kart get almost nothing but mushrooms (very momentary speed boosts, only really useful for cutting across grass or other sections of the track that would slow you down), lightning (slows everyone else when used), and blue shells. To contrast, in the lead, you literally get nothing but bananas and green shells. A working strategy in Mario Kart involves lingering back for most of the race and pouncing on the lead on the last lap. because if you do too well you won't be able to win. To me, that removes any semblance of fun there might be, having to artificially limit my show of skill in order to run a winning tactic. A proper winning tactic should involve nothing but skill.

I've said before that Rumble Racing could have been made harder if the AI cars would launch powerups forwards instead of only dropping them. In Mario Kart, they do this gratuitously, and the result is clear that it's a lot harder to stay in first. While I don't agree with the anti-1st place sentiment that the Mario Kart games have, there's a middle ground in AI and powerup balance between Rumble Racing and Mario Kart that would result in the perfect game.

Let's shift gears slightly and look at a different game, Wipeout. I've only really played the first PSP one, so that's what my impression of the game is based on. Wipeout's physics are governed by an extremely tight rubber band and a very cruel dictator. It makes no sense to have the "time hitting the accelerator correctly at the start of a race to get a speed boost" feature when one second after that speed boost blows you by the field, the rubber band kicks in and the field shoots past you. Furthermore, if you even so much as graze the wall, or even worse, are bumped into it by a computer, your speed is dropped tremendously. The AI seems to know about this and use it to its own advantage, which is very annoying, aggrivating, and disturbing. Wipeout does however carry the distinction of being the only game in this rant other than Rumble Racing where midair stunts can result in speed boosts.

There's also a similar series of games featuring Crash Bandicoot. I've played a few of them. It seemed way too much like a Mario Kart ripoff.

I've played Jak X Combat Racing for about the period of a three day rental, and didn't really like it.

The only other passable game that offers a gameplay experience remotely similar to Rumble Racing is its aforementioned predecessor, NASCAR Rumble. I know that EA probably sees no profit in making Rumble Racing 2, but it would please me greatly if they did so. The storage space afforded to games by the current generation of consoles means that they could put in a shitton of content. They could bring back NASCAR Rumble's Storm powerup that was removed in Rumble Racing, they could bring back all of the tracks from NASCAR Rumble and Rumble Racing (even the ones from NASCAR Rumble that Rumble Racing re-did), and give us more tracks in a similar vein to the previous ones. Maybe even have tracks that can be raced in reverse, just to mix things up. Cars could be customizable, there could be support for more players in multiplayer (Both of the Rumble games only let two humans play at once, even though both systems supported multitaps and the latter supported online play), even online multiplayer with server-side rankings and the whole lot.

It could be awesome. But instead, what do we get? Madden '09.

Friday, October 10, 2008

CSS is fun

I've been messing around with MAGFest's web site using the Firefox extension Stylish. The result of all this is a dark color scheme. Being that I am who I am, I'll post it here.


Using this theme is simple (so long as you use Firefox, and possibly also Opera):
  1. Install Stylish if you don't already have it installed, and restart Firefox.
  2. Click Stylish's icon in the status bar and select Manage Styles...
  3. Click Write...
  4. Type in a name for the theme in the Description box. I recommend Darkfest, but it's ultimately your decision.
  5. Open the CSS file, press Ctrl + A and then Ctrl + C to select it and copy it to your clipboard.
  6. In the Add Style window, click the large text box and press Ctrl + V to paste the CSS in.
  7. Click Save and close the Manage Styles window.
  8. Look at MAGFest's website, it should now look like the After image linked above. If not, refresh it.
  9. Enjoy.
Now for some questions you might have.

Q. How do I toggle this theme?
A. The theme can be toggled quickly and easily by clicking Stylish's status bar icon and selecting it. You may need to refresh the page for it to take effect.

Q. Does this cause any functionality changes with the site?
A. Not intentionally. There is one known issue with the logo. With the site's default theme, clicking it takes you back to the main page (http://magfest.org/), but with this theme active, the logo is not a link. This is due to the way I replaced the image, and cannot be changed as far as I know. The page it takes you to is the "What is it?" page, which can easily be accessed through a link just below the logo anyway, so I don't consider it to be a huge issue.

Q. How did you invert the images?
A. I inverted the images in Photoshop (for the PNGs) and ImageReady (for the animated GIF). Load image, hit Ctrl + I, save. For the gif, every frame needed to be inverted, but it's just a matter of selecting all the frames and then inverting.

Q. Where are the inverted images stored?
A. Firefox supports embedding an image within a CSS file or a web page. You just have to encode the image with an algorithm called Base64 and use the right syntax. The images are thus stored within the CSS file itself.

Q. Why did you embed the images in the CSS file?
A. Distributing one file is easier than distributing four, and the associated documentation is a lot simpler to write and follow.

Q. How did you go about encoding the images?
A. I wrote a quick PHP script with a form to let me select an image to encode. It encodes it and spits out the correct syntax to use in a CSS file as well as a preview of the image so I know which image I just encoded.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Progress, Go!

I mentioned a few posts back how I wasn't making any progress whatsoever in Rumble Racing. Well, that's changed. I found a really cheesy way to get new fast laps that kinda defeats the purpose of doing well.

It all started when on a whim I decided to see what position I could finish a race in if I let the computers get a lap on me first. As far as that goes, the best track for Thor is confirmed to be So Refined, where I finished 2nd, and if I had hit fewer powerups, could have gotten 1st. This says something fun: On some tracks, Thor can do 8 laps in less time than it takes the computers to do 7.

I also discovered something. In an 8 lap race with 7 computers and myself, if I was in 8th on lap 7, the very first powerup I pick up on that lap is always a Tornado. Every time. I need to do some more experimentation with this, obviously, but it's still an interesting fact, and definitely worthy of being added to my FAQ.

How does this translate to faster laps? Well, when you're in the lower positions, the chances for getting each powerup change. Specifically, it gives you tons of Nitro. I had a lap on The Gauntlet where every powerup I got was a Nitro. I don't know if I should consider lap times achieved through this method to be admissible, and certain records-keeping sites like Twin Galaxies would probably frown upon it (lol, they don't even have any records for Rumble Racing), but at the same time it's still a possible scenario (being that it... happened), there's always the freak random chance of getting every powerup to be a nitro on a lap, it's just next to impossible without this method. For now, I'm keeping the records, mainly because I saved them onto my memory card.

Also, this method doesn't get fast laps on the tracks your car is better on, since you need to stay in 8th place for it to work.

As far as Guitar Hero goes, I can't play it right now. I got my third solder fix and the controller worked fine for almost a week. Now, no matter what I do, I can't get it to recognize the green fret button. Which means no menu navigation. Re-seating the neck occasionally lets one or two presses of the green button through, but I'm not re-seating the neck every other note of a song. So it's out of commission until I get a Torx T10 screwdriver and hardwire the thing.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Whoever had the idea for the detachable neck needs to be shot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I love this...

Technically, this is old news. However, this is a new thought about old news. So there.

Relevant Link: 7 Game Conventions to Attend Before You Die

Read through that list. You have all the huge conventions, Tokyo Game Show, E3, PAX, California Extreme, Leipzig's Game Convention, BlizzCon, and... MAGFest.

Now, I agree, MAGFest is awesome, and something no self-respecting gamer should ever have to do without. It still stands out as the one small convention in the list. Attendance last year was a tad over 1000. There's something to a small, inexpensive East Coast game convention (more like a party) that classes it alongside all of these other huge, expensive big-name conventions. What could that be?

The range of guests? MAGFest has Game Refuge as one of its guests. The video game music concerts? Some of the biggest names in video game cover bands have played MAGFest. Minibosses, One-ups, Neskimos, Chromelodeon... The list goes on.

I think it's the atmosphere personally. MAGFest is a by-gamers, for-gamers convention. Every member of the staff is just as much of a gamer as the guests and attendees. At the same time, it's open to gamers of all levels. Even if you've only played a couple games, chances are at MAGFest you'll be able to play those games, talk to others who enjoy those games, get gameplay tips for those games, and even recommendations on other games you might enjoy.

Last year saw the lower lobby of the Hilton Mark Center filled with classic arcade games, including a rare cocktail version of Ms. Pac-Man that I played while drinking coffee and chatting with another staff member one morning. All of them set to free play, ready to go. Not far from there was the dealers' area, where all sorts of things can be found, including imports and the occasional rare game.

The game room itself needs very little introduction. It's open the entire length of the convention, has tons of consoles spanning all generations, and tons of games to go with those consoles. It's the reason the convention exists. There are tournaments for those inclined to enter them. There was even a stage with a full Rock Band setup.

Nearby is the video room. In here you can catch episodes of Super Mario Brothers Super Show, the old Legend of Zelda cartoons, those funny Nintendo promos, and pretty much every video-gaming-related movie ever made. X-Strike, an independent video game movie-making studio, gets a lot of screen time for their movies, which are pretty good.

Moving to the other side of the lower lobby, walking past Convention Operations, where the security staff (The Dorsai Irregulars, for anyone who's heard of them) hang out when not on shift, tallying up the number of people that come in asking "Have you seen Brendan?", the next room encountered is the Tabletop room. Ranging from card and board games to pencil and paper RPGs, and even Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, this room is also quite fun.

Further down the hall you encounter the last two rooms. First up is LAN. Bring your computer, plug it in, and play multiplayer network games with everyone else. There are scheduled and impromptu tournaments. It's not uncommon to hear someone shout across the room "hey, anyone wanna play <insert game here>? I'm setting up a server!"

Just across the hall was a new experiment for M6 that was awesome and will be making a return for M7: Jamspace. Inside, you see a stage, and some instruments. Open for anyone to play on. I staffed the LAN/Jamspace equipment check-in table most of the weekend, and I was never without good video game music to listen to because of Jamspace. There were several impromptu concerts in there, as well as plenty of VG music jamming fun.

One more room remains, but be warned, it's a staff perk: The staff food room/crash space. Basically, it was an entire suite up on the 12th floor of the hotel. Show your staff badge and you're welcomed with food and drinks. It was a great place to relax and get some food. The beds in the linked rooms were available for staff to use (because, as much as it sucks, we have to leave MAGFest long enough to get a few hours' sleep sometimes). I've never had a hotel room at a MAGFest, and the last two were 150 miles away from me.

Basically, MAGFest is awesome. And for $40 prereg (currently), it's a bargain compared to those other conventions in the list. For what you get, $40 is really cheap. "I'm too far away" isn't really an excuse not to come, as there's an international attendance. It's always fun sitting in Brendan's house playing games and he'll say "hey, we just got a prereg from Japan" or something like that. There were some guys I met at M5 that were from Iceland. We took them to McDonald's because they'd never been before and wanted to go.