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.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Legendary Cartographer Is Me

Another Guild Wars achievement for me!

Finally got this out of the way. I have now fully explored all of Tyria, Cantha, and Elona.

I took commemorative screenshots, of course.

From left to right, the game notifying the zone of my achievement (as well as anyone in a select few of the towns), my hero screen showing the three maxed exploration titles and the Legendary Cartographer title, and me standing in Ruins of Morah showing off my newly earned title.

Also featured in the middle screenshot is the teleporter to Tyria within Elona, and the statue of the female warrior from Tyria's Arid Sea in the background. I guess this tells you that I was in Crystal Overlook when I got the title. There's also a teleporter back from Tyria to Elona, hidden along the southern edge of the Arid Sea. If you teleport to Crystal Overlook from Arid Sea, everything's fine, but if you go the opposite direction, it puts you in a spawn of a couple Sand Giants, which is just plain rude.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dvorak sucks balls

This is really weird.

My keyboard is set to dvorak.

And I moved all the keys around to match the layout.

Sure, dvorak makes the common letters easy to hit.

But those poor lesser-used letters are hand-crampingly hard.

Dvorak sucks balls.

Also my keyboard is gay (a common thing for microsoft keyboards) and has F and J keys whose posts are rotated 90 degrees from all the rest, which makes my F, J, U, and H keys sideways. Also my keyboard has a slight slope that I didn't notice until I started rearranging the keys, which means it's extremely irregular right now.

Actually, dvorak is self-describing. The word "shit" can be typed without leaving the home row.

And Firefox doesn't respect the layout setting, which means pasting the above text and typing this sentence was extra fun. Actually, as long as I don't look at the keyboard, I can type just fine. Maybe I should get a blank keyboard.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Small progress is still progress

I started up Guitar Hero 2 so I could play me some Thunderhorse and Trogdor, and on a whim I decided to try to get further in Expert career. Somehow I managed to conjure up the stamina necessary to beat Freya on Expert (it must be the Diet Pepsi Max), got my 3 stars, 4-starred Last Child, and moved onto the next set, where I 4-starred Trippin' On A Hole In A Paper Heart and Jessica easily. Crazy On You is bullshit disguised as a song, and Rock This Town is incredibly overcharted.

So there I stand.

And I did this all with an ailing guitar controller in need of its third solder fix, and the inevitable hardwiring. I get dropped holds all the time through no fault of my own.

Shifting topics to a game I haven't been making progress in at all lately: Rumble Racing. Unlike Guitar Hero, where the most applicable reason for a slow rate of progress is me sucking, Rumble Racing is the exact opposite. I've beaten that game into the ground so much that my record lap times and overall times are almost impossible to beat, even by myself.

I don't usually get the chance to set record overall times, because the game only keeps track of them for three lap races and I usually run eight lap races, to give myself more chances at a record fast lap within a single race.

The AI is actually pretty decent. It's barely challenging on No Mercy, the highest difficulty, but it puts up one hell of a fight and uses the draft to great effect, meaning on most tracks you have to use powerups very intelligently to repel them. What makes the AI so easy to beat in spite of that is one simple fact: AI cars never launch powerups forwards, they only drop them behind the car. Then there are other tracks that, for whatever reason, you can just drive away from them. Part of it depends on the car you're using. I use Thor, which is basically a jet engine with wheels.

Thor is kinda hax since it has no drive wheels. It can go full speed through bumpy terrain where a vehicle with drive wheels will slow down as it bumps along. It doesn't lose speed in the air, and it can even turn in midair. A friend and I found that nothing else quite matches up to Thor in terms of overall speed, even though its handling is a little bad. Most people who use Thor for the first time are immediately overwhelmed by its rate of acceleration, which is much higher than all the other vehicles save for XXS-TOMCAT. That coupled with the slight lack of handling makes many people discount Thor as a useful vehicle.

Thor has sections of certain tracks that it's absolutely horrible on. Generally, long sweeping curves are its nemesis. An easy place to find some of those is the beginning of Over Easy. Thor comes into its prime once you reach the first shortcut and barrel on through the city section of the track. Over Easy is probably actually Thor's worst track, since the long sweeping curves make up much more of the lap time than the city section where it's strong.

A track Thor simply drives away from the competition on is, without a doubt, So Refined. The beginning of the lap has some curves that keep the AI near you, and to make things slightly worse you can only get one powerup with which to defend your position, but once you get into the second shortcut for the first time, it's all over. Being a railroad, this shortcut is extremely bumpy terrain, and if you read what I said about Thor, other vehicles, and bumpy terrain, you're going "ah, yes, that makes sense" right now.

Granted, I'm talking about Rumble Racing as though it's a very well-known game. Most people haven't heard of it, and even more people don't know that it's actually the sequel to (more like remake of) NASCAR Rumble on the PS1. Those who do know are begging for more, but it appears EA would rather play around with retarded DRM schemes on PC games (Spore) and make shitty sports games than turn their attention to a game that didn't sell well and do its fans justice with an awesome sequel.

People on GameFAQs come to the Rumble Racing board periodically and post threads asking "Is this game worth $9.99?" Sad that it's a bargain bin title, but when a game tanks after release, I guess it's what you get. To me, and many others, it was worth the $49.99 we paid for it brand new back in 2001. Simply because it's easy to pick up and get into, fun to play, and hard to master. This keeps you trying harder and harder, and before you know it you've been playing the game for seven years.

The number one complaint with the game other than the announcer is that the preset scores seem "manufactured", i.e. somebody just typed them in as opposed to them actually having been achieved through gameplay. Some fast laps in particular (Wild Kingdom and Circus Minimus) are much harder to beat than others. The preset stunt challenge scores are very competitive, especially on Wild Kingdom, where the top preset score is 600000 points ahead of the number 2 preset score. Regardless of all of that, all of the lap times, overall times, and stunt scores are beatable. I personally have beaten every one of them, and as far as I know, I'm the only one ever to beat the top stunt score on Wild Kingdom and the fast lap on Circus Minimus, even though I explain how to do both of those in my FAQ. Not enough people play the game seriously.

Speaking of my FAQ, I keep thinking I should update it, but then I realize that I have nothing new to add to it. I've already dissected and picked apart every possible aspect of the game, explained how to exploit the two powerup inventory to really screw over your opponents, and found a glitch on Touch and Go that I'm still not sure if it affects lap time at all because I haven't been able to hit it consistently lately, and I don't have the video capture equipment to make a proper video documentation of it. If it does affect lap time, it's not by much, because I've gotten within a second of my glitch fast lap without using the glitch, and I make mistakes all the fucking time on that track.

Maybe that's why I can't beat any of my fast laps: I make too many damn mistakes. What this entire post boils down to is "SUCK LESS".

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Survivor Is Me

Yeah, I play Guild Wars. Finally got my Dervish to level 20 with no deaths, and picked up the first rank of the Survivor title. Here's a screenshot for posterity, and because SCREENSHOT OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

Just in case you're wondering, I was doing solo runs through the 13 level 20 Snow Wurms outside Boreal Station in Eye of the North, using insight scrolls to amplify experience gain. The Igneous Summoning Stone (which summons the Fire Imp you see in the picture) made each run take about 5 minutes, including jogging to where the wurms were. They said it was there to help people level up characters faster, and it really works, as without it a run took 10 minutes. The only drawback is now that I'm level 20 I can't use it anymore.

Now to get to Legendary Survivor. 1,337,500 experience, here I come.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Faster page loading = better

So Google changed some things up on Picasaweb. Pages load a lot faster now (yay!), and there are licensing options for all images. Unfortunately it's trying to cement itself as a photo sharing service instead of a general image sharing service, as there's no option for a Public Domain license, which wallpapers tend to fall under. I set mine up with what I figured to be the closest Creative Commons license to Public Domain, which includes a few terms I don't need (attribution), but allows derivative works and free distribution. Since wallpapers are already derivative works, this kinda makes sense. The attribution thing is stupid as many of the wallpapers have been edited, either by myself or others, specifically to remove creditfagging.

They also added this "Name Tags" feature which isn't really useful at all for wallpapers since they link it into your contacts. It's supposed to provide an easy way to tag a bunch of photos at once according to who's in them. Now they just need tag tracking and easy tag maintenance for the regular tags.

I guess in the end I should just set up my own wallpaper gallery thing on some shared hosting somewhere, instead of taking frameworks clearly intended for other uses and adapting them for my own purposes.

There would be a wallpaper update, except that I don't have any wallpapers ready to upload. I haven't been on 4chan (or even 4scrape) nearly as much lately as I have been in the past. These things come and go, I'll probably have a shitton of them in a month or so.

In other news, the solder fix on my wireless Kramer is wearing off again. I have to play with the guitar sideways, neck pointed at the screen, so I can push the neck down into the base of the controller while I play. Whoever came up with the detachable neck idea really needs to be shot. I also took some Goo Gone to the warranty sticker on it, cleanly removing the sticker and the residue it leaves behind, so as soon as I get a Torx T10 screwdriver I can take the fucker apart and hardwire it. No more unrecognized button presses, flickering notes, or dropped holds for me.