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 (, 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.