Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ordeals

So my dad mentioned at dinner that he had his USB flash drive set up to be bootable with some drive recovery software on it.  However, there was something he didn't quite understand about it and asked me if I could help.  So when we got home, I grabbed the flash drive, and it began.

First, I tried to be sneaky/clever and boot it in VirtualBox without having to reboot my computer.  But that failed horribly.  So, I rebooted.

After not finding an option in my BIOS specifically for booting off of a USB drive, I poked around some and eventually noticed that it showed up as a hard drive in the Hard Drive Boot Priority list.  So, move it to the top, save and exit, and bam, it boots.

Now, I follow the standard tech support cheat sheet, and figure out how to do exactly what it was he wanted to do.  It ended up being pretty simple, it hadn't occurred to him to double click on something.  Whatever.

Powered down, gave him his USB drive back, and went into BIOS to set stuff back so I could boot off of my hard drive again.  Except that now it insisted that my boot drive (the IDE Primary Master, remember PATA drives?) didn't exist.

I've mentioned before, maybe on Twitter, I forget, but anyway...  My case fans died recently.  The CPU fan is still good, but both of my fancy red LED case fans, that were in themselves replacements for older fans that had died, died.  Rather than going onto Newegg and ordering more case fans only to have the same thing happen later on in life, I removed the side panel on my computer and pointed a small box fan at it.  This is only relevant because recently I'd decided it wasn't needed and turned it off.  Computer worked just fine without it, content with just the side panel removed.

I don't know if heat played into it, but the drive appeared again after I had the fan turned on for a while.

So now boot up and go, right?  Well, wrong.  It says "NTLDR is missing".  Fuck.  I mean, I've gotten this before, and a black magic three-finger salute has seemed to make it go away.  Except this time it's persistent.  Diagnostic mode, engage.

I get out an Ubuntu livedisc.  Note to self: burn a more recent Ubuntu livedisc, as 6.06 is quite old.  At any rate, it failed to start X or something, which I've never seen before.  Even my shitty laptop with dead battery, hard drive, and LAN card can boot it.  So then I whip out my Arch Linux install disc.  Get into its install environment, mkdir /mnt/sda1, mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/sda1 -o ro (mounting it read-only because I still don't trust Linux NTFS tools), and ls the fucker.  NTLDR is there.  So obviously it's something else that's preventing it from finding that.

I boot back into the BIOS and inspect the Hard Drive Boot Priority list once again, and notice that the drive where Windows is installed isn't the first one in the list.  Shove it on up there, save and exit, and bam, now I'm here writing this post.

post-Firefox 9 update reactions

Hey wait what?  All I did was click "Check for update" in Firefox 8 and it took that to mean "Check for update, download and install without prompting for consent to download and install"?

Oh well, at least all my extensions are compatible.  Life as normal?

*sigh* yeah, life as normal.  It still appears to crash several times a day and use over a gigabyte of swap (virtual memory).

If going from Firefox 8 to Firefox 9 was such a minor update, why the hell was it a MAJOR VERSION NUMBER CHANGE?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Stuff

Another Christmas come and gone...  In case any random passerby cares what I got, I'll go ahead and list everything.  If you're a random passerby and you don't care, well, too bad.

Steam games, self-gifted:
  • Portal 2
  • Jamestown: Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot DLC
  • Dungeons of Dredmor, Realm of the Diggle Gods DLC (Resolving the Humble Indie Bundle issue where the "beat the average" Steam key for one of their bundles contained it as well as Aquaria and Crayon Physics Deluxe, which I already own from previous Humble Indie Bundles and won't get giftable copies of if I redeem the key.)
  • Double Fine Pack (Psychonauts and Costume Quest)
  • Chantelise
Steam games, gifted by friends (thanks!):
  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale
  • E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy
  • Left 4 Dead Bundle (L4D and L4D2)
RL stuff:
  • A bag of pistachios
  • $75 in Wal-Mart gift cards
  • $25 ABC store gift card
  • Four dentist appointments to get my teeth fixed so I can chew on the right side of my mouth and not have to live in pain
All the rest of that stuff is great and all, but the very last item was the only one I absolutely couldn't live without.

Sort of related, but the Holiday Gift Pile thing that's happening on Steam right now made me play Spiral Knights again, and I got a full set of two-star equipment and made it to depth 8 (Moorcraft Manor) finally.  I actually got there in epic fashion by defeating Snarbolax solo.  For what little it's worth, now I can start adventures from depth 8!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai

It just wrapped up, and since it draws a bit of a parallel to my own past life, I felt like I should post about it.  Despite not actually wanting to post on the subject.

Two side notes:
  1. The anime's name is abbreviated to Haganai.  This is because of how it's written in Japanese.
  2. Now that I've re-read it, it's actually a spoiler-free summary of the series with some extra crap about me talking about how much my high school life sucked.
A few seasons ago, when Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai was airing, a few friends of mine made blog posts about what it was like growing up as an anime fan in a family that generally hated upon the medium for no reason.  I can draw a similar parallel to Haganai.

I never really had a lot of friends.  I was that "unpopular one", the one nobody would ever talk to and everyone would find the most trivial of reasons to make fun of.  The fact that I have a hard-to-pronounce-correctly last name didn't help.

My mom always assured me that once I went to college I'd make real friends who were actually mature and willing to look beneath the surface and see the person within and that sort of stuff.  She was right, too.  You definitely can make friendships that last in the years before college, but it's the years after graduating high school that you begin to discover who your real friends are.  Except for me it took a bit longer because I didn't really find where I fit in until a few years after I joined CAINE, essentially once all of the old members had graduated and I was essentially among the group of people that had been there the longest.

So basically I was part of the group that hung out with each other because nobody else would hang out with us.  We got along fairly well despite our differences, but there were still the trivial reasons to make fun of people.  We even became hypocrites in senior year when we excluded someone from our group.  To be fair, she was a bitch to everyone.  I'm trying not to use names here but the wording is going to get awkward, so bear with me.  Basically she was the girlfriend of a member of the group.  I had known her from a long, looooooooooooooooooooooong (longcat long) time ago (we're talking preschool here) and didn't like her then.

Anyway, I'm drifting off topic.  Haganai reminded me of my less-than-pleasurable high school experience.  But even then, it takes a few things to extremes, because that's what anime does.

The main character, Kodaka, is pretty much an idiot.  He transfers into this high school and is running late on his first day.  Yet he doesn't bother to stop and catch his breath before walking into the damn classroom, which results in a scene filled with misunderstanding where he's branded as a delinquent.

He and Yozora, a girl in his class whom he discovers has an "air friend" basically start a club, which is this anime's version of "the group of people that hang out with each other because nobody else will hang out with us".  Along the way they pick up a few extra members with the aid of a cryptically worded flyer containing a hidden message.
  • There's Sena, the daughter of the headmaster, who is the generic "oversized breasts" character, who generally has guys doing whatever she wants but doesn't really like that life and wants real friends.  She's also massively into dating games.
  • There's my personal favorite, Rika, the genius child scientist who isn't required to attend classes and is only at the school to make the school look good, who continually tries to get into Kodaka's pants for "research".
  • Then there's Yukimura, the guy who's always picked on and is rather effeminate, who ends up dressed in female clothing for the rest of the series.  Including the beach episodes.
  • Finally there's Maria, the child nun who always likes to call things she doesn't like "poopy", and Kodaka's little sister Kobato, who watches some anime about a vampire and is always cosplaying and acting as the main character, to the point of wearing a colored contact lens to gain heterochromia.  The two are always at odds with each other because of the whole "church vs. vampires" thing.
Obviously, those sorts of extremes gathered all in one place don't exist in real life.  Which brings me to my next point.  The series seems similar in story structure to Haruhi, somewhat.  Think about it.  Main male meets main female, they start a club.  They recruit a select few more members, including one who is essentially in cosplay for the rest of the series.  I even think I recognize one of the music cues.

Remember how I said Kodaka is "pretty much an idiot"?  Well, yes.  He continually has Rika trying to get in his pants, and continually denies her.  Come on, you have a girl who's only a year younger than you basically throwing herself at you (sometimes literally) and you turn her down every time?  Seriously?

Regardless of the intelligence of the main cast, it's still a decent series overall.  I've kind of sidestepped around a subplot that is actually a major part of the latter portion of the series, but whatever.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top 10 Games of Recent Memory

This was going to be a "top 10 games of 2011" post, but I never kept track of which games I played this year that were actually released in 2011.  So instead, it's basically "top 10 games I played and liked in 2011".

This list is in no particular order.  I don't wish to infer that any one of these games is better than any other one of them.  So really, it's more of a "10 awesome games I played in 2011" post.  You may very well recognize some of these titles from my previous posts, and may also very well see more in-depth posts about some of them later on.

Magicka: The Stars are Left

Finally got my hands on this highly anticipated DLC campaign for Magicka.  It offers three more chapters of adventure, with all-new enemies and magicks, more challenge maps, and two robes (one of which has to be unlocked).

It's set 20 years after the original adventure.  Vlad appears and suggests, then tells, then basically forces you to go on this new adventure.  Also, he's quick to remind you that nobody is to find out about his "little secret".

This isn't really a review, because I'll blatantly tell you right now: If you already own Magicka, GET THIS DLC.  There, I said it.  This post is more about impressions and strategies, and does basically spoil the entire thing.

There are 7 magicks available in The Stars are Left, in comparison to the original campaign's 23.  Two of them are Revive and Haste, the other five are entirely new.  There are some things that you can only obtain if you're using the Investigator robes: a weapon that polymorphs your target, and a magick.

At the beginning, break down the door that led to the very first Sherlock Holmes area in the original adventure.  Shoot a rock at the tree, and a magick tome falls down.  Get it to learn Tractor Pull.  What does it do?  Well, you stomp the ground.  I think it makes stuff on the ground move closer to you.  Not entirely sure.  It's not all that useful.

The first boss is a giant spider named Parker, and when you beat him you get the achievement "No power = No responsibility".  Yeah, a Spider-Man reference.  A Magicka content update wouldn't be complete without more references.

During the second chapter, having the Investigator robe equipped will enable you to open a gate and get the Chain Lightning magick.  Before that, when you reach the village where Gram's Workshop is, if you talk to the guy by the fire repeatedly, he'll eventually give you a magick tome.  Stop talking to him when he says this (if you talk to him too much, he takes back his offer), then go to the shop nearby to get it.  Sadly, just like Tractor Pull, it's not all that useful.  So not useful that I forget its name.

The second chapter is also home to... Endermen.  Yes, the ones from Minecraft.  Except that instead of picking up terrain, they pick up you.  And then eat you.  They also teleport around.  They're a lot more frightening than Minecraft's Endermen, quite frankly...

If you remember coming through the part with the Endermen in the original campaign, you'll know that you can freeze the river just after the checkpoint to get to a Sherlock Holmes area with the Sword of Masters (aka the Master Sword).  It's still there, and it's one of the better weapons available, so you might as well get it.  The cultists shoot Arcane at you (despite the fact that it looks like Lightning), so give yourself an Arcane shield and you can pick them off from afar with the sword's projectile.

The second boss is a winged demon that makes a couple appearances in the third chapter as well.  Nearby where you fight it, there's a book for a much-needed magick: Levitation.  I highly recommend grabbing this one, as it comes in incredibly handy in the third chapter.  The boss isn't actually all that difficult, it just takes a while to wear it down.  Basically he jumps around and tries to convert you into a cultist, which is an instant-kill attack.  Luckily, it's at point blank range, so stay mobile and you won't even have to worry about it.

The third chapter is entirely the buildup to fighting Cthulhu.  There are puzzles you need to solve to activate various mechanisms to enable you to reach his room.  The orbs that activate the mechanisms are red, and what else is red?  The Arcane element.  What's its opposite?  Life.  Whack each orb with Life and it'll turn green and activate whatever it's linked to.  Whack it with Arcane to disable again.  The disable mechanic is really only needed in one room, where you have to bounce a life beam off of three mirrors (and all the way across the room in the process) to activate an orb that opens a door next to you.  This door is on a timer and will close after a short period of time.

One of the rooms had me puzzled for quite a while, and it ended up having the derpiest solution.  One room has a bunch of steam vents that will push you off of the walkway that goes past them.  The solution?  A rock shield.  Apparently it gives you enough weight to prevent the steam from pushing you off.  On the other side of the steam vents is the mechanism, activate it and the walls rise up and you'll have a fight on your hands.  Unless of course, you have the magick I'm about to mention...

Also attached to this room is a platform with a semi-useful magick: Portal.  Unfortunately, due to an oversight by the developers (or something) if you're not playing on a widescreen resolution, you can't use the stairway that takes you to this platform.  Instead you'll have to Levitate and Haste over from the other side.  Now that I think about it, I have occasional troubles exiting one of the previous rooms as well.  It's the one with the unlimited numbers of enemies that Vlad so helpfully accidentally awakens for you.

Anyway, Portal is indeed a reference to the game of the same name.  Predictably, you'll have to cast it twice to get any use out of it at all.  Also, its usability is limited since you can only place portals in already-accessible areas.  However, it can be used in the steam vent room to bypass the walled-in fight after activating that room's mechanism.

There's a sword you can get before you make the tentacles go away.  Haste and Levitate yourself to the platform where the Portal magick is, and go through the door.  The sword is stuck in the tentacle.

Partway through solving all of this, the winged demon will challenge you again.  Just defeat him again and move on.  Keep him frozen for an easy win.

All this buildup, and once you've got all three main mechanisms activated (the bridge, the door, and the water), you can finally exit the top of the main room and fight Cthulhu.  While technically, yes, you can indeed enter the room without activating the water, you will die upon entry, lose your weapons, and the boss fight can't be triggered.  Strangely enough it still shows the bubble effects where Cthulhu first comes up out of the water, even though there isn't any water.

Let me tell you now, Cthulhu is a really difficult boss.  As in, Assatur is a pansy.  Cthulhu really tests your knowledge of Magicka's spell mechanics and your ability to adapt to what's happening.  Easily more difficult than the entire rest of Magicka combined.

I had two bulleted lists here containing all the stuff that happens in the fight and how to deal with it, but it was even more tl;dr than the rest of this post, so I removed it.

Now, for the actual strategy that worked.
  • Throw on a rock shield (self-cast ED) at the beginning, and refresh it whenever you have a free moment.
  • Stay at the very top of the stairs in the middle area, this way the tentacles can't hit you.
  • QFQFASA.  Queue up the next one while you're hitting him with the current one.  The DQRQRQRQR method may deal more damage than the full duration of the steam-lightning beam, but it's less repeatable than the steam-lightning beam.
  • The lesser demons that get summoned periodically will die to a single area-cast QFQFASA.
  • Once the winged demon is out, Haste yourself, get close, and cast EARAR on it.  I prefer to put it on my sword to cast it, but it works just as well when regular cast.  This will freeze it and keep it in place.
  • Throw up a shield (regular cast E) in the general direction of wherever Cthulhu is.  Yes, we're ignoring Cthulhu for now.  Whenever the shield gets taken out or needs to be relocated, put it back up.
  • Keep doing the frost-lightning shield attack on the winged demon until it dies.  This will be tricky because it jumps across the room periodically.
  • When the winged demon jumps, make sure you're not beneath it when it lands, since you'll die instantly if it lands on you.
  • Resume steam-lightning beaming Cthulhu (and responding to his attacks, obviously) until you win.
After beating Cthulhu, the Cultist robes are unlocked.  They come with a sword that inflicts poison, and a staff that can summon those weird fire things from Chapter 3.

As an aside to all of this, why can't I use any of the new weapons, staves, and magicks in challenge/versus modes?  There's a rather awesome staff that allows you to conjure lightning while wet, and a sword that can fight on its own without a wielder (never used it, not sure how it works)...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

SOPA and PROTECT IP: Why I fear for the future of the Internet

Pretty much anyone who gets around on the internet has heard of these two bills by now.  These bills, created for the purpose of preventing copyright infringement on the internet, basically set up the framework to allow our government to control what sites we can and can't visit, effectively turning America into China.

Never mind that there's already a system in place for dealing with infringement of copyrights on the internet.  It's called the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.  Under that act, any corporate entity who finds one of its copyrights being infringed on the internet simply has to send a takedown notice to the site with the infringement.  That notice has to include the page holding the content and an assertion that the company does indeed own the copyright in question.  If it's ignored or contested, legal action is the next step.

Unfortunately, rights holders, and specifically the American entertainment industry, don't see this as enough.  You see, there's this thing called 'other nations', and they are sovereign, meaning they have different laws than us and aren't subject to our laws.  Generally speaking, a website is subject to the laws of the nation in which that site is hosted, and not subject to the laws of any other nation.

Basically, what it boils down to is one simple thing.  Right now, sites aren't responsible for user-posted content.  This means that if a popular content-hosting site, let's say YouTube, has a user who uploads something that infringes on a copyright, they're not liable for that.  All the copyright holder has to do is send them a notice (or use their Content ID thing), and they'll take down the infringing content.

Now, issues with claims verification aside, the system works as-is.  But the American entertainment industry doesn't think that's enough.  They want sites to be liable for user-posted content.  This presents a very real threat to anyone who hosts a community with forums, no matter how small.  In fact, I'd wager the smaller communities are at a greater risk because copyright holders know they have less resources to fight back.  All it takes is one user posting an infringing link, and bam, your entire site is gone.  I wouldn't put it past the entertainment industry to pose as regular users on sites, post infringing links, and get those sites taken down, either.

The chilling thing is, as I hinted at, that all it takes for any of this to happen is a mere accusation.  You don't get your due process, your opportunity to defend, or anything.  To the government, the entertainment industry is infallible.  You see, entertainment industry, there's this thing called the Constitution of the United States of America.  One of its amendments states that all American citizens have the right to a trial by a jury of their peers.  Setting up a system like this that bypasses that is, well, unconstitutional.

Sadly, these unconstitutional bills will probably pass.  Why is that?  The entertainment industry has money, and that's what drives our government.  Whoever has the most money gets their way.  It's sad, but true.  Also, another reason they will probably pass is because of the general public's ignorance towards all things technology and internet-related.  A third reason is the fact that neither of these bills have been front headline material or even made the evening news, so the general public for the most part doesn't know about them.

I'm worried for a number of reasons that can be derived from the past wall of text.  One, because I am the administrator of a community where any one of the links already posted could theoretically be considered infringing, since we revolve around comics and animation and frequently indulge in fan-translated manga and anime.  Two, because unlike anyone in our government, I actually understand the internet and every word I hear about these bills tells me nothing more than that they are bad for the internet.

The entertainment industry has struggled to come to terms with what the internet lets people do, and has made all kinds of bad decisions while failing miserably at adapting to modern society.  I believe they would try to pin anyone who dissents on the subject of preventing piracy to be a pirate themselves.  Unfortunately for them, it's not their intended result that we dissent against, it's the method they're using to obtain that intended result.

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" --Thomas Jefferson

Edits/addenda:

Apparently I forgot to mention that one of the scariest parts of this is that the people in Congress who ultimately make the decision have readily and openly stated on the record that they know nothing about computers or the internet.  They don't understand the implications of this bill, and they're only hearing one side of the issue: the lobbyists' side.  They're not hearing the public outcry against it.

Also, here's a rather comprehensive video by TotalBiscuit on the subject.  He says some things in better ways than I do, and since he's actually speaking rather than typing, he can convey the proper level of emotion to go with his words.

The video that led me to TotalBiscuit's is this episode of Far Lands or Bust.  Kurt discusses the issue for most of the episode and makes a few points that TotalBiscuit doesn't.  They both slip up and name Activision as a supporter when in fact it's EA, though.  Just FYI.

I personally will boycott any company that supports either of these bills.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fewer Complaints About Flash Cookies

So, after updating Firefox, installing a newer version of BetterPrivacy, and managing to accidentally delete all my flash game saves before hacking BetterPrivacy again, I decided on a whim to keep the settings cookies around this time.

The settings cookies store your settings for each domain that has ever tried to set a flash cookie on your system.  They're stored in a separate directory structure from the actual cookies themselves.  In the past, I kept deleting them, but as I've found through experimentation, they're important.

I'm not sure what else they store, but it doesn't matter.  They store one critical piece of information: whether or not you want to allow that domain to set flash cookies.

Yeah, how could I have overlooked that?  lol

You access a menu either by right clicking on any given Flash object and selecting Global Settings, or by (at least on Windows) going into your Control Panel and selecting Flash Player.

This settings dialog has four tabs, but we're primarily interested in the first one, titled Storage.  There, you can click one all-important button: Local Storage Settings by Site.

In here you can see every domain that's ever tried to set a Flash cookie, and set each one to Ask me, Allow, or Block.  Don't want a flash cookie from a specific domain?  Select Block.  Want them?  Select Allow.  Rather get a question from Flash asking for each individual cookie?  Select Ask me.  There you go.

Honestly, once you get this set up for all the Flash-using sites you visit on a regular basis, there isn't much need for BetterPrivacy.  Set Flash to ask you when a new site wants to store information, hit Deny when that new site wants to store information (or Allow if you'd rather allow it, lol), then open the settings and configure for that domain.  There you go.

Now I've got Newgrounds automatically allowed and all the other domains ever blocked.  And it hasn't affected my use of Flash games or video players at all, unlike the "disable third-party flash cookies" option that's only available if you somehow find your way to the other, more obscure settings page buried on Adobe's website.

I haven't yet tested this with locally-run Flash games, including the titles I previously mentioned: Machinarium, TRAUMA, and The Binding of Isaac.  Therefore, I don't know how configurable that is.  But internet-wise, I'm set.

Just remember: keep the settings cookies.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Seeking a Real Solution

So I just accidentally deleted all my flash game saves again.  This so happens to include saves for Steam games written in Flash, like Machinarium, TRAUMA, and The Binding of Isaac.

I'll definitely re-hack BetterPrivacy again, but that's only a temporary solution in that it only affects me.  The real problem, as I've stated before, is that the mass deletion confirmation dialog is completely unintuitive.

This has to stop.  I've just submitted a bug report on the author's website, we'll see what happens.

Also, while it's on my mind, I'll bring it up.  Blogger really needs an easy way to cross-reference a previous post.  To do so I have to open another tab, go to my list of posts, find the one in question, copy the link, and paste it into the "create link" dialog in the post I'm working on.  There's all that empty space in the column on the right that plays home to all the post settings, they could stick it there.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

post-Firefox 8 update reactions

Holy crap, I can layer the tab bar over the title bar!  Space saved, plus I can have the location bar visible all the time for a net screen space usage change of zero!  *uninstalls disablemenu*

App tabs?  What are these?  *investigates*  Oh cool!  *pins GMail as an app tab, uninstalls GMail Manager*

Hmm, that orange button for the menu is a bit big, imma use Stylish and make it smaller.

Okay, I forgot, Firebug doesn't let me inspect the browser chrome.  *installs DOM Inspector*  *after four hours of pulling my hair out because I had overlooked min-width on a couple things*  There we go, 25px wide orange button!

Weird, even with all the domains involved allowed, all my external javascript on my blog isn't working...  Why's that?  *tweak miscellaneous things that don't change anything*  Well, it's not some weird obscure NoScript setting...  *on a whim, replace my dynamic script inclusion with regular old <script src=""></script> tags*  Oh hey, I could have sworn they filtered out src attributes on script tags before!  *tweak the twitter widget slightly so now there's a link to my Twitter page there if the relevant script is blocked*

Oh yeah, the status bar is now the "add-on bar" and link URLs are now shown in a manner similar to Chromium...  *hides add-on bar, removes GreaseMonkey "Link HREF in title attribute" script*

*as I'm browsing around, I notice that the stop and refresh buttons automatically swap places as need be*  For-fucking-finally!  I had to use an extension to get that on Firefox 3.6, and you only ever need to see one or the other anyway...

*goes to Google Documents*  Tell me I'm using an old browser now, bitch!

So overall it's been a positive experience.  Now to leave it running for a few days and check the memory usage...  Especially because I haven't yet watched any YouTube videos after making the switch and doing all the configuration.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Updating Firefox

The time has come.  It's technically been "the time" for quite some time now.  I remember hearing about Firefox 4 and all the stuff it was supposed to have, then I ran a few of the betas and the first RC in a VM to try them out, then it was released and the "wait for extensions to be updated" game began.

Except I kind of lost track, and some wise guy at Mozilla decided it'd be a great idea to unveil Firefox 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 shortly thereafter.  Seriously, what are they trying to accomplish by releasing so many major version updates so quickly?  Other than fuck with extension developers, that is.

Anyway.

I went to Mozilla's site to download Firefox and it offered me 8.0.1.  So I set that up in a VM, on a brand new profile, and went about my business checking extensions and trying to find equivalents for things that weren't updated.  I think I've got it all sorted out, because at some point I stopped installing and configuring extensions and started using Stylish to fuck with Fx8's user interface.

The combined title bar/tab bar before I fucked with it......and after I fucked with it.

As it turns out, almost everything I use or rely upon on a daily basis has been updated, and there were one or two things that I found acceptable substitutes for.

My four staples: AdBlock Plus, NoScript, GreaseMonkey, and Stylish, all stay on the Firefox bleeding edge anyway.  So no problem there.

In fact, pretty much everything was updated.  I was honestly surprised.

The only thing that wasn't updated was Screengrab!.  The flurry of Firefox updates claimed that.  But sifting through the sea of "oh just change the maxVersion" and "I changed the maxVersion but stuff doesn't quite completely work", I found a comment that recommended a different extension, Abduction!.  Installed that, and it checks up nicely.

Tweaking settings made me realize that disablemenu, which would auto-hide the menubar and statusbar, is no longer necessary.  Ever since Firefox got that mode where the tab bar gets merged with the title bar, basically.  Combine that with Classic Compact and its options extension having the option to have the tab bar always merged with the title bar, and it's available all the time now, even on the rare occasion where I don't have Firefox maximized.

I sifted out a few extensions I wasn't really using anymore and were just eating up space/memory/etc. as well.

Also I derp'd.  I couldn't find Fast Dial in the add-on search built into the addons window, and briefly had another "new tab = bookmarks" extension installed.  But then I investigated the extension's page on addons.mozilla.org and realized it was indeed compatible, I just had to download a different version that wasn't available from the nice big blue install button.

Also, I'll need to hack BetterPrivacy again, as the mass deletion dialog is still horribly ambiguous.

So, yeah.  Updating Firefox to a new major version number for the first time in forever.  Feels kind of weird.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I Miss Melty Blood

Talking with Honya on Twitter about Melty Blood made me realize how long it's been since I've played the game.  There's a few reasons for this.  Other than stating those, I'm just going to cover some of my favorite stuff to do with certain characters.  Note that I'm in no way actually decent at the game, so likely very little will apply to tourneyfags and will probably make me look like a total n00b (or as the fighting game community likes to say, scrub).

Technically I could fire the game up at any time.  I have it, the PS2, a screen, speakers, a controller, and a save with everything unlocked on my memory card.  There's no real physical barrier.

But what's infinitely more fun than playing fighting games by yourself, against the AI?  Playing fighting games against real people.  That's what I haven't had the opportunity to do.

The reason for this is due to something simple yet mind-bogglingly unexpected.  Every Friday I'd get together with friends and we'd play games.  Board games, card games, and since I was bringing my PS2, console games.  This took place with a subset of CAINE, in one of their dorms.  However, this semester, our host and all five of his suitemates somehow forgot to bring a TV.  No TV, no PS2.  Simple as that.

Now, of course, there is a solution, though it takes a lot of effort.  I've done it once, and it was more hassle than it was worth.  Basically, take my screen, PC speakers, and assortment of audio cables necessary to route the audio from the PS2 to my PC speakers.  Due to space limitations it had to be set up a fair distance away from the rest of the gaming action and was sorely underused.  Also, I'd just gotten Guitar Hero 5 at that point and was obsessed, so that's what I was playing, and hadn't brought enough regular controllers for anything else.

With the reasons out of the way, we move on to discussing fun stuff to do in Melty Blood.  I'll start with Kohaku.  I don't really have a "main", but she's the one I have more playtime with than any other character.

I love abusing her molotov cocktails.  They build magic circuit like crazy, she's invulnerable while dropping them, and if they're blocked they offer enough blockstun to be completely safe enough for me to land and try something else.  Since this is stealthily Actress Again we're talking about, whacking bombs around the screen with Half-Moon style Kohaku is also quite fun.  Basically, I play Kohaku as a troll character.

Mech-Hisui has a ton of fun stuff including a wide array of projectiles to spam.  My favorite thing though has to be her 4B flamethrower.  People think they're going to be jumping in, and surprise!  You're on fire!

Back in Act Cadenza I really annoyed the shit out of a friend with Nero Chaos' summons, specifically the deer.  Once you get that shit started it's hard to get knocked out of it.  I haven't really played him much in Actress Again, but they can't have changed him all that much.

Even though I play Kohaku as a troll character, the game has two troll characters built in.  Yes, I'm talking about Neko-arc and Neko-arc Chaos.  They're much smaller than the rest of the cast and have a wide array of moves to cause much annoyance, including screen-wide beams and a teleport move for easy mixups.  Word to the wise, stay away from their air dash, it's slow as balls.  Neko-arc has an aerial move that I use in place of her air dash, I believe it's j.214B.  I don't really feel like firing up the game or looking up a move list just to check, though.

The tag team of Hisui and Kohaku is always fun to play, just because of the combos you can make while using the sisters in tandem.  Couple that with being able to switch which one you're controlling to completely change your available move list and having access to both of their arc drives regardless of who you're controlling and you get a complete experience.  I spend most of my time controlling Kohaku, so I can abuse the Hisui assist where she runs forwards and knocks the opponent into the wall.  Following up on that (or just using it repeatedly for trollolols) is pretty fun.  Sometimes though I'll switch back to controlling Hisui and go in for some beatdown.

There's three versions of Akiha in Actress Again, and they all play slightly differently.  Oddly enough, the settings menu claims that Akiha Vermillion is my best character.  I think that's just based off of Arcade mode, though.  Regardless of which one you choose, she's got options for beatdowns.

I kind of feel like there's someone I'm leaving out that I used to play a fair amount.  Since I can't think of the name I'll just end the post here.  If I remember I may edit it in, but that's unlikely.

Since it's on my mind, can't wait for the last four episodes of Carnival Phantasm.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

mmm, hard-boiled eggs

I got some random noodles a while back in my hunt for something similar to ramen but without all the sodium, and the package suggested serving the noodles with a hard-boiled egg.  That got me started on this whole thing.  By the way, the noodles appear to be Korean, as there's Korean all over the package.

Hard-boiled eggs aren't all that hard to make.  You just need a pot, a bowl, some water, a stove, and some spare time.  To make sure I did it right, I Googled the subject and brought up a few different sites.  Curiously enough the directions were all slightly different, so I did what they had in common.

Basically, stick the eggs in the pot and cover them with cold water.  Put the pot on the stove and bring it to a nice rolling boil.  Then cover the pot, turn off the burner, and remove the pot from the heat.  Twelve minutes later, use a slotted spoon (or drain the pot) to get the eggs out.  I recommend the slotted spoon, that way you don't waste water if you decide you want to make more, or are making them in batches.  Stick them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes, this stops the cooking process and eliminates that grey ring around the yolk.

There, done.  Of course, you'll want to peel them.  Lightly smack both ends of the egg on a plate, then roll the egg on the plate, applying just enough pressure to crack the shell.  Now peel.  The large end of the egg is a good starting point, as there's usually space between the shell and the egg white there.  Dunk the egg in the water periodically to remove bits of shell, make sure you get that film just beneath the shell as well.

Now you've got hard-boiled eggs, ready to be served.  They go great on salads (slice them so you end up with a bunch of reasonably circular slices), or you can slice them in half lengthwise.  Then you can make deviled eggs if you want, though you'll need a small bowl for mixing.

Simply apply gentile pressure around the edge of where the egg white meets the yolk, then turn the egg over the small bowl and apply a small amount of pressure to the underside of the yolk to pop it out into the bowl.  Repeat for all the eggs.  Now mix in some mustard.  There's no real set amount, just do it until the yolk-mustard mixture reaches a consistency you can live with.  You don't need a lot of mustard, though.  And as always, why use yellow mustard when you can use dijon mustard instead?

Now get a spoon and spoon the mixture back into the yolk cavities in the eggs.  Being that you added mustard, you'll have more stuff than you originally did, so it'll heap up.  If you have it, sprinkle some paprika over the top when you're done.  There you go.

Apparently, according to the internet, peeling hard-boiled eggs works best with eggs that aren't brand-new.  I don't know how long the eggs we have have been around, but they were pretty easy to peel once I got a system going.

And there you have it.  Easy food that makes you look like a better cook if you so happen to rely a lot on prepared and instant foods.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Munchkin Quest

A bit of a break from computer game reviews, and showing that there is more to my life than computers (but not much lol).

A few friends and I played Munchkin Quest a couple weeks ago.  I meant to get something up right then since it was still fresh on my memory, but I forgot.  First off, I'll answer the typical first question to answer in any given review: What exactly is Munchkin Quest?

Munchkin Quest expands upon the formula that's worked for years: a satirical card-based tabletop game where you race your fellow players to level 10 by defeating monsters, collecting treasure, and screwing your friends over right as they're about to defeat monsters or win the game.  It expands upon this by defining the dungeon that you've been kicking doors down in all this time.  You have dungeon tiles, door connectors, and a wide array of extra materials including player figures and level counters.

I'd been thinking that something of this formula would be really neat for a while, and then it happened.  The key would be making it work without being too complex, because Munchkin's greatest virtue has been its ease of play.

To be expected, it's more complex.  That's going to be a given.  You and your friends can expect to spend the entire first game with your faces buried in the rulebook.  Each class and/or race now has a d10 ability: where you have to roll the included ten-sided die and have to roll under your level to successfully use the ability.  Each monster in the game now has a card that represents it within the dungeon.  You roll a colored die to determine who owns the monster, it gets that colored base.  The colored die is also used for monster movement between turns, and has six sides.  Being that the game is four players only, what do you do when you roll one of the other two colors for determining monster ownership?

You get to decide.  You can throw the tough stuff at your friends if you want.  Fully in the spirit of Munchkin.

However, you may want to take it for yourself, as there are certain benefits to defeating a monster you own.

You have health tokens as well, that represent your life.  When you lose a battle, you lose one (and flip it over to the side that shows it empty).  When you lose all of them, you die.  There are ways of recovering health as well.

There are three card types this time around: Monster, Treasure, and Deus Ex Munchkin.  Deus Ex Munchkin cards can be races, classes, and extra cards like potions and Super Munchkin, for example.

Winning the game has a new twist.  Just like before, you still have to get to level 10.  But now, once that happens, you have to get back to the dungeon entrance and successfully defeat a boss monster to win.  In a way that makes sense, what kind of a dungeon-crawling experience doesn't end with a boss fight?  Plus, it fits right in with the cooperative-competitive nature of Munchkin: Your friends can still try and screw you over as you're making your way back to the entrance or while trying to fight the boss itself.

I feel it's important to mention that the cards are not compatible with other Munchkin games.  So no Space Munchkin Quest or Munchkin Cthulu Quest yet.  The cards in the game seem to be based primarily off of the original Munchkin, but with changes and updates for the rules brought in by Munchkin Quest.

I don't want to delve too deeply into the game's mechanics in a review of it, but some of the new stuff did warrant some explanation.  There's far more I haven't even mentioned.

What we noticed while playing:
  • The level of complexity was startling for a group of first-time players.
  • Monster movement can and will result in a clusterfuck that moves together after a while.  We had a group of four or five monsters that everyone avoided because you have to fight all of them at once...
  • The dungeon crawling element did have some advantages: different rooms affect you or your combat in different ways.  The dungeon definitely felt like a typical role-playing game dungeon; full of rewards, but with plenty of hazards between you and those rewards.
  • A "reasonable amount of time" is still defined in the rules as "about 2.6 seconds".
  • You'll need a big table to play the game, since the board expands as you play.
I don't want to judge the game solely on our less than favorable first time experience, because it seems like it's pretty well thought-out.  It's just that the level of complexity really did startle us and make us want the game to end more and more as we were playing.  I could imagine really getting into it if our group had the time to read and fully understand the rules.

Overall, I'm going to say that it's fairly complex, but if you can get into it, it looks like it'd still be incredibly fun, and that it would give some definition to the gameplay style you've enjoyed in previous Munchkin games.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Magicka Challenge Mode

Outside of Magicka: Vietnam, the rest of challenge mode is the same.  Pick an arena and a set of allowable drops (which can be unrestricted...), and battle against 20 waves of enemies.  You can bring up to three allies with you, but so far I've just been going solo.

The format and scoring system is fairly similar to the Last Stand mode of Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2.  Enemies enter the arena from fixed locations.  You have a multiplier that goes up as you kill stuff and goes down as you suffer deaths.  The difference lies in the drops I previously mentioned.  During each wave, one or more chests will spawn.  They then grow legs and proceed to wander about the arena.  They can bite you and deal damage to you as well.  Destroying the chest makes it drop an item or a magick.  Thus, you're at the mercy of Magicka's random number generator concerning what you're going to get.

That said, it's very possible to develop working strategies, that change depending on the drops you get.  My staple for the very beginning when I have nothing is ARSE mines.  They allow me to play a game of control, where the enemy can't kill me because they can't get to me.  As I gain magicks, I'll adapt as necessary.  On several occasions I've gotten both Invisibility and Summon Elemental.  If that happens, anything's possible.

As far as weapon drops go, Invisibility can be rendered less necessary if I'm fortunate enough to receive the Scepter of the Troll King, which makes enemies prefer other targets.  However, that only works if I can summon other targets for them to prefer.  Fortunately, if I don't have that ability yet, its active ability allows me to charm an enemy, which comes in handy even if I have Charm, seeing as how it just takes one click to charm something with the active ability, compared to inputting WED spacebar to use Charm...

My suggestion is to find the stuff you prefer, and then turn off all the categories that don't contain it, so you have a better chance of getting what you like.

I'll give a rundown of spells, magicks, and weapons I've found to be useful.
  • Spells
    • ARSE regular cast (or area cast if you have Teleport) - I used to use this on weapon cast as well, but...
    • QREASR weapon cast - Be very, VERY careful with this one.  As in, come to a complete stop when you swing your weapon to actually cast it.  And then high-tail it in the other direction.  This spell deals massive damage.  Doing any other cast method with this spell is suicide.  Also, it'll get you the achievement for having 5 elements in one spell if you haven't already gotten it some other way (using Steam...).
    • QFASA (or QFQFASA...) regular cast - Go-to beam for killing chests.  Also works wonders on anything that's been frozen.
    • QFQFQFQFQF area cast - If you have frost elementals around and you don't have Rain, support them by area-casting this.  It will wet down your enemies, which the elementals will then freeze on their next hit.  What's better than an enemy that moves very slowly?  An enemy that can't move at all.
    • EQRAF self cast - Inputting the F at the end melts the Ice back into Water, allowing you to have a shield that protects against both Water and Lightning.  Handy for casting Thunderstorm and then being able to conjure Lightning while being immune to the lightning strikes from Thunderstorm at the same time.
  • Magicks
    • Haste/Teleport - Mobility is king in this mode.  If you can avoid the damage, you'll stay alive.  Simple as that.
    • Invisibility - If they can't see you, they can't target you.  It doesn't render you impervious to damage, and doing anything other than movement or conjuring will make you visible again.  Still, it's nice to have around.
    • Charm - Temporarily turning one of your enemies into an ally is not to be underestimated.  Especially because you can charm a powerful enemy, then wet them, freeze them, then lightning beam them without having to worry about retaliation...
    • Summon Elemental - What's better than killing things yourself?  Summoning magical beings to do it for you so you can sit back and relax for a while.  I prefer frost elementals myself, because of my aversion to playing with a control strategy.  There are a couple waves you have to look out for with frost elementals though, so it's not perfect.  I would advise against summoning more than one type of elemental, because the dominant type will kill the minority type.  Also, if they're all one type, they'll heal each other and you'll only need to worry about them on the waves with the grenade guys (11? and 20).
    • Blizzard - If you have Summon Elemental and want to produce a bunch of frost elementals quickly, cast this and then spam Summon Elemental (well, as fast as you can type SEDQFS and hit spacebar...).  Blizzard will automatically turn them into frost elementals for you.  Toss up a quick ER self cast before casting so you won't freeze yourself.
    • Rain - Wets enemies, letting frost elementals freeze them in place.  Affects the entire arena, so you don't have to worry about it not hitting something.  Toss up a quick EQ self cast before casting, so you can still conjure lightning.
    • Raise Dead - Not as useful as Summon Elemental, but anything that puts targets out there that aren't you is worth having around.  Note that some enemies are immune to poison.  They won't damage those enemies, but they will still surround them and block their movement, which is still useful.
    • Conflagration - Spiders absolutely hate fire.  Just so you know.
    • Thunderbolt - When it hits what you want it to hit, it works wonders for eliminating a single target.  It can get confused with lots of elementals about though.
  • Staves
    • Scepter of the Troll King - Active charm ability, plus the passive ability of making enemies prefer other targets, makes this staff precisely what you want if you can summon anything at all.
    • Staff of War - Double HP plus physical resistance.  Need I say more?  The active Arcane Bolt ability recharges pretty quickly and shouldn't be forgotten about.
    • Daemon Arm - While it's one of the best in Adventure, it's not as useful here, because you'll need to be moving a fair amount of the time.  Still, when you've got it down to that one last enemy, you can pop off a beam and let 'er rip.  Only marginally useful, just mentioned it so I could say that.
    • Gnarled Staff - Active ability summons trees to fight for you.  Great if you don't have any magick that summons anything and you're not up against a wave that deals fire damage.  The summon ability has a long recharge though, so you'll have to support them.  Note that you can heal them.  Area cast heals work best, but risk healing your enemies at the same time.
  • Weapons
    • Knife of Counter-Striking - It took me way too long to figure out what this weapon was referencing.  It's referencing the knife in Counterstrike, where if you're carrying it you can run faster.  Having this weapon essentially gives you a permanent Haste, which is indispensable.  Especially considering that you can still Haste yourself while wielding it, and the effects stack...
    • RPG-7 - Don't underestimate the value of 3000 damage in a single spike.  True, some spells can out-spike this, but it's a worthwhile weapon nonetheless.  Just make sure you've got some distance on your target, and don't forget about the manual reloads (and the length thereof...).
I've gotten to wave 20 twice solo, and died on wave 20 twice solo for entirely stupid reasons.  The first time I stepped on one of my own ARSE mines by accident and couldn't thaw, heal, and cast Invisibility fast enough, and the second time I was trying to cast Blizzard and summon more elementals and got hit by stray grenades.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Magicka: Vietnam notes

The Vietnam Rescue Mission DLC for Magicka is a bit of a challenge.  Not only because you play it in challenge mode, but also because it's fairly simple and straightforward up until the very end.  I've got notes about the entire thing though, so here you go.

I mention spells with their default keybindings, if you've changed yours, you're weird.  Also, this is entirely for singleplayer.  I'd imagine it gets easier in multiplayer.  Furthermore, I stick with the firearms theme and use very little magic.
Staple spells/magicks:
  • ED self cast - rock armor.  Given how there's lots of them and one of you, and they all have automatic weaponry, without this you'll find your health skyrocketing in the wrong direction quickly.  You'll want to keep this on at all times.
  • EDDDD self cast - full rock armor, for the end.  You're waiting for your evac, and whaddayaknow, the Vietcong are after you in full force.
  • EDQ self cast - rock armor with water resist thrown in, useful because I always forget that I'm standing in water and can't hit A to cast Haste...
  • ARSE weapon cast and/or regular cast - Best. Mines. Ever.  Launches enemies high into the air, deals lots of damage, and freezes them so they take forever to get back up.  If you're trying to outmaneuver and outsmart a large-ish group, these will help tremendously, since you can basically keep an entire group at bay.  I don't recommend area casting mines since you don't get Teleport in this mission.  If you get hit by your own mines, make your first self-cast Fire, not Life.  Either that, or combine them.  You get one cast before you have to go through the slow recovery, you see.
  • ASF spacebar - Good old Haste.  With the rock armor reducing your speed, you'll need it.  You don't get it until partway into the first area, head to the left at the first opportunity.
  • QFDWFF spacebar - Napalm.  Great for taking out fortified positions, giants, etc.  Use of this is crucial to surviving the holdout at the end.
You might as well use the robes that come with the DLC, these grant you a gun that shoots three round bursts and the Patriot Staff, which has Liberty Grenades as its active ability.  Here's a hint: Liberty Grenades can set off your ARSE mines.

After you're no longer being rushed by enemies, head to the left and up a bit to claim the spellbook for Haste.  This will come in very handy for getting into and out of trouble.

You get Napalm a certain amount of time after the mission begins.  There isn't any other trigger for it other than passage of time.

Napalm always sets fire in a line perpendicular to the direction you're looking when you cast it.  Use this to your advantage.

The fortified position near the Haste spellbook has a heavy armor enemy.  All the heavy armor enemies carry the RPD gun.  Grab that.

There are enemies that become priority targets whenever they're nearby.  The guys with RPGs, the guys with mortars, and the giants.  These guys can kill you with considerably less effort than any of the other enemies you'll come across.  Fortunately, there's very few of each.

The first area contains an ammo building and a radio tower.  RPG guy at the ammo building, and two mortar guys at the radio tower.  Both can be Napalmed if you so desire.

The second area contains an ammo building, a radio tower, and the five prisoners.  Two RPG guys and one giant inside.  Giant near the well, one RPG guy near the exit, and the other near the side entrance.  Watch your fire near the prisoners.  There are barracks buildings dotted about that spawn enemies, destroying them predictably stops the enemies from spawning.  John will attack enemies if they're nearby once you free him, so either be prepared to follow him and heal him, or kill everything first.

The third area contains the military plans.  They're in a fortified area guarded by a giant and two mortar guys, with plenty of regular guys as well.  A well-placed Napalm can take out the giant, since he won't move if you don't fire at him.  When you leave, a group will attack that includes an RPG guy.  Just after that is the spellbook for Time Warp.  Grab it if you want, I've never found it to be all that useful.  It seems to slow me just as much as them...  I guess since it doesn't affect the speed at which you can conjure and cast spells, that alone makes it useful.  I dunno, I beat the mission without using it.

After getting the intelligence and Time Warp, the area opens up to a large clearing with a creek.  As soon as you cross the creek, Vlad will radio in, and the holdout begins.  At first it's just the small fries, but then the cavalry shows up.  Plenty of offscreen mortars, the occasional offscreen RPG, and one giant.  Give yourself breathing space with Napalm, and shoot away at anything that makes it through alive.  Once the giant is dead, it shouldn't be too much longer before the helicopter arrives to get you the hell out of there.

In multiplayer, you can get some diversity in your weapons.  Someone may want to partake in some friendly fire to get the M60 at the beginning, there's AK47s all over the place, and an RPG is fine too.  3000 damage a pop is worth the manual reload and long reload time...  Also, since you have multiple people and the death of a single player doesn't mean the end of the mission like it does in singleplayer, you have a bit more freedom to play around with using spells during the mission.  Especially because you'll need to heal.  A lot.

After you've beaten it, then all that's really left to do is complete it faster.  I'd imagine a group of four people could do it faster than singleplayer.  Though weirdly I did it faster in singleplayer than a two player LP I saw on YouTube...  Speaking of YouTube, searching "magicka vietnam speed run" doesn't actually return any speed runs of this mission...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Voxatron

Technically this game is still in alpha.  I have a copy because I donated for the Humble Voxatron Debut.

Voxatron is an arcade-style shooter where you move from room to room blasting bad guys and collecting powerups.  What sets it apart from its competition is that its graphics are made up of voxels.  Voxels, for the uninitiated, are volume pixels.  Basically, make a pixel a three dimensional object.  There you go.  To emphasize the voxelly goodness of the graphics, the environments are fully destructible.

There are three main modes of gameplay.
  • Adventure - Takes around 1-2 hours to complete
  • Arcade - Basically just a "hold out as long as you can against wave after wave of enemies" deal
  • BBS Levels - Browse through and play user-made levels.  This provides the majority of your gameplay once you've beaten the adventure.  While browsing around, you can favorite levels you like so you can just go to your favorites list to find them later.  Levels can do all sorts of fun things, including changing the player model.
As the BBS Levels would suggest, there's a level editor.  I haven't used it, but from having played the main adventure and then a few user-made levels, it seems like it's powerful enough to be worth doing things in.

Now, we get to discuss the controls, and for this I have a little story.

In the beginning the controls were keyboard-only, and couldn't be configured.  You could face different directions and fire, but while you were holding fire, your aim was locked.  So basically to re-aim, you had to stop firing, look a different direction, and start firing again.  This was extremely unintuitive, and made the game unplayable for me.  However, since the game is still under development, an update was released that added keyboard+mouse controls and gamepad controls, as well as the ability to configure the controls any way you want.

In the control config, you can set buttons (or joystick axes, for the gamepad controls) to both move and fire in different directions.  Doing this basically un-cripples the controls and turns it into a twin stick shooter, and I highly recommend it.  The keyboard+mouse controls offer the same ability, you'll simply fire at wherever you're pointing with the mouse.

So it has mouse and gamepad support now, but one small thing is lacking.  You can't use your mouse or gamepad to navigate the menus.  For gamepads, a quick JoyToKey config solves this, but it really should be implemented into the game directly.  If you're making a JoyToKey config, you'll need to bind the arrow keys, Enter, and Escape to buttons.  For mice, I don't know of a solution unless you have a mouse with tons of extra buttons and a utility that lets you re-bind them per program.

I have no clue when the full game will be released, and I don't really feel like searching the internet to find the website for the game.  Google isn't that hard to use anyway.

In terms of how beefy of a computer you'll need to run the game, it seems like it's fairly light on resources.  I never ran into any lag or anything, and I built this computer in 2004.  If you're having issues, make sure that 2x Antialiasing is off (turning it off doubles the framerate for me), and set shadows to hard.  If all else fails, run it windowed.

Overall, it's a pretty fun and challenging game.  Once you've exhausted the main adventure, the BBS Levels are your friend, and there's a bunch of decent stuff up there.

yeah, yeah...

If you don't run an ad blocker you may notice (up to three) ads between my blog posts now.  A while back YouTube offered me the ability to monetize my videos (all three of them...), and I figured what the hell, sign up.  I still have to manually enable revenue sharing per-video and they have to review it before it gets enabled, but whatever.  Anyway, with that having gone through, I got an AdSense account that I could link this blog to.  So I did that.

That's the entire story.

Still feels kind of weird running ads even though I'm so vocal about using ad blockers.  I doubt I'll get much money from them, but you never know...

Edit: I did some customizing so that they look better.  As you can tell by looking at them, they're now centered within this column and have a border below as well as above.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Magicka

Remember when I played the Magicka demo and made a post about it?  Well thanks to a free weekend on Steam, I've beaten the full game now, and I'm back to offer my thoughts again.

The demo is an older version of the game, and several things regarding how various elements work have changed since then.  The area cast Shield, then spam heal mines trick no longer works.  Earth and Ice armors no longer hold you in place when you cast them, but you do move more slowly.  That's really about all I noticed.

The game is set in a satirical fantasy setting.  It makes references to a lot of things.  Just the ones I noticed, in no particular order:
  • Star Trek - There's an enemy you fight named Khan, and NPC dialogue just before the fight concludes with "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!"
  • Back to the Future - you get sent back in time partway through the game, when this happens you get the achievement "88mph"
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail - The druids shout "Shrubbery!", "Ni!", and "Ecky!", and there's an achievement called "Blue!  No... Yellow!" that you can get while selecting your robe color.  I got it by selecting blue, then yellow (lol).
  • SkiFree - Remember that old Windows 3.1 game?  Where once you got past a certain distance a yeti would come and eat you?  Well, that happens in the game.  A soldier skis down a hill, goes over a rainbow colored ramp, lands, and gets eaten by a yeti.  Then you have to fight the yeti to avoid being eaten yourself.  Here's a hint: fire.
  • Guitar Hero - Believe it or not, there's a staff in the game that grants fire immunity and a resistance aura, and in its description it says "'Through the fire and flames' - 100% guaranteed".
  • Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - When you use your first checkpoint, you get a fairy. This fairy will resurrect you if you die (only once, the second time you go back to your last checkpoint), and periodically gives you useless gameplay tips after saying "Hey! Listen!".  Also, a general reference, you can find the master sword, and it shoots a projectile when you're at full health.
There are a whole host of weapons available in the game, which you can switch to as you come across them.  I didn't really pay attention to them past a certain point, because I settled on a weapon setup that worked well for me.  So well, in fact, that any time I died and lost one or both of them, I'd purposely die again to load back at the last checkpoint.

Rather early on in the game, a village that manufactures gunpowder gets attacked, and if you save it without any of the five houses being destroyed, you get the M60.  It's a machine gun.  That takes your melee weapon slot.  It doesn't deal a heck of a lot of damage, but you can just keep firing.  A lot of enemies are vulnerable to it, or can be made vulnerable to it.

A fair distance after that you kill an enemy that has a Staff of War that doubles your HP and has an Arcane Bolt active ability.  I used this up until I got...

...the Daemon Arm.  It doesn't offer any active ability, but it gives your beam spells infinite duration.  Without it the beam will just stop after a while and you'll have to recast it.  With this, you can just keep on beam spamming.

One of the things I like about Magicka is its lack of a mana bar.  This makes each fight more about skill and knowledge of the elements, and less about "oh I wish I could cast the spell that would end this but I don't have enough mana".  It helps greatly towards the end of the game where it starts getting really frustratingly difficult.

On that note, the game does have a decent difficulty curve.  At the beginning it's easy and you have a lot of opportunity to play around with the elements and what spells you can make, then as it progresses you start encountering more and more enemies with elemental resistances, immunities, or armor that needs to be destroyed, and you need to know exactly what you need to be doing at any given moment.  Giving yourself elemental immunities becomes very important towards the end of the game, especially so in the final boss fight (both phases of it!).

A rather fun thing I had to do towards the end was effectively dropping enemies into lava.  You're going through a room with tons of lava that you have to use aoe frost spells to solidify so you can cross it, and there's enemies waiting for you on all the platforms.  Including the annoying guys with the instant kill rocks.  I would get their attention with my M60 and lead them back out onto the solidified lava, then shoot fire at them to un-solidify the lava and drop them into it.  It might be cheap, but hey, if they're going to spam instant kill rocks at me in an area with limited room to dodge, I declare free license to drop them into lava.

One of my go-to spells when there were lots of enemies around is the ARSE mines.  Yeah, those are the keys you press to make the spell.  They could be in any order, but it's more fun to call them ARSE mines.  Anyway, they have lightning and frost in them, so they deal a fair amount of damage and slow enemies down, which helps as you're trying to run around dodging instant kill rocks.

One of the great things about this game is that there isn't really a set method for getting through most of it, leaving you free to experiment with the magic system.  You know, the magic system that was designed to be experimented with.

Throughout the game you get Magicks as well.  These are specific element sequences that you enter and cast by pressing the spacebar.  These range from being overlookable, to helpful and useful, and finally to required to get through certain parts of the game.  I came pretty close to getting them all (for the vast majority you have to find books to learn them, which can be hidden).

The game offers up a lot of achievements to get, some of which contribute references (as I previously mentioned).  A fair amount of them can be obtained just through normal gameplay.  Others I got because of repeated failures meaning I racked up more kills (the "overkill 1000 enemies" and "kill 1000 enemies with firearms" achievements).

When you begin you can select a robe, and the different ones do different things, including affecting your starting weaponry.  I beat the game with the Vanilla Robes that don't do anything special, and I have another game started up with the Space Marine robe, just so I could get the "have trouble choosing a robe color" and "die while wearing a yellow robe" achievements.

Normal post ends here, spell bullshit after the break.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Giant Foods Free Sandwich Coupons

So for quite a while now I've been getting the deli sandwiches from Giant.  They have this deal where if you buy six of them with your bonuscard, you get a coupon for a free sandwich.  I typically make the free sandwich one of the more expensive ones just to save money, and this has worked up until today.

Today, suddenly, without warning or notice, there's now a price restriction on the sandwich that you can get for free.  This restriction isn't listed on the coupon, or anywhere else.  In fact, the only restrictions listed are "Participating stores only, limit one per transaction", which I happen to be totally fine with because both stores around here participate and I only ever spend one coupon at a time anyway.

But to suddenly say "these coupons only work on the cheapest sandwiches" when they've been working on the more expensive ones all this time feels like a massive bait and switch to me.

I will reiterate.  All the coupon says is "This coupon is good for one free sandwich on your next visit. Participating stores only, limit one per transaction".  It doesn't mention anything about a maximum price threshhold.  At all.  Which is why I feel justified in complaining about there suddenly being a maximum price threshhold.

Stop your shenanigans, Giant.  Either make this price restriction publically known, or remove it.  As it is currently where it just "exists" but isn't listed anywhere isn't fair to the customers that are trying to redeem the coupon.

It did kind of work out.  They wouldn't give me the sandwich I'd picked for free and honor the terms printed on the coupon, but they did take the "maximum sandwich price" off the cost of the sandwich.  That doesn't make the lack of notice of a maximum price forgivable, though.  In fact, it just might make me stop buying the sandwiches altogether.

On a side note, the coupons don't actually say "limit one per transaction".  They say "limit one peoooransaction".  Somebody failed somewhere, hard.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Advanced Renamer 3.15

So after 3.10 had issues and I switched back to 3.05, I checked the site recently and noticed in the update notes "Fixed incompatibility issues with Windows XP".  I downloaded the installer (at that point, 3.14 was newest), and then promptly forgot about it.

Until today.

I installed 3.14 and this time it happily converted all my presets from the old format to the new one.  Then I check the settings dialog, and no more access violations upon closing it.  Awesome.  Next, I inspect the preset list, and find it to be empty.  Oh well, it moved all my presets out to external files, so I go and load one back in.

This is when I discover that it polluted the converted preset files with methods from other presets.  So then I got to go through and delete all the methods that shouldn't have been in each preset, and re-save them.  With that bit of "I shouldn't have had to do this" out of the way, I noticed it was still saying "Update available" at the bottom, so I downloaded 3.15.

A bunch of new stuff has been added since 3.05, which I may or may not actually end up using.  One method (or possibly tag) I wish existed would be for CRC32.  Being that I remux anime a lot, I end up with files where the CRC32 no longer matches what's in the filename, and I'd like to be able to easily update it.  I've got a ghetto setup now where I use a command-line CRC32 tool to calculate all the CRC32s, and then manually rename the files, then go back to the command line and verify that I typed them all correctly.  I'd very much like the ability to just chuck the files into Advanced Renamer with a rule that replaces 8 characters starting at the 5th character going backwards with the file's CRC32, hit Start Batch, wait a while as the CRC32s are calculated, and have it just be done.

Yeah, I know, CRC32 is a rather useless data integrity checking algorithm these days, given that it's so easy to forge one and that the files I have with them in the filename are distributed via BitTorrent, which has its own data integrity checking.  But it's useful on a case-by-case basis, I guess, and the case I made above is one of those.

Another thing that I wish existed would be a way to remove a preset.  Even with the new format, once you load a preset, it stays there.  No way to remove it from within the program.  You have to go into the Data subdirectory of its directory in Program Files and edit both methodlists.ini and settings.ini to remove it.  methodlists.ini is technically the old format, which I edited just because I felt like it, and the settings.ini just points at a bunch of .aren files that you've used.  The new format is really just taking each preset's method list out of methodlists.ini and putting it into its own file, which doesn't explain at all how the presets got polluted when I converted them.

Overall, it's still a very useful program for renaming tons of files at once.

Backlog Gone!

The one remaining thing was the Gundam 00 movie, which I watched last night along with a metric fuckton of other stuff.  Seriously, my computer was decoding video for 12 hours straight (with breaks for food/bathroom, duh).

That 12 hours contained:
  • Carnival Phantasm 5-7
  • Fate/Zero 7 (Rider = most awesome servant ever)
  • Gundam 00 movie
  • and the last six hours of the Far Lands or Bust livestream archive.  My guess for the contest ended up being pretty close (the extra four hours added by donations helped), we'll see if it was close enough to win eventually, once Kurt organizes all the entries.
Also, because of the CAINE theme showing last Saturday, I picked up a new series.  The theme was "Srsly, wtf am I watching".  Someone brought an episode of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.  I'd been thinking about watching that from the start, and was confused when all the fanart I saw go by on Sankaku Channel was just the series' female characters in bathing suits.  But this one episode sealed the deal, so to speak.  It introduced the character that I already know will be my favorite.  Meganekko science girl with no social inhibition.  So, I downloaded the OAV and what's out so far, and I'll probably watch all of that later tonight.

Overall I'm glad my backlog is finally fucking empty.  I hope to keep it that way.

Oh, what did I bring to the theme showing, you ask?  Yuri Seijin Naoko-san, which I immediately thought of when the theme was announced, and Rejected.  Yuri Seijin inflicted bouts of WTF on everyone for its relatively short six-minute runtime, and Rejected is just awesome and needs to be shown periodically, and I figured it might be wtf-inducing enough to bring it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Backlog almost gone!

So, rather than pointlessly marathonning early seasons of The Simpsons, I decided to buckle down and work through this shit.

Since the last post I've watched everything on my backlog except the Gundam 00 movie.  Yes, including Tsukihime.  Since I'm curious why the internet collectively denies the existence of this anime, I think I might just track down the visual novel.  To me, who hasn't experienced the actual story, it seems like a case of "it's a semi-decent story on its own, but given the name it carries it delivered less than was expected of it" or something to that degree.  We'll see, I guess.

I remuxed Ghost Stories to turn on the dubtitles by default.  For the uninitiated, when ADV dubbed Ghost Stories (original name: Gakkou no Kaidan), they basically threw out anything that wasn't the bare shell of the plot and just had fun with the rest.  The English language dub is therefore quite hilarious.  The dubtitles add a bit, as they captioned some sound effects in creative ways, like "[Leo screaming like a little girl]" or "[Keiichirou sob™]".

Later on they start throwing in foreign languages.  There's a bit that's entirely in Spanish, they bring some Japanese in (as in, the English VAs are speaking Japanese), and there's one scene where Satsuki and her dad are speaking in Pig Latin.  There are many third (fourth?) wall breaking moments, and they point out when the anime rips off various classic horror movies (like The Ring, about four times).  I highly recommend watching it dubbed, and the dubtitles help for verifying that they really just said that.

The only series on the list that I didn't watch was Sekirei.  I instead deleted it.  From both my hard drive and my MAL anime list.  It had potential, but squandered it in favor of ecchi fanservice, then rushed a plot in the last few episodes, didn't conclude it, and ended with a "to be continued".  Then they made us wait two years for more, only to go back to the ecchi fanservice.  I no longer have any desire to watch the series.

I went into Asobi ni Iku Yo! knowing very little about the series.  All I knew was that it was something about catgirls and probably had some fanservice.  Well, I was right on both counts, and it was a pretty decent series overall.

I'll get all this into my MAL account eventually, I've been focusing more on getting through the backlog as well as not falling behind on current stuff.

I'm intentionally leaving out the re-watch list for now, as it's less important.  My first priority is making sure that I've watched all the anime I have on my hard drive.

Also, since CAINE's showings wrapped up all three series for this semester, I got to give Seto no Hanayome the treatment it deserved.  I marked it on MAL as Dropped at 26 of 26.  I'll be using the Dropped section for stuff that really isn't worth watching that for whatever reason I've watched.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

TRAUMA

TRAUMA is a point and click exploration game.  The story is fairly simple: the main character is hospitalized after a car accident.  You're playing through four dreams she has while in the hospital.


The game is available on Steam for $6.99 outside of a sale.  I got it through the Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

And Yet It Moves

For whatever reason, this post sat here as a draft for a while.  Enjoy.

This is the first game I got from the Humble Indie Bundle 3 that I've beaten.

And Yet It Moves is a puzzle platformer.  You need to find the level exit, and in doing so, you need to traverse all kinds of terrain and hazards.  To aid you, you can rotate the level.  All of the levels require extensive use of the rotation ability.

The graphics themselves have torn paper edges, and the main character appears to be made out of paper.  This is made clear in one of the levels where there's lots of fire, where getting hit by the fire makes you burn up.

As you progress through the game, the puzzles get harder and harder.  Towards the end, levels were taking upwards of half an hour or more for me to get through.  The game itself is actually pretty short, I beat it in a single sitting.  The credits are presented in the form of a level, and getting to the end of them unlocks an optional level (and an achievement).  Finishing this optional level without dying unlocks another achievement.

Some of the achievements are pretty crazy, like the one that requires you to fall through an entire level, never landing, and die from fall damage at the very end.  There's another that's similar that I actually was able to unlock, where you simply have to navigate the level using only the level rotation buttons, and can land as much as you want.

Overall I'd have to say it was pretty fun, but short.  I might go back and achievement whore a bit, but overall it doesn't really have a lot of replay value.  And no, I don't consider achievements to add anything to replay value.

More anime backlog

Finally getting to the last few bits of it.  I honestly don't know why I keep putting this stuff off.  There's going to be some stuff from my re-watch list in here as well.  Everything that's on the re-watch list will be noted as such.  The re-watch list is less prioritized than the backlog, for purposes of maintaining sanity.  Also, because clarification is good when it's needed, I have notes below the list to hopefully accomplish that exact purpose.

Also, jump break, because why not.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

lol

So, I've been playing around with the Twitter feed in the sidebar over there.  I think I'm done now.

I had briefly updated the Blogger-approved Twitter widget to its most recent version, but it had that annoying "add this to your blog" image at the bottom that I couldn't get rid of and had tooltip text in some other language.

I don't know why I didn't know about this sooner, but Twitter has an official widget thing.  Which is what you see now.  I guess it's because of the fact that since I use TweetDeck, I don't regularly visit twitter.com anymore.

I sincerely hope that this one will show retweets...

Also, just because I am who I am, I grabbed a copy of the widget Javascript that the widget remotely loads from Twitter's server, and put it up on my site, where it won't ever change except when I want it to.  So there won't be any unexpected "congratulations, this thing now looks and/or operates different(ly) and you have no option of going back to how it used to be" bullshit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm tired of this

Harem anime almost always have some element of "main character does something that gets misunderstood, female cast member punches him", but some shows just take that too far.

Furthermore, when there's some sort of secret that needs to be kept, the worst possible thing to do is to introduce a "referee" character who constantly keeps tabs on how well the secret is being kept secret and threatens something horrible if it gets out.  It removes all sense of fun from the story and only results in that one character being annoying.

What series am I talking about that has both of these elements?  Seto no Hanayome.  I'm watching it because CAINE is showing it this semester.  We're currently 17 episodes in.  It seems like it's a pretty funny show, but these two elements detract from it and make the viewing experience less than pleasurable.  Let's run down the list of characters whose names I remember or whose roles I can uniquely identify even while not being able to remember their names.
  • Mawari - aspiring cop, but just annoying.  Provides some of the funny "we're yakuza, she's with the police, but we're in an informal semi-friendly relationship" element.  However, "Do I need to teach you the rules of society?" repeated several times an episode just makes me feel like I'm listening to a broken record.  Does she have any sort of dynamic personality, will her character ever be developed, or does it just stay static, boring, and annoying?  "Do I need to teach you the rules of society?" could be extremely sexy if implemented right, such that some characters in the show and some viewers of the show would respond "I'd let you teach me the rules of society...".  Too bad this isn't the case.
  • Saru - Just annoying.  He's supposed to be "the funny pervert", but he's too ready to shift a misunderstanding onto the main character.
  • Runa/Lunar/however you want to romanize her name - seriously bitch get off your fucking high horse.
  • The "referee" girl - At first I thought she was pretty cool, because I tend to like sword-wielding female characters.  But then she revealed her role as referee and immediately went into the routine of annoyance.
  • San's dad - I can understand a father not wanting his daughter to grow up, and I can understand him being a bit aggressive with the main character given that he's a yakuza boss, but still... every goddamn episode he goes batshit crazy because of one tiny thing that gets overblown.
  • Maki - always trying to kill the main character, with or without a reason.  Annoying dual personality.
  • Main character's parents - I feel like I've used the word "annoying" a bit much in this post, but... their inability to stand up for their son is very annoying.  They just agree with every single insult flung his way like it's nothing.
That's all I can really remember.  I was assured that the show abandons the first element of people always beating up on the main character, but I haven't seen that happen yet.  I've already rated it a 2 on MAL, and I hardly ever rate a series before I finish watching it.  This is the series that got chosen for a full slot over Azumanga Daioh?  Give me a fucking break.  This is shit in comparison.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall 2011 Anime

I'm only watching two shows this season.

Shinryaku!? Ika Musume - The followup to the very well-received first season, and it's still got the same humor it had before.  I'm enjoying this season thoroughly.  The only downside is that the new OP/ED aren't as good as the ones from the first season.  The EDs in this season maintain the tradition from the first season, of being different per episode.

Fate/Zero - Set in the fourth Holy Grail War.  Other than that, fairly similar to Fate/Stay Night.  Seven masters, seven servants, fight to the death, winners get the Holy Grail.  The masters are different since this takes place ten years before Fate/Stay Night, and some of the servants are different as well.  In fact, most of them are.  The only one that's the same is Saber.  The first episode is 45 minutes long.  You'll want to watch Fate/Stay Night before this.

I was thinking I might watch one or two other things, but nothing else really jumped out at me and all the series I hear people talking about are generic fanservice series with only a bare shell of a plot.  The only other series I'd considered was Gundam AGE, which I'm hearing mixed opinions about.

I seem to say this every season, but maybe I'll go through some of my backlog...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

posting with my voice

Just because I can I'm writing this post by talking to my computer

It's kind of balls

There doesn't seem to be a good way to make it do, as are periods

I see I'm going to have to provide a translation of this post because it's not interpreting things quite correctly but generally it's getting it done

voice recognition is kind of weird I guess maybe I should train this thing Moran I don't know yet that more and was suppose to be I don't know what the five fuck fuck shit this case pays and this thing doesn't recognize the word P. I. S. S. -K. had been teaching fuck because there is no way it was ever going to recognize it otherwise hello alok O. L. L. O. L. their radio ads of three attempts by finally got it face palm

villa when a train this thing Italia to tighten rules speech pattern that it's really hard to do that natural speech pattern OK took in that time the trouble is this became too quickly for this thing I am speaking to quickly for this thing ended types the wrong version of the word to and continually gets things wrong in the hosts giving away as possible OK with the shit what the shit

I think I will disable this now and just type in the translation because this is seriously flawed to a flock fuck fuck to a whenever mind oh and never mind I didn't say and all I said was though never mind face palm

Translation (with somewhat correct punctuation as well)

Just because I can, I'm writing this post by talking to my computer.

It's kind of balls.

There doesn't seem to be a good way to make it do commas or periods.

I see I'm going to have to provide a translation of this post because it's not interpreting things quite correctly, but generally it's getting it done.

Voice recognition is kind of weird, I guess maybe I should train this thing more, I dunno.  That "Moran" was supposed to be "I don't know".  What the fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck shit piss.  Piss.  Piss.  This thing doesn't recognize the word P-I-S-S.  I think I had to teach it "fuck" because there was no way it was ever going to recognize it otherwise lol lol lol it took three attempts but I finally got it *facepalm*.

oh god this paragraph I don't even.  I was mentioning how difficult it is to train the voice recognition thing because it tells you to speak in a natural speech pattern as you read the text it provides, but doing so is difficult when you're on the spot like that.  I also mentioned that I was speaking too quickly for it, which seems to make it mess up.

I think I will disable this now and just type in the translation because this is seriously fucked up.  Fuck.  Fucked.  Oh never mind.  Oh never mind.  I didn't say "and", all I said was "oh never mind" *facepalm*.

Overall, all I can say is, lol @ the Microsoft Speech Recognition program for Windows XP, which you have to install the Speech Recognition SDK to get on WinXP.  I only installed it because UT2k4 has voice control options for bots, and you can make them get the fuck out of a vehicle they just stole while you were running towards it.  If the bot's call sign is "charlie" then all you have to say is "charlie get out" and it's like magic.  Too bad there's no commands to tell the bots to take or defend a numbered point on an Onslaught map...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hey, TweetDeck...

... I'm not updating you.  Not because I disagree with any change that may have been made, but because of this:


Thanks to that, not only can I not see the changelog, but there's no update button.  The information might be visible elsewhere (say, their website), along with said update, but...  I'm lazy, and your shit should actually work.

Edit: well, I can probably get the new version off of their site, but the changelog isn't there.  So no, until there's a changelog visible somewhere, I'm not updating.