Saturday, July 30, 2011

This Post Is About Anime

Because I haven't posted about what I'm watching each season in quite a while.  So here are some quick review blurbs about everything I'm watching, summer season or continued from spring.  I'll also include the number of aired episodes and the total number when known.

Spring Season:

Nichijou (17/26) - An absolutely hilarious comedy.  The title translated means "everyday life".  One character rides a goat to school and has a butler.  One character has a mohawk, but only because that's the only place on his head that hair will grow.  One character is a robot with a key sticking out of her back, designed by a child scientist who eats snacks all day.  I could go on, but the point is, there's a wide range of wacky characters, and the resulting show is completely hilarious.  My daily routine stops when an episode comes out.

Summer Season:

Mayo Chiki (4/?) - Main character is a guy who is constantly used as a punching bag by both his mom and little sister, who are both great martial artists.  As a result of being beaten up so much, he's developed a bit of a condition: any time he touches a girl, his nose bleeds.  One day he discovers that his school's headmaster's daughter's butler is actually a female, something she's trying to hide.  After all that exposition happens, the headmaster's daughter (who is a bit of a sadist) decides to cure him of his condition.  Cue fanservice.  Honestly it's been pretty funny.

R-15 (3/12) - The main character goes to a school for geniuses.  He himself is a genius novelist, with a slight twist: he writes romance novels.  The majority of the female cast prejudges him as a total pervert because of this, and constantly hates on him, something I think has been a bit overdone in anime.  It seems to be getting a bit better with each episode, so hopefully this trend will continue.  Also, cue fanservice, because even though the main character isn't really a pervert, he does have an imagination.

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni! (3/13) - Sequel to the original.  Still funny.  Starts out with the main cast on a beach vacation, then it's back to school.  Somehow it feels a bit different than the first series.  We'll have to see how it compares.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Aquaria is a 2D, sidescrolling adventure game by indie developer Bit-Blot.  You play as a fish-person (her exact lineage is revealed as you progress through the story) named Naija, who has lost her memories and wonders if she's the only person in all of Aquaria.

The vast majority of the game takes place under water.  Your basic controls are movement, a dash ability, and a "verse ring" that lets you perform various abilities and interact with various parts of the game.  Each symbol in the verse ring has its own color and tone, often you'll have to match them to something you're shown to solve a puzzle.

In terms of the abilities gained from the verse ring, you have a defensive shield that protects you from enemy projectiles, and there are a variety of forms that Naija can take on that have their own special powers.  For instance, the Energy Form can fire bolts of energy at your foes, but the Beast Form lets you eat them to replenish health.  Those are just a few of the uses of the verse ring.  Each ability has to be unlocked before you can use it, so random experimentation won't find you anything.

The game is laid out in an expansive environment that you can freely roam about.  Some areas will of course require you to have certain abilities in order to be accessed.  This ensures that there's always a reward to re-visiting an area you went through previously after you gain new powers, and also that there's always an immediate use for each new power you gain.  It reminds me of Super Metroid, and that's a good thing.

One area I'd like to highlight in particular is called The Veil.  Three paragraphs ago I said that the vast majority of the game takes place under water, right?  Well, this is where you find the surface.  There are land masses you can hop about on and traverse to get to other parts of The Veil.  Naija isn't nearly as maneuverable out of the water as she is in the water, so you're limited to hopping around and wall jumping to reach places.  In addition, there are these mysterious water bubbles you'll find if you head to the right part of the game.  They float in midair, and you can jump between them to go higher.

To help you find your way, you have a small radar in the lower right corner of the screen.  It will have pulsating dots on it that indicate area exits and save points.  Some areas of the game are dark, and nothing will show on the radar while you're in one of these areas.  You gain an ability later on that allows you to light the way and see where you're going both onscreen and on the radar.  In addition, while you're in a dark area, you won't be able to bring up your map screen.

The ring around your radar shows you how much health you have.  You start out with a half-circle's worth of health, and throughout the game you will find verse eggs that will increase your maximum health.  There's actually a pretty long dead period between the first one and the second one, so don't get frustrated thinking you're missing them left and right.  The first one is pretty much given to you, and the rest require you to use specific forms to reach them.

As far as items to get, there is plenty to be found.  Scattered throughout the game are various artifacts that Naija will add to her home cave when she finds them.  Some are decorative, but others have a purpose.  Also, you'll find costumes you can equip to change what Naija looks like when she's not in any of her forms.  Some of these costumes also confer benefits, so they're not all just for show.

Naturally, with all these enemies to fight, you're going to need to replenish health at some point.  Part of the item collection is food and ingredients.  You will unlock recipes as you find new food, and the ingredients you find will let you make more food.  Each food item has a different benefit.  There are plenty that simply heal, but others provide temporary stat boosts or cure conditions like poison or blindness.  The game doesn't go too overboard with these conditions though, being inflicted with them can usually be avoided.

As far as inventory space goes, it appears to be infinite.  As soon as I filled up what I could see of my food storage, the next unique item I picked up caused the game to make a second page.  Once I overflowed the second page, a third was created.  So even though you can throw things away, there's really no reason to do so.  However, you can only hold a maximum of eight of any given item, so this gives you an incentive to cook often so you can gain ingredients in the most efficient manner.  Your inventory can be sorted by clicking the dotted icon, I believe it has three different sorting methods.

When you go to make a food item, in most places of the game, you'll have two cooking slots available.  Yet, some recipes require three.  How do you make those?  You find a kitchen.  There's one in Naija's home cave, and I've found two others.  Also, in a fairly well-hidden area of the game, you can defeat an enemy to obtain a third cooking slot, and then you'll be able to cook anything on the go as long as you have the ingredients.

As for finding the ingredients themselves, they can be obtained in a variety of different manners.  There are glowing colored plants throughout the game that if you sing the correct note (as denoted by the color), the colored pod will release an item for you.  Also, be on the lookout for leaves in grassy areas, as they can hide things.  You'll need a specific ability to get items out of these.  Also, meat and meat-related items like oils and eggs can be obtained by killing fish, crabs, and other underwater creatures.

As you explore, you'll probably run across various optional bosses.  Defeating these bosses will give you a pet.  In three of the four cases, this pet will attack for you.  The last pet provides light, which is handy for the dark areas of the game.

With the free-roaming aspect of the game being so huge, you might struggle to remember where certain places you wanted to revisit are, right?  Well, wrong.  The map screen allows you to place markers on the map.  You can give each marker a name to represent what it's marking, and regardless of where you are in the world you can see all the markers on the map screen by scrolling around or zooming out.  So if there's something blocking your way, but you can see that there's somewhere to go beyond it, you can mark it so you can return later after gaining a new ability.

The graphics and music are excellent.  The music really enhances the underwater feel that the graphics give off, and it's a pleasure to both look at and listen to.

Overall, I'd have to say that this is one hell of a good game and you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't own it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Advanced Renamer 3.10 Issues Braindump

Just in case my post on the dev's forum didn't go through, I'm going to essentially recreate it here.  It'll be missing some critical information, but whatever.

So I started up Advanced Renamer today to rename some stuff, and it said at the bottom that there was an update available.  I clicked it and read the changelog and it looked like some pretty neat stuff was added, so I downloaded it and installed it.

One of the things that was changed has to do with your renaming method lists themselves.  Rather than being stored in one file, now Advanced Renamer will store them in separate files that are more easily distributable from one computer to the next.

That's relevant because it has a dialog that comes up when you run it with an old methods file in the folder that basically says "hey, we're going to convert this so it'll work".  So, I click OK.  Then I get an error that says that TFileOpenDialog only works on Windows Vista or newer.  Great.  So I can't convert my methods to the new format.

There were a bunch of new settings added, so I went to the settings dialog to check that out.  After inspecting what was available, I closed the dialog and got an access violation.  I don't remember the exact addresses, but it happened regardless of whether anything was changed, and regardless of whether I hit OK or Cancel.  There was a slightly different one that I'd get if any tab other than the very first (leftmost) one was selected, as well.

Having seen that 3.10 had some issues, I didn't feel like having it rename anything, so I clicked the X in the upper right corner to close it, and I got another access violation.

So basically, to ensure proper functionality, I've downgraded back to 3.05.  I hope these issues are fixed and that the dev doesn't just go "lol you use Windows XP" like he did for someone else posting issues with Windows 2000, which he still states compatibility with.  As much as I want to use Windows 7, it would kill this computer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Team Fortress 2

I know I'm late to this party, but that's how I roll, I guess.  Let's just call it "fashionably late" and move on, shall we?

After the recent introduction of Free to Play games to Steam, Valve decided to make Team Fortress 2 a Free to Play game.

And holy crap, it's officially the best Free to Play game ever.  Admittedly, this wasn't a hard title to earn, but it just got a lot harder.

You actually get decent replay value for it, plus they can still make money off of you via the Mann Co. Store.  When you start playing as a new player after the F2P update, you will initially be limited in certain ways, but that changes if you buy something from the store.  Best part: unlike any other F2P game where the change would only be temporary, this change is permanent.  Essentially, everyone who had previously paid for TF2 was given a "premium account" that gets better drops, has more inventory space, and can initiate trades.  Anyone first starting out has a "free account", which lacks these things.

My account is now premium, because I got one of their summer camp promotion crates that expires after the sale ends and requires a special key to be purchased from the store to open it, and these keys turn into regular keys after the sale ends.  Fortunately, it wasn't too expensive to buy said key, but I don't think I'll bother with any more crates unless someone randomly decides to trade me a key, which they probably won't.  Also, when I made the purchase, Team Fortress 2 Beta popped up in my Steam game list.  I don't know what this is, and I don't want to infer something incorrect...

Now, what makes it the best Free to Play game ever?  I actually mentioned it two paragraphs ago: TF2 has plenty of replay value.  Every map, every server, every class, and every set of players is an entirely different experience.  The same can't be said for Spiral Knights, which essentially stagnates in gameplay in under an hour after initial character creation.  I guess the best way to sum it up is that since TF2 wasn't an F2P game and then became one, it actually had serious development resources and time put into it, as opposed to your typical F2P game developer just going "hey, let's shit out the bare shell of a game, and then charge exorbitant amounts of money to people that actually want to get anywhere in it!"

So, what are you waiting for?  Go install TF2 today!  You've got nothing to lose!

(also install Alien Swarm while you're at it, as it's completely free and was released long before F2P games were added to Steam.)

Beat Hazard Ultra Achievement Guide

Since I've now gotten 100% achievements, I thought I'd type up a bit about what you might need to know to get each.  Most are self-explanatory, but a couple are tricky.  I've categorized each by what portions of the game they can be earned in, so you'll know exactly what you can get without touching the new features, or without buying Ultra.

Any of the ones that don't technically require the new features or Ultra can of course be done with the new features/Ultra.  They may be more difficult, and my suggestions are written assuming you have Ultra.  If an achievement that can be done in Classic is just too hard in Ultra, you can always step down to Classic (Just choose Beat Hazard Classic when launching the game).  In that case, be aware that Ultra changed the enemy wave generation (to factor in all the new enemies), so the song will play entirely differently.  It won't even have bosses in the same spots.

And of course, if you're playing with mouse and keyboard, please be aware that this game plays a lot better with a dual analog stick gamepad (like a PS2 or Xbox 360 controller).  Wired Xbox 360 controllers are plug-and-play on Windows, by the way, and there is an official receiver for the wireless ones.

Jump break here for convenience.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Steam Summer Camp Sale

Steam's having its summer sale right now, and there are daily achievements you can get to obtain tickets.  For every three tickets you get, you can redeem them for a prize, which is basically a small bit of DLC in a select few games.  Extra characters, new maps, random goodies, etc.  You get the deal.  Best part:  No Purchase Necessary.

The nice thing is, since there's the whole "No Purchase Necessary" thing, every day of the sale has had one achievement you can get without spending any money.  A few of the days have had achievements in games I own, so where possible I went ahead and got those, exceptions going to the Super Meat Boy one, because it's fucking impossible and I'm nowhere near the area of the game I need to be in to unlock it, and the Facebook one, for obvious reasons.

The mysteriously added 43rd achievement for Beat Hazard, Striptease (Strip two bosses of their weapons and keep them alive for 60 seconds) ended up being one of the summer camp achievements, and I got that earlier as well as the last achievement I needed (Death Star, 10000 kills with the Ultra Beam) to get back to 100%.

Some days have had two free ones, like the day that had a regular free one and then a Team Fortress 2 (which is now Free To Play) achievement.  So yeah, I've sacrificed 6 GB of hard drive space to install TF2.  The game is hella fun, but I'm still uninstalling it after the sale ends.  I've gotten the achievement, which I had to set up with a friend just because I always got killed trying to do it in actual matches.

The achievements I've gotten so far and how to go about doing them:
  • Bit.Trip Beat - Sunbathing: Just don't suck.  This one is fairly easy.  Play Transition on the lowest difficulty, since the achievement doesn't have a minimum difficulty.  You don't even need to finish the song for it to unlock.
  • Steam - Welcome To Camp: Join the Summer Camp official group on Steam.  This one is derpaliciously easy.
  • Team Fortress 2 - Escape The Heat: As the description says, get set on fire and then jump into water.  The tricky part is doing it without dying, since 99% of the time on random servers people aren't going to go "oh sure let me stop playing how I'm supposed to be playing and help a member of the opposing team get an achievement".  It's easiest to find a relatively unpopulated server running a map with water and get a friend to help you, for mutual benefit.
  • Steam - Introduce Yourself: Have a friend on Steam?  Good. Go post a comment on their profile.  Achievement get.  Next.
  • Steam - Write Home: Click that Recommend... button next to a game in your games list, and type something short about why the game is awesome.  Submit, and there you go.  Next.
  • Trine - Summer Dip: I thought this one was going to be difficult until I realized each character has their own separate breath meter.  Dive into some water, and when one character's breath meter gets low, switch to the next.  Eventually you'll get the achievement.  Just don't leave yourself with the knight as your only character with a breath meter left, because he can't swim up.  When I got it, I didn't have the item that lets one of your characters breathe underwater, so I don't know how that affects it.  If you have that, it could be balls easy.
  • Steam - Say Cheese: Start game, press F12, upload screenshot.  Achievement get.  Next.
  • Beat Hazard - Striptease: Two words: Boss Rush. Pick a song that has an early boss wave that's the two small bosses.  Each of them counts as a separate boss, so strip them of their weapons and then ignore them.  Can be tricky, since bosses like to camp on other bosses and force you to fire at them.  The Reflect Shield can work against you here as well.  The Ultra Beam is your friend here, as it makes short work of turrets on bosses, and then your main cannons can take the boss out once it doesn't pose a threat.  So in terms of perks, max out the Ultra Beam, and go for survivability on the rest.
  • Steam - Play Time: Go to the Steam Store.  Click Demos.  Pick a demo.  Install, run.  Achievement get.  Next.
  • Spiral Knights - Star-Spangled Bomber: Yes, the Firecracker bomb costs 3000 crowns at the vendor.  Don't pay more for it in an auction.  See if you can borrow one from someone and then trade it back to them, there are people on the Steam boards for this game coordinating exactly that.  Or if you'd rather get it legit, do what I did.  Go to the recipe vendor and buy the recipe for a nice 250 crowns.  Grind the dungeon until you've got the materials you need, and then craft it for 200 crowns and 10 energy.  There you go.  You don't even need to equip it, so now you can sell it for profit, and if you get more materials, you can make more to sell!

As for prizes redeemed, first up was the gold ship in Beat Hazard.  It's just a graphical change, but it looks cool.  Then I got some absolutely ridiculous looking sunglasses in TF2 that I immediately equipped on all classes, and some DLC characters for Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter multiplayer, which I don't yet own but plan on purchasing at some point.

I'm left with a dilemma.  I estimate I can get enough tickets for two more prizes.  It kinda depends on how much I can do on each of the remaining days.  If I'm sitting there one ticket short of a prize on the last day, I'll do the Facebook one with a sockpuppet account or something.  However, I own zero of the games I have left to redeem prizes for.  Along the same line of reasoning as with the Serious Sam, I'm thinking of grabbing the Magicka one, but that leaves one... a bunch of my friends play Dawn of War 2, perhaps I should get that one?

Also, there's going to be a random drawing at the end of this.  Each ticket you earn gives you an extra entry into the drawing, and each of the winners get the top 10 games on their wishlist.  I had to expand my wishlist out to 10 games to be eligible, but... yeah.  Random chance I'll get Terraria for free!  I'm not holding my breath for it.  Some people out there have probably gotten every ticket so far and thus the drawing will be massively skewed in their favor, so... yeah.  Probably not going to be winning anything.

To use my most-used phrase on this blog, ever...  So, yeah.  That's about it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bill S.978 - Fuck you, America

This bill, while not targeted at the gaming community, will incredibly adversely affect us.  It will make it a felony to upload footage of copyrighted material to the internet.  It's targeted primarily at movies, tv shows, etc., but video games are copyrighted material as well.

Technically, the copyright holders already have all the tools they already need to stop any individual from doing this.  It's called a Cease and Desist.  Think about this: why haven't game companies been sending out Cease and Desist orders to let's players, people who host livestreams, people who post video reviews of games, etc.?  It's because they recognize that we as gamers can perform a very important aspect of advertising their game.  Watching a let's play isn't at all the same as playing the game yourself.  It may be a fun series of videos to watch, but an aspect of let's plays that adds to the experience is the person playing the game.  In most games you don't always have to do the same thing to get through the same part of it, whereas, TV and movies are completely static experiences.

I myself am watching several Terraria let's plays and it's only making me want the game more.  Whenever I get my check from the city for jury duty, there's a bunch of stuff I'm grabbing on Steam and Terraria is one of those.

This bill as it stands is too broadly worded.  It would basically make it so anyone who wants to do a let's play or whatever would have to contact the publisher and/or developer and ask for permission.  Given that these companies are most likely swamped with emails and phone calls all day every day anyway, it would be difficult to get through the cracks and even be noticed by the company you're trying to obtain permission from.

The easy way out would be to simply modify it to exclude video game footage.  Then 90% of the internet would stop caring about this problematic bill.

What are the odds that our government is going to listen to us anyway?  They probably consider anyone who opposes this bill to be a criminal anyway.  That's how things work.  Presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Also, happy Independence Day, or something.