Friday, December 21, 2012

It's the end of the world as we know it...

...and I feel fine.

Yeah, that REM song.

Anyway, the Mayan calendar reaches the end of a cycle today and just to prove how little it matters, here I am making this post.  Because if you have a brain inside your head you'll realize that the world isn't going to end just because the calendar of an ancient civilization reaches the end of a cycle.  After all, Lavos didn't erupt out of the earth and destroy everything in 1999, and computers didn't spontaneously crash in 2000, so why should this be any different?

See?  It's a normal day just like any other.  Nothing to be alarmed abouh7gu9ehtgiukzxv yhawzy hvg7a9gh79poegh3g9PGHHO:HHOIho;aheortghasuophu;g***NO CARRIER

Monday, December 17, 2012

Street Fighter x Mega Man

So, for Mega Man's 25th anniversary, we get a fan-made game.  Oooooooookay.


The music cuts out at random for a few seconds before coming back in.  This continues to happen throughout all of the game that I played.  What I've heard of the music is quite good, though, so it's a shame it's so buggy.


It absolutely will not recognize an Xbox 360 controller.  I can't get mine to work at all.  It also doesn't respond to its keyboard controls, except for Enter (Start), F4 (change screen size), and Escape (Exit).  To even be able to play the game I had to plug my PlayStation 2 controller in via the USB adapter I have that's collecting dust because I got the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows a while back.  Even once you find a controller it will recognize, the default bindings are weird and I had to move them around.


Well, mixed feelings here.  The early Mega Man games are part of what defined "Nintendo Hard".  This game is done in the style of those, so we can expect it to be hard, but...  it just feels brutal.  Two of the stages I played (Chun-Li and Blanka) had infinite spawns of enemies over most of the stage, making it just tedious to have to jump or avoid them the entire way through, because it's not worth your time to kill them since they just keep coming.

The stages themselves are fairly short.  Honestly, I think Mega Man 1 and Mega Man 2 (both of which I've beaten) had longer stages.

This game also incorporates the charged Mega Buster from some of the later Mega Man games, whereas I was playing it with the earlier ones that lacked it in mind.  It was a complete fluke that I discovered a mid-level charged shot.  Charged shots help with the crazy amount of health most enemies have, but the charge time hurts a lot.  It almost defeats the point when you have to stop and wait for your next charged shot to charge up before you can keep moving.

Played a little, beaten some bosses, and then have other stuff to do?  Like, you know, hanging out with friends, eating food, sleeping, etc.?  Too bad, there's no save system and no password system.  This hurts the game a lot, especially considering it has a Boss Rush mode that can only be started by beating the game.  If you play this game, you basically can't have a life or do anything else because you have to leave it running all the time since there's no other way to resume where you left off.

Every Mega Man game has its boss order.  You know the deal: beat one boss, get their weapon, and another boss is weak to that weapon.  Coming into the game with no knowledge of this, it's trial and error to figure it out.  However, trying to beat some of the bosses can be very aggrivating as I encountered projectile reflection abilities on two of the bosses.  Despite this, Chun-Li was a fairly easy first boss to kill, so that's one possible entry into the boss order.  Because of the game's shortcomings, though, I haven't yet found the boss that's weak to her weapon (Lightning Kick).  Also because of the game's shortcomings, it's very unlikely that I ever will.


Making a Mega Man game where the bosses are Street Fighter characters seemed like an interesting idea.  It just wasn't done well.  I know, the game's free, but if you subscribe to the "you can't complain about something that's free" rhetoric, well, you're stupid.  Gamers have basic expectations about core game functionality, and when a game fails to provide certain things like a save or password feature, music that doesn't cut out constantly, and working controls, there's something wrong with the game.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Boring ass-anime movies

You know what I'm talking about.  Yes, you fucking know exactly what the fuck I'm talking about.  You'll be discussing anime movies with someone and sure enough, up it comes.  A boring movie.  Yet, you're not allowed to say it's boring because it's somehow a work of fucking genius.  Haven't heard of any of these movies?  Well, there's a reason why.  It's because they suck.  If you have, you know what I'm talking about.  Titles such as '5 Centimeters Per Second' and 'Momo e no Tegami'.

I have seen both, and neither was very enjoyable.  5 Centimeters per second had two distinct parts to me: the first being a really long train ride for a guy to meet up with his long distance girlfriend and not do anything that one might expect to do when meeting up with one's long distance girlfriend, i.e. get dinner together, go see a movie, and if the correct cards are played, get laid; and then the rest of the movie which didn't seem to have any relation to the first part.  It's been a while, thankfully, so I can't really go any more in-depth than that.

Momo e no Tegami I was subjected to last night, and it was just boring.  As I described it to a friend (and on Twitter), it was 75% boring, 15% sad, and 10% comedy.  Basically for every nine minutes of utter drivel, there's one enjoyable minute.  Momo is angsty the entire time, and she mopes about until what little semblance of plot the movie has kicks in.  Then afterwards she seems to be happy.  The problem is, you have to sit through the majority of the movie to get to the small bit of plot.

When criticizing these kinds of movies, I've had foul looks and arguments of "you don't need explosions in everything" thrown back at me.  Yes, I know that not everything needs to explode.  My name isn't Michael Bay.  I still expect a movie to be entertaining, which these types of movies utterly fail at.  The worst part is, I can't even give any suggestions for improvement, because these types of movies are so far departed from anything decent at all.  But then again, trying to improve these types of movies to where they're at the very least passable is like trying to gold-plate an elephant turd.  It just distracts the viewer from the bad without actually getting rid of it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beck completion followup

I can't say much that I haven't already said, so this post will be short.

Somehow they cobbled together a good ending from the mess of fuck they'd written themselves into.  Whatever.

The show itself is pretty terrible, but it does try to highlight that not everything is happy all the time with bands.  I know that people have their differences in pretty much everything.  Rival bands and trying to undercut one another and all that, yeah, it happens.  I like to think that I watch anime to get away from reality, though.  Put in just enough reality to keep the series grounded, keep the rest entertaining, and you've got yourself a good show.

The thing is... I like the music in the show.  Right now the opening song is stuck in my head.  I always air guitarred during showings to one of their songs in particular.  The music alone doesn't keep the series afloat, unfortunately.

In the end, I'll just reiterate that I'll just stick to K-On! from now on.  It's true that nothing bad ever really happens in K-On!, but... they have setbacks, overcome them, there's comedy, and they play music and do fun stuff even when they're not playing music.  That's a formula I can live with.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

So... Beck...

Ignoring the fact that there actually is a band named Beck.  This is entirely about the anime of the same name, which I've been watching at CAINE's weekly showings.  Our next showing contains the final three episodes, and this post will hopefully explain why I won't miss the series at all.

So in the beginning some kind of unimportant stuff happens where you just get to cringe at how stupid the show's main character, Yukio, is.  You think it's all going to be over once you actually start hearing the name "Beck" being thrown around when people are actually talking about a band.  This is also because there's a dog in the series that's named "Beck", and that's where the name of the band came from.

They play a few concerts and get their name out there.  So, smooth sailing, right?  Well, another stupid thing pops up.  It's the same deal whenever anyone first hears of them.  "Beck?  That's a stupid name for a band."  EVERY.  FUCKING.  TIME.

That's not that big of a deal though, because you thought Yukio was done being an idiot?  HahahahahahaNO.  Every time you think he couldn't possibly be any stupider, he breaks his previous stupidity record with flying colors.

Basically, there's this girl named Maho, and if Yukio wasn't a giant fucking retard he'd realize that she'd totally get in his pants if he wasn't a giant fucking retard.  They get along so well, then without fail he always does something to screw it up.  Every time.  Hell, she even promises him at one point that if he wins an event in his school's swim team competition that she'll do anything he wants, and even though he wins the event, he remains completely oblivious to what she meant.  Seriously.

The swim team?  What the fuck does swimming have to do with an anime that's about a band?  Well, there's this old guy, Mr. Saitou, who's generally a creep but is a really good swimmer and also happens to play the guitar.  He provides our resident retard Yukio with guitar lessons, a guitar to use until he can buy his own, and critiques his swimming at the local pool.  Honestly, you could take the swimming out of the series and it wouldn't lose anything.  Mr. Saitou later gains the affections of Yukio's teacher, and all but disappears.

So eventually they get a record deal.  With an American label.  Who tells them that the name "Beck" is no good in the States.  Rather than coming up with something else, they just let the label make up a name.  Which happens to be "Mongolian Chop Squad".  Add to that that the record deal doesn't give them any royalties.  So even though the album does pretty well, they get no money out of it.  Point, fucking where?  Nowhere.

For a show that's supposed to be about a group of people who start a band and try to rise to stardom, it has quite a lot of completely unrelated shit happening.  There's always setback after setback.  They can't go an episode without pissing someone off, it seems.  The grand motherfucker of pissing someone off comes up later on in the series when it's revealed that another character, Ryosuke, stole the guitar he plays, named Prudence, as well as the dog named Beck.  The original owner of the guitar tracks him down, and has goons beat the shit out of him before taking him away in a fucking helicopter that they landed in his front yard, all to end with Ryosuke playing blues guitar with him.

Then this music festival comes up and you'd think for once Beck could get its shit together for just one story arc, but no, everything falls apart there too.

I...  I don't even think it's worth mentioning anymore, to be honest.  It's not a series that's really worth anyone's attention.  If you want a series about people getting together and starting a band with the goal of trying to rise to stardom, just fucking watch K-On!.  Even if you absolutely hate moeblob anime, it'll be more enjoyable than Beck.  There's more of the "people playing music" thing and the random extra stuff is at least funny.  Yui may be an idiot, but she's a fucking genius in comparison to Yukio.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Logitech G930 Wireless Headset

So, the $20 Altec Lansing headset I bought at Best Buy seven years ago has been developing its fair share of issues lately, from the foam padding falling off, to the inline volume control causing static or a stereo channel dropout if nudged the wrong way, so I figured it was time for a replacement.

A friend of mine put together a computer a couple years ago and after doing so bought a Logitech G930 wireless headset, and pretty much had nothing but good stuff to say about it, so I grabbed one for myself off of Newegg.


The G930 is large and weighs more than your average pair of headphones.  Fortunately, this isn't too noticeable while wearing them, as the foam padding around the earpieces and across the headband helps keep them in the right place.  The earpiece padding messes with my glasses, though, and makes me feel like they're not in the right place, which makes me constantly adjust both my glasses and the headset.

In terms of how the weight of the G930 affects practical usage, let's just say you may want to get a straw for that soda, because if you tip your head backwards there's a fairly certain chance that the headset will fall off your head.


Rather than your standard headphones, which just place a speaker up against your ear directly, the G930's earpieces fully encompasses the ear.  This contributes to their size, but also does a decent job of blocking out background noise.

The left earpiece is also home to the controls and the microphone boom.  The microphone boom can be rotated into place, or up out of the way.  When it's rotated up out of the way, it automatically mutes itself.  The boom can be adjusted even further to position it properly relative to your mouth, to get less distortion or whatever the technical term is.

Controls and Software

The physical controls on the left earpiece consist of a volume dial, a mute button, the power button, a switch that I'll cover in a moment, and three programmable "G keys".  The included software allows you to configure the "G keys" to control a variety of multimedia software out of the box, such as iTunes, Winamp, and Windows Media Player, and you can also download plugins to add support for whatever else you might need.  I found a plugin that lets me configure them to send the Next, Previous, and Play/Pause signals from a multimedia keyboard, and thus control Foobar2000.

The switch on the left earpiece toggles the G930's 7.1 surround sound mode.  If used with a regular stereo signal, it will apply some effects to it and have the sound coming from all channels, which in my experience seems to work better for music than voice.  With voice, it sounds more like you're in a lecture hall, where the person talking has a microphone, and the acoustics aren't quite right so there's some reverb.  Disabling the 7.1 mode puts everything back to plain old stereo.

I was worried that it would be confusing as to where everything was on the left earpiece, since it's impossible to see it without taking off the headset, but everything seems to be intuitively placed and hard to accidentally press.

The software affords a range of configuration options, from an equalizer to three different volume sliders.  One volume slider is for the headphone volume, the second is for the microphone volume, and the third controls "Sidetone" volume.  "Sidetone" allows you to hear what's coming in through the microphone, which I guess can be useful, but I prefer to turn it off.

The equalizer has a simple mode that has a slider for treble and a slider for bass, but you can enable the advanced mode and get more sliders for specific frequency ranges, allowing you to more finely tune the sound that comes out of the headphones.  This is handy because the headphones have decent bass, but sound incredibly tinny at the same time.

There's also a surround sound mixer, that lets you fine-tune the volume level of each 7.1 surround channel.  Note that if the 7.1 surround is off you will only be able to adjust the regular stereo channels.  Amusingly, the volume levels go up to 11.

The software also has a few different voice morphing modes.  I don't really know how much use anyone will ever get out of these in a practical setting, but they're fun to play around with.

Connectivity and Battery

The G930 comes with a USB charging cord that wraps up into a round base unit that has a USB port on it.  This USB port is primarily useful for plugging in the headset's USB transceiver, so that with one USB port on your computer you can both use the headset and charge its battery simultaneously.

The battery ships with a minimal charge and takes upwards of six hours to charge initially, during which time the G930 can still be used.  Once fully charged, the software claims an eight hour battery life.  The included software has an option to provide notice that the battery is getting low both as an audible notice and as a system tray notice.  Either or both of these can be toggled off if you so choose.

The specifications claim a usable wireless range of up to 40 feet.  I would place emphasis on the "up to" in that phrase, because in my house I can barely get over 25 feet, which isn't enough to let me mill about the kitchen to get myself a snack while listening to music.  I have the same issue with wireless game controllers, so it's most definitely an RF limitation and not a limitation specific to this one device.

Completely unlisted anywhere, and not configurable in the provided software, is the G930's automatic power-off feature.  This serves to save the battery life by shutting off the headset when the software thinks it's not in use.  Though I haven't encountered it, people across the internet have complained that it can occasionally power off while you're using it.

Also, since the headset installs as its own separate audio input/output device, independent of your sound card, if the application you're choosing allows you, you can choose to send some audio to the headphones and other audio to your speakers.  One thing I'm surprised about is that the driver/software doesn't automatically swap your system's default output device back to your sound card when you unplug the USB transceiver.  If this issue is OS-specific, I'm running Windows XP SP3 32-bit.


The Logitech G930 Wireless Headset is an excellent choice if you're looking for a headset.  It's relatively easy to set up and use, and provides a decent range of configuration options and intuitive features.  While I wish its battery life was a bit longer, it's decent enough that you can use it off and on during the day and then charge it overnight.  The MSRP is $160, but if you look around the internet you can find it for around $120 instead.  If you need yourself a headset, you could definitely do far worse.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Random Steam Demos

Periodically I remember to browse the demos section on Steam and see what's available.  Here's a post listing a few games I've tried, my thoughts on them, and perhaps the most important question answered: do I feel it's worth the purchase price?

Castle Crashers
The ultra-popular XBLA game made its debut on Steam recently, and since The Behemoth was kind enough to provide a demo, I gave it a try.

Just on the off-chance that you've been living under a rock and haven't heard of Castle Crashers, it's a medieval-themed 2D sidescrolling beat-em-up for up to four players where you beat the bad guys to rescue the princesses, and then in multiplayer you fight each other for their affection.  It sports a lot of available weapons and four stat tracks to spend those precious level-up points in.  The only down-side to the demo is that it ends halfway through the boss fight at the end of the second stage.  It doesn't even have the decency to let you finish it and then say "that's it for the demo!"...

This is a case of a game that I've already played a bunch of over at friends' places and thus already know it's good.  From what I've seen in the demo, the PC version seems to be a pretty solid port, with nothing notably different in the available content.  It also has the Pink Knight and Blacksmith DLCs available for $0.99 each.  Worth the $14.99 on Steam?  Ehhhh...  I'll wait for a sale.

Fairy Bloom Freesia
Essentially a 3D sidescrolling beat-em-up, it stars a fairy named Freesia who is trying to defend her forest from monsters and humans that want to obtain the spirit stones that provide life energy to the forest.  The demo is a quick five stages, really just enough to get your feet wet.  You learn the basics, have the opportunity to play with buying moves and stat upgrades, learn the mechanics, etc., and it ends with a boss battle.  After the boss battle, the demo ends.  It sports a mechanic that anyone who's played Contra will be used to, namely down+jump to drop down from a platform.  It also borrows a fair number of mechanics from 2D fighters, like double jumping, air dashing, recoveries, and just defense.

Overall, the music is decent, the graphics are great, and the gameplay is solid.  The demo crashed on me a bit as I was trying to set it up (configuring resolution options), but once everything was set I had no stability issues.  Worth the $7.99 on Steam?  Sure.

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
This is a crazy 2D action platformer starring Ash, a devil rabbit who is also the prince of Hell.  Apparently someone posted "secret intimate photos" of him on the Hell-ternet, and now he's pissed.  All the premise anyone really needs for a platformer where you go around killing everything.  Along the way you build up an arsenal of weapons.  Unfortunately, the demo ends abruptly just before the boss fight in the first area.

The music works quite well, the graphics are great, and the controls are solid.  The game does crash if you try to force it to run a display resolution it doesn't present to you in the graphics settings, though.  I was trying to get it to run at 1440x900, which it doesn't provide an option for.  Set it via the config file, and it re-sets itself to 1280x800 on startup.  So I exited, changed it back, and then made the file read-only, only to have it crash.  Oh well.  The game has two DLCs on Steam, a skin pack for $2.99 and a pack of extra missions for $5.49.  The game itself is $14.99 on Steam.  Worth it?  Just like with Castle Crashers, I'll wait for a sale.

Bang Bang Racing
This is a 3D top-down racing game.  From the looks of things there's a decent variety of cars and tracks to choose from.  The demo limits you to Free Play mode, which is fine, but then it gives you the whole "buy the full version!" marketing spiel after every race.  I'd be fine if it just did it on exit, but after every race?  Anyway.

Aside from the sounds being a bit loud by default, and the all-too-apparent presence of rubberbanding, there isn't much to gripe about.  The game's description mentions "technical driving skills" as one of its focuses, but with the rubberbanding in place, it doesn't matter how bad you screw up, all the AI cars will be waiting for you a little bit down the road.

As far as gameplay goes, it's on the full arcade side of things.  Akin to F-Zero, you simply need to make a quick pass through the pit lane to repair your car and refill your nitro.  You can drift a bit by pressing the brakes while turning with the accelerator pressed, but I found that the tighter corners were a lot easier to handle if I did the regular "slow down, take the corner, acclerate out" thing.  Again, due to the rubberbanding, I was never able to open a commanding lead and have a buffer for the occasional messed up corner, the AI is always right there as soon as you screw up.

Aside from rubberbanding complaints, the game supports up to 4 human players and you can turn off the AI cars, so there's hope in that form.  However, you really shouldn't have to do that just to get around the rubberbanding.  There should be a toggle for the rubberbanding.  The game itself is pretty fun, there are hazards to avoid like oil barrels, water buckets, and more.  It could use an option to turn the hazards off, as a good number of them are placed directly on the racing line.

Overall, it's fun, and the graphics are good, but it's plagued with issues that make me not really want the full game.  Definitely not worth the $9.99 on Steam.

Seriously though, is it really that hard to make a good non-sim racing game?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Real Myst

Real Myst, or realMYST, or realMyst depending on where on the internet you read the name, is a modern re-make of the classic exploration puzzle game, Myst.

The game is available for $5.99 on both and Steam.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Minecraft Server Stuff

A friend of mine expressed desire for me to start up my Minecraft server again, so I generated a fresh (seeded) world on 1.3.2 and it's up once more.

I like to make little PHP scripts to output information about the server, like whether it's up or down, who's whitelisted, and various server options.  I figured this time around I'd implement a "last seen" feature that would tell you if someone on the whitelist had ever been on the server, when they last logged off, or if they're currently on.

I sat down with PHP and victory was had, but not without some shell script shenanigans with PHP's shell_exec() function.

Basically, the core of "last seen" functionality involves reading the server log looking for the most recent connection and disconnection notices for a given player, and comparing the timestamps to see if they're currently online.  In bash shell script, this is balls easy to do:
#!/bin/bash MINECRAFT_SERVER_LOG="/path/to/minecraft/server.log" LOGOFF_TIME=`grep -Pi "^.{19} \[INFO\] $1 lost connection" "$MINECRAFT_SERVER_LOG" | tail -n1 | sed -r 's/^(.{19}).*$/\1/'` LOGON_TIME=`grep -Pi "^.{19} \[INFO\] $1\[/[^]]+\] logged in" "$MINECRAFT_SERVER_LOG" | tail -n1 | sed -r 's/^(.{19}).*$/\1/'` if [ "$LOGON_TIME" = "" ]; then echo "Never" else if [ "$LOGON_TIME" '>' "$LOGOFF_TIME" ]; then echo "Online now" else echo "$LOGOFF_TIME" fi fi
Usage, if you save it as, would be ./ PLAYER_NAME

However, I'm working with PHP, not bash shell script.  Originally, I tried to dynamically generate a shell command to pass to shell_exec(), but a) it never worked right, and b) it ended up being more complex than I originally thought.  I was originally just getting each user's last logoff time, neglecting the fact that they could be presently on the server.

The "solution" was to copy/paste my shell script I was trying to shell_exec() into an external file and chmod +x the fucker.  Then my shell_exec() call became simply running that shell script with the name of the player on the command line.  It works, but using shell_exec()... yeah...

However, the functionality for grep (preg_grep()) and what I'm using sed for (preg_replace()) basically already exists in PHP.  While I'm a fan of writing things in the languages that make them the easiest to write, the result looks rather cobbled together and tends to break when you think about portability.  All PHP really needs is a native implementation of tail -n and we're good.

Which it doesn't have.  My next step was to sift through Google search results and see if anything of use popped up.

Initially, all I could find were tail -f implementations.  That allows live monitoring of a log file, which admittedly can be useful, but wasn't what I needed.  I just need one stinkin' line out of the file.  After sifting through the results, I noticed that one of them was indeed an implementation of tail -n.  However, it didn't operate in the way I needed it to.  Instead of taking in data and returning the last few lines of it, it required the data to be in a file.  Being that I'm passing the file through grep first, it wouldn't work.

Then I derped and realized that it's way easier than I thought.  If you read in the complete file with the file() function, you get an array of strings where every string is a single line of the file.  preg_grep() operates on an array.  So, basically, all I needed to do was this:
function tail( $data, $lines = 10 ) {return array_slice( $data, count( $data ) - $lines, $lines ); }
*nix tail defaults to returning 10 lines, so that's why the $lines parameter has a default value.  Even though I only need it to return one line.  The solution could actually get simpler still, but I'm leaving it this way.  preg_grep() leaves the array indices the way they were, but array_slice() renumbers them and makes dealing with the result a lot easier.

So if you need a PHP tail -n implementation and you're reading a file in via file(), just use array_slice() to get the lines you need.

All in all, I ended up with this:
function tail( $data, $lines = 10 ) {return array_slice( $data, count( $data ) - $lines, $lines ); } // getting the timestamp of the most recent line in the server.log that matches a given regex // $BASE_DIRECTORY is the absolute path of directory containing minecraft-server.jar, slash-terminated // $SERVER_LOG is the Minecraft server log, read in via file() // Reading the server log only once per request makes a lot more sense than reading it once for every person on the whitelist. function get_timestamp( $regex ) {global $BASE_DIRECTORY, $SERVER_LOG; $ret = preg_replace( "/^(.{19}).*$/", "$1", tail( preg_grep( $regex, file( $BASE_DIRECTORY . 'server.log' ) ), 1 ) ); return @$ret[0]; } function get_last_seen( $username ) {$logoff_time = get_timestamp( "/^.{19} \[INFO\] " . $username . " lost connection/i" ); $logon_time = get_timestamp( "/^.{19} \[INFO\] " . $username . "\[\/[^]]+\] logged in/i" ); if ( $logon_time == '' ) // user has never logged on return 'Never'; else {$cmp = strcmp( $logoff_time, $logon_time ); if ( $cmp < 0 ) // logon time is greater than logoff time (user is on now) return 'Online now'; elseif( $cmp > 0 ) // logoff time is greater than logon time (user has logged off) return $logoff_time; else // mystery case return 'Mystery case!'; } }
Two things:  First, the reason that calling strcmp() on the two timestamps actually works to see which one is more recent is entirely due to the timestamp format that the Minecraft server uses.  It orders the fields from least-updated to most-updated, which means that to strcmp(), a more recent date is always going to be "bigger".  Second, that line in get_timestamp(), return @$ret[0];...  The @ is a PHP operator that suppresses error output.  PHP bitches about that line, saying "invalid index", yet, all of my debug output shows a one-element array with the sole element having an index of 0, and if the error output is suppressed, it works properly.  I'm not sure exactly what PHP has stuck up its ass, but it needs to remove it.

Also, yes, technically speaking, the mystery case can be triggered.  The user's logon time has to be equal to their logoff time.  That's fairly difficult to achieve with Minecraft, since the server considers you logged in before you're even able to bring up the menu and hit disconnect.  Hence why I'm not actually bothering to write code to handle it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Black Mesa

This is the Source mod that everyone's been spooging about lately.  It's basically a fan-made recreation of Half-Life 1 in the Source engine.  When I heard of it, the first thing that came to my mind was "don't we already have Half-Life: Source?"

I'm still confused as to why Black Mesa needs to exist, but regardless, it does, and I've played a bit of it.  It's not a huge priority since I've beaten Half-Life 1, but... yeah.

There are two things that I welcome over Half-Life 1's engine: you can jump while running downhill now, and there's a "quick weapon swap" setting in the options.  'Bout fuckin' time.  No more having to click to select a weapon, just scroll to it or press the key just like any other FPS ever.

Using the Source engine carries a fairly hefty hard drive footprint, which means I probably won't keep it around forever.  I'll probably keep it until it's actually downloadable through Steam.  Also, you get the HEV suit zoom feature that Half-Life 2 has, which is cool.

Unfortunately, ammo and health are scarce, and it seems like you can't use the Source engine physics to your advantage.  I got to a part where in HL1 I had to push a few crates into the water to jump on them, but in Black Mesa all the crates in the area are destructible and don't hold up very well.  Barring that, I tried to use the barnacles on the ceiling to get out of the water and continue on, but that proved to be impossible.  So basically I'm stuck in the water, unable to get out on either side.  So there are definitely some level design issues.

And that's all I've played of it.  Via the Source engine it does fix some of my gripes from HL1, but... while it's good, I don't really see the need to get all hyped about it.

Half-Life, Blue Shift, and Opposing Force

I grabbed the Half-Life Complete Pack during the Steam summer sale and decided I'd play Half-Life and the two side stories, Blue Shift and Opposing Force.  This post is in effect three reviews in one.


I could have played Half-Life: Source, but the Source engine carries a hefty hard drive footprint, and the original has a much smaller install size.  So I played the original instead.

This is where it all begins.  This is the Black Mesa incident referenced by the sequel.  Basically, Gordon Freeman and his team of scientists accidentally open a portal to another dimension and all kinds of weird aliens are now able to enter our world.  It's up to Gordon to kill them all, as well as the military who have decided to eradicate both the aliens and everyone who works at Black Mesa.

Overarching gameplay consists of working your way from the surface to a point deep within the Black Mesa facility, experiencing an event or fighting a large battle, then working your way back to the surface and repeating.  Once you've done that enough, you get to go through the portal to Xen, where the aliens came from, and this is where the end of the game takes place.

The final boss is a bit counter-intuitive to what you've been taught as you progress through the game.  Any other time there's something big, you either avoid it or there's an environmental method of taking it out.  But here, you just fill it with bullets after taking out the crystals on the walls that give it firepower.

Blue Shift

This is a side story that follows a security officer through the events of the Black Mesa incident.  You mostly run around rescuing scientists and occasionally receiving assistance from other security officers.

Overarching gameplay is more of the same, go down, go up, repeat.

However, here you're suffering from two constant crises: ammo and health.  I never had quite enough of either to feel secure.

Opposing Force

In this side story, you're a soldier in the military, sent to Black Mesa to kill everything that moves.  Except you seem to be less of a heartless asshole than all the soldiers that Gordon and our security officer encountered, so you actually end up helping a fair number of them.

The "go deep within Black Mesa, go back to the surface, repeat" thing is in full force here as well.

Just like with Blue Shift, you're suffering from the same two constant crises.  At one point I started to actually feel good about ammo, but then I had to use a bunch of it.

High point: getting a barnacle to use as a weapon and grappling hook.

Common Points
  • Graphics are notably dated, but not bad.
  • Everything feels slippery because you don't stop when you release movement buttons like in a normal FPS.
  • Switching weapons is incredibly awkward because you have to click to select the weapon.  In a normal FPS, you scroll to it with your scroll wheel or press the number key and that's it, you're changed over.
  • Some jumps are irritating because they're ever so slightly taller than your regular jump, so you have to do a weird crouch-jump thing to jump up onto a crate and get where you need to go.
  • Can't jump while running downhill, either that or it's very difficult and incredibly timing-dependent.
Specific points relating to Blue Shift and Opposing Force
  • These side stories were developed by Gearbox, not Valve.  Which probably explains why they feel kind of weird, and don't seem to have the same production values.
  • At least with Valve games, if there's a big enemy there's going to be a reasonably large open area to fight it in.  None of this "close quarters combat with an enemy that can take you from full health to dead in two or three hits" crap.
  • You often see scenes, hear audio, or visit locations from the main game.  That's how they tried to tie it in and drive home the fact that Blue Shift and Opposing Force take place simultaneously with respect to each other and Half-Life.

Half-Life is worth playing.  Blue Shift and Opposing Force, not so much.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Band Hero

So, other than Guitar Hero 6: Warriors of Rock, Band Hero was the last game I really had to do in the entire series.  Being that I don't have access to a copy of WoR or a console to play it on, it'll probably stay that way.

Anywho, what is there to Band Hero to set it apart from the rest of the series?

It's balls easy, that's what.

In fact, it's earned the distinction of being the game I will recommend to entry-level GH players.

Unlike the other GH games, it doesn't have a "hardest song" or a set of "hardest songs".  Most of the songs are really easy, and the remaining ones are moderate difficulty with the occasional hard spot.  This shows quite plainly in my sightread results, where I almost full game 5-starred both guitar and bass.  On guitar it was a matter of tapping a pattern of slider notes that I hadn't been prepared for on sightread, and on bass it was a matter of using star power in the right spot because the song only had 42 fucking notes.

The soundtrack is what the game lives off of, and this time around they seem to have put in a handful of good songs and then filled in the rest of the 65 song set list with completely meh songs.  The worst of the bunch being Bring Me To Life by Evanescence.  I actually unplugged my speakers when I sightread that song.  On both Guitar and Bass.  Just to give some contrast, there are three Taylor Swift songs and one Hilary Duff song in the game and I didn't unplug my speakers for them.  Just sayin'.

I'll give two overall statements:
  1. If you're new to Guitar Hero as a whole, then Band Hero is a very good entry point.  The overall lack of difficulty will let you get used to the mechanics and gameplay without being too overwhelmed.  Then once you've gotten decent you can move on to other games with more challenging songs.
  2. If you're already a seasoned Guitar Hero player, the only reason you'd ever want to get Band Hero is the fact that it provides 65 more songs to play.  You probably won't be challenged very much by the songs, but it's still the same game you're used to, and there are good songs in the game, even though they encompass less than half of its soundtrack.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Whole NFL Referee Shenanigans

Let me start off by saying that I'm not writing from the point of view of a fan of any team in the NFL.  I don't really care about football to be honest, it's something I watch with friends and family to be sociable (and get out of the house).  Since I've lurked moar, I know the majority of the rules and can generally keep up with things, but I have no favorite team.  I have friends who care deeply about one or another team, though, and recent events have provoked a response from me, that to be honest echoes what the majority are saying right now.

The recent crap with the referees that's been happening is inexcusable.  Any time you have someone in a position of authority that can't perform their job competently, you have a problem.  When you have the fans in the stands chanting "bullshit!" after calling unsportsmanlike conduct on a team's coach for trying to get a ref's attention so he could call a timeout, you have a problem.  When you have a referee throwing his hat onto the field, into the path of a wide receiver as he tries to run his route, you have a problem.

Apparently the real refs are on some sort of a lockout, and we have replacement ones from who the fuck knows where in the meantime.  So many people (players and fans alike, from what I've seen across sports-related websites) are calling for these "junior league" refs to be fired and for the regular ones who actually know what they're doing to come back.

From the point of view of a relative outsider, the solution is simple: do what it takes to get the regular refs back.  Before fans begin storming the field to give the refs a piece of their mind (or a foot to the crotch as it were).  Because if this goes on much longer, the replacement refs are going to need security detail before, during, and after the game.  But the simple solutions from people who don't really fully grasp what's going on hardly ever work out well, so I'll just say "I dunno".

Also, this edited Buffalo Wild Wings commercial highlights the whole thrown hat thing slightly better than my first link.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

last post ever about 10-bit h264

So I was watching some anime on the computer we got from our neighbors, just to see how well it could handle it with the software decoding and all.  Everything about that computer is a bit underpowered, except for one thing: the processor has two cores.

I guess I underestimated that.

mplayer2 goes "oh hey multi-core lol ok" and says "asking decoder to use 2 threads if possible".

I didn't try Totem or whatever the default Ubuntu 12.04 media player is, because whatever it is, it sucks.  At least with mplayer2 it will use fonts inside matroska files...

Basically, I watched all of Carnival Phantasm again.  Loading it over the network as well, just because I didn't want to transfer it over and have to wait for that.  mplayer2 complained a couple times that it thought the computer was too slow to play the file (most likely due to loading the file over the network), but I never experienced any playback hiccups.

Then I decided to watch some of the extra stuff like EX season and Fate/Prototype, both of which UTW encoded in 10-bit.

To my surprise, it handled it flawlessly.  Even loading it over the network.

I didn't bother to window what I was watching and open htop to monitor CPU usage, but since the playback was devoid of all the issues I had on this single-core CPU, I feel reasonably safe in declaring success.

So basically, anything I download in 10-bit now I'm going to watch on that thing until I can build myself a new desktop.

This means I can finally watch the K-ON! movie, since I could only find it in 10-bit.

Also, now I sort of feel like I need to re-watch anything I attempted to watch before but could barely do so because of the whole 10-bit thing.  This includes Fate/Zero and Mouretsu Pirates.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pillsbury Toaster Scrambles

I'll admit, I've always been more of a Pop Tarts guy.  I always saw Toaster Strudel's necessity of freezing and applying the icing yourself to be a hinderance.  But lately I've always made a point to try every new flavor of Pop Tarts at room temperature as well as toasted and frozen.  That and I noticed that there were Toaster Strudel varieties that didn't have equivalent Pop Tarts varieties.

I was out with CAINE when I noticed Toaster Scrambles in the freezer case next to the Toaster Strudels.  They're basically Toaster Strudels, but with bacon, egg, and cheese inside.  They were already rather inexpensive, and they were also on sale, so I figured "why the hell not" and grabbed a box.

You get six of them in a box, and the listed serving size is one.  Unlike with Pop Tarts where the listed serving size is one but they're sub-packaged in twos, all six are in one bag inside the box.  So it's trivial to take one out, fold the bag over, and put it back into the box.

The directions are fairly simple.  Toaster to medium and toast for a couple of cycles.  Directions for a toaster oven are much of the same, but recommend fewer cycles.

They have further directions you can follow for if they're still cold (or have cold spots) even after being toasted, which happened to me.  Except that I was partway through eating at that point and was sitting at my computer, which isn't in the kitchen.  I didn't really feel like getting up to go pop them in the microwave, so I just continued eating them.  To be honest, now that I know that two cycles on medium with my toaster isn't enough (it's an old POS, that might play into it), I'm more inclined to just toast them longer.

If you do end up with cold spots in your filling, though, the recovery microwave directions work.  Simply microwave for 10 seconds on high.  I use a 1200 watt microwave, so, you know, microwaves can be unpredictable, adjust as necessary, etc.

As for the taste and texture, the crust is soft and flaky, and they don't taste too bad.  The egg and cheese were plainly obvious, and on occasion I noticed the bacon.

Personally, I feel as though Pop Tarts are a lot more of a guaranteed thing.  Pop them in the toaster on its lowest setting and they'll be done perfect in one cycle every time.  But then again, they're also stored at room temperature.  They haven't had a decent new variety in forever either, which is another reason why I'm looking around for alternatives.

Overall, if you're a Toaster Strudels person, or just happen to like your bacon, egg, and cheese for breakfast, they're a pretty good decision.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

More YouTube CSS Tweaks

You could have seen this coming.  After upgrading my main monitor to a 1440x900 widescreen LCD, my previously-posted-about YouTube CSS Tweaks that were designed for 1152x864 needed updating.

I also used this opportunity to test my own directions for tweaking it to match your display resolution.  As listed in the comments, all of the calculations work.  Also, as a bonus, I went ahead and added the interface_height constant and changed the content_height calculation accordingly, though I still recommend disregarding this calculation and just tweaking content_height until it matches your available vertical space.

As a reminder, when tweaking, have the addon bar turned on, even if you don't regularly use it.  That way, when you have it off, there will be room to turn it on without scrollbars appearing.

I'm updating the original link with these new tweaks because I also included some more comments explaining all the various hard-coded values in the calculations.  For convenience, I'll also link the CSS from this post.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rogue Galaxy Post-Game Session 6

This session's name is "The Most Planned-Out 30 Battles Ever".


Because I did a lot of looking back and forth between my item storage, the Frog Log, and the Shop List FAQ on GameFAQs before I even started actually playing the game.  From the previous session, I ended up at 39 of Toady's suggestions synthesized, which left 11 remaining.  After consulting the Frog Log and the Shop List FAQ extensively, I found eleven weapons in my possession that fit the bill and the corresponding eleven weapons I needed to buy from shops.  I then went around to all those shops and bought all eleven weapons.  The best part: the set I found let me keep my party the same for all of it.  So rather than having to swap party members around, I could just keep my usual party of Jaster, Kisala, and Zegram.

What I ended up with was two main weapons and two sub weapons for everyone, except for Zegram who only needed one sub weapon.  Taking advantage of both the main weapon and sub weapon slots cut this down tremendously from what I was originally planning, which was just doing a bunch of swords for Jaster.  Essentially I had a set of six weapons and a set of five, which meant it would take 30 battles to get all of them maxed.

In order to plan all this out, I took notes.  Remember that computer I got from a neighbor and installed Ubuntu 12.04 on?  Yeah, I've been using it these past few sessions, connected to the same TV as my PS2, using its picture-in-picture options to display the computer's video next to the PS2's video, and it came in extra handy for this one.

Where did I do the 30 battles?  Where else, but the easiest place in the game: Rosa.  Specifically, at the Residential Area Plaza.  The battles there are so easy that usually Kisala and Zegram can finish them in a matter of seconds while Jaster runs in circles thanks to my controller's analog sticks being rubber banded together.  Ah, the advantage of having a level 70+ party in the first area of the game.

Anyway, for all my trouble I got a costume for Zegram.  I then proceeded to pull all the random extra weapons I had out of item storage and sell them off.  Not that I particularly needed the money or storage space, but just so I never had to look at or care about them ever again.  So aside from all the special swords for Jaster, all that's really in there is costumes and random shields I've picked up around the game.  Fun fact: I've barely used the shield equipment slot.  I seriously contemplated getting confuse shields for everyone when I was going through Mother's Lair and someone was getting confused and killing a fellow party member nearly every battle, but it was just one of those "you know, I should really do this" things that I never actually get around to doing.

The research and preparation for this session took quite a bit longer than the session itself took.  This is the last of the short sessions, though.  Up next is a quick flyby of everywhere in the game to check for missed chests, then depending on how long that takes, the beginning of Ghost Ship Extreme, making sure to fill in the Hunter Record as I go so that I complete Hunter Record before I get to the end of Ghost Ship Extreme.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rogue Galaxy Post-Game Session 5

This session was all about getting things done.  In it, I finished Revelation Flow, caught Hunter Record up to game progress, and finished analyzing and combining weapons I already had for the Frog Log.

Finishing Revelation Flow was mostly annoying because the items I needed dropped very rarely.  At least I was comboing it together with Hunter Record and Frog Log.  I eventually got the two remaining Crystal Staffs and the three remaining Galactic Compasses I needed.  Then I hopped over to Zerard and bought the random item Jupis needed to finish his very last ability, and as promised, I added it to his Revelation Flow while standing in front of the stupid idol girl that hands out the completion rewards.  The reward for completing Revelation Flow was a costume for Deego.

After that, I jetted to Ghost Ship to wrap up the remaining enemies I needed for the Hunter Record.  It was relatively straightforward, and while it seemed as though the spawn rates would occasionally change just to spite me when I had one of a given enemy left, I did eventually get it done.  The only entries missing from Hunter Record now are the ones for enemies in Ghost Ship Extreme, which I haven't started.

As for combining weapons I already had for the Frog Log, that's done, and I'm sitting at around 10 of Toady's suggestions remaining.  I can quite probably do the rest with random swords for Jaster.  Then I'll finally be able to sell off all the extra weapons I have lying around.

Between finishing Frog Log and doing Ghost Ship Extreme and its Hunter Record entries, I plan on doing a giant sweep of every area to look for chests I may have missed.  I know for a fact I haven't revisited everywhere since getting the psychic ability to tell where chests are on the map, so I've probably missed a few here and there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Bonus points to you if you recognize what (or who, rather) the title of this post is referencing.  The 'r' is intended to be rolled.


A while back some of the one of you may have noticed me talking about a neighbor giving us some computer stuff.  To be precise, a monitor, a keyboard, and the computer itself.  I really really wanted to use the monitor given that it's a widescreen flat panel LCD, but there was one hitch: they gave us the wrong power cord.

The computer itself arrived later because they wanted to wipe the hard drive before giving it to us.  It arrived with a note saying it had Windows Vista on it.  I did boot up Windows exactly once.  I poked around in it a bit, went "lol", and then installed Ubuntu 12.04 64-bit on it.  It's not exactly getting a lot of use right now, as I've set it up to be a home theater PC, but there's relatively low interest, and it needs both more RAM (it has 1GB, I dunno how much the motherboard supports) and a better graphics card (ANYTHING other than an integrated Intel GMA por favor, it has a PCI-Express x16 slot).  I use it periodically because I've moved my PS2 into the other room where it can be plugged into an UPS with a perfectly functional battery, where I don't have to worry about a power blip happening while I'm saving and corrupting my save file.  I also installed Minecraft on it.

Anyway, back to the monitor.  The computer (and therefore monitor) are of the Gateway persuasion.  Gateway, in whatever infinite wisdom was necessary, decided to use a non-standard power cord for the monitor.  Rather than having the five-sided deal we're all used to that goes with CRT monitors and desktop power supplies, it has a rounded end that kind of looks like Mickey Mouse.  My dad said he'd come up with something, and came home from work one day with a power cord that fit the bill.

After a bit of growling at either Windows or the nVidia drivers, I finally got it plugged in and recognized.  I actually had to swap which heads my monitors were plugged into in order to get it recognized.  Probably something to do with how it's a DVI monitor and the other monitor is a CRT, I'm not sure.  It runs at 1440x900, which is an 8:5 resolution.  It also has an uncontrollably bright backlight, meaning everything looks a bit brighter than it should.  For games, that's generally a good thing as for whatever reason most games are designed to have lower light levels in their environments, but the color difference between it and my sole remaining CRT is extremely noticeable and there's not a lot I can do about it.

This all came together quite nicely juuuuust before the three day headstart access to Guild Wars 2 began.  I had enough time to run all the games I have installed and configure them to run at 1440x900, which in a couple of cases involved hand-editing config files to force games to run at that resolution (UT2004, I'm looking at you, Y U NO have anything above 1280x960 in the options).  The other case was Beat Hazard, but after setting it to Fullscreen and restarting I'm not entirely sure it's necessary.  I just have it in there to force the issue.

Also, while poking around in config files I figured out why my install of the original UT was so fucked up: its config file was severely corrupted.  Made it generate a new one and re-set all my settings, and the game works so much better now.  Yes, I still play the original UT.  It's the only place where I can enjoy the original Domination gameplay mode, plus I have a bunch of funny player models for it that I've set up as bots.  So I can headshot Spider-Man, The Flash, and Big Bird if I want to.

Wow, this post is really scatterbrained.  One final thing.  Just like any other time I've changed display resolution, the criteria for whether or not a post on here gets the Wall of Text award changes along with it.  The layout is fixed in width, so only the height of the post matters.  Just like before, I'm not going to go through and re-evaluate old posts to the new criteria.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rogue Galaxy Post-Game Session 4

I started in on Frog Log right away during this session.  I'd already made nine of Toady's suggestions playing through the game and/or getting ultimate weapons.  My first task was simply to pull all the random trash weapons I have out of item storage, max any that need it, and make any combinations possible.  I figured I'd maybe get three or four combinations out of this and I'd have to run around buying things rather quickly.

It turned out otherwise.  By the end of the session I was up to nearly 30 of Toady's suggestions made, out of the 50 I need to complete Frog Log.  I actually didn't complete maxing and combining my already existing weapons, I still have Lilika, Jupis, and Zegram left.  But the fact that I've gotten as much of it done as I have without ever setting foot into a weapon shop is pleasing.  I don't know how many more I'll be able to make, but surely it'll put me in the mid-upper 30s, if not in the low 40s.  Then I can just buy some random crap swords for Jaster to combine and be done with it.

Another thing I worked on this session was farming the rare items I needed for Revelation Flow.  I have it down to just Jupis needing anything at all, and he simply needs three Galactic Compasses and two Crystal Staffs.  He also needs some random other item that I'll grab once it's the only thing left, and add it to his Revelation Flow while I'm standing in front of the stupid idol girl who gives out the completion rewards.

The last thing I worked on during this session is the thing I've been working on all this time: Hunting Record.  I now have Chapters 1 through 13 and Alistia complete.  Ghost Ship has some stuff done but still needs a fair amount.  I actually stopped doing Hunter Record in an attempt to farm up the last few Revelation Flow items I need, but they're proving to be quite rare and they exist as random drops in Ghost Ship anyway, so I think next session I might just move on to completing the Ghost Ship entries for the Hunting Record.

Given that I've been rather paranoid lately about my save getting corrupted due to my UPS' dead battery (UPS sees power fluctuation that it deems unsafe, tries to go to backup power, backup power is dead, everything connected to the UPS turns off), I've moved operations into another room where there's a fully functional UPS and our 50" plasma TV to play on.  I'm also taking advantage of the TV's picture-in-picture feature to have a newly acquired spare computer running Ubuntu 12.04 at the ready to scroll through guides and stuff.  I'm actually typing this blog post on it, and it's proved quite handy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rogue Galaxy Post-Game Session 3

I kind of feel like an idiot.  Between last session and this one, I realized a critical detail about weapon synthesis that I'd missed up until this point: it's not about the specific weapon you use as a component, but the level of the weapon itself.  Each step of the way simply requires a weapon that's at or above a specific level.  The keyword there being "above".  Basically, for the Seven-Star Swords and Jaster's other special swords, I could have been using higher level weapons that I could just buy from a merchant, rather than having to buy two lower-level weapons and combining them to make something that fits the level requirement.

The FAQ I've been using to piece together the synthesis chains does make note of this, but really doesn't stress it enough, given how much time it would save if you know "oh hey I can just buy stuff from the guy on Mariglenn to make the fully upgraded forms of the Seven-Star Swords".

That said, I'm going to continue with things the way I've been doing them, because I'm almost done.  Also, I've been recording all the information as I verify it, in a TiddlyWiki, that once I'm done I can easily upload somewhere on the internet for it to get the same zero views that this blog gets.  It's a long way out yet, because there's one thing I need to verify that I don't get until beating Ghost Ship Extreme, which I can only assume will take a while, even with all the ultimate weapons.

The TiddlyWiki guide I've been putting together uses the method I was assuming I had to do, which means it calls for extra weapons to be crafted periodically that are likely unnecessary.  If I feel dedicated enough I'll do a New Game + run through the game and reverify stuff using weapons from merchants at the end of the game.  Since the only thing that carries over in New Game + is the costumes you've unlocked, I'm not in any huge hurry to do such things.

Anyway, on to stuff that happened in this session.

Well, really, it's pretty much the same as the last session.  Doing the obligatory 15 battles per sword so I can synthesize them, and going from one location to another filling in the Hunting Record.  Also, cycling party members around getting their weapons to MASTERED status, but that's not a huge priority since I can do it faster with crystals.

First up was the weakest of the Seven-Star Swords, Kingdom Master.  Up until this point I'd been going in reverse order from most powerful to least powerful, but Dark Cloud takes a metric fuckton of synthesis steps, and I tend to put off daunting tasks until I absolutely have to do them.  This pretty much can't be reduced because of how you obtain the base sword for Dark Cloud, Duke Nightmare.  You have to synthesize it from a Demon Rouser and a Majestic Halo.  Being that I used the Demon Rouser I already had from a quarry reward for a different synthesis, I had to make it as well as Majestic Halo.

After Kingdom Master, as you might have guessed from reading the previous paragraph, it finally came time to make Dark Cloud.  I bought and maxed all the swords necessary for prerequisites, then I started combining and even though it took a lot more swords I had Dark Cloud done before I even knew it.

With Dark Cloud finally complete, the next thing to do was complete Ghost Ship so I could get Dorgenedge and make Jaster's ultimate weapon, Dorgencalibur.  I progressed through Ghost Ship, encountering a rival a few times and eventually convincing him to not be so antagonistic towards me.  This happened once he realized we were both in the same boat, as we'd both been told the ship's treasure was ours to have if we could make it there.  The final boss ended up being the corrupted version of the ship's (and therefore the treasure's) owner.  The rival ended up being none other than Dorgengoa, from the past, who promptly faded out of existence after I defeated the final boss.

With Dorgenedge in hand, it finally became time to make Dorgencalibur.  This one was very straightforward as I already had suitable weapons maxed and ready to go.  First things first though, I worked my way back out of Ghost Ship like a true adventurer would, by walking out rather than teleporting.  Once I got back out I took a few attempts at Seventh Mystery.  Seventh Mystery is a seven question quiz about various random things in the game.  Eventually I got all seven questions right (they're different every time) and got the Key to the Underworld, which is used to open Ghost Ship Extreme.

Once Dorgencalibur was done and maxed, I used Excelion Shards, Hyper Crystals, and Omega Crystals to get it to MASTERED status relatively quickly.  This ended up being the last ultimate weapon I got to MASTERED status, meaning I got everyone else's done while doing all the Seven-Star Swords and special swords for Jaster.

I suppose up next will be Frog Log and more Hunting Record.  Frog Log is basically more running around buying weapons, maxing them, and synthesizing them (this time paying attention to Toady's suggestions), and Hunting Record simply requires a lot of grind and thus works well with weapon synthesis which also requires grind of the same type.  I'm nearing completion on the Hunting Record, too.  I have Chapters 1 through 10 and Alistia done.  I plan on finishing Chapters 11 through 13 and Ghost Ship before taking on Ghost Ship Extreme.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

FLoBathon Recap

So, in terms of raising money for Child's Play Charity, FLoBathon was a complete and total success.  Despite taking almost an entire year to raise $29,220 with regular FLoB episodes on YouTube, Kurt put forth the lofty goal of doubling that to $58,440 in three days, with the incentive that if it happened, he'd go to MineCon.

$58,440 totally happened.  In fact, the count was up to over $70,000 before the end of the livestream.  I think it helped that for the last day Kurt had an overlay showing the current total on the stream, so people could see exactly how much was raised and attempt to GET various funny amounts, the most common of which was ending it with 69 cents.  They talked about this during the stream, but there totally were the two factions, the breakers and the fixers.  The breakers donate random amounts of cents extra, and the fixers try to get it to a nice round value.  It's fun to watch, and it helps the fundraiser to boot.

Before the weekend even began, Child's Play Charity promoted Far Lands or Bust to the Platinum sponsors section, alongside such names as and Microsoft.  And also a boatload of gaming-related things.  Also worth noting, MAGFest is a Gold sponsor.

The livestream was not without its large events, a few of which were actually positive.  On the first day, Kurt had at various points during the day pretty much the entire Kerbal Space Program team from the Mexican indie game company Squad on.  In addition to giving him KSP codes to give away, they also added Kurt Kerman to the game, complete with a model that has red-blue 3D glasses.  It'd be Kurt J Kerman, but apparently there's some issue in the naming with the fact that none of the other Kermans have middle names.

On the second day, Notch himself was around in the chat talking to people.  Kurt basically said that we didn't need any huge donations from Notch to reach the goal, that the Farlanders could do it themselves.  Notch agreed, since he'd just donated $10,000 to Child's Play during the Qubetubers stream while Kurt was streaming for them, but he did give Kurt a few Minecraft gift codes to give away.  Also, the guy who made the texture pack he uses for FLoB episodes made a special version for the stream that Kurt switched to during the second day.  It puts some Sixelona art in the crafting bench window, little "stay away, Wolfie!" symbols on cacti, and changed the beds to say "FLoBathon".  Otherwise, not a heck of a lot changed.

I actually missed the second day's stream because I was out having fun with friends in real life.  Don't worry, I watched the archive on

On the third day was when the sad and frightening stuff happened.  Kurt was progressing as normal, then decided to go on a break to eat food.  So he exited and backed up the world while he ate, and when he came back, Wolfie was no longer there.  Re-watching the archived footage proved that Wolfie had been there before he went on the break, in fact, he was in the process of trying to push Kurt around when he exited Minecraft to make the backup.  The previous backup was too far away to use, so Kurt really had no choice but to press on without his companion and FLoB mascot.  He tried restoring from the backup he made just before the break, but Wolfie wasn't present there either, though I and a number of people in the chat did hear the "wolf shaking off water" sound right as he started playing again.  He left a chest full of bones, food, and some pink wool along with a message on a sign for Wolfie, and then pressed on.

It almost immediately came up that if he took damage, Wolfie might teleport to him.  Perhaps against better judgment, Kurt decided to test the theory.  He got shot by a skeleton in a nearby cave, and no Wolfie.  Then the frightening part happened.  Leaving the cave, it got dark, and a zombie was bearing down on him as he frantically tried to pillar up to make an elevated hidey hole.  He ended up having to kill the zombie and got taken down to half a heart of health in the process.  Fortunately he keeps a stack of wheat around, so he was able to make bread and get back to full health, but it was still really scary to see him that low on health in FLoB, given that he has yet to die in that world.

So, the livestream ended without Wolfie, but with SethBling's suggestion that Wolfie could probably be re-obtained using MCEdit.  Since it was a glitch that caused Wolfie to disappear rather than an actual death, it might be a bit more legit to find Wolfie in MCEdit and move him back to Kurt, but we don't know what's really going to happen in that regard.  Technically, if Wolfie still exists in the world, there would be seven tamed wolves in the FLoB world.  The original five that drove Kurt crazy and then never reappeared after he crossed an ocean, the extra Wolfie from the hidey hole paradox episode, and of course the real Wolfie.

Also, there was a pre-built monument (aka a derp tower with a somewhat decent base) where he decided to end the stream, so he pressed F3 on top of the derp tower.  Once again my guess was fairly close, although it was farther off this time than before.  In both celebratory livestreams so far I've submitted guesses based on mathematical constants.  The first time it was based on e, just multiplied by 100000 so it would be somewhat plausible.  Guess 271828, final distance 292202.  This time I took π and multiplied that by 200000.  Chopped off the decimal places to end up with 628318, final distance was 699492.

So, hopefully something reasonably legit can be done about Wolfie, and FLoB can continue with its mascot and sidekick.  In before "tame another wolf and pretend it never happened".

Monday, August 13, 2012

Check out the Food Page

I've put up another page accessible in the Pages section over on the right.  It lists every food product I've reviewed, with summaries of each review and links to all the posts that contain the full reviews.

This is by no means the end of me posting food reviews as regular blog posts.  It's not even intended to replace full reviews.  Rather, it serves to better organize my food reviews and make them more accessible as they get buried by other posts, while at the same time providing a quick reference.

Head on over and check it out.

Edit: and of course, if you see a food review that isn't listed, feel free to point it out in the comments on this post.  I had a tough time deciding whether some of the posts where I mentioned food were "review-y" enough to add to the list.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

More Guild Wars 2

So, unlike last week's stress test where I was asleep during it, this week I was actually awake and played most of it.

It began rather roughly, with the servers constantly going up and down.  After about an hour things stabilized and I was actually able to play.  Being that it was a four hour stress test and an hour of it was already gone, I decided to focus on doing the jumping puzzles.  I took my ranger to the Charr one, which I'd heard the general location of after the last beta event, and after a bit of exploring I found it.

Now, it's important to note that prior to this, the only jumping puzzle I'd done was the Asura one.  So, I was expecting the Charr one to be about that long and maybe as difficult.  But no, the Charr one is relatively short and easy, and after I stopped derping and missing jumps and having to repeat the same part over and over again, I made it to the boss at the end.  He'd already stomped me once solo (I'd forgotten that I was downlevelled to 13 from 17, so I was like "he's only level 12, I should be beating his ass into the ground!"), but the second time I had the aid of another player, and this time we did the stomping.

There's a small chest there, but it's not over yet.  There's a note on the ground that hints at a pressure plate further upwards.  Along one of the walls is another series of platforms that eventually leads up to the pressure plate.  That opens a door that takes you to the actual reward chest.  That's it.  It's that short.  A third player joined us, grabbed the reward chest, and then as we were jumping around being idiots celebrating the cave started raining rocks down and killed all three of us.  lol

Anyway, a bit has been added since the last beta weekend.  When you hover your mouse on a skill that has a chain, where it turns into another skill after you use the first one, you can now see the entire chain and be able to better understand its properties.  Also, you can now do Ctrl + right click on a skill to make that skill your autofire skill.  Which is pretty amazing.  Say you only want to do two steps of your chain in skill slot 1, then follow up with skill 2.  Set skill 2 to your autoattack, then hit with skill 1 twice and let the autoattack kick in.  There you go.  Also, you can set it to your self-heal if you want, and automatically use your self-heal every time it recharges, which could be handy in the heat of combat.  Aside from tactical situations like that, though, you're better off leaving skill 1 as your autoattack since it doesn't have a recharge and everything else does.

Also, two more vistas were added to Lion's Arch.  One of them was balls easy, you just run up to it and grab it.  The other was a bit tricky, because you have to poke around and run through some bushes on two occasions to find the path to it.  Then there's a rather tricky exit, which I never quite got and kept dying of fall damage.

The rest of my time I spent in the level 15 Charr area, because that's where I actually needed to be so I wouldn't be downlevelled.  I killed some shit and helped a few NPCs out, got a vista, and then...  it was time for dinner.  But it was also half an hour left in the stress test, so I didn't feel too bad about quitting early.  Also, they put up an announcement saying "hey guys half an hour to go", reminding us that it ended at 4PM Pacific time, but they completely misspelled "Pacific".  They spelled it "Pacfici".  lol

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rogue Galaxy Post-Game Session 2

Rather than doing any of Ghost Ship during this session, I spent this session simultaneously working on three things that work together very well:
  • Filling in the Hunter Record
  • Synthesizing special swords and Seven-Star Swords for Jaster (also synthesizing Deego's ultimate weapons)
  • Mastering people's ultimate weapons
All of these work well together because they all involve fighting large numbers of battles.  Because of the hunter record working the way it does, the best way to fill it in is to find a place where the stuff you still need to kill spawns and run in circles, killing everything.  Some enemies are far rarer than others, just to prolong things.

So, the first thing that happened is that I got Deego's ultimate weapons.  His ultimate axe looks awesome, and well worthy of being an ultimate weapon.

After that came synthesizing sword after sword for Jaster.  First up, I finished his penultimate sword, Diabolos.  I can't get his ultimate sword, Dorgencalibur, until after beating Ghost Ship.  Then, I made the ultimate form of the Libra King's Sword, which is called Ruler's Horn.  Switching over to Seven-Star Swords, I followed that up with making Ixion in the factory and then progressing it to its ultimate form, Guard Axis.  I continued on down the line, ending up with Earthshaker.

The other four Seven-Star Swords I haven't yet made, but I've pieced together how to do each one from the FAQ I'm pulling information from.

Mastering people's ultimate weapons takes forever, because each stat has a maximum of like 90 something, they typically start low after the last synthesis (the starting point depends on the stat's value on the combined weapons), and you get one point in a random stat per battle.  That said, I got through Deego and Zegram.  Kisala's mastered her boots, and Lilika's working on her stuff.  Since Jaster can't be removed from the party, his ultimate sub-weapon has been mastered for quite some time now.

My compulsion for completeness won't let me put the game to rest without the game completion, weapon synthesis, and ultimate weapon mastering being done.  I've got quite a long way to go yet before even really completing all aspects of the game, though.

Edit: ...aaaaaaaaaaand after I posted this I kept playing, and finished the factory.

A Few Days Later Edit: I guess I should mention what my project with Jaster is.  Basically, all four of the special swords he has can be upgraded via fairly straightforward synthesis chains.  There are also the seven Seven-Star Swords, which can also be upgraded.  I'm upgrading ALL of them.  I've got three of his four special swords fully upgraded (Ruler's Horn, Zeo Sychros X, and Diabolos), and similarly three of the seven Seven-Star Swords upgraded (Earthshaker, Guard Axis, and Gryphon Lord).  I've worked out what the synthesis chains are for the remaining swords, it's just a matter of getting all the component swords and then fighting 15 battles per sword.  Dorgencalibur will be the last one, so I can conclude the whole thing with his ultimate weapon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Not This Shit Again

Okay, now Valve has changed the Steam Subscriber Agreement to, among other things, forbid class action lawsuits.

It seems to be the fad lately, with Microsoft, Sony, EA, and probably others having already done the same thing.

The thing that gets me is that this is in a EULA, a dubiously legal document to begin with.  Being that it's drafted entirely by them and for all intents and purposes is trying to trump law, you'd think the people it applies to would have some say in what goes into it, since we're forced to agree to it.  But no.  The difference?

It's not a contract.  Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, nothing in it actually matters.  It's a purely one-sided agreement that they give themselves the right to change at any time.  Disagreement means forfeiting goods you have legally paid for.  To me, that's just wrong.

To highlight exactly what I am saying, I will refer to digital distribution services that unfairly restrict your right to do what you want with what you purchased as "encumbered digital distribution" services.  This effectively differentiates Steam from GoG.  On GoG, all games are unencumbered and once you purchase them, that's it, you own the copy, no questions asked.

This also highlights a point about encumbered digital distribution that's been lurking in the shadows all along.  You do not actually OWN the copies of the games or whatever you purchase digitally.  Compare that to physical distribution.  I look up at my stack of jewel cases for games released before encumbered digital distribution was all the rage.  Nobody can ever deny that I own a copy of StarCraft, its expansion Brood War, Diablo II and its expansion Lord of Destruction, Myst, Riven, etc. because I have those physical copies there to show that I do indeed own a copy of those games.

But with encumbered digital distribution, you never own the copy of whatever you just purchased.  You're just paying for the license to be able to use it so long as you remain on good terms with the company you're paying.  You don't get the same rights with the good you just purchased as if you had an unencumbered physical copy.  For instance, you can't lend it or resell it, both of which are perfectly legal to do with unencumbered physical goods.

The other thing that disturbs me about encumbered digital distribution: it depends on the life of the controlling company.  If they go bankrupt, what happens to your purchases?  Most likely, you'll lose them.  That would never happen with unencumbered distribution.  Given that things can turn from awesome to crap in a company almost in an instant these days, it's definitely something to keep in mind.

So if you want me to enter into a contract for the use of your service, that's fine.  Call it a contract, and let me negotiate the terms so that it benefits me as much as it benefits you.  So long as you make poor attempts at disguising a contract as a one-sided agreement, I will continue to declare that it doesn't apply because I was forced into it under duress.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fun With Extended Sustains in Guitar Hero

Disclaimer: Everything discussed within applies to the PS2 version of all the various Guitar Hero games, and may have been patched on systems that support patching games.  Don't blame me if it doesn't work for you.

Extended sustains were one of the new features added to the game since Guitar Hero: World Tour.  Like 'em or not, they've been in every game since then.  They've always been interesting to me, since while they're relatively intuitive to hit, they break a pattern that GH players were used to up until World Tour came out: You could hold down buttons below a single-note sustain, but not above it.

Extended sustains are intended to better emulate the multi-stringed nature of the guitar on the vastly simplified one-string, five-fret guitar controller, but it can get a bit cramped and awkward feeling sometimes depending on which frets the game is asking you to keep held.  Also, depending on the game and song you're playing, they can also be used for pitch bends, which I've never liked.

There are glitches involved with extended sustains as well, suggesting that not even the developers fully understood the new capabilites they provided.  These glitches are both of the graphical and functional varieties:
  • In some of the GH games, when there's one or more sustains above a lower one, releasing the lower ones can result in an inexplicably higher score.
  • Occasionally you can get the flame to keep burning past the end of an extended sustain.  This corrects itself the next time you hit a note of that color.
  • Occasionally also, after dropping a sustain low down in the extended sustain's structure, if you hold the fret that was dropped and strum a note that appears above it, the line for the dropped fret will re-appear.  If you're whammying a star power sustain, it will reappear blue and pulse with your whammy just like any other sustain.
  • If you press a button during an extended sustain that does not appear during that extended sustain, you will drop the sustain.  This in all honesty is probably the intended behavior, but it feels weird.
The one I found today however involves chords above extended sustains, and essentially another broken pattern in the game.  With chords, the pattern up until extended sustains were added was that you couldn't hold any buttons other than the ones in the chord.  Extended sustains mess with that by having you already hold a button not involved with the chord when you hit the chord.

So, with you now already holding a button when the chord comes along, how does that affect processing of the chord when you hit it?

So long as you stick to fret colors that exist above the extended sustain, it turns out you can hold whatever you want above the extended sustain and still hit chords above it.  You can even hold buttons above the chord.

The best place to exploit this that I've found is where I discovered it: the extended sustains on the song Jump in Guitar Hero: Van Halen.  The sustain is green, and the other four frets appear above it, in chords.  The result is that you can strum the green sustain, then hold down all five frets and strum as necessary to hit the chord pattern.  You'll have to shift back for the chords between them (and the rest of the song, where this won't work), but you can do this on all of the extended sustains in the song that have only chords above them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In Response To The Whole Mojang Patent Thing

So, recently, Mojang received notice of a patent lawsuit from some company nobody's ever heard of called Uniloc.  Uniloc apparently holds a vaguely worded patent on "an authentication system to prevent unauthorized access to a piece of software".

Think about that.  Think about how much software exists today that phones home in one way or another to make sure you're allowed to be running it.  Use Steam?  There you go, everything you have on Steam phones home.  It happens automatically, true, but it still happens.  Let's see the relatively unknown patent troll take on Valve, and really the entire video game industry.

This whole thing is apparently in reference to the Android version of Minecraft, which the document notifying Mojang of the lawsuit so helpfully calls "Mindcraft".

The other issue here is that this involves a software patent.  Software patents are largely evil.  They have never been used for good, except in the case of the practice of obtaining defensive patents and intentionally not enforcing them, just to prevent someone else from patenting what you've done and then suing you over it.  With regards to software, the whole system is an overglorified competition for FIRST!!!1!1!1111one.  Since software development can happen so much more quickly than anything physical that someone might use a patent to protect, there could very well be multiple teams of people working on ideas that are either identical or close enough to being identical that it doesn't matter.  It essentially becomes a huge competition, the first team to finish it, get it working, and patent it wins.  At this point, all the other teams just spent all that time and money for nothing.

For instance, Microsoft (everyone's favorite monolith of evil) holds a patent on "a system that awards points to the player for completing in-game tasks".  I've actually read the text of this patent, and in it, it quite clearly states some examples from games they didn't make that existed before they filed the patent.  This is better known as "prior art".  Prior art is usually what precludes something from being patented in the first place, as you can't claim you invented it if someone else already did it.  Microsoft should not have been awarded that patent.

Also patented (not sure by whom) is an arrow that points towards your destination in a video game.  You know, like the one used in Crazy Taxi.  That too is bullshit, and should not have been awarded.

Software patents in general should not be awarded.  Patents should only apply to physical, tangible goods.  Not digital goods.  Anything digital can in effect be turned into a number, so this is essentially allowing people to patent numbers.  Can I patent the number 8147 then please?  No.  Why?  Because that would be ridiculous.  Then the maker of any book listing prime numbers would have to pay me royalties to print that one number.

So, Uniloc, if that is your real name, you sir are a patent troll, and you need to GTFO and DIAF.

This happens periodically with physical goods too.  Remember when the PS3 was released?  Just before it was released, some relatively unknown company sued Sony for patent infringement over the vibration motors they use in their controllers.  The result was that the PS3's controller was initially released without vibration motors.  The whole thing was an incredible dick move on the relatively unknown company's part.  Maybe the patent system as a whole needs to be re-examined if it allows for this kind of action.  Even with development of physical goods, many companies like to keep what they're working on a secret until it's complete, which of course means that anyone else developing something identical or similar has absolutely no clue if anyone else is already working on it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ways Guild Wars 2 Could Be Improved

I've certainly sung Guild Wars 2's praises over the past couple of months, and for good reason: it's a good game.  But it's not perfect, and this post is here to list a few reasons why I personally don't think it's perfect.


I know, it's in beta, but it's coming out towards the end of August, which is coming up.  The game is still mostly CPU-bound, which means that while of course it's still using your GPU, it's using the CPU for a lot more than it should be.  I know I'm running it on an 8-year-old computer, and it's a miracle that it runs as well as it does, but still.

One thing they could do for less powerful computers is have an option to turn off all the non-essential NPCs.  There are so many random NPCs milling about towns and combat areas that if the game had less to keep track of, it would probably run a lot smoother for people with less capable setups.  This is shown quite plainly through my experience, where the farther away I was from towns, other players, and dynamic events, the better my framerate was.

Key Bindings

They're fairly different from Guild Wars 1, and to a certain degree that's to be expected.  Old habits die hard, so I often find myself targeting an enemy and then jumping, because in GW1 the "go attack now" button was spacebar.

Also, by default, there is no keybinding for "target closest enemy".  You have to bind it yourself, and then you discover that it is incredibly finnicky.  It prefers targets in front of your character, but sometimes it picks the strangest targets.  I really wish it worked like it did in GW1 where it would just target the closest enemy to you, regardless of anything.

The "target closest enemy" function can pick neutral things you may not want to attack like target practice dummies when really you're trying to target the drake directly behind one of them, as happened to me in the Charr area.  I ended up destroying all of the target dummies just so I could get a reliable target.

It would also be nice if your strafe controls would strafe you in a circle around an enemy when you have it targeted.  It could only do it if you're in attack range, to avoid unpredictable behavior.

Combat Awareness

I really miss the compass from GW1 that showed you the little red dots to tell you where enemies were.  It made it a lot easier to know if something was patrolling up.

Also, they need to tweak enemy respawning, big time.  Enemies can respawn right on top of you, without warning.  The respawn algorithm needs to check in a certain radius of the spawn location for players and not spawn the enemy if a player is close enough to be immediately under attack.

Equipment Comparisons

When you're going to sell stuff to a merchant, if you hover over a weapon, it'll pop up a comparison window showing you what you currently have equipped and highlighting the important numbers in either green or red depending on which ones are better or worse.  That's nice, but it doesn't care about weapon type.  For instance, it will readily compare a greatsword to a longbow, which doesn't help when I'm trying to see if a greatsword I just picked up is better than the greatsword I currently have, but not equipped.

All throughout the beta I was keeping all the weapons usable by the class I was playing available in my inventory so I could swap around while out of combat.  I don't know how much of that I'll do after release, because that takes a ton of inventory space for very little gain, but it needs to provide more relevant comparisons somehow.  It only ever cares about what's currently equipped, not even going as far as to also show you what you have on your weapon swap.  I accidentally sold my shortbow because of this and ended up with two longbows equipped, wondering why I could no longer swap to my shortbow skills when I needed them.

Aquatic Pets

They're available, but they're damn hard to locate.  I found one by dumb luck while exploring the underwater portions of Lion's Arch, and later discovered that the Whiptail Devourers available in the Charr area can be both terrestrial and aquatic.  I spent the majority of the time I played my ranger without an aquatic pet, simply because they're so difficult to locate.  A bit of "pet sense" would help here.  It could just be a simple out-of-combat spoken line "there are tameable animals nearby!" or something more fancy, but anything to help locate potential pets would be nice.  I wrote a guide for it in Guild Wars 1 (available on and maintained by the denizens of GuildWiki) after they added the Zaishen Menagerie to the game, so maybe I just need to locate a guide that someone else has already written.

Rewards Relevance

I completed the exploration objectives in the Charr area on my Sylvari Ranger, only to receive two Masterworks that weren't usable by my ranger.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because of the trading post and being able to have multiple characters, but it'd be nice if one of the rewards could be locked as always being something relevant to the class you're currently playing.

Also, completing the exploration objectives for a town nets you a money reward of one copper.  Really?  I know it's a town and there aren't really any hazards other than fall damage, but come on.  One copper?  Seriously?

Doing the Asura jumping puzzle you encounter two chests, one after the very first segment, and the other at the end.  I got wholly unremarkable items out of both.  Given the amount of effort required to do that puzzle, the rewards definitely weren't worth the effort required.

Finding Stuff To Do

It seems odd that there'd be a lack of things to do in an MMO, but I saw with a fair amount of regularity "What's there to do in this area around level X?  I can't find anything!" in the chat.  I also experienced some of this on my own, where I couldn't find a place where I felt comfortable killing things that were around my level, starting at about level 9.  I always ended up in an area where things were two to three levels higher than me, which while possible is a fairly daunting challenge and generally requires you to follow someone around who is actually at the appropriate level for the area.

Some areas are worse about this than others.  The Charr starting area (Plains of Ashford) is without a doubt my favorite place for the level 1 to 15 experience.  The layout isn't very complex, there are large areas where you can feel comfortable killing things before you start to encounter stuff that's too high-level, and there's plenty of room to retreat and maneuver around enemies.

In comparison, the Sylvari and Asura areas were horrible and led to the situation described in the first paragraph of this section.  I didn't stick around the Norn area too long with my Elementalist, but it seemed okay.  The Human area was fine as well, but it was so incredibly lag-inducing for me that I had to go elsewhere.

Unrelated, take a five minute tour of any NPC-populated Asura area (for instance, Rata Sum, which is easily accessible via the portal from Lion's Arch) and tell me you don't grow incredibly tired of hearing the word "Excelsior".  Go on, try it.  Here's a hint: it's impossible.

Crates (or... Mystic Chests)

Ever played Team Fortress 2?  Then you undoubtedly know about the cancer that is crates.  In TF2 the only way to open them is by buying a key from the microtransaction store, or by trading something to another player for a key that they've purchased.

Guild Wars 2 has Mystic Chests, which require a Mystic Key to open.  Unlike TF2, Mystic Keys do drop from enemies, but they're incredibly rare.  I only ever got one.  Since the drop rate of Mystic Chests is so high, you end up with lots of them and no keys with which to open them.  You can buy them through GW2's microtransaction store via Gems, which can be obtained in unknown quantity for real-world money or in-game money.  At least you can convert in-game money to Gems, so it's a step in the right direction, but... I'd much rather just have the drop rate on Mystic Keys increased to match that of the chests they go with.

Do we really need a microtransaction store in an MMORPG anyway?  They've already stated that it's not ever going to be "pay-to-win", which makes it entirely overlookable for most purposes.  There are some convenience items in there that enable access to your bank or a merchant from anywhere, but there are plenty of random merchants sprinkled about the combat areas, and if you find a town with the crafting NPCs you can access your bank there regardless of whether or not you have any experience with crafting anything.

Embedded superlative:  The rest of the Black Lion Trading Company is absolutely amazing though.  Through it you can buy items from other players without ever having to interact with those other players.  Which means the reverse is also true, you can sell stuff to other players without ever having to interact with them.  It basically removes scamming from the game.  Given that GW2 has crafting disciplines that are entirely optional to learn, it opens up the possibility of essentially going into business for your character, making stuff and selling it through the trading post for a profit.  I used it to buy leather to make 8-slot inventory bags, and it works really well.  It shows you how much of what you're interested in is available at any given price, and actively gives you the lowest price it possibly can for the amount you want to purchase.

Underwater Combat

This is the big one.  They've pitched underwater combat time and time again as a superlative, and while it does add variety, it seems a bit stale and under-utilized.  Aside from a few story missions or finding some NPCs you might need to talk to inside a cave somewhere, the underwater portions of Guild Wars 2 that I've seen so far can be pretty much overlooked.  I didn't skimp on it either, all five of the characters I played over the course of two beta events obtained all of their underwater combat skills, and one of the early Asura story missions has underwater combat.  What the regular, open-world underwater combat needs is boss encounters and other big events that happen underwater.  I only ever encountered two events that really involved underwater combat at all, one in the Charr area, and one in the Asura area.

It also doesn't help that one of the available underwater weapons is a melee weapon.  Now that the enemies can move in all three dimensions, positioning yourself for melee combat becomes very difficult.  I often found myself wildly swinging my spear at nothing while thinking I was attacking an enemy.  While there are skills for underwater melee combat that explicitly point you at and make you charge towards an enemy, they don't recharge quickly enough to be useful.  Therefore, the autoattack really needs some form of a homing ability on it, in that it will turn you towards your target and if you're within a certain range that's outside of your attack range, move you into attack range.


Guild Wars 2 is a great game.  These things I've listed that I feel need improvement, while annoying, don't detract enough to make the game not worth the purchase.  Everything mentioned here can be changed with a game update, and ArenaNet typically listens to players when they have good suggestions.