Saturday, January 28, 2012

Portal 2

So over the holidays, I picked up Portal 2.  There's actually a not-so funny story regarding this.  In the days before the Steam Holiday Gift Pile started, Portal 2 went on sale.  I bought it then.  Then the Holiday Gift Pile starts.  The first free task was "check your inventory".  So I check it and what to I get?  Portal 2.  I later gifted it to a friend.  Then on the very last day, where you could only get Valve stuff, guess what... I got Portal 2.


With any sequel, it's natural to be worried that they fucked it up.  Generally there's less of that worry with Valve, and it shows plain as day here.  Portal 2 retains all the core gameplay elements you knew and loved from the original.  As an additional layer of cake (with some icing), they added a bunch more gameplay mechanics for us to use while solving puzzles.  A small list of them includes Aerial Faith Plates, Hard Light Bridges, and three gels that do various things with the surfaces you splatter them on.  In other words, Portal 2 is how a sequel should be done.

Portal 2 is much longer than the original as well.  I recall thinking "okay, it looks like I'm almost done", only to have the game continue.  I thought at first that it just felt tacked on until a few levels later when it all made sense and I realized that the game was really just beginning when I thought it was about to end.

At the beginning, you're introduced to a rather hilarious personality sphere named Wheatley.  Eventually you get to leave the room you're in and you end up in a wonderful throwback to the original Portal.  It's been some time since Portal took place, and the test chambers you go through certainly look like they've aged.  Wall/ceiling tiles are strewn about the floor, it's beginning to get overgrown, and some of the doors are malfunctioning.  It really makes you feel like the portion of the facility that the original took place in was just a small portion of what Aperture Science had available.

If that wasn't enough, it becomes readily apparent how massive the testing facility is when you get to the second third of the game where you learn about the Aperture Science backstory and go through some chambers that are done in an entirely different graphical style.

It's clear that they paid a lot of attention to the overall graphical feel of each section of the game as well as the puzzle design and overall gameplay.

With the core gameplay having remained the same, it should come as no surprise that the controls remain entirely identical to those of Portal.  It's still just you and your portal gun solving puzzles, putting boxes on buttons, etc.  This is a good thing, because it makes the controls tutorial a lot shorter this time around and let them focus on designing puzzles, scenes, and every other aspect of the game.

There are some new elements that enhance the controls and gameplay, though, and help quite a bit.  If you middle click, or use your scroll wheel, you will zoom in and out, which helps when you're trying to place a portal on a far-away surface.  The game gives you hints to use it on multiple occasions.  The graphical enhancement is being able to see your portals through other surfaces, so you know exactly where they are.

In addition to the much longer single player, there's also co-operative multiplayer, which I have yet to see.  However, I've seen videos of it.  Basically, you and a friend can team up to solve chambers that require two players' worth of portals.

To satiate metagaming needs, there are plenty of achievements this time around.  I instinctively started knocking cameras off of walls as soon as I had the portal gun, but Camera Shy is and forever will be limited to the original game.  Its replacement is Smash TV, where you have to smash TV screens in the later levels of the game.  A couple of them require dying, which meant that I didn't get them until after I'd beaten the game.


I came.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Adventures in Anime Name That Tune

CAINE played Name That Tune at last night's meeting.  We've played it for the past couple of years, but this one was a bit different from the rest.  The first year we didn't have teams, it was everyone for themselves, and there was a qualifier round to get in and a bracket from then on.  The second year we were divided up into teams randomly.  This year, we essentially got to pick our teams.

This led to the inevitable creation of the superteam.  Which I so happened to be on.  Partway through they even split one of us off, but we still managed to win.

For whatever reason I got my idea in first for our team name and we ended up being Namako Team.  If you don't get it, go watch Azumanga Daioh.  It's okay, I'll wait.

Back?  Good.

I facepalmingly missed a few songs including the first K-ON!! ED and the Shinryaku! Ika Musume ED, but made up for it when I got the tiebreaker on the Azumanga Daioh ED because I knew the title, artist, and composer.  This actually made up for a fail of mine two years ago where I completely blanked on the very same song in the finals.

Overall we discovered that the annoying kid actually knows some music, and that the other annoying kid only got like three songs and was forced to STFU for most of the night, which was much welcomed.

The prizes were kind of crap but I ended up taking Finger Bowling.  It's basically a tiny set of bowling pins and two balls.  Yeah.

Monday, January 23, 2012

YouTube Video Comment Breakdown

In my experience both as a video uploader and as a regular user of YouTube, comments on videos generally fall into easily distinguished categories.  I'm attempting to list them all here along with the typical reasons why they're posted and anything else related, but the list is by no means complete or statistically supported.
  • FIRST - typically multiple of these early on by different people, may or may not be deleted by video uploader
  • SECOND - fewer of these, but it does happen
  • Nth view - practically every popular video
  • 30Xth view - YouTube video view counts freeze around the 300 mark for whatever reason, so people who think they're witty post about it
  • N views and GREATER_THAN_N comments - people not understanding that one person can make multiple comments on a single page load (thanks to AJAX)
  • Under 30Xth view club - elitist faggots
  • Joke related to video about the number of dislikes that it has - people who think they're clever
  • GAMEPLAY_HINT, thumbs up so he can see - on Let's Plays
  • USELESS_GAMEPLAY_HINT - typically left by people who haven't watched the complete video yet and don't see that the player actually does what's in question later in the video
  • GAMEPLAY_HINT (left recently on a weeks/months/older old video in an LP series) - idiots
  • Thumbs up if you agree on X issue - people trying to whore thumbs up to make the "Top Comments" section
  • Watched in 240p/360p/480p/"No HD?" - impatient faggots, also might be combined with "thumbs up if you watched before HD" or something similar
  • Comments about ads - people too lazy to install ad blockers
  • This wouldn't load on my phone - smartphone users
  • What did you use to make this video? - once every few videos per Let's Play, can be asking about capture software or editing software
  • Questions about game configuration - Fairly common in any given LP series
  • Random comment that sparks a flame war - trolls
  • Heated replies to random comment that sparked the flame war - idiots
  • Now I need to find TROLL's comment - everyone else, may also be in the form of "thumbs up if you searched through the comments for TROLL's comment"
  • Quote something in the video - useless comments go!
  • Asking a question that's answered in an annotation or in the video description - unobservant idiots
  • Generic comment that basically says to everyone who reads it that the poster didn't actually watch the video - idiots
  • random link to someone else's channel - channel promotion spam
  • Meaningful comments - depends on the video, but typically a lower percentage than all the rest of the above crap

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Adventures in Guitar Hero Lag Calibration

So all this time, I've been playing Guitar Hero on an old Commodore 1702 CRT monitor.  I've basically sworn by CRTs for rhythm games for one crucial reason: no lag.  Every LCD, plasma, etc. ever has lag that makes the game unplayable.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band are two of surprisingly few games that include a lag calibration utility.  However, I've never had much luck with it.  Up until last night.

At our usual game night we have on Fridays, I was trying to get GH Van Halen going on a friend's LCD monitor.  I calibrated the lag, it came up with 52ms for video and 0ms for audio.  I go and play a song, and it's still lagged.  Such has generally been the situation for quite a while, that no matter what the video lag calibration setting is set to, it makes no god damn difference.

On a hunch, I set the audio lag calibration setting to 52ms and reset the video to 0ms.  Played a song, and bam, perfect calibration.

Basically, how I think it works, is the video lag calibration setting uselessly adjusts the length of the timing windows to let you hit the notes later.  This is because the audio and the video aren't desynced, they're just shifted so that the notes aren't where they should be relative to the audio.  Setting your calibration this way lets you strum when you hear the note, but the physical representation of the note onscreen will have gone by the line at the bottom by the time this happens.  This is massively disconcerting to me, because I'm used to strumming when the note hits the line.  The other alternative is to strum when the note hits the line.  This places you on the very leading edge of the timing window, essentially, making it very easy to drop notes that you thought you had hit.  It also doesn't feel right, because you strum the note and then you hear it played.

So to summarize that paragraph: video lag calibration is useless.

The audio lag calibration works by shifting the audio so that it's essentially ahead of the note track, so that with the video lag induced by the screen the notes will play when you're supposed to strum them.  This makes a fuckload more sense than simply tacking extra time onto the tail end of the timing windows.

So basically, any GH game without audio lag calibration is unplayable on anything other than a CRT.  This would be GH1, GH2, GH80s, GH3, and possibly GH:A, at least on PS2.  For the internet-supported consoles (360, etc.) the earlier games have the audio lag calibration patched in...

What I'd love to see is a console with a global lag calibration utility that it applies to all games.  Because the lag isn't only there for just rhythm games.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Game review facelift

If you've read, or have tried to read, any of my game reviews up until now, you'll know that they're mostly unorganized messes that ramble on and on and shift from one topic to another and back to the first.

I'm trying to change that.  It's going to take a bit more time to write each one, but that's a good thing.  I was essentially just crapping each one out as fast as I could write it before, acknowledging the structural problems present but not really feeling like devoting the time necessary to fix them.

Hopefully, with my new organizational practice I'm adopting, I won't have to fix structural problems because there won't be any to begin with.  This mostly means I'll actually be properly outlining them and putting comments about the same aspect of a game (graphics, controls, gameplay, etc.) together.

With the added overhead time to properly organize each review, maybe I can also get in the habit of putting some screenshots of the game in question in the review, if possible.  It's not as possible for PS2 games seeing as I don't really want to have to try and run PS2 games on an emulator just to grab a screenshot of whatever I'm talking about, but for PC games and games for older home consoles that are more easily emulated, it's a lot easier to do.

Also, I might try my hand at actually avoiding run-on sentences.  My posts read much like they're being spoken out loud, because English speech hardly ever abides by every single rule of its grammar, and run-on sentences are one of the most common things in speech.

Hopefully all of this extra effort should make my reviews and the rest of my posts better.

Also, in typical fashion, I didn't outline this post at all, or take into consideration any of the writing style adjustments I spoke about.  Yay!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter Season Anime

So of everything airing, I thought about watching a grand total of six titles.  I've actually watched three of them so far.

Aquarion EVOL - CAINE watched the original not too long ago.  The first episode seems up to par with what the original had, plus its own theme of keeping male and female pilots separate for whatever reason.  I've heard some people WTF at the 12000 year time difference, but if you've seen the original series, it makes sense.  In addition to being about the fight against extraterrestrials that are abducting masses of people on a regular basis, its other major theme is peoples' identities in past lives.  So basically, watch it for the mecha, random drama with peoples' powers, and orgasmic gattai.

Kill Me Baby - The comedy of this season, pretty much.  I'm tempted to say "Nichijou with assassins", and that's after only one episode.  It's pretty funny, though I'd rank it a bit below Nichijou in the grand scheme of things.  But then again, it's unfair to compare anything else to Nichijou.  Regardless, it's funny, and I'll keep watching.

Mouretsu Pirates - Basically, a girl finds out that her father was a space pirate and that she must succeed him now that he's died.  It seemed a bit slow-paced for a show like this, given that it's more than one episode she quite obviously joins up with the pirates, but normally that kind of thing happens partway through the first episode.  The OP and ED both show her wearing the pirate getup, so it's plainly obvious where the series is going.  Regardless, it seems interesting.  Might swap out for one of the other titles I'd considered, I dunno.

The rest of the titles I'd considered were more for potential fanservice value than anything else, and those series tend to suck.  I'm thinking of R-15, Sekirei, and many others here that all had potential but squandered it to prioritize fanservice.  Asobi ni Iku Yo! did it right, so why can't other series follow suit?

Typically I only watch three shows in a given season.  I've found that even the simple addition of a fourth series, perhaps carrying over from a previous season, tends to mess things up and I end up falling behind.  I managed okay when watching K-On!! alongside three other series though, so maybe I can toss something else in.  Six seems a bit much, especially considering how low on hard drive space I am.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Guitar Hero: Van Halen

Since I snagged a free promo copy of it at MAGFest X and have finished sightreading Guitar, it's time for some thoughts.

Very little, if anything engine-wise has changed, so there really isn't much to talk about other than critiquing the choice of songs and their charts.  And for the most part, the charts are fine, though there are some bits that are rather awkward to play.  Generally whenever there's chords and HOPO patterns combined with extended sustains.

Apparently the engine supports extended sustains involving slider notes, because extended sustains involving slider notes are all over the place.  This comes off as being incredibly weird to me, because when the controller's receiver is plugged into a computer, the touch strip maps as an analog axis.  But whatever, if it works, it works.  It's not like I use the touch strip anyway.

The cheats menu had me a bit confused.  One of the first things I did after firing the game up was go to ScoreHero's wiki page that has the button inputs for all the cheats and unlock all of them.  Yet, after that, one of them was still locked, and the only one that remained is Black Highway, which for some retarded reason doesn't work on PS2.  I did some poking around with various GH data structure viewing tools and found the missing cheat, which unlocks extra Van Halen costumes that can be toggled in the cheats menu, much like the extra Metallica costumes in GH:M.  For what little it matters, the sequence to unlock it is RGBRGBYY.

Van Halen has a great mixture of songs ranging from fairly simple to quite difficult.  Overall, I'm pleased with the difficulty of this game.  After World Tour, Smash Hits, and GH5 having maybe three difficult tracks apiece (notice I didn't mention Metallica, which was actually difficult...), it's nice to have some challenge.

The non-Van Halen songs are pretty good overall.  For a lot of them I had the reaction of "Hey, they included that!  Awesome!".  We're talking songs like Space Truckin' by Deep Purple, Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind, Master Exploder by Tenacious D, and Best of You by Foo Fighters (ever see the "THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST" meme anywhere on the internet?  This song is what that's referencing).

It's interesting that they included Hot For Teacher, being that it's also in World Tour.  The chart is entirely different, and thus it counts as an entirely new sightread.  The difference of the chart actually caught me off-guard and I had to retry the song to get through the intro.  Whatever.

This time around, the hardest song, without a doubt, is Eruption.  It's one of Van Halen's solos they play at concerts and was a quite popular custom-charted song up until it was included in this game.  It took me 12 tries to pass it, because it took me 12 tries to hit two star power phrases.  Simple as that.  Also apparently the bass part is charted and it has all of 4 notes, with a max score of just over 1300. Too bad the usual method of selecting songs that aren't normally selectable doesn't seem to work on PS2...

Poking around the other menus, the game has mode where it will play each song and let you scroll through the lyrics, and a soundboard mode.  The soundboard mode lets you dial up various sound bytes of Van Halen songs with quick two-button sequences.  It's kind of neat, but mostly overlookable.

The one thing the game does that I don't like is that it has this effect to make it sound like the crowd is singing along with the song as you're playing it.  It sounds incredibly fake, and I'd rather just hear the track I'm playing.  I turned down the Effects volume in the options, but haven't gotten a chance to test it and see if it killed the stupid effect once and for all.

At any rate, if you're into GH/RB, Guitar Hero: Van Halen is worth picking up.  Being that GH is dead, you should be able to find a copy for rather cheap.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Got back from MAGFest a bit after 2 AM.  If you've been following my Twitter, then you may very well recognize some of the stuff in here, as this post was constructed by taking each 140-character-or-less tweet and expanding upon it, and also adding extra information that wasn't in them to begin with.  This post will be using a different style from last year's.  Last year I based the post on the tweets, but paraphrased them.  This year, I'm going to just quote them directly, in chronological order, and put blurbs of text offering further explanations and any omissions.  Also, outside of the tweets, the entire thing is in the past tense, whereas I think I used present tense or an odd mixture of present and past tenses last year.