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.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Event 3

Two notable things happened for this beta event.  First, they wiped everyone's characters and world selection.  Second, they made Sylvari and Asura playable.

Instantly I made a Sylvari Ranger.  The Sylvari starting area is basically southern Kryta, where the Riverside Provice mission and Arbor Bay explorable area were.  The area is still rich with vegetation and looks amazing, even with all the graphics set down low.

Also added in this beta event were vistas.  Vistas are an extra element of exploration similar to waypoints and points of interest.  Except that they're often difficult to get to.  You'll usually have to complete a jumping puzzle or fight your way through a cave of tough enemies to reach each one, though there are a few here and there that you can just walk up and grab.

When you finally get to one, you have to press F for it to count.  When you do this it triggers a cutscene where the camera flies around the surrounding area, highlighting various structures or cool looking terrain features.  It's pretty much a way for them to show off all their level designers' hard work, but it also lets you see things you might otherwise miss.

Rangers are every bit as awesome as I'd hoped they'd be.  They have a fairly wide array of weapons available, other than the Longbow and Shortbow, and just like all other weapons for all other classes, they all have their advantages and disadvantages.  The longbow just plain works better at long range.  Its autoattack skill explicitly deals less damage the closer you are to the enemy.  Longbows also afford you the two awesome skills Rapid Fire, which fires several arrows in quick succession, and Barrage, which rains arrows down on the target area.  The other two skills it gives you are Hunter's Shot, which buffs your pet with Swiftness and causes Vulnerability on the enemy, and Point Blank Shot, which has a maximum range and pushes enemies backwards.  I wanted dearly to find an enemy next to a cliff to Point Blank Shot off of the cliff just to watch it happen, but I never did.

Shortbows have a shorter attack range and their skills mostly cause conditions, making shortbows powerful support weapons.  Most of the shortbow skills also have extra effects that depend on your positioning relative to the enemy, so it really encourages you to move about on the battlefield to obtain a strategic advantage.  For instance, the autoattack skill will cause Bleeding on the enemy if you're hitting them in the side or back.

Always having the pet available is neat, because it forces people to become accustomed to it.  Very few people used pets to their full potential in Guild Wars 1.  Your self-heal skill heals both you and your pet, and the Ranger self heals are some of the better self heals available in my opinion.

Pets themselves are very easy to obtain.  Throughout the world you'll see juvenile versions of various animals.  Simply walk up to one of them and press F.  You'll instantly charm the pet and it'll be available to choose from on the pet management window.  The neat thing is, you can charm as many as you want and then swap your available pets out of battle.  In battle you have a swap button that will swap between the two pets you can have ready to go.  Having different pets is important because they have different abilities, so really the more you charm, the better off you'll be.  Since they always share your level, you won't have to worry about a specific pet being underlevelled.

I played around with the crafting stuff a bit.  I chose Leatherworking, and made myself inventory bags that held 8 items each instead of the ones you can buy from merchants that only hold 4 items.

I ended up getting my ranger to level 17 and fully exploring the Sylvari main home and starting area, Lion's Arch, and the Charr main home and starting area.

After getting some sleep I made an Asuran Warrior.

Warrior is actually decently fun to play in Guild Wars 2.  They can use a variety of weapons, including longbows and rifles, and have a fair amount of utility.  I ended up settled on Greatsword and Rifle in my weapon swap.

Being in the Asura starting area is rather interesting.  Not because of being an Asura or anything, but the fact that they're so short.  Other players from other races who have gone through the portal from Lion's Arch will run by and it's always a surprise when you suddenly see someone that's twice your height.

Almost immediately I hopped back over on my ranger and used his leatherworking knowledge to make my warrior some 8 slot inventory bags.  I also borrowed the greatsword my ranger had found.

Throughout the entire weekend event I'd seen people talking about "this jumping puzzle".  I never did find the one in the Sylvari starting area, but I did find the one in the Asura starting area.  They're hidden, so if you aren't looking very carefully, you'll probably miss them.  They're exactly as I described them, jumping puzzles.  Relatively few enemies, lots of platforms, and a goal to reach with a chest on it with some items to (hopefully) make it worth your while.

The Asura one has a small bit at the beginning that leads up to a floating platform with a portal on it.  You think you're done, but no, it's just getting started.  There are four more areas in three separate maps to go through.  Fortunately, there are checkpoints, so if you fall off and end up down below again, you can easily get back somewhere near where you were.

The Asura one plays around with environmental hazards.  In the second part there are wind gusts that will blow you off of a vine you're running across.  In the third part, lightning strikes the platforms periodically.  In the fourth part, some areas of it place the Chilled condition on you periodically, which massively slows you down.  If it hits you while you're in midair, down you go.  The area after that is relatively straightforward jumping with no environmental hazards other than the risk of falling and having to start over again.

The rewards I got were generally crap.

I ended up getting my warrior to level 10, and fully exploring just Rata Sum.  The entire town of Rata Sum is high in the sky, and there's one place that if you jump off you'll land eventually and take over 17000 fall damage.

To close things out, here's a few screenshots I took, of my ranger.

Sitting down at one of the Vistas.  I hid the interface for scenic effect, but it didn't hide the floating map...
This Vista was incredibly hard to reach, requiring several hard-to-judge jumps.
It didn't come through, sadly, but I was trying to screenshot the stats on the awesome rifle I got for completing the Charr starting area.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Revisiting Game Projects

So, now that I've beaten Rogue Galaxy, it's time to list what all is in store for me next.

My main project will be Project 'Bout Fuckin' Time, in which I beat both a Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy game.  I have Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX and Final Fantasy 4 chosen for that, because I already own them.  Link's Awakening DX will be played on my GameCube + GameBoy Player, and Final Fantasy 4 is the PlayStation version.

The PS2 project I didn't want to mention until I beat Rogue Galaxy is The Simpsons: Hit and Run.  If you read my previous post, Game Projects, very carefully, you may have noticed that the title is indeed (INDEED!) mentioned in the post.

On PC, I seem to have started up Costume Quest.

Also, Rogue Galaxy will still be in the rotation on low priority, as I still have plenty of stuff to do before the game is fully complete.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rogue Galaxy Post-Game Session 1

Yeah, I beat the game, but there's still plenty of stuff to do.  Some of it I'm strategically putting off, and the rest of it I'm doing now.  I've officially started using guides.

After beating the game, I set out to synthesize everyone's ultimate weapon.  Which entails figuring out which swords to combine together in what order.  There are a total of four guides on GameFAQs that pertain to weapon synthesis, and none of them lay the information out the way I need it.  I had to piece it together myself by working backwards from what I wanted to weapons that could be purchased from stores, obtained from chests, or made in the factory.  So my notes document is currently full of "get these weapons, combine them in this order, this is what you get" for every character and both weapon types.

Jaster is a fun one.  He effectively has four tiers of ultimate weapons.
  • The first (lowest) tier is on par with everyone else's ultimate weapons.  It has the same base power of 314 that everyone else's ultimate weapon has.  His sub-weapon thankfully maxes out at this point as well.
  • The second tier is the Seven Star Swords.  The strongest of these can be obtained before beating the game, which renders the first tier mostly irrelevant.  Furthermore, they can be upgraded via the weapon synthesis system to make them better.  The base power of the strongest fully-upgraded Seven Star Sword, Gryphon Lord, is 377.
  • The third tier is only available after beating the game, and consists of one sword: Diabolos.  In order to start its synthesis chain you have to get a sword from Ghost Ship, which doesn't appear until you beat the game.  Its base power is 400.
  • The fourth (highest) tier is only available after beating Ghost Ship, and once again consists of one sword: Dorgencalibur, with a base power of 500.  You receive the sword necessary to start the synthesis chain upon beating Ghost Ship, and I imagine this sword helps out a lot in Ghost Ship Extreme.  Because Level-5 likes their 100 level post-game dungeons.
Also, it's worth mentioning that the weapon analysis system effectively will not lead you to pretty much anyone's ultimate weapon and stops giving advice when weapons get above a certain level, meaning you either have to experiment to figure out what's going to work, or look it up.  For me, there are way too many possibilities to make experimentation feasible, so I just looked it up.

So, weapons I have now that I've done a ton of weapon synthesis: (they're all ultimate weapons unless otherwise specified)
  • Jaster:
    • Absolution Halo(EX): This is Jaster's mostly pointless power 314 weapon.  I made it just for completion's sake, after I made Gryphon Lord.  Because I have more money in-game than I know what to do with.
    • Gryphon Lord: As mentioned above, it's the highest power Seven Star Sword.
    • Zeo Sychros X: The fully upgraded version of Zeo Sychros, the sword given to you by the story in Chapter 13.  It's not necessary to upgrade this sword to complete the game, but you also can't remove it from your inventory, so I upgraded it.  It has a base power of 355.
    • One synthesis away from Diabolos.
    • I have the swords necessary to synthesize the Seven Star Sword that has to be synthesized to even get its lowest power version (Duke Nightmare).
    • I will eventually obtain and fully upgrade all seven of the Seven Star Swords.  Just to say that I did.
    • Arc Scorpion(EX): Fortunately, Jaster only has one ultimate sub-weapon to worry about.
  • Kisala:
    • Snow Queens(EX): Main weapon.
    • Matriarch's Roses(EX): Sub-weapon.
  • Zegram:
    • Hades Child(EX): Main weapon.
    • Soaring Tengu(EX): Sub-weapon.
  • Steve:
    • Final Big Bang(EX): herp
    • The Fearless(EX): derp
  • Simon:
    • Ganymedeon(EX)
    • Paradise Lost(EX)
  • Lilika:
    • Sunslayer Bow(EX)
    • Divine Beast Hatchet(EX)
  • Jupis:
    • Genius Fusion(EX)
    • UFO Squadron P(EX)
  • Deego:
    • One synthesis away from Rasphara Grandius(EX)
    • One synthesis away from Lost Galaxy(EX)
As implied by my progress towards getting Diabolos, I started up Ghost Ship.  I literally turned around and teleported out once I got the sword I needed.

While I was doing the weapon synthesis, I worked on my hunter record a bit.  There are 212 different non-boss enemy types in the game, and the game gives you a goal number of each to kill and a certain amount of hunter points as a reward if you make or break that mark.  If you play through the game at the natural pace it has you play at, you'll get a good portion of these, but you'll miss a lot.  The two tasks (weapon synthesis and hunter record completion) go together fairly well because it takes 15 battles to get a new weapon to the MAX state where you can then synthesize it with another already MAX weapon.

Towards the end of that process I started stringing out the battles a bit more.  Instead of just running around in circles in one area, I decided to hunt down the seven rare items I missed on my guide-free playthrough of the game.  I did find two of them, and they're arguably the two easiest to find when you don't know what you're looking for.  I ended up finding the remaining seven, and claimed my reward from the stupid idol girl in Galaxy Corporation: a costume for Simon.  Also, a neat thing is you can go into Dorgengoa's cabin on the Dorgenark and see all the rare items you've found lying about the room.

The one thing I'll be putting off is Insector.  After reading around through the archives of the GameFAQs forums for Rogue Galaxy, I found that there's a special "ultimate" insector you can only get after completing Ghost Ship Extreme, and in the interest of making Insector easier I want anything to skew the odds in my favor that I can get.

I had Jaster's Revelation Flow complete before beating the game, and Kisala's complete shortly after beating the game.  The rest of them need a bit of work, but the stupid idol girl says I'm at 89% completion on it, so I'm not far off.  There are a couple decently rare items I need to farm up for it, and then the rest is seeing what I need as I fill in the spaces and get to what I couldn't see before.

Anyway, I'll end this post before it turns into me rambling about things I either have or haven't done in-game.  It's a good game, and if you like console RPGs you should play it.  Bottom line.

Rogue Galaxy Session 12

Okay, so I realized a few things since my last post:
  1. Kisala's portion of the battle is even easier if you stay back all the way.  You can guard the only attack that ever gets sent your way a lot more easily when you have more time to react.
  2. You can target Valkog's eyes in the final part with Jaster, and aerial attacks are a lot faster than ground ones.  You can land three hits and then jump and repeat.  Switch your target according to wherever his hands are guarding and stay all the way to the left to avoid the giant beam.  The purple orbs of instadeath are less of an issue if you jump a lot, as they'll typically spawn in the air and you'll be on the ground laughing.
  3. Also, Simon's, Steve's, and Jupis' parts of the final battle can be completed without taking damage, which helps you save health potions for the other parts that need them more (Deego, Lillika, Zegram, Jaster)

So, after we destroyed the corrupted battleship, shit happens and we end up getting rescued directly by the Dorgenark and Captain Dorgengoa.  Rune splashes onto the ship in the process, and it looked like we would be dragged down, but then the Rune gave the ship wings and few us to safety.  The blue sky returns to Mariglenn, and the Rune fades from existence.  Kisala says bye to her mom, everything's serious for a while, then Jaster cracks a joke and everyone has a laugh.

After they go through the portal, Mariglenn reappears within the galaxy proper.  For us, it was a matter of moments, but for them, it had been 10000 years since we departed.  Kisala is presented with her mother's tiara and decides to go ahead and take on her role as Queen of Mariglenn.  Some old guy with a stick up his ass calls us lowly individuals and says we'll never be allowed to approach her.  We decided everyone's got a place they have to be and this is Kisala's, and leave the planet.

The closing credits reveal everyone's voice actors, and there are some recognizable names in there.

In a post-credits cutscene, Dorgengoa, Zegram, and Jaster decide to go back to Mariglenn and "get back their 'ultimate treasure'", which can only be Kisala, though the cutscene ends before it happens and you just hear Jaster saying that it was their last heist as pirates.

Thoughts on the game now that I've finished it

You know, since Kisala's the queen and all, surely she could use that position to get the old guy with the stick up his ass to give us special exception to see her, since we, you know, saved the galaxy together and all.  Just because she's queen doesn't mean we should stop being her friends...  Just a thought.

The game has a lot going for it in the graphics and sound department.  The music is excellent and really sets the tone for the area you're going through.

The gameplay is solid, with the suggestion system it makes controlling three characters in an action RPG pretty simple.  One thing I really wish would happen is that characters should automatically suggest healing potions when their health either gets to a certain level or if it drops quickly.  I've had way too many times where a character (usually Zegram) is just running around with about 20 HP and not going "oh hey, can I use a heal potion".  I know I can set the party to "go all-out" and they'll use potions as they need them, but I'd like to stay reasonably in control of my limited supply of them.

I really like the costumes you can find for each character.  They do have an ever so slight difference in stats, but it's not enough to force you to use a specific costume for its stats when you like the look of a different one.

The factory introduces a neat mechanic in that you can make items that will appear at vendors around the game.  The factory is also a nice puzzle game and a pretty good distraction from what's going on, but since it has rewards that can affect your gameplay, you'll want to do it.  Unlike Insector, which the game really tries its hardest to get you into but it has no impact on gameplay whatsoever, other than taking your supplies.

If you want full completion there are a ton of things you'll have to do.  You'll have to scavenger hunt for the rare items, pretty much all of which involve finding NPCs and talking to them in a fairly specific order so that you can go somewhere else to find the item, all the while only giving you vague clues.  You'll have to do all the quarries, which involves finding a bunch of items from around the game to fight optional boss battles, but with a reward in that it gives you items and progress on the Hunter rankings.  Getting to the top of the Hunter rankings is full of rewards since you get items for passing certain rank milestones, and the top one gives you a very good sword for Jaster.

Handing out abilities and stat boosts via Revelation Flow is a neat thing.  It's kind of like the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X, but not nearly as large.  Essentially, with the limit of requiring you to have a certain set of items, it lets you go "oh, I want that ability" and then unlock it.  Some items are rarer than others, and some are frustratingly rare.  With some of the items it's like I reach a stopping point where I require 20 or so of it to continue but can't find any, then the game flicks a switch and the floodgate opens.  I don't know if I was getting things too fast or not, but I noticed it on multiple occasions.

The save points essentially having six purposes is pretty cool too.  First and foremost, you can save your game at them.  When you step on one, it will activate if it wasn't already, and then it refills your party's HP/AP.  You can teleport to any of the other save points you've activated, which functions as your fast travel and works well with the world map travel since you can teleport straight into the Dorgengoa and then select a different planet.  As you kill things and take on the quarries, you can "turn in" your results and get your due credit at any save point.  It offers expanded item storage so you can keep your inventory reasonably free from old weapons and other things you're not using.  Last but not least, you're encouraged to find all of them on a planet because doing so will reveal the full map and show you where chests (and mimics) are.

The game gives you a reason to keep old weapons around, as well as a reason to buy weapons that aren't as good as what you currently have.  That reason is weapon synthesis.  After fighting a few battles with a weapon, the bar next to Skills will fill and say MAX.  Once you've done that, you can analyze it to figure out what it might combine well with and then do that combination if you have the items.  You can get some pretty nice stuff from it.  For example, the shoes that Kisala is using I crafted around the midpoint of the game.  They're just that good.  In addition to the combinations you can find through analysis there are other combinations that work as well, so you get to experiment with it and see what you can find.  Just like with most RPGs, after a certain point in the game money basically becomes no object, so there's very little barrier to playing around with it.  At the same time, it also gives you very little reason to sell items.

After you beat the game, there becomes more to it as the post-game area called Ghost Ship is unlocked.  I believe there's also some form of a New Game + available, or at the very least you can start a new game and have all the costumes from a previous save, which means you could play through the entire game with Jaster dressed like Desert Claw.

Overall I'd have to say it's a very good game.  It's long and there's a lot to do, but at the same time it's fairly straightforward and a lot of the stuff it gives you to do is of the "optional, but helps" variety.  For instance, you could easily beat the game without touching weapon synthesis, but the only way to get the most powerful weapons is via weapon synthesis.  Basically, play it how you want to play it.  That's always a good thing.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rogue Galaxy Session 11

I really need to do these sessions more often, I'm not going to beat the game if I don't play it.

Since I handled equipment upgrades and whatnot at the end of last session, I headed across the bridge that's way too fucking long and into the forest where Mother no doubt awaits our arrival.

In the forest, there was a trial for Kisala, which so happened to be fighting the beast-transformed form of her father.

Partway through the forest I started getting drops of Cyclonic Pumps.  Looking at the description I realized it's the item I need to trigger the fight with the quarry back in the Starship Factory on Zerard.  I was a bit low level for the area anyway, considering the rate at which I was going through healing items, so a detour was welcome, and since the other hunters in the hunter rankings are always getting more points, it's necessary to keep up with them.

While I was on Zerard I picked up the remaining three quarries available for purchase, completing the set.  I did the rounds to figure out what items they needed and fight any of them that I could.  I ended up having all the items necessary and fought all three, which got me to first place in the hunter rankings.

Back where I was supposed to be, I got to the place where we had to "overcome ourselves".  I thought it was going to be a doppleganger fight much like in other role-playing games with this concept (Secret of Mana and Guild Wars, to name two), but it's more of a "realizing mental weakness" kind of thing.  There's one for each character other than Kisala and we get these orbs called Drigellum that we can get forged together into some sort of weird sword.  It seems like they're using this to reveal back story on the characters.

After finally getting the item for another quarry I had and making a quick departure to claim it, I tossed some stuff in Jaster's Revelation Flow and got him to needing one more item to have it 100% complete.  Some of these items are ultra-fucking-rare, jeez...  At this point, I had one quarry left to complete and I had no clue what item I needed to trigger the fight.

The acquisition of the Drigellum goes fairly smoothly, you just kill your way down a winding path and walk into the colored light at the end.  Watch the cutscene, get the Drigellum.

I gave up on the last quarry and looked it up, it turned out that I had the right item but needed to be controlling Jupis to trigger the fight as well.  Also, once I got in the fight, I was able to swap him back out and have my usual party for the fight.  Since that was the last quarry, I headed on over to Galaxy Corporation on Zerard because I'd remembered that the stupid idol girl has this "completion check" thing.  Apparently you get costumes for completing various parts of the game, and I got two of them, one for getting hunter rank 1 and the other for completing the quarries.  I'm not exactly close to complete on anything else, to be honest, and I've ignored Insectron entirely so I have a big fat zero for completion there.

After getting all of the Drigellums, I forged "the ultimate sword".  Which had less attack power than the sword I got for getting to hunter rank 1.  Okay, whatever.  Figuring I needed to actually use this sword, I went ahead and equipped it.

I pressed on through Mother's Lair, most of the time taking what I thought was the wrong route to look for chests when in fact I'd taken the correct route.  The enemies here range from hard to annoying.  The game has never let up on the stupid jump-to-hit enemies, and it's even worse when it spawns five of them in a challenge battle and says "defeat all enemies in 30 seconds!" because that's flat out impossible to do.  Abilities don't work on enemies that you have to jump to hit, so your major damage source is unusable.

Anyway, I found my way down through the winding cavern to the core where I'd fight Mother, then I promptly teleported out using the save point so I could stock up on healing items before the big fight.

Once I started the big fight, it took a bit to figure out what I needed to do.  It turns out that Jaster's Illusion Sword is key to the first form of Mother and works decently well on the second form.  On the second form, the rest of the party can do more than just attack when the head is in range, for instance, I can spam Starshine Lv3 with Kisala and end the second form rather quickly.

The third phase is an entirely new boss, because Valkog and his crew (including cone-tit lady) get dragged in by the Rune and consumed by it, battleship and all.  Jaster uses the Star King's powers to send everyone to different weapons on board the ship to take them out, and then you take control of each party member in turn to take out that part of the ship.

The very last part of this third phase comes back to Jaster, who has a huge fucking sword made from the hopes and prayers of everyone on Mariglenn (not even joking) that can hit from a mile away.  You can't change weapons or use his abilities, so you basically just have to dodge incoming attacks and spam the ultra-slow not-very-damaging attack as much as you can, and then find a safe point to heal up.  I've died many times in this part of the fight, and it's really annoying that there's no opportunity to save between the second form of Mother and the third phase.

So, since I've had to fight the third phase so many times, I might as well mention how it works in a bit more detail.  I've omitted the obligatory "heal as necessary" from each strategy.  Each part has a different strategy depending on who you have and what you're fighting:
  • Deego - Fighting Valkog's hand - Use Top Dog, hit the ring to make the hand open up, jump and do your 3 hit combo on the hand, then dodge to the side and repeat.
  • Simon - Fighting a Bomb Walker - Avoid getting hit by missiles as much as possible, run around, and spam Missile Squall.
  • Steve - Fighting a Bomb Walker - Avoid getting hit by missiles as much as possible, run around, and spam Icy Eye Beam.
  • Lillika - Fighting a Bomb Walker and a Core - Ignore the Bomb Walker as much as you can.  Use Blast Arrow, target the Core, and keep hitting it with charged arrows.
  • Jupis - Fighting Valkog's other hand - Use Aromatic Boost, hit the ring, then do the same jump-three hits-dodge thing as with Deego.  Aromatic Boost runs out quickly and might not be worth it in the long run.
  • Zegram - Fighting Izel - Stay back as most of its attacks hit in a fairly close area around it.  Hit the core with a ranged attack (attack from your left side for a better chance of hitting).  Once it says it's confused (it'll start punching the ground in front of it), use Drunken Burst and target the head.  Spam your ranged attack on the head until either it has to reload or your action bar runs out.  Repeat.
  • Kisala - Fighting Norma - Run all the way forward, take the occasional hit, clear the occasional Shocked status from yourself.  Spam Starshine.
  • Jaster - Fighting Valkog - Position yourself on the left side of the platform and take careful swings since you swing so slowly.  When in doubt, heal, as it can dish out almost 999 damage rather quickly.  Try to stay mobile and get hits in whenever you can.  Be moving when his eyes glow to avoid the glowing orbs of death that killed me four times in a row, but be ready to block should they appear right around you.
Fuck it, I'm tired of dying on Jaster's part, which I can get to quickly and reliably.  I think I'll apply my patented "put it down for a while and then pick it back up" method.  The session 12 post will be understandably short since it really just involves beating the boss and summarizing how the story wraps up after that.  To pad it out a bit I'll include some thoughts about the game now that I've played through it.  In addition, the session 12 post won't be posted until I successfully defeat the boss, regardless of how many distinct attempts I make between now and then.

I do plan on playing the postgame content, Ghost Ship and Ghost Ship Extreme, but they probably won't get session posts and I'm going to have guides all up in this shit for them.  I'll probably also do Insector at some point and try to grind out 100% completion and all the best weapons.  I dunno, we'll see.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Toying with Xpadder

After configuring Xpadder for the Xbox 360 controller I got, naturally, I wanted to make a profile for something so that I'd actually get some use out of it.  I figured "hey, why not start with the Karoshi Flash games?"

I've finished tweaking* and arrived at a config that works for both Flash versions of Karoshi.  It contains cheat buttons for a couple of stages, but the nifty part is, if I don't want to use them, I don't have to press them.  A few buttons also have cheaty aspects to them while also performing a critical function, and one in particular has a rather nice convenience aspect (LB).

The layout I arrived at:
  • D-Pad left and right - left and right arrow keys, respectively (player movement)
  • Left analog stick - mouse movement (web page navigation, also used in some levels)
  • Right analog stick - mouse wheel scroll and tilt (web page navigation)
  • A - up arrow key (jump)
  • B - mouse left click (web page navigation, also used in some levels)
  • X - Spacebar, with turbo (fires gun in the first game)
  • Y - K (necessary for one level in each of the Flash versions)
  • LB - Caps Lock, with a short delay and a second Caps Lock keystroke to turn Caps Lock back off. (necessary for one level of the second game)
  • RB - R (resets the level)
  • LT - Cheat button.  While held, changes to Set 2, which swaps left and right on the D-Pad while keeping the rest the same. (makes a level of the first game easier)
  • RT - Shift (necessary for one level in the second game)
  • Back - Cheat button. Presses the left arrow key, with turbo and a short pause between re-presses.  Makes a level of the first game easier.
  • Start - Escape, with turbo.  Necessary for one level of the second game.
So if you're following this post while configuring a profile in Xpadder for yourself, that should be everything.  As long as you have your analog stick dead zones set up properly, you're good to go.  Oh, and all my "short delay"s are 0.1 seconds.  Keys are also held for 0.1 seconds.  It's actually kind of a long delay, but whatever.

*I may not actually be finished tweaking.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Giant Brand Onion Petals

Ever gone to Outback Steakhouse and had a Bloomin' Onion?  That's what this is trying to imitate.  It comes with a packet of, and I quote, "Aussie style sauce".

As far as the onions go, they're fairly standard.  Not bad, but nothing special.  I think the freezing process really gets to some foods moreso than others, and this would be one of the ones that's affected more.

I kind of foreshadowed this in my Spicy Chicken Strips post, but the directions omit one crucial thing: thawing the sauce packet.  Luckily I remembered how I thawed the sauce packet from the TGI Friday's mozzarella sticks and just used that method, which is pretty simple.  Basically, just stick the packet in a bowl of hot water while the main dish heats up in the oven.  It takes about the same amount of time, longer if you start with colder water.

Anyway, other than that omission, there's nothing really to complain about.  They're not as legit as the spicy chicken strips, but they'll do if you want fried onions to dip in some sauce and don't want to make it yourself or go out and get one pre-prepared.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Anyone who used a computer back in the days of Windows 3.1, Hotdog Stand, and canyon.mid most likely remembers a game from the Microsoft Entertainment Pack called SkiFree.

The concept is simple.  You're skiing down a slope, and there's obstacles to dodge and ramps you can jump off of.  Then once you get far enough the abominable snowman comes out and eats you.  So iconic it was referenced in the opening of Chapter 11 of Magicka.

Now, what if I told you that you could relive your memories, for free, entirely legitimately?  You'd probably go "oh, the Flash version on Newgrounds, right?"

To which I'd respond "sure, or... you could get it from the guy that originally wrote it, recompiled for modern Windows OSes, entirely free of charge."

"oh shit, link pl0x"

Either scroll down past the history of SkiFree to the download section at the bottom, or click the Download link to jump down there.  Download, unzip, run, and enjoy.