L-Tek dance pad: quick review

My L-Tek dance pad arrived just before lunchtime today, so of course I had to unbox it:

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Setup was pretty easy. It shows up as a USB HID joystick, which Stepmania doesn’t have mapped by default, but that was easy enough to do. Stepmania also has an “auto-mapping mode” but I don’t know what it actually does; it seemed to be enabled but the controller still needed to be mapped manually. Some of Stepmania’s terminology is really confusing though so I might be misunderstanding what auto-mapping is for.

It came with a CD-R with a copy of Stepmania for Windows, which isn’t useful for me (since I’m both running it on a Mac mini and already had it setup), but it also came with a bunch of music which is useful for someone who’s just getting started. I think all of the songs were ones I already have installed though.

Anyway. The build quality is fantastic. I used to have the Cobalt Flux doubles set, which was pretty good, but the L-Tek is way better. The button pads actually feel rugged and well-constructed, the pad itself is made out of way higher-quality wood (and has some nice trim around the edge), and the integrated start/select buttons (which I highly recommend) are easy to press purposefully with one’s foot without being easy to accidentally trigger.

The buttons are also responsive when stepped on but not when not being stepped on, which is to be expected from a hard pad but after the last week or so of playing on a soft pad it’s so nice to feel how a pad should be.

At some point I might try setting up a streaming/capture setup in my living/dining room (as opposed to the studio and the den where I’ve done most of my streaming from in the past). But in the meantime I’m really happy to be able to get exercise and have fun doing it, and I don’t think I want to get back on the twitch treadmill anytime soon.

Also I’m already back up to getting high ranks on 6/9 songs (on the old/new rating system, respectively), even on songs I haven’t seen before. So, that’s cool.

The pad is great. I do have some minor annoyances with Stepmania though:

  • No way to set the default sort (alphabetical isn’t very useful)
  • When sorting by difficulty you can only sort globally, rather than within a song group
  • No way to have the difficulty sort (which is special to Simply Love and not in the base theme) follow the current difficulty setting (you have to set the sort when you change the difficulty)
  • I can’t get the phased-color arrows to work anymore; I had them working at one point but something broke and I can’t figure out what (and I prefer that for judging note timing, instead of using the solid cadence coloration)

And of course the downloaded simfiles are of pretty variable quality, but that’s more of a community effort issue and not a problem with Stepmania itself. Finding high-quality simfiles is hard though. Also in general there’s a bunch of different difficulty scales used, which makes it annoying to decide what to play next.

Really I’d like to be able to build a playlist and then use that as my song selection list, but whatever.

I’m sure that as I get more familiar with Stepmania and its ecosystem I’ll learn about nifty improvements along those lines. But in the meantime it’s nice having a really good DDR-esque experience again.

Anyway, next thing to do is to try getting Arrow Vortex working so I can make charts for some of my own songs. Feel free to comment about what songs of mine might work; so far I definitely want to do:

but I’m sure some of y'all will have some requests too. Feel free to let me know in the comments or whatever!

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