September 11, 2014

FEZ II (, )

by fluffy at 8:01 AM

Last night I had a dream that I played a mostly-complete very-playable version of FEZ II.

Since it's highly unlikely that FEZ II will ever be a real thing, and because I enjoyed this vision of it so much, I think I'll describe it here.

June 12, 2013

3DS friend code ()

by fluffy at 11:31 PM

In case anyone wants to add me as a 3DS friend, my friend code is 0447-5428-5037. Post yours as a comment and I'll (probably) add you back!

October 24, 2012

Sprung memories (, , , )

by fluffy at 9:37 PM

The Sprung soundtrack just came up on iTunes shuffle for me, and it's been about 8 years and for some reason I feel like talking about some of the fun technical stuff. It wasn't a great game and it wasn't an amazing use of the DS technology, but there was some pretty cool internal stuff about it, even if it wasn't really visible in the end product.

I figure that since it was released over 8 years ago now and apparently Ubisoft doesn't even have the source anymore there's no harm in talking about things. (No, Nintendo, I'm not sharing any secrets specifically about the DS, and I never did to begin with, despite what your clueless lawyers told Ubisoft's clueless lawyers.)

I feel like I've written about this before but if so I feel like writing about it again, so bear with me.

February 18, 2012

Technology updates (, , )

by fluffy at 12:07 AM

So a while ago I posted about wanting a new laptop, and in the comments said I'd ordered a ThinkPad X220 Tablet. It actually took a lot longer than expected (due to multiple screwups on Lenovo's end), but I finally got it today. Actually I got a much better tablet than the one I originally ordered, and for about $200 less. It also came with the gigantic "slice" battery. I can get around 15 hours of battery life total, in theory. (I haven't measured it.)

Anyway, I quickly found that the default Lenovo install of everything was crappy, and I never managed to get a full recovery DVD set burned out and since I was going to upgrade the hard drive to my 256GB SSD (partitioned 128 for Windows, 128 for Linux) anyway, I figured I should just install an OEM copy. Fortunately, Microsoft makes the actual install media for that readily available, and fortunately my OEM key worked without any troubles. (And fortunately Lenovo makes all of the system drivers readily-available too.)

I did find that Wacom's own Tablet PC driver works way better than the one Lenovo provides (Lenovo's tries to calibrate everything by the edge of the screen, where the digitizer is very jittery and unpredictable, whereas Wacom's uses calibration points that are in the actual work area — much more useful).

The keyboard is a bit mushier than I'd like, and I'm getting all sorts of typos. I'm sure I'll get used to it in time though. On the plus side, it's quite a bit lighter than the MacBook this is replacing, and a much better size than the Inspiron Mini 9 that was my alternate for when the MacBook felt way too heavy and big to lug around.

The laptop also came with a docking station, and I'm entertaining the thought of turning my current desktop system (a Mac mini) into an HTPC and just using this laptop for everything. It's certainly powerful enough to. I'll have to weigh my options with software, though. Windows has plenty of drawing apps available but most of them suck; Linux has only a few available and all of them suck. I need to give Paint Tool SAI a fair shake; the UI is gimpy but a lot of artists I follow swear by it, and it's pretty cheap, too. Plus, I like that it actually lets you seamlessly mix raster and vector layers for sketching and inkwork; at least in principle it matches my mental model of how a drawing app should work.

I'm not sure how much time I'll be spending in Windows vs. Linux, also. I'm starting to suspect I'll just run Windows all the time, since Windows 7 actually isn't terribly painful to use for day-to-day stuff. If there were decent drawing programs for Linux the choice would be a lot easier, though.

In other technology news, due to an early-purchase opportunity provided by my employer, I got a PS Vita a couple days ago. My initial impressions: it's much nicer than the PSP, its version of Lumines is wonderful (although I've already played the hell out of it, and it doesn't seem to have the same depth of gameplay as the PS3 version, but it does have a quite nice soundtrack). It's also got the best version of wipEout so far. I haven't tried Modnation Racers (which came with the system). I have run into some stability problems, though, as well as some ridiculous human factors issues when it comes to its power saving "sleep" mode (vs. being actually turned off), and I've had to rebuild the system database several times due to what I guess was filesystem corruption. But given that the system technically isn't even out yet (at least not for most of the world) I'm not surprised that there's firmware issues.

September 29, 2011

Child of Eden ()

by fluffy at 11:46 AM

If you liked Rez, you will probably love Child of Eden, which just came out two days ago. It's a prequel to Rez (inasmuch as Rez even had a plot to begin with), and the music and gameplay are fantastic. The first level has a very strong resemblance to a lot of the stuff in Rez, but after that it diverges quite a bit.

However, I do have to question Tetsuya Mizuguchi's sanity and/or intentions based on the PS Move controls. Remember the infamous Trance Vibrator? Well, when using the Move, the way you fire your weapon is by thrusting your purple-tipped rod forward in a rhythmic undulation.

(It's a pretty good workout, though!)

April 25, 2011

Portal 2 is fantastic ()

by fluffy at 12:36 AM

It was a bit longer than Portal 1, way more ambitious, and while I felt like it was a bit easier (especially since there were no fiddly timing-sensitive puzzles, which made it quite enjoyable on the PS3 unlike the original) it was a much better game in general. (And the original was pretty great!)

I personally think that the new ending song is a lot better, but it's also not the sort of thing that will become memetic. Which is a good thing. I really don't want to get sick of it. I'm also glad that there aren't any eminently-quotable one-liners that people will be able to do to death; there are definitely some great moments in it but they're not quotable and sound-bites. Hopefully after people play the game they'll also forget about the deadpan "You monster" schtick, since I'd already been tired of that before the game even shipped.

On the minus side, since PSN is still down I can't activate my PC copy, so I can't extract the soundtrack (or sync my Steam achievements). And it's a great soundtrack! Lots of wonderful glitchy ambient stuff, which I am always in favor of.

Yesterday I also played a bit of split-screen two-player with Findra, and that was also a hell of a lot of fun. I can't wait to be able to actually play online. There's some amazing puzzles in it.

I'm also really glad that Valve did the PS3 port themselves this time, instead of trusting EA with it and then complaining about how bad the PS3 is when EA did a terrible job. Portal 2 is clearly using the latest and greatest version of the Source engine (with dynamic lighting and everything! holy cow are the graphics amazing) so here's hoping that they're going to port the Left4Dead series at some point as well.

I also hope that they eventually release a PS3 Move patch (as they've hinted at the possibility of in the past), and despite what they say I think it would actually work out quite well in 3D, although the game seems like it's pushing the poor little RSX to its limit as it is so that might not be in the cards.

December 20, 2010

Beatmania IIDX 16th Mix Empress ()

by fluffy at 11:23 PM
I feel like I've traveled through a time warp and seen the future of Beatmania, and my primitive monkey brain cannot comprehend it.

It is so much better than 6th Mix. It looks like everything's unlocked from the outset, it has very nice difficulty scaling, and a lot of music (on two discs, with the second disc containing many of the best songs from all previous mixes! although it's missing a bunch of ones that I already have in other forms anyway), so much that they have it classified into handy categories (including whether they're new to the mix, what level they are, name, and a few other things which are in Kanji so I can't understand them). It also has "rival mode" which appears to be related to the fact the arcade game has a PS2 memory card slot (which means it's of course useless in the US).

The music is definitely more on the dance and trance side of things, unlike previous mixes I've played which had a wider variety, but it's still a lot of fun. The second disc makes up for that, though, and also means I actually don't have to keep on collecting mixes.

Neill and Patrick tried playing it a bit but mostly they humored me while I played and they riffed on the music videos (which of course I wasn't looking at at all).

I'm very tempted to take this to Albuquerque on my upcoming vacation but I know better than that.

I think.

December 16, 2010

Feeding the monster ()

by fluffy at 11:23 PM
Today my Japanese PS2 Slim (which is tiny) and Beatmania IIDX 6th Style (which is huge) arrived. And I seem to have played it for about three hours. Goodness.

This entry will probably not make any sense to anyone else because I am basically drunk on music.

December 12, 2010

Relapse ()

by fluffy at 8:23 PM
An old addiction has come back. It's something that I spent way too much of my money and health on in the past, and while you can overcome an addiction, you never stop being an addict. All it takes is one little push over the edge.

Usually when you fall back into a habit it starts out gradual. "One little hit," you think. "Just for old time's sake." And then before you realize it, you've just spent $350 without a second thought.

Hi. My pseudonym is fluffy, and I'm addicted to Japanese rhythm games.

October 13, 2010

OnLIve followup ()

by fluffy at 8:44 AM
It only took a bit over a year since the announcement, but OnLive quietly launched back in June, and then recently they dropped the monthly fee in favor of just charging for the games (what a concept). I installed the client, and at least from a graphics and sound point of view, the streaming audio and video are surprisingly high-quality.

I haven't played any games on it since there's nothing I want to pay money for (at least not the prices they're charging). Supposedly their menuing system is part of the same streaming video thing, though, and that was pretty responsive. It's hard to judge latency on something like that, though, and even then I did notice a bit of lag in spots.

Also, the reviews which say it looks just as good as local gaming are clearly colored by wishful thinking. The colors look washed out and the image looks fairly fuzzy. It's better than YouTube but it's still no local HDMI link (and things that move get smeared into oblivion). Also, it took quite a lot of bandwidth (7Mbps down, 100Kbps up), and also whenever I watched someone's game, it just played a short segment of it before pausing.

An interesting technological achievement to be sure, but it still seems like a little fish in a big desert. Out of place and probably going to dry up unless they figure out how to get some water.

October 5, 2010

Immersion (, , )

by fluffy at 8:21 AM
So for some reason I decided to spend a lot of money on another toy.

September 22, 2010

PS3 Move thoughts ()

by fluffy at 11:53 PM
So, I ended up getting a free Move bundle (eye, controller, Sports Champions, demo disc). So many others have already talked about their opinions about it, but I'll add a few more:
  • The fact the Move works with all the system controls is pretty nice.
  • Sports Champions on the easy modes doesn't do the controller justice. It feels only slightly better than the Wii waggle controls, but unlike Wii Sports, isn't fun. However, on the more difficult levels, the controller actually feels like you're controlling real, physical objects, and that makes it way too hard. But bocce is fun.
  • Of the demos I played:
    • EyePet was cute but kind of meh. I can see it being great if you have kids though.
    • Beat Sketcher: it was a bad sign that it didn't want to recognize me pressing the button on my Move because it was expecting it to only be on controller slot 7 (which my BD Remote is usually on). After doing a bunch of controller finagling I managed to get it going. So not worth the time. This game really should use the Move in "laser pointer" mode rather than using the on-screen position to control it. I don't like having to stand three feet away from my TV (which will be even worse when my recently-ordered 55" monster gets here).
    • Echchrome 2 was a huge letdown, mostly because I loved the original, and because the controls didn't feel at all like they needed to be on the Move (what's the point to controlling a flashlight with something that feels exactly like a flashlight if you're only able to point at where the flashlight is to be pointing in the vague direction of from some arbitrary origin point?). Also the Magic Voice was really obnoxious, much moreso than in the original (and you actually have to listen to her in this one).
    • Start the Party! was stupid fun, and I'll probably buy it.
    • Kung Fu Rider is another letdown. Cute premise, and the gameplay is vaguely okay but it's still just waggle controls. There is no reason it needed to be on the Move. Actually, the Move was detrimental, if anything.
    • Tumble was fun, and I will probably be buying it. It will also benefit greatly from 3D glasses. Did I mention that my recently-ordered 55" TV is also 3D? Well it is.
    • I didn't play any of the others, and frankly I have no interest in any of them.
    • Well, okay, maybe I'll try The Shoot. (It's at least a bit more innovative than yet another Time Crisis.)
  • Heavy Rain might be interesting with the Move patch, if only to see how stupid it is to have real world motions translating into completing QTEs that are supposed to simulate real world motions. But unless they patched the game so that (spoiler) the private eye wasn't the criminal as revealed with the stupidest ass-pull ever in a video game I still won't be interested in playing it again.
  • I see a hell of a lot of potential for Move, but no real killer app for it just yet. So naturally I also bought another Move, two Navigation, and a charging station for everything. I am such a consumer whore (and how!).

December 1, 2009

Beatmania: Still king of rhythm games (, )

by fluffy at 9:54 PM
So the recent release of the abysmally complex and un-fun DJ Hero inspired me to pull out my old Beatmania stuff and play it a bit more. It is still an excellent game. So I brought it to work and played it a bit during a break, and it was disappointing that everyone who walked by thought I was playing DJ Hero and wondered why the graphics "were so 8-bit." All modern rhythm games owe so much to Beatmania (it was the first to have the "notes falling toward a controller" layout, and the first to have a mock musical instrument for a controller, and so many aspects of its design and presentation are things that are copied pretty much exactly in the more "modern" rhythm games) and it's almost criminal that most hardcore rhythm game players don't even know that it exists.

Things I like about Beatmania:

  • It has an incredible variety of music. When R343L came by she said, "Oh, it's like Rock Band but with techno," but she just happened to come by when I was playing a techno track. If she'd been there for the previous one she'd have heard some Motown-style funk, and the next one was new-wave fusion jazz. There's also classical and rock and pop and IDM and who knows what the hell else. Much of it is hard to classify, like most of my broad tastes in musical styles.
  • You are actually playing the music. On most rhythm games you're just hitting buttons, and hitting the wrong button will make the overall pre-mixed track mute, or (on a good day) play some random jarring instrument noises. On Beatmania, though, you are actually playing a sampler keyboard, whose sample triggers are changing as part of the timeline. It is totally transparent to the player, BUT it means that if you mess up the timing or miss a note or play the wrong key, you actually get off-time or partially-missing or wrong samples. Another side-effect of this is that you really have to play with your ears as much as your eyes, and so it doesn't matter that there's no way to calibrate it for display lag because if you're looking at the event line, you're doing it wrong.
  • Relatedly (and completely unlike DJ Hero), when you are scratching it is actually scratching. Okay, it's not speed- or direction-sensitive, and the metaphor of the turntable can vary often (sometimes it's a scratch, sometimes it's a spin, sometimes it's just another sample trigger) but when you're on a scratch-heavy track, every scratch you make produces a separate scratch sound. You have to be able to count small numbers very quickly, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
  • You get a hell of a lot of music on each disc. Yeah, in the days before DLC, you had to buy additional CD-ROMs to get more songs. But each disc has about an hour's worth of songs. (Because the tracks are composed of samples, and often have the same samples used across songs, you easily get a CD's worth of music, sometimes more, even with all the audio tracks being separate.) Yeah, some of the later mixes have repeats from the previous discs, but so what? Each disc is a unique gaming experience.
  • The visuals! Most rhythm games give you basically nothing interesting visually. Oh, yay, a band on stage, big deal. Beatmania gives you fun semi-interactive music videos that react to the song and to how you're doing. And the visuals are fun, with crayon scrawlings and tongue-in-cheek discotheque visuals and occasional IDM-ish weirdness.
  • Winning doesn't involve just not failing, but ending on a high note. (Actually it's possible to completely bomb out at the beginning and then recover towards the end. Finishing strong is more important. Except in expert mode.)
  • Even though it's over 12 years old it's still fun and challenging, and the later mixes took it a bit further and provided multiple difficulty levels and even multiple arrangements of the songs. Okay, sure, Guitar Hero and Rock Band have the multiple difficulty levels, but that's just adding more events you have to hit more or less on-cue to keep the same sounds going as always. On Beatmania, the fact you're playing the notes directly means the advanced difficulties actually start to fall apart in different ways, and you know it. And there's always new challenges, too — expert mode (where you have a budget for mistakes for an entire setlist), double mode (two controllers one gamer), special challenges (key randomization, hidden/sudden/extra-fast note markers), and probably lots of other stuff that isn't even occurring to me right now.
It is a shame it took Konami so long to release a version for the US. It is a shame that by the time they did, reviewers thought it was just a Guitar Hero ripoff. It is a shame that the US version also lost much of what made the game so much fun (the visuals were genuinely "serious," the song selection was oriented towards American pop and bland mainstream electronica, and the Konami original songs seemed to be selected based on fitting in with that rather than based on the fun factor). It's a shame that even with how abysmal DJ Hero is, people think DJ Hero is some sort of genre-defining thing. (Not even the mashup aspect of it is new — Beatmania has had several mashups in its oeuvre, albeit mashups of other Beatmania songs).

It's also a shame it's so hard on my wrists because holy cow did I miss playing this wonderful game.

I have basically every worthwhile mix for the PS1 (except Sound of Tokyo, which I should be receiving soon, having finally sourced a copy on eBay), and the first Gameboy mix, which is basically a "best of" for the first few PS1 mixes, in chiptune form, and the chiptunes are exceptionally well-done. Right now I'm considering also getting either an import or modded PS2 so I can start building a IIDX collection, even though IIDX didn't really seem so much fun (since it seemed to be all about the difficulty instead of the fun). It's just too bad I didn't get back into this stuff a few years ago when it was still easy to source a PS2 modchip. (Maybe not so bad for my wrists though.)

September 10, 2009

iPod Touch, cameras, and gaming (, )

by fluffy at 3:09 PM
Was it really a cost-cutting measure that kept a camera out of the iPod Touch to keep it as cheap of a gaming platform as possible? That doesn't seem very likely to me. Cameras are very useful for gaming (which has been recently rediscovered by Microsoft and Sony, but was previously known by Treo owners), and if they really do want the Touch to be an ubiquitous gaming platform, not making quite as much profit on one would be more than balanced out by the large numbers of games being sold for it, right?

Also, "8GB of storage for free" is a bit disingenuous when it only applies to an iPod Nano which doesn't actually have any music loaded on it.

On that note, I also found Phil Schiller's comments about gaming to be a bit off-kilter. Yeah, there are a lot more games for the iPod than for the PSP or DS, but how many third-rate Same Game knockoffs does a platform need, anyway? Also, his mention of the "purchase experience" being bad on the PSP and DS because of the supposed lack of an app store is just an outright lie. (Okay, the iPhone App Store is admittedly a somewhat nicer experience than the PSP's, but he made it sound like the PSP could only play UMDs.)

July 17, 2009

Broken Garden (, )

by fluffy at 10:02 AM
If you like kinda-difficult abstract-art shooter games with blippy music, you might like to know that I did the music and sound design for Broken Garden. Enjoy!

April 14, 2009

How to build FCEUX for Mac OS X (, )

by fluffy at 9:52 PM
I wanted to play Neill's Metroid hack but there's no binaries available of FCEUX for Mac OS X. So I had to build it myself. It wasn't too difficult, but there's definitely some barriers for people who don't know their way around the OS X toolchain very much.

These instructions are based on Fink (and obviously you need XCode installed). For Darwinports/Macports/whatever it's probably similar. Whatever you do, I really don't recommend trying to hand-manage the dependencies.

For build-dependencies, it's just fink install scons sdl zenity lua51-dev, and to build fceux it's just CFLAGS=-I/sw/include LDFLAGS=-L/sw/lib scons; sudo cp bin/* /usr/local/bin

gfceux doesn't seem to work (even after getting PYTHONPATH set up, pygtk doesn't appear to be available), but I'm fine with the commandline (to play Neill's hack it's just fceux --loadlua metroid.lua metroid.nes, assuming fceux is in your $PATH and metroid.nes/metroid.lua are in the current directory). At least, I assume this works - I still need to acquire the ROM (I'm sure I have it on a hard drive somewhere but I'm lazy). I tried a couple of homebrew demo ROMs and fceux worked just fine, aside from the usual SDL-on-OSX gimpiness anyway. (UPDATE: the Lua stuff doesn't seem to work. So I'm just using the Windows build under VMWare anyway. Meh.)

Also, I highly recommend running fceux with the following command line options at least once: --inputcfg gamepad1 --xscale 4 --yscale 4 --opengl 1. Fortunately it saves the last command line options in ~/.fceux/fceux.cfg so you don't have to do that every time.

March 24, 2009

This seems a bit hard-to-swallow (, , )

by fluffy at 10:18 AM
Yet another hand-wavey "cloud" video game console, like the Phantom except this one doesn't even have any game processing in the console itself — supposedly it'll somehow have all the games playing on a remote server farm and have the video streamed in realtime to the console. Call me skeptical.

Also, money quote, from "Sid:"

Can you imagine living in a futuristic society where men don't need PS3s and Xboxes to play insanely gorgeous games? Someone pinch me, I feel like I'm living in a George Orwell book.
I don't think Sid has actually read any George Orwell.

November 3, 2008

A proposal re: LittleBigPlanet ()

by fluffy at 3:58 PM
So, LBP remakes of other games generally feel like steam-powered puppets, and of course Sackboy is also a puppet made of scraps. So, could we call its style "stitchpunk" and get that out of the way?

August 30, 2008

Finally got to act 2 of MGS4 ()

by fluffy at 2:49 PM
Today I decided to restart MGS4, and in 3 hours I passed through act 1, finally. Then in another hour or so I finally got through all the long-ass cutscenes before act 2.

What the hell, Kojima.

May 28, 2008

Wii don't fit into molds (, )

by fluffy at 10:28 AM
So, the inspiration for the Wii Fit comic is that, after about a week of daily weigh-ins, I started to feel like Garfield in his Sisyphean struggles against the talking bathroom scale. I have a feeling that Nintendo's designers really weren't thinking things through when they designed the daily body test component.

The big problem with it stems from that it uses BMI's ridiculous classification system (which is good for a casual statistical clustering of body types but is not in and of itself a useful diagnostic tool), and that it disregards progress and only tells you how you're doing based on where you are in the BMI.

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