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Saturday, October 28, 2006

12:37 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Sign of the times.
You know they're hardcore because going AFK for a marriage proposal wasn't considered.

Guild Wars updates.
Nightfall goes live soon. Check out the third trailer, a video interview (44.7MB) with the developers and the Elona map (1.38MB).

Blocker Gundan Machine Blaster intro.
YouTube. Titled Brocker Corp Machine Blaster locally, this was the first giant robot show on TV I can recall.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

12:12 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Transmetropolitan character inspirations. [via]
The artist created custom 12-inch action figures of the final character designs and used them as art references.

ISPs vs BitTorrent.
I'm reasonably confident someone will come up with an alternative to BitTorrent soon if ISPs continue to aggresively choke torrent speeds.

True confessions.
There's a movie pitch in here somewhere.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

11:47 PM - Iron Fist

One of the reasons I got a PSP was to play games from genres I had not tried for a long time. I'm primarily a PC gamer and PCs, though technically capable, aren't the platform of choice for genres like fighters. I hadn't played a fighter since Soul Edge a decade ago so I made it a point to get Tekken: Dark Resurrection last week and it's been eating up my gaming time since.

The region 3 version of the game includes an instruction pamphlet in Chinese but the game is in English and so is the manual.

The presentation is of the highest quality and this is a title to use when showing off your PSP. You have to see it in action to appreciate just how good a game can look and sound on a portable device.

The controls didn't bother me too much. I initially had trouble choosing between the d-pad and the analogue pad for movement. I ended up going with the d-pad but diagonals are a bit tricky and performing a quarter circle (e.g. up->diagonal up->forward) takes dexterity and finesse.

(Bandai Namco released the game in limited quantities with a d-pad attachment which apparently helps and it can sometimes be found sold separately on eBay.)

The contestants

There are over thirty characters to choose from and the character design range from the X-TR3M3 to the flat-out silly.

It's particularly strange being thrashed by giggly little girlies with frilly dresses. The thing is it's really a no-win situation. If you get beaten, it's embarassing. You've just been beaten up by a girl in a frilly dress. Thanks, Bandai Namco. Why don't you just chop off my testicles now? And if you happen to win, you've just beaten up a girl in a frilly dress. Way to go, tough guy. What's next on the to-do list today? Kicking puppies?

Thankfully, the game does not feature puppies but it does have a bear, a panda as well as a kangaroo and its joey. The kangaroos are especially bad. I lost one fight with them in five seconds.

(Hint: If they start swinging their boxing gloves around and coloured lights start appearing, take action.)

(Hint: Hitting them would be a good action.)

The characters differ in fighting technique and they each have their own reasons for joining the Iron Fist Tournament. These motivations are shown in prologues done in comic book style with voice-over narration. Each character also has an epilogue depicted with a fantastic cinema-quality CGI movie which is unlocked once the final boss has been beaten in Story Mode. Some of the endings are humourous, some uplifting, some enigmatic and a few are quite dark but they're all a treat to watch.

My character of choice is Dragunov, a uniformed Spetsnaz officer who uses sambo. He's got an arrogant demeanour, an unhealthy pallor and a scarred visage suggesting a devil-may-care attitude towards shaving.

To encourage players to keep on playing, the game awards money for winning fights, tournaments and mini-games. You can use the gold to unlock movies for characters in case you don't want to play through the Story Mode but the main money sink is character customisation.

Customisation is a lot of fun. You can make characters cooler, more badass or goofier by changing their costumes, colours and accessories. I'm currently working on earning enough gold to give Dragunov a mantle to go with his sharp-looking hat. I don't think Russian special forces usually wear capes and mantles in battle but it looks very stylish so they should definitely look into it. It would put the special in "special forces."

Tough enough

In terms of difficulty, I haven't had too much to complain about despite not being adept at this sort of game. The game has a few practice modes and these include tutorials for moves and combos. The tutorials are really necessary because some of the combos are so complex I have trouble believing anyone bar adolescents juiced up on sugar and caffeine could execute them.

Still, I managed to do all right with the basic moves and did sufficiently well in Arcade Battle mode that I earned the 3rd dan rank. Of course, this was at the Easy difficulty level. I was getting a little bored with the lack of challenge and moved on to Medium difficulty thinking I was ready.

Well, I thought wrong.

At Medium difficulty, the AI can be devastating with its use of combos and special moves. The most annoying move is the floater (or "juggle" as fans refer to it). Your opponent strikes and you float gently in the air allowing your foe to continue reducing your health bar without fear of retaliation. This can go on for several seconds and while that may not seem like much but bear in mind fights against the AI usually last about 10 seconds. So you're hanging in the air being pummelled and you can't do anything about it. I usually spend moments like that appreciating why violence is not a particularly good way to solve problems.

My win/loss percentage quickly plummeted to about 49 per cent and I'm now a humble 1st dan. On the plus side, victories are so much more satisfying now since I have to work hard to earn them.

Iron Fist links:

  • GameTrailer review. I don't think much of the site's reviews -- the Monster Hunter Freedom review was misleading and hypercritical -- but it must be said the videos do an excellent job of demonstrating gameplay elements.
  • Tekken Zaibatsu. This is the fansite to go to if you're looking to become adept at the game.
  • Official Japanese site. The text is in Japanese but there are wallpapers to download and streaming videos of the trailer and intro.
  • Movies. YouTube has most of the character epilogue movies. Asuka's is amusing while Devil Jin's is dark.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

10:54 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Oh, that Fire Convoy.
First Ai-chan, now this.

Keybots fan-customs.

Sony Media Manager for PSP. [via]
Supports AVI, MPG, MPEG-4, MOV, WMV and HTML formats.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

9:00 PM - Palm doodling

Palm Microman

Palm Microman 2

Palm Necro

I enjoy doodling and I regularly exhaust my Tungsten E's battery by creating doodles like the ones above with Notepad. The PDA app is meant for scribbling down quick freehand notes but I've found it makes a decent basic doodling tool.

Notepad has its shortcomings, though. It has no support for colours. There are only three fixed pen widths and an eraser which can't be resized. There's no undo function to instantly undo bad strokes. Finally, there's no simple way of exporting your doodles to your PC. You can export notes as PNG file attachments in an e-mail client but if you want to simply save doodles on your PC you will have to copy the picture in Palm Desktop, paste it into a graphics program and save it. Clunky.

There are several freeware graphics programs available for the Palm PDA but I've had the worst luck with them. They're all superior to Notepad but flawed in some critical way. The frustrating thing is I don't know where to even begin troubleshooting the problems. Is it the app? Is it a conflict with another app? Is it the OS? Is it the hardware? Gah. I thought I'd list them in the hopes you have better luck with them than I did.

DrawIt, from New Zealand, gets a lot of recommendations and it's easy to see why from the sample gallery. However, I've been frustrated by a bug in the app that prevents a saved picture from loading completely. Judging from comments from other users, it's not an uncommon problem. Unfortunately, the developer has stopped worked on it so it doesn't look like a fix is in the offing. The upside is he's released the source code so perhaps someone could take a look at it.

PixMarker and MoePaint are both from Japan. They're full of features (MoePaint even includes support for layers) but they both cause HotSync freezes on my PC.

PalmPaint may not have the features of the other apps but it's still head and shoulders above Notepad. Unfortunately, it's buggy and it appears it's not been worked on for five years.

If anyone has managed to get the above apps working on their T|E, I'd appreciate a note since it would give me enough hope to begin looking for a fix for my problems with them. Otherwise, I'll just resign myself to using Notepad.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

9:21 PM - Green

Guild Wars Factions recently concluded another one of its special weekends. I suppose these events are meant to maintain player interest before ArenaNet switches its focus to the next campaign, Nightfall.

Last weekend was Green Drop Weekend during which bosses in Cantha were thrice as likely to drop green items (basically items with desirable attributes) when killed.

This sounds delightful until you discover just how difficult it is to get green items in the first place. As one wag put it, three times 0.01% is still only 0.03%.

Players coveting green items needed to grind for them and were often left frustrated as bosses would drop everything but green. Those put off by the effort necessary to obtain the items probably resigned themselves to buying green items if they wanted them.

The problem is green items usually go for five digit amounts.

Dosh-eaters

Earning money is probably the toughest aspect of Guild Wars for me. There are various money sinks in the game (for instance, armour, weapon crafting and dyes) but the main reason my characters are frequently broke is skills cost money. Characters are given some basic skills at the outset but additional skills cost money. If you enjoy experimenting with different skills and builds (as I do), you will quickly find yourself running out of gold.

There are ways of making filthy amounts of money but these require investments of time and patience. I, for one, do not enjoy standing around Lion's Arch or Kaineng Center announcing my wares in the hopes that someone will bite.

This would be less of a problem if merchants paid out roughly the same amount another player would but they don't. I don't understand why runes and dyes are priced dynamically according to supply and demand while weapons and other items aren't.

I was heartened when ArenaNet announced it was working on an auction house to simplify player-to-player trade but there hasn't been any mention of the feature for the past few months. I really hope it hasn't been scratched off the live team's to-do list.

Ghial's gone wild

Although bosses are found throughout Cantha, the place to be during the weekend was Xaquang Skyway, home of a Necromancer boss called Ghial the Bone Dancer. Ghial's green item, Ghial's Staff, is considered the best in-game item for a Necromancer running the minion master build.

Ghial's Staff is arguably the most desired green item at the moment because the minion master is now a very common PvE build. This wasn't always the case. When I first started playing over a year ago, minion masters and blood necros weren't part of the holy trinity of Warrior-Healer-Nuker and were usually overlooked when PUGs were formed.

It all changed when ArenaNet changed AI behaviour so that foes scattered when taking AoE damage. This meant the nuker was less devastating in PvE and players soon looked for alternatives. That was how the minion master rose to prominence in PvE.

A minion master may not be essential for PvE groups but one will make things much, much easier for the rest of the group. PUGs seeking Master's Rewards for Factions missions almost always leave a spot open for a minion master since a level 26 Flesh Golem backed up by nine level 18 Bone Fiends will help the group steamroll over every mob quickly. Aside from pure damage, the minions also serve as an undead wall to shield vulnerable casters in the group from opposing warriors.

It should be mentioned you don't need green items like Ghial's Staff to beat the game. My minion master managed to beat Prophecies and Factions equipped with a modded collector staff. But Ghial's Staff does offer an advantage.

By the end of the weekend, I managed to get two Ghial's staves and a Tarnen's Shield. It's a poor haul compared to some but I'm satisfied with it. One Ghial's Staff is now in my Necro's possession while the other greens will be sold off to fund my new Nightfall characters.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

9:03 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Takara Tomy Q Steer. [via]
A 1,200 yen infrared-controlled car that can be controlled by an i-mode phone. Done in the Choro-Q style, this is a cheaper successor of the Digi-Q.

Superman versus Muscle Man.
I think they're wrestling. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Legends of Conan.
Stunning customs.

Guild Wars Rhapsody.
YouTube. Gameplay videos set to music are pretty common on YouTube but this one is notable primarily for being set to a song I recognise and actually like.

Tetris: doomed love.

Aquaman unleashed.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

6:18 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Marvel Mega Bloks.
What, no Magneto?

Guild Wars super fan contest.
"Canadian residents who are selected will be required to answer an additional mathematical question in order to claim their prizes." Wha-?

Revoltech Ingram in action.
Brilliant.

Home of the brave, my ass.
1932: We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
2006: Is that my shadow? Eeeek!

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