Saturday, October 3, 2015

Street Fighter V, still in progress, Part 3 - plus bonus cubing.

Continuing on with the developments of Street Fighter V, here are the remainder characters that were announced so far.

Vega has been a series regular, inasmuch as any character can - he was in the II series of games, first as one of the unplayable bosses, and then as a playable character from Champion Edition onward. He was also in Street Fighter Alpha 3 and all of the versions of Street Fighter IV.

While much of his gameplay is familiar to people who have used him before, a major change is a new ability to change from using his claw to not using his claw, allowing him a few different moves.

R. Mika has only previously appeared in Street Fighter Alpha 3, but apparently she has really made an impact with players because she was on the top ten list of most requested characters.

While she may seem like bubbly fan service, she is an even more complex character in her Street Fighter V appearance than she was in Alpha 3. All the characters that use command throws (a special move with a more complicated controller motion as opposed to a regular throw that only takes a particular button combination) a referred to as grapplers. This includes Zangief, T.Hawk, Hugo, Abel, and Hakan. R. Mika's look is more in the vein of wrestling-as-entertainment than serious fighter, but that's part of her charm. In addition to a grappler's arsenal of grabs and smashes, she can also rock the microphone to hype herself (increasing the damage that her command throw does in the process). Even more amazing is that she has a few moves that utilize her tag team partner Nadeshiko. Watch out for attacks coming from any direction, and really watch out for the spectacular tag team finish.

Rashid is brand new. We don't know a lot about him, but we think he's one of the good guys.

We do know that he harnesses the power of the wind, but he's also wearing a scouter like he's from Dragon Ball Z. Is he trying to find out if Ryu is over 9000?

Karin is another fan favorite from Street Fighter Alpha 3 returning to the game. In Alpha 3, her primary function is to serve as Sakura's rival, and uses counterattacks and rushdown moves to get the upper hand in a match.

Her Street Fighter V incarnation doesn't seem tremendously different in overall style, but it would appear that she has a wider variety of moves available to her.

Zangief was just announced October 1st at the Russian gaming convention IgroMir. He's been in one more game than Vega has, since he was included in the Alpha series a game earlier. This is the grappler that all other grapplers originated from.

This time around, Zangief  has many more moves at his disposal and it's just crazy what they've done with him to soup up his abilities. I was most impressed with him repelling an attack by just flexing, and him headbutting a fireball to disperse it. (Too bad it was Bison's two-hit fireball that still had one hit left.)

While I was busy putting this together, another character was leaked, but there's no video yet. I did find a few still pictures of the brand new character Laura fighting Ryu on the Brazil stage, which I think we can assume is hers. She seems to have some jujitsu moves, and a strange fireball, but I think that her fighting style will make more sense once we actually have some video.

There are only a few characters left to be revealed prior to the game's initial release, but knowing Capcom there will be lots of added characters over the life of the series.

In a side note, I was so excited at the grocery store this week to hear the following words spoken by the cashier (emphasis is mine) - "You're the second person today to come through (the line) with a Rubik's cube." However, when I had my cube solved 40 seconds later she still seemed surprised.

Yesterday at the other grocery store on a trip for pizza and cannolis, I did a demonstration for the dessert counter attendant, and popped an edge piece out of my DaYan brand cube while I was doing it. I recovered well, so it wasn't a big deal. I went a little more in depth than I might usually because she asked better questions than I usually get. She even remarked that she felt like she had learned something. I hardly ever take my DaYan cubes apart, and I had my other DaYan pop at lunch that day for the first time. I guess I've put enough mileage on them in a year and I probably need to take them apart and clean them and re-lubricate them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Street Fighter V, still in progress, Part 2.

The next characters to be announced in Capcom's Street Fighter V were everybody's favorite English commando, Cammy, and a big ugly bouncer named Birdie that we haven't seen since the Street Fighter Alpha games.

Cammy shows off most of the moves we've come to expect from her, and Birdie looks like he's gotten a substantial tune-up that may or may not include some ingestion of hot sauce. (Did you see the fire coming out of his mouth?)

After that, Capcom announced longtime series regular and Ryu's friendly rival Ken Masters.

Some people complained about the new hairstyle, (it looks bananas?) and some people weren't sure why a game that's supposed to show greater differentiation between characters had Ken in it at all. But, I think it would be hard to take him out at this point since their rivalry is one of the main story points of the game, and they have done a great job of gradually differentiating the characters in the past. Their mission to not have a lot of characters just be clones of each other has just allowed them to be more daring in their changes with Ken.

The next character that Capcom revealed is the first fully new character, Necalli.

Necalli has big crazy hair, attacks that can penetrate through the ground, a command throw, and not much of a command of English. We don't really know anything about his backstory yet, but he doesn't exactly seem like one of the good guys.

Now about the game itself - Capcom has done a great job in having a Beta for people that have pre-ordered the game. The best part about it, in my opinion, is that one of the first times that the servers were running an early version of the Beta, it wasn't running up to par. The servers couldn't handle the load at the time, and they had to try again in a couple of days. Polygon talks about it here. Why is that such a big deal? It's a big deal because you want it to fail early, under somewhat real-world conditions, instead of failing the week the game officially releases with all of the characters running and a lot of people being disappointed. Capcom has dissappointed a lot of fans by having questionable netcode (the parts of the program responsible for the networking aspects of the game) in some of the game modes of the PC version of Street Fighter IV and it's never fully been resolved, only worked around. If it's a game that's primarily being played online, the game will live or die by its netcode and Capcom is really going to have to make it great, especially with this new endeavor of increasing the size of the player base by funneling PS4 and PC users into one pool of players.

For those of you thinking about the PC version on Steam, check out the system requirements on the Steam page - just keep scrolling down to the end there.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Street Fighter V, still in progress.

It's been a while since Street Fighter V was first announced, and it's been nearly as long since I talked about it. There's still a long way to go before the game is officially released, but I'm really pleased about how transparent Capcom is being about the game and the steps they're taking to make sure that they have a successful release.

The first thing that people would need to know is that Street Fighter V is only coming out for Playstation 4 and PC. Sony deliberately partnered with Capcom to do this, which both helps sales of the PS4 over the XBoxOne, but it is also helping with unifying the online player base. For the first time, all of the people playing this game will be able to play each other. Street Fighter IV had three separate player bases - XBox360, PS3, and PC(Steam). By removing the XBoxOne from the equation, because there would be no practical way to get Sony and Microsoft to allow any sort of cross-system play, it becomes possible for Steam users and Playstation Network players to play against each other for Street Fighter V. As the competitive fighting game scene grows, it becomes helpful and important to unify the player base in this way.

When the game was first announced, all we had was Ryu and Chun-Li. Ryu is Street Fighter. He was the original character that you played as in the original Street Fighter, when there wasn't even a number after the title yet. Chun Li is a fan favorite from Street Fighter II, and has been in the majority of the games that followed. A scary version of Charlie Nash and a rather familiar looking M. Bison followed next.

M. Bison seems familiar enough to people who played him in the other games he appears in.

Charlie has changed a lot from the Guile clone that he used to be in the Alpha series. Sporting some aftermarket repairs, which I guess he needed because we thought that he had died in a previous game, he now has some tricky teleport moves and more ways to confuse his opponents.

While this is a good start, obviously there need to be more characters, (and there are) but I thought that it was great that Capcom was gradually adding them in during the development process as a way to tune the game mechanics.  They've probably been doing this all along, but this is the first time that Capcom has done a Beta program this big and has shown the game this much prior to release.

Next time, we'll discuss the Beta in more detail and show off the next four characters.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Of Kombat woes.

So, say you're a really established video game developer, but you know you don't have time to do everything, so you try to find other studios to help you get product out the door faster. You have to pick partners that understand what you want, and can deliver the product in a way that your fans expect. Sometimes the partners work alongside the developer, like Dimps with Capcom during the Street Fighter IV series. Sometimes you have to hand off most of the responsibility to the partner, like Capcom letting Ninja Theory make a version of Devil May Cry in an effort to reboot the series. In other cases, like the Call of Duty series, there are a stable of developers all working on different games in the series concurrently so that the release schedule can go smoothly. Activision had started out with just Infinity Ward working on projects, then added Treyarch, and then added Sledgehammer Games, along with a whole bunch of other secondary partners. And sometimes, you just get a second developer just to help out with certain facets of the game that they're particularly good at like letting them work on character models or artwork while you're busy working on the story and the game engine. Kazuma Kaneko of Atlus has a long history of doing work for Capcom and Konami just because he's good at character design.

Alternately, some developers are happy to never give release dates because they would prefer to ship a game, as Id software's John Carmack famously proclaims, "When it's done".

Knowing the variety of scenarios that have worked out for the gaming industry, and knowing some of more spectacular failures of the industry, unforeseen stuff will still happen. It's not like people are planning to fail (unless, you're like, Uwe Boll) but at a certain point you would think that you would know what was going on. The current round of mishaps are in the fighting game arena.

Mortal Kombat X is Netherrealm Studio's second chance at a second good game. Back when Ed Boon and the gang worked for Midway, Mortal Kombat was a standout fighting game for a really big reason - it wasn't Street Fighter II. Many of the other fighting games out at the time were too much like Street Fighter II, although not good enough to be any sort of a threat. Midway took a different approach with different controls, different stylistic influences, a different graphical style, and a more menacing tone.When Midway came out with Mortal Kombat II, it was better in so many ways that made it the definitive version. Even after many lukewarm and overdone versions of Mortal Kombat and lackluster spinoff games, this was still the team that stayed together after Midway became part of Warner Brothers since they were doing a lot of the arcade games for Midway and a fair number of console ports.

The progression of the games amounted to this - after the success of II, they made Mortal Kombat III and two revisions referred to as Ultimate and Trilogy, where all three games continuing their basic strategy of filming/photographic actors in costume and using that to build a series of 2D sprites which were then animated. Typical of fighting games of the time, the rosters increased to include more and more characters.

When fighting games like Namco's Tekken (1994) and Soul Edge (1995) came out with 3D character models and backgrounds, Midway followed suit with Mortal Kombat 4(1997), and its Dreamcast version with an updated roster, Mortal Kombat Gold(1998). Mortal Kombat 4 was the last arcade iteration, but not the last Mortal Kombat with 3D gameplay.

The home console games that followed, Deadly Alliance(2002), Deception(2004), and Armageddon(2006), all had increasingly complex levels of 3D interaction and movement, and multiple fighting styles for each character. While I found the storyline interesting, and they added extensive story mode content in the games, I never found them as fun to play as the earlier games. By the time I got to Armageddon, I was really missing my Nintendo 64 version of MK4.

When they jumped to the next generation of consoles (PS3/Xbox360), instead of releasing the same game over again, they took a detour into the superhero genre and made MK vs DC Universe(2008). It did allow for some interesting mechanics that made it more fun than some of the other 3D games, but the 3D nature of the game did still make some things oddly difficult. This was a stepping stone for two things - one, it got them working with the Unreal Engine which helped them streamline some of their development, and two, it got them to rethink what they could do with the characters in a new game environment. Influenced by Street Fighter's return on the scene, using 3d character models in a fighting arena constrained to 2D, the new reboot simply named Mortal Kombat (2011) was able to make the game both more playable and visually appealing. It had finally made a game on par with the early games.

When Mortal Kombat X was announced, scheduled for an April 2015 release, it was a great opportunity to take all of the things that they got right in the 2011 release and refine them. In essence, it was a second chance to make a game as great as Mortal Kombat II. Having announced the game for both the PS3/XBox 360 machines as well as PC and PS4/Xbox One, it could have been a very large release reaching the widest possible audience.

Except it wasn't.

The PS4 and XBoxOne versions released on time, with Netherrealm at the helm. High Voltage Software was in charge of the PC version, along with the XBox 360 and PS3 ports. The PC version released on time, with a few hiccups in the first day or two having to do with how the game loaded in Steam, and the XBox 360 and PS3 versions were pushed back to "Summer 2015".

And then they were pushed back again to fall or possibly the end of the year.

And then, when everybody in the southeast was busy worrying about the track of Tropical Storm Erika, Warner Brothers Interactive quietly pulled the plug on the PS3 and XBox360 versions. Not a big press release, just a quiet little message on their community page.

So, I wandered down to Gamestop, and took the path of least resistance and got some store credit for what I put down on the preorder. Part of me wanted to get the PS4 version but somehow get Warner Brothers to cough up a way to redeem Goro that I lost out on by the failure of my PS3 preorder, but they've already released a lot of other DLC characters and I'm now inclined to just wait and see if they release another disk later with everything on it. I've already realized that if I want to play Tekken 7 or Street Fighter V I will have to move on to the next system, and I think I even knew that back in April when I thought that I was going to be able to get MKX for PS3.  At this point, I'm in no hurry to catch back up with Mortal Kombat, and I know that my kids actually enjoy Tekken and Street Fighter and I could actually play those with them.

Next time (hopefully soon) I will talk about Street Fighter V, and the exciting things that Capcom is doing right with the game.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Things you should know about Splatoon if you're playing it.

While I am terrified at the prospect of sending my oldest to high school this fall, he doesn't seem too freaked out about it. He spent a fair amount of time playing Splatoon this summer, including participating in all three Splatfests so far. I haven't played the game as much as he has, so the gameplay tips are all his.

I asked him what people should know about playing in Ranked Mode, which is where I usually find him complaining about the gameplay of his opponents. So, here's his list!

  1. Have at least two people guard a Splat Zone.
  2. If nobody is on the tower, GET ON IT!
  3. Overtime means CAPTURE THE THING!!!!
  4. In all of the modes, don't place squid beacons near your base. You can already jump to it by tapping the spawn location on the GamePad.
  5. Put down an ink mine or suction bomb on the tower if you're rushing it or defending it.
  6. Sloshers are very good for covering the walls and ground. Use this to get your players with longer range weapons to higher ground.
  7. Any weapon that you have to charge is SUPER slow when charging midair so don't try to start charging midair if there is an enemy below you. Fire off a shot or two so you can get to the ground safely and then worry about charging or attacking.
  8. In all of the modes, if your weapon has seekers and there are no enemies around it, swim right behind it. It is good stealth without losing speed from the ninja squid ability.
  9. Make sure before you super jump that you make sure that you are not going to get killed right as you land.
  10. Do not go off and paint stuff! Your super meter will fill plenty if you keep in the battle and watch for hazards.
Hopefully this helps a few people. I would add another item to this list for people used to other shooters - for each of the various game modes, make sure that you're paying attention to the primary goal for each mode. Regular versus mode means painting a lot of ground your color, Tower Control means maintaining control of the tower, Splat Zones means controlling specific zones of the board. While taking out your opponents is often helpful, racking up a big kill count doesn't win the match.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The more you know...

Is it normal that gamer parents have to have "the talk" with their kids as early as 8? No, I don't mean the birds and the bees. I mean spawncamping, client side cheats, how lag affects multiplayer games, and how to pronounce a word that only has the letters "p", "w", and "n" in it? (And if you're wondering, it sounds like "pone", rhymes with "cone".)

I played first person shooters on PC a long time ago. (Hey - I'm not kidding - 1993 was more than 20 years ago!) My father showed me the demo of id software's "Doom" on his Gateway, and I had played through parts of it at his house. It was so long ago that it was before people customarily used the mouse to aim with. I played through most Doom and Doom II and still hadn't played any multiplayer. I even had the scary blood red Doom cartridge for SNES. When Quake came out, we played the heck out of that demo as well before getting the actual game, and then someone in my office where I worked at the time bought the full version. Not only was the original Trent Reznor soundtrack amazingly spooky, but we realized that you could look around at will (what we now call "freelook") but it was still hard to do. At some point the realization was made that the mouse was essential, because nobody could turn around fast enough with just the keyboard. If you take enough rockets to the back, you'll switch to using a mouse. This was also the same time that we learned how to set up multiplayer. At first, we connected using IPX/SPX because our office wasn't using TCP/IP yet, and once we did start using TCP/IP I would often use Quake's robust command line to help with network troubleshooting after hours. I got a better computer at home, and a better 3D video card. (I want to say that it was a Voodoo card, but that might not have been until Quake 2.) I was still playing over dialup. It was a big deal to go somewhere on the weekend that had ISDN to play against people online. My biggest annoyance in the game was people using a character skin that was painted completely black, as many of the maps in the original quake were rather shadowy. Once I figured out that those files lived on my computer, I could fix them so that they were at least regular, but some players made me mad enough that I changed the player skin to something like this:

I had to convert this from .pcx to even be able to post it.
Spawncamping - the practice of waiting at a spot near where players spawn so you can shoot them before they can get any armor or weapons - was prevalent on certain maps, just because of the geometry of the board. The other odd tactic that arose was luring a group of other players into the water, only to discharge the lightning gun and kill everyone. Sure, you died, but if you did it right you would get more kills than it cost you.

Quake 2 came out in 1997. I was not a fan of the railgun which allowed for instant long-distance sniping, and I was disappointed that they had really nerfed the grenade launcher. I liked the single player game better since the enemies were smarter and there was a tiny bit more story to it, but I didn't really like the multiplayer maps or the weapon selection for the most part. I ended up spending more time playing 4-player local Goldeneye 64 multiplayer instead. I found it more fun to play against people who were actually in the room.

I waited for Quake 3 to come out, and I liked that a lot better even though the railgun was still there, but by then it was rather apparent that my skills had waned - or everyone else had just gotten better. While I still come back to Quake 3 once in a while since I can play it against my kids and still have fun, for the most part I have that "been there, done that" attitude about FPS games.

It took a long time for a game to even get my attention at all - I briefly toyed with Bulletstorm once the price plummeted to nothing only because I hear that it had an interesting whip mechanic. As it turns out it was a weapon that allows you to grab things from a distance, and while it did make for interesting "grab the bad guy from behind cover and shoot him" mechanics, I found myself getting headaches while playing the game.

Considering all of this history, I was really surprised that my older son wanted to pick up the new team shooter "Splatoon" - until I realized that this was a lot different from the standard issue shooter games. One, it's a third person shooter - the camera is behind you like in the Ratchet and Clank games or Resident Evil 4/5/6. Even though it's really only a multiplayer game where two teams of four battle it out, the game is about capturing territory instead of just racking up kills. Since you only spawn at your own team's base, there isn't a lot of spawncamping - and even if there was it wouldn't be very productive.

The game came out Friday May 29. There was an update that weekend that added a map (Port Mackerel), a Ranked mode, and a Zapper weapon. After that they added the Ink Brush, and then more weapons and maps have followed after that.  These were free updates, and it seemed like a good use of the internet on a game like this - it gave them a chance to get game data back from players on the weapons already being used, and they could slowly add in weapons as players got better at the game. This game also makes use of the amiibo characters, but at this point it's just the three specifically for this game - a girl player, a boy player, and a squid. They unlock specific single player challenges, which seems like a little bit mean for amiibos that aren't ever going to make it to the store and are already fetching quite a premium just on rareness.  Nintendo, can't we just play the game without buying more plastic toys?

That reminds me of two more things - today is the first Splatfest day, and I'm going to have to have the other "talk" with my kids.  No, not that - I need to explain to them about scalping on eBay.

Monday, June 15, 2015