Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The importance of X, part 2.

After some review and comments from the peanut gallery, it would appear that 1) I already had one game that I did not mention at all with a very non-standard jump button and 2) I picked up a second game with a very non-standard control set (to me) that has the jump button in a very strange place.

The answer to 1) was Katamari Forever. Since jumping (OK, it's called the 'Prince Hop') is a relatively new mechanic in the game, I totally forgot/disregarded/ignored it. I like the mechanic, but I space out sometimes and don't use it. Being able to jump does save you from having to replay boards quite as many times to get all the stuff. Katamari's jump button is R2 - but since most of the game is controlled by the two analog sticks, it would be impractical to map anything important to a face button when the triggers are easier to get to.

The answer to 2) was Mirror's Edge, which I am finally playing (and liking) but it kicks my butt since I've never played a FPS with a controller that wasn't on a Nintendo machine. (Goldeneye 64, the cheesy port of Quake 2 for N64, and Metroid Prime for GameCube.)  Most of my FPS time happened a long time ago (Doom 1-2, Quake 1-3) and was mostly with mouse/keyboard. Believe it or not, I never used a mouse for Doom, and didn't start using a mouse for the first Quake until after I started playing Deathmatch games. Similar to our Katamari situation, all of the movement controls for Mirror's Edge are on the two analog sticks, so the jump and duck buttons are mapped to L1 and L2 by default.

I would have to say that both of these games - Katamari Forever and Mirror's Edge - are different enough from other games that it's easy to treat them separately and not expect the controls to be similar.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A world without limits.

So it would appear that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his Tour De France titles and that the UCI is going to abide by the decision of the USADA.

I was a little bummed out at first. After all, with Lance single handedly getting Americans excited for a sport that usually posts worse TV ratings than hockey here, and with a sport that translated well into people buying bicycles and being more active, and to top it all off was a cancer survivor, it was hard to want to accuse the guy of being a cheater. The accusations seemed to channel away from him like the way you see water channel away from the surface of a rain tire in the Michelin commercials.

The more that I learned about it, though, the more I wondered about how somebody could win the Tour seven times in a row under the competitive pressure that there was at the time. Jan Ullrich who won the Tour in 1997 is now recently banned from cycling because of doping. Marco Pantani, who won in 1998, suffered a long downhill slide in his mental state after being disqualified from the Giro d'Italia in 1999 for an irregular blood result and was accused of doping for the rest of his career. Pantani subsequently died in 2004 from a cocaine overdose.

Looking at humanity as a whole, we love competition - it's what makes us go. It's what got America on the moon when we got scared by Sputnik and the Soviet's perceived capability. It's what makes our cars on the road better every year when we get innovations spurred by NASA and NASCAR. It's what makes you check your leaderboard scores on your favorite game, or to see how your football pool is doing. In a way, I try to tap into that competitive urge when I talk to somebody about cubing, since some people see something and say to themselves "I gotta do that". Under the right circumstances, it's a great motivator, and it can spur on the innovations and new ideas that we might not see otherwise. That's not to say that competition is not without its perils. Would we be ready for a world without limits? If we removed all restrictions on cycling, how long would it take for someone to have a stroke on live TV during a race? If we removed restrictor plates from NASCAR, how long would it take for the cost of the accidents to be a deterrent to going to a race?

The thing is, some people need some competition once in a while to make them feel alive, but there's little value in it if it's just going to kill them.