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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If Only....

I noticed that my Exteel review was considerably longer than usual, so out of boredom I decided to copy and paste it onto a word document and set to double space. From start to finish it covers almost exactly 8 pages including the additional spaces. Considering the time it took me to write that much I'm kinda annoyed at myself.

If only I took 45 minutes to about an hour and a half (I honestly don't know how much time it takes for me to write a post) for my term papers and came up with the same result, I'd have nothing to worry about. *moderate irritation face*

Monday, April 27, 2009

Exteel - Review

I was reading the comments to S4 League some time ago and came across an unfamiliar name: Exteel. I've never heard about this game but at the time was still greatly engrossed in S4 as well as other games so didn't really give it a second thought.

At some point during the transition between seasons, when development and releases for games decline, I didn't have any outstanding games nor anime that would keep me going throughout this period, I decided to take on Exteel. First thing, I noticed was that my name was taken, which I thought to be odd. I admit that it's not COMPLETELY original (there are pockets of "Zerreths" over on google search that aren't me) but I still thought it to be odd that it was taken. After pondering over a bit, instead of making a new account I just typed an old password and tried to log in. Turns out I made an account on NCSoft in 2006 for the City of Heroes beta test and Guild Wars. Go figure.

I'm barely past the client download when I'm already peeved.
The "client" download is a download for the launcher. From there, you then "update" (to be read as download the entire game)to the latest version. I've always felt this kind of process is probably one of the worst ideas ever unless you know what you're doing. I understand that "maybe" the installer's just "too hard" for me to use and so companies use an auto-updater to install and patch all the files for me. What I don't understand is if they refer to that kind of system, why then limit bandwidth for what would be fine for patching but not good for installing. I'll give an example to show what I mean.

If I buy a game digitally from steam and then start "updating" (to be read as installing via internet) my download speed is at around 500 kbps to 1MB. It's a decent speed and Steam has efficient servers. So I don't mind waiting a couple hours to download Dawn of War II which is around 5 gigabytes. NCSoft limits the bandwidth to the point where it's 3-4 hours for 700 megabytes. IJJI uses a the bittorrent system to avoid using too much bandwidth and since you can't regulate it (or you can, but you need a bit of knowledge) the torrents utilize most of each client's bandwidth to give me not phenomenal speeds but 200-300 kbps. NCSoft? A whopping thirty, fifty if god feels merciful today. It's not the system that's broken, it's the company, but that's enough of me wailing on NCSoft.

So right when you log in, you're introduced to a nice minute of pre-rendered robot fighting cutscene. It looks pretty nice. and I can easily say that for the entire game. Exteel is a third person shooter in which you pilot a mecha (super robot in this case) with customizable weapons, body parts, accessories and 1:1 skills. After completing the tutorial, the first thing that popped into my head was that this was like a super simplified version Armored Core without the stressing difficulty curve (Similar to how Combat Arms is a simplified version of SOCOM, ANYWAYS).

This game is different in that attacks don't count unless it's a "lock-on." Instead of the standard crosshair, players have reticles of varying size depending on the weapon equipped (obviously swords have no reticle). Here's where it gets iffy. Enemies must not only be within the reticle (that you aim) but must ALSO be within a certain distance from the user to "lock-on." Lock-ons are instant and the target you lock on to is based on some algorithm that I'm not willing to look into (and I might be giving too much credit to the developers) but the result is this game's personal version of "balance." In addition, there's no ammo (or there is, but it's unlimited, and the game neglects to tell you how many shots there are per clip) but the weapon can overheat. So you need to use your weapons wisely (to be read as conservatively, which makes no sense at all. I'll get to that later).

There are also RPG elements (of course, there always has to be RPG elements) where you can improve your HP, EN, SP, Movement, and Marksmanship. In terms of movement, All the robots are given a "backpack" that allows them to "dash" and boost into the air. In addition, there are skills that players can use which are specific to weapon layouts that usually deal damage (except for a couple double healing skills). Marksmanship increases the size of the reticle and increases chances of hitting.

A plus to this game is that there isn't a level locked weapon system. What I mean is this. Weapons are placed into grades of C to S with C being the Worst and S supposed to being the best (there are some A rank weapons that perform better in practice than S rank despite theories, stats, paper and what looks good on it). There isn't any level pre-requisite to getting a gun, if you simply have the cash, you can buy it and use it. Which means you can (to be read as "you have to." Again, will explain later) bypass ranks and simply get a really nice gun despite the rest of your equipment looking like trash. The in-game money system is pretty balanced. Everything besides your starting equipment has durability and you can buy points to restore durability. It's not dirt cheap but it's not excruciating either. Saving up and sacrificing a good weapon to get points in bulk which will last much longer than you think is nice and the money you receive is reasonable. I'm not too keen on how scores are based more (purely) on time than performance and percentiles but I guess that's just me demanding quality and standards. You know, unnecessary stuff.

Like Armored Core, this game boasts customization. As equipment is also placed into weight classes, your movement speed is affected by your weight and size, and you have to calculate whether or not that HP boost is worth the loss in speed, or whether that extra marksmanship makes up for the drop in HP. Of course, since most of the players are actually kids, you'll end up seeing more pre-made sets in default colors with twin weapons (because mixing weapons is hard and scary)... I'm sorry, but I'm going to run off onto a tangent for a bit. I customized my weapon layout so that my close range build would consist of an SMG in my left hand and a Shotgun in my right. The SMG has a high repeat rate, low overheat rate so I can lay a constant DPS while spiking it with an occasional shotgun blast. Some "pro" (apparently pros are judged by how many accounts they've made -to be read as: accounts screwed up-) told me that my combination was bad, despite me being repeatedly in the top three, and that he would go double shotgun or double SMG. To which I thought for a bit and flat out rejected because double SMG lacks enough damage for quick kills and shotguns basically overheat after 4 consecutive shots. Sure, it's great for the first kill, but what next?

Anyway, a plus side it not only how good the game looks but the varying stages and game modes. You can do Deathmath, Team Deathmatch, Team King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, or "Last Stand" which is basically a collaborative defense game. If we go on game modes alone along with a nice array of maps, it would be hard to get tired.

Now for criticism, and I have a lot of it. My main problem being the lock on system. It makes no sense. I understand a lock on is required for directing the facing of the gun but what doesn't make sense is how if someone is too close or too far away, damage isn't counted. I get that it's for game balance but it makes no sense whatsoever. Rounds aren't effective at specific distances, Guns are. You say, that gun is effective at 1000m, NOT those bullets you're using are effective at 1000m. If I shoot someone point blank in the head with a sniper rifle, it'll kill them just as much as if I shot them and hit them in the head 300 feet away. I would understand that the targeting mechanism wouldn't work but that shouldn't mean that the projectile I fire is null. You realize how stupid it is to stand still letting bullets hit you knowing that they're too far away and thus having their bullets not count DESPITE seeing it hit your mech? Or purposefully getting so close that even if you're riddled with bullets, you're safe "because they aren't locked on?" What the hell? No... seriously. Who made this up? And are the developers able to comprehend sarcasm? "Hey guys, you know what would be a great idea....?" NO.

As for the Overheating system. I understand that overheating will force players to be more conservative with their weapons instead of just blazing away but here's one of the biggest issues in the game. If you're in a 16 player free for all deathmatch. Your weapon WILL overheat. After killing one enemy, the chance of encountering another player is so high that your weapons WILL overheat at least 10 seconds in your second bout. They tried to counter this with being able to switch weapons but the game mode isn't deathmatch. It's more like, "kill then die." There are two options once your weapon overheats. Switch to your second weapon set or dash away. Both take a long time and will probably kill you. Yes, even switching weapons. Switching weapons requires EN as does dashing, and instead of simply taking a chunk out if you have enough EN and not when you have too little, the developers thought of this great idea where it would take whatever remaining EN you have and then stall your EN recovery at 0 as it would be spent on the EN required to switch. So while you're trying to fumble for your weapons, you're bullet bait and you basically can't move. And even if you do have enough EN, it still takes around 5 precious seconds for the switch to complete. This, is by far, one of the most broken battle systems designed. There's so much to it that's just simply clunky. This game was made for 1-on-1, or team battling. It's clearly obvious how little foresight was put into this.

Also, I noticed the SMGs have magazines of limited ammo. This magazine however apparently changes size as well. One great example is the Planet Eagle (an obvious reference to the desert eagle) which will always start you off firing 4 shots, spinning the gun and then firing a "full magazine." That spin alone, makes the gun a waste of money and time. When you let go of the button of an automatic weapon, it doesn't stop, as it fires in bursts. So it will finish it's burst do a "cool" spin and then it can be used again. So to have an SMG spin after one burst then fire again is not only disorienting but utterly useless. It also doesn't help that sometimes it has 6 rounds per clip or 14 or 23. After the magazine is used, the mech spins the gun (as if reloading is just that) and it continues. What's laughable is that your overheat meter rises while it's reloading since you're holding down the button. It's as if the developers are purposefully trying to hinder you from enjoying a fast paced action game, or playing one at all.

My next issue is on the host's side, not developers. I mentioned earlier that there aren't any level requisites for equipping weapons, which leads me to economic and marketing problem #1. Exteel, like many other games, uses micro transactions (pay for the content you want thus resulting in numerous smaller transactions rather than a monthly fee) to acquire capital. In terms of weapons, all class C weapons are buyable via in-game money. Class B items are all premium items, Class A items are in-game money items and Class S weapons are either Premium or buyable with in-game currency. For those of you who see where I'm going with this, I ask to listen to this ranter's lament, for those of you who don't, keep reading.

It's pointless. There's no incentive for making all Class B weapons only buyable with real money if players can simply buy Class A weapons within one week of solid playing. Class B is only an upgraded version of C weapons and Class A are upgraded versions of B weapons. Class S seems to have unique weapons that don't seem to be a direct upgrade of another weapon (Dazzler C, Dazzler B, Dazzler A) and so there's a bit of incentive in paying real money for the highest class weapons in the game. But since you can equip Class A weapons at the same time you can equip Class B weapons. It's beyond stupid to make the MIDDLE class premium. If they had any sense, they would make Class A premium and charge in-game money with Class B.

The only point in buying Class B would be to flaunt your parent's credit card in everyone's face and then get laughed at since it also labels you a complete "noob." Not newbie or newb, I mean "noob" in it's most derogatory sense, because you're basically paying a company to show off to other people how weak willed and stupid you are in caving into buying class B weapons when you could have saved up for A and used that money for something else.

I'm not against microtransaction games. I'm just against all those idiots who support bad hosts and ruin it for the rest of us. It's like buying movie games. For each bad purchase you make, it's one more purchase that tells bad companies to continue excreting horrible products and providing terrible service. So what would I have said had Class A been only premium? Well, despite me not liking it, I would have to admit that it was a good move made on the host's part. The sheer fact that I would be irritated that I can't go my full potential with class A weapons would just go to show you how much more effective as a marketing ploy it is than to clip off the medium strength weapons which means nothing if I can just buy the strongest ones without even caring.

As a final note, in response to the comments on S4 League. You can't compare the games. The gameplay between them is so drastically different, that you can't say one's a better game than the other. It's different the point where it's you like this or you don't and it has no correlation to the other game. So I don't want any more of those comments.

20,000 hits!

According to google Adsense, the site has now recieved 20,000 hits (20,024 with 20 hits today, so technically yesterday). There's really nothing for me to say other than.
Thank you.

If you've been coming regularly, or just came for the outdated mabinogi review (according to 63% who voted) thank you. I've said this for the 10,000th hit as well but I had no idea this could happen, nor did I realize I'd be doing this for over two years. It's times like these I take a look at some of my old content and try to compare that that to what I've done recently and there's definitely change.

Anyways, this is great news as a handful of my projects were due today. So I've got time now to make a review for later today. Thank you, really.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

College overload

I need to apologize for these last two weeks. My classes end this week and finals begin next week, so all my teachers thought it would be a good idea to stack every conceivable project due date at some point this week, which is why I haven't posted anything last Saturday, nor will I, this Saturday.

I had a good review too and it's been formulating in my head the problem is, I simply don't have the time as of yet to sit down write it out and edit it. So, as a blogger to his readers, could you give me a little more time?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wanted: Weapons of Fate - Review

I went into this game very wary. The last game having the Warner Bros. logo on it was Enter the Matrix if I recall correctly. Honestly, I didn't find it a fun game. It's dependency on focus really bugged me, but that's not the point. The point is Wanted.

Because it's the PC version you can safely assume most cutscenes are pre-rendered in some really cheap codec. I'll deal with it. There's a lot of good with this game and a lot of bad.

To start us off, it's good in that it's simple. The gameplay itself is easy to learn and with a minimal amount of keys required, (probably because it's just a console port) the learning curve is pretty gentle. It's pretty easy to pick up and play and there's a nice interactive tutorial that will help you learn how to play. Whether or not you use all the skills they teach you is completely your call but there are some nice aspects to the game. The game's story takes place after the movie and assumes you've watched/own and have written an analytical essay on Wanted. They won't explain much and just start right off.

The gameplay follows a pretty linear path. You go from area to area using cover, or maneuvering between cover and shoot. As you progress you'll gain adrenaline markers which will allow you to use special skills. One of which is bullet curving. Bullet curving is an essential part of the game and you get it pretty early on. You can curve the path of the bullet which results in you being able to kill enemies behind cover. It's a recyclable system in that if you kill someone with a bullet curve, you get the adrenaline marker back.

Their cover system works decently well. It's a bit sketchy at points but moving from cover to cover is relatively easy and effective in closing the distance between you and distant enemies.

There's also the occasional moment when everything goes into bullet time and you're thrown into a series of quicktime events where you have to deflect enemy bullets and kill the guy within a time limit. The time limit is pretty lenient so there isn't any particular rush in killing them instantly. I'm assuming this is for players using joysticks to aim.

For the good parts, there are also bad parts.
First off, the game is short. When I mean short I don't mean like... Call of Duty 4 short, I mean Portal short. On my first playthrough I beat the game in 3 hours, and then on the second playthrough, I beat the game in two hours on the hardest difficulty. There's hardly any replay value to it and it isn't as if playing the same story as a different character will change it up in any way.

The game is TOO simple. You only have one weapon for most of the game and then two by the end. The enemy goes through SMGS, Rifles, and shotguns and you're stuck with pistols and machine pistols. Speaking of which, apparently enemies all drop the ammo that you're looking for. If you kill a guy with a shotgun, you can pick up ammo for your pistol. If you kill a guy with a rifle and he drops ammo, it's for your pistol. It seems that everyone drops ammo and there are parts in the game where there's entire clips of ammo for you meaning that you basically stumble over ammo and it'll hardly be a rarity for you to have less than max for over three minutes.

I guess what they're trying to do is tell you that you can be very liberal with your ammo but it's kind of hard being liberal when most enemies die from 1-4 shots and you pick up 7-20 from each guy. Bullet curved headshots are one hit kills as well. What I'm saying is, the game is too easy. It's terribly easy. Even Xbox fiends who whine and complain over Live will say it's easy. YOUR MOM will say it's easy.

When I beat the game on the hardest difficulty they showed a scoreboard of the times of the people in the production team who played and beat it. Last place was like... beta tester at 4:00 and first was GP Producer (I'm assuming gameplay producter) at 1:13.

There are certain parts of the game design that I'm really not fond of. In particular, hits don't tend to register unless the crosshair turns red. So, if a guys body happens to be sticking out of a corner, you cant' do anything about it. Because they're "fully" in cover, regardless of how much they're exposed, you can't kill them. There's the occasional chance that they're "peeking" like you are when you press any direction while under cover and at that point they are killable, but generally the targeting system is sub-par.

Graphics are meh. This has been an issue with Enter The Matrix for me as well. They seem to hire teams that don't really do a thorough job in my opinion resulting in a moderately decent game. The pre-rendered cut scenes look lackluster. The environment looked pretty nice and there were some nice bloom effects. A few times blooming and lighting screwed up how I play. Occasionally, you had to shoot someone on a higher direct "sunlight." This, I believe is just poor game play and level design. Actually, graphics are pretty bad. They utilize new generation techniques but their modeling and textures just downgrade the quality of the visual aspect. That and the fact that it seems most of the focus is on slow motion and rending the flying bullets. The cinematic cut scene when the camera trails the bullet is probably the highlight of the game.

The music is astoundingly repetitive. Honestly, I feel like there's at most.... 6 music tracks throughout the game? If there are more, that only proves my point. Some of them are just handfuls of variations on the song "The Little Things" by Danny Elfman, others sound like they've been in 007 games.

This game, at best, is a rental. I highly urge you guys not to buy it. Honestly, this is really no different than the other "movie games." The premise is simply different and so it "looks" as such but once you peel away the layers, you'll realize that buying this game is like buying Transformers: The Movie game. Also, considering the brevity of the game, it's not worth the $40ish US dollars. Even Portal is smaller than that. Rather, Portal first came with the Orange box and then was sold separately due to it's popularity. That's the only way it could even sell alone.

This game has great potential. If they just spent more time fine tuning graphics, and letting you pick up more weapons, it could definitely be a great game. Sure, it could be a run & gun but to bullet curve a stream of rifle bullets? Don't tell me that doesn't sound like a great idea.

As a final thought, I thought the bullet curving concept was awesome, and it's really fun in gameplay. The main issue is, the only reason you can bullet curve is because the AI's aim is so bad that Helen Keller could do a better job. The spray and pray is just for show and they're really just giving you the ok to stand in the open getting a nice trajectory for a bullet curve.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Poor Planning

There isn't going to be a post this Saturday. I'm heading off to a Kendo tournament (actually one of the biggest in the country) today and it's going to last the entire weekend. I tried waking up early today, but i messed that up as sleeping late tends to equal waking late.

Sorry for the delay guys.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Character Artwork for doujin game

Yes. I know. The date stamped says March 30th which means it's been in my possession for around 3 days collecting digital dust in my harddrive (because digital data is so expansive that the far corners of those.... round disks....I can't do this. I made a terrible analogy). Anyways, the main reason I waited was to try and space out the posts for his artwork. As great as it would be to post them the moment I received them, the pace at which he draws his artwork (like my workload) comes in waves, like space invaders (cue for younger generation to say "Huh? Space what?").

As for the art itself I find it pretty obvious when he decides to scan in line art and color, and when he decides to it all in photoshop. (I take that back, I just noticed the light pencil markings) Considering this is supposed to be a cut-in (when you have character portraits or images that appear with text) I naturally asked him if white was the "null" color.

For those of you who don't know what that means, I'll gladly explain it. For those of you who DO know, sorry. What I refer to null color is the color that will is used to represent something else, like a background. This color surrounds the character outline so that only the character itself shows up "in-game." Consider it a "green screen" if you will except that game designers usually choose something else, like a specific shade of pink or purple as chances of using those colors are extremely slim (as compared to green or blue). Then, when you start coding, you set that color (I'm not sure if they use the hexadecimal RGB color scheme) to represent "null" or "transparent."

His response was an "of course not" which made me thank god inside. Anyways, artwork.

Once again, he changed up the way he shades and highlights, the result this time making it look like an evening gown. In addition to the color, the way the dress clings to the body and the necklace definitely give off that evening gown, "I'm going to be attend a ball, how about you?" look. There's another set of cross hatching in the hat once more and hair looks pretty straightforward (neglecting that it could probably touch the floor).

Upon close inspection, there's an "aura" around it which leads me to suspect he placed a copy underneath and used a very thorough gaussian blur. Eye highlights have changed AGAIN, which reminds me to complain to him that he needs to at least keep eye highlights consistent.

I need to talk to him about level balance and shading again. With the exception of the dress she looks very flat. The contrast isn't dynamic enough and it's very light from the torso up.

dimensions are 800X1200, a nice wall scroll/poster size I guess........

P.S. Don't ask me what's with the file name. I couldn't tell you even if I wanted to other than that "Final" refers to the render version.