Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ride to ruin and the world’s ending!!!

In an effort to do something different on this ‘blog’ for once, I have decided I would instead comment on something other than games. While games and gaming are one of my most frequently engaged hobbies/interests, it is not however the only one I have. Another happens to be anime. However, only slightly.

There is a lot of anime out there that, while I don’t dislike, I don’t see myself watching addictively at any point. I am a fan of serious anime, or anime where things are set in a semi-realistic universe in which characters don’t react and behave ridiculously with their faces turning stupid all of a sudden (aka. Sailor Moon style). I was never into Pokemon or Dragon Ballz or any of that ridiculous nonsense, mainly because to me they seemed a bit too outrageous (and a little childish). No offense to anyone who is a fan though…

Neon Genesis: Evangelion is undoubtedly my favourite anime. It is debatably the best anime of all time. I won’t bother explaining the story because that would be a task within itself, but you should know that the story is nearly 15 years old. One of the first animes to strike an oilwell of success in western countries, it definitely struck a chord with my being when I first watched it on SBS at age 12. I held it in very high regard and still do today. Yes, I am a fanboy. Fuck you.

Nevertheless it is also the topic of this post. Evangelion Rebuild 2.22, a modernised and slightly different take on the original story was recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray in Japan after a cinema release nearly a year before. The Rebuild series of movies intend on bringing the franchise back, one last time, telling the story the way the original series director (Hideaki Anno) wanted to tell it. In my opinion, the movies have been a stunning success and are revolutionizing how anime is made. The level of visual detail, musical score, voice acting (Japanese at least) and minor plot changes have so far made for some incredibly epic and suspenseful story telling. That’s even with knowing how the story goes, or at least how you think it’s going to go…

Simply put, I like epic films. To me they are timeless in their message and infinite in their replay-ability. Any film that at some point creates a spine-tingling moment of overpowering awesomeness is in my opinion, an epic film. Some examples from movies include the last march of the Ents in The Two Towers, the charge of the Rohirrim in the Return of the King and the Dragon opening fire in Avatar. Why am I bringing this up? Because the Evangelion Rebuild movies do it as well.

Maybe I’m just sentimental and nostalgic about watching the original series over a decade ago, but I did find Rebuild 2.22 (and 1.11 before it) to be quite epic. Although a large number of the Angels were squished together to form singular battles, the fights themselves were really quite cool with interesting additions. I don’t enjoy being a critic of anything as I think being a critic is to purposefully draw negativity to things that should really just be enjoyed for what they are, for better or worse. That said, I do have a minor disappointment, that being the level of interaction given to Asuka’s character. The fiery red haired bitch (my favourite character) seemed to almost be given a background role. One of her big fights in the original series was replaced by Mari, a new female character who also seems under developed.

She does have a nice ass though, so I guess she can be forgiven. I suppose it is difficult to fit both the original and new content into a 2 hr sitting. Unlike many forum posts I have read, I actually enjoy and approve of the new story (so far), mainly because it seems even more serious than before. It also helps to view it from an ‘alternate universe’ perspective. Although it certainly has its ‘bizarre’ scenes, the whole Japanese madness that is prevalent in lots of anime is well toned down here which in my opinion appeals to a larger, more adult demographic. Having watched to final ending to 2.22 (after the credits) I am really quite interested to see where they go from here. I really hope they don’t go the way of End of Evangelion …

… but part of me kind of wants them to.

Below: An old AMV I made using original series/movie footage

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Awesome Sauce

The following video is awesome:

I could explain why, but I think I might let the viewer determine it for themselves.

I think I might have a random 'awesome sauce' post every now and then just to make things different. Well, not really.

And sif its not a SF4 video. My fucking blog, I can do what I want. BITCH!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Frag Video

Ah yes. One of the reasons for many hours of staring at screens in either bewildered amazement or tedious boredom would be because of the 'Frag Video'. I quite like them. Well, the good ones that is. I have much respect for skilled gamers and well edited footage. I have often considered making one myself but have never really dedicated both the playing time and editing time to make anything noteworthy. The only heavy editing videos I have done in recent years were the two short WoW machinima vids which are becoming quite dated at the moment. There is also the fact that I am in dire need of updating my editing tools. Photoshop CS 2, After Effects 2 and Premiere 2, while fantastic products just don't cut it when comparing it to the quality of videos coming out nowadays.

The good videos that is. You will often wade through many a terrible 'frag' video on Youtube until you stumble across one that is worthy of attention. While there is nothing wrong with making a short video for you and your friends to reminisce about, avidly advertising something online for people to download and watch on a registered video site can be a deathwish if your video is crap. I can understand many people don't have the time/resources to make great videos, but as long as you understand that the general viewer wont find your 'amazing skills' that interesting to watch, you will save yourself a lot of disappointment.

So, what is a frag video? There are many answers for that question, but in my opinion (and I consider this a subjective topic) a frag video is a short to medium length video showcasing two things in particular: The skills of the player/s in the video and (to a lesser extent) the skills of the video editor. The video editing component is not entirely necessary, but generally speaking the quality of a frag video will be higher if the video editing is more polished. However, it should be noted that video editing in itself is not (and never was) difficult. There is skill in creativity, but not skill in execution. Given time, a decent video editor can make any piece of footage look amazing.

So with that out of the way, what makes a good frag video? For me (again subjective) the answer is quite simple. Pace. Sure, a video can present the amazing skills of some random dudes, and the editing may be pretty and top notch, but if it doesn't fit the pace of the footage or the chosen music it accompanies ... it becomes incredibly boring. A boring video ceases to be an entertaining one and, in my opinion, ceases to be an effective frag video.

Here are some examples of great frag videos. I would highly recommend watching them on Youtube themselves (double click videos) and watching them in HD if possible.

Quake 3 frag videos are not hard to come by. The pace of the game itself and the amazing shit you can do in it pretty much begs users to make frag videos. In Mecurial we have a fast paced edit with a likewise techno/acid music theme that, in the world of Quaking, fits very well. Shaolin Productions editing is suitable and more importantly, incredibly well synced to the visuals and audio track. Did this video take time to make? Most certainly. Was it worth it? Certainly most.

What's this!? A WoW frag video!!?? Preposterous, how can this be possible? Easily. WoW is a slow game. A very, very slow game, in all considerable aspects. If you want to make a frag video, why not just speed it up? Easy! In Boneshock's first video he did just that, synced it to an ... interesting metal track and did a fine job on the editing. Depending on your taste, this can be entertaining enough, if you are not the kind of person that requires looking at health bars and spell casts to understand what is going on. Unfortunately, this type of video is NOT the type of video you will frequently find on Most of those videos are lame and uninspired footage of someone doing the same thing the last guy did, but with different music. Most of these videos are Arena videos, and they are usually horribly boring. I can understand someone's joy in making a video about something they consider amazing, but again, advertising it for the world the see and expecting gold is ludicrous.

TF2 is a fantastic looking game for frag videos, and this video shows it quite well. Again it is synced well and has the same qualities of those before it, if a bit more on a dramatic and epic 'theme'. Unfortunately, these sort of frags come all too infrequently in a game like TF2 which may make these frags seem godlike in the eyes of someone who doesn't know any better. As many of these frags are the result of flukes or luck rather than true skill one can be fooled into thinking TF2 is as fast paced and 'bouncy' as a game like Quake 3. It aint. However this should not detract from the fact that the video and the frags it contains are really quite entertaining.

It is difficult to make a Frag video of a fighting game. Most of them turn out to be combo videos, which while impressive, don't really fall into the same category (at least in my opinion). The above video is about the best example I can find of someone creatively trying to make a video using fighting game footage for the sole purpose of entertaining the viewer. For a veteran player, most of the moves will be simplistic, but for a newbie I imagine the video would look more like a trailer if anything. That is not a bad thing by any means and I personally salute this editor's effort at exploring the possibilities of footage editing for a still relatively new game.

There are many more examples I can display of great frag videos, but I believe that will do for the moment. Also, I do not really enjoy being a critic :S.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Successful LAN Checklist

One can argue that LANs are dying as of late in recent years. They would not be wrong. Often the reason for LANing in the past was because of games not being suitable on the slow connections a decade ago, combined with the proximity to the dedicated server. These factors would often convince people that gathering a group of like-minded individuals into a building for digital entertainment over faster and closer networks was a good idea. They were right.

Of course, the speed of connections today and the games people play are one of the reasons people don't LAN anymore. Hell, some games do not even support the feature in general (Modern Warfare 2, upcoming Starcraft 2), which is really quite sad considering their origins. There is also the fact that the vast majority of games released in the last few years are terrible for LANs, massive in size, no AI/Bots other than singleplayer, requiring 50 security and authorization checks per second and even requiring a constant internet connection. Why not just play at home online?

It is difficult to argue against, but there is one very good reason why people should still LAN. Because they are social events. Yes, you are doing something you enjoy with friends who also enjoy doing it, in close scream-in-your-ear proximity with the capability to easily reflect on awesomeness later. Who wouldn't enjoy that? I can only think of two types of people. The first would be someone who doesn't like other people and the second would be someone who doesn't have any friends.

So providing you do choose to LAN in the future (which you should), there are 5 simple rules that I believe everyone (hosts, participants, guests) should follow to make the experience not irritating for everyone.

1. Headphones. Put them into your sound card and cover your ears with them. Not everyone wants to hear you play the same Queen or Linkin Park song over and over again at full volume. Having speakers on low-medium volume playing the currently played game is fine, but please, consider the well being of the people surrounding you.

2. Many Games. Depending on the duration of the LAN this can vary in size from 0 to ... lets say 10. Playing the same game over and over, while mind blowing for some, can get incredibly boring for others (especially those who are perhaps not that great or are new to it). Screaming "HEADSHOT!" into your friend's face for the 23rd time, while exciting for you, may be both uncomfortable, tedious and deafening for them.

3. Bring discs/files. If you are suggesting a game to play, consider the accessibility of the game for everyone. Wanting to play Doom 3 deathmatch when you don't have the discs, or a cracked version, nor do they and there are 5+ players (Doom 3 DM is 4 players) is worthy of submission to If a game can be bought off steam and files transferred, great. However, if the game costs $90 and you are the only one who has it, fail.

4. Don't be a faggot. Don't cheat. Sitting in a room with several other testosterone induced individuals can be a very a hairy situation. You are there to have fun with friends and getting upset/emo about what happens in games is a real mood breaker. This happens the other way around as well. Boasting and/or inappropriate trash talking can grant you both contempt and punches to the face. Coop gaming is always good neutral ground.

5. Have a plan B. Things will break. Operating Systems will magically uninstall, cables lost, save games deleted, routers explode and of course, networks will shit themselves. Calm down and relax. Unless you are the host, you are moving a piece of hardware (that shouldn't and normally never is) several kilometres to run at an unknown location. You cannot possibly expect things to work smoothly. Bring an extra LAN cable, a copy of your OS, an external HDD with your drivers and DEFINITELY your own power board. NEVER rely on another person. People are shit!

If everyone was to follow these 5 simple rules at/prior to every LAN I can guarantee that the experience will be enjoyable for all!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Going back to school...

Super Street Fighter 4 was, among other things, released in Australia on my birthday. I have only just recently won my first ever Super Street Fighter 4 fight online. It was against an equally ranked Korean dude using the character Juri.

Here is the video:

I was both incredibly noob and unskillful, but nevertheless I am proud of it. For me it was the most intense and satisfying achievement in gaming in the past year or so. It took me an embarrassing number of tries to get there but I finally beat someone. I am now on the ranked global ladder.

It is really quite bizarre. Amongst my closest friends I would probably be considered reasonable at the game. Certainly able to beat most of them without a hitch. I go online and I get completely and utterly destroyed. The difference in skill between my friends, myself and the average online player is astounding. Despite the fact they are usually rated 1000+ (as opposed to my measly 56 or something), fighting against them feels like an uphill battle from the first move to the part when I am dying in a ball of fire or flying off the screen into oblivion. It is like an entirely new game, one in which I am at the bottom of the food chain.

I remember this feeling. The looking at losing screens again and again, while obviously irritating, does stir an enjoyable competitive fire in one's soul. The knowledge that you are playing an extremely skill based game and that you are not exactly that great at it. Indeed, the last time this happened was nearly a decade ago, back in the year 2000...

The game was Unreal Tournament.

I was what you would call an FPS noob in those days. I was foolish in thinking that control over mouse and keyboard was skill enough. Half-life singleplayer and UT against bots were no trouble, surely human players wouldn't be an issue? Wrong. First online deathmatch game? Bottom of the list. And again. And again. And again.

Oh eventually I got better. Generally speaking I would say I am decent at hardcore FPS games in general. But it was a long road taking many months. Even though I have had breaks I can still come back and cause some serious issues for veteran players of them (eg. Quake Live).

Although I do not plan on taking SSFIV too seriously, it is refreshing and astonishing to find that it is a game where the skill ceiling is far greater than I initially thought. Significantly greater, in fact. For example, the video below shows a typical method for landing Ryu's Ultra successfully on enemy players. This method is said to be pioneered by the professional Japanese fighting game world champion Daigo Umeharo, the Beast.

It may not look like much, but this player is pulling off a light shoryuken, focus attack, dash cancel into 2x quarter circle forward All punch. That is seven individual movements and approximately seventeen 'buttons' (both directional and attack based) being registered all in under a second. Beethoven much?

I will never be able to do that, at least on the default controller. It is just interesting to see quite visually how a professional gamer plays a fighting game as opposed to John 'fAtality' Wendel in a game like Quake 3. There is a big visual difference relating to both mental and physical precision and dexterity. Two elements I admittedly lack when playing any sort of game.

A friend of mine, one who I consider to be one of the best gamers I know, has again started training his mental agility in the form of playing Ut2k4 against progressively higher scaling bots. It is interesting to see as he posts his results as it is something I would like to try out with SSFIV on hardest difficulty. Although I am certain I will get trounced, it will definitely help towards both becoming a better player and (to a degree) a better person too. There is nothing more humbling than losing again and again only for it to pay off and for you to eventually succeed. Who ever said games never taught people the harsh rules of life were wrong. Or drunk.

Despite all this, there is some less pro-gamer oriented news. A large number of my friends and myself have bought the excellent tower defense game Sol Survivor off Steam (some earlier than others). At a mere $10, it has provided more hours of easily coop-able entertainment than some larger brand titles I have bought in the past. It is definitely worth picking up if you feel like some light casual/social gaming at a relaxed pace.

And last but not least, Starcraft 2 Beta. A good friend of mine encouraged me to pre-order the game from EB and providing 85% of the necessary files, I was able to install it without a problem. I am getting some strange frame-skipping every few seconds however, but you cannot not expect that in a Beta. So far I am stuck between two worlds. Part of me wants to argue that Blizzard took nearly 7 years to make a game that to me looks like the original game with a 3D facelift. The other part is saying to stick it out, learn a race (currently Zerg) and try it out competitively. Maybe I will grow to love it. Strategy games have never been my forte so I do not expect to do brilliantly ... but we will see. Oh yes, we will see.....