Friday, December 30, 2011

RAGEQUIT: I Suck at Street Fighter (And So Do You!)

I'm not going to pretend I have much in common with the average Street Fighter fan.

For me, there's magic in those games, but it only has so much to do with frames of animation.
The movement of characters is special, to be sure, but for me, it's everything that's implied in the placement of feet and the trajectory of acting limbs, rather than the hitboxes they connect with, or the executive distances they create. I love the mythos of Street Fighter -- the stories that exist in and out of the games, intertwined with the visuals and conceptuals present in even the most rudimentary edition, which builds a legend sufficient to elevate a white suited karate man far beyond the generic three-letter name he's given.

To distance myself even further from the average player, I'm not all that enamored with online play.
Don't get me wrong. I understand the differences and appeal of going toe-to-toe with a human opponent (as opposed to CPU), but there's a convenience in the disposable exchange between machine and man, complimented by the fact that I actually enjoy the cutscenes and glimpses of story, have a generally poor internet connection, and very rarely master my games to any discernable degree. Or so I thought...

To really underline my level of skill (or lack thereof), I'll boldly admit to being completely incapable of executing a combo or super on command. I'm relatively ignorant to the ins and outs of tournament competition, but I'm pretty sure this instantly ranks me in the bottom echelon of prospective opponents. Well aware of this fact, I'll gladly do my best to trade pugilistic strategies, comfortable in the knowledge that I'll probably lose miserably. That's fine.

With obvious shortcomings in mind, however, imagine my surprise, when venturing online, to discover myself beating opponents! To their level of quality and stature, I cannot speak. The mere act of challenging someone with a noteworthy score was enough to render me surprised, beating them was an enjoyable bonus. Of course, I was surprised -- and ultimately enraged by a string of second round 'lost connection to host' conclusions (playing Street Fighter IV original), again and again.

Despite my initial suspicions based on timing, I gather the loss of host connection is actually a legitimate, impartial practical breakdown, and not a strategy to retain a solid win-loss record. I can begrudgingly accept that, particularly as my internet connection is less than spectacular, and I was knowingly entering into battles with a red graded connection probably located somewhere far, far away.

Switching to the abundantly titled Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, I figured I might have more success, finding local opponents on the more recent and more populated title. To a modest degree, I was right. Believing this would improve my sparse win-loss record on the original was my first mistake, however. Which brings us to this blog, which is essentially a long and laborious howling deathcry from a gamer unwilling to risk the damage inherent in furiously hurling his controls at the screen like a spiteful hadouken.

Officially, after a handful of dominant ranked matches, my record is 0-0. I have 0 player points.

To date, I haven't suffered a lost connection to host on SSFIVAE. Instead, the enraging indignity of quite explicitly confirmed quits by opponents has been my fate. Quits from ranked matches, which, I surely would have assumed would result in a default win for me (I was leading comfortably, any way), with points awarded accordingly.

This, of course, is wrong.

The reason for these forfeits was eloquently summed up in my first ever received "troll" message since playing online -- "laggy bitch," the subject. No content required. Laggy bitch. Laggy bitch with a clearly labelled connection quality of orange. Laggy bitch with a clearly labelled connection quality of orange, colour coded so any moron can instantly see if this is a fight he might like to avoid, based on ability to perform under lag. Laggy bitch with a colour coded connection any moron can instantly read, who was dominating the fight.

Suffice it to say that the lag was a fairly minimal, only occasional half second pause.
Compared to my red graded SFIV experiences, it was actually probably a little bit worse than I would expected of a newer game. Even so, it was hardly enough to interrupt the flowm, easily managed with a shred of anticipation shared mutually between two players.

In closing, I posit that it is you who is the bitch!
You and everyone like you, whose game can so easily be thrown off by the merest presence of latency! You, whose skills are so utterly underwhelming, you took a C-grade whooping before quitting like a whiney little bitch! You, who by any other measure, was defeated! You, who clearly sucks based on the rudimentary limitations of your skills! You, who can go screw!

Game Over!

After defeating Seth, Mike takes control of the S.I.N laboratory and uses their hi-tech facilities to play online. With a spectacular connection and almost no lag to speak of, he is swiftly handed his own arse, relegated with embarrassing efficiency.

Original Post:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

iChart 100: Year 5 Concludes

#1 [929] William Ørbit - Cavalleria Rusticana (--)
#2 [893] William Ørbit - In A Landscape (--)
#3 [880] William Ørbit - Ogive Number I (--)
#4 [840] William Ørbit - L'Inverno (--)
#5 [838] William Ørbit - Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte (--)
#6 [820] William Ørbit - Piece in the Old Style 3 (--)
#7 [817] William Ørbit - Triple Concerto (--)
#8 [815] William Ørbit - Xerxes (--)
#9 [790] William Ørbit - Adagio for Strings (--)
#10 [761] William Ørbit - Piece in the Old Style I (--)
#11 [739] William Ørbit - Opus I32 (+2)
#12 [660] 菅野よう子 [Yoko Kanno] - Bad Dog (-1)
#13 [628] Way Out West - Pulse of Life (-1)
#14 [628] CocoRosie - Rainbowarriors (--)
#15 [563] CoLD SToRAGE - Body in Motion (--)
#16 [547] Thom Yorke - Analyse (--)
#17 [520] Björk - Mouths Cradle (--)
#18 [512] Underworld - Two Months Off (Radio Edit) (--)
#19 [511] Vangelis - Love Theme from Bladerunner (--)
#20 [505] Moby - My Weakness (--)
#21 [477] Björk - Who Is It (Carry My Joy on the Left, Carry My Pain on the Right) (+1)
#22 [473] CoLD SToRAGE - Cold Comfort (-1)
#23 [450] William Ørbit - Barber's Adagio for Strings (Ferry Corsten Remix) (+2)
#24 [450] Sasha - Wavy Gravy (+1)
#25 [438] PNAU - Journey Agent (+1)
#26 [433] Bodyrox feat. Luciana - Yeah Yeah (D. Ramirez Radio Edit) (-2)
#27 [428] Stardust - Music Sounds Better With You (Radio Edit) (+2)
#28 [428] Björk - Submarine (-1)
#29 [422] Groove Terminator - Losing Ground (-1)
#30 [418] The Future Sound of London - Papua New Guinea (+3)
#31 [411] Groove Zone - Eisbaer (Extended Mix) (-1)
#32 [408] Pendulum - Coma (+3)
#33 [396] Intermix - Mantra (-2)
#34 [392] CoLD SToRAGE - Cairodrome (-2)
#35 [389] Gustav - Genua (+1)
#36 [387] Madonna - Frozen (-2)
#37 [384] Rob Dougan - Clubbed to Death (Kurayamino Variation) (--)
#38 [376] 808 State - Pacific (808:98) (+7)
#39 [376] Moby - Bodyrock (Hybrid's Bodyshock Remix) (+7)
#40 [375] Supreme Beings of Leisure - Strangelove Addiction (-2)
#41 [372] Moby - Porcelain (Clubbed to Death Version by Rob Dougan) (-2)
#42 [372] Einsturzende Neubauten - Blume (+7)
#43 [369] Faithless - We Come 1 (-3)
#44 [368] Hot Chip - Over and Over (-3)
#45 [362] Luke Slater - Stars and Heroes (+5)
#46 [359] Moby - Memory Gospel (+10)
#47 [359] Cassius - Toop Toop (-5)
#48 [359] Björk - Desired Constellation (-1)
#49 [357] Radiohead - Videotape (-6)
#50 [355] UNKLE - Lonely Soul (-6)
#51 [354] William Ørbit - Water From a Vine Leaf (+4)
#52 [347] Björk - Vokuro (+2)
#53 [347] Björk - Pleasure is all Mine (--)
#54 [346] Pet Shop Boys - Miracles (Radio Edit) (+5)
#55 [344] Björk - Visur Vatnsenda-Rósu (-7)
#56 [342] Madonna - Drowned World/Substitute For Love (-5)
#57 [341] Gerling - Enter, Space Capsule (Radio Disko Edit) (+4)
#58 [339] Joe Jackson - Steppin Out (-6)
#59 [333] Console - 14 Zero Zero (-2)
#60 [332] b(if)tek feat. Julee Cruise - Wired for Sound (-2)
#61 [326] DJ Krush - Dig This Vibe (-1)
#62 [323] Underworld - Born Slippy (Nuxx) (+13)
#63 [323] Groove Armada - Dusk, You & Me (+4)
#64 [318] UNKLE - Rabbit in your Headlights (+6)
#65 [318] Orbital - Petrol (+7)
#66 [317] Moby - Flying Foxes (+13)
#67 [317] Orbital - Halcyon (7" Version) (+1)
#68 [317] Sash! - Chill Out No. 1 (-6)
#69 [317] Peter Bjorn & John - Young Folks (-6)
#70 [315] b(if)tek - 3 Seconds of Her (+8)
#71 [314] Björk - Joga (+15)
#72 [312] Faithless - Drifting Away [Paradiso Mix] (--)
#73 [312] The Chemical Brothers - Let Forever Be (-9)
#74 [310] Joy Division - Atmosphere (+7)
#75 [309] Pet Shop Boys - I Don't Know What You Want but I Can't Give it Anymore (-10)
#76 [307] Björk - Triumph of a Heart (-10)
#77 [306] Ratty - Sunrise (Here I Am) (+3)
#78 [306] Moby - ARP (-1)
#79 [306] 菅野よう子 [Yoko Kanno] - Pulse (-3)
#80 [305] Björk - Oceania (+5)
#81 [304] Daft Punk - Veridis Quo (+3)
#82 [304] Rui Da Silva feat. Cassandra - Touch Me (Radio Edit) (+1)
#83 [301] Hybrid - Finished Symphony (-14)
#84 [297] Moby - Natural Blues (-10)
#85 [295] CoLD SToRAGE - Messij Received (-12)
#86 [291] Pet Shop Boys - Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) (+1)
#87 [291] Sash! feat. Tina Cousins - Mysterious Times (+11)
#88 [286] The Prodigy - Voodoo People (Pendulum Remix) (+11)
#89 [286] Hot Chip - Grubbs (-7)
#90 [283] Joanna Newsom - Sprout and the Bean (RE)
#91 [279] Chicane feat. Bryan Adams - Don't Give Up (+9)
#92 [278] Rob Dougan - Nothing at All (+1)
#93 [278] The KLF - 3AM Eternal (new)
#94 [275] The KLF - Last Train to Trancentral (-4)
#95 [273] Pet Shop Boys - Can You Forgive Her? (-3)
#96 [273] Faithless - Salva Mea [Way Out West Remix] (-8)
#97 [271] The Chemical Brothers - The Test (-8)
#98 [269] Hybrid - If I Survive (-2)
#99 [269] The KLF - What Time is Love? (new)
#100 [269] Groove Armada - Inside My Mind (Blue Skies) (RE)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Running the Asylum: Lessons Learned from Batman

Adrift in the white noise of what seems to be generally good feelings about the now passed Bat-sequel; I must confess to having almost no knowledge of, or experience with, Arkham City. Amidst rumors of yet another expansion toward something along the lines of an 'Arkham World,' I feel some reticence toward any assertion that these are the greatest games the comics-to-gaming world has, and will ever see, but the point remains -- Rocksteady did make some very good games!

Personally, I've never been a big believer in writing off titles simply because they're derived from something else. The world has undeniably seen its fair share of hideous adaptations, but that blanket attitude has done more than lead many a soul to miss a hidden gem, canonizing an opinion as fact to such an extent as to condemn an entire sub-genre, by consensus, and by self-fulfilling production. At least, that's the theory. A brand as powerful as Batman can be counted on to fight through just about any prejudice (for the time being), and there are always the unwashed masses who buy even the most reviled adaptations, if they're within Wal-reach and the price is Wal-right.

As much as I'd love to spend time sharing my take on consumer wisdom, a more interesting, if equally dismaying point, has taken my fancy. It's a subject intertwined with a good deal of blogging I've done on 1UP over the past couple years, but is the kind of boneheaded, blisteringly obvious point that bares constant repeating, if only because it hasn't been adopted as a widely accepted truth: games should reference the source.

I suppose the implication of "referencing the source" is a project that intends to make use of the parent license, and if you're making use of a license from comic books, then your focus is primarily to reference design and ideas.

Games have never completely abandoned their penchant for storytelling, but for a while there, it seemed there might actually be a conceited push to get away from inconveniences such as plot, motivation, and other things that don't always accomodate a grey-brown palette and running and gunning. Comics can do both, as famous for their face pounding superheroes as they are their elaborate literature of pictures and words. Batman: Arkham Asylum brought The Dark Knight Detective's chops to both arenas, improving upon the motion of being the ultimate hero, as well as the poetry of his world. I've got my issues with both areas, but for all intents and purposes, the success of Asylum was an important moment for everyone to take note of -- and they clearly have.

Warner Bros. Montreal (via MTV Splash Page) inspired this blog by citing the current Batman games, as well as Activision's now classic Spider-man for the PlayStation, as the contemporary standard for this type of product. It's the kind of no brainer statement that makes me a little sad for the need to say it, but pleased that the right people are reaching the right conclusions, however late. As they prepare to tackle other properties from the DC Comics pantheon, they note, "They were just taking that really rich fiction from the comic books and exploring the characters. It's not about hitting the movie date or some arbitrary date – it was giving the game the time it needs to be successful and really just concentrating on the quality of it."

It's worth remembering that Batman: Arkham Asylum -- one of the games of 2009 -- emerged as a belated, unofficial compliment to one of the films of 2008 - The Dark Knight. The film influence can be found in elements of the close quarters fighting, or the steady orchestral drone of score that occasionally swells during play, but it was otherwise a surprising shift away from the direct adaptation that was met with mixed reviews for Batman Begins. For a time, a Dark Knight game was reported and assumed, but in the end, through design or inadvertent juggling, we got something much better, sourced from the comics (with a smattering of other references).

Consider for a moment that Arkham Asylum had the all-black costume of the movie Batman, and revolved around a slightly different plot, and you might appreciate the importance of recognising that games based on popular movies don't necessarily need to fail. Activision's development of the Spider-man universe arguably peaked with Spider-man 2, the second film sequel that gave the wall crawler a complete city (with streets and select interiors), and added new complexity to the act of web-slinging. Of those first four games, divded evenly between comics and films, each sequel improved upon the experience of its predecessor.

Where movie-based games are most immediately prone to fail is in the storytelling department. Personally, I think it goes without saying that a game that literally retells the plot of a movie, even with occasional insertions, is going to fall short, however ironic that might be. It's a redundancy that isn't completely without virtue, but typically has all the charm and intrigue of a second-hand account of last night's cinema trip from your parents, whose droning confusion equates to scene-extended fetch quests and time trial chase sequences. If your parents are anything like mine, it probably also rings true that the notation of a familiar actor (or character) takes precedent over anything even remotely relating to the film -- but I digress...


It's my hope that, if nothing else, superhero video games can learn valuable lessons from the success of the Batman games, but it's no sure thing. Batman has often been a brand to lead the way down a golden path, only to have it soiled by hamfisted misinterpretations.

Anyone partaking in the online sport of mocking nineties comics (and folks like Rob Liefeld) would probably like to trace their bombastic, grit-toothed origins to the grim 'n' gritty explosion led by iconic eighties matter like The Dark Knight Returns -- a tome expected to play key to influencing Christopher Nolan's 2012 blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan himself has been the source of widespread mediocrity, empowering a terrifying trend of brainless franchise remakes that extends to video games, and coincides with new products that share a skewed, misguided influence taken from the "realistic" Bat-reboots. Even DC hasn't been immune, bungling their way to one of the flops of the decade, the glowing missed opportunity of Green Lantern, which attempted to combine ideals of the successful Batman and Iron Man franchises with insulting results.

Even as we speak, a designer or publisher somewhere in the world is contemplating ways to recreate the success of the Arkham games with no appreciation for how a product was arrived at. Accounts from those that ventured there give the impression it was the mechanical formula of the Arkham series that gave motion to a lacklustre film tie-in based on Captain America. It certainly seemed to be that type of affair, not quite worth the dollars to find out [consumer beats commentator].

Unfortunately, some of these more shallow, corporate-driven trends have infiltrated the comics themselves. If you know about the heavily publicized DC Comics "New 52" reboot, you know that the four-colour format is as fickle as ever, prone to ditching its history at the first sign of digital sales (to a degree), contrary to old wisdom. With worlds that demand reason to fill the far reaching corners of an ever expanding sandbox, I like to think video games have the opportunity to take the best from the Batman lesson, doing as the comics haven't by making a sales pitch of a rich and involving universe.

Arkham Asylum makes a meal of all available materials, borrowing iconic thrills from comics like Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth and Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, while also picking up on colourful strands from scary places like 1997's reviled Schumacher film, Batman & Robin. The story isn't a dense tome of text and cut scenes, but often that's the intended meaning of good storytelling, remembering the importance to acknowledge medium, genre and any other influences that might shape a story. Things fell apart at the end of Arkham Asylum, but for the most part, there was a servicable effort to make all that trapsing seem pretty worthwhile, at least while it was happening. By referencing the comics, it ensured the entire affair was as visually and conceptually interesting as it should be, unbound in ways the films, by their own choice, haven't always been.

The films have a similar strong foundation in the comics, owing much to stories like Batman: Year One and Batman: Dark Victory. With that in mind, the lesson of Batman's many successes should almost certainly be one of respect for the source, rather than dollar-signs-in-the-eyes that might suggest any Batman is good Batman. It's an endorsement of the influence of the original, just as Warner Bros. Montreal profess.

Meandering to a blog conclusion, I think back to the turn-of-the-decade phenomenon of The Matrix. The 1999 breakout hit brought Hong Kong wirework to the Hollywood fore and similarly endorsed the ideals of a comic book and anime audience, steeped in expansive universes and interesting concepts, bolstered by graphic design. Famously left to the devices of the Wachowski siblings who put the pieces together (in distant Australia), the film was a landmark endorsement of the creator, confirming the action-packed auteur theory that offered a gateway to the superheroes who've taken over that ideaspace (for better or worse).

Let's just hope things end better for Batman.