Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Poignant Realization

(from a presentation Erik Svedang gave at the recent Assembly '09, entitled "The Creation of Blueberry Garden – how to get away with bad design choices (sort of)" - The above image is one of the more insightful moments from the talk, in which Svedang talks about the intentional "bad" design choices he made when designing Blueberry Garden. I think he sells himself and his game a little short, myself. You can download the presentation from this link, watch a video of Blueberry Garden here, or purchase the game itself on Steam.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

BeatBlox: The game I keep forgetting to talk about

BeatBlox is an Xbox Live Indie Game from former IIDX forum moderator and all-around nice guy Aaron Ramsey, which attempts to mix Tetris Attack-ish tile matching with rhythm game elements. The two ingredients don't blend together too well, but it's totally playable, only costs a dollar, and oh my gosh guys check out this song I contributed to it:
Pretty simple premise, really. There's a big ol' randomly generated grid of colored tiles, which you can slide around with the face buttons on your xbox controller. Every once in a while, these grey "Beat Blocks" (now mysteriously spelled correctly) will drop onto the grid in time with the music. Beat Blocks count down and eventually explode, destroying all the tiles connected to it.

There's also this lifebar thing, which constantly drains away to nothing; the only way to stay alive is to constantly make huge explosions. The problem is that the bar is always draining, while the Beat Blocks only explode occasionally. This results in a lot of extremely frustrating situations where the lifebar is near death, a Beat Block is about to explode and refill the lifebar, but... the bar drains before the block explodes, and now you're just dead. It's a pretty unfortunate situation to put the player in, and it happens a lot.

Still, it's better than most of the other games I've played on the service. Crescendo Symphony, for example. Don't buy that game, okay? I've seen too many people make that mistake already.

Monday, August 10, 2009

YOU WA SHOCK ALL OVER AGAIN: Fist of the North Star is now on Hulu.

Well holy shit. Fist of the North Star is, in fact, on Hulu. You ain't got no excuses for not checkin' this show out now! Well, okay, you probably do, but whatever. Besides watching the first episode, I can also vouch for episode 18 ("Life or Death!? Beyond the Wasteland Lies the First Avenue of Hell!"), since it's a filler episode where Kenshiro punches a tank so much it explodes.
Okay, I guess he kicks it a bunch, too. Point stands.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

SEMI-BREAKING NEWS: Guitar Freaks and Drummania GET WIT' IT

You may be vaguely aware of Guitar Freaks/Drummania, Konami's extremely long-running arcade music game franchise (hereby referred to as GFDM), which has historically never really gotten a domestic release outside of Japan. Specifically, you may know that they've hilariously fucked up every opportunity to bring the games to America, only getting more hilarious when Guitar Hero and Rock Band exploded a couple of years back. Thankfully, the following news doesn't have anything to do with that. In fact, it sounds pretty awesome.
This past weekend, Konami had a location test for the newest installment of the franchise, entitled "Guitar Freaks/Drummania XG," and it looks like they're finally seriously renovating a pair of games that have desperately needed it for a while now. Guitar Freaks is easily the most laughable music game that Konami still releases new versions of on a regular basis. The controller only has 3 fret buttons, which means that most songs tend to look something like this:
Goddamn, Guitar Freaks is retarded. Every solo in every song tends to look something like what you see in the above video. Harmonix had the good sense to try to transfer some semblence of actual guitar technique into Guitar Hero's play mechanics in the form of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and note charts that at least look like something other than utterly random conflagrations of notes thrown into a spreadsheet at the last minute. How Guitar Freaks lasted sixteen iterations is beyond me.

The only rational explanation is that sessioning with Drummania (read: Guitar Freaks and Drummania machine gets hooked together, allowing players to form a "full band") kept the game afloat despite its inherent awfulness. That's the only rational explanation because Drummania is rad as hell, and does a lot of things better than Rock Band's drum mode, I think. You don't get penalized if you freestyle and insert notes that aren't actually part of the song, and you have far more options for adjusting the scrolling speed of the notes on the screen, just like every other music game Konami makes these days. Little things that I really wish Harmonix would implement into Rock Band, y'know? It also has a more realistic setup, with actual electronic drum cymbal pads and the like; if you buy the PS2 versions of GFDM, you can just plug a retail electronic drum kit into your PS2 and bam! You're playing with effectively the same hardware as the arcade. It's all pretty dang great.

...Whoever's overseeing development of GFDM must've felt like something was up, though, because Guitar Freaks/Drummania GX is a total overhaul of both games. Not only do both games have gorgeous new cabinets with widescreen displays and the like, but they're also upgrading the input. Guitar Freaks finally gets 5 fret buttons and sustain/long notes, while Drummania goes out of control and gets a hi-hat pedal, another cymbal, and a floor tom. The original DM setup already had a hi-hat, cymbal, snare, two toms and a kick pedal, which was enough to accommodate hundreds of songs worth of unique note patterns. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they do with the expanded design space they've afforded themselves.

These location tests are usually incredibly anal about folks recording video of their unfinished game, but some undercover gentlemen managed to snag video of the game and put it on Nico Nico Douga. Check it out if you've got an account. I'm a little concerned about the readability of 9 note lanes in Drummania (I had a hard enough time parsing the kick pedal lane in the original DM), but that's a sacrifice you gotta make, I guess.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Those muffins...

...turned out pretty good, I think. A little inconsistent in terms of size, though. Gotta work on that. The recipe called for the following:
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons backing powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed well
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
The recipe said I would end up with 12 muffins, but closer to 18 resulted. I am not complaining! Thanks to Bob Bakes for inspiring me in the first place.
ADDENDUM: I brought these over to a good friend's house last night, had a lot of people eat them. Response was delightfully positive; this morning I received a phone message from Daniel Hood stating that "That muffin was fiiiiiine" - Mission accomplished, baby.
Yup. This blog has officially turned a corner. In the words of Samuel L. Jackson circa 1993... "Hold on to your butts."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Following Up

A number of readers have mentioned to me that the previous post is confusing. My mistake! I intended to flesh it out a little more at the time. Things got away, as they often do, so let's go ahead and fix that.

The screenshot you see in the previous post is from the 1984 TV broadcast of Fist of the North Star, one of the most iconic and gloriously schlocky manga and anime series of all time. You can stream it for free (all 109 episodes!) over at Funimation's video site, along with a variety of other shows. I recommend checking out Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 while you have the chance; neither show has been officially released within the US before, and are enormously influential and important examples of Leiji Matsumoto kickin' ass.

Lemme reign myself in. If you've never heard of Fist of the North Star, or if you're familiar with the concept but have never seen the original, you might as well go watch the first episode. You should know pretty quickly if you love it or hate it, I think, and from there it should be easy to judge whether or not you want to continue. At the very least, you should have some other options if you decide to peruse the rest of Funimation's streaming site.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go bake some Banana Muffins. Pictures forthcoming.