Wednesday, August 31, 2016

MIDI Week Singles: "Carmeaty Burana (Ch 6 Boss)" - Super Meat Boy (PC)

"Carmeaty Burana (Ch 6 Boss) from Super Meat Boy on pretty much every platform (2010).
Composer: Danny Baranowsky
Developer: Team Meat

First off, I love that the title of this track is a play on Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," which I will admit that aside from the "O Fortuna" overture, I had not listened to anything else before writing today's article.  I was wondering if the title was simply an alteration of the title of Carl Orff's "scenic cantata" or if composer Danny Baranowsky's "Carmeaty Burana" contained some musical elements or themes from Orff's own composition.  Well, I can tell you for sure, that I am not qualified to say that that is the case or not here.

But what I can tell you, is that not having gotten to the chapter six boss in Super Meat Boy (Hel, I haven't even gotten to the chapter two boss, and not for lack of trying either), is that this song is damn exciting and exhibits similar feelings of non-nostalgia awesomeness that last weeks "Everdawn Basin" from Dust: An Elysian Tale cooked up.

I feel that that is all I can say about this song.  That it's a fun song that exhibits a feeling of excitement and impending death (times 35) and also doesn't rely on the nostalgia factor that some other songs may rely on, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but is a very frequent occurrence when it comes to video game music and those who like it and why.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Monstress Vol #1 - Comic Book Review

Monstress volume 1 is produced by Image comics, written by Marjorie Liu and Illustrated by Sara Takeda.  Jane picked up this compilation of issues 1-6 at our local comic store.  Monstress Vol. 1 is gorgeous, engrossing and at $10, a fantastic value.  I recommend this book highly. 
The art is fantastic, images on a computer do not do it justice.  There is a depth and color and detail in every page.  The story so far is grim and ugly, but also curious and gripping.  The world building is done effectively as the story flows along, and it leaves me wanting more.  This is my favorite comic I've read in years.  Issue 7 will be released on October 12th.  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Emulator Hour: Bases Loaded (NES/3DS)

Bases Loaded is a 1988 game by presumably now defunct Japanese company Jaleco (although the NES port was handled by "ghost developer" Tose Software), which is all beside the point, but I figured it was the best way to start of today's edition of Emulator Hour.  I played this game a bit back in the NES glory days, although I seem to recall playing a lot more of Bases Loaded II, but I could be mistaken on that part.  What I can tell you about the Bases Loaded port for the 3DS (no 3D effects however), is that it is a damn faithful port of the NES game, all the way down to the way the music stalls when the game moves back from fielding to the batting/pitching screen.

One of the things that drew me to Bases Loaded back in the day, was the semi-realistic design of the players, which were not depicted as the rotund characters that were present in Nintendo's Baseball, or in the MLB licensed  Major League Baseball.  These players were better proportioned and even had varying pitching styles and batting stances, which I was, and probably still am, convinced that they have an affect on how the ball is hit/thrown.

Now, I would like to think that I am a pretty decent video game player, except when it comes to sportsing games when you play against a computer controlled opponent apparently.  This is where my paranoia comes into play again.  Presently, I have played seven games, the first two I played as the L.A. team, and the last five as the Boston team.  I have managed to lose all seven games.  Don't believe me?  Here are screen shots from the end of the game with a little bit (from what I can remember) about each game.

Game 1: Hawaii (Comp) vs. L.A. (Me)
Being my first game, I was a little frustrated by this beating.  I genuinely could not figure out how to hit the ball in an area of the field that was not occupied by one of the opposing fielders.  I was also trying to figure out the pitching mechanism.

Game 2: Hawaii vs. L.A.
This was a horrible, horrible game.  By the end of the 6th inning when I was down by 13, I was hoping that a 10 run mercy rule would take effect, but then the 7th inning started and I knew that I was in for more digital torture.  Same issues as the first game in trying to figure out the best way to pitch against the batters.  I was also trying to determine when/if to take control of the outfielders, if the computer had better control/aim when it came to fielding balls and catching fly balls and seeing as how Hawaii's team was doing such a great job at defense, I figured that the computer would do a better job than I had been doing.  That was not the case.

Game 3: Jersey (Comp.) vs. Boston (Me)
I decided that a team change was in order as I seem to recall having played as Boston when I first played the game on the NES and I didn't recall losing as frequently and by as much as I had just been (see Game 2).  So I picked Boston and while I still lost, I was able to hold Jersey to under 10, which I considered to be an improvement.  What I did notice was that while I was at bat, that at least 50% of time, I would hit a foul ball, which did not happen as often as when I was pitching.  Now, this could be a difference in style of pitching, or it could have been that the computer just did not want to lose.  And as you can see, I apparently did not have a hard time getting on base as I had 14 hits to Jersey's 16, but getting those runners home is where I faltered.

Game 4: Jersey vs. Boston
This game was about as annoying as Game 2.  I simply could not get on base enough.  Out of  35 batters, only 8 got on base, and the 27 others either struck out (which happened very rarely, as in less than 5 times) or fielded out (including flied out).  This was painful to watch as fly ball after fly ball seemed to be hit to an outfielder who either did not have to move or moved so quickly that by the time the ball came to them, they had already arrived and finished their dissertation on "War and Peace."  There was even a play during either this game where I threw the ball to third base from home plate and apparently the short stop was covering third (with a runner on third) and the short stop stepped off the bag as the third basemen was running and the ball passed everyone up and went into left field.  The runner on third scored driving another proverbial nail even deeper into my coffin.

Game 5: Jersey vs. Boston
Not ready to throw in the towel (or my 3DS across the room and through a window), I soldiered on against Jersey.  This game was infuriating to lose.  By the end of the 7th inning, I had pulled ahead 3 - 5 and was feeling good about how the game had progressed.  By this point, I had stopped swinging as frequently, usually waiting for the third or fourth pitch as the first two would typically be just barely strikes and the third pitch would usually be right down the middle (a bit fast mind you, but usually I could hit the damn thing); still hit a lot of foul balls though.  So as I had expected, Jersey scored in the 8th, but so did I to maintain a lead in the 9th.  Then Jersey scored 2 more to be ahead 7 - 6.  The final out happened like this:  I had the bases loaded, my current batter (I've forgotten whom) did not have a great batting average and had less than 5 home runs, so I called in a pinch hitter who had a better average and 15 home runs.  First pitch was a ball, second pitch was a strike.  Third pitch I swung at, popped the ball up at home base (in-game it looked about maybe 10 feet in the air), the catcher moved forward, caught the ball and that was the game.

Game 6: Miami vs. Boston & Game 7: Miami vs. Boston

I decided to combine Games 6 and 7 into one entry for a couple of reasons, foremost being that I cannot remember a whole lot about these games individually, but I do remember events that happened during both games.  During Game 6, was when the computer decided that it was going to introduce stealing bases, which did catch me off guard the first couple of times, mainly because it had never happened before, and because I had been unable to figure out how to do it when I was at bat.  It was also at some point during these games that I came to the conclusion that in a game of Pickle, the computer will always win since its reaction time is far superior to mine and unlike me, it will not mess up a throw.  By this point I had also learned that in Bases Loaded, the tie does not in fact, go to the runner.

As you can tell, I have had and am still having trouble with Bases Loaded.  I would even say that it is a fun game despite all of the losing.  I am still trying to figure out the best way to beat the computer, and so far using pitchers with an ERA hovering around and below 3.0 does not seem to be working, nor does throwing pitches that should not be hittable (not including the ones that are waaaaaay outside).  I do not know exactly how the game determines if when I hit the ball, if it goes foul or now.  Is it determined by why I select to hit the ball and where the ball is pitched?  I have tried looking up this information and either no one else has experienced this (which I doubt), or that barely anyone else cares.  Or I am, again, just being paranoid.

So that is my rant/review of Bases Loaded on the 3DS.  Perhaps I just need to move on.  Or perhaps I just need to kick the computer's ass at least once before moving on. . .


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

MIDI Week Singles: "Everdawn Basin" - Dust: An Elysian Tale (PC/PS4/XB360/Linux/iOS/OSX)

"Everdawn Basin" from Dust: An Elysian Tale on the PC, PS4, XBox 360, Linux, iOS, & OS X  (2012)
Label: Self Released / Bandcamp
Developer: Humble Hearts

Confession time.  I have not played Dust: An Elysian Tale, and I apparently hadn't listened to the soundtrack despite the fact that Dr. Potts got me the soundtrack a number of years ago (apologies on that note).  But when this song cropped up this morning, I thought, "Buh-jeezus, this is some rocking-ness!"  So not having played the game, I cannot say how this songs fits into the context of the game, or how it compares to the rest of the soundtrack, I had to start writing right away.

What I love about this song is that it starts off with the quiet-ish vocal / string section that lasts for the first 22 seconds, but once it hits that 22 second mark, the song becomes almost a battle theme.  I could actually see this being final boss battle music, except that it comes less than half way through the soundtrack, which I will believe is in chronological order.  I am actually very interested to find out where in the game this track takes place, although I may have built up the possible scenario too much.  

We'll just have to wait and see then.

But until then, it's off to listening to the rest of the soundtrack.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Emulator Hour: Mega Man 4 (NES/3DS)

I really wanted to love Mega Man 4, (or Mega Man IV if you go by the in-game title as opposed to the boxed title).  Even after reading some of the negative opinions on the Wikipedia article, I wanted to believe that MM4 was not the beginning of the end for the Mega Man franchise on the NES.  After coming off of the great level design of Mega Man 3 (specifically going back through stages that have sustained damage after the first robot boss was defeated), I was looking forward to seeing how MM4 was going to improve upon this great, yet formulaic series.  While MM4 still felt very Mega Man-y such as the monster design, the New Mega Buster and the overall look of the stages, I felt that  the creators seemed to have run out of new ideas for bosses, boss weapons, and lost steam level design, especially later in the game.

I had previously played Mega Man 4 sometime in the early '90s, either while on vacation in Lake Arrowhead (thanks again Grandma for the many NES rentals), or back home in Nor*Cal (thanks Mom & Dad for taking me countless times to Placer TV/Video), but I know that I had previously had a go against Skull Man, Toad Man, Ring Man, and Pharaoh Man.  

And speaking of the bosses, I started to question the reasoning behind the bosses, their names, their associated weapons and how in the hell you are supposed to surmise which order to go through so that you have even an inkling as to the boss' weakness.  In previous games, you could deduce that in Mega Man 2, Wood Man would be weak against Heat Man's Atomic Fire, or that in the first Mega Man, that Fire Man would be weak against Ice Man's Ice Slasher.  I found that these types of deductions were not at all intuitive in MM4, although you could say that this sightly confusing boss weakness method started with Mega Man 3, but let us stick with MM4 for now.  Looking at the list of bosses to our right, you might deduce that either Pharaoh Man or Skull Man's weapon would be strong against the other seeing as how they both can be associated with pyramids and death.  You would be wrong in that assumption since Pharaoh Man is weak against Bright Man's Flash Stopper (supposedly because Pharaoh Man is in the dark and it blinds him) and Skull Man is weak against Dust Man's Dust Crusher (probably because you "crush someones bones into dust), or even that Toad Man should be weak against Bright Man's weapon since water is typically weak against lightning attacks (see everything from Final Fantasy to Pokémon), but instead he is weak against Drill Man's Drill Bomb.  But again, I cannot blame MM4 for being confusing as to trying to decide which weapon to use against which boss since there have been combinations from previous games in the series that do not always seem to make a lot of sense until after the fact (Metal Man < Quick Man's Quick Boomerang; Crash Man < Air Man's Air Shooter; Needle Man < Gemini Man's Gemini Laser; Shadow Man < Top Man's Top Spin).

One other issue I had with the game was that once you reach Dr. Cossack's Citadel, with the exception of the first stage, the rest of the level designs felt very uninspired.

The above map is taken from Dr. Cossack's Citadel Stage 3 and consists of jumping on levitating platforms while not too many enemies come at you and while being shot at.  And the level is on rails, so there is that too.  Sure, that sounds like a bit to deal with, but if genuinely felt like, the level progressed as such:
  • Okay, the level moves on it's own (but not at all fast).
  • Okay, cannons are shooting at you while electric balls hamper your jumping onto platforms without issue.
  • Okay, big jumping guy then ladder.
  • Okay, more level on rails.
  • Platforms that rise when you jump and sink when you're standing on them.
  • Oh, those passive flying Saturn enemies.
  • Boss: Cockroach Twins.
From my perspective, that is not an interesting level for a Mega Man game.  I played through this level a handful of times, but that was because the Cockroach Twins gave me a bit of trouble and I fell off the platforms more than a few times.  I think that is how the Dr. Cossack stages boiled down for me: the levels were easy while the bosses presented a bit of a challenge, which made going through Dr. Cossack's Citadel a lot less frustrating than Dr. Wily's Castle in previous Mega Man games.  Another stage [SPOILER] comes in the Dr. Wily's Castle stage 1 where is seemed like the development went along the lines of:
  • Take a modestly designed Mega Man stage
  • Add some disappearing blocks, but only in two areas (that can be bypassed with weapons).
  • Add an underwater area because.
  • Add some spikes.
  • Add only one monster that has three variants (Metall EXs or Hard Hats).
  • Boss: Metall Daddy.

And now a combination of my two complaints.  I never felt that I could tell which boss weapon to use against any of the bosses at the end of any of the Dr. Cossack or Dr. Wily stages.  Against all of the bosses at the end of each of the stages, I allowed myself to try and defeat them without knowing what their weakness was, which I tried to do based on the design of the level, if there were similarities to previous stages and what weapons worked on those bosses, and the visual construction of the boss (Does it look water based?  Try Drill Bomb since it works against Toad Man).  This tactic did not seem to work at all.  As it turned out, most of the bosses were weak against either Pharaoh Shot, Ring Boomerang, Dust Crusher, or Drill Bomb.

And speaking of the boss weapons, I found myself rarely if ever using the weapons during the stage, instead saving them for the boss fight.  There were a number of times I would use Rain Flush as it would cover the entire screen with a bit of damage, regardless of where it was used.  In the later Dr. Cossack and Dr. Wily stages, I would only use the standard cannon shot and New Mega Buster out of fear that I would need one of the boss weapons in the upcoming boss battle.  Looking back, I do not think that I used either Skull Barrier or Dive Missile outside of the boss fights where they were strong against the boss robot, Dive Man and Drill Man respectively.

Let us talk about the music for a little bit since the Mega Man series is known for having some great music throughout the years.  The composer for this installment was Minae Fujii, which was not only her first game in the Mega Man series, but also the first game for Capcom that she composed music for.  While about half of the soundtrack blends well enough in the the background of the Mega Man world, the tracks for Pharaoh Man, Dive Man, and Skull Man, stuck out to me as being particularly well written tracks.

Before I close out today's article, I should finally mention the New Mega Buster, or Charge Shot.  Jeremy Parish at says that the Charge Shot is "a game breaking innovation," presumably because of it's power compared to the standard shot (1:3).  While playing, I did not find myself using the Charge Shot too frequently, and it was not until more than half way through the game that I discovered that the Pharaoh Shot could be charged too, which you are apparently supposed to take away from the fight with Pharaoh Man (that he charges his shots before firing).  I personally think that the Charge Shot was a great addition to Mega Man 4 in that it adds a new way to approach levels and certain monsters.  Do you spend the roughly 1.5 seconds to charge the Charge Shot in order to do 3 points of damage, or do you fire off 9 - 12 shots (if you're fast enough) in the same amount of time?

I should also mention that in no way was Mega Man 4 an easy game, even with all of the uninspired later level design.  I am sure that if the game kept track of deaths, mine would be in the high double digits, perhaps even bordering in the low triple digits.  If it kept track of the number of energy tanks I used, that too would definitely be in the high double digits.  There were many times where I went back to Bright Man's stage just to pick up easy to locate spare energy tanks.  In total I spent just over eight hours playing and beating Mega Man 4, which is about an hour 45 minutes more than I spent playing Mega Man 3.  I feel that most of that extra time was spent guessing which weapon to use against the later Dr. Cossack/Wily bosses as well as the overall difficulty of the early robot boss stages.  And despite all of my hang ups with MM4, I am glad that I have the game and can play it whenever I want and am in fact, not at all disappointed having purchased it digitally.  It is a fun game overall but let me break it down like this:
  • Early stage design is well done and fairly interesting as well as difficult (difficult at first, just like any Mega Man game).
  • Robot bosses are not as original as previous games, and weapons are uninteresting as well.
    • Robot bosses are not easy and even their weakness still present a hard challenge.
  • Later stages are uninspiring although some of the bosses are pretty cool (Mothraya, and Square Machine).
    • Later stage bosses are not so much difficult as they are confusing to figure out their weakness, which takes either a lot of trial and error, or just looking them up online (which is what I ended up doing).
Now to take a bit of a break and then I will head into Mega Man 5.  Because that is the kind of punishment that I like*.


*But the kind of punishment, and mental anguish dealt by Super Meat Boy can just go to all kinds of Hel.

Friday, August 19, 2016

First Impressions: Vertiginous Golf (PC)

Causing vertigo, especially by being extremely high or steep.

A club and ball sport in which players use various clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course in as few strokes as possible.  It does not fucking stand for "Gentleman Only, Ladies Forbidden!"  For fuck sake, stop spreading that shit!

I forget when I picked up Vertiginous Golf, but I am very glad that I did.  I have only played a handful of the courses and if you are one who enjoys either regular 18-hole golf, Wii Sports golf, mini golf, steam punk golf (it might as well be a thing), obstacle course golf, or a good dystopian setting told through bits of story throughout the course of play, then I would highly recommend Vertiginous Golf.

From what I can tell, there are two sides to Vertiginous Golf.  When I started the game, it was simple enough that you are in POV mode, outside in the rain in front of a storefront:

Yeah, just like this one.
Coupled with the menu system, I was pretty sure that the golfing part, which according to the parts of the trailer that I could remember, were up in the sky meant that you would be transported to this high rise obstacle golf course up in the clouds.  I was not prepared for how the transportation actually took place:

"Don't Let Them Bring You Down!"
This game got pretty dark, even before any golfing took place.  Without taking the flittering metallic humming bird into account, this picture alone, of a young (possibly teenage) bald girl who is decked out in golfing attire that will make no difference in a semi-virtual and some form of programmed electroconvulsive therapy.  Also, why is she bald?  I presume it is due to some kind of Vitamin-D deficiency?  This shocking form of transportation (groan) happens each time you start a round of golf, so there really is no way to not watch your player be shocked into virtual Utopian world that doesn't suck like the one you find yourself in, day in and day out.  

And look how pretty this game is too!
This is the shinier, happier side of Vertiginous Golf.  The golfing part of the game consists of a number of playing modes which include local multiplayer, online multiplayer, speed golf, standard putt-putt, story mode, and maybe a few others that I have either not tried yet or have forgotten.  And this portion of Vertiginous Golf is very much fun.  A lot of the later stage courses become ridiculous displays of "How in the hell!?"  But that is only if you are trying to figure out how to hole-in-one shot the particular hole; which I would not be surprised if there is some complicated way of doing it for each hole.

The story mode though is when the game continues on with the darkness that the avatar being shocked into VR briefly hints at, and is something that I was not at all expecting, yet was quick to enjoy.

Finally, just to prove that I don't suck at this game, here's my scorecard from my first solo round:

The one issue both Conklederp and I encountered with the game, but only on the first time playing, was that while using the mouse to determine the power used to hit the ball (the meter on the right of the screen) was a bit sticky.  It seemed that even the slightest movement would jump the power up by notches as opposed to pixels; basically, it was not smooth.  After closing the game and booting it up again, the mouse/power was a lot smoother and hitting short shots became a lot easier and a lot less frustrating.

So if dystopian mini-golf on an obstacle course in the clouds, I would highly recommend Vertiginous Golf; I unable to comment on the "Gold Pack" which adds "exclusive customization items for your avatar, hummingbird and clubs. PLUS awesome gold surfaces, gold metal and two gold statues to use in the Course Creator" to the base game, but it sounds like purely cosmetic changes.  So the $5 uptick in price is probably purely for developer support, which I am all for (if I was in the possession of more funds than I currently have).


First Impressions: Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Jane and I have been playing Super Mario Galaxy lately.  It's a lot of fun!  The imagery is very vivid, and a lot of the puzzles are clever, intuitive and challenging.  The game is basically Mario 64 with a different skin and smoothed out gameplay.  You collect stars in various levels which are accessible through a hub-world.  This time the hub-world is a space station instead of a castle. 

The 'world in a box' theme - that Miyamoto talked about a lot when M64 came out-  is very strong here.   There's a level that is basically a diorama of a beach placed in a giant fish bowl floating in space.  Then there are other levels which take place on multiple tiny planets, almost like a children's Mobile or an Orrery.  Of course, these space worlds are deeply works of fantasy, and don't correspond in any way to true laws of gravity, and are also called galaxies, which is akin to calling file cabinet a skyscraper.  But that is minutae, the point is:  the game is fun!

I think I'll pick up Galaxy 2 shortly after finishing this one.  That game actually comes higher rated than the original Mario Galaxy!  I highly recommend giving this game a whirl, if you own a console that will play it.   It's everything you might expect from a Nintendo flagship title.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

MIDI Week Singles: "Raging Sea" - Crystalis (NES)

"Raging Sea" from Crystalis on the Nintendo Entertainment System (1990)
Composer: Yoko Osaka
Album: No Official Release
Developer: SNK

While looking through the list of games that I had already posted music from, I was somewhat surprised that I had not chosen anything from Crystalis, a game that I played a lot back in 1992 - '93.  While listening through the music from the 1990 NES game (as opposed to the 2000 Game Boy Color remake with music by Lawrence Schwedler), I was able to recall some of the music, but it didn't have that nostalgic lift that I often get when I listen to other NES games such as Gauntlet, or even Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  

However, when I got to "Raging Sea," my ears perked up.  While the song itself was not immediately recognizable, I was immediately drawn to the melody at around the 25 second mark.  And then it came back to me.  Not the specific instance when "Raging Sea" played in the game (which I admittedly cannot remember), but the fun I had while playing Crystalis, the exploring of the world for the four swords, changing into an Amazonian in order to continue with the quest.  I had a lot of fun with Crystalis.

On a side note, I feel that this song has a strong Mega Man tone to it and I could easily see it in a more action oriented game.  Which got me looking into composer Yoko Osaka's history, where I found out that she was one of three composers on the NES port of  Ikari III: The Rescue, and that run-and-gun sense, I feel is very present in this song.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Hardware Review: Steam Controller

 I do not have a logo for today's article. . .hold on a sec. . .

There we go; now down to business!

I have had the Steam Controller now for just over a month (rec'd in mid July) so I have had some time to play around with a number of the features of the controller both in-game and out.

I initially picked up the Steam Controller because my Xbox 360 wired controller is serving just fine, but I thought a second controller would not be a bad option to alleviate the wear and tear on the primary controller, and in case I have a co-op game that requires two controllers so Conklederp and I can play together.  Also the controller was on sale through Gamestop during Steam's Summer Sale and since I had a couple of Gamestop gift cards, I figured it would be a great time to try this conroller out.

Then there was the sentence that I read (either Reddit, Steam forums, or elsewhere) that has forever changed the way that I look at and approach the Steam controller.  This person said something along the lines of, "The Steam controller isn't so much a typical video game controller as it is a keyboard emulator."  A controller that emulates a keyboard?  One of the selling points about the Steam controller, is that it is supposed to emulate using a mouse and keyboard while offering tactile feedback with both the directional touch pad (left circular pad) and the right touch pad which functions like a mouse.

Instead of listing all of the descriptions like an instruction manual for what each of the 16 buttons does depending on your personal customization (is that redundant?), I will just get down to how I have used the controller over the past month.

Not as much as I would have liked/thought.  

So now that you know that I like the controller very much, let us do some simple pros and cons in no particular order. The controller is a bit bulkier than the 360 controller, especially in hand-palmal region, but it is still very comfortable to hold.  The right touch pad (mouse) operates a lot more like a track ball than using a mouse on a mouse pad.  The directional touch pad I have really only used as a scroll wheel (like the scroll wheel on a mouse), although  I did briefly try to use it in-game like a traditional directional pad, but I found the joystick to be more intuitive (for some reason).  The joystick, while on par with the 360, I still do not like to use (regardless of the controller) for older and retro style games, but I chalk that up to growing up with the NES and SNES controllers when playing.

When I say that I do not use the Steam controller as much as I would have thought, I mean that I found that I primarily use it when I have my computer HDMI'd up to the TV and do not want to have to constantly lean over my keyboard and mouse, which are usually on the coffee table or on a nearby chair.  And it is not always when playing games either, but just simply using my computer and browsing the Internets.  I did give the controller a semi-serious go while playing Doom 3, Skyrim, and Oblivion, but I felt that I still preferred the mouse and keyboard set up.  I will say though that I liked the feel of the right/mouse touch pad on the Steam controller to look around more than the 360 controller joystick, but in the end it is not ideal for my personal taste.  I have also found that "clicking and dragging" takes a bit more coordination that I would have thought, especially when compared with the easiness of using a mouse.

I do really like using the Steam controller though for simpler Internet browsing, again when my computer is HDMI'd to the TV, or if I already happen to have the controller plugged in and I do not want to lean forward an extra foot to reach the mouse.  There is one major issue that I have experienced with the controller's functioning.  In Steam's Big Picture Mode, when you press the joystick (and it clicks), it will bring up a keyboard that you can use to type with using both directional pads to select the letters and the right and left triggers to "click" the letters.

The keyboard would appear as above; the Doom games came up because I was specifically in BPM and using the search function to use as an example.  The problem comes up however, when I try to use the keyboard outside of BPM.  Upon clicking the joystick, an empty white box pops up.

When this happens, I can still move around the virtual keyboard and click the triggers to blindly type, to the functionality of the keyboard is working, but something is not working visually. I have done a number of searches for fixes (considering that the Steam controller has been out since November 2015) and the problem still persists.  There are even posts up on Steam's community pages that claim the problem is [SOLVED], although the same white box comes up.  I even browsed the SteamController subreddit and was unable to find a more coherent fix there.  The most common "fix" I have read is to change the graphics driver over from the Nvidia driver to whichever is set as the integrated driver, the keyboard will appear outside of BPM.  However, when this is done, the Steam interface (non-BPM) is no longer visible.  Only in one instance did I have the problem [SOLVED] and that was by having BPM minimized in the background, but that was only once and that "fix" has not happened since.

The only other function of the Steam controller that I am able to comment on is the wireless function.  The controller comes with a wireless adapter to be plugged into whatever USB device is being used to run your game.  While in wireless mode, the controller runs off of four AA batteries (which were nicely included in the shipped box).  If I was one who preferred a wireless controller, I am sure that I would be irritated by having to replace the batteries, but since I only use the controller as a wired one, this is something that I do not have to worry about.  Which  then brings me to the USB cord that connects to the controller.  I feel that there is nothing special about his USB to micro-USB cord.  The thickness is about the same as all the other micro-USB cords that I have, and to me, the cord feels a bit on the thin side when I think of a controller cord.  The cord for the 360 controller is much thicker and just feels more substantial.  Also the cord is only 59 inches long while the 360 cord is 120 inches.  Granted a console is typically where the TV is located while a computer screen is no more than a few feet away from the tower (in the case of a desktop), which I will assume is why the computer can also be used wirelessly (not a word).  If the cord were even just an extra 12 inches longer, I would be a lot happier, but that is what Amazon is for after all. 

So let us finally break down this pro/con list:

Comfortable grip.
Mouse touch pad is easier to use than 360 joystick for mouse-type functions.
Great for browsing when you are a distance from the keyboard.
There are a lot of buttons that are not in confusing.
The tactile response on the touch pads is pretty damn cool.
Overall use is pretty intuitive.
Able to customize the mapping of the buttons to keyboard keys and can vary layout for each game.

Keyboard functionality out of BPM is still not "functioning" as I feel it should be.
The micro-USB cable is shorter than I would have liked.
The directional touch pad "clickiness" is not ideal for a directional pad.

In the end, and after a month of use, I would say that I am happy with the Steam controller, even though I do not really use it as a controller the same way I use the 360 controller, but it is pretty great as a keyboard emulator, that is, unless you want to type something out and are not in Big Picture Mode.  I do not know if I would recommend it for the MSRP of $49.99, but perhaps at a lower $39.99 or even $34.99 would perhaps make the controller a lot more attractive.

When Things Were Not So Complex

P.S.  It is a pretty damn schnazzy piece of hardware though.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Update: Free Games Galore: Steam Summer Sale 2016 Edition [Part I]

Hello good people.  Today's post is an update to the "Free Games Galore Steam Summer Sale 2016 Edition" post I put up back on Friday July 8th.


ArcheBlade, looks to be an MMO of sorts, from what I was able to gather from the tutorial level.  Although for all I know, it could be a MOBA.  I am honestly not 100% sure.  And unless you actually purchase the "All Access" or individual characters, you are unable to play anything in the game except for the tutorial stage and the training area where you fight increasingly difficult bots who are armed with guns in the same enclosed arena.

I spent a total of 13 minutes playing this game and from that, I was able to determine that I would probably not spend any money on it; additionally because it doesn't look like the developers have posted any updates since 2014 (I could be wrong on that note though).  The game doesn't look bad, in that it is playable, but it does not really seem like the kind of online multiplayer game that I would be interested in playing.

Endless Sky

I really wanted to like Endless Sky, and I presume that by that statement you can assume that I did not in fact, enjoy what little time (41 minutes) I spent with this game.  To me, it almost felt like I was jumping into the middle of a game (knowledge-wise) and that I was supposed to have read through the manual in order to understand not only how to play the game, but also the understanding of the controls (beyond what I was able to find out from the control settings menu) and the how to actually progress.

Probably if I had been paying attention to my fuel reserves and known how to choose which system I was jumping to, and how to get to the planet where the "obvious learn the basics introduction quest guy" wanted to go, I might have had the Firefly experience that I was anticipating.

As it turned out, those asteroids are actually harmless, although they can be used to block enemy fire.
Again, I have no idea how to properly capitalize the name of . . .whatever this interactive animated music video is.  NekoPaLIVE, from what I could tell with the two songs, is just a "watch the cat-girls sing and dance."  Where they're singing and dancing is a little confusing as it simply looked like someone's living room, or it could even be the front area of a coffee shop.

This is pretty much the extent of the game, although by pressing number keys 1 - 8, you can change the camera angle, which is just varying degrees of closeness to the stage as well as the angle.  There is no up-skirt angle.  According to the Steam message boards, if you use either Vive or Oculus Rift, you are actually able to move around the room, although with there not being much to the room, I can only guess as to the reason and purpose that moving around the room would be.

Well, as it turned out, this title is in fact a VR exclusive and it works with both the Vive and Oculus Rift.  That's really all I can say since I have neither equipment.  I really love the premise though and I feel that this could turn into a series where you explore various works of art not only by Van Gogh, but by other artists as well.

Radiator 2 was definitely the highlight of these first five games that I played.  It was also the only game that I was able to play through from beginning to end. . .sort of.  Radiator 2 is made up of four short mini games that force you to actually pay attention to what you're doing on screen.  I learned my lesson the hard way during the Doom inspired title "Hurt Me Plenty" where I did not listen to the other guy I called up and accidentally hurt him too much.  14 sad faces and he won't call me back now and I have to wait 24 hours in real time before I can play the game again.  There's a real world time mechanic to "Stick Shift" too that has to be adhered too before you can play again.

Oooooooh, because gearshift is phallic shaped.  I get it now!
One thing I was definitely impressed with in Radiator 2, was the quality of the in-game models.  The textures looked great and the music was pretty catchy, all for being a collection of free games.  I would definitely recommend this game over any of the above, although keep in mind that it is not for everyone, and is pretty NSFW.

Part II of my "Free Games Galore" will probably coming later in the month or even in September as those games appear to be longer in nature (RPG's, graphic novels, et cetera) than the ones in today's post.  It will happen though.