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E. Randy Dupre

Member Since 16 May 2005
Offline Last Active Nov 29 2017 03:21 PM
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Topics I've Started

Death of board?

06 November 2017 - 09:07 PM

Hi guys.

 

This is a heads-up. A few months back, when the board went down, I had a chat with Singho and agreed to take over the cost of hosting. Singho paid for, I think, a further six months of life and then it'd be up to me.

I made two or three attempts to contact the hosting company around that time to find out what the process for paying was and received no response to any of my emails. Since then, I've come to the conclusion that I just don't use the board enough any longer - and, to be honest, haven't for nearly four years - to be able to justify paying for it.

 

As it stands, then, once Singho's final payment has worn off, the place will vanish again.

 

If anybody else wants to take over the payments, let me know and I'll bung you the email address of the hosting guy and you can see if you can get anywhere with it. Otherwise, I'd suggest that those of you who want to take an archive of the stuff here that you want to keep before it goes for good.

 

I'm sorry to do this. I don't believe that there's anything fundamentally wrong with keeping the board going for the three or four people who still use it, but as I say, I can't justify the payment for something that I don't really use any longer.


Lawbreakers

17 October 2017 - 08:54 PM

Y'know, this is honestly the most enjoyable objective-based multiplayer FPS I've played in absolutely ages. Unfortunately, it looks like it was pretty much dead on arrival and Boss Key have fundamentally misunderstood how to make a game appealing to a modern audience. Plus, matchmaking seems to have become broken over the last few days.

 

It's basically a bunch of different Capture the Flag and King of the Hill modes, with minor adaptations to spruce them up a bit and make them feel more competitive. They all work and they're all fun - barring Blitzball, potentially, which can often see one team dominating the other and winning the match in about three minutes. Boss Key have pushed the idea that this is an FPS that brings a skill requirement back into the genre and there is some truth to that. While it's got the Hero Shooter thing of having different characters with wildly differing abilities and weapons, the main thing that you have to learn in this game is how each character moves and how best to make use of thir individual styles of movement.

 

Each character has a unique jump, for example, plus a unique dash move. One can run more or less constantly, one has a stamina bar that empties pretty quickly, another has a slide move that pushes enemies backwards on contact, a fourth warps forwards. Where the jumps are concerned, some can double jump, some can triple jump, some are that plodding that they barely leave the ground. And you can combine jumps and dashes to find new moves - the robot dude, for example, can convert a jump into a sudden crash to the ground if you change your mind midway.

I guess the obvious USP here is that maps contain areas of extremely low gravity, which adds to the complexity of battle. It's not Descent, but it has that same thing where the other team members could be above or below you, as well as in front, to the left, etc. One character has a move that can create a low-gravity zone wherever they want.

I've really enjoyed getting to grips with some of the characters and finding how best to use them in different situations. There are others in here that feel way out of my comfort zone and that I'm really struggling to do *anything* with. The Assassin is the one that feels most difficult to use properly, but when you consider that most games end with an Assassin player as MVP, it backs up the claim that this is a game that you have to play skillfully in order to be any good at.

But it's a game that's also got some fucking massive problems. The first - the one that most reviews have mentioned - is that it does nothing whatsoever to make it look like it stands out from the crowd. I'm sure there's a lot of technical skill on show here, but there's very little understanding of how to make a game read clearly. Everything has lots of detail, but characters can be stupidly difficult to see. Put it this way: the designers felt the need to put a red outline around the enemy team so that you stand a chance of seeing where the hell they are. That's indicative of a whopping great failure at the heart of your visual design.

Another issue comes with making a team-based game that demands a level of skill above and beyond what the mainstream FPSes ask for. I've had some absolutely wonderful matches in this, really epic-feeling tug-of-war games where teams are evenly matched and everybody clearly understands what it is that they're doing. But I've had others - an increasing number, actually - where I feel like I'm the only person on the team who understands that this isn't just a fucking deathmatch. When you die you have a cooldown period before you spawn again, and you can use this to look through the eyes of your team-mates. The number of times when I've done this and realised that none of them are making any effort to play the objective is depressing.

And now the fatal problem: barely anybody's playing. I've seen people saying that they've seen the number of concurrent players on Steam drop to as few as 13. I'm playing on PS4 and I've had evenings where it's been impossible to find a game. Most evenings, the games I do ghet into don't have a full cohort of players. Fuck, I keep coming across the same people and that absolutely should not be happening for what is still a new game on a platform with a massive installed userbase. It's not the price that's keeping people away - the game's just over £20 on PSN - so I guess the utter lack of publicity, combined with the lack of clear visual identity, combined again with the fact that lots of people presumably think this is just another attempt to cash in on Overwatch's popularity... I guess those are the things that are killing it.

 

Boss Key are supposedly making efforts to increase the player base. The main one of these misses the point spectacularly. They're adding in team deathmatch. After saying that they wanted this to be different than other FPSes out there, their solution to the problem of a lack of players is to introduce a mode that's in every other FPS. And deathmatch just doesn't fucking work in this game - the character skillsets are tuned entirely around the objective games. They're also talking about introducing proper ranked matchmaking, but I don't see that doing anything other than making it even more difficult to find a game. At the moment, some of the existing matchmaking stuff seems to have broken, too - lobbies aren't loading up a new game after one ends, for me, I'm just left sitting on the results screen with no movement and have to drop out. This means that if I do find a game with a bunch of decent players, I get that one game and then lose them as I have to exit out to the title screen.

I was loving this game the previous couple of weeks. This week, it's just depressing me.


Trials Fusion

21 September 2017 - 05:43 PM

I'm late to the party with this, I know. I didn't bother getting the last gen version - there is a last gen version, yeah? - because I didn't have the hard drive space on my older consoles and I didn't get the PC version because I couldn't be arsed fucking around with uPlay. And the PC version of Trials Evolution was a shitport, so I didn't trust Ubi/RedLynx to do any better with this.

 

Late to the party and now I'm here I find that it's a fairly shitty party, full of irritating frat boys who are all laughing at each other's antics while everybody else looks on, bemused.

 

I really like Trials HD and Evolution. The handling is brilliant - the really simple control scheme and the absolute precision it provides reminds me of Virtua Fighter, in that everybody gets a level playing field thanks to having so little to have to remember, while still allowing for endless improvement on the part of each player. HD nailed it right out of the gates and Evolution built on that with a smoother user experience and greater polish.

I guess the problem Fusion faced was, where do you take that concept next? When you've already perfected your game, how do you design a sequel. More pointedly, how do you design a sequel that fits with your publisher's expectations of bigger and better? It's the Arkham City problem - I remember reading an interview with one of the senior guys at Rocksteady before City hit release, the interviewer asking if City's expanded size over Asylum meant that they were going to have to keep building bigger and bigger with each new sequel and he said nah, we can go back to a smaller, Asylum-sized game at any point, the audience will be with us if the game's good. And I thought, man, that's so much bullshit and you know it. WB will absolutely demand that you make the next game cover even more real estate and have even more baddies in it and most of the audience will see any attempt to scale back as being you ripping them off. You've led yourself down a path of no return here.

I presume that the RedLynx guys faced the same problem and saw the solution as being, well, we've done realism, then we mixed things up with some more fantastical, but still real-world levels, so now we'll do a big fantasy SF thing. And that's where the problems start.

 

The levels here are fucking irritating. Lots of them feature platforms that appear from out of the blue, right in front of you with no warning. This means that you're almost guaranteed to screw them up first time around, unless you're dead lucky. They're troll levels - not quite I Wanna Be the Guy, but not a million miles away from that kind of design sensibility, either. There are also levels where you go through portals and end up in totally different envorinments, which make the problem even worse and also suffer from the kind of awful Unreal Engine texture pop-in that I've not seen since the first Gears of War.

This stuff is here because they've tried to make the game have this comedy SF edge to it. It also leads to other issues. In some levels, foreground objects obscure the platforms and manage to lead you into believing that they actually *are* the platforms. Others have the same fault as Sonic Generations, foregrounds and backgrounds being difficult to distinguish from each other. Visual noise. In a game like this, where absolute precision and concentration are required, that's particularly problematic.

I also find these levels seriously uneven. The difficulty curve is all over the place and none of them have the feel of flow that HD and Evolution's were full of.

This all comes to a head in the DLC, specifically the Hyper Max Bullshit DLC, or whatever it's called - the one where you control a cat riding a unicorn. Yeah, that's the level of humour we're going with here - whereas the humour in the previous games came from the physics engine and the difficulty of some of the challenges that were thrown at you, here we've got an attempt to mash a few ancient internet memes together instead. The precise controls of the rest of the game are thrown out of the window and now we've got some awful floaty terribleness with an avatar that's stupidly difficult to work out the positioning of due to its messy, indistinct design. You spend most of the time feeling like you're floating above the ground rather than connected to it. It looks like RedLynx knew this, because to make up for it the levels are some of the easiest in the game. They're also the absolute worst victims of the aforementioned texture pop-in - one in particular spends most of its time changing the background scenery and failing to keep up with itself. If I'd paid for this shit separately I'd be massively pissed off.

To me, this DLC acts as the perfect example of what's wrong with this game in general - it takes the bad things from the main game and focuses on them, highlighting the basic flaws even more than they would be otherwise.

Then you watch videos of that Blood Dragon tie-in release and it becomes apparent that RedLynx are set on this course and that this series probably won't claw itself back to the near-perfection of the previous games any time soon.

A crying shame, because the handling on the game proper remains excellent. It's just that everything surrounding it ranges from poor to fuck-awful.


TV recommendations

04 September 2017 - 11:47 PM

We kind of need a new TV. The one we've got is the one that I bought a month or so after I first bought a 360, so it's something like eleven years old now and it shows. There's burn-in down one side of the screen from me watching lots of old 4:3 telly and playing 4:3 games through it - well, not burn-in exactly, but some kind of LCD equivalent - the speakers are kind of crappy and there's always been a significant overscan problem when playing the PS3 through it as well as, I've now discovered, the PS4. And it won't play PS2 titles or some Wii games at quite the right screen ratio (everything's a bit squished horizontally), but that's been a problem from day one.

I took the easy route when I bought it and, instead of doing any actual research into what makes and models were decent, I just found out what MS were using in the 360 demo pods and bought one of those.

 

But now we could do with a replacement. I've learned to live with the faults, but having finally got a PS4 last weekend I'm finding myself getting really pissed off with the overscan issue again. I could do with some recommendations, though.

 

Ideally, we're looking for something with an LED screen no bigger than 32" (anything larger would look ridiculous in this room), decent speakers and, if possible, a good selection of different input ports, although I know that's probably a bit of an ask in this day and age. I would like to have component input as well as SCART and, obviously, HDMI, but I guess it's not a deal-breaker. Freeview would be nice, but if it's not there I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. Options to get rid of overscan are absolutely essential.

 

What I really don't want, though, is an internet or smart TV.

Any recommendations? What are you guys playing stuff through now?


Paper Mario: Sticker Star

18 February 2017 - 02:38 PM

it must be a bit of a pain int he arse being Intelligent Systems, sometimes. I know we'll never know for sure, but it's felt for a while now like Nintendo decided that they can't have two different Mario RPG series on the go at the same time and decided to let AlphaDream have priority with the Mario & Luigi games, while Paper Mario has ended up having to be turned into something different and... well, oddly shapen and clumsily designed, to be honest. IS are clearly using the series as a way to experiment with strange, unique design and the end result is that none of it feels particularly natural.

 

There are two major problems with Sticker Star, both centred on the battle system, but neither of them actually *because* of it.

 

So, in this game, you don't have a regular set of moves to choose from. You don't level up and you don't become innately stronger. Instead, you build up an album of stickers and it's these stickers that define what moves you can pull off in fights. The only real stat that Mario has is a health meter, which is extended by finding hearts hidden around the levels.

 

It's a remarkably awkward system to get your head around at first. The range of stickers available in the first few levels is very limited - a hammer, a jump and a weaker version of both of these - and the number of stickers that you can hold at any one time is equally limited. It means that things feel way too difficult during the beginning hour or so. As the game progresses, you find stronger stickers and the number of pages in your sticker book expands, which ends up making the game a lot easier the further you get into it. The difficulty curve is effectively reversed.

 

It's daft, but it does mean that things become a lot more enjoyable if you stick with the game. There are hidden tricks to making your stickers stronger, too, which the game never informs you of and I only found out about right at the time that I was about to take on the final boss. If I'd known about them beforehand, it'd have made that first hour or so significantly less frustrating.

 

I actually abandoned the game for years as a result of this frustration. Bought the US version on release, played the first two or three levels, got annoyed with the feeling that I had absolutely no real control over Mario due to the limited number of attacks and the way that you can end up in the shit if and when you run out of stickers, unable to actually do anything on your turns. Put the game away, only returned to it a few weeks ago due to receiving Colour Splash for Christmas.

 

The other problem, and this is one that runs through the entire game and isn't just isolated to the beginning, is the puzzle design. It's unintuitive, frequently illogical and combines with other things to make the game feel like a slog.

 

Hidden around the levels are things called Things. These are three-dimensional objects that are visibly out of places amongst the cardboard cut-out world. If you collect one of these, you can take it to a Toad who'll transform it into a sticker for use in battle. In a small number of cases, Things are also the keys to puzzles, as well as short-cuts to victory in boss battles.

 

Puzzles first. They make no sense. One level has a volcano in the background, the lava flowing from it preventing you from progressing further. One of the Things that you can find is a water pistol. When you 'paperise' the level - flattening the screen in order to place or remove a sticker - you can see a scquare outline over the volcano, indicating that a sticker should be placed there. So, the water pistol, right?

 

Water pistol does nothing. The solution, it turns out, is to place a refrigerator or shaved ice Thing there, which then freezes the volcano.

 

I'm sorry, what? Shaved ice freezes an active volcano? That's how heat works now? And water *doesn't* extinguish it?

 

This is something that crops up a few times, where puzzle solutions make no sense. What makes this more of a problem is that once you use a Thing sticker, it's gone. If you want it back, you either have to find the Thing again, rememerbing which level it came from, or go to a Toad who'll sell them to you. Then, you have to go back to the Toad who lets you turn them into stickers. You also have to make sure that you've got enough space in your sticker book for the Thing sticker.

 

And each time you leave a level and go back to the world map, the game feels the need to autosave. It's not like it takes forever - five or six seconds, maybe - but it does it Every. Godddamn. Time.

 

Bosses have a similar annoyance, but it's one that's actually more damaging to the enjoyment of the game. Each boss is weak to a specific Thing sticker, but there are absolutely no clues to what that Thing might be (barring one possible exception). It *is* possible to brute force your way through the bosses with regular stickers, but it's a criminally dull process and the difference between spending bloody forever bruting them and spending ten seconds defeating them with the right Thing is absurd.

 

It all comes to a head with the final battle against Bowser, which has five phases, during each of which he effectively has different forms. All five of these phases can be seen off in ridiculously short order by having the right stickers on hand. Not got the psychic powers required to predict what those stickers might be? Prepare yourself for hours of trial and error frustration, then.

 

It got to the stage where I was booting up online guides as soon as I entered into boss battles. That final Bowser battle was entirely based on the guide here:

 

http://uk.ign.com/wi...er's_Sky_Castle

 

Seriously, read that and tell me how you're supposed to figure any of that out without either a guide or endless retries.

 

These problems stem from the way that the battle system has been designed, with the stickers offering single-use attacks only. If these were attacks and skills that Mario gained, the trial and error nature wouldn't be as annoying, because trying something different would just be a case of selecting a different skill, rather than having to go back to the main menu, reloading your save, finding different stickers, clearing the space in your book for them, etc.

 

It really annoys me, because in all other aspects - storyline, script, presentation - this is as good as anything else that Intelligent Systems have ever released. The gameplay doesn't feel natural or intuitive, though, and it's clearly based on a set of design decisions that feel forced, their implementation not well enough thought through.

 

File under 'failed experiment' :(