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Today’s theme is electronic music with what I guess you’d call a “dark” or “moody” sound. This post only exists because I’m bored and doing this is more productive than staring at my ceiling fan, so I can’t be arsed to write a proper intro—deal with it.

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Wot I’m Listening To — Electric Boogaloo

While I was born in the 80′s, it was too late for me to be a child of that decade—not that I’m lamenting that fact, mind you. Despite appreciating its weird obsession with dystopian futures (which I figure was influenced by a global recession, the cold war, and cocaine) I consider the 80′s largely awful; it’s synonymous with bad hair, bad clothes, and bad synths. How odd it is, then, that I’ve found myself developing a liking to some music which aims to emulate the sound of the 80′s.

If what I’ve embedded below strikes your fancy here are a few good places to discover more of this nonsense: LuigiDonatelloNewRetroWave, and Maniac Synth.

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The Things

This is somewhat old, but I just stumbled upon it recently and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wasn’t aware of it before. It’s called “The Things” and it’s a short story written by author Peter Watts which takes place from the perspective of the alien entity in “The Thing”. The entity perceives everything in the context of a creature that experiences life as a single unified being and its thoughts are all structured as if it’s a world unto itself. It talks about being separated from and rejoining parts of itself, talking about how it has assimilated parts from other worlds before becoming stranded on earth, not knowing how long it had been in its frozen slumber on our planet and whether or not parts of itself are still alive elsewhere in the universe. The entity also expresses confusion at the concept of individuality, later showing discomfort toward it and pity toward those whose existence the entity feels is limited by it. I thought it was an interesting take on the events of the film, attaching a consciousness to the alien makes it a little more unsettling than when it’s nothing more than mindless space monster.

You can read the original text version here, but there’s also a reading of it available on YouTube which has background music added to it that I thought was neat (Part 1 & Part 2).

I enjoy a variety of music genres so I figured maybe I can try to spread the love a bit and potentially expose someone to something they haven’t heard before. Of course, music, like many things, is highly subjective; what sounds heavenly to one person may be tantamount to a Baboon farting into a coffee can to another. That being said, If anything in this or future posts sounds like aural diarrhea to you that’s fine, it just means you’re wrong.

As the title suggests, the theme of this first installment is music with a soulful sound.

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Madcatz TE-S Customization

It has been a while since I last posted anything on here, so I figured I may as well put something up regardless of how insignificant it is. I bought a Macatz TE-S Fightstick a while ago to aid me in my fighting game misadventures and wrote a really lazy review of it. In the time between then and now I’ve made a couple of modifications to it, one being that I dual modded it with a Phreak Mods Cerberus to add PS3 compatibility (even though I don’t have a PS3 and have yet to actually use it with one…¬_¬), and more recently I installed a clear plexiglass cover, custom artwork, and a new set of buttons with noise reducing foam padding. Everything was purchased from Focus Attack except for the artwork, which was ordered from Art’s Hobbies. The foam padding for the buttons makes for a noticeable reduction in noise, although it does change the feel of hitting the buttons and that took a little getting used to at first. The buttons aren’t any less sensitive than they were before, the impact of hitting them is just softened due to them no longer making direct contact with the hard plastic inside the button casing.

Super Meat Boy Arcade Stick

Considering my rudimentary image editing ability, I think it came out alright.

The Cerberus piggybacks on the original Madcatz PCB.

The Cerberus piggybacks on the original Madcatz PCB.

Free for All #008 — Tribes: Ascend

Note: Apparently I wrote this quite a while ago, didn’t publish it, and totally forgot it existed until now. So, I’m publishing it now even though this was written during an earlier phase of this games development and doesn’t necessarily accurately represent what the game is like today.

 

The original Tribes is revered as a classic among team-based first-person shooters and was one of the earlier games to feature large, open maps and player-controlled vehicles. It was followed by Tribes 2, which was somewhat panned by overzealous fans of the original (who were later sated by mods fixing things they felt were left out) and was generally well received by others. Dynamix, the creators of the series, closed down not long after the release of Tribes 2 and three years later the series was brought back in the form of Tribes: Vengeance developed by Irrational Games. Irrational had hoped to reboot the series, keeping the core gameplay mechanics while trying to retool aspects of the game to reach a wider audience. Series veterans found Vengeance to be unsatisfying due to it’s more confined levels and some scaled-back gameplay mechanics while garnering a mostly positive response from a more general audience.

Inferno, a map set on a volcanic world. Scattered around the map are pools of molten rock that will damage you if you pass through them.

After stagnating for several years the intellectual property rights to Tribes was purchased by Garage Games, a company made up of former Dynamix staff who sell an engine which evolved from what powered Tribes 2. Following their acquisition of the license from Vivendi Universal they announced plans to create a new game set in the Tribes universe; unfortunately, financial troubles resulted in them having to re-sell the IP, which is now in the hands of the creators of Tribes: Ascend, Hi-Rez Studios. Garage Games did eventually release a Tribes-esque game called Legions Overdrive, which is also free-to-play.

Ascend invokes much of what you’d want in a Tribes game; skiing across its eight maps with hills and valleys while trying to gauge the right amount of distance to lead the target you’re tailing so you can nail them with a Spinfusor disk is as good as ever, as is the feeling of satisfaction when you pull it off. The capture the flag maps feature vehicles and bases with generators and turret emplacements while the Team Deathmatch maps go for more of an arena feel while still allowing for freedom of movement. Sadly, base defense is less important than in previous games in the series which leads to games favoring offensive play than a mix of offense and defense.

Water skiing after some opponents.

The way Hi-Rez has chosen to monetize the game is by giving players the option of spending cash to unlock new classes, weapons, various upgrades, and cosmetic features. These things can be unlocked using experience points earned through simply playing the game, although depending on how much a person plays and how patient they are it’s possible that just paying to unlock something would be the “better deal”. Of course, this does bring up the question of the game being “pay-to-win”. If you took two players of similar skill, one who was unlocking things without paying and one who just bought everything, the person who paid would have an advantage; however, at this time I don’t feel like that advantage is so much so that it negatively impacts the non-paying customers experience in a significant way.

In the end it’s a respectable attempt at bringing back a classic PC gaming franchise. It’s not free of fault, but I’d say the good outweighs the bad, and one would hope that the bad gets fixed as the game matures.

You can visit the official Tribes: Ascend website by clicking here.

Free For All #007 — Blacklight: Retribution

Retribution is the sequel to Blacklight: Tango Down, which was released in July of 2010 and was panned by critics and end-users alike; suffering from unrefined gameplay and controls as well as a lack of content it failed to make an impression and was an all-around flop. Retribution hopes to remedy that, and for the most part it does. Movement feels tighter, gunplay feels more solid, and the game as a whole feels more well-realized than its predecessor. The current release isn’t without its problems—on my system Tessellation is broken and a friend and I have also experience some rather peculiar hit detection lag which has caused some impossible looking delayed deaths, but outside of that it has been more stable than not.

You'll spend a lot of time looking down your weapons sights.

As of writing this, BLR sports several maps playable across King of the Hill, Domination, and Deathmatch/TDM gametypes. Microtransactions in the form of cosmetic and gameplay additions (weapons, attachments, stat buffs, etc.) are utilized to monetize the otherwise free game. There are a few items you can only get through paying, but the vast majority of them can be bought by spending experience points earned from playing the game, and if you’d rather not go through the grind you can opt spend cash to get what you want instantly. I have personally not spent any money on the game yet and have not felt like I’m at a disadvantage because of it.

Hardsuits can dish out a lot of damage and are strong against standard gunfire, but watch out for flame throwers and rocket launchers.

It remains to been seen how much they expand on the base game going forward and if they tackle some of the technical issues in a reasonable amount of time, but if you’re looking for a F2P shooter I would certainly say you should give Retribution a chance. If they keep the game fresh with content additions and a stable player base forms this could be something to keep installed for a while.

You can visit the official website for Blacklight: Retribution by clicking here.

Boredom = Test Render

Got bored and tested out Blender’s new “Cycles” renderer. I was just messing around with reflections, depth of field, and a super basic material node setup for the wood floor.

Direct lighting, 128 samples, camera aperture set to 0.14, 8-blade bokeh.

Full global illumination, 512 samples, camera aperture set to 0.14, 8-blade bokeh

The basic node setup I used for the wood floor.

Madcatz TE-S Box

The attractive box makes for a good first impression.

So, I recently made the decision to go full retard and buy an exorbitantly priced heap of plastic and metal. Do I regret that decision? In light of some recent personal developments I probably should have spent the money on something more practical, but I have no regrets in regards to whether or not it’s a product worth purchasing. I have no problem acknowledging that in the grand scheme of things I’m merely and intermediate fighting game player, and depending on personal opinion that may be considered generous, but I felt I play and enjoy fighting games enough to warrant a stick purchase. Granted, I was fairly content with playing on a controller even with its disadvantages and I didn’t absolutely need to buy a stick, but the advantages of the jump in directional input accuracy and having all of your buttons laid out on a flat surface are quite nice. Technical reasons aside, playing on a stick also just feels more fun due to the increased hand movement involved; I feel like I’m interacting with the game more with a stick than with a gamepad.

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Free For All #006 — Nitronic Rush & Stealth Bastard

Nitronic Rush

Nitronic Rush is an “experimental survival driving game” with neon-soaked visuals reminiscent of Tron and gameplay heavily inspired by San Francisco RUSH 2049. It’s made by students of the DigiPen Institute of Technology, which is the very same school that the developers of Narbacular Drop (the progenitor of Portal) and Tag: The Power of Paint (the source of Portal 2′s gel mechanics) attended before landing gigs at Valve Software.

Inside the modestly sized download you’ll find a total of 30 stages spread across story, hardcore, challenge and stunt modes as well as a selection of older unpolished maps from earlier in the games development.

Stealth Bastard

This little game from Curve Studios (developers of Fluidity and Explodemon) is a challenging and humorous take on stealth gameplay. Stealth Bastard challenges you to sneak your way past various obstacles as fast as you can. There are 28-levels made by the team at Curve included as well as 215 user-created levels available for download as of this writing.

So why is a studio that has previously created two commercial products releasing something for free? Well, the game serves as a platform for some harmless data collection in regards to how people play it. You get to play a pretty cool game for free and they get some market research—seems like a fair deal to me. If you really like the game you can donate whatever you fill like giving them on the official SB page, although they’d probably prefer you go buy a copy of Explodemon or Fluidity instead.

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