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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.

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.

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.

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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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.

Fiddling Aboot

Got bored and turned some knobs and dials in Blender3D a little while ago. The end result was this.

Fiddling Aboot

Nice balls you've got there.

The graffiti texture was taken from a free texture repository, although I’ve already forgotten which one. Materials on the three balls and lighting were done in blender by my own uneducated keyboard slapping. Small contrast adjustment made in GIMP after rendering.

Update 2: Some time after writing this the develop finally released Strangers Wrath HD as a free upgrade to all existing customers. It still has a few bugs, but it’s a graphically updated version of the game that’s superior to the original release and fully playable.

Update: Since writing this Munch’s Oddysee has been fixed. Strangers Wrath still exhibits graphical corruption on AMD/ATI hardware as a fixed driver has yet to be released.

A year after it was originally supposed to come out The Oddboxx has finally been made available for purchase. Unfortunately, even after a year-long delay its launch was an unmitigated disaster. Widespread issues due to a lack of foresight, a lack of understanding in regards to the PC games market, driver issues and a lack of QA testing led to crashing, graphical corruption and other issues on many systems.

This isn’t meant to be an Oddworld Inhabitants or Just Add Water bashing festival; I’m simply providing an analysis of failed product launch. I am one of the people who bought it, although it isn’t coloring my opinion as I only paid $12.50 for the package during the 50% discount it had the day it launched, and technically only half of that goes to the defective portion. I maintain that in the grand scheme of feeling ripped off, as disappointing as it may be, things could be far worse and this isn’t really worth popping a vein over. I empathize with the guys over at JAW, who are currently taking all of the blame for problems they’re “only” partially responsible for. So far, they appear to show remorse and a desire to make right—whether or not they actually do make right remains to be seen, but if they care for their reputation among the gaming community and possibly the industry as a whole they will patch things to an acceptable state.

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Fans of platforming games, assorted meat products and donuts rejoice; ‘Splosion Man is the game for you. I’ve been interested in playing it since it was announced back in April of 2009. Unfortunately, due to me lacking an Xbox 360 until recently I had no way to do so. The developers of the game, Twisted Pixel, had ported their previous game “The Maw” to PC but ‘Splosion Man did not receive the same treatment, much to my dismay. Now that I do have an Xbox 360 I’ve had the chance to purchase and play ‘Splosion Man long after most of the world has beaten it 20 times over.

The game takes place over the course of 100 levels, 50 in single player and 50 in multiplayer. There’s a good sense of pacing as the game gradually introduces new concepts to you over the course of your rampage through the labs of Big Science. You are given ample opportunity to become acclimated with new gameplay elements before you’re required to use them in a more complex puzzle, some of which require some pretty strict timing later in the game.

Naturally, the gameplay revolves around the titular characters one and only ability: ‘sploding. You can ‘splode three times in a row before you have to recharge, which can only be done while sliding down a wall or while on the ground. Some puzzles require more than your base level of ‘sploding, though. In such areas you are provided with explosive canisters and “fire spouts” to give you a boost or recharge your ability while airborne. The underlying mechanics of the game are solid, the controls are responsive and rarely did I feel like it was the games fault I failed to navigate a puzzle.

Multiplayer comes in the form of co-op levels which are separate from what’s found in single player and scale to the number of players (up to 4) by altering various aspects of the puzzles used in the game which usually consist of players having to simultaneously activate buttons or ‘splode off each other to access otherwise out-of-reach areas. With more than two players it can become a bit chaotic, with people inadvertently ‘sploding off each other or pushing each other into environmental hazards or enemies. That problem is generally in effect twofold when playing with random people on Xbox Live. However, if you can play with friends or find some good XBL players and everybody understands the game mechanics it can make for a very fun experience.

Graphically and aurally speaking, the game packs a solid engine with simplistic but highly effective art design that perfectly fits the tone of the game. Sound design is equally well executed with a small selection of upbeat tunes including the undeniably catchy “Everybody Loves Donuts”. Equally infectious are the hyper-active quips, one-liners and a myriad of mouth noises produced by the main character himself as you progress.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a solid puzzle-based platforming experience with a great lighthearted tone you should give the reasonably priced ‘Splosion Man a shot.

Five years late, but I’ve finally got an Xbox 360. It’s a launch model with a manufacture date of November 26th, 2005 and it didn’t come with a hard drive; but hey, it works—for now at least. *Knock on wood*

Currently Not an RRODBox

Eventually those rings will be red, and I will be sad.

So now instead of only writing articles about PC stuff that nobody reads I can also write about Xbox 360 stuff. Exciting! My first write-up will be a review of ‘Splosion Man, a game I’ve wanted to play for quite a long time and couldn’t because there was no PC release. Beyond that I’ve also reached far into the 360 back catalog and bought used copies of Halo 3 and The Darkness which I may write about in some capacity if I can feel motivated enough.

Given the age of this 360 and the platforms sordid history of smearing shit on your carpet and subsequently bursting into flames I’ll have to take very good care of this thing if I want it to last long enough for me to get through all of the games I’m interested in. I’m assuming that because this system is not only way beyond the 3-year warranty period but also because I don’t have an original proof of purchase since it’s both used and won from a giveaway I’d probably have a better chance of being struck by lightning than I would have of Microsoft servicing it. Considering that, I’ll have to break the warranty seal and periodically open up the system to clean it out. Heck, maybe I’ll even mod it if I get bored enough—mod as in increase the cooling efficiency in some way, not as in adding phat spinners or neon lights.

I initially thought I’d be able to get away with exclusively using external storage devices for the system, but it appears that it might be more of a pain in the ass than it’s worth. I’ve determined that some older titles which were developed before Microsoft added support for external storage to be used for things that were previously limited to the official HDD have issues utilizing my USB HDD. Halo 3 is particularly egregious in its inability to recognize it as a valid storage medium. It constantly complains about being unable to add things to my download queue, even interrupting single player and multiplayer gameplay to inform me. The types of multiplayer playlists I can use are also limited and I can’t play co-op. I assume this is because Bungie programmed Halo 3 to look for the presence of the official HDD specifically rather than tell it to utilize any device present that has sufficient storage space. Obviously, the 8GB of space that’s free on the 16GB of reserved space the 360 created should be more than enough for what the game needs to do, but it just doesn’t see it that way.

Various other things need to be considered as well; if I want to play with my friends I’m going to need to get a headset for party chat and an Xbox Live subscription so I can play online without having to constantly scavenge 48-Hour trial codes. I was going to get myself a new keyboard, a CPU heatsink and maybe new headphones this holiday, but I may end up spending money on my ticking timebomb of a game console instead. Le Sigh.

Needs Moar Ghostbusters

Fill my eyes with that, uh, quintuple vision.

One last thing: third-party cables can be a blessing or a curse. In my case, it was the latter. I now find myself in need of a better VGA cable. Luckily, this one only cost me $1.16.