My blade shall cleave your SOUL!

Hiiii! It’s this fool again! 😛

Hope things are alright with you! Still apocalypsing it up? 😀 Here in the UK, people are allowed to go to the pub now, or something. I think we’re also allowed to go to the shop without having to queue. Apparently all of this went very well and there were no problems at all, lolololol. 😛 I dunno, I’ve not been watching the news, and the only reason I’ve left the comfort of my flat in the past 2-3 months was to put my rubbish in the bin. 😛 No, I’m not scared of the Death Virus. The only reason I went outside before the outbreak was to go to work. Other than that, I have no real need to go outside, because computers are inside. 😛

So yep, still business as usual for me. Doing work, playing games, making renders, eating, sleeping, repeating. 😀 And on the subjects of renders and games, oh boy, do I have a render for you today! It’s my biggest, most ambitious one yet! And it’s based on a game! A game render! A GRENDER! 😆 NO MONGMASTER NO! 😛

I’m not sure exactly what triggered it, most likely a totally random epiphany that happened while I was showering or daydreaming, but I had this sudden idea for a scene. It was inspired by Dynasty Warriors, probably one of the most polarising game franchises ever. You either love it, or you don’t enjoy hitting thousands of dumb peons with a stick for some reason. I’m the former. 😀 DW3 was the first one I played, and I’ve loved it ever since, although I wasn’t a fan of DW6, and I haven’t played DW9. I really don’t want to know what they did to get such an… immensely negative reaction. 😛 I’ve enjoyed games outside of the core series, as well: the Samurai Warriors crossover game Warriors Orochi was fun, the Monster Hunter-inspired Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce was interesting, and I quite enjoyed Fire Emblem: Warriors on Switch, too. My favourite game in the series is DW8: Xtreme Legends, though, by a pretty big margin. And even though I enjoyed the older games, I’ll admit, looking back, they were… much, much less good than DW7 and 8. 😛 And the voice acting (well, most of it, some of the actors put on a surprisingly good performance) is still fantastically bad. But that’s part of the fun! Not as much fun as, say, the voice acting in Earth Defense Force 4, but still… 😛

Anyway, to help explain the idea I had, here’s a bit of background for those who might not know. 🙂 There’s a character called Guan Yu: tall, bearded, wrecks face, eventually gets face wrecked at Fan Castle, spoiler. 😛 He’s been my main man since DW5. 🙂 In all games before DW7, one of his weapons was called “Blue Dragon”. It’s also the only weapon that I know of that is referenced in voice lines. In DW5, if you trigger a True Musou Attack while playing as Guan Yu, as the camera spins around, he’ll say “Roar, Blue Dragon!” before starting to pwn every fool in front of him. 😛 He also uses the same quote in DW8 at the start of his Rage Musou Attack. (That link goes to a video I put together for reference. 😀 )

And that weapon was what got me thinking. “What if Blue Dragon was being swung by an actual blue dragon? While wearing Guan Yu’s armour? Holy crap he could be called “Guan Ryu“!” (“Ryu” being Japanese for “Dragon”). Stackin’ wordplay and references like a madman! 😆

I laughed to myself because I am sad. 😛 But even though I loved the idea, I quickly went to dismiss it. “Nah… that would be amazing, but it’s impossible on so many levels.” I thought. “I’d need to rip assets from the game for one thing, and that’s probably not happening. Who’s gonna have written something that can rip assets from Dynasty Warriors games? Hell, even if that was possible and I actually did get the models out of the game and into a format DAZ Studio could understand, I’d need to fit a suit of human armour onto a dragon. That’s the most ridiculous ide… ah, wait, hang on… that thing I did the other day… maybe it actually is possible…?”

“Wait what the fuck don’t be stupid” I hear someone say all the time, but this particular utterance of the phrase manages to get my attention. 😛 Yeah, it sounds totally stupid, but there is something I learned not too long ago. While dicking around and experimenting in DAZ Studio, I managed to figure out the purpose of a tool I never understood before: the Transfer Tool. It basically takes a “source” figure, copies its skeleton onto a “target” figure, automatically sets up weight mappings and everything, then fits the target figure onto the source figure as if it was a piece of clothing. Theoretically, this means that any item of clothing can be fit to any figure, provided that the clothing fits around the figure in the first place.

After realising this, before I knew it, I was at the computer looking for a way to rip assets from Dynasty Warriors 8. 😛 I thought that would end up being the barrier, but surprisingly, I found a solution quite easily. There’s a tool called Steven’s Gas Machine (the executable is called “xentax.exe”, though, shrug) which can rip assets from a bunch of different games, a lot of them being Warriors/Musou games. It’s pretty much as simple as moving some files to a folder, answering some questions, then waiting for a while. There’s also Ninja Ripper, an almost-global solution which hooks into the game you want assets from, and upon hitting F10, it attempts to dump the models and textures loaded into memory at that moment. To view the ripped assets and get them into a usable form afterwards, there’s Noesis, a model, image, and animation viewer/converter. Its interface isn’t particularly great, but hoooooly shit it sure can convert. 😀

After seeing that it was potentially quite easy to get assets out of the game and into DAZ Studio, and that it was theoretically possible to morph a set of human armour to fit a dragon given enough time and effort, I thought “well, I might as well give it a shot, at least”, and began recording for the timelapse. It took absolutely friggin’ ages, and there were several times when I thought “crap, I don’t think I’m gonna be able to do this after all”. But I kept at it… and kept at it… and then, finally, 70 hours and 234GB of video files later… I actually completed this insane endeavour, producing something that didn’t resemble a gigantic poop! 😛

So, I very, very excitedly present to you… “Roar, Blue Dragon!”:

More flavours here, including an alternate version with a HUD! 😀
No HUD: (1080p) (2K) (4K)
With HUD: (1080p) (2K) (4K)

YYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOO!! 2,000 KOs! TREMBLE BEFORE THE GOD OF WAAAAAAAARRRRRR!!!

*ahem*. So, ah… yeah. This… this went well. 😆 Honestly, I’m still a bit shocked that I’m able to share it with you, because I thought this project was going to fizzle out as I was trying to fit the armour to Dragon 3. But when I finally got it morphed to the correct shape, and when the Transfer Tool just worked, I started to believe it might actually happen. 😀

Maaaan, I’m so, SO happy with this one! 😀 I think it’s my best render yet! I also think it’s a milestone for me, because it pushed my skills beyond their limits, and I did so much stuff to create this that I’d never done before, or never truly believed I could do. 🙂 But hey, who cares what I think, I’m way more interested in what you think! Let me know! 😀

Before I go on to talk about the process, for those who just screamed at me, YES, I KNOW, the weapon he’s holding isn’t actually Blue Dragon. 😛 It’s Heavenly Dragon (or Moon Dragon in Orochi 4). Getting hold of Blue Dragon would have required me to download Dynasty Warriors 6 (which I don’t own) and use Ninja Ripper to maybe get the correct weapon model. I didn’t really want to go through that. Besides, Heavenly Dragon looks way better than Blue Dragon. It’s actually blue for one thing! 😛 I might do an alternate version with the correct weapon if enough people complain. So if you wanna see that, complain like crazy. 😆

And also, YES, I KNOW, Dynasty Warriors is set in China and the “Ryu” in Guan Ryu is Japanese. But hey, Dynasty Warriors is made in Japan, so mleh! 😛 “Guan Long” would’ve probably been more fitting, but “Long” and “Yu” don’t even share any letters, maaaaaan! I’ve gotta take some concessions when it comes to Epic Wordplay. 😆

“And WHAT ARE THOSE THINGS IN THE SCENE?! HUMANS?!?!?!” Yes, I finally rendered those ugly things. 😛 Hilariously, it’s the first time I’ve ever rendered a human outside of test renders. Hell, even in test renders, I’ve only rendered a human once! 😆 I reckon they were necessary, though; without them, it would’ve been a bit less obvious that the image was a Dynasty Warriors reference/parody/tribute. 😀

Anyway, because quite a lot went into this render, I am going to ramble ALL about how I did it, mainly for my own reference, but I do hope it helps someone else at least a little. 😀 But don’t worry, people-who-don’t-care! I’ve got a very convenient TL;DR link which should hopefully skip you right past it. If you’d rather read more exciting things like the RENDER STATS, go ahead and click the link below. 😀 No, it’s not a link to Never Gonna Give You Up. Okay, it might be. Slightly. Mostly not. 96.5% not. 😛

Too Long; Didn’t Read!

The first step was getting the armour out of Dynasty Warriors 8 and into a format that DAZ Studio could understand. As mentioned above, I used a couple of tools for this: Steven’s Gas Machine and Noesis. Using Steven’s Gas Machine was simple enough, I just pointed it at the game files, and it did its thing, dumping all the assets into a folder. The hardest part was sifting through all these assets, because of course, they didn’t have any meaningful names (see screenshot). 😛 I used Noesis to go through them, eventually finding Guan Yu and his weapons. It was around this moment that I realised that one part of my joke was going to fall over. Blue Dragon hasn’t been in Dynasty Warriors since DW7. 😦 As a result, I had to settle for the next best thing, Guan Yu’s ultimate weapon: Heavenly Dragon.

When I’d found the models, next was figuring out what format gave the most usable results in DAZ Studio. I tried FBX first, because it’s what we use at work and it seems to work well there. I’m pretty sure it’s a common format, so it surely has some decent support, right? Lmfao no! DAZ Studio did literally nothing when I tried importing it. No feedback at all. 😛 So next up, I tried OBJ. This worked, but the model contained a single material group, meaning that it was going to be a li’l bit of a chore to get all parts of that single material to look good.

The last thing I tried was DAZ’s own format, DAE (Collada). Importing this format gave me no options and made Guan Yu appear as a MEGA GIANT, but weirdly enough, he was separated into many different bits. This made it extremely easy to remove the parts of Guan Yu that were Guan Yu, leaving just the armour. However, this was a trap that contributed towards the pain and frustration and swearing experienced later on in the process. 😣 Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, so I just plodded on thinking “yay, easy!” 😛 After getting the models and textures in successfully, I pulled in Dragon 3, creating a fun little “teaser” render for someone who gave me really useful feedback on Dino Disco. 😀

I wanted to increase the quality of the armour before starting to morph it to fit the Dragon 3, but this is where my respect for ZBrush kinda died a bit. 😛 You see, I found that ZBrush, despite its power, has a pretty glaring flaw. It can’t handle multiple material groups. It claims it can, but really, it can’t. I sent Guan Yu’s armour to ZBrush. It had four material groups when I sent it. I then immediately sent it back to DAZ Studio as a new model, without changing anything. The new model had one material group. It just doesn’t seem to understand that a model can have several material groups. If you split the model into several parts and send that to ZBrush, each of the four “SubTools” (ZBrush’s word for “models”, no idea why because you tend to use tools to shape a model, not brushes to shape a tool, lmao 😛 ) then have their own material, and you can allegedly combine them into a single SubTool but retain their grouping info inside “PolyGroups”. But when you do that, ZBrush DUMBBrush just kinda goes “lol fuck UV maps they’re stupid” and throws them away, so when you send that mesh back to DAZ Studio, even if all the PolyGroups have been separated back into SubTools again, DumbBrush gives DS completely bullshit UV information and you can’t reapply any of the texture maps! AAAAAAAARGH DUMBBRUSH YOU’RE THE LAST THING I EXPECTED TO SCREW ME OVER!! 😦 So yeah. I couldn’t do jack shit with the model quality in the end because I had to choose between losing the material groups or losing the UVs. And they’re both kinda very important. 😛

But anyway, despite that annoyance, I’d at least gotten the model into DS. That was the easy part, though. The first major ordeal followed: getting the armour to fit Dragon 3. I understood the basic process: put the target figure (Dragon 3) in the zero pose at world centre, get the source figure (the armour) morphed so it fits visually, then transfer the source to the target using Transfer Tool. It’s just that the process of getting the armour to fit a creature that was definitely not in mind during the armour’s creation process was… very difficult. 😆 To do it, I used ZBrush’s transformation tools, along with the “Move” and “Move Topological” brushes to stretch the model to fit Dragon 3, frequently exporting it and saving my progress as I went along. Thinking back… although it was time-consuming, it wasn’t too painful overall. The hardest parts were the ornament on his right shoulder, and his hind legs. The legs of the armour intersected with each other, and it was frustratingly difficult to pull them apart so they matched the Dragon 3’s T-pose. As for the boots, I just looked at them, brought D3’s foot next to one, said “heh, no way”, and promptly deleted the polys. I didn’t even want to try that shit. 😛 Besides, I think he looks way better without them! 😀

The morphing process took around 6 hours in total, and I was terrified that the Transfer Tool wasn’t going to work when the moment of truth arrived. 😛 But when it did, and when I applied one of the Dragon 3’s preset poses to test it, I totally felt like Success Kid. It was a true “thank fuck for that” moment. 😆

Of course, it wasn’t immediately a perfect fit (not like it ever fit perfectly 😆), as was evidenced when I broke in the outfit with a more suitable test pose, one based on Guan Yu’s run cycle. There were a couple of things that were ridiculously wrong, and a ton of other things that were less wrong, but still wrong. 😛 The ridiculously wrong things were the shoulder decoration on the right shoulder and the medallion on the left. They were warped to a hilarious degree and needed separating from the main armour.

I imported a fresh copy of the armour, deleted the ornament and medallion on the morphed armour, and deleted everything apart from the ornament and medallion on the fresh armour. I used DAZ Studio’s built-in Geometry Editor Tool for that, which I wasn’t super-keen on at first, but it’s actually pretty easy to use, and I ended up leaning on it quite a bit. 😀 The other problems consisted of some polygons (mainly the bits of fabric that move in-game) poking through each other, making the armour look terrible. This is around the time I realised that something wasn’t quite right with the model, and when that easy solution I stumbled upon when importing the model came back to bite me. Some of the vertices on the model weren’t welded together. They occupied roughly the same point in space, but it was possible to move one but not the other, causing the model to “tear apart at the seams”. This plagued me for the rest of the project. It also made it impossible to apply subdivision to the model, so I was stuck with it at game resolution. 😣 I’m not truly sure what I could’ve done to prevent this. There was a couple of steps mentioned in Steven’s Gas Machine that I didn’t do, because I thought they were optional and I didn’t even have Blender installed and I don’t even know how to Blender. 😛 Maybe they were critical to making the model less janky? I dunno…

Anyway, that was the first hurdle passed. Ah, but there was something with the textures, too. Guan Yu’s texture map was 1024×1024, which is okay for a game, but really quite low for rendering. The weapon texture was even worse: 256×256! 😦 I wanted to upscale them, but knew that just making the textures bigger in Photoshop wouldn’t really do much. That’s when, after having a look to see if there was an upscaler that could upscale more better, I discovered the fantastically-named Waifu2x. 😆 It’s designed for images with an anime-like art style (hence the name 😛 ). It somehow supports photos, too, but probably not as well. Despite Dynasty Warriors having a more realistic art style, I thought I’d give Waifu2x a try and see if it could improve things. It ended up being more like Waifu4x, because I increased the texture size of Guan Yu’s armour to 4096 and the texture size of Heavenly Dragon to 1024. 😛 I also used it on the normal maps. It made a pretty big difference. Definitely keeping that tool in my arsenal for the future. 😀

(I had an Image Compare widget/block thing here before, but it was useless because it didn’t let you zoom in, so here’s a gallery instead 😛 )

Of course, no project goes from start to finish without DAZ Studio trying to shit all over me in some way, and this one was no exception! 😛 Around the point I was splitting the medallion out from the armour, DAZ very randomly and very quietly decided to, oh, sextuple the size of my scene. Yes really. The scene was around 3MB, and then suddenly it was 19MB. I don’t know why. Maybe it was bored? Maybe it thought things were going too well and wanted to waste like an hour of my time? Shrug. I only realised there was a problem when DAZ Studio locked up when saving a bit later on, and then locked up again while attempting to reload the save before the one it just failed to save. It had literally shat out scene files that it couldn’t open again! Aaargh! 😡 It’s a good thing I save so much, because I only lost 30 minutes of work because of that, thankfully. Annoying, but at least it wasn’t hours of work. However, it did make me save the scene extremely frequently for a while afterwards as I tried to figure out what I did wrong. I never figured it out, because it never happened again. So I likely did nothing wrong at all. Thanks DS, you massive anus tart. 😑

The second hurdle was creating the peons that Guan Ryu would smack. The minor soldiers that don’t do much other than get owned by you. I call them “peons”. 😛 At first, I thought I’d just use a figure created by DAZ (Genesis 8 Male), but after realising that there weren’t any outfits available that matched the Dynasty Warriors vibe I was going for, I decided to bite the bullet, and began an attempt to rig the peon model myself. This was a massive first for me, because this is something I’ve been wondering how to do for quite a while, but felt that it was beyond what I was capable of.

First off, I had to get the peon into DAZ Studio in the first place. Not quite as easy as I was hoping it to be. 😆 It turns out that Dynasty Warriors 8 randomly generates peons using various models for the head, body, arms, and legs, pinning them together and animating them on the fly. While there were full models of what looked like soldiers you see in-game, their textures were insanely low-res. I imagine they were guys you could talk to in the camp during Story Mode or Ambition Mode. I realised the peons were randomly generated when I kept finding various bits of a peon instead of a full model, and looked at one of my reference screenshots to confirm it. So, I just picked out some parts to assemble one, exported the whole scene from DS, then reimported it again as a single mesh. Job done!

Apart from that I wasn’t gonna fall into the same trap again as I did with Guan Yu! 😛 I wanted to make sure the model was in good shape before I started rigging it, welding together the vertices to prevent the mesh from falling apart this time. I did this using the Auto Weld tool in the only modelling program I had installed at the time: Hexagon, also created by DAZ. It communicates with DAZ Studio, too, which is nice. Sadly, the program has gotta be about 283 years old, and it’s fucking horrible to use, too. All I wanted to do was weld all the vertices on the model to other vertices close by. But the way the UI works is so utterly, utterly stupid. It’s something like… you select the weld tool, and it immediately takes effect. Uh, I think. If you click anywhere on the model after doing this, there’s a chance Hexagon will just crash. But if you send the model back to DS after seeing the weld tool has done what you wanted, there aren’t any changes. That’s because the change you saw in the viewport is merely a preview! To actually apply the thing you want to do, you’ve gotta press the button over to the right in the Properties window (a button that is always there, even if you have no tool selected) that says “Apply”. No, wait, “Accept”! Apply? Accept? Which one is it again…? God damn. I just had to refer to the raw footage used for the timelapse, which I narrate to help me remember things. 😛 “Apply” either does nothing, or shows you the new settings you chose. “Accept” applies the settings for reals and doesn’t allow you to undo afterwards. Wtf. It’s ass. Like 100% pure ass. I can only assume that the people working at DAZ are actually insane. I mean, this is kinda unrelated, but they did send me an e-mail yesterday saying that I could “Get all Michael base models FREE”. Of course, I quickly found out that they’re only free if you pay! Omfg THAT MEANS THEY AREN’T FREE!! Stop clickbaiting me you insane dumbfucks! 😡

*calm*
After getting the model into a good state, I began creating a really basic rig. And it was so much easier than I was expecting. 😀 Sure, there were probably a bazillion issues with my rig, but it was good enough for my purposes. 🙂 I used a couple of DAZ Studio’s built-in tools to accomplish this: the Joint Editor Tool and the Node Weight Brush Tool. Both are now in my toolbar. 😀 The Node Weight Brush is annoying, though. The controls aren’t obvious, and sometimes it refuses to let you erase some weight mapping you’ve done. But yeah, it was quite simple to do. Time-consuming, but simple. You basically create the skeleton using the Joint Editor, then for each bone, you paint weight mapping for each axis of rotation. It lets you copy one axis of rotation to other axes, which is great, but it doesn’t let you mirror weight mappings across bones, though. And that’s really annoying. It lets you mirror it over the same bone, but that makes no sense. Rotating the left hand shouldn’t rotate the mesh where the right hand is. 😛

But of course, this being my first time doing rigging, I fell into another trap. And it was caused because I’d welded the model together, this time! Argh! 😣 The mesh for the legs, just like Guan Yu’s, intersects. That is, the fabric on the left leg cuts into the right leg (and vice versa, of course). Because I’d welded close vertices together, I’d actually accidentally welded his legs together, and didn’t realise this until I’d almost finished the rig. What I should have done is figure out a way to exclude certain vertices from being welded, and made sure to exclude those between his legs. Since I was already 90% of the way through rigging, and redoing the model now would cost me about two hours, I decided to chav it and deleted a large section of his right leg. It was a dirty move and I’m sorry. Not sorry. 😛 Screw you guys, I SAVED TWO HOURS OF MY LIFE! 😛

Weirdly, though, even though you weight map specific bones to specific parts of the mesh, there’s an extra dull-ass step you need to take before you can actually select these bones in the viewport. Of course. 😛 You need to assign “Face Groups” to sets of polygons, and assign those Face Groups to actual bones. When you click on a polygon that’s part of one of these Face Groups, the bone assigned to the Face Group is selected. I’ve no idea why they require you to do this step. I have no idea why there’s no automated process for it, because I’ve already weight mapped the polys to the bones. But it was a fantastically annoying waste of half an hour of my clearly-DAZ-doesn’t-think-it’s-precious time. 😛

After the rigging was complete, I put a ton of them into a test scene with Guan Ryu, in a pose that was close to the final thing. Everything finally felt like it was coming together. This was the first moment when I genuinely believed I was gonna get this thing done, and I was SUPER excited by it! 😀

For some reason, though, there was a two month gap between doing that test render and continuing work on the scene. And I think it was because of the VFX, which was the final hurdle that I could see. I’ve done VFX before, sure. Some examples being the cauldron glow and volumetrics of Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble, the volumetric disco lights of Dino Disco, and way back when I was still a noob, the fire effect seen in Shoryuken. But they were all quite simple, really, while the VFX required for this scene seemed really, really complicated, and it was making me nervous. I wanted it to resemble the moment I was trying to reference in my scene, the last strike of Guan Yu’s Rage Musou Attack:

And I wasn’t sure I could replicate that, or even get close to it. Definitely not with my 2D art skillz. 😛 But anyway, I eventually manned up, and continued on. I was hoping to rip an environment from the game, but after a lot of searching through the game files, I just couldn’t find the terrain meshes. I imagine they they have some bespoke way of storing info about a map, and generate the terrain from an image, or something crazy like that. No matter, I ditched that idea and found an environment from the store that was a good match for the scene. 🙂 I rearranged the peons, set up lighting, tweaked the pose, fixed more costume issues… things were going really well. But all the while, that feeling kept gnawing at me. “Ya gotta do the VFX sooooon! You might Faaaail It because Your Skill Is Not Enooooough!” 😛

When that moment finally came, I decided to refer to the game’s assets to try and figure out how they did it. Instead of searching through about 90,000 images and God-knows how many meshes to try and find the VFX, I used the excellent Ninja Ripper to target specific moments in the game, and managed to rip the VFX textures and meshes fairly easily. They were a lot simpler than I was expecting, so I just decided to pull them into the scene to see what I could do with them. After arranging them into a shockwave kinda shape, adding emission to the material, and adjusting the colour to be just right, I suddenly became all hyper-giddy at the first pass. The filename of the scene saved just after I got the effect in was “Roar, Blue Dragon! 233 – PRELIMINARY PRELIMINARY PRELIMINARY PRELIMINARY PRELIMINARY NOW NOW NOW.duf”. 😆

So yeah, turns out I was worried for no real reason. Of course, something completely impossible and incredibly irritating had to happen anyway, because I’m me. 😛 There was a problem with the VFX textures, where they were clearly very low-res. I’d upscaled them to try and fix this, not with Waifu2x, just a simple bicubic upscale in Photoshop, with a bit of Gaussian blur added on to soften the edges of the VFX. For some reason, this texture rendered differently to the previous one. It’d lost a lot of its intensity. I tried again but without the blur. Same problem. I tried again without even upscaling the image, literally: put image in Photoshop, save out as JPG. Same problem! I made a copy of that image just using Explorer, and the copy rendered the same as the original, but for some psycho reason, even when following the exact same steps I did to create the image in the first place, it rendered differently! It absolutely blew my mind! I didn’t hash the two files to compare them, but there must have been something different. But then again… it can’t have been that different! They were even the exact same size! Saved in the same format by the same application in the same way! Here’s the panel of my redlines I created after this occurred, hopefully it helps illustrate what I mean. It completely destroyed my head. 😛

I ended up fixing the low-res issue in post with lots and lots of blurring and smudging and motion blurring and radial blurring. So it was okay in the end. 😀 Aside from the swipe, the fire spirals and the hit effects, the only other VFX left to do was a dust shockwave. I first resorted to a pack of “shaders” which couldn’t get anywhere near the effect I wanted. In the end, I realised that I could achieve it very easily myself. All I needed was a primitive torus, a simple gradient, and the ground texture that was already in use. Use the gradient as the cutout, the ground texture as the diffuse, and tweak until nice. Simplez! 😀

So, after getting through the VFX, that was it, Luigi. 😛 Got it rendered, applied all the postwork (mostly motion blur 😆), and finally, the scene I never thought was possible was aliiiiive! 😀 😀 😀 As for the HUD? That was easy; I just grabbed the HUD sprite atlas from the game assets, and spent some time matching everything up using a screenshot. 🙂 Rendered a very quick portrait version of Guan Ryu, nothing complicated, stuck it where Guan Yu’s face was supposed to be, and boom, complete! 😀 I did try to convert the game’s charmap into an actual font file, though, like a .ttf file. I gave up after a little while because it was turning out to be way more effort than it was worth. I came across a promising tool called… uh, FontTrace, I think? Unlike the other tools, I’m not linking to this one because I don’t want you to waste your time. 😛 It did nothing but write some useless zero-byte files. Even using the image it provided as a sample. Which was in a format the tool wouldn’t accept. Lmao. 😛 It was a very old and crusty tool, to be fair, so it probably just broke at some point in time. Anyway, I ended up scaling the charmap up so it matched the letters in a screenshot, then just manually copied and pasted the letters I needed, arranging them into the sentence I wanted to make. 😀

TL;DR: I made a render where a blue dragon hits people with Blue Dragon. 😛

Whew… okay… that was the process. 😆 I have a feeling that I missed something, too, but I’m not sure. 😛 If you actually read all that, firstly, thanks for reading, and secondly, if there’s anything I did miss about the process that you wanted to know about, just give us a shout! 😀

I feel that this scene was accidentally well-timed, too, as I’ve very subtly referenced with an easter egg in the HUD version. 😀 Maybe you’ll see it if you’re an ultra-hardcore fan? I’m not, I didn’t even realise until I had an idle thought about it. 😆 But the KO count I used for the HUD version, 2,083, references a special thing that Dynasty Warriors, or rather, Shin Sangoku Musou, will celebrate soon. Let me explain a little first: Dynasty Warriors 1, known as simply “Sangoku Musou” in the East, was a totally different game to the Dynasty Warriors we know now. It was a 1v1 fighting game like Street Fighter or Tekken or whatever. Dynasty Warriors 2 was the first hack and slash of the series, and the series has followed the same style ever since. Instead of them calling it “Sangoku Musou 2” in the East, they distinguished it as a different game by calling it “Shin Sangoku Musou”, or “True Three Kingdoms Unrivaled”. That’s why they’re one number behind the West (DW8 over here is called SSM7 over there, for example 🙂 ). So when Koei/Omega Force celebrate an anniversary of the series, it’s based on the release date of Shin Sangoku Musou, because that’s when the series truly began. And 2,083? 20-08-03. The series celebrates it’s 20th anniversary on the 3rd of August 2020. 😀
Was the easter egg worth reading all that explanation? PROBABLY NOT!! 😛

Anyway, let’s get on with sharing the TIMELAPSE! And as you might imagine, it’s the longest one yet! 😛 It might be a li’l bit more interesting than usual, though, since I did a lot of things I’ve never done before. Although… the length of it might pull things the other way and actually make it more boring than usual. 😛 Anyway, you can watch it here, if you like! It’s only 17½ minutes long! 😛 (I should probably warn about epilepsy here, the video does flash a fair bit since as it switches between darker and lighter windows about 22,000% faster than normal 😛 )

But hey, a longer timelapse means more music, and this time there’s literally no better way to alleviate the boredom than with some of the tunes from the awesome Dynasty Warriors 8 soundtrack! I crammed in seven of them! 😀 I kick things off with “Fan The Flames“, the music played during the ABSOLUTELY BAT-SHIT INSANE intro to the original Dynasty Warriors 8. I thought the Xtreme Legends intro was crazy, but holy crap, the original intro makes that look like a documentary. 😛 (Highlight: Zhao Yun hits a boat with his spear after flying towards it surrounded by flame arrows, and the boat EXPLODES, then all the boats around that ALSO explode, then he gets on his horse while both him and the horse are FLYING THROUGH THE AIR UPSIDE-DOWN!! 😆)
After the intro music, I thought that “Welcome To China (DW 7th Mix)” would be appropriate next. I sent that track to my sister just before she actually went to China a while back. Also, whenever she sent some pictures back by e-mail, I always replied with a stupid Dynasty Warriors reference. She didn’t understand. 😛
Next up is “My Bad Fellow“, a classic from Dynasty Warriors 4, but it’s still part of the DW8 soundtrack, played during one of the hypothetical battles. I remember grooving to it quite a lot when first starting out with Dynasty Warriors. I think it was the track played during Pang Tong’s stage in DW4XL. 😀
Of course, I can’t not have Lu Bu’s theme in the timelapse, so next up is “Theme of Lu Bu (DW 7th Mix)“, the only character in the game with a bespoke theme. The DW 7th Mix isn’t my favourite arrangement of it, as they kinda messed with the classic main melody a bit too much for my liking, but it’s definitely got that familiar vibe. 😀
The penultimate track is the epic “Final Game“, played once during Story Mode, but most frequently during major battles in Ambition Mode. I first heard this track on the Dynasty Warriors 8 promo website when I heard the game was coming out, and it immediately made me want the game. 😛
“Wait, MongMaster, why is FINAL Game not the final track, you gorm?!” Well prawn, that’s because I wanted to round things off with my favourite song on the soundtrack, and in fact one of my all-time favourite pieces of video game music: “Heavenly Strike“. I love the way it fuses rock and traditional Chinese instruments so naturally and perfectly, I love the way it builds up several times as the song progresses, and when it reaches the chorus, I just can’t get enough of that epic lead melody. And it’s so Dynasty Warriors. If there’s one song that can describe the series, it’s this. 😀
I also snuck in “Victory Jubilee (DW 7th Mix)” right at the end, played when you win a battle. Because it’s apt, and I love that jingle. 😀 I used the seldom-heard extended version in the timelapse. It’s not in the sound test menu, and you can only hear it after completing a challenge in Challenge Mode, but it fades out. However, if you press a button while “Challenge Complete” is on the screen, it skips to the results screen without fading out the music, so you can groove to it forever. #themoreyouknow 😛

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough yammering about the timelapse, there’s one other boring thing that I want to say about it. 😛 Normally, I have something in the corner saying how many days I’ve worked on the scene, but for this timelapse, I put the exact amount of time, instead. Well, as exact as I could make it anyway. Sometimes I stop recording to take a break, or to refer to something that happened earlier. 😛 That’s why I know this render took about 70 hours to create. 😀 I did this because I felt that showing the days was slightly misleading before. Decorators didn’t take me six whole days, for example. Anyway, that timer was only possible due to some new video editing software I just recently discovered: DaVinci Resolve.

I normally use Adobe Premiere, but DaVinci Resolve is like a hybrid of Premiere and After Effects, with the critical difference that the basic version (which is ANYTHING but basic) is friggin’ FREE. What the actual hell. Why haven’t I heard about this program before?! 😛 Apart from the interface being all different and requiring me to re-learn where everything is, and it being somewhat… unstable at times, it works quite similarly to Premiere, and can do pretty much everything Premiere can do. It did have a terrible start by crashing silently and forcing me to start from scratch… twice… but it quickly redeemed itself and really showed its worth when I started playing with Fusion, the in-built visual effects tool. 🙂 Also, mine is a niche use-case, but I found the whole program super-accommodating for timelapses. 😀 After Effects claims it can only support compositions up to 3 hours long (even though I imported a Premiere project and it was perfectly fine with a 12 hour long one (shrug)), and while Premiere can handle sequences up to 24 hours long, that’s sometimes not long enough. As is evident by this 70-hour long one. 😆 DaVinci Resolve? Yeah, it kinda just shits all over them both and can support both timelines and compositions that are as-near-as-makes-no-difference 256 hours long. 😛 Although in the Fusion visual effects tool, I found that expressions break when you go past frame 1,000,000. Which is weird. Maybe I should file a bug report and give them a good laugh. 😛 I fixed that by using multiple compositions less than a million frames long and setting the start time of each of them differently. 😀

Anyway, enough about the timelapse! Now it’s time for the RENDER STATS!! 😀 Amazingly, this render, even with the environment and lighting and peons, was only taking around 4 minutes to render in the early stages. That kinda changed after adding the VFX and upping the render quality and resolution. 😆 Sooo, at 4K and Rendering Quality 2, rendering it took a GTX 1080Ti and a GTX 1070… 6 hours 23 minutes 38.32 seconds! So, not too bad. 😀 Although in hindsight, I have no idea how it went from taking minutes to taking hours. 😛 Oh, and as for the portrait render done for the HUD version? I have the time for that one, too! It took 15.97 seconds. Lmao. 😆 As for postwork? Aye, there’s a fair bit. I cleaned up some graininess, fixed a problem with Guan Ryu’s outfit on the left shoulder, removed two of the specular highlights on the gem embedded into his helmet, applied motion blur to the swipe effect, Guan Ryu’s right arm, and the peons in the foreground, added a fake bloom effect, and added some focus lines and a vignette. And of course, assembled the HUD for the alternate version. 😀

Ah, I nearly forgot: the progress history! It’s quite… tall, this time. 😆 I ended up doing 5 test renders and 17 preliminary ones before the final render. Here it is, you’ll probably wanna click on it to be able to see it properly. 🙂 Not sure why it’s so blurry before clicking on it, though. Probably WordPress’s fault. 😛

Zhang Jiao: Judgement Man

Since I know I can do this kind of thing now, if I ever decide to make a follow-up, and I’m not saying I will (although despite the duration and how much effort was needed, it was still really fun to do, and very satisfying 😀 ), I definitely know who I’ll be having the Dragon 3 cosplay as next. That goon over there. Zhang Jiao. 😀 Why? He’s my second-favourite character. 😀 I love how broken he is, gameplay-wise. If you equip him with the Throwing Knives (which are fully compatible and give him the maximum attack bonus), they can hit an insane number of times, filling 1 unit of Musou in a single combo if the group you attack is big enough. Then you can use that to fuel his secondary Musou Attack, which hits so many times that you can get his Rage from zero to maximum in a single attack. Then, if you trigger Rage and hit Rage Musou while his secondary Musou is still going, you can get to True Rage instantly. Repeat all this, and the amount of time he spends in Rage mode is ridiculous. 😆 Not only that, his voice actor is a legend. 😆 Here, I made a quick video to demonstrate. THE TIIIIIIIME FOR JUDGEMENT HAS COOOOOME!!!! 😆

Anyway, I think that’s all. Hope I didn’t bore you too much, and I really hope you like the render! 😀 I will finish this post with the following GIF. And by saying WordPress is shit. 😛

Monster Hunter on PC.

Friggin’ took them long enough! 😛

So, my experience with Monster Hunter is fairly long, and… very rocky. 😛 There are a fair few posts in here detailing my frustration with the series, actually (this one’s okay, but plz don’t look at the other posts, some of them are so pathetically whiny and often very wrong 😛 ). I “get” the game, the idea really works for me, so I should enjoy it… right? But nope. With the exception of Monster Hunter 4 which resolved a few killer issues I had with previous games, I’ve hated every Monster Hunter game I’ve played. After playing the game, hell, even with MH4, I always come out of the other end of it thinking “for fuck’s sake, why the hell (insert complaint here)”. Let me throw out a few examples…

1: “For fuck’s sake, why the hell did they make these monsters so goddamn cheap?”

Most of my negative memories come from Monster Hunter games on the PSP, specifically Monster Hunter Freedom: Unite (MHFU). The “difficulty” of MHFU was just painful. Notice the quotes, indicating sarcasm. 😛 Personally, I prefer difficult games. I find them more fun, they give a better sense of accomplishment, and they generally feel much better to play. However, there’s a fine line between “difficult” and “cheap”, and when that line is crossed, I get a burning desire to dump a tanker of wallpaper paste into the studio of the developers responsible. 😛 I remember two monsters in MHFU that crossed that line so blatantly that it blew my mind that they actually got away with it, to the point where I actually still can’t believe it was for real. For example, Kushala Daora, a dragon that can generate a wind shield, was effectively broken. The wind shield instantly interrupts anything you do when you get close, so you basically can’t land any hits, and the thing you need to break to remove the shield is protected by the shield. Allegedly, the shield could be disabled temporarily by poisoning the monster, but… you can’t even try to inflict poison because of the shield, meaning that the only option is to use a bow/bowgun… which is next to impossible solo, because Kushala Daora is one of the fastest Large Monsters in the game. Another monster, Plesioth, a giant fish thing, spent the vast majority of its time in the water (effectively making it invincible), the items you can use to get it out of the water are very limited and sometimes don’t work, and the bottom line was that it took so long to beat it that I ran out of time. What was the time limit? Oh, just an hour. -.-

This catastrophically cheap bullshit never appeared in Monster Hunter 4. I never felt angry at the difficulty, and never felt like I was struggling. In fact, at times, it actually felt a bit too easy. Although that might have been because of my main weapon, a weapon new to MH4 called the Insect Glaive. It feels so overpowered that it’s actually a bit embarrassing to admit that I use it. 😛

2: “For fuck’s sake, why the hell is the collision detection so god-awful?”

Seriously, MHFU, and all other MH games on PSP, had some of the worst collision detection I’ve ever seen. 😛 Plesioth was one of the main culprits here too, and the one that sticks in my mind the most. When doing its tail swipe attack, the tail is so high up that it just never looks like it hits you, but oh, of course it hits you. Rolling underneath it is impossible because the game considers its tail as a huge box which extends all the way to the ground. And don’t get me started on its body check attack.

Again, I never felt like I experienced this in Monster Hunter 4. When things clearly didn’t hit me… they didn’t hit me. 😛 Plesioth wasn’t really in Monster Hunter 4, though. He was relegated to a fish you catch in a mini-game. 😛

3: “For fuck’s sake, why the hell did they put it on this stupid console?”

Seriously, Capcom must do this on purpose.

The last time Monster Hunter was on a console that made sense was at the very beginning. The original Monster Hunter, and Monster Hunter 2 (Japan only) were on PS2, which is a perfectly reasonable choice of console. However, from then on, Capcom just stopped making sense entirely.

They began releasing Monster Hunter on PSP, which, aside from the DS, was the worst possible console for this game. It had less power than a PS2 so the graphics and framerate were worse, the screen was tiny, and the controls… holy crap. The PSP only had one tiny analog stick for God’s sake. There was no right analog stick, so you had to rotate the camera using the D-Pad above the stick. You had to develop a stupid technique which (quite affectionately) became known as The Claw, where you bend your index finger in such a way where you could move the character and the camera simultaneously. I can’t actually fathom why they put it on the PSP, and then continued to do so for years afterwards.

Well, they continued to do so until Monster Hunter 3. But instead of staying loyal to Sony and putting it on the $599 US dollar PS3, they decided to change allegiance to Nintendo and dumped it on the Wii, completely ignoring the clearly successful Xbox 360. WHY did they put it on the Wii, a console with vastly below-average power and driven by a stupid controller with only one analog stick?! ARGH! And then, for Monster Hunter 4 and Generations, they continued to ignore those tasty, popular, powerful home consoles, instead choosing to release it for the 3DS! Yes it was somewhat popular and somewhat tasty, but it wasn’t powerful! I mean, it was probably good for them that they didn’t release it on the Vita since that thing tanked harder than anything I’ve ever seen, but come on, why did you choose the 3DS over every other option? They must have been targeting the weaker consoles on purpose.

I mean, this goes without saying, but the true stars of Monster Hunter are, of course, the monsters. They can be awesome, beautiful, creepy, weird, or even stupid, but I love pretty much all of them, and they often contribute towards Monster Hunter’s weird sense of humour, like Yian Kut-Ku’s run that makes him look like a chicken, Tigrex’s ice breath which can turn you into a snowman, or Congalala’s attack where he literally throws shit at you. 😛 But I’ve never really been able to see the monsters in all their glory, because Capcom keep choosing the weakest possible console to release their games on! I’m pretty sure they did this so that they could keep re-using assets over and over again. Like, I swear, Rathalos uses exactly the same textures in Monster Hunter 4 as he does in the original Monster Hunter.

This has been my biggest gripe with the series all this time. Why can’t they just release it on a console that makes sense for once?! I JUST WANNA SEE PRETTY MONSTERS AND CONTROL THE CAMERA WITH MY RIGHT HAND!!! IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?! 😛

So… when they announced Monster Hunter: World for PS4 and Xbox One… I was both extremely irritated and very excited at the same time. Excited because the series had finally made it back to consoles that made sense… annoyed because they were stupid consoles that I didn’t want to buy for just one friggin’ game. But then they announced a PC version, and you can probably imagine how high I jumped for joy. 😛

And today? Finally… finally, Monster Hunter has made it to the console of the Master Race: the PC. 😀

Have I played it? No… not yet. 😛 I was planning to jump on it as soon as I got home, but I was so tired when I got in from work that I didn’t feel like it was a good idea. But hey, no worries. I’ve got all day to play it tomorrow, because I’ve booked tomorrow off. 😛 Hehe, that’s the first time I’ve booked a day off work to play a game. It’s also the first time I’ve pre-ordered a game in a very long time. So yeah… I’m a bit hyped for it, which doesn’t happen often with me, so it’s quite a special moment. 😀

Ahh, yeah! I got so into ranting and blabbing all that crap that I forgot the other half of the reason for this post. I made a little render to celebrate Monster Hunter: World’s PC release. 😀

This render was probably the reason why I felt so tired today. 😛 I stayed up way too late, trying to get the render to a point where I was happy to share something. I wasn’t sure if I’d have anything at all when I first started, but it ended up going surprisingly well!

Anyway, it’s still a work in progress, but here, check out this monster hunter:

Monster. Hunter. (WIP).jpg

He’s not a monster hunter, but he is a monster hunter. Because he’s a monster, and he’s a hunter, but not hunting monsters, he’s just hunting? And Monster Hunter was released today? Yeah?! Get it?! YA GET IT?! HEH 😛

Man, this one… seriously, I’m so happy with how this came out, even if it is unfinished. 😀 It’s probably the most mature-looking render I’ve made, but because of the underlying pun, it’s still got that hint of humour that I like to portray. 😀 It’s a bit unusual for me too, because it’s not very often I render a dragon standing on their hind legs like this. I prefer to put dragons in a more bestial or feral pose. Sure, the black dragon in Ghost Stories is on his hind legs, but he’s doing it for dramatic effect, whereas this dragon looks like he naturally walks on his hind legs. I should try this a bit more often, because I love how it came out! 🙂

Jesus, listen to this pleb trying to sound like an artist. 😛

Anyway, even though it’s just a work in progress, I hope it pleases your eyes! 😀 I’ll probably be back tomorrow to update this post with my thoughts about Monster Hunter: World after I’ve actually played it. 😛 And of course, I’ll be back with the final version of that render, too, along with some bigger versions that you can stick on your desktop! If you want. 😛

Right, I’m pretty hungry right now, so I’d better go cook some Well-Done Steak*. Cue the music!

(*i lie, i have no steak 😦 )

UPDATE!!
Monster Hunter: World follow-up

So, I’ve been playing Monster Hunter: World for 3 days now. Apparently there’ve been loads of complaints in the Steam reviews about not being able to play online or something. And that’s quite funny, because the first complaint I had with the game was that it doesn’t give you a “play offline” option. 😛 Sure, I’d like to play multiplayer, I’ve never really done it before and it’s probably even more fun. But I don’t want to risk going into a game and getting carried by someone with overpowered equipment. That’s not fun. Besides, I just can’t bring myself to play co-op with random people. Not sure why.

Anyway, whatever, who cares, because the game is glorious from the moment it starts. It has an introduction that wipes the floor with every other game in the series. Also, like Monster Hunter 4, there’s a story, thank fuck, because MH4’s story, regardless of how balls it was, was a huge driving force for me, and made the game more enjoyable. No, so far, World’s story isn’t much better. Come on, it’s a game about hitting giant monsters with sticks and bagpipes, there isn’t much you can do with that. 😛 However, World’s story is told much better. Because Capcom have added something that is so state-of-the-art it actually blew my mind. Voice acting. I mean WHOOOOAOAHAHHAHAAH voice acting in 2018?! NO, surely not! 😛 But yes, finally they bothered with voice acting so that you can hear the characters, rather than having to read them all the time. 😛 Of course, not everything has voice acting. Just cutscenes, tutorials, and other important bits of the game.

Oh, speaking of tutorials, World kicks the living arse out of every other game in the series on that front, too. The game doesn’t freeze solid and perform information overload on you now; it’s much friendlier than that. Like, in MH4, when doing weapons training, you were dumped in a room, forced to read a ton of text about your weapon and how it worked (which couldn’t be viewed again without exiting and restarting the training), before finally being given control so you could try remembering and doing everything the guy just said. In World, you get a brief voiced description about the weapon you choose, before being given a bunch of on-screen controls and useful combos to try. When you’re done with trying one weapon, you can pick a different weapon from the box and try that without having to reload the mission. It’s a shame you don’t get a live target to practice on, though, you just get some boxes and shit. 😛 I found it really useful in MH4, because it’s how I discovered just how overpowered the Insect Glaive was (on my first try with it, I took out a Great Jaggi in half the time it took me to take it down with a Long Sword, a less complex weapon that I already knew how to use).

Thankfully, as far as I’m aware, it isn’t overpowered in World. Hard to tell, though, because I haven’t done a proper test of all the weapons yet. The weapon set consists of the same 14 weapons from MH4, nothing new. Some weapons appear to have new moves or tweaked move sets, though.

As for the controls, well. When I finished my first proper hunt, I just sat there, staring at the game with a smug “I told you so” grin on my face. That was the first time in the whole history of Monster Hunter where I’ve been able to move the camera smoothly and freely, and it’s a ridiculously huge improvement. And there’s more, too, because they’ve added… a lock-on camera, called the Focus Camera. And this seems to be Capcom proving that the lock-on camera is a stupid idea, because it is. I tried to like it, but it just ended up annoying me, because I found it really hard to hit the part of the monster I was trying to aim for. But don’t worry, because they’ve also added the option to use the Target Camera from MH4, where you can press LB to make the camera face the monster. They also added an option so you can use these cameras on all monsters, not just Large Monsters, but laugh my arse off NO. Just no. 😛

Difficulty? Yep, there’s some difficulty here, but I don’t think it’s horrific. I reckon the perceived difficulty is totally dependent on experience, both with Monster Hunter and with games in general, but personally, I’d say it starts off fairly mild and slowly gets harder. Overall it’s challenging, sometimes difficult. I haven’t fainted yet, but I’ve had some close calls. That just makes things exciting, though! 😛 Fainting isn’t really a huge deal in World, anyway. Since gathering is so much faster and easier, and since they added a feature where you can set certain items to auto-craft, it’s easy to restock critical items like Mega Potions, so you don’t really need to worry about wasting money on them. Also, unlike previous games, you have all the information you could ever reasonably need about monsters in the game itself, like weak points, elemental weaknesses, drops, and even vague drop rates. And the Palico (a Felyne sidekick who helps you in battle) is very helpful this time around. Right off the bat, he has a skill which can restore a sizeable chunk of your health, and he uses it intelligently. This has genuinely saved my ass at least twice, so he’s probably a gigantic help for new players. But if you do struggle, again, unlike previous games on the dumb consoles, co-op is actually a feasible option this time around. 😛

What else… oh, yeah, graphics. Well, uh… when I first saw my Palico in a cutscene I was like “OMG :3”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h25m21s940.png

Then when I encountered my first Jagras I was like “SO PRETTY :O”:

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Then when Anjanath first officially said “hello” I was like “SO AWESOME :O”:

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Then when I got to see the legendary Rathalos finally in high-resolution glory before he proceeded to kick the shit out of an Anjanath he didn’t like, I was like “SO EPIC :O”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h16m53s315.png

Then when he kicked most of the shit out of me afterwards I was like “💩, uncool bro, that nearly killed me, but I forgive you because OMG YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL :O”:

vlcsnap-2018-08-13-20h18m01s558.png

The graphics you see there are “max graphics where it matters”. 😛 By that, I mean I’m using the top LOD models, no resolution scaling and full texture quality, but everything else is knocked down to compensate. Because realistically, I can’t run this at truly max graphics. Not sure why people are going “WAAAAH IT NEEDS SO MUCH CPU POWER” because it just… doesn’t. It uses less than half of what Forza Horizon 3 does, and I know that game canes a recent-generation i5, because a friend of mine played it and always complained about the CPU usage (rightfully so). GPU power, though, well, ha haaaa… you’re gonna need that. And you’ll need to get that power from just one GPU, because World joins the ever-increasing (and annoying) list of games that don’t support SLI. -.- I run two GTX 970s (so, just one), and with my settings, I get about 40-45FPS average at 2K (2560×1440). I’m not locked by GPU memory. Here’re my settings, along with NVIDIA’s hilarously stupid “optimal” settings:

NVIDIA GeForce Experience_2018-08-13_20-34-34.png

I’ve since turned off anti-aliasing since Temporal Anti-Aliasing costs 4 FPS for something I probably won’t notice. But the gains for dropping any of the other settings are so low that there’s no point. I mean, subsurface scattering sounds pretty expensive, but it actually only costs me 2 FPS and really makes a difference in some situations (see Rathalos encounter above). And lmfao, that “optimal” texture quality of 256. Dropping from Full to 256 has no effect on FPS, you fucks! I’m bored of Monster Hunter’s traditional PS2-quality textures! I wanna admire Rathian’s pretty face for once in my life!

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It’s in the eye of the beholder, okay?! 😛

So yeah, the graphics are absolutely gorgeous if you have a good GPU, and if you have a modern 1000-series NVIDIA GPU or AMD equivalent, I’d be surprised if you didn’t hit 60 FPS at 2K. Maybe a 1070 is enough, or maybe even a 1060 if you run at 1080p. This is just me guessing, though. 😛 I’m planning on upgrading to a 1080 or 1080Ti soonish, both for rendering and for gaming. I’d get one sooner, but I’m holding out for the 1100 series. Sure would be nice if they’d just tell us roughly when it’s coming out… -.-

Complaints? Well, yes, I have a few. The first and most irritating thing about the game so far? Scoutflies. These green things:

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MY FUCKING EYES.

They’re supposed to act as the game’s GPS, because the maps are now so large and so complicated that I find it ridiculously hard to figure out how to get to places. But they also highlight things for you, like gathering points. All of this, especially early on, is just… total information overload. 😛 But even after you get used to it, they’re so bright and so distracting that I actually feel relieved when I find a Large Monster that wants to kill me, just because the flies go away when that happens. 😛 There have been so many times where I’ve thought “right, yeah, I know where the monster is, no I don’t want to look at any more footprints because I know where it is and I’ve maxed out the tracking level, no I don’t want any blue mushrooms, I just want to make my way to the monster with no guidance or distractions now, please go away…” but no, green particles everywhere, and no, you can’t turn them off. And then, when you do want guidance, they’re not only blinding, but they’re also sluggish, often very unclear, and in situations when you’re carrying an egg and have access to the Scoutflies because nothing’s trying to kill you, the route they choose is usually impossible, trying to taking you through small gaps and other areas that you can’t access while carrying an egg. In fact, the idiot Scoutflies and the sheer complexity of the maps is why I simply can’t be fucked with the mission where you need to deliver two Wyvern Eggs.

Those missions are my second complaint, actually, the egg carrying missions. Were they even tested? They’re absolute balls. There’s no way you can do them solo without being a cheap little bitch. Delivering two Herbivore Eggs was difficult enough, because the nests are right next to where the herbivores endlessly spawn no matter how many you kill, and they’re faster than you, and there ends up being about six of them before you eventually get headbutted by one of them and drop the egg. At one point after dropping said egg, they surrounded me and pretty much gang raped me, which was somehow both hilarious and insanely annoying. So how did I finish it? I used the Ghillie Mantle, an item which effectively makes me invisible. As I said, “cheap little bitch”. 😛 And that one I mentioned earlier where you have to deliver two Wyvern Eggs? Fuck that shit. The moment you pick up an egg from the nest where she never is, Rathian senses a disturbance in the Force and immediately heads for your exact location, even if you’re wearing the Ghillie Mantle. Of course, she can’t actually see you, so she doesn’t chase you, but this doesn’t stop her from following you at a distance, waiting for the moment when the Ghillie Mantle wears off. It’s just so mind-numbingly broken. Because the route is so complicated and the distance you have to travel to secure the egg is so long, longer than the Ghillie Mantle can ever last, the only way I can imagine doing it, even in co-op, is by being a cheap little bitch and killing Rathian before trying to transport the eggs. And I don’t know about you, but that seems slightly outside the scope of the quest. 😛 And hell, even if you did do that, you’d still have to figure out how to get back to a camp without using the Scoutflies, because they’re dumb and try to take you through inaccessible areas. 😛

And my third complaint… audio. It’s a pretty minor one, but for me, the game is oddly quiet. The audio settings are all at max volume, but even with my headphones at full blast, the game’s still a bit quiet. I got around this problem by routing the game’s audio through a virtual audio cable and amplifying it before routing it back to my headset, but this is a faff, it kind of affects the audio quality and adds a bit of latency, which isn’t cool. Hopefully it’ll be fixed in a patch or something.

And that’s it. Scoutflies, egg missions and quiet audio are the only problems I’ve found. Not sure what all this screaming about broken servers is, because it works for me…? 😛 I’ve not actually played with others, sure, but I can connect to online sessions just fine, and I’ve collected my daily shit with no problem. Maybe the problem is when you’re in an actual hunt? Whatever, doesn’t really affect me, no-one I know will ever get this anyway. It’s probably a bit difficult for them, and they wouldn’t have any time for it. 😛 I’ll play online eventually, when I’m ready. Just don’t want to rush through the game or get carried by someone overpowered, that’s all. 😛 Uhhh, nope. Someone I know was interested in getting it but was put off by the alleged server issues, so I tried responding to an SOS flare and testing some multiplayer. Didn’t have a single problem. The only thing I noticed was that holy hell, the session filled up fast! The SOS flare was sent by a solo player who hadn’t had a response when I tried to join, and by the time I made it into the game about 30 seconds later, I was the last player to set off from the camp.

UPDATE 6!!: Since then, much to my surprise, my friend actually ended up getting the game, and we’ve played some co-op. And now I can say with confidence: I have literally no idea why people are complaining about the online play being broken. However, I can understand complaints about the online system, because it it were any more obtuse it’d be a straight line. Angles? Obtuse? No? 😛 Anyway, the online system is insane. You have sessions which can consist of 16 players, and within these sessions you can have hunts which consist of up to 4 players. This is all totally understandable and quite cool so far, but when it comes to making a session for just you and your mates, things get shit very quickly.

First off, the game doesn’t prevent you from trying to join the sessions of people who are in an offline session. If you try, the game just sits there for a while before saying it failed to connect. So, my friend tried creating a private online session, and sent me an invite through the Steam overlay. That didn’t work either. Some amount of time after that, I noticed that the in-game invite option was greyed out, so I tried making a normal, non-private session. That made the invite option light up, and my friend was able to join the session. After this, I changed the session options so that it was private, and that worked; no-one random joined after that. Basically, you can’t join private sessions even if you’re invited; you have to make a non-private session, do your invites, then make the session private, or use passcodes on the quests you post.

But that’s not all, because Monster Hunter: World has laughably bad multiplayer story support. When you post a quest that contains cutscenes, you have to start it single-player. After all the cutscenes have played, the quest opens to other players. So this means… if a group of friends want to play a story quest together, they all have to start the quest individually, get to the point where the SOS flare can be fired, return to HQ, and then one player has to post the quest again and have the others join it. That’s just retarded. 😛 Oh, and you know I said that the quest opens up to other players after all the cutscenes have played? Yes, but every attempt I made to join those quests ended up failing immediately. That’s probably a bug. 😛

And Expeditions? One does not simply join an Expedition. No, you can’t just join a friend’s Expedition, which is a ridiculously stupid oversight, because it’s not like multiplayer Expeditions aren’t supported. There’re only two ways that it can be done. The first way is for everyone to join a quest and complete it, and during the end-game timer, leave the option as “return to camp”. This puts you in an Expedition in that area. That’s a faff because you have to complete a quest, so the other option is to enter an Expedition alone, fire an SOS flare and have the others join you through the SOS menu. You can cancel the flare when everyone’s joined. This is much less of a faff but it opens up the Expedition to EVERYONE, so there’s a chance of someone random joining, which is annoying.

I highly doubt Capcom’s gonna address any of this. It’s probably been like this on consoles up until now, so the chances of them fixing the issues now is probably next to zero. But in summary, yes, multiplayer works, flawlessly, and as far as I can tell, everyone who is crying about broken servers is just talking crap. However, the multiplayer system is ridiculously obtuse, confusing as hell and has awful story support.  UPDATE 7!!: Gotta take back that “flawlessly” statement, because we’ve since had a couple of annoying connection issues. Sometimes, one of us has randomly lost connection to the session, and that puts the session in a weird state where the player who dropped can’t re-join. This has only happened at the very beginning or end of a hunt, though, not midway through. There’s been one instance where a posted quest just stopped appearing on the board, too. But as I said, annoying issues. Not crippling. I wouldn’t say the servers are broken, they just have a few teething problems.

Waiting for Monster Hunter to finally land on the PC was worth the wait, though. I’m not disappointed. It’s the best game I’ve played in a long time, and I can see myself continuing to play it for a long time to come. 😀 It wasn’t long ago that I loathed the series, so this is quite the epic turnaround they’ve managed!

Now, let’s move onto the subject of “Monster. Hunter.”. The celebratory render. Guh, this is gonna get confusing, isn’t it? 😛

Monster. Hunter. render follow-up

I was really surprised with the first draft of the render. It took about five hours to put together. But after that, when the environment was in and needed to stay active because it was making a critical contribution to the final lighting… the PAIN BEGAN.

DAZ Studio can’t handle scenes like this when using Iray. It babs itself when things get even remotely complicated, sometimes taking minutes to recalculate, making it impossible to tweak the scene while the interactive Iray render is running, therefore making it extremely difficult to tweak things such as materials. In fact, not long after I produced the draft render, this scene became so heavy that it wouldn’t fit in GPU memory, so only the CPU could render it. This isn’t a realistic option. In fact, I’m not sure why DAZ offers the option. Because it’s a stupid thing to do. From experience, I think it’s about 20x slower than GPU rendering. Ain’t got that kind of time, brah.

And with this render, ohh, I’ve never seen DAZ Studio bab itself quite as much. The first problem was when the scene became too heavy for the GPU. I really wasn’t happy with the grass density, or the quality of the ground texture, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and added a lot more higher-quality grass. This pushed the scene over the edge and became too complex to fit in GPU memory… not to mention that it was getting very difficult to do anything with the interactive render running.

To cut down on memory usage, I used a tool which can reduce the size of texture maps of objects you select. After halving the size of everything in the background, the scene was able to fit in GPU memory again, which was great. Wasn’t any faster at rendering, though, and this was a problem, because I needed to tweak the lighting. After this, it just descended into a whirlpool of fuckshit which connected directly to Satan’s testes. Yes, it was that bad.

First, it started leaking memory, so I couldn’t do more than one Iray render without restarting DS. Then, for no reason at all, it began to crash after turning on the interactive renderer, if not before rendering the first time, then always before rendering the second time. And then, it began to do this really weird shit when rendering, where the top half of the render would begin after the bottom half, making the top half look darker. I imagine that was some insanity with double-GPU rendering, but who cares, it was annoying. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, bang, it stops rendering with the GPUs. Had to reduce texture quality again just to get it to stop whining. Oh, and then, I discovered a problem where the Dragon 3’s left eye would render black, even though both of his eyes are one material and the right eye rendered just fine!

Monster. Hunter. 3 (Head Fail).jpg

I eventually discovered that this was caused because of a render setting that I’d changed, “Instancing Optimization” under the “Optimization” category. I changed it from Speed to Memory, because of the multitude of aforementioned memory issues I’d been having. But why the hell. His eyes aren’t instanced objects! The only instanced objects in the scene are the grass objects! Why would this option break the eyes?! And what does it even mean?! It’s not fucking documented! Look, this is the documentation of the whole Optimization category! (Backup screenshot here in the hilariously unlikely event that they update it.) OOOH SO USEFUL!!

And then, when I finally manage to get DAZ Studio to start a goddamn render, BAM, I was bitten once again by the IDIOT default settings of a two-hour maximum render time. Just as a final “fuck you”.

Haaah… so yeah… I wasn’t particularly calm. 😛 I even resorted to singing out my anger over a track from Disgaea 5 after it started playing as part of my “every piece of music on the PC” shuffle playlist. It helped a tiny bit. 😛

To be honest, though… the pain was worth it. Because look at THIS:

Monster. Hunter. (Character Focused)
(Available in these flavours: 2560×3072 “Character Focused” Version, 1080p, 2K, 4K)

MORE PLANTS! MORE GRASS! MORE FORESTY! 😀

Yes, it’s still a work in progress. UPDATE 2!!: I replaced the WIP version with the final version. I increased the texture resolution on the tree and added something that went missing in the last WIP render. 🙂

I… don’t really know what else to say. I mean, I’ve really surprised myself with this one. It was only gonna be a quick celebratory render, so I never imagined it would turn out as good as it has! 😀

Oh, wait, of course, I do know what to say: RENDER STAAATS! 😀 And oh, it’s a biggie. My longest render ever. That render, at 2560×3072, quality level 2 and 94.5% convergence (because I needed to kick off the desktop renders before going to bed and couldn’t wait another hour for the last 0.5% convergence 😛 ) took 20 hours 57 minutes 45.31 seconds. BOOM, R-R-R-R-RECORD BREAKER! Holy CRAP that’s a long time. But there’s a reason. The scene, despite all my efforts, flat out would not fit in my primary GPU’s memory, because DAZ Studio needs 2 GB just to show it in the viewport, the render needs about 3GB extra, and my GPUs only have 4GB of memory each. So I had to render it with the secondary GPU only, because that didn’t have anything in memory.

UPDATE 3!!

Heyyy, as you might have seen from the updated links under the image, I’ve added some desktop versions, the traditional 4K, 2K and 1080p trio. The 4K version took 11 hours 46 minutes 29.91 seconds to render… which is odd, since it’s about 400k pixels larger than the character focused render. There’s one very good (and equally confusing) reason for this, though: I was able to use both GPUs to render it. Not sure how… because again, larger image. They require more memory to render, right? 😛 It was basically a miracle, because the scene was 49MB off not fitting in GPU1’s memory. Look!

MSIAfterburner_2018-08-15_09-27-01.png

4047MB peak usage! The GPU only has 4096MB of memory! I didn’t even want to sneeze on the computer just in case it went over the edge. 😛

Anyhoo… normally I render all three resolutions individually, but this time I just rendered the 4K version and scaled it down. The main reason is because of Iray’s irritating grainy renders. Basically, any areas of the image that are even slightly dark, reflective or translucent turn out grainy, regardless of the convergence ratio or render quality settings. To counteract this, I apply blur manually to especially bad areas by converting the image to a Smart Object, applying a Gaussian blur as a Smart Filter, and airbrushing the mask white wherever I want to reduce the grain. This helps with the 4K image, but then I have to repeat the blurring process twice more with the 2K and 1080p images, and that’s really boring. 😛 So instead, I apply the blur to the 4K image, then downscale it. This not only saves time, but it reduces the grain massively at lower resolutions, and actually looks better than if I’d just rendered it at those resolutions.

And since we’re on the subject of postwork, I’ll mention what else I did in that area. 🙂 Apart from the signature and the blurring, I also added a vignette and a slight levels tweak to the desktop versions. But that’s all. 🙂

That’s all from me for now, but I hope you like the pic! Laterz. 🙂

UPDATE 4!!
(obsolete, see update 5)

I don’t believe it. After posting the final version here, after creating those desktop versions, after posting it to DeviantArt, after posting a follow-up comment on my Bookface post with the “finished” version and a link here for the desktop versions… I’ve noticed a huge mistake in the pose.

He’s NOT DRAWING THE ARROW CORRECTLY, oh my GOD I’m such a MORON!

Just… yeah. Just look carefully, and you won’t un-see it. The bow string is tensing against… what, exactly? It’s supposed to tense against the back of the arrow, you absolute dumbfuck MongMaster, what are you smoking?! This was my number one focus when posing. I looked at a lot of pictures of people drawing bows, and spent a lot of time making sure it looked just right, because I’ve only ever drawn a bow once before and was afraid of getting the pose wrong. And now look. I got it wrong. For fuck’s sake.

Not happy at all. I’ll fix it, but it’ll take a couple of days. -.-

UPDATE 5!!

Okay, I’ve replaced the renders with a new version where the dragon is drawing the arrow correctly, and all is good again. 😛 But hey, even though I had to spend another evening rendering both versions of this picture again, I found another silver lining! I learned another DAZ Studio dumbfuckery! 😛

As I said before, the character-focused version of the render wouldn’t fit in my primary GPU’s memory, so I couldn’t render it with both of my GPUs; I had to use my secondary GPU by itself. The knock-on of this was that it basically doubled the render time to nearly 21 hours. When it came to rendering the scene this time, I was wondering if there was any way to squeeze the scene size down just enough so it could fit in GPU memory without any major quality sacrifices. I tried some dumb things like closing DAZ Studio viewports and panels to try and save memory. Of course, this did nothing, so as a last-ditch, blue-sky thinking, really-clutching-at-straws-here attempt, I tried shrinking the DAZ Studio window down so that it was really small. Lo and behold, doing this actually freed up 100MB of GPU memory. Absolute top lel. Maximum lel. Lel overload. 😛 If you don’t believe me, here’s a demonstration.

That 100MB saving was enough to do the character-focused render with both GPUs. This saved about 11 hours, which means I can actually play Monster Hunter again tonight instead of using my PC to re-render this scene constantly, yay! 😛

Show me your LOOOOOOVE!

So hey, after getting a burfday e-mail from Nintendo containing 300 Platinum Points which are POINTless ehehehergh, I saw that Super Mario Run was 50% off for a limited time, bringing it down to a price which, y’know, seems kinda sane.

In general, I really don’t like mobile games. The core game is rarely good, and usually it’s just designed to get the player addicted before slowly pissing them off with a scripted economy and annoying gameplay mechanics, and eventually it reaches a point where advancement is insanely slow or impossible, and instead of quitting, players feel the need to spend money on one of the game’s insanely overpriced in-app purchases which do nothing but give a small progress boost, despite the fact that the game is usually never ending. I mean, if you enjoy the game, that’s fair enough, but the vast majority of successful games are so catastrophically bad that I literally can’t comprehend why anyone would spend money on them.

Anyway, blah blah blah going off on a tangent again. 😛 The point is that I’ve never found a mobile game that I felt was worth any amount of money. A mobile game’s lucky if it manages to stay installed on my device for more than a week, to be honest. 😛 Despite this, I thought I’d give Super Mario Run a try, since it was on deal and it’s Mario. And… well. It’s much better than I was expecting. It’s so polished, and so friggin’ smooth to play. And it was made in Unity! I was surprised when I realised that, because all the games I’ve worked on with Unity haven’t felt anywhere near as slick as Super Mario Run does.

It’s definitely the best game I’ve played on mobile so far, and the first mobile game I’ve ever bought, BUT… I probably wouldn’t have bought it if it wasn’t on sale, and would’ve hesitated for a while if I didn’t have £3 of Google Play credit lying around. I got that in an M&M’s promotion and was supposed to use it on a film, but WHY would I want to watch a film on a friggin’ 5″ screen durrrrrrrr. 😛 Besides, I very rarely watch films anyway. So the game cost me like £2. Definitely worth that. £5 is sensible. £10, no. Most of the game’s content is an infinite loop; you play Toad Rally to try and get more Toads so you can get more decorations and characters, you play Remix 10 so you can get more decorations and a new character, and you replay courses in Tour so you can get all the coloured coins to unlock a few special courses. The core objective of completing World 6 in Tour only takes about 1-4 hours depending on skill. I tend to be a completionist when it comes to games I actually like, so I’ll play it way more than that (especially since I’m being paid to do almost nothing at work right now :P), but even so, £10 sounds pretty steep to me. I imagine that price might sound insane to non-completionists. 😛

Anyway, did I mention the game’s soundtrack? No? Well, it’s pretty good. And now that I’ve said that, let me move onto the point of this post: Remix 10, the new mode. 😛

I’m not really sure whether the mode’s name is a reference to Rhythm Paradise, or whether it’s just a coincidence, but in each run of Remix 10, you play 10 really short courses back-to-back. The more runs you do, the closer you get to rescuing Daisy, who then becomes playable after you reach her. I reckon it’s the most entertaining mode of the game, partly because it’s more varied and exciting than the other modes, partly because you get more and better kewl lewtz, and partly because of the soundtrack. The music is pretty nostalgic; it’s a minimix of classic tracks from previous Mario games. But the first part of it makes me giggle like a schoolgirl, because VOCALS. Just like some game music from the good old days. It might be really dumb, but it’s memorable and makes me laugh. 😀 Check it:


I like it so much that I went through the faff of ripping it. I don’t know how to rip assets out of Unity games because they’re all packaged up and obfuscated, so I did it in the less intelligent way: by plugging the phone’s headphone jack into my PC’s microphone jack, finding a Remix 10 stage with a pause block in it, and staying still for the duration of the music loop while recording. Heeah, have it if ya want it. I also love the Starman music in Remix 10; it’s like an upbeat techno version of the Wing Hat from SM64. 😀 Since the Super Star has a time limit and there’s way too much going on when you pick one up, it’d be near impossible for me to rip the music in the same way as the normal BGM. :/ Ah well.

Anyway, Super Mario Run is good. If I wasn’t lazy and slow, I would’ve said “it’s still on offer, so go ahead and give it a try and buy it if you enjoy it, before the price goes up again”, but the offer’s already over. Sorry! 😛

Temporarily not working is niiiice!

Hiyaaaaa! How’s it going? 😀 Ooh, what’s this featured image thingy? Ah, I see. That’s kinda fun. 🙂 It probably only has an effect if you click on the post title, though.

Anyway ya, it’s been a li’l while since I last sharted tons of words onto this website. Although, well… I have some drafts somewhere around here. Yes, I did it again, I wrote loads of crap that I didn’t get around to posting. 😛 Partially because the posts got a bit long, partially because they happened quite a while ago and therefore it’s kinda late to post them, but mainly because I am a lazy shite. 😛 As I’ve been demonstrating over the past two weeks by not working!

Yes, I booked some time off because I was going to die otherwise. 😛 I haven’t actually had time off for myself in over a year. I’ve had time off, sure, but that’s because I had to take it off to go visit/have people visit me. Fun, but not really relaxing. I was going to spend some of my holiday doing productive things, but I pretty much just ended up sleeping a lot and playing games a lot, with a bit of eating and washing up in-between. So yes, lazy shite. 😛

I think the main cause of the lack of productivity was RimWorld. I won’t explain it too much, but it’s a colony simulation game kinda like Dwarf Fortress, not that I’d know cuz I “played” about 30 seconds of Dwarf Fortress before saying “fuck this, I literally can’t play”. 😛 Someone I know’s been playing RimWorld, so I thought I’d give it a try. And… well, I think the best word to describe it is “dangerous”. It’s insanely addictive. Like really insanely. I don’t think I’ve played a game that’s been this addictive before. But the annoying thing is, regardless of its addictiveness, I don’t actually think it’s that good. It’s frustratingly luck-based. I mean, Jesus, the friggin’ hit chances. I’m pretty damn sure what it says is total bullshit, because when some guy with a 4% hit chance hits you 3 times in 9 shots when your guy with a 10% hit chance hits ZERO times in 9 shots, that’s totally unbelievable. If I’d been playing it normally and didn’t reload when I felt bullshitted, I would’ve probably lost half my colony in one pathetic raid where the only reason I was struggling was cuz no-one on my team could fucking hit anything because of luck, then I would’ve probably lost the rest to stupid mental breakdowns where people usually end up wandering around doing nothing for about a day before complaining that they’re half-dead from starvation when they suddenly get over everything.

And it’s not only the luck-based crap, but the more you play it, the more idiocy you see. The AI is fucking stupid for one thing; you have to micromanage until you’re on the brink of an aneurysm. Then there’s some really dumbass design choices, like… by default you can only have one colony (multiple colonies work absolutely fine, they make the game more interesting and there is no real reason why this is disabled by default), the dumbass AI doesn’t give a shit about friendly fire and they can shoot friendlies directly next to them even though the learning helper effectively says that they can’t, everyone hates anyone who slaughters colony animals even though it was my direct order and they would have all died if they didn’t have the food it gave them, and if you capture a downed enemy who attacked you but failed to land a single hit on anyone, they’re not classed as guilty for some reason, so if they die through any means (such as “oh shit I didn’t realise that guy was going to die in two hours and it takes an hour and a half to get them to a bed because these fucks are so slow”), your whole colony gets a massive mood penalty because “omg a harmless prisoner died that’s so barbaric”. Oh, and you can’t harvest the organs of a dead person, but you can harvest organs from a live person (but you get mood and social penalties if you do so there’s no point). The fuck?

And I said I wouldn’t explain it too much and now look at that, for God’s sake damn it stop. 😛

Anyway, I got around to doing something kinda productive today. I made a RENDAR! Yez. 😀 It’s related to this game I’ve been slaving over for the past two years or so, although it feels more like three or even four. Not any of my games, no no no, that wouldn’t be “slaving over” it because I want to make ULSG V14, but I just never have the time. And when I do, I’m too friggin’ focused on sleeping and being lazy. 😛

It’s a game called “Race Kings”, sexist, which we made for another company. It’s probably best if I try not to say exactly what I think about it. But I’d like to encourage you not to play it at all, please, k thx! 😀

Anyway, the render. It was just a quick, simple-ish idea based upon one of the game’s completely idiotic understandable if you’re fucking stupid design choices. A design choice so dumb it annoys the designers that some people in the office complained about endlessly a few times. If you set off between two and zero seconds before the light goes green, you immediately lose, and forfeit all the money you wagered on the race. but if you don’t start within about a frame of the light going green you’ll lose because that’s basically the whole point of the game and 95% of the time you’ll finish last if you start last unless you pay to win

So, now that the rant explanation is out of the way, here is a dragon getting a false start!

False Start (1080p)

(Available in these great flavours: 1080p, WUXGA, QHD, UHD)

Taken a few moments before he gets a bit more violent. No, he doesn’t break his HLE Infinity smartphone; he likes it way too much to damage it over this. He just burns a very specific part of London down instead. 😛

Anyhoo, I used Iray for this render again! I’ve been practicing a li’l bit, and I’ve gotten more used to it now, sort of. You just need to ignore the fact that it’s trying to be realistic and use whatever numbers make things look nice. When it asks for things like the candle wattage/lumen of a light, just smile, pat it on the head and input a value about 200,000x more than what is realistic. 😛

I don’t really understand light, but I know Iray is full of crap when it comes to it. 😛 The lights in this scene came with the environment, and they already had unrealistic values. By default, Iray uses candelas/m² to measure luminance, and it was set to 250,000cd/m². I had no idea what I was doing, but I did some rough measurements and found that the lights had a surface area of about 0.812m², meaning their luminance was about 203,000cd, and apparently 1cd = 1 lumen. That’s makes the light twice as powerful as full daylight, and there’s seven of the damn things! And guess what? That’s NOT ENOUGH!! I had to increase their luminance to 17,500,000cd/m², which is about 14 MILLION LUMEN! PER LIGHT! WHAT!

If I turn off the Sun-Sky lighting and just use the already insane default values, the render looks like this:

Iray

COOL, HUH?!? (Oh, ignore the noise, I only let it render for about two minutes. :P)

I tested to see if I wasn’t going crazy by switching the material’s luminance units to lumen and entering 14,000,000, and amazingly, it looks like I’m actually right. The light is pretty similar to when I enter 17,500,000cd/m²; it looks just a little bit brighter. So… yeah! I rest my case! This renderer is trippin’ balls and needs ridiculously inflated values! Maybe not quite 200,000 times more. Just 20,000 times more. 😛

Also, Iray doesn’t seem to be able to produce a render which isn’t grainy as fuck, no matter how high you put the render quality (pro tip: no higher than 4 because that’s about as good as you’re gonna get 😛 ). But I have found that you can get rid of most of it (most of the time) with a couple of quick Photoshop filters. Just add a 0.6-radius Gaussian Blur followed by a 0.6-radius Smart Sharpen. Tends to do the trick, kinda. YMMV. 🙂

So, for the 1080p version at rendering quality 3, it took… 1 hour 56 minutes 48.7 seconds, and it only reached 91% convergence before hitting the iteration limit. That was on two GTX 970s, so… speedy, Iray is not. 😛 I guess it can be prettier and more realistic, though. As for posing, that actually took about the same amount of time, but might’ve taken less if I wasn’t such a moronic perfectionist. I posed his feet and tail, even though you can’t see them. 😛

I listened to the Daytona USA soundtrack while posing, because this game kinda reminds me of it, apart from that it’s not NASCAR, or touring cars, and the courses only have 1-2 laps and last 30-60 seconds and is generally nothing like Daytona USA. 😛 and there’s next to no skill involved and it doesn’t have an awesome soundtrack and it isn’t fun or cool Maybe it’s because you go around in circles. Or maybe it’s just because the second half of Pounding Pavement cracks me right up, and Mitsuyoshi-san is a legend. 😀

Anyway, hope you like the render. 😀 I’ll get the QHD and 4K versions done overnight. QHD and 4K versions are doooone. 🙂 I’ll also go through those drafts I did and see if I can fix them up enough to post them. And by “fix up” I mean “holy crap cut them down that one’s about 10,000 words long”. 😛

Buh-bye! 😀

(Also LMFAO)

UPDATE!!

Added the QHD and 4K versions. 4K would’ve taken more than 6 hours to reach the 95% convergence target… if it didn’t run out of time. 😛 QHD took 3 hours 56 minutes 5.8 seconds. THE SPEEEEEEEED! 😛
UPDATE 2!!

I found out that my work monitor, like my work SpackBook, also has a stupid uncommon resolution, 1920×1200, also known as WUXGA, Wide Ultra eXtended Graphics Array! It’s like 1080p, but with 120 more pixels of height, and I didn’t even notice. Literally the only reason this resolution seems to exist is because someone said they could use it to fit two full pages of text on-screen at once. I wonder if they realised that instead of making an entirely new resolution and entirely new class of monitor they could just… zoom out to 80%? 😛

Anyway who cares. I re-rendered it in WUXGA so it fits my work monitor, so I figured I’d add it here, too. 🙂

The return to Paradise! And other stuff.

Hey hey hey, how’s it going? Did ya have a good Chrissamas? Great!/Oh no! (delete as appropriate) Look, wow! A lame snow effect! (please disregard if you’re reading this outside of December)

Sooo, I’ve been in this mode for a while where I write some stuff down, save it to drafts, and theeeen… totally forget about it. 😛 I remembered I wanted to write about Rhythm Paradise Megamix, so I came back here and found I’d already written a bunch of stuff down. Then I also found a draft for Super Mystery Dungeon which’s been here for about 2,000 years. Oops! So, let’s take ’em out of drafts, finish ’em off and actually post ’em! 😛 I’ll start with Rhythm Paradise Megamix, since that’s more recent. 🙂

Oh, by the way, I might throw some spoilers, but I’ve blanked out any major ones by making text the same colour as the background. If the background isn’t near-black for you for some reason, then my spoiler-hiding won’t work, yay! 😛 If it does work, though, you should be able to read them if you highlight the text. Here, try it: Well done, you successfully highlighted some text but just lost The Game. I would use a bit of JavaScript and HTML so certain bits of text are only shown when you click on a link, like a “spoiler” tag on forums, but WordPress removes any useful HTML automatically because it SUCKS!!

Rhythm Paradise Megamix

It’s been a few many many weeks since Rhythm Paradise Megamix was released in the European Union and the UK. 😛 Japan had it ages ago, of course; it was released over there as Rhythm Tengoku: The Best+, and I was much jealous. Then it was released digital-only in America as Rhythm Heaven Megamix, and I was even more much jealous. By the way, I never really got why it’s called “Heaven” over there and “Paradise” over here. Must be a copyright issue or something. ANYHOO, yes, it was finally released in Europe in October. 🙂 We also got a physical release for some reason. YA JELLY?! 😛

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I’m a huge fan of Rhythm Paradise. I’ve never played the first game (because Japan only) but I have the DS game and the awfully-named “Beat The Beat: Rhythm Paradise” for Wii (it has a much better title in America, “Rhythm Heaven Fever”). I love the zaniness of all the games; how they came up with some of their ideas, I’ll never know. 😀 I also love how it’s challenging, but really fun at the same time. In the run-up to Megamix’s release in Europe, I made an effort to get 100% completion in Rhythm Paradise, and a few days before release, I finally managed it:

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I was rewarded with the barista’s immense praise and the ability to listen to every BGM in the game. Getting all 50 Perfects wasn’t easy, so it felt like a pretty big accomplishment. Rhythm Rally 2, man… I found it harder than Remix 10.

A few days later, Megamix was delivered to me, and I was like EEEEEEEEEEEE! 😛 Of course, I didn’t have huge expectations of it or anything. It was basically a compilation game after all, with a few bonuses added on. However, one of the first things I noticed when I started playing was that Megamix did something… weird. It has a story. No other Rhythm Paradise game has a story; it’s just a bunch of musical minigames. I don’t believe it needed a story, since each game tends to have a micro-story behind it anyway, but they decided to add a game-wide story anyway. Hmm. Okay.

The next thing I noticed was that it appeared they’d changed the progression. Normally, each “stage” consists of 4 games revealed one at a time, and then a Remix consisting of those four games mixed together with different music. Then, after a certain Remix, you get the credits game, and from then on, each stage contains 4 games which are harder versions of previous games, followed by a Remix that contains an assortment of previous games. The game culminates in Remix 10, which contains every game, and sometimes things you might not expect, like the credits game and the rhythm game you played in the tutorial. Megamix, though? At first… there are four games, and no remix. Clear all four games and you get to advance to the next stage, where there are four more games… and no remix. After every second stage, there’s a Gate, guarded by three gatekeepers who challenge you to get a certain score in an Endless Game. Each gatekeeper sets a challenge of a different difficulty; the harder the difficulty, the less coins it costs to try. Beat any of them and you can advance to the next stage. Hmmmm. No remixes… okay…

Another thing… the difficulty. The lack of it, that is. At first, I thought I was the problem, because excluding the ones from Rhythm Tengoku (GBA) and the games exclusive to Megamix, I’ve played all of these rhythm games before. But no… it wasn’t that. Many early games were familiar, but they were set to new music, and they were so easy you could probably clear them with no sound. I got 15 straight Superb ratings before finally getting an OK on Tongue Lashing, one of the new games (which is actually kinda tricky). For comparison, on my first attempt of the first game on Rhythm Paradise DS, “Built To Scale”, I got a Try Again. On my first attempt of the first game on Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise (BtB from now on 🙂 ), “Hole In One”, I got an OK. Hmmmmmmmm…

So far, so… not good. The story was shaping up as pretty much throwaway, and it was weird in a not-really-charming way (Donut Land, Jesus fucking Christ I can’t facepalm hard enough regarding that character). There didn’t seem to be any remixes, and loads of the rhythm games from previous games were set to new, worse music, and were much easier. On the plus side, a few of the new games were good. First Contact, LumBEARjack, Tongue Lashing and Super Samurai Slice were all fun to play, even though I got Superb and “No Miss” in three of them on my first attempt. 😛  (No Miss is basically a Perfect, but not really a Perfect, because to get a Perfect, “Go for Perfect!” has to be active on that game when you play it. 😛 )

When you reach Lush Woods, the final area of Earth World, things look up a little bit. In this area, there’s a tower containing four games and a remix, just like the previous games. The remix was pretty decent (the highlight of the five games was definitely Sumo Brothers, though; it was hilarious. :D). But then you get the ending! WHAT?! Of course, anyone with a brain would realise that there’s no way this is the end of the game, because there’s supposed to be 100+ games and you’ve only played 32 at this point. 😛

After the first “ending”, the game starts to pick up the pace. Six more towers show up, which contain both harder versions of previous games, and new games which are more challenging. Rhythm games from previous Paradise games return with their original soundtracks and difficulty. The legendary Ringside returns. And each tower has a remix. One of them even has vocals! When you clear those 30 games, you get the ending… to the Earth World arc of the “story”. Tibby goes home to Heaven World, that’s pretty much it. Nothing surprising. It’s not the end of the game, of course, because there’s supposed to be 100+ games and you’ve only played 62 at this point. 😛

No, Heaven World comes next, with 12 more games, followed by an endless game challenge, followed by another 12 games and two remixes, and then the epic Final Remix, nearly four minutes of awesomeness which I’d say is better than the awesome Remix 10 from BtB. 😀 No, it doesn’t end in this brilliant way, where the developers just screw with you. I’m glad, since that was kind of a one-shot gag. 😛 Instead, Final Remix mixes in each of the themes of the Rhythm Paradise games, which is such an awesome tribute if you’re a fan of the series. If they were going for a good sense of closure to the series, they did a great job there. Then comes the ending to Heaven World. You find out Heaven World is all messed up is because Tibby’s mum (who is a palace, yes you read that correctly, she’s literally a palace), was holding her breath to get rid of her hiccups. So yeah, the story was a totally throwaway, unnecessary waste of time and money. Some of the dialogue was funny, I suppose. 😛

Speaking of money… I think they lacked some of that. I was disappointed to find there was a huge lack of new vocal tracks. They tend to be the highlights of Paradise games for me, because they’re often really good. 😀 I mean, there’re so many I remember and love… Struck by the Rain, Young Love Rock ‘n’ Roll and That’s Paradise from Paradise DS, and Tonight, Lonely Storm, Beautiful One Day and Dreams of Our Generation from BtB. All awesome! 😀

If you exclude the strangely hilarious track from Karate Man Returns which isn’t explicitly marked as a vocal track (HEY BABY, HOW’S IT GOING?! THIS. BEAT. IS NON. STOP!), Megamix has… one new vocal track, “I’m a Lady Now”. That’s it. It’s decent, wasn’t super-keen the first time I heard it, but it kinda grew on me. But still, that’s it. We’re lucky we even got that. Why? Because any English vocals you hear are actually from the Japanese soundtrack. You can prove it by changing to the Japanese soundtrack in the café (which is a really nice feature, by the way). Their soundtrack actually has three new vocal tracks (in Lush Remix (which is really good with vocals!), Honeybee Remix and Machine Remix), but the non-English ones weren’t translated and re-recorded for the English soundtrack, which is a massive shame. No, wait, they have four, cuz the ending theme has vocals on the Japanese soundtrack! Gah, what a waste! One upside, though: the Machine Remix’s Japanese vocal track is terrible. 😛 I prefer the instrumental for that one.

Oh, and if you like to sing along to what vocal tracks we have, they’ve added the lyrics as subtitles into some of the games! Well, not all of them. Only a few. For some reason. Shrug.

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As for stuff on the side, Megamix has a lot more than previous Paradise games… but also a lot less. The biggest thing is the Challenge Train, and I’d say it’s the best part of the game. It’s basically survival mode. You can play multiplayer, but no-one owns this game, so you’ll have to wait until partway through the game before you can play solo. 😛 Each course on the challenge train consists of several rhythm games, each of which has a goal: “Score”, “Life” or “Monster”. Score goals challenge you to clear the song and attain a certain score (basically an accuracy percentage, which is shown on all results screens in Megamix along with the traditional, coarse rating scale of “Try Again”, “OK” and “Superb”; it’s kinda nice). Life goals challenge you to clear the game within a certain number of lives; you lose lives by missing cues. Monster goals are strange; the rhythm game appears in a window which begins shrinking, revealing a monster in the background. If you hit a cue perfectly (known as an “Ace”), the window grows. If the window shrinks too much, the monster will eat it and you’ll fail. Rhythm games on a Challenge Train course may have their tempos increased, too. Passing a goal lets you move to the next game. Failing a goal costs a life. Clear all the goals within three lives to clear the course and earn one to three Flow Balls depending on the course difficulty (Flow Balls are special currency used for unlocking new rhythm games). Courses on the Challenge Train eventually get stupidly difficult, mainly thanks to the Tempo Up modifier. It has varying levels of “tempo upness”… er, what’s another way of saying that which isn’t retarded…? Varying levels… yeah, Tempo Up has varying levels, but it doesn’t tell you how much it increases the original tempo. Sometimes it’s about 10% more, but other times I swear it’s about 50%. Frog Hop with Tempo Up nearly crippled my thumb, and I lost seven lives to the same stage in a certain course (Air Rally 2 with at least 30% Tempo Up in two lives, wtf). It’s an awesome addition, though, because it’s even a challenge for people who’ve played all the previous games. Paprika almost craps himself when you clear them all. “Maybe we can be friends.” Haha.

Next to the Challenge Train, there’s the Perfect Campaign, which isn’t really anything new, it’s just a central location for going for Perfects, because the map is a pain in the arse to navigate. 😛 Also, when going for Perfect, Megamix ends the rhythm game the moment you miss a cue, which is nice. Oh, and you can skip the intros to rhythm games now, after you’ve played them once. 🙂 Getting a Perfect in Megamix only gets you a Flow Ball, not a gift. Gifts in this game are Rhythm Items, which are unlocked in the shop with coins, so you don’t need to perfect everything to get every gift and read the funny descriptions. 😀 What else… oh, yes, there’s a long-term Pachinko metagame which involves some turnips and a goat that lays golden eggs. Shrug. 😛 It has absolutely nothing to do with rhythm and unlocks nothing meaningful, but does generate lots of anger past Level 90 or so. 😛 Oh, there’s also a StreetPass game, which is a kind of “versus” mode of Rhythm Fighter. Again, no-one has this game (no-one even has a friggin’ 3DS in this city apparently; I’m lucky if I get a StreetPass once a week), but it gives you a fake opponent at least every day. It can be absolutely hilarious. GO GO GOOOOO! AND ONE TWO! ONE TWO! AND GO GO GOOOOO!! 😀

There’re no Rhythm Toys like the previous games, which is a slight shame, but as for Endless Games, there are… four. That’s it. You unlock them by beating all three of the gatekeepers at a gate. The best one is “Sick Beats” originally in Rhythm Tengoku (GBA), but… it doesn’t feel particularly “endless”. You have one life, and after the third wave, the tempo increases every wave. Once you reach 128 points, the tempo of the wave that follows is so high (around 225BPM) that it becomes nearly impossible to keep the beat, so there’s no point trying to break your record. I tried to demonstrate the insane BPM using my right hand to hold a phone and my left hand to press the D-Pad, and nearly succeeded on my fifth try. I was one wave short of my record. But the vid gives you an idea of how impossibly fast it gets. 😛 The other three Endless Games are Coin Toss (from Rhythm Paradise DS, and it was never particularly notable), Clap Trap (from BtB, I don’t think I played it back then cuz I don’t remember it, but it’s barely a rhythm game) and Charging Chicken (new, but not really since it’s based on a Rhythm Toy from Rhythm Paradise DS, but it’s pretty good nonetheless). It’s a shame. No Tunnel, Shoot-‘Em-Up or Glass Tappers from Rhythm Paradise DS? I know Tunnel was basic, but hitting a cowbell repeatedly in front of someone trying to drive a car is strangely hilarious, even more so because she only gets mad if you do it wrong. 😛 Shoot-‘Em-Up was a good Endless Game, and Glass Tappers was epic. And no Wake-Up Caller or Munchy Monk from BtB? Wake-Up Caller was kinda slow but it was a great rhythm-keeping test, and Munchy Monk was absolutely friggin’ hilarious! ONE EGG! ONE EGG! ONE EGG! HANDFUL’A PEEZ!! What’s with the weak selection? Did they pick the most popular or their favourites, or did they pick the easiest ones to develop? Probably the latter. Sigh.

So… all in all, I think Rhythm Paradise Megamix is… a decent compilation. It could have been an amazing compilation, but I have a feeling they didn’t have enough resources. Or they did a half-arsed job. Not sure which one. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, cuz I don’t regret getting it or anything; it’s been a lot of fun to play through and I’ve got a fair bit of playtime out of it, but I can’t help but feel like it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, y’know? Maybe it’s my fault for playing too much Project Mirai, but the difficulty of Megamix just wasn’t enough for me. Yes, even though I mentioned that the Challenge Train gets stupidly difficult, it didn’t feel stupidly difficult enough. 😛 I mean, I cleared all the courses but I only failed about 5 times in total. Then, when I perfected the Final Remix after my 9th attempt (failures mainly consisted of blunders and one particular part of the song: Cosmic Rhythm Rally to Jumpin’ Jazz, followed by the three cues in Clap Trap), it felt good, but I realised that I’d just beaten the last big challenge the game had to offer. All the other Perfects won’t be as hard to get as that one.

As for recommending it… hmm. It’s difficult. I’d carefully recommend it to fans of the series. If you really liked the previous games, there’s a good chance you’ll like this. Actually, I might recommend it more to people who’ve never played a Rhythm Paradise game before, since there’s way more to discover and the chances of you getting Superb on everything on your first try is much lower. As long as you like rhythm games, that is, and you’re not expecting something intensely difficult like Beatmania or Project Mirai, and as long as you like a bit of crazy humour. So yeah, a fair few conditions for recommendation, there. 😛

Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon

I wrote about this way back when I was more than halfway through the game, but never followed it up with a “I’ve finished the game now!” post.

My thoughts on the game haven’t really changed much since then. 😛 It’s… probably the second best game in the series… although I’m kinda torn between making it second or third best, actually.

The worst game for me was the original, Red/Blue Rescue Team. I played Blue, not like there’s a difference in the story or anything. 😛 It was just… lacking. And the story was completely fucked. There was literally no purpose for anything you did until about half an hour from the end when you suddenly find out a meteorite is heading for the planet, which is also the part you find out that the reason you were brought to the Pokémon world was to stop said meteorite. But then the one who actually saves the world is Rayquaza; he busts the piss out of the meteorite with Hyper Beam while you stand around and watch. All you did was ask him to do it. Of course, when you did, he was all like “FUCK YOUUUUU I’M A DRAGON type” so you had to beat him up before he realised and said “OH SHIT LOOK A METEORITE THAT’LL KILL US ALL”. Of course that’s not exactly how it went down. Effectively the same, though. 😛 After Rayquaza saves the world, with your role fulfilled, you disappear and your partner loses it. This would be sad, as it is in the sequels, but the dialogue was quite sparse and the story was so short I didn’t have time to connect with any of the characters. I finished it in less than 16 hours, which is crazy. RPGs generally last way longer than that, I mean… Explorers of Sky lasted me around 60 hours, Gates to Infinity was about 50, and Super Mystery Dungeon about 40. Sure, there’s a bit more to do after the main story, but it’s not obvious, or very interesting. You just go around into harder dungeons and meet Legendary Pokémon who don’t join you the first time, and only join you the second time if you have the correct “Friend Area”, a retarded system that makes it stupidly painful to get members or set up the team you want to use in a dungeon. Besides, after the main storyline, the game disconnects you from your partner pretty much entirely; they no longer follow you around and their character becomes generic. Guh. I’m glad I didn’t play this one first, because I reckon it would have killed my interest in the subsequent games. Oh, now that I think about it, there was one good bit in Blue. Hehe. 😛

That leaves either Gates to Infinity or Super Mystery Dungeon to rank as number 3… naw, what am I saying. Super Mystery Dungeon has to be number 2. 😛

Gates to Infinity was great. The gameplay was a little bit dumbed down due to the removal of the hunger system and the addition of the Team Attack, which was essentially a rechargeable Get Out Of Jail Free card. If you stumbled into a Monster House with the Team Attack charged, the Monster House might as well not be there. 😛 I also didn’t really like building up Paradise. You could only take one quest at a time, and there was no guarantee that the rewards for any of the available quests were materials you needed. It was really annoying. But the story was awesome, as were most of the characters. I especially liked Victini, Hydreigon and Rampardos (even though Rampardos and Victini were basically shopkeepers 😛 ). Virizion was cool, too, as was Espeon and Umbreon (always a great pair), and Emolga, and the partner Pokémon, and Quagsire, hmm? 😀 If I can fondly remember nine characters, I’m pretty sure they’ve done it right.

Although… I said the story was awesome, but honestly, when the Bittercold came into play, the story suddenly became… odd. I don’t remember a great deal after the major twist in the last half of the story, where it turns out the antagonist was actually Munna; she’d been manipulating your dreams to make it seem like Hydreigon was evil, but in actual fact, Hydreigon was the one who called you to the Pokémon World. WHAT A TWEEST! No, seriously, what a fucking tweest. I never saw it coming. It blew my head open. 😛

Super Mystery Dungeon had a good story, but it did take a while to get going. When you leave the village to join the Expedition Society (god fucking damn it that part is so sweet), that’s when the story starts to pick up the pace, and it begins feeling like it has a bit more of a purpose. Then the ending, where the writers turned everything upside down from the previous games and decided that your partner is the one that disappears this time? MIND EXPLODE. Didn’t see it coming. Didn’t see ANY part of the story coming, if I’m honest! The story might’ve been a bit “out there”, way more wild than Explorers of Sky, but if they can keep me guessing for the entire length of the story, then they’ve totally won.

I remember the very beginning of Super being presented in a really cool fashion, actually. Traditionally, there’s been an intro video followed by menus, but this time it feels like they’re trying to suck you into the world almost as soon as you press Start on the title screen.

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The return of the personality test was a nice surprise, too. 🙂 In Time/Darkness/Sky and Red/Blue, you were asked a series of questions before the story began, mainly situational and personality-based. Asking you how you’d respond to a friend who made you a meal that tastes terrible, how you feel when something you bought yesterday for full price is marked down to half price today, whether you’ve ever accidentally called a teacher “Mum” or “Dad”, things like that. 😛 Based on your answers, the game guessed your personality and assigned you a Pokémon. After that, you could select your partner from the remaining Pokémon, with the restriction that they can’t be the same type as you (can’t pick Squirtle (water) if you get Totodile (water), for example). I think it was a great idea, and it somehow really got me hyped up when I first played it. The problem with it, though, was that… well, the game’s decision was absolute. Sometimes you got a Pokémon you really didn’t want to play as. If this happened, you could restart the game and try the test again to see if you got a different Pokémon (the questions you got were randomly selected from a pool). But it was a pain, and that’s probably why they removed the test in Gates to Infinity and allowed you to choose. In Super, though, they brought it back and made it the best of both worlds. You take the test, but the game only recommends a Pokémon to you. If you disagree with its choice, you can change it.

Super also had some great gameplay, the best in the series, I think. The Looplet/Emera system was really good… um… no, well… not entirely good, actually. I found one huge issue with it. Seriously, huge. One day, while playing through the endgame, I found an Emera called Ally Reviver. It’s literally the most overpowered thing since The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s 100% Chameleon bullshit and I seriously hope it can’t appear during the story. When you have Ally Reviver in the leader’s Looplet, your teammates are effectively invincible. When they reach 0 HP, they’re automatically revived with full HP and PP. It doesn’t revive the leader, but there’s no limit to the amount of times it can revive your teammates. Seriously. I told them to wander around on their own and the amount of times they fainted was ludicrous, but it didn’t matter because they just got right back up again, like they were using friggin’ cheat codes or something. 😛 When you have Ally Reviver, the only thing you have to worry about then is the leader, making the rest of the dungeon trivial, unless you run into a Monster House like a moron, or if some twat with a room-wide move enters your room and you have no way of escaping or fighting back. Hell, if you find two Ally Revivers, you can put another one in a teammate’s Looplet, then when the leader is looking like he’s gonna get owned, change the leader, let the old leader faint and revive for free, then switch back. Practical example of how overpowered it is? I played a dungeon that ends in three boss battles with Dialga, Palkia and Rayquaza, back-to-back. My teammates must have fainted at least 15 times. If I didn’t have Ally Reviver, I’d’ve lost to Dialga within the first four or five turns, mainly because Dialga has a dumbass overpowered move called Roar of Time which hits everyone, and it always one-shots my teammates and can one-shot me if he gets a critical. But because I had Ally Reviver, I beat all three of them. RETARDED! It’s more overpowered than Awakening, which is supposed to be the über-ultimate mega-Emera, since that triggers Mega Evolution in Pokémon that can do so, and blocks all attacks from the front. But Awakening has a turn limit. Ally Reviver doesn’t. What’s more, if you have a Trap Immunity Emera at the same time, the last thing that you have to worry about (Emera Swap and Emera Crush traps) just… totally vanishes.

Oh, by the way, this plays during the boss battle with Dialga in Super. You might recognise it if you’ve played Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky. It’s that game’s final boss battle music, against Dialga at the top of Temporal Tower. I nearly blew up. You also get this one against Rayquaza; it’s the Legendary Pokémon battle music originally from Red/Blue, played during that game’s final boss battle against Rayquaza. Great throwbacks. 😀

But maybe those throwbacks show a bit of a problem. I’ve noticed that Super just refuses to let go of the previous games. When you meet a Pokémon that was in a previous game, there’s an extremely high chance that they’ll act like the same character. Kangaskhan’s not in charge of storage any more, but she speaks in pretty much the same way as in Red/Blue and Time/Darkness/Sky. Duskull says he used to run a bank; I think Persian mentions something like that, too. Chansey says she used to work as an Egg caretaker. Rampardos says he used to run a business called Box Buster, and wonders how Cinccino is doing. Victini says he didn’t bring the V-Wheel. Swanna specifically mentions that she’s from Post Town, even though you can’t go there. Hydreigon acts as if you’ve already met him, exclaiming “You don’t remember me? Oh no!”. Munna says she did horrible things in the past. Quagsire has his verbal tic, hmm? Pokémon that were part of teams from Time/Darkness/Sky (AWD, Skull, Charm, etc.) either mention this, or act in basically the same way (Eg: Zubat, Koffing and Skuntank still have their unique ways of laughing: “Heh-heh-heh!”, “Whoa-ho-ho!” and “Chaw-haw-haw!”). I don’t even want to meet Grovyle. And I bet Celebi will mention Grovyle and how she feels about him, even though she won’t be a shiny like the Celebi from Time/Darkness/Sky. I finally met Grovyle and Celebi. The Celebi is a shiny. Grovyle’s mission was to help him rescue Celebi from a really easy dungeon. She fainted there on purpose so that Grovyle would come and rescue her. It was pretty fun. 😀 But still… why can’t they just let them be new characters? It feels like they’re hopelessly stuck in the past. The only thing that appears to be different is that Wobbuffet doesn’t just say “That’s right!”; all he says now is “Wooobbbufffeeeettttt!!!” 😛 Or was that a reference to Red/Blue? No, of course… the Wobbuffet in Sky was female, and this one’s male…

Bah, I think I’m reading too much into this. 😛 They’re just some harmless references, and they’re great for fans of the previous games, but I can’t help but feel like they might’ve been too attached to the old games to concentrate on making a new one. I mean, the gameplay of Super is definitely the best in the series, I really enjoyed the story, and the endgame is pretty good, too, but that balance… sheesh. It’s like they weren’t paying attention. Oh, and the team system was annoying; sometimes you couldn’t use team members because of reasons. Also, some Pokémon (Rayquaza, for example) were marked as “Gigantic”. This was already a somewhat quiet feature in Sky; each Pokémon had a fixed “Body Size” stat, and the total Body Size of your team had to be 6 or lower, so this effectively meant you could only have a three-Pokémon team if you wanted to take most Legendaries with you. However, that was fine, because in Sky they didn’t take up four tiles instead of one! I want to use Rayquaza. I want to use Dialga. And if I find that Yveltal is playable, I’m damn sure I’ll want to use him. But I can’t bring myself to put up with it, because playing with them in the team makes everything a pain in the dick. Regardless of whether they’re the leader or not, gigantic Pokémon just get in the friggin’ way all the time, especially around the corners of corridors, and this causes the other team member to lose line of sight of their allies, which puts them into “I’m lost” mode and makes them start wandering around randomly, which is hyper dangerous! (Uh, well, unless you have Ally Reviver, heh. 😛 ) And it isn’t like gigantic Pokémon are immensely powerful or anything.

I’m pretty sure that this game is a send-off, too. Given the surprising success of the series, it might not be, and I really don’t want it to be, but since it’s touted as the “definitive” Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game, that makes me believe that it’s the end. But all these issues I’ve found with Super just make me feel like the series could’ve ended on a higher note than this. Rgh, I dunno. Maybe it’s Explorers of Sky’s fault. 😛

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky

“Um you’ve already played this twice why are you”

SHAHTAAAP!

Explorers of Sky was retardedly good. It’s one of my favourite RPGs. It has awesome characters everywhere, good yet admittedly repetitive dungeon-crawling, an epic soundtrack, and fuck ME, it has a masterfully-written story. The only thing wrong with the story is that it foreshadows events too obviously. When the player Pokémon exclaims (in his head, because he only speaks at the very end of the story) that he saw Dusknoir smile a little when he said he hadn’t heard of the player Pokémon, that, and the way the dialogue was presented, completely gave away that he was the bad guy. Things like that. Unlike the newer games, in Sky, you can see some things coming a mile away. But in my opinion, the story was about as close to perfect as you can make something. Interesting, mostly unpredictable, surprisingly mature, sometimes fun, sometimes moving, and it has a great ending. Honestly, when the ending theme began playing, I’d been so enthralled with the story that I actually cheered. And the attention to detail is so fine, it’s nearly impossible to notice. For example… like every game in the series, you pick a partner Pokémon. The difference in Sky? There are several slightly different sets of dialogue for your partner. Seriously. For example, when your partner sees the Krabby blowing bubbles near the start of the story, Torchic exclaims that it’s a “beautiful” sight. Bulbasaur exclaims that it’s a “pretty” sight. Totodile exclaims that it’s an “impressive” sight. And no, it isn’t just a one-off thing at the start; it continues throughout the entire story. I shit you not. It’s absolutely psycho! Almost no-one is going to notice this, and yet they did it anyway! Holy shit!

That… pretty much sums up Explorers of Sky. Probably Time/Darkness, too. That attention to detail, taking that much care over the dialogue to give some partners a slightly different voice even though most people will never notice, it shows that a hell of a lot of love and thought has been put into it. That’s why it’s so special. And that’s probably why I couldn’t find Sky for less than £18 second hand.

Yep, I bought it for realsies, and I’m playing through it for the third time. 🙂 I’m even experiencing things I didn’t before. Like… what the hell’s with my storage? I’m playing through like I normally do, or at least I think I am… but I had a massive issue with storage space. I was completely full for quite a long time. I kept recycling stuff I didn’t really need, then after a couple of adventures I was full again, then I recycled, and eventually reached this point where I couldn’t really bring myself to recycle anything, but I had to, because I had a full storage and a full bag. It was suffocating! I’m at the part just before Temporal Tower and I had to backtrack to town and rank up to Gold just to increase my storage space. Yes, even though the world’s basically about to end, I’m doing some missions to increase rank. 😛 I never had to do that in my previous two playthroughs!

But the game is as joyful as ever. I love it, I want to hug it, and I want Chunsoft to announce like 600 expansion packs for it. 😛 But you know what the fun thing about second hand games is? Seeing the previous owner’s data!

Before I wiped it for all eternity, I decided to compare it with the save I have on my emulator. If I hadn’t played this before, I would have just wiped it without looking to avoid spoilers, and besides, I probably wouldn’t have been able to judge because I wouldn’t have understood very much. 😛 Glad I’ve played it before, because this time I was… honestly, bewildered. Completely brainfucked. 😛 Why? Well, um… let me explain with some pictures:

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The one on the left is the physical copy before I wiped it, ie: the previous owner’s data. The one on the right is my data from the emulator. I believe the most interesting statistic there is “Fainted in dungeons”. I fainted once throughout the entire game, probably because I quit and reloaded my last save whenever I fainted, rather than saving my progress with all my money and most of my items gone, so it was never logged because it never technically happened. But this guy fainted 178 times. 178?!? WHAT THE CRAP?! That’s insane! It’s like he never thought “oh, shit, I lost loads of important items there, I’d better just reload and try again”. Christ, he’s fainted in more dungeons than he’s cleared! And he’s cleared more dungeons that me, yet he’s got less than half the Pokémon I do and has acquired 111 less types of items! What is this?!

(Next screenshot has a spoiler, and my Ultimate Text Blackening Strategy won’t work for obvious reasons; avert your virgin gaze if you haven’t played this but plan to play it in the future! 😛 ) (OH MY GOD MY SPOILER WARNING CONTAINS AN INOBVIOUS SPOILER)

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And it’s not like he didn’t clear the game, either! This doesn’t show it, but he finished the whole story. But finishing the whole story and only recycling ten times?! Maybe he didn’t get that selling items is kinda pointless unless it’s equipment or TMs, because you usually get 1p for it (literally)? Or, er… maybe he didn’t have many items? That sounds likely. 😛

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Here’s where shit gets really really odd. Check his stats. Now check mine. Mine’re better, yeah? Now check level. He’s ten levels ahead, yet he has worse stats in every area. WHAAAAAAAAAT! HOW YOU DO DIS?! And it’s not like he hasn’t been eating Gummis! Gummis give you IQ, sometimes stat boosts, and always stat boosts if you give it to Spinda and make it into a drink. But look at his IQ! It’s friggin’ two stars higher than mine, which is significant, but his stats are worse! HOW?!

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“Okay, let’s check the bank.” I said. I opened it and just started laughing in disbelief. You’ve finished the game and only have 1,077P?! Seriously?! How the hell do you even do that?! And one other thing I noticed from this pic? He’s playing as Blaziken. As far as I know… that’s impossible! Ignore that! I thought that it was impossible that he was playing Blaziken because… well, one: the personality test it gives you ends by asking if you’re male or female, and depending on your choice, this prevents you from being assigned certain Pokémon, and the borders of your chat windows are permanently coloured blue or pink for the duration of the game. And two: Torchic is marked as female in partner selection, and Torchic evolves to Combusken, who then evolves into Blaziken. Therefore, I assumed that he couldn’t have ever been a Blaziken because his chat windows are blue. I was totally wrong, though; Torchic can be assigned to either gender, but she’s always female if chosen to be the partner. As for player Pokémon, I looked it up and found that you can’t be Eevee, Skitty or Vulpix if you’re male, and you can’t be Riolu, Phanpy or Shinx if you’re female. Anyway no matter. The main point was that this guy had 0.6% of the money I had. 😛

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This one solidifies my thoughts that he may have had a bit of trouble playing this game. Well, more than a bit. 😛 He had a total of nine items in storage. Uh… the key’s useful, I guess? But no Exclusive Items… no equipment… not even any Reviver Seeds. His bag had more items, but most of it was utility stuff like seeds and semi-useful orbs. I think there was some equipment, but it wasn’t equipped. I don’t have a clue how he got through the story in this state. Massive respect to his tenacity! 😛

What makes his state even more difficult to comprehend is his rank. He can store 320 items, which means he’s Gold rank. In my current state (not the emulator), I’m Gold rank, and I haven’t even finished the primary story yet. He’s finished both parts of the story. How did he end with such a relatively low rank?! On my emulator state there, at the end of the story plus a bit of endgame, I’m Master 3 Star rank. I’d’ve expected him to be at least somewhat close to that! This is why second hand games are so fun! 😛 (In contrast, the data on my second hand copy of Advance Wars: Dual Strike was impressive. They nearly had half the medals!)

Also, why do I have a Gold Ribbon in storage? Well, this is a fun fact! If you take a bunch of Gold Ribbons into a dungeon, along with either a Pure Seed or a Trawl Orb… when you find a Kecleon shop, what you do first is sell all your Gold Ribbons and any other high value items in your bag. Then, if you have a Pure Seed, you tell your team members to wait a distance from the shop (for safety reasons), then pick up all the items in the shop and use the Pure Seed. You’ll warp to the stairs, and the Hyper Fast Kecleon Army will then move to annihilate you because you stole from the shop. Simply walk onto the stairs, go to the next floor and poof. You’ve just generated several thousand Poké. 😀 Alternatively, with the Trawl Orb, walk to the stairs with your team, then use the Trawl Orb. It’ll attract all the items on the floor, including the ones in Kecleon’s shop. This is classed as stealing, so the Hyper Fast Kecleon Army will assemble. Pick up everything and get to the stairs before they reach your room and rape you. Poof, several thousand Poké. Terrible exploit! Probably why you can’t do it in Gates to Infinity and Super! 😛

I don’t have a picture of it, but his team was quite… interesting, too. Several of his team members were named after characters from Mortal Kombat. No idea why. None of the Pokémon he named had any particular resemblance to the character he named them after. 😛 He didn’t name his partner. The player Pokémon’s name (or at least the controllable Pokémon) was called “JACK”. All caps. Speaking to the partner Pokémon was entertaining for a second. “Let’s do our best as always, JACK!” 😛

UPDATE: Going back to what I said earlier, about the slightly different dialogue… I remember taking a screenshot on the emulator after selecting the negative option in one of the game’s many pointless choices, when your partner asks “Should we go into the nightmare?”. My partner was Totodile. This time, my partner is Bulbasaur. When I reached the same point in the game, I took a picture of the same bit of dialogue. Here’s the comparison:

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers of Sky USA_58_2118.pngimg_20170212_201225.jpg

I know it’s such a minor thing, but that’s the point. This attention to detail was completely unnecessary. The vast majority of players would never notice, but they still did it. The only reason they did so was because they cared. If only more devs cared as much nowadays. Sigh.

Anyway… that’s that, methinks. 🙂 Speaking of second hand games, though…

Fire Emblem: Awakening

So, after playing Project X Zone 2 (still haven’t finished that, actually) and Advance Wars: Dual Strike, I remembered that other turn-based strategy game I hadn’t played yet: Fire Emblem. I dunno why, but it never really appealed to me. Maybe I was under the impression that it was too slow or too serious or too annoying. By “too annoying” I mean that if one of your characters dies in Fire Emblem, they’re gone for good. Unless it’s the main character. Then you just get Game Over. 😛 Maybe “annoying” is the wrong word. “Stressful” is slightly more appropriate. 😛

Anyway, I went through a bunch of demos recently. Most of them were junk (fucking Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Edition, fuck me, what is that bullshit, and what were Nintendo smoking to let that no-name fail mobile company shit all over the place and combine two IPs that had absolutely nothing in common, okay I’m done now), but Fire Emblem: Awakening was among them. I was… very impressed. The whole thing stank of quality. “Stank of quality”? Kind of a shit way to put it, but yeah, it felt like a quality game. There wasn’t much to the demo, some dialogue, a couple of maps and some stupidly good FMVs with some surprisingly good English voice acting. But I was impressed, so I had a look online to see if I could still get it second hand. It’s quite an old game, so I thought it was either gonna be unavailable or quite cheap.

Oh, it was available. But on Amazon at least, it was nearly as expensive as friggin’ Pokémon Sun and Moon! Even on eBay it was expensive. Not like I really buy anything off eBay auctions anyway because they’re always sniped and tend to go for way more than you can get the item elsewhere.

So I turned to Cex (heheheh cex shop), the place I bought Explorers of Sky from. No stock in any store near me, but I could get it delivered for £24.50, and that was pretty much the cheapest I could find. I bought it because I think it’ll be worth that, but Jesus, that’s really steep for a nearly three-year-old game. Rhythm Paradise Megamix cost about that when it was brand new. I figure it’s so expensive because Awakening was so well-received. After reading about it, it feels like this game’s a bit of a legend. It was basically the developers’ last shot at keeping the Fire Emblem series going. Nintendo told Intelligent Systems that if it didn’t sell 250,000 units, that was it; Fire Emblem would be cancelled. In the face of this pressure, they absolutely nailed it, got 90+ on Metacritic and sold like nearly a million copies in total. Awakening’s the only reason Fire Emblem still exists, so maybe that’s why it’s so expensive.

I haven’t got it yet; I only ordered it today (I only got back home from my parents’ yesterday 😛 ) but I’ll probably write about it. As a draft. Then find it again several months later and post it. 😛

Anyhoo, I think that’s all for now… okaaaay yes, that’s now 7407 words excluding the “word” “7407”, so let’s leave it there. 😛 Buh-byyyye!

ow my fingers

Post Deliveryyyyy!

Phwoaack, it’s been a li’l while since I last posted. The last time was back when I PERFECTED MATRYOSHKA ON SUPER HARD LOOK LOOK LOOK:

Matryoshka (Button, SH) Perfect, 443,207

WOW! LOOK AGAIN!

Matryoshka (Button, SH) Perfect, 443,207

Ahem. So, how’re thingz? 🙂

What’ve I done since I last posted? Well, I’ve mainly been working, aaand it’s basically making me lose the will to live. 😛 Our previous project was good, I mean, I didn’t really like the game as a whole, but it was interesting to work on, and the features we were implementing were well designed and interesting to play, even if the core game was pretty dull. That was about 2 years ago. Since then, we’ve been working on a new project. It was fairly decent when we began, but as it progressed and other people got involved, I slowly began to realise that this game we were making… I didn’t like it. Like, REALLY didn’t like it. I also slowly began to dislike the other people who were getting involved. Since then, it’s escalated into a huge tornado of fuckshit. The lack of communication is ultra-annoying, the organisation is so bad I actually think the teams I worked with at university did a better job, people have meetings when I’m pretty sure they don’t need one and they overrun literally every single time, and some of the decisions made by the project leader are so stupid they go beyond what I can comprehend… for example, our game is free-to-play with in-app purchases (IAPs) like 99% of mobile junk, but the difference between all that junk and this junk was that our IAP shop was constantly pushed back in favour of much less critical tasks… so our game cannot make money. When we go for a meeting to determine our next set of tasks, the project leader always seems to have picked more tasks than we can all possibly do, insisting all of them are critical for the next build, and then it usually turns out he’s actually just picked stuff he wants instead of stuff we need. And it’s not just him; a lot of the other people I have to work with are so stupid I can’t help but wonder how the hell they got into this industry, and I can’t believe some of them have been making games for way longer than I have. Several of them don’t even care about gaming! I worked my ass off and racked up a massive debt to get here and do what I love doing, and there are people like this?! ARGHH! AND it’s summer, my least favourite season, and there’s no goddamn air conditioning and the wind speed is less than 10 mph, and conveniently all of the fans in the room appear to be situated near the lead staff, but they were saying they were going to order more, maybe, at some point, or not, probably needs a meeting. Two weeks after they mentioned getting more fans, they still haven’t, so they obviously don’t care.

The result of all this pain? A game I really really hate which I would uninstall in less than five minutes. I actually hope it bombs harder than anything has ever bombed before. I hide my opinion of the game from the other staff because it doesn’t help anyone to complain and there’s nothing that can be done about it now, but also because I’ve recently found out the project leader has this fucked up mentality that anyone who has made negative comments about the game is an asshole and 100% wrong. I hate people who can’t take criticism.

Anyway, that’s FAR too much whining, sorry. This post wasn’t supposed to be about ruining your day by mimicking the average Facebook feed. 😛 So, other more better stuff I’ve done… well, I’ve been playing a few games, of course. 🙂 I quite enjoyed the Overwatch Beta, so I ended up getting it, but after about 20 hours of game time I realised it was getting pretty boring. Slowly, it stopped being fun and became more annoying, then I questioned why I was playing it, and then I stopped. I probably won’t play it again until they… I dunno, add a new map, or a more interesting mode, or something. It’s quite annoying and doesn’t fully make sense why I’m bored of it, because I’m still up for playing Rocket League now and again, but that’s even more repetitive, and I’m worse at it than Overwatch. I guess Rocket League is just more fun. 😛

I’ve also been playing Disgaea PC, a port of the first Disgaea, a crazy tactical RPG with hilarious dialogue and mechanics. I’ve played it before on PSP, but never finished it. This time, though, I finally completed it after 60 hours, but didn’t get the good ending. The condition for getting that is to get through the story without killing a unit on your team… which is pretty easy, and I actually don’t remember killing one of my own units. Must’ve been a badly targeted skill. 😛 Anyways, I want to go through the story again to get it. Then I need to play the bonus episodes and extra stages, and get most of the achievements. Lel, it cost a third of what Overwatch cost and I’ve played it at least twice as much, and it’s made me laugh a hell of a lot more. I never liked buying multiplayer-only games, and after this, I’m probably never gonna buy another one again. Unless… I dunno, unless it’s Quake that plays like Quake III and doesn’t suck, or something. Man, I’d love to play that again; I had so much friggin’ fun with Quake Live. AND I was getting pretty good at it. 😛

Speaking of tactical RPGs, I also got Project X Zone 2 for 3DS, which is massive fun. The story is crazy and almost throwaway, but it’s funny. The dialogue is hilarious, too, full of insanity, references, weird Japanese humour and just plain funny shit. 😀 Here, have some screenshots I saved to Miiverse:

Ooh WordPress decided to make them into a gallery for me. How nice. Probably doesn’t work, though. 😛

Strangely, the game itself is kinda meh. The tactical part of it is just laughably not tactical at all. Enemy attacks tend to do a negligible amount of damage; the only real threats are swarms of enemies (say, about 6 units), enemies that attack multiple units, or bosses when they have enough EP. That’s “Enemy Points”, shown like a super ability gauge. The player has one too, called XP, which is “Cross Points”, not eXperience Points. Experience is EXP in this game. 😛 Anyway, when the enemy team’s EP is at 100% or more, their boss-class units can spend it on special attacks which do some real damage. You basically only have three options to counter this: defend to reduce the damage by half, spend some XP and use Full Defend to reduce damage to zero, or take out the boss before they have a chance to use their special. Getting out of their movement range is kinda pointless because you have so many units that the enemy’s probably gonna get one of them, and enemy bosses tend to have a movement range equal or greater than all of your units, so… yeah, all I’ve been doing for the entire game is attacking and not really giving a toss about defensive play, and I’ve only ever had two units go down. 😛 Another reason why it’s not a very tactical TRPG is because of the sheer freedom you have with items and skills. Items can be used by any of your team mates on any other team mate, no matter how far away they are, and you can use basically as many as you want until you run out. It doesn’t even cost a unit its turn or anything. Same thing with skills; any unit that hasn’t already taken its turn can use as many skills as they can afford without losing a turn. Quite a lot of units have healing abilities, too. I mean, off the top of my head, I know Felicia has one which restores 100% of a unit’s HP. 100%. It’s like “oh no, that unit just got beat on by about half the enemy team and it’s pretty low on health… Felicia, Feline Grooming, problem solved.” No SP? Use an SP restoring item, because I have about 90 of them that I picked up along the way, then use Feline Grooming. Or just use someone else’s healing skill. Problem always solved. 😛

The way you attack is pretty fun, though. You go into a side-on battle screen where you can use three normal attacks, a “solo” attack, sometimes a “support” attack, and if you have 100% XP, you can finish with a special attack. The aim is to juggle the enemy and hit them as many times as possible to do as much damage as you can. Hitting them with a new attack when they’re about to touch the floor gives a Critical, which increases damage for all the hits in that attack. At the end of your attacks, you’re given bonus gold for every 10 successive hits and bonus EXP for every Critical you get. It’s a really cool idea, and it feels great when you time everything right and pull off a massive combo. 😀 It’s not often that you do, either. My max combo is 106, and I think that was the only time I exceeded 100. I’ll probably get stupidly and pointlessly excited if I manage to beat it. 😛

Probably the most notable thing about Project X Zone 2 is that the characters are all from a bunch of different things by Sega, Capcom, Bandai Namco and Nintendo. I’ve never seen anything like it. You’ve got characters from Resident Evil, Yakuza, Tekken, Darkstalkers, Ace Attorney, Shinobi, Space Channel 5, Street Fighter, Streets of Rage, Devil May Cry, Megaman X, .hack//, God Eater, Shenmue… and there’s original characters, and I’ve definitely missed some. Christ, it’s like… the biggest crossover game in the history of ever. No wonder the story is insane. Must’ve been super-difficult to think of something.

The soundtrack is so good, too. There’s music from each of the games involved, and a different one plays depending on the character you’re currently controlling. It’s awesome when the game plays a track for the first time and you recognise it… like for me, the “Objection!” and “Investigation: Cornered” tracks from the original Ace Attorney, Jin’s theme from Tekken, and “Go Straight” from Streets of Rage 2, for example. (On a side note, I can’t help but giggle every time the fully-voiced Axel does his attack and says “GRAND UPPAH” and “ARRRRRRGH” :P) The song that totally got stuck in my head, though, was a track from Yakuza that sometimes plays when Kiryu & Majima are selected, and always plays during their special attack… this one, “Funk Goes On”. That’s the original track; the one played in X Zone is slightly different. I’ve never played Yakuza, but that track is just epic. Makes me want to do special attacks with Kiryu & Majima just for that music, even though their special doesn’t feel as powerful as other pairs’ specials. 😀

Even though the “tactical” part of it is questionable, I’d totally recommend it for the humour, characters and the battle system. It’s a pretty big fan-service game, though, so it might not be as fun if you don’t know or like any of the characters. 😛 It’s long, though; I’m at 30-something hours and I feel like I’m only just getting close to the end.

Ah. Crap. I did it again, sorry. This post wasn’t supposed to be about Project X Zone 2, either; I went into yammering mode again. 😛 I don’t think there’s anything else that I’ve played, game-wise, anyhoo. Oh yeah, Starbound, the “finished” version, but it’s okay cuz I’m already bored of talking about it. So let’s move on! 😛

Now, back to the topic of whiney Facebook feeds. Why? Well, gizza minute, will ya?! 😛

My sister was slightly-but-not-really whining about me not posting for a while on Bookface. The last post I made there was about two months ago when I posted a picture of a OnePlus 3 that I’d just received, along with Pro Wrestler, the best action figure ever. 😛 I don’t post there much any more because Facebook’s just become the world’s biggest advertisement and a place where people just post photos of themselves and other things I just don’t give a shit about, and I’m pretty sure only 10% of my friends list actually has me unblocked because I’m sure they feel the same way about my posts. 😛 Oh, and every other post recently has just been about Pokémon Go and no I’m not saying ANYTHING about it other than I’ve started blocking everything from anyone who posts about it. 😛 It’s like the zombie sheep apocalypse made real.

Ooooooh, the actual intended topic of the post is approaching fast!! 😛 So, in response to my sister’s complaint that I haven’t posted in a while, and because I haven’t posted here in a while either, I decided to cook up a little render all about POSTING! BAM:

Maw Mail (2K)

A post of a dragon postie delivering some post that you COULD print and use as a poster, for posterity! Letter me tell ya, it’d be a postitively unique poster. Hm, what’s mailing you? Am I not getting your stamp of approval OKAY ENOUGH good GOD that’s enough, that was a near-toxic level of crap puns just now. 😛

So, whaddya think? 🙂 This is my first proper attempt at using Iray, a renderer by NVIDIA which’s been in DAZ Studio since 4.8. I didn’t have much of a desire to use it until now because I never really understood it. And I still don’t. 😛

There’re a couple of flaws, methinks… Iray has a built-in bloom filter, which is great if you just bin the default settings first. 😛 It’s worked well, but it’s gone a bit rogue on his horns. It’s because the light is hitting his horns at an angle which makes them shine basically pure white. And no matter how high I put the bloom threshold, it probably won’t disappear from his horns, and even if it did, the effect would probably disappear from the sky, the place I actually want the bloom. Maybe it’s best to do bloom myself in post-processing after all… 😛 Also, that white stucco around the green door… the texture is friggin’ awful. 😛 I tried to tweak the material settings and improve it as much as possible, but there’s only so much you can do before you have to mess with the texture, and I’m not an artist. 😛 Kinda weird, though. That’s a 4096×4096 texture, which is pretty standard, so… I’m not sure why it looks so stretched and poopy. :S Ah well.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it came out, especially since I didn’t actually spend much time on it; the scene only took about 2 hours to assemble. I also didn’t need to make many tweaks; I only rendered the full scene three times before I was satisfied. For comparison, I have 25 preliminary renders stored for Dueling Dragons. Some of those were because my PC was being a dick, but still… 😛

So, Iray’s great? Neh. Not really. It’s a bit rough. It friggin’ loooooves to leave grainy bullshite in your renders in weird areas, usually outside of focus. I had to do some noise removal on that brass letterbox because it was absolutely ridiculous. Dark areas also tend to come out crappy. I also feel like I have no control over lighting. You can use a HDRI, basically a 360° image which the render engine looks at and magically generates scene lighting from that using MAFFS. “Maths”. Not an acronym. 😛 HDRIs are cool, but that requires that I have an HDRI image that roughly matches my scene. And it gives no control. You can go to the next level of control and use the built-in generic Sun-Sky environment mode, but the complexity is just OTT, and despite the stupid complexity, I really don’t feel like it’s that accurate. I mean, you can specify a latitude, longitude, time of day, date and UTC offset. The first time I used it, I gave it a test by putting in the latitude and longitude of my location, setting the UTC offset to 1 because daylight savings, setting the date to today and setting the time to about 6pm. Apparently NVIDIA thinks that England at 7pm UTC in summer is PITCH BLACK! 😛 So, all this complexity is wasted because I just don’t bother to touch the date, latitude or longitude any more; I just change the time of day, then rotate the dome to get the correct direction. As for custom lighting, like what I do easily in DAZ’s default renderer, 3Delight? Hahaha, forget it. Lights need completely dumbass settings like 50 THOUSAND lumen just for a dim light, AND it looks terrible.

But it’s fast, right? Well, no, actually. It’s really speedy at getting something rough you can use to gauge how the final render will look, but that final render took two GTX 970s… 3 hours 41 minutes 20.95 seconds to finish, and it’s not even that complex. And when I say it’s speedy at getting something rough… sure, setting a viewport to the Iray mode is useful because it gives you a live preview of your render, but eventually it starts making DAZ Studio pretty much unusable. It uses all of your GPU’s power and leaves nothing for anything else, including DAZ Studio. It also re-calculates every time anything changes. “Did you just move your perspective camera one inch to the left? Ooop, gotta recalculate! Whaddya mean the perspective camera’s position is irrelevant since I’m not rendering it or even using it to render?!” And if you change the scene enough while enduring the workspace slowdown with every change? Boom! DAZ Studio crashes either by itself or by crashing your graphics driver. Probably a memory leak! Oh, oh, speaking of memory? Iray EATS the HELL out of it. I can’t even render some scenes in Iray because it obliterates ALL 12GB of my unused memory before going “uhgh don’t have nuff memory bye now”.

I’ll probably end up going back to 3Delight with this scene to see if I can make it look better using my traditional methods. Iray seems to make stuff that looks more realistic, sure, but realism doesn’t always make things prettier, right? 😛 I’ll update this post with a 3Delight render at some point. 🙂 Even if it’s worse. 😛

Anyway… I guess I’d better post this on Bookface for my sister now, then get to bedz. 😛 Nighty night!

UPDATE!!

Someone on Facebook responded in an entertaining manner with a picture of his own, and I thought I’d share it with you here:

Maw Mail Response.jpg

😀

Also, I added a link to a video of my best match in Quake Live around the part where I mention it, because why not. 😛 The quality’s terrible because I was testing out settings for streaming and didn’t realise I’d set the bitrate way too low, but man, I was having loads of fun, calling out “DOUBLE KILL” in stupid ways, nodding my character’s head when something ace happens, and yelling “QUAD” when getting kills with Quad Damage. 😀 And a net of +34, awwwwww yiss. 😀

UPDATE 2!!

Basically nothing at all to do with the rest of this article but OH MY GOD I JUST GOT A PERFECT ON ROMEO & CINDERELLA ON SUPER HARD

HNI_0014.JPG

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

パーフェクト!!

Aside

Hi, how’re you?
Good! Or “oh no!” if you said you’re not good. 😛
Soooo… what have I been up to recently?
Not much!
Apart from what happened today at lunch.
I nearly had a nervous breakdown.
And a heart attack!
Why?
Because I was playing Project Mirai DX (yes i still play it)
And I was just doing some songs and stuff
Grabbing a few Perfects on easy charts that I haven’t played yet
And then I went and played something a bit harder
By “a bit harder” I mean “Matryoshka on Super Hard”

And then
 I got a Perfect on it
A Perfect on Matryoshka on Super Hard
A PERFECT ON MATRYOSHKA ON SUPER HARD
A!
FUCKING!
PERFECT!

You want evidence, Mr. Edgeworth?!
TAKE THAT!!

Matryoshka (Button, SH) Perfect, 443,207.JPG

NINETY-NINE PERCENT!!!
YEEAAAAHHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!
I WANTED TO YELL SO MUCH IN THE OFFICE!
BUT I COULDN’T BECAUSE THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN WEIRD!
SO I’M LETTING IT ALL OUT HERE!
OOOOOOOHHHHH YEEEEEEAAHHH!!!

HAHAAhahahaaa okay… okay okay, I’m okay. I’m okay, really. Really!

When I hit the last note knowing I hadn’t made a mistake, I nearly dropped the 3DS. It was just… unrealistic. 😛 I’ve had an SP All on Matryoshka on Super Hard before, and I’d been going for a Perfect every now and then, but I never thought I’d actually be able to do it. See, the longer my perfect streak goes on, the more I freak out, and on extremely hard songs, I almost always get bitten by my nerves and mess up before the song ends. It happens in all music games I play. But this time I somehow kept hitting notes even though I was basically crapping myself at how close I was, and actually friggin’ managed it! 😀

NO, I meant “managed to get a Perfect” not “managed to crap myself”. 😛

Matryoshka on Super Hard is probably the… second hardest chart in the game. In fact, no… third. Gaikotsu Gakudan to Riria is second. That note chart is crazy, and it’s even more insane it’s that hard even though the note chart is only classed as Hard. But Invisible on Super Hard? That’s just… impossible. IMPOSSIBLE.

Well… let’s see if I can do Invisible next, eh? 😀

チョコレートバスタブ!!

(That means “chocolate bathtub”. I’ll get to it. 😛 )

So, I got a few new games for the 3DS recently. Well, when I say “recently”, I mean “within the last three months or so”. 😛  I got Paper Mario: Sticker Star for my birthday. I friggin’ love the Paper Mario series, and I’d been wanting to get Sticker Star for a while now.

Before I headed up to my parents’ place for my birthday, though (before I had Sticker Star), I was wondering what to play on the journey. I’d stopped playing Monster Hunter because all of a sudden, the difficulty pretty much doubled and the item grinding got utterly stupid, a combination which slowly made the game more frustrating than fun. I mean, come on; a 3×1% chance of finding a Monoblos Heart? So, with those odds, if I had exactly average luck, and with my skill level and equipment, I would have to fight the same monster repeatedly for 8 1/4 hours. And I hadn’t even reached G level yet, where I imagine it gets even more retarded! So no, fuck that shit! 😛

I’d finished Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, too, and I didn’t really feel like playing that on Hard mode. Buuuuut, the night before my trip, I found a game on the eShop that I’d never even heard of before: Project Mirai DX. It had a demo, so I gave it a try because “why the hell not, it’s free”. It went beyond my expectations and I friggin’ loved it, so I went ahead and bought it for the journey.

So, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, a game I’d been really looking forward to, and Project Mirai DX, a strange game I’d never even heard of. Which one have I been playing the most?

Sticker Star, of course!

Just kidding. Project Mirai. By a LONG shot. 😛

So… what is it, exactly? Well… it’s a rhythm game… mainly. 😛 It’s centred around Japanese “vocaloids”, which are… kinda difficult to explain. The best description I can think of is that they’re “virtual singers”; computerised “instruments” that can “sing” whatever you want, however you want. I don’t know much about them, but it appears Hatsune Miku is the “original” vocaloid, or at least Sega’s original vocaloid. It’s pretty amazing, actually; they’re effectively specialised text-to-speech engines, but they sound really, REALLY good. 😀 Japan seems to agree; Miku is apparently like a superstar over there, and she doesn’t even exist. I mean, she’s just a piece of software. 😛

The “core” of the game is the Rhythm Game. It’s fairly simplistic; you have a ring which follows a line automatically. Notes appear on the line, and all you need to do is hit the correct button when the circle lines up with the note. There are a few extra gimmicks thrown in to make things interesting, such as double lines, where you have to use the D-Pad to hit the notes on the other line, and long notes (which require you to release the button with good timing, too). Long notes can also be rainbow-coloured; in that case, you can spin the Circle Pad for bonus Mirai Points (the game’s currency). Also, you’ll come across strings of notes which are sat on a on a gold line. These are “SP Sequences”, and hitting all of the notes in the sequence with good accuracy scores you a bonus. Each song also has a “Tap Mode” note chart, where you have to use the touch screen to tap on the colour that matches the note, and Tap Mode also features slide notes, where you have to slide/flick the stylus in the given direction. Sure, the controls and mechanics may be fairly simplistic, but… somehow, I find it REALLY fun to play. 😀

Your accuracy is rated with a series of interestingly-selected descriptive words: Cool, Fine, Safe, Sad, Miss and Awful. “Awful” is especially interesting; it’s technically “Miss”, but it’s seemingly only there to rub in the fact that you didn’t even bother trying to hit the note and just let it sail past. 😛 Hitting a note with an accuracy below “Fine” breaks your combo, despite the fact that “Safe” sounds like it would keep your combo… safe. 😛 If you make it to the end without ever breaking your combo, you’ll get a Perfect. If you don’t do that, but manage to hit every SP Sequence, you get an SP All rating. Along with your score, you also get given a percentage; breaking certain percentage barriers increases your grade, from C to S+. The percentage will probably never reach 100%, unless you’re unrealistically good, or unless you’re playing Tap Mode, in which case, your final percentage can end up being quite… peculiar, like… like this one, for example:

Finder (Tap, Normal), 138,609, 101.81%

I think I can explain why you can get percentages like this, actually. The game drops you a hint after you play enough Tap Mode, telling you that you can get more points if you hit several slide notes in a row without removing the stylus from the screen. However, I’m pretty sure there’s a bug where if you tap a normal note before a slide note but don’t remove the stylus from the screen before you hit the slide note, it counts it as a 1-Chain, but it shouldn’t count a 1-Chain until you hit two slide notes in a row. This makes the game give you more points than it should, and if you do it enough times during a song, you can break 100%, sometimes even if you didn’t get a Cool rating on all your notes! Yay bugs! 😀

Since the game’s characters are all vocaloids, every song contains vocals sung by up to three of the seven vocaloids featured in the game. And holy SHIT I’ve just realised, you can switch the vocaloid(s) in some of the songs. 😛 There are quite a lot of songs, about 44, I think. Each of these songs has a Tap Mode and a Button Mode, so that’s 88 note charts… if you just play on Easy. 😛 If you include Normal and Hard difficulties, there’re a total of 264 note charts. Nice! 😀

Similar to DJ Max, Beatmania and DDR, each of the difficulty levels has a rating. Project Mirai uses a rating from 1-9, 1 being pretty easy and 9 being HOOOOOOOOLLY FUCK THIS IS CRAZY. There’re only a handful of songs with a rating of 9. First one I played was “Matryoshka” on Hard, which is 205BPM, and boosts up to 295 near the end. Second was “Invisible” on Hard, which is “only” 192BPM, but you often find two notes right next to each other, so I end up using the D-Pad for one of them. 😛 Further down the list, there’s Kimi no Taion at 220BPM, but that only feels like a 9 for a small part of the song. But personally, the most painful one has got to be “Gaikotsu Gakudan to Riria”. It’s 130BPM, but the rhythm is so crazy it plays like 260BPM, and it FREQUENTLY puts notes right next to each other and I failed it five times in a row when I first played it and I still can’t get an S+. 😛

About the difficulty range, though…? Actually, I lied. 😛 See, I wrote part of this post while I was still midway through the game, but now that I’ve cleared every song on at least one difficulty… the game told me that some songs contain Super Hard note charts, much to my disbelief. But oh yes, they do. Super Hard songs have a difficulty of “MAX”. And they are all completely psycho. Romeo and Cinderella on Hard (difficulty 7) has enough notes already (788 to be exact; I nearly exploded when I perfected it), but it has a Super Hard chart with EVEN MORE notes. Matryoshka has a Super Hard chart and it should really have a health warning on it. But Invisible? That also has a Super Hard chart, and it should be friggin’ illegal. I reckon I’m at my peak skill level, and I can’t even get an S on it. 😛 Strangely though, Gaikotsu Gakudan to Riria doesn’t have a Super Hard chart. Maybe that’s because it’s hard enough as it is. 😛 Anyway, songs with difficulty 9 or MAX all make me cry inside because I know I’ll never get a Perfect on them. 😛

That’s the core of the game. Thankfully. You see, the core is good. The rest of it is… pretty odd. 😛

When you start the game for the first time, you get to pick a “partner” out of six vocaloids, and a place to live. Hrmmm. After that, you’re treated to a two-page menu with all sorts of stuff in it. If you want to play the Rhythm Game, the core game, the game… you select the darkest, smallest option on the first screen: a piece of paper with “Rhythm Game” written on it stuck to the wall with a drawing pin. It’s like they don’t want you to do it, or something. 😛

IMAG0570

(Yes, that is a Dress-Up option you see there.)

When you complete songs, you get MP, Mirai Points. What can they be used for? Upgrades? Stuff for the Rhythm Game like maybe new note skins, new button sounds, that sort of thing? Nope. Hey, maybe you can buy some boosts or assists or something, kinda like DJ MAX? Nope, you buy those items with Play Coins, and the only slightly useful one is Do or Die (which gives you an instant Game Over if you break your combo (you also get double MP if you clear the song, but that’s just gravy)), although Role Model (which makes the note chart play itself perfectly, doesn’t count as clearing it, obviously) might be good if you can’t seem to get the timing on really hard songs down and you want a demonstration. No no, you use MP to buy furniture for your home which does nothing, outfits for your partner which do nothing (you can use them in the Rhythm Game but the default outfits match the theme of the song anyway), and food/drink to give to your partner, which is not only pointless, it’s also weird. I mean, when you give them cake, you watch them eating said cake for nearly a minute. Sorry, did I say watch? No, you staaaaaaare at them eating cake. And then you find out you can even take pictures of them doing this.

Miku SHORTACAKEY

Want some tea? LET ME TAKE A PICTURE OF YOU DRINKING IT

Miku TEA

It’s so creepy, it makes me laugh. But then you start to realise… it’s a Japanese game with cute anime girls in it. Of course it’s gonna have weird content like this. 😛

That picture taking function is available basically everywhere outside of the Rhythm Game. If you leave the game hanging for long enough in the home screen, your partner might do something other than walk around aimlessly, and you can take pictures of whatever it is they do. Look, here’s a picture of Miku sitting down in a strange way:

Miku Sitting WEIRDLY

Here’s a picture of her lying down on the floor to use her super-high-tech-transparent-tablet-of-the-future instead of sitting on the sofa I paid for:

Miku NOT USING THE SOFA

If you buy a fortune box and set it in your room, your partner uses it to get your “fortune” every day. Yes you can take a picture. Funny thing is…

Miku NO IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS

It’s not localised, and as much as I’d like to be able to understand Japanese, I don’t, so I have no idea what that means. From the way she’s smiling massively, I’m guessing it’s good. 😛 (UPDATE: I’ve learned that it says “daikichi”, meaning “great luck/fortune”. So yeah, it’s good. 🙂 )

Then there’s the ultimate picture. If you spend 100,000 MP on a plane ticket you can go to the Villa for a week. It’s no different from the standard houses, apart from being able to set every type of item. Oh, and the beach. If you give Miku a swimsuit and leave the game alone long enough, OOSH:

Miku OK THAT'S PERVERTED

Oh, Japan, you so predictable. 😛

You can also give MP to your partner. They seem to like you when you do this, especially if you give them the maximum amount. Yes you can still take pictures while they celebrate:

Miku YAY MONEY

They then use the MP on STUFF, keeping it in a log for you to perv over. 😛 They might buy room items or outfits on their own volition, or waste it on shit that does nothing apart from maybe giving you a chuckle when you read the log. You can’t actually take a picture of this cuz it’s on the bottom screen, so here’s a picture I took with my PHONE:

IMAG0571

I feel that the developers wanted to make some form of metagame, something for the player to come back to and chill with after playing some songs, but couldn’t really think of anything other than this. At least… that’s what I guessed several weeks ago when writing this post. But today, I booted up the game to see this:

IMAG0588

Yes. Seriously. My virtual girl was pissed off because I hadn’t played the game in about 3 days. I was asked to use the microphone and say “I’m sorry”, but this was my lunchtime at work, so I opted for the infinitely less embarrassing option of pressing a button labelled “I’m sorry…” about 50 times before she got over her period. 😛  I now feel that the developers wanted to make a romance simulation but weren’t really allowed to. 😛 Maybe the Eastern audience can see the point, but I can’t. This whole metagame might as well just not be there. 😛 Although… heh, well, maybe it does have a point in the West. It’s a bit of a laugh, a distraction, maybe even a welcome break for your 3DS’ buttons. 😛 It’s the kinda thing you might share for a laugh, on a blog, for example, saying “hurhurhur look how pervy and stupid this is, but actually it’s a really friggin’ good music game at its core”. 😀

As for the post title, that’s actually a line in the song “LOL -lots of laugh-“. The song has a fair amount of English in it, and this is funny to me because Miku sounds like a proper upper-class Japanese person who’s lived around the south of England for years but hasn’t lost her Japanese accent. 😀  The lyrics appear on the bottom screen so I had to use my phoneage for this one too:

IMAG0507

Yes, in Gallery mode you can do all sorts of pointless stuff like leave microscopic comments, which I think is shared through StreetPass. No idea, because I’ve only had one StreetPass hit for this game, and even that was surprising. 😛

That’s Project Mirai DX. Demo’s on the eShop. 🙂 If you’ve got a 3DS and like music games, I massively recommend it. Just ignore the metagame. Unless you’re… I dunno, Japanese, or something. 😛

“Oh, but wait, what about Paper Mario: Sticker Star?” Hmm, it’s… well, I wouldn’t recommend it, sadly. It’s super-disappointing. I got near the end of the second world and just haven’t had much of an urge to play it again. It’s really annoying, because I’ve loved all the Paper Mario games up until now. :/

The battle system is weird. It’s not an action RPG like Super Paper Mario; it’s gone back to a turn-based system, but there’s no levelling or badges or abilities or secondary party members or anything. To attack, you use stickers you find in the field, which have different effects. Sounds unique and interesting, but it just doesn’t work. The battle system is so watered down that you can’t manually choose your target, and sometimes you don’t have a sticker suitable for the situation. It’s okay if you get hit, though; the game is so goddamn easy that I eventually stopped bothering to carry stickers that recover HP. Oh, and normally you can only use one sticker per turn, but you can use up to three… if you pay coins to spin a friggin’ roulette and use epic timing to get three-of-a-kind. Yaaaaawn.

It’s not just the battle system. It’s the story, and the characters… and the dialogue. Those things are basically half the point of an RPG, and the old Paper Mario games nailed every one of them. The Thousand Year Door (my favourite Paper Mario game) contained all sorts of awesomeness. Hooktail, for example! She’s a dragon boss who you can weaken with a badge that makes the sound of a cricket (she hates crickets). Then, when she’s low on HP, she tries to bribe you with coins (more than you can actually carry, lel), a badge (Really Ultra Rare!) and her feet (no, seriously), and after all that, she suddenly eats the audience to regain HP. It’s so good! 😀 Oh, and the moment where a character suddenly breaks the fourth wall out of nowhere (YOU, IN FRONT OF THE TV!), and that bit near the start with the contact lens, and that part where you can get an instant Game Over by reading a diary. 😀 In Sticker Star? Pfft. Your helper character is boring and a bit irritating. And… well, because there’s so little story, that’s basically all I can think of. Maybe I haven’t played it enough to find some good dialogue, but that’s ridiculous. Meh, oh well, never mind. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros. is great so far, so at least Alphadream’s still got it. 😀

Man, the 3DS is so great. I’ve got Paper Jam to finish, along with Elite Beat Agents which someone at work recommended to me (he mainly recommended the original game, “Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!”, but Elite Beat Agents was wayyyyyyy easier to get hold of for a good price). There’s also Project X Zone 2, a tactical RPG which I’d never heard of but is apparently quite popular; I played a demo of it and found it pretty fun, so I might consider getting that too. But most importantly, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon finally lands over here in mid-February!! I really can’t wait to play that one! 😀

Right, enough shite from me. I’mma see if I can perfect Matryoshka on Hard. Heheheh, yeah right. 😛

UPDATE!!

WOW GG WORDPRESS, it actually just posted this in the PAST, in October 2015. I copied it and deleted the old one so it would show up that I posted it TODAY, not THREE MONTHS AGO. HERPADERPDERPDERP

And OH MY GOD THIS NEW CRAP EDITOR THINKS UNDERLINE IS AN ADVANCED OPTION

This swan song made my ears bleed.

Call me retarded (I am), but I have… practically a paranoia when it comes to buying games nowadays. 😛 I think it all began with Starbound, a game I decided to back because it looked amazing and the devs really looked like they knew what they were doing. It turned out to be a huge turd, flying wayyyyyyyy past its planned release date and still flying. “Stable” updates are released randomly (once every six months if you’re lucky), and the incompetent devs act like it’s no big deal, probably while rolling around in their money. I haven’t played it since the first patch which completely changed the damage system (the original system was so idiotic I couldn’t comprehend that someone actually thought of it). It’s especially embarrassing and frustrating because I got others to back it with me, so they got screwed as well. I also backed Carmageddon: Reincarnation, which looked really promising but turned out to be quite disappointing. It was funny, but idiotically easy even on hard, and it didn’t really introduce anything new. And then there was the optimization which… well, it sucked. Framerate starts out okay and slowly gets worse as you play. These games (mainly Starbound For The Recycle Bin) put me off Early Access so much that nowadays, I just say “Not Interested” to almost every single game in Early Access. One exception was Crypt of the Necrodancer, which was actually pretty good, but… they kinda ruined it in the last burst towards release. They added some random announcer voiceovers before boss battles and when unlocking characters, and they sounded completely idiotic. That, and the final area wasn’t really that interesting. It feels like they rushed it.

Sounds like I only hate Early Access, but it isn’t just that. There was Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, a game that just… didn’t really move me. The new oxygen mechanic was interesting and it was fun to jump around, boost and butt-stomp in low gravity, but the story made almost no sense, and it just threw so many horrendous jokes and references around. By the end of the game, it felt like they were so desperate to get laughs that it made me think the writers were total morons. 😛 The only reason I had fun with it is because I played it co-op, and although we finished it, we never really wanted to do the second playthrough. Also, there was Shadow Warrior, the new one. It was entertaining for a short while, but… it just completely lacked the charm of the original. That, and the map design was awful; sometimes I could barely figure out where I was supposed to go. Oh, and Bit Trip Runner 2. I picked that up again recently, but I can see why I stopped playing. I was expecting a rhythm game, but it’s not, it’s just… pfft. It’s like they only made it because they somehow got Charles Martinet (who most famously voices Mario and Luigi) to do some voicework for it. He sounds completely out of place, maybe even a bit bored. After hiring him, it feels like they didn’t have enough money left to make something interesting. 😛

But hey, on a positive note, Freedom Planet is the best platformer I’ve played in a hell of a long time. Probably the best platformer I’ve ever played, but that’s a pretty huge claim and I’d need to think long and hard before making it official. 😛

Anyway, now, the actual reason for the post! 😛 Metal Gear Solid V was released a few days ago and, predictably, pretty much everyone says it’s amazing. But thanks to my “paranoia”, I didn’t believe them for a second. I no longer listen to anyone’s opinion, because I’ve realised: there’s no point. Everyone contradicts each other and everyone forgives (or totally overlooks) different problems, usually without mentioning them. I read through the Steam reviews (the 5% of reviews that are actually reviews, not fucking anecdotes or unfunny jokes) and found one positive review said the AI was great. Two minutes later I find a negative review which completely nullifies both reviews’ validity by saying the AI is stupid. Didn’t take long for me to stop looking for other reviews. There’s hype, as well; people who get too excited for a game generally don’t notice how bad it is. I used to get affected like that. I mean, I was so excited for Spore way back, and when it came out, I said it was the greatest game I’d ever played. Lol? No it wasn’t. It was nowhere near. 😛 Most unique, yes, probably. Greatest? No, that crown is still held by Diablo II, and probably always will be.

Still, I’d always liked Metal Gear Solid (not Rising, Jesus Christ fuck no get the hell out). The original is legendary and MGS2 was really good, too. MGS3 wasn’t so great but the remastered version was seriously good, and it was all due to them fixing the biggest problem with the game: the friggin’ camera. 😛 I actually enjoyed Metal Gear Acid but I could understand why others wouldn’t. MGS Peace Walker was the best game on the PSP (just edging out Patapon 3), and I hate the fact I could never play MGS4 because it was on a console I think totally sucked. A pretty damn good history then, eh? Why not give them a shot and just go for it?

Hahahaha! What, you think I’m going to throw away £35 on a game I’ve never played? £35 on a game that offers no demo? No! Fuck that shit. Not these days. I don’t care how good the previous games have been or who developed the game in question, my trust in developers is totally shot nowadays. Take Metal Gear Rising. That hateful game was made by largely the same people that made God Hand, a totally awesome game of the same genre. 😛 I have to try a game before I buy it. Videos, reviews, whatever, nothing helps. The only way to know if I’ll enjoy something is by trying it.

Usually, my first port of call is the game demo. If there isn’t one, if possible, I torrent the game. If I enjoy it, I delete the pirated version and buy a legit copy right away. If I don’t enjoy it, I delete the pirated version and forget all about it. The only person that can possibly lose out is me, by wasting my time. 😛 Sadly, heh… Metal Gear Solid V is protected with an apparently very tricky anti-crack technology, meaning a crack will take quite a while to develop.

So, I’m out of options, right? Well… not really.

Steam now allows refunds within 14 days of purchase for any reason if you buy a game directly through Steam and play it for less than two hours. I was originally planning to avoid buying directly through Steam because for some retarded reason, this specific game costs £11 more. So, my plan was to buy the game through Steam, make absolutely sure I didn’t play it for more than two hours, and refund it immediately afterwards, regardless of whether I liked it or not. If I liked it, I would repurchase it from somewhere else for £11 less. 😛

So, the plan began. It hurt my common sense when I hit the purchase button but I shrugged it off knowing it wasn’t actually going to cost anything. 😛 As the game downloaded, I set up PlayClaw to overlay a timer on top of the game so I knew exactly how much time I had used, and also recorded the game footage with it. I’m going to talk through my experience with some screenshots from the video. 🙂

Note that this spoils pretty much most of the first two hours, so you’ll wanna skip it if you’re planning on buying the game and want to experience it yourself. HERE WE GO, YA SPANNER!

(First time using a WordPress gallery. It kinda sucks as expected, so here’s some instructions. 😛 Click on an image for the full gallery view. You can scroll through the gallery with the arrows. To exit the gallery click the tiny X button in the top-left corner. Why is it in the top left corner? Cuz WordPress sucks. 😛 )

And that’s that. A 65-minute-long cutscene with five instances of deus ex machina, followed by barely enough time to get used to anything. Ten minutes of the cutscene were interesting because they had a point and explained what had happened to Snake. The remaining 55 minutes consisted of Snake running away and repeatedly getting blown up by a firey man. And then, from what little gameplay I managed to experience, it felt watered down and dull. Looking back, it feels as if it was trying to make itself seem really complex when in fact it… wasn’t. I mean, I was going so slowly, trying to be stealthy when I could’ve just… popped them all in the head real quick. The overload of information just made it seem really difficult. But above all else, it didn’t feel like a Metal Gear game. At all. Hideo said that Metal Gear was a game about running away, hiding and avoiding conflict, but in this, I don’t feel like I need to, or even want to. There’s no life and no stamina. Camo Index is gone. You can get serious wounds like in MGS3 but healing them is way easier. All you do is get into cover… ah wait, heh, the cover system’s broken. 😛

Oh, there’s one other thing. It doesn’t really affect the game, but it’s still pretty major. Wanna take a guess at how many lines Snake, Big Boss, the main protagonist of Metal Gear said in those two hours? Three. Three. They were (vaguely) “What happened?”, “Who the hell are you?” and “Afghanistan?”. Not kidding. Oh, and he’s no longer voiced by David Hayter, the one who voiced Snake in every game previously and basically shares Solid Snake’s real name. He’s now voiced by… er… oh, I can’t friggin’ remember. I actually can’t. He’s supposed to be famous, I think. Maybe he’s so famous they couldn’t actually afford more than one line per 40 minutes. 😛

Soooo… would I recommend it? I’d say no, not right now… but… this is the annoying thing. I can’t possibly come to a definite conclusion. This is clearly a huge game, and I don’t think two hours was enough time to fully evaluate it, especially since most of it was a cutscene. Maybe it gets better. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know. I can tell you one thing, though: no way is it worth £46. Other games that cost a quarter of that managed to entertain me within the first 15 minutes, yet this failed after two hours. If it takes that long to get going, like hell is it worth £11 more than the standard PC game retail price. You can get it cheaper elsewhere, but keep in mind that if you do, you don’t get the ability to refund it on Steam.

For now, I’m going to forget about it, and just wait patiently for a crack. If one ever does appear, I’ll give it another try to see when, or if, the game hits its stride. And I’ll let you know. 🙂

Of course, you shouldn’t really listen to me. My opinion is probably different to yours. 😛

UPDATE!!

That anti-crack tech bought Konami about a week. MGSV has already been cracked. 😛 Thanks 3DMGAME. Now I can evaluate the game properly before what I consider a major purchase, cuz for some people, £40 is pretty expensive for a game, especially if it has a risk of being dog shit. 😛

I skipped the prologue because there’s currently a problem with the crack where the game simply hangs about 70% of the way through the prologue. Besides, I’ve played it already and it was shit. 😛 I continued from the start of the first chapter, and played through for 4 hours, completing a bunch of missions and a Side Op. So, what do I think now?

…eh. Just… eh.

So yes, it’s an improvement from “I think it’s a bit shit but I’m not sure”. But not really a big improvement. My main gripe is… that it just doesn’t feel like Metal Gear. It just… it doesn’t have that same feel. There’s some tension, but it’s not as strong. You feel powerful, and the only reason I didn’t just start shooting everything is because there’s a 10,000 point bonus if you don’t. And it’s super-serious almost all the time. The only time it isn’t is when you try to shoot Ocelot in the face with tranquilisers or punch your staff members. Oh, and the first time you use the Fulton Recovery device, but I was pretty much used to that because of Peace Walker. I mean, even Metal Gear Solid 3 started with a joke that trolled players who hated Raiden, and you soon started finding plastic frogs that you could shoot (which unlocked a game-breaking item if you shot them all). 😛 Even the characters sound… wrong. Apart from Kaz, he sounds fine, because his voice actor is the same guy. But Snake doesn’t sound anything like Snake, and Ocelot doesn’t sound anything like Ocelot. When they’ve had the same voice in every game I’ve played, and then they suddenly CHANGE… I dunno why, but it kinda breaks the experience a bit.

The open world setting ruins a lot, though. Enemies are sometimes around where you don’t expect them, and they end up seeing you before you can react. I’d gone through an entire mission without being seen, and made a stylish exit by nicking a car. Felt cool! I was just about to get out of the hotzone and complete the mission totally unseen when I passed by a guard post I barely noticed and got seen, which damaged my mission score and just pissed me off. That’s a problem as well, the rating system. In a game like Geometry Wars 3 where the aim is to get as many points as you can, it’s perfect. I didn’t actually mind it in Peace Walker, mainly because the missions were fairly short, so I never really paid attention to my rating. In MGSV, missions can last about half an hour, so… that’s a large amount of time required to fix a one second sort-of-mistake. Another one was similar: 26 minutes of perfect stealth ruined by a single second where a freak patrol sees me as I was running away on my horse. Bad luck = -11,000 points! Rank B! 26 minutes of wasted time! Too bad! Fuck off…

Escaping enemies is super-easy when it’s a free-roam world as well. Never feels like you’re being chased. And because missions have “mission areas” (and you lose if you move outside the area for too long), it clearly didn’t have to be free-roam. And the open world setting makes you wait for longer as well. Gotta wait for extraction, gotta get far away from the base to finish a mission, gotta wait for supply drops, gotta wait for the chopper to take off… all of this artificially extends the gameplay. There aren’t really any indoor areas, either. And the whole world is just… boring and samey.

I dunno. The whole thing just feels more like Call of Duty or Gears of War, or Battlefield, or some weird amalgamation of the three, not like Metal Gear. I mean, I’d say there’s a lot of gameplay in it. Some rough estimates suggest you’ll probably get about 40 hours out of the main missions, 80 hours if you go for all the mission goals and Side-Ops, and maybe even more if you go on a super-dull collection spree for 100% completion. But will you have enough fun to hit any of those three goals? Sheesh, I dunno. Maybe not. If the game kept up the way it was going, I’d probably end up just doing the main missions and about… half the Side-Ops? Maybe not even that. I mean, the core thing that was bugging me is that this feels like a generic war game with a bit of stealth, not Metal Gear. Hell… no. No, the main problem is that the game is just… average. It’s one of these friggin’ games that is so average that I’d probably have to play about half the game to make a decision. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Skate 3, Batman: Arkham Origins, Saints Row IV… all of these were the same deal. Couldn’t decide until the moment the game’s averageness started to bore me.

So, again… would I recommend it? £46, fuck no. £40, no. £35, sort of maybe, if you’re a fanboy? £30, eh, yeah, might be worth that if gameplay videos and stuff make you interested. £25, hmm, yeah, I’d probably pay that. £20, yes, even if it’s just a timekiller you don’t finish, it’s worth that. If it was less than that I’d probably buy it now. Yeah, go ahead, call me cheap, but the game hasn’t moved me yet. I don’t know how long it’ll take before it does. 😛

Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention this: I heard from several sources that the final mission was cut from the game, so the game has no ending. I feel that spending money on an unfinished-yet-released product is like backing an Early Access game, which is why I can’t bring myself to buy it until someone confirms this is a lie. 😛

FINALLY, they got this monster right.

Well, I’ve had a 3DS for a couple months now. Not regretting it even slightly. Even if I’d bought it for full price I wouldn’t be regretting it. 🙂 It’s so nice to have a portable console with more than 4 games on it. 😛

I got a few extra games since I last posted. The first one was Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity. I bought that because of Explorers of Sky, its predecessor, that I played on an emulator. Twice over! I quite liked the gameplay; it was a pretty simple dungeon crawler, but occasionally, it got quite brutal, and you had to stop and think about what you were gonna do next or you’d get hammered. It almost felt like a roguelike at times. Almost. 😛 Its strongest point by far was its story, though. Explorers of Sky had such a great story and such good characters that I can’t actually think of a game that surpasses it. It’s almost embarassing to admit that, and I feel like there has to be a game with a better storyline or better characters, but I don’t know why I can’t think of it. 😛

The new one, Gates to Infinity, didn’t disappoint either. The gameplay is almost the same, but a bit easier; they disabled the hunger system in all dungeons apart from the uber 99-floor endgame dungeons, they removed lookalike items (dangerous items that had very similar names to helpful items, eg: Oran Berries heal you, whereas Oren Berries cause damage), and Monster Houses (random rooms that contain more items inside than usual might turn out to be almost completely rammed with enemies) seem less frequent since I managed to get through more than half the game before I stumbled upon my first one. I mean, I only wiped out twice throughout the whole storyline, and one of those was due to insanely bad luck; an enemy used Peck which steals and uses a random item if it hits, and it just so happened to pick a Blast Seed I had lying around in there which does big damage to anyone in front of the item user. 😛 But despite the lower challenge, the story and characters were the highlights once again. I just found the characters so great that I actually ended up caring what happened to them. And okay, I’ll say it; I was that close to losing it at the end of the main story. 😛  Why? Why can this spin-off do it and pretty much no other game can?! I mean, even my most favouritest game of all time, Diablo II… the story was goodish, and some of the characters were good but I never really cared about them. It’s weird, especially when you consider I don’t actually like the vast majority of Pokémon, so it’s nothing to do with the fact that they were Pokémon or anything. I guess the Japanese are just better at making heartfelt stuff. 😛 The game time in Gates to Infinity was a little shorter than Explorers of Sky; I clocked 50 hours on the storyline compared to EoS’s 61 hours, but that’s not exactly something to snort at, especially when EoS has a much longer secondary storyline. I really hope they make another Mystery Dungeon, but judging by the sales and general reception of GtI (even in Japan), that really doesn’t look likely. Interest in it looks like it just divebombed from Explorers of Sky. 😦 No idea why, I mean, Victini could sell it on his own:

V-WHEEEEEEEEEEEL!!

I also got Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies. It took me friggin’ ages to realise it was a download-only title. 😛 I was a bit wary of it for some reason, but it turned out to be really fun as usual; completely ridiculously convoluted cases, over-exaggerated speech, a guy who is allowed to throw shurikens at you in a courtroom, the same overworked judge presiding just like almost every previous case, it pretty much has it all. 😛 Although, I dunno if it was just me, but it felt like there was much less interaction this time. Like… there was much more reading and less actual thinking and cross-examination than usual. And the end of the final case was kinda strange and felt kinda unfulfilling. That, and I never really got stuck. Made some mistakes, but I never got stuck like I did with some of the previous games. Still, I reckon it was pretty good. Lasted quite a while, too. 🙂 The one thing that pissed me off about it the most, though? The sheer. Amount. Of spelling errors. I cringed the first time I noticed one. “Nggggggg, a spelling error in a visual novel?! Noooohohohooooo, that’s bad.” But then they just kept appearing again and again. And again. It eventually went beyond human error and beyond a joke. It was just flat-out careless. I started taking pictures after the fourth mistake; here’s a few samples:

The truth will always WIN*...You cannot POSSIBLY* overturn my claims...In which WE* live...To OVERLOOK* critical symptoms...

Since I have about 15 more, I’ll just leave it there before I post way too many. 😛

Despite the immense spelling errors in that one game, I have no regret for buying the console. But that’s just because of the games, not because the system is any good. The 3DS itself is pretty average. Well, no, I’d say below average, actually. There are a bunch of issues that just annoy me. Take the ergonomics. I’ve already mentioned how uncomfortable the system is to hold before, but it’s really annoying now. If you’re not playing an action game, it’s fine. However, if you are, you tend to grip the console a bit harder than normal, and it starts to hurt pretty quickly. This brick of a console presses into the bottom right of my right palm really firmly, and the bottom left of my left palm too. Whatever you call those locations. 😛 After it presses too much, it gets quite uncomfortable. :/

Another annoying thing is the 3D effect. I’ve gotten used to it enough now that I can have it on max. But eventually, I noticed something was wrong. Certain objects, usually objects that stand out amongst their surroundings, seem to appear appear “ghosted” quite strongly to the left and right. At first I thought it was my eyes, and tried turning down the effect. Then, after noticing the issue on the setting I used to use, I started to think it was a calibration issue. I’ve recalibrated about 4 times and messed with the manual calibration (whatever that’s supposed to do) to no avail, so it can only be the crappiness of the effect itself. I still like the effect and think it makes a pretty significant difference, but this ghosting issue ruins it almost completely. Faulty device, maybe? I doubt that; it seems like this kinda thing would be a software bug.

Other gripes include the stupidly low pixel density yet significant frame drop when using the 3D effect which, in combination, demonstrates the device’s idiotically low power. And despite this low power, the battery life is fairly short, meaning that the battery is probably cheap and low-capacity. Nintendo can’t seem to let go of the past, either. In this age where it’s common for a 6-year-old kid to know what kilobytes and megabytes are, Nintendo still insists on using blocks as a unit of measurement. Fucking blocks! What the hell is a block?! The last non-Nintendo console I know of that used blocks as a unit of measurement was the Xbox, and I’m pretty sure even they don’t know why they used it. I mean, Sony had already dropped it and switched to KB after the PS1! One other thing? Nintendo sucks at the Internet. I mentioned in a previous post that you can only save three sets of wireless access point information, which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. But the amount of time it takes to connect to various online things is amazing. No, I can assure you it’s not my connection. 😛 Connecting to the server to browse DLC for a single game takes about 40 seconds, which isn’t much less than the amount of time it takes to open the entire eShop! Oh, and about the eShop? It can either download one file at a time while the console is open as long as it’s not interrupted, or it can queue a bunch of stuff to download, but only if the console is put into sleep mode! What the hell? Why can’t it download while I’m doing something else with the system?! Christ. Even the new C-Stick is pretty shoddy. It’s weird and completely devoid of feeling, and because it’s so small, it has a microscopic range.

Hah, YES. Finally. Been waiting to find the right place to mention the C-Stick for ages. 😛 Since I’ve mentioned the C-Stick, that means I’ve got a game where I’ve been able to use it, and that game was supposed to be the focus of this entry but I DO THIS ALL THE TIME SOMETIMES. 😛

This game has pretty much been my nemesis ever since I played it way back when. The reason why it’s my nemesis isn’t really because of the gameplay or challenge or because the game was crap. It’s because it’s the only game I seriously wanted to like, that I couldn’t like. It had an awesome concept, but it’s like they made the game without thinking about anything important at all. It was a great game hidden behind layers and layers of artificial challenge, a terrible learning curve, stupid choices and tons of catch-22s.

Monster Hunter.

Fuck you Kut-Ku. And fuck you Kushala Daora. 😛

So from my words, obviously, my experience with Monster Hunter has been pretty rocky. The first one I played was the original on the PS2, but I can’t remember it that much. All I remember is that I gave it a try out of curiosity, but it pounded me into the ground somehow and I gave up. Some time later, after I managed to get custom firmware installed on my PSP, I thought I’d try out Monster Hunter Freedom 2, which I’ve actually posted about a couple of times before. I went through the tutorial quests and did pretty well, and started to think they’d greatly improved their game’s difficulty curve from the original. Nope. 😛 After I left the tutorials and started on the quests, I immediately noticed something. The weapons provided in the tutorial were different from the ones you start with. “Different” as in “WAY more powerful”. I had serious problems with the Velocidrome, which is a… well, guess. It’s a velociraptor. 😛 Wait, was it the Velocidrome? Nonono, it was a Giadrome; that’s it. Although it’s pretty much the same thing, just a texture swap and possibly different spit. 😛 Anyway, it’s the first large monster. It took me 20 minutes to beat it. And no, I didn’t complete it first time.

I didn’t really understand why I was having such a hard time. I mean, it was the first quest. I didn’t have the materials to upgrade my weapons or craft any armour. Eventually, I made some headway by switching to the Light Bowgun and suddenly ended up destroying the Giadrome. I start riding the wave, clearing quest after quest, but then all of a sudden, the Yian Kut-Ku turns up and wipes me out. It’s the first wyvern you come across, a quite-scrawny-definitely-looks-kinda-like-a-chicken wyvern, but a wyvern nonetheless. 😛 It nuked me. Absolutely nuked me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t beat it. Because you don’t know exactly how much health your target has left, I was convinced the AI was cheating by switching areas and recovering most of its health when I wasn’t looking. This was the monster that made me give up.

It wasn’t just the Kut-Ku. It was that absolute spastic learning curve that gets you used to the power of weapons you don’t own before suddenly dropping you against the same monsters with dramatically weaker weapons at your disposal. There was the complete inaccessibility of multiplayer, too. To play with your friends, or anyone, you need to be in the same room at the same time, which isn’t really possible when you live so far away from each other. Not many of my friends owned a PSP, and none of them really seemed interested in Monster Hunter anyway, but I reckon it would’ve been way easier with a team-mate, even some other random nooblet like me. 😛 I believed that having two targets would make the AI lose the plot completely. 😛  My biggest problem with the game, though? The controls. On the PSP, they didn’t make any sense at all. There’s no lock-on, and I can’t really see why not, because lock-on eliminates the “camera wrangling” layer of Fake Difficulty; making the camera impossible to control makes the game more difficult for no good reason. In Monster Hunter, you can make the camera look in the direction your character is facing by tapping L, but if you wanted to move the camera to look at the monster you’re targeting, well, the camera controls are bound to the d-pad. Which, on the PSP, is above the analog stick. So to control your character and move the camera at the same time while still having access to the rest of the controls, you needed 2 left hands. -.-

Or, well… so it seemed. But I’ll get onto that in a bit. 😉

About a year after dropping Monster Hunter Freedom 2, I was playing Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker when I discovered to my complete surprise that it contained secret missions based on Monster Hunter. 😀 After I made Snake cook a Well-Done Ration and shoot a Rathalos about 30 times in the face with a rocket launcher, I thought I’d give Monster Hunter yet another chance. Why? I dunno. MGS Peace Walker may have had Monster Hunter missions but it played completely differently and I only just hesitate to say that I reckon it was the best PSP game ever (I only just hesitate because Patapon 3 was also immense 😀 ). I mean, I found it possible to use the camera while moving for one thing. 😛

MHFU annoyed me when I started it up because it looked exactly like MHF2. 😛 It turned out that it was an expanded version of MHF2, meaning it was exactly the same apart from at least two things: G-Rank endgame quests against stupid monsters no-one in reality could ever kill short of using many many anti-tank missiles and/or a nuke, and when playing solo, a Felyne companion (they’re epic anthropomorphic kitties 😀 ) who was completely useless at dealing damage but amazing at taking hits by distracting stuff away from me. 😛 But no, soon, I noticed something else. I cleared most of the quests to the end of 2* and only fainted twice. One of those faints was “uber-cheap”, as I explain here:

Fighting Velociprey, took two of them out. As I was gathering from them, the camera screwed up and got stuck near the wall, and the sound of the Felyne throwing bombs at the other Velociprey drowned out the sound of Tigrex entering the area. I heard the danger music start, thought “What the fu…?”, spun my camera around, and saw Tigrex’s grill right up in my grill. He fired an ice blast, which knocked me down and took out a massive chunk of my health bar. Got up again… but the Random Number God said “you’re stunned”. Couldn’t do shit. Tigrex then bit my head off. Screwed by the gayness that is the RNG.

Yep. Sounds pretty cheap. 😛 But despite this… I was doing alright. And it didn’t make any sense, since it was exactly the same game as MHF2. Either they had dropped the difficulty dramatically, or I had improved by not playing it for about a year. 😛 I kept piledriving through the quests all the way up to 4*, and ended up switching to the Long Sword midway through. I also ended up mastering a technique I later found out to be called “the claw”, allowing you to both move and control the camera. Basically, while you have your thumb on the analog stick, you bend your index finger back and curl it forward like a claw. This is generally incredibly uncomfortable, but it places your index finger on the d-pad, so you can control the camera. 😀 Hell, I was doing so good, I even ended up making a complete mockery of my old rival, the Yian Kut-Ku, by accidentally killing one with a kick. 😛

But then, just as I thought I was really “getting” it, SPLAAAT! I ran into a difficulty cliff.

There were two quests that stopped me from breaking past 4*. One was to beat a White Monoblos, which is a sort-of-wyvern that frequently burrows underground and just moves around aimlessly with its fin poking out of the sand, and there’s no point in running after it because it can move about three times faster than you. The standard Monoblos took 25 minutes for me to beat, and apart from rendering the quest as cleared, it was actually detrimental because I used a lot of items but didn’t get any materials I needed. The other one that stopped me? Kushala Daora, the first actual dragon you encounter. Er… “actual dragon” as in “not a wyvern”. Even though wyverns are dragons. Oh whatever, what I meant was that Kushala’s a Western dragon, not a wyvern like nigh on everything else in Monster Hunter. 😛

Kushala Daora was Fake Difficulty personified. Or… well, dragonified, if you prefer. 😛 He has a wind shield that makes you stumble if you go anywhere near him, making close combat insanely difficult. But since insanely difficult isn’t hard enough, he’s ultra-fast, and his scales are so hard that the very few attacks I managed to land using a weapon with green sharpness usually ended up bouncing. I couldn’t GET anything higher than green at the time! I didn’t actually understand what the game wanted me to do about it!

But wait, there’s more! I haven’t told you about the catch-22’s! Apparently, if you attack Kushala’s head and break his horns, the wind shield completely disappears. However, you can’t, because the wind shield knocks you back if you get too close! In the event you DO land a hit, it bounces, because the sharpness required to cause meaningful damage is higher than is available at that point in the game! Now, you can poison him to stop the wind shield temporarily, but I hit him with five poison throwing knives and nine poison smoke bombs and didn’t poison him once, so I’m pretty sure he’s IMMUNE to poison. The only way I can imagine beating him is by being a distraction while a team-mate with a bowgun/bow shoots the crap out of him.

I even tried looking for some kind of guide. Just a few hints on how to deal with the wind shield, what weapon and armour people recommend, how to go about attacking, any tell information, whatever. Best recommendations? Use a weapon made from unobtainable Rathalos materials, and a full set of armour made from unobtainable Tigrex materials. WHAT. THE FUCK. They were monsters that appeared in THE NEXT TIER UP, or maybe even higher! That made me feel like the game really was impossible, because they’d obviously had to hack that equipment into their game just to beat it. Either that, or I was playing some broken version of the game or something. What’s more, because Capcom are stupid as hell, you only unlock arena missions against specific monsters for practice and bonus materials until AFTER you beat the monster for the first time. DURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

I deleted it and swore I’d never play another game from the series. Monster Hunter 3 came and went, and I laughed at it because it came out on the Wii, an even less suitable console for it.

I’m crap at keeping my word, though. 😛

Ever since I got the 3DS, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has been breathing down my neck. I kept seeing it on the eShop store, kept seeing it in the recommended list on Amazon because it probably knew I had a 3DS, kept seeing it advertised by Amazon in the sidebar on Facebook because Facebook is fucking creepy and spies on my browsing habits, and I kept seeing it in newsletters from GAME and ShopTo. It was all over the place probably because it’s basically The Game That Sells The 3DS. 😛 I kept thinking “No, I’m not playing it. It’s screwed me over way too many times.”

I can’t remember when I did it or why, but I eventually buckled and downloaded the demo from the eShop. 😛 It was a pretty bespoke demo. The first thing it asked was whether you were new to Monster Hunter or not. The first time I played the demo, I said I was a beginner. That option makes you stronger than normal and gives you two missions, one to fight a Great Jaggi (a bigass dinosaur), and another to fight a Tetsucabra (a bigass frog but it’s quite a badass bigass frog 😛 ). I did them in order using the weapon I remember the most from MHFU; the Dual Blades. The fight with Great Jaggi showed off the new mounting system, and the fight with Tetsucabra showed off the insane vertically-inclined environments and your protagonist’s legs of steel. 😛 Great Jaggi was beaten in a blink and Tetsucabra wasn’t too hard either. So, I switched to experienced, and not at all to my surprise, a third mission appeared; one to take down Gore Magala, a completely badass black dragon who definitely hates you. 😛 I got him using the Dual Blades on my third try, which was way faster than I expected. I actually kinda enjoyed the demo, but I was still super-wary. I mean, you were given preset equipment and items. I wasn’t convinced that the equipment the demo gave you would be obtainable at that point in the real game. Still… Monster Hunter was back on my radar. I thought “Well, I’ll consider it if I find it cheap somewhere, but £35 is way too steep to take a chance on it.”

Guess what was on sale recently? 😛

I picked it up for £20 a couple weeks ago now. And I can barely believe how much I am BULLDOZING everything.

Seriously, I’m at the end of 4*, where I was blocked in MHFU. I’m about to fight the Gore Magala that I fought in the demo and I am completely confident that I’m gonna win. On my way here, I’ve fainted ONCE, and that was because I couldn’t fucking MOVE. It was during a mission where Gore Magala appears for the first time, shows off, and attacks your boat. Since the dragon takes about 60% of the space on the boat when he’s landed, there’s pretty much nowhere to move when he does. I got pinned against a corner underneath Magala while he did some attacks that I couldn’t really see as I desperately tried to run or roll THROUGH him somehow, and eventually I just gave up and let him drain my health. But that’s literally the only time I’ve fainted. What the hell? Have I just gotten better at games or something, or is MH4U just easier?

I think the main reason why is because I did some proper weapon tests and found a new favourite. I went through the majority of the weapon training, getting used to each of the weapons before entering the arena with a Great Jaggi, timing myself from that point. I logged 4 minutes 16 seconds with the familiar Dual Blades, and finally proved to myself that I’ve been wasting my time with that mediocre weapon all along by posting a time of 2 minutes 56 seconds with the Long Sword. Then something unexpected happened. I picked the Insect Glaive, one of the two new weapons. Without fully understanding what I was doing, I FLATTENED the Great Jaggi in 2 minutes 17 seconds. What. Thinking it was a fluke, I tried again. 1 MINUTE 53 SECONDS. Holy crap!

Understandably, the Insect Glaive became my new weapon of choice. This overpowered-as-hell I-can-do-literally-everything-except-block-but-why-would-you-waste-your-time-with-blocking weapon has nuked every single anything that’s gotten in my way so far. Was that my problem from the very beginning? I’d been using the wrong weapon? It must’ve been at least part of it. 😛

But anyway, now that I can actually play the game properly without being butt-raped by the weakest monsters in the game, I can progress through the game and attempt to enjoy it for once. And as for the biggest, most immense improvement MH4U has over the previous games aside from the more reasonable difficulty? Wanna know? Go on, guess.

It haaas… A NARRATIVE.

Top lel, yes! It actually has an additional sense of progression outside of the number of stars shown by the name of the quest. There’s a STORY. It only took them THIS many years to realise Monster Hunter didn’t have one despite the fact it’s a role playing game and could easily have had one from the very start. 😛

It’s not the best story in the world, but because it has one and it’s interesting enough, I want to know what happens next, and it’s cool to make the story unfold. “Hey mate fuck up this Gypceros because we need its stuff to make a boat!” Ooh, where’re we going? What’s the boat gonna look like? Ahh, I’m not gonna know until I help out the village by splattering this bigass Nerscylla first! OHHHH SNAP I’M ON A BOAT, take a good hard look at the motherfuckin’ boat, yeaaaaaaah! OH SHIT, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING OH GOD IT’S A DRAGON WITH AN EYE FOR CRAFTSMANSHIP AND IT HATES THE BOAT A 13-YEAR-OLD-GIRL DESIGNED, BOOOOSH SMASH WHAAAAM oh damn we barely made it to land. Gore Magala, I’m totally gonna smash your face for messing up my boat BIIOOOOTCH!

*ahem* Yep. So because of the things I madly wrote down in the previous paragraph (if it even qualifies as that) without re-reading them yet, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is actually a good game for once. 😛 It has a story, a unique vibe and good sense of humour, a camera that can be controlled properly, a deepish combat system with a large selection of weapons that feel unique, and a realistic difficulty curve. Finally, I can enjoy the game I’ve always wanted to enjoy.

Obviously, there are some flaws. The most obvious one is the weapon balance. I can’t believe that the Insect Glaive is that powerful. It’s overpowered. Hell, even the Charge Blade is overpowered, because I still don’t understand what I was doing with it when I managed to rank it second fastest at mullering a Great Jaggi on my second attempt. Hell, it was faster than the Long Sword which I know how to use already. I’m gonna have to go back through the weapon training at some point and post a list of my best times with each weapon.

Another flaw is their inability to teach new players properly. Going through the weapon “tutorials” feels like trying to cram for an exam; it gives you ALL of the information while the game is paused. You can’t move around while the dialogue appears in the corner and try out the weapon as he explains the controls. -.-  Also, some of the tutorial messages only appear when you do what the tutorial message teaches you. I ran off a ledge and was immediately interrupted by some dialogue that said that you can run off a ledge (or evade off a ledge if you have your weapon drawn) and attack for a mid-air attack that has a chance of knocking down monsters and opens up a mounting attempt. I’m pretty sure I could’ve figured that out for myself eventually. 😛 Thankfully, you mount your first monster automatically in a cutscene, so I learned how to do that before I did it for myself. However, it still felt like a cramming session, because the game was paused while it explained what buttons to press while mounted.

I don’t like this looming feeling of needing to grind for equipment, either. Well, I say “looming”, but it already happened, actually. I spent about 4 hours a day for the past three days trying to get TWO friggin’ materials I needed to complete a set of armour that I wanted before taking on Gore Magala. I needed two Gypceros Heads to trade for Basarios Scalps. Now, if this game made any sense at all, this would be no problem. I mean, you just kill two Gypceros and take their heads, right? Noooooo! You see, item drop chances and conditions are hidden from the eyes of normal players. After killing about 12 Gypceros and capturing another four without a single one dropping a Gypceros Head, I had to turn to the Internet where people somehow have this kind of information. You know what the drop chance of a Gypceros Head is when you carve its body? One percent! ONE!! Despite the fact that I can see its head riiiiiight there! Goddamn it, no fucking WONDER I never found one! It turned out that the best way to get one was to go for the much more realistic 30% chance when you break the crystal on its head and then complete the quest, because breaking its crystal means you can cut its head off, obviously. 😛 Anyway, this was kind of a good learning experience because I decided to try the Hammer after finding it does big damage to Gypceros when you hit it in the head but reduced damage everywhere else. I thought that would reduce the chance of accidentally killing the monster before breaking its crystal. After breaking one of their crystals but failing to kill either of them and almost running out of potions and antidotes after 25 minutes, I gave it up to recover my items, registering my first ever failed/abandoned quest in MH4U, and concluding that while the Hammer may have a massive damage value, it’s actually a steaming pile of shit and I will never touch it again outside of training. 😛

I got the two heads in four kills after switching back to the Insect Glaive and being more precise. 🙂 So, with this armour, I’m pretty much ready to kick Gore Magala’s badass tushie and bitchslap that “Ace Commander” after he says “WHOOOOAOOAOAOAOAAHHHAHHAHH”. 😛 If I do that, I’ll reach 5* for the first time. 😀

Well, fuck. 5000+ words. Sorry, I’ve written waaaaaaaay too much. I’ll shut the hell up now. 😛 But I’ll probably be back tomorrow at some point to update this monster of an entry to tell you about how I smooshed Gore Magala which will make it EVEN LOOOOOONGER! 😛