Thursday, September 8, 2011

A new return to 3rd Strike part 1: Picking a main

There are two people who play 3rd Strike Online: those who played the game for years in arcades and those who didn’t. I fall into the latter because there were never any cabinets near where I grew up. However, during my first 3 years at Cal State Long Beach, there was a cabinet of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.

But I could never get comfortable at the cabinet to pick a main. On the arcade cabinet, I always felt pressured to play quickly because I was playing on a quarter which was limited. 1 quarter will either carry me to the end of arcade mode, 3 matches against the CPU, or 3 CPU fights plus a human challenger. So I could never get comfortable with picking a character to thoroughly learn and understand.

Now I finally have the time to take my time and play an optimized version of 3rd Strike (as opposed to the Xbox original Street Fighter Anniversary Edition version which was plagued by framerate problems).
So who did I pick? Place your bets now and skip to the end!

1. Q – I loved watching Kuroda’s Q. It was a masterful display of parrying, mindgames, and footsies. While there’s already been many discussions on tiers (and there’s also the phrase “tires don exits” to live by), Q does lack some tools and have certain qualities that make it hard for me to play him.

Right away is that Q’s main special attack is a charge input. I’ve never been particularly good with charge characters. My only experience is SFIV’s Guile (who can zone all day) and Balrog (who is actually good). But Q is neither a zoner nor particularly good. The biggest problem to overcome as Q is that he only has one special cancellable normal: close forward kick (MK for those big on arcade notation).

This is kind of difficult to achieve as it is close MK. So anytime Q is further away, you’ll get far MK, which is not special cancellable. Q has a great character design and he’s extremely tough when you figure out his strategy to taunt 3 times in order to bring up his stamina but he’s too much for a newbie like me to pick up.

2. Alex – The supposed main character, Alex is popularly referred to as the other half of Hugo. He’s a faster grappler than Hugo with more flexible specials and normals but his command grabs suffer from fatally long startup animation. His SA1, Hyper Bomb, has an abnormal number of startup frames for a super grab. Essentially, instead of holding back to block when the super flash occurs, you only need to hold up to jump and avoid the grab.

After trying Alex, I couldn’t really get into him. SA1 (Hyper Bomb) and SA3 (Stun Gun Headbutt) can both be avoided unless used to punish mistakes. This all pretty much pigeon holes Alex into using SA2 (Boomerang Raid). Even then, Flash Chop can't be super cancelled but Slash Elbow can, but it's a charge input. Alex feels kind of restricted in terms of usable options.

3. Akuma – I've seen some pretty nifty stuff from Akuma in recent days. As a shoto character, his moveset is easy to understand if you've played any Street Fighter. He has a few interesting resets that would be pretty cool if applied correctly and your opponent sucks at parrying. There are still some hurdles though.

Some of Akuma's combos are awfully technical. By itself, maybe it doesn't sound all that daunting unless you remember we're of course talking about 3rd Strike, which in of itself is already fairly technical. Still, it's not like it's impossible. It's just that there are some things that aren't immediately appealing. Low stamina, low stun.

I'll need to practice more with Akuma to get any real results and he has too many tools that I can keep track of and many combos but for now, he doesn't click with me. Certainly interesting if I keep at it but I'm just not feeling compatible.

4. Hugo – LOL, maybe next time.

5. Makoto – In the past, with Street Fighter Anniversary Edition, I've played Dudley and Yang but could never get around to really meshing with their style. I decided to give Makoto a shot, who often times may be spotted nearby the other two in terms of rank and something just clicked for me about her.

One of my favorite things about Makoto are her normals. Not only does she have a lot of them which move her in different ways, but they're also really good.

Makoto also has access to an incredible dash. Combine that with some of her faster normals (like cr. Jab) and mix in Makoto's signature move, Karakusa, and you have some of the most fun I've had applying a rush down mentality in a long time.

Because of my weakness at technical ability, I was simply attracted to the power and priority of Makoto's incredible normals like HP, cr.HP, LK, cr.LP, and f.MP. Combined with the ability to trap your opponent with quick Hayate dash punches, Karakusas, and the sheer power of SA1 and SA2, Makoto just meshes well with how I wanted to play. She is fun for me to play and no amount of tier discussion has dissuaded me.

I've even gotten profecient at pulling off Karakusa and Abare Tosanami combos. I'm moving on up!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Recounting my four years at CSULB's gaming club

For a lot of people, having a social moment among friends with video games was probably an event. A single day or several days on the calendar that you probably looked forward to.

But for me, it was 4 whole years.

Enter college: 4 years where I was expected to earn a degree (in journalism). But just earning a degree would be madness. I'm not some machine that does nothing but work.

It all started very strangely as far as campus clubs go. Another night of anime club and one of my friends told me he was starting a gaming club. It sounded fun, so I said I wanted in.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A discussion about Catherine with my girlfriend

Duh! A discussion about Catherine? Some mild spoilers ahead!

When I started playing Catherine, I wanted to go at it with answers I felt were honest to me personally. In other words, if I were presented these situations and questions in real life, I would answer the same way. So of course, in the context of Catherine, all my decisions were made with the goal of staying faithful to my current girlfriend.

At first I found it hard to imagine seeing Catherine as anything other than a mysterious temptation. Particularly a temptation that challenges my values and morals. I thought my girlfriend would agree with me to stay with Katherine, Vincent's current girlfriend who wants him to settle down and grow up.

But that's not actually the case. Proving to me that I'm a man and not a woman, she actually gives me an argument as to why I should like her, even from the perspective of a female.

"She's so neutral in the whole message. She just lives life." my girlfriend said. "She's confident, she's carefree, she's forward, [and] she does what she wants without caring about the consequences. Like me"

Certainly at the end of the game, it's made clear that the meter that governs Vincent's state of mind isn't a gauge for black and white morality but rather something more along the lines of Mass Effect's renegade/paragon split. There's nothing really good about choosing the blue side of law and there's nothing really bad about the pink side of chaos. In the end the meter simply represents freedom and order and whether the player prefers life slow and steady or fast and exciting.

As Midnight Venus says, "There's really no right way to climb the tower." And by the end of the game, it's more or less agreeable that the tower represents Vincent's maturation as an adult, leaving behind his comfort zone on the ground floor, forced to make tough decisions in order to reach the top, all while realizing the answer that will ultimately be the reason why Vincent strives so much for the top in the first place.

Of course, it was still a plot that could have still very well killed our protagonist, but that's besides the point of this discussion.

Without delving too deeply on the mystery of just who Catherine is, it's obvious that she is the epitome of a young woman who lives by her feelings and nobody else's. So where does that leave Katherine?

Vincent's situation with Katherine was just a perfect storm of problems. She's feeling pressured by her circle of friends and family to settle down and marry someone which in turn puts the pressure on Vincent, all during a time when Catherine shows up to throw normal decision making out the window.

However, even though we see a lot of Katherine's bossiness contrasting Catherine's free spirit, Katherine does demonstrate that she genuinely cares about Vincent despite how much of a schmuck the game portrays him in the early stages. She texts him letting him know that she worries, she knows how much sugar he likes in his coffee, and she brings him cake! I really saw Katherine as just the adult world Vincent was hesitant to join, but she also represents stability as well. Something Vincent could use after weathering the storm of adulthood.

But my girlfriend doesn't really see it that way.

"I couldn't really sympathize with Katherine. You can't force a guy to date you. I think the relationship was foisted upon him and being the pushover he is, he didn't say anything. And the thought of him losing her was to him a form of leaving his comfort zone."

Of course, we both agree on the metaphor the wall represents, and despite our (well founded) criticism of Vincent as a character early on, we both acknowledge that he makes amazing progress as a person throughout his ordeal.


Between the two of us, it's obvious that the developers were successful in their portrayal of Vincent's  possible choices towards adulthood. There really is no right choice towards growing up. It's simply a matter of facing these obstacles head on rather then putting it off or running away from them. And it won't be easy, just like the metaphor of climbing the Tower of Babel. You'll have to scramble over huge blocks, pull heavy stone, avoid a variety of traps, and make many decisions you'll have to live with for the rest of your life.

Catherine really makes you think about how people grow into adults and it forces us to examine what it really means to be in a relationship. It's not as clear cut as being in a monogamous relationship with someone. And despite the zany premise of how it all works as a game, it really comes together to present you with a strong message at the end that few other games can commit to doing.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Brink tricks me back with the Agents of Change DLC

When Brink first landed, I was initially excited. After enjoying the crap out of Monday Night Combat, Brink threatened to swallow up the player base with it's promise of rewarding teamwork with clever class-based combat.

Needless to say, there was lag, and a lot of it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Diary of a YouTube Gaming Channel, or Screw All These Call of Duty Videos!

Never did I imagine that I'd learn and take an interest in rudimentary video editing. But this tale recounts my initial stance on YouTube, how I've seen channels like Machinima rise and games like Call of Duty swell, and my amateur breakthrough as a YouTube gaming channel and my growth in video editing.

Perhaps 5 or 10 years ago, I was satisfied with just searching for random videos off of YouTube's search bar. But sooner or later, you register for an account in order to keep track of your favorite channels. And thus was the first step to my strange journey through YouTube: subscribing to xcalizors' channel.

If you don't know xcal, he's most known for being particularly good at Call of Duty and being pretty entertaining while he records his gameplay. If you've ever played a CoD game, you would appreciate his shenanigans as he poked fun at bad spawns, clusterfuck maps, and spouted some catchy one-liners like, "Surprise bitch!" while mowing down noobs and reacting to bullshit moments from players and lag.

If I've piqued your interest on xcal, I recommend the video that got me onto his channel: I Hate My Team 4

My taste in subscriptions grew thanks to the boom of Call of Duty videos and commentary, thanks in no part by Machinima exposed me to channels and directors like Blametruth, SeaNanners, CaptainSparklez (formerly Pros Don't Talk Shit), Behrudy, TheSandyRavage, and AllShamNoWow. Many of these names have posted Call of Duty videos at some point. Lots of them went on to post a larger variety of things to their channels. Many Minecrafters should probably owe their discovery of 2010's indie darling to SeaNanners while Behrudy regularly stays on top of fighting games on his channel.

Sometime late in 2009, I wanted to get into the racket of posting videos of gameplay online and earning some internet fame. But alas, I lacked the equipment to do so. But I still started a channel thanks to many fighting games that year showing off the ability to save replays of your matches. My earliest uploads were off-screen recordings of replays from Super Street Fighter IV and Blazblue: Calamity Trigger with my MinoHD Flip camera, which was something I was inspired to buy after going through a day of video editing in my online media class in college. I also ocassionally uploaded junk food reviews to break the monotony of off-screen fighting games. But eventually I stopped feeling that the quality I was putting out was not worth the time it took to upload on a traditional home DSL connection.
During 2010, much of the regular videos I saw uploaded onto my subscriptions slowly veered away CoD and into more diverse titles. SeaNanners turned me onto Minecraft around this time while I also discovered a plentiful number of channels devoted to competitive fighting games like Frame Advantage Dot Com (cleverly shortened to FADC, which was focus attack dash cancel for Street Fighter IV) Option-Select, Level Up, and iPlaywinner. I also discovered many video game media sites like RoosterTeeth, InecomCompany, and IGNentertainment. I should probably also mentioned DTOID and I'd never forget EpicMealTime.

But with all this great content I'm consuming, I was getting antsy. Writing is my passion but I need another outlet besides words. Words can only get you so far when you want to be creative with your favorite medium in the world. Fortunately, Christmas was closing in and my family always honors Christmas wishes. So in December of 2010, I set my sights on what is probably game recording easy mode: a PVR, or a personal video recorder. And Hauppauge was pretty much the only way to go; a $150 piece of technology meant to make recording off a TV easy.

So near the end of December, I took the plunge and decided to celebrate my re-entrance to YouTube with a fun little indie game, Tempura of the Dead.

And thus my journey into YouTube begins proper.

By January and February, my videos are amateur works of just my voice layered over gameplay.

By the beginning of April, I've made uploads a regular part of my schedule and have at least one Let's Play and commentaries going up every week. I also developed relationships with fellow YouTubers from the Monday Night Combat community.

And by May, I stepped up to actually edit my videos for a bit of flair. Post-video select screens for YouTube annotations, sound effects, watermarks, background music, montages, and vlogs along with the occasional one off special called A Day With.

So far, I have 130 subscribers. Definitely more then my original 22 back in the day but a drop in the bucket compared to channels that have a partnership. In their first week, I'd be lucky to get 50 hits, but is it all worth it? I feel that everything I've taught myself isn't just for a comparatively small channel. All these videos are definitely worth something on a resume on top of all the writing and experience I've gathered.

If I can get a partnership, it'd be the coolest thing in the world. But that's not a sure thing. What is a sure thing is that the videos I've uploaded definitely show that I have a love of gaming and that I'm willing to work in order to create a quality piece of creative expression.

If there's one thing I've always described about my relationship towards my channel, it's that it is a 100% labor of love. And I hope to play and record and share more in the future much in the same way I do with my writing.