Cards Against Humanity: Food Pack Full Spoiler

27 11 2015

Of the three mini-expansions this month, the second is dedicated to food, of all things. Predictably its focus is not drilled down exclusively to edibles, but also to pop culture references that pertain to cooking shows, fad diets, and so on.

Of note is that this particular expansion arrives inside a literal box of food with a small packet of candy (?) inside along with the card pack. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the, er, LOVE that went into this thing:


The third expansion’s contents will be forthcoming; it will release sometime around late December. In the meantime, enjoy reading about these delicacies while you sob into your Hungry Man Frozen Dinner.


Cards Against Humanity: Fantasy Pack Full Spoiler

25 11 2015

Cards Against Humanity yearly mini-expansions are becoming a universal constant, right up there with death and taxes, but more fun. This time a trifecta of three expansion packs was made available simultaneously, the first of which is the Fantasy Pack. There is a good representation of source material from classic to modern, and while there are a lot of cards that are nothing more than regurgitations of tired cherished fantasy tropes, there are also some real winners that would even get a snort out of Elrond.


Training Journal of a Ganondorf Amiibo

22 09 2015

The Nintendo Amiibo figurines have special functionality within Smash Bros. which is that you can supposedly level up and “train” a CPU fighter that supposedly learns and adapts based on the opponents it fights. It is unclear whether Amiibos learn to utilize techniques used against them, learn to counter techniques used against them, have a built-in progression of techniques that they decide to use, or a combination of some/all of these factors. The hypothetical appeal is that each Amiibo can learn based on the opponents it fights and thus will have certain behaviors and tendencies such that 2 Amiibo figurines of the same character could fight differently based on what they have learned and assimilated.


My Playstyle:
Ganondorf’s appeal for me is his terrifying power and some of his primary strengths are hard-hitting attacks and very high zero-to-death potential (being able to kill the opponent quickly by landing key attacks even at low percentages). When I play as Ganondorf I am fairly aggressive, pressuring the opponent by trying to keep close to them, bullying them with low-recovery aerial attacks and above-average-range pokes, “scaring” the opponent to discourage them from using risky moves by punishing baited responses and anticipating manuevers, and being able to threaten a kill at virtually any percentage. Following the opponent off the stage when they are knocked off to fish for an instant-kill “disrespect” situation, typically with dair, is also a key component of my playstyle, both for its tremendous payoff potential and psychological damage to the opponent.

To train the Ganondorf Amiibo to be a brutal, effective fighter and to determine whether it will emulate elements of my style of play. To try and imprint certain “disrespect” techniques and playstyles on the Amiibo through cruelty and repetition.

Back-to-back 1v1 3-stock matches on battlefield, mirror matching as Ganondorf, playing as ruthlessly as possible. Played for 2.5 hours consecutively, leveling the Amiibo from 1 to 50 in one sitting and continuing to fight against it after level 50. Post level 50, played against Amiibo with different characters to give it exposure to different matchups.

Level 1-4
Pretty stupid. Does not defend or attack effectively.

Level 5-7
Noticing Amiibo is utilizing neutral A jab, ftilt, and dtilt often on offense and defense, like I do.

Level 12
Amiibo taunts when I accidentally die and it is idle on stage, which is a behavior I didn’t teach it (what an asshole).

Level 9-14
Noticing Amiibo is utilizing short hop nair, fair, and uair to approach and as a zoning tool, like I do.

Level 17
Noticing Amiibo is starting to air dodge to avoid getting spiked when it is off stage.

Level 22
Noticing Amiibo is incorporating bair and utilizing shorthop aerials effectively and often.

Level 24
Amiibo is using drop-off ledge uair, as well as edge guarding with dtilt and ftilt which are behaviors I haven’t utilized against it.

Level 30
Amiibo is starting to use down dodges to avoid predictable attack sequences up close and attempting to punish with grab or ftilt.

Level 34
Exchanging lengthy down-dodge/attack sequences on stage against Amiibo. Noticing occasionally trading hits with Amiibo due to doing the exact same thing at the exact same time.

Level 36
Amiibo scored a legitimate kill on me utilizing drop-off ledge uair.

Level 38
Amiibo’s attacks are starting to do noticeably more damage than normal. Fair did approximately 27% damage.

Level 42
Amiibo won a match against me with one stock intact. Noticing Amiibo is punishing me for missing a tech after landing forward B with dtilt, which is a behavior I didn’t show it.

Level 44
When Amiibo successfully kills me, it no longer taunts, and instead turns around and dashes towards the middle of the stage to wait for me to respawn, a behavior that very closely imitates my tendency.

Level 45
Noticed Amiibo is using Usmash frequently outside of its effective range to fish for rolls or approaches, like I do.

Level 46
Amiibo is doing insane damage with its attacks. Sweet spot fair did over 40% damage.

Level 47
Got 3-stocked by my own Amiibo.

Level 48
Amiibo killed me with dair spike when I was recovering for the first time, which was a behavior I was deliberately trying to teach it.

Level 50
Matches against Amiibo are difficult, I rarely win with more than one stock intact. Although the Amiibo plays the neutral game well with a similar playstyle to what I utilize, it still very rarely attempts to go off-stage to gimp or spike, which is a behavior I am trying to teach it by using on it constantly. Amiibo still frequently falls for easy spike setups.

Level 50+
I can not beat Amiibo with characters other than my main (Ganondorf) even on “first contact.” Amiibo is defeating me when I am using characters it’s never “seen” before, as well as giving me trouble even when using Ganondorf.

With the caveat that the Amiibo can supposedly learn and adapt after level 50 and 2.5 hours worth of fighting experience is a relatively small sample, it seemed like the Ganondorf Amiibo did in fact learn certain behaviors that it was shown. After attaining level 50, the Amiibo utilized attack sequences, tactics, and techniques that are very similar to mine while on stage in the “neutral” game. However the Amiibo still very rarely follows me off stage for a spike/gimp attempt which is the primary behavior I was attempting to teach to it.

I am impressed with what the Amiibo seems to have learned over the course of its evolution, but it is unknown whether it actually assimilated these aspects of my playstyle from repeated exposure or if those techniques are simply inherent to the way Ganondorf is played effectively, built into its “DNA” out of the box. The way my Amiibo moves and what moves it prefers on stage is positive evidence for its learning abilities, but its shyness in trying to intercept opponents’ recoveries is a point against.

As an aside, I am disappointed that Amiibos apparently get attack power increases at high levels even without “feeding” them equipment to modify their stats on purpose. I would prefer that the Amiibos utilized the same inherent properties of the normal character as-is and had purely skill-based progression rather than the artificial increase in effectiveness via an arbitrary power increase.

I am left intrigued as to the full capabilities and potential of the Amiibo and will continue to research…

E3 2015

18 06 2015

This year’s E3 was a great lead-up to some of the most anticipated titles of the year. With heavy-hitters like Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III just over the horizon, there was even more excitement to be had by the surfacing of some projects thought long-vanquished, most notably The Last Guardian, Shenmue III, and the remake of Final Fantasy VII. Here are my impressions from some of what I was able to see on the show floor.

Star Wars Battlefront (PS4)

I had been skeptical of the Battlefront series as being a simple reskin or rebranding of the perennial Battlefield franchise, but Star Wars Battlefront ended up being my favorite of the show and shattered my preconceptions. I was able to enjoy a play session in both the 20 vs. 20 multiplayer demonstration and also the 2-man cooperative challenge.

The real meat of the experience and the centerpiece of the game is the large-scale multiplayer battles in which one team represents the iconic factions of the Star Wars series; the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. In the demo level featured at EA’s main South Hall booth, an all out Imperial assault on a Rebel base on the icy tundra of Hoth was the scenario on deck in which the Rebels are trying to repel the advance of two massive AT-AT walkers that the Empire has deployed to destroy the power generators that supply the Rebel base. The asymmetric objectives and narrative setup add an element of investment and interesting gameplay differences for both sides right off the bat.

From the onset, the two factions launch towards each other in a massive infantry wave, frantically scanning the front lines for exposed targets, pushing towards boundaries in wide flanking maneuvers, and trying to gain advantageous positions amongst the rocky outcroppings and winding trenches scattered across the map. The gameplay is vastly simplified compared to other modern FPS games to focus on the core shooting and infantry tactics instead of inventory and resource management: Almost every piece of equipment that you utilize such as jetpacks, grenade launchers, and personal shields function on a cooldown timer rather than having a set amount of ammo, meaning that their usage focuses more on escalation and opportunity than trying to throw out as much of your gadgets and special weapons as possible per life. Another streamlined element of gameplay that helps keep the ground map less cluttered and more concisely focused on infantry vs. infantry is that there are no vehicles laying idly about that players have to try to capture and embark; instead acquiring a vehicle is a powerup that can be picked up around the map which players then use to “call in” an aerial fighter from off-screen, transitioning to the already-airborne fighter seamlessly (complete with a classic Star Wars-style screen wipe). Vehicles also dominate the game space to a much lesser degree, where the aerial dogfights feel like a distinctly separate space of the same conflict yet jointly contribute to the objective at hand.

The game looks marvelous and the performance was spotless. Seeing the massive scale of the armored AT-ATs as they lumber across the snow is awesome to behold and plays on the fond nostalgia of the classic franchise. There were many other great magic moments in the play session where myself or my neighboring players would lean over, eyes lit up with shameless giddiness and say such things as “dude I’m in a tie fighter” or “I just got torn up by Luke Skywalker.”

The cooperative offering featured a local split-screen challenge set in a craggy canyon of the arid Tatooine wilds. As a pair of stranded Rebel operatives, you and your partner must endure waves of incoming stormtroopers as you await reinforcement. You have to use the landscape to your advantage as the Imperium forces close in, and pick your shots especially when faced with a stalking AT-ST walker. Optional objectives provide bonus powerups such as a smart missile if you are willing to stick your neck out to recover them. The framerate/latency was noticeably lower than when playing at the multiplayer stations, likely due to the strain of rendering split-screen but still playable and gorgeous looking.

Street Fighter V (PS4)

A new chapter in the legendary fighting franchise is almost upon us and a playable build was available for the masses to sample on the show floor, both at the Sony and Capcom booth areas. The latest entry in the series feels both familiar and foreign at the same time, particularly in the core game system mechanics: Gone are the focus attacks and ultra moves from the predecessor Street Fighter IV, paving way for the new V-skill and V-gauge system. The familiar super meter remains at the bottom of the screen, but is subdivided into 3 cells as opposed to 4. Additionally there is the new red-tinged V-gauge that sits atop the super meter which is divided into segments as well, however the amount of segments and length of the V-gauge varies from character to character. The V-gauge fills up due to taking damage similar to the revenge meter in SFIV, and gives access to the V-reversal which is essentially an alpha-counter-esque move that you can use while blocking to escape pressure but also enables the character to activate their V-trigger when filled to maximum. Of note is also the presence of a visible stun gauge on screen below the health bars which serves to show the player when a character is about to enter a dizzy state from being hit too much in succession.

The V-trigger’s effect is different for each character and either enhances them in some way for the duration of its activation as the V-gauge slowly depletes or gives access to supplemental moves. For example, when M. Bison activates his V-trigger, it causes his various moves to gain evasive phasing properties but Nash’s V-trigger is actually a single-use move that allows him to
instantly teleport to a position on the screen for a sudden repositioning maneuver.

Additionally, each character has a unique V-skill that is used by pressing both medium attack buttons, and similarly has a different unique effect for each fighter. Ryu’s V-skill is reminiscent of Street Fighter III’s parry that can catch attacks and allow him to respond more quickly than blocking, while Chun Li’s V-skill is a short hop that launches her low off the ground and opens up more variation in her aerial approaches.

There were 6 warriors playable on the show floor, including fan-favorites Ryu, Chun Li, M. Bison, and Cammy. Returning from the Alpha series is the burly grappler Birdie and the enigmatic Nash, a character previously thought to be canonically dead but now returned as a partially-cybernetic vengeful revenant. Most of the classic characters’ gameplay is comfortable and largely unchanged, whereas others have had substantial revisions. M. Bison has lost the ability to use Psycho Crusher as a normal special move, but gains a few new tricks in his arsenal that unleash bursts and geysers of his signature purple energy. Nash now uses fireball-motion inputs to utilize his special moves rather than charge moves similar to Guile as he had in his previous appearances. Changes such as these are an exciting prospect for a long-running series and incites curiosity on what other characters we will see return and what new tricks they will have at their disposal.

Rainbow Six: Siege (Xbox One)

Of the innumerable entries into the staleing FPS genre, once in a while an outlier will appear that may just set the new precedent and turning point for the genre. Rainbow Six: Siege is a game that mixes some of the sensibilities of the older age of FPS combined with new fresh concepts that challenge modern conventions of shooters. The small 5 vs. 5 game along with the lack of instant respawns in a round create an incredibly tense experience where every subtle movement matters and careful play and tactics is favored over reckless charges. The other centerpiece of Rainbow Six: Siege is the destructable aspects of the level where holes and can be breached in most any wall to create sudden openings and routes to surprise and outmaneuver the enemy.

Rock Band 4 (Xbox One)

Having been a dedicated follower of the Rock Band franchise in the previous generation, Rock Band 4 was one of my must-see attractions for the show but it was ultimately the least exciting for me. I could scarcely tell that I wasn’t playing Rock Band 3 aside from the new track list, with the only apparent new gameplay offering being the ability for the guitar player to unleash freestyle solo riffs similar to the drum track. I was informed that equipment from the previous console generation should be compatible with the new incarnation, which is definitely a big plus, but it remains to be seen what else will incentivize players from coming back for another tour of the series.

Guitar Hero Live (Xbox One)

One of the originators of the popularity of the instrument-game genre returns featuring a new controller that has six fret buttons which are positioned in two rows of 3 rather than straight down the neck. Apart from the new hardware, Guitar Hero Live also features live action video recordings from the perspective of a guitarist at a real concert show which is a cool addition.

Xbox Elite Controller

While I didn’t actually play anything on the floor with the new hardware, I was able to handle the new peripheral and discuss some of its talking points with an exhibitor. The Xbox Elite Controller is a newly announced official controller for the Xbox One which for all intents and purposes functions like any other controller but has some really nice extras for a player who wants to customize their tool of the trade for enhanced performance and comfort. The additional features beyond the standard controller include magnetically swappable alternate dpad and analog sticks to change the height, bulk, and feel of the directional inputs, as well as toggles at the rear of the device that allow you to adjust the distance that the trigger buttons can be depressed. The most notable addition is the removable paddles that can be inserted into the rear of the controller that are customizable and can be programmed to emulate the function of the other buttons, so for example you could put your jump button on one of the paddles so that you would be able to access that button without taking your thumb off of the right analog stick which is typically used for aiming weapons. Despite its various useful additions, bells, and whistles, the $150 price point puts it into the territory of “would be nice to have” rather than “obvious purchase.”

Cuphead (PS4)

A visually striking game that resembles something straight out of the era of technicolor cartoons, Cuphead is an indie-produced side scrolling shoot-em-up with an unusual, head-turning aesthetic. Cuphead is playable solo or via local coop and will be making its way onto console and PC digital distribution channels soon.

Kill Strain (PS4)

A top-down isometric view team shooter with an interesting twist: There are actually 3 teams, two teams of human operatives and one team of “mutants” that begins with only two players. Each team has its own objective to win a match but the mutant team is able to infect other players and convert them to their team permanently. This interesting dynamic is a unique take on typical symmetric team shooters in that alignments can swap as the match progresses and there is a 3rd party threat at all times for each team.

Gang Beast (PS4)

A quaint but thoroughly entertaining 4-player brawler which is something like a bizarre version of Backyard Wrestling. The premise and controls are fairly simple; grapple and struggle with your opponents to try and toss them into hazards like giant fans and rock grinders on a variety of stages ranging from construction sites to industrial mills. Gang Beast has been available on Steam for a while now but is making its way to digital distribution on consoles.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4)

One of the headliners of the entire show, Uncharted 4 was not floor playable but there was a live demo that featured extended gameplay beyond what was shown during the Playstation press conference (which is worth a watch if you’ve not yet seen it). Uncharted 4 looks like a technical marvel with its graphic fidelity and smooth framerate, but its real appeal lies in the high-adrenaline moment-to-moment intensity within the gameplay sequences that makes it exhilarating just to watch, let alone play. If Uncharted 4 can pack that much excitement within a span of 5 minutes, I can barely imagine what the whole game must be like.

Even More SlamJams

8 10 2013

Well, it happened. I have now created 20 of these things.

What Does The Chuck Say? (Quad City DJs vs. Ylvis)

Shut Up Barkley, Slam On My Jam (Quad City DJs vs. Weebl)

Bust-A-Slam: Barkley-N’s Jam / Aozora no SlamJam (Quad City DJs vs. Hatsumi Morinaga / Enix)

A Thousand Slams (Quad City DJs vs. Vanessa Carlton)

Back from GDC ’10

18 03 2010

This was the first Game Developer Conference I have attended and I have to say that it was quite an experience! I was able to attend many interesting talks from the likes of Sid Meier, Wil Wright, and the Naughty Dog team, just to name a few. The speakers were very insightful and had a lot of great advice for both beginners and veterans alike for improving their technique in crafting games.

Also of interest was the career fair that had a multitude of companies and studios present. Many of them recommended or often insisted that applicants have an online portfolio or website.

I took them up on that, and here it is. Check back frequently for updates/new content!