The Unofficial Alt+F1 Beginner's Guide to Formula 1! — HOW DO WATCH F1 BRO?

So, now that you’re all caught up… where do you watch F1?

Welp, I’m in Canada so I’ll try and speak best for everyone but if I’m missing an area that you are in, I’m sorry!

Are you in North America?

Sweet! Let’s ditch this place and get some burgers.

When we get back, you can tune into NBC Sports, which has full coverage of race weekends. I don’t watch it myself but I’ve heard their coverage is quite good! They even have practise sessions which is rad.

Are you in Canada?

Awesome, eh. Then you can tune into TSN or TSN 2 if you don’t get NBC Sports. I’ve never watched TSN but I hear their coverage is good. TSN will show most races and qualifying sessions, with practice sessions being shown on TSN 2.

Si tu as la mauvaise chance d’être en quelque-part au Québec, tu peut écouter la course sur RDS. Ils affichent les qualifications et la course en direct, mais je n’ai personellment jamais aimé leur présentation. Ils coupent aux annonces très souvent et le commentaire n’est pas très inspiré. Je conseillerais écouter un stream en-ligne ou le reportage de TSN si il est mieux. Préférence personelle, par contre! Il y en a qu'ils l'aiment beaucoup.

Are you in Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania?

Excellent! Then you can watch Formula 1 on Viasat Motor, a dedicated motorsports channel. (Thanks @olemarthin!)

Are you in France?

Magnifique! Vous pouvez écouter la F1 sur Canal+ et Canal+ Sport. (Thanks @jamesjeux007!)

Are you in Australia?

˙ǝʇısqǝʍ ɹıǝɥʇ uo ǝʌıן ɹo ʌʇ ɥbnoɹɥʇ TEN uo ʇɹods ǝɥʇ ɥɔʇɐʍ uɐɔ noʎ ¡ǝʇɐɯ 'ʇɐǝɹb s,ʇɐɥʇ (Thanks, @thompson820!)

Are you in the UK?

Then you have two options at your disposal: watch the races for free on the BBC or pay for Sky and watch it on Sky Sports F1.

Unfortunately, due to contractual stuff with Sky, BBC only shows certain races. You can find out which ones on their website. BBC’s coverage is excellent. The commentary is superb and the pre/post-race shows are terrific.

Personally, I watch Sky Sports’ coverage. The commentary by David Croft and Martin Brundle is on-point and engaging, as is pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz. The analysis provided on Sky is always top-tier and everyone on the Sky team is charismatic and fun. The pre-race commentary by Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, and Martin Brundle is always terrific. Their pre/post-shows are also quite good, though they lack the charm that the BBC has.

Are you in another country and can tell me what channel shows F1?

Chill! Then comment, tell me, and I’ll edit it in here!

Are you on the internet?

Then there are probably certain ways you can watch the race, either live or recorded, on it. You can figure that out, I’m sure. If you can obtain it by legal means, then please do.

~

Contents

4 Comments

My dumb Best of 2013 Albums list/blog/thing/whoop

BOY HAVE I BEEN ACTIVE RECENTLY

Sorry. I guess I’m making the same apology I do every time. I’ve been really busy on the count of getting a job in late June and being knee-deep in game development since. It’s astonishing how little free time you have when you’re one of five people trying to make a game!

Early next year I hope to post my Game of the Year… well, I won’t call it a list, because it isn’t one. I mean it is, but it isn’t. You’ll see. It’s awesome, but I need some time to work on it. Not like posting it NOW!!! is all that critical anyway.

In the mean time, I present to you a list of my favorite albums released this year. In January, I gave myself the goal of listening to 100 albums released within the year and I’ve managed to listen to 103. It’s… a lot of music. And that’s not even counting, like, stuff I listened to that wasn’t from this year. It’s a lot but it’s made me discover a ton of really awesome stuff that I’d like to share a part of. Hopefully you can discover something awesome from this, too!

Talking with a friend earlier in the year who was versed enough in Chinese pop music led me to being somewhat interested but never enough to actively seek out anything on my own. Not long after, Hebe Tien’s new album, Insignificance, showed up in the Recommendations area of the tracker I get my music from, so I decided to check out. Couldn’t hurt, and I wanted something new to listen to at the time. I was rather surprised, then, that my first jump into C-pop would end up being one of my favorite releases of the year.

My limited exposure to C-pop really shortens the amount of what I can say regarding Insignificance but despite it’s slow pace, it’s an album that has a great amount of variety in sound and in emotion. Hebe Tien’s echoing vocals in the title song gorgeously contrast against the eerie, mystical instrumentals backing her, flipping on a dime in the rock-heavy, harmonised vocals of “终身大事” without ever dropping the album’s actual pace.

Though I wish the album’s end was as strong as its start, Insignificance is still a beautiful album that establishes a mood worth getting engrossed in. I found it to be the perfect companion when drawing at work, letting Hebe Tien’s vocals blank out the world around me.

You can purchase Insignificance on iTunes here.

I am typically one to shy away from ballad albums because… well, they’re typically pretty boring. I haven’t really come across an artist that was able to carry an entire release in a genre that relies so heavily on its vocals over the production of the tracks themselves. Fortunately, @onimonkii pressured the shit out of me to listen to Younha’s Subsonic and while I don’t think my opinion on ballads has drastically changed, I found myself completely floored by how strong the album is.

Right out of the gate, Younha’s voice powers through the opening track and controls it perfectly to match the intensity and mood of the instrumentals backing her. Regardless of the song’s pace, like the upbeat “Subsonic” or the more relaxed “Home”, you can instantly connect with the song’s emotion and let yourself be carried by her voice.

The mini-album’s structure is worth admiring, too. The insanely fast turnaround of Korean music releases has kind of neutralised my appreciation of a properly composed and structured album but it’s present in Subsonic and that makes it so much more enjoyable. The powerfully crescendoing start of “시간을 믿었어” to the calm, composed end of “Home” is a wonderful journey, especially when it lets you upbeatedly catch your breath in the middle with “없어” and its amazing cameo from Eluphant.

Subsonic is a terrific album well worth listening to, even if you might not have a penchant for the slower stuff. Words do little justice to how strong Younha’s voice is and how terrific the instrumentals are.

You can purchase Subsonic on iTunes here.

I really, really wanted to set myself a rule of “no K-pop albums” in my top 10 list because while I really, really enjoy K-pop, I also know that the reasons why I enjoy it make it so that it doesn’t necessarily fit into a proper ‘Best of’ list. But whatever, it’s a personal list and you know what, f(x)’s Pink Tape is legitimately terrific. Instead of being a bunch of previously released singles repackaged into a full album, Pink Tape is a non-stop assault of new, terrific material from a group that desperately needed a strong release.

I’ve never been super into f(x)’s past releases because they’ve always been… well, pretty lacking. There was just that “spark” in them that I never felt and it made most of their singles fall flat to me. Like they didn’t have a distinct sound I could get into. Pink Tape has completely changed that, though. Its a barrage of groovy and punchy beats that rarely slows down and they last all the way to its end. The album instantly fires in every direction with the addictive “Rum Pum Pum Pum” as its start and only lets off the throttle a bit mid-way with “Goodbye Summer” for a ballad break, which even despite being a ballad, I completely love.

Personal highlights from the album are “Kick” and “Signal”, with my favorite being “Step” for how relentless it is in its pace and for how addictive its chorus is. It’s terrifying how often I’ll unknowingly say out loud “HEY, GET OUT THE WAY, PLEASE” in tandem when when listening to it. If anything, I feel like “Step” is the perfect example of why Pink Tape is such a great album. The vocals are terrific, the beat is unflinchingly catchy, and the instrumental track is unique and fun. The repeating horn is so bizarre when you hear it the first time but it’s impossible not to love it by the time the song’s over.

More importantly though, Step (like the rest of the album) has a sound. There’s a signature sound that I think f(x) has found in Pink Tape that it was completely lacking in any of their previous songs. The heavily electronic hip hop-paced beats, the groovy swings and pacing, and Amber-powered breakdowns define this album and make it the best K-pop release I’ve heard since T-ARA’s astonishing 2009 Absolute First Album.

Even if you’re averse to K-pop, or anything that isn’t in your own language, I encourage you to check it out if you like fun, catchy, and well produced music. I included Pink Tape not because I wanted a K-pop release on here, but because I legitimately believe it stands as one of the best musical releases of the year. In the company that it has on this list, I hope that stands to mean something.

You can purchase Pink Tape on iTunes here.

If there’s one name I feel like you should pay attention to, it’s Mat Zo. Apart from having my favorite Twitter account, he’s also the underrated genius behind last year’s “Easy” and his fucking brilliant Mat Zo Mix show that airs on Sirius XM. (Which you can listen to on his Soundcloud, where he uploads them for free.)

He’s released numerous singles and EPs through Anjunabeats that have always been very trance-heavy, so I admittedly got a little skeptical when I saw signs of Damage Control, his debut album, exploring different and more upbeat territory. Thankfully, my worries were immediately washed away when hearing the full album. Damage Control is terrific from start to finish and has some of the most high-quality production I’ve heard in electronic music.

Singles “The Sky” and “Easy”, older tracks of his, make their way onto the album but are buried amidst a panoply of new material that is as varied as it is great. The slow, head-nodding pace of “Only For You” is matched by the complex, bass-thumping, IDM-like composition of “Caller ID”. The clubby rhythm of “Pyramid Scheme” is also great fun, as its the throwback sound of “Lucid Dream”. Even interludes like “Little Damage” and “Moderate Stimulation” have a ton of impact despite their passive role in the album’s structure.

Mat Zo’s unique, open sound combined with his terrific synth work makes Damage Control a wonderful and enjoyable album. Behind his jokester, silly personality lies a musical genius. Damage Control is clearly just the beginning for him and I am dying to see what’s next.

You can purchase Damage Control on iTunes here.

I have a very love-hate relationship with Yasutaka Nakata, the production mind behind Capsule and pretty much every other electronic-pop act ever in Japan. I really felt like having his hands in so many different places (Perfume, MEG, and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, to name a few) has diluted his sound beyond rescue. As someone who greatly likes Capsule, his personal project, I was worried about the impending release of CAPS LOCK because what came before it has been a really uneven series of releases. STEREO WORXXX was alright, albeit very repetitive, and PLAYER and WORLD of FANTASY were both completely dreadful.

There’s nothing but sighs of relief on my end, thankfully. Not only is CAPS LOCK a great album, but it’s easily Yasutaka Nakata’s best work since Capsule’s 2007 album Sugarless GiRL. I’d be thrilled if the reason was because it was a good Capsule album but it’s even more than that. It’s an album that strays from the typical Capsule formula and replaces it instead with a personal approach to composition and structure, ditching predictable and punchy electro beats for avant-garde and experimental sounds.

CAPS LOCK might actually be a pretty divisive album for Capsule fans as it contains very little vocals from Toshiko Koshijima, a trait completely opposite to all other Capsule albums to date. Furthermore, Toshiko’s minor presence in the album is heavily edited and synthesized (more so than previous Capsule releases) providing a distinctly different sound than long-time fans might welcome. She’s been such an essential part of Capsule’s best songs and releases that I could easily see why a fan would oppose and dislike an album that features so little of her.

Personally though, I welcome it. Instead of saturating Toshiko’s vocals throughout the album like past releases, Yasutaka instead opted to carefully pace her voice across the album’s length, emphasizing them when necessary and removing them completely when useless. The end result is an album that is much more coherent, like it has a story to tell, instead of sounding like a disjointed collection of singles.

The cohesiveness of CAPS LOCK is also why I enjoy it so much. The majority, if not all, of Capsule’s previous releases have always felt like an assault on the senses. It worked more often than not, but there’s only so far that pounding synths accompanied by edited and randomized vocals can take you. CAPS LOCK feels so much more like a journey of sounds, occasionally hinting at what you’ve always appreciated in Capsule’s music, but diverging out into different areas that Yasutaka’s production skills can take him. Despite “CONTROL” and “SHIFT” providing far more Capsule-like experiences, they fit well into the more interesting and structured progression of “HOME”’s introduction, diving into the jarringly experimental “12345678” halfway through the album.

All of it leads to one of the most satisfying ends I’ve heard to an album this year, being the combined closure of “SPACE” and “RETURN”. “ESC” provides a terrific interlude into the ambient, atmospheric sound of “SPACE” that sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. The minimalist use of Toshiko’s vocals as a secondary synth to the song’s chorus is engaging, as is the choice to let the calm structure of the song take center stage instead of Capsule’s traditional “let’s shibuya-kei this motherfucker up” formula.

Really, CAPS LOCK is just barely a Capsule album, and that’s why I enjoy it so much. Though my appreciation for their older work remains, I don’t know if I could have withstood another traditional Capsule album. Seeing Yasutaka Nakata explore different territory and pull it off so well is encouraging, and the product that came out of it is easily one of the best albums this year. It’s certainly my favorite album he’s produced to date.

You can purchase CAPS LOCK on iTunes here.

Pop-rock/shoegaze is definitely not my strong suit. Often being more bored than anything else with the genre has taught me that, so I am pretty surprised to enjoy Akai Ko-en’s Ko-en Debut as much as I do. It has such charming melodies and wonderful performances from the individual members that it’s impossible not to love.

The all-over-the-place intro of “今更” introduces the band perfectly, from Chiaki pouring her heart into the vocals to Maisa’s ability to go from slow-rock strumming to full-on crazy guitar. Nao’s drums and Hikari’s bass are also terrific, with the entire band’s roles being critical to how enjoyable every song on the album is. You could single them all out and have super interesting parts to listen to no matter the track. The true star for me is Chiaki’s vocals, though.

Although the entire band’s performance in “交信” is stellar, Chiaki’s voice accompanies the keyboard so perfectly and she powerfully carries the emotion of the song through to its climactic and satisfying end. Having the song be immediately followed by “体温計” is a pretty much a double-treat, with her vocals and piano skills being the only force at work here. I’ve rarely heard a vocalist exert her voice to such an extent that you can hear it fall apart in front of you… and still have it be as powerful of an experience, if not more so, than something more composed and controlled.

Of course, the rest of the album is an absolute blast. The chaotic “急げ” is as exciting to hear as the uplifting end of “くい”, and the chants of children to accompany Chiaki in “カウンター” are good fun. It’s a unique, upbeat, and engaging rock album that is far more reliant on melody than anything else. There’s a ton of depth in each track to be found but that didn’t stop it from being the perfect album for me to put on when I had nothing particular to listen to in mind. Ko-en Debut is easy to jump into and you’ll be rewarded with some really interesting music when you do.

You can purchase Ko-en Debut on iTunes here.

I wish I didn’t have to put this here. This album started at the top spot and continuously fell down the list because the more I listen to it, the more its shortcomings jumped out at me. I wish it ended better, and I wish its middle were more interesting, but fortunately that’s just about the only faults I have with The M Machine’s Metropolis Pt. 2, which is an otherwise stellar album.

Like last year’s Metropolis Pt. 1, Pt. 2 true strength lies in its atmosphere. The M Machine is, if anything, exceedingly talented at creating a true sense of atmosphere to their music. Right out the gate, “The Palace”’s blasting synths drop you deep into its underwater-like world of carefully constructed music. The vocal work in both “The Palace” and “Ghosts in the Machine” is so brilliant, as is the production and editing applied to them.

The middle half of the album is where I have a bit of an issue, though. “Ghosts in the Machine” sets such a great atmosphere and pace, yet I feel like every time, “Tiny Anthem” throws me off course. It’s a decent song but it fits awkwardly between “Ghosts in the Machine” and “Moon Song”. It’s pacing is so different and its sound is not as coherent as the rest of the album is. “Moon Song” isn’t the strongest of tracks either, but it picks up the pace from “Tiny Anthem” well enough to lead into the mini-album’s highlight, “Schadenfreude”.

I imagine this is a very subjective opinion, given how aggressive “Schadenfreude” is, but it embodies what I value so highly in Metropolis Pt. 2: atmosphere. The echoing drums and reverberating sounds, the distant vocals, the oscillating synths… all of it is as captivating as it is chilling, building up to its mind-blowing and siren-blasting chorus that throws you neck deep into the world The M Machine has imagined.

Though “Luma” is a fitting end, I do find it to be a little anti-climatic after “Schadenfreude”’s powerful production. But despite my problems with the EP as a whole, I continue to value it highly. Metropolis Pt. 2 is the only album I’ve listened to this year where I can close my eyes for its duration and just see the music unfold in front of me. The production on all of the tracks is genius beyond reason, not for how catchy the rhythms are, but for the picture they paint. That’s something I feel is well worth appreciating, even if all the pieces don’t entirely align at times.

You can purchase Metropolis Pt. 2 on iTunes here.

I’m almost tempted to simply write “It’s a Feed Me album. It’s fucking brilliant. This isn’t news to anyone and that’s why it’s ranked here.” but I suppose I owe Calamari Tuesday more of an explanation than that.

From his debut Feed Me’s Big Adventure album to his most recent EPs like To The Stars and Escape from Electric Mountain, Feed Me’s music has always been incredibly relevant to whatever style is popular without ever cheapening its production to be as mass-appealing as possible. It’s always felt like it came from his heart and that’s why it always shone above the rest. Calamari Tuesday is no exception to this rule, arguably being his best work to date.

Though the start of the album doesn’t flow together as well as the latter half, Calamari Tuesday is 15 tracks of pure electronic bliss. Take “Lonely Mountain” for example: a track so varied, groovy, and well-composed that it might be deserving of a spot amongst electro-house’s greats. Or “Rat Trap”, a song so well produced that its bass and sampling is almost oppressive from how angry they sound.

Calamari Tuesday shines in its second half, though. From “Chinchilla” up to the very end of “Last Requests”, it’s like a veritable showcase of how talented and skilled a composer and producer Feed Me has become. “Short Skirt”, “No Grip”, and “Onstuh” is a true triple-threat of variety and bangers, from the swinging sampling and editing of “Short Skirt”, to the trip-hop-like beats of “No Grip”, finally into the relentless pace of “Onstuh” that throws such a jump-worthy beat into Feed Me’s classic funky synths. And, of course, the triple-threat being closed out by the impeccable vocals and climax of “Last Requests”, which is such a brilliant way of ending the album that I can’t help but withhold from saying how it does so. It’s too perfect to spoil—seek it out yourself.

If you’re a fan of electronic music of any kind, you owe it to yourself to check out Calamari Tuesday. It’s a spectacular album. Feed Me’s production is so excellent and precise, I really have nothing more to say. It’s a Feed Me album. It’s fucking brilliant. This isn’t news to anyone and that’s why I ranked it third.

You can purchase Calamari Tuesday on iTunes here.

Although they arguably have the hardest name to Google, Charisma.com might just be the most exciting act I’ve discovered. The duo consisting of vocalist/rapper MC Itsuka and producer DJ Gonchi and their debut album, Ai-Ai Syndrome, are arguably the most fun I’ve had listening to any musical release this year. And I’m not talking about like, “Oh, yes, this is well made so I enjoy it.” kind of fun. I’m talking about smile from ear-to-ear, head-bobbing, and feet movin’ kind of fun.

Ai-Ai Syndrome packs so much attitude, fun, and variety into its album that I found myself putting it on repeat for days at a time, unable to escape how addictive it is. DJ Gonchi, the production side of the duo, is astonishingly skilled at composing and producing beats that are not only catchy and fun, but also stand alone without any vocals whatsoever. Of course, it goes without saying that each track compliment Itsuka’s vocals with aplomb.

MC Itsuka’s vocals shine as brightly as the instrumentals, as she delivers them with such impeccable timing and a captivating, if not vicious, attitude. The absolute spite for everything in the album’s lyrics, from fashion-crazed and kawaii-obsessing girls in “HATE” to people staring at their phones every day in “LIFEFULL”, truly shows in how impeccably Itsuka delivers all of her lyrics. It’s such a breath of fresh air, even. For how obsessively joyful and excited all of Japanese pop music, or any Japanese genre really, sounds, it’s refreshing to hear something that’s so catchy and enjoyable while still packing such a strong attitude.

Ai-Ai Syndrome might not have the best production or the best vocals I’ve heard this year, but they’re both pretty terrific. It towers above the rest, however, for being simply fun. I can put it on any time and enjoy it like it was the first time I heard it. It’s an album that gives so little fucks and just does what it does, having a blast the entire way through while totally not giving a shit if you dislike it or not. I love it.

You can purchase Ai-Ai Syndrome ... um... from their website? I guess? If you know someone in Japan that can ship shit to you? Or hit me up on Twitter.

Edit: It seems you can also purchase it off Amazon.co.jp, which I believe has international shipping. At least, Jeff just ordered it and I ordered a she album off it a while a go, so there!

Earlier this year, I discovered Oliver Schories and his Herzensangelegenheit album. It’s a 2012 release that, had I discovered then, would probably have taken the top spot. … Well, 2nd spot. I guess you'll find out what was my 2012 album of 2013.

Point being: Oliver Schories is a terrific producer and composer. His most recent album Exit, blows every other album this year out of the water so hard I can barely justify it through words. Instead, here is a link to a continuous mix of the entire album. It’s mixed by Oliver himself and is featured on the album as an alternate way of listening to it. Listen to it.

I like Exit for similar reasons to why I like Metropolis Pt. 2, which is that it sets a mood and atmosphere. While not as graphic and vivid as Metropolis Pt. 2, Exit’s mood is still rich and captivating. Oliver’s masterful use of soft synths and subtle percussions create a zone to get completely lost in. The pounding, yet vacant, bass of “Intro (State of)”, the quiet and repetitive synths that perfectly fit around the vocals of “But Maybe”, the upbeat bass strums of “Another Day”... it’s engrossing in a way no other album this year was for me.

Even better is the Continuous DJ Mix, which runs for an hour and 21 minutes. Oliver mixed the entirety of Exit into a single mix, something I would have loved for Herzensangelegenheit, and is easily the best way to enjoy the album. His DJ skills are as impeccable as his production ones.

Exit is one of those rare albums. The type I can put on and then before I know it, it’s over and an hour has passed by. It’s transports me to a completely other world and I exit (HA HA HA) on the other end from a captivating and engrossing ride. It’s such a tight, intricate, well-composed album that I can truly listen to it when I want to enjoy it, in addition to being calm and passive enough that it can act as the perfect background music to reading or something similar.

More than anything, I adore an album that I can put on and forget everything exists around me. That the only thing between me and my headphones is nothing but pure escapism. That is what Exit is, and it’s why it’s my favorite album of the year.

You can purchase Exit on iTunes here.

Of course, I just had to listen to this album a few days after I posted my 2012 Best Of list. Of course.

Igorrr’s Hallelujah is fucking impossible to describe to anyone. The baroque, breakcore, IDM, abstract, grind/deathmetal sounds that populate his music is so chaotic and frightening at first glance that I can rarely let someone listen to it without them immediately twitching their ears away in fear.

Once you get past the initial shock of how insane his music is, the door to the a precisely constructed album opens to you. The opera chant of “Tout Petit Moineau” that progresses into screams into unfathomable yelling in tune to the breakneck speed of its instrumentals is haunting.

Yet like all other tracks on Hallelujah, it’s precise in its insanity. If you pay attention to it all, it’s not random insanity. It’s perfectly timed, in synch with each other, every sound interacting with the other to create a harmony of insanity that is as detailed as it is overwhelming. The daunting complexity of Hallelujah is hard not to admire and even when it’s at its most insane, it’s still so enjoyable and listenable that I find myself going back to it time after time. Had I waited to post my list after listening to it, it’d easily have taken the top spot.

—*—*—*—*—*—*—*—*—*—*—*—*—

And that's it! Woo! Hopefully you discover something new, and like last year I'd love to hear what are some of your favorites! I'm always open to anything new.

Addtionally, if you want to see a ranked list that I kept up to date throughout the year of the 103 releases I listened to, you can check it out on my Rateyourmusic list! There's some stuff in there that's also definitely worth checking out. Pretty much anything between 1 and 30~ is like... a must listen to me.

66 Comments

Are you a DJMAX Technika player? If so, then I need your help!

Hey, fellow DJMAX fans!

I'm in the process of writing a retrospective of the DJMAX series to post here. I've got most of my bases covered on the Portable/Trilogy front but I'm lacking in knowledge on the Technika side of things.

Though I have Technika Tune, (and love it) there are no Technika machines in Montréal (never have been) so I haven't been able to play the arcade games myself.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, (mostly the official forums and Bemanistyle) I've been able to collect a lot of technical info on the Technika series, but I've hard a hard time finding out what the actual arcade scene with it has been like because... well, I've not been able to a part of it myself. So that's where I need your help:

I'd like to have your input, stories, anecdotes, or information on what the Technika arcade scene is like to you now, before, or both! Anything like your experience with the Platinum Crew system, waiting lines at the arcade, conversations with friends, local tourneys, anything! I really want a personal perspective on it so the more detailed and the more heartfelt, the better! Love or hate, I want to know! :D Make sure you let me know where you are located in the world, too. Getting a sense of the international scene is pretty important for me.

Thanks!

2 Comments

Are you a DJMAX Technika player? If so, then I need your help!

Hey, fellow DJMAX fans!

I'm in the process of writing a retrospective of the DJMAX series to post here. I've got most of my bases covered on the Portable/Trilogy front but I'm lacking in knowledge on the Technika side of things.

Though I have Technika Tune, (and love it) there are no Technika machines in Montréal (never have been) so I haven't been able to play the arcade games myself.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, (mostly the official forums and Bemanistyle) I've been able to collect a lot of technical info on the Technika series, but I've hard a hard time finding out what the actual arcade scene with it has been like because... well, I've not been able to a part of it myself. So that's where I need your help:

I'd like to have your input, stories, anecdotes, or information on what the Technika arcade scene is like to you now, before, or both! Anything like your experience with the Platinum Crew system, waiting lines at the arcade, conversations with friends, local tourneys, anything! I really want a personal perspective on it so the more detailed and the more heartfelt, the better! Love or hate, I want to know! :D Make sure you let me know where you are located in the world, too. Getting a sense of the international scene is pretty important for me.

Thanks!

Start the Conversation

"You are all assholes, I don't want to work with you anymore."

A few years ago, back when I was still a directionless GameStop employee, I had conditioned myself to a pretty sporadic sleep pattern. I’d go to bed at 3 AM only to wake at 7 the next day to open the store. I’d then go to bed even later that day to wake up at 2 PM on the next. I’d then start my next shift which was at 5 PM. It was pretty unhealthy for me to do that and I should of stopped one week in but that went on for a while. I felt like crap every “morning”. I... was a dumb kid.

Yet every time I’d wake up, I’d have a giant smile on my face. The day was starting properly. Why? Because of my alarm.

“Hold on, am I sitting at a table with three people that are gonna sit here and defend Renny Harlin movies? Let’s do Cutthroat Island next if we wanna do that. Come on. Come on! John McTiernan! Master of modern fucking actions movies, the guy made Predator, God dammit. If you’re gonna sit here and say Renny Harlin made a better movie than him, you are all assholes, I don’t want to work with you anymore.” - Giant Bombcast, 07-21-2009

Every morning, I would wake up to that audio clip, one of my favorite moments from the Bombcast. Of course, I made sure it was cut long enough to let Dave say “I can’t wait for a year from now when we are having the same conversation and two out of four of us are wearing night vision goggles”, so that it could end on Ryan’s loud, infectious laugh.

My favorite picture of Ryan. "Incredulous about a fucking MOUNTAIN made of SPACE. In space? Whatever."

I joined the site when it was in its earliest of early forms in 2008 and have tried to be/been one its most dedicated members. I had followed the crew through the Gamespot days but beyond watching their stuff, I didn't go on the forums or interact with the community there at all. Giant Bomb changed that. Here, the community was small and devoted. We were all here because we all loved Jeff, Ryan, (with the eventual addition of Vinny and Brad) and video games. Everyone on the forums started knowing who everyone was and, like many others, I’ve had the great fortune of making some friendships through here that will last me until I, too, breathe my last breath.

Though videogames united all us, the staff on the site was the bonding agent that made us stick, smell weird, and be potentially hazardous to children under the age of four. We essentially grew to become accidental members of a cult of personality, only no one involved really has any power over anything. The guys at the top who act like idiots on camera send love our way with content we can’t get enough of and we return the love with in-jokes, bizarre Tumblr posts, and a personal bond that I, for one, don’t regret a single bit. The relationship all of us share with each other and with the Giant Bomb staff is unique in its existence. The absolute flood of love towards one another on Twitter that continues as of this writing is a prime example of that. When we need it the most the site is there, be it staff or community. We are one big family and this domain that sports an excited-about-exploding bomb is our home.

On the 3rd of July, 2013, we lost one of our family members. I’ve unfortunately never met Ryan but the effect he had on me was profound and meaningful, enough to characterise a good portion of who I am today. His enthusiastic love for all things “dumb” has fueled the ironic appreciation I have for terrible music, movies, and games. His boisterous energy in any argument he threw himself was so amusing and entertaining that it made me love to argue on even the stupidest of topics. Even if I was wrong, I brought the biggest smile to my face by simply being as energetic about the argument as he would have been.

Perhaps it should stay there. Something I can look at now and then to give myself a laugh now and again.

The image at the very top of this post is a scan of a school project I did. We had to do a black and white, high-contrast portrait on Scratchboard. (A material that is entirely black which you can scratch/carve to reveal a white undercoating.) I had many options for my subject but I settled on Ryan, figuring that it would probably be really hilarious when I’d be done with it. Sure enough, it gave me a laugh every time I looked at it. That portrait began a long-line of jokes from my classmate Anna who whenever she’d see me watching Giant Bomb content or photoshopping some stupid bullshit involving Ryan would be sure to tell me: “Oh my god, why are you so obsessed with Ryan?!” It was just coincidence every time but I laughed regardless. I suppose I was, to some extent. Maybe the "personality cult" is just so strong that I don’t really realise it myself.

My plan for the scratchboard was to go to PAX East 2013 and give it as a gift to the man himself. It was the least I could do for the endless hours of entertainment that he, and Giant Bomb as a whole, had provided me through times both easy and tough. I was unable to go this year, due to school and money problems, so the planned changed. Next year, I’d have enough money saved up to go to PAX East 2014 and I’d have the scratchboard to give to Ryan and a poster of the Daily Dota to give to Brad, Matt, and Matt. (and Crispy? I don't know if he attends.) It seems the plan’s changed again. I’m not quite sure what my ‘Plan C’ is.

I’ve cried more today than I have in an extremely long time. This loss... it’s not easy. I’m still trying to grasp the reality that I will never hear or see Ryan ever again. It’s unfathomably difficult to accept. And this is just me, a 20-something year old jackass in a Montreal suburb, saying this. My brain lacks the processing power to understand how crushed his wife, his family, his friends, and his coworkers must feel. I take comfort knowing that to him, they were all just one big group and he was his enthusiastic and expressive self to them all.

In some bizarre way, I looked up to Ryan. If I could reach out to 1% of the amount of people he’s affected with what I do for a living, I would die a happy and complete man. The world has lost one of its most special duders.

May it forever be Tuuuuuueeeeesday! in heaven, Ryan. You will forever be missed.

45 Comments

dot dot dot - seven: Asymmetrical Gameplay

Well well well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? So much for trying to keep a proper schedule. School’s been frighteningly busy but that’s something I’d rather talk about later. For now, I actually have games to talk about!

The first is something I wanted to get around to last blog, which is Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. I beat it the night I posted the blog and man, what an ending that game has. Plot twist after plot twist, insane reveal after insane reveal. The end of 999 is some bizarre-ass rollercoaster that refused to let me close the slack-jawed expression I kept for hours both during the ending and after. Additionally, the cast of characters hide interesting backstories and complex personalities behind some admittedly stereotypical design. The way their stories intertwine is well-thought out and the overall plot hides a secret that still sticks in the back of my mind as one of the more memorable stories I’ve played through in years. Some of the reveals at the end of that game, one in particular that involves the DS hardware itself, are so clever and so baffling that I have a really hard time not loving everything about that game. I’m eager to start playing Virtue’s Last Reward, if only to more about the universe the first game sets up. As far as virtual novels go, 999 is easily my favorite. Few games make me want to lock myself up in a room or message board and just endlessly talk about everything in it.

Dat intro cinematic. MADHOUSE did a pretty legit job with the cinematic stuff in Awakening.

The second thing I’ve put a bunch of time into is what’s acting as my in-between before I jump into VLR-- Fire Emblem: Awakening. After a three week-long search, I was able to secure myself a physical copy thanks to a friend of mine who works at Gamestop. Amusingly enough, he let me know he had a copy left a few minutes after I had another retail store email me to tell me they had a copy of the game set aside for me. I got my copy at Gamestop but went on a long adventure/walk with a friend to the other store, that was significantly more out of the way than I thought, so she could also have a copy for herself. … At any rate, I really, really like Fire Emblem. It’s not exactly surprising the socks off of me or anything but it’s an extremely good SRPG. I’ve been meaning to scratch that itch for a long time now and this is doing that job wonderfully. The in-combat mechanics are fun, inventory management is neat, and the character recruiting/team building/team organising stuff keeps me a lot busier than I’d of thought. I can’t say the story is exactly captivating or anything (so far, I’ve just completed Chapter 10) but the gameplay is keeping me going, as are the Paralogues.

I’ve been killing time with some other stuff when school hasn’t kept me super busy, too. I got Crashmo which is adorable and fun. (And surprisingly hard past the halfway point) I’ve also been dabbling in Black Ops II here in there when I can, mostly trying out new loadouts and tactics. I used the QBB LSW for a good stretch to find that I really, really like that gun. Right now I’ve been playing a Tac-45-only class, which has also proven to be pretty fun. And funny. People seem pretty irked when you finish 40-10 in a Demolition match when only using a pistol.

This giant time sink is, finally, done.

So, games aside, why have I missed so much blogging time? School, man. School. I’m on study break right now until Monday and while not having to wake up at 6 every morning is a welcome change, I’ve still been doing schoolwork and other nonsense that’s been keeping me from completely de-stressing. For the last two weeks, I’ve been tirelessly working both here and at school to finish the panoply of projects that were due. I had a 44-page children’s book to finish, a giant poster for Seoul Fashion Week to fix and finish, a bunch of armored police concepts to make for Concepting class, bookstore banners to design, a magazine layout to design and finish (both cover and inner-spread), along a bunch of other shit. The children’s book nearly killed me as it forced me to stay at school for close to ten hours straight and the fashion week project was no easy breeze, either. What’s been stressing me the fuck out, though, is my animation project.

The Dean of Education (I think that’s his position, at least) is going to give a speech at some thingamabob about how our school, Dawson College, plans to educate kids properly and blah blah. The speech is a little boring, so he’s asked us, the Illustration and Design program, to create a short animation that would accompany his speech to make it a bit more captivating. Since we’d be pooling both of our program’s third year groups, (For a total of 30-something students) we’d all have to find one style for the animation and have everyone stick with that. As such, our animation teacher made each of us create a bunch of designs for the characters, objects, and scenes in the animation. He’d then take all of them, go over them with the class, and the designs and style we’d like best is the one we’d pick and animate. I was nothing short of thrilled and honored and terrified to have my designs picked as the winner.

My designs for the animation project.

Alongside having to animate one of the harder scenes, (that I admittedly volunteered for) I also had to create a bunch of character sheets and respond to a bunch of design questions all at the same time. It’s unspeakably humbling to be in the position I’m in but at the same time, it’s made me work my brain and my patience for my own art to a really dangerous point. Everything I make, everything I draw, everything I think and say about the project has to be made so that it’s not just for me to draw, but so that everyone else can draw it, too. It can’t be too difficult to draw. I need to draw multiple things in multiple ways because they can’t guess what I’m thinking that hidden part would look like. It’s having a whole mess of people watch over my shoulders while I draw. And that’s not counting the expectations I have to make everything as nice and appealing as possible for the final look of the animation. It’s an important project that means a lot to the program and the Dean; I can’t fuck it up. Not that he hasn't been supportive since or anything either, but I suppose having the teacher, when the design was chosen, say: “Aw, I was really hoping [other person]’s drawings would win.” is little fuel for motivation and confidence, too. Things like that have made me second-guess every stroke I make when I draw for the past two weeks on this project...

FISTS. What better image to put than Donnie Yen from Ip Man, a movie centered around the grandmaster of the art itself. You should watch it. It's an excellent movie.

On a brighter note, though, I took up something over the past few weeks that’s been doing me a lot of good and I’ve started to find a really fond appreciation for. As per a requirement for a class, I started taking Kung Fu lessons. I’m four weeks in now and I’ve all but forgotten about the requirement. I’ve been going purely out of interest and love for it. I’ve been practicing Wing Chun, a discipline that is centered entirely around the human body and efficiency. Every movement, every stance, and every action is all based on what is the most efficient way of completing that action. It’s absolutely fascinating to both study and practice. I encourage you to read up about it. It has a pretty interesting history, too. Plus, it was the discipline Bruce Lee used. What have you got to lose? NOTHING. That’s what.

That’ll wrap it up for this week. I hope to have something up next week. We’re starting a bunch of projects so the work load will be minimal, hopefully. Who knows. This program keeps surprising me in the worst way possible. I can’t wait to be done and get out there working, doin’ neat art and stuff.

PEACE OUT

26 Comments

dot dot dot - six: THE BOTTOM SCREEN OH MY GOD

Darn, it seems I’ve missed two weeks of blogs now. My apologies, I’ve been unfortunately busy with school. Midterms are happening so the majority of my projects are due, meaning late nights both at school and back here at home. That said, I do have some stuff to talk about!

Firstly, the PS4 was announced. I don’t have anything to say about it other than what’s already been said but I am pretty excited for it. Sony seems to really have listened to what both developers and consumers loved and hated about the PS3, and are smartly reacting to those comments. Sleep mode and Background tasking are also big things for me. I am unfathomably excited to have both of those be a feature on a console.

That comes out in months, however. LET’S FOCUS ON CONSOLES OF NOW. LIKE THE 3DS. LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE DS GAME I’VE BEEN PLAYING ON IT THAT IS TWO YEARS OLD. Through Patrick's comments and the incessant pushes from classmates to play both the original and its sequel, I bought a 3DS XL along with a copy of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.

As it stands right now, I have only one playthrough left. I’ve unlocked 4 out of 6 possible endings and the ending I need to get now, the True ending, will unlock ending 1 & 2 at the same time. I just finished getting the Safe ending and... man. I’d really like to make a spoilerblog or something when I beat the whole thing or like... get on a podcast and talk to dudes about it because holy shit you guys, 999 is really worth playing. It’s puzzles are pretty easy and repeating them in the multiple playthroughs can get a little monotonous but the plot goes in one of the most insane and compelling directions I have ever seen. It unveils this gigantic web of mysteries and somehow explains all of it whilst throwing in a handful of other plot twists and it’s overwhelmingly awesome to let sink in. I can’t wait to finish the True ending tomorrow but even without it, I feel pretty safe saying 999 is one of my favorite games.

EDIT: I wanted to post this yesterday but Giant Bomb was acting weird and was not letting me. Since then, I have gotten the True ending in 999 and have fully beaten the game. I do want to write a full blog about it some time soon, but for now, I leave you with my thoughts on the ending itself.

Oh, yeah, the 3DS! Funny that I don’t actually own and 3DS games for it at the moment. My intention was to pick up a copy of Fire Emblem with it but my chances of finding one in stores right now seem dire. I’ve fortunately got myself on a local game store’s pre-order list for the next shipment of copies but that might still be a while. Regardless, I’ve got a couple demos on it and I quite like it. The giant screens are pretty and the 3D works well when I don’t push the switch all the way. Playing the Monster Hunter 3 demo on it was really fun, despite that demo being stupidly difficult. I’d like to play a full game on it, though, partially so I can actually StreetPass and shit. The 3DS doesn’t let you do any of that nonsense when you’re playing a regular-ass DS game.

Non-game related, three new albums of note came out recently that are all worth talking about. Ken Ishii & Marc Romboy’s Taiyo released on the 8th and, like you’d expect from an album Ken Ishii worked on, it is a blissful collection of minimalist synth and ambience mixed into deep, punchy bass. I’m honestly not too familiar with Marc Romboy so I can’t comment on how present his influence is in the album but if you are a fan of Ishii’s previous work, you’ll find a good amount to like in Taiyo.

The M Machine’s Metropolis Pt. II was second to release in the batch of three and boy, where do I start. If you’ve listened to Metropolis Pt. I, which I named one of my favorite albums of last year, you’ll probably know how much I was looking forward to this release. I’m unsure if I commented on it in my 2012 blog and I am too lazy to check, but I felt like Pt. I was as much a terrific album as it was a promise of great things to come. The focus on atmosphere and immersion over SiCk BeAtS and thrilling synths made for an incredibly pleasant experience and Metropolis Pt. II is no different. If Pt. I was the promise, Pt. II is the delivery in full force. The six-track EP is one of the most captivating listens I’ve had in ages. From start to finish, it refuses to escape the dense, echoing sounds it swims in and does so through one of the most refined progressions I’ve heard in an electronic album. The space in which its atmosphere lives, the aquatic-like nature of its synths, horns, and breaks, and the astonishing vocal work makes Metropolis Pt. II a landmark in recent electronic history. It left me with the distinct feeling that it was the best thing to happen to the genre since Justice’s Cross.

Lastly is Kavinsky’s Outrun, which released... yesterday? Yeah, that sounds right. Sunday night, Kavinsky released his first full-length album and, surprise surprise, it is pretty great. The deliberately 80’s, French electro-ass electro producer put together a really good mix of his newer and older work and it makes for a really fun and easy listen. Provided you can see past how repetitive his older work (Testarossa Autodrive, Grand Canyon) is, you’ll find a lot to like in Outrun. If anything, listen to it for how silly and great the “story” behind his character is.

That’s... pretty much all I have to say? I’d post about schoolwork and art stuff but I’d rather do that when my stuff is actually done as opposed to being almost-but-not really done.

So yeah, sorry for the late update. I’ll try and be on time next week! As usual, thanks for reading!

3 Comments

dot dot dot - four: Absolute First Obsession

A bit off-topic this week, mostly because I need to put more thought into the longer piece I wanted to write about. With this generation of consoles finally coming to a close, I’d like to reflect on a game I think marked this generation the most. I still need to figure out how the blog will go though, especially considering it’ll be an opinion piece. Objectively, I think Call of Duty 4 would be the game but subjectively, well... you’ll see sometime in the coming weeks, I suppose.

That aside, I do want to put some thoughts down on a few other things. I’ll try and close it out with some game stuff.

Kevin Spacey's acting is pretty amazing. There's a subtlety to how cuttthroat he is and it's super compelling to watch.

First and foremost: House of Cards. The show “premiered” on Friday and I sat down to watch the first two earlier today. I had this stupid idea in my head that because it was original programming by and for Netflix, it would be of some sub-par quality. That the lead is Kevin Spacey and the first two episodes are directed by David Fincher flew over my head. Although the first 30 minutes take a bit to get going, the show’s pace picks up almost immediately after that and has been consistent in its quality since. I had planned on getting some kind of work done today but before I knew it, 10 PM happened and I found myself at the end of the sixth episode. It’s way more captivating than I thought it would be.

Not to say it doesn’t have its flaws. I think the direction post-Fincher (only the first episodes were directed by him) is spotty on occasion. It’s good but Fincher’s touch on his directed episodes really showed. They complimented the writing and acting very well. And while the acting is terrific across the board, the writing can feel flat on occasion. It would be fine in any other situation, but the strength of the performances make it so that the faults contrast a little roughly whenever it is a problem. Fortunately, that’s happened once or twice that I can recall. It is, otherwise, an excellent show. It’s a political drama, so you’ll most likely know whether or not you’re on board to begin with, but if it does pique your interest, watch it. It is well worth your time.

Netflix original programming also got me thinking: I wonder if this is what direction television will slowly progress towards. While I doubt Netflix will turn into a one-stop-shop for all programming in the future, I welcome a scenario where I can go onto a service like Netflix, Youtube, or Hulu (Ahahaha... Hulu. Funny, right? Haha.) and watch the entire season of a show if I want to the day it starts “airing”. Especially because it potentially cuts out a television network overlooking every decision, possibly forcing the content or quality of a show to suffer or change because of its policies and whatnot. (Which is why, again, ahahahaha Hulu.)

Thumbnail (very rough design) for the Seoul Fashion Week project.

So yes, House of Cards is great. It took up most of my time today and because of that, I got no schoolwork done. I suppose I’ll be in an all-out rush on that tomorrow. My final semester is picking up some. I’ve got a Seoul Fashion Week poster to design, a commercial for Gillette to pitch and work on, a classical composer portrait to re-imagine, a magazine featuring Dubmood to create, an animation to animate, (durr) a title sequence to start in After Effects, and an environment to create concept art for. A lot of work, in essence. The magazine has me super excited, though. The theme for it was some vague non-sense but the jist of it was that we needed to create a cover and two-page spread that features a musician of our choice. I picked Dubmood, a chiptune/electronic artist who made Overlander, one of my favorite albums last year. We’re free to use photography instead of illustration for our designs, but it was (obviously) enforced that we needed the rights to use the photography if it wasn’t ours to begin with. As a shot in the dark, I emailed Dubmood’s label, which he operates himself, asking if he had any press shots to send that I could use with his permission. He excitedly replied, supplying me with some incredibly well-photographed shots from one of his live shows. Now I have all these wonderful ideas for the design and I have some really amazing assets to back them up!

While working on all that school work this week, (in addition to every other possible second, really) I dove into some more musical exploration... which consists entirely of one band.

ISN'T SHE JUST THE BEST I LOVE YOU TOO, EUNJUNG.
13 Comments

dot dot dot - three: You Should Pass on This Season

Sorry for the late post--schoolwork caught up with me in a bad way Sunday and had to focus on that instead. But hey, you get a post now! REJOICE. SING WITH PRAISE. Send me gifts.

I’ll try and keep it short because I have other school stuff to get to tonight but I want to talk about something that is especially irritating to me. Over this past weekend, Black Ops II was holding a Double XP ‘event’, so I sat down for some hours to play and grind out experience and progress. I did so with a friend of mine both in preparation for the upcoming DLC pack, Revolution, and to try and have some fun. While I succeeded in the first, I completely failed in the latter. Black Ops II, for a variety of reasons, is a frustrating experience. There are faults, there are reasons why those faults are even more aggravating, and there is the final reason why it makes me completely sad that I have to deal with said faults for a year.

Blap blap and shit.

So to start off, why is Black Ops II an infuriating experience? Though I think most could see this as being subjective, I feel it pretty objective to state that Black Ops II’s multiplayer is broken. Between lag compensation, unbalanced weaponry, poorly sized maps, awful matchmaking, and the worst spawn system the series has seen, Black Ops II does a significant amount to crush any positive changes that it brought to the table. Treyarch did a number of smart additions to multiplayer, like Scorestreaks and the Pick 10 system, that don’t change the formula but switch it up enough to make things feel somewhat fresh. At its core, it is the best the series’ multiplayer has been since Call of Duty 4. When everything works, it’s some of the most fun I've had playing games.

The issue is that it very rarely works. As of lately, it’s never really worked at all. Player connections are mediocre at best and the game’s terrible lag compensation makes some situations even worse. Running for cover is no longer an option because shots will hit around corners, thanks to the game delaying hits to “even out” the connection odds in the present lobby. It’s become common to shoot at an enemy and have him turn around and kill you, all whilst you continue to riddle him with bullets. Everything when playing feels ‘off’, as if the game was in this constant struggle of leveling the playing field by adjusting everyone’s connection to some kind of average ping. I'm sure this is not how the lag comp actually works but it's how it feels to me when I play it. This is in addition to SMGs that dominate the playing field, maps that contain choke points that encourage the use of the formerly-mentioned weapon type, matchmaking that will frequently stick unbelievably skilled players against a team of way lower skill, and a spawn system that doesn’t think twice about spawning you, or the enemy, within feet of each other. Multiplayer has become a balancing act of min/maxing my class loadout for “what works best against players this week”, fighting lag compensation, and working around all the faults mentioned above to complete an objective in a game mode.

I link to this video because while I don't usually care much for Youtube commentators/players, he explains lag comp really well (far better than I can, anyway) and states pretty clearly why it's an issue in Black Ops II. Notably, there's a winning side and a losing side to every gunfight based entirely on the connection at play.

Awful, isn’t it? I should just be able to sit down, play with my friend, and have some fun, but I can’t. I can’t turn off my brain anymore and just play. The balancing act takes too much processing power and to even have the slightest chance of winning a match or finishing above a 1 kill/death ratio, (which is an entirely different problem) I need to concentrate and focus. Every time. What makes those problems even more aggravating? The actions taken to change them. Which is none. None whatsoever. I’m usually not a subscriber to the vocal outcry from a game’s angry community, (lolololol DmC) usually dismissing it as the internet will be the internet. I won’t be an idiot here and say the Black Ops II community is any different, as I dismissed their extremely vocal complaints for a while but... I just can’t anymore. They’re not wrong. They’re vocal about it because underneath all this horseshit is a game that is worth playing. Worth playing for hundreds of hours. None of us can access it, though, because there are all these issues to deal with and no one’s done squat about it. It’s been brought to Treyarch’s attention multiple times and the only response the community’s gotten is either “Get better internet” or “It must be you, because the game is fine”. Constant dismissal with two patches, alongside other numerous hotfixes, have brought no change to the core issues at hand. The better person in me wants to believe that Treyarch is actually very hard at work on fixing these issues. I want to believe that they are. They were terrific at supporting Black Ops 1 whenever issues arose. If they are working on a fix, is it too much to ask for a simple acknowledgement of the problems nearly everyone in the community has been experiencing?

A golden era we will probably never get back.

I just wish the game would feel right again. I’ll spare the longer paragraphs I could write about the experience but I recently went back to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s multiplayer and... it’s frightening how, five years later, that game is still unbelievably excellent online. Everything felt right. Every hit, every death, every assist, and every game mechanic. The cut in extra features felt like a breath of fresh air. Three killstreaks. A set of perks to worth with, all providing minor changes. 4 attachments per gun. That’s it. Go nuts. To go from that to Black Ops II, an ostensibly more advanced game, and feel like everything is wonky and not working quite right feels tragic. You guys had four games to get it right with and it’s still flawed. How do you work off a brilliant blueprint and Sharpie all over it, hiding what made the foundation excellent?

In any other situation, I’d do what I did with XCOM when I couldn’t see past its flaws. I’d stop playing. I’d just give up. I’d bring my game in, I’d trade it, and probably buy myself something neat like Asura’s Wrath. But I can’t. I can’t, because of the reason why it makes me completely sad I have to deal with these flaws for another year.

Like many other players, I bought the Season Pass. I bought it when the game was still fun to me, thinking that I can’t wait to play all the awesome new maps in this awesome game when they come out. Shit, they’re even adding new weapons! (And, to be truthful, the new maps do look super cool and the Peacemaker SMG does look fun to use.) But as my time with the game’s multiplayer grew, I got to realise I wasn’t having fun anymore. The only reason I was playing was just to do something with my free time, (an admittedly shitty reason) to keep up with the community’s playstyle, and not let myself get rusty for when the maps release. The joy and excitement I got out of the new features and the great new maps are gone. Instead, I fight the game to try and fight the opposing players. Deaths feel unfair. My own kills feel spotty. Matches feel disjointed and poorly paced. I’m playing a game that I know and accept as being busted, and I can’t stop myself from playing. With an additional $60, I preemptively promised myself dedication to something I thought I loved, only to find myself dedicated to something I understand and now somewhat dislike.

There are plenty of ways I could phrase it but had it best when I came to the realisation on Twitter.

It is a game I sincerely, deeply, honestly want to love. For all the criticism it gets, the Call of Duty series is a fantastic bunch of videogames that can continue to offer hours upon hours of fun. It’s why it hurts me so much to say the things I said above. I want to love it but I can’t. I just can’t anymore. It’s aggravating and I hate spending my time on something I don’t enjoy because it has flaws I cannot look past. They are flaws that actively ruin an amazing experience. They are flaws that could be easily addressed, (at the very least, the important ones like netcode) and they are ignored and dismissed as the constant yelling of an angry community. It fucking sucks.

But hey, they got my money. Twice. I suppose the joke’s on me, right?

--

Oh my, I didn't keep it short, did I? Well, I suppose that's another point to how much I want to like the game. :c

I'd also like to thank the aforementioned for throwing me down a dark, T-ara ornamented hole I'll probably never get out of and for also pointing me towards some really cool tunes. Thanks for reading, guys! See you next week, hopefully with something less depressing of a subject matter.

7 Comments

dot dot dot - two: A Conflict of Specialness

Oh hey, a second post. THE SERIES LIVES ON. Here's hoping I can find it in me to keep this going throughout the year. This will probably be when the posts actually appear, since I tend to be not-so-busy on the weekends. I'm sure homework will change that in a couple weeks time, but it should be easy enough to spare the half-hour it takes for me to write a blog post.

There's not that much in the way for me to talk about except for something that came up when talking with . We had an extended discussion over Steam about Dark Souls/Demon's Souls and the strengths of the two games the other day. I came away from it with the realisation that while Dark Souls is an improvement over Demon's Souls in nearly every way, DS still holds a relatively special place in my heart. It stuck with me because, in a lot of ways, I feel the same about Persona 4 versus Persona 3. P4 is a better game than P3 in every facet, yet Persona 3 is the first one to come to mind when I am prompted to think of my favorite JRPGs.

Oh, Mitsuru. I miss you. ;-;

Why is that so, though? I actually enjoyed my time with Dark Souls far more than I did with Demon's Souls, and the same applies for Persona 4 versus Persona 3. (and FES) Would it not be logical for me to unquestioningly prefer the better sequels to the originals? The more I thought about it, the more it bugged me because I think that, ultimately, it comes down to novelty. What P3 and Demon's Souls did on their respective releases felt like a landmark moment. With P3, I was finally able to enjoy JRPGs again. An actual mature story with well-realised characters, an incredible soundtrack, and some of the most fun gameplay intertwined with addictive dating sim-like aspects. I couldn't have fathomed such a game would exist, let alone have it be so enjoyable.

With Demon's Souls, I got to play the revival of classic game design. Punishing difficulty that forces you to learn and better yourself as a player. Combat scenarios and level designs that, while difficult, are fair and done in a way to teach you mechanics and strategies to use later on. To channel Egoraptor for a bit, it reminds me of Mega Man X, where the first stage of the game is designed in a manner to teach you everything you need to know as a player without explicitly telling you so. Sure, Demon's Souls has a tutorial level but I'm more specifically talking about Boletarian Palace 1-1. Playing through it again, it reminded me just how strong of a level it is. Every enemy placement, object placement, and architectural decision is there to teach you something. The doors, the bridges, the ledges, the enemies hiding behind walls-- everything. When you finish 1-1, you have, through repeated play from dying so much, learned the core of what you need to make your way through the game. You'll learn better tactics later on but they'll just be an improvement over what you've already learned.

Pictured above: one of the most amazing environments in modern gaming.

There's a bunch of other shit in Demon's Souls that makes it great (like the art direction, soundtrack, and mechanics) and all of those are (I feel) improved upon in Dark Souls. The art direction is stronger, the soundtrack is better, and the mechanics are extended and improved upon. There's so much I could elaborate regarding why I feel Dark Souls is a superior game but that would be unwrapping the entire game by so much that it's just simpler for me to sum it up that way. Maybe I'll save it for another time. So, if it's better, than why does Demon's Souls still feel so... special? The same applies to Persona 4. Why does Persona 3 hold such a special place to me if Persona 4 is, obviously, such a better game?

JOLLY CO-OPER... oh wait, wrong game.

Because it was the first time I saw it happen in front of me. Dark Souls and Persona 4, while obviously better than their previous iterations, are still improvements over an original brilliant foundation. It doesn't feel as special to me because I have, unfortunately, seen it before. I'm playing through a better version of what I've already seen and it's letting me enjoy it on its own merits, but it is still the same core idea. If anything, it made me wish there was a way to experience those games for the first time again. Heck, it makes me curious to know what it was like for players who have never played Persona 3 or Demon's Souls before playing either Dark Souls or Persona 4. Was it this revolutionary thing to them? Could they even go back and enjoy P3 or Demon's Souls for what they are, or would they see those games as some kind of shadow behind much better games?

So yeah, that's what I've been thinking about. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, especially if you've played either Dark Souls or Persona 4 (or both) and then went on to play the original games after. (I'll say Persona 3 for P4, considering Persona and Persona 2 are kind of really different from the PS2 games.) Until next week, or something, toodles~

... also, I wish I could experience NiER for the first time again, and I only say that because I'm listening to the brilliant OST again.

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