StarvingGamer's EVO 2017 Travelogue (GB Ain't Free!)

Dave saw my GB hoodie and said
Dave saw my GB hoodie and said "Hi!" to me on our flight to NorCal

Two years ago I went to my first EVO, which also happened to be my first fighting game major. A combination of social and performance anxiety kept me from entering, but I still managed to have an amazing time checking out booths and watching matches. With the release of Street Fighter V (SFV) in 2016 and the announcement that the Sunday finals were going to be done up big in the Mandalay Bay Arena, I was ready to turn my EVO trip into an annual tradition. My family ended up buying a house instead so it wasn't in the cards, but with pressure from the grandparents to bring our kids to the west coast this summer, we decided to make a go of it this year.

A few things that were on my mind, flying in to Vegas this year. 1) I had never played SFV against someone else in-person before. I didn't even know the process for setting up my button layout. 2) I had never entered a fighting game tournament before, yet somehow found myself entered into SFV. At this point a huge thank-you is owed to suddenblackout, a member of the GBFGC Discord who invited me to run sets in his room Thursday night. His Birdie whomped me a good 40-10 or something like that, but it allowed me to adjust to playing humans offline. Also shoutouts to Discord, the program, for giving the GBFGC members attending EVO a good way to contact each other. Shameless plug:

Friday at show open I did what any self-respecting millenial by way of genX would do and rushed immediately to the EVO merch booth and bought an officially branded spinner. My kids have five spinners between them somehow, but this one is just for me! After that, it was a beeline to Shunao's booth to pick up a FANG charm, and an Alisa one too for good measure, before wandering the floor and figuring out where my pool was going to be. I went and found another GBer, Danggief, and together we sat down to watch suddenblackout's noon pool. His very first match was going to be streamed! There we met another GB player, Donuts, and as a group (alongside thousands of stream monsters) we witnessed the absolute decimation of a poor Mika player at suddenblackout's hands.

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At the end of the day suddenblackout went 3-2 in SFV. Later that afternoon Danggief ended up going 2-2. The bracket gods saw fit to throw two poor Karins my way, easily my most experienced matchup thanks to the countless long sets I've played against best duder Technician, so I managed to scrape by with my own 2-2 finish. As a whole we gave better than we took, and thanks to the venue wifi actually not being terrible, Donuts and I managed to periscope almost all of our matches to the folks in Discord. Considering that I expected to go 0-2, I couldn't be happier with my performance, and as much as I hate to admit it, I actually kind of like having to give the thumbs-up before each rematch.

Donuts hung around and watched me make a few more good purchasing decisions, including the first official English translation of the manga about famous player Daigo, a Twintelle keychain, and a Karin charm as thanks for her not letting me go 0-2. I continued the tradition of taking creeper shots of notable community members. Also, during his pool Danggief was interviewed by a camera crew. They asked him hard-hitting questions like what the "E" in E. Honda stands for and how he pronounces "Ryu". So look for that in something somewhere someday?

I left the venue before the King of Fighters XIV top-8 to have dinner with my wife and friends, but did manage to catch most of it on stream. It's no surprise who ended up in the top two spots, but E.T.'s clutch comeback victory over Xiao Hai may have had repercussions for the rest of the tournament. For player that can run as hot and cold as Xiao Hai (some weekends he looks unstoppable and others he's hardly a footnote) he went into this year's EVO with a surprising amount of braggadocio, even going as far as to thank the game's developer SNK for contributing a bonus to the game's prize pool. He incorrectly assumed a bulk of that money would be finding its way into his own wallet.

Letting E.T. rally with his Daimon pick ultimately cost Xiao Hai $7,000, and it's hard to imagine that crushing defeat didn't haunt him for the rest of the tournament. He ultimately finished 25th in SFV, a strong placing but also a far cry from what he's capable of.

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Saturday, Donuts played his Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 pool with his point-Nemesis team. He ended up going 1-2, holding his own commendably well against Marlinpie. After that we went to watch the Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 finals. The developer, Arc System Works, had conscripted a Rachel and an Axl cosplayer to pass out red inflatable thundersticks. You wouldn't think air-filled tubes of plastic would be able to make much noise, but once everyone started banging them together things got loud. Sadly, with no apparent way to deflate them (they were very confusing), I had to leave my pair behind at the end of the night.

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The all-Japanese top-8 for Guilty Gear was full of spectacular play that has left me in a real weird headspace regarding the game. For me, watching players excel, particularly with my character of choice, always makes me feel inspired to get better. On the other hand, nothing has changed the fact that years later, I am still fundamentally unequipped to deal with the oppressively offensive tempo of this particular game. In a way, Arc's clinging to the model of forced obsolescence is a blessing. Every time I get the itch to play Leo really poorly, I remember that I can't unless I pay them another $20.

Results-wise, there weren't many surprises, although that did make it a lot easier to root for the underdogs. With the elimination of last year's champion, Machabo, prior to top-8 at the hands of top American player Kid Viper, the smart money was on Omito, last year's second-place finisher, to take it. Tomo put up a valiant effort in grand finals, but through the entire set Omito looked like he was in absolute control. At some point Donuts's friend wandered off and came back with an Uncharted 4 PS4 he won entering a raffle on a whim. Donuts and I took advantage of the break before Injustice 2 to buy $11 sandwiches from Subway because Vegas? Then we settled down for one of the bigger upsets of the entire weekend.

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Ever since he entered the scene, competing primarily in games developed by NetherRealm Studios, SonicFox has been the player to beat. This EVO, however, his decision to play a character that is more fun and cool than actually strong came back to bite him. On paper, Red Hood seems like the prototypical SonicFox character, strong pressure, devilish mixups, and lots of style. Plus he's a gun ninja. Unfortunately, he also lacks the damage output of the higher-tier character which the results bore out, with SonicFox going out 0-2 in top-8. The real darling of the night was HoneyBee with his unexpected second-place finish using Flash, another character generally regarded as weak. Every time he initiated one of the Flash's massive combos, the audience would start shouting in time with every blow. Although it was Dragon that won, it was Honeybee that won the hearts of everyone in the audience.

After that it was time to for me to duck out on the Super Smash Bros. Melee top-8 because my wife had scored us tickets to watch Penn & Teller that night. Despite a majority of Penn & Teller's act having already been given away across various seasons of "Fool Us", their personalities and their craft kept me engaged throughout the performance. But what impressed me most of all at the end of the night was their consummate professionalism as entertainers, as they stood in the lobby after the show to say hi and sign autographs and take selfies with the audience. My wife was very excited to hear Teller actually speak.

The four gods of Melee finished in 1st-4th place this EVO so it was business as usual on that front.

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I ended up getting out of bed at 7AM on finals day to take a shower, finish packing so my wife could check us out, and get to the arena in time for 7:45AM Marvel. As one of the people who donated to make sure the game would get a proper conclusion this year, I dressed for the occasion. Of course the arena was mostly empty, but there were still enough people to make some noise as matches started.

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It's a bittersweet thing. Marvel is often decried by outsiders as an incomprehensible mess marred with broken gameplay and imbalanced characters, and ever since Flocker's win in 2012, the run-up to EVO has been met with proclamations of the "death of Marvel." Despite all this, the game has persevered. Over its seven years Marvel has consistently pulled in solid entry number and high viewership, with the continued discovery of new techniques and playstyles staving off any sense of stagnation. With RyanLV's unorthodox Chun-Li/Morrigan/Phoenix team beating out last year's champion, ChrisG, in the grand finals, it was as good a sendoff as the game could have hoped for. Seven EVOs with seven different champions and a surprising amount of character diversity. It's the end of an era, but I think I'm ready for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (MvCI) to shake things up.

With MvCI out in September, they had the game's producer, Combofiend, play a quick exhibition against 2012's champion, Filipino Champ. In actuality, it was an excuse to reveal Vampire Savior's Jedah as a member of the game's cast. It's was a strange plan for a reveal. With Filipino Champ's extremely limited time with the game, it was hardly a showcase of high-level play. And despite his best efforts, Combofiend wasn't able to highlight this new take on Jedah anywhere near as well as a proper trailer could. Still, as a legacy pull he was a strong choice and the crowd got appropriately hype for it.

I haven't played much BlazBlue since 2012 when Arc wanted me to buy the game's fourth iteration in four years with only one new character to show for it. It was nice to see old standbys like Carl and Rachel and Arakune, slightly adjusted but looking as powerful as ever. As someone who tends to prefer a more ranged playstyle, it was also a thrill to see what characters like Mu and Nine are capable of in the hands of true masters. The Jin player, Fenrich, impressed everyone with his impeccable defense, but you can't win just by blocking. Instead it was Ryusei's Carl that eventually took it in an intense, back-and-forth grand finals, with the crowd at his back thanks to his adorable mugging in-between rounds. For a region that is generally known for the stoicism of its players, he shone out as the competitor that seemed to be having the time of his life on stage.

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Arc had a few announcements too, with a samurai cat coming to BlazBlue and also a crazy looking new crossover game featuring characters from four different series including the debut fighting game appearance of characters from RWBY, an anime web-series with a very devoted following if the surprised cheering that filled that arena is anything to go by. None of that matters, of course, because immediately after that Arika revealed some new info about Fighting Layer EX (working title). I won't belabor the point, but several people's Skullodreams came true on that Sunday. Not only is the game confirmed to be in development for release, Arika officially added Skullomania to the roster, with a little bonus Darun Mister on the side.

As the stage was being set for Tekken 7 (T7), I had a little time to think about my strained feelings about this particular game. Every time T7's game director Katsuhiro Harada was asked about the two-year wait for the console release a game that was already tournament-ready, he took the opportunity to throw direct and indirect shade at SFV for its poor launch. Proudly showcasing his "Don't ask me for shit" t-shirt, he would insist they were taking their time to make sure the game came out right. Even if his casual put-downs were intended as friendly ribbing between developers, that didn't stop the community a large from seizing on every chance to bash on SFV some more.

Then T7 came out and, frankly, the game was a bit of a mess. Between the paltry single-player offerings, the absurdly long wait times in between online matches, a ranked mode that ends with scores of 1-1, and having absolutely nothing in the game that teaches you any of its mechanics, it seems like Harada was all talk. Which would be fine if he hadn't spent the past year-and-a-half shoveling coal into the engine of the Capcom-hate-train. I will say that the core gameplay is still strong. Tekken hasn't really changed much since 1996 and, to nobody's surprise, the two favorites JDCR and Saint faced off in grand finals.

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There was a gameplay trailer of Trunks for Dragon Ball FighterZ and a reveal of Geese for T7. I don't have any affinity for these characters, but the person behind Geese's trailer certainly knew what his fans wanted, providing them with an extended montage of him performing his trademark counter against a wide variety of the cast, accompanied by his classic cry of "Predictable!" that the people around me barked in unison. With two boss characters from different fighting game series making an appearance in T7, I'm curious who the final guest character is going to be.

I took the Smash Bros. 4 top-8 as a chance to grab some dinner and charge my phone. There has always been a divide between the Smash Melee audience and the broader fighting game community, and Smash 4 hasn't done much to bridge that gap. A massive queue had formed at the entrance to the arena, with ushers scrambling to scan-in the people coming to watch Smash and scan-out the people like me taking advantage of the "3-hour break". On my way out of the venue I ran into Tony Cannon, one of EVO's founders and also one of the developers of GGPO, the gold-standard in video game netcode. I thanked him for the event and he let me take a picture of him before he was hijacked by another fan. I politely took my leave as the fan started lecturing Tony on why he shouldn't have included Smash 4 as part of Sunday's lineup. Sorry Tony.

I managed to make it back to the venue in time to catch the last two sets of top-8, with back-to-back comebacks from Bayonetta player Salem to ultimately upset ZeRo, the odds-on favorite who has won almost as many Smash 4 tournaments as he has entered. It may have been the biggest upset of the entire weekend, and I'm glad I got to see it in person.

The in-house commentary team for SFV started a wave
The in-house commentary team for SFV started a wave

Before starting the top-8, Capcom producer Yoshinori Ono had a trailer for the upcoming downloadable character, Abigail. They were in a tough spot, given the strength of the reveals that had come from the other developers. Abigail is out now, and having had a chance to play as him, he is incredibly fun and full of small touches that showcase his goofy personality. Whomever was responsible for cutting together his trailer decided to make it as dry as possible, unfortunately, and the reactions from the audience at EVO largely consisted of exclamations of "What?" and "What!!??!!?"

He's great. Everyone should try him.

Last year, at its first EVO, Street Fighter V didn't have the best showing. The play was incredibly strong, and the narrative of the "lone American" LI Joe in top-8 caught a lot of people's attention, but with only 5 characters used across 8 players many people started questioning the balance and longevity of the game. This year was a complete reversal, with 9 unique characters played over dozens of intensely close games. Each player had a compelling storyline going into top-8, but none moreso than American player Punk and Japanese player Tokido.

Punk is an incredibly young 18 and has experienced a meteoric rise in 2017 as the player to beat in SFV. He has several first-place finishes in this year's Capcom Pro Tour, putting him comfortably at the top of the global leaderboard. On his road to the grand finals, Punk dominated his opponents, going 24-0 in games including a 2-0 win over Tokido during the semifinals. Tokido, on the other hand, is a member of the old guard. At the age of 32, he has been playing fighting games longer than Punk has been alive and has attended American tournaments competing in various fighting games for over 15 years. Since his 2007 win in Super Turbo, Tokido has been struggling to earn his third Evolution title, and two very close calls against players Filipino Champ and Itabashi Zangief in top-8 almost kept him from reaching the grand finals of his 16th EVO.

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Coming from the losers bracket, Tokido had the tougher row to hoe. He needed to beat Punk in two best-of-five sets whereas Punk only needed one set to seal his victory. Everyone was wondering, would Punk accomplish what no American could do throughout Street Fighter IV's lifespan and take 1st at EVO, solidifying his position as the best SFV player in the world? Or would Tokido, one of the hardest working, most dedicated fighting game players out there finally grasp that brass ring he had been chasing for a decade? Punk had the swagger of youth on his side and what the community affectionately refers to as "young man reactions." Tokido had the passion and the experience earned over countless appearances on the biggest stages in competitive fighting games.

In the end, experience won out. When it mattered most, Tokido stayed on top of his game, making correct read after correct read and executing his gameplan perfectly. Punk's clean and focused play finally began to crack, and with his family in the crowd and the expectations of America weighing on his back he finally crumbled, losing to Tokido with a final score of 1-6. For Tokido it was a victory well deserved, well earned, and long overdue. For Punk it was a heartbreaking defeat.

There's a special magic to an event like EVO. It doesn't matter if you're a top player or a random scrub, at the end of the day we're all just players and competitors and fans of fighting games. We don't need to play the same game or speak the same language because we share something beyond language, the appreciation of flawless execution and amazing reads and absolute dunkings and miraculous comebacks. We yell and cheer and jump out of our seats because we all know a secret and we're just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. Tokido himself said it best as we closed out the night.

"Fighting games [are] something so great."


You're all free now.

Of course I went 2-2! It's the perfect number!
Of course I went 2-2! It's the perfect number!
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Injustice 2 Combo Lab - Firestorm Day 1

Alright had a night to sleep on it, remembered b3 was a thing, remembered overheads.

Firestorm seems like an interesting character? Needs to burn meter to get any real damage but has decently safe offense and solid footsie tools. His zoning is fairly lackluster unless her burns meter for that too, and his mobility isn't so hot. Lack of a crossup is a real fucking bummer. The strategy for him seems to be maybe use his corner carry to pin the opponent down where he can finally take advantage of restands and his 112 string which is +3ob.

Overall he seems middling at best but also I don't know shit about Injustice so maybe he's the bomb diggity. I'll let other people figure that out though, for now I think I'm going to some other characters a spin. Maybe I'll just play Deadshot and be a jerk online since I do like zoning and now's the time to abuse that shit.

Woo another NRS game time to dust off the old capture card.

I kinda skipped the original Injustice so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect coming into Injustice 2. The combo system seems more... restrained? There are generally fewer ways to get popups (and I somehow forgot to do any combos off of raw overhead? great), and a lot more reasons to spend meter mid-combo. Honestly, this makes it feel like there's less to explore in the game from a combosmith standpoint, but I'll keep poking away at it and see if any character strikes my fancy.

Firestorm seems very basic. His zoning is meh and his mobility is not great but he was a good jumping-off point. His main combo extender seems to be his meter-burn ground laser which, sadly, has to be targeted as well. It puts the opponent into a capture state for free shenanigans. Of course everyone has the universal wall-bounce for 2 bars but outside of that, there doesn't seem to be much juice for him mid-screen. It's all very basic, but maybe there's something about the combo system that I'm just not seeing yet. Tomorrow I'll try to resist the siren song of Persona 5 and dig into another character.

Punching Joker feels nice tho.

Also the netcode seems like butt which is shocking given how good I hear latter-day MKXL netkode is.


StarvingGamer's Games Worth Starving For (or Otherwise) in 2016

Woof. 2016 huh?

I guess this is where I make a joke about making a joke about writing the traditional "year in review" paragraph and what even does that look like in a year like this one? Ok, with that out of the way...

Despite everything else, 2016 was another fantastic year for fans of good-ass video games. A bevy of inventive new IP was released from development teams around the world in all sizes, and favorite franchises that had lost their way managed to reclaim the spirit of what made us love them ten or twenty years ago. Game creators seemed less afraid to take risks and just get weird, and great strides were taken to increase diversity and inclusivity in games, even if we still have a long road to hoe.

Between moving into an actual house and starting my eldest in kindergarten and my youngest in preschool, several experiences deserving of my time had to be passed over. Which isn't to say I didn't play plenty of games (I did), and I'd like to tell you about some of them.

Best Surprise



It has been 22 years since the last real DOOM game, released in the era of Mega Man X, Earthworm Jim, and Tie Fighter.

Since then, the gaming landscape has gone through upheaval after upheaval, and after a pathetic attempt at making a DOOM 3 in 2004, most people were convinced that the franchise was simply an artifact of another age, irreconcilably out of place in the modern era of video games. The scant bits of footage and brief beta access people were given to what would become 2016's DOOM, compounded with tales of development hell and the stark reality of an 8+ year development cycle to, painted a dire of picture.

Luckily for us, it turns out developing in hell might not be so bad when you're making a game about murdering hundreds upon hundreds of hellspawn (no but really investing that much time on a product that seems to be going nowhere must have been real rough on everyone involved. Shoutouts to the hard workers at id, I hope you all were able to practice enough self-care and eat dinner with your families on most nights).

To put it plainly, DOOM manages to recapture the essence of my memories of playing the original DOOM in 1993, translated for a modern context. Unlike most modern shooters where you can expect to spend more time hiding than shooting, DOOM forces the player to stay mobile and get right in the thick of it, with a wide array of tools and weapons that allows each encounter to be treated like a frantic tactical puzzle punctuated by screams and explosions.

The story and atmosphere bring together a perfect ratio of attitude and irreverence and gore and metal and metal to make every moment in the game a delight, even as you're punching the eyeball out of your 50th cacodemon. DOOM has reclaimed the throne as the single-player shooter campaign to beat, and if the ending of the game is any indication, the folk at id may already have something in mind. Now that they're back in a groove, I hope it doesn't take them quite as long to release a followup. I think my heart will have stopped trying to pound its way out of my chest by 2018.

Runners-up: Stardew Valley, Watch_Dogs 2

Biggest Disappointment

Street Fighter V

Yeah, I know...
Yeah, I know...

I love Street Fighter V. As a person who enjoys fighting in streets I have practically zero complaints about the game, and none of them are about the core gameplay. In the competitive circuit, Street Fighter V is hands-down the biggest game in the scene, now or ever. Entry records have been shattered at event after event since the game released, viewership numbers continue to climb, and the prize-pools have never been more rewarding for the pro players out there.

That said, I can't help but think about all the potential for growth that was lost because of the repeated bungling by Capcom and their inability to message anything clearly as their plans changed throughout the year.

Maybe if they had recontextualized the initial release as a "tournament edition" or some kind, made it DLC-only with the proper full-release slated for July, they could have dodged all the criticism for selling what felt to many like a half-baked product at full-price. Then it would have been less a story when Ibuki had to be delayed for a month, and games writers would have been less eager to label future DLC releases as "late" when in fact every other bit of content arrived on time if not early according to their initial roadmap.

Call your "Season Pass" a "Character Pass" (a good lesson they learned for 2017), don't install a fucking rootkit on PC (even if it was gone within a few hours of the update), and who knows how many more casual players could have been brought into the SFV fold, and the fighting game community as a whole.

I guess it's all up to you now Injustice 2 *gag*.

Runners-up: Inside, Mirror's Edge Catalyst

Best Game to Buy at Release and Barely/Never Play

That Dragon, Cancer


This is a category that usually is more about me facing my buying decisions balanced against my dwindling free time, but 2016 is a special year.

By all accounts That Dragon, Cancer is a brief game, topping out at around 2 hours total play-time. It's the sort of game you can get through in an afternoon or evening, start to finish. I, however, have never even booted it up once (did install it though!).

Through a series of vignettes, the game tells the autobiographical story of a family contending with an infant son diagnosed with terminal cancer, up and through his eventual death. I don't think I can handle playing this game. Between my own issues with mortality and my children and my ability to become intensely immersed in video games, I'm fairly certain this game would ruin me for quite a while. I do want to play it... some day, but probably not any time soon.

Runners-up: The Last Guardian, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Best Moment or Sequence

Overwatch - PharMercy

I don't even play/own Overwatch. Ok I did mess with the free weekend before it released for 20 minutes.

I don't care! I love the characters and how diverse and colorful they are and I especially love the fandom that has sprung up around them. Every character in Overwatch is oozing with personality, but most of the details surrounding them have been left incredibly vague. This has created a perfect storm for the fanart fanfic shippers out there to go to town with their favorite pairings and I eat it all up.

Which isn't to say that these couplings are entirely unearned. For some characters, like my and's OTP (one true pairing), it's a marriage of mechanics that inspires a deeper imagined relationship, like in the clip below:

For the uninitiated (how did you find this blog?), the game is being played from the perspective of Pharah, a soldier that wears a power-suit capable of flight and specializes in bombarding enemies with explosive rockets from afar. During the battle, Pharah fires a concussive blast from her wrist launcher, propelling her unsuspecting opponent into the pit below. Unfortunately, her target is Roadhog, a particularly tricky foe that manages to use his hooked chain to snag onto Parah's teammate, Mercy, and drag her into the pit alongside him.

Mercy, who serves as the team's combat medic, can float to slow her descent but is incapable of actual flight herself. However, she does have a special ability that allows her to tether herself to a nearby ally and fly directly to them. Seeing Mercy in trouble, Pharah immediately hurls herself down into the pit after her. At the last moment, Mercy turns to find her waiting friend and latches on, as Pharah activates her boosters and lifts both of them back to the relative safety of solid ground.

This small interaction is one of an infinite number of ways the various characters in Overwatch can compliment one-another, both mechanically and narratively, and in my eyes that's Overwatch's greatest gift. It has provided creative people from around the world with a shorthand to celebrate the different ways people can love and care for one another.

Runners-up: Rez Infinite - Area X, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - Epilogue

StarvingGamer's Top 10 Games of 2016

10. Stardew Valley

What a pleasant surprise this was. I've invested untold amounts of hours into games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing and The Sims and Fantasy Life and Stardew Valley takes elements from all of those and mashes them up into an intensely satisfying busywork experience. Maybe it's a fault of my min-maxing or maybe the numerous updates the game has underwent since I last played it have solved this problem, but I did run out of steam halfway through year 2 when my farm had become a well-honed production machine and I had already explored and looted my way to pretty much everything of note in terms of equipment and crafting materials. Maybe during a slow month I'll start over and see how everything that has changed in the latest version.

9. Rez Infinite

I'm a bit late to the Rez party. I was aware of it (mostly by virtue of urban legends surrounding the trance vibrator) but had never experienced it until my wife bought me a PlayStation VR. The core game is extremely enjoyable, if a little dated. While playing I often found myself wondering how the game was meant to be experienced without VR, and if that was the original intent 15 years ago when it first released. Then I tried Area X. I had the biggest, doofiest grin on my face the entire time. It sold me on the importance and future of VR, and left me wishing there was more of it!

8. Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-

Thanks to the advent of Discord, our little GiantBomb fighting game community has blossomed. This means I have more people to chat about, and more importantly play, fighting games with. Instead of relegating myself to combo trials and training mode, I've actually been able to fight against cool humans and avoid the additional salt that comes from losing to randoms. Lucky for me, I was able to latch on to Leo Whitefang immediately as he's a character that can get results with minimal effort. Yes, I'm a bad player playing a character who just sometimes mauls you and it's fun and no you can't stop me I'll keep doing it also ban I-No.

7. BlazBlue: Central Fiction

Read above paragraph, only instead of Leo they added Mai Natsume, a character specifically designed for beginners with a simplified moveset and significantly lower execution requirements than is typical of a character in BlazBlue. The ability to hop in and immediately start getting results made this the first BlazBlue I've been able to play against other people with minimal frustration. Every fighting game should include a character with the same design philosphy as Mai.

Yo we anime!
Yo we anime!

6. Thumper

Coming in under the wire, I decided that instead of spending a few hours on The Last Guardian and still not forming an opinion, I would dedicate the last day of 2016 to seeing the ways Thumper mixes it up past the first world. Needless to say, I was blown away. The frantic sense of speed afforded by the PSVR, combined with the pounding soundtrack and eerily twisted visuals pushed my senses to the limits as the rhythms became more complicated, the mechanics more dense, and the tempo more frantic. Just sitting here thinking about it, I can almost feel myself hurtling forward toward the screen. Also this is the only game that has made me internalize and sight-read a 5/8 time signature, which was a treat. I'm excited for 7/8.

5. The Witness

I love puzzles. Many of my fondest memories from childhood are of getting comfy on a bed or a couch and reading through a book of logic puzzles. When I heard that all the puzzles in The Witness were going to be line puzzles on grids on panels, I was skeptical about how much depth there could actually be. The prerelease buzz got me, though, and I'm glad it did. The way The Witness takes such a simple concept of moving a line through a maze and turns it on its head, then turns it inside-out, then turns it into a goldfish, then eats the goldfish but really it was a combustion engine all along, is intensely challenging and immensely satisfying. Then you find the secret. Then you find the other secret. Then you realize the secrets have secrets. Then you curl up in a ball because The Witness has bested you.

4. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice

I've been dedicated to the Ace Attorney series since the beginning, and with every game they build and build on the existing fiction in new and unexpected ways. Spirit of Justice is no different, with an intricately woven series of trials, a slew of cameos, and new hidden truths for all the main characters to discover about themselves and each other. I'm still only about halfway through the final trial as of writing this, but I feel confident in this game's placement on my list. I can't wait to see how it ends!

3. Final Fantasy XV

This game is good! It's sooo good! Unfortunately I had to sacrifice The Last Guardian to "Best Old Game" contention in 2017, but it was worth it. I dove into Final Fantasy XV hard. I hunted every hunt, quested every quest, dungeoned every dungeon, and never once got tired of it (maybe once; you know which dungeon I'm talking about). The game's unique take on action RPG combat gives players the utmost freedom for expression of tactics and skill, with the potential to take down significantly stronger enemies with enough preparation and patience. It's unfortunate that the story can't be properly appreciated without watching a mediocre anime and a middling movie, but the game rewards that effort by spinning a heartfelt tale of brotherhood, camaraderie, love, loss, duty and dedication. I had more than one instance of intense feelings, and as crazy as it sounds I might jump in for a New Game+ to see all the story tweaks they end up doing to help clear up the third act of the game. Also a quick protip, learn Airdance as soon as possible. Trust me.

Not a spoiler, I swear!
Not a spoiler, I swear!

2. Monster Hunter Generations

What to say here? Monster Hunter is the best, and Generations brings drastic but welcome changes to that tried-and-true formula. Most notably, the fact that each weapon can now be wielded in any of four distinct hunter styles effectively quadruples the number of options when tackling a monster, and enables players to more effectively focus on their strengths when they play. Unlike previous games where I had to maintain a wide variety of weapons to deal with different monsters, I was able to overcome almost every creature in Generations using either a hammer or greatsword in the aerial style. Using a monster to boost myself 30-feet in the air, only to come back down on its head with a massive charged slash attack never gets boring.

1. Street Fighter V

Surprise surprise, my most disappointing game in 2016 is also my favorite game of 2016.

It's been a rough year for Street Fighter V. The game had a shaky-ass release and never fully recovered, at least in the eyes of the public. Even now, almost a year later, Capcom isn't even close to catching up and repairing their relationship with the casual audience.

As an online warrior, though, none of that matters. That's because with Street Fighter V I have had the more fun playing with people than any other fighting game. Thanks to the numerous small tweaks to lower the execution barrier for people with bad hands like me, I can play the game secure in the knowledge that when something goes wrong, it was my decision making and not my inability to perform finger acrobatics in a satisfactory way that got me. While small, the cast is varied and incredibly well balanced, and even if my preferred strategy of keepaway is somewhat weaker in V than in past iterations, I'm never so disadvantaged that I feel like it's more the game beating me than the other player.

Capcom claims to have plans for the game through 2020, and 2017 will be the first big indication of what exactly that entails. Beyond the recent balance update and some new characters, there are dozens of quality-of-life tweaks that I'm hoping will be made sometime in the next year to bring the game's quality up to a level that is more easily recommendable to fair-weather street fighters.

Maybe you picked up the game on a whim over one of the numerous winter sales, or maybe you've been on the fence ever since you first heard how busted the game was in February. Well, if fighting against other people is what you're looking for, there's no real reason not to jump in now (unless your internet is bad also it sounds rough for Australia?). Our SFV community is going pretty strong. You can find us in a couple places:

Stay safe and stay sane and play some video games in 2017.

Hmmm... I think this game would have been *much* better suited for the no. 2 position.
Hmmm... I think this game would have been *much* better suited for the no. 2 position.


D&D 5e Homebrew Class: Spelldancer (Feedback Wanted!)

The homebrew train keeps on chugging, this time with the Spelldancer (homebrewery link)!

The inspiration for this comes from something like 15 years ago when I was dreaming up different fictional universes when I should have been paying attention in lectures. What if a spellcaster couldn't speak? How would they fulfill the verbal components of a spell? Well, what if there was a sort of sign-language equivalent to arcane words of power. Ok, well what if that sign-language actually took the form of dance? Thusly: Spelldancer.

From a mechanical point of view, the core concept is to be a squishy hybrid damage dealer, something between and Eldritch Knight and a Rogue, leaning more heavily in the Rogue direction of things. Because I needed the feeling of a continuous dance to be embodied by the gameplay, I gave the class a momentum-based mechanic that powers up as you hit with stuff. Of course it's hard to balance momentum-based things to not be too weak at the start and not be too strong at the end, but I think I struck a pretty good balance, factoring in the standard D&D fight length of 3-rounds.

Or maybe this class is still bustabust. I dunno. Anyways, I'd love to get any feedback you guys have. Eviscerate all my ideas! Yay!


D&D 5e Homebrew Class/Background: Steelshaper/Adept (Feedback Wanted!)

Update: I made a custom background to go along with the class, and threw it all into Homebrewery which I just discovered and spent way too much time messing around when I should have been sleeping.

Some of you may remember earlier in the year when GBer @joystick_hero was recruiting for his D&D campaign and I was one of the lucky few who managed to join. Well we've been playing for... almost half-a-year? So we're taking a break in the action to run a short interlude campaign and he was magnanimous enough to let me build out a custom class.

Which is here:

Steelshapers! Originally I was trying to design this as a 4e class which was a nightmare and I quickly gave up. Now I think I've pretty much made a complete class. The core concept is to have a melee class that's light on damage, but high on utility and crowd control. If any of you would like to give this a read and offer feedback, I'd be very appreciative. I'll try not to be too precious about my ideas.


This Is Not a Table - Thursday Night Tabletop RPG (The Sprawl)

UPDATE: Since this got bumped, the game is well underway with a full roster or 9 players, but if/when someone drops out I'll be back looking for more so if you're interested feel free to post in here and you'll be the first people I ask.


After getting back into "tabletop" roleplaying thanks to Tuesday Night DnD! hosted by @joystick_hero and being massively inspired by Austin Walker's Friends at the Table actual play podcast, I have decided to MC/GM/DM my own game of The Sprawl.

And I need players!

This Is Not a Table (Ceci n'est pas une table)

What is it?

This Is Not a Table is a game of The Sprawl hosted through Roll20 on Thursdays, running approximately from 7:30PM-11PM PDT. The game follows a split-narrative between two groups playing on alternating weeks. The targeted start date for Group A will be July 7, with Group B following on July 14.

What is the setting?

Not only does my game us a hack of The Sprawl similar to Austin's podcast, I am borrowing heavily from his COUNTER/Weight campaign in terms of general setting and narrative beats. If you're a listener of FatT this may be an awkward or even sacrilegious experience for you so buyer beware.

If you haven't listened to season 2 of FatT (which you totally should except maybe not right away if you want to join this game) this is a cyberpunk mecha noire anime space opera sort of deal, set in a far flung future where warring factions of space-socialists and space-hyper capitalists have reached a tenuous peace and are engaging in a sort of cold war.

Who is the DM?

I'm Aaron, a full-time father who has been away from tabletop roleplaying for far too long. This is my first time MCing a game in about a decade and my first time MCing this style of tabletop game ever, but I feel like I have a fairly solid grasp on things and the test sessions I have done so far went relatively well? People claim they had fun is all I'm saying.

What do I need/need to know?

A microphone is a must. We will also be running our voice (and a majority of our out-of-game communication) through Discord as well so make sure you have access to that. Other than that, I only ask that you be responsive and communicative in between sessions. Also know that I will be recording all sessions through OBS and likely making them available, if for no other reason than so that our other players have the option to keep track of both sides of the story.

What if I'm new to tabletop games?

As a game, The Sprawl is less concerned with mechanics and rules and more focused on building scenes through collaborative storytelling. The only thing the player needs to bring to the table are imagination, creativity, and a willingness to really play their role. Your job is to tell me what you want to do, narratively, and my job is to fit the rules around the move you're making.

How do I get involved?

As a game, The Sprawl is designed to handle up to five players. I currently have two core players playing every week and a husband/wife couple alternating between playing and childcare week by week (hence the split narrative). This functionally gives me two groups of 3, meaning I can handle 4 more (or 2 players every other week). This is going to be a first-come-first-serve sort of thing, but don't put your name down unless you can really commit the time. I'm actually EDT so starting somewhat promptly is pretty important so I can get to bed by 2AM.

Thanks for reading and hopefully we'll be able to start playing soon!


StarvingGamer's Games Worth Starving For (or Otherwise) in 2015

So I live on the East Coast now.

Maybe it's the darker nights, maybe it's the separation from friends and family, probably mostly it's just the getting older, but no year has been filled with more existential dread than 2015. On the bright side, every anxiety-filled minute spent unable to sleep is another good minute for playing video games because my kids are in bed and I don't want to be left alone with my thoughts.

The releases of several high quality, time-crushing games hitting triple-digit hour marks this year, alongside a bevy of smaller narrative experiences from developers of all shapes and sizes, went a long way to keeping me sane. Of course, given how many of these games had such a strong thematic focus on mortality, the nature of consciousness, and often near extinction-level events, maybe they didn't really help my psyche all that much? Eh, better not to think about it.

Because while every year is a good year to be not dead, 2015 was a particularly fantastic year for being not dead and a player of video games. Allow me to cling to the illusion of cosmic relevance by telling you about some of the games that made an impact on me this year.

2015's Old Game of the Year

AKA "What are you thinking, releasing your game in December?".

The Talos Principle

Do you think the cat is freaking out? I miss my cats :'(
Do you think the cat is freaking out? I miss my cats :'(

A lot of people were talking about this game at the end of last year. Ok, maybe it was just Chris Remo on Idle Thumbs. But between having too many games to play and having already spent too much money on having too many games to play, I just had to let this one fall by the wayside.

Which worked out for the best, as it turns out. I ended up circling back around to Talos Principle when the release of the "Road to Gehenna" expansion reminded me A) that this game existed and B) that I really wanted to play this game. 3D puzzle games with an omnipotent voice that becomes gradually more sinister in nature are right in my wheelhouse, and I couldn't help but feel myself identifying strongly with the "salvaging the final vestiges of humanity" themes present throughout the core game.

Then I got to Road to Gehenna and hoo boy, what a fucking fantastic intersection between the nature of personhood and AI and the nascent formation of BBS communities. Not to knock the actual gameplay, but at a certain point I was looking up walkthroughs for any puzzles I felt even slightly stymied by simply so I could hurry along to the next terminal and advance the plot because it was sooo good.

It's not a universal recommendation, some of those later puzzles get really gnarly and unlike Portal where there's lots of forward momentum every time you figure out the next step, in Talos Principle there's a lot of staying still or even backtracking which can make significant progress feel like no progress. But if you grew up on the internet in the late 80s and early 90s and enjoy stories about AI that can make you question your sense of self, you should definitely check it out.

Runners-up: Assassin's Creed: Unity, This War of Mine

Best Surprise

SteamWorld Heist

Hitting ricochets feels amaaaaaaaazing
Hitting ricochets feels amaaaaaaaazing

I actually didn't know about this game until last Friday night when I decided to watch the GB quicklook for it. The guys who made that kinda generic-but-solid digging game followed it up with a 2D, turn-based tactical RPG? What? And it's really good!?

Since I had just wrapped up Picross e5 and Pokémon Picross is apparently a microtransaction nightmare, I needed something I could distract my brain with while waiting for exhaustion to take over and put me to sleep at night, and SteamWorld Heist sounded like it would fit the bill. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered a game that hits almost all the bulletpoints that make up a strong TRPG:

  • Varied characters/classes that promote unique styles of play
  • Special abilities that encourage use and can generate explosive turns when used in conjunction
  • Equipment system that can't be simply min/maxed and isn't cumbersome for players constantly swapping characters
  • Quick and easy save scumming

I'm having one of the most satisfying experiences in years with one of my favorite genres, so much so that even though I wanted it to be my "before bed" game it's turned into my "any time I have a free minute like when I'm using the restroom or at a red light" game and I'm pretty sure I'm going to run out of game soon and then what will I play in bed?

Pokémon Picross sounds real rough.

Runners-up: Her Story, Until Dawn

Best Intensely Personal Narrative Experience


Full-screen the chat box and add a bunch of people rolling dice
Full-screen the chat box and add a bunch of people rolling dice

Let me tell you a story.

So before I had a real girlfriend, I had a series of internet "girlfriends". This is at a time when, for most people, the most efficient way to show someone across the country a picture of yourself was to develop a photograph, stuff it into an envelope, and mail it to them. At one point I actually somehow talked my parents into buying me a plane ticket to fly from LA to... Chicago? to stay with a girl's family for like a weekend.

What the fuck mom & dad? What the fuck girl's mom and dad? In retrospect it was one of the craziest things that was only made slightly less crazy by the fact that I was a big enough shithead to chicken out at the last minute which was a whole other ordeal. (To be clear, the girl was totally not a creepy 40-year-old murder guy and we actually became friends later on and even hung out face-to-face once, but now that I have kids of my own I can't imagine myself ever feeling ok with doing something like that when they turn... I dunno I think I was 15? 16 at the time? without the additional layer of peace-of-mind that stuff like webcams and cell phones provides us with today.) Nina Freeman is a good few years younger than me, but swap VoIP conversations with AOL RP chatrooms and this game is me during my first two years of high school.

Which is why Cibele hit me so so so hard because every stupid line Ichi said trying to be a cool flirty guy was something I typed into an IM at some point. Every time Nina struggled to juggle various conversations about who was or wasn't doing what with who among a group of people who had never even seen each other before was a struggle I had experienced. And watching Ichi and Nina finally get together and do body stuff then immediately have a falling out was like a weird look into an alternate universe where I actually went through with it and took that flight (although I'm pretty sure no weird body stuff would have happened since I was going to be staying at her house with her parents and also we were 15).

I am Ichi. I am Nina.

Runner-Up: Emily is Away

Biggest Disappointment


Though it was brief, I'll never forget the time we shared
Though it was brief, I'll never forget the time we shared

Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait. Wait. Wait.

Undertale is not a bad game. No one who likes, loves, bleeds for Undertale is wrong for having that opinion. I feel like I'm a hair's breadth from being right there with you.

On paper, Undertale should be everything I want in an indie RPG. It's heavily inspired by Earthbound, my 9th favorite game of all time, has an intensely wry sense of humor, encourages non-standard styles of play, and takes full advantage of the unique features of the medium to create a narrative that subverts your expectations via the game's mechanics.

But man is it super duper not fun to play. Full disclosure: I got to the Undine fight, died a couple times, got crazy tilted (I was also on a losing streak in the SFV beta at the time which didn't help my mood), and proceeded to delete the game in the ultimate ragequit. Then I reinstalled it a few months later, banged my head against the fight a few more times, and haven't been back since. And in all that time, not once did I actually enjoy the act of playing the game. I'm not a hater of bullet hell mechanics in general, I love me some Ikaruga, but for whatever reason its implementation in Undertale never went beyond fluctuating between being boring, tedious, and frustrating for me.

I really really really wanted to like this game. So many people whose opinions I place a lot of stock in absolutely adore this game. The spoilers described in the GB GotY podcasts sound like amazing things to experience, but I'll never get there unless they add a mode that mitigates the bullet hell stuff entirely.

Runners-up: Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Best Game to Pay Full-Price for but Not Play

AKA "What are you thinking, releasing your game in December (part deux)?"

Xenoblade Chronicles X

I want the robutt!
I want the robutt!

Look Xenoblade Chronicles. You're real cool. Your UI is a beautiful cluttered mess. Waiting 30 hours to introduce a major game mechanic that recontextualizes the entire experience is one of the greatest things. But Fallout 4 came out first and I have a lot of settlements I have to maintain. All these microscopes aren't going to collect themselves. I've gotta help my doctor robot girlfriend download her consciousness into a synthetic human body and raise a militia to stop all the anarchy. Oh also my son is missing so I should probably try to find him at some point.

Life with kids means I'm usually on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to getting TV time, not only because everyone else gets priority but also because if my kids aren't watching TV then I'm probably chasing them around and too busy to play. And it's just so much easier and less obtrusive once everyone is asleep to boot something up on PC. I'll definitely be giving this game a lot of my time in 2016 (early Old Game contender?) but I knew there was no way I'd be able to invest a satisfactory amount of time in it for GotY considerations so it didn't make the cut.

Soma thanks you.

Runners-up: Invisible, Inc., Rebel Galaxy

Best Moment

Life Is Strange - Chloe's Request (Episode 4)


Shit gets dire
Shit gets dire

To catch you up, Max goes back in time to the day Chloe's dad dies and saves his life, drastically altering the present, leaving Chloe paralyzed from the neck down, strapped to machines, and confined to a wheelchair. After a day talking about Chloe's life, future, and the strain her injury has placed on her parents, both emotionally and financially, the two friends fall asleep while watching Blade Runner together.

At it's core, Life Is Strange is about two things: unforeseen consequences and Max struggling to keep Chloe alive. Both of these ideas converge the next morning when Chloe asks Max to help her commit suicide by administering an overdose of morphine.

If you've been paying careful attention, Max's next move is telegraphed from a mile away. She's going to go back back-in-time to undo saving Chloe's dad's life, but before she does she has to make a choice. And even though you know there's no real consequence, even though she knows there's no real consequence, Max is going to have to live with the knowledge of her decision for the rest of her life.

In the end, my Max couldn't do it, and even if it was for just a moment in a reality that wasn't going to exist any more, Chloe's attitude of bitter resentment was crushing.

Runners-up: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - Mission 43 (the bottom floor), The Beginner's Guide - Stop adding lampposts

StarvingGamer's Top 10 Games of 2015

10. Until Dawn

As much as I hate horror anything, I absolutely adore this game. Yeah it scared the shit out of me even though I only played it during daylight hours with the blinds wide open, but the way it handled the Quantic Dream formula and perfectly twisted it to fit the genre was incredibly impressive. In 20 years when they make a TV show about the 2010s and a character says "get monked!" we'll know. We'll know.

9. Tales from the Borderlands

Man did I think this sounded dumb and unnecessary when they first announced it. Man was I super-duper wrong. Rhys and Fiona are excellent protagonists with personalities that allow them to shift between a wide variety of emotional responses without feeling out character, and they are supported by a strong cast with their own unique wrinkles that make them both likable and unlikable in all the right ways. Also Rhys crying on Sasha is one of the cutest, sweetest moments I've seen in a video game ever.

8. Her Story

Yeah, the actual plot is kinda dumb/far fetched, but this game does two amazing things. It fully leverages the UI design to give you a powerfully immersive sense of place, and it builds the narrative in a wholly unique manner only possible in a video game. I am extremely satisfied.

7. Fallout 4

Settlements! They're so janky and busted but I can't stop building settlements! I'm not even good at it! Also I love having a real excuse to loot literally everything. I think I have close to 300k caps now and I don't even know what I could ever spend it on. Curie is great. Piper is great. They are my waifus.

(GB image compression is a bummer, source file here)

Why yes, I am firing a chaingun from a ship on top of a skyscraper while wearing hot-rod pink power armor. Thanks for noticing!
Why yes, I am firing a chaingun from a ship on top of a skyscraper while wearing hot-rod pink power armor. Thanks for noticing!

6. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

If I had more time to play this game it would probably be higher on the list, but that doesn't doesn't diminish the fact that it was an incredible evolution of the MH formula that managed to bring many new players to a franchise that I love dearly. Also I feel completely justified buying two different giant strap-on devices for my 3DS to get the interface as close to the "claw" grip as possible.

5. Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

What a perfectly fitting end for the trilogy. Blizzard takes their galactic soap opera and cranks the melodrama to 11 and it is glorious. Kerrigan literally turns into Phoenix and Raynor maybe commits suicide (I mean obviously not it's Blizz but what if!?!?)? John de Lancie chews the scenery with his reverse-echo voice like nobody's business and you get AoE Voidrays. Also from what I hear it is a much better eSport than HotS was although I haven't had a chance to check out the new season of GSL yet.

4. Soma

I literally beat the game this morning. Did I mention I hate horror games? Circling back to the existential dread for a bit, Soma hits on all of the issues I've had with digital transference of consciousness in sci-fi narratives and actually makes me feel a bit more grimy about Talos Principle and Fallout 4 (and Naruto. Naruto is really fucked up if you think about it. Kage Bunshin no Jutsu is a mass murder every time). Even if all the parts with monsters were majorly anti-fun, they were never punishing enough to deter me from pushing on to the next narrative bit where things became even more gross and twisted and I got to fumble my way around some other future technology thing.

3. Life Is Strange

I just have one question: To all the people out there complaining about the dialogue in Life Is Strange, how many of you have spent enough time around teens from the Pacific Northwest to authoritatively know how they talk nowadays? Also what is your home address and the police are on their way.

2. The Beginner's Guide

Remember how I praised Her Story for delivering its narrative in a uniquely video gamey way? The Beginner's Guide is that x100. By incorporating himself into the experience, Davey Wreden strings us along by building expectations and subsequently subverting them in the most devious ways as he pulls us through the twists and turns of his darkening monologue.

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

This game is weird.

How do you take a traditionally 6-10 hour game narrative and stretch it across 80+ hours of gameplay? I guess in the case of MGSV, you don't, and there's definitely a thinness to the story that makes it feel like something was lost from what most people think of as a "good" Metal Gear.

But none of that really matters when the game is so unbelievably fun to play. MGSV does 3D stealth in a way that, most importantly, is far more fair than previous games in the genre, and as a result the game is much more enjoyable. The shooting is solid enough to keep the action manageable when things get dicey, but there are so many ways to approach each mission and so many tools at your disposal that you are completely empowered to turn every location into a ghost town by strapping balloons to the backs of all your enemies. And gun emplacements. And tanks. And bears?

Which isn't to say that the narrative is bad, just a bit sparse and maybe trading in some of the gleeful insanity of the older games in order to maintain its dire tone. But stun-knife D-Dog is amazing. Also Quiet is amazing (although it felt a bit weird the way she kept shoving her ass in front of the camera whenever my family was around). And that ending. Oh man, between that and the incredible strength of the gameplay, I am super duper duper bummed out about what seems to be the future (or lack thereof) of the franchise.

If I don't get a game from V's perspective during the events of MG1 & 2, Konami will feel ashamed of their words & deeds.

So bummed!


You're all diamonds
You're all diamonds


Evo2016: Too Many Games/Not Enough Evo

On November 1, the folks at Canada Cup aired the trailer for Evo2016. It was mostly sizzle, but the few bits of steak we got told us two things: that Evo will continue running as a three-day event (July 15-17) still being held somewhere in Las Vegas. It sounds like business as usual, but as the dust settled on Evo2015 there were some rumblings about the possibility of moving to a larger venue (the Bally's could barely contain us this year) and extending the already packed event to run an additional day, Thursday-Sunday, to help accommodate the numerous growing competitive scenes and make room for the new fighting game releases slated for early-mid 2016.

Then the dates dropped, followed by this tweet from Joey Cuellar (AKA MrWizard), admin for and Evo showrunner:

Of course nothing is near to set-in-stone at this point, but the notion of trying to limit Evo2016 to seven games means a lot of worthy entrants are going be left by the wayside. Here are what I see as the contenders in alphabetical order:

BlazBlue: Central Fiction

The newest iteration of BlazBlue is hitting the Japanese arcades in a couple days and seems likely for a 2016 release on consoles. While BB was responsible for one of the hypest matches of Evo2014, it seems unlikely that it will be able to develop enough momentum to overtake its sister series, Guilty Gear, by the time Evo2016 rolls around. And in an Evo with only seven games, it seems really unlikely that we'll have two airdasher games.

Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-

Giantbomb's Best-Looking Game of 2014 is going strong, even if Kazunoko insists that America is free (or did he? I think he did). As the biggest airdasher in America, and with the -Revelator- update already out in Japan and coming to consoles soonish maybe GG sounds like a shoe-in. After all, it's the game that got us on Sports Center. Even if BB:CF is going to be the (slightly) newer hotness, I can't see it overtaking GG in popularity or demand.

Killer Instinct (Season 3)

KI is a tough one. Obviously belonging to the house of Dave Lang is a huge plus for any GB fan, but it simply hasn't been there in terms of numbers comparatively speaking. It's unfortunate because KI has consistently had some of the most interesting character designs in fighting game history, particularly in season 2, and season 3 is coming just around the corner. What if Rash is out in time for Evo!? Between secret Japanese tech and one of the stupidest comebacks in fighting game history, I'll personally be really sad if it doesn't make it back for 2016.

The King of Fighters XIV

It's slated for a 2016 release but it's unclear whether or not that's going to happen before or after Evo. A lot has been said about the visual direction of the game, but in the end what really matters is how it plays. (People still play MKX after all o_O.) KoF has made several strong showings at past Evos and their unique take on the 3v3 system helps foster many unique, hype-filled situations. That said, the US KoF scene has never been very strong and SNK only seems to be further alienating their players with the loss of those gorgeous sprite animations from KoFXII and XIII.

Mortal Kombat X

As the biggest western fighting game, it's hard to imagine Evo2016 without MKX. Now that the folks at NRS have cooled it a bit with their balance patching and allowed the game to breathe, there has been a ton of diversity in playstyles and character choices at tournaments. The warring factions aspect between team Yomi and Sonic Fox plus the beastly players from Europe always makes for compelling storylines. Plus it's the only game to have a player lose a FT10 exhibition match 0-13. There will be new DLC characters coming next year so we'll have to see if they're going to continue the trend of releasing character that are busted/OP or maybe they've learned their lesson and we won't have a repeat of the Tanya army. I mean, sure they've made the same mistake like 15 times now between four different games, but maybe?

Pokkén Tournament

Alright, I'll be honest, I don't know much about this game other than the fact that it's coming out Q2 next year, it's some weird Pokemon/Tekken mashup, and it's being backed by Nintendo so they could end up making a big push for it in the FGC. I mean, they probably won't, but they could.

But they won't.

Street Fighter V

The game. This is what Capcom is going to be pushing next year for the Capcom Cup basically guaranteeing it the premier spot next Evo. Less informed viewers from all around the world will be able to wonder "what happened to Chun-Li's boobs" and "how is Mika not constantly falling out of her costume?". Will the return to a more footsies/reads-based style and lower execution barrier signal the return of American greats like Alex Valle and Mike Watson? Will Daigo just be unstoppable? How will Cammy players survive without set-play? Will everyone just end up playing Dhalsim? Also by then there should be at least 4 DLC characters and maybe even I will enter if I make it out there. I can't wait ahhhhhhhhh!

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (4)

If any game is going to get two entries in Evo2016, it's going to be Smash. Smash 4 has been going strong with expanded character diversity in top-8s. With Zero's insane 53-tournament win streak finally ended by Nairo, everyone is looking better and better at the game. But what about customs mannn?

Super Smash Bros. Melee

It's crazy but Melee is still somehow getting bigger. Honestly, if it weren't for Street Fighter's pro-tour status, I wouldn't have been surprised to see it supplanted by Melee as the marquee game at Evo2015. The five gods of Smash have also been finding the fight to top 8 harder and harder as the community around them continues to level up their skills. Hopefully Leffen figures out his visa issues soon. We need more of that hair.

Tekken 7

Tekken 7 is doing its best to keep the torch for 3D fighters from burning out. It's hard to say where things stand with this game in regards to Evo2016. We don't even know if it will be out on console by then, and with Pokken for Wii U coming will Namco want to make the effort to bring the arcade boards out here again, especially with Tekken evangelist MarkMan ending his tenure with MadCatz? With this year's Namco Cup happening almost entirely in Japan, it's real hard to gauge whether they're seeing the success they want and if they'll be interested in expanding more globally next year to something more akin to the Capcom Cup. If they do, then I'd expect a slot at Evo to be a certainty.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Mahvel lives! No seriously, between Frank West winning a major that included FChamp and RayRay and all the amazing work Samantha Hancock (AKA Persia) has been doing on the periphery of the scene, Marvel has never seemed stronger. Everyone is good at Marvel now which makes it an incredibly beautiful game to watch with blindingly fast character movement and the tension in knowing that even the most random stray hit can transform itself into a character-killing combo. I know a lot of people dislike the game because of TAC infinites or just how confusing it can be to watch if you're not familiar with the mechanics, but I'm going to be super angry if UMvC3 doesn't make it back in 2016.

Ultra Street Fighter IV

The King is dead, long live the King. Look, in an 8 or 9-game Evo I would love love LOVE to have USFIV there. Justin Wong is finally getting back to his roots with Elena and everyone is just so fucking good at this game now. There are going to be 32 players at Capcom Cup this year and I can't even begin to imagine how insane that is going to be. Few competitive games have had the luxury of time and strength of community necessary to reach this level of skill across such a broad selection of competitors. But the fact remains that SFV is going to be the CapCup game next year and unlike Melee and Smash 4, the crossover in players between USFIV and SFV is likely to be far closer to 100%. Maybe we can get a cool invitational exhibition between past Evo champions at the MadCatz booth or something, but unless Evo expands its scope in 2016 I think that USFIV is going to need to be one of the more painful omissions.

So there you have it, the games that seem to at least be somewhat in contention for one of those coveted Evo spots. I think I'll go ahead and make a poll thread too but I'd be curious to know what your thoughts are. Which games do you want to see in the lineup? Which games do you not want to see? Is there anything that I missed? Here are my personal picks, although I think that omitting Smash 4 is actually crazy and impossible and that sadly KI probably should be the one to go.

Here's a cool bonus video where Gerald from Core-A Gaming talks about the three fighting game player archetypes as theorized by ex-Infiltration BFF Laugh.


StarvingGamer's Super Delayed First Evo-Trip Blog

It's amazing how demoralizing it can be when your normally rock-solid computer randomly hard crashes, costing you a couple hours and over a thousand words of typing. That's what happened to my already delayed post-Evo blog that I am finally dragging myself back to the keyboard to type up now. It's going to be a long one so buckle up.

It was always hard to justify the Evo trip while we lived in LA, what with the kids and a lack of any reliable child care in our immediate area. But after moving across the country my wife and I realized that we could probably con the grandparents into a month of free babysitting. I casually suggested that we schedule our trip some time around Evo weekend and she was super into the idea. #bestwifeever #hashtagsinablogpost

The Sleeping Beast has yet to Awoken...?
The Sleeping Beast has yet to Awoken...?

We flew out to NorCal, hung out with my wife's family for about a week, then bid the babies au revoir and shot down to Las Vegas so my wife could gamble and I could watch people play video games real good. Thanks to a delayed flight, we didn't make it to the Bally's until very late Thursday night. Not only did I miss early badge pickup, we didn't end up getting into our room until an hour after the clock ticked over to Friday. On the bright side, this meant the very first true bit of Evo I got to see was a sleepy Daigo waiting in line to check in, still wearing his neck pillow. He had the honor of being the first of many eCelebrities that I would creepily photograph while trying not to be noticed but completely being noticed and then immediately ignored as the person tried to pretend they didn't notice me ohmygodisthispersonastalker!?

Also Nemo was there with a small entourage. He is a tall man.

Four hours of sleep later, I woke up to try and get an early run on badge pickup at 7AM. The more fool I, as everyone in Vegas decided to get an even earlier run and the line was stretched across the entirety of Bally's by 6:30. An hour later, badge in hand, I drowsily staggered my way into the second line to enter the venue that had reached the terminus and folded back upon itself one-and-a-half times as frustrated hotel security fought to wrangle the eager masses into something more resembling an ordered progression and less a Möbius strip of fightstick-appendaged humanoids. I may have accidentally entered the line somewhere closer to the halfway point as I was confused by all the bends and turns.


A couple of Japanese gentlemen were intrigued by my CPT2014 Champion Select tee and asked to take some pictures of it. I obliged as I had just, er, cut in front of them, and by 8:20 we had made it inside. Woe be anyone with an 8AM pool who was not super on-top of their Evo badge/line game.

MarkMan's selfie game is on point
MarkMan's selfie game is on point

I made a beeline for the MadCatz booth, conveniently located just inside the doors to the viewing hall, because I knew those Rivals TE2s were going to go fast. Lo and behold, another big line! With seemingly only one person working the register and a lot of indecision from customers, things were going slooow. Luckily MarkMan was there to thank us for our support and hand out random trinkets. I got some sunglasses for the car and a selfie. I also realized that I had never taken a selfie and had no idea how to take a selfie. You guys are going to see all (3) of my bad selfies. Sorry.

So joystick in hand I did what any Evo attendee would do in my situation, went back to my room because who in their right mind would carry a heavy, $200 box around with them all day? My wife was about to head out to get breakfast so we went together and ate at what would prove to be the restaurant with the best cost-to-taste ratio of the entire weekend. Vegas food is expensive! Back at Evo I went looking for the Namco panel because I foolishly harbored hopes that some Tekken x Street Fighter news might finally be coming out for Harada other than him once again insisting that it still exists.

It was the worst-attended panel I had ever seen. It probably didn't help that the doors to the panel room were never opened except for when people wandered by and randomly peeked their heads in to see what was going on. There was absolutely nothing indicating to attendees that anything was happening inside. I actually spent a good five minutes standing by the doors wondering if I somehow was in the wrong place before someone else walk in past me and I sheepishly followed. Lots of Tekken talk happened. Basically the only slide they had was a picture of Lucky Chloe. There's some new employee ex-Jpop idol whose job is to become a good player? Someone asked a question about the lack of black characters in Tekken 7. Michael Murray's rambling answer at one point included him assuring the audience that he has black friends. I died a little inside. No Tekken x SF news.

At several points during the panel I found myself nodding off and almost falling out of my chair so when it ended I headed back to the room to take a nap. But first I wanted to try my new stick out on the PS4 I had lugged from the East Coast back to Cali. Then I wanted to take a shower because I felt all gross. Then I decided that fuck it if I'm at Evo I should be doing the shit I can only do at Evo so even though I've had my fair share of negative things to say about this game that I've never actually played, I went to the Killer Instinct panel.

I can't handle how smart Keits is
I can't handle how smart Keits is

Compared to Namco it was like night and day. The doors were still closed and there were no signs outside saying "KI Panel Here!" but the room was packed with standing room only by the time I got there so I headed to the back to hang out with the water cooler and hold up the wall. There was a huge focus on merch which everyone else was real hype over, but I just wanted to hear Keits say smart shit about fighting game character design. They did a reveal of Shadow Jago and shared a few tidbits about the legacy of creating Aria. They also gave away a pair of KI/Evo 2014 LE Razer Atrox sticks to people tweeting while attending the panel. One of the two dudes selected left early (ouch!) and I was the first runner-up (thanks buddy!)! They offered to mail it to me and it actually just arrived a few weeks ago which is fine since it's for a console I don't own/a game that's not out yet on PC and actually the button spacing is wider than a TE so I don't even know if I'm actually going to use it but woohoo free stick! I also ambushed Keits afterwards and gushed like an idiot and he took a picture with me.

Then I went and took a nap. The rest of the evening was spent taking candids of random players, eating dinner with my wife and her friends who drove up from LA to gamble/keep her company, and watching people getting eliminated off-stream before the Persona 4 Arena Ultimax finals and the Ultra Street Fighter IV semis. I saw Champ's surprise (to me) Seth pick against Haitani. His could have won off the strength of his footsie game if he wasn't dropping so many combos. Inco Rufus went on a rampage through a few players including Smug and Matsuri. Valle fought valiantly but eventually fell to Eita and all the MCZ boys were there to watch Misse take out Bonchan. Also during the semis Zhi kept walking back and forth trying to make sidebets on all of the matches. He was super organized with a clipboard and everything.

Also the cutest thing ever. Sako was there with his wife and baby girl, and by the time it was Sako vs Tokido, his daughter was falling asleep in his wife's arms. They were standing just under the jumbotron when Sako took a game. His wife jumped up and pumped her fist and their previously-sleeping-now-awake daughter looked at her like, "WTF mom?", before putting her head back down and nodding off again. Sako ended up losing that match. So sad.

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A night's sleep happened, followed by breakfast. After that, most of Saturday was spent aimlessly wandering unsure what to do with myself. I didn't really care to watch any of the pools going on (not a Smash or KI fan, I was mad at MKX, and UMvC3 is almost always garbo before top 32), so I looked at booths, tried waiting for people to stop playing the Dancing All Night demos so I could have a turn but they never stopped, and I ended up impulse buying an Evo balltop and a few buttons plus an 8-way gate because square-gates gross me out.

This is so dumb why WHY!?
This is so dumb why WHY!?

Also Amiibos are a scourge that must be stopped.

The Capcom panel was just as jamming as the KI panel, although Ono only showed up for a few minutes before it actually started. They did the big "fight money" reveal which I feel like I have been more-or-less calling ever since Street Fighter V was announced (self high-five) and trolled everyone by heavily implying a character reveal at the beginning of the panel then telling us to wait until Sunday at the end of the panel. I battled my way through my social barriers and got up to ask a question about in-game currency and training mode since I have always been a lab-monster at heart and was basically told "lol no" so sucks to be me I guess o_O. Haunts was there. He's a pretty cool guy.

I did not get a free Shadow Jago mask :'(
I did not get a free Shadow Jago mask :'(

Cut to: Tournament Hall

I'll say this, for as much as I may personally dislike the dial-a-combo counter-breaker system of KI, the finals that day were pretty hype. I still think Thunder's DP is kinda BS, but maybe I'll finally understand why it isn't once the game is out on PC and I get my dirty mitts on it. Thankfully there was so much gloriously lame play. SleepNS's ability to outlame his opponent despite basically being at a full life-bar deficit and there being effectively zero chip damage in KI will be one of my top fighting game moments of all time, and I was there to see it in person! Rico's depth of character knowledge and plasma throwing/laser blasting prowess was also incredibly impressive.

Mortal Kombat X and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 semis also happened. I have a vague recollection of UMvC3 being full of blowups but honestly, my brain was still reeling from the insanity of KI so I can't think of anything specific other than KBR being a boss.

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On to finals day!

I was one of the people with a viewing hall pass which worked out for me because not only did I need to get my dose of ultradavey and jimmychensor, the oft-delayed and much hyped Luffy v Santarou match was finally set to be held at the MadCatz booth. I also got a chance to try taking panorama shots and I learned that I do not have the attention span/steady hand necessary to take panorama shots. So here are some panorama shots:

No one here for Guilty Gear
No one here for Guilty Gear
People were more hype for this than MKX
People were more hype for this than MKX


The room was pretty empty for the entirety of the Guilty Gear Xrd top 8. Even by grand finals, there was only a smattering of people scattered across the front few rows. That still didn't stop the entire room from freaking the fuck out at the moment "what-are-you-standing-up-for" Woshige will always be known for. I missed most of MKX because I was watching Luffy completely flounder during the exhibition. I think he said something about a hangover? It wasn't a total blowup but Santarou managed to stay in decisive control for the entire match. My Rose pride took a critical hit that day.

Going back to MKX, there was a lot of USA chanting for SonicFox's wins over Honeybee and A Foxy Grandpa and I appreciated all the strong Kitana play. I'll admit that despite all my misgivings over NRS's patch policy, by the end I started getting some of my MK hype back.

Then it was Smash time AKA lunch time. I wasn't in any rush and actually wandered around for a while after going to the completely wrong hotel looking for a restaurant that didn't exist, yet somehow by the time I made it back to the venue there was still an hour of Melee left to play. So I found an outlet, camped out in the hallway, and talked my wife's brother through a draft of the practice college application essay he was working on. It worked out that as I was wrapping up so was Melee, and it was interesting being able to observe how little overlap there exists between the Smash and Marvel audiences.

The front row is hype for KBR
The front row is hype for KBR

I've always been a fan to big body teams in Marvel so I was thrilled that KBR was doing so well that weekend. Frutsy and Apologyman actually had the two teams I thought were best suited to shutting KBR down, so when he stomped both of them back-to-back it felt like victory was guaranteed. Of course everyone else played extremely well. The cultural representation and team diversity was amazing and even without the "Gods" it was easily one of the best Marvel top 8s I've ever seen. I get that some people were salty about KBR's win for personal reasons that I'm not privy to the details of, but I couldn't be happier for the dude. Like me, he loves the game and even though they wouldn't give him the mic at the time, listening to his victory speech afterwards was super inspiring.

I saw Fnatic for a brief moment. He was far less successful trying to get sidebets going for Marvel than Zhi was with USFIV.

Finally, the main event! Knowing that everyone else was waiting for me to finish so we could drive back to LA, there was part of me hoping that USFIV would end quick-ish. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA NOPE.

Infiltration thinking hard
Infiltration thinking hard

When it comes to storylines, the USFIV top 8 had one of the most perfect narratives you could hope for. Ever since he beat Jwong in... 2010? Gamerbee has been a fan favorite who keeps getting painfully close to glory without ever quite taking it home. He has so much heart and works so hard and it's always heartbreaking to see how crushed he is after another loss. That became the through-line for my USFIV finals experience, with me sitting on the edge of my seat rooting for Bruce to take it all the way. There was a minor exodus of attendees after both Rog and Du were eliminated, but everyone else knew we were really there for the Gamerbee show.

As bad as I felt nervously glancing at my phone clock during the match of a thousand Elena's lifebars, I could help but enjoy what was some #kissesfingertips-caliber lame play. I didn't know about Infil's victory using Chun earlier in the tournament, but all I could do was grin like an idiot while he kept throwing Kikokens. I think it was the first time I actually heard people in the viewing hall boo which made the whole thing even more delicious. People got hype again for the Juri pick and then it was grand finals.

Honestly, I don't even know what to say here. It was beautiful and poetic and tragic and bittersweet. The stick malfunction was so perfectly timed, you couldn't write a better story if you tried. If you haven't watched it yet you definitely should, also what are you doing reading the blog?

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the privilege to attend my first Evo in this golden age of fighting games. Not only that, but several of the top 8s were simply the best I have ever seen for their respective games. I got to creepy stalk so many of my favorite FGC people and breathe the same air as them. With the community continuing to grow at this rate it probably won't be long before Evo has to abandon the hotel ballrooms for something more akin to a convention hall, and I'll be doing my darndest to keep attending in the future if I can.

Who knows. Maybe I'll even build up the courage to pay an extra $10 to get bodied by total strangers.

SFV and Rising Thunder at Evo2016!

Korea may love Taiwan but China Don't Care
Korea may love Taiwan but China Don't Care
Why did I buy a shoulder strap? Where would I take my stick? Hahaha I have no one to play with here *sob*
Why did I buy a shoulder strap? Where would I take my stick? Hahaha I have no one to play with here *sob*
This is probably the creepystalkerest picture I took all weekend, sorry SKill
This is probably the creepystalkerest picture I took all weekend, sorry SKill
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I've Been Busy - MKX BnB Kombo Xstravaganza (ft. Jason)

Yeah, I haven't posted in a while. I was busy trying to beat Broken Age. Apparently getting older did nothing to stop me from sucking real bad at adventure games. But I have been plugging away making videos here and there. Actually, right after bitching about how annoying run-cancel combos with D'Vorah were I decided to try and see what run-cancel combos were like for A-List Johnny Cage. Basically, they suck.

I just don't see the point really. He gets less damage than Stunt Double. He doesn't need to run-cancel to keep his strings safe since they're already safe. There's literally only one relevant string that he has that can be punished and it's only by Tempest Kung Lao burning meter. So I guess in that one matchup... no it's still worse than Stunt Double. He can't even run-cancel his fireballs which is the only thing worth using in neutral. Ech.

I had to redo Ermac. They nerfed the falling damage from Tele-Hold so that it scales so there are better combos to be done. Not much else to be said here. I also decided to jump on the Jason bandwagon since he was just released.

Jason seems really cool, especially his Relentless/Unstoppable variations. He has lots of good hitconfirms that have tons of range, good damage, and great command grabs. His corner carry is ridiculous. Most of his BnBs go more than half a screen. Is he actually a good character? I have no idea, but he definitely doesn't feel like filler. If the rest of the DLC characters can maintain this level of quality, I'll be extremely happy with my Kombat Pass.

I should probably get around to playing story mode.