Monday, February 29, 2016

Podcast - The Third Man

Chamberlain and Chance - The Third Man

Special thanks to Alex for putting up with our nonsense.

Help me out, is my 'get of my lawn' counter really only at one? I could have sworn that I have said that before.

And meant it.

The end of the apocalypse

It feels like I spent weeks playing Fallout 4. In real world time, yes, from when I first started the game to when I put it to bed was over two weeks, but actual time in game was only around 55 hours. That is less time than I spent on The Wicther 3, a game that I did not want to end, yet I was longing for the final quest of Fallout 4.

And no, I did not just blitz through the story quests. I played through with each faction for as long as I could before alienating another one. I explored a reasonable amount of the commonwealth and found several interesting vaults. I was leveled and perked out to the point where I could one shot kill most human enemies who didn't have power armor and my silly shotgun could take care of the rest. I had a stockpile of around 300 stim packs because my hero developed a taste for boiled mole rat that he never quite got over.

My time in game was shorter than most because I spent as little time as possible screwing around with building or upgrading settlements. If I wanted to play Minecraft I would play Minecraft and I do not want to play Minecraft. I am happy that this was an entirely optional part of the game, meaning that Bethesda has not completely lost touch with what made the last two games as good as they were.

I wanted to adventure, explore, find new glowing, irradiated placed and kill their inhabitants. And I did do that, a lot of that, in fact that is all that was really interesting. The factions were either insufferable dicksbags (The Brotherhood of Steel), whiners (The Minutemen and the inhabitants, they can build their own fucking shacks) or just interesting enough to keep around (The Railroad).

Siding with the institute was not an option, I don't care if it is being run by the main character's son, older, wiser, and most off all, more manipulative and untrustworthy. I enjoyed finding him dying in his bed after I had unleashed a swarm of angry synths into his city and forcing him to give me the code to his computer. I left him there, he deserve what came next.

Aside from a crash or two (or three) the game ran smoothly. I did play a quest into a situation that the game did not know how to deal with. The Battle of Bunker Hills sees the player arrive with a synth from the institute as an escort. The main task is to 'deal with' four escaped synths. I was given the option to warn the Railroad or the Brotherhood (or both). I set up an ambush with the Railroad but things when pear shaped quickly.

As soon as I warped in with the escort synth I shot him in the back several times. This allowed me to approach the battle at my own pace, a battle which included other Institute synths, the Railroad and the Brotherhood even though there was no way that they could have known what was going on. No on had aggro-ed on me yet so I walked up behind a synth and shot him. Still no aggro. I walked up behind a Brotherhood paladin in full armor and shot him in the back. It took a while but he died.

Still no aggro.

I was able to walk through the entire battle, killing both sides that I did not agree with, and never took a hit because no one was shooting at me. Effective but anti-climactic. This was not the case when I killed every living thing in the Brotherhood's blimp before blowing it up. They funneled nicely into a narrow hallway that I had covered with my railroad spike gun. It was messy.

The game was not finished when I was done with it. There were several end game missions that unlocked, a few of which I did before getting bored, not to mention the surprisingly effective conversation the player has with the leader of the Railroad in which she explains that their contact inside the Institute, Patriot, killed himself after he realized what he done. It framed the Railroad as not being the scrappy do-gooders that I thought they were as their leader told me, no one else, and then told me to burn the letter.

If I had more time I would have seen where that went, but no one has time for that. I have a million other games to play. Fallout 4 is over and I played just enough of it.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Always someone better

Why is it that every time I set an evening aside to play Street Fighter (roughly every other one since launch) the only people around for a lobby are significantly better than I am?

Last night started with a first to five that ended up as a 20 to 1. I count about as well as I block Karin's bullshit. Her normals are so good and have incredible range and they all lead into combos. By contrast everything Necalli does is so stubby that I need to be in her face to make contact with anything.

It wasn't just Karin, this guy was really good. His throw mixup game was impeccable. Tic throws with a single jab are difficult to react to as it is but when he started to predict when I would react and either back up half a step so my throw tech would whiff or just block when I got fed up and let loose an EX DP I swore he was able to read my thoughts. Several times in between matches I said to myself  'just slow down and block, let him push himself away' and still, every time I pressed a button he was there with a better one.

One match. I took one match from him. Out of 21.

Later I played someone trying to learn Zangief. It started out in my favor with a 3-0 crushing. Then he switched over to Bison and reminded me that his main was still better than mine. The natural order restored, he went back to the big russian and by the time we were done had figured things out.

Necalli's ground pound is a little tougher on 'gief due to his slow walk speed but the recovery time on it is so long that even he can walk right in after a missed one. And the range on his LP SPD is just silly. It was long before but now it can grab errant limbs that appear to be safe.

Right now everyone is good, characters wise. There are of course meaningless tier lists that put different characters in different places and they will be shuffled many times over as the game ages. SF4 did have tiers but they were compressed enough that many different characters saw competitive play (as long you we forget when AE came out and everyone played Yun). This made the game both more interesting to spectate and play at a casual level. Right now I do see more Ryu than anyone else but in time there will be more variety or I will work my ranking up high enough to avoid the sea of shoto noobs.

Which means I have quite a few match ups to learn. I really need Fallout 4 to be done.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

That light bulb moment

I had planned to play a quest or two in Fallout 4 before spending the rest of the evening with Street Fighter. A quest or two turned into about an hour and a half of work as Capcom couldn't get the servers back up within their own maintenance window. I will admit that the glowing sea was an interesting change of pace from the rest of bombed out Boston and I do have many questions for the group of people living in the bottom of an atomic crater. Had any of this happened twenty hours ago I may have spent more time investigating. Instead it was a point of interest in my match towards the end.

The servers did come back up around 9:00 my time and were behaving much better. After a few annoying ranked matches I put out the call for fights. The gauntlet was taken up by someone new to the PA scene, a Fang player who was my equal, skill wise. This led to over an hour of tense battles, almost all of which going down to the last match, last round, last sliver of health. I learned many things.

For starters, I need to block more and panic less. Fang has fast, two hit normals that lead into one another as, if not block strings, then definite frame traps. Trying to interrupt them, even with an EX-DP, just didn't work. Instead I had to wait then, allow Fang to push himself further away on each block, to the point where I could back dash away and reset the situation.

Second, I let people get away from far too many jump in attacks. Necalli has a DP, a good one, and I need to use it. I was getting hit with the jump ins or even the cross ups but by blocking them instead of anti-airing them I was letting Fang up close.

Third, super saiyan Necalli is the truth and should be used whenever possible. Necalli's V-trigger speeds up his movement and adds hits to most of his specials. It is fast enough that I was able to dash forward twice into a command throw before Fang could react. Not a ton of damage but enough to make Fang think a little harder about what I am doing.

It was a good set, even on matches, if I remember correctly. Of course Fang bodied me in the last set and then logged off. I will have my revenge,

Monday, February 22, 2016

It's too big

I really to wrap up Fallout 4.

It has worn out its welcome in multiple ways. Of course it's still good but when faction quests start repeating (and I mean literally repeating, as in the one I just finished was given again) it is difficult to maintain enthusiasm. This leaves me with a lot of walking to get to the next story event, and of course many distractions on the every side of that walk, making even simple trips laborious in nature.

On Saturday I meant to just jump into my mech suit and walk to the glowing sea. Oh, but first there was a Railroad quest to finish up, and then there was the vault that Chance wanted me to see (meh) and then I had to run back to my home base and drop off all the junk. When I finally started walking to the south I of course came across a half dozen buildings and a settlement that actually had a quest attached to it from forty real life hours ago.

It feels like I am slowly drowning in alcohol. It's fun for a while, 'cause booze, but I am still going to die.

How much of this is just bad timing on my part and how much is the game not being quite as good as it thinks it is? Towns are boring and lifeless. I use quick travel whenever possible even though it means potentially missing locations. My perks build, if you can call it that, revolves around doing as much damage with handguns and rifles as possible. No stealth, no energy weapons, just me and my sniper rifle that sounds like thunder. And when raiders are too close for that I have a humorously over powered handgun.

I did manage to get 11 charisma by finding a charisma bobble head after maxing out the stat. My smile is fucking blinding.

It's too much. It's too big and I have too much else to play. Far too much time has been invested to just walk away from the game but I guarantee that the second half or last third or however much else I have left will be played in a much more haphazard manner. My vault dweller has seen what the wasteland has to offer and is thoroughly unimpressed, to the point where everyone and everything is just target practice.

Podcast episode 10: Mash Harder

Chamberlain and Chance - Mash harder

Friday, February 19, 2016

Love hate

This is a real thing.



Think about that for a second. COMBAT JUGGLING. I would add 'motherfucking' for emphasis but it doesn't really need it. Two men approach each other while juggling and try to knock away one of their opponents pins while still juggling. A point is awarded when one player drops a pin and the other continues to juggle.

What does this have to do with Street Fighter? Nothing, aside for the fact that there are tremendously talented people out there and I am not one of them.

...

The Fang experiment has yet to get off of the ground. In concept, I like his idea. In a game full of fast moving nonsense and big heavy hitters he is content to poison you and watch you die from across the room. In practice, well, I don't know how to make it work yet. It is difficult to keep people away without an invincible reversal, something that most other characters have. Fang does have his EX slide which allows him to pass through the opponent and wind up on the opposite side. I am not quite sure what to do after that, though. His plan has me a bit stumped so he is relegated to the practice room and perhaps lobbies (when they work).

Instead of diversifying I have played no one but Necalli. He is a bit straightforward, meaning that everyone knows what I am trying to do: I want you to screw up so I can land a jump in HP, crouching HP, HK stomp, EX stomp for silly damage. But that rarely happens. Most matches are spent jockeying for position, play footsies and trying to remember that throwing out sweeps is no longer safe. Matches can go from 'everything is under control' to 'I am right fucked' in an instant.

Taking the limited number of hours I have spent on the game into account (limited because Fallout 4 is not going to finish itself) I have hated the game for roughly the same amount of time as I have loved it. For every round that I have bullied opponents into the corner my abusing Necalli's admittedly mediocre command overhead there is at least one round where I push all of the buttons at the wrong time and get crush countered into oblivion.

And those rounds are rage inducing but it is not always apparent what was done differently. One round attacks come out, the next they get stuffed.

I am not going to lie, there has been some salt. So much so that taking the occasional break to play Fallout 4 has been a very good thing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When it works...

I was actually awake on Monday night when Street Fighter V unlocked. Match making didn't work but that is not a surprise. I spent me remaining waking moments in the practice room with Fang. Fang reminds more than a little of May from Guilty Gear Xrd, only he throws poison instead of dolphins, is a charge character and there are no air dashes. I went to bed with a firm backup to Necalli, once I figure out the intricacies of Fang's potential bullshit.

On Tuesday night match making was still not working. A little more distressing than on day one but it gave me time to finish all of the 'story' modes and do a little work unlocking colors. Story mode generates plenty of fight money, more than enough to cover the first DLC character, but colors and sequestered away behind some truly ridiculous grind requirements. Color 3 is unlocked by completing the Easy survival tower. Ten matches, not bad. Colors 4 through 6 are unlocked by the next survival tower, 30 matches. The final one are behind another 50 matches.

Finishing the most difficult survival tower (to use the MK term) does not unlock colors reserved for easier towers. And colors are costume specific.

Capcom please.

I attempted to complete Normal survival but was kicked off of the server at around the 15 win mark. That was no fun so it was time to go back to Fallout.

An hour later I checked and I could actually play the game online again. It was a rocky start but it can only get better from here.

...

My entire purpose for logging in on Monday night was to get my name. Cross platform play necessitates the creation of a new user name specific to the Capcom Fighting Network. By the time I got the game loaded and made it to the final step it was 11:02...

...and some bastard had my name. This has never happened before. I am going to find him, stalk him through ranked and throw poison at him with Fang until he quits the game forever.

Monday, February 15, 2016

More affection than expected

I am afraid. Just a little, mind you, but there is a creeping fear.

In 2009, when I started playing Street Fighter IV, I had been mostly off of fighting games for several years. That ended with Super Street Fighter II HD Remix, a game that was equal parts merciless nostalgia and level headed revisionism. I was excited enough about HD Remix than when IV came out I intentionally did not play Blanka as the HDR version was much different and I did not think I could keep the two separate in my head.

That didn't last very long. IV, more often than not, worked, while HDR hated the players and would crash with little provocation.

In retrospect, Street Fighter IV 'vanilla' was terribly broken. Uppercut x FADC x ultra did silly damage as did just about anything Sagat did, but we played. We played it to death and then we played it some more. I played it to the point of violent frustration one night, attacking my arcade stick with a scissors, flinging it across the room, doing as much damage to the wall as anything else.

That was the first time I retired. It would not be the last.

IV was a gateway drug to other games, none of which I stuck with for very log. There was the grand Marvel vs Capcom 3 experiment. That lasted about one night. I made small forays into anime with Persona 4 Arena which lasted longer but were met with limited success. I even attempted to play Mortal Kombat 9 online. That was a bad idea.

Always, I returned to Street Fighter IV. Until I retired for a second time. This hiatus was even shorter than the last. The Gamestop employee who I bought the game from may have even recognized  me.

Since then I have purchased the game twice more, once on PC and again on PS4. Other, different fighting games have come and gone, most notably Killer Instinct, but I always came back. And in twelve hours, for all intents and purposes, it will be over.

IV will be relegated to ever shrinking side tournaments. The online community will hang on for a while, much like they did for Street Fighter X Tekken, but it will eventually wither to nothing. In about twelve hours it is time to start over.

Start over.

V will change at a much quicker pace then IV did. At day -1 there are tutorials and combo vids all over YouTube. There have even already been tournaments for the upper echelons (and those lucky enough to live in California). It is a different game for a different time being played by mostly different people.

Hype tinged with melancholy. I just hope I don't wreak any sticks this time around.


Podcast Episode 9

Chamberlain and Chance - This is how we roll

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Street Fighter V is coming in HOT

Things that Street Fighter V is launching without:

  • In game store
  • Tutorials
  • Trials
  • Daily challenges
  • Eight player lobbies
  • Spectator mode
  • Story mode


All we will get is Arcade mode, 2 player lobbies, ranked mode and a practice room. For $60. Capcom promises that most of this will be added in the March update for free but the for free part is why they felt no urgency to get them out on the first place. This is very similar to the launch of Killer Instinct, only KI was $20, not $60.

Complaints do not end there. Playing through the arcade mode unlocks the ability to purchase one new costume per character. It doesn't give you the costume, it just unlocks it in the store, the store that will not actually work until March. Finishing arcade mode with all of the characters will generate enough in game funds to purchase Alex, the first DLC character, assuming that you don't want any of the costumes that you earned the right to buy.

No eight player lobbies at launch is a bug problem. At the outset of Street Fighter 4 Vanilla I learned just as much by watching others play as I did actually playing.

Free and Capcom was too good to be true.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A series of unfortunate encounters

While exploring bombed out Boston last night I came across a pond with a plastic swan floating in the center. As I approached the 'discovery' notification popped and it was indeed call Swan's Pond. How cute, I thought, as I walked closer.

The swan was attached to the largest super mutant I had ever seen. His name was Swan and it was his pond. He of course attacked on sight, killing me as I back peddled, trying to switch from my handgun to my shotgun. It took a few tries, eventually I started throwing grenades as Swan's swan before he actually emerged, but I got him. His loot drop was shit. Moving on.

Down the block from the pond was a large, overgrown government facility. It was infested with mirelurks. No big deal, they died from two up close and personal shots as long as they were of the garden variety. When a red one with a skull after his name showed up I should have known I was in trouble. Again with the frantic back peddling, but I killed him on the first attempt (barely) and his loot drop was good! An arm piece with an added bonus that I have since forgotten.

Emboldened, I continued to explore the building. One of the rooms opened up into a huge underground cave with a pond of indeterminate depth at the center. I dropped down, thinking that the worst was behind me, only to be ambushed by the mirelurk king. He didn't have the shell of his underlings but he did spit acid. Acid which continues to do damage for quite some time.

I died a melty death and was sent back to the last quick save - at the building's front door.

Again I encountered the extra mean red mirelurk. Pissed about the outcome of our previous battle, he killed me. Sucks to be him, there is no real death penalty, so I marched back from the grave and took my final revenge, killing him and quick saving immediately after. This time his loot drop was shit. Moving on.

The king mirelurk was less daunting the second time when I remembered that circle strafing was a thing. His loot drop was shit. Moving on.

The building, through a series of twists and turns, ended up back in the pond room, this time with an emergency door open on the opposite side. I looked down from my perch and saw one lonely soft shell mirelurk hiding in a corner. No problem.

Remember how I said the pond was of indeterminate depth? It also held the queen mirelurk, fully five times larger than the king. She charged and took me from full health to missing my head, both my arms and all my legs in one hit.

The quick save gods were kind this time and I was able to start over from only one room away. It took several tries and most of my shotgun shells but I killed her. Her loot drop was shit. Moving on.

On the way out I was confronted by a mercenary in a mech suit, wielding a chain gun. Killing him took most of my grenades. You can guess as to the quality of his loot drop.

It was shit.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Podcast Episode 8!

Chamberlain and Chance - Fall out! Fall in! Fall somewhere!

One lottery ticket please

How much sleep is actually required to continue to function?

In my younger days that answer was five hours. Like most college students I rarely went to bed in the same day I awoke and still managed to get to class on time. Most of the time.

Most of the time some of the time.

Now if I clock in at less than seven I am worthless the next day. It is enough to make me seriously look into energy drinks in an effort to get more done in an evening. I must work, I must eat, I must take care of other responsibilities that do not make an appearance in this space, and then whatever time is left is split between sleeping, which is not fun, and trying to clean up the backlog, which is fun most of the time.

The real problem pops up when I want to inject a little drinking into that shared time. Once the drinking is done the sleep takes over, regardless of what I am playing.

...why yes, I am a little intimidated by the length of Fallout 4. It's not that I have a problem with big games. Witcher 3 was massive, as was Skyrim, and I made it through those. They both took about a month of constant play and it is becoming more difficult to give up that much time to one game. Little games, games that can be knocked out in a day or two, just keep coming and they keep getting better. Utter devotion to the AAA titles is robbing me of smaller experiences.

I caught a glimpse of Lego Avengers yesterday, a little game that is sitting in queue next to my couch, directly under the Resident Evil 0 remake, and was honestly sad that I will not get to it for at least a month. Perhaps more if Street Fighter V grabs me that way that I am afraid it will.

(Side note, F.A.N.G is a charge character and apparently no fun to fight against. Possible new main detected.)

This is a ridiculous hobby. Why do I do it when most adults of my years have deserted it for fantasy football, tinkering with their cars and slowly adding to their waistline.

I'll tell you why: because fantasy football is bull shit, tinkering with my car is for the professionals whom I will gladly pay and slowly getting fatter makes it difficult to climb walls and look good doing it. I hate this hobby. I love this hobby.

It can be no other way.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Typical (and appropriate) reaction to the Doom 4 trailer


The sweet spot

I was exploring a city last night, an area that I assumed that I was appropriately leveled and equipped for, when I stumbled across an unfortunately large nest of super mutants. At first there was one, a named mutant with a skull after his name. Upon seeing this I ran but it was too late. He and about a dozen of his buddies gave chase.

The ruined city provided a series of choke points that I used to group them together close enough to kill with grenades. It was a strategic retreat that worked just as I had planned, up to and including the death of the leader who chased me in the first place. After the dust settled and I had looted their corpses I checked the map to figure out where I was. The building that housed the super mutant nest was marked and 'Cleared' so I went back to finishing scrounging for adhesives and screws.

They didn't all leave. In fact there were more mutants inside alive than I had left dead outside. I survived. Barely.

This is an example of Fallout 4 working just right. It was a totally unexpected battle that took advantage that was just on the 'oh shit' side if difficulty. I still do not understand how a nest of super mutants could have been hiding right under the nose of the Brotherhood of Steel but I will chalk that up to two of three of the brotherhood representatives being pansies.

The leader offered to allow me to join the Brotherhood. He even tried to throw in some power armor. No thanks, I said, I already have two.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Some things should not change

Fallout 4 is definitely more Fallout. That does not mean that there are not problems, and not the usual Bethesda problems, which are still there but just to a much smaller degree. I am talking about 'this is not good, why did they do this' problems.

For starters, Ron Perlman does not say 'War. War never changes.' He has a small part as the anchorman who announces that the world is coming to an end, which means that they had him in the studio, so why would they do this?! He was right there, ready to go, and someone said 'You know, let's shake up several games worth of tradition and have someone else deliver the trademark line.' Well fuck you, whoever you are.

Secondly, the town building homage to Dark Cloud 2 is of absolutely no interest to me. I plan on doing as little of it as possible. Spending hours that I could be wandering the wastelands, murdering raiders, playing post-apocalyptic Legos, most of which is spent scrounging for materials, is not my idea of a good time. Good lord, I hope that keeping all the village idiots happy is not a requirement. I may start shooting them, assuming that I am allowed to.

Speaking of shooting things, the game feels much more difficult from the get go than I remember the previous ones being. The jump from one or two passive feral ghouls to a dozen pissed off, hungry ones came long before I had upgraded my weapons beyond 'pea shooter' and 'blunt melee instrument.' I would have liked to upgrade them but the two most precious things after the fall of society are screws and adhesive. They must be because I could not find enough of either to improve my weapons.

Speaking of picking up random odds and ends to improve my survival chances, why aren't all the armor, weapon and chemical workstations connected to one central inventory repository? I know that it is impossible, metaphysically speaking, but that kind of fantasy concession, the infinitely large closet that can be accessed from anywhere, can make otherwise boring mechanics like crafting more palatable. Without that I am fast traveling back to my home base after each encounter to make incremental improvements to my items instead of using the same menu from the same workstation in the military base I just cleaned out.

There is a reason that everyone who plays D&D wants a portable hole. Dealing with encumbrance sucks.

This is after only nine hours of play. If Just Cause 3 taught me anything it is that games can sometimes fix their own problems, given time. And time it will get. It is a Fallout game, after all.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Lessons learned

I learned a little but about myself while playing online during the final Street Fighter V beta on Friday and Saturday. It was not entirely pleasant.

The game was fine, if a bit frustrating due to there not being a character that I am really drawn to. Charge moves are being phased out so I no longer have a default action to fall back on when I don't know what is going on.

Chamberlain's brain: What the hell was that!? What the fuck is happening?!

Chamberlain's hands: Down back, bitch! DOWN BACK!

Necalli has been and will remain my go to for the time being. He is essentially Honda with better normals, minus the hundred hand slap. He has fat hit confirm combos off of crush counters, some of which I can do and most of which I can't yet, but even his bread and butter standing HP, MK stomp, crouching MP, LP charge does pretty good damage and has a hard knock down. Street Fighter V, as a rule, places less stress on execution, and that goes double for Necalli.

The problem, my problem, is that the game is now all about imposing your will on the opponent whilst in his face, getting him to press a button at the wrong time, fishing for the crush counter with frame traps. While the execution barrier has been lowered the importance of each individual button and when they are pressed has not. It is a much more tense experience as consequences are steeper and come more quickly.

Translation: you need to play with confidence. You need to abuse the opponent's wake up with meaty normals until you are given a reason not to. So much of winning now is training your opponent to expect one thing and then doing another. For example, after a hard knock down I would throw out a meaty sweep, training them to block low. Once that pattern is set Necalli's mediocre overhead comes into play. When they started blocking high I would go back to low MK into LK stomp.

It worked because I made it work. At any point a wake up DP or critical art would have ruined my day but that never happened because the other player was scared or confused. On Friday I rattled off nine wins a row. Then I lost a close one. Then I got blown up. Then I didn't win again for the rest of the night.

This speaks well for the game, not so well for me. I could not fall back on shenanigans or auto piloted sonic boom lock down. My will was shot and I lost. Simple as that.

Street Fighter V, for now, is about force of will, not force of muscle memory. If you can intimidate an opponent sitting on a couch an undetermined number of miles away you will get more wins than someone who spends the round hoping to get that one opening to land that one combo that he can do in the practice room.

Podcast Episode 7(.5)!

Chamberlain and Chance - Don't trust Capcom. Or Sony. Or Sega,