Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Today Was A Good Day

I recently got a job offer at a studio in Orlando, FL as a Junior Software Engineer (fancy name for "Game Programmer").  I can't tell you what company this is but I may do so eventually.  Again, it's not a racing-centric studio nor is it related to Sega so throw out Firebrand and Sumo Digital.  A handful of my classmates will be working there too so I'm not alone like I was at my previous internship.  I will hopefully be more motivated by this workplace too (unlike last one which left me out to dry, really).  Seriously, being able to hang out with many of my classmates (including those working at other studios in Orlando) is a big deal for me.

It's strange...I don't know what game I'll be working on until I accept the offer.  I have a feeling it'll be an FPS or adventure/puzzle game.  It's like Let's Make a Deal...I can harass that 90's Arcade Racer guy and work with him.  Or work on Super Sprint.  Or I can make a ton of money on some mysterious video game.  I think I'd go with the money.  I need that experience so we can go to Sumo Digital and make Daytona USA 3!!!

I'm starting March 4 (possibly later) which is kind of good since I wanted the assurance of having a job on top of getting a long break.  So I'll hang out with my family, work some more on personal projects, drive my car around Louisiana, possibly go back to Florida for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 24th and chat with friends until I work again.

Today was a good day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Friend Met Peter Moore

A FIEA friend of mine (and fellow blog reader) works at EA. Was taken out to EA Redwood in Cali where he got a photo op with ex-Sega of America CEO Peter Moore. At this moment, Peter flew back to Florida to attend the Daytona 24 Hours. Sweet, so he's a Sega Racing Fan too?

Pic was posted with friend's permission. And no, I didn't ask him to ask questions for me. And I will conceal his identity. Cause all EA employees must remain anonymous for their own safety (Redditors ...angry Redditors everywhere).

"I know you, you're the asshole that gave away Shenmue to Xbox." No that's not what he said, rofl.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Someone Is Making Their Own Sega Racer!!!

"The three that ate up most of my coins where Scud Race, Daytona USA and Indy 500, my goal is to recreate the feeling these games evoked from players by maintaining the colorful, vibrant look and sense of speed but with modern visuals and car handling models."

Do you hear anyone talk like this anymore!?!?! Besides me!?!?!

Without a moment's hesitation...

Here, take my money.  Take 80 GBP ($127).  I pledged THAT MUCH and I'll pledge more if I have to.   It's not just for the "in-game billboard" I get, it's cause I want the game to be good (for what it's worth, the billboard can be 128x512 or 256x512).  I'm still sitting on my "Lousy Internship Stash Cash" and am now playing the role of "Sega Racer Philanthropist," giving out cash to racing game devs who don't suck ass (in addition to handing out copies of Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed to strangers).

Just for fun, it's worth pointing out the aquarium is from Scud Race's Beginner Day course.  And the T-Rex is from Daytona USA's Advanced course.  Wait, you say this game was done in the UNITY engine?  Genius?  I've done two games in Unity before for FIEA.  You can make driving games in it like this.  The new Unity engine even works on the Wii U.  This game is CASH GOLD MONEY EPIC BEAST SWAG MODE and it's too bad I got stuck with lousy Super Sprint instead, lol.  The only thing amiss thus far is that the F1/Indy car looks a tad too big.  I'm going to e-mail this guy soon.

Holy shit people, how fucking hard is it for game developers to MAKE GAMES LIKE THIS.  CLEAN, COLORFUL, FAST, HAPPY, SKILLFUL RACING GAMES.  Instead we get this Need for Speed bullshit every three months and I want to vomit.

And Kotaku does the first right thing they've done in the last 8 years and that is mention this damn Kickstarter in a post inferring "You won't get a new Daytona but you'll get this."  Geez, Kotaku, just do open-heart vivisection on me already.  Screw you and your lousy ass site but thanks for the hits cause this game needs all the publicity it can handle.  Oh yeah, by the way, to Kotaku user GunFlame who said "Daytona wasn't a very good game" -- you're wrong, end of story.

First Model2 emulation.  Then Model3 emulation.  Then Daytona, Sega Rally, OutRun 2 ports.  Then the Hornet in Sega All-Stars Racing.  Then this.  This project still needs 7,700 Great British Pounds and 25 days left to do it.  Donate at least 10 quid and get a digital download of the game for free.  Donate more for physical copies of the game.  DONATE, DONATE, DONATE, DONATE, DONATE, DONATE, DONATE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Great, it's like the announcements of the Supermodel emulator, the Daytona USA XBLA trailer, and the Hornet in Sega All-Stars Racing leak all over again.   How am I going to follow up a post like this?  Talk about the NFL games?  Geez...

Just for kicks I'm gonna play the Virtua Racing intro music...DUN DUN DUN, PICK YOUR TRACK THEN PRESS THE PEDAL IDIOT!!!


Sunday, January 20, 2013


Hi guys, here's some Daytona 2 stuff.  Strange creepy conspiracy tabloid material.

Take a look at this video.  Skip to 3:30.  Now here's the Hornet on the Challenge/Mix course.  When he gets to the Beginner course, he stops and turns around...and drives through the barrier to the finish line.

Now is this a real glitch that can be reproduced every time?  Did the Sega QA just miss this altogether?  I hope not.  This trick may help you save a few seconds but is it crap, yeah it is.


Now for something new.  Actually it's been known for a few months now but if you haven't been keeping tabs on the Supermodel emulator, the Hornet Classic has been discovered in Daytona 2: Battle on the Edge!!

Yes, it has a big hood scoop on it.  It's kind of cool but unnecessary.  The catch is you need to download a save state to pick the Hornet (somewhere on the Supermodel forums...too lazy to find it).  And sorry to break your heart but  the Hornet sucks in Battle on the Edge.  It has lower top speed and worse handling than in Power Edition.  Obviously, the devs must've left the car in the beta version and didn't bother to fine-tune it or anything.  Overall, it's really not worth getting excited about but still fun to know.  I'm huge into beta stuff, like the Citadel from Goldeneye N64, that was exhilarating.

Now I guess if I may, let me explain why this is from a programming perspective.  In the Battle on the Edge and Power Edition roms, there's four blocks of sequential memory for the four cars: the Chums Gum/JC Eagle, the Scorpio, the Phantom, and the Hornet.  On the car select screen, depending on which car you pick, it assigns a pointer to the memory address of the car you choose (i.e. you pick the Scorpio, it points to address #2 car in the array).  In Power Edition, you can pick from all four cars.  Yet in Battle on the Edge, you can only pick the first three.  The Hornet in BotE is simply inaccessible for the regular player.  Yet, using a hex editor and changing that pointer in the game's current state (point to address #4), you can circumvent the game's UI and load the Hornet up anyway.  I hope this makes sense.


Ok, how about this.  Just a funny little thing.  Look at the Power Edition intro at about :39-:40.  The wrecked #00 SG8 Cartool car does a slight twitch maneuver as it lies at rest.  You tell me if it's just an emulator thing or if it's really there in the actual arcade cabinet version.  Heh.


Now for something a bit more SHOCKING.  Anyway, look at your driver in Daytona USA 2.  The four cars are driven by four members of the Brown family.  Johnny, Noel, Mitch (or Mick), and Tom Brown.  I think it goes Johnny = Chums Gum/JC Eagle, Noel = Scorpio, Mitch/Mick = Phantom, Tom = Hornet.  These MAY be mixed (Johnny and Noel) but it's close enough.  When you think about it, all the drivers look exactly the same.  You can see the drivers in the intro cutscenes as well as when you win a multiplayer race (you see your driver celebrating/crying with the pit crew).

Drivers of different cars (I think the top one is the Chums Gum).

Now, who does this guy remind you of?  Let me give you a hint:

That's right, this whole entire time, you've been secretly playing as the Intimidator himself, Dale Earnhardt, Sr.  Here's Dale wearing the faceless helmet & shades just like the Brown family.  Also Daytona 2 came out in '98, the same time at the peak of Dale Sr.'s success (won Most Popular Driver 7 years).  Also again, you look at the color schemes of all 16 player cars (which was a shocking revelation on its discovering the Higgs-Boson particle), player 3's car is BLACK like the #3 Chevy Goodwrench car.  Another reason why #3 fans should flock to this damn game but no, they're perfectly happy playing their Eutechnyx racing simulators.

I'd like to talk about Dale for a moment.  It's funny that this man would drive without the face part of the helmet.  He drove without the head rest.  One fan on the Internet even speculated he loosened the belts.  Why?  Less restrictions, man.  That must've helped in be a better driver.  Problem is it was more dangerous that way...and his hubris got the best of him on February 2001 when he died on the last lap wreck at the Daytona 500 after hitting a wall and getting hit in the head due to lack of the head rest.

From Maddox's store.  Fun t-shirts and bumper stickers in NASCAR country.


So there's ONE MORE and it's the biggest shocker of them all.  A video posted on September 1, 2012.  A guy at E3 (I guess) asks a Sega booth person when Daytona USA 2 will come out for home consoles.

Narrow movies suck.  Anyway, it's something about spilled nachos and nothing of value was gained from this.  Truth is if you want a new Daytona/Scud Race, it's gonna go through Sumo Digital, guys who legitimately like racing games.  Sega of America isn't into developing games anymore and Sega of Japan is into...well I don't know...Yakuza and pachinko machines.  So this video is FAKE AND GAY, that's your post for today.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Russians & North Koreans Don't Know Racers

No e-mail, forum, or blog is safe from spam.  As the "webmaster," sometimes my stats are padded by hits from Russian spam sites.  It causes no harm to my blog but irritates me nonetheless.  Spam comments happen on occasion too although the filter picks up most of them.  Generic stuff like, "Thank you for your blog.  That's all I have to say.  This was a very informative post full of great information."  Most of these comments are so generic in nature that surely they were made by web bots.  But in this case, the bots become "sentient" and custom tailor their spam to the site at hand:

This was from the The Need For The Sense Of Speed post.  I am not making this stuff up.  Russian spammers actually "acknowledge" what my blog is all about.  And they even created a profile named "Ridge Racer" to go along with it.  What the hell is this???  So you're saying there's Russians eavesdropping on my blog finding ridiculous ways to usurp it by pretending to be a racing aficionado like me?

Somewhere my site is about to be hacked.
And when it goes down, it'll read...
"Need for Speed is better...slugheads."

Amateur Russian spammers need to get a frickin life and start contributing positively to society.  But there's more!  I only find stuff like by pure luck, glancing over YouTube, Reddit, etc.  Here's the very first video game to come out of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea...Pyongyang Racer, a free-to-play web browser driving game.

Play the game here.  Apparently it involves driving a slow sedan in a loop around Pyongyang, hitting petrol cans and checking out the landmarks & scenery.  Don't hit other traffic and don't stare at the police lady or you'll be thrown in a gulag.  The wonderful graphics and lack of traffic on the road capture the essence of North Korea's suckiness.  A valiant attempt at a racing game though, considering how North Korea uses The Hunger Games as a model for pretty much everything...hard to make a tight racing game when you're living in a police state.

Come on, North Korea.  I mean the Soviet Union sucked but at least it got s*** done...The Kremlin, WW2, AK-47's, vodka, nukes/Dr. Strangelove/War Games, bad guys for every Western FPS and James Bond movie, Spetsnaz with the ballistic knives,, sexy Russian accents, Sputnik/cosmonauts, numerous chess champions, Siberian huskies and domesticated silver foxes, Trololo Guy, and Tetris.  The best North Korea can do is a few failed missile tests, a bad racing game, inspiration for THQ's Homefront which sucked, delusional leaders obsessed with basketball, and a lousy YouTube channel and website (with a store to buy DPRK swag, yo).  Oh boy.  Go to bed already, people.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Nascars Don't Play Well With Video Games

So the Sprint Cup has started Preseason at Daytona.  They're showing off new 2013 cars like these:

I like race cars, but when they overshine them, it sucks (see Daytona USA 2001).  The cars look a bit off to me, like they were designed nice and tight for circuit racing (which is strange since this is NASCAR, not Australian V8 Supercars).  But the new 2013 cars are going hella fast at Daytona and everyone seems to like them.  Everytime NASCAR changes their car designs, there's a few "boohoo, it sucks" complaints but let's get racing cause I can't wait for NASCAR again, geez.

I thought the 2011 cars looked cool...I just hope the designers aren't trying to turn NASCAR into F-Zero, I'd have nightmares if real-life drivers wore tights and appeared in Nintendo fighting games.

So I was casually watching Speed footage of the "Preseason" and everyone was standing around in the garage.  The topic started to sway towards video games.  Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (whom I will never have pity on ever again for being an "Enemy of Sega" and beating Danica Patrick in that big Sega race Nov. 2012) was playing Words with Friends on the iPhone (Zynga, GAAAAYYYY).  And Juan Pablo Montoya (who had yet to test the 2013's car capabilities versus 2013's jet dryers) was playing CSR Racing on the iPad, a popular drag racing game with a NFS/FnF style. I saw this game dad was playing it and some Trials/Linerider dirtbike game (with engines that sound like BB guns) on his iPhone.

After this clip that I'm sure no one saw, the camera goes over to Bobby Labonte for a brief interview.  He's asked "what kind of game would you give for Darrell Waltrip to play?" to which Bobby replies, "A fishing game."  And then Darrell Waltrip comes on to say "Shoot, I don't play no video games or fish, what'chu kids talkin bout there with those fancy electronic devices."  Then they go on to talk about Kyle Busch's car and the video game discussion is over.  In other words, no progress was made between race drivers and race games.  Gamers and gearheads still continue to look at the other side's stuff and think "what the f*** is that s*** they're messin with."

Ya know what would be great?  If we could get Daytona USA, OutRun, or even freakin Super Sprint in the hands of one of these race car drivers.  You'd THINK that race car drivers would appreciate race car video games, don't you? Especially hardcore balls-out racing games that bring the blue skies and that sense of speed RIGHT TO YOU with no firesuit required. Surely a legit race car driver can truly say THAT'S A GODDANG GREAT RACING GAME THERE my programmer friend. I GOTTA GET BALLIN ON THAT NEW SUPER SPRINT GAME.  Speaking of race car drivers in games...


But this leads me to my next point and it's a pretty crappy observation I made from a decade of browsing countless Internet chats/forums.  I think there's a dichotomy between the two types of racing games--the sims and the Mario Karts.  On one hand, you got diehard auto racing fans are only seen playing the sims like iRacing, NASCAR: The Game, and F1 by Codemasters.  On the other hand, you got plain old gamers who'll get into Mario Kart, Burnout, Need for Speed but they have no interest in real life racing (the "NASCAR is rednecks turning left for 5 hours" crowd).  Almost like the other insults their intelligence.  "Arcade racers makes a mockery of the sport," versus "Racing sims are too boring."  Take your pick.

Why can't we have both?  In Sega Racing Games?  I almost think Sega is caught in limbo there.  Like Sega takes real life cars & settings and run with it--they embellish real life, look here.  Oops, can't have that apparently.  You talk about the "Sega Racing Nation" and it's a place run on niche cult classic fuel--like NASCAR fans won't list Daytona USA as being "one of them" while  mainstream gamers just can't be arsed into playing something requiring practice & determination like OutRun 2.

It's probably why Danica Patrick's Sega All-Stars Racing campaign bombed--because we have a REAL LIFE DRIVER (appealing to racing sims people) trying to sell an ARCADE RACING GAME (played by gaming nerds who have no idea who Danica is).  It's like trying to advertise motorized scooters on Disney Channel.  Herp derp, we still love you Danica & Sumo Digital.

Seriously though, if I ever meet a real life race aficionado (someone who sticks a Dale Sr. "3" on their rear windshield or something) who's obsessed with crap like Mario Kart (or better yet, SEGA ALL-STARS RACING), I'll flip my s***.  Ok guys, we're all gonna be real life NASCAR/F1/Indy/Rally/Le Mans/V8/Touring as well as arcade racing fans now.  Problem solved, goodnite.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sega All-Stars Racing Winning On...GameFAQs???

Go to GameFAQs and vote for Sega All-Stars Racing, you don't need an account to do so.

This is just the first few minutes of voting...and it looks promising.

I recently saw an Animal Planet special on "Animals of the Arctic."  And there were two starving arctic wolves and a huge pack of arctic ox.  But they couldn't possibly kill the large oxen so they singled out one of the smaller oxen and took it down ((un)fortunately, the wolves failed since the other oxen came to the victim's aid).  It's damn dirty but this is guerilla warfare--you do whatever s*** you can to improve your position.  Like spawn killing people in Perfect Dark/Call of Duty/Halo.  You go for points whenever you can.

And this GameFAQs poll is that baby ox...go vote for Sonic All-Stars Racing and kick the crap out of the competition.  It's not the Spike VGAs (the large ox) so it's doable.  I know on GFAQs, sports & racing games not affiliated with any major gaming mascot (I'm talking Mario Kart to the oblivious) usually fail to get any traction there.  But regardless, I want Sega All-Stars Racing to whip NFS/Forza's ass somewhere and I don't care if it's low-hanging fruit.  Remember, this is the same GameFAQs site that in November, forgot to include Sega All-Stars Racing in the poll, choosing LittleBigPlanet Racing over it so now I'm twice as pissed as before.

A win is a win so GO FOR THE WIN PEOPLE and vote for Sega Racing just to beat the doubters' sorry asses.  In this situation, we are the pack of hungry arctic wolves...we are small but can get s*** done. >:)

On the hunt for stupid Internet polls to dominate for false satisfaction of "sticking it to evildoers."  EA rings a bell?

Also great supplemental reading on GameFAQs...Top 10 Games for Shenmue Fans.  Finally, another Top 10 that doesn't suck.  You can't play Shenmue 3 but at least you can play these games.  Nice to see Shenmue get some props again.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed - 16.94% 
Need for Speed: Most Wanted - 13.01% 
FIFA Soccer 13 - 12.54% 
Forza Horizon - 10.38%
NBA 2K13 - 10.04% 
Mario Tennis Open - 9.39% 
SSX - 8.47% 
Trials Evolution - 7.77% 
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD - 5.98% 
Wipeout 2048 - 5.48% 


I don't know how the voting would've gone had it just been racing games (I assume that FIFA voters would've gone for Forza/NFS) but I'll take it.  If you look at the total number of votes per poll, the sports/racing one is dead last while the FPS poll was first.  You can get an idea of where GFAQs voters' priorities lie:

Best First-Person Shooter - 34436
Best Role-Playing (Japanese) - 33809 [was there any doubt on GameFAQs???]
Best Role-Playing (Western) - 30868
Best Action/Adventure - 28211
Best Fighting - 26828
Best Strategy - 23549
Best Adventure/Puzzle - 23272
Best Action - 21105
Best Sports/Racing - 20716

Clearly gamers are least interested in racers.  But what do I care, tonight we celebrate because we finally got one...

Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed = best sports/racing game of 2012 according to GameFAQs!!!

Oh, as if GameFAQs was trying to get the last laugh, they put Sega All-Stars Racing in a "Best of 2012" poll a day after and as luck would have it, apparently sits in dead last at a resounding 2.2% (Borderlands 2 is clear leader with 22.47%).  Sure, go ahead and vote for Sega All-Stars Racing but it ain't cracking 3%.  This is an example of trying to kill the entire herd of oxen--just give up, that's not our battle to win.  Let GameFAQs piss themselves over the same games we've seen before like New Super Mario Bros Wii U.

EDIT AGAIN: I suppose to some it's hypocritical that I make a big deal out of a poll because when my favorite game loses, it's "stupid" or "nobody cares." Right now, it's notsomuch trying to win the favor of the gaming public (do we REALLY care what GameFAQs thinks?) as it is trying to get the games' names out there. Sales of Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed have been underwhelming thus far and the fact that this "underrated little gem" is able to win a poll on these sites is good news. Especially if you consider this silent group of Sega fans out there who helped prop up the game so I can't help but feel a little encouraged by the poll results. That's all.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rock Band Blitz: Series On Life Support

Well, I know this ain't a racing game but it's something close to my heart so let's talk about this months-old game.  Rock Band Blitz.

Rock Band Blitz is a $15 game you can buy off of Xbox Live/Playstation Network.  It does not require instruments.  Basically, you pick a song as four/five lanes of notes come at you.  You only need four buttons to play this game.  Down arrow/A to hit left/right notes in your current lane, left/right shoulder buttons to switch lanes. Hit notes in each instrument lane to max out multipliers for the greatest possible scores. You might say "hey that's Frequency/Amplitude" well, yeah it is.

This game is friggin brilliant for a few reasons:

* It is the quintessential "Programmer Game."  Basically I get up here and say "Games have too pretty graphics & cutscenes, not enough gameplay," well guess what.  Look at any generic screenshot of the game.  THIS IS THE WHOLE GAME.  There are no "characters" in the game.  You move through a seemingly endless city (a.k.a. "New Jersey" as Harmonix describes it) as buildings pulsate to the beat of the song.  The only goal of the game really is to play songs over and over again trying to get high scores.  Great game, huh.

* You take a look at every single song in Rock Band's history and there are MANY.  There are over 3,000 SONGS you can download and play in Rock Band 3.  And guess what, you can play all of those in Rock Band Blitz too.  Basically, it gives your library a little more can play songs on Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals, Keys, and Rock Band Blitz which is like its own instrument.

* At the end of the day, you will have worn out your A button which is kind of cool yet sad at the same time.

* Play enough notes in a row to enter "Blitz Mode." Camera drops back a little as you start to haul ass through the city. Yet the notes stay in the same place (you still travel the same speed). Can you say SENSE OF SPEED at work here???

* On top of a new Rock Band experience, you get 25 songs to add to your library.  That's 25 songs for $15.  Usually, the average Rock Band song goes for $1 or $2.  What a super deal.

Speaking of deals, I'll tell you some great news.  If you've on the fence about buying some Rock Band DLC, then you're in luck because all pre-RB3 DLC (anything without keys/harmonies/pro guitar/pro bass, about 2000 songs in total) is half-off.  Forever.  You wanted to play some Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, PanteraFoo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Boston, The Cars, Queen, Jane's Addiction, Guns n' Roses, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Tom Petty, The Who, No Doubt, Bob MarleyWeezer, Disturbed, System of a Down, The Offspring, Avenged Sevenfold (aw hell naw), well you're in luck cause they're basically giving away these songs.  Before you would have to pay about $2 per song (song packs would reduce that to about $1.50 a song).  But here, you can get songs for less than a dollar on average.  So to repeat, GO BUY SOME ROCK BAND DLC IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY.  Go buy the DLC that I bought at full price.  Yeah, I'm happy dancin' right now.

But there are some problems with the game and I really don't want to get into how to play the game because you can basically download the demo which comes with the full game but only three songs unlocked (All-American Rejects, Foo Fighters, Barenaked Ladies) so you can play that and come to your own conclusions.  Here's my nitpicks:

* The "perks" are rather unbalanced.  Note, these perks are out of order.
For the first perk, just pick the instrument with the most notes (usually the guitar or bass).  Second perk, Road Rage is good for wiping out tons of notes easily but Jackpot is clearly the best (3x as long as you don't miss) for getting high scores.  Third perk, Blast Notes are the best since it hits notes from all lanes, a very useful, predictable bonus. I can't see any use into turning the purple note into anything else, especially a pinball that bounces around Breakout-style which is distracting enough when trying to fill all the lanes in the first place.  But there's on exception in which Pinball reigns supreme:

Harmonix QA, where were you?

* Playing held notes is kind of stupid.  Assume you hit a held guitar/keyboard note.  Holding a long note "fills" the lane just as much as hitting a lone note in an empty void.  Think about some crap Tier 1/2 keyboard songs where the keys' only purpose is to chime in with some weird BG noise during the chorus.  And you're trying to fill the drums lane.  Okay, now you have to sprint to the orange lane (keys) every 5 second to hit that held note, run back to green lane (drums), hit a bunch of notes, run back between the two again and again.  And because you didn't hit enough of the orange lane's notes (which had about 5 in a minute-long section), you don't raise your instrument multipliers to the max.  Aggravating as s***.

* Switching notes to another lane counts as "missing" notes if you don't play them.  So you are in Blitz Mode or have Jackpot activated.  Good luck trying to "not miss" when switching lanes since if you move to another lane while a note passes, you miss and are penalized.  It's pretty ridiculous especially when the game preaches "It's not about hitting every note, it's about getting a high score."

* A minor complaint but you can't play Rock Band 3 songs in Blitz.  You can play everything else though because it's already on your hard drive.  Yet I have RB3 installed on my hard drive too so the songs are sitting there idle yet Blitz can't play them...yeah, it's stupid programming but the option to play stuff like Caught in a Mosh and Fly Like an Eagle in Blitz would've been nice.

Review-wise, I give this game a typical 8 because it has some replay value if you have a large library.  But after a while it gets repetitive and hurts your thumbs.

This leads me to my final point and it's about Harmonix and HOW THEY ARE TRYING TO EUTHANIZE THE ROCK BAND SERIES.

I always keep track of Rock Band's weekly DLC.  DLCQuickplay is a good site to do so.  Now in case you don't know about how Rock Band DLC works, basically it's a 3-to-6 month process.  Harmonix gathers data on what songs are popular.  Then they get the rights to the song, pass them through a machine that bangs out the song charts (notes), QA them, and plan to release them some time in the future along a time table.  Great.  But the stream of new songs have gotten weaker and weaker.  Used to be that HMX was proud to release a 10-pack of some awesome band like Billy Joel or Bon Jovi every other week and we would be stoked.  Next they toned it down to 5/6-packs and we were happy.  Then they did 3-packs.  Now they do 3-packs with songs that already exist in the Rock Band library.  Sure, it's great that you would release "We are Young" or "Pumped Up Kicks" a month after I imported that garbage from Rock Band Blitz.  It's like they're trying to wean us off of the DLC rather than go cold turkey and kill us all.

Because I am such a lazy bastard and because some other guy detailed our thoughts perfectly on this DLCQuickplay site, I'm just going to copy & paste what user "Riles" said:

Nevermind the facts that Harmonix has never gone out of their way to support Wii before, or that one of the songs this week is a song Wii already has so they only get two songs this week, or that purchasing eight of the 25 songs would cost more money than just buying the pack (which doesn't include when it was on sale for $7.50), or that any songs released now will most assuredly not have retroactive pro support,

this marks the first time that no new downloadable content came out for a week, and that's huge. And it's a complete bummer. And it's asinine the way Harmonix has tried to disguise it as saying this is a result of community feedback that they're doing this, because if that were the case, these Blitz songs would be released as a supplement to regularly scheduled DLC, or as one big release week like the FIRST time they released these songs and claimed it to be DLC for that week, and not the only focus for a DLC week. There have been controversies before about whether or not the DLC streak technically ended with country packs or Green Day, but if it didn't happen before, this is the definitive broken streak. And that sucks, and it gives us every right to complain. Because none of us are complaining about the song choices this week - we're all complaining about there not being any song choices this week

If you need any hint that the Rock Band series is dying, just go to Amazon and search for a Pro Guitar, Pro Keyboard, or Drum Set.  Cheap as it ever has been.  It's a shame too since I poured a ton of money into Rock Band but if the series goes away, then at least it's understandable.  We'll still have loads of Rock Band Network songs (custom songs people submit...most of it novelty/metal trash) but if you're expecting "real" songs like these bunches of requests that I wish I could play on Pro Keys (actual fun Classic Rock songs), well...I've lost all hope.  Rock Band Blitz was basically chemo before the series' eventual death which gave us a little optimism but not much longer.

A toast to my dear Rock Band friend, thanks for keeping me sane during this racing game drought that we've been through for so long.  Who knows how much longer you'll actually be relevant?  A year, two years, three years?  You have no idea how much this sucks for me, but at least Harmonix isn't "Sega-bad" at this point so I cannot complain. They had a really good run with the series--they didn't quit and actually managed to release more DLC than Sega ever will ever.

Adios!  I rocked this song on Pro Keys.

LOL JK GUYS, we'll all wake up tomorrow and HMX will release a 16-song Muse pack and everyone will be happy, DAE believes with me???

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Need For The Sense Of Speed

And a happy 2013 to you...when everyone else was shooting fireworks, I was shooting a Remington 12 Gauge and an AR-15 (at nobody, don't worry kids).  Tell me that those things aren't more impressive (and louder) than sparklers & Roman candles.

When we talk about racing games, I hear this term thrown around a lot--"sense of speed."  Well, what exactly is it?  "It's the feeling that you're going fast."  Well duh, that's what everyone wants.  But other than that, people really don't know what it is.  They just want something that feels good.  Well how do you make that good sense of speed?  I'm going to try to define it the best I can.

First of all, notice the term--sense of speed.  It's the human body's five senses.  It's like trying to explain what and why does certain art is pleasing to look at, why certain food is delicious, why certain scents elicits positive moods.  It just "does" somehow.  Like try to explain what constitutes "good" art or something.  "It's pretty and detailed."  Okay, well what's "pretty" or "detailed."  Besides, there's abstract art which is neither of these and is hugely popular.  You could consult a biologist, anthropologist, or psychiatrist for the answers to these things, but I'm going to explain this sense of speed nonsense as best as I can:

Go back to when you were in a fast vehicle, be it a car, truck, motorcycle, airplane, boat, or roller coaster.  You're sitting there then it takes off.  You start moving, but you're moving faster than usual.  It's "foreign" to you as your body begins to experience weird sensations.  G-forces pull you back.  Then you start turning as this heavy contraption leans in and out of turns, pulling you along with it.  You experience the dopamine rush as your stomach starts to turn and your hair stands on edge.  You rest in-between a state of hopelessness to complete control--you can't predict what'll happen next as you attempt to will the car to your bidding.  You're doing something super-human--the human body was never meant to go faster than, say, 25 mph.  And accompanied with the g-forces are some rumbling as the vehicle trades blows with the road and the engine lets out a hollow roar.  Maybe you're in a cool piece of machinery like a Ferrari or an F1 car.  Maybe there's some token fast-paced music similar to AC/DC or Metallica.  In other words, you're experiencing something out-of-this-world and sense of speed just takes you to that seemingly foreign world.

F1 car of speeds over 200 mph.

Suspension cam of stock car at Daytona.

Mindblowing rally racing!!!  So kinetic you can feel it!!!  Skip to 1:22.

Go to 2:50, man that's some serious horsepower. do you get sense of speed in a video game?  Well, I'm sure if you were actually in the cockpit of those cars, yeah, the sense of speed would be really easy to pick up.  But you're actually not there (shocker).  Looking at racing sims like GT and Forza, they do a good job of transmitting real-life imagery on the screen, but if you're sitting on your couch looking at a regular TV/speaker combo playing a racing game with a regular video game controller, it's not the same thing--you don't feel the same rush as a real life driver.  So what do we do?  We have to embellish the video game.  Obviously, this is one huge advantage that video games have over real life but often, for the sake of "authenticity," racing games (particularly simulations) don't add anything new and thus the games become boring and people lose interest.

"Hello everybody, we're here in the boring world driving a boring car around a boring track at a boring speed using a boring video game controller.  You're gonna love this game."

So what should we do to improve the sense of speed?  Here, let me throw some suggestions out there, another Top 10 (err, 12) of things:

1. There needs to be some "tactile" feel of the car.  The suspension is a great thing since as the car is flung in certain direction, so do you.  Sometimes, the car trembles at a high speed, which isn't realistic, but the faster you go, the more you shake, the more you "feel" you're moving.  And when the car does some sort of hard cornering, it leans and you can feel yourself being pulled along with it.  And not just cornering to the left or right--elevation changes (going up and down hills) is great too since the car is rocking in all directions (track design is crucial).  If the car doesn't react to steering, then it might as well be a curling puck on ice--no emotion, no feeling at all.

2. Tire smoke, tire tracks, just other parts of the car that react to physics of the car (car damage, perhaps?).  I really cannot think of a good racing game that doesn't have tire smoke/tracks at all--it's mandatory.  Exhaust fumes and car damage can be a plus as long as it isn't too distracting for the player.  When it comes to Burnout, I'm not "anti-wreck" but I want it to be about fast cars, not smashing them to pieces.

Tire smoke on display as the car's rear bumper starts to kick up from excessive rear-wheel torque.

3. There needs to be a lot of easily-identifiable stuff flying by the car.  They give us scale that we've gone from point A to B in X amount of time.  Sparse environments with nothing to drive by is boring and doesn't feel like you're really passing anything.  The original OutRun does this well--there's tons of crowds, palm trees, dotted lines, overpasses, buildings, signs, even stripes in the road that just whip right past you.  Small objects are generally better than large ones since you pass those quicker.  Seriously, I talked about this in June 2011, this is a video game not a real life world.  We want stuff in our worlds.  We want to pass that stuff really quickly.

Colorful, easy to identify objects like clouds, palm trees, traffic, and white lines.

4. Camera angles.  There is no such thing as the "best" camera angle, but typically, you want the camera to hover close to the pavement and get a good view of both your car and environment you're passing by.  It really helps too if the camera doesn't just stay fixed on the car's rear bumper but rather captures the sides of the car as it is cornering to further emphasize that the car is hauling ass in a certain direction.  Ridge Racer violated this rule many years ago and I call it out today.

Should be staring at the driver-side door!  Here, I feel like the camera is fixed in place--it's weak.

5. What about the actual speed of the car?  There really is no recommended limit but going by what my Sega racers say, a good range would be between 180 to 20 mph (290 to 385 kph).  You can get away with going slower or faster if you abide by the rest of the rules...sort of, anyway.  F-Zero goes up to 500+ mph but going too fast can get really nauseating.  People can only intake so much stimuli before they get profusely ill, even if it's just a projected image and not real life.  EDIT: As for going slow (like Mario Kart slow, oooo burn), then you can't have that "sense of speed" if there is no speed in the first place.

Two radically different racing games.

If you DO go outside the speed range, then your game will have to compensate for it.  Like F-Zero GX (made by Nagoshi-San, one of the only few people who can actually handle such a beast), has huge environments with wide, gaping turns.  On the other hand, you look at something like Club Kart at its low speeds and you have to think "put the camera way close to the ground and make really tight, compact courses."  You have to play into the hand of your game's speed range and scale the "size" of the world up/down from there to make sure each is equally difficult yet still playable by the demographic you're aiming at (racing diehards?).

6. 60 Frames Per Second.  I don't care what anyone says--60 FPS is better than 30.  The best analogy is the log in the fireplace--you're gonna go with the smooth, rounded one or the rough one?  The more surface area the log puts on, the faster it will burn (in other words, the smooth log will not burn as quickly).  If you're playing a racing game at a lower FPS, then you're not catching as much of the action as you want to--you're only getting, say, 50-60% of what your brain can actually absorb.  However, with a 60 fps game (the "rough" log), you get to experience more frames of the action and it just caters to your visual senses better.  But if you MUST have 30 FPS or less, then make the frame speed consistent.  Inconsistent FPS just f***s your brain all up and isn't fun to play in any genre of action video game.

7. Control response time is paramount.  You talk about "fast" games nowadays like Super Mario Bros. or Call of Duty and when you turn, jump, or shoot, you do it INSTANTLY.  It makes you feel like you're in charge of your own destiny.  When making a racing game, if the car just slowly flops around or you have no real control over where you go, not only will you get pissed off at it, it feels more like the game is trying to usurp control over the car from you.  That's why I chew out "slow" games like Need for Speed and (now) Forza because I don't get that feeling like I'm 100% in control of the car if it's so sluggish to do anything.  This doesn't mean "make the game piss easy to cater to casuals," but I believe responsive controls are a must.

8. HUD stuff.  You don't need to stray away from HUD pieces.  As a matter of fact, they can top off the sense of speed.  For instance, Daytona USA 2.  The "slot machine" position counter, the tach needle which has a motion trail, the track map which rotates to match your car orientation, how everything shakes when you collide with something.  It blends in with the rest of the gameplay and at the same time stays out of the way of the action so no complaints.

A decent HUD interface, providing meaningful information and giving a clear shot of the car and what lies ahead.

You don't necessarily need fewer HUD pieces to be "immersive."  Split/Second is a great example of this as they chose to include very limited pieces of info in select parts of the screen.  Great.  But taking away the speedometer (only to replace it with that stupid burnt "border" that blocks parts of the screen) doesn't make the game any faster IMO and can be really annoying for racing "diehards" like me who want simple information like "where am I on the track" and "what's my current lap time?"  Is it that hard to ask?  Did Split/Second (and Ridge Racer Unbounded as well) need to reinvent what a racing game HUD needs to look like?

Oh Split/Second, how I missed thee...

EDIT: I should mention that I really do love that lap counter.  Just the flickering numbers, it's great.  Times should be down to the milliseconds (if possible...I know Daytona 1 or Scud Race didn't have three digits).

9. Motion blur is something that isn't necessary bad but I tend to frown upon.  THIS IS DEBATABLE but IMO, the more effects you introduce to the game, the worse it gets.  Some games feel the need to obfuscate part of the screen when going fast to make it seem "edgy."  Yet I don't think that is necessary.  Particle effects and whatnot that "prevent" you from absorbing the environment (and possibly cause the game to lag) just piss me off.  If you're running at 60 FPS as it is, cruising down the road at 200+ mph, you're going to have a hard enough time trying to understand your environment as it is so motion blur will come automatically.  Don't need to force these things on the user.

I searched for "motion blur" and all I got was this scrambled mess.  Don't do this.

10. Sound is phenomenally important.  After all, visuals are only 1/5th of the human senses so you have to cater to the other ones (hearing is another 1/5th).  If you're playing a racing game for about 20 hours and you have to listen to some whiny piece of crap sound effect for that entire 20 hours, it'll suck.  Get some deep, hollow engine sounds so you can "feel" the horsepower.  Makes it feel like you're situated in a tin can with that loud motor.  Get great tire, transmission, suspension, collision, EDIT: and wind sound effects.  See NASCAR suspension clip for heavenly "air tunnel audio."  You can add "contrast" to pictures to make them more colorful so do the same with sound.  Get some stereo speakers to surround you.  Easier said than done since not everyone can afford that setup.

11. Now about how you physically feel the game.  That's another 1/5th right there.  You play a racing game and there needs to be some tactile feedback like a real race car driver would.  Here's where Sega's state-of-the-art arcade cabinets come in to play.  The force feedback of trying to fight against an aggressive car (much like a cowboy tries to ride a bull) is something you really have to play into.  Not as relevant on home consoles (just make the controller shake) but something you can't discount if you're going for 100% perfection.

12. Last but not least--a racing game NEEDS great music.  It needs to be exciting and fit the tone of the game.  Sega does a great job at creating their own tunes as I've mentioned here.  Great lyrics to accompany fast-paced beats.  But if you can't create your own music, then use licensed music!  Problem is many producers (not just in games but TV & movies too) pick pretty lame "racing" music.  Like I think Coldplay is alright but it sure as hell doesn't inspire me to get up and race cars.  I can think of 100 better bands--AC/DC, Metallica, Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynard, Powerman 5000, freakin Papa Roach (releases an album for racing game tracks), you get the picture.  But this is a pretty heavy conversation I will probably discuss in a future post.  It'll be great.

TLDR version, here's five bullet points:

1. Work on making the car display "emotion" as it drives. Stoic cars = bad, dynamic cars = good.
2. Use camera angles and track environments to catch as much detail as possible.
3. 60 FPS. Don't get too fancy with the HUD and avoid hindrances to the driving.
4. Go for solid, responsive gameplay that errs on the side of arcade physics.
5. Iterate upon sound & music until it is rich in expression.

That's my list.  You think about these things and say...which racing games are fast and which ones are not?  Do they follow these rules?  Even "bad" racing games (IMO) like Burnout and Need for Speed do some of these things properly but the ultimate ones have to be Sega racers.  Now you know about putting better sense of speed in your video games.  Click on the games on the right panel bar to look at fast game footage.  Now to go to sleep and dream about cars!