CyberPunch83's Blog - Jul to Sep 17 (38 followers)
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Aug
25
PermalinkLong-Distance Trading
About a year ago, my sister, who lives about two hours away while attending university, came into possession of some Xbox 360 games and controllers. I've talked about this before, how one of the controllers was a GameStop exclusive from 2009 and needed new thumbsticks, and the other controller started its life as plain white, but had blue, green and gold added at some point in its life to become quite the travesty against good taste and design. Those controllers have since left me, hopefully to return one day.

Long story short, some family were going out to visit her, and before they left, she requested two controllers for some unknown purpose. I provide the two controllers I was originally given so long ago, and in return I get another white one. At a glance, this one seems to work perfectly fine, the only physical imperfection being the left thumbstick being completely worn down to the plastic in one spot. Frankly I'm impressed someone kept using this one controller long enough to get that far. I would have swapped out the sticks or the entire controller much sooner.

Regardless, this one also requires some repair. Along with being worn down to practically nothing, the left thumbstick is also very loose in its housing. If you shake the controller around even a bit, the left stick shakes this way and that, almost like a buoy on water. Over the coming week, this controller will be opened, the situation diagnosed, and the proper repair made. I should have all of the parts required unless the problem is far worse than I can see from this point. I have spare thumbsticks that can be swapped in, which fixes one half of it.

The other half, and possibly the more serious part of the problem, is the left stick shaking in place. It could just be a bad connection to the analog stick itself. If not, then the whole board may need to be replaced. Full disclosure: I don't have a soldering tool, nor will I be buying one just for this purpose. Though if you factor in some other fixes for other controllers it may be a sound investment. Regardless, if a board replacement is deemed necessary, then I have at least two controllers I can draw from as far as parts to get what I need in order to fix this one.

I'm sure at some point this controller will make its way back to my sister, likely the next time myself or someone from my immediate family goes out there for a visit. She probably only wanted it fixed anyway, which as her brother, I am more than happy to provide. She did get me those two other controllers in the first place so it's the least I can do. I'm also basically certain I have the parts needed for this job. Once that happens, I do want the technicolour nightmare controller back to clean that one up.

Effectively the paint needs to be stripped off both main plates, the upper panel between the bumpers, and the D-Pad. The thumbsticks were painted, but at this point they will just be replaced. I don't think it would go well trying to strip paint off rubber, since the whole stick would likely be stripped off if I wasn't careful. This controller hasn't been opened by me, so I can only hope whoever did this custom paint job did some disassembly and left the innards intact. The last thing to find would be paint on any of the main boards inside.

In other hardware news, I need another Xbox One controller, mainly for parts. I bought one secondhand online back in January to address a right stick drift issue on my main controller. You may remember that from the blog and album I made about opening a controller for fixing all manner or problems. Currently that album has over 800 views on image-hosting site imgur. Thanks to anyone who went and took a look at it when I originally posted the link here about eight months back. The controller I fixed at the time still works, but my second controller has developed a drift as well.

This makes it a little difficult to game with this controller, especially in any context that requires aiming or precision with the right thumbstick. Basically this means any shooter is out, as are most either first or third-person action/adventure titles. Really cuts down on what can be played on the Xbox One. One of the affected titles is Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, which is in-progress in couch co-op via backward-compatibility with myself and my partner petranat. I'm using the second controller, and it may end up getting fixed before this game is done.

Sometime in the next few weeks, expect a blog about how the issues I have faced with controllers, specifically the stick drift issue, have been keeping me from purchasing any of the fancier or more custom controllers that Microsoft have made available for the Xbox One. This stands in stark contrast to the Xbox 360, where the controllers didn't have these problems. Arguably it was the console itself, but that's another argument for another day. Also expect a Progress Report or two coming up soon as well. I'm trying to pre-plan some more blogs since it worked out well last time.

Coming up on Monday: at least one Progress Report
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 25 August 17 at 15:19 | There is 1 comment on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Aug
21
PermalinkLimit Break
Couch co-op games will hopefully always be here to stay. The ability for a game and its narrative to be enjoyed simultaneously by two people, giving increased value for money in an age of ever more expensive gaming and letting someone else in on the action. I've blogged at length over a nearly three-year-old blog about how we cannot lose this essential part of gaming, going all the way back to the first major console released like the NES. We have always had couch co-op, and should always have it or fight for it if it's been taken away.

Rallying cry aside, two games I've played recently, both in couch co-op with my wonderful girlfriend petranat, have left me scratching my head as to exactly how these games can claim to be co-op and yet lack some of the most basic features of what these games need to be fully deserving of the title 'couch co-op'. My concerns come from limitations seemingly built-in to both games and exist only to give player two the absolute shaft as far as controller settings, game interaction and basic movement by extension. This is problematic, as I will go into detail about below.

The first of two concerning instances of limited controls for player two is Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. Based on the title of the game, it's pretty clear this game was built for co-op, with the cover of the game featuring both Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit quite prominently. Being a Disney title, it's also a fair and correct assumption the game is meant for kids, right down to minor platforming and puzzle-solving with the character's unique abilities. Sounds all well good and so far, but like the game itself, there is a dark underside brought to light in co-op mode.

Player two is stuck as Oswald, the same that player one is and always be Mickey Mouse. Not a problem there either. This game features sidequests to pick up and hand in across your adventure across Wasteland in addition to the main story, only if player one decides to start or complete these missions. Player two is strictly along for the ride, as they cannot pick up or hand in these side missions. They must always go through the mouse, as I'm sure Walt intended in some way back in the 1950's. Yet player two can work on the side missions. A weird system to be sure.

The other annoying aspect of being second banana in this adventure is the collectibles themselves. In Disney tradition, the main in-game collectible is pins. While they can't all be earned in one run as some require both sides of a split path, Player two only gets tagged in after the tutorial level, when the characters are reunited, after some pins are collected. How exactly are you supposed to collect them all if some are to be found before you character enters the story? Maybe it will become apparent how later on with regards to achievements. Time will tell on that one.

The second, and arguably the more egregious example of this is Toy Story Mania! A recently-completed title in this instance, this party game is a collection of shooting galleries and other such carnival games with a decidedly Toy Story twist. The game is actually a lot of fun if played with someone else and a pretty easy 1000 Gamerscore as well. Being a collection of accuracy-related games, the ability to move your reticle around the screen as fast as possible is paramount to hit the weak point for massive damage, or something like that.

You have control over the controller sensitivity, which translates to how fast your reticle darts around the screen to score points. Assuming you're player one. Player two in this little carnival adevnture not only can't control the Y-sensitivity, but can't even pause the game, the Start button on the 360 controller doing absolutely nothing in any context. Need to stop the game to attend to something or answer the call of nature? Better hope player one is willing to co-operate or you're consigning yourself to a few consecutive losses.

Here's the absolute worst part about this little game design quirk. You need the controller sensitivity to be at absolute maximum to handle this game. The default is about 50%, and is far too slow to hit some of the targets in a reasonable amount of time. I understand the game is for kids and they don't want the reticle flying around the screen, but this isn't even a case where modifications made to player one's controls also affect player two's controls. If that were the case, most would be forgiven, but that still doesn't solve the problem of player two being unable to do to themselves.

Thankfully these are the only games I have come across in 10+ years of Xbox console gaming that have demonstrated these frankly strange design choices. Perhaps it's purely a coincidence that these games were played around the time. Given the sheer number of games available, I am willing to believe that is the case. If any others are found at any point, expect them to be mentioned here. I sincerely hope this does not set some sort of precedent where player two doesn't get full control, gameplay or rewards, with all the glory and going to player one. Not really a fair system.

Coming up on Friday: a Micro-Review as the powers that be allow.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 21 August 17 at 16:22 | There is 1 comment on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Aug
18
PermalinkReviews on the Run
No, I'm not X-Play. I'm sure at least one or two people out there became very disappointed at that little revelation. I'm just a guy, who plays games and blogs about them in between everything else life throws my way. I considered titling this one 'Review Cavalcade Part IV' but there had been a week in between part III and now, so I figured the momentum had died down for that one. Maybe I'm wrong. Though this does leave the door open to picking up with a part IV somewhere down the line if I play and review a whole whack of games in a short span.

One thing that will not get a review here, but is also a recent completion, is Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition. Title Update 54 to be precise. New achievements anyone familiar with the Windows 10 version will know very well, along with new items, biomes, and enemies. we now have llamas, and yes they do spit at you when you hit them. This is the fifth title update for the Xbox 360 version, bringing the game over 2,000 Gamerscore, which is something I didn't think was possible on that platform. There's a future blog in there about limitations somewhere.

Syberia Micro-Review: This game came to me highly recommended by my girlfriend and longtime gaming partner petranat. Because she thought the game was terrible. In many ways I have to agree. The game is a point-and-click at heart but tries to include third-person movement controls. This game started life as a PC title in 2002, then moved to the Xbox 360 in 2014 and is now available through backward-compatibility on the Xbox One, which is where I played it. The game is set in modern times for 2002, as American lawyer Kate Walker.

You run around various small towns and villages across Eurasia trying to solve a mystery of an heir to a toy factory. Along the way you solve minor logic puzzles, but mostly run from place to place talking to people and fetching items for them. It's an interesting concept, but the games do not deliver on the mechanics for that concept. The graphics were to be expected for 2002, with mostly painted backgrounds you in front of, and they look pretty enough. The cutscenes are all in 4:3, which does age the game somewhat. Controls are very sticky and extremely picky. They will be your biggest adversary in this entire game.

For some reason, the backgrounds which did have animation in the original release, was not copied over to this version of the game. You will encounter a waterfall with rushing water sounds, but the fall itself is entirely static and does not move, betraying the sounds you hear. Not sure how that happened in the transition from the PC. Voice acting is about as wooden as the allies you come across in the game. Not great either. Achievement-wise, this game can be done in one day with a guide to complete the game in less than six hours for one specific achievement of the 13 available.

Verdict: a good concept and narrative let down by clunky controls and a confusing audio and visual delivery. 5/10

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Toy Story Mania! Micro-Review: If you read my First Thoughts from last week, you will know what I think of this party game. It wouldn't quite be fair to compare this title to a Mario Party since there is a bit less structure and far more opportunity for free play where you go from game to game. For a party game with a carnival theme mixed with the characters from the Pixar films, there is a surprising amount of depth to the few games to be found in this game. It's not all shooting galleries, since there is also ball throwing, balloon popping and ring tossing. It's pretty much all the carnival games covered.

As previously stated, the mini-games are split into five themed areas, each around one character from the films. Such areas as Wild West themed around Woody, and Space Station themed around Buzz Lightyear. Each area caters to a different style of carnival game. Wild West is a shooting gallery, and Space Station is ring toss. Each game is entertaining enough, and has a secondary objective to complete for massive points. Many jokes about weak points and massive damage were made. The games do not really get repetitive and are quite entertaining, as bite-sized as they are. Also player 2 can't pause the game or change their controller settings. Not a good idea.

The graphics are spot-on. Every character looks like their film version with no noticeable flaws or imperfections. Some of the voice cast is back, like Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear and R. Lee Erney as Sarge. Some are not, like Jim Hanks (brother of Tom Tanks) doing the voice of Woody. It all sounds just like you want it to. This is another easy achievement title, coming in at three or four hours depending on your luck with one or two levels where some targets must be lined up, and some other requiring at least a second controller, if not a second person.

Verdict: a harmless, turn your brain off kind of fun that sticks around just long enough to be entertaining. 6/10

Coming up on Monday: controller limitations.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 18 August 17 at 16:23 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Aug
14
PermalinkDisney Double Header
This blog isn't all World of Tanks, whining, Destiny complaining, and some bad games thrown in for good measure. Sometimes this blog has a lighter side, a more carefree side. I feel this is demonstrated and emphasized by two games I recently started playing; both are Disney titles, both are co-op adventures with my girlfriend petranat as well. Disney titles are generally seen as lighthearted, kid-friendly games that can be played and enjoyed by the whole family. Generally. Keep that word in mind.

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two First Thoughts: On the surface, Epic Mickey 2, the follow-up to the Wii-exclusive first game, adds another playable character to the mix: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Yes, there were animated characters before Mickey Mouse came along. They were just relegated to a place that became and known as Wasteland. This is the in-universe explanation for why these characters haven't been featured in Disney animation in quite literally decades. This game appears to be set in more or less present times, as in the cinematic introduction, years pass and show Mickey Mouse earning all of the accolades he is known for today.

Being a co-op title, a vast majority of the game's 46 achievements can be earned with both people playing. This cuts down on repeated runs for earning all of them. Each character also has unique abilities. Mickey has the magic brush, allowing use of both paint and thinner to create and destroy objects and the environment to access secret areas and collectibles. Oswald has some sort of device that allows for use on electrical panels to activate them and whatever comes along with them. He also has a sort of hover feature tied to his double-jump.

One other thing Oswald can do is not pick up or hand in side quests. Being a mostly-linear title with quests and side quests, you will need to speak to people to find these and hand them in. For some reason, probably because kids and because Disney, player 2, who is always Oswald, cannot pick up or hand in side missions. I can understand it from a logic perspective, but at the same time if there are two competent people playing your title, this puts unnecessary work on the first player and makes the second player basically feel along for the ride, despite having different skills and abilities.

There is quite a bit of game to go, and even with guides and a walkthrough, two playthroughs are required at absolute minimum to earn all achievements. There is a reason this game has a 3.6 TA ratio, which is high for a game overall, and even higher for a Disney title, given their history of producing child-friendly fare, generally tied to a recent Pixar film release. This is a departure in both senses, as it's a darker co-op original adventure based on characters, and not a specific franchise or combination of franchises. Watch this space for more.

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Toy Story Mania! First Thoughts: Toy Story is a film and a franchise near and dear to me. It's the first Pixar film I ever saw, and between sequels and other video games, this has proven to be one of the strongest franchises Pixar has ever created. I have played Toy Story 3 to completion in January of last year, and this was the one remaining game in the Toy Story series here on TA. That leaves Toy Story Mania, the game I have played and am talking about now. Long story short, Mania is a party game, limited to two people, where you play a stream or carnival games themed on certain aspects of the universe.

The game contains an Adventure Mode, which is really just picking any one of the five themed areas and playing a preset mix of the mini-games with either one or two people. Being released in 2012 and from a major third-party publisher, the games comes baked-in with Kinect support. The game isn't Kinect-required, just you can use it if you want. In-game, this translates to moving your body to dodge incoming thrown pies during most of the challenges. If you're not using Kinect and prefer to dodge the pies the old-fashioned way, you use RS to dodge to either side or down. There are achievements tied to the pies as well.

While 49 achievements for this title may seem a bit daunting, most of them are mission-specific objectives and a handful of them can be earned in any level with power-ups. One run through any of the Adventure mode stages will net you at least 6-10 of these, depending on how much you study the achievement list before going into every level. If Adventure Mode isn't to your liking, you can Free Play every mini-game, even though some of them need to be unlocked by playing one of the other unlocked levels. Either way it won't take long to earn all of the 49 achievements.

Coming up on Friday: Progress Report on another game that keeps getting more and more achievements.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 14 August 17 at 21:22 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Aug
11
PermalinkLong-Term Updates
As of this writing, I have two what could be considered long-term projects active on or around the Xbox. Those of you that have been around for the last few months will doubtless recall the Achievement Research Project, a little something I set up to find the most common achievement names on the Xbox 360. The other project I have on the go, and likely the one that will be completed first, is the 'Top Shelf' achievement in World of Tanks for researching a Tier X vehicle of each class. There are updates for both projects, coming to you here and now.

The Achievement Research Project is getting more attention in the last few weeks, as I've found some more spare time to put toward it. When given the choice, I'll always prefer actual gaming to poring over monotonous lists of achievement names with slight variations. As of this writing, I am about halfway through the letter R. This was starting with numbered achievements first, so once I hit Z this will be done. TA is currently listing 392 pages of Xbox 360 achievements. This number got a bump a few weeks back when XBLA was folded in as well. It has made research take longer since those have to be filtered out.

I know the next few letters, R, S and T will be some of the longest to process in terms of achievement names. All three letters are in the top eight most used letters in the English language, so I am expecting a lot for all of them. For those wondering, the most common letter in English is E. Once those are done, it should be smooth sailing toward the end of the alphabet. I have it on good authority that Japanese achievement names are located past Z, but I doubt there will be many common achievement names there. There might be, and I will find out in time. That part will take longer because some Japanese characters look very similar to my untrained eye.

Without giving away the names themselves, the top 10-20 common achievement names are pretty much set and I can't see them moving anytime soon. Some of these entries have been around for a while, and I'm sure there are some achievement names you have seen a lot that will show up in this list. The top five most common achievement names have 38, 34, 31, 28 and 27 unique mentions. I will be posting a Google doc of the list itself once it's done. Assuming copying the list from Microsoft Word into a Google doc doesn't crash anything, break the internet or try to divide by zero. If life as we know it comes to an abrupt end in a few weeks, this may be why.

The other long-term project, which was basically dumped into my lap through a title update is the 'Top Shelf' achievement in World of Tanks. The achievement asks for researching a Tier X vehicle of each type of tank that goes to Tier X. Light tanks currently max out at Tier VIII on console, however the PC version recently updated to Tier X Light Tanks, so that won't be far away for us. Of the remaining four tank types, I have researched Tier X Heavy Tanks and a Tank Destroyer. This leaves a Medium Tank and an Artillery. Insert all your artillery hatred here. Your tears taste sweet.

The Medium tank I'll be chasing is the Chinese 121. I am currently at the T-34-2 at Tier VIII and am getting closer to researching the Tier IX WZ-120. I need just over 42,000 XP to research that vehicle, and then the grind starts over again with a new vehicle. There are two packages I have to research to get to the point where I'm saving XP for the 121, and they should be no more than 45,000 XP each, far as my calculations can assume. If anything changes, then the spreadhseet I created to track all of this would also have to update as well. After all that it's another 180,000 XP for the 121 itself.

Over to the Artillery side, I am currently at the American Tier IX M53/M55. I have researched the final package for this vehicle, and now it's just saving XP for the Tier X T92 HMC. As of this writing, I need just a bit under 200,000 XP to finish that tank. While it's closer than the T-34-2 to the 121, this one will likely take longer. In World of Tanks, you earn more XP for enemy vehicles attacked and destroyed that you spot or are right in front of, rather than Artillery's indirect fire mode. This means you earn less XP per match than any other vehicle. It's the trade-off for more damage per shot.

Your first win of the day always gives double XP, and I will be needing that the most for the Artillery. You can have a great game outside of this, and get little more than 1,300 XP. When you need just a shade under 200,000, this equates to many more games, and many more good games. Anyone who has played World of Tanks, even non-Artillery roles, knows there can be days where you cannot get a single win, and if you do, it's due to the rest of the team and nothing you were able to contribute. Needless to say this one requires a lot more patience, and will be the one tank type that will be preventing the most people from earning this achievement.

Coming up on Monday: a First Thoughts on what should have been a very dark game.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 11 August 17 at 15:18 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.