CyberPunch83's Blog - Jul to Sep 19 (43 followers)
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Aug
27
PermalinkDivergence Point
It turns out being between games and not really looking forward to any of the games you have to play next can serve some good. Namely, it can force someone to finish a project started well over a year ago, one that was halted when it was nearly done, and just required moving a 100+ page, unstable Word document into Google Drive for faster access and search capabilities. Welcome to the final analysis of the Achievement Research Project, part one. Part two and three will be doled out over the next couple of weeks.

So what did I do, for those that may not know? Let's start with something simple. I looked at every single achievement for the Xbox 360, for a physical game, and tracked the frequency of each achievement showing up across all games. As you can imagine, some names came up far more frequently than others. This project was originally meant to cover all platforms, including Xbox One and PC, but the Xbox One moves so fast it would have been impossible to keep up with so many game releases.

By the end, over 4000 achievements were tracked, and some patterns emerged. Namely, a lot of common achievements showed up where the title included 'The' at the start, and those that did not. For example, there were many instances of 'The Collector', but even more instances of just 'Collector'. This was not an isolated incident, as this showed up more and more as the initial research progressed. Eventually a decision was made: make two lists, one with 'The' included and one without it. This is where we find ourselves today.

Both lists have been completed, and over the coming weeks we'll go over the analysis of said lists to see where patterns emerged, which achievements were the most common, and just how many achievement names showed up more than once. I'll give some stats ahead of time: across both lists, regardless of the 'The' was counted, Collector, Untouchable, Veteran and Completionist all made it to the top five most common achievement names. This really shouldn't come as a surprise, as they are relatively-generic names and could be applied basically to any game.

In the time between when this project first started and today, more games have been released for the Xbox 360. I think we've seen the last of them, thanks to Ubisoft with Just Dance 2019, which also released for the Wii of all platforms as well, and when a new game released, its achievement list was added to the list and the necessary changes were made. There were no last-minute winners or chart-toppers as a result of these, and all it really did was increase the numbers of some achievements further down the list.

Let'a take a moment to talk about franchise-specific achievements. Once an annual franchise has really hit its stride, barring some revolutionary change to the core gameplay, the achievement lists will come to resemble one another year over year. This can result in some strange, and very unique achievement names showing up enough times to make the list. For example, an achievement with a long title like 'World Footballer of the Year' would almost certainly be omitted from any frequency rankings, if it weren't for the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise basically having the same achievement list since 2010.

For the record, the 'World Footballer of the Year' achievement shows up eight times, worded exactly as you see it. Someone at Konami really copying and pasting the achievement lists year over year. Other annual sports franchises like NBA and Madden NFL fall victim to this with achievements of their own showing up multiple times. One particularly noteworthy example is 'NBA Cares', from the NBA 2K franchise. It's a reference to the league's charitable arm, providing outreach and training to kids in underprivileged areas. They do a lot of great work, including getting that achievement seven unique mentions on the list.

When all of the analysis is said and done, which should be in a couple of weeks, barring any major upsets or issues with the release schedule, I'll upload both documents for all to see. They are both over 100 pages in size, so some servers at Google may catch fire in the process. I think I heard Google cry out in agony when I first uploaded the files anyway. Check back next week for our first real dive into the achievements and what they mean.

Coming up on Friday: quickie game reviews!
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 27 August 19 at 02:40 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Aug
24
PermalinkSega Review Double-Header
Gunstar Heroes Micro-Review: Another classic Sega title, another review. You play as a soldier trying to save four crystals from falling into the wrong hands, with access to an array of weaponry that would make a Borderlands player jealous. Four elemental weapons are available from the start, with upgrades available along the way to increase firepower, range and damage. You can stack different elements for unique effects, like for example fire and lightning, for some really interesting effects.

7 stages of running and gunning await you, each with different enemies, locations, and tactics. There is also an interesting amount of randomization with a boss, as you could get one of several forms depending on the difficulty level, and just sheer luck. It would be more interesting if an achievement didn't hinge on one specific boss showing up on the third stage of a three-stage fight. Speaking of bosses, we now know where Cuphead got the idea for the King Dice boss fight dice-rolling sequence.

Without giving too much away for a 26-year-old game, at one point in the story, your character goes to space. This has to be the single worst stage in the entire game, since it seems designed to cause you to take unnecessary damage, with an aiming and shooting control set that makes no logical sense, even back on the Sega Genesis with either its three or six-button controller. You will not miss that stage once it's gone.

Like many Sega games of the same vintage, it's here and gone in a few hours for all 12 achievements, with minimal replay required or really warranted. If you can get a friend together for some co-op shooting, then some additional fun can be had while working together. The right people with the right weapons could absolutely destroy a level, and likely result in both of you being entirely untouched. Outside of this, it's a vintage shooter, the likes of which have been seen since and arguably better.

Verdict: Double flame is the way to go. 5/10

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Comix Zone Micro-Review: People today hail the Marvel Cinematic Universe for bringing some of their favourite comic book heroes to life on the big screen. Back in 1995, Sega attempted to do the same thing, albeit taking the idea of comics come to life a little more seriously. Welcome to Comix Zone, where you're a comic book artist who gets pulled into your latest creation and have to fight your way out. It's a beat-em-up in that classic 16-bit style.

The game is presented as a comic book, with each room being a comic panel, and the boss of the game, Mortus, wielding literal creative control, drawing in enemies for you to fight. Along the way you enlist the help of a friendly rat, who finds powerups by literally tearing the fourth wall open for weapons and health. This is a good thing, although the fact he takes up one of your three inventory slots doesn't help much. Gameplay protip: this game has splash damage. Make use of that how you will.

For game from over twenty years ago that focuses primarily on beating up drawn-in monsters and enemies, the game has multiple endings, and without giving away too much, doesn't diverge until right at the end of the game. You'll know when it happens if you ever play this game. One of them is considered the good ending, and the other is the bad ending, only insofar as there must be a bad ending for there to be a good ending. But don't worry about that while you're punching away at monsters and goons.

Like most classic Sega titles, achievement-wise this game can be completed in a couple hours, and effectively in one playthrough as well. Make use of the save system, as the game is rather stingy with checkpoints of its own, and you will need all three slots provided by Sega in the Vintage Collection interface. That aside, it's another side-scrolling beat-em-up, but unique enough that Sega was granted a patent for the game concept and idea back in 1994, a year ahead of the game's release. There's your trivia for the day.

Verdict: The pen is mightier than the sword. 7/10

Coming up on Monday: final analysis of the Achievement Research Project.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 24 August 19 at 01:46 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Aug
19
PermalinkSpinning Wheel of Death
In today's ever-connected world of gaming, updates and patches are a frequent, almost to the point of daily occurrence. We now have more 'games as a service' titles than ever before, and those require constantly being updated to keep everything fair and balanced for everyone. Anyone who has ever played titles like Destiny or The Division can tell you all about these constant miniature updates and patches, including me, who at last count had over 700 hours into the first Destiny title on the Xbox One.

This may not sound like a problem, and to a great many of us, it isn't. Games get updated, we play them, game updates again, rinse and repeat. Multiply by as long as you intent to play the game and that's pretty much the life cycle of a modern game. However, sometimes this takes a rather nasty turn. When you don't play a game for a while, the updates tend to pile up on one another, and then you're forced to sit through update after update before you can even play the game again. I have an example of this situation.

The last time TA has recorded me playing Grand Theft Auto V is April 12, 2017. I completed the last achievement for the 'Online Freemode Events' title update. For the record, this is likely the last day I played this game, not just when I earned my most recent achievement. There is still one whole other DLC pack I have to complete, but that requires time and people which are not readily available. This will be done at some point, but at this time the details are not known. Anyway, since that date I have easily updated the game half a dozen times.

For what, you may ask? Good question, because I'd like to know what's so special about this game that it has to take up more and more of my hard drive, to the point where I'm looking at removing some other games just to make room for the constant updates. Let's be fair for a moment and assume these are all patches and other such compatibility updates for the game. These need to be done, so they get done. This is the reason I specifically set all games to update automatically. I don't want to be surprised by an update for a game I've sat down to play.

My problem lies with what happens when I finish one of the larger updates. Another update is also waiting for me as well. One after the another. You can't play the game in the interim, you can't do anything else, you have to perform another update right after the first one just to play the game. For as smart as modern games consoles are, and all of the features and functions they can perform, can updates not be combined, and all done at the same time? Can it not be condensed to one larger update and then you're good to go? I understand some of the technical background so let me explain it as best I can.

I understand that certain updates must be performed before another can begin. X must be completed before you can begin Y. That sort of thing. This is all well and good. I would argue that we have found a way around that as well, and for that, I'd like to draw your attention to backward-compatible Xbox 360 games. When installing a game, you'll sometimes get a message, to the effect of 'checking for FastStart'. You may not know what that means. I found out. The Xbox One can scan the game files, and determine what needs to be installed first to get you in the game while the rest installs in the background, out of your way.

On some level, we have figured out exactly what files and assets need to be loaded first to allow someone to play a game. To the best of my knowledge, there is no reason this could not also be applied to updates for games as well. If anything else, it should be easier because you are adding less files and assets, and just making tweaks and changes to existing files. Yes, updates do add new content to the game, but more often than not it's a re-versioning of existing content and assets, so it's still just modifying what's there instead of adding entirely new stuff.

Given how the 'Ready to Start' feature doesn't really work on most Xbox One games, this re-ordering of files seems necessary. A couple of years back, I was starting Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. The game was listed as 'Ready to Start' on my console, so I fired it up. All that was ready was a sort of staging area where you could run around as different plant and zombie classes, test out your weapons, but that was it. No actual gameplay, you couldn't dive right into the multiplayer as soon as the game was ready to go. You had to just wander around this area, with only one or two really dumb AI to pass the time with, while the rest of the game got ready for you.

Updates are a necessary part of modern gaming, but there's a lot about them we clearly still don't know or at least don't know how to fully embrace and use to its most efficient end. Perhaps by the time the PS5 and Scarlett roll through, which could apparently be as early as next year, we may finally have this figured out for good. If not, there may not be a tenth generation for gaming consoles and we really may all just move to PC gaming for everything. At least they seem to have more figured out than we do in that area.

Coming up next time: more game reviews!
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 19 August 19 at 14:35 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Aug
19
PermalinkAltered Expectations
Altered Beast Micro-Review: I'm going to be upfront about this one. I only bought and played this retro Sega title because of the Super Game Sale 2019, which ended a few weeks prior to this writing. It's hard to pass up a fast XBLA completion for only $1.29 or your local equivalent. Anyway, here's Altered Beast. Originally released back in 1088 for arcades, a slew of home console releases followed, including this one, released back in 2009. It's a side-scrolling beat-em-up where you punch and kick various monsters to rescue a princess, all of this done at the request of Zeus, who raised you from the dead for this very purpose.

The Sega Vintage Collection has been an excellent repackaging of many classic arcade games from Sega's golden years. For someone like myself, who wasn't even born yet when many of these games saw their initial release, either in arcades or on home consoles, this is a wonderful way to go back and play some of these classic games. And as much as some of these games are considered classics, can they ever be hard. Many times while playing Altered Beast I found myself just an inch or two short from kicking an opponent, and then being locked in place just long enough to take a few hits while defenseless. It's more a test of reflex than anything else at times.

Despite this, the game is still fun to this day, including the aspect of collecting the spirit orbs and transforming into a beast for the remainder of that level. Breathing fire as a dragon or crushing everything as a bear has never quite been as satisfying. The bosses are quite hard if you don't fully power up before the end of the level, so be aware of that. The game basically has no replay value, although it does have one token online achievement for playing a level in online co-op. Not finishing a level, just starting one. The game is backward-compatible on the Xbox One, so two-boxing it by yourself is a viable option.

Being an older arcade title, the game will take two hours to complete at maximum. Perhaps an hour or so for the game, then the rest of the time either mopping up the one achievement that may require a second playthrough and starting a level in online co-op. The system for invited is a bit janky if one of the players is on an Xbox One, but it doesn't matter who is hosting. As long as two people are playing a level of Altered Beast together in co-op through the magic of Xbox Live, it's achievement unlocked for the both of you.

Verdict: how the hell did a 20MB game on the 360 balloon to 537MB on the Xbox One? 6/10

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Fuzion Frenzy 2 Micro-Review: Party games can be difficult to review. On the one hand, there is no narrative arc beside what little you get to string together endless minigames, and the characters available are purely cosmetic and serve no purpose other than to know which player you are on-screen. Some of the minigames are incredibly basic, only requiring two button inputs, while others require a thumbstick, at least one face button and a trigger for good measure. On the other hand, it's still a game, an inherently interactive medium, so there has to be something that can be played, analyzed, and ultimately reviewed. Let's do the latter thing right now.

Spoiler alert: this game was a disappointment. Perhaps it was a case of unrealistic and impossible expectations by me after the sheer amount of fun and enjoyment I got from the first game, perhaps it was the change in developer giving the game a very different tone and not one that resonates with me. We may never know the difference, but let's review what we do have. 43 mingames not counting the open-arena battle modes, which is a decent number, but even on Easy mode the AI do not give you much opportunity to really practice and get a feel for that game before you're fighting them all off at once. You have to basically hope they screw up before you.

For 2006, the graphics are mixed at best. Like most games from that era, they tried for an over-reliance on what I am calling a 'tech-y' look. Basically every menu screen looks like you zoomed in way too close to a circuit board and painted the menu options from there. It was entirely unnecessary for a game like this, and while the first game had a light sci-fi look to it, this game took it too far. Especially in the character's appearance. The announcer, who now has a character model, dresses as follows: spiky green hair, a luminescent blue tie, purple dress shirt, pink pants, and a yellow jacket with built-in lights. Is this what happens when cyberpunk meets Hot Topic?

If you have a group of friends over and need something to play that isn't Mario Party for the 457th time, then this game is a solid bet, kind of by default as there are few games like this on the Xbox 360. There is still some entertainment to be found, if you can overlook the punishing AI, overdesigned characters and worlds, and the absolutely garish announcer you'll be looking at in between every single minigame. That aside, it's an average party game, which will attract some people based on name recognition alone from the first game. One must wonder if this constitutes misuse of an IP or not.

Verdict: a missed opportunity for an excellent party game. 3/10

Coming up next time: more time updating, less time playing.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 19 August 19 at 14:27 | There is 1 comment on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Aug
09
PermalinkMouthy Chief
A little while back, in talking to longtime couch co-op partner, petranat, she remarked that Master Chief had seemingly got more and more talkative as the series went on, peaking at Halo 4. This notion was inspired by a rewatch of the original Halo: CE E3 trailer, which featured a much more chatty Chief than most people may know. This got me thinking, just how chatty has Master Chief been over the course of five numbered Halo titles? I decided to find out. Full disclosure: I have yet to play Halo 5: This Subtitle was Unnecessary, so I was careful to avoid spoilers for myself while still conducting this research.

So how does one go about determining just how talkative a video game characters has been? The easy solution would just be to go back and play all five games, and record the number of instances where Chief opens his mouth. That option was not taken, as wile it would be nice to go back and play some of these classic games, that would take far too long and you would get bogged down with half of Halo 2 not even playing as the Master Chief and being as far removed from him as you can get while still playing a Halo title. There had to be another option, and there was: find the game's scripts online and analyze those.

Some game's scripts were found in single blocks, helpfully transcribed by some forum users. Others were broken up by level. Regardless of the format, one thing was for certain: you can't just search the script for all instances of 'Master Chief' and write down the value returned as your number. Some characters in the games will refer to Chief by his full name, and I didn't want the numbers skewed by someone choosing proper etiquette when speaking to Chief. So for each result found, it had to be looked at individually to make sure it wasn't itself within a line of dialogue and stood on its own as a line heading on a page.

I had two assumptions going into this research. One was Chief would be at his most talkative in Halo 4, since that game dealt with more themes of isolation and introspection. Also from my personal experiences with that game, every level seemed to feature some near-monologuing from the Chief at some point about some ongoing thing. This is not a bad thing, just sometimes out of character. Conversely, my assumption for the least amount of dialogue was Halo: CE, since during the early years of the franchise, the Chief was far more a strong, silent type who mowed down alien hordes with nary a flinch.

Without further waffling, here are the results. I advise you sit down before reading them.
Halo: CE - 32
Halo 2 - 21
Halo 3 - 37
Halo 4 - 115
Halo 5 - 16

Let's get the obvious out of the way first. No, that is not a typo. Yes, I double-checked to make sure something I wasn't completely off my rocker. Halo 4 has that many lines from Master Chief. In fact, more in that one game than all others combined, which only total 106. I just didn't expect that game would have just that much dialogue. However, before we bash on Halo 4 too much more, we should stop and look at another interesting pattern from these numbers, specifically Halo 2 and Halo 5 and why they have the fewest lines from Big Green Style.

Halo 2 and 5 are unique among the numbered franchise entries because they both have multiple protagonists. In Halo 2, you play half the game as the Arbiter on the other side of the universe, and in Halo 5 you play half the game as Spartan Locke. Right away, this cuts down the time Chief is on-screen and potentially speaking by half in both cases. Less screen time means less speaking means less lines of dialogue. Real simple. And before any of you race into the comments to say those other playable character's lines should be counted, no they will not. This was an analysis of Master Chief's lines, not the player character's lines.

The thing about the dialogue in Halo titles is, with few exceptions, there are always other NPCs that do the talking for you. Cortana, Sgt. Johnson, the Arbiter, and a seemingly-infinite supply of UNSC Marines. They do all of the verbal heavy lifting, so you can focus on the shooting. There are points across all games where other characters are having a conversation you can hear, but you're not contributing or participating in any way. You're literally along for the ride, so while everyone else is talking about the weather or whatever else, you can keep your mind on shooting whatever enemy was unfortunate enough to wander into your crosshairs.

Coming up next time: more reviews! It's almost like I play games sometimes.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 09 August 19 at 13:47 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.