About Cal

Some jerk for Los Angeles, nerding it up about gaming, sports, and politics.

Housekeeping and Justice

I finally fixed the broken CommentLuv image in the sidebar.  In part because I remembered that World of Matticus uses it and that I could maybe download the file from them and just host it locally.  A few pokes around their directory structure and all fixed.  This wouldn’t usually be worth an update by itself (and it still isn’t), but it’s been broken for a long time!

Also, I caught the tail-end of a Michael Sandel lecture on John Rawls regarding “Redistributing wealth to help the disadvantaged.” (or so says the KLCS program guide) today.  I was moved to much pacing and thinking of the deep thoughts and I would write about said thoughts at length but, uh…

“Nobody can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own.”

-Sydney J. Harris

… yeah.

(The subject of my un-novel deep thoughts was mostly about how the arbitrariness of personal attributes and circumstances affects my understanding of allocating “myself” in a (strong) Pareto-optimal fashion and my need for that in the first place.  Then I got stuck in a rabbit-hole trying to show that my need to be Pareto-efficient leading me to say, do activism, made/makes me inherently weaker at that (relative to someone with an similar set of attributes and skills) than someone driven to it because of… empathy, or something.  Bleh.)

Good thing that Sydney J. Harris quotation (or ironically enough, one eerily similar to it) has been seared into my brain for ages, huh?

Finally, for disclosure’s sake: I stole “think deep thoughts” from Scott Jennings.

Three Thoughts about Code 46

Just finished watching Code 46 and I quite liked it.

  1. I <3 Samantha Morton in this movie, so much.
  2. A sex scene with Tim Robbins in it is weird, full stop.
  3. I didn’t like the ending but I thought it was appropriate.  If you’re familiar with the theatrical ending to Blade Runner, you should get an extra kick out of it though.  Well, at least I did.

Thoughts: Mass Effect 2 Kasumi DLC

So, to get the TL;DR-type stuff out of the way: $7 US for a new character, her loyalty mission, and some loot (an SMG, a new casual outfit, a +Tech Damage upgrade).

Worth it?

  • If you’re starting up a new game, definitely.  Kasumi is a pretty neat companion both in dialogue and combat, her mission is fun, and the new weapon quickly found a firm place in my Infiltrator’s kit.
  • If you’re looking to play this on your Post-Game Save and then go back to something else, I might pass on it until you revisit ME2 or there’s a sale.

Now, onwards in a relatively spoiler-free way.

Kasumi, Legion, and Shepard enter the Citadel.

Yes, that's Legion (I <3 Gibbed's Save Editor)

Kasumi, the character, is quite good.  Even taking her through just an initial visit to the Citadel and Mordin’s recruitment mission I found her incidental dialogue to be some of my favorite so far.  There’s a triggered piece of dialogue on Omega about the use of light that reminded me a lot of my, now, other favorite character to take around, Jack.  Both characters’ statements are from the “bottom”.  They’re not the usual expository lines you might get from fancy-pants characters and also not the “Ooooooooh, so shiny” crap from callow characters (who may or may not be space hicks).  Both Kasumi and Jack give perspectives that usually aren’t given about places and even less often done well in my experience.

In combat her trademark ability is Shadow Strike… which is basically Shadowstep.  It makes her into a very mobile, stealthy, Shotgun-type character (without the Shotgun) able to ruin people’s day down range.  Her loyal power is a flashbang grenade which has seemed useful but I haven’t put much time into it (and I’m too in love with Geth Shield Boost to take it myself).

Kasumi and (Female) Shepard at the beginning of her loyalty mission.

Meeting the mark.

I was pretty excited by the mission concept when they announced this DLC and my head filled with Leverage and Alias “party heist” episodes.  For the most part it delivered.  There wasn’t nearly as much conversation and subterfuge as I might have hoped for, but that’s been my complaint about Mass Effect 2 all along.  The prerequisite “Get him to talk so we can forge his voice print” conversation was way too short, even compared to the similarly short sequence at the end of Garrus’s loyalty mission.  (I did go for the Renegade dialogue option so maybe I missed out on a longer sequence.)  Without spoiling anything else, the final sequence is a touch disappointing mechanically aside from an awesome cutscene with Kasumi going all Ninja Gaiden. (YouTube video if you have no plans of picking this up.  The first 40 seconds is all you need.)

As for the loot: the SMG is nasty if you’re looking for a mid-range option, likely to replace the has-no-ammo-capacity heavy pistol for my Shepard.  The new casual outfit will only be used occasionally, but it’s a nice touch.

Shepard in her new Casual outfit.

Why yes, I do make this look good.

All in all, a fine excuse to start a new canonical sort-of Renegade Female Shepard that slept with Liara playthrough I’ve had on the backburner since I first finished Mass Effect 2.

(Screenshots taken with Xfire.  All my ME2 screenshots can be found at my profile.)

The Last Question and WordPress Combine for Unsettlingness

I just re-read Asimov’s “The Last Question” after having lunch with my folks. It’s probably my favorite story from one of my four night-stand mainstays (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Treasury, that also includes “Flowers for Algernon” which I cannot assign enough importance to).

When I get back to my computer and hop over to my Gmail tab, I’m greeted by “please moderate this comment” email from WordPress. After dealing with the spam, I notice the yellow banner of “New WP version out, update now kplz.” I then hit “Upgrade Automatically” and it all works out (like it always does). (I even updated a plugin auto-magically.)

I was not sure at the time (and am still not) if I should have been more unnerved by a successful or unsuccessful outcome.

If it had mentioned anything about “insufficient data” though, I’d probably still be screaming.

How Virtua Fighter 4 ruined fighting games for me.

Specifically Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, but that difference isn’t important.

To get something out of the way quickly: I’ve never been good at fighting games.  My ascent up the playstyle ladder usually stops around “find a couple moves that work and stick to them”.  This isn’t through lack of desire to be “good” at fighters.  Before the advent of Internet video though (and honestly now as well), learning about fighting games involved reading ASCII hieroglyphs or knowing someone who could teach you.

(Admittedly, I can talk shop about MMO mechanics with the slightly-less-than-best of them, but the physical act of inputting commands is much less important in WoW than in Street Fighter IV.  MMO play is more about the decisions made before the fight and in-fight decisions measured in seconds versus the fractions-of-a-second scale for a fighting game.)

VF4 had this “Training Mode” that Wikipedia describes best:

The mode consisted of an encyclopedia of fighting game terms, complete character command list walkthroughs, tips on all of the games mechanics, recommended character combos, alternative options for failed combos, detailed command input timings, slow motion for frame counting and timing, and other useful training tips.

The Command Training was really what made it awesome.  You could go through a character’s list move-by-move and learn them by seeing your inputs in real-time and what the move actually was timing-wise.  You could also have the game do the move so you can see what you’re missing.

I’m sure a real person could beat me senseless, but I actually had a lot of fun going through the Quest Mode (going to different arcades, playing in tournaments, and getting customization stuff).  If I ever got stuck, I’d go into the training mode, learn a few new tricks, and get back out and win a couple tournaments.  It was by far the most fun I’ve had with a fighting game which is surprising because the Virtua Fighter series is on the technical-side of the spectrum and I am not technically-proficient in the least.

Now, the lack of such a mode in the next-gen fighters I’ve played hasn’t been a huge deal.  Dead of Alive 4 wasn’t very good and Soulcalibur IV‘s combination of character creation and the Tower mode were a blast to play with.

Enter Street Fighter IV (literally, in the mail today via GameFly).  SFIV’s move list is tiny compared to VF4′s but it is nearly unapproachable.  Its “Training Mode” that I entered into full of hope was just the usual “beat on this turned-off-AI”.  When I go the command list, I get icons that look nothing like the “QCB + K” that the fine folks at Shoryuken tell me is what I need to do C. Viper’s Burning Kick.

Screenshot of C. Viper's Burning Kick

(via Kotaku)

Now, it would be awesome if SFIV could tell me what’s wrong with my “QCB + K” action: am I too slow or am I not actually making a quarter-circle-back?  But, instead, I just have a turned-off-AI Ken to beat on hoping that I’ll get it eventually.

Of course, all this time spent raving about VF4′s amazing training mode (that wasn’t carried over to VF5 apparently) could have been spent learning C. Viper or any other character, but SFIV really doesn’t provide the tools that I’ve now come to expect if I can’t just learn-as-I-hit-things.

I have no problem going to Shoryuken or Calibur Forum to figure out what kind of fighter might suit my playstyle best or to learn some advanced techniques or to get down into the nitty-gritty of frame counting, but that isn’t what I’m talking about.

SFIV seems to expect that I know everything as soon as I put the disc in, which along with VF5 not continuing VF4 in having an awesome, robust training mode, is a real bummer.