Saturday, December 14, 2013

SC On Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood (PS2)

This series was given more than one entry.  Think about that.

Gee, just what I was hoping to get as a gift from one of my convention buddies.  Thanks, Macho Man!

 For those of you who did a double-take at the "2" in the title, yes, this was a thing.  Not only was the first game a thing, it was a thing that sold half a million copies.  This game would sell almost 400,000 units, thus reaffirming my lack of faith in humanity, or at least the average video game consumer.

Casuals.  Fucking casuals everywhere.

 As the cover might suggest, the game does indeed include Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope from the Insane Clown Posse, who also co-founded Juggalo Championship Wrestling (yes, that is also a thing), which is where several in-game wrestlers now or at some point in the past worked.  Also included are people from Combat Zone Wrestling, the stereotypical "hit me with something until I bleed, then hit me again" promotion where the infamous "JEZUS" Botchamania clip comes from.

And thus Maffew would spend the rest of his life avoiding Zandig.

Also on the cover is New Jack, also known as "that guy who technically killed four people."  He and another alum of Extreme Championship Wrestling, The Sandman, are in the game because reasons.  As for the woman in the middle, she's either Tylene Buck, Tera Patrick or Sunrise Adams.  I don't know who specifically she is because they're porn stars and why should I even bother talking about them?

The game boils down to a career mode and exhibition mode.  There is multiplayer but let's face it, the only people who would play this game with you are only doing so ironically or out of pity.  Career mode is where you create a custom wrestler, assign them a move set and go around various "backyard" locations to win titles by completing missions to unlock challenges, namely a tournament to win a title which unlocks more areas to compete in.  The idea is to win all the belts to get to the final section and beat the Insane Clown Posse guys (yes, they're the final boss) to collect a million dollar prize, which is a simple enough setup if not kind of dumb.

Then I tried playing it.

In case you can't tell, I'm the one with hair.

The custom wrestler creation is, in a word, unusual.  I would say lacking, but in truth there is a wide variety of options for the most mundane shit while other aspects are left woefully understocked.  For example, there are 132 tattoos available from the beginning, but only 18 pants options.  A character can have a lot of different skin colors, even allowing for Mr. Game & Watch black, but there are only six faces and seven hair styles to choose from.  Also if you make a female character you only have two body types.  They're called 'Athletic' and 'Muscular' but they actually look like 'Needs a Sandwich' and 'Had a Sandwich.'

There are three different sections (East, West and North) with three separate combat areas in each, then the final area where the ICP hang out.  Each area of each section has five missions and five challenges unlocked after completing the missions.  One area of each section has a title tournament which opens after completing all available missions.  Winning the title opens up a new section and the game moves on.  This essentially makes all challenges but the title tournament a waste of time, unless you really want to earn some extra money to unlock a new hat or some other crap that should have been available from the start.  Besides, more than half the challenges are the same across each area.

There's a problem with these missions, however.  Each area has a set number of generic create-a-wrestler characters that appear in each match.  Even when just doing each mission once I ended up seeing the same half-dozen or so people over and over.  Even worse, there's so little variety to these missions that I quickly realized two-thirds of the mode was "perform X move Y amount of times" or "get your opponent to X Y amount of times."  And if that wasn't bad enough, some missions where you have to do an action four or five times, for example, show you as having cleared the mission by only doing the action once.  Proper programming is for those WWE wussies.

Okay, forget what I just said.

I haven't touched on the actual "wrestling" part of the game yet, though.  Each match consists of two sort-of mobile character models awkwardly jogging around an environment trying to beat each other up.  Each environment has specific environmental hazards and weapons that can be used and, unless there's a mission objective that requires doing something else, each mission can be won by finding a weapon in the area that won't break and doing three-hit combos over and over until the opponent's health runs out.  That's more hardcore and extreme and awesome and real and entertaining than pinfalls or submissions, right?

Sometimes the reach of said weapon only makes things even more ridiculous.  In the pool level there's an indestructible pool skimmer which has about a five-foot reach.  Coupled with how bad the grappling is, why would I do anything but use weapons?

Oh right, I haven't explained that yet.

Grappling in this game has a few key problems with it.  For one, you can only irish whip (read: throw) or drag/lead people while in a front grapple.  There's also a big input problem when trying to pull off "Super Moves" by mashing the two attack buttons at once.  Sometimes it just plain won't register that both buttons are being hit at the same time, which for me meant doing shoulder breakers half the time I tried using it.

The worst part however is how evasion works.  It's possible to mash a couple buttons to do a "grapple escape" when the turbo meter (also used for the supers) is full, but most of the time you'll have to try and counter by hitting either the attack, throw or submission button when the opponent tries to do an attack, throw or submission.  This has to be done before, not during, the move, meaning reversals boil down to a 1-in-3 guessing game for what the opponent will do.

Why am I not surprised that the game with poor wrestling mechanics has several people from promotions that go through thumbtacks, barbed wire and light tubes the way I go through cherry soda?

Scratch that.  Why am I surprised that this happened when I tried playing it?

The styrofoam head avatars seem unfazed by this.

There's yet another reason to just use weapons the entire time: the enemy AI.  It is, in a word, terrible.  The AI constantly tries to get in as close as possible to do grapples while sometimes doing attack combos, however leading them near any elevated surface leads them to climb on top of it and attempt a diving attack, which can be avoided by not standing still and leaves them open to be attacked, pinned or put in a submission hold.

Then there are times where the AI, while trying to find a weapon, runs into environmental hazards and takes damage.  I've won a few matches this way.

Committing suicide in a survival challenge?  That's a paddlin'.

You do eventually fight the actual wrestlers (and porn stars) in the game and have a chance to unlock videos of them for one or two-thousand dollars.  That means doing missions, challenges and general matches over and over to earn enough money to buy the videos, most of which aren't worth the effort. That and the videos for the porn stars are the most expensive despite being less risque than a Dead or Alive volleyball game.

Or you could save some real money and not even bother with the game to begin with.  That is, unless someone gives it to you, like in my case.  When I get the chance, this game's going through my friend's window Paperboy-style.

This gif syncs well with most polka music.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Content ID: Get a Real Job, You Say?

(Note: nonsensical mess of words ahead.)

This will likely be the only thing I say on the subject, seeing as how the YouTube community has already proven to be both way more knowledgeable and not very knowledgeable at all of what exactly is going on.

Before getting into it, here is where I stand.  I am virtually unaffected by this.  I have a job, am working toward a college degree and treat video-making as a hobby.  I have monetized none of my videos and, to date, have copyright claims on about 55 videos, three of which are blocked in Germany.  Ich bitte Sie, Deutschland.  Most of them are dumb bullshit, but among them are also the Guitar Hero III and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 videos (licensed music), the last part of the Shenmue videos (again, music), one part of the Jumping Flash playthrough (yet again, music), the last part of the Resident Evil: Survivor video and the James Bond Jr. video.  If you are seeing ads on these or any other videos, I have two words for you.  Adblock Plus.  If you're on my blip channel, use it there too.  I'm not sure why it even still exists when I went out of my way to make the front page look as ugly as possible.

However, that doesn't mean others aren't affected.  Some people at RiverCityGamers do monetize some of their videos and can be affected by this.  YouTube's "guilty until proven innocent" approach--don't kid yourself on this one.  It's been like that for a while, but only now has it started to affect larger, partnered/network-managed channels--means that monetization of a video might not be possible now or ever.  YouTube moves at a snail's pace on any sort of claims, even slower than they did when I first started getting claims and had to dispute them left and right to keep the videos on the site at all.

That also means this applies to the "big fish" like Angry Joe, Rad Brad, Classic Game Room and a laundry list of others.  In fact, Classic Game Room, who has been with YouTube since the passing of the first ice age, appears to have up and left YouTube in favor of using his own site for his videos.  The new content ID system is the rough equivalent of treating everyone like Milton in the movie Office Space; management 'fixes a glitch' in payroll which stops him from getting a paycheck and not only does no one tell him about it, they avoid the subject when confronted by him as he continues showing up to work.

In theory I should be somewhat glad about this because, if enough people are driven off YouTube, it opens the opportunity for someone else to step in who couldn't because of the gap YouTube's site creates between promoted and non-promoted channels.  That and I've had various disagreements with certain content creators in the past, namely Joe.  Then again, I've only stuck around as long as I have because of the people who look at or are subscribed to my channel.  If there were a solid alternative to YouTube, I would have left years ago.

That would be the case, except that the same rules everyone has struggled with now apply across the board.  A person in the medium of creating gaming videos now has limited options when any video or audio from the source material is a copyright flag waiting to happen, one which several publishers or creators of the sampled content have had to manually whitelist users who were flagged by YouTube's content ID system without their go-ahead.

Some might say to make gaming-related videos without using the game video or audio.  People have done and do this, with a prominent example being Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation, yet another person I don't really like.  Also note that Yahtzee left YouTube and didn't return with ZP until 2011 on The Escapist's channel.  My opinion on "vlog" style reviewing of games is as follows:

I don't trust you.

That's one thing I give people like Angry Joe and which I try to emulate in my videos.  When I talk about something, positive, negative or otherwise, I show it so you'll know I'm not pulling "facts" or opinions out of my ass.  Vlog reviews of video games are the equivalent of writing a research paper without citing any sources.  Yes, I have done the rough equivalent of that before, and no, I don't expect you to believe or agree with what I say in those videos, much less anything I've posted.

Others have tossed around a phrase I'm all too familiar with.  "Get a real job."  This phrase should have died along with the "real jobs" that became obsolete or unnecessary as time and technology have moved on.  As an aspiring musician, you can probably guess how tired I am of hearing this phrase get tossed around in lieu of an intelligent statement, especially when it implies that there is no work involved in anything that is not a job in the most traditional sense.

What defines a real job?  Having set work hours?  Having some signed paperwork on the subject?  Having a set salary and steady paycheck?  Having a boss?  As someone whose father works as a self-employed architect, all but one of the prior conditions does not apply to him.  Try telling him he doesn't have a real job.

In the sense of a "real job" not involving the use of material originally created by other parties or for the purposes of review or parody, I suppose anyone who samples sounds or music like DJs or musicians have real jobs.  But then, would the original content creator, who is also a musician, have a real job?  Let's not go into anything too paradoxical.  As for parody, comedians and entertainers don't have real jobs.  For review, critics of various things such as video games, movies, food, toys, books, cars, computers, and more 'I think you get the point' examples don't have real jobs, even though there are several such people employed in such roles, "real jobs" if you will, by various outlets.

There seems to be a disconnect between the idea of a "job" and doing "work."  Let's ignore the old formula of plopping a camcorder in front of a TV and talking over it in real time for something like I would do.  Game reviewing is not a job of mine.  I try to show what I can from the game so, depending on its length and content, on average I end up recording roughly 10-12 hours of footage for the one game the video focuses on.  Then I go back and review all of the footage, taking another 10-12 hours, making notes about what happens where and which clips illustrate different points.  As this is going on I also have to script out the entire video, hitting all talking points and organizing everything into a pseudo-comprehensive and logical flow while marking sections for narration over game footage, live-action shots or other external clips.  I also do background research on the game, its developers, etc.  Depending on writer's block and information availability, this can take anywhere from three to eight hours.  Then after all that I film any live segments and locate external video clips, which takes maybe an hour if things go well.  Then I finally start editing which, depending on how my editing programs feel that day, usually takes about 9-10 hours.  Then I can finally render the video which, depending on length, might take another 2-3 hours, and assuming the whole video rendered correctly then I can upload it.

If you do the math, that equals anywhere from 35 to 46 hours of work on average.  That's for a relatively short game, too.  Things like Evergrace or Muramasa wound up with closer to 25 hours of recorded footage.

I'm getting sidetracked.

The point is this: don't fall into the trap of thinking that because X is enjoyable, any form of profiting or working through X is automatically not considered a "real job."  Also, stop talking like a crotchety old man.  That's my "job."