Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Undefendable, Reprehensible, Unbelievable Psyguy

For all my readers, I would like to inform you in advance that this is a serious post.  This is not a positive one about a game I like or anything of the sort.  This is an editorial of something that needs addressing, and it is quite dark.  If you're looking for the silliness, you may want to go read the Diary of Frank West.

Not long ago, Bryon Beaubien, also known as Psyguy, the webmaster of the rather-known website Fireball20xl.com, had a great many "allegations" pile up on him in a short amount of time, and boy what allegations they are.

The short version is this: essentially Beaubien has abused his influence and semi-fame to manipulate underage (15 or so, usually) girls and abuse them, both emotionally and sexually, seeing them as little more than objects to be used as he did the same to others behind their backs, goaded them into perverse activities and took advantage of them on the whole.  All of this started (as far as I can tell) while he was in his early to mid-twenties, if I recall correctly.  Methinks Beaubien plays Senran Kagura for completely different reasons from mine.

Wow Psy, he's smarter than you!


And it seems as though he has pulled shit like this for over 15 years!  15 years of picking up girls online, treating them like trash, manipulating them to do what he wanted and destroying their lives over and over again!  He only got away with it for that long because he kept them quiet with constant threats, be it death threats, threats of lying about them, threats of information, legal threats, or threats to their friends and families.  That was only if he didn't belittle them by preying on their sense of self-worth or lie to family members or some such nonsense to keep things under wraps.  The lows he would sink to is amazing.

After someone finally came out about how much of a heartless monster he is recently, everyone else he's abused came out too, each with their own stories to tell, some of which are incredibly long and detailed histories so disturbing I don't feel comfortable repeating them here.

For a more extended detailing (which even then is just the cliffnotes version), I refer you to the Psyguy abuse masterpost, a truly damning page of what he's done, quotes referring to what he's done, and a link to each of the stories they're from.  But to summarize, this comic made by one of the victims is a pretty good overall description.  There are at least a couple dozen different people who all testify that Bryon Beaubien is, for lack of a better term, evil.  I don't even use that word in the cartoonish way it usually is.  I am dead serious.

And to all his fans out there still defending him, believe me, I didn't want to believe it either.  I've always been a fan of his.  I even said GG Guys was my favorite webcomic in my Skullgirls post.  I still stand by that statement, because it is, but the person who wrote it (and the artist Dave himself, but I won't get into that) is an entirely different matter.
I admit, I never knew Beaubien personally.  I didn't even follow him on Twitter for very long before he blocked me for offering to explain the plot of Dead or Alive 5.  However, I was in denial that a person I at least somewhat kind of liked for a decade was... Well, evil.  That was before I actually took a look at all the allegations and figured that all this being a set-up is incredibly doubtful.
For one, these are mostly posts from people who have been around and are known to have a history with him, not random people or new users on the websites these are being posted on.
For another, if this were some kind of smear campaign, it probably wouldn't be worth the trouble with the detail they all go into.
It helps that the majority, if not all, of this has been confirmed by multiple people, including Tara Welker, whom I've casually followed over the years and genuinely respect (look it up, Bryon) enough to trust.
Finally, and most telling of all, everything I have read in all of the stories line up, not just in that each one is consistent with each other when looking at the overall timeline, but there are unusual occurences that seem to be explained.  Many other fans seem to have pointed these out as well.

One of the biggest points you should pay attention to is in Liz's story, where she explains that Beaubien was never really in any financial trouble and he just tried to get people to donate to Fireball20xl for his own gain.
For those who haven't been with the site for a decade, Fireball20xl used to have a donation meter near the top right corner of the screen, and was supposed to indicate how much was needed in order for Psy and the site to make ends meet.  I always found it suspicious how the meter would be filled somewhere between 40-60% and then full at the last minute, implying that somebody donated hundreds or thousands of dollars.  It's almost as if he donated the remaining money to it himself so that no one would be suspicious of the site staying up. For over a decade.  After Liz's story and Tara backing her up, I firmly believe this, which highlights something said by another one of Bryon's associates, whose overall story can be summed up into one sentence:

"Bryon Beaubien is the most self-centered, manipulative, predatory, rage-filled, entitled, spoiled narcissist I have ever met in my time on this earth."

He doesn't care about the fans and doesn't care about you!  Only himself!  He outright tricked fans out of their money for no other reason than to line his own pockets, presumably to victimize more innocent people!  If you truly want to continue defending this monster, you are a bigger fool than I was.

But the nail on the coffin, the final bit from this shit stain that truly and thoroughly convinced me that everything that was said is true is his "apology" post, which he posted just before getting rid of most of his social media and the entirety of Fireball20XL.

To paraphrase, he said "I'm sorry if I offended anyone, I never sexually touched a minor."

Wow.  With that, he essentially addressed nothing, and according to some stories, even that's a lie!

All he did was probably do what his lawyer told him because he knows that he is in for one of the biggest shit storms of his life!  In fact, he probably took his sites down to remove any incriminating evidence!  Too late for that though, since things said in his podcast series Wha-Chow have been shown to coincide with the stories.

Tara's response could not be more amazing or proper!


このばけもの! ゆるせないよ!
Liz's is pretty good too, if not better.

And as if he couldn't be any more of a fucking disgrace after that, I later learned that Beaubien attempted to hide his crimes just like he always has!  For one, he flagged a video for copyright infringement for something that was basically nothing but an interview with one of the abused girls.  For another, he used Facebook to contact the father of the guy who rightfully provided the italicized and underlined quote above to try and get it taken down.  He's not taking responsibility, he's not taking other people into consideration!  He is trying to get out of half a lifetime of crime and abuse through every non-public way he can, even if that means hurting others!

Beaubien,

FUCK!

YOU!

This is the shit you see on TV shows, people.  This is the guy you see on a drama show who is so evil and hateful that you have a hard time believing anyone like that could possibly exist.  Well he does.  Knowing that much of his material is built on other people lives and his own lies makes me sick now.

Fans, don't try to defend him.  There is no defending him.  I would call him trash, but that might be more of a compliment.  He is the lowest, most despicable, shit-spewing sociopathic blight on humankind you could ever imagine, and he does not deserve your sentiment or support!

Thankfully though, he doesn't seem to be getting a whole lot of it, and hopefully the few people who still are will see the truth, and that includes Serena Midori, his latest victim.  His site is down, and since the domain name is still up, it might still make a return, but I highly doubt he will ever recover from this.  Good fucking riddance!


It's kind of ironic, isn't it Mr. Beaubien?  Your popularity and presence has made you a familiar target, and many of the girls we've come to know and love thanks to your introducing us to them have (finally) turned on you along with their fans.  Your fans, whom you betrayed and lied to, are dwindling.  All the evil you've done for the last decade and a half has been unleashed upon you in one enormous explosion of hatred and truth all singled in on you (and Dave).  There's practically a manhunt out for you now.  At one point I even expressed fear that you might kill yourself.  But now I don't care.  You were funny, but I guess you've fulfilled your purpose and we can just toss you out of our lives, because people are expendable things to be used for our own entertainment, right?

It's a good thing I never donated to your scam.  Maybe I can put that money toward some kind of fund that will help put you in the slammer where you belong.  I want to contribute to your victims in any way I can if it means getting rid of you, and if I ever see you in person at a convention or something, I am going to call you out like one of the body snatchers and probably join in when practically half the people within earshot come to beat you to a pulp or drive you out.  I do hope you truly cancelled all your con appearances, otherwise you're going to need a mask.  And a voice changer.  And body armor.  And maybe a metal codpiece for when people groin-kick you before screaming "Wha-Chow!"



If there's anything positive I'm getting out of this whole tragedy you caused, it's that I feel better about myself.  It's like you're on the Steve Wilkos show.  Sure I'm 23 and never had a girlfriend in my life, but you're in your thirties and neither have you.  Now I laugh at you, not your material.  I laugh at your utter destruction, your pain, and especially the positively pathetic excuses you keep piling on to try in vain to justify/brush off your bullshit!  People's despair is so much funnier when they aren't happening to you, aren't they!


And by the way, DOA 5 is about Kasumi's search for her missing clone Alpha 152, who disappeared after Helena self-destructed the DOATEC base in the previous game.


Tell Nixon I said hi once you're in hell.  In the meantime, why don't you have a seat over there?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Rhythm of Fighters Review

When SNK Playmore announced that their next game would be a rhythm-based smartphone app, fans got a little agitated that they were spending time on something not related to The King of Fighters 14.  I meanwhile was excitedly imitating Hibari’s victory pose.  Recall in my review of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy when I said that there should be a rhythm game like it, but with KOF music.  With The Rhythm of Fighters, SNK Playmore gives us just that.  It’s like making a Rock Band game all about the Beatles; it's a good idea from the start.  Up until The Rhythm of Fighter’s sudden release onto the app store (with little fanfare, I might add), all I asked for was for them not to screw this brilliant concept up.
My prayers were answered.  For the most part, it’s just what I wanted.


It would be easy to describe ROF as “Theatrhythm with SNK."  It plays exactly like what you would expect a rhythm game to: players tap the screen to overlapping shapes in synchronization with the music like a beautiful dance of the fingers.  One of the big deciding factors that sets it apart from others in this case the music being some of the best in gaming.

The stronger comparison to Theatrhythm instead of, say, Elite Beat Agents, is that ROF borrows a few of Theatrhythm's ideas.  Similarly to Theatrhythm, hitting long chains of notes makes your character onscreen hit the enemy with canned combos and special moves taken straight from KOF and Samurai Shodown, and when you do badly, you get hit.  ROF even copies Theatrhythm’s summons by having your character use their super special move when you hit a string of golden notes, and your opponent uses theirs on you when you royally screw up.  The combination of familiar KOF fighting and the way it's dependent on your performance gives playing the game an aura of intensity, and there's something satisfying about finishing the end of a difficult song with the character's win poses, including Kyo's famous "Ore no... Kachi da!"

It’s all very competently done and ROF has a very useful option the iOS version of Theatrhythm doesn’t.  For anyone whose device might make the tapping feel slightly delayed (even by microseconds), SNK Playmore had the foresight to include a small procedure in the options menu to make sure the game registers your tap the exact moment you do.  Said small procedure has you tapping to the original character select theme from King of Fighters ’94.  How cute.

For a token amount of depth, ROF has both Theatrhythm’s level-up system and item system, the latter of which takes the form of support characters that give you various assisting effects in battle.  Many of them are very obscure SNK characters most U.S. gamers (and even a lot of Japanese ones) most likely won’t recognize, but I like being introduced to new characters from SNK’s history.

Athena, assist Athena!
Sadly, all we get of these support characters is a headshot of their original artwork and a brief text quote when their effect is activated in battle.  When I said they were used as items, I meant that somewhat literally because the support characters are used as equipment and do not visually jump into the battle.  I would have loved to have seen Ralf come in to hit the enemy with a Galactica Phantom for his damage effect, but I guess that would break our fragile little smartphone screens.

Don't get the idea the game has a half-assed presentation though.  Recall in my review of the iPhone version of KOF ‘97 when I said the visuals were nice and sharp and the music came out crystal clear, with my only complaint being that there was no option to use the arranged tracks.  The same can be said of ROF, except this time every track is arranged.  In fact, a handful of tracks have been re-arranged for ROF by their original composers, and while some players may prefer the originals, there was definitely effort put into these new reversions.  I especially like the enhanced rendition they made to Big Shot, one of Terry's most famous themes, even if this one is difficult to the point of frustration thanks to its added saxophone solo.



That just leaves the question as to whether SNK music can hold up a game like this in the first place.  After all, if you're going to make an entire game revolve around music, that music had better be damn good.  If you really really question whether or not SNK's music is any good, have someone hit you in the back of the head.  Hard.

So if the gameplay is fun and the music is perfect, all it needs as an iOS game is good dollar value, which it has, but ROF’s method of payment may be what will lead people away: the dreaded microtransactions.

Smartphone games that revolve around smaller purchases are often despised by gamers because the majority of them are lazy cash grabs meant to rip people off or force them to pay more and more to succeed, due in large part to a lack of quality control.  The most notorious offenders are the iOS Dungeon Keeper game and Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, both of which are insults to fans of the franchise names they use and have been met with overwhelming hatred for their microtransaction abuse that tries to wring every bit of money out of anyone they can sucker into playing them.  Even the iOS version of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy winds up costing more than double the price of the 3DS version for the same content, and even then the 3DS version has more features.

The Rhythm of Fighters could have been one one of those mistakes too, and I know some people who assumed it is based on the reputation of smartphone games that use microtransactions (and some bad marketing).  However, ROF does it right.  It gives buyers quality content for reasonable prices, just like in SNK Playmore's free to play smartphone game Metal Slug Heroes.  They know what they’re doing.

Unlike the meager two music tracks the allegedly free iOS version of Theatrhythm gives you, the single dollar you pay for ROF’s initial cost gives you 14 tracks, all of which are winners.  Some of my favorite tracks are included, like KOF ‘96’s Fairy, the very first rendition of Esaka from KOF ’94, KOF 13’s Stormy Saxophone 5, and KOF 11’s At the Good Old Days.


But it’s not all King of Fighters music, despite what the title might have you believe.  There’s a song from Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug 2 and even some very obscure, more up-beat songs from SNK games never released in America to add variety.  The most jarring of the starting tracks is easily the newly-arranged version of a song that comes from a rhythm game SNK made on the Dreamcast called Cool Cool Toon.  For the price of a large drink at McDonalds, that is a good starting deal.


The game uses the included songs in an arcade mode, which like the gameplay is competently done and has a smooth difficulty curve even though you'll be playing each song more than once.  By beating them under specified conditions you unlock the higher difficulties for each one, new support characters and special sound effects for hitting notes (though they’re usually distracting and only worth using for laughs).  At the start you'll tap at a relaxing, easy rate, but by the final songs you'll need to be rattling two fingers against the screen to hit the rapid-fire beats.

I'd expect a lot less for only one dollar, and if you want more, SNK asks you for more as well.  Packs of three additional support characters are sold for a dollar each, with the exception of one sold for two, which has support characters that make it so you can’t fail or autoplays the songs (without getting experience or a score in return).  Basically they’re selling some extra features and slightly more useful support characters if you’d like to buy a lifeline for some of the really difficult stages.

All the actors recorded new lines reacting to the score.  This score... Is bad.


As you would expect there are also several songs available as DLC.  Like Theatrhythm, packs of four are are $3 each, which when you consider the already substantial 14 songs ROF comes with, is not that taxing on your wallet.  Besides, they’re just as amazing as any other SNK masterpiece.  At the time of this writing there’s a 4-pack for SNK’s Pachinko Machines, Fatal Fury 2, Metal Slug 2 and The King of Fighters ’96.  You can guess which one I snatched up right away.


The playable characters are what get the sharp end of the monetization stick.  There are only 6 characters in the game: Ryo, Kyo, Athena, Nakoruru, Iori and Terry.  That may seem like a step down from the huge character counts in the KOF games, but they aren’t that important.  Even if the character count is lacking, the backgrounds used for each song give each one its own subtle visual identity that makes it feel less like you're watching the same fight.

And I think there's a reason those 6 were chosen specifically (except maybe for Ryo).

I guess Ryo was the backstage guy so we never saw him.

The problem with the characters is that the stigma of monetized app games are reinforced in that Iori, Terry and Nakoruru all cost $3 each to unlock.  Each of the 6 characters have differing stats that slightly affect the game, and Nakoruru has a super attack that heals herself instead of damages the enemy, but for the most part they’re cosmetic, which would be understandable for a multiplayer game when you have someone to show what you invested into, but aside from online leaderboards, this game has none!  Forcing players to buy half the cast in a game like this, and for $3 each, is a rip-off!  Just one dollar each would be pushing it!

But I digress.  If you can look past the bullshit of the locked off characters and are satisfied with Kyo, Athena, and Ryo, you’ll find that ROF uses microtransactions very well.  Companies like Square Enix and Capcom could (mostly) learn a thing or two about how to charge gamers without making them feel cheated.


Think of it this way: Excluding the playable characters, the total cost for everything currently available is $19 plus tax with a good 30 songs.  That’s about the price of a budget Nintendo DS game, which ROF has about the same, if not more, production values of.  Imagine having the option to lower the price of that DS game by taking features out you didn’t need.  Without all the buyable support characters, the $19 price is lowered to $13 for just the songs.  It's a good option for anyone not willing to drop all their money down at once.

That concept is how Rhythm of Fighters does the microtransaction model right.  It doesn’t feel like it’s unfairly withholding content because you didn’t pay full price.  Instead it’s enticing.  You’re willing to spend more because you can spare more than the single dollar you paid for all that fun and you want to spend more because it’s so much fun.

And I do want to spend more on The Rhythm of Fighters.  There’s supposed to be even more DLC tracks on the way and I’m greatly anticipating seeing what they are.  An Iori pack with 4 of his different themes?  A pack of boss music?  Maybe more fun songs I’ve never heard?  Because this company has been around for decades, the possibilities for new content are vast.

I would be shocked, amazed, and ecstatic at the same time if they were to re-record this:


To SNK and rhythm game fans, The Rhythm of Fighters is a must-buy, but even if you aren’t the game puts so much value in the single dollar it takes to get started that I urge even non-fans to at least try it out.  Bullshit character locking notwithstanding, ROF shows us how microtransactions can be used for the benefit of a game experience rather than its detriment.  That combined with the inherently compelling rhythm gameplay and kickass arranged soundtrack to build around makes it a very solid diversion to take out and play.

I give The Rhythm of Fighters a 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fighting Game Camps: Skullgirls, Part 2

Music

Skullgirls keeps its music simple, but catchy.  One of the key composers is Michiru Yamane, who’s best known for her work on the long-running Castlevania series, so the catchiness is to be expected.

To fit with the 40s motif of the game, the music is largely comprised of jazz-like scores and softer melodies, with lots of saxophones, pianos, and soft drum beats.  Skullgirls uses stage themes instead of character themes, and many of them feel like something you’d hear in a game while exploring a world in an adventure game instead of all the guitar-rocking of Guilty Gear and King of Fighters.  This works nicely and makes the different, well-imagined locations around the Canopy Kingdom more memorable.


Combat

Again I remind you that Skullgirls was made by and for fighting game fans.  It has a very familiar style of play anyone who knows how to make half circles can adjust to.
There are six buttons with three different punches and kicks.  Special attacks are done with the usual movements and the two weak attack buttons grab, just like in Street Fighter.  The super special attacks of varying level and super meter consumption are usually done with a movement and two buttons, much like in the Marvel vs. Capcom games, which Skullgirls’ combat flow is also reminiscent of.

Like the Marvel vs. Capcom games, Skullgirls leans on being on the offensive by stringing combos for as long as you can make them and stopping your opponent’s combo to immediately fight back with your own.  In a really serious fight with the best players, someone is getting pounded at almost all times, and calling in teammates for support can help beat down your opponent further, if you have them.
Outside of the story mode, Skullgirls takes a page from Capcom vs. SNK 2 with a ratio system for choosing characters to potentially be on a team.  You can choose to fight with one character with a lot of health, two with decent health, or three with less health.

Even though the game essentially plays like Street Fighter mixed with Marvel vs. Capcom, I actually like Skullgirls more than MVS both because of the nonstandard fighting styles and because it’s a little easier to make combos due to more regular attacks striking more than once.

Plus more distance-closing attacks.
But Skullgirls boasts some merits of its own other fighters could learn something from.
One is its infinite combo prevention system.  When a player tries to pull off a move that loops infinitely, the system detects it and allows the player on the receiving end to break out of it, much like a burst in Guilty Gear, but without any kind of meter.  Timing is important in that combo-breaking though, because if you use it and it doesn't hit your opponent, your opponent can jump back to keep pounding you.  It’s a good idea, but frankly I don’t think anyone should even be playing against someone who pulls crap like that.

Skullgirls also has a very well-made, extensive tutorial mode with several lessons that walk a player through every aspect of the game and every character’s playing style.  You don’t see effort put into tutorials like that very often, probably because all the modern day installments of long-running fighters assume you’re already on the ball from previous games, which I usually am.



There’s also a standard training mode that comes with some not-so-standard options like showing hitboxes and recovery times, both rather neat features worth mentioning.



These make the game a little more friendly to fighting game beginners, and there’s enough difficulty levels in the AI to ease them into it.  My sister’s something of a fan, and she never played any other fighting game.  That has to count for something.

Personal Fighter of Choice: Squigly




Squigly comes from a famous family of opera singers, the Contiellos, all of whom were killed over a decade prior to the events of the game by the Medici Mafia.  Before Parasoul’s mother started the huge war, Squigly’s mother turned into the Skullgirl and brought her back to life, where Squigly acted as one of her mother’s many undead minions until she was defeated and put to rest once more.  Now that there’s a new Skullgirl in town, Squigly is back again, but with her own free will this time, thanks to her loving cranial parasite Leviathan.

Squigly is one of the nicest, most honorable, polite and adorable fighters in the game.  Her movements are like a dance and she fights perfectly in synch with Leviathan, who is able to charge up all kinds of powerful, hard-hitting long and close-range attacks.  Even if I can't make very long combos with her, I like that she can strike hard to make a hit really count.
Leviathan is actually rather aggressive, but he’s loyal enough to Squigly to stop when she asks.  The two of them make for a perfect blend of grace and ruthlessness in and out of battle, just the kind of fighting I’d like in a game with characters as unorthodox as these.

And he morphs!

The Best of the Bunch

There’s only one game to get.  There’s no choice.  Toward the beginning of the article I mentioned the updated re-release of the game, Skullgirls Encore, which is the only version to get now, since the publishers of the first version, Konami, continued their record of being incompetent fuckheads by having it taken off every venue it was available in.

Encore is the same as the original, but with updates, new stages and DLC characters that were chosen by the game’s crowdfunding campaign.  So far, Squigly and Big Band have been released, with the others, Eliza, Robo-Fortune and Beowulf, to be released at a later date.  The DLC characters are free for a limited time at their release, so the sooner you get the game, the better.

I suppose I can at least recommend a download platform for Skullgirls (Encore), since it’s available for on the PSN, XBLA, and Steam.  In that case, I definitely recommend the Steam version, as it has all the content plus Steam community trading card bonuses and very good optimization.

Each with original artwork.
My computer is very weak, but even it can run Skullgirls perfectly fine with 2D backgrounds and with very little problems with 3D backgrounds.  It’s amazing how Skullgirls’ in-game graphics practically look just as good as The King of Fighters 13’s, yet KOF 13 always runs in slow motion on my PC, even with static 2D backgrounds at the lowest resolution.  That’s another thing I like about indie games: I can often run them.

Other Media

Outside of the enormous amounts of fan content, Skullgirls doesn’t really have a comic or animated series or anything like them, unless you count the big in-game art gallery or the developer’s official blog, where behind the scenes details and communication with the fans can be found.
It’s still relatively young, but Skullgirls would work well as a comic, like most of the other fighting games I've covered, so I hope one is made someday.

Skullgirls is a lot of fun and has a lot of potential to be a lengthy fighting game franchise.  For right now though, this game on its own will do just fine for a long time to come thanks to its well-managed updates, new (and free, for those who already own it) characters and support both to and from its fans.  I honestly consider it to be a hallmark of independent game development.  Despite several things going wrong behind the scenes (that I won’t go into), it delivers the best for players.  This is what I love to see.