Friday, November 20, 2015

Hey, I Made Some Mario Maker Stages!

So I bought Mario Maker last month. Not just to feed my horrible amiibo addiction. I was quite excited about getting in there and playing other people's levels; something I've really enjoyed for the most part, though for every stage I like there are least twenty that either play themselves, deliberately troll you or revolve around insanely obtuse puzzle-solving.

The part of the game I really didn't expect to mess with much though was the level creation. To be honest, I just didn't think I'd be cut out for it. I didn't think I'd know where to put anything. I didn't think I'd have any good ideas for levels whatsoever. Sitting down with the game for the first time though, I found that actually, I did know what to do. It was almost like I'd played an obscene amount of Mario in the last nineteen years, like I'd been in training for this exact moment since I picked up a SNES controller to play Super Mario World for the first time in 1996. It was like the "I know kung fu" scene in The Matrix. But cooler.

Now I'm eight levels deep into my Mario making adventure and while there aren't any revolutionary concepts to be found in any of them, I think I've generally made some good, solid, Mario-ass Mario levels, as the guys at Giant Bomb would put it. Let's take a look at them (and reuse a lot of content I've already posted on GAF, Tumblr and elsewhere. Yay, blogging! :D).

Take the High Road - 1CCE-0000-0048-6B18

So unlike quite a few people, I didn't just take the tutorial level the game has you build and upload it as is (No, I'm not kidding!). Instead, I cleared away that stuff and got to work on this short little stage.
The idea of this stage is that it can be cleared with a non-stop chain of jumps (off of enemies) from the first goomba, on to the flag pole. At least that's the idea. Trying it again six weeks after I made it, I'm having some real trouble nailing it. :D (Maybe all those horror movies and candy bars have rotted my brain.) Even without those impressive acrobatics, this should still be clearable, as long as long as you do take the "high road" and avoid the paragoomba nightmare in the lower part of the level (an area the name of the level tells you to avoid, but people still keep going in there :D).

Red Shell Well - E62D-0000-0069-53B5

Working with the second set of unlocked tools (If you don't know, most of the creation tools are locked in Mario Maker to begin with. I can see what they were going for, but it's kind of a bad set-up.), my second stage was a slightly longer, but more conventional underground one. There are few tricky jumps in here, but nothing super crazy.

Watch Out, Lakitu's About - BA1E-0000-006A-426D

This one though is a bit of a step up in difficulty from my first two. You've got a couple of lakitus to deal with (one might not be as bad as the other though), a bunch of moving platforms and a fair bit of SMB World 8-style gap traversal. This is also the first level I included any meaningful secret in. That I'll leave up to you to find though.

Submerged Kingdom - 9101-0000-0072-F27C

The idea behind this level is that it was a ground stage that's been flooded. Now there are shoals of cheep cheeps to contend with as well as the original goombas and koopas. It looks tougher than it is. Then again, it too forever for this to go beyond 0 clears, so maybe not. :D

Recently Drained - C666-0000-0073-45DE

It might be a bit rich putting this up as a distinct level when this is 99.999% Submerged Kingdom with the theme changed from underwater to ground. :D.  I just wanted to make sure that that stage could actually be cleared as a ground stage for authenticity’s sake, and it was kind of fun. Cheap, sloppy, but kind of fun, so I put it up as well. Now it’s both more popular and has a higher clear rate than the original version. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Kuribo’s Hideaway - F73D-0000-007D-BABC

My first foray into SMB 3, this was also my first castle stage (No, wait! Oh, they’re gone.) I really tried to make this feel as much like an authentic Mario 3 fortress as I could, and what Mario 3 stage would be complete without a few fun secrets?

Justin knows what’s up.

Giants Rule - AA63-0000-0092-A8BD

Yeah, there’s no way I wasn’t going to make a giant-themed SMB3 level when given the means to do so. I’m slightly disappointed that I wasn’t able to put giant blocks in here, but other than that, I’m really pleased with how this stage turned out: big-ass enemies; of course a kuribo’s shoe; a challenging little icy sub area (if you can reach it). Rumours even speak of a mysterious prison in the sky…

Go, Mario! Find the Secret Base! - 4515-0000-00F0-DE96

And here's my latest level. Moving from Mario 3 to Mario World, the main area in this I’d compare to say, Donut Plains 4 in Mario World proper. It’s made up of a lot of smaller platforms, with some tricky enemies to deal with, and a bit of conveyor belt/track-type business towards the end.

However, if you do as the (very DBZ-inspired) name suggests and find the entrance to the (admittedly not very well-hidden) secret base, you’ll end up in a airship sub area that’s a whole other level in itself. While this area isn’t up there with the most difficult Mario Maker's Course World has to offer, it’s certainly the hardest bit of a level I’ve put together so far, culminating in a battle with a very well-guarded Bowser Jr. Magikoopas; hammer brothers; homing bullets; cannons: the works!

Having finished this after the recent patch, I put in a couple of checkpoints in here too and, continuing to escalate from those few coins in the sky at the beginning of Watch Out, Lakitu's About (Oops, spoilers!), I crammed both areas as full of secrets as I could. I heard that there might even be a way to skip a significant portion of the airship area. Well, less heard, more deliberately put in. :D

That's all for now. For my latest levels (presuming I don't sudden abandon this, like quite a few other things :D), you can check out my page on Mario Maker Hub.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Nintendo Direct 12/11/2015 (EU): Not-so-live Impressions

It's very late. I'm very tired. It can only be Nintendo Direct Not-so-live Impressions time.

  • 00:00 -  Jeez, that YouTube description. Freaking spoilers, Nintendo. :D
  • 00:11 - Yay! Shibata!
  • 00:28 - Aww. Rest in peace, Mr. Iwata.

    • 00:42 - Well bam, there it is: Twilight Princess HD!
    • 01:02 - Oh boy. I'm so ready for this. I might have been one of the only ones, but I freaking loved Twilight Princess. I've been hankering to replay it for years, but man, that Wii version looks like jaggedy garbage on a HDTV.

      • 01:05 - Hmm. This is maybe not the full visual upgrade I was expecting. :D Looks like a more basic uprezzing. Even so, this is a big step up from that PAL Wii version smeared all over a big TV.
      • 01:47 - What's with the music here. Twilight Princess had awesome trailer music and a rad trailer to go with it back in the day.
      • 02:17 - Uh Oh! Outsourced remake. Between that and the lack of graphical pizazz here, I'll bet most of GAF is shitting all over this right now. :D

        • 02:25 - Oh yes! Oh fuck yes! I will buy the crap out of that amiibo! (Failing to see how this makes it more than "a prettier remake of the same game", but carry on, Shibata.)

          • 02:32- Compatible with the existing Zelda amiibos too. Eww, pee column Link. Come on, Nintendo, how about a proper adult Link amiibo?
          • 02:39 - Oh. I was kind of expecting this to be releasing imminently. I still have hope that this isn't taking the place of the new Zelda on the Wii U though, but with this releasing next year (almost certainly), we're getting into more dangerous territory on that one, I fear.
          • 02:47 - Okay, March 4th. Yeah, that early in the year, I think it's safe to say that they're not positioning this as a sort of consolation prize for Wii U owners. Hype train re-engage!

            • 02:56 - Oh snap, it's a retail release. I was thinking digital with the amiibo released to coincide with it, but hell yeah, I'll take this, especially with the soundtrack included (which, surprise, I really loved).

              • 03:28 - Oh crap! A wild Zelda Wii U appears! Really wasn't expecting a confirmation of that here, but I'll also take that. Looks more cel shaded than the last time they showed it, I think. And whoa, does Link have brown hair here?


                • 03:29 - No, it's blonde. He's wearing a hood, not unlike the one Zelda wears in Twilight princess when you first see her actually. Some connection maybe. Time to revise your timelines, everyone.
                • 03:44 - Oh? Some stop and swap action with the Wolf Link amiibo. The Twilight Princess connection plot thickens... Or not...
                • 04:02 - I'm trying to think what Zelda games they haven't released on the Wii U VC yet. Majora's Mask and.. Minish Cap, maybe?

                  • 04:07 - Of course! How could I have forgotten the two DS games. Such a great fit for the Wii U. You won't even be able to play these on your TV! :D (2D sprite-based games with minimal touch screen interaction: those are the types of DS games that'll look good and work well on the Wii U, Nintendo. Not these.)
                  • 04:41 - It's a Zelda-heavy direct. Triforce Heroes now. Yep, still don't even have a 3DS. :D I did just pick up Four Swords Adventures for the Gamecube though, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles actually. Now all I need is a house and three hookers to play them with.

                    • 06:03 - Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. *Sigh" And all of a sudden the realisation that there's no true Paper Mario sequel on the way becomes a crushing disappointment once again. I'm sure this'll be fine though.

                      • 07:30 - For a second there I thought they were adding Paper Mario's badges to Mario & Luigi in the form of cards. Nope, these are just glorified items. Wouldn't want to add any interesting wrinkles to that super fun M&L battle system, would we? :D #SoSalty
                      • 07:47 - Okay, a few of these amiibo cards have badge-like functions, but again, most of these just work as single use, stat-altering items, as far as I can see. 

                        • 09:28 - You know, the papercraft battles might be the most interesting thing here to me. Well, aside from the story, which I'm sure will be fun.
                        • 10:22 - Updates for Wii U games in 2015 now. Slopes! Slopes! Slopes!

                          • 10:36 - Man, I feel terrible for not having played Splatoon yet. Between Yoshi's Wolly World, watching every bit of Glastonbury coverage (it was fun while it lasted, TunnelBear), Mario Maker and a bunch of other things, it just slipped off my radar. Of course I still bought it though. (I mean, it did come with an amiibo. Come on.).
                          • 11:59 - Cool that they're still supporting it with new content though.. I wonder if this is where they start charging however.

                            • 13:22 - Yes. Give me my slopes. Damn it!
                            • 13:34 - Just the stuff in the recent update so far. Really happy with checkpoints. Everything else, I could take or leave.

                              • 14:12 - Ooh yes! Finally some searching options, and tags by the look of things.
                              • 14:23 - Seriously, Nintendo!? A web site, not something in-game? This is going to used for searching by virtually no one, meanwhile loading up levels within the game alone will be as much of a crapshoot as ever. Plus, Mario Maker Hub is already doing exactly this anyway.
                              • 14:46 - Okay, there is a little integration with the game. Marking a course as a favorite on the site and having it waiting in the game will make sharing levels a little easier at least. Providing people use this site, that is.
                              • 15:04 - December for the Mario Maker site. Well, can't hurt to throw my levels up there as well, I guess.
                              • 15:08 - Queue absolutely none of my levels :D (Giants Rule, people: AA63-0000-0092-A8BD Catch it!)
                              • 15:21 - I'm somehow not expecting any of Dan Ryckert's atrocities to show up here either. :D

                                • 16:02 - I hate all these people. :D Also, "Nigge"? Really?

                                  • 16:56 - "Which level will you play first?" None of the above, Nintendo. None of the above. #SoSalty

                                    • 17:18 - Xenoblade Chronicles X, and I think I'm having a Chystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers flashback.

                                      • 17:48 - This still looks great, but, and maybe I'm being a terrible person here, I still haven't played the Wii original, so I'll be skipping out on this one for now come December.

                                        • 18:33 - Speaking of skipping stuff, I hear Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash might be one to miss. Definitely won't be bothering with Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival either. That Tom Nook amiibo though? Maybe.
                                        • 18:43 - Wait!? What the hell was that Mario Tennis song? ♫Tennis. This is Tennis, with Super Mario... something♫. What? I... What!?
                                        • 19:10 - Ooh, a new guy.

                                          • 19:27 - Fast Racing Neo. Graphics look quite nice. Played the demo of the first one on the Wii though and found it a bit unwieldy.
                                          • 19:37 - With the color switching and extreme speed here, I'm getting shades of Ikaruga and Burnout here. Hm, might give this a look if there's a demo on offer.
                                          • 21:07 - Yeah, that looks quite sharp. Man, imagine what a Wii U F-Zero could look like. *sigh*
                                           *Sorry guys, forgot to turn off YouTube annotations for majority of the following pics. That's why you can see an info link... thing in the top right corner of  most of them. D'oh!

                                              • 21:14 - Typoman: a puzzle-platformer with a unique art style, finally. :D (Actually, the art styles I usually like, but you couldn't get me excited about another indie puzzle-platformer at this point.)
                                              • 21:43 - Yeah, this one's a pass for me, I think.

                                                • 21:59 - Steamworld Heist for 3DS. I should probably play Steamworld Dig at some point, right? 
                                                • 22:17 - Hats! Do people still care about TF2 hats? I'd have to imagine that Dota 2 and those dumb steam cards have eaten into that market a fair bit.
                                                • 22:31 - This seems like a neat game (that I'll probably never play either). :D

                                                  • 23:07 - So this is Nintendo Badge Arcade. Decorate your 3DS home menu. No thanks, I'm good.
                                                  • 23:15 - Nintendo finally getting into that lucrative desktop theme market.
                                                  • 23:27 - Oof, charging for random items in games is always gross.
                                                  • 23:57 - Pokémon Picross. I have no thoughts on this whatsoever. :D I should probably play the DS picross games, just not on Wii U.
                                                  • 24:00 - Another "free to start" game. DeNaaaaaaaaaaaa!

                                                  Wednesday, October 28, 2015

                                                  JiliK Builds a New PC: The Second Anniversary Spectacular

                                                  I'm not sure how much use a two-year old PC build is going to be to anyone, but damn it, I took pictures (which made this take at least twice as long) and pictures demand to be posted, even if they are just accidental Half Life 2 screen shots... Huh? Oh yeah, PCs! So, after quite a few years of faithful service, and a fair few upgrades, I was finally starting to hit some walls with the Dell Dimension 9200 I got back in 2007. I can't say I had any immediate plans to put together a new PC, but then I came across a couple of articles on the best new parts to get, started browsing around Amazon. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, PC components were arriving in the door.

                                                  Here's what I got:

                                                  Note: The links to Amazon in this post are all affiliate links.

                                                  AsRock Z77 Pro4 Motherboard - £92.37 (€107.21)

                                                  For the motherboard, the Z77 Pro4 seemed to strike a good balance between performance and price. However, if I'd known that there was another one in the same range with a freaking floppy connector, firewire and goodness knows what other dumb stuff crammed in there, in 2013!, the allure of having all that archaic technology in my PC may have proved too much.

                                                  Intel Core i5-3570K 3.40GHz SKT1155 6MB Cache - £175.42 (€203.49)

                                                  The Core i5 3570 seemed to be another solid, mid-range choice for the CPU.

                                                  HyperX Black Series 16 GB Gaming Memory Kit (2 x 8 GB) - £70.21 (€81.49)

                                                  Memory-wise, I've usually go with Kingston and this turned out to be no exception. I didn't know HyperX was just a sub brand at the time though; it just seemed to be a cheaper, well-reviewed alternative.

                                                  Actually, I was thinking about cheaping out even more on the memory here. 8 gigs seemed like it'd be plenty, at least for a while, so I was going to go for two 4 gig DIMMs here. The problem with that is that I'd be throwing those out if I ever decided to max out the motherboard's memory to the full 32 gigs it supported (and after doing that with my last PC, it was certainly a possibility). Seeing as they were only slightly more expensive, the 8 gig sticks felt like the smarter investment here.

                                                  Asus Radeon HD 7770 (1GB GDDR5) - £97.23 (€111.21)

                                                  Ooh, a controversial choice for the GPU: AMD and a budget card. :D I was trying to keep my budget under control here though, and with amount of time I spend playing graphically intensive PC games (hell, I barley play any PC games these days. Doesn't stop me from buying them though.), this card seemed like it could handle anything I'd be likely to throw at it for the foreseeable future.

                                                  WD Black 3.5 inch 1TB SATA Hard Drive -£71.71 (€82.29)

                                                  For the hard drive I wanted something reliable. I've had pretty good luck with various flavours of Seagate Barracuda over the years, but everyone seemed to recommend the WD Caviar Black, so you'd think that would be a pretty solid choice. You'd think.

                                                  LG BH10LS38.AUAU 10x Internal BD-RW Drive - £71.73 (€83.20)

                                                  A physical media drive?! In 2013?! What is this madness? I don't know, maybe I'm just crazy, but when it comes to games, music, movies, I think it makes more sense to be able to take advantage of both physical and digital media, rather than putting yourself solely at the whims of rights holders and pirates for your entertainment needs. And look at the price, for a drive that can freaking burn Blu-rays.

                                                  Zalman Z12 2x USB 3.0 Midi Tower Case - £54.91 (€63.73)

                                                  The case, I think, was probably the thing I spent the most time looking for. There's a lot of choice out there, but generally, most cases tended to be 1.  ridiculous looking things intended for someone you know refers to their PC as a "sick rig"; 2. cool-looking, but impractical ones with the disk drives or USB ports hidden behind doors (damn it, when I need to rip my copy of Now That's What I Call Music 1983, I don't want to be opening doors. I need immediate access to that disk drive. Love Town by Booker Newberry III isn't going to listen to itself, you know.) or 3. butt-ugly black boxes. This one had a bit of style, while also being nice and practical. Plus it came with two fans included. That seemed like a nice bonus...

                                                  NOCTUA 120x120x25 NF-P12 Fan x 2 - £35.00 (€40.46)

                                                  ...until I powered them up for the first time. Several of the reviews on Amazon and elsewhere commented on how quiet they were. They were like freaking jet engines. And no tinkering with the fan speed seemed to help much. After a few days of that, I decided to replace them with two Noctua fans, which do make a little noise, but it's blissful silence compared to the Zalman fans. Well worth the money. They really are a gross colour though.

                                                  Corsair Builder Series CX 600 - €60ish (in 2011)

                                                  And finally, the PSU. Actually, I didn't need to buy a new one at all. I had this sitting around, unopened since 2011. Back then, my Dell was having some trouble that looked like it might have been power supply related, so I picked this up just in case. Ultimately it pulled through and rather than returning this, I thought it would come in handy when I was building it's eventual replacement. What do you know? :D I was a little worried that 600W PSU might be a little underpowered for this new build though, but after some research, I was confident enough that I'd be able to get away with using it. Just about.

                                                  On to the build!

                                                  Starting off very professionally, I put the case up on my desk next to my old PC. (In the days before I had a tablet, frantically looking something up after everything had gone on fire was a definite possibility.) I cleared all the wires out of the way, connected my new anti-static wrist strap,... and then realised that with the case up here, I actually had no room to put together the motherboard, CPU and RAM together before fixing the whole assembly in here. Screw it, I wasn't moving the case again. Safety be damned, I was taking the most delicate part of this process down to the carpet.

                                                  Well, on top of an anti-static bag and the motherboard box. It'll be fine. Probably.

                                                  The CPU was the first in: a pretty fool-proof operation, though I have to say pulling down the latch to lock it in place I was still half afraid that it'd snap it in two somehow. :D

                                                  The CPU fan was a little trickier actually. There were four plastic pegs that needed to go through the motherboard to hold it in place and two, maybe three of them needed quite a bit more pressure than I was comfortable with putting them under to go through fully.

                                                  Next, the RAM, which is always a bit of pain to install inside a case, especially when it's upright. Out in the open here though, it was no problem.

                                                  Motherboard assembly complete!