Monday, November 20, 2017

Valkyria Chronicles 4 is coming.


It's coming, it's coming west in 2018 and it's coming to PS4, Xbox One and the Switch.  I'm a little thrilled and a lot worried. Here's a trailer.  



Here's some screenshots:




This is the announcement fans of Valkyria Chronicles have been waiting for since... 2008?  I wanna' say?  Let me look that up...

Yeah, 2008.  So let me set the stage, here.  It's fall.  Microsoft is leading the console war against the PS3, and the previously-console-exclusive Game of the Year According To Everyone, BioShock, is finally coming out on PS3 with a decent port.  Waiting in the wings is also the soon-to-be critical and commercial success new-IP Dead Space, billon-dollar annual Call of Duty: World at War, the legendary and ultra-hyped Fallout 3, Ubisoft's ambitious Far Cry 2 and gorgeous Prince of Persia, Sony's headliner LittleBigPlanet and Electronic Arts' hugely-anticipated first-person platformer Mirror's Edge.

Valkyria Chronicles arrived against this incredible lineup with absolutely zero fanfare and hype.  As someone who avoided JRPGs as a general rule, I had zero interest, but I decided to check out the demo on a whim.  I remember, it appeared on the PSN store the same day as the BioShock demo.

So I played the BioShock demo twice, and then I checked out this Valkyria Chronicles thing.  It's a turn-based tactical RPG, with the action gauge and all that.  You move your heroes until the action gauge drains, putting them in to cover, telling them to toss grenades, and when you aim you manually do it with the analog stick before telling them to shoot.

It had this gorgeous aesthetic, less "anime" than a manga that was being animated, if that makes sense - with crosshatch shading and gentle, poppy watercolors.  It had gorgeous music.  It had remarkable writing, for a JRPG, and - for some reason - I ended up playing that demo again and again and again and again over the coming week, until I started going on the Penny Arcade forum and telling people "look, you probably haven't heard of it, but you really should be paying attention to this."

Valkyria Chronicles (2008)

Sega America would go on to credit fan communities like Penny Arcade's with the game's long, slow-burn success in North America.  It did not light the charts on fire at launch, but critics were so positive on the game, and gamers were going out of their way to to tell each other about it and celebrate it to the point that the game enjoyed a long tail of consistent sales.

For me, this was a JRPG the likes of which I'd never seen or even heard of, before.  It was a war story that was very much about the sacrifices and horrors of war, but equally about the humanity of its characters.  Every soldier in your squad (there's like forty) have well-developed, well-rounded personalities, quirks and weaknesses.  They all look unique, they work better with some allies than others, and the core group of heroes were all similarly fleshed-out and charismatic.

Main character Welkin Gunther is not your run-of-the-mill personality-less JRPG protagonist.  We first meet him sketching fish in a stream, because he's obsessed with natural science, animals and plants.  He's a geek and a nerd and absolutely socially clueless.  He is immediately set upon by the rifle-toting Alicia Melchiott, his hometown's resident master baker, and a member of the local militia who fears he may be a spy for the empire - and this is merely the beginning of a game that both embraces its manga/anime aesthetic with things like a goofy cartoony squad mascot (an adorable pig) and a beach episode, and rejects its simplicity with meaningful investigations into the morality of wartime and investing your country's enemies with the same multidimensional depth as the leads.

Really, it's an incredible game.

Valkyria Chronicles II (2010)

It got a decent-but-disappointing sequel in 2010, exclusive to Sony's beleaguered PlayStation Portable, which offered new soldier classes and smaller maps, along with a fairly infantile narrative that followed students at a military academy - more Archie comics than Band of Brothers.  I always thought it was trying to cash in on the Harry Potter craze.  With the small install base and a lot of PS3 owners unwilling to make the jump to a different platform, it didn't do great.

Valkyria Chronicles 3, which returned to the grittier aesthetic and characterization of the original was also released on the PSP, but it never saw a western localization.  Sega announced, around that time, that if they were to make another Valkyria game for the PS3 it "would have to be so different it wouldn't be Valkyria Chronicles any more."  The game's fans all cried "who the fuck decided that?" and Sega responded "we did, assholes," and didn't touch the Valkyria license again until they re-launched the original successfully on Steam, and then fucked the entire series over with the critical and commercial flop Valkyria Revolution this year, which abandoned the series' thoughtful, tactical combat in favor of really, really shitty action mechanics.

And it's the mishandling of this franchise since its launch that gives me pause, about Valkyria Chronicles 4.  Do I want a genuine sequel to one of my favorite games of all time?

Yes.  Obviously.  Absolutely.  I am squeeing.

Do I trust Sega, of all people, to get a sequel to a beloved franchise right?

Sonic the Hedgehog says hi.  Valkyria Revolution says hi.  VC2 says hi.

But, of course, there's the part of me that wants to believe.  There's the part of me that would have killed for a localization of VC3 for PSP or Vita, and you know there's a part of me that is over the moon that Valkyria Chronicles 4 is coming to Nintendo's Switch.  Hope springs eternal.  Keep hope alive.  Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Don't fuck this up, Sega.

Okay she's obviously of the Valkyrian lineage, but what is that weapon?  Is that a grenade launcher?
I think that's a grenade launcher.

Press release:
Soldiers, strategists, and commandersl, the call has come in from the front lines. It's time to rejoin the fight! The beloved Valkyria Chronicles series makes its grand return westward in 2018 with Valkyria Chronicles 4, a new mainline chapter in the saga for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. Return to a continent ravaged by conflict with a familiar-yet-refined tactical RPG battle system, a vibrant and evocative art style that portrays a living canvas of watercolors, and a gripping World War II-inspired story full of momentous triumphs, heartbreaking loss, and unexpected hope for the human spirit.

It is the year 1935 EC...

The continent of Europa is engulfed in the flames of the Second Europan War between the Atlantic Federation and the Autocratic Eastern Imperial Alliance. Although the Federation struggles valiantly against the Empire's forces, the relentless imperial military machine threatens to consume them. With victory slipping away, the Federation executes Operation Northern Cross: a last-ditch attempt to capture the imperial capital and end the war.

Commander Claude Wallace and his loyal childhood friends in Squad E are sent to fight for the desperate operation's success, but they will have to endure harsh bone-chilling elements, waves of imperial soldiers, and the terrifying Valkyria... and unravel a grave truth that will shake them to the core.


Valkyria Chronicles 4 Features

• A Coming-of-Age Story in a Time of War - Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place in the same timeframe as the original Valkyria Chronicles, but focuses on a whole new cast of main characters. Players will take command of the eager, young Commander Claude Wallace, engineer/heavy weapons extraordinaire Riley Miller, hotheaded Darcsen Raz, ice-cold ace sniper Kai Schulen, and more. Together, they will experience the painful realities of war--but will the bonds of Squad E's friendships survive the frozen battlefield?

• The Next Generation "BLiTZ" Battle System - The part overhead turn-based strategy, part RPG, and part real-time 3rd person shooter "BLiTZ" battle system returns to the field. New features include an explosive new class called the Grenadier, numerous offensive/defensive battleship support options, chances for a unit to have a "Last Stand" action before death, and more. Plus, fight the imperial threat with more units on larger-scale maps than ever before.

• CANVAS Aesthetics - The series' signature hand-drawn visual style is back and overhauled for the newest generation. Inspired by watercolor compositions, the CANVAS Graphics Engine blends visual elements of reality and imagination to create an expressive world filled with colorful emotions. Watch the journey of Squad E unfold like an interactive painting!

• The Return of a Legendary Composer - The illustrious Hitoshi Sakimoto, original composer of the Valkyria Chronicles series and countless other emotional epics, returns to provide a sweeping orchestral soundtrack for the game.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 will be available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One platforms in the Americas and Europe in 2018. The game is not yet rated by the ESRB. Please visit the official website for more information: valkyria.sega.com.
Fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Overwatch Clip Show 50 - Move.

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This is one of those clip shows that took way more work than you'd think - up there with Believer and Lone Digger.  The amount of footage I had from last week came to about 75GB, and going through all of it and cutting out the good bits resulted in two ShareFactory projects with (the program's maximum of) 50 clips each - which wouldn't do!

I eventually re-rendered both 50-clip projects as two 16-20 minute videos, then started a new project with just these "two" clips as a base, and went at 'em with a machete, hacking and cutting out a lot of stuff I really wish I could have included, and terrified that exporting a vid from ShareFactory (which produces a bit of compression artefacting), and then importing that vid back in to ShareFactory to be cut up, remixed and exported again would result in a video that's a blurry mess of compression artefacts (yes, I prefer that spelling - don't ask me why, I don't know why).

It isn't a blurry mess!  With the PS4 Pro, I can capture videos at 1080P instead of 720, and ShareFactory outputs at 1080 - so all things considered I'm pretty happy with this.

If you want to get straight to the action, skip ahead to 0:40.

0:00 - 0:15 : We begin with a brief fan dialogue skit, as Winston got himself an "ooh, scary!" voice line for Halloween, and it's up to Tracer to walk him through the intricacies of the phrase.  He picks it up pretty quick.


Clip Show 50 - Move from David Ferber on Vimeo.

Or on YouTube if you prefer.

0:15 - 0:49 : This is one of the all-time Tracer fantasies, to me.  To actually have it happen was... hang on I need to Google Image Search to find an appropriate image of the feelings it elicits...

Okay I'm having difficulty finding an image that is readable as Tracer's "O-face" without being too distasteful to post, so we'll go with the second-best thing:


Tracer peels to intercept a flanking Pharah, and Pharah boops Tracer out over the water on the back of Volskayas point A.  Tracer, undeterred, blinks towards the Pharah, finishes her in mid-air and rewinds back to safety.  Like a boss.

1:30 - 1:35 : The Hanzo and Orisa/Ulting Genji/Orisa Ult ended up givin' me PotG!... but the PotG fades out a few frames too quickly after the pulse bomb goes off, so I kept the match footage.

1:35 - 1:55 : Mercies and Hanzos and Widows, oh my!  The Hanzo who gets pulse bomb'd and melee killed is the same Hanzo, and both those clips are from one long duel between the two of us.  I dove their backline to stagger as they return to the point, and his Mercy starts pocketing him in the middle of our fight - so I blink in and stick him with the pulse bomb.

The Mercy immediately rezzes, but she abandons him to help their tanks, and it's round 2.  We dance around cover for a bit, taking potshots at each other and I decide to zip in and fight him at arm's length - at which point his Sombra hacks me - and I still get the pick on him with a melee, and get away.  Smexy.

The Widow who gets melee'd on Oasis was so much fun.  Every time we were away from the teamfight, we'd emote and wave at each other and go our separate ways - but when the fight was on, she was bodying me from fifty yards, I was taking huge flanks to get behind her - it was awesome.  Her Pharah picked me twice when I went for her, she never got me, and I got her three times.  Sent her a "good game" PSN message after the match with a thumbs up, and she wrote back "ily < 3."

Tracer and Widowmaker's Guide to Internet Etiquette : Vol 2.

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1:55 - 2:22 : For some reason a lot of my best plays occur after my team gets completely bloody wiped by the reds.  After Symmetra rocks my team's world, I'm all alone behind enemy lines with a bead on the Widow and Ana.  I scratch up the Widow, I know she's gonna' go for the health pack so I move to intercept her - and that's where this clip begins.

I steal the health pack before she can take it, finish her off and dive on the Ana.

Anas are hard to kill, as a rule, between her kit and that tiny sliver of a hitbox - easier than Moira now, let me tell you - so getting the pick with two clips was pretty nice, and just quick enough that her Tracer, who to her credit came to help her healer in her time of need, can't do anything but watch me use rewind to put thirty yards between us, wave and zip away.

I am, now, in a very, very vulnerable state.  I have zero blinks, I just used my rewind, and more dangerous yet Tracer knows I just used my rewind.  I leap over the security gate for a modicum of cover as I head for the payload... but I'm not heading for the payload.

I'm watching my blink cooldown, and waiting for the amount of damage the Tracer puts out to feel like she's less than one blink away.  When that scratch comes, I blink backwards through her and she freaks right out when she realizes I'm already hitting her again and blows her rewind (I'd barely touched her).  We do the Tracer shuffle, and as we do I put my back to the small health pack to recover what she's taken off me, and walk backwards into it as the Widow (who's back now) starts trying to body me.

At this point, Tracer makes The Mistake - she comes right, straight for me, giving me the perfect opportunity to put a bead on her head.

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Last night - this is unrelated to our clip show, for the record, but it's on the topic of dueling Tracers - I got into a very prolonged duel with a Tracer on Numbani.  We were both far in the back line with nobody to bother us.  She couldn't land anything on me, but I wasn't being aggressive enough - she rewound twice during the duel, because I never pounced on her and got in close range to seal the deal - and when she ran for the large health pack, she nabbed it just before my melee woulda' killed her.  Then she teabagged the shit outta' me.

Later, we're both at the payload with our teams and we both detour into a side room to sort out our shit.  I don't make the same mistake - I get right into her face, put a pair of barrels to it and one-clip her.

I don't teabag her.  I don't wave.  You aren't worth a wave, teabagger, and I am a fucking professional.

My brother tries to tell me that I should stop wearing the golden guns - that people will focus you and teabag you because you've got the gold gun - and maybe that's true, but... well, it remains.  Come at me, bro.

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2:22 - 2:25 : I cut a ton of Mercy picks from this vid, but I had to keep this one.  I'm behind her and her team on main street, and Mercy feels me scratching her up, so she heads into the stairwell where Sombra and McCree will no doubt protect her.

They can't.  Then I get McCree, for the record ^.^

2:32 - 2:38 : My brother had just gone down as the round timer approached 10 seconds, and he'd given up the match - but you can accomplish a lot when the enemy team won't turn around and deal with you. We made it.

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2:41 - 3:01 : And now, a bunch of Junkrat picks.  In my head, there were gonna' be a half-dozen of these in here, to establish that every time I hear "fire in the hole!", I will dive into the reds' backline, one-clip him and get out clean - and again, there's a lot I wish I could've kept.  The one on Lijiang led to a pulse bomb on their Lucio as half the team chased me around the side of the point, a team wipe and us taking the point, and I had a lot of nice ones where you'd hear the callout, I'd blink in there, get the pick and one of my teammates would do the thank emote - it was cool!

The airborne pick is after a longer set-up - I walk into his trap in the mega health pack room, grab the health pack and zip past him as he comes in to kill me, he comes out to wreck me and gets a mine boop on me - but that makes it harder for him to hit me as I soar through the air, and he's still easy pickings.

I was actually really conflicted over whether or not I should use the melee kill shown here or one on King's Row, but, y'know, it works.

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3:01 - 3:18 : ...it works, and what's important is that when I come around the corner on Volskaya and see the Junkrat with his hands over his ears, you know exactly what I'm gonna' do next.  The fact that it ended up being a PotG was a real surprise.

The Oasis PotG is here, basically, because of the D.Va pick.  (I love that trick, and I'm always waiting to do it - a thrown pulse bomb can result in absolutely nothing so often that anything that gives you guaranteed value out of it is absolutely worth it.)  When I planned out this vid, it always ended with a bunch of tank picks - I literally have like a dozen Rein and D.Va pulse bomb kills just waiting in the wings - and this PotG was kind of the introduction to those.  Also it's always fun killing a Hanzo.

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3:27 - 3:31 : Oh-hohohoh jumping over a Rein, sticking him from above with the pulse bomb, blinking outta' there and not looking back as he goes boom = max good feels.

3:34 - 3:39 : Okay, maybe it's a close second to meleeing one to death.

3:39 - 3:41 : I wish I'd been able to include the approach on this one - I was on the high ground in the middle of the point, blinked up over the Mercy, landed beside her and landed the stick.  It was lovely.
Finally...

3:41 - 3:48 : So last night, I've got the Moira patch/Mercy nerf installed, and I spend about a half-hour getting comfy with Moira in the target range.  I'm pretty hyped to check her out!  But in my first game, we already have a Moira, so I go Mercy.

I quickly switch to Tracer, and decide I'll just play Tracer when I can't Moira.

I don't get to play Moira all night, but I did have some excellent Tracer fun, including this absolutely fucking glorious pulse bomb at the end of a King's Row match.  Plus the wave, plus the voice line.  Perfection.


3:49 - 4:18 : And our traditional post-vid skirmish shenanigans scene.  I'm just tryin' to dance and emote with your team, Lucio!  Why are you so angry?

And that's our show!

Incredibles 2 teaser trailer wooo!



I have been ready for like a decade for a sequel to The Incredibles.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Chamberlain & Chance 98 : All The Time In The World


Wiiiith Alex!   Alex thisChamberlain that podcast on iTunespodcast on Google Play

Chamberlain and Chance - All the time in the world

THIS WEEK!
  • Chance has played everything.  Just fucking everything
  • Chamberlain learns the hard way that Forza 7 is no Forza Horizon 3! 
  • Alex ranches the crap out of some slimes!
  • And how much does EA suck? 
If you need to tune in to find out, you haven't been paying attention!

New Overwatch hero Moira is live on all platforms!

Wooo!

Moira's arrival comes with the stupid and awful Mercy nerf, which will no doubt further-exacerbate what is likely a chilly professional relationship between the two.

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HERO UPDATES 
Ana
  • Biotic Rifle
    • Damage increased from 60 to 70
Developer Comments: Ana has been outshined by other support heroes lately. Boosting her damage will help her defend herself and make her more threatening to the enemy team. 
Chance's take: I really don't think Ana needs more damage. She's got the grenade for burst and there's no overstating how powerful sleep dart is, but... well, at least she still won't be able to two-shot me...

LĂșcio
  • LĂșcio now has an effect above his head to indicate which song he's playing in spectator mode
If you appreciate this reference, know that I love you.
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Mercy
  • Caduceus Staff
    • Increased visual readability of Mercy's healing and damage boosting beams
  • Resurrect
    • Cast time increased from 0 seconds to 1.75 seconds
    • Mercy's movement speed is now reduced by 75% while casting
    • Can now be interrupted when Mercy is knocked back, stunned, or hacked
  • Valkyrie
    • While active, Resurrect no longer has a cast time
    • While active, casting Resurrect does not reduce Mercy's movement speed
Developer Comment: We feel that Mercy’s recent rework has been successful, but her Resurrect ability still feels too strong and frustrating to play against. Now that it has a cast time, enemies are more able to counter the ability. However, Resurrect will cast instantly when Valkyrie is active. This should make her feel powerful when she transforms on the battlefield. 
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Chance's take: Fuck youuuuuuu!  FIRST of all, Mercy's beams don't need to be more readable to the enemy team - if anything they should be bloody invisible to the enemy team!  You don't see a line from whoever Zen's healing to the Zen, Ana's shots are invisible (when unscoped), and enemies can't see Lucio's healing aura!  This is blatant anti-Mercism, an antiquated holdover from when Mercy was just the Medic from TF2 and Blizzard should be ashamed of themselves.

As for the cast time and ridiculous movement speed reduction on rez, I anticipate this will result in Mercies getting picked left and right, even if they're trying to do a rez in their team's back line.  Close to two seconds of near-motionlessness is a second and a half longer than any sniper or flanker needs to kill you.

IT'S BULLSHIT!  Yes, absolutely Valkyrie will feel more powerful now, because you're comparing it to a hero who's been hobbled like James Caan in Misery.  Hang on, I'm sure I have a GIF for situations like this...


Winston
  • Barrier Projector
    • Now displays a health bar
Developer Comment: This change will help both Winston's allies and enemies know how much more damage his shield can absorb from oncoming attacks.
Also, Moira.  Moira's available now on all platforms.  She's unavailable in competitive mode for the moment, and should remain so for the next week.

I'm mildly hyped to check her out tonight - it might be nice to play a healer who hasn't been disfigured by repeated and vicious beatings with a nerf stick - but I'm yet more hyped to finish my next clip show.  No promises.  Tomorrow, hopefully.

(Jazzy hands!) Moira!

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

I'm in a glass case of emotion.

My home internet is down, apparently part of an outage in my end of town.  So I can't do a lovely big post about how new Overwatch hero Moira is now live on all platforms and the egregious and hateful Mercy nerf has come with her.  I can't even download the patch, and woe.

Woe is me.

I'm also unprepared to assemble the podcast post on my phone, so I'll (hopefully!) attend to that tomorrow night.  Worst-case scenario a repair dude will come by then, but if you cant wait hit up Chamberlain's blog!  In fact you should be doing that on a daily basis anyway - he updates more than I do!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Overwatch Long Cut 14 - Awake.

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I finished my placements on Saturday.  It did not go well.  Went 3 and 7, usually had a lot of gold medals but it didn't equate to victories, and I got placed at 2390 - about three hundred below where I ended last season.

So that sucks.  But there was some fun, in there - most memorably my first placement match of the season, where I ran out of spawn trying to psych myself up for it, and instantly died.  Then I ran back out of spawn, through the enemy line and just didn't die for the entire rest of the first round.  Maybe I shoulda' turned this into a Match Highlights vid, but there weren't any like... rivalries with enemies that needed highlighting.  As a result, it's just one long cut - with a bunch of boring stuff in there where I wait for our enemies to respawn or just kinda' sit back and watch half my team wipe because of bad positioning.  


Then, on defense, we get a Torb.  I go Mercy because the excellent Zenyatta we had on attack would not be able to sustain a prolonged defense, and the Zen went Sym, which all-but-guaranteed us the victory.  I died once on Mercy - Sym's tele was up and brought me right back to the fight - and we full-held the point to win 3-0.  Very nice.  

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Oh, I've also played Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Sonic Mania and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.  I'm sorry, you were saying something about Overwatch..?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Overwatch Long Cut 13 - Ain't It Baby (Anubis Mercy)

I'm on an Overwatch Discord last week, and someone was talking about how Pharah needs a nerf, how no DPS deals with her, and when you're essentially a Mercy main you don't have the experience on the hitscans to switch to like a Soldier to deal with her - to which I tersely responded "so shoot the Pharah." Which may have seemed dismissive at the time, but...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Chamberlain & Chance 97 - Delayed Happiness


Wiiiith Alex!   Alex thisChamberlain that podcast on iTunespodcast on Google Play

Chamberlain and Chance - Delayed happiness

THIS WEEK!
  • Chamberlain suffers glittering 4K blue balls while watching a patch download for Forza on Xbox X.  
  • Alex continues snuggling in to Shovel Kni- Goddamnit, I mean Hollow Knight
  • Chance is mad at hell about the controls on the Switch, but what're you gonna' do?
  • And how is Thor Ragnarok?
You'll have to tune in to find out!