New Retro Arcade: Neon

New Retro Arcade: Neon (NRAN) is the type of thing you’ll either install and play for a few hours, or something you’ll go DEEP on.

What is NRAN? It’s an arcade machine emulator, with 35 empty arcade machines ready to accept ROMs, set in a neon-80’s/90’s arcade that’s probably way cooler than (but just as filthy as) any arcade that actually really existed. It’s basically MAME but modeled in 3D space, which I think ads to the arcade experience, but more on that later.

As you might imagine, since it’s a product for sale on Steam, NRAN doesn’t come with any actual arcade ROMs. Luckily, dozens of people have made their NRAN configurations available, and it’s really easy to end up with a fully-functioning arcade without putting any work into it. I suspect that if you’re 100% satisfied with someone else’s arcade configuration, your time with NRAN might be short lived, or at least shorter lived than my time will be. I had fun trying out games for the first time, like Final Fight, Street Fighter 2, or OutRun, but I wanted my arcade to be a collection of my favorites — not just the classics.

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The great thing about this game, and it’s dark side, is that you are the arcade manager — everything is customizable to your whim, and the moment you change one thing; one arcade machine, one poster, one VHS or cassette tape, I think you’ll be drawn down the rabbit hole.

After trying lots of arcade games for the first time I made a list of the machines I felt no love for, and was eager to replace them. I’ve mostly removed side-scrolling beat’em’ups from my arcade in favor of puzzle games like Puyo Puyo Sun and Puzzle Bobble, or Neo Geo classics like Windjammers and Neo Turf Masters. This is the easy part; with an internet full of ROM dumps you’ll have no problems finding the games you’re looking for. Problem is, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself also spending hours obtaining assets like cabinet art, and fine-tuning it in Photoshop just to make sure the texture maps onto the arcade cabinet the way you want it to. Games like Puyo Puyo never had stand-up arcade cabinet art, so I had to invent cabinet art using box art from various Puyo Puyo releases, and scans of arcade flyers advertising Puyo Puyo.

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Even if your desires are less esoteric, and you’re just hunting down the art assets for Donkey Kong, you’ll have a few steps to complete before the cabinet is perfect. You’ll want to set up the attract mode — the video that plays on the arcade cabinet before you actually interact with it and “insert coins.” Only it’s not as easy as uploading an MP4 ripped from YouTube, because you have to use video editing tools to render a 35 video  grid, which corresponds to each of your 35 arcade cabinets. Luckily, tools exist out there made just for NRAN that makes this process easier, but you’ll have to re-render the attract screens any time you introduce a new arcade machine, or rearrange the order of your arcade.

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And yeah, after spending 25+ hours customizing it, it will take on the personality of being YOUR arcade. How long you spend inside of it is completely up to your patience I suppose. I personally can spend an hour playing straight through the Puyo Puyo Sun campaign (using 40 continues, so anywhere from $10-20 in credits) or a dozen minutes playing OutRun before giving up out of frustration and taking that frustration out on a much more relaxing round of golf with Neo Turf Masters. This ability to storm off from one arcade game to the next is exactly what makes NRAN a superior arcade emulation experience than MAME. While great for video game preservation, having a list of practically all arcade games ever, MAME always felt like a clinical way to play arcade ROMs — which never bothered me with emulators for SNES or Gameboy ROMs. NRAN takes the MAME technology and brings it into this 3D space, where you can look at the cabinet art, your buttons and joystick,  and be slightly overwhelmed by the sounds of all the other machines going on in the background. When you’re tired or frustrated with one game, you can walk onto the next, or you can obsessively pump in quarters until you’ve beaten the game, all the while having a debate with yourself like “I really should turn the attract volume down on Street Fighter 2, those damn elephants are so annoying… but if that’s the way Street Fighter 2 was, I have to keep it that way.”

In New Retro Arcade: Neon nothing is easy, but everything is worth it. I might never be done fine-tuning my arcade. I’ll want all of the cassette tapes lying around to have music I want to listen to, I’ll want all of the VHS tapes in the cinema to have videos I want to watch, and I’ll want all of the posters to correspond with my personal nostalgic feelings. NRAN is so worth the effort that I put this together just in the hopes that it might reach other people who have a secret, untapped arcade curator inside them, that’s just waiting to put together their own personal arcade.

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What’s Up? (2/6/17)

January 2017
I’ve been away for a month, but I’ve had things in order so I guess there wasn’t much to talk about. Coming into 2017 there were just a few things on my to-do list, and all of January was spent focusing on those things. 1) Any weight gained during the holidays has been lost, 2) I went and saw the movies I was meaning to see, La La Land, and Rogue One, and 3) I started putting myself out there again, trying to be and outward social presence.

Gaming
I’m more physically active than ever before, I’m trying to be more social as well — so explain why “Gaming” is the headline here. Well, I suppose, given that I have lost weight, and that I’m making friends outside of the “Pitt Alumni” group, it helps to have something fun and concurrent to do at home alone. Though I haven’t owned a home gaming console in years, and have stuck to a modest laptop for the better part of 5 years, I have recommitted myself to enjoying the hobby of video games more regularly. I’ve been listening to, and watching, nearly 10 hours of Giant Bomb content a week, since 2008, so I never really left the world of video games, even if I stopped playing them as much. Though that being said, I feel like I could probably go for writing a review of Pokemon Sun (2016).

KonMari
I did something very drastic this weekend. I tidied my apartment with the help of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Now, typical home tidying would have me finding new ways to hide clutter (shove this there, hide this in the closet, kick this under the couch). I exaggerate a little, but typically that’s how I’d “clean.” With the help of a little audiobook, I discarded most of my clutter, rather than hiding it. What’s more, she helped me redefine many of my possessions as clutter.

Shirts that were going unused, or that had no longer brought me joy, were in my closet for no reason. They were clutter. I’d say my apartment has about 30% fewer clothes in it now, than it did on Friday. I have not completed my work, though you’re supposed to do it all in one fell swoop. The hardest thing to do, would be to let go of some of these books. If a book does not make me happy, then why keep it? I know this will be the hardest step, because I think having a full book shelf is what makes me happy to have a bookshelf at all.

Dry Month
There’s a theme here; less is more. Less clutter, more happiness. Less weight, more movement. Less boredom, more fun. So something I’ve been meaning to try for a while is a dry, alcohol-free, sober month. Why do that? I love cocktails, I like inebriation, I like the social aspects of it!

Well, because less is more? And to an extent, I think drinking a little less, or none at all for a whole month, will give me greater appreciation for it, and greater clarity for how I handle things like stress, and what to do when I’m bored on a weekend. It’s too late to make February my dry month, but I’m eyeballing March. 31 Days of sobriety should also lead to a massive drop in calories consumed. I’m not committing to it yet, but when I do I have to make it public; making it public makes it harder to back down from it.

That could be part of why I keep a public blog like this. A private diary has no stakes. You can confess and make promises, but it’s private, so your confessions and promises only matter as much as you care about yourself? If I tell you, anonymous internet, that I’m going to stop drinking for a month, then I’d be lying if I didn’t follow through. Here’s another public promise: This February I will be reviewing Neon Indian’s “VEGA Intl. Night School” (2015) and La Roux’s “Trouble in Paradise” (2014).

What’s Up? (1/2/14)

New Year’s Eve went wonderfully. The party was the right size, and it broke up at the right time, allowing me to spend some time with family too. Time spent with family peaked New Year’s Day, when my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin came to visit from Florida. Now, this cousin is eight years old, so he wanted to play LEGO Batman, and Mario Party 8, and all of that stuff. I obliged him, of course, and it was kind of fun sometimes. I don’t think LEGO Batman was as intuitive and easy to play as the LEGO Star Wars games (to be fair most of my Playstation 2 controllers were older than he was, and they didn’t work well), and Mario Party 8 kinda lacked the joy and chaos of Mario Party 2. Naturally the next thing I did was hand him a Gamecube controller and told him we were playing Mario Party 2.

I thought I’d have to force it on him, after all, if he’s experienced a newer Mario Party game – could he see why a much older game was still fun? But he actually had a great time and won the first round on the Pirate Land map. He woke me up at 7:30 AM today to play again, on the Western Land map, but he set the computer players to Hard. One of the computers stole his stars, twice, and at some points he was on the verge of tears. It wasn’t easy to watch, but still, I think he had fun for the most part. What really made his day, and mine too – was seeing snow for the first time. We had a snowball fight, after I taught him how to make snowballs by packing snow with his hands,  and grabbing snow from the tops of cars. He and his family left, just a few hours from this super-blizzard we’re apparently getting, which is probably a good thing – but I’m really happy he was able to see the snow.

I’m going back to Pittsburgh in four days, and I keep telling myself I’m excited for that – but for the first time in a while, I think there are people here  on Long Island that I wish I could spend more time with before going back.

 

What’s Up (12/14/13)

I’m home in New York, wrapped up in a blanket, listening to music from Animal Crossing, and ready to start writing. There was not a whole lot of time to write for my own sake these last few days. I know I wrote a Nuzlog post on Wednesday, but that felt more like an obligation to close the book on Pokemon Y, a book-closing twenty days late.

As soon as I was done with any one paper, I had to move onto the next. There was always something to do this finals week, and it marked the height of my productivity this whole semester. Even when I finished my last final on Friday, I basically got home and packed for an hour and a half straight, before rushing out the door to catch a bus to the airport.

I made a few stray observations yesterday. For starters, I was sitting down on a public bench waiting for a bus, and an old man smoking a cigarette sat down next to me. The last time I let somebody smoke next to me on a bench before a flight, I reeked of cigarettes so bad I had to take off my jacket and throw it in my luggage. It was gross and awful. So I got up from the bench and stood far away from the gross cigarette dude, and I don’t think he was happy about it, but whatever. I think it’d be courteous of all smokers to, I don’t know…. not smoke at a bus stop.

On the bus to the airport I realized, in the frenzy to pack, that I forgot to bring a friend-favorite video game, Fortune Street. Is that a little bit of a bummer? Yeah, but honestly, I think it might be nice to just chill sometimes with your friends, make fun conversation instead of relying on video games all of the time. Now that I write this, I also realize I didn’t bring Cards Against Humanity, which is another bummer. Particularly so because, that’s a fun non-video-game thing to do. By spring break though, I’ll have two all-new expansions for that game to play, and the Bigger, Blacker Box to store all of the cards in.

I’m becoming less and less careful about making sure that I pack everything I need, and while that’s having repercussions in the “what will I do with my friends” department, I think the lower levels of packing stress are better for my health. Travel doesn’t need to be stressful. I love airports, and as long as you get there early, you can sit, get food, and relax from Point A to Point B.

One last note: I had a dream last night, a nightmare, a reminder not to wait on things, to let people know how you feel, when you feel it.

Yvonne: Log Seven

It has now been twenty days since I “beat” Pokemon Y. By “beat” I mean, defeated the Elite Four and the League Champion. That’s been what I’ve defined as “beating” a Pokemon game since I was a little kid. Catching them all, or getting into the deep competition meta-game has never been my thing. The Elite Four and Champion of Pokemon Y are entertaining enemies, with theatrics unlike what I’ve seen in past games, though they were pushovers. I feel like Pokemon Y doesn’t exactly know who its for, as the story goes into dark territory, but the characters are so shallow and the writing so dumbed down. That was never more apparent than the end of the game, in which an immortal being interrupts the Star Wars: A New Hope-esque awards ceremony (where your useless friends are celebrated as heroes alongside your character, even though you do all of the work) and challenges you to a battle. The circumstances surrounding the immortal being are disturbing and heart-wrenching, in theory, but your character just smiles gladly and accepts the invitation to battle. The end of the game was entirely underwhelming, and I feel totally okay about expecting more from a Pokemon game, Pokemon Emerald knew how to make the end feel like this big emotional moment, Pokemon Y just spilled all over the place.

I find myself wishing that I could just put together teams without doing all of the catching and training. There are all of these teams I’d like to use in online battles, but I am so done with catching and training. Pokemon Y feels like its run its course, for the time being, until I find out how to Action-Replay or cheat my way into building competitive teams. I can’t believe I’m actually writing that, as I’ve always stood my ground about the value of playing Pokemon “the way it’s meant to be played,” but I’ve realized that gets very, very boring, and very, very repetitive.

So that being said, this will be the last Nuzlog post for a while.

NaNoWriMo: Log Three

Seventeen days into November, and I can say confidently that I am not going to write 50,000 words in the next two weeks, I’d be impressed if I even made it to 25,000. Disappointing nobody but myself, I realize now that any free time I do have, I split up between television, Nintendo 3DS games, internet distractions, and gym stuff. If I had fully committed all my free time to writing, I probably could have accomplished the whole 50,000 – but for now, I’m moving the goal posts to a very, very low 10,000 – and maybe I’ll make 25,000 revised by the end of 2013.

Next year, I’ll have to keep in mind that NaNoWriMo is about writing in quantity, and writing right out of the gate. This, “write a few hundred words every day” approach I’ve taken does not result in a 50,000 novel. Maybe if I’m lucky though, I could end up with a 10,000 short story…

Nuzlocke Challenge 2: Log One

The only way to make a randomized Nuzlocke crazier? What’s crazier than randomizing the starter Pokemon and the Pokemon I encounter along the way in the wild? This time every single Pokemon in the game has a randomized type, move set, stats, and color palate. That’s right. Nuzlocke 2 is downright stupid. It might not even be playable. With that being said, let’s start.

Log One

  1. This randomized copy of Pokemon Emerald doesn’t mess around. Instead of whatever common Pokemon that Professor Birch usually shows off at the beginning of the game, he’s got a pink and purple Registeel with him. The game hasn’t even quite begun and it’s already bizarre. Last time around I played as a girl named Coco, this time I’ll play as a young lad named Neko. When you play as a boy I think you start off in a different house than you do if you choose to play as a girl, that’s a cool touch; regardless of who you choose those characters start off in the same house.
  2. I set the timer on my clock to 10:52 PM which is the in-real-life time right now, not that it matters. Neko and the girl next door, May, introduce themselves to each other, exchange pleasantries. Neko notices a Nickleback poster in May’s room and figures he’ll sit this one out.
  3. Professor Birch; who only moments ago wielded the power of a Registeel, is now being hounded by a Kingler. I can choose one of these three Pokemon to save the day… a purple and green Doduo, a Bulbasaur that looks like it’s colored by a three year old, and what looks like a shiny Aerodactyl. Now remember… just because I pick say… Bulbasaur doesn’t mean I’m going to get a Grass/Poison type Pokemon; he might be a Fire/Flying or whatever else you could imagine. That being said, I’m going to pick Aerodactyl. My Aerodactly is a Grass-Type Pokemon, with the Inner Focus ability which prevents flinching, a lonely nature, and whose only attack is Metronome. Aerodactyl’s Metronome produced Sacred Fire and killed that Kingler dead.
  4. Tyrus the Aerodactly joins Neko’s squad. The Professor asks us to go meet up with May up the road. Neko runs into an albino Flygon. Tyrus’ Metronome deals death eventually, but not before the Flygon can deal enough damage and inflict poison on Tyrus. Tyrus the Aerodactly, dies.
  5. We start over. Professor Birch is being held hostage by an angry Absol. Neko has to choose between a yellow Dratini, a green Meowth, and a green Roselia. Neko, remembering his own namesake, chooses the green Meowth. This green Meowth is a grass type, with the Hustle ability which exchanges accuracy for attack power, with an Impish nature. He knows the moves Clamp and Dream Eater. Meowth clamps onto the icy blue Absol, who, unfortunately, has a poison-on-contact ability. Absol dies at the hands of Meowth, but not before Meowth is brought to near-death, clinging onto a measly 4 health points. Good enough. Bake the Meowth joins the team! Bake was holding onto TM42: Heal Bell. I taught him the move, not really caring about what the consequences would be. I don’t like Bake’s chances of survival.
  6. Neko’s Meowth gets into a fight with a wild Skitty, and he starts to wonder if this is too much cat for his own good. The Skitty’s fur is a bright red color, with a pink chest. She must have been a fire type, as Bake’s clamp deals a one-hit KO. Their second encounter is with a bright green Elekid, which Bake also deals a one-kit KO to. Color hasn’t much to do with type I guess, as I don’t know what could be bright green and week to a Water-type attack.
  7. Out of Route 101, into Oldale Town, and onto Route 103 after a quick Pokemon Center trip. Neko is a man on a mission. A pink and purple Wingull stops the speeding train that is the Neko-Bake duo, bringing Bake closer to the brink of death than he’s previously experienced – forcing him to use Struggle after exhausting all other options, with only 2 health points and a bad burn. If whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, then Bake’s on the fast track to being a freaking brick of a warrior.
  8. Neko finally catches up with May, a mission that caused him to lose his first Pokemon and nearly lose his second on two occasions. May and Neko decide to duel, her Medicham (which is an icy shade of blue with maroon highlights) against Neko’s Meowth… and wouldn’t you know it? Neko’s second Pokemon, Bake, dies.
  9. We start over. The Professor is being mugged by a gang of Exeggcute. Neko and his Ground-Type Hoothoot are here to save the day. Hoothoot has Guts (an ability which ups her attack if she’s suffering) and is Relaxed, she’s here to do some damage. She knows Blaze Kick, and Dig. Neko needs her to do well in this fight… third time’s the charm. The green gang of eggs falls victim to the fiery talons of Hoothoot.  Nikita the Hoothoot joins Neko’s squad. During a training montage Nikita beats up a bunch of wild Onixes (which are light blue in color and impervious to Ground-type attacks). Nikita reaches Level 6 and learns Jump Kick. The mental image of a jump-kicking Hoothoot is too amazing for words. Neko loves Nikita. Neko and Nikita train until she has reached Level 9, and then they challenge May to a fight.
  10. May brings a Level 5 Mantine to a Level 9 Hoothoot Fight. Nikita uses Dig and kills Mantine in two turns; it wasn’t super effective, and I have no idea what type Mantine is. May and Neko call it a day and return to the Professor to get Pokedexes and Pokeballs; you know, standard stuff. With two losses already, things are looking tough for Neko, and Nuzlocke Challenge 2: Electrode Boogaloo isn’t screwing around.

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