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Danmaku Shooter Guide

October 10, 2009 1 comment

As a final project for one of my courses, I wrote a guide that explains basic patterns and strategies for danmaku shooters. I picked the subject because I’ve been meaning to put together something like this for a while now, and also because I know a few people online who would be interested in reading something like this. I’ve repackaged a copy of it to be put up here. It’s in PDF format.

Link is here.

It didn’t come out as well as I would’ve liked, but hopefully some people will still find it helpful.

Categories: Games, STGs, Touhou

Screw you again, Cave.

October 4, 2009 1 comment

The last boss in Mushihimesama Ultra mode (not surprisingly) ridiculous. On top of the patterns themselves, this boss has a shield that not only renders him/her/it immune to bombs, but also fires a huge and fast spread of additional bullets at you if you shoot the boss while this shield is up. And this shield goes up every time you bomb or die, and stays up long enough for whatever bullet pattern is in play to re-fill the screen before fading. So not only are your bombs reduced to minimally effective bullet removal devices, but you also have to stop shooting every time you die or bomb, and keep a loose eye on the top of the screen to know when to start shooting again. And I haven’t found a “slow” button in this game yet so I have to no-focus everything while I wait.

I’ve played shooters for years on and off, and I think I have a pretty good grasp of how to handle most given patterns that aren’t entirely memory-based. Even if something is exceedingly difficult, I at least have an idea of what to do in it – it’s more a matter of execution than understanding. But any trick this last pattern has only seems to last half a second at best. After that, I think you just have to think faster, react faster, and at a much more minute level than anything I’ve done before.

Forcing my brain to come up with a way to navigate it feels like trying to run Crysis on a 486.

Categories: Games, STGs

FRAPS and Youtube

June 8, 2009 Leave a comment

With this computer, FRAPS and video recording is finally doable for me.  Yay.

As a way to figure out how to use FRAPS and VirtualDub and all that, I’ve uploaded a video of my complete fluke 1/1 capture of Mokou’s Last Word.  It turned out okay, though I wish I knew why the framerate was so bad.

Categories: Games, STGs, Touhou

Blue Wish Resurrection Plus

May 22, 2009 Leave a comment

I finally took up Azareph’s suggestion to try out this game, and it’s pretty good.  I played through Original on the first try with only one death, but that should be taken with a grain of salt.  The default settings appear to make the game easier than it should be, with both autobombing and the game somehow slowing down regularly for no good reason (on a Phenom II X3 720 with a Radeon 4870, no less). Some of the slowdown appears to be done in-game since I noticed the game slowed down at times while staying at 60 fps, but still.  

I’ve heard the game described as playing much like the Dodonpachi series of games, and now I see what they mean. The bullet patterns and level design are definitely Cave-inspired, and done very well to boot.  Besides, some of the patterns were so similar that I think I picked up on a good number of boss patterns more quickly than I otherwise would have because I’ve seen their distant cousins playing various Cave games.  Maybe it’s just because it’s Original mode, but the main difference I’ve noticed so far is that BWR patterns do not require as much memorization to successfully stream in the later stages (unlike Dodonpachi DoJ) and the relative abundance of enemies that remove all bullets on-screen when killed.  Cave also uses this last tactic a fair bit, but again it requires planning to use effectively.

This was quite a lot of fun to play through, with good level design, interesting patterns that don’t feel cheap, and fairly good music.  I’m probably going to come back to it later, and hopefully mess with the settings a little to get rid of the unintentional slowdown.

Categories: Games, STGs

Hibachi.

May 11, 2009 1 comment

It turns out the practice mode stage selector on DDP DoJ already has all stages unlocked.  Both loops.

So I decided to try out the last stage of the second loop, since I’ve always wanted to try taking on Hibachi, the legendary fire bee of death that holds a reputation for being one of the hardest bosses ever made.

 

It proceeded to kill me, my entire family, and any potential children I may have in the future.  And then it ate my sandwich.

Categories: Games, STGs

Danmaku.

May 6, 2009 Leave a comment

I seem to be bouncing from game to game these days with no real focus on any single one.  I want to get those 1ccs in on SA and the like, but there isn’t much motivation since no one around me really cares about danmaku games.  I suppose that means I’m becoming more of a “social” gamer; I stick with games that I’m somewhat lukewarm with if I know enough people playing it, and I will slowly drop games that I like if no one else plays it.

Right now I’m just killing time in a coffee shop,  so I’m going to take this opportunity to geek out a little and write something that’s been bouncing around in my head for a good while.

I think overall dodging skill in danmaku shooters is a combination of several things:

  • The ability to focus past the intimidation of seeing an overwhelming spread of bullets and be able to think/act accordingly
  • The ability to identify each bullet grid in a pattern and comprehend the rules behind how each grid moves
  • The ability to perceive a given bullet pattern and understand exactly where it is threatening and where it is not
  • The ability to come up with a movement solution that allows you to navigate through every grid in a given pattern unscathed
  • The dexterity and timing to carry out this solution

Speed is a large factor in all of this, as you will need to be able to track and react to threats very quickly while executing whatever strategy you’ve come up with.  A strategy towards any bullet pattern is almost always just a guideline that makes things more managable; you still need to use your basic dodging skill in combination with it.  Scope is also important, because the number of threats and grids that one can perceive and track at any given moment also varies from person to person.  

All of this can be combined into what I call “capacity” for danmaku, which is a way to gauge one’s skill level in terms of basic dodging ability.  Everyone’s is different to begin with, and to an extent it can be trained.  I’d say my current capacity is above average but not particularly good, considering that I can usually 1cc Hard and clear Extra in a Touhou game without too much trouble, but have to put in some serious practice time when challenging Lunatic. 

You can also gauge one’s capacity from watching replays; some people use easier strategies and take less risks even when doing scoring runs, probably because they lack the skill to pull off more effective strategies, even if they would potentially score better.  The Lunatic score runs of Perfect Cherry Blossom reflect this pretty clearly; GIL and I.O easily have the highest capacities out of the top players in this scoreboard, judging by how they look right at home when doing things that look utterly suicidal to mere mortal people like us (It’s a little hard to tell to the untrained eye, but GIL never had an unintentional death in his score run).  ASAPIN (who seems to be using the name Kagamin these days) has a noticeably lower capacity compared to these two, and HASEGA is even further behind.  Also note that HASEGA holds the highest score, showing that it’s possible to make up for lower overall capacity with excellent planning and execution.

Anyway, as I said, one’s capacity can be trained.  Just like how reflexes, memory and the like can be trained, the various skills that contribute to one’s capacity can be developed, too.  Talent also plays a factor, but it’s also possible that a person simply starts out with an unusually high capacity because he or she has been doing things that happened to train certain skills at the same time.  So overall, it’s hard to tell where the talent ends and where the practice effect begins.  The point is that even if your capacity seems low to begin with, it’s possible to overcome it with practice, if you’re willing to put the time into it.

Everyone makes stupid mistakes from time to time – it’s what separates people from bots (Well, bots make stupid mistakes too but that’s something entirely different).  So if you’re trying to improve, don’t dwell on the stupid mistakes, and don’t worry about failing repeatedly – it’s just part of the process of improving, and everyone goes through it.  The pros only make it look easy because they put up replays of the finished product and not the countless practice runs that it took to get to that level.  This is something I keep telling myself, since it’s easy to get discouraged when practice runs feel like bashing your head against a wall repeatedly.  But as long as there is some improvement, you’re making progress, and you should notice your capacity slowly growing over time.  So keep at it.

Categories: Games, STGs, Touhou