Street Fighter II Software Versioning

There were some missteps back in the day when Capcom was enhancing and refining the original Street Fighter II. For those who are not in the know, this game instantly established itself as the greatest thing, like… ever. After the original—let’s call it SFIIv1.0—the first revision, Champion Edition, offered some minor graphical and gameplay improvements, plus four more playable characters; let’s call this SFIIv1.1. Turbo/Hyper Fighting came after that, with new character moves, programming tweaks and sped-up gameplay; let’s call this SFIIv1.2. Super Street Fighter II followed, and four awesome new characters were introduced, but there were some astonishing changes that were made along the way, like a host of swapped graphics and sounds. This was a much more substantial update, so let’s call it SFIIv2.0. Most of these changes were equal to or better than what was replaced, but a few—like the radical modification of certain characters’ voices—were absolutely, completely and unquestionably totally fucked… but I digress. Super Street Fighter II Turbo arrived last and maintained the same general format as its immediate predecessor, but made many important gameplay enhancements, and introduced a new secret playable character; let’s call it SFIIv2.1.

There were a lot gamers out there that were rightfully expecting a new version of Street Fighter II to land in 1995; let’s call it SFIIv2.2. Alas, it never came to be, but this version would have had additional gameplay balances, more new standard moves for characters, differentiation between throws and impact-grabs, secondary walking animations for the boss characters, and (more subtly) music change/speed-up only occurring when the loser of a previous round is approaching defeat in the current round.

The bad updates in the v2.x releases were taken with the good, but not without a readily identifiable pang. As such, there could easily have been a SFIIv3.0 in 1996 with further gameplay balances, one or two more characters, improved opponent AI for the single-player experience, an operator toggle switch for bonus stages in the setup menu, unique interactions in home stages for each character (à la Vega’s climbing of the fence in Spain), removal of chip-damage victories, and MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY OTHER CHANGE THAT COULD EVER BE MADE TO THE GAME: removal of the estrogenized voices for Guile and the announcer. Ideally, the excellent voices that were used for these characters in the v1.x releases would be restored, or convincingly mimicked.

And for what it’s worth, any Street Fighter II aficionado who knows his ass from a hole in the ground will agree with every point made above, without hesitation.

Interestingly, instead of SFIIv2.2 and a string of SFIIv3.x releases, we got Street Fighter Alpha, which sounds sort of like some preliminary version of a new type of Street Fighter software. Then we got Street Fighter Alpha 2, Street Fighter III, Street Fighter III: Double Impact, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Street Fighter III: Third Strike, but never any further revisions of Street Fighter II. WTF Capcom?

I guess Ultra Street Fighter II on the Nintendo Switch—which was released well more than 20 years after Super Street Fighter II Turbo—is a vindication of sorts. At first, it seems like the long lost SFIIv2.2 that should have existed in 1995. Sadly, the game is more an oddity than anything else: two so-called “new” characters have been added, but both are actually clones of existing characters and have only superficial changes to their movesets. This unearthed relic is really just an ultra-low-effort release, and not the unthawing of hibernated super-potential. Let’s call it SFIIv2.11, or maybe SFIIv2.105.

The most significant improvement in Ultra Street Fighter II is that the original Japanese art is finally being used in the U.S. instead of the long-standing American art-style (see the Super Street Fighter II arcade marquee above for an example of the latter). The American art was special in its own way, but so much less at the same time. Some people say it’s terrible—I can’t really agree or disagree with that sentiment.

One of these days I’m going to talk to Capcom about making SFIIv2.2 a reality. With the right finesse, this would be a very profitable endeavor. Hopefully it will produce a healthy foundation for future revisions, and eventually a SFIIv3.0 release.

Happiness is a Super-Turbo

SKL Arcades & Amusements icon-external-link-12x12 came out today to give my broken down Super-Turbo icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 arcade machine a sorely needed tune-up.

I have wanted an arcade version of Street Fighter II since I was a kid, and have probably checked Craig’s List and eBay listings off and on for more than ten years. I finally broke down and bought one last September from a kind but conflicted gentleman in Sacramento; his girlfriend was making him get rid of it. She had clearly put her foot down in the most convincing of ways—in that special way only a woman is capable of—and he was going to give it to me for an even $1000.

We had a very pleasant visit, but there was a recurring expression of pain in his face as we were talking, and I noticed that he became increasingly unnerved as we approached the transaction-phase of our meeting. This pain was in no ways contrived, and since I am not without empathy, I gave him $1200: an extra $200. This was still a good deal for me, and it took a little bit of the edge off the evening.

I am going to digress for a moment so I can also share that this gentleman had Stephen King novels strewn about the living room, and collectible comic books adorning the walls. This lead me to ask if he was a Stephen King fan and he responded, “I am now.” Understanding his meaning, I then asked a rhetorical question: “Is part of the deal that she also read some of your comic books?” He paused for a moment, his eyes temporarily transforming into windows that revealed the compounded depths of a man’s soul when it reaches this particular crossroad in life and must fumble a decision—no response was given.

At least it was Stephen King and not William Faulkner. He will be okay, and there is a good chance that some of the comic books will survive.

The colors in the cabinet’s CRT monitor were a little bit off, and the screen jiggled from time to time, but it was in excellent shape overall. I also received an additional board for Super Street Fighter II icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12, the previous iteration of the game. About three months ago, the power supply burned out which rendered it unplayable, but a new $40 replacement part installed by a pair of skillful hands from SKL got the game running again in no time. Most of the display issues were also fixed through fairly simple adjustments and recalibrations. The screen-jiggle persists, however, as the monitor PCB will need new capacitors for this to be corrected. This is a relatively minor visual problem and a decent amount of time will be necessary to perform the repair, so it will be a job for another day.

We live in an era of ultra-HD displays, but a healthy and color-rich CRT monitor can still work wonderfully for gaming. I also found out that the cabinet was produced by Data East icon-external-link-12x12 circa 1991 and it likely housed Captain America and the Avengers icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 when it was produced.

The original battery was still in the game board, meaning that it was pushing 24 years in age! This is pretty amazing when considering that these things are supposed to be replaced every five or so years. When the battery fizzles out, the game board fizzles out with it—forever. This bizarre phenomenon is infamous in arcade gaming circles and came to be known as the dreadful suicide battery icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12.

Given the cabinet’s heritage, and the fact that it uses the CPS-2 icon-external-link-12x12 game boards, it might be appropriate for me to pick up a copy of Marvel vs Capcom icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 at some point in the future. CPS-2 uses what are essentially giant cartridges and this allowed a Capcom arcade system to be transformed from one game into another without much difficulty. Other CPS-2 titles include Super Street Fighter II (mentioned above), X-Men: Children of the Atom, Dungeons & Dragons, X-Men vs Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, and the entire Street Fighter Alpha series.

This arcade machine has been and continues to be an instrument of joy—in its previous form (“Avengers assemble!”), in its present form (“Hadoken!), and in any additional forms in-between that have been lost to time.

Humorous Profundities in Bad Street Brawler

I really miss Beam Software icon-external-link-12x12 —even its crappy games were entertaining. This is a rare and respectable quality that can be attributed to only a small number of development studios.

Game Developer Confessions, Part 02: Reluctant Hardware Upgrades and Ensuing Workflow Revisions

Most people love buying new computer hardware and technology, but I hate it. The problem is that nothing really works the way it’s supposed to—especially devices manufactured with all the latest bells and whistles—and it’s always expensive, even when a person makes reasonable attempts at frugality. Probably my biggest issue with upgrading is that a person’s delicate workflows are disrupted. As a general rule, the more equipment that is changed out and the newer the adopted software/hardware, the more severe and long-lasting the associated disruption.

But replacing technology on a regular basis is practically a way of life these days. This is because nearly all computer hardware and software is designed with a shelf-life, and getting more than seven to ten years out of a device is becoming increasingly rare. The technology industry has never known anything but swollen revenue streams, and it will do everything it can to keep them unfettered, even long after we all have corrodible microchips poking out of our foreheads and iWatch 37s grafted into our wrists. (Whoa! Major digression there!)

Anyway, after much forestalling, I finally scrapped many of my old computer systems this year and replaced them with shiny new units. While the process was frustrating, I did things a bit differently than most people and probably came out ahead at the end of the day—that is, I managed to fix more problems than I created.

So without further ado, here is a glimpse at a somewhat less conventional perspective on modern computing…

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My primary workstation is now an Intel NUC with a Core i3-5010U processor, 16GB of memory, and solid-state hard drive. It runs the CentOS 7 Linux operating system configured for workstation mode. This replaced a custom made AMD64 3400+ processor with 4GB of RAM running Fedora 20 Workstation Linux. Its original name was Kraid, but now it goes by the more technologically well-aligned dev-chad-lin01.zebes.anacronist.com. This upgrade became necessary when my system refused to update to newer versions of the Fedora Linux operating system because it was missing a number of contemporary processor instructions. (In other words, my old computer was missing a bunch of thingamajigs and doodads.)

My secondary computer is a Mac Mini with an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 processor, 8GB of memory, and a solid-state hard drive. I have been using this device for a while now, but the memory was doubled and the hard drive was replaced. Its name was Phantoon, but now it goes by dev-chad-mac01.zebes.anacronist.com. This upgrade became necessary when I finally realized just how much better solid-state hard drives are than old-fashioned hard drives (especially 5,400 RPM drives designed primarily for laptops), and because for some reason the right-click context menu on my Mac experienced many seconds of lag when it had only 4GB of memory.

My tertiary computer is a Lenovo ThinkPad T430s with an Intel Core i7-3520M processor, 16GB of memory, and solid-state hard drive. It runs the CentOS 7 Linux operating system configured for workstation mode. This replaced a Dell Latitude laptop with an AMD64 X2 Turion 2GHz processor and 4GB RAM running a dual boot of Fedora 23 and Windows 7. Its name was Ridley, but now it goes by dev-chad-lin02.zebes.anacronist.com. This upgrade was necessary because I experienced countless driver issues in Linux with AMD-based products. It was also easier to justify when I finally came to realize that Lenovo ThinkPad laptops really are waaaaaaaayyyy better than Dell Latitude laptops.

My quaternary computer continues to be a cheapie HTC Desire 610 running Android 4.4.2 with the name Chad’s Dumb Phone. I might replace it with a newer Android-based smartphone in February 2017, which would mark the second anniversary of the device’s purchase. I dunno, we’ll see. I now know that 8GB of internal storage is not enough for a smartphone because, due to poor design, it’s not possible to move 95% of apps onto an SD card.

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I’m going to keep my custom made PC, circa 2003, that is outfitted with an AMD XP 2800+ processor, 2GB of memory, ATI Radeon 9800 Pro and runs the Windows XP operating system. This is so I can have quick access to a bunch of classic PC games, and because Windows XP is right now the third most popular OS in the world. The computer’s name was Kraid-Old, but this has been appropriately updated to dev-chad-win01.zebes.anacronist.com.

My senary computer is this really neat piece of throwback technology called an AVS icon-external-link-12x12 .

My data backup strategy is comprised of one Synology DS116 device equipped with a 7200 RPM 4TB NAS hard drive, and two Synology DS115j devices equipped with 5900 RPM 4TB NAS hard drives. They used to be named Draygon, Botwoon and Torizo but were renamed to skree.zebes.anacronist.com, shriekbat.aether.anacronist.com, and zoomer.zebes.anacronist.com, respectively. skree and shriekbat are located at two different physical sites and synchronize data with one another across a virtual private network (VPN) connection. zoomer also synchronizes data with skree, but they are located at the same physical site.

My Brother MFC-8910DW copy/print/fax machine is a great piece of equipment overall, but some of the software for it really sucks (like the digitized faxing feature).

Following from my previous Confessions post from earlier in the year, I was never able to find the device that had the moniker crocomire so the name has been repurposed. crocomire now represents a server running CentOS 7 Linux configured for Internet name resolution, Subversion and Git services; it is located at an internal address of crocomire.zebes.anacronist.com and an external address—that is, world wide web address—of zebes.anacronist.com.

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I decided some time ago that it was necessary to move away from Fedora Linux to CentOS Linux, but kept putting off the change because installing an operating system and then reconfiguring everything really takes a big slice out of a day. I finally moved forward, however, when instances of LibreOffice Calc running on my primary workstation suddenly started blending letters and numbers together when I would type. This drove me absolutely nuts, and it’s been a good long while since I have cursed that much at a computer.

A while back, the company I work for let me have my own subnetwork zebes (with the address zebes.anacronist.com) and I was recently granted a second subnetwork at a different site named aether (with the address aether.anacronist.com), so that’s pretty awesome.

I just recently bought a 1080p 32″ Samsung SmartTV and this is the first high-definition television set I have ever owned. It resides in the corner of my desk and serves two roles: 01) as a secondary monitor to my laptop when it is docked, and 02) as a means to hook up and use video game consoles at my desk. In the past, I ventured a little too far into wire-hell by using HDMI-to-DVI and composite-video-to-DVI adapters so that my game consoles could hook up to a KVM switch and output video to a 16×10 perspective 24″ monitor screen, and audio to a cheap set of Logitech computer speakers. Having a TV nearby offers a much easier configuration, plus I can now watch Wheel of Fortune while I’m programming! Score!

Additional thoughts and observations:

  • High-quality 32″ TVs are really inexpensive these days (almost uncomfortably so)
  • Intel NUC computers are considerably smaller than Mac Mini computers
  • The technological advancements in an Intel NUC are represented by their low power consumption and whisper-quiet operation over raw speed and performance
  • Naming physical sites within a company domain after fictional planets and satellites is even more fun than naming them after real planets and satellites
  • As much as I want to support competition in the processor marketplace, I have found that AMD products are typically cheap and second-rate when compared to their Intel counterparts (and unless you use Windows, driver software support is crappy)
  • Even though I probably could have upgraded my old workstation (the one with the AMD64 3400+ processor) to CentOS 7, my AMD Dell laptop experienced way too many driver compatibility issues, and I couldn’t even get the OS to install without some silly trickery—at the end of the day it made the most sense to get rid of them both
  • Intel NUC computers and Mac Mini computers are just laptops without built-in screens and keyboards
  • As is evidenced by this post, thingamajigs and doodads are incredibly important (it also helps to have a lot of doohickeys around as well)
  • I would buy a Sega Mega Drive equivalent of the AVS if one existed
  • And last but certainly not least, open-source Pac-Man screensavers are like… the best thing ever!