Stolen Pixels #214: X, A, B, Win!

By Shamus Posted Friday Jul 23, 2010

Filed under: Column 34 comments

Today’s comic is up. You’ll never guess what I’m on about. Again.

You know, there were 144 original DM of the Rings comics. Then 5 bonus comics which may or may not count, depending. Then I did 52 comics for Chainmail Bikini. Then another 16 or so random comics to accompany blog posts.

I think we’re almost at the point where Stolen Pixels will account for half of all the comics I’ve ever made ever. We just past the 2nd anniversary a couple of weeks ago. That’s a lot of comics.

Well, I guess it’s a lot of comics if you ignore the fact that Irregular Webcomic is on number 2,735. At my current rate it will take me just 25.8 years to reach that number. During which time IWC will publish an additional 9,417.


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34 thoughts on “Stolen Pixels #214: X, A, B, Win!

  1. Volatar says:

    I do this same thing with QTE’s.

    And subtitles. Maybe its all the in the same vein. I recall a really old article of you talking about how you liked dubbed anime rather than subbed, as you had the habit of just reading the subtitles and not watching the show. I do the same thing.

    1. Meredith says:

      I have the subtitles problem too; I even have trouble remembering to check the art in comics at times because I’m so busy reading the word bubbles. In a game it’s worse, because you can’t just rewind back a bit and watch the scene again.

    2. Kdansky says:

      Subtitles bothered me when I was eight. Then I learned to read faster.

      1. Oktrag says:

        Subtitles are even worse, mostly because I read them even when what I’m watching is in a language I understand fluently.

        1. Hitch says:

          The worst is where the subtitles are for the same language that’s being spoken, but are transcribed from the script as written, but the voice actor ad-libbed and changed some of the lines. Guaranteed way to make me lose the thread of any conversation.

          1. Kaeltik says:

            My Dad tells a story about his time in Mexico during a college exchange program. He and his American buddies would watch spaghetti westerns at the local cinema: Italian flicks, dubbed in English, with Spanish subtitles. He said the subtitles were so bad that comedy never translated and they were often the only people in the audience laughing.

        2. DaveMc says:

          Visiting relatives in the Philippines, I once saw an obviously-pirated version of “Kung Fu Panda”. It was in English, and subtitled in English, but the subtitles looked like they had been badly translated into Chinese, then even more badly translated back into English, possibly by someone who didn’t speak either language. They bore no resemblance at all to what was being said: “You are the Dragon Warrior!” became “You are the cinnamon of tree!”

          That made the movie a lot more entertaining, actually.

          1. JKjoker says:

            toast me, i say you got to toast me! ( bad subtitles can certainly make boring 3 hour drag-a-ton hilarious

            ps: wha, it was ahead of its time!, at the 160-180min mark “why so serious ?”

      2. Mari says:

        It’s not a speed-reading issue. It’s a matter of “the five seconds I spend focused on the words something exciting/important always happens.”

        That said, I’m not a hardcore dub or sub fan. I go with what works for the anime in question. Sailor Moon? Uh, no way in h-e-double-hockeysticks that I’m listening to the dub. It’s cringeworthy. Trigun? Dub is fine, I watch it dubbed all the time. Azumanga Daioh? I prefer the dub. Osaka’s accent is comforting to me.

        Then there’s how often I seem to accidentally get interested in anime that’s not released in North America yet and only fan-subs are available. Sometimes I grow to like the Japanese voice acting so much that even after an English dub is available, even if it’s a pretty decent dub, I still watch it subbed because I’m hooked on a particular Japanese voice.

      3. Daimbert says:

        I read amazingly fast, but I read EVERYTHING. Multiple times. So, if I watch subtitled movies, I spend all my time reading and even re-reading the subtitles and not watching the screen. Thus, I don’t watch subtitled movies.

        1. Meredith says:

          That’s about how I am with subtitles too, if they hang around long enough I read and re-read them. It’s nothing to do with reading speed, they’re a distraction plain and simple — especially when they don’t match the spoken dialogue as someone mentioned above (I sometimes have to turn them on during quieter scenes on dvds, especially if the talking is punctuated by ear-shatteringly loud action sequences).

    3. Lambach says:

      My hearing loss is severe enough that all movies are subtitled to me.

  2. Ambience 327 says:

    Quite funny, and quite true. At least in The Force Unleashed, though, the QTE’s are not a pass-fail event where you die and have to restart the level if you do it wrong – you only miss out on pulling off the awesome finishing move and have to wait until it becomes available again for your “Do It Again Stupid” next attempt.

  3. Jarenth says:

    Your “stare at bottom of screen to subvert Quick-Time Events” strategy is less of a ‘mistake’ and more of a ‘valid survival strategy’.

    Makes you wonder why game designers spend so much money on visual fireworks, then essentially hide them behind QTEs. Surely something like this gets caught in early testing stages?

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      You’d be surprised to know how messy game testing really is.

      THere are often communication issues between testers and devs, and often it will go along these lines:

      T: Hey, here’s a bug, right, I mean, it feels off.
      D: Bah, we have 17 critical bugs to fix and you bother us with this nonsense?! And it’s not a bug, it was made that way.
      Next day
      T: Oh, here’s a bug.. wait, maybe this is intended too? Yeah, probably, best not to bother them, they would know if this was a bug anyway.
      D: Gah, so many stuffs to fix, we have no time to check balance and minor stuff.
      A month later
      Gamer: Hey, wtf, did they not test this or smth, this is such a bug! To the forums!!!
      D: Argh, another bug the testers missed?! Hey, guys, what the … ?
      T: But we did file a report on that a month ago, did you not see it?
      D: Yeah, but that time we rejected it, you were supposed to refill it for later viewing
      T: Well what was the point of testing then if you dismissed a bug report?!
      D: Hey, you guys messed up, not us. So there, neener.

      Well, language may vary, but unfortunately, there is indeed often such a mess – not to mention that per testing day, an ungodly amount of reports are sent in, and testers really don’t know to what level of naggery should they test – only the game-breaking bugs, the balance stuff, the minor issues, stuff that feels a bit odd? The devs often miss these bugs for one or another reason, accidentally file them as fixed instead of postponed, etc. etc.

      So having a game sent through testing is not a guarantee of bug-free experience. Especially when what normal people see as bug the devs see as intended feature. It is quite known thing that you don’t see your own projects the way you see other’s.

  4. Ben says:

    The QTEs from Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy were done pretty well I think. They weren’t too difficult, the action sequence either froze or slowed down a lot, and the indicators were translucent and in the dead center of the screen, and they did their best to make them have some connection with what was going on. Eg: the left buttons would be used when your character is dodging left. So they were at a good balance for making you feel like you were a part of the action without keeping you from enjoying it, either.

    1. Yeah, I agree. those QTEs also had the effect of making the action feel extra amazing somehow. I’ve never enjoyed any QTEs except in that game. I think since the entire game was structured around them, they had to get the mechanisms right. They were also a lot more forgiving in that you didn’t have to get 100% to pass the event, if I recall correctly.

  5. far_wanderer says:

    I learned something else recently that applies to Quick-Time Events. You remember the Mass Effect 1 “unlock something” mini-game? Over the course of several playthroughs, I got fairly good at it. Then I recently picked up Prototype, which features at one point the exact same mini-game, with the only difference being that all the button prompts appeared in the same location. I was terrible at it. So having the prompt visual convey where the button is turns out to be very important for me.

  6. Dev Null says:

    I wouldn’t have thought it would be terribly difficult to embed these things in the action… which might even lead them to being interesting, instead of annoying.

    {Pompus Strutting from Badguy}

    {Obstinate Refusal of PC to Just Kill the Bastard, Despite Player Screaming}

    …and then, the cinematic pauses briefly on a head-and-torso shot of the badguy. His head has an A over it, his weapon has a B over it, and X is down the bottom of the screen.


    …cinematic continues with Our Hero backflipping out of the way of the falling safe trap (that he knows about, because he’s been through this scene 45 times already.)

    See? Still arbitrary and crap. Oh well, but at least you’d be watching the action while waiting for the cues… I now return you to the game of Dragon’s Lair that you’ve been trying to figure out since 1983.

  7. Jeff says:

    Wow, real-time commenting!
    “9.5 comments. (The 9 below, plus the one someone is typing right this minute.)”

  8. Valaqil says:

    Okay. So, before I ask, I’m going to make it clear: This is not intended to troll, insult, or even poke fun at anyone else. It’s a serious question.

    Am I the only one who can do QTEs via peripheral vision? After the first one, I don’t have to stare at the bottom of the screen. They’re color coded, and often in the same placement as the buttons on the controller. If it’s at the top, or yellow, I press Y. And so on. I can watch the cut scenes and not have any trouble with this. Is anyone else able to watch the scene and still beat the QTEs?

    (NOTE: I’m not suggesting they’re fun, or a good idea. They’re just not difficult for me, in most cases.)

    1. krellen says:

      I am. I can read subtitles that way too. But I’ve always known I was weird and different.

    2. Mari says:

      Apparently you have better eyesight than I do because my peripheral vision stinks (possibly due to the distortion field of my coke bottle corrective lenses) and no, I can NOT do QTEs that way. I can focus on what’s right in the center of the screen and let the rest fuzz out comfortably or I can move my focus to where the QTE prompts are in the center of vision and let the action fuzz out.

      And for the record, I’m typing this on a 21″ monitor near the bottom of the screen. I can’t see the top quarter of the screen except as a nicely colored blur. My visual field picks up at the name line. “Leave a reply” is illegible but I can see it’s there because of the happy large, bold font which makes a huge black blur. Everything above that is just gray with occasional splotches of other colors (I see we’re expecting some form of sunlight the next few days around here. Yay!).

      1. Peter H. Coffin says:

        Aha! Exactly the tough case for the kind of thing I’m proposing in the comment below!

        Would flashing the edge (maybe 10%) of the screen contrastingly on the top, bottom, left or right, be enough for you to be aware of it nearly instantly, *while* watching something going on in the middle?

        1. Mari says:

          I think that might actually work if the flash was distinctive enough. Even in the blur of periphery I notice color/lighting changes if they’re striking enough. It would take a while to work that into muscle memory but that’s just video games. There’s always something new on that front to work on.

          Now what are you going to make Rockstar do with their evil “whole controller” sequences of X,A,B,circle the thumbstick clockwise, Trigger 1,X…?

    3. Peter H. Coffin says:

      peripheral vision is a perfectly valid way of doing it, but how it’s implemented may vary by console (EG, few people pay attention to the color of the buttons on the controller for PS) or cause a problem for people that have physical difficulty with color distinction, or … you get the gist. However, every controller I’ve ever seen (with the exception of ones that are just knobs, but I haven’t seen one of those since Tempest got old) has a way of expressing directionality: up, down, left, right. And a screen’s got four edges. Even a 3D screen has four edges. Flick the indicator on one of the edges to prompt pressing ANY appropriate directional control in that direction and leave the center of the screen for the pretty, and you’re good for just about any game player that isn’t uncorrectably blind.

      1. thebigJ_A says:

        Ok guys, we’re putting alot of effort into making QTEs slightly less terrible. This is like painting flowers on the ceiling of a dentist’s office. Sure, you’ve got something pretty to look at, but you’re still getting your teeth ripped out.

        QTEs are just a cop-out for lazy design. They need to fade away. Stop giving designers ideas!

        (Does anyone else get the feeling QTEs are less prevalent these days? I hope so.)

  9. Daimbert says:

    I think Marvel Ultimate Alliance did this okay, where either the QTEs were at the beginning of a sequence and only when you completed the QTE did they go into the massively awesome animation showing what you did, or in some cases (I do recall one specific case, but can’t remember which game or against what boss it was) where you did a QTE while your character was basically leaping up an enemy and I think the next button showed up pretty much right at your character, which is what you were or would be watching anyway.

    I think MUA overused QTEs, but they did seem to do them reasonably well when they did them.

  10. Gary says:

    Don’t worry Shamus! It is all about Quality, not quantity!
    sure you might get more hits with more content, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

    One reason why I only do one comic a week. (The other being, I am not a robot that can crank out tons of material everyday)

    So, I think you are doing just fine, you have the right amount of funny for your output :)

  11. Viktor says:

    Mercenaries 2 had QTEs hat were decent. Done only when you hijacked vehicles, which could be avoided and the order was the same for each time you did that vehicle. The only issue was rapid-fire button-press sections, which were basically impossible for me.

    But I have no issues with QTEs most times. I can watch for them without missing the action and have good enough reactions to hit it most of the time. I watch even normal TV subbed these days, so that should tell you something about me.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You should try ninja blade.It has quick time events that you wont loathe.They are on the separate difficulty,usually tied in with whats going on,and there is a brief pause in the cinematic while the buttons are flashing,so you can watch the spectacle as well.

    1. acronix says:

      Too bad the plot is so clichetastic and awful you could easily die of severe brain damage.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        But if you ignore the plot,you can enjoy a fun ride and all the carnage.Plus the boss fights are quite nice.

  13. Yar Kramer says:

    I’d like to point out that, while “transition from PS3 to 360” works fine in The Force Unleashed, the PC port is silly because it has “left-click”, “Q”, “spacebar”, and “I-forget-what-else” arranged in the A/B/X/Y (or X/square/triangle/circle) configuration on the screen. (It also does not allow remapping of gamepad-controls, nor indeed the use of any gamepad other than an Xbox 360 controller.)

    Tomb Raider: Underworld, for the record, has the opposite problem: it interrupts the gameplay with I guess you can call them “bullet-time events.” Basically, the music stops and there’s a “fyoooooooom” bullet-time noise as something fatal nearly happens to Lara, giving you a QTE-standard amount of time in which to dodge or escape it. They’re basically like QTEs except that 1. you never do anything you can’t do in normal gameplay, and you use the standard gameplay for them, and 2. there’s no prompting whatsoever for what you’re supposed to do. Sometimes it’s obvious (i.e. there’s flaming debris, and you need to roll-dodge out of the way); sometimes, not so much (i.e. the entire ledge you’re standing on is crumbling, and you need to fire your grappling-hook at something offscreen that isn’t visible and neither is any icons indicating “grappling hook goes here”). It’s like they learned entirely the wrong thing.

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