Forget the Cause! Support Your Local Artist, Entertainer, or Stripper Instead!

I’m writing this article from a really strange and bitter place.  I grew up in a household where not only giving money to charities was normal, but also our time and effort.  My mother was a chair of the Atlanta Women’s Resource Center, and our house was a safehouse for abused women and children.  Once I was able to drive, I donated my time to campaigns on various levels.  To this day, since I don’t have the time volunteer, I donate to various causes when I can, as well as strangers and friends in need when I encounter them.  However, in my older age, I have experienced encounters that discourage giving.My company was a sponsor for an anime club at a local library, for which I had to run and pay for my own background check.  I bought food, refreshments, and planned outings for the future.  None of it happened.  In the end, I think the librarians that oversaw the group were weirded out that I wanted to help.  When I tried to find other groups in libraries to sponsor, I received what I perceived resistance.

Who’s that Cosplayer: Can you spot Free Safari?

Rango the Merc wrote an article about video game heroes that fought oppression.  He felt it was a way that he could show support for Black Lives Matter.  He also charged me with finding charitable groups to partner with in order to raise money for them.  I immediately set to this, contacting organisations such as the Know Your Rights Camp, HFC, and Minnesota Freedom Fund.  Most did not respond.  One of them did and basically told me that their cause started out small, but was now too large to partner with me.  They they gave me smaller causes that my money might be able to help.  Fuck them.

Free Safari and some other #BLM Protestors

Well, at least that’s what I felt in my heart.  Since when did it become so hard to help?  Since when was my money, or my company’s money not good enough.  I’m not wealthy, and it’s not like I was going to donate thousands, but I was considering in the triple digits at least.  It’s a lot for me and my company, but that shouldn’t even be a factor, should it?  Shouldn’t the correct response for all of them been something to the effect of, “Hey, thanks!  We appreciate it!  We are very busy right now with the protests and COVID-19, but we would heartily accept whatever efforts and donation you have to give.”

Well, I’ll keep this article short and sweet.  There’s a lot of talented folks out there hurting because of The Quarantine; artists, entertainers, business owners…strippers..?  Yes, that last one might be funny, but hey, everyone has to eat, and that’s about as intimate a job as I can think of that is probably being killed by COVID-19.  So, the next time you think about donating to a Black Lives Matter cause, think about how much of that donation will actually go to helping, once all the salaries, meals for volunteers, cuts from funding companies, and whatever various miscellaneous fees that middle men and bureaucrats can think of get paid for.  Keep your support local.

Whitney Tai and Band

Go to the local comic shoppe or pub.  Purchase something from an Etsy.  Become a patron to your local artist.  Send a PayPal to your favourite musician.  Of course, you can go down to your local strip club that reopened, and place some dollar bills on the ground for your favourite dancer. (Remember social distancing..!)

I think that the one good thing about The Quarantine is that we are all beginning to appreciate the potential for closeness we all took for granted.  A lot of us are hurting financially as well as socially.  Supporting your local artist, entertainer, or business help solve both of those problems.

Down below are some of my favourite folks to support.  As for us, yeah, we still sell stuff, and we appreciate your business as well, but you can also help by Liking, Following, and Sharing everything and anything associated with All Cool Things™.  Not only does it help us, but it helps the people whoms’ content we share.

 

Whitney Tai:  a very talented singer, entertainer, and performer

 

Alphawolf:  model both conventional and fetish, as well as dominatrix of all kinds

 

Gingersnap Pixie: model, cosplayer, graphic designer, illustrator, writer

Fighting Game Online Renaissance: How COVID-19 Has Affected the Fighting Game Community.

With COVID-19 forcing the closure of fighting game tournaments, many players have turned to online play. As we’ve covered previously, Smash Bros. players have begun participating in online tournaments as an alternative. However, these were met with less-than-stellar results largely stemming from Smash Ultimate’s poor netcode.

For other fighting games, many of them are played on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The latter two feature monthly subscriptions that cost more than Nintendo’s yearly $20 online service. However, they’re also far more functional choices for online play given the wider array of resources, such as messaging, profiles, matchmaking options, and more. However, much as with the Smash community, fighting game players also feel disillusioned due to many of their games suffering from similar netcode issues.

Fighting games, particularly those developed in Japan, use a delay-based netcode. This causes input delay which may force players to rely on anticipation over reaction when playing against opponents, largely depending on the connection. Even with an ethernet cable, this only tends to mitigate some of the worst connection experience.

In the end, while fighting games online are plenty playable, some have worse netcode than others. As such, it becomes difficult to pick which ones to play online, even among the most popular titles. This goes especially true during a time when we can’t play online with friends or at tournaments. Yet players will persist in their love-hate relationship to play an enjoyable game despite its major drawbacks.

Which games have the worst netcode?

For starters, the most popular known fighting game, Street Fighter V, is unfortunately the most infamous case of poor netcode. Capcom’s flagship fighting game series has seen significant criticism regarding its netcode since the game’s release in 2016. When Capcom released Street Fighter V: Champion Edition earlier this year, a fan took it upon themselves to patch the netcode. Capcom later updated the game removing the patch, once again causing netcode issues and also locking out players who downloaded the patch.

From personal experience, I dove into an SNK kick after the release of Terry in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate late last year. In doing so, I decided to buy The King of Fighters XIV for PS4 while also playing Samurai Shodown. I may have gotten only one random match in KOF XIV before never finding another one again. Meanwhile, in SamSho, I could not find a single random match. The difference here is that KOF XIV was notably unpopular due to its first impression character models being deemed ugly. As a result, many KOF fans jumped ship back to KOF XIII and earlier titles which are available on Steam.

SamSho, on the other hand, has only been out for roughly a year and has already died online. For players who live far away from prevalent fighting game scenes, this means they are unable to practice and play the game with others unless they’re in a dedicated online community, such as Discord or Reddit. Once again, players cite the netcode issues as why the online scene died early.

Which games are most playable online?

Keep in mind that many fighting games follow suit. Bandai Namco titles, like Tekken and SoulCalibur, also use delay-based netcode. The same goes for any of Arc Systems Works games, such as Guilty Gear Xrd, BlazBlue Cross-Tag, and Dragon Ball FighterZ.

However, one mainstream game in mind gets it right. In particular, Mortal Kombat 11 is known for having solid netcode. Netherrealm Studios has also announced their latest update – Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath – featuring new DLC characters.

Developers have been using rollback netcode dating back to the days of GGPO, an online client to play fighting games online, which was released in 2009. More recently, players have also begun using Fightcade, a platform based on using GGPO.

CodeMystics, a developer that ported several SNK fighting games across platforms, also implemented rollback netcode into their games. The developer explains the process below. Furthermore, you can find a list of games using rollback netcode here.

The Biggest Impact on Fighting Games Right Now

EVO recently announced EVO Online, an online tournament which will replace their annual offline fighting game tournament. As such, they’ve included a new lineup which excludes one of EVO 2020’s initially featured titles, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. In doing so, they chose to host some of the most popular fighting games on the market right now.

Perhaps one of the most notable parts of this announcement is the return of Killer Instinct. Originally released in 2013, the title was exclusive to the Xbox One console until 2016, when it was released for PC. Despite not being released for PlayStation 4, the title’s second lease on life gained major traction online.

While it was hosted as a major title at EVO and CEO for several years, Killer Instinct’s popularity began to wane as other titles came out and received timely updates. Killer Instinct is one of four games being featured in the open online tournament alongside Mortal Kombat, Skullgirls, and Them’s Fightin’ Herds.

Rollback: The Future of Online Fighting Games?

While western fighting titles have largely adopted rollback, however, Japanese developer Arc Systems Works will be using it for their upcoming title Guilty Gear Strive. Arc Systems Works has been one of the foremost fighting game developers, over the past decade, having released Persona 4 Arena, BlazBlue, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Guilty Gear Xrd. Now their latest game will enter the current decade with the first Japanese-developed fighting game to use rollback.

Perhaps this will set a precedent inviting other fighting game developers to follow suit and develop a more consistent, quality online experience. The COVID era has proven one thing and it’s that players will continue playing fighting games despite poor netcode but suffer while doing so. With rollback netcode setting the standard, hopefully more developers will take note and the current decade will feature some of the best fighting game experiences online.

On that note, keep in mind that you may play any fighting game online you choose. Even despite some of the netcode issues, most of these games remain playable and functional online even without rollback. Many players will endure a few frames of input lag to just enjoy the feel of the game they love the most.

Which fighting game do you play or follow right now? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Guilty Pleasures: Van Life

Image from The Indie Projects YouTube Channel
It’s been a while since I did a Guilty Pleasures article because a lot of the cool stuff I’ve found lately hasn’t given me that mix of pleasure and shame from watching it. Lately, however, I’ve found a group of individuals that appeals to my respect of survivalists, practical engineers, and independent spirit, yet also shames me because most time it is found in some of the hippiest folks you will find in this great country of ours. (Yeah, the fake hippie dudes of the 70’s that just wanted to grift and get laid ruined the image of the hippie for me.) What is this Guilty Pleasure, you ask? it is the the lifestyle known as Van Life. Van Life is a phenomenon that is sweeping the country due to the high cost of living and a reaction to the other complications of capitalism gone rampant in this country. People seeking a more minimalist and less alienated lifestyle are modifying vans, buses, trucks, and RVs to make them true mobile homes. Many of these vehicles are equipped with fully functional kitchens, bathrooms, and living spaces with Wi-Fi, computers, and televisions.
Image from FLORB YouTube Channel
If I had to guess, I would say that Van Life is the hybrid love child of tiny house enthusiasm and nomadic/hobo lifestyle, which are also two crazes that hit YouTube and television a few years ago. Marrying the need to live off grid, and free of bills, with the ingenuity and desire to maximise living and quality of life with meager living space, Van Life is attractive in the promise of both freedom and the challenge of survival. One thing that I did find surprising about Van Life was that it is a booming lifestyle amongst women of all ages. While some publications will tell you that it is a phenomenon with Millenials, I see no evidence that it is limited to generation.
Image of Steve Wallis from his YouTube Channel
There are many YouTube channels out there, but my gateway channel was that of Steve Wallis. I don’t know too much about the man. I know from his videos that he was married at one point, and actually traveled with his wife in many of his videos. I think that he chose Van Life for a time to cut costs from his life. Oh, he loves his beer and whiskey. In fact, he uses beer as the unit of currency that you can support him, and he uses whiskey as a personal reward when he completes tasks on his videos. I find Steve Wallis very typical in his love of Van Life, but not so in his set ups.

The Set Up

As mentioned before, a big part of Van Life is the modification of regular vehicles into functional RVs and modification of RVs into true mobile homes with all of the amenities of the modern home. However, this also includes the upgrading of tents, sheds, and shacks that Van Lifers camp out in, sometimes. This includes portable wood-burning stoves, propane stoves, cots, and computers and video game systems with power supplies. (When I referred to Steve Wallis and his set ups, what I meant was that he tends to have very simple vehicle setups with little or no hard modifications done to his vehicles. He does go all out in pimping his tent and shack setups.)  
Image from Eamon & Bec YouTube Channel

The Activities

It should come as no surprise that many Van Lifers enjoy nature, and living within a stone’s throw from it. However, it is what some of them consider more “adventurous” that might surprise you. Boondocking is camping out in modified vehicles, not in the wild, but in private properties like department store or hotel parking lots. Many Van Lifers consider boondocking a big thrill to see how long they can camp out in a private parking lot before they get “the knock” telling them to leave. Stealth Parking is basically boondocking, but not limited to private parking lots. Stealth Parking can be done in neighbourhoods, side streets, and abandoned properties. I guess the added danger in stealth parking over boondocking is that it is more likely that police will give “the knock” rather than an employee of the private property. (Steve Wallis loves boondocking and stealth parking. In fact, Steve loves all of the nomadic aspects of the lifestyle, sometimes even camping in abandoned towns, subdivisions, hobo sites.)
Image from Susi Cruz YouTube Channel
Yeah, I know. This doesn’t sound like a cool enough thrill for me to try, either, but at least nobody gets hurt, and it doesn’t cost anything, except maybe a parking ticket? I think that we all have that part of us that wants to go out and see the country while leaving our ties to civilisation to the wind, and this lifestyle is the embodiment of that. Perhaps this is the way that many people will be able to taste this lifestyle. How bad can it be if you have Wi-Fi, a stove, and a flat screen?