Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Need for Speed II


Need for Speed II was the first video game I ever had, and unknown at the time, probably the most influential game I've ever played. It was a gift I received from my dad that I never expected. The only reason he bought me a PlayStation and the game was that his friend had one and my dad thought it was pretty cool.

It is a racing game. That is ... how do you even describe racing games? What made it stand out was it was all exotic cars of the mid 1990's. Some of the cars were prototypes like the Ford Indigo and Ford GT-90 which never made it into production. 

But my 9 year old brain didn't know or understand any of that at the time. Since it was the first game I ever owned, everything was new. And I didn't know how to play any of it. 

I learned how to race the first track. Proving Grounds was just an oval so you just pick the fastest car (McLaren F1) and hold down the throttle for the entire race. 

As a child, I didn't understand anything about racing games, so I just took what I knew and tried to run with it. As I understood it, the winning strategy was to hold down the throttle at all times to go as fast as possible. Even if that approach sent me crashing directly into a brick wall. Yes, I know I had a button for braking but that button never got touched. I could win races on Proving Grounds or Outback but any other track, I came in dead last.

It wouldn't be until years later when I learned how to play this game that I could actually enjoy it. 

The game featured 8 different tracks and 8 different cars with one bonus car you could win by completing tournament mode and one extra track you could unlock by completing knockout mode. 

In terms of modern racing games, there was very little to unlock so after unlocking both, I had to find other ways to squeeze out replay value. So one thing I would do is try to beat knockout mode with every car that was available.  Doing this, you really get to feel how different the cars are in the game.

For Proving Grounds and Outback, the McLaren F1 is the optimal car because there are so few corners on the track. For literally the rest of the tracks in the game, the best car is the Ford Indigo because of the high acceleration and ludacris ability to corner. And if you hadn't unlocked the Ford Indigo, the next best car would be the Italdesign Cala. 

Need for Speed II also had several features which I noticed were absent in later racing games and even later installments of Need for Speed until years later. The first thing I noticed was the default racing view is a cockpit view.

Even better about this view is that all of the gauges in this view work. The speedometer and tachometer work. If you want to, you can turn off the HUD and feel like you are actually driving the car. If you select the manual transmission, you can look at the tach and decide when you want to shift gears (or just listen to the engine).

This is something I didn't understand as a little kid. I didn't have a driver's license. I didn't know what shifting gears meant. So, if I ever tried it, I just sat at the starting line and had to reset the race to switch back to automatic transmission. 

Compared to the first game, Need for Speed II was criticized for being much more of an arcade racer. If you wanted to play well on arcade mode, you have to handbrake around just about every corner. When I switched the mode over to simulation mode, my car would spin out and fly off the track as soon as I hit the handbrake. 

Beyond extra game mode, this game was made in the era where you had cheat codes and one of the funnest thing you could play with was secret cars. Just about every asset in this game could be unlocked as a secret car such as cars that appear when traffic is enabled or any random prop in the background such as crates, logs, or dinosaurs. 

Other things I remembered doing was enabling traffic and just try to crash into cars to make them flip over.

I mention that this game was the most influential game I ever had because I probably would not have gotten into video games if it was for this game. Without this game, I wouldn't have met some of my friends or picked up certain hobbies (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to be reviewed later).


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Guitar Hero 3 PS3 Les Paul Wireless Controller

Back in 2015 or 2016, I walked into a pawn shop to look for video games. Next to the games, I saw two of the Guitar Hero controllers for the PS3.

These two controllers were bundled together and were for sale for $10. That price seemed very cheap for the controllers so I handed over some cash and bought the bundle.

I checked online what these sold for on Amazon and I saw that one controller alone sold for about $30 used. Something odd about the listing was that most of the controllers did not include the dongle (wireless receiver). Without the receiver, you can't use the guitar controller.

Luckily for me, my bundle came with the receivers. I put my listing on Amazon for $50 each (controller and receiver) and I sold both within a few weeks or months.

This is how I started spiraling and raiding pawn shops for video games.

Since then, I've never seen these controllers being sold for this cheap again. Today, getting a Guitar Hero PS3 controller online will cost about $80. From 2006 to 2010, there were several installments in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series which used the Guitar Hero controller. Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock was the last game in the standard series before the next Guitar Hero game came out.

In 2015, Guitar Hero Live was released and a different controller was used for that game. Instead of 5 fret buttons in a row, the new controller has 2 rows of 3 fret button each. The Les Paul controller would not work with that game and no Guitar Hero games were made since then.

I don't think Red Octane or Harmonix still make new controllers and I'm not aware of any third party guitar controllers. This means that all the GH3 controllers that exist are the only controllers left. This controller is required to have the classic Guitar Hero experience. Further more, these controllers don't last forever. After too much use, these controllers break down. If they aren't repaired, the total number of GH3 controllers will decrease over time.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Locked out of heaven

I tried to get down to pray but I could not remember his name.

I found a bible and opened it but all the pages were blank.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

RSM: Andy Macdonald 78 point run X Games 2018

The thing I like about Andy Macdonald is that he is just about a universal constant at the X Games. Every single year, he is in the events. From 1995 to 2018, I don't think he has missed a single year.

The first time he won gold at skateboard vert was 1996 with his 89 point run. Back then, skaters had 3 45 second runs and the highest two scores would be averaged together.

His most recent run was in Minnesota in 2018. The format changed several years ago. For the last several years, the skateboard vert competition was 3 30 second runs and only the highest scoring run matters.

Andy puts down a really solid run and his run is undoubtedly far better than his 1996 run, however his run only got a score of 78. Over the course of 23 years, vert skating progressed so much and the talent pool increased so much. That being said, it is great to see one of the original riders keep coming back year after year.

The vert ramp appears to be 13 feet tall and has two 18 feet roll in ramps to start skaters off with lots of momentum.

Andy starts off with a large Backside 540 Melon about 4 feet out but he travels what looks like 8 to 10 feet across the vert ramp. He then does a Backside Kickflip Indy about 5 feet out and does another Backside Kickflip to Indy about 4 feet out on the third wall.

On the fourth wall, he does a McTwist about 4 feet out and he does a Mute to Fakie on wall 5.

Andy did the Mute to Fakie to setup for the 720 that he does on wall 6. He gets about 3 feet out.

On Wall 7, he does a Backside Madonna more than 2 feet out. What is cool about this trick is that it is usually done frontside. I hardly ever see this trick done backside. Going frontside, the front leg gets kicked off the board and is leaning in towards the ramp. Doing this trick backside, you have to kick the front leg off towards the air which is much more difficult to do.

On wall 8, Andy does a Frontside Rodeo. He grabs the board backside and spins a frontside 540. This is a difficult way to spin so it looks like Andy gets completely inverted during the spin. He gets about one or two feet over the coping during the spin.

On wall 9, Andy does a Frontside Eggplant. At first, I thought this was a Frontside Invert but Andy is grabbing the board with his front hand and holding the coping with his back hand.

On wall 10, he does a Backside Indy about 2 to 3 feet out.

On wall 11, he does a Backside Body Varial 540 about 3 feet out. This is a trick he has done for several years seeing this trick being done as far back as his winning run in 1996.

While rolling towards wall 12, time seems to run out so it is not certain if Andy's last trick gets counted. On Wall 12, Andy does what appears to be a Frontside Body Varial Lipslide. It is hard to accurately name this trick but Andy rolls up to the coping going backside and his body spins frontside so that when Andy lands back on the board, he is sliding a backside lipslide.

During this run Andy does:

12 total tricks
10 tricks in the air
2 tricks on coping
4 tricks with a 540 rotation
1 trick with a 720 rotation
2 flip tricks
1 handplant
1 trick to fakie

Throughout Andy's run, he does the first 5 tricks in the 4 to 5 foot range. After the 720, the rest of tricks are in the 2 to 4 foot range. He does 3 540 variations including the 540 Body Varial which is always fun to look at. He does his 720 which isn't seen that much in competition. He repeats the Backside Kickflip Indy really early during the run. And he finishes his run with a unique trick (Body Varial Lipslide) which might or might not have counted towards his score.

This run was far more impressive than his 1996 Gold Medal run however he only got a score of 78. There are a couple of noteworthy differences though.

His run in 1996 lasted 45 seconds compared to the 30 second run in 2018. In 1996, Andy did 19 total tricks compared to 12 in 2018.

The ramp used in 1996 was very different as it only had a small extension and no massive roll ins. The massive roll ins lets skaters start a run with extraordinary momentum and carry that speed and height for the first several tricks of the run. Because of the different ramp setups, Andy's run in 1996 had several setup airs. Out of 19 tricks done in 1996, Andy did about 7 setup airs and did 2 stalls on the coping to set up for other tricks.

Also, the format was different. Back in 1996, the average of the highest 2 runs were taken to determine a final score. In later years, only the highest run counted. This meant that skaters had to be far more consistent in the late 90s to secure a spot on the podium. As a result, skaters back then had to be more conservative until 2 runs were finished and then gamble with the third run.

In 2018, each skater got 3 runs and only 30 seconds per run. For this reason, every trick has to count. In 2018, Andy did maybe one or two setup airs (Mute of Fakie and Backside Indy).

In 2018, the Gold Medal was won by Jimmy Wilkins with a score of 89. We will take a look at that run soon.

Monday, April 15, 2019

RSM: Andy MacDonald Winning Vert Run X Games 2

While looking for old footage of X Games Vert Runs, I kept running into the limitations of internet records. While I used to think you could find anything posted online, there is a lot of footage that I just can't find online.

X Games 2 took place in Rhode Island. Back then the format was 3 45 second runs. The lowest run was dropped and the highest 2 runs were averaged together. Back then, there was a bigger emphasis on consistency.

Andy MacDonald won this competition with his highest run scoring an 89. I never watched this contest when it first aired in 1996 however I was lucky enough that it was aired on Eurosport and posted up to youtube.

Andy's 89 scoring run was his third run and he had to knock off Tony Hawk from first. After watching this run, you really see how much vert has progressed over the last 20 plus years. Andy's run had several setup airs, repeat tricks, and stalls used for setup. Despite that, it is still fun to watch these old runs.

This vert ramp appears to be 12 feet high.

Andy starts off his run with a Frontside 5-0 on the first wall and leads into a 3 to 4 foot Frontside Air on the second wall.

He hits wall 3 with about a four foot Backside Melon on the extension and gets a 5 foot Backside Method on wall 4.

On wall 4, he does a 5 foot Frontside Indy Stiffy and leads into a Frontside Stalefish about 3 foot out on wall 6.

On walls 7 and 8, Andy does a four foot Frontside Mute and a three to four foot Backside Melon.

On wall 9, he does a McTwist about 4 to 5 feet high. He follows that up with a 4 to 5 foot Backside Melon on wall 10.

On wall 11, he does a four to five foot Backside Kickflip to Indy and follows it up with a Frontside Madonna about 2 to 3 feet out on wall 12.

On wall 13, he does a Backside Axel to set up for a Frontside Wrap Around about 2 feet out on wall 14.

He does another Backside Axel on wall 15 to setup the next trick. On wall 16, he busts out one of the most difficult tricks in his run. He does a Backside 540 Body Varial 3 to 4 feet out on the wall.

For further clarification, Andy's body spins a 540 going backside while his skateboard spins 360 going backside.

On wall 17, he does a Backside Varial four to five feet out and does a Backside 360 Varial on wall 18 about 3 feet out.

On wall 19, he finishes out his run with a Nollie Heelflip Indy to Fakie about one foot out.

During Andy's Run, he does the following:

19 total tricks
16 tricks in the air
3 tricks on the coping
2 tricks spinning a 540 rotation
1 trick landing in fakie
1 grind
2 stalls
7 tricks going Frontside
10 tricks going Backside
2 flip tricks

During this run, Andy repeats a Frontside Air, Backside Axle, and a Backside Melon.
He kept most of his air tricks up around the 4 foot range.
No switch tricks were done and there were a lot of setup airs.

The highlights of the run include the Backside 540 Body Varial as well as the Nollie Heelflip Indy to Fakie. He also did a Backside 360 Varial and a Frontside Wrap Around which were not seen that often during this competition. He also does a McTwist in his run but it was a common trick back then.

I do wonder what a run like this would score today. In the last several vert competitions, you wouldn't see basic stall tricks for setups or several basic airs.

Luckily, Andy has competed consistently in just about every X Games since inception so we can actually compare the scores from his 2018 Vert run to this one.

Monday, April 8, 2019

RSM: Greatest X Games Skateboard Vert Run

Without fail, I'll make sure to catch the X Games Skateboard Vert finals every year. With it being three months out, I take some time just to catch past contests and runs.

One contest run always sticks out in mind, and that is Bob Burnquist's final run from 2001 X Games VII.

Oddly enough, this wasn't the highest scoring run in X Games Skateboard Vert. As it turns out, Bucky Lasek's run from X Games VI was higher at a score of 98.50. There is just one problem though.... I don't remember this run. One more further problem... I can't find it anywhere on youtube.

And if the run is not readily as available as Bob's run from 2001, I'm led to believe it wasn't as impressive if it wasn't remembered as well.

Maybe one day, I'll be lucky to find a VHS copy of Bucky's run on Ebay.

Bob's run from 2001 was memorable for how much the judges and crowds collectively lose their sanity.

While Tony Hawk and Sal Masekela comment on the run, just trying to name out the tricks as Bob does them, the crowd starts cheering and chanting Bob's name after the switch backside ollie.

Before even talking about the run, the stakes were as as as possible. Bob had the last run and needed a 95.50 to take gold from Bucky.

Back in 2000, the time limit for each run was 60 seconds on the 12 or 13 foot vert ramp.

During that 60 seconds, Bob Burnquist put down 22 tricks.

He started off on the first wall with a frontside air about 5 feet out and hits the next wall with a backside kickflip indy about 4 feet out.

He follows that up with a McTwist 4 to 5 feet on the next wall and heads to the fourth wall with a kickflip indy to fakie about 2 to 3 feet above the extension.

This was unexpected by the judges as they screamed out that he was going in switch. Bob hits the 5th wall doing a switch frontside air over 4 feet out.

On the sixth wall, he lost some momentum as he did a backside switch flip indy about 3 feet out. Yes, he landed still in switch and heads to the seventh wall.

On the seventh wall, this is where everyone looses it. Bob goes for a switch flip indy to forward but he doesn't get the full switch flip. Bob only managed to flip the board around half way and grabs the board while it is upside down.

This is the point that I remembered as a teenager and everyone else remembered. I thought it was over and he was going to either bail or slam.

But somehow, Bob flips the board the rest of the way around with his hand and Bob just falls on top of the board and lands on it. He lands on it for dear life and you can tell as he is rolling towards the eighth wall that he is trying just not to fall off.

Bob landed in the nollie position and had to shift his feet back to normal while rolling on the flat bottom.

The following words were yelled by the judges.

"Oh my God. No No No. He did not just do that."

This is the moment that just about won the run for Bob.

On the eight wall, he does a backside boardslide to fakie because he lost a ton of speed from a sloppy landing and needed to build momentum to continue the run. And this is where the crowd starts going crazy.

On the ninth wall, Bob spins a really fast fakie to fakie indy 540 only getting about a foot out of the halfpipe.

On wall ten, he does a backside slob gay twist only getting about a foot out of the halfpipe.

On wall 11, he picks up more speed and does an indy to fakie about 4 or 5 feet out and does a switch frontside ollie on wall 12 and switch backside ollie on wall 13 both one or two feet out.

Starting with wall 14, he starts doing really technical tricks on the coping. On wall 14, he does a switch rock and roll on the extension and does a switch nosegrind revert on wall 15.

These are tricks that were rarely ever seen during that year's X Games.

The revert on wall 15 set Bob up for the next wall going forward. On wall 16, Bob did a blunt to fakie to send him back in fakie for wall 17.

On wall 17, he does a half cab frontside blunt.

On Wall 18, he does another backside boardslide to fakie and on wall 19, he did a frontside slob gay twist about 2 to 3 feet out.

Wall 20 is where he gambled big. He already did two blunt stall tricks and we see him going for another. But as he is popping out, he kickflips out to fakie. He did a blunt kickflip to fakie on a 12 or 13 foot half pipe.

That trick blew everyone's mind. This is a trick that people would only do on 4 or 5 foot mini ramps. To do this on a big vert ramp was unbelievable at the time.

The judges lost it after the kickflip blunt fakie and it took them some time to process it. They started screaming as Bob was rolling towards wall 21.

But before anyone could regain composure, Bob wasn't done yet. On wall 21, he did a switch rock and roll on the extension.

On his wall, he finishes his run with a switch backside lipslide revert out. A ridiculously difficult trick overshadowed by the switch flip indy to forward and blunt kickflip to fakie earlier.

During his run, Bob did:

22 tricks
13 air tricks

  • Frontside Air
  • Backside Kickflip Indy
  • McTwist
  • Kickflip Indy to Fakie (on extension)
  • Switch Frontside Air
  • Switch Kickflip Indy
  • Switch Kickflip Indy to Forward
  • Fakie to Fakie Frontside Indy 540
  • Backside Slob Gay Twist
  • Indy to Fakie
  • Switch Frontside Ollie
  • Switch Backside Ollie
  • Frontside Slob Gay Twist

9 tricks on the coping

  • Backside Boardslide to Fakie
  • Switch Backside Rock and Roll (on extension)
  • Switch Backside Nosegrind Revert
  • Blunt to Fakie
  • Backside Half Cab to Frontside Blunt
  • Backside Boardslide to Fakie
  • Blunt Kickflip to Fakie
  • Switch Backside Rock and Roll
  • Switch Backside Lipslide Revert
9 Switch tricks
13 Tricks Landed either Fakie or Switch
2 360 spins in the air
2 540 spins in the air
9 tricks in the air with good height
4 flip tricks in the air
1 flip trick off the coping

So, what made this run so amazing?

This run showed off technical skateboard vert skating at its finest. Bob didn't choose to go super high as I think his highest trick was the first frontside air in the run and he didn't go for multiple spins as he only did 4 tricks with a 360 rotation or greater. 

Bob pulled out tricks that were difficult and rarely seen at the time including the switch back lip revert, half cab blunt, and blunt kickflip fakie. 

More importantly, Bob saved this run from the edge of disaster. Being able to recover that switch flip indy to forward was like seeing a sports car almost getting hit by a speeding locomotive only to miss it by inches. It was a jaw dropping moment. I even think that seeing that recovery was more impressive than if he had executed the switch flip indy to forward flawlessly. 

And then the second climax happened when he pulled out the blunt kickflip to fakie. He landed the trick and then a fraction of a second passes for the judges to process what happened and then freak out. 

While this isn't the highest run in X Games history, it is the run that everyone remembers. It could be a long time before we see a better run.

Monday, January 21, 2019


Whatever research you do, please make sure to get physical copies.

Whether it is books, personal notes, or hard copies of video/audio, make sure to get a physical copy.

In this age, digital information is always at risk of being deleted or censored.

At the very least, buy a physical copy of George Orwell's 1984.