Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix

So, today Capcom released the sixth Version of Street Fighter II for the XBox 360 and Playstation 3, available on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 M$ or on PSN for 14.99$.

Wait – ANOTHER Street Fighter? Yes. And not even an original one, but yet another Version of Street Fighter II. Now I must say one thing: I am not a Hardcore Street Fighter player, and normally I would have ignored that game. But there was one thing that caught my attention early on: They are really making a new game here, not just a port.

I do not know about you, but I am not a very nostalgic person. Remember those days when we played games like Sensible World of Soccer, GoldenEye 007 or Mario 64? When I think about these games, I have good memories, yet I made the mistake to play them all again recently. And you know what? That good feeling is gone, because to me they feel dated. So I could not care less whether or not GoldenEye 007 is coming to the Wii Cirtual Console or Xbox Live Arcade, because that game just does not work for me anymore. I think DooM was so far the only real exception, but other than that, while I can still see why the old games were great and often groundbreaking, I just don’t find them very interesting to play anymore.

So my nostalgia usually breaks down to “What if we take this old game, but completely re-do it, without changing it’s heart? New Graphics and Sound, possibly a few minor bug fixes and balancing changes, and then release it”. And that is exactly what happened to SSF2THDR, which is why it caught my attention.

For those who don’t know, it’s essentially Super Street Fighter II Turbo (Released in 1994) with balance changes, new graphics and sound. The great stuff: Everything is an option. You can choose between the original sound or the new soundtrack (done by OverClocked ReMix, who are known for high-quality game music remixes, including the awe-inspiring remake of the Final Fantasy VII Soundtrack, Voices of the Lifestream). You can choose between completely remade graphics or the old 1994 Graphics. You can choose between the old and the new moves and balance. Or you can combine them, i.e. old sound and graphics but new balance.

If you want to read about the balance changes, David Sirlin (the designer of the game) has a list on his website. It’s fantastic to see that there is someone who really cares about the game and who is trying to make a game that is still competitively played today even better and more accessible. Essentially, everything about this game says “We REALLY care about it, we REALLY don’t want to make a crappy port, instead we REALLY want to make a better game”.

Now as said, I am not a hardcore Street Fighter player, I try not to rely on button mashing, but I am not at the level where I always know what’s going on in a match. I just finished Arcade Mode though. In video games, I usually tend to pick a fast character – I choose Princess Peach in Brawl or Mario Strikers, I choose Maxi in Soul Calibur, and I have chosen Chun-Li when I first played Street Fighter II almost 15 years ago. Yes, I am one of the Lightning Kick spammers, but I also enjoy the double-jump (especially when playing against Tiger Tiger Tiger Sagat) and the fireball. And she got an excellent upgrade in HD Remix: Her spinning bird kick now travels in an arc, which means that it will travel over fireballs. Take that Ryu! That is only one change, but it already felt more fun to play than previous SF2 Games. Use the Spinning Bird to come in and then Lightning Kick or Throw works better than double jump and pray the opponent does not Dragon Punch.

I have to say though that the Xbox 360 game pad is really somewhat crappy. While trying to execute her super combo, I more than once accidentally jumped. I am not sure if I want to get a Hori Fighting Stick just for that game, so I’ll have to practice a bit more with the D-Pad.

Anyway, I think that HD Remix sets a bar on how good Remakes should be done. It’s not just a sloppy port with some extras thrown in. It’s essentially a new game, done by people who really care about it and want to provide more than a simple cash-in. Now if they only would bring Street Fighter III 3rd Strike to Xbox Live Arcade as well…

It will be interesting to see how it compares to Street Fighter IV once that hits consoles on February 20, 2009, but in the meantime I will continue enjoying it and working on my skills with Chun-Li.

Stack Overflow: The Close Wars

So, Stack Overflow is live since a few weeks, and it’s gaining more and more momentum every day. I am a member since the very first day of private closed beta, and I have to say that Stack Overflow turned out to be a million times better than I expected.

Normally, communities on the Internet tend to follow a rule that has been described by Penny Arcade more than 4 years ago, and that still (and possibly even more) applies. Yet on Stack Overflow, it is a bit different. People generally… what was that word R-word again? ah yes, people generally seem to RESPECT each other, and that even outside of reputation. Truth be told: I think that the reputation system rewards people who spend a lot of time on the site, but people with the highest reputation are not necessarily the best developers on the site. I may have 12 times as much Reputation as John Resig or Scott Hanselman, but I am not a 12 times better developer than them. Actually, I think that I am more like 12 million times worse than any of them. But that also means that reputation is not used as an E-Peen. Because of the Question/Answer nature of the Site, people are getting respect for a single good answer. If I have a question and you answer it or at least point me in the right direction, I am grateful. Regardless if you invented the internet or if you are just some intern at some company, regardless if you have 1 or 10,000 reputation.

Also, I noticed that Stack Overflow often takes one factor out of the Penny Arcade equation: Anonymity. If you check the Users Page, you will see that many (if not most) active participants of the site actually have their real name in here. The SO Community actually has names and faces. It’s not just some anonymous community where “DarkSlayer” talks to “PunkChick” and “PieLover” about who has the worst Avatar. So yes, I think that Jeff and the others really built up a working community here.

Ok, that’s three paragraphs of praising the community, but the title of this article is “The Close Wars”, which is possibly a bit exaggerated (and certainly a very bad pun), but it outlines a problem that the site may get and that will be interesting to monitor. Essentially, at a certain reputation level, people can close a question, which means that people can no longer answer to it. The Close-mechanism is usually used to close questions that do not belong on the sites or that are duplicates. Now, the first point is very vague, because since day one, there is the question about “What does belong on Stack Overflow?” Jeff even made a posting about it some time ago, yet now with more people getting the Close-right, I start to see more… interesting… decisions.

Take for example one of the more high-profile ones: Jon Skeet Facts?, a “question” that has been closed and reopened pretty much every time I refreshed my browser. In fact, it even required Jeff to write a Blog posting about it. It can be discussed all day long whether or not this question belongs on Stack Overflow, but in the past, we had some more joke-topics and generally, people had a great time. Of course, as the community grows, people are sometimes afraid and feel the need to ask if humour is allowed, while other people happily post new questions about “fun” topics.

I believe that at the end of the day, we are all geeks. Sure, software development is a job that pays the bills, but if it were only a job for me, I wouldn’t be here sitting at 10 pm in the evening writing this post. For many many people, it is more than a job. It is a passion. Stack Overflow works as a sort of meeting place, even a shelter for us geeks. If it were strictly “I have this extremely narrow problem that only has one answer”, then I would not give much about Stack Overflow, because then it feels like work. I enjoy answering questions if I can help, but then I also enjoy looking at what easter eggs people place in their code, or what Web comics they like to read. It’s the technical questions that is the heart of the site, but it’s the more fun/off-topic questions that is the soul. It’s what puts a face on Stack Overflow. If it weren’t for the feeling that there is this “geek culture” and that Stack Overflow is a meeting place for us geeks, then I would not give a damn about it.

So while it does not exactly make me sad to see some questions closed, I find it actually something that should be closely watched. A few days ago, a user asked about Open Source Content Delivery Networks. Someone then closed that question as “Not programming related” and the first two answers are not really that great. I mean: Sure, CDNs are big server farms, but hardware does not solve any problems without some software to run on it. And there are some people who are writing this software. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe, but there are people out there in the world who write really big software. Like the guys at Cisco who write the operating system for their routers. A large part of the Internet runs through Cisco routers, and there are real people who are developing the operating system. There are real people working at Amazon, developing the Software for Amazon S3, there are real people who develop Google’s App Engine. So what is wrong if someone who is interested in the software that runs on big server farms comes to Stack Overflow and asks about it? Why do people still believe that all problems are solved by hardware? Do these people also believe that “electricity comes from the wall plug”, ignorant of the concept behind a power plant? I found it really sad, because that CDN Question was in my opinion a really interesting question that was unfortunately killed off before it became viable. If you look at the points that I’ve outlined and think a bit outside of the box (apologies for that buzzword), you might come to the conclusion that even without a big server farm, there is a lot that could be learned from looking at how a CDN works. Take for example centralized logging. That is something that comes up in many companies, and even if you only have 3 web servers in different countries, that is essentially already a Mini-CDN. If your company has offices in different parts of the world, maybe it can benefit from creating it’s own CDN, utilizing techniques that were learned from looking at how the “big guys” do it?

As said, incidents like these are quite rare. Generally, people on Stack Overflow behave like adults, not like internet trolls. So it will be interesting to see how this evolves, but I hope that the gros of the community keeps embracing their inner geeks. It’s the technical questions that make me go to Stack Overflow when I have a problem, but it’s the interaction with a lot of like-minded individual that makes me go there even when I do not have a problem.

Ideas do not change the world. They never have, they never will.

Don’t we all just love it when people talk how the world was changed by great ideas? It always gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling, because we believe that we can change the world as well, we just need an idea.

Well, sorry to destroy that illusion, but ideas do not change the world. They never have, and they never will. If I go into a room with 50 people, I can be sure that each of them has ideas, some of which are truly great and astounding. Everyone has ideas. I have ideas when I wake up, when I go to work, when I am at work, when I am back. I constantly have a lot of ideas, and I am pretty sure that most other people constantly have ideas as well. And I believe that some of those ideas could be truly world-changing. But they won’t, because ideas do not do anything.

The world is changed by deeds. It is changed when someone takes an idea and is determined to make it happen. Suddenly, it does not matter anymore if the idea is good or not – if no one is determined to make it happen, an idea won’t change a thing. It’s not required that you are the one to make it happen, but then you have to convince someone to have a shot at it.

But still, I find it kinda sad how those “You can do it!!!” coaches constantly babble about ideas, ideas and ideas. But then again, “The world is changed by ideas” is a lot more catchy and convenient than “If you want to change the world, get your ass up and work for it!”…

Now I know why Play delivers for free…

Ok, the plan was easy: Order a Fallout 3 Collector’s Edition from, to be delivered to my place in Versailles, France. Done that quite a few times, usually takes 5 working days, no problems. But this time it’s different. So, I ordered on October 30 and got the Shipment confirmation on October 31. A week passes, then another one, then another. Finally, after 21 Days of waiting, it arrived. I have to say that I was a bit… underwhelmed… by their packaging. Now I know why Play has free shipping :-) Surprisingly, the box is completely undamaged so I do not want to be too harsh, but I still find it remarkable to ship the product wrapped in what looks like a trash bag.

Fallout 3 CE as shipped by Play
Fallout 3 CE as shipped by Play

RTFM: You must Enable Internet Information Services 7.0 with (Windows Azure)

I’m trying out the Windows Azure SDK, and after downloading the WindowsAzureSDK-x64.msi file, I was greeted with an error message:

Now, I was puzzled a little bit, because I had IIS 7.0 and .net 3.5 SP1 installed, but it turned out to be a RTFM Mistake. From the Release Notes:

Windows Vista

  1. From the Start menu, choose Control Panel | Programs | Programs and Features.
  2. Click Turn Windows Features On or Off.
  3. Under Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0, select Windows Communication Foundation HTTP Activation.
  4. Under Internet Information Services, expand World Wide Web Services.
  5. Under Application Development Features, select ASP.NET.
  6. Under Common HTTP Features, choose Static Content.
  7. Install the selected features.

Of course, I was missing both options. Installing both caused the Azure SDK to install perfectly fine.

Roller Days 2009, 13-15/02/2009, Mönchengladbach / Germany

Remember the Freestyle Skating Weekend 2008? I surely do, and it was a blast!

In 2009, the 4WheelFreestyle Team is working on the next incarnation, this time called “Roller Days 2009“. Like last year, this will once again feature a WSSA Freestyle Slalom Battle, but also a lot more events like Roller Disco, Fun Contests, Party-Skating, etc…

Looks like another weekend with way to little sleep but more than enough fun as a compensation incoming…

Credits for my Gravatar

I received a question recently about my Gravatar (shown on the right), and I’d just want to take the opportunity to thank Chris Deutsch for creating those.

A bit of background information: A few months back, me and a friend decided to make a show on the Internet, called The Filthy Pumpkin Show. Kai had the great idea that we needed Comic-Versions of ourselves (visible at the end of the Trailer), so he asked Chris to create some. I liked them so much, I’ve decided to take mine as a Gravatar.

I like the result because it has both my trademark “One Facial Expression is enough!” and I like the Visual Studio Logo on the shirt.

So yeah, if you were wondering where the Picture came from, here is the answer. Many thanks again to Chris, especially because they were made on a really short deadline!

Also, here is the Trailer:

The Filthy Pumpkin Show – Trailer from Michael Stum on Vimeo.