Wednesday, August 1, 2018

ITG Eurocup, Nationaal Videogame Museum, Zoetemeer, Netherlands

Hello my fellow readers,
it's been a while since I went to a dance game tournament and in this post I'd like to share some feelings from my trip to ITG EC. This post will most probably be more about other stuff than the event itself.

MKM Series Prague
On Friday July 20th a MKM Series Magic: the Gathering event started at PVA Expo, Letnany, Prague. I was an event I planned to go to play Vintage and Legacy but then I realized I'd also have to prepare for my trip to the Netherlands and probably not participate in the Legacy event. On Friday there was supposedly a Vintage Challenge - a 4 round event. I wanted to go but I wasn't sure if I could make it since it started early. Everything looked bleak but in the end I managed to get there, the event fired and I got to play few rounds of Vintage. I won the event and thus won some loot including a Vintage Mug which I like. I was in a very good mood afterwards and was looking forward to the rest of my vacation that started with this event.

On Saturday I just slacked for the most of the day, I also played some Pop'n Music and in the end even got some stuff done. On Sunday I went back to MKM Series to see if we could play some Vintage or Highlander. It wasn't really my day so in the end I was glad neither event fired. We also had an interesting debate with one of the judges about ethics and it got me thinking quite a lot. It didn't make me feel well though since the discussed topic also had to do with racism that I face everyday.

Back in Netherlands

On Monday morning it was time to get on the plane and get to Den Haag where I would meet with my two Magic playing friends - Chun and Heat. The plane was delayed, the train was delayed but in the end I got to my final destination for the day. What I didn't expect was a very great day with these two. I got on a bike and we cycled towards the city's coast. When we were arriving at an area that well starts with two big casinos I knew where I was - Scheveningen. It made sense, I was told that we would go eat some fresh fish and where else to go than the coast, right? I just did not expect we would end up in this area. I got to eat a herring which was delicious and some fried fish which was pretty tasty as well. In the meantime I was watching gulls trying to steal food and wondered how successful they were in general in their attacks. Obviously, a sign telling people to pay attention to their food had a good reason to be there.

We walked to the pier nearby watching the people on the beach wondering how some people can actually survive wearing long sleeves. I was standing there also in long sleeves and I felt like my blood was boiling and that my hair was on fire. I had the urge to walk down to the sea but there was so many people that I rather stayed where I was. Afterwards I persuaded my friends to go to Funland for a bit so I could see if I can play DDR doubles. While being there I also played a credit of PIU and finished someone else's credit on Taiko no Tatsujin. Why playing the dance games I wondered how easy is to slip on sand that was covering the platform - I found out. Slipping was very easy!

We cycled to the city center to get some good coffee (oh another Hommerson Casino's around). The place was very cool, the coffee not so much. I also became sick after I drank it and my body just gave up on trying to function normally. That wasn't great but I hoped I'd be fine the next day. We went to grab something for dinner but the places were either full or closed. It allowed me to visit the Asian part of the city which was actually nice. I miss something like that here. Not only that. Spending time with Chun and Heat made me almost cry. I can't express how happy I was that I could spend the time with them and I hope they enjoyed the day too. In the end we went to Heat's place to play some Magic. While they were getting some food I played some games on Magic Online where I was running into Vine Mare after Vine Mare which made me put Rekindling Phoenixes in my deck and hope this would stop the green menace I was facing. I certainly upset several of my opponents with those red creatures.

Kevin called and it was time for me to leave and go to Nootdorp. It took a loooong time but I got there. I met part of Kevin's family (his mother was on vacation at the time) and then he showed me the apartment I'd be staying at. Kevin's family (including the cats) is really great and it made me realize how much I missed in my life. Wish I could have such great people around me. Seriously, I was thinking about moving to Nootdorp the whole time I was there. There's nature around, animals just running around (or flying or 'swimming'), the people are nice, respectful and considerate to others. The public transport is great and one can walk around or cycle around as well. Words can't express what I felt. It is something I do not experience in the Czech Republic and I'm not even sure if I would if I were white.

Nationaal Videogame Museum
The next day we arrived to Nationaal Videogame Museum in Zoetemeer where the event was held and I was in awe. I already expected the event to be well organized and done in a very professional way. What I did not expect was how few people were actually involved. Those people get my respect. Again, I can't tell you how awesome all those people organizing the event are. They worked hard, nonstop, in the 35 degrees heat not complaining about a single thing. There were 3 ITG Dedicabs that would be used for the tournaments and one upgraded cab we could use to warm up. The DDR cab was actually in a pretty good shape and I enjoyed playing on it. For some reason it was easier for me to play on that cab rather than a dedicated ITG one. I tried figuring out what speeds I can read and started with 550 BPM. Unfortunately my reading speed is obviously somewhere in 670 range though.

In the Groove
On Tuesday there was a fun competition and doubles competition. I knew I'd fail badly in the Fun Compo but I signed up for it. I failed even more badly than I expected. We played 4 songs from 4 different group of songs. Old contained songs that we had to play on 1x and no bar. We picked a song that I wasn't particularly fan of and I did pretty badly on it, wish I have chosen Tricky Disco. Tech contained songs that were technical. Each song was focused on a certain technique. I picked crossovers since that seemed like the only thing I could actually do and I did well on it. The third group of songs was BPM changes and as you can expect I failed BADLY. I got like 3.3x percent on Utopia. When I looked at the scoreboard I wasn't the only one failing so badly though. The last group contained songs with mods. Since I had no idea what the songs were about we decided to pick one song that had some images flying over the notes. I set a high scrolling speed which did not really go well with that 'modification' and failed badly at the beginning. This still made me end up somewhere relatively high in the middle (12th).

Next we played some doubles. At that point I could hardly walk and I felt even worse. At that moment I still thought the next day would be better (it was way worse actually). I managed to pass two songs and utterly fail three (the 13 was actually fine). I managed to place high in the lower bracket which practically meant I'm not good enough for this tournament. My rounds went fine, one song got me in the finals. I choose a cab, let my opponents choose songs and then I tried to play them. Since it was the first time playing the songs it was most probably quite entertaining for the players watching me. Some players starting laughing me when I bruteforce'd my way through some songs or when I tried to hit a hand or a hold I didn't know that was coming. I could also could get a reward for stepping on all the mines that appeared. While playing on doubles I was trying to get used to the platform and figure out how to play without getting pad misses due to trying to play the same way I do on a Pump machine. Unfortunately when seeing a flurry of arrows I lost my concentration and started playing as I was used to resulting in misses (even without misses my scores would still be bad. At that moment I was usually 12 ms off with a relatively steady rhythm, not great when you need to be getting Fantastics only (edit: I found out that our PIU Fiesta is offsync and that probably resulted in that).

I managed to stay in winner's bracket until the finals where I played against Kevin. We choose our songs and went to play them. The same laughs I was getting earlier in the event could now be heard stereo most probably because Kevin was also sight-reading the songs. We played very close games and in the end I lost which was something I expected anyway. My comeback to winner's bracket wasn't about to happen. I faced Aleta who is very accurate even though technically less skilled than me in doubles (otherwise a total beast in singles!). We had a great time even though we played some terrible songs (I love you baby?! Did I seriously pick that song myself?) thanks to me not knowing the songs and choosing poorly.

I also participated in Precision Low event but it was clear that I can't compete against other players. Playing singles is very hard for me at the moment and the idea of me playing level 10-13 songs is unimaginable. I'll do my best to get better at Pump and hopefully it will also make a better 4-panel player so next time I don't play that badly. I was paired against Kevin again in the first round, we played some songs, had some fun and then I got eliminated by utterly failing some song. Here's me playing singles with Kevin. Unfortunately I didn't get bonus points for full comboing the song and I lost the match.

After the events I had some free time so it was time for some food. We went to get some food with Anna usually. We talked about the old times and and about our goals for the future ITG ECs. When we returned I went to play more BEMANI games or watch the finals. Here's a little tour of the BEMANI games.

Pop'n Music
The first game I was attracted to was Jubeat since that is a game one can hardly play at home. After playing my second song with forgetting to set my marker to something I can read ('the unreadable ugly digits' as other players would say) I went to buy e-Amuse pass and then struggled with Jubeat letting me use it. So I went to play some Pop'n Music instead and tried to figure out what speed I can read. I knew that 550 was too much already since that is what I tried in Las Vegas Arcade Soho and was unable to read it. So I put it to 480 and went up from there. It took a long time to get comfortable playing on the machine (and it also took me a while to find the RFID card reader, silly me) but when I did I played some 40s and 41s and I cleared some (still feels bad since I used to play 44+ level songs). I also noticed that my scores are comparable to the home ones which means that there is probably nothing wrong with my set up. It's just me who lost all the accuracy I had since I could 99xxx songs in the past and play more difficult songs as well. Maybe it will come back again?

After I found out that my card works on other cabs I returned to Jubeat and finally figured out what I did wrong. I had to reenter my pin and after that everything was fine. It was time to get used to Jubeat and see if I can ever figure out when to hit those notes. The first few days I still had no idea, I just hit the panels at some point that I thought was more or less ok. On the last day I realized that I may be able to get my timing right if I just continue playing. My accuracy didn't get any better during that time but I started to feel where the difference between Perfect and Great is which means that now I can concentrate on trying to hit the panels at that time - meaning one can really get better! I also got to see some good Jubeat players playing. While the players I usually get matched against while playing were not doing that great some of the players that were around were really good getting Perfects most the time and easily clearing 9s on EXT. It was nice to watch in real life and I wish I could become that good one day too. I suppose without playing the game it's probably not going to happen, but I can still try when I get to play the game next. Here is a video of me playing CroiX Advanced. It's a cool song reminding me of Xepher.

Future Tom Tom
Future Tom Tom is a game that I wasn't really interested in when I saw it for the first time in LV and I didn't plan to even try it at NVGM. It took me quite a while to actually try it out, actually I tried it on the last day out of sheer desperation because Jubeat and PNM were occupied. After trying to figure out how it works or what it wants from me I actually read what was written in front of me and navigated to 1 player doubles and played some level 3 song. That song was way to easy so I hit the 'Level' tom and tried a six. It was still too easy resulting in AAA. I used my card to try another game to see what else I could do. I set a high speed mod to 3 (after lifting my card that I had no place were tu put...with the exception of the pin pad...great) and chose the first level 8 song I encountered (Zankoku na Tenshi no TEEZE). It contained some arm motions but otherwise it was quite easy. So I tried a nine, and I had some troubles keeping up finally! I played some 8s and 9s then and actually had a great time. I appreciated that I didn't need to concentrate on some very precise movements or accuracy and I could just simply hit the drums and turn my brain off. It was a great break from Jubeat, PNM, IIDX and SDVX even though I really wanted to go back and play those games again.

Beatmania IIDX
Thanks to two people we could also play some Beatmania IIDX. I played singles on Infinitas and did very poorly and then I tried doubles (on Empress CS) since I don't even remember when I last tried 14k. I tried some 5s which I cleared so I continued to 6s which were a bit tricky. My left hand was just missing notes very badly so I knew that I'd be screwed if many notes would appear in the left part (I remembered Kakumei chart and was glad that the song was not in Empress). When I used to play doubles in the past both of my hands were able to play more or less on the same level (passing 7s one handed) so I was very surprised that I lost the ability with my left hand. My right hand was totally fine though most probably because I played some IIDX in the past few weeks during which it regained some of its ability to play the game. My left hand got 'good' at scratching though and since I use my thumb, forefinger and the middle finger when playing 7k I at least got some keys covered. It was a horrible experience and I hope that I get to play doubles again soon (edit: I managed to get the setup ready thx to Nebbii)...which means figuring out how to play doubles and see if I can get a PS2->USB converter with two slots. Nebbii's controllers had 50/20 swithces/springs in them which felt super easy to press with my fingers. Compared to my 100/40 it was quite a difference. Timing-wise I was completely offsync so here is yet another 'stsung clears a song with E grade' photo. This time though the photo is also interesting because of the reflection on the screen (look more closely).

Sound Voltex
Next game that was available was Sound Voltex. This time I managed to figure out how the game is played so I tried my best at clearing some songs. The best I could do was 10s (I did not even try 11s). I got some As on those tens though not sure if that is any good, considering my accuracy it was probably a bad score. I participated in the easy division of SDVX side event and got in the finals where I lost. It was fun to play, adjusting to SDVX was hard though. I was glad people weren't laughing when I played the game...

On Thursday Michael Markus brought his own StepmaniaX machine and let us try it out which was another surprise I didn't expect. So thanks Michael for this. It was also great to meet him after several years. Concerning the setup or game, many people had their doubts about the game and the touchscreen but we all appreciated many aspects of the game. StepManiaX feels truly modern unlike ITG, DDR or PIU. It allows the players to set the game we want based on what we are used to but also has many other features. The touchscreen can be used even with wet hands which we tested in practice (the temperature inside the Museum was 35 degrees according to thermometer we used and all of us were sweating even after playing one easy song). The pads as awesome as people say even though I had hard time adjusting to them at first. It was very easy to get lost on them but when you watched the screen to see where you stood it actually helped a lot and I stopped getting lost later on. As for the songlist and stepcharts I obviously moved on. I like different kind of charts and I also like a diagonal 5 panel rather than this kind of a 5 panel. The center panel in this game though is good. Patterns containing the center panel are actually quite natural so I can't say this is something that would make the game worse. It is a nice addition and takes some time to get used to. It makes doubles play (or Full as it is named in the game) quite interesting.

Apart from these games we could have some fun playing Bishi Bashi, Taiko no Tatsujin or Rhythm Tengoku. I'm not good at either. I was a little sad no one actually played Rhythm Tengoku there. It's a fun game to watch actually. One could play many other games in the Video Game Museum and if I wasn't playing a music game I played some Soul Calibur 2, Mortal Kombat 1, Prince of Persia or Raiden.

Unfortunately my line of thought got interrupted by a lot of work I had to do so I didn't get to finish what I had in mind so my post will end here. ITG Eurocup was very well organized by just a few people and they have my respect. All of the people involved get my thanks. They were really great. All the players that came to participate are similarly awesome. Great players, great people and I hope we get to meet again. Thanks goes to my friends who made the time to see me and Kevin and his family for letting me stay at their place and being really nice to me. Thank you everyone.

Thank you for reading this post and watching my videos. If interested there are more photos at my google drive -> Netherlands, ITG Eurocup 2018