Saturday, March 25, 2017

Case of the phantom victory: A Tekken Revolution epilogue

It's always the Tekken with you! Enough with the Tekken already! Oy vey!

Yeah, I thought I was done with Tekken Revolution too. That is, until I opened the media gallery on my cellphone yesterday and found this:

That’s a screenshot from a video I took at about 4:12 a.m. on March 21, 2017. When TR kept running after the advertised 3 a.m. shutdown time, I was left recording aimlessly, trying to capture the exact moment the game went offline for good. Since I’ve only got a few gigs to work with on my old-ass phone, I deleted most of the dud footage as needed.

Anyway, I opened my gallery and there that video was, like the cat that came back the very next day or the stolen clown nose from that episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark.

I know what you’re thinking. “So what’s the big deal? You forgot to delete a video. This is the worst creepypasta I’ve ever inexplicably copied and emailed to my former rabbi.” Not so fast, dear reader. Take a look at the WINS counter. What do you see?

That’s right, 401.

If you read my last article, you know that I spent the entire final day of Tekken Revolution fighting my way to exactly 400 wins. A little secret: I tried a few times to get to 401, but got ripped in half by better, more awake players.

So where did the last victory come from?

After 3 a.m., I joined random battle lobbies trying to catch interesting footage while I fell asleep on the couch. Maybe in my bleary eyed, up-all-night state, I entered a fight somehow. You could be getting your ass handed to you in Tekken Revolution, but if you lost the connection to you opponent, you'd win!

It's a pretty solid, if unspectacular, explanation. But none of the surviving footage backs that theory up. I have a video that ended at 3:44 a.m. and this one, as I mentioned, which began at 4:12 a.m. So at some point in-between, I acquired this phantom win.

What happened in those 28 minutes, I’ll never know. But I think there’s a reasonable explanation: You ever hear of missing time? It’s a common experience among those who have been abducted by extraterrestrials… 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

PART 2: The (Tekken) Revolution will no longer be televised

Tekken Revolution, Namco’s free to play fighting game based on the popular Tekken Tag Tournament 2, hit the PlayStation 3 in June of 2013. Close to four years later, on March 21, 2017,  the servers were finally shut down.

These are the final moments of Tekken Revolution.

Welcome to the second part of my Tekken Revolution retrospective. In Part 1, an earlier version of myself faced the perils of young adulthood in a spectacularly ineffective manner, substituting common sense for a bottle of vodka and hours upon hours of Tekken Revolution. Fast forward to now, the final day that TR’s servers are up and running.

I’d make a comment about how much better I am at being an adult, but I’m currently staying up until 3 a.m. on a work night to play a video game.

The Road to 400

Nobody likes coins, not even Abe Lincoln. You want a dollar, not a jangly pocket full of copper. I’d rather not remember my Tekken Revolution career as a sack of change bound for a lonely Coinstar machine in some Midwestern Walmart, so I’d like to accumulate 400 wins. My starting point was 339 on March 17. Now that I'm at 380 with a day left and precious few premium tickets, can I do it? Let’s find out.

March 20, 2017 – 8 a.m. (19 hours left) WINS: 380

I get three premium tickets for signing in today, courtesy of the good people at Namco. It’s nice to see a developer still supporting players of a game that hasn’t made them a dime since January 19, when all paid content was yanked from the PlayStation Store.

Two out of the five matches end with me losing the connection to the other player, something that’s been plaguing the game since I picked it back up last week. There’s no shortage of opponents at least.

March 20, 2017 – 7 p.m. (8 hours left) WINS: 383

Most people still playing at this point are pros, with hundreds of wins to their name and the skills to match. But also there’s this inexplicable trickle of n00bs. Can you imagine having downloaded Tekken Revolution years ago, and you just happen to sign in again on the last day?

Some uneventful fights are punctuated by a crazy, random occurrence. This is the third time it’s happened since Saturday. (See “Creature of the Night” heading below.)

March 20, 2017 – 8:30 p.m. (6.5 hours left) WINS 386

At 8 p.m., the “final campaign” ends – which means no more crazy experience and money boosts for the remaining few hours of the game’s life. Players had been enjoying 10x to 30x bonuses since January 31. I think it’s fitting that Revolution’s last gasps will be taken in the same pure, grindy fashion as its first breaths.

I get my last ever sign-in bonus. The game says I’m up to Day 81.

I decide to go for some arcade mode action and give my PvP tokens a chance to re-up. As I play, I’m reminded of the early days. Something I really liked about Tekken Revolution in the beginning was that feeling of “we’re all learning this together.” Now in the game’s twilight, I’m sensing something similar: We’re all going out together, on a high note, showing off the skills we’ve accumulated over these last four years.

Or maybe I’m a sentimental old man who likes reading into trivial things. Either way.

March 20, 2017 – 9:30 p.m. (5.5 hours left) WINS 386

I’m trying to make those premium tickets last for the next few hours, so I’ve switched to player matches. In the tradition of the olden days, I’ve named my lobby “BABY STABBIN’ DUDEZ.” I always wondered what kind of people would join a room with that name.

The answer is this guy.

It's tough to read, but it says "BABY STABBIN' DUDEZ" and that guy (top) wants in!

But after that, I drift from session to session. None of them really feels right. There are a few open ones, but it’s a far cry from the packed lobbies I remember.

I haven’t been able to win any of my last six matches. The big boys are here, they’re pissed, and they’re out for blood. Time to take a break and let my coins re-up.

March 20, 11:45 p.m. – (3.25 hours left) WINS: 392

I just won six matches in a row. I was using the same premium ticket and winning it back for what felt like forever. I’m still worried that I won’t be able to make it to 400 wins by 3 a.m., but I feel a lot less frustrated now.

March 21, 2017 – 12:45 a.m. (2.25 hours left) WINS: 395

I pick up two wins against a careless Bob player. But I’ve only got three tickets left, and only enough time to regenerate four PvP tokens. That’s seven chances for five wins. I’m not in love with those odds, but let’s see what we can do.

I guess we could, uh, always bet on Duke?

March 21, 2017 – 12:46 a.m. (2.245 hours left) WINS: 395


March 21, 2017 – 1:45 a.m. (1.25 hours left) WINS: 398

I get three more wins, but I’m out of premium tickets. I’ll have enough coins for three more matches, maxing out an hour from now. Two more wins and three chances. I guess I’ll play arcade mode to clear my head.

March 21, 2017 – 2 a.m. (1 hour left) WINS: 399

A pathetic Kazuya player gives up a win, putting me one away from my goal. There’s just enough time for me to regenerate two coins. Right now, I’m parked in a lounge, watching other players far better than me beat the hell out of each other. Not much else I can do. Sure wish I had bought some premium coins when I had the chance, but I suppose this way is more exciting.

March 21, 2017 – 2:24 a.m. (35 minutes left) WINS: 400

No more goals. There’s only me and the battle for the next half hour. I'm glad it went down like this.

March 21, 2017 – 2:59 a.m. (The end) WINS: 400

The end is nigh! Any minute now...

March 21, 2017 –  4:30 a.m. (1.5 hours after the game was supposed to shut down)

It's nice that dedicated Tekken players got a bit of a reprieve, but I have to go to bed.
The mind is willing, but the body is weak. This is as far as I can go. I'll check on this in the morning. I wanted to be there for the end, but I feel I've done my due diligence.

March 21, 2017 – 6 a.m. (3 hours after the game was supposed to shut down)


March 21, 2017 –  sometime between 6 and 7:30 a.m. 

I love you Tekken Revolution, but it's about damn time.

Creature of the Night

Remember how I had about a quarter of the “blood seals” necessary to earn the one character exclusive to Tekken Revolution, the narcoleptic sexpot vampire Eliza?

Yeah, THIS narcoleptic sexpot vampire

There simply wasn’t enough time to unlock her legitimately. And yet, like a bolt of lightning from on high, the Tekken gods saw it fit to bestow Eliza upon me. Randomly, after losing a fight, a message appeared that I had earned 14,000-plus seals in one go. Normally I was lucky if I got 10 at a time.

Then, the next day, it happened again. This time I got 69,000-plus seals at once, which unlocked… a bikini. You know, like vampires wear. In the sunlight. Thanks, Namco.

On paper, a fighter who falls asleep in the middle of the game sounds like an awful idea. And that is because yes, it is. But in all my tinkering with Eliza over the last few days, I only ever found one move that legit put her to sleep, and the player has approximately one semester at a lackluster community college to wake her up before being countered.

Eliza has some cool juggling moves, a classic vampire bite for her throw, and an honest to goodness, Geese Howard style "Reppuken" fireball. I’m looking forward to seeing her in Tekken 7, once that game finally comes to consoles in June.

Also you could make her breasts bigger if you got enough blood seals, which if done without boosts of any kind, would take anywhere between 16,000 and 160,000 fights. I was randomly awarded a third time with 70,000 seals on TR’s final night, so I got this the easy way. Lucky me?

Anyway, here’s a video of Eliza in a battle bikini fighting lion-headed luchador, King, because why not.

No Regrets

I think one of the reasons Tekken Revolution has been so important to me lately is that I was finally able to fix things, like unlocking Eliza. But the period in my life I associate most with the game, living in that cheap apartment four years ago, not so much. I can’t hop in a time machine and tell my younger self to hang out more with my roommates because they were having a tough time too, or to eat a carrot instead of an entire pizza, or maybe we don’t take a drunken walk to Skeevymart at midnight to buy beer seven hours before I had to be awake for work.

I can’t retroactively make myself a better person, and now I can’t change anything about my experience with Tekken Revolution. But I’m glad I took the opportunity to pick it back up. It paid off, even if it was only for the blink of an eye.

Maybe in this case, it’s not the worst thing that I can’t whip out Tekken Revolution and give it a quick play when I’m feeling nostalgic. I moved out of the apartment in which I first played TR a long ago, after all. As we close the book on TR, maybe I can put my misgivings from the past on the shelf too.

Thanks for being there when I needed you, Tekken Revolution. Instead of morning your loss, I’ll look forward to new fights and better days.

This Revolution has come to an end.

Friday, March 17, 2017

PART 1: The death of a Revolution

A few days before Christmas of 2016, game developer Namco announced that their free to play fighter, Tekken Revolution, would be shutting down on March 20, 2017. I suppose that after a nearly four year run on now ailing last gen equipment, it only makes sense that they’d pull the plug.

I understand why this has to happen, but it doesn’t mean I like it.

During the days leading up to Tekken Revolution’s surprise release on June 11, 2013, I remember thinking that I was really hankering for a new Tekken game. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 wasn’t even two years old at that point and the time between Tekken games – at least in the post-PlayStation 1 era – can be measured in half decades. So you can imagine my utter glee when Namco announced in June 2013 that they’d be releasing a new Tekken game, for free, in just days.

Sure enough, Namco delivered a (nearly) full featured Tekken, as promised. Basically, the PlayStation 3 exclusive game was a stripped down Tekken Tag 2, ripping most assets directly from the older game but adding new, dubsteppy tunes.

Players were rewarded with experience points after each battle, and upon leveling up, they could upgrade their fighter’s power, endurance, and vigor. This was the most controversial aspect of the game, allowing some players to win simply because they were able to purchase more coins and thus, gain more experience points.

Though a lot of hardcore Tekken players bashed Revolution for its simplified gameplay and emphasis on attracting new and inexperienced players, it felt fresh to me. It distilled the Tekken formula to its core, forcing people out of their arcade mode comfort zone and into player vs. player via the unique token system.

Each player started with two arcade tokens and five PvP tokens, and as they burned though them, the tokens would slowly regenerate. If you ran out, no problem: just watch other people fight it out for a while until you regenerate some tokens, or spend a few bucks to get some premium coins. Reportedly, this mechanic was supposed to emulate an arcade-style, “I got next!” atmosphere. I’m not sure how well it succeeded in that, but it sure was fun. I know I ponied up at least $20 over the years, hungry for “just one more match.”

Tekken Revolution came at a time when I sorely needed it. In early 2013, I had left home for the first time since college, trading my parent’s rent free house for a single room in a shady neighborhood, the other bedroom occupied by my cousin-turned-roommate and his wife-to-be. The first week I lived there, the cops towed my car because, they claimed, the snowplow couldn’t get past it, despite there being no snow the night before. My ex-fiancé had left only a few months ago, and my new girlfriend lived three or four hours away by train. And by day, I suffered through a new job that kept me hours late most days, doing the work of two people with the patience of three.

Despite unopened copies of great retail games sitting on my shelf, I’d come home after work lock myself in my room with Tekken Revolution and a half pint of vodka. When the tokens ran out, I’d watch other people fight in battle/chat rooms I created with titles like “Sell You Children” and “Baby Stabbin’ Dudes.” And when the liquor ran out, sometimes I’d stumble down the street to the local saloon for a nightcap or three. One time on the way to the bar, I watched a kid, maybe 16 years old, get wailed on by at least four other teenagers. He wasn’t hurt too bad, but he seriously had no idea why they were hitting him. I went inside the adjacent convenience store (we called it “Skeevymart”) and bought him a cold ice tea to hold on his injuries, but when I came back out, he and his assailants had disappeared into the night.

Now it’s four years later, and the crumby apartment in the shady town is lightyears in the past. I married that girlfriend of mine, and now instead of spending my weekends going back and forth on the Long Island Rail Road, I spend them on the couch watching my ten month old son. And when I do get a chance to play video games, it’s not vodka I’m swigging, but diet cola. In a companywide reorganization about two years ago, my director title was lost in the shuffle. But my paygrade is the same and my responsibilities are much more reasonable.

And yet, hearing that Tekken Revolution theme song thrusts me into that small, poorly ventilated bedroom, and jumping online with my powered up Kazuya brings back the little bit of happiness I felt during a difficult time. I remember the sights and smells of that low rent neighborhood, and the summer sun setting to the sounds of victory and defeat on the small screen. I remember that kid who kept asking why he was being beaten, and the voice of a girl behind me yelling, “You KNOW why!” I remember the guilt of ignoring my roommates, the burn of the vodka in my throat, and the numb joy of just me and the game.

I guess four years isn’t a lot of time in the scheme of things, but I regret that I never got all the characters or had a chance to power up most of the ones I did. I regret that I never unlocked Eliza the narcoleptic vampire, earning about a quarter of the 20,000 “blood seals” required to get her. And I regret that after this weekend, I’ll never irk out another tough victory in a tense Revolution match, the way I did so many nights back in the day, before passing out with the television on and the controller haphazardly tossed next to me on the bed.

Like Namco’s other free to play fighting game, Soulcalibur: Lost Swords, Tekken Revolution is another causality in the ageing world of the PlayStation 3. Last year I bought copies of Resistance 1 and 2 because they were only a buck each at GameStop, and found them to be fun. But out of the box, the online components to both games (and Resistance 3 as well) had already been shut down. That’s dozens of trophy opportunities, game modes, and hours of playtime gone forever.

I guess it’s just in my nature to morn lost games like Tekken Revolution, the ones most people moved on from years ago, the ones I can’t just pluck off my shelf when I’m feeling nostalgic. Reader(s) of this blog might remember my multipart series on the curiosity that was PlayStation Home. And like PlayStation Home, I hope to be there when Tekken Revolution breathes its last.

I owe that much to my old friend.