Review: Rev-O-Mate

When I purchased the Huion tablet for digital drawing and painting last year, an uncomfortable reality did set in; my large keyboard was more or less unusable due to the position of the tablet itself in front of it. Sure, I rearranged by table few times over to find new ways to access the keys, but ultimately the size of things simply didn’t allow much leeway, especially due to the screen size of the tablet itself. Hence, I had a need for something I could use as a helping device whenever I would draw, which I haven’t had much time for due to my dayjob. Learning something like this from scratch while having a lifetime of ways mixing with everything is hard to say the least.

Bit Trade One’s Rev-O-Mate’s Kickstarter thus came out at a good time. The device had the things I personally was looking for. Certainly a number of game keypads would’ve been an option, though everything about them seemed off. Extremely high price at points, unnecessary design elements everywhere, large size and lacking software at times, I was more than hesitant on purchasing one. Rev-O-Mate seemed to be all that I was looking for, a small device with complete freedom to customise its buttons to my heart’s content. All things considered, its simplicity should be enough to meet expectations. I ended up backing the base version with none of the bells or whistles added.

A small device that fits your palm, around 64mm in base diameter and 41mm height, or 2 33/64 inch w and 1 39/64 inch h. The weight is pretty spot on at 180g, when you take into consideration the extra 20-30g the cord pulls

First things first, the design and construction. It’s what you’d expect from a tightly constructed piece, with one exception; the wheel. While all the buttons feel extremely sturdy with their one-click nature, the large wheel on the top has designed looseness to it. It wobbles back and forth a bit. Most wheels of its nature have this wobble, but it does feel slightly cheap at first. When in proper use, its goes unnoticed, but its still there.

The wheel surface itself is machined, with the swirls on top and on the side. This gives it a nice texture, though the edges of the chamfer could have used ever so slight rounding, but this would have extended the machining cost unnecessarily. The base has a kind of spattered texture on it, giving it a distinct touch from the wheel. The base has a translucent bottom to allow lights shine on the sides, while having a cut spot for a good grip base. Just remember to take the plastic film off first. This surface will keep Rev-O-Mate decently positioned, unless the bottom is unclean or you exert further force on it.

The camera picks the light in a very different way from actuality

The cord gets a special mention for using being braided and being rather sturdy, it is something that companies usually save money in, but Rev-O-Mate’s cord is better than the standard.

There are ten buttons around the wheel, all which need to be customised before the device does anything. With three different sets of profiles, this brings the total number of buttons on the device to 33. The wheel itself is a button as well, which probably contributes to the whole wobbling bit. If we dedicate one button from profile change in each profile, that gives us thirty buttons for quick access, which is quite a lot. Each button have a damn fine tactile feeling to them, and the wheel’s button has a very satisfactory ‘thump’ to it.

The round nature of the device has a surprising benefit. It can essentially function in any position, the cord being the only obstacle. Whether or not by design or chance, its revolving nature allows the user to find the most suitable angle for the buttons for themselves, something game keypads don’t really allow. The buttons themselves are hard plastic, something that some may find slightly uncomfortable, especially with the two marked buttons. However, this is a better solution than rubber buttons on the long run, as they’re now sturdy and can take some beating.

I’ve dedicated the wheel button for profile change in each profile iteration

I always dread setting up these things, because I have no idea what I have need for, thus I end up setting buttons as I go along. These, however, are the initial buttons I set up from the very beginning. Each button, and the wheel itself, can be changed to whatever function.

As you can see, there are currently preset functions for the three most popular programs for illustrators and digital painters, or fuckups like me

This how the binding window currently looks like from presets. Bit Trade One is working on updating the software and firmware, and have rolled new versions already. Just make sure you’re using USB 2.0 or USB 1.1. Type A to connect, as it doesn’t seem to like USB 3.0 connection. Of course, creating a macro for your use has a separate selection.

As you can see, I currently lack any macros. If we were to make a macro of CTRL+Z, the recording would appear as such.

 

Seeing how the program records even the time span an input was held is unexpected but wholly welcome. This is as powerful macro creation tool as you’d expect and works with games as well.

The lights themselves can be customised from the top row with RGB values, giving them whatever colour you wish for. The teal I have there comes out as rather cold blue, as you can see. The lights change as they are being customised though, so you get an immediate response. You can also determine how long they’re lit up and at what point, or completely turn them off. There are three levels or brightness to choose from, and the images you see here are for the the medium, standard brightness.

 

The LEDs used run on unknown frequency, which you notice when you move the device around and observe the base. This frequency does not sync up with a camera at normal 23 to 30 FPS, making it look like the the base is on fire or trying to launch itself.

You can also have fun with an additional source of LED lights and cause further flicker

While I’m not very keen on unboxing, the box really came just with the device and few slips. Not even a preliminary version of the software on disc. Everything had to be downloaded from their website. While a solid cost cutting measure for sure, this does make the package overall feel a bit cheap. Maybe the retailer version will have an updated software bundled with it. The manual itself is very short, which is understandable as there isn’t much to talk about the device itself. The lack of different keyboard support is expected, though unfortunate. Most of the world will do just fine by having the US keyboard set up, though French AZERTY users probably will find it a nuisance.

The back of the box has some slight Engrish on it

All in all, Rev-O-Mate is what perfect in what its set up to be; a rotary device with macro buttons. I’ve also used it as a paddle controller with few Breakout clones, and it does its job in this part decently as well.

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Review of the Month; Yakuza 6 Whisky Glasses

Yakuza 6 is out and its After Hours Premium Edition came with whisky glasses. The Internet’s full of reviews of the box already and what’s inside, most of which is a disappointment, I tell you. The book was absolutely terrible in quality, bound too early, causing the papers to be wrinkled and even glued together due to wet ink. Not worth your time or money. Unless if you want whisky glasses, maybe.

This review will go through all three aspects of the set; the coasters, the rocks and the glasses.

The coasters are pretty terrible. They may have a cork bottom, but each layer that goes to the top has low-quality adhesive, which means they’ll peel off pretty soon if they’re in-use. It’d be almost better to allow them to peel off, then re-layer them back with some proper adhesive. You get what you see above, which is jack shit. With that done, let’s move unto the rocks.

The rocks are honestly the most interesting bit of this set, mostly because it allows me to go on a tangent a bit later on. Anyway, each facet is 20.25 mm in width and length (that’s 0.797 inches). These are, of course, quick measurements with a caliper, and you’d probably get slightly different results with your pieces due to tolerances.

The set comes with two pieces, one for each glass. The material is black soap stone, meaning the hardness is around Mohs 2  and up. Depending how soapstone is treated, it can go up to 6.5 at best, but without knowing what soapstone this is and from where, it’s impossible to say what’s the exact hardness. Nevertheless, these will scratch rather easy, so treat them right and with a careful touch. Hardness does not equal toughness, which is why we get laughable stuff like Mohs 15 shield in Destroyer Classes in Muv-Luv Alternative, which just means they’re really, really hard to scratch, but that does not mean they’re tough. Generally, the harder something is, the more fragile it is.

Before taking them into use, I’d recommend washing them with a neutral soap and rinsing them in as hot water as possible, then quickly wrap in a towel. Due to amount of talc and the structure of soapstone, the hot water will evaporate due to the stone’s hotness and its own heat, drying the soapstone in a second. Works with any soapstone item out there, give it a go.

Anyway, the stones don’t really work. They’re too small to actually make a proper difference. Soapstone is great at keeping temperature, which is why they generally make good heat or cold plates. They do keep chilled whisky chilled slightly longer than usual, but against room temperature whisky the stones do jack shit. Waste of stone. Even the sandblasting is just skin deep. Considering how large the glasses are, the stones should’ve been at least twice as large with twice as deep sandblasting. Surely the glasses will be the set saver, right?

Oh for fuck’s sake

The thing I expect from a box that says Premium on the label is premium. What I’m getting is two-dollar custom prints on a mid-grade glass with a printed surface instead of sandblasted.  Kiryu’s dragon should have been laser printed unto to the surface at least, but a print? That’s just lazy, and just like with the coasters, the print will wear off in use. In time for sure, but this is really a bad first impression.

Well, it doesn’t help that the two glasses are not of same quality. You’d expect these glasses to be relatively straight, but one of the two have slightly collapsed surface and has a slight wave-like pattern towards the bottom, meaning it’ll screw with the flow of spirit. Not much mind you, but at this point Sega’s quality control and whoever was in lead with this package has completely lost me. There’s nothing premium in this package. Deli, whatever company you are, you should’ve convinced Sega to put more effort in this.

That said, Yakuza 6‘s glasses can at least hold more spirit than the one I bought from Scotland years back, or the Monster Hunter one I got from the Netherlands. I’m not saying I’ve been drinking before writing this post, but I have before writing. Gotta test the glasses with more than one spirit, y’know. It’s pretty good size for a milk glass as well, and it’s not too fragile. Its still cheap glass, can’t get around that.

As you probably surmised, the whole After Hours edition of Yakuza 6 is not up to the usual premium standards. The game’s damn solid and worth your time, but going above the standard edition is not worth it.

Review of the Month: Retro Fighters’ Brawler 64 controller

The stock three-pronged Nintendo 64 controller is a peculiarity, to say the least. Whatever Nintendo’s approach was with it, be it designed solely to play Super Mario 64 or just try to separate itself from the rest of the controller crowd, it has ended up as rather infamous. To cut to the chase, it’s not very good as a general controller, and its shape doesn’t exactly fit the hand as intended.

Enter Retro Fighters’ Brawler 64 controller, which was Kickstarted a while back, to which I threw some money at just for this review. Intended to be competent, modern replacement for the stock N64 controller, the Brawl 64 opts for the now-standard pad design and placements, while also carrying the action button setup from the stock N64 controller. There is a follow-up campaign coming up with updated firmware and hardware for translucent shells

Probably needless to say that the controller was tested on real hardware

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Virtual-On Retrospective: A Certain Magical Virtual-On

Previous: MARZ

Kamachi Kazuma, a novelist for Dengeki Bunko most known for his A Certain Magical Index series was approached by Sega to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Virtual-On series with a novel. Their approach for Kamachi was to do a new sort of Virtual-On instead of just doing what had been done in the past, resulting in a cross-over novel. This was a sort of dream project for Kamachi, and at this point, it’s not longer just a dream, with A Certain Magical Virtual-On game released in early 2018.

A Certain Magical Index‘s first novel was released in April 2004, debuting Kazuma Kamachi as mainstream light novel writer, which also gained a popular animated series in 2008, and gets its third season in 2018. The series mainly takes place in a fictional city called Academy City, west from Tokyo, where science has advanced more than in the outside world. This city is of scientific marvels, making leaps and bounds to every which way. This means the city has constant testing of new technology and designs, including testing such things as weird soda drink flavours. The city is walled all around, protecting the valued assets and data, but also keeps other people out.

The most important project that’s running in Academy City is its espers. The city has around 2.3 million espers, all students who partake in Power Curriculum Program, which aims to attain one’s own Personal Reality in order to awaken esper powers. Personal Reality is essentially one’s own secular view on reality, able to affect the objective reality’s state through their own “power” to the system in microscale. Essentially an esper believes, if you will, that she can control electricity, and so she does. However, the Curriculum requires quite literal rewiring of the person’s brains through use of various drugs in all forms, various forms of hypnosis and suggestions, slight surgical manipulation of the brain, and different sensory deprivation methods. This rewiring effectively separates the students from reality, after which they may develop powers depending on their own reality. All these powers of course are not as potent as others, with some never manifesting any.

However, this is the science side of things, and the main story takes place in the magic side. Sorcerers mostly belong to different sects and religions of the world, and their magical power does not stem from being separated from the world, but rather from idol worship, where a system of rituals are prepared in order to invoke higher powers to grant supernatural effects on reality. This can range from creating golems to controlling wind with a tool. These are fundamentally different kind of power from that of an esper, and due to the sheer difference how the users’ are wired thanks to the Curriculum, an esper can’t use magic without physical trauma. Similarly, a sorcerer does not have access to espers’ powers, as they lack a Personal Reality.

Enter Kamijou Touma, the series’ main protagonist, who has the power to break down supernatural powers with his right hand. He has a rotten luck, which drops him into fights, causes him to lose money, or in one case, meet up with an English nun named Index, who is being chased. Due to circumstances, Touma is made Index’s companion, with the English church allowing him to accompany her despite the clear threat his right hand poses to them. Index is important asset to the world of magicians, as she holds Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a library of 103 000 forbidden books, in her head due to photographic memory and can recollect information from those pages. This places them both in a crossroad of events and situations, where both the world of science and magic collide with each other, often despite of them, sometimes because of their direct actions.

This is, of course, very short and spartan introduction to the A Certain Magical Index series’ world, as we need some context for A Certain Magical Virtual-On.

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Virtual-On Retrospective: MARZ

Previous: FORCE

In the early 2000’s, Sega’s plan was to deliver cheaper and more effective arcade hardware for the Japanese market, which of few would see worldwide releases. NAOMI 2 was given the emphasize over the Hikaru, which was phased out in 2002. NAOMI 2 would last to 2008, with Atomiswave, a Sammy developed NAOMI derivative, running by its side. Around the same time in 2001 Sega developed the Triforce with Nintendo and Namco, based on Nintendo’s GameCube. Two years later, Sega would release Chihiro to the arcades, based on Microsoft’s Xbox. All these arcade machines ran different games that Sega was directly involved and developed, like NAOMI 2’s Virtua Fighter 4 series, Triforce running AM2 developed F-Zero AX, Atomiswave running many fishing and fighting games Sega was part developer and publisher, and Chihiro most known for OutRun 2 and House of the Dead III due to their Xbox ports. Later in the 2000’s, Sega’s arcade hardware would be more or less completely home media derivative, based on normal PC architecture, making some of the modern games running on a modified Windows. However, there was no Virtual-On, on any of these systems.

With Virtual-On FORCE generally receiving lukewarm acceptance from the overall audience, regarding Oratorio Tangram the superior game, Hitmaker would develop a console-only sequel for the PlayStation 2; Virtual-On MARZ.

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Virtual-On Retrospective; FORCE

Previous: Oratorio Tangram

Sega often had multiple arcade boards running at the same time and never really dedicated their library and efforts on just one board. For example, while the Model 3 board was developed to replace Model 2 and was introduced in 1995, Model still kept going until 1998 and was phased out only after NAOMI hit the scene. Furthermore, Sega had their System 21 running from 1987 to 1996, while their H1 system was barely a blip on the scene in 1995, with it being their last Super Scaler board and had only two games. Other companies, like SNK with Neo-Geo, emphasized the amount of games on a board for a more economic approach. However, Sega had made good business in the arcades with excellent selection of timeless classics, but as we saw with the Dreamcast’s end, all things must come to an end.

Sega Hikaru hit the scene in 1999, before Model 3 was phased out and after NAOMI was put into public use, the Hikaru is almost a high budget, envelope pushing hardware to NAOMI’s ties to more budget conscious approach. Despite being derivative of NAOMI technology, it was expensive to produce due to its chipset, and it was hard to code for due to its intricacies. It featured a custom build Sega GPU with advanced graphical capabilities, almost a standard for Sega’s flagpole systems, with additional CPU, sound and other custom processors that utilised the expanded bandwidth and memory. All this was partially to enable the Hikaru to do Phong shading, which was the most advanced shading technique of the time, which essentially calculated the needed colour per pixel, making triangles on a model seamless and allowed better specular highlights.

The Hikaru was developed almost exclusively for Brave Firefighters, a 1999 arcade game.

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Virtual-On Retrospective: Oratorio Tangram

Previous: Operation Moongate

Virtual-On was a relative success for its time. It saw most of its popularity in Japan due to larger availability of arcades and the Saturn doing better there than anywhere else. For America however, the success was much more limited. Less arcade machines to go around and Saturn’s lukewarm success were the main reasons. The PC version, much like other Sega’s PC releases, was less emphasized over their own console’s port. This lesser success seemed to convince Sega’s European section not to release the Twin Stick controller in the region. Despite how the game is considered a sort of landmark for Sega and mecha games overall among fans, that’s all mostly in retrospect. Its impact didn’t exactly topple any towers, and ultimately met similar niche status as Sega’s other Saturn seller title, Panzer Dragoon.

The decline of arcades, and Sega’s mismanagement of their hardware side (especially during Mega Drive’s later years and Saturn overall) limited Sega’s business success overall, with Sony taking their place as Nintendo’s main rival with the PlayStation. That is not to say that Virtual-On ended up being some sort of sales catastrophe, as Japanese arcade goers took the series close to their hearts. This being Sega, they gave more emphasis on this fact rather than considering the franchise’s world wide success.

Despite Sega Model 2 being a success on its own rights, Sega was always pushing their arcade hardware further. If Nintendo has an obsession to introduce 3D to home hardware, then Sega had an obsession to push the 3D hardware at arcades. Hang-On, OutRun and Space Harrier are all examples of 80’s Sega finding ways around to introduce 3D-like effect to their games, and you could even argue that Sega’s teams became master of sprite scaling in this fashion.

Sega didn’t cut much corners with their arcade hardware, and Sega Model 3 supports this approach, as it was the most powerful arcade system board of its era. As Sega’s last piece produced by their partnership with Lockheed Martin, it contained graphical hardware designed by Real3D and Mitsubishi, which was a spin-off company from Lockheed Martin. However, Real3D only saw success with Sega, and their partnership with Intel and SGI ended up as market failure, and in the end was sold completely to Intel in 1999 due to changed arcade markets.

The reason why Mitsubishi was brought into the partnership was Real3D had a series of delays with their GPU. Originally, the Model 3 was supposed to be released in 1995, but had to be pushed back to 1996, with Yu Suzuki claiming it would deliver the best 3D graphics thus far.


Model 3, of course, ran the latest Virtua Fighter

Continue reading “Virtual-On Retrospective: Oratorio Tangram”