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Monday, June 29, 2009

Things I hate about Stepmania

Who doesn't love cat paws? by Shamey Jo from flickr (CC-NC-ND)It's been such a long time since my last flaming rant. In this episode of taw's flaming flames I focus on Stepmania. And I don't intend to differentiate between Stepmania the software, DDR as such, songs, and everything else - all of it is Fair Game.

First, I hate all the delays. The only part of Stepmania I care about is the one playing the songs and checking my steps, everything else is just an extra that should try its best not to get in the way. Stepmania spectacularly fails at it - there are delay screens and delay animations everywhere, some possible to turn off, most not really. I do not need the "CLEARED" screen, I especially do not need the score spin, and then 5 second delay back to the song selection wheel. Just give me the damn score, and get me back to the selection wheel immediately when I press START! PC is not an arcade machine!

Second, slowness. I mean, the non-deliberate delays. Now Stepmania is fast enough with 50 songs like arcade machines, but real installations will have over 9000 songs - what means a few minutes to start the damn thing. What is it doing during the startup, checking for rickrolls?

A minor related annoyance is the menu system. Configuration options are divided into way too many submenus that don't mean anything. You think they do? Now quickly tell me where are the options to speed up the wheel, and turn off all the delays that can be turned off... Yeah, I fail to see the logic behind it too. And while it makes sense to make the dance mat the primary controller, it would be nice if it was possible to use keyboard sometimes too. For the sake of example, let's say I'm looking for a Zelda song I really like but I don't remember the title. Right now I have to sort by title, go to Z(elda), L(egend of Zelda), T(the Legend of Zelda) and probably ten other places! How difficult would it be to add an option of search by keyboard for those times when I'm looking for something in particular? Remember, there are over 9000 songs, it's not an arcade machine!

Oh, and there entire difficulty levels system - I have so many complaints about it! For one, what does it matter to me if a song is an 8-feeter on standard, or 8-feeter on expert? It's an 8-feeter either way, but there's no way to browse all 8-feeters together. (for every possible value of 8 of course)

And I wouldn't really mind if the feet ratings were replaced with something else - foot ratings are sort of reasonably accurate for official releases, but for fan-made ones they can be horribly wrong. I wonder if we could take this 5-difficulty diagram or something like that, measure what player is good at, and convert that to player-specific difficulty ratings... That would be cool, wouldn't it?

Now something about songs - I really hate songs that do stupid tricks with arrows display. The root of the problem is that arrows move along with the beat timer, not along with wall clock time. This causes so many problems like:

  • Low bpm songs have extremely densely packed slowly moving arrows, and are hard to read
  • High bpm songs have very quickly moving arrows that don't last on the screen very long and provide very little reaction time
  • Songs that change bpm a lot, and you don't know when you have to hit the arrows
  • Songs that freeze beat timer and unfreeze it by surprise - unless you know when the unfreeze happens you'll miss the arrows.
In all cases you basically need to learn the song's arrows instead of looking at them on screen. These tricks could be fun if used occasionally, but they're overused to the point of being extremely annoying.

But most of all let me dance instead of waiting and I'll be happy enough.