StepMania – Dance Dance Revolution Simulator

In my recent post, I mentioned that I love playing Dance Dance Revolution and that I recorded onto VHS some of the DDR songs I played on Raquel’s Playstation One (PSOne) so that I no longer need to load up the PSOne everytime I wanted to play DDR.

The idea worked well… for a while.

There were problems with the idea. First, after playing the tape over again a few times, the song selection and song sequence got pretty old. It was starting to become monotonous. Second, even if I make a mistake in the footwork, it doesn’t really matter as the footwork performance was pre-recorded. Even though it was my own footwork that was recorded, it was pretty static. Even if I improve in actuality, I wouldn’t get any feedback from the game (as it was now only just a record of the game).

So, I searched the Internet about getting some PSone DDR games. I was also specifically looking for the DDR 3rd Mix version of the game as it was my favourite from playing it in the arcades in Makati. I missed my favourite songs from the game like Butterfly, Boom Boom Dollar, Captain Jack, and Wonderland.

Unfortunately, my search yielded nothing. Although I know the older DDR games existed for the PSone, those games were quite difficult to find. The next best things were DDR Max and DDR Max 2 both for the Playstation 2 (PS2). Since we didn’t own a PS2, that also meant we’d have to buy the console, too. The consolation though was that we already own the dance pads for PSone and those would be compatible with PS2.

I canvassed at Electronics Boutique (EB), Dick Smith Powerhouse (DSE) and Harvey Norman for PS2s. A new PS2 is around $240 while a pre-owned PS2 is at $150. A pre-owned PS2 would do the trick. The problem was that, there doesn’t seem to be any DDR games for the PS2 for sale in Australia. I would probably need to buy in online and have it imported from the US or something. Anyway, if I wanted to play DDR on PS2, it would take a long while before I could start doing so and the DDR game I really wanted wouldn’t be what I would get.

There must be another alternative, I thought. Well, another item that popped up while I was searching for DDR games on the Internet was a freeware software called StepMania. The home site for the software described it as follows:

StepMania is capable of playing many game types. Currently, it supports games similar to Dance Dance Revolution, Pump It Up, EZ 2 Dancer, and Para Para Paradise. In the future, it will support games similar to BeatMania, Guitar Freaks, DrumMania, and more.

The games played by StepMania are rhythm games. Notes scroll up from the bottom of the screen, and the player must hit the corresponding button on the controller in time to the. All games can be played using the keyboard, but the real fun comes when using specially designed controllers, like a dance pad or hand sensors.

StepMania’s opening screen.

Very intriguing, I thought. So, I downloaded the software and had it installed on my PC. To my pleasant surprise, when I started the software, the user-interface that greeted me had the same look-and-feel of a DDR game!

I wasn’t able to play it yet though as I didn’t have songs installed, it said. I went back to the website and looked around. Apparently, given the right files, it could actually work like DDR. Look at these screenshots:

I got some songs from the Internet and I was able to run them on StepMania as expected. It was simply great! It can even be set to auto-play mode so that it would play the whole song and supply the correct footwork steps automatically without my help. This meant that it would run just like how the songs I’ve recorded on VHS. I could still keep up with the necessary footwork but I wouldn’t get any feedback on whether I was committing mistakes or performing very well.

Super Dual Box USB-PSX Controller Adapter.

I later found out that there is such a thing as a USB-PS2 adapter. That is, I could connect a PSone/PS2 controller to this adapter and have it connected to my PC’s USB port and I could use the controller on my PC! I bought a Super Dual Box USB-PSX Controller Adapter for $50 at Harvey Norman today. I was very excited to know if it’ll actually work.

When I got home, I quickly connected my dance pad to the adapter. It worked all right but it wasn’t as easy as I’d hope. Apparently, I couldn’t get the left and right buttons pressed at the same time. So, whenever I used it to play StepMania, I’d get a “Miss” on footwork that required me to step on both the right and left buttons. It was so frustrating but I was later on able to fix the problem.

After that, I spent like two hours playing StepMania! I was dripping in sweat afterwards. I hadn’t perspired that much in a very very long time. I was tired but at the same time, I had lots of fun. It was just like when I was still in the Philippines and I’d spend like an hour in Glorietta in Makati playing DDR 3rd Mix in the Timezone arcade. Well, at least now I’ll get some exercise done but at the same time, it wouldn’t feel like a chore.

Update: I have to add that I fixed the problem of not being able to get the left and right buttons to work at the same time by downgrading back to version 3.0 of StepMania. Apparently, the old stable version can get around it but the release candidate versions (rc1 and rc2) couldn’t.

Published in: on April 23, 2005 at 10:50 pm  Comments (7)  

My $500 eyes

The world is full of light and everything looks shiny but it all looks strange through my newly minted spectacles. I went for an eye checkup last week because I noticed myself getting closer and closer to the monitor whenever I use the computer, certainly an indication that my eyesight’s getting worse. Last time I had my eyes checked was about three years ago, I’m definitely overdue.

Unlike in the Philippines where eye exams are not done for free by the optical shop, optometrists here charge for this service seperately. I could either opt for bulk billed eye examinations where I would not pay anything out of pocket or have it done by non-bulk billing optometrists and shell out some cash. I think the second option would involve a more comprehensive exam where they would check for glaucoma and test the pressure of your eyes aside from usual test for prescription glasses. Since this is the first time I’d be doing this here, I thought perhaps it may be a good idea to keep it simple. I went with the bulk billing way, promising myself that I’d go for the comprehensive exam next time.

Two Fridays ago, I booked an appointment with the optometrist at Merrington’s and looked at their small selection of frames but didn’t find any to my liking. I then went to the other optical shops in Chadstone in search for a good selection. I found OPSM‘s range to be adequate plus they are currently offering $100 off the price of their glasses so I resolved to have my glasses made there. Next day, I had my peepers peered into by the optometrist and tried several lenses in reading those miniscule letters in the board. After the exam, the optometrist asked me what I’d like to do as my glasses doesn’t fit my prescription anymore. I politely asked for the prescription so he wrote the script and I went straight to OPSM after that.

After selecting a pair of frames, I talked to a sales person and we talked about the features and costs for my lenses. The lenses for my specs are supposed to be impact resistant, non-reflective (invisibles) and have thinner profiles. None of those Coke-bottle lenses for me, thank you very much. I was tempted to go for the sun protection feature as well but thought that it was way too expensive and that I might as well just get another pair of prescription sunnies. Here’s the cost breakdown for my new pair of eyes:

Revlon frames ……………………………. $299.00
2 Polycarb S/V Active Asp SV N …………….. $209.00
Total without discount ……………………. $508.00
(Less discount) ………………………….. $100.00
(Less frames benefit paid by health insurance) . $ 70.00
(Less lenses benefit paid by health insurance) . $ 70.00
Total out of pocket expense ……………….. $268.00
Cost of seeing clearly ……………………. Priceless!

Optometrists recommend that eye exams be done every 2 years and I guess that I’d be doing this again in 2007. Maybe I should consider LASIK eye surgery as it would treat my near sightedness as well my astigmatism, if only I would stop being so chicken about it. Maybe in a few years.

Published in: on April 23, 2005 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment