The decision was not a hard one: a lack of time/resources for programming had left both sites in a code stasis for over a year. Bugs weren’t getting fixed, and no relief was in sight. Complicating things was a forum community that was mostly interested in sniping and trolling each other. I no longer felt like a member in my own forums, and that weighed heavily on my conscious. It was a deeply painful failure to keep what had once been a civil, “good” corner of the gaming community from turning toxic.
While the sites officially shut down a month later on my birthday (a perverse birthday gift for myself), users were able to export their personal data into a portable XML format until what was supposed to be December 31st, 2009.
As it turned out, that day I was in Akihabara, playing the very games that I had fallen in love with back in 2003. As my interest in Bemani has waned dramatically over the last few years, it’s not lost on me that as I clicked away and slapped the plastic turntable back and forth, no thoughts passed through my head about recording scores or checking where I was ranked.
The data survived into 2010 until tonight, when I finally pulled the trigger and expunged all the data from my database. So if you hadn’t exported your data yet – I apologize, but you’re too late. I don’t have a copy anymore.
There were countless things I learned from the five years the sites ran: nerdy things about database optimization and PHP’s image libraries; hard fought struggles with moderating communities and building good controls for data review; pointers on staffing a no-profit web site and balancing life versus your projects. Maybe these lessons will surface in other posts over the coming year – maybe they won’t. There is just one on my mind tonight:
The best schools and books and teachers in the world are no comparison to going out and building something that people want to use. Go: dig your hands into the soil (as it were), and create something. Be the president, the support technician, the artist, the lead programmer, the project manager. Take all of the credit and accept all of the blame.
I’ve quoted this before, but I can think of nothing more fitting:
> Don’t be afraid. If you want to do something, just go ahead and do it, but be prepared to take the blame, to feel the fall. Don’t sit around waiting to be asked, to be given permission. Just get out there and do it.
As I said in the original shutdown notice – it was a great five years, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
When you think of things with which you play video games, you may come back with “joystick”, “game pad”, “light gun”, “keyboard and mouse”, or perhaps even “plastic guitar”.
Over the last seven years, no one company has contributed more to the sheer volume of gaming devices in my possession than Konami. These seven years have seen five dance mats, four beatmania IIDX controllers, one gigantic Pop’n Music controller, one headset, one plastic guitar, and one set of plastic drum pads. Few of these have survived the yearly purge sessions, but the point came across loud and clear: Konami is, in no uncertain terms, the king of the peripherals.
Or at least, they were. Konami hasn’t introduced a new music game peripheral since 2005 with the US flop of beatmania. (Mysteriously, that peripheral – a redesign of the old IIDX controller – was a nearly flawless upgrade.) Three years later, Konami has threatened the world with another damn drum set, the sixth drum peripheral on the market and the third introduced by Konami.
But this post isn’t about that monstrosity. It’s about the Pop’n Be-Mouse, a strange (yet cute!) Japan-only device which combines the shape of a beetle, the functionality of a mouse, and the general purpose and style of a Pop’n Music controller. It’s the newest addition to my gaming controller collection.
This isn’t Konami’s first foray into PC Bemani – of course, you’d be easy forgiven for forgetting that those previous tries were mostly typing tutors like beatmania Da! Da! Da!. To its credit, the Be-Mouse is true to the ideals of Pop’n Music, it’s just…tinier.
Konami has crammed a nine-button Pop’n Controller into a 2.5″ mouse. Each of the nine buttons is about a centimeter in diameter, making them just slightly smaller than my fingertip. The buttons are tucked away under two plastic wings that, when opened, make the thing look not unlike a beetle. The wings are fairly sturdy and don’t give me fears of snapping them off.
Let’s hold off on the gaming for a moment and talk about it purely as a mouse: surprisingly, it’s not half bad. The mouse feels good in the hand, and the buttons function as one would expect. The scroll wheel has a more “clicky” feel than my Microsoft Intellimouse, which I actually enjoy. The mouse is plug-and-play under OS X, but not so under Windows XP, as you’ll have to install the drivers before it does anything interesting. Of course, the Pop’n software does not work on OS X at all, so Mac users should stay away unless they’ve got Boot Camp or other Windows methods.
While the mouse does come with an adorably weird mouse pad – full of half-broken English like *POP’N MUSIC MAKES YOU HAPPY, PRETTY, LOVELY!* – I don’t recommend using it. It is quite thin and light, making it easy to travel around your desk as you mouse. Worse, the texture it’s made out of causes the mouse to float strangely while you try to use it for regular functions. I went back to my usual mousepad and haven’t had any similar problems.
All things considered, the Be-Mouse is a competent laser mouse. But no one is going to buy this as merely a mouse – they’re looking for some Pop’n insanity. Despite it’s candy-colored exterior and endless supply of cartoon characters, Pop’n is notorious for being among the most difficult of music games.
After what should be a straightforward install, the Pop’n Be-Mouse software is accessible through the standard Windows methods, or by pressing the middle red button on the mouse’s controller. The game launches almost instantly, and after a quick load, you are off to the Pop’n races.
The game ships with 10 songs, most of which will be familiar if you’ve played at least one Pop’n game before. If you’re coming to Pop’n by way of another Bemani game such as DDR, you might recognize Daikenkai by Des-ROW. Additional songs are available via an in-game store that uses i-revo – but due to patch complications, I was unable to upgrade my install to the version necessary for store access.
Pop’n is a very visual game, so here’s some camera-recorded video of what the experience is like, end-to-end:
While Pop’n Be-Mouse is fun for what it is – *Pop’n Music Lite PC* – it’s important to note what it isn’t.
If you’re looking for extreme Hell course-style difficulty, you may wish to look elsewhere. The game features four difficulty modes; three of which are shared with the traditional Pop’n games (5-Line, 9-Line Normal, 9-Line Hyper). But 9-Line Ex, the peak difficulty level, has been dropped. Instead, users will find a 3-Line version, boiling a song down to a whopping three keys out of the nine available.
Likewise, Poppers familiar with some of the other modes that appear on the Pop’n games should prepare for the minimum possible in presentation. There’s no training mode, no versus or courses, no character select, no unlocks, no COOLs or arcade stage scoring or ojamas. It’s Bemani at the most basic form – pick a song, play, repeat. It will track your clears and best score on each difficulty level, but that’s about it.
Finally, it could potentially be used for a controller for other applications – MAME32 saw it as joystick input – were the red center button not bound to launch the Pop’n app. I think this can be worked around by killing the application in the system tray, but I haven’t verified this yet.
In short: it’s a decent mouse with the neat feature to play a music game as well. Is it worth dropping $70 plus shipping on? Perhaps not, but in the wide array of merchandise that Konami has put out for Bemani players over the years, at least this one is functional *and* fun.