Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Musings 14

Why Fortnite is So Addictive

Unfortunately, my healthy sleep routine streak was ended since playing Fortnite. I was wondering why this game is so addictive, so I'm compiling a list here.

Building.
The one thing that makes it so addicting, is the one thing that made me hesitate from playing the game in the first place, and that's the building aspect. I look forward to going to my home base to add more traps, structure, and reinforcing materials. Sometimes I would just go to the storm shield base just to admire what I built, even though it's not aesthetically pleasing as some player's forts.  Fully reinforced metal and brick layers is quite attractive, but it takes a lot of materials, but I grind because it's refreshing to see the beautiful materials once triple-reinforced. As you can see from the link, you can be as creative as you want, so the building can be complex.

I love just walking around the fort, going up the hill to get a bird's eye view of the fort, and hearing the sounds of my character Kyle's footsteps crunching on top of traps and building materials. I would sometimes just go to my home base to do just that, enjoying what I've built.

The game does give you limits to building structures, but I don't think anyone has ever had problems with the cap so you can build to your heart's content.

Graphics.
I find artwork style and graphics very important, as I noticed that I was never drawn into Minecraft because of the unattractive blocky nature of the game (as well as the emphasis on building), even though I played Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII which are the definition of polygons. The difference is that if you're going to build something, you want your building to look nice since you put in all the effort.

Fortnite has a cartoon style, and granted, it's not as crisp as games in that genre such as Gravity Rush 2, where I can't see any jaggies, and the art direction is absolutely brilliant and stunning. My friend, who's not a gamer, said Gravity Rush 2 was like watching an animated movie. Although Fortnite is not at that level, I like the colorful nature of Fortnite so it's fun to explore the world.

Story and Characters
Surprisingly the story is actually good and humorous. One thing I like about Fortnite is if you miss one of Ray's dialogues, you can go to the mission that you completed and play the intro and outro.  Since the game is still in early access, I heard that after Plankerton (Canny Valley and Twine Peaks), there's no longer any story. I think I'm going to play through Plankerton, and wait for the game to come out, because I prefer to see the story while I play the game, rather than playing the dialogue back to back.

I also found Ray, the robot that guides you, very funny. Even when she's annoying by letting you know that the husks are intruding into the fort, that part is comical due to the tone of her voice. 

Each hero you play have different personalities. Originally, I mained Kyle, the Constructor, a lovable guy who makes fun of himself for being overweight and out of shape whenever you run out of endurance. Because my shooting skills aren't great, I had to change to Ramirez, the Soldier, who reloads weapons very quickly and has more offensive power. Ramirez tends to be no-nonsense and gung ho, which is consistent with her class.

My favorite along with Kyle is Jess, the Outlander, due to her intentionally flat, sarcastic tone. The Husks do wear shorts, so it's funny when she encounters them, she says "Nice cut-offs". She also makes other quips, insulting the husks ("They're alive and they're ugly") and offering sarcastic advice such as "have you considered meditation?"

I haven't played any of the Ninjas, but I'm sure they also have their unique personalities.

Gameplay
Much has been said about the grinding for resources and experience points, but it's actually fun. When you use your pick-axe, a blue circle comes up that shows the object's weak points, so you want to aim your axe there. So it's not as mindless as you have to adjust the angle of your axe since the blue circle weak points change location. In that respect, there's some gameplay element in there with the coordination of aiming.

The enemies are not that diverse, comprising of tiny husks that run at you rather quickly, regular husks, the larger husky husks, and the even larger mist enemies.  Even though I never got into shooters, even after playing the exceptionally polished Gears of War (I was surprised that Epic Games is the developer!), The Last of Us, and Uncharted 1 and 2. In fact, there were times when I was hoping to get past the shooting parts of the game as quickly as possible as the story and characters were infinitely more compelling, and not so much the shooting.

However, for some reason, I find Fortnite's shooting elements addictive. I actually want to get better at shooting, such as landing head shots and using the minimal amount of bullets necessary to kill enemies. I would actually go to lower level missions to practice in a more controlled environment.  I cannot explain why I find the shooting compelling here, whereas not so much in the other games. I now know why FPS and shooters are so popular, as you want to constantly refine and perfect your head shots and conserve your bullets.

Major Con: Customer Service and Bugs
I haven't heard back from Epic Games, and it's been over 5 business days. I was reading about a husband who inquired about not getting a legendary item for a timed event in such detail, that it was obvious it was the developer's fault, but they denied. One helpful reply to his post is to contact BBB (Better Business Bureau in the U.S.) as businesses don't want to have negative reports (I'll try to find the link again). Curious, I went to see Epic Games' status, and it was not accredited, though not responding to 6 complaints doesn't seem that "bad". 

In other words, I still recommend the game, but perhaps waiting until it's free in 2018, because if you pay for the game, and you lose your most wanted items, and I had heard that some people even lost their home base forts after a patch, you'll feel ripped off. Whereas if you encounter such glitches, but you pay nothing, then at least you're not being taken advantage.

Fortnite is a brilliant, addictive game (and can be a masterpiece in a more conscientious developer's hands such as Guerrilla Games of the Killzone and now Horizon: Zero Dawn franchises), and absolutely worth playing once it's free. If you don't mind paying money despite glaring glitches and unfinished portions of the game, I would buy it now. It ruined my sleep!

Have you played Fortnite and did you find it as addictive as I did?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday Musings 13--Fortnite Tips

Fortnite Tips--Offering the Most Important One

TLDR: Favorite items you want to keep.

I was going to my home base, wanting to add traps after collecting 5 stacks of nuts and bolts, that I noticed I no longer have the schematics (blue prints) for the high-tiered traps that we were guaranteed as a Founder! Paranoid that my traps went missing, I checked my other items, and a lot of my legendary and epic survivors and defenders (the survivors increase your stats depending on the particular ones) went missing as well! I immediately wrote to Epic Games' support.

I'm not sure how I lost these people and blueprints, and I'm over 100% sure that I didn't recycle them (you can recycle your unwanted items to your Collection Book to get rewards as you level up the Book), because who would recycle legendary and epic items at the beginning of the game? There are those who get to the position where they're actually recycling legendary stuff to put in the collection book, but that's only when people reach Plankton, which is the second area you go to, but I'm still at the first part of the map, Stonewood.

Seeing if anyone has the same problems, Googling, quite a few Fortnite players noticed their trap schematics went missing, as well as their heroes, people and weapons. Apparently, what happens is that if you recycle a lower-tier item, its respective higher-tier item can get recycled at the same time.

Allegedly, if you favorite the items you want to keep, they won't go missing even as you recycle your respective lower-leveled ones. The thinking is that the game defaults to your highest leveled stuff to recycle. Therefore, make sure you favorite everything you want by going into the main menu, inspect the item, and push L3 to favorite--you'll see a heart to the right of the name of your item.

Now that I'm suspicious, I won't be surprised to read that there are people who, despite favoriting the items, still lost them.

After every patch, items stored in your Storm Shield home base can go missing, but my understanding is that Epic Games fixes the problem later, and people have received their hard-earned materials back.

I was so disgusted that I debated whether I should continue to play Fortnite. The addictive quality was compelling me to just grin and bear it, but losing all those legendary and epic items made me want to quit. I decided to quit very temporarily until one member from delinquentMuse's Twitch stream said that he was able to get duplicates of legendary items, so I'm now playing Fortnite, giving in to the addiction.

I have read people's complaints that Epic Games can be unhelpful, replying that they can't do anything about the issue, or pretending that they've never heard of the problem. People do complain all the time, often needlessly, so I tend to take this with a grain of salt. Indeed, I keep reading how there are so many awful players who leach and refuse to contribute to a mission. However, from my experience, I met players who gave me level 50 plus weapons, one an Epic Shotgun Bearcat, only because I asked him what weapon he was using, b/c he was mowing down enemies, due to its knockback and large spread. When I used that weapon, I didn't have to aim. Not to mention, delinquentMuse's Twitch, where members have carried me, built up my fort using their own resources, and given me level 50 to 90 items (wtf, but in a good way)!

However, when I read so many people having the same problem with lack of solution from Epic Games, I think there's merit to their complaints.

Sadly, I feel that Epic Games offers what appears to be less than ideal customer support (given all the legitimate complaints) because they know that Fortnite players will just, like me, grin and bear it, because the game is so addictive and fun, so you don't have to try hard to keep your customer base. To be fair, I've heard that they can be helpful, it just takes time for them to get back to you.

Do I recommend the game now after this experience? Yes, if and only if you can bear to lose your favorite heroes, people and items. If you do get the game, I recommend taking screen shots of all your mythic (even more rare than legendary), legendary and epic items so if you do lose them, you can write to Epic Games and provide screen shots to get them back.

I may be able to get my schematics back, because as a Founder, it was advertised that you get high-tiered trap blueprints, so I have proof, but I most likely won't get my other legendary and epic items as I don't have any evidence that I won them. Except that I admit sheepishly, I bought v-bucks to buy a Super People Llama, so that can be sort of proof that I lost all my legendary and epic survivors and defenders (I was waiting to slot them once the rest of the support teams open up).

So if you don't find it that tedious to screenshot for proof of loss on a vigilant basis, I still recommend the game. For me, as it's rather cumbersome to keep taking screenshots after each wanted item (that might be dozens of times a day), I'm going to just favorite everything I want, rather than tediously taking screenshots every hour or so.

Forget the tips about, and obsessing over which hero class you should main, which weapons are best, how to bullet-proof your home base, how to build tunnels to herd the enemies in a single row so you can easily shoot them down, the most important tip is to take screen shots in case you lose your items, so you can get them back. Or at the very least, since that breaks immersion, Favorite items you want to keep.

Even so, Epic Games has developed a simply brilliant game that I love, so much so that despite losing my best items, I still want to play Fortnite. I will update Epic Games's response once I hear back from them.

Fortnite players, have you experienced the above or any other issues, and were they resolved? Please comment below!

The How of Happiness Review

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fortnite--Initial Thoughts On My First Multiplayer Game

I tend to avoid multiplayer games such as CoD, Destiny and so forth because I'm always afraid that there aren't going to be players for missions, whereas you don't have to worry about such things in single-player games.

Despite watching delinquentMuse on Twitch and chat members loving and finding the game addictive, I hesitated getting Fortnite because of the heavy COOP elements, where it appears that you really need others to complete missions after the beginning stages. While watching gameplay, I knew that I'd probably need teamwork at the very first mission.

Further, I was wary about the building aspects of Fortnite. Any game where you have to make your own entertainment, such as those "build your own game" games where you create your own level design, and games where you build things, are games I avoid. I want all the gameplay there for me, for the instant gratification. The games I've played don't require "work", which is the last thing I want to do when I want to unwind and veg.

Given my lack of spatial and design abilities (it's no wonder I didn't go into interior decorating, architecture, and so forth), building forts is a no-no, which is also a major component of Fortnite.

We should take Metacritic with a grain of salt, but the reviews noted the heavy pay-to play system and the alleged paywall behind the game. Reading the Fortnite forums, quite a few players note that it takes a long time to gain experience, that it encourages you to buy so-called V-Bucks that are used to buy Llamas (they're pinatas), that give you experience and other helpful items. Though, the consensus appears that this is not necessary as you earn V-bucks in-game, but it saves a lot of time and hassle.

The forums also point out another one of my gripes, that the Fortnite community is dead when you get to later stages of the game. 

However, despite all these weighty reservations, watching delinquentMuse and chat members play Fortnite for the past weeks, it looked very addictive with a gameplay loop that's very RPG-ish. You gather resources in preparation for the missions, and I love gathering and scouring for things. You level up using the skill-trees, also another aspect I look for in games. delinquentMuse's stream notes that you get used to building, and others help if you're not pro. Every time I see the game in action, it just looks fun so I broke down and got the game.

Fortnite is even more fun than it looked watching! My thoughts may change, since I'm still on the first area of the map, completing the Stonewood Storm Defense Shield 4, which is very early in the game. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised that the story and your mission guide, Ray, is very humorous. You are the "Commander" but you play as a Hero. Each hero class also has sub classes. There are male and female counterparts to each Hero. The classes are: Constructor, Ninja, Outlander, Soldier.

I picked Constructor Kyle as my main to compensate for my poor building skills as he makes the strongest forts that have the most health, regenerates and deals damage to enemies that melee attack the fort. Kyle was much more humorous than his woman counterpart, Penny, so he was a no-brainer for me.

Since I have poor vision and miss treasure, when I grind for resources, I chose Outlander Jess, because she's much more funny than her male counterpart, A.C., making sarcastic remarks and jokes in her intentionally dry manner. The Outlander is the best at gathering resources and has "keen sense" that spots treasure chests.

Ninja class tends to be very fast and picked if you want a more melee character. Lastly, the Soldier class is the "mascot" of the game as you start out playing as the hero Ramirez. The Soldier is expert at ranged weapons and grenades.

From my experience, you do need other players as the hordes of enemies (called husks) are unrelenting, and often attack your fort at multiple sides in almost all missions, unless you're an expert shooter and good at running around the fort and shooting at the same time, which I'm not.

I had no clue what I was doing, so I was carried during the first few missions, being amazed at some of my teammates constructing a 3 story building with ramps, trenches and the like in under a minute, while it takes me a minute to think through how to open the building menu, chose whether I want ceiling, wall, floor, trap, hampered down by still not getting into grips with the paddles as opposed to face buttons (I'm still struggling with memorizing the paddles).

However, you do learn and I got much better, but I'm limited in my building abilities and still a bit slow working around the building menu. As a result, for the defend missions, I make a bee-line to the object that needs protecting, put up 4 walls and roof around it, put two tiles around the structure with trenches (if possible), and then let the rest of the team add more complex structures such as ramps, stairs, and bridges, so at least making some contribution to the building.

Then, while the rest of the expert builders perfect the fort defenses, if there are other objectives in addition to guard and protect, I complete those sub-objectives. After that, I gather materials and then do other in-game activities that include saving survivors, whacking trolls, gathering resources, finding special treasure chests, and the like. 

I had difficulty building the fortress around your home-base storm shield (this will be a permanent fort, unlike the missions), so I recommend joining a Twitch stream to ask for help if you're not comfortable at building.

I highly recommend delinquentMuse, of course, and if you connect your account to Twitch, she offers special Twitch-only quests. In her chat room, there are members like me who are at the beginning stages all the way up to 50. Some of the level 50 members are able to complete level 70-plus missions, so there are experts here!

I'm a beginner, and being "carried" at the initial stages, I'm definitely very willing to team-up with the starting levels through Stonewood Storm Shield 4, since I sort of know what I'm doing right now. This game is extremely addictive and fun so everyone is willing to complete missions with you in Muse's chat room.

I can see the issues that other gamers, who played a lot of multiplayer games unlike myself, may have with Fortnite. Even so, Muse and her chat members are very heavy multiplayer gamers and hardcore, so they have experience with the genre and adore Fortnite.  

Even so, I can see the gripes such as the extensive grinding for resources in preparation for missions. Also, it doesn't make sense when you chose quests and level-ups how you're outside of the map, as opposed to being able to bring up the menu when you're at your home-base location, tinkering around your permanent fort.

For example, if I want to store my items (also equipping different weapons and dropping items you have to be at your home base or on a mission as you can't do that in the menu screen), I make sure I'm in the private setting (so no one will join accidentally). Chose the home base on the map to travel there, store the items in the base storage, and then quit the "mission" to go back to the main menu. Do you see how it doesn't make sense having to travel every time you want to store supplies?

Given the resource intensity of the game, they really need to give you a very large backpack to start out with. There are skills that you can acquire that expand your backpack, but the beginning space is not nearly enough.

I agree that it takes a lot of time and luck with the Llama pinatas to get Legendary heroes (not to mention the Mythic ones), defenders, survivors, weapons, and traps, but I've read that you can get by late game having Epic levels, which you can grind for without depending on RNG and luck.

I'm not sure if Epic items can reach Legendary status, and I see that's where less experienced gamers like myself will buy the limited edition, which may be the complaint of the game critics. Initially, I got the standard, but because I wasn't good at the game and needed compensation as well as loving this game so much, I admit I upgraded to limited edition (it comes out to the same price if you get the standard and then the upgrade). This was worth it for me. However, if you're really good at shooting and the like, you can get by with paying nothing. I just need extra help.

Though you have to pay for early access to play and it becomes free in 2018, I highly recommend getting this game right now if you're on the fence, as long as you join a Twitch stream where members are available to join your party, though I've been getting anonymous players all the time at least in the early stages.

To get unknown gamers, set the game to Public for this feature. So far, all my anonymous teammates have been very helpful and aren't "leeches" as people complained in the Fortnite forums.

However, I cannot speak for the later stages of the map in terms of how active the COOP is. But again, if you watch gameplay and it looks like fun to you (if it does, I almost guarantee that you'll love the game), and you're on the fence, I would take the plunge!

I will write more thoughts on Fortnite as I play through the game.

The How of Happiness Review

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Recommended Twitch Communities

TL/DR: Scroll all the way down for featured Twitch streamers

Growing up, I didn't have the quarters to play video games, and I felt guilty the rare times I had them and used them to play arcades, because my gaming skills are such that I only play a few minutes, finding that my quarter was not well spent and wasted. However, I enjoyed watching people play arcade games throughout my childhood. Today, we have the advantage of Twitch, but I felt overwhelmed going on Twitch as there's so many streamers, how do you chose?

Further, I was wrongly sucked into the narrative that most gamers out there are sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, no thanks to the very vocal minority of the GamerGaters, and that as a woman and minority, I'll get attacked by slew of racist and sexist comments. I also read about women being taunted during FPS PvP gameplay.  This was reinforced by reading so many negative YouTube gaming comments, that I really thought almost all gamers are very nasty and hostile. However, the reality is, if you go to any random Twitch channel, streamers tend to be nice as well as the chat rooms.

In the meantime, however, I avoided Twitch like the plague because of the negative stereotyping until I was trying the Dark Souls 1 NG+7 challenge, but failing miserably. I found TechPhantomReviewer who literally told me exactly what I needed to do to get to NG+7. That is, using an INT/DEX build, main weapon Great Scythe on trash mobs, and then sorcery on bosses. I was overjoyed to see that he was on Twitch as noted on his blog, but unfortunately, he hasn't been streaming recently.

However, do go to his YouTube channel as he has a fascinating video on Dark Souls Easy Mode--although I wouldn't dare face Queelag as my first boss as TPR did. But the general concept is to pump up your INT stats so you can use the overpowered sorceries.

During that time, I was only watching TPR, until I was playing the Dark Souls 2 DLC and encountered the Fume Knight, who I didn't quite understand the attack patterns, as he has so many, including AOE attacks. I would die within minutes so I couldn't see all the attack patterns to memorize.

Therefore, I wanted to see someone fight the Fume Knight with one of the weakest weapons, the dagger, because if the fight is so long and drawn out, I can get a sense of all of his attacks.

Searching for such a video on YouTube, I stumbled upon Flamingo Fuchsia's YouTube channel, and enjoyed her battle against the Fume Knight, dagger only and FF, aka Mixy, also has other dagger only boss fights.  You can easily get Mixy's sense of humor with this video, as well as this classic Dark Souls and Mixy moment where she beats the Last Giant--she was so happy with her progress, but then gets killed by an unexpected hollow soon after.

Here's another classic Mixy and Dark Souls moment that we all faced when doing the no Bonfire run. It was around the 1:40 mark when she realizes that she rested at the Bonfire.

I was very happy, after watching her videos, to see that she also streams on Twitch. Her Twitch channel is very humorous and we all enjoy lightly teasing her for her swearing, which is rather hysterical since she's Japanese, but uses American and British swear words. We also joke by warning chat to turn down the volume because of her shrieks when she gets hit by Bosses.

I was impressed with Mixy, as her first game ever was Dark Souls, and not only that, she decided to stream at the same time, which takes a lot of guts. Not only was she able to beat the game as a literal Noob, she managed to do a deathless run through NG+2 (ending at Ornstein & Smough), which is impressive to say the least for a beginner gamer.  

In pure Mixy fashion, her first platform game was the Crash Bandicoot Trilogy, so she had to chose one of the hardest platformers to start out with, but she managed to beat all 3 games without using any cheats. If you're interested in a warm, humorous, and accepting community, I would highly recommend FlamingoFuchsia. Mixy doesn't have a set time schedule, but I would follow and turn notifications on to alert you if you're interested in joining her community.

Because streamers often COOP with other streamers, I met MsHardmode and delinquentMuse through FlamingoFuchsia, both love the Dark Souls series.

MsHardmode is an expert gamer, and her community is very welcoming and helpful. I would also follow and/or subscribe and turn notifications on as she hasn't been streaming as regularly as she was during the glory days of the delinquentMuse/FlamingoFuchsia Dark Souls COOP era.. Her chat are made up of mostly enthusiasts of Dark Souls and we take it upon ourselves to help others get through difficulties of this series as we want people to come to appreciate and love the games.

delinquentMuse has a wonderful channel and stream, and she's also on Discord which she always replies to your comments and questions. Muse often streams on weekends and rather regularly.  She's currently playing Fortnite, and also is a huge Dark Souls enthusiast. To say that she's very supportive, kind and welcoming is quite the understatement.  Indeed, I think that's how she was able to gain a sizable following. Her chat room is also at the same level where we all try to answer questions/concerns about games.

Indeed, delinquentMuse immediately answers questions posed in chat and always gives helpful hints and advice so that you don't have to waste time figuring out what is the best, ideal build! I'm glad that she has a subscription button, so please follow and subscribe (I believe first month subscriptions now are 1/2 off the usual $4.95/month). It's very much worth it, given that Muse streams very frequently and will answer any gaming questions you have. If she doesn't know the answers, we will make sure we find an answer for you as her community is full of knowledgeable gamers, and we love to do research, so we're often Googling.

I met Craddoc during the Bloodborne era, as he was featured in Kotaku, beating the game with an SL1 character, no heals, no guns, at the highest level difficulty (NG+6). Watching his end reaction when he beat Gehrman, I instantly followed, and his chat room is so wonderful. Sadly, he hasn't been streaming recently, so we followers have been nagging him on his Discord channel. I do feel a bit depressed, but, one of his original followers, Hilly_, is now streaming on a regular basis!

Hilly_ provides a humorous, uplifting channel, that he's a literal shot of endorphins. His specialty is the Dark Souls series and Borderlands 2, of which he beat the game, I believe on hardest difficulty, with no deaths.  Luckily, he will help me with Borderlands 2 if I ever get stuck, as my first possible FPS that I finish.

The chat is definitely for mature audiences and the lack of censorship is a breath of fresh air (that is, as long as chat isn't belittling anyone or any groups), so we're quite the fun loving group. I'm hoping he can get a subscribe button soon, but do follow him and turn on notifications. He does stream regularly, but doesn't have a set schedule from my understanding. But I noticed that he streams on Friday AM/late AM EST, because I tend to see his notifications every time I work that day!

If you ever feel down in the dumps and you notice that Hilly_ is streaming, you should definitely watch his channel as he will improve your mood.

List of Twitch channels:
Craddoc
delinquentMuse
FlamingoFuchsia
Hilly_
MsHardmode

The How of Happiness Review

Monday Musings 12

Worst Novel That's Critically and Commercially Acclaimed?
I've been thinking of works that could be N.C. Esq's favorites (that's my fictional "guest writer"), which tend to be works that receive so much acclaim but nevertheless are not that great or simply awful.

A perfect example is, what I feel, the absolutely dreadful Gone With the Wind (novel), which won the Pulitzer Prize (?!??), and noted to be America's 2nd favorite book after the Bible. Indeed, growing up, the mantra was that this is a great masterpiece, and a lot of people I respect love the book, so I decided to read it in high school. Unfortunately, I can't point specifically to details and examples as to why I found it so awful, since it's been decades since I first read it.

I have the vague memory of being horrified by it, but nevertheless finishing the book, as it was like watching a train wreck or a horror movie (this may explain why horror movies tend to be blockbusters). I have a slight recollection that it was poorly written, with no real emotional truths, and even more thinly drawn out characters.

The thought of reading it again (so I can write an adequate review with examples and explanation) made my stomach turn and acid coming up to my throat. My friend, Todd, of Sweet Freedom blog, gave helpful advice to read excerpts, which will allow for a reasonable opinion piece, but even then, the thought of doing so made me nauseous and I could feel the stomach ulcers forming. Indeed, I was relieved to read in Wikipedia that this is the only book Margaret Mitchell wrote.

I feel sheepish to admit that I wanted to subject my friend Todd to the torture of reading the book (so I didn't have to), writing a review piece, so I can refer to it, but he wasn't interested in doing so, which I can't blame him.

This is only my opinion, as a lot of people I respect and admire truly love this book, but I would like insight as to why this book is considered so good? One of my best friends who adores the book was at a loss for words when I asked her why she liked it so much. In fact, I haven't had anyone tell me why this book is brilliant in a convincing, specific way, only that "it's so good". Every time I ask why, they say "just read it and you'll find out". Which I did, and found the exact opposite. Indeed, if no one can write compelling arguments espousing the genius of the novel, then it may not be as good as everyone says.

If you love this book and find it compelling, please don't hesitate to comment and explain below, because I really want to understand why this book is noted to be so incredible.

Monster Hunter: World's Triumphs
Yes, yet another Monster Hunter: World mention! The game has been doing very well in major video game exposition, often winning Game of the Show. Although winning Game of the Show does not necessarily mean the game is going to be brilliant, it does bring attention to a game commercially, so I think the game will have successful sales! 

GameStop is the only store in the U.S. where you can buy the Collector's Edition. Although I prefer that this edition isn't an exclusive, at the same time, GameStop will push Monster Hunter: World as a revelation. I believe GameStop's associated gaming critic site, Game Informer, was the only major media site that I've seen who were critical of the game, which was frankly refreshing as they were giving their honest opinions.

But with this new exclusive deal, I suspect that Game Informer will have their Monster Hunter loving writers (or maybe making sure that these same critics praise the game as "Winning Me Over" and "I Now See The Truth") gushing about the game for even more positive buzz. I know this is "sleazy" of me, but I'm hoping that all the media outlets would say how fantastic this game is (which I'm sure it will be), to push sales, so that the series will remain on PC, Playstation and XBox consoles.

So, in other words, there's a silver lining that GameStop is the exclusive distributor of the Collector's Edition.

Video Game Music Replacement
The last 2 games I played, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and Odin Sphere Leifthrasir had
The Divine One, Understatement?
pretty good music, but at the same time, there's a lack of diversity, such that the same tracks keep repeating. A lot of games have this issue, so it's no wonder that the Xbox One and PS4 implement ways to play music while gaming.


Probably my favorite genre is classical music, but this may be the worst for me to hear while gaming, as it appears that you need more upbeat music with more pronounced beats and rhythm. So even though I love classical music, it has its time and place. I mean, it makes NO sense for a DJ to play classical music at clubs!

I often play the OST of Eternal Sonata and Wild Arms 3 as they go very well with RPGs. I found Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Jazz, R&B and Soul outstanding music to play while gaming. I found Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown absolutely stunning while grinding out levels.

Which types of music do you listen to when your game has uninspired music tracks?

The How of Happiness Review

Friday, September 29, 2017

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir--Review

SPOILERS AHEAD

I ran out and got Odin Sphere Leifthrasir remastered for the PS4 since I was able to get it new for a reasonable $19.99 at GameStop. I felt that the game is a must, especially given its Metacritic score of a rather high 87, which is more like a 100 from my calculations.

Let me explain. For some reason, JRPGs tend to get rated much lower than they deserve (there are of course some exceptions) so I always add 10 to 20 points to the score. Dark Souls only got a lowly 89 during a time when 10's were given out like candy, and it's now acknowledged as a masterpiece and reference standard, so the extra 11 points goes to 100. Eternal Sonata was scored even lower at 80, so adding 20 points leads to a more accurate 100.

Story
Although the story follows the usual save the world theme, it's told in a complex, creative narrative where you follow 5 heroes, whose stories are intertwined with each other. Further, not all of their goals are saving the world, so it's intriguing how they all come to this unforeseen outcome. You first play as Gwendolyn, daughter of Demon Lord Odin, King of the Valkyries, and through that play through, we meet Oswald. I thought that after Gwendolyn's story arc ended, Oswald will then join her team, and then other characters along the way, with the party system that JRPGs tend to have, to achieve the collective goal.

Therefore, I was taken aback that after Gwendolyn's story ended, you then play as Cornelius, going through the same areas but in different sequence.  You then play as Mercedes, Oswald and then Velvet.

The story was not as gripping as a Final Fantasy VII, Horizon: Zero Dawn, or a Persona, but it's interesting to see how these characters deal with their situations, how some were actually antagonists of each other, and how at the end, they've come to realize that they all are serving the same end goals. Because of the intertwining, the story is complex and the characters are compelling psychologically.

I felt that the story didn't lead to my staying up at all hours like the games I mentioned above (which helped me meet my goals of getting 8 hours of solid sleep, targeting 11 PM to 7:30 AM), but the game made me want to go through an NG+ to relive the story, as I missed some points with the political intrigue, and because story isn't presented chronologically.

Character Portrayal
I feel that this is where the game shines, as the characters are interesting as they all are trying to figure out what their true purposes are, and how they can change their destiny. I listed one example, do not click to avoid spoilers:



Music
It appears that the soundtrack consists of 4 songs (I may be exaggerating), so although the music is melodic, it's rather repetitive, and none of the music has that epic quality of Wild Arms 3 Boss fight music. Just to name 2 (otherwise this post will be too long!): Black as Sin, Red as Blood and Crossfire Sequence (Janus's Theme), where I intentionally prolonged most if not all of the Boss fights so the music can repeat.

However, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, like many other games, is an example where you can listen to your own favorite music while playing the game.

Graphics/Framerate
This remastered version is the very definition of stylized animation that will never become dated. The reason is that it looks like watching a cartoon. There are no jaggies, so the lines are clean and crisp. There were no problems with framerate, and I believe it's listed at 60fps even. The loading screens are rather quick. The developers did a superb job remastering the game to modern gaming standards.

Gameplay
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is an action RPG, with no turn-based elements. The action does halt when you open up your menu to perform a special skill or consume potions, so it's not like Dark Souls where the action continues even as you're drinking an Estus (and often getting hit by the Boss as a result).

Through button configuration menu, you can chose any face button (except for triangle reserved for Oswald's Berserk mode) for normal attack, special skill attack, and jump. The L1 bumper button is the default to open up your skill menu to perform one of your special skills, and the R1 bumper button is the default to dodge.

In other words, I appreciate that you have ample choices in defensive maneuvers such as jump, dodge, and guard (guard is holding down the normal attack button). Successfully guarding allows your POW meter to replenish--some of the special skills use POW. POW meter can also regenerate right after you stop using POW skills.

Other skills use the PP meter, which only regenerates if you drink a potion, or with the Phozons you get when you kill enemies (though PP fills up very slowly this way), so you have to be more cautious using the PP skills compared to the POW skills. I noticed that the Phozons also add to your experience meter so you can level up that way as well, but this seems to be much slower than cooking, which is the best way to level up (more on that later).

You can program your special skill attack to one of the face buttons as mentioned above, and I chose the square button. Other skill attacks can be programmed to the square button (or whatever button you chose) while pushing up, down, left and right. To make it easier on myself, I programmed all the shortcuts to the main skill attack I use the most, such as Oswald's Vile Claw (which is a must).

The rationale is that in the heat of the battle, it leads to button mashing.  Wanting to use Vile Rush, I inadvertently would press right (or any of the other directions) AND square at the same time (instead of just square), performing the wrong skill instead of the needed Vile Rush.

Therefore, by making all the shortcuts programmed to "Vile Claw", if I'm inadvertently pressing up, down, left or right and the square button simultaneously, it will always register Vile Claw. If I ever want to use Oswald's Madness skill, I open up the menu (L1) and select "Madness". The action stops whenever you bring up the menu, so you have the time and luxury to do so. Therefore, I didn't see the need to program any of the other skills.

For each battle, you get ranked anywhere from, best to worst, S to D. You get the same reward objectives (often a key, ring, a high-ranking item), and I believe the better ranking you have, the more money you get, so it's not "bad" if you get lower than an S.
Oswald, aka Beast Mode!

I noticed with all the other characters, I tend to get almost all S's and some A's. The good news is that you can replay the stage battle for a better score.  However, with Oswald, I was getting B's and C's during the first playthrough, and almost got a D! It became frustrating to the point that I needed help. Indeed, Googling, there were quite a few people finding Oswald unfortunate.

But in NG+, he's actually the most overpowered (even surpassing spin-to-win Cornelius, and Mercedes and Velvet who I thought were also OP in NG), perhaps because I got used to his quick speed and therefore able to position him better. During NG+, when there are huge stacks of enemies, I was able to rack up combo counts up to 999, and scoring over 2000, of which you only need 1000 for S Rank!

Here's advice on Oswald if you have trouble:



When you defeat enemies, you gain Phozons that you use to improve your normal attacks (Phyzer weapon), and the various special skills. You can also use Phozons to "water" your seeds into fruits and vegetables that you can eat that levels you up. However, I recommend using Phozons to strengthen your weapon and skills. Then, cook food (Maury's restaurant and the Pooka cafes) to level up, rather than spending the Phozons growing plants (but only fertilizing seeds if you need a fruit/vegetable per the recipe, though you can usually get these items as rewards or in treasure chests).

The cooking, which is the fastest way to level up your character, is tedious as you have to ring Maury's bell and wait for him to set up his kitchen. Press X to talk to him, taking time again to put down your weapon and sit. The game allows you to skip repetitive scenes, but not for this particular sequence for some odd reason. Further, some of the recipes are rather nauseating (all that yogurt and cheese!), but it's a unique way to level up, and you can level up rather quickly if you grind for these ingredients. You get ingredients as stage battle rewards, in treasure chests, enemy drops, buying the ingredients, or watering plants with Phozons.

You can also level up just as quickly as cooking by dining at the Pooka cafes, but you need special Valentinian coins that you gain in battle, treasure chests, and sometimes by whacking sparkles on the floor. The two cafes are in the same area, the left one includes savory meals, while the cafe on the right serves deserts. I found that the desert cafe was actually more cost-effective, having more experience/coin ratio.

Game Balance
I find that this game excels in balance. By the time I finished the game and heading into the Boss Rush (fighting all the bosses) for one of the trophies, all my characters were around level 55, and 50 is the recommended level. I didn't even do that much grinding. I think if you get all S ranks and cover every single area and hidden room, you probably can get to level 50 with no grinding. Of course, you'll need to cook and go to the cafes to level up with the ingredients and money you earn through the battle sequences and searches, but you don't have to do any extra battles beyond this.

Further the starting level in NG+ is also level 50, so you're at the right level if you want to do an NG+ playthrough.

Replay Value
I found NG+ brilliant and exciting as you get more powerful rings, and I enjoyed the game more since I understood the story better the second time through. On first playthrough, the story can be confusing as mentioned before, since the characters' stories start at different times in the history, as the game isn't presented in a linear, chronological way.

Since I haven't mastered the mechanics the first playthrough, as I'm not an "elite"gamer, I enjoyed NG+. However, I believe that most might feel tired of the gameplay, as you're going through the same areas 5 times with different characters. Even though each character feels different, especially Mercedes as the only one with ranged attacks, it becomes repetitive.  Indeed, there were times when I almost felt like taking a break and doing yet another Dark Souls 3 NG cycle, so even for me, the gameplay is not quite at the "addictive" level.

Conclusion: The game's presentation, story, character development, and technical aspects (framerate/graphics) are very polished. The gameplay is balanced perfectly and NG+ is done well as you gain better equipment. Because you play as 5 different characters going through the same areas, and fighting the same enemies and bosses, the gameplay can be repetitive and at times, tiring, although each character has a different feel to the combat, including one ranged character. Even so, this game is a must-play for any RPG enthusiast.

Rating: B+, great to almost superb.

The How of Happiness Review 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday Musings 11

Health Resolution Progress
Since my post on Gaming Challenges about a week ago, I've been going to bed at a much more reasonable time, anywhere between 9:30 to 11:45 PM. On average, 11:00 PM, so I will try aiming between 10 to 11 PM this week.

Perhaps I've been doing so well is that the video game I'm playing, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, though extremely fun, does not quite have the gripping story like my favorite RPGs, so it was easy to stop playing the game and head to bed.

Even so, since I've been quite consistent with sleep, I might add light exercise. I'm fortunate to have stairs, so I'm thinking of going up and down the stairs (total 10 stairs) 10 times consecutively at least once daily.

Gaming Pet Peeves
As I was playing Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, I was thinking of my gaming pet peeves, since the game ranks your battles, and this type of ranking is definitely one of my pet peeves. I feel it takes away from your style and how you want to fight, because in order to get the highest ranking, you have to kill the enemies as quicky as possible, and to include as many attack combinations as possible. Even so, at least with Odin Sphere, you can redo the battle stage if you want a higher ranking.

In terms of pet peeves, I'm listing other ones that are subjective and/or features that game developers actually think gamers want. Therefore, the obvious "bad" game design such as poor frame rates, bad graphics, no variety of enemies, inputs lagging, poor story and character development, and so forth will not be in this list of pet peeves.

So, definitely, battles being ranked is one of my pet peeves.

The other is my biggest pet peeve of them all: motion control, motion control, motion control! It makes sense to have motion controls in Wii Sports, but not where you fight enemies. It's just as visceral to press R1/R2 to attack then it is to sway your arms using a remote (which rarely gets registered accurately), so I don't see how motion control can add to the gameplay, and in fact, they detract from the action.

When I was playing the remastered version of Twilight Princess on the Wii U, my friend went to the bathroom when I got to the point where I have to fight a mini-boss, and my friend said it was "very difficult". When he came back, I was onto the next event, and he was surprised that I killed the boss so quickly, and he asked me how. I said that all I did was press the button "A". My friend said when he was playing it, he would fall off the bridge so many times because he didn't wave his arms just so, as the original incorporated motion controls. Clearly, my friend didn't find it fun or satisfying when he finally killed the mini-boss.

Further, because of the heavy motion control elements, I cannot play Skyward Sword.

I also hate escort missions, but they're invariably placed in quite a few video games, but they're not nearly as bad as motion controls.

I also hate missable achievements and trophies, and ones that require you to be online. I find online achievements and trophies especially awful because it forces people to have an XBox Gold or Playstation Plus membership, unless you play games on PC.

I prefer not to have achievement and trophies linked to difficulty level, but I don't mind them as it does add challenge to the game.

I hate bosses who have 1HKO moves, which I think adds artificial difficulty and is quite unfair. Even if these moves can be avoided, I see this as mostly frustrating, and not satisfying challenges.

As for QTEs, which most gamers dislike, I think it makes sense to have them, but only as the very last attack flourish, where you press a button that leads to a cutscene where the boss dies. This use of QTE is very well-done and cathartic in the Bayonetta and God of War series.

I'll probably think of more pet peeves that game designers feel are really good ideas, when most of us find them the opposite. Do you agree with this list, and what are some of your gaming pet peeves?

The How of Happiness Review

Monday Musings 14

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