Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday Musings 23

Monster Hunter World Free Beta Access

If you missed the last free Beta access, the Monster Hunter: World demo will be available again world-wide for Playstation 4. Even better, this time around, you do NOT need a PS+ subscription. Because of this, if you don't have a subscription, you won't be able to use multi-player features, only solo. Here are the details:

Friday, December 22: 5 PM UTC (Noon EST) through
Tuesday, December 26: 4:59 PM UTC (11:59 AM EST)

Here's the UTC Time Conversion Calculator.

It's worth it to play the game solo if you don't have PS+ subscription, and in fact easier than playing with a team due to the increase in the monster's health when COOPing as explained here.

Capcom is doing a great job marketing this game, however, if they truly want to capture the Western Audience, they must make this Beta for Xbox users as well.

Amusing (Hopefully) Video Game Experiences

I was thinking of this topic when I restarted Borderlands 2, but kept dying over and over again because I didn't take cover. The issue is, due to my lack of experience with first person perspective, I couldn't tell if I'm in cover or not. Each time you're revived, you have to pay $11, so my $100 quickly went down to $45. I thought that once it goes to 0, it's game over, which I found out later isn't true, but since I didn't realize at the time, I decided to quit and sadly thought that I can't play this game.

The issue of not being able to take cover reminded me of my Uncharted experience. After playing Gears of War, Remastered on easy difficulty level, I enjoyed the game so much that I decided to play Uncharted, restarting yet again. I tried multiple times before, but it didn't click. However, since I got the remastered Uncharted series, the Nathan Drake Collection, I decided to give it a go again.

I decided to play on easy difficulty as per the internet, the enemies are bullet sponges, and because I have minimal experience with shooters, it made sense to me to try on easy, and I can always go to normal if the difficulty level is too easy.

The very first part of the game starts pretty quickly. You're attacked and the game instructs you to take cover. I was too lazy to take cover, and thinking that it's on easy, I can just stand and shoot, tanking my way through the introductory sequence. With my friend watching, I told him that I refuse to take cover, because I'm too tired, explaining that it's okay since this is on easy. However, in less than 1 minute, I died to a rain of bullets. My friend, watching, said "OMG".

Another gaming incident that is very Dark Souls is when I was COOPing with my friend in Bloodborne, and we made it to the Forbidden Woods area. I confidently told my friend since I've completed this area so many times, that I can find the shortcut for him, and he can wait by the lantern (i.e. bonfire). The shortcut that you unlock leads right back to this lantern. Further, it only takes a couple of minutes at most to unlock it, if you run past all the enemies and make a beeline to the shortcut.

Of course, with my sense of direction, I got lost. I saw the invasion screen, which being rare, you tend to forget about, and my thought was "Oh shit". My friend was panicking, "Hurry, Alice, I'm about to be invaded". I then told him that I got lost, but hopefully will find the elevator shortcut "soon", which he clearly was neither comforted nor convinced.

Since he kept telling me to hurry up in increasingly panicked tones, I got more and more anxious and flustered myself, which makes it harder to find my way through. My friend announced that the invader arrived (it takes time between the warning and the invasion). Somehow, I found my way to the elevator, and seeing the intruder about to attack my friend, I flung myself through the elevator shortcut door straight towards him. The invader, seeing me come at him like a bat from hell, then jumped off the cliff to his death. My friend and I had a good laugh about that.

Quite a few of my platforming experiences were disastrous, and there were many examples of this in the Metroid series. There were quite a few areas that I simply couldn't jump flawlessly on the platform to avoid acid, lava and other dangerous liquids, so my strategy is to kill the enemies until I get my full health back, since the enemies can leave behind healing items. With full health, I can then run through the acid, so I tanked a lot of the platforming elements in Metroid in this way. It actually worked, so that was one of my main strats for the series.

If I ever stream, I would cater to a niche audience, those who are beginning at gaming and need help in difficult areas of the game. The strats would involve leveling up, tanking, and so forth, ways that the developers did not intend a gamer to do!

I'm 100% sure that you have equally, if not more, amusing stories, so please share them here!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Monday Musings 22

The Game Awards, Best American Award Show?

This year's Game Awards is the first Game Awards I've seen, and I feel it's the best award show for its intended audience. It's been perhaps more than a decade since I've seen the other major awards such as the Emmy, the Grammy and Oscar Awards, but there's a reason why I stopped watching because they are boring, even though I enjoy music, movies and tv.

I think all awards shows should follow the programming of the Game Awards. I noticed that the show was very efficient. They immediately announce the category, the nominees, announce the winner, and speech. It seems like other award shows, this process drags on and on.

This is even more bloated by the number of ads, and this is where the Game Awards shines over the traditional awards. All of the ads are about video games, which are of interest to gamers because we want to know what games are coming out, unlike the Oscars where they might have advertisements that aren't related to movies, of which the intended audience may or may not be interested in.  Often these ads are boring such as ads about detergent. The Game Awards gets rather funny ads such as these:

This one is from Bethesda:

and another from Psyonix:

There's one special musical guest, instead of so many musical guests that the show drags on even more if that's possible. This year's Game Awards musical guest, Phoenix, was rather pleasant, and thankfully performed one song.  

Live audience of these traditional awards shows are going down, and it's probably because no one wants to sit through often bad musical entertainment, boring ads that aren't related to the subject at hand, and long drawn out speeches. They are often saved on DVR, to be fast forwarded. Or, to save even more time, read about after the shows end.

Not only is the Game Awards interesting, it was also informative as it highlights upcoming video games and is targeted toward the intended audience. If the other traditional American Awards shows can follow the concise and relevant format of The Game Awards, they might gain viewers.

Monster Hunter: World Beta Impressions
The Beta is everything I hoped for in a Monster Hunter! I completed all three missions solo on day of release. The trusted Monster Hunter sources, Arekkz Gaming and Gaijin Hunter were correct in reporting that the gameplay is very much like the old Monster Hunter series.

To enjoy the Beta more fully, definitely make use of the training room to test any weapons you're interested in.  While testing out the weapons, the screen will show basic moves and recommended combos. Further, in the options menu under "Hunter's Notes", the basic moves and combinations are listed more concisely.

Instead of targeting the breakable barrels, it's better to practice on the un-breakable pole in the middle of the training area. Sometimes you can't continue combinations if the item breaks, so to play out the full set of combinations, it's best to target the pole. Further, it's easier to see damage numbers when the combinations play out fully, so you can find out which attacks/combination of attacks are the strongest.

Once you get used to the move-set of your weapons and ready to start the mission, you need to tweak some settings. In the options menu while in-mission, change the item wheel to type 2. In type 2, you chose the item and then press R3 to use. With type 1, you point to the item then release the buttons, and the item is supposed to register, but often it doesn't.

If you don't want to use the item wheel, look at the items at the very bottom right of your screen, and cycle through them using your D-Pad right and left arrow keys. Press square to use.

If you have a PS4, I would recommend favoring resolution. Here, I'm hoping the real game improves in the resolution. I would like it to be more crisp and clear, even if it means reducing texture details. However, this is infinitely improved from the 3DS counterparts where my friend couldn't coop with me because the graphics caused eye strain and headaches.

For the third, expert mission, Anjanath, please play this solo, or at least with 3 people on your team for multiplayer. Since initially I couldn't beat it the first time, a friend coop'd with me (he beat the mission solo) and we couldn't defeat it because of its large health pool, and we must've tried 8 times.

We found out that it couldn't be defeated when my friend saw the Rathalos do 1,500 damage to Anjanath when he was almost dead (signified by limping), and yet he still didn't go down. Between the two of us, we were doing at most 100 per hit. However, after these many defeats, when I played the quest solo, I was able to defeat Anjanath.

I believe in solo mode, the mission is scripted so that you can learn the basics of hunting, because at the end of my first successful solo mission run, they made sure Anjanath was stuck in an infinite trap. Next play-throughs against Anjanath, when I became more proficient, it only took a couple of combinations to take him down, otherwise I feel that they would have Anjanath move to a trap pit.

My friend and I then coop'd with his friend, and we were able to defeat Anjanath so with three people, the mission is doable. A two-player team may not do enough damage, so please avoid this frustration.

The Beta is proof that Monster Hunter: World isn't made to be "Easy" or simplified for Western audiences. Weapon and battle mechanics are just as complex and deep as they've always been. I'm hoping that I would love World even more than my current favorite, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.

Have you played the Beta and what are your thoughts?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monster Hunter: World Beta Access and Hype!

Free Beta Access Starts December 9
Hold onto your hats, Monster Hunter: World is coming soon!

If you have a PS4, a Playstation Plus Subscribtion, and online access, it's a no-brainer to pre-download the FREE Monster Hunter: World Beta access (you must be online). Unfortunately, the time frame is very limited. I'm hoping that if this is successful (i.e. tons of users), they may even extend the time frame, but don't get your hopes up, we must prepare to be ready and play during the strict time limit which is as follows:

Saturday, December 9: 5 PM UTC (Noon EST) through
Tuesday, December 12: 4:59 PM UTC (11:59 AM EST)

Use this time converter for your zone.

They will present 3 quests, varying from easy, middle and difficult, and if you beat the quests and purchase the product down the road, you get rewards.

From watching all the video clips and information provided by the developer, Capcom itself, as well as prominent Monster Hunter gurus such as Arekkz Gaming and Gaijin Hunter, Monster Hunter: World will be the best of the series. I'm going to pull together the new, improved quality of life features as to why this game will not only be the best Monster Hunter yet, but even a Game of the Year contender.

Graphics and Draw Distance
I'm definitely not obsessed with Graphics, all I'm asking is for clean graphics without jaggies, and today's technology can achieve that, as seen in Gravity Rush 2, Hollow Knight, Ori and the Blind Forest and I can list so many more games. I'm certainly not saying that better graphics = better game, but if you improve the graphics so drastically within the same series, I think it does improve the game.

Monster Hunter has finally entered 1080p definition, improved from the ridiculously bad 240p (!???!) of the most recent 3DS version of Monster Hunter XX (March 18, 2017). 240p in 2017 is not what I'd call standard graphics on modern day consoles, especially when some gamers are now looking down upon 1080p due to 4K.

Playing the 3DS western version of Monster Hunter XX (Generations), the graphics were so bad that my friend, who was thinking of buying it so he can coop, took one look, got eyestrain and headache, and my hopes of ever playing this series with him was forever dashed, as I thought this will always remain on the 3DS, given the success in Japan. He actually felt bad and said he just couldn't get it because it hurt his eyes and he started getting a headache. 

I think by improving the graphics to the point where it doesn't cause eye strain and headaches pushes Monster Hunter: World ahead of past series.

You only need to look at Arekkz video of the Palico (Cat) armor and weapon set. Look at the
Palico Armor Set from Arekkz Gaming
detail of each armor and weapon set.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so I recommend clicking on the YouTube link for more armor sets! The cat goggles and backpacks are such that I would rush out to get all the materials to make those sets, looking forward to the hunts. I must admit that after awhile, if you need a particular part for your armor, it does get a bit old grinding the same Rathalos (I still have NOT gotten the Rathalos Ruby), but the incentive will be there to obtain parts for those cute goggles!

The other huge problem is the draw distance. I don't have the best vision, but from far away, I thought this blue blotch was the herb I need for the Insect Glaive (I ended up maining the trusty Switch Axe), and upon approach it was the blue Velociraptor. I don't need to explain in detail why this isn't a good feature in gaming. World will have improved draw distance.

Level Design
Monster Hunter has the trademark map with areas that are segmented, so you go from zone to zone, which halts the action as you wait for the map to load. When I saw the gameplay of Horizon Zero: Dawn, I knew I had to get the game, because it was exactly how I wanted Monster Hunter to be. Fighting monsters without having to go to multiple load screens!  I was so excited seeing that 2016 E3 trailer of Aloy, taking down a Thunderjaw, using all the techniques that you use in the Monster Hunter series but without loading. Can you imagine, as you finally dislodge his rocket launcher, he runs away, and you have to chase after him (which is okay, b/c that's very similar to hunting), but then you have to go to load screen and wait a few seconds before you can blast the launcher. Guerrilla Games, the developer of HZ:D, also stated many times that they were influenced by Monster Hunter. Indeed, if you wear all pieces of the Playstation exclusive Aloy armor, your character (regardless of gender) will look like Aloy, and your Palico, a robot machine!

I cannot go into the level design of Monster Hunter: World but it appears that the developers have made a very cohesive world, with carefully thought out ecosystem. From my understanding, they build the world around one central figure, like an enormous tree, so the location has consistent foliage. Unfortunately, I have no clue about ecology, but they have studied various biomes and traveled to different parts of the world such as Australia to create a coherent ecosystem.  

Quality of Life Issues and Features
This is such a long list, such that I need to cut and paste for these new and improved features:

Conclusion: This is the perfect opportunity to see if you'll enjoy this GOTY contender! Requirements are PS4, PS+ subscription and online access. Are you excited about playing Monster Hunter: World?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Monday Musings 21--What to Look For In A Video Game Critic

I was thinking about this topic as I notice my favorite video games tend to get relatively low Metacritic scores, so it appears that a lot of video game critics and I have such differing opinions that I can't seem to trust if I would truly love a game that scores "high", or not like a game that doesn't get as great a score such as the new Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a game that made me consider buying the Switch. I'm holding off for now as discussed here.

There are only two major critics that I noticed so far who have the same gaming tastes as me, and they happen to be the extremely controversial Colin Moriarty and Jim Sterling. Regardless of their politics and at times, abrasiveness, I find both refreshing because they're not afraid to criticize powerful game companies and developers when they are being unethical. In fact, whenever I see Moriarty blast a company for being anti-consumer, I enjoy watching his partners cringe and try to smooth things over, but Moriarty pressing his point even harder. However, both Moriarty and Sterling would also praise the same company when they do the right thing.

So, integrity is the very first thing I would look at to see if this critic is to be trusted. I don't have to spell out why someone who looks out for and wants the best for gamers is to be more trusted, over someone who shills for a large corporation for important advertising dollars and interview space at major conventions. 

While I do agree personality is important (most of Colin Moriarty's political views make me cringe and Jim Sterling can be abrasive to his readers), however, despite both critics having rather strong opinions and convictions, they have been humble enough to change their minds and perspectives if new information presents itself.

Although integrity is actually more important than the next criteria, you should also see if this critic (who has integrity) is enjoying the same games as you. However, even if the critic happens to love a game that you absolutely hate and vice versa, which will inevitably happen, it doesn't make sense to suddenly not respect him or her. 

If the critic tends to agree with the games you love, examine whether they are specific in detail, so you know why they find the gameplay compelling or problematic, and if it makes sense to you. Way too often, reading other video game critics' articles, I'd see an extreme score such as 10/10, but upon reading, one wonders why this particular critic feels that the game is so brilliant.

I'm generalizing, of course, but I would read something to the effect of, "this game is sheer magic and is undoubtedly one of the greatest of all times, if not the greatest", but then there's no explanation as to WHY it's magical, and worse, the critic would use further vague claims such as "I've never seen such depth and impeccable detailed level design", but WHY is the level design complex or intricate? I hear crickets.

On the other hand, you have Colin Moriarity, and here's a specific example of why I appreciate his criticisms. I'm a huge fan of Duck Tales and would spend my lunch money on the comic books, and watch the tv shows religiously growing up, so I have tons of nostalgia factor going into playing Duck Tales: Remastered video game. The game was even more attractive as it was free, so you'd think that I'd love the game.

I wrote this post and part of it went into why I hate Duck Tales so much. Although the topic is not about Duck Tales per se, even if I were to write a review of the game, I don't think I'd be able to explain why it's so unpleasant to me, despite the nostalgia and the added bonus of being free, until I read Moriarty's piece. He really hit the nail on the head, and offered rather specific instances of tbe problems he had with the game, most notably the unresponsiveness of controls, which I totally forgot about while forcing myself to play the game.

From my limited experience with platforming, precision of button pressing is of the most vital importance, otherwise one slip, you can't make a jump and die. And yet there are times that for unknown reasons, Scrooge doesn't react to the same button press you've been using as Moriarty clearly explains, so you'd die through no fault of your own. Although, I disagree with Moriarty's distaste about the added cutscenes, this is where his piece differs from many. He discusses them in detail and why he finds them annoying, so you can see if this is actually going to be annoying to you, or a plus. For me, since I like story, being a fan of the cartoon, that was one thing I actually liked about the game.

But as you can see, reading Moriarty's piece on the hated Duck Tales: Remastered, I wouldn't buy the game if it weren't free, despite all of my strong nostalgia ties.
Conclusion: Integrity, having roughly the same taste as you, and specificity in discussing gameplay details are the three criteria to look out for in a video game critic that you can mostly trust.  Ideally, you'll have a handful of such critics to then base your decision on whether you should invest in a game (or better yet, rent from library if possible).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Monday Musings 20--Fortnite Ninja Viability

I finished the second area of the game, Plankerton, and starting early Canny Valley, and I must say, as the Dragon Scorch or Sarah Hotep of the Dragon Ninja class, they are not just viable but more than viable. I'm basing this on my experience, which might be an outlier as I tend to grind a lot, and sheepishly, I got the ultimate edition so I have excellent support heroes and support survivors to beef up my stats.  But I'm also basing this on the other extreme end, my friend, who got the standard edition and purchased no v-bucks, and watching him play the Ninja class. Further, he even stopped using the Dragon Ninja as he felt it was too easy, and moved onto the not so overpowered Ninjas, Dim Mak and Energy Thief Mari, and routinely carried the team.

Literally, the only reason to play Dim Mak is because of her cute cat backpack, which is black if
Exhibit A: Epic Dim Mak's Cat Backpack at 3 Stars
she's epic evolved to 3 stars, and white, if she's legendary evolved to 3 stars. See Exhibit A and note the adorable pink ears. However, even so, my friend excelled as Dim Mak throughout Plankerton, with less than ideal hero and survivor support. I expect that he's of the Fashion Souls camp, where you're so good at the game play that you chose the armor based on looks rather than function, whereas I'm forever wearing that hideous Havel's armor in Dark Souls 3 NG+4 and beyond. However, based on these two extremes, I can safely calculate that anyone can excel as a Dragon Ninja (even feeling like a Tank) up through Plankerton, as long as your Dragon is near the level of the mission. Clearly, if you're a level 19 you'll get destroyed in level 40, and that goes with all the other classes, even what is considered the meta, the soldier class.

Exhibit B is a screen shot of my combat score. I striked through the names of the other players for privacy, but nothing else is edited. The key thing to note is that at the very top, note Plankerton, and level 40. FatNyams (me) on the left is level 49 with a combat score of 15, 670. Instead of a full team of 4, as you can see there's 3 of us. I took a screenshot of this particular mission as this was my highest combat score thus far.

Exhibit B: Ninja Dragon Combat Score Results
Although I was rather over leveled for this Plankerton Storm Shield Defense (SSD) 8, nevertheless, a combat score of 15K is nothing to sneeze at. Due to the fact that these SSDs tend to have waves and waves of enemies, and the fact that you can clear these trash mobs reliably with your Dragon Slash ability, you end up getting at least 8000 on your combat score. In other words, you're not just viable, but more than viable.

Starting in early Canny Valley, which again is after Plankerton, however, I died a few times, because I played Sarah Hotep as a Tank. The Dragon Slash was not taking out the elemental husky husks in 1 shot, as they did in Plankerton. Even so, that just means I have to adjust my play style because before, I can just Dragon Slash into deadly bees, laser-eyes and jump out, wait for my shield to regenerate, to jump back in. Now, in early Canny Valley, you can get killed as a Ninja if you play recklessly. However, the worst that can happen when you die is that your weapon degrades (if your teammate doesn't revive you) so it's really no big deal.

At any rate, I recommend evolving your Dragon Ninja to 4 stars if possible, as well as your support heroes as much as possible, as leveling these heroes improve your stats the most. Then, work on leveling up your survivors.

In terms of game play, I believe my friends carried because they know how to build the fort and carefully placed traps, as well as routinely killing the more deadly husks, leaving the trash mobs to me. However, if you're not doing a protect the objective type mission, but instead, a pure combat mission such as Rescue the Survivors or Destroy the Encampments, if you see a lot of Laser Eyes, hopefully your team will take them out, then you can Dragon Slash the trash mobs if your shield is full (as the Bee husks take a chunk out of your shield) then get out. If your team isn't able to take out the Laser Eyes, I recommend Dragon Slashing the trash mobs, get out ASAP, build 1 or 2 walls for cover and take out the Laser Eyes from range. This is easier said than done, so it's something that I need to work on.

However, as I'm leveling up my Dragon, early Canny Valley isn't that challenging as a Ninja, you just need to be more careful with combat and building. But it affords a new dimension in the game play as you feel compelled to improve your stats and game play, whereas in Plankerton, as a Ninja, you really don't have to think about cover and building, and just tank.

It's interesting to see if I continue to find the Ninja viable through the very last area of the game, Twine Peaks, so I'll be sure to update my progress in future posts. I want to continue as a Ninja as this class fits my game play style (less reliance on shooting elements) than the other classes, and being more offensive than the Constructor class.

Have you played the Ninja and what are your experiences like with this very fun class?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Musings 19

Are Video Games Sports?
I was thinking about this subject, whether it makes sense to call video games competition
e-Sports Stadium
e-sports, while playing Fortnite's Horde Bash Mode. In this event, you must protect 4 forts against 10 waves of enemy husks, increasing in numbers upon each wave. I believe you only have 30 seconds between each wave to repair and build the forts, before you face these husks.

I only did a few lowest level 5 to 9 missions, and after the first 4 to 5 waves, without looking at the screen, I thought we were almost finished due to the exhaustion, but then upon checking, my heart sank when I found out that there was still 5 or 6 more waves to go. At the end of each horde bash, I was sweating buckets, my heart was racing, and I was wiped out from the mental fatigue. It really felt like sprinting at full speed. After these experiences, I avoided Horde Bash matches like the plague.

Imagine doing this for hours, which e-sports professionals do on a daily basis. Further, the top professionals also exercise, eat healthy with good sleep hygiene to improve concentration and mental endurance. I wasn't surprised at all since I was only able to beat the Dark Souls 2 no death run twice after getting a good 8 hours of sleep, exercising, keeping hydrated, and eating tons of fruits and vegetables.

So my experience with Fortnite's Horde Bash led me to believe that video games at the competition level should be categorized as a sport. Looking up the definition, the first Google entry defines sports as "an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment". No one will argue that video games at the competition level takes immense skill, and that individuals and/or teams compete against each other for entertainment, and it's very entertaining as evidenced by competitions being placed in stadiums due to demand.

The issue is with the physical exertion part, and playing video games on a casual basis isn't physically demanding, otherwise, the average person cannot play video games for more than an hour. But you can say the exact same thing about every single sport including what I consider one of the most physically demanding sports such as gymnastics. Even I can do gymnastics, though very badly as I probably can't even walk on the balance beam, and the most I can do is hang from the double bars, but I'm still doing gymnastics, technically. An analogy is that anyone can sing, but not everyone can sing well. But performing gymnastics at a competent level, it's clearly a sport.

In other words, playing video games at the elite level is physically exhausting due to the mental efforts and this academic article notes that playing video games takes physical effort, as defined by basal metabolic rates, perceived exertion, and other measures.

This argument that video games should be considered a sport is further strengthened by the current classification of sports into "mind sports" which includes chess as an example. This makes it even more obvious that video games, played at the competitive level, is a sport.

Conclusion: Video games are a sport, and hopefully e-sports will be recognized by the Olympics and included in events. 

Do you agree that video games are a sport, why or why not?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Monday Musings 18

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is Tempting Me To Buy the Switch

My history with the Xenoblade series started with Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii but never finished it when I got stuck at the part after Sharla becomes part of your party and you have to enter a tower. For some reason, I couldn't find where you're supposed to go. I literally went around and around the tower, and couldn't for the life of me find the entrance. I believe at that time, there were no guides or YouTube videos so I quit the game. I was pretty upset as I loved the story, characters and gameplay.

I then played Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, as I watched Craddoc play the game and it looked incredible with the skells. XCX was my favorite game of the year, even surpassing Bloodborne because of the characters, mechs, gameplay and all the customization you can do. It took awhile to build up the Laila skell (I call her the Laila Queen) and armor to completely demolish Pharsis, who is the hardest enemy as she regenerates very quickly so you need very fast and high DPS. 

As you can tell from that link, the RPG elements are very intense and detailed. Just being in the mech and having that freedom to fly and fall from great heights is an experience I've never had in any other video game, more so than even the Gravity Rush series. Despite being incredibly huge, the level design is such that there are tons of hills, mountains, huge tree roots that you can get lost in--the world has vertical and horizontal depth and variety, and it's definitely not copy and pasted. The music is lovely, here's the Sylvalum area theme music.

In fact, I'll have to revise my top 10 favorite games list to include XCX.

When Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was featured in the initial Nintendo Switch presentation, it looked really bad in terms of the art direction and game concept, so I was rather upset and not at all interested in it. However, recently, the Nintendo Direct showed gameplay, and the game looks fantastic. If you watch the section where you customize the blades, the amount of choices and leveling is an RPG gamer's dream. I dare say that the level of RPG elements seem to be more in depth than one of my highly anticipated RPGs, Ni No Kuni 2.

At the same time, I'm still holding off on buying the Switch. But, because of this game, I actually might get a Switch if and only if:
  1. They fix all the issues such as the console bending, dock scratching the screen, left joy-con desyncing and so forth.
  2. Drastically reduced price as we're forced to buy a screen protector, memory card and pro controller.
  3. There are ways to back-up your files on a USB thumb drive and/or cloud storage.
  4. Realize that this is the only game I'll get for the system.
The price will have to be very low, as this game may be the only one I want for the system. Therefore, my previous advice on whether you should buy the Switch still holds true--if you REALLY need that one game, buy the Switch only if the above list holds true.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will be released on December 1.

The How of Happiness Review

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Video Game Shoulds

I've felt a lot of guilt as I'm continuing to play Fortnite instead of Horizon Zero Dawn, taking advantage of the new DLC, The Frozen Wilds. In the back of my mind, I don't want to play it on a 1080p screen, rather, wanting to play it when I save enough money for LG's OLED 4k HDR TV, which will actually come down in price by the time I have enough cash for it! Further with the advent of 4K gaming, LG has patched their last year's models to have faster screen refresh rates, culminating with this current year's model with decent numbers. In other words, I feel that this game deserves to be played on the best TV screen possible.

Additionally, I'm compelled to continue with Fortnite after reading aFrequ's discussion on the Dragon Scorch Ninja, and having not just a new goal to work on, but an exciting one. It's fun to see the progression as I now have evolved Sarah Hotep to 3 stars, which increased her Dragon Slash damage numbers from, at that time 3,666 to now an impressive leap to 7679.2, with doubled AOE! Any time a game has an exciting goal to reach, it's very hard for me to stop the game and move onto the next one.

Coincidentally, I had an interesting discussion with one of my recommended Twitch Streamers, Hilly_ yesterday, about "Video Game Shoulds". The discussion came up as Hilly_ was demonstrating Borderlands 2, a game that he has played and mastered many times over. Indeed, Hilly_ completed a no-death run on hardest difficulty, and I believe it was solo at that.

During yesterday's stream, Hilly_ mentioned that he felt bad that he was demonstrating Borderlands 2 and Bloodborne a lot for his viewers, and for variety, maybe he should move onto other games. He then caught himself, and mentioned that he loves these games so much, and there's a sizable community that want to continue to watch these games, so why not continue in a win-win strategy? Indeed, all of us in his community want to watch these games.

This was a revelation, so I chimed in and said that yes, why move onto another game, when you're having so much fun playing your current one, even though you played it for so many hours and completed it so many times? We feel guilt because most of us have a backlog where we feel we should get around playing, but yet we're playing the same game(s) over and over again.

Hilly_ agreed as he felt that it doesn't make sense to just go to the next game with the attitude, "well I might as well get it over and done with". The point of playing video games is to enjoy the game and immerse yourself in the world. If it becomes a chore where guilt is saying you must finish the backlog, you're not going to enjoy gaming, which is the exact opposite of a hobby's purpose. Further, this is video games, it's not a life or death situation where if you don't work on your backlog, people are going to die and/or suffer.

Likewise, the discussion moved to achievement and trophy hunting, and how we often feel that we must get a particular achievement or trophy, even though they're not fun, but tedious. Again, it makes no sense for you to force yourself to reach a video game goal if it's not fun. Albeit, there are some games that I love so much, that I feel compelled to get a particular trophy, such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, even though it includes completing timed hunting trial missions, and I dislike timed missions. Interestingly, I ended up finding the timed trials kind of fun in the end. So, it was worth it to get a shiny Platinum for this masterpiece of a game as that particular trophy isn't arduous like quite a few achievements and trophies are.

I want to get a Platinum for Demon's Souls, the only Souls game that I never Platinum'd, but then I cringe, as getting that pure bladestone takes dozens of hours farming this one area, that the trophy doesn't seem meaningful like mastering fun hunting trial missions. It doesn't even take skill or any sense of accomplishment to get it, just pure dumb luck.

Conclusion: Play the video game that you want, regardless of how many hours you spent on it and how much backlog you have. I recommend following Hilly_ for his gaming insights and philosophy, as he will soothe your frayed nerves.

The How of Happiness Review

Monday, November 6, 2017

Monday Musings 17--Fortnite Ninja Dragon Tips

Fortnite Hero Choices
I've been feverishly playing Fortnite, wanting to finish the new Halloween Event before Horizon: Zero Dawn's DLC, The Frozen Wilds, comes out, which is tomorrow. The Halloween Event is, uniquely generous to its long-suffering fans, as you can obtain epic and legendary heroes by just finishing various questlines. You also get tons of legendary cosplayer survivors (often even more important than heroes) from just opening up the Halloween Llama Pinatas. Lastly, you get guaranteed legendary weapons. Please be advised, the event ends November 29!

Who are the best heroes? The general consensus on all the most prominent top-tier lists, including WhiteSushi's, are either the Special Forces or Urban Assault soldiers. However, even before the buffing of all heroes, there was one hero that my friends were playing who seemed to mop up trash mobs, covering an area almost as wide as an AirStrike, and could prove better than Mystic Master Grenadier Ramirez that I'm dying to have, as his or her Dragon Slash has a cool down of only 10 seconds, whereas Ramirez's grenades have a cool down of a considerably longer 30 seconds. Further, this ninja has shurikens and smoke bombs that you can use offensively while waiting during your Dragon Slash's cool-down. That ninja is the Dragon Scorch Ninja and, his Halloween variant, Sarah Hotep Dragon Ninja. Note: WhiteSushi's work on weapons is fantastic.

For some reason, Dragon Scorch was considered one of the lower-tiered Ninjas on prominent tier lists, but I was very skeptical after seeing my friends, even before the buff, mop up large trash mobs, so seeing is believing, and academic crunching of the numbers to get to where Dragon Scorch is one of the worst Ninjas simply didn't add up to real-life experiences.

In the meantime, I got the Halloween legendary version, Sarah Hotep Ninja Dragon, and was absolutely delighted, because she has the same exact comical lines as her Outlander counterpart, making fun of wall smashers, taunting them as Ham-Fisted (and I never noticed, but their left fists do look like hams) and Tiny-Footed Wall Puncher (again, never noticing until she made fun of them, but they do have small feet), as well as other sarcastic lines that I mentioned in this post.

Because I didn't have enough Hero experience to level her up, I got her at level 10/10 (1 star) and she was outperforming my legendary Special Forces Ramirez who was level 30/30 (3 stars), precisely because of her ability to mop up large areas and numbers of trash mobs. Although I died as Sarah Hotep a couple of times due to lower health and shield (and rarely die as Ramirez but she's at 3 stars), my combat scores were higher than Ramirez.

I was surprised that I even beat my friend in combat but only one time (he's literally 20 levels lower than me, but always beats me in combat) using Sarah Hotep, albeit, this is unfair as he was using the lackluster Outlander, who has the weakest offense. Of course, if he were using his Dragon Ninja, he would outperform me by multiplier 2 at the very least.

Exhibit A: Hero Load Out
I realized that I found my hero, and no longer wanting Mythic Master Grenadier Ramirez as much as I did! Further, this is Sarah who's absolutely hysterical. Since I wanted to see how to maximize her potential, I scoured the internet and came up with aFrequ's reddit posts.

I trust him, on recommended Ninjas, and which heroes to put in your Ninja's support and technical slots, as well as damage numbers and weapon recommendations, as he and his friend were using the two best Ninjas successfully in level 100+ missions. This real-life testing is much more valuable and realistic than the academic exercise of crunching numbers, and "feeling" that the Dragon Scorch is the worst ninja. I also used his Tech Breakpoints for Late Game as reference.

Hero Loadout For Your Dragon: aFrequ found that putting Epic Shuriken Master Llamurai
(Purple) at 4/5 stars in the left slot and Legendary Master Llamurai (Orange) at 5/5 stars in the right slot, as well as beefing up your tech, your Dragon Ninja at 5/5 stars will be viable in highest level missions in Twine (last area of early access). Fortunately, I have both epic and legendary Llamurai's as I was choosing Ninja's, but happily managed to easily land a legendary Urban Assault Soldier during this awesome Halloween Event. Easily in the sense that yes, you have to grind, but no, it's not RNG, being that Epic Game's RNG is such that it's almost impossible to get the ones that you want. See Exhibit A.

However, I noticed that when I switched the Shurikens so the Legendary is on the left, and Epic
Exhibit B: My Hero Load Out
is on the right, the Legendary gave higher ability damage percentage at 20% versus 15%, so my load-out is reversed. See Exhibit B. Note: This is after I revised this post, so my Sarah Hotep is now evolved to 3 stars!

The rationale of using these particular heroes is that aFrequ notices that anyone can get all three of these Ninja heroes as long as you play the Halloween Event, so this is due to practical considerations. Further, by placing the Llamurai's in those two slots, you increase your hero's ability damage modifier (HAD), so Dragon Slash ability can one-shot trash mobs of elemental husks even at level 100+ missions. Exhibit A/B is how your heroes should be arranged.

Of course, you will have the Halloween variants, but they are the exact same as Dragon Scorch and Master Shuriken, just reskins. Interestingly, at the highest level missions, the epic version needs only be evolved up to 4/5 stars, as aFrequ notes that most people don't evolve Epics to 5/5 given the grind to get there, so it makes more sense to max out your Legendary instead.  Obviously, it would be better to have the Epic at 5/5, and ideally both of them being Legendary's at 5/5 each. Again, the appreciation here is that aFrequ is interested in making sure that you can achieve his advised load-outs, which you can through the Halloween event. Indeed, the odds of getting Legendary Llamurai/Shuriken x 2 is pretty minimal.

Exhibit C: Damage Numbers
Damage Numbers: With the two Llamurai's lined up, your HAD stays the same at 2039%. The AD numbers change depending on the level husks. For instance, to 1-shot elemental husks in level 76 missions, your AD should be about 932%. The AD number goes up to around 2493% in level 100 missions. You'll find your HAD and AD numbers by going to your hero menu, click L3 analog stick for All Stats. Scroll down under "Combat" category, and you'll see the numbers for HAD, AD, as well as Energy, Energy Regen Rate, and Max Effective Weapon Level. Exhibit C shows aFrequ's numbers--fortunately your AD doesn't have to be as high as aFrequ's, but it needs to be around 2493% for level 100 missions.

As of this post, my HAD is 654% and AD 491% so I have a ways to go in achieving those numbers (these numbers are when Hotep was either 1 or 2 stars).

Survivor Tech Squad: In addition to leveling up your Dragon, you can boost your AD numbers through the Survivor Tech Squad. aFrequ mentions the importance of your squad survivors, and getting your tech squad members at the highest star ratings possible. I was relieved to find that it's better to put legendary survivors (regardless of mismatch personalities to the lead survivor) than your epic survivors with matched personalities, because when you reach 3 stars, your legendary's put up better numbers than epic with matched personalities. Again, I appreciate his advice as you get TONS of legendary cosplay survivors during the Halloween event, that you can slot them in your tech spots. He also notes that you don't have to worry about having matched abilities. Therefore, just slot any of your legendary survivors in the tech spots, so no more worrying about matching things!

Dragon Slash Final Number: By beefing up your tech squad and placing the correct heroes in your support and tech spots, you should get these hard numbers for your Dragon Slash.

Exhibit D: Dragon Slash Final Number
Your Dragon Slash should reach around 75,240 damage to one-shot elemental husks in level 100 missions. To find this number, go to your Hero menu and "upgrade/inspect", and look under Perks and see Dragon Slash. It should look like this (Exhibit D). aFrequ's Dragon Slash is an impressive 89522.5. My value is 3,666, but I'm only in Plankerton.

Weapon Loadout: aFrequ recommends Stabworth the IIIrd, as it's the fastest sword in the game for your highest level missions, and Super Shredder for killing the larger and stronger mist monsters. I can vouch for the Super Shredder, as I recall being level 15 or so, being carried by my level 40 friends, doing level 40+ missions, and the Super Shredder was the one weapon that was holding its own, even over the Nocturno. For now, I'm using the Founder's Legendary Masamune for my edged weapon, as it has better rolls than my Stabworth, since I'm not at the highest levels.

Even so, I have a feeling that at highest levels, my Masamune might outperform the Stabworth, as the Masamune has both fire and energy damage as well as high crit chance and other great rolls, whereas my Stabworth has sad mediocre rolls such as improved weapon degradation, and only doing extra damage to enemies when they have status effects. However, if you don't have a sword with good rolls, then I would certainly take aFrequ's advice and use the Stabworth when you reach very high level missions, which I think was also easy to obtain during this Halloween event.

That being said, I'm concerned that Epic Games will nerf Dragon Scorch and Sarah Hotep to the ground. But in preparation for that, I still have Special Forces Ramirez. I also have the Legendary Urban Assault whom I got during this unique and unusually generous event!

Conclusion: Completing the Halloween event is a must as you get guaranteed highest-tier heroes, legendary cosplay survivors and legendary weapons. With further grind, your Dragon Ninja will be viable in the highest-level missions. The event ends November 29.

Thank you aFrequ for all of your hard work and sharing!

The How of Happiness Review

Sunday, November 5, 2017

delinquentMuse Twitch: No-Brainer to Subscribe

Exhibit A: Stitch Prints
I noticed on delinquentMuse's Twitch 's description page that if you're a subscriber of her channel for 24 months, that is when your Muse tattoo icon is filled up, that you're entitled to a handwritten note, a free autographed print, and then a free print every 4 months thereafter. I was excited about this prospect as I have a few more months to go to reach that milestone.

However, during one of Muse's streams when she was playing South Park: The Fractured But Whole, she mentioned that anyone who subscribes to her channel gets a free Butters print. Despite not being a new subscriber (as I thought this was a "promotional event"), I then asked her if I can get a Butters print, as he's the only likeable party member in the game. Not only did Muse apologize, she also said that in addition to the coveted Butters print, she owed me several more prints, and that I can chose amongst her collection. Since Lilo and Stitch is one of my favorite Disney Movies, I requested the two Stitch prints, as displayed in her Disney art page link. One where he's holding up an "I 💗 U" sign, and the other, his sitting pose
Exhibit B: Butters

This week, I received a handwritten note from Muse. I didn't include a picture of it in this post, as Muse's notes are specifically personal and not the generic "Thank You for your Support".  I also received the promised autographed post-card sized prints. I expected only the 2 Stitch prints that I requested from Muse as mentioned above, but I received a total of four Stitch prints, including an adorable Halloween-themed one of both Lilo and Stitch (BFFs), which you can see in the picture. This is "Exhibit A".

Exhibit C: Extra Prints!
In "Exhibit B", the Butters print is also not just adorable, but perfect for any South Park or non-South Park fan. 

The last picture, "Exhibit C" includes the extra 2, which was also unexpected, and included my namesake, Alice In Wonderland.

Of course, I will place these valuable prints in my video game collectibles corner!

Conclusion: The delinquentMuse Twitch stream is more notable for her wonderful, warm, generous, loving presence and community, but I felt that the art prints may sway you all into subscribing as well.

The How of Happiness Review

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Play as Aloy in Monster Hunter: World

I'm very excited to see that you can play as Aloy in Monster Hunter: World, exclusive to the PS4
She's a perfect fit because every time I saw trailers of Horizon: Zero Dawn pre-release, I kept thinking that this is very Monster Hunter but in an open, seamless world. Even the developers mentioned that they were influenced by the revolutionary Monster Hunter series. I note revolutionary as influential games such as the Dark Souls series and Horizon: Zero Dawn have incorporated Monster Hunter's gameplay elements.

I think I'll continue to play as my usual multiracial character (Monster Hunter as a series does a superb job with character creation, allowing for diverse racial groups), but it's very exciting if I ever chance upon other hunters who are Aloy!

The other thing that excites me is that the mainline Monster Hunter games will continue to release on PC, PS4 and XBox, given this exclusivity. Further, it doesn't make sense to scrap the engine and blueprint, which takes years to develop, to then come up with different engines and assets to go back to Nintendo, so future Monster Hunter games will continue to improve in graphics and AI.

I also have the feeling that Capcom will continue to make portable Monster Hunter games for the Switch, using the past engine/assets used for the 3DS, given the huge Japanese market for portable Monster Hunter gaming.

What are your thoughts about this exclusivity? Will you play as Aloy? 

The How of Happiness Review

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday Musings 16

How to Avoid Pay To Progress/Play/Win in Fortnite
TL/DR is at the very bottom.

If you Google "Fortnite pay to play or win" not only would you see players of the game complaining about this model, but even respected game journalists mentioning the toxic pay to play and win structure of this game, and how the game is ruined because you have to pay to make any sort of progression.

As I wrote in a previous post, I was so impressed by my friend who is only one level above me, with really crap heroes and weapons (where I had high-tier ones), but nevertheless performing better than me in both building and combat. I wanted to craft her better weapons, since I have some of the top-tier weapons with very good rolls such as increased critical chance and energy damage.

The issue was that I managed to only get enough silver ore from another friend to even make these weapons in the first place, and not on my own, as it was hard for me to obtain silver ore in-game.  I had 48 at that time, down from 99 which he gave me as I had to constantly use silver ore to make weapons. Each of my top-tier weapons cost a whopping 11 silver ore.

Because of this issue, she then dropped me two stacks of silver ore (?!?), which comes out to 198! My jaw dropped. I asked her how is she able to give me 2 stacks, in a rather nonchalant way???!!.  She said she had 5 plus stacks (?!?). Not only that, the same friend who gave me the initial first stack had 5 plus stacks of even the more rare malachite (?!?), plus he has been stockpiling scores of malachite rocket launchers, that have very powerful AOE but low durability, so these are very resource-intensive weapons.

My friend explained that she would use the traps and weapons that she'd find in crates and chests (I tend to recycle weapons since they're always of lower quality), and only making her own weapons if she runs out. Therefore, she rarely uses silver ore and holds onto them, collecting the impressive 5 plus stacks. It never occurred to me to use these weapons since with my skill-set, I really need the best.

Talking with her, I discovered that Fortnite really isn't pay to progress, play or win if you're patient and good enough with the game. I agree the progression is excruciatingly slow even for me who enjoys grinding, and I wonder if even I could progress with only the standard edition, where you only get the minimum tools. I think I can do it and here's how I can, by following my friend's strategy.

I can see myself having to play only level 1 missions for up to two weeks before I find some sort of competence in both navigating the building menu (which is a bit clunky) and shooting. Whereas, I believe I was mid-way through the first area due to getting all the best items after only 2 weeks of playing due to having the best stuff. Further, using my friend's model, I will have to do a lot of grinding to find weapons, and only making weapons as the last resort, so I will be stuck at level 1 for the first 2 or so weeks.

Then, after gaining some competence, I will progress to level 5 missions, also taking 2 weeks further honing my skills. Interestingly, I would have stockpiled a lot of the rare items that are hard to find initially, such as active powercells, rotating gizmos, and even copper ore. They become almost ubiquitous at later stages of the game, but in the level 1 and 5 missions, they are hard to come by. During the first area in Stonewood, you don't really need traps, so that would further save on materials.

In addition to improving my skill set, I will slowly grind out hero and survivor experience to beef up my common to rare main hero and survivors, as the survivors help with increasing your defense and offense more than getting skills. But I will be stuck at level 5 for quite some time for maybe 2 weeks, and then level 9, and so forth.

If I were smarter, and didn't buy into the limited/ultimate editions and v-bucks, this Monday Musings may have been about how I finally made it to Plankerton, the second area, and further tips on how to progress without paying.

Indeed, I would like to experiment with this, to see if anyone can achieve what my friends achieved, that is at my very inexperienced skill set. I believe almost all players of Fortnite would have way more experience with shooters than me, so by following my friend's methods, I can safely conclude that you don't really need to buy anything, as you don't need the best items in the game to start out with.

However, for non-gamers (i.e. I have almost no skills in shooters so I'm basically a newbie going into the game), can we  succeed in progressing without paying? If I'm able to do it, then that's proof that literally anyone can do this all for free, that is once Fortnite is released as a free game in 2018.

Unfortunately, you only have 1 save file per console, so if I were to experiment with this, I'm going to wait for the free access in 2018 and play on the Xbox. I think it would be an interesting exercise, and I might do just that, hoping that there will be a good pool of players in the Xbox Fortnite Community. As I'm playing on the PS4, I can COOP with all PS4 players and my friends who play on PC, so there's a large pool of players to draw into. XBox, strangely, doesn't have cross-COOP with PC players, despite both being Microsoft products.

TL/DR: Play the levels over and over again primarily to scrounge for weapons that you will use, and only make your own if you truly run out.

With the experience gained from grinding missions, slowly increase your main hero's and survivor's stats for more viability. When you find better heroes and/or survivors, you can either add them in your collection book to get resources, or recycle to get most of the experience back.

Anyone with any reasonable experience with shooters can progress smoothly (though slowly), and those who don't have much experience such as me, will have to go at an even slower pace for practice, as we'll be stuck with common to rare heroes and weapons and have to rely more on skill.

The How of Happiness Review

Saturday, October 28, 2017

My Experience With Art

As you know, one of my featured Twitch streamers is delinquentMuse, who is offering, if you subscribe to her channel, one of her prints of Butters from South Park. Considering her art is incredible and gorgeous, I feel that this is a steal. Excited that I'm going to get some of her artwork, I have been thinking about my experiences with art, which leads me to this post.

Growing up, my Mom used to take us to the free art and science museums in Boston rather frequently. I remember the modern art wing. I wondered why the Jackson Pollock painting is on display because it looked like scribbles. Also, Kline that looked like calligraphy, and I was like, just read a Chinese newspaper, it's the same thing. I'm sure I saw one of Picasso's periods (perhaps the Blue Period?) where the paintings were not photo-realistic, and I wondered if he knew how to draw. I then went home, and was surprised that Picasso was capable of drawing very realistically.

Fast forward to college, and one of the classes I took was taught by an internationally renowned professor, specializing in Picasso. Her classes got highest ratings, so everyone takes her class. One of her lectures made me laugh as she noted how modern art is so accessible that even babies would hug a Picasso statue. Babies tend to be so curious that they end up hugging and touching everything so that doesn't mean that a statue is intrinsically loved, so that made me laugh. She then said that children intuitively understand modern art, whereas when I was that age, I was more like "wtf is that?". 

However, due to her passionate teaching style, I do find Modern Art fascinating. My favorite period is the Abstract Expressionists, especially Kandinsky and Rothko. Her passion spilled over to my wanting to finally learn how to draw. As I'm very left-brained, my drawings are stick-figures. Since Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain has reached a lot of acclaim, I decided to borrow the book.

The first exercise was to draw a picture right-side up. It was very bad, because as a left-brained person, I drew what I thought was the concept of the picture. The next exercise is to draw it upside down, and just copy the lines on the paper. It worked! Although the proportions were off and not "perfection" it looked like the drawing.

The next exercise I believe is drawing your hand and to focus on the lines and not what the concept of a hand looks like. The interesting part of this exercise is that I noticed that my palms had what seemed like an infinite amount of lines, so I didn't know if I should draw all of them, or should I exclude some of the minor lines, but then which ones? Even so, it looked like a hand and was impressive for someone who previously can only draw stick figures, albeit the fingers were out of proportion and was 2-dimensional.

I then came to the awareness that since it was so easy for me, who doesn't have an artistic bone in her body, to pick up drawing something photo-realistically in under 1 hour, drawing realistically is one of the easiest aspects of drawing, but the harder aspects are what lines do you put in to make the artwork aesthetically pleasing? So, of course the Abstract Expressionists can draw realistically, but they did something way more impressive by bringing something new to the table.

A great artist is able to find out which things to include and not include, and I just don't get where this talent comes from, so alien and foreign it is to me. It's pretty incredible that with art, you're faced with infinite possibilities, so it's in fact impressive that the Abstract Expressionists are able to come up with something new and fresh, but also compelling. I mean, where do you start when you're faced with a blank piece of paper?

At any rate, the next step of the book I couldn't master, and that's learning how to draw with correct proportions, so I stopped at that part of the book. 

I'm curious about your experiences with art, so please feel free to discuss.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fortnite's Mythic Master Grenadier Ramirez: A Solution

Fortnite's Master Grenadier Ramirez, Beanie Swag
Of all the Mythic heroes (Mythic > Legendary > Epic > Rare > Common) in Fortnite, Mythic Master Grenadier Ramirez is considered the best, but nearly impossible to get, due to the randomization process of the Llama pinata system that you either win as rewards in-game, or you can purchase them with real money. With the Llama system, you often get the same level 1 common defender (the woman with the red beret--I collected at least 10), duplicates of the same weapon schematics (blueprints), and bad rolls on your weapons.

Upon researching the internet as to which subset of soldier is the best type, all the links thus far mentioned Urban Assault and/or Special Forces taking the 1 and/or 2 spot, and the third spot, Master Grenadier. If you watch any YouTube videos of her in action, this does not appear to be true, and I wonder if people are placing MG in the 3rd place because they couldn't get her?

One of the most powerful gadgets you can get is AirStrike, which any hero can get as long as you unlock that skill set through easy in-game progression. AirStrike has an incredibly large AOE and wipes out scores of enemy husks, ideal for doing your storm defense mission, where there tends to be wave upon wave of enemies. The cool-down, I believe, is a long 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

If you level up tech and slot Plasma Shield Izzy in MG Ramirez's Tech support slot (Izzy will beef up your grenades), I've seen MG's grenades working exactly like AirStrike, but the cool-down is a mere 30 seconds. Further, you also have AirStrike in addition to her awesome grenades. I'm sorry, but if you can wipe the entire screen of husks every 30 seconds, this is the best character in the game. This video shows her solo performance, taking on multitudes of enemies.

I admit I was very disheartened when I didn't get her during the recent very rare offers of Llama Special troll truck and the Special hero Llama, which are must-haves as they only appear at most once a month, that I felt demoralized. I was very sour even though I won legendary survivors during these special Llama offerings, who are more important than any legendary or mythic heroes, because they do the biggest boosts to your stats. By having the best and leveling up your survivors, a common or rare hero can equal or be even better than a Mythic one. Neverthless, I was so bitter that I stopped playing. 

I restarted relatively soon after when friends from delinquentMuse's stream were doing missions and I wanted to be part of their team. It was helpful to join with my friends, because one of my friends spent exactly 0 cent on V-Bucks, only had a rare hero, and NO Mythic or legendary survivors, and perhaps not even epic ones, was actually performing better than me, despite being only 1 level above me. I also believe that her weapons are not that good, given the difficulty of leveling up and getting great weapons from the few llamas you win in-game.

Again, she outperformed me despite my having the Legendary Special Forces Ramirez, 3 Mythic lead survivors and the rest being Epic Lead survivors, and then the survivors being either Legendary or Epic, as I broke down and got the Ultimate Edition and bought V-bucks for the recent special Llamas, so I was able to have an almost ideal hero and support squad. I also had legendary weapons with great rolls.

In other words, you really don't need the best heroes, survivors or equipment in this game to succeed. By wanting MG Ramirez so much and being so upset from not getting her, I wasn't enjoying the game. This goes against the point of playing games, which is having fun. 

However, after seeing my friend performing so well and realizing you don't need the "best", I'm now satisfied with what I have. The issue now is for me to improve my gameplay, such as aiming and timing the grenades and AirStrikes to actually land on the enemies, and positioning myself so the enemies are in a straight line, so I can spray them with the Bearcat weapon's bullets, instead of just running and gunning. Also I really need to understand the enemy AI, so I can build structures that will herd them into a trap tunnel. 

So the solution is to not care what you have, but rather continue to play, level up your heroes, survivors and weapons as they are all viable, and enjoy the game.

By adjusting my attitude, I now look forward to playing Fortnite, improving my gameplay and enjoying the missions, especially with my friends. Though, of course, I'll be overjoyed if I ever get Master Grenadier Ramirez...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My Ideal Video Game--Ideas

Since playing Fortnite, I realized how addicting building is, so I was thinking of a game that can incorporate the building aspects of Fortnite, but with the combat mechanics and level design of the Dark Souls series, but with compelling story, characters, and world-building. I don't have the imagination and writing skills, so I will describe these in generic detail.

I envision that the main character you play is fully customizable, but regardless of what your hero looks like, they will have a set personality along the lines of Kat from the Gravity Rush series or Sora from the Kingdom Hearts series. So your hero will have actual dialog and will interact with NPCs like Kat or Sora would. No longer will you just stare out in blank space when something important is going on.

The story takes place during the medieval ages with your parents who are both master carpenters, so you grow up knowing how to build things on a competent level, though it was found that your athleticism and combat awareness are your true strengths. Following Horizon: Zero Dawn's (HZD) brilliant tutorial section that incorporates the story AND character development, your childhood will take you through basic building concepts in a similar fashion to HZD story-telling methods.

Each village tends to have the following necessary NPCs. The healer (this is where you heal and level up your healing items), Spell master who is versed in all the sorcery arts, another master in martial/fighting arts, blacksmiths, and fashion designer (clothes are a basic necessity). At age 5, after finishing the building tutorial, there's an alien invasion where, in a surprising twist, your town was decimated but your parents and most of the villagers survived, thanks to your parents' work on building near fail-proof emergency shelters. Usually in these games, everyone except for you gets killed.

Other villages, unfortunately, did not fare well, and almost all the people there were killed. Stragglers who somehow chanced upon your village, ended up settling there.

Your parents are kind, and though they wanted you to follow in their footsteps as they come from a long line of master carpenters, they nevertheless allow you to fully actualize your talents, so along with learning how to build, you also learn all the offense/defense of the game, encouraged by your parents even before the invasion, but the village then rallying around your skills after the invasion, which will be shown in a cutscene.

In this aftermath, at age 5, the tutorial section of your learning how to fight and using various spells will be spelled out (pun intended), probably following the same concepts of Dark Souls, such as sorcery, cleric, dark arts, and so forth.

Here in this tutorial section, as this is your education into battle, you chose your class, and in terms of leveling up, you can increase each stat any way you want, following the Dark Souls model.

The rationale of your village's support in honing your battle and magic skills is that the few stragglers who arrived at your village told their stories, and how after their villages have been destroyed, each destroyed village is installed by one of the many leaders of this Alien species (i.e your main bosses), and they have sentinels extending and guarding the main village (i.e. the trash mobs). As your village nevertheless flourished, population grew and becomes rapidly overcrowded. Therefore, you're entrusted once you reached adulthood (18 years old) to go out to each village, destroy each Boss, making the area safe for volunteer citizens to live there.

Enemies respawn after resting at each reclaimed waystation (i.e. bonfire) and ultimately village (fog gate boss arena), as in the Dark Souls series. In terms of story conceptualization, I'm thinking that the leader (Final Boss) gets word that you found a safe place and/or saved the village and settlers have settled in, so the leader will reinstall the same trash mobs after you rest, to prevent your progression. I'm not sure how to explain story-wise why the bosses can't be regenerated, perhaps something about how they're "unique" so they can't be duplicated, but the trash mobs can be regenerated.

You're BFF will accompany you, who is an expert in traveling and scouting (although he will watch and make comments during your battles, so your character will be the only one fighting). Your friend scouts out the area, and once he finds a suitable safe spot, he will put up a waystation (i.e. bonfire), where you can rest and replenish your healing items, en route to the afflicted village.

Once each village is cleared after successful defeat (and when you kill the boss, it will say "You Defeated" as homage to Dark Souls 1), your friend will bring people over, as shown in cutscenes after each boss, though these scenes will be unique and build upon the story/lore/character development. Of course, all cutscenes are skippable. Your friend will also help develop character and story during your travels due to various cutscenes where you both have conversations, as you progress through the fighting. This kind of follows the Horizon: Zero Dawn model.

Your village decided that each installed village must include the "essentials", namely: 1 spell master, 1 blacksmith, 1 healer, 1 martial arts trainer, and 1 fashion designer. So each village you clear, you can level up all your stats and equipment there. Each village's NPC will be distinct in personality and diverse.

Along with the brilliant level design including vertical and horizontal considerations like Dark Souls 1, the combat mechanics is also the same. There will also be massive dungeons at the level of the 3-D Zeldas, pre-Breath of the Wild. The aliens intentionally made complex, convoluted areas and dungeons for people to get lost and killed. After triumphing over these confusing areas, once you defeat the boss, as a competent carpenter, you must build and reclaim that village.

For those who really hate building, you can just put up 4 walls and 1 ceiling, or per Cheesus Almighty's brilliant suggestion, you can chose amongst pre-set buildings, but you need the necessary amount of materials to build them. As Cheesus Almighty posed, everyone wants to go to a nice village as opposed to plain, basic homes. However, if you don't have the resources, you can still put up the 4 walls and 1 ceiling so you can progress, but when you collect the necessary materials, you can come back and change it to one of the pre-set buildings.

Those who really love building can go hog wild, as the space will be large enough for you to build pretty massive structures, though of course each of your 5 buildings must be able to fit within the expansive area. You can interconnect the buildings as well, as long as there's the space for you and the NPC.

There will be a guide to make sure you build the minimal area for you and the person to fit in the building. You will then have a marker in-game to show where you want to place the person (i.e the sorcerer, healer, etc), and you can also build staircases, furniture, as well.  You can move the markers if you get bored seeing him or her in the same place.

Of course, this game is created by the ideal video game developer, and they will have a gallery on their website of the most impressive buildings/interior design submitted. Perhaps giving out contests with prizes such as increased EXP points (but NO unique items in-game as that will be unfair), signed posters, etc from time to time.

When the game becomes successful, free customized skins and/or additional pre-set building blueprints are given as a thank you, perhaps given out at set periods of time (i.e. every month for the next 3 months). When even more successful, they will offer grand prize to anyone who owns the game an all expense paid trip to the studio with 4 free game codes to give out to your family and friends. Next prize down is 4 free codes. This is following the CDPR and Guerrilla Games' model of generosity.

The level design and treasure will always be the same and in the same place, as I prefer getting meaningful treasure instead of random loot. The resources for crafting, however, will be randomized, so you will have to continue to search and explore for these resources, making exploration more varied. If you make mistakes in your building, you get your materials back when you destroy it, so you can experiment without fear of losing materials. Further, to save time and reduce the tedium, you just need to whack the structure 3 times to destroy it.

In terms of quantity of materials held, you will start initially with 3 slots for each material, comprising of wood, brick and metal. As you build more, you get building points that can be used to buy 5 additional slots (this is one level up). You can store 999 of each type of material/slot, and the building costs are much reduced compared to Fortnite. The amount of slots you can have is 50, so this will help those who love to build and/or horde.

Along with building materials, you can also find cotton/linen/dyes for your furniture covering, also 999 can be fit into 1 slot. In other words, our ideal game developer wants you to have a lot of varied resources in adequate quantities.

Initially, you can't reinforce like in the Fortnite mechanics, so your building doesn't look very nice, but again, as you build more, you level up by learning from your parents how to reinforce up to two times. The first build requires 5 materials, then reinforcements are 10, then 15.  Whenever you level up your building skills, you can chose either increasing your slots, or reinforcement when you talk to your parents.

Whenever you have enough building points, you can fast travel to see your parents (or you can see them anytime), who will have special dialogue each time you level up, with cutscenes to further the story and flesh out the characters.  That will include the 10 cutscenes every time you gain slots, and then 2 additional cutscenes whenever you level up your building reinforcement. So story and character development are key here and of course, you can skip these.

After building all 5 buildings to house the important people who will level you up, you can always come back to build more if you'd like. Weapons, armors, catalysts, wands, etc can all be upgraded. Each time you upgrade your weapons and armors, they look fancier and more detailed, weapons, wands, catalysts and chimes getting larger and more "bad ass" like in the Monster Hunter series.

You can find special items (perhaps 5 in each NG cycle) where you can completely change your stats such as in Dark Souls 3 through the All-Purpose Fashion Designer. You can change your appearance and gender whenever you reach a village through the designer as much as you want, to prevent being bored by the way your character looks.

After killing all the mandatory bosses, the leader finding out that it's the last one standing, it then encounters you. You defeat the final boss, and save the world. End cutscene which will have dialogues of your parents and the major NPCs showing their gratitude.

In terms of multiplayer, there will be COOP. It will be cool to see what other players' villages look like as you go into the boss fight, so the game will allow you to go around the villages.

As it makes no sense for your heroes to fight each other, for the PvP elements, in your option menu, you hit "Guilds" which takes you outside of the main campaign, and there's a post where you click and you can chose what faction you want to belong, with character customization. This character will have the same stats as your hero. Further, since it's just a fancy looking stick in the PvP area, you can use the materials you have and create a building next to the post, or around the post, or you don't have to build at all if you're aversed to building.

Since the boss fights are the amongst the most fun aspects of the game, after defeating the final boss (before going to NG+), there will be in-game story explanation that after fighting it, it's spirit is placed in that area.

Due to its spirit, you can chose to fight these bosses again as you want to hone your skills in case there's another invasion. In other words, this will help those who want to do a lowest level build challenge, because you can keep practicing against these bosses instead of having to play the game over and over again.

Further, you can chose what level the boss is from NG up through whatever NG+ cycle you are in. You can see how much you advanced if you're in NG+7, fighting an NG boss.

NG+ will follow Dark Souls 2 where the enemies get harder each cycle, and you can find more powerful rings up through +3.  There are also special weapons placed that you can get for each NG+ difficulty. They'll be just as viable as the other NG weapons, but have different movesets, feels, and appearances. Although it may not be as powerful as your favorite NG weapons, I think by wielding one of the NG+7 weapons will be a badge of honor, plus, it will look more "bad ass" then the NG through NG+6 weapons.

Further, your building area gets larger and larger up through the hardest difficulty NG+7, so you can add even more buildings/structures if you want as you do more NG cycles. The buildings you made can be kept in the save menu area, so you don't have to build again. For instance, after finishing the building and you installed the person, you can select save. If you add/change any additional structures, you can just click on the building outside, and save over the old one, as much as you want.

Therefore, before entering NG cycle, you should make sure that you saved all the buildings you want to keep in your building menu. So it's worth going through additional walk-throughs for those who love building, as you get more space. Highest difficulty is NG+7.

In general terms, you can customize the sounds, including turning off the crunching footsteps that most people hated in Dark Souls 1, but I love. You can adjust the music and environmental sounds. There are absolutely no maps, so you have to explore, but the brilliant level design makes you want to look for the randomized building resources, and the treasures.

Description: A semi-open world action RPG with sandbox elements due to the building aspects. Of course it will be 1080p at 60fps for the current gen consoles. The graphics is along the lines of the Gravity Rush series, where it looks like a hand-drawn animated movie such as seen in Studio Ghibli.

Exclusivity: This game will be exclusive to the Xbox One, to take advantage of the power of the XBox One X. It will be advertised that the XBox One X will be enhanced. Further, being on only 1 console will allow for best optimization. 

Achievements: There are NO missable Achievements. When you beat the game, you go back to the place where you're about to fight the final boss in case you want to complete out the Achievements. The game encourages you to play blindly and explore at your leisure, so you can avoid spoilers that often occur when people read Achievement or Trophy requirements.

Difficulty level: No difficulty levels. The game is like Dark Souls 1 where it's hard but fair, so no adding 500 enemies to make it artificially harder or 1HKO. It can be easy mode as the spells will be pretty powerful such as in Dark Souls 1. If players are still struggling, there is the COOP option.

If you can make any video game you want, with unlimited resources and the most talented and pro-consumer team, what would you like to see?

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