Friday, September 22, 2017

Wanted/Unwanted Monsters in MH:World

I'm even more excited about Monster Hunter: World when I found out that, for the first time, you can customize your Palico!


Yian Kut-Ku
I was also thinking about what monsters I would like to see from past games, and off the top of my head, I definitely want to see Yian Kut-Ku, Yuan Garuga and their variants. I still go back to old Monster Hunter games to do a Kut-Ku quest. I just love his goofy face and waddling, where he looks like he's almost about to fall down. It never gets old hitting him on the head with a hammer, due to his neck being so outstretched, his head begging to be hit. Despite having bad judgment of distance, I was still capable of hitting him on the head with even  the short hammer on a consistent basis.

From reviewing the list of past monsters, I would also like to see the return of mammals Azuroth, Lagombi, Nargacuga, and Zinogre. 

Even though the dual Tigrex quest in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite was the quest that almost prevented me from beating the game, I find that Tigrex is a must. That quest forced me to use the "noob-ish" lightning longsword
Tigrex
line, as well as resorting to traps and flash bombs, whereas I'm the type of person who hates using limited resources due to laziness of having to collect materials for them again. My strategy tends to be the no-brainer hitting monster with weapon until dead. The only time I used traps were quests where you have to trap the monster.


Interestingly, since beating the dual Tigrex quest, I found fighting a single Tigrex fun and not so challenging anymore.

Deviljho and Ludroth are also much wanted, and unlike most people who don't like water battles, I hope we have underwater battles with Ludroth, Lagiacrus, and so forth. After looking at the collection of monsters, I actually want almost all of them to be in MH:World since it does get tiring hunting yet another Rathalos and its variants. So a better question is which ones do we NOT want? 

This is obviously subjective, but I wouldn't be sad if there's no Plesioth. I hate how it hides in
Plesioth--still does damage from across the screen
the water and you have to fish it out, as well as its notorious hit-box that is as large as a screen in MH Freedom Unite (though improved in sequels). I don't like the other hiding in the sand monsters such as Cephadrome, Diablos/Monoblos and Nibelsnarf, even though it's very satisfying when I whack the Cephadrome on the head with a hammer.


On the other hand, I'm hoping that MH:World includes all monsters of past series (even my most hated ones) for the variety to make it the biggest and best Monster Hunter!

Monster Hunter fans, which monsters do you want or not want to see?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Monster Hunter: World Release Date Announced!

January 26, 2018!

As you know, I'm the most excited about Monster Hunter: World (see last entry) even after Kingdom Hearts 3 and Ni No Kuni 2, though of course I'm very hyped and excited for the latter games.

Of course I want this game now, rather NEED this game, but I certainly don't mind if they need to push back the date to perfect the game, so I'm willing to be patient, like with Horizon: Zero Dawn.

I hope Capcom markets the game appropriately, and gives out free copies to the major Twitch streamers and YouTubers, as well as the many numerous smaller streamers who have an extremely loyal following (there are tons).

Palico--Man's Best Friend
I think if it's seen as the "Dark Souls" of Monster Hunting games, it will do well in the West, even though it was Monster Hunter itself that inspired the deliberate gameplay style of the Souls series.

I'm hoping that games journalists will promote the game as the "Accessible Monster Hunter That Finally Got Me Hooked", and push the game as a "must-have". So far, almost all the articles and videos I have watched pointed in that direction, including this adorable article that gushed about the game, and his Palico riding in a rubber ring!

I see this game at the masterpiece level as the monsters interact with each other organically and you can manipulate destructible environments to take down monsters. There's going to be a most likely weak story and weak character development, but it's really the gameplay and charm that pushed this series to one of my top 10 favorite.

Am I the only one who sees the Monster Hunter series as revolutionizing gameplay, because it influenced Dark Souls, of which Dark Souls is now being used as a reference standard (i.e. if there's yet another article saying, this is the Dark Souls of...I'm going to shriek, as Souls is not that hard), and clearly influenced the ranged combat and hunting style of Horizon: Zero Dawn, which in turn will influence the rumored upcoming Microsoft AAA game using the same theme and concept as Horizon. I'm hoping that if it blows up in the West, the media here will finally recognize the revolutionary gameplay of World.

I'm also relieved to hear that for us Monster Hunter veterans, World isn't being dumbed down to appeal to the Western audience, but continues to have the exacting gameplay style of the older games. However, it will have actual graphics at 1080p (as opposed to 240p, wtf?!??), real textures, draw-distance (no more mistaking a blue herb for a blue velocidrome, it was that bad in the 3DS forms), and smoother frame-rates. World is going to be the Monster Hunter that we veterans know and adore, per the major and trusted gurus, Arekkz Gaming and Gaijin Hunter, but exponentially improved on a technical level that this series sorely needed.

However, I do agree that World should start with very easy quests where perhaps the monsters have very low health bars to get new users used to it, then slowly increase in difficulty in a balanced way, then going to the H-rank, and the almost impossibly difficult G-rank monsters to challenge the most expert Monster Hunters. I still to this day cannot beat that damned Alatreon, Village High Rank, in Monster Hunter 3U, so there's no way I could ever beat its G-rank counterpart solo.

PS4 Pro Monster Hunter:World Rathalos Edition
I think this game could do well in the West with the promotion of the gaming media and Twitch streamers and YouTubers, as well as the strong coop element that's all the rage, where you don't have to wait around like in the past games, but you and other players can jump into the fray, mid-battle. Of course, I'm hoping it will sell at least 10 million copies, so we can have future Monster Hunters on PC/PS/XBox.

UPDATE:  The marketing has begun! There's the PS4 Pro Monster Hunter:World Rathalos limited edition on sale. Appears to be only in Japan, but they need to push consoles there, as Japan is a primarily hand-held market.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nintendo Switch--Will It Succeed?

The internet is glutted with articles about whether Switch will succeed or not succeed. The feeling now is that since it sold 5 million in just 4 months, it will be quite successful and become the second most successful console of this generation, behind the PS4. I thought about this Switch topic, because I was actually able to order one yesterday, and pick up one today (this is in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas).

I admit I was hyped, but upon thinking about the fact there are NO games that I want on the Switch, I didn't order it. When I informed my friend about it, he was so blase about it that I might as well have told him that the sky is blue. The fact that I didn't, and neither my friend (huge Nintendo fan since he was 3 years old watching his older brothers play), was a huge red flag, as we are both one of the few Wii U owners who love our Wii U's.

I think that due to the Switch not being out there, that's one reason why it might not do well. When I went to parties, invariably there's a Wii and we would play Wii Sports, which was such a great party game as it's universally appealing. Who doesn't enjoy playing tennis, golf, and so forth. This word of mouth leads to further sales. I would've bought one immediately, but I was in my banning video games stage since I wanted to work on my career.

In contrast to my Wii experiences, due to Switch scarcity and no Oprah Winfrey to push the product like she did the Wii, I only saw one person with a Switch, who is a gas attendant. We only came to discussing video games when he saw me with the XBox Elite controller box on my lap. Of course we talked about video games and what consoles we play on. He quickly showed me his Switch. If I didn't have this controller in my lap which he had to notice with eagle eyes (this was at night and the XBox Elite box is black) in such a coincidental way, I would have never seen a Switch live to this day.

But I could only see it for a few seconds as there are other people waiting (so much different from a party experience), and I was literally afraid to touch it because it looked so delicate and vulnerable. I had to make sure it's protected. Instead of exploring the Switch, I immediately asked him if it has a screen protector and case, because I was afraid it would break, which he said yes. 

Relieved that it's protected (though it still looked fragile), I was still anxious, so I kept telling him over and over to make sure he secures it at work, as this is something that someone will steal, given the scarcity and price.  I was nervous for him, rather than having fun playing on the Switch. My Switch experience is a very different one than my Wii experiences, where I would play the Wii for a long time with other friends, without guilt.

Further, there are no Switch's in demonstration, even at GameStop. I went to one GameStop, and thought they didn't have one to demonstrate because of the scarcity. However, going to other GameStops, there are no live Switch's to test out.

I really can't see parents, on the fence due to the price being more than a bundled PS4 and XBox One, buying a Switch without testing the durability. Who wants to waste $299 and have your child break it? Especially when you can get the other consoles that are not only cheaper, but have more games? Do you see the need for parents to try the thing out? I can see the same parents scratching their heads about the Switch, and then testing out the PS4 and XBox One, their kids being excited about one or both of the consoles, and the family taking one home. Even if they still want the Switch, they can't buy one since there's no availability.

But what about the Japanese market? I felt that Japan could carry, and it can reach 30 million plus on the strength of Japan alone. However, the nail in the coffin is when NihongoGamer, very intelligent and insightful YouTuber living in Japan, mentioned that only 10% of Japanese Switch owners take the Switch to work, and that the other 90% play on smartphones (I apologize, I can't find the exact video, but I included his home channel as he's very insightful). Adding to the problem is that Monster Hunter: World will not be coming to the Switch. In Japan, Monster Hunter is a system seller.

NihongoGamer did make the caveat that if the Switch comes out with a portable, smaller form, then there'll be more mini-Switches in the wild. So if the Switch doesn't have the portability factor, it may not capture the Japanese market like the 3DS. Further, if it's hard to get a Switch, why not use your smartphones since you can play games, watch videos, and text all at the same time, great time killers when riding public transportation.

Other stumbling blocks to the success of the Switch are the cost and the lack of games. Even if the Switch were reduced to $150 with a triple A game (not an unwanted game such as a Nintendoland), which will make it competitive to the PS4 and the XBox One, it still may not sell well due to the lack of games, which is why I didn't buy one. The rationale for the $150 is that it comes to $250 with the mandatory accessories. The PS4 and XBox One are invariably bundled with AAA games such as CoD, Destiny 2, Uncharted 4, and so forth at $250. 

Parents wanting to buy a Switch for their kids, if they can't get one, they'll just get a PS4 or XBox One. Further, kids these days appear to be more intrigued by FPS (helped by Overwatch, as it has the fun colors AND FPS gameplay, and the characters look "cooller" than the squid-like kids of Splatoon) than Mario and Zelda, so I can't see any kids having a temper tantrum if they can't get a Switch, if their parents are willing to buy them another console. Why not buy the other consoles, as the competitors not only have significantly larger libraries, but are cheaper and more durable than the Switch?

For portable experiences, parents will just lend their kids their smart phones, which are pretty hardy and don't break if they drop it on the floor. I see kids all the time perfectly happy (in fact, they get upset if they can't play on their parents' phones) playing video games and/or watching YouTube on the smart phone.

Right now, if things continue the way they are, the Switch won't be successful.  I know I'm waffling, but things may change to make it successful. If it's reduced in price to $150, has the 3DS games library (i.e. Nintendo will have to stop supporting the 3DS) and have demo units with physical Switch's available for people to test, it may be successful and may sell like the 3DS. But if Nintendo is stubborn in refusing to reduce the price (like they did with the Wii U), I think it'll only sell 20 million.

The good news for Nintendo fans is that I'm like Michael Pachter (whose predictions are almost always wrong, which is a running joke on the internet), so the Switch might actually sell like hotcakes and sell 100 million!

The How of Happiness Review

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Monday Musings 10

The House of God by Samuel Shem
I was thinking about this book since I wrote about my challenge of healthy habits, since The House of God pinpoints how toxic and unhealthy medical residency is. As I was interested in going to medical school, and it was common knowledge that this book is what you should read to get a sense of what residency training is like, I read it in college. Going to a cushy and academically undemanding university, I was in a wonderful place in my life. So, after reading a few pages of the book, I was appalled and thought to myself that if I ever think of my patients like this, I would quit being a doctor. Looking back, I kind of chuckle at my sanctimonious attitude.

During internship, I decided to pick up the book again, and it made me sick to my stomach, because it's exactly what I was going through, and in fact, I felt that at some points, Dr. Shem UNDER-stated how awful medical training is. I didn't need the reminders, so I quit reading soon after.

However, after completing residency and with my career established, I read the book, and it was one of the funniest books I've ever read, since I was no longer at that terrible place in my life. I was able to read the entire novel and the book rings so true. One part that sticks out is where the protagonist, on call yet again and sleep deprived, had to see a patient in the ER, and told the patient that he will give him $20 if he leaves, which he does, lmfao. This is how we all have felt, that we'd be glad to pay to not see patients and get some needed sleep.

If you ever consider going to medical school, I agree with the common knowledge that you must read this book to see if this career is for you before undergoing such a career.

Major Nelson--I'm Fan Girling!
Since I recently found out that Major Nelson (Larry Hyrb) just had a daughter, I remember that he friended me awhile ago, so I checked on his status to see if he posted any updates. I didn't think anything of it at that time, since I assumed he accepts all friend requests as a major XBox executive, for positive PR reasons. So I was surprised and taken aback that although he has over 3 million followers, he only friended 85! This is hitting the jackpot! Yes, I'm posting this to brag, lol. But seriously, what are the chances that he friends a goofy name tag of Fat Nyams?

Let's just say that I'm never getting rid of my Fat Nyams account!

Getting Used to the XBox Elite Paddles--A Guide
Now realizing that paddles are the way to go, it's still a struggle, but it's actually intuitive. I'm writing a way in which you can get used to the paddles by following the mnemonics below, and of course, I'm sure after practicing for a few months, it will be just as automatic as the old face button way. It was frustrating at first, but it really is a better way to play games then the old way, so don't quit and stick with it!

Obviously, don't do any PvP or COOP when getting used to the paddles, and practice on safe single player games first.

I'm using the Playstation convention since I was using this particular scheme while playing Final Fantasy XII on the PS4.

Default face button controls on the Elite are: X is the left upper paddle, ◯ is the right upper paddle. The intuitive part of this scheme is that the face button X is to the left, and the ◯ is to the right on DS4 controllers, same with the paddles. Further, X and ◯ are the most used buttons, so it makes sense that they are on the top.

The hard part is the ⃞ and △. We're used to △ being at the top, but it's programmed to the right bottom paddle. The ⃞ is the left bottom paddle. However, it can be intuitive because, if you notice with the face buttons,  ⃞ is to the left of △, and same with the paddles, where again, paddle, ⃞ paddle is also to the left of . These bottom paddles will take a long time for me to get used to, though.

I hate using the L3 and R3 analog stick clicks, it's so awkward, so I programmed L3 to original face button X and the R3 to when I was playing Final Fantasy XII. That was very intuitive for me since X is on the left, and right, just like the analog sticks. I'll have to see if I can get by with this new scheme while playing Dark Souls 3, since  I originally programmed the X button to R3 click.

Again, using the mnemonic that the most common face buttons are on the top, and then the less used button on the bottom does help. But at this point, I have to think it through since it's not automatic. In fact, I feel like how I was when I first restarted gaming.

I really love practicing and honing skills, so I wished that Playstation or XBox, to help new gamers get used to using face buttons and so forth, will have a simple game of pure QTEs where the face button will turn green if it's correct, and red to let you know it's wrong. Kind of like along the same concept as those learn how to type software. If you know of any software that does that, please let me know!

The How of Happiness Review

Being Ashamed of Yourself Because of Your Work

America is a great country for two major reasons: our diversity and our freedoms of speech, press and religion. However, American culture is rather unfortunate where people are judged unfairly by so many things that shouldn't matter, one of those things being what you do for work. I was so taken aback by encountering quite a few people who are actually ashamed of themselves for the work that they do. 

Perhaps that's why I admire Aloy of Horizon: Zero Dawn so much because she always comes up with a witty remark, whereas whenever anyone says something that shocks me, I just stand there with my mouth open.

I wish I can go back and tell these hard-working people what I was thinking, instead of being so taken aback that I couldn't formulate any thoughts. It's so surprising to me that those who do really hard and crucially important work look down upon themselves, whereas those who should be ashamed of themselves are actually very proud and self-satisfied for making their 7 to 10 figure salaries by profiting over someone's suffering. Such people as corporate raiders, and those involved in the housing market crash, both professions that led to families losing their homes. Nevertheless, they are proud of their work and their possessions, even though their activities led to massive and needless suffering.

One situation was when I was talking to a rather friendly waste collector and he asked me about my profession. He then said that he was very impressed with what I did, as he was a "stupid" sanitation worker, and really disparaged himself in a rather self-loathing way that again, I stood there with a blank stare being shocked.

If I had the wit about me, I would have said that back in the olden days, it was the sanitation workers that have saved lives and led to longevity of life on a massive, widespread scale, whereas doctors actually KILLED more people than helped. This is due to the bizarre practice of blood-letting which appears to be the only appropriate treatment for someone with the rare hemochromatosis. But going from 5 pints of blood to 0, no wonder people were dropping like flies back then. In other words, without sanitation, we would all be sick, as witnessed when waste collectors went on strike in NYC.

It's one thing for him to say he hates his job (which almost everyone does), but another that he looks down upon himself. If only I could go back and tell him that he should be proud of himself for consistently waking up at ungodly hours, and do extremely hard work that's improving everyone's life, whereas I could barely muster enough energy to get out of bed. Especially, as it appears that he hates his job, it's even more impressive that he nevertheless has so much discipline to go to work every day on time.

Further, I would have liked to tell him that with today's situation when Millennials can't find work even though they are valedictorians of very prestigious colleges and universities due to U.S.'s unfortunate situation of lack of jobs (whereas in the past, you're practically guaranteed one if you have a college degree), it's already impressive in of itself for him to have work in the first place. 

There are other times that this has occurred, but most recently was yesterday in delinquentMuse's Twitch chat room, which compelled me to write this post, where one very nice member was disparaging himself for working at Amazon.com. Fortunately, I had time to collect my thoughts and wrote that the fact that he can go to work every day, where you have to actually ask permission to take bathroom breaks (wtf?!?), and people are known to cry, that it's impressive that he's strong enough to nevertheless work there and get there on time every day. I would've quit day one. He really needs to be proud of his strength. We then discussed working at Costco instead, where it's on the opposite end of the scale, and is considered the best company to work for in 2017.

At any rate, if you're doing work that's helping others (which is the case with all but a handful of jobs), you should be very proud of yourself for working and making others' lives better. Instead of looking down upon yourself, perhaps reframe your thinking as, more accurately and more realistically, that you hate your job, not yourself, and then find a better work situation?

The How of Happiness Review

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Bullet Journal Notebooks: More In-Depth Comparison

Clairefontaine versus Leuchtturm versus Moleskine for Bullet Journaling

I'm going to write down the features of each Notebook, so that you can determine which notebook is for you, and to elaborate on a prior post, Monday Musings 4 (scroll down to the last part).

Some people really love smooth paper, others prefer a paper that has more grip, so I'll list each notebook's features, so you can see which notebook fits your style.

The notebooks I got were all A4 (equivalent to American letter-sized paper). The Clairefontaine was French-Ruled, Leuchtturm was Grid-Style, and the Moleskine was Lined.

Paper quality
I can only comment on ball point pens, and so far, all three notebooks handle ball point extremely well, with no bleed-through, and you can't see the ink on the other side of the paper when held up to light (I believe called ghosting), so it's safe to write on both sides of the paper. 

The smoothest is clearly the Clairefontaine, and, for me, it's a joy to write on the paper. Apparently, with this comparison, I was surprised that I prefer extremely smooth paper, as I thought I'd like a more tactile feel for grip.

The next smoothest, with some grip to it, is the Leuchtturm, which is nice, but not something that you quite look forward to writing in like the Clairefontaine's paper.

I found the Moleskine TOO rough and the pen simply doesn't glide, so it's not satisfying to write on this paper, and actually becomes uncomfortable after awhile. I didn't enjoy writing on it, and I felt that I had to bear down on it with my pen. However, if you really like rough feeling and very tactile paper, as well as bearing down on your pen, this is the best choice.

Please note that those who use fountain pens, all experts point to Clairefontaine as the best in paper quality. It was noted in the sites that I looked through (as I'm not a Fountain Pen user), that almost all fountain pen ink tends not to bleed and no ghosting on Clairefontaine paper.

The Rhodia notebook line also includes Clairefontaine paper, so that's another line of notebook you can look into. The lower end Rhodia, I believe, features Clairefontaine but in 80 weight instead of the heavier 90, so if weight's important to you, make sure you get the Rhodia notebook with the preferred weight. The issue with Rhodia is they didn't have a clothbound A4 French-Ruled notebook, and even more limited colors than the Clairefontaine.

In terms of paper quality, Clairefontaine is the best for me by a large and significant margin.

Paper Thickness
In terms of thickness, I definitely prefer thicker paper as it feels "luxurious", though again, there are people who love the tissue-thin paper, which also is pleasant with the crackling sound it makes. If you want tissue-thin paper, steer clear of these notebooks, as they all are rather hefty in feel.

The irony is that Moleskine paper feels the thickest, even though its the lightest of the 3 at 78g/m2. I wonder if it feels thicker due to the rough nature of the paper?

The next thickest in feel, but in reality, the thickest paper, is the Leuchtturm with impressive weight of 100 in their Master/Master Slim notebook line.

The Clairefontaine feels the thinnest of the three, even though its weighted at an impressive 90. However, it's still very thick and luxurious in feel.

Paper-Style
This is your preference, and I believe all 3 come in blank, lined, dot, grid, and Clairefontaine also comes in French-Ruled. The Clairefontaine French-Ruled is rather dark, so if you want more unobtrusive lines, you may need to rethink the Clairefontaine. I prefer darker-lined paper as it's easier to see.

The French-Ruled actually makes my handwriting neater, and is now my preferred style. Unfortunately, I can't comment on the darkness of the dot, graph and lined versions of the Clairefontaine, but I'm assuming they'd be the same.

The Leuchtturm I got was in the Grid-Style, and the lines are light and unobtrusive. It wasn't as dark as the Clairefontaine, but not too light where I have to squint to see. However, it doesn't make my handwriting neater and more organized like Clairefontaine's French-Ruled paper.

Here's a comparison of my handwriting that shows significantly improved handwriting on Clairefontaine versus Leuchtturm, same exact notes:
Clairefontaine--Neater Handwriting
Leuchtturm--Messier Handwriting


 
















Leuchtturm's left page of the spread (i.e., when the notebook is open and lies flat), there's a margin for indentation, which is brilliant. On the right side, there's no left margin, though a right margin. However, since it's Grid-Style, I use one of the boxes to guide my indentation for the right side of the spread. This same concept goes for Clairefontaine.

I got the Moleskine in regular lined paper as this was before my BuJo days.  There are no margins, as the lines run across the entire spread.

The Leuchtturm also has Date on top of the left side of the left page, and Date on the right side of the right page, which is NOT preferred, as you'd rather have that blank so you can write whatever heading you want on the top. Hopefully, future Leuchtturm versions will leave out this Date heading. Clairefontaine and Moleskine don't have any headings.

What Leuchtturm does that's very bullet journal friendly is to have the pages all numbered for you, so it's so much easier to index. It also includes pre-made index for the 1st three pages, which is also very welcome and very organized. Both the Clairefontaine and Moleskine don't have this feature.

Amount of Pages 
For the A4 variety, Clairefontaine Clothbound has the most at 96 sheets, Leuchtturm Master Slim has 60 sheets (121 numbered pages), Moleskine at 83 sheets. I prefer the Clairefontaine number of sheets.

However, after more time with the Leuchturm Master Slim, 60 pp is more than adequate, and I can see why the BuJo gurus prefer the Master Slim over the rather thick Master version, being lighter and more convenient to carry around. Further, the Master Slim comes in a rather wide variety of fun colors as opposed to the Master.

Presentation
Both the Leuchtturm and the Moleskine Notebooks lay perfectly flat, whereas the Clairefontaine doesn't, and you have to push with some effort to get it to be more flat. Even after pushing down, the Clairefontaine never lays perfectly flat.

The Leuchtturm and Moleskine both have the strap enclosure, whereas the Clairefontaine doesn't. 

You can chose the colors of your Leuchtturm or Moleskine Notebooks, but for some reason, Clairefontaine colors will be sent to you randomly, unless you specify colors and the store will try to match your preference if it has excellent customer service. The Clairefontaine comes in less colors than its counterparts. For the A4 Clothbound French-Ruled series, the notebooks come in black, blue, green and red only.

The Leuchtturm and the Moleskine both have a folder section in the back of the notebook where you can put a ruler, business cards, and so forth. The Clairefontaine doesn't.

The Leuchtturm has 2 bookmark ribbons, Moleskine has 1, and the Clairefontaine has none. In other words, the Clairefontaine looks like a normal notebook, just with the best paper quality I've ever used, and in French-Ruled. I really think that the U.S. should adopt French-Ruled paper, as well as the metric system, but we're quite behind in those aspects.

The Leuchtturm's last 8 back pages are perforated. I had to use the last page to tape over my first monthly Calendar I made, since my first attempt was so bad that I would have to white-out the entire page. You can see how much easier it is to redo the monthly calendar on one of the perforated pages and tape over the hideous mistake. This is another way Leuchtturm executes so well. Unfortunately, the Clairefontaine and the Moleskine have no perforated pages.

Additionally, Leuchtturm has stickers to label.

Conclusion
The Leuchtturm is superior to the Moleskine in every category (except having headings on every single page), and costs the same and easily available on Amazon.com, so I recommend the Leuchtturm over the Moleskine. N.C., Esquire (one of my guest writers) is now using the Leuchtturm line of notebooks, Dot-Style, as she likes the esoteric-sounding name of Leuchtturm (it also adds to her pretentiousness).

The key battle here is Clairefontaine vs. Leuchtturm. Looking at the many thoughtful features, it's no wonder that prominent BuJo journalists prefer the Leuchtturm over other notebooks, with all its impressive features and many choices of color.

However, for me, the paper quality of Clairefontaine, with the French-Ruled style that forces my handwriting to be neat and organized, is so superior that I'll be using the Clairefontaine as my Bullet Journal from here on out (that is, after the Leuchtturm is completed).

The Clairefontaine paper is so smooth that writing on it is something I look forward to, as it's a sheer joy to do. It's hard to convey just how wonderful the Clairefontaine paper is, but for me, the paper is so wonderful that it outweighs all the well-engineered features of the Leuchtturm. Indeed, Leuchtturm will corner the BuJo market if it can just use Clairefontaine 90g paper, also coming in French-ruled!

If you only use Fountain Pens and/or only care about quality of paper, the Clairefontaine A4 Clothbound notebook is for you. If you prefer a BuJo friendly notebook that has extremely thoughtful features and comes in many different colors and styles, the Leuchtturm is for you. Further, the Leuchtturm is easily available on Amazon.com.

The Clairefontaine A4 Clothbound French-Ruled notebook is harder to find, but I came upon The Goulet Pen Company who carries them, and they have superb customer service. I bought 4 notebooks and they gave me the colors I wanted, so it appears they do their absolute best to accomodate. They also have very helpful YouTube videos. You only have to see one to get a sense of their expertise in stationary products.

I hope this helps you chose which notebook suits your style the best. Any questions, please reply in the comments section!

The How of Happiness Review

Gaming Challenge--Being Healthy

I was quite amused by recent articles popping up, noting the scientific research in how video games can be good for you. While this may be true in theory, I must admit that due to the addictive nature of gaming, the cons actually outweigh the pros, where gaming is actually unhealthy in my case.

The greatest challenge of gaming to me is to adopt a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying video games. Too often, my alarm to get ready for bed (at 9:30 PM to give me 1 hour to get to a stopping point), as well as my friend calling/texting me with reminders, falls completely flat. One of us, or both of us, would invariably "forget" to call/text thanks to video games and the internet (yes! There are people who stay up until 3 AM watching cat YouTube videos).

Often, I would get to the save point well before 11 PM (my goal is to be in bed no later than 11 PM), but then excuses come up, such as: I'm only a few points away from leveling up so let's get to the next level, and the most deadly excuse, I want to find what's going to happen next, and then it becomes 3 AM. 

The other major excuse is when I don't have to work the next day. There are only so many hours of free time, so to maximize the free time, I cut down on sleep.

However, there are times when I resolve to be healthy, but only successful for about 1 week and then bad habits creep in, except for one time. That was when I wanted to accomplish the Dark Souls 2 no death run (I want that ring!), and quickly found out that I really have to be on point, especially against our dearest Freja, who made me almost give up.

With sleep deprivation and bad lifestyle habits, I kept failing despite DaimonDante coaching and encouraging me. DaimonDante is one of the reasons why the Dark Souls community (in general) is known to be so supportive. Please subscribe to his channel, he's an angel and took it upon himself to encourage me to not quit, and pushed me through.

Because of Freja, I decided I was going to get 8 hours of sleep, exercise, eat tons of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grain, and exercise. It was very successful and I did so well with this for one month, but once I beat the no death run, the bad habits resume, then improving, in an endless cycle.

What triggered my now resolve to be healthy was due to delinquentMuse during one of her Twitch sessions. Muse is a hardcore, exceptional gamer, who does ridiculous no death and SL1 runs in the Dark Souls series in her sleep. It was around 8 PM and she gave us a warning that she'll end her session after finishing a mission coop with one of her chat members, because "it's getting late". I wrote that it's only 8 PM, and she said that she needs to get ready for sleep. I was very impressed that she said that, as we gamers are known to lead unhealthy lifestyles. However, deep in the back of my mind, I had a feeling that she might continue gaming.

This was put to the test, because for some reason, the rather sweet chat member wanted to do a level 40 mission, but the party level was only 18, which I remarked that this is beyond the pale, but he simply wrote, "Muse will carry" which is true. Muse's party could easily beat the enemies, but the issue is that there's time constraint as you have to kill the enemies before they destroy your forts. So the team failed the mission, but Muse, true to her word, said her good byes and went to bed! (Also do subscribe to delinquentMuse's channel as she is incredibly nice, and the chat party room is very welcoming, fun, comforting and supportive).

In this situation of a failed mission, I would've been even more determined to beat the mission, with the excuse, "okay just one more time" which then becomes 2, 3 and so forth. Seeing someone with the discipline to quit the game, I feel that I can do the same, and just take it one day at a time.

I don't want to overwhelm myself and do a "crash course" complete 180 lifestyle change as it tends to make people quit (even though I was successful doing this in the no death run challenge but that was out of desperation), so I'll work on going to bed before 11 PM. It's easy to incorporate fruits and vegetables since my best friend makes these insanely delicious and healthy vegetable (with smattering of fruit) smoothies for me.  Then once it doesn't seem onerous, I'll then add gentle exercise.

I hope all gamers will adopt healthy lifestyles, as our health is the most important, especially in the light of recent news of a few young men dying due to gaming for straight days in a row.

As this is a struggle for me, do you also find that it's difficult to be healthy? If you're successful, what techniques do you use to keep on track?

The How of Happiness Review

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Why Video Games Are An Art Form

The most hoity toity, pretentious and elitist consumers of art (example being my made-up guest writer, N.C., Esq.) tend to claim that "Western Opera is the Highest Art Form", due to opera encompassing many artistic disciplines such as art, music, theater, dance, literature, whereas mere novels only encompass literature. This snobby outlook is further helped by the fact that the majority of famous western operas are in Italian, some smattering in French, German, and only one that I can think of in English that's an opera standard, Hansel and Gretel. I can see N.C. putting on airs, quoting libretto in Italian.

Video games also encompass many art-forms including art, music, theater practice and theory, cinematography, photography, and literature.  It also surpasses western opera in snobbery in that the majority of mainstream video games are available not just in major Western languages, but also in all the major African, Eastern, and Middle Eastern languages. So by the reasoning above, if opera is considered art, then video games should be considered art as well.

I will now present the major arguments I've read against video games as an art form. Roger Ebert appears to compile most of the arguments I've seen floating around the internet, so click on the link if you're interested in getting a general idea.

One argument stems around video games being made for purely commercial purposes, unlike "pure" art where the intrinsic purpose is to express oneself creatively, and to understand the world and human relationships. In other words, using this precise argument, J.S. Bach, Michelangelo, et al are NOT artists since all of their works have been commissioned. Further, Bach and Mozart also had decent salaries as Kappellmeister, God forbid.

This is a slap in the face of the many fans of video games who recreated and even improved on games such as Sonic, Metroid and Pokemon for free, such as Another Metroid 2 Remake, which appears better than the original (appears because I only looked at it, but not played it, but the original looked unappealing), and is an absolutely brilliant game.

These incredible individuals crafted the games out of their own passion, love, and desire to express their creative and technical abilities. Further, like so-called "true artists" they want to share their passion with others by posting links to their free games, and not for profit. Using this reasoning, these video game developers are even more of a "pure" artist than Bach, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, et al, since they didn't even make a penny from their work, which is clearly facetious.

There's one vague critique that I've read where the issue is that video games are created purely as a form of entertainment, and not the loftier "true artistic" goals of understanding the world and relationships. This doesn't make sense to me. Are we supposed to grimace from pain when we go to the movies or the opera (albeit a Wagnerian one I can see), clutching the sides of our armrests out of agony? 

In fact, opera, considered the "Highest Art Form" among art snobs, was created specifically to entertain the masses, for hopeful profit. Opera then became a booming business when it became all the rage, in high demand, and hence commercially successful. Verdi was basically a rock star back then and actually did crowd surfing. Again, there are the many gaming enthusiasts who coded video games because they want to express their vision and love of the medium, and not necessarily for entertaining others, or for profit. However, even if video games were created purely as a means for profit and entertaining the "common masses" (as art snobs would put it) like opera was originally, saying that video games isn't art, is also saying that opera isn't either.

The next major argument is that video games have not achieved the level of quality of other fields in art, dance, literature, music and so forth. I think they have as represented by Chrono Trigger (interestingly it delves into Attachment Theories and Structural Family Therapy), Final Fantasy VII, Heavy Rain, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Tales of Berseria, The Last of Us, Ni No Kuni, Ori and the Blind Forest, amongst many others, to the point where there are video games studies in Universities. I can see many interpretations of Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII being dissected out thoroughly by professors, Ph.D. candidates and students, as they do in critical literature studies, given his complex psychology and origin story.

Even if you don't find Sephiroth a complex character, video games will continue to advance. It's incredible how we went from the very beginning of video game creation such as Pong to the sophistication of The Last of Us in just 20 years. Even in the art world, you can't go from humans just starting to write for the first time ever, and then 20 years later, out pops a Shakespearean play. I can see video games becoming more and more complex psychologically as time goes on, and very quickly, faster than other art media.

Another argument I see floating around in the "Video Games Are Not Art Camp" is that you interact with the game in order for the game to proceed, and the objective is to win or beat the game. Art is supposed to be passively observed, per the arguments. If this is true, then literature is not an art form, since reading is very interactive, and you can't experience or find out what happens at the end until you read the entire book, much like video games. If anything, reading is even more demanding interactively than playing video games as you have to think through each sentence if the novel is a masterpiece. If you didn't finish reading the book, you haven't completed it, just like when you didn't finish a game. I really don't see anything "passive" about reading.

With this line of reasoning that art must be passive, theater, along with literature, can never be an art form as actors and audience members sometimes interact directly with each other, breaking the fourth wall. I remember watching my first play as a child, there was one scene where the actor is asking if she should follow this sinister person into the woods, and as kids, we kept yelling "no" over and over again, the actor kept pretending to waffle, but then deciding to follow the person despite our protests. This is very much like video games where you interact with the game, but the game follows a set plot, or plots as in Witcher 3.

Upon reading Ebert's article, and the portion where he wonders why gamers always have to insist that video games are art, I can only say, "Salt!". Are we really led to believe that the vast majority of gamers are wringing their hands out of anxiety that video games are not generally considered an art form by the public? I can see myself, playing Dark Souls, being so upset with that idea, throwing my controller at the screen out of disgust. Give me a break!

Rather, it seems that this conversation tends to come up as an academic exercise. There is already the inclusion of video games studies in Universities, as mentioned before. In the media, one distinguished newspaper was in an uproar over games being exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art, and PBS was Team Video Games as Art.

It appears that whenever a new medium presents itself, it's not considered art, such as movies and television shows, and I think this same trend is being applied to video games. Currently, video games may not be generally accepted by the public as an art form, but down the road, I feel that video games will be accepted as art like films are today.

So far, the above arguments encompass what I've read through Googling. What do you think, are video games art or not, and why?

The How of Happiness Review

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Does Final Fantasy VII Need a Remake?

Of course my mind comes around to thinking about FF7 since I'm playing the remastered 12 on the PS4.

While playing FF7 about three years ago, I felt that it would benefit from a remaster, in the sense of having everything exactly the same, but improved graphics so the game wouldn't be so blocky. I mean, I didn't even know that the yellow dot/square on the floor was an item. The same goes with Chrono Trigger where the entrance to the mountain was a barely noticeable dot that I had to look up if I were in the right place, as I didn't see the entrance. This remarkable fan recreated Chrono Trigger in the Unreal 4 Engine is what I think they should do for 7. In other words, just push the game to 1080p.

Although the reveal trailer in Sony's E3 2016 showing a complete remake brought chills down my spine, I think it was more due to bringing up the feelings I had of the game, even though Cloud and Barret looked incredible (in particular Barret). I'm sure all fans of FF7 are worried if this total and complete revamp would ruin the memory of FF7. I sure hope not, but the problem is that, despite the outdated graphics, the presentation of the game is such that it's hard to replicate the same emotional feel that the original FF7 brought.

There are too many things about FF7 that made it one of a handful of my favorite games, so I'll just point out a couple. I can't think of a game with a better antagonist then Sephiroth, and I really was astounded at his psychological depth and extremely complex character portrayal. Do not click the Show/Hide button if you want to avoid spoilers!



At any rate, despite the outdated graphics, few games have such incredible character portrayal, and in fact, no game that I could think of had a villain as fleshed out as Sephiroth. The game also has complex and intriguing story lines, and the music is such that it complements the scenes perfectly, to the point that I got the soundtrack through iTunes. Usually I don't care about video game music since I tend to listen to my own favorite music while gaming, but in this case, the music is crucial and essential to the experience.

Also, very briefly, there's so much to do in FFVII such as mini-games, leveling up your Chocobo, as well as varied gameplay elements including the traditional turn-based element, a srategic battle scene, and so forth.

In other words, putting all this together synergistically in such a perfect and well-crafted manner will be hard to pull off if you remake the game completely. If the music is changed, or they change the scenes and timing/pacing, or the dialogue, it might not lead to the same emotional resonance.

For instance, in films, we notice that there are few remakes that improve on the original. Indeed, I feel that the only time this can be achieved is if the original is quite bad (yet commercially successful so a remake will make sense from a nostalgia and business perspective), and the movie was completely revamped. Off the top of my head, the film 300 comes to mind. Now that to me was an awful movie but commercially successful, so if a remake is in order, anyone with a pea brain can improve 300. On the other hand, a film like Bergman's Persona, any change to that movie will damage it, since it's such a masterpiece. Persona in color with new actors would destroy this cinematic tour de force.

Indeed, it's hard to go from masterpiece to something equivalent or better. That's why I feel that if they want to remake FFVII just make the characters and environmental details less blocky/splotchy and add quality of life gameplay elements (i.e. less clunky menu options).

However, if they want the game to be 3D as per the trailer, (and I admit, it looks spectacular!) and make the gameplay more action-oriented (which won't be a bad thing as I found 12's gameplay better than 7), just follow the exact scenes of the original with same music and sound effects.  For instance, start the game out with the same spine-tingling sound effects accompanying the stars in the sky, cue to Aerith's face, and so on and so forth.

What do you think? Are you cringing about the thought of the original creator and developers possibly ruining VII in a remake? Or are you looking forward to the remake and feel this game needs a complete overhaul?

The How of Happiness Review

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Musings 9

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
I broke free from the clutches of Dark Souls 3 thanks to my friend who encouraged me to play FF12, now remastered for the PS4. I didn't play the original so I'm not sure where I am in the game, but it's a must-play for any RPG fan. It's no surprise that an RPG would steal me away from my goal of achieving max Soul Level in Dark Souls 3. Even as I was playing Until Dawn, for example, I wasn't as engrossed in it so I would take breaks and finish yet another NG cycle of Dark Souls 3.

It takes a couple of hours for me to get used to the game and the battle mechanics, which combines turn-based and real-time combat, and it's an extremely addictive and fun system.  It also took time for me to get into the story and characters.  However, Final Fantasy XII hits on all the reasons why I love RPGs, such as minimizing/maximizing stats, upgrading weapons and armor, and using strategy. It's extremely gratifying, after leveling up (whether through stats, weapons, or armor), a very difficult area that I encounter the first time, becomes much more manageable and then easy.

The one disappointment of the game is that the remaster doesn't allow you to change your stats, so it's permanent once you chose your job and skills. It would be so easy to include a respec system. I think all RPGs should allow you to change your build so you can experiment and explore. Since I didn't find out until a couple of hours into the game that this is permanent, I then did research into the best builds, which takes away from the immersion of the game, and then restarted the game.

Indeed, one of the ways in which Dark Souls 2 and 3 improved upon the original, is that they allow you to change your stats. I appreciate how they limit how often you can change your character's stats, so you have to respec in thoughtful manner. I think that's preferred over a system that allows you to change your stats completely anytime you want.

Despite this gripe, the amount of customization in FF12 makes it addictive, as there's always something that you can upgrade and improve. I believe part of the reason why I may not love Bloodborne or Dark Souls 3 as much as the other Souls games is that they reduced the amount of variables that you can improve, such as not being able to upgrade armor when I felt like I wanted to increase defense.

So far, I'm absolutely loving my experience with FF12 and it's a truly addictive and obsession-inducing game!

I'm curious if there's any game that stood out for you that allowed you to move out of your video game rut, if you ever felt that way? 

The How of Happiness Review

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Until Dawn--Very Much Appreciated Video Game

SPOILER ALERT

I completed Dark Souls 3, NG+17 (Journey 18) while contemplating which video game I feel like playing next. Finally, I decided upon Until Dawn as I wanted a laid-back, linear experience where you can't "lose". Further, it was surprising that we got this game free as Playstation Plus members, as it has very high production values, which wasn't surprising as it uses Guerrilla Games's Decima Engine.

Further, since the game uses a lot of quick-time events (QTEs), this would be a perfect opportunity for me to get more used to the paddles of the XBox Elite. I found that I keep hitting the upper right paddle for Triangle, since Triangle is the top face button, so it may take quite a few months to unlearn this.

As the paddle inputs are not burned into muscle memory, all but 2 of the characters survived. I wasn't upset that anyone was killed, except for the wolf who protected Mike. I almost wanted to do that chapter over again to save the poor animal, but since it's near the end of the game, I pushed through because I was dying to find out the conclusion.

So it's a "bad sign" that I didn't empathize or care about any of the characters, the only time feeling sad when the wolf was killed. It was no surprise that Emily, the stereotypical Asian-American woman who is intelligent and bitchy (this appears to be the "go to" depiction of Asian-American women in the media) was killed due to my not really paying attention to her QTEs.

But even though I couldn't care less about the characters, the story was gripping and suspenseful. I felt that the twist of the Wendigo was a let-down as it didn't seem to fit the story in a cohesive manner, preferring that the perpetrator of the killings is Josh and delving more into his psychological profile (perhaps going into his childhood history and the family dynamics), and then ending with Josh's arrest. I prefer horror movies that are psychologically disturbing and creepy, rather than the gore/slasher/jump-scare techniques.

The camera angles can be problematic as you can only move the camera so many degrees, as opposed to 360 degrees so you don't get a panoramic view. The character's movements are also awkward at times, and rather slow to move even when pressing the L1 button to walk faster. Although not as pronounced as in Horizon: Zero Dawn, the game has the trademark Decima Engine's quirkiness with the characters' eyes sometimes rolling up, so I hope Guerrilla Games will fix this in the future. 

Comparing it to the other interactive game I played, Heavy Rain, Until Dawn doesn't quite have the brilliant plot, deep character development and intrigue, to the point where you genuinely care about all the characters, even the perpetrator. Nevertheless, it's a truly fun and enjoyable game with great atmosphere and suspense.

Even so, I very much appreciated Until Dawn for helping me break out of my video game rut, that led me to obsessively play through Dark Souls 3 NG+17, but not being so compelling that I can't move onto another game. In fact, thanks to Until Dawn, it renewed my interest in interactive games, so I may play another free game we got as Playstation Plus members, Tales from the Borderlands.

Rating:  B, Highly recommended if you want a fun, suspenseful, scary and non-demanding game that's highly polished with very high production values, especially at the price point of being free (if you were a Playstation Plus member during that month), or $15 on Amazon.

The How of Happiness Review

Monday, September 4, 2017

Monday Musings 8

Today's Monday Musings will be a bit short since I'm under the weather, so apologies!

Video Game Rut
I'm still playing Dark Souls 3 and on NG+15, SL449. I can actually see myself going to NG+70, which will lead to max level ( SL802) as you get 5 levels each time you talk to Yoel of Londor. I stopped grinding the Angels (unless Souls are very close to leveling up where you just need to grind 1 round) because it's taking about 2.5 million souls just to level up once, and you get almost 290K souls from grinding the Angels each time.  Grinding 9 to 10 times is a bit much just to level up once, which is why Yoel's side quest is absolutely brilliant.

So, I can definitely see myself cranking through the levels, even though it's getting a bit tired, because I simply don't know what video game I want to play next. I can't put my finger on what I feel like playing, despite all the superb games on my backlog. Just for the PS4 alone, there's Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, The Last Guardian, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, Nier: Automata, Uncharted 3 and 4, Until Dawn. This is off the top of my head, and I'm sure I have more PS4 titles, not to mention games on other platforms!

Further, even though going through NG Cycles gets a bit old, it's rather soothing and meditative given the familiarity, but at the same time, I do want to move on, but I'm not sure with which game. This happens all the time when I play my favorite games, where you just want to stay in the world, and even after prolonging and finally finishing the game, it's still hard to move on.

Perhaps this may be a reason to not be so upset about a large backlog, because you then have many games to chose from when you don't know what you want to play next? I'm not sure if this is just rationalizing.

This leads into my favorite games that have made it very hard to move on:

My Favorite Games
Here's a list of my top 10 favorite games/franchises in alphabetical and in no particular order: Chrono Trigger, Eternal Sonata, Final Fantasy VII, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Kingdom Hearts series, Persona franchise, Monster Hunter franchise, SoulsBorne series (duh!), Tales of Berseria, and Wild Arms 3.  Games rounding the top 10 are Gravity Rush series, Ori and the Blind Forest, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, and Xenoblade Chronicles X.

I find it interesting that almost all of my favorite games happen to be RPGs.

Have you ever been in a rut, and if so, how did you get out of the rut? What are you favorite video games?

The How of Happiness Review

Friday, September 1, 2017

XIM 4 In-Depth Review

XIM 4
I promised to post XIM 4 instructions on how to get your favorite controller working on your console of choosing (except for Wii U as this console is not supported). However, it's so intuitive and easy to follow that it's not necessary. Just make sure you install the firmware update and the XIM manager, and then program your controllers, as the XIM 4 does not work out of the box.

However, if you're still having difficulties, please post a comment below, and I will indeed write out step-by-step instructions for you. I thought instructions were warranted because XIM 4's competitor, Cronus Max, was rather difficult to program for the PS4 (given PS4 need to authenticate the controller every 10 minutes, or the controller will shut off) and to map the buttons to correspond to the un-conventional DS4 controller's buttons. Fortunately, the XIM 4 was a breeze to install, so I didn't feel the need to write instructions.

However, I don't know if keyboard and mouse installation is easy. Further, this review is admittedly limited since I'm reviewing only in the perspective of cross-controller support. On the other hand, many users have noted no lag with K&M.

XIM 4 is approximately the size of a deck of cards. It's indeed "plastic-y" but not so flimsy that it will fall off your cabinet/stand like a Roku, most likely because it's covered in a rubbery material and has good traction. I must say, it's rather "cute" in appearance.  Also included is a rather excellent quality micro-USB to connect your XIM 4 to your console, as it is a thick-braided cord (much like the Xbox Elite's), and not enclosed by the usual flimsy rubbery covering.

I find the plastic/rubbery and cute appearance irrelevant as the point is how the XIM 4 performs, and it does so beautifully with absolutely no lag (being wired) with my strenuous testing of Xbox Elite controller with the PS4, going through Dark Souls 3 NG+7 to now NG+10 (or am I at 11?). Further, unlike the Cronus Max, it does NOT get hot even after hours and hours of continuous game-play. Further, it has never disconnected, or the character moving despite no input (like the Cronus Max). It works perfectly, second after second.

I also enjoy the fact that you can program colors through the XIM Manager software, and I programmed mine to flash Yellow. Other colors are Blue, Green, and Red. I'm sure it makes more sense to use Blue for Playstation consoles, and Green for XBox consoles, but I like the Yellow color better than the Blue. Green is also a nicer color than the tired Blue and Red, so I use Green for my Xbox 360.

At any rate, I feel the need to mention that one of the many problems with the DS4 is the touchpad, as a new, unwanted feature.  Further, the DS4 share button is where the back button should be.  As a result, the touchpad press is instead the Back button, defying the usual standard conventions. In other words, it's harder to map a normal controller to the DS4, as it's not a straight 1:1 correspondence.

XIM 4 has the advantage of being able to use the DS4 touchpad and your choice of controller at the same time. Therefore, the rare times that I need to use the share button or touchpad left press/right press and touchpad movement itself, just use the DS4.  The XIM 4 manager already default programs the Xbox Elite's Menu button to the Start Button, and its View button to the Touchpad press (which serves as the Back button) in the usual intuitive, conventional and standardized manner.

The Cronus Max does NOT allow for DS4 being used concurrently with your preferred controller, so it's significantly clumsier than the XIM 4 approach. So, the times that I want to share pictures, I have to unplug the Cronus Max, turn on the DS4 controller, and use the share button. Then connecting the Cronus Max again to resume game-play which is a nuisance.

I hope this review demonstrates that if you only use controllers, the XIM 4 is the best and only choice, in terms of build quality (NO overheating), ease of use, and perfect 1:1 input with no lag or wrong inputs, which are the problems of the Cronus Max, which I tolerated only because I hate the DS4 so much.

Since the XIM 4 works perfectly on the most difficult console and controller, namely the PS4 and its DS4 controller, it will work perfectly with last-gen consoles and the XBox One. I programmed the XBox Elite Controller for the XBox 360 and PS3, and it worked perfectly when I tested it out, though I haven't played hours and hours like I did with the PS4. But the reality, anything that works for the PS4, will work for the other consoles given the difficult and unconventional nature of the PS4 console and controller.

If I ever understand FPS and decide to use keyboard and mouse (that is on games that allow for K&M use in PvP, though I would certainly use it in single-player campaigns), I will post more information on how well XIM 4 works for K&M configurations.

As of now, XIM 4 is so appreciated, and a dream come true!

The How of Happiness Review

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dark Souls 3--Advice for NG+4 and Beyond

I now have conclusive evidence that NG+7 (Journey 8) is indeed the hardest difficulty. Some people claim that it gets harder past 7, so to dispel that notion, I just found the video that shows the damage numbers of NG+7 versus NG+8 here, and indeed, the attack rating is the same. I also experienced directly that NG+8 is the same as NG+7. Upon grinding the obese Angels near the Grand Archives bonfire in NG+8, I found that they are still at 96, 665 souls each.

Empirically, I just fought Soul of Cinder, who is one of the hardest Bosses for me, and he was just as hard on NG+8 as he was on NG+7 so we can safely say that NG+7 is where the difficulty increase stops.

I'm not going to give specific advice on how to beat each Boss, except for advice that would work for every build, since you may have a different fighting style. My fighting style is shield up, wait for all attacks to end, and attack, or if I'm nearly out of stamina, dodge out of the way and regain stamina.

I never understood why people find the SoulsBorne series so difficult, because every time I get killed, I just grind up levels. When I was seeking advice on how to beat higher NG levels, I was reading how a lot of people are sticking to the meta SL180, and I now see where the claims of difficulty lie. At that normal SL level, there's no way that I can achieve the NG+7 goal. If you really want to beat NG+7, the major advice is to grind, grind, grind your way to success.

I agree that I'm very much a grind queen. I was SL382 at the start of NG+7, so you can see how much easier that is compared to a normal build of 180. I started taking notes out of curiosity (I wished I did for the earlier NG cycles) and here were my stats at start:

NG+3: 307
NG+4: 327
NG+5:  343
NG+6: 360
NG+7:  382
NG+8: 400

So, my first advice is to grind levels, but you don't have to be over the top like I was. If you hit a roadblock, just level up. I tend to level up before a boss that I'm not good at, so I come into the battle with small amount of souls, so if I die, it doesn't bother me. Further, make sure you talk to Yoel of Londor who allows you to level up 5 times. Everyone hates the hollow look, but you can use the Purging stones to get rid of hollowing.

To save souls, I further abused the save scrum method. When I die with tons of souls to lose, I save that file and if I don't reach those souls, I then download and attempt getting those souls again until I'm successful.

The best early grinding spot is at Farron Keep Perimeter. The Dark Wraiths and Ghrus help you by killing each other. I used that grinding spot for NG (Journey 1) but only early game. At late game of NG, and on higher NG cycles,  it's better to wait and use the best late game grinding spot at the Grand Archives bonfire. Use rapport on one Angel, and he'll kill the other. Then use rapport on the other 2 and you can easily whack them to death with no risk.

Use Covetous Silver Serpent Ring (if you have the Ringed City DLC there's a +3 version), Mendicant's Staff, Symbol of Avarice, and Shield of Want to boost souls. Also, wear the Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring so you can sneak up on the Angels.

Grinding is rather boring, so I listen to music. I also grind whenever I talk with one of my friends who can talk for hours on end, which really helped a lot.  Even without a garrulous friend, you can quickly level up by using the Grand Archives Angel method; it's amazing how much souls they give especially with the Soul boosting items, so it doesn't take much time. Further, it isn't that boring if you listen to your favorite music while doing so.

In terms of stat allocation, I would aim at the very least for the softcaps, which are VIG 50,  END 40, VIT 40.  STR/DEX/INT/FTH are all at 40, and then the next softcap is 60. So, if you wield a strength weapon, aim for STR40 then 60.

Whatever you're doing that's successful in NG, you can carry on with the same exact strategy through NG+3, leveling up as needed.

For some reason, NG+4 was the turning point, where the enemies hit extremely hard, often taking out 3/4 of my health or 1HKO because I was using the lightest armor possible that has the best stats for the Bosses' elemental attacks. I would put on the most fire-resistant but lightest gear possible for the Abyss Watchers, magic for Crystal Sage, and so forth. 

However, with such light gear, the mid to late Bosses do so much physical damage, that it became exponentially easier when I used the heaviest possible gear (Havel's Ring is a must). As the Havel's Ring takes up a ring slot, I made it one of my goals to boost VIT up so I don't have to use Havel's and free up a ring slot. I eventually got my VIT up to 85 to get under 70%. I found out that, unlike past Souls games, you have the exact same running speed and i-frames from rolling when you're between 30% to 70% equipment load, so why not use the heaviest armor and push up to 70%? For some reason, I assumed that you run faster with more i-frame when you're under 50% which was why I was using very light equipment. Also, I was using light armor for the Fashion Souls, and heavy armor was not needed at the beginning NG cycles.

However, if you're a total master of rolling, then go under 30%, but only if you never make a mistake, b/c the NG+4 bosses can easily 1HKO or 2HKO. However, if you can dodge perfectly, you don't need any advice, lol.

If you use the shield up method, Greatshields with the highest stability are a must, along with wearing very heavy armor for poise. At NG+4, even with Havel's Greatshield, but using light armor, Gael would hit so hard that it takes up almost the entire stamina bar, and his next hit would break my poise, doing so much damage.

However, when I used the heaviest armor possible during NG+4, it was a revelation. I was able to shield all of Gael's attacks with enough endurance to either dodge or attack after each combo. On NG+6, I again only dodged after shielding all attacks when I run out of stamina, but other than that, always shield up.

At +6, Havel's Greatshield didn't have enough stability to sustain this amount of shielding.  Therefore, I used the Greatshield of Glory, which has the highest stability, but stamina regen slows down a little. Even so, because I have so much stamina left, I didn't need fast stamina recovery until NG+7, when even the Greatshield of Glory didn't hold up. I then switched back to Havel's Greatshield, but by then, I got a little better at dodging so I didn't have to shield all the hits.

Because increased poise is akin to increasing the stability of your shield, I became addicted to poise, being a shield junkie, so my go-to armor once I got my VIT to 85 is Havel's Greatshield, Havel's complete set, except for the Winged Knight Gauntlets, as it has incredible elemental and physical defense, as well as great poise. I used the Moaning Shield for bosses with only physical attacks (Champion Gundyr) as it has higher stability than Havel's. But any boss with elemental attacks, I use Havel's.

The above setup of Havel's or Moaning shield and armor works for all the bosses on NG+7.  I even used the Wolf's Ring +3 to add even more poise since Gael really sucks up a lot of stamina when you shield, but other bosses, I didn't have to use the Wolf's Ring. It's a relief to know that I can just stick with those pieces, as it was rather tiring to keep changing armor for each boss fight.

All of this to say that Heavy Armor adds protection, poise and stability so you can survive the rather heavy and strong attacks of Bosses in later NG cycles. And if you're a shield person, Greatshields are the key.

Regardless of what style you use, to make your life easier, I would use Pestilent Mercury (now called Mist with the most recent patch) against Darkeater Midir and let the poison do all the work. So the situations where you otherwise would hit Midir on the head, replace that with Pestilent Mist. It takes INT 30, so I would respec if you need to.

Midir used to be my hardest boss, until I watched this absolutely brilliant YouTube video by ThePhilosophersGames who breaks down every single attack. I follow his advice to the exact letter, except using Pestilent Mist instead of whacking Midir on the head, of course. Additional advice is to slap on Tears of Denial Miracle because you can easily get 1HKO. Midir gives you enough time to heal and survive. Then whenever there's an opening, put on Tears of Denial again. Now, if only ThePhilosophersGames can do videos on Gael, Sister Friede and Soul of Cinder...

Use Toxic Mist Pyromancy or the Storyteller Staff weapon art against Gael, and melee attack Gael for more damage.  Hollowslayer Greatsword is superb against Gael even in NG+7, since Gael is hollow during phase 2 and 3, and the weapon is relatively fast. My refined Broadsword, even at 500 AR, was doing a measly 230 during NG+7, but the Hollowslayer was doing over 300 in phase 2 and 3. So, at higher NG cycles, I had to switch from the Broadsword to Hollowslayer.

To run past all enemies, it makes your life so much easier if you have INT 15 and use Hidden Body and a Lingering Dragoncrest Ring to make the spell last longer to save on your FP. Also wear the Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring to mask sounds.


Lastly, the Ringed City DLC gives you the best rings, including Ring of Favor +3 and the Chloranthy Ring +3. I had both rings on at all times, literally. For grinding, the DLC offers Covetous Silver Serpent Ring +3, and the Gold +3 if you want to grind covenant items. Since I was going for heaviest armor and poise, ignoring elemental resist for the most part, the Stoneplate Rings +2 add to your elemental resistances. I would go for all the DLC rings in NG, when it's much easier.

Using the above strategy, I was able to solo all the bosses in the main campaign and DLC through NG+7!

TLDR:
  1. Grind
  2. Heaviest Armor possible
  3. Greatshields with highest stability if you use shields 
  4. INT 15 for Hidden Body, Lingering Dragoncrest Ring and Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring to run past enemies 
  5.  Ringed City DLC's rings are very helpful (but not necessary)
If you have additional advice or want any specific advice, don't hesitate to comment below!

The How of Happiness Review

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

XBox Elite Paddles Make You a Better Gamer

I completed Dark Souls 3 NG+7, and will play through NG+8 to see if in fact, NG+7 is the hardest difficulty, as there's some claim that NG+9 (Journey 10) is the hardest. I can make this determination once I get to the Grand Archives Bonfire.  This is the area of the best grinding spot in the game. With my soul-boosting items, each of these Obese Angels gives out 96,665 souls in NG+7, so all three are worth 289,995 souls. If the soul count is the same on NG+8, then we know that 7 is the highest difficulty.

Going through NG+7, I found that fighting one of the bosses, the Demon Prince, was very problematic, as you have to fight the camera most of the time. My strategy is to run away from the Orange activated Demon (Demon From Below) and wait until the Orange one is burnt out. Then tackle the Red one (Demon in Pain), since the final form of Demon Prince is much easier if you take out the Red one first.

The problem is while running away from the Orange, you have to move the camera to see where he is. However, your finger is off the face button when you move the camera, so you can't run while switching your viewpoint. Often, since you're walking and not running when adjusting the camera, the Orange demon then catches up with you and swipes your back. On the lower NG levels, the damage is not that bad, and you can run away and heal. However, on NG+7, despite wearing all Havel's pieces, except for the Winged Knight Gauntlets (this seems to be the go-to default armor I've been using), he took out more than 1/2 of my health even in embered form at VIG 50 (health).

In NG+7 and the previous NG's, I run blindly in a straight line, moving out of the way of the poison blasts, and when the noise of the demons decrease (which means the Orange one is finally burnt out), I then fight the Red one. It worked, but I don't find this ideal or satisfying.

Therefore, I decided to bite the bullet and use the Elite's paddles, as I was avoiding them because I thought it would be too difficult to learn, and may not really add to the game-play. At any rate, I kept the same exact default configuration, where the left upper paddle corresponds to A (X on PS4), right upper goes to B (Circle), left bottom is X (Square) and right bottom is Y (Triangle).  However, I assigned the A (X) button to Right Analog Stick click (R3). It's very intuitive to press A to lock-on the enemy and then RB (R1) to attack. Since you only lock-on when you're facing the monster, it's okay if your fingers are off the right analog stick since you don't have to move the camera in that situation. I just hate pressing R3.

I didn't realize I can un-map the face buttons until I read advice on how to get used to the Elite controller, and found that many forum members recommend that strategy. Indeed, I keep pressing the face buttons, but since nothing is registered, it reminds me to use the paddles, and I learned exponentially faster than when I didn't un-map them.

I then practiced this configuration in the grinding spot of the 3 Angels, and it makes a huge world of difference! I can control the camera any time I want to while running at the same time! No more stopping, then moving the camera to go up the next flight of stairs! Further, for some reason, I'm able to dodge faster as the paddles seem to be more exact than the face buttons, and faster to push (i.e. the paddles have leverage, if that makes sense). Sometimes, when I was using the B (Circle) button, I'll be running and then I want to roll, but I jump instead. This doesn't happen with the paddles.

After getting a bit more used to the configuration within the safe confines of grinding, I then fought Slave Knight Gael, in a trial by fire! I felt that this will definitely force me to get used to the paddles fast since it's so easy to die to him even with small mishaps. I was surprised that I beat him after 3 tries, whereas before, it would take me at least 10 attempts. I think it's because I was able to dodge with less effort and more successfully, with full control of the view.

I'm still getting used to the paddles as it's not yet muscle memory, but even so, it has improved my game-play to the point where I did pure melee on Champion Gundyr after Gael. My strategy before was to do melee during the relatively predictable Phase 1, and then Dorhy's Gnawing in phase 2. But, because the paddles make dodging so precise and fast, with complete camera control at all times, it was easier for me to dodge and then swipe with the very fast Refined Broadsword.

I really think that the next-gen consoles should incorporate these paddles in their standard controllers. I think whoever does this will have a leg up on the competition.

At any rate, if you own an Xbox Elite controller, I would force yourself to use the paddles so you can have access to the analog sticks at all time. To learn as quickly as possible, un-map the face buttons. Although difficult at first, you get used to them very fast, and it's so worth it!

The How of Happiness Review

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