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

Fortnite--How To Avoid Spending Real Money (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. 

The How of Happiness Review

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...

The How of Happiness review.

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 JRPG model of storytelling where your party team tends to have discussions and getting to know one another.

Your village decided that each successfully 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 or even more, 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 cutscenes.

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.There will be a transmog/overlay system for fashion souls.

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 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?

The How of Happiness Review

Monday, October 23, 2017

Borderlands 2 (Monday Musings 15)

Borderlands 2--My First FPS That I Can Complete?
I have a feeling that Borderlands 2 will be the first FPS game I complete. When I got disgusted about losing all my legendary trap schematics and stopped playing Fortnite, I started Borderlands 2

The story and music are already wonderful, with the introductory cutscene, and the graphics are exactly how animation should work. Very clear and easy to see, with no jagged polygons. Looking at the characters, I wanted to play Krieg, who's the coolest looking one, but my heart sank when I read how difficult he is for newcomers. Fortunately, Hilly_ was on Twitch streaming, so I asked his expert advice (he completed Borderlands 2 no death) to see if I really should play Krieg, and he advised not to for beginners, due to the difficulty. 

The next class I wanted to go as is Salvador. Hilly_ recommended that I go as Maya, as he noted her play style gives you a sense of the Borderlands 2 combat, which makes perfect sense. I rolled as Maya, but I think when I restart the game from scratch, I'll play as Salvador instead.

I think that I may have been bumping into walls in prior FPS games because of the graphics. I think the original Bioshock on the Xbox360 had muddy graphics so it's hard to see where you're going. However, this is not the case at all with Borderlands 2. In fact, during the tutorial section, when you're directed to follow your guide, Claptrap (CL4P-TP), I was surprised I was able to find 3 chests. This is startling, because due to my bad vision and perceptual awareness, I tend to miss a lot of items, but in this game, I already found loot!

In terms of gameplay, Borderlands 2 was very intuitive, though I may need to get adjusted to the menu. I was hoping that the reticle would be smaller so you can land headshots better (unless I'm not aiming correctly), as in Fortnite, and FPS's that I watched on Twitch, such as Call of Duty, Destiny and Halo.

However, since I went back to Fortnite, Borderlands 2 was put on hold. But I will play the game, rolling as Salvador, and one day, hope to beat it!

The How of Happiness Review

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fortnite Addiction (Monday Musings 14)

Why Fortnite is So Addictive

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

Added update below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pinata loot system is exactly analogous to gambling, which can be a diagnosable addiction. Depending on the pinata, you can get mythic and legendary items (i.e. winning the lottery), and like gambling, you can buy V-bucks to get the upgraded and special llamas until you hit the jackpot. Reportedly, one person spent over $1500 to get a mythic hero, and unluckily, it's not the best one, which doesn't surprise me. One out of 10 of the upgraded llama may turn into a gold llama (regular, silver to gold) where you can get the best items.

Further, I'm a grind queen, and even I find it very slow to progress. Unlike Dark Souls 3 where you can grind the overweight angels on top of the building before facing off the Prince brothers, as many times as you want and it only takes minutes, it takes very long to grind out exp points in Fortnite. Various missions give out rewards, often less than 1000 exp, and after the second evolution (I believe you can evolve all items up to 4 times max), it takes 5000 exp, and of course, costs more as you level up higher.

You can definitely progress, but it's very slow, even for me. By buying the llamas, you can get EXP points very quickly, also adding to the addictive value of the game. 

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

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

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

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

The How of Happiness Review

Monday, October 9, 2017

Fortnite Tips (Monday Musings 13)

Fortnite Tips--Offering the Most Important One

TLDR: Favorite items you want to keep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The How of Happiness Review

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fortnite--Initial Thoughts On My First Multiplayer Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The How of Happiness Review

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Gone With The Wind--Worst Well-Known Novel? (Monday Musings 12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The How of Happiness Review

Moving With Ease And Without Pain, Part 1 of 3

Recently in the past month or so, I became much more serious about finding ways to get rid of my pain, which is due to poor posture. In t...