Friday, March 30, 2012

A New Challenger Approaches?! FlatOut

The Indie Gala added another game! Gasp!

It's called FlatOut and apparently it's a racing game where you drive a car. The trailer shows crash test dummies competing to see who can crash the crashiest...apparently this is an alternate mode. Well, it's been a while since I've played a good racing game, so maybe it'll be fun. Let's give it a shot!


So I started a Career. It gave me a choice of cars. I had no idea what to make of the stats they showed me, so I just picked the one on the right, whatever. There's some customization options, but I just jumped right into a race.


"Amateur Run", yeah, that sounds about right. Okay, so this should be easy, right?


Ah, yes, the ol' "dead last place". Let's try this again, shall we?


I am a terrible driver. My windshield is smashed and I believe I am driving so poorly that the car has caught fire. This is probably not good. I'm going to retry again.

So how do I use that Nitro meter, anyway? There's got to be a button for it. Button mashing, button mashing...aha! 


Zoom! Back to first place! Now that's more like it! Now how do I refill the meter?


Whoop, too late, second place. Well that was fun. I don't really know what I'm doing, but...


Smash bonus? Wait, was I supposed to smash things? I was avoiding smashing things. I just assumed crashing into obstacles was bad. Is that how you refill the Nitro?

Anyway, I am getting a kick out of this. I haven't played a racing game in ages. Zoom! Haha!

That was fifteen minutes, so forty-five to go. But I am optimistic so far. This seems like a nice bonus game.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More Future Wars

It's still all laggy and everything but I did say I'd give it an hour, so tonight I gave Future Wars a second chance and played through another half hour.

Okay, I was sort of reserving judgement because of the thing with the lag and only playing the first two missions and not really getting a good look at the game. But I am finding it really hard to care about this game. This story is just terrible.


The units are just blue circles. There's no resonance. What exactly is a "Plasma Trooper" and why does it have an advantage over the wheel-shaped robots? What's going on? What's the point? It's like fighting with units that are called "Unit A" and "Unit B". It's very difficult to get blander.

There are characters at the academy place, but they're just a framing device. They don't participate in any of the action. Nothing they do affects the gameplay at all. Not like Shining Force or Fire Emblem where the characters you control in battle have real personalities and you can connect with them, or at least tell what they're doing.

The guy in heavy armor has high defense, the werewolf fights with his bare claws, the thief moves quickly and can unlock chests, the skinny guy with the bow is weak in close combat but can attack at range, the birdmen can fly over terrain, the wizard throws fireballs, and the guy in the steam-powered mecha-suit moves slowly but packs a punch. This is intuitive stuff, evoking classic tropes that I can instantly recognize and understand without having to think about it--it's just natural. And the battle has a flavor behind it as a result. But here, what do we have? Wheel-shaped robots with guns vs. walker-shaped robots with guns. Could it possibly get any less interesting?

It's possible the low framerates are putting a bee in my bonnet here by just making me generally annoyed at the game, but even trying to look past that, I'm really not invested in anything here. I gave it a chance and it failed to engage me.

So my verdict: thumbs down. Sorry, Future Wars.

Oh man, these books are awesome

So I've been reading The Dresden Files and it's...well, it's great, is what it is. I love it.

If you haven't heard of it, The Dresden Files is a series of mystery thriller novels by Jim Butcher. Also, it's awesome. I'm just finishing up the third book and I have to force myself to put it down.

It's a lot like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, if Buffy were a private detective instead of a superhero. Or Angel, if Angel were a wizard instead of a vampire. In any case, it's got that urban fantasy/horror vibe, and it's fused with that good old "Tracer Bullet" detective noir, and the result is...well, I like it a lot. Anyone who likes Buffy will probably like The Dresden Files.

This, by the way, is yet another case of TV Tropes enhancing one's life. I kept seeing this series pop up on trope pages in my wiki browsing/editing and it seemed like an interesting read, so I picked up the first book to see what it was like. And now I am devouring them.

Most of the chapters end on a suspenseful note because, well, it's a mystery thriller novel, and that's what thriller novels do. I figure it's not really fair if I get to a cliffhanger and just bowl right through to the next chapter, so I'm trying to let it stew in between chapters. Right now I'm doing that by taking a break to write this thing I'm writing right now. My main strategy, though, is to switch between two books. I'm reading the Dexter series simultaneously. I finished Darkly Dreaming Dexter a little while ago and now I'm a quarter of the way through the second book, Dearly Devoted Dexter. It's okay, but it's also actual disturbing. I knew going in that I was going to be reading about brutal murders from the perspective of a sociopathic serial killer killer, but wow, it turns out there's some pretty sickening things in there. The sort of things that make you close the book for a second to take a couple deep breaths. But it is a page-turner, and I'm still reading it, after all. Not as awesome as Dresden, but, eh.

This, by the way, is one of the perks of reading on a Kindle. I can switch between them on the fly...wait, I feel like I already did this bit. Yeah, I did, didn't I. Exact same shpiel, about a month ago. Hmm.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

For the past three RuneScape updates, I've managed to find a silly spin to turn them into fake news articles. With the Loyalty Rewards update, I had Guthixians filing a lawsuit for equal representation. With Bakriminel Bolts, I poked fun at how this is the only way to aim for a specific body part with your ranged attacks. And now with the Morytania diary, I went with a combination of "Our plan to attract tourists is to offer them free pants," and "It turns out they really need the free pants, because they keep soiling the trousers they originally brought."

Three in a row is a pretty good streak. I wonder how long I can keep this up. Giving a fake news spin to RuneScape updates is a good creative challenge. From the comments I've been getting, people seem to be enjoying it, so hey, maybe I'll keep going.

I wonder if it would make a good YouTube video series. Instead of parodying a newspaper, it would parody a news show. Hmm, interesting thought.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Greed: Black Border

Next on my list is Greed: Black Border. Just going alphabetically here. This one is an action RPG, right? Hack and slash? I do like hack and slash.

There's a multiplayer, but I don't have a second player, so single player it is. Jumping right in, I get to choose a character: short-range Pyro, mid-range Space Marine, or long-range Plasma. Pyro it is!


Right off the bat there's a problem. I don't know how to move. The WASD keys just make me leap around and...oh. Oh, I see. You move by clicking. So how do you shoot? Oh, you mean I click to shoot, too? Okay, so I hold the mouse button in a direction to move in that direction, or click on a location to move to that location. And to fire, I can either click on the enemy or shift-click in the direction I want to shoot. So...uh...that's a really crappy control scheme. It's the sort of controls you see on an iPad game because it has a touchscreen and no keyboard or mouse. But this is a computer game, and I have a keyboard and mouse, and I would like to use the keyboard to move and the mouse to shoot please, if that's okay. Can I at least change the settings?

No? Really? I can't customize the controls for moving? Seriously? Sigh...well, I'll try to settle into this control scheme, but it's really clunky.

Like, I got to this part where there's these enemies who shoot at you, right? And the dodge is too slow to actually avoid their shots, because if you dodge too soon they just fire at where you end up, and if you wait until after they fire, your dodge is too slow to actually dodge their plasma bolt. So what you want to do is run around them in circles and shoot them with the flamethrower. But you can't move and fire simultaneously. This is totally awkward.


See, look, I died because I couldn't get used to the controls. That's me, dead. Ow. This game feels like it was designed to be played on a tablet. Well, I'm not playing it on a tablet, so it's really awkward.

Now how do I get through this door?


Oh, aha! I can sneak through an air vent. At least I think it's an air vent.


Okay. That makes sense. Sneaking around the abandoned facility, fighting killer robots and random...space zombies? There are zombies for some reason. Well, Everything's Deader with Zombies, right? Sure.

Somewhere around this point I gained a level! Excellent. Let's unlock this activated attack that makes a flame wave thingy:


...Actually, I have no idea how to activate this attack. I tried button-mashing and it didn't work. A little confused here.

Oh well.

I do like the way this level-up tree looks. Each of these abilities has multiple tiers, so you can sink lots of points into just one, or branch out and dabble in several. And as you can see from the tree image, there's a tech tree thing where you have to unlock some abilities before others. It seems like a good leveling system. You also get stat points that you manually distribute towards HP, energy, and shields.

By the way, they said it was hack and slash, but you don't actually hack or slash. It's really just a top-down third-person shooter, which is significantly less cool.

Well, I kept going some more and gained another level, so I unlocked regeneration.


It lets me automatically restore HP when I'm idle outside of combat. So, hey, this seems a little overpowered. This is one of those games where the enemies don't respawn and you're exploring the map. So there's all these lulls in between combats. Basically this is getting me up to full health after every encounter. That's a pretty big difference from scrounging for health stations like I was before. Maybe it gets tougher later on?

Anyway, I ran up against this area where there are these laser...heat ray spotlight thingies? I don't know what they are, but if I touch them, I blow up. And I'm pretty sure I have to run past them to get to the other side. So I tried and...I blew up.


See, look, I'm dead. So I tried again and died again. Tried again, died again. This is hard. There's so many of them and they pretty much kill me instantly. Am I supposed to find a switch to disable them?

Well, I don't know, because it's been an hour and I'm calling it a night for this game. The controls are very clunky and that annoys me. This is a shame because the gameplay is otherwise pretty decent...the leveling system is nice and the exploration stuff isn't bad (at least, not yet--it might get boring later, who knows) and if you overlook the clunky controls the combat's fine too. So it's not the worst. Maybe I'll try it again some other time. Maybe not. I'll sleep on it and see how I feel later. Hopefully I'm just being dumb and I overlooked an obvious option that lets me change the controls.

By the way, I know that the title is talking about like a border as in a frontier between two territories, but I can't read "Black Border" without thinking of Magic: The Gathering cards. I'm not the only one, am I?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Future Wars: Wars...in the future!

Well, let's try this Future Wars game. Some sort of turn-based tactical thingy, right? Okay.


Let's start with a campaign, I guess.


Ah yes, the old Awkward Freshman Kid Protagonist. Hello, my name is Max and I'll be your Audience Surrogate for today.

This guy explains the rules of the place:




And then it's time for the tutorial, which gets the in-universe justification of the naive freshman learning the ropes at the academy from the teacher, Ms. Enormous Boobs.


  
So I learned that you put troops on top of buildings to capture them. Okay, that's familiar enough...basically like Armies of Gielinor, which I played a fair share of. And then the next tutorial is how to attack, with a mini-intro to the rock-paper-scissors weakness system. And then the next level teaches you about transport units, which other units can jump inside of to move more efficiently.

This game doesn't seem all that bad except that it lags horribly. I'm getting like 4 fps. This is not cool. Can I turn the graphics down at all?


No, I guess not. Maybe it runs better in fullscreen?

...No.

Well, crud. Games that don't run on my computer are not good value. How long have I been durdling with this game? Half an hour? Meh. I'll try the other half later. So far it's looking like I might as well just stick to Armies of Gielinor.

Indie Gala 3: The Quest for Value

It's no secret that I am a big fan of value. That's why I love indie game bundles. True, I already have lots of video games, and I haven't even played all of the ones I currently own. But the value! Think of the value!

But as great as it is to get value, it's dangerous to spend money on things just because they're on sale; it might turn out that you never use them at all. So for the newest Indie Gala bundle, I pledge here and now that I will play each of the games I've just bought for a minimum of one hour each, to see if they're any good. Heck, maybe I'll liveblog them too. Why not?

So what are these games that I've never heard of before I bought them? Uh...good question. I guess I'll take a look at their descriptions and jot down my first impressions.

Trapped Dead: This is some sort of zombie strategy game where you like, control survivors, and it's like a real-time tactical thing where you try and kill all the zombies, or something? Well, I dunno, it doesn't sound that great, and I'm not usually into RTS-type stuff, but I'll give it a shot and see how it turns out. Maybe it'll be fun. Maybe not. We'll see.



Greed: Black Border: This is a sci-fi- hack-'n-slash action game with RPG elements. I like the sound of that. I am a big fan of hack-'n-slash games with RPG elements. I loved X-Men Legends and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: The Game. Hopefully this has lots of fun hacking and slashing action with a satisfying level-up system. High hopes for this one.



Future Wars: This is another strategy game, but this time it's turn-based. It's a tactical thing, like Advance Wars or whatever. I don't play a lot of this type of game, but I have had some good experiences with turn-based tactical strategy games before. Shining Force is kind of like that, and I loved that one enough to play through it like five times! And I like Fire Emblem, although I never beat it. And I played a lot of the DS version of Age of Empires II and enjoyed that. So maybe I'll like this. It's certainly worth a shot.

Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes: This one is an RPG. I don't usually go for PC RPGs. They're better on handheld consoles, generally. That's why I never finished Cthulhu Saves the World. But I'll try this. It says this is a satirical RPG, which sounds good. I do like satire. And it's another tactical strategy combat system like Shining Force or Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. Okay. It says you control a party of 10 anti-heroes. Based on the title, I guess that means you're playing as the bad guys? Cool, cool. Sounds promising enough. We'll see.

Twin Sector: Okay, so it's a first-person physics-based puzzle game where you have a red glove and a blue glove and you play as a woman in a futuristic abandoned science lab that's completely empty except for you and a computer voice who tells you what to do and...hey, wait a minute, this is just going to be a Portal knockoff, isn't it? Well, I guess there are worse games that you could rip off. But on the other hand, if you set yourself up next to Portal, you're gonna look bad in comparison. Well, I'll try it and see how it measures up, but...well, we'll see.


Five games. Five hours. Four dollars. It's time to see if it was worth the price.

...Well, okay, it's not time now, because I'm going to bed now. But soon. Soon.

Visit http://www.indiegala.com/ if you want to buy these for yourself, by the way. Proceeds go to charity.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

TzTok-Jad Fail

I got a TzHaar slayer task today, so I thought I'd give the Fight Caves a shot. I've been meaning to get a fire cape for a while, so heck, why not, right? I put on my maging gear and Tokkul-Zo, decanted some potions into flasks, and even brewed a couple of overloads because hey, it's a special occasion.


I went with the spirit shield for the off hand so that I'd have some ranged defense. Don't want to be too soft against the Tok-Xil. I had an Armadyl Battlestaff in my inventory to switch to Storm of Armadyl for the final battle, and Vecna Skull, an Extreme Magic potion, and an Overload to boost my magic (using the weaker buffs on earlier waves and scaling up as I progress). That plus some brews, restores, and prayer pots. The Spectral Spirit Shield should really be Arcane, Divine, or Elysian, but this was the only spirit shield I had so it would have to do. And I haven't gotten around to dungeoneering for the Arcane Stream necklace, so I stuck with the Fury. On the whole, I thought it was a decent setup.

Anyway, it turns out the first 62 waves are cake. Which wasn't surprising, I guess, since there are hella safespots and I have overpowered prayers and I basically rip through guys of a comparable power level on any ordinary slayer task. It was really just a time sink--I hardly used any resources. I took Overload doses just to make it go faster.

So I got to Jad, right, piece of cake. But I died because I couldn't switch my prayers right. It's those new animations--he holds his feet up longer on the ranged attack now, and sometimes he does a fire breath thing too, so I got confused and mixed up the prayers and that was that. I say it's bull.

Well I had all these supplies left because the first 62 waves were so easy, so I figured may as well give it another go. This time I watched a YouTube video of someone fighting the new Jad so that I could practice the prayer switching. Ha! Went through the prologue, got to Jad, and switched my prayers just fine. Messed up a little luring the healers, but I recovered okay. But then I ran out of prayer because I hadn't been watching my prayer points. Whoops. Got hit, died. TzTok-Jad: 2. Troacctid: 0.

I started to go in for another try, but I checked my Polypore Staff and it turned out I was low on charges, so I ducked back out and called it a day. Oh well, no fire cape yet. Next time.

Afterwards, I checked the price of the Arcane Spirit Shield and noticed that it had majorly tanked and was like 30m lower than I remembered it being. Works for me! So I bought one for 40m. Probably should have done that beforehand.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bottled water is water

Okay, so I've been buying gallon jugs of drinking water instead of using tap water because water is actually really cheap as it turns out, and it's convenient to be able to keep a jug in my room instead of going to the kitchen and pouring water into a cup and bringing the cup back after I finish drinking it. It's slightly more expensive in a jug, but really not by a lot, like, just pocket change, so I don't mind paying a little extra for the convenience.

But anyway, I go to the store, right? And I grab some water off of the shelf and I notice, huh, the caps on some of these bottles are different colors. Guess what? There's like three different kinds of water.

The hell is the difference?

They're all bottled in the same plant in Georgia. It says so on the label. And apparently the spring water is from a spring out in the mountains (okay) whereas the other two are from the Sacramento Municipal Water Supply. So it's Sacramento tap water, pretty much. Okay, hold on a second. Sacramento water supply. Bottled in Georgia. Sacramento water supply. Bottled in Georgia. Something is not right here. Do they expect me to believe they took water from Sacramento, shipped it to Georgia to be bottled, and then shipped it all the way back? Is there any damn sense in that? Use the water from Georgia. Don't waste money shipping tap water from one end of the country to the other. Is there something wrong with the Georgia water? Is it poisoned with Georgia Disease or something?

Anyway, I bought one of each because they were all the same price and it's not as if it's going to go bad. So I tasted them and they taste exactly the goddamn same. Seriously, it's just water. They're identical. So why do they even have three kinds? It's a load of bull, that's what it is. Why do I even buy this stuff? I should just keep one and refill it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Healing Checkpoints

Checkpoints and save points have an interesting property in many video games. Whenever you reach a checkpoint, your health goes back up to full, as does your ammo, mana, and anything else that may need replenishing.

As it turns out, though, this wasn't already documented on TV Tropes. For shame! So I've taken the liberty of starting a YKTTW to collect examples. If you can think of any games that do this, hop over and share them. Or post a comment over here and I'll add it for you. Whatever.

In other news, I just finished a commander game with my Rhys the Redeemed deck. Started the turn with three tokens, and a Rhys. Played Parallel Lives and Seedborn Muse. Passed the turn. Untapped, made six tokens. Opponent (Momir Vig) tried to combo out and fizzled. I untapped, made eighteen tokens. Opponent (Lyzolda the Blood Witch) played Nevinyrral's Disk. I untapped, made 54 tokens. They scooped. Good beats, good beats.

How toilets work

It starts with siphons.

A siphon is a thingy that makes water go up. Basically, it looks something like this:

The siphon thingy is a tube thing. The water gets sucked up the tube. Why does the water get sucked up the tube? Well, that's a good question.

Atmospheric pressure pushes against the water, shoving it up the tube. When the water gets high enough to hop over the little bend at the top, it gets pulled down by gravity the rest of the way. But when that water gets pulled down by gravity, it leaves a vacuum behind. So there's a pressure differential, and that gives you a net force that shoves more water up the tube. Of course, for this to work, the whole tube has to be full of water or else the air in the tube will push right back and nothing interesting will happen.

If you've ever seen a barometer, you might be familiar with the pressure thing, since that's the whole idea behind a barometer. You've got a setup like this:

The atmospheric pressure shoves down on the water, forcing some of it up the barometer, and you can tell how strong the pressure is by looking at how far up the tube the water goes.

Well, a toilet bowl is set up to take advantage of this stuff.

If you just add a little bit of water into the bowl, a little bit will dribble over the edge of the pipe thingy and it won't accomplish much. This means that most of the time, water sits happily in the bowl, not getting sucked down into the sewers for no reason. But if a whole bunch of water gets dumped into the bowl all at once, a whole bunch of water is going into that pipe thingy. Enough water, in fact, to shove all the air out of the pipe and fill it completely with water. And now you've got a siphon effect happening.

See, when that pipe is full of water, gravity pulls the water down, right? But when gravity pulls that water away, it creates a pressure differential, allowing the atmospheric pressure outside the bowl to shove more water into the pipe. This push-pull siphon action is what sucks the flush down into the sewers. You know the gurgle-gurgle noise a toilet makes after you flush it? That's the air bubbling back into the pipe once the water is gone.

So flushing a toilet is basically just dumping a whole bunch of water into it all at once. And in fact, you could manually flush a toilet if you really wanted to for some reason. All you'd have to do is take a big ol' bucket of water and dump it in there and, if it was enough water, it would flush, just the same as if you pulled the lever.

Okay, so what is the rest of the toilet for? It's got that whole tank thing with weird floats and pulleys in it. They've got to be used for something, right? Well, yeah. That's where the water to flush the toilet comes from. If you take the top off of a tank, you'll probably notice that it's full of water. That water is the water that goes into the toilet bowl when you flush it.

When you pull the handle, it tugs on a chain that lifts a valve at the bottom of the tank. With the valve open, the water in the tank pours out around the edges of the bowl and through the jet-thingies around the rim, rapidly filling the bowl with water and initiating the flushiness. You can see the water drain out of the tank if you take the lid off when you flush.

You'll probably also notice that there's a float and some tubes and a nozzle thing in the tank, too. Those are for refilling the tank once you've flushed the water out of it.

When the tank empties, the float goes down (because it's a float, and it was floating on the surface of the water). The filler valve is hooked up to the float and notices it dropping. "Hey," says the filler valve, "The float just dropped. That must mean the tank is empty. I'd better refill it." So the filler valve pours some water into the tank and some into the bowl. As the tank fills up, the float rises, and when it gets to the top, the filler valve notices and says, "Aha! The float is back! I'll stop now." And the water stops.

That extra tube is there in case something goes wrong and the tank starts to overflow. The extra water will go down the overflow tube and into the bowl, and then down through the siphon pipe, instead of overflowing out of the tank and all over the floor.

Sometimes a flush goes wrong and your toilet gets clogged. This is a terrible thing. Usually it happens when something gets flushed that's too big to flush, like a large wad of toilet paper, or a kitten. Contrary to popular belief, it is not caused by evil toilet-clogging gremlins, although if it were, that would totally make sense.
When a toilet gets clogged, that means it's time to bust out the handy-dandy plunger.
Toilet plungers have a pretty simple strategy. The plungey-thing at the bottom has air in it. So what you do is you take the plunger and stick it over the hole at the bottom of the toilet bowl and push it down to turn the rubber cup inside-out. When you do this, it shoves the air down the pipe. And then when you pull it back right-side-out again, it sucks up a mix of air and water.

Basically, it churns everything up. And when everything gets all churned up, the force of the water and air swishing around helps to dislodge the kitten (or other debris) that's clogging the pipe. This could take several tries, of course.

 Anyway, that's pretty much how your standard toilet works.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Here's a sneak preview of my next update to Project Dredmon:

<skillDB>

<skill name="Dratini" id="147151" type="wizard" description="It's a baby dragon! Someday it'll grow big and strong!" >
    <art icon="skills/dratini64.png" />
</skill>

    <ability name="Dratini" icon="skills/dratini64.png" skill="147151" startSkill="1" >
        <description text="147: Dratini. The Dragon Pokemon. Long ago considered a mythical Pokemon until recently when a small colony was found living underwater." />
    </ability>

<dratiniskills>

    <ability name="Wrap" icon="skills/wrap64.png" skill="147151" level="0" >
        <spell name="Wrap" />
        <resistbuff conflagratory="1" hyperborean="-1" aethereal="-1" voltaic="1" />
        <description text="Dratini can constrict a foe, holding it in place and gradually crushing its life away." />
    </ability>

    <ability name="Twister" icon="skills/twister64.png" skill="147151" level="1" >
        <spell name="Twister" />
        <description text="Create a vortex in front of you, dealing damage to enemies in its path." />
    </ability>

    <ability name="Evolve into Dragonair" icon="skills/dragonair64.png" skill="147151" level="2" >
        <primarybuff id="1" amount="2" /> <!--sage-->
        <secondarybuff id="3" amount="3" /> <!--magic-->
        <secondarybuff id="18" amount="1" /> <!--sight-->
        <description text="148: Dragonair. A mystical Pokemon that exudes a gentle aura. Has the ability to change climate conditions." />
    </ability>

    <ability name="Thunder Wave" icon="skills/thunderwave64.png" skill="147151" level="3" >
        <spell name="Thunder Wave" />
        <description text="Paralyze enemies with a surge of electric energy." />
    </ability>

    <ability name="Dragon Dance" icon="skills/dragondance64.png" skill="147151" level="4" >
        <spell name="Dragon Dance" />
        <description text="A mystical dance that raises your attack and speed." />
    </ability>

    <ability name="Evolve into Dragonite" icon="skills/dragonite64.png" skill="147151" level="5" >
        <primarybuff id="1" amount="2" /> <!--sage-->
        <primarybuff id="2" amount="1" /> <!--nimble-->
        <primarybuff id="5" amount="2" /> <!--savvy-->
        <secondarybuff id="3" amount="2" /> <!--magic-->
        <resistbuff hyperborean="-1" voltaic="-1" slashing="1" asphyxiative="1" />
        <description text="149: Dragonite. An extremely rarely seen marine Pokemon. Its intelligence is said to match that of humans." />
    </ability>

    <ability name="Outrage" icon="skills/outrage64.png" skill="147151" level="6" >
        <spell name="Outrage" />
        <description text="RAGE! RAGE! RAGE! ...Confusion?" />
    </ability>

    <ability name="Draco Meteor" icon="skills/dracometeor64.png" skill="147151" level="7" >
        <spell name="Draco Meteor" />
        <description text="BOOM! Drop a huge meteor out of the sky to cause mass destruction!" />
    </ability>

</dratiniskills>

</skillDB>
That's Dratini, which was requested by a poster on the Gaslamp Games forums. This is the finished XML for the skillDB file (which sets the level-up abilities and skill descriptions). Basically, the skillDB file is a skeleton--it lays out the general framework for what the skill is going to do, defining the basic attributes like the name and class (wizard, rogue, or warrior) and telling the game which abilities you're supposed to get at which level.

This defines when you get the abilities, but it doesn't define the spells themselves. For that, I need to write the spellDB file. The skillDB tells the game "At level 2, Dratini learns Twister." Then the game asks, "Well that's dandy, but WTF is Twister?" That's where the spellDB comes in: it explains to the game what "Twister" actually means. This is what I'm going to work on next.

Wrap should be easy enough, since I already did Fire Spin for Charizard that had the same effect. This one is going to target an adjacent square instead of any visible square, and the damage will be different, but otherwise it's the same code.

For Twister, I'm going to try the "cone" setting, which I've never used before (and none of the official skills use it either). I'll have to experiment. Since it's a simple damage spell, it shouldn't be too hard, although...I guess it has a chance of causing flinching? I'll see if I can add in a chance of stunning for 1 turn. This could take a couple tries. We'll see.

For Thunder Wave, I know there's a template that just hits a 3x3 area, so I'll just use that and give it a stun effect. That one should be simple.

Dragon Dance is going to be a timed buff that stacks up to six times. My biggest concern with this one is that I don't know how long it should last or how much mana it should cost. I've done buffs before, so I know the XML for it and it's pretty much just balance that I'm worried about.

With Outrage, I want it to go boom boom boom on consecutive turns, then confuse you (the confusion would be a debuff that has a 50% chance of dealing damage to you when you attack). I've never done something like that before, but I know that there are several effects in the game already like it (most of Necronomiconomics does it), so I know it can be done. I'll check those out and do some experimentation until I get it to work.

Draco Meteor should be fun. It's going to basically do a Bolt of Mass Destruction (with the numbers and damage types changed around) and I'll add a trigger to it that slaps you with a debuff reducing your magic power. Nothing too out of the box to code, but I'm looking forward to trying it out in-game; nuke effects like these are fun.

I'll also need to find some images. I've been using mostly pictures from the trading cards, since they have some nice art. The nice thing about doing a mod that's a crossover with another work is that you can rip images from the source instead of having to draw them yourself.

Once I've written up the code and found pictures, I'm going to test it in-game to make sure everything works. I built a special mod just for testing that lets me level up for free whenever I want, to save time debugging high-level skills.

This whole process shouldn't take more than a couple hours unless something goes wrong. If something goes wrong, I have to figure out where I messed up and fix it. There's a nice tool online for checking XML syntax, and since I keep making dumb mistakes like forgetting to close the quotation marks or accidentally closing the tag in the wrong place, I've just been running everything through it in advance to save time. It caught like four errors in the XML that I just posted up there.

If everything seems like it's working okay, I'll post the mod up on the forums and pat myself on the back for  a job well done.

After I finish Dratini, I might start on Weedle. We'll see.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I just played a couple games of Coldsnap Sealed. It's...eh...I don't really like it that much as a Sealed format. I mean I tried this green deck and I lost (in one game I got a triple Surging Might, but my opponent had Surging AEther and wrecked me, so that was sad). And I tried this white-blue deck and won the first game, lost the second game, won a really close third game--I sideboarded into a BR aggro deck because my clock was low and I had to win fast, so I played a T2 Goblin Furrier and my opponent played a T2 Sheltering Ancient, and he kept putting counters on my Furrier and trying to play snow creatures to block it, but I kept killing his snow creatures and getting in, and eventually I just barely won the race with him at a few seconds on the clock. It was intense.

That being said, it's pretty disappointing opening a Sealed pool and never getting any sweet multiples. Draft is better because you can try to be the guy who has the deck with 12 Surging Dementia and be like, "Turn 2, land, you discard six cards, go." Or at least I assume it's better. I've never played a Coldsnap draft. I'm in an 8-man queue right now, but it's not firing so far. Been waiting for like an hour and there's only three people.
Project Dredmon v1.0 is live! You can check it out here.

I chipped away at it all evening and I think I got all of the kinks out. v1.0 contains Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, and Magikarp. If you've never installed a DoD mod before, you'll need to go to My Documents/Gaslamp Games/Dungeons of Dredmor and create a folder called "mods". Then take the .zip file from the link I gave you and download it into that folder (don't unzip it). If you did it right, the Pokemon Skill Pack should appear in the mods list at the game's launcher.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Project Dredmon underway

Goddamn it was an awful commute today. On Fridays, Unitrans runs on the weekend schedule and I can't take the bus both ways, so if I don't bike, I'm missing class. Well, I had an important essay to turn in today, so come Hell or high water I had to be there or risk failing the course. Turns out it was high water. It was pouring all day. I had a raincoat, yeah, but when you're biking for fifty minutes in the pouring rain, you might as well wear a raincoat into a swimming pool because it'll do you about the same amount of good. I was drenched to the bone when I staggered back into my apartment. Then I changed out of my soaked clothes and rummaged through my bag to see which of my possessions had been ruined by the water. The Kindle was okay, but the bike was making some unpleasant squeaky noises towards the end, so fingers crossed. All my papers are damp, but since it's finals week now that's not really important. My wallet got wet on one side, but it didn't have enough time to soak through, so I think it'll be okay.

Anyway, I've been wading through XML files all morning for my new Dungeons of Dredmor/Pokémon crossover mod project. "Project Dredmon", I guess you might call it. After a few stumbles, I'm proud to announce that both the Bulbasaur and Magikarp lines are fully functional!



Magikarp is sort of a joke--I set it up so that the first four levels are complete blanks that only give you joke abilities that do no damage. But if you get past that, you evolve into Gyarados and instantly get a big stat buff, followed by heavy-hitting spells Dragon Rage (40 damage, of course, plus some AoE for crowd control) and Hyper Beam (fires in a straight line across the whole screen, decimating enemies and destroying walls).

Bulbasaur has some interesting magic spells that I haven't playtested, but they seem fun--he's got some snaring and damage with vine whip, draining with leech seed, AoE with Razor Leaf, and it culminates in Venusaur's Solarbeam, which is a lot like Gyarados's Hyper Beam except that it stuns enemies rather than breaking walls. I'm not sure how powerful this set is, but it's certainly possible that the numbers will have to be tweaked either up or down.

And I'm ironing out some bugs with Charmander. The Charmander skill is showing up in all the interfaces, which means I got the basics okay--usually if something is really screwed up, the mod doesn't show up in the game at all, or parts of it are missing. Charmander is showing up fine, which is a good sign. But the abilities aren't working right. Rage is supposed to boost offense when you get damage, but instead it's not having any effect at all, and I haven't figured out why. And I wanted to make Flamethrower attack enemies in a straight line directly in front of you like in Smash Bros. Brawl, but it's doing a weird thing where it attacks some seemingly random set of squares, so I'm going to have to check it against the Thibault's Trompement code to see what I did wrong.

Once I finish with Charmander, Squirtle is next, and we'll see where it goes from there. This is a lot of emulation and trial and error, and I'm sort of excited to see what comes of it. You already got a glimpse of my brainstorming in my last bit. I want to get some mods up and running before I start making more blueprints, though, because it's too easy to sit on the sidelines and make imaginary skillsets than it is to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty in the XML. Creating a working mod is tougher than thinking up a hypothetical one, but it's far more rewarding, both in the satisfying feeling when it works perfectly, and in the real, quantifiable, hands-on experience with basic coding stuff.

This post has a title. It's something to do with Pokémon again.

I've been having this problem with hot pockets where they don't cook properly in the middle. Let me tell you, getting to the center and discovering that it's cold is disgusting.

Anyway, remember when I ranted about the problems with the Pokémon games? I was talking with Ravi about it on Twitter, so I thought some more about it. The solution I came up with: instead of picking one starter out of three, you should be able to pick multiple starters out of a pool of...a lot more than three. Like, you get two or three starters, and they can be, like, any basic Pokémon. So instead of starting with Torchic, I could start with Numel and Spoink. Instead of starting with Totodile, I could start with Elekid and Teddiursa. Instead of starting with Bulbasaur, I could start with Porygon and Seel. See, now that would be cool.

I mean, Dungeons of Dredmor does it. You pick seven skills at the start, out of like 40, and you level them up as you go along. It's just like Pokémon ought to be--a team of seven that works together to...well, I guess this is a dungeon-crawling roguelike game instead of a JRPG, but other than that, it's a lot like Pokémon.

Hey, that's actually a great idea. I should make a Pokémon mod for Dungeons of Dredmor. I could have a skill represent a Pokémon that's in your party.

So there could be a Pikachu skill and you'd start with Thundershock (single-target voltaic damage spell, chance of stunning) and level up to get...what moves does Pikachu learn? Thunder Wave (stun a single target for 2 turns), Quick Attack (teleport a short distance and attack), Thunderbolt (stronger version of Thundershock), Evolve Into Raichu (passive stat boosts), Thunder (even stronger voltaic attack with AoE damage), Surf (short-range AoE attack). And you could start with a "Light Orb" item that gives a voltaic damage buff.

Ooh, this is a gold mine. Let's think of some more. How about Caterpie?

String Shot: Knockback effect.
Evolve into Metapod: Passive buff to defense.
Harden: Brittle buff that boosts block chance and magic resistance.
Evolve into Butterfree: Passive buffs to some stats.
Sleep Powder: Puts enemies to sleep in a 3x3 square.
Stun Spore: Stuns enemies in a 3x3 square.

Abra!

Teleport: Carbon copy of Froda's Jump Discontinuity.
Evolve into Kadabra: Passive stat buffs.
Kinesis: Carbon copy of Psychokinetic Shove, except nerfed because that spell's overpowered.
Confusion: Targeted damage spell that has a chance of confusing.
Evolve into Alakazam: Passive stat buffs.
Psychic: Targeted damage spell that also debuffs.

Magikarp!

Splash: Does nothing.
Keep splashing!: Also does nothing.
Tackle: Does a normal attack.
Flail: Does a small amount of damage to enemies standing near you.
Evolve into Gyarados: MASSIVE STAT BUFFS
DRAGON RAGE: MASSIVE FIREBALL
HYPER BEAM: MASSIVE DAMAGE

Ditto!

Transform: Gives you a random effect depending on what Pokémon you transformed into.
(And that's his only ability.)

I might actually do these. I should probably include starter Pokémon if I do, though.

Bulbasaur:

Vine Whip: Carbon copy of Skatha's Roots.
Leech Seed: Damage over time spell that deals damage and heals you.
Evolve into Ivysaur: Stat buffs.
Razor Leaf: Projectile attack that deals slashing damage.
Evolve into Venusaur: Stat buffs.
Solarbeam: Projectile attack that fires in a straight line and pierces opponents.

Charmander:

Ember: Carbon copy of the fire wand attack.
Evolve into Charmeleon: Stat buffs.
Rage: Timed buff that boosts your power, crit, and counter.
Evolve into Charizard: Stat buffs.
Flamethrower: Projectile attack that deals conflagratory damage to a single target.
Fire Spin: Snares and deals conflagratory damage over time.

Squirtle:

Bubble: Deals a small amount of damage and has a chance of causing knockback. I don't know what kind of damage you get with water. Asphyxiative, I guess.
Water Gun: Single target damage spell.
Evolve into Wartortle: Stat buffs.
Skull Bash: Single target close-range knockback attack. Gives a short temporary defensive buff.
Evolve into Blastoise: Stat buffs.
Hydro Pump: Projectile attack that causes knockback and deals heavy damage.

And of course there would be bonuses to resistances, positive and negative, based on the Pokémon's types.

Yeah, this might be my new modding project, since the Phyrexiamancy thing never quite worked out. Hell, here's a couple more.

Weedle:

Poison Sting: Chance of a damage over time effect on melee and ranged attacks.
Evolve into Kakuna: Stat buffs.
Harden: Same as Metapod.
Evolve into Beedrill: Stat buffs.
Rage: Same as Charmeleon.
Twineedle: Attacks twice. Also, passive buff to piercing damage and crit chance.

Pidgey:

Sand Attack: Single target debuff.Gust: Single target damage spell. Chance of knockback.
Evolve into Pidgeotto: Stat buffs.
Wing Attack: Short-range AoE attack.
Evolve into Pidgeot: Stat buffs.
Whirlwind: Copy of Psychokinetic Shove, but more damage, and with a cooldown.

Diglett:

Dig: Digs one square into a wall.
Evolve into Dugtrio: Stat buffs.
Tri Attack: Does a mix of conflagratory, hyperborean, and voltaic damage. 
Earthquake: AoE damage.
Fissure: Lots of targeted blasting damage.


...I'd better stop here or I'll be up all night.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

So I'm walking around the MU and one of those guys with a clipboard approaches me and he's like, "Hey, do you want to sign this petition to make health care more affordable in California?" So I'm like "No thanks" and I keep walking. (This is the correct response in 95% of such situations.) But every time I do that, this thing happens where immediately after I walk away I think up debate points to argue against the guy.

How exactly do you want to make health care more affordable? The most direct route would be to impose a price ceiling, but that would obviously do more harm than good. We could use government subsidies to make it cheaper for the consumer, but that subsidy money has to come from somewhere, and the state is still broke, so the tax dollars are still going to be coming out of our pockets.

Now if you could come up with an initiative that could improve the efficiency of the health care system somehow to lower costs for everyone involved, I'd be right there behind you, sir. Or if you had a plan to make the market more competitive and drive down prices and improve service through the invisible hand, that would also be lovely. Or if you could change the incentives in the pharmaceutical industry to make the most profitable business decisions line up better with the best course of action from a public health standpoint, that would be wonderful as well.

But there's no chance we're seeing anything that creative on a ballot initiative. It's just going to be more spending funded by a tax increase. Now, I'm not against more spending funded by tax increases, don't get me wrong. That's the best way to add more spending. But that power really doesn't belong in the hands of the voters. There are some issues that it makes sense to use ballot initiatives for, probably, but carving out a budget plan is not one of them.

Anyway, this always happens. Solicitation, politely decline, walk away, immediately think of interesting conversation I could have had.
"Bob, which kind of salsa do you want?"
"Get the ten-pound tub! It's only two cents an ounce!"

The Adventures of Bob, Value Addict

"Bob, I had five creatures in play and you had none! You're telling me you were holding a Wrath of God the whole game and never cast it?"
"Yeah, you still had like five cards in your hand. I was hoping you'd play out more of them so that I could get them all. You know, for value."
"Bob, you died."
"Yeah. I guess maybe I should have cast that Safe Passage at some point."
"You had a Safe Passage too?"
"Well, I was hoping I could wait to cast it until I could set up a good block and get you really good with it. You know...value."
"Actually, that brings up another question. You must have seen at least half your deck that game. Did you really just never draw any creatures?"
"Are you kidding? I had loads of creatures! I had this War Priest of Thune that could have traded with your 4/2, but you didn't have any enchantments for it to destroy, so I thought I'd hold onto it, just in case I could get some value. And I had a Briarhorn, but I figured it would be more value if I could set up a double ambush and kill two of your guys. And there was the Gravetiller Worm, but I was saving it until I could get the Morbid effect active."
"You have a problem, Bob."
"Oh! I meant to tell you! I bought a horse!"
"You bought a what?"
"A horse! Her name is Sissy. She was only fifty bucks! Can you believe it?"

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's time for more Dungeons of Dredmor talk. This time: Mathemagic.

Mathemagic is a support skill for mages, with teleports, debuffs, and a magic buff. It has a lot of great utility and, if used properly, can be a lot of fun to play around with.

It starts you with a Coat of Tweed, which is stronger than the standard wizard's robe. It buffs your max mana. Not exciting, but starting equipment rarely is, and it's a nifty perk.

The base spell is Froda's Jump Discontinuity, which is a random teleport. It warps you to a random nearby tile. Not gonna lie, this spell is tough to use effectively. You can't really use it against groups of enemies because you're likely to end up right in the middle of a gang of baddies who will proceed to surround and pummel you. If it's just one enemy, your odds are a lot better, and you can probably buy a turn or two this way. Or, if you managed to get surrounded on your own, it can be an "Anywhere but here!" button. It's pretty narrow, but it's not useless.

Then you get the Diminishing Calculus, which is a stackable debuff that also deals damage. Beklam's Diminishing Calculus does a number on monsters' offensive stats with some relevant debuffing to burliness and melee power. Use it on an approaching enemy to ping them for damage while nerfing their power. Combined with tactical use of the Jump Discontinuity, you can teleport-spam around a single enemy while applying multiple debuffs to them. Again, though, as a single-target spell, this is less effective against groups. It's a good support spell that doesn't cost too much mana, but you'll want to make sure you have some heavier firepower to back it up. And if you're not a wizard, you might as well just use a crossbow if you're going to plink an enemy at range.

Curse of the Golden Ratio is a single-target damage-over-time spell.It deals decent damage, but it's severely limited by its mana cost, which is really steep. True, it has the additional upside of dropping money, but as nice as that is, you probably won't be casting this spell regularly. Even if you're dabbling in blood magic for mana restoration, the single-target damage-over-time spell is not exactly synergistic. The damage on this one is actually pretty good, but it pales in comparison to the other offensive spells you could be casting from other disciplines, like Obvious Fireball or My Chemical Explosion.

Next up is Zenzizenzizenzic, which is a timed buff that boosts your magic power, sagacity, and mana regen, and can be stacked up to three times. The mana regen is not super useful, since the buff has an upkeep cost. But the big draw here is that there's no minimum mana cost, and the cost scales downward very rapidly. If you can start casting this for free, you'll be getting some nice extra damage on your spells. Again, this is not exciting on its own, but as support for a wizard build with other spellbooks, this is a great effect to have. Early on, it might be expensive, but it's better in the later floors, when you've leveled up enough to accumulate a high savvy score to bring its mana cost down low.

And then you have Xeuclid's Translation. Now this is a spell. Teleportation is a powerful ability, and unlike the cheap imitation teleports you get from other skills, this one is only limited by your mana. That means you don't need to save it for emergencies--you can cheapo them out anytime. Toss a bomb, teleport away, toss a bomb, teleport away, toss a bomb, teleport away...you're in business, my friend. Having the ability to say "Whoops, this is getting tight, I think I'll back off" at any time is an awesome defensive...defense-thing. Once again, this is only really going to be effective for mages, because of the mana cost. But if you make that commitment, this spell will save your life. I would say this is probably the main draw of the Mathemagic skill.

Lastly, The Recursive Curse. This is a sweet one. It's Diminishing Calculus's big brother. It has the same base debuff + damage effect as its initial hit...but it also slaps the target with a damage-over-time effect that adds up to serious damage, and the debuffs it applies get worse and worse over time. And also much like Diminishing Calculus, it suffers from being a single-target spell. Don't rely on Recursive Curse to power you through difficult rooms, but do abuse it against bosses and other tough enemies.

Overall, Mathemagic is a weak skill when considered in a vacuum, but in the context of a wizard character with other spell trees, the awesome teleport and the crippling single-target debuffs are a nutritious part of this complete breakfast, so to speak. A spellbook like Promethean Magic is great at dealing massive Area of Effect damage, but not so efficient when dealing with lone enemies. Mathemagic shores up the weaknesses of other wizard skills with a couple of solid, cheap single-target attacks and a handy-dandy teleport for tactical...positioning...stuff. On the other hand, it's close to useless if you're a warrior or rogue without the mana supply to power it; Recursive Curse is great at 6 mana, not so great at 30 mana.

So this isn't the most powerful skill tree in town, but it has interesting tactical implications that can lead to a unique and fun gameplay experience for magic-based characters. If you've never tried it before, I definitely recommend giving it a swing one of these days.
I like mac n' cheese. It's nice because it's like a mix of pasta and cheese, and I like pasta, and I also like cheese. It's also cheap and easy to prepare. A simple meal that I eat pretty often is mac n' cheese (with hot sauce), beans (with hot sauce), and a pickle. That hits most of the major food groups, and all of the components are cheap and non-perishable, so I walk away with both a full belly and a full wallet. Value!

The nice thing about pickles is that most fruits and vegetables go bad quickly, but pickles obviously don't. So I can keep a big jar of pickles in the fridge and eat the pickles over, like, a month or so, and I get the vegetable vitamins and whatever, but I don't have to worry about them spoiling. Also, pickles are pretty cheap, so it's good value.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I've been doing a couple Shadowmoor drafts in MTGO and I keep losing. Maybe I'm just bad at this format. I had this UB deck that I thought was okay, but I got crushed in the first round. Then there was this mono-red build that was...meh. Got clobbered. I don't know. I never played this block when it was current, so I don't really know what I'm doing.

There was this one game where my opponent was like, "Recumbent Bliss your Boggart Ram-Gang," and I'm like "Enchant it with Power of Fire." Nice Pacifism, right? They had to use a bounce spell to get rid of the aura, and then I replayed the Ram-Gang and went right back to swinging. I lost, but it was good times.

And there was this other game where I had a Silkbind Faerie and my opponent attacked with two 2/2 dudes, leaving his 2/1 back. He had a black untapped. So I'm thinking, "Well, he could have Scar, but if he did, he would have attacked with the 2/1, wouldn't he? So he must not have it." And I block and feel very clever until he plays Scar and kills my guy and I lose the game in short order. Next-leveled?

The Beta client's interface is [REDACTED] with this format because [REDACTED]. I figured out that I can [REDACTED], though, which lets me [REDACTED]. And Shadowmoor sealed is always a nightmare anyway, so I'll just stick to drafting.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I was pleasantly surprised earlier this week when I got an email saying that I have been chosen...or something...to play Dota 2. Or...beta test? I'm not totally sure, but whatever, it seems nice. Did I sign up for that? I don't remember signing up for it. Maybe I signed up for it and I just don't remember. Either way, it magically appeared in my Steam library, so I guess I'm happy.

I don't know what the Dota genre is supposed to be called these days, and I haven't really played all that much of it, but I do like the concept. I played Rise of Immortals for the Steam winter achievement and I thought it was pretty fun. I've made a conscious choice not to get into it, though, because I dislike the micropayment business model they use (this goes for League of Legends as well). I think Dota 2 doesn't work that way, though. I'm not totally sure, but it seems like you pay to buy the game and that's it. That seems much better. Especially since apparently they're giving me the game for free anyway--I'm definitely cool with that.

The other reason I'm a little uneasy about this genre would be the RTS element. RTS games are great and all, but I'm just not a fan of that sort of thing, generally. Strategy games are fine, I guess, but I like them better when they're more, y'know, turn-based...

Controlling a single hero is nice, though. It sort of makes it like a Beat 'Em Up action game. I like those.

Well anyway, I haven't actually ever played Dota 2. Yet. But I probably will at some point.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I'm about to talk about Pokémon, but first, did you know that the alt-code for é is Alt+0233? This is a very handy alt-code to memorize if you're ever planning on talking about Pokémon in any significant capacity--assuming you don't have one of those foreign keyboards where you don't need alt-codes to type accents. If you have one of those, you'll probably be okay.

Yeah, those Spanish classes with los acentos in the typing assignments are sort of a sink-or-swim crash course (so like a shipwreck-type crash course) in alt-codes, since it's a pain in the neck to recordarlos.

Anyway, I was going to say something about Pokémon, right? Well, I like Pokémon, but I gotta say, it's hard to care about it anymore. I think the biggest problem is that there's no challenge at all. It needs a Hard Mode. But the fundamental game mechanics make it almost impossible for the difficulty to scale.

I mean, the idea of the combat system is that you're supposed to build a team of a small number of Pokémon that you acquire at various points in the story, each with different strengths and weaknesses, to make a balanced party where you swap out Pokémon depending on the opponent's team. That's what it's shooting for. That's what I try to do in my playthroughs because it's the most fun way to do it. But it never works.

Why doesn't it work? It's because of this.

If you've ever played Pokémon before, you're probably nodding in agreement. On the surface, the game seems like it wants to promote a diverse party with a wide variety of Pokémon who shore up each other's weaknesses. But in practice, the optimal strategy is to take your starter Pokémon, level grind the crap out of it, and brute-force your way through every encounter.

And it really does work. I tried doing that self-imposed challenge once, you know, the one where you never use any Pokéballs and you only ever battle with your starter? I quit in disgust because it was easier than a regular game. The worst part is you don't even have to level grind. If you only ever use one Pokémon, it gets 100% of the experience in every encounter. It just naturally zooms up the charts, and there's nothing you can do about it unless you deliberately sabotage it by running from every random encounter. Every additional Pokémon you train is sucking XP away from what would otherwise be a juggernaut; by diversifying your team, you're actually handicapping yourself.

Okay, so playing with a full team isn't the optimal strategy, but at least it's possible, right? No. Because you have no choice. You have to play through the beginning of the game with your starter. The only Pokémon you can catch early on are crappy Rattata and Pidgey and Caterpie clones that god knows you don't want to bring all the way through the end of the game. And by the time you have enough options, it's too late--all the enemy trainers have Pokémon that are way stronger than the ones you can catch in the wild. The only way to get any use out of a newly-caught Pokémon is to take it into the tall grass and grind its level up just so that it can be on the same level as the powerhouse starter that you already have.

In fairness, the newest generation has made wild Pokémon a little stronger compared to trainers, and the changes to TMs did wonders for making newly-caught Pokémon usable. But making random encounters more powerful had the side effect of making your initial guy shoot up the level charts even faster, so your new team members still have to do just as much grinding to pass the mustard. And now the trainers are a joke because their guys are meant to square up against wild Pokémon that are ten levels below you.

See, they can't make the game harder by making the enemies stronger, because all that does is make you level up faster. They can't make you level up slower because all that does is make it impossible to add new Pokémon to your party. So it pretty much just sucks.

Like remember in Gold & Silver how good Mr. Mime was in Gold & Silver? No? Of course you don't. You couldn't capture one until the end of the game. By then you had a million other psychic Pokémon, plus a million more non-psychics that could use psychic attacks, so Mr. Mime was fucking useless. He'd have been a powerhouse if you could catch him by the second gym, but that wouldn't do, oh no.

...I could probably rant more but I'm running out of steam so I'll leave it at that for now.
When I take the bus to school in the morning, there's sort of an awkward timing issue in regards to when I leave for the bus stop. See, if I leave early, I could spend like a bajillion years waiting at the bus stop for the bus to come. But if I try to sneak in at just the right time, I might get there too late by mistake and miss the bus completely, and have to bike instead. Which I can do, but eh. So there's sort of a balance to strike. Ideally I leave a little buffer and just expect to wait about three minutes or so. The other solution is to go the whole hog and walk down to the bus stop twenty minutes early to catch the next-to-last bus before my class starts. If I miss that bus, it's no big deal because I can just take the next one and still get to class on time.

I mean, I could always bike. That's an option too. I've been biking less and less these days, though, since we had a pretty chilly winter and I got pretty tired of freezing my fingers off in the cold wind for 40 minutes a day. Taking the bus means the weather can go suck it. The weather's improved now, but now I've gotten used to being able to sit back and read a book while someone else does the driving. I guess I could put audiobooks on my iPod, but...eh, that doesn't really appeal to me. If I lived closer to campus, it would be a little different; currently, it takes about 20 minutes' bus ride plus about 5 minutes' walk to the bus stop to get there, compared to about 18 minutes by bike. Differential presumably gets more significant as the distance decreases. That plus biking gets harder the more you do it--the first mile is easier than the second mile.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More Dungeons of Dredmor. Let's talk about Perception.


The biggest problem with Perception is that it doesn't work. Buffs to your vision range don't actually increase your vision range. This is probably a bug, and hopefully it'll get fixed at some point, but it's obviously pretty unfortunate.

Having noted that, Perception is underpowered. Even if the sight radius buffs had any effect...well, sight radius doesn't do much. I mean, it extends the range of your magic and thrown weapons slightly, I guess, but that's a corner case. Mostly all it does is make you better against darkness curses, and if you're worried about that, you might as well just take Emomancy for curse removal and get some good spells.

Sight radius being underpowered kind of ruins the appeal of this skill, since that's basically the only thing it's good for. It gives you a little bit of anti-trap, but if you need an anti-trap skill, Perception is basically just flat-out worse than Burglary, Archaeology, or Tinkering, which are just as good or better at anti-trappery but have a variety of utility thingies to go with them. Whereas Perception has...not much of anything, really.

It gives you some small boosts to dodge and enemy dodge reduction, but neither of those are especially useful or exciting. It gives some small boosts against traps, but as I said, Burglary and Archaeology and Tinkering are much better for that. And you get Eye Lasers, but it's a single-target spell with a long cooldown and it's really not that good. If you took Tinkering instead, you'd have infinite crossbow bolts and you'd never even need a single-target damage spell, and you'd get more trap affinity and extra Savvy to make your spells cheaper.

You get a Second Sight buff, but it's really annoying to keep reactivating it, and the bonuses it gives aren't particularly great. The accuracy is substantial, but accuracy in general is not very important. And then there's Third Sight, which I swear does stone nothing. It's supposed to reveal traps and invisible enemies but a. you already have +5 trap detection just from the previous levels, how much do you need? And b. you have to manually activate it, so it's pointless unless you already know there's a trap in which case don't walk on it, durr.

So where does that leave Perception? It's just a worse version of some other rogue skills, basically. I don't think it's very good. If you're interested in the skill, I recommend installing Essence's Core Skill Rebalance mod, which gives it some much-needed buffs to make it viable, raising its stat boosts and adding a loot drop passive bonus.