Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Things I can look forward to

I'm not defending this semester. It is mostly my fault for not being brilliant (but if they were going to tell me to rewrite it, why didn't they tell me sooner?). I'm maybe not graduating until December, unless I can convince one of my professors to skype while he's in England. I was super bummed at first, but you know, it's not like I had pressing plans for later this year that required me to have my degree. My PS3 doesn't care if I have an MA or not. You will probably love me the same whether I have an MA or not. I'm not really sure why I want the degree, all things considered (because... I like finishing things?).

I have other things to look forward to! I am excited for David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel The Pale King to arrive tomorrow! Like every other contemporary-literature-loving hipster, I was puzzled and enthralled by Infinite Jest. The Pale King is unfinished, but it will be a heckuva lot more interesting than The Original of Laura (Nabokov's posthumous novel which was a lot of index cards, but not really a novel). I used to think that getting excited about books or movies or games the opening day was kind of silly (while reading the Harry Potter novels the day they came out, or with the 7th, the day before), but now I'm totally down with it! Daily life can get boring, why not buy something new and shiny on its newest and shiniest day? I'm doing this with Portal 2 as well. Maybe if I were more hardcore I would stay up until midnight at a store... but no one in Utah was doing release parties (is it sad that I checked?)... so I ordered it from Amazon. 

Other things for me to look forward to besides my never graduating would be the Arcade Fire concert next month (wooo!) and going to JAPAN. Yes, we're staying in Osaka instead of Tokyo... but it means we get to see the cherry blossoms at Yoshino, which the Japanese tourist site says is the best place to see them. I admit I was kind of down about not being able to go to the Ghibli museum, but this totally makes up for it (watch, there will be a huge storm right beforehand... but even then, at least the ground would be full of cherry blossoms, right?). If you have a burning need for something in Japan, let me know in the next month or so (you might get something out of me depending on how large it is and how closely you are related).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Enjoying my free time

Recently I have decided that if I am doing something for fun and it is not fun, I will stop doing it. This seems pretty basic, but I think I have had a problem with this? Especially with reading books, I find myself reading a book because I "should" like it or just because I want to know why everyone else liked it. Well, if I'm reading a book and I'd rather be playing a video game, what am I doing reading? So I've kind of taken a break from reading. I know there are books that I really do like reading, but... I don't know. I haven't been enjoying it as much.

I don't know how to explain it, but this really applies to everything I've been doing. I haven't turned into a short-term hedonist, but if I'm doing something for no reason then... duh, why am I doing it?  I realized in the middle of playing FFXIII that it was boring me, despite how pretty it was, and I couldn't imagine playing it for 30 more hours. So... I don't think I'll finish it! I don't need to play all the final fantasies to have nerd cred or something... and I don't need to read everything Dostoevsky wrote to have nerd cred. There are plenty of things I actually like doing that make me cool. The thing that annoys be about, well, past me, is that I felt I had something to prove (?) so I spent all that time doing things I only kind of enjoyed in my free time.

Something I really did enjoy was eating yam fries with fry sauce on Sunday night. I love me some fry sauce. Then we had oatmeal pancakes with fresh strawberries on top. Why am I not eating yam fries with fry sauce EVERY DAY? Is there any other way to get that delicious vinegary sweet taste?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Towards a more balanced pokemon paradigm

I have decided that Pokemon has a terrible strength/weakness system (for reference, see this chart of Pokemon type effectiveness). You can start with a fire, water, or grass pokemon, but grass pokemon (pokemen?) seem to be at a big disadvantage. Five types of pokemon are x2 damage against grass, and grass types also deal less damage to 7 types (compared to 3 and 4 for fire and 2 and 3 for water). Additionally, this makes it so that one of the easiest strategies against a single-type pokemon gym-trainer is to simply train pokemon they're weak against. I was trying to think of ways to make the game better, strategy-wise. Here are some ideas:

-Instead of type weaknesses, make the weaknesses be associated with the pokemon's battle position. For instance, if a Squirtle is sitting there glaring at its opponent, it should be better able to dodge. Likewise, if they're in the middle of fury swipes, they could be taken off guard by a sleeping spell. Maybe the pokemon could have varying in-battle stats reflecting their psychological state (frustration, overall happiness, "calmness," something like that). That way you could adjust the traits for their status changes and not have strange things happen like a sleeping pokemon who suddenly wakes up and does a takedown.

-Starcraft: Pokemon. You choose what kind of trainer you are going to be at the beginning of the game. Zerg trainers get to keep up to like 20 pokemon at once, but their collective levels can't exceed [some number that changes gradually over time] and work better in packs. Okay, sorry, it's a terrible idea.

-Get rid of the hundreds of pokemon and just have like 25, with 5 types instead of 17. This way even casual gamers can actually strategize on what types of moves are better??

-Zelda: Pokemon. You have battling abilities as a trainer and your pokemon just kind of help. Never mind, that's stupid.

-Post-apocalypse: Pokemon. Have everything be brutally realistic. To catch your first pokemon you have to throw rocks at it, then nurse it back to health. You can train your pokemon without having it battle other pokemon (by throwing rocks at it and making it do laps?). If it dies, that's it! You have to teach it the rules of combat, and wild pokemon don't know these rules (in fact, you have to hunt pokemon down with your sniper-sight). You can sneak up on pokemon, but stronger ones might sneak up on you. In fact let's not call this one pokemon but something like "pack dogs" because that is kind of what I'm going for.

Maybe it's just that the RPG mechanic is both soothing and too-easy-feeling... but I feel like pokemon could drastically change everything and still be a fun game (though with their funding, it would be surprising if they didn't make a good one). I'm playing Pokemon White right now and I like feeling like I'm 12 again, but I'm also reminded by the things that now seem stupid about the game. It's probably the best of the Pokemon genre, but seriously, they could change a few things to make it more balanced/fun.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Contact is the DS's Earthbound

Contact is a cute and hilarious stat-cruncher action-adventure game for the DS. The gameplay is fairly simple, but knowing how to exploit the experience system requires some sophistication; you get more experience for doing harder things, so dying usually means you just gained a lot of exp. I wish I had known how to make potions earlier though, it would have saved me some stat grinding (it's herbs + water!). A walkthrough is helpful for some of the weirder puzzles, and I really wish there had been a way to fill multiple bottles with water at the well (as it is, you have to do them one at a time). However, the storyline is unique in that "you" the player are not synonymous with the protagonist (very postmodern). Terry is explicitly controlled by you through the professor's computer. There are a few rare times when you lose control of Terry and it made me think about how difficult it is to develop the character of the player's character in a game. Hotel Dusk was able to create a sense of character through the actions of the protagonist you couldn't control (sometimes he would just say something or get angry without your permission), but those times were also somewhat frustrating. It's a weird problem.

Contact is not quite as epic as the SNES game Earthbound, but it has the same sense of humor. One island is a gigantic electronics store where you can kill zombie gamers to get weird games. On almost every island there is a girl who will like you (er... Terry) if you give her the right gift. Additionally, after you beat the game (which is admittedly a little short, but I am okay with that), there are still sidequests and skills to gain. One of my favorite aspects of the game is the cooking system. I don't know why, it's just so fun to try to put different ingredients together to see if they will make something new! The only drawback to the game is that you have to save a save points, so it's more of a "sit down and play it while you are in the car for 2 hours" rather than a "play while you wait for your husband to pick you up at school."

If you see the game at Gamestop or something, I recommend picking it up (it should be ~$8)! I regret that since I bought it used, I didn't get to read the manual (which I hear is also hilarious), but maybe the website has a similar feel.

On last note: the music is SO much better with headphones. Those little DS speakers just cannot get bass out.

Game Dev Story

Game Dev Story is an addicting stat-grinding $2 game for smartphones. I bought it because the graphics were cute and the ratings were high, and I pretty much played it all day for the next two days (okay, more like 2-3 hours, but be warned: it's addicting!). You're a game developer in charge of hiring and maintaining your staff (the guy on fire in the screen shot is having a flow moment). You start out making cheap PC games and can end up making your own console. You can train or level up your employees and buy advertising for your games. The controls are pretty good for a touch game, though backing out of menus can be tricky. In my mind it's perfect for a phone: you can save at any time and easily pick up where you left off, but you can also play it for hours. If you make a strange game type and genre combo it's harder for the game to be popular. The fun is figuring out how to make the best game and win the game of the year award. Since it's a Japanese game, you can also make games in the dating sim and interactive novel genres (not sure if we have too many of those here).