Thursday, June 19, 2014

Learn Yourself and Be Yourself

Society these days considers one narrow-minded set of personality traits as acceptable and considers the rest of us to be inferior.  I am of course speaking of the massive bias against introverts that we currently have to deal with.

I've known for a long time that I'm introverted.  When others were going out in groups on a whim to see movies together, I was at home reading (1984 and The Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy are some of my favorites), playing by myself (thanks, LEGO!), or just lying on my bed lost in thought.  When I do go out and do things with others, I'm more of a "okay, we're done now, let's not stick around and talk when we could be going somewhere else and doing something else" kind of person.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I actually developed the mental maturity to take a step back and look at my own life.  Considering its ups and downs, I realized how I'd been doing it wrong all these years.  I'd been drawn into the "system" and had been way too concerned with things like popularity and "being cool".

Once I took a look at things I realized some other things about myself.  For one, I don't get my daily energy until the early afternoon, and it carries me on into the next morning.  I can get up at 6 AM and, because I don't get my energy until 1 or 2 in the afternoon, I'll very easily still be awake at 5 AM the next day.  Maintaining a "normal" sleep schedule causes a lot of internal stress for me since I have to go to sleep when I'm feeling the most awake, and a weekend of getting a lot of sleep and not doing very much while awake isn't enough to recover from that stress.

Through my observations, I realized how ridiculously easy it is to adjust one's own sleep schedule to suit your needs.  It's nowhere near scientific levels of verification, but I used my theory that I adapted from my observations of myself to help my mom.  She works at a bookstore, and needed to adjust sleep for the midnight release of a Harry Potter novel and still be able to get up at her normal time.  She followed my suggestions, and it worked.  I'd type it up, but I'm incapable of bullshitting to the level necessary to write a 150 page single-spaced 12pt Times New Roman thesis on the subject when all the details at their most concise level take up a maximum of two pages.  Also, to be honest, it's so ridiculously simple that anyone could come up with it, so an overly wordy explanation of it is probably already out there somewhere.

I also very quickly diagnosed myself with social anxiety disorder.  Looking at the symptoms thereof while reflecting on my life as a whole, social anxiety disorder very easily and simply explains pretty much everything, and the engineer in me likes that.

The worst part of having adjusted my life to better suit who I am is that nobody else seems to understand.  My mom acts like I'm at fault when I complain that my sleep was interrupted while the sun was up.  Let me wake you up while you're trying to sleep and we'll see how much you like it.  The time of day doesn't matter, people shouldn't be making lots of noise anyway.  My dad "helps" me look for employment by yelling "GET A JOB" at me.  It's basically the equivalent of someone playing an online game and yelling "YOU SUCK" at a newer player and expecting that to magically make them get better at the game.  He sees every single thing I tell him about who I am as an excuse to not be "normal" rather than a rationale for the abolition of the idea of "normal".  I even had to explain to him what Impostor Syndrome was, because I get it constantly and he thought it was "another excuse" that I was "making up".

Last night I was randomly searching things related to introversion and employment when I happened across this TED talk, which is very good at explaining exactly why introversion isn't bad and why society needs introverts.  The speaker has also written a book which has received some critical acclaim.  What we need is more people understanding what introversion really is.  There's so much misinformation out there regarding it.  We're not aloof, we're not loners, and we don't hate social interactions.  We just value our alone time.  Also worth noting is that with the internet facilitating communications, we can be social while simultaneously having our alone time.

So why is this titled "Learn Yourself and Be Yourself"?  Because I feel that as a society, we all need to collectively take a step back and observe our own lives.  Only once we understand who we truly are can we be truly happy.  Disclaimer: I have zero college degrees in anything.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Neat Firefox Trick: Bookmark Keywords

Bookmark keywords have been in Firefox since before version 1.0, but it seems like nobody knows about them.  I make use of them daily, so I'm here to share this information with you.  This may also apply to other browsers, but who uses those anyway?

In my highly customized Firefox configuration, I have removed the search box from the location bar.  Instead of the search box, I use bookmarks with keywords to do my searching.  For example, if I wanted to search Google for "cats", I just type "g cats" into the location bar and hit Enter.  If I want to pull up a Wikipedia article, it's as simple as typing "wp <article name>" and pressing Enter.

Intrigued?  Thought so.  Here's how to do it:
  1. Go into the bookmark manager.
  2. I like to put all my keyword search bookmarks in the same folder to keep track of them, but technically speaking they'll work from anywhere.  Make a folder if you like, name it something like "quick searches" just so you can keep track of it.
  3. Make a new bookmark.  We'll be using a Google search for this example.
  4. In the Location box, paste in the following:
  5. Click the arrow next to "More" to reveal the Keyword box.  Type a single "g" in it.
  6. You're done!  Type "g <stuff>" into your location bar and watch it automatically fill in the URL with what you're typing.  Hit Enter to actually search Google.
If you know a bit of programming, you may recognize the %s as the one of the formatting placeholders from the C printf() function to include a string variable in the output.  If you type the keyword for a bookmark followed by a space, Firefox will replace the %s with everything you type after that.

Now that you know how to set them up and how they work, here's some keyword searches I use:
  • Google
    • Keyword: g
    • Location:
  • Google Images
    • Keyword: gi
    • Location:
  • Google Translate (format: tr from/to/phrase)
    • Keyword: tr
    • Location:
  • YouTube
    • Keyword: yt
    • Location:
  • Wikipedia (if you type an article name, it auto-redirects to the article!)
    • Keyword: wp
    • Location:
  • Subreddit (this is just for quickly bringing up a subreddit, it doesn't actually search a subreddit for a phrase)
    • Keyword: r
    • Location:
  • PHP Function List (you have to remember to replace underscores with hyphens, it's not an actual search)
    • Keyword: php
    • Location:
  • Acronym Finder
    • Keyword: af
    • Location:
Note that you don't need to use this on a search, you can use %s as I have in the Google Translate, Subreddit, and PHP Function List bookmarks to construct a URL on the fly, or even omit it entirely to just have a quick easy access keyword for a bookmark.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Magicka: Dungeons and Gargoyles Achievement: The others were dwarfed by you

I got the achievements for beating the mage last and the champion last on the same fight.  I think it doesn't take the champion's fairy resurrect into account.  Anyway, I was having some trouble leaving the assassin for last, as he dies so easily, but I finally got it.  Being humbly awesome, I will share my strategy.

The champion has a lot of damage reduction and a fairy not unlike your own, meaning you'll have to kill him twice.  I usually concentrate on him first, because he has to be killed twice.  I'll have none of that shenanigans here.  I spend most of the fight in his face dealing damage.

The mage teleports both at random and when you get close to her, with a cooldown that can be used to get hits in, but generally it's best to keep your distance from her because that cooldown doesn't last forever and you'll soon be at a distance from her anyway.

The assassin hops around, can cast spells that rain elements down on the stage area, and will also spam poison darts.  He actually ends up poisoning the mage most of the time, so if her health bar turns green you can ignore her for a while.

On your way to this boss fight, make sure to grab all three parts of the letter so you can get Teleport.  Teleport is really handy in this fight.

Spells you'll need:
  • EDDDD - The full rock shield.  You'll be in the champion's face for most of the fight, and when you aren't you should be teleporting towards him to get in his face.  Thus, the movement speed penalty from this shield won't be affecting you much.  After every couple of hits from the champion, refresh it.
  • DQRQRQRQR - The spiky ice rock.  Fully charged, this is the most damaging single-hit spell in the game.  Even when not fully charged, its damage is respectable.  You will be shooting the champion with these constantly.  Even when he dies the first time, start charging another one instantly.  If you get the chance to pop off a fully charged one, do so, but any level of charge will do.
  • EQ - Water shield.  The majority of the damage from the mage is water-based.  You'll have this up while you're healing from poison damage, and then switch back to the full rock shield afterwards.
  • W - Healing.  Eventually the poison damage from the thief will get to be too much and you'll need to heal yourself.  Be careful when you do this, it's best to have some distance between you and the champion when you decide to heal.  If he starts coming your way, even a quick ED will save you.
The strategy is as such: Before triggering the fight, toss on the full rock shield, and haste to the cutscene trigger.  Haste across the room and start charging a spiky ice rock.  Fire it at the champion as he closes in.  Once you get into a rhythm of ice rock, refresh shield, repeat, watch your health.  If you get poisoned at all, self-heal to get rid of it.  Even with a rock shield up, you can still get rid of poison.  If the champion starts chugging health potions, hit him with anything, immediately.  Once he dies, quickly heal up, refresh your shield, and begin charging another spiky ice rock.  Once he dies the second time, you're good to go.  Charge up a spiky ice rock to full and carefully aim it at the mage.  If for some reason she's still alive, repeat until she's dead.  Follow up by finishing off the assassin however you see fit.

I hope this post is useful to someone, because I certainly had a hard time until I remembered the spiky ice rock spell.  The key to this fight is being able to knock large chunks out of their health quickly.  My previous strategy involved a water-rock shield and ARSE mines, and while it was working, it dragged the fight out much longer than it needed to be, and usually one of the three would glitch and disappear.  Sometimes it was me who glitched and disappeared, and I had to teleport to get back into the fight.  Since the fight is so glitchy, bringing a swift end to it is the best solution.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Magicka: Dungeons and Gargoyles

I finally got around to playing and beating it.  This is the followup to Dungeons and Daemons, and the last bit of DLC ever for Magicka.  Note that for whatever reason it's not in the DLC bundle on Steam, so if you bought that you'll still need to buy this.  The Complete Pack has it, though.

As the name suggests, there are gargoyles you'll have to fight.  But it'd be boring if that was all you had to fight, right?  Well, right.  There are enemy mages who can poison you and summon slimes that multiply on death and can also poison you.  There's also some goblins and dwarves, complete with the annoying dwarven high priests with their instakill boulders.  Also, there's the final boss, which you'll probably never see coming.

The campaign itself is fairly decent, but there's really no chance to do what was so prevalent in the original adventure: move through a level and kill things.  Every time you encounter enemies, the screen stops moving until they're defeated.  Then you move on to the next encounter and it repeats.  It's basically just big battle after big battle.

Overall, it's a decent bit of DLC, but if you're on the fence about it, wait for a sale.  Magicka and its DLC go on sale on a fairly regular basis, so it shouldn't be too hard to hold out.

Strategy after the break.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ridge Racer 3D Grand Prix Mode Complete

I got that ever so sweet 100% completion earlier, with about ten and a half hours of total play time.

However, the main draw of any racing game is the fact that you can fire it up and race some cars whenever you want, so naturally my next step will be purchasing all the stuff I skipped in Grand Prix mode.

It's going to take a lot of points, so I'll probably still be playing the game for a while yet.  I've decided the order in which I'll be purchasing stuff, at least for the near future.  Basically, there are the cars I used, and the cars that the game just flat-out gave me a Type-S of when I was going through its category.  For the cars I used, I'll be purchasing the nitrous options as well as any upgraded versions that I skipped.  This will most notably be the Type-R versions because you unlock the ability to purchase both Type-R and Type-Z at the same time, and the Type-Z is better.  For the cars that the game just flat-out gave me, I'll purchase their nitrous options and upgraded versions as well.

Once all that has been purchased, I'll just go through on a car by car basis purchasing everything.  This is so I won't forget that I haven't purchased some stuff for a specific car.  The nitrous options are per-car for whatever reason, so that's really the primary reason why I'm being methodical about it.  I could see the nitrous options being per-category and it not affecting the game's difficulty very much, to be honest.  Though I stuck with Nitrous B for the vast majority of Grand Prix mode, except when I first started out and was using Standard, and once I got to the special cars, which can only use Standard.

To follow up my review, and after having watched TotalBiscuit's video about the video game framerate non-debate, I would like to mention that there are some very noticeable framerate drops in some tracks, often related to using nitrous and/or scraping the wall or another car.  The reflections on the windows of the cars are also fairly low resolution and don't move fluidly at all.

Also, towards the end of Grand Prix mode, the AI can get quite frustrating.  It can be incredibly hard to break slipstream at times.  Also, it seems to just find extra speed out of nowhere on occasion.  I've passed someone only to hear their engine rev much, much higher and see them rocket past me way too many times to be able to attribute it to the AI using the slipstream.  It will also rocket past you on a single nitrous while you've got a double nitrous in use.  The best way to combat this is to build up nitrous and primarily use double nitrous just as you jump out from the slipstream.

The Expert level races also have an entirely new race type that doesn't exist anywhere else: Elimination.  Here, the car that's in last place will get eliminated at the end of each lap.  The AI goes full annoyance here with the random bursts of speed, and will actively move to block you whenever it possibly can.  Luckily, you can get it down to a science.  Build nitrous over the course of the lap, but save it for the final stretch.  Use the aforementioned "double nitrous just as you jump out from the slipstream" strategy to overtake them just before the end of the lap.  It's the best use for nitrous that I've found in Elimination races, because if you nitrous past someone elsewhere in the lap, they'll just get a random burst of speed and pass you.

When you unlock the Pac-Man special vehicle, which looks like something out of F-Zero, you also unlock an entirely underwhelming Pac-Man music disc.  Really, Namco?  Where's the classic track with all the sounds from your various arcade games?  That's what we'd rather have...

Reading through the GameFAQs message boards for Ridge Racer 3D, I noticed a few people that were confused about having completed Grand Prix mode, yet didn't have 100% completion.  As it turns out, you need to win every single race in Grand Prix mode to get 100% completion.  I indeed have 100% completion, since I was making sure I crossed the finish line in 1st long before I ever saw the threads about how the game tracks completion.  Even if you complete Grand Prix mode and don't have 100% completion, it should be trivial to go back, buy a fast car, and get whatever race wins you need.  Also, if you skipped races where the path branched, you'll need to go back and complete the events you skipped.  Besides, you have to win everything in the Expert level races anyway, so if you can win there, you can win anywhere else.

Despite everything I've mentioned, it's still a good game and well worth your money if you want some portable racing action.

As far as car recommendations go:
  • Category 4: Kamata Fiera Type-S, upgrade to Type-Z when available.  Optionally switch over to the Lucky & Wild Wisdom Type-Z.
  • Category 3: Kamata RC410 Type-S, upgrade to Type-Z when available.
  • Category 2: Kamata RC410 Type-EX.
  • Category 1: Kamata RC410 Type-S, upgrade to Type-Z when available
  • Expert: Follow recommendations for the category 2, 3, and 4 races.  For Category 1, use the Kamata RC410 Type-EX until you beat the Angel duel.  Use the Kamata ANGL Concept for the rest of Grand Prix mode.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ridge Racer 3D

I'm megas late nyoro~n to this party, but then again I'm megas late nyoro~n to the 3DS party in general, so... let's begin.

My Ridge Racer background is as follows.  When I bought my PS2, I bought a copy of Ridge Racer 5 along with it.  I've pretty much beaten that game into the ground on all the difficulty levels.  Through the arcade at MAGFest, I've played Rave Racer, and generally done pretty well at it, though being an arcade game it's designed to be a lot harder.  When the PSP came out, I bought Ridge Racer for it and played it to death, maxing out the distance counter on the save.  And of course, now that I have a 3DS, obtaining a copy of Ridge Racer 3D was only a matter of time.

Why do I like Ridge Racer so much?  Well, I fall somewhere between the two extremes of racing game fandom.  From the simulator side of things, I want some elements of realism, namely some decent physics.  They don't have to be ultra-realistic, they just have to not be Auto Modellista.  From the arcade side of things, I just want to be able to hop into a car and race.  I don't generally like having to mess around with car setups, and while powerup racers a la Mario Kart are certainly fun, they throw skill out the window at times.  I find Ridge Racer to be the happy medium, with realistic graphics and cars, and easily accessible action that prioritizes skill over luck.

Being a portable Ridge Racer, I'm primarily going to compare it to the PSP version.  The two are very similar in some respects.  This post is based on my gameplay experience from the first 24% of the game (the game gives you a completion percentage lol).

Ridge Racer offers us the following gameplay modes:
  • Versus: Allows you to play wireless multiplayer with two to four players.
  • Grand Prix: The meat and potatoes of the gameplay, since it's where you'll unlock everything.  What's neat about it is that it has branching paths, so you can skip some events entirely and come back to them later if you so desire.
  • Quick Tour: Essentially the Custom Tour mode from the PSP version with a few extra options.  Choose your amount of time and the type of track you want to race, and the game will put together a sequence of tracks for you to race that will fill that amount of time.
  • Standard Race: Read: Single Race.  Pick a track and a car, race, have fun.
  • One-Make Race: This puts you up against opponents that are all using the same car as you.  I guess it's a test of your skill, I dunno.
  • Time Attack: This is where you're the only car on the track and are racing against the clock.  In general, playing Time Attack can help you figure out the best way to drive each track and where the best spots for nitrous are.
  • StreetPass Duel: You can race against ghost data from people you've streetpassed.  It also has a few preset ghosts that you can race against.
The nitrous feature from the PSP version is present here, and expanded upon.  If you drift fast enough, you can activate Ultimate Charge, which charges the nitrous gauge faster.  The amount of speed you have to carry into a drift to activate it is pretty ridiculous.  Fortunately, there are a plethora of options to fine-tune your nitrous to suit your play style, some of which are unlockable.

There is a new nitrous mechanic: if you save up multiple tanks of nitrous, you can engage a "double nitro" or a "triple nitro" for extra speed.  Generally speaking, single nitro is all you need to open a gap or maintain it, but double and triple nitros can be useful for overtaking when the AI decides to play hard to pass, or those last-ditch efforts to take 1st at the end of the last lap if your race was just that bad.

In addition to the nitrous feature, there's also a slipstream feature that grants you (or your opponents!) a temporary speed boost when driving directly behind someone.  This injects a bit of challenge where there was none before, as the AI will quite readily slipstream you and pass you.  In previous games, once you took a position it was yours unless you messed up, but now you'll actually have to fight for a position.  Good change, in my eyes.

The cars are what you could expect from a Ridge Racer game, namely takeoffs of modern cars, plastered with logos and names of various Namco games.  If you've played any other Ridge Racer game, the handling is exactly as you'd expect it to be.  Recovering from drifts still takes a bit of skill, car-dependent of course, but that's to be expected.

The graphics are amazing.  The stereoscopic 3D adds depth, which supposedly helps you time your corner entry better, but I haven't noticed that much of a difference compared to the PSP game.  The only time I've ever turned the stereoscopic 3D off was while watching a saved replay just to see the difference.  The difference is minute, but it feels more like a field of view difference than any kind of added depth.

Ridge Racer has always been about drifting your way around corners, and this version has a "n00b mode" of sorts: you can enable a "one-touch drift" button in the options.  Personally, I think the tried and true method of brake-steer-gas works way better than a drift button, but it's there if you want it, I guess.  This version also exhibits the same oddity as the PSP version: so long as you're drifting, you'll go around corners.  It doesn't matter if you're turned the correct way, or even if you're sideways.

As you play the single player modes, you'll earn points that you can use to buy cars, car upgrades, and nitrous options.  Also, before each race, you can use points to buy extra boosts for the race, such as nitrous tanks at the start of the race or a guaranteed fast start.  Personally, I won't ever be using these pre-race options.  I do wish that you could change your car's nitrous option between races, though, as some tracks are better suited to certain options than others.

If you've played any previous Ridge Racer game, you'll recognize the tracks immediately.  Also present are new track configurations at locations available in earlier games.

The music is pretty good.  Just like in the PSP version, it's organized into "discs", with a shuffle option.  Some old classics I've been enjoying since Ridge Racer 5 are still alive and kicking (mostly "Daredevil"), but there's some newer stuff too.  There is, however, a notable lack of the track with all the Namco arcade game sounds.

Overall, if you're a fan of Ridge Racer and have a 3DS, or you're simply a fan of racing games and want some portable action that isn't Mario Kart, Ridge Racer 3D will be right up your alley.