Monday, July 27, 2015

Common Dream Themes

I'm sure this happens to everyone, but hardly anyone ever really talks about it.  Some types of dreams or themes within them tend to be more common than others.  I'm going to cover what I personally experience.


For some reason, elevators are a really common occurrence in my dreams.  Usually, unexpected things happen in them, like the buttons looking or acting really weird, the buttons not being there at all, or the building suddenly having way more floors than it previously had.  Sometimes the elevator just does whatever it wants.  Sometimes the building has lots of basement floors.  Sometimes the elevator car is a cylinder rather than a rectangular prism.  When it's a cylinder, it also has a chance of falling.  When they fall, weird things happen, such as bouncing back up off the bottom of the shaft, or the elevator car suddenly rotating in ways that it shouldn't normally be able to.  Hardly ever am I in an elevator with someone else in a dream.

One of my first recurring dreams, that I had as a kid (in elementary school), actually involved a strange elevator that I'd never noticed before in our old house.


I'm fairly certain this is a common theme for a lot of people.  I can often hover in my dreams.  It's not flight, I'll just be moving close to the ground at walking speed, but not actually be touching the ground.  Usually, the people around me can't hover, and don't think it's weird that I'm hovering.  Maybe they don't even notice.

Things that weren't there before

As I mentioned in the elevators section, this happened in one of my first recurring dreams.  More recently, I'll be upstairs, and go downstairs to find that my dad has suddenly and without warning obtained a bunch of stuff.  This most recent time (last night, actually), it was a bunch of old game consoles and games for them.  Except that none of the consoles looked like they should have, and none of the games were recognizable titles (except for one case where he had all three Donkey Kong Country SNES games).

Not being able to punch with any kind of force

This might also be a common theme for some people, and in particular is one of the things you can use to recognize that you're dreaming, while it's happening.  Sometimes I'll just want to punch people in a dream, it seems.  Kind of like in real life, but without the consequences that cause me to avoid doing it.  Except in my dreams, the force behind each punch disappears mere inches from my target.

Driving a car, but not being in control

This is different from reckless driving.  This is more along the lines of "no matter how hard I hit the brakes the car doesn't slow down in time".  Also, sometimes the steering doesn't work right in my dreams, or it's a manual transmission and that's doomed from the start because manual transmissions hate me.

Things that spark creativity after I wake up

Stuff like Jungle Planet and the Peaceful Town song, mostly.  The rest of the "weird dreams" stories posted here under the "dreams" tag don't really count because they're too random.  There was actually another dream that resulted in some dream fiction a bit more recently, that I spent a few days fleshing out into a more full story, but haven't posted anywhere public yet.  The still-unfinished result would be too long for a single blog post, and that's saying something given all the walls of text I have here.  I can easily post just the portion that happened during my dream, though, since the majority of it was extrapolated from there.

Generally being random

Again, I think everyone gets this to some extent.  Hardly ever does a dream form a coherent narrative.  It's usually just a chain of events that have no relation to one another.  And then when you wake up and try to tell your parents/roommate/friends/whoever, it fades away.  In fact, when a dream has formed a coherent narrative, it usually doesn't fade away nearly as quickly.  It's like my mind has to work really hard to make these absurd sequences of events, and doesn't have the energy left over to remember it for very long; and making something coherent doesn't make it have to work as hard, so it's easier for my mind to remember what happens.  Or maybe it's the opposite, in that my mind works really hard to make something coherent, and so it remembers it; whereas with the really random stuff it's just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, and it all slides off of that metaphorical wall rather quickly.

Things being sexualized

I think this is just because I'm a pervert, but... I can't deny that things can get a bit sexualized in my dreams, even when such things would be considered inappropriate at best in real life.  You know what, I'm not going to go into this one in any more detail.

Timing of me waking up relative to events

With the random dreams, that never make much sense anyway, I'll wake up after one whole completely random section of it has played out.  With the more coherent ones, it always tends to be at the most inopportune time, such as when something awesome or amazing is happening.  Try all you like, going back to sleep never results in a continuation.

Actually, I think that's a good point.  In the vast majority of these dreams I'm drawing from, if not all of them, I wake up at the end of the dream, or me waking up interrupts the dream.  Maybe it's something about the stage of sleep right before I wake up that causes this stuff.  I kinda want to have some sort of magical "dream imaging" device hooked up to me while I sleep sometime, except that I wouldn't want anyone else to see the contents without me okaying it first.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Venting About Ultimate Angler's RNG

Earlier today, during a six-hour-long HomePass session, I finally found a duplicate of the 6+ Anglers Gauge Boost skill that I got halfway through the game, a few months ago.  I still need one more to get it to level 3.  Whoever designed this game's RNG is sadistic.  I can farm rods like nobody's business with HomePass, but 90% of them don't have a skill, and the ones that do have useless things like Lake/Pond Strike Boost and 2 Anglers Time Boost.

In the meantime:
  • I've caught five UFOs, put them in a Cosmic Tank, and set it as my favorite.
  • I've caught five Bloopers and two Cheep Cheeps for a similarly-themed tank. I still need three more Cheep Cheeps, which will be difficult given that I hardly ever have enough bait for them when I get a sighting.  I usually have two bait, and it takes me three at minimum, if the RNG plays nice.
  • I've caught all but one of the 160 species in the game.  The sole remaining one is a mysterious fish.  It's the rarest one, it seems, and it's on Mysteria Island at Sellbrook River.  Nobody on HomePass seems to have seen it, and the only way to be able to catch it is to StreetPass someone who's seen it (or someone who doesn't have the game, a specific number of times).  Then you have to hope that you have enough of the correct bait(s) to catch it in that single session, or you lose it and have to start over with the next sighting.  If your sighting isn't "I heard a rumor..." or "I caught a...", then its stamina will have already been worn down somewhat by the previous person.
  • I've wasted a lot of money improving my UFO Rod +25 with the level 1 6+ Anglers Gauge Boost skill that I'll eventually upgrade to level 3 and have to re-improve if I don't get the 160th species for the final plaza ticket and give this game the old "12-gauge to the back of the head" mercy kill treatment it deserves.
I've already talked about the difference between tedium and challenge, and at this point in the game, it's nothing but tedium.  You keep farming, and eventually you game the RNG enough that you get what you're looking for, but you don't have fun in the meantime.  I didn't pay for a StreetPass game to get MMO levels of grinding.  StreetPass games are only supposed to be tedious in that they take a lot of StreetPassing to complete.  Everything else about them is supposed to be friendly and accessible.

To draw a comparison, the RNG on weapons from chests in Monster Manor was a lot more player-friendly, and the weapon skills were a lot more common.  You still had to play your cards right, but doing so involved learning the game mechanics.  Getting a good weapon was basically your reward for learning how to make the game spawn gold chests.  In Ultimate Angler, the only mechanic to getting fishing rods is that you have to catch a fish you've already caught before.  There are zero game mechanics you can learn to get fishing rods basically whenever you want, it's entirely down to RNG.  Then, it seems it's an entirely separate RNG (a die roll, for the D&D nerds) for whether or not you get a skill on that rod, and ANOTHER RNG that determines what that skill is.  Everything else in Ultimate Angler is fantastic, but the RNG begs for an update to make it more player-friendly.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Distinction: Geek vs. Nerd

I was going to post this on /r/mindcrack in response to this week's Mindcrack Podcast where the difference between geeks and nerds popped up during the AskCrack segment, but I went off on an incredibly ranty tangent that probably would have been downvoted to all hell, so I posted it here instead.  Also, having to edit it from being formatted with Markdown to being formatted with HTML kinda sucks lol.  I regex'd it and had 100 problems.

Also, I'm going to do something I've never done on this blog before, which would be using the horizontal rule tag.  HOLD ONTO YOUR BUTTS!

In my mind, it goes like this:

Geek and nerd: both incredibly knowledgeable about something they have a passion for.

Nerd: Pedantic as fuck, and whether they realize it or not, everyone hates them.  These are the typical overachievers, the 5.0 GPA people whose entire life when not in school is spent doing homework and sucking up to people like a sad puppy.

Geek: Cool person.  Chimes in with facts as appropriate, saves corrections for when people are repeatedly completely wrong, otherwise stays out of people's hair.  These are the people you see in advanced-level or honors-level classes getting by with Cs, but they get straight As in their AP classes.  They may even drop down from advanced-level classes to regular-level classes just to get a workload they can handle.

Reference for non-Americans who don't like the fact that we have the gall to do things differently:
  • regular-level class: course designed for anyone, high concentration of rednecks, pregnant teenagers, and troublemakers, weekly workload comes from a two-bag trip to the local grocery store.
  • advanced-level class: course designed for intellectuals, weekly workload comes out of the back of a dump truck.
  • honors-level class: course designed for intellectuals, weekly workload arrives via cargo plane.
  • AP: Advanced Placement, basically a college-level class that can let you skip some freshman year college class requirements if you do well enough on the exam at the end of the year. You have to specifically enroll in these and the workload varies wildly by subject.  I did AP Computer Science and it was the best class I ever took in high school.  And I got that 4.0 on the exam.
  • IB: International Baccalaureate.  The pretentious version of AP, offered in snooty northern-Virginia schools and nowhere else.  I actually had people in college ask me what AP even was, and they were surprised my school didn't have IB classes instead.  Meanwhile I was going "what's IB?".  I wish I was joking.
  • College: Synonymous with University.  Did you like your 12 years of general education?  Congratulations!  Now you get to go tens of thousands of dollars in debt to get more general education, and without doing so, nobody will hire you!  *grumble*

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

War of the Monsters

Cinemassacre's latest James and Mike Mondays episode was about the new Godzilla game on PS4, and mostly lamenting how the game lacks local multiplayer.  Otherwise, the game looked great, but lacked something that James could only put into words as "it's not... fun?".

It reminded me of a PS2 game called War of the Monsters.  It doesn't have any specific movie license or tie-in, but that's okay.  The lack of a license allows it to be an homage to all the various different types of monster movies, with the alien invasion genre thrown in just for good measure.

I watch the intro cinematic every time I start up the game, just because it sets the tone quite well.  Aliens invade, Earth repels them (using EMP devices that I swear I've seen in one or another alien invasion movie), but radiation from the alien ships causes all kinds of mutated monsters to appear, and then they start fighting and wrecking cities in the process.  It's all you really care about, honestly.  Short, sweet, and to the point.

The game gets one massive thing correct: the atmosphere.  The menus could have been some sort of bland thing with pictures of monsters and a logo, but they aren't.  The whole menu takes place in a drive-in theater.  The title screen and main menu are projected onto the screen itself.  Go to the options, and guess what?  You're at the concessions stand.  The unlocks section is a wall with some movie posters.  Selecting the minigames from the two-player option takes you to the arcade machines.

Meanwhile, the music you're hearing the entire time you're navigating the menu is precisely what you'd expect, and it finishes the job of setting the atmosphere perfectly.  The rest of the music in the game is in a similar vein, and it works quite well.

Gameplay is what you'd hope for from a game that sets the tone so perfectly.  You pick a monster, and run around a fully destructible environment beating up other monsters, climbing skyscrapers, throwing rubble (or gas tanker trucks... which explode on impact) at the other monsters, and even making buildings collapse.  Some pieces of rubble are large enough to use as a shield, and others will impale your enemy on impact, offering the chance of a free hit so long as you get it in before they pull it out and throw it back at you.  There's even people running around in the city levels, and stepping on them leaves behind a nice satisfying blood splat.

There are pickups to be had as well.  Health pickups are the obvious ones, with bigger ones restoring more health.  Energy governs everything you do with your monster, and there's pickups for that too.  Then, there's pickups that enable you to use a special attack, of which every monster has two (one close-range, one longer-range).  Finally, on some stages, there's a stealth powerup.

That "on some stages" bit should have gotten your imagination going, yes?  Certainly, you think, there are stage-specific hazards.  There have to be!  Well, you're right.  In one stage, hitting a UFO that's hovering nearby causes a tsunami.  One stage is a nuclear power plant, and you can vent radioactive waste into the level.  There's a stage with a volcano, and you can make it erupt.  There's also a stage where you can vent steam into the level, but the level has a hidden twist: if absolutely everything in it that can be destroyed is destroyed, an earthquake happens and the level layout radically changes.

The single-player offers up a story mode, where you go from one stage to the next beating up monsters until you make it to the stage with the final boss, some weird tentacled alien thing, and defeat that.  Along the way you get "battle tokens", which you can use to unlock things.  "Things" includes more monsters, extra costumes for monsters, extra stages, and minigames.  If you have two memory cards, there's a trick you can use to unlock everything once you get enough tokens for the most expensive item.  Copy your save so that it's on both cards.  Then load from one of them, spend all your tokens, and save to the other one.  Keep repeating that and you'll get all but one unlock.  The last unlock requires you to have a save on your memory card from Twisted Metal: Black with Sweet Tooth's storyline beaten.  Once you get that, simply fire up the game and it'll unlock.  You can delete the Twisted Metal: Black save after it unlocks.  The connection to Twisted Metal: Black is that Incog, Inc. developed both games.

Also available in single player are various modes of fighting against CPU-controlled monsters.  But that's not what you're after, now, is it?

No, you want the two-player mode.  That's where it's at, right?  Beating up a friend (and up to two more CPU-controlled monsters) is much more fun than playing by yourself.  Multiplayer is split-screen, but when you get close enough to each other, it merges into a single screen in a completely intuitive manner that manages to not mess with the controls at all.  The result is an incredibly accessible multiplayer experience that promotes passing controllers around between friends.  Heck, there's even an option to reset the level, so once you destroy everything, you can reset it and do it again.

The game does have a few shortcomings, though they're not huge.  It doesn't support the multitap, so there's no four-player brawling that will ever happen.  Also, there's no option to choose a random monster, not even when you're choosing for the CPU.  That's it, though.  Two relatively minor things that don't get in the way of your enjoyment of the game whatsoever.

Overall, it's a great game for fans of monster movies.  It gets everything right that it needs to, and is incredibly fun.  Well worth whatever bargain bin price you find it at.  Also, it's available on PS3 via PSN (or at least it was in the past), so there's that.