Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One annoying thing about the Bravely Second demo

So, one of the demo quests is to get 5 Blue-crown Cremini, which are an item dropped by some mushroom-like enemies in the forest.  You get sent to this forest by the demo's quest line just before receiving this quest, so you have the opportunity to accrue some beforehand.  Seems pretty simple, right?  Build up a supply while you're there, take the quest, then immediately turn them in, quest done.

But no.

It can't be that simple.

The game REMOVES THEM FROM YOUR INVENTORY WHEN YOU TAKE THE QUEST.

This is bullshit.

That is all.

The Simpsons: Hit and Run... Continued?

I know I put down the game about three years ago with a rant about how unforgiving the time limits are and how much they drag down an otherwise good game.  However, I decided to fire up the game and play a bit of it earlier, and ended up getting farther.  Specifically, I completed Marge's missions and I'm partway through Apu's missions now.  I've always said that not playing a game for a bit and then coming back to it helps me get through parts that I was having trouble with, I guess this is yet another example of that.

The time limits are still ridiculous.  The game gave me about 13 seconds to get to Springfield Elementary from about 12.5 seconds away at one point.  The game also gave me 2 minutes to track down and successfully ram into a rogue hover car with sufficient enough force, repeatedly enough to destroy it, during which time it drives off into the sunset and starts teleporting around.  Out of desire to make some money, I did one of the races run by Fat Tony's mafia guys, but they're terrible.  You'll never successfully complete one of them the first time you try, because you don't know the course layout, there's traffic everywhere, the radar is shit, and your only directions are green arrows on the road that get obscured by the traffic that's everywhere.

I'm still critical of the game.  Although, underneath a pile of shit lies a really good core.  The driving controls are great, it's fun smashing through stuff, the variety of unlockable vehicles is quite large and ties in well to the show, and even the costumes are neat.  I love all the little references dotted about.  Their presence shows they really wanted to make the game be a game that fans of The Simpsons would like.  It's a shame that they had to go and cover up good core gameplay and level design with unreasonable time limits and a terrible navigation system.

I guess my inner completionist won't let me stop playing the game before at least finishing the story.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bravely Second Demo First Impressions

I'm kind of late to this, for reasons I won't go into in this post.  Bravely Second's demo has been out for a while now, and just like with Bravely Default's demo, there's rewards that transfer to the full game.  This time around, though, it's an unlimited-use "special" demo, which is how all 3DS demos should be, to be honest.

I have played all the way through the demo, so unless I forgot something, this is everything I noticed.  The vast majority of my impressions will be those coming from someone who's used to Bravely Default.  So, comparisons abound.

Upon getting through all the intro and exposition and stuff (which I paid attention to, but won't be discussing here), I noticed some things right away.  Mostly small interface or feature tweaks that just make life easier, but there's some bigger things as well.  Here's a mostly unorganized bulleted list of what I've noticed.
  • You can save your party setup to a "Favorites" list, and easily recall a specific setup.
  • In a similar vein, you can save your Auto mode battle setup to one of three Command Sets, and recall those on a whim.
  • There's now a menu that pops up when you press R, that lets you select what Auto mode will do, as well as change the encounter rate.  Un-burying the encounter rate option is really nice, since you want to be able to change it on the fly and it was a few levels deep in menus in Bravely Default.
  • Most use of the touchscreen seems to have been made optional, from the looks of it.  One of the characters, Magnolia, has a moon village that "needs help", which means rebuilding and upgrading in a similar fashion to Norende.  Its screen seems to be fully navigable without the touchscreen, which includes a popup menu that lets you zoom to specific points of interest, that pops up when you press right on the d-pad.  The only thing you could do in Norende without using the touchscreen was leave Norende.
  • When selecting equipment, little arrows appear on the tabs on the touchscreen, indicating if the currently selected piece of equipment affects something on that tab.
  • Ability icons are now more indicative of the general category that the ability belongs to.
  • You can now earn SP while actively playing the game, instead of just while the system is in sleep mode with the game running.  You still earn SP at the rate of one every 8 hours, though.
  • In battle, when selecting your action or its target, you can automatically Brave and use that action on that target multiple times by pressing either L or R.  L adds a Brave, R subtracts a Brave.  R also will take you from zero to three Braves, so if you plan on using four actions, just select your ability and hit R.
  • When you Examine an enemy, you can see their current HP and life bar for the rest of time, instead of only during that one battle like in Bravely Default.
  • There's a new consumable item, the Magnifying Glass, that has the same effect as the Freelancer's Examine ability.  So now you don't have to sacrifice another job or job command just to bring Freelancer along for the sole purpose of being able to Examine.
  • Enemies have stat variants, wherein their model is rendered either larger or smaller, and their stats are either increased or decreased, respectively.  I find it to be a nice touch, and more realistic.
  • If you finish a battle in one turn, you can press L to immediately get another battle.  Your BP and health and whatnot carry over from the previous battle, which is a point of consideration.  You can chain this as long as you're able to, and I imagine there's probably going to be a setup available in the full game tailored towards doing exactly that, but it's an all-or-nothing thing.  You get a bonus multiplier that increases as you win battles, but if you lose or run, you get nothing.  You can choose not to fight another battle by pressing B, at which point you'll get your rewards with whatever multiplier you'd gotten to.
  • In addition to the usual pre-battle bonuses of either side getting a Brave point or first attack, there's now "Enemies lurk in the shadows..." that forces a second fight when the first one is done.
  • There's an in-battle reference for the elemental and family weakness icons.  I know I've gotten confused about them in the past, particularly the family icons, so I find it quite useful.
  • The interior maps now have shading to indicate altitude, and the paths you take can and will cross over other paths.
  • When selecting support abilities, the game provides a concise description of the ones you have equipped on the screen just before where you actually select them, which saves having to go into the selection screen, select each one, and press X.
  • Ability descriptions also now specify things in a slightly more standardized manner at the bottom of the description, which includes the number of turns the ability stays active for, if applicable.
  • In the menus, similar to Bravely Default, there's a character on the lower screen who provides guidance on your current task.  This time around, though, you can press L to ask for more in-depth guidance.
  • The main protagonist seems to be named "Yew", and one of the tutorial screens does make a pun based on that.  Sorta like a certain name pun in Bravely Default that the game never actually calls out, but a little more noticeable right away.
  • The journal this time around is Yew's Diary (and the cover has a giant U on it).  The only accessible part in the demo is the Bestiary.  Filling it out now involves fighting a predetermined number of each enemy, which slowly unlocks character dialogue about each monster, and then finally some more encyclopedic details.
  • If the Exorcist job's specialty in the demo is available as a support ability in the full game, things will get very stupid very quickly.  Basically, you'll want it stapled to your support ability list if you're using MP a lot.  I know I've said nothing could possibly be overpowered in a singleplayer game, but this is pushing it.
  • Other than the improvements and a few purely graphical changes here and there, the interface elements are mostly identical to those found in Bravely Default, giving a familiar environment right away.
  • The option to continue after saving seems to be missing, so after saving you have to manually back out of the save menu.
  • In the demo, they decided to give everyone a non-removable costume that always sets their costume to the Freelancer costume, presumably to make you buy the full game to see the job outfits, but neglected to do so for Magnolia, so you can use her to preview them, or at least the female versions of them.
  • The apple enemy is the pinnacle of enemy design.  My exact words upon seeing one for the first time: "Wait, what?  I'm fighting an apple. lol"
I had a lot of fun with the demo.  The new jobs it lets you try out are interesting, and it's nice to see some new and tweaked abilities on the returning jobs.  If you plan on getting Bravely Second when it comes out, download and play the demo now to get those play bonuses in the full game!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fixing Things: Stouffer's FitKitchen Steak Fajita

Stouffer's makes a variety of awesome frozen food products.  Their FitKitchen line is aimed at providing semi-healthy frozen meals.  One item in that line is the Steak Fajita.  It's got a delicious mix of steak, rice, beans, and vegetables with a sauce that brings everything together.

However, it's missing something.  Something crucial to the definition of a fajita.  What could it possibly be missing?

Tortillas.

If you're planning on picking up this product, grab some tortillas as well.  I personally go for 100% whole grain tortillas, but get whatever floats your goat.  The ones I get are about 8 inches in diameter, but smaller ones will work just as well.  Once you're actually deciding to heat it up, modify the directions as such:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Make sure your oven rack is in the middle.
  2. While the oven is preheating, wrap three tortillas in aluminum foil.  Use more tortillas if yours are significantly smaller.
  3. When the oven finishes preheating, put the meal in your microwave and start it warming up according to the directions.
  4. Put the tortillas in the oven.
  5. Continue following the directions to heat up the meal.
  6. When the meal is done, according to its directions, pull the tortillas out of the oven.
Now, you have nice warm tortillas to put your fajita filling into, and the meal is complete.  Feel free to follow the last word of their directions, which is, of course, "enjoy!".

Sunday, March 20, 2016

HomePass Nuance

Last Tuesday, Nintendo released a new panel for Puzzle Swap, and so naturally I used HomePass to get it just like always.  Lately I've taken to dumping my homebrew-fueled infinite supply of play coins into getting all the blue pieces before going on HomePass, so I can share out the blue pieces while getting the pink pieces.  For whatever reason it now seems to take closer to a week to complete each new puzzle, instead of the less-than-a-day I experienced when I first got going with HomePass.

Something I'd been doing in the past but kinda stopped doing more recently, was adding the SSID my HomePass setup was using to the connection list in System Settings.  After all, that SSID is already in a list on the 3DS that it checks and auto-connects to if possible, so I figured adding it to the connection list wasn't really necessary and stopped adding it.  HomePass still works without it there, so... must be redundant, right?

Then, I began noticing some things.

First, it was taking my 3DS upwards of 30 seconds to a minute, sometimes more, to connect to my HomePass setup, whereas it had been much quicker in the past.  Also, it wasn't getting groups of people while I had the system open, which it had also been doing in the past (contrary to popular belief, StreetPass does indeed work with the system open).

Adding the SSID I was using to the connection list solved both of these issues.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is, if you're setting up HomePass and noticing some unreliability, try adding the SSID your setup is using to your connection list.  Preferably in Connection 1, or barring that, above your normal internet connection.  The 3DS tries the connections in order from Connection 1 to Connection 3, so priority is inherently given to the first slot.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lay's Flavor Swap: Cheddar & Sour Cream vs. Smoked Gouda & Chive

Remember last post?  Where I said that I may very well have gotten the last bag of Korean Barbecue that Giant had?  Well, I also mentioned I was going back on Friday to pick up the final two flavors.  When I left the store on Wednesday morning, they had plenty of bags of both.

Cheddar & Sour Cream is everywhere.  No problem finding that one.  Grabbed it and a 20 oz. Mountain Dew, as I do, and went back to inspect further for the Smoked Gouda & Chive.

There were none.  "Okay, I'll try a few other stores."

Visits to Harris Teeter, two Food Lions, and three Krogers later, I am still lacking a bag of Smoked Gouda & Chive.  I've already looked at Wal-Mart, they don't have it either.  While making the rounds, I found bags of all seven of the other flavors.  There are zero bags of Smoked Gouda & Chive in the city.  So please understand my sarcasm in discussing the chips.

If I ever do find a bag of Smoked Gouda & Chive, I'll be sure to do a followup.

My palate cleanser is, as always, and as I mentioned above, a 20 oz. bottle of Mountain Dew.  It's a little less necessary this time, but I figured I'd include that information anyway, for science or whatever.

Cheddar & Sour Cream

Well, they're pretty good.  The flavors of cheddar and sour cream are easily noticeable and well balanced.  They're kind of salty, though.  As an aside, "salty" happens to be the word that kids these days use to mean "frustrated", and I'm rather frustrated that I can only find seven of the eight flavors of these chips.

Smoked Gouda & Chive

Tastes like my broken hopes and dreams.  The more of them a person has, the better they taste, therefore mine are the most delicious in the universe.

The Verdict

My vote is going to Smoked Gouda & Chive, simply because I'd like to be able to buy a bag of it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lay's Flavor Swap: Honey Barbecue vs. Korean Barbecue

I almost had to go to two separate stores for this one, as I initially couldn't find any bags of the Korean Barbecue flavor at Giant.  I was dealing with a large branded multi-shelf cardboard display at one of the entrances, and there was absolutely zero Korean Barbecue visible from the side they clearly intended for you to take stuff from.  However, the back side was accessible (kinky) because there's some ATMs hidden over there, behind all the impulse buy crap crowding the entrance.  Looking at the backs of all the bags, I went "waitaminute, that one looks different from all the rest!".  Pulled it out, flipped it around, and sure enough, Korean Barbecue.  I may very well have gotten the only bag they had, but I don't know for sure.

Something I didn't realize up until now is that the voting wraps up on the 21st, so if I wait until next week to get the last two flavors, I won't be able to vote on all the flavor swaps.  So, I'll probably go back on Friday and grab the last two, and do the last post shortly thereafter.

Continuing tradition, my palate cleanser is a 20 oz. bottle of Mountain Dew.  What can I say, it's in one of the impulse buy refrigerator cases in the checkouts.

Now, to business.  TO BUSINESS!

Honey Barbecue

They have a nice smooth and sweet flavor to them.  It's not overpoweringly sweet, but it's not understated either.  The honey flavor is noticeable, but it's a bit more subtle than I'd honestly like it to be.  If that's a byproduct of not oversweetening them, then I'll have to take what I got, I guess.  They're pretty good, and not terribly salty either.

It's kind of a shame there isn't really any more to say about them.  It's a very simple flavor that works quite well.  A flavor doesn't need to be complex to be delicious.

Korean Barbecue

I have to admit, I don't really eat Korean barbecue on any sort of a regular basis, or at least regular enough or recently enough to know what kind of flavor to expect.  So please understand that I'm resorting to being rather vague in describing the flavor, and comparing it to other things that I do know.

As is reasonable to expect, these have a very different flavor than the Honey Barbecue chips.  There's still the perfect balance of sweetness without being too sweet.  They're noticeably more salty than the Honey Barbecue chips as well.  There's a very distinctive flavor that seems almost teriyaki-like, minus the more fruity flavor teriyaki sauce usually has.  It works quite well and is a much richer flavor overall than the Honey Barbecue chips.

The Verdict

I'm gonna pick the Korean Barbecue chips.  We need better flavors in our food in America anyway, and this is definitely a good start.  Our mass market snacks don't have nearly the flavor variety found in other countries, and the flavor of Korean barbecue sauce is very welcome.  More variety of flavors is always welcome, but a better variety is also just as welcome.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lay's Flavor Swap: Flamin' Hot vs. Fiery Roasted Habanero

First up: It's a common misconception, based on other pepper names such as JalapeƱo, to think that Habanero also has a tilde over the "n".  Guess what?  It doesn't.  It was news to me a few years ago, and now, it's possibly news to you too.  The more you know.

Anyway, as you may already know, the latest Lay's flavor competition thing is the Flavor Swap.  8 flavors are paired off and going head to head.  It's up to us, the consumer whores, to dutifully buy bags of all 8 flavors, try them, and vote for one or the other on the internet.

The last pair was the only one that was the Kettle Cooked variety, all the rest are just regular-texture Lay's potato chips.  No Wavy flavors for us, I guess.

Moving right along, my palate cleanser is once again a 20 oz. bottle of Mountain Dew.  I'm thinking of sticking with this, to be honest, just because I get one every Thursday anyway, and I value consistency.  Using the same palate cleanser for all four flavor swaps just makes sense to me.

Before we begin, a note about my expectations going into this one: Whenever I see something produced by a large food company for the mass market that throws the words "Habanero", "Ghost Pepper", or a synonym of "spicy" (such as "Flamin' Hot") around, I prepare to be underwhelmed.  Spicy things are awesome and all, and for the most part I can handle the heat, but food companies always dilute it down so as to not zorch the average Joe who buys a bag.  It's with these mixed hopes and expectations that I opened the bags and tried the chips.

Fiery Roasted Habanero

Flavor-wise, they're pretty good.  However, I was correct to expect disappointment on the spice side.  There is a decent kick, and a bit of a building heat, but nothing remotely close to the heat of an Habanero pepper.  This level of heat could have been done with a less spicy pepper.  In terms of what I expect from Lay's, though, it's right on the mark.  Spicy, but not prohibitively so.

It's just that, when I see the word "habanero" in the name, I expect it to be a lot more spicy.

Looking at the ingredients list, we find "Habanero Chile Peppers"[sic] below a mountain of different oils, presumably added to dilute the capsaicin down to "average American can handle this" levels.  To give them credit, they seem to have struck a careful balance where there's still a decent kick, but it's not like eating a fresh Habanero pepper.

These are probably best for smaller snacks, especially if you're not terribly used to spicy food.

Flamin' Hot

Well, I opened the bag and fire didn't come out, therefore I'm disappointed.

Now, to be serious, my actual thoughts.  These chips are an alarming shade of red, which I guess is supposed to add to the experience.  However, the name makes me expect them to be spicy, and while they do have a little bit of kick, it's nowhere near the level of the habanero chips.  I even gave my mouth time to recover from the habanero chips.  Looking at the ingredients, the only thing that suggests any level of spice at all is a horribly generic "extractives of red pepper".  Which red pepper?  A lot of peppers are red.  Be more specific!

They taste pretty good though.  There's a noticeable tomato flavor, and a lower kick level that's just enough to get your tongue tingling without being overwhelming.  I could probably snack on them all evening.  They're actually a decent "cooldown" chip to eat after having some of the Fiery Roasted Habanero chips.

The Verdict

I'm going to have to go with the Fiery Roasted Habanero chips.  The Flamin' Hot chips don't earn their name, whereas the Fiery Roasted Habanero chips stick more closely to the objective of being spicy.  It may be diluted, but it still packs a punch for those less used to the spice level, and it's a pleasant heat for those of us more used to it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Responsive Design and You

Mobile is the way of the future, or so they say.  Having the internet in the palm of your hand and accessible from anywhere is certainly enticing.  However, mobile touchscreen devices present a design problem: instead of having a precise pointing device such as a mouse or trackball, you have the comparatively imprecise finger.  Everything that's designed to handle user interaction must be bigger so that the user can have confidence that when they touch the screen, the correct thing on the screen is registering that touch.

Enter the responsive design.  Through CSS, you can use what's called a "media query" to detect when the browser window is below a certain size threshold, and style your page differently.  This makes it fairly simple to cater to these devices with smaller screens and less precise input.  Catering to these devices involves removing things like menus and making them only show up when the user interacts with a nondescript icon of three horizontal lines, or perhaps a gear.  Also, generally speaking, you need to increase font sizes and the dimensions of areas the user is supposed to interact with.

In theory, the responsive design is the perfect solution.  Desktop/laptop (hereafter, desktop) and mobile have different design necessities, and one layout can cater to them all.  In practice, a one size fits all solution is hardly ever the best in the computing world.  It's also not a very good solution if it's not implemented properly, which goes for anything.

Improperly designed responsive layouts are absolutely terrible to use on a desktop browser.  The plethora of screen space afforded to a desktop browser gets wasted on having things be really big so that mobile users can use it properly.  In essence, we have a situation that's the reverse of what mobile users face: a site design that caters so heavily to mobile browsers, that it ignores desktop browsers.  Users of desktop browsers generally want that screen space used in a reasonably efficient manner, to the point that it's actually frustrating to use a site that doesn't properly make use of available screen space.  For example, text can be smaller, clickable areas can also be smaller, and you can leave menus visible and omit the nondescript icons, or combine the icons with a textual description so the user actually knows what's going to happen when they click.

My personal recommendation is to detect whether the user is using a mobile browser or a desktop browser, server-side by inspecting the User-Agent string supplied by the browser, and serve a site design that's appropriate for the platform.  Most sites these days, sadly, would balk at that, because it means having to design and maintain two separate layouts for presenting the same site.  They see that as redundant and a waste of time, effort, and money.

The reasoning behind my recommendation is simple: something dedicated for a particular function will be able to perform its function in a far superior manner to something that attempts to do everything.  In this environment, you have two very different usage scenarios, and it doesn't make sense to serve the same design to both of them.  The time, effort, and money required to develop two designs is well worth it given that your site's users will be far more satisfied with the usability of your website across different platforms.  Satisfied users are more likely to keep coming back, and also more likely to tell others about your site.

Let's get a few examples.  Google, for instance.  Look at their site on a desktop browser and you'd swear it was the only site design they have.  Go to it on a mobile browser, though, and you suddenly see a very different design, one that caters specifically to mobile devices.  Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, and a lot of other sites have completely separate mobile versions, accessible through a special subdomain of their site.  This subdomain is usually "m" or "mobile", but Reddit also has "i" in addition to "m".  Twitter actually employs a "best of both worlds" approach: its desktop site is actually reasonably responsive while still catering to the desktop browser, but their mobile subdomain serves a completely different site design.

At the same time, we shouldn't fall into the trap of assuming that it's impossible to have a good responsive design.  Since you can detect via CSS media queries when the window size is below a particular threshold, it should be reasonably obvious that your CSS for when it's above that threshold should cater more heavily to a larger window size.  Then you'd have a responsive design that would give desktop users what they expect, and mobile users what they expect.

Giving users what they expect, after all, is the entire point of a responsive design.  If you can't do it correctly with a responsive design, then you absolutely must take the two dedicated layout approach.

Monday, March 7, 2016

SQL JOINs y u no do

So I'm working on the Flower Town database/script, trying to write queries for more detailed reports, which so happen to include the things that the player hasn't yet done.  So, LEFT JOIN, right?

Well, sorta.  It works, but not completely.

Background: I have a table with two columns: breed_id and color_id.  They're foreign keys to a table of all breeds of the game's flowers and a table of all colors of the game's flowers, respectively.  It's indexed by the combination of the two, which is always unique.  This table contains data that never actually changes, grows, or shrinks; it's used as a reference for a second identically structured table.  This second table's contents reflect what the user has actually accomplished in-game.  Normal usage is totally fine, I can pull out anything about what the user has already done.  So, it would be logical that, using LEFT JOINs, I could easily pull out data on what the user still needs to do, right?

I said "sorta" above for a reason.  So long as both breed_id AND color_id are NULL, it works beautifully.  Related to a few other table columns here and there, I can get data back on things the user has yet to do in-game.

Because most breeds can be grown in multiple colors, though, it doesn't work completely.  I am finding myself unable to get data on which colors the user has yet to grow for a given breed, if they've grown some but not all colors for that breed.  I've mangled the JOINs and table relations and WHERE clause every way I can possibly think of, including trying to split certain parts off into subqueries here and there, all to no avail.

I may know SQL, but I'm no SQL god.  If anyone happens to be reading this who IS an SQL god (or, at the very least, knows more than me), by all means, drop some knowledge in the comments.  Relevant info: it's MySQL, because this is web development and I'm not an RDBMS snob.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Lay's Flavor Swap: Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper vs. Olive Oil & Herbs

I was in my local Wal-Mart when I saw these two flavors with the whole Flavor Swap thing on them.  I neglected to look at the back to see that there's actually not just two, but 8 flavors paired off and going head to head.  Since finding out about the other 6 flavors, I've made it my civic duty to be a consumer whore and get all of them so I can arrive at a verdict in each case.

In this case, both flavors are of the Kettle Cooked variety, which in the past has been home to such other amazing flavors as Wasabi Ginger, which was my personal favorite of and the winner of the 2014 Do Us A Flavor contest.

My palate cleanser is a 20 oz bottle of Mountain Dew.  Probably not the best palate cleanser in the world, but hey, its flavor is easy to distinguish from anything else, and that's all that really matters, right?

Olive Oil & Herbs

The flavor of olive oil is blended in quite well.  I can't pick out any distinct herbs, but there's definitely an herby flavor as well.  It works well with the potato chip as a base.  Also present is a distinct saltiness.  Inspecting the nutrition information of both flavors reveals that this one has a mere 40mg more sodium per serving than the one with salt in the name, which puzzles me. Thankfully, it's not too overwhelming, and the chips as a whole retain high snackability.

Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper

While black pepper is perhaps the most underrated spice, I find sea salt to be incredibly overhyped.  It's just salt.  Same as any other salt that you can buy from the store and put on your food.  It's all just sodium chloride.

That said, the salt is rather subtle, thankfully, which allows the flavor of the black pepper to shine through.  I was worried about the salt before tasting them, because potato chips tend to be heavily salted as-is and the flavor here specifically involves salt, but the lack of salt overwhelming the potato and black pepper flavors is quite refreshing in a market that refuses to reduce the salt content of its product or offer unsalted alternatives.  I went in expecting an oversalted mess and was actually quite pleasantly surprised when I didn't get it.

As far as snackability is concerned, these chips are slightly harder than the Olive Oil & Herbs variety, which I noticed immediately upon eating the first chip.  More effort required to chew means less snackability.  The black pepper flavor compensates for this somewhat, giving it a good snackability overall.

The Verdict

While I love the taste of black pepper, I think my vote is going to have to go with the Olive Oil & Herbs flavor.  The flavors of the olive oil, the herbs, and the potato chip itself just blend together much more readily.  Both are really good, though, so get your hands on a bag or two of each before this thing ends.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Minecraft 1.9

So, the fabled "Combat Update" is finally out.  Weapons now have a cooldown, which is supposed to make combat more "strategic" by forcing you to time your strikes.  Well, they're already wrong.  A cooldown doesn't force you to time your strikes.  All a cooldown does is make you have to run around like a ninny during combat.

Anyway, I downloaded the update, made a fresh world, and hopped in.  Getting started is still the same basic sequence of "punch trees, make crafting table and wood pickaxe, mine stone, make stone pickaxe, mine more stone, make stone tools, look for coal, build shelter".

The shield is a critical part of combat in 1.9, using it properly negates basically all incoming damage.  I looked up the recipe and it's pretty simple.  6 wood planks in a Y shape, with a single iron ingot in the middle of the top row.  Then to use it to block, you hold right click.

Therein lies the problem, though.  You're telling me that my shield is absolutely no good against incoming attacks unless I'm holding right click?  Get out of here.  Blocking with the shield also slows you to a crawl, which is similarly illogical.  Oh and guess what?  It also prevents you from swinging the weapon in your other hand.  Because THAT makes sense.  Why do I have two hands if I can't do things with both of them at the same time?

Okay, so I'm caving like usual, having found iron and made a shield.  Another vein of iron later and I've got a chestpiece.  Not much interaction with the enemies thus far, so I'm feeling pretty good.  I get to the bottom of a hole in the ground and see two zombies.  Okay, let's go.  Strike the first one, wait for it... eventually the sword comes back up.  Dunno if anyone told you, Mojang, but swords, especially one-handed ones, are fast-striking weapons.  Anyway.  In the meantime, the second zombie has gotten closer.  I swing again and hit the second one.  Now the first one is closer and my attack is still recharging.  Boop!  I take damage.  I repeat this process, noting that taking damage during combat seems to be unavoidable now.  I kill one of the zombies but the other gets me during my recharge.

Ugh.

Thankfully, I'd had the foresight to run /gamerule keepInventory true before I started.  As far as I'm concerned, that should be a standard feature instead of a "cheat".  I don't find having to run back to where I died, pick up all my shit, and frantically sort through it while the enemy that killed me is still around and trying to kill me to be a very fun activity.

Anyway, since I didn't have to sort through all my shit, I ran back there.  Now there's two skeletons and a witch as well as the partially damaged zombie.  I take out the zombie fairly easily, and luckily one of the two skeletons shot the other while trying to shoot me, so they started fighting each other.  The witch hits me with poison straight away (I thought they were supposed to drink a speed potion and throw slowness first...), and I start smacking her with my sword as often as the recharge speed allows.  As this is happening, the poison is draining my health, and she's drinking health potions.  A quick splash potion of harming finishes me off.

I try again, and of course the witch is still alive.  A creeper and some more skeletons have shown up.  Note that I haven't made any progress in this cave beyond this point, and it's a rather enclosed area with no room to move around whatsoever.  If you infer based on the story above that I died again, you'd be correct.

This would begin a cycle of running back there, trying to make progress, and dying without making any progress, that repeated every minute or so.  Eventually I gave up trying to have fun and quit the game.

Yeah, let me reiterate: This isn't fun.  How could anyone possibly find PvE in this update to be fun?  It's just tedious, and I've already ranted about the difference between tedium and challenge.

So, bulleted list of things I've noticed about 1.9:
  • It isn't fun.
  • The early game is much, much harder for absolutely no reason.
  • If you're beset upon by more than one enemy at a time, you're fucked.
  • Wielding a shield in one hand apparently prevents me from swinging a sword in the other hand, and also makes me move ridiculously slowly.
  • Combat is only feasible in wide-open areas with room to run around.
  • Having a shield in my hand isn't enough to actually use it, even though it's in front of my player character.
  • If I get my shield up before an incoming attack hits, but not quickly enough before that attack hits, I still take damage.
  • Getting lucky and having a source of mid-to-high saturation food nearby while you're getting started is critical.  If you generate a world and don't see cows or pigs immediately, delete it and start over.
  • Dying every minute or so isn't fun.
  • It isn't fun.
So there you have it.  The last good version of Minecraft is 1.8.9.