Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bravely Second: Chompcraft Efficiency

I will admit up-front, I gathered data for lower upgrade levels as I worked my way through, but I never actually wrote it down, and then promptly forgot it once I'd upgraded everything all the way.  So, if you're working your way through, sorry about that.  This post will still contain applicable information, you'll just have to figure out the specific numbers for your current upgrade state on your own.

So, first up, the temporary tool upgrades.  Once purchased from the shop, they can be activated for a price that changes with each tier.  The following table only shows cumulative price in the rightmost column, so it should be pretty easy to calculate your maximum activation price for whatever your tool upgrade tiers happen to be.

TierScissorsFillingGluePaintbrushTotal activation cost
All tools, this tier
Total activation cost
This tool, max tier

Next up, the snack time bonus is key to getting good sell prices, as it boosts all your tools' stats.  Either the stated percentage is off or I'm doing the math wrong, though.  I don't know which is which, but it doesn't matter.  The gotcha is that the higher you've upgraded your Snack Time bonus, the longer it takes to activate, as the game animates more and more snacks piling up in front of people.  A general rule of thumb is to add one second to the Snack Time level, indicated by the number of stars on the button.  At maximum, this means activating when the production timer hits 7 seconds to go.

Got all that?  Good.  Now, it's time to get into a rhythm, which is important for optimal production.  If you don't have everything maxed, the key is to find a cycle that works, given the stats you get when everything's active.  You want Snack Time to recharge with relatively little time left before the next time you use it.  Don't fall into the trap of immediately activating it as soon as it's available, you can get more out of it by activating it closer to the end of the production timer, as suggested above.

So, the rhythm with max temporary tool upgrades and max Snack Time is as follows:
  1. Start Chompcraft.
  2. Buy 5 levels of each of the tool upgrades, starting at 7 seconds left on the production timer.  You should end up making batches of 4 every 15 seconds.  The Snack Time gauge should charge close to or at the end of the batch.  The rareness levels of the chompers you make affect how quickly Snack Time charges, so you may end up having to sell an extra partial batch after the first full one on some occasions. Don't continue to the next step until Snack Time is ready to go and you've just sold a batch.
  3. When the production timer ticks down from 8 seconds remaining to 7, activate Snack Time.  Snack Time should finally activate while there's 1 second left on the production timer.
  4. Quickly buy all the temporary tool upgrades that you have available while waiting for Snack Time to activate.
  5. When the production timer gets to 1 second left, tap that Sell button like a madman until it becomes enabled and you sell the first full batch with no time deducted from the Snack Time timer.
  6. Repeat step 5 until you've sold four full batches.  The fourth should happen while the Snack Time timer says there are 2 seconds remaining, or thereabouts.
  7. Let the temporary tool upgrades run out.  During this time, you should produce 20 more chompers.  Snack Time should recharge sometime before you hit 24.
  8. When you hit 24, sell the batch, and repeat from step 3.
  9. When you've had your fill of Chompcraft, sell whenever Snack Time isn't active and exit.  I recommend waiting until the end of the batch after the four full batches in a row.
Like I said, with lower upgrade levels, the numbers will have to be tweaked, but this is the general rhythm you want to be in.  Don't bother trying to keep the temporary tool upgrades active at all times, it's not worth it.  Stacking the Snack Time bonus with the four temporary tool upgrades seems like the best way to get chomper points to me.  If there's another, better way to do it that's as consistent as this, I'd love to hear it.

Good luck, and may there be many Triple Quadcolors in your future.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jimmy Kimmel, Let's Plays, and Video Game Streams

The less concise but more accurate title of this post is: Why would you want to watch someone else play video games? A Response to Jimmy Kimmel.

If you're unfamiliar with what I'm talking about, watch this video, in which he talks about the launch of YouTube Gaming.  He expresses his confusion over the matter very plainly.  I know, it's old, but I just now got my thoughts in gear.  For what it's worth, his spoof of YouTube Gaming is actually pretty hilarious.

Video games are fun, and lots of people like them.  This is the reason that the video game industry has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry.  Back when arcades were popular, the machines weren't always designed to make viewing the game easy for anyone who wasn't playing.  The question he's asking has been around for decades, and the answers have as well.  It's just that it's gotten easier to watch others play video games through the internet.

So, why watch others play games when you could just play them yourself?  I can think of five reasons.  I can also think of a lot of knee-jerk reactions, but in the interests of having this be an intellectually-sound post, I'll avoid them.

One: There are a lot of games coming out.  Every month sees a batch of new releases, for every platform, and there are several platforms.  Not everybody has all the money and time in the world to buy and play everything.  So instead, we buy and play what we can.  Our interest doesn't wane for the sacrifices we make, though, and the internet allows us to experience those games as well.

Two: With all the games coming out, and the diverse range of interests that they cover, it's inevitable that you're going to find yourself on the fence regarding buying one or another game.  Watching others play video games lets us see more than just the conflict-of-interest-laden, carefully crafted marketing material that the developers and publishers release.  It can help a person realize they really need the game now, or alternatively, realize that it's not worth their time and money.

Three: With the number of people recording their gameplay footage and commentary, editing the two together, and putting the result on the internet, there are a lot of commentators out there.  Each has a different style, as well as a different set of tastes for games.  You might initially find one person's channel because of a common genre or game interest, and then find yourself staying on and watching their playthroughs of games you never intended to purchase, just because you know their commentary will make the viewing experience enjoyable.

Four: This is the other side's perspective to reason two.  Watching others play games also has incredible marketing power, because it can and will influence people to buy games that they might not have otherwise found out about, or would not have considered buying.  Video game developers and publishers small and large, far and wide, and not named Nintendo, have embraced this and typically make getting permission to upload and monetize footage a very simple process, or even grant blanket permission to do so; often just requiring a link to the game's website or its page on the Steam store, which is easy to comply with.

Five: Sometimes, you either get stuck at a certain part of a game, or just want to see someone else's experience playing a game that you're playing.  There are a number of games that have large "open worlds" where the player is encouraged to go off the beaten path and find things on their own, and thus one player may experience things that another player might not.

I doubt he'll actually find out about this post, much less read it and not try to make fun of it in some way.  But his confusion over the subject has always been sitting there in the back of my mind, churning around until I realized that I had these three answers.  Now that I've posted them, hopefully I can get the matter off my mind, and maybe help anyone else who's confused about it realize what the appeal is.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bravely Second... First... Impressions

I've completed the prologue of Bravely Second, so here's my thoughts so far.  You can probably get the gist of it from my post about the demo, because it reflects what's in the full game.  I'll summarize that post here, though.

The game offers a bunch of new features and little fiddly improvements over Bravely Default, while maintaining the exact gameplay you'd expect if you've already played Bravely Default.  Some of the new features and little fiddly improvements are things I didn't even know I wanted, which is awesome.

The prologue of Bravely Second offers up five jobs: Freelancer, Wizard, Charioteer, Fencer, and Bishop.  To summarize each job:  Freelancer is your standard jack of all trades with abilities that are of general-level usefulness.  Wizard casts elemental spells, and can do spellcrafting to add extra effects to spells at the expense of BP.  Charioteer is pure offense, and sports the support abilities Triple Wield and Quad Wield, allowing you to equip additional weapons in the helm and armor slots, which is gonna get insane later on down the road.  Fencer is a fairly tactical job, with a variety of stances, abilities that can only be performed from certain stances, and abilities that require one stance but change you to another stance.  Bishop is a holy warrior of sorts, who can heal and deal damage.

One important change is that you can now customize the trigger for a special move, which means it's no longer weapon-dependent, and therefore you can always have it be something that you're doing on a regular basis.  This will translate directly to special moves being used more often.  They went sorely underused in both of my playthroughs of Bravely Default, but with this change, I'm going to see about using them a bit more often, perhaps even designing a party around them, who knows.

If you remember that Bravely Second teaser video from Bravely Default, accessible either by entering the Konami Code on the title screen, or by beating the game, well, it's an actual scene taken verbatim from Bravely Second.  It's actually really cool, watching Magnolia beat up on a bunch of dudes from Tiz's point of view inside the tank.  They could've just had you burst in there with your party and beat up all the dudes and the boss at the end, and then claim your reward through gameplay, but having it be a cutscene whose point of view you can control by moving the system around is actually pretty refreshing.

Of course, you didn't just come here to see me gushing about how much I like the game, right?  Well, I took a few screenshots using Miiverse, so I'll post them here.

The first one shows the blatant name pun that was also in the demo, but I couldn't screenshot the demo.

The next two are later on, just after you get Tiz.  You're trying to get out of Eternian Central Command without alerting the guards, and Tiz goes full Jedi.

Also, I didn't screenshot them, but Yew has this whole thing going on with gravy.  I tweeted most of the gravy quotes, so head on over to my Twitter to read them.  The other characters question his use of the word "gravy" at one point, but he just keeps on rolling.

Revisiting Eternia was doubly nice in that Eternia's town theme is still that same awesome piece of music with the sleigh bells and bass guitar and whatnot.  I stopped for a little while just to listen to it, not gonna lie.

Something that Bravely Default did that wasn't fixed here, however, is the fact that there is quite a lot of dialogue in the audio before you get the chance to set the audio language.  If you're like me and prefer the Japanese voices, you have to deal with the English ones until you get to the point where you can open the menu and change the option.  Then, you get to deal with the fact that the subtitles match the English dialogue and not the Japanese dialogue.  This results in a lot of noticeable lines where a character says one or two words in Japanese, but the text onscreen shows two full sentences of English.

Also, if you hadn't noticed it in the very end of Bravely Default, the Celestial Realm is brought up again, so it's relevant to know that the Celestial Realm is actually our world.  You know, the real world?  Yeah.  It's inherently fourth-wall-breaking.

Anyway, Bravely Second is good, that much I can tell right now.  Is it better than Bravely Default?  Well, that's going to be a point of contention.  Nobody was expecting Bravely Default, so there wasn't a standard set yet.  Now that there is a standard set, we'll have to see how Bravely Second measures up against that.  I can already tell you that from a gameplay feature level, it most definitely is better.  However, I've just played the prologue, so I still have yet to see where the story takes us.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's too early to tell, but it's definitely good.

Also.  One last thing.  If you haven't played Bravely Default at all, and you're wondering if you need to play it to understand what's going on in Bravely Second, the answer is no.  The very opening of Bravely Second summarizes the story of Bravely Default, giving you what you need to know.  Of course, if you want to grab a copy of Bravely Default and play through it, I'm certainly not going to stop you...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bravely Default Beaten... Again

When I got my New 3DS and system transferred to it, I bought a digital copy of Bravely Default on the Old 3DS for the purpose of manipulating StreetPass stuff, as well as sending a second Nemesis and Friend Summon.  You know me, though.  I'm a completionist.  There's no way I'd be satisfied with getting the Norende development screen available and leaving it at that, is there?  Well, you'd be right.  I played through the whole game again, this time purposefully taking a different strategy.

My end-game team the first time was the whole Vampire/Swordmaster -aja spam team that was basically unstoppable.  However, one of the things that makes Bravely Default great is that there's multiple answers to the same puzzle.  I decided to model my party after traditional RPG character archetypes, where the usage strategy isn't quite so intertwined as everyone has their own distinct set of abilities, different from everyone else's.

I ended up with Tiz as a Ranger/Spell Fencer (the "ranged character" archetype), Agnes as a Spiritmaster/White Mage (the "healer" archetype), Ringabel as a Black Mage/Salve-Maker (the "mage" archetype) and Edea as a Templar (the "melee" archetype).  Edea's Job Command is a point of contention, actually.  I wanted it to be Knight, and was debating about whether Templar/Knight was better than Knight/Templar, but I needed the ability to Examine things and her setup was the most easy one to change to include Freelancer.  Thankfully, the Magnifying Glass item in Bravely Second fixes this little snag and makes Freelancer less necessary if you want to Examine everything in the game.

Their support abilities are minimally intertwined.  Edea had Hasten World, and everyone other than Ringabel had Black Resonance.  Everything else was slotted for the purpose of that character's setup.  Tiz had Precision and Frenetic Fighting, Agnes had Healing Lore and Holy One, Ringabel had Pierce M. Defense and Post-Battle MP, and Edea had Helm Lore and Two-Handed.

Given a party where everyone has a set task they perform, it's reasonably straightforward how each character is used.  Tiz uses Sword Magic on his bow and shoots things.  When not using an elemental Sword Magic, he uses Sword Magic Drain to heal himself with each attack.  Agnes heals the party, buffs the party with Enigma and/or Fairy Ward, and tosses Fairy's Aid on Ringabel from time to time.  Ringabel throws Giant's Drafts at the entire party, inflicts elemental weaknesses on enemies and various other buffs on the party with Compounding, and blasts things down with magic, occasionally using Drain to heal himself if Agnes is unable to do so for one reason or another, or as insurance that he'll live through the turn.  Finally, Edea provides the party with Rampart, uses a Blood Blade as an item to gain Sword Magic Drain (and then immediately unequips it because of Two-Handed), and hits things with Desperation when she has the chance.

It worked quite well for the vast majority of the game.  The Vampire asterisk fight was always a point of contention, and the boss gauntlet of Chapter 8 was a major difficulty spike that saw me using Special Moves and SP like crazy.  The final boss was balls easy, though.  It used its ability that separates one character from the rest of the party, rendering them only able to use Friend Summons, on Agnes, which kinda sucked but I dealt with it.  It wore off rather quickly, and I was back to business as usual.  It was really just a matter of working my way through its health all four times due to the things and the cutscenes and whatnot.  It actually felt like a nice, relaxing part of the game compared to Chapter 8.  I was more surprised than anything else when it finally died, I was about to check its health when the death cutscene played.

The Adventurer, however, was a different story.  Like Chapter 8's boss gauntlet, I had to figure out the right sequence of things to do.  Fairy Ward right away, examine the Adventurer, Edea uses Rampart and attacks the fox with Desperation whenever she has spare BP, Tiz blasts down the fox, Ringabel blasts down the Adventurer.  Sword Magic and Fairy's Aid were mostly pointless due to the fox's use of Dispel, and curiously, I got hit with Blind THROUGH FAIRY WARD on several occasions.  Not sure what exactly happened there.  Only Tiz and Edea cared about the Blind effect, so they just used Eye Drops on themselves so Agnes could concentrate on healing.

The fight was more of an endurance than anything else.  Try to keep all my defenses up, keep everyone alive, have Agnes use Rejuvenation on a regular basis, watch the Adventurer's health, and keep killing the fox over and over.  When the Adventurer's health gets to around the fox's max health, examine the fox and try to keep their health as close to the same as possible while blasting both of them down.  I ended up at an absolutely perfect spot where they were about 1000 health apart.  They died on separate turns, the fox first, but luckily Tiz was fast enough that he was regularly going before the Adventurer had a chance to revive the fox, and he did so and finished the fight.

I still love the game.  Anyone who says the last half being a tad repetitive makes it a bad game is ignorant.  Story is important, yes, and if you pay attention to it, you'll see not only the reason for the repetition, but why it continues for as long as it does, and why the party goes along with it after figuring out what's going on.  Look at the big picture and it makes perfect sense.  Mechanic-wise, the game is phenominal, and Bravely Second is set to improve on that by fixing a lot of little fiddly bits here and there.

Speaking of Bravely Second, it comes out in the US in two days.  I've had my copy preordered on Amazon for a while now.  Not only did I burn my free 30-day Prime trial to get a pre-order discount and free two-day shipping, but I timed it strategically so that the Prime trial runs out the day after the game arrives.

I still fully plan on doing the Bravely Default SCIENCE! posts.  Getting them done before I get my grubby little hands on Bravely Second isn't looking like it'll happen, but with two copies of the game beaten now, I have a very easy way to test multiple things.  Heck, I still need to update my Friend Summon on my Old 3DS, it's still sending that Rapid Fire I sent a long time ago.  I'm theorycrafting a setup for Divine Light, but it obviously needs testing, so I guess I'll do that.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Red Baron Minis Deep Dish

Saw them at the store.  They don't appear to be terribly new or anything (no "NEW!" callout on the box), I just hadn't noticed them before.  They're basically a mass-market version of what a friend and I tried to make a couple months ago with storebought pizza dough and a muffin pan: miniature deep dish pizzas.

Looking at the directions, nothing seems out of the ordinary.  Until you realize that they call for them to be in the oven for 16-18 minutes, which is silly.  I know ovens are slower and deliver better quality overall, but 16-18 minutes is ridiculous for miniature pizzas about two inches in diameter.  Not wanting to wait that long, I microwaved them, using the included crisping "trays", for a comparatively shorter minute and 45 seconds.

Why did I put the word "trays" in quotes?  Well, because the provided "trays" have no sides.  Come on, Red Baron, this is a joke.  Bagel Bites can afford to provide a damn tray with sides, why can't you?

Also, looking at the directions again while I write this post, the entire back of the box where the directions are is a giant wall of text.  Half of it is in Spanish as well.  Being bilingual is nice, I guess, but the resulting wall of text makes some details harder to notice.  The human brain just goes straight into "skim" mode and the reader ends up missing things or having to take a few minutes to read it just to make sure they've got it right.

If the oven directions called for them to be in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, I could see actually heating them up in the oven.  After all, our own homemade miniature deep dish pizzas were in the oven for about 10 minutes.  Sure, these are frozen, but that detail is relatively insignificant considering the temperatures ovens can get to.

The pizzas themselves were pretty good, though they have Red Baron's signature puddle of grease.

So, what have we learned?  If they provided proper microwave crisping trays with sides, as well as sane oven directions, they'd be more attractive to grab from the store on a more regular basis.  As-is, you either have to predict your hunger by $OVEN_PREHEAT_TIME + 16-18 minutes, or use the crisping "trays" on a plate as the microwave directions specify.  It'd be nice to not need the plate, and thus not need to wash said plate later.  Also, the sodium content is through the roof for something this small.