Tag: Games Done Quick

Puzzling

Puzzling

Have you ever had the desire to play a puzzle game?

There are many varieties to get hooked on. Some of the most popular are grid-based matching games like Bejeweled or Candy Crush; fast-paced luck and skill games like Tetris or Puyo Puyo; and logic-driven games like Sudoku or crossword puzzles.

I like myself some Tetris and played Pokémon Shuffle for a long time, but my puzzle game crack is undoubtedly Picross.

Or Nonogram. Or Griddlers. Or whatever other term exists for the game.

Picross is similar to Sudoku, but moves its numbers outside of the grid so that each puzzle is filled with colored squares.

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Via Research Gate

The numbers indicate how many squares are filled in and in what order, with blanks required between each separate number’s filled squares.

It’s somewhat complicated to explain without playing. If you’re interested in trying the game, there are plenty of free online versions available.

I personally discovered Picross years ago with:

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Because I’m nothing if not a shill for Pokémon spin-off games.

In the 3DS’s Pokémon Picross, every puzzle creates a different Pokémon.

There were only about 300, and the game had a number of other restrictions including a stamina bar that depleted for each square filled and the requirement for an obscene amount of in-game currency (calls Picrites) to buy upgrades and access new areas.

Both of which were obvious ways to “encourage” spending money.

Even so I fully completed all of the Pokémon puzzles.

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And the Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire tie-in Primal Reversion murals.

The game featured a daily challenge to gain meager amounts of Picrites for players who did not want to spend money, and I opened that sucked up every day for months to get enough.

It was worth it for me. Not only was Picross incredibly relaxing, but I wanted to see all of the Pokémon — including Mega Evolutions and Legendaries.

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They had different skills based on their typing to help players complete puzzles faster. A neat idea that kept me coming back.

At the end I gave up on Pokémon Picross when it wanted me to enter the “Alt-World,” which cost 300 Picrites and used a weird mechanic I could never understand.

Didn’t think much of Picross for a couple years after.

Then I watched SpikeVegeta‘s 2018 run of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for GDQx. He played Picross during some technical difficulties and gave me a strong urge to join in.

But I didn’t want to buy a game for the Switch. Or bother with Alt-World stuff in Pokémon Picross.

So I turned to the iPhone app store.

My first attempt was a game simply called Nonogram.

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This version is good for quick games. You pick a difficulty level and solve one puzzle. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The puzzles themselves were fine, but the game had issues. First, it gives you three incorrect moves before prematurely ending the session. Second, you cannot re-examine the puzzles you complete or use them in any significant way.

That second point sounds like a nitpick born out of high expectations from Pokémon Picross… And it is.

But the second game I found did fill that niche.

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Picture Cross is a Picross game with amazingly worthwhile art direction. The sprites used for menus and worlds are insanely detailed and charmingly reminiscent of the Habbo social networking site.

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Each world has a large amount of puzzles that cover up an image you slowly reveal.

Puzzles will often depict the objects they are covering up and can be re-completed, giving them a bit more value in my book.

So far I’m about 50 puzzles into the first of 12 maps, fueled by a combination of my feverish Picross addiction and other completion-driving elements like achievements.

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It also helps that the puzzles look pretty good while varying in difficulty.

I really only have a few problems with Picture Cross.

First, the fact that it’s absolutely chock full of advertisements. The game’s free so I can’t complain, but they are long and show up after every puzzle. They’re also often necessary to view if you want to collect more tokens.

Speaking of: Tokens (the game’s main microtransactions) are required to unlock new puzzles. Players can hold 10 tokens that individually recharge every five minutes as a baseline, and more can be gathered via advertisements or awarded after a puzzle.

So far I haven’t run into any problems collecting tokens, but I can foresee Pokémon Picross levels of daily grinding in my future.

Picture Cross also falls behind Nonogram in at least one major category. Nonogram crosses out each individual number in a row or column as they are placed:

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See the six on the fourth column.

Only entire rows are blacked out in Picture Cross, which can make things harder to track on a number-by-number level.

Frankly all of those are relatively minor complains to me. I enjoy the game a lot, and I can see it being a nice brain-teasing time-killer.

Plus… Downloading the game gave me stickers in iMessage based on its cute sprites.

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So I’d wager it’s worth every cent I didn’t pay.

Roaming the Mad God’s Realm

Roaming the Mad God’s Realm

Time to pull my head out of Stardew Valley and make good on the potential of my new laptop.

Let’s talk about Realm of the Mad God.

RotMG is a browser-based MMORPG of sorts developed by the independent Wild Shadow Studios and bought by Deca Games in 2016.

It has the multiple servers, raid battles and virtual economy you would expect out of titles like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV.

But in terms of gameplay it’s a free-roaming bullet hell similar to Enter the Gungeon.

Just more stylistically and mechanically simple.

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It’s a game that has been around since 2010.

Patches and balance updates have been constant throughout the game’s nine years, as recent as May 9, 2019. But looking through RotMG’s update history on its curated RealmEye forum shows a particularly interesting early life.

Around 2011 you can see the game launch servers for different regions worldwide, and in February 2012 a stand-alone client was released on Steam that can be used in conjunction with the browser version.

Plus some cool moments like a charity event for Hurricane Sandy relief in late 2012.

I can’t tell you exactly when I first played RotMG but it was undoubtedly early on in the game’s lifecycle. Probably around the same time as I was playing tower defense flash games on Addicting Games — which is honestly a post for another day.

Recently I had a craving to pick up the game again, and found that many things were the same despite its scope growing wildly.

Now I’m sure you must be asking, “how exactly does RotMG work?”

After you make an account, first you pick a class.

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And by that I mean you start with Wizard and have to unlock everyone else. More classes are unlocked as you reach level milestones, such as the Priest coming when Wizard reaches level 5.

With a character in tow you choose a realm to explore out of the Nexus hub world.

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Within each realm you encounter hordes of monsters based on fantasy creatures and tropes led by a larger boss variant.

Or… Not so fantasy creatures. Like this Sumo Master and his minions.

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Though they are the exception to the rule.

Sometimes a boss monster has multiple phases when damaged.

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In case you couldn’t tell, I really like the Sumo Master. He stands out in the best way.

Occasionally a monster will drop the entrance to a stand-alone dungeon on top of their typical loot.

These little mazes have a major boss at the end that will usually drop a couple pieces of loot.

Now would probably be a good time to discuss gameplay specifics so you can understand the loot system.

RotMG is simple to play. You move with WASD, aim and shoot with the mouse and use a special attack with spacebar.

That’s it.

Every class uses different weapons, special items and armor alongside a few overlapping items like rings with universal effects like raising health.

Characters are balanced for different play styles. Archers can shoot up to three arrows at once, making them more offensive than the Priest with one slow shot. However, the Priest’s special attack is a local heal that can buff allies.

Yet none of them have armor that compares to the Warrior.

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My slightly more open character roster.

Loot drops are the only way to improve your character’s weapon and armor without resorting to microtransactions, but enemies are just as likely to drop goods for a different class.

Killing monsters will level your character up to 20, at which point you start accruing “fame.” Whenever they die (because there is Permadeath in RotMG), fame is tallied up for a system where each class can earn up to five achievement stars.

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RIP Wizard…

As far as I’m aware the stars are purely a status symbol, though fame can be leveraged to do things like start a guild.

That’s about all there is. You fight hordes to level up and gain loot to survive until you can defeat bigger boss enemies on each map, all the while collecting pets and making friends.

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Once all of the Mad God’s “Heroes” are killed, all players in a realm are teleported to the Mad God’s Castle… But so much happens that my game lags until I get kicked out.

So I’ve never personally seen Oryx.

But the game is still incredibly fun in how simple and immediately goal-oriented it is. The art style is charming and design philosophy appeals to my fantasy leanings.

That said, my main problem with RotMG besides its tendency to lag (on browser at least — I’ve never the steam version) is microtransactions.

There are an obnoxious amount of quality of life benefits locked behind currency you need to buy with real money.

If you could purchase these things with fame or obtain coins through grinding, I wouldn’t be so annoyed at the system.

But to be fair, nothing is behind a paywall that impedes gameplay. Even if in-game purchases are more prevalent than I remember.

At least additions like daily log-in bonuses have improved the experience over time.

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Now if only they could add more than one looping music track over every part of the game.

You’ll want to play on mute. Perhaps catch up on GDQ runs in the background.

Music aside, if you’ve never heard of Realm of the Mad God before, I’d recommend checking it out. It’s a free game with a big history on the Internet that’s simple to pick up and try.

If you have heard of it before, let me know! I’d be cool to get some confirmation I’m not the only person in my small sphere of influence that has challenged Oryx.

That time of year again

That time of year again

Hope everyone enjoyed their Mother’s Day!

We Rochlin children celebrated by getting my Mom breakfast donuts (as requested), went out for lunch and then had fancy home-cooked pasta for dinner. A very food-focused affair.

Spending the morning and afternoon with her (as well as the night with my friends losing hours to Minecraft) left me with no time to write a blog post. Though it was all a nice stress relief…

Because as you can see from my baggy-eyed Featured Image, finals and graduation anxiety are undoubtedly taking their toll.

When I wasn’t with Mom yesterday, I was working on my last few college assignments. Ever.

For instance, the Final cheatsheet for Comm Law:

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It’s technically not a requirement, but the cheatsheet for my midterm was extremely helpful. So making this one seemed sensible.

… Especially considering I get extra credit for the selfie.

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Eating the pain away.

Taken at lunch, with a cameo by Mom’s arm. Because taking a break in the middle of eating to do homework is the perfect encapsulation of my life.

Comm Law is arguably the biggest stressor, as it turns out that is going to be a cumulative exam. Even though it’s online and we have cheatsheets, it will undoubtedly be a nightmare.

More than Cognitive Psychology, anyway. I should theoretically be studying for that now, but the first two exams were so easy that I don’t feel compelled to kill myself here.

If anything, the more stressful parts of tomorrow are around that exam. Like the Kappa Tau Alpha Communications Honors Society induction ceremony around noon.

Which I’ll have to leave early to take my Psych exam.

That event will get me the last pieces of hardware for my graduation attire, which means I’ll have to finally have to figure out who should do my professional Grad photos.

Because that’s a thing everyone does.

However, I’m currently more concerned about parking for graduation. As I found out, the tickets I secured for my family  do not cover their parking at the event. I needed to get a separate parking pass for that — and that deadline was at the end of April.

Had to make some calls while I was waiting to hand off that sweet Gladeo computer so it could go to a better home. Editing videos, as it was meant to be.

Throw in my semester textbook return, getting a legal document notarized (like a real adult) and going to the gym, and you’ve got my scatterbrained mentality for the day.

At least once Psych and Comm Law are out of the way, life should slow down.

As far as my assignments go, I’ll still need to put together my Honors Project — which I’m working as I write:

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Then I need to finish my Gaming in American Culture paper. An endeavor made slightly more difficult by surrounding circumstances, but I’ll get to it eventually.

Oh, and let’s not forget that my Dad’s birthday is coming up.

So that’s the whirlwind I’m currently cycling through. I keep trying to remind myself that once I’m through this week I won’t have to worry about college ever again…

But frankly that seems to freak me out more.

Instead I’ve been trying to drown out the incessant thoughts with more Games Done Quick speedruns.

Because seeing someone beat a game like Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door in under four hours is enough to really melt the stress away.

Meeting expectations

If my life were a series of Sesame Street episodes, the word of the day would be: Meetings.

Pretty much as soon as I woke up, I joined Mom at a local Starbucks to have breakfast with Tatjana — the wife of Magic Moreno, who I spoke to for Gladeo not long ago.

Worth reading if you haven’t.

Breakfast was a nice, quiet opportunity to relax and sip down a little coffee. Both of which are very important the week before Finals and graduation.

Speaking of relaxing. I mentioned Tarantino movies the other day, but I’ve also been chilling out by watching some speedruns from various Games Done Quick events.

For those of you who don’t know, GDQ is a series of video game marathons where games are played for record times, under conditions ranging from basic 100 percent completion to multi-player races and even bizarre hacks like randomizers.

All to raise money for charity while showing off cool tricks. Definitely worth supporting.

My tastes are currently aligned with Super Metroid, A Link to the Past and Mario Sunshine.

However, I’m watching a neat Super Mario RPG run while writing this post, so that’s worth a shout out.

GDQ aside, after breakfast I made my way to Fullerton for the semester’s last CSUF Society of Professional Journalists meeting.

We ate pizza, discussed what did or did not work about our events and elected part of the board for next year. Most of the current group is graduating, so it’s a big old passing of the torch.

My girl Kristina, who is not graduating, will be taking over as President. And I know she’s going to kill it.

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From left to right: Jared Eprem, me, Harrison Faigen, Rick Piñon, Kristina Garcia and faculty advisor Frank Russell. Photo taken by Anita Ally.

Guess I’ll have to update all my social media descriptions pretty soon to reflect all this graduating/moving on from things.

That’s certainly what I started doing last night.

Job applications. Gotta love them.

I’ll get back to that eventually. In the meantime, from SPJ I went to my next meeting in the Honors Center to try and complete a few more graduation requirements. Namely getting my Honors Project title page signed off on.

Which I did:

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Now all I have to do is compile the stuff I’ve done so I can officially turn the damn thing in and move on.

While in the Center I had a lovely chat with Dr. Simoes as well. We spoke briefly at my presentation, but today he was more than happy to congratulate me for getting the project through this next step.

He even told me he’ll be buying a copy of my book once it’s published — so long as I sign a first edition for him.

It was very sweet.

After all of that I came back to Redondo and set up a meeting with Michelle to give back that lovely computer I’ve been holding onto. Too bad I never got it to full working condition on account of internet issue, but it’ll be much happier with a video editor where it belongs.

Once that was done, I went to probably my most important meeting of the day:

A meeting with the treadmill.

Because with all of this graduation stress on my shoulders it honestly feels great to go burn some calories and let off some steam.

Highly recommended stress relief, folks. Especially if you can watch some dope GDQ runs while you’re running!

You know I’ve got those great set-up/pay-offs.