Tag: Math

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.

Statistically surpassing 2017

Statistically surpassing 2017

About three days ago, the amount of views my blog has accrued this year surpassed the total from 2017.

With a lead-in sentence like that I’m sure you’re expecting this post to be an exercise in prideful self-fellatio.

To an extent I suppose it is, but part of the reason why it’s cool is because of interesting insights I believe I can pull out of the analytics. As I tend to look at.

For instance, here are the yearly statistics as of my writing this:

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The bar graph shows an overall trend toward increasing views, and that’s sensible considering my blog has evolved from a class requirement to a digital resume and regular part of my writing life.

In 2018 the number of views jumped sizably compared to the growth from 2016 to 2017 due to my Summer Initiative and its aftermath.

Last summer was when I shifted the emphasis of my blog from writing a few times a month (mostly archiving stories) to writing nearly every day.

The jump from 1,944 to 4,210 views makes sense when audiences have a higher volume of content to consume on an almost daily schedule.

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Notice the shift around June 2018.

And that was when I only wrote daily for half the year.

This year I’m halfway to that number and we’re only at the end of May, which bodes well for further growth. Especially if I get a few more breakout posts like my Redondo Union Archives write-up:

Post uploaded on March 25, 2019

I may be on-track to surpass 2018 in views, but other aspects are faltering.

“Likes” is one statistic I have trouble explaining due to the lack of a noticeable tracker on WordPress. I can tell you that I received 129 likes on my posts in 2018 compared to the paltry seven in 2019 so far, but I can’t tell you why that might be.

However, I can say something about the trend in daily views and viewers.

As you can see in the 2017 v. 2019 analytics, I surpassed my views from two years ago with about 30 fewer individual visitors.

I’ve also noticed a pattern of more views-per-day recently in spite of less visitors coming overall. I used to see about six or seven views at most every day, but recently it has hovered closer to 20:

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Even yesterday, where I was so busy with family Memorial Day barbecuing and playing Minecraft with my friends that I didn’t write a blog post, my site received 33 views.

The last time I hit views near that high was April 24, when I wrote about my collection of graduation gowns.

If nothing else, I hope this post can be a positive affirmation for you regular viewers that people notice when you put extra energy into something. Even when that something is as silly as a personal blog.

I find the analytics fascinating to sort through so I hope you found them just as interesting to consume!

But if you didn’t, how about you take a look at this views-per-country breakdown:

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Because the map is always a fun thing to see in my opinion.


Featured Image courtesy of Carlos Muza via Wikimedia Commons

I’m a Barbie girl.

I’m a Barbie girl.

For my Gaming in American Culture class today, we spent a good two hours or so playing board games.

As a means of practicing different ways of analyzing games. Not for fun.

Except… There was a lot of fun being had in my group.

Because we played The Barbie Game: Queen of the Prom.

In case you can’t read it through the box glare, the tag line for the game is “A fun game with real life appeal for all girls.”

Developed in the 1960s.

If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, I don’t know what will.

That being said, I’m still about to tell you everything you need to know because by God this game is phenomenal in how atrocious it is.

Yet, we need to talk about some decent aspects of the game first. Namely its aesthetic presentation.

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There’s some cacophony on first glance, but the board itself is quite well laid out and screams art deco.

The box itself also comes with this nifty stage for all of the different relevant cards and bank money:

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Don’t worry, I’ll get into what these mean soon enough.

Our version of the game, provided by the professor, also happened to include some extra charm in the way of additional player pieces:

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Naturally I was an origami swan.

So the game is pretty and well laid out.

Unfortunately, that does not save it from being a perfect window into the sexist ways of the 1960s.

So what is the “real life appeal for all girls” that this game boasts?

Well, obviously the ultimate goal is to become prom queen.

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You get there through a lovely crowd of all-white, male/female couples. Unless of course your dress hem is down.

In order to make the arduous journey to prom, there are three things that you (presumably as one of four different Barbie girls™) need to collect along the way.

  1. A prom dress — This one actually makes a decent amount of sense.
  2. A steady boyfriend — Not just a boyfriend. You can get a boyfriend, but he won’t be REAL until he asks you out at a football game and you go steady. Also these are your choices:

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    One of these things is not like the other, and his name is Poindexter.
  3. The presidency in a school club — Seriously, how do you expect to be prom queen if you aren’t even the president of the drama club? You plebe.

With all three, you can achieve true supremacy.

Oh, and that’s only half a joke. The game is designed to make it harder for players to catch up if one is ahead. For instance, most of the club spaces are specific, so players who land there after you cannot receive the same presidency.

Though they may not want to considering how inept the drama club is.

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Mattel is currently reporting a net income of $14.9 million a year.

On top of that, two players cannot share a single boyfriend, so it might be harder to find the stragglers.

That said, boyfriends can’t be THAT hard to come by. Especially if you’re the most popular girl in school.

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Just toss the losers.

Or you get set up on a double date.

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The blinder, the better!

Or you know that some loser is an exploitable secret admirer.

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Fun fact, Poindexter wrote my friend Mimi a poem and got it published in a newspaper. He gave her $5 of the $10 he made from selling the copy… But didn’t ask her out on a date.

Or even better, just pick one out of a hat!

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That’s him! He’s yours!

It’s amazing that I never scored a boyfriend during our playtime when there are so many of them getting thrown about.

… Though that said I might not have wanted one, when date time includes things like this:

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Too bad there’s not a ‘dump his ass’ option.

So finally, there’s the prom dress. I saved this one for last because it’s arguably the most interesting as a game mechanic.

There are four dresses. The cheapest is $30 and the most expensive is $65.

In 2019 that sounds dope as hell. However, this is also Inflation: the game.

You start with $25 and make (typically) $5 at most. One of the few exceptions to that rule is a perfect example of why players who aren’t quick enough to get the cheap dresses are basically screwed.

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Thanks for nothing, Daddy.

All things considered, these goals might not seem like that much compared to a game like Monopoly, where you need to own the entire planet, build out hotels and literally bankrupt all of your friends (as well as your friendships with them).

But what I haven’t told you is that The Barbie Game has one four-sided dice.

So you’re moving around the board at a snail’s pace. While there are a number of spaces and “surprise” cards that allow you to go to whatever part of the board you want — arguably the only semblance of strategy in the entire experience, there are an infinitum more ways to wind up getting sent back home.

We found that this in itself was an interesting commentary on the nature of a teenage girl in the 60s only being able to go out to do one thing at a time before forcibly getting dragged back home for any number of reasons.

But you know. 2019 foresight again.

To extend the game’s runtime even further, there are a few different spaces which do literally nothing.

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This one was the best.

There was some 2010s time traveler in the room when they made this game who threw in this sarcastic Internet-era joke, I swear.

We didn’t get to finish a full game, so unfortunately I can’t regale you with the triumphant story of some lucky prom queen. But I hope if nothing else, this gave you a very interesting look into the mindset of people more than 50 years ago.

Good thing we’ve moved past this kind of stuff.

Oh wait that’s right, this was a reprint of the game.

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Who decided it was a good idea to bring this back in the mid-2000s??

We haven’t learned shit.

Luckily my group played a much better game soon after to wipe away the tears.

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