mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Valentine's Day - First Love

On this Valentine’s Day, love is in the air! It’s a great time to love, be loved, and think about your first love. Mine is easy: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the Super Nintendo.

My first video game love!

This was my first JRPG and I totally did not get it at first. I recall running through the first area, Mushroom Way, avoiding all the enemies and then when I faced off against the two Hammer Bros I just couldn’t beat them. I kept doing this same strategy over and over again and eventually I did beat them and got to Mushroom Kingdom.

Evil incarnate to my younger self.

But that same day my cousin overwrote my save file. I literally cried. My mom didn’t understand what a save file was so no luck getting comfort there.

After tears were wiped away I started over. But this time instead of avoiding all those enemies in Mushroom Way I got the bright idea to fight all of them. I got experience points, I levelled up, I got more powerful, and I crushed the Hammer Bros. Like Columbus discovered America, I had discovered grinding.

I would go on to complete and fall in love with Super Mario RPG. I didn’t know at the time, but not only had I found an amazing game, I also found an amazing genre I’m still in love with to this day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

P.S. Super Mario RPG has an amazing ending theme.

Storytelling in Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild is now the first game I’ve replayed (on the Switch) within a year of my first playthrough (on the Wii U). The game is that good, especially since I can now play it on-the-go. The game is engrossing and massive. Before you know it, you’ll be a hundred hours in and the world still feels mysterious and teeming with things to do.

Having recently wrapped up The Champions’ Ballads DLC. The DLC included 15 minutes of exposition on Zelda recruiting the Champions; while short, added more oomph to the tragic events that took place 100 years before the game begins. Looking back on the game as a whole, Breath of the Wild told a moving and deep story with a very minimal amount of actual story presentation.

And it did this so well by throwing this expression on Link’s face over and over again.

Next stop: most likely some depressing memories.

The 18 memories you unlock during the main game amount to 31 minutes of exposition. If we apply a more liberal definition that amount bumps up to about 1 hour and 40 minutes. In short, we’re looking at about 2 hours of exposition in an easily 100+ hour game.

Yes, almost all of the content in Breath of the Wild is technically optional, but exploring a vast and mostly empty world serves to emphasize the failure highlighted in the small amount of exposition the game does present. It’s an amazingly large period to the simple story presented in this single sentence: “100 years ago Zelda, Link, and the Champions failed to destroy Calamity Ganon.” The entirety of Breath of the Wild is reconciling the wrong in that sentence.

It’s an effective formula that allows skipping over all the mundane and filler segments a balanced story contains and laser focusing on the truly important pieces. A story delivered in small but dense, heavy doses and given time to simmer with lots amount of gameplay in between: that’s top-notch storytelling in Breath of the Wild.

Ask For and Take Feedback Like Octopath Traveler

We could all learn a thing about great feedback loops from the developers of the oddly-named Octopath Traveler. The team put out a demo in September, asked for feedback over the holidays, and just released a video detailing some feedback they got and the steps they are taking to address said feedback.

The majority of the items addressed could be seen as minor quality-of-life tweaks. But it’s fixing all these small papercuts that let a great game be perceived as the great game it is instead of a great game marred with small annonyances. For example, I loved Xenoblade Chronicles 2 but found there were several quality-of-life issues affecting the overall experience of the game.

So I tip my hat to the Octopath developers for asking for feedback and more importantly, sifting through it and addressing things. Their 1.0 release will be even better for it and I’m very much looking forward to more classic JRPG goodness on my Switch!

Be Glue

In one of my proudest moments in my professional career, a coworker called me “the glue of the team.” I’m a huge proponent of team member first, engineer second. Be a pleasure to work with first, output solid work after that. Amazing skills won’t save you from being a terrible team player, but having the right attitude and contributing to a positive team atmosphere will undoubtely help create the environment you need to grow and succeed.

Get out there and be glue!

Rivals of Ixalan - My Top Pick

Rivals of Ixalan has been out for a week now so Jeff and I have had plenty of time to pour over all the cards released in this expansion. Draftaholics Anonymous currently ranks some crowd-favorites Ravenous Chupacabra and Rekindling Phoenix at the top but my top pick from Rivals is sitting at 18: Dire Fleet Poisoner.

This card oozes value. Two mana for a 2/2 is cool but add in Flash, Deathtouch, and +1/+1 and Deathtouch to another attacking pirate? Depending on how you play this pirate, in the worst case you can remove two of your opponent’s creatures for two of yours or in the best case you can remove two of your opponent’s creatures (if they are weak) while keeping yours on the board.

At two mana it’s super cheap and once you reveal your first Dire Fleet Poisoner, your opponent’s may hesistate to swing with a big body until they’ve got something of their own to counter this amazing card.

Effective mana cost: AMAZING.