Xenoblade and the Nintendo 3DS++

30 August 2014

A recent slew of announcements by Nintendo are tugging me in all sorts of directions.

  • I’m excited that Nintendo is porting Xenoblade Chronicles to the 3DS. The limited run and subsequent limited supply of Xenoblade copies in the US has put the game out of reach for many. Since it’s a game that truly captivated me, I’m happy that tons of people will now have the chance to experience it.

  • I’m kind of sad that the port is going to the 3DS and not the Wii U. The upcoming spiritual successor to Xenoblade Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles X, is a Wii U exclusive and from what’s been shown already, the game looks beautiful. People who emulate the original Xenoblade say it looks great: definitely better than what you get with a Wii. There is even an HD texture project to enhance the visuals further. I was hoping Nintendo would build hype for the sequel by giving the original Xenoblade a great HD remaster and releasing it for the Wii U. In my wildest fantasies, a Wii U bundle would feature a Monado-esque Wii U Gamepad. Instead, Nintendo is going the opposite route and will likely have to make the game look less impressive than it was on the Wii.

A boy can dream of wielding a Monado-WiiU-Gamepad!

  • I’m a bit confused with the news that the port of Xenoblade Chronicles will only run on a “new” 3DS – henceforth referred to as the 3DS++ – because it will require more RAM and CPU to run properly. The 3DS++ also adds an extra pair of shoulder buttons and a circle pad on the right side near the ABXY buttons. But what happens next? How is Nintendo going to effectively explain this fragmentation in its hardware to your average customer? I doubt developers will only develop for the 3DS++ and abandon the existing (and massive) 3DS market. But then what kind of allure will the 3DS++ itself have when it can only claim to run a few games that the 3DS cannot? Will developers spend resources to make the 3DS++ version of their game look nicer and take advantage of the extra inputs? Maybe, if the proper incentives (e.g. lots of money from Nintendo) are there. All in all, I’m excited about new hardware, but a bit irked by Nintendo messing with the massively successful 3DS.
  • I’m pumped that Shulk is going to be in the new Super Smash Bros. THIS IS THE POWER OF THE MONADO! I only wish Reyn could also be added so I can hear “IT’S REYN TIME” over and over again ad infinitum… Oooor maybe it’s better to leave him out.

Such emotions. Much range. Wow!

Don't Ask Me Stupid Questions

24 August 2014

I always tell people who warn me that they’re about to ask a stupid question, that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But when a computer asks me a stupid question, I show no mercy. One of the many chat clients installed on my iPhone – WeChat – recently asked me a supremely stupid question.

Stupid may be a bit harsh, but this (automated) message I got from the WeChat Team has a misguided focus. The WeChat Team wants me to get excited about all the new features in version 5.4, yet my initial reaction when I saw this message was, “Am I on version 5.4?” Turns out I already was, but I still got a message asking me if I had upgraded. And WeChat knows I had already upgraded because the client-side app could very easily notify their servers of the app version running on my phone.

The message could’ve been more like “You’re riding in WeChat 5.4. It has all these awesome features we think you should use right now!” And if I wasn’t on 5.4, the messaging could’ve been more encouraging for me to upgrade: “WeChat 5.4 has a ton of awesome features; upgrade today to gain access to all of them and your life will be a million times more awesome!”

Alas, a missed opportunity…

Thoughts on Warp Gate Technology

14 August 2014

Warp Gate Technology is the biggest must-have upgrade in all of StarCraft. For 50 minerals and 50 gas, you can convert your Gateways into Warpgates. This allows you to rapidly (in 5 seconds) warp in units ANYWHERE you have pylon coverage. It also reduces the overall time it takes to build units; Zealots can be warped in every 28 seconds, whereas Warpgates take 38 seconds to build one. Unless you’re Zealot-rushing or going mass Air Toss, there really is no good reason to avoid researching Warp Gate Technology. Warpgates are simply better in every single way compared to Gateways.

Sometimes, I wonder if we could make the Gateway vs. Warpgate decision more interesting because right now, it’s a no-brainer. Here are some (potentially game-destroying) thoughts. The general principle is how we can we make Gateways more attractive and/or make Warpgates less attractive.

  • Units built from Gateways could be slightly cheaper or units built from Warpgates could be slightly more expensive. Make the price of warp-ins more than absolutely free after an investment of just 50 minerals and 50 gas.
  • Units warped in via Warpgates could be warped in with 50% shields. Blah, blah, blah the warp-in process is painful and damages a unit’s shields.
  • Instead of having Warpgates be able to produce units faster, reduce the unit build times so Gateways can produce units faster.

These may all be dangerous (some may call them stupid) ideas, but I think making the decision between Gateways versus Warpgate not so incredibly obvious would actually be pretty cool. Regardless, Protoss would still be super OP and would still only require A-moving to win games…

Let's Crunch Intelligence Squared

08 August 2014

Intelligence Squared US is a cool debate series I listen to on NPR every so often. Debate topics include “Death Is Not Final” and “Russia Is A Marginal Power.” Debates feature two sides: one for the motion and one against the motion.

The audience is polled on their opinion before and after the debate; they can vote for the motion, against the motion, or be undecided. The winner of the debate is whichever side has the largest increase in percentage points. So if the split is 70/20/10 (for / against / undecided) before the debate and 72/25/3 after the debate, the against side wins because they increased by 5 points, whereas the for side only gained 2 points. Winning usually boils down to whoever can sway the most undecided voters.

The other day a friend observed that, “I’ve listened to dozens of episodes, and not once has the number of unsure audience members increased.” While it seems intuitive to me that fewer people would be undecided after hearing an extended discussion on a topic, I can also see where his confusion comes from. If you hear people present compelling arguments for two sides of a topic, it should have the power to convince some that their former positions may be incorrect – maybe even sway some to decide that they are now undecided. I suppose people dislike NOT having an opinion.

A friend of disappointed friend, who also happens to be a data scientist, then crunched some numbers and wrote a spectacular write-up with some pretty interesting finds.

Said data scientist inputted all data into Google Spreadsheets before crunching some conclusions out, but I’m a JSON-type-of-guy. Enter intelligence-json: a repository containing all results of Intelligence Squared US debates in JSON format. Also enter intelligence-analyzer: a skeleton project that parses all this data into POJOs using Jackson, my favorite JSON parsing library.

Crunch away friends!

Child of Light

02 August 2014

Holy crap! I totally forgot about the July 1st release of Child of Light on the Vita until it flew right by me. After finally playing it, I’m happy to report that it’s a surprisingly unique and amazing JRPG! Here’s a list of what makes Child of Light truly shine.

Such beauty. Much impress. Wow.

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