Nintendo Gets with the DLC Program

24 April 2015

My friends and I played a lot (understatement) of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! for the GameCube in college. My dashers-in-crime, RW (ringleader of the big band Urban Renewal Productions) and Theo (prisoner of war at UChicago’s PhD program) took this game seriously. We got into fights over blue shells and talked a lot about what we wanted for the future of the series. DLC was one thing we all thought would be great for the series. Sixteen stages was nice and satisfied the “we only release complete games and that’s why we don’t do DLC” mantra that Nintendo lives by, but honestly none of us took issue with the idea of forking over money to download more stages to play.

Behold and rejoice!

Finally! Eight years later, it finally happened. Nintendo got with the program and released DLC for the Mario Kart series. Hallelujah! Mario Kart 8 (MK8) for the Wii U, released in May of 2014, came with 32 tracks: 16 newly designed tracks and 16 retro tracks (tracks from old games given an HD spruce up). On release, it garnered positive reviews and was a complete Mario Kart experience. But then something magical happened. Nintendo released two DLC packs that together added 6 new characters, 8 new vehicles, and 16 new tracks to the game! All for the relatively low cost of $11.99.

I definitely appreciate Nintendo’s attitude that released games should be complete experiences (looking at you EA), but new content on top of an already-complete game is always welcome. Everyone is a winner. Players get more content. Nintendo gets gamers “reactivated,” back into a game, and spending money. Good press for the DLC may also draw console sales, which the Wii U needs, and game sales. And by theming the DLC packs (the two released packs center around The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing), other franchises get some exposure as well.

Is Nintendo REALLY getting it!?

The final exhibit of how good Nintendo might be getting the DLC thing: the newly updated title screen to MK8. It was updated from Mario drifting on a kart to Zelda Link riding on the Master Cycle with Hyrule Castle in the background. All three aforementioned things are ONLY available via DLC. They’re subtlety advertising DLC on the title screen! Very clever and sneaky…

If you’re reading this Nintendo, don’t stop! Keep it coming! Like Reggie, my body is ready.

It's Good to be Back

20 April 2015

Rewind to roughly a year ago. It’s May 2014. Everything was going well with marathon training for the 2014 San Francisco Marathon I was planning to run in July. I was increasing my mileage into the 18 mile range and feeling good. But then I got runner’s knee. And I ended up not running the marathon. I stopped running both to recover and because when I did attempt to run, something felt off in my knee. My monthly running competitions with friends (highlighted on my Fitness page) also came to and end. It sucked.

Turns out, running has become a great way to ground myself. Besides keeping me in decent shape, morning runs became a great time for me to collect thoughts from the previous days and prepare for the coming day. Losing that was tough both physically and mentally.

But, I’m back now!

Feels good!

The other day I ran the Woodside Crossover 10K. I ran the trail race in 2014 and while running 4 miles up a hill (followed by 2 breezy miles downhill) sounds painful, it was the funnest race of 2014. The 2015 trail was in the same park, but took a slightly different trail; the uphill climb was spread more evenly throughout the 6 miles. Last year, I placed 4th in my age group. This year, I placed 2nd in my age group! Progress!

I’m looking forward to running more frequently. I’ve already signed up for the San Francisco Half Marathon and am training with fellow Evernote coworkers who will also be running in the event. I’d like to take a stab at a marathon one day, but for now, I’ll take things nice and slow. I’m hungry for “marathon glory,” but I’d rather run shorter distances than risk getting injured again.

Onwards! :)

Peeking Into Final Fantasy Record Keeper

18 April 2015

Final Fantasy Record Keeper

I've been playing a lot of Final Fantasy Record Keeper (FFRK). It's a free-to-play game available on iOS and Android. It's pretty fun! You get characters from different entries in the series, battle in different settings, get equipment, craft abilities, get experience points, get annoyed by a Moogle, get to listen to awesome music, unleash powerful limit breaks, and the rest of the whole JRPG shebang. In short, I'm hooked.

Today, I hooked up FFRK to Charles Proxy. Charles is a nifty tool that can show you network traffic (via API calls) leaving and coming back to your phone. Let’s take a look at one API call: get_battle_init_data. This API is called at the beginning of a battle. A battle in FFRK consists of multiple rounds of enemies that you must fight in succession. This one API provides data for all rounds of a single battle.

In the JSON response to this API, there is an array “rounds” that has metadata for each of the rounds of enemies you’ll face off against. Inside that array, is “drop_item_list” which describes an item that will be dropped when you complete the round. Also, you’ll find an array keyed by “enemy” which has metadata for each enemy. Nested a bit inside each enemy object, you’ll find a “drop_item_list” for that enemy which describes what item the enemy drops.

Item dropped after a round ends (red) and item dropped when an enemy is destroyed (green).
The items, respectively, are a Blue Potion and a Minor Fire Orb.

What’s the difference between drop_item_list nested under “round” and drop_item_list under “enemy?” Turns out some items are dropped after completing a round and not by a particular enemy. For example, potions (nested under “round”) were only dropped after all enemies were destroyed. You’ve probably noticed you never get a potion halfway through a round and this is why.

I ran the Ship Graveyard (FFV) a few times because figuring out how to get the Black Cowl reliably is a great proof of concept.

Read More

Tagged Archive

10 April 2015

The army-of-one mark.gg team is proud to announce that the Archive page is now massively improved! Posts were previously sorted chronologically, but now they’re sorted by subject matter. Now, you can quickly reach the 8 posts I’ve written on Final Fantasy, 13 posts on all things Android, and – something I’m very proud of – 22 rant posts!

So many tags!!

Huge kudos to Michael Lanyon who crafted a great and easy-to-follow write-up on adding tags to your Jekyll-powered blog. Thanks, dude!

Do visit the new and improved Archive page and bask in the randomness of topics I write about!

Auto-Grinding in Final Fantasy Type 0

02 April 2015

Final Fantasy Type-0 was originally released in Japan for the PSP in 2011. Four years later, an enhanced HD port made its way to the rest of the world. I’ve played through the game. Aside from the vestiges of the PSP that could not be fixed (bad camera, small areas, low-quality NPC sprites) the game is pretty damn good. The battle system is fun, fast, and action-packed. The music – by Takeharu Ishimoto – is AWESOME! And if you exclude the conclusion, the story is pretty coherent for a Final Fantasy game.

The interesting thing about this game is there really is no single main character, or even a small, manageable cast of main characters. You command a group of fourteen powerful cadets at a military academy of a nation at war. When you deploy on a mission, you pick three cadets for your main party. If a cadet in the main party falls, you can’t use that cadet for the remainder of the mission. But you can replace that cadet with one from your reserves. There is no experience share so cadets only gain experience if they are actively fighting. Unless you want to bank your success on no cadets dying, it’s in your best interest to level up more than three cadets.

So many characters to level up!

In my younger days, I’d relish the opportunity to spend hours upon hours grinding all fourteen characters. But the me of today can’t shouldn’t do that. Enter Auto Agito - a little workflow I conjured up to automatically level up your cadets. This takes advantage of a feature of the game: Secret Training. You can send a cadet to Secret Training, take a break from playing the game (like go to sleep or work), and then return later and reap free experience. By moving the PS4’s system clock forward you can simulate going to work or sleep! Auto Agito automates and repeats this entire flow: starting Secret Training, advancing time, and then returning to reap the experience. Here’s a video showing one iteration of the entire process.

Check out the README for specifics on equipment needed and steps involved. Yes, grinding is a quintessential part of the JRPG experience. But when I see room for automation, I can’t help but see how far I can take things. Happy (automatic) leveling!