Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Regarding Pokémon X & Y

I thought that I should put my overall thoughts out there regarding the upcoming sixth generation of the Pokémon franchise.
Overall, I like the Pokémon franchise.  I have some criticisms of it, but most changes seem to be just a little fiddling about, not much good or bad about it.  There are a few things that, for me, are kind of a big deal, so I'll lay them out here:
  • Making TMs infinite-use takes away a large part of the benefit of breeding.  Now, aside from egg moves, (sometimes) hidden abilities, and just getting more of some hard-to-get-but-still-breedable species (starters, Snorlax, hard-to-get slots/Safari pokémon, etc.), the main benefit has to do with EVs and IVs and all that math-behind-the-game stuff.  I generally don't like this sort of thing in thematic games, anyway:  While I understand that a fair computer game must have numbers and rules behind it, it really detracts from the spirit of the game.  
  • They keep taking away things that were just fine.  This is somewhat lesser of a point, but I still find it weird that apricorns and contests were removed and not put back in.  
  • Held items are good!  I know that this was introduced in Gen II, but this was one of the most meaningful additions to the game.  
  • Abilities are also good!  See above.  
  • There are far too many pokémon to reasonably catch them all.  This was addressed slightly in Black & White, in that Unova had no overlap in pokémon with previous regions, so it was easy enough to just pretend that the (apparently 150) were all that there were, but it's still kind of an issue.  
  • Catching them all is no longer the goal of the game; defeating the Elite Four is the new goal.  I know that both have always been goals, and this is essentially a plot/story thing, but this is still kind of a big deal for me.  The main character is no longer a budding naturalist, but is instead a glorified cockfighter.  I always understood that the player's goal was to defeat the Elite Four and become Champion and so on, but I also knew that this was just a smaller goal on the much longer path of catching all of the known pokémon, in-game.  I think that the reason that they don't keep this model is for the reason that I mentioned above, that there are way too many pokémon for that to be at all feasible.  In the first five generations alone, there are now 649 pokémon (I had to look it up), not counting whatever's coming out this fall. 
  • The addition of  the Dark and Steel types seemed unnecessary at the time, but they've meshed well with the other types, so I'm fine with it.  
  • Making the physical/special quality of an attack independent of its type is an interesting way to increase the complexity of strategy.  
  • I still dislike the wall between generations two and three.  
  • As with so many modern games, I dislike the increased dependence on external web-based stuff to get everything.  In this case, the Pokémon Dream World is what Gen V uses, and it's actually being shut down over the course of the next six months or so.  I don't at all mind the use of personal peripherals to augment a game, such as the PokéWalker for HeartGold and SoulSilver, since that's entirely in control of the game's owner.  If I take care of it, I'll be able to use my PokéWalker (with new batteries, of course) decades from now, whereas the Dream World will be gone forever.  
 I had a big gap for a few years, when new Pokémon games came out faster than I could be aware of them.  Emerald came out before I finished Ruby, but I didn't feel that it was that big of a deal, since it would just be a re-hash of Ruby and Sapphire, anyway.  FireRed and LeafGreen came out and I didn't even know; at the time, I wasn't aware of the two/three wall, since I hadn't gotten around to it.  Diamond and Pearl came out, and then Platinum.  I was lucky enough that, by the time that I got back into Pokémon, I could still find HeartGold and SoulSilver in stores, so I got them while the getting was good.  (That reminds me:  There's a used video game shop two towns over, which I was meaning to check out some time.  I still should, since they might have some of the missed games.) 
Whatever happens, I plan to more-or-less drop my current games when X and Y come out, partly because the few people that I know who do play Pokémon keep very current on it, and partly because of things like limited-time code pokémon and the like, that require keeping current to get the most out of the experience.  I'm hoping that I'll be able to get the same experience as everyone else, at least for a time, and be able to get a feel for it as a current event, rather than as a game. 

One other thing:  I like that Gen VI will be a global release, rather than our having to wait half a year or whatever for it. 

Assorted Miscellany July 2013

As I seem to be doing every month these days, here's a summary of life:
  • I've been playing TF2 a lot, just because it's easy to spend either a lot or a little time on it after work.  That's kind of in its nature, but I need to focus on other games.  Among them:  
    • Bioshock:  I should finish it.  
    • Damnation:  Now that I have a computer that can actually handle games, I want to try this for reals.  
    • Thaumcraft:  I really want to get going on this one.  I'm working on building a giant pyramid.  
    • Minecraft beta 1.7.3: I've been away from this one for way too long.  
    • Space Chem:  I only recently got it (on sale during the Steam summer sale), but it's really good.  I haven't played such a good puzzle game in ages, outside of kongregate.  
    • Pokemon:  I still need to finish White & go through Black 2, in anticipation of X & Y this fall.  Come to think of it, I need to make sure to pre-order those.  
  • Board games are about as usual.  
    • Sentinels of the Multiverse:  I really need to find people that already know how to play.  You'd think that, as often as I teach it, I'd bump into somebody again who knows it, if only from me.  There are some super-duper hard villains that I have yet to even try.  
    • Ascension:  I recently got a chance to crack Rise of Vigil, which adds the Energy and Treasure mechanics.  The one time that I played it, though, Energy seemed to relentlessly accelerate the game, to the point that it seemed that going for anything that didn't either increase Energy or have an Energize effect wasn't worth it in the early game.  
  • Video watching:  
    • I've been going through much of SF Debris's archives.  I'm skipping shows that I haven't watched, but, all in all, he's a good reviewer of all things science fictiony.  
    • I think that I'll go through my "watch later" list soon since, y'know, that's why it's there.  
  • Work:  I'm still employed, which is more than a lot of people can say in this economy.  Work's good!  
  • Music:  I recently made a point of actually tuning in to's vocal trance channel.  It's been a long time since I actually did.  
  • Sleep:  What's that?  
So, there's the round-up.  

Initial Thoughts on Greek Mythology

I have come to the conclusion that ancient Greek poets had a personal vendetta against me. 
not really
However, my attempts to research ancient Greek mythology have been met with a certain degree of frustration.  I didn't expect quite as much variation as what I got.  In fact, early on, it seemed like it might not be so bad:  For instance, it seemed like the Orphics just tacked on Chronos and Ananke at the front end.  Of course, they also had to change all the begetting after Chaos and so on, so it's not quite so smooth. 
To make hide or hair of this, I'm at the point where I'm just taking each tradition one at a time and diagramming it on its own, before I get into the comparative stuff. 

As a side note:  How lame is it that the Hekatonkheires and Cyclopes seem to be little more than plot devices, to be pulled out whenever is convenient? 

I feel like I should mention why I'm researching this, if only to say that it's for a personal creative project that you might never see.  I'll try to post any insights that I might have here, though, that they might be useful to others. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TF2: The Polynerf Update

On July 10th, 2013, Valve finally managed to release an objectively bad update for Team Fortress 2.  They completely and utterly nerfed the so-called Polycount Sets, as well as several other, minor sets.  There was no attempt at compensation made for this:  Each polycount set had its benefit replaced with a cosmetic effect:  leaving a "calling card" on one's victims, except for the Saharan Spy, who got a rather odd-looking sand whirlwind effect with his taunts. 
I am particularly disappointed with the removal of the headshot immunity from the Croc-O-Style Kit, especially since the ability to perform headshots was not granted to the Sydney Sleeper.  The set was completely fair as it stood:  A sniper wearing Ol' Snaggletooth could be immune to headshots, but only if he also bore the Sydney Sleeper as his rifle, removing his own ability to perform them.  (Darwin's Danger Shield and the Bushwacka were also required, which only lends more credence to the notion that they were balanced.) 
I suppose that I'm particularly miffed about this because I spent ages accumulating what my calculations show was the equivalent of 73 weapons to craft the damn hat, only to have its benefit completely removed shortly after I got it.