Thursday, 23 January 2014

A Day in the life of Dan

Sometimes my life feels like an adventure game.  Today was one of those days.

Primary Objective: Complete job interview.
Secondary Objective: Dress appropriately, Gather documents, Attend interview, Do well at interview (optional)

You awake in your room at 8am.  The interview is at 1:30pm.  You do the various things needed when you get up in the mornings (wash, breakfast, facebook etc), and at 9am it's time to prepare for the interview.
>Pick Up: Shirt
You pick up the smartest clean shirt you have.  It is heavily creased.
>Use: Iron With: Shirt
You do not have an ironing board.
>Put: Towel On: Table
The towel covers half of the table.  There is not much space, but you are confident it will be safe to use the iron.
>Use: Iron With: Shirt
Using the towel to protect the table underneath, you iron your shirt ready to wear.
>Put On: Shirt, Trousers, Waistcoat.
You feel smart and confident in your interview attire.
*Secondary Objective Complete: Dress Appropriately*
The time is now 9:15am.
>Talk To: Emily
You remind Emily to take her medicines.  She reminds you to take rubbish out.
*Secondary Objective added: Take out rubbish before bin-men arrive for a time bonus*
>Look At: Email: Interview
You check the email labelled 'interview'.  There are three attachments.
>Print: Attachments
Your printer is out of ink.  Your options are to use the library printer, or find somewhere that sells ink.
>Go To: Library
As you unlock the door, you notice that the bin-men have already been.
*Objective Failed: Take out rubbish before bin-men arrive*
The weather is cold, but dry.  There are no interruptions on your way to the library.  The time is now 10am.
>Look At: Computers
Out of the twelve computers available, one is still available but it looks like someone is heading towards it from the other end of the library.
>Use: Computer
You hurry over to the computer, getting there just before the other person.  He seems disappointed, but appears to believe you didn't notice him.
Your actions have shifted your alignment 1 point(s) toward Evil.  If you continue your current course, you will no longer be able to advance as a Druid.
>Look At: Email: Interview
You check the email labelled 'interview'.  There are three attachments.
>Print: Attachments
When you click on 'print' a message pops up, informing you that print jobs need to be released at the self-service pillar.
>Go To: Self-service pillar
You leave your computer unattended as you walk to the self-service pillar; luckily no-one takes advantage of this.  The self-service pillar informs you that you can only pay in cash, with the maximum usable denomination being a £5 note.
>Look At: Wallet
You have 6 Silver pieces and 10 Copper pieces.
>Use: Computer
You turn off the computer.
>Use: Cashpoint
The nearest cashpoint is at the local supermarket.  It dispenses a minimum of £10, which you withdraw.
One £10 Note Acquired.
>Go To: Supermarket
Needing small enough change to use on the library printer, you decide to buy a small item.
1 Gold piece lost.  Item Acquired: Healing Herb.
>Go To: Library
As you now have one £5 note available, you head back to the library.  There are two computers available.
>Use: Computer
The computer rejects your login details.  The man next to you says 'I tried that a minute ago- it's reserved'.
>Use: Other Computer
The computer rejects your login details.  You try again, and it rejects you again.  Meanwhile, the man who spoke to you has now left.
>Use: Third Computer
Using the man's now vacant computer, you manage to log on.
>Print: Attachments
Unknown term: Attachments
>Look At: Email: Interview
You check the email labelled 'interview'.  There are three attachments.
>Print: Attachments
You send the documents to the self-service pillar, printing them without any problems.  The time is now 10:30am.
2 Gold pieces lost.
>Use: Computer
You turn off the computer.
>Go To: Home
On your way home, you encounter Emily.  Emily asks if you will go with her to the doctors.
>Say: No
You decide you can't go with her as you don't have the time.  Emily appreciates your decision.
Influence Lost with Emily: 1.
Time Bonus!
When you get home, you realise there are still some documents missing.  You narrow down their locations to one of three bags.
>Check: Bag One
You do not find the documents you are looking for.  The time is now 11am.
>Check: Bag Two
You do not find the documents you are looking for.  The time is now 11:15am.
>Check: Bag Three
You find one of the documents you are looking for.  The time is now 11:30am.  Emily has returned home from the doctor, and has prepared your lunch.
>Use: Lunch
You decide food is more important than finding the last document, and are willing to face the consequences of not having this document at your interview.
*Secondary Objective Complete (Partial): Gather Documents*
The time is now 12:15pm.
>Go To: Interview
Using your Sat-Nav, the journey seems simple until the Sat-Nav says 'You have reached your destination'.  You are at a roundabout by the university campus.  There are three choices.  The first exit leads to 'Car Park 20'; the second leads to 'All other routes'; the third leads to 'Car Parks 1-15'.  The time is now 1pm.
>Go To: Third Exit
You decide car parks 1-15 will be closer, so head towards them.  Car Park 1 has a sign saying 'restricted use only'.  Car Park 2 has a sign saying 'restricted use only'.  It soon becomes clear that all of these car parks are restricted use, so you decide to head for Car Park 20.  You approach an unmarked fork in the road.  The time is now 1:15pm.
>Go To: Right
You turn right, and find yourself going round car parks 1-15 again.  You approach an unmarked fork in the road.  The time is now 1:20pm.  From here on, your interview performance will be penalised for every minute you are late.
>Go To: Left
You turn left, and find Car Park 20.  You park the car and head into the university campus.  You get lost quickly.  The time is now 1:25pm.
>Talk To: Information Desk
You ask the information desk for directions but they are less than helpful, telling you to follow the orange path.  You do so, following signs where available.  You approach an unmarked fork in the path.  The time is now 1:30pm.
>Go To: Left
You turn left.  You approach an unmarked fork in the path.  The time is now 1:35pm.
>Go To: Right
You turn right.  There is another road entrance; it is clear this is the entrance you should have used, but you are baffled as to how you are supposed to get here by car.  You approach an unmarked fork in the path.  The time is now 1:40pm.
>Go To: Left
You turn left.  It is clear you took the long way round, but can see your destination in the distance.  The time is now 1:45pm.  Being acutely aware of the time, you hurry as fast as you can but it is too late.  You are turned away at the door.
Your quest is over.
On returning to the car, you notice the extortionate parking charges.
5 Gold pieces lost.

...And this is why life needs to come with a strategy guide.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Rooksburg Reviews: Pokémon Conquest

Pokémon Conquest for the Nintendo DS ('Nobunaga's Ambition' in Japan) is arguably the most overlooked game in the Pokémon franchise, and that's quite understandable; it is the first attempt at a more mature game by the Pokémon company, has a completely different playing style from anything else in the franchise, and borrows heavily on Japanese references that will be lost on a Western audience.  That being said, I believe it's certainly worth a second look and this review should help explain why:

Obviously this is the most jarring aspect to new players.  This game is a Tactical Turn-Based RPG, meaning
it plays similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem, and Advance Wars, though with a slight twist- namely the inclusion of pokémon.  On the world map you can manage your kingdoms in a simple manner- you can battle and attempt to recruit wild pokémon and warlords, you can mine for gold, spend gold in shops, or develop existing areas to increase power levels of wild pokémon or buy better items, etc.  Each kingdom can sustain six warlords, and each warlord has a set number of pokémon they can control, generally only extending to 3 or 4.  In combat each warlord uses a single pokémon, determined before battle starts and unable to be switched during battle.  Interestingly for this genre, each pokémon can use only one move determined by the pokémon's species- and generally the more powerful moves will have greater limitations to consider, such as recharge times and splash damage.  Overall this offers the same flexibility as other tactical games, but also makes the game feel more akin to a game of chess where each move must be carefully thought out.  Or it would, were it not for the horrific miss chances on attacks.
The dual screens are utilised well; top screen shows
unit information, bottom shows the battle itself.
User's speed determines accuracy, which is displayed each time you make an attack.  The majority of the time, this will be between 92-96%.  Despite this, I have fought many battles where I've missed 5 times in a row, and that's not taking into account abilities like 'instinct' that seemingly have a 50% chance miss-chance on top of the attack itself.  Prepare to rage a lot in this game, and I'm in awe of you if you manage an iron-man playthrough.

The Story:
The main story follows the hero/heroine, naturally played by you, as they attempt to unite the warlords of Ransei against the warmongering Nobunaga.  Legend says that whoever can successfully unite the land will be deemed worthy of gaining an audience and possibly befriending a powerful legendary pokémon.
Unfortunately the main storyline is possibly the reason why this game is so overlooked; there's very poor pacing, you can't evolve your starter until late in the game, and the characters look interesting but ultimately lack substance.  It may be ironic, then, that on completing the main quest everything is turned on its head as you find out every warlord you encountered (and then some) has their own story to tell- you can pick from 37 stories in total, each comprising a full game in themselves.  As they concentrate on specific characters and often contain a lot less kingdoms to worry about, there is now a lot more characterisation and better pacing; and because captured pokémon are carried over to these stories each could be considered a 'New Game +' feature.  It would be tempting to consider the possibility of if these stories were sidequests in the main story, or if they were simply available from the start, but unfortunately I think the way it's presented is the only way it could have worked.  Which is a pity, as few people will have the patience to complete the main quest so will never experience the mastery of the additional stories.

The Characters:
Interestingly, every single character in this game (excluding the hero/heroine) is based on a real life historical
figure.  The majority of characters you encounter will be generic carbon copies of about 6 templates, but each kingdom has warlords associated with it.  These warlords, whilst being considerably over-the-top, all have endearing features conveyed simply through facial expressions and the few lines of dialogue they have- though again I stress that little of this will come across in the main story.  Each character also has affinities with a certain type of pokémon, and within this type there will be one specific species that will be a 'perfect link'; this partner pokémon will appear next to the warlord in conversation, and only with a perfect link will a pokémon be able to reach its full potential.

The Art/Music:
I hesitate to call it 'graphics' as the only graphics to speak of are in battle; the rest is beautiful drawings.  Clearly a lot of effort went into this game's artwork, from the simple kingdom designs to the glorious cutscenes, but especially to the warlords who each wear elaborate clothing that perfectly matches their personalities whilst also dropping hints as to their perfect pokémon.  As for the in-battle graphics, little can be said about them; the models can be a little off at times, but move animations are smooth and the terrain is as accurate as you can expect from an isometric grid.
The music matches the artwork in terms of quality, and I could happily listen to it at any time.

When this game was first announced I could barely contain my excitement; a mature tactical pokémon game incorporating Japanese history sounded like a dream come true.  Then I played it, got halfway through the main quest, and ragequit from the miss-chances.  About a month ago, when I was without internet, I picked it up again and am now on my tenth post-game quest, truly amazed at how different it is after completing the main story.  I still get messed up by miss-chances but if I'm having a particularly bad time I'll just wait an in-game month and it generally sorts itself out- and the fact pokémon carry over between stories means it keeps getting easier.
I won't blame you if you don't get on with this game, but if you at least like the concept then I promise you it gets better after completing the main quest.

tl;dr review:
Gameplay: 7/10.  An interesting take on the genre, but those miss-chances really let it down.
Main Story: 4/10.  Generic domination story.
Post-Game Stories: 10/10.  Better pacing, better character development, and each is a different challenge.
Characters: 5/10.  The majority are carbon copies that share names with historical figures, and the important characters only develop in the post-game stories.
Graphics: 6/10.  Not amazing, but serve their purpose.
Art/Music: 9/10.  Excellent character art, if limited.  Likewise for music.

Overall: 7/10.  Flawed, but rewarding if you persevere.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Monthly Update: 01/14

Happy New Year!

Sorry for the lack of update last month, but it took a couple of weeks to convince BT to connect our internet in our new flat.  We now live in Weston-super-Mare and as such are looking for D&D players (or people willing to try Pokémon Tabletop, or anything interesting really) as it has been far too long since we played!

Regarding the shop, I have spoken with our Prince's Trust advisor; as it is unlikely we'll be in a financial position to open the shop any time soon, the current tentative plan is to set up an online shop with the Prince's Trust's help.  This will help build up stock, get a decent website, and get us on track to getting our brick and mortar premises.  An ETA for the online shop is some point before July, probably starting with ebay and painting commissions; in the meantime let's get a gaming group together- or if you're already part of a gaming group then let me know so I can get to know you all!

Regarding the blog, more coming soon but a little sporadic (as always) whilst we unpack boxes etc.  There are a couple of video game reviews I'd like to do, some more creative writing, and I'm sure I'll have a couple of rants- sorry, 'opinion pieces'- thrown in as well.

Until next time,