#504: The Puzzle, Part 1

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Back when I used to live at this house, we would sometimes pull out puzzles and try to complete them in one go. They’d never get finished that easily, usually because the puzzles we had were enormous and multifaceted and full of the most ridiculous spots. It’s more difficult than it looks, I promise you, to figure out how this blue spot connects to this other blue spot that looks remarkably similar except for an infinitesimally small sky-blue dot in the upper corner. It’s all about the little details when it comes to figuring out how these puzzles work. You have to have an attention to detail and picking out the finest points of things, and you have to be able to focus. That’s always a tough thing for me: focusing. Puzzles require concentration and dedication to completing it, obviously, but also to looking at those small details and not losing your mind in the process of working all that out in your head.

I give props to my mom and sister, who are much better at completing puzzles than I am. I learn by intuition; I feel things out and hope that they make sense in the process of me figuring it out on my own. I learn in a way that makes puzzles difficult, because they’re not exactly the most intuitive things around. Of course, there are some intuitive elements, like figuring out the outline of the puzzle before anything else, looking for pieces that match each other in pattern, and so on, but more than anything, puzzles are about concentration and a will to not completely give up after staring at the same spots over and over again.

I think I’m going to write about puzzles some more in the next blog post. Stay tuned for that.

#498: The Counter

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So, I sometimes run a deck that has a lot of good counterspells in it. No one seems to know what to do when they face it one-on-one, because it’s just so obnoxious to deal with. It reminds us always of a friend who we used to play with constantly, who always ran counterspells and loved the colors blue, black, and red in Magic. Those colors generally run with annoying spells, so it’s sensible that people wouldn’t feel that great playing against it in games. It’s like playing against control decks in Hearthstone; you never really want to do it, because you know they’re just going to ruin your whole game plan for the duration of the game. It’s part of their strategy, and it’s basically how they plan on winning, by disrupting you so much that you no longer have the combo pieces required to win how you would expect to.

Today I’m writing about counters because, as it happens to be, yesterday I spent some time with my friends playing magic and we discussed what it’s like to play against the Bolas deck, as it’s called. It’s my grixis-colored commander deck, and it’s known for being especially obnoxious to play against, especially if you’re playing Dan’s selesnya-colored commander deck. He doesn’t run much blue hate in that deck, and it’s pretty much exclusively good at out-doing other fat decks that rely on big creatures. My Lord Windgrace deck gets countered pretty hard by Dan’s deck, but whenever I seem to play the Bolas one, it seems to come out on top in spite of it being less good, in my opinion. It doesn’t have the same options and I haven’t put as much money into it as I did the other decks. Sometimes simple is better, at least in this case.

#497: The Reaper

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The data reaper is a series of Hearthstone reports put out by an organization called Vicious Syndicate, a group of elite Hearthstone players and personalities, all of whom are dedicated to accruing the most up-to-date data on the Hearthstone ranked ladder at all levels of play. This includes ranks Legend through 25, and it even includes both Wild and Standard formats, though the Wild data reapers usually take a bit longer to update considering the popularity of the format compared to Standard.

Above all, it’s nice to have a resource anyone can look at, that’s publicly available and for free, that you can use to look up the meta in Hearthstone. The game itself is such a meta-dependent game, in that you need to have an up-to-date understanding of each of the decks that might ravage the format in order to best understand what’s going to hose you down in a few minutes. If you’re not aware of the decks, you won’t know how to handle their aggressive or controlling strategies, and thus it will prove difficult for you to figure out how to beat them. It’s a simple sort of dynamic that Vicious Syndicate has created, and speaking as someone who’s never reached Legend rank but has gotten close a few times, I would be nowhere without those people and their resources. I regularly send my data over to them, though I don’t play enough for it to be that relevant, unfortunately. I hope, in the future, should I play more and eventually reach Legend, that the popularity of this website continues to grow and eventually lead to even more advanced strategies and builds for decks. Even now I’m pretty sure people are still optimizing the decklists that are put out by VS, and people will make them their own in their own different ways.

#495: The Worthy

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The new season in Destiny 2 is called “The Season of the Worthy,” and today I’ll be talking a little bit about it in an effort to explain it while I work on completing a few of the objectives for it at the same time. Pretty crazy how that works, but we’ll try it anyway.

Essentially, every new season, if you own the season pass, you get access to a leveling system that goes on top of the existing leveling system. It’s the “season rank,” and with it you can unlock great rewards like exotic engrams and zone currencies and ascendant shards and what have you. It’s a nice little system that they added, that rewards you for playing their game on top of the stuff they already reward you with for playing their game. Unfortunately, I had to purchase the season pass independently of everything else this time because I was given access to the last season for free by purchasing Shadowkeep around that time. Now that the season has changed, I had to get something new. It’s really that simple.

Right now, I’m running around the Tower hoping to reach Zavala before I reach the end of this sentence. Zavala is the commander of the Vanguard, basically the heroic organization of this game, and he’s in charge of how this operation goes down. When you talk with him he unlocks certain Strike-related bounties that are, of course, only available to be completed in Strikes, most of the time at least. Today, as I talk with Zavala, he tells me about the bunkers where Rasputin is housing ancient weapons that can help us take down the Cabal. It feels like how the initial Red War campaign went down, except this time it’s involving us being in the Tower instead of operating from the Farm.

#483: The Golden

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The other day, while playing Hearthstone and having not much else to do, I reached 500 wins with the Hunter class for the first time. It’s a great milestone to achieve in Hearthstone because, after all, it means I’ve sunk a ridiculous amount of hours into this game and thus I finally have the golden Hunter hero, Rexxar, unlocked. Is this a significant achievement that warrants respect and admiration? Not really, not at all. It’s more of a matter of time if you play as often as I do, not really a mark of skill or anything like that. Also, though this is my first time reaching the milestone on Hunter, it is not the first time I’ve made it to 500 wins with a class; I also have the golden hero for Warrior. In fact, I’m at around 800 wins with Warrior, which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it. I hope to get 1000 to unlock the even better portrait that comes with it.

Golden heroes are unique and stand out among the crowd, in that they look cool, shiny, and designate a certain level of dedication to playing the game. It’s like my card back, which I might explain at a different time on this blog in order to preserve the ability to write about that topic. But regardless, I use it to show the people I’m playing against that basically I mean business, if that makes sense. It’s nice to be able to communicate that sort of information without actually speaking to the other person.

My friend Dan actually reached 500 wins with Hunter before I did, so he had the golden hero in advance. I remember seeing it while playing against him and thinking it was really cool, so now that I have the opportunity to use it myself, I likely won’t stop.

#480: The Shadow

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In the Persona series of video games, all of us have shadows that are reflections of our emotions. They’re essentially parts of our minds that have been made manifest. When you enter this world, you have to accept that negative emotions have consequences, and they take the form of violent and harmful entities in this other world. A shadow will try to get you to deny that it’s really you, when in reality, it does represent the person you’re trying to hide away or suppress.

The reason I bring this up is because I sometimes wonder what my shadow would look like, or perhaps how it would reflect on myself. What types of emotions would I be suppressing that somehow come out in the form of the shadow? Would my shadow taunt me with visions of the past, when I was a different person and acted weird during high school and other parts of my life? I would hope not, but on that same token, it’s impossible to know without seeing it for yourself. Fortunately, I won’t have to fight in a battle my negative emotions any time soon, unless the Persona world turns out to be real one way or another.

This all probably sounds ridiculous, and I know at my heart that it really is, but to me, I still like the idea of psychology reflecting on reality and vice versa. I like that our thoughts and minds have minds of their own, in a way, in the world of Persona.

Nothing really compares to the feeling of immersing into a Persona game for the first time, and finding out that the world isn’t so dissimilar from our own. It’s really a copy of the real world with an overlapping part of it that ventures into the fantastical.

#464: The Lost Sector

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In Destiny 2, there are hidden areas marked on your map for you to explore on each of the planets in the solar system. Sometimes the areas are difficult to find, other times they’re simple and easy to access. Regardless of the difficulty level, though, the lost sectors are an interesting addition to the exploration and completion of every planet. In order to say you’ve completed your exploration of a specific planet, you have to have explored every lost sector, essentially, to earn that title.

Personally, I’m not that interested in the title or the accolades associated with exploring everything there is to explore. I did that once in World of Warcraft and that was enough. I thought it was a huge achievement at the time, to have explored every part of the map possible, and I remember getting it in Wrath of the Lich King, when achievements first came out in the game. I was playing during a time when flying was impossible in the regular old world, so I had to do all my exploration in zones like the Blasted Lands and Feralas by foot. It wasn’t especially difficult, but it was mostly just time-consuming. A lot of the achievements in this game are like that; they don’t require an immense amount of skill, just a lot of time and dedication and effort directed at one thing.

Back to Destiny 2, though. Lost sectors are part of the game, regardless of whatever complaints people may have about them. I don’t think they’re a huge source of contention in the community, although I’m not even sure if they existed back in the original Destiny game. Regardless, I think they’re pretty fun and I’m glad they’re a part of the game. Hopefully in future Destiny releases they continue iterating on the formula they started here.

#413: The Hollow

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I’m currently listening to the soundtrack to Hollow Knight: Silksong, a sequel video game that’s set to come out sometime next year. It’s going to be a huge hit, as the first one was, and I’m really looking forward to its release even though I never beat the first one. Why, you might ask? Well, one of the reasons honestly is because of the soundtrack. It’s gorgeous, and the melodies could drift you off to sleep if you’re not careful while listening. They’re soothing and luring, like a bedtime ritual.

I might have already made a post about Hollow Knight before, now that I think about it. I guess it just has really left an impression on me in the short time I’ve spent playing it. It stays with you even though the game isn’t necessarily that long. It’s perfect in small doses, playing from time to time and dipping in and out as you find the inclination or motivation to play it. Games that allow you to do that without losing progress or anything like that are exceptional in their own ways. They’re worth playing by virtue of the fact that they’re replayable. Hollow Knight is certainly an example of this, and it’s a blast to play because of that.

One thing about Monster Hunter World that would take some getting used to is all the controls for each of the individual weapons over time. It would be difficult to get back into the game if I took an extended break from it, which is why I usually end up playing at least some Monster Hunter when I can. It’s a fun game no matter how you slice it, but it’s definitely the kind of game that’s difficult to pick up and put down without committing a sizable chunk of time to it.

#408: The Deathmatch, Part 2

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So, gonna continue talking about the deathmatch format for another blog post because I’m just so jazzed about it, I couldn’t fit everything into just one post. It’s just that interesting for me to write about! Hopefully it has the same effect reading it as it does writing it.

So, participating in deathmatch games is always high-stakes. Your deaths directly contribute to the enemy team winning the game, and even if you’re carrying the team on your back with your amazing kill streak and combo moves, it won’t matter one bit if the rest of your team is slacking off. Now, that is to say that playing in the deathmatch format gives you more leeway to carry than say in the objective-based format. You actually have the opportunity to contribute to the score that wins the game for you, instead of having to push the payload in one direction for awhile.

I’ve played deathmatch games for as long as I can remember. When I first played Halo 3, for example, I was hugely into Team Slayer, which was essentially the same thing as Team Deathmatch. It involves picking up weapons throughout the map and letting them dictate how well you do in that mode. I also played deathmatch games in Call of Duty, specifically the Modern Warfare series and the first two games of that.

Nowadays, I play deathmatch mostly in Overwatch. It’s a game mode that’s sometimes available in the arcade, if I get lucky and log in at around the right time of the day for it to be available. It’s not always an option, which sucks.

I also went back to Halo: Reach again recently and that has Team Slayer as well, so it feels like going back home in some ways. Like I’m reverting to an old past.

#407: The Deathmatch, Part 1

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This blog post is going to be about deathmatch as a game mode.

Whenever I’ve played first-person shooter games, I’ve always gravitated away from the objective-based formats and more towards deathmatch fights. Here’s the major difference: objective formats have you work as a team to push a payload, capture a point, or hold a certain amount of ground, whereas deathmatch formats deal with killing the other team a certain amount of times to reach the end goal of 30, 40, 50, etc. It’s more exciting, in my opinion, and it allows for more relaxed, quick gameplay when you’re just focused on fragging your opponents and not so much on whether or not the payload is being pushed correctly.

This isn’t to say that those formats and game modes aren’t fun; they have their uses too. I like when I’m queued with a specific team and we go into battle together, as it means we’ll actually focus on the objective rather than if there was someone random on the team who might not focus on it at all. That tends to happen more often than not, and it leads to frustrating games. In deathmatch, the objective is so obvious that everyone is naturally doing it anyway: killing the enemy team is easy, fun, and quick.

Now, there are different ways of playing deathmatch. There’s the team deathmatch format, which involves teams of four or six people working together to take down the enemy team’s score, or there’s free for all deathmatch, in which you have to do it all by yourself. I don’t know if I have one I prefer over the other, but I’ve definitely put more time into free for all, if I’m being honest. That’s because it’s available more often on Overwatch, but that’s besides the point. It’s also just very fun.