Polyphasic Addiction

I posted on the Facebook group about my situation and asked for advice before seeing the doctor and everyone pretty much said to get a blood test, that I should just rest more, etc… But nothing really helped.

On Thursday, I’ve had enough of the headaches so I decided to do pretty much the one thing I thought of doing in the last three weeks but haven’t done yet: go back to polyphasic sleeping.

On Friday, I felt much better. Just a residual kind of headache. Still there but not very bothersome. I kept Maayan company at work and then we went to meet some friends for dinner.

On Saturday, the only thing that was left of the headache was a tiny fraction I could ignore. Everything felt better. The world looked better. I had more energy than I had in a while. I felt less stressed. Then we stayed up until 4:00 to finish a puzzle. <shrug>

And Sunday I went back to work. I’m not at a 100% yet but I put in a full day with no problem. I even napped properly and benefited from it.

And now I’m sitting here writing this. Yes, it’s after 2:00. But, besides some tiredness because, well, it’s 2:00 and I’m not reacclimated yet, I feel great. I don’t even feel a headache.

I posted an update to my Facebook thread about what I did and what happened. Then someone replied and said I’m addicted to polyphasic sleeping. I’m not sure it was meant as a completely comedic comment. And I’m starting to think there might be some truth to that.

Posted in Life, Me, Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with 2 comments.

מה המצב?

מה קורה? מה שלומכם? אני סבבה. יופי. אז מה הולך עם החיים שלי…

מעין התחילה עבודה חדשה. חלק מהחבר’ה שהיא מכירה מהחברה הקודמת. חלק חדשים. משרדים יפים בבית רובינשטיין ובינתיים היא מאוד אוהבת את המקום. אני מקווה לטוב.

ב”7 יסודות” אנחנו ממש לפני גרסה חשובה ולכן עובדים קצת עד מאוחר. לפי מה שמוסרים לי מההנהלה, המספרים שלנו טובים. המשחק מתפקד סבבה ויש הרבה שחקנים. אנחנו כרגע מתפקדים קצת מעל מה שמצפים שזה נהדר. אבל זה קצת מפחיד אותי שהולכים לדרוש מאיתנו יותר, משהו אולי לא כל כך מציאותי שלא נוכל לספק. אבל לדאוג לזה לא יעזור לי. אז ממשיכים.

ה-Global Game Jam 2016 הוא עוד שבוע וחצי. התכנון שלי הוא לבנות סוג של סיפור אינטראקטיבי ב-Twine, מין 80 Days רק עם גודל שיותר מתאים ל-Game Jam. כי Twine מאפשר לכתוב סיפורים אינטראקטיביים אבל יש לנו גם הרבה טווח לעשות דברים מתוחכמים יותר. אפשר באמת לתכנת בו, הוא תומך ב-JavaScript ו-CSS ואני חושב בעיקר על פונקציות האקראיות שלו ואיך אני יכול להשתמש בהן כדי לזרוק על השחקן אירועים שונים בכל פעם. פירסמו כבר את ה-diversifiers ואני חושב כבר שאני יכול לקלוע לכמה מהם. את העיקר של המשחק אני אבנה סביב הנושא אבל זה אני כבר יודע שאני רוצה לעשות. אני מחליט את כל זה מראש כי אני רוצה הפעם לעשות משהו משלי, משהו שאני אעבוד עליו בלבד (אולי אם קצת עזרה חזותית או קולית אם אצטרך) כדי לראות מה אני מסוגל לעשות רק בעצמי וגם כמה אני מסוגל למתוח את השימושיות של Twine. נתראה ב-Wix, מי שמגיע.

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I Watch Roleplaying Shows

Currently, I follow ‘Rollplay – Mirrorshades‘, ‘Rollplay – Swan Song‘ and ‘Critical Role‘, I watch the Acquisitions Inc. PAX games every year, I tried ‘Turn Order – Edge Runners‘ but didn’t quite like it, I, of course, watch the RPGs on TableTop when they happen and I just finished watching ‘Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana‘.

Why? Well, it’s fun. That’s the first thing. Secondly, I think there is a benefit to roleplayers from watching others play. Whether it is to get a different perspective, see what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong and probably change your style accordingly, especially if you enjoy what you see.

I started watching Mirrorshades because it’s Shadowrun and I love Shadowrun. Even if it’s first edition (which is weird) and I stayed because the players are very engaged, the GM is incredible, in preparation and performance, and it’s touching at times, has good action and mostly just funny and fun.

I stopped watching Edge Runners because that was almost the complete opposite. The GM was new and inexperienced. While I might fault the language use of the Mirrorshades crew, they know what they want and what they mean. They don’t fumble. That was not the case here. The players seem not that engaged and not that interesting and everyone seemed like they were trying too hard. And the story itself didn’t hook me.

Watching Critical Role is like watching the X-Games. The cast is all engaged with the story, they care about what happens. And even with eight players, everyone cares that everyone shines. And on top of that, being professional voice actors who love roleplaying games, they do special voices for their characters. And then, there’s the GM, also a voice actor, gives every NPC a style of their own and makes the story come alive, when doing routine investigation, dungeon crawling or clobbering monsters.

Acquisitions Inc. is composed of three web comics creators and usually one more writer. It’s managed by the current editor of the D&D line. And it’s a PAX show in and of itself. So, it’s high quality, high action and extremely funny. Truly, an experience not to miss.

Why should you watch Roleplaying Shows? You probably shouldn’t. Each episode, usually coming every week or two, is between three and five hours in length. And most of these shows, especially the good ones, already have a good track of episodes. So, catching up will take time. So, these are a serious drain on resources.

But if you’re interested in roleplaying, if you want to improve yourself or just enjoy watching the antics of good roleplayers have fun, then I consider it a good use of my time.

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Completion vs Just Progression

Here’s another interesting article I came upon called Progression is the New Victory. It talks about how games are not really completed anymore and about how a game could be never ending and boring or never ending and fun, mostly dependent on the progression system.

And it got me thinking: I played some mobile games that are supposed to be never ending, or at least very long, and they couldn’t hold my attention for very long and here comes Star Wars: Uprising and I’m hooked. And, apparently, it’s not just because it’s a Star Wars game. They do progression well. Especially since the latest patch.

First of all, the missions might be repetitive but they are not sufficiently difficult that I am currently stuck on two that are too difficult for me.

So what do I do in the meantime? My second point, you can always do something. Even if I run one of the standard missions, I get a sizable reward out of it whether it be money or upgrade materials or equipment I can trade for money or salvage for upgrade materials. And while progression might be a bit slow, it doesn’t feel like much of a grind because I’m getting something appropriate to my position in the game. It’s not skinning 10 wolves for 100 gold pieces.

Thirdly, the crew. You amass crew throughout the game which you can send on independent missions. They gather money, materials, gear, faction support or other crew members and, if you want, you can just check in every day or every few hours and make sure they are busy. Busy getting you stuff and improving your situation. So, if I’m stuck, like I am now, I just do this for a few days and I’ve got better stuff to work with so I can progress further.

Fourthly, the Sector Battles offer great rewards, even just for participating. They happen every few days and twist the regular gameplay mechanics. Missions and crew runs can now contribute to your side of the battle. The more you play, the more you contribute, the better your position in the battle is and the better the rebels do against the empire. The better the outcome, the more you contribute, the greater the reward. But even if you put in the minimum – send your crew on runs, do a couple of missions – you still get something significant.

And, with the latest patch, they added Tier II equipment and materials which are much better than Tier I and take the game to another level.

So, this game makes me think that a game can, basically, have very standard gameplay and even repetitive content and mechanics; but if the progression is fine tuned, it could be great.

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Remember Remember…

This is usually the day we remember The Gun Powder Treason and Plot, a staple of civil disobedience and unrest. It is good to remember that it is not only our privilege but our duty to take responsibility for our state and how it’s run. And we’re not talking only about elections.

It is also the day I remember Yitzhak Rabin, now dead for two decades, who is still, in my opinion, the last decent leader we had in this country. And no one has yet been able to fill his shoes.

And this year, because the previous two were recurring topics of conversation between us, I remember Keren Embar. She wasn’t here last November too. I regret we can never have those conversations again.

I don’t have time or presence of mind to write any more but check past November 5th post for ramblings of the same nature.

Posted in Humanity, Life, Life Lessons, Philosophy, Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with comments disabled.

The Less Interesting Telegram

אז טלגרם מנסים להיות טוויטר ואני בודק איך זה יכול לעבוד.

אם יש לכם טלגרם, אפשר לעקוב אחרי עדכונים תכופים יותר כאן.

עוד לא יודע איך לשלב את העדכונים האלו פה אבל בטוח מישהו יוציא תוסף בקרוב.

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About Cheating

I’m not ashamed of it. I publicise it. Like recreational drugs, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it as long as you don’t hurt anyone else or destroy your internal organs.

Every time I think of cheating, I remember a point when I was still in high school and my big brother’s friend’s mom managed our high school’s computer classes so we could pretty much have free reign there during the weekends. So, we went there and played Diablo from dusk until dawn. And even then I had my hands in it deep and I knew exactly how to break the game’s economy in the player’s favour (the item dupe cheat still worked wonderfully). And one weekend, while we were playing, one of my brother’s friends called me over and asked me to explain to him how I cheated. He explained his philosophy on that. He said, that he finished the game, through and through, the way it was intended and now he was interested in doing it another way. And that’s completely ok. And there are also other reasons.

Right now, I cheat in games for two reasons: the main one is that I don’t have a lot of time. I’m a working man (or as one might put it, a workaholic) and I have a wife and so my gaming time is usually limited to maybe an hour before bed, an hour or two in the morning and a bit more during the weekends. I can no longer come home and spend 6 to 8 hours trying to do a perfect run of Dragon’s Lair. Right now, “grind” is a time killer I can’t stand. So I cheat, mostly for the money in games. And so, if Terraria tells me that I’ve found Titanium but I have to go scour the bowls of the earth to find enough for the full armour set, I say “Screw you, Terraria”, go edit the save file and make sure I have enough of it.

The second reason I do it is because I find it fun. Figuring out a way to pass game obfuscation tech and figure out the weird ways some games save data or sometimes just messing with the game data so that my Luftrauser fires thousands of fire and forget missiles while making anything it touches explode is just hilarious to me.

But again, I never do it to gain an unfair advantage over other people, only over the game. I mod Torchlight so I can have five-slotted, infinitely enchanted legendary sets but I’ll never take my super-duper Vault Hunter into a PvP match. Because I still have respect for the proper way to play the game and I keep my cheating to myself (unless I can give someone else one of those legendaries, because it’s the nice thing to do).

I’m talking about all of this now because I’ve recently read a Gamasutra article about cheating in Candy Crush Saga. They interviewed plenty of people about what they do, how they cheat and what they consider moral and immoral, right and wrong, good and evil…

If this subject interests you, it’s a worthwhile read. And while it can be debated whether cheating at Candy Crush is hurting someone, I’m still not ashamed of it and I don’t believe it’s something that must be kept hush hush in polite society. It’s like some might say that to truly experience The Witcher I must play on the Dark difficulty. I don’t have time to slog through the difficult and complex combat encounters but I would still like to experience the world and the story, so I play on a lower difficulty setting. And it’s why I don’t play Dark Souls. I can understand why some people want to, even if they technically spend about a hundred times the time it will take to do flawless run of the game. I don’t enjoy that, I would rather play other games.

I believe complaining about cheating and about the difficulty path some people take is petty and childish. Because, honestly, if I couldn’t cheat past a money obstacle or if I couldn’t prevent my health from degrading just so I can push past the boss that’s killed me a dozen times already, I would probably go play something else. But I don’t like to leave things unfinished, what ever the finish state might look like. And so, Cheat Engine is my friend.

P.S. I’ve been thinking about joining the Let’s Play movement and that I’ll need to put up a disclaimer before each game that I might cheat if it means spending less time during the game’s more boring bits.

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How NOT to Give Everyone a Fair Salary

Company Testing Standardized Salaries Is Struggling

I think what they did there was just plain wrong. The way to equalize salary considerations is not to give everyone, from the newest hires to the CEO, the same salary. That is a sure fire way of causing discontent.

What they need is to give the newest, lowest ranking hires a fair base salary and then, from there, calculate everyone’s salary based on veterancy, responsibility and, most importantly, merit.

And I think it’s ok for people to know their co-workers salary. There’s no reason I can think of to hide salaries that is for the employee’s benefit. If there’s a difference between my salary and someone else’s, I want to know that, if I have a higher one, there’s a good reason for it. And if there isn’t, maybe I shouldn’t get one. And, if it’s lower, I want to know what that other person did to ingratiate themselves upon the management so I can do it too and get paid better for it.

For example, if someone is getting paid more than me because they have a year of company time on me, I think that’s fair. If they get paid more because they are very reliable and help whenever asked, I want to do that too. If they get paid more because they handle 3 times more responsibilities then me… well, there’s not a lot I can do about it but that’s fair.

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From Stretching to Grind

It is a common practice in game design to try to stretch out the length of a game by padding out the content. This could be done by insidiously layering out difficult, repeating levels or by simply varying out the already introduced elements into new configurations.

I’ve recently thought about this after seeing a few new puzzle games. I have quite a low tolerance for those unless they introduce something really interesting (i.e. Ronin) and even then, they should probably be short enough to not over stay their welcome. And so, when looking at those puzzle games, I played two or three levels, understood what they’re doing with it, and decided it wasn’t interesting enough to invest time in.

The problem is, again, a conflict of expectations, exacerbated by the sheer quantity of quality games out there. Meaning, if I’m playing a game that I’m not enjoying as much as I thought I would and I know I have other games that will be at least as enjoyable if not more, why should I keep playing?

I’ll take a look at it using three examples I think, at least in my case, symbolise different levels of padding/grind vs my innate interest in those genres of play: The role of grand strategy game will be played by Civilization: Beyond Earth. The role of the endless runner will be played by Relic Run. And the role of the Action RPG will be played by Path of Exile.

Grand Strategy / Civilization: Beyond Earth

The Civ games are very highly regarded and while the series had its ups and downs, Beyond Earth did take some brave leaps and it did try to channel the old Alpha Centauri game — which I dearly love. And so, playing it, I did recognise its harking to the old days, the interesting new mechanics they added and the overall effort invested in the game. However, after a couple of decades playing games, especially with how the scene changed in recent years, adding a massive amount of new quality titles, I realised that of all the games I play and/or played, the grand strategy genre, even if Civilization doesn’t quite fit that categorisation, isn’t one of my top favourites. While I like tactical games like X-Com or real time strategy games like Starcraft, when the strategy gets so grand like the Civs, I’m not really into it, despite all the good design that went into it.

And it’s even difficult to call Beyond Earth padded. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. And the way I like it, I played small, tight games, on dense worlds to force a lot of interaction. But it didn’t help. I played half a game and then I quit, never looking back.

Endless Runner / Relic Run

Endless runners have been around for a while. And while it might not be the first of its kind, the populariser of the genre is most likely Canabalt. And Canabalt is great. It’s simple, it stretches its mechanics only slightly and it lasts just as long as it should, having only score to signify how good you are and your “progression” in the game.

Relic Run is one of the latest entries to the genre, taking Lara Croft as its main character and thrusting her into endless tracks full of coins, relics and other tidbits. And Relic Run introduces a lot of things, especially if your base is Canabalt: Like many other runners, it has collectable coins; from an over the shoulder 3rd person perspective it features side stepping as well as jumping and sliding; in certain places you need to perform special “parkour” moves or fail; it has wall running segments, thus shifting the perspective, as well as ATV segments, which twists the basic mechanic slightly; it also has shooting segments, shifting it more towards the shooting gallery genre, and boss battles which are staged shooting segments; and it offers play area progression and purchasable upgrades.

It’s interesting, it’s engaging, it offers a lot of variety to the regular play and so should be playable for a long time. But, in my mind, they fucked up the progression speed. And my main problem is the fact that they almost had it. It was just a little bit too grindy: The collection of coins was a little bit too slow; the prices of the upgrades, especially the single use ones, were a little bit too high; the hard currency was a little bit too sparse; the random bonuses were a little bit too random and meaningless.

I am pretty ambivalent about endless runners. I enjoy the occasional Canabalt run when I’m bored and have a few minutes to kill but I never really engaged with the genre. I liked Relic Run but then I realised what it would take to actually get some meaningful progress and enjoyment out of it and decided that I have better ways to spend my time.

Action RPG / Path of Exile

I love action RPGs. It’s one of my favourite genres. I started with Diablo and I think my Steam count of over 200 hours invested in Torchlight 2 would attest to my devotion. So, when I heard that a very ethical free to play one is coming out, I was genuinely excited. Especially when I found out what they were doing with it (The single interconnected progression tree, the socketed gem-based skill system and the varied economy).

I played in the beta for a little while to get the feel of it but I wanted to save my experience for when the game was complete. And when it came out, I hopped on, playing it at almost any opportunity. Progression was speedy at first and I quickly made it to the second act. But then I started to fill the grind. I realised that I wasn’t getting a lot of the currency items, that I wasn’t getting a lot of XP and that big mobs and bosses were starting to really kick my ass. And I was playing a very defensive, survival build. That’s when I thought I should have known better.

Being free to play comes with caveats. And it was probably accentuated, being very ethical. As the only remotely mechanical thing you can buy is extra stash pages — with the rest being only visual upgrades with no mechanical influence — what Grinding Gear Games did to enhance the possibility of a purchase is to extend the time it takes to complete the game as much as possible. And as the game content is completely hand made, no procedural generation, the way to do that is to slow down the players. And they overdid it. I quit playing a very good action RPG with some very interesting mechanics I enjoyed, just because of the grind.

Surprise Appearance / Hearthstone

Blizzard’s computer card game is, in my view of the stretching for payment vs grinding situation, meta-stable, teetering on the edge and threatening to fall into the grind side. Hearthstone is free to play and although you can pay for a form of progression – that is, card packs – it’s not pay to win. You still need to build a good deck, count on some luck, know your opponent and play well. “inferior” decks can beat “superior” ones if played well. And you can also get the same random packs you pay real money for using the game’s soft, earned currency. It just takes longer. And that’s understandable. They want to get paid after all.

So what’s with the teetering bit? It’s because of the way you get that soft currency. To get it, you need to complete daily quests. You only get a new one once a day; And you need to play the casual/ranked play mode or the arena. And they don’t really change. And thus, they get tedious after a while. To the point that after completing the Naxxramas adventure, peaking at rank 15 on the ladder, and playing a few arena games, I quit playing for a few weeks. I only really returned to play the new Blackrock Mountain adventure.

So it’s not really teetering, it fell into the grind pit a while ago, right? Almost correct. It was rescued by the Tavern Brawl mode. Tavern Brawl keeps it interesting. It changes every week, bringing a new style of play and, the cherry on top, you’re guaranteed to get a new card pack with every new brawl style. So, the rate of progression is up, the variety of play is up and all seems well in the kingdom of Azeroth.

The only problem I see right now: How long can they keep this up?

Posted in Gaming, Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with 1 comment.

The Kill With Skill Debate

Or “Why Wolfenstein – The New Order is better than Bulletstorm in making players do things a bit differently (Except, maybe, driving a dinosaur into combat)”.

What’s the deal with that headline?

One of the tag lines for the 2011 Bulletstorm was “Kill with Skill”. It was a core mechanic of the game. It’s something that garnered a lot of praise for the game. And it was one of the things that annoyed me the most about it.

No, I meant, what the hell does it mean?

Oh. In Bulletstorm, you get points for killing fashionably. When you shoot a guy in the face, that’s a couple of points. If you pull him towards you, kick him back, blast him in half with the shotgun and then shoot the pieces with the rocket launcher. That’s a heck of a lot of points. And these points are your currency in the game.

Ok… What’s the problem with that? It sounds cool.

It sounds cool. And that’s about where it ends. In Bulletstorm, ammo and health drops are scarce. You get most of your boosts from some sort of recharge station you find all around and they only accept those points. Otherwise, you can’t get ammo. And that’s annoying.

So, what’s the big problem? Just kill the stuff the way the game says.

It gets tedious. Extremely tedious, extremely fast. You know how when everything is special, nothing is? Well, when every kill needs to be fancy, then no kill is. And some times I don’t want to pull, push, shred and blast someone, I just want a clean bullet in the head.

Ok. I can grok that. So how does Wolfenstein do it better?

The New Order has a perk system. It works by rewarding you for your preferred playstyle. And you can play however you like and get bonuses for that. And you can mix and match and get all the bonuses or not. So, let’s say you like to go stealthy? No problem, perform X amount of thrown knives kills to get an extra knife slot. You like to go guns blazing? Sure, get Y kills in 10 seconds with a hand held turret for more battery on all laser weapons. You like making things ‘splode? Get enemies to drop grenades and die from it for extra grenade slots. And so on. You can do these things for minor “Perks” but you don’t really have to. They don’t hamper the game if you don’t. So they become interesting tidbits you can seek out for pleasure or for a little extra edge, but you don’t feel bad or, especially, crippled if you don’t.

I can see where you’re going with this.

Yes. I did one complete playthrough and unlocked about two thirds of the perks. Then I did another with a bonus mode so no perks but I could have gotten up to about three quarters. Just for the fun of it. Killing commanders with grenades is just plain hilarious. Getting enemies to drop their grenades and kill themselves is too much work. So I did what ever I wanted and nothing more. And it was great to get a speed boost for stealthy movement or an armor bonus every dual wield kill but it was nothing world changing. Much better than Bulletstorm’s “Do it like that, or else…”

I’m just a disembodied voice in your head. You can make me say whatever you want.

Yay. So, I win!

By the way, what’s the deal with the dinosaur?

Bulletstorm lacks on mechanics and gameplay but the story is great, the acting matches, the music is awesome and at one point you get a remote controlled dinosaur. So it might be worth your trouble, anyway.

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