Dark Souls II - title

I recently posted my much-belated review of Dark Souls II. In it, I criticized the game for having lackluster online components, but didn't go into much detail other than to say that Soul Memory seems like a non-optimal matchmaking method and that invasions are rare and reserved for elite players. I wanted to take a moment to go over some of the other complaints that I have with the game's online mechanics, as well as to offer some suggestions for improving them. While it seems unlikely that From will make significant mechanical changes at the fundamental levels that I am about to propose, the fact that there is still at least one more DLC incoming means they have the opportunity to do so.

Dark Souls II - tutorial effigy
Human Effigies were too rare to be
the only means of revival.

When the game initially released, humanity could only be restored by consuming a Human Effigy. This mechanic was an interesting departure, since the previous games had both relied on defeating bosses as the primary way of reviving. The idea of requiring a consumable item to restore humanity wasn't exactly earth-shattering or fundamentally broken, but the specific implementation had one major flaw: Human Effigies were very rare, and there was no way to farm them!

This made deaths feel extremely punitive and proved unpopular with players and critics, and so From reversed their design and went back to granting revivals from boss kills.

After the 1.03 patch, maintaining your humanity has become almost trivial. This is mostly due to the fact that the White Soapstone can be placed anywhere in the level (including right outside a boss's fog gate), and that players can use the Small Soapstone to fully restore humanity by spending a couple minutes killing standard enemies. By using the Small Soapstone, you spend a few minutes in another player's world, and killing enemies shortens this duration. At the end, you are sent back to your own world with fully restored health, humanity, item condition, estus, and a small reward (usually a Smooth & Silky Stone).

Revival via the Small Soapstone makes it far too easy to keep your humanity. It requires only a minimal investment of time and effort, and you don't even have to beat a boss to fulfill it. This practically nullifies the cumulative loss of health from hollowing and makes it almost trivial to maintain humanity throughout most of the game.

Dark Souls II - small soapstone duty complete
The Small White Soapstone can be used to easily restore full humanity - sometimes without any effort by the player!
Instead of full restoration, it should provide a partial restoration.

Fixing this imbalance seems easy enough: completing the Small Soapstone task should only partially restore the player's humanity. Instead of a full restore, the player's max HP could be restored equivalent to a single death...

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Continuing my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's modified civilizations, I'm going to take a look at strategies for Arabia. Arabia received a modest revision in Brave New World out of the box, having its national trait moderately redesigned. The old city connection economic focus has been regeared towards Brave New World's new trade route mechanic, and a religious buff was also added to make this civ more compelling for Gods & Kings mechanics.

The majority of the Arabian peninsula is harsh desert, and so massive human settlement did not begin until the rise of the Islamic empires of the middle ages. In the early seventh century, the Prophet Muhammad began preaching the tenets of Islam in Mecca and Medina, which united several Arabian tribes and led to the establishment of the Caliphate, an Islamic empire that began to extend its influence across the peninsula and beyond. In the mid seventh century, the Caliphate began conquering territory from the Byzantine empire and they completely destroyed the once-powerful Persian empire that had dominated the region since antiquity. At its height, the Caliphate extended from Portugal, Spain, and Morocco in the west, all the way to the borders of India in the east. Arabia's position as a crossroads between west and east made it a center for powerful trading hubs, and Arabian engineers and scientists developed advanced new mathematical concepts. Goods, knowledge, and religious beliefs from both ends of the known world (and beyond) often passed through Arabian trading bazaars, and much of the knowledge of the classical Greeks and Romans were preserved by Islamic scholars, eventually contributing to the European Renaissance centuries later.

Civilization V - Harun al-Rashid

Harun al-Rashid ruled during the mid eighth century during the Caliphate's golden age. He has been strongly romanticized by Arabian authors and scholars, and has even been mythologized in tales included in the Book of One Thousand and One Nights. He was known as a sharp political, intellectual, and military mind, but it is difficult to separate factual accounts from fictitious ones. Even his exact birth date is debatable. He was Caliph during one of the greatest periods of expansion of the early caliphates, but he also almost destroyed the Caliphate by dividing the empire among his sons instead of naming a single heir. This led to prolonged civil war between the sons, but the Caliphate did survive the turmoil.

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UNLV Running Rebels logo

This weekend, I had the displeasure of sitting through one of the most disappointingly ugly football games that I've ever seen. UNLV squeked out a 13-12 victory over the Division II college football team Northern Colorado, in a game in which UNLV was favored by over 25 points. UNLV came into the season with high expectations after making it to a bowl game last year, but this weekend's game may have shattered those expectations for me.

I wasn't terribly worried after week 1's lopsided defeat at the hands of Arizona. UNLV was facing a tough PAC-12 foe that I didn't expect UNLV to seriously compete with. But this week's game against a Division II school was [for me] the benchmark for the season. If UNLV blew them out, then there season would seem to have potential. But if UNLV lost this game, then they would look like the same Rebels team that struggled to win 2 games in Hauck's first three years as head coach.

UNLV's Blake Decker loses his helmet

Losing his helmet was the least of quarterback Blake Decker's worries.

What I got instead was a very indecisive, nail-biting victory that has left me very unsure as a fan.

UNLV's offense looked abysmal all game long, as starting quarterback Blake Decker's poor decisions almost threw the game away. Fortunately, the defense played well enough to hold on, and Norther Colorado's special teams failed to make the plays that could have won them the game.

There was one play early in the game that stood out to me as a bad omen. Hauck called a reverse flea flicker gadget play while UNLV was up 7-0 in the first quarter. The pass was intercepted, and seemed to give Northern Colorado a burst of adrenaline ...

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UPDATE (September 9, 2014, 2:45 PM Pacific Time)

Shortly after publishing this blog, I came across a forum post that contradicts the information presented in this blog post. As such, I will review the actual source code in the Civilization V dll, do some more testing with the game, and revise the post as necessary. In the meantime, I'll leave the unaltered post here, for posterity. I apologize for the inconvenience.

 

Civilization V

A lot of buildings in Civilization V mention that they are affected by tiles or resources "near the city", but this quality of being "near a city" is poorly-defined within the game. So what exactly does it mean? I haven't seen any in-depth articles about this topic on the web or in the game's Civilopedia, so I thought I'd outline the important bits here.

Basically, a tile is "near" a city if that city was the first city in its respective empire to claim that tile within its workable radius.

So if you have a single tile or resource that lies between two cities, and both cities' workable ranges overlap that same tile, then that tile is not "near" both cities. It is only "near" the first city that owned that tile. This means that if you go into the city management screen and assign the second city to work that tile, it may receive yield bonuses associated with any improvements or buildings that affect it (such as the stable buffing pasture resources), but the tile's contents will not be considered "near" that second city for other purposes. This includes:

  • requirement of an improved Horse or Ivory to build a Circus,
  • requirement of an improved Horse, Cow, or Sheep to build a Stable,
  • requirement of an improved Iron to build a Forge,
  • requirement of an improved Stone or Marble to build a Stone Works,
  • requirement of an improved Gold or Silver to build a Mint,
  • wonder production bonus from nearby Marble,
  • requirement that the city be adjacent to a Mountain in order to build an Observatory,
  • trade route income from resource diversity,
  • and so on...

Say you have two cities (for example Rome and Antium) whose workable ranges overlap a pastured Horse. Rome was the first city to claim the Horse tile. Rome can, therefore, build a Circus (assuming Trapping has been researched). If you go to the management screen of Antium, you can assign it to work the Horse tile (which prevents Rome from being able to work that tile), but Antium still cannot build a Circus. That is, two cities cannot build a building that requires they both have the same tile.

Civilization V - Rome has horses Civilization V - Antium doesn't have horses
[LEFT] Rome has annexed a tile containing horses and is building a Circus.
[RIGHT] Later, that tile overlaps with Antium's workable radius, but it cannot build a Circus because the horse was originally claimed by Rome.

Alternatively, if a resource is claimed by a city's culture, but is outside of a city's workable radius (four tiles or more away), then it never counts as "near" that city...

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Silent Hills - playable teaster title

As most internet-savvy Silent Hill fans know, the recent rumors regarding Hideo Kojima working on a Silent Hill game are true. Konami stealthily released a hidden teaser for the project within a demo for a fake game (called "P.T.") being made by a fake studio (7780 Studios).

I don't currently own a PS4, since there haven't been any interesting games out for it yet (although Bloodborne and No Man's Sky both look like they sell me a console). As such, I was a little bit late in getting a chance to actually play the "P.T." demo, but I finally was able to play it on a friend's PS4 over the Labor Day weekend. Given my strong opinions regarding the Silent Hill franchise, I thought I'd weigh in on this whole teaser thing.

It is, however, important to note that "P.T." is just an announcement teaser, and not an actual demo. As such, it is not necessarily representative of the final game - and in fact, the demo clearly states this in the final cutscene. So the demo doesn't really tell us much about the gameplay or story of the new Silent Hill game. At least not directly. And so any conclusions that any one comes to will need to be taken with some degree of skepticism.

P.T. - hallway ghost
The hallway is almost a character in and of itself, and it is gorgeously rendered in Kojima's Fox Engine.

Considering my nature as a Silent Hill "purist", I'm skeptical and cynical about any new developments in the franchise. As such, I'm going to begin by getting my concerns and fears regarding this project out of the way...

UPDATE (September 23, 2014 3:30 PM Pacific Time):
New Silent Hills teaser video released at last week's Tokyo Game Show

Last week, Konami and Hideo Kojima presented a new teaser video for Silent Hill at the Tokyo Game Show. I was going to write a post about my impressions from this video, but there's not enough new information to warrant a whole new post. You can view the video below:

The new video is very short, and doesn't give away much in terms of the narrative direction of the new game. In fact, it's probably just another "proof of concept" project, and not actually representative of the final product...

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to opinions about video games and the video game industry. But occasionally, I talk about other stuff too. Feel free to read about the blog.

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'Silent Hill' is NOT about 'repressed guilt'; it's about occultism!'Silent Hill' is NOT about 'repressed guilt'; it's about occultism!03/04/2014 I was going through the comments on my posts a while back, and I came across a doozy of a comment by user Maiden T. I'm not going to replicate the entire post here, but you can review the comment at the link provided. In summary, the user asserts that Silent Hill, as a series, was never about occultism, and that all the games...

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‘Backbreaker’ offers failed potential‘Backbreaker’ offers failed potential10/10/2012 This review was originally published 06/21/2010 on Game Observer (now defunct as of 05/13/2014). It has been republished (and updated) here for archival purposes. Less like a game of pro football, and more like a pick-up game with 100 people who don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve been waiting for Backbreaker for years, following...