Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hardly Egg-sceptional, On Pokemon Go's Egg Mechanics

If you are like a third of smartphone users, you've logged into Pokemon Go and tried to catch them all.  You've probably also gotten an egg from a pokestop, and had it taunt you into walking several KM to see what was inside (and if you are like this writer, your first several eggs contained the same crappy pokemon that are infesting your house).  Eggs have a lot of interesting things going for them.  They have a clear hatching mechanic that is not based on chance (unless you count the chance of Go reading your GPS coordinates and calculating distance right), you can get any pokemon in the rarirty bands, regardless of region, and it is very easy to get eggs from pokestops (I've been sitting at nine eggs for some time, and only dip below that between hatching and visiting a stop).  So, what's my beef with the egg system?  It feels like it was designed for a totally different game.

It seems simple.  Throw egg in incubator, walk a bit, egg hatches, repeat.  The problem is a fewfold.  The first is that the incubators seem like a blatant gating mechanic/money grab.  The odds of getting one are either very low, or artificially capped so you only get one "extra" one at a time (let's face it, hatching 9 eggs at once would be awesome).  The number of eggs you can hatch is drastically lower than the number you can reasonably get in the same timeframe, because of the combination of low incubators for non-paying people and the cap on eggs at 9.  I feel that if there was an intentional gate, it should have been set up in the rarity of getting eggs from pokestops.  Instead of getting one at every other stop until I had 9, why not make it somewhat rarer?  Or tie it to the number I have, so it is easy to get 3 or 4 total, but beyond that I'd better hatch some.

The second problem lies in the core mechanics of Go itself.  In order to power up and evolve pokemon, you need candies.  You get candies by catching or hatching a member of that species, or by transferring one, but at a third of the rate.  Since most single evolution species require 50 candies to evolve (13 catches and transfers) you aren't going to be able to reliably evolve pokemon that aren't in your area.  Say I get a Voltorb (he's not that rare, got him from a 5k egg).  If I want to evolve him into an Electrode, I need 50 candies, and I only have 3 from hatching him.  Voltorb isn't in my region (I assume, I know pokemon are unlocked as you level, and haven't seen him).  So now, I have to get lucky enough to hatch 12-13 more Voltorbs (and since eggs can contain any pokemon in the rarity band, that's going to be hard) or trade for 47 voltorbs (with trading being local only atm, that's not reasonable).  God help me if I have a really rare or desirable pokemon.

So, I can get eggs easily, but hatching them and making use of their pokemon is tedious and limited at best.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On Pokemon Go

It has been quite a long time since I've last posted.  Lots of things have changed in my life since the last post just under a year ago.  I've bought a new house, got a new job, and have finally realized my dream of a regular D&D night.  The most interesting development, however, has been my wife wanting to play Pokemon Go.  She is far from a regular gamer, but unfortunately, our experiences with Go have been a little disappointing.  Here's a breakdown of the good and the bad for Go.

The Good:

  1. Catching them all in real life!  Let's face it, since Generation 1, we have wanted to experience pokemon in the real world, and Go finally allows us to do that.  We even get to "throw" the pokeball.  There's something quite immersive to walking down the street and feeling your phone buzz (and you don't even need to scuff your shoes by walking around in the tall grass).
  2. Gym Control: Not only do pokemon gyms exist in the real world, you can challenge the gym leader and take control of them.  Add in the fun fact that major landmarks like the White House and the Pentagon are gyms for additional coolness factor (and yes, someone is the gym leader of those locations.  Enjoying some Go, Mr. Obama?).
  3. The Community: Ingress ended up with a decent community, but Go has absolutely exploded it.  There are only a small handful of players around my area, but I regularly see people playing (not something that ever happened with Ingress around even the heavily portalled areas I worked at).  The game has been out for a week, and it has blown away so many records. 

The Bad:

  1. Performance: There have been a number of server issues, app freezing, and other problems.  Not the best thing for the release week, particularly after such issues should have been found in a beta.  There can be some excuse for this because of the explosion of the game (which seemed to beat all expectations).
  2. Lack of Features: For a game that took 2 years to develop, and is using a lot of Ingress things on the backend, this game has an utter lack of features.  No battles outside of gyms.  The only way to evolve and advance pokemon is by catching crap-tons of the same species and selling them to the professor for candies (which are specific to the species).  This naturally limits the rarer species of pokemon in power and evolution levels.
  3. Distribution of Pokestops and Gyms: You pretty much have two options.  You either are in a pokestop and gym heavy area, or you are severely lacking them.  Every church and library is a pokestop, so every town should have at least one or two.  However, my town is a fairly big suburb.  There are six pokestops spread across several square miles.  The nearest ones to me are across a busy highway about a half mile away.  It would be nice to be able to "build" a pokestop and gain some benefit for doing so.  As it is, it is a pain to go restock pokeballs.

Go is supposed to be on a very aggressive release schedule (measured in weeks) and they are supposed to be improving the game drastically.  It is an awesome first step into the "augemented reality" pokemon experience.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Imperial Destiny Page 26

     The Ixillin shuttle was fairly mundane.  It was little more than a box with thrusters, not even a viewport.  The interesting thing about it was that it was flown remotely, unlike Imperial shuttles, which required a pilot in the vessel.  Prallan wished it had been a little more alien and exciting, but the ship undocked with a fluid ease and flew towards its parent ship.  During the flight, Prallan was left completely alone with his thoughts and worries about this particular mission.  He wondered why he was going instead of Rickler or Itran, but before he could think very hard on that matter, the ship shuddered and a hiss announced that it was docked with its parent ship.

     "Please remain calm as the depressurization process is begun." A calm, female voice echoed through the cabin.  The hiss grew in intensity, and Prallan felt the air grow thinner.  "Please follow the lighted walkways to the receiving area."  Beneath his feet, a pair of yellow lines flashed on the shuttle's bulkhead, and Prallan followed them out of the small craft and into the mother ship.  It led him into a large room, twice the size of his quarters on the Hermus, which was sparsely furnished with a small metal table and a few oversized chairs.  Prallan waited by them, watching the hatch opposite the room where he entered.  Soon a large hairy creature entered the room, its face obscured by a metal and polymer mask, carrying a tray with a small vessel full of liquid and a smaller cup.  It wore a robe, covering its torso and lower body, but the visible hair on its body was orange and striped black.  Its eyes had a feline cast to them, though most of its face was obscured by the mask.

     "Xilishar T'agatar, Lieutenant Prallan Tigrole of the IES Hermus.  Many sunrises to greet you and sunsets to lull you to rest." The voice was soft, what Prallan would consider feminine, though there was nothing distinguishing gender from what he could see.  "I am Zixirius, ambassador of the Ixillin Collective.  Forgive me for not showing my face clearly, but while what you consider breathable air is not toxic to my kind, it is very uncomfortable to breath without assistance."

     "May the Emperor bless this meeting, Zixirius, and may your flame never sputter." Prallan returned what he thought was an equal greeting to the sunrise one.  He had taken one required class on xenobiological interaction, but it had been woefully inadequate at explaining anything.  The Empire had limited contact with outside species.  "I take no offense to your mask, and I thank you for accommodating my needs."

     "Please, Lieutenant Prallan Tigrole, sit and partake of the offering of tea."  Prallan sat in one of the chairs, and Zixirius took the opposite.  The Ixillin poured the liquid from the larger vessel into the cup, and offered it to him.  "I offer you the tea of the Chintira Tree.  We offer tea in remembrance of our forebearers, who upon reaching the stars found peace among our neighbors for a time.  Do not fear, this blending is safe for your biology."  Prallan took the cup, and drank of the tea.  It was extremely bitter and burned his throat slightly, but he trusted that it would not kill him outright.  "Chintira Tea for understanding and peace.  May we have peace between us."

     "My people too desire peace." Prallan said, setting the cup on the table.  "I offer you a gift of peace."  From a pocket in his uniform, Prallan pulled out a small metal box with an intricate hinge.  He set it on the table and pressed down on the center of the hinge, causing it to spring open.  Inside was a tiny delicate flame, burning with no kindling or fuel.  "This is a Pyrin shard, a piece of our star, blessed by the Emperor himself.  It will burn until the fervor of the last true Imperial is quenched, and is a sign of the friendship offered to your people."  Zixirius was mesmerized by the flame that required no fuel  "In addition to friendship, my people ask to exchange starmaps of our territories, to better know this region of space, and also permission for our vessel to pass into your territory to continue our mission of exploration."

     "We will gladly share our knowledge of the stars with you, but we cannot permit your entry into our space for your own safety.  There is a constant radiation storm that permeates our entire space.  Until your vessels can shield themselves from it, you will not be able to safely traverse our space."

     "Couldn't you just provide us that technology?  It would be years or decades before we could create such shielding."

     "We believe that this protects us.  If you spend a great effort learning to shield yourself from the storms, you are not likely to give away such secrets to others easily.  We have had to wipe out friends who became enemies after being given this technology.  Better that you earn your right to it, and prove to us your commitment to friendship.  We will, of course, provide data on the effects of the radiation and any relevant readings."

     "Thank you, I understand your reluctance to...." Prallan stopped mid-sentence as the room began to spin.  "reluctance to..."  he was having trouble completing his sentence, and then he noticed the worried look on Zixirius's face.

     "Forgive me, Lieutenant Prallan Tigrole, the tea has taken effect too early.  Your biology processes things faster than we anticipated."  Vibrant colors erupted around the room.  "Please remain calm, this is the gift of the tea.  All will be made clear shortly."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Imperial Destiny - Page 25

     Prallan woke with a start from a horrid nightmare.  Fleets of the insect ships had just appeared around the Jinar and had ripped the smaller ship apart in moments.  It took him a few minutes before he realized what had awakened him.  An alarm was sounding on the console next to him.  Not the alarm he had set to wake him, which should be in four hours, but a summons to the bridge.  He rose out of the empty bed quickly, pulling on his uniform.


      Prallan stepped onto the bridge, where Rickler and Itran were already waiting.  Through the forward viewport, another ship sat in space facing the Hermus.  It was much larger than the exploration vessel, and looked like a double helix of metal, joined at the front by a metal cone.

     "XO" Rickler said.  "I have a mission for you."  He nodded to the front viewport.  "We've made peaceful contact with these beings.  They call themselves the Ixillin, and have claims on several nearby systems.  We need their permission to continue in this direction, and their maps and trade are invaluable."

     "Yes, sir."  Prallan said.  "What is the mission?"

      "I'm sending you over to their ship to negotiate."

      "Yes, sir.  How am I going over there?  We don't have shuttles."

      "The Ixillin have provided a shuttlecraft.  It is docked at airlock two."

      "Aye, sir."  Prallan said, heading to the door.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Party Raid - Rogue and Rogue Cards

     The Rogue is the party's solution to nasty traps and other surprises.  He also does a decent amount of burst damage, but is reliant on other party members to get him into position.  He is not as much of a glass cannon as the Wizard, but also doesn't do as much consistent damage.

     Health: 12
     Attack: 2
     Defense: 2
     Ability 1: Evasion: Can attempt to evade one attack per round.  Evading has a success chance of 5% per stealth point.  Uses all stealth points, regardless of success or failure.
     Ability 2: Sneak Attack: Gains 2 damage per player attacking the same target.  Can attempt a sneak attack that increases this damage to 4 per player with a 5% success chance per stealth point.  Uses all stealth points, regardless of success or failure.  (for the purposes of this ability, a minion or creature attacking a target counts as that minion or creature’s owner attacking the target).

     Some example cards:

      Ring of Invisibility (treasure):
      Equip: 3
      Effect: Gain 1 stealth point per turn.  At the end of your turn, if you have not dealt damage this turn, gain an additional 2 stealth points.

      Denarian Triblade:  
      Costs: 2  
      Equip: 1   Effect: deal 4 damage to an enemy.  Flip a coin, if heads the triblade is unequipped.  If tails, the triblade is destroyed.

      Throwing Dagger: 
      Cost 1 
      Equip: 1 
      Effect:  May unequip to deal 2 damage.  Generates 1 stealth point each time it is equipped.

     Cost: 2
     Effect:  Removes one Minor trap (up to 3 converted cost).

    Cost: 4
    Effect: removes one Major Trap (up to 6 converted cost).

    Assassinate (Instant)
    Cost: 4
    Effect: Instantly strike one opponent.  Flip a coin.  If heads, deal 4 + your normal damage.  If tails, you deal your normal damage.

    Cost: 3
    Persist: 2
    Effect: Whenever you are subject to an attack, flip a coin.  If heads, the attack misses, if tails, it is resolved normally.  Can be used in conjunction with Evasion.

    Dirty Fighting (Instant)
    Cost: 2
    Effect: Can only be played when an ally attacks.  Grants the ally the ability to use the Rogue's Sneak Attack ability as if he had 5 stealth points (including the +2 to damage if another ally had attacked the enemy this turn).  Does not exhaust the Rogue's stealth points.

     Looking at these cards, and the play example, its clear that the rogue tries to stay alive in any way possible, and helps the party both through removal of traps, early looting of treasure (without lockpicking, the treasure wouldn't be available until after the encounter) and burst damage.  The rogue suffers against opponents with high defenses, and can definitely use buffs and assistance whenever possible.  If an ally doesn't attack, and the rogue is unbuffed, even with boosts to his attack, he may not get through tougher opponents.  He will really start to shine later in the game, when he has some equipment and treasure to make up for these minor downfalls.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 24

     The alien's body was like something out of a horror movie.  It had four arms, each ending in a claw, as well as four spined legs.  It was definitely an insectoid being, with large compound eyes and drooping antenna.  Fortunately it was only about four feet total in length, so that diminished some of its ferocity.  That, and the fact that it had been dead for several days.

      "Initial indications are that they are actually physically weaker than us individually.  An average specimen, judging by the four we have, has approximately two-thirds the lifting capacity and one half the endurance of an average Pyranid."  Doctor Vicalso said, removing part of the creature's abdominal plate.  "They metabolise nitrogen, needing at a minimum 30% gaseous concentration to survive.  From the remnants of this one's digestive tract it looks like they are omnivores, though their stomach acid is strong enough to dissolve some metals and minerals."

     "How intelligent are they, Doctor?"  Prallan asked, looking at the creature's head.

     "Definitely intelligent enough for interstellar travel and building starships.  Individually they are what you might consider below average, relatively speaking.  However, they have a mild hive mind, which can make them very intelligent in a group, moreso than a similar group of Pyranids.  However, as their numbers thin, that shared intelligence weakens."

     "Interesting."  Prallan said.  "I want a details report on their physiology.  Anything we know can help when we have to fight them again."

      "Of course, sir."  Vicalso said, removing a pair of purple blobs from the creature.  "I haven't been able to dissect an intelligent creature since medical school, this is very fascinating."

      Prallan left the medical bay very swiftly.  He was certain the Doctor was a good physician, but he also gave him the creeps.

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Party Raid - Fighter and the Fighter Cards

    The fighter is the meat shield of the group.  He's supposed to take damage and deal out melee justice, however the first role is the most important one (note: I'm debating between calling this class fighter or warrior as both represent very similar ideals, so sorry if I've interchanged the names in previous post, we're going to call it fighter for now).

    Health: 20
    Attack: 4
    Defense: 2
    Trait 1: Pay 1, intercept one attack directed at another player (spell, ability, or regular attack) and make the target of the ability this fighter.  All effects and damage are calculated as if the fighter was the original target of the attack.  Can be used once per round as a free action.
    Trait 2:  Reduce damage taken by this fighter by 1 for every defense point sacrificed.  This can be used at will.

    With this setup, it is clear that the warrior is all about buffing his defenses and intercepting attacks.  He is the meat shield and the tank of the group, soaking up damage, and letting the priest heal him and the rogue and wizard deal damage.  It wouldn't be unusual for him to make a melee attack just to give the rogue his flanking bonus.  The fighter works best when there is one or two targets, as he only gets one trait intercept per round, but has other cards that can work similarly.

    Take the Hit
    Cost: 3
    Instant - Can be played at any time.
    Effect - Counter one attack (spell, ability or regular attack) that would strike an ally.  Resolve the attack against yourself instead.

    Cost 2
    Effect: Counter one regular attack made against you this round.  Make a free basic attack against that enemy.

    Shield Wall
    Cost 4
    Persist 2
    Effect: At the start of your turn gain 2 block.  Your attack is reduced by 2 and your defense is increased by 2 while this card is in play.

     The Art of War
     Cost: 0
     Effect: Discard this card.  Put one Tactic into play, tapped.

     Defensive Stance
     Cost: 1
     Effect: You gain 5 block.

     Cost: 2
     Equip: 2
     Effect: Increases your attack by 2 while this card is equipped.

     The downside to fighter is that while he has a lot of good defensive abilities, most of them prevent him from becoming a powerful offensive weapon unless he has help.  As seen in the play test, after getting buffed by both the wizard and the priest, he was able to dish out a lot of hurt and stay safe himself.  He is very reliant on team support, but once he has it he is nearly unstoppable.

    The fighter's greatest weakness is the lack of any spell resistance.  Spells will rip right through his health quickly, and while he can use block to reduce the damage, it will eat through this secondary resource very swiftly.  This means he has to be selective about the damage he takes and the abilities he intercepts.  It might hurt the wizard more to take a sword to the face, but a lightning bolt is another matter.  The fighter's player must be aware of the entire situation, and play accordingly.