Monday, January 30, 2017

Are point and click adventures dead?

I just finished playing one of my favorite games of my childhood: Toonstruck.
I really enjoyed playing it again because it took me back to a time when games weren't about the best graphics and you actually had to use your head to make progress.
As a kid I loved playing point and click adventures because they told a compelling story, were usually funny and you got this rewarding feeling of achievement when you were stuck and finally figured out what item would solve your problem or found that tiny detail that you missed 20 times before. This was a time before looking up a walkthrough on the internet was the natural instinct after being stuck for 5 minutes. I would patiently wait for my dad to come home from work because collegues of his were playing or had already plyed the same game and he could get clues from them where to look more closely in order to progress.
Unfortunately this game genre kind of went dormant for years when graphics became better and gameplay offered more possibilities. Only recently I have noticed that this kind of game is on the rise again. The most famous example Telltale's Walking Dead is a little more story driven than it is puzzle heavy but still fits the genre. Also other adventures with more puzzles have made an appearance lately. Other great examples are Shardlight, Broken Age, Life is strange and the fan sponsored Broken Sword 5 - the Serpent's Curse.
I am honestly glad that this genre is making a comeback and I am looking forward to playing old as well as new point and click adventures in the future.

In case you are interested in my mentioned playthrough of Toonstruck check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCniVeCi6npg63zlNBEYNeaQ





Thursday, December 8, 2016

How Let's Plays brought me back to gaming

I have been a gamer almost since I can remember. My earliest gaming memories are from playing what I called "Banana Throwers" (I don't know the actual name of the game). The game ran on my dad's DOS computer located in the living room and consisted of two pixelated monkeys in a randomly generated area trying to hit each other with equally pixelated bananas. Ofcourse I didn't know what I was doing and just put in random numbers to calculate the angle and throwing power. It was the greatest joy for me when I got lucky and hit my target.
My gaming career continued when Santa brought me a SNES for christmas and I relentlessly explored Super Mario World. In my childhood I was mostly a console gamer, though I enjoyed point and click adventures on the computer like Indiana Jones, The Curse of Monkey Island, Kings Quest 7, Simon the Sorcerer and Toonstruck. Those games even aided me in learning how to read because my parents, instead of blaming video games for bad grades or misbehavior, turned off the voice acting audio so I was forced to read the conversations in order to progress in the heavily story based game. Also the prospect of not being allowed to play was a great tool to enforce chores I didn't want to do.
Vacation time always meant Game Boy time since it made taking a break from the sun in the shade so much more enjoyable.
Later followed the consoles Playstation 1, Nintendo 64 and Playstation 2 before I discovered online gaming. It all started with the real time strategy game Warcraft 3. Being able to play with my friends and also talk to them at the same time via Teamspeak was a dream come true. Also it was a time before flatrate internet plans and there was a certain data limit we could use in a month. So my parents gave me a certain data budget to work with and I measured how much data was aproximately used in one hour of online gaming.
Later after internet flatrates were a thing my friends and I played competitiely, various games in different leagues over the years. The one I remember as the most fun was playing Team Fortress 2 in the ETF2L.
With going to university competetive gaming slowly died down and by the time I started working it was completely dead for me. Adult life only leaves a limited amount of time with gaming usually in the lower priority ranks. What was once a hobby practiced daily and cosuming hours after hours became a special occasion once every other week. 
Enter Let's Playing! I have always liked producing and editing videos. School projects involving a camera have always been my favorite. Since my job as an IT-Consultant doesn't provide much room to let my creativity run free I was looking for a creative hobby. Browsing different subreddits I came across r/letsplay and was intrigued. I figured that besides getting back to my beloved hobby Let's Playing has other benefits aswell. I'd have to learn new technical skills to produce content and it practices my English (my native language is German) as well as speaking freely.
So through Let's Plays I found my way back to my gaming roots and became a casual gamer once again. It gives me a reason to play without feeling guilty about it and it is socially engaging to try and build a community around my videos. Views and subscribers are only extra benefit, mainly I try to have fun creating my content, whether it is watched or not.




Friday, November 4, 2016

History of Demon King Piccolo - Dragonball Villain Spotlight

There have been many dangerous adversaries in the Dragonball universe threatening to take over or destroy earth, but the very first main villain in the series is the Demon King Piccolo.
In this article we are going to explore King Piccolos origin as well as his downfall.

Let's start at the beginning:
300 years before the events of Dragonball, a nameless Namekian, who was sent to earth as a child to survive a catastrophic natural disaster on his home planet, attempted to assume the position of "Guardian of Earth". He was denied the position due to the evil residing inside of him. To achieve his goal the nameless Namekian underwent an intense training and finally managed to banish his evil side creating two seperate entities. The good side, a pure being known as Kami and a being of concentrated evil known as King Piccolo. The two entities resembling ying and yang were eternally linked, if one should perish, so would the other.

Sealed in a rice cooker:
Being the incarnation of evil, King Piccolo created several offspring and terrorized the citizens of earth. However, a martial arts specialist, Master Mutaito, and his pupils, including a young Master Roshi, fought back and killed Piccolos sons.
By the time they finally faced King Piccolo himself the majority of earths population had been slaughtered. In martial arts combat Mutaito and his students were no match for the mighty Demon King. In order to defeat him, Master Mutaito used a special technique called "Evil Containment Wave" also known as "Mafuba" to seal King Piccolo in an electric rice cooker. The price for using this technique was his life.
After King Piccolo had been sealed, Roshi sunk the rice cooker in the depth of the ocean so the evil King could never return.

The return of King Piccolo:
A few centuries later Emperor Pilaf finds the rice cooker and releases King Piccolo. The Demon King then decides to have all the current and former finalists of the famous World Martial Arts Tournament "Tenkaichi Budokai" murdered so that there is noone left who is capable of learning the Evil Containment Wave and he cannot be trapped again. To aid him in his evil plan he spits out two eggs containing his sons  Piano and Tambourine who among others kill Krillin. A third son called Cymbal is created shortly after with the task of gathering the dragonballs. Cymbal then encounters Son Goku and Yajirobe and attemts to take a dragonball from them by force. In the fight he is killed by Yajirobe and then roasted and eaten.
When Piccolo senses the death of his son he orders Tambourine to go and hunt down the ones reponsible. Enraged because of Krillins death Goku fight and kills Tambourine. Sensing the death of another one of his children King Piccolo confronts Goku and easily defeats him leaving the severely injured Goku to die. However Goku is rescued by Yajirobe after Piccolo leaves. Meanwhile Master Roshi attempts to trap King Piccolo using the Evil Containment Wave, but misses the container and pays with his life for using the technique.

Eternal youth:
Since there is noone left to contest him, King Piccolo gathers all the dragonballs and is granted eternal youth by Shenron. Having been returned to his physical prime he is stronger than ever before. In order to prevent anyone else from using the dragonballs against him, he kills the dragon before it can disappear.
The rejuvinated Piccolo then proceed to take over the throne of King Furry by force and rules the world using death and destruction as his entertainment.

King Piccolos downfall:
The evil King is then confronted by Tien Shinhan who also learned the Evil Containment Wave but is unable to seal his enemy away. Since Tien is no match for Piccolo himself he creates a fouth son called Drum who defeats him easily. In the last second a now much stronger Goku arrives and kills Drum quickly saving Tien Shinhan. 
A fierce battle ensurs with King Piccolo gaining the upper hand by injuring Gokus knee. He then uses the weakened Tien as a human shield demanding Gokus surrender. With the dragonballs and therefore the ability to revive Tien, Goku complies and lets himself get injured further. Just when Piccolo attacks Goku in order to finish him off, Goku fires a Kamehameha with his right hand, propelling himself toward his enemy, punching a hole through Piccolos chest mortally wounding him. Before taking his last breath the evil King Piccolo uses all of his energy to spit out one last egg containing his reincarnation "Piccolo Jr.", therefore sparing Kamis life.









Sunday, August 28, 2016

Coffee - the magic potion

Most people when they get up, the first thing they do is to turn on the coffee machine and either sit down and drink a cup of coffee at home or take it with them to work. Coffee gives us a boost to get started in the morning or keeps us awake when we get tired.

When you really think about it coffee is one of the most commonly and casually used drugs on the planet. It has been around since at least the 15th century and was first brewed in Arabia.

But what does coffee actually do to keep us awake?

Coffee introduces caffeine into your system which then blocks the receptors in the brain that usually receive adenosine which causes drowsiness / sleepiness. Additionally with the adenosine not being able to dock onto the receptors another response is triggered: your body produces adrenaline which keeps you alert because you basically enter a fight or flight mode.

With regular coffee consumption your brain actually changes and adapts to the regular caffeine delivery by changing the brain chemistry. Therefore withdrawal effects like a headache occur when caffeine ingestion suddenly stops. Unlike other addictive drugs these effects are fairly short term.

Coffee makes us feel good because it is able to tap into virtually every reward system our brain has to offer. Even though it essentially is a drug it is not considered as such by society since its side effects are rather light compared to so called hard drugs. Also its positive effects are much more prominent. It makes people feel better and boosts workers performance and office morale.






Friday, February 12, 2016

Alone in the dark?

Ever since I watchied Star Trek with my dad as a little boy I have been intrigued by the thought that there could be other civilizations out there. I spent more than one thought on what they might look like, how technologically advanced they could be or if any two advanced civilizations in the universe have ever met each other.
Only recently reading about and seeing gameplay footage of the soon to be released game "No Man's Sky" has made me realize how unimaginably grand the universe is.
In the game a universe is procedurally generated and even though all players play in the same universe at the same time it is very unlikely to ever meet another player. In an interview with IGN one of the developers said that 99.9% of the in game planets will probably never be discovered. Also people have calculated that even by visiting one planet per second it would take over 5 billion years to discover all of the planets in the game.
Projecting this to the real world and assuming that the real universe is probably even bigger than the generated one, leads me to believe that we are not alone in the universe because even if there is a very small probability of life existing on a planet, if you repeat it an uncountable number of times even small probabilities virtually become a certainty. On the other hand while I am sure that other life exists, I dont think that we will ever meet or even find proof of it due to the grand scale of the universe.
Whether meeting an advanced Alien civilization would be a good or a bad thing is a totally different discussion.

I love stats <3

Whether they are useless or actually have some kind of effect, I like to collect data and visualize / analyze it for alot of areas of my life.
I recently acquired a fitness tracker aka smart watch and have been tracking steps, walking distance, heart rate calories burned and other health or fitness related aspects. The most useful I have found to be calories burned in combination with recording what and how much I eat as well as how much Water I drink during the day. As opposed to the probably more common goal of trying to lose weight I discovered that I have the opposite problem. My mostly healthy diet struggles to keep up with my rapid energy consumption, which I never realized before. I am now more aware of what I eat than ever before.
When not giving it particular attention I also most definately do not drink enough water, some days even less than a liter. Logging how much I drink helps me increase my water consumption, though I am nontheless struggling to meet my dayly goal of 2 liters.
Other features like the step counter are neat features but personally havn't been of much use other than satisfying my general curiosity. I also refuse to use the social features the companion app offers as I have no desire to enter a competition of who takes the most steps in a day with my friends.
Concluding I would like to say that collecting data can be the key to solving problems or improvement of certain areas in life. Excessive use on the other hand can also be very annoying to the point of impacting social life. But then again excessive use of anything is never a good idea.



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Trading Card Games (TCGs)

My first encounter with a TCG was in 5th grade. Back then Pokemon had just come out and it was all kids were talking about in the school yard. Soon after that trading of Pokemon cards became a thing. During breaks the classrooms transformed into little stock markets and through efficient trading I managed to accumulate a decent collection without investing too much of my precious pocket money. At that point I liked collecting the cards, especially the holographic ones, rather than playing the game.

A couple years later, when the Pokemon hype had quieted down, another TCG accompanied by a well known anime caught my attention. Now it was all about YU-GI-OH!
But this time instead of just collecting shiny cards I played the game with a friend. Soon we discovered a fantasy store nearby and would go there every Tuesday to "duel" other people. The whole thing got spiced up by a little competition, since for every duel you won you got a stamp in your YU-GI-OH! season stamp book. Ofcourse there was a limit to the number of times that you could battle a certain opponent during a match day, but that made it even more interesting. We quickly realized to be under the top 4 players of that particular fantasy store and a friendly rivalry turned into a race for stamps to be the number one. It all peaked in the participation in a regional qualifier for the german championship. My friend and another guy of our four man rival group qualified and actually went to the german championship, though unfortunately they didn't make it very far and reported of the insane decks they encountered. Not long after that my interest and motivation to play YU-GI-OH! faded and it took a while until I picked up another TCG again.

I am well aware that so far I havn't mentioned the ancestor of all TCGs: Magic the Gathering. The reason is that I never got into it and I am reluctant to do so since it has been around for decades and seems to have a relatively high entry barrier.
This was not a problem with the current TCG I am playing, at least not at the time I got into it. As a digital TCG just starting up including characters from my favorite old real time strategy game I quickly fell for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Especially initially it was very addicting. The ability to play a TCG on my phone whenever I want against opponents around the world is very intriguing. Only the trading part I loved so much as a kid was cut out due to the potential abuse the digital world enables. Even after two years there are still more features and more content added regularly and I can't wait to see what comes next. Even though it lacks the charm of playing with physical cards going digital was definately a step in the right direction.

Whether I will stick to Hearthstone or maybe give Magic a try some day, I am a fan of TCGs and am excited where the journey will take me.