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Garry’s Mod and the Mini-golf Masters

So, I’ve played plenty and plenty of video games. My steam profile says that my most played game ever is Counter Strike: Global Offensive. I don’t know if that is truly my most played game of all time because I don’t know my game times from my console play

(If we counted console play it might be that Far Cry 2 or Fallout New Vegas or Oblivion would shine as top dogs (even more possible, Call of Duty: Black Ops could also be in the running))

I have also dumped a considerable amount of time in RuneScape so it’s possible that it has the most Maxwell Hours (totally legit units) dumped into it.

My most played game on Steam or in life is not important to this story though. What is more important is what Steam considers to be my second most played game of all time, Garry’s Mod, or what everyone else in the biz calls it, Gmod.

Garry’s Mod is a game where… well… there isn’t inherently a game in it. All it is is a Source engine sandbox. Much like Minecraft you can get in a server or play alone and all you can do is spawn in objects or move them around and interact with them.

There is no story.

There is no objective (inherently).

There is no end to what can be done in it.

And so, once more like Minecraft, people made servers with mods and plugins, and got different game modes to work.

Of the popular ones are:

DarkRP- I don’t have much experience with this, so I won’t say much for it. I just know there are tons of great stories on the internet about it.

Murder – One person has a knife and wants to murder everyone. One person has a gun and wants to kill the murderer. Everybody else just tries to stay alive and collect pieces around the map to obtain more guns. It’s a super fun game and no matter the role is worthwhile.

Prop Hunt – The objective is simple, there are a team of props and a team of seekers. The props hide as garbage around a map while the seekers try to find an eliminate them. It was simple and it was fun, but it never felt satisfying to hide in plain sight, or to hide in general. Overall I didn’t sink that much time into this game mode (but I did watch a bunch of YouTube videos of people playing it that I thought was hilarious).

Trouble in Terrorist Town – I have a love-hate relationship with TTT. First, the premise is much the same as Murder. There are a couple of traitors who are trying to kill everyone. There are a couple of detectives with some abilities to scope out traitors. Everyone else is trying to kill the traitors and defend themselves. It’s a fun and if everyone plays the game as intended it can make some really interesting gameplay.

The problem with TTT is there are a lot of people who play the game and just start shooting people. They might not be a traitor, but they will still kill people who are innocent. This fundamentally breaks the game. So what a lot of servers do is enforce a strict set of rules to stop people from griefing (the term for doing not good things in general, basically).

Problems arise with these rule sets though. I’ve played tens of hours on servers where the game wasn’t Trouble in Terrorist Town, but rather Lawbreaking in Lawyer Land. People will report players for anything, assuming they are breaking the rule. Then the people who get reported more than likely get banned.

One fundamental rule is that you can’t shoot someone until you see them commit a “traitorous act” (See article V subsection 4). This is reasonable as a rule until you realize that traitors can’t tell if you saw them commit a traitorous act. I have seen so so so so so many cases of traitors getting people banned because they thought that they were killed on a whim and not because they saw the traitor commit a crime.

When I play a multiplayer game, I don’t think of fun as constantly checking a rule book to see if I can get someone banned

And finally the best server that ever was.

Gmod Tower. There are a couple of servers still on Gmod that are like this beauty, but nothing that comes close.

Gmod Tower was a game mode where you had an avatar and an apartment.

You could watch YouTube with random internet strangers. You could play chess and trivia with random internet strangers. You could deck out your apartment. You could get a watermelon pet that rolls behind you and emotes all of the time. You could gamble in the casino. You could play a variety of mini-games that would net you money to buy stuff for your apartment.

Best of all, the mini-games were all very, very good. And the best of the mini-games was mini-golf.

I love mini-golf. In real life. As a video game. As a game within a video game. As a mini-game within a game. As a mini-game inside of a game mode of a video game. All forms of mini-golf are great.

And I wasn’t the only one who thought this. Gmod Tower mini-golf was very well made. It was fair. It was fun. It had the right amount of challenge.

And the best part was it was filled with a lobby of full of people who were all very passionate about this mini-game and being the best at it.

Do you know how absurd that is? Think about it. This wasn’t your regular group of zealous mini-golf enthusiasts. This was a group of people who logged into a video game to log into a specific server to play one specific game mode on that server. And that was all they did. And I was one of them.

I don’t have any regrets playing Gmod Tower mini-golf. Hearing random people scream on the internet about mini-golf filled my heart with absolute joy. Hearing people brag, and cry, and laugh, and blast their mics with hip hop music, and play low quality static-filled meme sound bites all to the sound of relaxing mini-golf is easily one of the funniest experiences of my entire life.

I Made Another Video of Decent Quality

Yesterday, I made another quality video. It involved the Zelda Chest Opening Theme, dry ice, and a cooler.

This semester I tasked myself with uploading at least 5 quality videos amidst the never-ending onslaught of daily videos, which mainly consist of only <30 second folk songs. I’ve only uploaded a few that I thought of high enough quality to check off my to-do list, one of which was the GameCube Startup Theme.

From that video I learned a few things. I learned I could edit my videos just slightly more than usual and come up with profoundly greater looking videos. The GameCube Startup Theme only consisted of me playing one riff and then overlaying the GameCube startup video. It was short and sweet and it looked alright, so I decided to upload it to Reddit to see if I could get any exposure for the channel. Most of the time I submit to subs that can be associated with the videos:

  1. Zelda theme week on /r/Zelda
  2. Super Mario Bros on /r/Mario
  3. Sound of Silence on /r/ArrestedDevelopment

I couldn’t submit to /r/gaming though because at the time I didn’t comment enough to pass the threshold created by the sub to post. So I was left with /r/YouTubeHaiku, which specializes in short YouTube videos.

And it was a jackpot, in terms of my channel at least.

Most of my videos on my channel average at around 5 to 6 views after a few days after uploads, unless I advertise it on the Twitter or post it to an appropriate subreddit, which then can vary the results from 40 – 100ish views.

The GameCube Startup Theme garnered 1000 views in a single day, brought my view count to 4000, making that video account for about 25% of all the views on my channel… which had well over a hundred videos.

So there it was, the flash in the pan. The lightning in a bottle. The fluke. I couldn’t think of anything else to upload that would be of such short length and such high quality. Until a week ago when I came up with the idea of using the Zelda Chest Opening Theme.

It was an iconic sounding riff, it had an iconic animation associated with it, and I could put a little gag at the end, all of which are needed for a successful video. I now even knew of a place that would be highly accepting of my video.

To give credit where credit is due I got the sheet music from NinSheetMusic.org they are super awesome and as the name implies, have sheet music for Nintendo games.

The next step was recreating the iconic animation, which in my mind consists of Link reaching into a semi-mysterious glowing chest and then pulling out the item that he found. Then I needed the parts:

  1. Link – Myself
  2. Semi-mysterious – A fog effect created by dry ice
  3. Glowing – A phone flashlight
  4. Chest – The cooler I bought along with the dry ice
  5. Item – A piece of paper that says ‘consider subscribing’

This was the result.

The rig inside the cooler was pretty funny itself. It consisted of a block of dry ice leaned towards the door, on the side of cooler closest to the camera. I would pour hot water on it to create the fog effect which then created the issue of the dry ice now becoming ever so slightly wet.

This meant that the paper could not be put directly on the dry ice or it would get wet. My solution was to place a block on top of the dry ice to create a flat surface after I poured the water on it. This created a dry surface that a paper could be placed on then easily found in fog.

Then I needed light. I had a flashlight but it wasn’t strong enough so I needed to use my phone’s light. This turned out to be risky because I couldn’t just put my phone on the bottom of the cooler due to the hot water. My solution was to place my phone on a small coffee cup, which I then placed into the cooler after pouring in the water.

With all those elements put together I was able to create the video, which upon looking at the stats, is getting pretty successful. I’ve almost doubled my subscribers so far thanks to the gag at the end and it has also garnered at least a thousand views.

I can’t make any promises, but I’m hoping to try to release a semi-quality video every week or so (something that is of considerable length i.e. >minute) and a quality video (something of good editing) every month or so. I’m also hoping to have a Metroid Theme Week, much like the Zelda theme week of a semester ago.

I’m excited to see where the future takes Xylo-A-Day!

If you want to edit the video, here it is so you don’t have to rip it from YouTube:

Switching on the Switch

Warning: This might sound like an ad.

When the Nintendo Switch was first announced I was hyped but I didn’t truly believe that it would be a good console. I saw it as a worse version of a couch console, rather than what it is truly is, a better version of a handheld console.

In fact, when the Nintendo Switch was released I was in a speech class where I took part in a group presentation where we talked about how Nintendo should just stop trying to be in the console game. It was shallow and not super insightful, but the summary of it was that the Wii U was a failure… yada yada yada… The handheld consoles like the Gameboy and the DS were successful and own most of the market share for handheld gaming … yada yada yada… Nintendo needs to focus their resources on developing their handheld consoles.

I finally got a Switch and I can undoubtedly saw that I was wrong. I missed the point, but just by a little bit. It isn’t an inferior couch console, it is a superior handheld console.

I’m not usually a first adopter and I don’t like user interfaces that aren’t clean. The switch docking station is pretty dang amazing. I know it is just a glorified HMDI output, but there truly is a seamless transition from playing on my monitor to picking it up and walking to the kitchen to cook food.

Just this week my apartment got another Switch dock put in the living room. When I got home from classes I was able to take my Switch out of my backpack (Hey I have some free time between classes) and plugged it straight into the living room and play there with my homies. But then later that night when I just wanted to chill in my room I simply plugged it into my room’s dock.

I feel like I’m selling out writing and writing an advertisement, but I genuinely and am just having the most fun I’ve ever had with a console since I got a PC. I can’t wait to see what games they release for the switch.

Sincerely,

-A new Switch fanboy

D&D and the Greatest Story Ever Told

A couple of years ago my friends and I started playing a little game called Dungeons and Dragons. I would be surprised if you haven’t heard of it. It is used for every nerd trope in every form of media ever.

You have a nerdy group of misfits? Make them play D&D.

You have an episode where everyone needs to play a nerdy game? D&D.

You ate too many nerds and now you have a stomach ache? Don’t eat more candy & Don’t eat more candy.

But seriously, this game is way better than a nerdy board game.

It is a collaborative storytelling experience.

If you don’t know how D&D works, let me explain.

Every player creates a character, a completely unique entity that you get to make decisions for. You want to play a kleptomaniac gnome? What about a wizard that just wants to build AC units for the local towns? Have you ever considered how fun it might be to play an orc that loves treasure more than anything else? All of these can be options.

Next you need a Dungeon Master. Now this might sound like a super nerdy position, but for all of you English majors this is spot for you. DM is really just a fancy term for the storyteller. Since Dungeons and Dragons is a collaborative storytelling experience, and since people are inherently dysfunctional, there has to be some mediator calling the shots. The DM crafts the world around the players, creates characters for them to interact with as well as facilitating the battles and challenges along the way.

So we have players and characters and an environment and a narrator, now all we have left is actually playing.

Combat has different rules depending on what edition you are playing, so I really won’t get into that. When your not in combat the game plays out almost exactly like a book.

The DM will fill you in on the surroundings, I.E. “You walk in to this town and you notice three buildings. There are two guards outside of the first one on the far left, and the other two houses look desolate.”

Then the players react to this scenario. I.E. One might ask “What kinds of weapons are the guards holding?”

And so on and so forth.

Finally let’s say the players are trying to get inside of that building with the guards. They might try different actions…

They could try to convince the guards to let them in. A player might say “I walk up to the guard and tell him that he left his roast in the oven.”

They could try to eliminate the guards. A player might say “I walk up to a guard and try to hit him with my sword.”

And then the DM will make them roll to see if they were successful in doing it. The number they have to roll higher than will be determined by how good the player is at persuading or fighting or whatever action they are attempting to do. On top of this, it could also be determined by how well they presented their action, and how reasonable that action is.

And then it’s just rinse and repeat.

So it truly is a collaborative storytelling experience, but one that has an impressively human element to it. No matter how well the DM writes the story beforehand the unexpected actions can rewrite all of it.

I’ve had sessions where all of my friends and I make efficient decisions and walk through towns and fight monsters. I’ve had sessions where my friends and I discussed the logistics of moving a shipping crate 40 feet.

This leads me to the conclusion, I’m finally going to DM my first session in a couple of weeks and I’ve written what I believe to be a pretty great story for my players to play a part in. I’ll update how they act in it and hopefully it will be worth a good laugh.

I would definitely suggest playing D&D if you and your friends are looking for a creative outlet.

Zen and the Art of Base Building

So there is a game that is popularly known by all 14 year-old kids around the world as Minecraft. In it there is a popular creature called a creeper.

creeper.png

This post is not about Minecraft.

This post is about a game that originally started as a flash game and has worked its way into the Steam marketplace. This game has captured my heart and is probably the only Real Time Strategy (RTS) game that I play. I mean sure, I used to play a little bit of Command and Conquer back in the day, but not nearly as much time as I have put into Creeper World. Here’s what it looks like:

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 10.17.02 PM

It’s simple, you have a base (which is in the top left corner of that picture) and you have to link up with those three green flower looking things.

The catch?

The blue liquid known as creeper slowly fills up the map and destroys anything it touches.

So the whole game is solely adding connectors to the base and amassing energy to give power to blasters and mortars which can repel the incoming creeper threat, all while trying to connect to the goals. Once all of the goals are connected to the base flies off into the sunset (a warp gate) to a better place (another mission).

For a game where the enemy AI is only as smart as spilled milk, it is ridiculously addictive. I would find myself building a fortress of collectors and reactors protected by dozens of blasters, repelling the threat while still somehow shirking off the true objective. These games are only supposed to be 10-20 minutes or so, but I would find myself spending 40-50 minutes filling up the map with as many units as I humanly could.

By the end of it, I understood the creeper. Like my enemy, I too enjoyed the sprawl, slowly crawling across the landscape as I completely annihilate everything in my path. What did it do? Flood the world with evil? How much more honorable am I flooding the world with industry!?

No fear of retaliation, I finally understand what it feels like to be Caesar as he parades through his conquered land. The creeper emitters are locked down, but I won’t complete the level just yet. I insist on harvesting all of the resources of this land before I move onto my next conquest. I am become creeper, destroyer of… creeper?

So, it’s safe to say that I grew a strange fondness for this game. I realized that I enjoy games that have a tipping point and then a victory lap to follow. Creeper World is no exception.

And then Creeper World 2 was released. I wasn’t as much of a fan, it had a different style of play that I just didn’t enjoy as much. Oh well, not much more to say.creeper.jpg

But then… Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal was released. It’s on Steam. I’m not sponsored or anything, but I’m pretty sure it’s just one dude who is developing these games because he enjoys making them, so I really can’t help but link to his page to support him.

This game is an overhauled version of the first and it came out a while ago, I’m just now writing about because I recently got an itch to play it again. Now you can destroy the creeper emitters and harness their power to build the most indestructible base ever to exist. No longer do you have to contain the threat and run away, now you can eliminate it.

It is overall a much better game than the first, and it has so much more to offer. It has more building types, larger map support, more terrain, more creeper, and more base-building zen. Best of all it has a super expansive collection of player-made maps which usually start with an ocean of creeper that you have to just blast your way through.

This is one of those rare games that I can’t help but give my gold seal of approval on. It is the Oblivion of liquid-enemy based RTS. I would say it is the Oblivion of RTS, but I’m not an RTS player so I’m not really the most credible source. Either way, I thoroughly enjoy playing Creeper World and I’ll definitely keep playing it for the years to come.

Combat and Cooperation

So I play a little game popularly known as Grand Theft Auto V. If you didn’t know, this game is the center of a ton of discussion about whether or not video-games are good for society. Do they make people more violent? Do they let people blow off steam, making them less violent?

I don’t know and I’m not tossing my hat in the ring on that one.

But I will talk about my personal experience and my journey of aggression to pacifism within the game itself.

Let me give you some preface:

I’ve played plenty of Call of Duty, which is a popular multiplayer first person shooter.

In Call of Duty there are plenty of different game modes but none of them have choice, they just have strict objectives. Sure you might have a team to cooperate with but it all still boils down to completing the objective (which always has combat involved).

There aren’t people, there are teammates and there are enemies. I’m not saying that in a sociopathic way I’m just saying that in the sense that you are thrust into a warzone to complete an objective, and there is nothing else to do but to complete the objective.

And then I started playing GTA V.

GTA V multiplayer is a completely different game. It has no strict objectives until you get into a mission, it just has a giant world to free-roam in. And that giant world has tons of other players just roaming around, doing their own thing.

And this is where the disconnect happened, even in a world with as much violence, car theft, and explosions as GTA V, nobody likes to be bothered when their trying to do their own thing. If I’m going to get a haircut in the game I hate when I get shot at hundreds of times before I can park my car in front of the barber.

And yet, when I first started playing it I didn’t understand that, I just contributed to the onslaught on the people just trying to get a nice perm for their character.

And I had fun. Kind of. Not really though, because after I killed them a couple of times and then they killed my a couple of times it would just become a boring battle between me and perm-man.

And I stopped playing, not for any particular reason, but just because I had other games to play.

And then a couple of weeks ago I booted it back up and started playing it with a completely different mindset. I tried to cooperate with everyone who was willing to cooperate and distancing myself from the people who were more willing to start combat.

And it has easily become one of the most satisfying gaming experiences of my life.

It’s a strange thing that you can pull up to somebody walking on the sidewalk, honk your horn a few times, and after they get in y’all can head off on some adventure around the map. All of this with no words, no communication, no guarantee that they just won’t turn on you and shoot you.

And yet everything goes off without a hitch, pure cooperation with no communication.

In games like these it is easily more fun to try to initiate cooperation before you initiate combat.

 

Okami and the End of a Semester

Quick Sidenotes

  1. Xylo-a-day is doing great and in the next couple of days the content is going to spike to an all-time high of greatness.
  2. I’m about to finish William Davies “Autobiography of a Super-Tramp” and I can’t help but to give it a big thumbs up if you want to read about hobo life.
  3. My Spotify year-in-review came back saying I mostly listened to Starflyer59. I highly suggest checking them out if you are looking for some new music to listen to.
  4. My typing speed is now a consistent 80ish. (Shoutout to Typeracer.com)
  5. Net neutrality laws have been repealed. I don’t like it, but I also don’t think worst case scenario is ever going to happen, it’s just scary that it could happen.

Real content

Finals were this week. This means both my Twitter feed and the Reddit front page were filled with memes about how people would rather die than take tests. I wish there were more wholesome memes in this dark world.

Although I’m taking a lot of classes I only had to take a couple of tests. Most of my classes either had tests earlier, or projects instead of finals. Because of this my final final was on Tuesday.

Know what else happened on Tuesday?

If you guessed Okami, a very well received but poorly known game, was ported over to PC (and also XBOXONE and PS4) then you would be correct.

So you know what I did Tuesday night?

If you guessed that I played Okami you would be wrong. I actually was still busy with a couple of other things after my test, so I couldn’t play it on Tuesday.

But on Wednesday I played the heck out of Okami.

So what is all this hype about? What is Okami?

Okami was released in 2007 on the PS2, I knew nothing about it then. But then it was released on the Wii in 2008, and once I heard about it I bought it and played non-stop for a couple of weeks.

Okami, for those who don’t know, is a game much like Zelda. It is an open world adventure game where you fight the forces of evil. But also, you’re a dog. This review helps to explain what I mean.

The plot of the game is that you are the Japanese sun god Amaterasu in the form of a wolf, and the world has essentially stopped believing in you and great evil has been placed onto the land. So you wander around a beautiful water-colored world, slay Japanese-style demons, and help everyone you meet by using a celestial paintbrush.

It has an awesome world. Seriously, you wander into a new zone and you have to purge that land of evil. The best part is that you actually get to see the land change into something beautiful as you cleanse it.

It has good fighting, a diversity of fighting styles, and a diversity of enemies. When you pair all of that with the fact that the controls handle great, the fighting is truly something to be enjoyed.

Fun mini-games. Fun story. Fun unique mechanics. There really isn’t a part of this game that I outright dislike.

There is way more to it than that but I don’t want to spoil the good parts. This game is seriously on par with Oblivion in my mind; it looks great, plays great, and has a great story.

That’s all I really have to say. If you are a gamer looking for a fun adventure game to play, I really can’t give this game enough of a glowing review.

An Assault on my Favorite Game

My friends and I used to play a game called CounterStrike: Global Offensive.

If you don’t know what CS:GO is then I’ll explain. It is a first-person competitive shooter, where 2 teams of 5 compete head-to-head for (at most) 30 rounds. Depending on the map type, the teams will being planting/defusing a bomb or protecting/rescuing a hostage.

During high school we would sink hours into this game, and tried our best to move up the ranks. Over the years though we drifted away from the game and it has updated and changed meta without us. Because of this, it has been harder and harder for us to have a wild hair and decide to play it randomly one weekend.

Well, since a couple of weeks ago that small desire become fully destroyed.

ablkh;glds

One of the maps my friends and I would play is a map called Assault. It isn’t a well-balanced. It doesn’t have a ton of meta or strategy. It isn’t popular. But that map was our jam. Every random weekend that we would log on, you could guarantee that we played Assault. A couple of weeks ago Assault was taken off the competitive map list.

There isn’t much more to say. I don’t really want to be another blog that talks about how CS:GO has a terrible development team and a terrible community (and there are a lot of those). I actually support their decision to take Assault off the competitive list, it was taking up server space, and other than us there was nobody in their right mind that would play that map.

That’s it. I miss playing Assault on CS:GO.

Snakes and Greed

I’m trying not to become a lifestyle blog. I have no intention on how to tell anyone how to live their life, mainly because I can’t verify that what I’m saying is really the way to do things. That said though every now and then I like writing small reflections on things every now and then.

As this post is titled, it’s about snakes and greed. Hold up, I know what you’re thinking but rest assured I’m not harboring any resentment or ill will towards anyone. I’m not going to talk about how money ruins man. I’m not going to talk about liars and their poisonous tongues. I’m going to talk about something way less deep.

Snake is a classic video game where you are a snake tasked with going around a small boxed off zone to gobble up as much food (or MacGuffin) as possible. The twist is that every time you eat a food you grow a little, and if you run into your own body or the wall, it’s game over.

Image result for snake game

Now here is the masterful a+ high quality premium grade reflection. This game involves the most basic form of strategy that exists, and strategy always brings out life lessons. Here’s Snake’s:

  1. Don’t be greedy
  2. Good things come to those who wait
  3. Sometimes you need to ignore short term gains to accomplish long term goals
  4. Be kind of greedy

I crossed out the second and third point because I realized that it was just increasingly verbose restatement of the first point.

Playing the game, if you rush towards the food every single time, sooner or later you will end up trapping yourself. It’s the fastest way, but it doesn’t ensure that you will last. On the other hand, if you try to weave and condense yourself every time before you go to the next food you are assured safety from entanglement, although it does take a considerably larger amount of time.

The moral of these two strategies is that if you are ultimately greedy and not thinking or planning for any long term goals, you might end up closing doors on yourself. On the other hand though, if you spend your whole life planning, you could possibly miss out on some of the doing.

And that’s all I really have to say. I love snake, it’s a fun and relaxing game to pass the time.