Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Punting through Portal

I’ve already mentioned in my origins how I’m not the most experienced gamer. Whenever I would mention never having played Portal, people would give me a look of disbelief and question my being a “gamer” and a “nerd.” How could I not have played this classic? I promise I haven't lived under a rock folks, I've just never been much of an XBox/Xbox 360 player. If memory serves me well, Portal was originally released on this console and the PC. Until recently, I’ve also never been a PC gamer.

     Gaming cluelessness aside, I’ve always loved puzzles: Tetris, Bejeweled, Jenga, metal-mind-teaser-whatever-they’re-called things. Probably not so well known is the game “Crayon Physics.” My dad is a PC-man. I’m pretty sure he used to play DOOM or some FPS. He was the one who would tell me stories of his D&D group. I don’t remember why, but he was always interested in learning new, preferably educational, puzzle games. Crayon Physics is one. The concept, much like Portal’s, is incredibly simple. One draws planes, balls, boxes, and what have you that act within the rules of the game based off of real world physics. My dad, brother, and I would compete with the hope of either having the most creative way to solve a level aor to see who could go the furthest. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on stream before, but I am not the most spatially-conscious person. When I had to take my AP Physics class in high school… It was incredibly difficult for me. This game was a great exercise and challenge to help me practice spatial thinking processes. Granted, the game was only 2 dimensional but still, any help is a big help.

     Crayon Physics is the only sandbox/puzzle game I have any real extensive experience with. It has 70-something levels, and gods know I spent an obscene amount of hours to make it ¾ of the way through the game. I never completed it…but maybe I’ll download it to play as a mini game on stream. It holds a dear place in my heart, as games my dad, brother, and I played tend to do. Most of the puzzle games I’ve played are incredibly long. Tetris feels like it never ends. Bejeweled 2 has so many different modes of play, I’d be impressed to learn of anyone ever “completing” it. I was surprised this is not the case with Portal. I just played through the levels until they started to become a lot more difficult... then I started to wonder if the rest of the levels would be as difficult. I started wondering about the number of remaining levels sometime around level 14. Until then, I hadn't felt as though I had too much trouble with solving the levels. Any issues I had had more to do with my lack of playing with the controls or timing. Levels took me about 5 minutes to complete, with the occasional level taking approximately 10 minutes. 
Have I mentioned I love puzzles? Or sarcastic robots with killing tendencies? Any review I've read about Portal has always praised GLaDOS, the robotic she-devil. As much as I love her, I had no qualms with tossing her parts into the incinerator. The few times I sat down to play Portal, I've always enjoyed her snarkiness. Before this playthrough, I didn't know that the other little robots had their own voices and inklings of personality. Robot [cow] tipping? "Aaaaaaah!" "Are you still there?" "We pretended we were going to murder you." The little tidbits of character sprinkled throughout the game just added to the charm. Em, why are you talking to the game? Because I like to imagine the ridiculous answers the mechanical folk will give, of course! The game might be short, but these interactions just made the experience all the more enjoyable and make it worthwhile to come back. 
Character of the game aside, this is the first video game I've played that utilizes the WASD controls. It... took me quite some time to get somewhat adept at moving around this way. Em, don't you play FFXIV? Yes I do! Unlike Portal, FFXIV utilizes the mouse to move around, thankfully! It wasn't until I sat down to write this post that I realized this is also the first game I've played through that could possibly be considered a first person shooter. I've never been decent with FPS gameplay of any sort, mainly because of my atrocious eyesight. For those of you who have seen me play MtG Pictionary on stream, I have a difficult enough time just trying to keep track of my mouse courser. I'm glad that the game had a rather large "eye scope" to use for aiming to place portals.
Other than my difficulties adjusting to the game controls, the only complaint I have for the game has to deal with it only being playable only in full-screen mode. As a streamer, I try to have a set up that allows me to use the most of both monitors. When I have a game that forces me to use one screen, it causes a lot of issues since I use OBS as my broadcasting software. As far as I know, there are limits on the number of certain kinds of capture per monitor. I usually have my set up as the game and Twitch chat popout on one screen. When it's full screen, it doesn't let me do this and messes up the layout of everything else on my second monitor. Best way to describe it, which this has also happened when I play a few other games full screen, is to imagine everything on my monitors as having shifted to the right a few inches.
GLaDOS is the icing on the cake - see what I did there! - during the credits. I had a blast listening to her being "Still Alive." Portal doesn't have much of a story line, except for the constant promise of cake and not being murdered. I'm extremely competitive, so just the satisfaction of solving through the puzzles was enough of a motivator. I honestly believed the cake to be a lie, as some of the markings on the wall say. GLaDOS/Aperture delivered! We did it Blogger! Now let's make our escape before being dragged back to that awful testing place.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Celebrate Good Times and Good Friends!

Yesterday our humble little stream reached a milestone: 1000 followers!

I started streaming in mid-February. Funnily enough, prior to streaming, I never used to watch other streamers on Twitch, especially Magic: the Gathering. Now many of you have most likely heard my spiel about my watching others play MtG. I usually don’t enjoy it because I don’t recognize cards and deck tech. The more I play a set, the more I recognize the cards. What helped me start becoming a true member of the Twitch community are the friends - yes you, you awesome viewers, you! -  who encouraged me to watch other streamers. Much like real life, it’s a bit awkward to hop into a conversation, in this case a stream, filled with strangers. I love Twitch for the sense of community it builds. I would not have started watching, and interacting, with many others if it weren’t for the familiar usernames I would see interact in the chat. Chat, you da real MVP! If it weren’t for you, I’d still be feeling like the miserable, down-on-her-luck loner I was back in February.

We’ve f6’d through land drops. We’ve defeated the Ultima Weapon. We’ve perpetually fallen through portals. We’ve restarted chapters of a storyline because of a minor character’s death. We’ve taken shots against one another in jungles and lanes. We’ve gone to GP Miami. We’ve gone to GP Vegas. We’ve gone to the Golden Saucer. We’ve gone to the surface. We’ve gone to EathSea. Well, maybe not that last part. Who knows where we’ll go or what we’ll do next? What ever adventure lies ahead of us, I’m grateful to be going forward with all of you. The opportunities you’ve allowed me; game play, travel, getting to know you; have truly blessed me in more ways than you can imagine. I am grateful beyond what I can express in words, which knowing me it’s difficult to shut me up!

To celebrate this milestone, I decided to do our first ever giveaway! *cue confetti and balloons* I gave it much thought. I wanted my giveaway to be unique, something you couldn’t find in anyone else’s channel. What is more unique than my creating something myself for one, or some, of you? Well my lovely friends, you’ve seen me work on knitting projects, and boy oh boy have I been working on one for you! For those who have been catching the stream lately, I’ve been posting this link as a hint as to what the giveaway prize is going to be. *drum roll please* For those of you who guessed a mushroom from Nintendo's Mario games series, you are correct! I started working on this knitting project weeks ago. I'm not sure if I want to go red or green, but I originally chose the mushroom because our little community is "leveling up." (Pretend I'm witty). Nintendo has a history close to many a gamer's heart. With the passing of president Satoru Iwata, I found it an even more befitting way of acknowledging a legacy. Although a humble stream, I do wish to create a positive environment to continue building our community. Our legacy. It will be nothing like the accomplishments of Mr. Iwata, but we can aspire. This milestone has reinvigorated my motivation to create more original content. Expect to see me posting more on this blog. I just finished my first play through of Portal and am in the middle of Portal 2... Let's just say the punts have been real. As I mentioned in my "gamer origins" there are many classic games I haven't played. I intend to start playing as many of them as I can and start a blog series of my reactions to them. The YouTube channel has mostly served as an archive for past Twitch broadcasts. I don't see myself being able to create too much OC for YouTube, but I hope to get in the habit of cutting the broadcasts into shorter segments. If there's anything you folks would love to have me do, especially games you'd like to take part in, please let me know! Thank you all for being awesome. May we continue to become awesomer. You know we can!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Short and Sweet Thank You: GP Vegas

Before writing my blogpost about the incredible experiences had at GP Vegas, I would like to make a post saying "THANK YOU!" to everyone who helped me get there.

Originally, I was not planning on even attempting to go to GP Vegas. The BF, our good friend known online as amskissfan, and I have been talking the past few weeks about our wanting to start the Magic grind. GP Vegas was going to be the first event in this endeavour. Unfortunately, AMS moved and life decided that money needed to go elsewhere. On a whim, I decided to make GP Vegas a donation goal for the stream and hadn't even considered actually making it. Thanks to the wonderful viewers of the stream, we were able to get me there! Not only was I able to get there, I was also able to take part in a draft thanks to another donor.

As grateful as I am for the donations, what I am really and truly thankful for are the experiences of the trip and how they have helped me to realize that some of the aspirations I have aren't unreachable. I don't know how frequently I've mentioned it on the stream, but all I really want out of life is to travel and communicate with others, hopefully in a positive, community-building way. It's one of the reasons I've been considering going into linguistics and becoming an interpreter for travelers. What I may not have mentioned is that I would love to be a part of the MTG events planning and/or coverage team. Travel? Check. Community outreach? Check. Magic, a hobby I love and adore? Check! Considering how my personal life has been lately, I've actually been feeling quite torn about how much time and effort to put into streaming and creating content, such as the podcast that will be recorded and debuted later this week. After speaking to anyone and everyone I could about how to get involved with the events aspect of MTG, it seems that the hobbies I was so torn about are exactly the types of things I should be doing.

Thank you everyone for not only making this wonderful trip happen, but for helping ignite my own spark. If you can't wait to see some of the shenanigans from the trip, some photos have been posted on the Facebook group page as well as Instagram. I'm working on getting all the photos together in an imgur album.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Looking Back On... FNM 04.10.15

RW Token Burn

Main Board:
4x Goblin Rabblemaster
2x Soulfire Grand Master
4x Monastery Mentor
2x Purphoros, God of the Forge
3x Outpost Siege
4x Chained to the Rocks
3x Hordeling Outburst
3x Valorous Stance
4x Stoke the Flames
4x Lightning Strike
4x Wild Slash
3x Temple of Triumph
4x Battlefield Forge
1x Evolving Wilds
10x Mountain
5x Plains

Side Board:
2x Glare of Heresy
3x Erase
1x Temur Battle Rage
3x Banishing Light
2x Mastery of the Unseen
2x Stormbreath Dragon
2x Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

The deck is quite simple really: flood the field with creatures, burn opponents' creatures or life totals, have indirect damage dealt from creatures entering (or leaving) the battlefield. One of the most frequently asked questions is why I don't use Seeker of the Way in place of Monastery Mentor. My deck build is inspired by Purphoros's "as a creature enters the battlefield" triggered ability. I choose to play Mentor over Seeker because Mentor is a token generator and can become more powerful. I believe there are enough noncreature spells (burn them! BURN THEM!) to consistently trigger his prowess. Lifegain? I'm usually not too concerned by about it. My deck should be aggressive enough early game to not have to worry about taking a hit or two. By turn 6 I should be winning or have a set up to be able to win.

For the most part, I've been running a version of this deck since January. This is the specific deck list I made to compete in Grand Prix Miami back in March. To be honest, I've been a bit lazy to update my sideboard, even before the Dragons of Tarkir release. It's built to deal with Abzan and U/B control decks, which my friends and I had anticipated to see a lot of when we had gone to GP. There are a few minor changes I'd make to to the deck but even without being updated to include the latest card set, it has been doing quite well.

My most recent FNM has been the best yet for myself and the deck! For the first time since attending my current LGS, I made it into Top 8! -dance it out- Typically my goal is to just make it into the top 10; always so close but not close enough. Deck piloting aside, I'm pretty sure this girl right here is the reason for my success that night. (I'm a huge Game of Thrones/ASOIAF nerd). The only deck I lost to was my mirror match up, which surprised me that there is even a mirror match up now! I have been the only one at my LGS playing this build of Tokens. Ever since the DTK prerelease, a few others have started to try it out.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Gamer Origins: EM

Before exploring innumerable fantastical realms, let me share my "gaming origins."

Stop laughing at me!
     My mom was a single-mom until I was about 7. She worked numerous jobs to care for herself and me. As a result, my life seemed to be split between her apartment and my grandparents' houses. Whenever we were at our apartment, I'd play with toys, dolls, the usual. I don't remember when but at some point my mom got an original Nintendo. To this day I'm not sure if she got the console for herself or for me. Aside from Bejeweled, it's the only game I remember her ever playing. We had the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt game. I loved it: the music, the animation, the puzzles, the challenge. I was always bamboozled by how she knew the locations of secret coins, rooms, anything.  I would always try to jump as high as I could onto the flag at the end of the levels. We would co-op and try to race each other. Duck Hunt I may or may not have stood as close as possible to the screen. Even as a youngin' I knew I wasn't cut out to be a shooter. I liked making fun of the hound whenever he popped out from the bushes. Or yell at him to not make the ducks move; little did I know that my mom was able to move them around with the 2nd controller. My mom wasn't the only person I played with. My grandparents also had a neighbor with a daughter around my age. Often I'd spend afternoons at her house playing Super Nintendo or running around not falling into canals (this might be an exaggeration). I think we played a lot of Donkey Kong and Mortal Kombat. We were awful at it but had a lot of fun. These early systems I don't remember very well since they're memories from before I was 7. At the time we were living in Miami, so most of my memories are in Spanish. Sadly, my Spanish isn't as great as it used to be. What's the saying? "If you don't use it, you lose it." Remembering them is like watching a silent film.

Never figured out how to aim...
     My mom eventually remarried. All of a sudden I had a dad and a brother my own age. Not only had our family doubled, but we had moved away from Miami. Until then, I had grown up speaking mostly Spanish at home and in public. Let's just say I had some cultural and emotional shock.  My world had been flipped upside-down. I feel what really helped my dad, brother, and I bond together was the N64 they had. Countless hours were spent playing Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, and Diddy Kong Racing. We had a few of the Star Wars titles for the N64, but I didn't care for them. Visually, I found them striking. Gameplay was a little too difficult. My first time playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a complete and utter disaster! I couldn't figure out the controls or understand how to use the map. The furthest I got in game was the scrub room in the Deku Tree. I wouldn't pick up that game again for years. We tried to get more games for the original Nintendo, but it didn't age well. Having to constantly blow the cartridges wasn't quite the gaming experience we wanted. Eventually, the N64 started to go too.

     Growing up, holidays and birthdays usually meant our getting a new game or console. Our first Christmas as a family, my brother and I each got a GameBoy Color and Pokemon game. For him: special edition Pikachu GBC and Red Version. For me: purple GBC and Blue Version. Now, this was not my first experience with Pokemon. I had watched the show; it and Sailor Moon were part of the "getting ready for school" routine. I had collected the cards, even if I hadn't understood how the trading card game worked. For me, Pokemon was truly my gateway drug into nerdlife, my love for fantasy and sci-fi aside. It has been a difficult fix to break. Whenever a new GB game came out, we got each of them. I'm glad we did, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to trade with anyone. We stopped playing after Ruby/Sapphire, essentially when we started high school and were trying to become attractive for future colleges/universities. Our GameBoy experiences weren't limited to Pokemon. I realized my deep love for RPGs by playing Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones. Hand-held consoles hold a dear place in my heart. They were the first gaming experience I truly delved into as well as being the one I spent the most time playing. Until I entered high school, my family was involved in a lot of extracurriculars, meaning we spent a lot of time driving around from place to place. My GameBoy, and then later my PSP, was always there to keep me entertained and challenged.

     The system I fell completely head over heels for was the PlayStation 2. I don't remember when we
got it, but it must have been soon after it released. This is the system I truly grew up with and never get tired of playing. Although my dad, brother, and I loved to compete, most of the games we played were single-player. We'd compete by seeing who could get 100% completion. The guys usually beat me in this regard, but it only increased my incentive to play! Crash Bandicoot was one of the first games we played, but we didn't purchase too much of the series. My dad was a big fan of the Ape Escape, especially since my younger siblings were able to watch and enjoy the silly gameplay. I loved Ratchet and Clank. My brother loved Sly Cooper. The only co-op games we played together were SSX Tricky - the only sports game I enjoy - and Guitar Hero. I might not be able to strum a tune on a real guitar, but I can impress quite a few people with my GH skills. Now, you might be wondering where such staples as Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts are on this list. Sadly, they are not. Reasons being, my parents were very strict on the kinds of games we could play. We were not allowed to play anything over a T-rating. If we did have a violent game, were were only allowed to play it when our younger siblings were sleeping or not home. My mom wasn't a FF fan because of the outfits. She was afraid that I'd start to dress like Riku from FFX-2. One of my classmates got me the game for my 13th birthday. The first time I played it my parents had to watch just in case they changed their minds about it being "age appropriate." I refused to play Kingdom Hearts. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. How does someone refuse KH goodness? By wanting nothing to do with Disney at the time. I come from a very Disney-oriented family. We became more "obsessed" after my mom started working for the company. I was a teenager. I rebelled. Rawr. To this day I have yet to play KH. I'm starting to play the FF series. Slowly but surely we'll get there.

     Hand-helds and the PS2 might be my preferred gaming systems, but they were not the only systems I grew up with. We also had a GameCube and an XBox. The only games I can remember having for the GameCube are Pokemon Colosseum, Animal Crossing, and Super Mario Sunshine. I got pretty far in Colosseum. There aren't too many Pokemon games that I don't enjoy. Animal Crossing was a guilty pleasure. I can't tell you how many times my dad made fun of me for running around and doing errands and yardwork in the game instead of doing so in real life. Sunshine was a big pain in the rear since I couldn't quite master the controls for FLUDD. I never became an XBox fan. At the time, there weren't many games my brother and I were allowed to play due to my parents' strict rules. Another reason we never really played on XBox was because we did not have the online capability on ours. My parents refused to get it. Partly because of the creeps online. Partly because of the money. I only ever really played Knights of the Old Republic on the system. No Halo. No Call of Duty. Sorry folks I'm not much of a FPS player. No practice and poor eyesight does that.

     As you can see, I've missed out on a lot of classic games growing up and am hoping to catch up. I just started PC gaming and will be scouring the Steam store for deals. I own a PS3 and a XBox 360, but until recently never had much time to play. Honestly, I'm not sure where to start! I'm open to most game suggestions and love playing with others. Looking forward to playing and sharing my experiences with all of you. <3