The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: video games

The TRUE reason why this blizzard is scary

stonest

#noescape

How cheating has made me grow as a person and a gamer

Everyone deplores cheaters. The word ‘Gameshark’ is always muttered under dark breaths. The idea of getting something without having to work for it irks people.

OMG HAX

However, I’m here to sing a different tune. As a kid, when I discovered the joys of the clunky plug-in Gameshark device for the Playstation 1 as a kid, I was thrilled by the countless possibilities. Oh I can finally get that KOTR materia without all that nasty chocobo inbreeding now. Oh 1337 stats and infinite items? Yes please!

And thus began my cruise onto the internets to source for hundreds and hundreds of hexadecimal codes, all those 8001117D etc. which I copied dutifully by hand onto paper and then manually inserted into the device. Yes, through using the Gameshark device, I learnt what the hexadecimal system was in fifth grade, and learnt about the basics of programming, and how tweaking numbers can change values in a game. I learnt that things in a game, such as stats and items, correspond

But strangely, even as I infinite-HP’d my way through Monster Rancher, I didn’t get the satisfaction I thought I would. Oh sure, being able to plough through the games without the fear of dying was thrilling. As Winston Churchill once said, “There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as being shot at and missed” and indeed this exhilaration gripped me initially. I was practically omnipotent, with infinite resources at my disposal.

Yet, after a while, I opted for max HP/MP cheats instead of infinite HP/MP, because the games got too easy. I would look for codes that maxed my life that could be depleted instead of an infinite one. Slowly, I rescinded on the codes I used. Instead of a max all stats cheat, I would perhaps only max just one aspect. Soon after, I stopped using stat altering cheats and went for unlocking exclusive feats (unlockables, hard-to-obtain items etc).

Till today, I don’t really regret that I used a Gameshark to get a Mew in Monster Rancher 2 simply because I didn’t have a ‘Madonna the Immaculate Collection’ CD to spawn it.

This….

…spawns this. True story. Why? I dunno.

The point is, when everything was so easily available through cheating, I began to appreciate the value of effort more. Through being able to easily obtain Arceus and Darkrai on Pokemon Diamond/Pearl made me realize that their availability made them no more precious than a regular Bidoof or Zubat. Thus, to make my Pokemon experience special, I discovered EV training (I wasn’t a very good competitive trainer but going on that journey was interesting) and the Pikachu with the Volt Tackle that I got from the (crappy) Wii Game ‘Pokemon Battle Revolution’ as the first Pokemon I ever EV trained (and Ditto-raped for nature). I still kept all the rare Pokemon I cheated with for collection purposes, as I realize I would probably never be in Japan when promotions reel around, but within this game, residing side-by-side with the ill-gotten Pokemon, were Pokemon I put so much effort and time with. My Diamond cartridge truly felt like a culmination of experience, of learning through the disappointment I got through cheating, the determination I gained about the value of effort and so forth.

Many gamers decry the methods of cheaters, but in the writings of John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’, through a ‘free marketplace of ideas’ where both the good and the bad opinions are allowed to be aired, the good shines in comparison through conflict with the erred and to deprive truth and good that opportunity would be to do people a disservice. Cheaters have the potential to learn the value of effort and hard work through cheating too.

I suppose in real-world situations, it’s not as if the actions of an individual gamer has no social implications, especially in today’s gaming situations, with MMOs on the rise, cheating and bots do impinge on the gaming experience of other people and that’s when things go bad. Nobody wants to play a game with a person who has gold farmed from a bot or a gold farmer and upsets the meta-economy. My cheating history was a mostly cloistered one, since I wasn’t rich enough to play MMOs. Battling online on Pokemon though, can be where the “do no harm” principle flounders sadly like a Magikarp — one does see outrageously hacked “hackmons” while battling, and the ones without a cheating device is usually left disadvantaged.

It seems that the concept of cheating has gained more consequences with the rise of socially-integrating games then. The motif of the Mills ‘Harm principle’ where “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins” becomes challenged more and more as games develop, but it also brought into the discussion some merits of cheating that would have otherwise been overlooked.

Originally written on 27th December 2010 on 1up.com, edited for content and clarity.

The psychology of being a completionist

I do admit, I am somewhat of a completionist – On Final Fantasy IX (the only game I’ve ever faithfully declared to have liked) I have completed all of the Chocobo Hot and Cold, Gotten 99 of every item that can legally be obtained so, fully mastery of all abilities and summons for all characters, completed all mini-quests (Ozma and the stupid critters included) and this: Tetra Master, 1 of every card, with 1 of every arrow-combination but 2.

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For a minigame with no tangible reward, I spent so much time on this.

And then there are other games where a similar streak runs too.

My point is this: What is the satisfaction derived from such seemingly pointless, even menial, tasks?

There must be some sort of achievement obtained at the end of this task, why else would we even undertake the effort? Even the most psychopathic of axe-murderers have a motive that made sense to them at the point of chopping victims into itty-bitty pieces.

  • Reward motivation: This one is a no-brainer. The satisfaction of hearing the ping of ‘Achievement unlocked’ or ‘Medal achieved’ is immense. Achieving all of these medals or achievements is a goal that drives people to complete a game, but if actions are motivated by the bettering of self, what do achievements really achieve? The benefits of a 100% offer no tangible benefits in real life applications. One could cite bragging rights as a self-perceived superiority over the other mortals who are unable to dodge 200 lightning strikes in a row, but are ranked players any more self-confident than non-ranked ones? The reward system releases dopamine which makes us feel good when we nail that last secret costume, but given that the reward system is designed for us to continue doing what is beneficial to the self (reinforcement), perhaps our addiction to the rewards in gaming is simply arbitrary and for the sake of it.
  • Hoard mentality: This is about the creepy old man down the street who keeps every single newspaper he’s ever bought (and subsequently dies in a freak fire at home) and that ex who stores your nail clippings. The inherent need to cache quantity is visible across different species, and is seen in squirrels, octopuses, honey badgers etc. Wanting to accumulate as much achievements and hi-scores can be seen as a product of this mentality. This could explain why some people punish themselves playing games just to beat the high-score, even when the gaming process clearly ceases to be fun anymore. Also, research has shown that in Bejeweled, people respond positively to the mounting numbers and rising tones in the games as combos build. The addiction to big numbers could explain why breaking that 9999 HP/damage limit is oh-so-satisfying and watching Lightning deal 600 thousand HP damage gives one the willies. Although that is probably mitigated when faced against an enemy with a 7 million HP.
  • Irrational fears: Unfounded fears can play a role in explaining why people strive for that 100% completion. I get uneasy when I know I have dirty dishes lying in the sink waiting to be washed and I just have to do them before I go to bed (not really but you get the idea). Why is it that some people are unable to put down a game until they feel that they have sufficiently completed it to a point (in the case of FF9 for me, EVERYTHING)? It’s akin to having to reveal all unrevealed parts of a map in an RTS even though you know there might be nothing of note there, but the off-chance that there just miiight be impels one to do so. The fear that one might have left something out constitutes part of the fear of the unknown, and knowledge gleaned from revealing those patches of black confers relief. Irrational fears are usually a stepping stone to something bigger, such as “If I don’t skip on every 7/9th of a step a piano would fall on my head”. While gamers don’t expect pianos or anvils or any heavy object to flatten them, the ‘leading-to-something-bigger’ is manifest in a mini scale here. Perhaps if one doesn’t complete this game, this makes them feel ‘incomplete’ as a gamer and hence less competent. Or that not getting maxed out stats makes the saved data ‘imbalanced and ugly’, and there’s a certain beauty and symmetry to maxing everything out.

There might be other reasons for why people are impelled to go for that 100%. Of course, the idea of a completionist psyche does sound pretty kuku to a lot of people, but then again hey, we gamers are supposed to be murderers and psychopaths from violent video games so what’s not to expect, right?

Originally written on 30th November 2010 on 1up.com

The evolution of Ryu

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Image credit Eventhub

Ever since his inception in the first Street Fighter in 1987, Ryu has become a staple in every Street Fighter game or game that has Street Fighter cameos.  His appearance has changed drastically then, and the above image shows how.

Anyone remember the terrible movie, Street Fighter (1994), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme? Byron Mann plays Ryu in that one.

ryu-street-fighter-movie-anime-tarjetas-y-cards-3677-MLM45437925_6708-O[1]Ryu for reference, in Street Fighter. At least they cast an Asian.

I kind of prefer the Chinese spoof Street Fighter, Future Cops (1993), with Aaron Kwok as Ryu.

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So much better

I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen Future Cops to watch it. It combines the best of action films, the craziness of old Hong Kong flicks, and video games. What more do you need? In fact, you know what? Here it is, with English subtitles!

Vivillon fashion

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Vivillons are butterfly Pokémon for the 3DS game, Pokémon X and Y. A unique feature of the game is that for this one Pokémon, it has a distinct pattern based on what region one’s 3DS is set to. For example, those whose 3DS are set to New York gets the Polar pattern while those in Tokyo might get the Elegant pattern.

Tumblr user Greenvelvetcake takes these different patterns and turns them into gijinka, or anthropomorphism.

The patterns, in order from left to right, top to bottom: Meadow, Polar, Garden, Sun, Tundra, Elegant, Modern, Marine, Continental, Savannah, Monsoon, Icy Snow, and Ocean.

 

Wolfram-dex

wolframalpha-pikachu-2013-10-18_1729Wolfram Alpha, computational search engine, has always been known to be able to draw Pokemon curves, but now, with the iPhone’s Siri integration, one can truly use the Siri as a Pokedex.

pokedex-siri[1]You could use it to find out not only useful things about the game itself, but also very important numerical facts, such as “How many Bidoofs would it take to reach the moon?”

bidoof-height[1]Would sure be more useful than any current use of Siri, in my opinion.

Mario the heartless

Veni, vidi, left with no Pokemon

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It was a geek overload over the weekend: not only was there the New York Comic Con, but it was also the launch of the new Pokemon game, Pokemon X/Y.

Let’s talk the Pokemon launch.

There was a launch event going on from 8 PM to 12 AM, where people in line can get their hands on the game. I’ve been waiting a long time, even obsessively checking Reddit forums for all the spoilers about the game (I effectively knew all the Pokemon there were in the game even before the game was officially released). I was most definitely going to the launch event to get a copy of the game.

I met up with a couple of friends, where we decided to play some Mario Party before going to the event at the Nintendo World store at Rockefellers Center. Friendships were broken inevitably, as people who play Mario Party are wont to do, but we left at 8 PM.

The queue had already circled around the block. Thankfully, but virtue of us being ninjas, we managed to ninja the line (cut the queue) just a tad.

So from 9 PM, we stood there, as I racked up so many Streetpasses, the Nintendo 3DS feature that allows one to exchange profiles with each other that can be used for the 3DS’s minigame, Mii Plaza, and I spent about 3 hours of non-stop trying to clear the Streetpass — it was honestly the first time I felt exhausted by it, when ordinarily I’d have been thrilled for any Streetpass.

At midnight, the line started moving. Rejoice! I was physically closer to getting a copy of the new Pokemon! Getting closer now, cleared a couple more Streetpasses, turned the block, great, is that the facade of the building??

Alack! Just as we were about to reach the front, someone came up the line with this news:

“I’m sorry, but from this point on, you’re not going to be able to get the game tonight.”

My heart swelled up from excitement, and promptly shattered into a million pieces.

I waited three hours in line with all that hype and was to leave the place empty-handed? There were mixed messages floating around as another person said that it is likely those in line with us would get the games, provided we wait perhaps another three to four hours or so. Meanwhile, those who had been waiting in line since 5 PM were gaily enjoying their stupid Pokemon games and stupid Pokemon launch event swag.

In consolation, they gave out Pokeball game card holders and some posters. I was not very consoled. But I left anyway, because I haven’t had dinner.

Chinese innovation

pataponripoff

“Stand-alone music RPG masterpiece “PATAPON” fiery strikes!
HD beautiful Chinese style, get rid of fatigue!
New music rhythm battle system, you say goodbye to boring game with!”

PATAPON — Siege of WOW really does make one go “WOW.” As in, “Wow, what else will the Chinese not intellectually plunder?”

Loathe as I am to rail on the Chinese for intellectual theft and misappropriation of entire stores such as IKEA and Apple stores, there seems to be no letting up for copying wholesale the innovation and hard work of others. PSP game Patapon was next in line.

This Beijing company didn’t even bother to properly translate their “game’s” description on the Apple iTunes store — it was most definitely put through an online translator from Chinese. I’m surprised there were no errant Chinese characters left in the text.

Also, apparently the game is in Chinese only. For a game that speaks in a language that goes “PON-PON-PATA-PON,” why bother releasing the game on an international platform if the texts are going to be in Chinese only?

That said, some effort has been put into the visuals, to make it seem like things have been changed up a little.

pataponripoff2In the first screen, one can distinctly see a Chinese-style flanged roof structure, and the clouds are a stylised form of typical Chinese renditions of swirly clouds.

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Image from Wikipedia

The second screen shows another Chinese-style castle, and you see lotus flowers and a traditional goldfish art in the third. The fourth has a Chinese-looking pavilion and the last has some pillars that looks like a monk’s spade, most famously used by Sha Wujing (Sand Friar) in Journey to the West.

An “A” for effort I guess.

The Poké-Kiss

pokekissI combined two of my favourite things — Pokémon, and Art Nouveau. The result is The Poké-Kiss, from Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss and featuring generation III Pokémon Gardevoir and Gallade.

If you look closely, you’ll find that the flowers are actually all the berries that exist in the game, and that there are Pokéballs woven into the cloak of Gardevoir.