Micro post: Backlog Update, two for 1 Rayman Legends

… Not expecting this honestly, but somehow I finished two games on this list in a day. I had totally forgotten how close I was to finishing Rayman Legends. So here is the up up dated list.

Wii U
Wonderful 101

DS/DS
Persona Q
Chrimson Shroud
Radiant Historia
Shovel Knight
Monster Hunter 4G (getting to G ranked missions ok)

Vita
Metal gear solid 2 HD
Tearaway

iOS
Year walk
Banshee’s last cry

PC
Higurashi When They Cry
Freedom planet

PS3
Last of Us (not to actually play, but to watch someone else play)

PSP
Corpse Party
Half Minute Hero
Riveria

NES
Megaman 2

Micro post: Backlog Update, Danganronpa

For those playing along at home, I still have a lot to cover, but one of the major newer guilt inducers has been dealt with. Although, Danganronpa never really quite blew me away like a whole variety of VNs I’ve played, despite probably being the best reviewed VN since the first Phoenix Wright game. And I really don’t know why, as I can’t find anything that I didn’t really like, but at the same time it didn’t leap out me. Infact, I could probably find more fault with the VNs I fell in love with than this which I enjoyed but didn’t devour like those others.

And below, the updated list

Wii U
Wonderful 101

DS/DS
Persona Q
Chrimson Shroud
Radiant Historia
Shovel Knight
Monster Hunter 4G (getting to G ranked missions ok)

Vita
Metal gear solid 2 HD
Rayman legends
Tearaway

iOS
Year walk
Banshee’s last cry

PC
Higurashi When They Cry
Freedom planet

PS3
Last of Us (not to actually play, but to watch someone else play)

PSP
Corpse Party
Half Minute Hero
Riveria

NES
Megaman 2

Otome Road, Tokyo Trip Feb 2015

The last time I had spare time in Tokyo, I went to Ikebukuro. But I took left out of the wrong side of the station and went in a totally opposite direction than the famed walk of BL and Otome. What’s BL? What’s Otome? Well, let me tell you

Otome. Sometimes translated as virgin, but probably more akin to maiden. Otome I usually associate more with otome games than a term like otome manga which I have never heard. Otome games are games where you play as a girl and romance (or are romanced by) various guys.

Also, BL is short for “Boys Love” media, which isn’t always sexual as the commonly known term “yaoi” might be. Although much like yaoi, BL media is traditionally made for and by a female audience as opposed to a male one.

Ikebukuro is the hub of this community, and is probably the only place you can see trucks like this

As much as I like the idea of more media with gay male romance. This is actually a sub culture I know very little about, but my friend from the Akiba trip is much more knowledgeable one. So talking with her about it, seeing all of it a little more from her perspective was really interesting. Not that we got into much depth really.

Continue reading

ESL Game Breakdown: Bowling from ALTinsider

Not my own creation, read about it here, http://www.altinsider.com/bowling/

This is a fairly simple game overall, despite some fancy appearances when you break it down it is:

Ask a question
Get an answer
Recieve reward. Sometimes the reward can be hindering another team

Common “great ESL game” variants of this are Almost But Not Quite Mario Kart and Typhoon. While those are fine games, bowling has some unique properties that I think make it particularly special, and other games can learn from.

The is a limit of 6 points.
After 3 points, a team can opt for a ball instead of a point, and bowl for a chance to reduce the opponents points.
Points 1-3 are hard to knock over, 4-6 are easy to remove.

Once a team hits 3 points, they rarely go below 2 points, no matter how aggressively targeted by other teams attempts on them. This is mostly just down to the fact paper cups actually stand up pretty well. But as a design thing, it ensures everyone is in the game.

The cap, being 6 points, also works with this. If you rarely get below 3 points, and 6 is the max, most of the time, you are only 3 questions away from the BEST SCORE POSSIBLE. This means it is quite possible for every team to have either gotten a 6, or destroyed one. Both of which feel pretty awesome. Keeping everyone in the game is great. Other games, like Typhoon can do this, but they do it through fake randomness. (Ask any person who runs Typhoon how much they stick to a score board they made, if they even did). Bowling is mechanically, if accidentally, made to keep everyone with a chance of winning every turn.

After 3 points, a team can opt to go aggressive. This is great, particularly that it’s a choice, creating drama that helps get students interested. Randomization creates drama, but not interest. And depending on the class, it can even feel hollow and remove excitement. I mean what good is answering the hard question, when it might lose my team their points if I am unlucky? The actual bowling itself has variance, but it has clear intention behind it, making for a much more satisfying experience. Also, this after 3 points aggression helps the “keep anyone in the game” mentality, you need to get to a point where you are in the game to win, before you can start attacking. Attacking at the expense of a point also helps keep scores in that 3-5 range meaning most of the game stays very very close. Which keeps up excitement without anyone or thing really faking these scores to be close.

Compare this to, Almost But Not Quite Mario Kart, with a total of 20 points, it means that once a team is 10 points behind, that best all that they can do is a little kingmaker with items, but have no real chance of winning. Typhoon, the students honestly have little power to win, and could win randomly off a lucky 50 point question, and then stay silent to win. Or in fact be winning, because they just are the best, and lose all their points because the last square was a Typhoon. Which… just kind of sucks. Most other games allow huge score games that can be impossible to recover from

 

So what lessons can we learn from bowling when making ESL games?

Variance in the hands of someone is better than true randomness in the hands of no one.

Using a low score ceiling, and some safe guards against low scoring teams losing more points, helps keep everyone in the game, making every question valuable.

Presenting students with a genuine choice, inviting tactics to the game makes for great drama. Making that choice between helping themselves or hurting another helps keep things relatively balanced.

This boils down to something that isn’t just good ESL activity design, but good design generally. Everything has to matter. In bowling, a point can be the difference between places, a ball can change the tides drastically if used well, but that choice is not a simple always pick ball after X points kind of choice (except at 6 points where there is no choice). If your choices are either all effectively the same, or the results too widely out of your control, any balance that makes is hollow, and only exciting for a short time.

Not in the Job Description, a music lesson.

So, on social media, I joked about how I was Music Teacher today. While not the case, today was not something I had expected really, but also an extremely likely situation. So lets talk about MUSIC.

Actually, when you break down the class, it really wasn’t as much of a music class, other than going through the names of a bunch of instruments, and playing them. Including simple kids class instruments like castanets and a triangle, to a Flute, Trumpet, Euphonium and Violin.

It was actually a SUPER CLEVER class plan by the school in a sense. It is a nice special thing to have an english class in the music room, and a great way to use the expression “Can you ______.” After playing all the instruments, you introduce the phrase can you play the X. And then responses, “Yes/No I can/’t.” It is hard to come up with a convincing way to not play a tambourine by the way.  Then have the students in pairs go to the instrument stations you’ve set up with what they are allowed to play, do the question answer routine, play the instruments to show they can, and then move on. Then ending the class with me showing off how adaptable I am and playing the Flute, Trumpet, Euphonium and Violin.

While I had a lesson plan kind of given to me… This is a school I am at once a month, so I haven’t established a great relationship with the students or teachers, so I didn’t have the kind of safety net that I would usually have with knowing how a teacher might help me if I was in a bind. So I admit to being a little nervous, but music while not the hugest passion is certainly something I have dabbled in more than perhaps many people. (because really, I don’t know many people who play wood wind instruments generally). This class is all about going with the flow. You got instruments so make noise! Get a little musical, good or bad. There is a moment to show your special talent? USE IT, apparently even the music teacher didn’t play the flute. Kids are not a dumb audience, but as an adult, we can seem pretty talented when we might not consider ourselves as such. That is worth keeping in mind. Honestly, today nearly got me wanting to buy a flute and/or a clarinet to practice again.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the lesson is probably the one that falls the least into my role as ALT. We had a violin, a really gorgeous violin. I can’t really play the violin, but I CAN fake it when only given 5 seconds. Obviously not every student could play it, but I managed to get 3 students and the teacher to make good sounds from the instrument, and playing it in a proper position (well, within limits, some kids weren’t big enough for the violin). But it was a real joy helping them get a sound out of the thing.

I’ve actually been using my more musical self increasingly in classes. Getting that sing song in whenever I can because I love it, and am not entirely shoddy. And I think people respond more to passion than skill a lot of the time (unless they are coming FOR that specific thing).

So yeah, when a job calls for something out of the ordinary, embrace it! Go that extra mile when you have an extra mile you can easily give.

And Image credit from the wonderful comic strip that will also prepare you more than a comic should for JET, http://www.lifeaftertheboe.com/

Akiba, Tokyo Trip Feb 2015

I must admit, I really am not the greatest writer when it comes to travel stuff. But practice makes perfect right? This is also coming nearly… a month later… yes a month later than it really should.

So, Saijo to Tokyo, it’s a decent trip distance wise. I had a few options to get there, from plane, bus or train. I opted for the cheapest, taking 11 hours by bus, from 7:50pm to 6:50am or so. I usually never get much sleep on international flights, but I have never had a bus trip quite this long before so unsure how well I would weather it. Surprisingly, I actually slept for most of the trip pretty well. Certainly not a great nights sleep, but could be far worse.

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So on the Wednesday morning, very very early, I arrive in Tokyo and… have to wait. Japan generally doesn’t have much open before 10am, which has always been a personal frustration of mine with the country actually. So once arriving, I went to Akihabara and immediately parked myself in a café for food. Once I had decided the staff were no longer going to abide by my parking in their café I decided to explore an Akiba where everything is closed.

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While, I didn’t find much of interest for obvious reasons, there were a few things I noticed. Most notably an outside market being set up and a pack of fans outside an anime goods store called ANIMATE, who seemed to be there waiting for something specific. And then a long line of people waiting to get into what appeared to be a pachislot place. (one day I will write about Pachinko), it seemed a new Madoka based machine was the reason for this line.

Then I parked myself in a bakery, and finished watching the classic film Snow White. Soon, the time of opening would be upon us though, so I met with my friend and we begun our Akiba Trip.

 Personally, I find describing a trip through Akiba hard. For me a lot of the fun is in poking around and either getting blasts of “Is this really a thing?” or “OMG IS THAT REALLY A (niche franchise) (object)”

 

Although my exploration did clue me onto the fact that somehow, someone, somewhere, decided a stage performance of Phantasy Star Online 2 was something that the world needed. Japan has many stage productions, of odd things. But that a stage production of a free to play MMO is something that will exist this march is baffling.

If I was wealthier or lived near Tokyo I would go and see it. But I don’t think I need to know how bad it is.

Anyway, come opening time a dear friend of mine rocked up and set us up exploring. This time, the exploration was a little different. My exploration is usually focused primarily around videogames. However, my friend is much more invested in the anime and VN side of things, which made this trip quite a bit different. So, we wandered around various shops. Mostly looking through doujin and figures. I was optimistic I would find an Umihara figurine, but no luck (although it was very unlikely). I did managed to pick up other goods though

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We also looked at a lot of Gatchapon. A lot of Gatchapon. For those not in the know, gatchapon, sometimes called capsule machines, are very common in Japan, containing small toys, keychains and the like fairly cheaply. But of course, there is a random element to them. It can be quite addictive really.

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Not a lot of game hunting went on though. Although we did stumble by my the great SUPER POTATO. Which is a little pricey, but a wonderful retro game shop that might that oozes with love. It might not have everything, but would probably be one of THE places for old games… Although you do pay for the pleasure of buying from a shelf, as these games are not cheap. Mandarake is the other major contender, and while nice, I like how homebrew Super Potato feels compared to Mandarake.

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Super Potato, along with selling a lot of games, also has a small amount of game merch, with two major takeways, the BATH BOY, and this wonderful Okami… plastic print? It feels like it is supposed to be a huge crappy mousepad, but currently lives on my wall.

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After a lot of walking, we have burgers, do some more running around, and then are exhausted so time to head to my hostel in Ueno/Nezu.

Next up, my trip down Otome Road.