Monday, December 10, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider:
I should have known better than to get this game after getting bored with the second one but several reviews promised that the parts I hated had been improved and I was in need of a birthday game to purchase and waste time on. I only made it 7 hours in before quitting in regret. The only redeeming feature is that the graphics are beautiful. The game still beats you over the head with a pointless story and forces you to pay attention to cutscenes when you just want to raid some tombs. This philosophy is encapsulated in the fifteen minute opening sequence where you're forced to walk (run is disabled) through a crowded market admiring the work of the art team while the story happens around you.

The overall package is actually worse than the previous game because of new bugs and a weird floatiness to jumps that used to be tightly controlled -- if the actual tomb-raiding part can't be done right, there's no reason at all to play. Finally, the difficult levels are poorly implemented -- instead of making the game more and less difficult, they just make the game more and less tedious.

Final Grade: D

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: I first reviewed this game back in January and gave it a solid C- because of its flaws. Over the end of the summer and throughout the fall, I finally beat the game after about 80 hours of play (50 of which was probably waiting for loading screens). Instead of directly following the storyline, I chose instead to visit all 120 required-yet-optional Shrines first so I could max out my stats and not fall down cliffs due to lack of stamina all of the time. Extra stamina did help me enjoy traveling more but my final grade doesn't change -- it is still difficult to feel like you're making progress in any sitting. I would bump this game up to a solid B with the following changes: merge the 120 shrines into 30, each of which gives you a full heart or a stamina vessel, reduce loading screen time by 50% or more (or allow me to teleport out of a shrine to a destination of my choice), and reduce the size of the world by about 15% to make it feel less empty and more worthwhile to explore.

Final Grade: C-

Nintendo Switch:
I'm pretty ambivalent on the Switch after having played 5 or 6 games on it so far. I play mostly in docked TV mode with the Joycons in the awkward controller-like holder shown on the box. The double shoulder buttons are sized weirdly (it seems like the larger button should be on top, since my fingers naturally rest on the bottom button which is often some kind of "cancel" action). The ability to go portable is a nice gimmick, but the control schemes rarely carry over well between one and the other (especially games that require touchscreen or motion support). Games that look great on the TV can get too chaotic on the little screen as well.

My biggest concern is simply the lack of NEW first-party games. Browsing the Switch wall at Gamestop requires me to wade through endless shovelware, ports from other consoles, and reworked Wii U games. Give me some solid single-player games designed exclusively for the Switch -- I can play Stardew Valley on literally every single other device I own (including my toaster oven).

Final Grade: C+

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Friday, December 07, 2018

Maia Month #17 Battle Report

Maia is now one year and five months old, weighing 21 pounds and walking up a storm. After months of getting a feel for how long it will take her to crawl down the hall after you, she can now startle you like a nascent ninja by coming into the room right behind you. She has 3 teeth on the bottom and about 8 on top. Maia reads on her own less than before, but still sucks in knowledge like a sponge. She can identify things by color, continues to refine her animal sounds, and learns a million new things at the library every day.

She has two stuffed animals, creatively named Bear and Bunny (one is a bear and one is a bunny, and they both identify as such), that she takes wherever she goes. She sometimes cries if she can't find or have one, although she's surprisingly okay with the fact that we have two copies of the bunny (for laundry purposes) that don't quite look the same.

We put up our Christmas tree a few weeks ago and tentatively left it unprotected by gates. Maia's been great with it so far, choosing to play with the ornaments on the lower branches rather than tipping it over. She likes Christmas trees, lights, deer, and all the accoutrements of the season.

Life is going well!

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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Stuff in My Drawers Day

I drew this picture in kindergarten, for Christmas 1984. My narration was transcribed by one of the teachers, Ms. Lovo.

Clearly, I was an unreliable narrator. My dad and I never went out and chopped down a Christmas tree even once, and definitely not one with a star already on it. We got live trees with all the roots from a local lot and then planted them in the backyard after Christmas, where they died within months.

Also, I'm pretty sure that bird is an airplane.

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Monday, December 03, 2018

Coding Day

I've decided to participate in the annual Advent of Code competition this year as a way to flex the programming skills that have lain dormant since 2017. Advent of Code is a global competition where people compete to solve daily two-part logic puzzles (like this one) as fast as possible using any programming language they want (Some masochists have done it in BASIC, Oracle functions, and even Excel!). Novetta is one of the corporate sponsors.

Rather than investing in personal growth by using this opportunity to learn a new language, I'll play it safe and go back to my Eclipse/Java/JUnit roots. I have no hope of getting on the global leaderboards (the fastest global solve time for both parts of the Day 1 puzzle was a ridiculous 1 minute 48 seconds) but I'm putting forth a reasonably good showing on my company's private leaderboard so far (out of about 65 participants). Here are my results so far:

  • Rank 1 Fastest: Fastest solve time on the Novetta Leaderboard
  • +/-: Difference between my time and the fastest time.
  • Daily Rank: My placement for a single daily puzzle.
  • Overall Raw Rank: My leaderboard position at the end of this day.
  • Overall Adjusted Rank: My leaderboard position at the end of this day, adjusted based on median solve times. (Because many employees beat every puzzle, ties are broken by the median fastest solve time over all 25 days).

I also coded up a static page that shows Novetta's Top 10 Solve Times, updated daily. I'll post my full results at the end of the month. Join in yourself if you like to code!

tagged as programming | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, November 30, 2018

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2018 album. Google Photos sucks.

  • Events
    • Maia and I met up with Michael and Sachin at Mellow Mushroom for Happy Hour on H 11/1.

    • Went back to Deer Haven in Edinburg, VA with Car and Ben F 11/2 - M 11/5. Followed up with a family dinner at Cafesano on M 11/5.

    • Voted for liberty on T 11/6.

    • Visited my parents with Maia while Rebecca went to an all-day symposium on F 11/9.

    • Did some raking and had a family dinner at Red Robin on S 11/10. Rebecca taught anatomy to advanced yoga teacher trainees.

    • Had our first snow event with about 2 inches on H 11/15.

    • Went to Fredericksburg for lunch with Catherine at Eileen's on F 11/16. Spent the night at Anna and Ben's and came home on S 11/17.

    • Went to Taylorstown for Thanksgiving with the Whitmers on H 11/22.

    • Put up the Christmas tree on F 11/23 and discovered that we have mice in the crawlspace.

    • De-moused the crawlspace on S 11/24, then went to the Smiths for Thanksgiving leftovers and Game Night (Jackbox).

    • Took a family walk around Old Town Herndon and had dinner at Mediterranean Breeze on S 11/25.

    • Maia visited her Uri grandparents on H 11/29.

  • Projects
    • Refurbished my decrepit treadmill (and de-soldered the annoyingly loud beeper from its circuit board), in hopes of many more years of moderate jogging to stave off bacon-based heart attacks.

    • Went on a light pollution war against blue LEDs in my home office with electrical tape.

  • Consumerism
    • Got a massive and massively quiet new fridge on M 11/26.

    • Finally beat Zelda: Breath of the Wild and reinstalled Fallout 4.

    • Enjoyed the new Muse album, Simulation Theory, this month.

    • Enjoying a slow rewatch of Person of Interest as well as Patriot, Season Two and Silicon Valley, Season Four.

November's Final Grade: B, Solid, fun month in spite of the lackluster weather.

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