Coronavirus Quarantine

If you weren’t aware of current events, the Coronavirus is taking the world by storm. Due to this virus a worldwide pandemic was issued by the World Health Organization. What does this mean? Social distancing and a vampire lifestyle until this pandemic goes away. This week, I want to share how I’m dealing with rapid life style change and my thoughts on the current situation. 

As much as I’m ashamed to admit, I originally thought this whole situation would blow over quickly. I never thought the Coronavirus would spread to this extent nor affect my life as much as it has. Personally, the biggest impact the virus has had is definitely my education. I never thought I’d say it, but I miss school. Unlike previous years, this year and the next one are particularly important to me. I need good grades to get into a good university or collage, and with schools closed I don’t know how grades will be doled out. I’m honestly very worried for my grades, particularly Chemistry. 

Chemistry is definitely not my forte and I admittedly had been struggling a bit. It has gotten much better after getting a tutor, but my current grade is still worrying me to no end. If they really do end school early, I might very well end up taking Chemistry for summer school and I don’t say stuff like that lightly. My last experience with summer school was painful, and that’s no exaggeration. There were tests and assignments every other day with no breaks in between. The second you blink, you’ve likely missed at least a days worth of notes. And all this pain is from taking grade ten history, and I like history. I can’t even imagine the pain of take grade eleven Chemistry for summer school, but I realistically might need to do it.

Setting, Chemistry aside there’s still all my other subjects. In English, we were going to do our book clubs after March break. However, with this whole Coronavirus crisis going on, our plans are now in limbo. On the bright side, we can at least read and that’s what our teacher has asked us to do. The book I ended up reading is called Angela’s Ashes, a story of a poor Irish family during the great depression and all the hardships they endured. I’ll admit it’s interesting and I would’ve liked share my thoughts on the book with fellow classmates. However, that’s a bit hard to do right now and it’s a mystery to what will happen when we get back. In previous English classes, book club was always an essential part of the curriculum and I really hope they don’t scrape it. I’ve never been great at essays, and book club has always been a mark booster for me. 

As for Media Art and Technology Design, our teacher’s have at the very least given us some videos to watch. However, I think I’m also going to begin doing some self study. In Technology Design we’ll begin using Auto CAD and I’ve never used the software before. Still, it would be nice to get some practice in before school hopefully starts up again. On the other hand, there is Media Arts. I’ll probably look up some tutorials on Youtube for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. 

Overall, the foreseeable future will be pretty hectic. So far, the teachers haven’t really posted anything on the google classrooms or EDSBY. Information on the current Coronavirus situation regarding school has been hazy at best. At this point, I don’t even know if I’ll still have a school year! In a funny turn of events, by writing this blog I’ve come to realize I’m more worried about my marks than my actual heath. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be a reckless spring breaker and I don’t care about my health. Regardless, I hope this whole Coronavirus pandemic blows over soon.

The Problem With Mobile Tetris

A few days ago, I downloaded a Tetris app on my phone. Suffice to say, I was not satisfied as I felt there was something off about the game. Today I wanted to share my experience and how I think the game could be improved. 

First, in order to understand why I’m dissatisfied with the app, you’ll need to know what Tetris is. Tetris is a world renown puzzle game where you stack blocks on top of each other. You can move these blocks across a 10×20 grid as they slowly fall down the screen, and every time you clear a line it disappears. There are also other features to enhance the game play. One of these features is holding, where you save a block for later use. Another feature is hard dropping, where you instantly place down a block. The goal is too clear as many lines as you can, the caveat being the game speeds up as you clear more lines. 

Normally, the left and right movement would be controlled with keys, D-pad, or joy stick. However, this is not the case in the new Tetris app. It may not come as a surprise but not many smartphones have D-pads or a joy stick, this means the Tetris apps needs another way to move the blocks around. The solutions the developers came up with is using your finger to drag the blocks around, and I have mixed feelings about it. 

The benefit of this decision is the ability to play with one hand, which wasn’t a bad choice on the developers part. These days, I find the ability to play games with one hand makes the game more convenient and accessible. The fact the new Tetris apps wants these appealing selling points doesn’t seem that odd to me. However, by my personal preference I dislike it. It many not seem obvious to a person that’s completely new to Tetris, but this drag option is very restrictive compared to other alternatives. Unlike with a keyboard or D-pad, it is much harder to precisely control blocks. Another disadvantage is the inability to hyper tap, which is when you mash the left or right button to move a block really fast. Personally, I think a virtual D-pad would have been much better option. Still, I do understand the appeal of convenience and why the developers chose this one handed approach. Unfortunately, this leads me to my second gripe with the app.  

If the developers where aiming for a leisure game, which I believe they were, then their game progression is way too fast. Unlike a game like Candy Crush, Tetris requires your active attention. A single misplaced block can spell the end of your game, and this becomes much more prominent the further you get. By the fifth level, I usually found both my hands on the phone and all my attention directed at the game. The moment I needed two hands, the game didn’t feel very leisurely to me. Normally that would be fine, but I feel this makes the convenience of their one handed drag movement completely redundant. Like I said before, I’d much rather settle for a virtual D-pad and buttons. 

However, if they did want to keep their current movement design, I feel they would need to slow the game down even further than it already is. There are several ways this could be done. First, they could slowdown the drop speed. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary fix, and with how the game is design will only prevent the panic induced play of later level. Another solution would be to lower the maximum level or let players set their own level cap. As of now, the current level cap is 15. However, ever for me level 15 feels fairly fast. Instead, I feel level 10 would be a good cap for a leisure game. It is fast enough to feel the progression in difficulty but still possible with one hand. 

Overall, the new Tetris app is interesting. It is indeed fun, but there are several things I believe that could have been done better. Personally, I feel Tetris renditions on smartphones pander too much to convenience and it looses that Tetris feel. However, that is just my personal opinion in where Tetris is going on mobile devices. Regardless, I will continue to try beating my personal record on the new Tetris app. 

C# Test Projects

A few weeks ago, I have been dabbling in C# programming on my own. This week, I want to share what I have learned and how I plan to implement those ideas. 

The first program I created was a basic movement system. In this program, there is a box and it moves to wherever you click your mouse. However, the box only moves to the nearest 10 pixels. The reason for this rounding is that if I have a grid or tile set, the box will end up in one of the tiles or points. In addition, I also created another box that follows the first one. I call this an enemy box. The reason I wanted to do this, was to test enemy ai on a small level. In the future, I hope to have the enemies do more complicated actions. As of now, the only application I can think for this program is making a game similar to snake. I can have multiple boxes follow the leading one and if any of them collide with each other the game is over. 

Next, I created a puzzle system. Basically, there are a bunch of boxes and an equal amount of slots to match. In the program, you can mix and match these slots and boxes. When a slot is filled, the program recognizes it as filled and won’t let you place another box in it. Right now, I can use this system for a mix and match puzzle, but I have so much more planed for it. In the future, I’m thinking I could possibly use this program to create an inventory system. In this system, you could see all your items and possibly equip/un-equip items, this would be really useful if I ever create an RPG like game. In any case, I have a lot planned for this system. 

Finally, the last program I created is a tile set. In the program, there are many boxes that cover the entire screen. I call each one of these boxes a tile. When you hover over a tile with your cursor, the tile changes colour meaning it’s selected. There are also labels that tell you which tile is selected. In the future, I can have the program do specific thing when hovering over a certain tile. For now, each tile is blank and doesn’t do anything, but the possibilities are there. In the future, I might end up creating an entire game around this system. I always wanted to create a tactical strategy game, and this might just be a way to do it. Unfortunately, due to how the tiles work, I fear there will be too many boxes on the screen at once and the program won’t run smoothly. 

In the end, I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head for a game. However, I can’t start it without testing some basic concepts first. As of right now, I’m planing on furthering the puzzle system but will continue the other two programs at some point. All in all, I’m interested where this will lead me. 

Arknight Defenders

Since we’re on an Arknight roll, let’s continue it with Defenders. Like the other classes before it, what makes the Defender class special? Well, like the Vanguards they’re also the result of another game mechanic. So, in order to understand the effect Defenders have on the game, I’ll need to talk about the block system for a bit. 

Like DP, I’ve constantly mentioned block potential. In my mind, the meaning is pretty self explanatory. If an operator has high block, they can block more enemies from moving. It’s kind of confusing if you’ve only experienced traditional tower defence games, so let me explain. Picture a river with water flowing down it, this is the enemies. Now, your operators are dams that block this water. The more block an operator has the higher the dam. As you can see, more block means an operator can stall for longer. Unfortunately, this also brings me to blocks unique relationship with attack. Whether it be magic or physical attack, a high block stat usually brings with it low attack. Remember our dam analogy? Well, now picture each dam with a pipe that can divert water, this is a representation of a units attack value. What this means is that even if a unit has high block, it won’t matter if enemies don’t die. Overall, every unit has a block stat and tend to balance it with their other stats. However, like Guard Assassins and their single block, Defenders like to take things to the extreme. 

Defenders have ridiculous block and defence capabilities. These units throw attack to the wind and solely focus on blocking enemies. Most of the time, these units are incapable of defending a chokepoint on their own. They will almost always be overwhelmed and with no self satiability in terms of HP, they will eventually fall regardless. However, with all this focus on blocking, it gives other units time to take out enemies. The fact an entire class was built around the tanking of enemies, shows how important of a niche Defenders fulfill. It’s is such a simple concept but a staple that can’t be replaced, and because of that they have the highest DP cost of any ground unit. As of now, Defenders will have a block of three. However, this can augmented with skills. The reason I mention this magical number of three, is because every other class has a maximum block of two. It doesn’t sound impressive, but it is when a constant wave of enemies are coming at you. 

At this point, I would begin talking about subsets. Unfortunately, like Vanguards Defenders are lacking in them. Although, that’s not quite true. From what I’ve experienced so far, each Defender has unique traits that make them one of a kind. These unique abilities changes a units play style so much I can’t comfortable group them in subsets. Instead, I’ll be mentioning the Defenders I use and the abilities that make them so unique. 

The first of two Defenders I usually use is called Liskram. What makes her unique is her large attack range. Normally, Defenders can only attack enemies that are on top of them. However, Liskram doesn’t abide by this and can target enemies three tiles away. This absurd attack range, higher than normal attack stat, and ability to take out flying enemies make Liskram quite a special Defender. 

The other Defender I use on a regular basis is Cuora. In the Arknight community, she is highly regarded as a great unit. This due is multiple factors of course, one of them being her useful ability to block four enemies for a limited amount of time. There be plenty of times where not even a three block Defender will suffice because you can’t dispatch enemies fast enough, this is where Cuora shines. It also doesn’t hurt she’s really easy to get, making her a staple for beginners. 

In the end, Defenders will always be need in later stages. Of course they are lacking in attack, but more than makes up for it with their high block and defence capabilities. Without these tanks to block crucial chokepoints your forces would be overwhelmed in seconds. You won’t need many of them, probably one or two, but their presence can definitely be felt on the map. Next time, I’ll likely take a break from the ground units and talk about Healers.

Arknights Vanguards

Like I said last week, I’m going to be covering Vanguards and that’s what I’m going to be talking about. To start, what makes a Vanguard different from every other class? In short, it is their early round abilities and low to mid range cost. Unlike Guards, there are a lot less subsets, two if we’re being specific. However, the Vanguards abilities are also much more connected to a certain game mechanic. In order to get a better grasp of the class, I feel it appropriate too quickly this mechanic first. 

In previous blogs, I have continually mentioned deployment cost. I have never really went into great depth about it because I felt the mechanic was pretty self explanatory. There are units and those units need a cost to deploy them, simple. However, with Vanguards being so dependent on the deployment system, it probably best I explain the system here. At the beginning of every round you start with some DP or deployment points and these point generate every few seconds, eventually capping at 99. These points are used to deploy units. Each operator has a designated cost assigned to them and when deployed their cost is subtracted from your DP. Overall, thats the gist of the deployment system. Other feature such as unit cool down are more specific to classes than the actual deployment mechanic. 

Now that we’ve talked about what DP is, I can explain how Vanguards are related to it. To start off, no matter what subset all Vanguards dabble in DP generation. How this is done varies between subsets, but because of this trait they are very good during early waves. To balance that though, they usually suffer in terms of everything else. Unlike other classes, they don’t particularly access stat wise like Guards or Defenders. In addition, most Vanguards only have two attack tiles and can only be deployed on the ground. The only silver lining to their mostly terrible mediocre stat line is their own deployment cost. With a few notable exceptions, Vanguards have the lowest deployment cost when looking at all factors. I say looking at all factors, because upgrading and rarity can have a huge impact on deployment cost. However, the point is Vanguards are cheap and most of the time, disposable. 

The first subset of Vanguards are the DP on kill (DoK) kind. What separates this subset from the other kind of Vanguard is their trait or passive ability. Specifically, this ability allows you to gain a deployment point every time an enemy is slain. The down side is that they can only block one enemy. However, unlike the Guard Assassins from last week, there isn’t anything particularly good about this single block. Still, this trait usually doesn’t pose a problem when DoKs are used properly. In most scenarios, DoKs are usually the first units deployed to build up DP and the pulled out for more efficient operators. This is supplemented by their other trait which allows for the full return of their DP cost when pulled back. 

On the other hand, we have what I called DP generators. What differentiates this subset is their abilities and block. Unlike DoKs they don’t have a DP related trait and rely solely on their abilities to generate points. Unfortunately, this severely limits their overall viability on a team. In Arknights, an operator’s ability is what defines them and makes them unique. Out of the three potential abilities an operator can use, only one can be equipped at a time. By having your DP generator equip their DP generating skill, they are locked into generating DP and nothing else. A DoK can remain viable in later waves due to their abilities depending on the situations. However, once you’ve built up a substantial amount of DP, your DP generator will be dead weight. Well, I may have been rather harsh but my point stands, for dealing with enemies any other DPS class would be better. 

In the end, Vanguards are an important part of your team. They may not stick around, but they will aid in getting your other units out. There have been countless times I have been swarmed by enemy because I didn’t have enough DP to place operators. When used correctly, Vanguards will ensure that never happens. Next time, I’ll likely touch upon another ground class, Defenders.