Recently, my brother introduced me to a new Tetris website called Tetr.io. After using it for a few days, I’ve found it to be a lot more versatile then the website I’ve been using. So this week, I want to share why it’s better and my experience so far with it.

To start, why exactly is this websites better than previous ones? The short answer is customization. Prior to Tetr.io, the website that gave me the most freedom was Tetris Friends. On that website, you could select up to nine game modes from Marathon to multiplayer PvP. Tetris Friends also allowed you to spend in-game currency to customize more technical aspects of the game that’d allow you to play faster. Tetr.io takes this a step up, where you can freely customize your AAR (Automatic Repeat Rate), DAS (Delayed Auto Shift), and SDF (Slow Drop Factor) free of charge. They all do different things but to keep it short, AAR makes pieces fall faster, DAS allows you to move pieces side to side quicker, and SDF determines how powerful the slow drop is, a feature that makes pieces fall faster when pressing a certain key. 

Unfortunately, Tetr.io does have less predetermined game modes. Including the multiplayer, there are four game modes. In single player there is 40 Lines, the goal being to clear 40 lines as quick as possible, and Blitz, where you want to clear as many lines as you can in two minutes. In multiplayer, there is a casual and competitive game mode. In casual or Quick Play, there is no regulation between top tier and bad players. On the other hand, the competitive scene or Tetra League, pits you against another player with a similar skill level. Tetris Friends had all four of these game modes, including five others. However, notice how I said predetermined. In Tetr.io, you can recreate virtually any single player game mode in Tetris Friends and more. I haven’t fully explored the full extent of Tetr.io’s customizability, however there is seemingly one missing feature. The feature in question being the skill progression one seen in many Marathon game modes on the internet. Basically, in most Marathon game modes where the goal is to achieve the most amount of points you can before topping out, the game slowly speeds up making the it harder overtime. Tetris.io doesn’t seem to have this feature, that or I simply haven’t discovered it yet, there are just so many options. 

In addition to the amount of customizability Tetr.io offers, there are also the quality of life improvements as well. While you’re playing a game, the website makes it really easy to restart or exit to the main menu, both being done by holding their respective key on your keyboard. The website also added a feature I’ve never seen before, the 180 spin. To be honest, I’ve never honestly really thought about it, but a 180 spin button would’ve really been the next logical step. For example, let’s say you have a L or J piece and you want it facing the opposite direction. Regardless how it’s positioned, you’ll need two spins of either clockwise or counter-clockwise rotation to accomplish your goal. Two spins take up more time and can be costly if your pieces are falling fast enough. In some cases even the direction of how you spin your piece will matter depending on your stack (the arrangement of previous pieces), another small thing you need to consider when placing. With this new 180 spin button, you won’t need to worry about spin direction anymore. Theoretically if you’re really good, you’ll only need to press one key when getting ready to place a new piece, excluding tucks (filling a gap in the stack by sliding it in) and spins (filling a gap in the stack with a precision spin). However, even with all these neat quality of life improvement, there is one thing absent, the pause button. Scrolling through the menu, I could not find a way to freeze the game. If you want a good score you’ll just need to soldier on, no breaks in between. 

Overall, Tetr.io is a great website and my new go to for Sprint and Blitz. I’ve slowly interest in Tetris PvP but still occasionally play, though the casual scene on Tetr.io might be a bit much for me. I’ll likely still use Tetris.com for my Marathon needs, but Tetr.io does everything better. In the end, Tetr.io is great for people who like PvP Tetris or just want to challenge themselves against the clock.

Moe Anthropomorphism

Over the years, I’ve played all sorts of Gacha games on my phone. However, if there is one similarity, it would be that most of them involve Moe anthropomorphism. In this blog, I want to talk about what Moe anthropomorphism is and where it can be found. 

To start, what exactly is Moe anthropomorphism? From what I understand, it’s an umbrella term for giving non-human traits to humans. These non-human characteristics can range from mythical creatures to transportation. The most popular example would likely be the cat-girl/boy, where the artist gives their character cat ears and a tail. Unlike more western interpretation of anthropomorphism like Disney’s Zootopia, Moe anthropomorphism tends to keep more human characteristics. A good way to differentiate the two is that Moe anthropomorphism has humans embody a subject, while anthropomorphism give animal human traits. 

Now that we’ve established what Moe anthropomorphism is, I can give a few examples of it. I have already mentioned the very popular cat-girl/boys, however they’re only one subculture of Moe anthropomorphism. To give a range of what Moe anthropomorphism can encompass, I want to share a few more examples. 

When looking at inanimate objects given life through Moe anthropomorphism, the most well known subculture is likely ship-girls. However, this is only because of the popular browser game called Kancolle. It has since expanded its influence to manga and anime in addition to influencing future ship-girl franchises. Today, some of the more popular franchise that uses ship-girls are Kancolle, Azur Lane, High School Fleet, Blue Oath, and Arpeggio of Blue Steel. Unlike aforementioned cat-girl/boys, they don’t have any noticeable traits of ships. Ship-girls for all intents and purposes like exactly like humans, and this extend to other subcultures that Moe anthropomorphize inanimate objects like tanks, planes, and guns. Instead, the ship the girl is based on is a big influence on their design, equipment and personality. For example Shigure for Kancolle has a rather depressing personality and high luck stat, as her real life counterpart was the sole survivor of the Battle of Vella Gulf and Battle of Leyte Gulf. 

Besides transportation and animals, there are also instances of countries being Moe anthropomorphized. However, this is a much small subculture and I can only think of one notable example in media. Like the inanimate objects, countries also look exactly human and are influenced by their country’s stereotypes. For example, from the popular manga Hetalia, America is portrayed in an American army air force uniform and a love for hamburgers, two American stereotypes. Just a quick look at a Hetalia character and you’d likely find a hint of their origin on their clothes. It’s also interesting how these interpretation of country’s interact with each other based on past event in history.

However, excluding mainstream media, there are all kinds of Moe anthropomorphism on the internet. Whenever there is a major world event, someone is almost guaranteed to Moe anthropomorphism it. An example of this is during the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, and even more recently the Coronavirus of 2019. There have even been cases where the hacktivist group know as Anonymous has used Moe anthropomorphism to disrupt ISIS’s propaganda. But when the world is relatively calm, you can continue to find all sorts of Moe anthropomorphism art on internet forms and places to share art. 

Personally, I find it intriguing why certain characters are designed the way they are. It’s always interesting to see how an artist will interpret an event, object, or creature and Moe anthropomorphize it. However, I also can’t deny I play many Gacha games because the anthropomorphized girls are rather cute. 

Modding and ROM Hacking

A few days ago, I decided to play a bit of Skyrim, an almost decade old game. That got me thinking, how is this game still relevant? The answer to that is mods. Today, I want to explore how modding and ROM hacking can revitalize a game or help it maintain its relevancy. 

To start, I should mention what modding and ROM hacking do to maintain interest in a game. The encompassing answer is that these two hobbies add content or give a new experience to the players. However, they achieve this in two very different ways. From what I know, modding adds completely new assets into the game, without altering anything else unless specified too. On the other hand, ROM hacking takes the existing assets and manipulates them into something else. For example, let’s say a game has an iron sword. With a mod, you could add in a completely different sword without altering the existing iron sword. In ROM hacking, to add in that new sword, it would need to take the iron swords place. 

So, how does this help? In RPGs like Skyrim, modders have achieved a bunch of crazy stuff. People have created entire maps, some could even be considered on par with DLC. There have also been mods that add new features like flying, and there’ve even been cases were modders have created their own patches. And this is all on top of the original game, nothing is lost. My personal favourite has to be the Beyond Skyrim project. In terms of map creation and adding in assets, it has to be the most ambitious project ever. For some background, Bethesda the people behind Skyrim have created their own little continent called Tamriel, were their Elder Scrolls series takes place. Starting in 1994 with the release of the first Elder Scrolls game, Bethesda have constantly expanded Tamriel, with each game take place in a new province. From Bethesda’s preestablish lore there are nine provinces, with the Elder Scroll series only covering five provinces in its twenty six years of existence. The goal of Beyond Skyrim is to eventually add in all of these provinces into Skyrim through mods. As of now, Beyond Skyrim has already added one province, Cyrodiil which was previously featured in Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Oblivion. It is admittedly a colossal effort, however, you can’t help but admire the dedication modders bring to keep a game like Skyrim alive.   

ROM hacking on the other hand, essentially creates an entire new game. Like I said before, it manipulates and replaces most of the assets in the original game. Because of the nature of how ROM hacking is, it’s more commonly seen in older games. From personal experience, almost all the ROM hacking I’ve seen done has been accomplished on the GBA platform, though this is mainly because of how much more complex 3D can be. However, just because it’s being done on an older platform doesn’t diminish its prominence in the gaming community. For example, there was a Pokemon Fire Red ROM hack called Pokemon Ash Gray which followed the events of the anime to a tea. 

Unfortunately, we get to the legitimacy of these hobbies. Fortunately, modding seems to be completely legal, with companies like Bethesda embracing it. For its more recent releases like Skyrim and Fallout 4, Bethesda has a free creation tool, allowing more people access to modding. In fact, Bethesda has embraced modding so much they monetized it through their creation club. It was a move that raised many eyebrows and certainly still does today. Most still question why Bethesda is charging people for mods that have been free in the past or have free counterparts, but in my mind it at least cements modding as a perfectly legitiment hobby. Unfortunately, ROM hacking is a little more grey. From what I’ve seen, the act of altering the game code doesn’t seem to be the problem. Rather it’s how one gains access to a game, and later it’s redistribution after its alteration. The legitimate way of getting your hands on these ROMs is to buy them. Usually this entails purchasing a legit cartridge and covering it into a ROM with special software. The less legitimate way is to pirate these games through the internet, this is why no one will point you in the direction of where to find them. Regardless of how you obtain your game, the manipulation of data should be fine under fair use. 

Overall, modding and ROM hacking can breath life into old games. Personally, I have my eyes on a small group of modders trying to create a multiplayer version of Skyrim, and of course the Beyond Skyrim project. In the future, I can’t wait to see how modding and ROM hacking will evolve, and hopefully expand into an entirely ligament hobby.  

What is Gacha

Over the years, I have been playing a genre of apps called Gacha games. However, some may not know what the term Gacha is or how it’s implemented. This week, I want to cover these two subjects and share the joys of playing Gacha.

First, what is Gacha? In short, it is essentially gambling. However, instead of wagering money, players instead wager time for tickets to potentially collect better units, cards, etc. It is at this point I should mention Gacha games don’t solely revolve around the gambling aspect. Just like real casinos, you can’t get your money without playing the slots, blackjacks, or whatever games are there. Most of the time, Gachas are seen in games where you have to have amass X amount of unit, card, etc. The purpose of playing the Gacha can range from collecting new units or enhancing units in your possession. Regardless, players will need the Gacha to progress and many don’t like this. The rarer more powerful units can range from having a one to six percent drop rate. Of course, this can be subverted by spending more time to collect in game tickets. However, like all games of chance, this can still be quite the frustrating reality, especially if you just want to play the game. 

To remedy this immediate urge to play the game, there is what’s called the first roll Gacha, beginner Gacha, or Per Risemara. Essentially, in most games the developers will give you a free ten units, one of these units being a guaranteed rare one. The Per Risemara is seen by most as a life raft to those few unlucky people, to keep them playing the game until they can actually pull a rare unit. However, there are also people who try and abuse this system. Because the Per Risemara happens so early in the game, just after the tutorial most of the time, it isn’t hard to just delete and re-download the game. The benefits of doing so can range from getting more than one rare unit to getting the unit you personally desire. This is called Re-rolling, and is so widely know at this point that some developers just accept it, making Re-rolling possible with a tap of a button. 

Unfortunately, sometimes even after playing a game for a good while, you still can’t get any rare units. It is at this point the dark side of Gacha rears its ugly head. In almost all Gacha games, it is possible to buy the tickets I mentioned previously with real money, allowing players to collect vast amounts of rare units without playing the game. In the community, we call these people whales. It is an action looked down upon, and highlights the similarities between Gacha and gambling. The reason why it’s looked down upon is one of fairness. In some games, it’s almost a necessity to have rare powerful units to play the story or participate in PvP, an almost invisible paywall. In certain circumstances, these people can ruin a game’s experience and drive players away. However, some developer don’t care as these whales are what is keeping the game afloat, making everyone else a second priority. 

To have whales spend their money faster, the developer will have banners. These banners are separate from the main Gacha, and can be used to introduce new units or give old ones an increased chance of being drawn. Banners add an element of freshness, and gives the steady flow of newcomers a constantly changing pool of units to draw from. While relatively harmless, it can also be used as a tactic to squeeze money out of the player base. An example of this is in a game called Fire Emblem Hero’s (FEH). In the past, Nintendo the people behind FEH launched two really popular banner consecutively, giving the players no time to recover their tickets. If players wanted the featured units from the second banner, they would likely need to spend money. It was a real surprise, because Nintendo had never pulled something like this before. No one knew the second banner was coming, and nobody saved their tickets. Suffice to say, Nintendo received a lot of backlash for this.

Overall, this was a general overview of Gacha and how it’s used. It’s just a shame the term has a negative connotation, as a result of poor luck, having their day ruin by a whale, or just by greedy developers. However, I also believe it’s one of the fairest ways of acquiring new units. There is no bias and it’s hard to gain an edge over other players, besides paying real money. It’s always fun to see a new unit you’ve never drawn before, and it’s an experience that is hard to replicate. In the end, Gachas can be exhilarating but must be done with restraint, and as I hate to say it, it’s very similar to gambling. 

Ash Arms

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been playing a certain game called Ash Arms. However, it’s not played on PC or console like most games are. Instead, it’s a mobile game and today I want to take some time to talk about it.

First what exactly is Ash Arms? The closest comparison I think of is a tactical turn based RPG. However, it’s a far stretch from having all the features of one. Instead, it’s better to think of Ash Arms as a game similar to Pokemon, and it only borrows some aspect from tactical turn based RPGs. Rather than a full map, there is instead only eight columns to move your units around. What this means is that you can only move units left and right, which is pretty limiting. The other important detail to note, is that there are two of these maps stacked on top of each other at once. The reason for this is because the game revolves around tanks and aircraft. One map represents the ground while the other is the air. Instead of thinking too deeply about it, just imagine playing two of these eight column games at once. The only thing that connect these two games are that sometimes units can attack over into another game and your turns are linked together. All in all, it’s the weirdest kind of turn based game I’ve ever scene. However, it’s still a creative way to integrate both tanks and aircraft into one game. 

This leads me to my next talking point, units. Like I said before, the game revolves around military assets without warships. However, these might not be the tanks and planes some are familiar with. Ash Arms uses an anime art style with cute girls representing these vehicles. It’s a popular trend in Japanese games and other media with some other examples being Kancolle, Azure Lane, Girl Frontline, Girls und Panzer, and Strike Witches. However, this topic is deep enough on its own and can easily be its own blog. I just wanted to touch upon the art style used as some might not understand the concept. 

Unfortunately, what I can’t touch upon deeply is the plot. Normally, I would make it a point to talk about the plot, as I really enjoy a good story. However, I can’t make heads or tails of Ash Arms plot as it’s all in Japanese and there is no translation. With the pictures in the background, you can infer there is a war against some sort of aliens or machines gone rogue. Regardless, after the first few scenes I made it a point to skip all future ones.

Like most people who pick up a Japanese mobile game, it’s for the gameplay, art, and gatcha, not so much the story. Which leads me to my next point, the gatcha. If you’re unfamiliar to the term, it is the eastern equivalent to loot boxes and a light form of gambling. In most turn based mobile games or any game that includes a form of units, they use a gatcha to have you obtain more. From a business stand point, it makes sense as it’s the easiest way to extort money out of the player but I digress. Some players don’t like this concept of obtaining new units but I don’t particular mind. Compared to other gatcha games, Ash Arms odds lean towards the more lenient side of things. In the beginning at least, it’s easy to collect the currency needed to roll for new units, and five precent odds of a rare unit are pretty good. In comparison, some games have the odds at one precent for a rare unit, or make rolling for new units extremely hard. However, from what I hear, rare units are almost a necessity to progress and no matter the odds, that’s never good. I guess only time will tell if that is true.

Overall, Ash Arms takes familiar concepts to me and turn them on their head. The gameplay is not quite simple but not overly complex either, the art is familiar but taken in a completely different direction than what I’m used too, and the gatcha is surprisingly lenient. All in all, Ash Arms is a great game and I can only hope for a global release someday. 

Gaming though Game Design

Recently, I’ve been playing some Japanese games on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I can’t understand much less read Japanese. So, how do I and many other non-Japanese people play these games? Well, you could look up a translated guide, but in my opinion game design and UI play a much bigger roll. In this blog, I want to share my thoughts on how games implement game design and organize the UI to streamline the player experience. 

At the start of almost any game, there will almost always be a start screen. The can be many reasons why a start screen is there, sometimes you can alter the settings or maybe even the language. However, for apps you’ll almost always see an iconic F or blue bird. These two icons represent Facebook and Twitter respectively. Most game uses these buttons to bind your Facebook or Twitter account to game data. What this example shows is the use of familiar icons, and having you recall prior experiences. Remember I mentioned how this example is common, how you’ll almost always see it in the start screen specifically? This kind of game design is reliant on your prior experience in recognizing how these two symbols lead to bind your account. However, once you’ve experienced it, any other developer can use this method and you as the player will recognize it immediately. This can be applied to any concept in a game like mail or accessing the settings. The use of prior experiences is not just used to bind your account. 

Another way too rationalize this example is with a fast-food drive through. Although a drive through has nothing in common with binding an account, it works on the same concept of familiarity. A McDonald drive through may differ from a Tim Hortons one, whether it be the difference in signs or maybe where the entrance is located. Regardless, once you’ve experienced going through a single drive through, you can recall on that experience. Even if the process is slightly different from franchises to franchise and the language on the signs is different, the way drive throughs operate is similar enough to each other that you’ll have little problem ordering food. 

Unfortunately, sometimes the developers of a game can’t rely on familiarity. Maybe there is a game that’s revolutionary and there is nothing else like it, what will the developers do now? The answer is size and colour. There is a gag in pop-culture relating to a big red button that people aren’t supposed to touch. However, most of the time people touch it anyway. Why? The button catches your attention with its red colouring, and the size makes it easy to access. It’s designed in a way that makes you want to push the button. Game developers use this trick all the time when advertising a feature they want you to use frequently. If there is an over-world map in an RPG to enter a level, there is likely a very high chance that the start button is right in your face. Another example is the gacha, a lottery to obtain new units or some sort of desired item. The developer put this button in your face, because it easy for them to squeeze money out of you like in a casino. In fact, this in your face lottery concept ended up blowing as scandal in 2017 that scars the gaming community to this day. Of course, the main reason it blew up was because it was essentially children gambling. However, we can’t forget the developers intentionally made that lottery system easy to access through the UI. 

Finally, what if all else fails? What if the player still can’t figure out they need to do? What’s the last option a developer can employ? The answer is a visual tutorial, one with pictures and arrows galore. Although not often thought about and skipped, a tutorial can really help when there is nothing to fall back on. It will give you an experience to recall, and maybe you’ll even make sense of the UI along the way. The problem is that the developer can’t alway use this option. No one like it when a game holds your hand, and that mean the developer eventually needs to let the player roam free. 

Overall, while game design and UI is often overlooked, everything is placed there for a reason. There is always a reason why some icons are bigger than others, or why something feels vaguely familiar. All these things is to make the player feel comfortable and in control, and by extension helps me play Japanese games.

Difficulty in Games

This week, I would like to tackle the subject of difficulty in games. Recently, I started a new play through on a turn-based tactical RPG on the highest difficulty. Having only played on normal mode before, I found it very interesting how the game made itself more difficult. In this blog, I want to go over some mechanics games use to raise the difficulty, and how I think they should be applied. 

The first change usually seen in a harder difficulty, is the increased number of hit-points an enemy has. Hit-points are essentially the enemies health, when the number of hit-points reach zero they die in a sense. It’s fairly easy to see how this increase of health could make a game harder. If an enemy is hitting your character and you’re hitting back, the more hit-points an enemy has, the more they can strike you. Another example, is how a small increase can drastically change the game. Let’s say the number of hit-points haven’t raised much, and the enemies can only get one more hit on your character. If there are many enemies, that damage adds up.

However, I find that the mechanic I just mentioned, although the easiest to implement, can be the trickiest to balance. People play games to escape boredom, so what happen when you’re spending five minutes on a single enemy, trying to whittle it’s hit-point’s down to zero? That’s boring and the process of dispatching enemies can get old fast, the gameplay becomes repetitive and stagnate. If people get bored or become frustrated, they will stop playing the game. Increasing the hit-points of enemies does make a game harder, but it doesn’t make the player think. There is no added layer to this increase in difficulty, as it just wastes your time. 

In order to add that extra layer of gameplay, the developers may give the enemies a new feature they didn’t have before. What do I mean by this? A new feature can be rather broad, but generally they change up the way a player approaches a situation or make the player think about their actions. For example, in an FPS the developer could give the enemies grenades when they otherwise wouldn’t have them in a lower difficulty. It would make the player think about the type of damage or penalties grenades could inflict, and possibly have them reconsider entering cramped areas where grenades would be most potent. Adding new spins on a level the player has explored before, can turn the level into a completely new experience. 

Unfortunately, there is also a point where adding too many new features can work against a game. Sometimes the developer will add a completely new feature, and it might be unintuitive or detracts from the core gameplay. For example, in a level of an FPS your goal is to clear out all the enemies. In the more difficult versions of this level, the game may also have you protect an objective for a bonus. Suddenly because of this entirely new feature, the goal of defeating all the enemies becomes protecting this objective. Even though the objective is still to clear out all the enemies, the player becomes distracted. 

The final way to increase the difficulty of a game, would likely be to change the enemies priorities. For example, instead of having enemies wait until you approach them, allowing you to pick them off one at a time, the enemies could rush you all at once. This kind of change, makes you drastically change how you approach a level. Instead of the player going on the offensive, they’re now on the defensive. The great thing about this change is that it makes the enemies feel more intelligent or aggressive, and this is without the game feeling unfair due to hit-point increases or gaining a new advantage over the player. 

The downside to this kind of change, is how the game can potentially feel a bit too unfair. The game can never be on the same level as the player, so it compensates with more enemies. However, if they all advance towards you at once, the player will be overwhelmed. Another example, is if a boss with an incredibly high amount of hit-points is healed even turn by some sort of healer. It would make the level feel utterly impossible to defeat the boss. What needs to happen in these instances is a check or a flag of some kind. In the former example, perhaps the boss and a few enemies won’t advance unless approached. In the latter, the healers wouldn’t heal unless the boss was under a certain threshold of hit-points. With these restrictions, the game become much harder, but still gives the player a fighting chance. 

Overall, all these changes to the gameplay will increase the difficulty. Of course some mechanics are better than others, but none of them are perfect. Each has their own flaws and when taken too far can ruin a game, this is already seen with the term bullet sponge (an enemy with an absurd amount of hit-points) being thrown around constantly in FPS games. Rather, I think a combination of all three mechanics makes for the best kind of difficulty, a game mode that makes the enemies more intimidating and causes the player to think more. 

Fire Emblem Past VS Present

If you look at my profile, I’ve frequently talked about a turn-base tactical RPG franchise called Fire Emblem. I’ve covered gameplay and story elements from different games in the franchise, but I’ve never actually compared two Fire Emblem games. Today, I’d like to remedy that as I cover how gameplay has changed over the years. For this blog, I’ll be comparing broad gameplay elements from the GBA era games and the newest instalment in the series for the Switch. However, I should mention that although I’m using the GBA era games as a reference, the history of Fire Emblem is much deeper, going as far back to Nintendo’s Super Famicom. Unfortunately, I’ve never played a Fire Emblem game prior to the GBA era and thus can’t conduct a comparison of any kind. Now, with that mention out of the way, let’s move on to the comparison. 

When you start up a game, the first thing that usually catches your eye is the graphics. It may not be surprising that graphics usually improve as time progresses and technology improves. However, that may not always be the case. In all the GBA games, the story is told through still photos and dialogue boxes, with very little animation of any kind. On the map, most units are distinguished by their classes with very few exceptions and everything is displayed through a top down isometric view camera. In comparison, the newest instalment of Fire Emblem uses a heavy amount of cutscenes and 3D animation to tell its story. When playing through the game, all units are displayed as 3D models and each unit has their own unique look. The top down still camera has also been done away with, replaced with a manoeuvrable orthographic view camera. As you can see, the two are very different in terms of art style. While I admit each side has their merits, I prefer the GBA way of telling its story. In my personal experience, I find Fire Emblem’s use of 3D models to be rather clunky, especially in the 3DS era games.  

The next big difference is the gameplay, or rather the lack of a defining feature in the Fire Emblem franchise. Since the beginning of Fire Emblem, combat revolved around a rock, paper, scissor weapon triangle. In layman’s terms weapons have weaknesses and advantages over other weapons untimely forming a triangle. For example, swords are good against axes but weak against lances. This fosters a sense of gameplay balance and coerces the player to have units specialize in different weapons. However, in the newest Fire Emblem game the weapon triangle is removed. What this means is you could have a team full of sword units and face no repercussions against facing waves of enemy lance units. Rather, everything is now based upon the individual weapons accuracy and power. For example, an axe would have higher power but less accuracy compared to a sword. This system still makes you consider have a diverse party of units, but still think including the weapon triangle wouldn’t have hurt. 

However, an ever bigger mix up to the traditional Fire Emblem formula would be the change to the promotion system. In Fire Emblem you could always make a unit stronger after a certain level by giving them a promotion item. For example, a Villager promoting to a Mercenary would give the unit more points in strength. In real life this would be equivalent to getting a promotion in your job, your pay raise being the increase in stats. Normally, there is no going back on a promotion, usually linear, and your unit’s level would reset. In previous games this had you levelling units to their max level, even if they could promote earlier to get the best stats possible. For example, if a unit can promote at level 10 but caps at 20 and they get a level of strength for each level, you would want to wait, as 20 strength is much better to 10. However, like the weapon triangle, they replace the promotion system with a completely new one. In the newest Fire Emblem game, units still need to reach a certain level to promote, but now their level doesn’t reset, they can promote to almost any class as long they fulfil the requirements, and they could go back to previous classes anytime they want. Personally, I like this change a lot as it give so much unit customization to the player. A great example of this is promoting a mage into a swordsman, though likely a terrible choice still very funny. Prior to the newest instalment, this would never had happen. As a casual player, it’s always fun to see what kind of crazy creations others have promoted their units into. 

Overall, the newest Fire Emblem game has changed many thing. The features I just discussed are only the ones that have been directly changed from previous games. I haven’t even touched upon the new features the latest Fire Emblem game introduced. Now, the question is how will future games look like? Will the weapon triangle be reintroduced or will another feature be drastically change, we just don’t know. For now, we can only speculate. 

Quarantine Schedule

This week, I want to talk about what I’m actually doing during quarantine. Going through my previous blogs, I realized I’d never actually talked about how my schedule has changed. I’ve talked about how it’s affected my school life, but not my personal one. In this blog, I want to share what I’ve been doing during this Coronavirus crisis. 

The most obvious to change to me is definitely the time I wake up, and by extension how meals are eaten. During a normal school day, I usually wake up at 8:00am to eat breakfast, most of the time two slices of toast with something on it. However, with quarantine going on I’ve been eating healthier and getting more sleep. During weekdays, I still get up at around 8:00am if it’s my turn to clear out the dishwasher, but if it isn’t I sleep in until whenever breakfast starts. During these breakfasts, my family usually eats something different everyday, which I’m thankful for. I like the variety, as eating just toast can get rather boring. There was even a time I helped out a bit, though I don’t know how much help rolling out dough and decorating a pizza counts for. Maybe, I should try helping out more. I don’t think I’d mind if things remained fresh and interesting. 

After breakfast, is school from whenever breakfast ends to 3:35pm. During actual school, there are set block of time for each subject. I tried sticking to this for the first week, when we actually started getting work. However, I threw that schedule out the window and began working at my own pace. What I found is this format of getting through the day was a mixed bag. Most days it works out well, other times not so much. When I started working at my own pace, I realized my own time management was really important. If I have assignments or upcoming tests, I needed to mark them down. When I’m at school, everyone is doing the same work, so it’s easy to keep track of what needs to be done. When I’m at home, the only reminder is a calendar or a post on Google Classroom. Over the course of the quarantine I’ve gotten better with my time management, but there are still sometimes things that slip my mind. It during these time, I usually scramble to get work done later in the day. 

Anyhow, after school is my free time. Since I wasn’t the most active person in the world, I didn’t get out often. As such, this quarantine hasn’t really affected my hobbies, but it has certainly given me more time to enjoy them. Most of my days are spent reading, though I do enjoy the occasional game every now and again. I’m tried out a 3DS game with an emulator, and I’ve powered through a series of books I’ve been enjoying online. However, I’ve probably spent the majority of my time browsing FanFiction.net. Unfortunately, this new life style has sort of created a disconnect from my classmates. 

Surprising, I haven’t really contacted any of my friends. Not that it’s particularly a problem for me. All the games I play are single player, and most of the material a read is only liked by me. Though it doesn’t mean I don’t miss talking to them. During the few times I’ve joined a Discord group call, I’ve only managed to meet one of my friends. 

Regardless of the upsides, I still miss school to an extent. Although, this is mainly because of the fact I wouldn’t need to create my own schedule anymore. Over the course of this quarantine, I’ve learned time management isn’t my particular strong suit. However, that doesn’t stop me from trying to affectively use alarms and my calendar. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like I’ll need to continue for much longer. Schools are set to open in about a week, and a part of me is quite exited. 

Online Learning

This week, I wanted to give an update on online learning. This is a topic I’ve covered before, but a lot has happened since then. Today, I’ll be explaining how teachers are coping with Coronavirus and what I think of their teaching. 

It might not be surprising, but we can’t exactly go to school. However, that can’t stop learning and teachers now needed a medium to teach through. Fortunately, prior to Coronavirus they already had a pretty good one in place. In most classes, we use a website called Google Classroom. It allows teacher to post reminders, work, and assignments. Unfortunately, most teachers were only using Google Classroom for the former. Out of my four classes this semester, three of them uses this website. Out of those three, only two posted work. What I’m trying to say is, a rapid transition to e-learning was needed to made and it wasn’t really made smoothly. 

The week after March break was the most desolate. There was no contact at all, and it was hard to get answers to what was going on. A week later, your school email would be flooded with notifications. During this time, I noticed two ways teachers were posting. The first method was a mass dumping of information. This is when a teacher posted multiple lessons at once and wants them done by a certain time. The second, is a more hands approach by the teacher were they post a lesson every single day. Personally, I prefer the latter as I think it’s a lot more organized and controlled. With mass dumping of information, it’s a lot harder to sort out all the work. On the other hand, when a teacher posts one lesson a day, things are a lot more streamlined. All questions that day are related to the one lesson, and the teacher doesn’t need to worry about organizing question for specific lessons. The only problem with posting a lesson each day is that the teacher needs to be actively involved. To summarize, mass dumping of information isn’t good. It confuses students and the only benefit is that teacher only need to be active during their office hours, which is when teachers get on to answer questions.

Fortunately, courses that do employ the mass dumping technique try to soften the blow with online tutorials. The most obvious contenders for this are the courses that revolve around computer programs, examples being Photoshop, AutoCAD, and VisualStudios. I’m fine with a few tutorials to allow students to get a better understanding of the program. However, there is a point where I begin to wonder if I could just teach myself the entire course. Teachers are meant to guide students, and I don’t really feel that in the tutorials. The only time I really interact with teacher during this quarantine are when I have a question, and sometimes I can’t even get an answer. 

If this is what online is like, I feel bad for future generations of students. Regardless of how a teacher posts lessons, they should at least teach them in some way. However with quarantine going on, they can’t do that. If a teacher can’t teach what’s the point? At this rate, students might as well go off on to learn on their own and only come together for assessments. I don’t like it, but that’s the vibe I’m getting from the constant posting of tutorials and short responses I get out of teachers. At first I thought maybe they could conduct mass conference calls for lessons. Those who want to learn can join, those who don’t can just read the lesson on their own time. However, that isn’t happening. The only reason I talk to my teacher nowadays is to ask question, and I could probably get the same or better answers from Reddit

Overall, I understand the necessity for students to work on our own. We’ll need to be independent at some point after all. However, if that is the case, it just makes we wonder what’s the point of a teacher? If they’re there to answer questions, the internet can answer most of them. If they’re there to point out good resources, the internet is full of websites and videos for that. And if they’re there to assess our learning, I think there’ll be programs in the future doing just that. I use to think teachers were safe from robots taking over their jobs, but I think the internet already has.