Sunday, November 16, 2014

Debuff Usefulness in FFXI



Maybe it's nostalgia talking, but I loved how debuffs actually made a difference in FFXI. In other MMORPGs I've played since FFXI, I've struggled to chose a class. But with FFXI I knew right away. I was drawn to the class for both its aesthetics and its mechanics. The jack of all trades with a pimping hat and sexy tights, Red Mage was so badass. I knew from the start it would be my main class. 

But it wasn't until end game that I realized what a good choice I had made. Regular parties and mana burn parties both wanted me for the essential buff, refresh. But debuffs were also in demand. Gravity was useful for kiting HNMs, fast cast plus stun spam was useful in all kinds of situations, and even the less glamorous debuffs, paralyze, slow, poison and blind, often made a big difference in exp parties.

Because of the way parties worked in FFXI, debuffs actually significantly reduced the number of hits your tank would take, thus saving the healer's mana (or even allowing me to be the main healer), thus making you level faster. Part of me really loved how this kind of thing just happened in the background, without much thanks. But another part of me resented how the Ninja got praised for using utsusemi so well, when it was really my paralyze and slow that enabled him to use his shadows so effectively.
I recently started playing Bravely Default, and seeing the same old debuff spells (in a game where they are, even more than usual, clearly worthless) reminds me of Egoraptor's Castlevania 4 Sequelitis episode. Often sequels will carry on a game mechanic even if it has become obsolete. The funny thing is, debuffs have always been obsolete in FF games, the only game that managed to make them useful was FFXI. In offline games debuffs don't land on most bosses and most trash enemies die before the debuff makes much of a difference. With the Brave/Default system introduced in this game, trash mobs have become less than trash, they are dirt. When every member of your party can attack 4 times from the first turn, why would I ever bother to debuff?

I've only just started the game, so perhaps I will be proven wrong, but I doubt it. When you can plow through enemies with brave attacks, debuffs seem like a huge waste of time. I don't think vestigial mechanics from prequels are all that bad, but I do wonder how they could've been changed or updated to better suit the new game.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Teaching on Monday

I always thought people who dreaded Mondays were just lazy, and I guess they are, and I guess I am in some ways. But what I find amazing is that as soon as I am in front of a class teaching them, being the "genki foreigner" that Japanese education wants, and in some ways needs, I feel fine. 

I've always considered myself an introvert... But am I really? How do I feel so energized and feel my "case of the Mondays" completely evaporate as soon as I actually get started teaching a class? I suppose it depends on how responsive the class is to the lesson, but after so many years of doing this, even in the "bad" classes where only a small minority of students are responsive I feel great. 

After studying psychology and reflecting on my own experience in school, I realize there is absolutely nothing wrong with these kids, and considering how little I get to work with them, I'm not in much of a position to assess their skill level and cultivate their interest in English. If they have an interesting, enthusiastic home room teacher, the class is great and responds well to my lesson too. If the home room teacher isn't passionate about teaching, it shows in many ways.

There is one teacher who lectures on minute details of grammar over and over like language is a math problem to solve, so he only ends up being popular with the tiny minority of students who like to analyze things grammatically. 

There are other teachers who try to be funny and interesting, but they fail miserably and instead come across as weird old people who can't read the atmosphere. They just carry on laughing at their own jokes and ignoring their student's groans. They alienate most of their class, even if they are a decent teacher otherwise. Although, usually they aren't. 

I think there is a certain performing art element to teaching similar to acting that gets ignored too often. Teachers need at least a small amount of charisma to be engaging with their students. I wanted to be an actor at one point in my life and I think could have been an actor if I had pursued it. But there are so many narcisistic people in acting and so much political maneuvering that goes on, I just didn't want to deal with it. 

I suppose teaching, or any field, has those same narcisistic, lazy people, and I suppose I am also guilty of this myself. But it's hard to feel inspired about teaching when your co-workers suck, their English sucks even though they are supposed to be English teachers. On top of that, the system forces me to spread myself thin. I teach every grade and every class in multiple schools so it could be months before I teach the same students again, and half the time the home room teacher only uses me to help teach pronunciation and check grammar like a walking dictionary and spell checker. 

I wonder how much difference there really is between introverts and extroverts. I have a feeling that the main difference is that introverts are just more picky about the kind of people they allow to get close to them and have a lower tolerance for crappy people or people they can't influence to be better people. It's not that introverts get their engery from being alone and extroverts get their energy from being around other people. It's that extroverts have a higher tolerance for stupid people and better social skills for dealing with stupid people, whereas introverts just keep their mouth shut or throw their hands up in frustration and walk away.

Extroverts perhaps have a more instinctive sense of how to deal with people whereas introverts have to learn those skills explicitly, or pick them up over time through experience. I think studying psychology can be extremely helpful for introverts, I know it has helped me a lot.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Smash Bros for 3DS: Born To Throw/Launch/Smash

I swear, there is something in our genetics that makes projectile movement innately fascinating to human beings. I am no in any way a fan of sports, but even I am glued to the screen when a ball is thrown or punted over a huge distance and everyone is holding their breath wondering if it will reach its target. Angry birds cashed in on this fascination, it was a big reason why AP physics held my attention in high school, and now, I think it's the reason why I am obsessed, even more than I thought I would be, with Smash Bros.

Understanding vector physics can help you win in smash bros? Absolutely! That's what it's all about. In a typical fighting game there is a Rock Paper Scissors system between attacks, dodges and throws, but with smash bros there are so many other layers on top of that basic system. Magic/energy, absorb, reflect. Charge, counter, barrage with projectiles. Cumulate damage, distract, go for a launch (smash). 

Simply recognizing that there are light-weight characters and heavy-weight characters can really improve your game. You have a better chance of finishing a light-weight with a vertical smash, and a better chance of finishing a heavy-weight with a horizontal smash. Certain characters have significant horizontal AND vertical recovery moves, so you're better off using quick, weak cumulitive damage attacks to get their % high enough for a successful launch. 

There is also my tendency to get so invested in a fight that I have to fight the urge to launch my 3DS across the room in frustration...

Considering the level of complexity and the appeal of the characters I'm surprised that smash bros STILL isn't taken more seriously as a fighting game. I guess because the controls are so simple that it feels like a step backwards to the guys who have had to memorize long-ass button combos to do well in typical fighting games. Also, it's just not even marketed to those guys. If there were a smash bros machine at my local arcade I would never leave! 

I have a feeling with this latest installment, there will be more immitators like the Shonen Jump and Naruto fighting games on the game cube years ago, but nothing compares with smash bros. Smash bros for 3DS has got me hooked. I hate to sound like such a fan boy, but after the outrage about tripping in Brawl, and Brawl's terrible online system, it looks like Nintendo decided to listen to their fans. Similar to how FF14 became a proper MMORPG instead of the experimental crap it was to begin with, smash bros has become a fine tuned work of art with incredible potential for complex mind games and quick thinking exploits.