- But diaries are the opposite of novels, in that time increases instead of decreasing their interest. After a reasonable period every sentence in a diary blossoms into interest, and the diarist simply cannot be dull --- any more than a great wit such as Sidney Smith could be unfunny. If Sidney Smith asked Helen to pass him the salt, the entire table roared with laughter because it was inexplicably so funny. If the diarist writes in his diary, "I asked Helen to pass me the salt," within three years he will find the sentence inexplicably interesting to himself. In thirty years his family will be inexplicably interested to read that on a certain day he asked Helen to pass him the salt. In three hundred years a whole nation will be reading with inexplicable and passionate interest that centuries earlier he asked Helen to pass him the salt, and critics will embroider theories upon both Helen and the salt and will even earn a living by producing new annotated editions of Helen and the salt. And if the diary turns up after three thousand years, the entire world will hum with the inexplicable thrilling fact that he asked Helen to pass him the salt; which fact will be cabled round the globe as a piece of latest news; and immediately afterwards there will be cabled round the globe the views of expert scholars of all nationalities on the problem whether, when he had asked Helen to pass him the salt, Helen did actually pass him the salt, or not. Timid prospective diarists in need of encouragement should keep this great principle in mind.
- -- Arnold Bennett, Self and Self Management: Essays about Existing, as quoted on ^zhurnaly
In the interest of recording events of similar triviality, here follows some of the things that I, Robin, am -- perhaps wasting, but let us call it spending -- my time on.
Subjects with separate pages:
X-COM: UFO Defense
From the title you may infer my late acquaintance with this classic game -- I have, in fact, not played it with any kind of determination before the year 2012.
Two things spring to mind when regarding this exercise on the level of difficulty. First, my one experience with the Tomb of Horrors. Second, the fact that I have not yet experienced its full difficulty. It is only thanks to the provision of the X-COM manual by Steam (where, in fact, I purchased the game, with its sequels) that I was able to reach a point where I could begin to learn how to win.
In fact, I would say that that is the first lesson that I learned: the manual, particularly the Tutorial section, are immensely valuable to read. This is a game with many interfaces, and the manual helps explain these for you.
The second lesson is: electroflares. They are reusable (even during a single mission) and almost vital during night missions, when aliens you can't see can destroy your troops.
The third lesson is: buy a tank. Tanks take a lot of punishment that your troops can't, and tanks spot enemies farther away than your troops can see.
The fourth lesson is: concentrate your research. It is better to have twenty scientists on one subject than five each on four. (I prefer to start with medikits and then proceed through alien alloys to body armor, but I haven't done significant experimenting with other research options.)
The fifth: Auto Fire with the rifles is highly effective against tanks at close range -- comparable to artillery.
I am leaning towards a sixth -- concentration of forces -- but I haven't tested it sufficiently in battle to decide yet, and, at least early on, downed-UFO missions seem to allow division of a troop of one tank and ten soldiers in two without disaster.
-- 19 March 2012
I'm putting this in a new section for two reasons. First, because it's a new update. Second, because I think it's ultimately more consequential than the rest of it.
In the turn-based tactical part of X-COM, the most important thing you must be aware of is time units. You must learn their uses and their husbandry.
There are three uses of time units in the game. The first is maneuvering. The second is firing. The third is reacting.
Maneuvering generally costs time and energy. (The cost goes up if the character is significantly encumbered -- as a rule, heavy weapons units should have strength approaching or exceeding 40.) On open, bare ground, travel parallel to the gridlines costs 4 units per square and travel diagonally costs 6; short grass increases each by (at least) 1 unit, and tall grass by (at least) 2. Crouching costs 4 units, but standing again is more. Climbing or descending stairs or ramps is expensive -- I haven't calculated. Finally, rotating without moving costs 1 per 45° change of facing.
Firing costs (I believe) just time. Snap shots are quickest, but not too accurate at range. Auto shots are only a little slower and fire three shots in one action, but are even less accurate than snap shots. Aimed shots are very slow, but more accurate. However, even though you can see a 90° field centered on your facing, you can only shoot at targets in the center of that field -- and rotating to shoot is not free.
Which leads me to reacting. If a soldier has time units left at the end of the turn, that soldier will fire snap shots at hostiles that enter its field of view. They will have to have enough time units to change facing and shoot -- and the order in which they shoot is determined by how many time units they have left. If you just rushed across a field, an alien that takes one step out of cover can shoot you and return to cover before you react, but if you have barely moved, you may well shoot the alien before it gets a chance to fire!
Thus, strange at it seems, it is often the best course to halt with 50 or more time units unspent. Particularly if you have several soldiers in a formation which gives each of them clear lines of fire, this can mean an alien who tries to get the drop on them will instead encounter a hailstorm of fire -- particularly as the soldiers will continue using unexpended time units as long as the enemy spends its time units in their fields of fire.
-- Robin 18:50, 31 March 2012 (EDT)
I have played it a fair bit, but I cannot claim to have articulable knowledge other than the obvious: you must be prepared for assaults on your crystals, and simultaneously you must be prepared for attrition of your units. Neither victory can be achieved if your opponents can defeat you by the opposite method first.
...okay, so that's not true. I have figured out a fact slightly less transparently obvious: the idea of counting cards (or whatever they are that you deploy from your 'academy door'). After all, the tactical victory consists of attrition of your deck, so the expenditure of cards seems logically equivalent to the exchange of material -- a unit with three enhancements that can be destroyed without losing more than two cards should (usually) be.
2012 March 21: In addition, I have figured out several aspects of the balancing of the units among the different armies. The variations among them involve differing combinations of several common aspects:
- Units with extra range. Most can move two squares, Manhattan distance -- the exceptions move three.
- Units with extra hitpoints. Most have eight hundred -- some have one thousand or more.
- Units dealing extra damage. Most deal two hundred -- some deal three hundred, and some deal more under special circumstances.
- Ranged units with weak close-in attacks.
- Healing units. (These can also revive unconscious units.)
- Units able to shift enemy units.
...as well as specialties:
- Health leeching and special moves involving unconscious units for the Dark Elves.
- Area damage for the Dwarves.
I picked this game up for a song when it was included in one of J&R's sales.
What I find amazing about it is the way the game blends the open sandbox thing with a linear series of quests. Instead of having just a gigantic world in which lots of stuff can happen (a la Morrowind) or a constrained world in which you complete a linear set of missions in a mostly-linear world (a la Halo), the game has a linear set of missions with optional sidequests in a moderate-sized world -- the direction and focus of linear gameplay is there (thus averting what TV Tropes calls a Quicksand Box) with a fearless willingness to let you succeed or fail however you like.
Let me give the most trivial example.
- Scattered throughout the game map are militia checkpoints. If these guys see you, they will shoot at you and try to kill you. Suppose you are headed from Point A to Point B, and there's a checkpoint in your way. What do you do?
- The most obvious thing is to power through. Floor the accelerator on whatever vehicle you've found or stolen, swerve around the barrels and barricades, and keep going. Sometimes this works. Sometimes your turning radius is too wide and you crash into something. And sometimes the militiamen (they are all men - I guess XX chromosomes are reserved for characters with names) will hop in an assault truck, peel out after you, and machinegun you until your car explodes or you get out and fight. (And if you do get out of the car, they'll try to run you over. I recommend turning in behind a tree to deny them a direct shot.)
- The other most obvious thing to do is to kill everyone. Perhaps you simply aim at whoever is standing in the street and then jump out and open fire with your AK-47 after you're done roadkilling. Well, obviously the survivors will shoot back -- they'll use shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles (if you're at a checkpoint with a neighboring sniper nest), emplaced machineguns, and sometimes even grenades (although I've only seen them break those out if you go to ground and they can't see you). They'll also scatter to the four winds -- hiding in cover, hiding in the jungle, trying to flank you, whatever.
- Slightly less obvious is killing everyone ... from a distance. If you can find someplace with good sight lines on the entire camp, this can work well -- even better if you have a sniper rifle, and best if you have a semiautomatic sniper rifle. (The time with your eyes off the scope as you work the bolt-action often gives them time to hide inn cover, hide in the jungle, and try to flank you -- not to mention try to shoot you with machineguns and sniper rifles.)
- Also less obvious: offroading. Take a left into that field around the corner and down the hill from the intersection, and sweep around offroad until you hit the road leading out where you want to go. But be careful - some places are quite rocky, or hilly, or festooned with trees, and it's quite easy to get that assault truck you stole from the last checkpoint after you used a grenade to blow up your jeep and three militiamen stuck in a ravine. Whereupon you'll have to choose between walking and going back up the hill to invoke Plan B or Plan C so you can steal one of their assault trucks.
...and that is truly one of the simplest examples -- the actual missions multiply the space of probabilities immensely. In one case I escaped a mob of militiamen trying to corner me by literally falling off a cliff -- fortunately one with enough of a slope that I could slide down it and into the river to escape.
The game is a bit twitchy, at least on my box -- oftentimes a militiaman will shoot me while aiming some completely different direction, for example -- but the joy of the plan coming together (or, more often, the completely unplanned coming together) is tremendous.
So, today I was on Omegle playing the "spy" mode when the question Have you ever played Slender? came up. Conveniently, I had not and the other stranger in the room had. The conversation went as such things go, and I ended up promising to play it and write some notes on my experience here.
For the record, [here is the website (warning: noise)].
So, played once so far. Spoilers start after the next paragraph, so if you don't want any, I'll give my bottom line right here: it was well-done, reasonably scary, and entirely what I expected it to be.
Initial impressions were mundane: first, that it didn't run terribly well on Computer:Timothy (my HP laptop -- may as well start adding pages for my hardware); second, that it was kinda slow. Third impression: the art was not terribly sophisticated, but certainly good enough (and I was running on "Fastest" mode anyway), and the sound design was quite nice.
The mission was to find the notes. After wandering off the path briefly, I conceded that I had no clear navigational idea and returned to it. The first I found on a pair of perpendicular brick walls making a + in the middle of the woods. It said "don't run". Being an accommodating sort, I obliged.
The next structure I encountered was a big concrete drainage pipe. This was also when I got the first glimpse of what I presume was the Slenderman, following behind me. I noticed that my display was frequently going noisy (complete with noisy sound effects); I decided this was probably a bad sign and something I should avoid. However, I was able to pass through and walk around the pipe without getting in further trouble; the pipe seemed to have no notes on it. And, apparently, the trail circled the pipe.
I then found what appeared to be a restroom facility -- tiles on the walls -- although with no toilets. Wandering through the building, I glimpsed Slender (accompanied by an appropriate sound effect) in one of the rooms; as I hastily averted my eyes and metaphorically booked it down the hallway (after all, running being verboten) I told myself I was merely following the standard Guy Rule of not meeting eyes with other guys in the john.
The note in the room on the other side of the building said that if you looked at him he would take you away. I accepted this assertion as also reasonable, and made a mental note to avoid doing so.
Walking further through the woods, I came upon a large number of orange steel tanks. Nervously exploring these, I found a third note. This simply contained ... well, a picture, and some "A"s. Presumably indicating, well, fear. I was disappointed in the lack of further survival tips.
As I continued to walk, I found my flashlight growing dimmer and dimmer. Eventually, it went out.
I continued staggering through the woods, trying to follow the path despite being unable to see the ground, until I came upon what seemed to be another tank. I assumed it appeared white because I had no light sources, and that I had gone in a loop, but I then discovered that it was on the back of a truck.
Whereupon the Slenderman took me.
So: three notes out of however many -- eight, I think.
And I'd say the game was reasonably well done, if a bit predictable.
-- Robin 22:10, 10 August 2012 (EDT)
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