Monday, September 27, 2010

Final Fantasy Does Casual

Final Fantasy VIII


Yeah, I only just played the game on the re-release on the PS3, but judging by the sales it's the first time a lot of people have played the game. With so much separation of time (the game was originally released in 1999) I figured that it would be easy to separate it from it's big brother Final Fantasy VII, a game which dominates any role playing game conversation. However, that proved not to be so easy.

One of the biggest drawbacks of Final Fantasy VII was the grouping of the skill tree: there wasn't any. Every skill a player could have (i.e., cast heal, do more damage, speed up, etc.) was a separate item that had to be equipped to the character. The system itself was monstrously flexible and I've not played a game before or since with such a flexible skill tree, but if your players skill items became unequipped as part of playing the game (which happened too frequently) you were left with a giant box of items with no recollection of who gets what items.

The team behind FF8 sought to rectify this by giving skill groupings which could be applied to any player. This got around some of the management issues with the FF7 system, but it also robbed some flexibility since I often had skills being applied to characters who didn't need them (for example, stronger magic on a fighter). Rather than leaving well enough alone, they decided to introduce their own skill tree issues by applying magic spells held by the characters to their stats. This led to me not using magic hardly at all through the whole game since casting the spell bound to the character's 'strength' would make them weaker and, especially with powerful spells, I might not be able to refill that spell anytime soon if at all.

Overall though, an enjoyable romp. This was quite possibly the best looking game put out for the PS1 (even FFIX doesn't look as good). Due to either oversights or intentional design this is also by far the easiest of any Final Fantasy game. As an example I was able to grind several of my characters up to level 100 within 70 hours of play time, the time it usually takes to get characters up into the 60s. An infinite cash trick, easy to pull off critical hits, and ridiculously overpowered overdrives made the back quarter of the game, a time typically when FF games separate casual players from hardcore, an entertaining breeze.



Final Fantasy XIII


Like FF8, FF13 follows on the heels of a Final Fantasy game that featured a very flexible system even though it was difficult to manage at times. In Final Fantasy XI, combat commands were queued up into something like a firewall table where if the first command were true (i.e., if a character was near death), then a command would be performed (i.e., cast 'healing') and if it wasn't true it would go to the next rule and so forth. This proved wonky at times when going into specialized battles as different command sets might have to be queued (there was a limit of a dozen if I recall correctly). FF13 sought to get around all that strategy and flexibility of the previous title by doing away with it entirely and giving the player six (largely undocumented) prebuilt command queues that the onscreen characters follow, making for a game that largely plays itself.

The faults with the game pile up after that. To properly follow the story at times I had to read a lot of material stored in one of the pause menus because it was never related during the game. Instead of starting at the beginning of the story, the game starts about a third of the way through and uses flashbacks to round it out. This wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that it's uber-linear game construction leaves the gamer with characters he knows and cares little about for far too long (at least the game is very pretty to look at). When the game finally gets good for one of it's thirteen chapters(!), several optional battles provide mini-cutscenes that are much more entertaining than the brooding crap that dominates the rest of the game.

The good chapter in particular led me to believe that the mediocrity of the rest of the title was a design decision instead of an unresolvable development issue, and since FFXIII has outsold FFXI despite a smaller install base, I'd say that was the case. So three sandmiches for game quality, and five sandmiches for a triumph of capitalism!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Almost an Idea

From Steve Sailer's page on 'The Pledge':
It's basically a George W Bush Redux. It advocates no useful policy on enforcing the borders. It merely advocates (buried way down on page 20) to reaffirm the right of states to enforce immigration laws - a right they already have.

And I'm gunna go out on a limb and wager that it says nothing about eliminating racial preferences or CRA.
And that's the long and short of why Republicans will be lucky to hold anything of any worth, and an even better reason why our country may well be boned. Nothing meaningful on Wall Street lawlessness or entitlement spending either (Denninger points out that every tax dollar is eaten up by Medicaid/care,unemployment/welfare, and Social Security with EVERYTHING else being financed by debt).

Two points need to be made, I think:

  1. The amount of debt being cranked out by our government(s) is sopping up every bit of private capital. This not only degrades private investment, it also gives our overseas dollars an unproductive home (foreign entities buying government debt instead of products from our private sector). The fact that debt was issued to bail out the debt collectors is disgusting to an incomprehensible degree and why the Republicans aren't making a point to try and claw that mess back is beyond me (well, not necessarily that, more like confirming my worst suspicions).
  2. Eliminating government debt would have a fairly quick beneficial impact, but a bunch of sacrifice must be sold and, at least in my mind, nothing is more caustic to selling shared sacrifice within the nation than illegal immigration (and to a large extent corporate legal immigration). It's hard to sell tax increases when everyone knows who will be paying (three words: earned income tax credit), and hard to sell spending cuts when everyone knows who will get cut first (witness Obama cutting medicare to finance his health care fiasco). At least if we had a grasp of who our fellow Americans were and who we were trapped in our boundaries with it would be easier to come to terms with what has to be done.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Upside-Down

From here:
There’s an effort underway amongst Democrats to re-brand the Bush tax cuts...as “the Obama tax cuts“.
...
Under the "Obama tax cut plan," your tax rates would either stay the same as they were before or go up
No surprise there, it sounds pretty much like anything good that might have the word "Obama" in front of it (or behind it).

Friday, September 10, 2010

No Censorship for You

Google complains that blocking Internet content is a trade barrier:
"Internet censorship is really a trade barrier, and is operating that way for US companies that are trying to do business abroad," he grumbled.
You go Google! Why, not too long ago someone tried to hide the Lincoln Memorial and Pat Buchanan, I'm glad that they're fighting...oh wait that was Google.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Undo Influence

The Parma/Parma Heights area suffers from over taxation, poor governance, sloppily run schools and an unfriendly business environment (my current workplace was threatened with not getting an occupancy permit by Parma because our water heater was set to a useful temperature that was still colder than that in most people's houses). Little surprise then that it is one of Obama's favorite places since he gave his big rally speech this past Friday at 'Tri-C west' (Cuyahoga Community College West is where Kid Sandmich is rounding out his High School education), and two and half years earlier he gave a campaign speech at Valley Forge high school (where our exchange student went last year) and it also happens to be right across the street from Tri-C west.

I wonder if he could at least send over enough government gravy to complete the road construction in the area that's been going on for more than a year so that it will be all cleaned up for his next visit.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Watching Movies

I saw more movies this past week than I think I have the rest of the year (thus far)...
  • Goldfinger (cable): the local cable co-op channel (no ads, uncut, etc) had the hi-def, remastered copy of this film on. I'm tempted to say that this film didn't even look this good when it was first released, and still so much fun!
  • Zombieland (DVD): Good to sit through once, but the 88 minute playing time felt padded.
  • Repo Men (Blu-Ray): Not good to sit through once; essentially a two hour long ad for playing video games and not watching movies.
  • The Expendables: A cheeseball plot provides a weak skeleton for copious, musclebound violence. Another fun one to see, though Mrs. Sandmich didn't care for it quite so much. Perhaps it was the 30 minutes or it took for the machine gun noise to finally leave our ears?
  • Inception: After seeing this I thought it was odd that Leonardo DiCaprio has done a pretty good job in everything that he's been in except, in my opinion, Titanic, which is probably the film that he's most known for. It's not an age thing either since he was in Quick and the Dead before Titanic and he was still better in the former than the latter. Anyway, a good head trippy movie that I'll probably pick up, though no one will watch it with me.
  • Pirana 3D: Basically an educational film where the outsides and insides of the human anatomy are presented in a 3D blow apart format (with some body parts, ahem, favored more than others). If I could have though, I would have liked to have watched the last third of the movie without 3D as I was sick of wearing the glasses.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Judging Poorly

I'd not noted it at the time, but a little while ago the victim of a dreadful crime which I had posted about commented about it on my blog and rounded out the story with this bit:
I have been trying to point the finger for over a year now and the kid who stabed me the judge let him go cause why?He was a minor and she did not want to ruin his life by putting him in jail. But what about me?
...
The judge who had the case was in trouble cause she just had a case were she let a kid go everyone said was dangerous and she said she did not want to ruin his life he got out of jail and shot someone in the face days later!
They tried to get her taken out of office.
Her name is Judge keough.

Judge Kathleen Keough as it turns out. Needless to say, you have the mind of a tree stump if you vote for Judge Keough, a Judge who herself should be jailed for gross incompetence (guess which party endorsement she has...oh come on, it's not that hard!)

I bring it up because it turns out that Cleveland has at least one other brutally incompetent judge in Judge Alison Floyd:
We want to know why a Cuyahoga County judge just released an accused 16-year-old charged with sexually assaulting an eight year old.
...
Floyd's latest decision is just another in a string of questionable ones.

In the spring of 2006, two teens accused of starting a fire at a school got a big break from Floyd. They caused $300,000 worth of damage. One was sentenced to the custody of mom and the other walked because the prosecutions' main witness never showed.

In another case, she ruled there was no evidence a teen with a loaded gun threatened to shoot a cop.

She said prosecutors failed to show probable cause. That teen later pled guilty in adult court to the charges and got 12 years in prison.

Another Floyd decision: two teens robbed and stabbed a man in downtown Cleveland. Floyd gave the main attacker probation.
All that and they even missed (at least) one!
A Juvenile Court judge has ordered three teenage girls who were victims of sexual assault to submit to polygraph tests, baffling prosecutors and upsetting the victims.

Cuyahoga Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd ordered victims connected with four separate cases to be examined after she had found their attackers delinquent, the Juvenile Court equivalent of guilty.
Now I'll bet there's no way that you'll be able to guess her party affiliation as well!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Salves to the Grind

Staff workers for Ohio's largest teacher Union have gone on strike, apparently protesting the slave like conditions of their job:
"OEA [the teacher's union] officers and managers need to practice what they preach. It's a pretty high form of hypocrisy for OEA officers and managers to be giving us this treatment when they expect us to protect OEA members from the same treatment out in the schools," said Norm Young, president of the Professional Staff Union.
Fair enough, maybe?
Most of the 110 striking workers - all members of the OEA's Professional Staff Union - earn more than $100,000 a year, according to reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. For instance, labor-relations consultants - who make up about 80 percent of the striking workers - were paid an average salary of $111,350 in 2009.
Ooof, maybe the teachers union should give that union a taste of what's coming down the pike for teachers in Ohio and cancel their pension, tie their raises to an arbitrary set of political goals, and drop a 10% pay cut on them. Overall, and not surprisingly, I think that the teacher's union is getting a substandard product for their dues.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Raised Eyebrow

From here:
Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo picked the sister of his longtime housemate to share supervision of the scandal-plagued county boards that decide appeals of property assessments.
Housemate?


Uh huh....