Monday, 14 October 2019

13/10/19 - 反送中(2)

一直想再次寫寫反送中的東西,奈何過去兩個月一直在打風花雪月和忙其他東西。本來想買的牧場物語也沒空玩了,不過如果復刻度高的話大概還是會喊著真香買下去吧?

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反送中運動已經快持續了四個月。期間政府濫用暴力程上升程度與市民團結與勇於反抗的程度也是肉眼可見的。

六月,兩場百萬人大遊行夾一場立法會抗議。我們稱讚市民的和平理性,說警察(當時還是)有需要的時候還是可以很專業的嘛。我的日記裡居然說起公共運輸系統上來了,現在回看還真有點諷剌。

七月。立法會進擊,警察(刻意)退守,示威者保持最低限度的理性;我們擔心那手推車破門的一幕會為市民所唾棄,我們讚揚那些不破壞立法會紀念品和付錢拿汽水的示威者。立法會的宣言為世界所記住,五大訴求,從此上路。

當然,G20的完結意味著對家暫時不用再顧面子,可以盡情盡力讓事件在十一月選舉前完結。也許大家都沒料到整個運動會持續到現在。

屯門、九龍、沙田、上水。抗爭不再限於港島,居民也開始意識到警察的暴力隨時都可以臨到自己頭上。敢於反抗,不必為甚麼崇高的政治經濟理想,可能只是在守護自己土生土長那片社區而已。流水抗爭,遍地開花。

七二一,元朗警暴。我們在那一刻徹底看清警方已經化為人面獸心的維穩機器。前幾天才出獄的民運人士才說過警方親自為黑社會做briefing--不過不用等到現在,當天警察刻意的拖延救援與光頭李sir的挑釁嘴臉同樣被市民所記住。不用諸多辯解,他們的行為早就證明一切。警黑合作,既是警黑,也是黑警。黑社會混進去做警察在十七年前就演過,只不過今次他們兩個身份都光明正大地顯出來了。

不過警黑好像還是有點難看,那就乾脆黑警算了。

八月,大三罷。阻塞鐵路與襲擊付國豪一度成為誘使市民內鬥分化的最大危機,不過對家再次證明不怕神一般的對手,只怕豬一般的隊友。八一一的遊行以悲劇的形式結束:葵芳的室內催淚彈、太古的行刑式掃射、還有最重要的少女爆眼。在科學鐵證前瞪大眼說大話的黑警,迅速將全港的人心凝聚到一起。和你飛的北大嶼山公路長征與接放學人龍,與八一八的遊行便是團結的證明。

第三次的百萬遊行也許出乎政府意料之外。百萬級的遊行任他們請再多外援也沒法用同樣方法驅散的,那就只好從源頭開始用武力嚇退市民,於是就有了八三一事件。

反對通知書下大批市民仍冒著風險上街,警方則用了底突襲加上太子站的無差別攻擊,手法之低賤前所未見。一個個以前留下歡樂回憶的市中心鬧區,現在遺留下來的只有香港人的鮮血,和市民所放的白花祭品。直到今時今日,我們也沒法說得清到底當天有沒有打死人。我只知道,從這天開始香港的自殺人數開始急速爬升。

九月,抗爭並沒有因為作為前線的學生開學而衰退,相反這是另一條戰線的開始。校內的抗爭將更多人連結到一起。老師-學生-舊生-家長之間的連結超越一般的同溫層,將市民的訴求最大化地廣傳出去。

條例正式撤回,美國全速通過香港民主及人權法案,示威遍及全港十八區。當我們以為看見那怕一點曙光時,政府又以行動告訴市民它們才是手執生殺大權的一方、而示威者只是「yellow object」且「have no stakes in the society」。

九二九,全球聲援大遊行,印尼女記者遭射爆眼。
十月一,中五少年險被射殺,隨即被控暴動罪。
十月四,反蒙面法。一年前世紀風暴山竹也請不出來的緊急法,原來可以如此兒戲地用上。

這只是整個抗爭行動的「主線」。正所謂遍地開花,不單是示威遍地開花,而是將意識傳遍整個香港。超越地區的連儂牆、超越年齡層的銀髮族遊行、超越職業和資產階級的專業人士集會--如此強烈連結(connect)在一起的人心,在暴政的壓逼下只會越來越團結。

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這幾個月來瀏覽器總留住了一個有關「俠之大者,為國為民」的分頁,大概是重看金庸時留下的記錄。

有時我會問自己,到底在這場抗爭裡面,誰才是「俠」?香港有會像郭靖那樣死守襄陽城的「大俠」嗎?還是路見不平、拔刀相助的「遊俠」?

我記得六七月時,不時會看到一些路邊的茶餐廳幫助示威者:讓他們進來免費吃飯,幫他們換裝成一般市民,讓他們從後門逃走。從後門繞到大街上,迎面而來的是整條小巴車隊,招手著他們上車。當時就有人稱讚他們是「俠」,讚他們互不相識又見義勇為,可謂香港人的典範。

不過這種論調,在抗爭後期就不見了。原因很簡單,大家的取向已經歸位。每一位同路人不論是否站在街頭前線,都會在自己貢獻範圍以內盡本分成為抗爭的支柱。
用歌詞來形容的話就是「同舟人 誓相隨 無畏亦無懼」--獅子山下的價值建基於大家都一窮二白的年代,對現代社會已不適用,所以現在被「榮光」所代。不過反過來想一想,當香港人甘願拋棄他們最重視的利益而擁抱獅子山精神時,政府還有甚麼可以將人心收回來呢?

答案是有的--那就是將扭曲的價值觀修正回來,重新塑造一個去赤化、以香港人為本、為市民所監督的政府架構。這是超越五大訴求,但是比五大訴求更為接近問題根源的變革。連日的警暴下市民已經徹底唾棄這個將槍枝指向百姓的政府。唯有讓他們相信,這四個月的惡夢以後絕無機會再次發生,這場抗爭才有結束的盼望。除此以外,別無他法。

五年前的運動,我們已經失去太多。反送中抗爭再次失敗的後果將會是絕望的。然而我們這次集天時地利人知--中美貿易戰和新冷戰格局的天時、香港前殖民地位的地利、全民connect的人和--該退縮隱忍還是挺身硬抗,不是很清楚嗎?

香港人,加油。
香港人,反抗。

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

On Three Houses (2): Serious gameplay




Maddening accomplished, with NG of course. It took me about 100 hours, and the file shows 85 hours. That means I spent 15 hours retrying the courses. I took a very conservative approach both on the battlefield and in the academy exhausting all resources every step. I know I can go a lot faster but I didn't want to because I do not want to take the risk of retrying the whole game when I get stuck.

This, is my thought about the game from the perspective of maddening playthrough, the true difficulty for Fire Emblem fans.

- Story and plots - 

I chose Golden Deer this time as my final route for the game. It really is a "true end" to me -- not only that the story is complete, informative and less painful, the final fight is also a grand one -- that is the only final stage where you do not fight layer by layer but as a whole. You are also pressurized by the frontline enemies at turn one. The collaboration among the distant artillery units are terrifying. The boss is tiny yet hard to deal with. Not to mention the opera styled BGM -- everything is perfectly set to be the final fight.

After playing all four routes the overall plot is pretty clear. Crimson flower route need some further refine on its own, which will probably happen in update 3. The other routes are pretty complete.

Some may look for further information about the distant past...I hoped for the same but you know, these kind of supplement information is never enough. Perhaps they will publish a fanbook in the future?

- Team and formation - 

Due to limited resources I only recruited Doro, Sylvain, Mercedes and Ingrid this run. Doro became my dancer, Sylvain is a free recruit as well as a powerful axe wyvern (although everyone went to shoot arrows anyway), and Ingrid should be a dexterous falcon knight...except that her strength growth is horribly low in my run that she never became more than a chipping unit. Mercedes for her fortify, of course.

With the 4 recruits that completes my team of 12+1 for the final fight, where I usually drop Leonie because her dexterity never get to the point where she can steadily kill. For most battles in front where you can only use 10 units, the 3 lowest leveled units will follow the healers as adjuncts and absorb exp points from them.

I tried to exhaust the healing capabilities a bit. Marianne, Lys, Doro, Mercedes and even Lorenz and Byleth are overleveled due to constant healing. That also left the rest of the units enough opponents to kill. At the end, the mages are around level 60+, Lorenz and Byleth are around level 55, and the physical units are about the recommended level (42-44).

- Tactics - 

Everyone use bows and curved shots. Fliers may use close range weapons but really they just utilize curved bows and the canto ability to hit back and forth. In maddening you cannot really afford to go deep into the danger radius because everything doubles you, even with weapon breaker disadvantage.

But what hurts the most (other than Lys bomber) is the two 5-range units: Ignatz and Lorenz. Ignatz's hit+20 inherited skill allow us to build him in a super offensive way so that he can crit at will while still having a reliable accuracy even against assassins. Lorenz meanwhile, can fire up to 40-50 spells 5 grids away. This is perfect when you want to take down a particular unit in the opponent formation that will trigger the rest. 5 range attack also penetrates most walls so that allows you to do lots of unintended attacks.

In the Shamblala map, my team got stuck in the left-bottom corner when the 3 or 4 titans were trying to go through the gates. I stopped them by placing Raphael (but he still get critted twice for 15x2 at a crit rate of 15%) and ingrid up front, but these two are not good enough to handle 400 HP+ titans. What I did is to use curved shots to break a barrier on the titans, then Ignatz-Doro combo will produce 200+ damage on their own, every turn.

I did the same for Lorenz and even Marianne (as a holy knight), but Marianne is more like a magical tank - she easily take doubles with the white magic that heals upon damaging the opponent.

Lys and Byleth, can of course kill enemies at will, but I tend not to use them unless it's necessary. I enjoyed defeating the opponent without using these two too much. Although I defeated almost every non-generic characters by Lys (except for Nemesis), including Death Knights of course.

- Difficulty -

Maddening is for those who carve for a challenge -- the sentence accurately described the difficulty of maddening. It is challenging. It requires you to think and execute carefully every step, as well as hoping for reasonable luck in order to proceed.

Regardless of your endgame plans, the gameplay is similar for everyone at least in the first 6 chapters where you only have 1 battle points and very limited activity points. These chapters are really tricky and every reinforcement will catch you off guard.

I started to get frustrated on the second encounter with death knight. I used to finish the stage nice and slow but we have a 25 turn restriction this time. That forces you do be aggressive against opponents that are far stronger than you. Mages on avo floor is really a pain when your entire team missed hitting them. But this stage is also the time when Ignatz started to shine. His 4-range shots accurately clears the DK room and prevents the bloodleash.

After that everything changed because I know have 2 battle points. I started taking bandits after bandits, and finally I can clear the main quests in an easier way.

But not the reunion at dawn.

I didn't train Byleth seriously before time-skip, so that stage took me forever even with enough speed...It's Claude's gambit saved me, but I would be more pleased if he didn't take me out to do the battle with just 2 units.

In general, the exp mod forces you to really focus on units that barely forms a team. Further exp penalty causes most physical units to be of level similar to the recommened one, and at that level, fighting is really challenging due to hit rate and speed. It's more painful in the beginning because opponents having no specific classes means they are better than you all-roundedly. Later in the game the enemies are diversified meaning that you can kill them with proper tactics.

The two extra skills - pass and poison strike are good additionals to the difficulty. They require some extra thoughts to deal with in a reasonable way. Pass forces you to create compact formation retaining a correct distance from the opponent. It is less of a threat late in the game because you can utilize gambits and fliers to avoid having a solid frontline, so being able to pass do not create any harm. Poison strike on the other hand is still a threat late in the game, because that means you cannot tank infinitely many units by a single armor unit anymore. You will need to be careful when placing your tank by such.

- Mechanics in higher difficulty -

Looking back on what I said after playing normal and hard, it's time to review whether these comments hold anymore in maddening.

1) Weapon triangle: weapon breaker skills is essentially a weak weapon triangle, so weak to the point that does not affect your choice of weapons. Think about how you deal with those endgame physical units:

Sword - thieves and assassins. Due to their pass skills, you are forced to hold your line and kill them using multiple units. Lance units with swordbreaker may increase the accuracy a bit, but at close range mage and archers would work better.

Lance - well, where are all the cavalry units?

Axe - those are simply free kills. With enough dexterity most units are capable of dealing with them.

With everyone using their bows more than any other close range weapons, the discrepancies among the three weapons are weaker than ever.

2) Class meta: The class meta shifted further to distant attackers since you get doubled for every close combat, and dexterous units does not create enough damage (like my poor Ingrid). Ineffective classes remains ineffective, except for mage knights equipped with extra range tools. But for the rest like war master and dark mages...we just can't afford to choose those.

3) Maddening+: so...what should we expect in the fourth difficulty? There is no further news about this difficulty yet. Something looks like that appears in the fourth DLC but it's a side quest. Stat boosts on the enemy as well as the exp penalty is already harsh enough so that it's hard to expect further modification on this part.

Instead, changes should be made on the finest details -- so that players would optimizes themselves to the finest as well. These may include:
- a different AI that takes a mixed strategy between being stationary and aggressive, cares more on formation and harder to be baited
- restriction to physic and fortify uses
- reduce level cap to 50

After playing all 4 routes, I believe 50 is sufficient for everyone. We can modify the exp curve - lift the penalty below the recommended level and increase the penalty above the recommended level. By removing the unpenalized exp gain from dance and healing, the game become less grindy -- we can do less auxiliary battles and fish less (although Flayn would be sad), but you can utilize a team up to a certain level in the main quest without much effort. And that "certain level" is the intended strength of the team in which the developer wants you to clear the stage with.

But well, I am not going to do the highest difficulty if it ever comes out, with New Game. And not even New Game+, because it has taken too much time from me. I would rather play harvest moon in October. If I come back for Three Houses again, it is probably for Sauna, new stories and new characters...

- Elements missed -

I may not write anything further about the game (because it would have to be something related to the plots, but I am not ready to sort out the whole story. So I would like to conclude my review with a list of traditional FE elements that is missed in three houses:

- weapon triangle, of course.
- fixed but more diversified grow path
- advanced class with less movement restriction
- more talk options and ability to talk/recruit enemies
- villages and villagers
- pair up and rescue options
- ...

I know some of them does not fir into this game, but still I am hoping for something similar in the next franchise.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Thoughts on Fire Emblem Three Houses (1): core mechanics

I decided to use this picture so as not to post any endgame spoilers. But it seems like this picture is also kind of a spoiler...


Three Houses for FEH fans, of course. Clearly FEH gives great attention as well as financial support to the development of the game. Before even going into the game you can tell that the game is a sincere one. I had no choice but to start playing since July 26 and as a result I almost abandoned FEH, stopped daily bonus streak in neopets...but that's totally worth it. I am satisfied with the game, the first mainline FE franchise I played since the three GBA-era games.

I finished 3 of the 4 routes and that takes me 145 hours -- 60 for the first route, 30 for the second route (that branched from the first halfway through), and 55 for the third route (via new game+). The first route is done in normal casual and that is really, really easy in FE standard. The third route done in hard classic is more of the expected normal difficulty, and is very fun to play.

Fire Emblem has evolved from a pure RPG-battle game into a game with huge amount of character interaction in various forms -- support system, academy, gifts and tea party and so on. The ~20 main quests should take a good FE player no more than 15 hours of gameplay, but the extra auxillary battles and the school exploration time takes a large portion of gameplay as well. If you skip everything and purely focus on numeric battles one can possibly finish the game in 25 hours, but that would be a huge waste because everything is well-designed to enrich the world of Three Houses.

And because of the vast amount of material that I can talk about the game I want to be kind of selective: I want to compare what I used to (old FE, FEH) and Three Houses since this is not covered in mainstream reviews (which is for everyone). Somewhere in the future I may also write something general about the game: plots, arts, characters and so on.

But before discussing any game mechanism, I want to stress that the importance of a certain mechanism is not absolute -- it depends on the difficulty of the game. The easier the game is, the larger flexibility players are given to not optimize things. In higher difficulties some mechanism may become crucial or even become the meta because if you do not do a certain action the rest of the game would be much more difficult. One example is having the glass cannon Lysithea in the game -- her unique set of black magic plus monster-effective white magic is such a nuke weapon in the game.

Similar argument simply applies to FEH as well. In arena we care about merges because it's the one or two points difference that determines the winner. I do not believe that -- I always believe that wise movements are more important except that characters with higher stats actually yield a higher score. Another example is the Legendary Hero Battles: in lower difficulty you can bring in your favourite team but for abyssal difficulty you have to either bring a well discussed meta team, an extremely specifically designed team on walkthrough, or something really spectacular to pass the stage. The over-inflated stats and skills leave basically no space for someone to experiment with.

The term flexibility sometimes does not only apply to strategical flexibility, but also flexibility in terms of space. The maps in three houses are in general very big comparing to the past. Not only that allows greater leniency for players to give commands, but that also lowers the difficulty quite a lot. (Think about the 2x3 hidden rooms in the final fights in blazing blade!) That accounts partially to why three houses is easy in FE standard.

But enough talking. Let's start with mechanism that are changed in three houses.

- Weapon triangle and class system -

The removal of the triangle is certainly a big change -- it lowers the complexity of matchup consideration so that the game is more accessible to new gamers. And of course, it allows characters to yield their favourite weapons, which is cool after all.

But for hardcore FE players, decision making became straightforward and less interesting because of the changes. The most significant change is that, the choice of weapon is now heavily dependent on the choice of the moving type.

Unlike 2-steps class system in the past, there are now 5 steps: "class-less" (commoner and noble), beginner (lv 5), intermediate (lv 10), advanced (lv 20) and master (lv 30). Since master classes the highest stat growth bonuses we shall assume characters are trained for at least one master class.

But that's where the problem is: the choice of weapon is then heavily relying on the moving type.

With the removal of the weapon triangle the melee weapons became more or less the same. We train a particular kind of melee weapon just because it suits the career path that we planned.

Just think about how we characterize the three weapons:

Sword: high crit, speed, pegasus or mortal servant
Lance: balanced, knight and fliers
Axe: high atk, armored or wyvern

But...without the triangle but with the master class restrictions, specializing in the right weapon seemed to be more important than what they are actually good at, because that is not going to make a great difference.

The only consideration is crit rate because the crit rate for swordmasters and snipers are terribly high so I have a tendency to push everyone to use sword, and those who are not compatible with sword will go into the lance path -- fliers or knights. And for axe? We don't need warriors and war masters thank you. There are a few characters that go well with armored knights, but they ended up using lances anyway because they received knight training anyway...

On the melee side weapons can be freely used given the proficiency rank, but this is another story on the magic side. There are only a few classes who can use magic even if units already learned such magic -- this is so weird. Are there anything stopping them from casting magic while wearing as a non-magician?

With such restriction naturally magicians really focus on magic and melee units should not bother about magic at all. Unfortunately master classes force you to do a mixed training. Just...why? Such requirement raises the difficulty of breeding a unit into master class and that seemed to contradict with the overall idea to make the game more accessible, or are they treat master classes as something not to be reached by new players? It's already hard enough to train a magical unit into holy/dark knight, but it's even harder to train a sword unit into mortal servant because their magic are of limited use even at the later stage. 8/8 fire plus 4/4 thoron means you can only train your reason rank 12 times before you have to go back to melee weapons.

I should also mention that the anima-holy-dark triangle is also gone. Given that dark and anima are merged into reason class anyway the removal is not very surprising. It's not even impactful because it is much less often that we have magical duels in three houses anyway. Just a small observation to put here.

- Non-infantry units -

There are three non-infantry movement types: armored, fliers and cavalries. There aren't many master classes available:

Cavalry: Bow/holy/dark knight, (great knight)
Armored: Great knight
Flier: Pegasus, Wyvern

Despite the the lack of magical classes for fliers, these master classes are quite strong and provides great tactical flexibility. Fliers (both pegasus and wyvern) are already the best classes around. The three ranged cavalry classes, in particular bow knights, are really good at producing damages without getting hit. Great knights meanwhile, well, are really strong in close combat.

In three houses we can no longer rescue other units but cavalry and flier units can now unmount to mock as infantry units, but that provides little or no tactical variety after all.

In practice we almost never unmount fliers because fliers receive no movement penalties, but at the same time they do not receive tile bonuses which is alright -- they can avoid lethal damages by canto skill anyway.

Calvary movement is seriously affected by desert and forest tiles. Most main battles happened in cities so that cavalries are not affected anyway. There are desert and forest based maps for auxiliary battles but since these are of lower difficulty it won't cause much problem especially with the help of divine pulses.

Perhaps the only reason for me to unmount is to cooperate with auto-battle, where cavalry and flier units often advance too far ahead and get defeated. By unmounting them we can make sure units are moving at a similar pace, so that they can fight effectively as a pack.

If they are to develop more on auto-battle strategies, they should really add another option where units advance and attack in a way they are still united. This is even less aggressive than 'focus' but still an attacking one.

- Divine Pulse and difficulty-

That's of course a quality of life improvement - it saves you from resetting the game that you already spent 45 minutes just ruined by an unexpected crit or AI movement beyond the static danger area. It allows players to experiment to slightly more aggressive tactics without having to push towards the limit bit by bit.

We all know from FEH that auto battle is unreliable at times, this is even more of a problem in three houses due to the difference in range of movement. Even with the 'focus' auto battle option, we often found our cavalry healer rushing onto the front line...and pathetically defeated. With divine pulse we can always go back and manually fix the decision made by these headless units then proceed to auto battle again. That compresses the time required for auxiliary battles to just a few minutes.

We have so many distinctive features for players to explore in the game, and spending time repeating the same fight is not the most interesting one -- going through battles at maximum speed really hurts your thumb (the second most tedious thing in the game, next to fishing). So allowing players to skip that part of the game is not bad after all. The game alone is already a 200+ hours masterpiece already -- we don't need something excessive to buff the time needed to clear the game further.

Some say that three houses is easier just because of divine pulse, but this is not entirely true. We can easily list a few difference between three houses and the old FE games showing that the game was made easier:

- extra auxiliary battles to grind the levels
- fewer opponent with a `commander' level stat, in particular those generic commander enemies
- fewer forced time constraints
- flexible mount/unmount option
- charges for physics and fortify resets every battle
- less compact maps
- ineffective level cap
- higher weapons easily accessible at unlimited quantity
- legendary weapons made in mass, and the crests...

Level cap is perhaps one of the biggest concern in the past. You have to breed your characters properly before level 40 (20+20) so that the stat growth will not go to waste.

In three houses the level cap is 99...which is totally out of my surprise. When I completed my first lap with Ed (which is the shortest route), I was expecting the level cap to be 40...but no. I was allowed to keep leveling. When I then proceed to Dimitri route I was expecting the level cap to be 50, but that's again not the case.

Level cap is playing a vital role in FE because it prevents overpowered units by pouring most resources onto one or a few units. It forces you to think about growth rate and skill combos, which is the deepest FE theory in some sense. Without the level cap one may just tank everything by creating an over-leveled unit, and this is not interesting.

But well, since we admitted that their normal is actually the `FE easy' and their hard is `FE hard', shall we expect a more cruel ruleset in Maddening(lunatic+)? There is no need to give distant counter to every unit and make disgusting skill combos like FEH legendary hero battles...just cap the level at 40 and I am sure players will be crying at later stages.

*

At the end I should again stress that comments on the mechanism might change vastly against different difficulties. I look forward to the updates for lunatic and maddening difficulties, so that I can complete Claude route as well, before Harvest Moon comes out...

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Yoshi's crafted world: not for 100% run players


 

A late review on the Yoshi's crafted world as one of the iconic Nintendo game made for switch. I am so obsessed with Yoshi's island 1 and 2 so is no way that I would miss that.

First, why Yoshi and what's my expectation?

Yoshi became popular due to the great success of the Super Mario World so it gets a spinoff game that is also a 2D platformer but with some twist.

Yoshi's island encourages exploration by introducing non-linear stages and collectibles - flowers and red coins. Exploration can be done by either Yoshi itself or the eggs. Yoshi has a slightly more Jiggling physics comparing with Mario who is designed to run. This is the core mechanics of the Yoshi series.

Yoshi's Island is heavily praised for its vast variety of enemy (and enemy physics). The enemy showroom in Yoshi's island is such a fantastic idea especially when you can interact with them.

As for someone who loved Yoshi's islands, I am expecting a sequel that preserves the standing-out designs from the past while entertaining modern players at the same time. So, am I satisfied of the game?

Well, yes and no.

From the artistic point of view this is another success -- from wool to cardboard based Yoshi you can clearly feel the Nintendo style behind. Every single stage is unique in its enemy and even game mechanism. By advancing in the stage you gradually understand how things work and solve the incoming puzzles.

This is however, not a strictly positive comment. Just as IGN said, "but it's a bummer that even the best ideas are rarely ever revisited later". Since every stage is unique on its own, that means we are not going to see integrated stages featuring multiple mechanics. I can understand the situation in a sense that the themes of even neighboring stages differ too much to be integrated, but this should not be a hard thing to amend.

The integration of multiple mechanism is one of my favourite in Yoshi's island -- we have 3 ordinary stages, then 1 castle (x-4 and x-8) stage where we have mechanics from the last 3 stages but also something new. The castle itself is already fun with the maze design, and even more interesting with these integration. And that brings us to the next point.

Game stages are largely linear. This is of course not a rare thing  among 2D platformers, but Yoshi's crated world is particularly linear  due to the flippable design. By such we have an obvious direction to clear the stage, and also a clear hint to collect hidden items -- just look for the opposite direction.

While individual stages are too linear, the stage sequence is non-linear. One may somehow divide the game into 5 worlds, where you have access to world 2, 3 and 4 simultaneously. But that also means world 2, 3 and 4 are of similar difficulty -- which are all far too easy. Even world 5 is unbelievably easy. But then you suddenly get 3 unforgiving extra stages -- the big difficulty gap is kind of annoying. Why would you introduce instant death rules in the extra stages while the players are not well-equipped for them by clearing the game? If you look at extra stages in Yoshi's island the first 5 extra stages are a bit harder than their respective main boss stage (x-8), while 6-E is pure hell. With proper difficulty progression from x-1 to x-8 in each world, the corresponding extra stage gives a reasonable challenge for those who mastered the previous contents. But in Yoshi's crafted world we only get thse after clearing the whole game, and they are notoriously hard comparing to the rest.

Finishing the 3 extra stages is just the easiest part for those who aim to collect all flowers...I say the easiest not because it's technically the easiest, but this is kind of a new content that you are happy to clear it.

And there are contents that you are not happy to clear.

Flip-side. Oh yes, flip side. Great artistic concept but has a down side on gameplay, Finding puppies is a nice idea (and the pups are fun to play with), but this is technically easy throughout (especially with the sound turned on) hence less attractive for experienced players.

Then you have the find items quest...which is the worse thing in the game. Extremely boring and forces you to play the stage multiple times and wasting so much time looking at every corner. I appreciate the game art, but it is not necessary for me to check every detail. Right? You cannot even access to those quest before clearing the stage, and you can only do one quest at a time, meaning that you have to play stages multiple times even if you managed to find all quest items on the first run. Staged are played like at least 4-5 times in order for one to find all items, and this is pure redundant.

Boss stages...very fun bosses, but I would rather have a complete boss stage, or just a themed castle before the boss. Boss fight is of moderate difficulty but the boss challenges are really hard. That brings us back to the point where the difficulty gap is huge. Of course this is less of a problm because players shoud have already cleared the game for at least once. The time limit gives zero-tolerance to any error that delays the cycle, but it makes the battles a lot more interesting. To meet the time requirement you need to push back even further, so that you have rooms for minor mistakes when you misses some other parts of the challenge.

Costumes. I take it as a quality of life improvement from the 30 seconds count where you do not need to restart the whole stage after making mistakes. Most super rare costumes are very cool -- that's a plus for the game. My favourite is the raven one, probably because raven appeared Yoshi's island too. (Yoshi's island 5-8 is one of the best stages ever made...)

One last thing that I must say -- most score-based stages is uniquely fun, EXCEPT for one, the go-go Yoshi. While being cute and fun, that thing is surprisingly hard to control precisely (I found using the left d-pad gives more accurate control), and the score requirement is damn high -- and that is in the middle of world 1! It also comes back to haunt you in the Kamek boss -- pretty sure many of you failed to clear the stage within time limit just because you missed a single punch in the final Kamek form...

To conclude, Yoshi's crafted world is an amazing game who gives great art and good first-time experience. But it lacks the design to serve experienced players properly. Even worse it frustrates completionists in many way.

Verdict: 7.1/10
Game time: 20 hours for any%, 40-60 hours for 100%

Thursday, 25 July 2019

MSN minesweeper revisited (in 2019)

I have expressed numerous time my love on the MSN minesweeper...and now it is back online. It is a pity the mienfield was down without any support...but hopefully this is going to last longer.

So here this is a question related to the grid efficiency in MSN minesweeper.

$\begin{matrix}
\square & \square & B_1 & B_2 & B_3 & \square & \square\\
\cdots & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & \cdots \\
\cdots & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & \cdots
\end{matrix}$

Suppose that you have a line of 1s along a long enough edge (basically you do not get any information from the two endpoints of the edge), then at any of the 1s, the chance of a mine appearing on a random grid should be 1/3...or is it?

Assume that the universal distribution is uniform. I.e. that is an equal chance of getting any of the $C^n_r$ many combinations (ignoring the corner rule since it is less relevant). Similarly without further hints, if we have n remaining unrevealed grids and r remaining mines, then the number of possible combinations is again $C^n_r$.

Out of the formula there is one single variable that varies with actual config - the number of remaining mines depends on the length of the edge modulo 3. Let $r_i$ be the remaining mines count after revealing the row given the configuration $B_i$. Then

$P(B_i) = \frac{C^n_{r_i}}{\sum C^n _{r_k}}$

If the number of mines to be revealed is independent of the configuration then we can conclude that the chance are equal. Otherwise we can compare the binomial terms:

$C^n_{r+1} = C^n_r \frac{n-r-1}{r+1}$

The usual ratio between grids and mines is 5:1 -- but that varies greatly depending on the given situation. In particular there are loads of 1s and 0s in our example, which boosts the ratio greatly. At the ratio of 2:1 the increase of mines would not increase the likelihood of the evisceration, but of course such ratio is unrealistic in a minesweeper setup, so we can say that the configuration that the configuration that leads to less mines on the row, is more likely.

One may raise the question: shouldn't the equilibrium happens at 3:1 instead of 2:1, from a likelihood perspective? We can visualize the likelihood approach by the following problem.

In a box there are $n$ balls, in which $r\approx n/x$ are white, and the rest are black. (i.e., the ratio between balls and white balls is $x:1$). Suppose we draw $\alpha$ balls out of it and we want to compare the chance of having $\beta \approx \alpha /3$ or $\beta +1$ white balls in the draw. If we want the chance between the two events to be comparable:

$\frac{C^{n-\alpha}_{r-\beta}C^{\alpha}_{\beta}}{C^{n-\alpha}_{r-\beta-1}C^{\alpha}_{\beta +1}} = \frac{(n-\alpha-(r-\beta))(\beta +1)}{(r-\beta)(\alpha -\beta-1)} \approx \frac{1}{2} \frac{n-\alpha - (r-\beta)}{r-\beta} = 1$

That gives $n-\alpha \approx 3(r-\beta)$, or $n \approx 3r$.

In our problem however, the term $C^{\alpha}_{\beta}$ does not exist, because we do not take the full combination within the balls drawn. In other words, we do not allow orders like

BBBWWWWWW
BBWWBWWWW
BWWWWWWBB...

The three only allowed scenarios are

BWWBWWBWW
WBWWBWWBW
WWBWWBWWB

Once we fixed that in our formula, similar calculations yield $n\approx 2r$, instead of $3r$.

*

Of course there is no such 'infinite edge' in minesweeper. The endpoints is definitely giving extra information unless it looks like the following:

$\begin{matrix}
\square & \square & \square & \square & \square & \square & \square & \square & \square\\
\square & 1 & 1 & 1 & \cdots & 1 & 1 & 1 & \square\\
\square & 1 & 0 & 0 & \cdots & 0 & 0 & 1 & \square\\
\square & 1 & 0 & 0 & \cdots & 0 & 0 & 1 & \square\\
\square & \vdots & \vdots & \vdots & \vdots & \vdots & \vdots & \vdots & \square
\end{matrix}$

Any extra information would impose extra difficulty on these kind of analyses, but I am here to give some primary idea on what's happening.

To give an application, consider the following example. I said on my twitter that red made a bad move:


The reason behind is simple. There is only [something between 1/4 and 1/2] chance that the grid contains a mine. On the other hand if it does not the opponent gets a free flag immediately with everything else remains the same.

But...is it possible to calculate the exact chance? Yes, and this is not hard at all: this is a 16x16 board with 51 mines. The shown area is the only revealed portion. To calculate the probability we list the few only scenarios then the chance follows by the binomial coefficients.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Rokkr Sieges

Back to something casual...Fire Emblem. Surely quite a lot happened since last time I wrote about FE and now it is a good time to talk about that again, since Three Houses is coming soon.

Well what should I expect? Unfortunately it's very hard for me to make a fair comment because I have not played the main franchise since the GBA era, a time where skills did not exist and information was sacrce because you didn't know Japanese back in the days...But FEH players should beware of the vast difference between playing FEH and the main franchise.

In FEH the key word is competitiveness. We keep facing stronger and stronger metas and we need to use the same team to work around it (unless you spend heavily). When you use more or less the same team against the opponent, what brings you victories is either the tiny bit of stat difference, or a well-desgined tactic which after all tricks the AI.

In the main franchise it is a totally different story. You are not really fighting in the fair setup -- instead of a 4v4 battle you are doing a 15v50 battle in a well designed stage where you are expected to solve the puzzle bit by bit. Restrictions are kind of loosened but you often ended up putting soft restirctions on yourself: units can be "killed" without failing the stage, but you want to unlock all stories. Time limit is less of a problem but you want to get all secret items and recruit hidden characters...the flexibility is much higher but the difficulty can be no less than what we have met in FEH. The most important bit is, you need to know how to work with a complete army, instread of your precious 4 units.

But yeah I can't wait further for the game. And I am going for Edgelord. Based on the official tease and FEH unit intro she's gotta have an interesting story behind.

*

Back to FEH we now have two more game modes which I also want to talk about.

- Alligence battle -

Interesting concept, but competitiveness forces the highest difficulty and hence very tense and allows very limited unit choices. It's also very luck based when you are not using a DC/CC based team, then you will have to play multiple times to get a high enough score.

But the reward is kind of reasonable - taking 900 as the threshold, the effort required to climb above 900 is hard but not very rewarding, while scoring a 860 is of moderate difficulty. I believe a large portion of the players are settled to the casually playing state on this mode.

- Rokkr Siege -

The opposite of the alligence battle. Fun, promotes casual play and allows huge flexibility. The three difficulty means you can score quite a lot without getting into trouble, and the score cap means you do not need to strike for the optimal. For sure the reward is not the most attractive but 10k feather is still 10k feather and I will take it.

In the discord channel we have seen many different setups, but today I want to talk about my setup.

Three features about the dynamax (taking a lesson from the shitty pokemon sword&shield -- that's another story for another day) boss:
1) Swaps upon special proc
2) AOE damage upon special proc
3) Always counterattack creating non-zero damage

If you are taking lower difficulties, damage is not a problem and you can deploy simple means of recovery to overcome the damage like recover 3, or breath of life. In advanced however, you will either need to stop special from processing, or use a strong means of healing, like using a staff or heal based moves.

Swapping means your defense tiles will then be occupied by the boss, or that the boss will escape from your lineup. In lower difficulty, it is hard to hit the score cap just because the multiplier is too low, so stragety that adapts swapping is essential if we want to hit the score cap, especially if we are fighting cavalries.

With that being said, to tackle lower difficulties steadily you would like to:
- mobility to tackle swapping
- minimum healing power

And to tackle the advanced difficulty you would like to:
- much stronger healing
- ability to take down generic enemies
- not necessary to keep a full team to the end; in fact it would be easier to finish the battle within 5 or 6 turns with some units defeated

Some like to use tank units with guard and healing special to lock down the boss, but without enough merging it is hard to hit the score cap. Don't forget that special fighter and guard are both premium skills and quite costly to inherit (if you do not use to do that).

Another problem with guard is the 70% HP requirement which is hard to maintain during enemy phase. My brave sword guard DC Ayra strategy failed miserably -- not to mention that such build is so impractical in PVP battles.

So with my newly merged +10 Catria, I had an idea. A lesson taken from my Cherche.

The setup is basically dancer + flying healer (witchy hand) + 2 fliers

Dancer - Partial tank, need to tank attacks with triangle disadvantage

Olivia in my case
A - Atk/Def Bond 3
B - Wings of Mercy 3
C - Hone Atk 4 [flexible C-skill or depends on your flier performance]
S - Atk/Def Bond 3

L!Azura is of course a perfect choice for fliers, but she cannot tank physical attacks and you may not have enough Iote shields.

Flying healer - putting guard effect on enemy

HS!Sakura [with H!Mia inherited]
A - Iote shield [use something else if you have it on the S-slot]
B - Live to serve 3
C - Hone fliers [spur buffs are also preferred, since the units may move around]
S - Breath of life 3

Fliers - to block boss on one quadrant and DPS
Units depends on the color of enemy but they should be brave based with galeforce. Without galeforce we can steadily hit the cap in 5 turns. It is suggested to bring at least one galeforce flier. If you do not have galeforce, sol is a temporary solution.

Standard builds:
Weapon - Brave weapon [or amiti / whitewing weapons]
Special - Galeforce / Sol
A - Iote shield / Swift sparrow / Death blow / Life and death
B - Seal atk / seal def
C - Ward fliers
S - Iote shield / defensive based seals



We start by blocking the boss on one of the quadrant - attacking is of second priority because we have enough time. It is important to keep the right formation to keep things predictable.
(1): Cherche to destory the wall
(2): Sakura to attack so as to reset the special cooldown
(3): Catria attacks [quad attack due to whitewing effect] 3 times [galeforce + dancing]


If we are fighting close attack bosses then it's not going to move but otherwise the boss may move by a grid, then we have to reform. We first move the unit to facilitate Sakura - remember that when you are using Brave weapons, a second attack would trigger boss' special so we must use Sakura before the second attack.

Here Sonya moved up a grid.
(1): Cherche moved up and attack [galeforce activated so that she looks active again]
(2): Sakura goes up to attack
(3): Catria and Olivia go up accordingly

It is important to deal with other generic enemies. That's the advantage of using galeforce -- we wait until they approach the fliers and attack, within the attack range the two fliers can kill the enemy then going back to the original position without further dancing. The dancer is also expected to be capable to kill most non-armor enemy by floating around.

It is relatively easy to lock the boss using this strategy, unless it's cavalry distant boss -- then we will need to carefully corner her.


The theoretical limit is 6.5 mil points. I somehow used 2 crests in the first round, so this is a pretty good score. It's definitely not a very rewarding act, yet this is a fun mode to play.

*

Oh and the Three Houses banner is out. Bitybroken by Chrom I spent 400 orbs to get Edgelord and Byleth. Now I am not prepared for Ayra revival...

Monday, 22 July 2019

夢.十夜 (3) The Arena Mode

做了一個這樣的夢。

喧鬧的購物街的樓上,除了有一堆樓上書店還有一堆樓上咖啡廳。當然還有樓上鞋店、樓上髮型屋等等。沒辦法,這都是租金太貴的錯。

如果問我外出要到哪裡喝咖啡的話,這家樓上咖啡廳大概怎樣也排不上榜。偏偏這天咖啡廳地下入口的全彩LED屏幕正好打著與某乙女向手機GAL合作的廣告。為了確認那一閃而過的廣告,我站了在門口決定等廣告第二次出來。不過似乎是買廣告的預算不夠,我等了超過一分鐘它才再次冒出來--不過這個廣告還是成功把我拉進了咖啡廳。

咖啡廳的合作其實蠻有誠意了:牆壁四周掛滿了遊戲的海報,門口放了男主(們)的看版,木制的餐桌與裝潢也切合遊戲的仿英倫風格。

餐牌上的飲品當然也冠上不同的角色名字,本來的簡單的選咖啡變成了選攻略對象(?)頓時變難了許多。這時候--

「美麗動人的小姐,很榮幸可以再次見到您。今天需要我來介紹嗎?」一把熟悉的聲音從後傳來。我扭頭向後望,遊戲「愛麗絲與魔法之國」的男主雷伊就在身後。

眼前的雷伊頂著一頭淺黑及眼短髮、身穿藍黑色的華麗軍裝,綠寶石般的瞳孔一但對上就沒法移開,戴著漆黑手套的修長手指慣性地向我的下巴伸過來。

昨晚與他在森林裡尋找走失小貓觸發了劇情,一回到家就被輕輕按到牆上,二人之間的距離越拉越近,鼻尖都能嗅到彼此的氣息--

「抱歉……你能不能被我俘獲?」

腦補出來的聲音與現實重疊,我下意識的向後退了一下。眼前的少年擺出了一個跟遊戲CG裡一模一樣的驚訝表情,害我當場腦袋一片空白,過了好一會我回過神來紅著臉移開視線。少年還是維持那個驚訝的表情:「咦,不認得我嗎?」

我努力地在腦海中尋找長得差不多的人。長得這麼帥的黑髮少年……沒有。

拿掉黑髮這個條件的話……

「!!」

我掩住嘴阻止了自己尖叫,當然在這個咖啡廳尖叫頂多會被當成對著王子殿下發情就是了。「你、你是……卡、卡羅……」

少年從「驚訝」CG改回了「微笑」CG,兩個表情都跟遊戲裡一模一樣,真是敬業得可怕。「沒想到你自己上門來找我,本來活動開打我都想找小雨把你釣出來了呢。」

沒錯,自上次迷迷糊糊地進了法式甜點店,又迷迷糊糊地掉進了逆戰幻想這個大坑,已經過了一個月。

這一個月的登入獎勵,我一天都沒有錯過。

登入獎勵除了有可用來衝活動的道具以外,一個月登入30天還會送正常版的小紅帽。當然萬聖節早就過去,除去驚悚氣息的小紅帽化身人畜無害的農村少女展示出她可愛的一面。據說這次是官方第一次釋出活動限定卡與登入獎勵這種菜市場卡的聯動,萬聖小紅帽的叫價立馬飆高。當然我並沒有把她放出去,只是默默地天天登入等待小紅帽的來臨。

然後我就完美地掉坑了。從解每日任務開始,慢慢變成推主線劇情,之後乾脆定時上線清體力。在完全沒有其他助力下掉坑,以致我都不太好意思找Alex他們,畢竟這樣就掉坑太丟臉了。

「聽說你這個月一直在玩喔,上次活動也衝進7000位了,每天不玩個八小時基本上摸不到這個排名吧?」少年依舊「微笑」著,慢慢把臉湊過來:「我想,應該不會只為了拿到登入獎勵就這麼拼吧?」比起少年的問句,我開始感受到後面「愛麗絲」們兇狠的目光……應該是在想一會到底怎樣才能拿到這樣的殺必死吧。嗯,一定是這樣沒錯。

「我才沒有玩……喂你湊太近了啦!」我連忙抗議道:「玩這麼一個月甚麼鳥蛋六星都沒有抽到,我都快要放棄了……這種超弱玩家還是找來打活動只會拖後腿吧?還有你……過來是打工的還是來泡妹的?你看後面的太太們都快要暴動了哦。」

「嘛,我是特約過來cosplay的。這種事情我又不管,誰叫我長得這麼帥呢。」少年還是掛著「微笑」表情,他的帥氣笑容自信到要溢出來了:「與其看到我跟你玩會吃醋,不如說愛麗絲們下次光臨也有機會這樣互動呢……好啦,在我去應付其他太太們之前,可以請你點些甚麼嗎?今天點這幾個特調飲品的話可以抽遊戲精品回去喔。」他忽然湊到我耳邊說話,射我身上的殺氣變得更重了:「Alex他們又想找你一起打活動,在群組裡沒看到你回應只好讓我來問你了。今晚八點以後可以回來這邊等我嗎?正好這裡附近有家不錯的餐廳值得一試喔。」

「好、好啦!我叫點東西就是了!別來煩我,你去處理其他客人啦!我要這個!」我隨手拿起菜單一指,剛好是「雷伊小貓屋熱朱古力」。

「好哦~來一杯雷伊熱朱古力~」他居然直接對廚房喊了起來。等等只有拉麵屋才會這樣叫吧?!?

熱朱古力上的小貓拉花很可愛,不過熱朱古力本身並不是用即溶沖劑這點更令人意外。絲綢般順滑的口感中帶着柑橘系的芳香再加一點辣椒的野性,讓人完全沒法想像出自這種平凡咖啡廳之手。

*

也許是這杯熱朱古力被施下了神奇的魔法,又或者只是以前經常流連的舊書店和精品店已經全部倒掉,百無聊賴的我在機廳刷了十道jubeat後終於還是回到咖啡廳等他下班。

卡羅還是一副雷伊的樣子,只不過上衣換成了雷伊版黑色皮外套。這樣的裝扮作為雷伊毫無違和感,在路人眼中也只是新潮打扮的美少年而已。遠處看到他就在揮手了:「沒想到你真的回來等我呢。唔~讓我猜一下你肯回來等我的原因吧。是想享受獨佔雷伊的時間?被新餐廳釣到了?還是,想跟只認識了一個月多一點,只見過兩次的卡羅吃飯?」

「都錯了,」對對對,我就是想看你的CG「警訝」表情。我禁不住揚起的嘴角應道:「我打jubeat打到手痛,剛好發現時間差不多才回來等你的。」

「至少你真的回來等我,這樣我就不用在西餐廳裡獨自用餐啊。我們先走過去吧?再晚一點的話可能沒有位子了哦。」

本來以為是甚麼大商場的高級餐廳,其實從購物街轉兩個街角就到了。這家餐廳開了在一樓,入口被外面的露天攤檔擋著,顯眼程度可能比我剛才去的樓上咖啡廳還要低。而且叫歐陸菜大概就不單是意大利菜或者法國菜,又不能加點紫薯之類的潮物制造噱頭,想吸引人大概只能實力取勝了吧?

*

餐廳沒有像他所說的再晚一點就沒位子,但也坐滿了六七成,以這種地段來說已經不錯了。餐廳的裝潢倒是不錯,石壁牆紙、復古水晶燈跟木製餐桌都頗具歐洲風味。

「別小看這裡生意一般,做出來的菜品可是十分正宗,只是跟一堆廉價快餐排在一起身價被拉低不少。」他很快點了幾道菜又把菜單還了回去:「先試試這幾個吧。不夠的話等下加點或者下去掃小吃就好了。」

卡羅隔著燭光望著我,這個「微笑」CG感覺又與之前所見的不同:「下個活動快要開始了,這個活動正好是適合半新手的類型。不過這個活動起步很重要呢,所以他們就派我來跟你說一下,順便增進一下感情嘛。」

「誰要跟你增進感情……」「我說是作為同一陣線的玩家情誼啦。當然你另有所指也可以……」

按他的介紹下一個活動是所謂競技場活動,主要分為PVE[Player vs Environment]跟PVP[Player vs Player]兩項排名。PVE那邊沒甚麼好說的,就是刷固定的關卡打固定的對手組合。拼的是玩家能課多少抽活動角色,拼玩家能吃多少水,拼玩家能肝多少小時。

PVP這邊比較有趣。所有人都是固定每十分鐘可以挑戰一次,對手全是PVP排名附近的玩家。匹配相近玩家的用意就是將玩家按本身的硬實力進行排名,底子不夠強的玩家早期衝上去也只會因為不敵上級玩家而漸漸滑落,而老手玩家再怎樣休閒打也可以慢慢爬上去。

固定挑戰次數的設定將所有向上爬的階梯鎖死,剩下的就只有課金一條路而已。硬實力的排行榜聽上去很美好,其實對玩家一點吸引力都沒有。大家早就把PVP活動當成變相給土豪送紅利的活動,按自己的步調隨便刷一下拿到基本獎勵就好。

說到這裡,卡羅點的前菜就端上來了。「白蘆荀在亞洲真的很少人會用喔。雖然不是時令季節,不過他們做出來的白蘆荀既能保持口感,又可以充分讓湯汁的味道滲進去,我每次來都忍不住會點呢。」他把眼前的白蘆薈佐煙三文魚推了過來。我也爽快地夾進嘴裡一口吃下。這道前菜真的做得不錯,軟綿綿的煙三文魚與裡面清淡的蘆筍形成強烈對比,三文魚的鮮味沒有像預期般蓋過蘆荀,反而將蘆荀特有的香味表現出來。看著我欲罷不能的樣子卡羅笑道:「有一種做法是用火腿包著進焗爐,不過我覺得這個變種更好入口就是了。」

在主菜還沒上來之前我趕緊接續遊戲活動的話題:「所以輕度玩家根本不會去碰這個活動囉?」

「基本上是這樣。不過有一群非重課玩家會在PVP從頭衝到尾然後互相匹配以避免被土豪隊屠殺。這個方法雖然不一定成功,但也算是不課金的最優解了。不過要跟上他們的話從一開始就要全力打,晚了的就會被他們拉開沒辦法抱大腿了。他們基本上都要24小時待命,只要失手個一兩次就掉下去了。實際上能待到最後的人都是少之又少,這就是所謂的『次元之壁』喔。」

「既然如此,我們自己製造可以互抱大腿的區間就好了嗎?」

「誒?」

「把我們公會的人聚集起來,讓大家的分數保持在同一個區間裡。每次大家要互刷時才把防守隊換成弱隊,這樣就不難刷勝場數了。分數區間最好比次元之壁低一截,這樣可以減低被頂尖玩家發現的風險。不過這樣勝場數可能不夠拿最高的排名賞呢,這方面可能要用過去的分數線去預測一下。不過這個活動不能回體也不耗時間,分數線相當穩定呢。要估算分數線的話大概在活動前半就能有個底了。」

對啊。既然是匹配制,那只要一直打到比自己弱的對手就好了吧?

明明一個人刷上去就會變得強敵環伺、孤立無援,幾個人一起上的話就變成送分模式了。這就是組隊的力量。

奇怪的是,同樣模式的活動已經跑了四次,能突破單兵思維的人只有少女一人……至少在少年的認知是這樣。

卡羅陷入了沉默,我則津津有味地把剩下的食物一掃而空。烤蘆荀好吃,三文魚好吃。少年盤中的炖牛肉好吃,配上德國名物麵疙瘩(Spätzle)更棒。果然不是只有啤酒和豬手才算德國料理啊,我不禁感嘆道。

把主菜清空後甜點就被端上來了。那是源自奧地利的沙河蛋糕。香滑的巧克力糖霜包覆著裡面綿密口感的巧克力蛋糕。為了迎合現代低糖的潮流,實力的巧克力內餡被拿掉了三分之一,改成了帶有杏子與蘭姆酒香氣的巧克力海綿蛋糕。蛋糕旁邊輕飄飄的鮮奶油與厚實的蛋糕形成鮮明的對比,還是嫌太甜的話還有傳統的餐後黑咖啡和小曲奇。

別忘了,德國可是甜點大國啊。

誘人的甜品加上咖啡的香氣終於成功把少年的思緒拉回來。他動手舀起一小塊蛋糕放進口裡面,壓下臉上忍不住浮現出的半個陶醉表情道:「嗯……聽上去應該可行呢。活動後天就要開始了,你要找多少人幫忙?需要活動卡支援嗎?」

「嗯……不清楚呢,視乎匹配到自己人的難度吧。如果是我們公會出人的話四五個人試試看?那邊應該也有人想刷活動的吧,人太多的話自然掉隊就好了呢。」

「好,我現在就叫他們。」卡羅放下半塊曲奇浮在上面的熱咖啡,然後拿出手機放在餐桌上。晚飯過後的群組裡相當熱鬧,大家都在討論接下來的活動。裡面有我已經認識的Alex、阿飛跟小雨,更多的是我從沒聽過的玩家。

卡羅按下了慣用的打招呼表情,看上去就像是從漫畫截出來的那種。其他群員也很配合地打著招呼。他緊接著把我吃了一半的蛋糕拉到中間拍了一張蛋糕合照。

卡羅:「@亞歷克斯,下次網聚就來這邊好了。是難得真正的歐陸菜餐廳呢。」
亞歷克斯:「@卡羅真過份,又帶新的女友去到處吃了?」

他似乎早就知道Alex的反應,從臉紅的我手上接過手機並打開終戰幻想,然後將帳戶和蛋糕的合照傳上群組裡。

卡羅:「是小紅哦。」
天天下小雨:「哇小紅!」
飛:「小紅!」
亞歷克斯:「看錯你了卡羅,居然背著我們泡走小紅。」
Lampbear:「是新人玩家嗎?快點拉進群裡吧(゚∀゚)」是沒看過的玩家呢,先叫她熊熊好了。
卡羅:「先別吵(o´・ω・`)σ)Д`) 小紅對接下來的活動有點想法,需要四五個人來幫忙。有誰打算要衝這個活動的嗎?」
一個叫Sora的玩家立刻發了兩張圖片:「是這次的活動獎勵喔。」

第一張是粉紅色長髮的少女。身穿暗紅色風衣配上短裙和吊帶襪,蹲下來拔槍的姿勢當然是給玩家的殺必死。雖然有個詞語叫「粉切黑」,不過粉髮少女的傲嬌氣息已經快要滿出來了。再加上官方所設定的職業「搜查官」這根本就是色違夏娜嘛!

Sora:「這張要PVP前一百才能拿到喔,相當的不容易呢。」
卡羅:「這可未必,有小紅在我們說不定有機會呢!」
阿歷克斯:「小紅要衝PVP?」
卡羅:「不是小紅要衝,是小紅要帶我們衝(ゝ∀・)b這邊需要四五個人,有興趣的快來報名喔。」

在又萌又強的獎勵卡面前要招人參與當然不難,對於見過小紅一次的三人組更是如此。
天天下小雨:「我來!」
飛:「這張卡我要定了!」
亞歷克斯:「我也來吧,剛好人在歐洲可以幫忙輪流刷喔。」
Sora:「好像很有趣的樣子,我也來幫忙吧。」
小熊:「那我也參一腳好了(〃∀〃)」

正在輸入的人數越來越多,少年眼明手快地打了一條分隔線:「以上~加上我就是這次出擊成員名單了。其他人有意刷活動的話也請加油喔~」

少年把手機收起來把剩下小半的蛋糕吞掉,想喝點東西抵消口中甜膩的感覺卻發現咖啡已經喝光了。他皺了下眉頭後再次回復CG式「微笑」表情道:「今天就先這樣吧,活動的話明天再安排好了。」他忽然話鋒一轉,表情也變成「自信笑容」:「大小姐您對這一頓飯應該還算滿意吧?要出去轉彎買杯珍珠奶茶繼續掃小吃,還是要我把妳送.回.家?」

第三次見面就要送回家?門都沒有。「啊……我想起今天跳舞機又有新曲了,我想先去解一下……」我隨口編出一個借口轉身便走。

少年一把抓住我向後擺的手。我向後望那一瞬間,卡羅與雷伊的帥臉再次重疊;大街上的人群忽然全數凍結,又大又圓的月亮變得近在近在咫尺,他身後甚至有櫻花瓣緩緩飄落--

「都那麼晚了,一個女生去機廳還是很危險的。讓我陪你去吧。」

結果我真的讓他跟來機廳了。可惜的是,打跳舞機算是劇烈運動,吃飽後進行劇烈運動永遠是個錯誤。我連熱身用的譜面也打得東歪西倒,沒打兩道腿就已經不聽話了。打其他音遊也因為太累而沒法集中精神。這一趟除了吸了一堆二手煙外甚麼收獲都沒有。

*

第二天我向他們講解了一下衝排名的要點。其實只是要挑的對手從不認識的人變成認識的人而已,剩下要做的事根本跟正常刷活動沒有分別。我們從每天刷17小時開始,視乎排名狀況調整時數或者讓Alex幫忙在我們睡覺的時候幫刷一下。

活動的過程比我們預計中還要順利。「次元之壁」據說在60位上下,所以我們決定把刷排名都以80名為目標,最終都排90左右。似乎因為戰鬥有少許隨機性的緣故,同級玩家間的戰鬥先手方的勝率其實只有75%左右。換句話說,我們每天打17小時全勝已經壓過大部分沒打滿24小時的玩家了。甚至到活動後期我們還要每天放個幾場把排名壓下去。

我們團隊裡唯一進PVE榜是熊熊。她的免費一抽居然出了六星活動卡--那張在地下市場都快叫到400美元一隻了。憑著這張活動卡她也在PVE榜上挺進了前一百拿到另一張六星排名獎勵。不過她大方地把卡片放給群友們傳閱順便補完圖鑑和劇情。聽說熊熊的「神抽之右手」已是常規操作,不知道我有沒有辦法也能學會這個技能呢?

為期九天的活動順利結束。維修過後我不急及待地打開禮物箱接收我玩這遊戲以來第一張六星排名獎勵。卡片上的簡介是這樣的:

「搜查官」戴娜
她是審判官,亦是行刑者。
子彈只為那些
死不悔改的罪犯落下--
「案件,處理完畢。」

卡片背後的只是角色專屬劇情的舖墊,劇情內容大概就是她追捕一名罪犯的故事,裡面還有其他可收藏角色登場。不過可能因為我手上的角色太少,對於其他角色還沒有甚麼感覺就是了。

至於卡羅,活動後我已經好一段時間沒看到他了。

有幾次我回到了那家跟乙女GAL合作的咖啡廳,那邊還有其他cosplay成遊戲男角的店員,不過始終沒有他的身影。咖啡廳的店長表示他是遊戲營運方派來的,然後又帶點嫉妒地暗示我也不是第一個向他詢問卡羅的人。

可惡……裝成雷伊的卡羅殺傷力實在太猛了。

我在遊戲內向小雨拿到進群的邀請,然後裝成新人混了進去。群裡面的玩家就跟那天晚上卡羅上線一樣熱情。大概是因為剛打完活動,大家都自發地避免提到遊戲而只談日常。這幾天他也沒有在群裡說話,裝成新人的我也不方便直接呼喚他。

這樣的僵局(?)持續了好幾天,直到我裝新人的惡作劇被識破。

我沒有想到的是,第一個揭穿我的居然是熊熊,而不見卡羅或者見過面的三人組。

*

某漆黑的房間裡,一位肥宅坐在電腦前一邊打著手遊一邊進行視像通訊。

「按照計劃,我們團隊的人也順利進到前一百名裡面。我們三個的排名是86、89和90名。門檻比上次高了不少。」

「嗯,很正常,這遊戲還在高速發展期吧。」

「六星排名那張我們叫價250瓶水還沒賣出去。不過市場上的賣家不多,這張卡又萌又好用,我覺得賣出去是遲早的事。」

遊戲裡當然不能直接進行金錢交易,可以回復體力刷活動的藥水成為了實質的貨幣。玩家可以課金買水,價錢大約就是每瓶一美金;當然也有玩家在地下渠道套現手上的藥水,價格比官方定價稍低一些。

「沒關係,這張賣不出給兄弟們掛在首頁也可以,錢我補貼就好了。」

「比較有趣的是,我們似乎注意到有其他成功刷勝場數的玩家。」

「嗯?」肥宅第一次停下手遊操作望向屏幕。

Skype的另一端是一位銀髮少女,寬鬆的T恤並沒法掩飾她玲瓏有致的身材。似乎是料到對面會對這個消息感興趣一般,她微微一笑,放慢將接下來的情報道出:「我們在匹配不到自己人時打過不少其他附近的玩家,其中有兩次對到送分的防守配置。」

銀髮少女操作滑鼠,向肥宅發送了兩張截圖:「兩次的對手分別是排83的Rainmi0031跟87的aoisora2。這兩張圖分別是Rainmi0031平時的防守配置跟那次的送分配置。嗯……正常的配置很硬,可以肯定送分配置是刻意換的。唯一不能確定的是,送分配置的角色全部出自同一個畫師,單憑這個配置我們沒法排除玩家只想曬卡的可能性。」

「那你有調查過這兩個玩家的背景嗎?」

「有,」少女笑得更燦爛了:「他們才剛在遊戲內的留言版互打招呼呢。」

----

最近用多事之秋已經沒法形容出大事的頻率了。京阿尼大火,還有香港的遊行……不過這些有空的話我另開一篇再談就好。

回到正文,這篇的遊戲其實早就想好了,不過拖到五月才動筆。第二章完稿的時候終戰幻想其實還活得好好的,但它終於在今年二月倒了。不過倒下的原因跟台版<<戰鬥女子學園>>一樣是「正服倒掉所以不再予以支援」,也算是「壽終正寢」了吧?咳咳,這個形容詞最近變得很難聽呢。

這個遊戲模式聽上去有點荒謬……其實從終戰幻想本身到現存的手遊都還有在用。當然,硬性時間限制會稍為放鬆一下,這樣才好吸金--上述模式被詬病之處與少女的謀略,都是在硬性時間限制存在的前提下出現的,不是嗎?

順道一說,飛機上碼字的效率真不錯,兩小時寫三千字根本易如反掌。不過寫了兩小時後電腦沒電就很痛苦了……

在第二章的尾聲我說過我希望下一章在2018年寫出來,很遺憾這個目標失敗了。我在這裡再說一遍好了,希望下一章的完成時間也是2019,而不是2020。

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

19/06/19 - 反送中

好久好久沒在這邊寫政治相關的議題了。本來今天計劃好了要寫少女的手遊故事的……不過在床上翻來覆去的我還是決定為這個歷史時刻寫點甚麼。

Source: Apple Daily


拋開這個大是大非的議題,其實我最想說的是公共運輸系統。一二百萬人前往同一地點可謂公共運輸的終極壓力測試。如此情景在香港必然為第一遭,在世界上也可謂絕無僅有。

但他們做到了。巴士司機和地鐵車長緊守崗位,以極高的效率將市民運到港島北各處,還順便創出將維園開始的遊行延伸到北角的奇景。相信龍尾能否倒灌在日後必將成為頂級遊行規模的指標。

在乘客目的地高度統一的情況下,一趟幾十個站的巴士路線化繁為簡成為了點對點的交通工具。市民在各區坐上巴士,在沒法一程抵達維園的情況下目的地則改成了一個方便接駁的交通樞紐。以這次維園/港島北為例,紅隧轉乘站就是最大的交通樞紐:它接收了所有新界東經東鐵出來的市民,同時也接收了新界西因巴士超負荷而改乘新界西-九龍巴士線的市民。

除去紅隧轉乘站這個萬能交匯處,巴士這種多對一的運輸形式剛好與地鐵的一對多形成了絕妙的互補。在地鐵恰當的安排下市民被分流到中環-北角各站,以確保穿過維港這個瓶頸位的人流不會倒塞回去。

上面的調配之所以發生,除了運輸系統內的盡力而為外,還有熱心市民在實地或網上提供分流辦法。這些司機和市民未必參與了最重要的遊行,但他們對確保遊行順利舉行這件事上功不可沒。

*

時至今日,相信大部人也都認清了一個事實,那就是純和平示威根本沒用。誠然這次二百萬人上街幾乎將死林奠,但這個數字也是建基於市民對政府處理612事件上的怨氣。反送中在香港乃至全世界的迴響可謂前無古人,後也不見得會有來者。以後香港人憑甚麼召集二百萬人出來上街?

所以以後的抗爭模式注定是剛柔並濟,正是「兄弟爬山,各自修行」。這種運動模式最難之處在於兩邊不應把資源浪費在內鬥上。這次沒問題是因為大是大非所促成的大和解,但日後的香港人還能這樣團結一致嗎?

出來抗爭的香港人你們辛苦了,你們所流的血與汗沒有白費。每次的行動會讓你們更為成熟,更懂得如何去應對警察不斷升級的武力。場上的防禦裝備也好,場下的影片證據與法理運用也好,只有準備充足的人才有本錢與龐大的政治機器對抗。

這一場仗,證明了我們的未來並不完全在他人手中。但要將未來奪回來必然是一場曠日持久的消耗戰。這次的勝利只是一個開始,下一場戰鬥已緊接而來:智商終於上線的特首已著手修補保守勢力的關係,明日大嶼與國歌法的立法也逼在眉睫。下一次香港需要抗爭時,你又會在那裡呢?

Friday, 10 May 2019

09/05/2019 : European Football

真的很久沒有寫過真正意義上的日記了,今天怎樣也要寫幾句留念一下。

一小時前我車打了一場難看至極的比賽後終究氣走了法蘭克福。能進決賽很好,不過看到某十號可能是史丹福橋最後一踢就有點心痛。七年前那個殺不死的男人同樣在安聯打入最後一球,然後某十號就來了。

如果他在我車終老,大概就能上Shed Wall了吧?

前兩天的歐冠同樣精彩,將歐冠歐霸打成足總聯賽盃作為英超迷真的爽到不行。不過我比較希望利物浦贏,熱刺就安心繼續無冠吧。

不過現在身在法蘭克福的我完全不敢慶祝呢。上星期人在倫敦我車遠征法蘭克福,等我回到德國時第二回合卻又回倫敦打了。沒有機會朝聖是蠻可惜的,希望日後怎也要找機會看一次,而且最好是歐冠淘汰賽。

而不是這種鳥蛋歐霸。

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

夢.十夜 (X3) MMORPG

做了這樣一個夢。

二零零四年,台北,某網吧--當然,你叫網咖也可以。

這是台式網游的黃金年代。人們不顧性命地肝著那三次方成長的經驗值曲線,只要能打到更強更炫的裝、找到更軟更萌的婆,那一切都是值得的。

當然他們不知道他們有些婆以後還要去當兵就是了。

外面電腦一字排開,雖然不都是頂配的電腦,不過要讓玩家打大型PVP時不會卡住倒也綽綽有餘。低廉的價格正好吸引了大量高中生大學生,不過店家根本不太在乎顧客是誰:只要長期在這邊玩下來,他們花在小吃飲料上的錢比起電腦的按時收費多了不少,更別提那些窮酸高中生時不時就打開工作管理員干擾店方的計時程式,攤下來出租電腦的利潤可以扯平電費租金就不錯了。。

以黑色為主調的裝潢下空氣中飄著淡淡的油炸香氣跟二手煙味道。玩家左手抓著炸雞腿塞到口中,右手不停地替自動攻擊中的角色補血和放技能,口中唸唸有詞地責怪著隊友下次害他要獨力坦到一分鐘的下線間隔結束為止。在這個空間裡,每個人都以差不多的姿態專心在自己眼前的遊戲上。誰也沒有注意到一個身穿淺藍色連衣裙的黑髮少女就這樣穿過人群,走到了網咖的深處。

她輕輕地在一扇掛有閒人勿進牌子的門上敲了兩下。裡面很快回了一聲「進來」,少女應聲推門而入。

裡面的格調與外面截然不同,與其說是網咖不如說是辦公室:房中央的由十字隔板劃分出四個工作空間,四位疑似大學生就分坐四個角落裡各自刷著眼前的網遊。房間的一端放置了咖啡機和薯片餅乾等零食,另一端則放了一長型辦公桌,在那邊也坐了一位白髮少年--是白髮美少年才對。帥氣的白髮後面扎了個薄薄的單馬尾,邪魅般的紅色瞳孔正凝視著少女,自信的微笑彷彿就是知道她正好要來造訪似的。

「以為是網咖見面,來到我這個私人空間一定很意外吧,我的婆--不對,我應該稱呼你小紅才對?」

「呃……你就是殺殘無情?」

「嘿嘿,沒想到你公和遊戲裡長得一樣帥吧。話說回來,這套情侶睡衣紙娃娃用起來怎樣啊?」

--棒極了。

營運不知道腦袋少了條筋還是怎樣,本應為純觀賞用的紙娃娃居然被賦予了能力加成,而且是很過份那種。托這套裝的福,這幾天少女與少年跑了不少副本。好幾隻本來要整團老半天才磨死的王居然被他們三五個人在十五分鐘內就收拾了。然後因為出團最低要求人數對半砍的關係,公會的副本團也活躍了起來,現在也有招收外人的餘裕了。

「嗯~還算可以加減用啦。推王的確有變快,不過練等速度還是差不多。月卡好像還有五六天就完了,不知道能不能在這之前先升到120等呢。好想快點開新劇情啊……」

「月卡這點小事我幫你付就好啦。你看我都請人來幫刷道具了,月卡這點小事實在不足掛齒呢。」

少年所說的刷道具來自剛過去的七夕活動,也是少女出現在這裡的主因。

這個活動本身是很單純的收集物品抽禮物的類型,奇的的是成本與回報之間出現了不少的落差。玩家要收集的物品基實就是一般怪物平時的掉落。平時根本沒人會特意收集,原因有三個:一、這些物品都在15等附近的地圖能打到,平時根本不難打而且誰都能打到;二、玩家練等要靠這些掉落去填補吃水的成本,這些物品掉下來就是注定要被賣的;三、營運方很少放出這種大眾同樂的活動,估計大家也沒有意識到平時要多存這種一般物品。畢竟一般掉落的物品種類千千萬,玩家能存放的物品種類卻是十分有限。活動開始之時也真有玩家把這些掉落拿去賣,但價格也只是NPC回收價的十倍,也就是幾百塊一個而已。買一套抽獎所需物品也只用八十萬左右。抽出來大概有5%有機會出情侶睡衣套裝的不同部分,湊滿整套則可以觸發buff效果--同一時間,情侶睡衣套裝的開價已經飆到接近五億以上。這代表中間一定有甚麼因素讓差價與期望值不符。

還好這年是二零零四而不是一九九六年或者二零一七年,資訊雖然不再是口耳相傳的傳說時代,但也不是隨意流通的資訊爆炸年代。加上二零零四年也是個武俠online百花齊放的年代,剛出來的這個古龍同萌傳有幾千個活躍玩家就不錯了。在遊戲裡收集資訊的成本並不低,不過這剛好是少年所不用擔心的。

把耍廢的大學生請來在邊玩邊記錄,將市場價格大致摸定後開始制定對策。活動要求玩家將每一種指定材料集齊才能換獎品,紙娃娃的特殊buff也要求玩家收滿一整套睡衣部件才能發動。反過來說,只要將其中一種原料掐住,產品的供應就會被卡死。更要命換獎品所需掉落物品的量都一樣,所以掐死任何一種原料都可以產生一樣的效果。所以在少女的建議下他們將其中一種原料收起來,然後把其中一種紙娃娃部件收起來,這樣完整版睡衣的數量就四兩撥千斤地被壓制住了。

十四天的七夕活動。前期壟斷原料,在相關地圖搶怪同時在市場偷偷將沒擋下的物品收回去。為了掩人耳目他們還會製造出新手不明就裡地掃光所有活動物品的假象以掩人耳目。反正原料嘛成本比起任何一件紙娃娃部件都低,就算多收一點也不會痛。活動中期改為收集紙娃娃部件,同樣也混入其他沒要掐死部件的買單--這樣做不但是為了掩人耳目,更重要的是做出不同部件掉落率有落差的印象。

收集一兩種部件,再不惜血本拋出另外一兩種部件--你以為這樣成本會因此而暴增嗎?他們才沒那麼笨。根據短板理論,全套紙娃娃裝的供應取決於掉率最低的部件。大家發現市場上各種部件的供求不一時活動已經剩下三天了。考慮到相關的交易活動在七夕活動完結後迅速枯竭時想重新收一套將難上加難,大家迅速動起來瘋搶所有活動相關的物品:各種原料、各種紙娃娃部件、當然還有完整的睡衣套裝。他並沒有將單一部件的所有存貨拋出去,留下來的一半剛好可以組成套裝出售。數量不多的套裝眨眼被掃光,心急的散戶玩家甚至連供應過剩的紙娃娃部件也搶下來。

活動後期少年賺到的虛擬金幣是前面操縱市場成本的三倍,唯一虧的是請大學生來代刷的實體金錢成本。看成將實體金錢換虛擬貨幣來說還是小虧一點,不過對於少年來說能下大手筆玩翻整個伺服器取得少女的歡心的話花這點小錢根本物超所值。

「不過我沒想到整個計劃居然如此順利呢。整個伺服器有三個大型市集,靠近原料來源的地圖還有兩個小市集,我們四個人根本沒法全方位進行監控。」

「嘛~跟我預料的一樣,只要間中去進貨就行了。太常去的話除了會被別人認出來以外,其他玩家透過交易將價格訊息傳遞出去的效果也會打折扣呢。」一說到整個計劃的細節我就會莫名地興奮起來,畢竟以前自己想再多也沒法執行。保持匿名與否其實不太重要,在有限的時間內大手進出頂多就被當成活動的投機炒家,但將人力空出來轉到地圖上打怪收集原料才是重點。畢竟地圖就放在那邊,當地圖過度擁擠時玩家只能搶到自己身邊一定半徑內重生的小怪,這點跟玩家等級高低無關:等級30的來是一刀一隻,等級100的來也是一刀一隻。所以對高階玩家來說,在意識到套裝的價值前來這種單一無聊但回報極低的新人地圖刷怪是划不來的。少年的團隊因而撿了個大便宜,四個人刷單一地圖就能吃下接近三到四成的理論產出,這樣市場操作起來才能事半功倍。

聽起來怪誕至極的計劃,在那個二零零四的時空下就是行得通。那是一段人們還在摸索遊戲原理的時空:巴哈上可以看到一籮筐的門派選擇問題,有一狗票公會的糾團刷副本的宣傳,卻很少看到關於交易的帖子。人們對數值和虛擬物品的價值計算還處於十分稚嫩的階段:數字加越多越好,越高級的怪掉的寶越好,越花俏的裝越好,除此以外一切價值隨市場決定,但決定價格的可能是口耳相傳一個月前一筆隨性的交易。沒有人會質疑這個價格的來源,正如沒有人會質疑自己買的裝備到底是否真的那麼強一樣。

若玩家從二零一九的時空回想過去,那大概是一個天真的遊戲世界。
當然也有人會說,未徹底被優化的遊戲世界是一個浪漫的遊戲世界。
對於少女來說,那比較像是錢從天上掉下來的世界。

作為網咖擁有者的少年怎可能不知道眼前的少女有多特別。跟朋友進來玩的女高中生並不少,但那都是跟朋友打打怪殺殺時間,跟公要點好裝順便增進感情的為多。靠自己打上去的女生十個可能只有一個,但了解遊戲本身的一百個裡面可能一個都沒有。

她可是給出了一個鉅細無遺的數錢計劃,詳細到少年不需要問她各種情景的應對方法--因為那都已經在她當初的估計之內了。與其說是少年按計劃壟斷套裝讓他送給少女的神裝更顯身價是可以取悅少女,倒不如說按少女腦內的想法去實現野望才是少女快樂的原因。

少年並沒有想過在網遊裡弄出甚麼名堂,畢竟數真錢比起數假錢好玩多了。不過這次的成功讓他腦海裡閃過一個大膽的計劃:自古以來,頂尖的遊戲公會都是「以武立國」:聚集最好的高手,刷最好的副本,收最好的裝備,佔據最好的資源;只有堅強的實力才可以促成這一個循環。

少年一閃而過的念頭是,如果有一個以商立國的公會的話--

沒最強的高手?高薪挖回來就好,照三餐發薪水打公會戰還有花紅。
沒最好的裝備?沒關係我們幫你收回來,下次打回來的寶物分公會一分就好。
刷不動副本?沒聽過一句話叫「神裝在手,天下我有」嗎?

萬物皆有價,買不到非賣品只是價錢不夠高而已。壟斷武力只是獲取資源的手段,壟斷資源本身卻可以得到整個世界。

「妳知道嗎?我帶妳進來這個公會,妳卻為我在遊戲裡開啟了一個新的世界。能遇見妳實在太好了。」

少女報以一個害羞的微笑:「是嗎?那太好了呢,我有時總覺得整天在打怪實在有點沉悶,享受一下開放世界裡跟NPC的互動細節,或者跟玩家日常互動一下都比機械式砍怪有趣多了呢。」

「更重要的是遇見妳以後,我有了個更大膽的想法--」少年突然上前抓住她的雙手,深邃的漆黑瞳孔直直地注視著少女的可愛臉龐。

「我可以把這個理解成告白嗎?這個還恕人家拒絕哦,我們雖然在遊戲裡認識了一段時間,但在現實還是第一次見面呢。」

「不,那是再之後的事情,」毫不退縮的少年認真對她道:「我心裡有一個遊戲裡的大計劃--」

「商會」,這是少年第一次向少女提出建議(propose)。

好歹少年也有一點經商概念,看過少女的操作以後他勉強把腦海裡的拼圖一塊塊地拼出來。當然,行商最重要的是現金流,也是少年想法中最欠缺的一環。

「這個想法很有趣,不過如果做出來只是一個燒錢換取爽度的計劃的話那就沒有意思了。所以無論如何請以自負盈虧為目標出發喔。」

「嗯……其實不少裝備也用實體貨幣賣出就是了。像被我們炒起來的全套睡衣用虛擬金幣根本收不到,同時實體貨幣的賣價也快沖到三四千塊了。如果多一些這種活動的話我們真的有機會倒賣回本呢。」

「神裝多了不就沒意義了嗎?營運看到大家這次的反應,相信短期內再推這種活動會很謹慎吧。然後套裝一套三四千的話賣光也不夠你付這四位的工資呢。」少女望向仍在打副本的大學生們,正如與其中一個聽到我們提起而轉頭看過來的某大學生。他笑道:「小紅啊~我們好歹是公會要員,阿殘免費讓我們在這邊打已經很不錯了啦。有好玩的事情當然要一起玩,工資這種東西夠用就好了啦。」

居然是來做功德的,少女心裡嘀咕:「好吧,既然你們這樣說……雖然要燒多少錢取決於營運推甚麼活動出來,不過試一下也無妨啦,反正某人喜歡燒錢……」少女心裡順道發出友情提示,要取悅別人不一定要投其所好,有時直接按感覺進攻也可以啊……

「萬事屋」,是最終他們得出的結論。

在遊戲裡終究沒辦法長期壟斷一項資源,沒法壟斷資源就沒法建立商會。退一步以更綜合的萬事屋形式發展可以部分滿足少年的想法同時也保留了以戰養戰的優點,有了少年請來的幫手,在招收更多新人前也有足夠人力應付需求。

*

翌年,遊戲憑划時代的2.5D技術橫掃該年本地遊戲獎項,人氣一時無兩。大規模攻城戰更是將遊戲熱潮推到頂點:成功佔領城市的公會可以調整稅率甚至調整部分NPC位置,這使攻城掠地成為了每個大型公會的終極目標。

遊戲裡一共有三座大城。長安和成都接近副本入口,城市長期由兩大好戰公會把持著;比較有趣的是坐擁最大市集的洛陽,其統治者背後是個神龍見首不見尾的低調公會--平時副本沒怎樣刷,攻城戰倒是拿著各種稀有神裝把各路英雄打得不要不要的。

在這個神祕公會連莊城管一個月後,大家開始出動肉搜這個公會的成員試圖找出他們平時在幹嘛,得出的結果更是耐入尋味:平時他們都是少數人輪流刷普通怪物練功,其他人不是在市集開攤就在跑任務。後來又有流傳一個傳說,只要進行等價交換,不論是多困難的請求他們都使命必達:從帶隊陪練到組隊打王,從收集活動用品到收公收婆……大家異口同聲地表示價錢公道又有求必應。洛陽直接成了這個公會的後花園--本來就夠大的市集在超低稅率的吸引下變得更大了;回收垃圾NPC的回收價格突然漲了五倍,他們不知道的是這些垃圾直接進了公會的口袋裡;本來是居民NPC的房子開始有公會成員長駐成為了洽淡專區,可以哈拉也可以談生意,有時候比大街上還要熱鬧--

這個公會也不免俗地用了兩個UTF符號,叫「*殘楓♭」。

會長殺殘無情和副會長落楓飄紅用當年的話來說,一個是楊過、一個是小龍女。當然後世有一對更適合的形容詞,那就是某黑色二刀流和某長髮女劍士……

三年後代理商與營運方不和,營運方被要求將營運權交還。在交接過程中,伺服器的數據莫名地大量消失,不少公會整個消失,從會員列表到公會寶庫整個存在性被抹消掉那種消失。

不消說遊戲活躍玩家數立刻出現斷崖式暴跌。對少年與少女來說,「*殘楓♭」被抹掉也代表著他們在遊戲裡的傳說也就到此為止了。

但那不代表少年與少女之間故事的終結。

他們的羈絆從古龍同萌傳Online開始,從那邊一直持續下去--

---

前兩天在facebook看到以前公會成員生日,從祝她一句生日快樂開始一聊下去就停不下來,沒想到她還記得我,也沒想到她在line上跟其他公會成員偶而也會聯絡。

一隻靠IP的武俠Online營運了十四年因為授權到期而被逼改名實在令人痛心。雖然我已經是一年上線幾次的雲玩家,但我仍然希望(現)營運方可以遵守自己的諾言,再戰一個十四年。

令和元年五月五日

倫敦

Friday, 26 April 2019

音遊運動科學化

某天深夜十二點,新宿東口Taito Station。

明明與音遊高手雲集的秋葉原只有三站(或者九站)之隔。明明位於世上最繁忙車站的最大出口的旁邊。明明下面的唐吉訶德和夾娃娃樓層都擠滿了人。明明DDR就放在走廊盡頭的正中間。明明旁邊的中二台(Chunithm)人滿為患,人多到要排兩道才到自己。

但是那台DDR居然從白天到黑夜都沒人玩。

而且這也不是A20的原故。在K社50週年記念曲放出來之時整整放了三天都沒人刷激(Expert)難度的分數,機台一的分數是難看的72萬分。

當然也不是價格的緣故。除了秋葉原,日本太概沒別的地方敢收200元一道。同樣也不是機台週遭環境的緣故,機台左右都放了隔音版隔開了左邊的Dancerush台和右邊的Gitadora台,旁邊也有DDR專用的大風扇。

這個機台人氣莫名低落的原因已不可考,其中一個合理推斷可能是來新宿的都是死現充們沒空去玩宅宅遊戲,潮到出水的中二台是個例外。

此時,一對死現充正霸著DDR玩得不亦樂乎。

身穿白色小背心配牛仔熱褲的少女正倚著扶手休息,旁邊身穿「天衣無縫」T恤的少年則坐在腳台上大口灌飲料。屏幕上顯示下一首的選曲是……Paranoia Revolution,左邊是激18而右邊則是踊14。

趁選曲倒數還有三十秒,少年向她抱怨道:「我說啊……今天已經是你第三次打這首了,拜託別刷卡路里好嗎。」

「才不是刷熱量呢。今天是絕好調,連Blew my mind和Over the period都隨手過了,這樣不試一下這首鬼19實在說不過去,所以我現在只是要熟悉一下BPM 180抓一下腳感而已啦。」

……才怪。古典音樂界快到不得了的BPM 180在音遊界是最標準的速度,隨手一抓就是一大堆:隅田川夏恋歌、夜騎、Healing D Vision、西班牙雪舞等等,想抓BPM 180的感覺才不用刷同一首,何況是18/19兩個譜面思路完全相反的Paranoia Revolution。

「倒是你,一直刷14要到甚麼時候?這首剛好夠到你目標的平均45卡路里,可這樣你就沒法練上去了喔。一道裡頂多打一首15 16,好調時勉強摸一下17這樣就滿足了嗎?有人在你旁邊一直17起跳時一下就吧你比下去了喔。」

雖然是日本但也不是遍地找到連打三四道17也毫無感覺的人好嗎?!?可少年心裡說不,嘴上卻很誠實:「好啦好啦大小姐。下一首我再刷16好嗎?Pararoia Revolution 18真的太難我打不動啊。」

「哼哼,終於下決心了呢。不過這邊快關門了,明天一早吃完すごい煮干ラーメン凪就來加練吧,正好早上一堆音遊減價。」

屏幕上的選曲計時即將倒數完畢,少女眼明手快一把按下綠色確認鍵,少年想站起來攔住卻還是晚了一步:「我還沒取消Shuffle啊啊---」

---------------

DDR、太鼓這種講求體能的音遊,用運動科學的方法去探討也是理所當然的。其中棒球跟音遊尤其接近。

玩實況野球就知道投手的兩大指標:體能和控球剛好對應音遊的體能和精準度。面對超過一定層級的打者時為了解決對方而用盡全力會令控球變差(一般來說),就正如音遊用力打長串有時就沒法兼顧準確率一樣。

棒球一局以三個出局數為單位,街機一道三首則代表你的教練是十分保護投手(反觀樂天某位一局被炸七分還沒被換下去)只投三個人次就可以下去。當然街機畢竟是遊戲,你可以調節一開始「對手」的強度,寓遊戲於熱身而不用像職棒一樣熱好才上場,還要擔心熱過頭沒力打的問題。

既然是運動科學當然有測量表現的方法,音遊打出來的分數毫無疑問跟投手防禦率一樣是最直觀的數據。檢視ERA同時局數和對面打者的質素也是要點之一,畢竟每次上來只能投十球或者只能殺自殺棒的投手沒多大用處。那到底怎樣將棒球的這兩項數據對應到DDR上呢?

答案是:去量熱量消耗。

DDR機台會告訴你每一首歌能消耗多少卡路里,在體重設定固定的前提下這個數字只和你的選曲和成績有關。到底顯示的熱量消耗準確與否還有待查證,但在比例上正確的話我們便可以將他看為一個歌曲強度指標。

以下是我過去一年超過100次出巡,大概800道打下來的數據。直軸的數字是將熱量消耗透過線性轉換(熱量-等級的關係在12-18級的範圍內約為線性,太簡單的話這個對換並不具意義)化成等級,雖然不太科學但得出的數字與實際的打圖等級分佈還算吻合。



藍線:每次練習時每首平均熱量消耗
紅線:藍線移動平均
黃線:用總熱量消耗修正後去除友誼性質的較易選曲後的平均消耗值

用棒球去理解的話,紅線就是平均面對打者的強度(WAR平均值?),黃線就是把無關重要的對決去掉(正如三振開球打者不會費力,在音遊機台打一些遠在你水準之下的譜面也不會耗到體力),加上投手長局數的加成而得出的數字,不再具物理意義而只是一個比較用的數據。

所以這張圖要怎樣理解呢?按照圖表我的表現可以分為三個階段:

第一個階段(03/18-06/18):每次都刷個十二三道,但打的都是12 13 14之流,絲毫沒有訓練的感覺。這是因為當時我集精力在解Rinon's Adventure,當然不能打太難。

第二個階段(07/18-12/18):平均消耗拉高到一定水平,修正數值卻大幅下降。這是因為我開始採用一道裡面三首難度漸進的模式(比如依次打14 16 17級的譜面),在摸到大量高等譜面的同時因為體能不夠也玩了大量權當休憩的簡單譜面,修正數值便因此被拉了下去。

第三個階段(03/19-):撇除沒認真打的一二月,從這裡開始我一直嘗試連續遊玩高強度的譜面,以七道一千卡為目標。在這個模式下體能快速地跟上,我用以前三分之二道數消耗比以前還多的熱量,這樣兩項數據直接拉上去也很正常。

DDR的熱量消耗統計我個人覺得蠻準確的,除了一點,那就是逆足組合並不會算在熱量消耗裡面。誠然有沒有逆足箭頭數還是一樣多,不過有了逆足玩家不扭腰也要快速在兩隻腳之間轉換,說不會特別累也是騙人的。女武神(Valkyrie Dimension)18後半段譜面極複雜,但結算下來的熱量消耗還不如直來直往的Go for the Top。這樣有心刷熱量消耗的話可能讓自己的技能樹點歪--所以隨心打就好,太在意數據的話它就會失準了。



姑且不論這數據有多科學,在每次出巡的總熱量消耗大致固定下每首消耗穩定向上代表的是必然進步。就在前幾天我居然在最後一道打出一個18set而且三首都是高分記錄。再這樣下去穩定摸19真的,不再是個夢了。

Monday, 1 April 2019

2019冬番感想

在3月最後一天或者4月的第一天我又來做冬番點評了。說是點評其實只是我對番劇僅存的記憶,具體來說其實是最後幾集的記憶。評語長短不代表我對那個番的印象有多深刻,不過套用某棒球作家的話來說「打得差才會被我嘮叨一大堆」,我的話寫得多大概不是大好就是大壞吧。

明治東京戀伽

近現代風的東京,背景不是浪漫大正就是傑士輩出的明治。雖然是沒玩過遊戲本傳下的評論,鷗外的正宮感從始而終也是蠻有趣的。要不是三次元的他對陸軍「貢獻」良多,我說不定也……咳咳。

內容就很標準的乙女向改編,在有限時間內讓該出場的人也出過一遍了。要說的話可能就春草的存在感忽高忽低,對女主的感情沒有表現好。女主回現世的反應也是……啊不過正常套路不是不回去的嗎?(←正在打IkeRev

因為已經做過真人化,班底駕輕就熟,音樂質量也過關。

評分:7.2/10

狂賭之淵××

很早就開始在追漫畫了,動漫出第二季當然要追。前面中規中矩,扉之塔一如漫畫版顯得平淡無奇,畢竟問題太簡單了,這種情形下還沒法注要到宏觀機關的話實在說不過去。

動畫最大的分別當然是多了×喰這個原創角色。前半作為幾個勢力之間接合劑的角色沒甚麼問題,倒不如說加個正派王子大人(?)角色的設定可以為動畫帶來更多顏藝。×喰最大的敗筆是發起了個幼稚到爆炸的賭局:正如早乙女所說,單挑多個勢力的話從一開始就是注定要失敗的。從觀眾角度來說輸不是問題,但拜託輸得好看一點。類似的拍賣會在現實其實非常常見,在拍賣品價值對大家都是均等且明確的情況也有過,但以超過其價值的價格賣出並非不可能,那麼這個賭局會讓×喰一敗塗地呢?

仔細比較一下可以得出兩大分別:輸家沒收下標成本,然後拍賣物品無上限。前者將超額下標的欲望大幅降低,後且則保證自己等到後面可以以接近自己邊際利潤的價格下投到該100票。當然如果這個價格不接近實際所得(100票)的話還是會有人來搶的,所以一開始該等待出手的價格就應該是非常接近100票之數。

實際上夢子也是這樣做的,不過一開始的80票還是稍低了一點--嘛,時間太多總是要拖一下的。後面比起我設想的下標99票,夢子的101票算是高招:此舉成功整合在場玩家並將×喰一舉打爆。不過一兩個亮點沒法掩飾整場賭局過於顯淺的缺點。

如果說第一季的原創結局多少還有種寓意在裡面,那麼本季這個原創結局只能說是讓人單純地失望。夢子的賭博哲學在24集裡已經很清楚了,會長的用人哲學在清華編裡也有好好表達過。如果寫不完的話還不如在結尾將選舉進程再說一遍,這樣不但可以首尾呼應也可以吸引觀眾回去追漫畫。

以漫畫追度和二期結尾來看的話三期是短暫無望了,這段時間就先去看漫畫和雙/妄吧。順便說一下早乙女x副會長,真香。

評分:6.5/10

盾之勇者成名錄

異世界轉生系列,在有狀態欄的前提下轉到了(前期)難度偏高的世界。

雖然有來自世界的惡意,不過外掛都來得合時且夠用,各種反派也自帶智商掉線技能。嗯,很好很好。算是另類裝逼系列,不過絕對逃不出爽文的範圍內。如果要說不夠爽的話,就是前面12集的後宮不夠多吧?

評分:6.2/10

約會大作戰III

JC社毀人不倦,JC社表示我下季做14套你來打我啊。

前兩季的高質量改編在第三季前五分鐘就毀了。一度崩到讓人懷疑快要萬策盡矣,不過畢竟大IP也不是妹非妹和童話使那種小作品能比的,在七罪和折紙的加持下總撐到11集……然後在12集原地大爆炸了。

啊我說士織呢?士織呢???!?

七罪戲分雖多,但戰鬥招式單調,要讓她活躍的話肯定是開士織線最好了。把士織拿出來弄點日常也好,一定會有人捧著大叫真香……唉。

評分:5.7/10

以下插播JC廣告一則。
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[閒聊] 9S給JC動畫化會怎樣?

啊……先不管JC了。9S他媽的連載再開啦!
9S他媽的連載再開啦!
9S他媽的連載再開啦!
9S他媽的連載再開啦!

重要的事情要說三遍。嗯?你說我說了四遍?這不重要啦。
9S他媽的連載再開啦!

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逆轉裁判 Season 2

只放了四集原創/非本傳,剩下19集基本上都是滿滿的逆轉3劇情。說驚訝也不驚訝,因為像想要撐起遊戲裡面的邏輯對決(至少不是福爾摩斯式推理)就需要大量對話和證據。動畫也已經盡力把必要的關鍵都放進去了,細節就只能藏在背景裡。反正這部基本上是給老玩家看的情懷番,不會是來看奶的吧……?基本要的情懷達標了,分數想必也不會太低。

評分:6.5/10

史萊姆

有愛的制作方,找對廠商就對了。千萬別找JC社。

有一種一直在趕的感覺,不過最後以完滿與阿靜的羈絆為結束也還好,當然小說黨會不滿也不意外啦。說到小說,第十四卷剛出來了呢。不用看一定是萌王大展神通吊打……咳咳。啊,而且還有跟中二龍一樣中二的角色登場呢。

評分:7/10

高分少女

12集中斷的位置只能說讓人欲罷不能,Netflix的這幾集算是在二期前堵住了觀眾的胃口。一如既往的彩蛋滿滿,不過更重要的是高中時代的他們終於是我深入了解的遊戲世代了啊啊啊啊!

當中我感觸最深的只能是RPG Maker了。雖然Super Dante一代太為遙遠,我只有作為考古玩過95'那麼一小下,不過RM2K以降一直到VX一代我都有用過並且實打實地做過遊戲出來。玩RM2K學logic gate,玩RMVX學Ruby……說RM是我作為遊戲創作者的源頭也不為過。看見はる一直以大野的角度出去去考慮關卡設計十分感人,感覺就像十五年前的我啊。

另外一個我最感覺趣的地方就是小春在地下機廳的特訓了。與吵吵鬧鬧、人蛇混雜的機廳不同,這種機廳就是為那些專心鑽研遊戲的高手而設的:以精進遊戲技巧為中心,玩家透過彼此砥礪建立友誼組成了緊密的圈子。這個原理和別的深夜系列其實有點類似:深夜食堂、深夜咖啡店、深夜古書店、深夜料理人……啊這個不是--深夜系列以一個逃避現實的形式存在著,以同一個需求/興趣將人們聚集起來。我就是有幸去過一個這樣的深夜機廳……可惜這家現在已經倒了。小春在這種地方實力突飛猛進也是很正常的……當然打不過正宮之力也是很正常的,我只能幫QQ一下……

所以二期要來了。希望押切老師和8bit繼續為大家帶來更多的童年遊戲回憶。

評分:8/10

最後想說一下P5和revisions。

兩者的共通點是以涉谷為題材。P5裡雖然沒有集中在涉谷活動,但取其為意念集合的象徵的特點與TWEWY十分相似。P5的故事線更完整地帶出主題,而TWEWY在細節上則透過大量NPC的隨機思想將思想進程帶司來。說到這裡我又忍不住吐糟一下,TWEWY final remix遠沒達到我所期望作為解謎篇所應有的深度,可能是我等了十年怨念太深了吧。

revision是Netflix作品,在圈外基本上沒甚麼人氣,要不是我看過冬番列表再去netflix找一下估計我也沒機會看這一部。一看下去不得了又是日本最愛的機人題材:整個涉谷被移到未來然後主角們要駕駛機甲與未來勢力戰鬥。有性格缺憾的男主、似人非人的對手、安穩起來就會想做反的小頭目、以生存為前提身機甲戰鬥……聽上去是否很接近DitF呢?

沒錯,整個番看下去就是潛力版Darling in the Franxx。因為沒人家錢多做不出華麗的OPED和插曲,請不起華麗聲優陣容,沒錢做24集把主角群輪一遍再加幾集日常編……可是至少人家的設定合理多了。至少搞事的大人在可解決的範圍內,至少不用變中宇宙特大機人來個星際大決戰……時間桲論也有完滿的解說。未完整解完的伏筆還有一點不過不影響整體評價,做成18集的話應該很不錯。

P5:7.2/10
revision:7/10

*

其他也來短評一下吧。

輝夜姬[6.7/10]:很好猜的套路但不礙整體娛樂性,笑點顏藝十足。

迷你刀使[6.2/10]:真是有愛啊……是繼續為手遊宣傳嗎?很輕鬆的泡麵番。

笨拙至極的上野[6.5/10]:本來以為笨拙的是男主,原來是部長啊。所以說男主你是不喜歡還是笨拙到感應不到啊?

*

平成最後的冬番,平成糞作就決定是動物朋友2了。
以上。

Monday, 11 March 2019

拉麵日誌2019: 粋な一生、銀座 篝、Due Italian、鶏そば十番156



在那個再次相遇的晚上後的一星期,東京,銀座。

「你是小泉嗎!才下午三點你已經吃第三碗了吧!」本來漫步在中央通的她好像突然想起了甚麼一般,緊緊地拽著我在六丁目拐了個彎向日比谷方面走去。

「嘛~再晚一點大概就要排隊了,冬天晚上在街上排隊可不好受呢。」今天的她依舊可愛。活潑風的黑色外衣下是條紋上衣配百褶短裙,毛袖下小手傳來的溫度告訴我女生才不會因為穿著配搭而冷病的問題。

她來到一座看來整座都是餐廳的大樓前,再三確認地址後卻皺眉道:「奇怪……銀座6-4-12是這裡沒錯啊。為何只有一樓沒有餐廳……」

她開始在四番地繞圈圈:很像和風料理的酒吧、分店無數的燒肉、外表很土但貼著新潮沾麵海報的麵屋……繞了兩圈還是找不到目標的她腳步倒是變得更急了。「6-4-12、6-4-12、6-4-12……」居然開始碎碎唸起來了呢。

就在她快要冒出星星眼前,剛好一群人從工地旁邊的小巷裡鑽出來。一群西方游客一邊穿上外套一邊討論剛才的拉麵。是外國沒有的「chicken based broth」。

該不會……?

我拿出地圖一看,果然銀座 篝就在這大樓背後的一條小巷裡。地圖上顯示的是兩邊建築物之間的空隙,不仔細放大看的話根本不會發現這小巷。

剛把小巷指出來我就被她拉了進去。穿過在日本難得一見的滴水冷氣機小巷,裡面雖然沒有像桃花源記那樣豁然開朗,但篝與旁邊同樣是頂級拉麵的風見一同傳出的雞湯香氣卻肯定地告訴我們,我們找對地方了。

當然在寒風再排三十分鐘才能進去又是另一回事了。

註:6-4-12是tabelog說的。誰去糾正一下他們應為6-4-15啊……

*

看過拉麵小泉都知道,日本的拉麵不像港式雲吞麵或者牛腩麵那樣湯底以固定配方為尊。地域上環境選材的不同,加上高成本高競爭逼使他們用盡一切方法將拉麵變成有利可圖的生意。對經營者來說最大的問題是,拉麵不但成本偏高,身為平民食物售價也是有上限的。那種在料理東西軍金雕玉砌的拉麵大概只能拿去3000起跳的高級餐廳做,一般的拉麵店根本沒法處理超高級食材跟極為耗時的繁鎖步驟。一般的拉麵大概賣800到比較高級的1200一碗,再高則難以吸引一般的上班族,然後拉麵就變成了一道優化題目。

單論食物本身,配料成本穩定;自家製麵不是人人都能負擔,這樣只能選外面的成品;叉燒再怎樣煮還是叉燒,吃了還是不會爆衣;溏心蛋大家都會做,裡面滲入再多的香氣也好,終究不是大家來吃麵的主因。這樣數一數,可以打造與別不同的拉麵關鍵就只能是湯底了。在這種背景下由湯底牽著拉麵進化是非常自然的事。

既然是湯底,一碗拉麵當然是以湯汁為基底。麵的成分粗幼、掛湯汁的能力、配料一切皆以湯底為中心去考量。這樣的話湯底說是一碗麵的靈魂也不為過。對於店家來說,在有限的成本限制和人力限制下造出備受認可的湯頭可以說是成功經營的第一步--至少實作上的確如此。即將邁入二十週年的拯救貧窮大作戰裡,拉麵店的存活率硬是比其他店家高出一大截。只要保持清潔,加上一個達人掛保證的成功湯底配方,要長久經營根本不是問題。

當然對食客來說,面前端上來的食物才是一切。對他們來說,理解湯底則是理解拉麵的第一步。好吃或是難吃都從湯頭開始。比較可惜的是,對我來說加深對拉麵的理解有個副作用。

那就是在外國對不合格拉麵的厭惡值又上升了。

甚至不一定要外國,日本本土的專為外國人打造的拉麵基本上也是難以入口。啊比如京都的炎◯拉麵實在是……在雜誌上廣告吸引遊客然後給他們吃外國風拉麵讓他們覺得這是日本的拉麵,這樣不會有點丟人嗎?

值得慶幸的是以日本之大,好拉麵實在太多。網上能找到的人氣店好吃的比遠比找到垃圾湯底的機會大多了。以下就來談幾家我最近這訪過印象比較深刻的拉麵吧--在我對兩個月前的味覺記憶還沒消失以前。



Monday, 4 March 2019

Log approximation

Something that I noticed when going through Olympiad questions. There is a common type of questions asking about particular properties of a big number. It can be the last few digits, the appearance count of some digits, sum of digits,...or the length of the number. Some(most) of them involves number theory (or nasty computer programming, if you are a fan of projectEuler), but the length of the number is usually calculated using log function.

Since log is such basic element in secondary education, such questions are accessible to most students. In fact, they appear frequently in one of Taiwan's university qualifying exam AST. You are given the value of log 2 and log 3, then you are required to approximate some logged numbers, without calculator of course.

Ironically when you are asked to approximate something that is not a multiple of 2, 3 and 5, the best approach is to go back to natural log...

Wait. The natural number e is irrational right? How can we approximate natural log without using calculator?

Let us define our rule before proceeding.

(1) The approximation log 2 ~= 0.30103 and log 3 ~= 0.44712 can be used. Here log always mean log base 10 and ln is the natural log.

(2) Arithmetic and integral powers may be used.

(3) Calculating the log function is not allowed, unless it is an approximation already made.

*

Consider the simplest non-trivial log-number.

Question: Approximate log 7. (A. 0.8450980...)

Solution 1. Approximate by the average of log 6 and log 8, which are products of 2 and 3s.

That gives 0.84062 with an error of 5% and is only correct to 1dp. Can we do better?

Solution 2. Observe that 7^2 = 49 is also sandwiched by two nice numbers, 48 and 50, so

$\log 7 \approx \frac{1}{4}(2+3\log 2+\log 3) \approx 0.84505$

That gives an error of 0.00005 and is accurate up to 4dp. That should be enough for most question.

*

But some are not satisfied, because there is no error analysis. We get the right answer because we calculate accurate enough, but we have no idea on why this is accurate enough. To do this we need can go back to our good ol' partner: the linear approximation. Derivative says

$\frac{d \log x}{dx} = \frac{1}{x \ln 10}$

so linear approximation says

$\log (x+a) \approx \log x + \frac{a}{x\ln 10}$

If you are using a calculator then it gives 0.84514... (both from 48 and 50), which is of the same accuracy as Solution 2. The problem is...how to calculate ln 10?

The only way to do it is to compare the powers. We know we it is a bit more than 2, so we can prove something like

$\ln 10 > 2.2 \Leftrightarrow e < 10^5 e^{-10}$

Using the approximation $e\approx 2.71828$ we have $1.33 < 10e^{-2} < 1.36$, so $10^5e^{-10} > 1.33^5 > 4 > e$.

Similarly, we can prove $\frac{9}{4} < \ln 10 < \frac{7}{3}$. In fact, $\ln 10 \approx 2.302$, but it would be too hard to compare $e^{2.3}$ and $10$. Going back to our linear approximation. For the sake of killing off the denominator we multiply all terms by 50:

$50 \log 50 - \frac{50}{49 \ln 10} < 100 \log 7 < 50 \log 50 - \frac{1}{ \ln 10}$

Apply $\ln 10 > 2.25$ and $(\ln 10)^{-1} > 0.42857$ here:

$84.9485 - \frac{50}{49 \times 2.25} < 100 \log 7 < 84.9485 - 0.42857$

$0.8449499 < \log 7 < 0.8451993$

with a maximum error of 0.0001247. This is really accurate just by hand.

In a more general set up, one may argue that even calculating Taylor series by hand would be more accurate, but if you sense something nice about the number and its neighbors there is nothing bad on taking a shortcut.

*

Knowing the approximate value of ln 10, we can actually bound the error terms from the two solutions, still without calculator but rather painlessly.

Exercise:  Prove that in solution 2, the error is less than 0.0001. That is, to prove that

$| \log 7 - \frac{1}{4} (\log 48 + \log 50)| < 10^{-4}$.

Hint: when you apply linear approximation to get log 49 from either log 48 or log 50, both estimates are larger than the actual value. From there it suffices to find a quadratic error term that is accurate enough. Oh of course you may want to use calculus here :)

Solution

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

New domain for the blog

如果早知道當初 .io 會變貴,我的網名才不會改成io結尾呢。

開玩笑。

網名拿掉io之後跟任何正常字搭不上關係,說貴也就一頓飯的程度。倒是新的.dev要預約就貴多了。總之以後這個網誌有了以下新的鏈接,看上去順眼多了:

https://forretr.io/

*

這麼多年來都有人問我為甚麼改這個名/怎樣改出來的,要我給的示的話大概就是以下三組數字:

205 094 18404

感覺應該很明顯了,請當是Online riddle那樣解謎吧。

*

開學的日子總是特別忙。腦裡除了有關食物的稿子以外還有些有趣的數學點子,好想空個8小時出來痛寫一番呢……

Monday, 4 February 2019

4-2-2019

一直打算把之前嘗過那批東京美食寫成一篇日記,但礙於時間問題我老是寫不出來。明明只是記實不需靈感的東西卻沒法好好寫出來,真是奇怪。

一碗碗來自東京的拉麵,味道在我腦海裡一閃而過。我每每想要捉住它把自己的感覺寫出來,那虛無飄緲的記憶又讓人無從抓住。湯頭湯底、麵條配料,按事實寫出來與回憶裡面又總是差了一截。說不定、欠的只是凜然的寒風?

說到精準抓住自己腦裡感覺然後用豐富文字表情出來的功力,描寫拉麵與寫言情小說其實不會相差太遠。

恭喜余兒,<<龍頭>>與<<那年五月>>實乃十年磨一劍之作,新舊版本比較之下新版文筆更見精純。龍頭完滿成為大家引頸期待的前傳,那年五月則在大環境的襯托下變得更為自然。

於我來說的話,龍頭會讓我想起自己當然弄的一個後傳……文筆實在不怎樣也沒必要發在這邊了,反正應該不太難找。過去文筆沒現在好其實不是甚麼需要羞愧的事情,何況這是以十年為尺度上的比較。

單數過去十年,自己有興趣的題材似乎從來沒變過,那就是圍繞某元素上角色的互動。clickclickclick也好、單車也好、fanta也好。隨年月增長自己對那個元素的理解變深,也能接觸到相關同好的面也變得更多。現在有機會讓我用個更一般的層次理解網遊的機會,我無論如何都想把它完成。

創作不能停下來,這是我的目標--文字音樂繪畫也好。雖然現在要我把intuos掏出來每天玩8小時(啊不是Osu)實在是強人所難;買個簡易Midi鍵盤回來倒是可以,不過我更喜歡玩Nostalgia;數來數去我還是鍾情於文字創作。

用農曆年數的話今天已經是年三十了。
新的一年,希望我除了一直上來寫想寫東西以外,還真的可以一直把自己的創作貫徹下去。

新年快樂。

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

音遊@2018

2018剛過去沒多久,來總結一下我在過去一年在音G上的感想。

DDR

這個不用多說,直接參考DDR, the 4.5th year這篇便可

Nostalgia

其實沒有多少進步。既然是抱著彈鋼琴的心態和姿勢打,acc跟不上基本上是注定發生的事。雖然看別用用Chunitum拍打流初見S動物朋友有點扎心,不過我還是會堅持鋼琴流打下去,早晚有天我會把Moonlight Sonata A下去 > v <

------
以下是打了一年只能打一個月的音遊。會進步一定都是因為afk buff(誤

jubeat

打擊忽然變得扎實很多。開始可以SSS Lv8和SS Lv9,Lv 10.5以下都不難S。這一代引入pp系統對Osu玩家來說喜聞樂見,雖然解pick up略煩。

Jubility的分類其實可以改進一下,主要是某幾個門檻的位置沒法準確把該層級的玩家強度描述出來。紫色的底限是平均91.7分,大概等於Lv9.0拿80%,或者等於900000分也就是S。在舊jubility制下Lv9拿90對應的jubility是5.6。同理粉紅底限大概對應jubility 8(考慮難度通漲後),顯然5.5和8完全是兩個世界。

現在的分級制度大概是這樣:
橙:神
粉紅:頂尖玩家,任何曲都接近EXC
紫:高端玩家
紫藍:普通玩家,除非是裝新人的高手
藍:普通玩家,除非是裝新人的高手
淺藍:低端玩家,除非是裝新人的高手
綠:低端玩家,除非是裝新人的高手
……
這樣說下面那堆對老手辨識對手程度根本就沒幫助嘛!那堆顏色不是假的就是穩做肥料,對老手來說是完全沒用的資訊。所以這種分級除了讓新人有滿足感外可以修的地方還真不少。

反正明年我回來打的時候大概又已改版了。我根本不用想太多嘛。

Chunitum

可惡的Sega,快把機台賣給海外玩家啊。

選歌和玩法都很棒,難怪大家去日本旅行都玩這個(不過用老婆打不如打老婆,音擊出來這個好像有點過氣了)。
遊戲想當講究拆譜能力,但在寬鬆的判定下亂拆也沒有甚麼嚴重的後果,所以我開始加速拆高級譜面以後rating就從8一路升上11。如果給我一年狂練要升上13+根本不難……前提是你身邊要有機台……
同樣寬鬆的判定也適用於打notes上,超寬的按鍵讓拍盤流成為王道。這樣是很好打啦……但是好看嗎?

Dance Evolution Arcade

Prim好棒,真的。
Prim的棒球歌超棒。
可是那支舞難爆了。女版1:30的360轉手根本反人類,而9回裡版我根本看不懂在跳三小。
我只好回家先苦練一下……

Groove Coaster

每次都把Nesica卡弄不見,訪客只能打那堆超易Lv10令人不爽。然後你跟朋友連機時就會發現Lv11~12根本反人類,平時習慣了Lv10的你根本摸不到11 12的圖。

太鼓

沒變強也沒變弱,每年打那三兩道能保持9*過得了已經不錯了嘛。反正我是沒甚麼期望了:能過六兆年是狀態好,過黑玫瑰是狀態絕好調,過mint tear是神跡。當然我一直會挑的歌是黑船來航、畫龍點睛跟卡農……沒辦法,我只會打舊歌……
太鼓裝備的重要性比任何其他音遊都重要。既然我又沒專用棍附近也沒有沒人排的好機台,沒興趣把錢丟下去練也很正常。

最後說一下死透的Museca被改成Bishi Bashi,可是新一代BB根本難爆。先不說遊戲對轉盤感應度低(Museca本家只感應有沒有轉而不求轉多少)導致上手困難,小遊戲難度在5關內從D變S也太過份了吧。與以往難度綁死關數相比,這一代過關至少要4~6道的錢(對於平均打B~S的玩家來說)--用4至6道的錢玩20個小遊戲我還不如回去打音遊呢。