Saturday, 26 November 2022

AD4 and more in Windows 11

Just as the time we turned into Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7 or's time for us to solve compatibility issues.

From 10 to 11, they changed more on UI but we were not driven too far away from the old system: many of the changes made in system settings and control panel were already in later updates in win10. They removed some more personalization utilizes since then, but you can pretty much do everything as in the previous versions.

One big complaint though, is how they removed the shortcut keys in the file explorer, like W on right click to create new folder...why must I move my cursors there? Even more interesting, the Win10 file explorer is clearly intact -- for example when you choose the save destination in browsers you get the original file explorer as in Win10. I however tried to apply registry changes to block the new Win11 from loading forcing the old one but no luck, I guess they blocked these naive methods...

Desktop only input method

Since the introduction of MetroUI, it has been a problem to use those old input methods as they do not fit with MetroUI. They changed quite a lot in language settings, giving more of a hard time for these input methods.

I installed the old input method just fine in Windows 10, but in order to activate the Ctrl-Shift shortcut to change the input methods, one needs to install multiple language and multiple input methods to those languages. For example it won't work if you only have Chinese language installed with "Microsoft default input method + some old obsolete input method". Instead you install the Japanese package as well then it works with "Microsoft default input method + some old obsolete input method + Japanese input method". (For more: IME disabled in Windows 11/10)

In Windows 11 I have to apply a registry change in order to get the input method going. These fixes are nothing new but once you have to do that you know what you have been using is another step into the swirl of compatibility issues.

After Dark 4 and screensaver

The screensaver function were kept largely the same in Win11. At this point we can pretty much set everything via registry that changes in the setting menu don't matter anymore unless they completely removed screensaver...

What I wrote about installing AD4 in Windows 7 and 10 still works in Win11. Install in WinXP compatibility mode, retry if a file can't be installed and skip if a file was missing. Use the .bat file from the YouTube video to apply settings to those AD screensavers. I actually spent less time installing it in Win11 than on 7 and 10!

Thursday, 17 November 2022

Simon Marais 2022

So this year I am not almost a year late. It's always a joy for me to deal with these questions. Here are my immediate thoughts after reading the scripts -- immediate means that I didn't put any serious effort into it and didn't do any calculations that requires pens and papers.

One changes they made was to split the tournament into two time zones to reduce the chance of possible cheating but I can only say that it's far to easy to cheat at institutional level if they wanted to...but the good news is that we will get four more questions to solve.

A2. A very nice combinatorial little question but should be A1 in my eyes. The $e^{-2}$ made me think of derangement since $n!/!n \approx e$ but no luck in that. Eventually you realize that the question is much much easier -- this is just the chance of an item appearing in at least one but not all $n$ subsets, for all $2^n$ elements.

A3. IVT because why not? But I don't like this question due to the lack of elegance...

A4. Two parts in the question. Showing that to be an integer is a standard high school MO question. The second part...something with field if it's put as a Q4? Bad luck if you didn't do enough math olympiad in high school.

B2. Question that I love so much because imagine getting that in the 1985 A-level (HKALE) pure maths paper! This is not a joke and is totally possible. Since the non-zero terms are of even degree, the roots are symmetrical along the real axis, hence the circle centre is real. That means the roots are on a circle centered at origin upon a real translation. Boom!

B3. Easy if you consider the "1D" version first. This game can't be any simpler...

B4. (a) is easy as a Q4a (unless I made a mistake): classify $2[b_n/20]-3[a_n/30]$ based on $a_n-b_n$ in intervals of 10. Since the difference between that term and $(b_n-a_n)/10$ is at most 3 that gives you the idea of splitting the cases $a_n-b_n$ being either between -10 and 20, above 20 or below -10. The first case gives the induction and the latter cases gives strict monotonicity which gives the claim. 

(b) is surprisingly elegant as an open question. It is not easy to think of other open problems as simple as this other than the 3n+1 conjecture.

C2. ...why? Instead of a A-level pure maths question you give a calculus I assignment question... The ceiling function means that ceil(sin x) is either 0 or 1. The irrationality of $\pi$ means that the term is negative, hence rounded up to 0, at least $0.5 - \varepsilon$ of the time. If irrationality is too hard, it is still easy to argue that at least one out of four consecutive terms is of power -1 (diverges) instead of -2 (converges), then the comparison with $\sum \frac{1}{4n}$ gives the desired result.

C3. Classic MO question again. If you are not sure, consult lower cases like $n = 7, 12, 17...$ etc.

C4. Another good question but looks quite intimating other than the $(n-1)!$ term who's there for the obvious reason.

You ask me why aren't there Q1s above? The answer is clear: they do not worth talking at all. Q2s are very easy (probably of Q1 level in past papers or even lower) in my eyes but Q1 are even easier. They looked ugly and tedious, but not hard. Q3s are easy to moderate, but I don't think they are as hard as Q3s in the past. Q4s are hard as they should be, but that means the Q3-Q4 gap is even larger. 

This is not a very good contest paper not just in terms of difficulty spread, but also in terms of the scope -- many of the questions are plain high school MO level. Take 2021 putnam for example and check what they used: non-integral binomial theorem, qZ rings, double integrals, fancy polynomial about primality, geometric probability, infinite sum, Green's theorem (if you don't recognize B3), matrices and determinants. These are things that contestants are expected to use inside that examination. They should really expand in terms of number of questions with more challenging ones (but not as hard as those Q4s) and make sure that college maths were cooperated into the questions...

Sunday, 13 November 2022

Thoughts on CTWC2022 final

Best moment of CTWC22': (1) The unimaginable 2mil+ score and (2) 80k lead is like nothing... Source

This is the first live event held in reality since covid in 2020. Everything was done in 3 days so you don't get the week by week excitement so it's kind of a different experience. I only watched the final feed when they uploaded that today though, so here is my thought.

When aGameScout talked about top 6 players around, it's quite clear that the top 4 players as top 4 seeds are better than the rest. Among the four the top 2, Eric and fractal are also above the other two by a significant amount. It is almost expected that they would meet in the grand final.

I thought they put the lv49 level cap in effect but apparently they don't, and it's nice that they didn't cause otherwise we won't have the wonderful match extended to level 70 and beyond. The tactic of the two is clear: Eric relies on his consistency throughout and Fractal tried to be aggressive early on (which is why he made the record of Tetris streak in the semifinal). That would give him an advantage of 100-150k before level 29. This seems to be quite a lot in early post-29 levels but early reversible at very late stages (lv 50 and beyond) even with single and doubles. With that Eric withstood the headwind, patiently waited for Fractal's mistake and eventually caught up and took the 3 victories he needed.

The performance of the two had been very close from start to end. They performed almost the same not only in terms of score and efficiency. It may not be clear during online events, but when they share the same piece sequence it became apparent that they would meet difficulty at the same time other than a few scattered individual mistakes. That is true even when the two board looked different. Number of samples may not be enough but to me this is the result of a similar placement logic that it's just weak to similar piece sequence. That was mentioned in the last entry and now partially verified, although we won't have more live events in a short period time for now.

Like the past two years my roadmaps had been beaten over and over, but I shall not stop making predictions. For games like this it is always the trade between efficiency and consistency. There is a trade between the two, but there is no stopping you from improving yourself to raise the possible sum of the two. 

Last year when the rolling technique was still immature there were inconsistencies at even level 18 speed. But this year not only that they solved the problem, they even have excess consistency that can be converted into extreme efficiency at the same speed as demonstrated by Fractal. This is possibly a shock to other participants because if you are 100k or more behind it will be extremely hard for you to hold and catch up (lest you are Eric). This will probably become the meta in foreseeable months. It may not be as extreme as Fractal's strategy but there is a marginal return for consistency so it does not hurt to be a bit more aggressive when you are so proficient. 

Top rollers can deal with level 19 speed considerably steady as seen in the tournament. Fractal's aggressiveness does not apply here -- he try to be a bit more aggressive at game 4, took the pill, didn't work out and lost the game. In terms of input density it's more or less the same across strategies, but it's all about mindset and muscle memory. At level 18 speed top players are very relaxing and can very easily spare their time react to commentators or lifting their glasses. This is much harder at level 19 where they start to focus a bit more into the game. Decisions are made with instincts at this point so everyone is using a balanced strategy just like what they did in the past, including times when rolling wasn't a thing. Perhaps there will be players trying to play level 19 just like under level 18 speed, but this is not happening now.

And for post level 29 gameplay? Survival. You may be able to get Tetrises occasionally but there is nothing you can do if you topped out even if you lead by 200k points. It's just a matter of maybe 50 lines or even less, and as long as the opponent survives they will eventually overcome the deficit and takes the victory. 

Well, another possibility is if players managed to score triples and Tetrises much more frequently than they do now so that efficiency overwhelms survivability, but that would raise the average stack height by a lot more making that very risky for now. But who knows?

The grand final match was around 58 minutes long, a lot longer than the last year's average at about 38 minutes. Even with the excitement of level 29 gameplays that just too long. There had been voices to apply measures to shorten the games. Funnily, level 18 and 19 actually distinguished themselves in this year's final where level 18 is where you may take things to the extreme while you can't in level 19. I would take 'starting from level 19' as a solution in the past, but probably not now. How about shortening both level 18 and 19, say cutting 30 lines each? Admittedly they did not have the level 49 cap in effect which means that they are still playing the authentic game in full, but any further changes to the rules would likely deviate from the original game that we should not worry too much about that.

Some said that it is still far too early to talk about fatigue and the end of the techniques. Yes that is true. Players still evolved hugely this year and we still have considerable room for improvements. But the end is not that far away. Taking the learning curve of players into consideration I won't be surprised if anything I randomly baselessly claimed above actually happen in 2023/2024 CTWC or earlier. It would be the time for organizers to very seriously rethink about the tournament format. Some experimental changes may also be tested in smaller or online events as well. Just make some preparation before changes must be made.

At the end there is one thing for sure though. I enjoyed the tournament this year a lot just as usual, and I anticipate the one next year too. If you have no experience in classic Tetris you should really have a look at the clips and admire how people adopt and play games to the extreme. ;)

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

Re:classic Tetris

Classic Tetris has been developing so quickly especially since covid in 2020, and it evolves in the speed that no one anticipated at the beginning. Since CTWC2022 is now ongoing (you should definitely check out the livestreams!), it is a good time to give a brief review now.

I had a roadmap for those players for the coming year -- for hypertappers, consistency is something they almost perfected, so the next step is to study how to hypertap properly in post-29 scenario like distribution on stamina or aggressiveness etc. For rollers, consistency is the issue so they should think about different approach for pre-29 like a hybrid, or just drill for consistency after all.

The roadmap was based on my afterthoughts after watching CTWC21' as well as some masters' at that time. Remember what happened last year in CTWC? Hypertappers still had an edge over rollers with their consistency before and post-29 to overcome the huge advantage of rollers after-29. Well, not anymore.

The classic tetris community overwhelmingly overachieved. It is now apparent that rollers have cashed their potential to the point that hypertappers are sidelined in tournaments. They can now play at least properly (in hypertapping standard) pre-29 and they usually last very long post-29. They don't need loads of post-29 Tetrises -- singles and doubles will do the job if you can reach level 34, 39 and beyond.

There are countless evidences showing that these shifts are apparent. Among those are the dropping proportion of hypertappers in the monthly event (oh and DAS players were gone) and jaw dropping records on high scores, lines counts as well as match duration. It is the best to look at aGameScout's video for more details.

CTWC this year is of no difference. The field is clearly dominated by rollers with their advantage increasing over the rounds. Rollers besides world's top few are still inconsistent and often ends the game with five-digits scores, but just by the fact that they entered elimination suffices to show that they can be unstoppable when the pieces aren't too bad or when they are in their zone. Top rollers just steamrolled those less proficient rollers with their consistency. You stand no chance if they clear pre-29 almost like a top hypertappers then survives many levels after that. We have had many 3-0s just in that way already this year.

The top players are capable of playing so long that CTWC hosts decided to add a level 49 cap. Although just as aGameScout's video pointed out, such measure does not help much as (1) players do not reach lv 49 that often and even if they do the score difference is quite large for turnover to be rare (2) there are clearly more options to shorten the game like starting from level 19 speed. Of course this is a good starting point for us to investigate the possible restructuring of this game in competitive mode.

The fundamental problem I afraid is a much bigger one -- what is the future of the game and the tournament?  

One thing about these kind of tournament is to admire the progress of the game and gamers, to admire how they evolved in the past year. This is clear for CTWC where we evolved from DAS to hypertapping to rolling with the champion going from Jonas to Joseph to Andy to whoever rolling. Even during the pre-explosion early days of the tourney the players are getting better with qualification score getting higher year over year. This is what we would like to see.

With the ever higher consistency from the top players, what might happen in the future is that they only top out to tail events i.e. pieces lineup that is bad to their respective placement logic (note that this may not be equivalent to the universally bad pieces lineup like consecutive S and Z pieces). Since survival proved to be much more valuable than just a few Tetrises, optimized placement logic would eventually converge. Eventually what we would see is two players playing is more or less the same style and the result is heavily luck based. Is that...something we want? 

Yeah of course it's always thrilling to yell "BOOM TETRIS" or to observe Tetrises exchanged back and forth, but statistically this is getting boring. I don't think the popularity of the monthly events would be a good measure for that, but we will see what's with CTWC this year. Some of the all time highlights, if I were to pick, would be 2020's Dog v Koryan, 2018's Joseph v Jonas or 2016's Jeff v Jonas. Are there any eye catching moments from last year's CTWC? Not really if you check the view count. 

It is always nice to have all those monthly events as popularity explodes with lockdown, but with more frequent matchups things evolved and get optimized at a hyped exponential rate -- then at a point suddenly things become less attractive to look at.

This is the unfortunate thing that always happen. Just look at all the commercial sports: basketball (that basically physicality dominates), baseball (the "magic ball"), football (that's why we need blue lock)...that have lost their mystical cover and transformed into just another game of numbers.

Should we expect hype from the tournament this year? I'd wish so...

Friday, 7 October 2022

古早遊戲BGM巡遊(1): Marble Zone



Sonic 1的Marble Zone。

Green Hill Zone有點過度活躍,Starlight Zone像嘉年華或者credit roll,唯有Marble Zone休閒中帶點懷舊才能讓當時還是小孩的我一聽鍾情,那個右手(/高音部/鈴聲...)的伴奏簡直是一絕。

不要被Marble Zone作為第二關給騙了,這個關卡在遊戲系列裡面算得上是超難。熔岩地形也算了,有一段下面全是熔岩,只能靠連續跳過平台通過。加上超嚴判定和跟任系(尤其瑪莉奧)物理體系完全不同,使得它成為我少數小時候在純技術面上卡死的遊戲之一(另一個是MSDOS上面的瑪莉奧,不是Mario & Luigi,在msdos遊戲網上看過應該不難找)。即使我現在在switch上面玩也不見得可以輕鬆不續命下打過,你就知道這一關可以對小孩造成多大的童年陰影。

在我的時代裡世嘉在家機市場上已經奄奄一息了。我接觸到的Sonic不是在大賣場裡(而且多半不是sonic 1)就是在任系平台GC和GBA上玩的到,但這堆遊戲的難度都遠不及最初本家那三作。順便一問,我在大賣場玩的時候看過一關一開場就跳彈弓,飛不夠遠會摔死的關卡。大家有印象是那一關嗎?沒記錯關卡有個hill字,但Sonic 2的Hill top zone並不長這樣,也不是3的mushroom hill zone。難道是魔改版嗎?

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Little math update

Something that I should jot down as diary...

IMO this year was easy in the sense that Q1,2,4,5 are all classified easy under my standard. Namely, I can almost immediately (i.e. maybe 15 mins) figure out an outline that eventually works. That usually applies only to Q1, 4 and 2 occasionally, but definitely not 5.

Q1 is a nice little problem, a rather rare combinatorial question that is put up front. The key is to realize that the operation puts the number of chains into a non-increasing sequence, and the only it does not decrease if and only if you are moving the first or last chain. From here the lower bound is obvious. Then you move the last chain a cyclic shift occurs so you need at least 4 chains to force the dead loop, so you can not have k larger than quarter-to-last of 2n. Tightness of the bound follows from the same idea.

People have been realizing that no matter how messy the inequality questions are the contestants will eventually find a way to brute force it and we saw no inequality question this year again. Q2 looks like a functional equation problem but you immediately realize that inequality technique is the only way out.

When you run through positive reals so x and y on the LHS could get pretty big, forcing f to be of o(1/n). Apply the same argument when x and y are small and you know f needs to be O(1/n) close to zero. With $y/x+x/y \geq 2$ in mind, it is almost obvious that$ f(x)=1/x$ is probably the only answer unless there exists some galaxy brain functions. 

The proof though not super hard, is still something that barely meets (or misses) the standard of Q2 which requires non-obvious AM-GM. A bit unfortunate though I think the most direct solution involved perturbation where inequality applies to a point and its neighborhood. Some may not be happy with the calculus flavor in it.

Q4 is geometry so nothing to comment about but it is...a Q4 and as hard as it should be.

I am fairly surprised for Q5 to be this easy like almost shocked. Prime power chasing gives you reasonable bound like 10 on the factorial. After that an average high school Olympiad contestant can do that. 

As usual Q3 and 6 are a bit too hot to attempt, but 3 is really elegant in my eyes.


I didn't cover Simon Marais last year as well and the next one is coming. If you are reading this and is a current undergraduate in one of the participating school you should really give it a go!

My comment to the overall design of the problem set still stands: the first three are always too easy and the fourth is impossible. In other words, only one question out of four (Q3) makes sense. This year though they make Q4 a bit more approachable which is a nice start.

My focus is on B3 though:

(SM2021 B3) Find all real functions f that satisfy the following:
1) The function f is Riemann integrable over all finite real intervals. and
2) For all real x and positive integer n we have 
$$f(x) = \int ^{x+1/n}_{x-1/n}f(t) dt.$$
The solution is of course linear functions. To prove it the first step is proving the continuity of the function which should be the must take step without any doubt. But then the rest of the official solution triggered me to think of something else.

It is the easiest to prove linearity by showing that the derivative is constant, or that the second derivative is zero. But then you need differentiability. There are two ways to prove differentiability: one is the first definition and the other is by FToC. First definition might be out of reach because condition (2) is for integer n but not for large enough positive reals, then there may be technical problem when you take the limit to zero.

The official solution uses FToC and writes f as a sum of its integral F, and hence is differentiable. From there it repeats and show that f'' = 0 showing that f must be linear which indeed satisfies the conditions.

But are there any ways to prove linearity without using derivatives? Specifically, are there any ways to replace the condition f'' = 0? The answer is convexity.

If we define a function f to be convex in (a,b) if $f(x) < f(a) + (x-a)(f(b)-f(a))/(b-a)$ for all $a<x<b$. Obviously if it is convex on an interval then it is convex on any of its subintervals. One can then argue that condition (2) fails for x in any convex interal. Eventually f cannot be convex at any point. Similarly f cannot be concave at any point.

That forces the equality $$\frac{f(x)-f(a)}{x-a} = \frac{f(b)-f(a)}{b-a}$$ which gives linearity (...or differentiability if you like but we don't need that already).

There is a technical problem though. We cannot exclude functions that the intersection between the function and the line between $(a, f(a))$ and $(b, f(b))$ being dense on the line for every real a and b. If we know differentiability then this is immediate (in the official solution the first derivative is obvious -- try it yourself!). Again, any solution that completely avoids differentiability? I am not so sure.

This is what I got during my bath. In 15 minutes, a lot longer than usual. 

Saturday, 17 September 2022

被青梅竹馬抓來(略) (5):要防飛刀就要用水鏡使其折射

Character design: @kuonyuu, Illust: しらみ/白夢しらみ commissioned by forretrio. Pixiv
Editing and re-posting are prohibited // 無断転載、無断使用禁止です









































































- 關於那個宮庭魔法師作為一個組織的定位看上去有點像大雜燴(事實上的確也是,就看你能認出多少現實中的參照了),但是我覺得這是合理的。主要平時對他們沒有很大需求但有必要把他們捆在王室身邊,同時養這群人的成本很高,要以外面的公價讓他們全職工作根本不切實際。



- 有人會提議宮庭魔法師應該改成六年試用期,通過試用期則成為終身職的玩法--這個太硬核了吧!在這裡宮庭魔法師原則上就是終身職,但隨年紀和資增長實職裡面各人所擔任的職務可能會有所改變,退休者則會被移到虛職那邊。

- 其實折射率也可以透過增壓來達成,其效果可能比水還要好,那為甚麼擅長風魔法的人會用水球製造折射呢?其實變水球出來是個三歲小孩都會的小把戲,比壓縮空氣簡單多了。如果沒辦法確認飛刀的位置的話,改成用水牆也相對容易一點。這讓我想起今年台灣分科試物理科那道題:把一塊長方體的玻璃磚在平面上,透過玻璃磚觀察平面被折射偏移的差距是多少呢?當然還有一個考量就是飛刀不比光線,飛刀是有重量的。要改變其方向用較重的水球也比較穩妥。


- 最近日圓太便宜讓我染上一直發委託的壞習慣,同時也因為匯價問題我快捨棄其他港台平台了……等以後有機會我會試試可以刷卡的clibo吧。

- 啊……好想吃碳爐烤肉/內臟啊。



Character design: @kuonyuu, Illust: Dorq commissioned by forretrio. via Skeb.
Editing and re-posting are prohibited // 無断転載、無断使用禁止です

Monday, 12 September 2022

11/9/2022: HM/PS/¥



//常期望安定 還期望即興
無能力修正 無能力嗌嗌嗌嗌嗌停
天天迫我上路 天天迫我進步






//這個漂亮朋友道別亦漂亮 夜夜電視螢幕繼續舊形象
到了那日同慶個個要鼓掌 硬幣上那尊容變烈士銅像...//

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

夢.十夜 (X5) City of Dreams












Christmas in the 13th month。



「我想……應該是楓之谷夢之都那首BGM吧。跟Christmas in the 13th month一樣是輕快舞曲,也是SoundTemp他家用古典樂器最純正的一首了。而且你不覺得,這裡跟夢之都有點像嗎?」





































真的,我聽到有人在演奏Christmas in the 13th month。這是我第一次在街上聽到如此小眾的遊戲音樂。是一位拉手風琴的大叔。以他的年紀來說有玩RO並不意外,但是這邊在RO盛行的年代的上網設備好像……呃……不太好……


與之相比夢之都拉契爾恩(Lacheln the Illusion City)當然要由管弦樂團演奏才有效果,那些背景的敲擊樂更能帶出那種嘉年華的感覺。這首也是楓之谷音樂會的定番,網上已經有幾個現成的版本,有興趣可以去聽聽看,比如這個版本又或者這個版本



Saturday, 27 August 2022

Back to South Island in 2022 (3): Christchurch & Akaora

Along the way from Tekapo to Fairlie, the snow got heavier as we ascended the mountain. That reminded me how I got the idea mapping Babylonia in Osu! with the first snow in 2012, maybe one also generates idea from such snow storm...? 

This is...New Zealand.

Truth be told it's very tiring to sit in a car for multiple hours though. When we though the road closure was off and drive to the stateway they closed the road again due to heavy snow. At least we were allow to go after another 1 hour or so, but that means we will be in the car for almost 5 hours before reaching our destination.


I still remember the days when I got awoke by quakes. Christchurch was a broken city back then, with functionality of CBD largely moved to suburbs. When I come back again few years later nothing much had changed: the city is still to be rebuilt especially the cathedral, and the city centre somehow became an area of art exhibition. 

This is no more when we came in 2022. The rebuilt is largely done and what was a ruined field in 2011 is now a brand new commercial area. You will find buildings with big accounting company names on it just like what you can find at Britomart Auckland. The tram is still running, but riding on a tram travelling through these commercial buildings is just like trams in any other big cities. Even worse, the commercial area here feels strange because there weren't many people around, inside buildings or on the streets. 

I can understand city centre being the most valuable piece of land for a city that commercial development would be nice, but it simply doesn't feel like Christchurch and to me it would be much better to fit more suitable elements -- historical marks or botanical stuffs -- in order to distinguish itself from others. I walked through city centre and I couldn't really find any attractions other than the park and the museum. Not even the Cathedral junction would I consider that as an attraction: it's not when you don't see trams passing there in 20 minutes and people aren't gathering at the shops along the tramline!

So what else can we do for another free day in Christchurch? It's always the two options: Lyttleton or Akaora, and the choice is pretty clear here.

We took the same connection bus to Akaora just as in 2014, but we didn't see any bus coming. Instead a minivan picked us up along with a driver and 4 passengers on board. It must be hard for them to strive with virtually no travelers coming. The driver even said she has another job during our free time!

Akaora is amazing as usual. Some may say that it's just another coastal vacation town even with the French influence (which is nowhere to be observed nowadays), you immediately feel the difference when you come. 

It's seaside versus lakefront.

Everything is so different: the lighthouse, the sea breeze, the habitat, the way the haven is constructed -- they showed that this is a seaport, and a seaport that carries the history of early settlement in New Zealand.

Walking along the driveway, I have to say that this is the least changed place among places I visited this time. Things looked just like 2014, or 1980, or perhaps earlier...with other tourist towns fiercely developing amid the covid, why are changes so rare here?

Is it because people are not visiting here anymore? When we walked along the driveway we only meet one or two people every few minutes. The restaurant was so empty that it only served 8 people including us during lunchtime but the same restaurant was so full that we couldn't walk-in last time in 2014. It is so hard so explain why Queenstown is full of visitors just as before while Akaora took a big hit...

As a transient traveler there wasn't much for me to do though, we had a nice meal, bought some nice fudges, took another walk on the other side of the driveway and called it a day.

There is just one thing that I missed: I showed the picture of a pebble beach to the driver and ask if she could take us there which should be somewhere between Christchurch and Akaora. There driver unfortunately said that she couldn't recognize where that was so she couldn't bring us there.

That is the Birdling's Flat.

Taken in 2014 as in my past diary.

The bays along the way to Akaora looks more like a sound with hills on both sides of the bay. Birdling's Flat distinguishes itself from other bays just does the opposite of that. It's long and flat coastal line means that you can see a coastline extending to infinity, facing the Pacific right away with just blue sea and pebbles in sight.

The flat stands as one of my top rated scenic spot among all my trip in the South Island, so it's such a pity that we missed that.

50 Bistro in The George serves some good food. The hotel is so nice and meets its high standard!

Ma Maison's affogato in Akaora. This is affogato of a bistro/café, but I have no idea what the blueberry sauce was for.


After all the bad weather we encountered in Queenstown and Tekapo, Christchurch serves as a nice and relaxing conclusion to our trip.

We missed so many things: originally I wanted to book a 5 day trip which also includes trip to the west coast like Greymouth then the Tranzalpine, but then the travel company doesn't run that anymore; we had both flight cruise cancelled; we couldn't stay overnight in Hermitage as it was fully booked; and we missed Mt John summit and the Birdling's Flat. On the other hand we also have some wonderful encounters, especially in Tekapo where we had the snow and had the couple that generously brought us out there.

This is the nature of travelling when what wasn't expected often become the most treasured part of your trip. I am sure I will remember this 2022 trip for a long time, just like the 2014 one.

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Back to South Island in 2022 (2): Tekapo

Tekapo, home of the Church of the Good Shepherds and the Mt John Observatory, the place where you can experience NZ lakes and mountains within walking distance from a single village.

To me Tekapo means much more in trips to South Island. It's where me and my friends without GPS somehow used an abandoned tramping track along the lake to reach Astro café in 3 hours. It's where Kohan restaurant serves somewhat rare quality Japanese food in such small town. It's where I first tried affogato with liquor (in the good way).

This is where I have had so many good memories with. And naturally I have high expectation when I plan to visit there again. Again due to restriction in public transport I will only stay there for a single night. Ideally we would have arrived there at 12, a quick check-in and we should be able to reach Mt John summit at 2 and we can have a nice lunch there. 

Ideal plan stayed in the ideal plane and of course you won't expect that after the cancellation of the flight cruises and that you were already experiencing bad weather in Queenstown.

It was raining when we board the bus at 8. As if the cloud was chasing us, rain stops gradually as the bus progresses, but it started to rain again as soon as we stopped for breaks. The sky was full of grey clouds and stormy winds blowing when we took off at Tekapo. No rainfall yet, but we'd know we need to reach our hotel as soon as possible.

I was so confused when I got off the bus right in front of the supermarket which I had no idea where it was. I only realized that I lived at a hostel along the way to Mt John, so the only geography I knew about Tekapo is a straight road from the hostel to the main street. Everything else is new to me, including where I got dropped off this time. Of course it wasn't too tough for me to find the right direction with the help of GPS. The hotel I picked this time was a bit far away because I tried not to pick hotels with bad reputation in hygiene possibly due to the lack of staffs during covid.

The wind and rain just relentlessly grew stronger and stronger...and it finally turned into sleet then snow as the sky turned dark. We had no choice but to walk against the snow to the main street for some food. Kohan restaurant is closed due to extended renovation -- who knows if it's just an excuse not to open in winter? But we also found another familiar face, Ramen Tekapo -- I remember the "Thai and Japanese restaurant" board in the past but I wasn't so sure if it had the name ramen -- which is always a perfect choice in harsh winter. Ramen quality is basically what you would find in non-Asian countries, but their spicy miso ramen is more of a Thai spiciness than Japanese ones that you need to be careful.

Snow didn't stop when we return to the hotel, and it didn't stop overnight either. Just as in Nagano we woke up and found everything covered by think snow. 

Such experience is not something that you can easily ask for. I went to the same hot spring hotel in Nagano twice in winter twice, first with my friend then later with my family. The first time we were able to observe a green backyard in the first day then a white one in the next day. The second time nothing really happened that night. The staff told us that we visited on the coldest day of the year...but snow simply didn't arrive that night. 

Given how precious the snow could be, it is not the time to murmur about missing the chance to visit Astro café again. Instead it's time to explore the world covered by snow!

Lake and the Church, 2022 vs 2014.

At the end of the day we still need to think about realistic problems though...with heavy snow in particular the two passes that goes in and out of Tekapo, roads were closed and the bus was cancelled. We were very grateful that a couple also going to Christchurch were willing to take us there. Thanks a lot!

The sign of Tekapo changing has been apparent when I came last time, with constructions along the lake started as early as 2015. However the main street remained largely the same -- the shops, the restaurants and the views. This is what I concluded after reviewing old photos on google maps which overruled my incomplete memories.

I mentioned that it is not the most regrettable to not being able to visit Milford Sound and Mt Cook, but not being able to visit the summit of Mt John. However the snow had compensated it all. This is another piece of wonder added to my Tekapo collection.


Past entries on my 2014 and 2022 trips

Monday, 15 August 2022

Back to South Island in 2022 (1): Queenstown

It has been 8 years since I last made a long visit to the South Island. You can find my dairies about my 2014 trip here:

I have long wanted to do that again but was blocked from doing so even before 2020 then we have covid...but now it's finally time to travel around. Things have definitely changed, but by how much?

In short, by a damn lot.

Since I have already wrote about those attractions before I want to concentrate on how I feel about the changes in these cities during the years. I hope you enjoy and perhaps will travel there some day :3.


It is always the same amazing mountainous view when you stepped down the plane at the Queenstown airport. These mountains are probably the least altered and that gave me the wrong feeling that the trip will be just the same as the one I had in 2014, which is quickly proven wrong though.

Another thing that stayed ever the same is the popularity of Fergburger. Last time I ordered at dusk and had to bring the burgers all the way back to the hostel, only to found that the burgers had already cooled. This time the hotel was much closer and this is one of the best burger I have had in some time. 

The birds clearly enjoy the burgers so much.

Oh I almost forgot about the bakery on the side. When I went there last time I only tried their Danishes (which is delicious for sure), but I knew nothing about pies other than those frozen ones sold in supermarkets. This time with proper knowledge handmade pies became a must-order for me whenever I come across bakeries making those. Fergbaker is no exception. They make really good pastry and the fillings are more of a watery style. Their pork belly & apple really tastes like baked pork belly with apples that you make at home, and the sauce is just the same as the gravy you would get. I am sure some would love these pies just like pies served in some popular bakeries in Auckland, but it's just not my cup of tea. 

Here comes the first major difference that I encountered during the trip: Intercity buses are running much less frequently. In particular the Queenstown - Tekapo - Christchurch route no longer runs daily. The Mt Cook route is suspended as well. It has became much harder to arrange trips using public transport in 2022 than in 2014. 

As a result I had to stay in Queenstown for 3 nights and I have no access to Mt Cook using public transport. So what can I do if I still want to pay a visit to Mt Cook? That is by private tours either on the land or in the air. Unfortunately the weather is bad around the travel date together with the fact that YHA Mt Cook closed and no hotels were available for our dates (even for the best rooms in the Hermitage!), I had no choice but to book a single day round trip flight cruise instead. But even that was cancelled due to bad weather. This is not something we can control, but after talking with my friends, it was not the most unfortunate thing during the trip to be unable to take the Milford sound cruise or visiting Mt Cook but something else -- perhaps you should know the answer already, but it would be clear in my next entry.

Oh well, but you still need to get something to do in Queenstown right? Otherwise staying in the hotel for 3 nights doing nothing is just like staying in isolation facilities/MIQ...

We visited the city centre and took the gondola + luge in day 1, but day 2 and 3 were unplanned because we would have taken the flight cruise should the weather be fine. Day 2 was windy but not rainy so we still decided to go out, but we met a sandstorm.

Yes, sandstorm.

One almost wondered immediately where did the sand come from. It turns out that it's the reconstruction of the city plus the construction near the gondola that contributed all the sand, the latter is much higher than city centre so the sand easily rolled down the slope. 

We still managed to reach Patagonia, the holy grail of Queenstown. This is the  reason we miss here so much over the years despite not being interested in all the water activates or parachuting. They have relocated since we last visited but still somewhere at the lakefront -- this could be more of a food problem for the birds and the ducks, but the Saturday market proved that the animals have more options other than just gelato.

Patagonia is now much bigger with two stories. They are also serving choc-coated ice creams as well as other in-house sweets. We had some great time in the second floor enjoying their affogato/gelato while watching staffs making chocolate live as well as enjoying the amazing lake view. I always have a kink to affogato -- it reflects the quality of the gelato made, the coffee brewed and the personality of the shop all in little container. The affogato of Patagonia is very thick with vanilla ice cream standing out even with a  strongly bitter expresso shot. This is clearly an affogato from a gelato maker.

Patagonia sweets served as our lunch. We did some shopping, took a short break in the hotel and very soon it's dinner time. I realized that most restaurants here tried to do high-end dining and they were so full during our trip that walk-ins at 6:00pm were impossible. Very strange, considering Queenstown should also be a popular place for all kind of travelers. Also it's mid-winter right? Are you telling me that those travelers are all wealthy skiers?

At the end we had dinner in the hotel on day 1, but we managed to book two good restaurants (at 5pm) for the other two days. It is still regretful that we failed to book one of the top Japanese restaurant located here. The two restaurants that we visited were definitely good and their standard matches the price. 

Mango panna cotta. People seems to be frenzy about the word panna cotta but the real highlight is the pistachio candy.

Day 3 weather in Queenstown turned worse and without any surprise I received the call that the flight cruise to Milford sound was also cancelled. It was raining so heavily that we just stayed in the hotel for some relaxing time till dinner. We enjoyed some great seafood just below the casino, which reminded me that my friends liked the pasta ($10) served by the casino-owned restaurant when we came last time. I can't tell if that restaurant's still around, but Queenstown definitely need more of these middle-priced restaurants.


Queenstown is undoubtedly the major travel city in New Zealand and it took a major hit during covid. Many backpacker hostel closed, leaving hotel rooms marked at extremely high prices with similar situation in the dining or shopping sector. The town kept developing to serve more high-end travelers with city renovation, building more tax free malls and luxury hotel/apartments. 

These developments were in line with the ministry's most recent controversial speech saying that NZ needs more "money carrying" travelers instead of backpackers. Is this the right future for Queenstown/NZ tourism? I can't tell. I enjoyed this city both in 2014 and in 2022, but perhaps it will be a different story in 2030.

The night of Queenstown, with someone playing Christmas in the 13th month in accordion.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Thoughts on Three Hopes: a fast food game(?)

3 routes in 100 hours.

This is the third switch game that I played on screen via capture card and surprisingly all three are action games. It is almost miracalous that I didn't rage over the serious latency and even managed to clear the hidden boss in Neo TWEWY.

How is it possible to play games on a monitor with 300ms delay?

I got myself a new monitor this time and the difference is hell and heaven. Battles went much smoother...only then my Internet broke down that I have to fall back to pre-recording my gameplay videos which were then uploaded separately. You can find those videos here.

So how do I rate the game? Well in short, not exactly what I expected. This is the review from someone who had their first taste of the Warrior series.

It took me 47 hours to clear the Azure line on normal, then another 18 to clear Scarlet on hard. 35 hours on maddening, including many retries to S everything but I then realized 100% achievement is too hard for me so I stopped doing that at some point.

*spoiler below*


What did I expect in the demo review? Shez as a proxy on the opposite side of Sothis to find a solution between the two civilizations, and a solution between the three countries.

Is it the good end I have been looking for? Absolutely not. Does it make sense? Yes somehow. It turns out that Agarthans/Epimenedes/Arval is never supported by another alien entity that matches Sothis(at least Thinis didn't show up).

Without a matching opponent you won't expect the conflict to resolve without brutality. So either you killed Byleth (altogether with Sothis), or you recruited Byleth which could be a time bomb when Sothis threatened that she can takeover at anytime. 

On the other side, who can tell if in another thousand years the remanant at the underground would compose another plan of revenge? Even without central church and Rhea, anyone could well be the target as indicated from the shadow library as they hold the "blood of the beasts" regardless of the crests. Three Hopes basically made no attempt to iterate such conflict other than them being foes suddenly hop into the battlefield and become your final boss.

It is also kind of disappointing to see all three routes being extremely similar in structure both from the countries and the growth of Shez. The routes started with uprises in their respective countries (which coincidentally occurred at the same time), when things slowly get resolved they turn their eye into other countries or the church, and finally the TWSITD comes out as the final boss. The only difference is who's on your side and who's not (remember there are 4C2/2 = 3 ways to divide 4 items into 2 groups of 2). Dialogues are very similar if not identical (mainly those with Arval) and so as the plot which makes it in overall more repeated and less rich in content.

There are a hell lot that could potentially be covered should extra chapters be inserted. I would definitely love to see minimal developments in the academy. That would have slowed down the pace by a lot instead of "just joining the academy and the next moment you are on the battlefield". In a similar way chapters can be inserted along the solidification of the house leaders' power, and also at the end to discuss further the relation against TWSITD/the church (then again there was no church route here). 

Well I guess it's my expectation that is unrealistic in the first place...many details that I mentioned above were based on what we found in the shadow library which is DLC content after all. We didn't see super in-depth stories in Three Houses main routes either, but at least the routes in Three Houses explained the big pictures in full.

A smug and arrogant Byleth(/Sothis) is absolutely one of the things that shocked me the most.

Oh well.

While Three Hopes is so disappointing in its overall structure, I think IS did a great job writing stories around individual characters this time.

This time the story is not limited to the academy students (plus a few academy  staffs) anymore. We got the parents/relatives of the students and all the nobles of the countries. They were merely a random name mentioned in Three Houses, but here we can find loads of conversations between them and the students. From here it is much easier to hear from the  students talking beyond their academy/daily life. 

Most students got sections dedicated to themselves. They are no longer puppets under their respective House leaders. Instead they lead their own noble troops and act on behalf of their family interest. It is much easier to draw out their personality in that way. We thought Ferdinand is only someone who shout "von aegir" and Sylvain is a playboy, but in Three Houses their defend their countries like a true leader; we also observe interactions between students and their relatives like Hilda and his brother and Caspar/Felix and his father. All these arrangements allow us to understand the world in much different perspectives.

The Ashen wolves are no longer locked behind DLC and they join our troops for free. They are the characters that I liked to use the most because they are always recruitable unlike the other students (that you don't have to start from level 1 which is painful in higher difficulty -- how can you protect a lv15 Holst from enemies of lv120?). IS gave us a heavy dose of the wolves in the game. Though not appearing in main story conversations they get loads of paralogues not just only about the story of the wolves, but also with other students. It shows that the wolves are not just isolated weirdos, but students equally colorful as those in the other Houses.

And of course the lords. Even though the routes and outcomes are so similar, they clearly distinguished themselves from each other. The strong emperor Edelgard, the kind king Dimitri and the schemer Claude -- they really picked up their power and responsibility (cf. the Dimitri who wanted to kill the last one in Three Houses), and their characters are really well expressed.

If only they put more support conversations into the game...

Why do you do that IS...I want to use my lovely Sylvain in all three routes...


There are two main parts that composed the game, the overworld and the battles. Let us talk about the overworld first.

This is an adoption of Fire Emblem into the Warrior series, in particular mimicking Three Houses. It is easy to find many familiar systems from weapon ranks, classes to factilies are all heavy in Three Houses. 

They made a few changes from the Three Houses system like splitting training and activity points (plus the sucessive training system saves all the time to put characters into pairs), removing fishing (which took me 5+ hours in Three Houses no joking) and jotting down options that does not work in tea party (or else you check walkthroughs anyway). These are nice little adjustments to have.

The overworld map is also smaller this time. Loading the map is much faster than loading Garreg Mach. They distinguished different camp locations with flag colours and various backgrounds which is a nice little detail. Funny though the camp sometimes managed to have stone structures albeit being temporary(?).

Overworld netvigation now allows fast travel not only to locations but also to characters and functional NPCs. I also like the design of putting supply master at the bottom even it seems to be incidental (because it appears the last), but I indeed visit her the most and that saves time. 

Reducing repetitive overworld routines, fast nativigation plus (much) faster loading time really boosted gaming fluency. These are almost essential in an era where people always want to clear a game quick.

In terms of resource management Three Hopes is also quite close to Three Houses. You can barely upgrade the facilities to the max in the first playthrough if you gather every last bit of resource. There are quite some room for further upgrades via tactics instructor, levelling up or weapon forging but they are all locked behind a single currency -- gold. It eliminates further redundant currencies as all excessive materials in post-game can easily be exchanged into gold for these upgrades. 

The only game breaking non-NG+ mechanism is the meals (recall in Three Houses the effect of having meals is much more reasonable). Acclerating the warrior gauge really turns the game into spamming warrior specials. Also, Byleth mentioned in the support conversation that he/she does eat a lot. That explained how was it possible for him/her to have multiple meals with the students but now Shez is doing the same. (Another notable thing is that ingredients are quite rare in Three Houses but in Three Hopes you basically have 50 of each by doing nothing...)


Cutting opponents like weeds is definitely cool, but I found myself enjoying some characters/classes more than others.

The core idea is to aim accurately. It is quite hard to aim the opponents for some classes after some regular moves: pegasus in the air, cavalries after dashing, Yuri with his ring equipped...too much mobility is often a problem in actual fights. I found Yuri much easier to control without his ring actually, and I have to use specific combos for pegasus knights or cavalries to aim properly. For example Bow knights give an all round shooting with the combo XXXXXY which is far more better than the combo XXXXXXY, not only because the latter dashes which is so hard to use, the circling shot also breaks defense very efficiently.

Another consideration is attacking speed. While trying not to dodge (which slows you down and waste time) you always want to hit fast and break opponents' defense before they hit hard (which almost cost you the S rank in maddening). Dexterous classes are so much better in that sense. For example I found trickster much than mortal servants which swing their swords chop by chop. Gregmory is another class the casts so slow that I never thought of using those. Are they useless? Not really, just don't control them by yourself, they are doing well on their own.

The reason that you want to optimize your character so much is because your performance is almost solely decided by your technique instead of everything else including weapon ranks, skills, abilities, long as you know how to fight and the weapon is minimally strengthened the maps are just as easy. This is hugely different from traditional Fire Emblem where resources are very carefully distributed and all the moves are catiously delivered.

Another problem with such design is that the difficulty curve becomes flat. Even at maddening, you don't find later chapters much harder than the earlier ones. In terms of one-on-one combats, dodging a soilder's attack is no different than doing the same against a swordmaster or mortal servant. The only difference is that you are in a much deeper trouble if you get hit by the later but as long as if you don't you will always be healthy, and this is quite easy to do so. In terms of general tactics early maps are as complex as the later ones, and reinforcements do not come more intensely in later maps anyway. This is a game of sweeping strongholds one by one...and it easily gets repetitive.

If we look at Dynasty Warriors, people are happy with the content even when the battles are more or less similar because those battles correspond to actual historic battles where contexts could be put into including who's appearing and saying what. You don't have that in Three Hopes. They tried to make some description to each of the auxiliary battles, but the contents are almost the same: sweeping bandits (or whatever opponents with no specific name) or battling beasts. It is very hard not to feel repetitive in that way. As I suggested above, expanding number of chapters would see such problem greatly repaired.


Now you start to wonder after so bashing, how did the game ended with mostly positive feedback? Well, I have to say that the game looked very solid at the very least, and artwork is a crucial factor for that.

This is a job very well done.

They have updated the students' designs, and the designs fit them well at the age of around 19. The 3D models are so much better than those in Three Houses as you don't see pixels anymore. They also put a lot of effort in modelling each of the classes to make them look so different from each other. My favourite is of course trickers' finger gun when casting magic, especially when Yuri's wind magic actually one shots the armored units :)

Two comments on the design though: one is Shez's bright purple hair is a bit too unnatural -- I guess many have critized when the very first trailer came out already. Another is Dimitri's academy phase hairstyle in 3D...I guess it's easier to show here directly :/

The OST matches the high bar of that in Three Houses as well. My favourite is Melody of Clarity which is again the track for golder route final boss fight. Still I prefer the Three Houses ost just a slight tad more, perhaps just because how they mix the Fire Emblem melody into the credit song (A Star in the Morning Sky 2:40).

Rare to see Dimitri in academy phase but...


I can understand why the general reputation is so nice because it is inherited with what makes Three Houses success. It also delivered the other side of the game, the Warrior series properly. 

Many of my disappointment including mistreatment of stories, repetition and the lack of difficulty curve, occurring only from my second playthrough. Perhaps it is just my expectation that is unrealistic in the first place: the Warrior series is meant to be brainless chopping but not high precision action games, and the Three Houses story wasn't supposed to be that deep, with documents in the shadow library being no more than some teaser for those story maniacs.

In overall I had a mixed experience on the game...but others may have different opinions.