Nav: (Display/Hide) - Home - About the Author / this page

Current Projects: Americana Engine (Game Engine Development)

Friday, November 30, 2012

The UOP Banquet Sounds of Service

Each item, save music instruments, are raffled off.

This banquet - not like any other. Unlike last year, it has more interclub students than new members (at least 2:1). It occurs in Grace Covell, but in a different room. (At first sight - it was a dark room, yule log, was it really a nice party going on? Nope, it was actually in another room.)

Good to see there was another historian - it seems like they must have dSLRs, but I was dissuaded in the past to carry one due to its large weight - a hybrid like the Sony DSC RX-100 would suit my needs perfectly - provided I can afford it, of course.


  • Two icebreakers (or minigames) - Song Poncho (exactly the same as the event last year as a family competition, including the word) and Ipod Wars (guess the song)
  • Song played associated with each new member (that was their favorite song) - note it was planned (but wasn't done) last year's banquet.
  • Chicken Platters - despite the wording, they're exactly the same as every other chicken dish in past UOP Banquets.
  • The raffles - the violins were just for show, but tickets were buyable for everything else at a quarter per ticket.
  • The piano was played... by a Sac Student.

Note: I will be unable to make it to the next day's event (Santa's Gift of Service), due to lack of transportation options* and as such the related blog post will be unavailable.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Clockwork Board

Beetle runs like Clockwork here.

It's like a remade version of Major Mouthful. Only the curves are slightly shorter, and you can't use the same technique for double gapping like in the previous island. With gapple sauce, however, you can get more per double gap. And score much higher than you usually would (My PB here is nearing 15 million.)

Ginger Up is now available, where the only thing it does is... well, prevent the hot frog meter from going down, but that's about it. (Note: Just because the hot frog meter doesn't go down doesn't mean the speed of your balls won't either.)

Strategy: A medium sized gap near the end of the curve (or two, if you're fast) should do the trick. Do double tapping after that point, for up to 250k per double gap. Make sure that the curve is two layers deep before gapping, or your gap shot bonus will decrease significantly. Fruit shouldn't be a main goal here - there's at least two spots where you have to go through two layers of balls to get to it.

Recommended Powers: x3, Time, Warp Ball, Gapple Sauce, Spirit Beetle. You may sub Warp Ball for Wild Shot if it works for you.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Shopping - including Costco

When it comes to hard drives, Costco apparently sells out 30 minutes before the store officially opened.

Black Friday sales start today. No lines like last year at least in Stockton (I heard about the 'no camping' rule until 10pm), but to compensate stores opened really early. By that, meaning some stores started their sales as early at 8PM - in which waiting lines formed inside the store to get that 100 dollar TV (see note at bottom). Black Friday sales just went from starting overnight... to last night.

I've also gotten Diablo 3 in an attempt to cover the costs. (Note: it's tough but possible to sell your in-game items for real cash) I'll have to try that during Winter Break though. Just a a few weeks away...

TV Recommendations: I typically use Vizio and Sony - more expensive, but also better in picture quality. You might find extremely cheap HDTVs during the sale, but they lack slightly in a few areas.

Additional Hard Drives: Costco had them at 3TB for $100, selling out very quickly due to 'overwhelming demand'. They actually opened before the advertised 9am date - and others got to them first. It's good to see that space isn't an issue anymore (note) - with this many drives the only major issue would be running out of drive letters to mount a drive at. I don't need all the space - redundancy is more of my interest. Placing them in a RAID 1 config would be a much better use for them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Board

Not called the 'Stump' board.

The Thanksgiving Board takes a new twist - you've got one curve that around the outside (with a difficult gap possible at the end). On the other one it wraps around itself once making it a double gap. The question of 'how' to reach 10M can leave many people stumped.

There's three additional food items available, but you don't really need to make use of any of them. And there's the new message center, but the daily gifts are typically the least bought items.

Strategy: You need to setup two small gaps near the end of the board. Wait for the balls to come up on the first curve and double tap for max points. It is recommended you get Gapple Sauce (if you don't have any, refill using the Gapper's Delight bundle.)

Recommended Powers: x3, Time, Warp Ball, Gapple Sauce, Spirit Beetle.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Last Hostess Package

No Twinkies here - guess they sold out quickly.

News spread fast that Hostess was shutting down and won't be selling any more of their goods on the 16th. It wasn't too important for me... until KY mentioned she never had a Twinkie before, and never will, so I put a slight priority to secure as many Hostess foods as possible, and if I found one, to send it over to her... somehow. (I did have a Twinkie once).

I finally made it over to a store that might be selling it on the 20th, four days later. They were right. Shelves of their products were emptied quickly.

I was unable to find Twinkies (the labels suggested they didn't have them in the first place) but I did find a few doughnuts. I considered it close enough, bought the last package, and took an image of the last Hostess product I could ever buy (and eat).

In the Past: There was a Hostess store years back that I visited once, before it was torn down to make way for a new shopping center in the late 2000s.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Davis Turkey Trot: Road Running Through the Rain

Circling round Rainbow City Park (5K path)

Months ago, after volunteering for a 5K race in Elk Grove, I thought - why can't I be one of the runners? It would be much cooler.

However recently I couldn't find any 5K that Capital Division was actively volunteering in. (Note I started practicing running the 5K in July, and all 5Ks they were doing was before this.). I did some research and noticed that Davis CKI was doing this as volunteer work last year (and also considered an interclub), so I chose the Turkey Trot as a run.

As it's an hour away, the question is why? Well, what wouldn't be a better way to impress friends by making record time? Walking up to the booth, signing in, and saying 'as a runner'. lol. The run was months away, so there was no indication that Davis was doing that this year... yet. (at least on their calendar)

October DCM indicated that their next DCM was on the 17th... which was the day of the event. Was there any other volunteer event going on that involved this event for those who weren't going to the DCM? Um... no.* That really cut off my main motivation for going to this race. Though there were other options, like 5K locally, I didn't sense the enjoyment of running back and forth along a downtown road, so I stuck to Davis for the run. And then a few day forecast predicted rain. I was advised to back down for an hours drive, but I didn't train 3 months just for nothing.

Results: 5K Cleared in 32:27.

Based on my performance over the past few weeks coming in at around 38-40 minutes in training runs, I realized that even friends might not be impressed if they saw me finish in that time frame (as I would fall less than the 80th percentile of runners in my age range). In reality, I managed to do better than expected, placing in the top 37% of runners, crossing the finish at 32 and a half minutes - it was also my personal best. I had improved a lot since I started my first (unmeasured) 5k at UOP back in April last year, where I finished in around the 48 minute mark.

Overall, I consider this a good practice run, and keep will on training until Capital Division actually happens to for another 5K, at a race where it really matters. I was not the only one in this race, as another member from Capital - Bobby Miyashiro - was also in this and finished it in 23, but whether I can beat that - only future runs will tell.

Playlist: My playlist was adapted to sunny conditions. But it's raining hard, so I can't just plug in that playlist containing Cotton Eye Joe by Rednex and some other songs. I had to change my playlist. So I set my iPod on Shuffle and the following songs came up, which seemed appropriate:

Eric Redd - Breathe (Albert Castillo Clean Radio Mix)
AN-2 - Road Through The Rain
Skrillex - Rock N' Roll (Will Take You to the Mountain)
Natasha Bedingfield - These Words (Ford Radio Mix)
The Chemical Brothers - Under the Influence
Rob Dougan - Clubbed To Death
The Prodigy - One Love (Edit)
Kesha - We R Who We R
Celldweller - The Last Firstborn

Thursday, November 15, 2012

LOOT: The Guide

The only difference between an easy game and Nintendo Hard is the quality of your loot.

This guide covers LOOT The Game on Armor Games. As in, I don't know what came first - was there an animation or something?

Objective: Get to the front of the train and take out Wooly. You have to attack the train cars (as well as turrets) in order to advance. Did I forget to mention, survive? Pick up loot and upgrade your elephant (must be dragged quickly in realtime).

Strategy: Three types of weapons are present in this game (looks not matter much):

  • Swords deal large amounts of damage up front, but you need to get within melee range. Effective against blue shields.
  • Guns have constant dps and hits their target instantly. Effective against orange shields.
  • Wands do burst damage and fire off tons of projectiles but they take a while to reach its target. Effective against green shields.

Loot can increase any of these attributes (the higher quality an item is the more attributes it has):

  • Damage controls how much base dps that weapon can do. You'll obviously want a weapon with higher dps.
  • Armor reduces the damage you would normally take. An elephant with 200 armor will reduce incoming damage by 200. This is effective for survival early on, but gets useless later.
  • Strength increases sword damage by a percentage.
  • Dexterity increases gun damage by a percentage.
  • Intelligence increases wand damage by a percentage.
  • Health increases overall health by a percentage. It is mandatory to have at least two decent pieces of equipment that increases this attribute. Without any bonuses, launchers will one shot you late game (and they're almost undodgable with eight of them onscreen)
  • Gold Drops increases how much gold appears. It's used for item slots (as if you need them) and especially quick healing.
  • Rare Item Drops increases the frequency and quality of rare items. Your goal is to get the most legendary items equipped.

You'll want to focus on dodging stuff while getting items that have upgrades in this order: Rare Drops, Dexterity (or STR or INT, depending on what weapon you have equipped) - this is VERY IMPORTANT for high dps, Health, and then a Weapon Upgrade. Once properly upgraded you can take down cars in a matter of seconds. Get going. A playthrough can be seen using this link.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gold Mine Board

Now for a real change in board design. Despite the (internal) name of the board, there is no gold present here (unless you perceive the base under the frog as one), and balls are essentially rolling on rails. Curve clears are hard due to the tunnels on both ends (since hot frog explosions can't get balls into tunnels) but it's still short enough that two hot frog shots will clear a curve when it rolls out again.

You'll want to resort to gaps and Gapple Sauce for this one... providing you stocked up on it the week prior. Don't worry, you have until this Wednesday or so before they're no longer buyable. (This includes Pyro Popcorn, but you shouldn't be using it for any decent high score.)

Despite the tunnels suggesting they can pack quite a few balls in there before they come out, the tunnels' length are actually two balls long - they teleport to the other side of the tunnel with no explanation.

Note: Next week's board post will be delayed until November 23.

Strategy: Double tap on both ends, but be aware that the balls must be almost near the second tunnel on either side before fruit spawns. Double gaps are possible, but both gaps must be small to receive the full double gap value.

Recommended Powers: x3, Time, Epic Fruit, Gapple Sauce, Spirit Eagle. You may also use Spirit Beetle if you want.

Gapple Sauce recommended, but they will disappear sometime this week - stock up on it. Else, use Combo Corn (if you have it) or Candy Lei, the former won't give you any single balls.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Arkandian Explorer: Through the Unfinished Dungeon

So many floors, even this map is unfinished.

A playthrough of Arkandian Explorer shows a few new challenges and a few additional features, however most of the game mechanics remain the same from the previous game.

Things changed:

  • Sockets available on some items, either find gems or use Disenchanters to get them off items (more likely to drop the more you use it, and increases Mysticism still as well)
  • New armor/weapons to craft. (Potions, however, remain the same) Don't worry about limited resources, you can buy them now.
  • Auto-attack buttons
  • Additional repeatable dungeons to unlock additional crafting blueprints and spells. (the Mapping spell was never found)
  • Wall/furniture for house not buyable - you need to take them from exploring dungeons.

Note the following:

  • Repeatable dungeons can only be repeated a finite amount of times, with the exception of the Unfinished Dungeon and prison (the latter being more expensive).
  • The campaign maps usually use this set of random maps as well.
  • If there is a quest chest (grey), the mission will end once you leave - use that to your advantage, especially with the Alchemist's dungeon - the last 10 unlocks (bottom row) are only hair dyes, so you can loot for stuff there without collecting the quest chest repeatedly and you're good.
  • Custom Shoes can be used to boost bargaining skill, with at most 20 gold per chance to raise it.
  • Artistry and Salvaging can be rapidly increased by using one item and crafting repeatedly. (this is actually explained in the tips)
  • Use sneak on Vault 13 (get mana potions if you need to) to get past enemies, and sledgehammers to get to chests easier. You may need two trips.
  • The Mapping spell can't be found anywhere (at least not in any tactical battles or quests) and as a result you can't use it.
  • The last alchemy recipe can't be unlocked on its own - it is called 'Exclusive Hair Dye' and you must guess it. Hint: Pink Hair Dye from Revenant.
  • The Unfinished Dungeon stops at 100 floors and has a quest chest there - it's 1GP.

Crafting Recipes: Download JPG (2.25 MB). Due to popular demand for this, I have decided to put this up. Regardless of whether or not the craft is successful, it will be saved in your recipes list for later use.

Unfinished: Due to having a lot of jobs queued up, the image was released before I perfected it - the image will be updated and made neater when I get the time to do it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Disassembling a Toshiba Portege Z385

I'm in this situation: Got an assignment to turn in later in the afternoon, fire up the monitor (connected via HDMI)... and there's no signal. Try the laptop, it won't power on. No lights, nothing. Check the power source. Hm... no problems here. So now what? Disassemble it and figure out what's going on.

My hope was to remove the hard drive that might be inside and use it as an external HDD, but it was a mSATA, something I don't have. I eventually fixed the issue (there was a break somewhere between the outlet and the laptop charger connector), but at least I learned something about it.

I know it voids warranties (and it's near the three month exchange period for Costco) but hey, it was time critical and I was very unwilling to return anything for repairs that has any kind of sensitive information on it.

Notes on it:

  • The middle screw to open it is a Torx Security screw, and I didn't have a Torx Tx6 with me, so I used a screwdriver to pry it open. It didn't work, but it broke the center of the screw, which meant my normal Torx screwdrivers could get it loose.
  • The laptop won't turn on if the (flat) battery is removed, even if it's provided with AC power.
  • The RAM is only 4GB one slot, which means that 2GB is onboard, you can expand up to 10GB, not 16GB as originally expected.
  • Even if I had access to the SSD, I don't currently have the equipment to get data off of it. Might consider getting a mSATA adapter if I needed to get data out in the future.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hot Springs Board

Guess I've become the board namer.*

Hot Springs: Where it's not just the frog, it's also the birds watching you play. And they also mentioned a few surprises coming within the next few weeks. The first? You've got two additional frogatars to choose from, including the new Blue Frog.

The board's very similar (if not exactly) like the volcanic Pretzel of Doom except two fruit locations were moved so as to make it easily accessible (previously you had to go through two layers of balls in some situations).

No new other features this week, but Here's a link for 10k coins (valid only within a few days of publishing this post).

Don't worry if you can't score as many points as before compared to previous boards - this board is by far the most difficult to score and high scores on the leaderboard will typically be lower than usual as a result.

Strategy: Gap on top left or top right, or double tap on bottom left or right. use Gapple Sauce, or Candy Lei if you have trouble with the gaps. (Note: Gapple Sauce will no longer be available for purchase on the 16th, so stock up if you need to.)

Or, clear ALL the curves! I'm relying on the much needed extra time - and the last 20 games recorded on PSSS shows solid performance with Curvy Fries. Don't fire blindly - use your head and rely on combos to push balls back, since they'll come out pretty quickly if you don't. You'll need three hot frog shots after a curve clear in order to clear it again (two if you're lucky, but don't count on it since the game only checks for curve clears once a second, and there's a good possibility you won't get it.)

Recommended Powers:

  • Gaps: The typical x3, Time, Epic Fruit, Gapple Sauce and your choice of either Beetle or Eagle.
  • Curve Clears: Hot Frog, Time, Epic Fruit, Curly Fries, Spirit Eagle.

Frogatars: Combination of Frog + Avatar. As of right now, you can choose one of two other frog styles to use in the game in place of your 'basic' frog. Your selection will be shown on friend's leaderboards. There is currently only a visual difference between using one frogatar and another, though future ones may have additional hidden powers associated with using them, so be on the lookout.*

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Renovated Jackson Rancheria

The entrance looks new... you can tell by the balloons.

I've decided to head over to Jackson Rancheria - heard their renovations were complete and they've got free promotions, so why not see the reopening? Only problem: I didn't come to Jackson before and I have no clue what was renovated and what wasn't. I know however there was one because there was balloons at the front entrance and they also said that in newspapers.

What I think was renovated: Most likely the lobby of the hotel, high limit room (they said it), a new roof near a new main entrance (they removed the old front entrance). New changes make it look par compared to the others I've previously seen.

Note on Jackson: A few years back, several seniors from my graduating class went over to Jackson Rancheria with a teacher. That's when the age limit was 18 and over. Not so today. Also, the promotional gifts (not available anymore) are random and if you happen to get a t-shirt, it's only available in extra large.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Popcap Zuma Swag Package

A month ago, I got word that Popcap really enjoyed my blog and its content and were going to send me a package of Zuma related goodness. It was in my PO Box yesterday when I went to check. For a little package it was quite large - it barely fit in the PO box, and had a hard time getting it out. I asked for someone on the other end to give it a push.

I guess little things come in big packages. (Wait, isn't that the other way around?)

You can see the true scale when I take it back to my workspace. (For reference, monitors are 21.5 inches diagonal.)

What do we have here? Gotta lay this one out...

  • Popcap Shirt (rare loot)
  • Zuma T-Shirt
  • Stickers
  • Limited Edition Lunchbox (with Zuma's Revenge)
  • Popcap Microfiber Cloth
  • One EA Water Bottle
  • Two 'wooden' USB Drives (actual wood on the outside, thought one of them was a rubber stamp)
  • Green Chuzzle (you can squeeze it and it squeaks :P)

I wonder if they're going to make any official apparel for the 'Blitz' series of games, or if they'll make a actual fuzzy werefrog. :P

Giveaways: I don't intend to do any physical giveaways here (it's quite hard to do so) - but what I CAN do is hand out virtual goods. I'm still waiting for approval for food and powers, but at this time, on my FB profile are coin posts over the past week (in packs of 4000) to give you a total of around half a million coins by the end of the week, if you decide to add (msg me about either zuma blitz or this post when you add to avoid getting flagged as spam).

Thank you, Popcap Tara, for all the goodies! :)