Grabbed by the Ghoulies

In 2003 the acclaimed game developer RARE released the game Grabbed by the Ghoulies. The game is very similar to an arcade game with a story thrown in. The main character Cooper is trying to rescue his girlfriend who's been kidnapped inside a haunted mansion. The game consists of you trying to save her while working your way through haunted rooms where you find and fight Ghoolies. These range from skeletons, to ninja imps and medusa herself.

Honestly the gameplay isn't revolutionary, you can pickup a wide array of props like chairs and frying pans to smack the Ghoolies around. Otherwise you're stuck with your fists or the occasional squirt gun to kill them. I don't have the privilege to understand how this game was received in 2003 but Wikipedia doesn't paint a great picture with a metacritic score of 66.

But I quite like the game; it's simple and each room is a small challenge that once beat, leaves you one step closer to finishing the game. The art-style is cell shaded and remains very crisp and appealing. Assuming you have access to the game I think it's worth trying. But keep in mind the gameplay is similar to that of an arcade. It's to be enjoyed but if you're not having fun feel free to walk away.

Variability in Battle Royale

The newest entry into the battle royal genre of games has reached 25 million in its first week. Apex Legends, which was released without any significant marketing has done very well. It’s refined and brings numerous improvements to the battle royal genre. For the unfamiliar, battle royal is a type of game where a large number of players (60-100) fight to the death to be the last person standing. I don't want to focus on the entire genre or what apex has improved. Instead I'll focus on how battle royal adds gameplay elements that add variability compared to competitive shooters.

Most competitive shooters have very little variability. Weapons spawn in the same place and matchmaking assures players are of relatively equal skill. This signifies the main goals of competitive shooters, to provide a skill based challenge to determine who is the best. The only point of variability is players respawn at semi-random locations. But typically this is biased to respawn players away from their enemies. That is all the variability that typically exists in competitive shooters and is contrasted by battle royale games that embrace variability.

The beginning of a battle royal is always the same, but this is where variability is first introduced. Typically a plane, bus, or other vehicle moves over a large map in a straight line. The angle and offset from the center of the map changes every match, meaning the vehicle passes over a different part of the map each game. You choose when to jump and where to land. But you can't fly everywhere and even experienced players are forced into areas they aren't familiar with. This encourages learning the entire map and thriving no matter where they are.

After landing things are tense, you’re without a weapon and others may have landed nearby. So you search the nearby buildings for weapons and other loot. You find an assortment of pistols, shotguns, grenades, and armor. Picking up as much as you can, you find a rare piece of armor that provides you more protection. These randomized pieces of loot become your lifeline. If you run into someone more skilled than you and less well equipped you might actually stand a chance.

Now you’re notified about the first circle. It represents a random area all players need to be within or they will be killed. Having potentially fought for your right to exist for longer than the first five minutes you have to move. If you’re outside you’ve got a couple minutes to make your way inside the circle. If you’re lucky enough to already be inside then you’ve got to continue looting, and watching for all the people outside the circle as they come spilling in.

This is the point when battle royale as a genre becomes about survival. By forcing you into random locations with random equipment you’re only option is to adapt. You can’t get by on good shooting alone. Instead you learn how to balance looting with hiding and move as strategically as you can. Every opportunity to get an advantage over others must be taken. All so that when you inevitably have to fight you might have the edge you need.

You can’t avoid fighting, at least not forever. The circle continues to get smaller as the game goes on forcing you closer and closer to your enemies. Firefights often break out which can be avoided or intentionally sough out. But if you wait long enough you’ll be faced with one last person and one of you has to be the last standing. Depending on each persons strategy and luck throughout the game one side might have a significant advantage over the other. You can be hiding and scouting for the last person and they’ll drop down and blow your head off.

A Rant on Long Articles

For me social media isn't about other people. It's about memes, news, and discussion. However sometimes I run across purportedly insightful articles. They have a direct and engaging title and exist in a web page deeper than a well. Surely engaging with these articles is a commitment of time and effort. I expect something worthwhile if I jump in and slowly sink to the bottom of the page.

Unfortunately the beginnings of these articles often share the same problem. They start with an out of context human story meant to engage you for the story they're about to tell. Like tying rocks to a swimmer they try and influence you to engage with them. Seemingly forgetting you've already jumped in voluntarily. These beginnings might pull some people in. But for me they are ineffective and I instantly disengage from the article. It's patronizing to assume I need some emotional introduction to be invested in a topic. Take this article on animal cognition published in the Atlantic, it doesn't start talking about animal cognition until the 7th paragraph.

Scientists Are Totally Rethinking Animal Cognition

After disengaging from an article, I decide if I have enough willpower to get to the topic the title promised me. I'm sure it's there but it's a difficult value proposition now. The frustrating aspect is these beginnings are unnecessary. The article could be shorter and more concise if the writer would focus on their topic. I think this would lead to a better and more impactful article. It wouldn't ask such a time commitment of it's readers and would engage them with the topic that hooked them in the first place.

Why is soda flat in the mountains?

I'm in the mountains and had a poor experience when I tried to drink a soda. I poured it at room temperature over ice and it fizzed up more than usual. When I tasted it, I found the soda was nearly flat; but why was it flat? What factors led to the soda losing all that precious carbonation?

The bubbles in soda that tickle your tongue are caused by carbon dioxide. That's right, that devil of a greenhouse gas makes your soda delicious. Carbonation gives drinks their fizz by dissolving CO2 in the soda, which is kept in the can under pressure. That pressure forces the CO2 to stay into the liquid, but when we open a can the increased pressure quickly escapes, CO2 is forced out and comes together to create bubbles.

When we drink it the CO2 interacts with the water in the can and on our tongues creating carbonic acid. This gives a pleasant and familiar sour taste to counteract the sweetness of the soda. This means the CO2 is very important in the taste and mouthfeel of the soda, and without it we're left with an overly sweet, flat flavor.

The first mistake I made was drinking room temperature soda. The soda's ability to dissolve CO2 actually decreases as temperature increases. This is the general rule of all gases and is different than most solids like sugar. The solubility of sugar in water drastically increases with temperature. But having a warm soda meant not much CO2 could be dissolved and when opened let the gas escape. This is a relatively small effect and independent of altitude.

The second issue is that I'm trying to drink soda in the mountains, fairly high in the mountains too. As we increase in altitude atmospheric pressure decreases. Compared to sea level atmospheric pressure up here is about a third less. Decreased pressure has the largest impact on my soda. Who's ability to dissolve CO2 increases with pressure, like it's being forced into the liquid. But in the mountains a lot of the pressure is gone and when we open the can and pour the soda CO2 comes out in bubbles and the soda becomes flat, especially if it was room temperature which just exacerbates the problem.

Unfortunately, there's not really an easy way around this. I could try and makeup for the lack of carbonic acid by adding some acid to the soda. Or go really extreme and build a pressurized soda drinking room. But other than that, there aren't many options but getting used to the flat mountain soda.

UPDATE: Things have gotten more complicated. Mainly in the fact that there is advice to improve things. While spending more time in the mountains I discovered that soda in a glass of ice water was destined for failure. However if you keep the soda in the can, even with the reduced atmospheric pressure things actually turn out alright. If I had to guess I'd say it's just not that easy for the gas to come together and escape. That is unless you pour it out into open air over a bunch of ice cubes, spreading it out and letting it lose all that beautiful CO2. What I'm saying is keep it in the can.

Turns out doing a blog everyday is more of a habit than something you just decide.


But now I've woken up having only missed a day, I've got some delicious coffee (it's ok) and plan to write a little something about the goals of this blog.

Goals

I'll try and make this quick, just a couple of bullet points to explain everything I want this blog to do.

  • Help me organize whatever I'm doing in life. Acting as a touchstone for myself in the future.

  • Act as a practice ground where I can attempt to improve my writing skills. Not just by writing but by trying to explain difficult and complex topics.

  • Act as a source of more formal notes.

That third bullet point may or may not be important, it's hard to make a list with only two items. It just doesn't feel right.