Deep Look: Lost Odyssey- You Gotta See These Dreams

Hey Duders,

Here is the latest Baby Deep Look! My usual Deep Look videos focus in on a cool gameplay mechanic or story element from a game I have played the heck out of, in the hopes that I can share what makes that mechanic so cool. This Baby Deep Look is just as deep as a normal video, but I focus on a mechanic or ability that is so small that the video is much shorter than usual. I aim to keep Baby Deep Looks around 5 minutes long. These videos should be small little observational nuggets that hopefully give you some useful insight into a game's design that you might not have noticed otherwise.

In this Baby Deep Look I show off the Thousand Years of Dreams contained within Lost Odyssey. I explain how a series of short stories by an established author are integrated into Lost Odyssey and what makes them stand out. I don't know if Lost Odyssey is a great game, but the Thousand Years of Dreams written by Kiyoshi Shigematsu sure are great!

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Deep Look: Bastion- What a Mechanical Twist!

Hey Duders,

Here is the latest Deep Look! Deep Looks are largely gameplay and commentary like a Giantbomb quicklook; however, I try to cover games that have been out for a while and I intend to use the videos to highlight moments and mechanics that I found particularly worthy of highlighting and exploring. Also I aim to keep the videos under 20 minutes.

In this Deep Look I SPOIL the final gameplay moment of Bastion in order to examine its surprising gameplay twist. I talk about why the last scene is so moving and effective and how the game actually achieves its emotional conclusion. I also suggest how other games can learn from the gameplay pivot employed by Bastion.

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Security in the Modern Web Part 1: Sybil Attacks and Harassment

The past couple of weeks have been about as rough as I can remember when it comes to personal privacy violations on the Internet. First there were multiple reported cases of doxing, personal site hacking, and email/Skype account infiltration surrounding the gamergate kerfuffle. Meanwhile, the whole celebrity hacking fiasco was unfolding as well. We tend to think of both of these events as singular explosions of hacks targeted at large public figures with large public presences. We don’t often think of celebrities of any variety as ordinary people with ordinary Gmail and Facebook accounts that are subject to the same flawed security provisions as everyone else. However, both of these events were likely precipitated by many small security violations and oversights on both the part of the victims and the institutions they relied upon. These high-profile hacks bespeak a larger societal issue with how we view computer security. There is a fundamental disconnect between how secure we feel on the web and how secure we actually are. In order to shed some light on this subject I figured I could offer some of the lessons I learned during some computer security courses I took during college. I also interviewed one of my college professors, who just so happens to be a computer security expert. Neither of us is privy to the nitty gritty details of all of the attacks; however, we can speak generally to how people should approach the topic of Internet security.

It is a visual AND mechanical metaphor! Bonus points!

The first topic I would like to cover is that of Twitter and social network harassment. These forms of attack can be the work of an actual angry mob of Twitter users, or they can be the product of something called a Sybil Attack. This brand of attacks is named after a woman who suffered from multiple personality disorder, and as such a Sybil Attack is when one person utilizes several different accounts to create the illusion of a consensus among multiple users. In social networks these dummy accounts are known as Sockpuppets, and the damage they can do is very real. Sybil attacks can be used to manipulate any number of systems that rely on a 1-1 user to account ratio. Attackers can do things like drive down review scores on sites like Metacritic or Amazon, as well as attack people on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. The trouble of these attacks is that they are incredibly simple to perform and maintain. All you need are multiple email addresses in most cases, and perhaps some IP routing to disguise your location. One person with enough time and energy can easily control their own personal mob in a bottle. On top of the ease of use, Sockpuppet accounts are also disposable and easily replaced. As a result, a person launching a Sybil attack can behave like a hydra, regenerating a new account whenever one gets cut down.

Truthfully, if you are in the sights of a Sybil attack, there is not much recourse beyond contacting the particular service provider in question and moderating your feed using the tools available. You would need to have some major technical skills to track down your own attackers if they disguise their tracks at all. I’m talking IP packet capturing and tracing levels of skill. It certainly isn’t impossible to catch a harasser, but it is far from simple. Regardless of your own Internet sleuthing skills, reporting harassment to the proper authorities is definitely the first step to getting help.

If you happen to be a bystander and you see an Internet mob forming, the best thing to do at first is to look into who the participants are before joining the discussion. If you see a bunch of fresh or relatively unused accounts suddenly hounding one user, you are likely witnessing a Sybil attack. Therefore, take the discussion with a grain of salt. It is entirely possible that the mob is just one person with a lot of free time.

I hope this helps shed some light on one of the most common forms of Internet attack. I will be writing more about Internet security in the near future based on my interview with my teacher and on some of the topics of the day. I’m going to spread the topics across multiple posts in the hopes that they will be a bit easier to digest if they are served piece-meal.

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Deep Look: Mass Effect- Gotta Love That Funky Combat

Hey Duders,

Here is the latest Deep Look! Deep Looks are largely gameplay and commentary like a Giantbomb quicklook; however, I try to cover games that have been out for a while and I intend to use the videos to highlight moments and mechanics that I found particularly worthy of highlighting and exploring. Also I aim to keep the videos under 20 minutes.

In this Deep Look I show off the fun and unique combat of Mass Effect and highlight the many ways it excels. I go over ME's loot system, its upgrade system, and its crazy moment to moment combat. Come see why I believe ME1 actually has the most fun and replayable combat in the entire series.

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ThatPinguino's Magic Lessons: Build Around Me!

Some cards just scream out to you, “Play me! Just think of all of the fun stuff we could do together. Infinite mana. Infinite turns. Infinite wins! All of this could be yours and more if you just play 4 of me!” Those cards promise you the world if you’re just clever and open-minded enough to unlock their secrets. They are the sirens of MTG and everyone wants to be the genius who broke the card that everyone said was crap. Unfortunately, sirens have a bad rap for a reason. Many build-around-me cards just never have the support they need to really get crazy. On top of that, plenty of them just don’t have a game crushing best case schenario to keep up with conventional decks full of good cards. These siren cards leave deck builders crashed on the rocks of inconsistency and sadness more often than not. As such, knowing how to pick the right build-around-me card to invest time and effort into is critical to becoming a great deck builder. Here is a little list of stuff to think about when you are choosing which white whale you want to pursue.

Luckily this card is really easy to build around and it is stupidly powerful

1. Can the Central Card Win the Game or Just Do Cool Stuff?- A good build-around-me card will win the game in short order if set up properly, be it through a 1 turn death explosion or a multi-turn time bomb. Furthermore, once a good build-around-me card gets going it is incredibly hard to stop. For example, Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, and the new Jeskai Ascendancy threaten to end the game once they get online and they present your opponent with only a 1-2 turn window to actually stop them from either ending the game or from taking the game over. Cards like Ooze Flux and Hardened Scales do a bunch of cool things in the right decks and once they get going they can look impressive; but, both of those do not threaten to immediately end the game regardless of how well set up they are. In the absolute best case Ooze Flux and Hardened Scales make good situations better, instead of making good situations unstoppable.

2. Does the Central Card Need Special Setup? – Some build-around-me cards, like Hardened Scales, need to be played before other cards to have any effect. Some cards, like Grapeshot, need to be played last to do anything spectacular. And some cards, like Birthing Pod or Chord of Calling, don’t have any timing restrictions. Generally speaking, you should be wary of build-around-me cards that have to be played early to do anything. You can only play 4 copies of any given card and, barring some tutoring or other shenanigans, you might not see your build-around me card during your first few turns. That means that all of your nice synergies can be dismantled by some bad draws. I personally prefer to let my opponent beat me rather than dumb luck, so I try to avoid build-around-me cards that need to be played on turn 1 or 2 to do anything. Cards that need to be played last live and die based on how hard it is to mess up their setup. For example, disrupting a storm combo requires counterspells or early disruption, but those options aren’t always available nor are they flawless answers (Hi Pact of Negation!). On the other hand, keeping an opponent’s board clear to stop Abzan Ascendancy from doing anything is fairly easy for a lot of decks. Also if your central card needs 2 or more other specific cards to do anything cool, you really need that combo to win the game immediately for the risky setup to be worth it.

This is the hot, new build-around-me card

3. How Hard is it to Knock Down Your Sand Castle?- Every deck centered around a single card is going to be vulnerable if that card is disrupted in some way. Even Birthing Pod decks aren’t as good without Birthing Pod. However, some build-around-me cards attack on a vector that is so unusual that opponents will not often have an answer in their main deck. The Standard Jeskai Ascendancy deck is one prime example. The deck kills by creating an infinite loop then attacking with weenies full of WUR-Tang power. Proactive decks like Mono-G devotion and super aggressive forms of Rabble-Red might not have any way to disrupt an ascending Jeskai player. Therefore, Jeskai Ascendancy decks are pretty well positioned in the current metagame (if only they were more consistent). Other resilient strategies include stuff like Storm, Hexproof, Birthing Pod, and Scapeshift. Each of those decks rely on the fact that the problem they provide are only answered by a few narrow cards that most people don’t play regularly; they are the sandstone castles of the Magic world. On the other end of the spectrum we have cards like Yisan, the Wanderer Bard that get shut down by ordinary, everyday creature kill-spells. Creature based build-around-me cards can be rough because almost every competitive deck plays some amount of removal. Unfortunately decks based around a single creature without hexproof, shroud, protection or some form of recursion are very easy to stop. Building a deck around a normal creature is like building a sandcastle out of pure sand while everyone else has Super Soakers.

I hope these tips help you in your deck building pursuits. If you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to trying to make Isochron Scepter work in Modern.

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Deep Look: Mass Effect- The Problems with Relationships

Hey Duders,

Here is the latest Deep Look! Deep Looks are largely gameplay and commentary like a Giantbomb quicklook; however, I try to cover games that have been out for a while and I intend to use the videos to highlight moments and mechanics that I found particularly worthy of highlighting and exploring. Also I aim to keep the videos under 20 minutes.

In this Deep Look I examine Mass Effect 1 and its brilliant, but flawed relationship system. I look at the nuisance of endless loops through the Normandy. I explain the issues with the series' moral binary and clear moral guidelines. I also comment on the odd depictions of romance that the Mass Effect series routinely produces.

P.S. Check out my new channel art while you're at it! I changed my profile picture for a reason!

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ThatPinuino's Magic Lessons: Delving for Secrets

Delve is likely the most powerful mechanic in the entirety of Khan’s of Tarkir. Unfortunately, delve is also the least intuitive of any of the mechanics in Khans from a deck building perspective. Raid, outlast, prowess, morph, and ferocious all benefit from being in decks with laser like focuses on one central theme: attacking, +1/+1 counters, morph, and big creatures. At first glance, delve cards seem to belong in a deck that focuses entirely on filling up your own graveyard in order to cast delve spells for as cheaply as possible. However, every delve spell you cast eats away a huge chunk of graveyard necro-fuel and in doing so makes each subsequent delve spell much more expensive. Like unemployed business majors in a recession, delve spells fight each other for the same resources.

This card is situationally good in a situation that comes up every game

This leads me to a well known anecdote about the most efficient creature in Magic’s history: Tarmogoyf. When Tarmogoyf was first printed in Future Sight, players approached it as though it was a graveyard based build-around-me card. Deck builders flooded their Tarmogoyf decks with every card type, self mill, and odd synergies to try to turn Tarmogoyf into a 2 mana monster on turn 2 or 3. Then people found the secret to playing with Tarmogoyf: it is amazing in almost any situation because games of Magic always involve cards of multiple types going to the graveyard through normal gameplay. Tarmogoyf is extra powerful in decks with lots of removal, discard, and fetch lands; however, it is strong almost any time it’s played. Although Tarmogoyf seemed like a build-around-me card, it was really just a hyper-efficient creature that complements an ordinary removal/disruption strategy; delve will be at its best when used the same way.

It took 1 weekend for this card to change a format

Most ordinary midrange, tempo, and control decks can afford to play 2- 5 delve cards with the expectation that they will get to cast at least one for a big discount. Though delve cards suck in your opening hand, there are few cards you would rather draw on turn 4 or 5. 2-3 copies of a given delve spell sounds like a good fit in most cases. Playing 2 powerful cards in one turn can be backbreaking and all of the delve cards allow for those types of explosive plays. Turn 5 Mandrills + Polukranos sounds pretty darn hard to stop. You don’t have to worry too much about filling your graveyard to the brim since almost all of the delve cards are still plenty playable if you can only delve for 2 or 3. Now if you play some cards that put cards in your graveyard and add value, like Satyr Wayfinder or Nyx Weaver, then you can really go nuts with delve. I’m talking about playing 5-8 delve cards with a reasonable expectation that you will play most of them for 1-3 mana. I’m not sure if a dedicated delve deck will be as strong as just splashing delve into an otherwise solid deck, but it is certainly worth exploring. The delve cards that I would personally test in standard are Dig Through Time, Empty the Pits, Murderous Cut, Treasure Cruise, Necropolis Fiend, Become Immense, and Hooting Mandrills.

In limited formats delve works best as a splash, not a major theme. 40 card decks can really hurt themselves with self mill and running out of cards is a real threat. On top of that, most of the cards that self mill large amounts are not particularly efficient in and of themselves. For example, Rakshasa’s Secret has a strong enough effect that the mill is gravy, but Taigam’s Scheming doesn’t do a whole lot other than hopefully fix your draws and fill your dead guy pile. A better way to use delve would be to build a deck that plays for the long game and just happens to be able to delve for cheap near the end game. That kind of deck could conceivably play a delve card for its full cost or play it for almost nothing, which assures that your delve cards are never useless.

In short, delve shines in just about any deck with black, blue, or green and a medium to long game plan. If you have any doubts about the power of delve cards just look at this deck list that won a recent Legacy tournament. 4 copies of Treasure Cruise in the main deck of a Legacy tournament winner is about as big a statement as a card and a mechanic can make.

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Deepish Look: Brave Fencer Musashi- The B Movie of Action Adventure

Hey Duders,

Here is a Deepish Look! My usual Deep Look videos focus in on a cool gameplay mechanic or story element from a game I have played the heck out of, in the hopes that I can share what makes that mechanic so cool. This Deepish Look is a bit less critical and a bit more review-y or Quick Look-y. I still try to give some good insight into the game I'm playing, but this video is geared a little bit towards people who may not have played the game in question. Also I aim to keep the videos under 20 minutes.

In this Deepish Look I play through a bit of Brave Fencer Musashi and wade through the terrible voice acting that only 1998 could provide. Join me as I lament the unfortunate writing and character design that mar a potentially good game. The Allucaneet Kingdom has many wonders, including a California princess, an oldie English man, and a country bred robot-man.

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Deepish Look: Banjo Kazooie- The Platformer that Was Left Behind

Hey Duders,

Here is a Deepish Look! My usual Deep Look videos focus in on a cool gameplay mechanic or story element from a game I have played the heck out of, in the hopes that I can share what makes that mechanic so cool. This Deepish Look is a bit less critical and a bit more review-y or Quick Look-y. I still try to give some good insight into the game I'm playing, but this video is geared a little bit towards people who may not have played the game in question. Also I aim to keep the videos under 20 minutes.

In this Deepish Look I show off Banjo Kazooie and all of its olden charms. I try to articulate what keeps me coming back to this awesome game and what made this game so special. I also talk about how Banjo Kazooie carved out its own little niche in platformer history.

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ThatPinguino's Magic Lessons: Tips for Dealing with Morph

Last week I took a look at the Standard and Modern altering fetch-lands of Khans of Tarkir so this week I thought I would pivot to a mechanic that is going to define Khans’ limited format: morph. Every creature with morph presents its owner with a host of gameplay options and its opponent with a bunch of tough decisions. Do you play a card face down on turn 3 with no way to protect it? Do you attack with your morphed 5/5 knowing that you cannot flip it? Do you use a kill spell on a face down creature with no other information? In this blog post I’ll give some general tips that should help you deal with morph.

This card isn't good face up for 6 mana or face down for 5 so don't play it!

1. Memorize all of the creatures with morph- This is quite possibly the least sexy bit of advice available. It really sucks to memorize stuff, much less have to do it to compete. However, when you are facing a mechanic that hides information, you need to know what creatures make up the possibility space. If you are staring at an opponent playing RUG, you need to know what morph creatures they could conceivably flip on you and how much those creatures cost to unmorph. Simply knowing what you could be facing is a huge step in the direction of a good decision.

2. Demand to see every morphed card you bounce, kill, or end the game facing- You are allowed to look at a morphed creature when it is returned to its owner’s hand, when it dies, or when the game ends. Take advantage of these chances to both make sure your opponent isn’t cheating and to learn about what cards he/she plays in his/her deck. This is another little bit of information gathering that will help you make decisions correctly. In fact I would go so far as to write down every morph card I see in my opponent’s deck just to help with my decision making. Try not to get fooled by the same morphed creature twice.

3. There are no morph creatures that can win combat against another 2/2 for less than 5 mana- This is a concrete fact in Khans that is really helpful when you are deciding what and how to block. There are no creatures that have higher power and toughness than 2 that unmorph for less than 5 mana. Therefore, blocking a morph creature with a 3/3 when your opponent has less than 5 mana will result in a creature trade in the worst case; there are no cheap blowout morph creatures in Khans. Once your opponent gets to 5 mana every morph creature could be a blowout if unmorphed. 5 mana is the magic number in Khans; be wary of an opponent attacking you with a morphed creature and 5 mana open. If they have anything less than 5 mana, then feel comfortable blocking their morph creature with a 2/1 since they will either unmorph a wall or trade.

This card makes focusing on morph worth it.

4. Evaluate Your Morph Creatures Based on Both Their Morph and Regular Costs- Every morph creature can act as a 3 drop with upside and often as a regular late game monster. As a result, you need to ask yourself whether a particular morph creature is worth playing face up or whether it needs to be morphed first. If a creature isn’t particularly strong in either situation then the right choice is often to just not play it. Morph should not push a creature into your deck all by itself. Morph shouldn’t be a big defining factor in the cards you pick for your deck (unless you get one of the build-around-morph enchantments or Ghostfire Blade).

I hope these tips help you when you play Khans limited. Morph can be a tricky mechanic to play and play around. In the right hands it is like a bullfighter’s cape, misdirecting and befuddling your opponent into submission. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands it’s just a shitty piece of cloth.

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