Photobucket had recently made a very dick move by disabling all third-party embedded pics unless I pay $399. I've been blogging for 13 years and have 2000+ embedded pics across 650+ blog posts, which are now all unviewable. I'm working on moving my images to a new host, so until then, please do bear with me if you cannot view any images on my older blog posts.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chp 653. Grim Dawn


Maybe because my life has been pretty grim lately, I've been engrossed in this game called "Grim Dawn" for many hours now. And I'm totally loving it!


Grim Dawn is an ARPG. That means Action Role Playing Game for my non-gamer friends out there. In an ARPG, you can select your character/class and then go on different quests, following one main story plotline. The best part about ARPGs is that the gameplay is not linear - you can play multiple quests in different order and even opt out of some side quests, while building up your character and upgrading your power or skill as you level up along the way.

My all-time favorite ARPG is Diablo II. Back in college, we were so hooked to it that many of us would bunk classes playing it in our hostel rooms. There were not just a hell lot of quests but every time somebody played the game, the level design changed. And those were the days when internet connectivity was almost nonexistent, we didn't even have mobile phones back then, and so if we were stuck on a particular quest, one of us would go outside the hostel to an internet café and search for the walkthrough guide online (on one of those Geocities or Angelfire websites, dayyymm, anybody remembers those? Tripod, Bravenet, Freeservers etc? lolz). And once we found the solution, we would save the whole webpage from the Internet Café's Netscape browser to our floppy disk and rush back to our hostel. Such was our love and dedication for the game.

And then of course came the bloody mods. Somebody in hostel downloaded one such mod and it quickly spread like wildfire from one room to the other and soon everybody was playing a modded version. Suddenly, you could just stand still while fighting the final boss Diablo himself and nothing would happen to you because your health and regeneration rate were super high, and then with one punch you could take him out! Hehe.

Anyway, those were some really memorable times. When Diablo 3 came out, I couldn’t play it because my PC system didn't have the minimum requirement :( And by the time I had enough money to upgrade my system, I read so many negative reviews about the game that I decided to skip it. A lot of gamers advised that if we want to cherish our memories of D2, then we should stay away from D3.

Torchlight II is another favorite ARPG of mine. It is also currently my third "Most hours spent" on my Steam game collection, right after Team Fortress 2 and Age of Empires II. I have completed the game on normal difficulty mode using a "Berserker" class (level 90+) and restarted the game using an "Engineer" class on Veteran difficulty, but I don't exactly seem to recall why I stopped playing it…

Coming back to "Grim Dawn", the reason why I wanted to make a blog post about it is because of this one incident. A very silly incident indeed.

I'm already smiling as I type this :D

So, like I said, I started playing Grim Dawn a couple of days ago. I didn't want to read the discussion forum in case I stumbled upon spoilers. I just went in blind playing it as the game unfolded in front of me.

As I was already familiar with ARPG, I knew what I had to do - Explore the land, fulfill quests, kill the bad guys, pick up reward or item drops, equip yourself with better armour or weapons, sell off the ones not required, use that money to buy better stuff or upgrades etc etc, the usual ARPG gameplay.

And as I slowly leveled up, I received Attribute Points that I could use to upgrade my character, as in any other ARPG. In the case of Grim Dawn, I could use those Attribute Points to improve my "Physique" or "Cunning" or "Spirit". Improving any of them affected my health, damage, the type of weapons or armours I could carry etc.

But I still didn't understand why I needed my "Energy" bar. I wasn't using it at all, and here's where things got funnier.

It took me a hell lot of time to level up to Level 10, which was the first Steam Achievement badge. Man, I grinded a lot, the enemies were becoming tougher and tougher in spite of me upgrading my attributes. I ended up farming a lot in the earlier regions to buy better weapons as I wasn't getting good drops in the beginning.

Finally I came across this cave where I was given a warning: "A presence far more powerful than you exists in this place".

I was like, "Awesome!" because that meant a much tougher boss was going to be there, which meant better item drop if I could kill him.

I rushed in screaming, "Leeeeeeeeroyyyy" :P

It was this Super badass boss called "Salazar, Blade of Ch'thon". He killed me within the first 2 seconds, lolololololzzzzz.

Fortunately, I respawned right back in town and the only thing I lost were Experience Points. I farmed for some more time, bought better items and went to face him again. I created a portal right next to his location so I could easily get to him the next time he killed me. And killing me he did, many times! Man I think I died at least a 100 times! But I managed to hit him and reduce his health by a miniscule amount every time before he killed me. I was persistent. I wasn't going to give up. I kept rushing back right after respawning. Attack. Die. Repeat. Die. Repeat. Die.

FINALLY, I killed him and received a lot of awesome item drops, including the "Blood of Ch'thon". I also unlocked my second Grim Dawn achievement once I killed him.

After that I closed the game and went to view my global achievement stats on Steam.

THAT was when I knew something was freaking wrong!!!!

Can you spot what is wrong from my screenshot image of my global achievement stats below?


For those of you unfamiliar with Steam achievements, you will see the game's achievement badge on the left side, and if you see the same badge on the right side, that means you have unlocked that particular achievement. From the above image, you can see that I overtook a hell lot of achievements!

The harder the achievement is, the fewer people will unlock it. Usually people unlock most achievements in order from the top. In my case, I have achieved a feat less than 30% of the people playing Grim Dawn had achieved, without even achieving any of the earlier achievements. How were people able to unlock all those achievements before reaching Salazar? How were they able to progress so quickly? Weren't they finding this game difficult and grinding?

And so finally, I decided to look up on the guides online.

That was when I came across probably the most FACE-PALM moment of my entire gaming life!

Whenever I leveled up my character, apart from getting Attribute Points, I was also actually getting Skill Points!!!! I could use those Skill Points to determine which CLASS I wanted to be, and improve the various skills from the Skill Tree to make myself more powerful! I was completely unaware of that section!!!


There are apparently six classes to choose from, and I was playing class-less all that time!!!  lolzzz

There is the "Soldier", who I assume is like the hack-n-slash "Barbarian" of D2 or "Berserker" of T2. Then there's the "Demolitionist", "Occultist", "Nightblade", "Arcanist" and "Shaman", all having their unique powers and skills. You can use those skills to upgrade your character and make him/her more powerful.


Mannnnn I had more than 50 unused Skill Points when I finally discovered my Skill section of the game! I laughed out so much.

(In my defense though, most of the ARPGs I've played let you select your class in the very beginning itself. In Grim Dawn, the class selection apparently unlocks only after you reach level 2, hence the reason why I had no idea there were classes to choose from.)

I read a few more guides and since people suggested a "Demolitionist" was a good class for first-timers, I selected that one and quickly upgraded my "Fire Strike" immediately, maxing it out and unlocking "Explosive Strike". I also invested in "Grenado" and "Canister Bomb" from the skill tree, which really made it easier killing off a pack of zombies, and of course the awesome "Mortar Trap" that saved me more than once from a certain death. Yeah things had been much more easy and smooth after I discovered the bloody skill tree. It made my gameplay experience even more fun.

I also finally realized using those special skills consume "Energy" (kinda like a "Mana" system) so now I know why my Energy was always full earlier in the game :D

Great game indeed, I've just completed the first main quest of killing Warden Krieg, and will be on this game for the next couple of weeks. But damn, I'll always remember this game as the game I played without selecting any class or activating my skill tree for at least the first 15 hours of gameplay! Howbow dah? lolz.




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chp 652. Silence


It's been more than 10 days now since I switched off my phone, due to personal reasons. And by that I mean I haven't logged into Facebook or WhatsApp as well. 10 days of perpetual silence.

Abstaining from mobile connectivity and social media, I have come to realize the amount of control they have over our lives. It is really difficult to stay disconnected. But so far, tormented as I may be, I seem to be handling it because I'm still alive.

There are a lot of things I can no longer do without my phone. For starters, I can't make or receive calls (duh!). My landlord threw a fit the other day, as it was time to pay rent. He tried contacting me but couldn't, and so he went to my office directly and waited for half an hour and finally our reception desk told him I wasn't in office yet, and then he came home and scolded me and finally said he won't be renewing my rental agreement next month, so now I have to look for a new place. And that's just the first casualty of my self-imposed exile from the mobile world.

I can no longer log into Steam from office because I have that stupid mobile authentication activated. So yeah you can imagine how boring and unproductive my office life has become. I'm a game designer who can't play or test any games, for crying out loud. The other day, my boss told me to do a research on Ketchapp games, and eventually I had to use one of our office testing devices for the analysis. That definitely didn't go down well with my boss. I also missed a very important meeting - a team from a gaming agency in Hungary were in town and our Corporate office had sent me the meeting schedule on Outlook mobile, but I didn't receive it obviously and walked into office at 10 AM, by which time the meeting was already over. They wanted me to give a presentation on the few games we've published. The corporate and management teams were super pissed at me. There goes my annual appraisal review :(

I can't order food from Zomato or Swiggy app anymore, which I used to do daily, so my eating habit and hygiene had gone for a toss. In fact, I can't buy anything from any e-com sites because I won't be able to confirm my order. I also can't make any online transactions because of mobile authentication again. Just this morning, I found out my life insurance policy had lapsed because my premium payment's last date was yesterday. I'm sure they must have been trying hard to contact me. So there goes my dream of having a good premium payout. Three years of premium payment down the drain.

I can't use Uber or Ola and now must rely on the old practice of hailing a running cab, not that I am in the mood to go anywhere (other than office which is mandatory). Long story short, there are a lot of drawbacks for not using one's mobile. I've come to realize mobile phones are not just a luxury, they are a necessity in today's world.

But what I have also realized is, there is this uncheerful aura of peace around me. I have become much more focused at work. No distractions. I am actually 2 days ahead of my current Scrum task log!

Sure I miss all the WhatsApp and Facebook groups I'm in, especially our Mizo Bloggers group, where we would discuss anything under the Heavens and there were always people voicing out their opinion and counter-arguing. After all, we're bloggers :) And with Arsenal currently performing badly, I don't exactly miss all the banters other rival fans must be sending me (or tagging me on Facebook).

Last weekend, "Iron Fist" season 1 fortunately came out on Netflix, so that kept me accompanied for the weekend. Plus I could relate so much to the main hero. I'm not talking about his super power, but the way he would meditate and reach some sort of a nirvana because there were no distractions around him. None of my friends or family can call or message me, and in a weirdly twisted way, this is kinda giving me some sort of an inner peace.

To silence.

Cheers.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Chp 651. The Designated Survivor plot twist!


Hehe… big lesson learnt. Next time, DO NOT fall for everything you read on the internet! I am talking about my current favorite TV show - The Designated Survivor.


I started watching this show not just because of the interesting plotline but because of the awesome casting from some of my favorite TV shows - Kiefer Sutherland (aka Jack Bauer from "24"), Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar series / House / HIYM), Maggie Q (Nikita / Stalker), LaMonica Garrett (The Last Ship / Sons Of Anarchy), Natascha McElhone (Californication / Revelations), Malik Yoba (Empire / Alphas) and Virginia Madsen (Scoundrels / Witches of East End).

Such an action-packed cast. Sutherland needs no introduction. Maggie Q kicked a lot of asses in "Nikita" with her deadly martial arts skills, Malik Yoba was this superhuman anti-hero in "Alphas" who was filled with rage and became stronger the angrier he got, LaMonica was a lieutenant on board the nuclear-powered Destroyer in "The Last Ship" and a deputy sheriff battling notorious biker gangs in "Sons of Anarchy". Even Italia Ricci was a super-villain (Silver Banshee) in the TV show "Supergirl".

But in Designated Survivor, apart from LaMonica (Secret Service) and Maggie (FBI) firing a couple of rounds from their handgun, you will not see any of these stars get into hard action. But even with that, the show is absolutely awesome.

The reason why I said I'll not fall for what I read online again is because two months ago when Designated Survivor had their mid-season break, the show ended in a cliffhanger. Somebody tried to assassinate President Kirkman but was distracted in the last second and the bullet could have hit somebody else. The show ended with that.

And then I read this on IMDB and immediately posted this scathing blog post, about how it no longer made sense to wait for the new episodes because we already knew who got shot.


I even got a hell lot of traffic for the above blog post, most of them originating from the US. There was like one new visit via search result every 5-10 minutes! The page hit for that particular post almost hit 2000 right away!


But, yeah, as it turns out, the joke's on me!

I just saw the two latest episodes of Designated Survivor aired after their mid-season break, and it was nothing like what was mentioned in the above plot!

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

As you can see from the above image, IMDB initially posted the plot as:

Episode 11: Someone tried to kill President Kirkman but missed and hit someone else. Now the FBI will find out who did it.
Episode 12: Someone killed President Kirkman's wife and the FBI and Secret Service is doing everything to track the killer down.

Hah. Those didn’t happen at all. In fact, everything is exactly OPPOSITE what was written above, hence the reason why I think it wasn't just some random troll but the writers of the show themselves who trolled all of us!

As both Kirkman and his wife laid on the floor after the assassin fired his gun, there was blood on both of them. I was expecting the clichéd, “Oh I’ve been shot… wait a minute… this ain't my blood, it's my wife's blood!” from Kiefer Sutherland… but hell no, it was his wife who said that! Yup, President Kirkman was indeed the person who was shot!

Dayymmmm!!!! That was a good troll indeed. I raise my glass to whoever wrote those plotlines at IMDB. You had me, you really had me good.

I paused the show and immediately went to IMDB. The plot for Episode 11 and 12 had completely changed!


Lolz. Once again, good stuff. This Episode 11 will go down as one of the best surprises I have ever experienced when it comes to TV shows :)

Even in episode 12, President Kirkman’s wife wasn't killed as mentioned earlier, she's very much alive, but two other main characters were killed off, making the show more and more suspenseful! (though I have two very big questions regarding the last scene of episode 12 – how the hell did Peter MacLeish’s wife get there behind Maggie Q when they were surrounded by the FBI, and why is Maggie Q not washing off that blood stain on her forehead, it’s been at least 3-4 days since she was apprehended, comon gurl, you're hot but you gotta shower sometimes too :D :P )

It would be interesting to know other people’s reaction to the way things turned out, but unfortunately, IMDB had discontinued their Messaging Boards as of last month, so I cannot even visit those old threads where people were lashing out at the show for giving away "spoilers".

Aaaaah.

Keep this show rocking. It's getting better and better. Cheers!



Monday, March 13, 2017

Chp 650. Holi in Pune


So today is Holi and I am sitting in office because it is an optional holiday (which I'm planning to use instead for Good Friday next month).

It kinda sucks a bit knowing most people are spending today relaxing at home or spraying colors at each other while I'm logging my work at Jira and trying to complete my pending tasks, but at least I think I'm having a better day than this poor person who I hope wasn't fired from work.

So last Friday, I received a push notification from my Cleartrip app. Cleartrip, like most other apps I have installed on my phone, tries to utilize every festive occasions in order to boost their sales. Yeah sometimes most of these push notifications are spammy and downright irritating, but at the same time I cannot block the notification on some of these apps because I need to receive their notifications, like being reminded of an upcoming trip or a flash sale or that my lunch order has been dispatched from the restaurant.

I received a lot of push notifications from various apps regarding Holi. Here is a colorful discount this Holi blah blah blah or This Holi bring back the color of love with this amazing 1+1 offer blah blah blah. The usual lines I used to struggle with back when I was a copywriter at an Ad agency :D

But one notification really stood out, and it was this one from Cleartrip.


"Start with a b(ha)ang!"

Lolz, I was like, seriously? It's cheesy and corny, and more importantly, it was freaking bold. I immediately thought whoever sent that message was going to get into trouble. And 5 minutes later, Cleartrip indeed sent out another push notification, a much toned-down version.


Oh man, I was cracking up inside. Because I can so imagine what must have happened in that 5 minutes. Somebody from the agency handling Cleartrip's social media account, probably a new joinee or junior copywriter, thought that was a pretty cool and funny line, and sent that push notification out without getting an approval from his/her Copy supervisor or from the client side, and the moment somebody from Cleartrip received that notification, there was utter chaos and frantic calls made to the Client Servicing or Business Development team of the agency, who in turn blasted the Creative department, and they had to quickly come up with another message in the hope that people might not notice the first one.

I mean I'm just assuming it happened like that because I've been there, done that. Things like that happened a lot when I was working at an Ad agency. Angry calls from client or their branding team were quite common if the approval protocol was not set up properly. Oh those fun and memorable days. :D There was even this one time when we mixed up the mailing list of two very big clients and sent out the wrong mailers to more than 5 lakh email database.

Anyway, I could be mistaken too and Cleartrip could have approved that message, though considering their branding tone, I find it quite unlikely that they did. Also why would they send out another notification just 5 minutes later when we know brands are extremely cautious about not spamming their subscribers as it leads to high uninstallation rate. I was expecting this kind of messaging tone from apps like say, Faasos, whose communications are usually more casual and funky. Still, I do hope nothing happened to the person who sent out that quirky line. Lolz, he/she just got baptized by the fires of the cutthroat Advertising world. :D

Happy Holi everyone. And hope you all had a b(ha)ang today :)