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Everything You Need to Know About Pokemon GO

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Pokemon GO, I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid. Even in some off chance you haven’t heard of it, you’ve most likely seen zombie players staring at their phones running into things. That’s right. They’re most likely playing this game.

I’ll be honest…I’m all in. I’ve been playing Pokemon since “gen 1” and for simply nostalgia’s sake…I could not pass this up. I’ve now got a few weeks of experience under my belt and I know quite a bit about the game, “GO” ahead ask me anything.

What is it?

A free to play app for Android and iOS. The point of the game is to GO to as many places around town to find Pokemon. When you encounter one, you can use “Pokeballs” to capture them. Then you can use these Pokemon to fight “gyms” around town (which inevitably are points of interest like churches, parks, shopping centers, malls, etc; where people gather). This is not a game you can play at home. It is almost impossible.

What’s a “Pokemon”?

Abbreviation for “Pocket Monster”. They’re just imaginary creatures that resemble real-life animals that you can capture, train, and well..fight other Pokemon with. Yep…this game is essentially a global “cock fighting” simulator. Hide ‘yo kids, hide ‘yo wives!

How does capturing work?

First you have to encounter a Pokemon in the “wild”. You then will be engaged in a “battle” (with just yourself; there are no Pokemon versus Pokemon battling in the “field”; unlike in the “real” Nintendo games). There are two different ways of engaging: with AR mode  (Artificial Reality) on…or that can be disabled by clicking “off” in the top right hand corner and you’ll just engage on a static “forest” background. It is highly advised to turn off AR if you’re trying to play the game “for serious” as it’s much easier to find and catch your targets.

Once you’re engaged, all you have to do is slide the Pokeball up to where the Pokemon is located; more or less. That’s pretty much it. Your phone orientation is “vertical” and cannot be changed; depending on what you’re engaging, the starting point of the Pokemon is “close” or “far away”; e.g. Pidgeys are close and Zubats start faaar away. Flying things, again, like Zubat, are “off the ground”, so you need to account for that and “throw higher”. You keep flinging Pokeballs until it’s caught (it can break out; if you’ve ever played a Pokemon game before…this is pretty much standard).

There’s got to be more to it than that thought, right?

To go more in-depth, there are two “hit boxes” (well “hit circles”) of interest for each Pokemon. A white circle envelops the Pokemon (it’s bigger or smaller depending on the size of what you’re trying to catch; Weedles are tiny; things like Pinsir are much bigger) which defines where you have to “hit” it to trigger a Ghostbuster’s style capture.

The second circle is colored and progressively gets smaller and smaller, until it resets to the shape of the white circle (which is static; never changes). This process keeps repeating, forever. It takes a few seconds to cycle through. The color of this circle will be either: green, yellow, reddish-yellow, or red (maybe there’s more, but that’s what I can recall). This determines the “difficulty” of capturing the Pokemon. Green being the easiest (will almost always catch on the first try, regardless of where/when you hit it) and getting harder from there.

Finally, the “location” of the continuously shrinking circle matters a great deal. First, the smaller the circle is when it’s hit, the “easier it will be to catch”. Second, there is a “EXP bonus” that can be had depending on if your thrown Pokemon ball lands within the center of the colored circle. You can get +10 EXP for “Nice!”, +50 EXP for “Great!”, and +100 for “Excellent!” throws. Keep in mind, even if you achieve one of these, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll catch what you’re fighting (it really sucks when something breaks out of an “Excellent!”…). But…”Great!” and “Excellent!” throws are “more likely” to yield a capture because the circle is relatively small. Make sense?

Pro tip: “Excellent!” is very difficult to achieve consistently (needs to be basically nothing left of the circle). I always go for “Great!” as you have a good bit of leeway. “Great!” throws require the circle to be about halfway depleted; and +50 is nothing to sneeze at, if you can consistently do this. That said, I don’t know…the game seems to “cheat”, I’ve had throws that sure look pretty damn “Great!” to me, but don’t register anything, so…YMMV.

Anything else I should know about capturing?

There is only one “advanced technique” called “curve ball” (like the baseball pitch). This involves spinning the ball in a clockwise/counter-clockwise motion with either thumb (whatever feels comfortable). The ball will start to sparkle, and like the name suggests, the throw will curve in an arc towards the Pokemon.

For example, I spin with my left thumb counter-clockwise and position the ball to the far left of the screen. When the circle is about halfway depleted (again, I mainly go for “Great!”, I release it to the right of the screen at about a 45 degree angle, the ball will curve back and, hopefully, land right in the center. You also get a +10 EXP bonus for throwing a curve ball, so that’s nice (although, I’ve thrown plenty of curve balls and not received the bonus, so…who knows..). It does not stack with “!” catches though. So if you get a “Nice!”, you won’t get the 10 EXP bonus. Meh. It takes a bit of practice, but it is…by far, BY FAR, the best way to throw balls (the only exception being, “really close up” things; it’s hard to get “Great!” bonuses this way…at least that I’ve found, just throw a really weak straight throw).

Eh…I’ve tried throwing curve balls. I’m not good at them and I’m wasting a lot of balls man..can I just give up?

NOOO!! Again, they’ve the most reliable way to throw, yield the most consistent results, and are the only freaking way you’re going to get Zubats reliably.

Why am I harping on this? Well, when you unlock “Great Balls” (which are stronger versions of Pokeballs; there are also Ultra Balls; again, pretty much a Pokemon standard), sometimes these things curve on their own for no reason. Can you say, “cashgrab”?

Therefore, throwing a curve ball “every time” prevents this from ever happening. Some Pokemon also appear to alter trajectories (Pidgeotto, Zubat, Golbat, etc)…I watched my wife throw 15-20 Pokeballs at a Golbat before it ran away. Throw curve balls, it’ll save your life.

Here’s a decent video showing you how to do it. Seriously, you may waste dozens practicing, but it’ll save you hundreds in the future.

There can’t be anything else with regards to capturing can there?!

I’m glad you asked! Yes! Each Pokemon has some unique traits, you’ll get used to them after you’ve engaged the same type dozens of times. Zubats are far, far away. Weedles have such tiny “circle boxes”, they’ve very hard to capture and tend to run a way…a lot. Spearows and Ratttatatatas (screw them) seem to “attack”…a lot. Each Pokemon has an “attack” sequence that will nullify any ball in the air. I tend to avoid things like these (for other reasons which I’ll get into soon) as catching one reliably isn’t guaranteed.

One last thing, I already mentioned “Great Balls” and “Ultra Balls” as tools you can use to make capturing easier, but there is one other item you can use call “Razz Berries”, these lower the difficulty of the “next throw”. For example, if something is “Yellow”, try throwing a Razz Berry at it and your next throw should be “Green”. I’m not sure if these stack (throw multiple)…I’ve honestly never tried!

That’s pretty much all I know about “Capturing”. Capturing is about 90% of the game, especially at early levels (<15), so…get good at it!

What’s the big deal? Why should I care about getting good at capturing?

Well…because…the game is trying to get you to pay for stuff. You have LIMITED INVENTORY! You only have so many Pokeballs before you run out. Capturing each creature with 1 or 2 throws should be your focus…every…time.

When you run out of stuff, the only way to replenish them (without purchasing new ones) is to find things called “PokeStops” around you.

What’s a PokeStop?

It’s a point of interest in the area. A landmark, a statue, public art, trail markers, things like that. What this means is that…cities and large towns are much more likely to have much larger numbers of PokeStops than rural areas. It also means that you’re not going to likely have one near your house. Hey…did I mention the game is called Pokemon “GO”?

Each PokeStop normally gives you three random items. You’ll get different things depending on what you’ve “unlocked”, but count on getting at least 1 “Pokeball” each time. To collect things at a PokeStop, touch it on your device and when it loads, you’ll see a picture of that artifact. Then, you “spin it” and grab the loot.

Pro tip: You don’t actually have to “touch” everything that pops out. Simply dismiss the window and they’ll automatically be collected. It took me days to figure that out…

Each PokeStop goes “offline” (purple) for approximately 4 minutes and 30 seconds. You cannot collect anything new from it until it becomes available (blue).

Pro tip: Find an area that has multiple PokeStops really close to each other, or ideally, next to each other. For example, a place in my local park has three stops in the same area (an Ampitheatre, a park map, and a trail marker). There’s also benches in the area where you can sit down and restock! It’s beautiful. If you DON’T have something like this in your area…well, you’re screwed. It is going to be very, very, VERY difficult for you to play at higher levels without dropping cash. Be warned…

OK, well, how else is the game trying to take my money?

Oh, I’ll be happy to break it down. These “freemium” games are all the same. They hook you with “free” at the beginning, give you a decent chunk of starting equipment, and eventually…you run out. This game gets to that point around level 15. Not to mention, the higher your level, the more likely you’ll encounter higher level things…which are harder to capture (just because you’re a “high level” doesn’t make *anything* easier).

So how do you combat that? Again, finding a stockpile of PokeStops is essential, but even then…the game has a devious method of screwing you over: you can only hold so many “items” at once. The initial limit is 350. That’s fine at low levels. More than enough. All you have are Pokeballs! But…but…every time you level up, you are granted “more stuff”. Sounds great, right?

Yes, sure…but…there’s a catch. All that stuff eats into your item cap. And “each item” contributes to that cap. So, what happens is…you’ll get Potions (to heal; I’ll go into battling later), Revives, Razz Berries, etc. These end up “putting you over the cap”. For example, say you’re at or near max item capacity…and you level up. All that crap you get at level up time pushes you over the cap. If you look at your item list, it’ll now be like 390/350. This means YOU CANNOT COLLECT ANY MORE ITEMS UNTIL YOU’RE BELOW THE CAP!!!

What does this mean? It means your “Pokeballs” as a percentage of your inventory exponentially declines the furhter you level!! Pokeballs are the freaking lifeblood of the entire game. Without them, game over. You either have to buy “storage upgrades”, THROW AWAY your items, or…*shudder* buy them at the shop (please don’t EVER do this…).

This was my experience…I fought this for a long time, “I don’t want to pay anything…I don’t want to pay anything…I’ll just throw stuff away…Pfff…who needs Revives anyway?”, and that worked for awhile, but the turning point, for me, was at Level 20.

At Level 20, you unlock Ultra Balls and get all kinds of crap. This pushed me, way, way, waaaay over the cap. I gave in. I like the game, I want to keep playing, and I don’t want to waste my time and have to throw away items (which is really bad, you can’t “buy” Potions and they’re pretty rare at PokeStops), so…I ended up having to buy stuff…

What can you buy at the store?

For the most part, most everything in the store is a casual player money trap (you shouldn’t be buying any of this stuff), but there is one item in particular I think is absolutely essential (suspense!). First off, you “buy” things called PokeCoins, which are redeemed for different things.

Side note: Brilliant psychological trick; arcades do this a lot. Disassociate the consumer with their “money” by creating an arbitrary currency that has no logical translation. Items are priced at things like “80 PokeCoins” to give you the illusion they’re cheaper than they are. You don’t ask yourself, “how much is 80 PokeCoins”, you just buy it, the money is already gone. It’s a great trick.

Anyway, you have PokeCoins and you trade them in for “stuff”. What can you buy? Pokeballs (not Great Balls or Ultra Balls, mind you), Incense (increased encounter rate for 30 mins), Lures (set at a PokeStop, significantly increases encounter rate for entire area for 30 mins), Lucky Eggs (2x EXP for 30 mins), Pokemon storage upgrade (default is 250; max is 1000; 250 is more than enough, trust me…), Egg Incubators (I’ll get into this in a second; I think this isn’t worth buying, to be honest), and last, but certainly not least…bag upgrades.

Bags upgrades are, without a doubt, the single most important item you can buy. The default item cap is 250, the max is 1000. Each upgrade adds 50 items to your max. That means, you would need to buy, at maximum, 13 upgrades (2600 PokeCoins). How much is an upgrade? 200 PokeCoins. How much money is 200 PokeCoins? Well, it varies depending on how much you buy in one shot. 200 PokeCoins is, base, $2. If you buy $10 worth, you get 1200 PokeCoins. And…this is what I’ve done. I’ve spent $12 on bag upgrades.

I hate myself. I’m one of the cheapest damn people on the planet, and that $12 is a matter of principle. However….HOWEVER…I am greatly enjoying playing. This game is getting me to exercise and see parts of my town that I’ve never seen before (I’ve driven to so many churches, you wouldn’t believe…). Doing this now gives me an item max of 700, which….whew…is a good place to be. 700 is a very reasonable number. I can always have around 200-250 Pokeballs on me without needing to throw anything else away. When I’m low, I just do a PokeStop run. It’s pretty simple.

If, IF, you decided you were serious about playing this game. I would suggest that you ONLY need to spend about $12 to be in a position where you can function well enough without sacrificing anything.

Pro tip: My advice is…try the game out. If you’re enjoying it and think you want to keep playing, at around level 12-13, buy some storage upgrades. Trust me, it’s worth it.

There ARE ways to get PokeCoins “in-game”. That involves gym battling. This is a fairly complicated topic…I’ll get to that later. My plan is to get the last six remaining bag upgrades by earning the PokeCoins through game play.

You mentioned “levels” a lot. How does that work?

Yes, well, it’s probably the most important thing in the game, to be honest. It determines how strong your Pokemon can become. Each Pokemon has a CP value (Combat Points? Combat Potential…? I don’t know…) that is random on encounter. The higher your level, the higher the encounter CP can be. Also your “level” determines the “maximum” CP any one Pokemon can ever get to. Each Pokemon can be “buffed” through a mechanism which I’ll explain later.

Anyway, that’s a little off-topic, back to “leveling”. If you’ve played any video game, ever, this should be fairly common knowledge. You gain EXP (experience) points by doing various actions. When you’ve reached the threshold to “level up”, you…”level up”, and the process repeats.

What do I get from leveling up?

In addition to higher CP Pokemon, you get “level up” rewards. The “good” rewards are normally divisible by 5. The “best” rewards are divisible by 10. Here is the full list.

Well, this sounds kind of fighting a losing battle. Surely everyone’s at a high level by now…why should I bother trying to play?

Great question. It’s something I grappled with for awhile. I was having a great deal of connection issues and wasn’t able to play for days. All the while, I watched level 20+ players take over gyms. I was like, “how in the heck can I compete with this??”. Why should I bother playing? I should just quit at this point…

The good news is…levels get exponentially harder to obtain. Seriously. Here’s the chart:

Pokemon GO: XP Level Chart (AKA The Reason Nobody is Level 30 Yet) from pokemongo

What does this mean? Well, it means, if you can get to at least level 15-20, you should be able to do gym activities without it being impossible. The game essentially has a softcap on leveling, at least right now.

And…once you get level 20, you’ve pretty much got all you need to engage at “gyms”. So, don’t give up!

All right, what exactly are gyms?

I consider gym battling to be “phase 2” of the game. Much like the main series, the whole point of the game is to collect Pokemon, and level them up to a point where you can fight “gyms”, collect badges…and be the very best, like no one ever was. Ahem. Except, well, in this game, there are no badges, there is no Victory Road, or Elite Four (yet…?), so all gyms are…are gathering points where people play, basically, a version of “King of the Hill”. By that I mean, three gangs fight for territory and call each other names in real life.

Gangs…?

Yeah, basically…at level 5, if you go to a gym (which involves physically being in proximity to it), you are given a choice of choosing between Team Instinct (Yellow), Team Valor (Red), or Team…Team…I don’t know, the other one.

The global player breakdowns for each team are approximately: 23% Yellow, 45% Blue, 32% Red.

#TeamInstinct

#ZapdosRulez

OK, so what about the battling part?

Right. That. Well, you know all those Pokemon you caught? OK, well, there are two scenarios in play at gyms. The first, you go to a gym that’s controlled by your own team. Say, you’re team “blue bros”, then if you engage a blue gym (seriously, those guys suck so much…I forget what they’re named) you are given an opportunity to “train” at a gym.

This involves you fighting the “gym leaders” with ONE of your Pokemon. This Pokemon cannot die by battling and will always keep 1 HP, if incapacitated (which actually sucks, because..Revive items regenerate 50% HP, 1HP remaining…kind of sucks, you need to use a lot of Potions!). If you win, you get some EXP and increase the “prestige” of the gym. Every 2000 prestige points or so…another “slot” unlocks for that team (i.e. you can put one of your Pokemon at the gym and it can fight invaders). Each gym can get to a level of 10 (and I’m guessing 20000 prestige points; never seen a level 10). This process…takes a long time.

Now if I’m being completely honest…training at your own gym…sucks. It sucks. The EXP is weak, the prestige leveling process is slooowww and prestige only increases significantly if you use a Pokemon with really low CP (and up-to 10 against 1…uh, OK). I’d rather fight at rival gyms.

So how do rival gym battles work?

Oh my, so much nicer. And it’s precisely why I chose team Instinct. We’re the underdogs. We don’t have the numbers, but we have the intelligence. We aren’t part of the herd, we eat the herd. Yeah, that’s right, I’m calling you out…other teams.

OK, back to it…instead of “training” you’re “fighting”. The dynamics are a little different, but still pretty much the same. It’s now six of the Pokemon you choose, versus the current gym leaders, instead of 1. Nice. A Level 1 gym has one Pokemon, Level 3 has up-to three, etc. If you managed to beat all the gym leaders, you will *significantly* lower the prestige level of the gym. I’m talking 2000-3500 points (most gyms have 2000-6000 points).

From dozens of battles so far, gym prestige lowering doesn’t seem to make any difference with regards to how high a CP Pokemon you use, it only really matters if you beat all of the gym members without dying or escaping. The weakest leader is “kicked off” the team as prestige is lowered, making subsequent fights easier (or…well, harder because the top leaders remain, but there’s less to fight). Once prestige reaches 0, it’s destroyed, and *anyone* can take the gym at that point.

These fights yield A LOT more EXP (minimum +150; high level gyms yield 350 or more; I think a Lv6 gym gave me 750) and…well, to be honest, they’re more fun. You can use actual strategy with six Pokemon versus one, so…there’s that.

OK, that’s all well and good, but how does gym battling, you know, work?

Oh, right. It’s simple, yet deep. Here are the basics: if you’ve ever looked at your Pokemon in the main menu you’ll see some stats: CP power, move 1, and move 2. Each move has a power level; normally between 3 and 60. Like the main games, each Pokemon has a one or more “types” (grass, fire, electric, ground, rock, water, etc). These type bonuses also apply during fights. Here is the full list (yeah, the game sort of completely glosses over this hugely important dynamic…).

If your Pokemon has a move that matches it’s type, say, “Water Gun” (Water) and they’re type “Water”, they’ll receive an attack bonus by using the same type. It’s important to have a good “move 1”. During a fight to use “move 1”, all you have to do is “tap” your Pokemon. To use “move 2”, look at your “blue bar” during battle, once it starts shining you can “hold” your Pokemon to activate “move 2”. Finally, there is a “dodge” mechanic….that’s actually pretty freaking critical to surviving. You can “swipe right” or “swipe left” (doesn’t matter which; whichever feels better to you; I swipe right with my left thumb) to dodge.

Here is an example video of how to dodge like a champ:

The trick is the “flashing yellow” emphasis on the screen. Dodge “just” after that is seen. Not the attack animation. Not the move call out (when an opponent uses a special move, it’s called out on screen). Just wait for the yellow animation (it’s like…Father Zapdos is protecting me…). If you dodge correctly, you will take NO DAMAGE (or minimal; seems to be based on higher CP?). Therefore, if you dodge every attack, you can take gyms down with one Pokemon most of the time (provided your CP level is good enough to actually hurt your opponent…).

I would advise watching some more Youtube videos to get a feel of how they play out. However, you’re just not going to get the feel of it unless you fight a few..dozen times.

 

Anecdote: I got kind of put off by gym battling at first because when I finally got strong enough to try, the game was still really, really, really unstable. Servers would always be down, and that meant really disjointed fights. I couldn’t dodge, there was significant lag, sometimes they wouldn’t work, 1HP glitch, etc. Now that servers have become “manageable” I can dodge pretty reliably and the experience is a lot better!

Is dodging really that important?

Dodging…seriously. Yes! It’s absolutely imperative you get good at this. Each Pokemon has a cadence; learn them. After most “move 1″s you can get 3-4 hits in before they use their next move. After 7-8 moves the Pokemon will use a “move 2”. These are normally the best opportunity to use your move 2. For example, if something is using HYPER BEAM, you can get 3-4 hits in before it even flashes yellow on the screen. Afterwards, there’s a cool down period too, as soon as you dodge, use your “move 2”.

What else should I know about gyms?

Like I alluded to before, rival gym battling is much more fun than training. You get more stuff and it’s more satisfying. Not to mention it feels like it’s an order of magnitude of effort involved in training versus tearing down a gym. I’m serious. You can literally fight a friendly gym 10 times and generate the same amount of prestige fighting a rival gym would yield. All of this points to: CHOOSE TEAM INSTINCT.

What’s the dirty little secret about winning a gym that no one wants you to know?

Vaporeon. Va-por-e-on. VAPOREON! This thing is broken. If the developers have any balls, they will HAVE to nerf this thing. It’s stats are true to the main games. It has a lot of HP and defense, but it’s supposed to be slow. So, what did they do? They gave it WATER GUN, which is one of the fastest / strongest “move 1″s in the game. Plus, it’s WATER, and there are very few grass and thunder Pokemon available to even touch it, and those that do exist…kind of suck. It’s a freaking speedy TANK. Water Gun is SO FAST!! You can get 3-5 hits in before having to dodge. It has no cool down period at all. Plus most Vaporeons know HYDRO PUMP, and that secondary move is pretty good too!

Plus…! They’re easier to find and evolve! Eevees are common enough that you can boost it via Candies and Stardust with reckless abandon. At level 20, I have a Vaporeon that’s almost 1700. PLUS, there’s a trick that if you name Eevee “Rainer” before Evolving, it will be guaranteed to be a Vaporeon! You bring in a team of 6 Vaporeons to a gym battle…you ain’t losing. One Hyper Potion after the battle and you’re good. Pfff…heck, even if one dies use a Revive and it’s got half of it’s ENORMOUS HP back. Did I mention this thing is broken?!

So, let’s recap: it has high HP, high defense, it has strong moves that match it’s type, it has very few Pokemon that can beat it, it has great moves, they’re fast, it’s commonly found, it’s easy to evolve, and can dodge almost anything. It’s a gym killer. It can take down gyms, by itself, in 1-3 battles.

Pro tip: Use Vaporeon.

So, how do I get PokeCoins from gyms?

Two ways. Either beat a rival gym and take over the neutral site by adding a Pokemon of your own. This makes the gym a “Level 1” of your team. Or, boost a friendly gym up a level and add a Pokemon.

Now, if you go into the “Shop” area. In the upper right hand corner will be a shield icon with a number in it. This number can range from 0-10. It indicates how many gyms you’re occupying at one time. At ANY TIME, you can “cash in” this value. Doing so yields 10 PokeCoins x Shield Level. The catch is…you can’t do this *again* for 21 hours (good idea by the designers, 24 hours would be boring, people would always be coming back at the same time).

In practice, gyms *don’t last long*. They are destroyed within hours, if not sooner. Like I said earlier, VAPOREON is a gym killer and everyone has one…or two…or twenty. Do not bank on holding a gym for more than 21 hours…or you must live in the middle of nowhere. Basically, you have to “snipe” and cash in. It’s pretty hard to hold more than even “three” gyms at one time, especially if you’re playing during peak hours.

What I’ve done is, because, well, I’m an adult and have a car…I can drive to every church in the area and take over all the gyms. There’s a high chance no one else is doing this because: a) It’s a church, who is going to a church at odd hours, b) I go to them at extremely odd hours (midnight, 1AM).

Realistically speaking you’re lucky to get 10 PokeCoins a day, unless you’ve just got gyms all over the place. But if you’re got gyms all over the place, you’ve probably got a lot of people playing, and like I said…gyms don’t last long.

I have to keep getting PokeCoins until I have all of the bag upgrades…

You mentioned making Pokemon stronger. How?

Every time you get a Pokemon, you get this thing called “Stardust”. You get 100 per capture. You get some for hatching eggs (a lot actually; depends on the egg, but I’ve seen 1000+), you get some for cashing in gym points (500). I…I think that’s it if I’m not mistaken.

Now in addition to that, each Pokemon and its evolutionary line has a “Candy” named after it. With a combination of “Candy” and “Stardust”, you can “Power Up” your Pokemon’s CP. The max CP your Pokemon can have depends on your level.

OK, you told me how to get Stardust, how do I get Candy?

Two ways: eggs and capturing Pokemon of that type. You want to evolve your Pikachu into a Raichu? Better get some Pikachu candy. If you have a Pikachu, you’ll get a boatload of candy. If you catch a Pikachu, you’ll get three candies.

You can also “Transfer” a Pokemon (which can be done by looking at the Pokemon and scrolling to the bottom of the page) to Professor Oak…err…whatever his name is. This gives you one candy. You also get one candy if you “evolve” a Pokemon, I always forget this.

Evolve…?

Basic tenant of the main series. Each Pokemon normally has 1-2 “evolutions” it can perform. These evolutions are more powerful variants of the same basic monster. In science, this is called “polymorphism”. In this game, it’s just called “my cute little thing just got bigger and scarier”.

Eevee is special in that it can evolve into…well, in this game, three different things. Every other Pokemon outside of Eevee take a linear path, and some don’t have any at all.

Again, this is something the game just completely glosses over, but veterans of the series know all of this stuff. In in the end, evolve = more powerful = higher CP potential.

Eggs, don’t forget eggs!

You get eggs from PokeStops. They’re fairly common and max out at 9. Once you’re at 9, you won’t get any more until one hatches. They are in “Pokemon” > Eggs in the upper right hand corner. Once there, you can touch an egg and assign it to an “Egg Incubator”. Again, like in the main series, you walk to hatch an egg. There are three egg distances: 2km, 5km, and 10km. 10km eggs are hard to find, and you can’t “throw away” eggs, so when you find one, try to hatch those first.

Egg Incubators can only be obtained by leveling up (normally at levels divisible by 5) and through shop purchases. I don’t advise shop purchases, your coins are better spent elsewhere. A Lure or a Lucky Egg are coins better spent (and bag upgrades; don’t ever forget those). You’ll normally only have 3 at one time. The reason I don’t advise buying them is…they only have a limit of 3 uses. I mean…that’s not a lot guys. If you could buy a second infinite incubator? Yeah, now we’re talking. I forgot to mention that you get one “infinite use” incubator by default.

Pro tip: Be very, very mindful of how much distance you have to go on hatching an egg. The game is not forgiving if your egg hatches and you don’t acknowledge it, and something happens to your phone or connection. I lost a 5km egg because I accidentally close the app while it was hatcing. Bye egg. Bye Stardust. Bye Pokemon I’ll never meet.

Pro tip: The game is smart. It wants you to “walk” or “ride a bike” like in the games. That means, no trains, no planes, no cars. People have measured at around >10-15 MPH, the game stops tracking this as progress. Now, you can have a car go under <15 MPH, but man…you look really stupid doing this, not to mention you’re ripe to get pulled over by a cop. However, stop and go rush hour traffic? Maybe. Thankfully I don’t have this!

All that said, egg hatching is a good idea. You get pretty insane Stardust (especially at 10km), you get a chance to hatch any Pokemon, not just common ones you find anywhere.

OK, I’m game. I want to level up as fast as I can. Any tips?

Yes, there’s really only one way to do this: Lucky Egg. It grants double experience. The trick is maximizing that 30 minutes.

So you simply have to perform the things that generate the most experience and do them quickly. These are:

  • Evolving
  • Hatching eggs
  • PokeStops

Yes, you get experience by capturing Pokemon, fighting gyms, etc, but you’re looking for things that are FAST. Again, you only have 30 minutes, and you only get a few Lucky Eggs for free. By far, the most efficient way to level is to stockpile dozens and dozens of Pokemon that easy to evolve (read: Pidgey, Weedle, Caterpie; 12 Candy evolves, and to a lesser extent Rattata, Spearow, Eevee, and any other “25” Candy evolutions).

http://www.pidgeycalc.com/ is a good website to estimate your maximums or plan with what you have (don’t forget, each evolve nets one more “candy”; so every 12 evolves is basically 13 evolves for 12 base evolves; *cough*Pidgey*cough*). It takes about 30-40 seconds to evolve a Pokemon and start a new one. Evolving something you don’t already have gives you 1000 EXP via Lucky Egg!

Simultaneously, you should have 3 or more Eggs Incubators going that should all hatch at the same time and should be close to hatching (e.g. start a Lucky Egg with only a few tenths of a km to go). Evolve and walk. If this generates a “new” Pokemon, boom, you just got another 1000 EXP.

You should realistically be able to net 30-50k or more with one Lucky Egg with a good plan and a hoard of Pidgeys. It is advised to be near “Lures” while doing this, in case you find a Pokemon you don’t already have *and* you get 100 EXP per PokeStop instead of 50 (and spinning PokeStops are quick activities).

Do this as early as you possibly can because you’re more likely to have a less fleshed out Pokedex and every “new” thing you find is very helpful.

Why are people finding different Pokemon?

It’s how the game works. Different areas generate different Pokemon. Where one thing is common in one area, it’s impossible to find in another. If you ever find “rarity” maps, they’re all useless. The only things that seem to be common to everyone are: Pidgeys, Rattatas, Caterpies, Weedles….and maybe Spearows? You tell me.

Again, it seems the point of this game is to GO to other places and find different Pokemon.

What else do I need to know?

Not all Pokemon are available at the moment. All the legendaries of “gen 1” are unobtainable: Mew, Mewtwo, Moltres, Zapdos, Articuno…and…ditto. Not to mention…region-freaking-exclusives. North America has Tauros as an exclusive, where Australia has Kangaskhan (lol, of course), Mr. Mime is European exclusive (sounds about right), and Farfetch’d is Japanese/Asian exclusive. Wow, looking at that, that’s kind of…racist? It’s something… And…Ditto. Not sure how Ditto would even work in this game. Ditto just clones who it’s fighting, so…*shrugs*, we’ll see. There are 150 in all, however the game is just going off the “Kanto” map, there’s room for add-ons, I would imagine.

People are cheating using “GPS spoofing”, multiple accounts, and other nefarious activities. Don’t cheat. The developer, Niantic, is banning people for doing this. Don’t be that guy.

Come on, dig deeper. I want to know all your secrets!

All right, let’s go. In no particular order:

  • This game kills your battery. It is highly advised to have a good phone with a long battery life. Close every other app, set your brightness down to as minimal as you can. Buy an external battery charger. This is the one I use. It’s cheap and essentially doubles my battery. There are higher end versions, of course, but I already had this one anyway.
  • Since the game is eating your battery, it’s also probably making your phone HOT!! The one thing I haven’t heard reported anywhere is…this game BURNS. Especially if you throw a lot of CURVE BALLS. My finger tips are literally on fire for hours. It’s the price you pay though, the price you pay. My advice is uh…I don’t know, don’t play as much as I do…?
  • My situation is probably unique, but let me break it down. I have a public park literally a quarter mile away from my house. I can get to it by bike very easily. This has several benefits, I can get PokeStops very quickly on a bike in a park. I’m getting exercise…and COME ON! Riding a bike is soooo Pokemon. Bring bug spray, a water bottle, and you’re off. I’ve been to the park several times for several hours. It should be nicer in the fall
  • I have a job where I can leave the game on and passively wait for Pokemon to pop up. This *does not* work at my house though. I’m guessing the game compensates for how many people are logged in, in the area?? I don’t know. All I know is I can find 40-50 Pokemon at work by just having my phone on in my office. By the end of the day, the battery is near dead, so about 2 hours before I go home, I turn it completely off and charge it to 100%. At this point, my Pokeball supply is running low, so I go to the park (see above) and restock. Repeat. Do this until you have a stockpile of PIDGEY and use a LUCKY EGG. Repeat.
  • I just snipe gyms. After I’ve “cashed out” for the day, I don’t even bother taking over a gym. I know it’s going to be taken very quickly (I’m Instinct after all, we are lone wolves; no one is going to boost my gym). I’m like a Pokemon Robinhood over here. I destroy gyms from the rich and let any poor sap take it. Seriously, screw you blue team.
  • Don’t drive and play the game. I’ll admit, I’ve done it. It’s not worth it. Don’t do it. Your life and others are too important. Wait until you get home until you can go to the park / wherever it is that has lots of PokeStops for you.
  • Buy this thing when it comes out. All the cool kids will have it. Or not…

Who is playing it?

Holy crap…everybody! I’ve seen 60 year olds, kids, families, Asians, Indians, Caucasians, African Americans, gym buffs, runners, cyclists, nerds, jocks, girls, boys, teenagers…literally everyone is playing this game right now! It’s actually kind of unbelievable. The game is very, very simple, but has a decently deep “meta-game” which also draws in advanced players. Casual people are fine just catching Pokemon and getting super-duper excited when a Squirtle appears (hey, I mean…it is kind of exciting). Advanced people are power-leveling and taking down gyms. It’s very well designed to bring in all kinds of players.

Actually, I have no interest in this game at all. I’m just tired of hearing about it. When is it going to die?

Hard to predict, but odds say…not likely any time soon. Like I said, the appeal is very broad. It’s a mixture of nostalgia for older folks, fun for younger people, and curiosity for everyone else. I imagine the casual bubble will pop at some point, but I have to imagine the game has legs. It did just break download records, after all.

As someone that knows a lot about Pokemon (pretty sure I own every generation…what are we up to…like 7 now?), I know there’s a LOT more they can do with this game. They can expand Gyms, have special events, add in more Pokemon (the game only has the first 151; there are literally over 700 right now..and a new game is about to come out), add “shiny” Pokemon, add trading, add PvP battling, add new items, and who knows what else. If Niantic plays this right, this is the next Angry Birds.

Do not underestimate the power of this brand. It’s been strong for 20 years.

Screw you, Team Instinct Sucks, Team Mystic Rules!

No.

*cue the music*

Summary

  • Learn how to throw a Curveball and be efficient with your balls.
  • Buy Bag Upgrades over anything else as soon as you can.
  • Chose Team Instinct as it’s the least populated team and rival gym fights are much more fun and rewarding.
  • Properly plan to Evolve Spam during your limited Lucky Egg.
  • Catch every stupid Pidgey you find.
  • Piggy-back off Lures; most highly clustered PokeStops will have these going non-stop.
  • Buy an external battery charger.
  • Live near places where there are lots of PokeStops.
  • Watch where you’re going.
  • Sing this song while playing the game.
Filed under Info, Videogames

Maybe This Year…Definitely This Year

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itsover

Maybe next year…

Those thoughts inevitably start popping up in your mind as a Cleveland sports fan with under 4 minutes to go in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals all tied at 89. It’s just the way we think (or maybe it’s just me).

Hey, we’re just happy to have defied the odds to get to a Game 7. We at least aren’t laughingstocks, we played hard. But…wait a minute, we have a chance to win this thing! … No, it’s just another cruel $1 bill on a fishing line trick…no…we actually have a shot here! Still, something is going to go wrong.

Here’s the perfect set up for another rip out your heart moment in Cleveland history. You just know that at any point here Steph Curry is just going to drain a 3 to extinguish your feeble attempts at happiness. … But, wait, everyone is missing their 3s… OK, surely  Iguodala is going to crush your dreams with a breakaway lay-up. But, oh my God, did this just happen?!

OH MY F’ING GOD, THE GAME IS TIED STILL AT 89 AND THERE’S A MINUTE LEFT. CAN WE REALLY DO THIS?!

AL;SDFJKLSDKJFASD; FALKSJFDAS;LKDFJ S;LKFJSALJFSL;DFJSADLFJDSALFKSDALSKDJF;SD….WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED….ASKLDFJKADSLFKJASLDFSLKDF

And just like that…it was over. LeBron James hits a super clutch 2nd free throw to push it to 4 (after missing what would have been the most epic dunk of all-time; small aside: holy hell would that have been amazing) and it’s over.

52 years of ghosts just vanish. 52 years of misery…gone. My personal 25+ years of rooting for Cleveland teams finally yields the absolute…absolutely greatest Cinderella story I could have ever dreamt up.

A team down 3-1, against what most stat nerds would say is the #1 or #2 best team of all-time, could somehow win 3 in a row against a team (with 2 games on their home floor) that hasn’t lost 3 in 2 years, and has only lost 2 in a row all season. Oh yeah, a team that had, prior to game 3, just won 7 games in a row against you. Cleveland only has to win 4 out of the next 5 to win a championship. You like those odds? I don’t. …But, it happened.

I’ve been on the other end of a 3-1 loss (’07 Indians). I’ve been on the other end of a 2-0 loss (’99 Indians). I’ve been on the other end of a game 7 loss (’97 Indians). I know how it feels to blow a huge series lead, and those feelings of despair never go away. Especially ’97…oh man…especially ’97…

But, this changes everything. I always wondered what it would feel like to witness Cleveland win a championship. It’s not exactly what I expected, although deep down, I knew this is how I’d feel. The feeling?

Peace. Relief. Finality.

Sure, there was exuberance and excitement, especially with how it ended, but the major takeaway for me? I’m content. I can be happy now. Everything else from here on is just fun.

The despair and depression is gone. That may sound incredibly stupid, but this was one of the last remaining major “bucket list” items that I needed to happen before I die. And it did. I don’t know why we as humans value things like sports this much, but oh man, when you get the payoff, it was so worth it. I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life. I will remember Father’s Day as the greatest day ever. I will tell my future child(ren) about this and we can watch videos of Game 7.

My personality has changed and I like it. I have always been a deeply cynical glass-half empty kind of guy. It’s nice being to bask in the light for awhile. I just hope it lasts!

But don’t think I don’t realize how if a few things go down differently, this isn’t a story of triumph, but another “The” in the history of Cleveland sports. But it didn’t. It didn’t. I don’t have to play the what if game. Finally, finally, finally, things broke Cleveland’s way. I have been daydreaming of this ending for the last few weeks…my version had Kyrie hitting a 3 to win it at the buzzer while down 2 in Game 7 (no joke, I saw no one else hitting a jumper to win the game; he’s out best clutch shooter by a mile; he’s done it many times), but I’ll take a Kyrie 3 to win the game tied at 89 any time.

Congratulations to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a wonderful season. It was sometimes hell. It was sometimes frustrating. It was a lot of the time very, very fun. This was a great team when they played their best. They broke playoff records. They started 10-0. They pulled off something that has never been done before by winning 3 in a row and coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals (now 1-33 lifetime).

I watched almost every game. I put my wife through hell. She’s not the fan I am, but my wife was there with me in my balled heap of tears of joy at the end, after she had uttered,  “I think I’m going to puke”, just before Kyrie hit the most wonderful dagger in the history of Cleveland sports. That’s a flashbulb moment, and it’s something I’ll forever cherish. That’s why we watch sports. That’s the payoff. I can only hope that everyone gets to experience something like that before they die. I am truly blessed. Go Cavs! CLEVELAND ROCKS!!

 

Filed under Sports

Thoughts on NBA FINALS ’16 and Why It Matters So Much

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lebron scream game 2 '15

It’s finally here. The Finals. God help me.

In no more than 18 days, I will be sobbing on the floor like a giant baby. The only thing that’s not yet determined is the duration, the intensity, and whether it’s tears of sadness…or joy. This is guaranteed.

Why do I care this much? Let’s see if we can figure it out. … I blame my father…and the Indians of the ’90s. It’s pretty much that simple.

My family was born in Northeast Ohio. It is difficult not to be a fan of the Cavs, Browns, and Indians in this scenario. It’s just what you do. There’s not much else to do. My dad, in particular, was a very passionate and emotional guy when it came to sports, and a child does what children do, emulate their fathers. … I blame my father.

When you’re in the moment, you don’t see it. You can’t appreciate the decades of suffering because that does not mean anything to you when you’re a kid. Sure, you can hear tales from your dad about how his heart was ripped out in the ’80s by the Browns, but when you’re 10+ years old watching the juggernaut ’90s Indians teams, you’re hooked, and you don’t think the good times will ever end. You’re just excited watching the ’95 Indians smash records and getting to the World Series. You’re obsessed with Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez. You have so, soooo many baseball cards; so many carefully clipped newspaper articles about all the exploits of Tribe mania. It’s like you’re in a cult. ’97 breaks your heart, but you fully expect to be right back. The good times will keep rolling! … But it doesn’t happen. Twenty plus years later, it hasn’t happened. … I blame the Indians.

Then you start becoming aware of the misery. You just didn’t notice it before.

You’re never really invested in the Browns because you’ve never had anything to cheer for. All you know is how much you hate the Steelers. Then the team is gone. Your former coach, Belichick, wins several championships with the Patriots instead. You hate the Patriots… The Ravens, win two Super Bowls. You hate the Ravens… So many what ifs circle through your mind. Maybe next year. The Factory of Sadness keeps on going.

Misery, decades and decades of misery. The spark of hope is gone. There’s nothing to be excited for…

And just like that, a miracle happens. In 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA lottery and draft a local basketball prodigy, an Ohio native with the #1 pick: LeBron James. The savior of Cleveland, the breaker of curses. The Chosen One. The city and the most passionate fans in the world will finally have what they so desperately yearn for: a championship. … Except, it doesn’t happen. You hate the Magic. You hate the Celtics. LeBron leaves. Wins two championships, and the deep, painful ache continues…more what ifs, more sadness.

And…then, he comes back. Jubilation, conflicting feelings…but a chance at a championship that has eluded you your entire existence on this planet. You just want one. Just one. Just want to feel what it feels like to follow a champion. Just once. Not like those gluttonous, terrible, disgusting, bandwagon Yankees, Cowboys, Red Sox, Patriots, Steelers fans. JUST ONE. But ’15 happens, but…it doesn’t happen. It’s the 2nd closest we’ve ever got, but..it doesn’t happen.

And…here we are. June 2nd, 2016. The latest and greatest chance at delivering a poor soul the chance at happiness it’s been yearning for its entire miserable life. The chance for millions of like-minded poor souls to experience a taste of what it must feel like to be a champion.

You don’t know why you continue to torture yourself. But you do. In some ways, you feel like it’s made you a stronger person. One who appreciates moments that should be appreciated, because joy is oh so fleeting. It helps to manage expectations and never allow yourself to get too excited. Lowered expectations is the key to living a satisfied life. That’s your motto. That’s, unfortunately, all you’ve been able to extract from years of disappointment watching the Cavs, Indians, and the Browns.

Knowing the significance of the small window of opportunity that has presented itself, you go all out. You buy NBA League Pass and watch, every, single, game. You’re obsessed. You’re that 12-year old again watching that magical ’97 Indians team! Except now…now there’s fear. There is no longer the naivete of a child, but the sad, hardened experiences of a man in his 30s. There doesn’t have to be the magical ending. The crushing heartache is just as likely, if not more likely, of a result.

The truly sad thing? You start to take it personally. Like you have something to do with it. Like you’re worthless. It’s completely absurd, but it seeps into your subconscious. You’re not good enough. You will never win at anything. There’s deep pain there…and it just won’t go away. You just feel the tension in your chest. It doesn’t go away. Why won’t it go away?!

So, it’s now ’16, and it’s one more shot. It’s the 5th shot in your lifetime, and the window is closing. The Cleveland Cavaliers. NBA Finals. Will it happen this time? Odds say no. The odds say you have only a 30% chance. You’re always the underdog. Always. Will this time be any different? … No, it won’t. It can’t. Because you’re destined to be miserable and cursed for life, and all you know are walls. Walls that pop up just when you have a chance: Jordan. Pedro. Jeter. Roethlisberger. Brady. Dwight. Elway. Chipper. Rentería. Curry…Curry.

Lowered expectations is the key to living a satisfied life. It makes the pain more bearable.

The only possible endings to this ’16 season are:

  • Cavs are swept (Cavs: ’07 Finals)
  • Cavs lose by collapsing in 7 (Indians: ’97 World Series)
  • Cavs have a shot but get injured (Cavs: ’15 Finals)

Why? You’ve seen it all happen before.

But, a small part of you still thinks it can happen. It can happen. This team is different! You’ll be wearing your Dellavedova jersey (and you’ll need to be careful; as it’s lucky powers are limited, but it’s 2-0 in the playoffs when you’ve worn it so far). This team feels different! JR Smith is playing like a man possessed on defense and you know he can turn into the Cavs version of Curry/Thompson at the flip of a switch. Kyrie Irving wants his revenge, and you know the man has enormous talent. You’ve seen Kevin Love have absolutely dominant games, even though you’re terrified he’ll shrink in the moment. Tristan Thompson gobbles up offensive rebounds. Channing Frye could seriously be breaking 3PT % playoff records (he is shooting 58%!!). You believe in your bench. Snipers. Delly! …and there’s LeBron. It can happen. It can happen…but can it? … Did it have to be against possibly the best team ever?! I’m all for challenges, but can Cleveland just win one first?!!

You just hope for, somehow, a 3-2 advantage going into Game 6, so you can buy a plane ticket to Cleveland and find a way to scalp a Finals ticket, and be there when the curse is finally broken and absolute euphoria is abundant. This year. A man can dream…

At least I’ll always have Game 2 of the ’15 NBA Finals.

OK. Look, I get it. Sports, and sports fans, in particular, are completely absurd and irrational, me included. Definitely me. What possible vested interest does a fan have, really? Nothing. Nothing. You’re meaningless. What did you do to contribute to the championship, if it should occur? Nothing. All an emotional sports fan is, is a gambler who’s bet on Black 33 thirty years in a row and come up empty-handed. You just feel like it’s your time…but it just never happens. It never happens. Why don’t you just stop caring!? I don’t know. Pride? Loyalty? The feeling that if you walk away now and a championship actually does happen at some point, you couldn’t face yourself? All of the above. It’s a terrible fate. … Don’t judge me. You’re probably not a Cleveland fan. You don’t know. You can never know!
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DARK SOULS 3 – Review and Gameplay Videos

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dragons

Hmm, this looks bad. But, it’s OK, there’s a bonfire 10 feet from me. No fear, let’s do this.

Let’s talk about DARK SOULS III for PS4. So…I’m 160 hours into DARK SOULS III, and have beat the game 12 times. … This game has pretty much taken over my life for the last few weeks.

In the interest of doing something productive, and to make myself feel better about how much time I’ve “wasted”, writing a review of the game sounds like a good thing to do. So that’s what I’m going to do. There may be minimal spoilers ahead, but…not really.

Background: I’m a SOULS veteran. I have received a Platinum trophy in DEMON’S SOULS, DARK SOULS, DARK SOULS II, BLOODBORNE, and DARK SOULS III. This analysis of the game will obviously be skewed toward some that likes the series and is “pretty good” at it, but I’ll do my best to explain it to someone that has never played an entry before.

Story: The series is not known for its story, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. It’s just that you have to go looking for it. You’re not going to be inundated with lengthy cutscenes (almost every cutscene is a boss introduction), but if you’re expecting something straight-forward and to the point, not gonna happen. Once you beat the game, your reaction will probably be…”OK…that’s it?”. This game is pretty much the same as every other game before it.

There is no lengthy explanation to anything, but there’s plenty of nuggets in interactions with NPCs, item descriptions, and just keen observation to the environment, where you can basically figure things out, if you desire. Again, the core gameplay is completely detached from the story, and that’s one of the main tenants of why a lot of people LOVE this series. This isn’t METAL GEAR SOLID. It’s an action RPG that harkens back to the NES days.

Without going too deep, the basic overall story here is that, well…you’re tasked with perpetuating a cycle of “linking the flame” to…I guess make sure the status quo keeps going. Otherwise, the world will turn to darkness and the Hollow will rule. Or something. Hell, to be honest, it’s not really that clear to me.

Here is a good video if you’re interested in learning what happened in the first two games (with the caveat being, the story is open to interpretation, but this video covers a lot of basic events):

One thing I’ll note: there is quite a bit of fan service throughout the game with subtle nods to previous SOULS games (including DEMON’S; which isn’t, apparently, in the same universe). There’s a certain hidden little area in Farron Swamp that made me smile…and then I was sad. These types of nostalgic encounters are all over the place, and that’s very cool! But, they’re so subtle…it’s not in your face at all. Very well done.

Gameplay: Here it is! The only reason you should be playing games, and DARK SOULS does not disappoint. Developer FROM SOFTWARE is essentially using the same basic mechanics of all the SOULS game beforehand. What you’ve got is a 3rd person action RPG. You control a nameless avatar, which you can customize prior to starting. You don’t speak. You’re not a “main character”. You have no name. Your goal is to take down the LORDS OF CINDER, and you do that by eliminating enemies and collecting SOULS. These souls continually accumulate and can be seen in the bottom right hand corner of your HUD. If you die, your souls go away. If you can find the place where you died, you can collect your souls again. If you die again before collecting said souls, your souls are gone forever.  Brutal? Unforgiving? Hours of gameplay wasted on two deaths? Perhaps. But, you’ll learn to be careful. The game really isn’t “cheap” (OK, there’s a few times where it is), so getting your souls back shouldn’t be “too much” of a problem.

So…how does one obtain SOULS? Well, you kill stuff. Little stuff, big stuff, boss stuff, all kinds of stuff. You have the opportunity to develop your character in several attributes by “leveling up” with your accumulated souls. You can spend them to increase HP, TP, defense, strength, dexterity, magic, and luck. Whatever “class” you pick at the beginning really doesn’t mean anything. It’s up to you to decide how you want to play. Want to play as a STRENGTH build…or…feel like changing it up and becoming a MAGIC build instead? OK!

And that’s one thing I think DARK SOUL III does a good job at, it feels like you can be pretty flexible in what build you want to play as. You get a lot of different weapons early on in the game, and leveling up your weapons “seems” a lot easier. You get unlimited access to “Titanite Shards” and “Large Shards” pretty early. Also: remember leveling up armor? That’s gone. Hooray!! I felt like in DSII, once you decided what you wanted to be, that was it. It was very difficult to farm materials or find good weapons and be flexible with armor. Also, I can’t remember if DSII was the game where enemies perma-disappeared after killing them too many times. Enemies definitely no longer perma-disappear in DSIII, Praise the Sun. I think all of these changes are for the better.

OK, well, that’s fine and good. You’ve got a character with some weapons and magic and such. So, what’s the goal? I’m glad you asked. Basically, you venture to an “area”. In every “area” there is almost always a “boss”, once this boss is cleared, you normally venture into a “new area”. Sounds simple, don’t it? Generally speaking, each area links to the next, and there’s…I think really only two “branching” spots in the game…where you will need to travel to both forks to complete everything. There are some hidden areas as well (let me count…I believe there’s…5 optional bosses!). It’s not exactly linear, per se, but it’s pretty close. You’re not going to get DARK SOULS I’s fantastically tiered areas with multiple shortcuts (I mean I really loved the world structure in DSI, top notch).

satisfaction

This particular boss is a giant douche. This felt SO GOOD.

Combat: If you’re familiar with the series, nothing has changed, other than the fact that magic spells are no longer usage based, and now draw from a “magic bar”, which can be refilled with a new “magic Estus Flask”. You have the opportunity to assign whether or not you want “flask points” to go toward the HP healing or magic healing version. And eh…never been a magic user, so, not a big change for me. I’m still rocking one slot at level 300+!

Other than that, it’s the same basic stamina-based attack system. You have a green stamina bar, which you can level up via the ENDURANCE stat. The more stamina you have, the more you can attack. Once your stamina is exhausted, you need to wait until it fills up again (generally 3-4 seconds to completely refill) before you can do any actions. You can use a shield to block attacks, and this generally reduces stamina, once your stamina is exhausted you’ll enter in a staggered state and be criticaled (don’t do that; also a reason I don’t use shields).

The equipment percentage system returns with no real changes. The stronger armor you use, the heavier it is, and the harder it is for you to move. You can level up a stat called VITALITY to allow you to use heavier equipment. If you go past 70% “equip load”, you will no longer be able to have the most effective “roll” and are just generally slower at everything. Rolling is a defensive dodging technique which is completely critical to the entire game. Rolling has a second or so of “invincibility frames”, which means, if someone attacks while you’re rolling, you will take no damage. Rolling is important. Learn how to roll. Master rolling.

Same with armor, the “heavier” your weapon is, the more damage it can do, but the more “damage” it does to your equip load. Lighter, dexterity based characters will use lighter weapons like: katanas, daggers, short swords. Heavier weapons include: maces, axes, poleaxes, hammers, etc. And a lot in between. Combat is balancing armor, weapons, and equip load to maximize damage output, defense, and speed. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to get to level 40 for ENDURANCE, getting a decent HP level (I would say 40 is good), and then allocating other points toward STRENGTH, DEXTERITY, INTELLIGENCE, or FAITH, depending on what kind of weapons you want to use.

Each weapon has a “minimum level” you need to be at to use said weapon effectively as possible. For example, to use Washing Pole (the longest katana and my favorite weapon), you need to be level 18 in STRENGTH and 20 in DEXTERITY. Each weapon also “scales” its damage output with the amount of additional points you put into it. Again, using WASHING POLE, as an example, the more levels you put toward STRENGTH or DEXTERITY, the stronger it becomes.

There is also a generally complicated system of “infusions” that, for the most part, is the same as others in the series. You can infuse most weapons with different attributes such as fire, darkness, lightning, bleed, poison, etc. However, doing this normally makes the weapon weaker overall, in terms of total damage potential.

So…example encounter. Enemies, should (read: should), also have an unseen STAMINA bar as well. If they perform a strong attack (generally, the longer someone “winds up”, the more stamina it’s going to use), they are less likely to be able to attack again immediately. Most combat involves either striking first before an enemy can attack, or counter-attacking in a way you avoid an attack, either by backing up, rolling, blocking, or parrying, and then following up an attack with your own. Generally speaking, you want combat to be 1-v-1 battles, but certain situations will see you fighting multiples enemies at one time…and that’s bad. You never really want to be in a situation like this.

Using the WASHING POLE, one last time as an example, you can attack 6 times by “two-handing” the weapon, or 7 times by “one handing” it (at 40 ENDURANCE with Ring of Favor +2 equipped). The latter is a faster attack, but weaker, and subsequently takes less stamina.

If you watch videos, it may seem complicated, but every fight is using the same basic premise. I value STAMINA very highly and always look to max it out as early as I can. Most of the time I win PvP fights is by taking advantage of the difference between my high stamina and, most likely, the smaller stamina of my opponent. They will be out, when I’m not, and mine regenerates faster through rings and items. I never try to be the strongest player, I use weapons that are fast, but strong. That’s a good segway to…

Multiplayer: There’s a lot to cover here actually. There’s “cooperative” and “competitive” aspects. First, every player has the ability to use a messaging system to write “messages” on the ground that every player in the game has an opportunity of seeing. Is there an ambush around the corner? Well, you might find a message saying to be careful…or in game terms, “Be wary of left”. People can “rate” your messages and if someone gives you a positive, you’ll get a free HP heal…so, it’s good to write helpful messages! It’s also a good idea to read every message you see. Most of them are helpful..most of them…and if they’re not…downvote that sucker.

Other than that, there’s the combat aspect. You have the opportunity to help other players with the “White Soapstone” which will allow you to be “summoned” to play an area together. Alternatively, you can use a “Red Eye Orb” to “invade” another person’s world. Your goal is to eliminate the “host”. Doing so yields souls and covenant items.

multiplayer

Guys, I’m here to help! Honest!

Covenants are “guilds” that you can join that offer various items, weapons, and spells to the user. This involves giving the covenant master 10 to 30 items (example: Proof of Concord Kept). Turning in 30 of these will allow you to obtain all covenant rewards for that covenant. It’s a good idea to do these. You can view these as “sub-quests”, if that’s how you’d like to think of it. If you’re interested in getting Trophies, you’ll need to do them. All of them are involved with Player versus Player (PvP) encounters.

This game ups the ante a little bit, in that, I believe you can have…I want to say, 6 or 7 people in one host’s game at one time! It’s a lot of fun, but generally pretty rare to encounter that many people at once.

For the most part, other than the addition of new party limits, the game is basically the same in terms of multiplayer as previous titles. And that’s great! This system is one that is unique to the SOULS series and can make every invasion terrifying (“Son of a bitch…I’ve got 300k souls…I’m out of Estus, I’m in the middle of nowhere, and I just got invaded…how the hell am I going to get out of this one??”). If you’re invaded, you can summon help, or “get to the boss” to get invaders to leave. Or you…could just kill them. Invaders have 50% health and 50% Estus, so beating them isn’t impossible (I feel like this has changed since DSII, but I don’t remember…), and beating them gives you souls and covenant items.

Seed of a Giant Tree are back, and much easier to find (it’s in the beginning area). These can be used to turn enemies in your area hostile to invaders (by default, invaders and enemies are on the same side).

There are also certain areas where invasions occur at much higher rates. You’ll be invaded by members of special covenants. Again, similar to past games.

The multiplayer aspects of the SOULS series are what really makes the game shine. It’s not forced on you, but…you can’t avoid it. It’s integral to the enjoyment of the game to invade and be invaded, and really makes you a better player. It also helps that everything here, for the most part, feels more polished and works great…for the most part…I’ll talk about this later.

Graphics: Not something I care too much about, and I won’t speak too much about it. The graphics are basically just higher resolution versions of the previous games. It looks great, but nothing mindblowing. The background scenes though…wow, just beautiful. I can’t immediately think of a game that just blows me away in terms of scale. Maybe XENOBLADE, but that wasn’t exactly earth-shattering graphics-wise. In any event, it’s a nice looking game. Moving on.

Difficulty: Here’s where I struggle to rate this. I can’t tell if this game is easy because I’m a veteran or…if it really just is easier. It’s probably both. But, there are actually a lot of tweaks that make the game easier (which I’ll go into in a second). BLOODBORNE made DSIII game feel so much less stressful, if I’m being honest! BB was a lot harder to me than this game was. I certainly don’t feel like I needed to use shields in DSIII due to prior experience with BB (BB didn’t have shields). I am so much more confident in rolling…although, man, would it be nice if SOULS had the HP Recover gimmick that BB has…but, I digress…where were we? Hmm. Right, difficulty.

I don’t know. In every SOULS game, you’re going to get a: forest area, castle area, library, fire area, super secret hidden area, generally annoying poison swamp, and some others. Check, check, check, check ,check, check. Was it less difficult because I knew what to expect? Maybe. Was there any ORNSTEIN-level difficult boss fight?! Not to me (I joked in the image subtitle above, but even that boss wasn’t “that hard”…although it seems like most people consider it the hardest boss in the game).

Was there any really, really bad area? The pitch black cave? That laggy, god forsaken swamp? That place in DEMON’S SOULS where enemies give you no experience and you’re walking on planks a few feet across? No. And…honestly, thank heavens. I don’t think there’s any “cheap” areas in DSIII. But that does make things “easier”. Is this a complaint?! I DON’T KNOW! When you come into a SOULS game, you expect something wicked. Did FROM sell out and make it easier? I can’t say that…the game is still challenging, it’s just…I guess once you find the staged ambushes, you can just generally breeze through things. I just know that I never encountered, say in NG+, “Oh crap…I’ve got to go through THIS place again…”. Put it to you this way…I did not ONCE lose ANY of my souls in this game in the first playthrough. And I wasn’t really that conservative. That, well…look, I didn’t expect that; I expected more of a challenge. There were certain sections in previous games that handed my ass to me over and over and over again! I just never felt like there was that really hard thing in this game. I kept waiting for it…it just never happened.

This may be because BONFIRES are so ridiculously dense, they’re everywhere! There’s never really that sense of…”crap, I really need to find a bonfire”. … Or maybe it’s because you can have FIFTEEN Estus Flasks! And you can LEVEL UP their potency TEN TIMES (a swig of which feels like it heals you 60%!!). For comparison’s sake, the internet tells me the limit was 12 in DSII (with +5 bonus). For those that aren’t aware Estus is how you heal. Every time you reach a BONFIRE, these regenerate. When you get so many Estus and Bonfires are so close, and there’s no really difficult area…I mean….

OK, maybe there’s one thing more difficult. The poise system is broken. Poise is “supposed” to be a stat that you can alter through rings and armor that allow you not to be “staggered”. That is to say, if someone hits you with a dagger, or let’s say, a rat jumps at you, with high poise, you’re not supposed to flinch, as those are “weak” attacks. Well…apparently FROM SOFTWARE didn’t like that! They say “it’s working as designed“, but…it clearly isn’t. Now…what does this mean to the normal user? Don’t bother using the WOLF’S RING. Don’t bother wearing armor just for poise. The joke in this game is that you can be “stunlocked” (term meaning you can’t move after being hit) to death by several small enemies such as rats…even with the best armor in the game. So, actually…this small change makes the game HARDER in many respects.

It really screws over heavy builds…but…to be honest, I think this makes PvP more entertaining. You’re no longer going to get Full Havel’s running around that are unstoppable. So, that’s just great, that’s a welcome change, honestly. BUT, now you get get people with cheap spammy daggers and rapiers that will continually break your poise…because poise doesn’t work anymore! What’s better?! I don’t know. It’s both good and bad. I like PvP more with it broken if I had to choose though. But does this make Player versus Environment (PvE) more difficult? Probably. But it’s not that big of a deal honestly. There are ways to mitigate it.

Then there’s the completely pointless “repair” system. They made it useless. I don’t even know why they bother having it in the game at all now. Each piece of equipment can be “broken”. Normally high strength, but fragile things like WASHING POLE are vulnerable. There used to be players that took advantage of this and broke your equipment through spells and crippled you (raises hand, I did this; stupid Havel’s armor…). If you broke someone’s equipment, they were screwed. Now…? Everything is repaired, for free, by a bonfire. Or by spending 600 souls on a Repair Powder. One Repair Powder repairs everything. Whee! In past games, you needed to go to a blacksmith for this. Now…I’m not saying this is a bad change! I LOVE THIS CHANGE. But it makes the game easier, and kind of overpowers certain light equipment that used to have a fatal flaw (*cough*WASHING POLE*cough* Edit: FROM actually nerfed WASHING POLE’s damage slightly, but…pfff, I’m still using it).

But, maybe it’s this next point. Almost every, single, boss has an NPC phantom you can summon. Did I use them in NG/NG+? No. I did not. I fought every boss 1-on-1, and generally did not take more than a handful of deaths to do it, but the fact that you can tag team so many bosses, kind of cheapens the accomplishment. There’s also no “X-on-1” type bosses in this game. Everything is generally “fair”. Which…I don’t know…just seems, weird?!

Now when you beat the game for the first time, you get to start over with all stats and equipment, this is generally called NG+X. I’m on NG+12. Why? I don’t know…maybe it’s because FROM SOFTWARE screwed me over by making one of the alternate endings NOT trigger the last Ending Trophy, and I just said, “Screw it, I’m speed running this shit”, and then found out, “Wow, I can beat this game in less than 3 hours…let’s do it again and see how high a level I can get!”. That’s where I am. I’m now level 350 and I can’t find anyone to play with me anymore….sigh. The ONLY boss I have a lot of trouble with 1-on-1 is the Final Boss. Good LORD is it hard at max NG (NG+ difficulty seems to cap at 7 play-throughs…maybe…honestly, I can’t tell…).

One last point on difficulty: I don’t know if it’s just me, but…MAGIC does not seem to be that POWERFUL as it was in prior games. I mean, I remember getting eviscerated by PvP and bosses that had strong magic. Let me put it this way, I’m at Soul Level 350+ right now. My FAITH is at 8 and my INTELLIGENCE is at level 10. These are STARTING LEVELS. And I can generally take a hit from anything, and it not take more than 30% of my health. HUH?!? I swear, I remember having to level these up because I just couldn’t defend against strong magic (I’m a STR/DEX build, by the way). To that end, I very, very rarely see anyone use any forms of magic…if anyone does it’s usually the MAGIC SPEAR thing that is pitifully easy to roll out of or the LIGHTNING SPEAR thing…same deal. *shrugs*

That’s not to say, again, that the game is not challenging, it’s just…if you were expecting the challenge to ramp up, it’s the opposite, it’s gotten easier in several different areas. Am I complaining…? I mean sort of…winning just feels a little bit cheapened…one of the absolute best experiences of the SOULS games was doing something that took you several, if not dozens, of attempts; that feeling of accomplishment and the accompanying adrenaline rush was great! When you beat something, you really felt like you beat something. I didn’t get a lot of that this time. Oh well…

Summary:

  • Little changes to core gameplay; everything you know and love is more than likely back.
  • No, “Oh my God I hate this place”, areas. That’s a good thing or a bad thing based on your perspective.
  • Improvements to several systems including: no armor leveling, decent matchmaking (you’ll almost always find people to summon or people to invade), new magic bar system, L2 performs a new special attack for every weapon now; kind of cool.
  • Difficulty is easier for veterans of the series.
  • Fairly linear; only one real “branch” in the game.
  • Not covered above, but, the game is still ridiculously impossible to find everything (or even ‘basic’ small things) without a guide. I did buy this one at launch, and…I can recommend it for newbies, but for veterans, it’s pretty lacking. Doesn’t even come close to touching the awesomeness of the FUTURE PRESS guides, such as this. There are at least 3 Covenants that you WILL NOT FIND without help. And thankfully we live in the Internet Age where we have glorious wikis like this to help.
  • This is the first game that I’ve continued to play after getting a Platinum. I generally like the PvP in this game. There’s lots of cool covenants, a couple areas where people strictly play for PvP battles.
  • Certain covenants are broken…I explain this in one of the videos below. FROM has already “patched” this, but I don’t see how it’ll help without major additional changes. Basically, the game needs more people to use a certain, pointless, covenant so people can be summoned to assist. Right now, it’s impossible to be summoned, and thus impossible to get all covenants rewards (read: trophies).

Verdict: 9.5  / 10

I love this game. It has a few problems, but when the complaint is…it’s not as hard as I want it to be (but it’s still hard), come on, that’s a pretty weak fault. I urge anyone that likes a challenge to play this game. You will be challenged, and you will get better. Completing a SOULS game should be a rite of passage for any video game fan. There is no “difficulty” setting. The game is the game, and what a game it is. This is, apparently, the last game in the series. That makes me a little sad, a lot of sad, actually. Here’s hoping that the wonderful development house FROM SOFTWARE makes something even better in the future!

BONUS CONTENT: I live streamed quite a bunch of content. If you’re interested in seeing some game play videos, I recommend checking out my Youtube channel.

Early gameplay (NG):

First Lord of Cinder boss fight (NG):

Speedrun (NG+5):

Proof of Concord Kept farming (NG):

Speed leveling in Forest (NG+12):

Filed under Reviews, Videogames

How to Get Free Monthly Home Phone and Cell Phone Service

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free money

Free, huh? I’m sure you’re doubtful. But imagine if you could shed that crazy monthly cell phone contract you most likely have every month. How much could you save a year? Hundreds…? More?? Have a landline as well? Are you paying for some stupid Vonage crap that’s ripping you off every month? I can help solve both of these problems.

No, this isn’t a scam. You really can get absolutely free monthly home and cell phone service through different means, and I’m going to break down how it’s done as simply as I can. It truly is shocking to me the amount of people that are completely oblivious to these options. They’re either skeptical they are for real and don’t bother pursuing the options or poo-poo it and say it’s not a good value. But…last I checked, you can’t beat free.

OK, what’s the catch? There always is a catch, and yes, the catch in this case is…you do have to buy some upfront hardware and fees. I’m sorry, nothing is truly free, but seriously, this is about as good as you’re going to get folks. Let’s break it down.

Free monthly cell phone service

During Black Friday ’15, I made this post on how to get free RingPlus service. In this case, it was a limited time promotion. But, the cool thing is…these promos aren’t really that limited. They pop up at RingPlus.net all the time. In fact, there’s one going on…right now! In this instance you can get 3200 minutes, 3200 texts, and 3.2 GB of data a month. That beats the hell out of the Black Friday promo. Again, so what’s the catch? Well, two things:

  • You have to buy your own phone and it needs to work on the RingPlus network. RingPlus is on the Sprint network, so phones from Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint will normally work. On the main page of RingPlus, you can check to see if your existing phone is applicable.
    • In general though, the device normally needs to be not activated; not associated with an account. Prepaid or unlocked phones are what you’re looking for. So be on the lookout for sales on phones.
  • You have to pay a one time fee to set up the account; normally $15-$25.

The fine print

If you go over any minutes, texts, or data; any overage will draw from that initial one time fee (it’s called a Top-Up). If you run out of money, you need to buy another “Top-Up”. If you never go over, you never pay an additional dime, and you never should need to. That’s it! That’s the gist of it. For many, many more details, I highly advise checking out this ever changing Wiki, there’s great stuff there that I won’t go into, but I’ll try to pick out some highlights:

  • The way RingPlus makes money is through their various add-ons that are totally optional (and their more expensive plans…that aren’t free). They also make money off of advertising. When making a call (that is, when you’re dialing a number), you may hear an ad. If this is a dealbreaker for you, I’m disappointed in you.
    • There are ways to turn this off through some tricks…you can set up a radio station to listen to instead (I chose a classical station). See the Wiki for details.
  • Certain plans require “Member+” which requires additional fees. I believe it’s a $99 one-time fee to lock in some of the higher echelon caps. Sometimes this is worth it, sometimes it’s not. My plan does not need Member+. It just really depends on what you want.
  • MMS (multimedia messages) aren’t free. They’re 4 cents each. This can be disabled through settings so you can’t receive them; see the aforementioned Wiki for more information.
    • This is the only thing that draws from my account. I just need to remember to not send pictures through text. If this is a dealbreaker for you, I apologize. What I do is just send pictures through email. You just have to be aware that it’s not free!
    • I believe MMS is free on Wi-fi though.

Summary

  • RingPlus is a cellular service on the Sprint network. It’s main claim to fame in the cheapass community is to get free (or very, very cheap) cell phone service.
  • You need to buy your own phone. Here is an example (and actually the phone I use). Phones go on sale all the time, and especially on Black Friday. Again, check the Wiki, it normally has pointers to phones. I didn’t cover this in detail, but…the phone choices are quite varied. You don’t have to buy a $20 phone like I did…you could, God forbid, use an unlocked iPhone. Unfortunately, that goes against everything I stand for. So…moving on…
  • Promotions pop-up every so often. I advise searching on Slickdeals.net and / or set up alerts for RingPlus on there. I listed one such deal as an example above.
    • I recommend having a phone that is unactivated in your possession and when a promo comes up, activate it. If nothing comes up…return the phone.
  • There are so many other finer details that I won’t attempt to go into. Again, I urge you to read this highly detailed Wiki for more information.

Personal recommendation

I have been using RingPlus for almost 6 months now. I spent $20 on a phone. I spent $15 on the Top-Up for the Leonardo 2 plan; which gives 1.5 GB data, 1500 texts, 1500 minutes – more than enough for me (I actually bought two lines…I have an emergency burner I can use at any time!). If you break down the cost of the cell service over 6 months, it is $5.83 / mo. In 12 months it will be $2.91 / mo. In 24 months, it will be $1.45 / mo. OK, so it’s not completely free. But if you can beat that, I’d be shocked. The farther you go out in time, the closer to $0 a month it becomes. I love it. Again, once you’ve paid the one time fees, there’s nothing else! It’s a beautiful thing.

So…what about home phone service? There’s a way to get that nearly free as well.

Free monthly home phone service

You may have heard of things like Vonage, Magic Jack, etc. These are all doing the same thing. There’s a piece of hardware that connects to your phone and your router. A phone call goes from your phone to the VOIP device through your router and over the internet to call others. Then you pay $20-30 a month to a company for this service. Pfff, lame.

So…what if I told you that you could buy your own generic VOIP hardware? And not pay anything, zero, nothing a month to have your own VOIP phone service? Well, I’m about to tell you how: Obihai combined with Google Voice.

Fine print

Much like RingPlus, there’s still some upfront costs. You need to buy the device that is normally provided to you when you buy something like Vonage. This device is an Obihai. Here is one example of one that was on sale (including a great Wiki section). Generally, you find one of these on sale in the neighborhood of $30 and then you set it up. It’s actually incredibly easy and all the instructions are included with the device. The trick to making this free is to link a Google Voice account to it.

What’s Google Voice? Come on. I hope you know what Google Voice is! I’m sorry, that was mean. Google will give you a free phone number. No catch. It’s legitimately free. However, you need to tie it to a device…are you putting things together yet? You’re going to associate it with the Obihai. There’s a whole bunch of stuff you can do with Google Voice, but we’re going to use it with the Obihai (you can associate it with your cell phone, for instance if you want; basically, GV allows you to “hide” your real number if you so desire – want to give out your number, but not your real number, well GV’s got your back, but again, that’s outside the scope of this post).

Summary

  • Buy an Obihai device. Find one on sale. I recommend Slickdeals. Should be $30-40.
  • Set up an Obihai account; you can do this once you’ve bought the hardware and register it online.
  • Set up a Google Voice account. Not much to it, the website should step you through it. You should be able to tie this to your Gmail account / general Google account, if you have one. You’d better have one…what’s wrong with you?
  • In the Obihai account portal, link your Google Voice account.
  • The Wiki section in this post will go over any finer details that I glossed over, but everything about should cover it, but seriously…it’s super easy.
  • Warning: There is one main caveat to note. E911 service is NOT included from Google Voice. If you want to be able to dial 911 from VOIP service, you need to buy a 3rd party service. You can do this. There are many options, but one recommended by Obihai is Anveo. I’m using this. I think it’s $12/year. That’s acceptable to me.
  • Optional: You may need to buy some handsets if you don’t have any already. I already have mine. I’m not including this in the cost of purchase, as I assume if you want home phone service, you actually…you know, already have a phone.

Personal recommendation

I’ve only used Obihai for a month. Previously, I had home phone service through VOIPO.com. They charged $150 for 2 years (which is $6.25/mo). But I knew I could do better than that…I actually bought the Obihai on sale over a year ago, and I’ve just been waiting for my VOIPO contract to expire. Thoughts?

So far, no issues. Call quality is fine, and there’s a whole bunch of optional features you can pay for if you desire. I don’t care. The takeaway here is: it’s free. It’s completely free. Some may scoff at the notion of even needing a “home phone”. I say: are you kidding? Why wouldn’t I want something that’s free?? I like redundancy guys.

If you can get an Obihai for $30, and you sign up for E911 service yearly, over 24 months, the monthly cost of this is $2.25 / mo ($1.25 / mo if you don’t want E911 service). Again, if you can beat this…please tell me. I would like to know.

And there you have it! That’s how you get free monthly home and phone service. I’m doing both of these, and I can personally vouch for them. If you have any questions, or need something explained, let me know and I’ll be happy to clarify.

Seriously guys, do you have any idea how amazing it feels to pay NOTHING for phone service?! I am saving at least $40 a month here; close to $500 a year for really doing nothing complicated. $500 that will continue to pay dividends year after year.

Boom! I hope I just blew your mind.

Disclaimer: I get nothing out of this. There’s no affiliate links here. I get no referrals at all, in any way. I’m not associated with any of these companies. I just cannot in good conscience not tell people how to pay next to nothing for basic services.

Filed under Deals, Info

Early Thoughts on Election 2016

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omg-politics
Politics? I’m talking about politics? Of course! I love politics! AP Government & Politics was one of my favorite high school classes. I love games. I love strategy. I love winning! That’s probably the main appeal for me….because I don’t like corruption; which is what pretty much all we have nowadays. But, I like games. And politics is all about the game.
Anyway…
As someone that has watched almost every debate and has been following the election for years now, let me share my thoughts, in no particular order:
  • It’s the Republicans to lose. Republicans have dominated the media this cycle (or Trump has) and should be able to capitalize on, what I’ll call, party fatigue. The sample size is fairly small, but it’s pretty rare for the Democratic party to win three times in a row. It’s only happened twice in almost 200 years (and that counts FDR…).
  • I have seen countless articles and pundits espouse the notion the Republicans have a demographics problem and they’re doomed. I mean, Obama mopped the floor in 2008/2012, right? Yes, but if you play with this awesome infographic, it doesn’t take a miracle for the electoral college to flip.
  • Both Sanders and Clinton are awful candidates for different reasons. I think the Democrats have been terribly wounded by their absolute lack of candidates. I mean…the choice is between an old lady who has decades of baggage or…an old guy who is an open socialist (but perhaps that doesn’t matter, because nobody even knows *what that means*). That’s all you got guys? Disappointing. I’m not excited for either of these choices.
  • But, it will be Clinton, and she’s boring; the same old used car salesman BS. There’s no passion with her. I find it hard to believe she will come close to getting the voters that came out for Obama.
  • OK, let’s get to the Trump in the room. Now I am way guilty of it, but Trump cannot be discounted any longer. I thought he was a joke. I vividly recall this Daily Show segment when it aired, where Jon Stewart is giddy with excitement at the absurdity of his announcement. Now? Not so much. The only way he gets beaten is if Kasich, Cruz, and Carson drop out…like…now. Man I wish Jon Stewart was still around…I loved when he talked about Trump, he was hysterical!
  • Just like Christie, Cruz can’t out trump Trump; Trump is a conduit of America’s anger. Cruz is also playing that card, but he’s losing. Why? Could it be because he comes off as a slimy lawyer who literally seems like he’s trying to con you when he’s talking? Or is that just how I feel?
  • Rubio is the only one that has a chance, and…if the field doesn’t collapse soon, it’s going to be too little too late. Rubio is the only Republican candidate that consistently polls the best against Clinton. The smart money wants Rubio, we’ll see if the GOP tries to take out Trump. But…how can they?! Trump is teflon, you could literally say he killed someone and it wouldn’t matter (and that’s how he phrased it…).

Predictions:

  • Clinton is the nominee for the Democratic side. Personally? I think Biden, Gore, or Elizabeth Warren are all better candidates. At least one of them should have tried to run. It’s pretty sad.
  • Trump will be the nominee…my God, I actually wrote that. Unless, UNLESS the following happens and happens soon: Carson, Kasich, and Cruz all drop out after Super Tuesday. But Cruz definitely won’t! He won’t! He is the thorn in the GOP’s side. Always has been. That’s his game. If not? Trump has such a commanding lead in the polls, when it gets to winner-take-all, his delegate lead will be insurmountable. The enormous field coupled with Trump’s ingenious tapping of the populist anger has combined for an unlikely path to the nomination. It’s amazing to watch unfold.

Other thoughts:

  • Holy hell is this field old! Trump is 69, Clinton is 68, Sanders looks like he’s 127, but is actually 74. Remember in 2008 when everyone talked about how old McCain was at 71?! Why has no one brought this up? Because Clinton and Trump dye their hair??
  • The question now is…who is Trump going to pick as his VP? Here’s what Trump has just said. If you take him at his word, the two likely candidates would be either Kasich…or…Rubio! Both are actually interesting choices. Kasich should lock up Ohio, and Rubio…Rubio just polls well, is well-liked, is conservative, is young, and…well, pretty much everything Donald Trump isn’t. It would be a good dichotomy. Trump supporters are so tunnel-visioned, for the most part, I don’t think they’d even care who the VP is.
  • But choosing an establishment candidate (I mean Rubio is kind of a Tea Party / establishment hybrid) would potentially ease the concerns of a Trump presidency (of which I’m sure everyone has grave concerns; the 1930s Germany parallels are pretty eerie) for some people.
  • Why would he do this? Well, the GOP is rightfully concerned with nominating Trump. This would be an olive branch. On paper Trump – Rubio is a pretty compelling ticket. How could the GOP say no to that? If Trump would win, this would set the stage for Rubio to run later (ala Gore) as he is still so young.
  • I’m not sure how this Supreme Court battle is going to play out with public opinion. It’s ENORMOUSLY critical. In some ways, this Supreme Court nod is more important than the presidency (and it makes sense why Senate Republicans want to hold off…but I really don’t know if the American people are smart enough to care).

Revised prediction:

  • Trump wins the nomination and nominates Rubio to be his Vice President.

We’ll see, eh? You tell me a more likely outcome and I’ll be happy to debate it with you.

One more observation:

  • OK, I never really commented on why Trump is doing well. Here’s my take: people are pissed. Some people (read: Republicans) have been super pissed for eight years. People are tired of a corrupt political system. Everyone knows PACs are bullshit. Everyone knows super donor campaign money runs and rigs the game. Trump is literally a middle finger to all of that. People love that. I love that. It’s refreshing.
  • Now I don’t think Trump is that great of a candidate, he literally flip-flops on many issues, has no solid stance on anything, and isn’t really that much of a conservative…but…again, he brings up issues others won’t. He doesn’t read from a teleprompter, he gives you an honest opinion, which most of the time is grounded in truth, whether it’s uncomfortable to hear or not. The last person to come close to doing that was Ross Perot, which after researching Ross Perot, I liked a lot of what he said (I was just a wee lad then). I see why people are passionate. It’s showing up in the polls and the results. He is bringing in historic turnouts and people that have not voted before. It will certainly be interesting to watch this unfold.

Looking forward to Thursday’s debate (we’ll see if all guns are aimed at Trump…) and Super Tuesday!

Filed under Politics

2015 Game Completion Breakdown

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Here is a list of games I completed in 2015 (in descending order). Yes, I catalog this. Mock me if you’d like.

Entries will only appear here if I have “beaten” the game. Many, many of these games are spread out over the course of several years (the record being TC:NB; took me EIGHT years to beat!!). I went on kind of a, “Dammit, I’m tired of having all these unfinished games in my backlog” rage in the middle of the year (sad thing is that it barely dents the dozens and dozens of unopened games I still have…).

Anyway, let’s get to it.

12/29/15: YOSHI’S WOOLY WORLD (Wii U). Completion time: 25:25.

  • Loved this game. Highly recommended; especially for co-op. Great game to play with your spouse or best friend.
  • Super huge nostalgia; brought significant gameplay elements and characters from original YOSHI’S ISLAND, but while being something completely fresh. That is damn hard to do.
  • Significant replay value. Every level has tons to find. Every world has a bonus stage (like the first game) which opens when you’ve found all the Flowers from the stages in that world. And, yes, if you find all the Flowers in the bonus stages, you get one final level. These stages are pretty challenging (like the first game). Good mix of difficulty depending on how far you want to go.
  • You can’t find a much better platforming experience.

10/29/15: NEW SUPER MARIO BROS 2 (3DS). Completion time: 6:29.

  • Fun game. It’s a 2D Mario platformer.
  • I don’t know though…something about this game just feels “weird”. The level design is very chaotic and…strange.
  • Not to mention the game is very short! Definitely the fastest I’ve ever beaten a Mario platformer. Not a lot of replay value.

9/19/15: XENOBLADE CHRONCILES (Wii). Completion time: 80:20.

  • This is game that took several years to complete (it came out in 2012 in US).
  • This game is breathtaking. Such scale, such detail. Does about as much as the Wii is capable of (it originally came out in 2010!!).
  • Fun battle system, fun English (UK) dub, “It’s a Krabble!”. Just a fun game. It’s one of those games where you can just wander around and be happy (I liked to do this in the ocean of Zelda: Windwaker, but this game is a whole ‘nother level).
  • I can’t bring myself to rebuy this for 3DS though. Playing Xenoblade X now. Seems nothing like this game, but I’m only very early into it.
  • This is by far the jewel of the Wii. If you like JRPGs this is the best the Wii has to offer.
  • Xenoblade was the reason I wrote this “open letter” to Nintendo in 2011. I’m glad it was finally released. It was worth the wait (and the 3 years it took me to beat).

8/21/15: TRIPLE TRIAD (Android). Completion time: Unknown.

  • I umm, I uhh…was kind of obsessed with this game. See my review here.
  • I have no idea how many hours I spent on this, but it had to be close to 100. I would wake up in the middle of the night to play it. It was the first thing I played when I got home. You could only play it 15-20 minutes at a time, but that normally happened, at least, 3-4 times a day.
  • Square then made “crystal regeneration” double speed, and…I sort of lost interest. Before that online became crippled with no variation in strategy and everyone left. It’s a shame, this game could have had legs, but once I found most of the cards, I was done. Coupled with inability to find games…well…what’s the point?
  • I think Square is still making updates to it, and adding new content, but, ehh…I haven’t bothered to try and transfer this over to my new phone. It’s probably for the best, this was like crack for awhile, I’m glad to be over it.

8/5/15: TRAUMA TEAM (Wii). Completion time: 14:59.

  • This was a straight-up speed run. I beat this as fast as I could.
  • Very, very different than the 3…4 (?) other games in this series, which I have all beaten. Reminds me of what “Sonic Adventure” did to the Sonic games. 5-6 different characters with different abilities / scenarios…not all of them very fun.
  • I enjoyed it, but much preferred the predecessors. The sad thing is…this series is in a coma.  I was really hoping a Wii U version would be made for this, as it would make GREAT use of the game pad.
  • I still listen to this song, over and over and over and over…

8/1/15: KIRBY: RAINBOW CURSE (Wii U). Completion time: 9:44.

  • Pretty much a straight rip of Canvas Curse (which was an excellent DS game).
  • Liked the game, just felt like it was a shell of what it could be. No real bonus modes. Not much replay value…stopped at 94% complete (some of the “bonus” modes are ridiculously hard…I gave up).
  • Good, solid platformer though. It’s definitely unique, and is one of the best games to use the Wii U Gamepad.

7/27/15: TRAUMA CENTER: NEW BLOOD (Wii). Completion time: 73:53:51.

  • Oh man…what a game! First and only game in the series that had online leaderboards…you do NOT want to do that to me Atlus! I would spend hours and hours and hours on one level getting into the top 10! This was a worldwide top 10 too! Before the servers went down I still owned several #1 world records and a lot of top 10s on several levels. It’s on my TODO list to post these pictures / videos somewhere…
  • Such a crazy amount of content and clearing to do in this game… Two characters, three difficulties, co-op mode, four possible ranks. That means you need to beat every stage 12 times and get the best rank. My OCD attempted this (I had XS’d every stage in the series up to this point afterall…). I spent time over eight years trying…I just couldn’t do it. I finally just decided to “beat it”.
  • Good memories of this one. Was probably the last game where I actually played local co-op with a friend. End of an era…

7/21/15ZELDA: SPIRIT TRACKS. Completion time: ~20-30 hours.

  • I played this game on two different consoles, so I don’t have a definitive time (read: too lazy to go and figure it out).
  • I hate this game. I HATE THIS GAME. It was beyond frustrating. I tabled the final “dungeon” for years because it pissed me off. I hate the controls. The game would be fine if it let me use buttons. No. You have the stylus…that’s it. So much anger. I just wanted to beat this and never think about it again…

7/5/15MAJORA’S MASK (3DS). Completion time: 37:52.

  • Man, oh man do I love this game. It’s my favorite Zelda. Fifteen years later, it’s still my favorite Zelda. It takes everything that made OoT amazing, and enhanced it, except the story (which is not a big deal to me).
  • This game is challenging. This game is beautiful. This game is just a lot of damn run. Rolling around as a Goron with great speed is up there as one of my favorite videogame memories.
  • The 3DS version doesn’t really add much, but that’s OK. This game is near perfect.
  • This run was a complete run with Fierce Deity link mask obtained.

6/28/15THE LAST OF US (PS3). Completion time: 17:40.

  • I’m not a big fan of western based game companies. Is it because of the emphasis on graphics, story, voice acting? I don’t know. But I normally find some critical flaw with them where I just can’t play it. However, ever since the E3 demo of this game, I knew it was something I would pick up. Naughty Dog has a good track record, I like their stuff.
  • This game is amazing and disappointing at the same time. It’s just…missing something. I can’t pin it down. It has amazing graphics, amazing voice acting. I don’t know…it just wasn’t really…that…fun? Does that make sense? I guess it’s just way too linear for my tastes. You get the illusion of choice, but it’s on rails. I just don’t find these types of games to be fulfilling.
  • I urge everyone to play this game because it defines the PS3 though. There are a lot of interesting combat and puzzle ideas in here. Fighting “bad guys” by sneaking around and throwing bricks and bottles for the 100th time just gets old after awhile… I had zero desire to play the multiplayer for this, I just didn’t like the combat.

6/6/15RADIANT HISTORIA (DS). Completion time: 39:21.

  • As part of my review comments elsewhere, I called this, “the best turn-based RPG I’ve played in 15 years”. Is that because since the new century we haven’t had a lot of entries in this genre or is this just a really good game? Both.
  • It’s hard to describe this game. It’s a JRPG that follows two timelines (and offshoots)…simultaneously. Very well executed too. You can “jump” to the other scenarios at certain junctures and doing things in one timeline will affect the others and open new paths. Like if you learn a new skill or find an item in one, you can advance in another.
  • I liked the story, I liked the music, the graphics, the combat (which involves a 3×3 grid where you can use your skills to take advantage of enemy placement), and just the overall the uniqueness of this game. It feels kind of “rough” in some ways, but it gives it some charm.
  • It has a lot of things to do post completion if you so desire and the difficulty can get challenging. The game length is just right. Highly recommended.

5/24/15SUPER MARIO LAND 2: SIX GOLDEN COINS (3DS -> Gameboy). Completion time: 1:39.

  • This was a pure speed run. I don’t normally do this, but this game sort of called for it.
  • I have heard many, many things about the “Land” series, and I was impressed after finally getting to play this as a digital download on 3DS. You have to note that this is for the freakin’ Game Boy, so some things aren’t as “top-notch” as you would normally expect from a Mario platformer.
  • That said, some of the level design is “weird”. I mean, really…weird.
  • Bunny Mario is the freakin’ shit.

5/24/15ULTIMATE NES REMIX (3DS). Completion time: 13:15.

  • I don’t even remember where I got this. I think it was the final Club Nintendo digital download, perhaps?
  • In any event, this is a fun little game. I think it leaves some things on the table, but maybe the point is to introduce these in future games, maybe? I can’t find much in terms of sales data though, so…I don’t know if this did so well…
  • Basically, the game gives you a “series” to play and the levels are either snippets of famous parts from the game, or “remixes” mashed up with other games (like a Link sprite is in a Mario game).
  • Like I said, there are tons of things to work with that can be expounded upon, that I hope to see!
  • Their online ranking system is pretty shady though…I’m not sure I trust the leaderboards. Here’s a video of me playing the final battle in Metroid. It says I’m top 3. But, I think these “change” over time. Eww. What the hell Nintendo?

5/15/15: BLOODBORNE (PS4). Completion time: 65:57:25.

  • This is my Game of the Year for 2015. This is the best exclusive game that PS4 has. Unquestionably. This is DARK SOULS + Guns. And werewolves. And a heavy emphasis on blood. Don’t ask me what the stories about, I have no idea. All I know is that…damn this game is fun. And damn can this game be hard!
  • What’s new versus just the normal SOULS series? They added randomly generated dungeons that can be created via loot that is found through normal gameplay.
  • Lots of updates from FROM SOFTWARE slightly tweaking mechanics. I stopped playing when I hear they finally allowed CHUNKS to be bought from shops! *grumble grumble*.
  • I think this has DLC, but I’m not a DLC guy. I just don’t DLC unless I can get it free somehow, or buy a version with all DLC already on it. I have principles.
  • If you liked the SOULS series and have a PS4, dear God buy this game. It’s beautiful. It’s creepy. It’s hard as hell. However, I did platinum it…along with the other 3 games in the series!

The first four months of the year, I apparently did nothing.

Game of the year:

  • Bloodborne (PS4)

Games that didn’t quite make the cut / in progress:

  • Super Smash Bros Wii U – I don’t know how to classify this. I’ve beaten the 3DS version, but not exactly “beat” this one? What constitutes “beating” a fighting game anyway? I don’t know. But since my buddies who normally play this with me don’t appear to have any desire to play this…I guess this will sit in limbo. And I’ll instead go waste my money on amiibos.
  • Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Oh man, so close to being done with this. My wife actually “stole” this from me…and…gasp…she beat it before I did! I was shocked. I was really hoping to beat this by the end of the year, I’m only a few hours away, but since there’s only a few hours remaining in this year, well…hopefully I can cross this one of soon.
  • Zelda: Skyward Sword – Guys, I really want to like this game. I just…really don’t like this game. It’s ugly. And I hate the waggle combat. I just don’t know if I can push through…I’m only one dungeon down, but I’m very bored. And my hand hurts just thinking about holding that stupid controller for hours.
  • Witcher 3 – Just started. It’s unclear how far I’ll even get in this game. I like the open-world, I just don’t dig the small text. I don’t do small text games. I have a history of starting a game after an hour and never playing it again…I fear this is one of those games.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X – Another small text game. But at least I can play it on the gamepad! Just started. This could take years, as did Xenoblade Chronicles.

Games on my backlog I’d really like to play in 2016:

  • Final Fantasy X/X-2, Silent Hill 3. If I don’t play anything else next year, I want it to be these games (well, maybe I’ll avoid X-2).

Until next time! Happy New Year and happy gaming!

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