Friday, November 28, 2014

Game Review - Nevertales: The Beauty Within

Game Review - Nevertales: The Beauty Within
Score: +4/-6
Summary: Interesting and fantastical story. Pacing and variety is good. Interesting use of Achievements for replay value.

In many ways, criticisms in review will apply to many contemporary hidden object games, and are not to be taken as faults unique to this game.
+-- For the most part artwork is very nice, but character animations when speaking, through the use of image distortion instead of actual facial animation, make the characters look disturbing rather than realistic.
- Fuzzy cutscenes, especially if you play on higher resolutions. Example:

Nevertales 1 cutscene screenshot
+ Convenient replays of hidden object games for achievements involving spotting "morphing items". Because this unlocks achievements and further features, it really helps to have the replay available without having to replay the entire game. Also, if you are only missing a morphing object in a hidden object game, you can just locate that object in the replay instead of completely replaying the hidden object game scene.
+ Achievements for replay value: You can replay hidden object game scenes to score achievements with better time and accuracy -- unlike other games, where you typically can't rollback to redo a scene unless you located and backed up your savegame first.
- Sloppy hidden object scenes with multiple possibilities but only one right answer. For example, in the scene below, you are tasked to find a "Leaf", of which there are two possibilities, but the "correct" one is behind the fan.

Nevertales 1 - multiple leaves

In this other example, you are required to find a "Cherry", and there are two in the scene, but the one on the milkshake is incorrect. The entire milkshake shows up later as an objective to find.

Nevertales 1 - two cherries
- Non-intuitive puzzles and click areas. For example, in the scene below, you need to get a "shiny armor piece" to distract a raven. But you have to somehow know to get that piece and then hover your mouse all over the armor until the cursor changes context to know you can grab the dull lustre piece marked in the walkthrough below as "E".

Nevertales 1 - "Shiny Armor Part" walkthrough page 2

Nevertales 1 - "Shiny Armor Part" walkthrough page 1

+- Interesting story with a variety of environments and some tense cutscenes where you really don't know how you will end up. They do try hard to keep the momentum and tension, although this is pretty impossible to do in a hidden object game where you can have as much time as you like. However, implausibly hidden items (e.g., a musical instrument hidden behind a stone in a castle outer wall) make you take the hidden objects games less seriously and pull you out of story immersion.

If you have played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you may spot the Elven Bow easter egg, as well as Azura's Moon-and-Star motif in the game.

Skyrim Elven Bow easter egg

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Skyrim Mod - GQ Potions Extended

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Mod:
GQ Potions Extended
download version: 2014-Nov-23

Allows combining potions at a Cooking Pot into stronger potions and Rejuvenation potions based on the Dragonborn DLC Well-Being potions.

Changes Ultimate Potions to restore less. Adds more types of Ultimate Potions.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Game Review - The Far Kingdoms

Game Review - The Far Kingdoms
Score: +2/-6
Summary: Mostly a hidden object game, but with a considerable about of match-3 and several mini-games.
+ Challenging in that it gives you less clues than other hidden object games. If you are hoping for a very casual, relaxed, and EASY game, then this isn't for you, even on the easiest setting.
- Mediocre artwork initially/during cutscenes but better in-game, though maybe not as good as other contemporary games.
- Poor scripting. For example, after you have completed your task with a particular character, their dialog doesn't change and they still say that you need to bring them various quest items.
- Sometimes when you need to apply an item to another item, the area where your click is valid is small or not intuitive. You may have the correct action but it is invalidated by the game not recognizing that you are clicking on the correct object. This occurs most often when you have a spell/potion recipe and you are trying to click on the mixing vial on the lower right corner.
- Hints are worthless because they are invariably misleading.
- Some Match-3 games are nearly impossible to complete, or take so much time that it bores you to sleep. The reason is the number of token types: Too many on a restrictive board setup can lead to no-moves-available. You may have to use the 3 free shuffles, after which you get a Skip button. There is challenging, but the difficulties here change it to tedious.
+- You will not always get a cursor context change where you need to take an action, usually when you need to use an inventory item on an object. For people who play without hints such as shimmering areas to indicate actions needed or hidden object games, this increases the difficulty and makes you think instead of being led by the nose all the time. Other people will find it frustrating.

Overall the game definitely needs more polish in the user-interface to bring it up to par with contemporary hidden object games in terms of intuitiveness and friendliness. There are many better games with more exciting storylines and pacing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Skyrim Quest Checklist

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Quest Checklist (version 2015-January-16)

Two files are included in the ZIP:

  • A simple checklist for all quests, Skill Book locations, and Unusual Gem locations in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Includes Hearthfire and Dragonborn DLCs.
  • A spreadsheet helps to total required resources for Hearthfire DLC construction.

Download the Skyrim Quest Checklist here.

Highly recommended mods are:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

City of Steam v2.8.1 - Transmuter

Here are some tips for using the City of Steam (v2.8.1) Transmuter.
  • You get a lot of Transmuter Orbs but not a lot of Coolant. Save your Coolant till you have maybe 10 or so. Save your Orbs till you have 100+. Then, during a long Vanquish, work on the Transmuter.
    • Do your minimum 5 spins each day to collect Orbs and Coolant from the Transmuter NPC, but keep accumulating. In the later game, you will be Vanquishing the Tower which can take a long time, and the Transmuter is one of the minigames you can play to pass that time while also waiting for a match in the 1v1 Queue.
  • If you start with too many bombs and the pressure is up too much, you will likely not get a good prize so just reset.
  • If you start with no pairs or triplets, you are also likely not to get a good prize so you might also want to reset, unless you are going for the collectible Transmuter Essences, which you can accumulate to get character bonuses.
  • If you aim for the Collectibles, then you should be willing to lock in low value prizes like shillings and metals because they have a higher likelihood of showing up.

Monday, November 3, 2014

City of Steam v2.8.1 - Talent Show

For the most part, City of Steam (v2.8.1) is really straightforward, but there are little optimizations you can do to advance and get more "hidden" rewards. One of these is the Talent Show.

The Talent Show can seem very hard to qualify for, but you can almost always get a prize every day. There are two types of ways to get prizes: Ranking and Qualifying.

Rankings are the lists you see when you click on Talent Show. Generally you have to spend a LOT to get high in the rankings, but not always. Qualifying is the easier way: You just have to have a minimum spend to get a prize immediately.

Each day, there are different types of ways to get "Qualified Talent" status. Invariably Mercenary Recruitment Credits will be there. The other will typically alternate, with Myth Board points appearing as well.

Mercenary Recruitment
You need to spend 1 million shillings to get the 5000 points. At lower levels, accumulate this much for Mercenaries before you spend in a day, so that you can at least get the Qualified Talent prize.
At around mid level 30, you will want to spend 1 million a day exactly, and keep some shillings in reserve in case you see a good shillings-purchasable item in the rotating Mystery Market, such as collectible artifact pieces. As well, accumulate around 6 million shillings so that on the same day you spend on mercenaries, you can get at least a low rank on the Rankings for mercenary spend and get a prize there at the end of the day.
How much you need to spend obviously depends on how much other people are spending on the leaderboard. If you are very low on the leaderboard, try to watch the rankings toward server reset to make sure you still qualify.

Myth Board
It takes a crazy amount of shillings to fully reveal one Myth Board. If you are not committed to that, and have trouble deciding how much to reveal, then aiming to Qualify for Myth Board research points is one way.
If the Talent Show does not show Qualified Talent for Myth Boards today, then research whatever you like and then Refresh your boards, but do NOT use the fresh boards yet.
The next day, if the Qualified Talent for Myth Boards shows up, you get to start with a fresh board, plus another set of fresh boards because you have a free Refresh for that day. Typically revealing 5-10 tiles on each of the three boards should be more than enough to get you Qualified Talent. You may want to just do 5 tiles per board and check your score before refreshing to see how many more tiles per board you want to uncover.

Lucky Spin Credit vs. My Lucky Stars event
Whenever you get Lucky Scrolls, hold on to them for this Qualified Talent and use them only when it shows up.
Another thing you may want to do is to hold on to all your scrolls until the My Lucky Stars event (which might happen about once or twice a week) occurs, and then use 9 scrolls to get 10 spins and 100 spin credits. Many people don't do that, so if you can accumulate 18 scrolls you will typically get a low rank in the Rankings for My Lucky Stars.

The reason My Lucky Stars is often a better event is the boxes of Orange Mercenary Synergy Cards. Each box gives you a random card. And each card gives you only Synergy Points -- not the actual mercenary if you do not already have it. But considering that people spend millions of shillings to get even one Orange Mercenary, this is a great deal if you can win it. You will still need quite a bit of luck to get the correct orange mercenary synergy card, though.

City of Steam v2.8.1 - Walkthrough / Levelling Guide

For the most part, City of Steam (v2.8.1) is really straightforward, but there are little optimizations you can do to advance and get more "hidden" rewards.

Main Quest
Basically, follow along and do as you are told. In general, the Main Quest and Optional Quests are quite easy, and you should pursue them as far as you are allowed by your level. Once you are around late Level 30, you might encounter level requirements to advance the quest.

The Main Quest will take you to Arkadia at some point, and the automated Training there gives you 10% more XP per 30 seconds than anywhere else. If you haven't reached that point in the story and need to log off, there is a way to reach Arkadia earlier -- After Delton, you will end up in The Refuge. If you go to the north, there are houses for each of the races. Some houses can be entered. After a short fight you enter a special basement with a portal to Arkadia. Many things will still be level-locked, but you can at least park yourself there before you log out.

Enhancing Gear
You will be introduced to enhancing gear with metal quite early. Do ONLY the MINIMUM for the tutorial, and towards 100% completion for Daily Tasks to get lucky scrolls and your collectible Stamp. You will not be able to transfer the enhancement till much later, so if you go crazy now you will end up wasting metal and you will probably level so quickly that you can find better gear shortly.
Hold on to your gear for Transferring later.
Also, do not use too much Metal each day. Keep a bit in reserve to fulfill your Daily Tasks so that you do not end up buying lots of overpriced metal in the Mystery Market.

Mining and Fishing
The Main Quest will also introduce you to fishing and mining and force you to fish and mine once. Do so only ONCE, or a maximum of two times. If you level up fast enough, you can reach level 15 before server reset, whereupon two new Daily Quests will appear, requiring you to mine 3 times and fish 3 times. Save 3 attempts for those if you can reach level 15 before the day ends (i.e., before server reset at server time 0000h).

Vanquish and Heroic Challenge Quests
You will receive access to the Normal and Heroic Challenges before you actually receive the Vanquish and Heroic Challenge Quests at level 14. Do NOT do the Heroic Challenges before your receive the quest, unless you will not hit level 14 before server reset. This is because you have only 1 Heroic Attempt per day on the early Heroic Challenges. If you do it before getting the Heroic Challenge quest, you will be out of attempts and be unable to complete that quest before server reset.

The Vanquish and Heroic Challenge Quests should be done early when you receive them. Always turn in your Vanquish missions first. Typically the Vanquish quests are easy, so do them all first. Doing each Normal Challenge at least once unlocks the associated Heroic. But do not skip ahead to do all the Heroics first because you will waste Daily Rewards.

For example: If you are Level 41 and you haven't started your Level 40 Vanquish mission, you can do it in this way:

1x Level 40 Normal Challenge
1x Level 40 Heroic Challenge + turn in quest
9x Level 40 Normal Challenge + turn in quest (10 required for level 40's Vanquish missions)
1x Level 41 Normal Challenge
1x Level 41 Heroic Challenge + turn in quest
9x Level 41 Normal Challenge + turn in quest

Total Daily Rewards 22.

The above schedule gives you XP quickly without wasting any daily rewards.
If instead you focussed on the Heroics and did this:

1x Level 40 Normal Challenge
1x Level 40 Heroic Challenge + turn in quest
1x Level 41 Normal Challenge
1x Level 41 Heroic Challenge + turn in quest

You will get XP faster, but you will discover that you still need 10x Level 41 Normal Challenges to finish the L41 Vanquish mission because you didn't yet turn in the L40 Vanquish mission. Therefore, you end up with this:

1x Level 40 Normal Challenge
1x Level 40 Heroic Challenge + turn in quest
1x Level 41 Normal Challenge
1x Level 41 Heroic Challenge + turn in quest
9x Level 40 Normal Challenge + turn in quest
10x Level 41 Heroic Challenge + turn in quest

Total Daily Rewards 23 - one wasted

Normal Challenges typically don't give you a lot of XP, so I wouldn't bother doing them unless you have extra. Even then, it is probably better to spend your daily rewards on Heroic Challenges to get Orange Material Fragments.
Each day you get 33 Daily Rewards for Challenges -- 1 per hour except at 1800h server time, when you get 10 -- and you cannot bank more than 20 at a time. If your schedule is such that you can't level up quickly enough, then use up Daily Rewards such that you won't lose any from not having room to bank them.
The order in which you should use them up is:
  • Doing Vanquish Missions
  • Doing Heroic Challenge Missions
  • Doing your daily quota of Heroic Challenges
  • Vanquishing Normal Challenges
Some people say to always do your quota of Heroic Challenges first, but you shouldn't do that unless you have no more Vanquish and Heroic Challenge missions to do. Do the missions for the huge amount of XP first, or you will get stuck with your levelling.
Once you are around late Level 30's, you might still be stuck for XP to level unless you also do the Multi-Dungeons. At this time, because you will be held back by your level, you will probably have enough Daily Rewards leftover to do your daily quota of Heroic Challenges for Orange Fragments.
You might think you should do the Normal Challenges for XP, but the XP reward is so small that it is unlikely to affect your levelling. Instead, go for Orange Fragments since an orange gear of Level X is typically better than Blue gear of Level (X + 10).

Heroic Challenges, "Ask For Help", and PVP
When you start a Heroic Challenge, you can go with 0 to 2 other persons. The "Ask For Help" (used to be called "AI Sync") button allows you to bring in clones of other players. These are basically AI-controlled bots. Your available roster depends on who is near you in the PVP rankings (not the 1v1 queue, but the PVP menu where you choose who to fight and where the top three are sitting on thrones).

Therefore, unless you have friends or Company members who can help you with your Heroic Challenges, you should always try to get the best PVP rank possible every day.
Sometimes you will get lucky and a high-level player working their way up the queue will end up in your list. But if you are a new character, you will start from the bottom and will likely encounter for the first week (or more) very low level bots from new and abandoned accounts.

Your first couple of days will probably see you too weak to easily win, but once things get going you will easily squash all the abandoned accounts and steadily make your way up the rankings. Skip any high-levels on their way up if you are not sure you can defeat them. Other than that, try to rise as quickly as possible to make your Heroic Challenges convenient.

You can also ask a high-level player to help you. If their Daily Rewards are at 0, they can be Invited into your Heroic Challenge room (Add them as a Friend,  then choose them using the Invite Friend button). They won't get any rewards if they have already finished the Challenge themselves that day, or if their Daily Rewards are 0, but they can zoom straight to the boss and kill it to end the Challenge quickly, saving you a lot of time.

Multi-Dungeons and BossRaids
As early as Level 10, there is a Multi-Dungeon. Do NOT do it yet. You get only 3 Multi-Dungeon attempts each day. You can quite rapidly get to Level 20 or 30, so as you get closer to server reset, if you can't get to Level 20, then do the Level 10 Multi-Dungeon. Likewise, if you can't get to Level 30, then do the Level 20 Multi-Dungeon.

These allow you to "Ask for Help" or invite high-level players, similar to a Heroic Challenge, so see our notes about how to get good bots if you can't find someone to help you.

The BossRaids are really long and boring if you are not going with a higher-level party who will basically short-cut a lot of fights. With the Level 30 Three Wizards, level 50's will typically rush for the bosses. This means you typically have to wait for them to finish their own Bossraids before helping you, so by level 30 you will want to be in a good Company and get that help. It's possible to play through them, but they are long grinds and even at just 2 runs per day, it sucks up way too much time.

If you are stuck, as long as you haven't failed the mission, you can exit out WITHOUT losing your daily attempt.

Time Management
Have a plan for what to do while you are Vanquishing. In the early game, Vanquishing dungeons won't take long. But later it will be 5 minutes per Normal Challenge, and up to 15 minutes for some other types of Vanquishing. Your ability to enter dungeons will be pretty much zero during that time.

Some things to do are:
  • Queue in the 1v1 PvP queue. It can take a long time before you get a match.
  • Adjust your gear -- transfer enchantments, merge mods, smelting, revamping, etcetera.
  • Sort through your cosmetics and sell the duplicates.
  • Check Bounties, which refresh every 30 minutes.
  • Do Fishing, Mining, Scribe's Maze, Gold Smash
  • Don't spend your Transmuter Orbs every day. Save up maybe 200+ and 5-10 Transmuter Coolant and work on it during a long Vanquish period. Having many orbs and Coolants also helps you work toward a bigger win (more matches on the Transmuter).
  • Chat with others to arrange Multi-Dungeon and BossRaid teams.
  • Watch the Cargo Delivery screen for ships to intercept, or send your own ships.
Daily Rewards for Challenges can be lost if you abort a Vanquish, so do not Vanquish more than one at a time. This lets you switch to something else after each Vanquish, in case a team is ready for a Multi-Dungeon or BossRaid, for instance.
If you exit a Normal or Heroic Challenge (or your internet connection is lost, etcetera), you will also lose the one Daily Reward you spent entering the Challenge. This does not apply with all the other Challenges such as BossRaids and Monster Lairs.

There are two ways to go: Perfect smelts, and maximum smelts.
After 10 Stars, the slots reset to Moons, the percentage bonus increases slightly, the cost per smelt increases a lot, and the percentage chance resets to 100% for the first Moon.
So, you can either leave your failed smelts, or try to squeeze every fractional percentage by going for a perfect 10 successes on Stars before continuing on to Moons. It's up to you whether the small percentage lost is fine with you because once you are on to Moons, there's no going back to clearing up your Stars.
At the same time, the cost in Lucky Stones to ensure success is staggering compared to your ability to get Stones.

You have to Smelt twice (any two smelts on any two items, not just Weapons, unlike what the instructions say) to get 100% Daily completion and your completion Stamp collectible. If you fail, leave it instead of wiping. Get ready with enough smelting Alloys before you wipe and redo.
Remember that you get an additional bonus for smelting all your gear to 5 stars, so you may want to keep an item you do not wear to smelt once, wipe, and smelt again. This lets you do your Smelting Daily Completion for just 2 Alloys per day.

Before you settle on an Orange attribute, be sure it is one that you want. Locking in an attribute raises the cost per revamp attempt to 10. Locking in two or three raises it even more. So, for your first Orange per item, keep going until you get an Orange of the type you want. If you are not specialized in Parry, for example, an Orange Parry attribute is ultimately worthless.

Gold Smash and Scribe's Maze
The gold you get from Gold Smash, and the XP per book from Scribe's Maze, are dependent on your level, so do them when you are sure you will not level up anymore before server reset.
Having a jetpack helps a lot, especially in Scribe's Maze, but wait for the Shop ("Y" key) to be at half price before buying one. The Shop is often half price during events as a special promotional incentive, but it is also half price once a week. Click every day to check.

Copper Wastes 
Once you get to Arkadia, you can also go into the Copper Wastes. Bosses spawn periodically -- Maestro, which gives typically blue or purple gear, and the Skeleton Prince, who always gives Orange gear. Each member of a team get the gear as long as they are in the map, so try to go in teams of 3 to get the maximum drop per boss.
Skeleton Prince -- if you can beat out all other contenders and land the killing blow -- is the fastest way to get Orange gear, faster than collecting Orange Fragments from Heroic Challenges. With Heroic Challenges, however, all gear you create will be usable by your character. With the Skeleton Prince, this is not guaranteed. Therefore, an Arcanist could end up with a Warder's sword, which they cannot use.
You can try to sell your finds in the Market, however. You can list in Bound Electrum but you must buy with Electrum. This is also a way to cheaply give gear to friends and Company members: Sell it to them for the minimum price of 1 Electrum. Just make sure you are both at the Market to quickly complete the transaction before someone else grabs it.

City of Steam v2.8.1 - How to Play Golden Hoard

There are two Golden Hoard events in City of Steam (v2.8.1) -- Morning Hoard and Evening Hoard. They are basically the same: Kill Golden Aetherslugs, open chests, collect Mercenary Books.
You can walk out of there with as many as 150 x 5-xp Mercenary Books, for a total of 750 mercenary XP -- valued at roughly 150,000 shillings if you were to spend shillings recruiting and discarding mercenaries for XP. Even more if you have a key to open the one locked chest, which contains bigger mercenary books and a possible box of random stat boost potions (I believe the person who used the key gets this box).

Many people don't know how to play this mini-game and end up getting killed, which requires someone to use a cardiotonic to revive them. I recommend you do not waste your cardiotonic. It generally requires Electrum to get and the stakes are no so high in this mini-game that you need to revive anyone.

Golden Hoard is a channeler's game since they can heal themselves, but even greedy high-level channelers get killed early. The game is actually simple if you are patient and not greedy. Also, prizes from a box are divided amongst the remaining players, so there is no real rush to grab loot.

The game is run in four rounds. In each round, once you kill all the golden aetherslugs, the bars will be removed from one of the side rooms, allowing you to get at the chests. You will know this when a message flashes across your screen indicating how many black aetherslugs will spawn when you open a chest.

How to Survive Golden Hoard
In the first round, typically there is just the one black aetherslug, so when you attack a gold aetherslug, chances are the black slug will not teleport to your location. After the first round, there will be plenty of black slugs to go around, so get used to moving immediately.
When a slug teleports to your location, you have just a couple of seconds to move out of its black aura. You will not take damage if you get clear quickly, but it will eat your health very quickly if you do not. So, MOVE. Don't worry about killing the gold slug -- Worry about your health.
  • This is KEY to surviving Golden Hoard. Don't wait to get out -- start moving. Whenever I have done this, almost all the time I get clear without taking any damage at all.
Once you move out of the way, you can just press "1" to initiate your basic attack (assuming your basic attack is assigned to hotkey "1"). Since you were already targeting a gold slug (assuming it hasn't been killed), you will resume targeting it again. If you are a Warder with limited range combat, you will have to be more careful and basically rely more on your teammates. Just stay alive.

How to Open Chests
When a chest is opened, about a second later black slugs will start teleporting in. If you are a Channeler with the Immortality power, you can open a chest, hit the power, open another chest, grab your loot, and run. Otherwise, just run and come back later.
I see too many people lingering for too long and they are suddenly killed by the slugs because there can be several black slugs stacked together even though it looks like there are just one or two. The sudden health drain wipes them out.

After round four, you must open both of the unlocked chests before the black slugs will disappear. Once you open those chests, the exit countdown begins and you have that time to collect all your loot from all locations, and decide if you want to open the locked chest.

Since keys are pretty hard to come by, I recommend you do not open that chest. Keys are harder to get than shillings, and that chest contains mercenary books with mercenary XP you can get with shillings; as well as a box of temporary stat bonuses that you may never use anyway. The potions can sell for 5000 shillings a piece, but that is still not worth a key you have to buy with Electrum.

Special Note about Channelers
If you are a channeler, go in with all heals and Immortality. Try to save Rebounding Heal and Healing Burst to help your teammates, especially if they are Company members.

If you need healing, run TO a channeler because the range of those healing spells is limited and they have to stop moving to cast them. Also, don't expect them to stop when there are black slugs around since they'd get damaged as well. In the worst case, get on your motorcycle or jetpack and keep moving to keep clear until you can get your health back up with potions.