Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Godhead Unlocked!

It took more tries than it's reasonable to count, and I ran my donation machine down to 40 coins, but I finally managed to beat the boss rush event with The Lost on hard mode in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. This involves clearing out 6 floors of the dungeon in under 20 minutes and then beating 15 waves of bosses where each wave contains 2 bosses. The Lost is a character with no health value; any damage kills him. Hard mode makes floors bigger, with less health on them, increases the chance enemies spawn as champions, and increases the chance of getting a curse on each floor. It is overall a combination of brutal difficulty increases!

If you take a look at the screenshot you'll note it took me over 54 minutes to beat the boss rush. Now, you have to start it in under 20 minutes so that means I spent a good 34 minutes actually beating the boss rush. That seems ludicrous. Especially once I tell you that I actually didn't get a single damage up item until the devil deal at the end of the 5th floor, and even then it wasn't a very big one. I barely killed Mom's Foot in under 20 minutes! So what did I do?

I combined the item 'gnawed leaf' which makes you immune to damage as long as you don't move and the passive damage sources 'guppy's hairball' and 'lil haunt'. Any enemy that touched the hairball behind my character would take a small amount of damage. Any enemy that came really close to me would aggro the haunt who would then follow them around doing small amounts of damage. So with only a couple exceptions (enemies who never came close to me) I just watched Hafu play Hearthstone without touching my controller and waited to win.

What a stupid solution to a stupid challenge. But now it's done! (Beating 5 floors with no damage increases is actually pretty darn hard, so I don't feel too bad for cheesing the ending. Turns out holy mantle and stop watch are really good for not dying!)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hearthstone: March Legend!

From my post it took 266 wins last month to get to legend in Hearthstone. I just hit legend for this month this afternoon and it took 174 wins in 303 games. Part of the difference is going to be starting from a higher point this time around so I needed to earn something like 14 fewer wins this time around, but a much bigger part would have to be my winning percentage. I have 414 games recorded from last month before I hit legend and I didn't log the first couple days! I was winning about 53.6% of my games that month. This month I won 45.5% of my 22 games with hunter, 56.4% of 78 games with mage, and 59.1% of 203 games with paladin. I'm still learning hunter and know I threw some of those games away with obvious mistakes, let alone the subtle ones, so I'm not saying hunter is bad or anything. Just that I hadn't practiced it before while I had played the other two.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at my opponents over the course of this month. I'm not super in the know with how to classify decks so I'm going to use the rough categories of aggro and control. Mech decks, zoo warlocks, face hunters, and a few misc weenie decks got classified as aggro. Pretty much everything else is control, even if 'control hunter' is still a pretty aggressive deck. Anyway, 28% of my games were against aggro decks and 72% were against control. The vast majority of the aggro decks were hunter (36%), mage (32%), and warlock (13%). Control decks were much more varied, with hunter (17%), druid (16%), mage (15%), paladin (13%), and rogue (10%) all showing up.

Overall when it comes to class mix hunter lead the way with 22% of my opponents. Mages made up 20%, with druid (13%) and paladin (10%) being the other classes to break the 10% mark. So if you were trying to hit legend this month having a deck that could hold up well against those classes would be a good idea. My paladin deck crushes druid (70% win rate) and holds up quite well against the other three popular classes. (59% against hunter, 56% against mage, 63% against paladin!) It has a rough time against rogues (44% win rate) but was better than 50% against every other class. Some of the games could go rather long so I wouldn't be surprised if mech mage would have been faster even with a lower win percentage.

I slotted in at 652 on the legend ladder, which is far off of top 50 or top 100. With only 3 days left in the month I'm not sure if it's worth trying to win my way up or if I should use this time to play other games. Or maybe to get more experience with hunter?

I've included an image of my current paladin list. If I owned the cards I would want to test out using Sylvanas Windrunner and Harrison Jones instead of Piloted Sky Golem and Kel'Thuzad. More than half of my opponents played decks with weapons in them! Maybe I should think about putting in an ooze until I get a Jones...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Streaming Hours

Back at the end of last month I told myself this month I'd put more hours into streaming. You never know how things will go unless you actually just try it out, right? A lot of the advice I've heard on random streams I watch has to do with just putting in time at the start to see what works for you, but you need to actually put in enough time to give repeat viewers a chance to come back. And at the start of the month I actually had one guy who was showing up every day. Pretty much because I was the only English speaking person playing Isaac while this kid was getting ready for school, but that's at least a start, right? I haven't actually seen him in a while. (Turns out he unfollowed me at some point?) But since I haven't really been streaming lately I can't really say I blame him...

I have started tracking hours put in, and I have 3 weeks worth of data now...

So on only 3 days in the last 3 months did I put in even close to a 'full day' of streaming. People talk about streaming 12+ hours a day every day for months in order to build up a viewer base. These three weeks are clearly nowhere near that level so it really isn't surprising that I have a total of 18 followers.

The question now is... Can I do better? What things were keeping me from streaming more this month and what can be done to overcome them?

The first is health related. I went to the doctor on the 13th and he doubled my Paxil dose. When I first switched to Paxil in January I ended up sleeping a lot and being rather lightheaded for a couple weeks. (I believe this was a large contributing factor to my collapsing in the hospital shortly after the switch.) So it isn't too surprising that doubling the dose has caused me to feel pretty similar. I've been sleeping a lot the last couple weeks (probably closer to 12 hours per day instead of 8) and have really not felt up to doing much of anything but sitting in a chair vegging out most of the time. Putting in effort to talk about what games I'm playing hasn't really been something I've felt up to doing.

How can this be fixed? Well, presumably my body will eventually adjust to this dosage and I'll be back to sleeping 8 hours every 26 hours. That'll free up more time each day which could help. I could also stop worrying about being 'on' when I stream and just turn my mic off some of the time. I'm not sure if that would be a net positive or not, but it would certainly help bump the hours number up. And while just inflating the numbers may not be a good thing it could well lead to good things in the long run. It's like when I was really working on getting better at League of Legends and focused just on last hitting. Even if I was worse in those games in the short run I ended up locking in a skill that could be used later on.

Next is how much time I spend watching streams instead of streaming myself. One comment I've heard from multiple streamers is how rarely they actually get to watch streams. People keep asking them for advice about other people to watch and they can't really say. When you're spending 12 hours a day playing The Binding of Isaac you probably don't have much desire to watch other people play it. And even if you did, when would you do it? You need to eat and sleep and maybe interact with other people every now and then!

I do think watching some streams is still very important for me. I watch for entertainment, but also to see how different people do different things. I'm also learning how to be better at Hearthstone in particular by watching top tier players who explain what they're doing some of the time. Even just being able to watch how different matchups play out without having to own the decks myself is quite helpful.

On the other hand, I've been spending a fair amount of time lately watching Hafu play League of Legends and that isn't really helping much at all. She's one of the best Hearthstone drafters in the world with a really popular stream so watching that has been a big net gain I think. But she's about as good at LoL as I was when I played a lot, and she rarely explains anything about what she's doing. There's certainly still entertainment value in it, don't get me wrong... But if I'm looking at time I'm spending on not-streaming that I could easily convert to time spent on streaming these hours would be a good place to start.

And then there's the pro streams I watch. The LoL LCS regular season, IEM tournaments for LoL and Starcraft 2, random Hearthstone tournaments, Vintage super league... Stuff I watch because I really like watching people who are trying to be the absolute best at something. I don't want to cut that stuff out, though I have realized lately that I actually do a lot of gaming while watching those streams. I killed Mom's heart on hardmode with all the characters while watching LCS. I'd pause and watch during interesting stuff, but when a game got out of hand or when it was talking heads I could just play Isaac and listen in the background.

If I could figure out a way to stream a game without streaming the audio from a stream I'm watching then I could keep doing the same sort of thing. But otherwise I just need to prioritize what I watch to not take up 8+ hours in a day. That shouldn't be that hard? Maybe?

I've also been a little leery about what I stream. Games I know reasonably well, sure. But what about completely new stuff? Why would anyone want to watch me learn to play Terraria? Well, why would anyone want to watch me play anything?

The answer here really is that I don't need to know why anyone wants to do anything. Just do some things! I'll never understand people with my current level of knowledge, so trying to figure out things from ignorance is a silly thing to do. Just trying things can only result in more information to possibly make better decisions in the future.

There's also some data issues with my chart because I stream at weird hours and I'm assigning the entirety of a stream to whatever day Twitch archives assigns to the video. So on days when I sleep in the middle of the day it's possible that if I started streaming at 11:50pm the previous day that the day would have no hours even if I went 12 or more. But realistically that would just make the previous day huge and I could just run weekly averages to help deal with that. Clearly this isn't what's actually making my numbers low, it's just a way for perfectionist me to get bitter and give up. Bad perfectionist me! Bad!

Anyway... More things to think about, but I think the core thing is to just work on mindlessly watching fewer streams and just stream more random stuff for a while and see what happens.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Binding of Isaac: Platinum God!

Yesterday I finally managed to put together a bandage girl in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. This unlocked the last item I needed to touch and shortly thereafter it appeared, I touched it, and I unlocked the Platinum God achievement. This is the achievement for doing pretty much everything in the game except for the super challenge character. According to Steam only 2.4% of people have it, and 2.2% have all the achievements. So very few people are good/insane enough to touch every item and do all the challenges without being good/insane enough to do the super challenge character.

As things stand I have 6 achievements left to get. I need to beat everything on hard mode with The Lost, and then touch the 4 items that unlock from doing so. I guess it's all about running hard mode over and over hoping to hit the item lottery!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Lost

I managed to unlock The Lost character in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth earlier this week. The Lost is the super challenge mode character in the game. He starts with flying and can make any deals with the devil for free... But any damage kills him. Period. You can't get extra health or pick up soul hearts or anything like that. Take damage and die. There are ways to either make yourself invincible or to bring yourself back to life that still work with The Lost but they are few and far between.

One of the streamers I watch who plays the game did a day of playing The Lost. He focuses more on entertainment than on speed running (though he does some of that too) so the way he played was he used a memory editor to hack it so the first item he picked up was guaranteed to be a holy mantle from the treasure room or a dead cat from the curse room. This way he would get one of the two key survival items without having to reset hundreds of times to get a viable run. (Holy mantle makes it so the first hit you take in any room is prevented. Dead cat gives you 9 extra lives.)

The main Issac speedrunner I watch talked a bit about how to get better at the game. His main advice was to play as The Lost without scumming for a holy mantle or a dead cat. The theory there was you'd have to learn how to deal with every room without taking any damage and that was bound to make you better at playing the game when you went back to playing a normal character.

I'm working on achievements so there's no way I'd hack the game to give me specific items. I think it makes a lot of sense as a convenience matter for entertainment purposes but I also think it's cheating. On the other hand the idea of starting just any item seems insane. I find myself getting hit by early game spiders way too often if I don't have a damage boost. Maybe there is something to be said for forcing myself to do it to get better, but it really isn't much fun. But then there's the fact that I've died 150 times since I unlocked The Lost and reset probably 5 times per death and have only seen one holy mantle! So scumming for those two items specifically would take forever and that isn't much fun either.

So what I'm doing is resetting until I get an item that either makes me immediately better or has real long term potential. So things like a blank card or a crystal ball or a damage boost. Mediocre or useless items prompt a reset. If I don't get a really good item from the treasure room I'll gladly hop into the curse room, which is almost guaranteed to be death. Unless I get a dead cat, guppy's collar, or a telepill I will die.

I have actually managed to complete one run out of the 700ish tries. It opened on a dead cat and led to extra damage boosts from almost every boss. This is pretty unlikely since a lot of the boss items are only health ups, but my first two bosses dropped a halo and a magic mushroom. By the end of the run I had scythes, and double shot, and was guppy. I got to Isaac on one previous run and killing him without ever taking damage seemed beyond my abilities, but this time I had enough guppy flies that he immediately transitioned to phase 3 upon my entering the room. Huzzah!

Am I actually getting better at the game or did I just hit the lottery of good items? Probably a combination of the two. But it does mean there's some hope for getting the rest of the achievements done given enough time... Actually, getting lucky with items probably isn't good enough for the boss rush... And if it is, should I be playing on hard mode? I need to beat the boss rush with The Lost on hard mode at some point too...

Maybe what I should do next is hard mode with some normal characters to get a feel for it and then go back to The Lost.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Finding a Niche

I've put more of a focus on streaming this month but mostly it's been me playing games by myself or (since I connected with Twitter and Facebook) with Lino watching. This morning I had a random guy come in and chat a bit while I was trying to unlock the Lost in Isaac. The following line in particular is intriguing...

'I was looking through the streams for a person i could hear, who spoke english, who i could understand, and who was obviously commentating'

And there we have it. I futzed around with my microphone settings again yesterday to make it so that I could be heard and suddenly I'm the guy on Twitch who speaks English in the wee hours of the morning. Kids who get up and want something to watch before they go to school can tune in to see me because there are no other options!

He followed me and actually came back to watch me play some Hearthstone after school got out.

I still have problems understanding why anyone would actually want to watch me, but I guess when the bar is set at 'speaks English' I can get on board. Huzzah!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Isaac Achievement Countdown

I beat ??? with Eden and the Lamb with Isaac which completed the last of the obvious unlocks that I knew about. I've done all the challenges and I've beaten every boss/rush with all 10 of the main characters. I'm still missing a bunch of achievements though, and I was sure a bunch of them revolved around the super challenge character, the Lost. He dies to any damage, period. I get hit all the time, so I have a really hard time imagining I could get those done... But there are some really powerful item combinations so I really might as well try and see! There might be some easier stuff to do first though, so I went through the list of all achievements and made a note of all the things I still have to do.

19 - super bandage girl
30 - die 100 times
38 - beat chapter 2 without taking damage
69 - collect all items, unlock everything except the Lost
82 - unlock the Lost
84 - collect all items and unlock everything
129 - kill Isaac with the Lost
130 - kill Satan with the Lost
131 - kill ??? with the Lost
132 - kill the Lamb with the Lost
133 - beat boss rush with the Lost
144 - super meat boy
156 - beat Mom's heart, Isaac, Satan, ???, the Lamb, and boss rush with the Lost on hard mode
167 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Isaac
168 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Maggy
169 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Eve
170 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Judas
171 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Cain
172 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Azazel
173 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Lazarus
174 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with ???
175 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with the Lost
176 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Eden
177 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Samson

Ok, so that's not too much stuff. I'm really surprised I haven't died 100 times! I suspect dying on challenges doesn't count towards that number. The super bandage girl and super meat boy achievements require running into all 4 of the horsemen of the apocalypse, or scumming it with a monster manual and a source of infinite batteries. After that I need to do the Lost stuff, and beat 8 levels on hard mode with each character. Oh, and collect all the items in the game.

Touching all the items is apparently pretty annoying, if the streamers I watch are any indication. I've heard multiple of them complain about getting a secret room item to spawn. I rarely hunt down secret rooms, so I guess I probably need to start doing that. I took the time to figure out every item I've never picked up. Several of them are items I've seen and deliberately not picked up because they're bad... Guess I need to get them at least once! Anyway, here's that list too.

Transcendence - secret room
Dr Fetus - treasure room
Super Bandage - treasure/boss room (need #19)
The Common Cold - treasure room
Guardian Angel - angel room
9 Volt - shop
Remote Detonator - treasure/shop/boss challenge
Blue Candle - shop
Fate - golden chest
Sacred Heart - angel room
Dead Dove - angel room
Monstro's Lung - treasure room
Stopwatch - shop
Missing No - secret room
Isaac's Heart - treasure room (need #129)
D100 - treasure room (need #133)
D4 - treasure room
The Jar - shop
Eve's Mascara - treasure room
Samson's Chains - treasure room
Scissors - treasure room (need #30)
Godhead - angel room (need #156)
The Mind - treasure/angel (need #130)
The Body - treasure/angel (need #131)
The Soul - treasure/angel (need #132)
The Boomerang - shop

Some of those items require me to do some of the other stuff first to unlock them. The other stuff being mostly the Lost stuff. The hard mode stuff doesn't unlock any items so I don't need to rush to do it... But it's also likely the easiest stuff to do.

I think what I should do first is work on unlocking the Lost (you need to do an archaic set of 4 things) and then try doing things with him. When that gets frustrating, switch to doing Isaac runs in order to pick up items I'm missing with his d6 item. And maybe throw in some hard mode runs with different characters to pick those achievements up too.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Binding of Isaac: Two Brutal Mistakes

I've been back playing some Isaac the last couple days working to unlock some more things. I had a game where I got one of the longer things done, but where I also made two mistakes. One which just screwed my ability to get an extra unlock on that run, but one that actually permanently screws over my save file and costs me an awful lot going forward.

The first mistake was a mere item choice issue. I had a pretty good build running, with a bunch of damage, spectral tears, scythes, and the slug thing that causes your tears to split and shoot sideways at the end of their forward progress. I was pretty much covering the entire screen in damage! So good! But then I saw the soy milk item and decided to give it a spin. I knew speedrunners hate the item, but part of that is it's a special item so just seeing it decreases your odds of seeing other special items. How bad could it be to actually pick it up? You lose 80% of your damage but you attack ludicrously fast! I want to attack ludicrously fast!

Two problems with that. First, I was already attacking really fast, so I suspect the soy milk buff probably put me up to the attack speed cap. So it was probably a DPS decrease. But the second problem was the real killer... The size of my scythes is based on the damage they do, so knocking off 80% of my damage shrunk them down a fair bit. Way more than I was expecting, actually. It turned my situation from coating the entire screen in big damage to damage a very thin line with less damage.

I ended up dying in the chest, and didn't pick up my ??? kill with Eden. And I've been trying that again over and over and keep failing to get a run nearly as good as that one. (Eden gets 2 random items to start and can't be reset over and over to get a good start, so throwing away that awesome run sucks.)

The second mistake makes me really sad and has me questioning the game design and my desire to keep playing. One of the mechanics in the game is a 'donation machine' that shows up in stores. You can drop coins in the machine on one run and then pull them out on another run by exploding it with bombs. For some reason there's a limit on how many coins you can drop in on a given run, which means you get to add something like 4-12 coins per run. One of the items unlocks when you get 999 coins in the machine. So while working on that unlock you basically need to cripple all your runs by throwing your money in the machine instead of buying useful items. Over a hundred runs! And I finally did it on this run.

Then I decided to buy something, so I went up to bomb the machine and get some money back out. But then my finger slipped and I ended up walking into the machine again. This put in coin #1000, which causes the machine to explode in a shower of cash. Permanently explode. Losing all of the coins placed inside of it for the save file.

So not only have I been crippling runs for pretty much my entire time playing the game, but now I don't have the coins sitting around to have fun with on future runs. Or to speed up future runs if I start racing or speed running...

It sucks. And I don't understand why the game designer would put that in. It feels like a game mechanic we'd have put into the Manders RPG when we were joking around about making the worst game ever.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Hearthstone: Pinnacle Tournaments

A couple weeks ago one of the constructed streamers I watch (Massan) was talking on his stream that he'd won the 'Pinnacle 3' tournament the previous weekend, whatever that is. I filed the name in my mind to look up the tournament but never got around to it. Today a different streamer mentioned he probably wouldn't be streaming this coming weekend because he was going to be playing in an open qualifier for 'Pinnacle 4'. Now, I doubt I have the cards to actually compete in a tournament but I like to try things and see how they work even if I can't expect to win right off the bat. So I went off to do some research.

Unfortunately it turns out the guy putting this particular tournament series together is taking some liberties with the word 'open'. Maybe it's a standard term for the Hearthstone tournament scene, I don't know, but entries are limited to 128 and are restricted solely to people who have hit the top 100 on the ladder. Finished in the top 100 I think, so my peak of 40 isn't any good here. I'm actually pretty sure I could have finished top 100 last month if I just stopped playing completely once I hit 40. I'd dropped down some, sure, but I doubt enough people would have passed me to bump me out of 100. Oh well! I didn't know there was any pressing need to finish top 100. Now I do!

But at least now I know there is a tournament going on this weekend so I can try to tune in and check out the stream to at least get a feel for what's going on as a spectator.