Friday, July 31, 2009

Pinacola 2Tower


Picture of my custom level design for Nintendo DSiWare Minis March Again. Pinacola 2Tower.

Easy: Start right Mario.
Moderate: Start Left Mario.
Speed: Start both Mario.
2Box Challenge.

Pinacola Fly


My custom level design for Nintendo DSiWare Minis March Again. Pinacola Fly.

Basically, you have to go up and cross the treacherous terrain.

Easy: send 1 Mario at a time.
Moderate: send 2 Marios.
Hard: send 3 Marios all at once.

4Box: Use only 4 pink boxes to solve the level.

Pinacola Cell


More of custom made level for Minis March Again, a DSiWare for Nintendo DSi.

This level design is more of traditional type, dictated by the placement of the pipes.

Help! Princess Peach has been imprisoned in a dungeon guarded by a big mean gorilla! It's up to you to rescue her!

Easy: Start right Mario up the levels, step on both switches. Bring the Princess to collect the card and wait for Marios. Bring them up to yellow pipe and to exit the level.
Speed: Start both Marios at once. Skip the yellow switch. Time it with the Princess.
DropOnly: Use left Mario. Spring him up. Hit both switches. Time the Princess to collect the card. Up yellow pipe to exit.

NoTouch: Put down all the pink boxes in the beginning and do not touch them during play.
1Box: It is possible to do it with only 1 box. The timing is very tight. For the longest time, I thought it's possible with 2 boxes. However, I recently discovered a way to do it with just 1 box.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Minis March Again 100 Gold Stars


This $8 DSi Ware title proved to be worth its value many times over. I just managed to beat all 100 levels with all gold star! Sounds like a remarkable achievement, doesn't it? But really, the levels are well designed so that you don't really have to work all that hard. Just keep an open mind of different approaches. About the only "tricky" level to do is the last basement level where you get to split the Marios so they come into the exit at the same time. Took me a few tries to get it right. Shows you that this isn't a hard game at all. But it sure is fun.

Lots of people are complaining that the game is too easy. I don't think that this game should be played as twitcher game. There's one user level, Metroid3 by metroid, that is almost impossible to play just because you have to start it right in the beginning by exact timing. Since I only managed to do it less than half the time, I don't play that level anymore. I think the basement levels provide just the right amount of challenge. Not too easy, but not too hard.

Speaking of difficulty levels, I have nothing against autos. Some of these levels are pretty neat, and it's fun to watch them run around the levels. But it's pretty hard to see which ones are good and worth the download, and which ones are a waste of time. Regarding normal levels, I can usually solve the level just by looking, and end up not downloading any of them.

There's a message of getting a minitoys at the end of the challenge. You can get it at the Option-Showroom-Character. Very interesting. I'm not too sure what it does, though. It seems to vary the characters in the main levels to include Toad, Peach, and DK.

It's nice to see a star saying "Clear" on the level. I still have 49 life left.

Now on to the level designs! I have to stop playing the Pyramid level and make new ones! Note to budding level designers: Don't make the levels so hard that it stops being fun. That was a rookie mistake I made and wondered why nobody would play my hardcore levels. Concentrate on the fun factor and try to polish the levels beyond what is reasonable. That means putting different play styles onto one level design and try to accomodate all styles. It's fun trying out different combinations trying to do one better. You can't really do that on a 1-solution level design.

Minis March Again Level Design


I have designed several more levels. My favorite was 2 Tower. It is incredibly simple, yet amazing in its complexity. What complexity, you ask? Do you know that it is possible to solve it several different ways? All my levels are like that.

Most of Minis March Again that is user uploaded is too amateurish to me. 1 solution. Or maybe lightly modified existing level. It's kind of annoying to see your well-designed levels get rejected. Or ignored. I had only 5 downloads before the floods of new uploads swept it off the list. I did get 5 stars out of it.

There are several ways to play Pinacola 2Tower:
Easy: Start right Mario. Up right tower. Up left tower. Down in the middle. Start left Mario and plop them at the same time.
Moderate: Ditto, but start with left Mario.
Speed: Start right Mario up right tower, while at the same time, start left Mario up left tower. Once left Mario hit the top. Bring them both down simultaneously. This is kind of hard to pull, but not impossible. My score on this is 13320, and that's not the best possible.
2Box Challenge: Complete the level using only 2 pink boxes. The speed method on the 2 box version includes some tricky timings on the 2 Marios. I haven't been able to run it simultaneously.

I usually put in DropOnly challenge, where once you put down a pink box, you don't pick it up. But it is clearly impossible in this case, looking at the right tower.

And I said "was" my fav. I designed a Pyramid level that is quite fun. Not very challenging, though. Apparently, fun and difficulty level are 2 different things. I'll upload it next time I'm on Wifi point.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pinacola Farsite


My Friend Code in Minis March Again: 5156 1170 9535.

My Farsite submission has been denied. That's too bad since Hill submission has been accepted and Farsite is a much more polished level design that Hill. Hill has been downloaded once. I had expected a few. I also noticed that most of the level designs feels amateurish with very few professional quality design. I wonder why? I certainly hope it's not professional jealousy. The refusal did not come with explanation, so I don't know. I do wish they let me know in someway what's wrong with it.

There are several ways to solve Farsite:

Easy: Use Mario on the right side to go up the pipe, collect the card, and collect coins on the way to the bottom.

Speed: Start 1 Mario on the left of ladder. When it reaches the top of the ladder, start the green pipe Mario. Playing through the levels will make them meet at the bottom. Let the green pipe Mario climb up to the second level to meet 1st Mario. Use the stop sign to change direction. 3rd Mario will activate to the proper direction to exit.

DropOnly: You can put boxes down, but you can't pick them up.

TakeOnly: Put all boxes down in the beginning. You can pick them up, but not put them down during play.

1Box: Start green pipe mario up the pipe, use the block to send it back down. Up the stairs, putting in blocks as you go. Collect the cards, and down the pipe. At the bottom, go up to 2nd level. 2nd and 3rd Mario will activate to exit.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mario vs. DonkeyKong: Minis March Again!


I was looking to download a new DSi game. Two caught my eyes: Asphalt 4: Elite Racing and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again. I was really looking toward the racing game. I only downloaded the DK game for the level editor.

It turns out the racing game was bad. Not that it isn't sexy, or fast, or technologically advanced. It just isn't fun. I was wondering if it's the control. I don't think so. The control is similar to PS2 Ridge Racer by Namco. Also Need for Speed game for GBA. I decided that the level design is faulty. That special indescribable quality that makes a game "fun". Maybe I should check out Mario Kart and compare the design.

In the meantime, I checked out the Minis. It is very much fun! There's quite a bit of levels in there, 100 total if you include the challenges. In addition to normal mode, there's also the Plus mode where they ramped up the action by starting all the Minis all at once. By that time, though, you should be an expert in the game. I got all gold star in the normal levels.

The included level editor is excellent. The only gripe I have is the extremely limited resources available for the levels. I guess that's why the levels are small. Furthermore, not all items are available at the beginning, but I don't find that a negative, just a distraction.

I suggest that if you have any interest in being a game developer/designer that you give it a try. It is a good experience to have. I designed several levels already. I uploaded 2: Hill and Farsite. Pinacola is my username.

Hills is solid, but rough at the edges. The are several solutions available. Easy, Fast, and DropOnly. DropOnly mode means you take out all the pink boxes. Then, once you put it down, you don't pick it up! Very interesting influence to the design. Alas, Hill suffers from tight timing issues in some places. Good for first try, but unpolished.

FarSite is a much better polished level. I ran into limitation real quick, but improvised enough to pass it. That green pipe shouldn't be there! If you think I put the card a long way off, you're wrong. I could have put it in the dead end on upper right. That way you would have to scale the ladders TWICE. I spare you from that grief.

In short, Minis March Again is a great game and is easily worth the $8 it costs you. I know it filled my days with delight. I really enjoyed thinking about the level design. Implementing it only takes a part of the day. Testing multiple solutions does take some time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Absolute Return Unicorn


I was reading Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2009, when I ran into an article about safe investing technique called "Absolute Return Unicorn." In it, the article explained a system that automatically adjust the ratio between stocks and bonds, depending on the market. It also said that the system is extremely complicated and a panel worked on it daily.

This interests me, since I already lined up such a system a while back. The question is, what's so complicated about it? Looks to me it's such a simple system. Then the article further mentioned that the return is guaranteed to be between 8-12%. So, that's why. I can only work it to 3-5% guaranteed. I guess that's the difference between Wall Street professionals such as them, and amateurs such as me.

It was a very interesting reading, until the end when the fund went all bonds, mainly due to stock market crashing, and a provision says that when that happens, the bonds will be held to maturity, which means no more stock buying. I believe they end up liquidating the accounts and started a new one. I don't blame them, though. The system worked as designed. It didn't lose any money, which is the whole point. You trade tremendous profit for security. In a down market, such as the one we're in right now, that's the best policy. Who wouldn't want that?

Tomtom 340 XL GPS


I just got me another GPS device. It's Tomtom 340 XL. I was looking at it and a similar one next to it, which was 340S model. The 340S model speaks road names, as a safety feature. I figure that as long as I can see the road name on display, I don't need the spoken one. It helps that I can do flash reading, reading all the info with a glance.

This model is terrific. I don't know whether or not this model is the best since I'm not into GPS all that much, but I can tell you that it has great improvement over my last one, which was Tomtom One XL. It's thinner, has better speaker, and more importantly, extremely sensitive GPS sensor. Whereas the old model could barely get 4 or 5 satellites, this one can get 7 or 8 with ease.

There are also a few improvements such as Map Share, Help Me!, and IQ Routes. Not too sure about those features, since I haven't played with it long, but the HelpMe! feature is useful if you ever want to know where you are, without having to convert the GPS coordinates into Map. A very useful feature should an emergency personnel ask you exactly where you are.

Also featured are directions to Police, Hospitals, and even First Aid instructions! You can also look for Point of Interest (POI) along the way. I can look for quick stop places along with the Take-a-Rest-Break feature. It is interesting to see Sinclair and DairyQueen logos as opposed to generic signage. Extremely useful if you ever in a mood for a DQ Blizzard.

The GPS also tells you when you're speeding. Apparently, the map has info not only to tell you the lanes information, but also the speed limits. That applies on Interstates, but apparently not on secondary roads.

Overall, I like it very much. There are some things I don't like, such as planning assumes I'll be going 75 mph on 75 mph roads, where I'll be going closer to 60 mph. The old one assumes 60 mph, so newer isn't necessarily better. Anyway, the new one does not adjust arrival time based upon current speed. Supposedly the IQ Route features takes care of this, but I haven't checked it out yet, so we'll see.

The zoom is still ridiculously high, such that I can't see too far ahead. I'd like to see a user selectable zoom factor option, especially since the map zooms in and out automatically.

The addition of custom icon for car representaion is nice, but I'd like to see the ability to plan route from parking lot, instead of giving up. The algorithm to find closest line between a point and a straight line isn't that complicated, and I think it should be an option.

Also, the fact that it searches name of street dynamically means that you don't have to spell it accurately. Close enough will find it. However, it does mean that the computer will meditate as it searches for correct name, even though the name has been found. This can be good or bad, depending on who you are. Sometimes, you need to be able to dig up more than one, such as NW, Ave, Park, Place, Blvd at the end of the road name. But the wait is annoying when there's no similar confusion. I'm actually OK with this.

Overall, I'm pleased with this device. It now has a permanent perch on my dashboard. I still have to do my own planning, especially with it slightly off with my driving preference, but a great addition nonetheless, and worth every penny of my hard-earned money.