Mystery Blogger Award!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

Rejoice my friends, for the blog has been nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award! I’ve received this honour from Athena of Ambigaming; a wonderful individual who explores gaming through the lens of psychology, sociology and theology and who has set up the awesome Year of the RPG event for 2018! Thanks so much! I’m so flattered!

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto Enigma as a way to recognize individuals who create and share unique and interesting content that inspires and motivates others. Thank you Okoto for creating this award!

Now, for the rules:

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules.
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

Three Things About Myself*

*Other than what I’ve revealed recently in an interview with a hyperactive, coffee mage…

  1. I’m a Lego enthusiast. Growing up, I collected over a dozen sets, mainly from Star Wars. I almost had a complete collection of the Rebel fighters (including the Millennium Falcon), but I had stopped collecting after I hit my twenties. I’ve recently got back into collecting thanks to my older cousin. Lego was part of the reason why I went into engineering in the first place.
  2. I practice martial arts, specifically Taekwondo. The highest rank I’ve reached was blue stripe, but my training stopped because my master retired from teaching… To this day, I try to keep my skills honed in case I get an opportunity to continue my training and earn my black belt!
  3. I love to bake. I’m famous within my circle of family and friends for making really good New York Style cheesecakes, but I’m also enjoy making other cakes, cookies and loaves. I’m constantly experimenting with new recipes and finding ways to perfect or improve on old ones.

Q & A with Athena

Athena: What video game has had the most profound impact on you as a person?

GWC: Short answer: Final Fantasy VII. As for the reasons why, you can check out my write up on how Cloud Strife made such a lasting impression on young me and how the game shaped me into the person I am today.

Athena: If you could see a remake (or a remaster) of any game, what game would you choose?

GWC: Seeing that Final Fantasy VII is in process of being remade, I’ll pick a different game! I would really love to see Super Metroid remade in the same style as Metroid Prime. Barring that, a full Metroid Prime trilogy remaster for the Switch would also be welcome!

Athena: Of the games you’ve played, which one has the most profound story?

GWC: There are so many to chose from… it’s hard to make a decision here. Know what, I’m gonna go with Alundra. While the gameplay is similar to the Legend of Zelda but with much harder puzzles, the story is what makes it different. It’s darkly humorous, well written and touches on a lot of subjects including dreams, religion, mental illness and the depths people will go to maintain status quo.

Athena: What’s a fun game that makes you happy?

GWC: Classic Sonic the Hedgehog. I feel a sense of freedom and happiness whenever I run through levels at top speed. Sonic Mania has helped to recapture that feeling lately.

Athena: If you could only pick one brand of gaming system to use for the rest of your life, what would it be?

GWC: By the Gods, this one’s a hard one… I’m gonna say… Sony. I have so many memories associated with the brand; it’s been by my side in good times and bad. So yeah, Sony is the brand I’d pick.

The Best of the Bunch?

I consider my first game review to be my best post, because it was my very first review of a video game and I felt that I did a pretty good job with it.

In terms of views, my answers to The Well-Red Mage’s question on what my favourite video game was for every year I’ve been alive. That was a fun one, since I even added in my favourite tune for each of my selections.

Speaking of The Well-Red Mage, my first contribution to the site (of hopefully many more!) is another personal favourite of mine.


My Chosen Nominees

By the power vested in me by the Caffeine Gods (and also taking a leaf out of Seto Kaiba’s playbook from Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged), I nominate the following five blogs as my chosen:

  1. Home Button Gaming!
  2. Sheikah Plate!
  3. Shoot the Rookie!
  4. Double Jump!
  5. And last but not least, Deconstructing Video Games!

Question Time!

So, to my chosen, I ask thee the following:

  1. Huzzah! You’ve been knighted! However, the only weapons available to you are a set of tools found in a garden shed. Which one would you choose and why?
  2. While adventuring, who would you have as a sidekick/animal familiar to join you and why?
  3. After a long day of adventuring, you settle down at the campfire and drift off to sleep. In your dreams, a specter appears and asks you “What is thy ultimate Quest in life?” How do you answer?
  4. But alas! Your dastardly rival has appeared the following morning, hellbent on putting an end to that very Quest! Do you fight, flee or reason with this individual?
  5. Returning to reality, what game would you want your significant other to play?

You can answer directly in the comments or in a separate post. Whatever tickles your fancy!


That’s it for this edition. Be sure to tune in next time, where I answer some more questions! The reason being that, in addition to this award, I’ve been nominated for three others! I’m stoked about answering these and nominating other, fellow bloggers in the process!

Also down the pipeline is an Espresso Shot Review of an underrated PlayStation game that’s also one of my favourites of all time! What that game is, I’ll keep as a surprise for now! Keep an eye out for it!

So, humbled by this nomination by my good friend Athena, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

 

Presenting The Ultimate Emulation System – The RetroPie!

Salutations! Welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

Today, we’ll be talking about a wild addition to my gaming repertoire; the RetroPie! I’ll also mention the controllers that I’ve equipped onto this versatile, little system. So, without further ado, let’s begin.


What is a RetroPie?

RetroPie is an OS that can be loaded onto a Raspberry Pi – basically an inexpensive microcomputer – and transforms it into a retro gaming emulation machine! RetroPie can be loaded as its own OS or it can be overlaid on top of an existing full OS. In my case, I loaded it up on a Raspberry Pi.

20180429_105010

To put one of these bad boys together, you’ll need the following:

  • A working computer to download the software, games, and the like.
  • A Raspberry Pi 3 (Model B or higher is recommended)
  • A power source for the Pi (must be rated at 2.5 amps)
  • a Micro SD card (16 GB minimum, but I use a 32 GB card)
  • A USB-capable controller or keyboard
  • A 16 GB minimum USB stick (I recommend getting a fresh stick, but reformatting an old one works too)
  • A Micro SD to USB adapter
  • An HDMI Cable
  • A HDMI compatible screen
  • A case (completely optional, but good to have nevertheless)

Installing RetroPie on the Pi computer is not too difficult to do – just follow the steps listed here.

Pro tip: once the software is written onto the MicroSD card, your computer may tell you that it can’t read the device and will recommend to format it. DO NOT FORMAT IT! Just remove it once the writing process is complete and insert the SD card into the Pi. This happened to me a couple of times until I figured that out.


What Games Does RetroPie Play?

In a nutshell, practically all generations of consoles and games up to and including the original PlayStation. There are emulators that can play beyond that system, but the Pi isn’t powerful enough for them to work properly.

In general, a majority of games are compatible with the emulators on the system. In other words, I’ve yet to find a game that doesn’t play perfectly on here.

There are also some homebrew games and ports available to play, such as Duke Nukem and Doom. These can be found through the Manage Packages option on the main RetroPie menu.

Getting the games into the Pi is as simple as inserting a fresh/formatted USB stick into the Pi and taking it out after it creates all the directories on the stick, which usually takes a few minutes. Next you insert the stick into a computer, copy your games into the respective console folders and put the stick back into the Pi. If all goes well, you should see a list of systems appear on the main menu of the RetroPie interface, which will contain the games.

Options and RetroArch

Once you launch a game, you can access a list of options that allow you to modify the screen resolution to fit your screen or change the default emulator for the game, among others. This is done by pressing any button before the emulator starts.

RetroArch is a front end that’s accessed while the emulator is running and provides options to save and load states, modify control configurations and adjust settings. The default command to access this menu (assuming you’re using an SNES controller) is Select + X.


What about Controllers?

Thanks to the Pi’s Bluetooth capabilities, you can easily use wireless controllers to play your favourite classic games! While you can connect PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox controllers to the system, I find that the perfect controllers to use are the ones by 8bitdo.

I have the SNES30 (or the SN30) Bluetooth controller and it’s a BLAST to use! The controller feels exactly like the Super Nintendo controller, down to its weight, the feel of the buttons and grip.

20180429_105018

The setup is a bit of a chore, but once it’s all done, you just turn on the system and the controller and you’re good to go!

If wired is what you’re looking for, you can use a USB wired controller or, if you have some classic controllers lying around, a USB to (insert console here) converter also works great!


Where Can I Get All This Stuff!?

Luckily, you can get a complete Raspberry Pi kit on Amazon for a relatively modest price. Either check Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

As for the case, there are plenty to choose from! There are even some cases that look like classic consoles of yore! The one I used is this one – the transparent, seven-layer construction is stylish, it comes with plenty of heat sinks and it has a fan that you can connect to the Pi’s GPIO board to keep the unit cool. It’s very useful!

Amazon also has a plethora of controller options available. You can also find wireless controllers, including the popular 8bitdo controllers, at any electronic big-box store or gaming stores, like Best Buy (CA) or GameStop/EB Games for example.

As for games, well emulation is still a very gray area in legal terms. I won’t tell you where you where explicitly you can find any, but Google is your best friend in that regard.


So, there you have it. All the tools you need to build your very own retro arcade system! Whether you’re looking to play the finest offerings of retro gaming for the first time or the millionth time, the RetroPie is probably the best option available, in my opinion.

With another edition concluded, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, off to play some Mega Man X on my own RetroPie setup and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

God of War (2018) [PlayStation 4] – First Impressions

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! It’s the weekend, and what better way to celebrate than to brew a cuppa and play some games first thing in the morning? Well, that’s what I’m doing at least, after feeding my Mini-Me of course.

So, a highly anticipated game was released last Friday, April 20th. There has been much talk about it over the last several months since its announcement and… I’m sad to say that I haven’t picked it up yet. Of course, I’m talking about the unfathomably amazing Nintendo Labo! It’s cardboard that you build and play with using the Switch and judging from the initial reaction from my fellow gamers, it’s fantastic, easy to use and so much fun!

Alas, that’s not what this post is about, because on that same Friday, another highly anticipated game was released and is the one I picked up. That game is God of War!

(Spoilers for God of War III)

The series’ developer, Santa Monica, announced the game at 2016’s E3. It is the sequel to God of War III, where our erstwhile embodiment of rage and vengeance, Kratos, finally exacted his revenge against his father, Zeus, only to discover that he was a pawn for the goddess Athena (not you Athena, the other Athena). Athena desired the power of Hope that she had put in Pandora’s Box after Zeus sealed the evils of the world long ago, as she told Kratos that only she could use that power properly. She explains that when Kratos reopened the box and unleashed the evils back into the world in the first game, that power of hope was transferred to him, giving him the strength to overcome his many obstacles, such as defeating Ares, changing his fate after being betrayed by his father, Zeus, and eventually defeating him at the end of the third installment.

Kratos realized that to undo all he had wrought in his mad quest for vengeance, he needed to sacrifice himself and return the power of hope to the people of Greece. To that end, he impaled himself using the Blade of Olympus, releasing the power instead of giving it to the goddess, who left the warrior to die, disgusted over his decision. Post credits, we find Kratos’ body gone; the blade discarded to the side and a trail of blood leading into the churning waters below, his ultimate fate unknown.

(Spoilers end here)

The latest installment of the series shows that Kratos is alive and well, years after his conquest of the Greek gods, and living deep in the Wildlands with a wife and son in the Norse realm of Midgard. He’s also sporting a wicked beard.

The demigod lived a life of solitude with his new family until his wife’s untimely passing. It is here that Kratos’ latest adventures begins, as he promised his late wife that he and his son shall scatter her ashes at the highest peak in Midgard.

But an even greater challenge awaits the former God of War; being a parent to his son, Atreus.

After spending a week in The Nine Realms, I have to say that I’m incredibly impressed. Granted, I haven’t gotten very far in the game, but I’m enjoying my experience nonetheless. Four things stood out the most for me: Combat, Exploration, Story and Characters.

Combat

Combat in the game is vastly different from previous God of War games. The weapons that were ubiquitous in the earlier series have gone, replaced by a runic axe called the Leviathan Axe, imbued with the power of ice and given to him by his wife before her passing. It’s one of the most fun weapons I’ve ever used in this type of game! The neat part about the axe is it’s Thor-like ability to return to Kratos’ hand. You can arm the axe and throw it at enemies or objects and then recall it to your hand using the Triangle button. When the axe is thrown at enemies, Kratos can still defend himself using his fists and shield. Despite being weaker, these attacks can build up an enemy’s stun gauge enough that he can perform a finisher, a staple in the series. The battles themselves can be pretty tough and will require a combination of melee combat and axe throwing to get through them.

Another returning staple is the Rage of Sparta. When activated, Kratos becomes enraged and simply uses his fists to inflict massive damage to anything around him. As he pummels his foes, his health regains slowly, making it tactical to use in case you can’t find any healthstones (used to heal Kratos this time around). It’s very fun to use, but should only be used in a pinch.

Magic in this game is achieved through the use of Runestones, which can be equipped on the Leviathan Axe. There seem to be lots of spells to use. Magic has a cooldown period before they can be used again, which can be affected by Kratos’ Cooldown stat.

Kratos’ son, Atreus, is more than just a tag-along character – he actively assists his father using his bow to inflict stun damage, or can jump on an enemy and distract it long enough for Kratos to get in a combo or finish it off. He also warns Kratos of any hazard, allowing the player some time to react accordingly (either by blocking or dodging).

Finally, Kratos earns experience from every foe he and Atreus defeats, which is used to purchase skill upgrades, much like the Red Orbs of the previous games. It definitely give the game an RPG-like feel.

Exploration

A significant departure for the series is how open the world is, compared to the linear feeling of the previous games. I really like this change a lot! There’s a lot to see and do in the game. Atreus also provides a lot of context for the Norse world and its mythology, something that Kratos (and the player by extension) has little familiarity with.

The environment is very puzzle driven and reminds me strongly of the Legend of Zelda. Kratos and Atreus must work together to solve them; the father using his vast strength and axe and the son using his small size and light weight to fit into passageways and vault upwards to higher ground. The axe has a significant feature in that it can freeze objects when thrown. This is necessary to navigate puzzles where bridges or ceilings need to be locked in place to proceed, much like the Stasis rune in Breath of the Wild.

Like with its predecessors, secret areas hide chests filled with hacksilver or resources (used to purchase equipment and upgrades), Enchantments and Runestones, among others. There are also locked chests that can only be opened with Kratos throwing his axe at the ruins associated with the chest. The environment also has tons of breakable objects in which you can obtain spare hacksilver or reveal hidden passages.

Story and Characters

What I love the most about this game is the character development. Gone are the days of rage of vengeance that fuels Kratos; instead, he has a more quiet, stoic presence about him. He is also a man in mourning as his second wife, Faye, passed away to start the game. You can see the stoic mask drop momentarily in the opening scenes as he’s about to cut down the last tree for the funeral pyre, which I liked.

Through out the game, Kratos is at a loss on how to approach his son, Atreus, given that he both had no proper father figure growing up and that his warmongering, Spartan upbringing was the only thing he had ever known. He is very cold towards his son, addressing him as “Boy” and distancing himself from him. There are times that Kratos wants to reach out to him in comfort, but he hesitates, unsure of what to do in these situations, only to retract into his shell. I feel that Kratos can see his own vulnerabilities in Atreus, which is why it’s hard for him to reach out.

I really like this direction for the character, it shows that he has more of a human side that we all realize.

As for Atreus, he isn’t an annoying sidekick. Rather he sounds incredibly genuine. His quick wit and childlike innocence is an excellent foil to the brooding Kratos. He also provides his father valuable knowledge about the Nordic gods and the realm itself. Atreus is also helpful in battle, warning his father of dangers he cannot see, assisting him in general and adding research notes on the enemies they face, along with strategies. There’s also hidden depth to him, in that he doesn’t know his true nature as a demigod. His godhood manifests in strange ways, such as his mysterious illnesses mentioned in passing and bouts of unbridled rage.

I love mythological history and I appreciated the efforts Santa Monica made with adapting Greek mythology to Kratos’ story. It looks like they took a more in-depth approach with the Norse mythology, given Atreus’ vast knowledge of The Nine Realms. I personally can’t wait to see how Kratos and his son fit into the grander scheme of Odin and his pantheon of gods.

Right from the start with the appearance of The Stranger, it seems like the gods don’t take kindly to strangers in The Nine Realms. It also seems that both father and son will be drawn into the affairs of the gods on their journey up the mountain.

The best part so far? Meeting the World Serpent (Jormungandr). I thought the Titans from the previous games were huge, but the massive snake takes the cake.

Image result for world serpent god of war


So, that’s it for this edition. What do you guys think about God of War? Let me know in the comments below!

This has been Ryan, getting lost in one of my favourite mythologies and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

The Anniversary Post (Or An Interview Between a Mage and a Mature, Distinguished Gamer)

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! This one is special, because the blog’s now over a year old! Granted, I should have written this back in March – the actual month when this blog started back in 2017 – but circumstances that were out of my control prevented me from doing that. (And by circumstances, I mean babies.)

So, a year has passed since I started this blog. It’s hard to believe that time flew by so quickly… When I first had the itch to start this way back in December of 2016 as a part of my Quest to improve myself, I had no clue that this would be a gateway to so much opportunity and growth for myself during the course of 2017 – my thirtieth year of existence. I started out initially because I liked writing and I really wanted to get my story out there and share the fact that, yes, I’m a respectful adult juggling lots of responsibilities and I still love playing video games. Or as I call it, a Mature, Distinguished Gamer.

I discovered (to my surprise) that I wasn’t the only one with this mentality.

I’m so proud, stoked and downright honoured to connect with a community that supports one another, treats each other with respect and that’s willing to go into thoughtful, yet civil, discussions about gaming and its roles in society, in building character and how it shaped the lives of all those who’ve picked up a controller and played. Whether your game was Super Mario or Fortnite, whether you’re old-school at heart or a fan of the modern games of today, we’re all connected through a shared love of video games and it fills my heart with joy to be in the presence of such awesome individuals. You guys rock!

With that said, today I’m debuting a new segment for the blog, or at least a pilot/preview of it. I’m doing this as a way to celebrate the WordPress gaming community and the readers (like you!) who support us. Whether this idea catches on or not, at least today, you’ll learn a little more about the man behind the coffee mug.

So without further fanfare, let’s get into it:


I’m proud to present to you, dear readers, Beans and Screens! I’m your host, Ryan.

On this edition, the very first of (hopefully) many, I’ve asked a new friend of mine to be my very first guest. He’s an individual who writes sorcery on paper after ingesting an unholy amount of caffeine and has traveled here via Summoning Circle. Ladies and gentlemen, my first guest sitting next to me is The Hyperactive Coffee Mage!

*There is a stage with two cushy armchairs and a small table in between them. On the table are two coffee mugs.

Sitting in the chair beside me in a reclined, relaxed position was an individual wearing coffee coloured robes and a wide brimmed hat that obscures his facial features, save for a pair of bright, yellow eyes. On his hat is an emblem of a coffee cup.

He looks out, waves hello and then turns his attention to the empty mugs on the table. Pointing a finger at it and lazily waving it in a circular motion, the mugs magically fill up. The aroma of coffee permeates the air.*

HCM: How do you take yours?

GWC: Just black.

HCM: Nice.

GWC: *turns back to audience* So, here’s a huge plot twist right out of the bat: the good mage is not a guest for the first show. He will actually be the guest host! That’s right: I’m today’s interviewee!

Shall we get started?

HCM: Of course! First, let’s clarify something here; it’s not so much “Circles,” more like “Squares.” Summoning Squares that is-

GWC: Summoning Squares? Really? You’re gonna lead off with that? *rolls eyes* Next, you’re gonna talk about a Roy coming out of Grant’s Ear, which, I suppose, was the style at the time?

HCM: … And there goes the joke. Great job, you killed it.

GWC: … *raises eyebrow*

HCM: *shakes head* … Anyways, let’s really begin here. So first off, what is Beans and Screens and why go the interview/talk show route?

GWC: The name was created based off of a conversation I had on Twitter with Rob Covell from I Played The Game and Zach Bowman sometime in January around video game-themed coffee drinks. Rob came up with the neat name. (Thanks by the way!)

What’s Beans and Screens? It’s a segment dedicated to interviewing some of the very people I’ve recently met in my blogging journey. You know, getting to know them, why they’re so passionate about what they do and their dreams of the future. I see it… more as an opportunity for readers to get to know their favourite personalities in a casual talk show-like setting.

I was also partly inspired by other talk shows, namely one called Koffee with Karan. It’s a Bollywood talk show where the host, Karan Johar, has fun, open discussions with his guests, who consist of Bollywood’s biggest megastars. I’ve also drawn inspiration from Late Night TV personalities of past and present, like David Letterman and Stephen Colbert.

If there was one thing I enjoyed over the year I’ve been blogging, it’s talking with so many like-minded individuals. This might sound a bit cliche, but I feel like I found a third family with these guys, and I really wanted to celebrate and show my appreciation for them, besides giving the odd shout out here or there.

HCM: Third family? Who are the other two?

GWC: *laughs* Well, I have a wonderful, talented wife and a little baby boy who’s super cute! And my second family consists of the individuals who I’ve grown up with; friends, cousins, the like, y’know?

HCM: Fair enough. But that’s not all that’s gonna be on this segment, right?

GWC: Yeah, for sure, I’ll also be calling up some of the biggest stars in gaming to talk about their latest adventures, future plans and opportunities and to genuinely have some fun. It should be a blast! If… this takes off, that is.

HCM: Hope so. Anyways, let’s get a bit personal here; Tell us a bit about yourself?

GWC: Sure, so my name’s Ryan. I’m 30 years old and I work professionally as a Mechanical Engineer. I’ve been writing and gaming for… what seems like my whole life, I guess?

I am Indian-Guyanese and was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. My parents are immigrants from Guyana, a small, tropical country in the northeastern part of South America. The country is a part of the West Indies and it used to be part of the British Empire, until it gained independence in the late 60’s.

Growing up, my life revolved around video games and writing about them. I was bullied as a child and was also diagnosed with ADHD all throughout elementary school. I took lots of medications, ran through tests and spoke with counselors and psychiatrists. It wasn’t very fun. Those two things – gaming and writing – were what kept me going until I entered high school.

It was there that I ended up making friends with lots of people, thanks to a shared interest in video games. A couple of frequent readers on my blog are close friends from those years. Gaming has also been my muse, in that I also pursued art and music along with writing. These days, I focus more on writing, but I sometimes churn out a quick sketch or two.

HCM: Someone’s multi-talented!

GWC: Yeah! On top of that, I also whistle and I think I’m fairly good at it too. I put up a video on Twitter a while ago of me whistling while I did the dishes and recently put one up of me whistling Green Greens from Kirby, but I might be inclined to post some more? I whistle video game tunes (surprise, surprise), but sometimes I dabble in classical music, jazz and themes from popular TV shows and movies. If there’s one tune to whistle that I love to whistle the most… It would have to be the Overworld theme from Legend of Zelda.

HCM: You’re quite the jack of all trades?

GWC: Yeah, seems like. Oh, here’s a fun fact; my whistling puts my baby boy to sleep! I usually do the bedtime routine with him, which involves a story, a top-up and then I rock him to sleep while whistling something. He seems to like when I play soft, slow music like Cosmo Canyon or even quick, cute themes from Kirby. I’ve been exposing him to practically every kind of video game tune imaginable. *laughs* Hopefully when he gets older, he’ll recognize all these tunes and go “Dad! I know this one! Where is it from?! Oh, It’s from XYZ game, son! No way! So cool!”

HCM: Indoctrinate them young huh? *laughs* Good plan!

So, from what I understand, you credit your wife as the driving force behind your creative side as well, right? Tell us more about that?

GWC: Yeah, for sure, she’s definitely pushed me to explore my creative side more. Y’know, looking back, I haven’t really talked about her much, so I might as well start now! *chuckles*

HCM: Wow, way to redirect the question here!

GWC: OK so, I met my wife midway through high school. She moved to my hometown from a little city in the middle of the country called Winnipeg and we were introduced to one another through a shared family friend. I was instantly attracted to her but I thought I’d never have a chance with her.

HCM: And what did she think about you?

GWC: She thought I was a weirdo. She still does, come to think of it?

HCM: *winces* Ouch.

GWC: Anyways, we became friends and then hooked up at the tail end of my high school years. We dated for seven years and now we’ve been married for almost six. She and I are complete opposites; she’s highly-organized, tidy and a very Type-A personality, whereas I’m laid-back, a bit disorganized and very chill. But we do have several things in common.

HCM: Like?

GWC: Well, we’re both very creative. While I dabble in writing, she does something called hand-lettering and I swear, she’s a genius with it. Who knew that letters could be so artistic and beautiful you know?

We’re also stubbornly hard workers that challenge each other to do better. Like, she’ll start something, and I’ll be like, “Hey, I should try that too?” So I do it, modifying it to my liking, and then she sees me doing pretty good with it, so she’ll be like “OK wow, you’re such a copycat!” But then, she’ll adapt what I’m doing with her stuff and the cycle continues. We basically feed off each other in terms of our work ethic.

She has a blog as well here on WordPress showcasing her talents in hand lettering. Seriously, her stuff is awesome. Oh yeah, she shares a lot of her work on Instagram and she also has a store on Etsy where people can buy digital copies of things like gift tags and stuff and print them out for their own use. It’s pretty cool.

HCM: That is pretty cool! So, what’s your secret to making this all work?

GWC: I think the biggest secret to our success is that we work as a team at everything – our marriage, parenting, our hobbies, you name it. I’m honestly my wife’s biggest cheerleader. If she wants to do something creative, like take a course or get some new pens to test out, I’m like “Go for it!” I don’t try to stifle her or hold her back and she’s flourished because of that. Even though she just gave birth to our son, that’s not stopping her from pursuing what she loves and vice versa with my writing.

We argue, like all couples do, but we always find solutions to our current problems. Communication and trust are our greatest weapons.

HCM: Great, great, so… Your blog – Games with Coffee – you started that last March. But at that same time, you were apparently pretty lost in your career, right?

GWC: *shrugs* Yeah, so I’ve always been a very hands-on type of guy. I love building things and seeing how things worked and stuff, which is why I got into engineering in the first place.

When I started my career, I started out as a designer. I would use what I’ve learned in university to engineer solutions to client’s problems. I thought that being a designer would help get me to where I wanted to go. At that time though, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but I wanted to end up doing something hands-on.

My first big design gig was very structured, almost to the point where it was stifling. Everything was already thought out for you, so there wasn’t much I could really engineer or create a unique solution for. I was getting pretty stressed because I kept making lots of mistakes. And I made those mistakes because I felt really bored at the job and being a designer. I hated being stuck at my desk for hours staring at a screen with the same programs over and over again.

HCM: So didn’t you make a change?

GWC: Yeah, after about 4 years I left that company and took a similar position one closer to home. The biggest difference between this job and my previous one is that there was less structure, in that there was better opportunity to engineer stuff and I’d have more ownership with projects. At least, that’s what was advertised to me at the time.

HCM: What do you mean by that?

GWC: Well, the job and the company was very free flowing and loose, it wasn’t structured like my old job. Now that’s a good thing because there’s no one to micromanage you and you have full control of your work, but the downside of it is that if things go wrong, it’s all on you. There’s no one readily available to check over your work before submitting it, because the company was so small and everyone can’t just stop what they’re doing and check your work. To top it off, my role directly affected everyone else in the company, so my mistakes were magnified. Beyond that, it was the same stuff as before: same programs, same issues around design, but with different problems and different levels of stress.

I started writing Games with Coffee at the end of that year, where I flamed out spectacularly. It really helped me to cope with the stress, since it involved my favourite subjects: writing and video games. Eventually, I talked to a professional who helped me sort out what I needed to work on both personally and professionally and suddenly, everything started to fall in place.

HCM: In that you ended up in a new position, yes?

GWC: Yep. And it seems like I hit the sweet spot with this one: it’s structured enough that you have a clear idea of what you’re supposed to do with the support to back it up, yet it also encourages making solutions on the fly based on both engineering principles and good old common sense. Best of all, I’m no longer focused on designing stuff; instead I do inspections and figure things out by going to a jobsite instead of trying to imagine how to fix it in the office. It’s pretty cool. It also helped that I took a vastly different approach for starting this job, in that I adopted a beginner’s mindset and embraced failure as something that’s normal to do. It’s helped me so far in succeeding in this position.

HCM: Nice to hear! So, last few questions before we wrap up: You talk a lot about being a Mature, Distinguished Gamer, what does that even mean?

GWC: *laughs* I had a feeling this would come up! Basically to me, being a mature, distinguished gamer is someone who knows how to balance gaming with everyday responsibilities, and I don’t mean just your job outside of home. I mean balancing it with spending time with family and friends, doing chores at home, like cooking or laundry, or what have you. Essentially, taking care of yourself, without letting gaming take over your whole life.

But on top of that is being respectful of other’s views, not just in gaming but in everything. Some people may think that Call of Duty is the greatest game ever made, (I’m using this as an example by the way) and while I personally disagree, I still respect that individual’s view. Sure, there are some good things that can be appreciated in the CoD series, but again, that’s not my personal preference. The point I’m making here is that I’m willing to engage and listen to that person’s viewpoint and maybe open myself up to playing games or genres I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. And also, one should never belittle someone for their choice of game or favourite series or installment of a series, because chances are that game has helped that person through a tough time.

Beyond that, a mature, distinguished gamer should have an appreciation for the classics as well as modern games, keeps an open mind about games of all kinds and reserves judgement on a game only after they’ve spent a fair deal of time playing it. Critical analysis of a game should focus both on what makes the game so good and identifying flaws and suggesting ways on how they could have been addressed, instead of simply saying “It sucks, don’t buy.” That’s just my opinion.

HCM: Alright, so what’s next on the pipeline for you? What’s your plans for this coming season of Games with Coffee?

GWC: So, this year, I’ve decided to jump on some opportunities offered by the community. Part of that includes writing for The Well-Red Mage as… The Hyperactive… Coffee… Mage…

HCM: … I’m sure our readers know by now that you and I are one in the same and that I’m brought here by the magic of fictional writing?

GWC: So… I’m basically talking to myself?

HCM: …

GWC: …Anyways, my debut review on Sonic 2 for the Game Gear went out earlier this month. I think I did a good job on it?

On top of that, the blog’s been nominated for a couple of awards and I want to respond in kind! Thanks again to Athena from AmbiGaming, TheGamingDiaries and NekoJonez for nominating me!

Furthermore, expect to see some more game reviews! I’ve modified my Espresso Shot format based on my work on TWRM. The categories remain the same, but I’m leaning towards providing some historical insight and personal connections to the game.

Also, I’ll be taking some time to focus on my personal writing. My biggest goal this year is to finish the rough draft of a fanfiction that I’ve poured my whole heart and soul into. From there, I’ll edit the heck out of it until it’s suitable for reading and then I’ll be starting a new segment where I’ll be releasing a chapter or two a week. All of this is for preparation for when I start writing my own original story someday in the future.

Other than that, my ongoing playthrough of Path of Exile continues. I’ll be sharing a few more personal anecdotes, particularly about Pokemon; I’m really excited about that one. I’m going to try and write some first impression posts of new releases, such as God of War, which I’m enjoying immensely.

And then there’s Beans and Screens, which I’m hoping takes off. I’ll be making some requests for interviewees in the coming months. (If anyone’s interested, let me know in the comments below!)

HCM: Got an idea of who your next guest will be?

GWC: Hmmm… Well, I suppose I could tease it a little?

So, I got in contact with a very high profile individual from a very successful game released last year. He’s kind of the strong, silent type, but his friend has agreed to interpret for him. So really, it’s two guests. I’ll leave it at that for now; anymore and I’ll spoil it!

HCM: Fair enough. Well, I’ll let you take over closing comments. Meanwhile, I have to draw another Summoning Circl-

GWC: Square.

HCM: …Whatever. *gets up, starts drawing a Summoning Shape using ground coffee beans*

GWC: The Hyperactive Coffee Mage everyone! And as we close off this first edition, I’d like to say a few words:

As enjoyable as this exercise was, none of this would be possible without readers like you. Thank you to those who have inspired, instilled confidence and pushed me to be a better writer. Thank you to you other bloggers out there, who are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, even though we’ve never physically met (Ah, the wonders of the Internet!). Keep doing what you do.

Until the next editions of Beans and Screens AND Games with Coffee, this has been Ryan, wishing you well, thanking you for an awesome year and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Path of Exile Playthrough Part 6 – Ruin Raider

Greetings Exiles and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

After an unplanned hiatus of nearly two months (courtesy of computer issues and a tiny, milk-demanding Exile who has created havoc with my schedule…), I’m back with my ongoing Path of Exile playthrough! If you haven’t caught up yet, check out the following links to rectify that problem:

  1. Part 1 -A Vacay in Wraeclast
  2. Part 2 – So Close, Yet Still So Far
  3. Part 3 – Finally at Act 2!
  4. Part 4 – Into The Woods…
  5. Part 5 – Dealing With Bandits

The Root of the Problem

To recap; I’ve defeated two of the Bandit Lords and spared Oak, who has rewarded me with some passive health regeneration and strength abilities for siding with him. The villagers in the Encampment, Eramir especially, were… modestly pleased? I mean, there’s only one Lord to deal with instead of three. I’m sure they’ll be fine.

In the meantime, I had other things to deal with, namely that the entrance to the Vaal Ruins, my next point of interest, was blocked off. I decided for the time being that I would complete Silk’s quest (mentioned briefly in the previous installment) to retrieve his long, sharp object in the Eight-Legs nest in The Western Forest.

Backtracking and finding the nest in question, I ventured forth to hunt the dreaded Mother Eight-Legs Silk spoke about. I headed through The Weaver’s Grounds and made my way through the spider-infested lair to the Nest, where the Mother lay.

I easily laid waste to the giant spider using my trusty area-of-effect skills and obtained Maligaro’s Spike; which was in Silk’s possession before he lost it. Returning to the Forest Encampment and presenting it to him, Silk offered me some Support Gems! I selected Controlled Destruction; It’s a useful support for my Firestorm gem!

After speaking to Helena about Maligaro’s Spike, she informed me that I would need to use both it and the Baleful Gem I found in the Chamber of Sins to access the Vaal Ruins. I combined the items and approached the tree with them.

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With the path opened, I decided to undergo another side-quest first, before tackling the ruins.

Masters, Ascendancy and Crypts Galore!

Yeena had asked of me to head to a Crypt, east of the Forest Encampment, to find the hand of “a good man.” After warping to The Crossroads and travelling through The Fellshrine Ruins, I entered the first floor of The Crypt. I was assailed on all sides by many undead creatures, including skeletons that cast elemental magic!

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Soon enough, I ran into an old friend; the Master of the Hunt, Tora! There was a pack of infected beasts roaming about and she asked me to take care of it before they become a problem. She handed me an item infused with thaumaturgy that allowed me to track the creatures by following pools of their blood.

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Following the trail, I found myself face to face with a horde of Infected Watchers – floating tentacle monsters which cast lightning magic and became enraged at low health.

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After killing nearly twenty of them, I encountered their leader, a Mutated Watcher, with the same buffs as its brethren along with an addition skill: it casts Lightning Warp!

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It took a bit of time, but I eventually endured. From its carcass, I ended up picking up my very first Unique weapon; a Goredrill Skinning Knife! Granted, it doesn’t fit with my current build, but hey, I’ll take it!

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After reporting in to Tora, she instructed me to visit her back at the Encampment; she would have new goods for me to purchase. Meanwhile, I continued onward through the Crypt and found another Bronze Monograph, which meant it was time for another Trial of Ascendancy!

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For this Trial, I had to face spinning columns equipped with deadly blades. These columns moved on a fixed track and their movements can be altered through the use of switches. Getting caught in these blades HURT, so care should be taken when going through this section.

Eventually, I passed the Trial. I’m one more step further to Ascendancy!

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Travelling down the second level, I ran into Tora again. Another day, another Master mission; this time she wanted me to eliminate several packs of creatures. Once again, I got my tracker ready and was on the hunt!

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I ended up slaying roughly forty creatures that attack with powerful leaps, which also gained me a level up as well as some additional reputation with Tora!

Travelling into the deepest part of the Crypt, I defeated the vault guards, opened the Altar and obtained The Golden Hand. This must be the hand of the good man Yeena was talking about…

Returning to the encampment, I handed it in to Yeena, where she rewarded me with one of three Jewels to equip onto my Passive Tree as well as the Book of Regrets, which granted me two respec points!

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Raiders of the Lost Vaal

WIth that completed, it was time to enter the ruins at last! The enemies here are tough – the constructs either use projectiles or are extremely quick, while the humanoid enemies have strong energy shields and heightened elemental resistances. As I rounded the corner, I ran into my old friend Haku.

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Once again, a warrior spirit of Karui needs rescuing in a corrupted area and quickly, as when I entered the Haunted Lair, a two minute timer started counting down! I quickly headed to the back of the lair, using quick skills like Lightning Tendrils and Detonate Dead to mow down the large spiders blocking my way. At the back, I encountered a corrupted Totem with the captured spirit. Defeating it freed the spirit and I quickly escaped to deliver it to a relieved Haku.

Travelling deeper into the ruins, I found myself in front of an Ancient Seal.

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Everything about it smelled Trap, but nevertheless, it was in my way and I had to proceed. I touched it:

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Well… that doesn’t look good. I opened a portal back to the Encampment and discovered, to my horror, that the whole land was covered in darkness and I was the cause of it! Speaking to Yeena first about the Apex and then Eramir afterward for additional information, my next objective was revealed – I had to travel to a pyramid beyond the Ruins and use the Apex to find and defeat this source of the darkness. Doing so would both save the land and ease my guilty conscience at the same time.

Today’s Tip: Jewels

As I mentioned above, Yeena gave me a Jewel as a quest reward. Jewels are used to grant additional passive effects on the Passive Skill Tree. In order to use them though, you must progress through the tree until you reach an empty Jewel Socket, which you must allocate a skill point for. Only then can you equip the Jewel and reap the benefits!

Jewels, like all items in the game, are also treated as currency, meaning that they can be traded to other players! You can also save unused Jewels in your stash, just in case you either want to make space for new Jewels on your skill tree or you want to transfer them over to your other builds.

Looking for some of the aforementioned items in this post? Be sure to check out the Path of Exile Items store at Playerauctions.com: they have a wide selection at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Hope you enjoyed today’s play-through post! Until the next edition, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, wishing you Exiles good fortune on the battlefield and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Koffi Trigger – Letter from a Mad Scientist Woman

Hey all, welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! I had so much fun writing the first letter to Athena for the Year of the RPG, that I decided to make this an ongoing thing for the rest of the year! I’ll be writing in the perspective of the main characters of the series and (if time allows) maybe have some of the secondary characters write in as well! Hope you enjoy it!


Dear Athena,

So, the letter you’re about to read was written on parchment made using outdated production processes and materials that aren’t used in present day paper manufacturing. Why am I mentioning this odd, out of place tidbit? Well, because I’m writing to you from a tavern in Truce Village in the year 600 A.D.; four hundred years in the past!

Before I get around to explaining how exactly I found myself in this era of time and the events that followed, allow me to introduce myself: I’m Lucca, the beautiful, brilliant scientist from Truce Village circa 1000 A.D.

… Well, truthfully, people in the village call me by a different name: Perks. My best (only) friend in the village gave me that name – Koffi. You might know him; he’s a fairly talented swordsman with an unhealthy obsession with coffee, hence his name. I don’t get why he calls me ‘Perks.’ Koffi says it’s because my obsession with machines and science rivals that of his coffee addiction and that I apparently ‘perk’ up whenever I see any piece of technology. It’s annoying, but I digress. Your name popped up when he told me about you and how he wrote you a letter on a whim, hence why I decided to write one myself. It’d be nice to vent to someone else for a change… I’m just hoping you get this.

Anyway, this fiasco started out at the Millenium Fair, back in 1000 AD. I had just fired up my latest invention – The Telepod – when Koffi showed up… With a girl in tow! A cute one to boot! I was so proud of him…

Mind you, while I care for the caffeine addicted swordsman and cherish him as a close friend, in no way would I want to pursue a romantic relationship with him. Why? Well, he’s kind of a dimwit. But I mean it in the nicest way possible!

When I first met Koffi’s companion though, something about her was incredibly familiar, but at the time, I couldn’t put my finger on why she was so familiar in the first place? Odd to put in here, I know, but it becomes relevant later on.

After a quick chat (in which you were brought up), I asked Koffi nicely (read: forced him) to try out the Telepod. I only wished you could see the look of fright upon his face when I told him to try it out; he still remembers the flamethrower incident (which I won’t go into specifics; he might have mentioned it already)! Either way, he tried it and it was a complete success! I’ve successfully teleported a person from one point to another! And I can’t believe it worked! I mean, I did the math and there was a large statistical chance that it would fail spectacularly and splice the poor guy in two, but hey, I avoided it! Hooray for science!

And here’s where everything got crazy; the girl Koffi brought (her name is Priss), wanted to try it out. Here I thought “This would be excellent publicity! If the Telepod gets popular enough, I might get that coveted research and development grant from the Royal Family!” So, I threw sheets to the wind and decided to let her on.

That… Turned out to be a huge mistake.

I still don’t quite understand how it happened, but as she was teleporting to the receiver pod, it seems like an unknown energy source – possibly originating from her pendant – overloaded the Telepod and somehow tore open a hole in space-time. Instead of arriving on the receiver pod, she fell through the hole and vanished.

Naturally everyone panicked and fled from the scene. My father and I argued as to whose fault this was; either he inadvertently increased the Telepod’s power to beyond the overload protection, or I missed a zero when I recalibrated the sender pod prior to her getting on. Anyways, it was no surprise to me that Koffi picked up the pendant that was left behind and told me to fire it up again. He looked hellbent and he only has that look on his face when the ferry comes in with his latest coffee shipment: 200 lbs of roasted beans.

So, my father and I overloaded the Telepod to achieve the same effect of tearing a hole in space-time, with help from the pendant. Koffi was flung into it while I pondered as to what these holes were, why have they appeared and how do I get one open without using the Telepod or the pendant?

Long story short and without going into immense scientific explanation (which, if I’m honest, would turn this letter into a book), I postulated the theory that this space-time energy is naturally occurring, and that Priss’ pendant acts as a sort of conductor for this energy. Using that theory, I built my most amazing invention yet: the Gate Key. When used near a large concentration of this space-time energy, it would create a stable, temporal portal out of it (which I’ll call Gates). I tested it back at the fairgrounds and successfully opened the portal where Priss and Koffi entered! So, naturally I followed along, where I landed 400 years in the past, in the middle of the war between humans and Mystics.

Midway through travelling, I finally realized to my horror who Priss reminded me of and what the consequences of her being in this moment of time would be! I rushed to Guardia Castle of the past and discovered that my fears were founded; Priss is really Princess Nadia, the current heir to the throne in our present time! Also, this year is significant in our country’s history, because it’s when Queen Leene, Nadia’s ancestor, mysteriously disappeared! She would have been brutally murder if not for a trusted knight who rescued her at the last moment. But because Priss is a dead ringer for the Queen, the castle guards called off the search when she was found, meaning that the real Queen was still in danger. If she was killed, it would create a time paradox which would have untold consequences on the space-time continuum! To top all of it off, Nad- sorry, Priss disappeared in a flash of light, meaning that the paradox activation would be imminent, if my theories were correct.

… Basically in a nutshell, unless Koffi and I found the real Queen Leene and returned her to the castle safely, we would all be royally screwed. Pun totally not intended.

As we left the castle to search for the Queen, we were stopped by… a frog man. No, I’m not kidding you; he was a short, ugly and slimy looking frog that stood on two feet, wore travelling clothes and had a sword sheathed on his waist. He insisted (in a very medieval dialect) on joining us to find the Queen. I was initially grossed out (I really don’t like frogs) and almost told him to get lost, but Koffi took a shine to him. It might have been a swordsman thing between the two, but Koffi decided to let him on. While he called himself Frog (wow, that’s an imaginative name…), Koffi decided on a different name: Sir Beans. I actually laughed at that one.

Despite being dismayed at the name choice, Beans joined up with us as we canvassed the village for information about the Queen’s last known whereabouts. We’ve discovered that a day or two ago, the Queen went to the Cathedral near the castle with the Chancellor, but only he returned, citing that the Queen was staying to pray for our troops on the Zenan Bridge. When the report went out that she went missing, the first place they searched was the Cathedral, but they found nothing. We all though this sounded suspicious, so we’ll be heading there shortly. Koffi and Beans (I snickered so hard when I wrote that out) went to gather up supplies, leaving me time to write this out to you.

Looks like they’re back, so I’ll end it here. Wish us luck.

-Lucca (Perks)

PS: You know, I wish I could send you pictures – photography wasn’t invented until late 800 A.D. or so. Maybe when (if, really) I get back to our current time, I’ll invent an instant photo device or something… (I’m actually writing this idea down as we speak.)

PPS: …Koffi says hi and also says thank you for the response, he just got it.

A List of Engineers in Video Games!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! Grab a hard hat, some safety boots, a set of tools, some blueprint schematics and maybe a laptop with some Computer Aided Design (CAD) software loaded up because today, we’re talking engineers in video games! I’m not talking about the audio, video, software or the myriad of other engineers that bring our favourite games to life (although they should be celebrated nonetheless!), I’m talking about characters in video games who, at some level, act as engineers.

Merriam Webster defines the practice of engineering as follows:

2a: the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people

2b : the design and manufacture of complex products

While most professional engineering organizations, including the one I’m licensed with, define the practice as:

“any act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising that requires the application of engineering principles and concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment, or the managing of any such act;”

Anyways, with that set aside, let’s talk characters who are or operate as engineers! They may be playable characters or supporting cast that plan, design, build or invent solutions that are used to either advance the plot or help their team out of a tight spot. So, let’s introduce a few, in no particular order:

Miles “Tails” Prower

Sonic the Hedgehog’s best buddy does more than fly with his two tails and pilot a biplane; with an astounding IQ of nearly 300, he’s also the principal designer of a variety of gadgets and items that Sonic and Co. use to thwart the machinations of Dr. Eggman (who we’ll talk about next!). From upgrading the Tornado into a bipedal walker, developing a translator to understand the Wisp language and even engineering a duplicate Chaos Emerald to try and outfox (Ha!) the evil doctor, Tails certainly fits the definition of an engineer. When he’s not adventuring with Sonic, he can be seen tinkering around in his workshop, either upgrading the Tornado, or building his next big invention.

Dr. Ivo Robotnik/Dr. Eggman

Alas, not all engineers are good guys; some are villainous as well. Case in point is Sonic’s nemesis, Dr. Eggman. Also known as Dr. Robotnik back in the day, he’s on a quest to rule the world and does so by employing a robotic army of his own design. Eggman’s impressive mechanical genius has allowed him to build several engineering marvels, including space fortresses, like the Death Egg, filled with deadly traps, the highly advanced E-Series robots that are literally powered using small animals and even mechanical duplicates of his arch-enemy! Despite the fact that he doesn’t fulfill some of the aspects of a professional engineer (he’s not one to consider the safety of the public), major respect should be given in terms of his engineering aptitude and his perseverance toward his goal.

Roll Caskett

From the Mega Man Legends series, comes the titular character’s best friend/adopted sister, Roll! Officially, she acts as Mega Man’s spotter while he explores the underground ruins, looking for refractor crystals or other artifacts from Earth’s distant past. However, Roll does more than keep an eye out for danger; she pilots their airship home, the Flutter, is an impressive mechanic who’s not afraid to get down and dirty to repair things, even when they don’t belong to her and helps Mega by building powerful special weapons out of seemingly random junk!

There’s a wry, yet truthful, joke in engineering that goes: “Say that a client wants a product to be made cheap, quick and with good quality. Engineers will tell you to pick two of the three.” It speaks about making compromises, since it’s difficult to satisfy all three at the same time. Where Roll compromises in upgrading Mega Man’s weaponry is cost; while the weapons she provides are incredibly powerful and useful, the cost to upgrade them to their maximum potential is a bit exorbitant. Some would also say that they’re incredibly ridiculous. (Seriously Roll, several million Zenny just so you can upgrade the Shining Laser’s stats to their maximum? What do we have to do, rob a bank?!)

… Speaking of which:

Tron Bonne

On the flip side in the Mega Man Legends series, we have Tron, the hot-headed, middle sibling of the Bonne criminal family and the mastermind behind their mechanical marvels. Of her myriad creations, none are as iconic (or as adorable) as her loyal Servbots – tiny yellow and blue robots that assist Tron and her family in all their endeavors, from grand larceny and piracy to simple housekeeping and companionship. They are the O.G. Minions.

In fact, I think the guys from “Despicable Me” were inspired by (read: blatantly copied) the Servbots. But that’s just my opinion.

Her next greatest creation is the Gustaff – her personal, modular battle robot which was featured heavily in her spin-off game, “The Misadventures of Tron Bonne,” as well as the Marvel vs. Capcom series. It’s a versatile piece of machinery with lots of unique functions, the most useful being the Beacon Bomb, which marks a target for the accompanying Servbots to go after.

Remember that joke I mentioned earlier? While Roll compromises on cost, Tron compromises on quality. Many of her creations are made using second-hand or cheaper parts than the allegedly high-quality parts Roll sources for Mega’s upgrades. The two mech-heads square off against each other quite often during the series and their rivalry comes to a point where they butt heads over the best way to bring Mega Man back from Elysium at the end of Mega Man Legends 2. Roll argues for using quality parts that come at a high cost, while Tron’s rebuttal involves using cheaper parts to keep costs down. Whereas most would see this as a catfight vying over who would be the one to bring Mega home, to me, this is a typical Monday morning meeting at a construction site: lots of discussion around budgets, costs and keeping them down as much as possible.

Cid Highwind

While most engineers are characterized as meek, introverted individuals whom are sequestered in their cubicles, few are as iconic or as badass as Cid Highwind from Final Fantasy VII. Cid is the Final Fantasy version of Canadian astronaut and guy who covered “Space Oddity” while floating around in outer space, Chris Hadfield, if he was a chronic chain-smoker with a penchant for excessive cursing.

Cid’s dedicated his life to the aerospace field; first by building the airship Highwind and then the Tiny Bronco, a small plane, years after he aborted the rocket launch that would have made him the first man in space. After the events following Sephiroth’s defeat, Cid built a brand new airship; the Shera, after his wife and fellow scientist/engineer of the same name.

Despite his tough talk and rough nature, he does put the safety of others as a high priority; sacrificing his opportunity to go into space to save Shera is one example of this. And despite being originally bitter to Shera for her ruining his chances, he apologized once he figured out that she had it right all along with the oxygen tank in the rocket. It doesn’t make up for the years of abuse that he heaped upon her, but it was a start.

Cid, to me, reminds me of some of the more hardass engineers that I’ve either worked with or have encountered in my career. They work incredibly hard to get the job done, all while spewing a wealth of expletives in interesting combinations, (which I keep in mind for future reference).

There are a bunch of other Cid’s in the series who operate in a similar capacity as Cid Highwind. Some include the Cids from Final Fantasy IV and IX, who are master airship engineers, and the Cid from Final Fantasy XV, who was friends with the King and specialized in modifying weapons made from either Insomnian or Niflheim technology.

Dr. Hal “Otacon” Emmerich

First seen in the Shadow Moses Island incident; the setting of Metal Gear Solid, Dr. Emmerich was the principal designer of the new Metal Gear: codenamed REX. Originally, he had designed it to be used to defend against nuclear attacks, but upon hearing the truth from legendary FOXHOUND operative, Solid Snake, his whole world came crashing down. Luckily, he struck a fast friendship with the soldier and two have been inseparable ever since. Calling himself Otacon, he assists Snake by informing him that he intentionally designed a weakness in Metal Gear REX (read: a character flaw), which Snake uses to defeat his twin brother and the current head of FOXHOUND, Liquid Snake.

Following Shadow Moses, Otacon assists mainly as a hacker, but his engineering skills haven’t dwindled a bit! By Metal Gear Solid 4, he’s developed two tools to assist Snake, who’s appearance is now closer to a septuagenarian due to his genetics and the process that created him: the Solid Eye, an eye patch that uses AR technology and the Metal Gear Mk. II, a smaller scale Metal Gear, equipped with a stealth field and a prehensile appendage, built to assist Snake on his final mission.

Lucca

One of the three denizens from Truce Village in the year 1000 A.D., Lucca is Crono’s best friend and a scientific genius. Taking to science after a freak accident involving her mother and one of her father’s latest inventions, Lucca can be seen engineering her next innovation in her lab away from the town. When Chrono Trigger starts, she developed a teleportation device called the Telepod, which debuted during the Millenium Fair. She later invents the Gate Key, used to harness an unknown energy to open portals into time, after witnessing Marle’s pendant interact with the energy generated from the Telepod. Finally, once flung into the distant and bleak future of 2300 AD with Crono and Marle, she discovered a broken down robot, which she repairs easily, despite the technology being nearly thirteen centuries ahead of her time! Her engineering prowess knows no bounds!

These are but a few examples of engineers in gaming. Know of any others that I’ve missed/overlooked? Let me know in the comments below!

This post is dedicated to National Engineering Month here in Ontario: a whole month dedicated to advocating the importance of STEM subjects and engineering’s importance in the community. Click here to learn more about it!

And stay tuned for the next edition, where a Goddess of Wisdom will be receiving a letter from a certain mad scientist (who may or may not have been mentioned in this article! *wink*).

Once again, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, saluting our fellow engineers for a job well done and reminding you, as always, to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior: Espresso Shot Review

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! Let thy cup runneth full of beany goodness!

If the slight Olde English hasn’t tipped you off yet, today I’ll be talking about the very first RPG I’ve ever played: Dragon Warrior for the Nintendo Entertainment System! Also known as Dragon Quest in Japan, this is the first installment of the long running Dragon Quest series.

This game has many memories associated with it – every game I’ve played on the NES as a child was a challenge, but few have challenged me so like this one. But now I wonder, after almost 32 years since its original release and 29 years for the North American version, how does it fare in my eyes in the present day? Well, its the subject of today’s Espresso Shot Review! Let’s take a look:


Dragon Quest was released on May 1986 in Japan and in North America in August 1989 under the name Dragon Warrior, by Enix, a company producing RPG games before they merged with their rival, Squaresoft, in the early 2000’s to create Square-Enix. Dragon Warrior is considered to be one of the grandfather’s of Japanese RPG’s, setting the base template for all modern JRPG’s to follow.

I will be reviewing Dragon Warrior, released in August of 1989 for the NES, just over three years after Dragon Quest was released for the Famicom.

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-0

Story

Dragon Warrior takes place in the kingdom of Aelfgard, a series of modestly sized lands with rivers, islands and the like. Many years ago, when darkness covered the land, a hero named Erdrick brought peace to the kingdom by slaying a great evil and using an artifact called The Ball of Light to banish the remaining dark creatures. He handed it over to the King in Tantegel Castle, ensuring that the kingdom would be protected.

One individual was not a fan of the Ball’s radiance; he was the Dragonlord, a man corrupted by evil magic and who could control dragons. He gathered an army, invaded Tantegel Castle and stole the Ball of Light, casting the kingdom back into darkness. He then went on a reign of terror, razing towns and causing generic havoc before settling down in his castle, Charlock, on an island surrounded by impassable waters near Tantegel.

Years later, a prophet proclaimed that a new hero will emerge – a descendant of Erdrick himself – to save the land. After the Dragonlord kidnapped Tantegel’s beautiful princess, Gwaelin, a man (the player character) arrives at the kingdom, proclaiming himself to be that descendant. The current King, believing him, instructs him to save his daughter, defeat the Dragonlord and bring the light back to Aelfgard.

dragon-warrior-usa-rev-a-1-e1519351446161.png

This is the hero of our story! His name is Roast.

As far as story goes, this is pretty cookie cutter: save the princess, defeat the bad guy, save the world. It was a common storyline at the time when the gaming industry was slowly transitioning to a more narrative structure as opposed to typical high score arcade fare. While common and accessible in its time, today, the storyline wouldn’t find as much traction, given that, in this writer’s opinion, older gamers yearn for more complex narratives. And yet, the simplicity of the story presented in Dragon Warrior makes this game a great, entry-level RPG for a child aged 7-10.

The most charming aspect of the story is the English translation’s use of Elizabethan (aka Olde) English. It gives the story and the dialogue a more Shakespearean, medieval tone and helps make the player feel like they’re in the middle of a fantasy world.

Gameplay

Dragon Warrior is a heavily text-based game. Every action, from talking to NPC’S, to searching for items and opening chests and to attacking and using spells, is controlled through several menu-driven options, accessed using the A button. Menu options include context specific actions like Talk, Search, Take and Door, along with traditional RPG staples like Item, Magic and Status. The interface was designed to be as simple as possible, given the limited number of inputs available to use.

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-1

On the field, opening the menu and selecting an action will execute that action in the direction the player character is facing. So, if you wanted to talk to someone or examine an object of interest, you’d have to face in that direction, otherwise you’ll get a notice saying no one is there. Also, to use the Door command, you’ll need Magic Keys. This is a bit irksome, since it would be easier to walk up to a door and press A to open it as opposed to opening the menu and selecting the Door command itself. Future installments, along with remakes, have addressed this, but it’s still a slight chore.

The field is separated into three types: Towns, the Overworld map and Dungeons. Towns are where you can obtain information for your quest from townspeople, buy items and gear and rest to recover HP and MP.

The Overworld is the area where most of the time is spent; players must travel to towns and dungeons to progress with the story. You’ll find random encounters with various monsters. Players will encounter stronger monsters or experience higher encounter rates depending on the terrain. An interesting thing about the hilly terrain is that there’s a slight pause as you walk across, making it feel like you’re actually crossing hills.

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-2

Bridges serve an additional purpose besides connecting landmasses, as players will see a clear difference in enemy strength once crossed. This invisible difficulty barrier helps players identify which areas to avoid until they get strong enough to go through without trouble.

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In dungeons, players will encounter stronger monsters at an increased rate, but they will find rare weapons or items necessary to complete the game. Also, since these areas are shrouded in darkness, a torch or the Radiant spell are required to be able to see your surroundings.

When a monster is encountered, a different set of commands become available: Fight, Magic, Item and Run. Fight makes your character attack with an equipped weapon, with its effectiveness dependent on the players current strength and the weapon’s attack rating. Magic casts spells in your repertoire, like Heal and Hurt. Item allows the use of items in your inventory to use in battle and Run makes your character attempt to run away. You won’t be able to escape all the time; your success rate is based on how high your agility stat is. Upon wining the battle, you gain experience points and gold.

Regarding stats, they are easy to follow and keep track of. Besides HP and MP, strength, as mentioned above, relates to fighting prowess, defense is for taking monster attacks and agility indicates if you attack first before the opponent does, if you are able to strike without missing and if you are able to run away from the fight. Status effects are limited to falling asleep, being prevented from casting spells via Stopspell and being cursed by wearing cursed items; this is expanded in further installments. Compared to the intricacies and nuances of the modern RPG, with its various stats and ailments, Dragon Warrior simplifies it all, making it very accessible to newcomers.

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-8

At death, you get a message, saying “Thou art dead.”

If you die, either on the field or in battle, you return to the King with half your gold missing. It’s good in a sense, since you don’t lose progress in terms of leveling up, but if you’re trying to save up for the more expensive items for your quest, then you’re out of luck.

A few problems players could encounter are that the difficulty level ramps up quickly as you progress and that the only way to save is to return to Tantegel Castle and speak with the King. It’s wise to keep some Wyvern’s Wings with you, in case you’re knee deep in more difficult parts of the world, you’re out of magic and need to make a hasty retreat (or if you’re finished playing for the day and want to turn it off.). This archaic save mechanism continued to be a staple in later installments, (instead of speaking to a king, you’d confess in church), whereas other RPG’s settled for allowing players to save on the Overworld or save points within dungeons.

Another major problem is that, besides sleeping at an Inn or speaking to an wizard behind a desk at Tantegal Castle, there’s no way to recover spent MP. This makes conserving magic extremely important, as you can run out of it fairly quickly if you’re not careful.


Visuals

Legendary manga artist and creator of the Dragon Ball series, Akira Toriyama, lent his artistic talents to the Dragon Quest series. He created the artwork for characters as well as monsters, the most famous being the Slime creature, the mascot of the series.

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-0

It’s interesting to see how his art style influenced the series over the years, especially Dragon Quest VIII, my favourite of the series. But we’re talking about the very first game, so let’s segue on back…

Graphics-wise, the 8-bit style hasn’t aged well. Colours and textures are very simple and conservative in nature, but in the present day, they look very dated. The overworld sprites, emulating the Chibi art style, look cute and animated.

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-5

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-6

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-7

My biggest criticism has to be the dungeon design. It’s very bland in nature. Only when you reach the last area where the Dragonlord lies is there any difference in how dungeons look.

The biggest strength to the game’s visuals is the monster art. Toriyama’s art style ensures that the enemies silly appearances belies their terrifying strength.

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-13

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-14

Dragon Warrior (USA) (Rev A)-15


Music

There’s very little music in the game, but some are quite memorable. One in particular is the title theme when you turn the game on. This title theme would go on to be used in all subsequent entries of Dragon Quest, making it a well-recognized theme.

I’m particularly fond of the overworld music. It gives off a medieval, I’m-crossing-the-land vibe and adds to the atmosphere.

What I found interesting is that the dungeon music drops in octaves as you descend deeper down the floors. It’s an unique approach to identifying which floor you’re occupying, since most times you have no idea which one you’re on in the first place. This has also carried on into later installments.

There are also a few jingles that either have carried over to future installments, like the music that plays when you level up or when an enemy is defeated, or stand out, like the death theme.

The rest of the music featured in game are simple and repetitive, yet pleasant to listen to.


Replayability

In terms of post game content, there really isn’t any. Once you finish the game, you finish the game. This was standard practice at the time for early JRPG games; it was not until the mid 90’s where, as an additional challenge, optional bosses could be fought for great rewards.

The few things one could do would be to either grind for experience to max your character’s levels or to try beating the game at a low level. Both are a slog. The hardest thing someone could accomplish, however, is to speedrun the game. Yes, you read that right; Dragon Warrior can be speedrun. Check out the video below as this runner for Games Done Quick manipulates the RNG to complete the game in less than half an hour! It’s insane!


Wrapup

As I mentioned at the start of the review, Dragon Warrior is one of the original RPG’s in which future JRPG’s modeled themselves after. Positives for the game include its story. which is easy to follow, the pleasant music, the excellent enemy art done by Akira Toriyama, and the accessible, if clunky at times, menu interface. Negatives include the dated graphics, the bland dungeon design, the odd game save mechanics and the steep difficulty curve, which may throw new players out for a loop.

Overall, Dragon Warrior is a fun retro game to play and an excellent way to pass time. I give it:

4 out of 5

4/5

Secret Valentine: Brought to you by Adventure Rules!

Happy Valentines Day from Games with Coffee!

Ian from Adventure Rules had initiated a fun way to celebrate the occasion: Writing about a Secret Valentine! A bunch of us bloggers signed up and were given individuals in the blogosphere to write up about.

On today’s edition, I’ll be sharing my secret valentine, who is a mother of two, twin toddlers, and has shared her experiences and struggles to become a mother, along with advice to new and expectant mothers – Debi from Womb 2 Cradle n’ Beyond!

There are but a few posts on her blog, but they are all very meaningful and can help with couples struggling to conceive. I can somewhat relate with this; it took us quite some time for us to have a baby of our own, partially due to wanting to wait until we were ready and partially due to unexpected problems while trying to conceive. Today, our little baby bean is now over a month old! I have not had any proper sleep for a month and I’m thrilled about it! (Thank the Gods for Coffee!)

Below are a few posts that you guys should take a look at, especially if you’re thinking of bringing in a Lvl. 1 Human into your party!


One post lists the several causes of infertility and what both men and women can do to help boost fertility. The post is very informative and the advice given can be applied to both men and women alike. (it takes two, remember?!)

Another notes the top 10 myths about pregnancy and miscarriage. I wish I read this list earlier, since my wife (who, as a lettering hobbyist, is damn good at making words look pretty), is obsessed with pineapples and papayas and abstained from eating them throughout her pregnancy, fearing that she wouldn’t conceive or she would give birth prematurely if she ate it. She has indulged in eating copious amounts of papaya on a daily basis since giving birth. Fortunately, that myth and others listed in Debi’s post have been debunked, including myths that pregnant women should not work out or drink coffee of any amount.

Finally, she has a post about how to manage commonly occurring ailments during pregnancy. It’s super helpful for both men and women, since they can take the steps listed to alleviate some of the common status effects pregnancy can inflict on their favourite person, like backaches, heartburn and the like.


These are but a few, but great, examples of the stuff Debi has on her blog. If you get a chance to, check her site out and drop a line!

And Debi, please keep doing what you do; your advice is helpful to a lot of people! Keep it up!

Well, that’s all for today. Join me for the next edition, which hopefully will come soon (or whenever my little buddy gives me chances to write!)

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, wishing you all a Happy Valentines Day and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!