Curiosities for July 2021
Into the rabbit-hole of MMO economy and your indie pop band in a rhythm game
It’s the end of July—here in the Philippines that means the monsoon season, bringing in heavy rainfall throughout the region. Hope you all stay dry, healthy, and vaccinated!
🌴 As for me, I’ll be taking the next few months off to rest, relax, and recharge. Will also be using that time to discern1 about stuff, so I’ll need all your support in spirit! Also, I might not be able to send newsletters for the coming months, and you’ll hear back from me again by October or November!
📝 From the blog
This month, I wrote a short literature review on data-centric machine learning. For me, I see “data-centric ML” as an umbrella term for methods that focus on ensuring quality data across all (instead of fiddling model hyperparameters). Techniques include weak supervision, active learning, multi-task learning, and more. The review can be summarized neatly by this plot:
I find the idea of data-centric ML to be interesting. I was first drawn into it by Andrew Ng’s data-centric competition, where the goal is to improve a model’s performance by simply updating the dataset—no model training required! If this piqued your attention, then check out this link to my post.
Here are some cool finds for the month of July! This time, I revisited my gaming backlog, and played a lot of indie games that I enjoy.
Dune Series: Yup, I’ve just started on this epic journey recently. I got the three-book box set from Fully Booked, and if I still dig the series then I’ll buy the next three books. So far, I’m loving the plot. It reminds me of sci-fi Lord of the Rings, with more intrigue, politics, and economy. The lore is rich, and I think it’s a world that I want to spend more hours on!
A digital museum of video game levels: This may not necessarily be about reading, but I found this website of classic video game levels to freely explore and move around. For example, you can load a map of Dark Souls, Final Fantasy, or Super Mario and fly on your merry way without dying. It feels surreal to have that freedom of movement now that you’re not constrained with the rules of that world. It’s a good place to get lost to!
Also, I just learned that “noclip” (the website’s name) is an actual cheat to allow a character to freely move in any direction without being obstructed by other objects. Noclipping allows avoiding bugs, finding easter eggs, and viewing other areas outside the map’s physical boundaries.
Venezuela’s paper currency is worthless, so its people seek virtual gold: I’ve been playing Albion Online recently, and I was intrigued by its player-driven economy. However, that got me thinking: if resources like rocks, monster items, and potions respawn, then how does the game prevent inflation? This question led me to a rabbit-hole of reading about virtual economies. I also recommend watching Extra Credits’ video on balancing player economy, informative work!
Blasphemous: I’m trying to get back to playing Metroidvanias again, and I think that Blasphemous is there to scratch the itch. Combat is ok, but the Spanish Catholicism / Inquisition setting feels phenomenal and surreal:
It’s a good take on the grim-dark fantasy setting. It’s almost straight out of a macabre movie. As someone who lives in a country with a heavy influence of Spanish Catholicism, Blasphemous iconography hit the right notes.
Wildermyth: this game blew me away. Imagine a single-player DnD game with multiple campaigns and character customization. The characters and narrative are procedurally generated. You have a large narrative, but the events, choices, and outcome depend on the traits, relationships, and capabilities of your characters:
Combat is your standard grid-based Tactics setup. You move characters across the “game board” and secure objectives along the way. I particularly enjoy Interfusion where your Mystic merges to an inanimate object and use it to its advantage.
The best part of Wildermyth is its legacy system, where your past characters and their stories can be reused to other campaigns and events. You might see an Archer from your previous run show up as a side-character in your current run. In addition, characters retire and die, and has the ability to pass their experience to their next of kin. It’s a deep system and it’s masterfully done!
There are still a few bugs and kinks here and there, but the reception is Overwhelmingly Positive on Steam. I’m hoping that more content is added, and I bet that it may be an indie Game of The Year contender.
Unbeatable [white label]: this is just a free demo of a game that will come out in 2023, but it already slaps! I am not into rhythm games, but this one I’m willing to play! The playthrough is just an hour long, but you get to see the protagonist’s motivations and backstory.
The art is beautiful. It’s just oozing with style! Even the UI and menu feels straight out of an indie pop band!
And because this is a rhythm-game, you need to care about the music, right? Well, look no further, because this is definitely one of the best I’ve heard! It’s pop-rock, and it just bangs hard. My favorites are Familiar (reminds me of the intro in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Worn-out Tapes. Just play it already!
I’m hoping that the full game follows through, the folks at D-Cell Games are off to a great start. Man, even the trailer is awesome:
So that’s it for this month! Thank you and enjoy August!
🎉 I will be taking a break for the next few months! As some of you may already know, today (July 30) is my last day in Thinking Machines—it was a fun ride! During my break, I am unreachable and unable to send newsletters, so I’ve queued-up several posts in my blog for the coming months. You’ll still see it getting updated! You can reach me by email but don’t expect a quick reply!