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Zyrshnikashnu's blog

3:20 PM on 08.16.2010


I'm a gamer. I play games! I play games because games are fun. In fact, I'm a pretty laid-back gamer. Losing a game 42-0? No problem! I'll crack a joke as I try for the sixteenth time to assault a position in a new and reckless manner that will inevitably result in my body parts being strewn across the battlefield.

Sometimes, though, games are not fun. Take today, for instance.

Today, I jumped on Left 4 Dead 2 with two of my friends. We've been playing together all weekend, and we're starting to work well together. We've got good communication, and we've been known to incapacitate the the other team before they've even left the safe area one or two times. What I'm trying to say is that we don't totally suck.

Today, you'd probably call me a liar. We played a round of Dark Carnival on Versus mode. This is not a new thing. We know what to expect, and we've won it several times before. We sucked. Hard.

It probably didn't help that the other team was good. I can only guess that they had some excellent communication going on, because they did a fine job of attacking and surviving in coordination. Bravo, other team.

Even so, we should have done better. Several times, as survivors, we were incapped moments out of the safe room. As infected, we fared no better. The opposing team made it to the safe room no fewer than three times with all four members standing. If you've ever played Versus, you should know that's no mean feat. Even a poorly-organized team of infected should be able to either knock off one of the survivors or stop them just short of the end, as the pressure mounts. We failed to do even that.

It seemed like the game was working against me today, what with (apparently) getting shot through solid walls and (apparently) glancing off survivors that should have been firmly in my grip. Once, as Charger, I bowled directly into the survivor who was playing Nick. For the uninformed, the Charger is supposed to grab onto the first survivor he hits and smash them on the ground. Instead, my character pushed Nick to the side and continued on. I can honestly say that this was the worst round I've ever played.

As all of these factors accumulated over the course of the campaign, I could take it no more. I did something I never do, even when I'm losing a game my a ridiculous margin: I ragequit.

Ragequitting is one of the lowest actions you can take in a small team-based game, short of teamkilling. You leave your team without a member, and typically the ragequitter doesn't even warn his teammates that he's leaving. It's just a nasty thing to do.

So why did I ragequit? I got to the point where it seemed like the only option I could take. The game had gotten me so worked up (normally something that doesn't happen) that it just wasn't fun anymore. Why play a game if it isn't fun? It may be excusable to get angry at a game if you're playing competitively and you have something riding on your performance, but it's my opinion that if you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong. What's more, if you continue playing through the rage, you'll probably wind up ruining the game for yourself.

Everybody has bad days. Today is one of mine. I find that the best way too cool down after an unhealthy dose of rage is to turn the damned thing off and move on to something completely different, like writing a blog entry on Destructoid. It's working out nicely for me.   read

8:17 PM on 06.21.2010

Numbers (NVGR)

This is a blog about math. If that scares you, go ahead and return to reading about video games. You won't hurt my feelings.

What's your favorite number? You might call it a lucky number; your go-to number when someone asks you for a numerical input. Do you genuinely feel that this number is better than others, or do you just feel a seemingly irrational attachment to it?

I like numbers. One of my favorites is 892. It's a nice, friendly number. Less than 1000, it's of manageable size, but has plenty of syllables, so it sounds impressive, but not too unwieldy. Beyond that, there's no particular reason I like it better than any others. Whenever I see it in some unexpected context, I smile and think, "There it is again." Other numbers that capture my interest are 232 and multiples of 3, especially those whose digits are all multiples of 3. I find them more elegant than their peers.

I've never felt that any number has brought me luck, since luck doesn't make sense to me. Truly random processes may or may not exist, but for all intents and purposes we can call the throw of a die a random event. Humans are good at seeing patterns, even patterns that don't exist. Attachment to items, even abstract items like numbers, can develop from exposure to apparently random experiences. We get a winning or losing streak and we associate it with some correlating event, like the presence of an item, the performance of a ritual, or the choice of a number. Your lucky number is no more likely to win at roulette than any other, but you have to choose something, right?

Math captured my interest around middle school, when I entered a mathematics program run by the University of Buffalo. I was introduced to number theory in seventh grade, when we were tasked with defining numbers in terms of set theory.

As it turns out, this can be done. We can then define a successor function that builds the next number by taking the previous number and appending the empty set to it. All we have to do is define 0 as the empty set:
0 = {}
1 = Succ({}) = { {} }
2 = Succ({ {} }) = { {}, { {} }}
...and so on.

Interestingly enough, this construction shows up in computer science. In 1936, Alonzo Church published a paper in which he definied lambda calculus. It was essentially a formal programming language with exactly three contructions:
names - x
function declarations - λx.y
function applications - (x y)

Names are handles by which functions are referred to and applications result in functions, meaning everything in the language is a function. The most basic function in lambda calculus is the identity function:
λx.x - Takes an argument and gives it back.

So doing something like this:
(λx.x 1)
would apply the identity function to "1", resulting in 1. Many functional programming languages, especially the Lisp family, are based on lambda calculus.

But hold on. This is a language without numbers. Where did I get that 1 from? And if everything is a function, isn't inherently weaker than a language that has more types (including numbers)?

As it turns out, we can build numbers out of these abstract functions. One way to do it is called the Church encoding, developed by the same Church I mentioned earlier. It looks like the following:
0 = λf.λx.x
1 = λf.λx.(f x)
2 = λf.λx.(f (f x))
3 = λf.λx.(f (f (f x)))
...and so on. Thus, every number is a function whose structure is both unique and usefully predictable.

Looks familiar, doesn't it? On the surface, at least, the Church encoding of natural numbers closely resembles the above set theory representation. Church and his students even constructed perfectly reasonable ways to manipulate these numbers, including your basic arithmetic operations.

My point is that numbers are interesting, even though we typically take them for granted. When you count something, you don't think about how you're counting, you just start at 1 (or, if you're a computer scientist, 0) and generate the successors automatically.

In fact, the concept of 0 as a number is an interesting topic on its own, and it might even be called the most interesting natural number. In some cultures, it started as a placeholder between symbols, so something like 102 could be distinguished from 12 or 10020. It only relatively recently that it was accepted as a number of its own right, for several philosophical and practical reasons.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have infinity. Most people don't consider infinite numbers. If you have two inifinite sets, they're both equally big, right?

As it turns out, that's not the case. Some sets infinite sets are countable and others are not. A countable set is one that is comparable to the natural numbers. That is, if we can assign one natural number to each element in some set, we have a countable set.

But if the natural numbers are inifinite, how can you have an uncountable set? After all, we can keep assigning numbers forever and never run out.

However, there are uncountably more real numbers than there are natural numbers. Intuitively, you might get an idea of why this is. Take any two natural numbers and count how many numbers are between them. This will obviously be some natural number. Now take any two real numbers and count how many numbers are between them. It can't be done. Regardless of how close together those numbers are, there is always an uncountably large amount of numbers between them. This is no proof, but it plants the idea in your head.

In fact, we have a hierarchy of infinite sets: the (aleph) numbers. (aleph-null) is defined as the size of the set of natural numbers, and higher subscripts describe the size of other, larger infinite sets. The implication of this structure is daunting: One set can be more infinite than another!

And let's not even get started on the transcendentals. Look up Euler's identity and try not to be impressed.

I'm a student of computer science, and I honestly chose the field because I like to program and mess with computers. But computer science reintroduced me to mathematics when I started to study complexity theory, and I found the parallels between counting and computation quite profound.

Back in high school, people would ask, "When are we ever going to use this stuff?" Today, I don't care if I never use number theory. I'm just glad I learned about it.

So, what spurred this appreciative rant of all that is numerical? I was re-playing Metal Gear Solid 4 the other day and saw the side of Drebin's APC:

"893," I thought. "That's only one less than 892, and 892 is a damned good number."   read

8:52 PM on 05.06.2010

Alyx died!

No, that's not a spoiler for Episode 3. I am, of course, referring to my poor Playstation 3, which has served me well for nearly three years.

You might be thinking, "He named his PS3 Alyx?" If so, you are missing the point. The point is that my $600 piece of hardware will no longer turn on (that's what SHE said!). The poor thing lights up its happy little green LED, then beeps in distress and flashes a red light at me until I press the power button again to put it out of its misery.

So, here I am with a broken launch model 60 GB PS3, and needless to say it's way out of warranty. If I can't fix it with some old fashioned DIY tricks, a repair is going to set me back nearly $200. Woe is me, woe is me.

(By the by, if you're wondering about the name, all of the devices I run are named for characters in the Half-Life universe. I also have Gman, Odessa, Eli, Overwatch, and Dog, and my wireless network SSID is City 17.)   read

12:17 PM on 10.16.2009

SOCOM: Confrontation DLC Detailed

Slant Six/Sony have detailed the long-awaited downloadable content for SOCOM: Confrontation that will be arriving soon. Called Cold Front, the package will feature five new maps, a new gameplay mode, and several new game features.

Some of our favorite maps from past SOCOMs will be returning, like Blizzard, Night Stalker, and Vigilance. Vigilance, Night Stalker, and the two new maps (Uprising and Entrapment) have been rethemed for a cold, snowy environment, giving us a fresh take on old maps and a break from the deserts of the current maps.

The new game mode is called Arms Race. From the blog, the mode "features dynamicaly [sic] placed missile launchers that must be activated or destroyed, depending on which side you’re fighting for." No more information was provided, but I'm hoping this will be better-calibrated than Control Points, which never made a ton of sense.

The package is also bringing back a few old features, like thermal scopes, gun emplacements, and smoke M203 rounds.

On the list of new stuff, Slant Six is adding some sort of character progression and specialization system. Little information was released, but they did confirm that specialization will award enhanced weapons and new weapon attachments.

The price? $14.99 USD, unless you get it in the first 24 hours, in which case you get five bucks off. A bit steep, as far as DLC goes. I've purchased full games on PSN for less than that.

No word yet on a release date for either this package or patch 1.60.

Check out the full story on the SOCOM Blog.   read

7:26 PM on 08.01.2009

Introducing... (NVGR)

How are you gentlemen !!

I've been surfing around Dtoid for a few weeks now, and I thought it about time I introduce myself.

I go by the nickname Zyrshnikashnu, but you're welcome to call me Zyr, Z, Jello, or even Brandon. Combinations thereof are also acceptable. I keep an open mind. :)

I stumbled upon this fair site after a gamer buddy, Elsa, mentioned it on Killzone one night. Always one to be just behind the curve, I waited a bit and then checked it out. You lot have got a pretty nice place here; I'll try not to make too big a mess.

Elsa and I both arrived from the Gamer Advisory Panel, Sony's outdated by-invitation-only "focus group" with tens of thousands of members and perhaps a few hundred active members, if that. Sony doesn't really use the GAP for much anymore, so it's largely a shared blog in the style of Dtoid, but totally not as cool. There is one thing it is good for, though: forging friendships. Since I arrived at GAP, my gaming experiences have been far better because there's always someone online, ready to play. I'm hoping Dtoid will be similar. :D

Back in the real world, I'm a Computer Science major at the University of Rochester. As of this posting, I'll be entering my Junior year in the coming fall. CS is a good time to be had for all, because you get to be both a mathematician and a scientist, which gets you respect from those who are neither and scorn from those who are one or the other.

When I'm not being a code monkey, I like to pretend I'm an artist. Charcoal is my favorite medium, but I'll not say no to good old fashioned graphite, acrylic, or oil. I twice had the pleasure of working on chalk murals on blacktop, and that was just plain awesome.

On the gaming front, I'm a PS3 and PC gamer. I play a ton of FPSs because I'm boring, but you might also find me playing Wipeout HD, LittleBigPlanet, Fat Princess, and Sid Meier's Pirates!. If you're lucky, you might even find me indulging some nostalgia on Age of Empires! Most of the time, though, I like to play Killzone 2, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, and a little SOCOM: Confrontation here and there.

If you're looking for me online, you can find me on IRC or IM. Check my profile for that data.

So there's the obligatory "Hello World" post. I'm looking forward to making properly interesting ones in the future.   read

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