Friday, January 30, 2009

Testing iBlogger

Since the LifeCast app for my iPod proved unreliable and inflexible, I've decided to try out this new one, called iBlogger, from IllumineX. It seems to work fine and it saves my drafts offline so I can work on the go with no Internet connection.
Now I'm testing to see how HTML tags are handled. This sentence should be bold. This sentence should be italicized.

Edit: let's see if iBlogger can make edits.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Palouse Pressure, Seattle Showdown

So the Bruins had another nailbiter. They blew another 15 point lead to make it an extremely tight game at the end. But this time they managed to avoid overtime and avoid a loss. Behind Nikola Dragovic's third career game of the year (20 points), UCLA beat Washington State in Pullman 61-59.

Quick thoughts and facts:
-This was UCLA's 9th straight win against Washington State, and UCLA leads the all-time series 94-13.
-Nikola keeps getting better, and the team continued to shoot pretty well from the perimeter. That's good, because we weren't really getting much interior production.
-After last week's loss to ASU, Coach Howland said he needed to play the reserves more. They did play a little more this time, but not much. Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee need more playing time.
-Alfred was his usual intense self on defense, but he started out shooting 0/3 from the field on some tremendously questionable shots. He did step up to the challenge when needed at the free throw line, however.
-Darren didn't do much for most of the game, but really made a difference in the last few minutes when it was dangerously close.
-Josh Lazy Dog Shipp didn't do much.
-Despite the departure of Derrick Low and Robbie Cowgill, WSU still posed a great challenge to UCLA. This is likely a combination of the tough crowd in Pullman and UCLA's frontline, which still needs some work.

Tomorrow UCLA meets Washington at Washington, and surprisingly, it's an early battle for 1st place in the Pac-10. UCLA and the Huskies are tied for 1st, after Cal dropped out of the 3-way tie losing to Oregon State last night.

UCLA vs Washington is at 1p.m. PT on... surprise, surprise, FSN Prime Ticket.

Tower Defense Redux

Looks like there was at least a little bit of interest in my last post about Tower Defense games on the iPod, so here's a followup.

First, I'll go over the bonus challenge mode "This is Sparta" in the game Tap Defense. I finally got around to beating this mode in Easy and Medium, and both of them rely pretty heavily on the Earthquake tower. To recap, the This is Sparta mode has these special rules:

Start with 3 lives, rather than 20
Start with 3 halos, rather than 0
Start with 300 gold (in honor of the movie "300")
9 Towers Max, as opposed to normal rules where you're only limited by space and gold
3 of each tower max

This is Sparta: Easy mode
First, I used two of the three starting halos to increase my interest rate. You want to be in the position, in the second half of your game (round 21+) to be really racking up the money to a couple thousand. More on that later. To start, get two arrow towers along the bottom half of the map, as shown in the picture. They don't have to be exactly in those places, but preferably they should be able to reach both the bottom area of the path and the part of the path that runs through the middle. Like in the normal game, you'll want to use as few towers as possible at as low levels as possible while still killing all enemies, because that saves you money.

Anyway, this placement for your first two arrow towers should be fine, though sometimes the game throws a bit of a curveball at you and bunches up those gremlins such that the arrows can't get 'em all at once. In that case, place an arrow tower near the upper right corner of the screen. Unfortunately, it can be a bit tricky knowing whether your towers will cover adequately until it's too late, especially if you're trying to minimize your money spent. I had to restart quite a few times and use trial and error until I got a better feel for how little coverage I could get away with. The first few rounds, arrows should suffice. Since you've already used your max of 3 arrow towers, it's a good idea to upgrade them. It's truly amazing what difference a level 3 Arrow tower makes. In fact, a single level 3 arrow tower can likely handle the first three rounds of enemies no problem. But of course that would be more costly. Wait 'til you get more money, and you'll want to upgrade all three arrow towers to level two some time before round 10.

For the first round of succubi and then demons, you may want a cannon in there somewhere. Preferably it should be in the top half of the map, so the arrows can soften up the enemies first and the cannon can make the kill. Despite the game's advice, fire cats, at least in the early rounds, need not be dealt with using water towers. Your upgraded arrows and single cannon tower should suffice. I actually used my first 6 halos for interest rate. Upgrade all your arrow towers to level three when you get into the teen rounds, and you may want a second cannon and a water tower as well. That brings you to 6/9 towers. Also keep in mind that arrow towers can go up to level 4. In the first 2/3 of the game, it's not a good idea to make all three of your arrow towers level 4, though one level 4 arrow tower can be really really helpful, and often kill enemies in one hit. The downside is that its refire rate is very, very slow.

When you get above round 20, if you've been using your money wisely (more on that later), you should have enough to get an earthquake tower (of course, you will want to save two halos to research it). I'm not entirely sure on the total amount of money, but have at least 2000 gold to spend on it. At level 3, the earthquake tower has enormous range, and does 2000 damage. Since you're severely limited in the number of towers you can create, the range and damage done by the earthquake is invaluable. With the earthquake and other towers in the positions shown in my picture, you should do fine. Just be sure to use your earthquakes liberally, because at level three the recharge time is very good. Later in the game, it might be helpful to replace an arrow tower with a level 3 storm tower to quickly whittle some enemy energy down before being pulverized by the earthquake.

Congrats! You've beaten This is Sparta on Easy!

Here are some more tips for money.
-Never ever create a tower right at the end of a round. You're spending money on it but not getting any utility for that round, and even worse, you won't get as much interest. Wait 'til the beginning of the next round to build towers. If you must place a tower as an emergency measure, do it as soon as you can so you can get the most utility out of it for that round.
-If your interest rate is high enough, and depending on the tower, you can try selling a tower right before the round ends, so you get extra interest from it. This is generally not a good idea for, say, a level 3 Storm tower or Earthquake tower, because you'll probably lose more than you gain.
-This applies more to the normal game than This is Sparta, but still applies: often the benefit you get from upgrading your towers (more damage, higher refire rate) outweighs the benefit from simply adding more level 1 towers, despite the fact that adding more towers may be cheaper. You want to maximize your interest rate, but doing so at the cost of letting a few enemies through is not a good compromise, in my opinion. And when you're playing the Sudden Death mode or This is Sparta, it's a terrible, unthinkable compromise.

I'm running long, so I'll do the Medium tips very quickly.

This is Sparta: Medium mode
The tips from Easy mode will also work here. The difference is that since the path is so much shorter and less circuitous, you have much less leeway to kill the enemies. You have to get them fast, or else. So you'll be upgrading your arrow towers sooner and adding cannons sooner, in order to kill the baddies at an earlier point on the path. It's important to use the top and bottom of the screen in later rounds, because upgraded towers in the middle of the screen will generally just follow the one enemy that's at the front of the pack. There's really only one place you should put your level three earthquake tower for maximum coverage. See picture.

That's it! I was going to talk about two other Tower Defense games, Zombie Attack and The Creeps! But perhaps next time.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I am the winner!

I woke up Sunday morning and checked my iPod for email, which I do every morning now. I was somewhat surprised to see a message regarding me winning some contest. My half-asleep state combined with my extensive experience with junk mail led me to believe it was just spam. But after doing a quick double take, I realized that it was actually a reply to a mail that I myself had sent. I read it more carefully and...

In December I caught wind of a contest: post your best screenshot from a computer game. It was a collaboration between the website and Parallels, who makes the popular Virtualization software "Parallels Desktop" for Mac. I dug around in my hard drive to find a screenshot that I could submit, not really thinking I'd win or anything, but it was worth a couple minutes to give it a shot anyway (And yes, I keep screenshots from my gaming in a folder on my computer).

Long story medium, I won! Apparently they liked my picture enough to give me a copy of Parallels. Awesome! Please check out the site. Looks like they're trying to get on their feet, and it looks pretty good so far.

Thanks very much to both Parallels and Tom Herring at MacGamer for making the right choice ;)

The pic below is cut off, so click on it to see the whole thing.

Direct link to the story is here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Arizonas

Okay guys, another quick post. And I do mean quick.

This Thursday UCLA plays Arizona at Pauley Pavilion at 8 p.m. Pacific. If I'm not mistaken, UCLA has not lost to Arizona in three or four years. In my opinion, things should be no different this year. They did not get any new talent, and their coaching staff is in disarray. Here's an interesting tidbit courtesy of Brian Dohn: UA Motivating UCLA. It's bulletin board material, but more importantly, is shows that UCLA is now the "standard" (wink wink) of the Pac-10. How funny. Timmeh Floyd said that about Arizona just two years ago.

Two days after that game, Arizona State comes to town. Yes, the Sun Devils are #15 in the country and 14-2 overall. It's strange when the marquee matchup is with ASU rather than Arizona, but I suppose one could've seen that coming for a while now. Some are saying James Harden is the best player in the conference, and Jeff Pendergraph is somehow still there as well. If we can limit Harden we will have a good chance. Hopefully some good defensive contributions will come from Alfred and Drew Gordon on Pendergraph.

Nikola Dragovic, who started Sunday's game against U$C, will once again start at the 4 spot.

Hopefully we will have more of this from Josh and co. this Thursday.

Go Bruins!

Monday, January 12, 2009

UCLA vs $UC - Quick Thoughts

if you're seeing a truncated version of this, it's because you're reading it on Facebook. Click "view original post" for the whole thing. If you like what you read, please read my past posts, and leave comments on the blog.

I don't have time for a real review, so I'll just post some quick thoughts.

-Congrats to Nikola Dragovic, who earned the starting spot in front of James Keefe. This was Drago's first start ever, and he sure made the most of it. While his dunk off an assist from Jrue Holiday was what stood out in my mind, it was only two of his career-high 14 points. He also brought down 4 rebounds and played decent defense.

-Darren Collison's 43-straight free throw streak ended last night, which is the new all-time FT-shooting streak for UCLA. Two other guys hold the Pac-10 and NCAA records. He still shot fairly well, though. Darren has been solid for us all season and has visibly become more aggressive with the ball. Darren had 7 assists and only one turnover in this game.

-Man, how long has U$C's Daniel Hackett been there? I feel like he's been there forever - which is way too long. Of course, 30-year-old senior Taj Gibson has been in school for longer. We need to bring OJ Mayo back so he can have another scuffle with Hackett.

-Josh Shipp needs to eat more bananas.

-Drew Gordon continues to show talent; now he just needs to learn a bit more finesse and to play within the Howland system.

-Jrue Holiday is not especially flashy, but he has a knack for finding the open man. He still sometimes makes overly risky passes, but when he connects, the recipient is usually in a great position to score. Near the end of the game, he really did a fantastic job on defense to prevent a late trOJan comeback.

-Josh Shipp had a quiet 10 points, though he was pretty clutch... and he like chocolate on his bananas.

-I must admit, when it was really close toward the end, I was thinking "man, I wish we still had Arron Afflalo. He won't let us give up that lead." That competitive edge seems to have rubbed off onto Darren a little bit.

-trOJan coach Timmeh Floyd almost lost it when Drew Gordon connected with Oscar-worthy Daniel Hackett with an inadvertent elbow. Hackett should pursue a career pretending to get hit by people. What a bunch of whiners. Speaking of whiners, Taj Gibson would not stop whining after every foul called.. even if it wasn't on him.

-So far U$C's "highly-touted," "top-ranked" "prep star" Percy "Li'l Romeo" Miller has played in 4 out of 15 games, seeing a total of 10 minutes of action and scoring 2 points. Anyone who said he was good is full of SHIT!

-Current rankings as of Monday, 1/12/09.
UCLA: AP: #9, Coaches' Poll: #7.
$outhern Cal: some large number.

-Pac-10 standings (apologies for the formatting. Can't seem to figure out how to do work with whitespace):
TEAM {conf. record / games behind / overall record}
California #23 {4-0 - 15-2}
UCLA #7 {3-0 ½ 13-2}
Arizona State #15 {3-1 1 14-2}
Washington {2-1 1½ 11-4}
Arizona {2-2 2 11-5}
USC {1-2 2½ 10-5}
Washington State {1-2 2½ 9-6}
Stanford {1-3 3 11-3}
Oregon State {1-3 3 6-8}
Oregon {0-4 4 6-10}

-It's ALWAYS great to beat $C, no matter how close the game is, no matter who's playing.

-Next game: Thursday vs Arizona at Pauley Pavilion, 8:00p.m. PT.

-Extra Credit: The Lady Bruins beat the woman toejams as well, 87-75, at Pauley Pavilion. New head coach Nikki Caldwell seems to be doing a fine job so far. Sophomore guard Doreena Campbell earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Josh Shipp Quotes

Posted by special request, immortal quotes by the indomitable Josh Shipp.

"I'll be here," Shipp said. "I have another year of basketball. Why wouldn't I want to play at UCLA? I'm here at UCLA, it's a great place, and I enjoy my time here. I definitely would love to stay here."
-regarding the NBA

"That's fine. If I were a Michigan fan, I would've booed me too."
-After capping off a demolishing of Michigan with a fancy 360 dunk.

"I enjoy watching teams get knocked off. Hopefully it wouldn't happen to us"
-Regarding watching NCAA tourney games

"I eat some of them," he said with a laugh. "I'll tell them to go buy some chocolate to put on it."
-regarding the bananas he needed for his potassium deficiency.

"Really, I think the main thing is just getting back to having fun out there. I think in that one stretch I was just thinking too much and not having fun."
-after coming out of a slump

"We always hate SC, no matter who's playing."
-regarding OJ Mayo's arrival at $outh Central

"It's ridiculous and just crazy," Shipp said. "I'm shooting the ball the same way I did at the start of the year. I was hitting those 3s back then and nobody was giving me advice. Now, all of sudden, you miss a few and everybody wants to tell you how to shoot. They're writing me letters ... everything is just crazy."
-during his slump

"It's just a slump," Shipp said. "I know I can shoot the ball -- it's just not going in for me. I'm kind of laughing at the situation. It gets kind of funny."

"I like it. It's something different. (smiling) I mean, it doesn't matter, I just play. I don't really look at the jersey. The fans do."
-on the gold "C" on the jerseys last year

"Lucky I play H-O-R-S-E," Shipp said, referring to the can-you-top-this driveway game. "It was definitely a desperation shot. I've never seen anything like that. It's one of those movie shots, it was like a dream."
-on his miracle shot vs Cal to win the game last year

"If the chick don't like me, she must like girls"
-Josh's facebook page

"That's okay, he's not doing too well."
-regarding former Arizona player Marcus Williams mouthing off about how UCLA is "overrated"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nine questions for Darren Collison

To prepare for the basketball showdown tomorrow, here's a short interview between Brian Dohn (LA Daily News, and UCLA's Darren Collison.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Tower Defense

In the process of doing research for this blog post, I got sidetracked... for a long time. If you don't know, Tower Defense is a new genre of game where you erect towers that shoot at groups of enemies. The enemies walk, fly, ride, or sail from one end of the map to another, and your objective is to prevent them from getting there.

Apparently the original tower defense game, aptly named "Desktop Tower Defense," is a flash game that can be played in any computer's web browser at Until about thirty minutes ago, I hadn't played this version at all. But through my iPod Touch I've become quite familiar with its successors/homages. Here are three iPhone/iPod Touch games that have really been stealing so much of my free time over the break.

First, Tap Defense. Tap Defense has become very popular and is very accessible because of its price. Yup, it's totally free for iPhone/iPod Touch users. There is a set path that leads from Hell to the gates of Heaven, and you place towers along the path to prevent the monsters of hell from invading. You get 20 lives, and each enemy that enters Heaven takes one life away. The game is over if you lose all 20. There are various enemies, including gremlins, locusts, cerberuses, demons, succubi, firecats, and the Devil himself. Gremlins and cerberi have average amounts of health and speed, whereas firecats are weaker but extremely fast. The Devil, demons, and succubi are very slow but can take a lot of hits. Fortunately, you have different types of towers to counteract these enemy attributes. The standard arrow tower is fast-firing but somewhat weak. Cannon towers have a slower refire rate but do good damage and also affects an area rather than just a single enemy. Water towers shoot water, which is helpful for slowing down faster enemies. Money is earned by killing enemies, and is used to buy or upgrade existing towers, making them faster, stronger, and/or give them longer firing range. You can sell towers you built previously to recoup part of its value if you need the spot or the money back.

The enemy and tower types, as well as the concept of money and upgrading towers is common to just about all tower defense games, but there are some things that make Tap Defense unique. First, halos. You obtain halos by completing certain levels. Halos can be used to "research" new tower types beyond the basic three - once researched, a tower will be permanently available for purchase if you have the money.

Halos can also be used to increase your interest rate - which is another thing unique to Tap Defense. Let me explain. The enemies come in levels, or waves. Once a wave of enemies has gone by and you still have 1 or more lives left, you are shown a "level complete" screen, where you earn bonus money equal to (your current money) x (interest rate). On the easy difficulty level, interest rate starts at 10% so if you end a wave with $90 you get $9 bonus and will start the next level with $99 to spend. This encourages players to conserve money and take extra care to place towers strategically so as to get more bonus cash. If you have an iPhone/iPod Touch I strongly encourage you to try Tap Defense. The price is right.


The next game is Fieldrunners. Fieldrunners is currently $4.99 but they claim the price will go up soon, so grab it now. FR has been very highly touted on the Internets since its release in late November. I was hesitant to spend the money until recently, because at first I didn't know if I'd like the genre, and then after I got Tap Defense I figured Tap Defense would be all I needed. But I decided to take the plunge in a moment of adventurousness and spend-thriftiness. Unlike Tap Defense, which has a set path whose shape is determined by what difficulty level you're playing on, Fieldrunners is more like Desktop Tower Defense in that it's a wide open field and YOU determine what path the enemies take.

How does this work? Well, enemies will walk around your towers in a path that will take them to their goal in the shortest distance possible. So it's up to you to place the towers in the most winding, circuitous arrangement possible so enemies will take longer to get to their destination and to give your towers more time to shoot the enemies down. In FR, the enemies are human soldiers of different sizes that are on foot or on motorcycles, as well as small tanks and flying vehicles. Like in Tap Defense, they have different speeds and strengths and weaknesses. FR has only 4 tower types, as opposed to Tap Defense's 7. The basic machine gun is weak but fast, the goo tower does no damage but slows enemies down, missiles home in on enemies and do high area damage, and the expensive lightning tower does massive damage to a single target. Like in Tap Defense, you spend money to upgrade towers all the way to a max of level 3, which increases firing rate and damage (or slowdown in the case of the goo tower).

Flying enemies totally circumvent your tower "maze" so it's necessary to add some extra goo, missile, or lightning towers along the straight path from the enemy's entrance to their goal. Another thing that makes FR more like Desktop Tower Defense and less like Tap Defense is in between waves, the game does not stop for a Level Complete screen, but instead simply gives you a short countdown to the next wave. However, both FR and Tap Defense allow you to pause the game while you strategize and remove or place more towers.

FR comes with two different maps: a grassy field where the enemies go from left to right, and the "Crossroads" map, where one group of enemies goes from north to south and the other goes from west to east at the same time. This one is tricky because you have to cover both the south and east exits with your towers. This idea of having to use the right combination of tower type and tower location added an extra dimension not present when I was playing Tap Defense. And another neat feature is that you can use the pinching motion that all iPhone/iPod Touch users are familiar with, in order to zoom in on the action.


Finally, there's 7 Cities TD. Like Tap Defense, 7 Cities enemies move along a set path. The premise is that you're in charge of protecting 7 cities, each of which is situated along a river and each of which corresponds to a unique map. The enemies are pirate ships and sea creatures, and your towers line the coastal path leading to a suspiciously Mayan-style temple. Like FR, 7 Cities does not stop in between waves of enemies but gives a countdown to the next wave to let you make upgrades and modify your tower arrangement. Unlike both FR and Tap Defense, however, 7 Cities does not allow you to perform actions while the game is paused, making it a significantly more frantic game.

A unique aspect of 7 Cities is that, like in RPGs, your towers gain experience points from doing damage to enemies. At levels that are multiples of 5, your tower is eligible to be transformed into a modified version of itself: arrow towers can be transformed into "Ballista towers," which are like giant crossbows, and cannon towers can be transformed into trebuchets which cause burning damage. Defeating enemies also rewards you with blue gems, which are used to do normal upgrades to your towers.

One more thing that sets 7 Cities apart from the other two games is its music. It's strictly synthesized midi-quality music, but all things considered it's not bad and it really adds to the atmosphere of the game. So far I have completed 6 of the 7 city maps on easy, but the 7th one seems significantly harder as there are three paths for the enemies to approach along, and thus three paths among which you must divide up your firepower.


I'm not prepared to declare one of them a winner, as each has its own unique gameplay elements. Tap Defense has recently been given five new gameplay modes which adds some replay value to the main game. In "This is Sparta" mode, you start with 3 halos to use as you please, but instead of the normal 20 lives you only get 3. And only 9 towers are allowed on the map at any given time. You may still sell existing towers to make room (and cash) for others. In "Sudden Death," the game is like normal except for your number of lives, and in "Ten Towers" you get only 10 towers while everything else is the same. The "Silver Spoon" mode is exceedingly easy, as you start out with tons of cash and extra halos, and if you can manage to keep your cash reserves up, even a 10% interest rate can make you rich very quickly. Finally, "Credit Crisis" mode gives you $4,000 to start with and that's it... no money from enemies nor from interest. All these new modes are pretty fun, though Silver Spoon is just way too easy.

Fieldrunners has classic and endless modes for both maps. Endless mode needs to be unlocked through completing classic mode once, and differs from classic in that it keeps going past the standard 100 levels until you lose all your lives. 7 Cities also has an endless mode, though I have not given that a try.


These three games have cost me a total of $10, and for all the fun I've had with them, I'd say it's been worth it. If this has interested you at all, please check them out. If you don't have access to an iPhone or iPod Touch, at least check out the Desktop Tower Defense flash game linked above.

Happy new year to all, and Go Bruins!