Monday, December 04, 2017

Advent of Code 2017 - SmartyStreets Sponsor Text

I just learned about the Advent of Code -- an event with a new short, fun programming puzzle published in each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas.

I noticed that primary event sponsor SmartyStreets has some cryptic text as their sponsor comment:

U2VuZGluZyBDaH Jpc3RtYXMgY2Fy ZHMgdG8gYmFkIG FkZHJlc3Nlcz8K

I won't spoil what it says here, but the only hint you should need to decode the text is that it is base64 encoded. (Also, automatic base64 decoder websites are readily available!)

Also, I'm publishing my C# Advent of Code 2017 solutions on GitHub. I'm generally aiming to optimize them for readability, rather than for minimum lines of code or fastest possible execution speed -- which is what I generally do as well when writing actual production code.  That being said, I have been pretty blown away by the impressive brevity of the solutions of some of the event leaderboard's top members!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

My Game of the Year awards: 2017

Starting with my personal Game of the Year for 2017, and continuing on with the rest of the top 10, these were my favorite games that I played for the first time this year! Originally posted on the Gamers with Jobs forums.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch) - Bravely and brilliantly replaced the longstanding Zelda trope of "do a few large dungeons, get the Master Sword, do several more large dungeons" with a huge world that's really worth exploring. Exploring the wilderness and happening upon concealed shrines managed to re-evoke the feeling of discovery that I remember from playing the original NES Zelda as a kid!

2. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) - Full of great surprises, beautiful art, fair challenges, and so many things to do. An even better iteration on the gameplay, level design, and themes of past Mario 3D titles (Mario 64, Galaxy, 3D Land) than I might have thought possible.

3. SteamWorld Dig 2 (PC) - Rolled into this directly after finishing SteamWorld Dig 1 for the first time, which turned out to be an excellent way to approach it, with the NPC Dorothy from the first game turning PC and searching for Rusty, the first game's hero gone missing. Solid digging gameplay with lots of fun character upgrades, both major and minor.

4. Blaster Master (2017) (Switch) - Blaster Master for the NES was one of my personal nostalgic favorites. A great update while still retaining the best parts of the original. Played through it twice, getting the fun surprise at the end of the second playthrough for 100%-ing the game up through the boss.

5. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch) - Great tactical strategy game, minimizing the impact of luck on the gameplay, and building on the foundation laid by X-Com by introducing lots of neat new gameplay mechanics.

6. PPKP (iOS) - A simple yet interesting 1-on-1 brawler-type fighting game perfectly tailored to being played on a mobile phone. Manages to make a deep and rewarding combat and upgrade system out of only two in-game "buttons". App Store link.

7. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch) - My favorite racing game in a long time. I actually enjoy watching others play this almost as much as I enjoy playing myself; while just observing, I notice all of the beautiful graphics happening in the environment around the race track, whereas when I'm actually playing I tend to tunnel vision in on the race itself.

8. Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS) - A very cool stride forward in 2D Metroid games with the counter-attack and 360-degree free aiming systems, even though I think I may still prefer the elegant simplicity of the original Super Metriod (SNES) gameplay. Interesting to compare and contrast this Metroid 2 (Game Boy) remake with last year's indie take on the same, AM2R.

9. Cosmic Star Heroine (PC) - A 16-bit-style turn-based RPG in a sci-fi setting with an interesting new battle system. Steam link.

10. Fire Emblem Heroes (iOS) - A nicely simplified pocket implementation of the standard Fire Emblem gameplay. I enjoyed it when it came out, although I did lose interest fairly soon after reaching the level cap of 40, despite the new content and events periodically being released.

Honorable Mentions: Puyo Puyo Tetris (Switch); Hollow Knight (PC); Snipperclips (Switch).

Previously: 2016 (GOTY: Stardew Valley). 2015 (GOTY: Super Mario Maker).