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Exploring Monster Taming Mechanics in Final Fantasy XIII-2

Let's just get this out of the way. I'm a huge Final Fantasy fan. I adore the original game even today, Final Fantasy VI is definitely the best of the franchise, and I've found things to enjoy in every one that I've played, which is nearly all of the main-line games. (I still haven't managed to crack open FFIII, but I plan to soon.) Even each of the games in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy had something that drew me in and kept me going through the game, wanting to learn more. These games get a lot of flack for being sub-par installments in the Final Fantasy franchise, and some of the criticism is warranted. The story is convoluted, and the plot is as confusing as quantum mechanics.

That debate, however, is not why we're here now. We're here to look at one of the great aspects of FFXIII-2: the monster taming and infusion system.


The Year in Review, Just the Leisure Time

Last January I did a review of how I spent my leisure time the previous year, and I set down a few expectations for the coming year, now past. It's time to look back and see how my actual activities stacked up to my expectations, and maybe learn something for the fresh year to come in 2020. I had big ambitions between reading, blogging, and playing, and not all of them were achieved. But, that's okay because it makes it easier to figure out what I want to do this year—some of what I didn't finish last year, and some new ideas and desires. How I spend my leisure time is very important to me. It should be at the same time relaxing and reinvigorating, enjoyable and enriching, soothing and stimulating. If one thing is obvious, it's that I still love to read because it hits all of those notes, and that is likely to continue in the year(s) to come.


Sharpen Your Programming Tools

Programming is like any other craft, whether that be engineering or woodworking or auto repair. Every craft has its tools that must be learned and maintained in order to do beautiful work and make wonderful things. In the craft of programming, one of the main tools we work with is programming languages. The more languages we know and the better we know them, the more versatile and valuable we can be as programmers and the better our solutions become. Fortunately, it's extremely easy to find websites to help you practice with programming problems and build up your skills with the languages you already know or bring you up to speed on languages you're trying to learn. They're so easy to find that it may be a bit overwhelming to pick one and settle in to actually work on some problems. Here are some of my favorite (free) sites—and why I like them—to help simplify that decision.

Tech Books I Will Read Again

I have read a crap-ton of technical books, mostly on software, but some either more general or hardware related so I felt the need to generalize the genre to "technical" books. If you've been following my blog for the last year, you'll agree that especially recently, my reading rate has been arguably excessive. I'm reaching a point where I'd like to slow down and focus on some other things in my free time, but I'm also reflecting on all of the great and not-so-great tech books I've read. One of the defining factors in whether I think a tech book is excellent versus merely good is if I have the urge to read it again. (For anyone wondering, there is no distinction needed for the bad tech books.) This feeling might happen right after I finish it, or even while I'm reading it the first time. It also might take a while to percolate and rise back to the surface as a book I want to go back to. The bottom line is, a mark of a great tech book is that it's worth revisiting, so what follows is a list of tech books I've read that I thought were so great that I'm going to read them again.

Tech Book Face Off: Game Engine Black Book [Wolfenstein 3D Vs. Doom]

After all of the heavier reading I've been doing lately—machine learning, CUDA programming, fundamental Lisp programming, etc.—I wanted to kick back and read something a bit more relaxing and entertaining. Luckily, at just the right time a friend lent me a couple of books that promised to fit the bill perfectly: the Game Engine Black Books for Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, both by Fabien Sanglard. I grew up with these games, with them being my first and second PC FPS games. I played countless hours of these and other id Software games and other games that used id Software engines like Rise of the Triad, Heretic, and Hexen. I couldn't wait to dig into these books and see what was underneath the games that pleasantly wasted away the night hours of my youth.

Game Engine Black Book: Wolfenstein 3D front coverVS.Game Engine Black Book: Doom front cover

Tech Book Face Off: How to Design Programs Vs. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

After reading and reviewing dozens of books on programming, software development, and computer science, I've finally come to a couple of books that I should have read a long time ago. I'm not quite sure why I didn't read these two books earlier. Distractions abound, and I always had something else I wanted to read first. I still wanted to see what they had to offer, so here I am reading How to Design Programs by Matthias Felleisen, Robert Bruce Findler, Matthew Flatt, and Shriram Krishnamurthi and Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman, and Julie Sussman. As I understand it, these books are meant to introduce new students to programming so not reading them until now will probably make it difficult to accurately critique them from the perspective of the target audience. I'm still going to give it a try.

How to Design Programs front coverVS.Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs front cover

Tech Book Face Off: Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering Vs. Programming Pearls 2

Since I've been hitting the tech books pretty hard for a while now, for this Tech Book Face Off I wanted to take a bit of a breather and do a couple of relatively easy reads. These books have been on my to-read list for some time, so I decided to finally check them out. The first one, Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering by Robert L. Glass is a book in a similar vein as The Pragmatic Programmer in that it relates various tidbits of advice on the craft of software engineering. As for Programming Pearls 2 by Jon Bentley, this book surprised me. I thought it would be somewhat similar to Facts and Fallacies, just more directly related to instructive programming examples than to the software engineering field at large, but it turned out to be quite a bit different, as we'll see in this review.

Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering front coverVS.Programming Pearls front cover