Jitesh's Domain

Game Designer. Producer. Gamer.


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Better Call Saul – “Something Beautiful”, Last 2 Mins

As I mentioned in my last blog, Better Call Saul has so many memorable moments that if I wish, I can write heaps and heaps of critical material on them. Absolutely brilliant television show. For this post, I decided to analyze another scene, in my own way. In, “Klick” we took a look at how empathy towards characters change over time, case study around the first 5 mins of that episode. Now, let’s take a look at a scene from “Something Beautiful” – Season 4 Episode 3, mainly, in this case, ‘last 2 mins’, which is so exceptionally well executed that it took me down with sorrow for a while. Especially, due to Rhea Seehorn’s phenomenal performance as Kim Wexler. Goes without saying, for a show to convey so many emotions at such an incredible level of intensity, time after time and then also fleshing out chemistry between its characters with such precision, is a pure art form.

The following analysis contains *SPOILERS* so, I kindly request you to read further only after having watched the episode.

The Letter

Chuck’s letter to Jimmy

First, let’s try to understand the subject of the scene – On a high level, it’s about ‘reading of a letter’. This time, I had to dive into analyzing ‘change in emotions over time’ for one of the show’s main character, Kim Wexler. Once I started digging deep into my process, I realized how impeccably well directed and performed these 2 mins are!

The letter, addressed to Jimmy are the last words from his brother, Chuck.

Analyzing Emotion

As a starting point, let’s use Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. In my opinion, this wheel takes into account quite a lot of emotions felt at a decently granular level.

Human emotions have deep evolutionary roots, a fact that may explain their complexity and provide tools for clinical practice.The Nature of Emotions (2001)

Robert Plutchik

When I say last 2 mins, the scene times are from 39:30 to about 41:30.

Initial Frame and Timing

It is very important to understand the way this scene is directed and framed with regards to the performance of characters on screen and the message. The framing shown above is maintained as Jimmy starts reading the letter (after taking his first sip of coffee, with deep satisfaction) until 40:37 into the scene.

That’s a total of 1 min and 7 secs. This framing gives us, the audience the view of Jimmy (halfheartedly) reading the letter while having his breakfast, as Kim anxiously observes the whole thing (especially Jimmy and his reaction). This 1 min and 7 secs has a lot to say, in terms of the tension and emotional build up. Let’s dig into the gradation of emotions that Kim goes through, starting from ‘Interest’ all the way up to ‘Sadness’.

Range of Emotions

Following Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions with their appropriate color codes, Kim is going through the following during these 1 min and 7 sec into the scene (which is 3 paragraphs of letter), in sequence:

  • Interest
  • Anticipation
  • Surprise
  • Disapproval
  • Sadness

From Interest to onset of Sadness

By mapping these emotions to the scale from the scene, we get the following:

Each individual emotion is to scale in terms of ‘secs on screen’

As the reading is about to begin, Kim hovers towards the side of ‘optimism’, which is close to ‘Interest’ and is looking for closure, for Jimmy. She spends most of her emotion in the range of ‘Interest’ until the shift starts to happen towards a very brief moment of ‘Surprise’ from ‘Anticipation’. To get a sense of scale, ‘Surprise’ lasts for about 3 secs – everything else is also in relation to it.

These change in emotions for Kim happen due to the way Jimmy reacts and reads the letter. Mainly because, Jimmy keeps reading casually, having his regular sips and munching over cereals, as if it’s just another letter to him. Why he truly is reacting this way, is out of the scope of this blog post 🙂 in short it’s denial and ignorance that he goes through at this moment in time in the show.

The moment of ‘Surprise’, which lasts for just about 3 secs happens during the reading of 2nd paragraph of the letter as she starts realizing how indifferent and emotionless Jimmy’s reading is.

The camera frame change happens at 40:37, as mentioned above – this is where we are brought in for a closeup view of Kim (side perspective as she tries her very best to continue looking at Jimmy, albeit with extreme sadness, as Jimmy continues reading the letter).

The moments of sadness begin for her with ‘Disapproval’ as a zone of emotion from the wheel:

Each individual emotion is to scale in terms of ‘secs on screen’

During the 3rd paragraph is when Kim starts getting teary, when Jimmy reads aloud ‘… as we are brothers…’ line from the letter.

As the 4th paragraph ends with the line ‘… share the name McGill’, Kim is unable to control her emotions further and begins to cry.

The aforementioned 33 secs in the image are the moments of ‘buildup of sadness’ in terms of emotions for Kim. The masterful change of camera at 40:37 with Kim’s closeup of face is meant to drown the audience (like me) further down the rabbit hole of sorrows.

The boat of sadness, where she remains for the most of the duration:

From Sadness to onset of Grief

As the scene progresses, Kim keeps drowning further into the sadness as she finds it harder and harder to make sense of the situation. By staying into sadness for this long, she finally dives into ‘Grief’. This is where the final camera cut intensify the situation further. These also clearly help in understanding the change in ‘chemistry’ between Jimmy and Kim – as Kim exits the room with uncontrollable grief… the door closes halfway in on Jimmy.

Mapping further, the ‘Sadness’ and ‘Grief’ from what’s observed on screen results into:

Each individual emotion is to scale in terms of ‘secs on screen’

Now, for all those who have watched this episode, there is one camera cut/angle that I’ve not mentioned in this analysis. That one, is quintessential to the whole 2 min too 😉 I won’t put the screenshot here – that frame is when we get to NOT see Kim, but make a mental model of what she’s going through as we get a closeup of Jimmy reading the letter from a declined perspective and then switching back just before finishing ”say what you will, the man can write a letter” as he ‘finally’ sees, for the first time (during his read), what Kim is going through… that is also the moment when he just finishes reading the letter. The ending of this cut to the one mentioned above takes Kim further down into the territory of ‘Grief’. Especially, as this particular moment is preceded by Jimmy’s ”its okay its a nice letter…” phrase. This breaks her further.

Domain of Sadness

As I was working on this analysis, I tried remapping these emotions in a different form, keeping their scales in terms of ‘secs on screen’, I was astonished to come to this conclusion:

Container of Emotions

It is incredible to notice, that all the emotions Kim goes through in these 2 mins, collectively lie in the ‘Domain of Sadness’. The numbers correspond to all the aforementioned emotions, listing them again for reference:

  1. Interest
  2. Anticipation
  3. Surprise
  4. Disapproval
  5. Sadness (level 1)
  6. Sadness (level 2)
  7. Sadness (level 3)
  8. Grief

I truly enjoyed working on this analysis, wanted to do it since the moment I watched this episode and got teary eyed during the recital of the letter – Last 2 mins.

Hat’s off to Better Call Saul! If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad and this show too, I would love to hear your take on this 🙂

“S’ALL GOOD, MAN.”

From, Better CAll SAUL


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Better Call Saul – “Klick”, First 5 Mins

I’m a big fan of Breaking Bad and recently, I started watching Better Call Saul. Just like Vince Gilligan’s previous masterpiece, this show too is filled with familiar and strong memorable characters, tight plot with brilliant direction and chemistry. Every episode is fantastic… then there are some scenes and episodes that are truly on another level. This post of mine, is going to focus on one such episode – Season 2 E10, titled ‘Klick’.

I was literally floored during the first 5 mins of ‘Klick’ and that’s when I got super motivated to provide an analysis for the same. An important point to consider here is that I’m on season 3 of the show and haven’t caught up with the latest story development. My interpretation takes into account the exposition, moments and plot arcs for characters up to the point of ‘Klick’ only.

Analysis contains minor spoilers

As we start watching the episode ‘Klick’, we are already coming from a high tension phase from the last scene of Season 2, Episode 9 ‘Nailed’. This already sets a strong notion of limited information coupled with curiosity as we move onto the next episode.

Flashback, Hospital

One of the key element of chemistry built up to now is the relationship between our Protagonist, Jimmy McGill with his brother, Charles McGill, an Antagonist. In my opinion, the first 5 mins of ‘Klick’ gives us a much deeper understanding of these characters, their chemistry and background which further reinforces our thoughts.

Empathy toward characters

In my analysis, I want to focus on how our empathy toward Jimmy McGill and Chuck changes during these 5 mins. My initial thoughts were to delve into the ‘Tension’ of the narrative. After digging deep, it felt that it would make more sense to look at the character arc based on their actions and the empathy we feel for them.

To understand this, I’ve plotted an empathy graph considering key plot moments from the beginning. Empathy shift vs Time/Key Plot.

Change in Empathy level with regards to key plot elements over time

The scale of time is not 1:1 as I’ve made it so as to give the direction and timing of narrative exposition with regards to the plot. The individual timing is what’s most important.

Let’s delve deeper into these key plot elements to understand the chart better:

KeyPlot Description
AAudience is coming from a high tension phase – Season 2, Episode 9 ‘Nailed’. The general expectation for us is to be curious… ‘What happened to Chuck?’, ‘Is he alright?’. The initial starting point of reference for the empathy levels begin here. We are already emotionally invested in wanting to know what happens next!
BFlashback of hospital scene where the nurse indicates that the condition of the patient is dire. Within 30 secs it is made clear that the patient is perhaps breathing his/her last moments. We are expecting a continuation from Nailed, but this shift to flashback is an ingenious decision. This is the scene where we, as the audience expect the patient to be their Father.
CJimmy tries to lighten the mood by talking about food and how Chuck must’ve not eaten since long. Chuck remains a bit distant and cold due to the sadness in the room.
DChuck is surprised at Jimmy’s casual reaction to the situation and is taken aback by his whole ice-breaker conversation.
EThis is where it is made clear that the patient on the bed is their mother. Up to this point there has been no exposition regarding her apart from an episode where Jimmy informs Marco about attending her funeral few years ago.
FA pivotal moment where it is made clear how different people remember things differently. Jimmy is remembering the good old times about an old party… where Chuck chips in to recall how his memory was nothing but sordid as they had to clean up the mess caused by Jimmy back then and it also was a sad end to their Mom’s birthday celebration. This is also a moment when the chemistry keeps breaking up as they don’t align with each other positively. The feeling of support keeps breaking between them.
GAround 2 min mark, Jimmy finally decides to get food and also shows that he has nothing but care for Chuck. He even remembers his food preference by literally spelling out the way he likes it and then excuses himself out.
HA clear rising moment where the deep attachment between Chuck and his mother is showcased, unable to control himself, he breaks down and starts crying.
IAround 3 min mark, their Mother finally wakes up… Chuck sighs a sense of relief and calls out to her. Her first words are ‘Jimmy’ and then ‘Jimmy’ again even after Chuck tries to make her understand that its Chuck beside her side and not him. This is a breaking moment as we are also made aware that even their Mother cares more for Jimmy. Chuck is extremely saddened by the thought as she flatlines.
JChuck, distant again in his composure and thoughts, he immediately regains control of the situation, depressed at what just happened but calmly utters ‘this is it then’ to the nurse.
KAround 4 min mark… Jimmy arrives back at the hospital with food, casually walks in the room and is shocked to not find his Mother and confronts about this to Chuck who is sitting at the other side of the corridor.
LChuck says ‘She’s gone’ and this shocks Jimmy. He is unable to take in the information and just cannot process it as he missed the last moment when he was outside the hospital.
MAround 5 min mark… is where there is a big shift in terms of how we further feel for these two main characters. When Jimmy wants to know if she woke up before and had anything to say… Chuck avoids eye contact, composes himself strongly and blatantly lies to Jimmy as he says ‘No’.
Plot breakdown – First 5 mins

By taking these little elements one after the other, in sequence (with the prior knowledge about the characters), it is clear, just how ingeniously executed these 5 mins are, there is a striking shift of how we feel empathy toward both of them. At least, that’s true for me. It will be interesting to know your observations on the same.

Let’s take a look at the information, we, as audience possess (apart from Saul’s background that we are already aware of from Breaking Bad) about these two characters. Also, I’m going a bit further by giving a brief on their traits and personalities… strictly from my point of view. Plus, a little Dungeons & Dragons alignment system 😉

Protagonist

James McGill (Jimmy)

Persona – Saul Goodman
Alignment & Traits

Chaotic Neutral -to- Chaotic Good

  • Street smart
  • Extremely Clever
  • Good of the people, Self-interest, whimsical nature > Intelligence
  • Lies a lot, usually for the overall good

Antagonist

Charles McGill (Chuck)

MICHAEL MCKEAN 1999 MARK TWAIN AWARDS AT KENNEDY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
Alignment & Traits

Lawful Evil

  • Book smart
  • Insanely Intelligent
  • Intelligence, Rank, Law, Power > Good of the people
  • Lies to show power, status and avoid embarrassment

In terms of our investment in these characters, we definitely feel closer to Jimmy and have more empathy toward him as the opposite becomes true for Chuck. This doesn’t mean that the shifts stop happening post this scene. In fact, the next 5 mins is one of the most intense – this is where the time moves to present where we are made aware that Chuck is admitted and is taken in for treatment. Perhaps, I’ll write about this in the future.

If like me, you’re a fan of the show (and of course, Breaking Bad) I hope this brief look into key moments from the episode helps shed some light into the genius of ‘Better Call Saul’ as a TV show.


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‘A Quiet Place’ Indeed!

Few movies released in 2018 have really grabbed my attention. One of them is ‘A Quiet Place’. Usually, when I truly adore a movie/series/ any media, I tend to watch/play them multiple times. If possible, that is. I do try. This particular movie is such a brilliant work that I went to the theater again about a week later and re-watched it! My post isn’t going to be a review or a rant but more like an overall high level observation.

Before you read any further, please take note that there will be massive spoilers ahead. Proceed only after watching the movie at least once 🙂 Goes without saying, whatever you’ll read below in my personal take. Let’s begin…

Headset

Cochlear Implant?

Speech deprivation.

Contrast is extremely important. I believe ‘Timing’ and ‘Pacing’ to be few of the main factors that can really boost up contrast (when not talking about color). What is this contrast that I’m talking about? Well, from its ‘utter silence’ (read, lack of vocals/speech, sign language) as the movie begins to the point of reaching ‘first speech’ (read, voice or almost a sign of sound that makes a voice). The audience is slowly absorbed by the way they communicate i.e., the sign language within this long uncomfortable stretch of silence until the carpet-lantern-fire accident in their home during the kids’ play session! This is the first moment when you actually get to ‘almost hear’ their younger male child ‘mouthing’ the words… “I’m sorry”. This to me told quite a few things… like ‘he truly doesn’t practice sign language properly’ and is ‘still trying his best’ to fit and survive in this severely restricted and inconvenient situation that they’re all in.

A scene that comes in later wherein Emily Blunt is teaching him math, she has to whisper clearly and make him learn signs as clearly as possible. These moments are meant to make him realize that ‘he needs to adapt early’ and ‘grow up to be a strong survivor’ to ‘take care of the family’. These first whispered words are indeed calming to ears, mainly because this is absolutely the first time as an audience, we actually get to hear some vocal speech… first real vocal exchange of words.

Path

Path from Bateswood Country Park to Red Hall Lane

Environmental Storytelling

Mise en scène. One of the first things you notice is how smoothly this movie tells its story. In ‘A Quiet Place’, surroundings, structures, placement of objects, scribbled whiteboards, design structures and other such elements coupled with ambiance form the storytelling and strong narrative part of the environment. Perhaps, an excellent showcase of ‘Show, don’t tell’. Apart from these, there are obviously few scenarios where the movie indeed sticks to ‘Tell, don’t show’. Earning the knowledge of these creatures/ aliens as we get to glance at the whiteboard (in the radio/ brainstorm room) for the first time is done quite smartly. There are few shots that zoom in the ‘much needed info’ so the audience most definitely can get a second chance to catch phrases in the environment. Personally, I would’ve loved if some of these second chances at reading the environment were cut/edited out (as their absence would make it an extra notch brilliant ;))

Plus, don’t forget the wide-angled ‘bonfires’ shot that bring the remaining human survivors closer to each other… the presence of life and the comforting nature of knowing that other survivors do exist!

Weakness

Can you predict the weakness?

Deferred First revelation.

It is made pretty clear that the family and other surviving humans aren’t aware of the creature’s weakness. I’m not sure if it was clear for everyone or not but at least to me, the first revelation of their weakness is clearly depicted in the farm when the alien creeps up behind Regan (their deaf child). Funny thing is, I actually observed this properly when I watched the movie again, not first time though :/! The way this worked is that even if the audience did notice the weakness during this scene, the characters aren’t aware of it. That is indeed another brilliant touch! Regan actually connects the dots in the final scene and that’s their true first revelation of finding the creature’s weakness! In case, the audience does miss the evident farm scene… they would find themselves on the same page as Regan!

Road sign

Safety First!

Defensive to Combative.

The main characters and perhaps, most other surviving humans in this post-apocalyptic scenario are primarily staying alive by ‘protecting’ themselves every step of the way. The family survives purely by escaping, hiding, barring themselves, most importantly staying out-of-sight(hearing)-soundproofing knowing that the opposition is infinitely stronger and agile than them. The parents are mainly defensive. Almost everything they do is intellectually correct in such a survival situation. At least, they try to do their best. They know, they cannot hunt or attack the creature.

Unfortunately, this stance changes. They, especially the father (John) progresses towards being combative. The trigger to this particular change of stance/ survival trait occurs after their new baby is born… when Emily Blunt makes it clear that they are nothing if they cannot protect their kids and makes John promise that he must protect them at any cost. Later in the farm, is when he tries to make a move to be combative and attack the creature with an ax in hopes of doing some damage and saving the kids. In the end, the only thing that ‘truly protects his kids’ is sacrificing himself.

Double Heart Knot

Lovely knotted hearts.

Overall powerful tidbits.

Loved the ‘Point of View’ audio moments throughout the movie. Especially, as it serves such an important narrative meaning, helping to establish certain characters during the early sections of the movie.

Neil Young’s Harvest Moon is without a doubt a perfect choice given the scenario in which it is shared and fits so well with the overall context of the movie! Neil’s vocals truly boosts the aural mood and takes it to a calm, relaxing, intimate and comfortable zone 🙂

The direction, synchronization of audio and masterful editing with transitions during the ‘bathtub scream‘ with rockets flying in the air is perhaps the true solid peak of the movie. It is just so well done! Sound design is super important, especially for any thriller/ horror flicks out there. ‘A Quiet Place’ is a shining example in this case.

This last one might also be a trivia for most readers, as I got to know about this only after watching the movie… Millicent Simmonds, the actor who plays the role of Regan (deaf child) is actually deaf in real life! After knowing this fact, I must admit, my respect for what I saw has easily doubled! Fantastic work!

That’s it folks. Thanks for reading! This movie is now going to be in my ‘favorite list’ of all time 😉 Do comment, discuss and share if you liked this movie too!

My friend of mine, who is a fellow movie connoisseur has posted a pretty great rant on ‘A Quiet Place’! I highly recommend checking it out if you’ve already watched the movie.

 

 

 

 


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Short Vacation in Bali!

I tend to post a lot about games, game design and everything games in general whenever time permits. Blaming ‘time’ for being lazy is a sorry excuse. To experience different times and moments, I and wifey finally decided to take ‘time out’ from our game development schedule and go on a fun filled vacation… Bali!

I would like to present a gist of our adventure in Bali with some pictures and free tips 🙂 This isn’t going to be an exhaustive moment-by-moment ‘what to do, where to go’… more of a ‘we did this’ and it was ‘fucking awesome!’ No, seriously, there will be some takeaways in case you are planning to visit Bali so keep reading 😉

August 29 to September 4
We started our journey from Kuala Lumpur on August 29. In case you struggle to find a decent place to eat at KL International Airport and love European cuisine… just take a chance with ‘Dome’. Fantastic place to munch, gracious soups and heavy sandwiches 🙂
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August 29 – Day 1

After checking out various places to visit in Bali, we both narrowed down to stay at Ubud and Seminyak. This way, we get to see the best of the scenery, greenery and rice fields of Ubud and clean and less-crowded beaches of Seminyak region.

Checked in to Green Field Hotel and Restaurant on August 29.

A true scenic and tranquil view of rice fields and away from the super-busy, narrow streets of Ubud. Look at the beautiful view you deserve!

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Green Field Hotel and Restaurant is a true ‘hidden gem’. Wonderful staff, beautiful rooms with serene views of fields, cold breeze and amazing breakfast. Location of this hotel is its main highlight – close to so many tourist spots!

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Our first visit was meant to be at either Goa Gajah, Mask Museum or ARMA… instead we stumbled upon a ‘Cat Cafe‘… which was wonderfully kitty xD and so close to our hotel!

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By the time we reached and left Cat Cafe, it was almost 6 pm. One thing to note is that almost every tourist place in Bali closes by 5 pm. So, we just walked around in Ubud till late night, had some nice Balinese food and slept off. Gearing up for the day ahead.

August 30 – Day 2

Early morning, after filling our stomach with some heavy breakfast we left for Campuhan Ridge Walk (without a guide). Do note – if you really want a guide here, you might have to book in advance by sending an email or hire nearby guides. We went ahead without a guide though, just roaming around the ridge.

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After a decent walk in Campuhan, we were on our to visit Ubud Palace. The heat was killing us… we decided to refuel ourselves. That’s where we found this interesting ‘Vegan Ice-Cream’ restaurant. The Chef over there also conducts cooking classes!
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Finally, after having 2 scoops of Vegan Ice-Cream (try Vanilla, its better than their coffee chocolate flavor), we reached Ubud Palace (not too far from Campuhan Ridge Walk). Much of the Palace was closed for renovation. So, it didn’t take us more than 15-20 mins to see the entirety of it.

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Next on my itinerary was ARMA… not the famous war game, this one expands to Agung Rai Museum of Art. Beautiful place with 2 main complexes – Traditional Bali Art and Modern Art work. Everything over here is excellent! A definite, must visit for artists and anyone remotely in love with experiencing some amazing artwork. Apart from the well maintained art museum, their entire compound has beautiful architecture, animal structures, greenery and a free ‘coffee/ tea’ with the entry ticket.

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It was almost evening and the place was closing down. Then, we made our way to what looked like an amazing ‘Paradise for coconut lovers like me’… Tukies!
Tukies Cafe in Bali is a coconut joint, here you get everything engulfed in coconut ❤

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For dinner of the day, I was really in the mood for some Pizza! If you love Pizza’s do not miss ‘Mamma Mia‘ in Ubud. Great variety and amazing value for money. True, original Italian taste 🙂

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August 31 – Day 3

Fresh after waking up, eating muesli with bread and eggs in Hotel, we made our way to one of the most famous place in Ubud – Tegallalang Rice Terraces!

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Absolutely breathtaking views! Do prepare to climb and walk your way to heavenly landscapes.

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Do keep in mind – as you walk on terraces, explore your way, you’ll come across several ‘Donation boxes’. Idea is to put Rupiah here and move on to explore further. Many of these boxes have a ‘minimum Rupiah’ – so make sure you put them first and then move ahead. Do not forget to go all the way up! It is completely worth it!

Next destination was Luwak Coffee Plantation. There are several plantations in Ubud… we chose to visit Satria plantation and it turned out to be pretty great!

Luwak Coffee comes from Cevat Cats! Do read up more on it on internet if you aren’t aware about this. Below you can see coffee beans extracted from their Poo. Considered as one of the most expensive coffee in the world. Apparently, also has health benefits!

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As part of the tour, you get to sample 12 beverages! 6 amazing varieties of coffee and 6 teas. The guides over there are pretty great at explaining each of them, their benefits and are friendly enough to answer any questions you might have about coffee/ teas. Sampling these beverages is completely free of charge.

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What isn’t free is a sample cup of Luwak Coffee! Once here, you must try it out for yourself. It is not everyone’s cup of tea… erm, I mean coffee! Pretty strong, heavy and has an acquired taste. However, it isn’t as bitter/ strong as their original Bali Coffee!

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Next up, we visited Gunungkawi Temple. It is a beautiful temple with quite a lot of walking around to do and great scenic views. Do note, when visiting temples in Bali, one must wear decent clothing with Sarongs.

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After this, we visited Goa Gajah temple. Do keep your Sarongs on!
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No pictures here, but one of the busiest place in Ubud one must visit is the famous Ubud Market! Lots and lots of different items… clothing material, spices, local utensils to Sarongs and everything traditional is out there! Everyone is willing to negotiate nicely, so do go ahead!

September 1 – Day 4

This was the day we were supposed to check-out from Ubud and make our way to Seminyak. Now, one of the most famous tourist place which was so close-by to our Hotel was none other than ‘Sacred Monkey Forest’! Before checking out, we decided to check this place out.

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That’s a monkey, lying on the road at the entrance of the Monkey Forest. Now, pay attention… this place is unique. For some, it can be a true, one of a kind, excellent experience as one journey through forests with monkeys roaming, fighting, jumping all around. For some others, it can be a truly horrifying experience. Regardless of what rules you follow, there are high chances that monkeys may just start harassing/ attacking you.

That is exactly what happened with us. Be careful, extremely alert and careful. This is not a joke. These monkeys are wild animals and can be very dangerous. Read all the rules posted outside the forest and try to follow them. Just take my tip – even if you follow them, there is no guarantee that monkeys will leave you alone. There is no Monkey King or Hanuman that can come to your rescue here.

We just had to leave this place within 20 mins after one monkey approached my wife and chew off part of her dress (newly purchased one) and in next 5 mins, another monkey just used me as a stepping stone to reach a branch on the tree opposite to the bridge I was walking on!
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Saying that, the forest inside is truly beautiful. If you get lucky, have fun 😉 else just leave this place as soon as possible!

…till September 4 – Day 7

After reaching Seminyak, we checked into a wonderful Villa, Villa Coco… just 5 mins walk from Double Six beach! Again a very friendly staff, beautiful location, spacious and scenic villa with private garden space and my favorite… Hammock!

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The Double Six beach is a famous one for surfers out there. There are multiple Surfing schools operating here and overall, it is pretty clean, fresh and well managed.

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We came to Bali for relaxation, scenic views and to sit around and enjoy the beach! For all 4 days, September 1 to September 4 – we stayed around Double Six and Legian beach and walked around watching sunsets, surfers and wonderful restaurants… and chilled!

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When in this region, do not forget to roam around, visit shops, traditional art exhibitions that sell wonderful items for good price and eat at two of my favorite restaurants… Sacred Ground and Zanzibar!

Here is Sacred Ground… excellent ‘Gado-Gado’, Chicken Avocado sandwich and super yummy Unti (or Dadar)!

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Zanzibar over at the Double Six beach is where you should go if you want some excellent Italian and middle eastern food! Yes, I know… so different, yet so awesome!
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There are several amazing Spas everywhere! We chose to visit Sicilia Spa in Seminyak and it was wonderful! 🙂

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On the final day… we were feeling so sad :/ leaving this wonderful city. Idea was to enjoy, relax and take ‘time out’ and we managed to do just that. Bali was truly a wonderful experience for both of us. We definitely plan to visit this place again 🙂

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After saying goodbye to the wonderful Seminyak and Villa Coco, we made our way to the Ngurah Rai International Airport.

Hungry again, we ate at Made’s Warung… repeat ‘Gado Gado’ and a burger for me!

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Currently Playing – The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine

The Game

I’m pretty sure by now, most of the readers have already played Witcher 3… or at least have heard about this gem. I finished the main game about 2 years ago and clocked in ~100 hours! For me, this game is without a doubt, one of the finest RPGs of this generation. It just does so many things right.

This post isn’t about what makes the game great, it is about how the game provides multitude of game settings that players can make use of to further intensify the entire game experience by making it more immersive (personalize to your liking). Some of you might know about this, as the game is a little old now… to me though, after trying some settings that I’ve mentioned down below, I can vouch for the increased ‘fun’ the whole thing brings.

How I used to play?

I directly delved into the game by making minimal adjustments to the game settings (apart from visuals and audio) and finished the main game in ‘Blood and Broken Bones’ difficulty. It was an excellent experience.

This is how I played the game (~100+hours):

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Take a note of the contents in the RED BOX.

The game itself is exceptionally beautiful, with lots of details in terms of the way interactions work, the way in which the world feels real with some truly well designed geography (with noticeable locations, terrains and points of interests).

Now, with no changes made to the game settings and keeping them at default, this is how it (over)populates the HUD. Unfortunately, I noticed the problem after countless hours of gameplay. Not really a problem per se, more of an hindrance. Everything inside the RED BOX is meant to simplify exploration and ease the players into the game. Give better, detailed directions to what, where, when and so on. In short, easing by hand-holding. Once we start playing the game this way, naturally we progress quicker and feel great about it. However, after paying close attention, we realize that by playing this way, our eyes are mostly focused at the RED BOX. Especially, glued to the glorious, beautiful, rotating, mini-map. This is when, we stop ‘truly playing the game’ to ‘surfing the game’ because of the minutiae brought about by the mini-map. In short, eyes glued at the wrong place… a tiny place in relation to the entire rest of the screen that is filled with intricate details… real details which are begging for your close touch and exploration.

This is how I play the game NOW (~10+hours and counting):

Witcher3_SettingsOFF

Trust me, with this way, my experience with the game and immersion it brings about has increased by a lot! To me at least. This is something that I would seriously recommend you all try too. I started with this personalized setting with the expansion ‘Blood and Wine’.

Toggle the following ‘Off’:

Witcher3_MenuSettings1

Do not forget, we can open the main World map whenever we want to see the destination objective marker, explore and find our own way and traverse like a real ‘Witcher’. Let’s just not look at the shortest way to reach there with dotted lines on your mini-map with the exact distance of footsteps it’ll take you! Try it out and see the experience being enriched.

Along with this, I also found 2 more settings that can really add a little more twist and increase the sense of danger. This can be a little subjective, but worth a try 😉 Turn ‘Off’ Boss and Enemy Health Bars. Yes, sounds scary as frak! I can’t really recall right now, but few other games also have the setting for turning off HP bars. So, try this out here… a Witcher, after all doesn’t really know how much HP the opponents have (unless witcher-vision provides the touch) 😉 role-play!

Witcher_Boss

In short, I encourage every player to try and personalize and find settings that suit you best. Turning Off the mini-map is highly recommended as I personally found that it truly enriches the experience. Everything else, well tweak and play around with them, see if it works for you or not.

This is the beauty of a true player-friendly PC game. Tweaks and tips to dig deep and escape!

 


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Clash Royale – PART I

I’m pretty sure most of you have already started playing Clash Royale by now. Even if you aren’t one of the Royale players, you might very well be aware of the game. Clash Royale is Supercell’s next gem for mobile devices.

I’ve been playing this game on a daily basis since it launched in India. I wanted to jot down and do a few write-ups focusing on design.

The first design overview I felt like covering is the gameplay concept map. Please note:

  • This concept map focuses only on gameplay elements
  • It does not teach you how to play the game
  • Shows the inter-relationships of different elements

Now, I am not explaining what each element (especially the ones taken from the game) stand for. Obviously, if you have been playing the game, you’ll be aware of the intricacies. In case you haven’t tried the game out, this’ll help you understand (a little) the concept of gameplay in Clash Royale (inter-dependencies, skills needed, synergy and complexity).

Clash_Royale_Gameplay_ConceptMap_v4

It is informative to look at the game, realize its scope and go through its various concepts. Do check it out, it’ll be fun to discuss more on this (especially if you have already been playing the game).

Keep checking here for further updates, I’ll most likely do more write-ups by focusing on different features. They may not necessarily be in sequence and will most likely be a little independent of each other.

Do shoot your feedback and rants. It’s always fun ;]

 

 

 


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Roleplaying in Wasteland 2

Playing a role.

I finally gave in and bought one of the games that was lying at No.1 spot for a long time on my Steam wishlist – Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut. I am a huge fan of the classic Fallout 1 and 2, love post-apocalyptic scenarios and isometric role-playing games. Most of the followers of the genre already know that Wasteland 1 is what inspired classic Fallout.

I always had in my mind a very particular set of characters, which I believed would be really interesting in a game like this. I love Firefly. I felt like coyboys, sci-fi and wasteland would be a perfect fit for me to roleplay (as a party). I went ahead with that decision and I am seriously so in love with this game.

Firefly party creation and composition:

  • There are so many amazing characters in the series, I had to shortlist the best taking into account character skills (TV series), ones that would really matter
  • Their chemistry – if made as an away team in a party
  • I know the game to be combat heavy (like Fallout Tactics, unlike Fallout 1 and 2), so made an appropriate selection – since 4 is the maximum number of party members allowed at game start
  • Unfortunately, biography for characters I made in Wasteland 2 party is blank at the moment (I thought those could also be edited after starting the game, but I’ll need to modify saves to do it – will update this later)
  • I’ve tried to make my party as close to their characters on the show as possible (attributes, characteristics, personalities and skills)
  • Quirks were truly interesting – and it took me a long time to choose!

Firefly_Wasteland2

State of Firefly characters – Party creation process

I’ll now share how the characters grew in around 30 hours of gameplay. Most of the characters in my party are Level 13 as of this post. I tried to roleplay and add only those skills which made sense to me (staying in line with their show counterparts and also helpful in the game/ but not always)

Malcolm Reynolds

Without any thought, this guy had to be there. There was no question about it. A leader. Smart Ass. Charmer. Can make horrible/ bad choices ;]

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Character Screen – Coordination, Charisma

Quirk: Opportunist [description from Wasteland 2] –> It takes a certain ethical flexibility to take advantage of others, and it’s a flexibility you possess. Your predatory nature means that you kick your enemies just a bit harder when they’re down. However, you’re also equally timid and fearful of harm coming to you, and as a result, you do less damage to those that are healthy.

I believed that quirk to fit Mal perfectly in this game ;]

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Skills – Leadership, Smart Ass, Handguns

Skills: At this moment in the game, Mal is kind of above average in handgun combat. He also has Pulse Rifle as secondary weapon. Leadership helps during combat and Smart Ass provides interesting dialogue options in conversations (wherever possible). He is also perceptive and overall failure in safe-cracking.

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Perks – Know-it-All!

Perks: bonuses for your characters as they level up.

Mal is pretty much having bonuses in Conversations and a little combat advantage. Overall, I use Mal for primary communication with others in game.

 

Zoe Washburn

I really needed a character that can be strong in combat, hardcore and a true, good friend of Mal. It had to be Zoe. Bad-ass, strong and aware.

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Character Screen – Coordination, Awareness, Strength

Quirk: Now, I went through the entire list present in game, couldn’t really feel like a particular quirk to fit Zoe. So, in this case, there is no quirk! No plus, no minus.

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Skills – Shotguns, Field Medic, Assault Rifles

Skills: So, I really wanted Zoe to be a shotgun expert, bad-ass and strong. Her Field medic expertise (coming from Army) really helps out the other members. She also has average Rifle skills, really really useful when friends are in the way ;]

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Perks – Hardened!

Perks: Without blinking, as soon as I got an opportunity to give her the first Perk, I chose Hardened. +1base armor. Perfect for this character.

At this moment in game, she is one of the best combat lady in my party and really messes up raiders and other critters in-game! Just amazing :]

 

Jayne Cobb

Now, Jayne is a very interesting character. In the series and also in this game. I wanted a brawler, hard-ass and ranged expert at the same time. Jayne is all that and perfect Watchman!

2016-01-14_00009

Character Screen – Awareness, Strength

Quirk: Thick-Skinned [description from Wasteland 2] –> All the boys ‘n girls in the playground used to pick on you. They called you stinky, fatty, ugly, and beat you up until you were bruised and sore. But the more you took it, the more you learned to shrug it off. Sticks and stones won’t break your bones. Years of physical abuse have left you thick-skinned and you can shrug off attacks more easily, but you’re heavier and more sluggish, and as a result, you move slower.

Isn’t it perfect for this guy? Such an easy choice for me – works especially well in the game too!

2016-01-14_00010

Skills – Sniper Rifles, Hard Ass, Brawling

Skills: I did mentioned I wanted Jayne to be ranged expert but also a Hard Ass. Like how he really is. Brawling works wonderfully, when someone makes a mistake to jump on him ;]

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Perks – Watchman

Perks: Now, being a strong-willed sniper, Watchman it was! Also, we have here intimidating and Hoarder – all Jayne bonuses ;]

Right now, after around 30 hours, Jayne is one of the best combat specialist in my party. Ranged destruction FTW! I have even seen him breaking down a Robot Crawler by brawling him!

 

River Tam

Okay, so I’ll be frank, the aforementioned 3 selections (Mal, Zoe and Jayne) were easy choices for me. I mean, I had to have them in my party in Wasteland 2. For the final one, I took some time to decide on the best one.

I wanted the last member in my party to be one of these:

Wasteland2_LastMember

Going with either of those, can give rise to their respective benefits, personalities and skills. After thinking a lot, I almost went with Kaylee. I mean, wouldn’t she be perfect for Mechanical repair, toaster repair and also charismatic? Then it hit me, River is someone who must be tremendously more interesting to have here, because she is so different. And, that is why, even in the game (after finally choosing her) she is so different – useful and oftentimes useless – but oh so interesting!

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Character Screen – Intelligence, Strength and Luck!

Quirk: Manic Depressive [description from Wasteland 2] –> Mania and melancholy are two sides of the same coin, and you have known it all your life. You are subject to intense mood changes, and those around you say you’re almost like a different person each time they see you.

Perfect! Ain’t it? Also, so damn risky. This directly means, her attributes keep shifting every few mins (~15mins) – depending on whether she is feeling Mania or Melancholy! Trust me, because of this the gameplay and how we play around it has become tremendously more enjoyable for me.

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Skills – SMG, Mech Repair, Computer Science and Animal Whisperer!

Skills: Obviously, since I didn’t choose Kaylee, I still needed someone skilled enough to repair stuff, break into locks and use her intelligence to hack into computers and blast into enemies using Submachine guns!

Also, I loved using her Animal Whisperer skills to tame more than 20 animals including gila monsters, goats and worms! :]

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Perks – Weathered

Perks: For bonuses, I’ve selected her to have Weathered (resistance to crits) and Camel – which is really useful in this wasteland. Save, conserve and efficiently use precious water.

During gameplay, if possible I always try to use her whisperer abilities to tame animals (unless its impossible – level difference is high). It is really interesting to make choices based on her mood-state in the game. Many times, I had to wait for her to regain her abilities so that I could lock-pick an important safe!

Well, so that’s about it! I’m currently engrossed in Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut and find the role-playing pretty enjoyable. Especially, with a team like this… what can go wrong?

If you are reading this and love Firefly, RPGs or have been playing Wasteland 2, do post your thoughts.

 

 


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Google – Best Games of 2015

Chhota Bheem Throne of Bali

Around 2 months back we worked on a brand new game using Chhota Bheem IP – Throne of Bali. This is a 2D side-scroller with scripted levels where you get to play as Chhota Bheem.

It is a simplistic casual title, where levels keep getting tougher and tougher. Today, in the game there are 20 levels.

Best Games of 2015

Earlier this month, Google Playstore showcased some of the best games of 2015 that everyone should play. It names Chhota Bheem Throne of Bali as one of the best on playstore in 2015! It is such a joyous moment for me and the whole team at Nazara who worked on this title.

CBTB_Best2015

I want everyone to try out this game and keep sending us feedback. We are constantly in the process of improving the game.

Christmas Update

After the announcement by Google, the team themselves took the initiative to work extra and come up with a thrilling Christmas update! We are finally live and everyone should give in to the festive season and play the game, share it with your friends and keep spreading the word :]

CBTB_Christmas

Do download, update your game and spread wishes with your friends and family this Christmas and New Year!


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Virat Cricket Challenge

Virat Cricket Challenge

Android Release

Hey all, sorry I had been away for a while. Our team at Nazara were very busy since few weeks now, pushing our production on our recent release Virat Cricket Challenge.

Finally, it feels great to bring out a simple, easy to play game – fast and arcade cricket experience based on Virat Kohli! If you are a Virat fan, you must check this game out!

I am so happy that the game got featured on its release date on Google Playstore :] Entire team is overjoyed!

Google Playstore Download Page

IMG-20151211-WA0001

Virat Kohli announces the game on his Facebook page!

A news article on Times of India came out yesterday with the announcement.
VCC

Here is a poll on twitter –>

Do play the game, rate, shoot feedback and share with your friends and family.

Fresh update!

Virat Cricket Challenge is No.1 today on Google Playstore! We have beaten mighty games to get to this position :]
VCC_No1

Cheers :]


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WORKSHOP – FAST AND FURIOUS 7

NASSCOM NGDC2015 DESIGN WORKSHOP

FAST AND FURIOUS 7

I had an immense pleasure of organizing this year’s Design Workshop at Nasscom’s Game Developer Conference held at Mahratta Chamber Of Commerce Industries & Agriculture (MCCIA) Towers.

The idea and topic was pretty simple – understand and learn to deliver a game pitch in less than 7 mins. The basis of presentation technique was PechaKucha (chit-chat in Japanese).

A part of my preparation was to come up with interesting topics for participants.

I started creating topics…

Preparation - creation of mindboggling topics ;]

Preparation – creation of mindboggling topics ;]

Once I demonstrated the PechaKucha technique to participants, they were asked to be comfortable, form power groups (which were made to ensure friends don’t stick together and teams feel balanced).

The topic – a mandate on which participants had to create their game pitch consisted of 2 parts:

  • A subject/ core matter
  • Game Genre

Preparation - Cards in disarray!

Preparation – Cards in disarray!

The stacks were then made, successfully (before the workshop began, at my home):

Cards tied in RED –> Core/ Subject matter

Cards tied in YELLOW –> Game Genre

Power Cards... are READY!

Power Cards… are READY!

At the workshop, once my presentation was over and groups were formed, I asked one member from each group to draw cards from the stacks I had made. Interesting topics are created when randomness comes into play ;]

For eg: A group picked cards that gave them FOOD as Core Subject and SURVIVAL HORROR as game genre!

The rules were laid out:

  • use laptop
  • use internet connection
  • minimal text
  • Images, images and images!
  • 20 sec per slide rule
  • Max slides 20 (due to time restriction – I didn’t enforce 20 slides as MUST – it was a max limit for this workshop)

Fast and Furious 7 :: PechaKucha!

Fast and Furious 7 :: PechaKucha!

Here are some pictures from the workshop:

It's on!

It’s on!

Getting to know team and discussion within was paramount!

Getting to know team and discussion within was paramount!

A team brainstorming on their game pitch

A team brainstorming on their game pitch

Team getting their slides ready!

Team getting their slides ready!

Team game pitch kickoff!

Team game pitch kickoff!

Team game pitch kickoff!

Team game pitch kickoff!

Team game pitch kickoff!

Team game pitch kickoff!

Team game pitch kickoff!

Team game pitch kickoff!

Team game pitch kickoff!

Team game pitch kickoff!

With Prashant!

With Prashant!

I apologize for some really shaken pictures! :]

My badge this year.

My badge this year.

I had an awesome time conducting the workshop, discussing terrific ideas with everyone who participated. If you are in the picture, you participated or were a part of the team – do share 🙂