A visit to the Golden Corral in Algonquin, IL, USA

Earlier today, my parents, relatives from California, and I went to the Golden Corral buffet in Algonquin, Illinois.

Golden Corral in Algonquin, IL

Apparently some other relatives from New Jersey had gone here while they were visiting Illinois, and rec­om­mended the restaurant to us.

We sat over in this corner, away from most of the other people. It wasn’t actually as dark as it seems in the photo; my phone’s camera just happened to have a bit of trouble adjusting to the bright outdoors, and compensated the lighting in the wrong direction.

Golden Corral Buffet in Algonquin, IL

The first thing to mention is that they have a senior discount and an “after 1 PM” discount. We didn’t actually realize this time-based discount until we were leaving the restaurant, and I was a little upset because we had arrived at about 12:56 PM.

But, when we checked the receipt, we noticed that the cashier had given us the post-1:00 price without us having to request it, even though the payment was made before the eligible discount time. It’s always nice to see businesses be flexible and value the happiness of their customers, rather than stick hard to the rules in order to make more money.

As for the buffet itself, it wasn’t really my preferred style of restaurant, but from a neutral perspective, it’s a pretty decent restaurant. It has a lot of different American food, so if you’re a fan of American, this might be the place for you.

I personally prefer to get American food from fast food restaurants where you just get a large serving of one item, rather than tiny bits of a variety of foods. This is important to keep in mind when I say I wasn’t that thrilled at this restaurant – it’s more of a conflicting preference thing, rather than the restaurant doing anything wrong.

While I was getting food, I didn’t notice any strange odors, but when I went back to my table to sit down, there was a strange smell in our corner. It’s difficult to describe, but the best I can do is the smell of undried clothing mixed with the sweat of someone who eats a lot of fatty foods. So, if you plan on going to this particular restaurant at this particular location, you might want to avoid that corner.

My favorite part of the trip was the dessert. They have a massive variety of desserts, including cakes, chocolate fountains for strawberries, cotton candy, and an ice cream dispenser. This was actually the first time I had ever had cotton candy on a stick since I was a tiny child.

We had an older male as our server, and he seemed a little bit too nice. He made sure that we had every­thing we needed, and came (almost excessively) often to refill drinks. One peculiar thing I tend to do at buffets is to reuse my old plate for my second serving in order to help them cut down on dishwashing costs. At the Golden Corral, I didn’t even have a chance to do that because my old plates were taken away so quickly.

Overall, from my own personal perspective (which means taking my own preferences into consideration), I would rate this restaurant 5/10. From a non-biased perspective, I would rate this restaurant 7/10. I would say it’s a solid restaurant, but there was nothing that made me say “wow,” which is generally needed for me to give anything a 9-10/10 rating.


Trip to Chicago with Californian relatives

Last night, an aunt and uncle from California came to visit us as a part of their road trip across the United States.

I took a bunch of photos during the trip. The full album can be found on my Google+ profile in my “Trip to Chicago with Californian relatives” photo album, but I’ve picked out a few to highlight here in this blog post.

On our way to Chicago, we stopped by a restaurant. They had some ginger suspended in water on display in the corner.

Apparently my parents knew the owner of the restaurant. The food wasn’t exactly the best – my meat was a bit burnt when I usually like it cooked rare, and my soup was a bit bitter – but it was a decent-enough restaurant with good value for the price.

After we finished eating, we entered the heart of Chicago, and went to the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sear’s Tower). We went through the skydeck tour; on the path to the elevator, there was a lot of informational stations, one of which was a video.

The elevator ride up to the top took only about a minute, which meant that we were traveling at about 18 miles an hour.

Once we got to the top, I took a ton of photos looking out the windows. I uploaded these in higher-than-1080p resolution, so it’s definitely worth checking them out in full quality in the Google+ album.

The last time these relatives visited us, back several years ago, we went on a tour via boat. My dad managed to find out where it was, so I took a picture.

There were souvenirs at the top of the tower. I didn’t really want one, so instead of buying them, I just took pictures of them. These are wooden replicas of the Willis Tower.

After making our way back down, we went on to tour Millenium Park.

This was a stage near the exit to the parking garage where we parked.

Of course, we visited Cloud Gate, commonly referred to as “The Bean,” and widely accepted as the finest piece of art in Chicago.

There must’ve been a field trip going on, because while we were at Cloud Gate, a bunch of tiny children flooded around the sculpture and stood under it. This is another photo, this time from the opposite angle as the photo above.

Near Cloud Gate, there was a tree with white flowers; according to my dad, it’s the exact same tree that we have in our backyard.

On our walk to Crown Fountain, we encountered a bunch of art students drawing “1004 Portraits,” a series of sculptures by Jaume Plensa.

And finally, we made it to Crown Fountain, the last notable Chicagoan feature in our walk. Unfortunately, it wasn’t activated, but the shifting faces still worked.

Remember, these photo highlights are just that – highlights. Be sure to check out the complete album to see all the photos I took during our trip in 2048-pixel-width resolution.



Heroes of the Storm should not be streamed on ESPN

I was pretty excited today to watch Heroes of the Dorm, a Heroes of the Storm tournament hosted by Bliz­zard.

I was a little bit confused when, part-way through the day, I saw a tweet that said Heroes of the Storm was now live … on ESPN3.

I figured they were trying something new, and were moving on to a broadcast station instead of just streaming it on Twitch and YouTube like normal eSports. I heard that ESPN had streamed DotA2, so I assumed that it wouldn’t be that bad.

When I expanded the tweet, the first thing I noticed was that there were a bunch of people tweeting at Blizzard about how they weren’t able to access ESPN from their country. I was a little disappointed that Bliz­zard had selected a streaming platform that wasn’t open to everyone in the world.

Regardless, I opened up the stream and waited a little bit for it to load up. I tuned in during the middle of the game, and noticed that the stream felt incomplete.

Upon further scrutiny, I realized that ESPN had essentially removed a lot of the user interface from the broadcast.

More specifically, there was no mini-map, no detailed information about heroes and their health, and no map-specific mechanic counters. Some of this information was somewhat present, but it was over­sim­pli­fied and unintuitive.

At this time, I tweeted:

(The full two tweets might not appear if you have Javascript disabled in your browser.)

I kept watching and it felt as if the casters weren’t allowed to get excited. They were spending a lot of time trying to make the gameplay as easy to understand as possible, and ended up going down as low as to say things that would’ve been obvious, even to someone who had never played Heroes of the Storm before.

To expand on why it’s so bad not to include the mini-map in the broadcast, ESPN basically treated Heroes of the Storm like a physical sport. Physical sports are fine to broadcast like that because there is only one ball, and the camera just follows the ball around.

Using the ball analogy, there are basically four balls in Heroes of the Storm at the same time. Of course, you can’t follow all four balls around at the same time, and doing a split-screen type of broadcast wouldn’t be the best because the individual quarters would be too small and unpleasant to observe.

Instead, the mini-map needs to be broadcasted so viewers can get a feel as to where the other “balls” are on the map, and how the “balls” are being played. If this information isn’t provided, the game feels suf­fo­cating and the viewer feels as if they can’t see the big picture of the game.

As for the lack of detailed information, I understand that someone who has never watched eSports before tuning into ESPN would get overwhelmed by all the information on the screen. But, eSports relies heavily on small calculations that aren’t present in physical sports (for example, it’s very likely and common for eSports fights to go down to the last several hit points, and for that to change the outcome of the game, but in physical sports, taking a step two inches too far will pretty much never make any difference).

Overall, I’m pretty upset that Blizzard passed on the Heroes of the Dorm broadcast to ESPN, rather than running it themselves (or with a professional eSports broadcasting company) who actually know how to ca­ter to an eSports audience.

The bright side to this is that this is the first day of the first ever “official” Heroes of the Storm tournament. I trust Blizzard enough that they have quality assurance analysts who are able to identify these problems, and hopefully they’ll be quick enough to make enough improvements before the next broadcast.


Completing the second wing of Hearthstone’s Blackrock Mountain

Earlier today, the second wing of Hearthstone’s second PvE adventure, Blackrock Mountain, opened up to the public.

Less than half an hour after release, I started playing. In about an hour, I manage to beat all three normal mode bosses and complete both class challenges.

Source: http://youtube.com/watch?v=CdWojoZHvbg&list=PLKQUciHiP2v6lehTLfSf2M9HVjrfb8Hzt

I ended up having an easy time completing most of the matches, but Ragnaros trolled me pretty hard, and I ended up failing a few times before managing to win.

I wish I could have five Molten Giants in my deck too.


RuneLabs, March 2015: Seren & Elves quest vs. Agility enhancement

The top two options on the voting poll for last month’s RuneLabs ideas are the Seren and the Elves quest and an Agility enhancement.

The two choice are very close, and has apparently been swinging back and forth by a single percentage in votes. But, a lot of people seem upset that the Agility update is even that high on the polls.

A lot of people are saying that, if Agility happens to win, we wasted a month’s worth of RuneLabs.

Although I personally would like the Seren and the Elves quest to win so we can get more magic spells and prayers, I would be happy if either one wins.

One thing that I believe people are missing when they are hating on the Agility option is the fact that it’s an Agility update/rework, not just new Agility content. Jagex isn’t just going to add a new Agility course; they are going to change how Agility training works, and implement more ways Agility is useful in the game world.

I believe that, if Agility were to win, Agility training would become more like a single-player mini-game than a monotonous clicking chore. I’m sure that they would leave agility course options in the game for those who prefer it, but for those who want a more exciting training experience, Jagex will probably implement a completely new, interactive training method.

On top of that, similar to how Agility was integrated into Thieving, an Agility update would also most likely mean that Agility would be integrated into more skills. For example, paralleling how you can get double loot from pickpocketing, a high Agility level might also allow you to burn two logs at a time.

But, even with all these potential updates for Agility, I still prefer the Seren and the Elves quest because of my personal view on what makes a game good.

I like to unlock things. I like to earn rewards by completing in-game content, and I like these rewards to be permanently bound to my account (rather than just being floating items like high-level gear might be).

If they add new spells and prayers into the game, these would be unlocked by doing the Seren and the Elves quest, and these spells/prayers would be permanently useable in any situation I’d like.

Overall, I think both of these options are perfectly fine candidates for being the RuneLabs winner, and those who are aggressively opposing the Agility enhancement might be doing so with a misconception as to what the Agility enhancement actually will end up being.


Guardian of the Sands Xerath – Unreleased skin preview on LoL PBE

Source: http://youtube.com/watch?v=VGOtGMUUhek&list=PLKQUciHiP2v4FC-81KQi_y3eFTITpiftc

In this video, I show off Guardian of the Sands Xerath, a new skin only available on the public beta server – check it out if you want to see it before it’s released on the live servers.

This game also features the new skin Omega Squad Teemo as my laning opponent.

I end up doing poorly in lane, but contribute to my team after I choose to roam instead of continuing to die to Teemo’s ambushes.

The reason I ended up being more useful than Teemo, even though I lost my lane, is because our hard-engage team composition countered Teemo’s decision to split push the entire game.

So, when I grouped with my team and roamed around as five, there wasn’t anything the enemy team could do when we decided to fight 5v4, because they couldn’t escape our engage.

Teemo would end up getting some objectives off the fact that he was not in the fight, but unfortunately for him, we would trade the objectives right back after killing the rest of his team.

If he decided to instead come and help his team, he would be too late due to the fact that he had Ignite instead of Teleport, so he would end up just getting picked off when he showed up, because his team would already be losing the fight.

Although this isn’t exactly the best example of a great game, it provides you with a suggestion as to what you can do (other than giving up) if you end up underperforming early game.


Stream VOD: Warlock arena run and Mage daily quest on Hearthstone

Source: http://youtube.com/watch?v=gJJTnX1pWgY&list=PLKQUciHiP2v40y-lKj6dkjyqEcGmsu5yV

I start off this stream session by drafting a Warlock arena deck and going 0-2 before getting three wins and more-or-less breaking even in my run.

After my arena run, I play three games with Mage in order to complete my daily quest of winning two games with Mage (the one game I lose is against a Hobgoblin Paladin).

I still have the Blackrock Mountain logo on my stream, not because I was playing Blackrock Mountain during this VOD, but because I still want to bring awareness to the event going on, so more people will participate during future wing releases.