Monday, September 21, 2020

Analogue: A Hate Story, Dark Souls

Already posted on the usual channels, but I'm always a fan of low-effort ways to mobilize people to make a difference in some form or another, so I'd like to point out as one of those.

Anyways, I've got a couple games to try and succinctly review.  I don't feel like writing a ton about any of these games so I will be reducing them to a number of bullet points, which will surely discredit all of the nuances as well as the great amount of effort that were put to build these games.  Please do not consider these to be proper critiques or reviews.

First off we've got Analogue: A Hate Story, a visual novel by Christine Love, who has also written several other visual novels.  Honestly, reading some of their descriptions, I wonder if I would like some of those better.  I honestly don't even know why I have this game, other than I heard of it a long time ago and decided to purchase it for some odd reason.  It must have been a =long= time ago.  This game was released in 2012.

- Overall this game for me was enjoyable but not "special" or particularly memorable.
- I didn't find the characters to be particularly interesting, but the writing itself was good.  I would say the main enjoyment I got out of reading this visual novel was getting to read the story unfold.
- The interface was a bit novel but at the same time "clunky", in that I would have honestly preferred to just read through all of the logs one by one as a straight document.  It didn't feel like the order in which I perused through the documents or showed them to the AIs was important at all.
- I feel like one of the strongest points of traditional visual novels (for me at least) is that it provides just enough imagery for you to have a strong mental image and association for each of the characters.  That's not the case in this game because most of the characters you read about aren't actually alive or seen (they're just in the historical log entries).  Combined with the fact that the names are foreign (and thus unfamiliar to me) and the fact that there is no real "intro" to each character, I found it confusing at times to remember who was who.  The provided family tree diagram was neat but I didn't personally find it helpful since there were several names which weren't on the tree (?).
- The story paints an interesting (and bleak) picture of the Joseon dynasty as well as what could be crudely called a "feminist" critique (though that is surely not the right word?) of the gender standards prevalent in that culture.  But I'm not really sure what the "message" here is supposed to be, besides to illustrate.

Ok, next up we've got Dark Souls, which we've finally finished going through (took some practice but once I was able to parry Gwyn a few times he went down pretty quickly).  Dark Souls is a bit of a cult classic and was critically acclaimed in its combat and level design.  Although it had some strange ideas and some really poor execution at points, there's no arguing that it inspired a lot of game designers to take note of the things it did well.

- Dark Souls I think really shines in the first half, and perhaps even the first quarter of the game.  Everything is new, you die a lot, and you've not really learned what it takes to beat enemies.
- In addition, the lore of the game....well, I wouldn't say it's fantastic, but it's certainly =intriguing=.  Some games try to really slap you over the head with their plot and lore -- Dark Souls is certainly not one of them.  Instead the developers try to leave small little breadcrumbs for people to pick up.  Each of the bosses and world areas in particular, has a very particular sense of design that leads you to really wonder why things are the way they are.  For many people, the answer to that question will remain unanswered after playing through the game, but the fact remains that you can tell there is =something= there, and that sense of "wonder" really comes through.
- On the flipside, the latter half of the game really drops off in its enjoyment.  Some of the environments aren't as well thought out, the boss encounters feel less novel, and so on and so forth.
- Two things really stand out about Dark Souls -- encountering a new type of enemy in a new type of environment, and encountering a new boss.  Dark Souls is a game that very heavily rewards knowledge and experience, and I think those first few encounters with an enemy or boss are really the interesting ones, where you try to figure out what sort of danger this new threat poses and how to best deal with it.
- Some of the boss designs =really= do well with this (though others do not).  Each boss tends to have a "gimmick" around it, but not necessarily an "I win" button.  The Taurus Demon, for example, can be attacked by jumping from above using a plunge, but this strategy also carries its own risk.  The Moonlight Butterfly was probably my favorite fight of the game, as it has some haunting music and can't even be hit with melee weapons until it draws close to drink nectar.  This boss was both themed very well and required a very different approach toward combat than normal.
- As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of quirks and awkward spots about Dark Souls where you can see it's....not exactly the smoothest and most refined experience.  Various confusing NPC dialogues, yes/no questions that can affect your material rewards in unexpected ways, and all of the weapon upgrade paths are pretty useless except for one (or MAYBE two).
- So yeah, in summary, I know I already said it before, but I really enjoyed the first half of DS.  But later on when you get into Lost Izalith, Tomb of Giants, etc, that sort of stuff, it starts losing its luster.  But the Undead Burg/Parish was great, New Londo Ruins is pretty cool, etc.  Figuring out those first few bosses was always a really cool experience, especially because the first time you come across them, they basically just stomp you completely, and then you need to slowly figure out how to deal with each of their attacks.  They're often a ton bigger than you too, which just adds to this feeling of "wow how the ^$#@ am I supposed to deal with that??"

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Point A to Point C

Something I've been thinking about a little lately is about how it's actually not always the best thing, to try and live in a way that corresponds in what you think the world should be like.

What I mean is that often times I (we?) try to imagine things as they should be and try to be the change we wish to see -- and by that I mean we try to act in a way that's more in accordance to what things would be like if the world were already changed.

The problem is that sometimes in order to get from point A to point C, you need to get out of a local maxima and go through a point B that looks radically different than point C, or is even in the opposite direction.  You can't always just forge ahead a straight path to what you want.  And in certain cases, you find that point C isn't even really =possible= to get to from point A.  So you really need to search for that "point B".

This first came up while I was thinking about incarceration and policing institutions, about how I think a lot of people may (?) have a hard time thinking about the structure of law enforcement because I think they are imagining this "point C" in which there is a law enforcement structure that actually does all of the right things (whatever you believe that may be).  I don't really know whether this mythical point C exists, but I think there's a pretty compelling argument that the line from point A (where we are today) to point C doesn't exist, or at least is certainly not a straight line.

But it applies (perhaps more practically) to my own behavior as well.  In Social Dance we had 90% (or whatever, I'm sure the number is way different from scene to scene) of people learning only the dance role traditionally ascribed to their gender.  In a perfect world we wouldn't even have gendered dance roles, but that's just not the world we live in right now, so the question becomes how do we find ways to push the needle towards point C despite the fact that we're far away from that.

I have certain beliefs about the way I interact with people as well, where I would like to live in a world where people can express certain things more freely than they are today.  I think I've perhaps tended to be a little more loose with that kind of thing in the past.  But if there is all this cultural and societal baggage from everything that has led up until this point, maybe acting in the "ideal scenario" way isn't actually the best way to be.  There's a reason we can't live in a perfect world (yet?) and that reason is important to both understand and respect as we search for a way that we can improve things (or at least, make attempts at trying things out in a different way).

I've been feeling pretty crappy about myself lately so it is really tempting to put a huge disclaimer on this all like "I am stupid ignore whatever I am saying" but screw it.  I'm feeling better today anyways.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Animorphs #16: The Warning

rest in peace.


Also, apparently it seems that Animorphs #16 is really where the series really gets real for the first time.  I mean, even in The Andalite Chronicles we got to see some harsh stuff with wartime morality, Elfangor unwittingly allowing Visser Three to be created, Seerow's kindness, and Elfangor's unwillingness to comply with the order to flush out the helpless Yeerks.  And in book #8, we actually see Ax get a chance to kill Alloran, but can't bring himself to, despite Alloran begging to be killed.  I wonder if Alloran would have taken his own life in that moment, if he could.  I imagine that he would have.  In the end, it seemed like there was no other way, no way for Alloran to be free.  I think everyone thought this.  In fact, even in my memory, Alloran had died in the end.  But apparently my memory here was wrong, which makes Ax's choice actually meaningful here.

Anyways, in Animorphs #16 we get Jake almost dying, trying to hold himself together and push past his own fear because he isn't =allowed= to be weak, and we see the harsh toll that the war has taken on Jake by this point, and how he already feels the pressure.  Out of all of the Animorphs' struggles, I've always sympathized with Jake the most.  Having to always be the one with the answers, the one in charge, the one that is accountable for the mistakes.  Yeah dude, I've been there.  It's rough, and it takes a toll on you.  Forever.

And Marco, always the intelligent one, has already figured out that this war is going to change them.  Jake denies it, but deep inside he might know as well.  But Marco's little joke about how Jake thinks to go back to a normal life afterwards, really hits hard this second time around, knowing just how much this impacts their lives throughout the years.

We see Jake wise beyond his years at the understanding of his role, and this foreshadows his acute understanding of everyone else's roles.  There's going to be a lot of this in later books, especially with Jake struggling to handle Rachel's volatility, and even later, David, and Jake has no choice but at some point to start treating his friends as soldiers rather than individual people.  At least, that's how I remember it.

Then we get to the end where Jake has to figure out what to do with Fenestre.  We see the first hintings of Cassie's hypocrisy, where thinks of Fenestre as being so vile that he needs to die, but at the same time isn't willing to do it herself.  This is something that Cassie will struggle with later as well, because in war there is no "right" thing to do.

Anyways, yeah, definitely feels like an inflection point in the series.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Write something, anything, it doesn't matter what, so here we go.

Have been continuing to learn about knife sharpening technique, and thanks to some good resources I finally feel like I understand what I am doing and what to look for in terms of burr formation, etc.  I ordered a cheap (<$50) Japanese Nakiri (vegetable) knife and am trying that out for vegetable tasks.  We will see how often I really reach for it though, this is carbon steel blade so I always feel a bit of trepidation knowing that I need to handle it with a little more discipline, which may end up being a factor.  In the end if that dissuades me from using it too much, that tells me I should just go with stainless steel blades.  One this is for sure though, it's a hairline Nakiri which is quite thin and it is actually great to sharpen, I think the steel responds very well to the whetstones making it much easier to tell when I am actually making progress.

There is something common about most of the times that I feel the worst in life.  There is nothing to be done about it, but I do recognize that thing.

I have finished relearning the taiji jian 32 form so I guess I have three forms that I can rotate in my sessions now.  Unfortunately the air outside has made it rather infeasible to really have a nice session but maybe that will change, maybe not.

I'm sure I will probably write about it later, but there are a number of websites organized around correspondence with those who are incarcerated.  I am currently looking at and will probably try to kick things off with that one.  Though I am somewhat eager to do so, I don't think now is the right time as I have neither the emotional capacity or non-volatility nor the time to do so.

LDJam site seems to be up again, so looks like LD will indeed be a thing.

Personal finance stuff has been going...rather well actually.  I have been keeping it relatively simple while still venturing out to do an extra step here and there.  I think I am at a good spot as far as this goes.

Have been continuing to try out the new pens from jetpens.  They are all pretty good really, I will continue to use them and then be able to really give an opinion on most of them.

I can feel the telltale signs.  I'm conscious of it, so I pretty much know what I am in for.  It seems that this will last a little longer than it might have seemed.

I have been noticing moments of feeling extremely tired.  I don't actually think it is because of the depression, rather, I think it is because of the practice of holding myself up precisely.  I both derive strength from this practice but at the same time it exerts a lot of energy.  It really makes me think though, how was I ever able to survive when I did this on such a regular basis?  But then again, perhaps it is easier to do so when there is less self-doubt, and when others do not place the burden of social interactions upon me.  For that is always a burden, not a blessing.  Like beasts in the plain, they come and assume that they will lift me up together with them.  But it is only a strain on my energy when I must evade their attempts.  Not flitting about, dancing like a butterfly that you cannot catch, but rather, fading into nothingness, like a mirage that you tried to grasp but then realized was not there for you to touch at all.

I retreat into the shadows, and wait until every one has left.  It is only then that I can shuffle across the grass, staring at the clouds, with a gentle smile on my face that no one will see.  Her strength is my strength, and her quietness is my resolve.  Even she is not perfect -- for even she has not yet made a difference.  But she is at peace with who she is.  I wonder if she is at peace with who I am as well?

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

    Marco smiled. An actual, nonmocking smile, which is rare for him. “I remember back when you didn’t want to have to make all the big decisions.”

    “I still don’t want to make them,” I said. “But someone has to, right?”

    “Yep.” He nodded.

    “I just want to get back to a life someday where I don’t have to make decisions that might get people killed.”

    “Do you?” Now Marco’s smile was definitely of the mocking variety. “You really think someday we can all go back to being regular kids? You think after being the leader of the Animorphs you can go back to being Joe Average Student?”

    “Yes, I do.” I said it forcefully. I meant it.

--Animorphs #16 - The Warning

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Well let's see.

My mental health hasn't been the greatest lately.  It happens.  The best you can do is to recognize it and care appropriately, so that's kind of what I've been doing.

Also, it seems that learning to just take the L is a lifelong process.  But a necessary one.  Sometimes you really just gotta take the L.  Sometimes you misplay, sometimes you get a bad matchup, sometimes you get outplayed, and sometimes you just run into unfortunate circumstances.  Whatever it is, you just...lose sometimes.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Touhou 11: Subterranean Animism Hard 1CC

9 years after my Imperishable Night Hard 1CC, I finally got back on the Touhou grind and just got my 1CC on Hard difficulty for Touhou 11: Subterranean Animism! (using ReimuA).

Been a long time coming on this one.  I was super intimidated by trying SA on hard since I remember SA being quite hard, but this actually took less practice than I thought it would!  Lost control of stage 5 at a few points (orinnnnn) and had to use some extra bombs because of that, and I had one or two really silly deaths that I should not have, but I got to the latter part of Utsuho's fight with plenty of resources and had lives to spare after finishing everything.  I was shaking during the utsuho fight from a bit of nervousness, but I still pulled it together and played VERY well for utsuho's spellcards, even heaven and hell meltdown which I survived against (at 0 power) for quite a while before finally getting hit, impressing even myself.  Honestly stage 3 was the make or break for this run I feel like, as I tended to have problems reading the lasers and thus would lose lives stupidly.  Past that it was just getting used to some of the sections, getting everything in my head, and practicing some of the patterns, especially Satori's nonspells.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Finished up Hero Hours Contract -- only took a little bit more, as I thought.  It feels weird trying to give a full critique of a game that I'm associated with, so perhaps I ought not to.

Our Stardew Valley farm is going great!  We're in Summer year 2 and have just finished the community center, unlocking a bunch of new content, both in the main game and SDV expanded as well.  We're definitely past the point where we ever played before, and it has actually been pretty nice pacing in that things were just starting to get a little routine when suddenly even more content opened up.  Playing SDV is always a really interesting facsimile of patterns and habits in real life as you've got a combination of routine plus trying to expand / explore / do new things / work on projects on and around your farm.  There's only so many hours in a day so it's sometimes, somewhat strikingly, an exercise in trying to plan out routes and routines, scheduling whatever makes the most sense to accomplish in a day, and most importantly, to juggle countless numbers of improvement projects.  Anything from:

- Taking various items to the sewing machine in Emily's house to make new clothes out of
- Checking the shops for interesting wallpapers or floorings
- Upgrading equipment at the smith
- Dyeing clothes to make for nice outfits
- Diving into skull cavern for iridium ore
- Proceeding along whichever questline (mr qi stuff, etc)
- Tending to the greenhouse and gradually replacing all of the crops in there with Ancient Fruits
- Foraging and mining for raw materials (wood, coal, fiber, hardwood, ...)
- Expanding the fenced off area for the animals
- Crafting more kegs, preserve jars, tea saplings, etc.

The daily cycle and layout of things makes it so that you never are really just taking one thing until completion, or at least I'm not.  But maybe that's just a reflection of how I live life...

These more frequent blog updates feel good, as expected...

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Not sure what to do, which I guess means it's probably time to write a blog post, if nothing else...

California legislative session ended, apparently it was somewhat of a shitshow, but you know...I guess that's the world we live in nowadays.

Hero Hours Contract came out and it was cool to see another game (besides Mysterious Space) come out with a soundtrack completely made by me.  I think I'm most of the way through the game at this point, just need to finish it up now.

I've been recruited to work on music for a Carole & Tuesday fanzine project!  Will be doing one or two vocal collabs as part of that work, which is pretty exciting.

It's already September which means it's time to start getting a little ahead on work...Inktober stuff in particular, because Ludum Dare is rolling around again near the beginning of October.  This also means it's going to be time to upgrade Godot again and make sure everything is still working and AOK.  Interestingly, Godot 3.2.2 adds C# support for iOS, meaning I could theoretically switch over to working in C# if I so desire.  However, further testing is needed, really, before I make that leap.  Last I remember I was already making iOS exports using 3.2 instead of 3.2.1 because of an issue with the exporter/template, but anyways...we'll see.  Since the Carole & Tuesday stuff is all due basically right after, I'll pretty much want to be mostly done with that entire project...

There's still a bunch of gamedev tasks on the backlog too...including the 4wide trainer, as well as updating Watch for Falling Rocks (of all things), for which I'll be making a new app ID for since I seem to have lost my old keystore.

So yeah, I guess there are plenty of things for me to do really.

I feel...okay mostly.  I caught up on sleep last night which was good, I think this morning and afternoon actually felt pretty pleasant.  If we can keep this current trend going for the week I think things will be in a good place...

Monday, August 31, 2020

It's always easier to write about things at the time, than to try and recall previous feelings at a later point.  I guess that's why blogging every day after school always felt like a nice thing...

Most of last week was pretty busy (and even a few days the week before, honestly), mostly with work stuff, though that slowed down towards the end of the week.  I was left this weekend with a weird feeling of not knowing whether I should try to just catch up on some stuff that I need to do (to feel better), or to just try to not really do anything productive at all (to feel better).  When "being productive" and "being not productive" are sometimes two different roads to the same outcome it becomes difficult to evaluate where I should go.  As always, though, balance is usually the right answer, and my mind is quick to course-correct whenever it has strayed too far in one direction or the other.

Yesterday, for example, I didn't really get to check anything substantial off of the todo list at all, so today I ended up making up for it by handling an album release, then working on a song for 4 hours, as well as writing and finishing a letter.  Pretty much any day where I get to put significant progress (in this case, finishing the entire rough draft) towards a song outside of OHC time is usually a good day for me...

Did some "fun but also hard work" things this past week as well.  We had a sushi night where I got to play sushi chef and make 4 different types of nigiri.  Although my raw fish were not quite the ideal shapes/sizes, it was quite an experience trying to slice through them in one clean motion with my knife.  I can see why people use single beveled blades for this stuff -- you can really feel it when your knife isn't up to snuff for this particular task.  Forming the sushi rice itself was much easier this time, knowing that the "water" that you dip your hands into to avoid rice sticking should actually be a mixture of water and rice vinegar...  We also did a hair bleaching + dyeing session, so I'm back to a deep blue color with some purple tips.

I've got a mental "checkup" of sorts coming up and thinking about that was a good chance for me to inventory what has potentially been bothering me in my life, even if those things are not really rearing their ugly heads at me at this moment.  Usually it's the same few things, honestly...stress, people, family, and loss (not necessarily in that order).  Out of all of those loss is the one that is perhaps most pervasive, though it also is not really as much of an issue when I'm busy being distracted by all the other ones.  Thoughts about loss and "abandonment" are of a different nature really, than all of the other ones, and I'm sure that is obvious just from the way that I write about it.

As we settle into September it's important (as always) that we continue to track what makes sense for us to do in terms of our goals for Social Studies.  Listening to an online LGBTQ+ roundtable for the city that I live in, one of the takeaways I got from it was how important it can be to make it obvious in our communities and interactions that we are thinking about inclusivity and to call out gender typing / etc.  This is of course something that I've thought about a lot in the past as it relates to typecasting social dance roles, but there are a number of ways in which we can probably do better about that outside of dance as well.  I've tried to make my pronouns (now listed as "he/him/she/her all OK") present in a few more places as that is something that is quite easy to do.  I admittedly still have to get used to bringing that up when introducing myself, though that is difficult since introducing myself is something that so rarely happens in the first place...but I guess I can always start asking when I meet new people too.  Honestly though, a lot of the time I hardly even ask for people's names when I meet them...bleh

In other news, I've been trying to get a little bit more aware of my sleep cycles -- not just my schedule of sleeping itself, but trying to be a little more conscious of regulating exactly how much sleep I get.  After one too many times of waking up groggy due to getting "the wrong" amount of sleep I figured I should probably try to do a better job of figuring out what the "right" amount of sleep is.  I've figured out for example that I tend to come out of a sleep cycle about 4 hours after sleeping, but I've yet to solidly figure out whether 7.5 or 8 or 9 are good number of hours for me to really feel ready to wake up in the morning (though I can guess).

I've been a little less involved with positive activism than I'd like to be.  Granted, I've been busy, so that is sort of an excuse for it, but I don't think that's really the whole story either.  I think I skimped a bit on research that I should have done in the meantime for more critical activism.  Anyways, right now instead of that I've actually been thinking to sort of sidetrack my efforts and instead look for penpal programs.  I tried writing a letter for the Letters to Strangers project and I may do so again but I felt like it did feel a bit impersonal to be sending a letter into the void.  Granted, these blog posts are perhaps much the same thing, and there are certain times at which perhaps I would be ok with sending a letter to the void.  But it seems perhaps more in line with my sensibilities to send a letter that is actually directed towards someone.  I've joined up with a program that claims to pair writers with nursing home patients/workers to write to, so we'll see if that ends up going anywhere.  Who knows, maybe I will end up finding someone who will actually write back, unlike all of those many people who seem to only exist in the memories of my past.