Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Massive Undertale writeup, some other random things as well

I've been meaning to post about Undertale (or i guess, UNDERTALE, if I should stylize it that way?) for a while now, but it's difficult to know where to begin; as if nothing I write could ever properly encapsulate the thoughts that I have on it.

But I suppose I'll start this post off with all of the non-spoilery stuff first, and some non-Undertale topics as well, to get that out of the way.



NON-UNDERTALE STUFF
=====

I did some glowsticking last week!  That's right, still doing it every once in a blue moon, usually just a couple times a year, haha.  It's actually still great fun, even though my skills certainly aren't leveling up given how infrequently I session.  The videos are here if you're interested.  It's also quite interesting to see and experiment with how my glowsticking movements have or have not been influenced by my social dance and vice-versa.  For the most part I don't think they really cross-pollinate each other, but it's interesting to try and incorporate the different styles...

Speaking of social dance, I hope to finally make it out to Mission City Swing tonight!  I'm actually super excited; getting a chance to dance good WCS is always cause for celebration.

Pet Furball is out on Google Play!  We're still waiting on apple store approval, and I probably won't be publicizing it much until then, but so far so good!  It definitely took some amount of hours sitting down with my laptop to try and figure out how to bundle and package and ready my haxepunk app for distribution but in the end it actually wasn't quite so bad once I sorted it all out!

Progress on Zenith Fighter continues bit by bit...it's a bit slow since I don't work on it every day (boo), but progress is still progress.  As I'll mention later, I think I'm actually fairly motivated to keep working on it as I think it's important to test myself to see whether I can really tackle a bigger project such as this one by myself -- the closest I've come to this so far is the post-compo version of Melody Muncher.  At some point I should figure out how to get some animated gifs or something posted of it, but at the moment I've ironed down some basic animations for the Gunner character, who I changed the design for and is now modeled after the character from Rhythm Gunner.  At first I had a more risk-of-rain-like character figure, with a full body and limbs, but after thinking about it again I think the cuter/simpler Rhythm Gunner design is both easier to work with and easier to read as a visual shape as well.  I'm still a novice at the whole pixeling thing so it's best not to push myself too far, anyways.  Next up I need to finish implementing a basic enemy, and then I can move onto other features like level generation and room transitions, perhaps.

Work on Christmas letters continues...I'm on number 19 at the moment.  I'm probably going to shoot for maybe around 5-10 more and then call it quits, as deadlines are already looming very quickly.  Gift-shopping needs to happen soon as well!

Calligraphy talk: My oblique pen holders came in the mail!  I got two of them -- one for my Nikko G nib and one for my Brause EF66.  I briefly considered getting one for the Leonard Principal nib that I have, but for now I think I prefer the Brause EF66 as it seems a little bit easier to handle.  Perhaps I'll move onto to the Leonard Principal once I've gotten some more practice.

The oblique holders feel wonderful and I don't see how I could ever produce any satisfying calligraphy without them; suddenly everything just feels "right" and makes a lot of sense.  I've started to watch some instructional videos about the basic forms and techniques of Copperplate lettering and am excited to start trying to actually practice making some ovals and lowercase letters in that style the next time I sit down to have a writing session.

Work on music has slowed down, unfortunately, though I did send off an initial stub of something to A-zu-ra to see if he wants to collab on it again.  I have vague desires of doing some sort of remix album, maybe a Steven Universe or Undertale one, but no concrete plans yet; perhaps it's better to just finish off my dance album first!  I'm beginning to get a little burned out by commission work, but fortunately the work has slowed down as well -- Copy Girl is taking a dev hiatus (boo) and Mysterious Space doesn't have many more needs from me either.

In other news, Super Cartography Bros is out now, with a thumpin EDM track from me!  Go and download it, it's pretty legit!



NON-SPOILERY UNDERTALE STUFF
======

Phew!  It's been a while since I've written a blog post this long (828 words and counting!).  I know most of you are going to just skim over it, but that's fine too!

Anyways, Undertale.  Where do I begin?  Perhaps the most poignant part about Undertale is not just the fact that it's a very well-done and amazing game and all that, but the ways in which I find it affecting myself in the rest of my life.  I don't mean to sound cheesy and say that Undertale "made me into a nicer person" or anything bland like that, but I've been thinking about Undertale a lot recently, and it has seriously made me contemplate some very important things about life; whether I'm making the right choices, what kind of person I am and whether I'm happy with the way that I act.  I'll go into this more in the spoiler-filled section, I think, but suffice to say that, like Journey before it, Undertale is really thought-provoking in the best possible way.

It's got a great soundtrack too!  Now, I've only played through the game once (planning on more soon!), but thus far my favorite tracks are probably the main theme, Undertale, as well as "Shop".  The first because it's really emotionally moving and has a ton of emotional subtext associated with it, and the latter because the flutey square wave lead is literally the sweetest thing ever and makes me want to cry.  Haha, I guess I just like being emotional, huh?  But seriously, great props to Toby Fox -- the soundtrack alone actually is really inspiring to me, both as an indie game dev and as a composer; I think it does a ton of things right and listening to it and its varied styles really makes me want to aspire to create soundtracks that can do similar things, although I know I have a tendency to make all of my music a bit same-sounding, with a similar "intense 9-bit chiptune" feel.

Is Undertale a game for everyone?  Well...maybe not, but then again, I would argue that Journey isn't a game for everyone either.  But I don't think that it makes it any less of a game by that fact -- I've already talked in a previous post about how it's impossible to make your game "universally accessible", and how that really shouldn't MATTER so much when we talk about whether these things are valuable anyways.  I will say, however, that it feels like a growing number of people are learning to experience games through twitch and/or youtube playthroughs.  While I still think it's kind of just "odd" in a silly way to watch someone else play a game like that instead of playing it yourself, I actually admit that I do see the value in that; not all people need to approach "playing" games the same way.

Perhaps the most important thing about Undertale is just the way that it showcases what is possible within the medium.  Journey showed us how we can foster *genuine* human connection and universal emotional experiences (the hero's journey, joy of movement, companionship, excitement, wonder, separation, frustration, peace) within the framework of video games, and similarly, The Last of Us shows us how we can weave storytelling and narrative into gameplay such that they are tightly woven together seamlessly, as if you are "experiencing" events as they unfold (the first playable section of TLOU is amazing at achieving this).

In the same way, Undertale shows us how a game can pose us difficult questions about "life" and "moral ethics" (ish), how it can make us emotionally invested in characters, and how we can experience games as a place to "meet friends" (NPCs, not other people), not as a place to destroy enemies.  The type of agency that Undertale provides you with as the player is actually striking when you think about it, and I don't think I've ever felt the same way before when playing any other game.  I sincerely wish that more games could provide such hopeful messages and inspire people to think about life, love, and kindness.

From Toby Fox's twitter:

Hearing "UNDERTALE made me want to be kinder" or "UNDERTALE helped me through a dark time" feels more valuable than any award or score.

So anyways, in short, Undertale is amazing, you should go play it, blahblahblah, as expected, and it joins the ranks of Journey/etc. as being probably one of the most important games of our generation, IMHO.  Even if you don't like it personally (whatttt??), I really stand by my belief that it's very important in what it has done.

It also makes me regret not having finished playing through Earthbound (*hides in a corner*), but...hey, that can be fixed!


Last thing, Undertale also really makes me inspired just in terms of being an excellent indie game made by a single person.  I think seeing something so wonderful really motivates me to keep on doing what I am doing with all of my other games -- Melody Muncher, Ripple Runner, Rain, and inspires me to keep on working on Zenith Fighter as well.  I guess you could say it....fills me with......INSPIRATION! (psyche!).  Seriously though, I think seeing Undertale is a sort of validation that what I am doing with my life is the Right Thing, and that it's actually really important to me to continue making indie games, regardless of whether or not it's relevant to my day job.

I also feel extremely grateful that I've been able to make it this far -- it's taken many years of work and training, but all of those dreams I had 10+ years ago of making my own games are actually coming to fruition.  Just think, in two weeks I'll have made another game for Ludum Dare, as well!  So hey, ol me from 10 years ago -- just keep on playing with your little level editors and your scraggedy little Pascal programs (that was my first programming language...crazy, ain't it?), you're gonna get there someday!


Below this point there be spoilers for Undertale, so beware and proceed at your own risk!
======






MORE UNDERTALE STUFF - INCLUDING SPOILERS

SPOILERS AHEAD!
======

Well, the first thing I should say is that I played through the game once so far, with a not-quite-100% pacifist run, some kills in the beginning that were either experimental and/or accidental.  So I can't speak to any of the other content that is past where I am so far.

That said, there's still a lot to be said!  But again, where do I even begin?  Argh!  How about that fight with Toriel?  That one really almost broke my heart, honestly.  Sigh, I've started to have a penchant for vividly experiencing the opening acts of these games and being awed...the same thing happened with The Last of Us, haha.  But I tried confronting Toriel multiple times, running away multiple times, and finally, tried just throwing myself into her flames.  Well, you probably know what ended up happening from there.  Well played...well played.  Did you know that after I ran away from her the first time, that's when I grabbed the toy knife from the other room?  That was probably planned, eh?  Even if not, that's awfully well-done as symbolism.  I love it.

One interesting theme that kept running across my mind as I was playing through Undertale and confronted with all of these tough decisions, mostly the imminent "will you stay with the monsters in your 'new home'?  or give up this world to return to the your past life?", was that I found myself playing through the game with the emotional mindset that I really, really wanted to return to the surface world.  I think that comes from my attachment to the past, really -- I think that it's only right that things be returned to their rightful place, and all that.  But of course, it's interesting because in Undertale you aren't given any backstory about the surface world.  Was it a good place?  Is it somewhere that's even worth returning to?  I think the fact that it's ambiguous makes for a more nuanced feeling of conflict, at least in my mind, between what is "right" and what is....well, "right".  And of course, it goes even deeper, because as you meet Asgore, you realize that (as with all great stories), you've circled back to the beginning, and wouldn't it be great if you could just "return home" to that wonderful Earthbound-style house, with the nice music and everything?

As I played through the game I became more and more affixed to the path of Mercy.  When I was in the fight with Undyne, it was already starting to solidify my beliefs that I would try first and foremost for Mercy, and became determined in that way of "fighting".  But the real test of course came when I was fighting Asgore.  Boy, what a fight that was.  That was potentially the most "difficult" boss fight that I've ever come across, because it assaulted me in a way that was totally and completely different.  Rather than testing my skill, reflexes, coordination, and intelligence, it tested my moral character.  As I dodged Asgore's flames and slashes, I knew -- I knew, that I could end it all by turning to the ever-present "Fight" button.  But I would not, could not, until I knew that it truly was the only option.  I had already taken the life of poor old Toriel -- did I really want to repeat the same crime?

And so, for the first time in a boss battle, I felt an extreme sense of struggle, because I did not know what to do.  And as I kept on dodging the bullets, searching for some way, some way of getting through to Asgore, I kept hoping that something would happen, that something would change, that if I survived long enough...

And it continued to test my character.  I could see that Asgore's attacks were getting stronger, but after a point, they ceased to change, and I began to fear the worst -- that nothing was going to change.  And then I turned to my other option -- being killed by his attacks.  For the first time in the entire game, I faced the GAME OVER screen.  And on that screen itself, Asgore simply told me, "Don't give up!"

And I didn't.  I faced him once again, once again he destroyed my "Mercy" button, and again, I attempted to talk to him.  "You've killed me before," I told him.  And he nodded.  And for me, this was hope.  Hope that maybe my act had changed something.  And so I tried again.  And I ran myself into Asgore's fires, throwing away my life, only to confront him again, telling him "You've killed me twice now".  And every time, Asgore simply told me, "Don't lose hope!"

I actually ran into Asgore's fires 10 times, telling him "You've killed me mote times than I can count" before I finally understood that there was no choice.  And even as I finally "Fought" him, when he was "at low HP", I tried again.

Yeah, it was intense.  Of course, the actual bullet dodging and everything was child's play compared to the real battle that was going on for me -- how I was trying to do everything in my power to avoid a predestined fate.

So, well, it was a bit of a no-brainer when I was given the choice between execution and Mercy.  Although I certainly did hesitate.  After all, was it not him who had just told me to do the deed?  Sometimes, taking a life can be right after all, I think (thinking back to Gakkou Gurashi and the "promise" that was made to Kurumi).  But I think, coming this far, I needed to just stay true to my path.

And when I was confronted with the same choice for Flowey, ...dear god, I don't know if you could have posed a tougher question to me, Toby Fox.  In the end, I decided once again that coming this far, I needed to stick to Mercy.  It's not like me to change my beliefs, after all.  But it was certainly a moment that I won't soon forget.  And I think Undertale was very successful in instilling a momentous weight upon that choice because after all that had happened (especially in the Flowey battle), it certainly doesn't feel like a trivial matter to just "hit reload and try the other choice", as it often is with these sorts of decisions in other games.

Also, Papyrus grew on me in a way that I never thought possible for a character!  I normally am totally not drawn to characters that are like him, and at first I really thought I was just pulling him along for a ride and teasing him (I guess that's the point), but after a while (after we were out of Snowdin and everything) I began to think back on it, and man, he actually mattered to me!  Not in the same was as Toriel did, or anything, mind you, but the relationship with Papyrus actually was very poignant for me in that it made me think very hard about the interactions that I have with other people in my life.  Although Papyrus certainly wasn't the most "emotionally evocative" character by any means, it felt the most "real" for me in that sense.  After finishing Undertale I really began to think about how those interactions with Papyrus forged a real (if humorous) friendship, and how Papyrus and Sans in a way served as very real friends and anchors (well, Alphy as well, I guess), and I thought about how I don't really have these sorts of interactions with people in real life.  Am I really content and satisfied to just sit back and be passive, not really bothering to try and make friends with people, to approach them, try to ask them about their lives, ...?  This isn't a new train of thought for me, but Undertale and Papyrus really brought it into a new light, I think.  I began to think about all of the stupid, meaningless, trivial interactions in my life, like (not) saying hi to coworkers, passing other people in the hallways or on the street, running into other people at dance, all of these things.  And I think it made me consider what it might be like if I were to try and change the way I interact with other people.

Also, damn, the whole sequence leading up to Asgore...was that something, or what?  I liked the Paulstretched piece of music ("The Choice") that plays in the golden room as well, for the same reason that I LOVE "Reflection" from the FEZ OST.  And then of course, "Undertale", which is the perfect musical piece accompanying all of those memories and imagery as you make your way towards what you know is the final encounter, and of course, the final choice.  I wanted to start crying as I was hearing that song, haha.  Knowing that one way or another, we must make a choice.  A weighty one, at that.

Alright, I think that's all I've got.  Sorry if you actually slogged your way through all of these walls of text ^^;  But in closing, congratulations TobyFox on a job well done, and I'll be revisiting the world of Undertale soon -- probably with even more emotional significance the second (and third??) time around.

It's great to be alive.  The "golden era" of games is long past, but our present is still filled with wonderful experiences to be had in gems like these.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Xmas wishlist official 2015

Gift shopping can be hard!  At the risk of sounding pretentious, here's a helpful post for anyone trying to shop for me this year (don't feel obliged to!).

My wishlist can always be found at my "profile" which I keep regularly updated at https://www.dropbox.com/s/gqpf0zag6cx96an/Profile.txt?dl=0.  Currently we have the following main items as things that I happen to be in need of...

Car dash mount for phone

A petticoat to wear under my Journey cosplay.  Probably one with drawstring waistband.  Like this one which I borrowed from my friend.
Musician's earplugs / concert earplugs
A nice cloth messenger bag (like the one that I carry around everywhere)
A nice gyutou or santoku chef's knife and a sharpening stone (because my current knives suck)
http://blackoctopus-sound.com/product/leviathan/
http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Copperplate-Calligraphy-Step-Step/dp/0486409511 (paperback is fine) Taken, thanks Yang!
A sewing machine Don't know if I actually need this anymore
A cute key-cap (I lost my Kiki one and need a replacement D:)
A good-sized cast iron skillet (10 inch?) (so I can sear meat really good) Taken, thanks BZ!
Sea salt (koshering salt) (I just have table salt right now, harder to measure and spread with fingers)
Cute lens cleaning cloths for glasses
Bath & Body Works "Cherry Blossom" shampoo, conditioner, shower gel (not japanese cherry blossom) <- Looks like this scent is only available online now
Kontakt 5
Zebra2

Of course, don't feel restricted to the above items.  Actually, the best thing I can ask for is your time and company, or a handwritten letter or a personal message or phone call.

For those of you who want to be a little more creative, let's try and not go the route of getting me random Hello Kitty items that I don't have any practical use for...I think we're a little past that point by now =/  Of course, Little Twin Stars and Cinnamoroll are always still fine :)

Cash is always appreciated!  If you don't like giving hard cash, amazon gift card works just as well.  I also frequently shop at nob hill and whole foods.

I'm not in need of any MtG supplies, stationery, or any games either, really, but if you want to get me a game, you can head to my steam wishlist here.  Notably, the Mighty Switch force games are on sale (see here).  If you want to get me clothes, the brand that I wear right now is one based in China, translated to English as "Fairyland", you can see some pages here and here.

I need to get all my gifts bought and sorted out too...good luck to everybody this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Take me back
take me back
back to the past

I didn't even want to open Facebook this time; I stopped myself, in fact.  Can I actually think back to any real value that I've gotten from that online space recently?  Well, actually, I just asked a pertinent question about cooking to an old friend, and that was -certainly- useful, but besides that....?  Well, I guess it could be worse; at least it's not the ghost-town that G+ is *laughs*.  Still though, it's pretty bad, I think.  Maybe I should look into telling the omnipresent FB algorithms what I like and don't like to see in "the stream", but for one thing, I've never been all that confident in that, and for another thing, what's to say that there's anything I =would= like to see anyways!? (not to mention, it could just be another "close door" elevator button, hah!)


I'd rather just fish around for remnants of the old past.  C's xanga archives are still up, actually, and of course there's always "Love Everlasting" (no, not the album), my old archive which is now hosted on wordpress.  Heck, maybe I should just ask archive.org and see if any of my old friends' sites are still saved in the cloudy time machines of the interwebs.  Caclarient, for one!  ...hm, no, it seems that that one is all gone =(  Phirepyro is still there in the archives though, wow!  Man, such good names.  Gosh, how =awesome= it felt, creating a space for yourself, defining yourself through your own name.  It was liberating, fun, and...dare I say, healthy?  I mean, sure, maybe we were all just stupid immature teenagers venting about problems that didn't really matter (no, I don't believe that), but still, looking back, that's a loss that I feel.

I know I've had thoughts about making a handwritten blog; about being personal, bringing back the "humanity" to the online spaces that I might have the opportunity to curate.  But I think there is also something to be said about building that sort of persona and identity--one removed from your real name, before all of this silly business about "social profiles" and "friend groups" and UGH!  Back when it was all just spaces that you curated yourself--your own little corner of the internet that you can just set up however you want, and visit others who did the same.  Am I the only one who misses any of that?

At least this blog is a little reminder of what things could be.  And of course, the 3rd incarnation of my website is still trying to hold fast to that tradition as well.

I had some more things to talk about, but I'd rather not right now.  I know I'm in a little bit of an upset mood; it was due to something sort of silly that I'd rather not get into that is not really a big deal at all.  Right now all I really want to do is call it a night...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Back to the Band Room...Again!

Tonight I went to go see the FHS marching band kids perform for their last night rehearsal of the marching season before championships.  The last night rehearsal has always been a big deal for me so out of all the days to stop by it's usually my favorite.  Last time I went to go see the band kids I believe was a year or two ago, I think also at the last night rehearsal.

So many things to write about!  Ahhhh!  So many things have changed since I was drum major 9 years ago, of course.  Marching band was a huge part of my life for those of you who don't know or who didn't know me back then.  It was something you really put your everything into, although it was also probably more stressful than anything else I've done so far in life, hahaha.  I was actually thinking about it a few minutes ago, how it really puts things into perspective -- my current job and troubles and everything seem so much more relaxed and easy than things were back then!  But of course, keep in mind that I was just not that good at handling those kinds of pressure situations back then -- I was REALLY stressed out during my tenure as drum major, in a way, probably more than I had to be...

Anyways, things have changed so much!  But at the same time, it was nice to recognize one or two old faces too!  Warren apparently is still there as music staff, and so is Bryan "Poptart" who was just a freshman during my senior year as DM!  I couldn't believe it at first, haha...man!  It was great getting to catch up with them and share some old stories...apparently Poptart is still spreading the lore of "Kenneth riding on an elephant at a monster truck rally", of which I have an illustration here, from my 1kbwc set:


As a small tangent, the 1kwbc "set" of 250 cards that I made is downloadable (with some preview images) at my 1kbwc page, on my old google sites website.  I haven't made a page for it yet on my new website, but should eventually.

For those of you who don't know the story, I'll go ahead and explain it here...it's probably my #1 most retold marching band story of all time.  So Kenneth was my good friend at the time, also a senior, and lead trumpet player.  As the lead trumpet player, also responsible for a significant portion of the band -- I mean, we were never the biggest band, maybe 90ish total?  So we only had like 50 or so horn players.

Anyhow, Kenneth was taking these afterschool math classes of some sort (I'd call him a geek, but that'd be coming from me, the guy who took multivariable calc, differential calc, linear algebra, stats, etc. all at community college and maxed out on transfer credits going into stanford, never having to take any math classes at college ever), so occasionally he'd be late to nighttime rehearsals.

Now, being a small band, we always tended to have problems with volume and sounding loud.  I was always trying to get the band to play louder during warmups, especially my former section, the flutes, who of course are notorious for never being heard!  But this one day we were off in our usual spot and I was warming up the horn players and I was just like....man, come on guys, what's the matter?  It was even worse than usual that day.

So I had all the horn players huddle up together, and I was like "Guys, what's going on?  Why are you guys so soft?"  And I think either Poptart or Bobby Rose points out, "Kenneth's not here."  And I was just like "......oh."  because of course that made perfect sense.  But then I was like "No no no, come on guys, we don't NEED Kenneth.  Alright, alright...here's what I want you guys to do:  I want you guys to think of things that are LOUD.  Like, really loud things!"

"Elephants!" someone says (I want to say it was Sai Masumoto?)

"Alright!  Elephants are loud!  Good, good....alright, what else?"

"MONSTER TRUCK RALLY" -- this time it was Sam, trombone player, whose last name escapes me now for some reason =(

"...wait, what?"

"Monster truck rally!!"

"...uh...okay, yeah!  Yeah, okay!  Monster truck rally!  That's loud too!  Alright, what else?"

"....Kenneth!"  (maybe Bobby?)

".........ooookay.....well, sure, I guess."  "Okay, okay, so, here's what I want you guys to do.  I want you...to play.....like *Kenneth*....RIDING on an Elephant.....AT A MONSTER TRUCK RALLY!  THAT'S how loud I want you guys to be, okay?  Everyone got it?  Alright, let's do this.  Number 4 (or whatever the chord progression was in those days). "

So we did it...everyone was playing at blastissimo/blartissimo/blat city...and it was....quite something.  Yeah, man, it was pretty loud, and basically sounded like utter crap.  I cut them off.

"UHHHhhhh....yeah.  Well....okay.  So, you guys....basically sounded exactly what I told you guys to sound like.  .....yeah, that was terrible.  Let's never do that again."

And thus was born, the legend of "Kenneth riding an elephant at a monster truck rally", the loudest thing in the universe.

Speaking of loudness, DAMN, those flutes marching down there, what the heck??  I could hear them loud and clear, it was insane!  Their flute angles were perfect too....omg, I was so happy and proud.  Wuaahhh, flutes, you guys are awesome!  And holy crap, they have an awesome flute solo, and the girl is just TOO GOOD.  Like sure, it was mic'ed and everything, but even so, her tone was AMAZING, and the vibrato was spot on and everything, like....what the heck???  Unbelievable!  Mad props to her!  Also, I know it was mic'ed, but tonight I heard something I would never, ever, ever hear before--a staff member talking about trumpets: "Yeah, I heard them, but they were getting drowned out by the flute."  wahahahahaa, when pigs fly!  Man....crazy!

Drumline had some really sweet and cool moments!  My senior year's snareline definitely could not have pulled off what they did I don't think?  They had some sweet visuals going on...actually, hornline had some really sweet visuals too.  I was really hype about the whole thing, to be honest.  I was quite impressed!

Anyways, it was quite fun getting to go see the kids again, I think I felt really good about it this time especially, and it was also really great being able to say hi to Warren and Poptart again.  I even brought along Bob the tuning rock and Jane the marching stone, which I showed to em so they could remember, hahaha.  Good times, very good times!  Little known trivia--I actually gave Bob and Jane to Chris Betts after I graduated, and it wasn't until later that he returned them to me for safekeeping.

Kids seem like they're doing really well!  Rehearsal also seems more chill in general now too...probably due to "certain things" having mellowed out a bit; I'm sure if you've been there you'll know what I mean.  I wish them all the best on their champs performance, and also wish that there will NOT be a super-crazy windstorm like there was during our second champs performance for my sophomore year (my first year doing MB) where our flutes were making soft noises even when we weren't playing, and the guards' hats were =everywhere=, and we could see trophies being knocked down on the tables in front of us....haha, what a crazy time.

Also, some traditions don't change...they're still doing the ol "Are you cold/why not/because we're firebirds" chant, which actually hit me in the feels when they did it, remembering all the times I shouted that myself.  Some traditions =do= change though, and I think they're super weird!  Their last night rehearsal has an in-uniform performance, which I think is cool but don't really like because....I don't really like uniformed performances to be honest, I love just having the band be....themselves!  And they don't do senior 8s and 8s at that rehearsal anymore either!  Which I think is a big shame, to be honest, since I think that's pretty important.  I guess apparently they do it the week after, along with a bunch of other senior stuff?  Very interesting...

Anyhoo, I'm off to bed after a pretty exciting night.  Feeling better so I'll probably make it into work and to FNW tomorrow, though I'll still have a leftover dry cough for a while I'm sure.  Looking forward to a good friday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Two years ago on this day, November 17th, I presented Love Everlasting to Aivi & Surasshu!  Wishing Aivi a happy birthday today :)  Reminds me that it's time to really start working on Christmas stuff =X

I got sick...poo!  Just my body telling me that I need to take a rest, which makes sense.

Work on Zenith Fighter has been going alright!  I've got my Gunner character moving around and jumping, and I've even got one-way platforms implemented as well.  In addition, I've got my Projectile framework all written up, so I have super-parameterizable projectiles that can be created with a bunch of different properties, all using function-chaining syntax.  My next step is to get an enemy implemented, and some damage numbers....at this point I'm just hoping to get all the different basic elements of the game working one by one.

I've been getting more and more requests for commissions!  If this is you, a reminder that my policies on this sort of stuff is all written up here.  I can't take any new commissions at the moment since I'm all booked up with work for Copy Girl, as well as having to finish up some stuff for Mysterious Space.  I don't have a lot of time for making music these days, so my commission rates will probably going up...I can't justify giving up previous music-making time when I still have my own things I need to accomplish, like my social dance album! (which is going to be giant)  I also need to do some more collab work with A-zu-ra when I can...=P

My latest song for Copy Girl is this one, which I initially intended to be a theme for Fuze, the rocker, which is why it's got attitude and a screamin guitar-like solo, but the team decided to swap the two songs, so now this one is for Stain and the other first theme that I wrote is for Fuze.  Confusing!

We did a BFZ draft at work and I got an insane pool!  U/R devoid with 3 kozilek's sentinel, 3 nettle drone, 2 vile aggregate, 2 touch of the void, processor assault, turn against, clutch of currents...pretty insane.  The decklist is here if you want to see all its glory.  I actually subbed out a chasm guide (3R for 3/2 haste rally) for a Boiling Earth...I have a dearth of 4-drops and also have firemantle mage so I thought chasm guide would be reasonable, but I think it's still my weakest card and I'm not really losing much by cutting it.  Boiling Earth on the other hand I haven't played with BUT I think it could actually be really great.  Not only does it mop up scions, but think about all of the power commons that it deals with -- eldrazi skyspawner (in a big way), lifespring druid, nettle drone are the big ones...even incubator drone makes a scion, as does eyeless watcher, call of the scions...also makindi sliderunner...and it even randomly hoses other things like malakir familiar and zulaport cutthroat.  That's not even taking into account the combat situations that you can set up by casting it post-combat, plus sometimes you will randomly get value out of casting it for 7.  So I think it's the right choice, though of course you will be looking to side it out if you are against some deck that doesn't have targets. (probably a black one?)

The GCC dance on Saturday was really fun!  I ate dinner with Winnie and co beforehand, which was much yum, and also did a little bit of work on Zenith Fighter while waiting for the dance to really get rolling.  I got to have some really fun dances, especially some great times with JJ and Marie and Joachim too, and I got to meet JJ's friend Luna too!  Who encouraged me to make it out to Mission City Swing...sigh, too many reasons to go now, haha.  Well, I think I've clearly resolved to make it out there, but probably not this week just due to being sick...maybe next time...

FNW this week should be good though!  (Richard is DJing)

This Thursday (11/19) I'm planning on heading out to FHS to go see the band kids do their last night rehearsal...should be interesting!

Friday, November 6, 2015

I'm not sleeping enough...haha.  Sometimes it's hard to catch yourself, just like you sometimes don't realize how unrelaxed your back and shoulders are until you get a massage; you just don't really think about it too much since sometimes you just go through the motions.  Seems that right now I don't have as much of a buffer for getting not-as-much sleep for a day and then being okay with it; not sure if that's just because I've accumulated debt or because I'm just getting to be an old fogey.  Whatever the root cause is doesn't necessarily matter too much anyways =P

Thursday, November 5, 2015

There is actually something really sweet about Plague Knight's story and budding romance with Mona through Shovel Knight ~Plague of Shadows~.  I was actually super duper happy seeing them dance together.  I feel like usually the plotlines and such that run through similar sorts of games are a little corny and cheesy and all, but this one didn't feel that way at all!  I mean, sure, you could say it was a little predictable, but I don't think that made it any less sweet.

I think a big part of it is songs like https://virt.bandcamp.com/track/waltz-for-one really setting the mood.  virt really did a great job here, as he always does of course.  And I think in a way, it stays really true to what really gripped us and drew us into video games during the golden age -- a large part of it was the music, and the magic of those animated sprites.  Yes, the music was of a limited palette, and the art was very restricted as well, but those songs and graphics had =character=!  I wouldn't be the first person to say that perhaps it's exactly because they are less realistic that it's easier to extrapolate and interpret them.  Oh, Shovel Knight...what an insanely well-done game.

"I definitely think Shovel Knight's success is due to the brilliant designs of the 8-bit generation. Those games were fun, impacting, emotional, joyous, and much more. A lot of the feelings and enjoyment found in those game designs have been lost in today's age. I think having those elements be present again brought back great memories to a lot of people who experienced those games. And those who didn't play 8-bit games, Shovel Knight introduced that 8-bit gameplay in a way that was more approachable than booting up an NES game."



We must be responsible.
We must be faithful and loyal.
We must keep our promises.
We must remember the past
We must learn to say no.
We must apologize for our shortcomings, while accepting our failures.
We must stay true to ourselves.
We must remember what is important in life.
We must breathe.
We must be diligent.
We must accept others, and accept ourselves.
We must do what we need and what we want, not what we "should".
We must be honest, most to ourselves.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Been another while, huh?

Life has been pretty well lately; not been too "scared" lately.

I'm starting dev work on a new indie project!  Just working on it myself this time, code name "Zenith Fighter".  It's supposed to be an RoR-inspired roguelike where you go through rooms and fight enemies and grow stronger, but with more emphasis on good platforming and dodging and kiting.  Think of the dodging in games like Rhythm Gunner and Metal Slug, but put that together with action rpg-ish attacks and advancement?

Anyways, I've been thinking a lot about code architecture as I set out to start things off.  I want to take a pragmatic approach towards the code -- since it's a bit of a longer project I can't just hack in whatever the heck I feel like, and I should plan out the overarching design patterns and class hierarchy and responsibilities, but at the same time I also want to make sure I don't get too wrapped up in it because at the end of the day it's best if I can just Get Stuff Done (tm).  HaxePunk has served me well and I think I just really enjoy the no-nonsense simplicity of the framework that it offers, so I'll be sticking with that.  I also made the decision to not support networked multiplayer because doing so would be too much effort for not enough gain.  So, local multiplayer it is!  The plan is to distribute the native build and then have support for gamepads or whatever.

For a while I was considering using an Entity-Component System, like Ash (http://www.ashframework.org/) which has a Haxe port -- someone has even already done some work trying to roll Ash and HaxePunk together into the "Flaxen" framework.  But the more I thought about it, the less practical it seemed for my use cases.  I think ECS excels when you have a bunch of independent systems and lots of shared behavior across different entities.  Something like an RTS game with lots of units that have alike behaviors.  For my platformer-style game, it is true that we have a lot of logic that we want to share across enemies and such, I think a lot of the logic is FSM-state-driven...by that I mean my enemy wants to do something like "while in walking state, walk forward for 2 seconds.  Then transition to the shooting state where it does not walk and shoots at the player 3 times with cooldown.  Then transitions back to walking state".  Etc etc.  Now, this is definitely possible to do in ECS, via either having the FSM state embedded in some component, or by adding and removing components to mimic FSM states.  But I think fundamentally if you have your movement logic and shooting logic and everything split up across multiple systems, it makes it harder to reason about exactly how logic is happening within a single state?  It's much easier to have a centralized place for each FSM state where you can define exactly what happens for every aspect of the entity, as opposed to trying to think of movement, gravity, attacking, etc. independently.

So I guess it seems to me like if you have a bunch of systems that are easy to reason about independently, you should use independent systems.  But if you have a bunch of logic which are tightly coupled in your mind by design, then you should just tightly couple them in the code as well?

That said, the core idea of avoiding inheritance hell is a good precautionary warning to take heed of regardless.  For example, in my game Players and Enemies are fundamentally very different so they probably don't have a shared base class (aside from HaxePunk.Entity).  Their movement handling is very different in that Players have input-controlled movement and Enemies need some sort of state-dependent AI movement behavior.  However, we want to share the actual code for moving entities by a given amount and handling collisions, so that should be extracted into its own static shared function.  I guess what I'm saying is that ideally you share logic by having a bunch of pure input/output helper functions as opposed to trying to bake both shared data fields (member fields) and shared code functions (member functions) into some base class somewhere.

I dunno.  To be honest I think the most important part is just to start going at it; I think as I try to code things out, the use cases will become clear and I'll be able to form things sensibly.  Some parts of the design are also sort of up in the air right now too, such as how exactly character advancement and enemy difficulties will work.

Think I'm on a Seven Lions kick at the moment.  (See https://soundcloud.com/seven-lions/sets/remixes).  I feel like the dubstep-ish sound usually is a dish enjoyed in sparing, tasteful amounts because I feel like I can't handle too much of it before it gets grating, but I guess you could also say the same about normal trance and progressive, in that when you listen to =too= much of it it starts to sort of just blend together (and makes you sleepy).  Maybe I'll try experimenting with trying to move towards a Seven Lions-type sound, just to see what that's like, at some point.  For now though, I've got commission projects and such to work on.  I managed to get a good boss theme written for Copy Girl, though my first two attempts were false starts (hate those!).

Pretty behind on xmas letters, probably.  I've got only 9 done, sigh -_-;  Well, I'll try to get one more out of the way today!

Tried out my straight nib pen again yesterday...calligraphy feels really really satisfying!  Of course I'm still sort of getting the hang of it and my script is still pretty wobbly and I haven't actually gotten any actual alphabet/script memorized, but it's still fun to try and copy off of calligraphy worksheets.  I'm also quickly understanding how an oblique holder would help a lot, especially for slant styles.  Maybe I'll go and get myself some more nibs and holders soon after some more practice.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How easily are feelings changed?

I have always believed that consistent effort and dedication should be put forth into relationships, even during the times when I didn't.  But maybe the bonds that last are those for which that process is natural and easy.  I wonder how much of it is two people consciously trying to come to enjoyment with each other, and how much of it is just finding the right needle in a haystack?  The whole green vs. blue argument--destiny vs. free will, and nature vs. nurture.  I guess the simple answer is that both are necessary...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How can we teach ourselves to fail?  How can we learn to accept imperfection?  And how do I stop judging myself and others?  Why does it seem like everything that I turn to in my life, whether work or play, is a test, a trial, a pointed question of "are you good enough?"

Music Commissions!

Some of you may already know about this, but I've been working on some music commissions lately!





First up, Lunar Love is the theme song I made for CarlyontheMoon, a friendly twitch streamer who has used my music for quite some time.  Go check her channel out, it's going to be featured on the front page soon! :D

You can buy Lunar Love for $1 here: https://ddrkirbyisq.bandcamp.com/album/lunar-love




I've also signed on as the composer for Copy Girl, a Mega Man-esque platformer game that looks super sweet!  Here's the first finished song that I've scored for the game: https://soundcloud.com/ddrkirbyisq/acrylic-action-stain-the-painter



You may not know this, but I also wrote the soundtrack for the Steam game Mysterious Space, a space shooter/exploration game that was originally written in 7 days and has since been greenlit on Steam.  I'll be releasing the current soundtrack very soon, but until then you can stream the unreleased tracks on my soundcloud, like this one: https://soundcloud.com/ddrkirbyisq/afterglow

As a final note, my policy on commissions and music services can be found at http://ddrkirby.com/music/music-services.html.  I don't like to take random commissions too often because I'd rather spend time on my own work, but feel free to hit me up if you have something that you think I'd be interested in!  (Though my commission schedule is currently booked up until I finish the Copy Girl OST)

Can't sleep, can't stay awake.  Trapped in the delirium between life and nonlife, both wanting to do something, to do =something=, but also to not do anything at all.  I guess I just need to try my best to do "bite-sized" things.

Hang in there, body =(  Whatever I did to you, I'm sorry!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Things that are awesome:

- Broiled salmon.  Omg.  Why is this dish so delicious and easy to make??  If I ever need to host a dinner party or cook to impress, forget ribeye steak (which is also good but way harder), forget jambalaya and jerk chicken and curry and pot roast and whatever.  Just add salt, pepper, olive oil, and soy sauce, and broil the salmon filet in the toaster oven, tried and true.  I even got it to come out with a crispy skin this time, and used lemon juice....ridiculously good for the amount of effort required.  I've tried a mizo-glazed salmon recipe that called for marinating the salmon, and I've tried pan-seared salmon (which does make crisping the skin easier), but I don't think anything beats the broiler with the toaster oven.  Okay, maybe sous-vide salmon (?) but come on, just 5-10 minutes in the toaster oven!
- Bandit endgame in Risk of Rain when you stack ukuleles and brilliant behemoths with 4x heaven cracker.  Too good!  Getting through the early game wasn't even that hard when I did this run -- war banner is really the key to having good starts.
- La Danse Macabre.  Still the most amazing song.  Wahhhh
- Calligraphy!  In addition to finally ordering an instant read thermometer (finally I will cook meat and fish to medium rare without so much fuss) I ordered myself some basic calligraphy supplies; excited to start practicing!
- Steven Universe!
- Potentially getting to see B this weekend! wahhhhh

Things that are not awesome:

- Having a headache =(
- Having to wake up and go to work tomorrow =(  If my headache is not feeling better I might skip or go home early; we'll see.  At least there is the potential promise of JLFs on the sf3 cabinet =X

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"I asked my ex, now good friend, if she would ever have an open relationship and she said, 'No, I don’t think I could do that' then after a pause and a smile, 'but what about love affair friendships?' 
She went on to describe an impenetrable fortress of female friendship, her own group of best mates who’d known each other since school and had supported and loved each other through almost all of their lifetimes. They sounded far more bonded to, and in love with one another, than their respective husbands. It struck me that we don’t have the language to reflect the diversity and breadth of connections we experience. Why is sex the thing we tend to define a relationship by, when in fact it can be simple casual fun without a deep emotional transaction? Why do we say 'just friends' when, for some of us, a friendship goes deeper? Can we define a new currency of commitment that celebrates and values this? Instead of having multiple confusing interpretations of the same word, could we have different words? What if we viewed our relationships as a pyramid structure with our primary partner at the top and a host of lovers, friends, spiritual soul mates, colleagues, and acquaintances beneath that?" —Rosie Wilby, “You’re More Polyamorous Than You Think”


(originally shared by Kylie, thanks!  I guess the ol clickbait stream can be good for =something= sometimes...)

Been slacking off on blogging lately, heh.  Maybe I should do a little bit of catchup?  Just came back from FNW, which was pretty decent this week.  Not crazy good or anything, but not bad either!

Lots of music commission stuff going on lately--I did two commissions this past week, one for Copy Girl and one for CarlyontheMoon.  Both went pretty well, so that's great!

I should take this opportunity to mention that I always really appreciate the personal messages that people send in sometimes with their bandcamp orders, or just random emails of support.  Sometimes I wonder whether I should reply personally to each one (maybe??), but regardless, those are always really nice to read.

Christmas letters are..eh.  Behind, of course, but I guess that's par for the course when you think about it.  I've got 6 done so far, hopefully I can get some more done this weekend?  I don't know what I'll be doing yet this weekend actually.  Been missing C, K a lot, even Y, who I haven't seen in quite a while.  Maybe I've kind of been holing myself in a bit.  I had a great chat online with P though, that actually felt really wonderful!

Work has been tough at times, not in the long hours way, but in the difficult way, and also needing to get a bunch of stuff done.  I think I'm getting on the right foot at the moment though, which is good; hopefully I can keep it up!  I feel like I've been talking about work with everybody lately, I guess it's been on my mind.

SF3 cabinet at work is theoretically getting sanwa JLFs installed this weekend, so I guess cross your fingers that that goes well!  I bought some octagonal restrictor gates to put in in case people don't like the square one.  I want to say I should get used to a square gate but I'm not 100% sure that I can =X

BFZ drafting has been going alright...I went 3-0, followed by 0-3, then 2-1, haha.  I think I'm at least starting to get a handle on what cards to take and such, but somehow I find that playing the format itself is just super demanding and challenging and I'm making mistakes everywhere.  Well, maybe not necessarily =mistakes=, but bad judgment calls.  Trying to decide whether to offer trades, whether to trade damage, and all that stuff is somehow really difficult.  Ugh!  MTG is just really hard =P  But I think sometimes, I gotta just loosen up a bit and concentrate on having fun too.  In 3rd Strike too, I feel like sometimes I let myself get too frustrated by my mistakes, though I try my best not to show it.  Sometimes you don't play perfect, you know?

Waltz feels so awesome!  Gah!  WCS is super cool and amazing and all, but nothing beats the feeling that I get when I'm having a good waltz.  When I'm dancing with someone who understands momentum, pressure, rate of spin, tracking, and how to line each other up for the "catch", it's great.

2/3rds of the way through Tale for the Time Being!  It's been fun so far, hope to read through more of it soon.

I finished watching Gakkou Gurashi...I actually got quite emotional at the end, I feel like it hit some poignant moments that really reminded me of things that are important to me.  The part with Kurumi "coming back", and Rii-san seeing her again, hit me really hard, actually--it's that dream that you (I?) have, of being able to get back something that you thought was lost forever.  Of reuniting with your past.  Even the part about the dog made me sad; it made me think of "Chalk", and loss.

Caught up on episodes of Steven Universe too!  Some of those episodes were super super good...can we just make this show mandatory viewing for all kids and parents?  They handled some really important issues, I feel like...parent-child relationships, how to cultivate healthy trust, all that stuff.  Just, really good.

We played Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, which was a blast! (pardon the pun)  Definitely much fun, I'd recommend it highly.

Got one more week to go, of wandering through life like this.  Let's hope that I can try my best this week.

=====

Oh, I almost forgot!  I tried cooking "jerk chicken" the other day, roasting it in the oven.  It came out pretty nicely and I'd definitely try it again!



It wasn't =really= jerk chicken though; it came out much wetter and moist, and doesn't have that really brown caramelized coating.  I tried to improvise a lot -- I threw in a shallot, and some cumin and oregano, and didn't have any nutmeg, allspice, or cloves.  Also replaced the peppers with the only pepper I had on hand which was a thai bird chili.  I probably could have stood to leave it in the oven for a bit longer, too.  But roasting chicken in the oven is great and I will definitely have to try it more...the only other chicken stuff that I do right now is stirfry/saute pieces (usually thigh), and then coke chicken wings (which I have been having slight difficulties with lately, it ends up making my stomach feel a little weird =/).  Looks like I will have to expand my spice cabinet a bit! :D

I will go and watch some videos and read up on it a bit (seems that serious eats has some writing on it too!), but if I had to do it again I would try to use less of the "chunky" ingredients (shallots, green onions), or try to mince them more, then maybe use a bit less liquid?  And cook it longer.  Maybe even brown it in the steel pan I have and then transfer to the oven.  Man, I really need a cast-iron pan!  ...and an instant-read thermometer.  And to sharpen my knives....and some good red wine.  These are all wishlist items...Oh!  I should also score the chicken next time so that the marinade penetrates deeper, I think that's a thing...

Anyways it ended up coming out pretty good regardless, even if it wasn't actually real jerk chicken.  Yay, success!  This is a dish I've had twice recently -- once at this "coconut caribbean" restaurant out in palo alto near FNW (it was pretty dang good!), and once as dinner at work, and both times were pretty good, so I decided I should try it myself...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

- Benefits of being a producer: getting to roll your windows down and blast out an awesome unreleased tune that you wrote yourself, before anyone else has their hands on it.

- Somehow the world depresses me today.  Can I just go and escape to my music?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"I see only positive results from encouraging ALL my students to learn both lead and follow roles as soon as they feel grounded in their traditional role basics. Men and women who both lead and follow learn to have more empathy and compassion for their partners. Women who know how to lead can now dance all night long where in the past the ratio of men to women would normally dictate that many women would sit out most of the evening. Men who can follow can directly “steal” moves and advanced techniques from some of the more experienced leaders making both themselves and their subsequent followers happier. Men and women alike get to stretch themselves in skills of leading and following in a relationship and perhaps discover skills and preferences they didn’t even know they had. In the traditional role of male lead, female follow, many men only get acquainted with women, and many women only get to know men. This breeds a sense of competition for partners, which is not always healthy to a good, friendly social environment. When everyone knows both parts, men develop more friendships with other men and women with other women. Win-win for everyone as far as I can tell."
--Kelly Casanova

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

ulala~  Nothing brings up my spirits like some nice cloudy weather, bringing beautiful soft lighting and memories of winter.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Not ready to face the world today.  Not ready.  Sometimes it feels like you left half of yourself in dream land...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Christmas letters 2015, mission start!  Not sure what I'm aiming for this time, maybe something in the 20-30 range?

Friday, September 18, 2015

http://yachtclubgames.com/2015/08/plague-knight-mobility-design/

Shut up and take my money omg can I work for you hnnggggg this is how games are made

https://virt.bandcamp.com/album/shovel-knight-plague-of-shadows-ost

WOOOOOoooooooOOOOOooooo!!!! yessssssssssss

Also got Leigh Nash's new album "The State I'm In" on preorder, AND found out about the other projects she's been featured in in the meantime, including Fauxliage, done in collaboration with a Canadian electronic music group...it sounds pretty sweet so far!

Lots of music to catch up on this weekend, it seems!

Making some myself, too!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJifHEWM-iI

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wow, you guys are really hitting it outta the park with the latest mixposts that I'm seeing up on OCR (http://ocremix.org/).  Shoutout to all the musicians out there! :)  Also a reminder to myself that I have some mixes that need to be submitted...haha

Friday, September 11, 2015

I don't want a future.
So even though I'm here right now, there's no meaning to it.
If everything goes back to the way it was,
then maybe I'll disappear.
There's no meaning to my current existence.  As I could disappear at any time.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

What is success?  What is friendship?  What is love?  And who am I?

Monday, September 7, 2015

I just realized that it's time for me to start on Christmas letters for the year....better get on it soon otherwise I'll be scrambling later!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Awesomeeee FNW

Wow!  Just, wow!  That was probably the best FNW I've had in =years=!  It was so good...it made me nostalgic for the time of yesteryear (2011-2012) when the G man would pick up me, Kaitlin, and Claire and drive us all to FNW every week, and we'd head to tapex afterwards every time, with gman always asking whether they still had rice or not....bahahaha...

Anyways, yeah!  Such a good night.  A good group of people, some really excellent songs...this is the hardest I've danced in such a long time, with maybe the possible exception of that WCS thing I went to a while back (hah, that was good too, but in a different way, yeah).  Got to dance with Merry, Paul, Bob, Selina, Richard, Diana, Stefan...a whole bunch of people!

And omg, I almost thought I would start crying.  Richard played Jason Walker - Echo, and I started up a waltz with Merry.  Ahhhhhmyyyggawwwdddd, I danced my heart out to that song, and Merry you were amazing!!!  That was probably the second time we've ever waltzed together (?) but I know you're such an experienced dancer...man, you were right there following it as I danced it all out, to the music like I knew it by heart, because I did.  Did you know that I once thought about making a Deca choreo to that song?  Well, I don't have to anymore, because that dance that I did tonight was everything I could have asked for.  It was amazing, that was probably one of the best dances I've ever led, ever ever ever.  Catching and slowing down every time after the chorus section ended....ahhhh!  I even ended in a waltz dip, which if you know me, I never do!  Ahhhh!!!  Holy crap, man...it was like having a dream fulfilled....always wanted to dance that song like that, seriously.

Had some other dances that were really awesome, too!  Including a cross-step that was super awesome, super awesome, yes!  Had a nice waltz with Joachim too, and we did BNP together, whee!

At the end of the night I also discovered that Selina is "the chosen one" because I was doing this trixy grapevine outside free spin where I sweep right across the follow's line of sight as they're spinning and what happens is they keep on spinning an extra time to meet me in another grapevine.  BUT!  Out of all of the times I've led this on many different people, Selina is the only one who has ever not reacted that way!  It usually catches people a little off guard (that's why it's trixy!), but without fail they always just do the extra turn.  But Selina actually stopped herself with a sort of self-grapevine...she's literally the only person who does it!  We even tested it on like 3 follows and even a lead who was there and the results were clear--Selina is..."the chosen one", lol. xD  I was having a bit of a mindblown moment there, hahaha.

Later on when we were at tapex I got into reminiscing a bit and I realized that I've been dancing for 6 years....so long!  I'm an old-timer now, a veteran, for sure!  Had some nice conversation, and had fun talking with Selina while driving her back too!  Man, just...man, it's been a long time since FNW has been like this...nights like these feel like my reason for dancing....really....gah!  Thanks so much to everyone for tonight's awesomeness. :)

Friday, September 4, 2015

I'm done with the stream

My blog (I was about to say "Xanga", haha, old habits die hard) is really such a better place to post anything and everything...there's a sense of permanence that is sorely lacking when I just shout something into the ever-present "stream" of the usual FB/twitter/G+ culprits.  I'm not sure if I'll get into that habit for photos though--I have to admit that the FB photo album flow is pretty nice.  Ironically it feels like photo uploads for FB have more permanence than image posts to a blog, though I know that's just a preconceived notion.  Still, I'd like to just do away with most of the status updates and such and just make this my new home, with the notable exception of announcements.  The "stream" is great for announcements and advertisements; I'll give you that.  I guess it's true what they say about social media being more focused on clickbait, ads, and consumerism.  I hate that the only things I see nowadays are just articles being reposted.  I don't really want to just read articles that other people have written...I want to hear about YOUR life, YOUR feelings!  Someone should make an "If we talked to each other like we do on Facebook" video...

Maybe I just need to be more selective about what the stream shows?  It's hard when you don't have that much active control over it; most of your power revolves around just excluding people entirely, which I guess is a useful thing.  I'm still missing the community of yesteryear, back in '05 when, you know, we actually talked to each other.  Well, I guess the only thing I can really do about it is stick to what I do and what I believe in.

Work continues on Melody Muncher Deluxe!  I'm really going all out with this, it's actually shaping up to be my biggest game EVER--it's actually a legitimate rhythm game with easy, normal, and hard modes, different enemy types, many levels, backgrounds, particles, etc. etc. etc.  Pretty awesome!  Here's some more screenshots for ya:

New song select screen.  With detailed stats on each song!


Yep!  We've got long yellow centipede enemies now--you have to hold down that direction for the duration of the centipede in order to score it correctly.  Don't worry--this is an expert mode only feature!  I'm still experimenting with how to stepchart these hold notes...they can really trip you up, especially when you get to stuff happening across both sides at once!  I really like that the blue wizards focus you to consider both left and right sides together, as opposed to being able to just treat them as separate channels.  I'm still working through all of the expert mode songs...after that I'll be mostly done, just a few touchups!

I suppose I should put links and linkbacks in this blog too?

http://benbriggs.net/album/twitch-jams - bbriggs just released a bunch of royalty-free music for use on twitch streams and youtube videos.  Twitch and youtube video content has actually become a big source of attention and usage for us musicians I feel like, so it's pretty sensible to market something directly for that purpose.  Nice job ben :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d88APYIGkjk - The trailer for The Danish Girl promises...well, an emotive portrayal of a transgender experience, probably through a significantly different lens than that of Hourou Musuko.  I wish it the best of success; I'm sure it will do just fine and I'll bring a small box of tissues to whenever I catch a screening of it.

It's a little weird having personal and social presences linked; I guess I can understand why people choose not to, but I think as a person I can't really seem to separate the two (ironic when you think about Sayuri, haha)...like, I think I feel that my announcements and thoughts about music and my projects =are= part of my personal life; shouldn't it just be all together in the same package?  Still, it's slightly unfortunate because there are those days when I just feel like running away from the world; that no one should see me because ugh, I just want to get =away= from everything, to unplug, to hide myself so that no one will see me.  Which, of course, is funny, because out there in the aether of "the stream" no one actually =does= see you, so long as you don't cause a ruckus, and your presence won't be noticed, much less missed.  What a f*cked up sense of "friendship" that is.  And perhaps that is the saddest thing about the herd of today, that I can't have a dialogue or a conversation with someone, that in the world that I remember, I actually felt =friendship= in my online interactions.  Nowadays, I feel a lot of advertisement, LOTS of pointing fingers, a bunch of clickbait articles, and an unhealthy dose of negativity.  Since when did my online social space become invaded by tabloids?  Sure, it's important to hear about things that are happening, but....not like this.  Not like this.

Writing this was nice, actually; as it's a wakeup call for me to think about what I can do to cultivate (or at least, "carve away") an online social space for myself that I can actually enjoy being in.  I don't want to hear about how everybody hates XYZ, and the latest fads, and those random videos of cats and dogs.  There is an entire corner of the internet dedicated to cat videos; I don't need it to be pointed out to me, okay! ;P

I understand that sometimes we need to vent and complain about our problems.  I encourage it, in fact--not only for your own mental and emotional health (too often we tell ourselves that we are "fine" when we are not), but also because there is a sense of genuineness and real human connection when someone is expressing their personal problems.  It's usually something that you can either relate to, or at the very least feel sympathetic about.  But there is a difference between venting about problems that you have, and complaining about problems that are not even yours because you are hopping on a bandwagon.  There is enough judging and hate going on in this world without having to criticize and ostracize everything that happens, even outside of your own life.  It's hard to avoid being judgmental, I know.  My upbringing taught me both to judge and to be judged--I was taught to be racist, I was told what foods I should like and not like, and I was observed every step of the way.  It's hard to get away from, even now, but maybe we need to try and do our best to not just form these immediate knee-jerk reactions and become sensationalists?

Sorry, I'm actually not sure if I fully believe in everything I wrote in that previous paragraph.  But what I do know is that I don't feel like the current online spaces we have are safe.  And by "safe" I don't mean "privacy safe".  I mean when I go online and go to facebooktwittergoogleplusWHATEVER, do I feel comfortable posting about a personal problem that I have?  Do I even feel comfortable PMing someone when I'm in trouble?  And I really don't know if I do.  When the model of communication is "shout really loud so that other people will signal boost you", do I really want to publish a note on how "wow, my life is really terrible right now and I feel like killing myself"?  When every day I see posts on "Wow this idiot deserves to die" and "@$%# people on the road don't know how to drive", do I feel confident that my feelings will be respected--that =I myself as a person- will be respected and accepted?

The internet spaces that I used to dwell in used to be inhabited by friends, who read what you wrote, who thought about what you talked about, and who talked back to you.  Imagine that!  They talked back to you!  I'm not talking about like, every once in a while they'll "+1" something that you wrote.  They actually, legitimately talked back about something that you wrote!  Wow!  What I wouldn't give for something like that!  Even now, I can go back to my archives and look at random posts and sure, it wasn't like I was writing anything especially poignant or meaningful, but people still took the time out of their day to say "Haha, that's funny, you know, that reminds me of the time..." or "Aww that sucks, I hope you feel better!"

I'm done...so done with this "stream".  You guys can shout all you want.  I'm going to carve out a good little corner of my own and I'm going to be a good, self-respecting internet citizen and form bonds with people.

....except when I'm promoting my new games and album releases, because when it comes to advertising, anything's fair game! :D  Did I mention Melody Muncher Deluxe comes out soon?  Also, I've just finished getting all of the tracks together for The Ecstasy of Life, so I'll have that album releasing very soon too!  Hooray! (I'm being serious here, I think the "stream" is totally fine for self-promotion)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Melody Muncher Deluxe WIP screenshots

Just gonna throw these WIP screenshots up here.  I am hard at work on the post-compo version of Melody Muncher, I really want to make it something great so I'm putting the work in and making sure each level has its own distinctive background transitions, complete with hue shifts and particle effects.

Also, you'll notice that I'm developing both on Win server 2012 and on OSX.  How neat is that?








Sunday, August 30, 2015

Difficulty, and Accessibility

Watching, reading, and listening to people play games (mine, and others) makes me think about accessibility, difficulty, and how these things should affect me personally, as a game developer.  I think now that I've come into contact with such a broad range of games, I can make some conclusions that I might not have been able to before.  I've now played the gamut, from games like Crypt of the Necrodancer, TGM's "Death" mode, VVVVVV, Super Meat Boy, and others that really require you to learn, be smart, and adapt, and punish you harshly when you fail...to games like Journey, FEZ, To the Moon, even Botanicula, that try to be more universal, in the sense that there is no "failure", no real "skills" needed, no need to really understand the workings and mechanics and physics of the system.

Often as we develop games, it's impossibly difficult to separate ourselves from our skills and knowledge.  This comes on multiple levels, of course.  At the extreme end of the spectrum, you've got the guy who makes a game jam game for LD and thinks that everyone who plays his game will just know that "you need to bring the red thingy to the blue square to win" and in order to do that you need to use some random combinations of keys on the keyboard that are never given to you anywhere.  But slightly less obvious than that is when we gear our games to our own preferences and skills.

When I made Rhythm Gunner, I made it in classic Super Crate Box style--one hit and you're dead, and you need to really get used to the game's tight controls and mechanics before you can start excelling.  Well, people liked it...but also didn't like it, simply because of the difficulty.  As a result people scored it much lower overall, much lower than Labyrinth which I didn't think was particularly awe-inspiring.  The thing is...I loved the HECK out of Rhythm Gunner.  After I made it, I was actually addicted; I kept trying to beat my high score, eventually getting to a score of 121 points.  As a comparison, the highest other score that was reported was 44 points, and the majority of players scored below 10 points.

So was Rhythm Gunner a mistake?  Well, heck no!  To me, personally, it's the most exciting, interesting, and exhilarating game I've made for LD, and I still have fun playing it to this day.  It appeals to me for the same reason that TGM does--it has a high skill cap, it requires constant focus, adaptation, and reaction, and the difficulty combined with action contributes to being in flow state.  So what ended up being the least popular of my games is actually my favorite.

And here's where I must remind you of a quote from the composer of VVVVVV:

"It's better to write for yourself and lose your audience, than to write for the audience and lose yourself"
--Souleye, composer for VVVVVV


So do I regret making Rhythm Gunner the way I did?  Nope, you bet I don't.  I did the best that I could given the 48 hours of work time that I had, and it came out awesome.

Now, that being said, if I had, say 72 hours to work on Rhythm Gunner, then yes, yes, yes, there are several things that I would change about it to address the learning curve issue.  Things like:
- An easier level with only 1 or two weapons.  Having 4 right off the bat is too hard for people to digest.
- A practice mode that lets you try out weapons before the enemies start spawning.
- A completely separate mode that doesn't rely on rhythm?  Because let's face it...some people just can't get rhythms at all!
- A "softcore" mode where you have multiple hits before you die?

I think one thing about Rhythm Gunner is that the "perceived difficulty" is very high because you die immediately after getting hit.  To me this isn't something that I actually want to change for the same reason that Super Crate Box features instant deaths--when the game punishes you with instant death for being hit, you become hyperaware of bullets and enemies since your brain is able to make that association.  If I changed the game so that you take 5 hits before you die, none of the first 4 hits really feel as punishing.  To me, it decreases the amount of time where I feel like I'm "in the zone".

Anyways, what I wanted to actually address is "target audience" and accessibility.  Rhythm Gunner is a good example because not only is it a punishing 2D platformer, it's also a rhythm game!  So already I'm imposing two requirements upon players before they can really get "the intended experience" out of it--you need to be decent at Super Crate Box, and then you also need to be decent at music games.

Would it be better to make Rhythm Gunner accessible to people who are really bad at rhythms?  Well, sure, I mean, I =could=.  As I said, I could make an alternate game mode where it's just a plain ol 2D platformer with no rhythm requirements.  But that's not Rhythm Gunner.  If I'm going to reduce it down to that, why not just play Super Crate Box? (which is better designed and has more weapons)

So what I'm trying to get at is, yes, you need to make your game learnable (providing a big wall of text is bad NOT just because people are stupid and don't read, but because learning by doing is just better and more intuitive), and yes, you need to provide a difficulty ramp, and yes, you need to think about the methods in which your players will learn the mechanics of your game (my new game, Melody Muncher, has probably my best tutorial system ever, yay), and yes, (unfortunately?) you still need to think about systems that will reward your players to make them "feel good".  But, maybe you shouldn't go so far as to destroy what makes your game....your game.  If I'm making a VVVVVV or Super Meat Boy style game that is designed to be fun BECAUSE it's punishing, hard, and force you to retry levels again and again, what should I do about people who have bad coordination and don't like difficult games?  Should I make an easy mode where you can take multiple hits before you die?  Should I make a "god mode" where you can't die at all?  Well, no...that wouldn't actually be a fun game.  Imagine playing Super Meat Boy, except you automatically win each level no matter how poorly you do.  Is that a fun game?  No, it's actually really pointless.

So you need to decide what the point of your game is.  "Unfair" difficulty is bad.  So is inconsistent difficulty, and difficulty that's inherently unnecessary.  But many of us play games =because= we like analyzing and overcoming challenges.  And in that sense, difficulty is =vital=.  So you need to understand and separate where your difficulty is important vs unnecessary.  (This is a point where the Mega Man games are so well-designed)

And, sadly, you can't cater to everyone.  Not at all.  Because even those games that I mentioned, like FEZ and Journey--you'd think that anyone can enjoy them, but that's actually not true!  Some people are going to try and play FEZ and get stuck with basic platforming.  And some people are not going to "get" flying in Journey, or maybe even walking!  Navigating a 3d space using a game controller is something we've been doing for 10 years, but what about someone who has never done it before?  I think it's a worthy and humble cause to make your game more accessible, but at what cost?  If you try and please everyone, you are bound to fail.  Think of the old parable about the man and his horse and his son...

In the end I think it's a better service to both yourself and the world if you make a game that some people can play and enjoy a lot, rather than try to make a game that anyone can play and be unimpressed with.

That said, I am pretty happy with the accessibility of Rain.  Unfortunately, there was still at least one person who failed to complete it because they thought it was a screensaver and not a game ("I kept wondering why did that Right arrow show up on top of the girl?").  See?  You can't get everyone...


Monday, August 17, 2015

But how will I stand tall, if I am not proud of myself?

I tried to write a song for flashygoodness, but somehow, nothing I tried really expressed what I wanted it to.  Maybe it's because I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to express in the first place?  Or maybe, I'm just really bad at expressing certain things, feelings, emotions in my music.  It's as if all I'm doing is pulling the music out of a drawer; there's only one color, one type in the drawer; it's not an empty vial that I can infuse with my own substance, but rather, something that just "comes" in a natural form.  I guess I had similar issues when I was trying to write to Aivi & Surasshu, too.  I wanted to express to them, the loneliness and darkness that I felt during that time, and how their music was a bright light that came into my world and provided me with an anchor.  But in the end I couldn't really express that, or at least, not consciously.  The only thing I could do was to play...to play, with their music, to put it into that drawer and take it out, changed, to my own hue, my own color.  Perhaps my palette is just a bit lacking, although I've mixed up a few new colors with all those sketches that I did.  I wish, though, that I could have written something for flashygoodness.

"It’s always interesting to ask people how important they think they are to you, because usually it’s actually very difficult to get a good sense of how much you mean to someone. Different people care about others in different amounts and different ways, and you don’t really know the details of their interactions with others, so it’s difficult to get a good sense of things."

From my Xanga (now "Love Everlasting" on Wordpress), January 27, 2010

Saturday, August 15, 2015

To my fellow snail-mail writers:
Taking photos is so easy and convenient nowadays now that most of us have smartphones in our pockets!  We should try and make it a best practice to snap a quick photo of our letters before tucking them in the envelope; things happen every once in a blue moon, as some of us know all too well.

Even as the world changes around me, I find myself unwanting, unwilling, unable to move.  And I long to forever stay in the same place, surrounded by change.  And, in that same place, I too, change.  But still I would not move.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Short post today.

#1, Your friends might really be perfect, but...really not in the way you think they are.

#2, I opened what is probably the worst pack of magic origins EVER to add to my sealed pool:

foundry of the consuls
titanic growth
might of the masses
deadbridge shaman
runed servitor
cobblebrute
screeching skaab
returned centaur
ringwarden owl
nivix barrier
nightsnare
aven battle priest
orbs of warding
prism ring

Yeah, good luck picking something out of that crap.  I'd probably first pick either foundry or might of the masses.  My deck happens to be GW and the only thing I'm getting out of that pack is might of the masses.  Yeech.  My previous pack was pretty jank too...I am now 8 packs in and have 0 supression bonds and 0 wild instincts, also 0 grasp of the hieromancer.  What is this madness?

#3, I am starting to get slightly frustrated when I lose in sf3, ugh.  It's not that I hate losing, it's just losing to people whom I don't respect.  I think I need to give them a little more credit, and not get so hung up on it and just focus on getting better.  I noticed that I do definitely need to work on my offensive pressure and mixups--I need to vary my pressure more (not just cr lp cr lp cr fp) and also know that sometimes you need to back off and play safe rather than get too greedy esp when they have reversal shoryu or reversal super to keep you honest.  I also need to get my dash->karakusa inputs clean.  On the plus side karakusa->fp->hayate is working just fine, and karakusa->fp->SA1 hasn't actually been bad either!

#4, Leigh Nash is apparently on tour and is in LA next month!!  Man, I totally want to go!  We'll see, haha.