Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It's getting to be that time of year, so just a reminder that my wishlist is and always will be located on my official online text profile at  If you ever forget that link, you can find it at my Links page, or on my FB profile.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Teardrop, Game Worlds, Rain

One of those songs that I feel the need to repost every once in a while.  I hope you don't mind that it's one of my own works.

It is a really cool thing when video games are able to create a "space" of their own.  Not in the sense of a 3D space, but in the sense that they are able to hold a tiny little microcosm within them, with their own feelings, stories, and special moments.

Games of course are able to convey narrative in a unique way, but perhaps even more unique is their ability to create these "spaces" for us.  These elements of the game world that don't have any inherent meaning in themselves, but are so rich in atmosphere that you find yourself attaching your own stories to them.

Rain World, for example, really is its own little ecosystem, that you can learn so much about, and really seems to evolve and grow on you over time.  And Journey has all manner of nooks and crannies that people have created their own meaning out of.  My favorite room in Journey, for example, is located in the last level -- it's the last sort of safe haven in the snow before heading out into the storm again and to the so-called "death march".  If you activate the stones in that room, the lantern in the middle of the room starts to spin a bit and glows warmly while a gentle music cue starts playing.  I didn't think much of that space when I first played through the game, but it holds a special place in my heart now, simply because of its cozy atmosphere.  I will always linger for a while in that room, sitting and watching the cold winds outside while huddled next to that lantern, and by doing so I have also encouraged many of my journeying companions to do the same.

The bench in Rain holds the same sort of feeling for me and I always stop there for a while during my playthroughs (I still do every once in a long while; it's quite nice).  It doesn't have any "bearing" on the game, no explicit meaning, nothing like that.  But there is a story and a moment to be had there.  And that is really the essence of Rain, I think -- it is a short experience made of those moments, places, and objects.  We made it over 3 years ago and it is still really significant to me, and remains my proudest work.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Chilling warmth stings
my mind as I walk through the hours
A shadow of a doubt creeps up on me
as I exhale and look away

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Inktober + general update

Well, October has come and gone...I suppose it's time for a general update.

You probably already know, but this year for October I decided to get in on the Inktober challenge by committing myself to writing a (handwritten) letter every day for the month.  I followed through (did you expect any less?) and got through my 31 letters, which felt great!  I mostly wrote them on the train during the ride to work, which also meant that this month I didn't have that time available for other things -- most notably development on Rhythm Quest, which pretty much halted for the month.  Today is the first day where I was actually able to spend my train ride to work doing things other than writing, which was refreshing to be honest, haha.  I played some TGM and got through some more of Cuphead (which has been great fun so far!).  In the coming days I'm hoping to use this time for writing an email or two as well as picking up Rhythm Quest again, although I will also still continue do to some writing here and there.

Christmas is about two months away now and thanks to Inktober I've actually got most of my letters done already -- I already have 25 of them out of the way!  I still have around 5 more to do, but I've got plenty of time to do them, so that's great; now I can start thinking about gift shopping and all that...

Things in general have been ok recently...I've felt a little more drained than usual, probably just due to a combination of different things requiring my attention.  I didn't do anything for Halloween this year, unfortunately, but my Journey outfit may end up making an appearance at Fall Ball anyways.  Speaking of dance, I hosted Dancebreak this past week, which was actually quite fun -- always nice to work with people in a low-key environment and also to help newer dancers out a bit, too.  Giving people the right instruction is really hard, but at least I am getting practice at it.  I have not been particularly enthusiastic about social dance recently and have skipped on it for some weeks so it was nice to have a low-key thing with a good vibe.

Progress on music has been slow recently as I only managed to make a single song this past month, but earlier in the month I also did the album art for Potpourri Mix Volume 1 (which was pretty fun, albeit slightly stressful as I didn't know what to do for it at first).  I've started working on my Made in Heights-inspired album again now, which has been going well so far.  It's always fun to experiment with different styles and inspirations and push your boundaries as a musician and producer.

Inktober itself felt quite nice, especially because it was something simple yet productive to look forward to each day and I think that helped me feel better about myself, especially during those times when I felt like I couldn't quite muster the motivation to do more involved things.  Strangely enough, this year I feel like there are less people that I want to write to for Christmas than usual.  Hah!  But I just checked my past records and apparently that's completely wrong...last year I only did 25 (!) letters, and even in 2014 I only did 30.  So I guess I'm actually doing about average.  But for the last few letters, I really was thinking to myself, "hm, I have already written to everybody that I really need to".  Of course I didn't do some of the really important ones yet because those will take more than one day each, so I will be finishing those off this coming month, but was I think interesting to have that realization that I feel like I have less of those friendships that are either established or "budding".  Not that that is a bad thing, really -- I actually feel relatively happy with my current set of relationships, all things considered.

But overall it was nice and I'm definitely thinking that I'll do this every year so I can make sure that I'm on time with all my xmas deliveries and shipments and everything.  One other thing that it made painfully obvious that my new standard of letter length is half of what it used to be...I am writing all of these single-spaced letters now and it makes me feel a little bit pathetic to be honest, haha.  I mean, a large part of that is just due to the fact that for Inktober I needed to do one of them each day so I couldn't spend a long time on any of them, but I think just in general my letter length has gone down.  I think that is OK though, as long as I am still taking the time to write some longer ones between those too.

Hopefully everyone else was successful with their Inktober challenges too!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Wow...that may have been the very first time that I have been =relieved= to hear my alarm go off and wake me up in the morning.  My dream had turned into a nightmare where I was in class with one of those horrible teachers (substitute?) from hell.  You know, the ones who force you to do really pointless things and don't let you get away with anything. my dream I was already thinking about how I would be calling in sick tomorrow or maybe on Friday...or both.

So yeah, my alarm rang and I came back to reality and I was like THANK GOD.

I think we have all had our fair share (maybe more than our fair share) of those sorts of people in our lives.  I think the exact type of person might vary a lot depending on what types of things rub you the wrong way.  It's important to remember that most of the time, these people aren't bad people...they are probably just trying their best to do what they think is right.  But that doesn't change the fact that they are a royal pain in the ass.

I was writing to a friend earlier in the month about how "freedom" in the abstract sense always seemed like a really nebulous thing to value for me as I was growing up, because it's not like my actions wouldn't still have the same consequences.  I'd still have the same responsibilities -- more, even.  But I think it helps to frame it in terms of being able to choose your environment and choose your life -- to avoid all of those toxic environments that i'm sure all of us have been forced to be in at one point or another, and to have the choice to decide what is best for ourselves rather than having that be decided for us.  Of course, there are many who end up still deciding to put themselves into toxic environments anyways, but that my friend is a story for another day...

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Your burden was the weight of a feather
I was certain if I waited you’d remember
When the comet took me out into space
When you held your breath, looking at my face
Now I comprehend that death is not the end
And the world that we destroyed wasn't real enough to live in
But I’m alive, yes I'm alive
I can feel it running up and down my spine

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

This whole Inktober thing is paying average letters per day stat finally went up from 0.277 to 0.278.  Woo!!!  This stat is across 10.3 years so it is incredibly hard to make a dent in it, lol.  This number actually used to be at ~0.33 once upon a time!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Super Mario Kart

So a few days ago I played through all of Super Mario Kart's 4 cups on both 100cc and 150cc modes, courtesy of our new SNES Classic! (<3)  It was absolutely glorious.  I don't know if I've had that much intense fun playing video games in quite a while.

Like many others, I was first introduced to Super Mario Kart back in my childhood.  It was one of the very few Super Nintendo games that featured a 2-player mode that wasn't just a head-to-head competitive battle -- you could both enter GP mode together and race against the CPUs.  I was in elementary school at the time, maybe 5-8 years old?  It was before my brother went off to college, at any rate.  So there I was, playing with my brother, who is 9 years older than me, with of course a proportionally better ability at playing games -- but I could certainly hold my own too.  I was very lucky to have grown up around video games in a way that probably few others did at the time (or at least I could tell judging from the way that I trounced everyone else in my age group at them, lol).

As a principle, my brother always picked Toad and I would always pick Koopa Troopa, simply because those were the characters that we liked best.  They had the best handling (ability to take turns well), which I think appealed to both of us (there was also Bowser and Donkey Kong, who had the highest top speed, Yoshi and Princess, who accelerated the quickest, and Mario and Luigi, who were basically balanced).

Koopa Troopa will always have a special place in my heart because of this, and Toad too, although to a lesser extent because Toad's later incarnations tended to be...less pleasant.  It's worth noting that each character had their own musical theme that played when you took 1st place with them, and that Toad's theme in particular became oh-so-familiar to me due to my brother taking 1st place so often, though of course I would also hear Koopa's theme a lot too.  I actually still use Toad's theme as a custom ringtone when my best friend calls me, so it's still present in my day even now. (I'm actually also fond of Princess's theme as well, though I didn't hear it too much at the time)

A core mechanic of the entire Mario Kart series is the ability to "drift" or "power slide", usually by pressing the shoulder buttons of the controller, which initiates a drift turn, which (depending on the exact game) usually allows you to conserve speed through a turn, corner more effectively, and sometimes get a speed boost when exiting a turn.  Super Mario Kart's drifts are triggered by pressing L or R (which causes you to do a hop) while turning, which initiates the slide.

Something that's really interesting is that when I first played SMK way back when, I actually didn't use drifting!  I took corners without doing power slides at all and just used normal turning, which looks something like this:

This actually works reasonably well in terms of just being able to navigate the course (particularly because Koopa and Toad have the best normal turning!), but ends up costing you speed.  I believe (?) there may also be some turns that are just too tight to get around with normal non-drift turning, and I think in those cases I would just bump into the walls (!).  So obviously I wasn't playing optimally at all, but somehow it actually worked out pretty well for me.  I was still holding the accelerate button the whole time and never touched the brake button.  It's great, of course, that you can still be pretty decent at the game with just the basics.  But maybe this is part of the reason that my brother was just better at the game than I was.  It's worth noting that in Donut Plains there are several turns where your kart will actually spin out if you try to take them with normal cornering, so I actually DID use the power slides for that level specifically.

Of course, the ideal way to play the game is with the power slides, which is what I started doing once I was older (and again now too).  You end up starting the turn way earlier and =sliding= around the corners, which looks something like this:

Notice how the approach to the turn is completely different.  Without the drift, the best strategy is to start on the =outside= of the turn so that you don't have to take such a sharp angle.  But with the drift, since you start turning way earlier but slide sideways around the corner, you can actually hug the inside of the corner, which results in a shorter distance traveled (in addition to you preserving your speed better).  Taken to its extreme, it looks like this:

...except you are probably not taking the corners THAT aggressively unless you are a speedrunner (the above gif is pushing the game to its limits).

In SMK, once you start a drift, your kart continues to slide around a bit, even after you've let go of the turn direction.  To counteract this, you actually have to =countersteer= for a brief moment at the end of a drift, which straightens your kart out and sets you up to go straight again.  The timing and execution of this countersteer is actually really important and a slight screwup can mean you exit out of the turn pointed totally wrong instead of being lined up with the track.

One really important thing I'd like to get across in this post is just how different this implementation of the power slide physics is compared to the way that it is in later mario kart games, including Mario Kart 64 all the way up to Mario Kart 8.  Here's what the newer version of drifting looks like:

I am of course glossing over a whole world of significant differences in the way that drifting works in these different newer games, but let's just use these gifs as an example.  In the newer Mario Kart games, drifts are usually =controllable=.  Once you initiate a power slide turning to the right, you are "locked in" turning to the right until you let go of the L or R button and during this time, you can actually press right to make your turn sharper, or alternatively press left to slow down your rate of turning.  You can see Yoshi in the first GIF start the turn relatively aggressively, then ease off for a bit before turning more sharply again.  Back in Super Mario Kart this wasn't possible -- you could let go of the direction of the turn for bits at a time, but pressing in the opposite direction (counter-steer!) would just result in the slide ending altogether.

Speaking of counter-steer, since you end a drift by letting go of L or R, the counter-steer element is gone entirely and instead when you end a drift by letting go of the shoulder button, your kart straightens out automatically, as you can see by toad's boost in the second GIF.

So to drift in SMK, you usually:
- Start on the =inside= of the track (ideally)
- =Commit= to when you start the drift
- At the right moment, =counter-steer= in the opposite direction, enough to straighten out, but not too much to throw you off alignment

Whereas to drift in MK8, you usually:
- Start on the =outside= of the track (ideally)
- Start the drift, then =adjust= your steering during the entirety of the turn 
- Let go of the drift button (and automatically straighten out)

So basically in SMK the drift is super committal and you really need to be precise about where and when you start the drift, whereas in MK8 you can just adjust your steering as soon as the drift starts, so it's no big deal.  In SMK too you have to manually countersteer and straighten yourself out.  It's way more difficult in general and I can see why they moved away from it.

...but MAN is it satisfying to do.  I think requiring such precision is exhilirating and really feels like a true test of your driving abilities.  There are a lot of turns in SMK that are really challenging to execute properly, with obstacles and boost pads and whatnot to make things even more interesting.  This time around I even used the technique of tapping the brakes sometimes when I needed to cut a corner really sharply or abort a drift that threatened to swing wide, as tapping the brakes seems to stop you from sliding and straighten you out much faster.

Don't get me wrong, the newer mario kart games are fun (especially MK8 I think.  And MKDS was...well, that was sort of its own thing).  But I think something about the physics of SMK really, truly shines out to me in a way that I love, and it's no wonder that MK64 doesn't garner nearly the same amount of respect from me as SMK does.

So anyways, we played through the 100cc races and then moved onto 150cc and that where things get real.  150cc is pretty unforgiving in that all of your slip-ups are really amplified because everyone is moving so much faster, so running into an obstacle or going off-course is so much worse.  Plus, you're just going at a much faster speed so you can't just leisurely approach each turn conservatively -- you really have to go for it and start the slides early, and even string them together.  It's =exhilarating=.  And then of course, there's the CPU players, who can be a royal pain in the butt sometimes.  I was playing as Koopa, which meant that the Luigi CPU was always the one I was fighting with for 1st place, and man, both Mario and Luigi are insanely annoying when you are trying to compete with them because their special ability is basically to flash invincible as if they have a Star, basically at will -- and touching them in that state makes you spin out.  So basically getting close to them is always super frightening at any moment, not to mention you're also going really fast through really challenging courses with turns and narrow straightaways, little room to maneuver, etc.  This time I actually had quite a few times where I just slammed on the brakes because it's better to just slow down and avoid trying to pass Luigi until you have a good chance rather than run into him and spin out, which is a disaster.

150cc Special Cup (like many other things in the game, to be honest) holds special significance for me since me and my brother spent so much time trying to clear it.  Some of the courses in that GP are really brutal and I have to say, even now it truly pushed my abilities as a gamer.  I had to try it quite a few times and on the last try, I reached the last course, the glorious Rainbow Road (with its epic music and all) with 3 lives remaining.  I failed my first attempt, and then also my second, and it was down to my last shot remaining.  I was off to a great start, but slipped up in the middle and fell behind, but somehow managed to super duper clutch it out and catch back up safely, taking some really crazy maneuvers as well as avoiding all of the CPUs to regain 1st place and finish the race.

All that is to say that Super Mario Kart is and probably always will be my favorite racing game of all time.  It's really all in the way that the karts handle and I'm really amazed they were able to create something so unique, skill-testing, and satisfying all at once.  I love SMK!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Smoke is everywhere and the trains have stopped running

What a week

Feel really bad for all the people who are just sitting at the train station breathing in a bunch of smoke right now...

Monday, October 9, 2017

There is a fallacy in trying to live by your own ideals and setting an example to "be the change you wish to see", in that other people have no obligation (or even incentive?) to share the same values that you do.  It is not simply that others "suck dirt" (as I so often believed), but also just that they simply value and prioritize different things that you do.

But how can one expect to hold ideals and standards if one does not follow them him/herself?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Jammix, Social Fatigue

Jammix was good fun, and nice getting to see people, but also socially "tiring".  And perhaps not in the normal manner of being socially draining and in general wanting to shy away from people, but maybe something different, too.  I realized tonight as I was there, that the more I think about people at dance, the more depressing and unhappy thoughts start to come into my mind.  I was thinking about it some more and I think it is because dance is just such an exposing activity where everyone is really putting themselves out there.  I mean, that is great, and I think that is part of the reason why it's a good activity too, but a lot of the time, especially recently, when I am standing there or walking through the dance, I get filled with more negative thoughts than positive ones.

Is it wrong to judge someone based on their dancing?  So often, incredibly often now, I find myself judging people not based on their dance ability, but on their dance character.  It's rough because a lot of the time I feel like it really is an accurate reflection of who they are as a person, but sometimes it's unintentional and just because they don't know better.  But there are definitely people whom I dance with and I just get disheartened, not because they are a bad dancer, but because I feel something in their dance that shows a side of their character that I just dislike.  I've been dancing for quite some time now, so it's quite easy for me to pick apart someone's style.  Those leads that jerk you around -- do they really care about me as a person??  Those follows who go off on their own volition and overdo everything -- why does it feel like you are just snubbing me off??  It's not all bad though, of course.  There are people whom I really love dancing with now just because of the character of their dancing.  But for the rest, it's so easy for me to make these snap judgments.  I can't help it.  And I myself am not exempt from it either, as I know better than anyone that my flaws and weaknesses show through in my dancing as well. 

But it doesn't stop there, either.  Dance is also where I become acutely, sometimes painfully aware of gender roles in our community and society.  How much people fall into gender roles, not just in dance, but also in socialization.  And every time I go and interact with someone during those times, I feel my own biases too.  And I can't help thinking about how I interact with people differently based on their gender.  It makes me feel uncomfortable with myself sometimes.

And of course, everything else.  The cliques.  How the older dancers don't get any attention from the young kids.  How couples who are dating stick together and somehow become unapproachable.

Maybe it is easier if I just try to be aloof and lose myself in my own world.  I don't know, really.  Maybe I am just jaded.  Or maybe I just need to try and not think about it so much.

Rest In Peace, AIM

As you may have heard, AOL Instant Messenger is shutting down (finally, for good) this December.  While I won't spend =too= much time reminiscing or even bemoaning that, I do want to express my gratitude to the service as a whole for cultivating relationships in a way that sadly I don't think I will ever experience again.

But before I delve into that, let me just point out that the official reasoning for "Why is AIM shutting down?", as given by this FAQ, is:

We know there are so many loyal fans who have used AIM for decades; and we loved working and building the first chat app of its kind since 1997. Our focus will always be on providing the kind of innovative experiences consumers want. We’re more excited than ever to focus on building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products.
...which, of course, basically says nothing.  I think "lol" is truly a proper response here.

To me the passing of AIM marks more than just the death of the service itself, but a sad reminder that this old form of communicating and establishing relationships through online chatting seems to be virtually nonexistent anymore.  It didn't matter whether it was AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, or whether you were one of the cool kids like me using a multi-protocol client -- online interaction was =different= back then.  And dare I was better.

Of course, AIM itself is not really such a big deal -- everyone and their parents (sometimes quite literally) have moved onto the new kids on the block, which include facebook messenger, google hangouts, skype, and phone-based messaging, whether it be SMS, Line, WhatsApp, or anything else.  Though I will say that it annoys me how everyone jumped ship from AIM despite it being a perfectly fine service that we had used extensively for years.  In my mind it was due to two reasons, neither of which I like at all...the first reason being that everyone was using gmail (in their browsers, of course), and gchat at the time was a hand-in-hand deal with that.  So everybody always had their browser window open to gmail all the time.  Do people still do this???  I have always used a separate mail client, and a separate IM client...I never saw a reason to conflate these things, and especially not into my web browser of all things.  The second reason was, of course, that it was just not "the cool thing" to do anymore.  So the herd moved on, and left AIM behind, just as it had left Xanga and Livejournal behind, and just as it had left Myspace behind as well.  And I shake my head in dismay as I stick to my ways and probably seem like a dogmatic old fart, what with my 5:4 aspect ratio monitors and pixel art.  (Speaking of which, we got an SNES classic today, hyyyppeeeee!!!)

But no, the death of the service itself isn't so sad.  What is really depressing is that online chat relationships just...aren't what they used to be.  Yes, of course, I still keep at it -- I always try, and I'm not saying that there aren't still great conversations being had and everything.  But no, I mean, back then, in the 2000-2010 era, things were =different=.  There were people for whom I =waited= to come online, people whom I messaged almost daily.  It didn't matter what we talked about -- probably silly stuff like Starcraft or crushes or how stupid the homework assignments were or fangirling over pretty hair or =whatever=.  But I talked with these people...I talked with them so often.  It was something real, something special.  I had so many chats with my best friend in high school (whom I also talked with on the phone!!!).  Even at my first internship, I had late night chats with a co-worker there that became a really good friend -- I'll never forget how nice that was.  All these relationships, built after school, after work, all on the back of these IMs.  The last time I felt really invested in online IMs was a few years ago, and that was part of a long-distance relationship.

But perhaps it's not that the times are a-changing -- perhaps it's not that at all, but rather that my age group has all moved on and left these things behind.  Maybe all the kids now are doing the same things that I did, just without all of the colloquialisms like custom formatting and screen names.  Maybe they are texting each other every day after school (I guess even during school?), forming bonds, and making relationships.  Sure, an old fogey like me would complain and say "gosh darned kids; in my day we used a computer and we actually focused on our conversations...", but honestly...if the kids nowadays are going crazy with their texting or whatever, then you know what, that is great.

But what, then, of my age group?  Is online messaging just not the "cool" thing to do anymore?  Has it just taken other forms like twitch chat and slack channels? (which, remember, are really just the cool hip version of IRC)  Are we just too distracted by our hipster silicon valley workaholic lives to pay attention to an online conversation?  Are we too focused on getting married and having kids to care about making new friends and just talking about random things over IM?  Or are we too jaded by the social relationships we've had and no longer feeling the excitement of conversations?

I don't like growing up.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I am sorry for all the times that I did not put in the proper effort to carry through with our conversations.  For turning my back on life, and humanity in general, too.  I'll try to remind myself that the opportunity to smile is always there, I just have to choose to take it.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

You are the only one who can preserve your own past.  For it is yours alone to know, to understand, and to share.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Yesterday was pretty nice!  I went to bed later than I probably would have liked, but I caught up on quite a variety of things, including:

- Blogging
- Folding laundry
- Wrote a letter
- Wrapped / packaged up some presents / letters
- Read through letters that Kiki wrote to me
- Checking a bunch of websites that I haven't frequented in a while, read some interviews and articles
- Got some nice TGM practice in (TAP Master S9 on stick!)
- Made some progress on an art project that I need to finish for next month
- Browsed through clothing online
- Downloaded 117 new Little Twin Stars wallpapers from here
- Updated my official song listing

Today I finally caught up on DeviantArt postings as well.  Hoping to get some more progress on Rhythm Quest today, or maybe drawing...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"While you were quiet and sometimes a very calming presence, I remember you were quite loud inside that fragile body, with a wildly beating heart, wondering when someone else's wings would fold around your shoulders and lift you gently from the stream.  I didn't know what to do sometimes, except to show you the pebbles and bark on the trees, remind you the little joys, that not every rock crumbles -- at least not while you see it, are with it."

It doesn't matter that you went away from my life.  I'll keep our friendship in my heart forever.

Thank you so much for these letters -- these fleeting feelings and thoughts, made permanent by the magic of ink and Sanrio stationery.  Like a magical incantation, they are a portal into a time already lost long ago, buried within the recesses of our memories.  It is only by taking the time to listen to the past that we are able to hear the voices of those who are no longer with us in their current form.

Rain World

Oh!  I forgot to mention too, we finished playing through Rain World, at last.  We of course didn't explore all there is to explore in the game (spoiled ourselves by reading up on the lore online instead), but we at least brought some neurons to Big Sis Moon before heading to the Depths to finish the game.

The ending was...kind of a mindf*** to be honest, and I think left us a bit confused and unsatisfied, but makes more sense after reading up on the lore of the game some more.  Still though, it was quite sad overall, thinking about little slugcat and all the things it went through over the course of the game.  It was surprising how much I really cared for that little guy, after spending so long with it.  The main musical theme of Rain World, too, is really forlorn in its melody.  Associating it with slugcat's journey, the intro, the ending, and also Moon is just...ahh, it's a bit emotional, to be honest.  Poor little slugcat...

It was a great game!  I can't believe how engrossing and alive that world was; it really surprises you and grows on you and it's really rewarding going through it and learning more about it as well.  You will be missed, Rain World.

But now it's onto other things for now.  Shantae and the Pirate's Curse has been very...unextraordinary so far, so perhaps it's time to start on something else, like Mother 3!

Camping, CrunchyRoll Expo, Rhythm Quest Overworld Map

Time for another update...

I went camping for the first time over Labor Day weekend!  We went down south somewhere in the middle of nowhere, it was...sort of intense.  I did about as well as could be expected, with the number 1 nuisance being the flying buzzies that bothered me constantly.  I had my earbuds in for most of the day, otherwise I probably would have gone insane...past that, it was stifling hot so we spent a good deal of time in the creek.  We had a nice night hike and glowsticking session, which was fun!  The clouds were actually covering most of the sky, so we didn't see any stars, or hardly even the moon (which was super bright when it was visible), which was a bit disappointing, but I actually didn't mind much -- to be honest, I thought it was actually really cool being out in the middle of nowhere with not even the stars out, especially since it was so quiet in terms of ambient noise.  (And the buzzies were asleep, YAY) It was a special kind of quiet, I think.  Anyways, overall a fun trip, though not something I'd be looking to do again, haha.  I was pretty drained after coming back home -- it has been a while since I have felt so socially depleted; I remember I really just didn't want to interact with any human beings.

Before that I also went to Crunchyroll Expo!  It was fun overall, and very convenient and close to get to -- very laid back, very easy.  I'd definitely go again!  It's smaller than an event like Fanime, but surprisingly large despite it being only its first year.  I brought my Journey cosplay, as I always do nowadays.  Here's a photo of me along with this super cool Hyper Light Drifter (!) cosplayer!

By far the highlight was getting to meet the OneShot devs (!!!) who apparently were holding a table at the artist alley!

Official merch omg!!!  I fangirled for a while here, looked at all of Nightmargin's cool art, picked out a ton of stuff I wanted to buy from them, and traded contact info (I had one of my spiffy business cards with me, aw yeah!).  So cool, I never thought I'd get to meet the devs in person, like they are real people sitting right there on the other side of that table and they made one of my favorite games wahh @_@

This week I'm actually taking the week off from work!  Taking some time off after working hard for our PAX demo, which seems to have gone down pretty well!  As you might guess, I'll be trying to spend the week focusing on more development for Rhythm Quest, music production, hopefully some art, and overall just catching up on things in my life.  It's been going pretty ok so far!  I've made some good progress on Rhythm Quest and pushed out a new song as well.

My current big focus area for Rhythm Quest is adding a whole new part to the game -- overworld maps!

Up until the beginning of the week, the level selection UI (which, admittedly, was placeholder) for Rhythm Quest looked like this:

Pretty boring, right? (though a lot more exciting than before when it didn't even have stage names)  But it works just fine, and is even optimized for touch controls (Rhythm Quest is designed for mobile!) and if you look at my other rhythm games, you'll see that it's the same basic menu template as before.  Here's Ripple Runner Deluxe:

...and here's Melody Muncher, which adds a little more detail with level info and high scores:

But I really wanted to have more of a sense of progression for Rhythm Quest, especially since, unlike Melody Muncher, there aren't going to be high scores or anything, just a pass/fail, with a special bonus if you clear the stage without dying at all (just like Ripple Runner).  I actually think that was one of the strengths of Ripple Runner's design when compared with Melody Muncher -- even though Melody Muncher was a much "deeper" game mechanically, there is a certain simplicity of "have to get this section right" and "one more try!" that I think keeps players engaged, as opposed to the more DDR/Guitar Hero-like mechanism that Melody Muncher uses.  Of course you need to be a little more cautious with the difficulty because now you either pass or fail (and failing means not progressing!), but I think there's also a better and more concrete sense of accomplishment after doing a section well.

Anyhow, I wanted to have more of a sense of progression and was throwing around ideas about how I should handle level/world selection (I knew for sure that I wanted to divide the stages up into "worlds" with different themes).  I couldn't really come up with any simple menu/ui-based schemes that really felt compelling, so I started thinking about map screens -- and more specifically, ideas that would meet the criteria that:
- They make sense with touch controls (but could work on PC builds as well)
- They provide a clear sense of progression
- And most importantly, they are doable in terms of my artistic abilities

That third point is always the limiting factor for me, as that's certainly my weakest and most time-consuming point in my trio of skills between coding, audio, and graphics/animation.  I knew that doing some sort of map system would be testing those skills, but maybe it would be an opportunity for growth!  I've actually already gotten WAY better at pixeling over the years than I used to be, after all.

So I started thinking about map screens that would make sense, including some sort of Kirby's Adventure-style platformer-based level selection with doors and a level layout -- which seemed doable in terms of art assets (platformer tiles!) but didn't make too much sense with the rest of the game, and made zero sense to do with touch controls.  So I settled upon some sort of overworld map system, with dots or circles that you would tap on in order to select a level.  I ended up pulling very heavy inspiration from the Super Mario World overworld map style, which looks like this:

I thought this would be a great fit, as it was roughly tile-based (good -- limiting myself to working with a grid makes things much more structured and easier for me) and the graphics themselves were relatively simple.  I could even use the "roads" to mark progression, as SMW did, which would be great!

I had a few false starts, and went back and forth on what to do with my color palette -- Rhythm Quest has an interesting facet of its design where the level tileset is drawn using a 4-color palette, but hue shifts to different colors at different points in the song.  This is the same technique I used in both Ripple Runner and Melody Muncher, to great effect -- 4-color monochromatic palettes are an absolute joy to work with for me, as they simplify everything a lot and allow me to really concentrate on values rather than worrying about coloring.  It's worth noting though, that as with other aspects of 8-bit style, Rhythm Quest breaks this rule in other areas -- the character and enemies and obstacles and UI, for instance, don't actually fall into the same palette, which makes sense because it's important to be able to still recognize red enemies vs orange enemies, etc. and neither spikes nor the character wouldn't be able to stand out as much if they adhered to the same palette.  So it's an interesting mix.

Anyhow, I was really having trouble drawing out a good "Grass Land" map using my 4-color palette that featured a nice green-ish ground color but also had tree tiles and such, as well as a lighter color for the road.  I also knew I wanted a lake or river so that level 1-3 could take place over the water.  At one point, I decided to throw the 4-color palette to the wind and started drawing up a more expansive color palette, with blues for the water, greens for the grass and ground, and some yellow colors for the road and dirt.  I started to try pixeling some trees and such using that palette, and it was going pretty decently well!  But then after that I realized that with a few replacements and adjustments, it actually worked just as well (if not better) with the original 4-color palette after all!

Here's what I ended up with:

Again, the blue circles (which are the actual interactable buttons) don't obey the 4-color palette.  It's inconsistent, but in a consistent way I guess!  Anyhow, I'm really happy with how it turned out so far, and it was a bit of a relief to be honest that I managed to get something workable.  With that body of work out of the way, my next task is to actually hook up all the buttons and dialogs (partly done already), and then do a bunch more coding work to get it so that your level progress is saved, and so that the roads actually fill in dynamically like they do in Super Mario World -- that should be really cool once I get it all working!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Perhaps we should try to reach out to one part of our past each day.  It doesn't have to be the same thing; or even be something that succeeds or matters in the end.  But bit by bit, those feelings and thoughts will accumulate into something that you can look back on without regret.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kiki, and dealing with the past, for my own sake

"Have you ever waited for something so long, you thought it would never happen?

I'm not sure how to explain how I feel right now, but that this is both an end, but also not an end.  A beginning, too.  I guess, it wouldn't even matter how it happened, to be honest.  Only that it did.  That it happened at all, is a miracle.  That, by itself, is...

Oh, how time has passed.  And if I could, I might give you that time back.  But perhaps, it's better to look forward, and not back.  I always looked back, hoping I could find you.  But just maybe, if I turn around, I would catch a glimpse of you in the road ahead.  I don't know if I would ever meet you.  Perhaps I wouldn't.  But that would never stop me from calling out.  Even if I knew you wouldn't hear.

I told you once, that there's no meaning in a letter not read.  But that's not true.  Not true at all..."

I wrote the above 3 years ago, in November 2014.  It was after I had received a letter from the person who I refer to here as "Kiki".  It is the last letter I have ever received from her.  Before that I had last seen her in January of 2013, and before that in September of 2012.

Throughout the years Kiki has come to symbolize much more to me than the actual relationship I had with her alone.  I began to saw the relationship with Kiki as the representation of bonds that had been lost through time.  She was so important to me; I loved her very much, and yet, as with so many other things, she slipped out of my life and into some other time, some other place, some other life that I was not a part of.  And despite my efforts to reach out, I could do nothing to bring her back into my life.  Over time, this became apparent to me, and it became increasingly clear that I would not be able to reach the same place, same time, and same life as her.  Yet, I could not accept that loss.  Had I simply not tried hard enough?  What could I do?

Would I simply have to accept the fact that sometimes, no matter how important something is to you, it can disappear into the sands of time, with you powerless against it?

I think that is something that I have never wanted to accept, even to this day.

When I wrote above that "this is both an end, but also not an end", I meant that hearing from Kiki again was a sort of closure for me.  In June 2014 (an aside, I don't actually remember all these dates offhand!  But my log of "people making my day" really helps here) I realized after a lot of thought and some conversations with my best friend that my way of coming to terms with that loss was simply to "keep trying", even despite knowing that it was "futile" in that it would never bring Kiki back, but it would be a way for me to keep her in my life, even if I could not truly reach her.

It wasn't until January 2016 that I finally saw Kiki again.  It was a surreal feeling, really -- I couldn't believe it was happening.  If only I could trace that moment back, and keep it with me forever...  Before we said goodbye, I talked to her a bit, about our relationship.  I asked her, too, what I should do about it.  I asked her if I should keep on sending letters to her, and whether it was ok to be like this.  She answered -- something more or less the same as always, some thoughts that I knew were nice but not practical.  And I realized later that it didn't really matter what Kiki thought about it -- that what was more important was how I felt about it, and what I was okay doing.  Of course, if she had said "I know you have been trying very hard, and waiting very long.  I am sorry that I cannot be a part of your life anymore...and I could make promises to you, but we both know that for now, this is the way that things will be.  But if it helps you to cope, please continue writing to me.  At the very least, I will receive your feelings."  Well, besides the fact that that would have been amazing, that would also have strengthened my resolve a bit.  But if she instead had told me, "Timm[ie], I fear that you are only bringing yourself pain by continuing to hold onto me.  I wish I could be a part of your life too, but I have things I need to do, and places I need to go.  I think it's better if you say goodbye to me for good.", then what?  Would I really be able to say goodbye to her, move on, and try my best to not dwell on past memories?  I don't think so.  How could I throw away something that was once so important to me?

One of the reasons that I think it is so important to hold onto connections and to hold onto the past is simply because I desire that from others.  It's not just that I don't want to move on -- it's that I don't want others to leave me behind either.  For a great deal of my life, I have believed in a world where connections can survive the passing of time, if we will it with our continued and dedicated effort.  Not only that, but I believe that is how things *ought* to be.  And if I believe in "forever", it has to start with myself, too.  I must be the absence of change I wish to see in the world.

Of course, nothing can actually last forever.  But the act of believing in that, and trying in my own way, forms a large part of my human condition, I think.  And so it became more about what I wanted, what I needed for myself to move forward, rather than anything that Kiki needed from me.

Every once in a long while, though, something from the past comes back to visit me.  Even a small thing, can make a big impact on me, when it's something like that.  It's an amazing feeling.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

More Rhythm Quest progress, cooking, gendered dance

Despite this being our busy week at work (deadline!), life is going surprisingly well.  This also despite a pretty myemie day on Monday my attempt to fix the washer didn't work and, even worse, I cooked a pretty poor meal for dinner.  It doesn't happen too often, but sometimes dinner really just doesn't go right...this time I had some miso black cod which I cooked in the toaster oven, but it really didn't sit well with me.  The fish was relatively fresh, so not sure if it was just something that didn't jive with my stomach that time, or because I hadn't marinated it very long, or what.  I ate it with some pickled radishes (those at least, were fine), rice, and some premade rolled egg/tamagoyaki thing which was...meh.  But yeah mostly something about the fish.  I feel like I cooked it well enough so I don't really know.  But I'll pass on black cod for a bit before trying it again.

I haven't had that much success with unagi at home actually -- they have been "ok" but not really super great (using the pre-packaged vaccum-sealed ones, of course).  I have been wanting to try umaki though (unagi rolled in tamagoyaki), so I'll give it a go the next time I stop by Nijiya for food.

Anyways despite all that, as I said, life is going pretty well.  I've returned back to working on my side indie game Rhythm Quest in full force, which has been great fun and extremely motivating -- I've basically been doing that for my train rides to and from the city, which is especially great because I don't really have any games to play on the train at the moment.  Haven't decided what I'm going to play next, but it could be Mother 3 (!), or maybe something I'll buy on Steam like Flinthook.  Or maybe I'll go through Undertale's "Hard mode" segment, since I never ended up doing that?

In any case, Rhythm Quest has gotten a bunch of work done.  Last time I worked on it I added both flying and double-hit enemies, and now I've added a lot of extra visual feedback for elements reacting to the beat as well as working on better particle effects, and cool visual effects for when you successfully hit a note/obstacle.

Most recently I rearchitected the whole audio syncing system and I'm now using Unity's AudioSettings.dspTime absolute timeline and scheduling all of my music segments precisely.  My previous solution relied on taking the current music playback time and having all of the elements of the game be based on that...except, if you do that naively, it's really jerky because the music playback time isn't updated smoothly at all.  So you end up having to track your own time, and do your best to sync your timeline to the music playback time.  That actually worked reasonably well, to be honest, but it wasn't perfect.

I was adding a feature similar to bit.trip runner on death such that when you die, a background loop plays such that there's still a persistent beat going through your respawn -- and when you finally reach your respawn point, it's downbeat-aligned, so it all snaps into place.  Very nice, very bit.trip runner, no breaking of flow or anything.  I had that all working with the old system actually, and it wasn't too bad, but I wanted to see if I could go the extra mile and use the audio scheduling functions to get sample-perfect playback.

It definitely took some work, but it's all working well now!  I've split my track into multiple segments, which are queued up and scheduled according to an absolute time.  I still detect drift between the "game time" and the audio dsp time, to ensure that the two sync up within some error margin.  When you die, the background track is already looping, so I just have to set its volume to 1 and stop the playback of the current music segment.  Then I do a bunch of magical calculations in order to figure out how long to let the background track play (for the respawn) -- and I schedule the new music segment to kick in exactly on time at the beat at which you respawn.  I also schedule the background track to stop playing at that same time.  So the music transitions are totally aligned, totally synced, and it's wonderful.  At some point I'll do a test with some sine waves or something just to make sure that it's actually sample-perfect.

Now there are some limitations though.  I did lose one of my features, which was playing and pausing the song willy-nilly and even changing playback speed for slowmo and rewind during debug play.  None of that works if I want to use the absolute audio timeline, so I dumped those features for now.  Sad because going through the song in slowmo and being able to rewind it was super cool, but ultimately those aren't really that necessary, and if I end up needing them I can do some sort of workaround.

The only remaining issue is that because audio latency and buffering is still a thing, *game*-related sounds that are supposed to be beat-aligned won't actually be played on beat.  This is simply a problem by nature and there's not that much you can do about it -- if your player presses attack perfectly on beat, you'll end up queuing your sound to play on that frame, but it won't be until some milliseconds later that you end up hearing the song because of audio buffering and latency.  In some cases you can try to be predictive and queue up the sound beforehand -- I will probably end up doing something like that for my checkpoint sounds, for instance -- but for sounds that depend on player input you can't really predict if/when the player is going to press the button.

So there's still some work to do there in terms of having coin sounds / checkpoint sounds be scheduled using the same audioDsp mechanism.  I also could be a =little= smarter about catching drift between game time and audio dsp time -- use some sort of adaptive heuristic or at least some smoothing in an attempt to find the best relation between game time and audio dsp time, but that doesn't appear to be a huge issue at the moment.  I also would like to try and clean up the code now that I've finished the refactor for the most part -- see if I can split off the new audio scheduling/timing logic away from the rest of the main gamestate logic.

So that's all cool!  One thing that is NOT cool is how disproportionately gender affects our social dance community and experience, though (as it does with the rest of our lives too).  I know this might be coming out of left field, but yeah.  I'm over it today, but I remember yesterday while walking back home from the station I had some thoughts about it and I ended up just feeling upset.'s just really sad.  I don't think we are doing nearly enough about it either.  I should try and be more proactive about setting a better example, if I find it in myself.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I've been firing up SNES chiptunes at work for a change of pace, listening to SNES music to get me through the day.  It's been great so far!  I actually listened to the Kirby's Dream Land 3 soundtrack and wow, it's actually really legit, despite me not remembering the game much.  I remember not being super impressed with the game itself, you know, especially compared to the golden shining purity that is Kirby Super Star, but yeah, I'm digging this.

Monday, August 14, 2017

JaSmix 2017, Perseids, etc.

The past week or so has really felt like a rush of activity for me.  But it was satisfying to work through it all and have enjoyed it a lot.

Work has been getting steadily busier as we approach our deadline for getting a demo build out for PAX (which is at the beginning of September).  There is plenty to get done and at this point it's mostly a matter of working hard and making sure that we are prioritizing the right things, as well as pacing ourselves and making smart decisions.  The pacing part is especially important for myself, as I learned from experience about half a month ago that it's really unsustainable for me to try bringing work home with me.  That kind of thing always tends to sneak up on you before you even realize it was happening, but it's important to be cognisant of it.  Since then I've tried to be better about setting boundaries for myself and understanding (through experience) my own limits and what works best for me.  After all, if you aren't the one who is going to understand that, then who is?

I also had a brief stint keeping an "energy log" of sorts where I was tracking physical/mental/emotional energy over the course of the day -- not very rigorously or anything as I wasn't aiming to get much quantitative data, but more just general observations to understand the kind of things I need to stick to or avoid to make sure that my days are closer to the way that I would like them to be.  It probably comes as no surprise, but I figured out that I basically need to keep in mind 4 pretty important things -- #1 is not taking work home with me, #2 is getting enough sleep, #3 is not eating heavy meals, and #4 is a more general not getting distracted by "junk" type activities.  Out of those the first three are really the most important as without those in place it's really hard to have good habits anywhere else.  Again, no real surprises here, but perhaps it was at least helpful for me to see the more direct correlations between things here and there.

We went again to go watch shooting stars (the Perseids meteor shower) this year!  Viewing conditions were a lot further from ideal this time and we didn't get to see nearly as many as a result, but it was still a good time for sure and I was glad to have good company for it.

JaSmix finally happened and it was a smashing success!  I actually barely had enough time to prepare for everything, due to multiple factors all compounding together...I hadn't been getting a great amount of sleep that week but still had to make sure I was prepared to teach both my WCS and waltz workshops, as well as help co-dj.  Except, last minute it turned out that I had to be the only DJ, whoops!  We went to go see the Perseids the night before (and thus stayed out really late) so I slept in the day of, and I actually basically did nothing else for the entire day besides JaSmix stuff, lol.  I woke up and set to work preparing 2 extra sets worth of music, then after that I wanted to run through my WCS class one more time to make sure I had it under my belt...then we packed up everything, picked up food, and went off to campus...

Despite all the minor snafus that happened along the way (including the brief stint of time where we were just teaching WCS out in the courtyard since we couldn't get inside) I really couldn't have asked for a better event.  The classes went well, a lot of people showed up (a surprising amount of people showed up on time too!), I saw people having a lot of fun, and everyone seemed to like the music too.  Definitely checking this one off as a success in my book.

Teaching the classes was pretty fun, though of course stressful in terms of preparing (especially for Intro to WCS) as well as a bit nerve-wrecking.  Before this I've actually taught two other waltz classes -- a class on waltz musicality last year at JaSmix 2016 (which I also ran), and then a class on role-reversal variations (a.k.a leading from the follow position) a few years ago at JaSmix 2014.  I've come quite a long way since 2014 -- I remember teaching that class and feeling quite stiff about it, though I think it still went "more or less alright".  It's also a weird feeling (and kind of sad) that so few people at JaSmix this year were around for that class -- I could probably could them on a single hand...

Anyways, these two classes were quite a bit better (improvement, yay!).  I think part of that is due to having better class structure -- especially for the WCS one, where I really tried to think about what order to go over things in (there's a lot).  The other part of that I think is just my own skills having improved a lot in the intervening 3 years.  My WCS is still very sloppy but it's at least somewhat improved since then (...I think...), but especially in waltz I feel so much more knowledgable about how the dance functions than I did before.  Nowadays when I dance together with someone or even watch them dance I think it's very easy for me to understand what is going on with their dancing and what (if anything) they should be working on improving, whereas before I could probably sense it on an intuitive level but could never pin it down.  I also understand a lot more about really what goes into the physics of leading and following and that has immensely helped me in becoming a better waltz dancer.  WCS actually has done a lot to help me in that regard, as things like prepping, connection, acceleration/tension, and being relaxed are really emphasized a lot more in WCS instruction and are super applicable to the social waltz that we do.  One of my weak points as a teacher is that I find it really difficult to adapt and react to how people are doing when I teach to a large group -- it pretty much takes all of my mental focus to remember what I'm supposed to be saying and teaching so I don't have a lot of bandwidth to watch people and try to analyze how they are doing, but this time I actually felt like I was able to do that a few times, which was quite helpful.

As for specifically how the classes went, I think WCS was a "valiant effort" at instilling some good fundamentals in people, but of course it was difficult since there was such a wide range in experience levels -- there were some people who had never done any social dance before, so there's only so much you can expect from them, really.  Nevertheless, I think at the very least people were having fun and at least trying things out, which was the most important part (it is an intro class after all), and hopefully some of the more experienced dancers at least walked away from the class with some better understanding of anchoring or technique or footwork or...anything really.

The waltz class was a blast I think, and it seemed like everyone really enjoyed it, despite again there being a wide range of experience levels.  I think I had a better "spread" of concepts in that class where there was a lot to soak up for the more experienced dancers but there were also some low-hanging fruit for newer folks to digest more easily -- I'll have to remember to keep that in mind if I ever end up teaching again.  The most difficult part of the class was actually getting everyone to be quiet and pay attention so that I could keep the class moving along, but since I was moving along at breakneck pace I actually managed to cover a *lot*...looking back on it, there were only like...3 figures that I didn't end up going over, and I don't think those would have been a particularly great fit for the class anyways (though they are still very cool).  If nothing else, I'm at last satisfied that I was able to do my rant about pattycake->free spins because that has been a pet peeve of mine FOREVER now and I am tired of seeing that mistake be made over and over again.  It seemed like that concept really clicked with people so here's hoping that at least that alone will have done a little bit to raise the proficiency of our lead/following...

One thing I forgot to do is ask if there were any students who were interested in forming an organization to host workshops and practice sessions in order to work on more stuff like what I taught.  You might remember that I was turning that idea around in my head quite a while ago but in the end after pursuing it further decided that there was no point in considering it until some student stepped up to make a VSO of some sort.  Of course, now that I'm thinking of it more, maybe a regular weekly practice session isn't quite the best format after all -- maybe I could just randomly host a workshop + practice again, like a mini-JaSmix of sorts during the year -- more like a waltz weekend-type thing.  But that is neither here nor there...I'm ready to be done with dance planning for a good bit now.

Ludum Dare rating has been continuing to go on and there's still about a week left -- I've been going through games here and there and have rated 24 so far (our game has gotten 32 ratings).  People have really been enjoying our game and its style/character which has been great!  Despite almost killing ourselves on Sunday night while making it, it all came together really well and I'm pretty happy with how it all went.  I'll be writing the postmortem either sometime this week, or maybe after voting ends and results come out.

Things have been a bit slower on the music front recently as I've been busy with other things (namely, preparing for JaSmix and everything), but we've still got half the month left, and I hope to come up with one or two more "Potpourri" mashups to finish off my album, so that should be good.  I'll be reaching out to a fan artist pokemon007 soon to see if I can get them to help out with the album artwork for that -- would be awesome if that actually ended up happening!

We are finally starting to get a little bit of glorious fall weather now and I'm happy that we made it through another summer.  I can't tell you how excited I am to be walking to the train station in the morning under cloudy weather again, hahaha.

I've definitely been slacking on letter-writing (and connecting in general) lately, so hoping to spend a little more effort on that, I think.  It seems crazy (probably because it is), but in just a handful of weeks it's already going to be time to start thinking about Christmas letters again.  Yes, it's that time of year again already, hahaha.  I actually have a special letter project that I'd like to try doing before all that though, so I guess that should be my next goal as far as writing is concerned.  Then I can also try to take care of the birthdays between now and xmas, and after that, start on xmas 2017...

This week is a fresh start and it feels like I actually don't have a lot weighing me down right now.  Let's all do our best!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Last night I made progress...I don't know how it happened or what caused it, but...
I was having another band dream, I'm pretty sure it was concert band not marching band.  Except this time I wasn't actually at rehearsal or anything at the time.  My memory is pretty foggy, but I just remember thinking to myself "gee...why am I even still doing this? -- I really don't feel like doing this anymore."

And just that simple thought feels like a huge breakthrough for me.  Unseating these past feelings has proven to be really difficult for some reason, but somehow I've taken a step in the right direction.  That even when my mind thinks it's back there in that stressful situation, I'm now able to check myself and realize that I don't have to be there.


Ludum Dare 39 was a success!  We made it out alive and with a game.
I'll be catching up on life and posting about it later...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

FearofDark's new album "Exit Plan" released this past weekend.  FearofDark has always been super talented and writes awesome chiptunes and tracked music but this album really knocks it out of the park.  Recommended!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Feeling cautiously optimistic about life.  Let's keep this update short and to the point.

Ludum Dare is coming up this weekend!  I'll be making my "In" post at some point, maybe later today.

Have another small art project that I need to get done in the next 5 days.  I already started on it and I think it's going to turn out well!  It actually came at a great time and I'm feeling very hopeful about it.  I was working on it on the train a bit this morning already.

This month is rather slow in terms of music-making but I still actually put in a decent number of hours this past weekend, making another Potpourri mashup and also remastering the other 3 old ones that I've already made.  I strung all four of them together and put them up here, if you'd like to stream a whole bunch of chiptune goodness.

JaSmix is confirmed for August 12th and things are coming along nicely -- only one or two more logistical things to iron out, but I think it'll all end up working out, phew.  I still have to sit down and really prep for my workshops but there's no real point in trying to do that until after Ludum Dare.  But I can at least start preparing music beforehand, I guess.

There's some other stuff, but that's the main gist of it...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Life seems a bit scary to me right now.  Despite getting enough sleep, I felt a lot of weight pressing down on me today.  I don't know where it is from, but I felt really sad because of it.

Wish for you to keep me safe.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pragmatism is my jam!!!  Let's get things done, yo

Looks like Soundcloud is finally (?) going under for real this time and...I feel a little guilty for saying this, but I'm actually somewhat glad.  Not that it was a bad platform or anything, but just...SoundCloud was always the platform that I had the most trouble managing, and to be honest anyone who listens to my music would be better off going to Bandcamp (which is the REAL site that I want people to go to) or even YouTube for streaming.  As good as I am at managing multiple platforms, I think it's a win for me if the amount of fragmentation is reduced.  Of course, if all those people end up just running off to Spotify instead that's a different story, but...what can you do.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Well, I finished OneShot (and Solstice).  What a game...very similar to Undertale in what it manages to achieve, both in terms of player connection with characters and world, and in narrative direction.  Both have their own merits, of course.  But yeah...OneShot.  It was certainly worth every minute.  I'd recommend it highly.

It's been a while...

Quite a lot of things happened, I feel like.  I've been doing well in general, but the past few days haven't been very great -- just in terms of a general feeling.  Pretty sure it's just stress...I can feel it in my chest sometimes.  Annoying...

I made an effort to get some additional sleep last night and almost succeeded but I think something ended up waking me up and it wasn't quite a success.  So I didn't end up waking super easily, but on the plus side at least I don't feel lackluster in terms of energy level, so that's definitely a start.

I've been doing a pretty good job of bringing food to work almost every day (though I didn't yesterday).  It feels great knowing that I'm saving money by making my own food...initially the reason that I wanted to cook lunch for myself at least once a week was just because I like making my own food, but after a while every time I went out to buy something for lunch I kept thinking about how much more expensive it was and decided that I'd do something about it.

JaSmix date still isn't solidified, but I'm really hoping that it ends up working out.  Last Friday I worked out a bunch of my current toolbox of figures that I'd potentially go over in a workshop, which was quite interesting because I discovered that my leads on a lot of them actually are very imprecise in terms of timing and followers' footwork.  That's actually more or less fine in terms of just getting them to work, but it surprised me just how much I was glossing over even for figures that I do on a regular basis.  So I learned a lot there, though not necessarily things that I'd actually go over in the workshop itself.

Perhaps the most exciting thing happening right now in my life is OneShot, which has proven to be a real gem of a game.  Before I write anything about OneShot, though, I should take a moment to talk about Rakuen, which I played through and finished.  Rakuen was...honestly, kind of disappointing and overhyped.  Which is not to say that it wasn't enjoyable, and I think it had some nice moments, but I really don't feel like it was deserving of such high praise as I heard it lauded for.  I honestly felt like the game design as a whole wasn't as "clean" as it could have been and I think the storytelling in Kan Gao's games (To the Moon, Quintessence) was actually much better.  As a whole Rakuen was a lot more formulaic and played into many more RPG tropes (in a not so great way).  But I do think that it did some things right.  The way that you went around everywhere with Mom and could talk with her every so often was super nice and I think the relationship with Mom was actually really sweet and well-done.  The little stories that Sue shared with you too, I think that was another highlight of the game.  So I mean, it's not like Laura didn't put any heart into the game, or anything like that -- just that I feel like it definitely has its flaws too.  And I think that as artists we can try to hold ourselves to a better standard.  Ah, but of course, that's easier said than done.  Making games is difficult after all.

Speaking of which, I'm slowly making more progress on Rhythm Quest again.  So far I've added two additional enemy types and even designed a whole second level/song, which is great progress.  My next to-do items are dealing with the issue where the expected timing of the sword slash notes doesn't quite match up with what players are expecting visually -- probably because the sword slash animation extends a bit longer than the hitbox.  So I might need to adjust enemy placement a bit.  Also maybe toning down the difficulty of the second level.  Definitely a challenge to adjust difficulty for these things, but hopefully I can manage to get it right.  If nothing else I'm making sure to put a lot of checkpoints in the early levels, so that should help.

Anyways...OneShot.  I wasn't quite sure how much to expect out of it at first, but it's certainly managed to deliver in a big way.  It's reminiscent of Undertale in more ways than one, and so far I'm really appreciating almost everything about it, including both the storytelling and worldbuilding, as well as the narrative choices interwoven with player agency.  It's been quite tasteful and I'm really digging that.  I'd definitely recommend it.  It's something that has been something that I look forward to in my days, which is great.  The plot has been nothing short of gripping.  The emotional flow, too, has been really good.

Trying to get back in the swing of drawing again...I think I realized the thing I'm really interested in is drawing characters and cute things, so even just doodling things I think would be fun.

I released my "Sentience" album finally and it's been doing quite well so far!  I'm really happy with it and also pleased that other people seem to be enjoying it, even though it's not normal fare for me.  I'm also happy with how the CD prints turned out -- they look pretty cool!  Not really sure what is next for me in terms of be completely honest I'm not in a great place to work on artistic things at the moment, though.  The anxiety that's in my chest is really not conducive for it. =(  Hopefully that can go away soon.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Core values

A friend of mine recently showed me a prompt about core values that I thought might be an interesting exercise to go through myself.  Here's the prompt:

Across cultures, religions and time itself, people have admired and aspired to the same universal values--among them integrity, generosity, courage, humility, compassion, loyalty, perseverance--while rejecting their opposites--deceit, greed, cowardice, arrogance, callousness, disloyalty and sloth. To begin to explore more deeply the values that are most compelling to you, we suggest that you set aside uninterrupted time to respond to the following questions:

- Jump ahead to the end of your life. What are the three most important lessons you have learned and why are they so critical?
- Think of someone that you deeply respect. Describe three qualities in this person that you most admire.
- Who are you at your best?
- What one-sentence inscription would you like to see on your tombstone that would capture who you really were in your life?

The end goal of all of this was to sift through and realize what "compelling values" you hold, but let's first sort through these bulleted questions, as they are not only related but also interesting in their own right.

- Jump ahead to the end of your life. What are the three most important lessons you have learned and why are they so critical?

Already a tough one to answer!  I think the first and most obvious one that pops into my mind is one that I feel like I've been explaining and talking about with others a bit more nowadays -- that of my relationship with the past (of course, you know it had to be something to do with the past).  Specifically, what I learned through several life experiences -- that a lot of the time I cannot move forward in life if I feel that I am leaving something behind.  And moreover, the fact that I *need* to pay my respects to the past and feel connected to it.  This is something that I've struggled with my whole life because somehow the idea of change and loss is really hard for me to cope with, and I think things became a lot easier for me once I realized that even though nothing lasts forever and I will always lose things, it is still necessary for me to hang onto rememberances and try to retain what I can, as a coping mechanism.  And that to do otherwise casuses me great emotional distress.  This is basically the Kiki lesson, as she is the presence in my life that I associate most strongly with this question.  You could also call it the "Star" lesson.

I guess second would be that it's important to put yourself in healthy environments and good situations.  More specifically, that you don't have to (and shouldn't) subject yourself to suffering and sacrifices in order to do things that are worthwhile.  This one is the Marching Band lesson, basically.  I think growing up there were many many times when I was put into situations that were really toxic to my well-being, including but not limited to "bonding communication time" when I was at my most introverted and withdrawn states, being super super stressed out about band, and in general just dealing with a whole host of people who were not supportive to me.  I think with Marching Band in particular it was such a meaningful and important experience to me that I was totally willing to put myself through a lot for the sake of it.  However, later on in life it became apparent to me that there are many other things in life that are just as good without being toxic at the same time.  Basically, this lesson boils down into "treat myself right" and don't be in unhealthy relationships.

A third one?  I guess I would say just in general how to try to sympathize with others and not just see everything from my own point of view.  Basically...human connection.  I was terrible at this because I was always a super loner and really introverted as well not to mention I had a bit of a pride issue and stubborn streak.  So I think I was really judgmental and bad at seeing things from other points of view or even just respecting other people's different opinions or ways of being.  Part of this was also my upbringing because the examples that I grew up with did exactly this so I'm glad that I was able to realize that it is actually a big problem.

- Think of someone that you deeply respect. Describe three qualities in this person that you most admire.

All these multi-part questions!  I don't think this will be a single person but rather, spread across multiple people, as a more general thing.

I think one is the ability to be an "anchor" (no, not in the West Coast Swing sense...), or rather, that quality in people where no matter how many years go by it's still the same thing.  That seeing them again almost brings a sense of nostalgia, because they still are who they are.  Of course everyone has this to some extent -- it's not very often that people change in a very core way.  But certain people really make me feel it very clearly, and it feels super refreshing and actually gives me a really hopeful feeling, that something can stay so untouched amidst a world of such sweeping changes.

I think another is open-mindedness.  I think seeing people embrace new things and create meaningful life experience because of it is really inspiring to me, in large part because I prioritize comfort and routine so new things are really deprioritized in my when I see other people having such success with them it sometimes really makes me think and make sure that I'm not just being complacent.  New things (Ne) is my weak point and I'm really bad at it but I'll never grow as a person without it.

Also, empathy and being able to understand, connect with, and help others.  As I mentioned above I am not really good at this but I actually value it a lot and I think it's really really inspiring when I see certain people being a positive presence in others' lives.

- Who are you at your best?

Comfortable and at peace!  I am living in my routine and doing the things that I am always doing.  Everything is "in its place" and because I feel so comfortable and "in my element" I actually feel more willing to try one or two new things.  Basically I am at my best when I feel like I am secure in my comfort zone and that is the time when I am willing to see what is outside of it.

At my best I think I am proactive in reaching out to people, 100% dependable, always following through with everything that I planned, and taking care of everything that needs to be taken care of.  I am reaching towards achievements and goals while at the same time being happy.  I am "in the zone".

- What one-sentence inscription would you like to see on your tombstone that would capture who you really were in your life?

I donno...something about the past.  Or something artsy that has to do with the fact that I have finally "moved on" from life.  Like,

"Always" was what you said.
you also didn't stay.
You, who longed to be with the stars.

No...that's probably bad to put as an epitaph, huh. xD  Yeah, probably just something about the past.  But you know, as my best friend pointed out recently -- when I do have a tombstone, it will mean that I am part of the past, too.  I will finally be a part of that "past" that I am always looking back on.  If my soul still exists at that time, I feel that my entire perspective about everything will change so much.  But I guess that would be true for anyone.

To bring this back to core values, I think it's no surprise that the thing I value most in general is dependability, persistence, and loyalty -- or more specifically, a resistance to change.  Since a large part of my life seems to be centered around trying to keep things the same while coping with necessary change, it's extremely important for me to be able to stay the same as I once was, and to have people around who also would not change as well.  I think it is this value that drives many facets of my personality.  For example, one reason I seem to have such a diverse set of hobbies (music, games, dance, writing, art, blogging, calligraphy...) is because I don't want to drop any of them.  A lot of the time when I talk about being "true to myself" or "being Timmie" what I actually mean is staying consistent with what I have done in the past.  Not just because the past is important in an abstract sense, but because what I was in the past was =known to be good= and thus I begin to question any deviations from it.

The second thing that I seem to value is comfort.  This usually goes hand in hand with being consistent because for the most part what is consistent *is* what is comfortable.  But in general, making sure that one is taking care of themselves and putting themselves in good situations, as well as making time to stop and smell the roses.

A large part of my life actually revolves around finding a balance between persistence and comfort.  As I mentioned earlier the two are often synonymous, but oftentimes persistence dictates that I make sacrifices because keeping up a pattern can be difficult given varying circumstances -- after all, that is the whole reason why keeping patterns is hard in the first place!

For the most part I try to defer to remaining consistent, but I have definitely gotten into trouble with this and have needed to take a step back and recenter myself, especially when my persistence goals are unrealistic (writing Christmas letters to every single person I've ever written to???).  This is one of the reasons I value my best friend's company so much; because she helps me be more balanced in terms of letting go of my consistency in favor of comfort.

On the flip side, though, if I don't adhere to consistency enough it really does come back to haunt me.  I think this comes up in two main ways.  The most obvious one is that if I don't feel connected enough to the past, I just start thinking about it more and more and eventually become depressed and have to lose myself in it for awhile.  I think at its core this is just because I look backwards to the past to make sure that I am going in the right direction at the present.  If I find that I have strayed from the course drastically, it's really unsettling for me because I won't be able to stop looking at the path that I was on previously and remembering how good it was, and I'll really question everything I'm doing currently and why I gave up all that I had before.  The second way that consistency comes back to bite me is if I haven't been keeping up with a given thing -- like for example if I haven't worked on any game dev in a week or two, maybe because I'm feeling lazy or something.  When that happens it keeps on bugging me and if it continues you'll often hear me write about it in my blog or letters over and over again that I haven't done it in a while and need to get back to it.  Even when it's not something that I "have to do", it still feels like a responsibility to me because I don't want to drop anything.

And then I guess my third core value would be empathy and caring for others.  This is more of an aspiration than something that I actively feel like I have, but I think that when my first two values of consistency and comfort are in a good balance, that is usually when I start thinking more about my connections with others in a more truly empathetic way (or at least attempting to).  I think by far and large I actually defer to consistency in maintaining most of my friendships -- which basically means writing letters and messaging them with the same sort of small talk initiation all the time, for better or worse.  But I think there comes a point when I need to be a little more proactive and focused in order to really connect with people.

So there you have it: my three values are consistency, comfort, and empathy, in that order (not sure if those three words are the exact correct ones, but you get the idea).  In terms of MBTI, the first two are definitely my Si (introverted sensing) at work (consistency more than comfort) and empathy is my Fe (extraverted feeling).  Ti (introverted thinking) didn't really make an appearance at all, but Ne (extraverted intuition) actually did come up, because I mentioned I admire open-mindedness.  I don't think that's a core value for myself though.