Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fanime 2018

Ugh, life.  Ok, let's get to it...

Fanime 2018

Fanime was this past weekend and it was a pretty fun one!  Fanime seems to have a different storyline for me each year -- last year, for example, was characterized by a lack of plans and a lot of just hanging out, but also by going to see aivisura perform and staying through B&W ball for the whole time with the rest of the Stanford crew.  This year it seems that the narrative was just taking it super easy and not really doing that much at all.  It was quite a different Fanime experience than I'm traditionally used to, but not bad by any means; in fact I was quite happy with how it went.

Wore the Journey cosplay to Fanime for what seems like the umpteenth time -- since VBall I've been a fully embroidered red cloak!  Next year I'll be adding more to the sleeves, I think...anyhow, I actually never bothered to put on the hood + mask once throughout the entire weekend -- next time I'll probably not even bother bringing it, unless by some small miracle I find it in myself to make another (not so scrappy) one.  I did meet one fellow Journeyer at con and ran into them once or twice throughout the weekend, so that was nice!  Other than that, people liked the costume a lot; someone even just came up and wanted to give me a hug, haha.  Oh, also!  For the first time I had a complete stranger recognize who I was and they told me they were a fan of my music.  So that was pretty awesome.  I've often had people from different slices of my life know the other parts of me, like people whom I meet through dance who happened to know of my music or whatever, but this was the first time a fan of mine just out of the blue recognized who I was.

Went to the Joe Hisaishi concert on Friday and aivisura's performance on Saturday!  Honestly I was way more pumped for aivisura's set, but I guess that's not surprising since I really love their music.  The Hisaishi concert did have some quite nice moments though.  aivisura played a few SU songs, they did their Yuri on Ice cover again which was really great (I still remember getting chills the first time they performed it), and then they also played Diamond Dove, Lonely Rolling Star, and ended with an encore performance of Here's How, which I totally called from a mile away, hahaha.  It was great getting to hear Lonely Rolling Star again and Here's How is such a great live piece, it's always fun.  Also, either it was just me, or Surasshu really leveled up his game!  He sounded so much more confident compared to the first time...good stuff!  Also, I've always been a fan of the aivisura sound in general but this concert gave me another chance to re-appreciate surasshu's drum sequencing -- it's something that I'll probably try and take a few notes from in the future.

No TGM in the gaming hall this year!  Which probably contributed a lot to the fact that I didn't have a ton of stuff to do, haha.  There were a bunch of Melee setups though, and I pulled out my laptop and ran faster melee for a while.  Played a bunch of friendlies with a random Marth main who was there, which was pretty fun, and got to play with some friends too.  No Bishi Bashi or 3rd Strike or anything like that either, but the most random thing they had there was a machine of...KeyboardMania!  Wow!  That's definitely something I didn't expect.  The machine was completely inaudible and neither me nor my friend had headphones so the only way I could hear any of the music was to put my head awkwardly right next to the speaker, but it was still sort of fun anyways, especially when we decided to try a really hard song and both try to "help" each other on the same side -- after 3 tries, we passed in the end!  They had the staples there too -- IIDX and PopN and everything, but it was free play and long lines, so bleh.  It was actually a shame they didn't have some random shmups or metal slug or whatever for me and my friend to goof off on, but whatever.

Let's see...what else...the Roti Canai at IPOH Garden was pretty yummy and there was this running joke about going back there and just continually eating more Roti Canai but in the end we actually never did.  Good to remember that option for future years, though!  The weather was actually pretty nice for the whole weekend -- was cloudy for the first half which was quite nice, until Sunday when the sun came out, but I didn't spend all that much time outside so it was just fine.

Perhaps the thing that struck me most about this time at Fanime was just how many different people and friends I ran into at con that I knew from various places.  I had friends from social dance, friends I knew from music production, and in general just lots of different sets of people; I was impressed by how many people I knew that were all at the same event; I didn't even run into quite all of them either.

Most disappointing thing was definitely the Stardew Valley cosplay "gathering", which aside from a nice Harvey, was unfortunately basically empty.  Whelp...

My loot haul was small yet good!  I got 3 different letter sets -- a Little Twin Stars one from Swap Meet (just $3!!!), and two others (Little Prince!) from Artist's Alley.  I also bought a nice microfiber cloth, also from Artist's Alley, which I'll probably use as a gift since I already have my Little Twin Stars microfiber cloths (thanks BZ!).  I saw some big Cinnamoroll plushies for sale in the Dealer's Hall which made me happy -- of course I had no need for them as I already have my very own big Cinnamon at home, but still nice to see Cinnamoroll getting more love.

As far as other people's cosplays go, probably the most notable ones were:

- A really awesome genderbent Moana (as a guy) + Maui (as a girl)
- Ryoko from Tenchi Muyo!  Wow, did not expect to see her cosplayed!
- A whole gang of chefs from OverCooked
- Apparently there were a few other Gakkou Gurashi cosplayers too, whom I unfortunately did not run into, but that is super awesome!  Gakkou Gurashi <3
- A really giant Totoro

and there was also this guy in the Gaming Hall that looked uncannily like my brother. O_o  Seriously though, he totally looks like it...

Anyhow, that about wraps it up.  Pretty fun times and getting to top it off with the GCC dance on Sunday was pretty fun as well (that meant no B&W Ball for me this year).  Despite not staying at con super long each day, everything must have added up because Sunday night I slept for like 12-13 hours lol.  It was glorious.

Other Life Stuff

Unfortunately my respite was a bit short-lived as I went right back into the grind with more on my plate than I'd like...Monday I finally got around to doing a clean reinstall of windows (server 2016) on my desktop to fix some issues that popped up ever since the upgrade from ws2012.  I ran into a couple hiccups but things are more or less running smoothly again now, though I haven't brought =everything= back online yet.  I'm still trying to get the bottom of this strange issue where SSD access seems to slow down after extended usage, but it's not consistent and disappears after a clean reboot so it's difficult to track.  Hopefully I'll be able to track it down or it'll go away on its own...

We are finally more or less done with Goodnight Meowmie (v2.02), though I still need to finish writing the post-mortem report and make some gifs for promotion and all that.  Hopefully I can make that one less thing to worry about soon -- already got too much to sort out with all the other stuff I need to do.

As an aside, I'm actually feeling strangely unconfident about my music production recently, as I feel like it's been a while since I've properly felt really "in the flow" of things on that side.  I think part of it is I've done some more intellectual projects and need to get back into the swing of just going with my first instinct and not second-guessing myself or trying to plan for anything.  Well, nothing I can really do about that at the moment, though.

Monday, May 21, 2018

On Ludum Dare

While we're on the subject of Ludum Dare, I should take a moment to give an update on my general feelings toward the jam as a whole, and its (arguably) inarguable blend of awesomeness and mediocrity.

Ludum Dare has always been one of the biggest and most popular game jams, behind Global Game Jam with just over 3,000 entries being submitted for the latest round (GGJ meanwhile has had over 8,000).  LD is quite a different beast than GGJ though -- while Global Game Jam is very structured and involves going to an actual official in-person jam "site" with an organizer running the whole thing, Ludum Dare is this big asynchronous reddit-style mismash that just happens online.  It's coordinated and run by one person (!) and you can do it from anywhere you want -- usually from the peace and comfort of your own home.

The decentralized and lax nature of Ludum Dare has always simultaneously been one of its greatest strengths as well as its largest flaw.  Ludum Dare is super lax and basically anybody can do it.  Yes, there are rules and restrictions (don't steal content, etc.), but there are no prizes and there's no real hard enforcement of the rules.  In fact, since the #1 priority of the entire jam is around people just having fun making games ("your game IS your prize"), there are explicit exceptions made to the rules!  Need to update your game after the deadline to patch up some silly bugs?  Sure!  (Legally) using third-party assets in your game?  Go ahead -- just make sure you opt-out so you aren't included in the respective categories.  And it's for this exact reason that Ludum Dare is great for me -- making a game in a weekend is hard enough by itself, so I really don't want to have to worry about anything else at the same time.  I'm sure GGJ is a great experience, but don't want to go and meet new people and worry about moving my setup to a site and blahblahblah...I really just want to jam on games, by myself or with my best friend.

Ludum Dare is =far= from the only game jam of its kind, but it's the biggest and most well-known.  And really, the whole point of a game jam (versus just choosing a weekend to go off and make a game by your lonesome) is to have a community of people coming together, sharing games, playing each others' games, and giving feedback.  And Ludum Dare really does do that.

That said, Ludum Dare has had quite its fair share of......"issues" in recent years.  From changing to a new website (which many will probably agree is still really mediocre), numerous complaints about organization and administration (remember, LD is run by ONE person!), and more recently, rule violations and allegations of voting abuse, Ludum Dare...honestly could be better.  Ratings feel like a flip of the coin sometimes and this year we had *category winners* that were being ranked #1 in audio, graphics, mood, when they didn't actually create their own content.  ("Wow this music is better than anything else I've heard in all of LD!" ... well, it's also a professional studio album ripped off of SoundCloud that wasn't made during the jam...)

Now, I understand that things will definitely slip through the cracks sometimes -- heck, I've even had to make some small exceptions for myself too.  I think it'd be a mistake to hold people to the letter of the law instead of worrying more about the spirit of the jam itself.  But clearly things could be a bit better.  When people don't even realize they are breaking the rules, that's a bit sad.  When voters also don't realize those people are breaking the rules, it's also sad.  I've done my part as a proper LD citizen and called several people out on their third-party assets -- usually these people actually credit the original source in their game descriptions.  That's always been met with sincere apologies, and the team or individual in question opts out of the appropriate category after I point them to the rules.  Why does this continue to be a thing?  The website has very poor usability; adding multiple people to a team and submitting a jam game together is terribly unintuitive.  There's no search function!!!  If I want to find a game's page on LD by title I literally have to use Google.  The results page is way more confusing than it used to be.  Basically almost everything was better on the old site -- though I understand that the old site was also running on super outdated technology (wordpress???) and simply needed to be replaced at some point.  Still, it's sad that we just have so many issues, after more than a year on the new site.

But it's important to remember again, that LD has sprawled out into a big mess and despite the good citizens of LD's best intents (shoutout to all you good LD citizens; you guys are great), there really isn't anything that the community as a whole can do to fix it.  It's just in the very nature, structure, and foundation of LD to be that way.  It's not run by some organization, it doesn't have funding -- it's literally just one guy's hobby.  Random people from the community can make all the posts they want about how they want to help, or could do a way better job, or whatever...but there's no way a huge decentralized community is going to effect any meaningful change -- it'd be like Reddit trying to get together to write a novel (or think Twitch Plays Pokemon).  In the end, there's no way to call the shots and really effect change without a core person or group.  Could I imagine a stronger core running LD?  Absolutely.  But that's just not the world we live in.

Despite all its shortcomings, though, LD still really does serve my needs as a game jam.  It gives me an excellent excuse to craft my art, and it provides a community of people who will actually go and try your game and provide feedback.  Sure, the site...kinda sucks a bit...and really the whole thing ought to be run better...but I can deal with that.  Probably the most relevant downside of LD for me is that the ratings are really a crapshoot, and that can feel invalidating at times, but even that's really not so bad now that I've sort of "been there, done that", so to speak.  It's also a shame that LD suffered in popularity due to its more mediocre aspects.  But LD is still a great time for me.  I've made *22 games* for Ludum Dare, and each time it's been a blast, and super fulfilling.  For that I'm thankful, and hope that it will continue to be a great experience (while also hoping that it can get its stuff together someday, haha).

"...but if there's a time when everything can go back to the way it was, that'll be great.
I hope things don't change anymore.
Because the most important is the memories.
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."
--Ritsuka, Loveless 2

Thursday, May 17, 2018

LD41 results, Goodnight Meowmie, Big Dance 2018, OHC500, etc.

I am fearful of everything
thorns pushing in from all directions
With an outstretched hand, you
reach out to me and remind me
what it feels like to be home

Ludum Dare results and Goodnight Meowmie

Before we knew it, Ludum Dare 41 results were out, and though I did not get as much of a chance to play and rate other games as I would have liked, we at least got a good number of people who played our game (~57 ratings).

I'll be writing up a full post-mortem reflecting on the process and result of the game, but these were our results from the voting:

Overall:    14th  (4.352 average from 56 ratings)
Fun:        276th (3.645 average from 57 ratings)
Innovation: 217th (3.773 average from 57 ratings)
Theme:      115th (4.236 average from 57 ratings)
Graphics:   42nd  (4.500 average from 57 ratings)
Audio:      4th   (4.509 average from 55 ratings)
Mood:       2nd   (4.574 average from 56 ratings - highest ever!)

Average Score: 4.23

We have still not promoted or linked to Goodnight Meowmie as we are still at work revising some key parts of the game.  The current version as it stands is fine, and was well received; however there are actually some important things that it does not really do justice to.  I'm not sure how it happened, but somewhere along the road, Goodnight Meowmie actually became an intensely personal project for me and I think it has taken on a significant emotional meaning.  It is really not often at all that I will be on the train thinking about how to structure a certain part of a game and start crying, haha.

This is what people mean when they talk about making works your own, and making works that only you can make.  As an artist there is a certain something that you can only bring to something if you are truly speaking from and bringing your own strong feelings and perspective about it.  And that is why it is so hard to write a compelling story about a subject that you don't really understand, or draw from a reference photo without really working with the real thing.  Not that there isn't value in trying to just "fake it" and great things can still come out of it, but it's really not the same experience artistically.

Anyways, as an artist this game is really starting to mean a lot to me.  Just like our failed project, "Bird" (which would go on to become "Rain"), taught me a lot, too.  "Bird" was a story about my struggle about loss, the past, and moving on -- the one story that I keep coming back to over and over again.  And I struggled a lot to figure out what the ending of "Bird" was supposed to be, because I was struggling to figure out the same answer in my own life, too.  The happy end was a fairy-tale ending that I knew would never happen.  But I couldn't accept the "we learn to move on" ending either.  I just could not.  And this story along with a lot of other soul-searching and life experiences taught me in the end that there was a way, my way, to continue on without reaching each other, yet without letting go too.  To accept the pain that comes with knowing that you will never see someone again, while still choosing to treasure them and yearn for them.  Because you would never forgive yourself otherwise.

We struggled quite a lot with the ending of "Rain" too.  In the end it ended up telling quite a different narrative than "Bird", but ended up being very meaningful to me as it was the first time we were able to create such a rich and meditative experience through the medium.  Like with "Bird", Goodnight Meowmie also deals with things that are very personal and important to us, and as we think about the experience and the narrative there are things that are very obviously wrong or right to us and we know it just because we feel so strongly about these feelings in our real lives too.  As an artist I think that is how you know that something is rich and "real", that it really has something behind it -- when decisions are made because of real experiences and feelings, not just "because I thought it would be cool".  And as we think about these narratives it informs our life stories as well.

I can never give up being an artist.

So yeah, I have been hard at work on Goodnight Meowmie -- not to mention, Samurai Shaver still needs that calibration screen put in too...ugh.  I was thinking about it the other day and realized that I am too much of a workaholic in my personal and artistic ambitions to ever be a workaholic in my career.  I know I'm quite fortunate to be able to say this, but when you pit my artistic dreams against job and career, there's just no question which one I need to prioritize...

Big Dance 2018

Well, that's one for the books!  This was a fun one for sure, definitely more so than I remember from last year, actually.  This year was sort of ridiculous in that me and Gem both had Deca rehearsal the morning after from 10AM-1PM (with Gem helping to teach, no less).  Big Dance runs from 9PM to 6AM, so...yeah.  I ended up coming before 9PM too, so I really did it all.  I ended up catching roughly 2 hours of sleep between Big Dance and Deca rehearsal, and successfully made it through before crashing until dinner, haha.  Apparently Gem had had enough caffeine that she didn't even sleep in between...

Let's see...performances were actually pretty great this year; I liked DL's choreos, and oh, Swingtime's new choreo was quite fun too!  "Wopening" was pretty epic and Bob's performance in Ceili was top-notch, hahaha.  Speaking of Bob, I got to partner with him for Dawn Mazurka again this year -- we had a solid set, and as I once did years ago, I got to sprint around half of Roble during the "chase" until he finally was able to cut me off.  Oh yeah, and we also did a lift after the genuflection.  Good times.

I also brought home 1st place in the Intergenerational dance contest with Elise (whom I had never danced with before), which was super duper fun omg!  With a Lindy Hop, no less??  I talk about this again and again, but there is always something exhilirating about dancing with someone you don't know and trying to play off of each other in a way where neither of you really knows what will happen.  It's something that makes me wonder if we can have more Luck of the Draw (ok, fine, "Jack & Jill") events (hint hint) in our community.

Other than that, good dances, good seeing everybody, and I even got to spend some time sitting out by the fountain, which was super nice and relaxing >w<.  My foot cramped up again but only way into the night...will have to use better insoles next time.

Edit: for reference, this was my 8th big dance, and my 6th all-nighter.  Double triple crown!

System Shock 2

I started up my Impossible playthrough of System Shock 2.  I hope to be continuing that soon (whoops), but in other news we also finished up the game in our co-op playthrough.  Getting through the Body of the Many fight was quite exhilirating, feeling more like a traditional FPS than anything as we tried to just rambo our way through all the rumblers and psi reavers (which seemed quite buggy in multiplayer).  The Shodan fight, on the other hand, was a walk in the park as I just blasted her away with a few shots of my EMP rifle, lol!  That's that...


That's right, OHC round 500 happened last week!  It's been forever and a day (basically 100 OHCs) since I last compoed, so it was nice to do it again.  I definitely felt rusty, and whenever I do OHC again these days it always feels like I'm suuuuper slow and clumsy compared to how I remember myself being, but part of it I know is also that I have higher standards for quality and I like to put more attention into detail into things now.  But anyways, that was quite fun and it was nice seeing everyone in chat again and seeing old and new faces alike.  We had some pretty epic entries too...twas a good compo.


In general, things are....rough.  I realized today especially that I need to find a better balance instead of my current pattern of alternatively working my butt off and then giving myself a break when I can't really handle it anymore.  It is really difficult with so many things bouncing around and when I don't have the proper balance and peace in my life, I get really cranky and it just feels like everyone is asking me to do more things and I hate having all of these responsibilities and expectations and UGH!  Gimme a break, guys.  It almost feels like I went back to being in high school again =/  Not really a good look.  In any case, time spent to my own devices is at a premium now and I think the best thing I can do for myself is just to say no, and remember that Drowsiness Is Red Alert.

In my near future coming up, I have...more work on Goodnight Meowmie, more other work on...Samurai Shaver, music, etc...System Shock 2, maybe Super Metroid Randomizer (I'm a bit more familiar with the SM map now)...FNW, Deca rehearsal, and good lord, Fanime is already next weekend (plus GCC dance, wow).  Gotta just hang in there...

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Song Spotlight

Continued from, but I'll repeat some of those here too because they still deserve more attention...

This time with YouTube streaming embeds!

Raven Delivery Service
A song I wrote for Ludum Dare!  The B section of this song is EPIC.  This song has been coming up quite a few times on my playlists lately and every time it is awesome.  It's a keeper for sure, that progression is just wonderful.

Take to the Skies
Another Ludum Dare song and a solid one that made it into my "Best of DDRKirby(ISQ) - Volume 1" collection.  It's actually got a similar progression to Raven Delivery Service...the whole VI-VII-I thing is one that I fall back to a lot because I love the feeling of it.

Pixel Warriors
This one isn't actually released yet, but dang, this is definitely the best 2A03 (NES chiptune) work I've ever done.  Short but sweet.  Look out for my upcoming all-8bit album someday.

Still really proud of this one.  Probably my favorite waltz song that I've written.

Memoirs of a Whale
Remains my most involved and proudest work to date.

Although "Fortitude" is more interesting, this one is a perfect example of my root style -- upbeat, intense chiptunes.  The halftime drums breakdown at 2:38 is pretty epic.

Frozen Here
From the YouTube comments:
"A quiet town covered with snow, and a hooded girl walking down a dimly lit street at night." -- Mi

Thursday, May 3, 2018

We struggle to stay afloat
when everything precious lies far beneath the surface

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

In this place where our story began, 
even if there are nothing but our promises, 
I will always be alive in your memories.

In this place where our story began, 
no matter how much time should pass, 
I will always be alive in your memories.

I'm on my way to the place of our beginning. 
I have nothing but our promises, 
but in order to meet you, I'll continue my journey.