Thursday, October 28, 2021

Just because there's nothing more you can do doesn't mean that it's over.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Things are...okay.  I wasn't feeling so hot today, so I spent a little time on self-care.  I think it seems to have a helped a bit, maybe?  I read a letter from The Past (with a capital P) and then lied down in a bath for a while.  There have been various thoughts going around in my head, about things, about The Past, about people and different perspectives on things, about self-expression or the lack thereof, as well as just about what I want; what would make me happy.  Just, stuff.

I've got a week more of letters to write, and then another week after that to work hard.  Or, maybe I shouldn't look at it that way.  I've got my next thing to work on for Rhythm Quest as part of my (potential) graphics makeover, which is putting all of the level graphics onto a combined spritesheet (as in, authored as a combined image) rather than just single images that are later combined automatically.  That will let me author all of the graphics (and palettes) for the level at once rather than editing each individual image.  Not really sure why I didn't do that already (or maybe I had at one point??  I don't even remember, really...).  It's sort of more of a "busywork" task than any actual creative challenge, but honestly I feel like a lot of what keeps me making forward progress on this game is breaking down all of the work into small enough little bits that all seem like they're more or less straightforward.  It's way easier to stay motivated when the task ahead of you seems really simple; it helps avoid operational procrastination...

Well, tomorrow I get to pull 3 heads off and then attempt to turn some bodies inside out.  So maybe that will be fun?

Mega Man: Super Fighting Robot

This is the latest Mega Man fangame that I decided to play through.   This one was quite enjoyable!  All the standard stuff is there -- you know, 8 robot masters, NES-style music, etc etc etc.  Physics and movement felt just fine, although one nitpick is that you can't shoot additional buster shots if a half-charged (not fully-charged) buster shot is on screen, making that by far the worst level of charge to use against normal enemies.  Normally in most Mega Man games, the small charge shot can still be fired in tandem with normal pellet shots.  Eh, again, just a minor nitpick.

I played on Normal difficulty -- I tried hard difficulty briefly and it seems like it basically doubles the damage that you take(?).  Normal difficulty was actually a bit easy for me, I only had to retry a stage once or twice and I hardly ever had to use e-tanks at all.  Part of this may be because of the game's upgrade system, which lets you purchase minor upgrades to several facets of Mega Man, giving you a bit of damage reduction, better charge shots, and even faster movement and slightly higher jumps (!).  Granted, there are bonuses/achievements for not using any of the upgrades.  Maybe I ought to have played on Hard instead?  It's hard to say whether the extra damage would have felt difficult in a good way, or whether it would have just felt annoying.  I can't really fault a game too much on its specific difficulty level, especially given that it has added challenges and hard difficulty, but I did find it a little too easy, just as a personal experience.

Besides that, this game does a lot of things right.  The music might not be as "catchy" as some of the classic MM tunes, but it's certainly good (and honestly, it's hard not to be biased since a lot of us have played the old MM games multiple times).  The enemy designs are very good and the levels are all both interesting and challenging.  The challenges feel very fair for the most part as well, and even if you lose a life due to a "gotcha", the rest of the game is forgiving enough that it's sort of within my quota.  The weapons are all very unique, and the bosses are fun to fight as well, though again, a bit on the easy side sometimes.  Maybe I'm just miscalibrated from playing other (harder) fangames...

All in all, it was a good time!  I got through it pretty quickly, and decided not to pursue any of the additional content (I'm not really one for replaying stuff).

I dunno what I'll play next...maybe I ought to try out Emperor?


Friday, October 22, 2021

Time for another update...


Ludum Dare 49 Results

The voting period ended for Ludum Dare 49, and our game took 11th place overall out of 2,204 jam entries.  Worth noting that Ludum Dare has continued its downward trend -- LD46 had 4,959 submissions, LD47 had 3,206, and here we are in LD49 with 2,939 total submissions.  That's a 40% dropoff in under 2 years!  Meanwhile, Game Maker's Toolkit jam is continuing to rise, currently at 5,750 submissions for the most recent event (higher than LD has ever had, I believe).  We'll try for GMTK jam next year, maybe.

Anyways, LD results are always a crapshoot, but this is our best placing since taking first place in LD40 (I also managed a bronze by myself in LD45), so that's pretty cool.  I'm pretty happy with how things turned out, and the jam itself went very smoothly as I mentioned last time.  For a while I was going to maybe try and iron out some small improvements to it, but I decided that it's probably not worth it.  This is a very odd-feeling departure from my usual perfectionism, and I still don't know how to feel about this new attitude.  Overall I think it's healthy to realize that some things are less worth the effort to work on than other things, and that there's no need to be perfect, especially for things that not a ton of people really care about.  However, I don't like the idea of complacency potentially creeping into more different aspects of my life.


Room Stuff

I guess on a somewhat related note, I've finally started redistributing my prints and decorations across my walls.  I have most of the big stuff put up, but I'm a little baffled at what to do with the smaller stuff.  There is a lot less of it that I care about now, but it still doesn't really seem like it belongs anywhere up on the walls anymore, so I haven't figured out what exactly to do with it yet.  On the plus side, I have these sweet new DDRKirby(ISQ) prints:


I've got some people who I guess are pretty into my work, but I'm not going to lie, I'm definitely my own #1 fan...


Music Production

I went through and did a huge cleanup of my VSTs (virtual instruments and effects) and samples, cleaning out everything (there was a tooonnnnn of old stuff that I never used) and attempting to reorganize things so there wasn't so much clutter.  There are a lot of great sounds out there now, for free even, but I've found that if they're not easy and efficient to load up and get to then they may as well not exist...

Anyways, that took a while, especially as I found a bunch of interesting new sounds and effects that I threw into my toolbox, but I'm happy to report that it really paid off.  I made a really nice lo-fi chillhop track for One Hour Compo today (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ep_I2iR03wk) and was really pleased at how all the new sounds were working out.  Though, my computer was struggling to run it all near the end, haha.  Some of these new instruments are a bit CPU-heavy!


Dance

I continue to work on my freestyle dancing every once in a while.   Interestingly, I've stopped posting videos of all of my glowsticking sessions -- for whatever reason I feel like I only want to put out stuff that I'm actually happy with now.  I'm definitely seeing improvement; there are moments where the body movement and isolations really play into good effect, but there's still a lot that I need to clean up.


Cooking

I spent like the entire day on Tuesday cooking up various stuff in the kitchen....a bit part of that was making a really rich and intense broth for tsukemen dipping noodles, which involves boiling bones (I used the pressure cooker), then blending a bunch of meat into the broth and straining it out.  It was....certainly an interesting process, and kinda weird/unappetizing at parts, but the end result is certainly very rich.  I'm interested to see how it'll pair together with actual ramen noodles, along with some shoyu tare and some accompaniments (pork belly, green onion, fish powder, maybe some lemon zest).

 

Rhythm Quest

I can finally say with confidence that I've gotten back into the swing of working on Rhythm Quest (my indie game).  Right now there's a lot of design improvements, reworks, and new features that I don't exactly know to best do, which means I've pretty much accepted that I'm just going to have to try different things and just iterate on it.  It's sort of an approach where I need to "just try stuff, anything", and then once I see it in action I can then start to actually get a better idea of what I actually need to change (if anything).  It's not exactly confidence-inspiring to not know what exactly I'm working towards, but it's a good thing, I think, to be iterating like this and just trying things.  Better than just doing nothing and being out of ideas, that's for sure.

 

Median XL

I'm not really 100% sure what all I'm doing in Median XL.  It does seem way less fun than the times of yesteryear when I played together with my brother, but at the same time I do still color myself interested in all the different skills and what the midgame/endgame has in store for me.  Right now I'm still sort of just playing around with different characters and seeing what there is.  I took a melee Sorceress all the way through Normal mode, but then I realized that I should probably try some different things rather than just settle on a single build without really trying that many other things.

The real question though is whether I should really be spending my time on this, or should I be playing Deltarune Ch 2, Omori, Impostor Factory, Symphony of the Night, etc.  We'll see, I guess.


Life in General

I feel like was a little down for a few days, but right now I'm feeling pretty good about it.  I guess it helps that I've been sort of in my groove as far as bouncing around getting various different things done -- the music production cleanout (and resulting successful track), putting up my prints, working on Christmas letters, starting up Rhythm Quest work again, etc.  All that stuff feels good.  I've even had a little bit more company than usual these past few weeks, it feels like, which is actually welcome.


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Ludum Dare 49

As I mentioned in the last post, the weekend-long "Ludum Dare" game jam took place again last weekend.  We made it out alive with another game under our belts, and things actually went pretty smoothly this time!  This is our 16th game working together and my 25th time personally, so it's all old hat by now, but still remains fun (I mean, One Hour Compo is also still fun, and I've done literally hundreds of those...).

We came out with a fun two-player cooperative game, which people seem to have been enjoying!  I'll be continuing to rate other games for the next 10 days as well as take care of various things like the soundtrack release, small fixes, and cleanup, and then we'll see what the results are like.

Day-to-day Life

Since then I have been taking things really easy for the past week and just trying to relax (while still taking care of things here and there, like my Inktober letters and Vote Forward letters, etc).  I drove up for an hour or so to see one or two friends the other day and it ended up being a very lovely day for me; that's something I'll have to look to do again sometime for sure.

Baldur's Gate

I'm calling it quits on Baldur's Gate after finally reaching Sarevok (the big bad guy in the original game) and taking him out.  There of course is a slew of additional BG content, including the expansion, as well as the entire sequel, but I think I've seen and had enough for now.

Overall, it was enjoyable to go back and actually play through the game fully since I really didn't spend much time with it when I first encountered it.  As always, I enjoy going deep on any sort of game, so I did a lot of research into stats, spells, characters, and the like to inform my playthrough.  In the end, though, I didn't think it was fantastic.

BG does a lot of worldbuilding, setting up an elaborate plot involving schemes and multiple organizations, and there is a LOT of dialogue and journal entries to go through if you so choose...which honestly was a bit too much for my tastes.  I appreciate that there's a very rich world full of different people, but it's a little much to take in.  It's fun to go through random NPC houses and such for a while, but there's rarely anything of super high value in them, and once you reach the titular city of Baldur's Gate, there's definitely a LOT to slog through (if you do choose) since the city itself is massive and divided into 9 different separate areas.

Combat is sort of an interesting hybrid of turn-based and tactics, as you're constantly pausing to issue new commands.  With mages in the mix, there are quite a few different strategies at your disposal (direct damage vs disabling spells, etc) but in the end a lot of the combat turns out relatively similar in vibe.  That doesn't mean it's not enjoyable though, but after a while it perhaps does get a little old.  I will note that with all of the different spells and buffs things do end up getting a little confusing.  There are a lot of different "rules" and effects that go on in the battle system (e.g. if someone has mirror image cast on them, you need to damage them X times before they can be hit), and unfortunately it's not very easy to get access to that information unless you're already kind of in the know.  You can run into an enemy mage that has a swirling blue / red orb covering them, but I don't think there's any facility to really learn what that does or how you should best interact with it besides just trial and error.

Some quality of life features are sort of missing, including more sensible quest reminders (though I think that got added in the enhanced edition), better interfaces for buying large stacks of ammunition, certain auto-pause triggers (upon completing a spell cast), and automatically detecting traps, among other things.

So yeah, that's that.  It also seems like I probably won't be finishing up Terranigma (maybe will just skim through a playthrough of it?), so that leaves me to move onto whatever the next thing is, which could be Median XL, Symphony of the Night, Deltarune ch 2, Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, or any number of other things.

Space Alert

I took a crew of 3 -- myself, a rookie that I had brought up to speed years ago, and a new recruit -- out into space with remarkable success.  My hopes started out low as on our first mission I assigned them to work together to take out a leviathan tanker (a tough threat, to be sure) and the energy/laser coordination seemed to be going awry.  Despite my best attempts at warnings, the newbie tripped on their way to the laser station, and it was only due to some extra missile fire from my android that we were able to survive.  Things got much better from there, though, and we ended up finishing no less than 6 successful missions in a row, ending off on a white/yellow mix of threats and making it out alive with nonfatal damage.  It was a good run.


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Let's see...


Life

Has been going pretty okay.  I've had some pretty nice days, as well as some "eh" lazy sort of autopilot-blah days, I guess.  I think making an attempt to get regular physical activity in at some point during the day has really been quite beneficial to my mood and happiness (which is not surprising, of course).  As well as just keeping up healthy habits in general.  Slipping up is inevitable from time to time, I think, I don't think that's something to blame oneself for.  Just take it day by day, sort of like a recovering addict/alcoholic might.

I've been taking it remarkably easy; I guess somehow the past week turned into a vacation of sorts despite not intending anything of the sort.  It's been good for me though, I feel like there were days when I remembered that life is something that is meant to be enjoyed, and that it is important to have things to look forward to when the work is all done.


Vegetarianism

I attended a virtual talk that discussed some things around sustainable eating and food security/insecurity, among other things, and while I don't think I came away with discrete actionable learnings, it was a bit inspiring in a "generic motivational speech about [topic]" way.  I think I'm already doing an okay job of having cut down on meat consumption; however this reminded me that I'd still like to get more proficient in my vegetarian cooking, so that when I cook for others I don't have to fall back on meat dishes all the time.  It'll take time, I'm sure it will happen gradually as I become more comfortable with various recipes.

 

Relationships and Gender

I guess it should have been obvious in hindsight, but when people talk about relationships there's this sort of assumed dichotomy between "friends" vs "dating"...in addition to frequent assumptions that "dating" is monogamous, heterosexual, etc., and I realized the other day that this always feels awkward in the same way that people assume a dichotomy of "male" vs "female" when talking about gender.  Setting up two societally-constrained buckets for things to neatly fall into causes "friction" (to put it gently) for those who find that their circumstances don't slot neatly into either bucket.  I've always found it difficult to articulate this succinctly but relating it to the struggles of binary gender assumptions I think makes things a lot more obvious to me.

I am astounded sometimes at how people still ask questions like "what is love?" and "how do I know whether I am in love or not?"  Maybe this is partly just me as an ISFJ-type who sees little value in arguing semantics, but I think more than that, these questions again set up a false dichotomy, where relationships are either "true love" or "not true love".  Frozen and Maleficent both (in basically the same way...) offered us the anti-trope of "true love" being represented by an actual familial bond rather than the age-old "white knight kisses (also white) princess", but really the entire idea of "true love" I think as a construct can be really damaging in more ways than I can count.  Relationships in the real world are complicated and deserve to be treated with nuance rather than sweeping generalizations.

 

Chickies

They have been amazingly peaceful for now since 小黑 (who is still brooding) has just been sitting in one spot in a tiny bin all day.  I tried breaking her out of her broodiness for a couple of days by forcing her to stand on wire / wood rather than any nesting material, but she didn't seem to want to snap out of it, so I gave up and am just letting her sit for however long she wants to, making sure she has water and food next to her since she literally just doesn't get out of the one spot for most of the day.  She's super quiet as a result and 小白 is pretty calm too since she doesn't get bullied anymore.


Ludum Dare / Far Side of the Mirror

Is this weekend!  Work on Far Side of the Mirror actually went more quickly than I anticipated; it may actually just end up being fully complete before Friday (or at least, "more or less" so).  There's only a couple of days left, so I guess this is also time for me to shift gears and dig into trying to work on some framework stuff in preparation for the weekend.  And try to continue not stressing out about Rhythm Quest and everything else that needs to get done.


Pokémon Unite

I started playing it to try it out.  It's pretty fun actually!  It's nice how streamlined everything is and I think it sets itself up to be more approachable in several ways.  There aren't a gajillion characters (yet) and that is actually a good thing when you are just starting out because if there's one common thing that is always super confusing about moba-style games it is trying to remember what the hell each of the 100+ heroes do.  At least in a fighting game like Smash Ultimate or whatever, it's 1v1, so you get a chance to just rely on fundamentals while trying to feel out what the capabilities of the other character are even if you're not familiar with that specific matchup.  In a 5v5 team game where it tends to be important to understand specific game-changing abilities -- or at the very least general roles -- that can get to be a nightmare, IMO.  Pokémon leverages existing IP that a ton of people are already familiar with, which somewhat helps, but also the fact that they're animal-like creatures instead of all being humanoid also really helps to distinguish them visually a lot more.  Even if you aren't familiar with these specific pokémon, it's extremely easy to see that Crustle is a tank -- literally just looks like a huge cube-shaped stone walking around.  I do think that the pre-match loading screen for these types of games should probably list out the role of each character (as it already does for character selection) so that you can at-a-glance understand the opposing team's composition.  Accessibility is important...


Pharaoh

I'm done with Pharaoh!  I didn't actually finish all the missions -- only up to the end of the "Ramses II" campaign.  There are 7 missions after that, but a good number of them seem to center around and/or require dealing with a bunch of combat stuff, and the combat in Pharaoh (especially the naval combat) is kind of just a pain in the butt to deal with.  So I'm calling it quits here.  Overall I stand by my previous opinion that I appreciated and enjoyed Caesar III more, but it was of course an interesting challenge designing a new style of city block with the differing constraints.  Overall the maps in Cleopatra seemed to lack a bit of diversity.  I guess a lot of this has to do with the fact that for the first half of the game (which is all I played) you're building royal tombs, all in the same bedrock mountain range.  That's sort of a nice thematic touch to see the older tombs that you've previously built, but it does make things less interesting, especially since that particular map has an annoying river passing through it with only one or two small locations on the shore to construct a dock (not ideal).  Eh, oh well.

Next will be my chance to try out Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, but probably not for some time.  I'll probably be busy playing Median XL anyways.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Things are okay, but I guess in general I always tend to write that, so maybe that's more of a formality than an actual legitimate statement.  There's been some good and a little bit of not as good, but overall most things have been good.


Day-to-day Stuff, October Prep

As is the case with many people, I spend a perhaps unreasonable amount of time day-to-day wondering whether I've done enough and what else I should be doing [insert rant about self-worth being unhealthily tied to productivity].  Every once in a while, though, there comes a time when I stop worrying about that because I've so obviously done enough for the day/week.  Of course, my goal isn't really to reach that point consistently (that would mean I'm overworking myself by far), but sometimes that's just how it goes.  Yesterday after dealing with retirement savings stuff, taking out the trash, putting together some stuff for Chickies, finishing cleaning the bathroom/toilet (probably the most annoying household chore...), and probably some other stuff too, I definitely got to that point.

At this time last week I think I was probably fairly concerned about getting enough done to be ready for October (and really, what I mean by "October" is "Ludum Dare weekend" which starts on Oct 1), but I'm pretty comfortably ahead of pace on all that.  I've already written my first 4 Christmas/Inktober letters, plus one out of the two early October bday letters, I finished my Monthlies pixel art album cover, I finished all the Rhythm Quest stuff I needed to do, mailed out my Vote Forward letters, put out another chiptune megamix, polished up a song for a music commission, updated some minor website stuff, and I'm even making decent progress towards the Far Side of the Moon revamp.

The only things that really remain are Far Side of the Moon stuff, probably one more music commission song, and then doing pre-Ludum Dare coding stuff, building more and more into my game template and framework code.


Room (?) Stuff

I have a sort of new long-term goal to look toward someday, so that's somewhat exciting.  A little birdie mentioned to me the other day how it felt a bit sad that so many things in my room were going away, and I certainly share that sentiment.  But I now have a hope in the future that both they and myself will both be pleased at what my space will look like someday.


Rhythm Quest

I sent out an closed alpha test build for my indie game, Rhythm Quest, so people have been giving me some feedback on that -- ...which I have actively proceeded to avoid reading because I now know better than to plug myself directly into these sorts of feedback channels.  It feels good to have reached this sort-of-milestone and to know that my game is at least functioning (yay) and seems to be enjoyable in some form (yay).

On the other hand I feel a pretty large dip in my motivation to work on it at the moment because "man, I already put a bunch of work into 'finishing' this part".  Well, more importantly, there's a lot of other stuff that has been more pressing, so I've just decided to shelve Rhythm Quest for now, it seems like the right thing to do.  Might as well wait until the feedback finishes coming in anyways -- and until I'm done with Ludum Dare... -- and then I can hop back onto it.  I'm a little uneasy at stepping away from the project, but I'll just have to trust in the process for now.


Chickies

Chickies are doing very well, though 小黑 is being very grumpy/broody today and yesterday.  As with everything else in my life (always...) I have been continuing to steadily improve their little corner over time -- most recently, making some additional accommodations to help make things easier in case I need to leave the house for an extended period of time.


Space Alert

I haven't been playing a ton recently but I guess my next goal is going to be trying to tackle a double-actions campaign with mixed white/yellow threats.  There's actually a bunch of different campaign achievements for me to chase after, so I'll probably be running those for a while.  I tried one the other day and got owned -- I ended the first mission with like 4 damage on both red+blue due to not planning for one point of damage on white, and then died on the second mission thanks to somehow not realizing that a malfunction had happened in red instead of white.  Eh, better luck next time.

In other related-news, I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of "Escape: The Curse of the Temple", another realtime board game that I enjoyed a lot.  This one has a bit of a different vibe than Space Alert, and I don't foresee myself going deep on it, but I'm excited to play it again as it was quite a fun time from what I remember.


ALLTPR

I feel like I've been doing fairly well, and getting pretty confident with running these open 7/7 seeds.  Check out this nifty graph I made of my times going down as I improve:


Pharaoh

Finished another mission in Pharaoh the other day, which proved to be unexpectedly difficult for whatever reason (maybe I'm just rusty?).  Somehow I was having a ton of trouble earning enough trade income to sustain my city....perhaps I was trying to export and import too many things at once?  The ships can only load a certain amount of cargo, so it's important that you don't waste those "slots" on low-profit items.  On my third playthrough of the mission I tried sticking to only one or two main exports and that seemed to work a lot better.


Median XL

I have just been =itching= to get into Median XL (the best Diablo 2 mod) again, but I know that's a pretty bad idea to do right now.  I'm telling myself I'll hold out until after Ludum Dare and then pull the trigger on that.

 

MBTI Stuff

I found another channel of funny MBTI parodies and skits (https://www.youtube.com/c/dearkristin).  I always find these pretty amusing, though they can admittedly be a bit hit-or-miss.  Every once in a while, though, one of these videos hits all the right marks and is a total hoot.  I'm a fan of how this person in particular portrays the ENFPs.  So relatable (sigh....)