Monday, August 31, 2015

Melody Muncher Deluxe WIP screenshots

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

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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Difficulty, and Accessibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

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

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

Short post today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What is it called?  When you find yourself unable to surrender an ideal that you know doesn't exist?  Is that a sort of religious faith?

I am enough.

Also, Sixpence None the Richer and Leigh Nash, you are have I lived without you recently?  Music for my soul...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"Being an ally is like being a friend. You listen to your friends when they are sad. You give them support when they need it. You stand up for them when they are bullied. You give them a safe space in your home when they need shelter, if you can afford it.

Being a friend doesn't mean that you agree with everything your friend does. You will come into conflict--often. You may fight. You may have misunderstandings. But because you love each other, you don't go out and disown your friend. You try not to hurt your friend. And when things have settled, you talk it out together, and listen deeply to each other's perspectives, eventually working out a solution.

And, if your friend's is fighting for their life, you fight with them. You can shelter them from danger for a while, but you know that you cannot keep them under your wing forever. You are their friend, not their parent. You respect their choices and their autonomy...but you also cannot bear to see them face the danger alone. So you fight with them. And if you are not able to, for whatever reason, you do what you can, and then let them go.

Being a friend doesn't mean you cannot be friends with someone else. You can love other people. But you cannot love everyone; that is the truth, for love is built on recognition of uniqueness, of individuality, of difference. This is why, being a friend means recognizing that your friend has an identity that is different from everyone else, including yourself. No matter how long you have known your friend, your experience is not the same. The struggles that your friend go through is not the same struggles you, or anyone else, goes through. There may be similarities, but they are not the same.

Now, extrapolate all that I have said into a political context. The comparison is imperfect; individual identity is different from group identity. But most of my main points about what it takes to be a good ally is the same. It is more difficult to be able to relate to a group as a whole; I know, because I've struggled with it throughout this year. But if you make the mind to do it, it is possible. Reach out to those you don't understand. Listen to their perspectives and withhold judgment until you have deeply considered all they have said. It will be uncomfortable. It will be challenging. But it is worth it, for at the end of the process, you will have broadened your view of the world. You will find things that the world is filled with amazingly diverse experiences. And you will have made a friend."

--Christina Chen, August 2015

Do you believe

in Love Everlasting?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

RIP Formspring (, which now redirects you to OKCupid.  Can't really find my profile on either, which is a shame.  Would have liked some way to export my answers or something; I had a lot of writings on there that were essentially prompted blog posts.  The site went wayyyyyy downhill so I'm not surprised that it's gone for good, but still, sad that my stuff is gone.  Sigh.

School, Learning from the Internet


(links courtesy of A-zu-ra)

I guess as a member of the internet generation I've been recently feeling a sense of pretty great gratitude at the fact that I can learn so many useful things from the web.  You know, things like cooking, living skills, how to clean xyz, how to charge sales tax, etc. (in addition to more "niche" things like how to work CSS and jquery).  The idea of learning these sorts of things in school really does make you contemplate things, I think.  If anything, many of the things that are taught throughout all levels of education are things that you should be able to just reference online/via wikipedia now.  I think there is very little value in learning something that is not a "foundation skill" (reading comprehension, multiplication, something that other things depend on) and can just be referenced very easily later on, so I think for those topics to have worth they need to be framed in the context of other things that are more globally applicable.

I don't think you can go and say that history is useless and should be an optional thing because there are things that have happened in the past that people should really learn about and think about critically.  Think about slavery, the holocaust, hiroshima, wars, even 9/11 should now be considered "history" despite the fact that many of you were around when it was happening.  It's difficult though, because I think at that age it's very hard to understand what exactly the ethical and moral implications of all of these things are.  For me personally, at least, we always had this idea implanted in our heads that "history is important because you need to avoid making the mistakes of the past", but I think that's a very cut-and-dry statement that doesn't really click.  We can learn things like "slavery is bad" and "we shouldn't kill people based on their race" but I think there's this big missing piece of how that actually fits into our social and ethical lives today.  I don't think many (any?) of us are going to have the opportunity to become a slaveowner even if you wanted to; how does this actually apply to us in the present day?  When I'm thinking about Hiroshima, am I understanding the ethical and moral implications of it?  Am I feeling how horrific it was, as an personal atrocity and not just as a set of numbers?  Or am I just thinking "omg, atom bombs!"

As an aside, nothing I ever did in school taught me how to write better or speak better, so I guess it's not really surprising at all that I see so many problems with communication happen in the workplace and in general.  I mean, I always just chalked it up to "communication is hard" and "people just suck at it inherently" but how should we expect anyone to know how to communicate properly and effectively when all we learn is how to write 5-paragraph essays and how to recite memorized speeches?  MaRo's article on writing articles is more applicable and important to my daily usage than even the best of what I learned in school.

Similarly for speaking--when you're at a large meeting in work and you need to make an argument or present information, do you really expect to have your 5 prepared notecards in front of you as you deliver your speech, remembering to make eye contact and use good body language?  What if something comes up in the middle of the meeting and you need to speak out about it?  Hold on guys--I'd like to use 5 minutes of my prep time before I speak next!  No...not quite how it works there.  In fact, I feel like there is an active stigma against people who deliver canned speeches.  If it feels like what you are saying is "practiced", people are going to pick up on it and feel that it's not genuine.

Perhaps the reason there is such a large fear of public speaking is exactly because of how it's presented in school.  We did all these presentations and speeches as we were growing up, and supposedly it's probably supposed to make you a better speaker, and more comfortable with public speaking.  But guess what?  Every time you do a speech or presentation for school, it's the worst possible situation because you are being GRADED for your performance.  The way you deliver your speech literally determines whether you are labeled as a success or a failure, and to make matters worse, all of your peers are watching you get judged.  Is that stressful?  Heck yes!  I better practice my butt off and memorize the entire thing because if I forget anything or get caught saying "hold on, let me think...", that's an instant deduction from my grade.  This whole process establishes this idea in my head that public speaking is a high-pressure situation where I'm being judged.  And you wonder why people get nervous when they need to speak in front of a group!!!

Back to the original point I was making on learning things from the intarwebs.  I think you could argue "but, cleaning, paying taxes....these are all things you should be learning from your parents!"  And to an extent, you'd be right.  There are a lot of things that are just easier or better learned from parents.  But there are a lot of problems with that, too.  For one thing, parents don't know everything.  Are your parents going to teach you what you need to host a website? (domain name, hosting, DNS records)  What if they never owned a business or sold anything; will they know how to deal with sales tax via Bandcamp or Etsy?  Have they advertised via craigslist or ebay?  Okay, so they know how to cook american or chinese food, but what about making cajun food?  Thai curries?  Fajitas?

The other thing is that sometimes the knowledge you get is just plain =wrong=.  This happens a lot in both healthcare (unfortunately) and cooking, among other things.  Cooking is the easiest to point to since there are all of these cooking myths like "searing locks in the meat juices by creating a hard crust on the outside" and "only flip your burger patty once" which have scientifically been disproven (flipping multiple times leads to more even cooking).  Even if the ideas =were= right 30 years ago, a lot of things change over the span of a generation. ("you should take CHEM230, back when =I= was in college it was a good course" doesn't really work out, particularly if that course number doesn't exist anymore)

I think the combination of being in a completely new situation and place (sometimes, growing up in America with split heritage identity vs immigrant parents) and the fact that the times have changed so much (in past times quitting your job to work at a new place was a sin, maybe kills your present times if you've been at a job for more than 4 years, prospective employers will see it as a red flag, maybe kills your career...) means that it's vitally important for people to first question tradition and the status quo and try to learn about the world around them, and second to be able to know where to look to find the answers to the questions they have.  Perhaps that's the case with -every- generation, but the existence of google wikipedia and other key players means there has been a paradigm shift in how we can find the knowledge that is important to us.

But above all just watch Steven Universe b/c who could ask for a better representation of humanity, relationships, love, morality, and hamburger backpacks?  Also play Journey. :P

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I could be a better friend.  Also things are weird.  I feel like I wanted to write something more but I totally forgot what it was...

Losing in MtG due to variance doesn't really bother me.  In fact I almost feel like it offers a shield under which to hide your losses sometimes (which you have to watch out for).  When you lose to variance it wasn't really your fault.  Sure, you "should have won" b/c you are the better player or have the better deck or whatever, but it wasn't your fault that you didn't.  It's a different situation than when you're playing some fighting game or RTS or something and you blow it because you did something stupid or choked or something.  In that situation I get the bad feels because damn, I lost to somebody I "shouldn't have" lost to, but there's nothing else to blame but myself really.  I dunno.

Sunday, August 2, 2015
So cool!  The fanmade tarot cards sets are something I've seen before; I think it's always a really really excellent idea.

Found it as I did catchup looking through websites of people from Fanime Artist's Alley (I know I know, months ago).  To be honest I don't really follow people after picking up their cards, but I find that it's a nice way to show support for someone even if you don't buy anything of theirs.  Plus I'm sure they appreciate getting an extra view even if it doesn't turn into a customer.  Hey--I came close to wanting to buy a stationery set, so that's something, right?  Apparently is a thing now...I feel like before it was more on etsy and such?  Not sure, I'm not really in the know for these things.

Been playing more The Last of Us...we're pretty far now!  Quite enjoyed some parts, think it's really well done.  I kind of got the hang of combat and stealth now; there were a few times where I still had trouble but for the most part I'm doing much better and smarter.  We're off to the Spring chapter now...

Been having much much more problems with motion sickness and nausea from planes and games than I used to in past years, I think.  Or maybe it's just because I happen to actually want to play TLOU a bunch despite it being a game that triggers that in me.  I've found that ginger does the trick for helping me combat it--and that fresh ginger is much more effective than ginger in pill form.  Something about the taste and the smell, I think.  You can try slicing and/or grating ginger and boiling it, then sipping at it if you're having issues with that.  If the taste is too strong you might even be able to just get away with smelling it every so often; I think that helps too.

The little "episode" I had is mostly over now, I think.  Some of it was just bad emotional health and me being stupid, but I have to say a lot of it was also just a series of unfortunate events and bad timings; stuff happens sometimes unluckily, but...we livin.

Got a new SF player at work, one who's not a scrub!  Actually knows what to do, hits his links and cancels and everything, plays cleanly and doesn't do random stuff like only use supers on wakeup, etc etc.  So that's nice.  I felt super accomplished when I took on his Ken with my Makoto, though I can't say it wasn't difficult.  I definitely still have some execution problems (50% from the sticks being kind of jank, but I'm learning to adjust to it), and I still have some habits that the other non-scrub was calling me out on during some matches, but in general I'm not feeling too bad about my play.

We're doing a Magic: Origins sealed league at pool is OK.  Came up with a controlly B/W deck that is actually probably a little worse than I thought at first glance.  It's definitely capable of doing some strong things, with Hixus and Sentinel of the Eternal Watch, plus the synergies between Blightcaster, Weight of the Underworld x 2, Auramancer x 2, and Shadows of the Past, plus Nantuko Husk which has always been pretty solid from my experience.  I do have a problem though in that I can't really deal with x/3s effectively -- I mean, sure, Weight of the Underworld will probably reduce them to 0/1 chump blockers but ideally I'd like more than that.  I actually have an Anointer of Champions that I was running but took out for Knight of the Pilgrim's Road...not sure if that is the right call at all since Anointer is really good, but very not-good on offense and I don't think I'm really attacking that often.  It could maybe be right to take out cleric of the forward order in favor of the anointer, but I'm not sure.  On second thought, maybe the right thing to do is take out enshrouding mist and put in anointer?  It's really awkward because I have this controlly plan of Blightcaster plus Weight of the Underworld and my 3-drops are not very aggressive at all but on the other than I have 2 topan freeblades that would love to get in early.  Anointer helps the freeblades get in which would be great, but on all the other games where I don't have t2 topan freeblade, I'm not really going to be attacking that well with my 2/2s and such so anointer is bad there since my deck is trying to stabilize and set up good blocks (maybe in conjunction with nantuko husk) then remove their threats with weight/blightcaster/throwing knife/celestial flare before accumulating value and/or a win condition.  So I guess anointer should probably be out after all; the only reason it's good is because it's a creature which is good for nantuko husk and shadows of the past but otherwise it's worse than enshrouding mist unless I get t2 topan freeblade.  I don't think I have that many other options in my pool unfortunately, though I will definitely look again.  Blue was super shallow and unexciting, Red had a little more but still not that much, and Green had some OK cards but nothing really powerful--I think it's like 2 leaf gliders, a rhox maulers, and a yeva's forcemage.  Maybe one wild instincts?  I think it's clear that I need to run W, and the WB plan lets me actually put the auramancers to good use and gives me the most synergistic build overall.  I guess what I really want is some suppression bonds; either that or some more quality 3-drops, like deathbridge shaman...eyeblight assassin would probably be fine too, or fetid imp.  Reave soul would be wonderful too, or unholy hunger, or stalwart aven too...even guardian automaton might be good, though I already have a lot of 4s...

Going to be shifting my schedule earlier so that I can help drive meowmie to and from work...let's see if I can be disciplined and learn how to sleep early and wake early...