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Index: 2019 2018

Review: The Wizard's Lair

February 15, 2019

Recommended ✔ Original review $2.99 on steam £1.99 on itch (DRM-free, includes steam key) This recommendation comes with a big caveat: as other reviews have pointed out, there's no "rest" command, so the only way to get your health back if you don't have any potions is by repeatedly mashing the "wait" button or walking back and forth, which would take several minutes and make the game unbearably tedious in the later levels when you have a ton of health. I used the free program JoyToKey to map one of the buttons on my controller to press the "wait" button 30 times a second, and this allows you to get health back at a reasonable rate. This function should be in the game, but I'm glad I was able to find a way around this problem, because other than that, I really like it. It's a short-ish minimalistic roguelike - I finished it in 8 hours (5 hours on Steam, 3 hours with the version, which is identical but doesn't have those hot cheevos) which for the asking price is totally fine. It's pretty chill, and there's not a lot to the combat, but I found exploring the levels, discovering things and figuring out strategies consistently rewarding. The game I'd most compare it to is Fatal Labyrinth on the Genesis, which is my favorite roguelike, but this game's even more streamlined - there aren't even any ranged combat options, no rings to equip, no magic wands. Combat is essentially just math - the enemies have almost no variation other than their damage numbers, so it just comes down to whether you have the equipment and stats to deal with them, and if not, whether you have scrolls and potions that can help. It's about as basic as an RPG can get. Despite this, I found it a pleasant experience. It's a good game to kick back and play while you relax and listen to some podcasts. If you're looking for a minimal roguelike RPG you can play with a controller, and you're willing to install JoyToKey, and you like games you can play with a podcast or stream on in the background, this is well worth the $3 asking price. top

I'm not reading the wiki

February 12, 2019

If I'm interested in a game but I'm having trouble in it, and I look for help, and the most common advice I see is "read the wiki", I'm no longer interested in playing it. A wiki isn't a substitute for a manual or tutorial. A game that offloads the responsibility of teaching onto the community isn't a game I want to play. Why do we write manuals? To make sure the player has enough information. A good manual gives the player the tools they need to learn how to play the game on their own. It's not there to tell them everything. A big part of playing games is discovery, and when it comes to what you tell the player and what you let them discover on their own, it's crucial to find the right balance; you want the player to feel empowered to learn and discover without feeling frustrated at the mental roadblocks they face on the way. Imagine you really like the game Myst, and you recommend it to a friend, and your friend starts playing it on your recommendation, and your friend can't really make heads or tails of it, so they report back to you and say they're not having fun, and ask if you have any advice. You'd ask them what part they're stuck on, what they're not understanding, and try to give them some general pointers, work with them, emphasise things they maybe hadn't been considering. Help them look at things in a new light. You love Myst, and you want your friend to have a good experience with it, so you try to guide them as best you can. What you wouldn't do is give them a link to gamefaqs and say "Oh, read the walkthrough, that'll tell you what to do." Because you know that's not a good experience. That's more information than they should have. When a player reads the wiki, they're not getting the carefully curated guide that would be in a manual or tutorial, they're getting an unfiltered dump truck of whatever the existing player base wants them to know. And like any passionate internet fanbase, the amount of information they want to share is "all of it". They're excited to share their discoveries with anyone willing to listen, which robs the curious player of the joy of discovery that made the community fall in love with the game in the first place. A wiki is a valuable tool for players who want it, but I don't want it. I want a little noob nudge in the right direction, not an express ticket to Pwnertown. top


February 10, 2019

When I changed my site to a blog-first layout, some of my non-blog projects were made inaccessible. Some of these have now been restored on the projects page. top

An accidental joke

January 28, 2019

On one old episode of The Simpsons, Homer, the safety inspector at a nuclear power plant, had to suddenly look busy when the boss came into the room, so he jumped out of his chair, pointed at one of his co-workers, and instructed him to "be more safe!" Then, for contrast, he looked at another of his co-workers and said "safe enough." Since I always watched with closed captioning, I caught something most people probably missed: the captioners misheard Homer's second line, and instead of "safe enough", they captioned it as "safen up". At the time, I thought this would have ruined the joke for anyone who wasn't listening or couldn't listen to the dialogue; to me, the joke was the juxtaposition between the two co-workers, both of who were standing around doing nothing, and the totally arbitrary decision that one of them needed to be more safe, but the other one was adequately safe. I thought it was a little sad that somone who was hard-of-hearing would have missed out on that, and I was sure the line would have fallen flat. But now, I think "safen up" has its own appeal. "Safen" is a pretty funny word. The act of becoming more safe. Safening. I have a kid on the way so I safened all my electrical outlets. It's a word you use when you have no idea what you're doing, when you have only a vague sense of what does or doesn't make something safe. That's pretty good by itself. But it also juxtaposes nicely with "be more safe" in a different way: instead of deciding arbitrarily which co-worker needed to be more safe and which one was safe enough, he determined that BOTH of them needed to be more safe; scrambling to come up with something different to say for the second case, he said the same thing, except more poorly, and using a word that probably isn't real. I dunno, there's something to it. I wonder how I would have reacted if I didn't hear the dialogue and "safen up" was my only experience with it. I bet I would have laughed just as much. Edit: as usual, every word of every episode of The Simpsons has been picked apart again and again, and the debate re: the actual line still rages on. Argue all you want; the words that he says are "safe enough", despite appearing as "safen up" in both the closed captions and DVD subtitles. You'll have to show me a script or confirmation from one of the writers that "safen up" is the actual line before I'll believe it, and if that's the case, then we can chalk the confusion up to a bad line read by Dan Castellaneta. top

Lost e-mails (update)

January 27, 2019

Update: e-mail situation fixed. Communications can resume as normal. Additionally, I realized that the site doesn't look THAT bad on mobile, so instead of having a mobile view option I just added some PHP that detects if you're on a mobile device and tweaks the layout accordingly. top

Lost e-mails

January 26, 2019

When I registered this domain, the e-mail settings didn't change over, because hover's control panel is a useless piece of shit javascript blob that for whatever reason isn't accepting the change. As a result, I lost a a week of e-mail. I'm sorry. I'm going to migrate everything off hover, but in the meantime, if you sent me anything since monday, please send it again. The contact form is working again, or you can send it to rather than the address listed on the contact page. I'm very sorry. top

Blog exclusive: VVVVVV level sneak peek

January 23, 2019

Thanks for reading my blog! It probably means you're interested in stuff I make. I haven't finished making anything in awhile, but I've been putting a lot of work into a VVVVVV player level over the last few weeks, and I thought maybe giving a little preview will motivate me to continue. It's a little different from most player-created VVVVVV levels - rather than being concerned with difficult platforming challenges (there are a couple, but they're not too bad) the main focus is on exploration and dumb jokes. It's called Abscondemonium, and it's a fun little trinket hunt in which you're robbing a bank. You can download the file here (right-click and save,) and play it in either your purchased copy of VVVVVV, or use the totally free and totally awesome Make and Play edition. The way you import levels depends on the platform, so download the appropriate version for your computer and follow the instructions. (On windows you probably want to put it in the c:\Users\[name]\Documents\VVVVVV folder.) top

A new home

January 21, 2019

If you're reading this, hopefully you're aware that the blog has a new name and a new URL. I'd been wanting to move away from using my name as the domain name for awhile, mostly because I don't like it and don't really identify with it, but also just in case I ever need to say it aloud, it's a little easier to understand and remember because it's actual words. I had recently begun using the Blue Lander as my avatar over on cybrespace, and I thought it'd be funny to see if was available and cheap, and it was. I guess it's still not a phrase that rolls off the tongue or anything, but it's better than before. The transition went pretty smoothly, no issues getting the TLS sorted out like the last time I tried this. The old domain should be forwarding here soon, just going to take a bit for all the DNS to update. So yeah, new coat of paint, same gripping content as before! top

Tape talk

January 18, 2019

When artists sell cassette tapes on Bandcamp, I wonder whether it's an actual analog recording, or if they're just recording the digital files to tape. "What does it matter? You wouldn't be able to tell the difference." Oh, I know, it's just. It's kind of silly to get a physical cassette tape if it's going to be exactly the same as the FLAC files I can download. Like, what would be the point? "What would be the point of doing it any other way if you couldn't tell the difference?" I mean... you know, sure, listening to tapes when there are way more convenient options is inherently silly. I know that. It's not a rational thing in the first place. That's why no one sells tapes anymore. But if someone was GOING to sell tapes, wouldn't you think that means they care enough about it to go all the way? Like, they're probably nostalgic for analog music the same as me, so wouldn't they want to do it right? "You know the chances they didn't record digitally in the first place are close to zero, right?" W... what do you mean? There are still analog multi-track recorders... "Yeah, and a good one is going to be super expensive and way harder to use than a computer. You really think an independent solo artist selling tapes on Bandcamp is going to have access to that?" But... if there's no analog recording, then selling a tape really is just a pointless gimmick. "Wouldn't it be a pointless gimmick anyway, if you wouldn't be able to tell the difference?" But... but I like tapes. "Why?" ...shut up, me. top

How do I RSS?

January 17, 2019

Okay, things are looking good. Got some PHP going for the menus, got a mobile mode working (which is just the page with no CSS, because trying to make a website layout that looks good on both computers and mobile devices without javascript is basically impossible. Best to just have no style information at all and let the phone figure out how to deal with it.) The only thing Hugo was doing for me that I can't do myself, at least so far, is create an RSS/XML/Atom/JSON/XHTML feed for people to subscribe to and see updates in their blog reading software of choice. I'm using a site called Politepol to generate a feed based on my HTML tags, and when it works it works, but it seems to not work about three quarters of the time. If you're reading this and you can help me figure out how to do this (or tell me what the difference between RSS, XML, Atom, JSON and XHTML is, seriously they all look exactly the same) then please drop me a line. top

Mario ideas

January 16, 2019

Okay, so the concept of "lives" shouldn't exist, obviously. That's one thing Odyssey did right. But you still need a good reason to collect coins, so:

Some super power-up ideas, off the top of my head:

I like this a lot better actually

January 8, 2019

Every blog entry having its own page added a veneer of importance I wasn't comfortable with for many of my entries. Sure, it's useful for linking to a specific entry instead of just a wall of text, but being diligent about permalinks should accomplish the same thing. I'd much rather have all of the entries for a year all glommed together. It makes me feel better about just shitting out a totally garbage thought and calling it a post. Lucky you! This entry is a test to see if I can use pre tags to format text with linebreaks instead of having to use p tags or br tags everywhere. That was always my least favorite thing about html. It disrupts the writing process to have to pause to insert tags every time I want to start a new paragraph. I remember the pre tag not really being suitable for this sort of thing, since it would have weird behavior like not respecting page width and running off into the bounds, but maybe now that CSS is a thing I can use that to whip the pre tag into shape. top

Okay, it's not a new blog...

January 8, 2019's an old blog with a much easier workflow. The idea is that composing a new blog entry is as simple as opening the index.html file, adding the new entry at the top and hitting save. I want to at least have permalinks for every entry, which makes things a lot uglier. I hate it. I hate having to wrap every paragraph in a dumb p tag. I hate having to make sure I copy and paste the date/title/permalink code in the right place. I hate having to manually place the "top" button. But for now I think this is the solution that presents the smallest barrier to entry re: actually writing. I don't have to load up a command line utility and generate a page and upload it to the right placee and make sure the media files are in the same place. Everything in one folder. No muss, no fuss. End of the year comes around, I take everything and dump it all into a 2019 folder. If we're still around. Still, I really wish I just had a big "write a blog" button on my desktop I could push and it pops up a box and fills in the date and has a box that says "title" and a box that says "post" and I just write it and click post and it all just happens. You know what had that? Livejournal. Livejournal was pretty rad, once upon a time. But I can't just someone else's infrastructure. And this seems like the best solution for now. seems interesting, but as far as I can tell there's no way to adjust things like background color and font size, and you need javascript to post, and the post itself has javascript on it. There's, which is my favorite minimal text-sharing platform, but there's no way to edit, or have a collection of links, or any kind of continuity. Good for one-shot text shares, but not suitable for a blog. As far as I can tell, the type of blog I want doesn't exist. Ah well, this will do for the moment. top

New Year, New Blog

January 8, 2019

I like hugo but it's too much of a pain in the ass to go through the whole process of generating a single static page for each and every entry. What's the need? It's not like I post that many images, and when I do, it's usually not large. A single page with all of my entries for 2018 would almost certainly be under a megabyte, at least after I thumbnail-ized the occasional large image I posted. That's like a quarter the size of the average javascript blob, so I don't know why I'm worried. Old content has a bunch of broken links now, but I'll clean it up later. top

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