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Index: 2019 2018


2018 Index

Dec 02: Nairi: Tower of Shirin review Nov 30: US newspaper comic tier list Nov 25: A tiny dungeon Nov 17: Review: Bunker Punks Nov 16: Imposter syndrome Nov 14: Gearbest holiday buyer's guide Nov 13: Review: Let It Die Nov 11: My Album Chart Nov 07: Trying to avoid the curiosity click Nov 01: Deltarune final thoughts Oct 31: Fun with junkmail Oct 23: Depersonalization: A One-Act Play Oct 22: Dream: Alan Turing's robot bug patrol Oct 13: Review: Maplestory 2 Oct 11: A Warning About Wellbutrin Oct 10: Why did people stop blogging? Sep 25: Review: Dragon Quest XI Jul 22: 2D vs. 3D Game Development Jul 22: Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection review Jul 21: FTP clients: serious business in 2018 Jul 20: About a (b)log Jul 20: We shouldn't all have to be salesfolk Jul 19: Lonely Streamers



Nairi: Tower of Shirin review

December 2, 2018

✔ Recommended Original review $9.99 on Steam A really fantastic puzzle adventure game. It's bursting with charm and personality, and has some of the best art and visual polish I've ever seen. It's not a challenging game for the most part, but some of the puzzles toward the end get delightfully devilish, Seymour, and solving them was super satisfying. It does have a few quirks of older point-and-click adventure games that feel a little dated, but nothing that I felt got in the way. There's a small "click everywhere on the screen to find the hidden coins" element, but most of the coins are completely optional and it's not hard at all to find enough to finish the game. There was one puzzle about halfway through that I got stuck on, not from being unable to figure out what to do, but just from the game not being consistent in communicating what objects I can interact with, and the manner in which they can be manipulated. For the puzzle where you have to make an anchor point to tie the rope before you climb out the window: You need to use the drill to make two holes underneath the window. You have to drag the drill from your inventory to two small spots on either side of the windowsill. The game didn't make it clear that this was something I could interact with, and I had to look up a video to see exactly what it was expecting me to do. The only other caveat is that the game doesn't have cloud save support, and I encountered a bug when I tried to backup my save manually. I can load my save just fine, but it won't save any additional progress I make. I had to finish the last third of the game all in one go, because every time I saved and came back, it started me at the same point where I backed up my save. Luckily, I noticed before I made significant progress, so I only had to redo a couple puzzles (which I could do quickly because I already knew the solutions.) A small annoyance and one that won't affect many people, but something to be aware of if you play games on more than one computer. Other than that, this is the best adventure game I've played in years.



US newspaper comic tier list

November 30, 2018

N/A: Any newspaper comics that started after webcomics were a thing, or started as a webcomic. There are many good ones, they're just not rankable on the same scale. Phoebe and Her Unicorn, the new Nancy, F Minus, The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee S: Calvin and Hobbes. Undisputed all-time great. The pupil surpassed the master. A: Peanuts. The master. Overstayed its welcome, still the best thing the medium had going for three of its five decades. B: Political satire strips that were good at the time but you basically can't read without Wikipedia open today, and they still often don't make much sense. Doonesbury, Bloom County. Honorable mention: Pogo. Ended before I was born, no way to read it, but by all accounts probably pretty good. B-: Single-panel absurdist gag strips. The Far Side, Non-Sequitur, Bizarro. New Yorker comics for the rest of us. C+: Modern family-oriented strips. The "ABC's TGIF" of the Newspaper. Foxtrot, Zits, Baby Blues, Boondocks. C: All the irony-poisoned 90s gen X comics riding the Simpsons wave. Dilbert, Mother Goose and Grimm, Pearls before Swine, Get Fuzzy. C-: Garfield. Gotta respect the hustle. D: All the god-awful painfully unfunny gag strips that have been around for 150 years and no one has the decency to let die. Blondie, B.C., Beetle Bailey, Hi and Lois. D-: All the other god-awful etc. Family Circus, Marmaduke, is Marmaduke still going?, Ziggy, Hagar the Horrible, Dennis the Menace. Who's still reading this garbage? F: Dramatic strips. May be good, but no one will ever read two sentences of a novel every day for 50 years to find out. Rex Morgan, Mary Worth, Gil Thorp, Prince Valiant. F-: Pluggers



A tiny dungeon

November 25, 2018

I'm making a little dungeon thingy in QB64, a modern implementation of Quickbasic (or Qbasic, I'm not sure what the difference is.) Even though it's ASCII I'm not planning any procedural generation - most ASCII games are roguelikes, but I want an engine I can use for grid-based adventure games or RPGs. At its most basic, it'll be a small, lightweight alternative to something like bitsy, but I want to keep at it until I have a full-blown RPG. I have a long, long way to go, obviously, but I'm pretty proud of what I came up with after a day of work. It's been so long since I programmed anything that I didn't have a lot of faith in my ability to get to this point, but it didn't take long for what I know to come back to me. You can click the thumbnail below to watch a small video showing how I'm implementing rooms - they're just text files that I'm drawing in ASCII Art Studio. This lets me sketch out the basic structure of a room extremely quickly, and I can go in and tweak it and add color in the program. I'll have a few interesting challenges to solve to accomplish what I want, but getting this done as quickly as I did has been a huge boost to my confidence. I look forward to seeing where it goes. (if the video doesn't play, try right-clicking and saving it instead) a tiny ASCII game



Review: Bunker Punks

November 17, 2018

✖ Not Recommended Original review $14.99 on steam $14.99 on humble (DRM-free) It looks and feels good, but the UI and amount of information it gives you is terrible. No description of character abilities - when I use my character's ability, called "step back", it makes the words "step back" appear on the screen and I can't tell what, if anything, it actually does. The crosshair is a light gray color that's too hard to see against the largely gray backgrounds and there's no way to change it. There's a brief description of what the items do when you pick them up, but no way to see what they do after that. There's a way to "store" additional weapons that's not really explained - I can press the 1 key and I get an icon of that weapon on the UI, but I don't know what that does. According to the control mapping options, I can press tab to cycle weapons, but nothing happens when I press tab. You can only hold one gun. This seems strange in a game that seems to relish the lack of realism in old first-person-shooters. You can run at 90 miles per hour, you don't have to reload, you can shoot from the hip with perfect accuracy, all this is awesome, so why the hell do I have to choose between a pistol and a shotgun? How limited modern shooters are with regard to weapon loadout is one of the worst things about them, so you would think a game that seems to revere classic shooters would get this right. I have nine number keys, I know how to use them. Finally, pick-ups blink out of existence if you don't get them within a few seconds, which is bizarre. I've never seen this in any classic FPS. This isn't an arcade game, you're not trying to suck quarters out of me, and it just seems unnecessarily punitive, and well, not fun. I don't want to have to scramble to pick up health and ammo. I didn't have fun in the first hour and don't see a reason to keep playing. tl;dr:

  1. buys Bunker Punks
  2. You can only hold one gun, with limited ammo, and ammo drops disappear if you don't pick them up immediately
  3. refunds Bunker Punks



Imposter syndrome

November 16, 2018

We're conditioned to lie during job interviews ("I'm one of the most highly qualified candidates in my field"; "I want this job reasons beyond needing money to stay alive"; "I hope I'm working here in five years"; "My biggest flaw is that I work too hard") so that it's harder to believe in ourselves. When our employment is based on lies, when that's our very first interaction with someone who has power over us, we feel guilty, we devalue ourselves, we devalue our labor, and we settle for less than we're worth. Is it any wonder everyone has imposter syndrome? By forcing us to sell ourselves, capitalism makes imposters of us all.



An hilarious video game webcomic

November 15, 2018

Comic Don't worry about it.



Gearbest holiday buyer's guide

November 14, 2018

Our thrift stores aren't very exciting, so every now and then I like to browse gearbest to get my fix of weird random junk that could totally be mine if I were willing to part with eight or nine dollars. I rarely buy anything, but I'm often tempted. decorative light bulb Look at this object! It's a light bulb with a fun tropical diorama that you fill with water, plug into a USB port, and it lights up and sprays the water into the air, I guess? The product page calls this a "humidifier", but it looks more like a… moistener. Hope you have room next to your expensive computer to plug in this thing that's spraying water everywhere! world cup keychain Wanna keep your keys on the world's worst fake world cup? Yes? You're in luck, if you have two dollars and three cents to spare. And I know you do. solved rubik's cube unsolved rubik's cube, with chaotic plastic spikes Sensing an approaching predator, the rubik adopts a defensive stance, baring its beautiful but deadly spikes. Looks like the red arctic cubivore will be sleeping hungry tonight. trackpad slime keyboard slime You know the best way to clean the dust off your laptop? baby wearing basketball hoop hat This seems ill-advised. Don't play this game with your baby. What's the best possible outcome? Against all odds, you manage to get every ball in the basket without accidentally beaning your tow-headed toddler directly in its porcine schnozz. The child whips its head around in delight, spilling balls all over the rumpus room. Now you're on your hands and knees scooping up balls all night instead of watching the big game. What was that buzzer? Everyone's cheering, what happened? Oh no! Your favorite player just scored the winning goal, and you missed it. Christmas is ruined. Thanks a lot, babsketball. PUBG helmet Finally, for the gamer that has everything, you can get them their very own "Famous Game Character Helmet" Main features (actual product description):

money gun You've now saved wads of your hard-earned dough by shopping smart on Gearbest. Flaunt your hoarded wealth by shooting your extra thousand dollar bills at friends and well-wishers with your brand new money gun. Go ahead, you've earned it.



Review: Let It Die

November 13, 2018

✖ Not Recommended Original review Free-to-play on steam (micro-transactions up to $50) I really enjoyed everything about the game until the halfway point. I was very excited about continuing. Until I discovered what happens after you defeat the second boss. Now I'm uninstalling it. Levels 1-20 of the dungeon, if a character dies, you have two options to get it back: You can pay an amount of in-game currency to retrieve the character with their full inventory, or you could get the character back for free, sans any items they were holding. This was a good balance. When I lost a character it was disappointing, it was a setback, especially if I had found some good or rare items, but I wanted to get back in there. It was costly but not unbearable. After level 20, for no reason, these options become "pay in-game currency to get your character back... or pay the real-money currency." The free option is gone. Lose a level 75 character and don't have enough coins to get them back? You're fucked. Have fun starting a new level 1 character and either grinding out the coins or grinding out levels until they're strong enough to kill your old character. The original character is as good as gone, forever. Did the second character die? Don't have enough coins, because they're slowly eaten away by a raid system you can't opt out of? Too bad, looks like you're starting a new level 1 character, what a shame. This game is deceptive and abusive, and it doesn't respect your time. The first half of the game was designed well enough to make me think this is a rare example of a free-to-play game done right, but it's not, it's just a slow burn. Do not download this game. UNCLE DEATH DESERVES BETTER.



My Album Chart

November 11, 2018

I made a fun chart of albums I like with a site called never ending chart rendering. Click the thumbnail below to see the full image. You can also use the site to make movie charts. I might make one of those as well, but I don't have as many opinions about movies as I do about music. album chart



Trying to avoid the curiosity click

November 7, 2018

Content warning: negative mental health experiences, alcohol I wish there was a way I could click on a clickbait youtube thumbnail just to see for myself what bullshit they're talking about without giving the video another view. I know that's exactly what they want me to wish. They want me to wish so hard that I eventually just give up and grant my own wish by giving the video another view, and thus granting it 0.0001% more fake legitimacy, because it's not a big deal. Well, it is a big deal, to me, and I ain't falling for it. I know whatever satisfaction my curiosity gets out of it is meaningless, because there's an infinite amount of bullshit in the tank for them to spray me with after that. It's literally never going to end. People will be trying to make money from me by lying to me to make me mad until the day I die. I need to put youtube thumbnails in the same mental category as supermarket checkout line tabloid magazine covers–I never for a second even peek inside an issue of Us Magazine or The National Examiner, no matter how outrageous the claim on the cover is or how perplexed I am that they're still somehow allowed to get away with this. The supermarket tabloid is an anti-object; it occupies the same brain space as the homeless jesus sculpture, or roadside sign-spinners, or the horoscope page, or clouds of vape smoke, or military camo T-shirts, or cops, or red baseball caps with white text–just background decoration for the dystopia. It automatically gets caught by my brain's internal junk filter, and other than occasionally having to clean it out (an activity that happens once or twice a month and involves a lot of sobbing and/or alcohol) I'm mostly able to get through my day without thinking about them. But for whatever reason, bullshit clickbait youtube thumbnails are harder to ignore. I guess it's just the extremely low barrier to entry: I just finished watching a video, and it's now time to find another frequency to distract me before I can tune back into the howling emptiness that would otherwise devour me. I have to click on something. Here are some things to click on, why not one of these? Clicking the bullshit thumbnail is just as easy as clicking anything else on the screen, so why not? It's just one view out of eight hundred thousand, it won't hurt anything. But even if that were true, it definitely won't help anything! I already avoid 90% of youtube "recommendations" by going directly to my subscription feed (bookmark this page instead of going to youtube.com, it's a lifesaver); I'm just going to have to copy the URL for videos I want to watch and download them with youtube-dl from now on.



Deltarune final thoughts

November 1, 2018

No story spoilers, but obviously avoid reading if you want no knowledge about the game whatsoever. In which case you should probably just play it. I liked just about everything about it. I guess the only complaint I have is that there’s not more of it, which is weird to say. A game dropping out of nowhere for free, I expected it to be a little adventure thing that takes about an hour. I wasn’t expecting so many mechanical improvements. Well, potential improvements. Ultimately I was a little disappointed that the strategy for each enemy STILL just boils down to repeating the one or two actions that work against it, and the fact that there’s still no mechanical character advancement is frustrating. There’s a lot of room for an RPG with a strategic non-combat encounter system, but Deltarune still isn’t it. At least so far. I liked the three-member party, I liked how the characters interacted with each other both in and out of encounters. I really liked how one of your party members is antagonistic toward you for part of the game, and you have to adapt to deal with it, even if ultimately the adaptation was just… picking one additional menu option at the start of each battle. I feel like the bullet hell dodging is a lot more forgiving than Undertale, and I think it’ll be easier for people who had problems with the first game. I like the tension system a lot, I just wish the game gave me a reason to use it outside of the final two battles. However, having the ability to heal mid-combat without spending an item is really helpful and I look forward to seeing what new skills are introduced. I like how "scraping" the bullets builds tension meter, and it’s an interesting trade-off of risk vs. reward. Do I try to scrape this round so I have enough TP to heal on the next turn and risk getting knocked out? Situations like that. The only time I felt like the bullet-dodging was massively unbalanced was the secret boss. I honestly don’t know what they expect you to do - I thought it would be a fight you could only win if you killed enemies and leveled up to get more HP, but I tried that and that doesn’t even seem possible - every enemy runs away when you deal enough damage to it and I couldn’t find anything that actually caused you to level. Maybe the fight’s meant to be unwinnable, or maybe there’s a scripted event that happens if all your party members get knocked out. I didn’t let it get to that point, but maybe I’ll try it to see what happens. I ended up cheating by editing the save file to give the characters 1000 HP, and I still barely survived the final attack (although I suspect it was scripted to do a percentage of your life in damage instead of a fixed amount.) I was sort of underwhelmed by what happens when you finish the fight, but maybe you’re not meant to in this chapter. Anyway, I find that sort of thing pretty tedious. I don’t mind the dodging stuff, but the last thing I want to do in a game like this is really put my bullet hell skills to the test. Story and character-wise, I loved everything and I can’t wait to see what’s next. This release is called "Chapter 1", so that makes me really curious what the structure is going to be like. This game really feels like a tiny part of something much bigger, but if this is "Chapter 1", does that imply that the next chapter is going to have the same scope? I kind of hope not - I’d really love the next game to do a lot more with the new mechanics (and the ones that are hinted at, like the mystery stats that don’t do anything) This feels like the start of something a lot more ambitious than Undertale, and I wonder if I’m reading too much into it. Outside of help with the art, localization, and a little bit of the music, it still seems very much like a 1-person project, and I don’t want to be unrealistic about the scope of it. Regardless, I’m in for whatever comes next, because the characters, art, and music has charmed me just as much as Undertale. It’s more of what I love but it’s not just more of the same.



Fun with junkmail

October 31, 2018

Here's a fun tip: if you get junk mail, and they include a response card or envelope that says "no postage necessary" on it, you can write why they suck on there, drop it in any mailbox, and they have to pay for it! It'll probably just get tossed by an underpaid mail room worker, so of course you shouldn't write personally insulting or vulgar shit on there, but you never know, if enough people do it, someone might call attention to it. I received an offer for a free trial issue from a popular leftist magazine that used a (sadly all too common) scummy business tactic to trick people into giving them money, so I wrote "negative option billing is unethical" on the reply card instead of my address. They sound like they would be against that sort of thing, so maybe they just didn't know.



Depersonalization: A One-Act Play

October 23, 2018

Me: examining the contents of a box that's been moved unopened from house to house for the last 10 years, holding book I've owned since I was a child: (to myself) Oh my god! I loved this book when I was a kid! I wish I still had my copy. I wonder where it went. Me: sighs wistfully, puts it back in box for another 10 years



Dream: Alan Turing's robot bug patrol

October 22, 2018

One of Alan Turing's lesser-known accomplishments was inventing a small 4-legged mechanical robot. He had a terrible phobia of insects and spiders, so he created the robot to patrol and scare them away. It was made of brass and had a built-in flashlight he could turn on or off. There was a switch that would either cause it to patrol in a circle or a straight line in a back-and-forth pattern. It was powered by a rechargable battery and had a small circular base at which it could dock to recharge. He never publicized it or tried to sell it. An obscure Czech filmmaker Turing was acquainted with asked if he could use it for one of his projects in the late 40s, and it was largely forgotten until the director of Johnny Mnemonic used it for one scene in which Nicholas Cage's character was on an acid trip imagining a stop-motion claymation prehistoric world being decimated by an army of the creatures.



Review: Maplestory 2

October 13, 2018

✖ Not Recommended Original review Free-to-play on steam (microtransactions up to $100) I don't play MMOs or f2p games, but I downloaded Maplestory 2 because it's free and because it's a Diablo-like you can play with a controller, which is something I like and don't see that often. Mechanically, what you do isn't terribly dissimilar to Diablo II, but it's covered in several dozen layers of meaningless complexity. It's an incredibly simple game that seems deliberately designed to look as unapproachable as possible. I have no idea how anyone can become invested enough in this game to play longer than an hour, much less spend money on it, but apparently people do. The promise seems to be "trust us, once you play for 20-40 hours the complexity will become meaningful and you'll be really glad you learned all this stuff", but I have no idea why that's appealing. It doesn't even have the addictive loot grind of Diablo. I played until I hit level 15, and at least so far, enemies don't drop anything. All of the equipment is doled out as quest rewards at a pace which seems totally predetermined. About every 20 minutes, you get a new piece of equipment that's a couple points better than what you have. The character progression is also totally one-dimensional. Most of the skill tree is level-gated, so you only have two or three options to put skill points into every level-up. The character class I chose, Knight, starts with one skill that is so obviously better than the other ones that you have no reason to do anything else. It's twice as good as your basic attack, has no cooldown, and doesn't use any resources. (I have a "spirit" meter, and some of the skills say they refill this meter, but none of them seem to actually use it.) The first 90 minutes of the game consisted entirely of walking from one objective marker to the next, skipping cutscenes, holding the left trigger + X, and occasionally spending a skill point or right-clicking a new piece of equipment. There were no meaningful choices to make. X is mapped to your basic attack, and the game doesn't give you the option to remap it. There's no reason to ever use the basic attack, but the game forces me to use LT+X for the good attack instead of remapping it to just be X. Finally, you can't use a controller in the menus, you still have to use the mouse.



A Warning About Wellbutrin

October 11, 2018

I think a medication my psychiatrist prescribed me recently is causing a heightened level of anxiety and restlessness, which I'd almost describe as a mania. I've been taking it for almost a month, and didn't make the connection until I happened to look at the list of side effects just now. http://www.wellbutrinxl.com/ Physical side effects like nausea and ED are one thing, but the idea of taking a drug with the side effect of no longer being able to think rationally about myself, my mental health, and the drug itself is a nightmare scenario. "Some patients may have unusual thoughts or behaviors while taking WELLBUTRIN XL, including delusions (e.g. believe you are someone else), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there), paranoia (feeling that people are against you), or feeling confused. If this happens to you, call your healthcare provider." I don't know how they can just calmly say "call your healthcare provider", as if someone experiencing delusions, hallucinations, paranoia and confusion would be in the right state of mind to rationally follow these instructions. (I haven't been delusional and I haven't hallucinated, but the side-effects I've experienced have been very unpleasant.) I trusted my psychiatrist, and when she prescribed this, she didn't bring any of this up or give me any warning whatsoever. We discussed it for less than 5 minutes and all she cared about was whether I had a family history of seizures or high blood pressure. When I said no, she extremely casually wrote me a prescription on the spot, almost as if she was prescribing Vitamin D or some sort of herbal supplement. She didn't make a big deal out of it, so I didn't think it was a big enough deal to look it up, until now. I'm glad I did. When I first started seeing her (~2 years ago), she seemed much more patient and willing to listen, and told me to call if I thought the medication was causing problems. Recently, she seems to rush me through my appointments as fast as possible, not really care about what I say and all of her questions seem perfunctory. I feel betrayed, and I certainly won't be taking anything else she prescribes without reading about it first. If anyone reading this starts to take Wellbutrin XL, please be aware of the possible side effects and be really careful if you do decide to try it.



Why did people stop blogging?

October 10, 2018

Even as easy as hugo makes writing a new blog entry, I still find myself, for some reason, much more likely to make multiple threaded posts on Mastodon instead of writing here and posting a link to it. I try to avoid "tweet-storms" (or toot-storms.) I think it clutters the timeline, and I end up compromising the number of words I intend to write to fit it into one or two posts. I'd much rather write a blog entry and post (or not, if I just need to get something out of my system) but even the low barrier to entry feels too high in most cases. Writing a post here is a 3-step process 1. Create a new document 2. Edit the document in nano, save 3. Upload new document and updated index page to website This doesn't seem like much, but there are a lot of hidden variables to think about. By creating a web page instead of a social media post, I suddenly have the option to add formatting. If I want to take advantage of it, it means looking up the flavor of markdown that Hugo uses, since I can never remember any of it. You would think I just wouldn't worry about it, but one of the nice things social media does, paradoxically, is TAKE AWAY options - if you don't have to worry about formatting, and have to fit everything into X characters, it eliminates some of the analysis paralysis. Working in this very specific set of constraints frees you to write without thinking about that stuff. It's much easier to just blast out some posts on Masto or Facebook than spend the conscious effort to write a post and link to it. People are used to the limitations of the platform, so they won't think less of you for ignoring these other considerations. There's also the barrier of getting people to read something. Even the very low effort of clicking a link and looking at words on a site is hard to get people to do. I try to make it as painless as possible by having a very minimal site with no javascript or extra fonts that downloads almost immediately, but people are used to a web where every website they click on runs the risk of popping up annoying lightboxes, nagging them for running adblock, slowing down their computer, and just being a nasty, unpleasant experience in general. People stick with their preferred social media platforms because it's a known quantity. They're used to the quirks and have often customized the experience to match their preferences. Clicking on a link runs the risk of disrupting the flow. I think this is also why people often stick to blogging on platforms like Medium, even though they're objectively worse than just creating an HTML document with some text on it. No one likes Medium, but they know what to expect. They're going to be annoyed, but when they know exactly HOW they're going to be annoyed, they can prepare for it. When you see a link to brabbin.org, you have no idea what it's going to be. Even if the subject of the link sounds interesting to you, why take the risk? I don't know if there's a solution to any of this, but I know that I want to start writing more longform posts and linking to it instead of threaded posts on social media, because if nothing else maybe it'll help normalize it.



Review: Dragon Quest XI

September 25, 2018

✔ Recommended Original review $59.99 on steam Dragon Quest XI is the best JRPG I've ever played. On its surface, the story is a very traditional "chosen one vs. ultimate evil" plot, like every other DQ game and most JRPGs, and as someone who's tired of that sort of thing, I understand why someone would hesitate to get invested. But it's more than the sum of its parts. The tired good vs. evil narrative is just a framework on which the game tells dozens of short stories. It's about the friends you make, and the people you help, and the places you visit. The towns are beautiful and intricate. The characters are endearing and multidimensional. Each of your party members will have their own challenges you have to help them overcome. All of the characters grow both narratively and mechanically in really interesting ways. For the 80 hours it took me to finish the main game, I was never bored or frustrated. The mechanics are perfectly balanced, because it allows you to do as much or as little preparation as you want. With the exception of bosses, every combat encounter in the game is easily avoidable (except for one area which features random encounters, but the time spent there is relatively tiny, and as always there are spells and items to help you avoid those as well.) I didn't feel the need to grind through the entirety of the main game, and with none of the "Draconian Quest" options turned on, I felt like it was the perfect difficulty balance. I only fought enemies the first time I saw them, and when needed for a quest. I avoided the rest of them. This left me majorly underleveled for a lot of the bosses, and overcoming them was a satisfying challenge that involved using all of my characters and the tools at my disposal. The combat is the best it's ever been. It borrows a feature from Final Fantasy X that allows you to swap any of your four active characters for ones in reserve at any time. They have to wait a turn before they can act, so there is some risk to it. Likewise, you can change as much of your active character's gear as you want when their turn comes up, before they act. This made combat more tactical than any JRPG I've ever played; I was frequently swapping characters in and out and swapping their equipment to adapt to whatever the bosses threw at me. Every boss felt like a major accomplishment. It nails that satisfying feeling of "you did it, but just barely." Because my party was under-leveled through most of the game, the XP from each boss invariably led to at least one level-up for each party members (characters in reserve gain XP at exactly the same rate as your active party.) Like with FFX, I never felt like any four of the characters were my "main party" - I would even find myself swapping out the "hero" when I felt like there was a better option. If I felt a little underpowered for what I was trying to accomplish, rather than grinding, I would take a break to work on some equipment upgrades. You find books scattered throughout the world that contain recipes for better gear for your characters, and you forge them in a fun little mini-game that had a surprising amount of depth. You collect materials to forge equipment at random spots throughout the world, from enemy drops, and in stores. It never feels overwhelming - a lot of modern JRPGs really overdo it with the crafting mechanics, with hundreds of crafting materials that you can only get by fighting a monster that drops it or collecting it in the world. In DQ11, the vast majority of materials you need can be bought in one of the shops, until the post-game. The ones that don't aren't hard to get ahold of - you have an in-game list of every item, in what areas you can find them, what enemies drop them, and where those enemies are located. With some story-related exceptions you can cast a spell to instantly get to any previous location. All that said, none of this stuff feels super essential to enjoying the game - if you'd rather chill out, put all your characters on auto-battle and just grind monsters until you can obliterate the bosses with zero effort, you can. If you want to turn on the Draconian options and really make the game miserable for yourself, you can. I think anyone who likes turn-based JRPGs will find something to enjoy here. Post-game info follows (contains some pre-postgame spoilers) I absolutely recommend everyone start the post-game after finishing the main story. It continues the story in amazingly novel and surprising ways. It has new cutscenes and writing, and feels essential in a way a lot of postgames don't. In some ways, it feels like an entirely separate game. As Tim Rogers said in the excellent Kotaku review (go look it up,) Dragon Quest games often "contain their own sequels". I'd have to agree, although I'm not as positive on Dragon Quest XI-2 as I was the main game. For the first 40 or so hours, it feels exactly like an extension of the main game. I didn't alter my play style, I finished uncompleted side quests, I got new (very important) story quests to complete, and all was well. At some point, though, I found myself with nothing else I wanted to do. So I said, "alright, time to beat the game." I went off and started the fight with the final boss, which you have the option to do at any point during the post-game. And I got annihilated. The final boss was on another level of difficulty. I wasn't even close to prepared for it. We're talking "kill the entire party in two attacks before you even get to act" territory. Which on one level was exciting - it meant I had a much greater challenge ahead of me than I thought. But I didn't know what to do. I had finished every quest I was able to. Which meant, well, time to put my nose to the grindstone. There were two side activities I didn't engage with because I didn't find them fun. The first is a horse racing minigame you unlock very early in the story. The game forces you to do it once, and it makes it easy on you. After that, I never touched it again until I had literally nothing else to do. It sucks. For as many things as DQ11 gets right, why won't anyone get the memo that nobody wants to go snowboarding, or play blitzball, or engage in a nonsensical tactics minigame, or dodge 100 lightning bolts, or play an inane racing minigame. No one has ever liked them. That's not why we play the games. Why does anyone still do it? Why do they want to punish their players for being completionists? "Oops, you like our game too much, sorry! Here's some dumb horse trash for you to do." The second is a set of combat challenges. The "battle arena", in which you take on a series of increasingly challenging unique enemies for greater and greater rewards, is a JRPG tradition, and it's not always bad, but DQ11 messes it up by forcing you to complete them in a limited number of actions. There are four challenges of increasing difficulty, and each one has four different tiers of completion. The first tier, you always get the reward just for completing it. The other three tiers each requires you to finish the fight in a small number of turns. In addition, you can't use your entire party. Each challenge is broken into stages, and each stage can only be completed by one or two party members. The final challenge is four separate fights, with two of your 8 party members facing off against each. You don't know what the fight will be until you start it, so you have no idea which characters to pit against which monsters. It's just trial and error. I don't find this fun. It completely disrupts the tactical combat I described in the first half of the review. I want to swap my party members. The time limit feels like a burden, and it makes surprising elements that the later fights throw at you (such as respawning monsters) feel incredibly frustrating. I'm running out of space but basically I just started listening to podcasts and grinding for 20 hours until I could beat the last boss. I'm glad I did but I wish some of the endgame was better. The end! Post-word limit addenda To address some common concerns I didn't have space to get to: The PC port was flawless for me. I've heard that some people are having crashes, corrupted saves, and other technical issues, and it sucks. I didn't experience anything like it. I'm on Windows 7 with an i7-6700k, 8 gigs of ram, and a GTX 970. It ran consistently at 1080/60 with only occasional hitches. I turned the shadow quality down a bitt and it got rid of the hitches. I have a 21:9 monitor, and while the game doesn't support it natively (which isn't surprising) it letterboxed and centered it just fine in borderless fullscreen mode. I played with an xbox 1 controller. The voice acting is fine, but I turned it off after a couple hours because I read much faster than they talk. I hate when games with this much writing have voice acting, because constantly cutting them off after the first few words when you press the button to advance the textbox is incredibly annoying. I was grateful they gave me a chance to opt out. The music is... regrettable. I wouldn't say it's BAD, outside of being several decibels too loud (I left the sfx volume at default and turned the music down to 3.) It's extremely disappointing that they didn't use the symphonic soundtrack, and I understand why new players are put off by it. To me, it just sounds like Dragon Quest music. It's fine. But seriously, Koichi Sugiyama can go eat out of a toilet. Dude's a horrible fascist who's been past his prime longer than most people reading this have been alive. I'm sure after DQ8 used the orchestrated soundtrack in the US, he threw a fit and renegotiated his contract to make sure it could never happen again, because he's a sniveling little Mr. Burns-ass hobgoblin. The sooner he returns to the world tree, the better.



2D vs. 3D Game Development

July 22, 2018

2D game dev feels like trying to learn how to write a song. 3D game dev feels like trying to learn how to build a piano.



Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection review

July 22, 2018

✔ Recommended Original review $29.99 on steam Update: It's a damn shame that the technical issues made such a bad first impression, because this game is incredibly good. Original review is at the bottom. I liked it enough that I had to update it. I recently back-graded to Windows 7, and for giggles I wanted to see if that fixed any of the glitches. Lo and behold, the disappearing textures were magically fixed. I'm not going to blame the game for that, because Windows 10 is a dumpster full of garbage. The cutscene bug still persisted, but installing the K-lite codec pack allowed me to watch them - however, they still play slower than they should and without any of the sound effects. The cutscenes aren't a HUGE deal, and really only show up at the beginning and end of the game, although I do think that disabling them and looking the cutscenes up on Youtube would have detracted from the warm and fuzziness. Because this is a very "warm and fuzzy" kind of game. It is bursting with charm. I loved every second of it. The writing and localization are incredible. I laughed, I cried, etc etc. Mechanically, the game's nothing to write home about. The combat is very straightforward button-mashing and you're in no real danger at any point, but it feels okay and doesn't get in the way of the rest of the game. They don't overdo it with the combat - the dungeons are broken up with plenty of little puzzles and events and things to interact with. Even though it's one-note, it never felt tedious, except for the optional dungeons that open up at the end of the game, which you can absolutely just skip. You won't miss anything important. I'm very glad I it another shot. The technical issues are a bummer, but I liked the game enough that I can forgive them. Original review (Jan. 2, 2018) Game soft-locks whenever a cutscene plays. I had to disable them to play. This is a very common issue, and nothing's been done to address it. I also got a glitch on my machine where object textures blink in and out based on my character's proximity to the object. Reported the bug, a developer responded and did not fill me with confidence that this will be addressed either. Video of the second bug is here: [youtube.com] It seems lovely otherwise, so if you decide to pick it up, make sure you check to make sure it works within 2 weeks. I made the mistake of buying it at launch even though I didn't have time to play then, because I love Nihon Falcom games and wanted to support them. Now I have a game I can't play and no way to get my money back. I'm really disappointed.



FTP clients: serious business in 2018

July 21, 2018

I've been using Filezilla to transfer files basically as long as I've been online. Well, originally I used an extremely ancient version of WS_FTP, like version 4 or something. I don't even remember why. But for whatever reason it wasn't cutting it anymore, so I'm sure I goggled "free FTP program" and filezilla was the first thing that came up. And the rest is history. But recently, the main developer of Filezilla started bundling some malware with the main program installer. The non-malware version was still available, because the project is still technically open source? I think? But it's still extremely shady, and more importantly, when called out on it the developer doubled down and treated his users like shit. I had reluctantly kept using the software in spite of all this - my version still worked fine, and I didn't have any of the bundled adware. The developer was acting like an asshole but I was fine just disabling updates. The last straw for me was this: despite setting it to never check for updates, it would do so anyway and repeatedly download the updated version (with the bundled malware) to my downloads folder, without so much as a confirmation. I didn't run it, of course, but every time I deleted the installer, it showed up again the next time I ran it. Very uncool. So I've been on the hunt for a new FTP program, and I stumbled across WinSCP, which has been around forever but I had never looked into because I didn't need to. And it seems pretty great. It's already more reliable than Filezilla: it doesn't randomly break my connection, which is a frustrating thing that I just got used to. Even when I check the "keep alive" option in settings, it loses connection if I don't transfer anything for a few minutes. (Send FTP keep-alive commands - "A proper server does not require this", it says. Turns out my server is fine, it's your shitty software.) It also has a boatload of other features, including one I was thinking about in a previous update - it has the ability to continually monitor a folder, and synchronize it with the server folder if anything changes. So now the process for writing a blog entry is pretty seamless. I create the draft in my content folder and just run "hugo -D". It builds the entire blog directory based on what's in the content folder, updates the html and xml files, and thanks to WinSCP, everything that changed gets automatically uploaded. It's pretty cool. If like me you're looking to ditch Filezilla, I recommend it.



About a (b)log

July 20, 2018

So I set up a template thing with Hugo and I like it. I was able to use it with my existing CSS pretty seamlessly and it is sufficiently stripped-down for my taste. I like the idea of a static site CMS that allows me to just kinda slam out blog entries without thinking too much about updating everything and moving HTML files around. I want just a window I can type a stream of consciousness into (with basic markdown functionality) and it just updates my site without me having to think too much. I'm using nano to write the posts and it's a nice minimal text interface. (although they really need to do something about these keyboard shortcuts - come on, Ctrl-K for "Cut Text" and Ctrl-U for "Uncut Text"? The last nano release was 35 days ago, for god's sake. Get it together, people.) I need to figure out some sort of FTP solution that monitors the content directory and uploads new posts automatically - that's the only part that still feels like a barrier I have to get over. But a blog CMS that just works with all my existing layouts and requires no Javascript or other server fuckery is super appealing to me. I'm glad I looked into it.



We shouldn't all have to be salesfolk

July 20, 2018

Reading the comments of the Lonely Streamers article I saw a recurring sentiment that jumped out at me - the idea that, in addition to being techincally proficient and entertaining, in order to be a successful streamer, one should also be expected to be an expert at marketing and SEO, to essentially not only be the product but also the person selling the product. This is a pretty cut-and-dry indictment of the capitalist system and a clear indicator of why the myth of the "self-made success story" is bullshit. Essentially, the popular opinion is that simply working hard and getting good at a skill isn't enough - you could be the world's leading expert in your field, more knowledgable and skilled than anyone, but without the ability to network, and market yourself, and build a brand, none of this hard work is worth anything. I'm reminded of Steve Wozniak, a brilliant engineer and one of the inventors of the personal computer as we know it, one of the greatest techincal minds of our time - but it wasn't until he teamed up with Steve Jobs, a sociopathic salesman, that his work earned him any recognition or success. Would he have been a success without Jobs? Maybe. But would it have been of his own initiative? Probably not. Wozniak was never intrested in the business or marketing aspect of Apple, and once the company became a great success, he quickly accepted a nominal position at the company where he could continue to tinker and do what he loved without being involved in the company's business affairs. Without Jobs, all of Wozniak's work might have been for nothing. He very likely would have worked for someone else and only tinkered with computers in his spare time. He got extremely lucky. Being brilliant and hard-working isn't enough, you also have to be a full-time salesperson. If you're not interested in marketing yourself, tough shit, you don't get to do what you want. Is this justifiable? Is this the world we want to live in? The capitalist myth says that hard work is rewarded, but that's not true. Only hard work that fits into the narrow, amoral capitalist paradigm is rewarded. It doesn't have to be like this. A better world is possible once we all recognize how absurd the system we have is. The people in power who telling us this is the only possible system are lying to us, because their power is only sustainable when they have a hopeless and demoralized populace unwittingly propping them up. Their power is illegitimate. Destroy it. Become the new ruling body.



Lonely Streamers

July 19, 2018

The Verge: Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one Lonely Streams So just like with other forms of white male entitlement, dudes in their teens and 20s think that they should be rewarded just for being white and male. They don't have to do anything to set them apart from any other streamer - they see other streamers getting millions of views and making a career out of it, so in their mind there's no reason they shouldn't be successful if they do exactly the same thing. They play the same games, talk the same way, make the same jokes, and they act like just being present is enough to guarantee success, because that's the narrative they've been fed their whole lives. Then they get bitter and resentful when people don't watch them, and it's the same destructive cycle as guys who resent not having friends, or who resent the fact that women don't want to date them. People are less likely to want to be friends with, date, or watch someone stream who's bitter and resentful at their lack of success. And unless they're thoughtful enough to recognize this cycle and make a deliberate effort to break it, it's just going to keep getting worse. But I also think articles like this and the "lonely streams" site don't help anything. Call out the entitlement and shitty behavior when you see it, but whatever the tone of this article is (I can't tell if it's intended to inspire pity or mockery) all you're going to do is make people feel like garbage for no reason at best or feed into a shitty dude's persecution complex at worst. Our response to streamers with no viewers should be "hey it's cool that you're trying something, I hope you have fun; if you don't, it's not a big deal, there are lots of other things you can try."




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