New Year New Bee

So it’s a new year, and while part of me wants to be glib about celebrating the little planet that could successfully obeying physics for another 365, I think as part of my attempt to get my life in order I’ll use it as a jumping off point.

James has been talking about doing the game a month challenge again. I’ve considered doing stuff like that before, but not really found the motivation. Well, I think I’ll at least give it a shot this year, so look forward to some little projects from me over the year, even if I don’t finish in the month I’ll post some WIP content and general thoughts about the project, which should help keep me motivated in busier months where I’m not sure if I’ll get it finished.

Next up is getting some long-term goals set up. Until recently I was under the impression I had a pretty sweet interest rate on my bank account, but as I’m apparently quite wrong about that I’m going to take advantage of the lowered pressure to keep the account as high as possible to try sort out some of my long term goals, like learning to drive. To be honest I’ve never seen the intrinsic appeal – I don’t hold any romance for the car and years as a pedestrian has made my distrust of other people on roads feel quite justified, so joining them isn’t something I’m a fan of, but practicality wins out and I could really use the ability to get to and from work without relying on the bus service – at the moment if I have a late shift I end up waiting in a bus station for over an hour for a half-hour bus, and changing that to a typically under 30 minute drive would be pretty fantastic. Plus, then I can see my girlfriend a lot easier, since leaving from her house would be just as easy as leaving from my own. Plus as far as getting to any future jobs goes, having a car would be quite fantastic.

Of course, I still will be making savings. My account may not be quite as good as hoped but it’s still one of the best available, and just generally saving money is inherently rewarding, so I’m going to aim to save at least £3000 by the end of this year, assuming I keep going with this job.

So yeah, a few long term goals, some easier to achieve than others, but hopefully none of them mutually exclusive.

Now to find time to work on them!

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Conventional Blog Post

(This post was made before Christmas but is going up today due to the site going down)

I’ve been finding it hard to keep up with my social media – and people in general – since starting my job at Capita. I’ve been there since September – still technically on probation due to a systems issue meaning they couldn’t get our performance stats in time to evaluate us at the usual probation end time – and I think if I’m to avoid burning myself out I’m going to have to try and get my non-work life back in order, starting with this blog post, which will hopefully be the first of many.

I’ve missed talking to my friends, both near and far, and while having my PC upgraded recently has certainly helped with that (I have a boot time of under fifteen seconds now! Hurrah!) spending my entire day dealing with people for a living is leaving me quite socially exhausted and in want of alone time when I finally finish, to say nothing of having a series of 12-8pm work days followed by a 9-5 or 8-5 day on my sleeping pattern and ability to actually find leisure time.

My other projects have taken a beating too, with my android dice game project being left to gather dust for months now, and even my random miniprojects being left behind as I struggle to find time and motivation for them.

Despite this though, I am finding my job rewarding, primarily because it is so outside my usual area of comfort that I find flexing this different set of skills to be quite personally rewarding. I don’t know if I’d stick in this role for terribly long given an alternative, but for now at least it’s enough of a different experience that I’m enjoying it, despite the pain in the ass working hours.

To be honest it’d be an actual Good Job if the bus commute wasn’t such a pain.

So, yeah. Expect a few more of these in the future, I don’t know if it’ll be daily or what, but we’ll see.

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[Flimsy excuse for a post title]

To be honest I’m doing this post entirely because I’m still far too pleased with this design I did for a Digital Gate Project site.

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen.

The project progresses slowly and doing a site is probably premature, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

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Obligatory title involving not being dead

I don’t really know if many people visit the front page of this site, or really explore it once they get here, but there’s been a bunch of things going on behind the scenes.

Firstly, I’ve been doing web design for Smooth Lines, as linked in the footer.

Next up, the Digimon Tabletop RPG Project has been coming along in jumps and spurts, you can find a good bit of that under the Digimon header.

I’ve been working with Canvas for scientific purposes, and made a cellular automata map generation algorithm thing over here.

Lastly, out of the things that spring to mind, I’ve been doing a bunch of smaller things with tumblr, including a cool and useful feed widget and some search/analysis tools that should be pretty great when they’re in public.

I’m going to try to keep this blog a little more active now but failing that, my tumblr is in my footer and I can pretty consistently be contacted on there.

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Chronicle – The Interface

“This is the Interface. Small, light, and fitting like a glove, with this I am the master of my domain, able to create and change the world around me freely. Now, some of you recruits might’ve seen what a fully-loaded one of these babies can do and be looking forward to giving it a test drive, but I’m here to break your hearts and tell you that no, you won’t be using a full interface right now. Don’t go whining to me, even with the training we give you we lose at least one recruit to their own stupidity once we let them play with the real deal. Last year Tompkins – whom you’ll have all met already as he’s redoing basic training – managed to create a rudimentary cannon and fire it at himself during his lunch break when he forgot he had the darned thing enabled. Fortunately he somehow managed to fill it with socks so the force of them striking him only shattered a few ribs, but it just goes to show the power of the Interface should not be toyed with… Unless of course you are a certified Interface Toymaker, and in which case you’re in the wrong introduction session, this is room 3A, not room 3B.”

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What Lem doesn’t know is not worth knowing. Also, what Lem doesn’t unknow is not worth unknowing.

So, blowing the dust off of this old thing, I return in the middle of my holidays with a post about a game I’ve been playing the past week, by the name of Glitch. It’s a web-based MMO by a group called Tiny Speck, and is still in beta, so when I got an invite without remembering that I registered my interest, I felt inclined to give it a shot. So, about 12 hours in, at level 13, here’s my thoughts on it so far and whatnot.

The first thing you need to know about Glitch is that it’s an MMORPG without combat. Stalking some wikis I’ve heard tales of a looming threat but I’ve seen no enemies and had to do no min-maxing during the time I’ve invested, so I’m fairly confident that if there IS combat of a sort, it’s optional. Instead the ways you’ll be engaged include
exploring, farming, exploring, crafting items from furniture to booze, exploring, decorating your house, exploring, and last but not least, exploring. What I am saying is that there is a lot of map to look through and that it is surprisingly fun to do so, at least for the first five hours or so (longer if you’re pacing yourself better than me, seeing as I was basically systematically visiting every area for the exp bonuses it leads to). All the
environments are 2D, rocking the simple platform mechanics, and while two paths in the same region might look a little samey, there’s plenty of regions and most of them sport a distinctive look, from forest to plains to caverns to snow to… weird space-or-is-it-the-special-zone land.

“I knew I shoulda taken that left at Albuquerque…”

The art’s cheap and cheerful, and lends itself to the light and playful angle the “story” angles for, namely that the whole world is the product of eleven giants’ imagination. There aren’t a great many types of animal to fit the varied areas yet, so get used to PIGS AND BUTTERFLIES IN SORTA-SPAAAAAAAAACE, though hopefully this will be changed in the future. It’s a tad jarring that you can be anywhere and still find the same old butterflies.

Anyway, this stereotypical reviewy stuff is boring me now so lets get down to what I find interesting about it.

Firstly, the noncombat. Maintaining a community without any single endgoal or e-penis yardstick is pretty hard, but somehow they’ve done it. I’m not sure how large their active beta community is, but when they originally “released” the game there were 27000 testers. The core engagement seems to be about working with others, and while places do seem a bit empty from time to time, half the “streets” you walk down were made by the community at one point or another. I don’t know how long it’ll hold my attention, as MMO and community-averse as I am, but at the moment I’m enjoying a game where I don’t have to kill fifteen smartass ducks and bring back their nails or whatever.

Secondly, those streets I mentioned earlier?

AHEM

Yeah.

I don’t even know WHY I love this idea. Possibly just because of the idea of using Google Maps and REAL streets to generate an infinite world. Maybe even use GPS or QR codes so that you can drop items into the game world at your present location by scanning things in the real world (I also currently have a thing for the badassness of QR codes
and the ubiquity of devices that can read them nowadays) and from there the possibilities are endless.

A roundabout would be like playing Odin Sphere.

The way Glitch has it is incredibly well-done, with tracking of which streets you’ve been down before (basically essential for exploring) and GPS to help you find your way from one place to another quickly. It also just creates this
excellent sense of interconnectedness, especially when a path can go above or under the ground and where you come out depends on how you entered it.

Thirdly-sorta, everything gets rewarded. Everything. Wanna explore? Bam, we’ll tuck away a shiny iMG (lets you get upgrades and shiny housestuff and is needed for levelling up) package somewhere in every new street you visit, and if you visit every street in a region we’ll give you an achievement, with an iMG bonus and favor with the Giant in
charge of exploring. You want to make shiny things? Go for it. We’ll give you a little bonus for every thing you make, achievements at incremental levels (with bonus recipes rewarded in some cases), and on top of that the things you make may help you make MORE shiny things. Wanna just hang around and chat with other players? There’s an app for that, with rewards for talking to lots of people, becoming friends with people, trading with people, having people over at your house, “splanking” people (I believe it involves smacking their butt with a board), giving gifts, you get the point. Honestly I don’t think achievements is what they should’ve called them so much as milestones, but I’m not about to bitch about that when I approve of their existence so much. It makes you want to try new things, and gives you ideas on things you can do, but at the same time saying “That thing you’re doing? That’s cool too. Have a cookie.”

If I had to nitpick I’d say that the way character upgrades are organised by the cards system is a bit frustrating at times, generally when you want some specific thing and it doesn’t show up, though I will give it credit for the epic feeling you get when That One Upgrade finally shows itself in a reshuffle. I’d also say the game needs more actual Quests and some more interesting navigation chances. It’d be nice to feel like my nvestment in Levitation was beneficial outside of something other than laziness.

Oh, and from a tech perspective it’s got a pretty nice API, too.

Anyways, Glitch is invite-only beta at the moment but you can probably wrangle one if you really want, I’ve played it for about 4 days as of writing this sentence and I’m sliiiiiightly hooked. On an MMO. Where you milk butterflies so that you can turn it into cheese.

Living the dream, clearly.

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Repiphany.

I keep absorbing things.
Thoughts, ideas, media, culture, it all goes in, but it rarely ever comes back out.
This really needs to change. I’m not sure I can justify taking so much in without creating something as a result.

For a long time, far too long, if I’m absolutely honest with myself, I’ve said that if only I actually lived up to my potential, I would be able to accomplish things. If only.
Such a sad excuse to not succeed.
I owe it to myself, to my friends, and to pretty much everyone that’s ever actually thought something of me, to start at least TRYING. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve said this. Or even the first time I’ve started trying. I always lose focus, however, like I did with this blog, although in this case it’s also because I was up to my nipples in exams and scrabbling for a blog topic made me felt guilty about spending time doing work that wasn’t exam-work.
But apparently I digress… Again. Quite prone to that, too.

For as long as I can keep it going, I’m going to attempt to Do Some Thingy Every Day. It may be a blogpost, it may be some code, it may even be a drawing or a short story or some attempt at personal improvement. I really don’t know. All I know is that I have the time, I have the inclination, and I need to stop Doing Nothing for the sake of Avoiding Failure. I’ll try do a roundup on the blog from time to time if I don’t do bloggable stuff, but for now, I’m just going to leave this here as a record of the goal, and see how I go. (..al. Dohohoho.)

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Seven young kids go to camp in the summer, wind up living in a digital land~

So, we’re going to revisit Digimon here, because the last one really didn’t communicate much because of sleeplessness and stuff. So we’re gonna go for a round II. In the interim I’ve rewatched Digimon Tamers, too, so that may contribute something to the potential for discussion. Since telling you about the series’ is boring as shit for me though, I’m going to focus on the Digital World, which as you may have guessed, heavily influenced my “Digital Planes” articles before.

Izumi Explains It All

Ah, subs, expositing so I don't have to.

Within the first 3 series’, the Digital World is in effect a parallel world to our own, created from our world’s computer networks. In the first two series’ (hereby referred to as “Adventure” because that apostrophe annoys me) this is pretty much entirely how the digital world works, aside from some allusions in the second series that it’s also formed with the dreams of children, and such adults cannot travel to the Digital World. During the first series there are several places found that lay bare the underlying “programming” of the world, which in turn is used by the children to do several things that would be totally impossible in our world.

In series 3 (Tamers), however, the Digital World is purely the result of human data and the digimon population of the Digital World much more directly caused by humans, the result of an AI project by a group that called themselves the “monster makers”, many years before. Digimon in the Tamers universe are known publically as fiction, with TV shows (the dub implies this includes the Adventure ‘verse) and a popular card game. The Tamers digital world is a lot closer to ours it seems, with semi-frequent manifestations of Digimon in our world, though confined to digital fields usually. This in turn results in the founding of a shadowy government organisation to monitor the digital world and attempt to contain any breaches. This inevitably begins to fail, kicking off the series in part.

HYPNOS

HYPNOS: Because "The Department of Hugging Fuzzy Bunnies" isn't serious-sounding enough for a government grant.

So in both cases the digital world is based on data from our world, with some creative input, directly or indirectly. From this, I’ve always wanted to make some kind of similar virtual mirror, likely in some game context, kind of like the Nethernet but more abstract than user content overlayed onto webpages. Maybe something starting with data gathered via spiders, and increasing in complexity when users start to supply their own data about those websites, both via direct information supplying and via indirect behavioural information. Over time this would create a sort of digital map of connections and properties which could then be abstracted into a user experience. This would probably work best as a browser game but not as something that follows your browsing AS a direct gameplay component, like Nethernet (again!). It would be cool if different locations corresponded to different IPs which players could then get information about/visit though. I imagine the hard bits to simply generate would be consistent and smooth (yet distinctive) geography from such data, as well as names.

A network link diagram

A quick diagram of how a few websites are connected via hyperlinking.

Well, I’m probably over 500 words now, so I’ll cut off here and if there’s more in this subject I’ll roll with it, and if not then there’ll be a different thing. Y’all have fun and remember – If you see a vending machine upright in a forest, do not approach it!

Mimi attacked by Numemon

...Just in case.

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“Oh, it’s real alright. Y’know, I’m thinking that everything we see and everybody we meet in this place are actually pieces of data or programming, given physical form.”

Right, it doesn’t count as tomorrow until about 6am. That’s the rules. Honest. Anyway, I think today’s topic is Digimon.

File Island

The show only spends the first 10 episodes here, but it's the most distinct place in my mental map of the Digital World

For the past month or so I’ve been re-re-re-re-watching Seasons 1 and 2, AKA “Digimon Adventure”. English dub because if you’re gonna do something for nostalgic reasons, you should do it right. Now a quick summary for the uninitiated, Digimon Adventure season 1 follows the trials and adventures of seven (later eight) kids who find themselves transported to another world populated with monsters, the titlular Digimon, and then discover that they are destined (Digidestined, dohoho) to save this world from the encroaching forces of darkness.

I absolutely adore this series. I think it’s mostly the worldbuilding that does it, the elements of the surreal with the undercurrent that there is some organisation to it all, and the idea of having to survive in a strange and hostile world and surviving despite it all, because of sheer determination to succeed. It’s kinda the sort of world I’d like to live in.

This isn’t being a very easy blogpost to write. I have absolute adoration for this series but I think it’s too close to me to avoid mentioning my personal life and I’m kinda trying to avoid airing my problems out on here. Let’s talk about Digimon World.

Digimon World is the first Digimon game on the PS1, and drops you into a similar role as the above, destined for great things but at the same time having to survive things, though in this case your partner Digimon is more likely to suffer from lack of food than you.

The digimon training mechanic seems loosely based off the Bandai digivices you could get around that time, with weight, care mistakes, and other such things changing the way your digimon digivolved, as well as the RPG layer of stat builds, and it worked really well, although I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the most annoying thing when you were exploring an area in the middle of nowhere and your digimon decided that it needed to poop really badly, causing you to go back to the city or scramble frantically to find a loo. Or get 2 inches from one only for it to take a massive dump on the floor and growl at you angrily as if you’re the one that shat itself half a screen away from a toilet.

File City, day 4

File City when you're starting out doesn't look like much...

Honestly though, with the partner digimon, saving the world feeling like something as you watched the city grow with every digimon you brought into town, and what felt like a massive world sprawled out in front of you, it’s my favourite Digimon game so far. When I replay it, I still feel bad, taking a poor baby digimon out to Freezeland to let it get sick enough for Frigimon to come and rescue us. It’s a glitchy game in places, it’s possible to get trapped, and there’s even one glitch that’ll even kill emulators, it’s that bad a bug, but somehow despite all this, it’s an incredibly fun game. Fun enough that I was massively disappointed when Digimon World DS wasn’t a remake.

File City, YEAR 4

...eventually though, even Jijimon's house gets made into something more.

I forgave it eventually though.

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“…Nope, the crystal bounces off Beorn’s head unharmed and Beorn himself does not wake. “

It’s funny, I’ve had a lot of ideas for posts during the month… I’ve been playing White Knight Chronicles 2, I finished ALL THE THINGS in Warioware Touched! (netting myself the amazing unlockable known as… the whistle. which sounds like a person whistling when you blow into the mic. I shit you not. It’s not even as good as the Harmonica toy.) and I started Pokémon Ranger up again, started Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, and dusted Pokémon Black off.

Can you see a pattern? That’s right, I’ve tracked down the Origami Kille-I mean I’m in that Pokémon mood again. Yes. That. That is the thing which I intended. And nothing else.

…Anyway, I’m gonna kick this post off properly with something a little different.
In a month, it’ll be two years since the official (it kinda just happened gradually and naturally so neither of us are sure of the “definite” date it began) start of my relationship with my girlfriend, and we’ve decided to go by the traditional anniversary milestone gifts, which makes it cotton (Some UK sites claim paper is second, others say cotton) and we’ve also imposed a limit of £10 on our gifts. I’m honestly looking forward to it. Valentine’s day went really well, and I’m really happy that I made her that happy, but I feel like this anniversary will be, I dunno, a bit more personal. Because it’s not a Hallmark Holiday, y’know?

———————

Okay, it’s actually been about three weeks since I started this post. Life kinda got in the way, with a cubic baconload of exammy courseworky stuff and a bit of stressy lifey stuff, but now I’m gonna get back on track. May have to think of some kind of penalty for my cohort to inflict, like maybe the next blogpost I do has to be about any subject of his choice, but for now let’s get this show BACK ON THE ROAD!

The agenda for this week is kicking ass, so let’s start with some itenerary. I have a NEW programming ICA to get rolling with, making Snake, as in That Game You Get On An Ancient Bulletproof Nokia, though theoretically a bit fancier. *scribbles down note to expand with “crappy mobile phone mode” if I have time left*, D&D to prepare, hopefully wrapping up Act 1 of the current arc after about triple the estimated time ^_^;; planning some kind of one-shot game for Sarah’s birthday, keeping on top of Maths, and maybe, just maybe, not fall behind blogging again.

There’s nothing pressing I have to talk about in-depth, so I think I’m going to talk about my D&D game a little more. Nothing spoilery (at least one player reads this blog on occasion) but I don’t see any harm in talking about things already passed (and things missed). I’ve been meaning to recap anyway, so this works pretty well for that too.

So, when I originally started this game, I had… nothing specific in mind at all, if I’m honest. I was just testing the waters to see if people would actually want to make this a monthly thing, and working out where I’d get all the preparations arranged, like printing out 25+ sheets frequently without fiscally raping myself. Writing up a preamble for the player backstory took a fair bit of time since I wasn’t sure how consistent the party was going to be, I needed to put together something that could allow for the party potentially swapping in and out frequently. Of course that went by the wayside with the slow progression speed, but it was a good idea IN THEORY. I started to take the party through the dungeon outlined in the original 4E Starter Set, but it didn’t get too far. To try and give the session a sense of actually finishing, the party turned back to Fallcrest with the spoils from the dungeon, and the night ended. Had the dungeon went on, they would have encountered a young dragon in the depths of the dungeon, and likely started a campaign based around the plotting of Tiamat and the joining of the kobold and goblin clans around the Nentir Vale under her banner.

How much I planned out.

This is how much I planned for that first dungeon.

As it transpired though, things ended up being a little different.

How much was used

And this is how much of that dungeon was actually explored...

December came, and as the Christmas spirit came into force, the group wanted something a little Winter-y, and it was this brief idea that’s pretty much framed the direction of the scenario. As the party headed back from the tunnels of the kobold raiders, it began to snow. At first lightly, but getting worse every second, until the party were making their way through a blizzard. They had a choice: Try push all the way back to Fallcrest, a risky choice but they’d be able to get a good night’s rest in an inn and maybe find out the cause of this snowstorm in the middle of Summer, or they could attempt to search for shelter, the safer option, at the expense of arriving later into the town. In the end the party decided to try find a cave, and after a moderately sucessful Nature check, succeeded. They made camp, and during a late night… tryst… encountered a glowing crystal, in the back of the cave. Sariel attempted to discern the nature of the gem and discovered it was some sort of magic channelling crystal… before attempting to break it using the hardest available surface: Beorn’s slumbering head. This proved unsuccessful, and after the night’s “romance” concluded, the party continued to travel towards Fallcrest, crystal in tow, aiming to find out just what caused this blizzard, what the crystal was being used for, and most importantly: How much is a floorful of dead kobolds worth in gold, anyway?

To take a brief aside, had the party decided to fight through the blizzard, they would have eventually came across a defended wagon, the owners of which would turn hostile upon encountering, and assuming the party defeated their foes despite being tired and weary, they would have encountered a similar crystal, before its activation, as well as the valuables of the cart. Of course a bad endurance check going through the blizzard could have just as easily tanked their ability to even capture it, so by no means did they make a bad move by stopping to camp.

The wagon encounter map.

Rumours that this was totally an excuse to use that 3D cart are greatly exaggerated. Honest.

The party eventually made their way back to Fallcrest, where they returned to the Lord Warden’s manor and presented the proof of their partial victory against the kobold menace and were recompensated appropriately. I think I’ll leave it there for now, since this is looking a tad wordy as it is. There’s at least one more Part to this though, so I’ll write it eventually.

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