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[dev] Weekly roundup: Apocalypse now

November is about writing or whatever.

I’m at 22,798 words written, which is still 17,202 words behind where I should be, so that’s not very good. Apparently 100 kilowords is a lot?

  • book: I made some further progress reconstructing the Under Construction engine from scratch.

  • art: I tried to draw a few times, but most of it hasn’t been turning out right. Had a couple minor successes.

  • blog: Pretty much all I did? Have three different (huge) posts each like 80% done. Should probably, ah, finish a couple of them.

What a week. I was a bit distracted.

[dev] Weekly roundup: National Novelty Writing Month

Inktober is a distant memory.

Now it’s time for NaNoWriMo! Almost. I don’t have any immediate interest in writing a novel, but I do have plenty of other stuff that needs writing — blog posts, my book, Runed Awakening, etc. So I’m going to try to write 100,000 words this month, spread across whatever.

Rules:

  1. I’m only measuring, like, works. I’ll count this page, as short as it is, because it’s still a single self-contained thing that took some writing effort. But no tweets or IRC or the like.

  2. I’m counting with vim’s g C-g or wc -w, whichever is more convenient. The former is easier for single files I edit in vim; the latter is easier for multiple files or stuff I edit outside of vim.

  3. I’m making absolutely zero effort to distinguish between English text, code, comments, etc.; whatever the word count is, that’s what it is. So code snippets in the book will count, as will markup in blog posts. Runed Awakening is a weird case, but I’m choosing to count it because it’s inherently a text-based game, plus it’s written in a prosaic language. On the other hand, dialogue for Isaac HD does not count, because it’s a few bits of text in what is otherwise just a Lua codebase.

  4. Only daily net change counts. This rule punishes me for editing, but that’s the entire point of NaNoWriMo’s focus on word count: to get something written rather than linger on a section forever and edit it to death. I tend to do far too much of the latter.

    This rule already bit me on day one, where I made some significant progress on Runed Awakening but ended up with a net word count of -762 because it involved some serious refactoring. Oops. Turns out word-counting code is an even worse measure of productivity than line-counting code.

These rules are specifically crafted to nudge me into working a lot more on my book and Runed Awakening, those two things I’d hoped to get a lot further on in the last three months. And unlike Inktober, blog posts contribute towards my preposterous goal rather than being at odds with it.

With one week down, so far I’m at +8077 words. I got off to a pretty slow (negative, in fact) start, and then spent a day out of action from an ear infection, so I’m a bit behind. Hoping I can still catch up as I get used to this whole “don’t rewrite the same paragraph over and over for hours” approach.

  • art: Last couple ink drawings of Pokémon, hallelujah. I made a montage of them all, too.

    I drew Momo (the cat from Google’s Halloween doodle game) alongside Isaac and it came out spectacularly well.

    I finally posted the loophole commission.

    I posted a little “what type am I” meme on Twitter and drew some of the interesting responses. I intended to draw a couple more, but then I got knocked on my ass and my brain stopped working. I still might get back to them later.

  • blog: I posted an extremely thorough teardown of JavaScript. That might be cheating, but it’s okay, because I love cheating.

    Wrote a whole lot about Java.

  • doom: I did another speedmap. I haven’t released the last two yet; I want to do a couple more and release them as a set.

  • blog: I wrote about game accessibility, which touched on those speedmaps.

  • runed awakening: I realized I didn’t need all the complexity of (and fallout caused by) the dialogue extension I was using, so I ditched it in favor of something much simpler. I cleaned up some stuff, fixed some stuff, improved some stuff, and started on some stuff. You know.

  • book: I’m working on the PICO-8 chapter, since I’ve actually finished the games it describes. I’m having to speedily reconstruct the story of how I wrote Under Construction, which is interesting. I hope it still comes out like a story and not a tutorial.

As for the three big things, well, they sort of went down the drain. I thought they might; I don’t tend to be very good at sticking with the same thing for a long and contiguous block of time. I’m still making steady progress on all of them, though, and I did some other interesting stuff in the last three months, so I’m satisfied regardless.

With November devoted almost exclusively to writing, I’m really hoping I can finally have a draft chapter of the book ready for Patreon by the end of the month. That $4 tier has kinda been languishing, sorry.

[dev] Weekly roundup: Inktober 4: A New Hope

Inktober is over! Oh my god.

  • art: Almost the last of the ink drawings of Pokémon, all of them done in fountain pen now. I filled up the sketchbook I’d been using and switched to a 9”×12” one. Much to my surprise, that made the inks take longer.

    I did some final work on that loophole commission from a few weeks ago.

  • irl: I voted, and am quite cross that election news has continued in spite of this fact.

  • doom: I made a few speedmaps — maps based on random themes and made in an hour (or so). It was a fun and enlightening experience, and I’ll definitely do some more of it.

  • blog: I wrote about game accessibility, which touched on those speedmaps.

  • mario maker: One of the level themes I got was “The Wreckage”, and I didn’t know how to speedmap that in Doom in only an hour, but it sounded like an interesting concept for a Mario level.

I managed to catch up on writing by the end of the month (by cheating slightly), so I’m starting fresh in November. The “three big things” obviously went out the window in favor of Inktober, but I’m okay with that. I’ve got something planned for this next month that should make up for it, anyway.

[dev] Mario Maker: The Wreck

33E8-0000-02B2-76DF
Difficulty: very easy
Quality: ★★★★☆
Secrets:

I was rolling a Doom random level theme generator for speedmapping purposes, and one of the prompts it gave was “The Wreckage”. I didn’t really know how to make that in Doom in only an hour, but I did know how to make it in Mario, so I did.

The additional rules were “no monsters” and “no stairs”, so neither of those things appear in this level. It’s quick and entirely atmospheric. I like it. Though it’d be slightly better if I’d correctly named it “The Wreckage”. Oh well.

[blog] Accessible games

I’ve now made a few small games. One of the trickiest and most interesting parts of designing them has been making them accessible.

I mean that in a very general and literal sense. I want as many people as possible to experience as much of my games as possible. Finding and clearing out unnecessary hurdles can be hard, but every one I leave risks losing a bunch of players who can’t or won’t clear it.

I’ve noticed three major categories of hurdle, all of them full of tradeoffs. Difficulty is what makes a game challenging, but if a player can’t get past a certain point, they can never see the rest of the game. Depth is great, but not everyone has 80 hours to pour into a game, and it’s tough to spend weeks of dev time on stuff most people won’t see. Distribution is a question of who can even get your game in the first place.

Here are some thoughts.

[blog] Inktober

Inktober is an ancient and hallowed art tradition, dating all the way back to sometime, when it was started by someone. The idea is simple: draw something in ink every day. Real ink. You know. On paper.

I tried this last year. I quit after four days. Probably because I tried to do it without pencil sketches, and I’m really not very good at drawing things correctly the first time. I’d hoped that forcing myself to do it would spark some improvement, but all it really produced was half a week of frustration and bad artwork.

This year, I was convinced to try again without unnecessarily handicapping myself, so I did that. Three weeks and more than forty ink drawings later, here are some thoughts.

[dev] Weekly roundup: Inktober 3: Tokyo Drift

I see a light at the end of the tunnel… it’s… it’s the end of Inktober! I’m so close…

  • art: More ink drawings of Pokémon. I got a fountain pen and am still getting used to it. I did a little doodling in the lost sketchbooks I found last week.

  • devops: I upgraded koiru (machine that runs my IRC and some other small things) by, uh, two entire Ubuntu LTS releases, then spent hours fixing all the obscure stuff that broke. Later I also fixed Munin, despite not really ever looking at the graphs, because I like graphs.

  • blog: More note-taking and… pivoting? for a special post. Wrote and published a post about word-wrapping dialogue boxes in games. Wrote about half of a post about Inktober, which I should be publishing tonight, I hope?

  • doom: I spent a couple hours dinking around with a secret MAP31 idea I had.

I am so behind on writing that I might die.

[blog] Word-wrapping dialogue

I have a teeny tiny pet peeve with dialogue boxes. Er, not dialog boxes — dialogue boxes, the ones in video games with scrolling lines of dialogue.

A fake dialogue box, with scrolling text that jumps when it wraps

I recently wrote a dialogue box, and I saw a game that made this mistake, so here’s a post about it.

[dev] Weekly roundup: Inktober 2: Electric Boogaloo

The death march of Inktober continued.

  • art: Another batch of ink drawings of Pokémon. I earned myself a third grey Copic. I also ran the light grey one dry, somehow, so I ordered a refill… and while I was at it, ordered a fountain pen at Mel’s behest.

    I painted a couple things, which came out surprisingly less bad than I thought; one to cheer up some pals and one emulating some old art of Mel’s.

    I also drew some ridiculous nonsense.

    I went through my collection of sketchbooks, many of which were impulse purchases from before I was even trying to draw (just because I like fresh paper) and are completely blank. I found a couple with very old art in them, which was interesting and embarrassing. I found out I can doodle on paper much better than I thought, so I’ll probably be doing that more.

  • blog: I finished and published a post about Doom’s weird sense of scale. Halfway through the month and I’m caught up, so now I only have to do the normal amount of work in half the time, while also drawing a lot. Er, whoops.

  • veekun: I got about halfway through matching up ORAS’s encounters, which is an incredibly tedious manual process. I nudged magical into updating Global Link art and I finally fixed up the new code for grabbing box icons, so veekun finally has icons for every single Pokémon and not a bunch of embarrassing 404s everywhere.

    I also made veekun entirely HTTPS. The upside of Let’s Encrypt’s short expiration time (and my laziness in writing a cronjob to renew all my certs) is that every three months I’m suddenly inclined to go comb through a bunch of nginx configuration and spruce it up a bit.

  • isaac hd: I’d already hacked in some temporary dialogue code, but I spent half a day cleaning it up and turning it into something resembling a real feature. I fixed a lot of limitations that weren’t obvious just from looking at my previous example, such as “it can’t show more than one line of dialogue”. The results are encouraging!

  • irl: Some personal stuff consumed a bit of time.

I’ve apparently gotten faster at the ink drawings! I’m still a bit behind on writing, but I have some ideas for shorter posts relevant to stuff I’ve been doing lately. I have so much to do, but actively trying to do it all is gradually making me faster at doing it, which is nice.

Since November is NaNoWriMo, I’m thinking I might use it as a real writing catch-up month, like this has been an art practice month. I’m not working on a novel, of course, but I do have several prosaic things in progress: a book, Runed Awakening, some other fiction ideas, and of course this blog. The usual goal is 50,000 words in 30 days, so maybe I’ll try to write 2000 words every day? “Do a bunch of things simultaneously” is certainly more my style than “do a single thing for an entire month”.

[blog] Doom scale

I’ve been dipping my toes into Doom mapping again recently. Obviously I’ve done it successfully once before, but I’m having trouble doing it a second time.

I have three major problems: drawing everything too small, drawing everything too rectangular, and completely blanking on what to do next. Those last two are a bit tricky, but struggling with scale? That sounds like a problem I can easily solve with charts and diagrams and math.

[dev] Weekly roundup: Inktober

October is… well, so far it’s mostly about inktober.

  • art: I did a lot of art. I did so much art. Fourteen ink drawings of Pokémon. I also got my hands on two grey copics and have been trying those out as well. I’ve also been doodling nonstop.

    The drawback to all these inks is that they take a nontrivial amount of time, so virtually all I’ve done all week is draw them. Whoops! I’ve gotten a bit faster (I think), so I’m not spending half of every day on them, but they’re still a huge timesink. I think they’re worth it, though — ink is fun, the practice is excellent, and I spent a good month and a half barely drawing anything while I was fussing with game development.

  • blog: I published a thing about MegaZeux and wrote half of another post. One week into the month and I’m still behind by half a post. Whoops! Progress should resume now that the inks are going faster, as mentioned.

Aaaaaaand that’s all! I really did just draw for most of the week.

I don’t know what my plans are from here. I still need to get further on the same things, but ink and writing take priority. We’ll see what happens.

[blog] Succeeding MegaZeux

In the beginning, there was ZZT. ZZT was a set of little shareware games for DOS that used VGA text mode for all the graphics, leading to such whimsical Rogue-like choices as ä for ammo pickups, Ω for lions, and for keys. It also came with an editor, including a small programming language for creating totally custom objects, which gave it the status of “game creation system” and a legacy that survives even today.

A little later on, there was MegaZeux. MegaZeux was something of a spiritual successor to ZZT, created by (as I understand it) someone well-known for her creative abuse of ZZT’s limitations. It added quite a few bells and whistles, most significantly a built-in font editor, which let aspiring developers draw simple sprites rather than rely on whatever they could scrounge from the DOS font.

And then…

And then, nothing. MegaZeux was updated for quite a while, and (unlike ZZT) has even been ported to SDL so it can actually run on modern operating systems. But there was never a third entry in this series, another engine worthy of calling these its predecessors.

I think that’s a shame.

[dev] Weekly roundup: Addled

September was continuing the three big things in particular, but, ah.

  • art: I finished a secret loophole commission that I can’t show yet; drew a birthday thing for someone; edited my avatar to be more seasonal; resolved to cross Inktober with daily Pokémon; and then was convinced to maybe try real ink instead. That’s a lot! Making up for not drawing anything for a couple weeks while I was obsessed with Isaac’s Descent, I guess.

  • doom: I spent a little more time fiddling with Sandy-styled maps while watching Liz Ryerson stream Doom stuff, but I still have my classic frustrating problems of drawing everything too small and not having a good idea for the overall shape/flow of the world. I also streamed a couple hours of exploring the new Oblige, which was interesting, at least to me.

  • blog: Some more progress towards upstreaming my fix for <summary> in Pelican Atom feeds. Started taking notes for a paid post. Worked on a MegaZeux post and wrote most of a Doom metrics one, but couldn’t finish either.

  • twitter: I wrote @calloutbot, which will either make perfect sense to you, or not.

I think I may have the flu, but without any respiratory symptoms. Just enough that I’m vaguely tired and sore and not quite able to plan larger stuff like, say, blog posts. Or Doom maps, perhaps. I spent several frustrating days wrangling with two different posts and not getting anywhere with either of them before I remembered a roommate had had the flu about one incubation period ago.

I am thus slightly behind on writing, and haven’t done much else mentally-intense either. It sucks and I’m annoyed, but I’m taking a few days off to draw and do other low-intensity stuff before I make a mad scramble to catch up.


Meanwhile, about those, um, three things. I slipped a bit. A lot.

  • Draft three chapters of this book, September: a second chapter

    No, that didn’t happen.

    But! I decided that Isaac’s Descent HD would make a really good final chapter, since it’s an entire real game written completely from scratch. That means it’s also going to be a whopper. I spent like a third of the month distracted by building Isaac’s Descent HD, which is a prerequisite for writing about how I built it, so that’s some really good progress nonetheless.

    The game isn’t too far along from a player perspective, but I did a lot of engine work and took a lot of notes about it. And of course I took all those notes during Ludum Dare, which I can reverse-engineer into a PICO-8 chapter. So while there’s less visible progress than I wanted, I have a ton more stuff to work with now.

  • Get veekun beta-worthy, September: most games dumped; lookup; core pages working; new site in publicly-available beta

    Ha ha none of this happened. I totally dropped the ball.

    I did work on veekun, but I got caught up in dealing with encounters, and then my brain stopped working so good, so overall it didn’t make a whole lot of progress.

  • Runed Awakening, September: blah blah it doesn’t even matter

    I didn’t touch Runed Awakening all month. Sob.

I should probably be learning a lesson here about biting off more than I can chew, but I adamantly refuse to learn anything.

It’s okay if new veekun isn’t done in time for Sun/Moon, which is looking like it’ll be the case — the old site layout and schema should still hobble along just fine as they are. It would’ve been a great time to breathe some life back into the site, is all. I’ll still try to get as much done as I can, so maybe there can still be a usable beta, but I don’t know what I can magic up in six weeks when I’m also doing several other things.

I don’t know what I’m going to do for October. I’ve got a lot of blogging to do now, I still want to find time to experiment with music, and I also want to do two ink drawings a day for Inktober.

Other than all that, I suppose I’ll still “focus” on these three big things and just see what happens.

[dev] Weekly roundup: Back into art

September is continuing the three big things in particular…?

  • music: I tried to reconstitute some of the song I lost last week. It wasn’t as good.

  • isaac’s descent hd: I implemented death, an inventory, and the staff, cleaning up some stuff as I went. The first room is now playable!

  • blog: I wrote and published a post about the switch statement, made some fixes to a few recent posts, and worked on something about MegaZeux that I hope to finish today.

  • art: I doodled for the first time in kind of a while, including some semi-private streaming, which was nice. I did two daily Pokémon for the first time in a month, and they came out a little better than the previous ones. I drew an Eevee walk cycle as practice for doing the same thing as pixel art for Isaac’s Descent, and it turned out surprisingly well! Also worked a bit on a secret thing for someone.

  • veekun: I got 90% of the way to getting ORAS encounters, after hitting quite a few bumps in the road along the way. It’s a shame this has taken so long… and still isn’t quite done.

  • doom: I started on a vanilla Sandy tribute map on a whim.

Last week of the month and I feel preposterously behind on everything, even though my working-to-goofing-off ratio has remained consistently higher than it’s been in years. Argh. So it goes, I guess.

[dev] Weekly roundup: Quietly advancing

September is continuing the three big things in particular.

I had a drowsy day, but otherwise it was still an alright week.

  • blog: I published a post about music theory, which I oughta update to factor in all the stuff people have told me in the aftermath. I also wrote half of another post and stubbed out one or two more; just gotta finish some of them.

  • runed awakening: I did, er, the tiniest bit of planning, and then got distracted by music and game things for the rest of the week.

  • isaac’s descent hd: Physics is done. For real. I mean it. It works, and it works so good. It also has some tiny hints of gameplay now! I’m close to having the first puzzle room be playable: the switch works, the bridge appears and becomes blocking, and the spikes kill you. Just need to make the staff work and finish up the death handling.

  • music: I toyed with Renoise and LMMS, ultimately deciding I like LMMS more. I managed to make a decent chunk of a song that I actually like and that would work remarkably well as background music for Isaac’s Descent.

    And then LMMS crashed.

    I also dug out and cleaned off our keyboard, which had been buried in a closet somewhere for years. I taught myself to play the Pokémon Center theme!

  • veekun: I cleaned up some of the multi-version handling for this harebrained YAML concept. Also dug into ORAS encounters and got 90% of the way to actually extracting them.

I said last week that I’d dedicate a few days to writing, and I would still like to do that! Now is probably a good time to start. I’m behind on blog posts for the month, and I desperately want to get some momentum going with Runed Awakening again.

veekun is definitely not on schedule, but I’m getting excited and ambitious about working on it again, which is a really good sign. I don’t know how far along it’ll be when Sun and Moon come out, but that’s probably okay; veekun has always been a quiet technical resource, not a walkthrough. I think I’m going to try focusing on that idea in the future — for example, I’m probably at the point that I could create orthographic projections of all the maps.

I haven’t written anything for the book in a little while now, but it’s looking like Isaac’s Descent HD will be the final chapter, so working on it still counts as working on the book. Right?