Mitrasphere Adventurers Guild

Just a minor note, the latest update to Mitrasphere has added an Adventurer's Guild, as seen in every cliché but amusing fantasy anime & game. So much better than just face-grinding mobs, there's a task board of mobs to face-grind (and other tasks sometimes, probably not including walking dogs).

I don't necessarily play a lot every day, but it's definitely building into a longer-term game.

What I'm Playing: Mitrasphere

Another of Crunchyroll's translated gachapon games. This one's: All PVE, mostly co-op but you can solo most things, casual/free-to-play friendly (no PVP rankings to keep up with!). The art's very cute anime paper-doll style (like Another Eden, or Crunchyroll's previous, DanMachi Memoria Freese), the music's lovely. You run a single character, the gacha is just for equipment. You use a lot of equipment.

Most of the gameplay loop is:

  • Go to the next quest zone, click on whoever has (!) over their head (mostly Matilda), go thru a series of Normal (easy) story & fight stages. You can pretty much faceroll or hit Auto on these if you even slightly try to keep up your gear. If you see someone with (?) over their head, you haven't unlocked their quest yet.
  • Go to Events, there's currently (until 07-11) Canary Eggs (basic mid-tier armor), Pehn (progressively harder werewolf boss fight), Job Coaching (you can switch jobs any time), Skill Training ("impossible" target dummies, for seeing how your build works). At any time there may also be Guerilla (1 hour, 3x a day, progress thru a short boss grind to get gear & upgrade gems), and a Weekly mission (same thing, different gear & upgrades). WHEW!
  • Menu brings up your char, check the "Panel Missions" which are long-term goals, "Missions" which are daily and progression completion rewards, and treasure chest.
  • Now look at your Equipment & Upgrades. Limit break duplicates, upgrade gear levels (uses seeds/gems you'll be spending the rest of your life grinding), slot anything that's better than current, auto-slot "support" gear (just adds stats, but your old levelled gear isn't useless!). The game will instruct you once, so pay attention. I'm constantly fiddling with new gear to add another few points to Power.
  • Repeat forever. And ever. Uh, Screen Time reports I've now played 28h55m, and it's only been out 3 days. Some of that's idle-grinding, but uh, yeah. This ate my free time, sleep, and probably cut into useful work time.

Once you've finished the main quest, which currently ends at a bit of a downer cliffhanger (beachcomber) on Edol Outskirts Night (huh, very much like Another Eden dumping you alone on a beach mid-game…), go back to the start and do Hard mode. This requires you to grind a lot and get your "Power" (total gear & stat scores) up, so I'm currently only about halfway thru Hard mode. Once you get thru Hard mode in a zone, you can do Expert… and currently these just demolish me even in a good co-op group. Another week and I should be capable of clearing Expert.

The boss fights are fun, all but expert are tough but doable with a smart group, or a clusterfuck with a bad group. For fuck's sake, when you're in Wave 1/2 of a boss fight, sitting at the "lobby" (10 HP monster that doesn't attack), WAIT FOR FIVE PLAYERS! Half the time, some jackass pokes the lobby as soon as they get in, and then me and them get murdered by the boss before anyone else can join. OH SWEET CTHULHU I've never been so angry at some people. But for every one of those, there's a group where everyone does their job, the healer heals, the tank holds aggro, the rest of us murder the boss, and there's that sense of "this is a really good game!" It's like every MMO wants to be in hours, but this does it in minutes. Even some of the almost-clusterfucks are fun, where there's 1 or 2 of us last-man-standing, the boss nearly dead, and we flick between heal, attack, and just barely squeak out a victory.

Side tasks:

  • Searching: See at the bottom of the screen if you have 0 to 5/5 sparklies you can collect, they're scattered in various overworld levels, they give you currency for the in-world shop (no gold here, they trade in pearls and souls!). There's not much more point to exploring the small levels, jumping and walking up the side pathways is pointless, but they're pretty.
  • Essence of Battle: Complete each of the jobs in Job Training and you unlock this, a leaderboard where you grind bosses to get trivial stat upgrades (they do add up to something, but not much). It's mostly meters you can move to 100%, which we all love to do!
  • Social: World chat's like any MMO public chat. Sometimes informative, sometimes nonsense memes. You can make private rooms, join pre-made groups for taking on hard bosses.
  • Fashion: You keep the appearance of every gear you've ever taken, and can use it as a cosmetic item over whatever you're actually wearing. There's only 2 genders (but you can switch if you don't like your first choice), the face & hair options aren't that much initially, but you can buy new options from the in-world merchant! By rank 10 or so everyone looks pretty distinct, instead of just random pickup gear.
  • Spreadsheets: I'm currently working on a big zone spreadsheet just so I can figure out where to go next, where to grind what I need. Will update this link as I finish Hard mode: Mitrasphere

Almost all of this is perfect for me. I can stat-wonk and grind all day on slightly different gear, but I like having my own unique protagonist. I would like more NPCs for personal stories; this has about 6 NPCs who matter, and they have only a couple small side-quests or personal stories to tell. Another Eden was crazy with hundreds of characters you have to level, find the one spot in the world where their personal quests trigger, etc., I'm paralyzed by choice in it; DanMachi was much more playable where the story-mode only has about two dozen characters, but there's equally hundreds of in-game character variants you have to level, so that was annoying. A couple dozen NPCs with stories, please. No more.

There's a big content update coming on 07-05, so now is a good time to get started, then see the update as soon as you finish main quest.

Nintendo Direct

Not a great Direct to start the year. bold for things I'm interested in.

  • Xenoblade? No, it's just Smash. My interest in Smash is zero.
  • Famicom Detective Club: Very interesting, I'll be picking these up if they're not unreasonably priced. Pre-order is nonsense in a digital store.
  • Monster Hunter is offensive, trophy hunting innocent animals not for meat, but because you've encroached on their land.
  • Mario Golf: No interest, even tho I enjoy some golf games, largely because it's Joycon based and I have a Switch Lite.
  • No More Heroes III: "Save the world!" It's yet another NMH game, you do stupid chores in an "open world" with nothing in it, then fight in an arena, and literally jerk off with your blade to charge it back up. Plot means nothing here. Another Joycon game. Hard pass.
  • DC Super Hero Girls: FFS STOP MAKING THAT NOISE! The shrieking pitch of the characters aside, this is not for me.
  • Miitopia: Miitopia should be Nintendo's social network, shared world thing, if they had any ability to operate anything social. Instead it's now a bad JRPG. Pass, and despair.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Super Mario Items: OH YES GIMME! Especially the warp pipes, my house is up on a high cliff, separated from "town" by the river, so no villagers can reach it. But it also takes me forever to get home. So now I'll put one warp at my house, one on the far side of city center.
  • Project Triangle Strategy: The game is named for its genre, a rock-paper-scissors triangle, strategy game. With some of the most cliché dialogue I've ever heard in a game. Where it does show gameplay, it's kind of similar to Jeanne d'Arc without the cute character design, clever story, or deep tactical combat. If it turns out good despite first impressions, I'll reconsider.
  • Star Wars Hunters: Zero gameplay trailer. Buy it because you're such a Star Wars nerd despite the last 40 years of mostly bad Star Wars, or don't. Pass.
  • Hyrule Warriors: Ha ha no. Really dumb "action fighting" game with inappropriate Zelda skins. Almost any other game is better than this trash.
  • Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword HD: Interesting enough, and they seem to have adapted the Wiimote/Joycon controls to the Lite OK. I played on Wii and it was passable but not great; if you didn't, it's worth trying.
  • Splatoon 3: Zero gameplay trailer. A little bit of character customization in a shoot-em-up where that won't matter a bit.
  • Capcom Arcade Stadium: Free-to-start in-app-purchase arcade. I'm downloading it now. [later] So, some of the games at least are free, but you have to "buy" each one separately in the Nintendo eShop™. Ghouls & Ghosts has maybe the worst controls I've ever seen, I get tangled on diagonal jumps and die. It is sadness.
  • Bravely Default II: Looks fine, probably worth playing if you like this kind of thing. Pre-order, so can't tell now.
  • Knockout City: It's like Smash, but team-based. But it's not even Smash. Total pass.
  • Outer Wilds: You have 22 minutes… Stop. No. I hated Majora's Mask, will not put up with this bullshit in sppaaaaace. I want to lazily coast around looking at and doing things at my own pace, and the Sun exploding puts a crimp in my game style.
  • Plants vs Zombies: Adequate early iPhone tower defense game, long outlived its sell-by date, more of a touch interface game. Do not pay anything for this.
  • Samurai Warriors 5: I love samurai sword-fighting, and sort of like fighting games, but there's not much there, and the ridiculous superpowers ruin the historical fighting concept.
  • Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection: You are the legendary ninja Ryu Hayabusa… You fight giant crabs, because that's what ninja do, right? These are all fun games, "ninja" in name only, very stupid, but fun.

  • Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse: Slightly funny joke is carried on way too long.

  • World's End Club: Very cartoony/Flash-animation endless runner with cutscenes. Not much game to the game.
  • Neon White: Very weird "flying cards shoot angels" game, with at least 3 art styles mashed together incoherently. Pass.
  • Legend of Mana Remastered: It's a great game, one of the prettiest action RPGs of the old times. I have it on iPhone, old graphics upscaled. I don't think I like the new graphics, the original pixel art was perfect.
  • SaGa Frontier Remastered: Great game, art update. Unlike Mana, I think the art could use an update; I'm not sure I like this, but it may be better.

Nanorogue2 in BASIC

I've completed my BASIC 10-Liner contest entry, download on itch.io

Just shove the disk (.atr) in Atari800MacX or any other compatible Atari 800XL emulator, disable BASIC and hit reset, it should boot up into the launcher:

Where you can read docs or source:

And play the game!

So, the source for my first pass was manually-packed down, and I couldn't really fit everything I wanted in there, or switch to text-graphics mode. With some rethinking, and a better source editing tool, I could… So I wrote a filter program "Basic2List.py" that removes comments & blank lines, joins up everything after a numbered line with colons, lets me insert binary codes with \xFF escapes. It still looks a little dense, because I have to manually use abbreviated statement names or remove spaces, I'd like to make it smart enough about BASIC source to do that itself.

But it lets me turn source like:

5   POKE731,1       // noclick
    GR.1            // 20x20 wide chars, 40x4 regular
    SE.1,13,15      // palette 1 to gold
    W=20            // world size
    DIME$(27),M(W,W)    // E$() encounter table, M() map
    //RRRZZZD$$..........#######>
    E$="\xF2\xF2\xF2\xFA\xFA\xFA\xE4\x04\x04\xAE\xAE\xAE\xAE\xAE\xAE\xAE\xAE\xAE\xAE#######\x3E"
    H=10        // Hit Points
    L=1     // Level
    // G=0      // Gold, default value
    ?"NANOROGUE BY MDHUGHES"

into:

5 POKE731,1:GR.1:SE.1,13,15:W=20:DIME$(27),M(W,W):E$="RRRZZZD$$..........#######>":H=10:L=1:?"NANOROGUE BY MDHUGHES"

(except the RRR... are inverse & graphics chars)

See the Atari BASIC Quick Reference Guide to learn the abbreviations and some of Atari's peculiarities. And it's running in Turbo Basic XL which really helped the program size, so I was able to squeeze in stairs!

Last time I was using the compiler, and that worked but it distorted my sounds, and I couldn't make LAUNCHER.CTB run NANOROG2.CTB! So if I just left them all uncompiled (but tokenized) .BAS files it works fine.

The only down side is it's stuck in easy mode. I'd love to have a difficulty which increases the GP to Level Up, and makes monsters hit harder (but not reward more), but that didn't quite make the cut.

Generally I'm pretty pleased by this!

The ZX Spectrum (non-Next) port is turning out to be hard, it lacks a few things and doesn't have ELSE, either, so I don't know if it can be done.

10-Line BASIC Contest

Let's go back to the 1980s!

So I knocked down a tiny subset of my already tiny BASIC demo program, NANOROGUE, and plan to make 10-line versions for Atari 800 and ZX Spectrum. Getting it running on desktop in Chipmunk BASIC was trivial. Just a little ANSI for screen positioning.

Initially I just used standard Atari BASIC, and that worked fine, if very very tightly packed, and not fast… but the lack of an ELSE statement left me with an 11-line program, I wanted to end with 50 ... :GOTO 20:ELSE:GOTO 20:ENDIF but had to move it to a new line. Very frustrating. So I'm using an enhanced BASIC, which is allowed for the PUR-120 tier, for one command.

Being "compiled" (to bytecode, don't expect miracles) and making AUTORUN.SYS easier than my own utility is nice. TBXL is at least a 1985 tool; though at the time I was using the "official" BASIC XE cartridge instead, which had similar features, and mainly moving over to Action!, 6502 ASM, and C. But for retrocomputing it's fair game.

Making a TBXL executable & bootable disk is a little fussy.

  1. Make a blank floppy ATR (emulator disk format), format it, put Atari DOS 2.5 on it or whatever you like (from DOS 2.5, H to write DOS files). This is your program disk. Like TRON, everything you do will be encoded on it, and losing it will subject you to immediate deresolution.
  2. Turbo BASIC XL disk in D1, program disk in D2. Control menu, Disable BASIC, Cold Reset (Sh-F5). You should see a red load screen, then READY. Check you're in TBXL by typing DIR.
  3. Write your program. I recommend writing BASIC as LST files in a desktop editor, then Cmd-E "Edit an atr disk image", click "Atari/Mac Linefeed Translation", "Import Files From Mac". In BASIC, ENTER "D2:FOO.LST". RUN to test it. But if you like living the '80s lifestyle all the way (or using non-ASCII chars, which are annoying to work with), you can work entirely in TBXL.
  4. Save your program tokenized: SAVE "D2:FOO.BAS"
  5. BRUN "D1:COMPILER.COM", now swap D1 and D2 (Cmd-D, click the swap buttons; you want your program disk in D1!), hit 1, pick FOO.BAS, save as AUTORUN.CTB. Swap disks back (you want your program disk in D2!).
  6. Ctrl-D, J for Ja (yes) to go to DOS-XE. COPY D1:RUNTIME.COM D2:AUTORUN.SYS
  7. Now put your program disk in D1, reset, and it should come right up into your program, then prompt for Dos, Run, or Load when it ends. Nice!


So resuming work on NANOROG, I get:

The only down side is this tiny version has a very slow redraw, it renders the entire screen each move, instead of just fixing last/new positions. I'm pondering changing it to graphics 1 (wide text, 4 colors) and poking screen memory which is probably faster than printing. I made some acceptable bleeps and buzzes with SOUND commands; I'm a poor sound designer, but I get there with some trial and error.

Anyway, next week's task is the ZX Spectrum version. Speccy BASIC is pretty good, so I expect I can knock that out quick and without all these shenanigans.

Basic Games in Scheme

The first project I write in any new language is usually a guess-the-number game, a die roller, or an RPN calculator, then I start collecting those and other toys and utilities into a single "main menu" program, and use that to drive me to develop my libraries, play with different algorithms. Occasionally it's useful, mostly it's just a pile of stuff.

The Scheme version has a couple useful things. I was mostly thinking about old BASIC games, so it's "BasicSS" (SS being the Chez Scheme file extension, not anything more nautical or sinister).

I wrote a fairly malevolent wordsearch generator in the process of testing some file parsing, so here's one for 20 programming languages. I can tell you that B, C, C#, and D are not in my list. I'm doubtful that anyone can find all of them, or even half.

Hangman depends on /usr/share/dict/words, 235,886 lines on my system, which is very unfair:

 
 #     |
 #    ---
 # \ (o o) /
 #  \ --- /
 #   \ X /
 #    \X/
 #     X
 #     X
 #    / \
 #   /   \
 #
Word: TE---EN--
Guesses: E, T, A, O, I, N, B, R, S
YOU LOSE! You have been hung.
The word was TEMULENCY.

Seabattle ("you sunk my…") sucks, it just picks targets at random; teaching it some AI would help.

Hurkle, like all the early-'70s "find a monster on a grid" games, is awful, but the map display makes it a little easier to track your shots. "The Hurkle is a Happy Beast" by Theodore Sturgeon is one of his 10% good stories, but it provides only a little context.

Some of this I can release source for, some I probably shouldn't, so it's just a binary for now.

Elder Scrolls is Offline on the Apple Silicon Mac

You'd think that with unlimited Microsoft money, ZOS could hire one Mac developer and buy a couple Macs mini M1 to build & test on.

Or as posted, they could just carry on as they have been: They haven't had any Mac developers in years, certainly never test on Mac, and never fix Mac bugs except by accident.

Just a couple:

  • When you log in after a new patch, 50/50 odds you'll spin uncontrollably until you open Mac Security preferences and toggle control off and back on. For a couple years now!
  • They made a new character select background, which crashed the Mac if you dawdled there for 1-2 minutes, and didn't fix that for months.

Which is why I quit buying crowns, just ESO+ subscription. Now I guess I can cut that out, too.

So, after 6 years, well over $1000+ customer, I'll be in ESO only as a freebie until the next set of ARM Macs are out (I need slightly more than the M1 provides).

Not everyone is so short-sighted and incompetent:

While I'm often annoyed by/actively loathe Activision/Blizzard the company (as noted late last year), at least they support their customers and aren't too cheap to pay for a Mac developer or two. Guess I'm back to World of Warcraft.

Videogames and Storytelling Mix like Water and Sodium

At best you get tears & corrosive salt water, at worst you get a sodium explosion.

My philosophy of games:

  1. Games are about environment and gameplay only.
  2. Graphics don't matter much, as long as they communicate.
  3. Character and story are what you bring to it, they should not be part of the game.

So, I just dropped a lot of words there with fuzzy definitions:

  • Games: I mean all of tabletop boardgames, role-playing games, and most often videogames of all genres. There's less difference between the Warlock of Firetop Mountain gamebook and Myst than there is between that gamebook and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. And if you tear out the system from Warlock, you get Advanced Fighting Fantasy or Troika!, which is a very nice little RPG for wandering a weird, almost hallucinatory fantasy world with no book, no defined character, no story.

  • Environment: The world you explore. Some of this uses traditional writing skills for designing non-player characters and describing the tone and events, but also architecture, painting, 3D modelling for designing environments, music for writing soundtracks, foley for making environmental sounds.

    I recently enough mentioned this in Videogame Exploration, and I want to especially repeat my suggestion of Bernband, which is goofy, low-rez, standee sprites… and one of the most immersive environments I've ever played in.

  • Gameplay: The continuous loop of doing something, getting feedback on what happened, maybe scores or your position or just your understanding of the environment changes, and then repeat forever. That loop might take milliseconds in action games, to minutes or hours in hard adventures. There's a… fixation? a high… you get from that loop when it works right. "Just one more turn" says the Civilization junkie at 4AM before blowing off work. "Just one more mineshaft" says the Minecraft player. "Just one more quest" says the ESO player.

  • Graphics: This is almost irrelevant, really, despite the huge amount of effort and money spent on it. It doesn't matter if it's text adventures like Colossal Cave Adventure or Infocom's games, character-grids like Rogue and many descendants, 2D or 3D tiled graphical environments like Ultima IV, Super Mario Bros, or Castlevania, painted images along with text like Sierra's King's Quest or the LucasArts SCUMM games, up to 3D FPS graphics like Doom or Elder Scrolls Online. Good gameplay with any graphics is immersive, bad gameplay with perfect graphics is not.

    Easy way to test that: The most popular videogames of all time are: Mario (2D tiles), Zelda (2D & very simple 3D), Minecraft (blocky 3D with the worst programmer-art textures), Animal Crossing (very simple 3D imitating 2D). Graphics-intensive games pop up and vanish, because they're uninteresting.

  • Character: Who you are. In the better kinds of games, this is left blank for you to fill in. If the game engine doesn't accomodate dialogue even as well as Ultima I did, you're a mute wanderer who breaks into peoples' homes, smashes their crockery looking for coins & drugs/potions, maybe hits X to hear if they have any rumors or leads, then leaves. In action games, very little dialogue is necessary, your weapons speak for you.

    If you can freely define your Character, that interferes with Story. Until recently, at least you could rename your character, but with full voice acting for many games, they either obnoxiously refer to you as "Vestige", "Adept", "Friend", etc., or don't refer to you at all… or don't let you rename your character.

  • Story: This ties in closely with Character: What do you do? If you can wander as you please, make your own fun, whether that's good or harmful to the environment or NPCs, then you have no story, only gameplay. If you can only ride along like an amusement park railroad ride, get a story told to you and then pew-pew-pew to shoot targets, move on to the next stop, you have no gameplay, only story.

    The Disneyland ride model is a big influence, but AAA "games" with story are mostly frustrated Hollywood wastrels in the wrong medium. The obvious recent example is Death Stranding, which has hours of awful cutscenes with Hollywood people who have nothing to do with the game: A mediocre walking simulator/platformer; without the cutscenes, it might even be fun, if tedious.

An unfortunate result of focusing on Story has been forcing the player to make bad dialogue/action choices to advance, stay on the railroad unable to get out and wander away. Heavy Rain's no-choice "Press X to Cry Jason" rather than man up and go look for your lost child.

The now-defunct Telltale Games' Minecraft Story Mode had a painfully fixed main character and plot, and a doomed character, but let you choose social consequences with allies… which were then forgotten in the next chapter.

Early Final Fantasy games had a totally blank slate. FF3 is right on the cusp; it gives you a sandbox to explore, eventually hit a switch to open the next, bigger sandbox, repeat a couple more times, finally a long multi-part endgame and post-game sidequests. The characters have a secret backstory, but you can rename them, give them any job you want, play them however you want. I did one playthrough with boring Warrior, Thief, White Mage, Black Mage, another using Monk/Black Belt, Red Mage/Dragoon, Scholar/Geomancer, Evoker/Summoner. Utterly different gameplay even if I ended up clearing the same dungeons. My bizarro party got to level 99 to fight the giants.

By FF4, the characters and story are locked in place, you can enjoy it or not, and certainly the art's great and I quote "you spoony bard!" all the time, but you have no choices. Not that I'm blaming that all on JRPGs — there's Japanese games with freedom of choice, and Western games fixed on one character, Gabriel Knight is one of the earliest of this archetype.

Gamebooks like Tunnels & Trolls solos, Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, etc. are odd hybrids since they have story, but almost never have a defined character (a few do, like Creature of Chaos). The more linear the gamebook is, the better the story is, but the less interesting it is to play; there's several I've done that had one win and many deaths, and so cannot be replayed. The more meaningful choices they offer, the more incoherent the gamebook becomes, just a bunch of random scenes because you can't build up any meaning like linear fiction does.

My objection to Dungeons & Dragons adventures from Dragonlance (1984) on, is that it went from a game of freeform dungeon crawls, hex crawls, or "West Marches", wandering the Referee's world, maybe loosely using a Greyhawk map or Outdoor Survival, often made up in the days between games or improvised on the spot; to railroaded "adventure paths" with fixed character roles (either named and unkillable like DL or just "must have fighter, thief, cleric, magic-user, bard, or you will fail"). 5E has become entirely that, their healing/action economy even requires a specific pacing along the railroad, and their world maps are just one-path flowcharts you move along like Candyland.

So in conclusion (almost), just say no to story in your games. Look for that infinite high of gameplay.

  • The Devil's Advocate: There are some attempts to make character or story "gameable", rather than just a railroad, most notably Chris Crawford's Erasmatazz, which he then replaced with Storytron, now Wumpus (no relation to the real Hunt the Wumpus game). These have computer-controlled drama, you talk/choose interactions with different "emotional weights", and the NPCs react appropriately. These suck as games. They can be a little interesting as a puzzle to talk to the NPCs, find out what's going on, maybe push one of them into a "win" state. Nobody'd spend long on one.

It's worth looking at Chris's development woes. Sequentiality and list of encounters in Le Morte d'Arthur he gave up on gameplay, it's a railroad click-thru of Mallory's book, with a single fame/piety score to get win/lose.

His Gamers or Storytellers seems to be an admission of defeat. Yet he still has bigoted, ignorant ideas like:

This also plays into the old “evolution versus revolution” dilemma. I have long held that games will never evolve into anything with artistic merit, because the gaming audience does not expect artistic content from games. You can’t sell Beef Wellington to people who want candy. You can’t sell poetry to people who read comic books. You can’t sell art-house movies to people who watch cartoons. And you can’t sell artistic content to gamers who want action and instant gratification. Games as a a medium are ill-disposed to evolve in a storytelling direction.

This is why he fails. Games can have artistic content, just not inbred Hollywood-imitating content. There is plenty of poetry in comic books, obviously Sandman but many an issue of Detective Comics (the smarter Batman series) has moved me deeply. Many art-house movies are cartoons, or vice versa, or were when theatres were a thing, I'd start with Don Hertzfeldt's Rejected and Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. You can't sell poison apples to gamers, not more than once anyway.

I had a look at his soi-disant "Wumpus", and got this, his "non-technical" user interface. It's incredible to me that this is the guy who made Eastern Front and Balance of Power, which were techy but not a giant wall of UI clickies, badly sized in a window. Yes, it's Java, but you can make attractive and usable Java UI, it just requires effort.

I figured out eventually that you can hit Editor/Run Rehearsal (?) to play in something like a dialog box UI, was able to play through a very dull conversation, and then it gets stuck with Jeff explaining widgets to Sam in an infinite loop. Excellent. Obviously story-gaming is a solved problem. 🙄

Haunted Halloween

I've added a new seasonal game to my Mystic Dungeon: Haunted Halloween.

A text-mode twin-stick shooter (well, except it's an emulated Atari 800 "text mode", and the sticks are WASD and IJKL, I haven't written joystick support yet).

Five different levels:

  • Pumpkin Patch: Collect pumpkins for ammo.
  • Dark Forest: Find the path through.
  • Graveyard: Easy, just dodge gravestones and monsters.
  • Corn Maze: Unless you're Ted Forth you won't have a problem with this maze.
  • Haunted House: Just run thru the spooky house full of ghosts, and other monsters crawling in from the woods, get candy, get out!

Three difficulty levels:

  • Treat is turn-based, but there's so few monsters & candies you won't get a high score.
  • Trick is real-time, but you can generally outrun monsters.
  • Nightmare has twice as many monsters & candies, so it's the best way to get a high score… or die quickly, completely overwhelmed.

You can also play it like a stealth game, H hides you from non-adjacent monsters, so you can just run in, hide, wait for them to move off.

You collect candies for score (and banishing monsters earns candy), but every time you move to the next level you eat 10 candy to recover a hit and get some free pumpkins. So it's usually better to stay and clear all monsters, pick up all candies, then move on. But if you have a bunch of witches and ghosts, might be worth running away early.

The interesting thing from development is how little code is required for this kind of game. Halloween is under 1000 LOC, and that includes some long text blobs! Portal Worlds was 3000 LOC, Dungeon's over 3200 LOC and not even close to "done".

I'm still working on Public Caves, moving from BASIC to web-tech requires a lot more infrastructure!

What I'm Playing: Genshin Impact

Kind of a mashup of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Sword Art Online, Avatar: The Last Airbender (not the papyrus-font one), Guild Wars, etc. Not especially original, but well-implemented, very very pretty, and there's a lot of writing, all of it competent. I don't generally think 3D games make sense on the iPhone; AnotherEden was perfect because it worked in the limitations of the medium, but the 3D looks good; it does burn battery and heat the phone up considerably.

Account setup has two options, by email or username, but the email verification code never arrived, so I just did username; I'm "Kamimark" as usual, so if you're in and want a friend…

Starts with a gigantic 4GB download. This took a while.

The cutscene is bizarre, but then you choose your character's gender, you get no choice in appearance or abilities (you are a wind swordsman).

OK, once in the world, you get a fat cherub sidekick (who vanishes and rarely bugs you, but does provide some useful information…)


They soon give you a second character, Amber the stripper fire archer/knight. "Wish" is the gachapon system, you get enough tokens and a reduced cost on your first 10-pull. I got 8 weapons, only two of which were useful to me, and 2 characters, Noelle (light) and Razor (dark), who I haven't really used yet.

Movement is open-world, with a virtual joystick and dragging on the main screen; I find I often hit the attack buttons, which do not fold away when you're in a peaceful area just looking around, so I freak out and attack the air or through harmless NPCs sometimes, but they're unharmed by it.

You can climb almost any surface, with a rapidly-shrinking stamina bar, and soon after reaching the city you get glider wings so you can coast down from any tower. I'm just having fun now exploring rooftops. For instance, the Knights of Favonius guildhall? The roof has several goodies and a teleporter!

The wilderness map is huge, and even the town is fairly large. Spend some time there, because once you start the main quest, everyone hides and you can't shop or chat for a while.

There's a fairly extensive cooking, weapon crafting, and alchemy system, based on finding all the little sparkly nodes in the wild, and then playing a minigame to practice the recipe. Food hasn't actually been that useful to me yet, I don't get hurt much, but later I expect to be constantly hitting inventory and stuffing my face, like Skyrim.

Combat as the main character's pretty good, but it doesn't have an actual gap-closer, so you have to dash forward to the enemy, try to line up, then mash attack and spells; there's a cheap elemental attack, and a big AOE ultimate/limit break. I've been smashing up goblin camps and taking their chests. I'll usually open with Amber sniping all their explosive barrels and killing a few, then when they get close I switch back to Kamimark and murder everyone. Since you can only have one character up at a time, the others aren't follower NPCs, it's really pointless to level more than one or two except for specific elemental tasks.

The first dungeon is small but has a few nice tricks, requires switching between your main character and Amber.

I've since just been running around the first part of the world. By reaching the statue of the gods pins, you reveal a new map section.

There's a ton (40+) of lore books in the knights guild hall library, and I've read a couple of them and there's obviously been a lot of work put into these; so lore and backstory matters here.

Of course this is a "first hit is free" gachapon game, because that's what works on the shitty app stores. That said, the daily reward tier looks OK, like a $5/month sub, so I may do that if I'm still playing by next weekend:

This really is more of a desktop MMO, but the UI is very mobile-focused like the Sword Art Online games. I wish they'd bothered to make a Mac client, even as just a raw iOS port. I've never bothered to replace my PS3 with a PS4, and I'm waiting for PS5 price to drop and/or killer game I need, so I can't play on console, which might also be better.