What I'm Watching: G4TV!

It's 2005 again!

So back in the day, TechTV was kind of super-nerdy, and then it and a much lamer show G4 were bought by Comcast and digested and spat out as G4/TechTV, and they kind of hit their stride there, found a way to be nerd gamers but also flashy and dumb enough for the hoi-polloi. Tail end of me watching cable, but on holidays I'd see it and it amused me. Ah, Morgan Webb, how I miss you. Then in 2013 they got shafted by corporate network politics and buyouts.

For 8 long years we've had no G4. Well, today they've relaunched, on g4tv.com and twitch/g4tv. No more cable.

For some reason the launch stream was MC'd by some dumb "pro" wrestler; well, there was a lot of WWE (not the World Wildlife Fund, FYI) shit in old G4, too, especially towards the end. Adam Sessler is back, but he doesn't look good. He's turned from slightly balding nerd to schlubby last-season rock-collecting Hank Schrader. Morgan Webb's off doing PR for some game company. Olivia Munn's off being a movie star; there was a rumor she might do some cameos, but not so far. Kevin Pereira has been living in a rusted-out van under the train tracks, shooting up, don't ask what he's done to buy that smack, so he's come back and will do literally anything to stay on the show. I've never seen so much desperation waft off a dude.

The rest of the "new G4 talent" (and it gets funnier every time they say that on stream) are meh. The Black Hokage is OK, maybe. Once they said who he is, I recognized him from youtubes. He's a sometimes funny dude. I dunno Froskurinn at all, apparently she's a LoL (lol) ex-player/groupie/some bullshit. But 90% of the LoL fanbase hate her, so maybe she won't be too bad. Ovilee May is a noob with no skills but seems game for their dumb stunts, so maybe she'll improve. The rest are absolutely zero rep or talent so far.

Most of the launch stream was "what are we going to do" rather than doing, but A) The Space Cat DJ is the greatest prop they've ever had. B) The motorized stuffed squirrel is still very very sad and creepy. C) The "play Tetris on a giant Nintendo controller" segment was actually fun, like the good old days. Maybe they've got something in them this time around.


Animal Crossing Feeding Frenzy

So, lessons learned so far:

Harv's island has an ABD terminal, so you don't need to bring 800,000 bells along. Anyway, it doesn't matter, because while you can donate partway to all of the shops, when you finish one it's done for the day, you have to wait for tomorrow. And this is why I have Katrina the fortune-teller first, and nothing that I want. "It's fine, I think." as Booker used to say.

You get Brewster on the first Kapp'n island, and it's very normal, boring. The next island is very unlike this, and here I got tomatoes! I assume all the veg have to be discovered on islands, which I'll be running every day. I'll probably post my garden when it's all productive.

None of the Kapp'n islands I've seen yet (one per day, so: 2) have wasps in the trees. Weird. I'll still check every one with a net out, of course, I'm scarred for life.

So anyway now I can make some of the food. Any "kitchen" will do for making food; I've long had a diner modelled on Johnny Rockets in my side room, so the system kitchen in there is fine, or the gas ranges. Sadly campfires don't seem to be kitchens.

Trouble is, I only really use food on the islands, to break rocks. And normally I just carry a stack of apples with me. Oh good grief, I drank "Tomato Puree" to get it out of my inv, and it was worth 5 meals. Just guzzled down a six-pack of katsup, as one does. Well, happily I have a couple toilets in scenic poopin' spots around my island… yes, before the Rick & Morty episode. In case you didn't know, using a toilet removes all your "meals" so you don't break rocks & dig up trees you didn't mean to. UUUURP! But now this means I have to do all the non-breaking work on an island (hitting rocks!), then eat the food I brought, then finally break all the things.

The iPhone NintendoSwitchOnline app has a "Nook Link" section, which has been generally useless, but they've added a bunch of new rewards (toilet paper! After 2 years since the start of pandemic, finally Nook gets some TP in!) and utilities, the Newsletter is pretty interesting, even tracks your turnip prices.

New Animal Crossing New Horizons

The big 2.0 update is finally out! Takes a while to download & install, had to leave it on the charger and keep waking it up so I could see any progress.

First thing up, Isabelle gives a short talk about the ordinances, and island tours. Then Tom Nook spammed my mailbox with new services. Will get to those in a minute.

But then while putting away my junk, changing clothes to be minty-fresh, Eugene comes in, and challenges me to a game of Hi-Lo cards. The villagers can come over to visit now! That wasn't mentioned in any news about the update! Maybe they always could, but my house is on the far side of the river, with no way to reach it from the village center.

Also, it's now the start of mushroom season, so the ground is cluttered with X spots to dig, and little treasures everywhere. It's a nice time to refresh the game.

Turns out Brewster doesn't just appear, you have a quest to find him. Talk to Blathers to find out how…

Get to the Town Hall, and still Tom Nook can't take a check on my ABD account, I have to half-empty my inventory to hold 700,000 bells to pay for more storage. Worth it, but annoying. Isabelle's prices on town ordinances are much more reasonable, a mere 20,000. Meanwhile, make sure to check the Nook Shopping, both for seasonal lanterns, and for new KK Slider records!

And there's a bunch of Nook Miles things to buy, which is fine, I have 479,000 Nook Miles. Yes, that's an insane amount. I see people scrabbling for 1000 in their reset islands, and I just laugh and Scrooge McDuck into my pile of miles… I don't know how that metaphor works.

I'm not sure what the point of the "Island Life 101" app is, it has no tips at present.

"Pro Camera App" is great, almost first-person 3D graphics in this year 2021! But you still can't rotate in most areas, because the models are completely false-front.

The "Wooden Storage Shed" may be a massive game-changer! It's just access to your home storage anywhere. I have crafting stations all over, each one has 1 or 2 tables with wood, stone, iron, sticks… I can replace most of those with a shed.

The "Donation Box" is semi-useless? You can put bells in it, 1000 at a time, or take them out. Tips for visiting another island are usually like a whole bag of bells or more? So this is kind of silly. Unless the villagers deposit in it. I've left it in my outdoor café and will see if anything happens. Given how useless they are at funding bridges, I don't expect much.

There's an "ABD" furnishing (but no recipe) so you can get cash anywhere. I'll put one of those by my house.

I've of course chosen the Nite Owl ordinance, but it won't affect anything until tomorrow, so will see how that works out, too. If I can just shop and see KK Slider, that'd be a nice change.

Catching fish can teach new recipes, so far I've found Dab and Horse Mackerel. More fishing is definitely needed.

That's about all for today, I'll do the island tour & Harv's island tomorrow. Probably have weeks or months of finding new stuff.

Nintendo's said this is the last major update, and the first/last/only paid DLC for the Happy Home Designer thing. But it's a good way to go out, if so. Earlier games on cartridge never got updates, of course, so we're just spoiled.

Haunted Dungeon early beta

Hey, it's a new and slightly more usable build (still Mac only) of the Haunted Dungeon! You can now use all the weapons & armor, eat & drink food & potions, might even make it down to floor 2 or 3!

Up in the next few days:

  • Tossing out items. I need to write a new event mode for selecting it, so I didn't feel like it today.
  • Levelling up. Right now you're doomed because you can't heal except by food & potions; or improve, except by very rare (and a long ways down) stat potions.
  • Start getting the actual story into the game. But only the first hints will be in the upper levels, since you can't get far anyway.
  • Main release on Halloween!

Probably next month:

  • Backpack for storing more items. One of the premises of this game is every item's a singleton, there's no stacking. So every item must be useful by itself, and item slot management is hard.
  • Ranged weapons have range.
  • Magic spells.
  • Elemental effects. It's already true that hitting some monsters with sharp or blunt weapons is better, but there's many more interactions when magic gets involved.
  • Much more dungeon dressing, I'm using Vexed's Demonic Dungeon art for that late-'80s, hi-res but low color count effect.

I'd love to get some feedback if it actually works on everyone's machine, because I'm doing some weird tricks to make it launch. As noted on itch, if it doesn't launch, or crashes, try looking at ~/Documents/haunted-dungeon.log, email me with that file.

The game's written in Scheme, running on Chez Scheme, with SDL2 from Thunderchez. Then I have an excessively complex Scheme script that compiles it, and builds a .app structure for Mac, and should also make Linux & Windows builds on those platforms (or in a VM, which is how I do it); been a while since I tried those, but once this is solid I'll include those.

I normally discuss ongoing projects on fediverse, @mdhughes@appdot.net

Animal Crossing Direct 2021

I haven't been playing as much, typically I'll get in on Fri-Sun if there's an event, or check for birthdays. I've had to time-travel cheat a couple times now, just a few days off, to catch something, and I hate doing it, but it's better than waiting a year? There's just nothing new each day to bring me in. I am trying to stockpile candy for Halloween, but I can get enough candy on the day to not need to do this, it's just easier.

But now there's reasons to come back more often! As of Nov 5:

  • Brewster's café in the museum looks charming, and I have a few Amiibo cards which can be used there. They didn't say if KK Slider would move his shows there? In Wild World (which I mainly played) you had to know KK was playing there to find him; the courtyard is a much more obvious place, but not as comfy.
  • Kapp'n! Boat tours to really non-standard islands. I rarely bother with the Nook Miles islands because I have everything I need at home.
  • Aerobics is back from GameCube. Not at an impossibly early scheduled time now, but just whenever you want?
  • A bunch of Town Hall stuff. And you can expand your storage more! I'm constantly fighting my storage, and have an assistant/mule character who just holds extra junk.
  • Gyroids will grow in the ground again! Fun fact, they're actually ancient Japanese funerary statues Haniwa.
  • More construction content with Harv, who I find creepy but the scene studio's amusing.
  • But also Lottie, who I hate, largely because the Pocket Camp furnishing minigame was absolutely terrible, with no choices or creativity, just a prompt to pay real money for gacha. Maybe it won't be as bad in New Horizons. Maybe. But I want all the construction tools for my own home, not another "Happy Home Designer" minigame. Apparently this is only available if you pay for Online Plus?

Also announced is the Online Plus subscription, mo' money, for Lottie's thing, and:

  • N64 & SEGA Genesis emulators. This is like Coke+ giving you Pepsi as well. That there's a Nintendo-branded Genesis controller is so weird and cursed I don't even know. I think the controller won't work on my Switch Lite, so I'm not too tempted.

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.

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
    H=10        // Hit Points
    L=1     // Level
    // G=0      // Gold, default value


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.