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  I am lame 04:58 PM -- Mon September 29, 2003  

I had a major experience last night. I watched Sol play some levels I was making for the demo, which I had made intending to be super easy, and she got very frustrated. Those levels were very hard. I learned this:

I am out of touch with what a newbie Dr. Lunatic player is like.

That's not a surprise, since I've been playing it for 5 years, and I know every conceivable little trick, since I put them in there. All my games have always been much too hard. They're always way harder than I intend to make them. I'm terrible at this!

In the next patch for Supreme (no more bugs found! Whoo!), I'm going to make Wimpy mode a whole lot wimpier - like twice as easy as it is now, at least. Probably much easier still. I'm also going to make it the default difficulty! I'm going to rename it "Normal", and the other two difficulties will be "Hard" and "Lunatic". I'm also going to make "Lunatic" a lot harder than it currently is - no sense having two difficulties that are very similar. So you can play on "Hard" difficulty to get the standard Dr. L experience, or play on Lunatic for an insane experience that is hopelessly difficult, or play on Normal to get a game that's vastly easier than what you've seen so far. I can't change the levels, there's one or two too many, but I can sure tone down the power of monsters (and crank up the player!). This is something I really owe everyone, just because I want my games to be played everybody!

It blows my mind to think about the fact that grandmas play my games, and apparently do okay at them... When I step back and really objectively give it a look (as objective as you can be about subjective difficulty), I see how it's an outrageously hard game! I can sort of step out of my head and watch myself play and see how my fingers have to fly all over the place while I scan the entire screen and formulate strategies and perform actions on an instantaneous reflex (like those last-second Rage lifesavers!). My hat is off (seriously, it is, I am hatless) to all those old fogeys who can keep up with the demands of Dr. L! It's amazing!

I was given a sign yesterday: I rented two PS2 games, Alter Echo and Sly Cooper. They're both very cool! Alter Echo, I have pretty much given up on. I'm on like the second level that isn't blatantly a tutorial, and I've died so many times, it's ridiculous. This game is INSANE! But you know, if I think about it, it's really not as hard as Dr. L. It doles out health items at a regular pace, the enemies only attack once every few seconds, you never face more than about 4 at a time, it lets you stop time to insta-kill all the enemies around you at once (in a careful-timing minigame which I am terrible at) and you have big combos that can hit a bunch of them at once, and pop them into the air to render them helpless. If I feel this way about a game that's so much easier than mine, how do people who DON'T know all the tricks and haven't mastered all the intricacies and reflexes feel about my game? Sly Cooper is an awesome game, super duper awesome. But the bosses are repetitive, annoying, trial and error, really hard, and stupid. Kind of like a lot of the levels I make (but not my bosses! In my opinion). I must learn from my research. I MUST LEARN FROM MY RESEARCH!

The other thing that occurred to me (hey, I haven't journaled in a while, let me spew), is that in Supreme's instructions (this all applies to the original Dr. L as well), it says something like "the goal is simple: in each level, collect all the brains and get to the exit". Only, in my hyperactive desire to make interesting challenges, approximately 0% of the levels I've made fit that description. I always make all kinds of weird twists and stuff. I like my levels, they're inventive and interesting, but you know, I set up this game to work a certain way. When every level is an exception to the rule, you really don't have a rule anymore!

I was thinking years back about the X-Files. They had really funny episodes, once or twice a season. Those episodes were great, they were my absolute favorite, and after a few seasons, they were the only good episodes (as it became clear that the creator of the series DIDN'T even come close to having an actual overall conspiracy planned and was just trying to string together stuff that didn't mesh, and it was all a mess and it was stupid - see Babylon V for how to plan out a massive arc properly! Or for the notion that you SHOULD plan out a massive arc). But the funny episodes wouldn't have worked, or been very funny, if they weren't exceptions to the normally serious, dark tone of the series. If the series was just the funny episodes, it would be a really strange comedy, and it would lack a lot of the humor, because most of it comes from seeing these people you know from great experience to be serious, being dopey. It's the change that's good.

And that's what's wrong with my level design. It's all funny X-Files episodes. It would have been so much easier as well as better to crank out lots of 'formula' levels (and they would've been very fun levels... Dr. L is fun to play in a general sense, smashing monsters, grabbing keys, finding secrets, it's all fun), and inject just a couple 'trick' levels in each world. I think people don't really mind the wild variety in Dr. L, but they'd appreciate it more if it wasn't constant, and they'd be able to get some kind of a handle on what basic Dr. L really means to begin with. Most of the fan-made worlds are like that. A world full of normal Dr. L action (and that is NO insult!), with just a couple big surprises and special things, and it really makes you grin when you come across them.

Something like that. It's never a good idea to get me thinking, I guess!

Lastly, I saw the trailer for Matrix: Revolutions. The Matrix is the new Star Wars. And it makes the old Star Wars look like a piece of rotting garbage left out in the sun too long. Not too hard thanks to the new prequel movies for Star Wars, but I'm talking about the good Star Wars movies! The Matrix is that overwhelming, culture-defining, hypermarketed, buy-the-action-figures, ubertrilogy that Star Wars was in the 70's. But unlike Star Wars, the third one is gonna be some GOOD STUFF. Actually, I liked Return Of The Jedi, but everybody says it was so lame because of the whole Ewok business. Aw, maybe it was, it's been forever since I saw it. The Matrix is awesome. YAY MATRIX!!! (As you can see, I'm not one of those Reloaded-haters)
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  Busy Day 09:59 PM -- Tue September 23, 2003  

Well, I can't say I've really accomplished a lot, but it's been a really busy day. I packed up the very last CDs we had available of Supreme, and was about to write an email to people awaiting shipment to let them know they'd have to wait longer, when the UPS guy showed up with the billions of new CDs, mailers, and cases I ordered! That was some nice timing. It's funny that all 3 orders arrived at once, since they were from three different stores. Obviously all quality outfits, getting the products out quick! Which is exactly what I was trying to be all day - so I had to make new CDs with the blanks that arrived, put em all together, and pack em up and ship em out.

I also got a new PO box, much closer to home, so I can bike there instead of driving 3 miles. That should help speed up our response to check orders! I haven't put up the new address on the site yet, though.

Further, I've put up a patch for Supreme. I just hate putting out patches. Makes me feel really stupid. I know we should've caught this stuff before we shipped... but you know, we just don't have the kind of testing muscle that hundreds of customers do! You guys find stuff we never expected. So hopefully this will be the only patch needed. There's only one crash bug that's been found, which is nice, although it was a pretty obvious one... you'll need the patch if you want to use the Playlist feature safely!

I also played a bunch of Supreme, still #1 in Skill! Beat that! My trick is to play worlds you can buy in the Kids 'We' Be store. Those are the worlds made by kids (and TDM's Small World, which is designed FOR kids), and they tend to be heavy on the mayhem. So I've racked up huge body counts and coins beyond imagining. I got 467 coins from one level alone!

So that's all I've done so far. Okay, I guess I did accomplish some stuff! Now I better accomplish some more... need to get this patch to the IGF people, get a new full version up for future downloaders, get the new full version set up to go on the new CDs, and make some graphics for another game I'm contracting on. Will that make it a full day? I could also put together the bookshelves that just arrived, that would be fun. Wouldn't be too bad if I got around to paying the bills either. Or putting some more time into making the Supreme demo! That's a daunting task. Okay, obviously I have a lot more to do, so I'll go do it.
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  OOPS 01:16 AM -- Sun September 21, 2003  

D'oh. So it took all of 48 hours for the first bug report in Supreme. Not that it's something serious... But if you own Supreme and haven't checked on the forum, note that there is a patch you need to download, on our Patches page. The only thing affected is quite literally ONE TILE in one level of the Spooky Forest world. You need the patch to make it possible to pass the level "Fumigation". I'm sorry about that... I know just how it happened too - if you care, read the next paragraph.

There's a special in that level that opens a wall up when you beat certain monsters. Initially, it had converted wrong from the original Dr. Lunatic, so it worked fine, but it made a patch of grass show up instead of nice wooden floor, which looked a little odd in this lovely bug-infested house. So a tester noticed that and pointed it out to me, so I fixed it, simple enough! Well, I didn't bother testing my fix, since all I did was click on the new tile to use, and it was so simple. So let this be a lesson to all game developers, especially me: ALWAYS ALWAYS test your changes!! The tile I picked WAS the right one (wooden floor)... only it was one of two copies of that tile. I had a special copy of that tile made which was impassable to use somewhere, I don't even remember where. And somehow I managed to click on the impassable version instead of the normal one. So there's a lesson learned. I hope!

But that's the only downer! I'm BLOWN AWAY!! by the response to Supreme! I don't usually sell this many games in a month! And the orders are still coming in! It's slowed down a little, but since thursday night, I've done nothing except make CDs and package them and mail them. Well, with a stop at Staples today to pick up more supplies! On top of that, when we were at Staples, some other customer gave us these coupons she had, but couldn't use, which were expiring that day - $10 off on one, and $30 off on the other, and we used both of em. I tell you, when you release Supreme, good things happen! To celebrate, we also stopped at the grocery store and picked up any snack and treat items we wanted. We ended up spending $100. But don't freak out - they were having one of those "bag full of frozen items, 10% off" sales, so we couldn't resist stocking up on WAY TOO MUCH frozen food. We got hummus & pitas, I need to go eat those.

Truly, this is my first break since thursday... and here I am spending it typing in my journal! Time to kick back with a movie - there's no way to ship games on Sunday!
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  YAY! 02:06 AM -- Sat September 20, 2003  

I'm having a really great day. Really tiring too. This launch has been beyond anything I could've imagined... this is already my best month for sales ever, and it's only the 19th! In fact, by the end of the month, sales will probably be much more than double the previous record.

But this is Hamumu... we're not all about the money! No, there's so much else I'm happy about here. The thrill of seeing people besides me on the high score chart was cool (but the rest of you who are playing, submit your scores and profile NOW!!!! You should be doing so every session you play, or otherwise, what good are you to me!?), but it's the comments I'm getting in the comment box on orders, and in the emails from people requesting the discount. That's the kicker! You guys are great! I wish I could share some of the comments, but I suppose I should ask for permission if I want to do that.

I'm looking forward to this Halloween Horror too... finally, I have the time to participate again, and I get to do it with Supreme, which will be a blast. And I see a lot of interest in it this time too - it'd be great to get 10 entries or more! I think the previous record is 4 (maybe 5 with Zook or POP showing up after the fact one of the times?). There's a kazillion names to choose from - 267 so far. Picking them will be a challenge, but I've built a special webpage and database backend and all kinds of goodies to handle it. Still isn't easy - you have to scroll through a page packed with 267 different names. But I tried to make it as easy as I could.

So the page isn't up yet of course, since I can't officially declare the end of name submission time until tomorrow, but come tomorrow, everybody come on out and vote for your favorite names! Even if you have no interest in participating in the contest, vote for names. It's easy as pie, and the more participation, the more fun for all. Especially me, and I wanna have me some FUN!

What a freaking great day. Whee.
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  I gotta shower 02:10 PM -- Fri September 19, 2003  

Just finished my morning bike ride and came to look at the high score table. It's a great feeling to see people up on it!! It's also a great feeling to have tons of orders in my inbox! Looks like today will be a today of hefty CD creation and shipping (I haven't created any CDs yet, but don't worry, I'll have them ready to ship out today if you ordered yesterday or today!).

There was one major snafu in this whole process... when I first put up the ordering site, I had left in a piece of a really old code which made orders for Supreme subtract the shipping charge. So the first few people who ordered CDs got not only the $5 discount they requested, but an EXTRA $5 discount, because the shipping wasn't charged!

In one case it was funny, because the person ordering said in their comment that they wanted to pay full price even though they were eligible for the discount... that was really nice - but in the end they got the discount, whether they wanted it or not!

Oh well, the whole thing was my mistake, and I paid for it in straight up cash. Not too much - good thing I caught it earlyish. So, off to the shower, then the printers come on and the work commences. You'll love this DVD case and CD, they're funny.
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  It's HERE! 12:17 AM -- Fri September 19, 2003  

Supreme's here! What a load off my back... except that now I have to start cranking out CDs for the hopefully giant flood of orders, and build the demo to cause a bigger flood of orders. That demo's a big task... and one I can't yet figure out how to do. Supreme's such an enormous game, and the variety and unlockables are what make it special. It's really hard to figure out how to express that stuff in a demo. Any ordinary demo would just kinda be a nicer version of the Dr. Lunatic demo. So I have to come up with an interesting thing to do, without incorporating too much stuff - gotta keep the demo small, so people will download it!

Phew... I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that we really fixed everything in there. I really think this is our most stable, solid, functional game yet, but there's just so much content that there's a billion ways it could crack. We tested so much, but you know... fingers crossed!

Well, the announcement newsletter just finished going out! Hooray. So now people know about it, and my nerves are all a-tingle! Scary. I think I'll go announce it on the forum too - I know you forum junkies never look anywhere but the forum.

Speaking of other parts of the site, check out the Scores Page. It's part of the Community section. Right now, it's looking pretty empty. So you better buy Supreme and be the first to fill it up! I guess it'll probably stay empty for a while... even if someone orders the game right now, as a download, it'll still take them hours and hours before they can play it. Sigh, oh well. I could go earn some scores and be the first one up there. Maybe I will... always fun to start a trend!
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  Tired 02:52 AM -- Tue September 16, 2003  

Working hard... today I finished what I think is the final version of the Supreme CD case. Just the outside, that is. But it's pretty cool. I like to do themed ones, like Stockboy's crate. We're really just wrapping up the loose ends of Supreme now! Barring a catastrophe, it'll be a September release. Of course, I wouldn't rule out a catastrophe either. Anyway, not much for me to do but go to bed now. Even though it's 8:30. I'm worn out. Always a rough day here in the trenches!
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  Strangeness 12:59 AM -- Sun September 14, 2003  

Today, I saw a motorized scooter, a 2 person bicycle, and a limousine, all traveling right alongside each other down the road. They were all different speeds of course, so they split apart after a little bit, but for one shining moment, it was a Moment Of Strange Modes Of Transportation. That's what I was thinking of as I saw it, and it's what my wife said at the very same moment!

It was not a life-changing event.
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  Gnu News 03:38 AM -- Wed September 10, 2003  

Exciting for me: yesterday someone ordered EVERYTHING we sell except one game. That also makes them the first person ever to order Amazin' SPISPOPD on CD, so I invented the Amazin' SPISPOPD CD case. I really like it actually, but the printer didn't match the colors well - on the CD itself, they're perfect, and in fact I think it may be our best actual CD in terms of appearance - it's snazzy! But on the manual and cover, everything's kind of blued out... it's functional, but it's not nearly as pretty as it should be.

Supreme is still hovering at "just about done". The testers are finding a few little things every day. They take no time at all to fix, but it's scary to keep seeing them arrive when you think the whole thing is perfecto! Most of my time has been spent writing the editor instructions though. 82kb so far. All hand written... that means I have had to hit keys on my keyboard over 82,000 times in the process of making it. You BETTER read it! It's just my usual wordiness though... I think the new editor is a lot easier to use than the old one. Let's just hope Mark comes back with some of his amazing tutorials again when the new editor is here! I made a tutorial in the instructions, but I'm always too wordy. See? If you've read this far, you know that.

Besides Supreme, I came up with what might be the best plan for Sol Hunt yet. It's still very up in the air just what exactly it will be, but this new idea is the most original, coolest thing ever. It's also our most top secret idea ever. Before Sol Hunt happens though, there may be one or two smaller games - these huge epics can get draining, and I know you get as tired of waiting for the new releases as I do.

Speaking of new releases, there's yet another Dr. L addon that I was sent by World Tester Guy. But it's late. I'll put it up tomorrow!
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  Sneak Peek: Dr. Lunatic Supreme With Cheese 10:25 PM -- Thu September 4, 2003  

WOW EE WOW!!! I had an idea this morning, to implement smoothing of the lighting effects (actually, I had the notion years ago, but never bothered), thought about how easy it'd be... and bam, 6 hours later, here's your screenshot! This single bit of work just made the game look SO much better! I'm freaking out with joy over this. Even just the regular little wall shadows are now super-premium top notch (in fact, they also extend to the upper left now instead of just directly left) - you can just barely catch that in this screenshot, just above Bouapha. You'll have to see this stuff in action to really appreciate the beauty. I love it. I'm happy! Happy!!
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