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  Sneak Peek: Grimbelina/Soul Hunt 05:48 PM -- Fri October 31, 2003  


Happy Halloween! As usual, I tried to create a surprise Halloween game for you. Like two years ago, I failed. And in exactly the same way. I decided to create a quick game made out of Supreme's code, and instead made it too involved and unique to be done quickly. The previous result was Loonyland, which ended up taking 5 months. For whatever stupid reason, I have hopes this will take less time than that. But it's not even in the realm of done yet. So what is it!?

It's Grimbelina! Sol came up with the absolutely brilliant notion of naming it Soul Hunt, but I'm not sure yet. Doing that would almost definitely be writing off Sol Hunt for good. Maybe I should have a vote on that. Anyway, Grimbelina is the daughter of the Grim Reaper, who went away to a convention after warning her as he always does when he leaves the house, "Keep your boney mitts off of the Well Of Souls!". Of course, being a kid, she couldn't do that, and now hundreds of souls have been released, and she has to recapture them all before he gets home. To make matters worse, a team of government agents have arrived nearby to investigate the paranormal disturbance. Royal pummelings ensue!

Gameplay revolves around beating guys up with nifty combos, including juggling them into the air, or grabbing them and throwing them around (in the main shot above, you can see she's just smacked one guy downward, which knocked down a few others too, underneath the "G"). By beating them up rapidly and making big combos, you level up and earn points to learn new moves with, or upgrade your stats. There are tons of moves that you gain access to as you proceed, but they're all done very simply, with a two button system (Attack and Jump).

The tiles you see in this shot are just leftovers from Supreme, as I haven't made any tiles yet, but the graphics in Grimbelina will be all new - it's going to have an extremely simple, colorful, cartoony look (you can see that in the characters, I hope).

And yes, you will be able to create your own monsters, levels, adventures, and playable characters! It will require some computery knowledge to pull off, however. And you won't be able to create your own monster graphics. The fun will be in creating new moves and combo possibilities. Of course, that's all subject to change!

So that's Grimbelina, or Soul Hunt, or Grimbelina's Soul Hunt, the big surprising new game from Hamumu Software, coming... maybe soonish!
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  Augh!! 10:40 PM -- Sat October 25, 2003  

So close!! You don't know how so close. I just got back from my Tony Hawk contest. I have many regrets:

  • I didn't know the rules in advance. In fact, I asked him the rules and he said "We don't know them yet, but probably a 2 minute run, high score, on any level you want".
  • It wasn't.
  • It was high score, 2 minute run, 2 players at once (which means split screen, which confused me! So tiny!), CAN ONLY BE TONY HAWK HIMSELF, on The College level, with no upgrades, and no editing your tricks - defaults all around.
  • Tony Hawk is a vert skater. Vert skaters are not fit to lick my wheels!
  • I don't know any of Tony Hawk's specials, which are the key to getting scores!
  • Ah, but here come the big regrets:
  • My practice run (you got 1min practice, then 2min real) was just slightly under the score that ended up winning the competition (350k-ish). But I got that score in only 1 minute!!
  • On my real run... I wasn't doing too hot, lowish score, but then when there was one second left on the clock, I knew I had to get going to win this thing (you can continue after the time runs out, as long as you maintain a combo; once your combo ends, the run is over), so I started The Ultimate Combo. It ruled like nobody in that store had ever seen. It probably lasted another 20 seconds. I got cheers! My run was the most exciting one of the day, the kids loved it!
  • But, at the end, I knew I had to land it, or it would count for nothing, so I headed out onto flat ground, and set the controller down to avoid my automatic instincts to keep pounding buttons. Unfortunately, I was still in a manual at that time, so I fell down. The amount of points I lost by failing that combo would've put my score way above the winning score for the competition. The combo itself was worth more than the total winning score!
  • All I had to do to win the contest was to hit the X button one more time. Once. No skill involved, just tap the X button.
  • Also, the guy running the contest swapped my score with my opponent's - luckily he had done well too, so instead of being counted as 190k points, I was counted as 140k.
In the end, I got 6th place, and the top 5 scorers got T-shirts. I would've been 4th place with my actual score, and of course let's not forget second place (maybe first, about that area) with my score from my practice run (in only 1 minute!! Dagnabbit!), or way out in first with my score if I had just hit that stupid button! BUT, to compensate for the horror of having to play as a stupid vert character, virtually without special moves (I got off a couple special grinds, but never figured out how I was doing it), on a crappy level, which rendered all my awesome practice meaningless, and also the suffering of looking really silly as the only elderly gent competing against a vast army of 20 or so 10-15 year olds, the universe smiled down upon me, and lo 5 shirts became 6. They had 6 shirts on hand, and I am now the semi-proud, sorta-dejected, owner of a Tony Hawk's Underground t-shirt! HOORAH!!

That's really great. I would've been way happier with the game, but I blew it with that stupid X button stunt, so it's my own thing. But the t-shirt is really cool, since I always need more of those for free. So I didn't win Tony Hawk 5... good news for you all, because it means I will actually spend time working on my next game!

Whatever that may be.

PS - you're in even more luck... they're having another contest next month, but it's an SSX contest. And I believe we've discussed in this very space just how horrifically unplayable the garbage that they call SSX is. I will be skipping that crapfest. It's sad... Tony Hawk is the only game (besides UT!) that I'd really enjoy competing in. And I'm good at it! I did so good!! I didn't do 6th place good, I did 1st place good! Oh well... let the kids enjoy their games. I'm a grown up or something.

That X button will haunt me forever.
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  Coonskin Cat 03:27 PM -- Fri October 24, 2003  

There was a raccoon in our yard last night! Huzzah was very puffy looking out the window, so I looked with him and there was this huge raccoon, about twice his size (and he's a BIG kitty!). It was cute. We went from window to window, got the flashlight, and generally enjoyed a half hour of National Geographic: Temeculan Safari. He rattled our trash cans a bunch, then sat in our backyard cleaning himself and scratching for a long time. He better not have brought fleas into our yard - that's my biggest fear when we occasionally let the cats out. I've been in a house truly infested with fleas before!

So that's the story of our first raccoon. He looked awfully comfortable here, so he'll probably be back. We get tons of neighbor cats in our yard, that really upsets Huzzah. Sometimes I have to chase them away because he gets so upset. He was less upset with the raccoon, maybe because it kinda looked like him. Either that or he was just struck speechless with terror.

I also sold my first order to someone who lives in Temecula the other day! She lives on a street inches from my house, so I was going to deliver it by hand, but then I looked it up on Mapquest, and discovered that the specific part of that street she lives on is about 4 miles away. And I'm lazy (and shy), so in the mail it went.

Okay, I've done a million point combo. But just once. My record for a run is up to about 1.4mil... my average is staying around the 500k range. I think I'm improving though. Sure wish I knew the rules!
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  Tony Hawk! 03:24 PM -- Thu October 23, 2003  

Everybody knows Tony Hawk is the greatest game of all time. Well, we got a Gamecrazy flyer in the mail with an ad for a Tony Hawk 4 contest at our local store! I signed up! The sign up list had ages on it... there are like 20 people on it (so far... and the contest isn't until the 25th, gulp), and ALL of them were between 11 and 14 years of age, except one 25 year old. At least I'm not going to be the only one embarrassed to be there. Although, I have a feeling my embarrassment will be larger than his, because I was practicing, and I'm seeing some problems with my ability to dominate this stuff. See, I did research online about what big combos are and all, and I'm quite worried. So far, my best practice run has been just over 1mil points. That's my best, and second best was more like 700k, and average is more like 4-500k. These videos of big combos you can find online are 6mil to 300mil, for one combo, not an entire 2 minute run of separate combos. Oh well, wish me luck, and let's just hope these local yokels aren't such pros... maybe today's kids' brains are rotted by RPGs, so they aren't good at Tony Hawk!

If you care, you can check out some really amazing combo videos online, look for them! Even if you know nothing about Tony Hawk, pick one with a big score on it and check it out (if you have broadband - they're not small videos). It's just amazing to witness, even if you think there's only one button press involved in each move they do (which is definitely not the case), it's a constant stream of insane madness, and remarkable long-range jumping aim. I wonder how often they have to buy new controllers.
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  Life in the big city 02:39 AM -- Fri October 17, 2003  

I got rear-ended today. Blech. It was minimal speed, no damage except the bumper got crushed in (it's plastic). But you know, I wanted to NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH THAT! I hate it! Now I have to go get it fixed, and talk to the person who hit it to tell them what it costs, and all that fun, and they get to try to argue with the estimate as if they have any say. It suxorz.

We got a new couch after suffering through the eternal torment of Ikea (as the wife says, "NEVER AGAIN!!!!"), and the cats love it. They are very happy! They don't like getting sprayed with water constantly for trying to scratch it, but when they're not scratching it, they sit around it or on it very happily. I don't mind it myself. You can look it up in the Ikea catalog, it's the Fagelbo (should be an umlaut over the a or something, but I'm no HTML superstar). We got it in Boeryd (again, pardon the missing umlaut). That's a color. Isn't Ikea amusing?

I also got Dungeon Siege (PC game) today! It's because we had a huge Staples gift certificate due to my wife's Teacher Rewards card there, and if you don't use it all it once, what's left vanishes. We had to get the game, I'm afraid, or it simply would've been wasted. So sad. We did good though - by adding the game on, we came within 90 cents of the total amount, without going over. If I had realized that before we were completely rung up, I would've added a candy bar. I do love candy. We also used up an Amazon gift certificate just yesterday, something else I enjoy doing. I am way overstuffed from dinner, but I promised to make Krispie Treats, so awaaaaay I go.
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  Embarrassment 09:32 PM -- Tue October 14, 2003  

You know, it's just gotten embarrassing. Seems like every day, a new little hitch is found in Supreme. This actually wouldn't be nearly as bad if I waited to fix them all in one big chunk, but then it would be kinda bad for you customers. But I release a fix, and bam, it's broken again. Almost all of these fixes are nearly trivial - the latest was that a certain movie isn't played in one of my worlds where it's supposed to (and I have no idea how it got removed! I'm stumped). But they're still problems in the game, and they're seemingly endless. I always think it's over, and it never is. The real truth is, I didn't test this game nearly enough. All this could've been caught by just having a second team of completely fresh testers come in at the end, when it was supposedly "done", and see what they see with new eyes. There was a ton of pressure to just finally release this thing after the years of waiting, and I fell for it. It was a big mistake!

It's almost gone beyond embarrassment now though... to "whatever". Oh, there's another bug? Whatever. It's depressing. I really don't like those companies that release half-finished products and rely on the paying public to test them for them, and I almost feel that way. I don't quite, since I did think this was fully working when I released it, but I totally dropped the ball - I knew more testing was necessary (is that contradictory? Only kinda). It's stupid. But it's done. I have two major goals for future development: The first is obviously very thorough testing. The second is much shorter development time. That'll be better for everyone concerned!

I'm still proud of Supreme, and I am cutting myself slack on the whole mess, because it is truly far too big of a game for such a small company to completely test through. What we did accomplish is pretty darn good, and I'm happy with the results, even if it did take an extra month of tweaking. Oh well... each project is a learning experience, and consider this lesson hard-earned.

No sympathy requested! I'm still having a grand time working on... something. Hmm.
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  Day Off 11:44 PM -- Fri October 10, 2003  

It feels good to finally have all the Supreme bits feeling definitely done. Of course I'm sure more things will crop up, but I hope not. Anyway, for the moment at least, I feel free and joyous! I'm trying to get myself to do something for Halloween Horror, but it's a daunting prospect, because I really put my heart and soul into those things... you've seen how funky my former worlds were! Like I said in an earlier post, I just can't get by with making a normal level, good or not - it's got to have things you've never seen before, or at least not often... weird ideas and all. Especially when it's Halloween Horror, because the whole point of that is to do something which reflects the theme, so no ordinary level could do it. Hmm... I have a sort of idea, at least to get me started... I'll go see...
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  Supreme Demo 01:45 AM -- Fri October 3, 2003  

I got lots done on the Supreme Demo today. Lisa Keck of world-building fame is assisting in the creation of the demo, so in keeping with the Supreme theme, this demo is pretty Supreme - it includes THREE worlds, and the tutorial. The worlds aren't as big as usual, but they have about 10 levels each, so it ain't nothing to sneeze at. Anyway, it's almost done, so pretty soon I'll see if anybody is interested in testing it out (I guess that's about the same as releasing it, since it's a demo... only difference is, I won't put a link to it right on the Supreme information page until it's been tested). I think it's a really good demo though, it's got 10 things you can buy in the store (including the worlds in question), 10 lockers you can open (choose wisely - there are only 4 Loonykeys available!), and 10 Gallery Goals you can complete (the pictures you earn are shameless ads for the full game, of course). The other nice thing is this demo will also be a demo of the new easier difficulty. I'm really enjoying it myself, it's so relaxing! Also, the demo levels themselves are rather easy (everybody always seems to say you sell more that way, so let's hope so! I also hope the non-demo levels don't come as a horrifying shock to people who enjoy the demo!), so it's a double whammy of easy, fun gameplay.

Of course, when the demo is done, I'll also put up the demo worlds as an add-on for Supreme, so you can download them if you already have the full version. Anyway, off to do a little more work then go have some dinner! Hooray for the universe.
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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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