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  School's Out! 02:32 AM -- Sat June 14, 2008  

For Summer!! Not forever, though. I guess that's good, since it keeps our mortgage paid. So here's topics of absurd interest:

- Rock Band rocks. Drumming is like drumming. Not that I know, I've never done it for real. But I'm hitting things with sticks in a rhythm, that's drumming. I even did some "singing", but not in front of other people.

- My new dance pad that supposedly has raised buttons totally doesn't. But it does work a lot better than my old one in every way. One fine advantage is that it's much grippier on the bottom, so it's not going anywhere.

- You can now log in in Happyponygate! Once it recognizes you from the database, it lets you play. I need to add an intermediate step in there so you can select and load any of a bunch of save slots (right now you always start from the beginning, but it's been that way... from the beginning!). It's really cool to see it all working together - the client and server talking to each other, the server reading from the database, and the password encryption functional.

- One thing I'm thinking about is Happyponygate's equivalent to a Collector's Edition. It will be something quite different, something more along the lines of KoL's Mr. Accessories. But what exactly, I haven't really considered. I just like the idea - you can pay more to get 'status'. It's not terribly useful, though in this case it may be something that adds fun/power (not like I have to worry about balance - you're not competing!). You would buy it as a show of support or just because you Just Gotta Have Hamumu. It would give you some kind of distinguishing mark, maybe a web trophy like "Pony Power!" Ooh, I just had a cool idea for it that I will keep to myself!

- Teachers get crazy amounts of gifts from their kids and parents at the end of the year (and nearly as much at Christmas and Valentine's Day). It makes me feel guilty for how I never gave any of my teachers anything. Well, I gave them grief. I just finished a big fancy sundae because Sol got an ice cream party pack as one of her gifts. It had sprinkles, marshmallow fluff, hot fudge, caramel, cherries, oreos, bowls, a scoop, root beer, straws, glasses, and yes, even more. Man, I love sprinkles.
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  Deep Behind The Scenes 09:17 PM -- Wed June 11, 2008  

Okay, well, there's been some sideways progress. First of all, today I converted the internet code from TCP to UDP. Most don't know what that means, and it really doesn't matter. It was just a good idea, since I found (or at least heard about on IRC, thanks X-Out) a library that implements some nice features over UDP - the reliability and sequencing of TCP along with some bandwidth stuff that I don't even really understand. So it's a good fix, and it kind of even made the code a little simpler. And most importantly, it means the lowest level networking stuff is no longer written by me, which means I trust it!

So the latest additions to the game are that now the title screen asks for your name and password, and then connects you to the server, and sends that (encrypted, of course!). The server still doesn't know what to do with that information, but it is definitely getting there, which is nice. Converting the code took quite a while. Also, I have a sore throat. That didn't interfere with my work in any way, and I have no other symptoms of illness, I'm just whining because it hurts.

OH! And double-also, I ordered Rock Band, and it should be here tomorrow! Tremendous excitement beyond measure. I really wish I had the Xbox 360 version, because you can download Still Alive for it for free, but I'm just not ready to dish out that kind of money (not $0 for Still Alive - $400 for an x360). I got the good ol' PS2 version. My original plan was to hold out for the Wii version, even though it has the same lame limitations the PS2 version does. I was hoping that the newer model drums and guitars it includes would be of higher quality and less prone to breakage, not to mention they're wireless, and we never play the Wii so it would be nice to have a reason. But since that would be $50 more expensive, I decided to just dive in and go PS2. It's sad, because I could've done that 6 months ago. As a bonus, I have a guitar for PS2 already due to Guitar Hero, so that means I have the full 4-person rock kit!

I also ordered a newish version of Dance Dance (Supernova 2), and a new dance pad. That's my substitute for Wii Fit, since you can't buy that anywhere outside of Ebay. Oh yeah, and that Wii Fit shortage? Entirely fake! Every Ebay seller has a gigantic stack of Wii Fit boxes as their picture for the item (with a piece of paper with their name on it in the shot, just to prove they're the scum that bought them all). They each own at least 100 of them. It's not a shortage, they just all got bought by greedy bumweasels who wanted to scalp them. Stores need to stop letting people do that. Anyway, I still have a working dance pad, but it doesn't work well. I am very tired of losing a 300 combo in a song because the pad doesn't work. And don't tell me I'm blaming my own problems on the pad! I can prove it doesn't work. I'll be hopping around on the down arrow, and onscreen you can see the up arrow is being stepped on too. That's on the entirely opposite side! But it mostly works, it just gets kinda bad sometimes. Plus, on any song of remotely high level (not that I play high levels - medium is about my limit), I always end up mis-positioned at some point. The new pad has raised arrows which should save the day.

So that's the story of ponynet and my video game purchases.
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  Mini LD #1 Over! 11:12 PM -- Sun June 8, 2008  

Well, the contest isn't over, there are 2 hours left, but I submitted my entry. It's not going up on this site, since it's garbage. There's no game to it at all, but I link it here for you to check out if you care to: Miyamoto Vs. Yamamoto (712kb). I hope someday I'll come back and finish it up because I think it has real potential game-wise, but what you have right there is really nothing. It's just an opportunity to hop around on 3 boats in the ocean. And the collision isn't very good either.

So bleh to that. I was excited about the prospect, but not excited about making it, somehow. Working in my living room while watching TV and hanging out with my wife was a real productivity killer. In fact, don't tell her this, but the one point where she went outside for half an hour, I plowed through a ton of work all of a sudden. It also helped that the TV was off at that point. A major factor is the physical dynamics - it's not comfortable and well set-up out here, like it is in the office. So, lessons for future LDs. Don't mess around - when it's LD, you gotta be in the office where you belong!
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  Happyponysrv 09:43 PM -- Tue June 3, 2008  

Good news, everyone! Happyponygate now connects to the Happyponyserver! I was going to include a server screenshot, but too much trouble. It's just some text. There are 2 commands available on the server, and 50% of those commands are implemented! The implemented command is "quit". But it does work, as does the game connecting to it. Next step is to have it actually log in and check your credentials.

This stuff is really exciting, and I'm really glad I started the Happyponygate Internet Contest. I thought it was a little too abstract, and people wouldn't know what to do with it, but the submissions have been amazing so far. If I had the time, I would probably implement more than half of what has been suggested so far. And best of all, there are things in there that I not only love, but that I don't think I would have ever thought of myself. So I'm really glad I'm asking for that input. It's definitely going to make the game better.

If you haven't voted yet, you should! I'm glad online-only is winning by such a huge margin. It's really such a fundamental difference that I have to pick one or the other to even make further progress on the game. As you can guess, I've picked online-only. It's not even close to set in stone, with the tiny amount of stuff I've done (what I've got done would be useful either way), but it's looking like there aren't very many people who are dead-set against the online-only game. That's great news, because there's so much more that can be done! And the internet contest just shows me even more! I'm totally excited about where this could go, and if you're not, you need a visit from the Happy Ponies.
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  Mini-LD! 09:12 PM -- Fri May 30, 2008  

Next weekend (June 6th), I am hosting a Mini-LD contest! It's a new thing over at Ludum Dare (lots of new things there lately). It's just like a normal 48-hour contest, except the host gets to dictate what the theme is, can tweak the rules, and set the time. It is scheduled to happen every month except the months where a real LD48 contest is happening. So a little taste of LD48 is always available, none of that crazy 6-month waiting. There's a host list to sign up to host it, just like our own Mafia games.

I haven't figured out what theme/challenge I'm going to use just yet. I have one idea that's pretty interesting, but might be too hard to use. But one thing I have done (see link above) is announce the rule modifications I'll be using. And this might be a good chance for people who feel afraid of real LD48s to get started and give it a try! For this contest, the rules are relaxed and you can use absolutely anything you want (that's legal), instead of having to start from scratch. Heck, you could modify one of my own old LD48 games, since the source is available here. So I'm encouraging anyone with some hope of creating something to give it a shot. It's a good way to get started in the world of 48-hour development. And by the way, it is not judged, so you are your only critic.

You don't need to do any signing up to participate, other than to create an account at the Ludum Dare site. Come on by, it's next weekend.
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  A Series Of Tubes 09:31 PM -- Thu May 29, 2008  

I'm currently in a very unproductive phase of the Happy Pony Project, but not because I'm not doing work. On the contrary, I'm working like crazy, it's just not yielding results. Not visible ones, anyway. I have been hacking away at internet stuff, and it is pretty fun to do, although usually very exasperating and confusing.

What I have achieved at long last is a miracle of modern technology: a server that doesn't recognize when people connect to it, but a client that does connect to the server! Or it connects to something anyway. If random characters start spilling out of your fax machine, that's me. But, on the positive side, the server can interact with my MySQL database, which is both awesome and a big deal. Equally big is the fact that I managed to create this server and get it running (with a lot of help) on unix. And best of all, it's cross-platform code - I first was testing it on my PC, connecting to myself, which does work. So I can test locally and run across the internet... eventually, once the internet part works.

There's also something else I did recently. I'm not going to link to it, but many people have heard about this stuff in the past - there are people who have developed homemade WoW servers, which is a pretty mind-boggling achievement. They of course made them in order to save $15 a month by pirating this stuff and hack the game up with all kinds of cheats, but that's not why I got it - I'm still paying my money, and I have my server set up for local play only, nobody can log onto it (and I didn't hack it much, I kept things fair! But I did do some tweaking... after all, I'm alone in the world, I can't make money auctioning things to suckers!). I'm sure even this use is probably also illegal, but only under the absolutely ludicrous and inhumane DMCA, so I don't care - it's definitely not any more immoral than taking apart your radio to see how it works.

So playing that offline (and tweaking it) is cool in itself, despite a large number of weird glitchy behaviors (hey, it's homemade), but the real cool part is that I get to see how these people did this. I am looking at the database structure and stuff, and seeing just how sort of semi-simple it really all is. Maybe there really could be a Loonyland MMO... this simple online stuff I'm doing for Happy Pony Fun Time is the first step, anyway!

The stuff I want to have for HPG is all possible just doing HTTP connections, but I wanted to delve deeper than that. It's about time I got a chat system in-game like I've always talked about doing, and I'm going to go from there. I want to do what I can to make this game a community experience instead of a loner adventure. Of course, it will always be a single-player game - nobody will ever be joining you on the battlefield. But wouldn't it be cool if you could buy and build a freakish monster, and then choose another player to unleash it on as a surprise, with a note attached? I also want auto-updating, because I hope to add more stuff to the game over time. No reason London can't magically expand over time!

Ah, but it all starts with getting this little text client to actually transmit "hi" from the computer to the server. Let's hope that can be achieved... someday.
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  Election Results 08:03 PM -- Tue May 27, 2008  

It's heartening to know that in our official and scientific poll (note: that will only contain the poll results today, but you're welcome to keep on playing it for other things!), all the most important candidates for President were well represented:


(* I lumped in a vote for "Hillary" with the Clinton votes - assuming that the vote for Hillary was not for Hillary Duff, and that the Clinton votes were not for Bill)
(** Hoboma is obviously his own separate entity, riding the rails and making inspirational speeches from boxcars across the country, and not a misspelling of Obama)

I find it somewhat disappointing that the obvious best candidates, Stewart and Colbert, each only received 1 vote, but at least they tied with Cthulhu. Still, to be fair - Dumbwords players know that the goal is to come up with what other people will come up with, not to state your own preference. So I'm sure at least 85% choose Stewart for themselves, but they figured Obama was a more likely guess. It's nice to know I came in second, too. I'm not announcing my intention run just yet, though. Anyway, this poll was a lot of fun... I wish I could come up with more similar questions to put on Dumbwords.

Things look a little iffy for McCain, being tied with both Stupid and Nobody (the anarchist vote?). Not to mention Lincoln, who is, by most common measures, deceased. And of course Cthulhu and Chuck Norris, both of whom would crush us all beneath their heel/tentacle if elected.

The weirdest part is how this extremely scientific internet poll managed to avoid being overwhelmed by Ron Paul supporters! Actually, scratch that, the real question is why is no one voting for Kodos?
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  Imaginary Estate 07:09 PM -- Fri May 23, 2008  

I'm feeling like I'm at kind of a stuck point in Happyponygate. It's a point where some design is needed. There are still a lot of things I could be doing - dozens more enemies to make, bosses, tiles, objects, tutorial system, talking to people, even just plain coins you can pick up! Tons. But there's just an overarching element absent, so I've been moving into a design phase to get it cleared up a little.

What I focused on today so far is what you do with money. Since you will be collecting coins all over the place, you need a reason. And it needs to be compelling and last for at least most of the game. In addition to that, there's an issue that you have an inventory which holds something like 200 items... so what on earth will those items be? It's an awfully big spot just to hold different colors of jellybeans. So I'm working on that.

On the issue of items, I've done a pretty bad job so far. But as for things to spend your money on, I've got a huge thing going. However, it's a lot of work. This is something I intended from the beginning, but while some of it is simple, some very isn't. Anyway, it's buying buildings. There will* be some buildings/houses with For Sale signs. Bump those to buy them if you have the huge amount of coins needed.

The simplest building is one submitted to the Funtest - The Maple Syrup Factory. Once you buy it, it generates money (no need to explain exactly how the syrup is getting shipped, or who is watching over the factory as it runs). Come back to it any time to collect your earnings. Then there are more complex ones. I'm gonna tell you about the most complex one, that probably just about doubles the development time. But it's something I've wanted to have in there since the beginning in some form: Houses.

Buying a house involves the internet. Only one person can own each house (caveat to come), and when you buy it, it enables the editor. You can use the editor to build a level, in standard Supreme style, though with a different set of limitations (for one, I think you'll need to 'capture' all the enemies you want to use before you can use them, so it doesn't spoil the game for you). Then other players walk over and bump into your house and they can enter it (it downloads from the internet when they do). So a chance to make your own stuff, though only one level instead of as many worlds as you like. You just keep expanding and refining your level. You could divide it up into a bunch of mini-levels with teleporters to let the player choose.

The ownership caveat is this: there are only so many houses to buy, so once all are owned, you can buy one someone else owns and be Roomies with them. That just means that when someone visits that house, it asks them which 'room' to visit, instead of knowing automatically. Then once every house has 2 Roomies, a 3rd can join, and so on. So no limit on how many 'rooms' there can be, but it is one per person.

It would save your work on your computer, then when you decide you like it, you hit "Upload" and it replaces the one online. I guess there would be some kind of rating system and stuff too (for both difficulty and quality), to make it fun. And heck, why not, in the process of adding a comment system to those ratings, make each person's house sort of like a bulletin board for that person, like the shoutboxes people have on web pages. You could comment on what the level's like, or just say hi.

That's an incredibly huge concept. I like it a lot, though. And if we had that level of internet connectivity, might as well add a trading post where people can list items for sale (or can you buy stores around town and use them for that purpose, much like the house system?). Of course, in order to justify that, there need to be a variety of interesting items in the game, which is the other thing I have to be figuring out! When I think about the trading concept, I think the game would be too small to warrant it. It's not an MMO where you'd keep on going forever... but then, with the house-building, maybe it is. You'll always need more ingredients to cook things that buff you up if you are trying out everybody's different and ever-changing levels. I don't know. Just stuff to be thunk upon, and lots of it.

An idea I had way back when was that you could buy a house and lay it out, but it would just be a small room, one screen big or so. And what you'd do is buy various furniture and stuff. It'd just be about decorating (like Animal Crossing), not about making a level. I like this level-building idea much better, but maybe the furniture thing could still be part of it - why not? You could still buy special furniture and things (special enemies, too), and you might be special as the only person who got the purple couch, because it's a rare drop from Super Choco Beast. Interesting prospect. And supports the trading idea. I really could go on about this for hours. I am not easy to shut up.

* If this actually gets implemented. It's just ideas.
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  Sneak Peek: Happyponygate 06:57 PM -- Wed May 21, 2008  

A few bits of interest. The mission system is now complete and fully functional (well, the one existing mission works - I'll need new capabilities to handle other types of missions...). As you can see in the shot by the handy checkmark (which obnoxiously overlaps the sword on the icon), I have completed the one mission! It's not a very hard one. The big inset shot shows the mission bouncing up and down in the world. You just grab that and it tells you what the mission is and starts the timer counting down.

The other inset shot just shows two things: first, I finally made some icons for the skills! They're very simple, but I like them. A lot more than I like the cheesy pixel-art icons the missions have. And secondly, it now counts your points in skills by those little spots running up the side of the icons.

Oh, and there's the new crosshair, better than a cookie! "Green Computer" is sort of the stylistic theme of this game. Kind of a weird conflict with the whole happy pony thing, but hey, that's their style, not Bouapha's.
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  Happyponygoals 11:22 PM -- Tue May 20, 2008  

Too late to get a picture today, but there's a major new system in Happyponygate. It doesn't look like much, but still a lot of work was involved. It's not done yet by any means, either, but as the name of this post implies, it is the Goal/Mission system. I think I'm calling them missions, although at this point the pause menu calls them Goals.

You obtain missions in one of two ways: you get the story missions automatically as you go along. As soon as you complete one, the next one is assigned. It's just a linear series of a few missions. There's also another type of mission you get automatically, as you will see in a moment. All the rest of the missions, the vast majority, are obtained by finding the mission icon in the world. They sit there bouncing up and down, as mission icons tend to, so exploring around and finding them all is part of the game. I think that makes for a much more interesting 'hidden goodie' than just coins or packages.

Missions come in 3 types:

Timed Missions - Anytime you pick up a timed mission, all the other mission icons in the world turn transparent and you can't pick them up until you fail or succeed at your timed mission. These are things like "Beat 20 Marshmallow Men in 30 seconds" and other things.

Normal Missions - Well, they're normal. You can have tons of these at a time, and be working towards them all. All of the story missions are normal, as are lots of the non-story missions. A simple example would be "Beat 500 enemies" - you're always making progress toward that.

Mini-Missions - Unlike the other two types, these are repeatable all you like, and automatically start up when you enter a vehicle that is appropriate to them (maybe there will be other mini-missions, but right now it's just car-based ones). There are some wacky ideas I have for these, but they are obviously inspired by Grand Theft Auto, and often are just what you'd think: Get in a taxicab, and you can deliver Gumdrop Guys around town for money (same rules as Crazy Taxi, pretty much). Get in a police car and you get a combat mission, made tricky by the fact that you lose if you get out of the car or it gets destroyed. These missions will be randomly generated, and just something you can do any time for fun and money. Failing these missions is totally harmless, so you can always use these special vehicles just like normal vehicles if you want.

All the missions belong in one of 5 categories: Hero, Vandal, Racer, Warrior, and Helper (I hate that last name, but I can't think of a better way of describing it). So if you get a mission to go smash a bunch of mailboxes, that's a Vandal mission. Completing missions of a given type gives you points of that type. I don't yet have a particular reason why you want these points yet, except that 5 of the missions are "Get 10,000 points of this type". I'll come up with something a little more substantial eventually, but mainly they're just there to accumulate as you play. I also may give out points of the different types as you play - 1 Vandal Point for every object you smash, 1 Warrior point for every enemy beaten, 1 Racer Point for every few seconds spent driving faster than a certain speed, and I don't know what for the other two.

So that's a very major part of the game. It's also very incomplete and just barely begun (similar to all the other parts). I hope to have literally hundreds of missions, but it'll probably be a bit of work to come up with them, so I have no idea how many will make it in. But hey, I managed to finally make a crosshair today!

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