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  Your Real Face 04:53 PM -- Mon May 19, 2008  

Everybody knows when a telemarketer calls you, that they are bothering you. They know it as well as you do. You don't want to talk to them. I don't even know why companies use telemarketing, I guess there must be some sales made that way, and probably a lot to justify that kind of expense and ill will. But anyway, they call up and act totally obnoxious. They talk right over you, and when you very clearly say you don't want what they offer, they explain why you are wrong. For a loong time, even though at the end of their repetitive spiel, you're obviously just going to say "still no".

But when they call, I'm totally polite to them. I don't interrupt their spiel or anything, I just wait for them to actually stop, minutes later, and then say "No thanks, I'm not interested." And this just happened, but it's happened before more than once too - they hang up on me (of course, this is the second run of their spiel - their flowchart tells them to give it twice and then hang up if they are still not making headway). Once they know they aren't going to get the sale, their time is valuable. They want their commissions, so they drop you like a bad habit and go. Because saying "Alright, have a great day, goodbye!" would be too much work. No, they show their real face. They are people who hate the people they call, because day after day, they make these calls and whether the person they call shows it openly or not, the victim hates them. Everybody hates telemarketers, it's not a tricky thing to figure out. So every day they call people who hate them and harass those people. I imagine that's very unpleasant for them. I wish they'd stop for everyone's sake.

So anyway, my point is this: It's bad! I stayed polite the whole time, acting completely kind, because to me it matters what people think of me (to an unhealthy point, but that's a separate issue). These people are willfully destroying their potential customer base. Nobody who's been hung up on by a company is going to go back later and say "Hey, what was that company again? I think I'll check them out." Maybe they could change their flowchart - "End every call with 'Okay, but if you ever need X in the future, think of Teletronic Industries!'" Not that I'd deal with a company that telemarketed me in the first place, but the odds are better at least. The irony is that it didn't matter what he thought of me. He wasn't going to buy games from me, and I would never interact with him on the street. I just personally didn't want to be thought of as a jerk. He had no such qualms. It's a nasty world.

One last more specific note: When I said "No, I don't want a new merchant account, thanks" (nevermind that it would take weeks to change over!), he explained to me that he wasn't offering me that. He was trying to give me a free service of comparing how much money I pay now with what I'd pay on his service. Think that one through a minute - I rejected his product without even knowing how much or little it was and yet somehow I would be interested in spending my time discussing what the differences were. Now obviously, what he really means is "let me convince you by showing you how much better ours is", but that's not what he said. He said no, here's a free service, don't you want the free service? Which is moronatronic! That's like sitting around discussing whether Superman or Batman would win in a fight (Superman - he's literally invincible. Unless Batman gets a piece of kryptonite, in which case Superman is absolutely helpless. Not a very interesting fight either way) - it just doesn't matter and it's a waste of time! And it's not even fun like discussing superhero matchups might be.
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  Sneak Peek: Happyponygate 05:09 PM -- Thu May 15, 2008  

Well, I guess I did make that WoW-style talent system, after all! I call it Skills though, to fool people into thinking it's different. I just had so much fun building up the ideas for the different skills, I went with it.

This shot shows the Pause screen, if you flip it to the Skills tab (see tabs at the bottom). Obviously, the skills don't have icons yet - those boxes won't be blank! The headers will also be nicer looking than that plain green font. I'm also going to have little dots running up the sides of the icons to show how many points you've put in, instead of the numbers they currently have.

So, how it works is simple. If you played WoW, you already know all of this, but basically, there are 4 Skill sets - Choco, Cute, Snuggle, and Sweet (okay, that part's not in WoW). As you can see, the skills are greyed out below the top row, until you spend some points. You need to spend 5 points in a given skill set to unlock the 2nd row, 10 points for the 3rd row, and so on. That encourages you to pick one set and focus on it, so you can get to the good stuff at the bottom. Unlike WoW, every skill can have 5 points in it. You hover the mouse over a skill to see the details.

You gain 1 Skill Point per level, so it's possible to get 98 Skill Points (maybe a few more from missions, I am not sure), and there are currently 52 skills (2 of which are not yet invented...), so that means you could put about 2 points in every single skill, if you wanted to be extremely widespread. You definitely wouldn't do that, I hope, and so if you max out one set, that's 65 points spent, leaving you enough for a smallish investment in one other set (enough points to get all the way to the bottom of it, though, should you choose!). I like that, very much a choice to be made. And you needn't worry about making bad choices and ruining your game - this is no RPG. You could probably win it without ever spending a single skill point. Not that it would be easy! But I will probably add a Skill Reset you can buy for lots of Canadian moolah. I always hate to do that, because it discourages you from playing the game over - why do that when you can just reset and try out a new build right away?

Anyway, here's a little inside stuff about the four skill sets:

CHOCO - Obviously chocolate-based (chocolate, caramel, nougat, nuts). Critical Hits with Choco attacks cause Stickiness, which slows the victim for a while.

SWEET - Sugary stuff that isn't chocolate (lollipops, cotton candy,... I can't think of any offhand, but there's a million things!). Critical Hits with Sweet attacks cause Tooth Decay, which is exactly the same as poison in other games (you turn green and take damage for a while).

SNUGGLE - Love stuff (hugs, hearts, cupid arrows, gifts). Critical Hits with Snuggle attacks cause Heartwarming, where the victim leaves flames everywhere they go for a while (which in turn hurt others that step on them, as well as the victim itself).

CUTE - Cute stuff, surprisingly (bunnies, kitties, puppies, rainbows). Critical Hits with Cute attacks cause Awww, which temporarily swaps the team of the victim, so they help you out for a short time (AKA mind control).

Each of the four skill sets has a certain emphasis (besides generally working to improve the attacks and critical effects of its type, and defense against those things), although it's a little bit muddled:

CHOCO - defensive things, like more life and taking less damage, and getting healed.
SWEET - raw damage, and enhanced speed for obvious reasons (you know, sugar?).
SNUGGLE - also damage, but a bit of a focus on super powers (see below).
CUTE - focused on making the Awww effect powered up to the point where you are sort of having an army fight for you.

Each set has 2 Super Powers in it. Those are special abilities you can click on to activate (all other skills are automatic effects, not something you use), that do something super like raining hearts down all over the screen. They also work with the set theme, like Choco has healing and invincibility for powers, Cute has a summon power and one that Awwws everybody around. Super Powers are only limited by a timer - Each one needs a long while to recharge after use.

There you go, a pretty technical design-based sneak peek. Now, if you are intrigued by these skills, how about making up your own? It's the latest Happyponygate Contest! Enter now!

Don't forget also that the Happyponygate Boss Contest is still going on too.
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  Sneak Peek: Happyponygate 07:11 PM -- Tue May 13, 2008  

If you are PurpleKoopa, you know what I accomplished today. If you're not, you may not realize. This shot actually depicts PurpleKoopa's house, in the game! So I've implemented the utility to import peoples' buildings. And I have to say, putting this one in was an ugly pain, because it actually resides right on the dividing line between two sectors. The top row of the roof there is on one map, and the rest of the house is on another. There was a lot of guesswork and moving around of pieces. I'm sad that there's an entire row of houses in that position. I need to work on my placement better.

The cookie, by the way, is what I'm using temporarily as a crosshair. I need to get some graphics for that... Also, you can see that the guns now shoot marshmallows as advertised, and what you can't see is that the marshmallows come out of the right place. I devised a system of 'firing points' for the 16 facings of your character, and so while I'm testing the game, I can press some keys to adjust the current firing point, and it saves that out. It now looks a lot better than it did when I calculated the firing point automatically.

One stupid little thing I've done is vaguely detectable at the bottom. Since the enemies fire the same bullets you do, I wanted to differentiate them a little, so you know what to dodge. So the enemy bullets flicker dark and bright (you can see one really dark marshmallow, and two really bright ones). This has the added advantage of making them stand out visually.
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  Tids & Bits 12:24 AM -- Tue May 13, 2008  

Firstly, this weekend marks the sad day when I got 100% complete on Ratchet 4 (for the second time), so I am now officially out of Ratchet games unless I get Size Matters (which I hear is unwise), or a PS3. Or I re-get #1, but to be honest, the thought of all the mini-games makes me loathe to do it.

Guess that just leaves WoW to entertain me! I've really really been enjoying that of late, teaming up with a friend of mine across the country on the rare occasions when our schedules match, and getting my guys up to level 40 where new and exciting things happen (horseys, and usually some other good stuff, depending on your class). Really, I have gotten almost nowhere in months, but I am enjoying it. I'm changing my strategy from moving all 10 characters up 2 levels at a time, keeping them in sync, over to picking 2 guys and just focusing on them until some unknown future point. That will be nice, because I won't be doing the exact same quest five times right in a row, it'll be spread out. I also read a lot of exciting news this weekend about Wrath Of The Lich King which makes me quite excited about that. I may end up sacrificing poor Dedmanwalkin to make room for a Death Knight when the time comes. We'll see.

Today in Happyponygate news, it's starting to feel like a game. Don't get the wrong impression, as it isn't even in anything close to the realm of alpha, and won't be for a very long time, but it feels more functional now. I have most of the first sector map done, and I can wander around that blowing up streetlights and gunning down poor Marshmallow Soldiers, and both my gun and I gain experience. Originally, you had to feed your gun jellybeans to level it up, but that was extremely awkward and annoying, since you had to go into your inventory and drag them to the gun one at a time. Now they gain XP as they inflict damage, and that is a lot more fun.

I spent a couple hours today also drawing up a talent system exactly like WoW's (with 4 talent trees, one for each element). There's still a ton of holes in the game design and I've toyed with a million different things to do in terms of how you improve and advance. This is just the latest. I have no idea what the final outcome will be, all I've done so far is write down the talents in a lovely color-coded spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are my favorite toy.

Originally, I really intended this game to be an outright parody of the game it is similarly named to, and so I had based a lot of things around that, but one by one, those things are melting away. Then it started turning into GTA, and now I'm debating whether you will be able to drive cars! I do want there to be, but even if they control well, they really require a hugely expansive world to make driving worthwhile, which is a massive commitment in map-making.

It also creates an issue - if you can just run down the monsters, using your guns is foolish. Running them over is a lot safer and you can just buzz through the whole game. On the flipside, if you can't run them over, cars are useless, as you smash into a monster every 3 feet. I actually do intend to upgrade you from no-roadkills to roadkills (remember, conventional weapons - cars included - have no effect on Happy Ponies!) during the game, but I wonder how well it can work out on either side of that exchange. It really messes with the Crimsonland/Alien Shooter vibe that is the one focus I have never lost from the beginning. You need hundreds of guys pouring at you from every direction to make that exciting, and whether you can run them down in a car or not, that is a conflict with the idea of cars. Either the car can't ever get anywhere, or it's far and away the best option at all times (of course, you won't be able to run down every monster, bigger ones will be more like a head-on collision, so there will be excitement in terms of trying to avoid hitting those). I don't know, I think it may work out... your car can take damage as you hit guys and you eventually need to get out. But there will always be so many cars around... Well, we'll see how it goes!

Oh, and of course, on the other side of that issue, I've made a huge list of different cars and missions involving certain cars. If you read that document, you'd think that's what the entire game is about! I love the idea of those missions, so it seems cars are important. But if they are remotely well-balanced, will driving missions be possible at all, given the endless hordes of badguys? Probably not. Quite a tangle, this is.
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  Splosions 06:21 PM -- Thu May 8, 2008  

Semi-productive day in the other-computer mines. Now blowing up trash cans and dumpsters yields nice little explosions. But better than that, when ponies and their minions die, they fall over as usual, but then they vaporize in a puff of blue stuff. It's just a nice little effect, I like it a lot better than the previous "blink to death because apparently this is Double Dragon." Besides those various explosions, weapons actually have the right graphics now! Well, some do. The only one I am actually testing, the H.R. Puffencrush, certainly does. It fires big chunky marshmallows which are much more fun to see than the old red dots.

In addition to visual splendor, damage is now inflicted properly - the game actually knows at long long last that the marshmallows are Sweet Damage, and thus they have a 1% chance to cause Tooth Decay (and 150% damage) on impact. That was a major overhaul of half the files in the game, since damage used to simply be a number.

And if that weren't enough for you, along with some bug fixes, there's now an infinitely long highway leading out of town. Feel free to walk down it for all eternity. You will not reach America (and it's not some Escheresque trick where heading back up will send you right back to town - you really are however many miles away you walked!). But I am somewhat tempted to have it end in a border station at some point. Guess you'll never know unless you walk down it! For a long time. I'm debating how you'll appear in the game. Remember Rocket Keychains? Those are based on the model of Bouapha's rocket ship as seen (pretty much only by me) in SpisHulk. Maybe his rocket should be landed on the road there, indicating that that's how he arrived. Either that or he should have a car, but then there are issues of what kind of car he would drive, and you'd be able to drive it down the infinitely long road. Maybe if you drive far enough the game ends with you giving up and leaving London to its fate. Kind of like the beginning of Karateka. You can sure lose that game quickly, especially if your joystick isn't calibrated right.
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  Sneak Peek: Happyponygate 06:37 PM -- Wed May 7, 2008  

Today's sneak peek demonstrates the user interface of Happyponygate, as well as what was going to be a very secret enemy. I've decided to display this enemy today in honor of the holiday we are celebrating today. If you don't know what I mean, then you surely don't know what this enemy is, either! You'll just have to find out. The monster's still going to be secret in game - you may have seen it now, but you don't know how to encounter it in the game!

Obviously the monster is just pasted over the screen, not actually in the game at the moment. But I think it turned out great - it's remarkably close to the concept art I used, right down to the oddly tentacular roots! Anyway, this is the on-screen interface as well. The big block at top is the life meter, and all the white bars are meters for different things (all full at the moment for testing purposes). Weapons go in the slots down the side, click on them to select. You can also select with the number keys on the keyboard (and - and = for weapons 11 and 12). Click Menu to visit the menu (same as pressing ESC), and the intentionally blank spot is for something else you will find out about someday.

That's it! Nice and simple and easy to use.

I got much done today already, as you see in the picture. How did such a miracle occur? Quite simply, and I don't know how I didn't come up with this plan before. I realized that since most of my development tools only work on my old computer (non-Vista), it was ridiculous that I tried so hard to work on the new computer. It's always cramped my style dramatically, and I would procrastinate doing any art or sound for weeks and weeks just because I knew I'd have to go over, turn on that computer, fire up the needed programs, do the work, transfer the results over, and so on. So today I decided to move the code over there, and just do all the work there! The difference is splendiferous. That computer is also not connected to the internet, making it even more ideal for not slacking off. That is probably the reason I avoided being there before. I like to slack off.

Sol Hunt has given me a deadline on this game - it's supposed to be in a playable complete-ish state (not necessarily even beta, just something worth playing) by the time her school gets out. I have 5.5 weeks. I have a lot of work to do.
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  Perdon! 04:26 PM -- Tue May 6, 2008  

Ay! No he blogado mucho! I don't even know if that's conjugated right. But I do know blogar is not an actual Spanish verb. It means "to blog" in Jamulish.

So, results are in for LD48 #11! I did well. I got 1st place in Humor, 2nd place in Theme, 3rd place Overall, 5th place in Polish, 5th place in Audio, 6th place in Graphics, and far too low to bother even calculating in Technical, Innovation, and sadly Fun. I also got insanely low ranks in Food, Journal, and Timelapse, but I didn't try to compete in those.

I got a lot of comments that my game was really nifty but not fun. Oh well, I am happy with it! And the first place in humor is a triumph (note: huge success!), because it really was intended to be a joke in video game form. Looks like it worked! I thought it was fun to play too (though I can really understand not thinking that... all it was was trying to click objects quickly). Many people lamented the fact that you start over when you die, but my defense is twofold. First fold: the whole game can be completed in under a minute (and by "can be", I mean "must be", because you'd lose if you took longer!), so really how bad is restarting? And second fold: I made it work that way (and with a simple fade out rather than any kind of "GAME OVER") intentionally, so that it would seem at first glance that all you do is watch a leaf fall and then it returns to the title screen. The actual game is supposed to be sort of a secret... a really really obvious one, but nonetheless, a bit of a surprise. It's supposed to appear to be some kind of snooty art garbage, but then you subvert that by blowing it apart. I was going to have big gunshot noises too (I also considered having your clicks be used to target nuclear homing missiles), but that would ruin the surprise at the 4th level, since you'd already be in ridiculousness at that point.

So no, commenters! I do not regret the restart on death! I shan't repent! It's funny because I am a stickler for playability and ease of use, and I would never make a restart-from-the-top game normally, but this joke game truly calls for it. Although one commenter did mention limited lives, that would be nice (but again, they'd have to kick in on level 4 or something, or they'd ruin the joke).

By the way, the words that many people can't understand in the game are: "THE K IS SILENT!" (bad Sean Connery impression), "WHAT A DRAMATIC CONCLUSION!" (bad Strongbad impression), and at the end is an outtake from when I was recording rhino noises, where I am laughing and saying "Rhinos don't sound like that!". That's because I was actually making cooing noises, something I probably should've included in that sound clip. Come to think of it, that final rhino should've cooed as it fell.

So that's that game. Another game just finished was our first try at Heroes Mafia. It was so awesome! My wife thought I was crazy because I'd run around the house shouting out strategies and plans, and how things were working. I was a bit excited about it. I am dying for the next game of Heroes!
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  Sneak Peek: Happyponygate 05:41 PM -- Fri May 2, 2008  

As promised, it's a Chocolate Moose! Two, because I wanted to get a shot of him facing you. Surprisingly enough he has big googly eyes. This is also the lovely alleyway you begin the game in (it won't be full of monsters like this, though). You can see some debug text in there too, ignore that. I always feel a little guilty making the monsters just a bunch of spheres stuck together like this because it's so easy, but honestly it's exactly the result I want. That is my style, and it's just a coincidence that it's really easy to build. I love super round, super simple, characters.
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  Playtime's Over, Punk! 08:23 PM -- Thu May 1, 2008  

I feel like I've been spending far too much time playing instead of working lately, so I'm kicking my point system back into gear! It didn't last long because of some interruption or the other... I think it was when I got sick. But anyway, it was a good system that worked well for me, and I'm bringing it back! Today was my first day back on it, after yesterday indulging in too much Ratchet in the morning, and too much WoW all evening.

Today is the first of the month, so I've earned my points on maintenance type things - the newsletter is written, three addons are (almost) ready to go, new fan art is up, the monster contest is judged and done, and a new microntest is up. Oh, and I've finally finished judging LD48 entries. Right now I am working on the bills and writing a journal entry in which I am writing "writing a journal entry in which I am writing "writing a journal entry in wh... okay. Hey, and I did the dishes too!

So, I'm holding off on sending out the newsletter until I have the addons up, and I'm holding off on the addons until I get some files I am missing for one of them, but aside from that, it feels pretty productive. Tomorrow, maybe I can be productive on an actual project.
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  Ker-Blam 02:14 AM -- Tue April 29, 2008  

Little update on the 'Gate today. Items are now destructible! It was a little bit complex for various reasons. First, items have never had 'health' in this engine, so I had to find a way to cram that in without breaking my existing map. That wasn't really a requirement, since I've hardly done anything on the map, but I always hate to trash things. Lucky for me, that turned out to be easy once I discovered how I load and save maps (discover is the right word - that code hasn't been touched in 8 years!).

Secondly, there was a bigger issue, which is that items only occupy a single tile of space. They're an element of the map. That would be okay if they were all tile-sized, but of course they are often quite huge, like my trash dumpsters. They could of course be arbitrarily sized, treated like monsters in that regard, and kept in a list, but that means a whole lot more collision checks, and I am already increasing the number of bullets that will be bumping into things at once, not to mention other stuff like the scrolling world that just slow this game down more than previous ones made with this engine. So bad idea to do that. Instead, I did something used in a lot of the previous games - added invisible blocks that can be placed to make items get in your way over a wider area. But this time, that's not enough - you need to be able to shoot those inviso-blocks and have it harm the main item, and when the main item is destroyed, all its associated inviso-blocks need to die with it, or you'd have strange invisible obstacles left over. So I made a whole system of invisible blocks with a direction, so you place items on the map, then inviso blocks around them that point to the item. They feed the damage done to them onto the item, and when it's destroyed, they go with it.

So anyway, it all works! You can destroy items now, but there are no explosions or anything, they just vanish. Yay?
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