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Sneak Peek: Super Happy Go Go Ninja Time09:59 PM -- Wed August 31, 2005

This is the work in progress on the Timeline screen. That's where you pick which Era you want to play. Each one is a glowing blob on a wavy timeline of the history of the world (there's no reason it curves, I just thought a straight line would be very boring). The inset shot shows you that (I just made repeated copies of the Ninja Academy era for testing, so there's a lot of Feb 11, 1925). The not-inset shot shows what happens when you try to move from a nice normal year like 1925 to a far away year like 30,000 BC. It's a really cool effect, it scrolls at ludicrous speed and all those globs that were floating around happily turn into streaks of light. By the way, you don't actually control the ninja on this screen, he's just floating through space-time from each era to the next as you select them. The menu stuff at the bottom is going to be all replaced, it's not what I want at all.

Technical note: this was the first time I ever tried implementing bezier curves. I of course grabbed the code off the net as usual (hooray for the internets!), but I was amazed at how easily it worked, it was great. Makes me want to make curvy things all over the place.
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Long time, no update12:37 AM -- Tue August 30, 2005

It's been a while! What's news... I have come in very very low in the rankings on the latest Game Design Showdown at the boardgame site I visit. I knew I wouldn't do well with the game design I entered, but I still think it would make a fun game if it were fully developed!

Ninja news: not a lot. I've mostly made up the screen that lets you know about your goals before you begin a level. I've also got a good start on the Timeline screen, that shows all the available Eras and lets you pick which one to play. I also did some fixing up of little stuff in the game. Did you know there are poles to swing on? Those aren't in Ninja Academy, and they're kind of nifty.

Today I made the enhanced version of the last Monthly Merge, which won't be available until guessing time has closed, of course. It's pretty cool - there's a final level where you have to punch in all of your mystery guesses in order to earn the Loonykey. Unfortunately, it gives you NO feedback to let you know which ones you don't have right, so you just have to get them all right! I guess I'll also post up all the solutions and explanations at that time too. It'd just be cruel otherwise. This was my favorite merge, loads of fun and surprises.

The next Merge is all ready to go when the time comes too, and we'll start the name-dropping for HH6 at the same time. I guess 2 weeks to drop names, 1 week to vote, and then a little over 1 month to build. There won't be a Monthly Merge in October because of Halloween Horror.

Nothing else, I think... have a lovely evening, while I go review some games!
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New Experiences01:27 AM -- Tue August 23, 2005

Earlier tonight I was having an experience I've never had before (and I bet you haven't either): I was stirring a pot of sweet and sour sauce with one hand, while holding a jar with a spider in it with my other hand. It was certainly not a life-changing moment, but it made me stop and think "weird." I also thought "I hope he doesn't get out."

Very little Ninja progress of late. That's a combination of laziness and a bombardment of other things needing to get done. But I have implemented the tutorial system, which makes scrolls of text pop up at certain points to teach you your moves. I've also created the moonshine still, which is kind of the 'end of level' marker. If you touch it, the screen warps away into whiteness (because you're traveling through time) and the level ends. It's a cool effect.

On a side note, Kid Mystic for the Mac has begun! I have been informed that it is already playable (since the code is so similar to Loonyland, the guy porting it had very little trouble), and may in fact be done. It just needs to be tested out and have whatever problems crop up get fixed. How's that for a sudden surprise?! We're almost a full-fledged crossplatform studio here.

I wanted to say this too: I finally finished Kingdom Hearts. I have no idea why I finished it, but I did. I was compelled by the whole collecting-of-various-things element that all RPGs have, despite the fact that Kingdom Hearts is a horrible game! It's AWFUL! There's just too many things wrong to properly complain about. But let me say this, a lot of people play RPGs for their stories. I hope those people never play this game. Because they will seriously hurt their brains. This was a game that really got me thinking about all the things in videogames that we just do because it's a game, and you know you have to do it to advance. Like you see a glowing pillar of light, so you walk up and touch it, knowing that it will do something. That is not real life. If I see a glowing pillar of light in real life, I move away from it, to avoid third degree burns. I also don't look directly at it. Games are just so random. They have their own internal non-logic, and you just follow it without even thinking. There's a monster, you start smacking it. There's a door, you open it. There's any item that looks not nailed down, you start grabbing. That's videogames!
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Nature Pix VI: In The Mix With Twix08:13 PM -- Sat August 20, 2005

(a sponsored edition of Nature Pix!)

This is the grand finale because I don't want to do these anymore! I'll put up pix as interesting ones arrive in the future, though, just no mega-picture barrages anymore. Anyway, it's an extra large edition today, to close things out with a bang. Let's start with something decidedly unnatural:

This is our handiwork! It's the half of the cat run we have built so far. Unfortunately, without the other half, it can't contain cats, so it's not doing anyone any good right now. But in this small, dark, picture, you can't tell how poorly constructed it is! Also note the comfy hammock in the background.

Speaking of cats, remember how I said Zazzy looks really bad when you take her picture? Well, I got some good pictures, so I don't feel too guilty sharing some horrible pictures with you. They're funny:

She looks... special. But here are good ones!

In the lower picture she is playing with a water cap, the toy she loves.

And now without further ado, the big nature pix surprise that I happened to snap while I was on the phone with Solee shortly after starting this whole nature pix thing...

Serpentus Mariachius!! It's a rattlesnake! The lower right picture is to give you some size perspective (provided you know how big our propane tank is...) - he was maybe four feet! That's the first living snake we have seen out here, and what a monster it was! You can kinda see the rattle sticking up in the lower left picture. So wow! What a finale! A rattlesnake, people! Lucky for us, he was on his way into the neighbor's yard when I got the picture, so he's not our problem now. Hope they're enjoying his company!

So, that's the big finale to Nature Pix. We hope you have enjoyed your stay here with Nature Pix, and please make sure you don't leave any of your belongings behind. Happy trails!

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Nature Pix V, Earl Of Picturedom01:11 AM -- Thu August 18, 2005

Hoppitus Nibblia. Short of lizards, these bunnies are the most common lifeform (well, okay, ants) we see around here. There are probably more than a dozen of them that live in our yard. I was avoiding posting this picture for a long time, because I was hoping I could get a jackrabbit picture to contrast him to. I always thought jackrabbit was just a word for wild desert bunnies, but no. They are very different! They stand up on their legs instead of huddling flat to the ground, they are huge, and their ears are huger. They actually look like little deer with giant ears instead of antlers. They're also very skittish, so I never got to take a picture of one. Interestingly, all the bunnies we have around here have a very distinct rust colored spot on the back of their necks. A quick google tells me "May be caused by fading through over-exposure to the sunlight, dirty hutches, or dead hair about to molt." - I'm guessing it's the sunlight (although their hutches are holes in the ground, so they're not exactly clean). And now, the wrath of nature, since we only had 4 kitties to share with you:

This is a dry wash that runs through our yard. Or at least it was until the most intense rainstorm in the history of the world, about 2 weeks ago. As you can see, it became a raging river! See how it's eroded several inches down the left side? It was pretty much flat ground before the rain started (about 10 minutes before this picture). What rain, you ask?

This rain. Look at the ground. Oh that's right, you can't see the ground because there's an inch of standing water over our entire yard!

I have it on good authority from someone who's lived here for more than fifteen years that this is not anything like normal weather. And actually, the weather has transmogrified since then... it's so beautiful now. Every day warm and sunny with a strong breeze, but not hot. It feels like the beach! Luckily, for now, without the water. I no longer lock myself away from the absurd heat, I can leave the windows open all day. The biggest problem now is that the nights are getting rather brisk. You know, it can snow in the winter around here. That'll be something to see!
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Nature Pix IV: The Naturing02:00 AM -- Tue August 16, 2005

I went for a walk the other day and encountered two new sights. First, this is Reptilius Guccius, the fancy designer lizard - black with red racing stripes. There were two of them on the rock, but one was braver than the other. Still, you can't tell too much, since I couldn't get very close before he zipped off, but he's got red markings around his head and neck:

And this is a pair of some kind of little birds (Avius Whatever), but I caught them in an action shot! They were really not scared of me. I don't know if it's a mating dance or a fight, but they were jumping all over the place kinda pecking at each other:

And lastly, we have Felis Bovinus, a strange crossbreed between a dairy cow and a house cat (closer in size to the cow at 21 pounds). We call him Huzzah. All our cats love to flop over for tummy rubs, usually anytime we get anywhere near them, but Huzzah is the king. He's hard to find right side up at all:

And this is just a funny picture of him yawning:

So that concludes the interior portion of Nature Pix, leaving us only with outdoor things. Or at least I hope so, unless something horrible sneaks in again, like the centipede.
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Nature Pix 3.009:13 PM -- Sun August 14, 2005

Here's Sciurius Diggius, the common ground squirrel. We have, I think, a pair of these, which like to dig holes around our yard. They have a cute habit of digging a little trench and shoving their body through it quickly to throw dirt over themselves, like a dirt bath. The big picture's an action shot! Oh, see that water fountain? It used to be solar powered, for about 24 hours (well, I guess it was only powered for 12 of those hours). These very same squirrels decided they were hungry for solar power and chewed right through the cord. So now it's just a birdbath that's empty most of the time. Incidentally, the light in the inset shot is also solar powered, but without any wires for them to chew. Wish our house was solar.

And this is Felis Squeakius, a specimen we call Zazzy. This is the only decent recent picture I can find of her, because although she is the cutest cat in the world, she's extremely unphotogenic. She has incredible reflexes (cat-like, even) and can squint her eyes and make an awful face faster than the camera can flash. Actually, I wish I had included one of those shots here, it's pretty funny. But then you'd think I had an ugly cat.

She's not mad in this picture, she just has folded ears. And, you can barely tell, a stubby tail. I'm trying to get through the more boring pictures (and of course, one cat a day) before I get to the good stuff! Good stuff's coming!
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More Nature Pix03:28 PM -- Sat August 13, 2005

Today we have two more sights to share. First, this is the best shot I could muster of our herd of baby quail (Avius Teensius):

Those little guys are skittish when I pop up with a camera. You can't tell how tiny they are in this shot - they're about 2 inches tall at the most! Usually you can see their parents around too, but they were on their way running across the road to meet their parents here.

Next up is Kittius Chewius, a specimen we call Oliver. Here's a montage of shots to enjoy:

Yes, in the upper left, he is eating watermelon. He loves watermelon. Beneath that, he's actually eating an important contract. He loves important contracts too. Luckily, I had already faxed it. Under him in that shot, you can see what remains of my stock of the old CDs, and some of the Halloween goodies!
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Nature Pix!09:37 PM -- Thu August 11, 2005

For the next little while, until I run out of accumulated pictures, I shall share with you daily in this journal some lovely photos of the world of Hamumu.

Today we have two subjects to share. First is Lizardus Verymanius Anzia, or the Very Very Common Anza Lizard. Three excellent specimens here (bad pictures though, sorry), though I could probably rack up another 10 lizard shots every day just by randomly rotating the camera and clicking. I like lizards, I'm glad our yard is overrun with them. They come in all sizes from the adorably teensy to "is that an iguana?"

Second is Felis Domesticus Bonsaius, or the rare Tweaky Orange Kitty, who we just call Bonsai for short (get it? Bonsai? For short? Bada-bing!).

Any container you open up, he hops right in. I showed him the bag, and that was the result above. He slept in it for an hour. The other picture shows one of his favorite spots, just laying in front of the fireplace.

That's it for today, but wait until you see what I got a picture of today... I hope it came out. It won't be up for a while, A> for suspense, and B> because it's a pain since the camera is all set up to download to the mac, not this computer.
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Sky High02:06 AM -- Wed August 10, 2005

Taking Sol Hunt to the airport to be without her and live a bachelor life for the next two weeks, we stopped to see a movie (well, not like we just stopped along the way... we planned it). Sky High. It's definitely a kid's movie, but it was very funny. I try to watch every movie that has Bruce Campbell in it, you know. His autobiography, If Chins Could Kill, is a very good book. I'm into 'behind the scenes' type stuff like that (of course, he's also very funny). Lately we watched the first two seasons of Project Greenlight via our Netflix, and it was the same thing. I just find it really interesting to see the process behind how the magic happens, whatever magic it may be. It's also fun to see people secretly loathing each other, of course.

Speaking of horrible people, here's a FUN thing that happened a couple days ago. We were driving on the highway out here, and someone had to make a left turn into a driveway, but there were cars coming. So our side of the highway was held up for maybe 20 seconds or so, quite a few of us, a line of about 10 cars or so. But you know, no big deal, it had to be done, and it wasn't long. But this one guy whipped out of line and drove along the dirt shoulder at high speed trying to zip around us all. This is the cool part - by the time he got to the front of our line, the other guy had made his turn, and we had gotten going again. So all of us proceeded to gradually motor past him, and he couldn't get in, and ended up having to wait for the entire procession of cars to pass him before he could pull back into the road (previously he had been somewhere in the middle of the pack). It was cool! Huzzah, comeuppance!

We got to experience a flash flood in person, flashing and flooding right through our yard, just yesterday. My UPS flicked to battery mode like 4 times. It was the craziest downpour ever. I will be sharing pictures of that and other exciting Anza fun in the near future, so hold your breath for that intense action.
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Komputer Kraziness!06:56 PM -- Sun August 7, 2005

Hey, I bought a UPS for my computer, and it got its first use the very next day - we had two tiny brownouts (like 1/2 second each), and it zipped right through them fine, while other things around the house briefly ceased and sputtered. Hooray! Looking at the grey sky and lightning flashes outside, today might be another chance for it to shine! I just don't get the weather here. It's kind of nice except for the roads falling apart.

And a followup on the wonders of Earthlink. After giving them a month and half to refund the money that I was told on two separate occasions would be refunded in 7-10 days (but the second time he started out trying to tell me I only deserved a partial refund... until I ripped him a new one), I got fed up and contacted my credit card company to have the charges reversed. They responded promptly and effectively and I got my refund in under a week. I didn't know that initially though, since I wanted to go online today and discovered that my dial up account wasn't working. It said "invalid username/password". I thought that was odd! So I called up a new dialup company, that luckily Google Desktop found in my web cache (just last week I had been seeking alternatives to Earthlink to switch to, once this fiasco was over). I signed up, got online with the new account (FAR cheaper, and personal service), and went to check my credit card account, because I had a suspicion. Well, what do you know? The very same day that I find my Earthlink dialup not working, is the very same day that my refund has appeared in my account! Which is nice, because I was paid in full for the dialup - the refund was for satellite service which I of course never received, hence the desire for a refund. So those vindictive weasels just yanked my account out of spite, and kept the half month or however much I've already paid for. Spite for what? For finally getting the refund they told me twice I would've gotten a long time ago. Nice, huh?

I'm actually really happy though - I got my money back at last ($600, I was kind of missing it...), and at the same time, I got my Earthlink account cancelled without having to deal with them on the phone (which would've been 10 minutes of "Are you sure you want to leave? But we offer..."). I guess I better call up anyway though, to make sure I'm not going to get billed still. I wouldn't be surprised.

Moral: Do NOT use Earthlink.
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Nature Notes08:19 PM -- Thu August 4, 2005

Firstly, it poured rain and even hailed today. The world has gone mad.

Secondly, on our walk yesterday, we saw a tarantula crossing the road! It was huge, like 3 or 4 inches long, just moseying along all slow. That's our first non-zoo tarantula, and quite a sight it was. Just another fine reason to kick ourselves for not bringing our camera when we do walks.

Thirdly, each of our cats has a game they play. It's fun. Zazzy plays catch (sort of) - if you throw the correct type of water bottle cap (she only likes Crystal Geyser caps), she'll jump up to swat it out of the air, or catch it with both paws and grab it in her mouth, then smack it around some more. She gets upset if you stop throwing it though, she doesn't like to just play by herself.

Huzzah plays fetch just as well as any dog... if you're using the right toy. He'll only fetch these sparkly little fluffball cat toys we've got. We keep losing them since he loves to bat them around, especially under things. But he does it so well, running out there and bringing it back to you to throw again. That's my favorite. He came up with it himself, we never tried to do any training. He just realized that we'd throw it if he brought it to us.

Bonsai plays hide and seek! If you get his attention and then run away from him rapidly and hide somewhere, he'll come looking for you, and always finds you eventually. If he can't find you for a little while, he cries, but he keeps looking! It makes him really happy to find you, and he likes it when you run off to hide again. I tried to play it with him today, but he decided to chase at high speed instead, so I never actually got away from him.

And there's Ollie. He plays "chew up the paper", and "especially if it's important". He also enjoys "chew the wire" and "torment the big fat cat just by being near him". He's basically a monster. But I'm convinced that when he grows up a little, he'll have a game of his own he likes to play. Maybe it'll be Kid Mystic.

They're cats, so that qualifies as a nature note.
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Geeks & Thanks01:15 AM -- Thu August 4, 2005

Here's the thing with geeks. A geek is someone who has no power. They're not physically strong, they're not famous or popular, they're not a success in intellectual pursuits (I'm speaking of a specific type of geek here, not just the general brand). So what do geeks do? They create their own world in which they do have power. This may be a comic book they draw, it may be RPGs that they play, it may be short stories. Or it may be a special private geek community they create with fellow geeks. Kind of a big "No Homers Club". This last is the most powerful, because now, the geeks actually hold power over other real people! If, for some odd reason, people want something that their little club provides, or wants in, they can deny them, and smugly feel mighty and splendid. The Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons is the archetype of this brand of geek.

I tell you the above only because I recently had the slightly frustrating experience of being rebuffed by such a secret geek club. It's only slightly frustrating, because I'm not missing out on much (just a listing on a certain website that very few people would ever have seen...), and I know that their little community is all they (they being specifically the guy who got my listing yoinked) have. So I can be smug too, suckas. Oh, and the frustration is also lessened simply because the validity of my listing was really right on the edge to begin with. It could've gone either way in fairness. I shall leave them to their private geekery however by not naming names or citing the situation in any further detail.

Oh, and boy do I like having my owning private geekdom to rule over here at Hamumu!! BOW DOWN BEFORE HIGH ELF KING HAMUMU AND HIS +3 BROADSWORD OF SMITING! It's especially appropriate because in desperation for something to read, I have just started in on the Dragonlance books, which my wife has had in her possession since she was young enough that they were appropriate and 'cool'.

Thank you to Drgamer for his efforts and work in regards to the geekery situation above, by the way, even though they were sadly futile. And thank you to Mr. Zee for his appreciation of the effort I put in to keep these games new and fun! It's a much more fun job when I know my work is being appreciated!
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Sneak Peek: Super Happy Go Go Ninja Time10:35 PM -- Tue August 2, 2005

At long last, there are now Tony Hawk combos! It's fun! Those swirlies coming off the ninja are from performing the Atomic Drop, which is not in Ninja Academy (actually, I think it's in the Mac version, but with no special effects). It's a three-fold move: it drops you out of the sky straight down, which is good for controlling where you land, and it smashes all badguys within a radius, which is good for pummeling, and when it's over, you are walking the opposite direction, which is good for controlling which way you're moving! In the list of moves executed, "Beatdown" is not actually a move, it's just giving me credit for finishing off Training Dummies.

So lots of polishing of that combo system today, and it seems to work properly now. It's kind of tricky - as long as you remain in the air, your combo keeps going. As long as the last guy you hit has not recovered from being hit, your combo keeps going. And if you finish someone off, you have 1 second bonus time to get back into your combo before it ends. So as you can see, there's lots of things that keep a combo going, but in the frantic ninjitsu storm, it's still not easy to keep comboing!

There's also a new life meter in this shot (and that new font). I don't really like this life meter much better than the old, so I still need to come up with something new.
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Flash Flood!03:05 AM -- Mon August 1, 2005

Whoa. We went away for the day, came back and everything looked just like before, warm and sunny and clear. Until we got to our road (note: our road is aptly named "Dusty Road"), and discovered that apparently it had rained while we were gone. HARD. The entire road was rutted and trashed by an obvious flood of some size. Not like a real flood or anything, nobody's house or cars had moved, but the road is sure in bad shape now! So is our yard. Well, not bad shape, but it's covered with ruts. Crazy. I wish we hadn't missed that storm, it must've been something. Quite a shock to come home to that. I don't know what is going on this summer, it's like living in the tropics during monsoon season.

The indie (or semi-indie?) game Fate is really fun. Of course, that's only because it's an exact clone of Diablo 2 (and the parts where it strays from Diablo are the weakest parts... come on people, we need a multi-layered skill tree, so that there are choices to be made!). But it is very cool, to be sure.
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