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  Charged Amulet Of Restoration 06:29 PM -- Mon January 30, 2006  

I was supposed to work on the shop screens in Toonyland today, which is why instead items have been greatly revamped! See, I hate working on menu-type stuff, it drives me nuts. So, I don't know if I have done a dissertation on the items in the game yet, so here's one now, with the new stuff too:

There are 3 kinds of equipment in the game. Axes (which you smack foes with), Parkas (which protect you from harm), and Amulets (which increase your magic). You always wear one of each, of course. The items can be Normal, Magic, or Golden. Normal items just have stats - Axes have speed and damage, Parkas have armor, and Amulets have magic power.

Magic items add a magical bonus, and a skill bonus. So for example, a "Charged Amulet Of Restoration" is magic. It has the bonus of "Charged" which means you regenerate magic a little quicker than normal, and it boosts your Restoration skill by 1 point. The skill boosted by a Magic item is always appropriate - Axes boost your axe skills, Parkas boost your passive skills, and Amulets boost your magic skills. Oh, and magic items tend to be slightly better in their basic stats as well (for example, if you find a magic Axe, it will most likely do a little more damage and be slightlyfaster than a regular Axe that you find around the same area, though it is random).

Golden items are exactly like magic items, except they are slightly better yet in their basic stats, and they give boosts to three different skills instead of just one. Only one of those three has to be an appropriate skill. The other two might be any of the skills in the game. Golden items are very nice to have, and very very rare. One kind of lame thing that isn't gonna change is that skills can't go above 10 points. So if you have 9 points in a skill and are wearing two items that boost that skill, you still only have a total of 10, not 11. I know it's fun in Diablo to push those things beyond the limits, but it's too hard to deal with the semi-unlimited potential of that, so you'll just have to avoid maxing out a skill if you are assuming you'll get an item to boost it! One other skill issue - if you haven't discovered the Skill Scroll for a skill, you can't even see the name of the skill, much less get bonuses to it. So you might find for example, an "Energetic Parka of ????". Which is kinda fun.

So the thing I added today was that special bonus that magic and golden items have. There are a bunch of different possible bonuses. I think it's made the items way more interesting. Now you have things to consider. I kind of want to add unique items or, more importantly, set items (specially named items that belong together and get a bonus when you wear them together), but I don't really have a very flexible system, so that may wait until another game.

So that's the Toonyland items! Enjoy!
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  Talkiversary 05:31 PM -- Sun January 29, 2006  

Today is my talkiversary, the anniversary of the day my wife and I first talked (online, since we met online!). We spent it out in the yard digging huge holes and planting all the aforementioned trees. That was a good talkiversary thing to do, because it has a certain symbolism (not that we planned it that way, it just works out nicely). You know, planting these trees that will live for decades (hopefully) as long as we're both here to take care of them. That of course goes back to my laziness, because if it were just me, they'd be dead. I also secretly ordered the Penny Arcade book for a present, since it's something we can both enjoy, which is really how an anniversary should work. It's not like a birthday or something. It's about the two of you together!
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  Fruit! Woot! 06:56 PM -- Sat January 28, 2006  

We just went and bought ourselves an orchardful of bare root fruit trees. We got: a mulberry tree (once planted, we can go 'round it... never had a mulberry before, hope it's good), 2 Fuji apples, a cherry tree, a lilac (not the fruitiest choice), a Bartlett pear, a pomegranate tree, an almond tree (not fruity, but mmm!), and raspberries. So tomorrow, we will be entirely farmeriffic and plant them all. I just love the idea of plants that provide actual food you can eat. I mean, they'll grow over time, and then eventually, they'll spit out fruity goodness for us to munch on. It's like magic, and they'll make more every year, so they just keep getting better!

I think it's a personality trait. It's why I like solar energy too. The idea that you can set something up and then it just keeps on giving you stuff for free (of course, solar panels break, and plants need watering, but either way, it still beats constantly buying food or energy). I like that in games too - I like to build defensive towers instead of soldiers I have to order around. They shoot for free! I like to buy upgrades to my main weapon instead of alternate weapons that get used up. I like to equip skills that give a constant boost instead of ones I have to trigger when I want them. Is it frugality? Cheapitude? Perchance tis. Maybe it's just laziness.
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  Blah 06:34 PM -- Fri January 27, 2006  

Bad day today. Very very little got done, because I think I was developing a migraine or something. Sure had a nice long nap though! It's a great benefit of working for yourself, the nap-at-will.

So, on the literary front, I finished Odd Thomas a week or so ago, and it was okay I guess. It was a lot like the Da Vinci Code (except it's nothing like the Da Vinci Code) in that it was very quick to read, kept you reading, but ultimately was just a dumb story. Popcorn reading, I guess. To contrast...

I began Cryptonomicon. Immediately, I was just plain having fun. It's just great! I'm not even halfway done, as it is over 1000 pages, but it's so good. Very light-hearted and silly, yet with descriptions that constantly make you see absolute reality, and it's practically teaching me cryptography (look forward to a Dumb puzzle inspired by it someday). Today before my nap I got to a part where I literally laughed out loud, while I was sitting alone in the house. Truly great writing. It's not a fast read, I think there's probably about 2 pages worth of words on each page (think about that, in this 1000 page book!), but it's so worthwhile.

Reading Cryptonomicon even inspired me into writing again, because as I may have mentioned, it's some good writing. I still haven't actually finished my Nanowrimo novel. It's hovering right near the ending. I don't want to work on that though. I hope someday I do, because I would love for that to be a finished book (which will definitely take a rewrite or two). Instead, I've been doing writing prompts in The Journal, and that's fun. Now if only there was enough time in the day for all the artistic pursuits I'd like to pursue!
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods 06:16 PM -- Fri January 27, 2006  

Look, in Loonyland 2, all the villagers look different! That's the kind of class this game has. Top right is Kinyova, below him is the Magicsmith (currently wiping some dust off her robe). The upper left is Bobby Joe, and below him is Healiana. Also, there's a new enemy, an evil marionette. Currently, this enemy is called "Punch Sans Judy". However, there are a few problems. It's too high-brow and cultured of a joke, and too long and unwieldy for a super basic badguy. On the plus side, it is a nice warning that their only attack is in fact to punch you. Evil puppet names are a bit tricky. Oh, and of course, someday I will kick the enemies out of town, they don't belong there.

I'm getting somewhat close to having the first "chapter" of the game done. It doesn't have chapters at all, but there are certain quests that when you complete them, you gain access to more of the world, so that's how I'm breaking up my work. Right now, I'm implementing all the early game stuff which takes place south of the river. Somehow you will get to cross that river eventually. There are a lot more quests in this game than in the first Loonyland. I think there are 14 so far, just in this first area (some will not be completable until much later though). There should be 40 or 50 when it's done. I like the idea of lots of quests, because they give you a great feeling of progress and constant reinforcement. You can always look at the list and see what you could be making progress on.

The quests are modeled after World of Warcraft in a way - I'm more concerned with having a lot of them than with them being interesting (of course, key ones are quite interesting). The idea is, you're going to spend most of your time wandering around smacking monsters anyway, so why not have there be a reward (besides the items and experience) for that? Why not have a guy say "go kill me 5 puppets", if you're going to have to wade through puppet territory anyway? That way, while you're on the way to go claim the ancient whatsit, you're not just getting there, you're smacking a puppet or two along the way, grabbing some herbs, and so on. And you don't just have the one big whatsit reward, you get a lot of lesser rewards. You get back to town and cash in 3 or 4 quests at once, hooray!
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  Ode To Harvey 12:54 PM -- Wed January 25, 2006  

Harvey is dying. He's been slowly doing so for the last couple of weeks. He just seems more miserable every day as he loses the ability to move around where he wants, or even to remain upright, and today he simply lays on the ground. I never really cared about Harvey until he started dying. I still don't really care about him, he's nothing to me other than a little more work, he's not even interesting to watch, really. But he's still a living being, as noble and good as a fish can be, given that a fish has no concept of goodness or nobility and will happily devour anyone smaller than itself. So even though he's really not someone I care about in any way, and he's had no impact on my life other than a little bit of work every day, and he's done nothing for me, it hurts to see him suffering. There's also an element of responsibility. His tank got infested with parasites recently, and we're responsible for that. We didn't deal with it for a while, and now he's dying. So is it our fault? Yes. Anything that happens to him is our fault, as he's entirely under our power.

Such is the problem with pets. Once you claim a life as belonging to you, you bear all the responsibility for it. A long time ago I decided not to have any more pets because of the inevitable pain of it (and I really decided on no fish ever! Harvey and his long-dead friends were very much not my idea!). I don't know if that was a right or wrong call - it was cowardly, of course, but isn't it also stupid to say "I will continue to stick my hand on this hot stove"? That's how I view fish at least - you don't get anything good for the downside. They're just work followed by guilt. At least cats and dogs give you something back.

But anyway, we did get pets, 2 lovely kittens (I'm not at all sure how that happened), and we bear the responsibility of them, and the damaged furniture, and the vet bills that absolutely dwarf our own medical expenses, and all the food and litter cleaning. And we get fuzzy snuggles. Then we added another cat, which was a more appropriate thing - Bonsai needed a home, and we make very good kitty parents. We didn't entirely seek him out. Then yet another! We didn't have a choice with Ollie, he claimed us and wouldn't leave us alone.

So, I am sorry that Harvey is dying, and it's my fault, and I wish he would get it over with, because he really seems to be suffering. And no way am I going to decide when it's appropriate to put an end to that, that's not a part of my skill set. Hey, maybe he'll get better! That's always a theoretical possibility. Oh, and his name is actually Sunset, I just started calling him Harvey a few weeks ago. I like it better.

So raise a glass to Harvey J. Sunset, the best person that he could be, given the limitations of being a fish. He's certainly the survivingest fish we've had, and at least according to natural selection, that makes him the greatest fish of all.
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods 06:45 PM -- Thu January 19, 2006  

A few interesting things here... First, a new badguy, the Squeaker! You can see one at the top of the screen in the process of dying. They flip over on their backs and spin (you know, because the windup key is now on the ground, get it?). Their only attack is to bump into you, which is supposed to simulate them nipping at your heels. But that's just because these are the easy mice - I invented the enemy entirely so I could make red ones that rush at you and explode. Don't they just look like they should do that? Later in the game, there will be such things.

Secondly, I am accompanied by my horde of midget Boneheads with swords! That's the Bonehead spell in action. Strangely enough, it summons Boneheads (midget ones, with swords).

Thirdly, at the top of the screen you can see what coins look like in this game. Very unorthodox, I know. They're more like giant blocks of gold (you would think they'd be worth a lot of money! I guess gold is common up in Winter Woods). But I like them. It's different, and it's "chunky" which is absolutely my main goal in visuals. I like chunky art.

And lastly, we have a Parka at the bottom of the screen. An enemy dropped that, and it has some random stats I'm not aware of. But since it's plain brown, I do know that it's not magical, so it just has some amount of armor and no special properties. It was hard to get a shot that had any items or coins in it, because Boneheads collect items for you (not intentionally, but anytime they touch them, they pick them up).
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  Goings On 07:23 PM -- Wed January 18, 2006  

I'll get a sneak peek relatively soon, but here's the latest Toonyland news: Every single skill is now implemented, except the mysterious missing spell! That's 39 wondrously exciting and action-packed skills to enjoy! Wheeeee! There are also 3 quests now, although the person that gives you one of them doesn't exist, so it would be hard to do that quest (especially since it is to collect some items that also don't exist).

I've also finally gotten back on an official schedule which means I've been doing Dumb puzzles. I have 3 ready to go, so this weekend or next week, I'll put up however many I've got. I'm really stuck on what other ones to do. It's hard to invent puzzles! Speaking of which, I plan to have very very few in Loonyland 2. Much more RPG and action.

I've finished my first book for the year, The Best Of SF 8. Short story collection. Not much to say about it, since it is a short story collection, other than "why were these stories picked!?" There were a few good ones, a few enormously incomprehensible ones that I'm clearly not smart enough for, and some really bad ones. On the whole, seemed like a waste. Now I'm reading Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, which I've heard good things about so much. It was way overly flowery to begin with (I'll have to share some quotes of how ridiculous it was), but once some actual action started happening, it has become quite engrossing. I'm about 3/4 done already!
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  Brilliant Idea 12:02 PM -- Fri January 13, 2006  

I actually had a dream in which I created an invention. It's a bad idea, but it sounds fun anyway. See, in the dream, I was on my driveway (which was paved in the dream), and all these little balls were all over the driveway, junk dropped by trees. You know, little round balls of wood basically, some trees drop things like that. I stepped on them and rolled, and suddenly I found myself sort of skating on them. A short jumpcut later, I found myself as the owner of a roller rink. But instead of people needing skates, the entire floor of the rink (which was actually just a plain old room) was marbles! So you come in in regular shoes, and skate around on the marbles. Brilliant!

After that, some mob guys tried to hit me up for protection money on my new business, but I got one in a headlock and explained to them how if any damage ever happened to my business, it would now be very clear to me who was responsible, so they better make sure nothing ever happened to my business. That was pretty cool too. Kind of inverse protection money.

I've been having a lot of weird dreams lately.
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  Eating Those Veggies 11:09 AM -- Thu January 12, 2006  

I posted this on another forum in response to someone asking how they can go vegetarian. Thought I would share the info here:

It's easy! Well, it was for me. I've been vego for 3 or 4 years, and I'm missing so little. I am still a junk food eater. Here are some handy ideas:

YUM Primal Strips Texas BBQ flavor fake jerky... give that stuff a try ASAP. I love it. It's closer to pulled pork than to jerky, really.

Fake burgers (not gardenburgers, which are just veggies smooshed into a patty, but burgers made of soy stuff that are intended to taste like burgers). You will definitely notice a difference, but of course the key is covering it with lots of good stuff. Cheese, onions, BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's, of course). Most mid-quality (above fast food) restaurants will fakify any burger. Islands' Hawaiian burger is awesome. Red Robin has a clone, the Banzai Burger. I am big on teriyaki burgers.

Investigate the fake meats. There is a wide wide range from really awful stuff to great. Tofu especially can be a broad range from slimy clam guts to really firm, meaty texture. Stuff like that generally has little flavor, so it's all in what you put on it (and of course, texture, which is big to me). Textured Vegetable Protein is the real key to fake meat. You can get these little packets of 'chicken strips' or 'beef strips', fajita style, that are really good. There is also "quorn", which is fake chicken that's GROWN. It's a fungus. Strange. It's good, but hard to get over when you know what it is. Very nice texture. There's a lot more to fake meat than just tofu.

I recommend avoiding official tofu dishes at chinese restaurants, from my experience (slime city). But I have found that ordering meat dishes, with tofu substituted for the meat, works much better. It's firm and usually fried, and of course chinese food is always full of flavorful sauces. My latest such order, my dad tried a bite and actually said "that's really good!" He was in shock.

Hot dogs. The morningstar farms fake hot dogs (normal size ones - be very afraid of any very large fake hot dogs, YUCK) to me taste exactly the same as cheap real hot dogs. Not good ones, but cheap ones, which is fine by me.

Then there are little packaged meals that are often good and ridiculously expensive. Find the little vegetarian-wackos niche in the freezer aisle, and there are some very interesting things there.

So that's the fake meat issue, which can cover your cravings very nicely. But fake meat isn't something I even eat the majority of the time. There's too much normal veg stuff I've always had that is great: spaghetti, mac n' cheese, pad thai (get it with tofu), PBJs, bean burritos (lots of mexican food is meatless, if you pretend they didn't cook it in lard, or make it yourself), fries, chips, popcorn, bread in all its splendor and forms, salads, potatoes, and on and on. If you check out your diet, you'll be surprised how many things you eat that are meatless anyway. For me, I had always had meat with lunch and dinner, basically every time, so it was different, but there were still dozens of dishes I could have anyway.

Point is: vegetarians don't generally eat weird stuff. They eat most of the same stuff everyone else does, just not the big slabs of meat that Americans tend to center dinners around.

I say, start small. Look at what's available that isn't meat. If it sounds good, even if not quite AS good, get it. If not, get the meat this time and move on. When we started, we did no meat ourselves, but whenever we were out to eat or at someone's house, and there wasn't something really good that was veg, we had meat. Eventually we stopped that and said it was cold turkey time (but not literally). My family has issues with that, and makes way too big of a deal out of it, but it works out fine.
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