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  No Sale! 09:37 PM -- Fri June 30, 2006  

Okay, here's a company shooting itself in the foot, in a fairly small and subtle way. I did something dumb. Actually, this is a complex tale of woe, so let me backtrack to before I was dumb.

When I bought Guild Wars: Factions, it came with a bunch of Free 14-Day Trials for various MMORPGs by the same company. These are just codes that you can use to create a free account that expires after 14 days. Well, I've always been intrigued by City Of Heroes, and I have been getting awesome inspiration from games like this lately. In fact, sad as this may sound, I actually have taken to reading the World Of Warcraft message boards, just for inspiration. It really works for me - what is getting players excited in that world? That kind of thing. Mostly it's more like what is making players whine and complain, but that's another issue.

So, I went to download the client program for City Of Heroes so I could use my handy dandy trial and actually play the thing! I was very excited! But then it turned out that I needed to download 2.1GB to do this. How much, you ask? Well, after 2 weeks of downloading (maybe about 10 hours a day I left it going), I had gotten 1.7GB. Sadly, that's when the download reset itself and started over from zero (I think that's because they released a new patch - can I just tell you how very much I appreciate the Guild Wars streaming download system now? I can't believe these other games actually make players download hundreds of megabytes or more every few months!). I gave up.

Then, after a week or two, the desperation kicked in some more and I began perusing eBay. I found people selling the "Bootleg Edition" of City Of Heroes. Not nearly as sneaky as it sounds, this is actually a promo edition on CD that had been given away free in Gamestop stores - including one of those 14-day trials I had myself! So, since those were going cheap, I found one for around $6 shipped, and considered it cheaper than another 2 weeks of downloading.

When it arrived, that's when I was dumb. I installed the game, then went online to register my trial account instead of running the game - thinking hey, you need an account to play, right? Now, I knew there'd be a patch to download. I knew their latest release had happened long after this Bootleg Edition had been released. I was bracing myself for 200MB or more. And more it was. Turns out I needed to download 1.4GB on top of the 2 CDs of data I had installed off of discs!

Where's the dumb part? Well, as soon as you register a trial account, it begins to count down. So now, I am in my 2 weeks of free trial, only it's going to take the whole two weeks just to download the game!! So I did the logical thing - I contacted their support, explaining this (in more succinct form), and asking if my trial could be canceled and replaced, or something. This is where they got dumb. They said no, they can't do anything about it, get over it, punk. Possibly more politely than that. So they took a chance of getting a subscriber to pay them $14.95 a month and turned it into NO chance. That is just very bad salesmanship. I mean, I didn't ask for another code, I specifically asked them to cancel this one, so it's not like I was trying to hook an extra two weeks out of them.

Of course, there are two things they don't know: #1, I have another trial code (I got one in the Bootleg and had the original from Guild Wars). #2, I have no intention of ever signing up. Monthly fees? Not for cheapskate Hamumu! So it didn't cost them anything to do this, but it's still just bad policy. The funny thing is, they actually told me that if I got my trial code from a website, I should try and see if I can get another. Why don't they have trial codes to hand out themselves?

So that's the story. I can't say it was bad service, it was pretty prompt. But it was bad business!
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  The Source Of The Problem 06:08 PM -- Tue June 27, 2006  

I went to the dentist today for the usual cleaning. The hygienist told me "That one spot, the gums were bleeding really badly. When you floss, really spend some extra time there - it's the bacteria that cause that bleeding." Oh really? The bacteria? Funny, because I thought it was the razor sharp metal spikes that were being jabbed into my gum tissue that caused the bleeding!

See, the bacteria were there yesterday, and there was no bleeding. Today, the bleeding began. It began roughly at the moment a shard of steel was driven into my flesh. I think any detective worth his badge would be able to find the weapon used in the attack. Of course, the other possibility is that it was caused by bacteria, and the bacteria in question were right on the tip of the spikey thing, jumping into my mouth and slicing it up. If that's the case, perhaps the dentist needs to invest in an autoclave! And that, my friends, is the word of the day for today - Autoclave: A device for sterilizing medical instruments.

Actually, the visit went quite well. That was the only painful bit, which is a general surprise, and no cavities and they said I was doing a very good job. Then to go with my tooth trimming, I got my first haircut in many months, so I am now a respectable member of society.

PS - Does anybody know anything about electric fences? We're afraid that the one we got - since the manual says "DO NOT USE WITH DOGS!" - will not be safe for our dogs.
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods 05:24 PM -- Tue June 20, 2006  

Here's a new region... take a wild guess as to what it's called. There's also a new enemy visible, and the green thing up in the air is a bomb launched by said enemy.

The cliffs operate much more nicely than the ones in the original Loonyland, but it's still rather funky, trying to map 3D behavior onto a 2D view. You can now slide down the cliffsides, which works nicely. Where it gets a little weird is when you slide down the sky. It all makes some sense, but it might take a little getting used to, mentally. I've even done some tricks where your shadow is down on the ground if you're up in the sky, and you stay in a jumping animation as long as you are on sky. That helps make it seem more real, but it's still quite a bit off from what makes sense. To understand that, you'll just have to play! Items currently sit happily on the sky (or in water for that matter). I should probably make them sink in water and slide down the sky and cliffs just like you do. That would probably be a nice touch... until you saw a Golden Axe go flying into the water and sent me hate mail.

Things are now pretty thoroughly implemented right up to a pivotal moment that divides the game in two. Probably something like the first half is done. The second half will go more quickly, since a lot of stuff done for the first half will be useful to it. I will begin some manner of beta stuff when the first half is more completely solid. That way I'll be trudging along on the latter half while testers (preorderers? Maybe) are playing the first half. I imagine you guys will be a bit faster than me, since you just get to ride the train, while I have to actually lay in the tracks, but that's the magic of playing a beta! Unfinished entertainment.
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  Born yesterday? 06:41 PM -- Thu June 15, 2006  

Not to harp on the nature notes thing, but right at this moment, I am looking out the window to see a rabbit drinking from a little bowl we have out there, a big lizard doing pushups on a rock, and - this is the key and the reason I had been staring long enough for the other stuff to show up - two quail and their new family of baby quail! And by new, I mean that these guys couldn't use the phrase "I wasn't born yesterday" with any veracity. They are walking through our chickenwire fence! They're like an inch tall! The mama or papa is sitting up on our garden fence, keeping an eye out. Of course, the other parent is just lounging around picking food off the ground. But it's cute how the horde of quailitos skitter around that one. I'm a bit concerned about how much time they're spending wandering into the garden itself, but it's alright. I don't mind feeding them. I'm pretty sure these are the 3rd generation in our yard. Last year, their grandparents wandered around our yard with their parents in tow as little babies themselves, though we sure never saw them this little. Maybe we'll get their kids next year too. Of course, once the dogs are finally free to roam the yard again, that may not be so likely.

So, nobody has commented on my proposed Loonyland 2 pre-order idea. What do you think? The proposition is that once it's ready for testing, I would open it up to pre-orders. If you preorder, you get to play the beta version until the final is released, at which point of course you get that instead. Benefits to you: play the game early, you're gonna be buying it anyway (you know you are!) so it's not like you're wasting any money, and have some impact on the final product with your suggestions. Benefits to me: I don't have to try to police testers to make sure they do their job and all that junk, and I get lots of testers for free (not very dedicated testers, probably, but it's an experiment). It seems pretty good all around, although there's a certain lameness to all the surprises getting spoiled before the official release. What do you think?
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  Nature Notes 10:08 PM -- Thu June 8, 2006  

#1 - A roadrunner in our yard. You know, except for a week or two ago when I saw one on the road, that's the first time I've seen a roadrunner (outside of cartoons) since I was about 12 (when I saw exactly one as well, and never before or since). They are just really rare. I guess they're not all that interesting, just lanky birds, but it's exciting to see them just because you don't!

#2 - Very cool. A California King Snake hung around wandering right in front of our house for about an hour (I was a bit concerned for his health). I saw this a week ago or something, but the camera is all set up to put its pictures on the Mac, and the Mac user is so busy with school that she never even turns it on, so getting the pictures is a pain. I give up - I'm just gonna tell you, and I'll show pictures if I ever get the chance. It's black & white striped, very distinct, like a zebra. A two foot long, pencil-thick, zebra. Very small snake. I read about them, and not only are they not poisonous, they actually eat rattlesnakes! I'm glad he's around. Too bad he's half the size of the rattlesnake I saw last year.

#3 - The extremely rare California Leaping Canine. We had to install chickenwire over the top of our dog kennel, and we only let our dogs into the yard when they are on leashes now (which is horrible for everyone). Why? Because they can jump a six foot fence from standing. We've discovered they don't even need corners to do it from, or any special gear like we thought (the corner of our yard they used to jump had some crossbeams we thought they needed). They just whoosh right over the whole thing. So not even the kennel was containing them. It's a mess. We're working on getting electrical wire for the fencing, which will be a huge pain, since plants grow all around our yard right at the fence. We're also trying to get them halfway trained, which is an uphill battle.

#4 - We have a lovely garden (it's controlled nature, it counts) that is struggling to survive the intense heat and sandy soil. The strawberries are all defeated already, but the corn is coming up well, the cantaloupes, squash, and watermelons are going crazy with flowers and the beginnings of fruit, and the tomatoes and cucumbers are doing quite well. There are assorted seeds we also planted, like an herb section, which are doing little, but something. Actually, the cucumbers and corn were seeds too, they're doing amazing. Our fruit trees are doing nicely too, except the almond. There's a lesson for you: if you buy bare root trees, do like they tell you: do not water them until they are clearly leafing out!! We pretty clearly killed the almond, and the mulberry is mostly dead. It's growing some lovely leaves right at the base by the ground, but everything further up is just a dead stick - all 6 feet or so of it. The other trees all have done very nicely, except for some massive holes chewed into their leaves by an apparent plague of locusts.

That's nature for you. She gives and she takes away.
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods 05:25 PM -- Thu June 8, 2006  

Same pic, too bad for you! Things are really getting into gear here. I've added a whole stack of new people to talk to since the last sneak peek (all important - I'm still not making bystanders), and two new kinds of enemies, and a slew of new area, progressing the gameplay along. Actually, with the addition of some quests and stuff, it's actually going in a different direction than it was - literally. The gameplay was supposed to proceed left/west from the Terrible Tundra, but it turns out there's a rather large detour to the right/east first, where you get your first bits of actual plot.

That's something I'm happy with - the plot is no more intelligent than the one in the first Loonyland, but this time it's at least there. You get bits of it as you go along, through quests, and it culminates in a finale that ties it all up - while of course leaving some loose ends for sequels. Seems like in Loonyland, you got "Save us please, but from we don't know what" at the first moment, then nothing until the very very end when you meet Bonkula and discover he had an evil plan. Not much of a villain I suppose. In this one, there are several villains of varying degrees, and though you don't meet the ultimate one until you face it (with good reason!), you'll get to know the others a bit and it will tie together well. Much more of a dramatic arc. But still senseless, which is fine. I play RPGs for the gameplay and exploration, not the story.

So it's really getting in a groove, a nice fast-moving one. The big job I'm not looking forward to is making the tiles for the cliffs area. That's gonna be a big ugly job. I just hate making tiles, and that's all there is to it.

In the areas I have been making, there's ice (it's centered around a frozen lake). The ice works differently from Supreme and such - when you step on it, you slide straight until you either bounce off something and slide back, or hit land again. So it's a lot like Rafts in Supreme. There are only a couple 'puzzles' for this, and they are extremely short and simple. This is not a puzzle game - the whole thing is just an excuse to level up and blow up monsters! Incidentally, jumping onto the ice (you can't jump when already on it) has just the effect it should - the ice breaks, you fall through.

That reminds me, water is different here too. Since you can jump, I couldn't just bop you back and hurt you like in Loonyland, and I didn't want it to just be fatal, because that would be annoying. It's kind of annoying in Supreme, but it's suited to that game. In this game, it just wouldn't be fair. So how it works (as I type this, I realize it's a mind-numbing tiny detail that nobody cares about, but I've already typed this much, so let's proceed) is that if you fall in, you get hurt and teleported back to the last spot where you were on solid ground. Same goes for crashing through the ice (which, oddly, doesn't leave a hole in the ice!). It may not make sense, but it's good clean fun.
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  And the winner is... 09:18 AM -- Mon June 5, 2006  

Not me! The results are in at long last for the most recent LD48 contest. I did very well, but I didn't win anything. I got 2nd in Fun and Production, 24th in Innovation, 9th in Graphics, and 4th in Sound. I'm quite pleased with the results... well, Innovation's really bad (and my favorite category after Fun), but I think it's entirely fair for what I submitted. It's good to be back in the game. The last few contests, I've just failed miserably when I did enter.

The clear and thorough stomping winner was Philhassey, who made a game called Galcon. He got 1st in everything, except 2nd in Innovation. That's quite a result! And it was deserved (I don't know if it was really tops in each category, but you know, when a game is really good, it boosts its scores across the board, voters can't help it). After the competition, he actually even added internet play to it, which was a lot of fun. I don't know if the release on the linked page includes that, but you can try. It's a very cool game. Like Risk, except you get to watch the ships swarm across the galaxy to each planet.

There are a bunch of interesting entries, some very good (Lexaloffle's Swarm Racer, DrPetter's Swarming Of The Machines, Sol_HSA's 'And The Sky Full Of Stars', Jolle's Hat Attack which is not supposed to be his official entry is very amusing). But I don't think there's a public page to check them out. I'm pretty sure you can create an account to log in and see them though, if you are interested, at Ludum Dare.
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