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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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  Toonyland Ho! 08:33 PM -- Tue January 10, 2006  

I could upload a screenshot of Kinyova Sr., the elderly and disapproving father of Kinyova, who you met in the original Loonyland, but I'm too lazy for that today. Instead I'll tell you that YAY, all of the non-magical skills are now implemented! Some still don't have graphics, in fact the Axe Traps are currently stone teddy bears (which look pretty cool really), but they all work. So 30 of the 40 skills are done (actually 31, since that one spell is done). They'll surely need balance tweaking later, but that's just numbers. They all work. I spent about half an hour mesmerized by wandering around demolishing teddy bear hordes with cranked up Homing, Triple, Throwing, Piercing, Poison, and Ricochet. So it's fun, I have no doubts there. Laying out Axe Traps is fun too. I also spent a long time jumping around and doing Stomps. Quite a few minutes wasted tossing Air Strike axes even. And then there's Static... oh well, no need to give it all away ("Static", not "Static Field" - I didn't rip off everything from Diablo). I just wanted to stop in and say yay. I always love leveling up and assigning skill points, so it's really fun that I've made my own.

That is all. Busy busy. Got to implement the spell selector tomorrow, then it shouldn't take long at all to go from there to having the spells in. Still no 8th spell, but I have some ideas. I'm leaning towards a general attack type spell anyway (or some variation thereof), since it's important that you be able to get by relying on magic if that's the path you choose, and attacking is kind of what you'd need to do that. Although that is kinda boring, and there already are a few ways to attack...
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  Weekend Update 07:29 PM -- Fri January 6, 2006  

Ah, the weekend is here. So is the new year, or didn't you notice? Everybody does resolutions and whatnot, so here's what's happening with me for the new year:

We started on an exercise thing, as usual (though it's really just a coincidence that it's the new year - we started because Sol picked up a $1 book that had an exercise routine in it). That's going okay, we all know where it WILL go eventually, but we surely do try.

I finished reading Getting Things Done a month or so ago and semi-vowed to try implementing it. It's a system, ironically, not for getting things done, but rather for knowing what all you have to get done. You collect all the stuff in your life and keep track of it (and more importantly, decide what the very next action needed on it is), so at any given moment, you can just look in your files and see exactly what tasks could be done, were you not so lazy. It sounds pretty easy, not too pushy, and just plain useful. So I will give it a go.

Last year, I tried to read 50 books over the course of the year. I kept a nice excel spreadsheet (I keep nice excel spreadsheets of everything - there's nothing more fun than making a spreadsheet) detailing that, even rating the books. I only ended up finishing 34 books. But what I found was that I tended to avoid reading long books as much as possible, since I knew it would hurt my total. That was lame. So this year, I've tweaked it: I have the goal of reading 15,000 pages. That's 50 300-page books, using 300 pages as a reasonable average. According to the wonderful Excel, my 34 books from last year averaged 347 pages, so I'm being a little lenient, but maybe I'll make it this time! I just have to shy away from books with tremendously large pages and tiny print, I guess (I can go for words read next year, though that may be hard to track). To keep it more fun, I will share what I'm on with you and you can hear how much I hated it. For example, last year, I really hated everything by Eric Van Lustbader. He's a terrible writer.

Here are the books I rated 8/10 or higher last year:
  • A Theory Of Fun For Game Design, by Raph Koster (the only 10, the rest were all 8's)
  • Masters Of Doom, by David Kushner (not as good as others have said, though)
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • Dancing Barefoot and Just A Geek, both by Wil Wheaton
  • Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown (I actually hated them both for manipulating me into enjoying them... they're not good books in ANY WAY. It was like the fun of watching bad horror movies, only it made me feel unclean)
  • Children Of God, by Mary Doria Russell (interestingly, I rated The Sparrow a 7 and this an 8. I don't know if that is meaningful, or just different moods)
  • The Hugo Winners, volume something or other, edited by Isaac Asimov (one of many sci fi short story collections I read, thanks Thom!)

So there you go. This year begins with Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson, an 1100 page monster that would never have made the cut last year, Year's Best SF 8, edited by David G. Hartwell, yet another sci-fi short story collection, and Mastery, by George Leonard. Actually only started on the SF collection so far. I never find time to read. Just a little bit in bed. That's why when I make a schedule, I always try to work in some. Good for the brain and whatnot.

And that's about all I'm trying to do this year. I'd like to be vastly more successful in business and in life, but not really doing anything special there, other than pandering to the fans with a Loonyland sequel! I figure that's got to sell. And I may add a 3rd in the series next year. I've had an idea for the final chapter of it for years now, a huge world-changing twist to the whole story (and explaining so very much! If only you guys knew the truth!), but a pretty major thing to create. Since it is a finale, it will work fine after any number of normal Loonyland adventures. Maybe one day, we shall see Valentine Valley, or Easter Island. Maybe my turn-based game will be Loonyland Tactics. Who knows?
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods 06:52 PM -- Wed January 4, 2006  

Still doing skills! Most of the day today I spent adding in graphics. Up until now I've done all the skills with no graphics at all (in fact, if you threw an axe, it would just toss a bunch of randomly cycling sprites from the original Loonyland!). But I really wanted to get the latest bunch of skills to have proper graphics so I could see how they really worked. So I made a few new graphics, all of which are represented, to some extent, in the montage above.

Upper-left is the Flame skill. It causes any successful hit with your axe to create a flame, which adds a little damage to the current guy, but more importantly, sits there for a while so other guys can step on it. Notice the one bear flat on his face. That's one of their attacks, they pounce on you like Werewolves.

Upper right is the Stone Spike spell. It's the first spell I've done. I meant it to be an attack skill (jumping and pressing jump again would slam you down to the ground, launching the spikes), but it was so powerful and interesting, I decided I'd move it to the spells instead. You probably recognize its style - Zombie Lords used to do it, and they learned it from Bjorn the Yeti. Each point in the skill adds 1 more spike at a time, so this shot is at level 6 (there's one heading straight down you can't really see).

Which left me an empty spot in the attack skills. So with a bit of thought, I decided that when you jumpjumped, you'd slam down and create a shockwave that knocks away, stuns, and damages all enemies around you. It's pretty Diabloesque, and it's called the Stomp skill. Like Stone Spike, it's way powerful. It costs a ton of Stamina to use (did I mention before that axe skills use up Stamina and magic spells use up Magic? It's true. Although the Flame skill actually costs Magic), and it's worth it. The shot of it is at level 6, and you can see how far away the victims are falling down. The ones still standing are the survivors. They're stunned. I really like how the ring looks (in action that is), but it doesn't get any bigger as you level it up, which is a bit odd. Those bears are collapsing without being touched by it.

The axes you see on the ground are actually either coins or equipment to collect. I don't know which, because currently all items are drawn as axes. That's some more graphics I haven't done. I also haven't put in the titles for the different zones, as you can see in the lower right.
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  Sneak Peek: Loonyland II: Winter Woods 10:16 AM -- Mon January 2, 2006  

Nobody guessed it! Lots of talk along the right lines, though. In Loonyland 2, things change from the 'zelda' style of collecting powerups to a much more RPG style. You gain XP from killing monsters (actually most of them are evil animated toys for plot reasons), level up, and earn Skill Points. You spend the skill points upgrading 40 different skills. You never get enough skill points to come anywhere near maxing out all of the skills (as you can see in the picture, an individual skill can go up to 10), so you really have to decide what you want to focus on. The one nod to non-RPG style is that you have to find or earn a Skill Scroll before you can put points in a skill.

The skills are divided into 4 sets: Passive (boost stuff generally - skills like Strength, Endurance, and Dodge), Attack (special attacks and modifiers for your normal axe attacks - skills like Axe Mastery, Stun, and Poison), Throwing (special attacks and modifiers for throwing your axe - skills like Multishot, Ricochet, and Piercing), and finally of course Magic (magic spells like ... well, I don't have them in front of me, but you can imagine, it's magic).

In the shot, you can see how the skills look. I'm excited because I just implemented Stun, and it's fun to stun guys. I'm going through and implementing all the skills in order before doing anything else. As you can see, attacking costs Stamina, which recovers quickly, but if you upgrade your skills too much, your attacks will be very expensive. So you'll need to upgrade Endurance to counteract that. Another way to help it is to upgrade Toughness, which gives you more life, because your maximum Stamina is always your current life (so getting injured weakens your ability to attack - but upgrading Endurance lets you keep more of your Stamina as you get injured, too). So there are a lot of skills to interact with and decide on.

And by the way, in Loonyland, they celebrate Festivus, not Christmas!
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