Leon's Microblog – September 2019

Deltarune full version hidden ultimate weapon revealed
"Heh, go ahead, kid, get those broadsword skills up. Just remember… when your back finally lets you down, and your wounds stop healing like they used to, the dark arts will be waiting for you…" – Cloaked figure outside the Mage's Guild, to Warrior's Guild initiates
Game content patterns – levels, worlds, checkpoints, bonus levels, map screens, battle screens – offer such affordance for subversion and surprise, but few games really notice or exploit this, or even properly recognise what kind of mood sticking to these rigid patterns produces.
Breaking even basic patterns and expectations in videogames is still so shocking because game content is still so tightly encased in patterns. Even a basic break, like a level not having a boss fight in its Boss Fight Slot, feels iconoclastic, like kicking the pillars of Heaven.
Code comment syntactic conventions to distinguish code that's been commented out because it's no longer applicable but might be again soon, authorial remarks, and authorial remarks that have been commented out because they're no longer applicable but might be again soon.
↳ End the run unless the Runner spells "I. C. U. P." out loud. RULINGS: • Netrunner Standard Most Wanted List: Ultrabanned
Time for a joke. Why do RPG characters always travel the world map from left to right? Because of their high dexterity! OK, listen, the word "dexter" is Latin for
*shoots at a bunch of floating humanoid figures wreathed in purple smoke* Man, what are these things? *floating red HUD text next to them reads "REMNANT" in all-caps* Ah… this manages to explain everything.
Writing a new ending for the now-long-abandoned Team Fortress 2 tie-in comics in which the Demoman, disarmed and under fire, reaches for a nearby hitscan weapon, and at the exact moment of skin contact, the entire universe ceases to exist.
Brain just generated a horrible vision of a Homestuck fighting game where the top tier was Feferi, Aradiabot and Davepetasprite^2, and everyone else was absolutely, thoroughly unusable. Just a complete nightmare.
A voice in the back of my mind as I lie in bed, sweet as Heaven yet searing as Hell: "Being able to put Option in the first powerup bar slot in Gradius Gaiden was bad design, actually." Me, tossing and turning: "N…no! You're wrong! It's all the other Gradius games that are bad!"
which, while much more relevant to the plot than stat boosts or crafting, aren't really what the game is "about" either. The goo of RPG systems thus serves as something of an emulsifying agent, holding together disparate and brittle systems that have actual narrative flavour.
On the one hand, yes, NieR or whatever isn't expressing confidence in its plot by filling the spaces between it with loadout and inventory busywork… but I guess the silver lining is that its presence draws attention and weight away from the combat, shmup and exploration systems,
You may think level-ups and quest menus as an extra layer of authority over the game's plot and action is a tacit acknowledgment that the plot and the action, left to their own devices, kind of suck. I think that sentiment can be taken in either a negative or positive light.
People often wonder how the 2010s "AAA genre" emerged, where all of them are 3D action games with RPG stats, skill trees, etc. My take is: gamification took hold. Games, uncertain of their future as tech improvements slowed, turned away from diegesis and embraced feedback loops.
I find it amusing that non-RPG AAA games around Half-Life 2 took pains to strip down the HUD and have environment and voice cues convey plot and objectives, and ten years later, all AAA games are RPGs whose HUD and minimap constantly display your objectives in full sentences.
Me, explaining how videogame design can express subtle humour: "So you see, Tinker Knight, the gear-themed boss, getting one-shotted by his signature weapon, is a sly reference to Metal Man from Mega Man 2, who is also gear-themed and gets one-shot by his weapon." Oscar Wilde: "U
The this will see you now.
Some kind of homunculus
"You see, MTG card rotation is essentially a "Logan's Run", keeping metagames artificially immature by killing them off young, and my refusal to put away last year's cards is a brave act of resi–" *busily feeding their crappy proxies that saw all of two games into a shredder* "Wh
worlds where the innocent, childish quest of "helping the world" is able to seem just as plausible as the grown-up, masculine, and eminently more marketable quest of "saving the world".
The only other Zelda I recall that gives "helping people" such primacy is Majora's Mask, which, guess what, makes up my Top 2 of the series. I notice both take place in tiny, narratively closed-off, storybook-like worlds, with nebulous and near-insubstantial antagonists,
Time for another goddamn Nintendo tweet. The fact that the trading sequence in Link's Awakening is actually mandatory to finish the game feels like an affirmation of its heartfelt mood… having to bring happiness to every islander in order to free yourself, Groundhog Day style…
Imagine being one of the other entrants in Famicompo #1 and losing to Artificial Intelligence Bomb, and then watching it become a cult hit on the level of The Cheetahmen's theme over the next decade. Just a constant reminder.
One of the great things about the HVSC is that some of its "tracks" are the speech synths from the spelling game Cave Of The Word Wizard, and if you have the whole collection on shuffle, you occasionally have a robot DJ deadpan a random word between songs http://deepsid.chordian.net/?file=/MUSICIANS/E/Electronic_Speech_Systems/Cave_of_the_Word_Wizard_Set_9.sid&subtune=6
There's a track in the High Voltage SID Collection called "Pornography" that's just a cover of Pachelbel's Canon.
If this is a remix (and this has no STIL entry to confirm this) then I'd love to know. It's pretty good. http://deepsid.chordian.net/?file=/MUSICIANS/R/Randy/Sea_Voyage.sid
Reminder that, as always, I appreciate any bug reports delivered here https://bitbucket.org/_L_/harlowe/issues or even just @ me, wherever I can see them.
I don't often talk about my work, but if you use Twine, the new version has Harlowe (the game engine/programming language I maintain) version 3.1, and I've updated the documentation at https://twine2.neocities.org/ with the incoming features.
Later recontextualisations of those systems continue to grow this perception, such as emulators, where "the NES" was now a single .exe, or the commercial bundles like the Classic miniature consoles, with their fixed, handpicked libraries.
This continuity led people to start subconsciously thinking of the system in totality, of "the NES" as a game in itself, and each title as an aspect of it, giving its motley, chaotic library a massive collective weight in memory that no single modern title can compare to.
One thing people don't realise they miss from the 8-bit or 16-bit generations isn't just the technical limitations themselves, but that they created audiovisual continuity across the system; NES games used roughly the same music samples, the same sprite sizes and palettes.
*yet another inspiring internet post calls CPUs "poisoned sand"* God, who cares how edible the damn sentient sand is?!
*puts the entirety of a web project's CSS in a folder called "css"* A logical, organised mind brings us closer to the perfection of God.
Instead of each subsequent RPG town's weapons and armour always being exactly 10 stat points better than your current equipment, as soon as you arrive in town all your equipment should start being referred to as "(unfashionable)" on the inventory screen with a -10 stat penalty.
If you think you're struggling with writing the beginning of your story, remember that the inciting incident for the villains in Half-Life 2 is "your teleporter malfunctions and sends you into the final boss's office for 5 seconds, thus alerting him to your existence".
This one sorta has an odd dystopic domestic mood… like a space of tranquility in a precarious world… I'm not good at describing music, actually http://deepsid.chordian.net/?file=/MUSICIANS/D/Dr_Zoom/Feeling.sid
This one has some kind of evening adventure feel, to me, energetic (especially after 1:20) yet austere http://deepsid.chordian.net/?file=/DEMOS/M-R/Made_for_the_Machine.sid
A similar, reassuring one by the same artist http://deepsid.chordian.net/?file=/MUSICIANS/G/Groms/Heupiin.sid
It's well-known on the internet that "MIND = BLOWN" but what is less appreciated is the more beautiful equation called Euler's Identity, which reveals that e^(π * sqrt(-MIND)) = -BLOWN.
Social classes delineated by number of shoes sticky-taped back together over lifetime
An anomalous object that insists on being referred to in first-person, trapped inside your skull
A strange muffled munching noise is heard as the holographic unicorn bookmark sinks deeper and deeper into the textbook, until it vanishes entirely.
The physical version of ransomware, entering from outside the universe and instantly crypto-locking all sentient life in return for $200
Plenty of people are giving good press to the game Kero Blaster lately, so I'll just reiterate: the story is good… IF you unlock and play zangyou difficulty. That's where the real juice is. The normal difficulty is just a warmup arc.
Having a good time on noclip dot website, confirming that the Super Smash Bros. Brawl devs did, in fact, accurately model that bizarrely-detailed chimera tree in New Pork City, from Mother 3.
*realises that this means people can't see the ending of Celeste chapter 9 unless they know about the secret exit in level 1-3 of Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES* Heeuuurrruuuuaaauueeeaaa
I'm still thinking about the badfeel of someone playing Celeste and marching through chapter 9, only to discover the entire second half of its story isn't available until they go back and labour through 7B, plus the other six B-sides, plus find all the secret hearts. Yee-eesh.
Ever think about how you could just name your in-development game's internal level editor "Lunar Magic II: The Squeakquel" and no one, not even FuSoYa, could stop you
One of my top three favourite Strong Bad Emails is "boring" http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail131.html which is in a similar space – just straightforwardly denying the viewer any of the form's expected content by gradually, increasingly contrived means.
Also whatever emulator glitch is causing the BGM to play as if by a PAL 50Hz->NTSC 60Hz speedup really gives the humour that little bit extra.
I rewatched Super Mario Bros Slow Run Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rij_1IJLkfY and I thought it might've gotten old, but the one from 3:20 to 3:39 actually cracked me up. (Do watch it from the start up to then if you've never seen it though).
It's still unthinkable to me that Twitter to this day prints usernames in a sans-serif font where lowercase L's and uppercase i's look identical. Just the most basic social manipulation vector out there.
It is with some regret that I must announce that I loaded up the Neighborhood map from Psychonauts on http://noclip.website, immediately thought "Oh, just like Mario Kart 8", and then sat in silence to think about what I'd done.
*opens the browser console and adds "html { filter: invert() hue-rotate(180deg); }" to the page's CSS* Welcome… to the Dimension of Darkness. *puts on Toccata and Fugue – Trance Mix.mp3*
Time for a low-effort Nintendo tweet to rack up some sweet morning numbers. The following Smash Bros. characters will henceforth be collectively known as various fighters' "Charizards": * Kazooie * Arsene * The Duck * Charizard * Rush * Rope Snake
Adding these affordances is acknowledging that the "cost" of moves in old IF was always illusory, was always about denying the player progress by attrition, by resistant UI, rather than a more mature consideration of what "difficulty" in a text game could, should be.
lacking the undo command, lacking a full undo history, lacking a means to quickly save and load, all affordances we now expect of IF that make possibility-space exploration as effortless as it ought to be.
I find it interesting, then, that the design goals they were pursuing – difficulty yielding to just short of brute force possibility-space exploration – were, due to the nature of IF, mainly enforced by the sparse parser UI of the day,
That being said, it's easy to intuit what the designers were thinking – since typing parser commands has no physical skill barrier, then denying the player progress with almost cryptographic opaqueness was their only perceived means of difficulty, of making moves seem costly.
On the subject of difficulty, I was reading about the famous Interactive Fiction Cruelty Scale from the mid-90s http://ifwiki.org/index.php/Cruelty_scale and reflecting on how three of the five levels describe what we now call softlocks, considered completely unacceptable by today's standards.
Nowadays, though, I think we all recognise that a difficult game taking the player's time can and should give back in return, that it ought to yield gracefully to a well-practiced player rather than just resisting them brusquely.
Even then it was obvious that these obnoxious designs were not good entertainment, but there wasn't a way to critique their very conception of difficulty. I feel like from 2013 on, the arrival of games-as-performance revealed what games' skill ceilings looked like, and could be.
As a result, design patterns like damage-sponge bosses, insufficient checkpoints, long auto-scroll levels and so forth tended to emerge, that offer no reward for the player to play well – a high skill floor and a very low skill ceiling.
I think this explains why a lot of indie and teen-made games attempted to make their games difficult, and only ever made them long, padded and time-wasting – they could only envision making the player play poorly.
The idea that one could play a game well – not just better than the game's challenges, but surpassing it confidently and effortlessly – was unthinkable then. It was only possible to imagine playing a videogame poorly, struggling uphill to victory, and then retiring.
Speedruns and streaming arriving as a mainstay of internet entertainment is interesting to me because until GDQ's rise in 2013-4, most people had never seen or thought to imagine what it would look like for a single-player videogame to be played well.
With this amount of hindsight, the takeaway from all this is clear: no matter how much elegance a mechanic may hold, it isn't really astonishing unless it *looks* astonishing. Which, as always, is about what kind of story – in the game, or about the game – you can tell about it.
I consider Super Mario Odyssey, released another half-decade later, to be the antithesis of this era. Its flashy, mind-bending verb is almost entirely sidelined by the game's worldbuilding. The mechanic is not high on a pedestal but another face in the crowd, where it should be.
In many ways, the entire design philosophy of that era embodies the myths and branding of those games' creators – a single genius designer/design that everything revolves around, rising above their crude competitors by force of elegant simplicity.
that, sensing the gains in graphics technology were gradually slowing, designers sensed games' next "frontier" was mechanical technology, potentially in envy of the early-00s boom of 3D mechanics producing the 3D platformer and the FPS.
Also, I like to imagine Super Mario Galaxy to be a sort of parallel to this era – a front-and-centre focus on unusual gravity, with little worldbuilding or narrative ground – and a hint of both stemming from common mood in that decade's zeitgeist,
It's interesting that the late, forgotten third game of the Braid-Portal triad, Fez, correctly recognised that its mechanic was visually striking but mechanically limited, and heavily focused on world and environment design rather than puzzles, avoiding the trap of its own hype.
Really, neither of those two were ever phenomenons because of their puzzles' emergent complexity, but because of how visually appealing they were on mere shallow face-value. Portal's infinite tunnels, Braid letting you watch things un-fall and un-jump.
It's kind of ironic given that Portal's success wasn't because of its dryness, but because it subverted it. Don't forget it was originally bundled alongside TF2, as a tech demo akin to Half Life 2: Lost Coast, only to pull a horror-game bait-and-switch halfway through.
All these games had names like "Perspective" or "Shift" or "Tag" or something that put the central verb front and centre, and had near-zero narrative beyond puzzle progression. mimicking how Braid and Portal's press coverage focused on their verbs and puzzle progression.
The small indie games from what I call "the Braid-Portal bubble of 07-12" all appear adorably quaint in retrospect because of how much they bought into the narrative that one mind-bending mechanic, in total isolation, was enough to make a hit. [thread]
Lower-case letters, the opposite of capitals, are now to be called "provincials". *leans back in utterly awful gamer chair, we're talking four shades of red and gray leather and one of those rainbow LED strips GPUs have* Now to relax with some chiptunes *puts on Commando.sid*
Shadowy masked figures in robes with black heart insignias, in unison: "How do you do?" *curtsies, revealing rose-thorn tattoos on wrists and ankles* "We are travelers wishing to view the splendour of the Light Diamond." Guard in comically large helmet: "Hearts are good, right?"
*diligently practicing being twee whilst debugging* Well faddle-faddle! The argy-bargyment is unfiddlyfined? I did so diligently code the callers to pass fribjulous strings and stribjulous frings! *has to reread the whole error because that sentence pushed out all other thoughts*
*stands directly underneath one of those floating islands with a waterfall cascading off the side, and places a comically tiny saucer at the bottom*
"Once inanimate humans, we were brought to life by the Stationeress and became paper. Now heroes of the Supply Closet's realms, we are the knights Ayfour and Foolscap!" "Hey! Humans aren't inanimate! Look–" *points through the closet's keyhole at fully motionless desk workers*
Possums realising that this "wildlife" thing isn't going to work by the end of the century and lining up at front doors everywhere to jump on the domestication train
"Staying up late: kids want to do it, adults wish they could do it. It's the ultimate high. The zestiest spice for weekenders and the dearest comfort for the unemployed. Sex, cars, money, power: none can compare to seeing 4:03 AM on a clock."
People are already replacing SCP with "Object of Power" or "Federal Bureau of Control" in their aesthetic reference vocabularies. The inexorable AAA psychic gentrification has begun.
I've ragged on Celeste chapter 9 but I will say that narratively, musically and tonally it's SEVERAL times better than chapter 8, which was just a major letdown in all aspects.
The Disney tweet threads where all the brands post in-character is the megacorp version of those Tumblr threads where someone would correct someone else's factual error in a Phoenix Wright voice, and then a bunch of people would jump in to do an Ace Attorney RP for twenty posts.
Aside: many have celebrated that its ending has nods for the watchful that Madeline is trans. That's great, though the most important part may be that – regardless of authorial intent – this means the "Madeline is plural" interpretation of the plot is now 200% ultra-canon, right
As for the story… it's good if you want a pretty intimation on grief similar to To The Moon, but I felt – exactly as I did with chapter 5 – that it didn't feel fleshed-out enough as a hard journey into the psyche, the visuals and dialogue feeling too generic and insubstantial.
This is because the sections afterward require a movement technique revealed to the player only at the end of 7-B. That being said, it does make the intent of this chapter, about who its audience is and isn't, pretty stark.
Just to clarify: there is a mandatory gate somewhere in this chapter that cannot be passed unless you've beaten the first seven B-sides. Unless you've done that, you can't go any further - a hard lock to reinforce the chapter's difficulty locks.
I guess it's extremely fortunate for Celeste's sake that it has Assist Mode as a fallback – as games of this genre really should – but it does feel like some philosophical tenet of its design has been abandoned here, this long after the main game's release.
This bugs me because it breaks an invariant the game had until now, and which I'd praised it for: that the entire narrative is available in just the A worlds, whose difficulty curve is far below other precision plats like Meat Boy or the IWBTG fangames - inviting and welcoming.
Time to enjoy the new Celeste postgame story *it turns out to be advertised as harder than the C-sides* Time to……… verb… the new Celest
Finally succeeding after three consecutive hours of attempts at seeing an autostereogram labeled "BOOBS", only to discover they crossed their eyes using the wrong method and the boobs are concave instead of convex
Me, in the Doug Engelbart timeline where we all type using handheld chorded keyboards: "As you see," *reaches into haptic-feedback monitor with other hand and extrudes a function cube* "the input hole only accepts B-trees," *jabs a finger in one and promptly gets it stuck fast*
Trenchcoat-clad 1970s spy knocking on a door in a dark alleyway - a voice from within utters "In this Troper's opinion", and the spy replies "Goondolences".
Just to be clear, I don't know anything about what this "Gaster" character is, and have already forgotten that I've made both of these tweets.
I saw some Undertale fan's FurAff page with a picture full of their "fangasters", and I'm enraptured by the vision of Gaster finally appearing in the Undertale series on a dusky street full of similar-looking pedestrians, thus fully nullifying all ominousness from his appearance.
*you try to say something but are too enraptured by my handsome and cute features* It's a logical extension of the Undertale blue/orange system, which itself was a logical extension of the Ikaruga white/black system. It's a dodge-roll verb implemented in basic movement verbs!
*clears stuff off desk and rests both elbows on* In many precision platformers, spikes don't kill you if you touch them while moving in any direction that isn't directly parallel to the spike. Danmaku shmup bullets should work the same way.
One bright morning, all the little candles got up early to receive their wicks and become complete – but one candle overslept, and missed out. They were just a tube of wax! The moral? Quite simply, there's no wick for the rested.
More than any other I've encountered, most of its puzzles involve "hidden paths" – the pieces obeying visually opaque, yet deterministic rules. Usually these make the puzzle simpler, greatly restricting the actual combination space, while making it initially appear much harder.
Come to realise that this game (3 In Three)'s narrative is largely a bureaucracy parody wrapped in virtual world flavouring, which is honestly a pretty good premise for a puzzle game whose puzzles are about discovering hidden rules in otherwise simple structures.
Thursday the 11th is the superior day-date combination because you can post "Thursday! What a concept!" from Russian Doll and "Eleven. It's not even funny." from Time Zones by Negativland on the same day.
Corrypt fanfic: The child that you rescue and then promptly erase from reality is alive and well and working as the DLC shopkeeper on the title screen of Imbroglio. Phew!
Deltarune fanfic: Ralsei the lonely prince tries to offer royal titles to his new friends. Kris gets the nb title "countex". Susie, distrustful of most authority figures from "mayor" upward, agrees to "coach". Berdly, who's there too for some reason, quickly chooses "exchequer".
At times, it feels like a subtly twisted mockery of the expectations of a game player, jumping into a game and expecting immediate gratification and obedience from the entire game's inhabitants.
I feel like there's an unnamed game trope where the protagonist enters an unfamiliar organisation or structure and is instantly given supreme command over it, casting a surreal air over the whole world. Control does it, Little King's Story does it, New Leaf presumably does it…
Lvl. 0 (wraparound): Control is just a modern day AU of Metroid Fusion anyway, so what does it matter
Lvl. 1: Control (video game) is just SCP Lvl. 2: The mazes in Control are just House Of Leaves Lvl. 5: The motel in Control is just The Lost Room Lvl. 10: The puppet TV show in Control is just Candle Cove Lvl. 20: I'm pretty sure this line is rephrased from Slaughterhouse-Five
Person Who Just Learned About Tom Bombadil And Is Now Using This Newfound Character Archetype To Analyse All Media: "Sans is the Tom Bombadil of Undertale." *stares deep into your face* "Uncle Grandpa from that one crossover episode of Steven Universe is the Tom Bombadil of Steve
I like how creepypastas are stereotyped as overusing the word "photorealistic", to the point where using the word "photorealistic" to describe anything in almost any other context implicitly brings to mind a hint of malevolent supernatural intrusion.
The Mario franchise is, if defined by anything, defined by juxtaposition, and Maker's increasingly divergent and disparate notions of what a "level" can be seem far closer to accepting that identity than the purely formal levels of the new Mario platformers.
It's easy to forget that classic Mario very gently toyed with the meaning of a "Mario level", in World 9, Star World 3, the "empty" World 7-Fort, etc, and Maker levels, in that light, feel less like alien design aberrations and more like an abandoned thread resumed decades later.
That being said, if Nintendo ever did a Mario platformer where level 6-5 or whatever was a "hold right" level, and level 7-2 was a music-box autoscroller, it would absolutely be the most modern Mario platformer ever created.
I wish AAA developers made real platformers with the energy and vivacity of Mario Maker. "Yeah, with such self-awareness of its medium, constantly redefining what a platform level can b–" No, I mean parts where a photorealistic cat paw punches the screen for no explicable reason.
"So far, we've failed to get the recommendation server to stop recommending its own computer parts to every single customer, or referring to such parts as "verey sexy", but we're making do by bundling "bonus" groceries and clothes with server rack and SSD purchases."
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