Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 19

The boring part of speedrunning is doing the same conversations over and over again, to find the fastest way through them.

Nancy starts the game by talking to Jane. Jane says, "I bet my bloomers you're Nancy Drew." If Nancy says, "That's right. Are you Emily's guardian?", Jane says, "You got it. I'm Jane Willoughby." If Nancy says, "Emily told me your name. It's...", Jane says, "I'm Jane Willoughby." It's about a second faster to pick the second option, the one where Jane says less.

Then Jane and Nancy talk about pies and Nancy's father. Jane says Emily didn't say anything about Nancy's arrival. Nancy can ask, "Is it okay that I'm here?" or "She didn't?". Jane's response is the same either way. So again, it's about a second faster to pick the second option.

The third choice is trickier. If Nancy says, "Is she all right?", Jane responds with, "Well, now, that's hard to say. She misses her mom...". If Nancy says, "Maybe she's just...you know, still thinking about her mom.", Jane responds with "She misses her mom...". That is, Nancy's shorter option is paired with Jane's longer response, while Nancy's longer option is paired with Jane's shorter response. It's about 0.4 seconds faster to pick the first option, where Nancy says, "Is she all right?".

With the fourth choice, Nancy can ask about Emily's father, or say "It was nice of you to say yes". It's about three seconds faster to say, "It was nice of you to say yes," because otherwise, Jane talks about Mr. Crandall for three seconds.

With the fifth and final choice, Jane's response is the same either way. She ends the conversation and tells Nancy to go upstairs. It's about 1.5 seconds faster to pick the second conversation option, "Help her do what?".

So overall in this conversation, there are two places where it doesn't matter which option you pick, because Jane has the exact same response either way. There are three places where Jane has the same response either way, but she says an extra sentence if you pick a particular option, so you have to pick the option that avoids the extra sentence.

Does that make sense? The fastest way through the conversation is to avoid having Jane say extra sentences. If you've got a place where she doesn't say extra sentences, then pick the option which is shorter.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 18

Nancy's father calls her in this game, to ask her to visit the telegraph office, and to talk about the mystery. You can call him at the very start of the game, when you haven't met Emily yet. It's impossible for Nancy to talk to him about the mystery at this point. Does that save time?

Let's see. If you call at the start of the game, there are two breaks in the conversation. First, Nancy can say, "The car ran like a top" or "I thought I'd call you first". It's 4-5 seconds faster to select "I thought I'd call you first", because Dad has a shorter response to that.

With the second break in the conversation, you can choose "not yet" and "I wanted to call you first". Dad has the same response to both. So the only difference between the options is how long it takes Nancy to say them. "Not yet" is shorter, by less than a second.

Overall, if you pick the fastest options, the conversation takes about a minute and twenty four seconds. Maybe faster, if you can click on the phone and put money into the slot very quickly. If you do call him, Nancy will mention this in her opening conversation with Jane. That is, when Jane mentions Nancy's father, Nancy says, "I already talked to him, but thanks for the message." So that's about another three seconds added if you call dad first, bringing the total time to 1:27.

If you let Dad call you and end the conversation as soon as possible, the total time is around 1:24. So it's about three seconds faster to not call Dad. Plus, you save some money!

Well, boo and bullfrogs. If you call Dad first, the conversation is faster. But the time you save is cancelled out by the time spent waiting for the operator to connect the call and the time spent talking to Jane. So

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 17

It's been about a week since I last worked on this game, although here on the blog, it's only been a day! The wonders of writing blog entries in advance. Well, here's everything I found out today.

1. You have to have the trivet, in order to open Josiah's journal. I figured as much. It would have been a big timesaver, if you didn't HAVE to get the trivet.

2. You can look at the sewing machine at any point in the game, but in order to zoom in on the sewing machine--and notice it needs a needle--you have to have the dress in your inventory. So looking at the sewing machine earlier doesn't really save time.

3. If Nancy runs out of gas, then she's transported to Zippy's, where she has to do a sorting puzzle. It was long and complicated, and there's a conversation between Nancy and Zippy the precedes it. In the interest of beating the game quickly, I'll try to avoid this. The good news is that you can't run out of gas, during the endgame challenge.

4. Nancy's dad will automatically call you, if you ignore him long enough. You can also call him at the very start of the game, before meeting Jane and Emily. If you call him early on, the conversation is shorter; Nancy doesn't talk to him about the mystery or the characters, because those things haven't happened yet.

So I guess I have to test out those two Dad conversations and figure out for sure if one is shorter than the other. I bet when you call Dad also affects a few dialogue options with other characters, like when Jane tells you to call Dad. Maybe?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 16

Getting close to the end of the game now, I realized I forgot all about getting the cue for Bottom.

I tested it out. What you need to do is look at the picture, from Jane's podium. No big deal, you have to do that anyway, to get her to reappear after solving the pie puzzle. Once you've seen the picture, you can pull a lantern in the hidden passageway. That leads to Emily's room, and Emily isn't there anymore! You can then break into her room and read the note with the cue.

Obviously, I've got to put this into my speedrun route somewhere. Maybe right after finding the picture? That way, you go to Emily's room for sewing and note stealing.

Or I could completely reshuffle everything around, so that trip to the hidden passageway happens at the same time I do my initial trip to the hidden passageway. So that'd be...

1. Go to the upstairs carriage house. See clue for Marcel.
2. Get key from Marcel. Go to Jim Archer and use the key to trigger the sewing challenge.
3. Go to Lilac Inn. Learn you need a sewing needle.
4. Talk to Jane. Get assigned the pie puzzle.
5. Once you solve the pie puzzle, check the podium.
6. Enter hidden passageway for the first time. Learn it leads to Mr. Topham's, take money from the piggy bank, solve Creepy Corner's puzzle for a record AND spy in Emily's room to make her disappear.
7. Get needle from Jane.
8. Go upstairs. Sew, listen to the record and see the cue for Bottom.

Oh, wow, that would be combining a lot of things. That's super efficient, compared to my original plan of combining "find hidden passageway in den" with "find mirror in bird clock in den". Then again, you have to do all these things anyway, so maybe it only saves five seconds (or however long it takes to enter the hidden passageway and go back upstairs.) Either way, I'm making this my new route!

...Which means I have to go back and double-check everything along the new route. The joys of speedrunning!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 15

I played some more of Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock this morning. Here's what I discovered:

1. You do NOT have to ask Jane to sew the dress. Hooray, a minor timesaver!
2. After doing the pie puzzle, you have to go back inside and get the picture from Jane's podium. Go out the front door and immediately go back inside to have Jane reappear.
3. In order to ask Topham for the Shakespeare book, you have to read all pages of Josiah's journal (after using the trivet to open it)
4. You need to spy on Topham in the hidden tunnel, before you can break into his house and steal the Shakespeare book.

So, not much to say. You pretty much do this portion of the game, as the game designers intended. I've got a few more things to check, but I'm fairly sure. I have the route down. Now that I've been posting about it for two solid weeks, you understand how speedruns can be tough to route, right?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cadenza: Fame, Theft and Murder

Here's my video walkthrough for Cadenza: Fame, Theft and Murder. It's a fun game, with a pretty neat premise. Your character is a famous rock star named Mike Valance. An evil culprit switches bodies with Mike. Can Mike stop the culprit and get his body back?

The game first came out on March 5 this year. So that's recent! I recorded the walkthrough on Saturday, April 29th. Basically, I convinced my wife to give me the whole day off, so I could play through the game multiple times and do the walkthrough. It worked, and I dunno. Maybe that's how I'll have to do walkthroughs from now on. Recording 1-3 videos in one sitting doesn't seem feasible right now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Books to Review

I have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, which ends in early July. Only 53 more days, before it runs out!

According to my count, there are 37 or so books on there, which I can't get for free from a library. I'm pretty sure I can't read them all in time, so let me know if any stand out to you, so I can prioritize them. So far, the only ones people have requested are The Evil Twin and A Date with a Werewolf.
  • In Love With A Prince (Sweet Valley High Book 91)
  • Are We In Love? (Sweet Valley High Book 94)
  • Beware The Babysitter (Sweet Valley High Book 99)
  • The Evil Twin (Sweet Valley High Book 100)
  • A Date With A Werewolf (Sweet Valley High Book 105)
  • Jessica's Secret Love (Sweet Valley High Book 107)
  • Double Crossed (Sweet Valley High Book 109)
  • Death Threat (Sweet Valley High Book 110)
  • Jessica Quits The Squad (Sweet Valley High Book 112)
  • "V" For Victory (Sweet Valley High Book 114)
  • The Treasure Of Death Valley (Sweet Valley High Book 115)
  • College Weekend (Sweet Valley High Book 118)
  • Jessica's Older Guy (Sweet Valley High Book 119)
  • The High School War (Sweet Valley High Book 121)
  • Meet Me At Midnight (Sweet Valley High Book 124)
  • Tall, Dark, And Deadly (Sweet Valley High Book 126)
  • Dance Of Death (Sweet Valley High Book 127)
  • Kiss Of A Killer (Sweet Valley High Book 128)
  • Cover Girls (Sweet Valley High Book 129)
  • Model Flirt (Sweet Valley High Book 130)
  • Fashion Victim (Sweet Valley High Book 131)
  • Once Upon A Time (Sweet Valley High Book 132)
  • Happily Ever After (Sweet Valley High Book 134)
  • Fight Fire With Fire (Sweet Valley High Book 137)
  • What Jessica Wants… (Sweet Valley High Book 138)
  • Please Forgive Me (Sweet Valley High Book 140)
  • A Picture-Perfect Prom? (Sweet Valley High Book 141)
  • The Big Night (Sweet Valley High Book 142)
  • Party Weekend! (Sweet Valley High Book 143)
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 8. Maggie, Diary Two
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 9. Amalia, Diary Two
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 10. Ducky, Diary Two
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 11. Dawn, Diary Three
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 12. Sunny, Diary Three
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 13. Maggie, Diary Three
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 14. Amalia, Diary Three
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 15. Ducky, Diary Three

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Written Book Reviews

I have some book reviews that have been written, but not recorded!
  • California Diaries 1: Dawn
  • California Diaries 2: Sunny
  • California Diaries 3: Maggie
  • California Diaries 4: Amalia
  • California Diaries 5: Ducky
  • California Diaries 6: Sunny, Diary 2
  • California Diaries 7: Dawn, Diary 2
  • Little Sister 107: Karen's Copycat
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 1: Extreme Danger
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 2: Running on Fumes
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 3: Boardwalk Bust
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 4: Thrill Ride
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 5: Rocky Road
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 6: Burned
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 7: Operation Survival
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 1: Ocean of Osyria
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 2: Identity Theft
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 3: Mad House
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 4: Malled
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 5: Sea You, Sea Me
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 6: Hyde and Shriek
The California Diaries series started, at the same time as Baby-Sitters Club Book 110. I'm not sure if I should post those reviews now, or hold off on them.

I also have no idea when to start the Undercover Brothers review series. I've got enough review series going on, as it is. I'd like to finish some before starting others.

There were two Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers series that ran at the exact same time. One was normal books, the other was graphic novels. I think they should have come up with different titles for these two series, just to avoid confusion.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Recorded Book Reviews

Here's a list of the book reviews that I've written, but not turned into videos. I recorded the audio for them. The next step is finding pictures for my glorified PowerPoint presentations.
  • Baby Sitters Club 37: Dawn and the Older Boy
  • Baby Sitters Club 38: Kristy's Secret Admirer
  • Baby Sitters Club 39: Poor Mallory!
  • Baby Sitters Club Super Special 5: California Girls
  • Hardy Boys Casefiles 6: The Crowning Terror
  • Hardy Boys Casefiles 17: The Numbers File
  • Little Sister 11: Karen's Prize
  • Little Sister 17: Karen's Brothers
  • River Heights 9: Lies and Whispers
  • River Heights 10: Mixed Emotions
  • Sweet Valley High 51: Against the Odds
  • Sweet Valley High 52: White Lies
  • Sweet Valley High 53: Second Chances
  • Sweet Valley High 57: Teacher Crush
  • Sweet Valley High 59: In Love Again
  • Sweet Valley High 67: The Parent Plot
  • Sweet Valley High 79: The Long-Lost Brother
  • Sweet Valley High 81: Rosa's Lie
  • Sweet Valley High 83: Steven's Bride
As you can see, I put an emphasis on doing the Sweet Valley High reviews. Which of these should I focus on finishing first?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Finished Book Reviews

Since I've been watching Rosie, I've gotten pretty far behind on doing book reviews. Here are all the reviews I currently have finished:
  • Sweet Valley High 45: Family Secrets
  • Sweet Valley High 50: Out of Reach
  • River Heights 7: Cheating Hearts
  • River Heights 8: The Trouble With Love
  • Little Sister 8: Karen's Haircut
  • Little Sister 9: Karen's Sleepover
  • Little Sister 10: Karen's Grandmothers
Which, if any, do you want me to upload? They're basically done. I just need to upload them.

(As a heads up, I'll be writing about book reviews for the next three days.)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Rosie Sleeping

I got some victories with Rosie sleeping this week! On Monday...

Uh oh, there's a grammatical error in that Tweet! ("to the first time"?) Why didn't anyone tell me about that silly typo?

Well, the book review I did was Sweet Valley High 83: Steven's Bride, which is an awful book where Steven and Cara decide to get married for bad reasons, and they decided to stop the wedding, for more bad reasons. Also, everyone ignore the fact that the plot is impossible, because Cara is 16 years old, too young to get married.

On Tuesday, I got Rosie to fall asleep in the front pack, after dropping the other daughter off at school. I can work at the computer with her sleeping in the front pack, but I have to semi-constantly sway back and forth, to simulate movement, otherwise she wakes up. She wakes up after about an hour, no matter what. Still! Getting one hour or so to do work is better than nothing!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Midnight in Salem

As I said earlier this week, it seems like people have been asking about Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem recently. Maybe that's because a week from today is the two year anniversary of the previous game in the series.

Well, Her Interactive posted about the game on their Facebook page. Let me quote the post verbatim:

Despite our best attempts to answer everyone's emails, posts, tweets, blog posts, etc. about Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem...we admittedly do miss some. And hey, we’re only human, so sometimes we inadvertently miss responding to a post. Hence, we felt it would be appropriate to post the attached message. Our goal is to have a more substantial update for you very shortly. We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented shift at HeR Interactive. Please know that we are not ignoring you but we are a very lean team and simply can't respond to everything. We are doing the very best we can. Also, please know that just because we offer a new Nancy Drew puzzle or start a new Nancy Drew contest, that it has no impact on the development and progress of our next title. Our fans mean the world to us and we appreciate you sticking by us during this longer than usual wait time between titles. As always, we thank you for your support and stay sleuthy!

This came along with a picture which reads:

Dear fans--

Please know we are still in the process of developing Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem but do not have any additional news or a release date to announce at this time.

We apologize for this delay, as we are updating the game engine, UI, graphics and more to improve the overall quality of the games. We thank you for your patience.

Stay tuned!

Her Interactive

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Randomly Generated Visual Novel

Yesterday, I came up with a general template for Sweet Valley High novels. My friend Paul tells me that the videogame equivalent of this is called "procedural generation". Some computer games work like that. They have a basic template with different options, and the computer randomly picks which options pop up. That way, the game is different each time.

A simple example is the password to open the gate in Nancy Drew: The Final Scene. It's randomly determined. Each time you load the game, you get a different password. There are something like 350,000 possible variations.

I haven't seen a visual novel try something like that, probably because it'd be difficult! But I was thinking about writing a visual novel called Love on the Oregon Trail a while back. Is there some kind of template I can make for that? Like...
  • The man is [widow/single] and the woman is [widow/single]. They are [same age] or [man/woman] older by [1-4 years]
  • They [want to be together and are kept apart by circumstances/are total strangers who are forced together by circumstances]
  • The villain is [man's relative/woman's relative/third party]
  • The villain wants to keep them apart because [they are nasty in general/they think the other person isn't good enough/they want to date the other person themselves]
Some of the circumstances can be Oregon Trail specific, like "lack of food", "wagon accident", "crashed while trying to ford a river". Going through the list of storylines from the Oregon Trail romance books I looked over, it seems "hero wants to escape a bad marriage" is the most common circumstance to bring the strangers together, followed by "tragic disaster".

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sweet Valley High Special Episode Books

I'm reading Sweet Valley High books right now. I don't know why, but I seem to be getting all the "special episode" books. That is, all the books which deal with heavy topics, like racism, drugs, alcohol, runaway teens, criminals, and others. This is opposed to the series' standard faire, which is high school dating and drama.

After reading enough of these books, I've come to the realization that they're all basically the same. A few of the details get changed around, but they're mostly identical. They're so much alike, I could make a template. Just like this:

The main character is a [boy/girl] who is a [junior/senior] and [new in town/a longtime local]. They have a [good/bad] [boyfriend/girlfriend/crush]. They are hiding a secret about [themselves/family member/friend/romantic interest]. They spend five chapters, lying about the secret over and over again, until things reach the breaking point. The secret is revealed, and there is a big fallout. The character has a change of heart, and a happy ending ensues.

The character's age determines which of the main cast members they'll interact with. If the romantic interest is a good crush, the happy ending is them becoming a couple. If the romantic interest is a good boyfriend, the secret reveal results in a temporary breakup, which is resolved at the end. If the romantic interest is a bad boyfriend/crush, the happy ending is the hero breaking up with them or telling them off.

Not EVERY special episode book follows this template, but enough of them do for me to notice it. If I had more time, I could probably make up a simple computer program that randomly generates a storyline based off this template. There's something like 100+ combinations here, especially if you add more details like "main character has [zero/one/two] siblings and [divorced/married] parents."