Thursday, December 8, 2016

Recording Detective Barbie 3

I mentioned Detective Barbie 3 the other day, because I'm doing a walkthrough for it. Recording this game has been a pig and a half, I assure you! I normally use a Hauppauge PVR to record console games, but this game doesn't cooperate with the Hauppague's HD input. Maybe because it's a PS1 game, being played on a PS2.

So I have to use the old-fashioned red-yellow-white cables to output the game, and I think the problem is that I've got old cables which don't work so well anymore. They can't go a full minute without dropping the signal at least once. For whatever reason, when I actively record with the Hauppauge, the cables drop the signal about 25% more often.

When the signal drops, my TV turns black and says "no signal", while the recorded footage just drops those frames. Syncing up audio and video just plain doesn't work, because the video ends up being a lot shorter than the audio.

So...here's my ridiculous workaround!

For the audio, I turn up the TV volume to the maximum and shout over it, to do commentary. For the video, I record the Hauppauge's preview box. I don't actually record with the Hauppauge. So the final video will end up being pretty jumpy with a lot of dropped frames, but no blackscreen. It's the best I can do.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home

I got a chance to see Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home. I would have seen it earlier, but it was always checked out at my local library, whenever I visited. I guess that's a testament to its enduring popularity.

The premise of the movie is that an alien spaceship is attacking Earth, sending out weird messages that pretty much destroy all technology. This is happening at the same time our heroes are returning to Earth. So they're the only Earth spaceship which still works, meaning they're the only ones that can save the planet.

It turns out that the aliens are whales. Space whales. I thought that was a joke, but it's 100% serious. About every million years or so, the alien space whales stop by Earth, chat with a few humpback whales, then go back to their own planet. But humpback whales are extinct at this point in history, so our heroes go back in time to 1986 to find some whales.

I'm not a big fan of introducing time travel into the movie series at this point. That just begs the question of "why didn't they use time travel to avoid any of the problems in the previous movies"? But to be fair, the original Star Trek TV series featured a lot of "we're time travelling back to the same year this series was made", probably because it's cheaper to film live in San Francisco than it is to build a future San Francisco set and film there.

So our heroes crash land in 1980's San Francisco, and just enough of their computer equipment has failed, in order to give everyone a job to do. Kirk and Spock are the main characters, so they have to find the whales. McCoy and Scotty have to find some kind of whale cage, while Sulu finds a way to transport it. Uhura and Chekov have to find a nuclear power source to run their ship.

The movie is pretty funny, with a lot of "our heroes are super confused" jokes, and thankfully, there was only one joke that fell flat, because it relied on a 1980's pop culture reference that I've never heard of before, ever. It was cute to see Spock start swearing in order to fit in, just because that's so out of character for him. It was funny to see Scotty try and fail to control a computer by talking to Siri, because he ended up looking like an idiot who talks to machines. It was neat to see McCoy argue medicine with a real doctor, and it was at least kind of funny that nobody understood Chekov's accent. Kind of.

I can totally see why non Star Trek fans enjoy this movie. It's not high philosophy and technobabble! It's a "fish out of water" humor script, with occasional action sequences (they get the nuclear power source by robbing a military base). There's a minor romance element to it, which was better than I expect, compared to the original series, where the "romance" was mostly an excuse for hot girls to wear revealing outfits.

I'd say the only think I didn't really like were the parts where the movie got put on hold for a few minutes, so they could deliver a "save the whales" speech. That was just as heavy-handed as the "buy organic food!" lectures in Nancy Drew Diaries 9, whose name I don't remember, because I just remember it as the organic farming book.

Also, if I'm being picky, I didn't like how our heroes focused on saving one specific pair of whales, when they easily could have taken any pair of whales from the ocean, no problem. Nope, our heroes have to focus on the only pair of whales in the world that are in captivity and have media attention on them. Guys, you're only making your job harder on yourself!

Overall, a great film, space whales and all. It was fun, funny, and well-balanced. I'd say it's my favorite of the movie series so far! I can see why people enjoy the (loose) trilogy made up of Movies 2-4. I hope movie #5 is just as good, but I know that it won't be, because it's the movie everyone hates. Sad.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Electoral College

People have been talking a lot about the electoral college recently, since Hillary Clinton lost the Presidential election, despite getting about two and a half million more votes than Trump did. I've complained about the electoral college in the past, myself. I appreciate how it at least tries to make every state relevant in the Presidential election process, but in reality, only a handful of states make a difference in elections.

My history buff friend was inspired to look more into what the Founding Fathers were thinking, when they made the electoral college. As it turns out, they were thinking that every election would have three or more candidates. The electoral college makes a lot more sense, if there are three viable candidates. It's hard to get a majority vote, when there are more than two candidates. Heck, the Clinton/Trump election only had two viable candidates, and even then, nobody got 50% of the vote.

My friend also says that the Founding Fathers expected the electoral college to tie more often than not, which is why they went into such detail about what to do, when nobody wins the electoral college.

Also, the electoral college was partially a practical decision. It wasn't feasible for them to have national elections, even one that only covers thirteen states on the East Coast. It was way easier to let every individual state handle its own election, then report that result to the people in DC.

Today, the numbers we use for the electoral college are based on state populations, as determined by the Census Bureau. However, those numbers aren't accurate for voting purposes, because the majority of people don't vote. Some Founding Fathers wanted to base the electoral college numbers on the number of voters, while others didn't. This was part of a big argument, which eventually led to the 3/5 compromise.

I wonder how the electoral college would look like today, if it was based on the number of actual voters, not just potential voters! I bet the map would look pretty different, whether we left out the potential voters entirely, or if we counted them as 3/5 of a person each. California and Texas would probably get fewer electoral votes, while Ohio and Florida would get more. (And in the following election, every state would vote in record numbers to try to assert electoral college dominance.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Francy Droo Three

Fans of the Francy Droo videogame that I wrote--buy it today!--will be glad to know that the sequel has been mostly finished! The next step is reviewing the game and testing it. On my end, the next step is playing through the whole thing and taking note of everything I'd like to tweak or change. ("That comma looks weird. Let's get rid of it.")

Actually releasing the game is a complicated matter that I won't get into right now.

I have vague plans for a third Francy Droo game. When I first pitched the concept years ago, I wrote three different sample mysteries. I turned the first two samples into actual games, so why not the third one? I call it Francy Droo and the Speed Dating Sham. I think that's a cool name.

The general idea is that Francy and her friend Katie go speed dating. Francy meets a guy named Frank Harvey, who is also an amateur detective. Frank brags / tells Francy about a case he just solved. Frank would be the only guy at speed dating who's memorable. The other guys would be bland palette swaps of each other, and the speed dating event unexpectedly gets cancelled partway through.

You get to chose which guys you want to meet again. No matter what option you pick, Frank Harvey reappears and enlists Francy's help in solving the mystery of why they called off the speed dating event, with no warning or explanation. That's as much as I've got right now.

I kind of had the idea that maybe Frank solved two cases recently, one being a brief parody of Nancy Drew #1, and the other being a brief parody of Nancy Drew #3. You can hear about one at speed dating, and the other at the second scene with Frank. Is that what people want to see from these games? Or would it be better for Francy to solve her own, unique mysteries? I feel like this might be a nice compromise, in that you get a brief scene with a more direct parody, but the real mystery is its own thing.

(I have no idea how I would parody those two Nancy Drew games, by the way, so the entire idea might bet scrapped.)

(Also, I checked my original pitch for the game. It says "Francy has an older sister" and "Katie has a tomboy cousin named Henry". I guess those were subplots I was thinking about when I wrote the pitch?)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave

I finally got to see this year's new movie, The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave. It is the fourteenth movie in the series, the first movie since 2007.

I loved it! I give it nine Nothronychuses out of Yutyrannus. Both of those being the dinosaurs with feathers that appear in this film.

The movie is a semi-sequel to the tenth movie, which is the last movie in the series that I enjoyed. The story is that Littlefoot's father, Brom, comes to visit him every year. This year, Brom was injured, while trying to save a celebrity cameo character. Now he's dying and needs help escaping his inevitable lava death. Littlefoot and friends travel a long distance to reach Brom and save him.

Major props to this movie, for not shying away from the topic of parental death. The death of Littlefoot's mother dominated the first movie, but all the sequels either ignored it or glossed over it, as inappropriate material for a children's movie. This movie goes into detail about the death of Littlefoot's mother, because that's his main motivation for saving his father. He doesn't want Dad to die like Mom did, he's scared of being all alone, and he still has some survivor's guilt, because Mom died to save him.

Not that Littlefoot is actively angsting over his tragic backstory. He's still a happy singing dinosaur who has fun adventures. But I liked how the movie had a serious element to it.

I also liked how the movie had Ruby and Chomper in it! It's good to see that they acknowledged the existence of the short-lived TV series, and besides, their subplot was entertaining. They were paired up with the celebrity cameo, Littlefoot's grandfather and Cera's father, and it worked surprisingly well to have the oldest characters and youngest characters interacting with each other. (On a sad side note, they had to recast both of the older male roles, because their voice actors died.)

The movie does retread some old ground. Littlefoot and Cera get into a fight and decide to split up, in a sequence that is more or less a repeat of the original movie. The subplot with Petrie finding a bunch of followers was entertaining, albeit pointless. My least favorite subplot was the one with Etta, which was the other celebrity cameo character. It seemed like she was there, mostly so they could have her sing a good song.

The music was amazing, by the way. It's been months since I saw the movie, and the tune for Hot and Stinky still pops up in my head occasionally. I would probably have the first song memorized, if I saw the movie more than once.

Overall, it was a good movie. It's WAY BETTER than the thirteenth movie, which is all I was hoping for. If the series doesn't continue after this, then we can say that it went out on a good note.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel Suggestions

I'm now taking suggestions for things to include in "Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel"! I went through my playthrough of the game and wrote down everything I could think of, but you people online always catch a few good problems that I missed!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Three Things Thursday

1. I did the math on my YouTube results so far this year. It looks like I made $38.36 more on YouTube in 2016 than I did in 2015. That means 2016 is the first year ever where I made more YouTube money than the previous year! Hooray! Granted, it's not a huge increase of profit, but it's still impressive, considering there wasn't a big Nancy Drew game release to bring in a lot of views, like every other year of Arglefumph's existence.

...I'm still making nowhere near full-time minimum wage, though, so I can't quit my day job. Shoot.

2. In terms of view counts, my current estimate for the year is 5,046,046, about 97% of last year's 5,172,184 views. Again, I'm sure a new Nancy Drew game release would have tipped me over last year's performance. Maybe. Checking my blind playthrough of Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness , it looks like each video got around 3,000 views for the year. 25 times 3,000 equals 75,000...which isn't enough to cover the gap.

3. Last year, my expenses were $3,414.09, and this year, my expenses were $1,905.59. (10% of all my YouTube money goes directly to my network.) Mostly, I saved money by spending way less on books for book reviews this year. So if we're talking net profit, then I made a lot more money on YouTube this year. Hooray!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Portland Protests

Last week, I had a run-in with the Portland protests. You might have seen them on the national news, because one of their protests turned into a riot. When I first heard about the protesters, my initial response was confusion. Why are they protesting against Trump in a city where Clinton won over 75% of the vote? Wouldn't it make more sense to protest against Trump in an area that is populated by Trump supporters? Also, they keep trying to shut down traffic, by blocking bridges and freeways. What's the point of doing that?

The protesters shut down Fifth Avenue, which is the city's main bus hub. Both of my routes home were delayed as a result. That made me really, really mad. I didn't vote for Trump! I'm just a guy who's trying to get home to have dinner and see his family! Why do they feel the need to ruin my commute? Seriously, they could have moved over one block and avoided all this drama.

I didn't actually see the protesters, because there was a police barricade. The police lights kept flashing blue and red, making it hard to see in that direction. At one point, the protest moved closer to where I was. The protesters got louder, and I could make out individual chants, like "No Trump! No KKK! No racist USA!". Previously, it was all a bunch of indistinct shouting, mostly dwarfed by a policeman on a megaphone, giving instructions. The police barricade moved closer to me at this point, with the lights getting bigger and bigger.

I don't know about you, but when an angry mob and police are coming towards me in one direction, I go in the other direction. I walked far enough away, to be out of range for the protest, and went to a different bus stop. The bus was late, obviously, and filled with a bunch of angry people who weren't able to catch the previous bus home.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Detective Barbie 3

There is a third game in the Detective Barbie series!  It was released for the PlayStation, and I think that was a bad decision. It probably would have been better, if they released it for both PlayStation and PC, like Barbie Super Sports. As it was, most fans of the PC series did not jump ship to the PlayStation, and the series got cancelled.

It was also a bad idea to switch to PlayStation, because it has obvious technical limitations. All the characters are blocky and unrealistic looking. The rooms in the game are too large for the PlayStation to handle, so each one gets split up into multiple screens. It made travelling around in the game a little more tedious, because you have to go through multiple rooms, to go through one room, if that makes sense. There are a few rooms which aren't split up into multiple screens, but they're mostly empty rooms that are all pallete swaps of each other. I'm not sure why the game felt the need to include six empty, identical rooms.

Another limitation of the game is that Barbie can no longer move in three directions. She can only move up, down, left or right. To move diagonally, you're forced to zigzag. You can't use the joystick to control her; you have to use the directional arrows. And the arrows work, according to the direction the room is facing, not according to the direction Barbie is facing. That took a little bit of getting used to, but I can give it a pass, because the other Detective Barbie games have odd controls. Still, I don't like how the controls were downgraded, compared to the previous games.

In good news, the minigames were definitely upgraded! They are more fun and less frustrating, with the exception of the bottle-catching minigame. I got stuck for about an hour in the game, because I didn't realize you absolutely have to WIN the minigame to continue. That was almost impossible, because I had technical issues with my Playstation. About every five seconds, the screen went black and said "no input received" for a second or two. Try playing a fast-paced minigame when your screen keeps cutting out! (Incidentally, these technical issues ruined the video footage that I recorded. I'll try recording it again, but I'm not hopeful.)

The mystery itself was more streamlined, which was good, because it's a lot easier to figure out what you have to do, in order to progress. In the previous games, it was far too easy to get stuck and wander around aimlessly. My only complaint would be that interacting with the suspects was mostly removed from the game. You can talk a suspect twice, at most. In the other games, each suspect had at least three distinct conversations.

The tool setup in the game was tweaked a bit. I think it could have been improved, because you need three separate tools in order to take a fingerprint. (You have to take six fingerprints over the course of the game.) It would have been easier to have ONE fingerprint tool, so you didn't have to switch tools three times, in order to perform one action.

The game also has a nice multiplayer feature, which I didn't use because I don't have a second PlayStation controller.

Overall, I'd say it's a good game, or at least, it's on par with the second game. If only it had been released on the PC, without those glaring graphical limitations! Then it would have definitely deserved the title of "best game in the series so far", as opposed to being the game that killed the series.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Missing Nancy Drew Games Clips

Recently, I posted the alternate ending to the third Nancy Drew game! It's more or less the same as the normal ending, except the culprit says something different. The audio files for both endings are in the game's audio folder.



Someone asked on this blog if I'm going to look for other missing Nancy Drew game clips. I have kind of found one! At the end of Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand, Nancy confronts the culprit. Her only dialogue option at this point is "Why are you doing this?".

It seems that, originally, Nancy had two dialogue options here. I can't find what the second option is, but I found the culprit's response! The culprit says, "Must you be so crass? To me, it's a psychic thing--a state of oneness, if you will, with the laws of supply and demand." I wonder what Nancy said, to cause this response. I guess I'll have to search through the game's audio files some more. Maybe I can even make a video of it! Although it wouldn't be a video, it'd just be audio clips. Hmmm.

Are there any other "missing" Nancy Drew game clips that I should be looking for? I know there is an alternate take of one of Miwako's lines in Shadow at the Water's Edge, but it's literally just that: her saying the exact same line, with a slightly different cadence. I'm not sure if that's worth making a video for.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Weekend Work

I'm still figuring out how to balance my YouTube work, with my new full-time maternity leave job. On the bus ride to and from work, it's pretty easy for me to watch my videos, review them for any problems, write video descriptions and figure out thumbnails. I can use my headphones and not bother anyone.

So I guess that means weekends are for the YouTube work I can't do on the bus, such as recording and editing videos. Right now, I've got a few walkthroughs that need major editing. With Phoenix Wright, I use specialized software to crop the videos, before I edit them together. It's not that bad. It's just time consuming, especially at the parts of the game where you constantly switch between screens. Yes, it's a few extra minutes of work for me to include a ten-second clip, where I select "yes or no" on the bottom screen.

Fire Emblem Path of Radiance Nuzlocke and Paper Mario N64 are long games, and they're console games. That means the audio and the video are done in separate files, and they have to be synced up manually. Let me tell you, it's not easy. I tried to get the timings right, by doing a "three, two, one, GO!" countdown whenever I started recording. But usually, the audio is about a half-second off. The good news is that I do silly voices in the Paper Mario walkthrough, so it's pretty easy to tell if my commentary is ahead of the video or not.

The nasty part is when the video footage itself has syncing issues, which happens more often than I'd like. (I'd like it to happen never.) The easy solution is to run the video through a converter; converting it to an .avi file seems to do the trick, two-thirds of the time. The other third of the time, I have the harder solution of removing the audio and manually syncing it up. That happened with Paper Mario video 15, for some reason. A few seconds of audio magically disappeared, during the part where Mario plays a gramophone. I have no idea why or how that happened.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Baby Birth Suitcase

I don't get Black Friday off, so I'm working today. Sadness.

They say to pack a suitcase to take with you, when the baby is born. You're going to be in the hospital for 2-3 days, after all. Mary and Katie have been super excited about setting it up, while I've been hands off.

Let's see what's inside this bad boy! Hmmm...mostly clothes. Food includes a plastic bag of peanuts, a box of granola bars and a can of Surge. (I suggested that as a joke. I guess they took me literally.) There's also travel-sized toiletries and a book for Katie to read.

I might have to slip a phone charger in there. I'm going to call Mom, after the baby is born. She has volunteered for the job of calling every relative we have who is currently alive, and maybe even some relatives who aren't. Then I'll make a post about it on Facebook/Twitter?

I'll try to write a lot of blog entries in advance, so you people won't be left out. I'm currently writing a full week of entries, every single weekend.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful that our new baby is coming soon, and that I found a maternity leave job which fully covers Katie's maternity leave period! Things were really dicey there, for at least a month.