Monday, March 19, 2018

This Blog

About a month ago, I said that I was thinking of winding down and stopping this blog. Apparently, I'm really bad at that, because I still have about 30 blog entries to post. Some of them are half-written entries that I started years ago, some of them are part of a series.

Actually, I think most of them are part of a series. I did one or two speedruns, and I haven't posted everything about them yet. Hope you readers don't mind reading my prepwork for speedruns that are already finished.

I had an idea about the Everything Wrong With series. As you may know, I solicit suggestions for that series here on my blog and Facebook. You blog readers often have great ideas! What if I did a blog post, for all the remaining games now? Basically, one per day, until I reach the end of the series. It seems a little weird to do that, so far in advance of when I can be expected to finish the videos.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mermaid Mission Titanic

I spent a few days working on Mermaid Mission Titanic, recently. This game is going to be great! It's mostly finished, too. I'm just waiting for the rest of the artwork to be done, so I can put it in the game.

90% of what I did was adjust character locations. Moving characters around the screen can be hard, as it's totally inconsistent from character to character. If I put the main character in vertical position 1.1, the daughter in vertical position 1.1 and Andreas in vertical position 1.1, they're all in different vertical positions! I had to do a LOT of guess and check to place them in the correct spots.

Ren'py has three pre-defined locations that you can place characters: left, right and center. That works perfectly for all the mermaid characters. It doesn't work for the humans. The vertical alignment is off by .1 (.2 for Andreas). Maybe the humans are too tall? The copy of the game with placeholder art uses those three locations in every scene, so I had to go back and change every one by hand.

About 80% of the way through programming, I realized that, duh, I should have defined my own locations. You know, human left, human right and human center, which are the same as left, right and center, just moved down by .1. That way, I could have used replace to change the character positions in two seconds, instead of taking hours to do it by hand.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Deep Space Nine #6: Field Trip

The premise of the book is that Jake's class is going on a field trip to a planet in the Gamma Quadrant. The planet is safe for kids, as it only has plants on it. One type of plant screams and runs around, while another type moves and attacks people with tentacle vines. That sounds pretty unsafe for kids! But those are the only two plants you need to look out for, so I guess it's okay.

As our heroes approach the planet, they are attacked by a Cardassian ship. They are forced to make a crash landing, and the pilot is badly injured. So now they're stranded on an alien planet with hostile Cardassians and no way of contacting people back home.

They make shelter in a cave, and something starts robbing them. First, it steals all the electronics from the ship, then all the electronics have in the shelter. They set a trap, and it turns out the thieves are furry trolls, about three feet tall. They're actually Cyborg Trolls; they have computer parts built into them. Talk in Yoda speak, they do. Friendly are they. The situation they explain.

The Cyborg Trolls were modified by the Cardassians to be spies, as they can travel through force fields and bypass security measures. They are stealing electronics, because they think their newborn children need them. Our heroes team up with the Cyborg Trolls to hijack the Cardassian spaceship and return home.

This was also a good book. The secondary characters were particularly well-done. I wish Jake had a set of interesting secondary characters that he interacted with on the show! Did any of the students in his class have names?

Unlike the previous books, this one has a notice saying the book series takes place during seasons one and two of the TV show. Oh, so that's how they got around the problem of "main character of the books becomes secondary character on the show"!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Deep Space Nine #5: Arcade

Sorry to skip ahead in the series, but Open Library doesn't have books 3 or 4.

A new arcade has opened on Deep Space Nine. Jake and his friends love going there, and it's neat to see Jake interact with kids who aren't Nog. Jake gets in trouble for playing games, instead of focusing on school, and he's not allowed to play any more until he finishes a history report on the Crusades.

The arcade owner says he has a special new virtual reality game that no one has ever won before. Jake can't play it, because he's grounded.

Then, all of Jake's friends get injured. They're in comas, and their bodies are beaten up. Jake suspects the special game has something to do with it, and he's right. Whatever happens to you in the game happens to you in real life! Jake has to go into the game and save his friends.

The game ends up being rather neat, as it is different for every player. The first challenge is "get past what you fear most", the second challenge is "avoid a fight with the person you hate most", the third challenge is "don't take the valuable treasure that you want more than anything else". It was interesting to see how the challenge changed, for each player. Similar to the first Harry Potter book, the final challenge involves getting the treasure, but not taking it.

Arcade is the best out of the three books I've read in this series. I bet kids who don't watch the TV show would enjoy it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Doing Taxes

I'm doing tax volunteering every other week, for tax season! I'm working with VITA. We do free tax returns for the poor, needy and elderly. We use a loose definition of "poor and needy"; basically, we accept anyone whose taxes aren't so complicated that they need professional help. My site is sponsored by AARP, so we mostly get elderly people.

Doing tax returns for the elderly is usually pretty easy. Nine times out of ten, social security benefits are not taxable. They only get taxed, if you make a lot of money. Pensions and IRAs (except Roth IRAs) get taxed, but most banks know enough to take out taxes when they give you the money.

Most of our clients keep track of their charitable donations and medical expenses. That's great, but nine times out of ten, it makes no difference, tax-wise. The standard deduction for the elderly is $7,600 per person. That's a pretty high bar. Most people don't give more than that to charity. Medical expenses are always unpredictable, though, especially since Oregon has a special medical subtraction which requires its own calculator.

I'm not allowed to reveal client information, obviously, but some people have money problems that I would love to have. Especially lottery winners! You don't like paying taxes on your multi-million winnings? I'd like that! I'm good with taxes! I would be fine with making estimated taxes payments on that amount!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Oreo Ice Cream Cake

This recipe is adapted from "Brad's Favorite Oreo Cake", by Marsha Keller.

1 gallon vanilla ice cream
1 jar caramel syrup
1 jar chocolate syrup
1 large package of Oreos

Run the Oreos through a blender. I ended up with at least four cups of Oreo bits. The original recipe assumes you only have two. Now I've got two cups of Oreo pieces sitting in my cabinet. What am I going to do with those?

Divide the ice cream into thirds. It helps to leave it out on the counter for fifteen minutes, first.

In a tall pan, you do a layer of Oreos, a layer of ice cream, then a layer of chocolate syrup. Then, a layer of Oreos, a layer of ice cream, and a layer of caramel syrup. Finish with a layer of ice cream and a layer of Oreos. The two inner layers of Oreos can be left out, if you only have two cups.

Freeze the cake for several hours, so it takes the form of a cake. Then it's done! You can use whipped cream on top, if you want.

I recorded myself making this recipe; I'll try to post it soon. I don't have the right sized container for this; the recipe assumes you have a spring-form pan. I got the wrong type of chocolate syrup. I got hot fudge, but it needs to be syrup, because fudge doesn't pour. I didn't have even layers, so the cake ended up looking like a soupy mess of Oreos, ice cream, chocolate and caramel. The good news is that it looked much better after freezing, and it's crazy delicious (and unhealthy!).

If I had to make it again, I would be sure to have even layers, and to have the two Oreo layers in the middle.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


I bought Yooka-Laylee for the Switch, and you know what? It's a pretty good game! It's made by the people who did Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. They promised to make a game just like those ones, and they delivered on that promise!

Some people have complained the game is too similar to those 1990's games, which makes them boring and outdated. Are these the same people who complained that Duck Tales Remastered was outdated, for being based on a 90's game? I say, "Whatever, man." Being like 1990's games was the entire premise of the project. There haven't been any major collectathon games in over fifteen years; it's a change of pace to play one again.

Sadly, I'm not very good at 3D platformers. I keep falling off platforms and messing up the controls. The race in the first world is a perfect example. I lost over a dozen times, because I couldn't master the timing of when to jump and how to keep my characters on the track. The game is still fun, but there are multiple places where I had to decide, "No, I'm not going after this particular item. It would take way too long to do." My gameplay is limited to "one hour, once a week", after all.

The game has an "expanded world" feature. You can expand a world, so it has 5-10 new challenges / areas to explore. That was a neat idea, although I think it could have been implemented a little more smoothly. I wasted a lot of time in World One, trying to explore places which are empty and pointless, until the world is expanded. There's no way to tell ahead of time if you can't explore a particular area yet.

I liked the first three worlds. I did not like World Four, which looks neat but is hard to navigate. I just started World Five, and I hope it's better.

I want to do a collectathon-style game someday, although I have no idea how that'd work out, since I make visual novels. I tried making one for Mermaid Mission Titanic, but it morphed into a maze puzzle instead. I think that puzzle segment is still good, even if it's not a collectathon. The testers seemed to like it. I wonder how the general public will like it, when the game is finished.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister

"Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister" is here! Enjoy seeing me complain about the cheese-hating tornado chasers!

I did a poll asking people what puzzles to complain about. I am surprised nobody wanted to complain about the transmission puzzle or the shopping puzzle.

Some of my complaints are about timing. Nancy hears Frosty/Debbie plotting to hurt Scott on Day Two, and she doesn't follow up on it, until Day Six. Similarly, Nancy hears Scott plotting on Day Four, and she doesn't follow up on it, until Day Seven. Also, Scott compliments Nancy's driving on "the chase yesterday", when the previous day, she did not go on a chase. I wonder if the various days were originally in a different order, and they got shuffled around.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Fire Emblem Warriors

I tried out Fire Emblem Warriors for the Switch. The game is very gorgeous, and the voice acting is great. The story is interesting too, to the point where I might watch it on YouTube, if I had enough free time.

But sadly, this is not the game for me. This is a hack and slash game, not a strategy RPG. The gameplay is mostly smashing buttons, in order to fight hundreds of enemies. I don't enjoy button mashing games, and I got bored of the gameplay quickly.

The game apparently has a bunch of characters from other Fire Emblem games. Apparently, when I wasn't looking, everyone in Fire Emblem became amazingly good-looking. No wonder it segued into dating sim territory in Fire Emblem Fates...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Deep Space Nine #2: Stowaways

Book 2 of Teenager Deep Space Nine is "Stowaways". Doctor Bashir is going to Bajor for three days. Jake and Non sneak in the back of the doctor's transport ship, and come along for the ride. Dr. Bashir plays secret agent, during the three hour ride. Like, he talks to himself, pretending he's getting orders for a secret agent mission. It's weird.

Dr. Bashir plays secret agent while on the planet, and he leaves with someone named Takir (I think that's it). When he doesn't return that night, Jake gets worried. It turns out that Takir is leading a dangerous group of rebels, which is plotting to assassinate the newest Vedek (a religious leader). And, in fact, a botched assassination attempt occurs right in front of Jake. Crazy timing!

Jake learns this information from a local Bajoran girl. She leads them to the enemy camp, where she infiltrates the rebels and learns Dr. Bashir's location. While she returns home, Nog makes a distraction with a landslide, while Jake rescues Bashir. Things look good, until Takir grabs Nog.

Bashir takes control of the situation, more or less. He and Jake grab a car and some weapons. Bashir destroys the shield to the rebel base, and he bluffs Takir into letting Nog go. The rebels are defeated, everyone is safe, and our heroes get to ride in the parade, at the Vedek's installation ceremony. Jake and Nog get out of trouble, by threatening to reveal Dr. Bashir's silly secret agent game.

This book was not as good as the first, probably because there were fewer Deep Space Nine characters. Most of the story was just Jake and Nog, with the cute girl who pretty much does everything for them in the first half. She was an okay character, and maybe Jake would have fared better on the TV show if he tried dating a girl like that, instead of chasing after a girl who makes him look like a sleaze.

Side note: Nog is terrifying-looking, and I do not want to see him in every illustration. Thanks.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Deep Space Nine #1: The Space Ghost

After reading the Teenager Star Trek series for Star Trek: The Next Generation, I think I'll move on to the Teenager Star Trek series for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This series is uncreatively titled Deep Space Nine. I'm not gonna do full video reviews for these books, though. I'll just do short reviews here.

Every book in the series features Jake Sisko as the main character. That's, uh, not good. On the TV show, Jake fades into the background and is mostly forgotten. This series must have been started before he got demoted to a third-level character. I'm almost certain that's the case, because the first book also features Molly and Keiko O'Brien as major characters. They, too, will end up disappearing on the TV show.

The story of the book is that Molly sees a space ghost. Nog runs away screaming, because he thinks it's one of his ancestors, haunting him for being a bad businessman. Jake follows the ghost to an isolated part of the ship.

It turns out the "ghost" is really an inter-dimensional alien, who was sent here to observe Deep Space Nine. Only children can see him, for unexplained reasons. The alien takes Jake to its own dimension, so the two of them can talk. He warns Jake that Deep Space Nine is about to be blown up, by a secret bomb. And to make things worse, there's no way for Jake to get back to his own dimension. He's stuck as a ghost forever!

Jake tries to talk to Nog, but Nog is still scared of ghosts. So Jake tries talking to Molly, but Molly's parents don't take her seriously. Jake tries talking to Nog a second time, and it works.

I figured Jake would tell Nog about the bomb right away, but no. Jake talks to Nog about some kind of technobabble, involving a precisely-timed transporter. That allows Jake to get back to his own dimension. They wait around for an hour until it's the right time, so Jake has plenty of time to warn people about the bomb. But he doesn't. Jake is a bad hero.

Jake returns, about two and a half minutes before the bomb is set to go off. He quickly warns everyone, and the bomb is removed at the last second. Hooray, he saved everyone!

This book was okay. The parts with Nog were funny, but I didn't think the inter-dimensional alien was all that interesting.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Sherlock Holmes

Wow, I got a lot of comments yesterday, from people who want to see me play Sherlock Holmes games. I don't want to be rude, but...why? They're awful. Here's a video of me playing one:

I did that video nine years ago. I played demos of all the Sherlock Holmes games which were available that year, but they were equally bad. That was the only one I bothered to record. I guess I could try out the other games (and record that), but I'm hesitant to do so. I'm fairly certain I'll agree with my 2009 assessment of their quality level.

I did purchase Sherlock Holmes VS Jack the Ripper, but I couldn't get through it. The violence and gore was extremely gratuitous, and the gameplay was fetch quests. Sherlock ping-ponged from person to person for an hour, and I think he solved one puzzle. It wasn't fun.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Upcoming Walkthroughs

Oops, I forgot to post the list of walkthroughs I'm currently working on, last weekend. Well, here's my to-do list!

  • Annabel. This was requested by a Patreon person, so it gets thrown to the top of the list.
  • Fire Emblem Gaiden, Nuzlocke. I'm in the middle of recording it now. I know I said this walkthrough was cancelled, but I discovered the game has an easy mode, so the walkthrough is back on!
  • Dark Parables: Swan Princess. Mary and I are recording this, with each video covering one chapter (of 10) of the game.
  • Dark Dimensions: Blade Master. Haven't started it yet.
  • Beard in the Mirror. I think I'll livestream this!
  • Redemption Cemetery: Embodiment of Evil
  • Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Brown.
  • Miles Edgeworth 2, Case 3
  • Dual Destinies DLC
  • Spirit of Justice DLC
  • Fire Emblem iOS
  • Other pathways in the Spy Fox games
  • DOS games

Everything after "Redemption Cemetery" is questionable. I haven't decided whether or not I'll do them. I think I'll let my followers on Twitter/Facebook decide.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Saint Valentine

Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday were on the same day this year. This caused some confusion, as to which holiday Catholics should celebrate. Answer: Ash Wednesday, the more important one.

The weird thing is, Catholics haven't celebrated Saint Valentine's Day in 50 years. In the 1960's, the Catholic Church updated its calendar, to remove any questionable saints. You know, people who might not have existed, whose stories are just legends or myths. Saint Valentine was removed, as part of that purge.

Saint Valentine definitely existed, though, and he was kept on the official list of martyrs. He was killed in the 200's, and we know where he was buried. That's about all the historians can agree on. There's disagreement as to how and why he died, although most people agree he was beheaded for trying to convert the emperor.

I know there's a cute story about Saint Valentine helping two people find love. Some people say the legend is why he's associated with romantic love, while other people think the legend was invented after the fact, to justify the association. Sounds like a "chicken and the egg" problem historians won't be able to solve, without new evidence.