Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 31

The second conversation with Jim Archer is simple. Ask him about the safe deposit key. It's about two and a half seconds faster to say "could this be it?", because if you pick the other option, he responds with "really?" before Nancy shows him the key. He asks you to do a favor, and it's about .1 seconds to say, "Sure!" over "Such as?".

It's about two seconds faster to tell him to get a new seamstress, over asking how much he'll pay. And it's about one second faster to ask how much work needs to be done on the dress, over telling him to say no more.

With the second Jane conversation, you need to pick the second option twice. The first time is faster, because Jane doesn't say "No. You mean...". The second time is faster, because it avoids a conversation about the culprit's motive. When Jane gives you the pie puzzle, it's faster to say "Sounds good!" over "if you insist".

When you find the hidden passageway leading to Emily's room, it triggers a conversation with Jane, the next time you talk to her. It's faster to avoid this conversation, so I talk to Jane (to get the sewing needle) before I find the hidden passageway. Also, good news! You don't have to talk to Topham about the Shakespeare book, before you can explore his house. You can go through the hidden passageway and explore his house directly.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 30

The second conversation with Topham is easy to navigate. He asks if you've solved his logic problem. It's faster to say "right here!". Then you ask about Marcel twice--it's always the third conversation topic--so you can get the key from Emily.

Then you ask about the quartz, which is the third topic. You get to make three choices here, but Topham has the same response, no matter what options you pick. So once again, the fastest way through the conversation is to pick the options that Nancy says fastest. It's about a second faster to claim you're getting it for Nancy's father. It's 0.2 seconds faster to say "really?" over "is that so?". And it's about a second faster to say "Me? Really?" over "Subject? As in...experiment?".

Then you do the random puzzle, where he says a certain line, which is associated with one of five cards. The various lines are...

  • This is which card?
  • What card am I holding?
  • Tell me, what card is this?
  • What card is this?
  • Can you tell me what card this is?
  • What card am I concentrating on?
  • What card am I thinking about?
  • Which card am I thinking of?
  • Do you know what card I'm looking at?
  • What card am I looking at?

From what I can tell, some people get the same answers every time, while other people get randomized answers all the time. My copy of the game seems to have one set of answers for Junior Mode and one set for Senior Mode.

If you save your game and reload, the answers are the same, so you can always do a segmented run, to avoid doing this puzzle multiple times and randomly stumbling on the answers.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 29

Getting sick of the speedrun yet? After I get the mirror from Jim Archer, I do part of the trivet puzzle. That's not a tough puzzle; it's just long. Then I open up the carriage house. I do the clock, mirrors and dominoes puzzles. All of those puzzles have the pieces in the same starting positions every time, making it slightly easier.

Should you put the mirrors in place before doing the domino puzzle? If you put the mirrors in place first, Nancy says a line about letting light in. If you put the mirrors in place second, she doesn't say that line, but there is a short scene of light being let in, and not reflecting on anything. As it turns out, the scene is about one second longer than Nancy's line of dialogue, so you'll want to put the mirrors in place first.

Going back through the start of the game, it appears the matching puzzle in Topham's is randomized. If you save and reload, all the pieces switch places.

Also, it helps to zoom in on the cat, before giving the cat the mouse. This is opposed to taking out the mouse, zooming in on the cat, then giving it to the cat. That's because the cat's head moves, and it needs to be in the "up" position for the mouse to appear at its feet. This doesn't save a lot of time, but every bit helps!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 28

The first time you go to Topham's house, you have to read Josiah's notebook all the way. This triggers the trivet puzzle, and it lets you ask Emily about her mother's middle name. Getting the middle name is simple. Go to Emily and ask her, then finish the conversation immediately afterwards. It kind of stinks that you have to make a separate trip to Lilac Inn just for that, but there's no way around it.

To get the mirror from Topham's house, you have to do a simple matching puzzle. I don't think there's a way to speed it up, besides "have the answer memorized / written out ahead of time". Same thing with the slider puzzle, guarding the mirror piece in the den at Lilac Inn. Both of those puzzles are different on Junior and Senior Detective modes, although it's not like one mode is significantly longer than the other for this puzzle.

Is the clock gear puzzle at Jim Archer's the same on both modes? I think it is. The pieces always start in the same spots, so that makes the puzzle a little easier.

The first Jim Archer conversation is easy to navigate. On the first choice, ask if he's Jim Archer, which is about .4 seconds faster than the other option. On the second choice, avoid talking about Emily, as that leads to an aside about Emily before Jim turns the conversation to the economy. On the third choice, don't mention the depression, or Jim will give an aside about how that talk is pointless, before he gets a phone call, and you can end the conversation.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 27

Now that I've (hopefully) figured out the route for the trips into town, let's go back to where I was in my speedrun planning. I just finished figuring out the fastest way through the Emily/Jane conversations at the start of the game.

After talking to the women, you can go into town or go to Topham's. There is a piece of paper on the way to Topham's, about the jeweler. Also, there is a book that mentions the trivet, at Topham's. Since Topham's area has two triggers for things in town, and town has no triggers for things in Topham's, it makes sense to visit Topham's first.

The first thing you do in Topham's is find the toy mouse. It is either by the carousel, under the table or under the chair. For me, it's always under the table.

The first conversation with Topham is a little long to get through. As in, there can be five places, where you pick different options. There are some consistencies, like "if you ask about making objects move, he starts a new conversation about his students". The fastest way is to select the second option each time.

The first conversation with Topham always ends the same way. He offers to give Nancy a lesson, she turns him down, and he gives her a logic puzzle. There are three places in the conversation where you can make choices, and his response is the same, no matter which option you pick. With all three, the first option is shorter, so it's faster to pick.

So, the Topham conversation is second option three times, then first option three times.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 26

I've finished my speedrun at this point, but I still have about a week's worth of speedrunning planning posts. So I'm going to post them, even if they're outdated! Maybe someone will notice something I missed.

---

I tested out the route I talked about yesterday, and darn. "Nancy goes to the Lilac Inn" is the trigger for Waddell finishing the blank. So you'll have to drop off the blank at Waddell's, go to Lilac Inn, then go back to Waddell's.

Unless there is another way to get money! I asked on Facebook and Twitter, and people say Nancy will sometimes get a boot while fishing. The boot has a nickel inside, and it costs a nickel to call Nancy's dad. If there is a way to guarantee Nancy will get a boot nickel, that would be perfect. I could call her dad early on in the game, triggering the ability to deliver telegrams earlier.

I tried to get a boot while fishing. I used a worm on the reeds, which are on the right. That worked twice in a row for me! Hopefully, that's a guaranteed boot catch, and not just me getting lucky.

...Wait. Something occurred to me as I was writing this blog post. Waddell charges you for the quartz when you pick it up, not when you drop it off. You don't need to get money for him earlier. Gosh, I'm stupid. All this testing and planning for nothing.

Is it still worthwhile to get a boot nickel? Not really. It takes about 27 seconds to catch a boot nickel. Calling Nancy's dad early costs a nickel. Calling him is a timesaver, as opposed to him calling you, but that only saves about five seconds. Spending 27 seconds to save 5 seconds isn't efficient. If someone can think of a faster way for Nancy to earn an extra bit of money, then maybe calling him early would be worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

E3

E3 2017 was last week! A lot of videogame companies showed off the games they're making. I'm sure it was cool, although it doesn't really affect me all that much, since I only have a 3DS myself. I'll probably get the new Metroid 3DS game, and that's it.

To be honest, I got sick of E3 after the first day. Normal people have reactions like, "Oh, it's a new Mario game! Cool!". But all I saw was, "Oh, it's a new Mario game! Cool, I can use it to insult my political opponents!". Guys! Please don't bring politics into a videogame show! There's no need to make jokes about Mario's feelings on healthcare, or why Sonic the Hedgehog is better than President Trump. No need! Just show us the games!

The worst was the new Wolfstein game. I am unfamiliar with the series, but apparently, it's about shooting Nazis. This led to about a gajillion memes, with both Republicans and Democrats calling each other Nazis. So they both ended up coming across as angry and spiteful jerks, and I stopped paying attention to E3.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Potatoes Anna

In River Heights #11, Karen makes a dish called potatoes anna. I've never heard of that before, so I looked it up. It's a layered potato platter which looks fancy. I tried making it myself, and it ended up being potato chips drowned in butter. Delicious, but not what it's supposed to be!

The recipe calls for six potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices. In reality, it was three potatoes. The slices are supposed to be a quarter inch at most.

You coat a ten inch skillet with butter. Then you put the potato slices in the skillet. Start in the center and make an overlapping circle design until you've got the pan covered. Add salt/pepper as seasoning, if you want. Coat the layer with butter.

Repeat this twice, so you've got three layers of potato slices, with butter. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 tablespoons butter for each layer, which is a LOT of butter.

The recipe says to heat the dish on a stove until the butter sizzles, at this point. I couldn't do that, because I don't have a skillet. Also, I don't have a butter brush. So I cooked the butter in a microwave bowl and poured it on the potatoes. Maybe that's why the recipe came out wrong for me.

You cook it in the over at 450 for an hour or so. The potatoes should fuse together. Take a spatula and flip it upside down, onto a plate. You cut it into wedges, like a pie. When I tried this, the potato slices all fell apart. Like I said, it ended up being potato chips, drowned in butter. Oh well.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Preparing for Confession

I got a comment on this blog, asking how to prepare for the sacrament of Confession. People normally make an examination of conscience, to help prepare for confession.

I like to take some time, by myself in silence, just to think over my life, see where I'm at, figure out what I'm doing wrong, what I need to improve on, what I'm doing right, where I'm going, that sort of thing. I also like doing this, during Eucharistic adoration, because I can concentrate and focus better.

The marriage group that Katie and I are in, Teams of Our Lady, recommends a similar practice. Each month, we sit down and discuss our marriage, our lives, our family, and so on. It's very good, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's married, even if they aren't in a religious marriage.

Some people prefer reading a reflection to prepare for Confession, or to go through a list of probing questions. The US Bishop's website has some samples, as an idea of what you can do. I've seen multiple guides, based on the ten commandments. I imagine there's probably one based on the seven deadly sins.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Copyright Strike

I got a copyright strike against my channel, one of the full-blown "video is immediately removed" copyright claims. The video was part of the Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None walkthrough, and it comes from the book owners, not the videogame owners.

I have deleted all of my Agatha Christie videos, which is a bummer because there were over 100 of them. Here's a vlog I did about the event:



Normally, I'd be a lot angrier about this, but it's out of my control at this point, and I've got the baby to take up all my attention. The good news is that this strike is only three months long, as opposed to the strike I got against the Japanese bodyguard dating sim, which lasted a year or so.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Idle Heroes

Another videogame I've been playing lately is Idle Heroes, which is an RPG for the phone. The basic premise is that your heroes auto-battle every second of the day. So you can close the app, open it ten hours later, and your characters will have earned a ton of EXP and gold. It's great!

My main beef with the game is that you can't pick and choose which characters you have. Characters are assigned randomly. I've had bad luck, and I've been stuck with a group of forest-based heroes. I need a fighter-type hero who can serve as a tank, but nope.

There is a "replace the hero" function which you can use, but all that does is replace one hero with another randomly-assigned hero. And to use this function, you need a premium currency. There's also a premium currency for leveling up characters, for summoning a specific hero, for equipment stones, and for summoning monsters.

So, yeah, it's a modern phone game with lots of micro-transactions and paywalls. I'm at the point where you basically can't proceed, unless all your characters are five star heroes, at max level 100, with max equipment. That's why I can't replace any of my forest heroes; getting a single five star hero is so difficult, you're basically stuck with the ones you get.

The weird thing is that I'm not even a third of the way through the game. How can there be so many levels left, when you basically need maximum everything to win a level? I'm told--and I can't confirm--that you can combine two five-star heroes of the same type into a six-star hero. That's probably the only way to proceed, but jeez. Getting a single five star hero is hard enough. Getting two of the same type, especially when the type is randomly determined? That's a rough paywall.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Terminator Genysis: Future War

I've recently been playing Terminator Genysis: Future War. It's made by the same people who made Vikings: War of Clans, and not to be mean, but it's basically the same as that game, but with different graphics.

I was hoping for a story of some sort, something to continue where the movie left off. The movie was intended to be the first in a trilogy, with the second movie coming out this month. Clearly, that didn't happen. I'm okay with the story being continued via videogames! But sadly, there's no story to the game. You're a commander in charge of a base, in the futuristic "humans vs robots" war.

There are a few dozen buildings at your base, which do different things. One increases experience, one increases the base's defense, one trains soldiers, and the majority of them produce materials. There are five types of materials, and you need materials to upgrade buildings. I'm at the point where I log onto the game each morning, select a building to upgrade, and get told it will be 6 hours to finish. I say, "Cool." Then I log in the next day and do the same thing.

There's also a fighting component, where you can build up and army and fight other players. You can join clans and get into battles at resource locations. I basically ignore all that, except when I pick what building to upgrade, I also send my commander off to fight the nearest robot, for some easy EXP.

I plan to keep playing the game, to the point where either it takes too long to upgrade without spending money, or people fight me (and steal my resources) so often, I can't upgrade.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Procedural Mystery

Yesterday, I mentioned that the Boxcar Children are pretty generic mysteries that abide by a series formula. Some Nancy Drew books also abide by a strict formula. You could even turn it into procedural game! Just make a program that randomly selects from these options.

Mystery
  • Sabotage
  • Theft
  • Murder
Suspect personalities
  • Angry
  • Comedy relief
  • Best friend
  • Incredibly good-looking
  • Intense
  • Innocuous
  • Sneaky
Suspicious Incidents
  • Threatening note
  • Nancy almost gets killed
  • Nancy chases after the culprit
The baby interrupted halfway through this blog post, and I forgot what I was going to write. I was probably going to add a list of circumstantial evidence, because every suspect needs a piece of circumstantial evidence that gets hand-waved aside at the end of the book.

Of course, the computer would randomly pick the culprit from the list of suspects, too. There are some books where it feels like the culprit's identity was picked out of a hat.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Boxcar Children Review Series

Here is my review series, for the Boxcar Children books.



I've read books 1-11, and Book 35.

The review series is on hold for now, but my overall plan is to read Books 1-19. Those are all the books written by the original author. I might continue onto the ghostwritten books after that. We'll see.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Boxcar Children

I find the history of the Boxcar Children series to be quite interesting. The author, Gertrude Chandler Warner, wrote the first book in the 1920's, for one of her classes. It's designed to help children how to read, with simple words and a easy-to-follow story.

The book got reissued in the 40's, which prompted her to write a sequel. She wrote a new book in the series every 1-5 years until she died in the 70's. I'm kind of surprised it took her so long to write these books, considering how simple the stories are. They're classified as mysteries, but that's debatable, in my opinion. Some of the books are clearly just "the Alden family has a fun time", with a 2-3 chapter mystery slapped onto it.

From what I can tell, she didn't think of it as the Boxcar Children series. She thought of it as the "Alden Family Mysteries". That's the name which is on the inside of the older editions. That name makes way more sense, considering there are no boxcars in the series, outside of the first book. There are also no numbers on the older editions; the books are listed in order, but not numbered.

The books are owned by Albert Whitman, but in the 90's, they partnered with Scholastic Publishing. Together, they turned it into a full-blown series, which has published about four books a year, ever since. The name changed to "Boxcar Children", the characters were modernized, and it became a standard mystery series. That is, the mystery is always the focus, there's always four suspects, always three suspects, and so on. If I had enough time, I could probably figure out the series formula. Book #35 is the only book I've read from the ghostwritten series.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dishwasher Drama

We had some dishwasher drama recently! The dishwasher stopped draining. There was a pool of water at the bottom, every time we ran the dishwasher. This had the side effect of giving us really dirty dishes; it's hard to clean dishes with dirty water.

I tried fixing it myself. I managed to unscrew the pipe to the garbage disposal and clean it out. That didn't appear to do anything. Then I tried unscrewing one of the pipes on the bottom. Water started spraying out over the floor and me, like some kind of crazy sitcom. It took about eight towels to clean up.

I called a repair person, who basically said the dishwasher is done for. We can pay $700 to repair it, or we could buy a new one. We decided to get a new one, but the installation people refused to install it because it's too large. Why? Apparently, it's standard in the dishwasher industry to say a dishwasher is 24 inches wide, when in reality, it's anywhere from 23.5 to 24.5. Also, they'll sometimes list the size of the box the dishwasher comes in, rather than the dishwasher's actual size.

So we're going to be washing dishes by hand for a while.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Random DBZ Fanfic

The other day, I had the idea to write a DragonBall Z fanfic, where Frieza and Gohan have high school romance drama. I'm not sure why. The idea seemed hilarious to me, at the time.

Well, here's the start of the story. It's not polished at all, and I probably won't continue it, because I don't have time. Still, I'll add it to my pile of unfinished fanfics.

---

Deep in HFIL, Frieza was meditating on his favorite topic: Goku. Why hadn't Frieza been able to kill that wretched Saiyan? Was there was a problem with his final form?

Maybe that was it. Maybe four final forms wasn't enough. Frieza needed a new final form. Something purple and gold, but shiny like a car's hubcap.

No, that was a terrible idea. Maybe a form that was dark and scary, like Dodoria's mother-in-law.

Frieza was startled out of his thoughts by the sound of clanging. He looked up to see King Yemma, opening the door to Frieza's prison cell.

"Okay, Frieza," King Yemma said. "Two of your followers are bringing you back to life. We gotta let you go."

"I've been dead for ten years," Frieza said. "Why would it take my followers THAT long to bring me back? Unless it was those two incompetent goons..."

---

Frieza suddenly found himself on Earth. Two giant smiling faces blocked his view.

"It worked!" Tweedledee said. "It worked! He's back!"

Tweedledum hugged Frieza. Frieza instinctively threw Tweedledum through the nearest mountain.

"Your wish is granted," Shenron the Eternal Dragon said. "What about your second wish?"

"I know this!" Tweedledee said. "For our second wish, we want Frieza to be stronger than--"

"Whoa, stop!" Frieza ordered. He cleared his throat. "I'll, uh, I'll take it from here."

"But Lord Frieza! We were going to wish for you to be stronger than Goku!"

"Goku's dead," Frieza snapped. "He's no longer the strongest person on this pathetic excuse for a planet. The strongest person is the universe is now Goku's son, Gohan."

"Gohan?"

"Yes, but Gohan's power is only triggered by emotions. Anger. Fear. And the most powerful emotion: Love." Frieza turned his attention to Shenron. "Eternal Dragon! Is Gohan in love with anyone?"

Shenron's eyes flared. That was an unexpected question. "Uh, there's this one girl named Videl who he has a secret crush on, but..."

"Perfect!" Frieza said. "Then I want the ability to turn into her, whenever I want!"

"Uh...okay," Shenron said. "It is finished! Now please don't bother me again."

Frieza smiled as Shenron disappeared. His new final form would be Gohan's undoing!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Religious Laws

I've seen a few people say that the government should never impose any religious laws. I disagree.

There are good religious laws, such as "do not commit murder", "do not steal" and "do not lie in a courtroom". Those are in the Ten Commandments, in the Bible. It doesn't matter that they have a religious source; those are good laws to have and enforce. "Do not rape" and "do not break binding agreements"

I would also argue that it's impractical to only have non-religious laws, simply because the scope of religion and belief is so broad. Atheism, humanism and environmentalism are considered to be religions by some people. So anything coming from those mindsets falls under the category of "religious beliefs", too. If you're going to rule out all laws made by theists and atheists by default, you're not going to have a whole lot of lawmakers to choose from.

To give a more traditional Catholic response, it's impossible to have laws that are independent from religion, because all laws refer to justice, and all justice flows from God. Since God is the source and foundation of law, all laws refer back to him. Hence, we can claim that "an unjust law is no law at all"; God's justice is a precondition for the existence of proper law. Further, Jesus Christ is also directly tied to law and justice; he is referred to as the Eternal Judge or the Just One, "who will judge the living and the dead".

To sum up, I think the government should impose good laws, just laws. Any true lover of justice is not going to reject a law, simply because it has a religious origin.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Vertical Game

On the latest episode of "Oh, A Podcast", we mentioned game resolutions. I want to do something wacky, like make a game with a triangle-shaped screen. More realistically, a game with a vertical screen could work! Instead of a game that's 640 by 480, why not a game that's 480 by 640?

Well, okay, people don't do that, because most computer monitors aren't shaped like that. A couple of phone games are, though.

I can't think of any real reason for doing a vertical game, though. Like...would it be a game where you're trying to go up (or down)? Is it maybe a double-decker game? Like, it's an apartment building, and you can see two apartments at the same time for some reason. I remember hearing that they used to do double-decker stage plays with religious themes, where Heaven is on the upper deck and Earth is on the lower deck.

I dunno. I think the idea of a vertical adventure game is neat, but I can't think of a strong reason for it besides "it'd be a neat gimmick".

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Flying Girl and Her Chum

Last August, I was contacted about "The Flying Girl and Her Chum". Back in 2008, I started (and stopped) turning it into an eBook for Project Gutenberg. Someone else wanted to finish the project, so I gave them all my files.

Well, it looks like the job is finished! The eBook has officially been posted!

I still have fifteen or so books that I got, in the late 00's, with the intention of turning them into eBooks. I checked just now, and only one of them has been turned into an eBook. (It was the short one.) I should really finish those projects someday. Maybe when I don't have a baby who requires constant supervision.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 25

Continuing from yesterday, is it possible to deliver a telegram in place of playing minigolf? The timing is, um, iffy.

Nancy can't deliver telegrams, until she talks to her father. Her father calls, after she meets Jim Archer. My current route is this:

Trip 1: Half of trivet quest, get mirror from Jim Archer.
Trip 2: Second half of trivet quest, get dress from Jim Archer, pay Waddell to do the quartz blank
Trip 3: Give the finished dress from Jim Archer, get quartz blank from Waddell
Trip 4: Go to Jim Archer to open Topham's safe deposit box.

You have to pay Waddell to make the quartz blank and pick it up later. If you try picking it up immediately, he yells at you. With the proposed "get money from delivering telegrams" route, you have to delay paying Waddell to make the quartz blank, because you can't afford it. So it would have to be...

Trip 1: Half of trivet quest, get mirror from Jim Archer.
Trip 2: Second half of trivet quest, get dress from Jim Archer, get first telegram and deliver it
Trip 3: Get paid for first telegram, pay Waddell to do the quartz blank, give the finished dress from Jim Archer
Trip 4: Get quartz blank from Waddell
Trip 5: Go to Jim Archer to open Topham's safe deposit box.

Ugh, that gives me an extra trip into town! I don't know about that.

Well, it depends on what the trigger is for "Waddell finishes making the blank". If the trigger is "Nancy goes to the Lilac Inn and back", then yeah, another trip is necessary. If the trigger is "wait a minute of real time", then maybe I can pay Waddell, do the stuff with Jim Archer, then pick up the quartz from Waddell. I will have to test this out. Hopefully this works! An extra trip into town is probably still faster than doing minigolf twice, but it'd be nice to NOT have to do it.

Another possibility is that I deliver the first telegram and get paid for it right away, but it just seems like a waste to deliver a telegram right next to Lilac Inn, then go back into town to get paid. It just makes more sense to deliver the telegram when visiting the inn, then getting paid when visiting Mr. Archer.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 24

Earlier, I decided that Nancy would have to play minigolf twice, to get through the games without delivering telegrams.

Someone commented on this blog, to the effect that it might be faster to deliver one telegram, over playing mingolf twice. Maybe I could split the difference, and do minigolf/telegram delivery one each. Let's see how the math plays out.
  • Toys required: 5
  • Toy from general store: 25 cents
  • Toy from minigolf: 10 cents
  • Money from telegram delivery: 25 cents
  • Money Nancy has to spend: 100 cents
That math checks out! Deliver one telegram to have 125 cents, which is exactly what you need to get all the toys from the general store. I just have to cross my fingers that you can deliver one telegram, without needing to get gas. Otherwise, you'd have to deliver two telegrams--or play minigolf--to cover the gas fees.

I checked it just now, and it takes about a minute and forty seconds to deliver the first telegram. Most of it is the telegram guy talking to you, and Seymour talking to you. The actual delivery isn't bad, as the telegram office is close to the bank, and Blenheim Nursery is close to the Lilac Inn. I always get that as the first place to deliver telegrams.

A minute and forty seconds has to be shorter than two full rounds of minigolf, right? I generally take three minutes to do a minigolf game. Obviously, I'd aim for a faster time while speedrunning.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 23

Once Emily tells Nancy about Josiah Crowley, you can end the conversation and leave. That's not a good idea! You have to talk to her about Jim Archer, or else you can't meet him at the Main Street Bank.

This conversation is simple. Emily is reluctant to visit Mr. Archer. Nancy can say, "Not one of your favorite people, huh?" or "You don't sound very happy about it." If you pick the first one, Emily assures you that he's nice, before complaining she's bad at business. If you pick the second one, Emily complains she's bad at business. It's about 4.5 seconds faster to pick the second option.

Emily will ask Nancy to visit in her place. Nancy can say "Sure" or "I guess". She says "I guess" slowly, so the faster option is "sure". It's about .2 seconds faster. Then you can end the conversation, and you're finished with all the conversations at the start of the game!

Of course, what you do after the conversations is go directly to Topham's, so you can meet him and have a conversation. I guess the start of game conversations are not over.

I think there are two other things you can do at this point.

1. You can do the clock puzzle in the den at this point. You could do it earlier, after talking to Jane. Or you can do it later, when you go back to the inn to ask Emily what her mother's middle name was. There's not really a time that's best for solving the clock puzzle in the den. You can do it whenever. Similarly, there's not really a time that's best for asking Emily what her mother's middle name is. You can do it before or after your first trip into town; you just need to have it done, by the time you're ready to go into the carriage house.

2. Minigolf! You can do minigolf before talking to Topham or after talking to Topham. Since minigolf is a difficult/random challenge, it's probably best to put it here, as close to the start of the run as possible. That way, if you really screw up at minigolf, restarting the run from the beginning again is less of a disaster.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 22

With the second Emily conversation, you can ask if this sort of thing has happened before, or you can ask if Emily used the stove last. If you ask if this has happened before, Emily sputters a bit before vehemently denying that she's responsible. If you ask if she used the stove last, she denies it right away. Since Emily sputters for about four seconds, it's about four seconds faster to indirectly accuse her.

After this, Emily goes on a tangent about Josiah Crowley. And here, for the first and maybe only time in the game, Nancy has three possible responses, not just two.

1. "Maybe he didn't leave you anything because he didn't have anything." Emily responds that he was rich, and that he left everything to Richard Topham. Nancy has two responses to this.

1a. "How did Josiah know him?" Emily says Josiah liked to disguise himself. Then she says he let Richard Topham live in his house.

1b. "Why did Josiah leave everything to him? "Emily says Josiah liked to disguise himself. Then she says he let Richard Topham live in his house.

2. "Was there a problem finding his will?". Emily says it was lost for months. Then she says Josiah liked to disguise himself. Then she says he let Richard Topham live in his house.

3. "Did he have any family?". Emily says that he thought of the Crandalls as his family. Then she says he liked to disguise himself. Then she says he let Richard Topham live in his house.

It looks like, no matter what, we learn that Josiah disguised himself, and that Topham lives in Josiah's house now. The fastest conversation is the third one, about family. The slowest conversation is 1 to 1b. That's about 18 seconds longer than option 3.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 21

Secret of the Old Clock starts off with a lot of conversations, doesn't it? I mean, you are forced to talk to Jane, who tells you to talk to Emily, at which point you're forced to talk to Jane again, then forced to talk to Emily again.

The second Jane conversation is about a minute long, and there are only two places where Nancy can choose which dialogue option to pick. First, Nancy can ask what caused the explosion, or if insurance will cover it. If you ask about the explosion, Jane explains that a burner was left on. If you ask about insurance, she says she asked that the fire chief, and he thinks there could be a problem. Nancy asks what the problem is, and Jane explains that a burner was left on. So either way, Jane talks about the burner being on.

It's about 5.6 seconds faster to ask what caused the explosion, because that way, Jane goes straight to the burner conversation, without detouring into insurance.

Next, Nancy can ask who was in the kitchen this morning, or where Emily went. Jane's response is exactly the same, no matter which option you pick. It's about .2 seconds faster to ask who was in the kitchen.

At this point, the conversation is interrupted by a phone call, and Jane leaves. Nancy hears Emily upstairs and goes to her.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Food Problems

Is food racist? Here in Portland, there was a big backlash against a Mexican-themed food cart which is run by two white women. White people selling ethnic food?

It was argued that this is cultural appropriation, with a side of racism. They were forced to close their business. Some people are hoping to build this momentum, in order to close down every white-owned restaurant that serves non-white food, including my favorite Mexican restaurant in Portland, Santeria.

What do you readers think? I understand the argument that it's bad for a rich white person to come in, and put all the poor non-white restaurants out of business, by stealing their food recipes. But I don't like the argument that white-owned restaurants can't sell non-white food; that sounds too close to food segregation to me. I have a particular fondness for multicultural buffets, which wouldn't be allowed under "you can only make food that fits your own ethnicity".

Follow-up question: What about the reverse situation? The place where I regularly got lunch in downtown Portland is Hope's Deli. That's an Asian-owned restaurant which only sells American food, burgers and salad. The Internet tells me that they used to sell Korean food, including a great orange chicken, but I never saw that available; their lunch menu was only burgers. Are they guilty of cultural appropriation, non-whites selling white food?

Another follow-up question: Is there a point, where it becomes inappropriate for a white person like me to eat non-white food? Like, are there circumstances which would make it racist for me to eat a burrito, ever again? I would be sad if that was the case. Burritos can be delicious.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Series Trilogies

The Nancy Drew Girl Detective (and the Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers series) decided to switch to a trilogy format. No more standalone books! From here on out, every book is part of a trilogy!

This ended up being a bad idea, for two reasons. One, it's obvious that none of the ghostwriters were in contact with each other. It's hard to write a good entry in a trilogy, when you haven't read the other books in said trilogy. Two, the stories were not made for trilogies. They were generally two-book stories, which were stretched out into three books, by means of long recap, filler and repetition.

It seems that Sweet Valley High also decided to switch to a trilogy format, towards the end of its lifecycle! Except it was a "miniseries" format, not a "trilogy" format. The first one is about a serial killer, which ran for five or six books. The second one is also about a serial killer, which ran for five or six books.

I read the last two books in the first miniseries, and oh man. It is Filler City! This miniseries should have been three books, two books if the author was really on task, but it was stretched out into six. I can kind of understand why; they wanted the grand finale to be Book #100. But still, there is no way the story should have gone on so long.

I have hope that the miniseries format won't turn out to be completely awful. The publishers must have gotten the message that "stretch the story out as long as possible" is a bad idea, because afterwards, the miniseries are either two or three books long. After my experience with Nancy Drew Girl Detective, I'm happy about the idea of not stretching a two-book story out into a trilogy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Changed Refund Amounts

People call the IRS, when the refund they got wasn't as much as they were expecting. Why does this happen?
  • You owe the IRS money. If you owe the IRS anything, they will take it out of your refund and pass the remainder onto you.
  • You owe the government money. If you owe the government money--usually state debt, student loans or back child support--the government will take the money out of your refund and pass the remainder onto you. These debts are handled by the Bureau of Fiscal Services, not the IRS.
  • Math error. If the math is wrong on your tax return, the IRS will fix it for you.
  • Bad social security number. If you put down the wrong social security number for someone on your return, the IRS won't accept it. The person will be taken off the return, which can have a cascading effect on your taxes.
  • Tax preparer fees. Some tax preparers will take their preparation fee, out of the refund. Some taxpayers will forget (or not know) that they agreed to let this happen.
  • Missing payment. If you tried to send the IRS a payment, but they didn't get it, they're not going to apply that payment to the taxes you owe. Same if you sent a payment, but it was applied to the wrong year or person.
  • Questionable item on your return. If one part of your return is questionable, but the rest of it is fine, the IRS might decide to send good part of the refund out, but hold onto the rest, pending further inquiry. Normally, this happens if there is good reason to believe someone is claiming a child that they shouldn't.
  • Computer error or processing error.
I could write a full blog entry on any of these things, but I figured it'd be better to keep it brief, rather than talk about IRS stuff for weeks on end.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Late Refunds

Why would an IRS refund be late? There are a few reasons.

1. Identity theft. That's the most common reason. Even potential identity theft can take a long time to resolve. If you're hit with identity theft, please be patient.

2. Manual refund. Sometimes, the IRS can't send out a refund like normal, and someone has to do it manually. That takes a while. This happens most often when the taxpayer is deceased, and therefore, the check has to be written out in someone else's name. "Someone requested a check be written out to someone other than the taxpayer" is a huge red flag for identity theft, as you'd expect. Also, as you'd expect, widows and widowers don't like having to wait extra time for their refund.

3. Computer error or processing error.

4. Your refund is super high. Congress has a special group, which oversees the release of huge refunds. I think the threshold is 10 million dollars or so. I guess it makes sense that Congress takes care of those refunds themselves, rather than letting the IRS do it.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

IRS Processing Times

Now that I'm not working for the IRS anymore, I guess I'm free to talk about what I did there! I worked in what you might call "the refund department". If your refund was late or different from what you expected, I would be the guy to call.

The IRS takes three weeks to process an electronically-filed return (sent through a computer), and it takes six weeks to process a paper return (sent through the mail). You can check the status of your return through the IRS website, the IRS mobile app, or the automated refund hotline. I have all this information memorized, because I probably had to say it six times a day.

IRS phone people aren't allowed to go into your account, until the processing timeframe has elapsed. That's because, 9 times out of 10, there's no information to see. It's a waste of time to verify someone's identity and go into their account, only to see absolutely nothing.

People will sometimes lie about when they filed their return, just to get the phone person to access the account. That doesn't work. If the phone person sees your return was received less than three weeks ago, they're not allowed to give out any information. Even if the information is something simple, like "we got your return 18 days ago, it's finished processing, and it goes out tomorrow." Nope! If that's the case, the phone person has to say, "we got your return 18 days ago, please wait three full weeks for processing."

I always felt bad for the people who mailed in returns, then called to make sure we got them. Sorry, but unless the six weeks have expired, the phone people aren't allowed to go into the account and check to see if a return was received. Like I said, 9 times out of 10, there's no information for the phone person to see. It could totally be the case that the IRS got the return and is processing it, but it still isn't reflected in the computer systems yet because it's only been five weeks.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Chicken and Dumplings

I decided to cook chicken and dumplings! The recipe is from Laura Howell, from Ashley Township High School, in Ashley, Illinois. Of course, this cookbook is from 1969, so I imagine she's no longer in high school.

The recipe says to simmer the chicken in water seasoned with salt, until it is tender. Simple enough.

In the meantime, you make dumplings. You sift 2 1/2 cups flouter, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder. Then you cut in a 1/2 cup of shortening. I'm not sure what it means to cut in shortening, but I cut it into little cubes and got my hands super gross. In a separate bowl, you mix two beaten eggs with a cup of milk. You combine that with the other stuff. The recipe says to stir it, but I didn't notice that, and I mashed it all together with my hands. I got my hands super gross again. Maybe I used too much flour, because there was a fair amount left over, even when I combined all the wet material.

You flatten out the stuff on a board and cut into squares. Then you let it dry for 30 to 40 minutes. I'd recommend separating all the squares, so they don't get stuck to each other and form rows of dumplings. That's what happened to me.

The recipe then says to remove the chicken, then put the dumplings into the boiling broth. Whoa. What? The chicken was supposed to be boiling? The recipe said to simmer it!

So I boiled the water with the chicken inside as fast as I could, and I'm realizing just now that I was supposed to boil the water, then put the chicken in to simmer. Oh well. I let it simmer for 25-30 minutes, at the same time the dumplings were drying.

So you put the dumplings in boiling broth. Cook for ten minutes uncovered. Reduce heat to low, cover, then cook for ten more minutes. After that, you put the chicken in the pot again, and heat it whenever you're ready to serve it. The recipe ends there, but I'm sure you're supposed to drain the meal. I didn't, so it was kind of hard to get the food out. The recipe recommends 4 quarts of water, but I don't have a pot that big!

The recipe ended up okay. I mean, the chicken was fine, and the dumplings tasted like dumplings. So it was a success, despite all my little mistakes. If I ever cook it again, I'll know the right way to do it. And maybe I'll just make simmered chicken on my own. That was pretty good.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cracker Barrel

The first Cracker Barrel on the west coast opened recently! I'm told it's a popular food chain in the rest of the country, but they don't have them in Oregon. Just like T.G.I. Friday's, Steak and Shake, Bob Evans, White Castle, Waffle House, Culver's, that place with the ice cream...

But hey, Cracker Barrel is no longer on the list! It must be popular with the rest of the country, because it was packed with out-of-staters. The restaurant has its own gift shop, which strikes me as a little tacky, and it has Southern-style cooking. I've never had Southern-style cooking, myself. The closest I've come to the South is Texas.

I normally get burgers wherever I go, but I went with the sampler platter. It had chicken and dumplins, which are like square noodles. Have you have chicken noodle soup? Dumplins taste like those noodles, except they're square and about the size of a half dollar. They also had grits, which looks like porridge and tastes like gravel. It's rough and has tiny pieces everywhere. I guess the idea is that you really have to chew it in order to eat it.

The rest of the meal was things I've had before. Meatloaf was good, although I'm the boring guy who likes bland meatloaf. As in, nothing in the meatloaf but meat. That's the way my mom made it. The ham was fine, and the cornbread was just like the cornbread in the Nancy Drew cookbook: no sugar. So I guess I have had Southern-style cooking before after all!

Overall, the restaurant is fine. I'd wait several months before going back, at least until the crowds die down.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. Last week, my main project was doing those book reviews. I did about sixteen! That's good progress, although obviously it'd be better if I did all of them. Going from twenty reviews left to four reviews left is great, though.

This week, my main project is finishing all the walkthroughs that have been recorded, but aren't ready to be posted. I finished Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile, which was the easy one; all I had to do was watch the videos and write descriptions. Captain Warlock and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Harbinger are much the same. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance Nuzlocke and Phoenix Wright 6 case 4 are going to be harder; I have to do video editing and cropping for that.

2. I woke up early on Tuesday and wrote a walkthrough for Pocket Politics for GameFAQs. Great, now I don't have to remove "GameFAQs writer from 2000 to present year" from my resume!

3. I haven't read The Handmaid's Tale, but apparently they made a TV series out of it recently. I've seen some bigots use the series as the excuse to go on anti-Catholic rants, saying things like "all religion is evil" and "Christianity should be outlawed". As a Catholic, I'd like to respectfully disagree. In fact, I really like the theocratic government that Pope Francis runs. It appears to be doing much better than the democratic government that President Trump runs. Perhaps when the two of them meet this week, Pope Francis can give President Trump some pointers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 20

The first conversation with Emily in the game goes like this:

Emily: Nancy, hi! Welcome to the Lilac...a lot to me.
Nancy: (Generic nice statement. .3 seconds faster to mention Helen.)
Emily: You and I may not...people I know.
Nancy: (Generic nice statement. .7 seconds faster to say "thank you")
Emily: That's why I'm hoping...you and your dad.
Nancy: (Asks about her dad or what kind of favor)
Emily: Your father has a safe, right?
Nancy: (Asks for more information. 1.6 seconds faster to ask a question.)
Emily: See this jewelry? (Shows it off to Nancy.)
Emily: I was hiding it...lock it up in his safe.
Nancy: (Asks about Jane or the situation in general)
Emily: Strange things have been happening...
(Conversation is interrupted)

There are only two points where the conversation diverges. First, when Nancy can say "My dad?" or "What kind of favor?". If you say, "My dad?", Emily says, "Helen says he's a lawyer.", then she shushes Nancy. If you say, "What kind of favor?", Emily shushes Nancy immediately. That's the faster option, by one second.

Second, Nancy can ask about Jane or the situation in general. If you ask about Jane, Emily says she doesn't want to get Jane involved, then she says "strange things have been happening...". If you ask about the situation in general, Emily talks about the strange things immediately. That's the faster option, by about 4.5 seconds.

So overall, you can save 8.1 seconds by picking the faster conversation options.

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."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

First Week with Rosie

What did I do on the first week as a stay at home dad? I'm already starting to forget. Mainly, I'm forgetting due to lack to sleep. I haven't sleep the whole night through in a long time now.

Rosie doesn't have a regular sleep schedule. On Monday/Tuesday, she woke up around 7:45, which was great. I was able to do a little bit of computer work before she woke up. But the rest of the week, she woke up at 6, and didn't go back to sleep again. Like, at all. She'd fall asleep for ten minutes, at most, which is just long enough to trick me into thinking she's taking an afternoon nap. But no! She wakes up again.

Katie says Rosie is pretty good about falling asleep in the front pack, provided that you're walking around. If you sit in place, she wakes up. She's like that with her car seat, too. She'll sleep in the car, but when we get home and put the car seat on the floor, she quickly wakes up. I'm going to try walking and reading, with her in the front pack. Maybe that'll work! Pacing while reading seems odd, but if that's what it takes to keep the baby asleep...

She fell asleep on car rides, when I did errands. That's the worst. She has nap time, when I am physically unable to get any computer work done. Oh well.

We had some plans to make the week easier on me. In addition to "microwave lunch every day", I got Tuesday night off, and Katie did all the cooking. Only it didn't work out that way. Katie's bus was 45 minutes late twice, so I ended up doing the cooking after all. And on Tuesday, my night off was cancelled, when I had to take the other daughter to gymnastics class, because Rosie was busy eating.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Being Mean to People

Yesterday, I said being mean to people for something they have no control over doesn't help anything. Boy, is that true!

It happened to me all the time, when I was in training to become a priest. People held me personally responsible for everything the Pope/Bishops said or did. It wasn't me! Don't yell at ME because you dislike the Pope! And hypothetically, let's say I agree with you. So what? I can't change Catholic doctrine, because someone on the street yelled at me.

The same thing happened when I was at the IRS. I got blamed for both President Obama and President Trump, as if I personally swore them into office. Okay, so you don't like the President. Yelling at me about the President doesn't help the situation. That doesn't change any tax laws! And besides, the IRS doesn't make tax laws, to begin with! If you don't like the current tax laws, contact your Congressman and tell them to write some new ones!

The silly part is that we pay taxes a year behind, and Congress makes laws in advance. So all the new laws that went into effect this tax year? They're from the PATH Act (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes), which Congress came up with in 2015. Blaming prominent politicians from 2016 is not only pointless, but factually inaccurate.

Are there people who do this all the time? Like, they yell at strangers when things don't go their way? Do they yell at the McDonald's drive-thru and expect that McDonald's is going to change their recipes? Do they post angry things on Twitter, and expect celebrities to quit? Do they write passive-aggressive blog posts months after the fact, and--uh oh, I've become one of them! Noooooooo!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Midnight in Salem

I've gotten an uptick in questions about Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem recently. By "uptick", I mean three questions about it, in the span of a week. There hasn't been any information released about the game. Some people are worried, some people are confused, and some people are angry.

I understand and accept Her Interactive's decision not to release any information on the game, until it's almost ready for release. I feel like, if they did anything else, that would be stirring up the hornet's nest.

There's also the fact that the art and dev is being outsourced, so maybe they just don't have day-to-day updates. Sort of like with the game I'm making now, The Pizza Delivery Boy Who Saved the World. My status update is "I sent everything to Paul the Programmer, and I'm waiting for him to finish". That's been my status update for a few months now. I guess I could bug him for daily statuses like "today, I tested out all the variables in the map puzzle", but that wouldn't do much besides annoy Paul and hinder his progress.

Speaking of Paul, we do a monthly podcast on gamedev! Check it out!

There's also the fact that the people who interact most with the fans are from the marketing department. You know, not the people who are directly responsible for making the game? Hassling them about the game is like hassling the finance department for the way the website looks. Being mean to the people about things they have no control over doesn't help anything.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Being a Parent

I was going to write more about President Trump's tax plan, but I'm pretty angry and frustrated with politics right now. Too many news reports from people who a) are clearly biased and b) don't know much about the topic they're discussing. So I'll do something different! Here's a comment I got on my blog:

What surprises you most about being a parent?
What surprised you most about Rosie?
What brings you the most joy about Rosie?
What is the most difficult part?

1. What surprises me most about being a parent is the way other adults treat you. Other parents will treat you differently, if you're a parent. I got a little bit of that, when I became a stepfather, but when I became a biological father, it was a huge change. It's like I'm a cool kid, a member of the exclusive adult club, someone who gets to sit at the adult table on Thanksgiving.

2. Rosie's eyes surprise me the most, to be honest. I don't know who she got them from.

3. The most joyful thing about Rosie is her smiles. She is very social and quick to give smiles. She only did a little bit earlier, but now she does it all the time. It's great!

4. The most difficult thing about raising Rosie was this past Monday. I started being a full-time stay-at-home parent this week. If I can, I'll write a blog series about it. Maybe? I don't have free time to write much, anymore. Maybe a vlog series would be more appropriate. Anyway, Monday was my first day on the job, and it was the worst, because Rosie now has to get used to drinking from a bottle full time. The entire day was this, repeated on endless loop:

Rosie: I'm hungry! Feed me! Waaaaah!
Me: Here's some food.
Rosie: Bottle food? Ew! No thanks!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Trump's Tax Plan - Part 2

Some people are saying Trump's tax plan will eliminate the "Head of Household" filing status. Some say it won't.

In general, I don't think "Head of Household" is the best term to use. That phrase has implications which have nothing to do with taxes. A lot of people think "head of household" means "who makes the rules in the house" or "who makes more money". Nope! Neither of those definitions have anything to do with whether or not you're a Head of Household.

So there are a lot of people who falsely claim to be "head of household", simply because the term doesn't mean what they think it means. For tax purposes, "head of household" is more like "single parent". It's for someone who's single and who paid over half the expenses for a qualifying person that lived with them. At least, that's the general idea. The rules are way more complicated than that. It's the most complicated of the five filing statuses, for sure.

The most common abuse of Head of Household status is a married person claiming Head of Household, or a single person claiming a child that never lived with them. I personally would want to keep this filing status, because it's good for us as a society to support single parents. However, I would try to do something to cut down on potential abuse.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Trump's Tax Plan - Part 1

I know I just did a long series about speedrunning "Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock", but would you mind if I wrote a series about President Trump's tax plan? I feel like I actually know something about the topic of taxes. Maybe?

One of the ideas is to double the standard deduction and get rid of dependents.

The way taxes currently work, you have to figure out how much money you made that year. Then you subtract $6,300 for yourself, and $6,300 for your spouse, if you have one. Then you subtract $4,050 for every dependent you have. That gets you the amount of money you pay taxes on.

The proposed plan is that you figure out how much money you made that year. Then you subtract $12,600 for yourself and $12,600 for your spouse, if you have one. That gets you the amount of money you made that year.

The good part of this plan is that it makes the math much simpler. Also, getting rid of dependents would reduce a TON of headaches. There are a lot of divorced or separated couples that have fights over who gets to claim the kids for tax purposes. Sadly, there are plenty of mean-spirited people who will claim a child they're not eligible to, just to cause problems for their ex-spouse. The IRS has procedures for what to do in this case, but they sometimes get ignored.

The bad part of the plan is that it doesn't work for everyone. If you do the math, a single person with two dependents ends up getting a smaller tax break. Same goes with a married couple, with four or more dependents.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 14

Hey, the hiccup I had with Topham's logic puzzle ended up NOT destroying the speedrun. I just reloaded a save and tried it again.

Today I played for about 45 minutes, without making TOO much progress. I did the puzzle to get the trivet-journal from Jim Archer.
  1. Read the note about Marcel's band
  2. Ask Topham about Marcel
  3. Ask Topham where Marcel is
  4. Ask Emily where Marcel is
  5. Get key from Marcel.
  6. Take key to Jim Archer. He tells you to sew a dress.
  7. Go to Lilac Inn. Ask Jane if she will sew.
  8. Go upstairs. Discover the sewing machine has no needle.
  9. Ask Jane for a needle.
  10. Do the pie challenge. Leave and return.
  11. Get the needle from Jane.
  12. Sew the dress.
  13. Go to Jim Archer's for the trivet-journal.
And then I did the "open the journal" puzzle.
  1. Enter hidden passageway. Solve Creepy's Corner puzzle for a record.
  2. Play record in Emily's room.
  3. Open journal with the password "goodfellow"
I checked pretty much everything, and none of it can be skipped. Darn. I've got two more things to check, though! First, I need to see if you have to have the trivet, to open the journal. Most likely yes, because there's no way they'd make the long fetch quest optional. Second, do you have to ask Jane if she'll sew in Step 7 above? Because she says no, and you go upstairs to Emily. Maybe you can skip Jane and go straight upstairs to Emily. Minor timesaver!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 14

You have to do a lot of driving in "Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock". Not only is there the trivet fetch quest, but you have to visit Waddell's twice, Jim Archer's four times, and the endgame challenge is driving. My goal with the speedrun is to combine these trips as much as possible, that way you don't have to buy gas or do the lengthy telegram delivery puzzle.

Combining the Waddell trips with the Archer trips is easy enough, as they live next door to each other. With the trivet fetch quest, you visit a lot of spots. Titusville Telco is the only one close to Lilac Inn, and Twin Elms is the one farthest from Lilac Inn, so I'm thinking something like this:

First trip to town: Travel to Twin Elms to start the trivet quest, visit Waddell/Archer on the way to Titusville Telco. Go to orphanage twice, print shop, fishing, then print shop.
Second trip: Go to Titusville Telco, visit Waddell/Archer on the way to Twin Elms to finish the trivet quest.
Third trip: Archer
Fourth trip: Archer

In my practice run, I got to the point where I finished the first trip into town and got to the ham radio. But then my game came to a grinding halt, when I did Topham's silly logic puzzle of "dry up", "big cheese", "all wet", etc. I have the right answers, but Topham won't accept them. So I can't talk to him and progress. I'll have to restart. *grumble grumble*

Monday, May 1, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 13

I played more of "Secret of the Old Clock". It turns out that you don't have to solve Topham's logic puzzle, in order to search his house. You have to solve the puzzle, so you can talk to him. Well, you don't need to talk to him, until you need the quartz for the ham radio. So you can totally put off solving the logic puzzle for a while.

To trigger the trivet fetch quest, it looks like you can check the notebook at Topham's OR you can read the typewriter ribbon at Archer's. It takes about 13 seconds to get it at the notebook, and about 30 seconds to get the typewriter ribbon. That's mainly because Nancy reads every part of the note off the ribbon, where she just comments on the note off the notebook. And you have to open the notebook to trigger "ask Emily about her mother's middle name", anyway, so let's go with checking the notebook as the faster way to start the trivet quest.

I also learned you don't have to play the golf flag game! If you know the answer ahead of time, you can just input it into the clock in the carriage house.

When I finished my first trip into town, Nancy's dad called, and I could find the hidden passageway in the den. So maybe "get the mirror from Jim Archer" is the trigger for this. Or maybe "make a trip to town and back" is the trigger. Either way, I can put off solving the bird clock puzzle, until after the first trip to town. That way, I can get the mirror in the den at the same time I find the hidden passageway. I have to go into the passageway to get a dollar. The next step is testing the triggers for the Creepy's Corner puzzle in the passageway, to see if any can be skipped.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 12

Yesterday was the good news that minigolf is optional. At least, it's optional as far as the carriage lock puzzle is concerned. Is it optional when it comes to saving money? Sadly, no.

Nancy starts the game with $3.50. That perfectly matches with Mr. Waddell, who charges her $3.50 for the key and quartz. Those two things cancel each other out.

Nancy gets $1.00 from the underground passage. She has to spend money, to get five toys. She can get a toy for 10 cents, through golf. She can get a toy for 25 cents, through the store. Math dictates that Nancy must play miniature golf 2, 3, 4 or 5 times, to keep the cost of toys under $1.00.

If not, you have to deliver telegrams, which takes time, and should be avoided in a speedrun.

So...this means my speedrun route will include playing miniature golf twice, the fewest number of times possible. I will have to change the route, if it turns out that it's impossible to beat the game without delivering telegrams or paying for gas, because both of those things affect the finances.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 11

Okay, I played a little bit of "Secret of the Old Clock"! Just a little, because Rosie woke up and needed me to play with her.

I found out that it's possible to go through the opening scenes without talking to Emily about Jim Archer. This is not a timesaver, as you HAVE to do that, in order to proceed. I found out that you don't have to play minigolf in this game. WHAT. NO WAY.

Yeah, the only reason you play minigolf is so you can beat the carriage lock puzzle. There are four things for that puzzle: bard bounce, the poetry book in Emily's room, mini-golf and Gloria's middle name. The first three are entirely skippable. If you know the answers to those questions ahead of time—"keen", "omar" and "pony"—you can put them, and the game accepts it.

The game does force you to learn Gloria's middle name. In order to get that, you need to read Josiah's book of clues and talk to Emily. So, yeah! You can skip the other stuff involved with the carriage lock puzzle. Timesavers!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 10

Here's my general outline, for how I would speedrun "Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock". I haven't tested anything out yet, so a lot of items are marked "if you have to". Maybe some can be skipped.

1. Go inside the Lilac inn
2. Talk to Jane
3. Solve the bard bounce puzzle in the den, if you have to.
4. Solve the clock puzzle in the den, if it turns out you can't do it later.
5. Go to Emily's room. Look at the poetry book, if it turns out you have to.
6. Talk to Emily. This triggers the kitchen scene, which includes a conversation with Jane and a conversation with Emily.
7. Go to Topham's. Get the paper on the way.
8. Find the mouse for the cat.
9. Talk to Topham. Solve his puzzle so you can search the house.
10. Solve the clock puzzle on the mantel for a mirror.
11. Read Josiah's notebook of clues, if you have to.
12. Do minigolf. Do it multiple times, if you have to.
13. Do the golf flag puzzle, if you have to.
14. Drive to town. Get the key from Waddell.
15. Meet Jim Archer. Use the key on his clock for a mirror.
16. Start the trivet puzzle. Finish it it completely if it's fastest to do so here. Otherwise, split it in half.
17. Back at Lilac Inn. Discover hidden passageway in the den, if you can. If not, do this step as Step 26. Solve Creepy's Corner puzzle and get record, if you have to. Play record in Emily's room, if you have to.
18. Ask Emily for her mother's middle name.
19. Enter carriage house.
20. Solve clock, dominoes and mirror puzzles. Go upstairs and read the two notes.
21. Go to Topham. Solve his puzzle for quartz and ask him about Marcel.
22. Go to Emily. Get the key from Marcel.
23. Back to town. Do the rest of the trivet puzzle here, if needed.
24. Get the quartz cut by Waddell.
25. Go to Jim Archer. Get the dress.
26. Go to Lilac Inn. Talk to Jane, do pie puzzle, do sewing puzzle. Read the note to Emily's mother, if you have to.
27. Back to town. Do the rest of the trivet puzzle here, if needed.
28. Give dress to Jim for trivet. Open trivet for ham radio numbers.
29. Go to Topham and learn he won't give the Shakespeare cues, if you have to.
30. Break into Topham's and get the Shakespeare cues.
31. Use ham radio to call everyone and give them Shakespeare cues, if you have to.
32. Series of puzzles.
33. Endgame challenge.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 9

Solving the long trivet puzzles gets you the ham radio numbers. I think what you do at this point is talk to Topham, and he refuses to give you access to the Shakespeare book. Maybe you can do this earlier? I'll have to double-check what the trigger is, for asking about the book.

I believe that asking Topham about the book triggers the scene, where you can use the hidden tunnel to break into Topham's house. Again, that's a trigger I'll have to research. It could be that there's another trigger entirely, like getting the quartz from Waddell.

So you break in Topham's, give the mouse to the cat, and get the cues. At this point, the game is linear. You give the cues to the correct people, so you can solve the hobo sign language puzzle, which is followed by another puzzle. This gives you a golf ball. Use the golf ball to get the key. This triggers the endgame challenge.

And that's it! That would be my speedrun route for "Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock"! It requires a lot of work, as I determine what triggers what, and change the route accordingly. Also, there will be a lot of work, determining the fastest way to do all the driving challenges.

Tomorrow, I'll have a big bullet list, just as a general outline.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 8

I talked about the trivet yesterday. I forgot, the trivet puzzle has some more complications.

When you have both halves of the trivet, you enter the password "GOODFELLOW" to get the numbers to call on the ham radio. You're supposed to listen to the Creepy's Corner record, before solving the puzzle. I'll double-check to see if you DO have to listen to the record, but if you do, that means Nancy has to go to the hidden passageway and get the record and listen to it, before she can open the trivet.

Does Nancy have to listen to the whole record? Because it's long. Maybe you can get away with only listening it, for a few seconds. And maybe you can get away with NOT listening to the record. Maybe the game only checks to see if you have it in your inventory.

Also, getting the trivet half from Jim Archer requires a few more hoops to jump through. Once you get the key from the hat, from Emily, you go to Jim Archer. He gives you the sewing puzzle. You go back to the Lilac Inn, and talk to Jane. She gives you the pie puzzle, in exchange for a sewing needle. So you do the pie puzzle, so you can do the sewing puzzle, so you can get the trivet half from Jim Archer. I believe that you can check the note to Gloria, at this point. I'll have to check if it's necessary to read the note to Gloria, or if you can skip it. I bet you can't skip it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 7

As I said yesterday, the first major part of "Secret of the Old Clock" is getting the mirrors and reaching the upstairs area of the carriage house. This area has two different notes. One is about Marcel's band, and the other is about the piece of quartz for the ham radio. Both of those are longer puzzles, and I'm fairly certain you HAVE to read the upstairs notes to trigger these puzzles.

Both puzzles involve talking to Topham, so that's nice. You can kill two birds with one stone that way.

With the quartz, you ask Topham for it. He makes you do his psychic puzzle. Then you take the quartz to Waddell to be cut. He charges you a lot of money for it, the greedy jerk.

With Marcel's band, you ask Topham what Marcel is. It's a hat that Emily has. You go to Emily and get the key from the hat. Then you go to Jim Archer's and use the key for the second half of the trivet. Obviously, I'll want to arrange things so I have both halves of the trivet at this point. So...I'll have the trip into town, where I get the quartz to Waddell, get half of the trivet from Archer, and solve the second half of the trivet puzzle, if necessary.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 6

The first major part of "Secret of the Old Clock" is finding all four mirrors. You use them inside the carriage house, so you can go upstairs and start with the next major part of the game. The mirrors are...

1. Inside the den. You can get it at any time.
2. Inside Topham's house. You have to solve Topham's word puzzle, before you can get it.
3. Inside Jim Archer's area. You have to get the key from Waddell before you can get it.
4. Inside the carriage house. You have to solve the golf flag challenge, in order to get it, I think. Maybe the game lets you enter the right solution, without having beaten the golf flag challenge.

As I said when I started the speedrun routing, I don't know what the trigger is for "hidden passageway in the den can be found now". Hopefully, the trigger is early on in the game, so I can get the mirror in the den and discover the hidden passageway on the same trip. If not, I'll have to take two trips to the den, one for the mirror and another for the passageway. I think you have to use the hidden passageway twice regardless, but I'm not sure.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 5

As part of the trivet challenge, you need five toys for the orphans. You can buy toys at the general store, which is near Twin Elms. You can also win the minigolf challenge multiple times for toys. Minigolf is cheaper than buying toys, although it takes longer.

It all comes down to money. Nancy makes money in this game, by delivering telegrams. That takes a long time, and it would be ideal for the speedrun if I could avoid it.

The only other time Nancy gets money is when she goes through the hidden passageway. I think there's a dollar or so, there. Nancy spends money to play minigolf, buy toys, use the phone, get the key from Waddell and get the jewel cut by Waddell. Buying gasoline also costs money.

I guess I have to do math here! Calculate how much money Nancy earns, versus how much money she has to spend. Hopefully the math will NOT work out to "play minigolf five times in a row for five toys", to save enough money to avoid delivering telegrams.

I will also have to time how long it takes to win mini-golf, compared to how long it takes to get toys at the general store.