Category Archives: Personal Life

Summary of 2021

As is my yearly tradition, here is a summary of important or interesting events in my life this year, including a bunch of news about my games that you might have missed.

• I refurbished my two NES consoles, which included deep cleaning and replacing the silicone springs in the controllers. I bought a couple more homebrew games that were released recently, and tried messing around in NES Maker. Here’s some mockup art and stages I made, that run in an emulator. I also bought an Everdrive, which allows me to put the entire NES library (and cool mods and homebrews too) on one cartridge – and it has save states too! Micro Mages and D-Pad Hero 2 are fantastic modern NES games to check out, to name just two.

• Early this year Flashplayer was finally killed off in browsers, with every website trying something different to keep Flash games running. Ruffle is a Flashplayer emulator that can run many Flash games in browsers without the need for any plugins, and I’ve started hosting a collection of Flash games on my website which show how well it works. It’s still a work-in-progress though, and mostly runs older ActionScript 2 games.

• Newgrounds.com hosted the Flash Forward Game Jam to encourage developers to make new Flash games for Ruffle. I made Bullet Heaven 3 [Prototype] to try out some new art and mechanics, but the reception was a bit mediocre as some features were missing and the controls were not as intuitive as those in the previous Bullet Heaven games.

• Until Ruffle is finished, the best way to play Flash games at the moment is BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint. I’ve been supporting the project with donations and by doing an interview with Blue. I will eventually publish my older games on Steam – that should have happened this year, but it didn’t.

• I’ve started buying high quality furniture that I expect to keep for a very long time, starting with a solid oak bed and sets of drawers. Previously I’ve been buying the cheapest furniture that gets the job done and looks passable. Luckily, our dog is small and isn’t capable of destroying furniture, and we also don’t have kids.

• I bought a few homebrew Game Boy games, and customized my Game Boy SP with a new SNES-style shell. Next year I plan to design and print my own Game Boy shell, and maybe try making a Game Boy game!

• I pushed out an important update to Epic Battle Fantasy 4, which fixed some serious issues such as memory leaks and poor balancing, and added some new quality-of-life features, and a new cheats and challenges menu. If you haven’t played EBF4 in a while, this is a very good reason to play it again. See the link for the full list of changes – there’s a lot! (You have to opt-into this version in the Steam betas tab)

• I’ve been learning a lot of DIY stuff, such as re-doing the silicone sealant in the bathrooms, installing shelves, and building simple garden furniture such as planters and a firewood rack. I’ve collected a lot of power tools, including some that scared me until recently (circular saws), and plan to put them to good use as soon as the sun comes back – I don’t have a garage, so I gotta work outside for now!

• My brother bought a house, so I’ve been helping him renovate it a bit. I helped install new laminate floors and Ronja helped with painting. Next year we’re also going to extend the garden fence – but timber prices are super high in the UK at the moment!

• I went kayaking for the first time! Good thing Beat Saber kept my arms in decent shape this year.

• Speaking of which, I still can’t beat Spin Eternally and Ghost on Expert+, but I’m slowly getting closer…

• A lot of effort this year went into training our new dog, Ethel. She knows a lot of tricks, and is very well behaved around guests. What she fails at is behaving around other dogs, and being walked in new areas – she gets nervous and starts making a scene. We tried to introduce her to my parent’s dog, and she seemed to be making progress until she flipped out and took a nice big bite out of the other dog. We got some personal training lessons for her, and while her temperament somewhat improved, she’s still not allowed near dogs.

• Ethel also had some mysterious health problems for a few months – sudden exercise or excitement would cause her to start breathing strangely and faint for a few seconds. One time she did this and had seizure symptoms, including paddling her feet. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with her, and the symptoms gradually got milder, and now she seems totally fine.

• I finally started playing Smash Ultimate! I sat on this one for a long time because the lockdowns made it difficult to invite friends around. I’ve got a lot of complaints about the Switch hardware and Smash Ultimate user experience… but in the end it’s still darn fun to play. Another party game I’ve played a lot with friends is Overcooked 2.

• My dad’s car was totalled in an accident! Luckily no one was hurt, but him and his passengers (including my mum) were a bit shaken up. My dad went on to buy the exact same car again, a Seat Alhambra, his 4th one.

• I finished decorating my office, which involved getting an ergonomic office chair, framing some new posters, and building a 220cm desk out of a kitchen worktop. This does little for productivity, but it looks cool.

• I got an ultrawide monitor… and well, it’s great for first-person games, but for everything else it feels like a gimmick, and most people would probably be better off with two monitors instead, which are more versatile and easier to transport. The worst part for me is that it is not curved enough to see the edges comfortably. I might actually replace it sooner rather than later… but it does look beautiful on my new desk!

• I’ve been playing a lot of retro style first-person-shooters this year, including DUSK, HROT, Amid Evil, Dread Templar, and Ion Fury. I got into them thanks to the new Doom games.

• Age of Empires 2 is still taking up a lot of my gaming time. I’ve finished all of the campaigns on hard!

• Got all of my covid vaccines this year, and the booster. So far, only the second dose has had serious side effects, and I was totally out of action for a whole 24 hours, with bad headaches, nausea, and chills. I think we’re all gonna get some variant of covid sooner or later, so getting vaccinated is the best we can hope for when it comes to mitigating the damage.

• Our garden is more or less finished – we finished decorating with some outdoor art and more patio furniture. We bought a gazebo to sit under, and a large firepit, so even if the weather isn’t great, it’s still comfortable to sit out there. I’m still learning how to chop firewood correctly though.

• I spent a lot of this year working on the EBF5 mobile port, but got kind of burned out working on it, so it’s still not completely finished. The game runs quite smoothly now and in-app purchases finally work. I’ve learned a lot about mobile development with Flash/AIR, but Google’s developer console is a nightmare to use, and I hear Apple’s isn’t much better. It’s a shame that the mobile ecosystem is so terrible, because getting games running on mobile devices is very satisfying otherwise.

• I’ve been working with a Chinese mobile games publisher, which is one reason I’ve been focusing on mobile games. They offered me very good terms, and the deal doesn’t affect anything outside of China, so all you guys get out of this is that I’m porting my games to mobile. Working with a publisher has been a new experience for me – I’ve been doing a lot more documentation work than usual!

• I quickly ported and published Mecha Dress Up Game, Brawl Royale, Cat Cafe v2, and Epic Battle Fantasy 1 on Android! They work well but are very simple games compared to my new stuff, so didn’t make much of a splash when they landed. You can’t currently buy them because of some ID verification problems with my Google account – I’ll need to get that sorted ASAP!

• I’ve been going on short road trips with my dad. This year we’ve visited Dundee, Newcastle and Dunbarr. We’ve got to start planning things better so that all of the attractions aren’t closed by the time we arrive. Covid isn’t making it easy either. The most exciting destination so far was the Holy Island Lindisfarne, which is accessed by a causeway road. We went during a storm, and had an incredibly wet and windy time at the castle.

• My brother soon planned a slightly longer road trip – we stayed at The Park Ecovillage near the town of Findhorn, and visited some nearby attractions, including Bow Fiddle Rock (a large natural arch in the sea), the Captain’s Table (seaside bar and restaurant), and Findlater Castle (a cool ruin on a steep cliffside). We stopped for fish and chips in the town of Cullen, which also had some very quirky antique shops. The Ecovillage itself was some sort of spiritual/druid community, where driving was discouraged, waste was recycled, and many of the buildings were hobbit-style.

• Me and Ronja put a ton of effort into Halloween this year. I put up a terrifying scarecrow on the driveway, and bought a ridiculously creepy mask. We’re getting a reputation as having the scariest house in the area, and 100 kids showed up despite covid. Some kids even showed up in Friday Night Funkin’ costumes!

• I started transitioning into being a vegetarian. I started off by avoiding very unhealthy meat like bacon and sausages, eventually realizing that I can probably manage without meat in my diet, and it’s been fun trying new food at restaurants. I think I’ll keep eating fish and other meat on special occasions, but I’ll try to stick to the higher quality stuff.

• Me and Ronja went on a road trip to Glen Lyon, stopping by in Aberfeldy and Pitlochry along the way. We stayed two nights in a small wooden cabin on a farm, which had a very comfy log burner, and three dogs and a bunch of chickens roaming around outside. We did a little bit of hiking, stopped at a garden centre, saw some monuments, and drove on some very narrow and bendy roads. I also played Scrabble for the first time. I can now understand the appeal.

• Christmas decorating got interesting this year, as I tried making wreaths for the first time. My brother joined me. It’s actually not hard and you don’t need a lot of supplies – as long as you have access to a garden. I will definitely make a yearly activity out of this. Christmas Eve dinner with the family was pretty normal – eating fish while dogs made noise in the background. A covid scare stopped us from having more dinners over the next few days.

• This year’s Christmas Steam Key Giveaway was the most popular one ever! I will definitely keep doing these…. even though I skipped it last year. I’ll try to think of other seasonal events too, such as fanart competitions, etc.

And that’s all. Here’s some highlights in picture form… click on the image for a larger version!

Happy New Year, everybody!

Halloween

Hiya Folks!

Ronja here to give you the big juicy details now that Halloween is done and dusted and the decorations have started coming down.

We’ve been slowly accumulating a hoard of Halloween decorations to put up every year consisting of lights, bunting, cups, napkins, and big pile of scary masks. This year we managed to find some spooky tablecloths, spiderweb, and a pair tacky-cute wine glasses. We also had the absolutely terrible idea to build and dress a scarecrow to put in the driveway with a lantern in it’s hand, and managed to spook our neighbours, loads of trick or treaters, and mainly ourselves whenever we’d catch a glimpse of it out the windows.

We’ve built a tradition of having a couple friends over around Halloween to cook and carve pumpkins, as well as enjoying some spooky drinks and way too many sweets. We always cook a lot with the pumpkin, and I try to slot in at least one new thing each time, so this year we ended up with pumpkin soup, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice liqueur, pumpkin whisky, and some pumpkin puree for Ethel – and we save the seeds from all the pumpkins to be roasted after carving. This year we got a total of 11 pumpkins – 2 for cooking and 9 for carving – and while I was busy cooking, baking, and infusing drinks, Matt and our friends carved all the lanterns over Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday (Halloween) we got a total of 98 trick or treaters! We dressed up ourselves and the front of the house and managed to get some very good reactions from kids and adults alike. Some kids we’re a bit scared to approach the smiling man handing out sweets with the scarecrow standing guard, but would eventually approach at their parents encouragement. We got many compliments, and saw a lot of amazing costumes too. Can’t wait for next year!

Ethel’s 1st Birthday!

Hi Folks,

Hope you’re all rested and refreshed to face the new week!

This weekend we celebrated Ethel’s 1st Birthday, with lots of presents, treats, games, and fun. It was pretty rainy, but we made the most of it with plenty snuggles and baking birthday Pupcakes with banana, carrots, peanut butter, and extra PB on top for “icing”. She absolutely loved them, and since we made so many we also made sure to deliver some for the nearby family puppers as thanks for all the birthday presents she got.

Dog Recovery

Hi Folks!

Our wee dog Ethel recently got spayed, so there’s been less post activity while we keep an eye on her recovery from the surgery. She has absolutely hated wearing the infamous Cone of Shame, so we got her a far too cute recovery suit that’s essentially a onesie pyjama that she seems to love. Matt is getting lots of work done and Ethel is healing up great so far, so we should be back to more regular posting soon as she keeps getting better and better.

Here’s an entirely accurate depiction of the events that transpired at the vets – as told by Ethel, and visualised by Matt.

NES Adventures

Hey guys, I refurbished my old NES consoles, so you can see some photos of that below.

Here’s a list of upgrades that I gone and done, and that you yourself can easily try:

• I took the controllers apart to replace the silicone bits inside – replacements are super cheap on eBay. They work as good as new now. The main difficulty was that the tiny screws on the controllers didn’t unscrew very well.

• Just for fun I replaced the faceplates on two of the controllers with unofficial ones from eBay. They’re not as high quality as the original ones, but they look pretty cool if you don’t inspect them closely.

• I took the game cartridges apart to clean the connectors – this requires a special screwdriver. There’s a lot of different methods for cleaning that people swear by, but I tried a regular eraser, and then rubbing alcohol.

• I took the consoles apart for cleaning – I’ve got one PAL and one NTSC. The first runs at 50 frames per second and the second at 60. I snipped their region locking chips, so they can both play pretty much any game now, but at different speeds. Apparently, this also makes dirty games more likely to start-up correctly, since they will keep resetting if they don’t satisfy this chip. The snipping is actually super easy – you can see in the circuit board close-up photo exactly which pin you need to cut. That’s all there is to it.

• Taking an NES apart is very simple, and regular screwdrivers are all you need. Putting it back together is trickier, as some parts overlap in unintuitive ways, and plastic parts may have warped a bit due to age. Luckily there’s plenty of YouTube videos that will guide you through it if you get lost.

• I took out the component that connects to cartridges and gave it a light scrub with some fine sandpaper, straightened the connectors with a pick, and then I boiled it in water. Combined with cleaning the carts, most of my games start up on the first try now!

• One of the NES consoles had an unreliable power button. I figured it was just dirty inside, so I took it apart (carefully bending some small bits of metal to get in there), and that was indeed the case. I learned how to use a multimeter to check for electrical connections, and this allowed me to test if the power button was working without needing to put it back into the console. Now it works like new!

And as a little bonus at the bottom, you can see some new NES games I bought. These were published in the last few years!
I gotta say that buying new, unlicensed NES games on cartridges in 2021 isn’t exactly great value for money unless you like collecting rare novelties to show off to your friends, much like vinyl records. But that’s the point I guess, and in my opinion, it’s preferable to collecting old, official NES games, since you’re supporting the creation of new content for the NES!

Anyway…

Micro Mages feels like a very modern platformer game with smooth controls and a reasonable difficulty level, despite being the same size as the original Super Mario Bros. And it’s multiplayer – up to 4 players if you have a multi-tap!

Project Blue is a good-looking and polished Metroid-style game, but the difficulty is very retro – you have to beat the game in one go, 1-ups are rare, and the easiest difficulty setting is still challenging. At least it gives you unlimited continues!

Nebs and Debs could pass as a real, early NES game. The controls are a little bit stiff, and it sends you back to the beginning when you game over. Getting better at the game is a lot like Mario – you need to memorise where all of the 1-ups and shortcuts are, to stand a chance at beating it.