Category Archives: Personal Life

New Phone

Hey guys, after using a Galaxy Note 2 for 6 whole years, I’ve just replaced the old dinosaur with a Note 8, and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. The specs are nice; internet browsing is fast, games run smoothly, and the camera looks good (see the photos below). But a lot of the hardware design decisions are really questionable! The main speaker is at the bottom of the phone, so when I’m playing games, it’s always covered by either my hand or my stomach. This wasn’t a problem with the Note 2, since the speaker was on the back of the phone. This seems like a major oversight to me!

I also feel scammed by the advertised 6.3 inch screen size. The Note 2 screen is 5.5 inches, so I’d figure it would be an upgrade, but it’s not! The Note 8 screen is just longer! Videos and games aren’t even designed for such a long screen! And some of the screen space is wasted on reflective curved edges. So if anything, the screen looks smaller than on my old phone! Questionable design indeed.

Annoying hardware aside, it’s nice to have a phone that doesn’t crash when I try to open basic apps like Google maps. I’m still happy I got a “flagship” phone, as it’s partly for market research. Speaking of which, I’m trying to play a lot of little indie games on it – the kind of stuff you’d see on Kongregate a few years ago. Looks like a lot of browser game devs have moved to mobile, and I’ve got some catching up to do. It’s a shame that the mobile market is poorly curated and saturated with garbage, so finding those gems will be tricky. Feel free to recommend some wholesome, non-exploitative games. So far I’m enjoying Super Dangerous Dungeons, Monument Valley, and Cat Bird. I was sceptical of on-screen keyboards, but they work okay if there’s only 3 buttons.

Also I’m really liking the EBF5 Foe Competition entries so far. I thought maybe the rules were too specific this time, but it looks like most people understand what I’m looking for.
garden legoAbove is me and Ronja doing a bit of gardening. We don’t actually have a dog, but I do indeed use a pickaxe to till the earth. Below is us crunching before the launch of EBF5. We forgot to change out of our outdoor clothes, apparently.
office lego

PlayStation VR Review

Hey guys, I’ve been playing a lot of PSVR this month, and it’s been a really awesome experience overall.

But let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first:
• It’s definitely not good value for money. Getting the headset and new controllers will cost you almost as much as a new console, on top of needing to own a PS4. A lot of the games that are available are also quite short, so expect to burn through some cash.
• Apparently the VR controllers are out of stock everywhere right now, so I haven’t had a chance to try them yet! For now I’m stuck with games that use the normal PS4 controller.
• Many games will make you feel motion sickness instantly. In most cases you will quickly get used to it with some practice, but there’s some games that many people will struggle with. So depending on your tolerance, you may be limited to certain types of games.
• If you love very high resolution and realistic graphics… you’re not going to get that here. The graphics on VR games are going to look at least one console generation out of date. Each eye only sees half of a 1080p screen!
• Kids aren’t even allowed to play it! I’m assuming no company wants to accidentally discover the long-term health consequences of VR on kids.

All of those points make it a hard sell for most people. But if you’re an adult who has money and only a limited amount of time to play games, then VR offers a huge variety of experiences to try out. So here’s some quick reviews of my favourite games so far. What I can say about all of these games is that they’re really immersive! When you put on the headset you really feel like you’re suddenly in a different location, and that’s a really cool feeling that can be exploited in many ways.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission

This is a must-play game. It’s basically a 3D Mario game, which surprisingly translates very well into VR. You are the camera, and the whole gimmick of the game is moving your head around to find secrets and to get different views of obstacles, while controlling your robot like you would with Mario. It’s a game that feels familiar and fresh at the same time, and is easy enough for anyone to try it. It really should have been a launch title, as it shows off what the new hardware can do – both the VR headset and the motion controls on the PS4 controller. I’ve historically hated motion controls in games, but we’ve come a long way since the Wii, and the hardware and game design makes great use of them. The music is also catchy as hell. I can’t recommend this game enough, but it’s really hard to explain why it feels so good to play this.
astro-bot-rescue-mission-screen-05-ps4-us-18may18
WipEout Omega Collection

It’s a sci-fi racing game in VR, and just like you’d expect, it will probably make you feel sick instantly. After a lot of practice, I can play it for a few hours now, but the dizziness never completely went away. It helps a lot if you only look forward – which is probably what you should be doing while driving anyway. About the game itself, well, it’s nothing too special. Since it’s essentially 3 games-in-one, there’s a ton of content, and it can keep you busy for a long time if you want.

Moss

If Astro Bot is Mario, Moss is a lot like Zelda. There’s platforming, puzzles, hack and slash combat action, and a simple fantasy story. The animations and scenery are really cute, and you feel like you’re a giant that’s sitting in a comfy little mouse world. This game should cause you no nausea, since there’s no motion to speak of – you always sit in a fixed place on each map. That makes it another good title to start with. However, the game is really short. It honestly feels like half a game. It’s great fun while it lasts though.
moss-screen-01-ps4-us-10nov17
Resident Evil 7

I was dared to play this one, but it turned into my favourite horror game ever. There’s a few janky moments where you are reminded that you’re playing a video game – like for example when you occasionally see your arms float around detached from your body because you’ve sat back further in your chair. But for the most part it works really well in VR, and all of the horror aspects are more exciting and immersive. The hiding segments feel especially natural, when you’re trying to peak around obstacles by moving your head around. The game difficulty is quite reasonable for a survival horror casual like me. The bosses are creative, the pacing is excellent, and there’s even a decent amount of humour in the game. Overall fantastic experience. Even if you’re too scared to play it yourself, it’s worth watching someone else play it.

Robinson: The Journey

Here’s a sort of adventure game about dinosaurs. It’s quite a casual game – not far off from being a walking sim, but there is fair amount of simple puzzles and platforming. It’s all about exploring alien jungles, climbing cliffs, and scanning weird creatures, while being accompanied by your pet dinosaur and a helper robot. A nice little experience, but once again, this game is very short.

I’ve also recently started Battle Zone and Here They Lie, which also seem to be very good games.

Future Plans for EBF5

Hey guys, with EBF5 launched, here’s a little road-map of what I plan to do next.

• Sometime this month I’ll release version 1.5 on Steam, which will include some minor bug fixes and balancing tweaks, and the Chinese New Year quest.

• I’m not in a hurry to publish the game on Newgrounds and Kongregate, as I’d like to rest for a while, and it doesn’t need the extra publicity at the moment. I’ll update the free version on my website though, so please yell at me if I haven’t done that by next month.

• I have a lot of new content planned for EBF5, which I’ll release in… I dunno, half a year or more? This includes 3 more optional dungeons and other secret stuff.

• I’ll probably pause my Patreon, as I don’t have anything to post there at the moment. But sometime later I’d like to add more perks, such as a section in EBF5′s Grand Gallery that lists long-time patrons.

• Once ALL of that is out of the way, I’d like to attempt a mobile port of EBF5. Running the game on mobile is no problem, it’s just a question of improving the performance and changing the user interface. I don’t know how it will turn out.

But anyway, I’ll be taking it easy this month and maybe next month too. The only work I’ll be doing is minor game updates, replying to user problems, and legal/accounting paperwork (woo, fun) such as officially hiring Ronja.

2018 in Review

Hey guys, here’s my summary of important life events in 2018. Here we go…

 Scotland had the snowiest winter in about a decade. I was stranded at my parents’ house and built a huge snow fortress with my mum.

 Me and Ronja visited London for the EGX Rezzed expo, collected stickers, caught up with developer friends, and met a lot of new ones. The Imperial War and Modern Art museums were also cool. London’s so big that we can see new stuff every time we visit.

 Phyrnna visited Scotland, and we did a bunch of sight-seeing together, including a tour of the Tennent’s brewery. This was actually the first time we’ve met, and I think it went very well.

 I worked really hard on EBF5. At the start of the year, I was still working on dialogue and map objects, and the game was roughly 80% finished. The last 10% definitely took a long time, and I was getting very bored of working on it by now.

 I did arts classes in ceramics, mosaics and fused glass, with my mum and my brother. It was fun to do some creative stuff that wasn’t work, and to meet regular people who are just trying out new hobbies. I’m most proud of the glass cats I made.

 My first Dungeons and Dragons campaign concluded. My character Salazar Ratkin started a cult, created a race of rat-men, and eventually became their God. It was good fun but not something I’d like to do regularly, as it’s very time consuming.

 Me and Ronja’s house-hunt continued, and we were gradually looking at and bidding on nicer ones than when we started. It was a tough market for buyers.

 Dealing with solicitors, mortgages, and home-sellers caused a lot of stress. Everyone points fingers and blames someone else for delays. Paperwork sucks. Had to change solicitors because the first one seemed dishonest.

 But I finally bought a big comfy house in the Summer!

 Did a thorough cleaning of our old flat, and I gained a lot of experience there. I did a really good job on the oven.

 Me and Ronja exhibited EBF5 at the Play Expo in Glasgow. We got a free table, I prepared a simple battle demo, printed off some posters and cards, and brought my computer. It was a great experience and we met a huge variety of people – old and young. The game never crashed once!

 Scotland had the warmest summer in about a decade, with record-breaking temperatures. It was quite nice.

 We spent a lot of the summer working on the garden. Landscaping, extending the driveway, planting stuff, looking for new furniture, collecting tools, etc. Friends and family came over to help out. Using a pick-axe is a lot of fun, and a good workout.

 Lots of car problems this year. My break pipes, wheels, and car frame are all rusting away into oblivion. She’ll be an adult soon.

 Me and Ronja painted the attic. The low, cramped ceiling made it a challenge, but it looks much better now.

 My Patreon, Discord and YouTube all grew a lot this year. I’ve been having fun with these platforms, but managing so many people can be tricky, especially on Discord!

 In terms of news, everyone’s still talking about Trump and Brexit, and fun is being removed from the internet, with the EU banning memes, and content platforms discouraging anything that’s not safe for advertisers. Newgrounds is starting to make a comeback though.

 I sorted all of my Lego and have a big cupboard for it. I made a lot of pixel-art mosaics and other stuff.

 We lived quite cheaply this year, mostly just spending money on new furniture. I didn’t play much games, read less than last year, and watched very little TV. I’ll try to make room for more leisure time next year. This whole year was mostly focused on work and moving.

 My diet’s still improving, I’m eating very few snacks, and I’m gradually learning to make new types of food. Considering how long I spend in front of a desk, I’m quite happy with my health. Unhealthy days are now an occasional treat, as they should be.

 We decorated heavily for Halloween, with a lot of pumpkin carving. Almost 50 kids showed up at our house. Had a Halloween party two days later, with lots of pumpkin cooking.

 Bonfire night was also great, with many nearby households putting on huge firework shows – sometimes without much safety considerations.

 Tried out bingo, slot machines, and arcades for the first time, during a friend’s birthday night out. I can definitely see the appeal of gambling (for fun).

 I spent months on debugging and balancing EBF5, and set myself a 3-year deadline to finish it. Adding totally new languages was quite exciting, and while we did translations much more efficiently than on previous games, it was still a huge task. The weeks leading up to the launch were some of the most stressful in my life. Ronja helped out a lot with testing and customer support.

 The launch of EBF5 was incredibly successful. Most of the major bugs were fixed over the first two weeks, and the game sold well for the entire month of December. It’s already paid off its development costs. Success comes with responsibilities though, and it looks like I’ll be making updates, doing paperwork, and dealing with customers for a long time before I can completely relax.

 I don’t binge drink often, but this year I’ve had some of my heaviest drinking sessions ever. Being an independent adult gives you the freedom to drink til 5am, and hangover days are actually quite nice when you’re self employed and have no schedule.

 I got PS VR and spent much of the Christmas holidays trying it out with my family. Everyone likes it so far, and even my ancient dad is addicted to Astro Bot (great game btw). Ronja’s mum visited from Finland, and we feasted for 5 days straight.

I guess that about sums it up. My hope for 2019 is simply to work less, and to use the internet less. The rest of life is much more wholesome.

Happy new year in advance!

collage18

Garden Adventures

So now that Summer is over, I can do a write up of my gardening adventures.
We recently bought a house, which while in very good condition, had a very plain and low maintenance garden. In particular, there’s a 25sqm area that’s simply covered in gravel. I would prefer to have grass, so dogs can run around. It can’t be that hard to remove the gravel by hand and lay down some grass, right?

Well, the top layer of gravel was quite useful, and I reused some of it in other parts of the garden, and gave a few car-fulls of it to my mum, who used it in her garden. The problem was that under the gravel was a much thicker layer of useless concrete and rubble. That took many digging sessions to get rid of – and around 15 trips to the dump in my medium sized car. In the end I excavated 6 or 7 tonnes of rubble with just a shovel, pickaxe and some buckets. It definitely would have been worth hiring some professional equipment for that… but at least it was good exercise.

back garden

Once the rubble was gone, I finally reached the topsoil, but there was a final challenge. The soil was full of buried chunks of fences, bricks, and slabs! I had to go through it all with the pickaxe and pull out even more rubble. On the bright side, some of the slabs were complete, and I used them to build flower beds later! I didn’t get to plant the grass this year, but the area is almost ready so that I can plant it in Spring. I didn’t expect grass would be so much work. I invited some friends and family over, and we had a little planting session in the corner of that area.

In another part of the garden, we wanted to get rid of some grass and build flower beds along the fence, as this would make for a great view from the patio and rear windows. My mum cloned many of her plants for us, and Ronja helped with the planting and layout. The problem this time is that the grass didn’t want to die, and started growing back a few weeks later. That project is still a work in progress, and we’ll see how many of the plants survive…

front garden

We also extended the driveway a bit to look a bit more aesthetic, and so that it can potentially fit in an extra car. Whoever originally laid the driveway slabs got a bit lazy and didn’t put them all the way along the fence, so we cut some slabs into triangles and filled in the gaps. It seems like a simple job, but if you don’t flatten the ground underneath, they can wobble or break when you step on them, and one of ours cracked through the middle. Also at 70KG each, slabs are surprisingly heavy and make for a good workout.

I got some old decorative garden furniture from my mum, scraped the old flaky paint off, and spray painted it black. The intricate design made this a huge pain. I didn’t manage to get all the old paint off, so I’m sure the new layer won’t last that long now. But for now it makes for a really nice decoration in front of the house.

Anyway, that about covers everything. This was all very new to me, as I haven’t done much gardening in the past. I learned a lot in the process, and also got much fitter. It was satisfying how little money we spent on all that – mostly on a few essential tools and compost. Most of the plants and materials were recycled, either from my parents’ garden or from Gumtree. It just took a lot of hard, dirty work.

garden me

Play Expo Results

Hey guys, I’ve been without internet for over two weeks, but I’m back now. I guess I have to start off with a write-up of the Play Expo.

It went really well! Not a single thing went wrong!

Setting up was easy. I just brought in my computer, two monitors, a poster, an old pile of Kongregate stickers I got from Mochi London, some cute business cards to give out, and that was about it. The venue was conveniently 10 minutes away from my home. At first I didn’t have anywhere to put up my poster, but the guys next to us left very early so we essentially got a 2nd table just for that. Me and Ronja took turns manning the stall, so we didn’t tire ourselves out. (I also got to try some VR stuff on my break, woop!)
expo photo 1

EBF5 never crashed. Both days it ran non-stop for 8 hours without any problems, which was pretty cool, but also what I would have hoped for since the demo was just the most basic parts of the battle system. On the second monitor I had my YouTube videos of EBF5 running on loop forever.

The audience was a bit different from what I expected. EGX in England was mostly for gaming enthusiasts, but while this event still had some of those, it was generally much more casual and family oriented. There were a lot of really young kids, but also a lot of parents and grandparents who weren’t even into video games at all. I ended up showing off EBF5 to a huge variety of people, and it was a very educational social experience for me. I learned how to talk to kids, disabled people, and a lot of very socially-awkward people.

I’m glad I had EBF5 configured in work-safe mode, and I’m happy I made that option available in the first place. Bouncing anime breasts were not out of place at the event, but I think it would have been a bit awkward with the game’s default settings, especially when young girls came to play.

A related point that surprised me was the lack of PC gamers! I think EBF5 was one of the only mouse-controlled games there, and a lot of kids were confused when they couldn’t find the controller or keyboard. Quite a few people had trouble using the mouse accurately, and double-clicking when single-clicks were fine. But besides that people picked up the game very easily. I just told them to pick commands and hit the baddies, and that was all they needed to know really. I only intervened to tell them how to heal when their health got low.

expo photo 2Besides all that we also got to know some of the other exhibitors, including Mega Cat Studios, who make modern NES games, Wrench Games who make card games, and Oi Oi Games who are a store for retro games (their Mario Maker stall dominated the area at first and sort of overshadowed us – not fair!). I don’t think there was anyone particularly famous there – there wasn’t even any official presence from the big gaming companies. It was all quite local and modest. A reporter from The Sun talked to me briefly, but in the end I don’t think he actually wrote anything about me.

I had around 5 people tell me they were fans of the EBF games, and another 5 or so who said they’ve probably played them at some point in the past. So that’s not bad – I’m not a total nobody!

Anyway, it was all a lot of fun and I’d love to do it again if I get more chances to do it so cheaply. (Grand total spent on the event: £89 and around 3 days of preparation)