It’s been snowing almost nonstop since yesterday as we are all absolutely loving it! We both miss the snowy winters of Canada and Finland so whenever we get more than a dusting in Glasgow it merits celebration. Ethel absolutely loves the snow as well so we’ve gone on big snowy walks and played a lot in the garden. She will dig in the snow for hidden sticks and chase after snow balls, but her favourite thing is catching snowflakes in her mouth and finding the tastiest patch of snow to munch.
Oh, and digging through the snow to find my dropped phone.
As is my yearly tradition, here is a rough summary of my year:
• Me and Ronja went on a weekend trip to Killin, a small town in the countryside of Scotland. On the way back I got the car stuck in some snow in the mountains. Some passers-by let us use their shovel, and we were back on our way. I should be more careful in future, but I’ve since got a new set of tyres for my 18-year-old car, so maybe that’ll help.
• I finished off the big version 2 update for EBF5, which added a ton of new content and re-playability to the game. People could now play it for hundreds of hours if they wanted to, and the game has continued selling very well. If you haven’t revisited the game since that update came out, you totally should.
• Me and Ronja got invested in US politics this year, and were eagerly following the election news, including the democratic primaries and caucuses. It looked like Bernie Sanders had a chance. What an optimistic start to a nightmare of a year.
• Wildfires, World War 3, race tensions, and Brexit dominated a lot of the news. And the year was just getting started.
• The coronavirus plague obviously defined the entire year. In retrospect, everything that happened seems so obvious and predictable, but in the first few weeks I assumed that governments and people would take the proper precautions to limit the spread and damage. Oh, how naive I was. Two weeks before the first national lockdown, I realized we were in for a wild 18 months or so before a vaccine was developed and distributed. Ronja has a bad immune system, so we were way ahead of the government’s guidelines. The UK has some of the worst virus stats to date, so we have to be extra careful. Meanwhile in Finland, things have been pretty much normal.
• We got a Nintendo Switch early on in the year. I was not impressed by the hardware – it was just a portable WiiU! The screen is so reflective you can’t play outside, the controllers give you hand cramps, and it didn’t even come with a stylus! The games were okay – but nothing that couldn’t already be done on the WiiU. The game I looked forward to the most was Smash Ultimate… but due to the virus, I never had a chance to bring friends round to play it. But on the other hand, Ronja played Animal Crossing for hundreds of hours, so we still got our money’s worth in the end.
• I continued playing Nintendo ROM hacks, including GBA and N64 stuff, and even made some quick edits to Pokemon Fire Red myself! If copyright laws were reasonable, Nintendo’s oldest games would be public domain by now, and anyone could have a shot at making new commercial versions of Mario and Pokemon. I’d love that.
• My plans to visit every major theme park in the UK this Summer were cancelled. Scotland’s biggest theme park closed down due to poor attendance and the coronavirus. But then they re-opened after selling a bunch of their rides. Scotland’s biggest rollercoaster is gone. It was one of the worst rollercoaster’s in the world, according to enthusiasts, but I’m still gonna miss it.
• This year I’ve been doing more art just for fun, rather than work – including pencil drawings, pixel art, vector art, and bigger Lego projects.
• I started work on porting EBF5 to Android using Adobe AIR, and made a decent amount of progress. The game is currently in a playable state, but needs some more optimization and user-interface adjustments. I didn’t finish it this year because I got sidetracked with other work…
• I played Age of Empires 2: Deluxe Edition, for around 500 hours, usually with my brother and some friends. We got reasonably good at 4v4 matches. It’s cool to see a 20-year old game still alive with regular updates.
• Me and Ronja of course also joined in on the Among Us craze, and we had enough friends playing it that we could easily set up 8 to 10 player games. We never took the game very seriously, and usually got drunk while playing it. The best part was thinking of edgy nicknames like MrPooPiss, Titler, FrontBum, BloodFart, or FetusYetus.
• I got a drill and learned how to use it! I mounted some hanging flower baskets in the garden, and a coat shelf in the hallway. Other minor home improvements included: Upgrading all lights to LEDs, renewing the smoke detectors, and replacing cupboard knobs.
• Garden improvements this year include painting the shed, repairing some old fences, planting a cherry tree, and building a totally new fence. I also scavenged a perfect wooden gate from some neighbours who were throwing theirs out. Very convenient. We also made friends with the local cats and squirrels.
• Most socialising this year was done over Zoom – we went to the pub online, essentially. Occasional real-life visits were permitted, but we always kept things outside to be safe.
• I spent £3,000 on a new VR-ready PC and a Valve Index. Was it worth it? Not really – I could have spent less and not noticed much difference. Most software can’t even take full advantage of my new 12-core CPU. But I can put it down as a work expense, and half of that money would have gone to taxes otherwise.
• My favourite single-player games this year were easily Doom Eternal and Half Life: Alyx. Amazing next-gen stuff that I’d love to play more of.
• My entire exercise routine has been replaced with Beat Saber this year. I’ve gotten pretty good at the game, and there’s only one official level I can’t beat, and that’s Ghost on Expert+. I doubt I’ll ever beat it.
• Me and Ronja celebrated our 30th birthdays, as did many of our friends. We sadly couldn’t make a big deal out of it.
• My family got us a fancy barbecue for our 30ths. I knew nothing about cooking, but it turns out it’s fairly straightforward and hard to mess up. You just heat stuff up and check it occasionally. We had socially-distanced garden dinners almost every week over the Summer, usually with my brother and his girlfriend. We also learned what happens when you don’t keep the barbecue dry and clean…
• I started working on re-releasing all of my old Flash games on Steam, including EBF1, EBF2, Adventure Story, Bullet Heaven, Brawl Royale, Mecha Dress Up Game, The Kitten Game, Cat Cafe, and a bunch of prototypes and minigames. The games mostly remain the same, but have some new quality-of-life features, and have had copyrighted content replaced with original content. A couple of the games also have completely new content. Once again, this project was not finished this year because I got sidetracked with other work.
• I pulled my old NES stuff out of the attic – I’ve got both PAL and NTSC versions of the console. I disassembled them, cleaned them up, cut the region-locking chips, replaced the springs on the controllers, and everything works almost as good as new. Games usually start up on the first try.
• I bought some modern NES games, and some Chinese carts containing ROM hacks, and I’m having a fun time. It’s cool that people are still making new content for such an old console.
• Halloween was much less eventful this year – we did the usual cooking and pumpkin carving, but there were no trick-or-treaters or guests, so we had time to rewatch some old horror films.
• My office is looking better than ever – the plants and Lego mosaics on my desk add a lot of color. I’m considering buying an expensive chair that should last decades, and hopefully do my health some favours… but it’s not safe to go out and try some chairs at the moment.
• Towards the very end of the year, I started working on an unexpected update to EBF4! I’ve wanted to publish EBF4 on more platforms for a while, but there was a long list of bugs and features I wanted to fix first, so that’s what this update is for. EBF4 is getting a lot of quality-of-life features from EBF5.
• Me and Ronja got a dog! It’s a 7-month-old Staffy and Frenchie mix, and is quite well behaved already. She’s consuming a lot of our time at the moment, but this should gradually settle down. She has yet to meet my family’s other dogs, so I’m curious to see how that goes.
• Christmas was fun despite the lockdown limitations. We exchanged food and messages with family members, without getting too close. Me and Ronja binge-watched Lost, which I’ve never seen before, but I remember it was incredibly popular when I was a teenager.
And that’s about it.
Honestly, I am not optimistic about the future. Most of the bad news from this year was predictable and preventable, and seeing how poorly our human civilization has handled it, I’m concerned that the coming years won’t be any better. This could be the start of a disastrous decade – but I hope I’m wrong! Maybe the coronavirus vaccine will be super effective and delivered swiftly. Maybe Brexit won’t end up being a big deal. Maybe we’ll take climate change seriously. Maybe Joe Biden won’t be a corrupt, corporate sell-out. Haha.
Either way, I think me and Ronja managed to have a fun year despite being stuck in the house for most of it, and we’re fortunate enough that we don’t have to worry too much about what the future may bring.
I am extremely honoured to introduce everyone to the newest addition to our family:Ethel! (Also known as Lentil, Macbethel, Miss Piggy, Snorty, Scabby etc.)
She is a 7 month old Staffordshire Bull Terrier and French Bulldog mix who has sadly moved around quite a lot already, but a couple weeks ago she arrived at her forever home with us. She loves walks, playing, chewing things, giving us the wettest kisses, and above all having a comfy snoozle on the sofa with us. She’s settled incredibly well and is an absolute little dream to have around. We’re still getting used to being puppy parents, but the house is definitely much livelier and having a lap heater in winter is definitely a bonus. She’s yet to meet the other dogs in the family so we’re keeping our fingers crossed we manage to plan and execute successful introductions and socialisation in this pandemic environment.
Hope you’ve all had a great Holiday period so far, we’re enjoying this little bean of love and you’re sure to hear more of her adventures in the future too!
Hey guys, here’s this year’s pumpkins I gone and made. Ronja made the left-most one. Next year I need to remember to buy a carving kit, as I can only do so much with a knife.
Trick-or-treating was cancelled this year – not only is coronavirus skyrocketing in the UK again, the weather has been pretty stormy. We cooked pumpkin pie, cupcakes, and soup, roasted the seeds, ate cheap candy, and started playing Alien Isolation. The usual Halloween stuff for us.
The government is getting ready for another month-long lockdown to hopefully save Christmas. But unlike the previous lockdown, they’re still leaving schools and some other things open, so it’ll be curious to see if they make it in time. Either way, I’m sure there’s gonna be a huge surge in cases in January.
If you want to hear something really scary, I’ll repeat some doomer thoughts that I posted on Twitter earlier:
2020 isn’t a series of accidents, it’s a series of predictable man-made disasters that we saw coming and did nothing about. This is a sign of things to come, and 2020 could very well be the best year of this coming decade.
Coronavirus may never go way. Climate-change-fuelled natural disasters will become more frequent. More and more jobs will be automated, and young people will either be unable to find jobs, or never be able to retire as pensions are cut. The wealth gap will continue increase and the poor will be blamed for all problems.
We won’t get UBI, or a Green New Deal, or any improved public services. Three or four big companies will own all communications and media platforms, and control information access at will. Propaganda bots will pass the Turing test, and unlimited fake news will be created for free. Governments will fight this with ever increasing surveillance. The trends are pointing towards a Black Mirror dystopia.
Progress isn’t guaranteed. Keeping your rights, privileges and health isn’t guaranteed.
My office was looking tidier than usual, so I figured this was a good chance to take a new photo of my work/gaming space. I’m pretty happy with how it looks now, especially the cable management. I can’t think of much that I’d like to change, except for maybe getting a proper wooden table instead of this cheapo one. Maybe I could put something else in the corner instead of that fridge, as I haven’t been using it for a while…
Technically I’m on a 4-display setup – can you spot all of them?
Anyway, I’m playing Terraria with my friends now. Between that and DIY projects, I’ve not been working on any games at the moment. I should probably finish off the Brawl Royale update and stick that on Patreon – it’s almost done already.