Category Archives: Thoughts and Opinions

Halloween was Yesterday

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.

Happy Halloween!

Newgrounds Podcast

Hey guys, a few days ago I was on the Newgrounds Podcast with three other Flash game developers: Psycho Goldfish, Tyler Glaiel and Steve Castro. We talked a bit about how our careers started, how cool Flash was in the 2000s, and how Adobe dropped the ball in recent years.

Give it a listen, and maybe some of the other episodes too, if you’re interested in the history of Newgrounds. Being on the podcast actually motivated me to stop playing video games and get back to work making them.

RIP Kongregate

Hey guys, it’s the end of an era.

Kongregate.com is going into archive mode and no longer accepting new games. A lot of the main staff already left a while ago, but there was still some really good web games being published there, so I’m a bit surprised that it’s no longer working out for them. They were even doing the monthly cash prizes for games up until the end, which I appreciate. I guess now they’re gonna be focusing on publishing mobile games, and on their store, Kartridge.

When I published Epic Battle Fantasy 3 on Kongregate 10 years ago, it got a million plays in the first week, and eventually 11 million in total. I think that was the biggest long-term boost to my reputation and career. The people at Kongregate were a lot of fun to work with, especially Greg the badge guy, and I don’t think any indie game platform today has anywhere near the same influence. I’m glad I published Epic Battle Fantasy 5 on there while I still could – it’ll be one of the last games to ever get badges!

Personally, I’m gonna keep checking the site every once in a while. There’s still lots of fun badges that I’ve missed. Even when the Flashplayer plugin is disabled, there’s still browser extensions to get around that.

A lot of the popular Flash games I’m sure will eventually make their way onto other platforms like Steam, but there’s also preservation projects like BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint to keep these games alive.

Anyway, you should go have a browse through Kongregate’s badge categories. I’m sure you’ll find something fun to play every time you have an hour or two to spare.

Universal Basic Income rant

With coronavirus causing more talk about Universal Basic Income, here’s a little rant from me about why everyone should get something like £1,000 per month.

UBI is cool because people who don’t want to work can sit at home and play video games and drink beer and still *support the economy by doing so*. They will still buy shit. People who do want to work and start businesses will have more options and the ability to take some risks, since their minimum living needs will be met. Employers will have to offer better jobs to attract workers – no more exploiting people who are struggling to get by.

UBI also need not diminish personal responsibilities. It could be tweaked to encourage certain behaviours. Finished highschool? You get slightly more. Doing some volunteering work to help your community? Here’s some extra UBI money.

I don’t believe at all that it would be bad for the economy if the parameters are tweaked correctly. Poor people spend literally all of their income, while rich people spend a tiny fraction, and invest/hoard the rest. All of that UBI money will still go back to businesses, one way or another – they’ll just have to work a bit harder to get it! Capitalism exists to encourage competition (not to make a small number of individuals very rich), and I think UBI would achieve that very well by giving workers and consumers more options.

As a game developer, I think UBI would be amazing for our industry. We’d probably have many more customers, and niche game developers could make their obscure products without starving to death.

Most successful business people started with something similar to UBI (me included). Their parents paid for everything while they were free to get a good education, try out different hobbies, and take some risks starting a business. Imagine if everyone had those opportunities – if they could take as long as they wanted to figure out what to do with their life, and to build some skills before jumping into the workforce. Imagine if making niche creative products was a viable way to make a living, but you’d still consider stacking shelves at a supermarket, because the pay would be a lot better than it is now.

And from what I understand, UBI doesn’t even cost very much to implement due to how simple it is. There’s not a lot of paperwork, no means-testing. It would be much more efficient than existing welfare plans. Everyone who’s over 18 gets it. Some rich folk may pay more taxes. But who cares? The advantages for the other 99% massively outweigh that.

Edit: I even forgot to mention automation! Robots will take all of our jobs sooner or later, might as well get ready for that too. No, there won’t be new jobs. There will be one guy overseeing 10 robots that replaced 10 workers.

Pokemon ROM Hacking

Hey guys, I’ve been playing Pokemon Clover a lot lately, and was curious about how difficult it is to edit Pokemon Fire Red. Turns out editing maps is pretty straightforward – there’s some robust tools for that, and the game seems to handle the changes quite well without crashing. It’s a bit more complicated if you want to add your own graphics, but I was happy enough just making my own version of Pallet Town with the existing tiles. The grass is populated with Weedles and Caterpies and Missingnos.

Changing Pokemon graphics was tricky though. You need to learn a bit about how to change pointers and use empty space in the ROM, so that you don’t end up overwriting any essential stuff while adding your new content. It also took me many attempts to get the color pallet right. Some of the tools used are very primitive, and just installing the text editing tool was a huge pain. What you see in the screenshot below took me 3 hours! Meanwhile the whole town took less than an hour.

Anyway, I’m probably done with this stuff now. It’s cool to mess around with for one evening, but no longer than that. I have respect for people who can devote years to this stuff without getting paid.