Category Archives: Thoughts and Opinions

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.

Updating Old Work

Something I’ve been planning to do for a while is to package all of my old Flash games into a single Steam app, for the purpose of long-term preservation. Technically this is easy enough – I just need to program a simple Adobe AIR app that can load Flash files, which is how most of my Steam games already work.

The hard part is figuring out how much I should change the games themselves.

I obviously need to remove music that I don’t have permission to use – and there’s a lot of that in my old games. I’ll aim to replace it with music that Phyrnna made around the same time as each game was made. I’ll also need to edit copyrighted characters that are a bit too obvious – like recoloring some of the Pokemon. And finally, users will expect a few Quality of Life features – mute button, fullscreen mode, Steam achievements – stuff that is essential now, but wasn’t at the time. I don’t think anyone will complain about QOL features.

But things get tricky in a few cases – is replacing silly text tips with more useful ones a QOL change, or is it censorship? What about replacing a ridiculous font that’s almost impossible to read? What if I want to keep the old font, but I don’t have it installed on my computer anymore, and can’t find the exact same one?

Is making the game easier a bad thing, even if it was universally panned for being too hard? (no one complained when I made EBF3 easier by adding QOL features and lowering the requirements for minigames)

What about really offensive and cringy content? Well… I guess I need to keep that in. Even the bad guy’s Swaztika armband may need to stay. That one AIDS joke too.

I’m interested to know what people think about all this – how much change is best? Maybe the bare minimum, plus some QOL, like in Epic Battle Fantasy 3?

I’m leaning towards that.

I started updating The Kitten Game, only to quickly realize that it loses a lot of charm if I update too many things. We’re talking about stuff I made 12 years ago. As Ronja said, “It’s good because it’s shit.”

It’s also less work if I don’t change much.

About the EBF Discord

Hey guys, I’ve got a lot of thoughts about the EBF Discord that I’d like to share.

For those of you who don’t know, the EBF Discord is a bunch of chatrooms where you can talk about EBF, gaming, fanart, and almost anything else. I set it up 2 years ago, and since then the number of members has gradually increased to over 11,000. Only a small portion of those users are regularly active, but it’s still a lot of users, and the server is experiencing some growing pains lately.

The server is moderated by volunteers from regular users. They’re people who already spend a lot of time on the server, and I trust them to help keep it clean.

Originally I wanted to have quite relaxed rules: Keep it PG13. You can swear, but not too much. You can poke fun at people, but not too much. You can talk in all caps, but not too much. Etc. Bans would mainly be reserved for obvious trolls and spam bots. Minor offences would be sorted out by the community without mods getting involved. Common sense would prevail, I hoped. And this worked fine while the server was quite small and managable. But enforcing those sort of loose rules became near impossible as the server grew – it’s unfeasible for mods to keep track of which users are breaking a “reasonable” amount of rules, and which ones are going too far.

Context matters, but it’s also a pain to take into account. In normal interactions, friends can trash talk each other without any ill will. They can call each other rude names, and it’s harmless. However, that’s nearly impossible to moderate in a busy chatroom, unless you read a few walls of text of history between the users. So gradually we’ve had to get stricter and cut down on the banter. You can’t trashtalk other users anymore – even mildly – because it’s impossible to tell at a glance if it’s harmless, or if it’s part of a long series of bullying comments.

Additionally, there’s a lot of trouble makers intentionally trying to see how far they can push the rules, which really forces me and the mods to think about where we should draw different lines. And I don’t like drawing lines, because real social interactions don’t work like that. But I guess when you’re managing a large group of people you really have to keep the rules as simple as possible and you can’t leave any grey areas.

One tough question we have is: Questioning the mods’ decisions should be allowed, but how pushy can you be about it before it’s not allowed anymore? When do reasonable disagreements turn into feuds? Into arguments? And it makes things even harder when you consider that different mods have different levels of sensitivity to arguments, and may be stricter on some days than others. Stricter on more annoying users than on well behaved ones. It’s really hard to keep things fair.

I don’t like that Discord currently has no “temporary ban” feature. All bans are permanent unless manually reversed. I believe that temporary bans would be a convenient solution to these “grey area” offences. A user would know they went to far, but also know that they’re still welcome back in a month or so.

At the moment we have some general-purpose channels on the server, where you can talk about just about anything. These obviously cause a lot of problems – because everyone has a different opinion about everything, and some people always have to be right! Keeping the server strictly to discussions about my games would keep things simpler. There would be much less disagreement – if you’re on the server you obviously share that hobby with everyone! But it would be quite restrictive, which is a bit of a shame. And a “you can talk about other things, but not for too long” rule would be really hard to enforce.

The server previously had a “spam” channel, where you could post whatever low quality content you wanted, images included, as long as it’s still PG13. A lot of users liked that, and so did I. But moderating it was too difficult – it moved incredibly fast, and deciding which images should be allowed was a nightmare. Is a dead rat too far? Is flag burning allowed? Can Hitler make an appearance? The spam channel had to go. That amount of fun was a step too far.

I’m a big advocate for freedom of speech online and all that. I grew up on Newgrounds and 4chan. But it’s much easier to avoid things you don’t like on forums and image boards. Everyone’s practically anonymous, and nothing is personal. There’s many different discussion threads to choose from.

A chatroom feels so much more claustrophobic. Everyone is trapped closer together – for months and maybe years! You can’t have a conversation while simply ignoring the people you don’t like. Users get to know each other, and some of them just can’t get along. Personalities clash. And every time they do we have to make the rules stricter to stop it from happening again.

I just can’t figure out a good balance between fun and safety.
It really sucks.

But so that we don’t end on a downer, I’d like to say that the EBF Discord has been great for me interacting with fans and getting feedback on my work. The regular users really appreciate the community, and a lot of cool fan projects have came out of it, such as game mods, translation fixes, and fan art. I guess it’s got those things going for it.

So here’s some questions for you, dear readers:
If you’ve visited the EBF server, what did you think of the level of moderation?
Should we even bother with general-purpose channels, or just keep the server strictly EBF related?
What should a ban review process for lesser offences look like? When should banned users be allowed back?
If you’re part of other Discord servers, what features do they have that you like?

Please discuss.