Category Archives: Thoughts and Opinions

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.

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.