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Summary of 2023

Hey guys, every year I write a long blog post summarizing the highlights of that year, so here it is for 2023:

• Finally decided to ditch the old 2002 Honda Civic, and bought an automatic 2018 Skoda Karoq. Ronja recently got her driving license, and this seemed like a good disability-friendly car to share. We got the fully-loaded version because we wanted the seats to automatically adjust for each driver, but this also came with other cool vanity features, like a sun roof, 4 wheel drive, and a more powerful engine. We had to drive all the way down to Llandudno in Wales to get this rarer version! Loving the car so far, and made good use of it already. But most importantly, it feels a lot safer than the previous one!

• Me and Ronja went on two cabin trips this year with Ethel, our dog. The first was in the Lake District in England, where we stayed 3 nights, and saw a nearby castle, birdwatching platforms, and hiking trails. The second was a cabin by the lake in Lochgoilhead, not far from Glasgow. It was located in the back yard of a fancy hotel and wedding venue, but there were no events on, so it was just us there. It looked beautiful during the day, but like a Resident Evil location at night!

• Attended a lot of big life events this year, including 2 weddings, 6 or 7 birthday parties, PhD graduation party and a bachelor party, in addition to the usual May Day, Midsummer, Eurovision, Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties. I’m building up a collection of colorful shirts to wear at these. One of the birthday parties was at a trampoline park, and another was a game of bubble football, both of which were new and fun experiences for me, and exhausting. Also went bowling for the first time in years, and bought an ornamental sword for a friend, which looked very cool.

• A bunch of my friends are starting to have babies, which is making me feel old. I’ve started collecting cute Duplo sets to gift them later.

• Workwise, I spent most of the year working on Hidden Cats. There’s 30 levels that are mostly finished, but I expect I’ll be adding another 50 or so, plus some story elements. It’s turning into a pretty big but still quite experimental project. The demo has been well received by players, but my audience still isn’t particularly interested in the game, so I need to do more to market it next year.

• I’ve started work on porting Epic Battle Fantasy 4 to mobile, which includes adding widescreen support and a bit of new content.

Epic Battle Fantasy 5 continues to sell well on Steam and on Android, and a Chinese government-approved version launched this year. I’ve also been helping modders with some graphics – the scene is getting more lively as Flash decompiling tools improve.

• Went to see the The HU – a folk metal band from Mongolia. I don’t do live music very often, because of how crowded and painfully loud it is sometimes. The band was fun but the venue was awful!

• My most played game this year was once again Age of Empires 2 – the game is still getting updates, and me and my friends are still not bored of it. Other games I really enjoyed were Resident Evil 8, Resident Evil 4 Remake, Jusant, Humanity (VR), Pistol Whip (VR), Katamari Damacy and We <3 Katamari Remakes, Final Fantasy 7: Remake, and replaying Half Life: Alyx with developer’s commentary. A lot of remakes! I’ve also been getting my dad into some calmer VR games, and occasionally returning to Overcooked, Moving Out and Mario Kart 8 with Ronja.

• I’ve been reading a lot of horror manga this year, particularly most of Junji Ito’s work. I think the whacky scenes from Gyo and Uzumaki stuck in my mind the most. Also digging into small, obscure, indie horror games, including Who’s Lila?, Utility Room (VR), Feed Me Billy, and Squirrel Stapler. The video essays by Jacob Geller and iceberg videos by GriefSpeaking give me tons of horror recommendations.

• On the topic of horror, I’ve been hosting horror movie nights for my friends to show off my vast collection of films. Some recent favourites include Barbarian, Deadstream, Soft and Quiet, Smile, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Talk To Me, Infinity Pool, and Butterfly Kisses.

• I collected a bunch of retro space Lego from my childhood and some from even earlier. M-Tron, Space Police, and UFO themes from the 90s. Loved the whacky colors they had at the time. The modern stuff does nothing for me.

• I went on a theme-park road trip around England by myself, staying in Travelodges and spending 5 days in Alton Towers, Drayton Manor, Fantasy Island and FlamingoLand. The kids were in school and the weather was cloudy, so the parks were totally empty, except for Alton Towers, which still had 15 minute queues. The big new rides in Alton Towers (The Smiler and Wicker Man) are thematically incredibly impressive. FlamingoLand is a hidden gem – it has 3 great rollercoasters, and the zoo is pretty good too. The scariest ride by far was the 70m tall Sky Flier in Fantasy Island – besides being very tall, it also felt unsafe, and I was the only person on it.

• Later in the year I did two more theme park trips, this time with some friends, to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and FlamingoLand again. Blackpool’s Valhalla dark/water-ride is probably the best ride in the UK, their Icon rollercoaster may be the best rollercoaster in the UK, and the crowds are generally smaller than in Alton Towers. So if you only do one theme park in the UK, this maybe should be the one!

• Finally, I visited Thorpe Park on my way to Brighton with Ronja. Even though school should have still been on, the park was very crowded with kids – even the queue skips were sold out, and the best ride, Swarm, broke down while we were queuing for it! Stealth was fun, and Saw could have been an awesome ride if it was smooth instead of painful. Ronja only rode the water rides, which were pretty good too. Good day regardless of all the challenges.

• Me and Ronja went to Brighton for the Develop conference, and bumped into a few British indie game devs, including The Super Flash Brothers, Damp Gnat, and Grey Alien Games. The conference was packed and there was a lot of indie stuff to see, but the best parts were getting food and drinks with people afterwards. We of course did all the tourist stuff too, including seeing the Royal Pavilion, going up the i360 tower, and riding a crappy rollercoaster on the pier. We also saw a bit of Oxford on our drive down. On our drive home however, a combination of bad weather and road closures meant that our trip took 13 hours instead of 9. A new daily driving record for me!

• Ronja went to Finland for 2 weeks, and then again later for 1 week. I thought being home alone would be fun, but I didn’t do anything special in my free time besides babysitting the dog.

• I’ve been continuing some of my good habits from last year – trying to eat out at cute cafes and restaurants regularly, enjoying buying clothes, trying to buy more long-term furniture and home decor instead of cheap stuff.

• Also continuing some of the bad habits, like spending too much time on Twitter. It takes a lot of discipline to do the fun parts of social media and then stop before you get to the bad parts.

• In terms of exercise, I’m not doing great. I stopped playing Beat Saber because it was damaging my shoulders, and I haven’t been getting much regular exercise since. I should get back into weightlifting, as it’s very effective, time-efficient, and safe, but I’m lazy, and dog walking takes up a lot of that exercise time these days.

• In August I went on holiday to the Greek island of Kefalonia. I was there with Ronja, my brother and his partner. Splashed out a bit on fancier accommodation with some nice views of the hilly countryside. Driving a car there was like real life Mario Kart – no lane markings or speed limits, goats and pedestrians all over the road, and always at the edge of a cliff. We visited the ruins of a town destroyed by an earthquake, walked through some castle ruins, drove to the top of the highest mountain, and tried a lot of local food. Loved hiding from the sun in caves by the beaches. Managed not to get sunburnt. Learned about Balkans meme culture on Reddit. Great stuff overall. But then our flight home was cancelled and we had to sleep on the floor of the airport.

Halloween was a big effort this year. I painted a bunch of cheap skeleton props to make them more interesting, and putting up all the decorations took a couple of days. Every year the collection grows. We hosted a party and got tons of trick-or-treaters.

• Had some fun upgrading Ronja’s PC with new (but used) CPU, GPU and RAM. It’s 6 or 7 years old now, but can play AAA games once again. We also replaced the case with something more beautiful. It’s the biggest PC build project I’ve done, but it went pretty smoothly and it was fun to figure out what the best components were for an old motherboard.

I voted in Poland for the first time! I didn’t know I could. I’m happy with the election results, but it will apparently take some time for the damage done by the previous party to be undone. Now if only we could kick out the conservative party in the UK sooner…

• I started attending pro-Palestine ceasefire marches. I’ve never been to political rallies of any sort before, so it’s been quite a spectacular experience. It’s nice to be around hopeful and energetic people, rather than the usual political talk at the pub where everyone just complains but feels helpless. The West’s disastrous invasion of Iraq was probably the worst thing the UK government has been involved in in my lifetime, and I would like for that sort of thing not to happen any more.

December was a tough month for my family – my brother’s dog died of cancer, my aunt died of cancer, and my uncle was diagnosed with cancer. My dad had heart surgery to improve his chances of surviving his 70s, and he’s currently recovering in the hospital. I’ve been visiting him almost every day, and he seems to be gradually getting better.

• Ronja’s mum visited for Christmas again and got me the big Lego rollercoaster set, which was a massive and time consuming build, but looks really cool. It was a Chinese knockoff, so it took a little bit of DIY to get it running smoothly. Ronja put a lot of effort into cooking and decorating, where as I mostly helped with cleaning. Since my dad is in hospital and my brother and his partner are away in Lithuania, Christmas dinner was a smaller affair.

Finally, here’s some of our favourite photos from the year – onwards to 2024!
Happy New Year, ya’ll.

Yogscast Jingle Jam

Hiya Folks,

The Yogscast will be streaming Epic Battle Fantasy 5 today as part of their Jingle Jam charity gaming event. Make sure to tune in to the stream (and donate!) for Kirsty and Lydia playing EBF5 at around 1PM GMT. EBF5 will be happening during the Cutest Chums segment, which begins in about an hour.

You can fin more information about who Yogscast are and what Jingle Jam is on the official Jingle Jam website.