dustI haven’t posted for a very long time. Sorry!

ALERT: Keyphrase detected! Activating anti-dust protocols…

While I want to explain why, there’s also this feeling it would be sort of pointless (and it’d probably just sound like tired excuses anyway). The tl;dr of it is (a) got distracted as usual and let the dust pile up for too long, (b) frustration at WordPress’s slowness / clunkiness, and (c) the indie scene has changed a lot since I first started this place up, gods-know how many years ago.

But yeah. If this was really my passion, I’d have kept posting stuff regardless of all of those points. If you care enough to hear a bit more reasoning / ranting / random thoughts and less brevity, just follow the words through the break – it’ll be nearly like old times.  :roll:

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Stumbling upon PC Gamer‘s Big 10 of 2011 list of the games they’re anticipating for this year, I was rather surprised. PCG is one of, if not the most respected gaming magazine in the industry, and I’m sure there’s more than a little bit of insider knowledge going into this particular article of theirs.

PC Gamer logoThat said, the reason for my surprise was twofold. They think that both Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2 are going to be out this year! Whoooooaaa there, Nelly. As much as I’d be in RPG heaven were this to happen, I just really can’t see it… though of course there’s that leaked release schedule document which was all over the interwebz last month suggesting 2011 might be the year after all. Perhaps a combination of waiting this long and being generally cynical about everything has made me over-patient.

Anyhow, as I switched my brain into “lurk” mode in work today, I got to thinking about what games I’d like to play – if elephants could fly – this year. Daydreaming is fun! Keep reading after the jump to find out what I came up with.

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A long time ago, in a blog post far, far away I set out my goals for 2009. With the power of bullet points, stats, and graphs, it’s time to criticise myself and see how miserably I have failed in my aspirations for last year… :mrgreen:

Goals

  • Write more interesting stuff for the site. Hmm. Yeah, I didn’t score 42.8 / 50 in my Vagueness Studies degree for nothing. :P To be honest I’m not even going to try and analyse this properly since “interesting” is completely subjective. I’d do a post count comparison between 2008 and 2009, except that the blog hasn’t been running long enough for that… let’s just skip this one, shall we? :P
  • Finish Dalyn’s Quill. Oooh! Yep, I can put a tick in this box. It went smoother than planned, which I suppose it would’ve had to in order for it to ever get finished…
  • Enter a competition. Errr… nope, no cigar here. I haven’t been checking the SoCoder weekly workshops enough!
  • Release a 3rd game. Though I have a couple of proof-of-concept prototypes and plenty of ideas, I’m nowhere near anything that could be called a new game. I’ve not touched the BlitzMax IDE in several months and, sadly, a collaboration with Mauft came to nothing too (’twas my fault). Another fail on this one. Who knows what might happen this year though?
  • Learn how to use 2D physics. Nope. This was always a long-term goal and I put it on the list somewhat frivolously, but I still want to get around to it some day.
  • Get 30,000 unique visitors to the site during the year. Ha! Well… considering the lack of everything else in this list, I’m still pleased to say Zolyx.co.uk received 12,932 unique visits last year according to Statcounter, an average of 35 a day. I’m not too disappointed – but I want to beat that this year! :D

Now, onward into the guts of the fact and figures behind Zolyx’s first full year of operation!
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Unfortunately, due to a point of principal concerning my current web hosts, I will be looking to switch hosting provider very soon. If you have any suggestions for a fast, UK-based host that supports PHP and mySQL – tell me about them! Here’s your chance to get a referral ;)

My particular grudge is nothing to do with this site, but it’s something I feel narked about enough to switch away from them.

In any case, updates should continue as per normal in the meantime – should there be any downtime I’ll try to warn you about it.

Twitter followers might see that I’ve been playing the classic NES platformer Super Mario Brothers lately. Since I call myself a retro gamer, it’s on my list of “games to play and finish” – along with a whole slew of other oldschool console games (which I might get around to posting some time). In doing so, I can’t shake the feeling that I may have made a terrible error in judgement…

“This should be easy enough,” I thought. “It’s only a simple platform game. C’mon, how hard can it be?”

Super Mario Brothers!So… yeah. It seems like modern commercial games have made me soft. SMB is, without any flicker of hesitation, the hardest game I have played in years. It takes your soul and slowly squeezes the will to live out of it. When it’s done doing that, it proceeds to grind the remainder into tiny fragments. And whatever is left gets fed to a Goomba.

And yet, after scouring every level for secret coins, 1UPs and warp areas, I’m pretty close. At least I hope I’m close. I can get to 8-3 with about five lives (or sometimes more on a good run), but then the real soul-crunching insanity kicks in. Turtles were never meant to wield hammers! For the love of all that’s good… it’s not right! :-x

If I finally figure out the pattern and manage to beat 8-4 – which so far I’ve only reached once with but a single life – and then discover there’s some insanity like a grand finale boss fight, well, let’s just say that innocent inanimate objects, other people and even cute fluffy kittens would not be safe from my nerdwrath.

This game will not beat me… it won’t… mustn’t give up… grumble, mutter, curse :evil:

Not that I would ever consider doing such a thing when there is so much else to be done, but here (in no particular order) are five ways I quite often end up using the interweb to waste time…

  1. YouTube logoWatch stuff on YouTube. My personal favourites being anything in the Let’s Play… category. If you like retro games, and in particularly like watching other people suffer while playing retro games, my recommendation is DeceasedCrab‘s complete playthrough of La-Mulana. Yes, he does include Hell Temple. And yes, it’s quite frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious :P
  2. Tumbledrop - remove blocks and keep the pink star safe!Play random browser games. “You wake up in a room, but you have no idea how you got here. And wait – the only exit seems to be locked…” There’s more to online games than escape-the-room stuff! For example, the Java-powered Powder Game and Stick Ranger by DAN-BALL are famous around the net for good reason, and there’s also stuff like Desktop Tower Defense and Tumbledrop to suck up those idle minutes.
  3. Shiny!Find juicy loot in an MMORPG. My personal bad habit is World of Warcraft, but there are plenty of others (some – like Runes of Magic – are completely free). You could even mix an MMO with browser games and end up with Runescape. Hey, these days you can play it fullscreen with all manner of bells and whistles, so don’t turn your nose up just ‘cos it’s been around for ages!
  4. Just one link in a chain...See what other indies are doing. There are plenty of blogs and forums with interesting stuff that I check frequently, as well as the site of other indie developers. I won’t mention any specific ones because they’re pretty much all over to the left, just there, under “Fellow Developers” and “Links” :D
  5. SumoPaint logoCreate stuff. Okay, maybe this isn’t actually wasting time, but it can still use up lots of it :) There are more and more online tools around lately with which you can create and share content with others. A couple of my favourites that I stumbled across recently: FontStruct, a TTF font creator, and SumoPaint, a light-looking but fully-featured graphics app. There are also downloadable gems like MoonEdit, something Mauft told me about. It looks like a text editor, but it’s “multiplayer” – up to 14 people can edit a document simultaneously over the internet. Funky!

Gosh. I didn’t think this post would be so big. Never mind, eh… ;)

That wouldn’t quite be the tomorrow I planned, then… ;)

Dalyn’s Quill is approaching usability but is still weeks away from being released. I feel sure that I said somewhere that this would be a quick project to tide me over ’til I come up with a plan for my third game – if this is quick, I’d hate to see what slow looks like! Self-criticism aside, stuff is getting done – just in a very bitty and inconsistent way.

Soon it will be time to decide on whether to extend the Poing! PC Community Levelset drive or not. I’ve got a few nice levels from one of Poing’s original beta testers (thanks, Maurice & family!), but nothing like enough to make several new sets like I was hoping. Whatever happens, though, all is not lost! I’ll dust off the editor and make a couple of new sets myself if it comes to it :D

Somewhat inspired by The Favored, I had a browse around Cymon’s Games pages and started playing around with Code::Blocks (including MinGW C) the other evening. C is a world apart from BlitzMax, but is capable of literally anything if you know how to work it. Sadly in the years since learning it at college I’ve been to sleep a few hundred times and my codesmithing talent on that front is utterly abysmal. I do have this occasional aching to make an ASCII roguelike-ish adventure saga that has, in my head at least, a solid and entertaining idea behind it – and since Blitz is horribly inefficient at doing that sort of thing, taking some first steps on the road to learning C (again) and PDCurses for text output seemed like a good idea.

Maybe some day I’ll try to write up this grand idea of mine so you folks can have a chuckle at it :) For now, I must be off. Until next post, then…

RGCD, the best retro discmag there is!

Breaking news! IT’S BACK!
:-D RGCD #5 is now available! :-D

And with it comes a spifftastic and star-studded selection of reviews, articles and extras covering a year’s worth of retro gaming. You thought it was dead, didn’t you? I’ll admit that I was thinking the same at one stage. Fortunately it is not so! James Monkman and his band of merry men have come up with the goods and, after some turbulent times, the mag should hopefully be back on a regular update schedule again.

Thrustburst is the featured game (though if I had my way it would’ve undoubtably been Qwak instead), with reviews of Rana Remake, Noitu Love 2, 3D Starstrike, Self Destruct and Rom Check Fail amongst the many PC titles you can read up about.

In the authentic “modern retro” corner there’s Sirius, Loops of Zen, Sub Hunter, Animal Party, Wizard of Wor (for the Speccy!), Plutos and the trip-off-the-tongue Crocodingus in Cube Island to name but a mere few.

This just scratches the surface! Honestly, there’s more stuff in it than I could cover in a week of posting – 45 articles and over 47,000 words, to be exact – so get your browser over to the RGCD homepage to download your copy today for a right proper blast from the past.

Oh, and if you look carefully, you’ll see some of this mysterious “writing work” that I was on about the other week, since yours truly is now a RGCD contributer. It was indeed a very cool thing to be given the chance to write for one of my favourite retro mags. Why James wanted to involve a nutter like me we’ll never know… I suspect it may be best not to wonder too much on that :P

Anyhow – happy reading, ’til next issue!