Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jiggles Jumble

Not too long ago, I saw an old article about Daikatana, a game infamously regarded as one of the most disastrous game projects ever done. The long sorted story of it's creation and the backlash it received almost make it like a big budget and over-hyped movie that took forever to make and wasn't very good when it was done. So Star Wars Episode 1?

I don't know. Anyway, regardless of what film it was like, sometimes I fear my hack may end up in the same situation. I have worked on my hack off and on (mostly off) since 2007 and have actually done little more then dick around with ASM, most of the overworld, and some graphics. And like 5 levels. Only 3 of which are even near done. Of course it's not like I am the only one to take forever on hacks, but I am probably one of the few that is still working on one hack all this time. And the problem I have is basically the same problem Daikatana had. Too much ambition, not enough focus.

In Daikatana's case lack of focus could mostly be attributed to too many conflicting teams of people. For me it's more just attempting to go in all directions at once without really having much of a plan besides vague outlines. But the result is the same: Scattered fragments of ideas being developed more or less independently without much unity or utility in the grand scale. Also, just like Daikatana was John Romero's baby, my hack is mine. Regardless what happens I want to see it to the end.

But just in case, I wanted to explain my hack a bit. What it's about and what I want to do.

1. Background

The seed that would become The Adventures of Jiggles the Catgirl started out as “Super Duper Mario World” and was to be a fairly silly Super Mario World level hack without any story to speak of and probably little ASM or new graphics...

I guess I should explain what ASM is first for anyone who doesn't know. It's short for Assembly and is the most basic computer programing language there is... at least in the sense that it's the closest to what computers actually do. It's just one step removed from the raw string of bytes computers feed into their CPU. In fact, basically all a computer file is, is a long string of numbers, and all “ROMhacking” is is replacing parts of the long strings of numbers that make up a game ROM. Some of it is data, like graphics, sound, text, etc. And some is the program it runs. Thats where ASM comes in. Naturally, this makes ASM perfect for replacing parts of computer programs and altering them without having any kind of source code used to make them. I guess I could explain what ROMs are and how old SNES games can be copied from them and such but really, that's info for people to discover on their own. It's also sorta illegal to download them, but um... I own a cart... yeah thats the ticket!

Anyway, I decided after a while instead of doing a generic silly SMW hack (after all tons of them already existed and are being pumped out like crazy by people all over the world), I decided to do something different and totally change the whole theme and setting, as well as overload it with as much ASM as I could. I already had a character and story in mind for this new project: Jiggles.

2. The Advent of the Catgirl

Jiggles was a character that began in a series of loose role-playing sessions with someone I met online. A girl who goes simply by Maru. Now Maru rather likes anime (and so do I for the most part) and had ambitions of making her own online comic with a cast of wacky characters she had invented and developed over the course of many years. I ended up inventing the “character” of Killo Zapit chiefly so I could have a wacky foil to some of her more serious characters. Anyone who has seen me on IRC or elsewhere on the web probably has seen me act as Killo Zapit. Killo is a pervert, an idiot, and an annoyingly persistent pest, but he is a bit more then that too. Killo was invented for one reason: Although I am (in my own mind at least) a fairly deep and introspective thinker a lot of the time, I also tend to act like an idiot online (and sometimes off) just for kicks. Therefore I split the two sides of myself into Killo Zapit, the loudmouth smartass, and an often unseen other character who acts as a more logical and introspective thinker which I sometimes refer to as Tipaz Ollik although I have used that name as Killo Zapit as well. Killo became more and more over the top as time went on and evolved more into resembling a immortal and immoral hedonistic magical interdimensional being as time passed, and even used his power to make Killovania, a castle that floats between dimensions.

Jiggles herself was originally more of a side character. She was at first just a random catgirl Maru made to distract Killo. Unfortunately it worked a bit too well, if you know what I mean, and I decided to make her a permanent follower of Killo. She was originally innocent but very willing to let Killo do whatever he wanted with her, which was usually naughty. And I admit, she was used mostly as wish fulfillment at that stage. Although her name was at one point simply Kitty, the more cumbersome and provocative JigglePawBreast, a name I had basically used as a joke in IRC once, became her more official name. This was the name I used when I started a account on Gaia Online (which I never much did that much with besides games and some PMs). On Gaia, more of her character was freshed out and her appearance was finalized, as before it was only a very rough idea of a red-head pony-tailed girl with cat ears and a tail. Also on Gaia, some role-playing with other people via PMs developed her more, and was the source of her shortened name.

It was around this time I started roleplaying her with members of a ROMhacking site, and her character became less of a wish fulfilling ideal sex partner, and more of character with a very strong moral conviction and desire for friendship and real love. This was also about the time I decided to make her the focus of my hack. Anyway though a long LONG string of mostly unrelated roleplaying sessions with various people she started to really become, in my mind, a very interesting character. I had decided at some point that I would really put my heart into some of her ideals if only just to see how far her idealistic outlook could go, while I made Killo more and more of an antagonist, with a more direct “everyone is really out for themselves anyway” outlook. I attempted to make both sides have a point, even if Killo still was sort of an idiot, he was always a wise idiot.

At one point Jiggles decided she wasn't going to be taken as a sex object anymore and actually left when she felt people were not treating her fairly. This would have been a perfect set up for my hack, but things in the roleplaying sessions moved on. The thing that sort of made me really like Jiggles' character in those days is I managed to really get behind her speeches. I attempted to really take her idealistic and moral outlook seriously when playing her. She didn't just say something was wrong, she said why and how and exactly what she felt. If people accused her of being too naïve or hypocritical she took the accusation seriously and responded to it as bast she could. She didn't simply talk about the power of friendship, she explained why friends made people powerful. And a lot of people, even originally cynical people really seemed to respond to it.

Of course there is more to the story, and more back story that I want to get into, partly based on archetypes and psychology behind each character. And a good deal of the things in the roleplaying I did I probably will drop, but along the way I think I came up with a lot of things I want to explore and see done in a formal story. That said, I don't want to over-bloat the story either. My idea was to do a simple setup that becomes something much deeper during the end, however most of the dynamic of the roleplaying sessions I liked was special because of the characters and players involved and the other things happening behind the scenes. In the end, what I WANT to do, is a deconstruction and reconstruction of a fantasy at the same time. To make something that moves people the way some of the roleplaying moved me... but it's probably not possible to do it in the same way.

3. Gameplay and Gimmick

The basic idea I had was something like SMB2/DokiDokiPanic with more of a Super Mario Land 2 non-linear hub for a overworld map. But I ended up attempting to add a bunch of little ASM hacks which take a lot of time and effort without really planning how they will be used game-wise. One of the first things I did, even before starting on a hack, is make a health system like SMB2. It was a bit wonky but it worked, and people still use it all the time in hacks today. That was really the only thing I ever released officially. I have a few things that people might be interested in, like a basic inventory system that let's you store objects for later use, and a patch to expand saved games, but I always held off on releasing them. Sometimes other people would beat me with a version of their own of something I was working on, but that didn't bug me so much.

The thing is though, most of my patches were worked on a bit and never really matured, and while a number of them are neat, sometimes I wonder if they are really right for my hack. Like my inventory patch. It's cool and it works well, and I even have a shop and stuff for it, but it has very little use in the game right now. No levels really need it, the only items I made for it so far are versions of the normal SMW powerups, and if I am not careful it could make the game way too easy.

I also spend a lot of time working on things that work in SMW well enough but seem off to me, like bugs, or odd behaviors of objects, or such. One example is altering friction and how you slide on ice. Sure it's kinda cool to change but does it really make that much of an impact? I spent all day yesterday fiddling with how thrown objects work, and the day before messing around with swimming. I have completely changed how score and coins work and added a little shop where you could pick things up to buy them. Sure nice, but it's a little silly how many of my alterations are tiny things most people won't notice or won't care about.

4. Not Content with Content

I talked about this before in this blog, but I have to once again state I have no idea what I am doing with levels sometimes. Partly it's because I change the rules a lot, partly it's because I want to do a unusual style without having a firm grasp on what it is, but mostly it's because I am a lot more interested at this point in ASM and big gameplay changes.

In the realm of graphics I am better. The graphics for Jiggles herself is basically done, aside from the possible addition of extra forms and powers, The levels I did finish have some tile graphics that I am satisfied with, and I have a vast assortment of enemy, item, and other sprites ready to use. Music seems a sure thing. I don't have to look far for a huge collection of custom music and I ported quite a few songs myself. It's not as original as the graphics but it will do.

In the end, I still need more levels though more then anything. I have taken to asking people if I could use their old levels or if they could make some for me. In fact at least 2 levels I have aren't mine. But the problem is that using other people's levels means using other people's styles, some of which clash quite a lot with what I want to do. But we will see what happens.

5. Conclusion (Finally!)

As I see more and more hacks, the bar gets higher and higher. Like Daikatana I am afraid I may end op to little to late, and I still have about 80%-90% of the hack to go before I am done. Even if I had a few more levels, and debugged the hell out of my code, maybe a demo might be possible but there wouldn't be much special about it. I need to really get into gear and clean up or revamp everything if I even hope to do anything like what I want. Le sigh.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Boobs = Feminism?

I just got done reading a article about if Lara Croft is a Feminist Icon or a Cyberbimbo. I admit I never cared much for her design anyway, with the slug lips and ridicules body shape, and I Admit I never cared for the games themselves too much, but besides that I think I can safely say Cyberbimbo.

Now I am a guy, and also a bit of a pervert, but due to having my gender identity thoroughly and repeatedly screwed with by anime and the internet I think I can at least relate to feminism enough to say she is an extreamly misguided attempt at it by male-centered game makers at best and a shameless attempt to exploit the female form at worst. Samus Aran is probably a much better example of a good feminist role model in a game, but even she is somewhat exploited. So the question becomes, who is a good feminist role model?

I recall an episode of Cowboy Bebop which had a character called V.T. who popped into my mind. She was a woman that towered over most everyone, and at first I didn't really know if she was a woman. (link for reference. She is the one in the center, not the one hiding behind btw.) Now I am not saying feminist figures have to be unattractive, not at all. In fact she was actually quite attractive at one point. Yeah maybe not in the thin as a rail way most people would think, but those people are exactly the problem here. And don't you dare try the "she must be a lesbian" thing. That guy in the last link? Her husband. Anyway it wasn't her look that I really liked. It was her character. Basically a space version of an older female truck driver type character you might see in films: Tough acting, slightly bitter, but with a hint of real class, hidden sensual side, and a slight motherly taint. Or maybe I am just projecting that last bit. At first glace this seems like a good feminist role model right?

Well maybe, but maybe not. That might be the kind of thing some people think of as feminist, but really it's still projecting a very male role image. Is putting a woman in a male role really feminism? By having a woman in a male role and adopting a male image, you do diminish the idea of gender exclusive roles and images yes, but while good, that's not the real point of feminism.

Not to long ago, I saw a video about a game character I never really heard much of. One that, like most female game characters is oversexualized, but, if you believe the video's analysis (which, note, like this rant, was also done by a guy) there is a twist: The character is sexualized in a very feminist way. In other words, this character is attempted to be sexually empowering and emasculating. Too often we forget, woman are still human, they like hanky panky too. The thing feminists fight for, I think, is not that woman are sexually appealing, but that they are seen by a lot of men as inferior and subservient. For a lot of woman, sex is empowerment. Not even all woman who strip or prostitute themselves do so out of desperate need, this is proven. The problem is some men see them as little more then conquests or vehicles for there own empowerment.

Still at the end of the day, I can only look in from outside on the whole issue. I like woman, I respect the female form, but I would be lying if I said there wasn't a bit of base lust there. Still, what men do to woman sometimes is one of the grave injustices of society, and is almost enough to make me want to have a sex change. That and... having boobs and a vagoo sounds fun... but eh, I would still be a man in most aspects and I would look ugly as a chick. Maybe when nanotech to re-form my whole body comes along... Eh screw it, time to jerk of to pr0n.

Sigh... I guess I have a ways to go to be gender sensitive after all...

Monday, March 15, 2010

This one is for the guy I met at the taco place


This now concludes your daily dose of crazy. Thank you.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oh god, here it comes...

Let's talk about politics. Wait, why are you running away non-existent audience? It won't be that bad, I promise. Really. This is in no way an ironic statement about politics in general. But seriously stay. Your my imaginary audience, the least you could do is pay attention sometimes.

Anyway, Here is the thing. In regards to politics, it seems like people either have strong biased opinions or ignore it altogether.

Not to long ago, I ran across a video that, along with other things I found questionable (if games are toys, then movies and fiction are also toys, but thats another rant for another day), insists that "gamers" learn more about things other then games. Fair enough. I myself take quite a interest in history, science, and literature myself, and I find games just another aspect of culture in that aspect. Though I think his list of "YOU NEED TO READ THIS" authors are a bit long and subjective, but whatever.

But the thing related to politics was his insistence that people know who the members of the Senate and the Supreme Court are. First of all, that only applies to Americans, but thats besides the point, though it does show American bias, which to be fair, I will also show though out this rant, simply because it's the system I am most familiar with, and, because I live there, is my chief concern. I hope others can draw parallels for other systems though. Anyway mostly my problem is, NO ONE really knows who is in Senate and the Supreme Court! Well I am sure some people do, but anyway, most people don't. And I don't think it's simply because people are ignorant. They don't care.

And why should they? Nowadays the Senate and the Supreme Court seem to be treated in the media and in people's eyes as some sort of celebrity cult rather then an actual ruling body. The identities of the ruling bodies are unimportant. In fact it seems more and more like even their beliefs and views are unimportant, outside of a few mavericks which stand out by having unusual polices or personality. The only reason why people care about The President is because he is THE President, a person who stands out for being a singular unit in a crowd and personally uses or misuses his power directly.

When people do get into politics, it is usually because of one or more "issues" or "causes" they care about. Otherwise, they tend to ignore it. It is seen by some as little more then a game, a pointless exercise of trickery and bluff. Politicians seem to make laws, unmake laws, argue about them, and generally fight and whine within their own closed domed halls without paying much attention to the outside world. That the police actually take them seriously every once and a while can be seen by some as a mild annoyance at best and a great injustice at worst. No where is this more obvious then in the realm of copyright. Why is piracy so common with music and software? Simply because no one really cares what swarms of lawyers and politicians say. And the moment anything is actually enforced people cry that things are becoming a police state.

Now what would happen if this apathy to law and politics were to continue? The "great" American Government would become hopelessly defused to the point where it becomes a non-entity. Now frankly, I think this could be a good thing, if handled right. I am more or less an anarchist. Now Anarchy is a very diverse political movement with many branches and beliefs so I could clarify: I don't believe in "no rules", I believe in "no government", or at least "no federal government". For example, a system of several more or less independent citystates or small alliances. I think when ever it is we get into space, colonies will naturally be like this, more like today's chartered cites on the ocean. But if it is not handled right, as it is likely not to be, it will collapse into chaos and ruin. Or the backlash from the diffusion will prompt America to become a police state. Which will then collapse into chaos and ruin. Because all police states do.

So in order to prevent that, we have to find the problem with American politics. And we all already know what it is. Parties. But it's deeper then that. It's the whole way people take sides. For example, the other day I was talking to my father. My father is an environmentalist. His big problem is that big business types seem to refuse to find alternative ways to do things for the sake of profit and therefore are ruining the environment. I don't see it that way. The way I see it, it's a matter of pride and sides. For the most part. environmentalists take one side, and big business take another. They refuse to compromise or see any other side if the issue ever. Thats simply it. People pick an issue, pick the side they want, argue until they win or can't anymore. But then the groups they form become the issue. It's no longer about solving the problem, it's about their group winning. Of course, some people do try to reach out from between party lines so to speak but they are just ignored for the most part by the other party who are still treating it as a team-vs-team game.

On that note, here is some advice for all the political activists out there: Join the "other side". Democrats, become republicans. Republicans, become democrats. And so on. And I am not just saying to try and destabilize the enemy from within, no. Pick up their causes. If you feel even one of them is a good cause, go for it. The goal is to bring new ideas and new ways of looking at things into parties that are stagnant with people who refuse to accept anything the other says. I think this in particular needs to be done with republicans. They need help. Some of them are openly bigoted or reactionary and the rest are good people but not willing to oust their peers. They need more inside people willing to do just that. It's not that republicans are bad people, they just so caught up in their fight on democrats they are unwilling to tolerate any disloyalty no matter what.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Watered down

Everyone seems to hate water levels, but I really am not sure why. What are they just too slow? Do they feel too different from the normal game? Is there physics just a bit too wonky? Do they tend to be under decorated? Personally I always thought water levels added some much needed variety to platformer's gameplay, though perhaps they could use more focus and interesting challenges. But everyone I see on LPs and such are like "WATER LEVELS ARE THE DEVIL!!!!!!!!!!!!" with not so much of a hint as to why. Maybe it's just a fad. Though due to my hack probably having an air meter at some point, I should probably not have any pure water levels.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


So I was reading this playthough of the Quest for Glory series, a series I quite enjoyed when I was younger. It's quite an enjoyable series of old school adventure/RPGs that is crammed full of mythology and folk tales from all over the world, with a touch of RPG fantasy, and a whole lot of humor. I always found them quite fun and amazingly insightful, both about obscure myths and more generally about the symbolism and ideals of myth and magic. The forth game in particular has alot of it, including quite accurate to it's source tarot card mysticism and interesting magical concepts such as "the senses" and more mysteriously "essence". It's all a game of course, but thats not the point. The point is the ideas it seems to put forth.

It's one of the first things that got me interested in metaphysics and mysticism in general. Though I always try to stay away from "the occult" (a habit I picked up mostly to being raised Christian on one side and atheist on the other... although it's really more agnostic). Whats the difference you may ask? Metaphysics and mysticism is about knowledge, and "the occult" isn't. Also "the occult" always implied to me (again mostly because of my upbringing) a bunch of people calling on spirits or devils or other entities to do stuff for them. Metaphysics and mysticism is about finding the way they are done in the first place. This is the point of true "magic".

In real life, we generally don't call anything "magic" anymore. The only thing we call "magic" is slight of hand tricks. And why not? In real life, physics are law. We don't disobey them, but like those who do tricks and illusions, we use them. Science is much the same thing. We seek knowledge of the "how" of the "why", not simply because we can, but because we can use it to better ourselves. But we only know half the story. We only know the "law" that we find in nature. We don't know how and why it is there. Thats where metaphysics and mysticism come in.

Now here I am not really talking about real life. I am talking about fantasy. But really, as far as metaphysics and mysticism goes, it's the same thing. Because we are now in the realm of ideas, of something less about reality it's self, and more about the ideas that underline it. The question becomes less about what metaphysical systems or mystical insights we can use to describe reality, and more, what ones work at all, and why.

Now here is the thing about fantasy. It's obsessed with magic. Why? Because it makes thinks simpler to write I guess, but also becuase it's a very very old and deeply rooted idea in the human mind. Magic is about concepts, not things. In magical terms, "matter" doesn't exist or is an illusion. But also less obviously, energy doesn't exist either. Only ideas exist. Of course the problem becomes that, if that's true, where does the concept of matter and energy come from? Heck, where does any concept come from? A realist would only accept the idea of actual "things" that exist.

In fiction that whole issue is swept aside because it's fiction. Words on a page. Words are concepts. Changing them, playing with them, becomes fictions law. Of course only a few works of clever fiction do this directly, but the idea is there, in the back of the mind. "Gods" wrote the world into being. This idea is a very old religious idea. That words, written or spoken, have the true power. And sometimes, just sometimes it even works. I mean look at lawyers and the justice system. Look at how people can talk people into doing things. But alter reality directly with words? Is this possible? This is how magic in fantasy works, although in an indirect way.

Of course it's not really that simple is it? Even in fantasy usually only particular words work, or ones in an old dead language, or some set combination. So what's the difference? Some may say faith, or willpower, or mental discipline. I say something else. Taking a hint from Quest for Glory, I call it "Essence". What is "Essence"? Well I am glad you asked that imaginary readers! "Essence" is, to put it simply, "that what makes something what it is" sort of like something's "soul". To put it in more philosophical terms, it's nearly identical to the idea of "forms" Particularly related to Aristotle's ideas about them. See "Essence" are embodied in things or part of things the same way "Forms" are. In fact they are basically the same thing, i just like the word "Essence" better. Anyway if we use "Essence" as an underlaying principle, it's easy to see how words, letters, objects, and matter could be connected, invisibly, and how it might even be possible to imagine such a magic system actually working. Does reality actually work like that? Probably not. But it's fun to think about.

Also I really should play the Quest for Glory 2 remake sometime. I got it a while ago but I have been to lazy to actualy play it. I heard there is a Pizza Elemental to fight!