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8/10/2009 My first LittleBigPlanet level

If you want to see Friday's special bonus comic, featuring Silver, you just need to vote. There's a new ROM too.

Unfortunately, the rest of that Ink opening scene is going to have to wait (blame a combination of finals and planning for GDC Austin in September). But I do have something for you. My first LittleBigPlanet level is done and open for everyone to play! It's called A LittleBigPlanet Christmas Carol: Part 1. You can search for it by title, or just by my Playstation Network username, NBolt. It's a humorous story based level that's something of a mix between A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It's supposed to be part of a three level set made for a class project. I did Christmas Past (and will be doing the dialogue for the other two levels as well), a classmate is doing Christmas Present (which should be done soon), and another was supposed to do Christmas Yet to Come, but he had to move out of state and I think he pretty much dropped out of the class. Assuming that's the case, I'll be doing Christmas Yet to Come during my free time to finish off the set.
Of course, around 30 seconds after I published it, someone gave it a bad rating. Gotta love the internet... Hopefully it won't take long for a decent amount of actual players to give it a try and negate that. Anyway, the feedback I've gotten from people who have actually played the level has been very good. And I've played enough LBP levels online to feel fairly certain that mine should probably average a 4 star rating. Maybe 5 if I'm lucky, but there's some really brilliant levels out there and I know mine isn't that good. After all, this was my first time using the LBP editor. But I haven't spent all these years studying game design for nothing so I know how to make a solid level layout and also spent ton of time making it look as good as I could.
But anyway, enough ranting. If you've got LBP, please go ahead and give my level a try. Honest ratings are appreciated (whether you like it or not, just play the whole thing and give your honest opinion), as are hearts, feedback, and the like. And hey, if anyone wants some feedback on their levels, I'd be happy to give them a try and let you know what I think (besides, I haven't gotten that rate 150 levels trophy level yet anyway).

Well, I need to get back to work. The LBP level may be finished, but I've got some other projects I need to work on as well. I'll finish that Ink scene sometime this week (though I can't say if it'll be Wednesday or Friday). Later!


8/7/2009 The opening finally continues

There's a new voter bonus comic. This week we've got another special one, featuring forum member Silver. Speaking of bonus comics, it seems like Pebble Version hasn't been getting as many votes over the last few weeks as it usually does. I'm kinda curious as to why. Everyone on summer vacation? Is the new vote confirmation system TWC is using too hard to figure out? Maybe I should make a poll or something... Anyway, on to the next part of the Ink opening. I was hoping to do the rest of it today but, due to final projects and such, I'm running a bit late so I'll start the last section of the scene today and finish it on Sunday.

Ink's Opening Scenes: Part 3A
Hearing their names, Jessie and Ralin freeze, looking scared. Spotting Josiah, they turn towards him.
"How do you know our names?!?" Jessie grabs Josiah's shirt, her voice a mixture of anger, nerves, and fear. "Who are you?!?"
Meanwhile, a group of soldiers (some on foot, some on horseback) enter the far end of the street and begin moving slowly through the crowd. They appear to be searching for something...
"Jessie..." Ralin casts a nervous glance towards the soldiers. "We don't have time for this."
She looks back, swears, then tightens her grip on Josiah's shirt and pulls Josiah into the nearest ally. Ralin follows and they duck behind a group of barrels.
"Keep quiet." Jessie hisses at Josiah then turns her attention back to the soldiers, who are continuing to search the street.
Shifting uncomfortably, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a leather bound book and an old fashioned pen. He frowns, not recognizing it, and begins to flips through the pages. A moment later, his eyes widen as realization dawns. "This is my story..."
"Shh!" Jessie glares at him.
"Don't worry, they won't find us." Josiah grins and points to the open page of the book. "They'll be moving on to the next street any minute now."
*The camera zooms in on the book to show the relevant text.*

Sorry for the abrupt end but it's late and I've got a class (and, if I remember right, a quiz) in the morning. I'll finish it up on Sunday.


8/5/2009 Still busy

Another late night and another short news post. Planning to do more of Ink's opening scenes on Friday, but for now I've gotta go.


8/3/2009 Crazy evening

Remember that you can vote and see Friday's special bonus comic, featuring forum member Cheezdude.

Yawn... This has been a pretty crazy evening and night. I had planned to write up the next part of the Ink opening but so much stuff was going on that I just don't have the time. Guess that's just the way things go sometimes with finals coming getting close. I'm really looking forward to my break... Sorry everyone. I'll do my best to get an Ink update in sometime this week.


7/31/2009 Q&A

There's a new bonus comic and a new ROM. It'll be a new month soon so please vote and help get PV off to a strong start in the rankings.

I got an e-mail from a fan recently containing some questions and comments about Ink. I wrote him back, but then I got to thinking. What if more people have similar questions. Maybe they'd be interested in hearing my answers as well. So, I decided that I'm going to post his questions and my answers here. I may do the same for more Ink related e-mail I receive in the future as well. So, if you've got some questions about Ink, feel free to send them my way. Your questions may even end up featured in a news post.

Ink Q&A

Reader Comment 1: Losing a game, any game, and having to restart from the last save can be really annoying, especially if you're playing a particularly challenging game, or on a higher difficulty- nothing sucks worse than grinding levels for 3 hours and bumping into a boss fight, getting slaughtered because one didn't heal up and losing alot of time. Having an option to continue from the last room entered (autosave, basically) can be really nice..

My Response: As far as auto-saves go, I know what you mean about how frustrating it can be to do lose lots of progress when you die. Though, with good save point placement, it's usually not much of an issue unless the player just forgets to save. You mention grinding, for example. There's no reason why the player can't leave wherever he's grinding every now and then to save. And, naturally, there should always be save points before bosses. I have mixed feelings about auto-saves and checkpoints in games. In some genres (action games, shooters, etc) they make a lot of sense. Though in some genres it really makes things too easy. In most RPGs, where any decent player should rarely (if ever) die in a non-boss battle, it seems unnecessary. Then again, I have played some RPGs that I thought used that type of system very well. Though, said RPGs featured extremely difficult random battles so you never knew when you might actually die in a normal fight. That said, the exact details of the save system are something that would be refined during the testing phase of the game, when you can get actual player feedback on how well it does or doesn't work. So, if I actually had a team making Ink, I might decide to change to a check point or save anywhere system based on tester feedback.

Reader Comment 2: Ink: It's a very cool and original concept. Have you given thoughts to different types of Ink for Josiah to collect? Nothing so cliche as different colors, but perhaps different qualities? This could really open up alot of possibilities in terms of combat, both in opening up excessively powerful moves and limiting them in their usage at the same time. Heh,  you could even get all biblical and throw some red ink in there- And then the narrator said "No," and everything died. XD

My Response: You mentioned different types of Ink... Actually there is an element of that in the game, but it ties rather heavily into the plot and isn't something I want to talk about just yet.

Reader Comment 3: Main character death: Not a bad way to go- I find myself, even in games where they aren't necessarily essential or even necessary, always buffing the daylights out of whoever the lead character is. A restriction on their role in battle, though? It's his story- sure, in 'real life' he's a writer, but in his tale, what if he wished to become an axe wielding barbarian, or a powerful knight protecting his allies? Opening it up while still keeping to the "Don't get him killed" parameter could be as simple as an option for him to fall back behind his buddies.

My Response: Another story element comes into play here with exactly what Josiah can and can't do in the world of Ink. Yes it's his novel so he has quite a lot of control over it. But he isn't one of characters from the story, he's from another world. This somewhat limits how much he can affect himself with his writing. I'll go more in depth in that regard when I start getting more into the game's story. That said, I'm still not decided on whether or not to let him fight. If he couldn't fight in real life, and he can't just write himself fighting skills, it makes sense that he wouldn't fight in Ink. Then again, I'm a second degree black belt in Shorin Ryu Karate and have some sword training as well. So, if it was me, I could and would fight. But I already said that the Josiah in Ink isn't quite the same as I am...
Story considerations aside, it would be nice to have him fight from a gameplay perspective. Though I'm afraid that it might detract from his roll as the writer and the special skills that gives him in battle (which I'll be covering later). And there'll still be a full party of regular party members to take care of the fighting. Perhaps its best to think of him as a mage of some sort. No real physical skills, but a very useful support character. In the end, I'm still not entirely sure one way or the other. Whether or not Josiah can fight directly is probably something I'll be debating for quite some time.

Have a good weekend!


7/29/2009 Time for bed

Had a late night and I need some sleep. That is all.


7/27/2009 Win or lose

Friday's special bonus comic, featuring Blue Fire Cyndaquil, is ready and waiting for everyone who votes. Anyway, I'm running a bit late today (blame Wii Sports Resort) so, instead of the next part of the Ink opening, I'm going to do a shorter Ink update.

Ink's Battle System: Victory & Defeat

The player loses a battle and is taken to the game over screen when Josiah is defeated, regardless of the condition of the rest of the party. If all the other party members are defeated, the player still won't lose as long as Josiah remains standing. From the game over screen, the player will have the option to return to the main menu or load a previously saved game.

Every time an enemy is defeated in battle, Josiah will get ink. The amount of ink gained depends on the type of enemy defeated. Josiah keeps all earned ink even if the party escapes from the battle afterwards. When all enemies are defeated, the battle is won and the party gains any money and/or items that the enemies were carrying (exact rewards depend partly on the enemy type and partly on luck).

Designer's Comments:
While losing the game whenever a certain party member dies, even if the others are ok, might seem harsh, it's actually a fairly common condition in strategy RPGs. This leads some people to keep their "main" character hidden in the back where he'll be safe. Personally, when faced with that kind of handicap I tend to make my main character as strong as possible so he can take care of himself... Anyway, since Josiah probably won't fight enemies directly (haven't made my final decision on that yet, but still leaning towards no) there's no reason for him to be on the front lines in battle. He'll be staying behind the rest of the battle party, where he can normally only be targeted by certain long range and magical attacks. Though, if the rest of the party is defeated, enemies will be able to target him with any type of attack. If the rest of the part is down, Josiah can still heal them (he can use items, and will have certain other skills) or escape from battle. The goal is to make protecting him part of the player's strategy, without it becoming a serious annoyance, so he needs to be able to take care of himself fairly well and, even if he can't fight, he'll still be able to gain HP and become stronger.

Ink players a very important roll in both the story and many aspects of the gameplay. Since the game is taking place inside a book, in a way everything in that world is made out of ink. Specifically, a much different ink than the kind you buy in stores. Josiah's magic pen can absorb the ink from defeated enemies, increasing his stock. You may have noticed that I didn't mention anything about the party earning experience points from battle. That's because they don't. They can still "level up" in a way, but it'll work a bit different in Ink than in most RPGs. Though that's a topic best left to a different section.


7/24/2009 A different game

There's a new bonus comic up and all you have to do to see it is vote for Pebble Version on TWC. This week's bonus comic is a special one featuring forum member Blue Fire Cyndaquil, who won third place in the annual King of the Forums contest this past spring.

Unfortunately, there won't be an Ink update today. I was planning on doing one but this has been a really busy week and I needed the time to work on the casual game I'm making with some other people at school. I'm the designer and (since I couldn't find anyone else to do sprite work) lead artist and there's lots of stuff that I still need to sprite. Speaking of that game though, there may have a free demo available in the not too distant future... Anyway, I'll try and have the Ink update ready for Monday so I'll see you then.


7/22/2009 Late

I had another late night (one of a series of them, in fact) so I'm gonna keep this short.

There, short enough for you?


7/20/2009 The opening continues

As always, Friday's bonus comic is waiting for anyone who votes. Now, moving right along...

Ink's Opening Scenes - Part 2: A Fateful Encounter
*The camera slowly fades in as Josiah regains consciousness. He's lying against the wall in the common room of a busy fantasy world type inn. There's lots of people sitting at tables talking, drinking, and dicing, while serving girls run about filling their orders. The camera pans briefly around the room then locks into its normal gameplay position as the player gains control of Josiah.*

At this point, the player can guide Josiah around the room and talk to the inn's staff and patrons. He's rather dazed and confused, something that shows in his speech and movements. Because of this, most of the people assume that he's drunk. Some also comment on his strange clothing. Full dialogue can be found in the game script. When the player leaves the inn, he loses control of Josiah as another cut-scene begins.

*Josiah staggers outside into a moderate sized street in a medieval city. The buildings are made of wood and stone and the road is covered with paving stones. There's a lot of people going about various business. The camera does a brief fly-over of the area then returns to Josiah. He seems to have recovered from the initial shock of his situation and is looking around, both curious and confused. Looking up, he notices the inn's sign.
"The Pen & Sword?" he mutters, a hint of recognition in his voice.
A commotion of some sort can be heard from down the street. Looking that way, Josiah sees two people hurriedly forcing their way through the crowd. As they draw closer, their faces come into view...
"Jessie?!? Ralin?!?" Josiah gasps, eyes wide.

Designer's Comments
In my notes this and the next couples of parts are all one big scene, but it'd be too much for one news post so I'm breaking it up, as you can see. Though, when you're taking something that originally meant to be one continuous piece, it can be rather hard to figure out exactly where to divide it.
Anyway, this section covers Josiah's appearance in the world of his novel (where most of the game takes place) to his first glimpse of Jessie and Ralin, the "fictional" twins who serve as the heroes of his story. He starts out rather dazed, both from suddenly waking up in a new world, and the head injury he took back in his study. While he shakes off the injury quickly enough, it'll take a while for him to really get a handle on his new surroundings. Not that he's going to have much time to adjust in the near future...
You'll notice that, in the section in the common room where the player can walk around and talk to the people in the area, I mention that full dialogue can be found in the game script. In a game with a lot of text, such as an RPG or MMO, the main script for the story, NPC conversations, and the like, can potentially reach hundreds of pages. In those types of situations, it makes more sense to give the script its own separate document, instead of putting it inside the main design doc. Not only does it keep the design doc to a more reasonable size, but it also separates out material that many members of the project team don't need often, if at all. Artists and programers, for example, rarely need to see the script while animators and level designers may find themselves referring to it quite often. Meanwhile, the design doc itself will likely be limited to a basic outline or summary of the story. However, this all varies both by the amount of text in the game (if it's small, there's no real need for a separate script) and the preferences of the designer.
Ink itself doesn't have a script document at this point. Though, if/when I make one, that's' where all the unimportant NPC lines will go. For this "design doc" I'll probably be doing a mixture of plot summaries and detailed descriptions of key scenes (such as this one). Though, if I was doing in a more formal manner (like if I was actually leading a team to make the game), I'd probably keep things like this in the script as well.


7/17/2009 Today's news post brought to you by computers, always causing problems when you least expect it

There's a new bonus comic ready and waiting for everyone who votes. There's also a new ROM.

Well, I was all set to write up the next part of Ink's opening but, as the title implies, I ran into a sudden computer issue which ended up wasting a lot of time so Ink will have to wait till Monday. See you then!


7/15/2009 Gotta study

Not much to say. I've got a test this morning so I need to review some stuff.

See you Friday!


7/13/2009 Opening Ink

Remember, the latest Pebble Version Blooper Reel comic can bee seen using the Top Web Comics button or banner to vote for Pebble Version. It only takes a few seconds and you get a special bonus comic out of the deal. New bonus comics are posted every Friday but you can vote up to once per day if you'd like.

The amount of school work I've had, which has been pretty massive since E3, finally slowed a bit over the last few days, giving me some time to actually play games a little bit. I've got to say that Tales of Monkey Island is off to a great start. It's always awesome to see a classic series revived, especially when it's done so well. While I do think that Guybrush looked better without the goatee, and I kinda wish that Telltale had just waited a bit longer and released the entire game at once instead of in episodes (though that is kinda their thing), episode one is a worthy part of the Monkey Island series. And, for those of your wondering what the heck Monkey Island is, LucasArts will be releasing a complete remake of the original Secret of Monkey Island on Wednesday on Xbox Live and Steam. Even better, they're starting to release a lot of their old games on Steam, so it's only a matter of time before the remaining Monkey Island games show up as well, not to mention some other classic adventure games...

Anyway, it's time to take a break from Ink's battle system for a little while (though there's still plenty left to cover in that regard). Like I said, since I'm just doing this fun, I'll be jumping around a bit as the mood strikes me, instead of focusing and nailing down each section in the order it would be needed by the rest of the team. So I'm going to be talking about the opening of the game.

Ink's Opening Scenes: Part 1: Josiah's Study
*Camera fades in inside a room. It pans over a series of framed newspaper articles hung on the wall, the photos and headlines of which briefly outline Josiah's career as a writer. The last one contains a photograph of Josiah and Deke at a writers' conference. The camera passes over a final article, laying on nearby table, which announces the sudden cancelation of his latest novel. A calendar sits nearby, showing that the article is dated two years prior.*

*The camera pans to show Josiah, sitting a desk staring despondently at his computer. The screen shows a a half finished page of his new novel. Josiah is brought out of his daze by an odd sound. Rising slowly, he turns as a hooded figure enters the room. The figure seems shocked to see Josiah and reflexively grabs a bottle off the table. He pauses for a moment then lunges at Josiah. The two of them struggle for a few seconds then crash into a massive bookshelf which falls on top of the two of them. The mysterious attack vanishes in a deluge of books. Josiah dives out of the way but is clipped by the shelf and knocked violently into the desk, hitting his head in the process. He crumples and falls to the floor, knocking an bunch of random items off the desk in the process. One of those items is a fancy old fashioned ink bottle, which shatters as it hits the floor.*

*As Josiah and the room fade to white, the ink remains, oozing out from the remains of the bottle to form the game's logo, eventually resulting in a black on white title screen. After remaining on the screen for several seconds, everything fades to black.*

Designer's Comments:
When writing a story, the opening scene is usually one of the first things I come up with (along with the ending). I actually begin playing through this scene in my head that same day at the Renaissance Festival when I first came up with the idea for Ink, though some of the finer details came later one. Of course, this is only the first part of the game's opening. It's also one of the few scenes that takes place in the real world. The key elements are the use of the newspapers to quickly establish the basics of Josiah's backstory as a once famous, now troubled, writer. Deke is also given a brief cameo, though it won't be till much later that players find out who he is or what roll he plays in Josiah's history. For that matter, it might be a while before I decide to share that information with you...
Anyway, if you know anything about filming and cinematography, you know that planning a scene is a very complex process. I could just say, "Josiah is sitting at his computer when someone walks in and attacks him. They fight, Josiah is knocked out.". But that doesn't really tell you much about the scene. Even my detailed description above only does so much to describe how things play out. To continue the process, my detailed description would be given over to an artist who would then create storyboards of the entire scene, showing every key action and cut. The storyboards would then be reviewed by the lead artist, designer, etc. Once everyone was happy with the contents then, and only then, would work begin on the actual animation.
I might revisit this, and other Ink scenes, later on and make some storyboards myself, just to better show you the process but, as my drawings tend to fall into either the "good looking but extremely time consuming" or "quick and absolutely horrible looking" categories, it's not a very high priority at this point.


7/10/2009 Writer's block

There's a new bonus comic on TWC so please vote and check it out. There's a new ROM too.

Sigh... I've had a bit of writer's block for a good part of the week. I'm still getting plenty of stuff done (school projects and various other things) but not much that involves writing. Good thing I don't have any papers due this week... Anyway, I can't think of much to say right now either and I don't have time for the next Ink update. I should be able to shake this over the weekend so I'll see you Monday.


7/8/2009 Run away!

If you haven't taken my research survey on storytelling in media yet, it's going to be closing in a few days so there's not much time time. It's for my master's thesis and I've already had some professional game designers and writers express interest in my results, so this could be a great opportunity to make your opinion known. While I have enough responses to work with, I could really use another 70 people to hit my ideal number so tell your friends and family too.

I didn't think I'd have much time to work on this news post. Turns out I was wrong, but I don't have my Ink notes on me, so I'm just going to cover a simple part of the battle system today. I'll do something bigger (and possible not battle system related) next time.

Ink's Battle System: Escaping From Battle
The option to run from battle will be available as part of the standard command menu for every character. In non-story battles, escape attempts will always succeed. However, 25% of the time, the party will have difficulty escaping. In these cases, Josiah will intervene to ensure the party's escape, but doing so will use a small amount of ink.
After escaping, there will be a three second period where the player cannot be forced into or initiate a battle. Depending on the enemy type, they may or may not give chase.
Trying to escape from a story battle will, depending on the battle, result in one of two possibilities. In some battles, escape will succeed but will always require Josiah's aid (and the required ink cost). Occasionally, the player will be able to fully retreat and/or escape from the enemies. However, in most cases, the player will only have a few moments before the enemy forces the party back into battle. In other story battles, Josiah will try to help the party escape (using ink in the process), only to find his abilities blocked by the mysterious force that is rewriting his story.
If Josiah's aid is ever needed in an escape attempt and he lacks enough ink, the escape attempt will fail.

Designer's Comments:
In most RPGs, trying to escape from battles is a rather risky prospect. It often fails and a failed attempt typically wastes the one or more characters' turns and/or leaves them open to taking additional damage from enemy attacks. Seeing as a lot (possibly most) players don't try to escape from battle until they're in serious danger of losing, that's a pretty big risk to take. I've always had a fondness for Chrono Cross's system, in which escaping from battle always worked, at least temporarily. One of my goals in Ink is to shift the strategy in ordinary battles from resource management (make it through the entire dungeon without running out of healing items and spells) to actual battle strategy (fighting well in order to win the battle). With that in mind, I can't think of any good reason to heavily penalize the player for trying to escape. In addition, from a story perspective, Josiah's special abilities as the author of the story should allow him to help the party escape in all but the most exceptional circumstances.
While there is a chance that an escape can fail if Josiah's aid is needed and if he doesn't have enough ink to do so, the required amount of ink is very low so such a situation shouldn't come up very often.
What I haven't decided yet is how much (if at all) the party members and enemies will be healed after escaping from battle. And, in the case of temporarily escapable story battles, what the player will be able to do before being forced back into battle. I'll be revisiting the issues later on once I've nailed down some of the more technical details of the battle system.


7/6/2009 Revenge of the lack of an interesting title

As usual, you can vote to see Friday's Pebble Version Blooper Reel bonus comic. Old bonus comics can be found in the Archives.

School starts up again today after the brief holiday break. Yesterday I went to the new Wet 'N' Wild water park here in Phoenix. It's pretty good, and certainly better than any of the other nearby water parks. Though it's got nothing on the big water park in Denver. Which is kind of odd, seeing as Phoenix has a lot more hot and sunny days each year than Denver... But anyway, it was fun. This has, overall, been a good break. The water park was fun, Saturday's fireworks weren't bad, and Wednesday I had a bunch of friends over and we played Munchkin, watched some anime, and the like, which was a lot of fun. Though I also spent a decent amount of time working on various projects and the like.

My other plan for the day was getting a bunch of little things done after I got back. Naturally, several new things that needed to be done came up at the last minute so I didn't get around to finishing all of my originally planned stuff which means that I need to spend part of today doing some of what I'd originally planned to do yesterday and the things I'd planned to do today might, as a result, get pushed back to tomorrow or even Wednesday... It's a vicious cycle and I need to get back to it, so I'm off.

See you Wednesday!


7/3/2009 A little teaser

There a new bonus comic up on TWC if you vote. New ROM too.

I'm running a bit late right now so here's a quick teaser for a future Ink update that relates to an important part of both the battle system and the story line...

Ink: Mystery Teaser
A strange feeling came over Jessie as she felt the power flowing through her, suffusing every part of her body, her very being. She had never felt anything like it before, never heard of anything like it. And yet, somehow, someway, she understood. It wouldn't last long, already the power was beginning to ebb away like the tide on a distant beach, but she knew that, until it vanished, there was nothing in the world that could touch her, nothing that could stop her. Right now, for this single moment, the power was hers, and she was supreme.

That's all for now. Have a great Independence Day (if you live in the US at least)!


7/1/2009 Some time to relax

I've been pretty busy since E3 but I'm finally getting a few days off for Independence Day, or the 4th of July, or whatever you want to call it. One of my teachers pointed out though that 4th of July doesn't really say much about what the holiday is or what it represents. And Independence Day is the official name and all, so I've been try to use it more. But anyway, I finally have a few days off from school. Not that it's going to be all relaxing. I have some projects I need to work on (both school related and other stuff) but I'll also be doing some things with friends and will have some time to play video games (hopefully something I won't lost once the break ends).

Hmm... I really can't think of much to say at the moment so I'm gonna get some sleep. I've got some things to work on later today and then some friends and I have a Munchkin game planned. I'll see you Friday, by then I should be rested up a bit and able to think of something more interesting to write about.


6/29/2009 Teamwork

Vote and see Friday's bonus comic if you want to. The comic will be switching back to Brendan and May on Wednesday, but some other familiar characters will be popping up in the near future...

Ink's Battle System: Dual Attacks & Special Attacks:
When two party members have consecutive turns (as shown in the turn order list), the first character can initiate a dual attack. Doing so uses both characters' turns. When performing a dual attack, the length of the combo bar is extended to 1.5x the length of the initiating character's combo bar. Basic attacks are placed on the combo bar like normal, but every other attack placed on the combo bar will be performed by the second character.
As with ordinary single character attacks, certain combinations of moves will trigger special attacks. Dual special attacks may require a sequence of attacks at least four long, with a maximum of twelve. Newly discovered special attacks are added to the combo list. The available dual special attacks are different for each combination of characters.

Magic & Dual Attacks:
When initiating a dual attack, one or both characters can use magic instead of physical attacks. When only one character is using magic, the combo bar will be equal to 1.5x the length of the attacking character's physical combo bar, whether that character initiates the attack or not. If both characters use magic, the length will equal 1.5x the initiating character's magic combo bar.
Certain combinations of magic and physical attacks will trigger special dual attacks, which work the same way as regular dual attacks. They are different for each combination of characters.
When both characters are using magic, they can chain their elements to form the same spells that can be cast by a single character. However, there are additional spells that can only be triggered during a dual attack and some spells which require the additional combo bar length available during dual attacks to cast. However, the combinations are the same for every combination of characters.

Designer's Comments:
No reason to attack one at a time when you're part of a group. In addition, everyone seems to love it when RPGs have multi-character special attacks, even though it's not all that common of a feature. Though characters can not perform dual attacks unless they have consecutive turns, I don't want to force the player to be stuck hoping that the characters he wants end up together. That would just be annoying. Instead, the player can always choose to have the currently active character wait instead of performing an action. A waiting character's turn immediately ends and he gains a new turn immediately after the next person on the turn order list. This will allow easy preparation for dual attacks and another yet another element of strategy to the battle system.
Like regular attacks, the system encourages experimentation to find new special attacks. Physical dual attacks and physical and magic combination dual attacks will give the player a large number of dual special attacks two find and use. Naturally, when balancing the battle system, it will be important to ensure that such attacks are strong enough to be worth using two characters' turns to to perform. If a regular attacks from both characters routinely deal more damage than a dual attack would, than the entire system would be a waste of time. Special techniques, no matter how flashy, just aren't much fun if they aren't strong enough to be useful.
While dual magic attacks may seem a bit less exciting, the presence of a few unique spells should help. Also, the increased combo bar length will allow the player access to far stronger spells than he can cast with a single character.
Whether or not Josiah will be able to participate in dual attacks will depend on whether or now I decide to allow him to fight directly in battle. I'm also considering the possibility of triple or even quadruple attacks (depending on the maximum party size) but haven't made any decisions yet.

And that's all for today. Hmm... Maybe I'll take a break from the battle system for now and talk about some different parts of the game for a change... Well, we'll see.


6/26/2009 900 comics!

There a new bonus comic up for everyone who votes! I'm also pleased to announce the return of ROM.

As you can see, today marks Pebble Version's 900th strip. Well, 900 regular strips anyway. There's also over 200 bonus strips and a few assorted others. And Brendan and May haven't even gotten their fourth gym badge yet... Well, I can't say for sure when they'll get that badge, but there's going to be a lot of big events taking place over the next hundred strips. A couple things you have to look forward to include a showdown withe the black suit guys and Team Aqua and Magma's next big plan. Maybe even the fourth gym badge...maybe (depends how many strips a couple of the other events end up taking). Plus, come the 1000th strip, a certain big reveal...

I hope you've all been enjoying Pebble Version and I hope you'll continue to do so as well. You guys are a great group of readers and I love hearing from you be it over e-mail or on the forums. If it weren't for all of you, PV never would have lasted this long. Thanks for everything! I'll do my best to make this next 100 strips even better.


6/24/2009 Still more Ink battle details

The next Ink update I did was going to be about dual attacks but I didn't think I'd have time to write much of a news post today so I don't have my notes with me. I could do it off the top of my head, but I have the feeling that I'd get some of the details wrong (just because it's my design doesn't mean I can remember ever detail off the top of my head, the general stuff sure, but not all the specifics) so I'll cover one of the simpler aspects of the battle system this time and save dual attacks for next week.

Ink's Battle System: Defending
When a party member is attacked, they will try to evade and/or deflect the attacks. By performing properly timed button presses, the damage taken can be reduced by approximately 30%. For larger attacks that would normally be extremely difficult to block or evade, damage is only reduced by 10%.
On their turn, characters can also choose to defend instead of attacking or performing any other actions. When defending, damage from regular attacks and spells is automatically reduced by 30%, which can be increased to 60% by properly timed button presses. For attacks that are difficult to defend against, damage is reduced by 10% and 25% respectively.

Designer's Comments:
Although you get used to it, it always looks a bit strange in a game when someone just stands there and lets their enemies attack them. Letting the characters defend themselves, at least somewhat, makes it more realistic and gives the player something to do instead of just watch his party get attacked. The trick here is balancing both the numbers and how the interactive parts work. If defending is too easy or reduces the damage by too much, battles will become far too easy. On the other hand, if defending is too hard or doesn't make much of a difference, there isn't much point in using it. While the numbers I have listed right now sound ok on paper, it's quite possible that, while testing the game, I'd discover that they need to be modified a bit.
Balancing statistics and other numbers is a big part of the design of many different types of games (probably more types than you'd think). Sometimes there will be designers who do nothing but work on all the different statistics and formulas that go into a game. But, on smaller teams, it's often up to the regular designers to handle most of it. Admittedly, statistic balancing isn't one of the areas of game design I've had a whole lot of practice with (some, but probably not as much as I should have). Though, I have so much experience with RPGs that I more or less understand how everything works, even if I haven't had a lot of opportunities to try my own hand at it.
As for the timed button presses part of defense, I'm still figuring out exactly how that system will work. There's plenty of other games I could draw inspiration from (the Paper Mario games, the Mario & Luigi games, God of War, Magna Carta...), but I haven't decided if I should modify one of those systems for Ink or come up with something more unique. Well, more on that later on.


6/22/2009 Getting close...

Don't forget to vote and see Friday's bonus comic!

Only a few more days until Pebble Version reaches its 900th strip. I'll talk about it more at the time, but let's just say that I have a lot of big plans for the next 100 strips...

Ugh... Last week got a bit crazy and really wore me out. Still got a lot to do this week, but I got a bit of a rest over the weekend and I just finished one of the projects I was working on a few minutes ago. Though, because of it, I'm getting a rather late start on this update so I'm going to keep it short. If you're curious, I was working on something for a game I'm making. Not Ink (it would require a full team and at least a few million dollars to do right), but a casual game I'm working on with some other people at my university. Hoping to get it down by the end of the year and possibly even sell it if it turns out well. But there's still lots to do before I can even consider releasing a beta, much less selling an entire game, so we'll see what happens. Assumes things proceed as planned, I'll post some more information on later this year once it's a bit further along. Who knows, I might even ask some of you guys to beta test it...

See you Wednesday!


6/19/2009 Magic and manga

There's a new bonus comic up for everyone who votes. Just click on the Top Web Comics button or banner then follow the instructions to confirm your vote.

First off, I want to let everyone know that Viz is finally reprinting the excellent Pokémon Adventures manga. Known as Pokémon Special in Japan, it is, in my opinion, the best version of the Pokémon story. Battles are much more intense, trainers are often targeted directly, pokémon can be killed, half the gym leaders are in league with Team Rocket... Long story short, it's awesome and a must have for any Pokémon fan. The first seven graphic novels (covering the Red and Yellow story arcs) were released in the US a long time ago but then went out of print. A little while back Viz released two books called Pokémon Adventures Red and Pokémon Adventures Yellow, which were essentially the first two story arcs cut and compressed to the length of one book each. Naturally, cutting seven graphics novels down to the length of two is a horrible idea and I recommend avoiding them. However, Viz has finally started reprinting the complete Pokémon Adventures manga. Only volume 1 is out at the moment, but more are on the way. Hopefully it'll do well enough that they won't stop at 7 like they did before. The series is still going in Japan (at least it was last time I checked) and I'd really love to see an official US release of the entire thing. So, unless you have one of the original copies like I do, be sure to go out and buy Pokémon Adventures #1.

Ink's Battle System: Magic
When the magic command is chosen, the combo bar and magic key are displayed. Four different magic elements will be available, mapped to up, down, left, and right on the left analog stick (the magic key will show which is which). The four basic elements are: Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water. Chosen elements are placed on the combo bar. The player can chain any combination of the four basic elements, so long as it doesn't exceed the length of the combo bar (the same element can be used multiple times). At any time, as long as there is at least one element in the combo bar, the player can choose to execute the current combo. Once the combo is executed, a spell is cast and the character's turn ends.
The combo bar for each character starts out able to hold up to three elements. The length can be increased to a maximum of eight. At least most of those increases are gained through story events (though some might be obtainable through leveling up). Note that the length of the magic combo bar is not related to the length of the attack combo bar. Their length must be raised separately.
Different combinations of elements combine to form spells. If a correct combination is not entered a generic spell will be performed. There are five generic spells (basic earth, basic wind, basic fire, basic water, and basic non-elemental) each with several levels of power. The generic spell cast is determined by the type and number of elements used in the combo.
When a spell is cast for the first time it is added to a shortcut list. Selecting a spell from the list will automatically enter the correct series of elements into the combo bar (as long as there's enough room left in the bar).
Only one spell can be cast per turn. If extra elements are added before or after a spell combo, a different spell or a generic spell will be performed (depending on the elements).

Designer's Comments:
Ink's magic systems operates in a similar way to the attack system. However, instead of chaining a series of attacks, the player is weaving together threads of elemental energy in order to create a spell. Because all the threads combine into a single spell, multiple spells can't be chained the way special attacks are. Of course, it would be annoying if entering an incorrect combination resulted in a failed spell and a wasted turn, which is why the generic spells are there. They may not be the strongest spells, but at least they'll be good enough that players shouldn't be discouraged from experimenting to find new spells.
In the world of Ink, weaving elemental threads in order to form spells, require an immense amount of concentration on the part of the caster, so a character can't combine both magic and physical attacks in the same combination. On that same note, since magic and physical attacks are two completely separate things, there's no logical reason for them to share the same combo bar. The combo bar for physical attacks can be increased by things such as weapon training while learning to weave more magical threads into a spell requires training in magic.
From a story perspective, anyone in the world of Ink can learn to use magic. But the training is expensive and, as Ink's magic has rather limited practical uses outside of battle and several specialized fields, the majority of people don't bother to learn. I haven't decided yet whether or not Josiah, being from a different world, should be able to learn to use magic. If I decide to allow him to fight directly, I'll probably give him magic as well, though the reverse is also true.


6/17/2009 Bedtime

It's late and I've got a Japanese test to look forward to so I need to get to sleep.

See you Friday!


6/15/2009 Busy, busy

Remember to vote and see Friday's bonus comic! I'm running late right now so I'm going to save Ink's magic system for later in the week and just give a few more details about basic attacks today. Specifically, what differentiates the four types of basic attacks (other than the attack animation).

Ink's Battle System: Basic Attack Details
Slash: A simple slashing motion. It deals a bit more damage to unarmored or lightly armored enemies and a bit less to heavily armored ones.
Thrust: A powerful thrust. It deals a bit more damage to heavily armored enemies and normal damage to all others.
Feint: An attack designed more to create an opening than to deal any serious damage. It does low damage but increases the chances that the following attack will be a critical hit.
Reverse: A quick reverse strike that can catch opponents off-guard. Has a higher chance of dealing a critical hit when used as the opening attack. Does a bit more damage when it follows a Slash or a Feint but does a bit less when it follows another Reverse.


6/12/2009 Everyone loves special attacks

There's a new bonus comic and all you need to do to see it is vote. And I could still use more respondents for the short survey I'm doing as part of my master's thesis. So if you haven't taken it yet, or have some friends you could pass it on to, please do.

Ink's Battle System: Special Attacks
When attacking, certain combinations of basic attacks will form special attacks. When the correct combination of attacks is entered, the character will perform a special attack instead of the basic attacks that form it. Each character has a unique set of special attacks. The attack combinations used to trigger special attacks range from three to eight attacks long.
When a special attack is used for the first time it is added to a shortcut list. Selecting a special attack from the list will automatically enter the correct series of attacks into the combo bar (as long as there's enough room left in the bar).
Multiple special attacks can be used in a single attack combo, as long as there is enough room in the combo bar. Basic attacks can also come in the combo bar before or after the special attack combination and will be performed normally.

Designer's Comments:
Being able to perform special moves by chaining certain attacks in a standard feature in fighting games. Since regular attacks in Ink involve chaining multiple movements, this makes for an obvious extension of the system. It also adds the fun of discovering new moves and will encourage players to experiment and try many different attack combinations each time they increase the length of the combo bar.
This is also similar to the special attack system used by Legend of Legaia. Though, as previously mentioned, Ink takes the idea much further due to its integration with the magic and dual attack systems.

That's all for today, but I'll get into magic and possibly dual attacks next week. See you then!


6/10/2009 Back to Ink's battle system

Well, now that I'm back from E3 and things have settled down a bit, it's time to get back to work on Ink. I'll be covering some pretty interesting parts of the battle system in the upcoming updates, so I hope you enjoy it. Also, if you didn't see the announcement on Monday, I'm conducting a short survey as part of the research for my master's thesis. It only takes a few minutes and I need lots of different people to take it so please give it a try and pass the link on to your friends.

Ink's Battle System: Basic Attacks
When the attack command is chosen, the combo bar and attack key are displayed. Four different attack types will be available, mapped to up, down, left, and right on the left analog stick (the attack key will show which is which). The four attacks are Slash, Thrust, Feint, and Reverse. Chosen attacks are placed on the attack bar. The player can chain any combination of the four basic attacks, so long as it doesn't exceed the length of the combo bar (the same attack can be used multiple times). At any time, as long as there is at least one attack in the combo bar, the player can choose to execute the current combo. Once the combo is executed, the attack is carried out and the character's turn ends.
The combo bar for each character starts out able to hold up to three attacks. The length can be increased to a maximum of eight. At least most of those increases are gained through story events (though some might be obtainable through leveling up).

Designer's Comments
For Ink, I wanted the characters' standard attacks to be a bit more interesting than the usual "select attack and watch the attack" method. It also ties heavily into other aspects of the battle system such as special techniques, dual techniques, and magic usage, which are covered in their respective sections.
This attack system bares some similarity of that of an old Playstation RPG called Legend of Legaia, in which you can chain together attacks using different body parts to create combos. Ink uses the same basic concept but takes it much farther (particularly in regards to how it ties into the magic and dual attack systems). In a real battle, any half decent fighter generally isn't going to just throw one attack and wait to see what happened, he'll chain together several moves. That way, if the first attack is avoided, blocked, or just doesn't take his opponent down, there's some more strikes on the way. The goal of this system is to replicate that flow of attacks. Proper animation will be important to ensure that all the attacks flow together seamlessly regardless of the combination chosen.

Well, that's all for today. Come back Friday when I'll cover special techniques (and possibly dual attacks as well).


6/8/2009 E3 Days 2 and 3

Sorry about the missed update Friday, but I got back home to E3 pretty late and needed to get some sleep before my next class. Anyway, before I get on with the rest of my E3 trip, I've got something else to mention. As part of my master's thesis, I've conducting a survey about storytelling preferences in media. It only takes a few minutes to complete and I need as many respondents as possible so please take the survey and tell your friends and family to take it as well.

Now back to my time at E3...
Since I'd scouted things out on my first day, I had a basic idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. Early on I actually noticed that Koei was giving away some nifty figurines to everyone who won a multiplayer game of a DS monster racing game of theirs. The racing itself was actually pretty simplistic and a tad dull (though maybe it improves in single player) but I stuck with it will I won my prize. I also played more of the Bayonetta demo, which I already mentioned. Of all the God of War style action games I saw at E3 (and there were a lot) I think it's my favorite.
I didn't spend much time at EA's booth, but they did have a cool dragon statue. Next up was Natsume's booth, which had a less cool (though kinda cute) giant cow. there I played a bit of Adventures To-Go on the PSP. Which seems to be a decent random dungeon item collection type of RPG. I also saw Africa (or is it Afrika?), which is a sort of open world animal photography game set in Africa (duh). It reminded me a lot of Pokémon Snap but with freedom of movement and a lot more tools and options. Certainly not the type of thing that everyone will like, but could be fun to just explore and try to get good photos of all the different animals.
Ubisoft's booth was pretty busy. Unfortunately, there was nothing for the next Prince of Persia, most of the games they're working on (including Assassin's Creed 2, which had a pretty cool trailer) seem to be shaping up well.
As usual, there were lots of booth girls and other people in costumes. The Ghost Busters were also on hand (just in case, I guess) and I even found Waldo. But the only ones I actually went out of my way to get a picture with were Mario and Sonic. Go figure. I pass up the scantily clad girls for a photo with a middle aged plumber and a hedgehog...
Moving to the other hall, I spent some time waiting in line to get a pretty cool Muramasa poster (signed by the lead artist too). Speaking of Muramasa, it's looking to be quite awesome. For those of you who aren't familiar, it's a 2D action game on the Wii made by the same company as Odin Sphere. The art is gorgeous and fighting is fast and fun. I'm looking forward to it.
I spent quite a while at Sony and Nintendo's booths as well. Sony had a lot of cool stuff on the floor. God of War III had a decent size line, so I decided to save it for later. Uncharted 2 is looking pretty cool, but they were only letting certain people play the single player demo and I didn't really want to wait in line just for the multiplayer. The new PSP Jak and Daxter wasn't bad though. And I also gave Brutal Legend a try. It played pretty well, if not quite on the same level as Bayonetta or God of War III, and certainly does a good job of appealing to the heavy metal crowd. But even for people who aren't metal fans (like myself) Tim Schaffer's hilarious writing is sure to make the story a lot of fun.
At Nintendo's booth I played some Wii Sports Resort. It's all mini-games, but it's fun and seems to have enough games and options to give it far more replay value than Wii Sports. I'll probably pick it up when it comes out (both for the game and since I'll probably need a Wii Motion Plus, which comes with it, eventually). I also checked out Golden Sun for the DS (great to finally see them revive the series, though some story info would have been nice), the Legendary Starfy (cute solid DS platformer that reminds me a little bit of Kirby), and the new Professor Layton (seems to be a pretty faithful follow up to the first). I also gave Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics a try. I actually ended up trying it with the Wii Fit balance board instead of the regular Wiimote, which worked surprisingly well for both skiiing and bob sledding.

I decided to start out day 3 by rushing for the God of War III line as soon as the show opened. Unfortunately, quite a lot of other people had the same idea. While the line wasn't super long (not compared to some of the lines I saw at past E3s), it was still fairly long. Combine that with the length of the demo (10-15 minutes for an average player) and it added up to a couple of hours of waiting. The game itself played nearly identically to the previous GoW games, though the graphics have naturally undergone a significant upgrade. And it's not like Kratos doesn't have any new tricks. For example, he can latch onto and ride certain monsters such as harpies and cyclops, which is pretty cool.
The show floor was even more crowded on the third day, but by that point I'd played all the games I really wanted to so I wondered around collecting free stuff and trying out some of the mote interesting looking games that didn't have much in the way of lines.
Scribblenauts is a pretty clever DS title which has you typing in words to create objects which can be used to solve puzzles. Looks like it's aimed at the younger crowd it's still clever and has a surprisingly massive vocabulary of words it can understand. For example to get an item out of a tree you could summon up a ladder to climb to, a ball to use to knock the item out of the tree, or a beaver to knock the tree down. And those aren't the only options.  I saw one guy create a boat and use it as a platform to get said item.
LEGO Wars is a nifty little DS Age of Empires type game where everything is made from LEGO bricks. LEGO Harry Potter is looking quite amusing as well. Darksiders presents yet another high quality God of War style action game. The new Tony Hawk is certainly going in an interesting direction with its skateboard controller, though I'm not sure how popular said controller will turn out to be in the long run. An Zephyr: Rise of the Elements, it a fun little game where you control a tornado destroying stuff in order to grow stronger and destroy bigger stuff. Reminded me a little of Katamari Damacy.
I really don't have time to mention all the games I saw, but there were lots of others as well. Some good, some not so good.

I left immediately after the show ended on Thursday and drive pretty much straight back to AZ. And, well that's about it. For one final pictures, heres my collection of swag from E3.

Well, I've got a test to study for so I need to go. Later!


6/3/2009 E3 Day 1

Remember, Friday's update will either be a bit late or skipped entirely depending on when I get back to AZ.

Did I mention that I was driving to LA for E3 this year? Well, I did. The driving itself wasn't that bad. Well, except for the part where the rubber started to peel off one of my tires. Fortunately, I noticed it before the tire blew so there was no accident or injuries or anything like that. Unfortunately, the whole incident put me 2 1/2 hours behind schedule and I had to unexpectedly shell out for a new set of back tires. Parking in LA was a real pain as well (I must have spent at least half an hour driving in circles trying to find both my hotel and its parking garage entrance), but eventually I did make it to my hotel. It's a pretty nice hotel too and, as it's combined with an athletic club, I'm allowed to use all their facilities. Kinda wish I'd brought my swimsuit, though it's not like I have a whole lot of time to spare. I'm also right downtown, only about a mile from the LA Convention Center where E3 is being held. It's really convenient, except for the fact that I'm in a shopping district that closes relatively early in the day (around 6) so all the restaurants close then as well. On the bright side, it turns out that my hotel has a pretty awesome free breakfast (which I wasn't expecting) so I'll just make due with that and the stuff I brought.

But anyway, on to E3. There were some big announcements made before the show actually started. Microsoft has its press conference Monday where they unveiled a motion tracking camera accessory (which I unfortunately haven't seen on the show floor yet). The 360 is also getting a new Metal Gear game but so far Konami isn't say if it's an exclusive or not. If it is I suppose I'll finally need to get a 360... A bit of Monday news that got me really excited is that the classic Monkey Island series is finally being revived. LucasArts remaking the original Secret of Monkey Island with better graphics and some new content and, even better, Telltale (the guys behind the revival of Sam & Max, among other things) is going to be making new Monkey Island games! Really looking forward to that.
Sony and Nintendo had their press conferences yesterday morning before the show floor opened. Those type of things tend to be strictly press only, so I didn't get to see them in person, but I lot of the stuff they talk about usually does show up on the show floor. Nintendo announced a large collection awesome new games, most of which I was able to play (I'll talk about them in a bit), with the exceptions of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the new Metroid. They also mentioned a new Zelda in the works. If they're trying to make up for last year's ho-hum press conference I'd say they succeeded. Sony, meanwhile, has some more motion sensing tech of their own in the works. They also announced a new Metal Gear Solid game for the PSP (yay!) and the PSPGo (though it got leaked to the net a few days ago). The Go is basically a smaller lighter PSP (unfortunately, the screen is a bit smaller as well). It's got a lot of internal memory but no UMD disc slot, meaning it can only play downloaded games. But Sony is planning to make all future PSP releases available on both disc and for download so it all works. Personally, I'm gonna stick with my normal PSP. I like discs, and already own a bunch, for that matter. Sony also shocked everyone (and I mean everyone) by announcing Final Fantasy XIV. And not only saying it exists, but that it'll be released in 2010 on the PS3 and PC only. However, my interest dimmed considerably after learning that it's going to be a MMO. In other words, it's more or less the follow-up to FFXI.

Anyway, enough with pre-show announcements. Since I got in late on Monday (thank you, tires) I wasn't able to pick up my badge holder until yesterday morning. From past experience, I was expecting a long line so I decided to forget about the shuttle, walk to the convention center, and get their early. I had a map but, as I got closer, it wasn't too hard to see where to go. Turns out, there wasn't much of a line at all. Either everyone got here early this year and picked up their badge holders earlier in the week, or I just got there so early that I beat the crowd entirely. Since it was the first day, the show floors didn't open till noon (as opposed to 10 today and tomorrow) so I had a lot of time to kill. Of course, even the lobby had lots to see. There was a Rock Band stage set up (one of many scattered about the convention center) and lots of huge ads. It started out fairly empty but quickly began to fill up as it got closer to opening time.
Now E3 is huge. This year's was a bit smaller than it was back in 2005 and 2006 (the two last years before the tried restructuring, and the two previous years I attended) but still huge. Because of that, my general strategy on the first day is to get a general look around the entire show and decide where I want to focus my attention on the next two days (what games I really want to play, what long lines I'll need to prepare for, etc). So I spent more time looking around than playing.

That said, since I started out near the Square Enix booth, I hurried there first thing in case they were doing a closed theater show like they had in the past (which required you to arrive early if you wanted a ticket into said theater). Turns out they decided to make it an open theater this time but, since they're my favorite company, I decided to put exploration on hold and hang out for a while. They had new trailers for Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete (which actually came out yesterday) and Final Fantasy XIII, which is looking as awesome as ever. Unfortunately, they didn't have a playable demo of XIII, which seems odd since they released on in Japan... But anyway, they had lots of other games to show off. Dissidia Final Fantasy, the FF fighting game on the PSP, is a lot of fun. Though it's been out in Japan for a while so that was no big surprise. It'll finally be reaching the US this fall, as will Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for the DS. It focuses on Roxas's time in Organization XIII and, despite being portable, has the look and feel of a regular KH game. The controls were a tad awkward (camera control mainly), but it otherwise seems to be shaping up very well. Another featured game is FF Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers for the Wii. Which, to my surprise, looks and plays nothing like any previous FF CC game. From what I gathered, it takes place in the same world as the original CC, but 1000 years later. The Yuke have supposedly been wiped out, the Lilty rule the world, and magic is feared and shunned. The main character is "crystal bearer" who can user his powers to grab objects and toss them them around (essentially psychokinesis). The demo seemed to be mostly comprised of cut-scenes and mini-games so it was a little hard to get a feel for the game play, but expect lots of grabbing things (and people) and throwing them around with the Wiimote. Storywise, it also looks a lot deeper and more serious and past CC games. They were also showing the FFIV sequel that hit WiiWare Monday and some US made games that they're publishing (such as Supreme Commander 2). Then they had trailers for a new Front Mission (which I'm not too excited about since it's going to be a third person shooter developed by a US company instead of the usual turn-based strategy RPG developed by Square Enix themselves) and a violent somewhat God of War looking action game game called Neir (not sure what to make of it yet). Finally, there was a good chunk of their booth dedicated to showing off some of their latest figurines and memorabilia (all of which are, of course, cheaper and easier to find if you live in Japan).
Once I finished trying out pretty much everything there, I got back to my main mission of doing a general exploration of the two main show floors. This was, by the way, when I noticed that E3 is a bit smaller than it used to be. While it still fills of both of the LA Convention Center's main halls, it used to also take over the smaller Kentia hall where game distributors and smaller companies (often independent game studios) were situated. Well they're still around, but Kentia isn't being used so they, along with some meeting rooms, take up a chunk of the main convention halls instead. The old totally awesome E3 is definitely back, but it's not quite at its former glory either. Anyway, it wouldn't be E3 without plenty of elaborate booths, even more elaborate props, and, of course, plenty of cute girls to attract attention to said booths. Of course, not all the booth mascots are scantily clad females... I actually got my picture taken with the previously shown Ninja Gaiden girls, just for the heck of it, but I actually like this picture of myself with the (much more modestly dressed) Monkey Island gang better.
While exploring the show floors I got some random swag (seems to be a bit less than previous years but, since I was focusing on exploring today, I wasn't really trying to grab everything either) and tried out a few games. Baynonetta, an action game (published by Sega) designed by the guy who created Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe, was really cool. Think God of War but with guns and fists, and swords, and a heroine who can wield four weapons at once. It's totally over the top both in terms of violence (why just kill an enemy when you can summon a guillotine or giant monster dog to finish him off?) and sex appeal (the heroine has a tendency to lose most of her clothing when seriously injured or using really big attacks), but looks great and controls really well. It might even be able to give God of War III (which I'll be playing today or tomorrow) a run for its money.
And, of course, Nintendo's booth was full of great games. There's the new Mario and Luigi title for the DS, which adds Bowser in as third playable character, Zelda Spirit Tracks (looks like a solid follow-up to Phantom Hourglass), Wii Sports Resort (which has quite a lot of nifty games and comes with the new WiiMote motion detection enhancer to ensure better control), and a bunch of stuff I didn't have time to try (though I will before E3 ends). And then there's New Super Mario Brothers Wii. It's a classic style 2D Mario game, much like the DS New Super Mario Brothers, but there's some neat new power-ups, you can ride Yoshi again, and (this is the big one) the entire thing can be played solo or multiplayer with up to four people (Mario, Luigi, and two toads) going at once. I only had time to play one level, and the jumping seemed just a tad loose, but it's looking really good so far. Definitely another thing to add to my list of must have games this winter.
I also almost won a Microsoft Zune singing Viva la Vida in Lips (Microsoft's karaoke game), just barely missing the top score in a contest. I probably would have had it if I'd ever played Lips before, but it has a couple of twists that Karaoke Revolution and Singstar don't so I kinda had to figure them out as I played and lost some potential points because of it. But they're going to be doing more Lips contests throughout the show, so I'll make sure to try again.

Whew, that took a while. I've got to get some sleep so I'll see you later!


6/1/2009 Off to E3!

Yep, that's right, I'm leaving this morning for E3. This will make it my third time. I attended E3 2005 and 2006 while getting my Bachelor's, which were the last normal E3's before they decided to experiment with a much smaller and far less exciting structure. But said experiments didn't turn out so well and this year E3 is out to reclaim its crown as the world's top video game show. Personally, I hope they succeed. Sure the old E3 was crazy and over the top but that craziness helped grab the attention of gamers and non-gamers alike. Overall, it was a good thing for the industry. But anyway, E3 should be a lot of fun and I'll no doubt get to see and try lots of awesome upcoming games.

And that brings me to the subject of Pebble Version updates for the rest of the week. Wednesday's update will probably be a guest comic but I'll also try and do a write-up (complete with photos) about my first day at E3. Friday's update is up in the air at the moment since I'll be driving back to AZ Thursday night. If I don't get back too late I'll put up another guest comic (I got some good ones as part of a forum contest a little while back), but there probably won't be much of a news post. Though, if I get back really late, the update might be skipped entirely. Either way, I'll finish my E3 write-up next Monday. Ink info will resume next week after my E3 write-up is done, when I'll begin covering some of the more unique and interesting parts of the battle system.

See you Wednesday!


5/29/2009 In a rush

There's a new voters' bonus comic. Shauni it still moving but hopes to have ROM updating again in a week or so.

I'm running really late at the moment so I don't have time to say much. So you know, I'll be off at E3 for a good part of next week. Monday's update won't be affected, Wednesday's should be fine too (assuming my hotel's internet service is as advertised), but Friday's may be late or possibly skipped since I'll be traveling back to AZ Thursday night and don't know exactly when I'll get back. Some or all of next week's updates might be guest comics as well, since I'm not sure how much time I'll have to work on new comics while at E3. Don't worry though, I've got some good ones. And, of course, I'll be sure to tell you about all the cool stuff I see while I'm there.



5/27/2009 Battles - Part 2

Not much to say at the moment. I'm just keeping busy with school work, gaming (both school related and non-school related), and my usual day to day stuff. Anyway, here's a bit more about Ink's battle system.

Ink Battle System: Item Usage
In battle, all characters, including Josiah, can spend their turn using an item from their inventory. Items can be used on allies or enemies and activate immediately. The party's main inventory will be capable of holding one hundred of every item. However, each character may only carry ten items (not counting their equipment) into battle. These items can be set in the main menu outside of battle. Each item slot can also be set to automatically replace used items between battles (assuming another copy of the used item is available in the party's inventory).

Designer's Comments:
Item usage in battle works pretty much the same as it does in every RPG, so there's little need to elaborate. However, limiting each character to a few pre-chosen items during battle, instead of giving them access to everything in the party's inventory, is a fairly uncommon design choice. While giving every party member access to all items in the inventory is really convenient, it's also highly unrealistic. From a story perspective, not many people write novels in which the characters can magically pull any item they've ever found out of thin air whenever they want. Sure I (or rather the in-game Josiah) could come up with some excuse to give his main characters magical item storage powers, but that would be pushing it a little. From a gameplay perspective, while limited inventory access isn't as convenient as the usual "use whatever you want" approach, it adds an additional layer of strategy to the game. Having to choose which items to give to each character, and when it's really worth using part of the limited item stock in battle, encourages players to plan ahead and consider their movements a bit more carefully.
Personally, I've always liked that extra bit of planning, though I'm sure there are some people just consider it annoying. Of course, in game design you can never really please everyone. Not that it isn't important to try to please as many people as possible...but it's important to realize that, no matter want you do, some people will always find a reason to complain. Though all feedback should be carefully considered, in the end it really comes down to the judgement of the lead designer (or possibly that of the higher-ups or publisher who is paying his salary).

More battle info coming soon!


5/25/2009 Battles - Part 1

Friday's bonus comic is still there if you want to vote and see it. And, without further ado, it's time to start talking about Ink's battle system.

Ink Battle System: Basic Details
- Enemies are shown on the screen before battle.
- Battles begin once the enemies and party members make contract.
- Both enemies and the party can be ambushed if touched from behind or otherwise outside of their range of vision.
- Player characters and enemies can perform normal attacks outside of battle. Connecting with an out of battle attack starts a battle. The side that attacked automatically makes a free strike when the battle starts.
- There's a screen wipe when battles begin. (Do battles take place on the same screen, or a different one?)
- All in battle text is written as if it's part of a novel. i.e. "Charging forward, Jessie thrust her sword at the monster's chest." and "Falling back, Ralin raised his arms, shielding himself from the coming attack." There will be a large variety of potential phrases for every action.

Designer's Comments:
With the power of current generation systems, random battles with invisible enemies have fallen out of favor. There's no need for a screen wipe when transitioning into battle, or a possible screen swap (though it would prevent the problem of battle layout on oddly shaped terrain), but it can be used as a stylistic choice to help show that transition between exploration and battle. Since enemies can be seen before battles begin, the options to avoid them, sneak up on them, and score the first attack are natural additions. Of course, it wouldn't be fair if the enemies didn't have those same abilities.
The unusual (for a video game) text style is used to help convey the fact that the events are taking place inside a book and isn't limited to just the battle system.

Turn Order:
- The basic system is similar to that of Final Fantasy X.
- Characters and enemies take turns acting based on their speed stat.
- A gauge on the top of the screen shows the order of the next eight turns.
- The next character cannot act until the current turn is completed.
- Turn order can be affected by what actions are taken. The change is shown in the turn order list when an action is selected (but before it is confirmed). (The time between a character's turns is modified by their chosen action, as in FFX? Or a charge time for certain actions?)

Designer's Comments:
Most console RPGs base their battle system at least loosely on some version of either Dragon Quest's turn system or Final Fantasy's ATB system. While I could come up with something entirely unique, there's no need to throw out such tried and proven starting points and Ink's battle system has plenty of other unique aspects to set it apart. Final Fantasy X's CTB system (a more strategic take on the ATB) is one of my favorites out of all the RPGs I've played so I've decided to use it as the base for Ink's battle system. It allows the battles to move as fast or slow as the player wants and the varying time between turns, combined with the upcoming action gauge, allow the player to better plan ahead for better strategizing. Though I'm still working out some of the details, such as whether the system will completely mirror that of FFX or change things up by introducing a charge time for various actions.

Of course, that's only the start. Look for more battle system details later this week.


5/22/2009 Power playing

There's a new voters' bonus comic which you can see by voting (duh) with the Top Web Comics banner or button. No ROM today though. Shauni is moving into a new place so the comic is on hold for a little bit while she gets settled.

Well, I was all set to start talking about Ink's battle system today but, unfortunately, it'll have to wait till Monday. Like I mentioned in my previous post, we're going to be making some LittleBig Planet levels in my Applied Game Design class. In preparation, I've been powering through the rest of the story mode both to unlock as much as I can and to get a better feel for exactly what can be done with the level editor. Anyway, I was getting near the end and was rather determined to finish it. Perhaps not too surprisingly, it took a bit longer than I thought it would and now I don't have time to type up the big Ink post I was planning. I'll definitely have it up for Monday though so check back then.


5/20/2009 A more interesting semester

I'm taking a break from Ink for today to talk about my class this semester. On one hand, I still kind of wish that I had taken a bit less so I could take it easy this semester. On the other hand, this semester is shaping up to be the most fun and interesting one I've had for quite a long time. Definitely much more than either of my previous semesters in the master's program. Not sure how many of you will find this interesting. If you do, great. If not, consider it to be more for journal purposes. But anyway, here's my classes along with a few comments.

Thesis II: My least interesting class of the semester by far. On the plus side, I'll be spending the majority of my thesis time this semester conducting a survey, which doesn't require a whole lot of work on my part. I do have write the last couple of chapters towards the end of the semester, but they should be fairly short and easy, assuming the data collection goes well.

Interactive Fiction: I didn't actually have a whole lot of choice in what master's classes I'd be taking this semester (there wasn't much that would get my the credits I needed), but the class is looking interesting regardless, and I could come across some info worth adding to my thesis. Personally, I'm not one of those people who thinks that every story would improve by making it interactive. In fact, I think it would hurt quite a lot of stories. Some stories, on the other hand, work quite well when interactive. It just depends on the situation. But anyway, the class should be interesting and if you're curious about my thoughts on interactive and traditional storytelling, you can read all about them in my thesis, once it's finished.

Applied Game Design: The last of my master's classes this semester. The teacher running it this semester is fairly new and just took over the class. I had him last semester too though, and he's a good guy. But he's basically remaking the course from scratch so we spent the first class discussing what we wanted to do for the rest of the course. In it the end, we decided to go with one of my suggestions and make a set of high quality LittleBig Planet levels. Fortunately, most of us in the class have played LBP, though I don't think any of us have a lot of experience with the level editor. Should be fun though, and it'll give me a good excuse to spend some serious time with LBP, which I've been wanting to do.

Advanced Japanese I: Once again, I'm auditing a Japanese course to stay in practice. Though this semester we're covering parts of the text book that I haven't read yet, so I'm learning new things as well. The only problem with that being that I can't just breeze through the homework anymore.

Casual Game Design: Since I got my bachelor's, they've added a lot of new game classes here at UAT and most of them are being taught by some of my favorite teachers (who, unfortunately, don't teach a lot of master's classes). So, since I have free audits (it's something all graduates of UAT get), I'm taking some of the most interesting ones for one. As for the class itself, although my primary focus is still on big epic games, I have been getting a bit more into casual games lately (both playing and design), so this class gives me a good opportunity to learn about their unique design aspects (and gives me an excuse to play some of them as well).

Game Testing and Analysis: This is another lower level class I'm auditing. While I know what game testing is, I don't really know the specifics about testing cycles, bug reporting software, and the like. All that stuff is pretty useful for a designer to know, since testing is an important part of making any modern game. Not to mention that fact that, if I can't get a design position right out of school, a testing job is a good way to get in the industry (and, seeing as I'm extremely overqualified, I shouldn't have any trouble getting one).

And that's all of them. Like I said, it should be a fun semester. Busy, but fun. Well, I'll see you Friday, probably with the next Ink update.


5/18/2009 One more for now

Friday's bonus comic is still up there if you want to vote and see it. Top Web Comics recently changed their voting process slightly, but it's pretty easy to figure out (I talked a bit more about it in the previous news post). Anyway, I'm going to do another Ink character profile today, as promised. It'll probably be the last one for a while. While Ink has lots more important characters I could profile, I think I'll take a break and talk about some different parts of the game for a while. As to what parts... Well, you'll find out soon enough.

Ink Character Profile: Ralin Thanes
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 10"
Build: Average
Age: 19
Hair: Light Brown; mid-length, neat
Eyes: Brown
Right Handed
Weapon: Spear
Clothing: A tunic and trousers. Wears dull colored peasant clothing so as not to attract attention.
Background: Ralin is the hero of Josiah's unfinished novel. He and his twin sister, Jessie, are on the run from an army for unknown reasons. Life on the run has made him tough, but he's generally calmer and more rational than Jessie. The two of them are completely dedicated to protecting each other. Ralin sees himself as the more responsible of the pair and does his best to rein in his sister when necessary.

Designer's Comments:
Like I already mentioned in Jessie's comments, I decided on the twins on the run theme for Josiah's novel early on. I always knew that the twins would be a boy and a girl, but Ralin's name and personality didn't come until after I'd already worked out Jessie's details. Unlike Jessie, there's no significance to his name. Like I said before, the vast majority of my character names fall in the "I thought it sounded cool" category. Not that I don't use symbolic names from time to time, just not all that often. Ralin's personality was mostly based around my desire to create a foil of sorts for Jessie and her more impulsive behavior. As such, he isn't too developed as a character yet. A foil to Jessie is all well and good, but that's hardly enough to sum up a person's personality. I'll be working to flesh him out and make him into a more interesting character as the project continues.
Quick note. Although Ralin and Jessie are twins, twins of differenet genders can't be identical (there's a scientific reason for that, but I can't remember the details), which is why they have different heights and hair colors.


5/15/2009 Time management

There's a new voters' bonus comic. Speaking of voting, Top Web Comics changed their voting confirmation method yet again in a continuing effort to foil auto-voting bots (some people clearly take the whole top list thing way too seriously if they're willing to make a bot to cheat it). Now you need to answer an easy question about which way an image has been rotated. It's pretty self explanatory so you shouldn't have much trouble figuring it out.

My schedule this week has been...interesting. Actually it ended up being a lot busier than it probably should have been do to a combination of post vacation catch-up, the release of the final book in the Pendragon series (had to find out what would happen and all that), the big Lost season finale (three hours), and a few other things. Not that it hasn't been fun, most of the time anyway, but I'm looking forward to things kinda settling down and normalizing next week so I can get a routine going and figure out how much time I can dedicate to various projects. Most of my classes are looking like a lot of fun though (although I still think I might have taken too many). I'll be doing a lot of game work, which is cool. On my suggestion, my Applied Game Design class decided to focus on a series of LittleBig Planet levels as our big project for the semester (so now I need to hurry up and finish the story mode). And I need to beta test a couple of games for another class. Man, it's been a really really long time since I had a class where I was told to play games... Game related degree or not, game playing isn't a big part of classes. Actually, LBP is the reason that I'm not doing another Ink character profile today (got caught playing with some people online and lost track of time). Sorry about that, I'll get it up on Monday instead.

Well, I should get going. Lots to do today so I can catch up on the stuff I put off because of the afore mentioned things. Have a good weekend!


5/13/2009 Introducing Jessie

Classes have only just started but it's certainly looking like this semester will be a lot more fun and interesting than the last couple. I'll probably comment on my classes a bit in a week or two once I've gotten a better feel for things. I just hope I haven't overdone it (I'm actually taking 18 credits when you count the stuff I'm auditing). Though, if I'm lucky, I might actually have less work this semester than the last two. But anyway, it's time to introduce another main character from Ink.

Ink Character Profile: Jessica "Jessie" Thanes
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 6"
Build: Athletic
Age: 19
Hair: Dirty Blonde; goes a few inches past her shoulders, cut somewhat raggedly
Eyes: Brown
Weapon: Hand-and-a-Half (Bastard) Sword
Clothing: Dresses like a man in a tunic and trousers. Wears dull colored peasant clothing so as not to attract attention.
Background: Jessica, or Jessie as she prefers to be called, is the heroine of Josiah's unfinished novel. She and her twin brother, Ralin are on the run from an army for unknown reasons. Life on the run has made her tough, but she has a tendency to let her emotions get the better of her and isn't very trusting of others. Her brother is the main exception, and the two of them are completely dedicated to protecting each other. Despite her tough exterior, she has a hidden love for stories of adventure and far off places.

Designer's Comments:
I came up with Jessie and Ralin very early on, at least in a general sense. As soon as I decided that the story would involve an author being transported into the world of one of his books, and that it would be a medieval fantasy world, I began thinking about who the main characters would be. My first thought was that there would be a pair of twins, a boy and a girl, and that they'd be on the run from a king/emperor/warlord/whatever and his army. I don't know why I made that decision, that's just how it goes when I come up with an idea for a new story, there's always a few aspects that I just know right from the beginning. And this story was about a pair of twins on the run. Though I still didn't know exactly who those twins were or who was leading the pursuing army and why. In fact, I still haven't figured all of that out yet. Some of it, but certainly not all. Though it'll come with a bit more time and thought. Unlike some authors, I don't plan out every little detail right from the start. In fact, there's some things that I really don't figure out until I'm actually writing that section. I usually have at least all the key plot points worked out before I start seriously writing, but I typically spend quite a lot of time running through things in my head before I get to that point.
But back to Jessie. With the twins on the run concept established, I moved on to other things. After deciding that the author would be a version of myself, I knew that the girl would have to be named Jessie. See, there was a character named Jessie in Final Fantasy VII (a member of Avalanche). At the time, I had never seen it used as a girl's name before and really liked it. So much so that I named a character in one of my earliest novels Jessie. I've long since decided that said novel isn't good enough to publish, and that the basic idea isn't really good enough to bother rewriting either, but after that I started using the name Jessie for some unamed game characters. My first Jessie was a Geomancer/Chemist in Final Fantasy Tactics. She ended up being extremely useful and I got rather attached to her so I used the name for generic female characters I made in other games as well (including FF Crystal Chronicles, Tactics Ogre, Disgaea, and Guild Wars). I guess you could say that I kinda see Jessie as my imaginary ideal girl, or something like that, even though the exact details of her appearance and personality vary a bit with each incarnation. So, if I was going to be the main character, it made sense to have her as the heroine.
This Jessie's full name and personality were decided on a bit later. There's nothing special about her last name, I just thought it sounded good (which is how I come up with most of my character names, actually). Her personality is partially based off of my "ideal" Jessie, though changed a bit to better fit the specifics of the story. I'll save the details on her backstory for a later entry.


5/11/2009 Sleep, sleep, sleep...

As always, voting for Pebble Version on Top Web Comics will allow you to see the latest bonus comic. There's a new one every Friday and you can view the old ones in the Archives.

Vacation is officially over for me. I'm back in AZ, and classes start today. I've got six classes this semester, though three are undergrad stuff I'm auditing (for fun and interest). Some probably won't require much actual work, others will likely involve quite a lot, so I'm really not sure if, in the end, I'll be busier than the past couple semesters or not. Either way, I'm glad to be taking mostly stuff I want to take this semester instead of required courses. I've had more than enough management already. But anyway, I didn't get a lot of sleep Saturday night, I've got an early class coming up, and I'm dead tired so I'm gonna go to bed.

I'll be profiling another Ink character on Wednesday so I'll see you then!


5/8/2009 Novels, and Japanese, and Ink Characters

New bonus comic today if you vote, new ROM too.

You know, when I watch subtitled anime these days, I'm noticing more and more the differences between the subtitled text and the actual Japanese dialogue. Fan subs are usually pretty close, barring outright translation mistakes, but commercial stuff often has some moderately large differences. Nothing to seriously impact the story, but it's interesting. I suppose it also means that my Japanese is still improving, though I still doubt I'd be able to follow a Japanese anime all that well without subs... But anyway, that was off topic.

I'm not totally where I'd like to be with PV strips yet, but I'm in a lot better shape than I was a couple days ago so I was gonna do a big Ink post tonight. But I was reading Mistborn, an epic fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson and it was just starting to get into the climax so I couldn't really bring myself to stop. I first picked it up because Sanderson has been chosen to finish the late Robert Jordan's masterful Wheel of Time series, so I wanted to get a feel for his writing. But Mistborn hooked me pretty quickly. Great book. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy (which I unfortunately left back in Arizona). Mistborn actually has a few ideas that are similar to ones in one of my novels (though it's one of the ones I haven't written yet). Fortunately for me, the similarities turned out to be smaller than they'd first sounded. It'd kinda suck if a popular fantasy novel had already used my planned plot twists...

Speaking of Arizona, school starts back up on Monday so I'll be heading back on Sunday. As long as my flight isn't seriously delayed or my router didn't spontaneously combust while I was away, Monday's update shouldn't be affected.

But anyway, getting back to Ink, it may not do as big of an update as I'd originally planned, but here's something. Something that turned out fairly long anyway. Quick note on these character profiles, I may change them a bit here and there and add more details as I flesh out the full story for Ink. The Main Characters page of the Ink section of the site will always have the latest version but I'll also try and let you know if I make any important changes.

Ink Character Profile: Josiah Lebowitz
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 11"
Build: Average / Athletic
Age: 24(?)
Hair: Browish Black
Eyes: Brown
Right Handed
Weapon: None(?)
Clothing: Prefers blue jeans, a t-shirt, sneakers, and light jean jacket. He also wears a silver chain with a pendant around his neck.
Background: Josiah is a famous author who published his first book while still in his mid-teens. He's a bit of a dreamer and loves stories. He novels are known for their memorable characters and shocking plot twists. However, he suddenly and mysteriously canceled the release of his previous novel shortly before it was scheduled to be sent to the editor. He declined to comment on his reasons and has been rather withdrawn ever since. While he has started on a new story, he's having difficulty with it and the writing is going very slowly.

Designer's Comments:
Ink is the story of a writer who is pulled into the world of his unfinished novel, so naturally the main character has to be an author. I'm not entirely sure why I chose to base that author directly off of myself. I'm not usually one for inserting myself into my stories (in fact, it's quite rare) but the whole young real world author character does fit who I really am and since I'm the one writing Ink in the "magic book" (which will be covered more in depth in a later section), it's kind of logical, or perhaps ironic, to cast myself as the lead.
However, it should be noted that the Josiah in Ink is not actually me, he's just based on me. For one thing, I'm (unfortunately) not a famous author yet (getting a novel published isn't easy). Someday, I hope, but not right now. Also, if was faced with the same situations as the Ink Josiah, I think that I'd react differently to some of them. Not all, of course, since his personality is still based on mine, but I need to tweak it a bit to better fit the story I have planned. To point out one important difference, unlike the Ink Josiah, I don't think I would have canceled the release of a book. Of course, in order to explain why, I'd have to tell you what brought him to make that decision in the first place; but that would be giving away an important part of the plot so I'm gonna keep it a secret for a bit longer.
As for his appearance, that's pretty much the same as the real me. I'm not entirely certain about the age yet though. For the purposes of the story, I'd kind of like to have Ink Josiah be a bit younger (maybe 21 or 22). However, if I make him too young it may not fit too well with his back story. Becoming a famous author, canceling a mostly finished book, and starting on a new one all take a good amount of time. 24 seems to be a decent compromise, though I may change it later. I'm also not sure about his lack of a weapon. I'll go more in-depth when discussing the specifics of the game play, but I haven't yet decided if I want Josiah to actually fight or not. On the one hand, in the real world I've got a second degree black belt in Shorin Ryu Karate and some sword training, plus people generally expect the main character to be at least a passable fighter. On the other hand, Ink Josiah's greatest power is manipulating the world through his writing. If I allow him to fight just like the other party members, it may dilute his roll a bit. For now, I'm leaning towards him not do any direct fighting but I may change my mind later on.

Well, that's all for today. See you on Monday!


5/6/2009 Arches

I'm still behind on PV strips (vacation or not, I've got a lot to work on) so I'm gonna wait till Friday before writing up more about Ink. In the meantime, here's a few pictures from my hiking trip at Arches National Park on Sunday.

Here's some people from my congregation (it was a group hiking trip) standing beneath Delicate Arch. Delicate is kind of the symbol of the park, but it's only one of a couple thousand arches. For example, here's Sand Dune Arch. It's a bit less impressive, but fun to play around. Speaking of which, I'm the one sitting on top of the arch in that picture. And here's the famous Double Arch. And that's barely scratching the surface. Arches has tons of arches and other cool rock formations. Right outside of Moab Utah, it's one of my favorite national parks (and I've been to lots of them) and there's really nowhere else in the world like it. There are some other great national parks with cool giant rock formations in the Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and some even have a few arches but they're not nearly as numerous or impressive as the ones at Arches. It's really worth going to if you've ever in the area. Heck, it's worth going to Moab just to see Arches. Personally, I'd even recommend it over the Grand Canyon...

Anyway, I've got to get back to work. Sigh... I wish break was longer. At this rate, I'll be lucky if I get through all the things I wanted to work on, much less get into any serious relaxing (I've relaxed a bit, but that's hardly been the focus of this vacation)...



5/4/2009 ...

It's early in the month so it's a great time to vote, see Friday's bonus comic, and get PV off to a good start.

Between vacation stuff (traveling, doing stuff for my parents, etc), some sort of allergies or mild cold I came down with over the weekend, and then a hiking trip yesterday, I ended up getting behind in PV strips so I don't have time to write anything big here right now. See you wednesday!


5/1/2009 Documentation

Yadda, yadda, Friday, new voters' bonus comic, new ROM, etc, etc...

So, the next section of Ink I'm working on for the site is a pretty important piece of documentation. But, I figure I should explain what's so important about it first. So, without further ado...

About the High Concept / Pitch Document
A high concept document and a pitch document can be the same thing or separate, depending on how you want to structure things, but they basically serve the same purpose. A high concept document is typically one page long and summarizes the basic concept and key points of a game. The purpose is to have a short paper that you can hand off to someone (team members, management, publishers, etc) which can give them a quick idea of what a game is about and what's so special about it.
Keeping it short is important. A company boss or a potential publisher isn't going to read a huge design document before making his decision on whether or not to approve a game. They don't have the time. Not to mention that designers don't have time to make a giant document for every unapproved game idea they come up with. The high concept document isn't the place to describe the entire plot, profile the main characters, or explain the details of the battle system, a quick summary of the key points is all that's needed. Some people also like to toss in a short slogan or description type sentence at the beginning. There's many ways you can organize a high concept doc, depending on personal preference and the type of game, but the way I used for Ink makes a pretty good base.

Ink High Concept Document

The pen is truly mightier than the sword.

Ink is a full length turn-based Japanese style RPG designed for current generation game consoles such as the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

  - A large dynamic world to explore.
- A deep twisting plot which intertwines two stories into one.
 - Hours of quality voice acting.
  - Write to change the world, solve puzzles, power-up characters, and turn battles in your favor.
  - Strategically manage ink.
  - Learn and unleash powerful combination attacks.
  - In-game text written in third-person novel style.
  - Read the in-game novel to review events and uncover secret information.

  A struggling author is drawn into the world of his unfinished novel. But the story has changed... To find his way home, he must join forces with the intended heroes and use his pen to change the world and find the one who is rewriting his story.

  Join Josiah as he lives out the events in latest novel and tries to make sense of the drastic changes that are occurring in the story he so carefully created. Team up with the heroes of the story to explore a vibrant world and fight and write your way to the truth.
  Engage enemies in fast paced strategic battles with a system reminiscent of those from the best titles in the genre. Collect ink from the essence of fallen foes and use it to rewrite the world. With enough ink, there is little that Josiah can't do, but it must be managed carefully.
  Write to change the world and solve clever puzzles. Write to turn the tide of battle in your favor. Gain inspiration and write to create devastating combination attacks. Write to control the growth and development of your party. Write to complete Josiah's unfinished story and discover the one who is rewriting it to suit his own purposes.

And that's all for today. Have a good weekend!


4/29/2009 Vacation time

I've got my last test this morning and then it's off to my parents for about a week and a half of vacation before summer semester starts. Pebble Version should continue to update normally.

And, uh... Man, I'm tired. Not entirely sure why. Perhaps stuff is just catching up to me now that the semester is just about over. I was going to write some more about Ink today, but I'm at school right now (anime club actually), and my notes are back at my apartment. Plus, the next part I want to do is pretty long and if I type it all up when I'm feeling tired, like I am now, it'd probably be a bit of a mess. So I'll save it for either Friday or Monday.

Hmm... I never did talk much about Braid, did I? But, once again, if I try to write anything too long right now it probably wouldn't come out right. For now, I'll just say that Braid is one of the those games that any half serious gamer really should play. And, now that you can get it for the PC (via download from several services) instead of just on the 360, there's no excuse not to. However, since Braid is more puzzle game than platformer (though it's a bit of both), if you absolutely hate taking things slow and thinking your way through situations, it's probably not the game for you. Sure you could always just look up all the solutions online, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the game. Just know that all that hard work it takes to collect every puzzle piece and complete the levels is worth it. The "last" level is absolutely brilliant. As is the rest of the game, for that matter. The graphics are good, the music and beautiful, and the story, while rather vague, is very different and intriguing and works on several different levels. Excellent puzzles as well. And, I'm proud to say, I got every puzzle piece on my own. No asking for help, no checking the internet, no nothing. Been a while since I played a serious puzzle game, but I used to be really into them so it's nice to know that I've still got it.

Well, I got to get ready to my last test. See you later!


4/27/2009 Ideas Part 2

If you haven't seen Friday's bonus comic yet all you have to do is click on the Top Web Comics banner or button and click on a couple of buttons to confirm your vote. Moving on to today's comic, I actually had a few potential ideas for what the attract TM would do. Maybe some of the others will eventually show up as bonus comics... Anyway, I promised to talk about how I came up with the idea for Ink so, moving right along...

The Idea Behind Ink:
I first got the idea for Ink when I visited the Phoenix Renaissance Festival in February of this year (2009). Not long after I arrived, I came across a shop selling hand made old fashioned books. Being both a writer and something of a bibliophile, I couldn't resist getting one for myself. But then a question came to mind, now that I had this really cool old looking book, what was I going to write in it? I though about writing a journal, since that's what the the book was kinda intended for, but I've tried keeping a diary before and never with a whole lot of success. Besides, if I want to write about what I'm doing, I can always do it on Pebble Version like with my Japan Travelogue. So a journal was out. Next I considered writing one of my novels in my new book. Although the idea held a sort of "romantic" attraction to it, I had hand written a short novel in the past and found the whole process to be more trouble than it was worth, due to the difficulty of making corrections and edits, and the fact that I'd just have to type the entire thing into the computer later anyway. Moving on, I thought about filling it with short stories instead. I had handwritten a few of them before, and since they're not all that long, typing them up later isn't all that bad. Besides, it's kinda nice to be able to write wherever and whenever I want, instead of having to always be in front of a computer. However, the idea fell through when I thought about how rarely I actually come up with ideas for good short stories (most of my stories end up being novel length at the very least).
With all those ideas discarded, I was running out of options. But if I wasn't going to use my new book for a journal, novel, or short story, what else could I write in it? A game design maybe? I could, of course, but aside from the any time / anywhere convenience, I couldn't see any good reason to write out a game design in the book as opposed to just typing it up on my computer. But the whole any time / anywhere thing was tempting so maybe if I could come up with another good reason to write my design in the book... Maybe if the book itself played a roll in the game? That would make it kind of poetic...
As I continued to explore the festival with these thoughts running through my head, an idea began to take form in my mind. If the game was going to involve my old fashioned book, perhaps the main character should be an author. An author in a medieval fantasy setting, since that both fit the appearance of the book and whole Renaissance Festival atmosphere. These thoughts combined with a couple old and mostly undeveloped ideas of mine. The first being about the characters in a novel escaping into the real world, and the second about a young man who was drawn into another world of fantasy and adventure only to eventually be forced to return to his own world where, depressed at his inability to return to the place he'd come to love, he instead began to write the story of his journey, so he could relive it again and again.
In the end, I came up with the following basis for my new game design. A modern day author is drawn into the world of his unfinished novel and must join with the main characters to complete the story. Taking that idea, my mind continued to work on it as the day progressed. Like I already discussed when I talked about coming up with ideas in general, I developed my concept further by asking myself questions. Who was this modern day author? I could make someone up but, just for the heck of it, why not use myself? How did he get drawn into his novel? Why is the novel unfinished? What's the novel about? The medieval fantasy setting had already been established but who are the main characters? Their allies? Their enemies? What's the plot? How will the author interact with the main characters? As the author, what powers would he have inside the world he created? And, of course, how would my old fashioned book fit into all of this?
While I could go into detail about my through process and eventual answer for each question, I don't want to give away too much of the plot so quickly. But here's a quick summary of some of the basics (minus most of the details and plot twists of course, gotta save stuff for later).
The main character would be a version of myself, a popular author who, after suddenly canceling his previous novel before its completion, is struggling with his latest story. One day, someone breaks into his house. As he struggles with the intruder, he's knocked unconscious and awakes in the world of his unfinished novel. He soon meets the main characters, a brother and sister who are on the run from a group of soldiers. As they all hide from the soldiers, Josiah finds a book (my old fashioned journal) and a pen in his pocket. As it turns out, the book contains a copy of his novel. Suddenly something goes wrong. The soldiers, who are supposed to fail to find the heroes hiding place and leave, suddenly spot them and give chase. Shocked, Josiah turns to the proper page in the book only to find the words of the story being rewritten before his very eyes. Hearing the main characters wishing that they had weapons to fight back, he takes the pen and begins to write. A moment later, the words become reality and the group stumbles across a crate of weapons... After escaping from the soldiers, Josiah joins up with the main characters to see the world he created and find out why his story is being rewritten.
As I planned all this out, I was also asking myself questions about the gameplay. What genre would it? Well, RPGs are my favorite and it would fit the setting well. In that case, how would the battle system work? What about character development? What would Josiah's roll be in battle? How would I integrate his ability to change the world with his writing? How could I keep it from becoming too cheap or powerful? What would the graphic style be? How about the writing? The sound? Once again, so as not to give too much away right off the bat, I'm not going to answer all of those questions here though I do have at least partial answers for all of them. But I should at least spend a few moments talking about the central gameplay feature of Ink.
As I mentioned, I needed a way to integrate Josiah's writing into the main gameplay that would keep it from becoming overly cheap or powerful. In the end I decided that Josiah could alter the world in many ways with his writing (the details of which will be covered in a later section) but he could only write in the book with the pen he found with it and the pen required special ink to work. Ink which could only be gained by defeating enemies. After all, seeing as they're all creatures and characters from a book, they're technically created from written words...from ink. And, since the game was about a writer and so many key aspects were going to revolve around ink, what better title could there be?
By the time I left the Renaissance Festival I already had a fairly solid idea about many of the aspects of the plot and gameplay elements of Ink, far more than I have the time to cover in this section. But don't worry, I'll be getting to them soon enough...


4/24/2009 Ideas

Another Friday, another new voters' bonus comic and another new ROM. But this is my last Friday before break. All I've got left this semester is one big paper (my project for today and probably Monday), one class, and one test. I should be done by Wednesday afternoon and then it's off to Colorado for my entire...week and a half worth of break. Yeah, the break between spring and summer semesters at UAT is really short. Oh well, it's not like I actually wanted to do anything over break <.< Anyway, PV updates shouldn't be affected. Now, on to the next part of Ink.

Coming Up With Ideas
Whether it's books, movies, comics, video games, or any type of story or game, you've got to start with an idea. There's really no right way or wrong way to come up with an idea. Ask a bunch of creative people how they come up with ideas and you'll probably get quite a lot of different answers. Personally, I've gotten ideas for my books, game concepts, and the like in all sorts of different ways. Sometimes it's a song, a TV commercial, a dream, or just a passing thought... From time to time something will just click and I'll think, "hey, there's a good story there". At that point I'll just run though the basic idea in my mind for a while and let it grow and evolve until I have a basic structure, which often has little relation to whatever inspired it in the first place.
I'll go a lot more in depth when discussing the idea behind Ink but, just to give a quick example of the process, let's take my short story Memories of a Hero. If you don't feel like reading it right now, it's a serious short story about a man who is named a hero by his village and is forced to live and die by their expectations of what a hero should be. I came up with the idea while in Japan. I was sitting in the park during my lunch break on a Wednesday playing Ouendon 2 (the Japanese version of Elite Beat Agents). There's this one level based on the legend of Momotaro (a boy found in a giant peach who, along with a dog, bird, and monkey, defeats a group of monsters that have been terrorizing the area). In the level, the hero Momotaro is now an old man off to collect his social security check (or whatever the Japanese equivalent is). But suddenly the monsters return and, despite his age, everyone looks to Momotaro to stop them. Of course, the game treats it humorously and old Momotaro manages to get it together and save the day. But the thought popped into my head that, in real life, people would probably act the same way. There was a story there. A hero, too old to fight yet forced to by others. Taking that basic idea, I started asking myself questions. Who was the hero? Why was he a hero? Why did he keep fighting? What would happen to him? Who was telling the story? I've been doing this for a long time, so the whole process occupied only a short time and before I'd even finished level I'd already begun writing the story in my head (exact sentences and wording and all) so I quit the game, grabbed a notbook, and got to work.
Naturally they don't all go that quickly. Most of my stories are far longer and there are often some important details that I don't figure out until I've already written a significant amount, but the basic process is the same. I come up with game concepts in a similar fashion. I typically get an idea for either the story or a cool gameplay mechanic and work from there, asking myself about all the details that are needed to support that idea and what kind of story / gameplay would be a good match for it. But, as I said, there's no right or wrong way to do it, that's just my usual way. And not everyone has a talent for coming up with ideas, much less good ones. The real trick is being able to objectively look at your ideas and see if they're actually good. Here's a hint, most of them probably aren't. And that applies to everyone, I've had plenty of bad ideas and so have most professionals. They just generally know enough to discard them (or at least to trust the judgement of others in that regard).
Then there's the really important part... When you're making games professionally, you often don't get the luxury of coming up with and developing your own ideas. Unless you're one of the higher ups in the company or a very well respected designer, it's quite possible that the types of games you make will be dictated by someone else. It may be someone else's idea (such as the lead designer) or it may just be something passed on by marketing or some other business exec. Perhaps RTS games are really popular at the moment, or games about the mafia. Maybe the company just got the license to develop games based on some movie or TV show. While being able to come up with and develop your own ideas is an important skill, a good game designer also has to be able to take and expand someone else's ideas. My first real lesson in that came during a class back when I was getting my bachelor's degree. The teacher had us divide into groups. For the next half an hour each group was supposed to go off, create a basic game design, and then return and present it to the class. After we grouped up, the teacher went around and asked each group what genre of game we'd like to do. After getting everyone's answers he promptly assigned each group to create a game of a completely different genre. My group, who had chosen RPG, was given RTS instead. Was it what we'd wanted or planned for? No. But, despite that, we were still able to adjust and come up with an interesting design.
Lots of people go into game design with all sorts of grand ideas about game they want to make. Some are truly brilliant, others would probably interest no one other than the would be designer. Regardless of how good (or bad) his ideas are, it might take a starting game designer years or even decades before he's in the position to actually make those games. I accept the fact that I may very well spend the first couple of years of my game design career working on Hanna Montana games and, even after I get a job at a company I like, it could be far longer before I get to make Ink (or any of my other designs) into actual games. I'm not thrilled by the prospect and I can always hope that things will work out better, but I can't count on a lucky break. It might happen, it might not, and I need to be ready to do my best regardless. In the end, game design is still a job and only a few people get to be the ones calling the shots.
But I think I've crushed enough dreams for now. This is supposed to be about Ink, so let's look at just what it is and how I got the idea...

And that's all for today. Sorry, I'd actually planned to include the section on Ink and the idea behind it as well but this part ended up being a lot longer than I'd thought it would so that'll have to wait until Monday. See you then!


4/22/2009 Late night

Well, as the title implies, I was up late night so I'm gonna keep things short so I can get some sleep before class. In case you missed it, the first installment of Ink - Creating a Game Design went up on Monday. I'll be posting the next part Friday so I'll see you then!


4/20/2009 Ink - Creating a Game Design

Remember to vote and see the bonus comic!

As promised, today will mark the start of Ink - Creating a Game Design, a new special topic series here on Pebble Version. Ink is my most recent video game idea and I'll be writing about it at least once or twice a week in place of ordinary news posts. But I'm not just going to talk about the game itself, I'll also discuss the various aspects that are needed for a game design, how I came up with various ideas, why I made certain design decisions, and the like. Pay attention and you'll not just learn about Ink itself, but about the game design process in general. I'll also be compiling everything I write about Ink in more of a formal document structure as I go. You can find links to the various sections on the Extras Page.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm qualified to be writing about game design... I have a Bachelor's degree in Multimedia with an emphasis on Game Design from the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe Arizona and I'm currently studying for a Master's degree in Science in Technology with an emphasis on Game Production. While I haven't officially worked in the game industry yet, I've worked on lots of game projects while at school, both for classes and as a hobby. If you're curious, you can find my portfolio site here.

About the Structure of This Project:
Before starting into the details of what Ink is, who the characters are, what the story is, how it will play, and the like, I want to explain exactly how this whole project is going to work. First off, you should understand that I'll be doing this a bit differently than if I was creating the game design for use in an actual project. But, to explain how it's going to be different, I need to explain a bit about the types of documents that are required for a game project.
The most important document for any game project is called the design document. A game design document can, depending on the game, range anywhere from several pages to several hundred pages long (or even longer). It contains all the key information on what the game will contain, how it will play, who the heroes are, who the enemies are, what items and moves they'll use, the basic story, etc, etc, etc. The design document is the most important piece of reference material for pretty much everyone working on a game. Depending on the game, there may also be some important secondary documents as well. A couple of the most common ones are the art bible (which contains all the important concept and reference artwork) and the story bible or script (which contains all the dialogue and text for the game). Sometimes they're included as part of the main design doc but they're often kept separate to prevent the design doc from becoming too long and unmanageable.
Most of the information about Ink that I'll be posting here will be things that would normally go into the design doc, though there'll be some items from the script and art bible as well. But I'm going to be doing a lot more than formal documentation. Since one of my goals here is to teach people about the game design process, I'll be spending plenty of time talking about how I came up with my ideas, why I made certain decisions, the reason different sections are necessary, and the like. So, in the end, this document will read like a mix between a design document, a designer diary, and a teaching lecture.
There's one other thing I should bring up. If I was actually writing this as part of an active game project and had an entire team working with me, I'd be sure to focus on certain parts of the design first. For example, after getting the general concept nailed down, the focus would probably be on creating the basic details about the main characters and areas, so the concept artists could get to work on them, and the basic gameplay system, so the programs could start on the main framework of the game. On the other hand, if I was just trying to create a formal design document for a school project or to turn over to a full team later on, I'd probably "start at the top" and work my way through, one section at a time. But this will be different. Since I'm just doing this for fun, and to teach any interested people a bit about a game design, I'm going to be somewhat lax with the order in which things are written. I may talk about a particular character one day, some random feature of the battle system another, and then spend the next describing the flow of a cut-scene. I may even dip into some things that would often be left to other members of the team (be they artists, programmers, or other designers). The main document itself will still be nice and organized, it just won't necessarily be updated in a very orderly fashion.
Keeping that in mind, welcome to the world of Ink. I hope you enjoy the journey.

And that's all for now. Tune in later this week (either Wednesday or Friday depending on how my schedule goes on Tuesday) when I'll actually start talking about the game itself.


4/17/2009 There's always something

There's a new voters' bonus comic. There's no ROM though, since Shauni is off celebrating her birthday. Happy birthday Shauni!

I did have a subject in mind for today's news post but, as it turned out, I had to stay up last night to mod the forums in order to stop the new wave of spambots before they got too out of hand (like that did on the old phpbb2 forums for a while). Anyway, long story short, I think I solved the problem but now I could use some sleep.

Oh yeah, I just got LittleBig Planet for my PS3. It's something I've been wanting for a while but didn't get around to because of lack of free time and spending money. In the end though, I figured that I, as a game designer, really needed to get it for research if nothing else. Aside from the fact that it won so many awards, it's got the whole full-featured level editor and is the big thing for fan-made levels right now so it'd be a good place for me to show off my skills. Of course, I'll need to find the time to make some good levels (school and my other projects take up plenty of time as is) and I need to play through all of story mode and unlock at least a significant amount of the items... Anyway, expect some level LBP levels from me eventually, but probably not for at least a couple of months. I'll keep you updated.

Well, I really should get to sleep. Remember to check back on Monday when I'll be kicking off the new news post special series, Ink - Creating a Game Design. See you then!


4/15/2009 Art and Cons

I rearranged the Fan Art list on the Extras page. More specifically I picked out my personal favorites and listed them on top. I also added a whole bunch of new fan art from one of the challenges in the King of the Forums contest on the Pebble Version forums. I got a whole bunch of great guest comics from another KotF challenge, but I'm saving them for the next time I really need guest comics (a big vacation, a move, or other event that leaves me with little time to make new PV strips).

I'll be starting to write about the design process for Ink (a game design idea of mine, and the winner of the poll on what you want to see me talking about in PV new posts) on Monday. I've got something else I want to talk about on Friday, plus I need to make a few tweaks to the site and I'm behind on making new strips. For those of you who voted for the topics that didn't win, don't worry, I'm sure you'll enjoy learning about Ink and game design in general. Plus I may be revisiting those idea later on...

I was gonna do a write-up on Anizona (the local anime convention I went to the past weekend) but decided that there just wasn't enough to write about. This is my fourth time at Anizona. I was at the first three and then missed one or two after graduation before this one. And, I've got to say, it's progressively gotten smaller and less organized each year. And when I saw smaller I'm not talking about the attendance (it's grown, and could be bigger than it currently is seeing as they always hit the attendance cap). The first year was awesome. Yoshitaku Amano (the concept artist for many of the Final Fantasy games, among other things) was the guest of honor, there were three video rooms, a large game room with all types of video games and card games, plenty of game tournaments (with prizes), interesting panels, and a pretty big dealer room. Plus all the videos, tournaments, panels, and the like were scheduled out, posted on the web site in advance, and the like. The second year was still pretty good, though the game room shrunk a little and the guests weren't quite as impressive. From the third year on though, things just really started going down hill. For example, compare what I just said about the first year to this year's Anizona. There was only one video room, the game room had only a few systems, no card games, and no formal tournaments, the dealer room was at best half the size of the first year's and had been combined with the Artists' area (making the space for actual dealers even smaller, so the selection was fairly small), and the guests were just people who live around here (so no one really noteworthy). The schedule, guests, and events were posted on the web site late and were a pain in the neck to find (they were buried in the forums) and the single video room didn't even have a schedule. Even the karaoke room (which was added in year three) had gone downhill with less music and no lyrics book. Not that I didn't have some fun this year, I did, but I had no real desire to return after the first day and, if I hadn't run into a friend I hadn't seen for a couple of years, I might not even have stayed as long as I did on the first day. It's pretty disappointing to see what started out as such a great little con turning into one that's decidedly so-so. Maybe all the good organizers left after the second year...

Well, I really need to go work on some new strips.



4/13/2009 One year later...

As always, Friday's bonus comic is up there if you want to vote and take a look. Moving on, the news post poll in now closed. The winner, by a surprising margin (well, surprising for me anyway), is Ink. So, starting soon (either Friday or next Monday) I'll be spending at least one or two news posts a week talking about various parts of the game design plans for Ink, a fantasy RPG game idea of mine. If you have any interest in what goes into a game design (or just want to get a look at at one of my numerous other projects), look forward to it.

Before I move on to today's main topic, a brief comment on today's strip. If you like it, great! If you think I'm overdoing this joke...well, due to a combination of circumstances (Passover, school work, computer issues, the King of the Forums contest, and the PC release of Braid), I didn't get this week's strips done ahead of time like I usually do and got a late start on updating PV today so I had to throw together a new strip as quickly as possible. Now, on to what I was actually planning to talk about.

Japan Retrospective: One Year Later
Today marks one year since I left Japan after completing my eight month teaching contract. So, how do I feel about things now that I've had plenty of time to get back into my old life? First off, I still look back very fondly on my time in Japan. Well, aside from the tiny freezing apartment, but that's not a part of my whole Japan experience that I spend much time thinking about.. It's hard to believe how much I saw and did in those eight months
I'm certainly glad to have all the familiar US amenities again like a decent sized apartment, a full kitchen, central heating and air conditioning, plenty of English media, and a wide variety of food. It's great to see my family more often as well, though there's plenty of things from Japan I miss. For example, shopping her just isn't as much fun here. I miss the hustle and bustle and the fun of searching through all the little stores in the Japanese shopping districts. I miss being able to get around easily on trains (though I really like having a car again as well). I miss the food (though there's some pretty good Japanese restaurants in Phoenix). I miss how clean and safe it was. And I miss having a cool new area to visit and explore every weekend.
That said, I'm glad I left when I did. If I'd renewed my teaching contract for another year I probably wouldn't have been able to see my grandpa once last time before he died and my mom would have likely been overwhelmed if I hadn't been there to help when my other grandparents moved to Colorado. Not to mention that, though teaching was fun, it's not what I want to do as a career. It's good to be actively pursuing game design again.
Back when I left, I said I wasn't sure if I wanted to live in Japan again, or if I'd work for a Japanese game company if given the chance. Now I definitely want to go back to Japan, hopefully soon. Still not entirely sure if I really want to live there again or just have a good vacation every so often. However, if given the chance I would most likely accept a position at a Japanese game company. In fact, I plan to monitor a few sites and include a bunch of Japanese game companies next time I send out a batch of job applications. While I still dislike the typical Japanese work schedule (way too many hours every day), most of my favorite game developers are in Japan and a couple years at one would look great on a resume. A couple more years in Japan would probably also get my Japanese fairly fluent and help me decide for sure just how much time I want to spend there in the future. I still can't imagine myself living there on a more or less permanent basis (I think two or three years would probably do it if I do get another job there) but I also feel like a quick vacation every couple of years wouldn't be enough either... My time in Japan just felt so much more different and exciting than my average days in the US. Though I'm sure that feeling would go away eventually.
So, aside from the whole experience (and all the game and anime figurines and soundtracks), what did I get out of my time in Japan? I have a much better knowledge of the Japanese language and culture than I did before, which can be a lot more useful than you'd think. Just like lots of Japanese people had strange misconceptions about the US, there's plenty of people here who have misconceptions about Japan. And spending a large amount of time in another culture makes you more conscious of different cultures in general. I also have a much greater knowledge of Japanese food (handy at restaurants and when cooking) and I developed a liking for various types of Japanese tea. Not to mention that I still have a habit of doing a little nod / bow when greeting and thanking people...
And let's not discount the experience. Though it was at times scary and uncomfortable, the good parts of my trip far outweighed the bad. I'll always remember the things I learned, places I saw, and people I met. Japan isn't a perfect place by any means, but there's a lot to love about it. And, whether I'm going for two weeks or two years, I hope I don't have to wait too much longer before returning.


4/10/2009 Off to Anizona

There's a new bonus comic for everyone who votes. There's a new ROM too.

I'll be at Anizona this weekend, the Phoenix anime convention. There's still time to vote in the poll for the next big PV news topic if you haven't already (scroll down and read Monday's news post for full details). I'll be leaving it open till the end of the week and the winning option will be announced Monday. Actual coverage of the winning option will probably start on Friday. I've got a special news post planned for Monday and I might do a write-up of Anizona on Wednesday.

Not much else to say. Since Passover started yesterday, I've been having a pretty busy week. I did watch the premiere of Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire on Comedy Central last tonight. It's an epic fantasy spoof. It kinda bounced back and forth between funny and stupid. Funny enough that I'll watch the next episode though.

Have a good weekend!


4/8/2009 Still time to vote in the poll

If you haven't read Monday's news post yet, please scroll down and take a look. There's still time to vote in the poll for what I'm going to be talking about in PV news posts for a while. Will it be a sample game design, game analysis, one of my novels (a page at a time), or something else? You can read the details of each option in the afore mentioned news post and I already linked for the poll. I'm gonna leave it open for the rest of the week, so you've still got some time.

As for me, I'm in a rush to get a whole bunch of stuff finished before Passover starts tonight. And, if that wasn't enough to keep my busy, I'll be an Anizona (the Phoenix anime convention) this weekend. I'm just there for fun, but if any of you are going and want to meet up and say hi send me an e-mail and we'll try to work something out. I'll probably be at the con most of Friday, Saturday night, and Sunday morning. Might be going to the pre-registration events tomorrow night too, but I'm not sure yet.

Right now, it's back to work. See you Friday!


4/6/2009 TIME FOR A POLL - A new PV project

Please vote in this poll. If you want more information about the different options so you can make a more informed choice, read the rest of this news post. Note: the poll only lets you vote once, so make sure you pick the choice you like best.

As usual, you can vote for Pebble Version on Top Web Comics (using the banner or button) to see Friday's bonus comic. TWC seems to have changed their voting confirmation system again, but now it's even easier. There's just one button. You click it and then another button appears in its place. Click that and you're done.

Ok, now for the that poll I'm talking about. Back before GDC I mentioned that I was thinking of some new stuff I could make the main focus of these news posts for a while. Kinda like my Japan Travelogue...except not a travelogue and not about Japan Whatever subject is chosen wouldn't be the only thing I talk about in these news posts, but it'd probably occupy at one or two news posts per week. So, here's the details of the different options.

Ink - Creating a Game Design: About a month back, I came up with a new video game idea. More specifically, it's a RPG called Ink. While it's far too ambitious of a game for me to make as a school project, I can plan out all the design details. The characters, the plot, how the game will play, how the battle system will work, what it will look like, etc. It would give you an idea of all the thought and planning that goes into the game design process. Plus you'd get inside information about a game that I hope to make someday.
Game Analysis - A detailed look at how games are put together: Another game design based option. This time, instead of focusing on an original game design or just writing ordinary game reviews, I'll take the games I'm playing (and some I've played before) and do indepth analysis. I'll focus on exactly how the gameplay is put together, what works, what doesn't, and how things could be improved. It would give you a better understanding of all the things that work together to make a game fun, using games many of you have probably played as examples.
One of My Novels - In page a day format: Still working out the details for this one, but instead of a news post subject change, it would involve a new section of the site where I post a page a day (or something like that) of one of my full length novels. Basically, you'd get to read one of my currently unpublished novels over the course of a year or so. I haven't decided on the exact format for this yet, or which novel I'd choose (could be an comedy based novel, a very serious novel, or one that's somewhere in between).
Writing Stories - Tips, advice, and general commentary on story writing: In this option, instead of sharing my own writing, I'll talk about the story writing process itself. Topics would include how to put a story together, creating interesting characters, good writing techniques, tips for getting past writing block, how to structure a story for different mediums (novels, fanfics, short stories, web comics, etc). Pay attention and it could help improve your writing. Aand not just story writing, many tips can apply to essays, research papers, and the like.
Josiah on Food - Comments on Restaurants, Recipes, and Ingredients: While I'm not as knowledgable about food as I about writing or game design, cooking and trying different types of food has been a hobby of mine for the past few years. In this option I'd discuss the food at my favorite restaurant, talk about all the (often unusual) stuff I cook, post favorite recipes, talk about my favorite ingredients, and the like. It could teach you about lots of foreign foods you may have never tried before and give you some good ideas for your own cooking.

So, those are your options. Once again, THE POLL IS HERE. It's set up so you can only vote once, so make sure you pick the option you really want. After you vote, there's also an option to send me comments if you want. I only just get the poll program installed and set up on the site last night so if you run into any problems, e-mail me and let me know. One thing I have noticed is that it'll sometimes put a strange error message on the top of the page right after you vote, but you can go ahead and ignore that (your vote still gets recorded properly).

And that's it for now. I'm already running late cause it took me so long to get the poll program working right. See you Wednesday!


4/3/2009 GDC 2009

It's a new month and there's a new bonus comic so please vote for Pebble Version using the Top Web Comics button or banner! No ROM today, unfortunately. And now, it's finally time for that GDC write-up.

For those of you who aren't familiar with GDC (which is probably most of you), it's the Game Developers Conference and it's held every spring in California (although there's a couple of potential locations in CA). There's some spin off conferences such as GDC Austin and GDC China, but this is the main one. GDC is a conference for game industry professionals and is divided into several main parts. There's the conference itself, which consists of lots of lectures, speeches, presentations, and roundtables by all sorts of big names in the game industry (including some real superstars such as Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, and Peter Molyneux). Lots of really interesting stuff. Unfortunately, getting into all those sessions requires one of the better passes, all of which are quite expensive (the cheapest one that will start to get you into a decent amount of stuff is over $800). There's also the summits, which are specialized mini conferences on subjects like casual games and serious games. They also require the more expensive passes to get in. Unsurprisingly, even though this was my third time at GDC, I've never actually gotten a pass good enough to get into the main conference or summits. I really don't want to spend that kind of money on a conference pass until I've got a good job (and even then, it is a lot of money...).
So what could I get in? The expo floor and the career fair mostly. The expo can be fairly interesting if you're involved in game design, though there's only a couple things there which would interest your average game player. The vast majority of booths are dedicated to hardware and software that's used for making games. Game engines, asset management software, modeling and animation programs, graphics cards, etc, etc, etc. Occasionally some one will be showing off a new game or a fancy controller or something like that, but it's all very business focused. I did snap a few pictures, but I decided it wasn't really worth posting them here. GDC isn't anywhere near as flashy as E3 or the Tokyo Game Show. Meanwhile, the career fair is a place where companies that are looking to hire set up booths, accept resumes, and the like. Good if you're a game student like me, probably not all that interesting otherwise.
Anyway, I got into San Francisco Wednesday morning, when is when the main conference and expo start (though the summits begin earlier in the week). I decided to save myself some time and effort and just sign up for the school trip this year, so they handled the plane and hotel reservations. We ended up staying at The Good Hotel (yes, that's the actual name of the hotel), which was only a 10-15 minute walk from the convention hall, so it was fairly convenient. I spent most of Tuesday going around and talking to people in the career fair. I even had a brief interview with Konami Japan (which I'd arranged for before hand), which was exciting since they're one of three favorite game companies. I didn't make it to the second round of interviews but I wasn't really expecting to get the job. I mean, it's Konami Japan. With a company that popular (not to mention one that doesn't interview American candidates very often) there was bound to be plenty of applicants with more work experience and better Japanese than me. Still, I did make it past their resume screening and got a first interview, so I was pretty happy about that. And I'm gonna try and keep in contact with the woman who interviewed me. She said I should keep an eye on their Japanese site and apply again next time there's an opening so I'm not giving up yet. While I don't like your typical Japanese work schedules (which I wrote about in my Japan Travelogue), it'd be worth it to spend a couple years working at one of my favorite studios.
Wednesday night was the Independent Game Developers Awards and the Game Developers Choice Awards. They're game award shows where all the nominations and voting is done by game industry professionals. I was a bit disappointed when some of my favorite games didn't win, but it was still a fun night. There were lots of hilarious videos by Mega64 and Tim Schaffer (creator of Monkey Island, Psychonauts, and many other extremely funny games) hosted the GDCA. Hideo Kojima got a life time achievement award and give a little speech too. I was hoping to get his autograph (and maybe ask him for a job, just for the heck of it), since a lot of the winners often hang out for a while after the show, but his attendants hurried him out after the show.
I spent Thursday morning hitting up the last few places in the career fair before finally heading over to check out the Expo. I also tried out Buzz! for the PS3 (Sony was demoing it at their career fair booth). It never looked all that interesting when I saw it on store shelves, but it turned out to be a lot of fun to play. If you're not familiar, it's a quiz show game, complete with special game buzzer style controllers. You can play with up to four people and it's really awesome as group game. I entered a tournament to win a a copy, but didn't quite pull it off (tied for second). I might have to pick it up some time anyway though, it seems like the type of thing I could get my whole family playing...
Friday was the last day and the most random for me. When all you can go to is the career fair and expo, it only really takes a day or two (depending how thorough you are) to finish up at GDC. So I spent the last day collecting free swag (lots of pens and shirts mostly, but there was some more fun stuff too) and trying to win something in the various raffles (no luck, unfortunately).
And that was my trip. Next week I'm going to start sending follow-up letters to the people I talked to. Never know, something might lead to a job or an internship. Though, if it doesn't, I don't mind too much since I'd kinda like to finish my master's degree.

And that's it for now. I've got some big stuff to talk about Monday so I'll see you then!


4/1/2009 Game time

I thought about doing something special for April Fools Day this year but, with some homework to catch up on, just didn't have time to get it together. I didn't have time to finish the write-up of my GDC trip either, but I'll make sure it's ready for Friday's update. And next week? Well, I've got some stuff planned for next week...

On my way to class the other day, I drove all the way to school before realizing that my flash drive (which contained files I needed for class) had never got put back in my backpack after GDC, so I had to drive all the way back to my place to get it and, as a result, was late for class. Fortunately, class started late anyway due to computer problems so it wasn't a big deal. However, it got me thinking about how convenient things would be if the world operated on video game time. More specifically, the system of time used in most RPGs and adventure games (Pokémon for one) where the passage of time is relative to the actions of the main characters. Namely, time never really advances until the main character goes where he's supposed to go. Until then, he can do whatever he wants without having to worry about missing anything important. House on fire? Don't worry, it won't burn down until you go in an save whoever is inside. Need to chase an escaping villian? No worries, he'll stop and wait around until you catch up. Got a big meeting in the afternoon? Not a problem, you've got plenty of time to prepare, go shopping, explore the rest of the town, play a few dozen rounds of everyone's favorite sport or card game, and even get a good night's sleep (or ten) and the meeting still won't start until you get there. Even better, no one will say you're late cause you'll always arrive just when you need to. Of course, that type of arrangement could really suck if you aren't the main character, and there's always the possibility that you might get "stuck" cause you can't find the next event you need to trigger in order to progress in your life. For example, had I not noticed that my flash drive was missing and just gone to my class room, class wouldn't have started because I'd need the drive and, until I figured that out, I'd be stuck wondering around aimlessly trying to figure out what I'd missed.

Well, later! Remember, don't take anything you read today (especially on the internet) too seriously.


3/20/2009 Catch-up time

I was gonna write all about my GDC trip today, but catching up on things has taken a bit longer than I thought it would and, as a result, I'm behind on making PV strips for this week. So the GDC write-up will have to wait till later this week. Sorry.


3/27/2009 Running around and around...

Actually it's been more walking than running, but anyway... There's a new bonus comic up for everyone that votes and there's a new ROM too.

Turns out my hotel in CA has free wireless internet. Kinda slow though... Not that I've had a ton of time to spend on the internet. Anyway, today's the last day of GDC and I'll be heading back to AZ tonight. It'll probably take me a good chunk of the weekend to catch up on things but after that I should have a lot more free time to devote to various non-school projects (and, of course, video games). For now though, I should get going. I'll talk about the conference next week.

See you Monday!


3/25/2009 Off to GDC

By the time you read this, I should be at the Game Developers Conference (or at least on my way there). It's gonna be a busy trip and I'm not sure what kind of internet access I'm going to have so I'll probably be a bit slow responding to e-mail for the rest of the week. I'll do my best to get Friday's update up more or less on time (emphasis on more or less) but there's a slight chance I'll have to skip it if the internet situation is really bad.

I'll try and post a write up and a few pictures next week. Things should really calm down for me once I'm back, though I've got plenty of ways to fill the time. Anyway, I've gotta get back to work. See you Friday, I hope.


3/23/2009 Interesting week

As previously mentioned, I'll be at the Game Developers Conference Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday's update should be up as usual but Friday's might be a bit early, a bit late, or skipped entirely depending on my schedule and what my internet access is like. Friday's bonus comic will still be up regardless (though maybe a bit late).

Well, I gotta get back to work. I've got three chapters to read, two papers, to write, and two discussion to participate in before my trip (in addition to my usual classes) so I've got no lack of things to do.



3/20/2009 More ideas

There's a new bonus comic so go ahead and vote if you're interested (just click the Top Web Comics banner or button and follow the instructions to confirm your vote). There's a new ROM too.

I've been keeping busy getting ready for GDC and running this year's King of the Forums contest on the Pebble Version forums. It's the biggest event of the year on the forums and the amount of posting goes seriously up. Basically, it's a month long contest to see who can earn the most points through a combination of posting and completing various bonus challenges. Lots of fun, but lots of work for me since I'm the one who has to keep track of everyone's scores.

Despite all that, I took some time off yesterday to make curry bread. My mom has been wanting me to show her how to make it for ages and she's going back to CO today so this was our last chance for awhile. Curry bread (or kareepan) BTW, is a Japanese bread that's filled with Japanese curry, covered in panko (flaky Japanese bread crumbs) and fried. It's really good, though somewhat complicated to make on your own. Yesterday's batch turned out really well, especially the dough (probably a combination of the white whole wheat flower my mom got me and the new type of butter I tried). I'll have to make it more often. Sure it's not the easiest thing to make, but it's not nearly as complicated as some of the things I've cooked (good baguettes in particular are a ton of work to make).

Anyway, back to the title of this post... I thought of a couple more possible ideas I might like to try out after GDC. But I'm still thinking about it so I don't want to say any more yet. Hmm... Maybe I'll end up trying a couple of the ideas or maybe I'll put up a poll and see which one you guys would rather see. But yeah, I'll post more details after GDC. For now, I've got other things I need to focus on.

Have a good weekend!


3/18/2009 I've got an idea...

You know, now that the literature review for my thesis and my apartment switch are done, I kinda figured things would calm down...except I totally forgot that I've got to get ahead on my homework in preparation for GDC (the Game Developers Conference) next week. I could always do it in the evenings after the conference...but that's assuming both that I don't have anything else to do and that my hotel has a decent internet connection. So yeah, I gotta get ahead on things before then so it looks like I've got another week and a half before thing really calm down.

But anyway, I've got this game idea I've been working on a bit. Just planning, so far. Which is about all I can do at this point. It's way too complex for me to make myself, or as a school group project either. I thinking that, once I get back from GDC, I might start writing up some of the design plans for it here. Kinda give you guys an idea of the planning that goes into a game design. Or maybe I'll do something with one of my novels instead... Well, anyway, I'll start something here after shortly after GDC. Keep an eye out for details.


3/16/2009 Minor indeed

Don't forget to vote and see Friday's bonus comic. Take a look at the donation gauge too, that's a good start if anyone wants to try for some of that bonus content this month...

With my mom's help, the move went really smoothly and we got everything done in one day. Only thing I still need to do is unpack my figurines Looking forward to getting in some serious DDR playing this week. Those three weeks of nearly straight homework didn't leave me with a lot of time to exercise and I think I ended up gaining a few extra pounds. <.< Oh well, between DDR and the swimming pool (which should be nice now that the weather is warming back up) I should be able to get back to normal soon. Now, as long as the post office forwards my mail correctly (which they seemed to be having some issues with over the weekend) I should be all set.

So what's next? School starts again tomorrow (technically today, but my classes were canceled so I get an extra day off) and then next week I'm heading off to the Game Developers Conference for a few days. After that, back to school as usual (unless I get a good job offer while I'm there). Fortunately, now that my thesis literature review is finished I should have a lot more free time even with my normal school work.

Well, I'll see you Wednesday. Later!


3/13/2009 A minor move

Poor Billy. But, if his magikarp ever evolves Gyrados I'm sure he'll be back to ace the contests. Anyway, there's a new bonus comic for everyone who votes and a new ROM.

So, Watchmen... First off, I should probably start by saying that I never read the original comic that the movie is based on (generally not a big fan of US comics, though I do like some of the super heroes themselves), so I went into the movie knowing very little about the actual plot. I knew it was based on a very highly regarded set of comics and I'd seen some trailers, that was it. Saying much about the plot would spoil too much for others like me who haven't seen it yet, so I'm not going to go into details. Overall though, it was good. Not sure if I'm gonna go buy the DVD in a few months, but I'm glad I saw it. It's a very interesting take on super heroes in general and certainly gets you thinking at times. Personally I would have rather seen a PG-13 version of it (never been a big fan of gratuitious violence and nudity) and a couple of the song selections didn't seem to fit their scenes but, for the most part, the movie was really well done. It's in no way your typical super hero movie or your typical action movie and it hits some rather unpleasant topics, but the characters and well done and the whole thing is very interesting.

In other news, I'm gonna be spending part of today and tomorrow moving into a new apartment...which is directly below my current apartment. Why the switch? Well, the people below me were going to move out and, with a first floor apartment, I can play DDR and practice karate whenever I want without having to worry about bothering the people below. And moving to the apartment right below me really shouldn't be too much trouble. Assuming that my cable connection gets transferred without incident, updates shouldn't be effected.

See you Monday!


3/11/2009 Little time

Once again, I'm going to have to keep this short. Got my laptop running on battery power right now and I should probably get some sleep soon anyway. I'm gonna go see Watchmen later so I'll write something about that for Friday.

See you then!


3/9/2009 Ready, set, relax!

Don't forget to vote and see Friday's bonus comic. And you can check out the new ROM while you're at it.

Spring break has started and I'm already feeling relaxed. My plans for today, making hamantaschen (a type of cookie) for Purim. Should be fun, it's been a while since I had time to cook anything fancy. Unfortunately, looks like I have one more item to add to my to-do list for this week. Namely, catch up on Pebble Version strips, which I've gotten a bit behind on thanks to a combination of homework and having to capture some new sprites for future comics. So I'm gonna keep things short today. I'll figure out something interesting to write about later this week.



3/6/2009 Finally!

The new bonus comic is up. No ROM today though due to rather strange circumstances. Shauni is hoping to have it ready for Monday instead.

As for me, it's my last big homework day before spring break. Just need to write a few more pages in my thesis lit review and proof read the entire thing. I'm sure looking forward to taking some time off. Not that spring break is gonna be all fun and games. I've got some other things to work on that I've been putting off because of all the school work and then in a week I'm moving into the apartment downstairs (mainly so I can play DDR whenever I want). But it'll still be great to have a break (and to finally have that literature review finished).

Guess I have time to write a little more today. Hmm... I've been re-watching Beck lately (when I've had time). If you're not familiar, it's an anime about an indie rock band. Great show, absolutely awesome soundtrack. This is actually my third time watching it. I first saw it at the UAT anime club back when I was getting my bachelor's. We were watching a fansub then (that was way before it got licensed) and I downloaded and re-watched it on my own a bit later. Anyway, it finally got a US release so I picked up an official copy a while back. I was planning to just re-watch it in Japanese again but decided I might as well give the English dub a chance for an episode or two, not that I was expecting much. Beck was one of those things that seemed practically impossible to dub well. Aside from the fact that it contains a mixture of English and Japanese speakers, there's all the original music sung by the main characters' voice actors. But I gotta admit, the English dub surprised me so I decided to watch the whole series that way. I'm still a bit partial to the Japanese, but the English is really good. The characters sound pretty close to how they did in Japanese, the mix language issue was handled fairly well (technically, it was skillfully avoided), and the re-recorded songs sound really really good. Not only did the English voice actors do a good job with the actual singing, but the lyrics themselves made it through mostly intact (though with the English smoothed out a bit). Congrats to Funimation for doing such a good job with such a hard to dub series.

Have a great weekend guys!


3/4/2009 Almost done

Another busy day, another rather pathetic news post. Sigh... Only a few more days till spring break...


3/2/2009 Just my luck...

It's a new month so please vote so Pebble Version can get off to a strong start (and so you can see Friday's bonus comic). In other site news, I like how the effects turned out in today's strip. Not sure why I never thought of making fire translucent before, but I think it's a nice improvement. The solar beam and flash came out pretty well too.

For various reasons, I've been getting to sleep late quite a lot lately and it's been bothering me. In fact, Sunday morning I was thinking that at least there should be nothing preventing me from getting plenty of sleep that night and Monday night. So I was all ready to get this update set up and then go to bed when my computer suddenly fell victim to a fairly nasty glitch that took me nearly three hours to figure out and fix.  <_<  Yeah, doesn't that just figure...


2/27/2009 Still going...

There's a new bonus comic so please vote and take a look! New ROM too.

In other news, I've still got huge amounts of homework to do. Fortunately, only one for week until spring break and then I can relax a little. One more week...


2/25/2009 Drowning in homework

I'm still really busy so I can't say much right now. There's the thesis...but I actually haven't done any work on it yet this week cause I've got lots of homework for my other classes to do. So I'm basically working all day to get my other homework done early so that I'll have time to spend Thursday and Friday doing nothing but working my thesis. Next week will likely be more of the same. Yay...


2/23/2009 Grr...

orry for the late update. I'm having internet issues at my apartment. You can always vote and see Friday's bonus comic.

I've only good two more weeks left to finish the literature review for my thesis so I'm gonna be pretty busy until it's done. So don't expect a lot of big news posts for a little while.

I'll see you Wednesday.


2/20/2009 The Phoenix Renaissance Festival

As usual, there's a new bonus comic so please vote and take a look. There's a new ROM too.

So, it's finally time for that write-up about the Phoenix Renaissance Festival. Despite all the time I spent in Phoenix when getting my bachelor's, I only went once back then (right before I graduated) so this was only my second time.
Anyway, the festival here is pretty impressive. It runs every weekend for two whole months (February and March) and is the size of small theme park. It's a pretty popular event and all the workers (and some of the visitors) wear costumes. No matter where in the festival village you are, there's plenty to see with twelve event stages and plenty of people on the street as well.
I spent a good part of the day just walking a big circle around the village, looking in the stores, and stopping at any interesting looking shows. And there are a ton of stores. Unsurprisingly, it's mostly medieval type things (art, instruments, wood, glass, leather, clothing, etc, etc, etc) but there's a huge variety and quite a lot of the stuff is handmade. Lots of fun to browse. I got a neat old fashioned book (blank), which actually gave me a cool idea that I might talk about more another day.
When I wasn't looking through the shops (and wishing I had more spending money), I checked out quite a lot of shows. The Mediaeval Baebes (careful, that movie file is kinda large), a British band that plays a somewhat rocky version of medieval style music, were there and they were pretty good. I liked it enough that I went to see them a second time later in the day. But that was only one show out of twenty some. There were plenty of comedians and some other music acts but I also spent some time watching fire whips, sword swallowing, juggling, glass blowing, and tight rope walking, to name a few. There's also a section with a recreation of a traditional peasant dwelling and related crafts. If you get tired of all that, there's always a game of chess or some good natured torture to pass the time.
I snacked along the way. Not sure how authentic soup in bread bowls and giant turkey legs are, but they're good. There were awesome pickles too. But anyway, after catching one last show (belly dancing), I finally made it to the main event, the joust. The joust is actually a series of three shows throughout the day, presided over by the king. It may be a show, but it's real jousting by guys with real jousting lances in real platemail armor. Some of it is scripted, but it's still really cool to watch. And, to go along with current trends, the joust this year contained three knights and a pirate. Little odd, but whatever. I ended up watching two of the three jousts and a few other things, like a falconry show, before the end of the day. I even ran into Moses on the way out (completely wrong time period, but nice costume).
The whole thing was a lot of fun and, while one day gave me a good amount of time to look around, I wouldn't mind going back against before the festival ends so I can catch some of the shows I missed. If you're in the Phoenix or Tuscon area I highly recommend it.


2/18/2009 Games and violence

The renaissance festival was fun. I'll have the write-up ready for Friday. In the meantime, here's some things I wrote about the effects of game violence in an online class discussion.

If you look back over the last 70 years or so, you'll notice a trend. Every decade or two, the population blames all the problems with the day's youth on some form of popular media. Back in the day, swing music was the worst thing to ever be created, then rock and roll, comic books, etc. Now it's video games. As time has passed and more and more perfectly ordinary kids have grown up with these supposedly horrible forms of media, the hysteria has died down and they're considered ordinary forms of entertainment, no better or worse than anything else. Given time, the same thing will happen to video games as well.
The thing is, people like to have a scape goat so they don't have to take the blame for things. If I didn't turn it my report on time, it's because my computer was having problems (nevermind the fact that I could gone and used a different one). If my kids do something I didn't want them to, it's certainly not the fault of my parenting, or even the fault of my child. It's that horrible <insert popular media type> that caused him to do it. This type of blame shifting is a disturbing trend in society.
While the anti game violence crowd makes very passionate arguments, I've seen very few that have been backed up with any sort of actual evidence. And, when evidence is used, it's often based on studies whose methods are questionable at best. In a very recent study (which I unfortunately no longer have the link for), a respected researcher released findings detailing how current scientific methods to measure "aggression" are highly flawed, rendering past media violence studies useless. And, even if the method is sound, other studies have obtained similar results using the same so called aggression measurements from kids watching TV, playing sports, and doing other active and/or competitive real life (not electronic) activities. Not to mention that no one has been able to tie this supposed aggression into actual real world violence.
Looking at the facts, the rate of violent crime in the US has actually been lower in recent years than it was before the big video game boom. If violent games are as harmful as they claim, violence should have increased significantly. And Japan, in which violent content in games, comics, and TV is regulated far less strictly than in the US, has some of the lowest violent crime rates in the entire world.
Continuing on, many of the most violent crimes in recent American history can't actually be tied to video games, though that doesn't stop some people from trying. In that Virginia Tech shooting a couple years back, for example, video games were blamed almost immediately and that "fact" was trumpeted throughout the media. But, when it was later revealed that the shooter didn't actually play games, hardly anyone moved to retract their earlier accusations.
Any child of more than a few years old, without series mental problems, is smart enough to tell the difference between fiction and reality. They know that, when someone dies in a game, it's different than someone dieing in the real world. If their mind is so messed up that they can't even make that distinction, they'd snap eventually with or without video games.
Yes some people who have committed violent crimes have played video games, but plenty haven't. Lots of people who committed violent crimes also watched TV, drank Coke, and used Microsoft Windows, but no one blames any of those things.
Besides, games contain a lot more than violence. Game players commonly make their characters falls tens or even hundreds of feet through the air, scale crumbling cliff faces, and create massive car wrecks. If games teach violence shouldn't they teach those things as well? Yet you don't hear anyone blaming games for a non-existant rise in car wrecks or daredevil stunts.
All that said, it stands to reason that young kids probably shouldn't play some games, similar to how they probably shouldn't watch some movies. That's why games have a rating system which is, according to recent studies, more strictly enforced than the sale of R rated movies. Even the rating codes themselves are more strict than those of the movie industry. If parents don't want their children playing violent games, it's a fairly easy practice to enforce. All it takes is a few minutes to learn about games ratings and a tiny bit of attention paid to what games they buy and allow their kids to play. They could even take it a step further and explain to the kids why they shouldn't play certain games. Parents could play games with their children as well. Video games can be as much of a fun family activity as Monopoly or Scrabble.
Laws and ratings can help keep kids from purchasing violent media, beer, pornography, and whatever else they're not supposed to have. But once it's in the house, the burden falls on the parents. That's how the system is supposed to work. There's no age at which every kid magically matures. Some children are ready for certain types of material earlier or later than others. And no one should know better than parents. They're the ones raising their kids, and they're the ones who should know what their kids can and can't handle.
To summarize, the crusade against game violence will eventually fade away like the similar crusades before it, leaving everyone to wonder what all the fuss was about. Instead of blaming every little problem on games, parents need to step in, pay attention to what their kids are playing, and take responsibility for a change.


2/16/2009 Fun downloads

Don't forget to vote and check out Friday's bonus comic!

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before, but I'm not a big fan of downloadable games. Not that there's anything wrong with the games themselves, I just prefer having a real disc instead of a downloadable copy. Yeah discs take up space and require a trip to the store (or waiting for a package to arrive in the mail), but I can take discs to other people's houses and they look nice all lined up on a shelf. But, most importantly, with a disc I always have the disc. With a downloable game, if my console breaks or gets stolen, there goes all my downloadable games. Though, the PS3 allows you to download most purchased content onto multiple consoles if you use the same user account. The Wii however, ties everything to the system itself. So if anything happens to my Wii, I'm in trouble.
But that's not to say I don't have any downloaded games. While I always prefer having the actual disc or cartridge, some games are only released as downloadables so I can't get a disc. And for some others (like some of the things that you can get on the Wii Virtual Console), the original disc/cartridge can be really expensive and/or hard to find. And, while I prefer discs to downloads, paying $5 for a download instead of $50 for the disc leaves me with plenty of money to buy other stuff.
So what downloadable games do I have? Well, I've got a pretty decent amount of virtual console games on the Wii (as previously mentioned, they were all purchased to save me the expense and effort of getting the original cartridges). I've also got a couple of Wii Ware titles. Namely, Pokémon Ranch (which I've talked about here before) and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles My Life as King, which I actually haven't gotten around to playing yet (my game backlog has gotten annoyingly large lately).
But what I actually wanted to talk about was my downloaded PS3 games. I have Mega Man 9, which I'm pretty sure I reviewed here a while back, and Suikoden (a rather rare PS1 RPG), but that was it until last week when I suddenly decided to try out a couple more PS3 downloads.

I started out with Echochrome since I wanted something I could play in really short spurts (due to my recent lack of free time). Echochrome is a puzzle game that can best be described as M.C. Escher meet Hackox (the mini game from Xenosaga 3). Basically you got a collection of 3D platforms and a little figure who wants around them. You can't directly control him, just make him start and stop walking, but your goal is to guide him around the level to collect all the echoes. Your key power? Rotating the camera. That's it. The game is all about perspective. If it looks like two platforms join up, they do, even if they're actually nowhere near each other. If you can't see a hole or a gap in the path, it's not there. It's definitely a unique and it has a rather striking minimalist art style and haunting music. There's "only" fifty some levels, but it's one of the most interesting puzzle games in ages.

I also picked up Flower on a whim and it's quickly become one of my favorite PS3 games. Admittedly, it's probably not for every. You enter the dreams of flowers, tilting the controller to effect the wind and guide a flower petal through the air. You goal is to cause other flowers to bloom, increasing your collection of petals (which in turn allows you to move faster) and opening up new paths. There's only a few levels, but they're all large and beautiful and each has a unique style. You could blow (pun intended) through the game in an hour or two if your rush it but then you'd be missing the point. To really enjoy Flower you need to taken it slow and explore the levels, taking in the scenery and searching for the hidden green flowers. That can easily up your play time to 4-6 hours (which isn't too bad for a $10 game). But Flower is a very memorable game and surprisingly relaxing (unless your trying to get the Pure trophy, which is a bit of a pain). The game play, graphics, and music all come together into an incredible experience. It's the type of thing I can see myself going back and replaying every month of two when I want to calm down and relax. I highly recommend it for anyone who doesn't mind the thought of a slow paced game that's light on action and story but high on atmosphere.

That's all for now. I'm heading to the Phoenix Renaissance Festival tomorrow and I'll have a write up (complete with pictures) of it sometime this week so keep an eye out for it.


2/13/2008 Distracted by a flower

There's a new bonus comic so please vote and check it out. No ROM today, but Shauni is planning two next week to make up for it.

Well, I had a whole big thing I was planning to write for today but I got distracted by Flower (a downloadable PS3 game) and, before I knew it, it was too late to type up the post I'd originally planned. But, I was interviewed recently by the guys at Comedy Team, a web comic site you might have spotted before on the Link Exchange, so it's not like I'm leaving you with nothing to read today. And that's not all. I've got three (yes, three) big news posts planned next week, one of which is going to be travelogue style, complete with a bunch of pictures (at least assuming that I don't get rained out).

Have a good weekend!


2/11/2009 Late night

I got back late from Tuesday night club again and I've got an early class so I've got to sleep. More interesting news post coming Friday.


2/9/2009 Ready, set, work!

Don't forget that you can see today's bonus comic by voting for Pebble Version with the Top Web Comics banner or button. And you can find out all about donating (and all the cool bonus content it gets you) by reading the previous news post).

I can't really think of much to write about at the moment. Yesterday was fun (went to a small concert) but from now on I'm pretty much going to be buried in homework for the next month or so (though I've got a couple of fun outings planned so I'm gonna try to leave my weekends somewhat open). I'm not really looking forward to spending most of my free time writing papers, but things should calm down a bit in mid-March, even though I am going to the Game Developers Conference not too long after that. I might be going to the newly revived E3 as well (it never totally went away, but the last couple years were vastly scaled down and pretty dull from all accounts), but nothing's definite yet and that wouldn't be till summer anyway.

Well, back to work. See you Wednesday!


2/6/2009 Just a reminder

As usual, there's a new bonus comic up for everyone who votes so check it out and help Pebble Version get off to a strong start this month.

It's been a really long time since I talked about donating. It's not something I like to do much, but I do need to bring it up every once in a while. Donating is a simple process which involves using the a the Paypal button below this news post (or the other one on the left above the nav bar) to give a few dollars to help support Pebble Version (Paypal allows you to donate using a credit card or bank account). If you don't want to use Paypal, there are other options too (see the Donation Info section below for more details).
So why donate? For starters, the money helps keep Pebble Version going by paying for things like hosting and domain name fees. Having a web site, especially a fairly popular one, isn't free. At least not unless you want it to be plastered with ads. And donating gets you much more than the satisfaction of helping keep PV running. See the donation gauge at the bottom of this post? There's two sets of bonuses on it. The main gauge resets every month. For each goal that's reached during that month, you guys all get a bunch of cool bonus content.
$25 gets commentary added to more strips in the archives and a chapter of ROM the Novel (which you can find on the Extras page).
$50 gets those things plus five new Pebble Version strips a week (instead of the usual three) for an entire month.
$75 also throws in a new Zelda page (another something you can find on the Extras page).
$100 gets you all that plus a secret mystery bonus.
And that's just the monthly bonuses. Every time PV gets a total of $50 in donations (regardless of how long it takes) you guys get a new part of Josiah's Sprite Comic Guide (also on the Extras page), which coveres everything you need to know to make your own sprite comic.
Sometimes Shauni will throw in some ROM related bonus content as well, so there's plenty of cool stuff to be had.

And that's all for now. I've got lots and lots of school work to do so I need to get back to it. Have a good weekend!


2/4/2009 Bed time

It's late, I need to get some sleep, and I have an early class today. Enough said.

See you Friday.


2/2/2009 Why?

It's nearly time for the contests to begin! Will Brendan and May triumph again, or have Xain and Cali finally found their niche? You'll find out soon enough...

I recently found out that there's a law in the US (or maybe just in Arizona) that prisoners have to be given cable TV. What the heck is up with that? Why should use law abiding citizens have to pay for cable TV ourselves while the government foots the bill for prisoners? Not that I mind paying for cable TV. I mean, if I want to watch more than local TV stations, then I pay for it, no big deal. But why should I pay for anyone else's cable, especially prisoners (its tax dollars that pay for things like that)? It's not like there's a right to cable TV (or any TV for that matter) in the constitution. The whole thing annoys me...

And now for a completely different question that I've been wondering about for quite some time. As everyone probably knows, your average toaster can be set anywhere from low to high (with a whole bunch of spots inbetween the two). Thing is, on every toaster I've ever used, the medium setting is enough (sometimes more than enough) to toast a bagel that's been frozen solid. Frozen bread can be toasted at a setting a little bit above low and unfrozen bread will be cinderized at anything above low. So the questions is, why do the settings above medium even exist? If they can turn even a thick frozen bagel into charcoal, what are you supposed to use them for? Melting metal, maybe?

Well, enough random thoughts. I've got things to work. See you Wednesday!


1/30/2009 A little boring

Like every Friday, there's a new bonus comic for everyone who votes (use the Top Web Comics button or banner then follow the instructions to confirm your vote). There's a new ROM too.

School is going fine, but I can't say I'm enjoying it as much as I did when I was getting my Bachelor's. I'm still learning a lot, and some of my classes have been interesting. So what's different? Well, most of my favorite teachers don't teach grad classes, for one thing. There's some great teachers in the grad program too though, so it's not too bad. But, since half the credits I need are rather boring core classes, I don't get to spend as much time in classes that actually interest me. Classes aside, most of my friends from before graduated either around the same time as I did or while I was in Japan and the ones who are still around have jobs and other things going on aside from school so I don't get to see them too often. I'm starting to meet some new people, but it takes time to get to know them and since grad classes are all in the evening (and involve a whole lot more time sitting in front of the computer than in class) I'm not on campus anywhere near as much as I used to be or a particularly good times to hang out. Not to mention that, with the new dorms and cafeteria, the main building isn't quite as much of a hang out spot as it used to be. Gotta say that I miss constant Smash Brothers game that always used to be going on in the cafe before they changed it into a full cafeteria. It was always a good way to kill time between classes and chat with other students.
Don't get me wrong, things aren't bad. Some classes are really good and some of my old friends are still here, even if I don't get to see them as much as I used too. Besides, it took me a couple semesters to really start making good friends last time and I should have more chances to meet new people on the school GDC trip in March and over the summer semester (when I plan to start auditing more undergrad classes since my schedule should be lighter). But I do miss "the good old days" when I loved nearly all my classes and my friends and I used to play Smash and Munchkin, go out to eat, and discuss all the latest game news.


1/28/2009 Getting Lost

The new season of Lost started last week and the next episode is tonight. I'm really looking forward to it. I didn't start watching Lost till about two years back. Got caught up on the DVDs just in time for the fourth season last year. So what's so great about Lost? For starters there's great character development. The overall story is really interesting too. Admittedly, it's on of those ones where it seems impossible to wrap up everything in a satisfactory manner once the series ends (Lost has one more season planned after this one). But Metal Gear Solid was the same way and MGS4 did an excellent job of finishing up the story so I'm hopefully optimistic. Guess I'll find out next year, but for now I'll just enjoy the current season.


1/26/2009 Just another day

The way I see it, I've got this one last week before things get really busy. Come February, I have to start writing my thesis. The intro shouldn't be too bad, but I need to have the literature review done by March 7 and that's going to be the longest part (both in terms of page count and the amount of research that needs to be done). My project management class should be starting to really kick into gear next week as well. February had some non-school stuff going on as well, which I'll talk about more later on. And, though the worst of the Thesis work will be finished once the lit review is done, I've got a few big things coming up in March as well. So anyway, I was thinking I wouldn't have a whole lot to do this week. But then some stuff came up that, while not urgent, needed to be taken care of over the next month or so. And, since this is my last week before things start to get busy, it only makes sense that I try to get them all done now. And, suddenly, this week isn't so empty anymore.

And suddenly...I can't think of anything else to talk about. I gotta get up early for class so I really should get going. Later!


1/23/2009 It's working!

There's a new voters' bonus comic up and a new ROM. In other site news, my e-mail is working again. Turns out my host was switching things over to a new server. The whole transfer went pretty smoothly, though there were a few bumps here and there (like the e-mail problems). Looks like everything is good now though. The new server has some nice new features too, though probably nothing that you guys will actually notice, just things for me to use in the background.

And, well, I don't really have anything else to say right now. I have a paper to write and I need to go to the store and find a cable I can use to record from my electric piano to my computer so I can start on the sound effects and music for my game project so I'm gonna end things here. Have a great weekend!


1/21/2009 Back to school, yet again

Still working on the e-mail problem (see the previous news post).

Actually school started on Thursday but, due to a combination of my schedule and the holiday, I didn't actually have any classes on campus until yesterday. I did have some reading and online stuff to do though. Anyway, this semester should be an ineresting one. I've got:
Project Management: A pretty boring subject for me. Hard to saw how much work it's gonna be, could be quite a lot, or not too much at all. I probably won't know for another couple weeks.
Game Aesthetics: It could be fun and it looks like most of the work will be done in class.
Ethics in Technology: Another required class. There's a whole lot of papers to write, though most of them are pretty short. Parts of it might be interesting though.
Thesis I: It's going to be a ton of work, at least for the first half of the semester, during which I have to a very large portion of my thesis. After I get the lit review done though, it shouldn't be too bad.
Intermediate Japanese II: Technically Japanese 5. I'm auditing it to keep in practice but, unlike Intermediate Japanese I, it's covering a section of the textbook that I never got around to reading, so it might not be all review this time. Which means, of course, that I'll have to spend more time on the homework.

So, that's pretty much what I'll be doing for the next few months, along with my game project (which is coming along fairly well). There's a few events I'm going to be attending to this semester though (the Game Developers Conference, AZ Japanese Matsuri Festival, Reissance Festival, and the Anizona anime convention) so I'll try and do some good write-ups (complete with photos) for them.

For now, I'll see you Friday.


1/19/2009 E-mail glitch

Remember, you can always vote using the Top Web Comics banner or button to see Friday's Pebble Version Blooper Reel bonus comic. In other site news, I've been having trouble accessing my Pebble Version e-mail recently. So, if you sent me an e-mail and haven't gotten a reply yet, that's the reason. I'll let you know once it's fixed.

And it's finally time to talk about Uncharted so, let's get to it.

I've been a bit of Naughty Dog fan back since the original Playstation, when they created the Crash Bandicoot series (unfortunately, they weren't able to keep the rights and the series has been in a steady decline ever since other developers started working on it). During the Playstation 2 era they headed up the Jak and Daxter series and now, on the PS3, they've started a new series. The first entry, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
Uncharted is part platformer and part 3rd person shooter. It stars Nathan Drake, a professional treasure hunter hot on the trail of Sir Francis Drake greatest secret, the treasure of El Dorado. The story moves effortlessly from gameplay to cutscenes, helped out by excellent voice acting and solid music. It's also one of the better looking PS3 games out there, the water effects in particular stand out. Though the plot isn't particularly deep, the characters are likable and the whole thing plays out like a good old Indiana Jones movie. Fiesty love interested? Check. Crusty long time pal? Check. Legendary treasure? Check. Greedy bad guy with lots of goons after said treasure? Check. A bit of supernatural stuff late in the story? Check. Yep, just like Indiana Jones...
On his journey, Drake spends quite a lot of time exploring crumbling ruins, overgrown jungles, and ancient caverns. Fortunately, he's surprisingly athletic so running, jumping, scaling cliffs, swinging from vines, and the like are nearly effortless. There's a few puzzles thrown in here and there as well, but nothing too difficult. When he's not climbing, Drake spends his time shooting lots of lots of hired goons (what, you didn't think he's the only guy after El Dorado, did you?). Fortunately, there's plenty of cover for both Drake and the bad guys to make use of. Moving Drake from cover to cover and popping out to fire a few shots is easy thanks to a great cover system. But, unlike some game heroes, Drake can't lug around an entire store's worth of guns and ammunition. He's limited to a handgun, a larger gun (automatic rifle, shotgun, etc), and a few grenades, but he can pick up new guns and ammo from every dead bad guy and, if that isn't enough, he's got some decent melee moves as well.
When it comes down to it, Uncharted basically just goes from platforming section (make a bunch of daring jumps from ledge to ledge, mostly) to shooting section (find a good piece of cover then pop up and shoot the bad guys while they try to do the same to you) and back, along with a few vehicle bits thrown in for good measure. Repetitious? Kinda. But you'll be having too much fun to complain, especially witch such a large variety in the levels and weapons. The whole adventure clocks in somewhere around 12+ hours, give or take, and there's multiple difficulty levels and a bunch of hidden treasure to track down if you're interested.
Overall, Uncharted has a much different feel to it than Naughty Dog's previous games, both in story and gameplay, but it's a fun ride all the way through and certainly one of the best PS3 exclusives so far.


1/16/2009 You'd think I'd have learned by now...

There's a new voters' bonus comic up and there's a new ROM.

I've noticed something. It seems that nearly every time I promise to some big review or something next news post something comes up and I don't have time. This week is a good example (yes, that Uncharted review is getting delayed again). You'd think that, after all the times it's happened, I'd learn to stop setting specific dates for that type of stuff. Since saying it certainly seems to be a jinx and all... Well, something to remember for next time.

So yeah... Stuff came up, I'm running late, so I'll see you Monday.


1/14/2009 Power running down...

I made it back to AZ ok, but that Uncharted review is going to have to wait till Friday. I'm running my laptop on battery power right now and I've got a few other things I need to get done before the battery dies. So yeah, I'm back and ready for school (which starts up again tomorrow, although I don't actually have any classes till Tuesday).

See you Friday.


1/12/2009 I'm supposed to be writing something?

Don't forget to vote and see Friday's bonus comic. Speaking oh which, Top Web Comics changed their voting process a bit. You can read about it in the previous news post.

So, I was going to write something to go here (most likely a review of Uncharted) but I getting the new ending in Chrono Trigger DS and then I got distracted by School Rumble (again)... Nearly done with School Rumble though, only two episodes left. Unfortunately, that's not the end of the story. There's a two episode OAV that hasn't been released in the US yet. Said OAV is episodes 25 and 26 of School Rumble season 3...except that there is no season 3. Though the team in Japan did a complete list of episode summaries for what season 3 would be if there was one (it would cover the final third of the School Rumble manga). Nifty, but I would have rather had them actually animate the whole season... So now I need to go and get all the graphic novels so I can find out what happens after the end of season 2.

Anyway, I'll be heading back to AZ tomorrow. Assuming things go smoothly, look for that Uncharted review on Wednesday.


1/9/2009 End of an era

There's a new bonus comic up. If you haven't noticed, Top Web Comics changed their voting process slightly. You still click on the TWC banner or button here but then you'll see a picture of a character with that character's name on it. You need to type the first three letters of that character's name in the text box and then click on the button to confirm your vote. It's the latest version of their auto-voting-script blocker (it makes sure no one makes a computer program to cast a whole lot of fake votes).

I'm pretty upset with Ziff Davis. If you're not familiar with them, they're a big magazine publisher, among other things. Apparently, they've decided to get out of the print business. It started with PC Magazine, which I've subscribed to for somewhere around twelve years at this point. Shortly winter break started, I got a letter saying that PC Magazine was switching to a digital only format. In other words, instead of getting a real magazine every month I'll be getting an e-mail with a PDF (or something like that). I can understand that it saves them a whole lot of money (though they lose newsstand sales completely), is more environmental, and easier to store, but it's just not the same. Despite being a real tech guy, I'm not the type of person who wants to read everything off a computer screen. I spend enough time staring at my monitor as is (and it does cause more eye strain than reading a book). Plus with a magazine I can fold it up, toss it in my backpack, pull it out for a few minutes between classes, bring it to the pool, or a dozen other things that just don't work well with a laptop. I'll give it a shot until my subscription runs out but after that I'm just not sure...

But that's not what's really bothering me. I also subscribe to EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly), which I consider to be the best video game magazine out there by far. I must have been subscribing to it for around eight years at this point and, while I get all the latest news off web sites, EGM was where I turned to for reviews, rumors, and feature articles. After nearly twenty years it's still the most widely respected gaming magazine and has broken many big stories, reviewed all the top games, and created some of the best April Fools jokes ever. They also started the 1Up and its related game sites. Circulation for EGM was going strong and 1Up was continuing to gain popularity, everything should be going fine... Instead, as of a couple days ago, EGM is gone and the 1Up stuff has been gutted. Hardly any of the reviewers and writers I've trusted and followed for years are still there. It's pretty depressing... So how did it happen? As part of Ziff Davis's aforementioned efforts to get out of the print business and focus more on their computer related publications (like the now digital only PC Magazine) they decided to sell the whole EGM / 1Up network off. The company that bought it only wanted the web site (hence the sudden demise of EGM), though I'm not entirely sure why they cut such a large portion of the staff (not to mention that a lot of the people cut were some of the best game writers in the business), what made EGM and 1Up great (and popular) was the people creating them, not the name. So not only is EGM gone, there's no digital copy, and 1Up has been reduced to a shadow of its former self, even though it was doing fine... Life really isn't fair sometimes, I know that, but still... Sigh... I always hoped that someday a game I made would be featured on the cover of EGM...
Sadly, there's nothing I can go, other than wish the former staff members the best. I hope they find great jobs and do well, though I'm sure going to miss them. Their reviews, their stories, their clever features and interviews... After all this time, it's kind of like losing a friend. Now, I've got one less thing to look forward to each month... Goodbye EGM. You were the best, and I'll always remember you.


1/7/2009 Mirror's Edge

The starting date for my school got pushed back a few days so they can have some big staff meetings. Of course, they really should have planned it way in advance instead of making it some last minute decision that they announce less than a week before the original start date. As much as I love the teachers and atmosphere at my school, upper management (whoever they are) seems to have some real problems when it comes to planning ahead. On the bright side, I get a longer vacation (though I'm not sure if I'll be spending those extra days in CO or AZ).

Moving on, I might have mentioned before that, since my parents have a new HD TV, I decided to save some PS3 games to play on it while on break. The first, Mirror's Edge, is an extremely unique take on platforming.
Mirror's Edge is, at heart, a game about running. Main character Faith is a runner, a group that works outside the law, delivering items that residents of the city don't want to pass through the government's strictly regulated channels. The government seems rather like a dictatorship and isn't to happy about anything outside of its control so runners stick to the rooftops, counting on their agility, ingenuity, and fast thinking to keep them safe from the police. It's not an easy job to begin with but, when Faith's sister is accused of murder, things suddenly got a lot more complicated. The plot works, although there's nothing particularly special or gripping about it, And the ending, while not a total cliff hanger, is clearly setting things up for a sequel.
But enough about the plot, it's the gameplay that makes Mirror's Edge stick out. As Faith, you'll vault fences, slide under pipes, run along walls, and perform death defying leaps hundreds of feat above the ground, often with bullets whizzing past...all in first person perspective. While a real world platformer is odd enough, the first person view point really sets it apart. Amazingly enough, it works. The controls are easy to learn and use and the perspective, while it takes some getting used to, significantly enhances the immersion. Add in solid graphics and a fitting (if not particularly memorable) soundtrack, and you have the makings of something incredible.
Unfortunately, Mirror's Edge falls somewhat short of its full potential. Make no mistake, when you're tearing across the rooftops, using Faith's runner vision to find the route on the fly, cheating death with every leap, it's incredible. But things don't always progress that smoothly. Despite runner vision and a button that sometimes points you in the right direction, there are plenty of times when the next part of your route just isn't very obvious and you have to slow down and carefully examine your surroundings until you find a way up to that high ledge or across to the next building. While a few such moments are easily forgivable, they happen a bit too often (the fact that Faith has a tendency to miss an important grab and plummet to her death if you haven't angled her just right doesn't help either). What's worse, is that they usually happen while you're trying to escape from the very trigger happy police force, leading to a long series of repeated deaths are you struggle to find the next part of the route before getting killed. Make no mistake, Faith can fight, and her flashy disarming moves and athletic martial arts combos are fun, but at times they can be rather hard to hit with. She also can't take many hits, so trying to take on more than one enemy at a time is most often suicidal. And, while she can steal enemy guns, Mirror's Edge was never meant to be a shooting game and trying to make it in to one slows Faith down and can easily lead to more deaths. While it's possible to run past most enemies once you figure out the proper route, the times when Faith is forced to slow down and fight through groups in order to survive aren't much fun.
The graphics aren't without flaws either. For one thing, they tend to be pretty repititious. Most rooftops and building interiors simply look the same. Which kinda makes sense, but still gets a bit old. What's strange is that the cutscenes use a completely different graphical style than the main game (stylized cartoon/pop-art vs realistic CG). Both look fine, but they're so different that there's more of a disconnect when switching between them than in most games. Finally, while you don't spend a whole lot of time looking at the city streets, they're very sparsely populated when you do.
While the main game will probably only last 10-15 hours on a first play-through (mostly depending on how much time you spend trying to figure out the less obvious routes and dying due to gun fire and misaligned jumps), it becomes considerably shorter (and more fun) on subsequent play-throughs once you know where you're going and how to get there (letting you run more and stop less). Add in a few hidden items to track down and a large collection of time trial courses and speed-runs (most of which don't involve fighting), and there's no lack of replay value.
In the end, Mirror's Edge is fun and very unique game. Your first playthrough it likely to involve far more death and frustration than it should, but stick with it and you'll find a game that, while not quite the genre defying masterpiece that it could have been, still offers a highly unique and memorable experience. Everyone with a PS3 or 360 should try out the demo at very least, for a tantalizing glimpse into the world of the runners.


1/5/2009 Can't stop watching...

I was all set to write up my impressions of Mirror's Edge for today but I got caught up working on some stuff for my dad and sprites for my game project. Speaking of which, I may post some screen shots and basic info once the next build or two is finished.

Meanwhile, I can't stop watching School Rumble (it helps that I can watch TV while spriting and doing most of the stuff for my dad). I even went out and used my Best Buy gift card (and them some) to get season two, despite the fact that they broke it into two boxsets and charged full price for each (so season two costs around twice as much as season one, since you're buying two DVD sets instead of one, even though they're both 26 episodes). Funimation seems to have been doing that with a lot of their new boxsets and I really hate it, so I've been waiting for stuff like One Piece season one part two and Ouran season one part one to go on sale. I certainly could have gotten much more bang for my buck by getting something else (and there was some really great stuff at Best Buy) but I've been having so much fun with School Rumble that I just couldn't bring myself to pass up season two, even if it is a bit overpriced.

Well, I can't think of anything else to say at the moment. Or at least nothing that wouldn't take a significant amount of time to write about so it'll have to wait. Later!


1/2/2009 Poor game design

Happy new year! Gee, now I need to get used to marking all my news posts as 2009... Anyway, you can help get Pebble Version off to a strong start on Top Web Comics this year by using the TWC banner or button to vote and see the new bonus comic.

I've been playing the Nintendo DS port of Chrono Trigger. CT is a classic Square RPG that was originally released on the Super Nintendo, and later rereleased on the Sony Playstation. Anyway, I already have the PS version but I picked it up for the DS since they added some new stuff (most notably, a couple new dungeons and a new ending). Plus, I'm hoping that if it sells well they're finally make a new Chrono game. I like CT a lot and its sequel Chrono Cross is one of my favorite games ever, so I'd really like to see the series continue.
But anyway, I was playing through the first new dungeon (Lost Sanctum). It's actually kind of a collection of a few dungeons which you can explore tied together with a hub, and you can get to it from two different time periods (Chrono Trigger is a game about time travel). There's a village at the beginning of the area and the people there ask you to do things, which all tie together into one large quest. Sounds good? Well, not really... It essentially amounts to a large amount of fetch quests (go to get item A, take it to person B, etc). Those can get kind of annoying in general, but it's much worse when nearly every run involves running back and forth through the same area. A large part of the dungeon is made up of a mountain, and I must have run up and down that thing at least a dozen times already between the two time periods. Around 80% of the whole big dungeon quest literally boils down to talking to someone, running all the way up the mountain (and fighting a few unavoidable monsters on the way), doing something quick on top of the mountain, running all the way back down the mountain (while fighting those same monsters again), then being told that you have to go back to the top of the mountain again to do something else. After a couple of rounds of this it starts to get really annoying. Seriously? What Square designer actually thought players would enjoy running through the same area that many times in a row? Repeating it once or twice, a minor annoyance but ok. Repeating it more than that? Bad idea, especially when you really shouldn't have to go down and come back up to accomplish most of the required tasks. At very least, there should be a shortcut up and/or down the mountain so the player doesn't have to run all the way up and down every single time. Ugh... If I was in charge, I would totally demote that quest designer...
The Lost Sanctum dungeon aside though, Chrono Trigger DS is an excellent game and certainly the best version of CT out there.

And that's all for now. I've still got to run up and down that stupid mountain a few more times... See you Monday!


12/31/2008 Happy New Year...almost

Happy New Year (tomorrow)! Happy 90th birthday to my grand father (today)! Happy 24th birthday to me (tomorrow)! 24, huh? Sigh...I don't really feel 24. Not sure I want to either...

Oh well, back to watching School Rumble. Speaking of which, here's a quick shout out for the always awesome Right Stuf store. It's thanks to them that I have School Rumble (and a pretty large chunk of my anime collection for that matter). Aside from all around good prices and a pretty extensive selection, they frequently have really incredible sales (sign up for their mailing list, you'll be glad you did). I just got the order I made from their pre-Christmas sale (plus some stuff that just happened to be in the bargain bin) and ended up with Cromartie High School (been wanting to watch for a while), Beck (loved the fansub, wary of the English dub), High School Rumble Season 1 and the OAV (seen part of it before and love it), Kalaido Star New Wings (been meaning to get it ever since I bought the first season), and Prythm (the one Angela album I was missing) for under $130. Total retail cost (considering that I got the individual DVDs for School Rumble and Kalaido Star, complete with bonus items) is somewhere around three times that. Right now they've got a small sale going on (20% off everything in stock that isn't on clearance; which is small for them). I'll probably pass, since I've spent a ton of money on DVDs recently and really should watch more of them before getting new ones, but some of you guys may want to take a look.

See you next year!


12/29/2008 I've been wondering...

Friday's bonus comic is still up and all that.

So, 2008 is nearly finished. A lot sure has happened this year, at least for me. My birthday is coming up pretty soon too... At the moment, 2009 is looking a bit less interesting (a whole lot of school mostly) but you never know. I might get a job, go on a trip somewhere far away, or maybe my game project will turn into the next big thing (a long shot, but not completely impossible). But speculating about what might happen is a bit of a waste of time.

As you probably know, I'm a writer. As a writer, and a fan of good stories in general, I pay a lot of attention the writing in books, games, TV shows, and the like. One thing that never made sense to me is why TV shows always have a team of writers. Novels are typically written by a single author. Video games usually only have one main writer too (though there might be some other guys who help write all the NPC dialogue). Those writers are perfectly capable of writing good stories, funny anecdotes, and the like, that span hundreds, if not thousands, of pages. Going off of that, I'm sure there's plenty of good writers who could write an entire TV series by themselves. So why a team? Is Hollywood dead set on the whole "two heads is better than one" line (er, make that like five or ten heads)? Are most Hollywood writers incapably of carrying a story by themselves? Maybe a mix of the two? Not to sound too mean (there a few shows that I really like), but I gotta admit that the majority of new US TV shows I see strike me as really dumb. Even if you don't agree, you have to admit that quite a lot of shows fail to last even a single season. And even don't get me started on commercials...
When it comes down to it, I really can't think of a single really good reason to have a team of writers instead of just one or two. Like I said, for a few shows the whole team writing thing seems to work fairly well, and that's ok. But still, if a professional writer really can't come up with enough good material to single handedly carry a the show he's working on, then he really should consider a change of career.


12/26/2008 Family time

There's a new bonus comic up on Top Web Comics so go ahead and vote if you want to see it.

Even though I don't celebrate Christmas, I've got lots of relatives who do, so I spent most of yesterday and the day before doing stuff with my grandparents and a couple cousins (who came over to visit said grandparents). Starting today, it's back to work...well, a little work anyway (it's vacation, so I don't want to work too much). Fortunately, the stuff I've got to do should be a lot more fun than most of my school work was last semester, and I've got lots of fun stuff planned as well.

Anyway, lots to do over the weekend so I'll talk more on Monday.


12/24/2008 Merry Christmas and happy Chanukah!

I made it back to Colorado just fine. Wasn't a bad drive (though my brother actually did most of the driving). It'll hopefully be a fun and relaxing vacation. But, since it was a long drive, I don't have much time to write anything right now.

Going off of my last news post, a reader who works in retail wrote in about those annoying difficult to remove stickers used on so many books, games, DVDs, etc in the US. He says that those type of stickers are used specifically to counter people who try to cheat the store by peeling off price tags in hopes of getting a cheaper price. I did wonder if it might be something like that... I guess people in Japan are more honest. Either that, or the stores don't let the handful of crooks ruin things for everyone else.
The same reader recommended using something called Goo Gone (which he said you can find at dollar stores) to get rid of the glue and stuff left by stickers. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll be picking some up to try next time I'm at the store.

And that's it for now. Merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, pleasant ordinary week, or whatever.


12/22/2008 Something I liked better in Japan

Friday's bonus comic is still there if you vote for Pebble Version on Top Web Comics.

This is a bit random but it's something I think about every now and then. If you know me, or have been reading my news posts for awhile, it should come as no big surprise that the three things I spend the most money on (aside from necessities such as rent, food, etc) are books, DVDs, and video games (well, for the most part, I spent quite a lot on music and figurines while in Japan). If you frequently buy any of those things you've probably noticed that it's not uncommon for them to have all sorts of stickers stuck on them by the store, especially if you buy used. Price tags, attention grabber stickers, more price tags, I'm sure you know what I mean. Now putting a bunch of stickers on something isn't really a problem, though it can be a bit of a pain if they're stuck on top of something that you really wanted to read. But what really gets on my nerves, is that the majority of those stickers tend to be nearly impossible to remove.
To explain, there seems to be three main types of stickers. There's the kind that peels off really easily and when it's gone you can't tell that it was ever there. They're the type of stickers that were used pretty much exclusively in Japan. They're great. In a few seconds they're gone for good and you've got a pristine looking book/game/DVD to stick on your shelf.
Unfortunately, most stickers in the US seem to fall into one of two other groups. The first usually come off if you work at it enough but they break into multiple pieces as you try to remove them when you do get them off they leave a nice sticky spot behind. They're annoying. Then there's the third kind, which is nearly impossible to get off completely. They're really sticky, usually rip if you manage to start getting them off, and generally leave behind a bunch of white stuff and sticky goop that just won't come off.
For example, there's a game I got recently. It had two price tags and a big special deal type of sticker on it. I spent about five minutes working at it and was only able to get one off completely. I suppose it's not a really big deal, but I like my stuff to look like and a bunch of dumb stickers spoils the appearance a bit. I'm willing to bet that the reason Japan uses such easy to use stickers is for exactly that reason, considering the extremely popularity of collections and the amazing condition of most used items there. So why don't they do it here? Is there some reason US stores use so many unremovable stickers, or did they just never think about switching to the easily removable kind?

Well, I really should go work on some other stuff. BTW, I'm heading back to Colorado on Tuesday and staying there for around two and a half weeks, until spring semester starts. Unless I get caught in a blizzard or something on the drive, updates shouldn't be affected. See you Wednesday!


12/19/2008 At last, free time!

There's a new voter's bonus comic and new ROM.

Not only am I done with school (for the semester), I've also finished all the stuff I needed to do for my dad. So now it's finally time to kick back and relax (aside from working on my game project, anyway). It also means I have time to write some interesting posts here...except tonight, since I was busy judging The Week of Randomness event on the Pebble Version Forums. It's the newest forum event (this is the second year). It lasts a week (no, duh) and each day has a different theme (such as Be Very Mysterious Day) and everyone is scored on how well they follow the theme. Whoever has the most points at the end of the week wins. So yeah, I was scoring the other day's posts, which is why I don't have time to write a lot now. Plus, I seem to be having internet trouble at the moment so I really should go fix that or no one is ever going read this no matter how long it is.


12/17/2008 Discrimination?

Finals are finished! I'm done with school...well, for a few weeks anyway.

So, I thinking, you don't see many home-schooled characters on TV. Which I don't have a problem with, home-schooling is certainly a minority. What I don't like is that, whenever there is a home-schooled character shown on TV, they're always portrayed in a very negative way. I was home-schooled until college and I know lots of other people who were home-schooled as well. Your average home-schooled kid is not dumb, ignorant, or otherwise poorly educated. In fact, home-schoolers on average score a fair bit higher on standardized achievement tests than public school kids (no offense to public school kids, I know there's some really smart ones too). And your average home-schooler isn't a social misfit either. Home-schoolers have friends and do things with them just like kids in public school. Not that there isn't the occasional home-schooler who is poorly educated or not too social, but there's plenty of public school kids like that too. I don't really have anything against stereotypes (being a writer, I can appreciate their uses), but you've got to use a normal non-stereotyped portrayal of sometimes too.

Anyway, I just found that a bit annoying.


12/15/2008 One more time

Friday's bonus comic is still there if you vote using the Top Web Comics banner or button.

Sorry guys, but I'm going to have to do one more cop-out news post. I did finish all my final projects (though I've got two tests and a couple small things that still need to be done over the next couple of days) but, since projects were finally done with, I spent all day working on some non-school related stuff. So, once again, no time to write much of anything. Wednesday, on the other hand, should be different. The way things are looking now, I'll have plenty of time to write up something interesting then.


12/12/2008 Final stretch

There's a new bonus comic and a new ROM, enjoy!

I finally finished all my papers for this semester. Still got one big project left to do today but there's not much left after that, just two tests and a couple of short write-ups left to do next week. Sure is going to be nice to take time off and relax (well, mostly, got a couple non-school things to do plus my game project to work on).

See you next week! I should have the time to write something more interesting then.


12/10/2008 Still working

School work remaining this week: one big paper, one web site to present a project, a few discussion posts.
School work for next week: writing commentaries on other people's papers, possibly finishing that web site, one or two big tests.
Other stuff to work on while doing all that stuff: sprites for my game project, getting caught up on Pebble Version strips, some assorted other stuff I don't feel like listing.

See you Friday.


12/7/2008 A brief respite

Friday's bonus comic is up there for everyone who votes and all that.

Well, last week in final projects and stuff I did a whole bunch of little things, wrote one big paper, wrote around 2/3 of another big paper, and got some work down on my game project. What's up for this week? A few more little things, the remainder of that one paper, one more big paper (probably the longest of the bunch), more game project stuff, a test, and a web site to present a group project (though, depending on when the rest of the group finishes their parts of the project, that might get pushed back till early next week). To summarize, last week was very busy. This week will also be very busy. But, by the end of the week I should be done with nearly all my school stuff (with the possible exceptions of that web site and a Japanese test). I'm certainly looking forward to break. After over a year away from school, I was beginning to forget just how stressful things could get around finals time. Can't really say that's a part of school life that I missed.

But anyway, I took things somewhat easy over the weekend (somewhat), which was a nice change of pace. But not it's time to get back to work. I'm a bit behind on Pebble Version after all, so I shouldn't write too much in these news posts until things calm down next week.



12/5/2008 All the drama

There's a new Blooper Reel bonus comic you can see by clicking on the TWC banner or button and confirming your vote. Unfortunately, Shauni's sick so no new ROM today.

And the homework continues, among other things. Activity is starting ramp up on my game project plus there's a couple other things I'm trying to get done in addition to the schoolwork (yeah, I know, not the greatest timing). Still another week or week and a half to go before things start to calm down too. Sigh...

And the drama? It's in Total Drama Island, a reality show spoof running on Cartoon Network. I turned it on once just for some background and kinda got into it. It's essentially a parody of Survivor with a bit of Fear Factor thrown in. A bunch of teens get dumped on an island, have to do crazy challenges, and vote each other off. More or less the typical reality show setup. Anyway, I'm not really going anywhere with this, it's just a pretty well done parody and rather funny to watch.

So yeah, back to work on stuff...


12/3/2008 Hit the ground running

There's not much to say. I've been running around and doing homework ever since I got back from CO and things aren't likely to change until late next week at the earliest. So yeah, back to work and all...

Oh, and hitting the ground running? It really doesn't work too well outside of cartoons, they tried it on Myth Busters..


12/1/2008 Back to work, work, and more work

Friday's bonus comic is up and all that, you can see it by voting (click the Top Web Comics banner or button and follow the instructions to confrim your vote). Remember, you can vote once a day and there's a new bonus comic every Friday.

Well, it's the end of my Thanksgiving vacation. It's been busy but fun. Just this weekend I went hiking, rock climbing, and bowling. Plus I saw Bolt in 3D, which was pretty good. Certainly worth it if you're a Disney fan. Anyway, not bad at all for a short vacation. But today I'm flying back to AZ and then things get really busy. With finals coming up, I've got some big projects that need to be worked on (along with some assorted smaller stuff). And, what ever time I'm not doing school, I've got some other important things that need to be done as well. So chances are I'll be pretty busy and burned out for the next two or two and half weeks, so don't be surprised if I keep my news posts rather short until finals are over.

See you Wednesday!


11/28/2008 A busy vacation

As usual, there's a new voters' bonus comic and a new ROM.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Mine went well. And that's about all I have to say for the moment, seeing as I'd like to get some sleep before heading out to hit an early day after Thanksgiving sale. Enjoy the weekend!


11/26/2008 Happy Thanksgiving!

I've got to get up pretty early for my flight back to Colorado so let's keep this quick. I managed to get all my homework done, though that's about it. Had another thing I was working on, but it looks like that'll have to wait till next week. Anyway, happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the US. For everyone else, um, happy ordinary Thursday, I guess. Assuming all goes well, I'll see you on Friday.


11/24/2008 Lucky!

Remember to vote and see Friday's bonus comic (just click the Top Web Comics banner or button then follow the instructions to confirm your vote). Old Blooper Reel bonus comics can be found in the Archives.

What's so lucky? Well, a classmate of mine wanted a ride to Bookman's (an awesome chain of used book, movie, music, game, etc stores in Arizona) and I go there from time to time so I offered a take her. Glad I did too. Bookman's selection varies each time you go (since it's all used and everything) so some trips are better than others in terms of stuff I want. It was a really good trip in that regard. But that wouldn't have mattered too much so I'm rather low on spending money at the moment. The other great thing about Bookman's is that you can trade in your used stuff for store credit (I used to do that all the time back when I was getting my Bachelor's). Anyway, what stuff of yours they actually take seems somewhat random. After a cleaning binge back in CO, I ended up with several boxes worth of stuff to trade. I'd already gone in twice since moving back down to Tempe and they'd taken some things each time I went. But, seeing as the remainder had already been turned down twice, I wasn't expecting much. I got lucky though and they took quite a lot of what I had left, netting me a ton of credit, which I used to get some pretty cool stuff (an anime box set, soundtrack CD, and some PS2 games). As for when I'll have time to use a lot of that stuff...well, that's another matter...

Quick reminder, I'll be going to CO for Thanksgiving. I'm leaving Wednesday and getting back Monday. Pebble Version should update normally, but if an update ends up being early, late, or gets skipped entirely, you'll know why.

See you Wednesday!


11/21/2008 I hate writing styles

There's a new voters' bonus comic and a new ROM.

I was going to start writing my next book this week but decided that my writing time would be better spent getting some other things done this week. Unfortunately, I actually didn't get to spend much time on those things either since my schedule mostly got taken over with homework. Fortunately, I'm finished with the worst of it (at least until after Thanksgiving, at which point I'll have three more big papers to start on). Still have a lot that needs to be done before Thanksgiving though. Speaking of which, I'll be heading back to CO for the holiday. I'll be leaving Wednesday and getting back to AZ the following Monday. Barring something going seriously wrong, Pebble Version updates shouldn't be affected.

I may be a writer, but I never saw much of a need for formal writing styles like APA and MLA. Now, I suppose I can see the use in having an "official" way to cite sources (even if I think some of the citation rules in APA make no sense), and maybe a standard method of formatting formal papers (serious research papers and the like), but these styles go much further than that. I mean, when you have to have an entire book just to explain a single style, that's just too much. Writing is an art. Proper spelling, grammar, and sentence structure are important, but an entire book of formatting rules for each style? That's getting way too confining and nit-picky... And why do we have so many nit-picky styles anyway, isn't one more than enough?
I never used formal writing styles until recently, and only now because I'm being forced to do some of my class papers in APA format. To make matters more annoying, there's this job I want to apply for, but part of the application requires me to write a short story Chicago Manual Style. First off, it's a short story, not a research paper, so why the heck does it need to be in any formal style? Second, why CMS? From what I can tell, it's not one of the more popular styles. Why not APA or MLA? Anyway, from what I learned (thank you, Silver) CMS is practically the same as MLA, only with a different way of citing things (which doesn't matter to me since you typically don't do any citing in short stories). The thing is though, if CMS is virtually the same as MLA just with a few minor changes, why does CMS exist in the first place? Did some English professor figure that he could make some extra money by creating a writing style and forcing his students to use it so they'd have to buy the book? Sigh... Hopefully, once I've done with with my Master's, I won't have to think about writing styles ever again.

Enjoy your weekend!


11/19/2008 Homework crunch

This whole little looking for lost glasses thing is in the game and yes, if you look, they guy who "lost" his glasses is apparently wearing them. Not sure if that was intentional or if the guys who chose which sprite to use where just screwed up.

Anyway, I've got a bit lit review that needs to be finished today and plenty of other homework (and various other projects) that I need to finish before Thanksgiving, so I'm going to go work on that. See you Friday.


11/17/2008 I've had enough

Remember to vote to see Friday's bonus comic.

Not to get too predictable, but I just watched episode 3 of Legend of the Seeker, the new fantasy TV series supposedly based on Wizard's First Rule, the first book in Terry Goodkind's excellent Sword of Truth series (big emphasis on supposedly). After only the first few minutes, it had me wanting to bash my head repeatedly against a wall. Or, even better, go find the people who wrote the thing and bash their heads against a wall instead. And, sadly enough, I'm not exaggerating in the least... The one bright spot in the episode was that someone actually called the Sword of Truth by name for the first time; of course, said person was just an enemy soldier who really shouldn't have been able to recognize the sword in the first place but, in this lousy TV adaptation, you've gotta take what you can get.
By now I'm pretty much convinced that the writers of the show have never read the book. Someone must have given them sheet of paper with a list of the names of the most important characters and countries and a brief summary of the plot (really brief, like three sentences at most), and then left them to fill in the rest. It's extremely clear that they have no clue how the Sword of Truth or Confessors work, not to mention the Boxes of Orden... Oh wait, they never did mention the Boxes of Orden, despite the fact that they play a very large and absolutely vital roll in the story. It's kind of like taking the one ring out of Lord of the Rings. The writers seem to have either written out or all but ignored nearly everything that makes The Sword of Truth books so interesting and engaging. In the end, we get left with a rather generic fantasy TV series which could possibly be decent (though certainly not great) if it wasn't pretending to be The Sword of Truth.
There were plenty of other problems with episode 3 (which, once again, had absolutely nothing to do with anything that happened in the book) but I'm not going to bother listing them all. As much as I hate to say it, considering how much I love The Sword of Truth books, I'm giving up on Legend of the Seeker. At this point, I've got serious doubts that it's going to improve (each episode so far has steadily gotten worse) and, even if it does, I can't imagine that it'll ever be good, unless they do something drastic like fire the entire writing staff. And, frankly, I can't keep doing this. Watching Hollywood ruin my favorite stories always drives me crazy, but at least with movies it's done after two hours and I can forget about it for a year or two until the sequel comes out and smashes my hopes all over again (thank you Harry Potter movies <_< ). With this stupid TV series though, I'm torturing myself every single week. And, if most of the upcoming episodes are gonna be as bad as the last one, I really don't need all the extra anger, frustration, and disappointment in my life. If someone I trust tells me that it's made a drastic improvement, maybe I'll give another shot someday. But, barring that, I've had enough. I suggest everyone follow my lead and forget about Legend of the Seeker, go read The Sword of Truth books instead, there's a world of difference between the two.


11/14/2008 There's more?

There's a new bonus comic up for everyone who votes. No ROM today, but Shauni is going to try and do two next week to make up for it.

I suddenly discovered that I have more major paper to write this semester than I was expecting. Yay... As is I didn't have enough research papers to write already... On the upside, I'm doing a pretty good job keeping on top of my schoolwork. On the down side, I'm behind on some other things because of that. Maybe I should have done more work on Veteran's Day. Anyway, one of the things I'm behind on is Pebble Version strips so I can't hang around and chat right now.

See you Monday!


11/12/2008 Long nights = short news posts

Since yesterday was Veteran's Day, there was no school. To celebrate, anime club had a marathon Monday night. We watched the first 18 episodes of School Rumble, went till around 4 AM. I'm actually not too tired, but lack of sleep tends to sap my creativity a bit regardless, so I'm not in the mood to write some long post. But I guess I can talk about School Rumble for a minute.

School Rumble is a romantic comedy (the anime is based on a manga of the same name) and a lesson in both Murphy's Law (anything that can go wrong will go wrong) and miscommunication. It starts out as a love triangle (albeit a slightly odd one) and before long it's more along the line of a love dodecahedron. Everyone likes some one, everyone thinks the others like someone other than they really do, and, to make it worse, most of them are extremely dense. If there's situation where someone could be badly misunderstood, you can bet that they will be. The characters' romantic relationships may be a bit of a train wreck, but it's hilarious non the less. They all have distinct and memorable personalities and all the misunderstandings lead to some pretty crazy situations. If you like wacky comedies, I recommend giving School Rumble a try.


11/10/2008 Disappointment growing...

Friday's bonus comic is still up there if you want to vote and see it.

Unfortunately, episode two of Legend of the Seeker didn't do anything to improve my opinion on what could be an awesome TV series but so far is failing pretty badly (see last Monday's rant for my thoughts on the first episode). Episode two was about some bounty hunters getting magic maps they could use to track Richard, which doesn't happen in the book. While I'm not necessarily against them adding new things to the story, this little plot wasn't particularly exciting or interesting and didn't have any real bearing on the main story. So what was the point? There's plenty of great things that happen in the book that they could of based the episode on instead, things that'll probably get skipped to make time for more ho-hum new stuff like this... Plus, they still haven't mentioned an extremely important ability of the Sword of Truth (er, make that the unamed sword that Richard is carrying around, since they seem determined to avoid any mention of the word truth) that should have been brought up last episode. Not to mention that Kahlan has rapidly become more of a ninja than a Confessor, Zedd's not nearly as smart or skilled as he should be (and he's a bit creepy at that), and Richard's master woodsman skills seem to have vanished (who catches a rabbit by chasing it, on foot, through a forest?). And how the heck do the D'haran soldiers (who, BTW, really shouldn't be occupying as much territory as they are) know exactly what Richard looks like seeing all the ones who saw him in episode one were killed?
The scenery is nice, and the costumes aren't bad either, so that's something. But the monsters look horrible (I know TV shows have limited budgets for special effects but still...), casting is mixed, and the writers seem to be doing their best to remove most of the elements that made the book so interesting and enjoyable in the first place. If it doesn't rapidly improve over the next episode or two, I'm gonna lose all hope for the series.


11/7/2008 Long weekend

There a new voters' bonus comic, and it's a special one featuring Saber Knight, winner of RP Week 2008 on the Pebble Version forums. New ROM too.

Well, the elections are finally over. I'm not particularly happy with a lot of the results, but there was a couple pleasant surprises. The best thing though is that I don't have to listen to any more election ads.

In other news, I got Tuesday off for Veteran's Day and, since I don't have class on Monday anyway, that makes for a nice long weekend. Not that I'll be able to spend the whole time relaxing. I'll still have homework and stuff to do but hey, a break's a break.

Not much else to talk about... I suppose I could mention that my school is having it's Tech Forum this week. Basically they have a bunch of speakers come in to talk about things related to the different degree paths. Not a whole lot for game designers this time, so I haven't been paying too mention attention (though I may swing by a panel or two later today depending on how long my homework takes). But they had an ongoing workshop on lock picking yesterday (why, I'm not quite sure) and I decided to stop by while walking past since it seemed interesting. I learned a lot about how locks work and the basics of lock picking. I even managed to pick a couple of easier locks. Now I kinda want a basic lock picking kit. Just to see how secure my apartment is and all that...


11/5/20008 Wait and see

I know there was a bunch of fans who wanted the grass kid to make a return so, enjoy. Brendan and May will be returning on Friday.

If you didn't know, US elections were yesterday. Also, if you didn't know, I write these posts the night before they go up (so it's Tuesday (election day) night right now). As of right now, the media has already predicted a winner. But, while I think nearly all the polls are closed as I write this, they still haven't counted something around half the votes. Admittedly, there's a decent chance the prediction is correct...but they've been wrong before, so I'm going to wait till the votes are all counted before believing anything. Personally, I really wish the media wouldn't call states until at least say...80% of the votes in that state are counted (and even then, only if it's not really close). I mean, they were calling some states when less than 10% of the votes had been counted. What's up with that? The news has made a real mess of things in the past when they've declared the winner, only to find out they were wrong once all the votes were counted. Pretty annoying if you ask me.

Anyway, chances are by the time you read this they'll know for sure (unless there's a recount). But I think I'm just gonna stop here and wait and see what they say in the morning.


11/3/2008 Here I go again...

As always, you can vote any time to see Friday's bonus comic.

As I write this, I'm watching the premiere episode of Legend of the Seeker, the new TV series based on Terry Goodkind's amazing Sword of Truth novel series (one of my favorites). It's rare enough for an epic fantasy series (even a bestselling one) to get made into a movie, much less anything else. So I was pretty surprised when they announced a 22 episode TV series based on just the first Sword of Truth book, Wizard's First Rule. From what I heard, they didn't actually name the TV show Wizard's First Rule because, if it goes well, they want to keep going past the first book. Now that I get...but then why didn't they just name it The Sword of Truth, since that's the name of the series and all? Oddly enough, so far they haven't even called the actual Sword of Truth by name and Richard is apparently just the Seeker, not the Seeker of Truth. What's up with that? It can't be copyright, seeing as they have the rights to make a show based off the book, that should include the title as well. Did some network guy think excessive use of the word truth would offend people? I don't get it... Speaking of which, they seem to be avoiding the mention of The Boxes of Orden as well, which makes even less sense.
Annoying lack of the word truth aside, so far I'm treating the series like any movie/TV show based off a book I like. Namely, I go into it somewhat hopeful and excited, then typically spend the entire time complaining about how much got changed from the original source (I can accept some change, but poorly done and/or pointless changes drive me crazy, especially when they screw up particularly important scenes). There was a bare handful of movie and mini series adaptations I liked (the Lord of the Rings movies and the Sci-Fi Channel's Dune mini series come to mind), but most have left me wanting to pummel the writers and directors (don't even get me started on the Harry Potter movies).
So far, I'm trying not to form an opinion on "Legend of the Seeker" until I've seen several episodes. Though, at the moment, that's kinda hard as my disappointment is growing rapidly. I mean, 22 hour long episodes should give them plenty of time to make a pretty faithful adaptation of the novel. I can understand them changing a few things around to speed up the start of the story a bit and maybe add a little more excitement but some of them are plain pointless like the aforementioned avoidance of the word truth and the Boxes of Orden, Kahlan not having to give orders to people after using her power (actually, the way they do the cinematics, it kinda looks like she has Geass...), Kahlan fighting with two daggers instead of a sword, etc. Others screw up parts of the story (potentially seriously) such as Richard not being friends with Zedd, Darken Rahl's army being a lot of places it shouldn't be, Richard getting way too good with a sword way too quickly, and far too much talk about prophecy this early in the story. And finally some are just plain stupid like how Rahl's army (who wasn't supposed to be there in the first place) breaking a hole in an indestructible barrier powered by the energy of the underworld itself with a catapult, and rocks from said catapult causing big explosions (these are flaming rocks, there's no TNT in there).
Hopefully, now that they've had their "big" opening, they'll stick closer to the book in the coming episodes...though, if there's one thing I've learned from past experience, it's that getting my hopes up is probably a bad idea. Then again, the show had some good points too, so we'll see.


10/31/2008 800 strips...and he still can't get the lights working

There's a new bonus comic up so vote if you want to see it. New ROM too.

To be fair to the mystery guy, his first appearance was in strip 300, but 500 strips is still a long time to go without fixing the lighting problem. Will he ever get to see what he's doing? What's he planning anyway? What other characters will show up before things switch back to Brendan and May? The only way to find out is to keep reading. I hope you guys have enjoyed the past 800 strips (actually over 1000 if you count the Blooper Reel and various other bonus comics). It's been a lot of fun so far and I've got some cool things planned for the future. Thanks a lot for sticking with PV, whether you've been here since the beginning or only just found the site.

And now, I've got homework and stuff to do (enough to keep me pretty busy over the weekend at least, maybe the entire week) so I'll be off. Have a great weekend!


10/29/2008 Well, that's annoying

And Xain and Cali return just in time for the Pokémon Contests. Looks like we've got an interesting showdown coming up. But not right away. As usual, starting with strip 800 on Friday we'll be switch gears for a little while to check in on some other characters. So who will it be? Well, you'll find out soon enough.

So what's annoying? My Metroid Prime 2 disc. Despite the fact that it's in near perfect shape (no scratches, just cleaned, etc) it keeps giving disc read errors in this one area that I unfortunately absolutely need to go through in order to continue in the game. So, until I have the time to track down another copy (not to mention the spending money to buy it), I'm stuck. Fortunately, I have plenty of other games I can play. Still, it's annoying that I have to quit in the middle though (not to mention that I have to rebuy a game I already paid for since it's no longer under warranty or anything).



10/27/2008 Spriting time

Friday's bonus comic is still there and you just have to use the Top Web Comics banner or button and vote for Pebble Version to see it. Also, remember that there's only a few more days till the 800th strip!

I think I mentioned before that I'm starting up a casual game project at school. So far it's just me and a programmer friend of mine. I might recruit another person or two eventually but I'd like to wait till things get a bit further along. I'd also like to wait a bit more before going into the details here. So far things seem to be going well though. My friend Patrick is studying up on XNA (so we can make the game for both Windows and the Xbox Live Arcade), I finished the first part of the design doc (which I'm writing in sections, since if I write the whole thing now it would be way too long before I get to the other things I need to work on), and now I'm starting on the spriting. While I work with sprites quite a lot (which should be pretty obvious seeing as you're reading this news post on the web site for my sprite comic and all), it's been quite a long time since I've done much original sprite work (aside from the occasional little item or pokéball for PV). I actually used to do quite a lot for this one project I was working on, but that was years ago. And now I'm not really limited by the engine like I was then so I need to figure out just how detailed of an original sprite I can make while keeping it looking good and keeping it to a decent size (most of my previous sprite work wasn't on more NES or early SNES style sprites, so it might end up looking kind of like that). I'm also working with a perspective (angle) that I've never sprited in before so that's a little tricky. Plus, while I've sprited a decent amount of characters, I never really make backgrounds and tilesets before (until yesterday actually). But I think I'm off to a good start. And it never hurts to have a couple more skills I can add to me resume (I'll be doing the music and sound effects eventually to, so that'll be interesting). I'll post more about the game once we've got the first milestone or two finished so look forward to it.

See you Wednesday!


10/24/2008 Melancholy?

There's a new Blooper Reel comic on TWC so vote if you want to see it. Shauni's not feeling well so there's no ROM today though.

We've been watching The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya at my school's anime club. I've seen if before (it's my DVDs we're using at the club), but it's a great show. For a quick summary, Haruhi is a girl who, to put it simply, is bored with the real world and longs for something different and interesting. To that end, she forms a club to seek out espers, time travelers, aliens, and other interesting creatures and events. It's mostly told through the eyes of Kyon, an ordinary guy who was reluctantly dragged into Haruhi's SOS Brigade. He tends to think that Haruhi is unrealistic and unreasonable with her insatiable desire to find something different and amazing. But I have to admit, I can kinda sympathize with her.
Don't get me wrong, I don't have any serious complaints about my life. For the most part, it's been really great. I've gotten to see and do a whole lot of different things, way more than most people I know. I've got a great family, good friends, and have been able to focus my studies on my passions. Naturally I could think of plenty of ways that things could be better, but for the most part, things are pretty good.
That said though, I've always kinda wished, like Haruhi, that there's something more out there. Be it books, games, anime, or whatever, I'm always immersed in stories of great adventures of one sort or another. I even create a lot of those stories myself. But in real life things are never like the stories. There's no monsters to battle, no epic world saving quests or amazing journeys to undertake, no cool creatures to train or super human powers to gain, and no amazing game that's more than a game to compete in. Even the more realistic stuff is always better in the stories. For example, no high school football team is going have as amazing an experience as the gang from Eyeshield 21 and, no matter how much I enjoy baking bread, it's just not going to be as fun and exciting as in Yakitate Japan!. And, although I'm happy with my life, if I was given an opportunity to go to a world like one of those from the stories, I think I'd have a very hard time saying no.
So yeah, I can see where Haruhi is coming from. There's nothing wrong with an ordinary life...but, no matter how good that life is, sometimes you just can't help dreaming of the extraordinary and wishing that maybe, just maybe, somewhere out there it's all real, just waiting for you to find it.


10/22/2008 Cop out

If you haven't noticed we're almost to strip 800 (it'll be one week from Friday). Who will showing up? Will it be the black suit guys? The mystery guys in the dark? The mystery guys with the code names? Some different mystery guys? Some different non-mystery guys? The one thing I'll tell you is that it's not gonna be Xain and Cali, but don't worry, you'll be seeing them soon enough anyway...

I'm gonna keep it short today. Now that all the holidays are over, my schedule is getting back to normal so I'm starting to get a bit more time on my hands. But at the moment I'm using that time to get a couple other things done. Other things that will hopefully be finished today. I'll try and think up something interesting to say Friday. See you then!


10/20/2008 The end of the world

Don't forget about Friday's bonus comic. Just vote to see it. In other Pebble Version news, I've gotten a couple requests for a RSS feed for PV. Personally, I never saw much need for one since PV updates on a pretty regular schedule, plus I'm not a big fan of RSS feeds anyway. But if enough people want one I'll look into it (since I never had much interest in them, I never bothered to learn how they work). So, if you really want a PV RSS feed let me know.

Now it's finally time for that review of The World Ends With You.

For quite a while now it seems like pretty much every great game I've played has been part of a series. There's nothing wrong with that, but every now and then it's nice to find something completely new that really grabs me. The World Ends With You on the DS does just that. Not only is it the best original game I've played in ages, it's also my new favorite DS game.
TWEWY starts out as Neku, a 15 year old resident of Japan's trendy Shibuya district, wakes up in the middle of road with no idea of what he's doing there. Before he has a chance to figure things out, he receives a strange text message and is promptly attacked by monsters. In order to survive, he's forced to team up Shiki, a cheerful girl who, like Neku has been pulled into the strange and deadly Reapers' Game. The goal, survive 7 days by completing missions set by the Reapers and fighting off the animal like Noise. Do it, and live for another day, fail, and be erased from existence. The story is full of twists and turns and features a cast of very memorable characters. As a bonus, you'll even get to learn a lot about Shibuya (a real part of Tokyo) as you play.
In battle, you control Neku and his partner simultaneously, Neku via touch commands on the bottom screen, and his partner via buttons on the top screen. Paying attention to both screens at once takes some getting used to (quite a lot of getting used to for some people), but if you have serious trouble you can switch Neku's partner to auto or semi-auto mode and let the computer control them. Once you've gotten the hang of it, battles are fun and very fast paced. They're also rather easy...if you stick with the default settings. But you'll be missing out on quite a lot if you do. TWEWY runs a kinda risk versus reward system. As you progress though the game, you'll unlock harder difficulty modes. You can switch any time and Noise drop different (and often much better) rewards at higher levels so you'll want to switch around and see what you can get. You also have the option of having Neku fight at a level below his maximum, which will weaken him, but also greatly increase item drop rates in battle. And then said rates can be increased even further by chaining multiple random battles together into one long set.
Since Shibuya is a fashion district, shopping plays a pretty big roll in the game. Before long you'll no doubt accumulate a massive collection of clothing and accessories, which can be equipped on Neku and his partners for stat boosts assorted special abilities, provided that they're brave enough to wear them. Yes, you read that right. Want to put Neku in a dress? Well, you can, but he's gonna need to be pretty brave to go along with that. You'll also be buying a lot of pins (which Neku uses to unleash a huge variety of attacks) and food (which gives permanent stat boosts to the eater).
The trendy anime style art, combined with the J-Pop soundtrack and references to Japanese locals and culture, give TWEWY a very Japanese feel. If you're into Japanese fashion, culture, and/or music, you'll find a lot to like. But even if that stuff isn't your thing, it's worth getting TWEWY for the excellent story, additive game play, and sheer amount of play time (expect to spend at least 30 hours on a single play through, another 20+ to unlock the extended ending, and at least 30 more if you want to complete your item and pin collections). It's one of the best DS games out there and also one of the best original RPGs in years. Highly recommended.


10/17/2008 Fun, but time consuming

There's a new Blooper Reel comic up so please vote and take a look. There's a new ROM too.

Yesterday was fun. My Japanese class had an outing to a nearby Japanese restaurant. It was good, cheap, and had really authentic food. It's called Sushi Ken for those of you in the Phoenix area. Haru Sushi is better if you want sushi (cheaper and has the whole conveyor belt thing), but Sushi Ken covers everything else (grilled fish, noodles, curry, tempera, teriyaki, rice bowls, etc). I'll definitely be going back before too long.
I also got a piano (well, electronic keyboard). Since I spent so much time over the summer getting back into practice (after several years of not playing at all due to college and Japan) I want to make sure I stay that way. Problem is, a decent electric keyboard (especially a full size one) can be pretty expensive, so I've been keeping half on eye on craigslist since I came down here and I finally got lucky. It's not perfect (the keys aren't weighted nearly as much as a real piano and the sound, while ok, could certainly be better) but it's full size, has a lot of nifty features (some of which should come in pretty handy for that game project I'm starting), and was a really good deal considering what I paid for it. It'll last me at least a couple years until I have the money (and space) to buy a top quality one.

Unfortunately, all that stuff didn't leave me a lot of time for homework and the like. Today is going to be pretty busy but, if I can finish everything I have planned, I'll be in pretty good shape for the coming week. See you then!


10/15/2008 Oh great...

There's a new ROM.

So, I was thinking about how my schedule for this week wouldn't be too bad...and then I got reminded of a few rather major things on my to-do list that I'd forgotten about. I've gotta run. Things should calm down by the weekend. Later!


10/13/2008 On a random note...

As always, all you need to do to see Friday's bonus comic is vote for Pebble Version using the TWC banner or button.

I'm still not quite done with The World Ends With You. I beat it a couple weeks back, but there's still quite a lot to do after the end...at least if you want to get the whole story. Oddly enough, playing it has made me somewhat fashion conscious, at least in the game. Unsurprisingly, seeing as it takes place in Tokyo Shibuya district (the heart of Japanese teen fashion), clothing plays a big roll in the game. There's hundreds of items you can buy for your characters to wear and they come in many brands and styles. Different things are trendy in different areas too, so you can get some advantages by staying on top of the trends, or even changing them to better suit your tastes.
Not sure if my new fashion knowledge will translate to much outside the game though. Then again, it might be better if it doesn't. TWEWY may encourage you to keep up on trends and brands, but not so much on outfit coordination. You don't get any bonuses from wearing clothes that go together well and, since it's a game and all, what matters most is what stat bonuses (extra attack, defense, etc) the clothes give you, not how they'd look together. Not too long ago I had my main character (a guy) decked out in high heels, a purple dress, and a biker jacket, while carrying (or maybe riding) a skateboard.
It would be pretty neat if clothes in the real world made you stronger or gave you specials powers for wearing them... Although, if my general tend for favoring good states over all else carried over from games to real life, it would be kinda awkward. I've put my guys in plenty of weird clothing combos in TWEWY and then there's a character of mine in an online RP who's running around carrying a couple of dead walruses (weird yeah, but they've got great stats). If it were me though... I really can't say which would win out, embarrassment or the desire to get the best stats possible. I guess we'll never know...


10/10/2008 Cooking

There's a new PV Blooper Reel comic for everyone who votes. Shauni wasn't able to get a new ROM done for today, but she's planning to get two up next week.

I know I said I'd try and write up something interesting for today but I've got a total blank right now. I guess fasting all day can do that to you. Maybe I should talk about cooking...

So, after watching Yakitate Japan! a couple years back I started to get into cooking. Couldn't do much in Japan, seeing as I didn't have an oven, but I quickly got back into it after returning to the US. My congregation back in CO has themed meals on Friday nights, so I got to try making all sorts of different stuff while I was back home over the summer. Now that I'm back in school, I don't have as much time to cook but I still make stuff when I can. I just made a bunch of azuki (sweet red bean) paste a couple days ago and batch of muffins earlier this week. This coming week I want to make an apple crisp (great for breakfasts when I'm in a hurry) and a loaf of bread of some sort (nearly finished off the last one I made). Particularly looking forward to the bread (Yakitate Japan! and all that), my mom got me this giant bread book with tons of recipes I want to try. Right now I'm at the level where I'm really good at following recipes, and I can modify them a bit here and there with decent results. Haven't done too much that's entirely original...but I should get there eventually if I keep practicing.

But enough about that, I should get to work on more Pebble Version strips (still haven't rebuilt my buffer). See you Monday!


10/8/2008 Drawing a blank

Did I ever mention the nifty fan art from Astral Omega that I added to the site?

I can't think of much to say so...maybe a little update on what I've been doing. In a word, homework. Fortunately, I'm nearly caught up. There's still three big Jewish holidays this month (this Thursday and the next couple of Tuesdays) so that isn't gonna help but once this week is over I should be completely on top of things and shouldn't have too much trouble staying there. Helps that my car is fixed so I don't have to walk to school anymore.

Outside of homework, I've been trying to keep up on the TV shows I follow (though I haven't had time to watch much more than that) and working in a bit of video game time here and there. Right now I'm getting all the secret reports in The World Ends With You and sneaking in some Mega Man 9 here and there. Reading...I've been doing quite a lot of reading, but it's pretty much all been school stuff.

Like I said, things should calm down by the end of the week so I'll think up something more interesting to write about for Friday.



10/6/2008 Gotta catch up

If you didn't see Friday's Blooper Reel comic yet, you just need to vote for Pebble Version on TWC to check it out. They changed the vote confirmation process slightly, but it's pretty simple so you shouldn't have any trouble figuring it out.

I'm kinda behind on Pebble Version strips right now (haven't had the time to remake my buffer yet) so I'm gonna keep things short right now and get back to work. Later!


10/3/2008 Not much to say

There's a new Pebble Version Blooper Reel comic (a regular one) up for everyone who votes for PV using the Top Web Comics banner or button. There's a new ROM too.

My grandfather passed away yesterday... Considering his age and condition, we thought it might happen soon but still... I'm glad I got to spend some time with him last week. He was a great guy, always telling jokes and making funny comments. He used to play cards with my brother and I quite a lot (taught us a good chunk of the card games we know) and took us to play mini-golf whenever we were near a course. I'm going to miss him...


10/1/2008 Getting back to work

Well, I got back to AZ ok so it's back to school, homework, and all that. My grandpa was doing pretty good for the first few days so my dad and I got to talk to him a lot. Unfortunately, he took a turn for the worse towards the end of the trip and now he's having a lot of trouble talking... Can't really do much though, other than wait and see what happens.

And that's it for now. It's kinda late (Tuesday night anime club has a knack for going way over its time slot) and I've got a lot of stuff to catch up on later today (mostly homework and ready assignments, but hopefully I can work in some TV shows I missed while I was gone).



9/26/2008 A short trip UPDATE

Well, I do have a usuable internet connection and a little time to update the site...problem is, I don't have a comic ready. Between cramming a week's worth of homework into a couple days and then the stuff here with my grandparents, I burned through my buffer and haven't gotten a chance to make any more comics yet so there's no new comic today. Sorry... Was hoping to get one done tonight but stuff happened and I couldn't. Regular updates will resume on Wednesday.

There's a new voters' bonus comic (the last of the special election 2008 mini-series) and there's a new ROM.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I'm heading back east today to visit my grandpa (who is in the hospital). If all goes according to plan I'll be back Monday evening, just in time for Rosh Hoshanna (major Jewish holiday)... So things are gonna be kinda crazy for a little while. Pebble Version should still update normally, but Monday's update may be a little early, a little late or maybe skipped entirely (though it probably won't come to that) depending on my schedule and internet situation while I'm gone.

And that's it. I have to wake up extremely early to get to the airport so I need to keep this brief. Have a good weekend!


9/24/2008 And things get complicated...

So, my week just got a lot busier and more complicated. I mentioned last time that my grandpa had a heart attack. He's still doing alright but, like I said, they're not sure if he's going to recover or not. So my dad is flying back east to visit him over the weekend. And, since I haven't seen my grandpa for awhile, and I only have actual classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays (though there's quite a lot of homework and online stuff to do on the other days), I'm going with him. We only made the arrangements for this yesterday but we're leaving Friday morning, getting back Monday night. And, since I'm not sure how much free time I'll have while I'm there, I'm trying to get all my homework assignments done before hand. Did a bunch yesterday but I still have a ton left for today.

And, if that wasn't enough to keep me busy, I'm suddenly without a car. Got in a minor accident in a parking lot and bashed up my rear bumper (badly enough that I need it fixed if I want to use the trunk). It was both my and the other person's fault. At least no one was hurt and her car didn't really take much damage (lucky her). But my car is in the shop for a little while (if I'm lucky it'll be done shortly after I get back from visiting my grandpa). Wish my insurance had a lower deductible though...

But anyway, I'm gonna be pretty busy until...probably Thursday next week (seeing as I get back Monday, Tuessday is a big Jewish holiday, and Wednesday I'll be doing a bunch more homework). Pebble Version updates shouldn't be affected by any of that stuff, with the possible exception of Monday, since I'm not completely sure what my internet connectivity is going to be like. Should be ok though.

So, I should get going. Lots and lots to do and all. See you Friday.


9/22/2008 It ends with me

Friday's bonus comic is still there if you vote and all that. Oh, BTW, in case you're getting tired of pokédex strips, this will be the last one for a while.

It's been an odd weekend. My grandfather had a heart attack. He's doing ok now, although he's pretty old already and his health wasn't great to begin with so they're not sure if he'll totally recover or not and, if he does, he's going to have an even harder time getting around... Unfortunately, there's really not much I can do right now, seeing as he's on the other side of the country...
On much less serious matters, I also had to deal with the knowledge that, starting now, I'm gonna have a lot more homework per week. Had some serious internet problems too, but they're fixed now.

I got a bit of a late start on this update so I should get going soon but, before I do, a quick nod to the thing that made me late in the first place. Namely, The World Ends With You. It's for the DS and it's the best original video game (as in, not based on another game or anything else) that I've played in ages. I'll save most of the details for when I finish it and do a full review. But, for a quick list of the key details... It's a Square Enix game lead by Nomura, the guy behind Kingdom Hearts and some of the Final Fantasy games. The game takes place in Tokyo's Shibuya area and hasn't really been Americanized so it's got a very Japanese feel to it. It features a neat art style, a J-Pop/Rock soundtrack, an extremely unique battle system (fun but with a kinda steep learning curve), and an excellent story. The further I get the harder it is to stop playing. I always have to find out what happens next in the story, get some nifty new outfit, or master another pin... More on it in a couple of weeks or so once I've gotten to the end.

Well, I need to get some sleep. See you Wednesday!


9/19/2008 Another project done

There's a another new election themed bonus comic up. If you want to see it, all you need to do is click the Top Web Comics banner or button and confirm your vote. There's a new ROM too.

I've spent a lot of time this week working on some improvements to my portfolio. Just about done too, but I spent so much time working on the last bit that I didn't leave myself any time to write something for today. So enjoy your weekend and I'll see you Monday.


9/16/2008 Weird...

I recently started watching Fringe, it's the new show by the guy who created Alias and Lost, which is the reason I'm watching it. It's strange... Kinda X Files style, at least I think so, I never really watched X Files. But it's about a special team investigating some weird pseudo science phenomena and there seems to be some big conspiracy going on in the background. It's not bad so far, pretty strange though. But what I'm really excited about TV wise is that Heroes Season 3 starts next week.

Since I'm pretty caught up with my homework right now, I'm planning to do my last couple of shopping stops today (the huge Asian super market mainly), though I'm also gonna swing by Bookman's (giant used book/CD/DVD/game/etc store) so I can drop off the box of stuff to trade in that I found at my brother's apartment. Hopefully I can grab a few good books while I'm there, I don't want to be reading textbooks all the time.

And that's it for now. Long evening classes don't really leave me in a very creative mood.


9/14/2008 One week down...

Don't forget that you can always vote to see Friday's special election themed bonus comic.

Hmm... I don't really have much to say at the moment. I'm one week into the current semester and I'm starting a get a decent feel for my classes and schedule. I've also got pretty much all my shopping done (though I need to swing by the big Asian supermarket soon). Right now I'm also working on tweaking my portfolio a bit. My plan is to be done with that (and a couple other things) by the end of the week and then get serious about the game project I want to get started next week. Once it gets going, I might end up keeping a sort of project journal for it here on PV, just to give me something interesting to write about, but we'll see.
In the meantime, here's some info about my classes this semester.
Intermediate Japanese: I'm auditing this to stay in practice. It's a fairly intense class but, for the most part, I'm a level or two above it so it's not bad. Just review really, but it's good for practice and my Japanese grammar had gotten a bit sloppy...
Research Methods in Technology: This is a class that everyone in all the master's programs has to take. Personally, I don't really think I need a whole semester on how to research stuff (I'm a master's student, it's not like I've never researched anything before), but part of it covers all the thesis requirements I'm gonna need to know for when I start the thesis classes (probably next semester) so at least that will be useful. Not looking forward to this class though, boring subject aside, there's looking to be a ton of homework.
Organizational Leadership & Group Dynamics: Another one I have to take but I'm not really looking forward to. I have no interest in management and don't find it all that interesting either so I'm not sure how useful it's gonna be (though I suppose I might have to do a bit of management as lead designer someday so you never know). On the bright side, the teacher seems pretty good so the classes could be halfway interesting and homework seems reasonable.
Business of Gaming: I took the undergrad version of this awhile back but it's still one of my weaker areas of knowledge as far as the game industry goes. Not that I plan to spend much time on the business side of things though (if it came down to it, I'd hire someone else to handle that stuff), but I should still be able to understand as much as I can. Hard to say if the class is going to be interesting or boring, probably a bit of both here and there. There's a lot of homework too, but nowhere near what I've got in the research class.
And that's it. Master's classes tend to have a lot more work involved than undergrad classes so you take less of them (max is 12 credits per semester as opposed to 18, I'm taking 9 credits of classes and auditing a 4 credit class so that, with whatever else I end up working on (game project, possible internship, misc other stuff) should keep me busy.

See you Wednesday!


9/12/2008 My new apartment

There's a new voters' bonus comic up. This is the first of a short election inspired mini series, a lot like the election strips I've done in the past, but this time there will be three of them. Moving on, Shauni isn't feeling too well so there's no ROM today.

Thursday are looking to be my busiest day of the week by far, and I got back from school kinda late Thursday night so I'm going to keep this quick and just post those apartment pics I promised. First off, here's pic of all my figurines (most of which I got in Japan) before I laid them out around the apartment. Moving on, here's the living room, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom. It's a pretty nice apartment and a whole lot bigger than the one I had in Japan. Pretty good location too. It's on the second floor (I would have preferred first but it's ok) but it's off in the corner of the complex so it's pretty quiet here, which is good when you're in a complex with a lot of college students.

Well, I need to get going. See you next week!


9/10/2008 Crisis Core

Well, had my first day of classes and it wasn't bad. Still not too excited about the stuff I'm taking, but a couple of the classes are at least looking less boring than I thought they'd be. Maybe even kinda interesting. And Intermediate Japanese will make for a good review, even though I'm mostly a couple levels above it. Pictures of my apartment will have to wait till Friday though. I got wrapped up doing homework (yes, the first week only just started and I already have a pretty good chunk of homework, yay Master's program...) and forget to take the pictures. I got to catch up with some of my favorite teachers though (who are unfortunately only teaching undergrad classes), so that was fun. Now for that review...

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was one of the first things announced in Square-Enix's Compilation of Final Fantasy VII project but ended up being the last one released (at least for now, I have a feeling that the compilation has one or two unannounced projects left). Fortunately, it was worth the wait.
Unlike the other compilation projects, Crisis Core isn't a sequel to FFVII but a prequel. It starts out five or six years before the start of FFVII and goes up to a short time before the beginning. Instead of focusing on one of FFVII's familiar cast of main characters, Crisis Core puts you in the role of Zack Fair, Shinra Soldier First Class (well, he eventually becomes First Class). Zack actually played a rather important, though small, role in the backstory in FFVII. Unfortunately, I really can't say anything about that without some major spoilers. Suffice it to say that if you've played through FFVII you should already know who he is. If you haven't, you can still enjoy Crisis Core's excellent plot, though you'll certainly miss out on the significance of some characters and events. The story starts out with Zack and fellow Soldiers First Class Angeal and Sephiroth working to end the war with Wutai but quickly focuses on their efforts to stop the dastardly plans of the former Soldier First Class Genesis. There's quite a lot of twists and turns in the story both leading up to and following a very fateful event in the town of Neibelheim (FFVII players will know what I'm talking about). Once again, I don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say the the story is excellent, adds a lot to the plot of FFVII, and features many interesting characters (both old and new).
The game itself is an action RPG. Random battles abound and it's up to you to ensure that Zack runs, dodges, blocks, and (naturally) slashes his way to victory. Aside from this basic moves, Zack and also use items and any materia he has equipped. There's a huge variety of materia and, when you get far enough in the game, you can combine both materia and items. It's a fairly deep system and you can easily spend quite a lot of time playing around to create the perfect set of materia. Adding one more layer to battles is the DMW. The DMW system works like a slot machine of sorts and runs doing battle (it automatically activates by draining your SP, which you gain by defeating enemies). New pictures are added to the DMW as you advance in the game and complete various quests. If you get lucky the DMW will give you a stream of temporary bonuses during battle such as no MP cost for materia usage or even invincibility. If you get really lucky the DMW can also activate limit breaks (powerful super moves) and level up both Zack and his materia. It's a kinda strange system, but works well and can be pretty fun.
The main story itself isn't more than 20 or 30 hours long at most but Crisis Core also has 300 mostly optional missions which Zack can undertake for a variety of treasures and other rewards. While most of the missions don't have much of a plot, they're fairly quick to do, and the only way to get the game's best gear. Not to mention that they give you a whole lot more game play time, especially if you're playing on the very difficult hard mode.
In the end, Crisis Core was definitely worth the wait. It's one of the best looking PSP games out there, has a great soundtrack, and a very moving storyline. If you've got a PSP, you should certainly give it a try even if you haven't played FFVII. If you are an FFVII fan though, you have to play CC, even if it means buying a PSP to do so.


9/8/2008 The last guest comic

Friday's bonus comic is up if you want to vote and see it. FYI: Today will be the last of the guest comics. Now that I'm totally finished unpacking and getting all the new apartment type stuff done, I have time to start making new comics again. Regular Pebble Version strips will resume on Wednesday. In other site news, I made some changes to the Books page and added some stuff related to me to the Links page (my online portfolio site, My Anime List page, etc).

Today's the first day of school, although all my classes are on Tuesday and Thursday (plus one online class) so I don't really have much to do until tomorrow. But I'm going to swing by the campus anyway to pay tuition and pick up my books. My current plans for this semester? Aside from classes and anime club, I'm planning to spend the next week or two tweaking my portfolio a bit and then see if I can get a part time internship at one of the local game companies. If not, maybe I'll get a regular part time job. Or maybe I'll just devote more time to my various other projects, like the casual game project I plan to start up soon. While casual games aren't what I really want to be working on, the type of games I want to make are mostly too ambitious for school projects (though a demo could potentially work). Besides, I've got a couple of pretty good ideas for casual games and they're the type of things that a small team could potentially complete in a semester or two of work. Even better, if I have a complete game that turns out well, I could sell it. Never know, I could make the next Diner Dash or something...but that's a lot of what if's. It could happen, and I'll certainly be working towards it, but I'm not really expecting to create the next smash hit casual game. Never know though...

Well, I suppose that's about it for today. I'll try and post some pics of my new apartment on Wednesday (if only to show how much larger it is than the one I had in Japan (and also to show off all the neat figurines I bought while in Japan)). I'll try and have a review of Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII ready for then too.



9/5/2008 Just about done...

There's a new bonus comic today so please vote. New ROM too.
Well, today is the last of the Comments by Keit strips. Apologies to Keit for taking so long to post them. There's going to be one more guest comic on Monday (so I'll hopefully have enough time to remake my buffer) and trust me, it's a good one. Regular PV strips will resume on Wednesday.

At this point my apartment is mostly set up. Still have a handful of things to put away and a couple things to take care of but I should have that pretty much taken care of later today. Can't seem to find anything decent to stick my TV remotes on though. Maybe I'll have to swing by IKEA again when I get the chance and take another look, seeing as Target and Walmart don't seem to have what I'm looking for.

But anyway, everything else is good, I should be caught up on everything by the end of the weekend, and that's about it. See you next week!

Oh wait, wanted to say one more thing. I found a kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi restaurant) here in Phoenix! It's very close to the ones in Japan and pretty cheap (not as cheap as the places in Japan, but close enough). I've been really missing the kaiten zushi from Japan so I'm thrilled to find this place. If you're in the Phoenix area and have any interest in sushi you've got to give it a try. It's in Tempe at the corner of Ray and Priest right next to the NYPD (which happens to be my favorite pizza place here) so drop by if you get the chance.


9/5/2008 Just about done...

There's a new bonus comic today so please vote. New ROM too.
Well, today is the last of the Comments by Keit strips. Apologies to Keit for taking so long to post them. There's going to be one more guest comic on Monday (so I'll hopefully have enough time to remake my buffer) and trust me, it's a good one. Regular PV strips will resume on Wednesday.

At this point my apartment is mostly set up. Still have a handful of things to put away and a couple things to take care of but I should have that pretty much taken care of later today. Can't seem to find anything decent to stick my TV remotes on though. Maybe I'll have to swing by IKEA again when I get the chance and take another look, seeing as Target and Walmart don't seem to have what I'm looking for.

But anyway, everything else is good, I should be caught up on everything by the end of the weekend, and that's about it. See you next week!

Oh wait, wanted to say one more thing. I found a kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi restaurant) here in Phoenix! It's very close to the ones in Japan and pretty cheap (not as cheap as the places in Japan, but close enough). I've been really missing the kaiten zushi from Japan so I'm thrilled to find this place. If you're in the Phoenix area and have any interest in sushi you've got to give it a try. It's in Tempe at the corner of Ray and Priest right next to the NYPD (which happens to be my favorite pizza place here) so drop by if you get the chance.


9/3/2008 Made it

Here's Part 3 of Comments by Keit (parts 1 and 2 are in the Guest Comics Misc section of the Extras Page). Regular PV strips will return next week. And, if you missed it, I gave my Takesumi Supreme review from last week its own page.

So, I drove all the way to AZ, got to my new apartment yesterday afternoon and spent most of the rest of the day shopping, unpacking, and the like. It'll probably take another day or two to finish though so I'll be keeping busy. But college doesn't start till Monday and I don't have any classes until Tuesday (having trouble deciding if my class schedule now that I'm a post grad student is great or really annoying, but more on that another time), so I should have a bit of time to relax once everything it set up. I'll probably spend said time catching up with some friends and playing video games. I finally started The World Ends With You, which is really cool so far, and Super Mario RPG was added to the Wii Virtual Console a couple days back, something I've been waiting for since I first got my Wii.

And that's about it, I really should get some sleep. Lots to do later.


9/1/2008 And I'm off

Friday's bonus comic is up and all that. As previously mentioned, I'm moving back to Arizona this week to start studying for my Master's degree. Since moving takes a lot of time and effort, and I have a few guest comics I've been saving, there's going to be some guest comics this week. Normal PV strips will return next week. Got some great bonus comics though. You may notice that today's comic is Part 2 (you can find Part 1 here). See, Keit sent me a whole bunch of these little one shot gags a long time ago but they kinda got buried in a folder and I forgot about them for a while. I found them again earlier this year and compiled my favorites into several collections, but only got around to posting the first one. Oh, quick warning, if all goes well I'll be in my apartment with a working internet connection by Tuesday night...but something could always go wrong. So if there's no update on Wednesday, assume that I've having a problem getting the internet connection hooked up.

There's a new That Soap Opera comic up too...except it's not all that new, I just forgot to upload it for a while.

As I hoped, I was able to finish Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII yesterday (finished all 300 missions and beat the game). The ultimate optional boss was really powerful, but not too bad with the right preparation. I beat it on my second try. The ending of the game was, well... Even though I knew what was going to happen (Crisis Core is a prequel after all), I still cried at the end. Kinda strange really, hardly any stories hit me hard enough to make me cry but now I've had two in one summer (Crisis Core and Metal Gear Solid 4). A good sad story will make me feel depressed and kinda numb, but it's very rare that one makes me cry. Usually only about one a year, if that, so having two so close together is pretty unusual.
Anyway, the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII project turned out pretty well over all and Crisis Core is without a doubt the best thing to come out of it. I'll try a do a full review when I have more time. Back to the compilation though... I suppose they could end it as is (persistent rumors of a PS3 FFVII remake aside), but between some things in Crisis Core and the secret ending in Dirge of Cerberus, there's enough loose threads for one last sequel of some sort so I hope they keep it going a bit longer

Well, that's all I have time for now. See you Wednesday (hopefully).


8/29/2008 Getting ready to go

There's a new bonus comic just waiting for everyone who votes and there's a new ROM.

I've been kinda busy the last couple of days and it looks like the next few aren't going to be any different. As previously mentioned, I'm heading to Arizona on Monday. Before then though, there's the packing (which I've already started on) and my parents are also going out of town for the weekend to see a concert so I'll be here taking care of my grandparents more than usual (speaking of which, I hope my parents do ok on their own with that when I'm not around). Admittedly though, one of the reasons I've been busy is that I'm rather determined to finish Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII before I leave. Not that the game itself is all that long, but there's 300 mostly optional missions and I'm playing on hard mode, which means enemies deal a ton of damage and their HP is through the roof (at the point I am now, it's quite common for monsters in random battles to have over 200,000 HP). Fortunately, I finally managed to get the items that let me break the HP and damage limits so things have been going much faster than they were.

And, on a totally unrelated note, I have got to get a soundtrack for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Hare Hare Yukai FTW!).

See you Monday!


8/27/2008 Short update

If you didn't read Monday's news post, I recommend that you do. I'm going to keep things short today. Just spent a really long time configuring a new program and it's late. Quick announcement before I go. As I've already mentioned, I'll be moving back to Arizona to start working on my Master's degree. Well, I'll be leaving Monday. Monday's update will not be effected. If all goes well, I'm be moved in and have the internet set up by Tuesday night, but something could go wrong so if Wednesday's update is late (or skipped) that's why. Also, because of all the time and effort involved in moving, I might put up some guest comics I've been saving for part of next week instead of regular PV strips.


8/25/2008 Takesumi Supreme

If you didn't see Friday's return to normal bonus comics, all you need to do is vote (use the TWC banner or button).

Right now you're probably wondering what Takesumi Supreme is. Well, I may or may not have mentioned it before but my dad is a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist, and a rather famous one in his field. He and and a friend of his developed a bunch of techniques that they teach to other doctors in yearly seminars and he's got a monthly newsletter that goes out to doctors all over the world (over 1000 I think). So anyway, one of his more recent projects is Supreme Nutrition Products. He teamed up with another friend of his to create a series of all natural plant based supplements for a variety of things. (FYI: the link above is for the new consumer site. The physician's site (which I created, along with all the product labels) has a lot more info but it's more technical and the ordering info on it is for doctors only). He's got 6 products out now, all of which have had very good results. And, since they're plant based and don't have any fillers, chemicals, or other junk, there's few (if any) side effects and they're about as healthy as you can get. I've taken most of them at some point or another (and some pretty regularly) and they work really well.
But anyway, by now I'm sure you want to know why I'm talking about all this. Well, if you haven't guessed, Takesumi Supreme (once again, that's the consumer site, here's the physicians's version) is his newest product. And this one is special because I was the one who gave him the idea. When I was in Japan, he asked me to keep an eye out for anything that might make a good product. One of the first things I thought of actually came from a favorite anime of mine, Yakitate Japan! (an amazingly awesome show about baking bread). There's one episode (can't remember the exact one but it's after the Newcomers' Tournament and before the Monaco Cup) where they use takesumi to create a super healthy black bread to combat the trio of bakers hired by the evil Yukino. And, since Yakitate's breads are always realistic (though insanely creative), I had my dad look into it.
Takesumi is a specially made bamboo charcoal. If you've ever heard of activated charcoal (you can get a bottle of tablets in any vitamine store), takesumi is something like that only way better. You can put it in water to remove chemicals and impurities (in Japan they sell chunks people put in water used to make tea or rice). It's also supposed to be great for the skin (it shows up in a lot of Japanese skin care products), absorbs EMFs (electromagnetic fields emitted by pretty much anything electronic) and oders, and does a whole bunch of other things. And, while it's not often used in food (though you can find bread and soba with it if you search), it's actually really easy to toss in a dough (I've successfully added it to bread and muffins so far) and it's really healthy to eat (or mix in water and drink). Plus, it doesn't really have a taste so you don't have worry about it making things taste weird (it will turn them black if you use enough though). If you want a more detailed list of what it can do check the web sites I linked to above.
So, to recap, takesumi is a specially made bamboo charcoal from Japan. It's extremely good for you, doesn't taste bad, and can easily be mixed into many different foods or drinks. And Supreme Nutrition Products is the only company in the US (and probably anywhere outside of Asia for that matter) that sells it (in consumable powder form anyway, there might be someone selling big chunks of it somewhere). And the best part? Since the product was my idea, I get a small cut from every bottle sold. So why not buy a bottle or two (or three, or four, or...) and give it a try? Tell your friends, tell your parents, tell random people on the street! And hey, even if I wasn't getting a cut, I'd still recommend it both for the health reasons and cause I can recreate the Black Ja-pan bread from Yakitate Japan! with it, which is just plain awesome.


8/22/2008 A little distracted

There's a new voters' bonus comic up. Now the special forum award strips are done, it's back to normal Blooper Reel strips. There's a sorta new ROM too.

I would totally say something interesting right now...except that I just started watching The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and it's proving very distracting (and hilarious). Anyway, I've got a big thing to write about on Monday so, um, I'll see you then.


8/20/2008 All taken care of

The forum upgrade is done and seems to be a big hit. There's even more great features than I originally realized. A lot of stuff is pretty obvious (new posting features, birthday announcements, etc), while other things no one except me will see (admin panel features). I'm particularly fond of the mass user delete, which let me easily remove most of the spambot accounts that have been cluttering things up for way too long. Now if I could just do that web site redesign... Well, maybe I'll audit a php class while I'm back at college... Speaking of which, that last class registration finally went through (haven't found out how to audit classes yet though). Finished some other stuff too so my list of things I need to get done before going to AZ is rapidly shrinking.

And, um, gee... I can't think of anything else to talk about. I'm getting ready to start writing my next book (part two in my comedy novel series). It'll be nice to get to work on it, I had been hoping to start a month or two ago but my last novel took longer than I'd planned to edit and I've had to do a lot with my grandparents and the like so... I just hope that college won't slow my writing down too much this time around. Now if I could just find a publisher... Well, if I end up with a lot of free time in AZ, giving another go at finding one will certainly be one of my projects.

Guess that's about it for today. I'll see you Friday.


8/18/2008 The internet hates me

UPDATE: Thanks to some help from my host, the new forums are up and running!

If you didn't see Friday's bonus comic (featuring Gardialvoir) you can vote and check it out anytime. Strangely, it looks like strip 773 (which was supposed to go up Friday) got added to the archives but not here to the main page so a lot of you guys probably haven't seen it before. Because of that, and since I'm a tad behind on making new strips anyway, I decided to just repost it (correctly this time) today. 774 will go up Wednesday.

So, the internet seems to really hate my lately. It all started last week with the problems with the forums (they were down for 2 days, resisted all attempts to fix them, and it never was entirely clear what went wrong in the first place). Around that same time, I was trying to register for classes for the fall semester (if you missed it, I'm heading back to school in AZ to study for my Master's degree in September). But they had setup my account wrong so I couldn't register. It took several days (and a few e-mails to IT) to get the problem fixed. So I finally got that taken care of and went through the registration process. But then, when I received my registration confirmation, it turned out that they'd completely forgotten about one of the classes I'd tried to register for so I had to submit another application (which I'm still waiting to hear the results of) for that class.
And that brings us to this week. While I was trying to figure out how to fix the forums before, I noticed that the new version is out, and had a whole lot of neat features I've been wanting. So I decided to try an upgrade. First I tried a straight forward upgrade... Only to find that, with my host's server settings, it won't work. Fortunately, that's a relatively common problem so there's a way to do the whole upgrade offline and then upload the new version off your computer. So I got that all set up, ran through the conversion process on my computer, and tried to upload the new version of the forums...only to run into a problem. See, it's a fairly large file and something always seemed to go wrong before it could finish uploading and installing. And it wasn't something fixable either since I just kept getting random errors and disconnects during random parts of the process. Since things could never seem to work quite long enough to finish the process, I decided to break the database file into several smaller files. As I'd hoped, it helped a lot and I was able to get most of the new forums uploaded and installed. All except the largest piece (which I unfortunately couldn't break down any further)... Despite numerous tries, the upload / install process still can't seem to hold itself together long enough to finish the whole file. It's gotten close and, given enough tries, would probably work eventually. Problem is, each try can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple hours and I need to be around to restart it if it fails. So there's really no telling how long it'd take to get that last part done. Anyway, I got pretty sick of that but I don't want to give up on upgrading the forums (especially when I've already put so much time into it), so I sent my host the file and asked them to install it for me. Since they can just install it right on the system (instead of going over the internet like I have to) it should be pretty quick and easy for them to do. So hopefully they'll be nice, do it, and the new forums will be up and running sometime today. If they don't...I suppose I'll put the upgrade on hold for a while and bug them to improve their SQL uploader instead. I'll likely add an update to this post once the new forums are up (or I decide to give up on it for now). In the meantime, the old forums are still up and running just fine though any posts made between when I started the upgrade process (Saturday night) and when it finishes will be lost (or, if my host doesn't help and I give up, no posts will be lost and the current forums will keep on as usual). Should know soon either way.


8/15/2008 Fixed...I hope

There's a new bonus comic up for everyone who votes. This one is the last of the mini-series featuring the members of the 2008 Pebble Version Forum Awards and features Gardialvoir. Helpful note, Gar's comic will make more sense if you take a look at this comic from last year first. There's also a new ROM.

I'd like to apologize for the recent downtime on the forums. Despite a lot of back and forth with my host, I'm still not completely sure what caused it or why they're working now. But hopefully they'll stay that way, cause if they don't I might have to upgrade my hosting package and that'll naturally mean higher hosting costs. On a brighter note, while trying to figure all that stuff out I did some research on the newest version of phpbb. It's got some nice features and I might try an upgrade sometime soon.
The forums were only one of several internet related problems I've had thing week. But fortunately, they all seem to be resolved now as well.

And that's about all I have to say. I went hiking with my brother for a bit yesterday, which was nice. But otherwise I've been keeping pretty busy and today will be no exception (especially since my parents, who are on vacation, had their flight canceled and won't be able to get back here today as planned). Have a good weekend.


8/13/2008 "HQ, cancel my handkerchief, keep my wallet open, cut my shoe, and get that person off my tie."

UPDATE 2: The forums seem to be working again for now.  If they continue to do so for the next few days we're probably good.  If not, I may need to upgrade my hosting package.

UPDATE: There seems to be a sudden and unexpected SQL glitch in the forums. It appears to be more complicated than I originally thought but I'm working to fix it and will hopefully have things running again soon.

I finally remembered to update the Cast Page and the Pokédex.

Because of the time I spent working on those, I'm not gonna talk much today. But, I really should explain that quote in the title. It's from Get Smart (not the movie), a 60's spy show starring Don Adams. It was written by Mel Brooks (who I'm a big fan of) and I've been wanting to watch it for a while now. Well the DVD set of the first season finally came out last week and Best Buy had it on sale so I got a copy and I've been watching it for the past couple of days. It's hilarious. That quote comes from one of my favorite scenes so far (from the episode Satan Place). I'd link a video clip, but I can't find one. Anyway, great show.

Well, see you Friday!


8/11/2008 Happy 5th Anniversary Pebble Version!

If you haven't seen Friday's bonus comic yet, you should check it out. It features forum member Doodleshark and has a cameo by Silver (long time forum member and super mod).

Today marks the 5th anniversary of Pebble Version. I actually started working on PV several months earlier but it was August 11th 2003 when the site went live. And, after five years, the comic is still nowhere near the end of the story. But hey, at least Brendan and May finally got their third gym badge. Only five more to go...and the Elite Four, and that end game stuff, and...
Anyway, a lot has happened over the last five years...heck a lot has happened over the last year. Just think, when I made PV's 4th anniversary post on August 13th last year (the 11th was a Saturday and I wasn't able to update that day) I was preparing to fly to Japan the next day. I was excited, nervous, and very unsure of how the coming months were going to turn out. In the end, I spent an amazing eight months working and traveling in Japan. My news posts about my activities, teaching work, sightseeing, observations, and photos (nearly 600 plus a few short movies) turned out to be a big hit both with old readers and new (all my Japan posts have since been compiled into a nice travelogue for easy reading). After all that, the last few months have been rather dull in comparison. Part of me still wishes I'd stayed in Japan for another year, and I'm really looking forward to my next trip there (whenever it may be), but I know it's a good thing that I came back when I did. Aside from the fact that I love game design and am looking forward to throwing myself seriously back into it, it's also good I was here over the summer. My grandparent's rather sudden move out to CO in May has made a lot of extra work for my parents, particularly my mom, and she probably would have gone nuts if I wasn't here to help.
What the next year is going to hold...I'm not sure. Right now it looks like I'll be studying for my master's until the end of 2009 but you never know. And after that...who knows? Maybe I'll even end up working in Japan again.
But anyway, back to Pebble Version. There probably won't be any more big travelogues for a while (or maybe ever, though I hope not), but the comics will continue. No matter where I am or what I'm doing I'm going to do my best to keep the comic going, at least until the whole Hoenn story is finished (I do actually have some plans for what would happen to Brendan and May after everything in Hoenn is wrapped up, but that's so far in the future that I'm not promising anything).
Once again I'd like to thank all the fans, especially those who take the time to write, vote, donate, and the like. You guys are great and I love hearing from you. Of course, I also want to thank all the forum members for another year of fun, interesting, and enjoyable conversations.
So thanks again to everyone, from those who have stuck with Pebble Version from the beginning, to those who only started reading recently. It's been a great five years. I'm looking forward to what comes next and I hope you are too. Let's have a great 6th year as well!


Pokemon and all related images and trademarks are copyrighted by Nintendo, one of my favorite games companies who would certainly never waste their time by trying to sue me. Especially since I'm protected under the Fair Use Rule of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. Aside from that the actual site content is copyrighted by me, Josiah Lebowitz 2003.