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BEARDEDPIXEL
12/08/14 at 17:36 EST

Recently put together a website relating to my development efforts. Head on over to beardedpixel.net for that.

Good news is, a public demo should be ready for Return to Roots soon. Ignore the one on this website, it is as old as sin itself.
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Return to Roots status update
12/05/16 at 23:13 EST

Not sure how much activity this site actually gets any more (I for one have been neglecting it in favour of Twitter) but for anyone interested, and particularly for anyone who knows me well, Return to Roots has passed the 50% development milestone, making it my "Most likely to succeed wherein succeed is defined as not abandoned prior to completion" project. I'm guessing the fact that one of my favourite musicians not only inspired but is assisting with the project is a big motivational factor, but details aren't important.

I've included some text-based screenshots below:

Pizzor-sliding-on-ice-being-chased-by-a-penguin.png

Large-mushroom-surrounded-by-smaller-mushrooms-in-mossy-cavern.png

Obligatory-underwater-level.png

ETA's still a few months away. I'm slow with graphics and game development takes a remarkable amount of time.
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Return to Roots Demo
12/01/11 at 22:52 EST

Updated: 2012/08/15 - This is incredibly obsolete. Download link has been removed. Please see beardedpixel.net/rtr instead
Updated: 2012/01/19 - Bug fixes. Added unique graphics for large HP pickups.

Presenting, for your pleasure:



What is "Return to Roots"?

The short of it is, Return to Roots is a retro-style run and gun platforming game with its roots in the late 80s, early 90s era of NES games. One series in particular, though let's not name names. It features simple controls, simple game play, simple objectives, and a simple aesthetic:



Aditional screenshots here, here, and for a minute spoiler, here.

It also features a bitchin' soundtrack lifted (with great respect - more on that to follow!) from Danimal Cannon's debut chiptune album, Roots.

Those interested in downloading the demo and giving it a whirl are welcome to do so by clicking here.

More about the game, its development, and inspiration

Return to Roots is the story of a scientist who has dedicated his efforts to challenging the conceptions we have of life and death, breaching moral and ethical boundaries as he seeks atonement for the sins of his past. When things go wrong, an explosion in the lab gives birth to a sentient slice of pizza - stay with me on this - and his last chance to set everything right.

A hero is born.

This game was inspired by, is based on, is named after and owes its very existence to the aforementioned chiptune album "Roots". That, and some misplaced ambition.

Just days after the release of Danimal Cannon's Roots, I was listening to it in the office when it occurred to me that some sections of various songs sounded like they'd fit right at home in a retro-themed video game. So I paid closer attention, and began to hear themes in the music. This sounds like an Ice level, that sounds like a cavern, this one sounds like scaling Tower. And I asked myself, "people make music based on video games, but how often do people make video games based on music?"

Being the start of December, winter holidays were coming up soon so it would be a great opportunity to keep myself preoccupied with something constructive. With a game that was simple in scope, and almost two weeks of holidays, I set myself a goal: develop a game (or maybe just the engine and a demo) over the holidays. Two weeks later, and it was close to done. Fast forward one more week to today, and we have the result of 21 days of coding effort.

With another month or two, I hope to complete Return to Roots and distribute the full game, which will also include the tools used to build the game's stages, allowing players to make their own stages and share them with others. And because I'm not bound by ESRB ratings or something called a PSN, we won't have another Disgaea 4 incident over here in the west.

Well, enjoy!
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Empirical and Numerical Game Reviews: Why One is Handy, and the Other Useless
11/11/25 at 18:51 EST

There are a lot of people out there who review video games, either professionally or as a hobby. That's great for people who play video games, as these reviews offer insight into what is often an as-yet-unreleased product, that help inform a potential consumer of the game's strengths and weaknesses, and whether or not it would be a good fit for purchase. Something that kind of disturbs me, however, is that many of these reviewers attach a numeric evaluation to the games they review (shut up, I know I'm part of the problem.) What I find really disturbing, is that some people take these numbers seriously. And what I find downright disheartening is that these numbers are only used as a platform which people use to bitch and moan at one another.

I have a theory, and I'm going to share it with you. I believe that any number used to evaluate something that cannot be reproducible by a computer is meaningless. In the example of game reviews (or any media review in general) is that it all comes down to personal taste and experience. Telling someone "I give this game a 9 out of 10" doesn't mean jack shit to them unless they know exactly what sorts of preferences you have. And unless they ask "Why?", they aren't given any context. So what do these numbers actually mean if they all come down to each individual's personal preferences and tastes? I'm gonna drop the bomb on this one and tell you.

Nothing.

Game reviews are not worthless. Talented game reviewers will offer explanations and perspective into as many facets of the game as they can - what they think about the music, the controls, the aesthetics (if they're good at reviewing - otherwise, they'll describe the graphics, in which case be wary) the writing, the direction, or any whatever else they care to share.

Game review scores are not worthless either. If they were, they'd do nothing. what game review scores do is polarize people's opinions, split them into two groups, and then let them wage Internet War on one another. Game review scores are actually worse than worthless. So what can we do about it?

For the most part, nothing. You can choose to ignore them, or you can contribute to the problem. All I set out to do with this short little article is explain my feelings on numerical game review scores and why anyone who takes them seriously is essentially an idiot. I'm sorry if that's you. I don't hate you, and completely forgive you as long as you're willing to change.
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The Symbolism and Themes of "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog"
11/06/29 at 20:24 EST

This has been a long time coming. I'm going to be delving into a show that I've very much come to enjoy and appreciate the nuances of, despite the show being directed at young children. If you read the big bold title above this, you already know that I'm not talking about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Though I do expect similar results there.

Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is a Saturday morning children's cartoon that aired back in 1993, to both cash in on and promote Sega's gaming mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. The premise of each episode can be summarized as such: Dr. Robotnik comes up with a scheme to conquer the planet Mobius, and Sonic foils his plans. Sonic trumpets himself as a "freedom fighter", risking his life to keep the planet free from Dr. Ivo Robotnik's evil tyranny, and is intended to be a symbol of virtue and a paragon of good. Robotnik, on the other hand, is supposed to represent the ugly wretchedness of sin: greed, jealousy, violence, and so forth. When his plans are ruined, Robotnik often throws a tantrum like a child, rather than accepting defeat in a dignified and respectable manner, in an effort to further demonize him. When we scratch through the surface of these two focal characters, however, we discover that the truth is actually in reverse of what the pretense wants us to believe.

Let's begin by examining these two characters themselves. Sonic is a "hedgehog with attitude". He's confident, he lives without rules, he knows the score, and he exists to stop whatever it is Robotnik is up to, always making things as difficult as he can for his rival. What Sonic lacks are discipline, ambitions, life goals, respect for others, and motivation.

Robotnik, on the other hand, is still a child at heart (evidenced by his frequent tantrums). He has goals and ambitions. He's a scientist and inventor with a Doctorate and a high IQ (300, reportedly). Despite this vast intellect, he fails to understand how the world works, resulting in a constant display of optimism and naivety. In spite of this, he is persevering and refuses to give up. What Robotnik lacks is guidance, understanding and experience.

The design of these characters and the consistent themes underlying the writing in each episode further helps to breathe new meaning into what each represents. Sonic is a very one-dimensional character. As stated earlier, he has no motivation behind his actions; he simply does what he does to fill a void. Whenever he interacts with other characters, he does nothing but make empty promises that are never realised (examples include Subterranean Sonic, Sonic Gets Thrashed and Submerged Sonic, to name a few I've watched recently) which puts his very character into question. He is never faced with defeat or tragedy, and never grows from any of his experiences. He is a cardboard cutout with no deeper meaning or characterization that the viewer simply cannot sympathize with.

Robotnik has much more depth, being misunderstood and dealing with misfortune on an alarmingly frequent basis. His motivations for conquering Mobius stem both from deep-rooted parental issues as he seeks the approval of his mother (evidenced in "Momma Robotnik Returns") and a concern for the future of a planet in complete anarchy with no governing body. He is constantly faced with adversity regardless of his actions, something he doesn't understand and learns from the hard way. While Sonic is a homeless, lawless, selfish rogue concerned only with his own entertainment ("The Last Resort" being a good example) Robotnik, who is fully capable of persisting in the complacent flow of the river of life, wishes to be more.

Robotnik is our youth. He is what we were when we didn't understand the world, when we had dreams we wanted to follow, when we thought we knew all the answers, and when we wanted to shoot for the stars and carve our own path in life.

Sonic is the crushing reality. He is the unstoppable adversary, the constant challenge, the two-faced nature of the real world. The deceit, the selfishness, the despair, and the wall that boxes us into a life of obscurity and simplicity, denying us our grandeur. He is what prevents the realization of our dreams.

We see our youth in Robotnik whenever he comes up with a new idea, believing he knows what will happen, confident in himself, expecting nothing to go wrong, believing that things will work out. But reality will always rear its ugly head in the form of sabotage, deceit, prejudice and intolerance.

Though his execution is always different, Robotnik's goals are always the same: to get rid of his adversary and become the leader of the lawless planet of Mobius. Sometimes it's one goal or the other, and at other times Robotnik seeks both. The vast majority of the time, during the execution of Robotnik's plans, Sonic will show up in disguise, representing the deceit we experience in the world around us. Most of the time, he's impersonating a police officer, but has also posed as a mechanic, a computer nerd, a prostitute and a hillbilly, each time demonstrating a horrific and culturally insensitive stereotype. He is prone to dressing in drag, and in these episodes it often leads to flirting and/or sexual advances on Robotnik, which is a clever message tucked in by the writers about how life is always trying to screw us. At other times Sonic uses slander, defaming Robotnik by publicizing lewd photographs obtained through voyeurism ("Sonic Gets Thrashed", again as an example). In one episode, "Robotnik's Rival", Robotnik makes a friend, so Sonic spends the entire episode trying to manipulate the two into hating each other.

In the episode "Sonic is Running", Robotnik campaigns for Mobius presidency. Rather than conquer the planet through force, Robotnik legitimately turns to the world of politics at the behest of his mother to lead Mobius into the future. So what does Sonic do? He commits terrorism by destroying a bridge during a ceremony hosted by Robotnik. He also force-feeds Robotnik garbage from a dumpster during a campaign, and attempts to ruin Robotnik's image as a family man by dressing as a prostitute, invading his home, and raping him.

Sonic the Hedgehog may be the relentless, unyielding depravity of our reality and all that is wrong and immoral with it. But at least we have the little guy, Dr. Robotnik, to root for, reminding us to always pick ourselves back up and try again, never to give up, no matter what bullshit life throws at us.
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Duke Nukem Forever
11/06/23 at 12:44 EST

It's been about a week after Duke Nukem Forever's release, which is about 14 years after the game first went under development. Reception of such a notorious game is bound to be enigmatic, but quite frankly, while I don't share the same viewpoint as a lot of "professional game journalists" out there (the quotes are not intended to be interpreted sarcastically) in this particular scenario I'm actually having a hard time understanding them. I'm just going to throw my own thoughts out there on the game. It may be a bit premature - I've only finished the game once so far - but it's pretty easy to miss the boat, even on a game which took so long to leave port.

I'll make an effort to keep the comparisons to Duke 3D minimal, but I'll start by saying I have a bias to Duke 3D that stems from a strong fondness of the game. Unlike everyone else, who grew up with Doom/Doom 2, Duke 3D was my first First Person Shooter. The game's (ridiculously) fast pace, immature tone, obscene arsenal and reckless gameplay were a delight for me back in the 90s. In the days leading up to DNF, I was reunited with some Duke3D footage that made me very nostalgic for the game, so I found it (still got my old copy from Christmas 1996! Though admittedly I was playing a Win7-compatible port) and played through it again. And it's still a blast. If you enjoy FPS games, go find Duke3D: Atomic Edition and have at it.

So, is Duke Nukem Forever a good game? To cut to the chase, I certainly think so. I had quite a lot of fun with it; enough to play the game regularly for the entire past week. The game has flaws - glaring flaws, in my opinion - that detract from the experience, but don't ruin it.

My biggest complaint has to be that it's modern. Of all the FPS I've played in the past decade DNF was straggling behind, two game franchises have stood out among the rest to me: Half Life 2 and Bioshock. What makes these games more enjoyable than games like Halo, Call of Duty or Resistance, to me? They've got the mentality of late 90s shooters. Both of the cited games bear quite a lot in common with Duke3D: You have an actual health bar, can carry a dozen weapons at the same time, and benefit greatly from rummaging around in people's attics and garbage cans looking for loot or secret places.

Gone are the health packs and life-saving Portable Medkits from DNF. Gone is the ability to carry 9 different weapons at the same time, granting you a greater set of strategic decisions to make. Though not gone, but greatly reduced is the desire or need to search for secret areas. All of these gameplay mechanics were staples of Duke3D, and served to add depth to the game and its level design. What we're left with in DNF is a series of unconnected, linear maps.

My other major (non-technical) complaint is actually a rather modest one. Vehicle sections. Yes, Half Life 2 had vehicle sections, and like HL2, DNF was smart enough to space them out and pepper them with actual gameplay on a regular basis, but that doesn't excuse them for being there. First Person Shooters are for Shooting Persons First and foremost. Vehicle sections are unnecessary, developer-intensive (you need a large environment for a vehicle section, and a unique set of controls/physics for it), repetitive, not engaging, and dull. There are explosions, there are ramps, and there are enemies to hit with your appropriately hyper-masculine monster truck, but if I'm playing Duke Nukem, it means I want to run around with a shotgun and paint the decor with skull fragments. That's it.

As a sort of counter-point, however, DNF keeps up the tradition of having a plethora of unnecessary, yet welcome touches. The game is unarguably about shooting aliens, but there's a lot of extras involved that are integrated very smoothly into the game. Paper airplanes, frisbees, a game of air-hockey, a cruel pinball machine, chairs you can spin, mirrors you can admire yourself with, vending machines you can buy drinks from, toilets you can piss in, microwaves you can cook popcorn in, dumbbells you can curl, flashlights you can flick on and off - there's a lot of interactive objects in the game that serve almost no purpose but remind you that you're just in it to dick around and have fun. And not a single one of them actually pulls you out of Duke; out of the game (unlike the vehicle sections). Much kudos to DNF for that.

The settings are also a step above the crud and sludge templates of other games. Many of the clichés are still there, don't get me wrong. There's a desert, there's a sewer, there's a factory/industrial setting, there's a construction yard. But there's also a lot of more intriguing locations, like a Burger joint, a football stadium, a (couple) strip joints/casinos. Hell, Duke 3D didn't have this much variety, so there are parts of the formula DNF has actually improved on. Not many games give you an opportunity to use jars of pickles on the condiment shelf in a restaurant as cover.

The core gameplay, while suffering from the previously mentioned modernization plague, is still strong on its own merits. Even with a shield system (which is at least humorously inventive) you won't find yourself spending half the game staring at a wall while your shield recovers. There's still the strafe-happy, shotgun to the face mentality of old-school FPS gaming in addition to the presence of more strategic gun-play, setting traps and making use of the environment to take advantage.

While true to its predecessor, the boss battles in DNF are dull. They're visually spectacular, but every single boss fight in that game is "shoot rockets until the big thing dies". For most of them, this is given a twist in some interesting way (the boss is only vulnerable when you bounce a pipebomb into its lap, you're underwater, you can only get ammo by killing enemies, etc) but they're still just "strafe and shoot rockets". Duke Nukem Forever contains (very obvious) inspiration/mimicry of the past decade and a half of FPS games, but they really ought to have stolen the boss formula from the Zelda series.

Ultimately, Duke Nukem Forever suffers from an identity crisis. It's a relic of a bygone age - something that is literally acknowledged in the game - but it hasn't forgotten where it comes from or what it's about - and that's senseless, idiotic fun. It's rare I pay more than 30 dollars for a game any more, but this was certainly worth the $45 dollar price tag.

Was Duke Nukem Forever worth the wait? What a stupid question. What's worth waiting 14 years for? That's not even a real argument for the game, anyway.

The bottom line: if you enjoy fun FPS games, you're bound to enjoy DNF. Just don't expect any sophistication from it.

Oh, and the load times suck. What the hell, Gearbox?
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Mystery Phone S
11/06/01 at 10:46 EST

I finally got a new phone this weekend, after 8 years of reliable ol' Flippy. Flippy still works, of course, and since it's Pay(tm) as you Go, I can breathe life into it at any time, but it has been replaced with a surprisingly less costly Samsung Nexus S. The plethora of features and capabilities of the phone are cool and all (it plays Starfox 64, for crying out loud) what I find more intriguing is the number itself. I've been getting text messages from people in the K/W region who think I'm someone else. All I got so far is a guy, codenamed 'fan', who might be a student of UW, taking courses in Telecommunications and/or Economics. I'm going to try to get to the bottom of this.
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PerSoNa
11/05/03 at 12:33 EST

Over the past month I have been spending a staggering amount of my spare time playing Persona 4 - in the ballpark of 100 hours. I plan to do an in-depth review of the game's strengths and weaknesses at a later date, but I've noticed some very curious things about it.

Though the game was released in the last quarter of 2008 (for us in North America), I never even looked at it until April 2011. This is exactly when the game takes place. I didn't give it much thought, believing it was something of a scripted nature: that the game was reading my PS2's internal clock and deciding when to "start the game". No, this wasn't a case of digital trickery, this was the sorcery of Fate at work.

Curiosity number 2: rain, and the weather in general, play an important role in Persona 4. The day I started playing Persona 4 was also the day of the first rainfall of the season.

Curiosity number 3: the day after I completed the game (discovering the Truth, I should point out), marked the end of a wet streak of several days of rain, giving way to a beautiful, clear-sky sunny day, as oppose to a much foggier one.

Curiosity number 4: It has been raining for the past few days and will continue to be that way for the remainder of the week (Thursday may be sunny). As a result, it has been very foggy lately. A co-worker of mine that I've known for over a year now has just started wearing glasses, seemingly out of the blue. I don't think they're prescription. I'm suspicious. He might be resolving build issues by day and saving people's lives by night. I should stay out of his way.

Shifting gears to address this title's particular choice of capitalization.

I've gotten reports from various sources, including Visa itself, that no Visa cards have been compromised in the recent PSN attack. So I'm wondering what the deal with the reported 10 million stolen cards is all about.

On the other hand, another report released yesterday revealed that SOE has also been attacked, and another 12,700 CCs are out there. This isn't exactly news, as it happened around the same time as the PSN attack: two weeks ago.

Extra Credits was right: do not piss off the kinds of people who install Linux on their PS3s.
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Tagged under: gaming, work
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My credit card number is for sale
11/04/29 at 17:27 EST

Title says it all folks - my credit card number is up for sale. If you want the limited-time chance to own this 16+3 digit gateway to financial happiness, your window of opportunity has arrived. Act fast - the window's closing soon! Details on that shortly.

I'd be surprised if anyone who uses the Internet hasn't heard of the recent PSN breach, one of the "top five" worst security breaches in history. I've been following various stories on it, and I'm not outraged, nor am I disappointed, nor do I feel sorry for Sony. I see arguments on both sides of the fence being thrown around, most of which are outright juvenile ("fanboy wars" sums it up for the most part) but luckily there are other people who see beyond the veil. Even if only one or two of them have made their voice heard.

Sony is being victimized by a terrible evil that they themselves created. Dating back to a few months ago, the state of the PS3/PSN's security had gone largely unaltered from launch. Nobody hacked their consoles or the network. It wasn't for something like a lack of trying, no, it was more like nobody felt the need to. So it was more of exactly a lack of trying. Once the flood gates were open Sony naturally had to do something about it, which they certainly did. Suffice to say, it could have been handled much better than it was. If you're going to demonize your customers, treat them like criminals, and subsequently gloat in their faces as you further restrict their rights (parallels may be drawn to PC DRM as you see fit) you can expect some backlash. It's not for me to say whether or not the compromise of 77 million (give or take) user accounts, including personal data and credit information, is an eye for an eye, but your mileage may vary.

It's hard for me at this point to say whether or not the ones responsible are simply trying to get back at Sony for their recent fumbles in Public Relations or if the crackers are, in fact, greedy cretins. They allegedly tried to sell what they stole back to Sony (this is goodwill at its most foolish level, as though data were costly to duplicate) in a standard form of blackmail before moving on to selling the stolen data to other criminals. This seems like selfish behaviour on the surface, doing something illegal to not just the company, but the "innocent customers" as well, but at the same time, this is the sort of thing that will really hurt the company, which is possibly the motive behind the crime. They're going to lose customers and take a significant hit to their reputation. Really, the reputation's been falling down the stairs since the Other OS incident, but this is easily the worst of it so far.

Now, onto business. Of the 77 million compromised accounts, x of them had credit card information stored on them (I have no idea what the figures for this are, so pay it no mind). Of those x, mine was one such number, which means someone out there is making the effort to sell my credit card number. What am I going to do about it?

A little healthy competition. They may have my credit card number, but so do I. I give you my word that, as of this writing, whether or not my credit card number has been sold to the highest bidder cannot be verified, but I do know for certain that it hasn't been used as of two days ago. So step right up and place an offer; over the next 5 business days, I, too, will be putting my own credit card up for auction, to get a slice of that PSN extortion pie. Drop a line, an offer and an email address (I recommend you create a new one for just this purpose, for security's sake) and if you're the highest bidder, you're on your way to owning a new, zero-liability credit card number*!

*Buyer beware: all purchases made with this card will be flagged as fraudulent and tracked for criminal behaviour under the Terms of Service outlined in ********'s zero-liability security clause. This number will expire in fewer than 3 business days at time of writing. Thank you for your understanding. Happy shopping!
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Tagged under: gaming, life
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Pay As You Go
11/04/25 at 15:21 EST

Oh dear lord, I just lost a call with a 1-800 number (not porn) because my Rogers(tm) Pay(tm)-as-You-Go(tm) phone's account balance dropped to 55 cents. 55 cents is not enough money to use my phone with a 1-800 number (they called me, for what that's worth) for a minute.

I don't know what my rates are. I do know that they are very bad. Maybe it's time to upgrade my 8 year old phone. Or at least the (lack of a) plan that I've been on since the dawn of time.

Fuh! I hate change. And these rates are great for getting rid of that change.
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