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Recently put together a website relating to my development efforts. Head on over to 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.]]>
Return to Roots status update

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:




ETA's still a few months away. I'm slow with graphics and game development takes a remarkable amount of time.]]>
Return to Roots Demo

Updated: 2012/08/15 - This is incredibly obsolete. Download link has been removed. Please see 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!]]>
Empirical and Numerical Game Reviews: Why One is Handy, and the Other Useless

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.


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.]]>
The Symbolism and Themes of "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog"

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.]]>