Monthly Archives: November 2015

Human Ransource Machine – Episode 3 – Lets Get Programmin’

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The labels in this game are interesting, the tape and marker approach is cute and makes them very visually distinct from your code, which is exactly what you want from your comments, but it also makes them a pain to do. It is hard to make anything extensive, so generally you don’t, but when you go back over your code labels do make it much easier to understand what you were doing and why.

Strangely I don’t run into this so much in the floor, probably because the programs Human Resource Machine wants us to write generally are not that long so I can get away with shorter but still fairly representative names. Plus short names are more easily referred to in other comments.

I’m definitely interested to know how heavily others commented their code and tiles when playing through the game.

As always check page 2 for the optimised code

Human Ransource Machine – Episode 2 – Seriously, Programming

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What you do in Human Resource Machine is programming. You are working at a lower level in a kind of restricted version of assembler, but you use all the same techniques. It is also worth noting that there are different forms of assembler, it isn’t a single unified language which means this isn’t necessarily the most restricted version of assembler that exists. I actually consulted my partner who has some experience using real world assembler when I was doing my optimisation run and despite not showing her the game she was really helpful. I did have to get my terminology straight first however.

The key things were how to discuss the storage using the tiles on the floor, and how to discuss what your character is holding.

The tiles on the floor represent registers, where you can store values on a short term basis while you are processing.

The value your character is holding represents the accumulator, basically a register that holds the working value. It is implicitly targeted in most instructions. This is why we never have 2 targets for a single command, SUB N is always SUBtract N from the accumulator. JUMPZ and JUMPN are always based on the value held in the accumulator.

Once I had those terms sorted out discussions about the game were much more productive.

Let’s go over to the next page for the optimised code for these levels.

Human Ransource Machine – Episode 1 – Small Cog, Big Machine

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Much like Jarenth I too was drawn in by the prospect of the Tomorrow Corporation’s latest puzzle game, Human Resource Machine. I will try not to repeat most of his comments, but to give you a little context about my knowledge going into this game I studied programming at University and I can code, but I am not a professional by any means and all of my experience with programming is at a much higher level than the slightly crippled assembler used in Human Resource Machine.

I will also note that while the video series does not spend the time and effort on optimisation, I did go back and do it for nearly every level in the game. I will try to make that (slightly terrible) code available on each post for this game. On this particular episode however I am going to skip the first 7 years as given how simple they are, and how restricted your instruction set is, your code will look pretty much the same as mine.

Given this code is text, hop over to the next page to see it.

Indie Wonderland: Sakura Angels

I regret this idea already.

I jest, I jest. This Sakura Angels review is actually a long time coming: of all the games you’ll see in the coming month, this is the one I’ve been actually planning. I spotted Sakura Angels on Steam and Twitter not long after it came out, January of 2015. I knew I’d eventually have to review it, right there and then. And so I kept a Chrome tab with the Steam store page open, among the interminably shifting chaos that is my Chrome browsing experience. I kept that tab open for ten months.

Today, I finally get to close it.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium-to-high, I suppose.. Mechanical, ‘visual novel’. NSFW level: maybe not open the second review page around office bosses or small children.)

(Game source: Patreon. Damn each and every one of you.)

After the break: Sakura Angels. What are the odds, you think, of these ‘angels’ not understanding the human concept of ‘concealing clothing’? Place your bets now!

A Double News Announcement

Heya, readers. Two things I want to talk to you about.

One: those of you that have been with Ninja Blues for a while now are probably wondering what the deal is with the next Jarenth Plays. I had so much vim going after wrapping up Starships in July. “Please yell at me if I haven’t delivered anything end-of-August”, does that ring any bells? And now it’s November, and still nothing has materialized. What’s the deal with that, self? What happened?

And the honest answer is… I don’t really know?

No, but seriously. There’s a bunch of factors I could blame: work, bad luck, a sudden influx of social obligations. But I think the actual main cause here is that I’m hitting some weird kind of motivational writer’s block. I have plenty ideas for Let’s Plays, dozens of them, complete materials for two, and even a handful of draft episodes for the one I’m currently ‘working on’. But for some reason… I’m just not making any writing progress. I find myself reluctant to just sit down and write, and whatever I do put out comes at a glacial pace.

It’s a strange sensation to me. Doubly so because it’s not universal; the Indie Wonderland train is happily rolling along every week.

I don’t really want to make any more (hollow) promises, but I will say this: I’m totally intending to kick the LP writing into high gear this November. If at all possible. We’ll see if my brain cooperates. I’ll definitely have more free time this month, so maybe I’ll be able to guilt-coerce myself with that.

Which neatly leads to to thing number…

Two: it’s November again! And do you guys remember what happened last November? I certainly do. If you do too, you’re probably grinning with schadenfreude-delight right now. And if not, maybe all you need is a little refresher course

That’s right! It’s time for another Visual Novels And Dating Sims month! Or however long I can stand the concept this time around.

Now, I’ve actually been planning the games I want to play this time. There’s so much possibility. I jokingly said I’d play Fate/Stay Night last year, so that’s technically still an option… but a friend — an actual friend, not you lot of vultures — dissuaded me from that. Another idea I had was maybe looking at some more VN sequels: I know WORLD END ECONOMiCA has a second episode on Steam now, and harem drama slash tactical space battler Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius earlier this year had a frankly bizarre-seeming high school spinoff — the same characters, the same relations, but now they’re students instead of mech pilots. Even discounting my thoroughly miserable experience with the former, this could probably be interesting.

But here’s the thing: of all my 2014 VNADS reviews, one game rocketed to prominence in a way I’d never have expected — and that no other game quite managed to match. I don’t know if it was my writing, the generous amount of anime nudity, or the fact that the game had a strangely prominent place in public consciousness for a while (let’s be real, though, it was probably the boobs). But whatever the case, where once my most popular piece was hard-working Factorio, it now is… that game.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed its popularity. Over the course of 2015, developer Sekai Project put out no less than six new games in the same… I hesitate to say ‘series’, but they definitely all have the same basic concept.

And because they couldn’t leave well enough alone, neither can I. I am first and foremost an entertainer, after all, and every entertainer knows the golden rule: ‘give the audience what they want’. And the Ninja Blues audience has spoken. So it is with heavy heart that I announce here, that tomorrow marks the official start of Visual Novels And Dating Sims II.

Sakura Harder.

Ran Dogs – Ranneko Tries Sun Dogs

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After finishing off Retro Game Crunch it is time to take a breather and travel through space in Sun Dogs. A game I first heart about when one of the Failbetter games staffers tweeted about it and I could see why immediately. It has a minimalist UI, an interesting transhumanist theme and presents its stories via small blocks of text with the occasional choice to make.

I was pretty keen to give it a go and the developers were willing to give me a key for review purposes, so I dipped in to see what it was like.

Unfortunately I have to say I was pretty disappointed, it feels so passive and directionless. especially once my initial mission was completed. You just bounce from location to location and basically get a short vignette if you choose to have an event there. At least as far as I reached there was no way to specifically chase up a story point. I couldn’t actively attempt to learn more about the war with Jupiter for example, nor could I try to chase down whatever killed me in Earth’s orbit. There is no sense of success or failure, just general aimlessness. I really just needed more control to actually engage with the pretty cool world they have built, without that there just didn’t seem to be any point. So I stopped.

Rantro Game Crunch – Shuten

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We’ve now made it to the end of the Retro Game Crunch collection with this final game Shuten, which is a samurai themed vertical scrolling shoot em up. You have to protect the village from a horde of encroaching demonic forces and all you have is your trusty samurai sword and the ability to steal an attack power from regular foes. Fortunately the demonic forces never seem to advance after they kill you. Which they do. A lot.

One of things I have come to realise while playing through this collection is how much I dislike having a single hitpoint. Dying the first time an enemy touches me is not fun, it is just punishing. It takes me back to the last checkpoint and then I am in a worse position than before because I don’t even have my stolen attack power. I don’t think I have really enjoyed any game in this collection where the hero only had a single hitpoint.

You can fix the hitpoint problem in Shuten, you earn gold and buy upgrades in the village, but those upgrades cost you a lot, the first permanent health upgrade costs 1200, with a temporary version that only costs 120. On the early levels I would be lucky to break even on that 120 gold item, and even the weapon upgrades start at 400 with, of course, all costs rapidly escalating as you increase upgrade tiers meaning that even as enemies drop more cash you end up behind the gold curve.

I blatantly cheated and hacked my way around the burdensome gold requirements and after doing that I could enjoy the game for what it was but my spirit was broken. Once you have to cheat your way around a basic problem it feels pretty pointless to keep going as after all I could cheat my way around any future challenge either.

Overall this collection contained more hits than misses for me, but it was interesting to see a small team tackle a number of genres in a pretty limited time scale. I will have to keep an eye on what they put out in the future.

Indie Wonderland: Downwell

Hey, look at yet another game I mostly heard about because my Twitter pals were talking! This is fast becoming my principal source of new game news, to be honest. Game sites and Steam popups and developer mailing lists are all well and good, but nothing piques my interest more handily than an e-acquaintance going ‘hey, this game is looking kinda fancy’. It’s like a magnet for my interest level.

The social-media-sponsored game in question this week is Downwell, a curious little title by three curious developers. I know very little about it! I’ve seen some highly pixelated screenshots… and the game’s name leads me to believe that maybe, the subject matter will involve falling down a well. But who knows? It might not. Names aren’t always a game’s be-all-end-all; I’ve played through either Starcraft multiple times without seeing either a star or any crafting.

Will Downwell have any wells to go down? Or any stars that need crafting? Only one way to find out.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, nonexistent. Mechanical, pretty high.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: there’s only one way to find out more about Downwell, and that way is down. The well.

Rantro Game Crunch – Brains and Hearts

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I just did not get Brains and Hearts, unlike say Wub-Wub Wescue where I understood the rules, the goal and the basic systems of the game with little time or effort needed to explain, even in my third game of Brains and Hearts I was still making apparently fundamentally bad moves. I found the rules to somehow sound simple and yet very confusing in practice.

As you can see in the video I would make my play with my cards and then be confused as to why I then was unable to capture. When you couple that with Brains and Hearts’ lack of story or any form of advancement and there just wasn’t any desire to keep playing very long.