May 7th, 2016: Runestar: It begins!
Posted by Gravecat at 6:23 pm under Game Dev, Runestar. Comment?

This blog has been neglected for a while now, and with my return to activity, I’m going to bring with me something rather important: news of my latest game development project in the works, currently titled Subgea (edit: the project has since been renamed to Runestar.) As some of you may know, I’ve been working on-and-off on a number of different gamedev projects over the years, but they usually end up abandoned after a month or less of development — mostly because I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what I wanted to make, and there seemed to be no point continuing on a project I wasn’t enjoying.

One of my rather impractical dreams has always been to build my own MUD — Multi-User Dungeon, which for those of you who are not familiar with the term, is a genre of game that evolved from the old single-player text-adventure games of the 80s, and is the precursor to the much more familiar, modern MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game) genre. Unfortunately, the technical skills required to do so eluded me when I was younger (though I did run a moderately successful social MUCK for a while; some of you may recall the now-defunct SporkMUCK), and the dream largely faded. The popularity of the humble MUD has fallen greatly in recent years from its peak around the mid 90s, so while my skills are now much improved, it seems as though I’d missed the boat.

Or maybe not.

Earlier this year — late February, to be exact — I started a new project from scratch, albeit salvaging a number of elements and gameplay ideas from my older, scrapped projects. Unlike many of my previous projects, where the direction I took was heavily biased towards what I thought other people might want the game to be, this new project was all me. I’ve always wanted my own personal, long-term game project — something to work on for years as a hobby, like ADOM, Dwarf Fortress, or Minecraft before it became so commercially successful and ceased being a passion project — something that I’ll build for my own preferences, not what I think gamers as a whole would like. That project became SUD, an acronym for Single-User Dungeon. Not to be confused with a text adventure, SUD would be played in real-time, with the world changing and events happening around the player even with no input given.

Development continued on this new project for a couple of weeks, with elements and ideas being taken from older, scrapped projects, merged together with a new style of gameplay. Unfortunately, life happened and I got largely distracted from the project, shelving it with a promise to return later. Now, two months after putting it aside, I’ve brushed off the dust and started working on the project again, under a new name — Subgea Runestar. The last few days of development have seen some significant improvements and changes to the core gameplay, and I’m really enthusiastic about the future of this project, which I’ll continue to document in this blog as significant events occur.

I’ll leave this post with a few screenshots of the game in its current (heavily in development) state, and I’ll be posting regular development diaries as things progress.

Subgea   Subgea   Subgea   Subgea


December 24th, 2015: Snack Review: Vimto Sweets
Posted by Gravecat at 10:08 am under Snack Reviews. Comment?

Vimto sweets In lieu of anything more important to say — and largely because I have a significant stash of snacks nearby, taunting me to consume them — it’s time for another snack review, this time a plethora of Vimto sweets. Before I begin, full disclosure: I’d describe myself as quite the fan of Vimto, so I may be a little biased here. However, if you know you don’t like Vimto, then why the hell would you be buying and willingly consuming Vimto sweets?

First of all, the Vimto hard candy pictured at the top-left. Almost exactly the size and shape of the top joint of my index finger, this remarkably unremarkable sweet is pretty much exactly what you’d expect of it — no more and no less. It’s Vimto in solid form, and has a satisfying if entirely predictable flavour. For what it’s trying to be, it couldn’t possibly do a better job. Three thumbs up.

Secondly, the Vimto lollipop pictured, a similar yet not exactly identical formula, one which largely matches the expected flavour but also carries with it a slightly metallic aftertaste that I can’t quite explain. It’s acceptable enough — if a little on the small side — and while the ingredients label insists it’s made of the same thing as the hard candy, I’d insist that at least the quantities used are slightly different — or perhaps it was just a different batch.

The fortress-like pack of chewy sweets is next on the list, requiring a surprising amount of effort and a small pair of scissors to gain access to. I can’t shake the feeling that both the packet and individual sweets are smaller than comparable offerings such as Starburst, and as I unwrap the sweets, I’m vexed as they cling aggressively to the paper wrappers. While the hard candy and lolly were fairly long-lasting and matched the Vimto flavour adequately, the chewy sweets — which I expected to enjoy immensely — turned out to be a little disappointing. The flavour is adequate yet a little overwhelming, but the sweets themselves seem to dissolve away into a pulpy nothing with only a few chews, and this paragraph alone took about half the entire packet just to get a decent enough review.

Finally, the candy spray brought with it the most trepidation and lurking dread. The bottle size and shape bears a striking resemblance to cleaning fluids I’ve sprayed on my glasses, and part of me has dreadful mental images of a mis-translation, causing me to spray Vimto-scented anti-antiperspirant into my throat. This could only end badly, but I suffer for my readers, and so I risked it. The result was best described as anticlimactic bullshit, with a few tiny sprays of very strongly-flavoured vapor finding its way to my tongue before the entire thing ceased to work, further presses on the lid resulting in nothing, despite the bottle clearly being mostly full with fluid. I would describe the sensation as similar to vaping — which is to say, smoking an electronic cigarette — only a dozen times more vile, and without the pleasant nicotine accompaniment. For the love of all that is holy, please do not ever try this. My tongue tastes of ozone and regret.

Overall, I’d say my total experience with these Vimto sweets was mildly poor, but largely biased towards the negative by the atrocious “candy spray”. What the fuck, Vimto?

D: Poor


December 21st, 2015: Snack Review: Brain Blasterz Brain Cellz
Posted by Gravecat at 12:26 pm under Snack Reviews. Comment?

Brain Blasterz Brain Cellz Well, shit. It’s about time I got some more content for this blog, and under the guise of spending far too much money on assorted snacks from Asda, I’ve decided to kick things off with a continuation of my snack reviews series! As you may or may not know, I’m a notorious snack fiend, and I’m going to apply some of my expertise with snacks to these short reviews, covering some weird and obscure crap I find going cheap on supermarket shelves.

It was hard to resist the call of these “Brain Cellz” from Brain Blasterz, especially given their warning signs and taunting nature, informing me that they are “MEGA SOUR” and “NOT FOR · BABIES”. I had to check to be sure, but I’m fairly certain I’m too old to be considered a baby, so with some apprehension, I dove right in.

The first thing to note is that the “cellz” pictured on the packet do not actually match the reality by any stretch of the imagination. What looks to be vividly-inked, somewhat porous lumps actually turn out to be pastel-coloured offerings which I’d describe loosely as fat, square Skittles, with an inoffensive and ever-so-vague fruity scent. The “assorted fruit flavour” turns out to be five distinct shades — baby blue (I counted six of these), washed-out pastel green (four), an uninteresting shade of pale maroon (three), an unremarkable tangerine orange hue (three) and a fairly typical banana yellow (five). The reality of likely disappointment already strong, I decided it was time to plough on and get these cheap-looking candies up in my chomper.

Starting with the purple-ish shade (because reasons), the first thing I noticed is that they’re not nearly as solid and crunchy as I’d expect, instead offering a thin, sugary shell around a remarkably soft and slightly chewy innard. The initial flavour is sweet, chemical candy fruit, followed by what I can only assume is the apparent “mega sour” burst a moment later, something that’s honestly no more or less mouth-puckering than Skittles Crazy Sours or similar. I couldn’t honestly tell you what fruit the purple was supposed to be, but I’d guess it was perhaps trying to be sour cherry. Disappointing yet not unpleasant. I moved onto the orange-hued offerings next.

The first thing I noticed about the orange variety is that the level of sourness is significantly higher — perhaps not necessitating the yellow-and-black hazard stripes, but enough to make me feel like I’ve gotten an adequate dose of sourness amidst the sweet, faux-orange fruit flavour. The second thing I noticed was the lingering taste of plastic that accompanied the orange.

On to the blue, and perhaps I’d chosen the correct order of progression, because the sourness is really kicking up a notch here. Still nothing that’d get the police coming around to your house at five in the morning, but it’s something. The flavour is again indeterminate, possibly blue raspberry, and largely overpowered by the sugary taste and heavy dose of sourness. There’s another strange aftertaste to the blue sweets that lingers at the sides of the tongue, something that tastes distinctly chemical and not particularly pleasant. Thus far, the blues are the only offering that I could consider worthy of the “MEGA SOUR” claim, though the word “mega” as an adjective is forever tainted in my mind.

Yellow next, and we’re back to the territory of inoffensive blandness, these ones bearing a striking resemblance in flavour and mouth-feel to green Skittles — so similar, in fact, that I won’t even describe them further.

Finally, the greens seem to complete a full circle, offering a fairly pleasant artificial apple flavour (not too dissimilar from actual green apples) and a sourness about as significant as that of the purples, which is to say, it might make a newborn baby grimace and demand to speak to the manager.

Overall, I’d say Brain Cellz are pretty middling, but largely saved by their inexpensive price tag. They won’t be winning awards any time soon, but you could certainly do worse as far as sour sweets go.

C: Average


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