ABZÛ

Completed this one yesterday. It was short – just shy of two hours.

It was a marvelous underwater diving adventure, swimming among fish, whales, squids, jellyfish – all the ocean can offer, and lots of it. I was often more or less engulfed in an explosion of color and life. It was also very easy. If it didn’t happen 99% underwater, many might call it a walking simulator.

Apart from exploring the oceanic areas, I could free small bots that could later help me remove an organic net to a passage. I could click on ocean floor pools to free a specific species, or collect shells. Even meditate on a statue. The only action marginally resembling using my brain was that some areas needed me to use two gadgets to open a door. Typically spinning chains attached to each side.

Sometimes I could also hang onto a larger creature for a bit of speed (usually wasn’t much of an advantage) or hit schools of fish in the flow of a tunnel. These tunnels popped up between areas from time to time.

Screenshot

One thing that surprised me a little was that it actually had a shred of a story and purpose. It wasn’t just an ocean floor simulator. I found portals leading to a ghost temple where offering a light sphere grew a coral stalk and opened a door, I started encountering mechanical triangle structures, and I even befriended a big white shark. It was all subtle and fit in well with the rest of the game.

Except perhaps the exploding triangle mines. I could have done without those.

Apart from the nature of our hero – which I won’t spoil here – probably the biggest surprise in the entire game was that I could get up and walk around in temples toward the end of the game. Not much – typically just to activate something and then back into the water. But still. Didn’t expect that one.

The music was absolutely flawless. Symphonic and often with choirs. Sometimes the strings reminded me of old Tomb Raider games, at other times I thought of the adventurous encounters in The Abyss.

I completed it using a mouse and keyboard. Sometimes I fumbled up and down, but otherwise it was fine.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
ABZÛ
2016 Giant Squid1h 52m 1
2018-12-08
2018-12-08
9

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Closure

Played a few hours of this one.

It’s a colorless puzzle platform where only stuff being lit has substance. Darkness means falling and dying. The goal is simple – reach a door somewhere else, and sometimes bring a key to unlock it too. To help me out with lighting I can bring light orbs, place them in pedestals that sometimes move the orb somewhere else, turn hinged spotlights to shine elsewhere, and more. No enemies to dodge.

And sometimes I had to swim through water, but no oxygen was required.

After a brief tutorial with a four-legged creature, I came to sort of a hub with a choice between 3 x 24 doors with levels. Some static, some bigger and thus scrolling when needed. For each hub, the creature turns into someone else. One looks like a miner, one a woman, and one a small girl that even starts out in her room in a house. Music was much better than I expected – no chiptune stuff here.

Screenshot

I had trouble running it in 3840×2160. It showed a quarter of the screen with menu controls out of reach and I had to edit a configuration file to fix it. I then settled with a resolution of 2560×1440.

Most of the levels were reasonably easy and could be completed in a minute while some had me stumped for a few minutes. The game had a creepy atmosphere and I was constantly afraid of exploring with a light orb and suddenly falling. Hitting a lower level never meant death (no matter how far down) but falling into the black abyss meant retrying. It was also possible to lose a key or a barrel, forcing me to restart.

One thing I thought was very cute – definitely the charming gimmick about the game – was the way I could walk or stand on wall structures that were only partly lit. Because the continuation of the wall piece was in darkness, it didn’t exist and I could pass through. It took some getting used to, especially when having to follow an orb transitioning to somewhere else.

I never found out what the clock I sometimes found meant.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Closure
2012 Eyebrow Interactive

8h

2

2018-12-05
2018-12-06
8

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

The Creative Singularity

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I’ve watched a lot of really interesting philosophical YouTube videos about the dangers of AI lately. It’s an intriguing subject. Maybe you have already heard a lot of about the possible danger of AI reaching a level in the future where it may be smarter than humans. Imagine if it can also repair and even replicate itself. If we are not careful about the timing of this, it could get out of hand and completely wipe out humanity.

There’s this excellent analogy with ants. Ants can’t possibly understand anything we do and can’t protect themselves against us, but normally we wouldn’t want to do ants any harm either.

Until we need to build a house where an anthill is sprawling.

One of the YouTube videos I watched was Answers With Joe’s video about The Dark Side Of The Singularity. Joe makes a point that he’s actually more worried about the economic singularity than the climate changes. An economic singularity means that AI makes for so much automation that a large portion of humans on the planet will be unemployed. It could get so bad that we may have to rethink how we manage the economy in our societies, create a minimum income, or maybe even change how money works.

It’s a great video and I recommend you watch it:

I’ve had this vague idea that germinated in my mind a few months ago, and Joe’s video made me ponder it a lot more. The thing is, there’s something I’m even more worried about than Joe’s economic singularity, and that’s the creative singularity. It scares the crap out of me.

What do I mean by a creative singularity?

Alligator

Here’s the SID tune I made for Vandalism News #68. It’s my second in GoatTracker and 8580 SID chip only.

Thanks to Cris Ekstrand for recording it on a real C64. He originally did it for me so I could hear if it sounded all right on the real deal (I didn’t have the SidBlaster yet back then) but I also used the same recording for SoundCloud. A first, by the way – previous SoundCloud recordings were just reSID emulations.

Here’s the SID tune: Alligator.sid

And here’s the discussion about it on Facebook.

SidBlaster Tic Tac

SidBlaster Tic Tac

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After composing a few tunes in GoatTracker and CheeseCutter, both editors that use the reSID emulator in Windows, I thought it might be prudent to test them on the real deal. Stein Pedersen (of Prosonix fame) then recommended the SidBlaster, a small device that can be equipped with a real SID chip.

The device is connected to the USB port of the PC and supports the HardSID DLL standard. This makes it compatible with the classic SidPlay, ACID 64 Player Pro, GoatTracker, VICE, and more.

I got in contact with the creator of the Tic Tac design, Andreas Schumm, on Facebook. He created and sent me the device for 83€ via PayPal. I had mentioned that I intended to use it with an 8580 SID chip and all of its jumpers were already set accordingly when I received it. It was also encapsulated in a Tic Tac box.

Earlier that day, I had also received the 8580 SID chip which I had bought on eBay for 33€. I took the device out of the Tic Tac box and put the chip into the socket. On the GitHub page for the device, there was a document about how to set jumpers, how to connect, and various other practical information.

One of the caveats in that document was that I should avoid using USB hubs as they could be trouble. I first tried connecting the device to a USB port on the front edge side of my PC cabinet, but this didn’t work. I had to use a USB port on the back of the PC before it was detected properly. I guess the front edge line of USB ports is actually regarded as sort of an internal USB hub.

Quote of the Day

One of the sites I visit frequently recently posted an article where the director of Logan (James Mangold) warns that fandom backlash will push talent out of genre films.

I really liked lightninglouie’s comment to that post:

To be fair, it seems to be mainly Star Wars. There have been at least a half-dozen or more disappointing Star Trek movies (conservative estimate), several less-than-great X-Men movies, and a shitload of terrible Bond movies, but I don’t remember any death threats in the aftermath of those films. Almost all of the Alien and Indiana Jones sequels have been mediocre to terrible. The DC movies have also been pretty shitty (pre- and post-DCEU), but I don’t remember anyone suggesting that Bryan Singer should have been murdered for Superman Returns. The Marvel movies go off in all sorts of weird and unorthodox directions and the fans are pretty much on board with that.

Nah, it’s mostly Star Wars. And I’d suggest there’s a good reason for that. For 22 years, there were only three Star Wars movies (no, let’s not count the Holiday Special or the Ewok things), and so the hardcore fans had to make do with their own ideas about what the universe was like. (Sure, there were comics and novels in the ‘90s, but nobody was under any illusions that they were 100% canonical.) And so any official attempts to expand that universe are going to run up against those assumptions, whether it was Lucas’s or Disney’s versions of the saga. Most franchises are immunized against that sort of thing because they’re either constantly undergoing soft or hard reboots (like Star Trek and Batman) or have multiple characters and storylines going on simultaneously, like the MCU. That’s where Mangold was dead-on. Star Wars is basically a religion in a way that other franchises aren’t. And when you add newer testaments to the canon, the true believers are gonna get testy.

From JCH’s Special Collection

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I had my entire collection of 2500+ C64 floppy disks converted to D64 files a few years back, but I also had a few special boxes that wasn’t in on that deal. It was mostly my own work disks plus a few unique ones I had set aside for later studying. Back in April, a friend converted all these to D64 files as well.

Lately, I’ve been snooping around in these 670+ D64 files, and oh yes – there were gems to be found.

I’m going to present my findings in this blog post. Some have been uploaded to CDSb already, some are entirely new. Of course it’s mostly SID tunes, but there are a few PRG files to run as well.

DeepSID

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I have made my own online SID player.

This was actually something I had originally discarded since I wasn’t satisfied with the state of the JavaScript SID emulators I had found online. The one for the SID Visualizer (which uses jsSID by jhohertz) couldn’t play digi tunes and neither could the one by Hermit. Playing digi tunes was a requirement for me.

But then I checked out Jürgen Wothke’s WebSID and it was at a level I found satisfying. It can play all sorts of tunes with weird timings, including digi tunes. Only BASIC tunes are not supported (sod those) as well as 2SID/3SID tunes (a shame but I can live with that for now).

Later, I also added Hermit’s jsSID emulator, and it can play those 2SID/3SID tunes. And again later, I added support for Stone Oakvalley’s Authentic SID Collection with real C64 recordings.

Another reason I wanted to make my own SID player was that I didn’t really like most of the existing ones, offline and online. Many are small and doesn’t offer a lot of info, or it’s hidden away in windows and tabs. I wanted to create a player that was KISS while also offering all the useful info at a glance.

CLICK HERE TO FIND YOURSELF IN DEEPSID

Consortium

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This was an FPS+ on a big plane promising to be somewhat akin to Deus Ex, with multiple paths and dialog choices. I pledged $20 for its failed Kickstarter back when it was announced in 2014.

It turned out to be sort of a virtual reality game where I inhabited the body of a soldier on a hi-tech plane in the future, already flying high above the ground. Everything took place on this plane and it took me just over 4 hours to play through it, making it feel like a DLC for another game. In truth, the game is to be construed as an intro for a trilogy of games – the next one taking place around a big tower.

Screenshot

But truth be told, I’m pretty sure I’ll stop after this introduction as there were quite a number of things I didn’t like about it. The ironic thing is, bugs are actually not on that list. Playing this game so many years later means patches must have ironed out most of them.