Into The Gloom

It took me a shade under 1½ hours to reach the first ending of this one.

It was a first person horror adventure game with exploration and puzzles. As you can see in the screenshot, the graphics were very lo-res and sparse, but to make up for that it was incredibly atmospheric. The scary ambient background sounds and the dark corridors did a splendid job at that.

Another positive surprise was that jump scares were actually very minimal. The developer relied mostly on the atmosphere and the puzzles, which was a sensible choice. However, not all was awesome. Too much time was spent checking locked doors ad infinitum. A visual hint there would have been nice.

Apart from exploring and finding tablets with info, or keys and cards to open locked doors, there were a few puzzles too. A safe in the beginning had a 3×3 slider puzzle I had to solve using a riddle. The inventory could even combine two items, which actually felt a bit much for such a simple looking game.

Screenshot

A surprisingly exhaustive puzzle, the one that took up most of the playing time, was flipping tiles on a wall table using buttons to change the layout of a maze. Connecting the corridors to go from top to bottom was only part of this puzzle. I had to connect to obscure dead ends too in order to find an item I needed elsewhere. Good thing a tip on another wall mentioned this, or I would have been stuck.

I guess the developer knew it was a bit of a stretch and needed a solid hint.

I finally left the hospital and entered the second floor of an apartment complex where I had to get an elevator going. This led to a basement parking where I was handed both my ass and a bad ending – the first of five. The title screen had an overview of the five endings available, showing that I had unlocked one.

Had this been 15-20 years ago, I would have been all over getting all endings. Luckily I’m a bit more casual about this today. Besides, there’s still a lot of other games in my Steam backlog to check out.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Into The Gloom
2015 earrgames1h 26m 1
2019-02-11
2019-02-11
8

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

Quoting: Caesar’s Last Breath

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This was a book by Sam Kean I read on my iPad in December 2017. Although now more than a year ago, I made quotes back then so it’s still possible for me to create the same kind of blog post I started recently with Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.

Book Cover

To quote the introduction:

It’s invisible. It’s ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell.

In Caesar’s Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it.

It’s too late now for my detailed opinions about the book, but I did like it a lot at the time and also gave it four stars out of five on Goodreads.

Lucy -The Eternity She Wished For-

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Completed this visual novel in three sittings and about 4-5 hours, including a small extra story.

Apart from a brief experience with a Phoenix Wright attorney game some years ago, I’ve never really tried a visual novel before. I always wanted to though, to see what all the fuss was all about. I finally decided upon this one because of its science fiction theme, and because it had received a user rating of overwhelmingly positive on Steam. Also, I bought it cheap in a sale.

I must say right away that although the story and dialog was well written, the game itself was too easy and non-existent for my general liking. I want some more influence over my games. I think this visual novel was close to be called kinetic, i.e. you just advance the dialog and make no choices. This one did have a rare choice once in a while, but it felt like 98% pure storytelling, advancing self-typing dialog lines.

Click, click, click, click, click, click, choose option #2, click, click, click, click, click, click.

The story was about me, a teenager in 2050 (which looked exactly like today only with androids) who finds a hi-tech female android in a garbage dump, gets it repaired, and brings it home to spend some time with it. Originally he hates androids just like his father, but Lucy Valentine, as the android is called, is remarkably well engineered and soon changes his mind.

Screenshot

It’s only a superficial dating simulator and doesn’t have any sex. There’s even some philosophical dialog at times, usually as the teenager thinks to himself, or in long debates with the android so eager to please her master. The father, however, absolutely despises androids and instigates several quarrels with his son. Without spoiling too much, the story has a sad ending that even moved a mountain like me.

Quoting: The Singularity is Near

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I just completed reading Ray Kurzweil’s non-fiction book about AI and the future of humanity.

Book Cover

To quote Wikipedia:

Kurzweil describes his law of accelerating returns which predicts an exponential increase in technologies like computers, genetics, nanotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence. Once the Singularity has been reached, Kurzweil says that machine intelligence will be infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined. Afterwards he predicts intelligence will radiate outward from the planet until it saturates the universe. The Singularity is also the point at which AI and humans would merge.

It was a great read and abound with fascinating predictions, but also felt aggressively so. Many paragraphs are spent contradicting critics and naysayers with various obvious proof and facts, some of which have barely begun being explored. There are many predictions that refer to technology yet to be conceived, yet Kurzweil manages to link to something that has already been achieved in the same area.

I won’t dispute the credibility of all these statements, but as an entertaining piece of reading material, that sometimes made for a strenuous read.

Another thing that had me regularly frowning with doubt was Kurweil’s repeatedly strong belief that the human brain will be reverse engineered, and soon. I would love this to happen as well, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be quite that easy. The human brain is extremely complex and have trillions of connections between its billions of cells.

And what about consciousness? We still don’t really know what that is about.

Nevertheless the book was still an intriguing read and full of quoteworthy stuff. I’ve thought about writing blog posts quoting what I found interesting in the books I read, and I have decided that Kurzweil’s book will finally be the one where I try this out. So, here goes.

Dreamfall Chapters: Book One

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Completed the first book of five which took less than 5 hours. Maybe I’ll settle with that. Not sure yet.

I completed The Longest Journey and Dreamfall back in the day, but it’s been way too long. 12 years. I could barely remember the cliffhanger in the end of the previous one. The beginning with Zoë Castillo in a coma made me question why she ended up like that, as did Kian Alvane in jail.

At least I remembered April Ryan’s fate all too well. I was hoping she somehow survived that. 🙁

Book One was a relaxing and very easy third person game with mouse look. There were few inventory items, and they could be combined. Dialog choices were floating words with thoughts read out loud when hovering on them. There were also decisions to make that were clearly inspired by Telltale Games. Lots of finger-shaking indications about how this earth tilting choice would be remembered for all eternity.

I had a journal where experiences were dotted down, a sheet with profiles (which wasn’t updating quite as much as I would have liked it to) and RPG style goals in the side. Beautiful music too.

The graphics were excellent. Most of the first book took place in an open small city section of the cloudy Europolis where I could walk around and marvel at the busy life. No detail was spared, from colorful neon ads to overhearing discussions and wishing I could walk further than the force fields at the end of certain streets. It almost felt like being dumped into Deus Ex Light.

Screenshot

If anything, I was almost missing some more interaction in the city. I could access a cowboy street map or get a few words out of vendors, but not much more than that outside of quest tasks. It’s funny how this is a balancing act. Lots of things to do – Assassin’s Creed – and it’s too much. Too little and the city could risk getting stale and boring fast. It must be difficult getting this just right.

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.