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“How am I so confident?” She rubbed her lips, I think imagining another version of herself taking a cool film noir drag on a cigarette. “Am I? No, no I’m just good at not acting, uh, unconfident? Nervous. Whatever. I’m good at looking like, like I belong wherever I am. Looking like you belong is usually what decides whether or not you belong. I can feel lost and stupid and confused as long as I don’t act like it, as long as I pretend to be cool.”

“It’s mostly just a sense of… is there a word for like contempt but nice? Familiarity? There’s that saying, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’, but maybe familiarity is just a nice friendly toothless form of contempt. You know that self-help thing where uh, where you, when you’re talking, like, giving a speech or a presentation – and you imagine everyone there is naked? If you live for 20, 30, 40 years, and you pay any attention, everyone’s naked all the time. What I mean is everyone’s an idiot, I know I am and sorry but you are not an exception either, and knowing that it’s like: What have I got to prove to these idiots? It’s – the emperor has no clothes. And when I look out there everyone looks like a shitty little naked emperor. So I guess the trick is to act like an emperor even when you know you’re naked.”

She rubs her lips again. Steam puffs away with each breath and it doesn’t take much imagine for either of us to see it as a cool puff of smoke. Balancing good health and being cool is a rough gig.

“It’s like being a baby, like no object permanence. You know how, when you’re a baby, and something leaves your view – like peek-a-boo, like your mom just hid a toy or like your dad just walked out of the room for a moment – when you’re a baby, to you it’s like it just disappeared. Because you haven’t learned that when something leaves your sight, that doesn’t mean it’s gone. And then you grow up a little bit and you learn that the hidden toy is under the blanket and your dad’s just in the next room watching the game. And it’s fine, everything’s fine. And recently, what with one thing and another, I think I’ve been having to unlearn that.” She rubs her face. I don’t think she’s imagining looking cool now.

“It’s a curve – a pair of curves. One is how much we believe in object permanence, and one is how permanent objects are. The first curve, it goes up over the first few years of our lives, as we get used to being a baby, get used to being alive. The second curve – well that one goes all over the place, up and down like a roller coaster or a seismograph, and if we’re lucky we’re born with it pretty high, but as time passes it tends to trend… downwards. And as that happens the first curve also crawls down.”

“I don’t think we’re talking about what you asked about any more. But. I’ve gotten kind of used to the idea that whenever I look away from something it might not be there the next time I look, and I’ve gotten kind of used to the idea that when someone walks out of the room they might not ever walk back in.”

“I guess what I’m trying to say that what I have is a kind of relative confidence. It’s not that I’ve gained such faith in myself, but that I’ve – well I don’t want to say lost faith in everything else, but more like, uh, gained faith in everyone and everything being as shitty and unreliable and stupid and nonsensical as I am. So it’s fine – it’s fine as long as I act like it’s fine. And, I mean, other things are beautiful sometimes, right? Sunsets, art, love, truth, I dunno, you know the stuff. So maybe I’ve got that too, some of that raw elemental core of beauty, even if I can’t see it. I have to assume so. What are the odds I wouldn’t, if all of these stupid naked baby emperors around still manage to have moments of beauty and grace? So I just try to act like that version of me, the coolest baby, the greatest common denominator.”

“Anyway,” she says, fingers dangling over the railing, twitching slightly, “what else can I do?” as an unseen flake of ash falls down to the invisible street below.

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[INSERT FOOTAGE OF MAN IN BUSINESS ATTIRE TURNING AROUND IN LEATHER OFFICE CHAIR]

Oh, hello, I didn’t see you there. My name is P. Rob LeMachin, CEO and sole proprietor of Problem Machine. Now, you might wonder what we do here? I know I do. Well, follow me.

[FOOTAGE FOLLOWING MAN IN BUSINESS ATTIRE AS HE WALKS DOWN HALLWAY. WINDOWS IN HALLWAY SHOW MANY SCENES OF EVENTS TOO WONDROUS TO BE CONVENIENTLY DESCRIBED IN THIS PARAGRAPH]

You see, what we do here is we create and distribute problems. Sometimes we just find them lying around, sometimes we make them out of raw materials, most of which are readily available in any public gathering place. Now, you might be thinking, “but that’s terrible! Everyone hates problems!” Well, your pathetic ignorance is understandable. Problems have gotten a bad reputation for being problematic! But let’s take just a moment now to think about what exactly a problem is.

[MAN IN BUSINESS ATTIRE TURNS TO FACE US AND HANDS US A SNIFTER OF COGNAC]

Think back to that famous phrase, “Houston, we have a problem”: Uttered by astronaut and American hero Tom Hanks over the intercom to his wife, Whitney Houston, while aboard his flying saucer, just after he discovered William Shatner outside tearing a hole in the spaceship exterior. Hanks rushed to explain the situation to Houston, and in so doing he created a ‘problem’. What would have happened if he’d never told Houston about his problem? Houston would have never been able to tell him a solution and Shatner would have murdered them all.

[MAN IN BUSINESS ATTIRE SIPS MARTINI AND GESTURES TO BLACK PANEL WITH THREE GLOWING WORDS…]

[FINE -> PROBLEM -> FIX ->]

The natural cycle of things goes: Fine, Problem, Fix, and back to Fine. Everything starts Fine, then there’s a Problem, and then you Fix it. That’s the role that problems play in the circle of life! Though every day people wish they had fewer problems, look what happens to the cycle if we remove the problem.

[MAN IN BUSINESS ATTIRE GESTURES AT SECOND BLACK PANEL…]

[FINE -> DISASTER <-]

With no problem, instead of cycling from fine to problem to fix and back to fine, it cycles directly from fine to disaster and it stays there because everything is dead and bad. So, you see, you were wrong to be mad at me: You need my problems so that you can have something to fix. Think back to the words of [PEERS AT HAND] Notorious P.I.G: more money equals more problems – And therefore by the commutative property of problems, more problems equals more money!

That’s why we say here at Problem Machine industries: It’s Not A Disaster.

AloneInTheDark

This is a horror story.

I missed my chance. It was Halloween a couple of weeks ago. But, you know, this isn’t the right kind of horror story for Halloween. Halloween is a time for the not-quite-scary, the weird and surreal and unimaginable, the watered down horror that is the fear of the unknown. That stuff is great, but it’s not scary. Monsters are physical by nature, creatures with beating hearts and blood, and can be fought the same way as anything else. Ghosts can’t be fought, but are inherently reassuring: Is it so bad getting murdered by a ghost, really, given that the existence of the ghost is evidence of an afterlife? It’s kind of flattering, really, a ghost trying to kill you. Kind of an invitation on a ghost-date.

This is the story of the last lie you ever tell yourself.

“This is safe. Someone would have done something about it if it weren’t.”

The truth is, the structures we live in are rotting away, moment by moment, in real time. The difference between a home and a ruin can be subtle. Sometimes people live for years in a house before they find out it wasn’t safe, before the banister breaks or the floorboards give way, before the picket white fence splinters into wooden stakes and tetanus nails. We don’t notice. Our homes stay familiar to us, platonically unchanging, even as their hearts rot.

It probably won’t be your home, but it could be anything. Anything could be unsafe, so everything is unsafe. Do you really want to lean on that railing? Are you confident in those stairs? How about that bridge?

Yeah. We like to talk about fear of the unknown a lot, but it’s the fear of the everyday, the tedious, the prosaically awful deaths that lie around every corner that we don’t talk about. This fear is too much to think about. When a mine fire starts under a town, we take every opportunity to ignore the problem, pretending it will fix itself, until the town dies. We let our bridges and freeways decay, fall apart, borrowing the convenience of today against the disaster of tomorrow. We let corporations ignore safety regulations and call it ‘disruption’, call it good for the economy. We bury our fear, ignore our fear: The fear that literally any object in the world, with a slight shift in circumstances, could be fate’s murder weapon. The perfect crime: Gravity, with the loose brick, on the way to the bus stop.

This is so horrifying we create a kind of taboo around speaking about it, particularly the young: We deem it ‘uncool’. It’s uncool to be concerned about whether you know how to get out: The cool kids burn alive, screams exhale smoke, hands pushing against solid wall trying to find a way through. It’s uncool to use a seat-belt, the cool kids are ejected from their vehicle and have their bones scraped away to bloody fragmentary paste against the intersection asphalt. It’s uncool to–

Yes I know, I sound like a caricature of a grouchy safety instructor. The thing is, I can envision each of these tiny tragedies in detail, feel the breeze of them as I pass them by, premonitions of a fate that lies in potentiality. I am cautious by nature – not least because I am a large person, and therefore the chances of something collapsing under my weight are higher, and the force of my fall will be more damaging. At thirty-two-feet-per-second-squared, every pound of force becomes that much greater an impact.

The scariest thing to me about an old haunted house isn’t the haunt, it’s the house.

There’s actually a horror movie about this, sort of. Final Destination frames the horror of accidental death as the act of the malicious spirit of Death personified. The trick is, Death always gives a warning, some little clue that something is about to go bad – a premonition, a creak of aging wood, a breath of cold air. Whether by sportsmanship or by supernatural contract, Death provides advance notice of his arrival. And, in this, Final Destination pulls its punches. It codifies into law our reassurances, our guarantees against our fear that we will be safe: “It won’t happen to me.” we say, “I’m careful. I’ll notice there’s something wrong. I’ll notice the cracks, the dust, I’ll hear the creaks, the pops, I’ll be ready to move, I won’t panic.”

And that’s the last lie you ever tell yourself.

EveHeader

Phew. Okay I’m actually like super tired right now so I’ll try to make this brief.

First thing’s first, sound and music are tested and seem to work! So far at least. There’s obviously a lot of tests I’m going to need to do in the long run in terms of making sure cross-fading from track to track works as the player goes from level to level, making sure all of the sound-effects playing queues I’m going to need are there, making sure continuous looping sound-effects work correctly, and etcetera, but I’ll get to all that as I go. It’s enough for me, for now, that all of the basic framework is in place. The rest will get fixed and polished up as I test it out and notice things that need improvement, probably in a few months.

I’ve also finally gotten started on the entity editor… sort of. It’s an extremely minimal start so far, simply an interface which allows me to click on entities to select them and click and drag to move them around, but it’s a start. I’ll probably be putting a lot more effort into that a bit later this week and in weeks to come.

In point of fact, I actually got totally sidetracked off of the entity editor immediately after starting it. This time I wasn’t sidetracked by a programming task, but by a writing task. In the back story of the game, and I’ve alluded to this in earlier dev blogs, there are a group of, ah, for lack of a better term, let’s call them ‘creator angels’. These entities were made by a deity to essentially handle all of the nitty-gritty detail work of creating functional species. These characters, though many of them won’t actually appear in the game, are extremely important to the story. For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about these creatures: What were their names? What were they like? How many of them were there? I’ve been exploring these ideas, and as I go new aspects of the story are starting to reveal themselves to me as well…

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He wandered the Night Lands alone, and called himself Sol. It’s not known how long he wandered, for time has little meaning in the Night Lands, but it felt like an eternity for him. We call this The First Eternity, the Before Time.

This time came to an end when he found Gaea, and fell in love. He lay down next to her and warmed her, slowly, with his light. They stayed like that for a long time. Gaea began to awaken, she grew green and lush and beautiful, as he knew she would. This was The Second Eternity, the Peace Time. But eventually he grew restless: Gaea was beautiful, but she seemed, somehow, to be incomplete to him. To be not as entirely alive, as restless, as vibrant, as violent, as a world should be.

Sol didn’t know what it was that was missing, but the dreams of what might be haunted him. He dove into those dreams, and took hold of them, and shaped them. He fashioned this piece of The Dream Lands after the most beautiful gardens of Gaea, and he called it Eden. Time didn’t pass here, but for him and for us it was The Third Eternity, The Dream Time.

From the clay of the river of Eden, Sol began to create his children, The Assembly. He liked the number 12, and had decided to create that number, but on the first day, he created Ouroburous. Ouroburous was too great, too smart, and too endlessly hungry to be controlled. She took something from him and flew away into the Night Lands. None know what she took, but we fear the day she might return and we find out. She was not spoken of again, and to this day is not included in numbers of The Assembly.

First of The Assembly, he created Mote. Learning from his mistake, he made her humble, wise, and selfless.

Second of The Assembly, he created Light, flickering and inconsistent and full of joy, though she wandered she would always come back.

Third of The Assembly, he created Halfway, who never made a decision, who always wanted to make both choices, but who understood something about the world none of the others could ever comprehend, no matter how many times they asked her to explain

Fourth of The Assembly, he created Chitter, who made the others uncomfortable with her cold and alien brilliance.

Fifth of The Assembly, he created Slab, who slept all day in the heat, and whose dreams no one could guess at.

Sixth of The Assembly, he created Dominion, haughty, angry, and hungry for power. Too much like Ouroburous, but petty and greedy, she was always jealous of her sisters.

Seventh of The Assembly, he created Aerie. Clever, mischievous, and ambitious, she infuriated her sisters almost as much as she amused them. All heeded her counsel, and she became a leader of sorts among them, though Dominion resented her for it.

Eighth of The Assembly, he created Meekling. Small and afraid but eternally resourceful, few of the others understood how formidable she truly was.

Ninth of The Assembly, he created Tsunami. Vast and absentminded, she felt the pull of The Night Lands, and wished she could abandon her heavy form to go wandering amongst them. It was not to be.

Tenth of The Assembly, he created Pride. Pride wanted nothing more than recognition from her peers, wanted to be the best and brightest, and sought leadership for that reason. Aerie ceded leadership easily, but still advised Pride, and still made all of the decisions.

Eleventh of The Assembly, he created Behemoth. Though she was one of the youngest of The Assembly, she took on a role of protector. Strong and compassionate, she wanted nothing more than to protect her sisters.

Twelfth and last of The Assembly, he created Dawn. She was clever, but withdrawn, and always seemed to be holding onto some kind of secret. Though she never sought leadership, they all listened when she spoke, and when she grew angry, infrequently, they could seldom meet her eyes.

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EveHeaderIs this progress? I’m not sure.

I spent this week figuring out how to make this game’s graphics happen. In brief, I discovered that OpenFL has massively different graphics architecture depending on what platform you build it for, and spent days trying to figure out what rendered quickly, what rendered slowly, how to render with the feature I wanted in a timely fashion, which of my old rendering code to keep and what to lose, etcetera.

It was frustrating. I like to know what I’m working towards. Confusion kills motivation.

Anyway, I finally determined that I should probably stick with AIR/Flash as my target platform, since performance is, for the most part, quite satisfactory. However, I still would really like to get post-processing effects working. I think my best bet at doing those at a high framerate is to build external programs in C++ (or Haxe built to C++) which the AIR application calls and feeds the screen buffer data to create the processed image. This neatly encapsulates the problem, and will allow me to handle the solution of how to turn one or more bitmaps into another bitmap in whatever manner is fastest and most efficient.

It also lets me put it off until a more opportune time so that I can get some real goddamn work done. The project has been basically stalled out for the last few weeks while I figure these things out, and so far the end result is something extremely similar to what I had before I started.

Still, do I regret spending this time porting and experimenting? Not really. It doesn’t help anything to get my head so wrapped up in the project that I cease to see alternate pathways and options. It was a learning experience if nothing else, and I think many of the programming skills I picked up will help me down the road.

Anyway, for this week, there are still some bugs in the behavior system somewhere that need to be addressed. Once I get everything working again, I’ll either finish up the detail editor or start developing the entity editor. It’s high time I got this code base feature complete. I can worry about optimizations afterwards.

It will be good to move forwards again, finally.

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Wherever they went they killed the trees first. I don’t know why. I think because they wanted to make their changes, and change cannot happen where roots bind. And, one by one, and I think for the same reasons, they killed us too.

They created kings of their own to replace us. We made them all they could ask, yet they destroyed it all so they might ask for more and make it on their own.

She existed beyond their sight, though, she existed out of their reach. And, when they hunted her, they only ever found each others’ throats. Soon, they began to worship her as they did their own kings, admiring her cunning.

She didn’t care either way.

Rather than die or be enslaved, we ran to her, and she took us under her wings.

But we had forgotten that if you stop being yourself you start to become something else, and the more days, months, years, we spent in her shadow…

The more we became a part of it.

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FIRE

The first word they invented was for the fire that forged them. I suppose we would translate it as ‘mother’.

The second word they invented was for the water that submerged and cooled them, that allowed them to take a solid shape instead of constantly shifting this way and that as fluid. I suppose we might call it ‘sleep’.

They made more words. It became a game between them, to try to figure out new things that hadn’t been named yet. They started with things they encountered frequently – the crystals, the clots, the slow-dissolving carcasses of their siblings and cousins and parents – but they quickly ran out of objects to name.

One came up with the clever idea of naming himself, a trend which took off quickly and burned itself out soon after.

Before long, they were forced to invent new concepts in order to hang names on. These concepts were difficult to express to each other, and it was unclear whether the names they used referred to the same underlying concept. This was not a problem that went away, but it got better.

Their system of naming things expanded. It looped in on itself, named the act of naming, named the system of naming, named the time and place, the namer and the name-ee. This is how language was invented.

And then they did it again, because they had short memories.

In all this discussion, they forgot the name of the fire. The water which cooled them and gave them shape also became unnamed, since they didn’t remember ever existing without water, without shape. It became invisible to them. The language that filled their minds overwrote all memory that they were perhaps not always as they were then.

Other names started to disappear. Once they forgot the water, the crystals and clots became the medium within which they were suspended, until those became invisible as well and were forgotten. Names which referred to colors of crystal or consistencies of fluid unraveled next.

They remembered their names for themselves, but didn’t remember any of the reasons why they had given themselves a particular name. Choices which used to be significant to them became meaningless sounds.

The water was gone. It could not define them.

Their names were gibberish, and could not define them.

They saw right through each other, through their environment, saw through to eternity, and were thus blind.

They lost their shape, and fell back into the flames, and once more became the stuff of untamed and unnamed possibility.

It might be they died. It might be they were born. It might be that the only difference between the two, for them, is what name you decide to give to it.

This has happened many times.

This is happening right now.

EveHeader

It’s been an odd week. It kind of feels like almost no time has passed at all since the last DevBlog update. Being inside my head sometimes is like some kind of reverse Narnia where I spend what feels like a few hours here and there doing odds and ends and then I leave to see what’s going on and it’s suddenly a year later.

It’s kind of like a time machine where the brake fluid’s been drained.

Anyhoo.

Last update, I was feeling optimistic about the general trend of my work on the collision detection system. And, actually, I am today as well. In between, though, there were a lot of rough days. As you may recall, there were three discrete steps remaining to implementing the collision detection system: First, adding some nuance to the different reactions so that each edge reacted in a way that would make sense later on. Second, implementing the new stuff back in where the old collision system went and making sure everything worked. Third, adding in slope tracking functionality so that, when running across terrain, Eve wouldn’t pop up off of it when the angle changed.

Well, the good news is that I’m well into that third step now, and it’s going pretty well. The bad news is that before I got there I spent a long time on that second step being really depressed that it wasn’t working correctly, right up until I got it fixed and running the way I wanted it to. Between that depression and some weird weather and other disturbances, my sleep schedule kind of imploded and I basically lost a couple of days of work.

Oh well. We’ll call it a weekend or a vacation.

I also had a bit of story for the game kicking around in my head, so I took that opportunity to get away from depressing collision problems as well and got that bit written up. So that’s good too.

So: With the collision detection fiasco finally nearing some kind of resolution, what’s next?

Well, once I have collision working for most standard situations, I’m probably going to continue testing it and tweaking it to make it feel as natural and controllable as I can possibly manage. Some of these may get a little bit weird and esoteric, and I doubt that I’ll be able to figure out everything I want to do right away, so this is going to be something of an ongoing project, probably in parallel to the level design. I’ll be starting a list of little movement tweaks like these and maintaining it as I go.

Next, and I’m kind of a week or two behind on this but whatever, I start approaching a solution to making attacks work. I’m probably going to stick with the philosophy I espoused last week of starting on the outside and working in and begin by creating and implementing attack animations and then, once those are complete, implementing code underneath them that behaves in a manner consistent with how the animations look like they should behave. I like doing animation work since it’s usually easy to focus on, I rarely get stuck on it (though sometimes I have to redo work), and it gives me something cool to show off here on the DevBlog, so I’m rather looking forward to hitting this phase of the project in a few days.

Well, that’s this week. Hopefully I will have a fully armed and operational collision system by next week, along with a couple of nifty attack animations! Thanks!

EveLogo1

First were the Night Lands. None know how vast they are: Some say they have an end, some say they go on forever, some say that if you could walk there for long enough you would eventually find yourself back where you started. It is not known. It shall never be known.

Into the Night Lands were born the nomads. Each carried a lamp with them, and though each moment they grew further apart they could still see each other by the lamps they bore. When one light winked out, they knew they were one fewer, and their pilgrimage grew that one part lonelier.

Each nomad set out to find a land of their own, a Heart Land. The Night Lands are a vast empty desert, so the nomads searched for an unimaginable length of time. Some of them never found their way and wander still: Many more found lands of their own and settled there, living out their days in peace. A few, though, found their lands and found that they were unsatisfied. Rather than simply enjoying the Heart Lands as they were, they could not help but imagine a world of possibilities for what their lands could become.

It was they that found, or perhaps created, or perhaps fell into, the Dream Lands, the vast world of things that never were. In these Dream Lands they planted the seeds of what they imagined. They created servants, there, to help them plant the crops, to help them till the fields, and to help the worlds they saw in their mind’s eye come to fruition.

These nomads were foolish enough to believe they could craft happiness out of a flawed world. And, perhaps for a time, they could. But these worlds never lasted: For the flaw they perceived was in their own hearts, and that flaw flowed out from them and corrupted their vision of a beautiful world. One by one, the Heart Lands showed cracks, cracks the nomads were powerless to fix.

And, one by one, the Heart Lands broke.

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