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As part of my streaming project I played through Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. I'd been wanting to play this for awhile, despite hearing all sorts of warnings that it wasn't very good. I dove in blind and managed to play… most of the game without any sort of major assistance. Now that I'm on the other side (32 hours later, twice as long as every other FF I played for this event except for FF3), I can say that all the criticism is valid and warranted.

For those who don't know, FFIV:TAY is essentially FFIV-2. It takes place seventeen years after the events of FFIV and focuses on the son of Cecil and Rosa initially before branching out to the other FFIV characters and their families and friends. The initial release of TAY was episodic, and on mobile devices. It came out across most of 2008 in the form of a new "Tale" being released every few weeks as a separate purchase. The game was later released on the Wii and PSP. From what I hear, the PSP version is probably the best one if you're okay with the altered graphics.

So what's the problem with TAY? I suspect it's largely the original format. Episodic and mobile doesn't make for a solid RPG experience. Anyway let's break down what got my goat here.

First of all the game is extremely linear. In each Tale you are shepherded from place to place by the plot and conveniently placed guards and barriers. Once a Tale ends, you are kicked back to the main menu to begin a new Tale, and cannot access that content again unless you load a save inside that Tale and re-do it. For the first fifteen hours of play I can count two instances of having any real choice in where to go.

Due to the episodic format, most Tales end in a cliffhanger and nothing ever gets resolved until the very end. This would be vexing enough on its own, but most of the cliffhangers are produced in the form of a borderline fourth wall breaking insult to the cast and even the player. The end of most of the Tales involves a conversation that goes something like "What is your plan with the crystals?" "I don't have to tell you", fade to black. No, I'm not paraphrasing. "I don't have to tell you" and permutations thereof is the most common line uttered by the new mysterious antagonist. How much TAY teases you with the potential of new plot reveals only to have this antagonist and her block-of-wood personality slap it away while laughing at you is maddening. This is not how you create dramatic tension.

As an extension of the biffed attempts at dramatic tension, the writing is terrible. Most of the cast act completely inappropriate for their characters. Sure, it's been seventeen years since FFIV, but in that time I don't think Cecil would suddenly become susceptible to his dark side again, or Rosa would literally lose all personality. It just all felt wrong. Surprise twists are also telegraphed so hard I'm unsure their reveals were supposed to be surprises at all. It's all very hamfisted.

Also due to the episodic nature, you're forced to traverse the level 10 to 25 expanse a dozen times. Each time you get a character up to a level that they feel reasonably powerful, the Tale ends and you're forced to start a new Tale with a new cast of level 10s. It gets very grating to not ever get to feel powerful unless the plot dictates it.

Speaking of which, in each Tale you will be in at least two battles that are forced losses. Some of these are just mind numbing… Battles you could win that are forced losses by plot, enemies suddenly pulling out abilities they shouldn't have. Eventually the game just gives up and makes the "You lose now" attack KO the party without even doing damage. At least twice I ended up in fights I thought would be yet another forced loss, only to game over because it wasn't. You've messed up your writing when that happens.

Finally on the writing front, about half the Tales just feel completely pointless and irrelevant. Porom's Tale is all flashbacks to when Palom and Porom were kids. Edward's Tale is nothing but traversing the Underground Waterway three(!!!) times. Edge's Tale is 80% about four comedy relief ninjas you'll never in your right mind use again. Yang's Tale tells the amazingly coherent story of Yang and his daughter having to traverse a dungeon to find fuel for their sailing ship-- If you think you misread that, you didn't. It's that stupid.

So okay, the writing and the pacing are terrible. That's all, right? Nope. If that was all, I think I would have found it to be a semi-enjoyable one-time experience just out of my love for Final Fantasy IV. Once you reach "The Gathering", which imports all your progress in the Tales into a combined story line that runs to the end of the game, the game throws you up against a brick wall.

See, I've mentioned TAY was initially episodic a few times now. Part of this is the inclusion of a "Challenge Dungeon" in each Tale. The intent was to provide the player with something to hold their interest between Tales, but in the combined release ten years after the episodic trickle of content, there's no point to explore them. Each CD provided no plot information or progress, and the loot you get would quickly be outclassed the next time you have access to those characters. To finish a CD, you usually need to be close to 40. It's a grindy time sink. I skipped them.

The Gathering and Finale seem to assume you've done them. The Gathering is just that: you're given a party of four people dictated by plot (Edge, Rydia, Luca, and Golbez if you're curious) and must go find the rest of the cast (and other stuff) to prepare for the Finale. If you begin this Tale with your party in the 20-25 range, you'll get pasted by practically every battle laid out in front of you. Also, every cast member you rescue has some plot reason for being unable to assist you; you never even fill your empty fifth slot. Everyone you pick up just sleeps on the airship until the end of The Gathering. So you're stuck with this party whether you leveled them, want to use them, or neither.

After The Gathering, you pass a point of no return and are given access to your whole cast. You can assemble any party of five you want, finally! Hooray! At this point I was sixteen hours (over many days) in and had forgotten the capabilities, equipment, and whatnot of most of my cast. Though I already had a party in mind I wanted to use. In any case, you're placed at the top of a fifty(!!!) floor dungeon for this. Elevators are spaced every five or so floors, allowing you to return to the ship and restock and rearrange your party. So really it's closer to ten five-floor dungeons.

This is where the difficulty curves really slap you in the face. Most of your cast, you left at the end of their Tale at level 20-25, probably didn't do their CD, and probably didn't use them in The Gathering unless you got lucky with your planned party versus plot requirements. Once you set foot in the final dungeon, the expectation is you're around level 40. I was 20-35 depending on character, so the very first boss in Floor 2 (of 50) just utterly wrecked me. It's here I got so tired of the game and progression that I stopped and grinded for three hours on floor 1 of the dungeon, reaching level 45 on my entire party. This would turn out to be exactly sufficient to finish the game.

The moral of this story? If you don't do the CDs, expect to need to grind several hours in the same one tiny room of the final dungeon to get your party viable. That's not all though. In three specific instances in the final dungeon you will need a specific party. One of these is a big side-plot climax, in which four of your party slots are decided for you. I had to grind a second time because two of these mandatory members were still level 20. That grind was only an hour, though.

So what is the final dungeon? What is in there that's so massive that it needs to be a fifty floor marathon? Probably the worst plot twist in all of Final Fantasy. See, it's revealed to you (spoilers coming) that the crystals in not just the FFIV world, but every classic FF, were placed there by the same singular progenitor who is now coming to reclaim them and destroy any world that has not evolved enough for his experiments. As a result, the final dungeon contains the canonical crystals from FFI through FFVI, and each crystal is guarded by a throwback boss. You fight the four fiends from FFI, the four dark crystal bosses from FFIII, bosses from FFIV you haven't encountered yet in the Tales, and bosses from FFV and VI including Gilgamesh and Doomtrain. It's…. really, really stupid and there's no good reason for it aside from "HEY REMEMBER THIS?!" They even had a chance to make Ultros and Gilgamesh hilarious, and their writers just dropped the ball. It was so disappointing.

Really I consider it a cardinal sin to try to link FFs together like this in fan fiction, let alone an official FF title…

So, thirty hour mark. I've suffered through completely pointless Tales, having my progress reset to level 10 each Tale transition, awful writing, five hours of forced grind because of difficulty curve whackery and forced party changes. I'm five floors from the finale. What's left? Two of the biggest, pointless DPS check bosses I've ever seen.

Once you reach the FFVI floor, you're in the home stretch. Here though lies the most sudden, sharp, jilting difficulty jump known to man. I was level 60 at this point, having started at floor 1 at 45 and just not really run from much as I progressed. I was gaining maybe one level per section; the experience curve had turned into a wall. I was clearly not intended to level much more than this. I expected most of the final fights would be easy, and they were until here. Enter Ultima Weapon.

Ultima Weapon is a mandatory, progress blocking boss that fights like a superboss. He has two abilities that can instantly kill any member of the party, Meteor, physicals that hit for 4,000 damage, and a Bahamut-like countdown mechanic that ends in a 5,000 damage to all megaflare. At this point, with my "endgame ready" party, my beefiest character had 4,700 HP. Megaflare is a wipe, and he can begin the charge to cast it at will. I was unable to knock him down before he cast it, and only by the good grace of Edward having Hide did I not totally wipe. It was a 20 minute battle on its own. I've killed Omega in FFV faster than that! For those curious, the boss prior to him is Doomtrain, whom I clowned in two minutes with Flares from Palom. What a difficulty spike!

Just after you managed to scrape by Ultima Weapon, the game has one more middle finger for you: a battle with Bahamut and the mysterious antagonist. Rydia is required to be in your party for this; even at level 60 she won't survive what either of them dish out; so she's a dead party slot. You also almost have to do this fight on a moon with Black Magic down, so she's doubly useless.

So how's this fight go? The antagonist is invincible and immune to all status effects. Bahamut does what he does: a 5 count before casting Megaflare and wiping you. This is a DPS race. Reflect? Nope, in this reiteration of the fight, the antagonist will cast Black Hole just before Megaflare, the two coming out as a single move. Once the clock hits 0 you're dead. So you have to win this DPS race with four party members, while the invincible antagonist is throwing Tornado, Quake, Slow, Confuse, and Meteor at you. Good hecking luck.

This all happens five floors above the bottom. The next five floors are total filler, feeling like dummied or prototype content. You walk through winding halls of a new tileset, where there are no random encounters, no loot, nothing. This could have been a single straight hallway and been just fine. Though there is a purpose for this that comes later, I guess. In any case my point is this: after coming off the high of beating Bahamut, you're forced to cool down with five floors of nothing, not even music. It really ruins the hype for what's coming-- though the final boss would ruin the hype anyway.

The final boss is introduced as a sudden new foe much like Zemus in FFIV. He has no real backstory, he's only mentioned in side-discussions with who you thought was the main villain until now. He even has the same "use the crystal to begin the fight" gimmick Zeromus did. There's nothing to say. He's also weaker than Ultima Weapon in every way. It's really a disappointment after barely scraping by Bahamut and Ultima Weapon.

So it's over when you beat him, yeah? No. As the dungeon begins to collapse (because why not make him a load bearing boss) you're forced to flee back through the five floors of nothing you descended, with the boss chasing you. At the end of each "battle", plot happens to tie up some loose ends. The writing is terrible, the design is terrible. I think the apex of bad framing here is when one of the plot characters tries to help you by casting Protect on you just before you're forced by the game to flee the battle. Thanks? You can't lose these fights, they're just excuses to let the former antagonist "save" you by sacrificing itself.

The denouncement cutscene is twenty minutes of nothing. Most of it is framed around the four ninjas you don't care about. One funny point though is you're forced into a mock training battle between Cecil and his son and, if you're like me and unequipped everyone you weren't using, they're just punching each other until the game cuts the scene ten turns later. I'm pretty sure that's supposed to go faster than that! Even the closing cutscene has bad story/engine framing.

A long story short: there's a reason why people say TAY is miss-able, even for people who really love the FFIV canon. It's not worth playing even then because the game actively tries to ruin what you'd love about the original FFIV by forcing you to revisit dungeons, bosses, and then caps it off with a plot reveal that basically invalidated FFIV's entire story. I'm glad I played it, but I don't plan to ever touch it again or recommend anyone else do the same.
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Awhile back I changed the colors I use in my speedrun timer. I kind of quickly glossed over how it was for accessibility and to let colorblind individuals be able to more easily tell the difference between splits. After witnessing and being involved in a discussion with some other speedrunners on the topic I thought I'd expand a bit.

Background: What a speedrun timer is, what splits are, etc )

The problem is the colors used by default in speedrun timers aren't very distinguishable for people with certain types of colorblindness. An alternate color set has been floating around the scene for awhile, most recently improved by HalfCoordinated. You can see a showcase of it on his Twitter here. This palette moves 'good' and 'bad' splits further apart on the spectrum to increase hue differentiation, and make it easier for a colorblind person to tell them apart. It also utilizes a feature of LiveSplit to make 'gold' splits appear in a transitioning rainbow.

I took this a step further and proposed adding this more accessible palette to the default layout list in LiveSplit. This was an operation I thought would manifest as a simple pull request to the project's GitHub page, but the developers chimed in with some ideas to even further expand the concept, and this is where the discussion started.

As I said, green, red, and gold is pretty deeply embedded in the community. So embedded, actually, that some people dislike the more accessible palette out of concern that it causes confusion for people who aren't "with it" enough to recognize what the new hues mean. Other criticisms include that colorblind people are used to it already, that colorblind people can use other data in the timer to differentiate (such as the actual split time), and that adding another feature to timers just for the sake of a small audience isn't worth the effort and code bloat.

I'm not here to argue by proxy with these objections, I merely list them to outline my next point: that these objections are exactly why I want the more accessible palette to grow in adoption. Arguably it's NOT a "big deal", colorblind people CAN use additional data to figure out what's going on, and it MAY cause confusion, but all of these concerns are transitional. For me this isn't only about suddenly breaking down a barrier that prevents colorblind people from getting involved in a good run (though it will help!); it's about bringing an issue to the forefront that most people don't think about.

When I changed my split colors to something close to HC's palette above, I got a lot of questions about why from people who had never considered the default was impossible for some people to differentiate. It sparked discussion and thought. This small change, which ultimately only made a small difference to 1 or 2 of my viewers, made 4 or 5 of them think more about accessibility for a moment. Maybe one of them walked away with the understanding that green/red is sub-optimal for accessibility, and will remember that the next time they design something.

It's just colors, and it's just redundant data that can be sussed out via other means if you can't differentiate the hues, and all my viewers understand how my splits work with or without colors, but it's something I have control over that could make more abled people think a little bit more about disability. I guess that's the big deal for me.

That's why I want to see it become the default for more streamers.
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Pointless Mastodon stuff )

That all out of the way, stream stuff I have coming down the pipe... I'm running in Handheld Heroes on Friday. I feel ready for my Rolan's Curse II run, but Dicing Knight is RNG incarnate and the game itself could just decide I will not finish my run. I'm trying to make peace with the fact that I may have my first ever mercy-kill in a speedrunning marathon, but really I'm also practicing backup strats as hard as I can. Nervous, just the same.

After that, I'm going to start a personal streaming project, to break up the monotony of speedruns and such. After all my Four Job Fiesta runs, of which I did four this year, I've had an itch to go back and play other Final Fantasy titles I have in the past, and visit ones I never finished. When I made a list of what I wanted to stream, it basically included every pre-Playstation title, with the exception of 2. So I decided to just stream all of them: 1-6, Mystic Quest, and why not throw in the extended IV gaidens and Tactics.

That's going to be a long project but I don't have to stick to it every stream. I can weave speedrun streams and other stuff between chipping away at it. Besides, it gives me an excuse to code yet another weird stream overlay widget: a custom timer for it. I mean, I won't really need a speedrun timer, but I do want to track how long the journey takes.
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I've been doing experiments into Mastodon and GNU Social for about two months now, with my own GS instance running for about two weeks. In that time I've become pretty familiar with the OStatus protocol that powers both, the differences between the two, how they inter-operate, and the political issues that both led to the division, and continue to spark contention between the loyalists to the two. Sadly, I made the decision today to close my GNU Social node and instead do my microblogging on a Mastodon server a friend owns. I think it important to share why for people confused about the state of the "Fediverse" in the future.

A bunch of history )

What does this mean for a user/admin?

This is the important part. If you're thinking of either hosting or using an OStatus-powered service and federating, there's some decisions to make that aren't as obvious as technology choice. Also some things to be aware of:

First, whether you use GNU Social or Mastodon, some instances will refuse to federate with you. You won't be able to interact with people on those instances. The reasons for this are wide and varied and I don't feel this is the place to discuss their merit. Just be aware that's a thing. With the boiling political climate and coming changes in Mastodon 1.5, I expect this divide will only grow. If you absolutely have to reach someone on an instance that refuses to federate with Mastodon, you'll have to use GNU Social and vice versa.

Second, if you choose to host or use a GNU Social instance, you will already be missing several features that let you see the posts from Mastodon users as they were intended to be seen. Due to this missing context, you may chime into threads you're not supposed to, see images that you may not want to because their content warnings have been stripped, and miss parts of messages because they were part of OStatus tags GNU Social just ignores. This feature gap will, again, only grow with time.

Third, by the same token, Mastodon users should be painfully aware that the privacy features are merely suggestions. Not only will a GNU Social instance ignore them and blissfully blat your followers-only posts into the public timeline where they're world-readable but at this point it's trivial to mod a Mastodon server to also ignore privacy controls. You should carefully vet people who follow you before making a followers-only or unlisted post because once someone follows you from either a GNU Social, or bad-acting Mastodon instance, your posts may become world-readable via that instance.

Fourth, as an extension of the above but deserve of its own point. If you use a GNU Social node to follow a Mastodon user, you will be implicitly violating their expectation of privacy due to how GNU Social handles (or rather mishandles) follower-only posts. That should weigh on your conscience a bit.

Finally, no matter which software you use, enforcing Mastodon's privacy model will require sending fewer messages to GNU Social nodes. This means just by merit of using GNU Social you may start being forced out of certain threads and conversations or certain message types. This is a guess and only time will tell. 1.5 will bring the start of this and we can see where it goes from there.

As for my experience with GNU Social...

I'll be honest. I prefer GNU Social's default UI over Mastodon's Tweetdeck clone. I like that GNU Social is simple scripts while Mastodon is either a Docker container or a huge Rails and Node.js stack. I like GNU Social's admin tools and its simplicity stays out of my way. GNU Social better exposes groups as a feature while Mastodon hides them. In almost every way I prefer GNU Social, and yet I'm closing my node and moving to Mastodon. Why?

Looking at the list of people I either follow or want to follow, they all use a Mastodon instance. Every single one. This means a few things for me. First, that they have an expectation that private posts will be private, and by receiving them I'm violating that expectation because of GNU Social dishonoring privacy tags. Second, some of those people are on instances that don't federate with GNU Social or are considering ceasing federating with GNU Social; simple enough. Third, I'm incapable of posting content warnings from GNU Social while my peers expect it-- so I'm just unable to post certain content. Fourth, the GNU Project's mission is fundamentally incompatible with what I want from a social service and, while I can work around that, do I really want to support them implicitly? Finally, no matter how I feel about Mastodon's execution on implementing the OStatus extensions, they are a net positive for the health and usability of the fediverse and by merit of that I am obligated to support that endeavor.

So while I like GNU Social, to continue to socialize with the people I came here to socialize with, and to support the people I feel are actually working in benefit of my peers and friends, I should move to the Mastodon side of things before the inevitable split happens.

What would I like to see happen? I'd like to see Mastodon just fork OStatus, drop compatibility, and implement all the things the devs want to implement. At this point GNU Social users are in the minority; I feel Mastodon would survive if they did this. This would address the criticism that Mastodon showed up to an established party and tried to change the rules on its own, and would free the devs to do what they want without the shackles of backward compatibility.

We'll see what happens I guess.
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I took a second go at setting up GNU Social tonight, after Twitter's round avatar-gate set a bunch of people into clamoring for an alternative. It was a much easier experience this time around-- likely because I didn't break my federation with major servers while fumbling around in setup this time. I think I'll keep it around. If it's still working in a few days I'll declare my Mastodon account deprecated. I've already updated my contact page.

I also set this up as my official blog from my website. Nanoblogger is neat and all, but I think it's better to use this. I may port over the old posts to backdated entries here; unsure as of yet.

I probably won't drop Twitter because as of right now I have 6 mutual follows on GNU Social and about 170 on Twitter. Just social space issues... Blah.

Work-side I've had the most productive week I've had in awhile, even if it was a week of setting up alpha-quality software to talk to an alpha-quality storage backend I know nothing about, with no documentation on either available to me. I got it done... somehow. Just the life of a sysadmin grunt I guess. Now I get to transfer a metric boatload of data into the new system and hope it doesn't keel over. The transfer will run over the weekend without any management from me, so I expect to just relax this weekend.

Four Job Fiesta starts tomorrow. I'm excited, though I expect I'll only do one run this year instead of the 2.5 I did last year. We'll see I guess. Everyone should join in though!
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When I was a wee thing I went to a private school. In fact, I went to a private Christian school for my entire K thru 12 education. One of my main pains of the time was trying to integrate with a peer group that followed a belief system I was only tangentially a part of. My high school class fluxed between 15 and 8 students, all the rest boys, and most of the final 8 were there the whole ride. I didn't have many options for branching out socially.

One of the common sources of social strain was the difference in opinion on consuming media. I loved first person shooters, kung fu movies, heavy metal, and D&D. Most of them found FPSes excessively violent, modern movies needlessly secular and sinful, heavy metal the music of the devil, and D&D to be satan worship. The rare few times we found an interest that aligned between us, I cherished it. Music was an especially rare and special one, especially since we were permitted to play music during our computing classes.

We learned of POD and Creed. Yeah I know, Creed. It was a different time back then, cut me some slack. Neither of these bands scratched the itch for me that the likes of Spineshank, and Drowning Pool did, but they gave me some opportunity to connect with my peers. I got into them, we played their stuff during study hall and computing class, it was nice to have something we had in common.

One day I walked into class and plunked down and started to fire up Winamp (dating myself, right?). I'd gotten my hands on Creed's newer album and wanted to show that off. To my shock, the student next to me turned his head, looked at me, and said "Oh we don't listen to them anymore". What? The reasons pretty much boiled down to one of the songs ("Bullets", if you care) on their recent album had violent undertones, and they had declared Creed to be "Not Christian", ergo they were instantly dropped from consideration. This baffled me, though it was an ongoing theme through most of my high school years; the first sign of secular tendencies from a media source instantly dropped it from the minds of my peers.

What's this have to do with anything? Well the title of this post refers to a specific tweet made awhile ago. This is a tongue in cheek description of a very real thing that happens when someone is catapulted into fame and people begin to peer into their history, whether that be their Twitter history or meatspace history. If something is found to violate the sensibilities of a community, they usually then self-police to remove that person's content from the group consciousness, much like my group censured media they once enjoyed because of (to the external observer) unrelated concepts.

To someone in the thick of it, they're not unrelated though. If someone expresses a viewpoint that is objectively harmful to a group of people, there's definitely an onus to apply pressure to them to change; or to remove their voice from their presence. I definitely don't blame anyone for wanting to do that-- I guess what makes me headtilt a bit is the pressure on said peers to also remove said media from their own consciousness. I've seen a few people flat out say "Stop faving the low resolution shadow pic" because the originator made a transphobic comment 16 months ago. (To be fair, from what I hear they're still kind of awful, so time isn't a factor here)

I guess what it boils down to is if society is required to discard the creations of a person if they find they do not want to interact with that person or consider that person harmful to their structure. I always felt no. I continued to listen to Creed after learning they were no longer appropriate for my peer group; I still find that shadow picture hilarious. I probably wouldn't post it in any circle of my friends that are especially sensitive to trans issues, but it doesn't bother me that the originator of a specific piece of media is a "bad person".

I used to use Orson Scott Card as an example of this. At this point we're aware he's a pretty bad dude but does that erode the quality of his unrelated works? If not, am I causing harm to anyone by engaging in those works? If I bought Ender's Game, or saw the movie, he'd get a few cents off me in royalties... so probably not unless he was contributing financially a cut of his take to DOMA lobbying or something. Conversely, am I sending any message by boycotting his work? Is he likely to understand his viewpoints are causing him financial harm? Would that be likely to change anything? I don't know.

To further muddy the water for me: if someone creates something I enjoy, aren't they deserving of the recognition and financial gain for that based purely on that, irrespective of their political views and things they may have said in the past? That's a very capitalist way of thinking, and that used to be a solid "Yes" for me back when I thought mostly in terms of economics; now I'm not so sure.

At the bottom of all of this though is my personal enjoyment and the enjoyment of my peers when engaging in media. I wish I could attribute it properly, but it floated by on my timeline awhile back... Someone wiser than me expressed this very nicely: You will find problems with any media, or any creator, you look at. If you censure and boycott everything "problematic", you will be starved for media because true intersectionality is a never-ending journey. As we find more ways to identify ourselves, we need to include them in media. At least at present, no one gets that right. Not a single creative outlet. To me it seems the better solution is to consume that media and identify the problems, using them for points for improvement rather than engaging in censure.

I guess above all I find it amusing that I walked all the way across the political spectrum only to find the same behaviors going on on both sides.
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This is more a rant than anything. I started to spew it on Twitter but when I realized it'd span a ton of tweets, well...

In recent years I've begrudgingly accepted the online-only nature of Blizzard titles but something I'll never get past is their social network. For those who haven't touched a Blizzard title since about 2008: being logged into any Blizzard title they don't call a "Classic" involves being logged into the social network. You appear online to your friends, you can be messaged or invited to parties. That's pretty cool. What's not cool is your status options: you can be available, or flagged busy. There is no offline, there is no invisible. For varying definitions depending on the title, if you're in a game, you're visible to your friends list. Period.

Some days I just want to sink into a game for an hour or two and keep my social stuff off in another window. That's how I enjoy gaming, and I'm by far not an unusual case. So it's frustrating to be forced to announce to my friends list that I'm playing a specific game. More often that not that is immediately followed by someone else (or many someones) logging in and sending party requests. Requests I feel obligated to accept or I'll be forced into a long awkward conversation instead of gaming anyway. Sometimes the people asking to join don't want to do what I want to do; more awkward conversations.

So solutions? Don't add anyone to my friends list? No can do, or I can't party with them when I DO want to. You have to add before you can send invites. Set myself busy? That just moves the long awkward conversation to another medium like Discord or IM. Tell every person sending me an invite I'm not interested? Why should I have to do that? Tell people that busy = don't contact me? Why should I place the burden of remembering that, or playing guessing games about my status, on them when this could be fixed with a simple toggle?

I know the answer to why this is: Blizzard wants to use the friend list system as advertisement. "Oh four of my friends are playing WoW, maybe I should dust off my sub"... They lose some of that if people can go invisible. Still, on the other side of the sword, I've literally wanted to play a game and held off because I didn't have the spoons to deal with the social aspects that would be forced on me by the lack of invis option. It's frustrating.

I guess all in all it feels like my comfort in using their products doesn't matter. I know it doesn't but usually companies don't go out of their way to make me FEEL that way, you know?
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I just got in from jogging in the rain. That wasn't my intent, but what can you do? I walked up to the 7-11 to get drinks and when I emerged, a medium drizzle had appeared out of nowhere. It was the warm, misty kind of rain that falls on you and just kind of immediately disperses into a slick tepid coating that feels more like a layering of residue than actual water. So I double-timed it back home, towing along a double gulp of what I thought was Dr. Pepper but turned out to be... well I don't know what.

So now I'm at home watching the start of the Sunday morning bar closure circus of bad driving on the streets outside my patio door, sipping this mystery concoction that tastes of little more than carbonation, aspartame, and perhaps just a twinge of Pepsi. I suspect the soda fountain at the local 7-11 needs cleaning, or perhaps the hoses are just entirely mixed up. I guess that's one way to make sure I don't binge on soda and end up staying up all night.

I will admit it feels strange spouting off into a text input box on a website anymore. When I was in high school and college, it was a ritual I engaged in every night... sometimes twice daily. I had maybe 60 or 70 people interested in what I had to write, though it was usually just ramblings of whatever came to mind at the time-- a sort of debug log for my brain. It wasn't enough for me though to ramble and attach a mood to the post, I attached a color to every post, recoloring the whole thing by wrapping the entire content in HTML tags. It was a sort of synesthesia in that I assigned a color to my mood at the time, and that color to the post. In retrospect it probably wrecked the reading experience of anyone not using a dark background colored theme, but it's a thing that was special to me.

I had been reflecting on those times again after a conversation about old identities. For years I'd chosen the moniker "Lonewolf", or more frequently some permutation thereof because someone had always beaten me to the name. I was an edgy kid, telling people I didn't want friends or a girlfriend, I didn't want to socialize. I wanted to be seen as the silent, wise type though most of the time I was anything but. More importantly though, I wanted to create things. Writing, game design, etc. I spent most of my time in high school administrating and designing for Mithica, and I do miss the ease of which I could just turn ideas into reality there. Sadly Mithica folded, and I doubt Graal even hosts servers for free anymore like they did back then.

I kept that name, and that attitude, through my Sophomore year of college. It was the gateway that got me into totemic spirituality really. Despite the name initially being more about the "Packless loner" persona than literal identification with wolves, I came to accept the wolf as a totem and guide in my Senior year of high school. Imagine the confusion that resulted as at the time I was still deeply mired in a Christian household, school, and church life. Still, it did me a lot of good; it opened the door to alternative ways of belief and thought that eventually congealed into the amalgamation of appropriated beliefs that I consider my current spiritual canon.

I guess the point of all of this is I'm just now coming to realize and accept that I never had that breakthrough moment where I "became a different person" despite embracing half a dozen (exactly) specific unique identities through my life. It was always a gradual change, an evolution. There are of course moments where I changed my name, changed my guide, but they were moments of realization of change that had already occurred, not moments of sudden change on their own.

Maybe that in and of itself is a valuable lesson, especially now in this time where I'm expecting change from people in my generation. That change isn't a magic epiphany moment where a person suddenly becomes different in every way; it's a series of small events pushing toward a different end. Even if you can't drive a total change for good in the people around you, you can be one of those small pushes. They add up eventually; they did for me.

Long story short, a person is the sum of their experiences. Big or small, those experiences add up to make a different person going forward.
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After my last post I guess it probably sounded like I was excited to get Twitch Affiliate, and I was really. I got it today and have spent the past few hours considering the ups and downs of accepting the offer. In the end I decided to decline it (or more accurately: leave it sitting unanswered until such time that I decide it's more apropos), which I'm sure will come as a shock to most people who stream, or watch my stream.

The whys of the matter are kind of a mess in my head but I'll try to lay them out for people curious.

To start, as I said in my last post, I'm not in it for the money. My viewer max is 20 and of the 10 or so people that watch me regularly, I know the financial states of about half of them and would feel utterly bad taking a cent from them for any purpose. That kind of shoots a hole in my "some people want to interact by cheering" argument, when I would feel bad if people actually did it.

In addition, having money involved would just change how streaming feels for me. If you've picked up on subtle (or not so subtle) cues from me, I'm a massive socialist. Streaming and gaming is where I go to get away from capitalism and money for a bit. Just knowing bits/subs were there would change the entire feel of streaming for me, I know it. I thought I could address this with the charity angle from my last post (and I STILL think that's a good idea, don't get me wrong), but now that the option is in front of me, I feel like it won't.

Speaking of the charity option: Twitch has a hook in their Affiliate agreement that says they're not obligated to pay out anything until your account has $100 in it. This is pretty standard for this kind of agreement: an entity doesn't want to drown in transactions for pennies, and if they have a minimum on transfers, they get some extra scratch slushing in their coffers before they have to transfer it. I don't ever expect to receive $100, so even benefiting charity is out of the question. What's more, in the layover period between cheer and receiving the money, I'd feel on the hook for that contribution; more mental load on me for what should be a fun hobby.

Speaking of contract hooks: their content exclusivity terms would change how I stream and submit PBs to leaderboards. I don't want that.

So my grand plan of "Stream for bits for charity" is shot full of holes. What about benefits? Sub isn't on the table right now, so my one sub icon isn't attainable right now. When sub rolls out I may reconsider. Transcodes are enticing, but I already get them by merit of being a regular streamer with a not-zero view count. If I stop getting them due to priority shifts in Twitch's systems, maybe worth considering? But even then, I stream NES games...

Finally there's the arguably most silly thing for me: Twitch wants all my tax info. I'm not a tinfoil hat type but, to be frank, tying my legal info into my online presence just feels weird to me. Also since they do that, that would introduce additional tax burden on the few bucks I do get.

Long story short, the benefits are very small in exchange for a lot of small, but present, mental burdens on me. Before the $100 minimum payout and the realization that I already get transcodes, I was on the fence on the matter. With all the info I have now I'm pretty strongly in the "No thanks" camp. It boils down to "I don't want to make this about anything but games and fun". Ah well, it was a neat idea while it lasted.

I do still want to try to "do good" with my stream. I just need to find a better way.
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Twitch announced their affiliates program today. The short of it is they're giving some partner benefits to non-partnered streamers, including bit tips and some limited subscription features in the future. It's all very undefined right now but as I understand it, Affiliates will make less money than Partners, and be given fewer social-impacting features (fewer sub emotes, no custom cheer emotes, etc).

I live in Silicon Valley, California, meaning I would have to become a very large streamer for the funds to make a dent in my cost of living. So as it sits, financial gain from Twitch is not even a possibility for me or a remote thought on my mind. I consider this lucky really in that I've never been tempted to go "All in" on streaming to try to make it big. I wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell anyway because I stream obscure retro speedruns :)

As such, I had it in my bio for awhile that if someone really, really feels the need to tip me, they should donate in my name to the SPLC or Trevor Project instead. This works for me. However, there's two untapped opportunities here.

Number 1: Some viewers enjoy donating/subbing to streamers because it increases their level of involvement in the stream and the alert strokes their ego a bit. A lot of people consider $5.00 a fair price to pay to feel more involved in their entertainment medium, and in a way I think this actually improves viewer retention. What I'm saying is that if people like tipping/subbing, why not give them the opportunity?

Number 2: That revenue stream, no matter how small, could be put to good use like charitable donations. This would actually boost the effect of point 1 in that a donator or sub would get the benefit of feeling more involved with the stream AND know their money is going to a good use rather than just my discretionary budget.

So the thought on my mind has been this: open up for tips/subs/cheers/whatever, don't ask for them, don't promote myself, and make it clear I don't get the money. Anything I happen to take, whether that be $0, $5, or $100, gets rolled into a fund I use to make charitable contributions (and probably match myself to a point). My thoughts on where to direct these funds come down to...

  • YouCaring. I'd probably focus on gender issues, because that's where a large amount of my personal activism lies.
  • Activism and protection groups like the SPLC; the specific org decided by current events at time of consideration.
  • Other streamers who are doing "emergency" events and struggling financially.
  • Charity speedrun events to buy off incentives that look like they won't make it.

...and hey, if you don't trust my judgement in where to direct funds, no one says you have to tip/sub. It's not supporting me, after all.

If I make Affiliate I may do this.
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It's 01:30. I had intended to go to bed half an hour ago as my sleep schedule is still on the mend from being particularly irresponsible over the past few weeks, but I also have the desire to just write something. I should be working on the story stuff, but I almost feel like over-planning is a thing that'd hurt the creative process just as much as under-planning, and I have a very solid and extensive outline of the serial and how I want it to go down. Furthermore, I don't want to do any real work at the moment, so there! :P

Just working with a social journaling system again has brought up some rather interesting memories centered around when and how I used LiveJournal. One particular such memory involves my last days at UCF and sitting up at 6am reading back over old posts and writing one about not knowing the path my life was on and feeling extremely out of control and directionless. For anyone who doesn't know (not that anyone reads this drek yet), I lasted 3 terms at UCF and then was placed on academic dismissal for low grades. This didn't happen because I lacked aptitude, but because I found "Finding myself" to be a far better use of my time after 17 years of hyper-religious upbringing from my parents and private school-- a story for another time to be sure.

At the time I was unsure I'd made the right decisions. Failing was, obviously, no help but at the same time I had filled the time I would have been in class and studying with an immense amount of social, emotional, spiritual and *ahem* sexual growth that I would have missed out on if I had been studious. A better balance could have been struck, but in retrospect I think those events lined up to make a me that is a far better me than the one that would have stuck to the books.

My navel-gazing at the time didn't last long though. Another memory of those times: the night before the semester closed, I was messaged by a friend I had made at a local anime event. He had quietly carried the torch for a lady in the same group, and had confided in me this a few times over our time together. He wanted to tell her during her birthday party that night, but events conspired to not let him go, so he asked me to give him a ride. Now, I know... if not then, he would have had ample other opportunities to break the news to her, so it's not like some movie fairy tale where I swooped in and saved true love when all hope was lost-- still, it was quite exciting to haul ass down the highway, with half my stuff already packed in the back of the van, to get him there on time.

I wonder if they hit it off and how they're doing now. I like to think I got them to connect and they forged a relationship and sometimes think of me now. I lost contact with them shortly after I moved away.

Diversion aside, soon after that I decided Computer Science and a life as a coder wasn't for me. I liked being a maverick too much; couldn't regiment myself properly to work in a team, under a project manager, on a project. This is a conclusion I would have reached one way or another, but let's just say failing out of UCF was no harm done and the separation from my roots did a lot for my growth. This was a pretty expensive way to "Branch out" with nothing concrete to show for it, but I'm grateful for the experience.

To cap off the story: part of my explorations at UCF eventually led me to meeting the local furry fandom, which led to meeting furry types nationally, which led to forming some relationships that gave me the ability to move and try a life in California. This was literally a demo basis: my home-life in Florida was in shambles and they worked to find me a job and a place to stay to see if I did better in a different locale. Needless to say, I never left California, so I suppose that worked out for the best. Again, that wouldn't have happened if I'd stuck to the books at UCF.

These retrospectives though... Of course I'm going to say "I turned out okay", because I don't know for certain what the other side of the fence really looks like. Maybe if I'd finished the CS program I would have found a great job and been happy; who knows. All I know is how I ended up so far ain't that bad and I can't really imagine any major point being different, and I only carry one or two major life regrets-- and they're not related to my education.

What's the point of all of this rambling? Not much. I felt like waxing reminiscent I guess. I do that quite frequently on late, quiet nights. Is there a moral? College ain't everything? I guess that's it; but most people are realizing that without my long-winded retrospectives. :)
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I guess since I'm not quite so hesitant to Just Write Stuff here, maybe I can actually keep track of projects and stuff here. I tried on my site blog but felt like it was spamming really.

At the moment there's really three things on my plate but my time's been short lately because I'm doing some side work to get some things moved around in the house I live in.

First is the writing project. I finally have a fire under my arse about getting moving on that. I'd spent about 3 months researching how to host the dang thing because I didn't really enjoy the idea of using a blog for it because blog engines don't really sort prose (especially serial, chronological prose) in a way that makes it easy to read. I think the solution I came to is a crosspost to Dreamwidth and a engine I wrote from scratch on my site. I could even script it to post to both with one shell script and text file, if I wanted to be that dorky :)

Second is I accidentally became a Rockin' Kats speedrunner, but not a good one. I need to become a good one. It's kind of shocking that in my PB I landed all the tricks and still got a 25:30 VS the 19:15 that is the world record. Six minutes of movement slop to fix. To be fair, the 25 was my 3rd finished run ever, so it's not like it's unexpected.

Finally third is I have yet another marathon on the horizon and will need to derust Shining Soul II and Rolan's Curse II for it. I'm just glad I get to show them off in a marathon because they're neat games and the community for both is basically me and one other person.

So you know, a ton of things and I'll probably finish one of them, as I do. :)
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A thing has been on my mind for a bit. Since I have this space now I figure I'll brain dump on it.

Last week, the Ninja Gaiden II leaderboard added some new rules geared toward making it harder for emulator runners to cheat. This came on the tail of a four hour long debate on what's reasonable to expect of runners, whether emulator makes it too easy to cheat, and if it's fair to expect a higher standard from emulator runners as far as proving they are legit goes. This all started when a run was submitted that the community deemed too good to be legit. The runner, when asked to prove his ability in a live stream, deleted his run and disappeared from the community.

...and so I ramble for 8 paragraphs about speedrun leaderboard rules )

I'm a huge proponent of reducing the amount of stuff displayed over the game. Until now I said I'd fight to the death any requirement to put something in the game window to make your run acceptable but you know what? Requiring the frame counter makes a lot of sense as far as combating TASing and splicing goes. In FCEUX and snes9x-rr it's a giant eyesore, but in Bizhawk it's a very discreet, small number in the corner of the screen. I'm all for it.

Just as long as people stop requiring capturing the window border of the emulator. I've proved that that does absolutely nothing to combat cheating.
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It's been awhile since I've seen the post field of a Livejournal-like service. Way back when, I hopped onto LJ back when you needed invite codes or a paid account to get on. Being able to vent my thoughts in a journal was what got me through school, in all honesty. It's how I met people who later became instrumental in my life. All in all blogging was a pretty big part of my existence for many years.

I shut my LJ down in around 2010. I'd become a different person and I wanted to detach entirely from the identity that wrote those 8 years of posts. I feel that maybe that was a mistake, not because I shouldn't have detached but because journaling has a profound therapeutic and cathartic effect on my feelings and thought processes and maybe some of the harder moments of my adult life would have been easier if I had that access and feedback mechanism. I opened a personal blog hosted on my domain, but never felt right venting more personal thoughts on it because it's also the front for my more "professional" ventures.

I don't typically like providing my content to a centralized service, but I do think the nature of social blogging does have some merit, so here I am I guess. I have no idea if I'll be nearly as prolific with this as I was with my old LJ, wherein I was writing 10-20 posts a week, but we'll see.

I'm also considering spinning up a fiction serial blog. I have the actual prose all planned out, I'm just debating the best platform for it. Maybe a simulcast to Dreamwidth and a homebrew solution on my site. Nothing says I can't do both.

Alright... let's give this a try. It feels comfortable and homely already.


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Trysdyn Black


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