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#1
The Admin Tower / CalRef Development Journal 40:...
Last post by Luca - May 24, 2024, 02:48:42 PM
CalRef VII
What? We're Still Doing These?


Evidently!

What's Up With This Sick Theme?

You likely noticed that there's a hot new theme for the forum that dropped around the 3rd of April. This theme is called Silvehn, it's named after Emily's Elven nation theme, and took approximately six eye-bleeding days working basically non-stop. I've kinda found that I've developed this frustration with everything on the internet looking generic and corporate. So, going forward, I'd like to really bring back colour and return to an internet era where every website actually looked different from every other website.

Read/unread icons are the Refugia Culture department icon, but they're coloured in unique ways depending on what hasn't been seen. The redirect icon is also available as a Dot rotato icon, born out of this [wallpaper] I recently made up in inkscape (which is actually a literal joy to work with). The board logo is a slightly saturated version of the same style we had in Endar, and the post editor is made up of styles and icons of that era. The background is not mine, though it is licensed, and about everything else is made from scratch. This theme renovation improvement also allows for more permissive avatars, as well as threads you've posted in being easier to spot.

Osmium? A New Server??

Yes, me, this is also true, we now have a new Debian 12 server called Osmium -- a name picked by poll popularity. Every now and then I reach a point where I feel like I can't get a version of something that I want, usually Python, and it boils down to the version of Debian. There's also bountiful things that accompany such upgrades, such as added security, whatever that is. Personally I just let Amazon and ByteDance pound the server like a thirteenth century French brothel, and assume everyone else does too.

Amazingly, this sort of subconscious awareness that the time had come to renovate the server is well-sourced. Apparently, the Refuge has almost always swapped to a new VPS every three years since forever. So I suppose I am just following a long tradition under the guise of free will and choice. Hydrogen was officiated, to my recollection, in December of 2021, so we're a little early, but that's alright. Now we have new and nifty things like Python 3.11 and PHP 8.3.

PHP 8.3 is great*, but also means that the wiki died. So part of this upgrade involved spending a significant amount of time manually upgrading the wiki, its mods, and its database, incrementally, from 1.31 to the latest long-term support version 1.39 and its six additional patches. I believed, however, that flashy version numbers going up wouldn't get the blood pumping, so I added and briefly spent some time modifying a dark mode theme. Being a staunch traditionalist, I have not made it the default theme, but it is available for you to use at this very microsecond by visiting your [preferences] and selecting DarkVector.

* it's still PHP
More! Give Us Nummy Nummy New Things!

No.

But! I'm excited to give you old things. The deal with programming is that it's a never-ending learning process. Every time you do something, you learn how to do it better again by making it. Downside is that you already did it, so you can either waste time doing it again or move on to something else. Oftentimes I'm more than content to do the latter, but recently I decided to take some actual programming classes to shore any gaps in my knowledge that came from the haphazard way I figured things out on my own, without formal training.

The vast majority of content was material I already knew, but what I didn't turned out to be very helpful. I think [Eyebeast] benefited from this a bit in terms of accessibility improvements and the lord, our God, Google's blessed search rating. So, now that's been done up, visit it today! Or as often as you normally do, and note that it is marginally better than it was this time three months ago.

One other notable update to share is that I've followed in the footsteps of Refuge admins' passed and put up the source code on Github for others to study and learn from, or politely suggest improvements. It is released under the 'if you smelt it you must dealt it license'. Visit and star the [repository] today, or whatever people on Github do.

But I Said Give Us Nummy Nummy New Things!

No.

Also! You might think that my next stop on this journey would be to, then, ground-up improve Tart.CalRef, and you would be correct. But I also think that I'm marginally better at figuring things out with code than I used to be, so I wanted to do something unusual while improving it. In this, I decided to recode Tart.CalRef in PHP. Mostly to prove to myself that I could learn a language that I have never worked in before and spit out something modest in it without any framework.

I also just thought that PHP would be more suitable for handling Tart than python with flask and, now after having done it, feel like that was a pretty bang-on assessment. I'm not a PHPist, so probably professional PHP developers can find a dozen things to poke holes at, but for my purposes I think it's put together relatively well. More importantly, Tart is now faster, scores 100 on lighthouse ratings in every category, and has basically zero dependencies.

I have also made its code available through a public Github [repository] so that you can look on it with awe and terror, and also to get an idea of how you can parse a data dump with PHP. It is released under the do whatever as long as you keep the copyright license.

Shall There Be Nummy Nummy New Things in The Future?

Not really. Maybe. It's classified.
Report all errors to the local authority.
#2
General Discussion / Re: The CalRef Review Bunker
Last post by Zukchiva - April 25, 2024, 11:04:18 PM
So I got a Crunchyroll premium free trial for 2 weeks just to watch Frieren: Beyond Journey's End. Then I watched 6 other anime. And I thought I might as well write short reviews on the 7 anime and then rank them at the end as my until-2-AM activity for today! I'll review them in order of how I watched them and then rank them at the end. ^-^

I'll try to avoid major spoilers, but if you're someone who really likes watching things without *any* spoilers, then I'll put a tldr; at the top and you should not read the rest of that anime's review.

Hereeee we gooooo...

1. Frieren: Beyond Journey's End

Frieren: Beyond Journey's End is an anime about a nigh-immortal elf who is currently on an adventure... after having been on a much bigger adventure 50+ years ago wherein she and her then-comrades defeated the overpowering Demon King and saved the world. The thing that's so cool about this anime is how it treats that first journey in comparison to the present. In most books or series, you never really consider just how the previous adventures a protagonist embarked on has changed them. And on the surface level, this makes sense as most of us don't spend every minute of our day considering our past. Yet, it's true that oftentimes many key points happen in our lives that change our very character and how we do things.

This is something Frieren captures quite beautifully. Whenever there is a moment in the present that can match well with a point of growth Frieren experienced on her journey to defeat the Demon King, the anime is sure to juxtapose them. It allows you to see how Frieren has changed - and how she has not - as a result of a journey that formed a milestone event in her life. The anime just makes you think about how life can be viewed as a small collection of experiences, each leaving its mark on us.

Beyond that, Frieren also has a major focus on remembrance and legacy - how it feels to seek it and how it can look like for both heroes and regular people as well. Maybe it's just because the idea of recording things interests me, but nonetheless I liked that the anime touched on this theme. Although it can be a bit on the nose sometimes and feels a bit beaten in - your mileage may vary on how much you like that.


You tend to see statues a lot, which plays into the remembrance theme a bit. (source)

The story of the anime is also pretty great, although probably not the most well developed one in my opinion, compared to other anime on this list, since it follows a more quest-by-quest kinda storyline which can make it slightly disjointed. The worldbuilding itself is pretty alright as well, but I think one thing the anime does well is its magic system. While the magic system itself isn't quite explored in depth, I do like how it is given the aura of being pretty much a type of science - grounded in experimentation and empiricism - and how the anime sometimes uses that as a discussion point to explore the world in a few combat moments. Speaking of the combat itself, IMO Frieren's is really, really excellent and fun combat. It's basically really satisfying to see good imagination matched with big magic kamahema blasts aimed with the precision of a needle, xD.


Overall, while the story and worldbuilding are great, they're probably not the best or most strongly developed relative to other anime of Frieren's tier. However, the story and worldbuilding are strong enough to support the main draw of Frieren, which is the deeper reflection on remembrance and life experience. Frieren is ultimately a bit more of a character-driven anime than a story one, but the story is still enough to keep the plot moving forward.

It is ultimately probably one of the most favorite things I've watched in recent times, maybe even all time, because of that strong reflectiveness and emotiveness. I heavily recommend it to anyone who likes more sentimental/reflective anime but still wants to see fantasy combat in action. I'd rate it a 10/10 overall - it's super, super great and I'm in love with it.


2. Solo Leveling

Solo Leveling is about an individual named Sung Jinwoo. In his world, humanity has to deal with monsters in dungeons - but if the dungeons aren't cleared soon enough, the monsters spew into the real world through portals. Humans who are "awakened" get abilities of varying degrees that make them hunters - though their abilities remain static. Sung is the lowest rank of hunter - class E - but somehow gets the power to start leveling up his abilities. The anime goes on from there to explore his exploits as being such a unique hunter.

Solo Leveling's themes focus primarily on not giving up and surpassing one's own limits. Certainly not a bad theme at all, of course, although it didn't quite stir me up as much as Frieren's did since it's a pretty common theme to see in different works. Don't have much more to say on that, heh.

As far as storytelling goes, I do think Solo Leveling's story paces a bit faster than Frieren's, which is pretty nice. The story itself also seems to be building up to a major plot reveal, which I think will definitely shake things up in later seasons (it's pretty clear what it's going towards, but it hasn't been explicitly revealed yet in season 2). That being said, while the story is a bit more better paced than Frieren's, it's also a bit less developed - most of the episodes kinda just revolve around Sung leveling up his abilities. While some specific episodes indeed have strong emotional moments, it seemed the story took a backseat to watching Sung level himself up. Which is fine I guess, although it began being a bit tiring after a few episodes The worldbuilding itself is pretty decent, though. It's interesting to see how humanity in Sung's world basically just normalized monsters appearing through portals, and how monopolies formed to take advantage of the need for hunters. It's how I imagine humanity would react in real life to such an occurrence, so that helped a bit with immersion.

The animation itself was also really good, in my opinion, although the stylistic choice to make everyone have triangle chins is not my personal aesthetic. In any case, the combat was great alongside the regular scenes. My only grip with the anime is that one or two episodes after he gets his level up powers, Sung becomes a shredded muscular man (how he does so will make sense if you watch the anime). Which isn't a major blow but kinda detracts from the anime's theme of determination, I think? If your entire conflict is that this hunter is too weak, then making him at least look really strong after a relatively short time frame kinda nullifies that theme a bit.

Overall, Solo Leveling is a pretty solid anime. It has a clear story with a clear build-up in overall plot, although the more specific between-episodes plot isn't as developed. The worldbuilding and animation are pretty nice though, and I think the theme is quite appreciable. I'd rate this anime a solid 6.5/10.


3. Vinland Saga

"I have no enemies." - meme


Vinland Saga is basically about the life of a young viking named Thorfinn, son of Thors. Thorfinn essentially becomes a viking warrior during the start of the 1000s, whereupon he becomes a seasoned child soldier - capable of feats and atrocities his fellow soldiers can only hope to appreciate. But later on in his life, in the second season when he is no longer such a warrior, Thorfinn is forced to reckon with his violent past - and wonder at what his future holds for him.

The main theme for Vinland Saga is pretty clear - how to atone for the wrongs you did in your past and how you can step forward from them. Thorfinn is absolutely ravaged by his past, and he's forced to find a way to work through his evil deeds for a better future. Another theme Saga has is also on the idea of revenge and hatred. Thorfinn spends the first season being the embodiment of hatred against another character, but when that character ceases to be relevant in the second season, Thorfinn needs to find a way to deal with the emptiness his years-long hatred formerly filled within him.


Thorfinn was an exceptional warrior, ngl. (source)

I don't think I'm really doing the themes of Saga any justice - it's just kinda something you have to watch to feel. Nonetheless, the anime was truly an anime about a human life - how a person can change through the years, how life has its really bad and sad moments alongside the happy ones, how life can often be disappointing or rewarding on a dime. Like Frieren, it's an anime focused on character development (although Thorfinn's development is much more radical) and remembering, although in this case it's from the eyes of a redeemed savage warrior than a renowned near-mythical hero. The anime being set in historical times with no fantasy elements also makes it a bit more real. You kinda remember that, more likely than not, the anime could very well be a representation of the lives people lived in that timeframe and area. Hell, it's more likely than not that someone or a couple of people of that time in real life lived lives similar to Thorfinn. In short, the anime gives you a glimpse into a fictional life in a very real-seeming world that is loosely based on the real world.

Speaking of worldbuilding, Vinland Saga's is pretty solid. Which isn't really surprising, given that it's mostly building off a general framework made from IRL's history. But even beyond that, the anime gives a lot of reasoning for why certain people took certain actions. Like why Thorfinn's father ended up living where he did for the remainder of his life, for example. The anime makes it very clear the motivations of its characters, but also the effects of characters' actions on each other. Everything is well supported by the world being built. The story itself was also really decent as well, which makes sense since the story in this case is one continuous stretch of someone's life, albeit with some large skips here or there. But the story can also drag on for some periods of time in the first season, and it takes a much slower pace/tone in the second season as Thorfinn becomes more reflective and strays from war - to the point where it can be boring at times, and an episode can seem like nothing seemed to happen if you don't focus on how the characters change. But the general plot is solid nonetheless and makes sense in how it occurs.


It does have some comedy as well! Heh. (source)

The animation itself is also pretty solid in the first season, though it does pick up a little bit in the second season. It isn't as drastic as say, first season AoT compared to the last, but you can see some better detailing. Overall, I think both studios did really well with the season each was given, though I can't help but wonder how MAPPA would've handled the first season.

In any case, Vinland Saga is simply an amazing anime. While it can be a bit long and slow at parts, just being able to see the awesome character development in Thorfinn alongside all the interpersonal relationships that form between the relatively larger cast of characters is amazing. It really feels like watching a serialized account of an actual human life - one that pays homage to that person's struggles and their victories as well. It's a 10/10 anime for me, and I'd recommend anyone feeling bored to give it a try.

4. Goblin Slayer

Goblin Slayer is an anime about a notable adventurer called Goblin Slayer. Who just... slays goblins. And that's it. Though of course, this solo adventurer soon forms a party with a young Priestess (who he saves in the first episode), an elf, a lizard person, and a dwarf. The party goes on various quests as time passes, going on to do various impressive feats and saving many people.


Scary... (source)

In terms of theme, Goblin Slayer focuses a bit more on the idea of self-confidence and sacrifice. It explores self-confidence by exploring the character development of the Priestess, who goes from being a meek and timid adventurer into someone who can stand on her own two feet and save others in dangerous situations. But the anime also focuses often on the idea of having *too much* self-confidence, as it shows with rookie adventurers dying violent deaths due to their hubris in challenging goblins when they weren't yet ready to do so.

The idea of sacrifice is also often discussed in Goblin Slayer through the Slayer's duties. While other adventurers can kill a variety of beasts, travel, and make a name for themselves, Goblin Slayer is forced to kill goblins due to his personal code of killing all goblins once someone sacrificed their life for him from the goblins. Goblin Slayer himself can never meet the dream of being a big adventurer, but by killing goblins, he allows other adventurers (and non-adventurers who'd otherwise be killed by goblins) to live out their own dreams.

The themes of the anime are nice, solid ones that together make the anime a good emotional piece. However, the story itself isn't all that great - seeing as there isn't really an overall goal for the Slayer beyond just killing goblins. While all the major characters, including the Slayer, do change, there isn't a cohesive story arc supporting such development - mostly a few episode-long arcs that are mostly unrelated to each other (beyond new character relationships forming of course).

The worldbuilding, however, is excellent. The operation of goblin society is really interesting, albeit simplistic and brutalistic. But what's the best about the anime's worldbuilding is how it worldbuilds adventuring. From seeing how the adventurer's guild operates to the bulletin board to even how gathering equipment works, the anime works really hard to develop a cohesive culture of adventuring. The anime's magic is also super interesting as well, being well fitted to different styles based on people's cultures. For example, priests and priestesses use godly magic with spells like "Purify" or "Holy Light", while the dwarf spellcaster spits rocks at high speeds and the lizard man can summon bone warriors. Every magic system feels specialized to a specific culture or practice, which is really interesting to see as that's probably how it'd work in real life as well.


One of the Priestesses spells, Protection. (source)

The animation itself is also really good, although I personally think it picked up in the second season. Combat is pretty amazing, especially. However, this anime really, really likes gore and other slightly NSFW stuff - the first episode is the worst, though elements of that NSFW stuff does exist beyond the first episode. But the gore is there the entire time and can be extreme. This anime also plays heavily into fan service and the "harem" trope, which are both major downer points to me - I'm not a fan of fan service, and in real life most people don't have people falling for them like a magnet. So the focus on gore and innuendo can be a bit much.

Overall, Goblin Slayer is a pretty neat anime. It has great characters with interesting interpersonal relationships, awesome animation, and great worldbuilding. However, it's pretty stark lack of an overall plot line alongside its gore/slight-NSFW/fan-service/harem-trope throws me off a lot, and kinda makes the anime drag on a bit. It is definitely an anime I'd watch a third season for still, but that's despite a lot of stuff in it. For that, it gets a 7/10.


Me @ some of this anime's choices. (source)

5. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (or as I'll abbreviate it, FAB) is an anime about two brothers - Edward and Alphonse Elric - who live in a 1900s fictional world built on alchemy. (Alchemy is basically just a magic system made to be a very hyper-scientific looking one.) The brothers are on a journey to restore Alphonse's body - which he lost when the pair failed to perform the sole forbidden "transmutation" in alchemy. But needless to say, their inquiries into returning their bodies to normal lands them in a central conspiracy involving their entire nation.

FAB's themes focus mostly on the importance of friendship. The entire anime tends to explore the meaning of friends, and it is often only with the support of friends that the Elric brothers and their supporting cast often end up succeeding. FAB does well to hit upon the practical and emotional support friends can give to each other - and how important they are in human lives. It also deals well with the loss of those friends - and how people can move on from such important deaths, either focusing on vengeance or moving on. The anime also explores redemption and change - seeing how select characters can change after living lives of doing evil, to set things right even if there is no true way to account for all the things they've done. Its themes are pretty nice and ultimately even share some similarities with the Vinland Saga.


The importance of ✨friendship ✨(source)

In terms of story, FAB is pretty amazing and probably has the best story on this list. Every episode or two had me on the edge of my seat, and every single sub-plot tied in extremely well with the overall plot. Some of the final episodes were probably not the most well explained in terms of "how is the villain managing to carry out this massive plan of his" - but overall, the build up and slow release of knowledge by FAB was extremely well done. The characters' relationships with each other are also beyond amazing - I felt strongly connected to these characters and their losses. Hell, there were a few times I actually nearly cried - I think the only anime on this list I did that for. While many of the characters didn't see that much personality development in the present wherein most of the anime occurs (though some characters did develop since the flashbacks of the more distant past), the growth of their relationships and abilities much made up for it.

The worldbuilding itself is also really, really well done for most parts of the anime. The differences in alchemy between societies is really interesting to see, alongside listening to the foreign political government nearby Amestris (where the anime occurs) and seeing how people from outside Amestris fight. It's also nice to see the smaller details included about automail (steel robot limbs for amputees) - such as how nerves are connected and that it causes pain to connect them. There's a lot of other small details scattered in the anime, too. The world is pretty fully developed, which is nice.

The animation itself is also pretty decent, though it certainly gets a massive boost halfway into the season. The combat animations are also not that bad, although magic/alchemy combat doesn't really compare much to Frieren's until FAB reaches its last 20 episodes. The only thing that made me a bit uncomfortable about FAB is that Amestris seems to be modeled off of Nazi Germany The anime does not glorify genocide in any way though, and the genocide that does occur in the anime is used as a way for characters to reflect on their evil deeds and how Amestris needs to change. So I guess it's alright, although even with that, Amestris being modeled off of Nazi Germany so blatantly still rubs me the wrong way.


Looks super cool, right?! (source)

Overall, FAB is a great anime with great story, great characters, great worldbuilding, great animation - basically great anime overall. It certainly gets a 10/10 from me If anyone wants something to watch when bored - assuming you haven't watched this anime yet.

6. Spy Family

So technically I didn't really start Spy Family during the free trial, but I did finish season 1 and complete Season 2 - so I might as well include it!

Spy Family is about a "fake" family formed by superstar spy Loid Forger, or Twilight, in Operation Stryx - which aims to maintain the fragile peace between 2 wartorn countries. Loid's wife is Yor Forger, an assassin who works for the vigilante justice group, Garden. And their child is Anya Forger, an orphan who was picked by Loid for the mission and is a telepath. The most interesting part of the anime is that none of them know about each other's unique traits - to each other, they're just an everyday normal family. The anime follows this family's hijinks as they go through life, with Loid trying to use Anya to further his mission in the process.

While I'm not sure it's right to say Spy Family has any strong themes, it does focus a lot on the emotional bonds the Forgers form over time - which makes it a pretty emotional anime that I nearly cried at a few times ;w;. It's super cool to watch the family's dynamics evolve from stilted strangers to something more and more representing a real, close family that cares for each other.

In terms of story, while the anime does have a very clear overall plot, you could go multiple episodes with the overall plot not really mattering much to the story. Spy Family is more broken into different small arcs and a lot of one-off episodes, which is kinda like Goblin Slayer, though the overall plot does get a mention in some of these deviating episodes. That being said, the characters in Spy Family are all very developed - especially the main trio, each with their own unique personality and view of the family. Their emotional bonds feel quite real, which make the emotional moments of the anime super, super wholesome and deep and altogether amazing. It's also funny to watch how the dynamics between different characters develop, like how Loid quickly becomes exasperated with Anya or Anya gets terrified of her mother's lack of self control when it comes to her superhuman strength. The anime also has a lot of comedic moments as well, which get bolstered by us being able to see Anya's readings of other people's minds pretty often and her shocked reactions to the thoughts of others.


To be fair, I'd be shocked too (source)

The worldbuilding of Spy Family is also really well done. The nation the Forgers reside in, Ostania, is shown in well developed fragments as time goes on. An example of that is the State Service, which serves as the secret police of Ostania and are often referenced as people who Loid needs to avoid in his spy work. In the second season, an episode also sees a discussion of the war between Ostania and Westalis (the country Loid is originally from) - and how the horrible effects of that war now have committed much of Westalis's spy agencies to maintain the fragile peace. The worldbuilding isn't wholly expansive though, and mostly comes from Loid's sections when he's busy doing spy work and monologuing to himself.

In terms of animation, Spy Family is not lacking at all in that department either. The combat scenes are pretty spectacular to watch, and it's also funny seeing a lot of Anya's scenes, which often turn bright and glowy or dark and moody depending on how she's feeling. The animation tends to do the best in focusing on the shocked comedic reactions of all the characters whenever something happens to them - like Anya running off or Yor kicking a dodgeball hard enough to decapitate multiple trees.


Overall, Spy Family is a pretty awesome anime. While it can sometimes feel a bit too disjointed, the story certainly exists - but the biggest draw is just seeing all the fun gimmicks the Forger family gets up to. It was an adorable and sweet anime to watch, and I can't wait to watch the third season one day. Thus, this awesome anime also gets a 10/10.

7. Bocchi the Rock!

Bocchi the Rock! is about a high school girl named Hitori Gotōh, who has severe social anxiety. Hitori gains the goal of being a rock star and making friends - both which occurs when she joins with a new upcoming band called Kessoku Band. The anime then explores the band's struggles as it tries to establish itself and holds its first three concerts - also exploring Hitori's growth in the process as she overcomes her anxiety.

Bocchi is about a lot of different themes, but the easiest one to touch on is friendship, of course. A lot of the time, Hitori tends to believe her new friends, her bandmates, will disparage her and bring her down. But most of the time her friends are quite supportive and helpful to Hitori in ways that Hitori doesn't even know - giving her space to grow, allowing her to step back from stimulation when needed, and celebrating her accomplishments. The anime makes a pretty big point that good friends are those who have your back through thick and thin. But the theme that's more important and probably resonates a lot more is that of change. Hitori is a person who clearly struggles to get over her anxiety, often only 'cuz her friends force her to do so. But the thing is that she *is* getting over it - and it wasn't overnight either, seeing as she practiced guitar for three years in the hopes of making friends. In a world full of lonely people, it's awesome to see an example, even if fictional, of someone working to strip their loneliness as a result of their own efforts - of course, luck plays a role in it, but nonetheless to see such effort is also nice. I feel like the anime could've very easily slid into a role wherein it just joked about Hitori's social anxiety but never fixed it; instead, it uses Hitori as a way to show that change is possible and that, through work and luck, loneliness is never permanent.


Social confidence! Hell yeah!! (source)

In terms of story, Bocchi has a pretty nicely paced story. There is very much an overall plot, although it does get dropped in two or three filler episodes - but the general goal of the band to establish and make a name for itself is always in mind. The worldbuilding in Bocchi, however, isn't really that exemplary although it isn't too bad either - which makes sense since this anime isn't really about the world, but about the life of one girl. It's also based on real life, so the need for worldbuilding really isn't that important. As for characters, Bocchi's characters are pretty amazing - every character has their own unique trait that makes them stand out from the others, even a lot of the major supporting cast. The band in particular tends to shine with the 4 competing yet very much unique personalities making for a cool friend group to watch.

One thing that is absolutely amazing about Bocchi, though, is the animation. The anime does mostly seem to use traditional anime styling, but every detail is well animated and well focused on. There was even a point where I was just watching the characters' hair bob up and down and wondering if hair looks like that in other anime as well, xD. Another unique thing about Bocchi is that it has no fear of being quirky and funny when it wants to - and many funny moments are punctuated by 5-10 second breaks into other art styles - like 3D modeling for example. It's probably one of the best animated shows I've ever seen hands down in my life so far, and its usage of non-anime style at select points also makes it extremely unique. The animation is actually what caught my eye in the first place!


The gif in this meme is from a sped-up scene in the actual anime! (source)

Bocchi the Rock is ultimately an awesomely animated anime with awesome interpersonal relationships and a great story. It was also probably the anime that I personally resonated the most with, seeing as I'm a more functional copy of Bocchi. I'd really recommend this anime to anyone who likes slice of life - 10/10 rating.


Final Ranking

Yuhhhh

1. Frieren: Beyond Journey's End / Bocchi The Rock!

Maybe I just really like more sentimental/reflective anime, but these two anime had pretty neato overall stories, awesome animations, and most importantly - really impactful themes that are important to me for some reason. Some of the best stuff I've ever watched to date, and I hope both get many more seasons to come!


2. Spy Family

Spy Family is just a fantastic anime that is super funny to watch, and the Forger's antics made me laugh a bit and also feel like nearly crying at certain points as well.

3. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood / Vinland Saga

These two animes, unlike the previous two, kinda had a bit more serious tone throughout (although FAB certainly does have quite a bit comedic value). Both animes have heavy-hitting stories in their own way, and Vinland in particular makes you think a lot about what it means to get angry at people and/or hate them. Honestly, I could see them being ranked next to Spy Family as well - it's either or for me, so I decided to just make this list slightly longer :3

4. Goblin Slayer

Goblin Slayer is a pretty neat and fun anime to watch, and it does have its deeper moments. But a lot of the stuff it has like fan service and harem tropes kinda put it a bit lower compared to the other anime on this list. The cohesive lack of story also doesn't really help all too much.

5. Solo Leveling

Solo Leveling is also a great anime, but out of all the anime in this list it had the least amount of impact to me. It was kinda just like watching a movie that I was interested in but would probably forget in a few months. It's a good anime and many people clearly like it a lot more than I do... just not my thing, I guess.

And that's my review! Thanks for taking a peek at this I guess, though I doubt anyone will read it xD. It's... not well written, admittedly :3. And since this is like 4k words, I am not reading this over a second or third time. =w=

Anyways, have a nice day!








#3
Spam / Re: CTRL+V
Last post by Aav - April 05, 2024, 01:47:00 PM
newIm = io.bytesIO(fh.read())
#4
General Discussion / Review: Creature in the Well
Last post by Natalie - April 04, 2024, 12:52:31 AM
What does it mean for a game to "respect the player's time"?

In some cases, this is easy to answer. Games that are full of busywork, whether it's in the form of high volumes of mandatory side quests or mobile game cooldown meters, want the player to stay with the game well past the point of reasonable time investment. Games like Red Dead Redemption II, with huge amounts of slow manual travel both in and out of quests, refuse the player convenience. (Whether RDR2 uses this to good effect is up to taste.) Where it gets more interesting is when a game commits a litany of minor sins which add up - inconvenient menuing, convoluted town layouts, long animations, a gameplay loop that creates frequent trips back to the shop - and causes an otherwise solid game to be bloated and run longer than necessary. Usually, however, these elements are discussed in the context of longer games where they can add up to many additional hours. What does it look like when a game doesn't respect your time but doesn't ask for much of it in the first place?

On a completely unrelated note, this is a review of Creature in the Well, an indie game from 2019 developed by multimedia studio Flight School, This playthrough was conducted on the Switch version via digital download, YMMV for other platforms or formats.

Creature in the Well takes place in a desert village called Mirage which exists within the eye of a sandstorm. The town's inhabitants have long been cut off from the rest of the world by these unending winds, stranded alone on this earth, only them and their gargantuan mechanized mountain of murky origin and purpose. You play as a "BOT-C" who was once an engineer on the machine who's now reawakened and ventured inside to fight off the mysterious creature and finish what was started. I'm going to tell you up front that I simply did not care about this game's story. I think it's pretty by-the-numbers and I struggled to buy in, but I was so disengaged that I don't even really want to give a negative impression since I didn't make much of an effort. Pretty much everything you get is through occasional one-sided conversations and reading old computer logs, and if that's your thing and you like the setting it's probably passable. (There's one exception we'll touch on a little later.)

Flight School describes CitW as "pinball with swords," which is a nice elevator pitch but not a great explanation. It's played in a top-down perspective similar to Hades as you travel through dungeons. Each room is going to have its own obstacles and challenges and such, and there will be ball spawners present. With the Y button, you can catch and charge up to three balls, increasing their power level, and with the X button you can swing your bat and punt them in the direction you're facing. Almost all obstacles in CitW will have a visible meter on them that fills up as they're hit, and once you've imparted enough power onto them they'll deactivate - it's a mix of pinball and block breaker elements. When balls connect with objects, you earn energy based on how much the ball was charged, and this acts as your currency for exactly two things: buying upgrades (and there's only one single linear upgrade option) and opening doors to proceed further into the dungeon. Clear all the objects in rooms with a pinball bumper thing sunk into the floor and it'll raise up and give you a bunch of energy as a reward.

An example of what normal play looks like later in the game.

The first quirk to note here is how the game's treatment of energy makes the sense of progression a little wonky. From what I could tell, you're not actually required to clear rooms to proceed, you can always just go through the next door as long as you can spend enough energy to do so. A lot of side paths in the dungeons are only to give you more energy, with the reward at the end just being a big room full of passive objects to score off of. In some games it's normal to receive cash as a prize, but the weird thing about CitW's energy is that it's limitless. Rooms reset if you leave the dungeon or wait long enough, so you can grind for energy in a lot of places. (Note: I witnessed this room reset behaviour in hostile rooms, but I didn't test its frequency in passive reward rooms.) This makes these rewards feel kind of hollow, even if they're ultimately necessary to stay on pace for max upgrades by the end of the game and make the bosses more manageable.

Most obstacles in the game are standard passive barriers which you damage for energy, but you'll also encounter fireball-shooting cannons, explosive towers, mob spawners, and such that put you under pressure. There are also optional timed challenges where you'll have to break a series of objects, each within a few seconds, in order to open up secret paths. These are where you'll find new items: cores, which are consumed to buy upgrades; banners, which are cosmetic capes you can wear; and charge and strike items which change your attack properties. Some of these weapons will have really useful abilities like healing you or giving you a laser sight, but others appear to have no unique functions - or if they do, they're sufficiently cryptic that I couldn't figure them out.

As a fan of this game's influences, my first and probably most fundamental complaint about Creature in the Well is a limitation in its gameplay. There doesn't appear to be a limit on the number of balls that can be on screen, at least not one that I noticed, but you're only ever allowed to hold and charge three at a time. Any additional balls that enter your range while you're charging will disappear. I understand that arbitrarily high volumes of balls would likely break the game, but I have the same disappointment here that I do with some modern block breaker games. Multiball play is one of the best parts of both Breakout and pinball, and not getting to ramp up the numbers even in the late game is a shame. Now, this limitation only applies to individual instances of charging - you could catch a few balls, charge them up, release them, and then go grab some more balls that have spawned or been fired by enemies and charge those ones up too. And indeed, you'll do this, sometimes inadvertantly, but I found that because the game is balanced around shooting highly charged balls, you're usually better off powering up a set of three, sniping something with them, and repeating. Any extra balls in play are gravy.


Numbers go up.

Like I said at the top, CitW is a short game. It consists of eight dungeons, plus a small hub area that serves very little purpose. Each of these dungeons is maybe half an hour long, and while the game promises unique themes and challenges in each of them, they end up feeling fairly similar. Each one will introduce a new idea, such as moving platforms or a new enemy type, but they mix in a lot of standard stuff along the way and the optional challenges sometimes use entirely different skills rather than having you master those introduced in that dungeon. The boss fight at the end of each area will have some relation to the central theme but even that's sometimes tenuous. Boss battles are a series of several rooms in a row where you have to dodge more enemies than usual and break all the things, and usually the boss will start resetting blocks if you don't clear things fast enough. None of these fights were exceedingly difficult but I did find myself wondering how I would have done a couple of them if I hadn't been exploring for extra gear. As it stood, I played Creature in the Well as a completionist, 100%ing every dungeon and finishing the game in just under five hours.

And in those five hours, there was a lot of downtime because Creature in the Well is severely lacking in consideration for the player. Suppose you get stuck on a particular room, such as I did with a side path in the North Star Conduit. You attempt the room, you die, and you respawn outside of the mountain in the town. You have to walk all the way back from the edge of town up into the level hub inside the mountain. You have to go to the healing pool and stand in it and wait because dying doesn't refill your health bar. Then you have to go back up into the level entrance and traverse the dungeon to get back to where you were. There's no real incentive to replay rooms you've completed on a previous visit, so you'll mostly be running through them trying not to get hit on your way to your real destination. The farther into a dungeon you get stuck, the longer this will take, and it's made worse by the sloppy implementation of running itself. Run is bound to the same button as dash, and in fact you can only run after having dashed; holding down the run button during a screen transition or while getting hit or even repressing it in the middle of a dash animation won't cut it. Running isn't even that much faster than walking and there's very little feedback to tell you which you're doing, so travel quickly becomes a chore. It almost feels like it's borrowing the format of roguelite action games where the post-death walk is your chance to breathe and tweak your build, but there's absolutely nothing to do here except go buy an upgrade if you have a core to spare.

There's also a lot of repetition. While the key challenges are unique, there are a lot of rooms that are cloned from place to place. This isn't a big deal for stuff like transitional hallways - though I do think those are a little too frequent and long - but you're going to run into a lot of minor rooms that are similar if not identical, again usually with no reason to spend time on them except to accumulate energy. And the gameplay itself becomes pretty hollow and repetitive once you get a feel for the rhythm of catch-and-release combat. Pinball is a game about reaction time, conservation of balls, predicting the physics of obstacles. If we take CitW instead to have block breaker DNA akin to Breakout (or more specifically the microgenre of Breakout-meets-tennis action games such as Sanrio World Smash Ball), those games heavily involve positioning and adapting to a changing board as objects go away. Creature in the Well doesn't play badly, but it feels rather inconsequential most of the time because the balls don't matter that much. Outside of a few specific cases, you never have to care much about what happens to them because more will always spawn, and their bounces off the walls and geometry are often completely unpredictable.


You're going to see a lot of small filler rooms like this.

Sorry but you are not allowed to view spoiler contents.


Really, the nail in the coffin is the price. $15 for a five hour game is steep but acceptable when there's a profound story to tell or a lot of replay value. A game like Vanquish has a short campaign but a lot to offer. With Creature in the Well, you just don't get that much, especially when you consider what portion of that play time is empty or redundant. If you can get it on sale you don't have a lot to lose, but the console ports never get discounted so you'd best stick to Steam.

Recommended If You Like: watching balls bounce around; mysterious post-disaster storytelling (but don't need snappy gameplay to back it up); sand
#5
Spam / Re: CTRL+V
Last post by Natalie - April 03, 2024, 10:56:54 PM
#6
General Discussion / Breakout: Recharged
Last post by Natalie - March 30, 2024, 09:08:17 PM
Thank you for the encouragement. Here are 2,400 words about breaking bricks.

---

The block breaker is, I think, a deceptively interesting genre. Maybe you know it as Breakout, as Arkanoid, or more commonly as the world's oldest profession, but it's up there with Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man as one of the archetypal ideas of what a video game is. If you're too young to agree to the CalRef CoC, block breaker games are an extension of the gameplay constructs established by Pong and applied to a single player experience: move a paddle around at the edge of the screen (usually the bottom), bounce a ball with it, hit blocks to break them, repeat. Breakout was largely the progenitor of this gameplay style and it dates back to 1976 - this genre is pushing 50 years old.

And that's what's so interesting to me: for a genre so long established, it's had strikingly little forward movement and innovation. Arkanoid, the game that helped establish features like level-based campaigns and bosses in block breakers, came out in 1986, and that's really the last time anything became a new standard. Sure, lots of games have attempted to break new ground - Firestriker turned it into a fantasy action game, Gunbarich added unwieldy pinball flippers, Wizorb added RPG elements - but the best they can hope for is being recognized as cute twists you can spend a couple hours on. For the most part, the games coming out today are rooted in the same design principles as those nearly 40 years ago.

None of this is meant to set Breakout: Recharged up for failure. I have a fondness for the block breaker in relatively pure forms. I want to see it succeed, the same way I wanted Arkanoid: Eternal Battle to. Both games were attempts to revitalize the two pillars of the genre, both released in 2022, and both landed without a lot of impact. This review is going to focus on Breakout largely because Eternal Battle isn't worth talking that much about - it's underwhelming and buggy and features frustrating level designs and it launched at a gallingly high $30 USD price tag ($40 if you wanted physical). Recharged comes in at a leaner $10, and I grabbed it on sale for $5, so know that this review is through the lens of a budget game. Gameplay for this review was conducted on the PS5 version, your mileage may vary with the other ports.

Co-developed by Adamvision Studios, whose portfolio includes some of Atari's other Recharged games as well as, uh, Lewdle, and SneakyBox, a porting and development studio, Breakout: Recharged is all about going back to basics: minimal menus, minimal window dressing, minimal music, and a mostly minimal visual design - we'll put a pin in that last one. Similarly minimal are its modes on offer - a classic endless arcade mode and a mission-based challenge mode are all you get. Both come in a co-op flavour too, but I was unable to test this because it would require forcing someone to come over and play multiple hours of Breakout.


A normal, sparse game state.


In Arcade mode, you're playing Breakout in a traditional sense. Blocks spawn, break the blocks, more blocks spawn, and your only goal is to see how long you can go and how high your score can get. This is a good chance to talk about what the game of Breakout actually looks like here, because in practice it's a fair bit different than you're likely to have seen in other clones. For one, powerups are a major part of the game. Arcade mode actually comes in three varities: Recharged features powerups and only gives you one life, Classic has no powerups and gives you three lives, and Classic Recharged has powerups as well as three lives. The Classic modes feel like afterthoughts, however, and you should count on powerups being present in the vast majority of your playtime. Most of these are pretty standard - you've got your paddle extender, multiball, a guiding line that shows the path the ball will take, and so on. The most interesting by far is the time warp, an effect which causes the ball to move slower when it's closer to your paddle and much faster when it's far away, and this is handled on a per-ball basis in the event that you can nab it while you've got multiple balls in play.

But mostly you're going to be dealing with shooting powerups, all of which fire automatically for a set duration. And unlike most block breakers, shooting is a huge component in this gameplay. We haven't talked about block types yet, and yeah, you have your standard blocks and your takes-a-few-hits-to-break blocks and your blows-up-the-nearby-blocks blocks - mercifully, indestructible blocks do not make an appearance - but most of your opposition is going to come from the blocks that shoot back. There are turret blocks which simply shoot on a timer, and there are trap blocks which fire a bullet when they're broken, and you're going to see a lot of both. This is less prevalent in the Arcade mode until you start reaching higher scores, and it becomes the primary source of difficulty in the aforementioned Challenge mode.

This is as good a time as any to mention the other core change Breakout: Recharged makes. Traditionally, these games will gradually increase the speed at which your ball moves the longer it's in play, making it harder and harder to keep up with. Recharged might be doing this, I didn't have a way of measuring it to tell, but if it does, it's milder than in any other game I've played, possibly intended to have an impact on the much longer single-life Arcade mode. Instead, the blocks periodically move one row closer to the paddle, Space Invaders style, and this is how the game attempts to glean some inevitability. The problem with this is that in a powerup-heavy round, you're going to be keeping the blocks under control pretty handily, which means you're not necessarily punished for slow, conservative play, but it also means that an errant bounce on a wide angle will always put the ball out of your control for an extended period, replacing the usually frantic late game state with one of building dread after a misplay as the blocks continue to encroach. This mechanic comes into play a lot more in Challenge mode when the timing gets ramped up, but in normal gameplay it'll mostly serve to randomly frustrate you by dodging the ball rather than putting you on a real timer.

There is, however, a tertiary source of difficulty, which I'll refer to with the shmup term of readability. Because Breakout: Recharged ends up feeling quite a bit like a shmup once it gets busy, with a constant barrage of bullets coming out of your paddle as long as you can keep grabbing powerups, sporadic waves of bullets coming back down towards you, and your ball bounding around in the middle of it. In games with a lot of visual data like this, being able to easily discern different gameplay elements is key, and I don't think Recharged does this particularly well. Part of this comes back to that earlier caveat about its presentation - while in most areas the game goes for sleek minimalism, it features a lot of visual effects in game. By default it uses some bloom-y lighting effects which can be disabled with the "Effects Off" toggle, but even then, the background pattern scrolls, particle effects pop off of blocks (and practically cover the screen when an explosive block goes off), bullets and your ball both have long trails and don't have distinct high contrast colours - in fact, the game seems to randomly shift the colour palette for vibes, which is kind of confusing in a genre that historically often colour-codes its blocks and powerups. It's very easy to get lost in the spectacle, or to autopilot your way directly into a brightly coloured bullet while you're trying to split your attention between the paddle and the ball, but I admit that I'm also just bad at this sort of thing.


A moderate example of visual clutter - it's hard to capture the full impact in a single screenshot.


As far as I can tell, Arcade mode doesn't have a lot else to it. I made it up past 8,000 points and it never threw anything completely unexpected at me, but maybe at higher thresholds the game amps up more. (This also put me in the top 50 on the scoreboard for Recharged mode, and based on my other scores I don't think more than 500 people have actually played this on PS5.) And this is fine, as long as your expectations are set accordingly, because Breakout is always pretty fun and it's an entirely servicable way to play it. Most of my time, however, was instead spent on Challenge mode. This consists of 50 handmade scenarios, each of which presents you with an objective such as clearing all the blocks, clearing X amount of Y type of block, scoring Z points, surviving for N seconds, and I'd say "and so on" here but I think that's pretty much all of them. Some of these levels have clever designs and get pretty difficult, and repetition aside I think Challenge mode is a pretty good experience in a vacuum as a thing you can spend a couple hours powering through.

In the cold, frictionless void of reality, it's a little more complicated, as we now have to begin to contend with several unfavourable factors. It's very common for block breaker games to present a lot of interesting ideas without making them all that fun to play, and I believe this very often comes down to perceived fairness. When the ball doesn't go where you feel it should have, or a powerup misbehaves, that undermines the sense of player agency. Very often this comes from the age old problem of hit detection on corners. When the ball strikes the lower right corner of a block, should it react as though it's being hit from the side or from below? What direction should it travel in? What about hitting the seam between two adjacent blocks - can you create a scenario in which these events play out intuitively?

Breakout: Recharged is not the game that solves these problems. Its physics engine isn't grossly unfair but definitely rough around the edges, with periodic "How did it bounce like that?" moments that catch you off guard, but it's the shmup firefight elements that really exacerbate this feeling of unfairness. Too often you're put into challenges that mix trap blocks with a slew of cannons which fire on fixed intervals but with random timing, if that makes sense, so each time you restart the level the pattern is going to work out differently, and between those and the near requirement to continually rely on shooting powerups which will further trigger traps whether you intend to or not, you frequently find yourself in situations where the ball simply ends up in the same location as a bullet. A lot of deaths in *Recharged* were my own fault, but these "What was I supposed to do about that?" failures are a significant blow to morale.

And for all its slick presentation, this game has a disappointing number of rough edges. The leaderboards for each mode and mission stopped loading for me after about half an hour; I was able to restore functionality by closing and reloading the game, but all my scores in the meantime went unranked. The guideline powerup shudders and changes slightly with each impact the ball makes and sometimes just flat out lies about its trajectory, which really reduces its efficacy, and the homing missile powerup almost seems coded to aim for whatever you least want it to hit, weaving across the screen and circling blocks inefficiently. At one point I both completed and failed a challenge simultaneously. (To its credit, the game gave me the win.) On another occasion I had a railgun powerup go off after the mission ended and the audio abruptly ramped to max volume and started clipping. It's more stable than Arkanoid: Eternal Battle was, but I had multiple game crashes with that game; the bar's really on the floor here.

Lack of options are another sore point. While I appreciate being able to toggle visuals and audio levels and the presence of multiple colourblind settings is welcome, I think more effort should be made in this genre to adopt new control methods. The original arcade cabinets for these sorts of games often used large knobs or dials to allow for fine control of left and right movements, and this would be replicated in the home market with "paddle controllers." Some games used trackballs, some console ports would allow the use of computer-style mice, but now that we have an obscene amount of tech in our controllers they're not even trying to adapt. No motion controls, no PS5 touchpad controls, no use of the triggers, not even the age old "hold a button to move faster/slower" a lot of games have had in the past. Recharged doesn't control badly, but its barebones approach to movement feels like a missed opportunity given that this is one of the highest profile entries this genre has had in years.

But in spite of all these flaws and disappointments, it's easy to have a good time here. The steady ball speed means it's easy to play long rounds and feel like you're doing well. For every challenge that's a frustrating slog of retries, there are several that are entirely reasonable and balanced. Most of the glitches I encountered don't have a strong impact on gameplay, and the visual clutter is less of an issue outside of the harder challenges. Breakout: Recharged is one of those games that falls into a weird space where it's entirely recommendable on a casual basis but there's really nothing it's great at. It skates by mostly on the virtues of the genre being intuitive and easy to pick up and that gets it a long way, but in a world where you can buy Shatter for $1.99, there's only a very narrow sector of people for whom it's a truly great fit.

Recommended If You: already played the better mainstream block breakers like Shatter; don't like the obstacle course design of Arkanoid-likes; don't have access to or the patience for deeper, weirder cuts like Puchi Carat
#7
General Discussion / Potion Permit
Last post by Emily - March 30, 2024, 12:24:22 AM
I will inspire you back to reviewing games (because you are a good writer and should do more of it) by sharing one I just wrote for Potion Permit :P

--

I don't know who this game is for. I played for six hours, focusing on fulfilling quests and beelining progression, and I still felt like I was being held back from accessing the full range of possibilities. Potion Permit is like if Stardew Valley had a different art style and worse mechanics. You're a chemist, which is cool, but you're in a town of people who don't like you. You're a doctor, which is also cool, but your home and clinic are in shambles, and the gameplay loop is grinding out foraging materials in the local woods. The game has almost no interest in the actual idea of being a chemist or a village doctor.

The town and people in it are somewhat interesting, but a lot of them just feel like worse versions of Stardew characters. Like, the "homeless person" lives in a shack (still labelled a tent) and you overhear a conversation where he chooses to be homeless despite having plenty of money. That's really weird. There's one interesting character, and she's the apprentice blacksmith named Runeheart. Everyone else is an incredibly bland stereotype. Young rascal, upstanding nun, friendly barmaid, and the mayor is Mr. Monopoly. To befriend these characters, you must talk to them every day (they have one line per affection level, which they repeat every time you talk to them) and/or give them a gift, limited to the reward you receive for healing people.

The main draw of this game for me was that you're a healer/potion maker. But that means you're using your cauldron to make potions, which comes down to using the ingredients you've harvested (each of which gives you a 3- or 4-block tetris piece) to fill a pattern. Upgrading the cauldron gives you more space to add ingredients, so you can be less efficient or make more complex potions. Being a doctor requires you approach the sick villagers, who arrive in your clinic and activate a loud alarm, and listen to them say "my [body part] feels weird". Afterward, you hover over that body part and click "diagnose", leading to one of two minigames, either extremely slow simon says or extremely slow dance dance revolution. After succeeding in diagnosing the person, you automatically know which potion is required and can apply it with another click.

I gave the game a chance long enough to upgrade all of my tools, my cauldron, and to unlock the first forage expansion, but god it was soul-draining to get that far. Every advancement in the game requires money, in the realm of several hundred gold to over a thousand, but the only ways to get money are through healing people (one person might arrive every 2-3 days, and will pay you 150-300 gold for successfully treating them) or selling excess potions (this option opens up after several days, and is limited to a limited drop box that gets emptied once per day). The advancements also each require at least 100 wood and 100 stone, which require you to interface with the main gameplay loop, foraging. This requires you to hit a tree with an axe 3-5 times, netting you 4-7 sticks per tree, or to hit a stone with a hammer 3-5 times, netting you 4-7 pebbles. All trees, rocks, and plants (3-5 hits with a scythe for potion ingredients) respawn in exactly the same place every day, with no variety. Upgrading your tools lessens the number of hits required to forage, but not by much.

Once I opened up the expanded foraging territory, new creatures and plants appeared, but rocks and trees were mostly unchanged. They gave more pebbles and sticks, but not a lot more pebbles and sticks. That was the point where it became clear to me that the game wasn't worth playing any further.

Overall, Potion Permit is a series of systems that are severely underdeveloped. The art and music are inoffensive and pleasant. The townsfolk have interesting designs, but very little development or writing outside of the relatively rare quest, and even then it's nothing particularly special. The gameplay mechanics are boring, the prices relative to what you're able to forage require a ton of unnecessary grinding. And the main draw of the game, being a potion maker and doctor, is barely focused on in the game at all. If this game gets significantly better later on, that's unfortunate, because nothing in the first six hours was worthwhile.
#8
Roleplay / AVftS: A General Assembly
Last post by Luca - March 20, 2024, 01:25:05 AM
"Kaegan, wait up for a minute, my shoe got caught on a leaf," Rizali said, attempting to catch up. The pair had been wandering for at least several minutes after what they'd come to call "The Scottish Incident," and were now, as ever, in the woods. The leaf Rizali had caught their foot upon was one of significant size and mass, at least the size of three leaves. No, four.

"You can't fool me again, shapeshifter," said Kaegan who had unstuck Lyndh from Rizali posing as a leaf on more than one occasion. Walking through the eternal and endless forest was sure starting to feel less like a figure of speech from unambitious explorers and more like a literal description handed out by more knowledgeable individuals with every passing moment. Fallen branches and foliage passed under foot, but still the forest found the capacity to give way to more.

"This would be easier if you," Rizali grunted as their cloak caught on another branch, "just took some time to enjoy this. You refused to do the alphabet game, which would have been easy enough, so I have to find something entertaining to do." The alphabet game, of course, involved finding each letter in the 84-character Ustendellian alphabet in order on various leaves they passed. It seemed like it would be easy enough, but no, it couldn't be done. So here they were, sticking to each other like leaves on shoes.

"Enjoy...enjoy...enjoy," Kaegan said. With every word, he gestured dramatically towards a piece of flora that they were passing as they walked. He paused in front of the trunk of a particularly large tree and stared up at it with arms raised: "I am expressing enjoyment. Tree."

"Tree!" said the tree.

"What the shit." Kaegan found himself having said. Well that was certainly odd.

"Kaegan, what's that over there?" Riza asked, having just caught up. They grasped to his arm and pointed to a nearby clearing, where people could be seen. Just as the people became visible, their voices became audible as well, proclaiming and loudly continuing on at length about something or other. Rizali started walking closer, hoping to make out what they were saying, barely hearing as the tree joyfully repeated, "Shit!"

Kaegan moved closer to the clearing. The people were dressed in all-white drapery, standing on various stone steps within a small amphitheatre half-buried within the ground, and leaning against stone columns half destroyed by time and weather. "It looks like some guys in bathrobes," he concluded.

Rizali nodded, "I agree, they're also speaking no language I've ever heard." One by one, each of the draperied individuals were speaking with wild gesticulations and increasing amounts of drama. It was all very big and extra, and unfortunately also very... "Time to boogie," said Rizali, who stepped into the clearing. "Hello, sorry for interrupting, I hope I haven't taken away from your big... whatever this is, I just wanted to ask for some directions. I'm Rizali."

"Τι στο διάολο?" came the response from one of the individuals on the steps

Kaegan blinked for a moment and continued a blank stare. One of the larger and balder individuals walked forward, his hands outstretched and menacing. His thumb landing in the middle of Kaegan and Rizali's brow, and his tubular fingers wrapping all the way around the back of their heads. There seemed then to be a distant metallic gong sound, followed by the quiet ambiance of the forest.

"Your evolution has now been augmented, and you can comprehend the great wonder which is the Greek tongue," said the bathrobed man. "I am Nikon," said the bathrobed man whose name was now Nikon.

"What the shit." Kaegan found himself saying again.

"Σκατά!" said the tree.

"Yes, very good, all according to plan," said Rizali, who had planned none of this and was increasingly concerned by the minute. They nodded to reaffirm this. They'd never heard of this Greek tongue, which made sense because they also hadn't recognised the words when they were being said.

"We have been debating, a classical tradition dating back millennia. It is truly the highest class of activity."

"What have you been debating?" asked Rizali, immediately regretting the question as it came out of their mouth.

"Why is it a table? Is it a table because we call it a table or is there some intrinsic table quality that makes a mere board a table? Or has it convinced us through the power of spirits that it wishes to be called a table?"

"Mephistopheles had just finished laying down a counterargument that the table, itself, has no care for what we call it, and therefore there is no sense or reason for it to be a table, indistinguishable from any other horizontal plane," said Nikon.

"It's bullshit!" interrupted someone from the back of the crowd.

"Yes, quite so," Nikon resumed "I should adequately restate that Mephistopheles has most recently just finished losing and failing to convince in his final defence of this lost cause he has championed."

Mephistopheles- or at least, who Rizali assumed was Mephistopheles- interrupted at this point. "I concede that I was unable to convince you all that the language we use imparts meaning upon objects. But isn't there more debate to be had, more nuance to introduce, more facts brought to bear? Perhaps that which holds us back in our debate is not merely the facts, but the form."

"The form?" asked Nikon and Rizali at the same time. Nikon shuddered.

"Yes, to properly gauge all aspects of this topic of debate, we must not limit ourselves in dialogue to this, the language we all understand to be the greatest thing to ever be created and that ever will be created. But now, we must reassess this topic in the second greatest language to ever be created or that ever will be created. In doing this, we will be able to consider with new eyes and new ears those things that might have been lost upon us before."

"You don't mean-" said Nikon.

"I do!" said Mephistopheles. "We must hold this debate again.


...

In Latin."

"No!" screamed Rizali, who had also never heard of Latin. But at this point they were invested and didn't want to be touched by the giant hands again to learn yet another language.

"Very well," said Nikon. "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum..."

"Kaegan, run!" Rizali yelled, and fled from the scene.
#9
The Admin Tower / CalRef Development Journal 39
Last post by Luca - March 13, 2024, 06:36:53 PM
Why Is Recruitment Missing?
Sure, happy to explain. Also welcome to the forum.

  • Reason #1: Dot isn't really a recruitment bot, and that's not why Dot exists.

This is a decision that I have been wrestling with since...I don't really know when. I'd say the latest possible beginning was Mayish 2022 when I took a review of the commands used in the last thirty days and found that the top two commands were used more than the next thirty seven, and recruit made up over half of those two. Before that I had no idea when commands were used, what commands were popular, which ones were flops, and (most disturbing to Discord) no way to know if someone were abusing my commands. So I added usage collection and later reported this in the version command. At the time I added them, the top command was recruit. Also at the time I added them, I thought that would change at points. It did not.

My goals for 2023 were to dethrone recruit as the most-used command, and I planned to do this by really going to town on adding new commands and really sprucing up the ones that already existed -- giving them new capabilities and analytics. So now there are 61 commands and some that allow you to look through twelve years of almost every imaginable metric of NationStates record, with visual graphs, trends, and events. This was a shitton of work, and unfortunately this impacted usage almost not at all. Recruit is down from where it peaked at 46 per cent of all commands used in the last 30 days, but almost exactly where it was two years ago at 34 per cent of total, and that's just very sad.

I feel like this is a big reason why I've lost motivation to work on Dot, which I have worked pretty hard on for years. Irrespective of graphics and documentation, there's over 750KB of raw hand-written python and about 2 per cent of that is the recruit command. Yet Dot is know for being the recruitment bot, and any other services Dot could provide will probably always be overshadowed by that.

  • Reason #2: Manual is less effective now, and that's partially my fault.

Dot's documentation page mentions how she went from being in one server of 50 people to 300 servers of some thousands. And this probably comes across like a humblebrag, but really what it's meant to convey is my abject horror. Dot went through a lot of command rewrites in v3.0 and v3.1, and a lot of it was dealing with Dot's explosive growth axe-murdering my server. But 34 per cent remember? Now there's literally hundreds of servers which are using this system (maybe not all at the same time), but collectively hundreds more servers are popping in and out of Dot recruitment with six to ten going at any given time, raising the competition for all. Included amongst those new recruiters were, bizarrely, feeders which the command was never intended to benefit.

It is less effective than ever to use Dot's recruitment because it has become a relative baseline for manual. This means that it is, ironically, now less effective than going fully manual. One alternative is hammering the API right at the ratelimit to get new nations the picosecond they come out, but I'm not really interested in pursuing that line of development. The fact is that timing only gets you so far; at the end of the day, some nations just aren't going to be buying what you're selling. Also, I couldn't even pursue it if I wanted to because Hydrogen already makes a ton of requests to NationStates to service other commands and software.

  • Reason #3: More of a detriment than a benefit.

There's a whole bunch of people out there who spend an inordinate amount of time hating my living guts. This is fine, but it does raise an interesting question of the ethics of decrying my evil in public, but continue to benefit from my work in private. I guess that's not my problem so much. The ethical question for me is should one continue to benefit people and organisations that simultaneously attempt to erode your reputation and public trust? I think the ultimate answer is "no", but I have vowed to uphold Refugi values as Arch-Admin of Calref, and I consider free and public access to tools and software to be one of those non-negotiable values. It's why I opened it up to the public in the first place instead of retaining it as an exclusive tool for myself.

So the lights have stayed on, and stayed equally on as long as I thought the command was good to have around. Now that I no longer believe the command is good to have around, the lights can also be equally off. Ultimately, I just don't want to run the command anymore, but hopefully some good came from the three years that it was around.
#10
General Discussion / Re: The Welcoming Committee
Last post by Beet - March 10, 2024, 06:05:22 AM
Remembered that I haven't done this yet so

Hi, I'm Beet, my pronouns are it/its and she/her, and I 'ike animals and worldbuilding and making art.
I 'ive in the UK of GB+NI, and am, in fact, a gay demigirl *gasp*
and uhhhh- yeah, that's a reasonable base'ine of information

For future reference and convenience: I have a speech impediment that's why I'll type funky around Ls