GioCities

blogs by Gio

Atom feed Recent posts

tech The joy of RSS

  • Posted in tech

During the years when Homestuck updated regularly, I usually had some sort of update notifier that pinged me when a new page was posted. But since Homestuck usually updated daily, I ended up just keeping a tab open and refreshing it. And that’s pretty much how I kept up with other serial media on the internet, for years. A writing blog that posts regular updates? Keep a dedicated tab open and refresh it occasionally. Comic? Tab. To this day, I have a “serial” browser window that’s just tabs of sites I check regularly. (Or imagine I might want to check regularly, at least.)

a lot of tabs please don’t tell anyone how I live

Of course, this is terrible. The biggest problem is browser tabs are expensive. If you have a tab open, that takes up a dedicated chunk of memory, even when you’re not reading anything. CPU too, probably, if the site has JavaScript running on it (which is to say, is either decades out of date, or this one). Not to mention the clutter.

Unfortunately, dedicated browser tabs fit specific use case of keeping up with serial media well. Social media feeds — all of them, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube — are explicitly “media aggregators”, services that combine multiple media sources into one feed. This is no good for serial media. If you’re following multiple sources, they likely update on different schedules, and updates from the more active ones will bury updates from those slower. Even email updates have this problem. No, you need a dedicated space for each source (but not each update), which a dedicated browser tab will get you.

There is a good system for this, though: RSS.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a fantastic technology that has fallen out of favour in the mainstream lately. It works like this: the media source puts up a small file somewhere that notes the dates, titles, and (optionally) content of posts. And that’s it. There’s no API, it’s just a file people can read if they want. It’s like traditional syndication, but instead of selling articles to multiple distributors (as with syndicated cartoons), you’re distributing articles to many consumers directly.

gaming Post-Ch2 Deltarune Theories

  • Posted in gaming

As you might know, I have a somewhat complicated relationship with Undertale theories, so for Deltarune I’m kind of forcing myself not to go too red thread board with trying to “solve” things — which sucks, because I really like solving things.

gio irl

So instead of trying to be right about the big stuff, I thought I’d just talk about some fun crack theories. For fun! For fun, I tell myself.

Susie is immune to player input🔗

There’s a lot in Deltarune Chapter 1 that implies that, unlike undertale, player choice doesn’t matter. The character you make in the first sequence is discarded, There’s even word of god that there’s only one ending to the game.

But, if you look at it, most of that involves Susie. You can’t control Susie at all for the first half of Chapter 1, only eventually getting her explicit buy-in after she decides she wants to be nice to lancer. And, of course, at the beginning of the game, she tells you directly

Your choices don't matter

Your choices matter with everyone else, though. There’s a massive branching tree of options during your battle tutorial with Ralsei, you design a thrash machine that carries over to chapter 2, and you can tell Noelle about Susie eating chalk to get an extra item in Chapter 2, just to name a few examples. Hell, your choices matter with Onionsan and Starwalker.

gaming Heart & Slash

  • Posted in gaming

Heart & Slash is a special little game. The whole thing is so aggressively fun and stylistic I can’t help but love it.

laser

It’s a 3D procgen dungeon beat-em-up. It reminds me of a cross between Neurovoider (a game I love) and Tower of Guns (a game I admittedly do not).

What really gets me is the style. The whole game has this beautiful graphical feel, with these semi-low-poly voxel models and sharp flat-shaded pixel art textures. The whole thing reminds me of pre-playstation 3d graphics, and I am here for it.

Menu

Some of that feels low-effort at first, but then you see the animation work. It’s smooth and distinct and gorgeous. Most of the actual animation you see in the game is combat, and that’s not skimped on either. Most of the weapons are actually pretty unique — with their own sets of attack animations — and lend themselves to different playstyles.

The gameplay is good too. Heart has this really interesting floaty double-jump that allows for a lot of maneuverability and midair combat.

I tend to get burnt out on rougelikes pretty easily, but I really like this one. There’s an experience mechanic, where you pick up scrap metal from robots that you can use to upgrade yourself or your equipment. You can also save that metal between runs, so you can stock up and save buffs for when you feel like you’re doing well. The game’s also not too long — getting killed isn’t ever going to feel like you lost a ton of progress, even late-game.

proto

And Heart. He’s a little robot! I love him. That’s the story there.

No, but Heart — and most of the other robots in the game — have this great early PC vibe to them, with big bulky CRT monitors for faces and other components that mirror the graphical era the graphics pay tribute to. The Heart prototype in the screenshot there has a great color scheme that maps to the old rainbow Apple logo (and, of course, the green monochrome CRT head). And I just noticed this now, but his feet have little heatsinks built in! How great is that?

hall

Oh, and the soundtrack. The soundtrack is spectacular. The main theme during the first factory level is ‘I ♥ You’ which… is just perfect. It’s a perfect song.

There’s this bridge at 1:28 where the song calms down for a few seconds before kicking right back into the main section at 1:40 and I love it. It just about perfectly matches the few seconds of relief you get after you clear a room and you navigate for a minute before diving into the next room and taking out another wave of robots.

It’s not the perfect game — there are some obvious graphical issues with z-fighting, for instance, and weapon controls can be finicky — but for $15 this is a fantastic little thing. Again, it really is special.

  • Game (Steam, Xbox, Switch, PS4)
  • Soundtrack (michaelchaitmusic.bandcamp.com)

fandom Homestuck’s Ruse of Authorial Homogeneity

  • Posted in fandom

Somebody asked me about a comment I made online about the odd situation raised by the state of Homestuck^2 and Hiveswap’s authorship. I sent them a long message but by the time I was done I realized I had quite a few thoughts on the issue, and so this is me expanding that out a bit.

Authorial teams🔗

Probably the defining aspect of the “post-canon” Homestuck era has been the deliberate movement away from Andrew’s auteurship and to the form of these nebulous authorial teams. It’s almost impossible to overstate how key Andrew and his personal identity was to Homestuck and its interactions with fandom, and this period represented a deliberate and forced shift away from that.

politics Is (git) master a dirty word?

Git is changing. GitHub, GitLab, and the core git team have a made a system of changes to phase out the use of the word “master” in the development tool, after a few years of heated (heated) discussion. Proponents of the change argue “slavery is bad”, while opponents inevitably end up complaining about the question itself being “overly political”. Mostly. And, with the tendency of people in the computer science demographic to… let’s call it “conservatism”, this is an issue that gets very heated, very quickly. I have… thoughts on this, in both directions.

Formal concerns about problematic terminology in computing (master, slave, blacklist) go back as early as 2003, at the latest; this is not a new conversation. The push for this in git specifically started circa 2020. There was a long thread on the git mailing list that went back and forth for several months with no clear resolution. It cited Python’s choice to move away from master/slave terminology, which was formally decided on as a principle in 2018. In June of 2020, the Software Freedom Conservancy issued an open letter decrying the term “master” as “offensive to some people.” In July 2020 github began constructing guidance to change the default branch name and in 2021 GitLab announced it would do the same.


First, what role did master/slave terminology have in git, anyway? Also, real quick, what’s git? Put very simply, git is change tracking software. Repositories are folders of stuff, and branches are versions of those folders. If you want to make a change, you copy the file, modify it, and slot it back in. Git helps you do that and also does some witchery to allow multiple people to make changes at the same time without breaking things, but that’s not super relevant here.

That master version that changes are based is called the master branch, and is just a branch named master. Changes are made on new branches (that start as copies of the master branch) which can be named anything. When the change is final, it’s merged back into the master branch. Branches are often deleted after they’re merged.

politics Your engine hasn’t earned your rent

YoYo Games announced today that they’re switching GameMaker to a subscription model. You know, I was planning on doing a high-effort article about this some day, but what the heck, let’s do it now.

First, here are the actual details of the GameMaker change. Instead of buying development tools you can use to develop things, YoYo is making its latest version of GameMaker — GameMaker Studio 2 — free to use. You can download it for free, learn how it works, and invest as much time making your game in it as you want. You only have to pay if you want to ship a game. And if you decide you really want to ship your game, it’s a whopping $80/yr for as long as you want your game on the shelves.

Subscriptions🔗

This idea of a company turning a product into a subscription service is probably familiar to you. Famously, Photoshop and Adobe’s other creative products switched from one-time purchases of software to indefinite recurring subscription fees, after having locked in most of the creative industry.

Earlier this year, a very similar thing happened with Buildbox, another “no code” game maker program. Buildbox changed their terms and conditions to demand revenue from all Buildbox games, including games and in-app purchases. In the normal tier, 70% of your total revenue goes straight to Buildbox. Even if you’re in the highest tier, you can’t stop them siphoning your revenue.

politics 5G’s standard patents wound it

I remember seeing a whole kerfuffle about 5G around this time last year. Not the mind-control vaccine, the actual wireless technology. People (senators, mostly) were worried about national security, because Huawei (the state-controlled Chinese tech company, who is a threat, actually) was getting its 5G patents through and making its claim on the next-gen tech IP landscape. Maybe Trump even needed to seize the technology and nationalize 5G? Everybody sure had a lot to say about it, but I didn’t see a single person address the core conflict.

Format Wars🔗

Before we get to 5G, let’s go way back to VHS for a minute.

The basic idea of the “format war” is this: one company invents a format (VHS, SD cards, etc) and make a push to make their format the standard way of doing things. Everybody gets a VHS player instead of BetaMax, so there’s a market for the former but not for the latter. Now everyone uses VHS. If you’re selling video, you sell VHS tapes, and if you’re buying video, you’re buying VHS. If you invented VHS, this is great for you, because you own the concept of VHS and get to charge everyone whatever you want at every step in the process. And, since everyone uses VHS now, you’ve achieved lock-in.

Now, this creates an obvious perverse incentive. Companies like Sony are famous for writing and patenting enormous quantities of formats that never needed to exist in the first place because owning the de factor standard means you can collect rent from the entire market. That’s a powerful lure.

And that’s just talking about de facto standards. This gets even worse when you mix in formal standards setting bodies, which get together and formally declare which formats should be considered “standard” for professional and international use. If you could get your IP written into those standards, it turns your temporary development time into a reliable cash stream.

Enter SEPs🔗

5G” is one of these standards set by standard setting bodies, and it’s a standard packed with proprietary technology. The most important slice of those is called SEPs, or “Standard Essential Patents.” These are the Patents that are Essential to (implementing) the Standard. In other words, these technologies are core and inextricable to 5G itself. This figure represents only the SEPs:

gaming 20 Absolutely True Things about Sonic ‘06

  • Posted in gaming

Sonic ‘06 is infamously bad. It’s glitchy, it’s a meme, et cetera. But actually, it turns out that it’s really bad. It’s a bad game. I played it. I played so much of it. I own the DLC. It’s honestly hard to describe. So here’s a description.

I’m trying not to include general shoddiness here, which there is a lot of. Also, I’m not numbering them. This isn’t Buzzfeed.


There is “Very Hard” mode DLC. You could pay money for it. This shipped after the game released and they knew about the issues. Sega’s reaction after shipping Sonic ‘06 was to try to charge people for more Sonic ‘06.

In addition to the hard mode DLC, there is DLC for an extra story called “TEAM ATTACK AMIGO”, where you play through a number of stages as side characters. Like End Of The World, you have to finish the whole gauntlet in one go with one pool of lives.

Apparently the game basically loads the whole overworld into memory any time the item layout changes or anything needs to be repositioned, even though really everything is in memory that should be there. This leads to hell situations like the box counting minigame. Oh god, the box counting minigame.

rp ja, es kawaii

  • Posted in rp

Sometimes steam will give you a coupon for a random game that isn’t very popular. And so this is how my evening went:

-33% off My Cute Fuhrer