Silent hill: Downpour
I'll really try to keep the rose tinted glasses in a drawer for this one but this is just irking me. Silent hill, and especially silent hill 2, were staples of survival horror. They represented terrifying trips into the subconscious of flawed but engaging protagonists. The first a father searching for his daughter. The second a husband searching for his wife. They were not the ideal men but their purposes were noble in their desperation. The series sort of went off the deep end at that point.
The third didn't captivate me to the same extent as its two predecessors but it was true to its origin. The fourth.. an inventory juggling mess of annoyance that had, possibly, the most intriguing premise yet the (by far) clutchiest implementation. Then the west took over and we got game after game of scattershot attempts to capture the essence of the series. While none never really did we did get some close calls.
Downpour. Where do I start. I applaud the decision to include a murderer as the protagonist. If that is, in fact, what we play. I've still got a chapter or two left before I finish the game. A father avenging the death of his son. Fantastic. Piquant even. Forcing him to realize that he is just like the man that murdered his son. A murderer. It's a notion that seems completely lost on people today. An overused concept is "punch a nazi", i.e. the ends justify the means.
Murdering a murderer is still murder. If the tables turn the result is always the same. Punch a nazi, punch a communist, punch an innocent. Someone punches. Someone gets punched. Action and reaction. Endlessly. Which is really what silent hill is all about. It cares little about the social constructs you use to justify your actions. Your morality is not superior to that of another. If you punch, or murder, you're the assailant. It knows what we deny even to ourselves.
We're taken on a lovely little stroll through silent hill with some novel concepts. I particularly appreciated the sidequests that reminded me of silent hill 2. It was quite annoying when all the items you needed to solve them were in the same house or just down the street though. Maybe I should have put the puzzles on hard instead of normal but either way, felt lazy. Or the developers just had very little confidence in their target audience. Truth be told they're probably right considering gamers of today. Not having something right in front of you results in an immediate google query since backtracking would be inconceivable. And no, that's not me taking the piss out of the feebleness of modern gamers, even I (a stalwart survival horror nut) ended up googling. Just the times I suppose.
Technically I wasn't impressed. Oddly the older games hold up fairly well, expectations being lower considering they're 1-2 console generations even older. But holy smokes does downpour look terrible on the ps3. Not sure if it was a horrendous port or if it was really designed this way but good grief. Most scenes even lacked a sense of depth considering the absence of shadows. The constant stuttering when it was loading resources even resulted in me getting killed a couple of times. If you want to play downpour today then don't do it on the ps3.
All that aside I want to dig into the main annoyance I had. What the hell does this even have to do with silent hill besides it apparently taking place there? The other side, a medium to represent the inner nature of the protagonists, have been morphed into some kind of chase sequences where a red light follows us. It's completely on rails leaving no notion of exploring. It used to be a vehicle to allow the developers to show us a second side of silent hill, areas that were inaccessible in the real world opened up there. Allowing a glimpse at two sides of the coin, so to say. Red light hallway running simulator. Awesome.
Next, what the hell am I doing here? I'm a murderer, yes, my bus got run off the road, yes, I ended up in silent hill, yes. Is my purpose to leave? That's the direct opposite of the point. In all the other games we wanted to get to silent hill, not get away from it. The protagonists wanted to explore it to find what they searched for, we wanted to explore it to find what they searched for. We never wanted to get away from it. Why do we always want to leave in the western developed games? Danger bad, run from danger? That's a thrilling look into our pysche. Sigh. Embrace the subconsciousness of silent hill, embrace your own subconsciousness. Stop trying to make us externalize the city and force us to run from it. Make us a part of it as it is a part of us.
Do I mention the water slides of doom here? Maybe the segments where the almost utter boredom of the chase sequences actually get surpassed by squeezing through narrow slits filled with spikes that instantly kill you if you get the timing wrong? Ooh, or the puzzle where you have to click buttons of the right color.. as deciphered by a child's poem that is laying RIGHT NEXT TO THE FUCKING MACHINE. Subtle, real subtle. Nope, won't mention any of them. NEXT PARAGRAPH.
Throughout the tedium of going from place to place and diluting the mythos (every bloody game seems to want to put more historical notes tied to the franchise, so it was a mining town with native american heritage now, great) I encountered but a few interesting segments. The mailman who seems doomed to forever deliver mail to the unfortunate souls stuck in the metaphor. A bit hamfisted but sure, I'll take it. A chase sequence that almost made me reconsider the red light, namely me being called the boogeyman by a little girl then running after her holding a fireaxe while shouting "stop little girl, I won't hurt you".
For just a second there I thought, wow, I'm the red light. I'm the bad guy. I'm the murderer. But nope, then the red light appeared behind me again and I wept... silently on my hill of disappointment. Maybe they went for the hunter becoming the hunted. Whatever. The sensation was lost forever. If they had just had the nerve to let the player remain the bad guy chasing little girls (a metaphor for other men, as a murderer would look upon any docile joe blow as a child when they were murdering them) this game might have clicked. But no.
Right after that we get into another awesome chunk of western silent hill'ishness. Two staircases you run up and down chasing paintings that either have a girl in them, whereupon you're supposed to enter the door, or don't have a girl in them, whereupon you should ignore them. Holy shite. That's the very crudest look upon gamers I've encountered in years. Might as well have reduced it to big lights that are either green or red for enter or don't enter. And that facking quadriplegic stapled to the wall doing Elvis like hip thrusts and jizzing red ooze all over us as we chase the right painting with our slack jaws dragging on the ground behind us.
Now then, let's take a slightly more nuanced view of this. It does appear I'm taking a dump on western developers over japanese ones. This is not my general view, in fact for almost all modern games I despise eastern design. It feels like they're stuck in the 90s, trying to recapture some glory age where they were the pinnacle of game design. In reality their plots, mechanics and design is regressive, clunky and in many cases outright silly. What they do have over western developers is a sense of innate purpose. Where we end up having our protagonists flee they revel in it. Their stories tend to be a bit on the sublime side, ours a massive slap over the face to make sure the feeble player doesn't miss the brilliance of the designer's vision. This is a crippling blow to a series like silent hill where the player's analysis is as important, if not more so, than the designers'.
The end of downpour does tie a lot of things together. You take on the role of the bogeyman chasing down the daughter of a man you murdered, allowing her to kill you results in a deliciously ironic spin where she becomes the prisoner and you the guard. Before then you fight some type of perverted husk of a man in a wheelchair by pulling the respirator tubes from him. Upon first entering that scene I was intrigued. Is it meant to be a representation of the disease in my soul? Maybe it's the sickness of the system. Fascinating. Nope, very next scene the aforementioned chick tells us flat out that we beat her father until he ended up in a wheelchair. Great. They allowed my imagination to flourish for one whole scene, then they snatched away all thought and outright told me what I should think.
This approach to silent hill is symptomatic of what happened when western developers took over the franchise. We're not allowed to think for ourselves. We can barely explore. Anything out of the beaten path is immediately frowned upon and corrected. Heaven forbid we allow the player some semblance of autonomy, either of movement or thought. But hey, they added bird cages in obscure places so that makes it all better, right?
No more whey
While whey was a given no-no for the last few years it was something I greatly depended upon back in my teens. Imagine my surprise when I began imbibing it again and was struck with a plethora of issues that I can't remember ever having before.
In some bizarre way whey will spike my insulin to the point of giving me persistent and brutal brainfog. It got to a point where I could with, unnerving precision, tell exactly when an hour had passed since I took a swig due to the onset of lethargy and disorientation. It does make sense in a way, whey is mostly protein and protein can spike your insulin response. In fact, that's what you want it to do when building lean muscle mass.
Since whey was out I figured I'd try casein, like the fool that I was. My reasoning was that it was absorbed much slower so maybe it'll be fine. And it sort of was, I got at most a mild brainfog and generally felt quite good. Then the reason why I stopped dairy reared its ugly head. Adult acne. Bloody hell. Find it particularly annoying that both whey and casein are out but due to different reasons.
So how am I going to solve the enigma of protein supplementation? I won't. It dawned on me that I'm consuming between 140 and 210 grams of protein every day from food so I really don't need any supplementation. Even 140 is probably more than necessary right now but it's not that I strive to max out the amount of protein I consume, it just works out that way.
On the off days when I don't feel like eating 3000 to 4000 calories I'll stick with a protein shake based on pea and rice protein. It's a rather excellent combination since the amino acids that the pea protein lacks the rice protein is rich in, and vice versa. You do get less leucine compared to whey but it's not by much. It can also easily be remedied with a bcaa cap.
Picking a body weight (and lucking out)
After making my last post about the roller-coaster of weight gains/drops I was asked by several friends, who never realized just how dramatic the changes were, how I did it and if I've had a skin reduction operation. I have not, in fact I don't even have a problem with loose skin. It was a shrug and move on incident for me, then I was sent a link to a bloody boss on youtube and I realized just how lucky(?) I had been. Although I think it's more related to the fact that I dieted healthily and didn't just massively reduce my caloric intake in one go.
This guy has changed his life. He's gone from, as the name of his channel implies, obese to a beast. Yet his progress is marred by the excessive amounts of loose skin. The only real encounter I've had with this concept is a couple of friends who had their stomachs stapled and were literally forced to drastically reduce their caloric intake. Of course, if they had instead eaten more densely caloric foods it would have taken longer but given their skin a chance to adapt. To be clear, I don't believe the gent in the video had his stomach stapled, I'm just lumping two factors into one.
Back to me again, I'm now in the strange position of deciding what body weight I want to maintain. The obvious answer is, as much weight as possible while ensuring the majority is muscle mass. Yes, that is the long term one but for short term I have to pick a weight that I believe I can bulk up to and then maintain for the next year. I'm currently at just below 75kg and I think I'm going for 85kg. Being 186cm this should also put me firmly in the medium of normal camp so I won't look so bony.
It'll enable me to put on some more fat, ensuring I don't hit the extreme lows when it comes to fatigue and it's a generous margin to grow muscle in. Assuming I can keep the ratio at 3-7 (fat-muscle) it's close to perfect. Along with this I had to figure out what percentage body fat I want, I believe I'll try to keep it at 15-20% for the aforementioned reasons. I never want to experience having less than 10% body fat again and all the problems that came along for the ride (life when I was at 65kg was -rough-). Yet I certainly don't need more than 20%.
Hand me down phones (aka tech-schmep)
How times change. For the first 25ish years of my life technology, and possibly more specifically the advancement of technology, dominated my interest. If there was a new tech being launched then I wanted to be on top of it. Performance was paradigm, functions the creed by which I adhered. I just got handed my fiance's two year old phone when I bought her a new one. And it's fine.
This would have been inconceivable in days past, in fact it's a 180 turn on how things were before smartphones. Becka would inherit whatever perfectly functional device I discarded not because I needed whatever the new hot thing was, but because I just wanted it. My disinterest in tech is hereby culminating and my reaction is one serene harmony. Maybe, just maybe, I'll start using tech and not letting it use me.
(Upon re-reading this post I was struck by how dramatic it turned out, but I really can't rephrase it any differently without downplaying my actual reaction)
Resuming game development
As life begins to stabilize I find myself wondering just what I want to do and not do going forwards. My ai work continues and has met with rapid (unsuspected, to be truthful) success but variety is the spice of life, right?
I took a long hard look at the dozens of different fields of interest I've dived into and eventually discarded during my life, picked the ones I enjoyed, ignored the rest. Game development was one I found challenging and engaging. It just had so much baggage that I eventually got fed up with it. Can I somehow take the parts I enjoyed while rejecting the ones I didn't? Yes I can.
First major issue, I despised modern game engines. Despised them. Unity, Unreal Engine, etc. Outstanding pieces of software, unparalleled when it comes to enabling indies to reach studio quality, amazing at scaling from a single developer to large teams. And the very opposite of my workflow, entirely based around visual interaction and bloated beyond belief. Not to mention that they're closed source (with some NDA-ridden exceptions) which also means that the foundation you come to rely upon can be yanked away at a moment's notice.
A few years ago I began poking around open source game engines for a non game related project, I just needed 3D visualization in a sensible way. Stumbled across Godot which was open sourced and has met with success as developers fund its development. It hit all the chords on the harp of my digital life, especially now with the 3.0 release.
I'm not going to go through all the reasons why I opted to discard unity, that I had previously been a fervent advocate for, in favor of godot. The major one is that during my 31 years of computing I've lost track of the amount of times I began relying upon a piece of closed source software only to have it get discontinued, sold and restricted, abandoned, lost its developers or generally became unavailable to me. Every time an os or application rises to fame its advocates will arrogantly proclaim that it will always be around and you're crazy to think something this big would fold. Yet it always does. When you're on top there is only one way to go. I will never be put in that position again. Ever.
So, said and done I began going through the plethora of notebooks I had shelved with game ideas. Problematically none of them tickled my fancy. Shooters, adventure games, arcade types. Meh. So I took a look at what games I currently play and realized I had only played interactive fiction games for the last few months. Toying with the idea of turning some of my unpublished fiction writing into a game I eventually rejected the idea, I don't particularly care how many will play my future games but I don't want to alienate people to the point of having to learn the quirks of an IF interpreter.
But the notion of a non-graphical game really appealed to me. For the last few years there's been a bit of a revival in the text game genre, to my personal great satisfaction, not to mention the fact that the IF scene never died. Could I make a non-graphical text game that wasn't so reliant upon text for player interaction? Seemed absurd but then it hit me.. all my ai work was exactly that.
The plot of a story I wrote almost two decades ago struck me, self-awareness without sentience. Now now, I claim no ownership of the concept, I'm fully aware that we've all read the stories that predate my version by decades. But maybe, just maybe, I could twist it to fit my own vision.
Going forwards I'm going to be tight lipped to the story itself, instead I will just detail general development work and how I get along with Godot. Initial reaction? Positive. Switching to Godot from Unity was like changing one pair of gloves for another, they both fit equally well. There's quirks to both and a slightly different workflow but it's pretty much the same.
This week I've been putting in time whenever possible and managed to crank out a prototype, I will detail it further in future posts but here's an initial (functional) prototype screenshot.
Resistance training, diet, et cetera
Today I reached a milestone, I deadlifted my own bodyweight. Unfortunately this is not a positive but a sign of just how far I allowed my body to decay before I decided enough was enough. Let's do a quick history rehash. During my teens I was quite heavily into resistance training, annoyingly I (and those around me) referred to it as bodybuilding which rang very false since none of us actually aimed for bulging muscles. We worked for strength and endurance. I always found this entertaining and it harmonized with my extremely sedentary other hobbies of electronics and computing. I also played amateur rugby, and I do mean amateur. We didn't have referees, no audience beyond those that hoped to see blood and most certainly no dedicated fields. No no, those were reserved for soccer and a wide variety of metrosexual endeavours. Half of the games devolved into straight up melee brawls, so packing on muscle not only helped you win the games, but made sure the other team gave up before yours did, blow for blow.
I was fit in my late teens, strong. Then I began working. Wake up, get to work chair, remain in work chair until lunch, return until off work, go to another chair, drink heavily, stagger to a final chair or bed. Loop. You guys know the drill. Most likely you've been living it for decades now. Busy times. So I put off the most important thing in my life, my body, for the things I thought was the most important things in my life, work. Once I met my fiancee it was just all over. We indulged. Oh my did we indulge. I ballooned up and just didn't care. We were happy.
In my late twenties I realized that enough was enough, I had hit 128kg at a height of 186cm. Something had to give since I started feeling my joints straining. Don't get me wrong, I was still strong since I had kept up at least a rudimentary work out schedule including push-ups and a variety of own body resistance training. But that amount of fat was straight up unhealthy and I knew where it would lead me.
Said and done I began looking into diets. LCHF, low carbs high fat, cropped up on my radar and biologically I realized it would do wonders for me. And it did. I dropped like a rock from 128 to 92kg. Then I lost the will to live. The mere mention of bacon or fat made me gag and I just gave up. Now, you know the saying "it takes time to lose weight and it takes time to put the weight back on". It does. Ultimately it's just calories in, calories out. There are no shortcuts. While I had started paying more attention to my diet once the motivation of losing 30 kilos hit me I just didn't pay enough. Slowly I crept back up to around 100kg.
Next I tried paleo which didn't have any of the benefits of keto but at least I didn't have to eat so much fat. Got myself down to around 92kg again then gave up on that as well. At this point something happened, I don't want to go into it but I realized that a drastic change was in order to solve a variety of health issues that had cropped up. We went vegan and it was.. pretty damn good. I had made jokes about vegans like everyone else so when I found myself being one, albeit not philosophically, and actually enjoyed it. Mind blown. For two years I stuck to a strict version of it and I felt outstanding. Weight was coming off too, eventually I ended up at 76kg and reached an old goal of mine of weighing less than I did when I was 19.
Then issues cropped up. I was unable to stop the weight loss. It felt like I devoured entire rainforests every day yet the weight kept dropping. Once I crossed 70kg I was getting nervous. Anyone who conversed with me at that time will likely remember my vaguely hysterical pondering. At 65kg I reached what I call the "lulwut equilibrium". My BMI was so far into underweight that I had to change and I had to do it now. Fortunately my previous condition had reversed, on its own or due to veganism (still not sure about that) and I could consume a more plentiful range of protein. Annoyingly I had developed a layer of stomach fat that, despite my BMI, covered my once glorious sixpack.
Like a moron I jumped on the opportunity and switched to what is referred to as the "carnivore" diet. It's a ridiculous term since humanity isn't carnivorous anymore. Pathetic to refer to yourself as one when your version of hunting prey is to lumber to the local shop, pick out plastic wrapped decaying scraps of meat that someone else has put in front of you then go home and spice the hell out of it. At best we're scavengers, not carnivores. No matter, I launched myself into that diet with vigor. And I felt like shite. Absolute shite. So I switched yet again to a balanced diet and that's where I am now.
Now then. Did you read all of that? Ah, you skimmed most of it? Fine fine. Let's fast forward to my actual milestone. When I switched to a calorie dense diet I also resumed my old workout routine. It basically boils down to a 5x5 program with several added steps. My weeks look like this.
MON: Barbell squats, overhead barbell press, deadlifts
MON+WED+FRI is the main routine and they always rotate week to week but remain in that layout. I'm currently considering replacing one of the stomach days with aerobics of some variety and adding.. yoga(?) to the weekend. I just have zero experience with doing either. Anyway, the 5x5 program basically functions like this: every time you complete 5 sets of 5 reps you finish that workout and add 2.5kg to the weight, 5kg for deadlifts, until you hit your absolute maximum and fail in doing 25 reps in total. If you fail then you keep pushing that weight until you do complete it, then you resume adding weights.
Through my entire voyage of weight gains and drops I never realized just how much of my lean muscle mass had been consumed by my body as it was next to starving. I could easily bench far in excess of my bodyweight back in my teens, now it was a struggle to just deadlift it. But I finally hit my goal and I haven't plateaued, I suspect I will be able to continue adding weight until the next goal of 100kg deadlifts. This will be an accomplishment since I've only managed to regain around 7kg of weight, most of it being pure muscle mass, for a total of 72kg.
Now that this epic post is done I will stick to just adding updates of what I can push in each exercise. Felt like I wanted to get this out of my head and on paper.. bits. What a bizarre experience life is. How our priorities get mixed up and muddled. No matter, back on track now. Do you even lift bro? Yes I do.
Dissecting my amiga childhood
I just finished uploading a few videos of me dissecting one of my amiga 500s. It struck me just how much our view of technology has changed, yet how little the actual technology has changed. In many ways our technological progression has even reversed.
Back in those days a new computer could mean an entirely new architecture, custom dedicated chips, entirely new input methods and, of course, massive leaps forwards in raw processing. What exactly do we get these days? 8% better performance. A bit more diskspace. Once in a blue moon maybe an interesting new connector and underlying technology (really quite fascinated by usb-c). Underwhelming doesn't even begin to describe it.
The pioneering spirit is dead. Its grave has been cemented over and a basketball court serves as its gravestone. Don't get me wrong, I get it. Developing CPUs and GPUs is -expensive-. So expensive that we've pretty much ended up with two behemoths to pick between, intel and amd. Throw in nvidia as a competitor to amd when it comes to GPUs as well.
Exciting. I can pick between x86 and.. x86. Between radeon and geforce. Man, building computers today sure is a thrilling experience. To be even more petty; if I hear one more person brag about how deep their understanding of technology runs because they can slot pci-e cards into their pre-designed, pre-mounted, clearly marked sockets I will bludgeon my inner child to death with a boredom stick.
There's more to my reasoning than just a sense of elitism and illusionary superiority however. Since the amount of choices we have is limited to one or maybe two in rare cases people of today, and more importantly the youth of today, has no reason to ever look outside that narrow viewframe. Attempting to discuss the architectures themselves is impossible since they never have, nor do they have any reason to, tried anything besides x86. Even trying to broach the subject of instruction sets is impossible unless you're talking to an engineer.
Programmers of today seem to just vaguely know what the heap and stack is. It's so abstracted that they have no reason to learn anything beyond what is the latest buzzword they can throw around. Not just no reason but it would actually be a detriment for them to spend the time to learn what their own code actually does since the employers value the buzzwords, not deep understanding.
I keep hearing we live in the "age of choice" yet for every gadget launched it seems the amount of choices decrease. 5000 different cellphones all running the same hardware and one or two operating systems.
Our technology isn't just stagnating because of disinterest, it's stagnating because future generations will reason that they have no reason to advance the technology itself, they just need to learn the latest abstraction of an abstraction of an abstraction of the hardware. Then keep insisting that their customers buy the 8% faster version because their stack is 9% slower in each iteration.
Now, comments are mostly useless since you'll get one out of three types in 0.99 of the cases. Either trolling, requests/demands for help or indignent outrage. However I still figured it'd be useful since I occasionally get e-mails with questions about posts where I was unclear. If one person takes the time to e-mail me then a hundred has had the same question but just couldn't be arsed. This way they can more easily.. be arsed. And I get some help in making my posts clearer.
It does amaze me how willingly we hand over total control of aspects of our digital life to nameless corporations however. I know that all of my disqus comments will either be 1) removed 2) made unavailable or 3) gated behind a paywall eventually. One of the three will happen. It is the inevitability of SAAS and closed-source in general.
Yet in this case I'm sort of fine with it since I don't particularly care either way. As long as people can easily tell me when I'm being uncelar then they've served their purpose and our corporate overlords can do whatever they want with them after that.
130 lines blog
After not updating my blog for two years I figured a change was in order. But.. why make something simple when it can be awkward?
Two hours, 130 lines and this blog is complete. Custom backend. Old posts migrated. Not a single new word blogged. But at least it's better than no updates at all for two years, right? Christ, it's even uglier than the old one.