Irydacea.me

Hi, and welcome to Irydacea.me, my little semi-secret project for the past year that’s finally complete!

Cover screenshot

After years of relying on other people host my website, I’m finally in a position where I can do it all on my own and run any software stack I want — and more importantly, use my own personalized domain name, a name that took no small amount of effort to decide upon but is now consistently used for my socials and GitHub.

(The exception being one service where I’m still shadowm because it’s just so, so lucky I got hold of the name before anyone else back in the day and I sort of want to keep bragging about how I got the name before anyone else there. Naturally, Iris is already taken.)

But the new website isn’t just a pretty domain name, no. Following over a year of constant pestering from Vultraz to join the cool kids and learn about —ugh— modern —ack— Web development instead of staying stuck in 2012 or so, I finally got around to learning... React. Yes. This whole thing is written in React + Gatsby, which probably makes it more of a serious project than Iris/Amethyst or Dorset ever were — by virtue of having had to write half of it by hand instead of relying on a pre-existing CMS, and hand-coding a lot of new features.

So let me give you a little run-down of what’s changed.

Continue reading “Irydacea.me

Amethyst, and life updates

Oh hi there. Long time no see. Apparently I haven’t posted since February 2017, huh. A lot of things have happened in the meantime, it turns out. Some of those things are to blame for my general inactivity elsewhere, but when it comes to this blog I just can’t seem to come up with anything to say worthy of my trademark text walls, at least not ever since I joined Twitter several years ago— wait, wasn’t that in 2010? Time sure flies. I feel old. Okay, let’s face it, I am old.

“Iris” version 1.1.0 as of earlier today

In addition to it having been a while since my last post in here, it has also been a while since the last time I gave the website an overhaul, for what little use it sees nowadays. Because of that, plus some of my experiences designing the new website theme for The Battle for Wesnoth last year, I decided to try to modernize my own a little bit so it looks more in tune with my current practices. I also decided to spruce things up with a new colour scheme, like last time, taking things in a different direction to what I’m used to.

An attentive reader who’s been around for long enough might be able to tell that the “Iris” design last year did undergo a slight revision incorporating Font Awesome in order to make icons not look awful on high-DPI screens. This was a natural conclusion of my work designing and testing the Wesnoth.org theme on devices with higher pixel density. Plus it was precisely last year that I actually caved in and got a smartphone given to me by a relative, further highlighting all the inconveniences of designing things on/for 96 DPI these days. Other than that, though, the design remained mostly unchanged from what I made in 2014.

“Iris” version 1.2.0, aptly codenamed Amethyst for reasons that should be blatantly obvious, is mostly the same as before under the hood, but on the surface it hopefully looks shinier and more elegant and modern. Even though I am not using the site much right now like I mentioned above, I have a faint hope that the new look will motivate me to post more again.

Since there wasn’t a New Year post last year, or even the year before that, or uh... the year before that as well... actually I guess there haven’t been New Year posts in here since January 1st 2013. Oops. Anyway, I guess it’s time for a short summary of what I have been up to in recent times. Let’s see...

Continue reading “Amethyst, and life updates

shadowm moving hosts

It’s almost as if moving Web hosts in October is going to become a yearly activity, like New Year celebrations, or birthdays.

shadowm.rewound.net has been graciously hosted by an acquaintance of mine since 2005, even after I moved on to weirder endeavors on the Internet. Originally, there wasn’t much in terms of content here, because I only used the space to host a few files from tiny projects I was involved with. However, as I took an interest in dabbling with front-facing Web technologies like HTML, CSS, and to a lesser extent, Javascript, shadowm.rewound.net turned into a testing ground for crazy experiments ranging from a seldom-updating blog, to a quotes database for an IRC channel. Giving the few interested visitors a general idea of who I am and what I do in my spare time was barely a goal at first. Fast-forward to Q4 2014 and just look at this mess.

But as everyone knows, nothing is eternal. Not even the sun. Okay, from a practical standpoint we can assume the sun is eternal. That’s beside the point.

The first chapter of “shadowm”— formerly known as “Shadowmaster’s Lair” — lasted much longer than it logically should have, and I thank grafix for that. Starting today, I am now hosted by AI0867, a close collaborator of mine in projects like Wesnoth-UMC-Dev, my campaign Invasion from the Unknown, and, well, Wesnoth itself. Hence the new hostname, shadowm.ai0867.net.

Around May this year, I went to great lengths with the Iris site redesign to ensure everything would work on any host provided the software dependencies are satisfied, and removed and/or optimized a load of cruft left from earlier iterations. In theory, things should perform more or less fine on the new host, although it is hard for me to gauge this as a user — for you see, I am stranded in high-latency mobile broadband land, making pretty much every website out there equally slow from my point of view. In any case, if there are any glaring inefficiencies, I’ll do my best to correct them over the course of the next few days.

To sum it up, most people (i.e. the handful of followers I have) should not notice a difference besides the new hostname in URLs. Old links will continue to work for approximately a year through the magic of HTTP redirection, though you should probably update them now just in case.

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Iris

Those who have followed me these last five years or so are probably aware that I designed and coded this site’s layout on my own in an effort to learn the basics of Web design. Thus, shadowm.rewound.net has been redesigned no less than eight times since its inception.

Continue reading “Iris

The future of Invasion from the Unknown (and After the Storm, sort of)

Well, the cat’s out of the bag already. Not that I really intended to keep the plan under wraps for very long in the first place—perhaps I should have done that—but I already implied, and then confirmed that this is a thing that is taking place.

Invasion from the Unknown is being rewritten.

Continue reading “The future of Invasion from the Unknown (and After the Storm, sort of)

After the Storm 0.9.0

After years and years of development, drama, script rewrites, field research, technological advancements, budget cuts, and temporal shenanigans, today, March 5th 2013, I can say for sure that After the Storm is complete with the release of the most important milestone yet: version 0.9.0, with all three episodes completed with 13 scenarios each.

A few caveats for people upgrading from the previous release:

  • This release adds the final Epilogue scenario for Episode III, which will become a bonus feature in 0.9.1. If you had previously finished AtS Episode III using versions 0.8.90 or 0.8.90.1, you will have a start-of-scenario save for the Epilogue scenario which you can use after upgrading to this version.
  • As usual, for the most stable experience I advise using Wesnoth 1.10.x — preferably 1.10.5 or a newer version when it becomes available. All episodes of this campaign were primarily developed and tested on 1.10.x, and there are subtle behavioral differences in the game engine between 1.10.x and 1.11.x that may break some sequences or cause other unintended side-effects.
  • Various issues reported by playtesters on Wesnoth 1.11.1 were fixed. Most notably, it implements a workaround measure for mainline bug #20373, which is relevant for Episode III scenarios starting from Dark Sea. People who experienced player information loss (recall and recruit lists, gold reserves) after Dark Sea on 1.11.1 will need to replay that scenario from the start-of-scenario save (NOT the Turn 1 save!) in order for Wesnoth to install the code in charge of solving that issue in later scenarios. This code will not work on Wesnoth 1.11.2 — you will need to finish Episode III on 1.11.1 before switching to 1.11.2 (whenever it is released, anyway).

This... has been a really long journey, to say the least, and I pretty much lost all hope of ever finishing this campaign at various points over past years. Development started in 2008 and quickly stagnated for various reasons:

  • Perceived lack/loss of interest from the audience
  • Excessive perfectionism on my part
  • Various IRL struggles, including health and personal matters
  • Constant conflicts of interest amongst the few people who were actually interested in IftU and AtS’ development
  • Mainline development tasks taking up my spare time
  • Wesnoth.org forums moderation and administration taking up my spare time

To say that I was overjoyed when the Big Merge took place just a couple of weeks ago would be a big understatement. This campaign became for me more than just another Wesnoth campaign as time passed — it became a part of me I thought I had left behind when IftU was first completed, a testament to my chronic failure to drive my own projects to completion.

After the Storm changed a lot since it was originally conceived in 2008. The original draft was both over-pretentious and subpar, and it was not what I wanted to create after IftU. I wanted to create something better than IftU, but I locked myself in a trap by relying on source material that was already broken by design. Making a better sequel became my obsession, and that obsession led to AtS’ stagnation during the development of Episode I.

But some time mid-2011, I finally saw that trying to achieve perfection was a flawed goal in its own right. What I should have been aiming for all along was to make something fun, something from which I could learn, something I would enjoy to play and create. It was that realization that finally led me to complete Episode I, and the rest was a blaze; a blaze that culminates with this release, today.

The final product is neither perfect nor it aims to be such. I do not think this campaign is for everyone, seeing as how the gameplay and plot are very tightly knit together, and the overall scenario count goes up to 39 without taking cutscenes, segmented scenarios, and bifurcation into account; however, unlike IftU, every episode is a separate campaign in its own right, and I believe that makes the overall experience more enjoyable and less chaotic, balancing-wise.

When I first wrote IftU, my grasp of the English language was as poor as my handle of storytelling in general was, to say the least. This also applies to AtS Episode I up to scenario 9, part 2 — which became the turning point for the campaign’s development when I finally chose to renounce perfectionism and embrace the fun in creation. But I digress. AtS’ prose is all my own output with minor amendments from my playtesters and proofreaders, and an experiment in style wherein I take breaks from mainline conventions on purpose, in a subtle and calculated manner. Attentive players may be able to point out those inflection points from just paying attention at the characters and their interactions — characters whose flaws and mistakes are not as detached from reality as the game’s fantasy setting or the subtext-based delivery may suggest.

The three-episodes structure was mostly an afterthought. AtS episode III became an amalgamation of a previous planned AtS sequel and an aborted IftU prequel. But this structure fits the narrative better than the original plan. Episode I establishes the setting and motivations for the protagonists, and provides more hints about the overarching plot than IftU did; Episode II gradually develops further on the characters’ inner struggles while providing entertaining gameplay and dropping even more hints about the grand scheme; and finally, on Episode III things go off the rails in pretty much every way possible—including gameplay—and the plot reaches its final resolution within the scope originally intended for AtS.

Some people will be unable to find or interpret the hints and may see the finale as an out-of-the-blue succession of events, all because I avoided indulging in long and heavy exposition sequences that leave nothing to the player’s imagination and reading skills. I am perfectly aware that this is an inevitability, because it is absolutely impossible to please everyone, as I have learned from my experience with activities otherwise wholly orthogonal to the storytelling field. I think some UMC authors should really keep this in mind whenever they feel tempted to abandon their efforts just because a vocal segment of their players doesn’t like their output.

Other people will not like AtS because “it’s not like IftU”. Perfectionism aside, it is impossible for it to be like IftU after all that I have learned in the meantime about storytelling, life, people, and myself. The circumstances under which IftU was created were entirely unique and I would have to trade many things which I have gained or lost since then in order to create another IftU — and I would not be pleased by the result in the end.

I think AtS works just fine as an IftU sequel, and a sequel does not have to fully embrace the spirit of the original to be such. It’s not like AtS isn’t littered with callbacks to IftU in direct and meta levels anyway. There are a lot of things in it to enjoy, and a lot of things to hate — and both are part of the plan!

But in the end, all that matters to me is that I like the finished product, had fun making it, and learned lots of things along the road.

For those who might think that AtS’ finale is a definitive conclusion to the involved characters’ respective arcs: no, it is not — but I allotted a specific amount of time and scenarios for telling their origin stories, and the campaign had to end at some point. Is there enough material for sequels? Hell, yes, but I don’t see myself making another Wesnoth campaign given all the technical and non-technical limitations imposed by the platform. The three ultimate protagonists have a whole journey ahead of them (as well as more characters to meet), and I would like to explore that in some other medium in the future. For fellow Wesnoth UMC authors, though, there is plenty of material left to work with if you pay attention to every single minor detail.

Of course, I am open to questions about everything you may want to know about the campaign, be it via forum PM, or posts in the campaign’s development topic. But I would appreciate it if people didn’t post topics for every single thing in Writers’ Forum — when that happens, odds are I will just ignore those topics in their entirety and not take the effort seriously. As a matter of principle, if you want to ask a campaign author about their work, you ask them directly through their official communication channels instead of walking to the closest park holding a massive sign in your hand.

With AtS 0.9.0 released, all I have left to do is to take care of fine-tuning scenario and unit balance, fixing any remaining prose issues (especially those annoying unit type descriptions for the in-game help system), dealing with missing/placeholder/subpar pixel art, and somehow find a portrait artist willing to work under my specific terms. The latter part will probably take ages, so don’t hold your breath waiting for AtS 1.0.0.

I will be forever grateful to the people (and pets) who helped me along this arduous and extended quest, even those who did so unwittingly — if you are reading this, odds are that you know who you are.

To conclude this post, the changelog for this version follows:

Version 0.9.0:
--------------
* General:
* Milestone: all scenarios completed.
* Scenarios:
* Deployed code to work around a side-switching issue affecting Wesnoth
1.11.1 during post-Divergence (E3S6) scenarios. The corresponding
mainline bug is #20373 and it is fixed on 1.11.2.
* Fixed various "wesnoth.get_side is deprecated, use wesnoth.sides instead"
warnings on 1.11.x.
* Minor story text grammar, style, and punctuation amendments.
* E1S6 - Quenoth Isle (Elves of a Different Land):
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E1S7 - The Search for the Past:
* Minor prose tweaks.
* E1S12 - The Queen:
* Minor prose tweak.
* E1S13 - Death and Rebirth:
* Fixed minor prose issue ("take risky choices" -> "make risky choices").
* E2S2 - The Heart Forest:
* Minor prose tweak.
* E2S11 - A Final Confrontation:
* Minor cutscene improvements near the end.
* E2S12 - Fate:
* Minor cutscene improvements.
* E3S8C - Breakdown:
* Don't allow summoning Fire Guardians until the player enters the
underground river passage.
* Fix objectives display inconsistencies throughout the scenario.
* Minor cutscene improvements.
* E3S8D - Destiny, part 2:
* Fixed Anya's movements not being undoable.
* E3S9: Dark Depths:
* Fixed minor cutscene glitches.
* E3S10 - Blood:
* Add a context menu item displaying a list of available attack
combinations and their effects.
* E3S13 - Epilogue:
* New scenario.
* Units:
* Balancing:
* Decreased Demon Slashing Gale's melee attack from 11-3 to 10-3.
* Decreased Demon Slashing Gale's ranged attack from 10-5 to 9-4.
* Fixed Chaos Arbalestier ranged attack animation failing to trigger.
* Fixed Shaxthal Turret not getting the biomechanical trait.
* Fix multiple "Descriptions should no longer include the name as the first
line" warnings on 1.11.1 and later.
* Fix unit types with missing faction prefixes in their names:
* Arbalestier -> Chaos Arbalestier
* Cataphract -> Chaos Cataphract
* Crossbowman -> Chaos Crossbowman
* Heavy Longbowman -> Chaos Heavy Longbowman
* Hide private variations for regular unit types from the help system on
1.11.x.
* Killed Kri'tan.

The full changelog—for versions 0.3.0 through 0.9.0—can be found here.

After the Storm 0.8.90 (a.k.a. “0.9.0 minus one”)

Version 0.8.90 (a.k.a. “0.9.0 minus one”) is out!

Episode III (Final) is now complete in this version, sans the final Epilogue scenario (which will eventually become a bonus feature) that is not part of the scenario count for various reasons that will become evident once 0.9.0 is released.

Some important caveats:

  • All scenarios after E3S6 (Divergence) were developed and tested on Wesnoth 1.10.x only, so if you are playing on 1.11.1 and you experience any issues, please report them on the forum topic.
  • Some code in later scenarios seems to be somewhat CPU intensive, performing significantly worse on my dual-core 2.1 GHz laptop than on my quad-core + HT 3.4 GHz desktop.
  • If you will play the last scenarios of Episode III with music, you must make sure you have upgraded the AtS Music add-on to version 0.2.0 first! This version was published on the add-ons server in advance a few days ago to give people time to upgrade in preparation for version 0.8.90 of the campaign proper
  • Official support for Wesnoth versions 1.9.10 through 1.9.14 has been dropped in this version. In theory, Wesnoth 1.9.14 should work just fine, but there are several minor bugs that were addressed later during the 1.10.x stable series that may affect this campaign.

Special thanks go to vultraz for playtesting this beast starting from E3S6 in less than a day (around 14 hours with breaks), and the other two playtesters (you know who you are!) who reported some glaring issues with E3S6 and E3S7A.1, which were addressed after the Big Merge and before the packaging of this release.

I will save the longer announcement (including plans for the future) for later, when the final Epilogue is done and 0.9.0 is released.

The changelog for this version follows:

Version 0.8.90 a.k.a. "0.9.0 minus one":
----------------------------------------
* General:
* Dropped remaining compatibility code for Wesnoth 1.9.14 and earlier.
* Scenarios:
* E1S11.2 - Return to Wesmere, part 2:
* Removed compatibility code for Wesnoth 1.9.5 through 1.9.8.
* Completed Episode III (sans Epilogue).
* Units:
* Balancing:
* Increased Elynia's resistance to impact damage from -10% to 0%.
* Decreased Demon Shapeshifter's ranged attack from 8-2 to 7-2.

After the Storm: Not so fast

Everyone who follows me on Twitter can stop reading here.

This very specific issue is why After the Storm 0.8.90 isn’t published yet. vultraz completed his playtesting within less than 24 hours after the Big Merge, and various critical fixes have already landed in trunk.

After the Storm: Big Merge done, 0.8.90 on the horizon

The first After the Storm commit to Wesnoth-UMC-Dev’s trunk happened on May 17th, year 2008.

Today, February 19th 2013, after years and years of development, with various real life and non-real life issues getting in the way and dooming the campaign to Development Hell until version 0.4.0 with a completed Episode I finally happened on October 16th 2011, I can say for certain that...

After the Storm is finally complete.

With the Big Merge done and all the Episode III post-Divergence content (sans the Epilogue scenario) finally landed in Wesnoth-UMC-Dev trunk, the next step is releasing AtS version 0.8.90 to the public.

r17177 | AtS: bump version from 0.8.5+svn to 0.8.90-svn in the changelog after the Big Merge
r17176 | AtS: [Big Merge] workaround issues with the test suite and macros from data/core/units.cfg
r17175 | AtS E3: [Big Merge] land post-Divergence maps and scenarios
r17174 | AtS E3: [Big Merge] land post-Divergence ancillary macros, story text, character macros, and death handlers
r17173 | AtS: [Big Merge] land post-Divergence units WML, baseframes, halos, and animations
r17172 | AtS: [Big Merge] merge macros used for post-Convergence content
r17171 | AtS: [Big Merge] remove conditional loading of finale-stage scenarios and units
r17170 | AtS: bump version from 0.8.5+svn to 0.8.90-svn before the Big Merge
r17169 | AtS E3S6: enable scenario in regular gameplay

There will be a delay between this and the actual public 0.8.90 release while my primary playtester (vultraz) does the playtesting thing with the scenarios. Some balancing changes before 0.8.90 may also be necessary.

In the meantime, people can check out After the Storm from Wesnoth-UMC-Dev trunk using the Subversion client of their choice, and provide me with feedback via forum PM (in particular, about any possible bugs or balance issues that might plague some specific scenarios), or private messaging on IRC — I am on irc.freenode.net, channel ##shadowm most of the time, but I would rather avoid people dropping spoilers in the presence of my aforementioned playtester, who also hangs around there.

UPDATE: Since I haven’t gotten around to publish version 0.2.0 of the AtS Music add-on, you will also need to obtain the latest version from SVN separately, since it introduces a few music tracks used in the new AtS Episode III scenarios. Of course, this is only necessary if you want/need to have in-game background music.

UPDATE 2: AtS Music version 0.2.0 is now in the 1.10 and 1.11.x add-ons servers. The previous version was 12.3 MiB in size, whereas the new version is 22.7 MiB. I actually had to do some re-encoding to bring it down from 33.1 MiB, but there shouldn’t be any noticeable compression artifact build-up — or at least, I cannot perceive any with my headphones on.

svn co https://wesnoth-umc-dev.svn.sourceforge.net/svnroot/wesnoth-umc-dev/trunk/After_the_Storm
svn co https://wesnoth-umc-dev.svn.sourceforge.net/svnroot/wesnoth-umc-dev/trunk/AtS_Music

You can also grab tarballs of the latest trunk snapshots through SourceForge.net’s SVN web interface:

This last alternative is probably not the best, though, since you will not be able to track future updates. Subversion makes it far easier to update every time a changeset is committed, without having to download the whole thing every time.

I am not going to provide any further instructions for installing using either of these methods, so I’m leaving this to people who actually know their way around Subversion tools or manually installing add-on content. I am not going to post any spoilers either; in particular, I am not going to reveal the Epilogue sequence until version 0.9.0.

Special thanks go to Espreon, Gambit, and vultraz for making all of this possible in their own ways. I will probably explain the deal with AtS’ troubled development in a new post in the near future (probably after 0.8.90 is properly published).

Thanks to all those who waited this long for this to happen. For those who are eager to playtest this and don’t know their way around the aforementioned things, I can only promise that the wait for 0.8.90 will be much shorter. A couple of weeks, tops.

Finally, the usual disclaimer applies: this campaign is not for everyone.