Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Long Stance on Conventions

Normally I would have a larger post planned out but it's not quite there yet. So in the meantime I'm making a different post to fill the void while I work on art and possibly prep another blogpost on some plans for when "gamedev season" begins.

In what feels like a repeat of last year, conventions are currently in an interesting place. Due to the ongoing pandemic last year continuing into this year and the vaccines just starting to make the rounds, conventions are still being postponed and canceled. As of this writing, two of the four major cons I usually attend announced they would either be converting to an online format or canceling entirely. And to be honest even if they were held in person I would still not want to go with all the new cases flying out left and right.

For me, a convention isn't really a convention if I can't attend it IRL since it's impossible to translate an entire convention into an online format. Conventions are about the social experience, the dealer's room and artist alley, the cosplay, and the panels. Most online conventions, as I've seen them do across 2020 and the first several months of 2021, can only replicate the panels aspect of a con (with one attempt at a virtual artist's alley I've seen) and if you're someone like me who's more into the interactive elements, these online cons sadly just can't capture the same magic.

Looking back, I always attended cons first and foremost to meet and support artists, meet up with friends that I otherwise wouldn't be able to see, and explore the settings of each convention. You cannot come up with an even greater/cooler landmark to host a convention than the Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken (I will miss you so much), the Atlantic City Convention Center, the Cradle of Aviation, and the Javits Center. Most of the panels I would see had a greater purpose than just the content on show- in those cases it was to support friends or an internet personality I really liked or otherwise supported. They were an extension to the convention trip, not the trip itself, is what I'm saying.

Either way I don't expect to get back to a convention for a good while, and if I do it'll be something local or smaller scale that won't really be worth bringing up until it becomes safe enough in my terms to return to a big-name convention. Plus there's a few things I need to attend to first in regards to my physical form which has been suffering since the pandemic and lockdowns were initiated. If anything comes up regarding major conventions, I'll let you know otherwise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Too Much Karting

I think it's pretty obvious by now that I latched onto Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart for all the time since it came out. Though I've stopped playing online due to various circumstances I'd rather not get into, I'm still working in the background on custom racers to fill some stat blocks that aren't occupied by the base roster and what stat combinations aren't occupied by it.

Last month I released Wayne, the main protagonist of Hylics 2, after having started on it last August and afterwards getting sidetracked by both re-making my OC's (with more to come) and well, you know the other thing that happened around the time. What drove me to finish him earlier than I had thought was the occasional response/message on Discord of people looking forward to seeing him done (and to those that did, thanks for the motivation). Even then I still have five, maybe six other racers on the agenda, and maybe a few others on the backlot that I started on or am waiting until I complete a few more main racers before I tackle them proper. Recently I decided to get back into the swing of doing art since I've been sitting off doing it since late 2019, and since I've been feeling burnout and the desire to do something else (including character bios) I decided to take another break from making kart racers. Whenever it's a full break or a semi-hiatus, I don't know.

Now you're wondering, what the heck else do I have for this game? Well I had to significantly scale back my plans following the hard drive failure and the realization that eventually I need to do something else, including maybe gamedev stuff at long last, so I trimmed down the list of characters on the agenda so there's a chance I'll be able to call myself done with SRB2Kart when it comes to new racers.

  • Berecca and Van, from Ninjala, are still the next in the queue, and with the decision to redo their hair so I can pump more detail into them, they'll understandably take a little more time than I initially thought including their signpost arts (I seem to struggle with them especially but I'll think of something). Stats-wise I'm sort of torn on making both of them focused on raw speed, so there's a chance one of them could be focused on acceleration and take the 2 speed, 4 weight slot meant for another racer that I plan to make sometime after as a "special send-off" to Version 1 barring character remakes and touchups.
  • Solid Snake and Raiden, from the Metal Gear Solid series, are the other main duo for the pack that I've wanted to get to since at least early 2019 and you all likely know by now from previous update posts about Kart. These two are by far my biggest reasons for wanting to cut a lot of my further ideas for Kart and since they're both reasonably detailed and would almost reach up to Dr. Dude in height, I'd like to get every other major racer done before moving onto these two so I can pool what's left of my time with V1 into them (and if they bleed into V2, no big deal).
  • Gil from Tower of Druaga is the only other significant racer that I want to get out for v1 and are comfortable with mentioning here. He's about 45% done with the base head fully drawn out, but lack of feedback on him especially compared to Wayne led to him being saved for later, and then when Wayne was done I didn't exactly have it on me to resume him at that moment.
  • Roger, Zax, and Tan-Tan are still planned for V1 and they'll be worked on alongside other racers- Roger's wings will finally be implemented into his sprites and Zax will get a more robotic-looking (and rather large) arm on his left arm among a few other minor details to put in some more detail.
Of course the rest is TBD but at this rate consider these plus a few remakes down the line and some other surprise additions. V2 prep is also being considered (as in, the new palette and lookback frames- the new kart body isn't available until it does release) but not a priority.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Emulation and the Spriters' Resource Aftermath

I think most people by now know that there was a time in the 2010's when I was uploading new sprite sheets to The Spriters Resource for what can be described as "forever". It got to a point where it overtook my personal art and character renders and it would continue that dominance until SRB2Kart happened.

During the time I was chugging out sprite sheets, there was one platform that I ripped the most from than any other. Of course I’m taking about the Nintendo Entertainment System, launched in 1983 in Japan as the Famicom and two years later in the rest of the world. The reasoning behind it will become apparent as I go into detail. You see, my first modern computer since having been stuck on otherwise outdated Windows machines was an iMac for Christmas 2008. While good for productivity and content creation, playing games on a Mac, including emulators of old consoles, is not as reliable as one would think. Emulators on Macs don’t have the level of support and options they do on Windows and the pool of emulators available aren’t as… functional as their Windows equivalents.

Except for one emulator, that is. The Macintosh version of Nestopia, produced by Richard Bannister, was the first emulator for an old system that I had used that wasn’t on my sister’s PC. Even though I was very familiar with my cousin’s emulators for the longest time since he installed an emulation-focused Windows XP computer in the second half of 2008, this alliteration of Nestopia built for Mac OS X changed everything for me and it still stuck with me even after I got a new PC for my own in Christmas 2010, if only because it had a available and robust for the time rewind feature allowing me to play through harder games without awkwardly stopping to make save states during hard levels or bosses. I played the snot out that emulator, discovering all sorts of relatively under-looked games, Japanese-exclusives, and ROM hacks. And most importantly, it (alongside Mari0) helped kickstart me into a craze of bombarding The Spriters’ Resource with sheet after sheet, my preferred consoles being the NES, Game Boy/GBC, Arcade, and PC/MSDOS due to how easy it is to rip from those respective machines most of the time. In hindsight though, some of the sheets I would contribute, especially early on, were not really organized that well or didn’t make the “bounding boxes” obvious enough. Some sheets did get updated, but many I only left in their initial states.

So what drove me to stop? Well, even with all the games out there that haven’t been ripped that I've taken interest in, the act of game ripping got to the point where I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for sheets I could quick whip up without having to finish a game all the way through as I had done for Lagrange Point on the Famicom as an example. Eventually I climbed to 1,000 sheets and next to everything that I wanted to rip from has been ripped, whenever it be one sheet or several from the same title. Not every sheet survived, especially the ones that were ripped from prototypes (the Spaceworld 1997 Pok√©mon Gold and Silver demo sheets, for example) when a new rule was passed to blacklist and remove them following the Nintendo Giga-leaks in 2020.

By far my number 1 reason for stopping sprite outputs was, you guessed it, SRB2Kart. While I was able to form a balance between the two projects in 2019 in addition to finishing a character render that had been in production for a good while, by 2020 the racers I was producing (including de-motivation and burnout from the pandemic) demanded so much effort on my part that I had to pool everything into working on them just so I had a chance of some day being able to finish everyone on the personal todo list and move onto other projects. I still played the occasional emulated game but it was more to kill time and not to find content to rip. And once the “great hard drive failure of 2020” happened on my Mac, not only did I lose a good few WIP rips, I didn’t bother with playing NES games at all on my PC during the time I was stuck without a Mac and setting up the new one I got late October because I had long-overlooked the rewind features on the PC emulators I had at the time (Nestopia on PC requires it to be enabled, unlike the Mac version where it’s enabled by default, and FCEUX requires you to load a .lua script every time you want to use it and plasters a “REWIND POWER” message on the top of the screen at all times). In short, having rewind in an emulator made it more accessible to play and undo mistakes and dumb errors compared to savestates (especially in the bad games) and a lot of these PC and Windows-based emulators hide it away.

Currently I have no idea if or when I’ll ever go back to sprite-ripping. Considering I have 1.4k sheets total ripped, give or take a few, I should be better off finding new hobbies to keep me occupied or going back to old ones, at least until I feel like returning to doing full character artwork again which should be hopefully later in the year if all goes well and things start escaping the pressure of the pandemic. In the mean time I’ll get to writing some character bios for my Aozora troops that I’ve been long neglecting.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Tang Tang (GBA) Original Sound Vision

After spending most of the past few days burned out on stuff to do that isn't just mindless grinding, I turned to collecting and binging video game soundtracks to fill the void. And with that came to mind another game I had ripped long ago in (almost) its entirety only to lose the rip to the "great hard drive failure of September 2020".

The subject is Tang Tang, the Game Boy Advance adaptation of DSL's arcade game of the same name. It stars four characters clad in different-colored armors in a Solomon's Key clone, traveling to five different themed planets to gather rings and kill five copy-pasted bosses. The Game Boy Advance version was outsourced the GameVision Corporation and keeps the general aesthetic and gameplay of the arcade version but features all new levels, simplifies some of the graphics, removes the option for two-player co-op, and remixes the entire soundtrack into a more bombastic and lively series of compositions.

Of course I got the Game Boy Advance version of the game when it was new, bringing it and my stash of Game Boy games with me everywhere I went. Karate lessons, relatives' homes, and even to Florida. Of course being a conversion of a coin-operated game with nothing extra in the package does lend itself to a rather mixed package (the bosses in particular are a pain to fight and just amount to finding a spot to camp and blindly shoot until the boss drops if it doesn't decide to run you into a wall first) but if you like straight-to-the-point arcade/arcade-style games it's worth a look, if not the GBA version then at least the arcade version (even if I prefer the music of the GBA version tenfold).

As for the rip itself, it has the five main world themes plus two jingles and two other themes (the title screen and ending). The only real causality is the ending theme- as the beginning is obstructed by the sound of popping fireworks, only the looped version can be fully recorded, and I know no one wants a sudden abrupt skip to occur in the music (or dead silence). Not that the ending theme missing the non-looping section is a big deal anyways and considering the odd sound hardware Tang Tang uses compared to other, more popular titles on the platform I doubt it'll ever receive a full, complete recording.

Anyways, you can download the complete soundtrack here.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Ms Pac-Man Twin, six years later

So it has come to my understanding that a little game called Ms. Pac-Man Twin finally got a dump after I had discovered the game and made mockups back in 2015 of what the game would have looked like had it been applied to more authentic hardware. I say that because the actual version takes quite a couple liberties with the source game.

To no one's surprise, it's a bootleg running off of knockoff hardware with a daughterboard slapped on, and many elements of the original game were straight up butchered or otherwise lost to SUSILU's attempts at getting a second Ms. Pac into the game.

Perhaps the most notable difference is how... different it feels to play. While you can play it solo, the experience practically begs to be played with a friend- each with a set of Pac-dots to themselves. And the round doesn't end until all of them are gone. Heck, a player can even steal the dots of the other player if they finish early to speed up the process (even earning double the points for eating the dots not of their color!). It's definitely got a more competitive edge and it does it far more confidently than Tengen's versions of Ms. Pac-Man through the early 90's, if only because dying doesn't force both players to respawn in a process that takes ten seconds. Fruit and intermissions are also MIA, in part due to the bootleggers deciding to stick in a fancy new title screen that overwrites all the necessary graphics and a longer death animation.

The other big noticeable difference is the sprite of the player characters themselves. For whatever reason, Ms. Pac received a whole new spriteset edited from Pac-Man's sprites and they're... freaky to say the least. Smaller, single-pixel eyes, a larger bow, and going completely over on the lipstick department.

Of course being the sprite-artist I am (at lest, in a way) I tried to fix up the sprites to be a bit closer to the originals. Aside from the title screen, the revised HUD, and the new "double dot" tiles, there's no other custom spritework in the game.

With the game's most prominent elements covered, there was another thing I discovered upon looking at images of the game's title screen across the web and it may give some clues as to why the board was so rare. Take a look at the title screen one more time, particularly the bottom right. Notice the green "18" printed in the corner. That number never seems to change no matter what. Compare that to the oldest-recorded video of the game taken on Robbie's homepage:

The ones digit is cut off by the monitor's edges but here you can make out a 0 in the lower right corner in the tens digit. Likely, the full number is 01-09.

And here we have a 16, cleanly visible from photos of a board that was sold on eBay last December. If my understanding of this is correct, then these numbers would indicate the build number associated with each board- meaning the board the current MAME dump is associated with is Board #18, the one from the eBay auction is Board #16, and the one from Robbie's coverage is any board from #01 to #09.

With this, we may now know why Ms. Pac Twin was so rare to find and took almost three decades to get a dump: not only was it made in Argentina, South America in 1992/93, a time when Pac-Man bootlegs feel out of relevancy especially if you compare it to bootlegs like Hangly Man or Ms. Pac-Attack, the board had a very limited print run to boot, possibly having only twenty or so boards in circulation compared to the hundreds of thousands amassed by the more widely produced originals. It also never got its own dedicated machine and was stuck in generic cabinet after generic cabinet intended to be filled with other games, making it harder to spot and possibly leading to some confusing it for the original game.

So that's Ms. Pac-Man Twin, a charming little bootleg that I'm glad to finally play in an official capacity but I can't help but admit that I'm a bit underwhelmed, especially with the six years it took between me discovering the game and seeing it finally dumped and released. Then again it's a hack of a 40-year old arcade game so you can't expect too much.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Little Nicky (Game Boy Color) Game Rip

Okay, this post came out of left field so I'll make it brief. No I've never seen Little Nicky and from what I've heard it's a trainwreck and Adam Sandler may have... not been the greatest choice for the lead. Fitting considering today's subject.

Back in 2018, the video game tie-in to Little Nicky was one of the games presented on Vinesauce's "Quality GBA and GBC games" stream in August 2018. After having played it myself, the only opinion I can give is that it's playable, but hard, especially since there is no proper difficulty curve, you don't heal inbetween levels, and you cannot continue once you're out of lives. The backgrounds may be decent but the sprites are rather sloppy looking (especially the faces) and the levels are not designed around the limited view you're given thanks to screen crunch.

This is not the game's boxart- I went with the first copyright screen because the actual boxart is atrocious.

The soundtrack on the other hand, done by Robert Baffy, is what caught me onto the game during the aforementioned Vinesauce stream. It's no contender for best Game Boy music or even the best VGM of 2000, but it still features some catchy themes despite coming from a game based on a movie starring Adam Sandler.

This rip contains all 13 (heh) tracks from the game's sound test (or the "Metal Mix" as the game calls it), as portrayed by the emulator bgb. It's probably the best I can get the game's soundfont to cooperate and not sound butchered considering there's not really any other Game Boy game with this kind of hard-rockin' music to memory.

I'll be quiet now and give you all the download link.

Friday, February 5, 2021

DX-Ball 2 20th Anniversary Edition: Blast Thru boardset

Back in my high school years I entered a phase where I begun relentlessly binging Breakout and Arkanoid clones. If you've been to my blog in the early to mid 2010's you may be familiar with my discussions on Aquanoid and Electranoid in particular, which were DOS-based and in the case of the former I created roughly 450 levels (but couldn't really share them due to the obscurity of the title and how the custom levels were formatted). This, however, is nine/ten years later and I've moved on from the great Breakout binge, especially with all of their assets now on The Spriters Resource thanks to yours truly. Still, there was that one Breakout game that I never really delved into, the DX-Ball games.

Created in 1996 and followed up by a sequel in 1998, these were Breakout clones based on the Commodore Amiga game MegaBall v3.0, featuring a wide play field, dozens of  levels, a colorful palette of blocks, and a range of helpful and not-so-helpful powerups. Recently, the sequel got a full digital re-release on Steam, titled DX-Ball 2: 20th Anniversary Edition, and it'll be most of the focus of this blogpost going forth.

Except, it's not the only focus. Not long after the initial release of DX-Ball 2, another breakout game launched in 1999- called Blast Thru. This game seemed to take a lot of inspiration from DX-Ball 2, including the playfield sizes, block types, and especially the powerups on offer. Unlike DX-Ball 2 which continued to be sold through even the 2000's and 2010's, Blast Thru became abandonware after its publisher folded and the game can easily be downloaded in full.

After getting my hands on the Anniversary re-release of DX-Ball 2, and since the games were very similar to begin with, I went and did a full conversion of Blast Thru's 40 levels using DX-Ball 2's built-in editor.

The result was a full-on near-perfect re-creation with only relatively minor differences. The biggest difference was the area in which blocks could be placed- it reaches to almost the very bottom in Blast Thru but in DX-Ball 2 it's several blocks higher, so many of the levels were changed to accommodate for the reduced available space for placing blocks. There's not really much else to describe, considering both games' heavily similarities to oneanother.

You can get the Blast Thru boardset here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

January's (almost) over already?

For the first month of the year January felt like one where I couldn't catch a break or was a vicim to peak laziness. To keep a long story short, I spent the first full week of the month watching Games Done Quick, spent the rest of the month slowly grinding through SRB2Kart characters in progress, spent a day downloading and getting Poser 11 to work, and then out of nowhere someone hijacks my Steam account and begun demanding hundreds of dollars just to get it back(!).

That last point is something I would comment more on but it stressed me the hell out and already having very little motivation these days between the pandemic still going strong and the lack of any conventions or other social experiences to help fuel my inspiration doesn't help. I did get my Steam account back and recovered some of the funds but it'll be hard to forgot what a catastrophe that was and, well, I still feel very, very lazy.

Part of the laziness stems from, well, not being able to do as much of anything as I used to. In 2018 and 2019 I was able to attend six big conventions per year (plus a smaller con or two sprinkled in there) and remain more physically active throughout the rest of the year through frequent trips to local towns and malls around my area. While I was able to go a few places before the lockdowns occurred, once the lockdowns began everything just went downhill. All my plans to make 2020 better than ever were shot down by everything either being canceled or closed up, and I mostly just went and used my remaining motivation to truck along through making SRB2Kart racers. And then September came and boom, I lose everything on my Mac and have to wait another six weeks to get a new one. Everything I had saved for eleven years was thrown into the toilet thanks to my idiocy to not back anything up save for a few WIP's of projects I shared online and images/renders I had saved on other sites and Discord logs. Even my Windows 2000 that I used to use very often lasted longer than my Mac!

The only thing that helped me cope with the lockdowns and everything else going on was being closer to my family and playing Animal Crossing New Horizons. When it came to other people I mostly continued to remain active in Discord channels to the point where it really started to distract me from personal projects. Normally that wouldn't really distract me much but this year with everyone under lockdown and social distancing guidelines up the wazoo it's because my main source of socialization alongside Twitter.

I'll make another update sometime next month, maybe inform the DeviantArt crew via journal what's been up lately too.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Crazy Climber 2 (Arcade) Soundtrack

Happy New Years! I know it's a bit late to say that now but all last week I was glued into watching Awesome Games Done Quick 2021 Online and it was kind of to the detriment of all my other projects. So while I figure things out and sort through some IRL things I wanted to get to (including finishing spicing up my game room and arcade), I have another game soundtrack to share which I originally ripped around August 2017 and listened to quite a bit around New Year's Day 2018, so I loosely associate it with that particular holiday.

This is Nichibutsu's Japan-only followup to their 1980's smash hit Crazy Climber, released in 1988, and with it came all new music to jam along to while you ascend six super-tall structures. While there do exist several music rips of this game on other sites, none of them sound as they would on original hardware (as well as the Arcade Archives re-release and MAME) and they all splice together the game start and odd-numbered stage theme into one track. This rip uses a direct recording from the game's service mode sound test and separates the two aforementioned songs into individual tracks. While the tracks loop from the end to the beginning smoothly, every song otherwise begins with a drumbeat in the actual game, so that element was retained.

You can download the entire music rip here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

New Year's Eve 2020

I don't even believe it. I've had this silly image on this blog for ten years straight and I still distinctly remember it enough to resurrect it and alter it slightly. So consider it repurposed if anything.

Anyways, 2020. The year that seemed to go wrong on so many accounts for me. March was the pandemic and the lockdowns and the closure of every single event (including the six conventions I was planning to go to this year) and turning every holiday into yet another basic day with nothing special. September was the death of my second Mac OSX and the loss of all my art, WIP's, sprites, music, documents, and con photos thanks to a mostly botched and incomplete hard drive recovery that couldn't pull most of the data to begin with (because Mac hardware is too "exotic" compared to the more widespread PCs). Being told it was a full recovery beforehand before receiving the refurbished, upgraded Macintosh didn't help in the slightest, but I'm sure you all know that by now and now I'm taking extra steps to make sure I don't lose more of my projects.

2020 was a bad year for art for me all for one simple reason. SRB2Kart. The indie kart-racing game starring Sonic the Hedgehog and co-starring characters from all sorts of different fictional works swallowed me up tenfold this year from the desire to add new racers and update existing ones and things just got really messy and started taking me too much time. Thus I'm taking a slight semi-hiatus to go and do other things so I'm not making characters for that game practically 24/7 but if you know me I tend to adjust my schedules and plans on the fly.

Believe me, I tried to start on full art renders for a character or two but I just couldn't do it or get it to look right. Plus making characters high-definition didn't do any favors and it just turned me off from doing more arts in that style from how much extra detail and zooming-in I have to do. Thus I'm thinking of going for a size inbetween the high res and the low res images I made in the 2010's so I don't feel like I'm pushing myself hard. Of course I'll still be going for making everything clean and sharp as I can so the renders still look good resized. For what I'll be making, the goal is to get one or two more renders for Aozora (one was being worked on before the hard drive failure) and resume making character renders for other characters in the project, starting with Ptolema. There will (hopefully) also be more of an effort to balance making art with making SRB2Kart racers along with trying to doodle out more sketches and non-Aozora creations, maybe. Fanart is still out of the question for the time being but depending on how I'm feeling I may be willing to take a venture and draw some art featuring others' characters.

I made a blog post on the Aozora blog detailing game ideas and concepts and the like. Due to just how bloated the series have become I've trimmed away some of the ideas that I deem lower priority or too complex that it may take them longer to get made. The revamped list ended up being mostly just 2D-based games with only the occasional 3D-based game joining the roster. For non-Aozora games there's Otaku-Ball, which is currently on hiatus until further notice (my last attempt at working on it didn't go so well and overall not a lot of progress was made) and atm I'm not planning on much else. And to further these goals I'm seeking to get a brand new Windows 10 computer for my birthday in June so any game-making software I try out is up-to-date, provided I have the funds necessary.

Sprite-ripping is on hold especially since I lost the font pack I had used for most of my rips for the Spriters' Resource. Most of the games I've always wanted to rip from are now all ripped with only a scant few left, though I may do a surprise rip here and there for the heck of it. No promises but don't count it entirely out, even if you only see a few new rips compared to prior years (doing rips fulltime stopped being interesting as I started to run out of material I wanted to rip quickly).

Custom content for other games is uncertain. I recently began to develop custom content for DX-Ball 2, a game I got for Christmas, and there's also the remainder of my Mari0 mappack "Special Something". Whenever I decide to resume that is pure chance but it might scratch the itch for wanting to make games that I've been craving since mid-December.

Anywho that's all for now, I'll keep quiet and let you enjoy the new years' celebrations.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Jump'N'Bump 3D Soundtrack

No this isn't the big New Years' post you were expecting, that won't be until about a day or two from now. But with Flash deactivating very very soon I thought it'd be appropriate to rip and share this soundtrack.

This here is Jump'N'Bump 3D, a flash game from February 2009 that was a part of my freshman-in-high-school self's favorite Flash games of the time. In other words the period when my imagination was at its peak and before I begun my entry into the world of social media and proceeding to embarrass my current older self. This game was a big part of that era and I deeply loved it, not to mention it was back when any sort of 3D in flash games was a rarity. And of course there's Julian Robotz' legendary score for the game, spanning seven tracks total and still being a fun listen even eleven years later, (twelve if you catch this by February 2021)

I've ripped the game a while back in the past but it was very incomplete rip, so this time I went double-duty and extracted all the music from the game followed by running it through Audacity to add all the necessary tags and establish better loop points.

Anyways I'll just shut up now and give you the link.
If the loops are wrong/incorrect please let me know and I'll update the soundtrack in the future.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

SJB's NullpoMino skins - Complete Collection

Hey everyone. Since it's Christmas Eve here I'd like to spend some time to wish you all a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year (considering how up and down this year has been for me between the pandemic and my Mac dying suddenly). But today is not the place for going over the happenings of the year. Instead I'm treating you all to something I should have published long ago.

Long ago I contributed an assortment of custom skins to NullpoMino, an open source Tetris fangame packed with a variety of modes and a large assortment of modding potential. And of course, I stepped in and created a few skins for the game, including ports and rips from other Tetris games, bootlegs and clones, and a few other oddball skins. Since all my Dropbox links went inexplicably dead, a few people commented asking for a re-upload, and after some time of neglecting these calls I decided to finally answer everyone's prayers.

You can get the entire collection at this link. Be sure to add its contents to the "blockskin" folder and re-number the skins if you have previously downloaded and applied custom skins.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Candy Crisis (Mac/Windows) Soundtrack

Last time on Super Justin the Blog, you may recall that I lost many if not all of my ripped OST's and my desire to slowly revisit many of these games and provide rips not widely available online or ones that are improved over other downloads of the same soundtrack.

Today's subject and one that I have not tackled before is a Puyo Puyo clone released for Macintosh(!) back in 1999. Discovered around late October around when I received my new Mac, the soundtrack of Candy Crisis grew on me throughout November and to make getting a hand of it in a more widely-recognized format easier, I threw the audio files into a converter, added proper album info and track numbers, and compiled everything into a ZIP. For added connivence, I spliced the title screen theme "Delicious Nightmare" into three different songs: Unlooped and looped versions (the latter used in the game proper), and the second half normally not heard in-game due to the loop.


As for what's next, the next OST I decide to tackle will be one I ripped previously but never posted online, so it should be fresh and new to most of you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The search for good music soundtracks

For about eleven years I have been building up a steady yet expansive library of videogame music. Then last September it all went to hell when the Mac hard drive went dead. While I'm certain they could just repair the contacts on the disc, put it into a new unit and it would be all good, they wasted no time in telling me it was a total failure and I had never bothered to put a backup drive in place after bad memories of one in the past where external hard drives were very bulky and worst of all, required an external power source.

I spent 15k dollars into getting the contents of the drive extracted and what I got back was a range of JPEG's and PNG's, all with generic numbered filenames and all with their info stripped away, and only a small selection of MP3's- only 474 songs were preserved compared to the 27,000 or so songs I recall having before the crash. Many of the songs were composed of self-made rips with the good majority of them not being put up for download online (which I plan on re-ripping from scratch), others were downloaded from various sites.

That last point deserves a bit of a closer look. Over the past decade, there existed many, many sites that hosted videogame OST's in mp3 format, some rips of one game being better than others of the same title, and as time went a lot of these links either died completely or the sites that hosted them went offline, meaning no one could access the links. This is a problem as one specific website which hosts a slew of videogame soundtracks that people submit (or just take from other parts of the web), except a good few of the OST rips are riddled with problems, including bot not limited to:

  • Being outdated as heck, with no good replacements or re-uploads since then to replace bad, usually low-quality rips with better ones (instead of vice versa as I've seen the site do with certain OST's).
  • Songs with loop points always running to exactly 3 minutes before fading out instead of the fade happening after the first loop (thus, two full loops are included)
  • Songs containing leftover sound effects and voices from the game in question.
  • Songs containing obvious skips in the recording or static/loud "chirps" scattered about.
  • Songs lacking proper author/album tags or just being the track title in lowercase with dashes in place of spaces.
  • An inverse of the above and the songs are just called "BGM #" or "Track #" with no effort made to give them proper labels. Or if they are labeled, they're all jumbled up.
  • Outright misses songs.
  • Being part of greater collection that ripped most of all of the games in all series but were then split apart and uploaded separately- only to neglect to upload certain parts of the "collection".
Paradoxically, a good deal of some of the ripped OST's hosted by the site were outperformed by external rips from other sites (including in one case, this very blog you're reading now), a lot of which fall under the "links removed or website taken down" pool I mentioned earlier. While not every soundtrack I have taken interest in falls under this trap, it's rather sad when it does, especially when better rips existed either on this site or externally before being replaced (or in my case, losing it to the hard drive "failure") and with how things are looking things may not get better.

Wile it's not much, I may go forward with an idea I've been developing due to the inability to recover my old music/mp3 files: Re-rip a good chunk of the OST's that I had once ripped in the past across NES, Game Boy, GBA, and a few other older consoles and upload them to this blog. If my memories do serve me right, I heard one of the sites I used to rely on for music downloads, so I might start some kind of project there to bring up or resurrect better versions of rips.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Ye olde SRB2Kart

 Well it's that time of the year again. For those of you wondering about the status of my Macintosh, yes I got it back, no I didn't get most of the content from the hard drive that failed. I'll touch up on the subject later in the moth so it doesn't hog up this post but lets just say it's not the same Mac and in a nutshell it's a brand new computer.

So where to begin. As you all know I routinely make content for a little game called Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart and this whole debacle with my Mac's hard drive going dead really set me back quite a bit. I planned to finish and release one of the characters I was developing by late September but my unfamiliarity with Windows when it comes to making art plus the screen size being rather small meant I decided to just take the six weeks off. Luckily some members of the community helped me recover some WIP's I shared previously so I didn't have to start completely over but I did get knocked back a few steps when it came to some of the racers.

For the moment I'm going to spend a few weeks playing catchup with these custom racers so I can finally get something out- in the meantime I've been making some custom "Kartmaker" templates with the intent of helping out others since it became the de-facto way to make racers for some time and there's certain racers that require custom ones to work due to extra frames or having too large of a body to support an 80 x 80 pixel space without resorting to the larger 160 x 160 space-per-sprite template (leaving a lot of wasted space).

Anyways, here's what's on the radar for my projects for SRB2Kart.

  • As teased earlier on this blog, the OC's are still the biggest project I'm developing, containing Justin, Matt, and Amy. All three are being made and will release simultaneously as a pack separate from the SJBCP. Justin and Matt are 8,3 and 7,4 respectively, while Amy is 7,9.
  • Roger and Zax will start work sometime after while I'm busy with other racers. Their stats (4,2 and 8,6) will not be changed and they will be joined by newcomer Tan Tan with a stat spread of 3,1.
  • For the regular SJBCP pack, the first new racer released since last July will be Neku Sakuraba from Square Enix's The World Ends with You, with 8 speed and 6 weight. He's been stuck as a WIP for a while and I'd like to get him finished so the fast middleweight section has a new rep.
  • Following the completion of Neku Sakuraba is another duo of characters that I've had on the mind since last year: Berecca and Van from GungHo Online's little multiplayer Switch game Ninjala. These two Ninja-Gum powered children will be speed-focused lightweights at 9,3 and 8,4 respectively.
  • The last major characters on the lineup and the final duo will be too reps from Konami's Metal Gear Solid series: Solid Snake as he appears in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (along with other games that feature Snake with that particular look), and Raiden from his big starring role in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Since a Snake racer has already existed for a while, I'll be giving my interpretation a more unique feel with a larger overall build and slower yet heavier stats (2,9). Raiden meanwhile will be the pack's 9,7 representative and like with the Ninjala characters, Solid Snake and Raiden will both release at the same time.
  • From there, future reps will be slowly worked on over time, with a dose of slower, acceleration-focused characters to balance out the large number of speedy racers in the pack.
  • When it comes to remakes, the current Vinesauce duo will be taken out of the abridged pack (a smaller-scale version of the pack intended for netgame servers with lots of characters) around when either the Ninjala or the Metal Gear Solid duo join the pack. In their place, both streamers will get a full respite from scratch and will be joined by one extra member, Imakuni, a streamer more closely connected to the Sonic series than either Vinny or Joel. Outside of this, Scott might get a from-scratch resprite (plus Beat but that's more on the fence compared to Scott) and one extra character, a remake of "Stevo" from a few net game servers, will be made and released as a separate add-on.
Further plans are TBD.