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Iceplug Downloads

Platform Tour v1.0.4 with WAVs (VB.NET 2003) 452 MB Windows XP, Vista, 7 Uses DirectX 9 RAM usage: 80MB Project Page
Platform Tour v1.0.4 (VB.NET 2003) 6.61 MB Windows XP, Vista, 7 Uses DirectX 9 RAM usage: 80MB Project Page
Power II: The Island Demo (VB.NET 2003) 3.41 MB Windows XP, Vista, 7 Uses DirectX 9 RAM usage: 40MB Project Page
Blocks: Extended Renderer Version (VB.NET 2003)137 KB Windows XP, Vista, 7 No DirectX RAM usage: 20MB Project Page
Quadrill v1.1.2 (VB.NET 2003) 1.57 MB Windows XP, Vista, 7 Uses DirectX 9 RAM usage: 70MB Project Page
Quadrill v2.1.2 (VB.NET 2003) 1.42 MB Windows XP, Vista, 7 Uses DirectX 9 RAM usage: 80MB Project Page
Quadrill v3.1.1 (VB.NET 2003) 1.17 MB Windows XP, Vista, 7 Uses DirectX 9 RAM usage: 120MB Project Page
Quadrill v4.1.1 (VB.NET 2003) 2.88 MB Windows XP, Vista, 7 Uses DirectX 9 RAM usage: 180MB Project Page
Quadrill 4 Full (VB6) 4.52 MB Windows XP Uses DirectX 7 RAM usage: 80MB Project Page
Quadrill 4 Demo (VB6) 1.41 MB Windows XP Uses DirectX 7 RAM usage: 80MB Project Page
Jump-Cross (VB.NET 2003) 109 KB Windows XP, Vista, 7 No DirectX RAM usage: 20MB Project Page
Quadrill 3 full version (VB6) 530 KB Windows XP Uses DirectX 7 RAM usage: 50MB Project Page
Quadrill 3 map editor. (VB6), 200 KB
Syntax Highlighter (VB.NET 2003), 23 KB
Guide on How to Use the .NET programs on my website.

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Iceplug News

Jul 25 2017, 13:19
Cuphead Revisited
A while back (early September), I wrote an article about the journalist having difficulty in Cuphead, from which I went on to talk about the skills assumed by video game purchasers and players about the person reviewing the game, the stance about making a tutorial that is acceptable to all or indicative of the general skill level of the game, and about assumptions that video game players make at their baseline level.
I'd like to revisit the idea that video game developers posed about making the tutorial for Cuphead more straightforward (a.k.a. easier). The issue is that, back in September, I surmised that the tutorial's difficulty would be indicative of a game that assumes the player is experienced or at least somewhat familiar with the genre (Cuphead is a game reminiscent of Contra and Mega Man; a side-scrolling shooter or, as the game calls it and to my own chagrin, a run-and-gun). Now that Cuphead has been released, it turns out that Cuphead is a "fairly difficult" game. Personally, I feel that Cuphead is "difficult by today's standards", but I'd hesitate to say that I call it difficult.
The first thing I thought back to was the tutorial comment. If the tutorial were made easier to encourage the player not to "give up at the tutorial and refund the game right away", then what would be of the final game? It would certainly be a sharp constrasting difficulty between the tutorial and the game, leaving the player feeling that the tutorial was not adequate in preparing for the game, when, in fact, the tutorial did not prepare the player for the pace of the game. Next is the idea that, if the tutorial were made easier, would the entire game be made easier? Certainly, that seems to be the next logical step if the tutorial isn't "straightforward" (easy) enough. This almost certainly starts going against the aim of the developers. Yet, there is still support for it.
Statements along the lines of "developers develop games to be experienced and yet hide the experience behind a wall of difficulty" and "there's nothing wrong with making an easier difficulty setting for the game" speak to people's desires that Cuphead be an easier game to play. However, this is a slippery slope. Who gets to make the decision that a certain game needs to be easier? Who defines when a game is too difficult? Will this eventually devolve into large bundles of games released in the upcoming years that the average gamer nowadays will find not particularly challenging? In fact, there doesn't even seem to be a consistent measurement for personal levels of difficulty. Certainly, difficulty is subjective, but that doesn't mean that it is undescribable. Personally, my stance on difficulty is that it is a frequency of failure in combination with the penalty for failure. This is much in line with the concept of risk: probability of failure in combination with the penalty of failure.
In addition, do difficulty games *need* a setting for easier difficulty just so that the less-capable gamer can experience it? I would argue that difficult games, in and of themselves, are already closing off their audience to the most capable. Again, as mentioned last time, the developers of difficult games and their tutorials "know their audience". Is there truly a need for a development team with a completed game to hold off their release so that a six-year-old or other non-proficient person can beat it on an easier difficulty?
The next question: does it tarnish your experience to complete a game heralded as being difficult that is easily beaten by a sizable portion of the population? Is it acceptable to feel good about yourself for doing something that someone else is incapable of doing? Personally, I think so. After all, not everyone can be a university professor, CEO of a million-dollar corporation, or a professional football player. Everyone is trying to find their niche in life and it's only a problem if the situation is basic. For instance, it's acceptable to reject someone for not having a clean bill of health if they're going to a space mission, but it's not acceptable to reject someone for not having a clean bill of health if they're going to vote. Video game difficulties are like this: it's okay to limit the audience, because everyone is not required to play the video game and the video game's sales will, more than likely, be reduced to account for their smaller audience. It's selfish to then try to tarnish the game for having a smaller audience when they're also having to deal with a smaller number of sales. (Part of this also comes with the idea that video game sales are very random, with greatly developed games getting smaller sales numbers in comparison to games such as Goat Simulator)
Then, how far does this idea go? What if Cuphead was instead, a game about divisive concepts presented from a destructive point-of-view? We've certainly seen games like this (being released and generating lots of media attention) make considerable sales figures. Is there an obligation to tarnish a game for spreading a bad message? It seems like a tricky idea, but I'll assert it this way: games about divisive concepts (that is, a game where the controversy surrounds non-game elements) are, by the topics that they bring up, accepting and requesting the discussion and resultant fallout, whereas games that remove part of their audience by having a higher difficulty do not request a corresponding fallout.
Certainly, the discussion can still be had. However, talking poorly about a game being too difficult is a concept that I don't understand. I liken it to students that think math is terrible just because they're terrible at it: it doesn't change the fact that math has led to numerous inventions and other quality-of-life improvements. Video games aren't math, yet every thing in the world is not for everyone.

Sep 18 2017, 12:53
AGDQ Registration Math
September 9th, AGDQ 2018 registration opened and within roughly 24 hours, registration closed. I registered the morning of the 10th under the assumption that registration would not fill up overnight (this assumption is based on an observed tendency for video gamers and associated groups to stay up until 2am - 3am and then tucker out), despite numerous Twitter posts expressing the usual expected surprise that registration is filling up faster than expected (SGDQ 2017 earlier this year filled its registration slots in about eight days while AGDQ 2017 filled registration in just over 2 months).
After registering and due to the exorbitant amount of tweets detailing the number of slots available for registration, I decided to estimate how long until registration would remain open. It was pretty clear at that point that registration would be full before September 11th and, instead of just following what everyone else was doing (posting the number of tweets), I wanted to post this estimate.
So, up to this point I had observed tweets at certain times mentioning the number of slots available or, slightly less desirable, the percentage of slots available. I compiled these into a short little table (along with the information available when I registered):
Registration opened at 9:30pm (0)
370/1850 slots were taken at 9:51pm yesterday (1)
615/1850 slots were taken at 10:31pm yesterday (2)
925/1850 slots were taken at 11:44pm yesterday (3)
1207/1850 slots were taken at 7:17am today (4)

I convinced myself that the rate at which slots are being taken corresponds to there being a set number of people who wish to attend and that the number of slots taken would asymptotically approach the total number of people who wish to attend, but unfortunately not be able to because of the attendance cap. Thus, I modeled this as an exponential buildup, which roughly translates into the idea that if a certain number of people registered in the last amount of time, that number will double in a slightly longer amount of time.
Think of this as an equation like N(t) = M * (1 - e-αt), where t is the time that registration has been open and N is the number of people registered at any given time. M then reflects the number of people who want to go to AGDQ 2018, and α is just a term which reflects how fast people are registering. I can discern roughly from the original points (0-3) that registration is not increasing linearly, since 370 people registered over the first 20 minutes, but the next 40 minutes only saw an additional 245 registrants, and another 310 registrants in the following 75 minutes. Therefore, I made the exponential buildup equation to model the AGDQ 2018 behavior.
This worked up until my registration at 7:17 in the morning which only showed an increase of less than 300 registrants over the next 8 hours, but this can be easily explained by my assumption well at the beginning of this post: video gamers like to stay up until 2am - 3am and taking this into account, I decided to skip over about four hours here and assume that no one would register for these four hours.
This put my curve at a better shape, but the data points in the middle still didn't match up.
I gave up, scrapped the curve, and just eyeballed a value where 1850 would fit. This meant that I put in a value of 1400, noting that the curve looked about right (1400 minutes corresponds to about 22.5 hours after registration opened, or 8:00pm. The problem now is that I need to take into account that there are more people online later in the day than there are in the mid-morning. This then means that the rate that I was observing in the morning would be slower than the rate that would be observed at, perhaps, 5pm, so I rolled back my time to 7:30pm. Realizing that it was currently almost 7:30am, I tweeted my prediction of 12 hours from now at 7:17am to a very convinced crowd:
Wouldn't you believe that I was correct, at least to the hour? In actuality, registration was hit at 6:57pm, which was within Twitter timestamp rounding accuracy of my proclaimed 7:17pm registration closing time "12 hours from now".

Sep 9 2017, 8:40
Here's a video games journalist playing a videogame very poorly
The game is Cuphead, to be specific, and the game journalist did not ultimately turn this into a review. Thank goodness. Online reaction to this video was swift, questioning this guy's credentials as a video game reviewer and even as someone who is just in video games as business. The problem is that this is just a person who plays video games, is playing a genre that they admit as their own weakpoint, and has a lot of learning to do to play this game. He just *happens* to be a video game reviewer.
The first concern that is brought up is from people who fear that there doesn't seem to be that many credentials to being a video game reviewer. All you have to do is like video games and have good writing skills and you get the job. I admittedly don't know much about what it is to be part of a video game journalism team, but I am more inclined to believe that video games journalists have to meet similar standards that regular journalists have to meet: fact-checking, how to present information, final check by some editor or something, etc. The point is that I don't know how well video game journalists are required to know their games. Apparently, the public shares this uncertainty and yet it's very difficult to then provide a wholly encompassing set of requirements of the ability of a journalist to have in order to review a game.
The fallout, of course, begins with sweeping generalizations, which, in addition to raising the issue, throw sweeping generalizations at video game journalism as a whole, which certainly does not help the situation. "How can we trust videogame reviewers if they play like this?" The problem with sweeping generalizations is that there are people who actually believe them at face value: there are people who hear it and then immediately conclude that every single person in an 86-member review company does reviews like this. Whereas level-headed individuals would then rightfully question the generalization, "Surely, every journalist doesn't do this", there's that small impressionable mind that goes right along with it and suddenly, their trust in journalism is shook. For this point, people (journalists, developers, and others) have to then defend the rest of videogame journalism to those gullible minds. No, every journalist is not secretly trash at their game. Most journalists have been playing videogames for as long, if not longer, than the audience that they entertain.
But then, the question remains: "How many are bad at the games they play?" "How many times has a review blasted a game for having terrible controls when the reviewer was just new to an established genre?" "How many times has a game been punished for a bland storyline when the player didn't bother to pay attention to it?" "How many games have been described as being cheaply difficult when the reviewer failed to pay attention to the warning signs?" Ultimately, we may never know. Reviewers are just like people: they have faults and generally address the ones that they know about. In addition, everyone has opinions. Everyone can let their audience know about their opinion. The important part is that not every opinion is valuable and it's up to the audience to determine if an opinion is valuable. If I don't trust a certain reviewer's rigor in analyzing a game, I ignore their review. I even ignore reviews of reviewers that I am familiar with if it seems like they did not perform to my satisfaction level.
It's easy to then turn around and condemn the entire reading audience, "You can't just ignore a reviewer just because they said that a game is too hard." Of course not, since that brings me back to the paragraph before this. It's important that both the journalist and the reader understand both of their roles in the review and what's expected of each other.
The other side of the issue is videogame developers encountering someone who plays your game like this. While some developers accept that some people will play their game as if they haven't played the game before, some defended the journalist by arguing that the tutorial is not clear enough. "The tutorial expects the player to think for themselves and combine two ideas." "The player is taught to jump over the box instead of onto the box." This is one of the difficult problems that developers have to face and it ultimately comes down to knowing your audience. A person who argued that the tutorial was too difficult noted that if you have a young child (or an adult that is unfamiliar with the genre, in this case), requiring too much of them in the tutorial can just cause them to quit and refund the product. On the other side of things, players that are more well-versed in 2D shooting platformers would, perhaps, have no difficulty with the tutorial and would be more turned off by a more "holding your hands" tutorial. Of course, with two different takes on this, naturally, both sides of the development philosophy then argue that their side is correct. Regardless, as a developer, you should know which audience your game is geared to. If it is geared towards newer players, then your tutorial must be, as previously mentioned, airtight. Every obstacle must test a specific skill set, and every skill must be thoroughly described. If it is geared towards the intermediate-level player, then your tutorial only needs to cover controls and non-traditional ideals (which is what I would assert that the tutorial is doing here). You don't need to teach how to jump over things in this style; simply saying that A is jump and presenting a box to jump over is adequate. Things like airdash are then alluded to in the tutorial. A sufficiently knowledgable player could figure out how to do it just by knowing which buttons do things.
Of course, you could argue that there is a way to do tutorials that both beginners will understand and experts won't be dismayed by. A person who is reasonably good at the game could just skip them (if available, and it should be, in my opinion) or go through them with great ease, quickly getting into the actual game and faster than a normal player. How high does the skill ceiling go? Even Super Meat Boy isn't afraid of killing you with hard tricks in the first world. Wouldn't you expect that the difficulty of the tutorial translates into the ultimate difficulty of the game?
The other thing to note about this video: this video is easily people that you know that have played games before. In the case of the reviewer, it's important for the reviewer to get the trust of their audience. For a consumer, there is usually no audience and thus there is no necessity to win their trust. Usually. The exception, of course, is consumers that have audience. These are the people who play games and upload them to their YouTube channel or play them on Twitch. What does this mean? Well, again, everyone is a person and is going to mess something up at some time. You expect them to learn the game from the ground up, just like a normal player does. You expect them to make gross mistakes due to forgetting important information and having to backtrack to get it. All of these are normal experiences that any videogame player gets. The exception, of course, is when the player confuses of their simple shortcomings with shortcomings of the game. Both of these ideas exist and both perpetuate each other. A shortcoming of the game can cause the player to fall short. A player's shortcoming causes the game to appear offputting. Personally, I respect players a lot if they can admit their own shortcomings, but too frequently, I see players that insist that every difficulty that they encounter within the game is a fault of the game itself. It's strange, I don't understand it, and, with the exception of the game controls, it's not like the viewing audience can't tell if the problem is due to the game. I frequently see things like, "The game didn't explain this very clearly", when I'm watching them read it. So, when I see this tutorial, I also see some YouTuber struggling to jump up to this platform, ranting about anything in the world, riling themselves up, and then blasting the game for having a difficult section.
It's like you expect to run into a difficult obstacle and then get surprised that you ran into it.
"But certainly, all YouTubers / Twitch streamers don't do this." Of course not. Those YouTubers / Twitch streamers that have earned my trust by acknowledging their shortcomings receive more value in their assessment of the videogame that they're playing. The bottom line is that trust has to be earned from all parties involved. Generalizing the entirety of some group or asserting your opinion as the only valid viewpoint devalues your opinion immediately. Honesty and relatability help build trust between the parties involved.
Side note: remember that the videogame journalist that played the above video did not write a review for the game.
P.S.
I often see people ridicule the idea that "videogame journalists should be good at their games". The idea is that a videogame journalist puts themselves in a position to accurately experience the game. There's nothing preventing people from watching a videogame and then writing a review about it despite never actually playing the game. The problem is the value that their review brings. If they play videogames like a seven-year-old, I will value their opinion commensurate with their demonstrated ability, and I don't take videogame recommendations or value opinions from seven-year-olds.
"Do all sports reporters need to be professional athletes?" - I suppose this made sense in someone's mind without thinking it through. Sports reporters are reporting to an audience of television watchers, not professional athletes. Sports reporters are only required to anticipate the thoughts of people who like watching sports, not just of those who participate in sports. Equivalently, video game journalists are not writing about games just for people who like to watch let's plays; they're writing for people who want to play them. Know your audience.

Aug 16 2017, 19:36

Testing PNG files.

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The story of Iceplug:
Iceplug - sting ray (NOT A MANTA RAY!) that swims in cold waters, usually near the poles, though mostly in the south, near Antarctica. The average babies are born at about a foot long and wide (they look like squares) and are usually a light orange and translucent. After about 6 months, they become more opaque and start to take on a bluer color. Their tail can grow to almost 5 feet, and the adult Iceplug grows to about 25 feet. Not to be outdone, most adults create stashes of coral in their homes and forge them into tridents (which are actually quite effective weapons).

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