Go-No-Go inkJam 2018? Nope

Unfortunately for me, inkJam just wasn’t meant to be this year. I certainly learned and gained quite a bit in the limited time I had, but things come up and here’s how that went down:

Last Friday

I only became aware of the jam around 11am with it starting an hour later. Much of my lead-up time was spent reading the ink manual and getting a feel for the language. It’s certainly pretty neat, and quite easy to get your head around the basics.

As is usually the case with most jams, the optional theme was revealed when the event went live: “It’s not what you think.” Ironically enough, it wasn’t at all what I expected and I spent a reasonable amount of time just trying to think of some narrative or game mechanic that could fit or cater to it. Additionally, the problem was doubled since I was still learning the language and unsure what could or couldn’t be done in a weekend.

For the first few hours I started building micro-outlines to suss out what kind of story felt compelling given the constrains. Not too long after, unhappy and unsatisfied with what I had, I decided to just scrap the theme entirely and start writing whatever came to mind; if it eventually fit the theme, bonus.

I began fleshing out a location and group of characters I’ve been wanting to make use of for a few months. And, apparently, I really enjoyed these characters and playing with ink because I spent almost 12 hours just sitting, thinking, learning, experimenting, and writing. I had a somewhat passable first scene about halfway through the evening (around 9 or 10pm) that I used to test out the web export features; I spent the rest of the time furiously building out another character and his environment until I was way past my bedtime; finally calling it a night right about 2am.

Last Weekend

I was pretty busy Saturday (and a little brain-drained from the white-heat writing session the day before), so I didn’t have the time or energy to develop much more of the story. Instead, I spent the majority of my time trying to better understand the in and outs of ink. I was learning quickly and had a fairly strong grasp of the core language concepts and syntax, but that changed for the worse once I reached about the middle of the ink manual. Time for…

A Digression: What’s Wrong With ink?

Answer: It’s hard to learn and I think the manual is to blame. I’m not the biggest fan of Inky, the editor, either, but the first and most obvious thing to me after finishing the manual was that the structure of what they teach, when it’s presented, and how, often leaves more questions than answers. I would frequently question why the language acted the way it did; granted, they would somewhat explain and make sense of it later, but I very often felt like I was asked to mentally juggle multiple, off-putting and fragile concepts at once.

I’m not going to focus too much on specific wrongs; rather, I would like to present an alternative structure that I think would help ink become much easier to pick up without sacrificing technical depth.

  1. Make it essentially one long tutorial that covers a simple story from beginning to end. It should be well-known to virtually everyone and have simple, straightforward characters and dialog (e.g., Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Lion King, etc.). The story/tutorial would start with basic structures (e.g., just yes-no questions and basic variables) and slowly evolve into more advanced mechanics in the middle (maybe via simple, dice-based combat) and finally integrate the most complex concepts toward the end (such as threading and its odd state tracking mechanism). Bonus: it could include an appendix that shows some shortcuts and tips for how to improve areas that were built earlier with the more advanced techniques taught later.
  2. Only allowing for one syntax standard (and making it a strict standard) would drastically reduce confusion when trying to read or write ink. Trying to appeal to newbies with a dumbed-down version of the language will only serve to retard a learner’s ultra-important beginner-to-intermediate step.
  3. Create a compendium/wiki/etc., of available functions. Make it searchable. Give clear examples. For ideal’s sake, check out Dot Net Perls to find just about the best, clearest, most concise C# programming language resource available.

But I Digress…

I lost quite a bit of time on Saturday, but I figured I would make up with a day-and-a-half petal-to-the-metal photo finish. But that wasn’t going to happen. I really don’t want to get into the details of this on a public forum, but there was an emergency to tend to and a bad outcome at the end of it. So, unfortunately, it was a no go on the jam this year.

The Rest of the Story

All that being said, ink is quite impressive and I’ll certainly be using it again in the future — if only to finish my flippin’ story that I started.

Jams are great and exceptional for self and group education and edification, but they obviously shouldn’t be taken as a be-all, end-all ultimatum. It’s just simple fun. I don’t have much more to express except a bunch of redundant platitudes, and I’m not a big fan of doing that, so I’ll just tie things up from here.

However, I do want to at least give you an idea of what I was working on. It’s just the first scene/location right now, but I’ll be getting back to it slowly but surely. I’m not sure if I’ll be release updates piecemeal or wait until I get at least a few more locations finished and a general narrative arc (or something like that). But, for now, if you’re in the mood to read even more of my writing, here you go:

Scene 1: The Bar

This was the first version I made (i.e., the one made around 9pm last Friday). I was just getting started with the more advanced features at that point, but mostly focused on narrative. And, for better or worse, I’m going to keep focusing on the narrative, at least for this story. Because I feel like bringing this world to life, and I would like to do so in the way I was so often introduced to cool, weird worlds when I was a kid: through Choose Your Own Adventure books.

I hope you enjoyed what I’ve been playing around with so far and are looking forward to exploring a bit more of this new world with me in the future.

inkJam 2018

I think I’m going to join inkJam 2018, which starts in about 43 minutes and lasts for 72 hours (i.e., Monday at 12pm). It’s based on a scripting language called ink and has a companion app called inky (both found here) that allows for building branching, story-based games. Or, at least, that’s what I understand so far. I’m still reading about it.

Main concerns:

  1. Never used ink/inky before.
  2. Never built a story-based game before.
  3. Never creatively written for the public before.
  4. I have 40 minutes to figure out what the hell I’m doing.
  5. I have some actual work to do during the same time period.

Why this might be fun:

  1. I have a general idea for a story I think lots of people would enjoy.
  2. It’s been a while since I did any creative writing and could use the practice.
  3. I think I can make it work.
  4. If it does work, I learn some new stuff.
  5. If it doesn’t work, I learn even more (granted, it’s a harsher lesson).

Guess I should get back to doing some research; 34 minutes to go. Wish me luck~

[Edit: Sorry, it’s not “story-based games”, the more accurate term would be “interactive fiction”. 19 minutes.]

Sharp Words, (Hopefully) Pictures

There’re quite a few things on this site, designed or technical, that I’m itching to fix; but none is more literally painful than the WordPress blur that’s happening with these .jpg/.jpeg images.

I mean, just look at the post below this one: the new shirt. I don’t know about you, but the thumbnail picture is physically, overpoweringly awful on my eyes.

Never mind, I’ll just put it here:

Sorry, shirt… and everyone’s eyes.

What you’re looking at is a 1:1 (or thereabouts) .png-screenshot of the problem.

Even when this is all done and fixed… still awful. Forever. It’ll make a good before/after-thing.

So, here’s the promise:

In the not-so-distant future, I’m going to fix this and then present the solution right after this statement.

The Answer

Hello, Sunshine, my old friend.

It may not be super noticeable at first glance, but you should be able to spot the difference between this version and the one above. No worries if you can’t though, it’s relatively minor and this shirt in particular doesn’t make it as obvious as the changes I’ve seen in the other shirts.

So, the problem was simple but the answer tricked me a bit. In WordPress, you choose the dimensions for various sizes of pictures. For example, one size for thumbnails, another for medium image, and one for large images, as can be seen here:

When changing themes or making changes to them, it’s common to adjust these dimensions so that they better fit the current theme. And after adjusting them, it’s necessary to regenerate all the images so that those new dimensions are used. Well, I’ve been working on this theme quite a bit, but not just here. Not only on TForden.com. Most of the actual development happens offline in a staging site (i.e., a site used for testing and development).

While making changes to both this (the live site) and the staging site, I’ve had to change the thumbnail settings multiple times. However, it turns out that I forgot to regenerate the images on this side of the pond (the live site) after the last time I adjusted the media dimensions. Just a simple oversight that leads to a literal headache. It happens.

Since then, I’ve gone back and fixed all the old post images; everything should be fine from here on out. Huzzah.

“Triangular Interference” T-Shirt

How about a mashup between the 80s, 90s, and 2020s? Maybe not cyberpunk but certainly outrun/vaporwave-inspired, this shirt is a throwback to the halcyon sandy shores and ocean waves of my youth along the northern California and southern Oregon beaches. Maybe it can be the bearer of some swell memories for you too.

  • Fashion-forward, future-retro mashup style
  • Eye-catching, abstract ocean/sand design

Buy on Amazon

JQuery Loves DOM

A.k.a. …okay, I fixed it.

I don’t think I’ll become a poet any time soon, but I needed to release some stress stemming from a few CSS/jQuery bugs I’ve been dealing with; thus, the strange and beautiful(?) post from yesterday. (FYI: I’ve got nothing against ice cream, it just doesn’t do much for me.)

But before I get into the bad, a few things have gone well. You may notice a fancy new menu on the left (or above, for those on smaller screens). Nothing really significant, just the standard tree menu you would find on many sites, but I wanted to make it from scratch for a few reasons:

  1. To brush up on my jQuery.
  2. Ditto for CSS flexboxes.
  3. So I can make changes later.

The third point being somewhat important since a lot of premade menus will work quite well, but there’s often little to no customization possible. And, while it looks pretty good now, I want to play around with it some more and make it look really slick.

Flexbox is honestly a godsend and, once you get your head around it, you’ll save so much time with any kind of layout imaginable. Using floats to align items can be a little quicker sometimes (e.g., I use it for right aligning thumbnail images in posts — as seen in the T-Shirts! article). But for anything even slightly more serious, flexbox is the much better long-term choice. (If your interested in learning, I can’t recommend CSS-Tricks’ guide highly enough.)

And I just really like jQuery/Javascript. However, there are a few quirks I ran across (i.e., now for the bad), which mostly contributed to yesterday’s madness. For example, jQuery is a stickler for proper DOM, specifically meaning that you can’t add open HTML tags (i.e., no closing tag) — that would be invalid DOM. So you can’t do this:

some-html.before('<div class="newDiv">')
later-html.after('</div>')

This would result in <div class="newDiv"></div> coming before some-html with no closing tag (i.e., </div>) ever appearing later. JQuery really, really wants to close all tags ASAP. It’s not a big deal though, it’s easy enough to work around by using .wrap() instead of .before() and .after(), but it’s still kind of a pain for larger blocks of code.

There are still a few other bugs and additions to take care of before I can consider the theme complete (for now), but I’ll be putting those off for a bit in favor of adding more content and working on some shirts/wallpapers/etc.

[Edit: Just now noticing I need to update the CSS style for <pre><code> blocks (like for the bit above). Maybe tomorrow.]

So, in the meantime, just please don’t set your window size to exactly 927 pixels wide. Or, at least, don’t keep it there. The site doesn’t like that.

There’s a problem with the site…

…and I’m not going to fix it.

A.k.a. A Problem with Perfectionists


First thing’s first: If you know Javascript, you might as well know jQuery. It’s just such an obvious HTML/CSS/* step.

Second thing’s second: You can solve any problem. I bet you so much money you can. Generally, to me at least, it’s about willingness and strength of idea.

“Is it truly a wonderful thing?” –Yes
“How long can you hold on to that before it breaks you?” –Um.

Combining the two (satisfactorily) is hard.

Some things are easy:

Ice Cream
A lovely combination of cold (good for hot days) and sweet (good for always).

Now eat a 100 gallons of ice cream in 100 days.

Can you do it? Would you do it? Why would you do it?

To know why you love what you love is important.

I don’t like ice cream.

I do hate hot days though.

Can’t fix that.

T-Shirts!

Amazon has a relatively new program called Merch. The idea is this: Amazon pays for all the overhead and you make a brand, add some designs, choose what you want it to cost, and make the profit. Pretty simple. The idea’s been around for a while but no one’s obviously had the customer base that Amazon has.

There have been a few designs I’ve personally wanted for a while; so, I’ve gone ahead and created the TForden brand.

Enough preamble, here are the six designs I’ve come up with so far (click on a shirt to see a detailed view of the design):

Unbalanced

A simple, minimalist design that’s sure to turn a few heads. If there’s enough demand (and sales), I’d like to add a few extra colors and/or make some long-sleeve and sweatshirt versions.

  • Unique, minimalistic, art piece design
  • Trendy, eye-catching, casual wear

Buy on Amazon

Like the design? Get it as a wallpaper.

Dot Matrix Earth

Simple, sleek, dot matrix (i.e., made of dots) earth shirt. The minimalist style is great for working out or lounging around in.

  • Sleek Futuristic Dot Matrix T-shirt
  • Cool Simple Minimalistic Green Design

Buy on Amazon

Vaporwave Sunset

For lovers of electro-wave, the 80’s, and/or mondo cool aesthetics, here’s the shirt for you.

  • Nostalgic outrun/retrowave-style setting sun
  • Clean, rainbow color gradient w/ CRT-style interlace

Buy on Amazon

Icy North

I love winter — I know not everyone does, but I do — and this design was meant to evoke that: winter, mountains, glaciers, and the arctic. However, even if you don’t love the colder climates, you may enjoy the fashionable “draping necklace” structure or the cool, origami-style graphic.

  • Fashion-forward style at a reasonable price
  • Uniquely slimming, striped mountain graphic design

Buy on Amazon

Spicy Heart

A shirt for those who truly love the hottest of the hot, el mas caliente de la caliente, there’s no better way to show your mettle of the mouth than with this fiery shirt. A clean, minimalist shirt that shows what matters, not only do you love the spice, you’re made from it.

Just be aware: By waving this red-hot flag, there will be plenty who want to see if you can handle your stuff. Not for the faint of heat.

  • Uniquely cool, geometric/wireframe design
  • Combination heart/pepper iconography

Buy on Amazon

Half-Star

A clean, minimalistic shirt design that makes a great joke gift, but also something that lets the world know you don’t take yourself too seriously.

  • Fun, friendly, and self-depricating
  • Simple, elegant design

Buy on Amazon

Human Circuit

A colorful, empowering graphic that works great for your morning exercise, meditation, or yoga routine; sport it to flaunt your fashion-forward style; rock it to symbolize your love and support of LGBT+ rights; or don it and get in touch with your Chakra while bingeing your favorite show. There are no wrong answers!

  • Fashionable chakra-inspired, geometric design
  • Simple, bright, uplifting colors and symbology

Buy on Amazon

A Few Other Things…

Sorry for the abundance of puns.

All shirts come in a variety of colors for men, women, and kids.

And one caveat before I go: So far, these designs only available via the US (.com), UK (.co.uk), and German (.de) Amazon sites. If you don’t happen to live in one of those countries and can’t wait, I think you can still buy them and ship them from those sites, it just might be a bit more expensive and a longer wait.

There are still more ideas and designs in the works, and I’ll be adding them here as soon as they’re approved on Amazon.

So, which (if any) of these designs made an impression on you? Any favorites? Any subjects or designs you’d like to see? Let me know in the comments. See ya soon~

Bug Hunting

I’ve been updating the site for about the last week now. It’s mostly been lots of little things:

  • Fixed a few broken HTML/CSS elements.
  • Added some pages (with many more on the way).
  • Integrated responsive design by way of a dropdown menu for small devices (change the window size or screen orientation to see it in action).
  • And other, dumb, technical odds and ends.

There’s also a pet project I’ve been working on that I’m super stoked to reveal, but I have a few more things to take care of for now, so look forward to that announcement tomorrow or the next day.

In the meantime, I’d recommend checking out my new desktop wallpapers. I think they’re cool, and, while they are made for desktops, they translate to mobile devices pretty well (just takes a bit more effort).

Please keep in mind, the site will be a bit disorderly while all these updates are happening. Things may look strange for a bit, but whatever the problem is will be ironed out soon enough.

Thanks for stopping by; see you soon.