General Update Log No. 10: Happy New Year Edition

So 2022 has come and gone, and with it another shitty year. I wasn’t able to get much done on my end, either, aside from what few commissions I received. You may think that, with my eight months of radio silence since the last blog post, I must’ve been up to something huge behind the scenes… but I really wasn’t. Most of the year was spent in complete listlessness, with only the occasional burst of productivity before I immediately burned out again.

Will 2023 be any better, then? I sure hope so. At the very least I’ve been going into it feeling somewhat more optimistic than how I left 2022, thanks to the realization that I’m going to have to give myself a kick in the pants from time to time and stay organized if I want anything to change… Easier said than done, of course, but then again, nothing’s easy to do if you’ve been spending weeks if not months at a time just coasting by with the minimum of effort to stay afloat.

Enough moping around, then. Thinking about everything I could’ve done and didn’t do isn’t gonna make me feel any better about myself, after all. It’d be a much better use of my time and energy to focus on what I can do going forward, and despite my pessimistic tone, I can’t say that I haven’t already gotten started on exactly that.

See, it’s not much, but I’ve started doing daily figure sketches as of a few days ago. Found this video series on YouTube with each video about half an hour long as it starts you off with short sketches before gradually increasing the timer. I’ve only been at it for a few days, but I can already feel the rust slowly starting to come off and my overall skills improving, even if it’s not always a straight line upwards. Maybe I should try something similar with music sometime, challenging myself to compose a full track within one or two hours.

Speaking of music, you may remember me wanting to release a new album in 2022. Well, that obviously didn’t happen, but I do hope I can finally work on one this year. I just need to get started; that’s really the hardest part of it all, and something I have to go through every time I finish a song and want to write another.

At any rate, that’s my resolution for 2023. Working on myself and getting over all those fears that prevent me from doing the things I want to do… and the only way to do so is to follow Nike’s advice and be persistent about it.

Oh, and it also hasn’t eluded me that next month will be Retrograde Road’s 10-year anniversary. Obviously I can’t just not commemorate it.

General Update Log No. 9

You wouldn’t believe these update logs were originally supposed to be a bi-weekly occurrence, given my sporadic schedule with them. In fact, this is the first new log of the year — at least of its kind.

But without further ado, let’s get you up to speed on what I’ve been up to since late December, shall we?

Starting with my personal health (both physical and mental), I’ve been doing what I can to thrive. Getting into a consistent and rigorous workout schedule, keeping track of my calories and other nutrients (primarily protein intake) with an app, which has surprisingly led me to lose even more weight… though I’ll have to say that I’m also starting to see some actual gains. My legs have gotten a lot more firm over the course of last month, I’ve clearly been burning fat, I’m a lot more flexible now (albeit still not as flexible as I’d like to be), and overall I’m definitely very happy with the direction my body is headed. This month I’ve made the switch to push and pull days, and I’m already looking forward to the extra muscle it’ll help me put on.

Mentally, I’ve been having the occasional slump here and there (lasting from anywhere between a few days to a few weeks), but I’m making an effort to keep on top of things. I’ve started a gratitude journal, trying to list at least three things that I’m grateful for every night before bed, and I’ve also adopted the practice of making a daily to-do list with three items. Most of the time that includes tasks I need to get out of the way, but sometimes I can’t think of a full three things, so I stretch it with more mundane stuff like “work out” or “take a shower”. Writing this blog post is actually one of my tasks for today, so that should tell you how that’s been going for me.

On the topic of productivity, I’m also making an effort to try and minimize time spent doing nothing, especially early in the day: all too often to I find myself falling into the trap of thinking “it’s still early in the day, so I’ve got plenty of time to get everything done”, only to keep putting my tasks off until — oops — suddenly the day is already over and I haven’t actually gotten anything done at all. That kinda stuff. One of the measures I’ve started taking was making an effort to get out of bed as soon as I wake up, rather than staying in there for up to an hour or more just checking my phone. An early rise and a rigid schedule (breakfast at 8, music work from 9am to 1pm, lunch at 1pm, etc.) have definitely been helping a lot.

That said, I still need to find a full-time job, and despite all the systems I’ve put in place and habits I’m in the process of adopting, writing applications is something I’ve been putting off for close to a year now, so ideally I’ll at least have some sent out by the time the month is over. I’d definitely like to find a job in software engineering — or web design, seeing as I’ve been doing a lot of tinkering with the Retrograde Road website over the months, the latest additions being download counters, as well as a password-protected analytics page.

…which segues nicely into my creative endeavors that I want to talk about next. Regarding music commissions, I’m proud to say that I’ve already finished more commissions within the first four months of 2022 than I have throughout all of 2021: Four commissions and counting. As usual, you can find and listen to them in this playlist (except for one commission which I haven’t posted yet because I’m waiting for the client to use it himself first).

And of course, as usual, keep your eyes peeled on my Twitter, since I plan on reopening soon.

Regarding my other projects, the second game of the Mukai Project has… not exactly started development yet, but I’ve begun getting my feet wet with it again, creating a few assets and drafting up an all-new design doc. It’s not much to write home about yet, particularly since my priorities still lie elsewhere, but know that I’m chomping at the bit to get some serious work done on it as soon as I can.

What I need to prioritize instead is my third album (if Proto-Unreality Replication is counted as the first). I’d been wanting to get it released this year, but May has already started, and with that, a third of the year has already passed me by without any progress made whatsoever. I’m going to have to get the ball rolling on this one very soon, especially as the music isn’t all there is to the album. I’ll still need to draw an album cover and design the booklet, and the former in particular means having to derust and repolish my art skills.

But speaking of music, you can expect me to release a new non-commission, non-album, non-soundtrack song very soon. If not this week, then definitely the next. I just need to make a video for it, like for all the others… and honestly? I’m very excited to show it to you guys. It’s really, really good, and coming from me, that should mean something.

That’s it from me for now, though. I hope this update was long enough to be worth the lack of news from me otherwise. Stay healthy, stay safe, stay vigilant, and as always, thank you for your continued support!

9-Year Anniversary and a Much-Needed Name Change

Hello, Popfan here!

We’re now almost a full month-and-a-half into the new year. Hope all of you are doing well, staying healthy, staying safe. As of last month, I’ve picked up my regular workouts again and started taking walks every morning, though while I’m still not sure if it’s had much of an effect on my body yet, it does make me feel a lot better about myself. Having a consistent morning routine is really nice…

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, though. What I’ve really wanted to talk about was the circle itself, because it’s going to go through a really big change right now.

Exactly nine years ago, I woke up to find myself added to a Skype group by Spaztique, where I met FullHitPoints, someone who I was told knew how to write games. With his coding expertise, Spaz’s writing and music, and my design ideas, we felt like we had a very real chance at making Endless Blue happen. Obviously it didn’t in the end, but that was the day our team was founded, which we eventually settled on naming “Team Gaijin Alex” — a pretty blatant pastiche of “Team Shanghai Alice”, since we saw ourselves as sort of the western counterpart (back in 2013, the western fangame scene was still practically nonexistent, to put it into perspective) and we really wanted to get our foot in the door making lots of Touhou fangames and music albums.

We had big ambitions… and failed to fulfill any single one of them. Endless Blue got canned, MajiKana got cancelled and we lost out on the opportunity to get a legitimate console port, the guy we brought on to draw character art eventually flaked on us, and even Spaztique and FullHitPoints eventually retired from the team due to all of us growing up and having new priorities to focus on in life. It took over five years for this team to finish and release something that was actually tangible and playable, and that was, for all intents and purposes, a one-man project.

Their sensibilities weren’t the only ones to change over time, either. Last month, I looked back and began seriously reconsidering the (at the time) current team name. Was that really what I wanted to be about? Nothing more than an imitation of something or someone else? I’m barely even all that invested in the Touhou fangame dev scene anymore to begin with. My music has been becoming a work of my own, not overtly connected to Touhou in any way, and while chain of lucidity is obviously from an era where I was still comfortable simply aping Touhou in terms of design philosophy, I plan on carving out my own niche for future games, or at least stop wearing my inspirations on my sleeve.

And so I sat down and began thinking long and hard about what I could rename the circle to, and after several hours of just writing down my stream of consciousness, the end result is:

I didn’t want or need too drastic a change, so the visual design is still the same as before, but I feel like this new name summarizes my current outlook on life fairly succinctly. Allow me to explain…

“Retrograde” means to move backwards — or, in the case of the kanji I picked for the Japanese version of the name, to be facing backwards. The road, on the other hand, is a metaphor for how far I’ve come, and how much further I’ve yet to go. Not just in terms of the creative work I produce, but also my sensibilities, my personal growth, the overall progression of my life… I suppose that, if you’re moving forward while looking back, then you’re also walking backwards — “moving in retrograde”, if you will.

I’ve always been a sucker for nostalgia. Memories of my earliest childhood from playing Mega Drive games, later on PS1 games; my early teenage years marking the rediscovery of the former, realizing that I didn’t break our console, after all, and spending a lot of time with it in addition to playing Master System games on an emulator; then my late teens, where I began playing PSO1 with friends and uploading gameplay videos to YouTube; my early adult years when I first got into game development and attended Touhoucon; all the work I put into COL and other projects, as well as the payoff when I was finally able to release them…

In other words: no matter the time period, I’ll always have at least one nostalgic memory from it that I can think back to for solace and comfort. And I know that I will keep making new memories I can be nostalgic for in the years to come. I’ve realized that this is what life is about for me: not to live in and yearn for the past, but to have past, present and future all coexist in my mind. To make the most of my present in order to have an exciting and fulfilling life, so that I can look back on it from time to time and realize just how much I’ve accomplished, how much has actually happened.

The worst thing anyone can do is to just waste their days away doing nothing. You only have this one life, after all — make it worth your while. And yes, I know… depression and other mental illnesses and disorders can make it very difficult to get up and do even the most basic things to sustain yourself. I’ve been there, and I’m not intending to portray myself as some kind of success story about how I overcame all my inner demons and got on that grind or whatever other buzzwords motivational speakers and self-made entrepreneurs are spouting these days. It’s perfectly okay if it takes time. It’s perfectly okay if you’re a late starter. You’re no less of a person for being trapped in your own misery and listlessness. After all, it took me nine years to come to this realization for myself, to finally find the strength and the support I needed in order to get started making those changes to my life — and I’m still nowhere close to out of the woods.

If you can, then by all means work as hard as you’re able to in order to create your own nostalgia. But if you can’t, then feel free to partake in mine for as long as you need and want.

Because this Retrograde Road is wide enough for all of us.

General Update Log No. 8: End-of-Year Edition

Time flies by quickly when there’s a pandemic going on, doesn’t it? With 2021 coming to an end, I hope you had a happy celebration of whichever holiday your culture and/or religion observes. Stay healthy, stay safe, stay vaccinated, and let’s all do our part to make sure 2022 is the last year we’ll have to deal with this nonsense.

With that out of the way, I thought I’d take this occasion to give a recap of my activities over the course of this year, as well as what I have planned for the next year.

For starters, the blog itself has seen more activity than in any previous year. It had occurred to me that, given my sparse output of new works, I should start these update logs, just to keep people up-to-date and myself accountable — not that it was all that effective at that, no thanks to my life itself being a rollercoaster ride for my mental health, with far more downs than ups. At least things are starting to look up again in that regard, though, and I’ll continue to further work on myself the next year.

As for TGA-related stuff, I’ve managed to…

  • Draw something for TGA’s 8th anniversary
  • Release a new album
  • Redesign and overhaul the website
  • Create a Discord server
  • Release one final update for COL
  • Take and complete no less than three song commissions

All things considered, I’d say it was quite the productive year for me. I’ve also resurrected my YouTube channel, but the game videos I’ve been uploading on there aren’t quite within the scope of this team’s activities, so of course I didn’t put them on the above list.

Recently, the website has also surpassed 500,000 hits. Thank you all for your continued interest and support! If I had any amount of confidence in my drawing skills at the moment, I’d definitely be drawing something to commemorate the occasion. As it stands, though, you’ll just have to take this single paragraph instead.

On the topic of music commissions, they’ll continue to be open for the foreseeable future. Go here if you want to apply for one, and see here for a collection of tracks I’ve written over the years! My Twitter will be where you can be kept up-to-date, should the situation change in any way. I’m looking forward to your patronage.

Regarding the next year, I have the following resolutions:

To start with, obviously I want to begin development for the second game in the Mukai Project as soon as possible, preferably as early as January. I have my doubts that I’ll be able to actually finish it within the year, but I may or may not keep a public devlog.

I also plan to work on a new album and have it finished and put up for sale before the end of the year. Even for a 10-track album, it should be doable so long as I keep on top of my game with my time management and work ethic.

Additionally, in order to keep my momentum going with regards to composing, I’m going to aim for posting at least one new song every month, whether that be a commission or something I wrote for myself.

After years of burnout, I’m going to renew my efforts to get back into drawing again, as well. A lot of it is going to be practicing the basics, but training my mindset is also important so that I don’t end up burning out again.

Finally, just as a personal thing, I plan on taking the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test next July in order to try and get at least N3. I don’t really have any use for it other than bragging rights, but sometimes, that’s all the motivation you need.

And I believe that’s about it. Happy new year, and see you in 2022!

A Word on Release Deadlines (from someone who sucks at keeping them)

EDIT (3 October 2020): I just remembered that Michirin also had troubles with her computer during the development of MajiKana, so I made mention of that.

Hello, Popfan here! This is going to be a bit of a different type of blog post that I was originally going to just write as a Twitter thread instead, but with the scope I’m anticipating it to be, I figured it’d work better here.

So, as most of you are probably aware by now, Touhou Gouyoku Ibun got delayed yet again, and you’ve got people who are absolutely pissed at it. (One clown with a particularly bad case of brainrot even went around claiming that ZUN is responsible for the delays, another clown is using the delays to try and make himself look good and push his own fangame.) Admittedly, I haven’t been following the events too closely until now, so I don’t have good enough of an overall picture to provide accurate commentary on the situation, but from what I can tell, the issues are lack of communication and transparency on Tasofro’s end (something that Unabara Iruka, the lead programmer of the team, has acknowledged and taken the L on by now), as well as just a series of unforeseen circumstances.

Keep in mind that we are in the middle of a global pandemic right now, and if it isn’t team members falling ill that’s disrupting production, then it’s likely the mandated social distancing making it impossible for all of the members to work as closely with each other as they may be accustomed to. Granted, many small-scale hobbyist dev groups (particularly ones that I know personally) are composed of members from literally all over the world who each do their part for a project from the confines of their own home, coordinating their work via Discord servers or similar means of communication. They obviously wouldn’t be as affected by social distancing, at the very least not with regards to their workflow. I don’t know exactly how Tasofro usually work together, and it might have always been with everyone at home, but given that they all live in the same country and show up at conventions like Comiket and Reitaisai, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them having a shared office or something, either.

Of course, mental health plays a big role in work ethic and productivity, too, and in this day and age in particular, it’s more volatile than ever.

The point I’m trying to make is that deadlines aren’t a binding contract. They’re not a 100% guarantee for when a game will be released, least of all when we’re talking about an indie dev team, a group of friends making a game for fun, or even a solo developer, and if you’re the type of person who gets angry at a game for not getting released and then takes that frustration out on the developer(s), you honestly need to check your entitlement. Missing a deadline doesn’t mean the dev team is lazy, and even if they are, so what? A notifications feed full of angry and destructive messages isn’t going to boost their morale, and if you’re at the point where you wouldn’t even buy/play the game anymore but still feel the need to harass developers, log the hell off, go outside, and touch some grass.

With that out of the way, I thought I’d talk a little bit about my own relationship with deadlines, as those of you who know me also know that I don’t exactly have a good track record with meeting them. To hopefully give you a glimpse inside a developer’s mind.

Personally, I’d come to see them as a way to boost productivity, such as back in 2017, when I wanted to release the demo version of COL in October and the full version no later than December. The idea was to get everything done before October (all the stages, bosses, endings, assets, you name it), then spend the next two months on testing, fixing bugs and making balance adjustments. I was actually able to meet the October deadline for the demo, but unfortunately missed the December deadline because creative drought kicked in and I couldn’t come up with anything for the final boss theme.

Still, though, with those deadlines in place, and the desire to meet them, I was able to complete pretty much half the game (i.e. finish all the stages and make the endings) in less than three months after trucking along for over a year barely finishing the core engine and part of stage 1.

The above is one of my only few success stories, though. For an example of a project that went horribly wrong, let’s look at MajiKana next: We started development on that in early 2015, aimed for a demo release in early July, nailed it, then expected to have the whole game done by the end of the same year. It would have been simple enough: just 8 stages with maybe a few unique setpieces here and there… but then we got contacted by Super Fighter Team wanting to create a genuine console port, and we began to feel like the game had to look a lot more impressive.

And that was the beginning of the feature creep that eventually killed the game. We added different types of magic projectiles that were simple enough. Then we had the idea of adding different melee weapons, each one drastically changing the way the game is played: the quarterstaff in particular greatly expanded your moveset by adding sliding and wall-jumping, and of course stages then had to be designed to accomodate for the possibility of having or not having those moves available to you. The flail was meant to work kind of like the whip in some Castlevania games in that you could hold down the attack button to fling it around, but it looked like a mess, and despite the fact that it was the lead programmer’s idea to add those weapons, he could never be bothered to go back and make it look more believable.

In an update video released towards the end of the year that showed off those new features, we had to announce that the game would be delayed by a few months, since we’d spent so much time just implementing the new weapons that we’d barely even gotten started on stage 3. The new deadline given was “Spring 2016” — and then came work on the stage 3 boss, which, without giving away too much, was at least two screens tall, and very involved. It was a nightmare to program and get everything working, and by the time it was all done, we had to realize that it wasn’t a terribly fun or engaging boss fight. Michirin and I were already brainstorming ideas for how it could be improved, but our lead programmer was starting to lose motivation to work on the boss.

To add insult to injury, Michirin also ended up having some serious technical issues with her computer, which ground productivity to a halt even further. Another update video later, we once again had to delay the game’s release to “it’ll be done when it’s done”, but… well, you know how that went by now.

Mental health has been playing an active role in the delay of my projects, too, especially in more recent years: Dextrous Yet Destitute was supposed to be finished by the end of 2020, but due in part to a particularly nasty mental breakdown in the summer of that year, I ended up losing a lot of weeks both to the breakdown and the subsequent recovery. In the end, it took me until April of the following year to finally complete and release it.

Granted, by that point I’d learned to stop setting hard deadlines for myself. Nowadays it’s more a case of “I’d really like to be able to have this thing done by this date”, such as with the v1.20a update for COL, which I hoped I’d have ready in time for the anniversary. While I had originally looked to deadlines as a way to keep me productive, it was this year when I came to learn that productivity comes from staying organized and allocating time of your day to dedicate to your work and nothing else. Nowadays, when I do set a deadline, it’s usually a soft one for myself; I don’t set hard deadlines unless I already have the thing 100% done and I’m just waiting for the right time to release it.

That’s just me, though, and while it does work for me and I would recommend others to give it a shot, too, not everyone does, nor does everyone need to. As long as deadlines are set, there will be ones that’ll be missed and then people who set them will have to make the choice between setting a new deadline or just saying “it’ll be done when it’s done”. In any case, next time your favorite developer is postponing the release date of a game you were really looking forward to, consider what could have gotten in the way, and respond with compassion, not anger. No developer wants their game to get delayed, so they’re usually not doing it out of malice towards their fans or consumers.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I apologize if I was all over the place with it.

General Update Log No. 7, and a Farewell to COL

So as of yesterday, I’ve finally finished and released the v1.20a update for chain of lucidity… which I then had to promptly supplant with a hotfix in the form of v1.20b — business as usual, really. At any rate, the past month or two were one hell of a ride, and at one point the update almost wouldn’t have happened in the first place: The project had gotten corrupted and I’d lost all my progress. If I hadn’t made a backup of the project as of v1.15a due to Game Maker Studio’s 2.3 update, it would’ve been all over. I started using Github after that, but of course I still had to recover a lot of progress… which I kinda did in the span of a few days.

At any rate, unless anything else comes up that requires fixing, this is the absolute final update for the game. It’s been over three years since its initial release, and it’s high time for me to move on to new projects, which happen to be within the scope of what I want to talk about in this update.

Starting with the elephant in the room: the second Mukai game. I’d actually attempted starting development on it back in 2019, believe it or not, but most I got done were a few new assets and maybe the shot types. Given that I effectively made a copy of the COL project to use as a base, and considering all the work I’ve done on COL itself since, it of course reasons from that that there’s not much I’ll be able to reuse — not that that’s much of a setback, thankfully.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I’m hoping to restart development sometime late this year (November/December, perhaps), but no later than early 2022. Various circumstances have held me off from even so much as finding the motivation to work on it, not least of all my art burnout. However, I realize that there are many other aspects of the game that I could have been working on aside from graphics and code: music, for one, or even just writing the dialogue. “Know your limits and then work around them” is good advice to live by, and I’m going to try doing so, going forward.

As an aside, I did receive a new drawing tablet last week (a Huion Kamvas Pro 12), so I’ll be trying to take this as an opportunity to continue shaking off the rust and improving my art skills.

What I’d also like to work on is a new album. You may remember from my very first General Update Log that I mentioned I’d had a plan for one, and of course that’s exactly what I’m intending to work on. I can’t say how long that album is going to be yet. I’m going to try shooting for 10 tracks again, but it could also end up with less. I haven’t entirely given up on my dream of having and selling physical copies of Proto-Unreality Replication ~Len’en Kai Mugenri~ and Dextrous Yet Destitute yet, either. I’d love to have them made, it’s just that it costs a lot of money, and if there’s no demand, I obviously won’t be able to come anywhere near breaking even. Maybe someday in the future, though…

Now that I’m finally done with COL, though, I may open song commissions again soon. First I just want to write something for myself to get back into the swing of things, but after that, definitely going to take another jab at it. I should note, however, that I’ll be changing my pricing system to be on a per-minute basis, rather than per-phrase. My prices will also be somewhat higher, since I felt like I charged way too little for the amount of work I put in. Just as a heads-up to those of you who’ve been waiting all these months for me to open commissions again.

One last thing I’d like to mention — just this once — is that I’ve got a second blog that serves as a personal gaming journal. You can check it out here. I won’t bring it up here again, since the TGA blog is meant to be for, well, TGA-related stuff (i.e. the games and music I’m working on), but I’ll be posting on Twitter whenever there’s a new journal entry, so you can’t miss it (unless Twitter’s algorithm says otherwise).

That’s all. Thank you all for your continued support, and I hope I’ll have something new for you to look forward to soon.

TGA Website — A Retrospective

Hello, Popfan here!

As you may or may not be aware, I’d been working on redesigning the website for the second time. Today, I was finally able to get everything wrapped up and publish the update, and I couldn’t be happier with the end result.

To commemorate this milestone, and in order for me to properly convey everything that went into making, maintaining and upgrading the website, I’d like to take a trip down memory lane and showcase said website’s transformation over the years.

The Prototype (2014)

This initial version was never actually anywhere close to being completed, and it would be a good bit over a year until anything actually went online. There’s not much I can say about it, either. My inexperience with web design was readily apparent as it was all purely HTML and a little bit of CSS, really shoddily made, and full of pretentious flavor text.

You’re hardly missing much.

Original Release, “Version 1.0” (2015)

On the 17th of July 2015, this is more or less the way we (there were more than just me at the time) graced the internet with our presence.

Much of the actual page content itself was inspired by ZUN’s website. The language buttons were huge, garish icons that weren’t even the same size (to say nothing of the odd design choice of diagonally splitting the English icon to show both Union Jack and Star-Spangled Banner), the navigation menu was pretty much a case of recycling old EB assets, and the page background image was a last-minute creation just to have some kind of patterned background.

For the longest time, there was hardly anything worth having a website for, either, as evidenced by the games counter at the top of the page (we really thought we’d be churning out one Touhou fangame after the other). All we really did have at the time was a playable demo of MajiKana.

If I gotta be honest, probably the biggest thing the site had going for it at the time was its bilinguality. I was really proud of myself for having figured out how to do it with some PHP, without needing separate pages for each language. This version lasted about two years, until it was replaced by…

“Version 2.0” (2017)

Starting from the 2nd of June 2017, this is what the website looked like. Say goodbye to the games counter and hello to an overall more streamlined, clean design. The overall layout hasn’t changed, though I did move the Twitter widget to the Contact page. A link to the Index page and a clickable icon were added to the navigation bar, too, as previously the only way to return to the Index page was via a link at the bottom of each of the other pages.

Wanting to get rid of the ugly background pattern somehow but still not knowing what other kind of pattern would work nicely, I ended up settling on a gradient instead. This is also kind of where the “TGA color palette” started becoming more of a thing, giving the website (and anything else TGA-related, really) a more coherent look.

Padding around the various page elements was also increased in order to make the design less claustrophobic, and of course the language buttons were redone, too (I opted for the American flag in the end).

Backend-wise, this was also the beginning of me becoming more competent with PHP and CSS, with feats including storing the ever-growing list of events in an array and dynamically building a table with as many rows as there were entries (or only the latest six). At one point I also tried creating a mobile version, but it was buggy as hell and a pain to maintain alongside the main site, so I removed it again about 10 months later.

Over time, as creative output diversified, I also ended up adding extra pages and making other small design changes here and there, bringing us to…

“Version 2.5” (2020)

With the extra pages added, the navigation menu grew, too, of course. Since I didn’t want the increased size to make it taller than most displays’ height, however, I recreated all the images at about 80% their original size.

The other change was me wanting to spice up the subheaders (like the “Latest News” one in the above screenshot), slowly moving away from using images for text. It was really tedious having to make new ones or edit existing ones; I don’t know what I was thinking.

All in all, though, version 2.x lasted by far the longest out of all versions up until this point, at just over four years and two months.

Intermission: Remember this thing?

Up until today, if you typed into your browser’s address bar, this was where you would end up. Obviously the idea for such a landing page was stolen blatantly from ZUN’s own website (but then again, so was the team name). It really is one of the most Web-1.0-y things you could imagine. I loved it at the time, though; thought it was unique and a nice homage.

I suppose you could also take this blog post as a retrospective of how my tastes have changed over the years.

Anyway, it’s gone as of today, and typing the URL into your address bar now will instead bring you to…

“Version 3.0” (2021)

Oh my god everything’s different what the hell—

So yeah, uhhh… Turns out that four years is quite a lot of time to be thinking about what you really want out of your website. For starters, I didn’t want it to look like total crap if viewed on a mobile device, so I studied up on what web designers do nowadays and came across the term “Responsive Web Design”, or RWD for short. Basically, design your website in such a way that elements dynamically shift and resize in order to look nice no matter what size your window or display may be.

While we were at it, though, I also wanted a complete do-over, not just a glow-up of something that was fundamentally flawed since day one. To wit: during the planning phase, I spent several days agonizing over whether to keep the vertical navigation menu or swap it out for a horizontal bar. A lot of my design choices in the past essentially boiled down to me trying to go against the flow no matter what and bring back whatever I could of the past, regardless of how flawed or archaic it was for present-day sensibilities.

Because I’ve come to think more about why things work the way they do now, I eventually decided that a horizontal menu was the way to go, also largely because a vertical menu would have required a lot more effort and a lot more Javascript coding to set up, and I unfortunately put all my skill points into PHP…

’course, in thinking about what does and doesn’t work, what is and isn’t necessary, I also ended up trimming away a lot of fat. The Links page was pretty useless, as it was dedicated to literally three 200×40 banners with short (and ultimately pointless) descriptions for each. It got cut down and incorporated into the side column (which, in true RWD fashion, disappears if the display width is too narrow). The Gallery page was useless, too, as I literally only used it for a few YouTube videos, so it also got the axe.

The Goods page, meanwhile, technically still exists, but was repurposed into the new Music page, showcasing my released albums as well as other TGA- or me-related music. I was gonna make a custom audio player for these, but… again… effort. Reviving my Soundcloud account and using the embeds from that ended up being the more attractive solution.

The astute among you may also notice that the URLs look a lot cleaner now. No more In fact, “URL beautification” is another thing I looked into. Normally the variables wouldn’t have bothered me much, but I found that people kept copying them along with the rest of the address (including the cookiecheck one, ugh), so that was the impetus for that. Now everything’s neat and orderly at all times, and the website doesn’t even need to store cookies anymore because the site language is right there in the URL, naturally incorporated.

And don’t worry, I did make sure that pre-3.0 links don’t break. In fact, a lot of the final touches were to ensure support for legacy links.

Regarding new graphics, I updated the language buttons again, of course (and something compelled me to just go with the Union Jack instead), but the banners for other people to link back to this website were also looking like a right mess, so I ended up making all-new ones. Admittedly, though, the old ones did have kind of a particular charm to them, so I may or may not bring them back as an alternative… and the new ones haven’t entirely grown on me yet, either.

What’s in store for the future? Well, one thing I’d been wanting to add was Dark Mode. I’ve briefly looked into it, but have been kinda put off by the difficulty of it. Lightbox galleries for the game screenshots would also be neat. And of course there’s always the option of adding more languages for the website. I could do a German translation no problem, I just don’t know if I see the point in it. Maybe Chinese…?

That’s where we currently stand, though. Special thanks to Maribel Hearn for giving me tips and emotional support during the coding process, as well as Masataka Touji for his willingness to proofread my Japanese translations. And of course thanks to you, too, if you’ve read through the whole post up to this point.

Now that I’ve got this squared away, I can recommence work on the v1.20 update for COL. No ETA on when that’ll be ready yet, unfortunately.

General Update Log No. 6

Been a hot minute, hasn’t it? I was hoping I’d have more to offer in the span of two-and-a-half months, but this is probably gonna be a pretty short update that I could have just written a Twitter thread for. Oh well, let’s get this over with.

Speaking of Twitter, you’ll have noticed that it’s been pretty dead for a while now, with my only real sign of life being my streaming activity on Twitch, which I stopped advertising after a while. I’ve given it some thought and decided to quit streaming, at least for the foreseeable future. It hasn’t been fun or rewarding in a long while, and even though I only streamed three days a week, sticking to the schedule made it even more of a chore. I was trying to turn my suffering into humor, but I think it just hurt me mentally in the long run.

Commissions are going to be on hold for a while, too. Of the two I took on, I was only able to finish one. I’m deeply sorry if you’d been looking forward to getting a song from me, but hopefully I’ll be able to reopen once I’m doing better again.

…which is kind of the main problem of the past several weeks. My mental health has been going through a slump again, and I’ve lost the drive to do much of anything, be it working on projects, talking to people, or even eating. It also doesn’t help that I’ll be moving on the 23rd, which just adds to the stress and my general listlessness.

As usual, thank you for your support. Every little bit of it helps. That’s all I really have the mental capacity to say right now. Sorry.

General Update Log No. 5

Today is Bandcamp Friday! What does that mean? It means that, if you buy albums on Bandcamp today, the creators will receive all of the revenue instead of a cut of it going to Bandcamp itself.

My own album, Dextrous Yet Destitute, has been out since last month, but for the sake of capitalizing on today, I’ve made a bit of a promotion video. In case you’ve never listened to it before, here’s a crossfade demo, but also make sure to watch until the end for a promo code you can use that’ll let you buy the album at a 50% discount for today!

While you’re at it, please consider purchasing my other album, too: Proto-Unreality Replication ~Len’en Kai Mugenri~, a remaster of the original soundtrack to the first ever Len’en game, Emergency everyday, developed by Daijin. I even wrote two original themes for it: one being a boss theme for protagonist Serintsu, the other a credits theme.

Of course, please don’t buy the same album twice unless it’s as a gift for someone else. Otherwise, thank you very much for your support! I appreciate it a lot!

Speaking of music, I’m also opening commissions as of today! Consider the above album a portfolio of sorts so you’ll know what I’m capable of. Check my Twitter (or, more specifically, this tweet) for more information, or just look at the commission sheet below:

To start with, I think I’ll only be taking two slots in order to test the waters. If I feel comfortable enough, I’ll open more slots. Hopefully you’ll like what I do enough to want to get something from me!

I’ve also developed something of a consistent schedule for Twitch streaming. You can find me just about every day at 6PM GMT+2, streaming for about two hours at a time. I announce my streams on Twitter an hour in advance as well as when I go live, so don’t miss ’em!

Currently I’m streaming myself playing through Phantasy Star II after completing its prequel on-stream before. It might be a pretty grind-heavy game, so feel free to try and chat me up about whatever you like.

As for my progress with Touhou, I still haven’t gotten my TD Lunatic 1cc yet, but I did get a day one Extra stage clear and Lunatic 1cc of UM! With that, I now have Lunatic 1ccs in more than half the official Touhou games, not counting the fighting games. Apparently the game has also been LNN’d and counterstopped on day one. Cards are just that OP.

That’s it for now. I’m glad the update turned out as big as it did. Heck, I spent all Wednesday afternoon editing the promo video for the album. The pomodoro technique is crazy effective.

Also, I’ve been thinking of starting a Ko-fi. What do you think? Would you buy me a coffee?

General Update Log No. 4

Damn, almost two months since the last log. Even so, I don’t have much to report, but I’m slowly getting back on track again, so if nothing else, at least that deserves a new blog post.

Regarding my obligatory album progress report: I’m proud to say that, after weeks if not months of procrastination (largely induced by severe mental health problems last month), I’ve finally started doing some more mixing as of last Sunday. That’s all I’ll say on the matter, though, as I don’t want to jinx myself by predicting a release schedule again.

Normally I’d say check my Twitter to be kept up to date, but odds are there’s nobody reading this blog who doesn’t already follow me on there.

Aside from album work, I’ve also started streaming on Twitch. Unfortunately I’m not streaming music work (although I might do so in the future, particularly once I start taking commissions), but you can usually find me there in the mornings and evenings (GMT+1) streaming either my attempts at getting a Lunatic 1cc in TD or just playing some SG-1000 games (or any other games I feel like playing at the time). Maybe someday I’ll try to make a more consistent schedule out of it, but for now I’m just streaming for the hell of it more than anything.

Speaking of stream, that’s where I somehow managed to achieve something insanely difficult I used to bite my teeth out on over the years: I cleared Flash Mode in Columns on Pro difficulty and with the height set to 9, which you can watch here. It may look easy, but I’m pretty sure I got incredibly lucky to be able to do it on my second attempt that session. After all, you really don’t get much breathing room to start with, and if the RNG hates you, you can easily end up with all the wrong colors and end up losing all your progress.

Now if only I could achieve counterstop in Arcade Mode…

Oh yeah, Touhou 18’s demo came out last month, too. Probably one of the hardest Lunatics in the series. It took me a good while to finally get a Lunatic 1cc. So far I’ve managed it with every character except for Sakuya… and after several failed attempts, I’ve decided to just not bother with her. People say Reimu is the worst shot type, but at least she has a bomb that’s good for more than just scoring.

Finally, today I went to the post office to pick up something I’d been looking forward to getting my hands on for quite a while now: a Sega SJ-200 controller, which came with Sega’s first ever home console, the SG-1000. I’m glad to announce that it’s in good working order, although the stick itself is hard to move around, especially diagonally. Then again, I suppose that’s to be expected.

That’s all for this time. Thanks for your support, and please take care of yourselves!