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The Shovel Problem

This is about TaskMaker. *in booming voice with excessive reverb*

Where to find a shovel? Can you buy a shovel? Can you kill somebody for a shovel? Would any kind of vicious foe wield one in the latter stages of the game? Maybe in the King's Tomb - at the dawn of all adventure - right before the end of the game?

Cause I'm out of shovels. I have no shovel. And certain things in this game you cannot get without one, I believe.

I sold one, cause I had two at one point. Maybe even three.

The one in the graveyard was easy to find.

They had one in one of the first levels too.

Was there another? I'm pretty sure there was at least one more...

Then suddenly I'm entirely out of shovels, and no matter where I go it doesn't seem there are more of them lying around.

I've tried all shops. I've tried the garden, I've made it through a few more tasks. I'm at the Fierce Fold now, and there are still a few locations I've yet to venture to or explore fully - at least one which I cannot gain access to until the very end of the game - but I'd really like a shovel NOW, before I forget where I need to use it. Some treasures need some digging up...

There are at least a few spots in the garden, by the grave.

There are a bunch of graves in that sinking village too.

There may have been some soft sand in that strange village with all the smiley faces...

Maybe elsewhere too.

I think I dug my way through all of the sandy areas in the first two villages at least, when I still had a shovel to spare. Maybe the first three. Not sure I explored the silver place fully. I even found a place to dig up in the outside world, at that sandy expanse towards the top of the map.

But now I'm out of shovels, and I can find no more to aid me in my task.

My god. Be careful with the shovels y'all.

Don't sell any unless you have to.

And you don't have to.

Big mistake.

Basilisk II & TaskMaker

I've started emulating Mac games all of a sudden (a while back - as usual I'm late posting this)! Unexpectedly. Spontaneously. As seems to be the case with most pastimes that peak my interest...

I've played TaskMaker before, in the old days.

I have it on an old Performa 630, which you can read about here. Unfortunately it no longer boots. I suppose I'll update that page eventually if I can't fix it, but there is hope. I reached out to a service shop in Stockholm a while back and they said they'd have a look if I bring it in. They have plenty of spare parts.

Though they're focused on new computers it seems like the legacy with Apple in particular is similarly uncompromising for all. You just don't abandon the classics. Even their official company support's dedicated to serving customers with older models. There's no end-of-service, it seems.

You wonder if it's a sustainable business model when companies like Microsoft keep forcing you to upgrade, and leaving perfectly good things behind for the sake of profit, but then again Apple stocks are going pretty well these days... turns out there may be a benefit to being genuine, and believing in your products! And caring for your customers!!!

It's a long way to Stockholm City though, and old computers are HEAVY - the old monitor won't start either - it smells like burnt plastic if you turn it on - hope it's just capacitators that need replacing. So, when my nephew came over a week or so ago we dug out this other Mac I have lying around. This one. A slightly newer and more readily maintained model. It's not one I have a personal history with, it doesn't have the OS I grew up on, but it plays the same games, and it works, and we managed to delve into the realms of not just Factory (as we usually do), but also MacSki, MacPipes, Farm Patrol aaand even a little TaskMaker!

He tried the game real quick, walked into a few walls, and abandoned it. But it woke within me fond memories, of days long gone when I first discovered these games, and spent an abundant amount of time
playing them.

We played some of the other games after that, and then he left, and I stashed away that computer again, yet I couldn't stash away those good memories...

I first decided to create .iso image files of all old CDs I have for my old computer - all the ones with those games I remember fondly, if like my oldest computer they unexpectedly wear down with time and stop working. A lot (maybe all) of these games are probably available online too, in various formats and versions, but I haven't made an effort to make sure, and it wouldn't be quite the same thing without those old CDs after all, so I made those copies.

I burned one of the .iso files I'd created to a blank CD and tried booting it on that old computer before I stashed it away... and it worked! Seems the format's cross-platform compatible. I processed 'em all via CDBurnerXP on Windows 10. Something like twenty discs - mostly ones that came with The MAC magazine back in 1996, chockful of shareware games and other odd utilities, some of which I've just been starting to delve into the histories of...

For example Exile (and Exile 2) - other RPGs I have fond memories of - but have never completed, were made by Spiderweb Software, who are actually still around, and remade said game under a new title years later, which I'm pretty sure I actually have a copy of on GOG! Or have seen there, at least. Avernum, and Avernum 2: Crystal Souls.

There's also a third Exile game available from back in the day that I'd never heard of - just like there's a third Avernum game now. May play eventually. Those games are HARD - as I experienced again when I tried getting back into the first one just recently - but maybe not as hard as I remember them if I just fine-tune my strategies a bit.

Back in the day these games weren't as instantly gratifying as they are now. You had to explore a bit to figure things out. You had to talk to people, and find items, and walk around, and apparently the world of Exile is HUGE, with something like a hundred towns, and desolate caverns filled with monsters and fairy tail figures of varied sort. Even dragons! I never got that far back in the day.

All of this in a game less than a thousand KB big!

The game-making capabilities they had in the old days - making gems as grand as this with such limited resources, still blow me away. Looking at the hundred GB blockbusters of today I'm impressed so much more with these old ones than with the new.

I'm impressed with what they managed not just with the restrictions they had back then, but without templates and earlier examples of successful titles to guide them as well.

The mechanics between titles varied greatly, and yet so many of them seemed to get things just right. When developers now speak about how many months it'd take to build an engine from scratch - and often use existing engines instead, and you know developers in the old day always did build from scratch, and did so with much more limited teams - sometimes just the one hobbyist working his passion project - you feel like something's gone missing with newer titles.

Cinematic though they may be, they're rarely as quirky or charming as the olden; golden ones. I feel, looking back now...

Let's cut the nostalgia though and get into the technical! Or practical. My gaming adventures with old Apple games on Windows 10.

I could talk about good old games forever.

My first thought was to get into Exile again.

I tried it for a while on the old computer before I stashed it away, but I died - more than once, and lost interest, remembering how difficult it was.

So I stashed away that computer, soon regretted it, and wondered how easy it'd be to emulate some other old games on my newer computer, which is always available, which stands readily on my desk and should have (in terms of hardware and performance) no issues running games of this age, even if they're emulated...

I settled on Basilisk II, which seems to be the goto emulator if you're looking to run games from the Performa 7xx generation (I forgot my old computer's the 6xx generation - think the OS might've been upgraded to 7xx though). Apparently it's a part of the 68k generation, whatever that means.

To get started you need a system image of the OS you're looking to run, a ROM file for the computer itself (think of this as the hardware - the actual device), and of course whatever files you wish to run on said system!

It started out difficultly. I didn't get it. I toggled options and tried different images and couldn't get it to work - even with the tutorial they provide on their own Wiki - but then I found this video and it all fell into place!

Protip: Don't tweak your system too much!!!

I installed my OS, installed my games, went through old menu items and had some fun with it - even managed to transfer files from Windows via the emulator itself - there's an option to allow access to the external OS environment via a 'My Computer' link within the emulated environment - and it worked perfectly! It's an easy way to move files in and out if you don't have Internet access via the emulator itself - which even if possible seems like a potential security issue with an OS this old (I did try - it at least didn't work out of the box).

And I played for a few hours - TaskMaker this time - caught up in the game just as I was in the old days - and then decided to tweak my OS a little further... and it crashed. And couldn't be booted.

Corrupt HDD? I tried toggling the Basilisk boot options but to no effect.

Fortunately I had saved a copy of my savefile at least an hour or so earlier, as well as a complete copy of the emulator environment. I replaced the HDD file in the Basilisk folder with the one from my earlier copy - this is basically the entire installation of the emulated system - and booted, and it worked again! Copied in my savefile duplicate too, and though I'd lost an hour or two of good progress it at least wasn't that severe a loss, so...

Protip 2: Backup the HDD file if you do tweak your system!!! Or if you don't. Just make backups.

With a system this ancient (it's actually thirty years old next year - pretty crazy crazy) the installation file does not need to be that big either. I'm pretty sure I set the HDD size to something like 50MB, though maybe Basilisk has it's own default, or files, since the created one is 500 MB.

If you have a decent-sized drive though that's not too much to make a copy of every once in a while.

Best practice would be to make the copy before you boot the system, when it's not in active use, and if you don't want more than one copy at a time you can replace that backup the time after that. Simple safing process to prevent further catastrophic corruption or system failure...

Emulators usually aren't without their quirks, and this is no exception.

For example (apart from the corruption example above - all I was trying to do was adjust name and time and all for the installed OS via the built-in guide) it seems that sound cuts out in the game after a certain game time. This time differs. Seems to be a thing just with this one game too.

I haven't been able to discern the pattern here yet. Going by official bug reports it seems to be an issue with any game that has constant background sound - though this one doesn't.

It has sound effects, it has no music.

The sound effects do come into play with each step you take, however, so maybe if you're good enough it does come across a continual stream, and maybe that's an issue.

The sound started cutting off pretty far into my game. At that point maybe I was moving continually. Maybe that's it.

I haven't tried troubleshooting this yet, but so far it seems sound for the emulated OS cuts out entirely when this happens. I don't think it'll make a difference - going by forum posts regarding the same issue - but I shall try tweaking my sound settings a bit.

It's also possible to mute the game itself, so maybe I can try that every once in a while, as to not have sound play too continuously in the background, if continuum is an issue. Or - as I did yesterday - I can simply keep on playing and have a podcast in the background if and whenever the sound does cut out. The game sounds do contribute to the atmosphere, but it's fun either way. It's no central component. It's a slight amplifier. Hopefully it'll work fine like this.

Also notable shout-out to this site, that lets you actually emulate both this and any other old Apple system immediately, online! You can transfer files in and out of your emulated system there too, and even save files between sessions - though I'd backup anything important just in case.

For something like TaskMaker, that'd work perfectly too, though it seems the hardware use is a little higher with emulation via browser. Local seems to be the most efficient (and lag-free) way, but this is by far the easiest alternative if you just want to get into it right away.

Instructions for how to transfer files are available as soon as you boot.

Now back to TaskMaker. *in booming voice*

Time to pick off where I left off, a couple hours before that savefile corrupted...

The GTA SA Nostalgia Run PT3: The Thing Is...

I lost interest.

Not just in GTA SA, but in Golden Sun too. Two. Too.

It seems this is the case with any game I play for a too prolonged span of time. Especially for games with grind, or a story that you immerse yourself in. Eventually - if it's due to the repetition or due to an unexpected pause in said repetition - by means of other life-related events that come in the way - I seem to fall out with said game.

I tried getting back to the GTA SA thing a few weeks ago, but it just wasn't fun anymore. The magic was gone. The completed storyline and in-game character comradery forgotten. I played some races. I ran around the country a bit and went rampant. But the storyline is completed, and all that's left is to grind through collectibles, races and other spin-off missions as to get that full, satisfying 102%...

Maybe I'll get back to that later, but for now I just don't have the motivation. It's gone.

Similarly I abandoned my Golden Sun 2 campaign post Jupiter lighthouse a couple weeks or so (plus a month or so - I'm late with this) ago.

I'd just reunited with Ivan and his team, and was set on getting to the Northern lands but... progress has become uncertain and tedious.

I'm not sure where to go first before that. I'm not sure what's left to do. There are puzzles that I couldn't previously complete that Ivan's skillset now allows me to, and there are additional rusty items scattered around the world that could use some polish, and there are games to win and items to sell but... it's a vast world. When you've already ventured through most of it it's just not as fun to go back again and try to tie up those loose ends when suddenly the entire world is directly accessible. It's too big.

Seems a little similar to the remaining GTA SA collectible grind.

When you're in the game for real, actively progressing and getting places, it's fun. If you don't weave the grind into the active storyline a bit it's easy to fall off or falter. The end goal disappears. It seems like it's all for naught, like is it really worth the time after all...

I'm not done with the storyline in Golden Sun 2 though, so I think it is. Worth the time I mean.

I'm not satiated on that game quite yet, but maybe it is the right time for a break at least, then I can come back to the world anew and swoop by all those areas I might've missed earlier... and then head onwards. To the ruthless, but alluring North, where the final lighthouse yet lies in wait.

And after that maybe get back to GTA SA again..

For now: I'm having a pretty good time with TaskMaker.

Bholaa (2023)

Bholaa (2023)

This was like a Bollywood version of Assault on Precinct 13 but... bad.

They have such strong characters, but unfortunately the fights are horrible, the special effects with the bike chase in particular were depressing, there's a bit too much focus on the little girl and making her look as cute as possible and the father in contrast as vulnerable as possible.

He never comes across as brutal as the legends say though. The fight choreographer's the culprit.

This was so good, but could've been so much better.

There are some emotional moments at the end. There's one good dance scene. And one bad-ass Rambo finish but... those special effects man. They're not realistic at all.

The lighting feels wrong too, and the motion's sluggish. I wonder what camera they use - feels similar to the filming I've seen in some Chinese action movies recently - and felt was similarly bleak and off then.

Some of the destruction actually looks real, but it's veiled by bad effects, and whatever methods they use to capture the motion here.

There may be a sequel though. I'm looking forward to it nevertheless.

The characters are strong.

 rated 3.5/5: not bad at all

Some Sniper Elite 3 Shots

Started playing this one earlier thinking it was Sniper Ghost Warrior 3... it's not! But it is good. It's different. It's more direct. Less waiting, more shooting. Less realistic, more fun. If you just want to run and gun.

Of course there's still a fair share of stealth required, and occasional waiting, but not excessively so. You can often move quickly. Enemies aren't as attentive as they probably would be were this real. It's an appreciative balance between stealth and more high-octane shooting.

It takes place during the second World War, and though story's not a huge part of the game it definitely makes it more enticing. The weapons are true to the time, and the enemy's seasoned and vicious. You can partake in the story if you wish, and read up along the way, or just focus on the action.

The sceneries are beautiful too, and varied. Rock, sand, castles, caves - almost tropical sceneries occasionally.

Took some (screen)shots along the way. On one of my runs. I ran through it multiple times. As I often do with games I enjoy and apparently can't get enough of. My obsessive stamp of approval that is. So anyway, screens, without further notation. Scenes, sun, sands and one bad-ass sniper...

Sniper Elite III Title Screen

(more…)

The Chase (2007)

By Clive Cussler.

This one was way better than I expected!

I've only read Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler earlier - just one to be precise - but that one I loved! It had villains with character, and depth, and commitment, and an unexpectedly multifaceted plot where you related to both the good and the bad guys, but of course more to the good guys... I think? I'm not sure actually.

It's similar here. Though the villain's a cold-hearted killer I'm not entirely sure who's side I'm on, but the story is captivating, and very well-written, and it kept my interest piqued from the very start.

If I hadn't been reading this in segments during shorter commuter train rides (30-40m) the beginning would've gone full circle at the end so well too. As it is I forget the corpse placement when I reach the end. I forget the date, too. I'm not entirely sure who the silver fox is. They reveal just a little in the intro though, and more at the end, and the segway back in time, to the story of the Butcher Bandit and the Bell on his tail... it's just perfect.

If you're looking for good adventure this is definitely such a book. And it ties into historical vents and locations as well - I feel like I've learned a bit even during this fictitious session of escapism too.

Entertainment and know-how, told in sometimes well-worded and inspiring ways, as an aspiring author also.

Clive Cussler's starting to turn into one of my favorite authors.

Warmly recommended reading if your reason thereto is to truly get away and experience something. It's a great adventure, a chase by land by sky by the sea... well maybe not by sky, but by car by train by boat and even by a little motorbike.

It's a ride. I keep extending this conclusion here but yes... it's a ride.

 rated 5/5: friggin awesome

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