As is my yearly tradition, here is a rough summary of my year.
• Me and Ronja went on a weekend trip to Killin, a small town in the countryside of Scotland. On the way back I got the car stuck in some snow in the mountains. Some passers-by let us use their shovel, and we were back on our way. I should be more careful in future, but I’ve since got a new set of tyres for my 18-year-old car, so maybe that’ll help.
• I finished off the big version 2 update for EBF5, which added a ton of new content and re-playability to the game. People could now play it for hundreds of hours if they wanted to, and the game has continued selling very well. If you haven't revisited the game since that update came out, you totally should.
• Me and Ronja got invested in US politics this year, and were eagerly following the election news, including the democratic primaries and caucuses. It looked like Bernie Sanders had a chance. What an optimistic start to a nightmare of a year.
• Wildfires, World War 3, race tensions, and Brexit dominated a lot of the news. And the year was just getting started.
• The coronavirus plague obviously defined the entire year. In retrospect, everything that happened seems so obvious and predictable, but in the first few weeks I assumed that governments and people would take the proper precautions to limit the spread and damage. Oh, how naive I was. Two weeks before the first national lockdown, I realized we were in for a wild 18 months or so before a vaccine was developed and distributed. Ronja has a bad immune system, so we were way ahead of the government’s guidelines. The UK has some of the worst virus stats to date, so we have to be extra careful.
• We got a Nintendo Switch early on in the year. I was not impressed by the hardware – it was just a portable WiiU! The screen is so reflective you can’t play outside, the controllers give you hand cramps, and it didn’t even come with a stylus! The games were okay – but nothing that couldn’t already be done on the WiiU. The game I looked forward to the most was Smash Ultimate… but due to the virus, I never had a chance to bring friends round to play it. But on the other hand, Ronja played Animal Crossing for hundreds of hours, so we still got our money’s worth in the end.
• I continued playing Nintendo ROM hacks, including GBA and N64 stuff, and even made some quick edits to Pokemon Fire Red myself! If copyright laws were reasonable, Nintendo’s oldest games would be public domain by now, and anyone could have a shot at making new commercial versions of Mario and Pokemon. I’d love that.
• My plans to visit every major theme park in the UK this Summer were cancelled. Scotland’s biggest theme park closed down due to poor attendance and the coronavirus. But then they re-opened after selling a bunch of their rides. Scotland’s biggest rollercoaster is gone. It was one of the worst rollercoaster’s in the world, according to enthusiasts, but I’m still gonna miss it.
• This year I’ve been doing more art just for fun, rather than work – including pencil drawings, pixel art, vector art, and bigger Lego projects.
• I started work on porting EBF5 to Android using Adobe AIR, and made a decent amount of progress. The game is currently in a playable state, but needs some more optimization and user-interface adjustments. I didn’t finish it this year because I got sidetracked with other work…
• I played Age of Empires 2: Deluxe Edition, for around 500 hours, usually with my brother and some friends. We got reasonably good at 4v4 matches. It’s cool to see a 20-year old game still alive with regular updates.
• Me and Ronja of course also joined in on the Among Us craze, and we had enough friends playing it that we could easily set up 8 to 10 player games. We never took the game very seriously, and usually got drunk while playing it. The best part was thinking of edgy nicknames like MrPooPiss, Titler, FrontBum, BloodFart, or FetusYetus.
• I got a drill and learned how to use it! I mounted some hanging flower baskets in the garden, and a coat shelf in the hallway. Other minor home improvements included: Upgrading all lights to LEDs, renewing the smoke detectors, and replacing cupboard knobs.
• Garden improvements this year include painting the shed, repairing some old fences, planting a cherry tree, and building a totally new fence. I also scavenged a perfect wooden gate from some neighbours who were throwing theirs out. Very convenient. We also made friends with the local cats and squirrels.
• Most socialising this year was done over Zoom – we went to the pub online, essentially. Occasional real-life visits were permitted, but we always kept things outside to be safe.
• I spent £3,000 on a new VR-ready PC and a Valve Index. Was it worth it? Not really – I could have spent less and not noticed much difference. Most software can’t even take full advantage of my new 12-core CPU. But I can put it down as a work expense, and half of that money would have gone to taxes otherwise.
• My favourite single-player games this year were easily Doom Eternal and Half Life: Alyx. Amazing next-gen stuff that I’d love to play more of.
• My entire exercise routine has been replaced with Beat Saber this year. I’ve gotten pretty good at the game, and there’s only one official level I can’t beat, and that’s Ghost on Expert+. I doubt I’ll ever beat it.
• Me and Ronja celebrated our 30th birthdays, as did many of our friends. We sadly couldn’t make a big deal out of it.
• My family got us a fancy barbecue for our 30ths. I knew nothing about cooking, but it turns out it’s fairly straightforward and hard to mess up. You just heat stuff up and check it occasionally. We had socially-distanced garden dinners almost every week over the Summer, usually with my brother and his girlfriend. We also learned what happens when you don’t keep the barbecue dry and clean…
• I started working on re-releasing all of my old Flash games on Steam, including EBF1, EBF2, Adventure Story, Bullet Heaven, Brawl Royale, Mecha Dress Up Game, The Kitten Game, Cat Cafe, and a bunch of prototypes and minigames. The games mostly remain the same, but have some new quality-of-life features, and have had copyrighted content replaced with original content. A couple of the games also have completely new content. Once again, this project was not finished this year because I got sidetracked with other work.
• I pulled my old NES stuff out of the attic – I’ve got both PAL and NTSC versions of the console. I disassembled them, cleaned them up, cut the region-locking chips, replaced the springs on the controllers, and everything works almost as good as new. Games usually start up on the first try.
• I bought some modern NES games, and some Chinese carts containing ROM hacks, and I’m having a fun time. It’s cool that people are still making new content for such an old console.
• Halloween was much less eventful this year – we did the usual cooking and pumpkin carving, but there were no trick-or-treaters or guests, so we had time to rewatch some old horror films.
• My office is looking better than ever – the plants and Lego mosaics on my desk add a lot of color. I’m considering buying an expensive chair that should last decades, and hopefully do my health some favours… but it’s not safe to go out and try some chairs at the moment.
• Towards the very end of the year, I started working on an unexpected update to EBF4! I’ve wanted to publish EBF4 on more platforms for a while, but there was a long list of bugs and features I wanted to fix first, so that’s what this update is for. EBF4 is getting a lot of quality-of-life features from EBF5.
• Me and Ronja got a dog! It’s a 7-month-old Staffy and Frenchie mix, and is quite well behaved already. She’s consuming a lot of our time at the moment, but this should gradually settle down. She has yet to meet my family’s other dogs, so I’m curious to see how that goes.
• Christmas was fun despite the lockdown limitations. We exchanged food and messages with family members, without getting too close. Me and Ronja binge-watched Lost, which I’ve never seen before, but I remember it was incredibly popular when I was a teenager.
And that’s about it.
Honestly, I am not optimistic about the future. Most of the bad news from this year was predictable and preventable, and seeing how poorly our human civilization has handled it, I’m concerned that the coming years won’t be any better. This could be the start of a disastrous decade – but I hope I’m wrong! Maybe the coronavirus vaccine will be super effective and delivered swiftly. Maybe Brexit won’t end up being a big deal. Maybe we’ll take climate change seriously. Maybe Joe Biden won’t be a corrupt, corporate sell-out. Haha.
Either way, I think me and Ronja managed to have a fun year despite being stuck in the house for most of it, and we’re fortunate enough that we don’t have to worry too much about what the future may bring.