Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Gentle Reader,

This is my thought for the day:  never forget that there is tremendous joy in being happy for others.

Here's wishing everyone a happy and successful 2012!

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beautiful Clothes

Gentle Reader,

If there is one thing that I have a weakness for, it is beautiful clothing.  I find myself collecting images of amazing outfits in the vain hope that I will someday have an opportunity to copy them.  (Despite being a fat walrus.)


Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Final Fantasy IV: Kain "Unhelmeted" Hack

Gentle Reader,


Here is a simple hack I did of Final Fantasy II/IV that gives Kain his "unhelmeted" appearance from the epilogue.  This is strictly a graphics hack.  Please note that this hack is not compatible with the playable Golbez hack featured on this blog.

Thanks!

Download Link

Link Added 12/09/2012:
Version 2.0 Release

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Babies

I normally don't post this sort of thing, but... I just want a baby so damn bad.  And this one is sooo cute.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shout Out

Gentle Reader,

This is just a quick shout-out to Retro Gaming Life for featuring my Golbez Edition hack of Final Fantasy IV.

Thanks, guys!

Retro Gaming Life Blog
Retro Gaming Life Facebook

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thank You!

Gentle Reader,

Wow!  My Golbez Edition hack of Final Fantasy IV is now up to 100 downloads on Romhacking.net.  I just wanted to send out a big THANK YOU to everybody who has downloaded the hack.  I really appreciate it!

Download Link

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

War

How could that little body grow up so hard?
I watched him as he trained
and I saw it when he changed
with visions of order
marching cleanly through his mind.
I finally asked him, Why aren't you afraid?
Why don't you worry over you like I do?
When he stood, his small frame towered over me.
Why should I be afraid? he asked.
I'm so ordinary.  They won't notice me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Word Gets Around

Gentle Reader,

I find this amusing.

Pictured below is a site that has referred multiple people to my blog in the less than 48 hours since I released my ROM hack of Final Fantasy IV.


Wow!

Here's what the page says, as per Google Translate:

Fauntleroy did and posted a good mod hack "Playable Golbez Edition" for the original game "Final Fantasy IV" on 16-bit game console Super Nintendo. This hack allows you to connect to the game character Golbez Cecil and the team together to destroy the Giant of Bab-il. In addition, the game adds a lot of new items of equipment, as well as many other very interesting innovations. Additional information about the hackers and the ability to download it - on the blog romhakera.

Double wow!  How neat!

Link

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Sunday, November 27, 2011

DOWNLOAD - Final Fantasy IV: Golbez Edition Hack

Gentle Reader,


At long last, my Golbez Edition Hack of Final Fantasy IV is complete and available for download!  It was twenty years in the imagining and about six months in the making!

The download file contains setup instructions. Also, please report any bugs to me via e-mail or through this blog.

Thanks!

Golbez Edition Hack version 2.1 download (Updated 10/1/14)
Romhacking.net Article

See Also:
Progress Update #4
Progress Update #3 (Video) 
Progress Update #2 
Progress Update #1
Original Article

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

UPDATE - Final Fantasy IV: Golbez Edition Hack

Gentle Reader,


The hack is done!  I'm going to playtest it for a couple of days before I release it.  Look for it to be posted here within the next 5-10 days.

Link Added 11/27/11:
Download

See Also:
Progress Update #3 (Video) 
Progress Update #2 
Progress Update #1
Original Article

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Sunday, November 13, 2011

UPDATE - Final Fantasy IV: Golbez Edition Hack

Gentle Reader,

Here is a video demo of the playable Golbez character from my upcoming hack:


I'm still aiming for a Thanksgiving release.

Link Added 11/27/11:
Download

Link Added 11/23/11:
Progress Update #4

See Also:
Progress Update #2 
Progress Update #1
Original Article

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Love

The Ex-Husband

I haven't mentioned you in months
and I won't again after this
but the house has never felt full
since your underwear was folded on the bed.
Nothing has been there since you.
I wonder if you remember
how it made you feel when I came home
your expectant face like an open door
and the words that filled us
like fire and water.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Words to Live By

 
Truer words were seldom spoken.

There is no destiny, no fate, and no ultimate meaning beyond that which you create for yourself.  So... go create something.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

UPDATE - Final Fantasy IV: Golbez Edition Hack

Gentle Reader,

The hack project is almost ready to release.  All of the major bugs are worked out.  Right now I'm just doing some dialogue clean-up and addressing a few minor graphics issues.  The good news is that the entire game is fully playable without any significant hang-ups.

Here are a handful of new screen captures from the end game.


I expect a release before Thanksgiving.

Link Added 11/27/11:
Download

Link Added 11/23/11:
Progress Update #4

Link Added 11/13/11:
Progress Update #3 (Video) 

See Also:
Progress Update #1
Original Article

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Torture is...

Torture is...

Finding pictures of yourself from 2-4 years ago, and realizing that you looked great back then, but have since devolved into a disgusting pig.

Tune in next time, when we explore further ways of torturing ourselves...

Ever yours,
Fauntleroy

Monday, October 24, 2011

Inspired: Quest of the Avatar

Ultima:  Quest of the Avatar
Publisher:  Pony Canyon
System:  Nintendo Entertainment System
USA Release:  1990


Early video games were not necessarily the best medium for storytelling. Perhaps this is why virtually all vintage games follow some variation on a basic theme: the brave hero sets out to destroy the evil dragon or wizard or aliens or whatever, and in so doing saves the fair kingdom or princess or galaxy or whatever. While many of the oldest games are strictly formula and have no discernible story (Pac-Man, Frogger, Burger Time), just about any vintage game with identifiable characters follows this formula (Donkey Kong, Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda). This holds true regardless of genre.


That is why Ultima: Quest of the Avatar deserves an honored place within the pantheon of truly brilliant and special games. There is no villain in Avatar, no damsel to save, and no kingdom to rule. This is a game about integrity, and how the travails of daily life can chip away at it until, steadily, without us realizing, we lose it. Okay, maybe that's a bit too dramatic, but I don't think I'm far off the mark.


Here's Avatar in a nutshell. You, the nameless wanderer, have been summoned to a fantasy world. It's a land that has suffered through some hard times, but now enjoys an age of peace. Even so, the king foresees a day when heroes will be needed again. The common people look for an exemplar, someone whose virtue and fortitude they can emulate, and in so doing, become heroes themselves. That's where you step in.


Your job in Avatar is to travel around the world and master eight cardinal virtues: Compassion, Honesty, Honor, Humility, Justice, Sacrifice, Spirituality, and Valor. How do you do this? Well, that's the fun, and the challenge, of your quest. Your first step is to determine which of the eight virtues you are personally most connected to. You do this by answering a series of simple ethical questions that force you to choose between two of the virtues. This determines your character type. Valorous characters are strong fighters. Self-sacrificing types are jacks of all trades but masters of none. Humble characters have no special skills and are in for a very tough road.


Your quest begins as soon as your character is selected. You find yourself in the town most closely associated with your core virtue. From there, you can wander freely to any of the other districts in the kingdom. Along the way you encounter characters who test your virtue. Beggars ask for your hard-won gold as a test of compassion. Blind shopkeepers ask you to count out the coins for purchases, challenging your honesty. Moral dilemmas are presented to you as trials for your sense of justice. Monsters accost you, and you must defeat them in battle to defend your honor.

The game presents other challenges, too. You can recruit friends who are strong in the other virtues, but only after achieving a certain level of personal development. Maze-like caves are filled with magical items that you need to complete the quest. Clues have to be collected and collated to point the way forward. You must earn money to pay for the weapons, armor, and tools that you need to survive. Exploration also plays a big part in the adventure.


Still, the pursuit of the virtues is the meat of the game. Given sufficient time and wit, you eventually prove your mastery of all eight, at which time you can descend into a great abyss in search of the ultimate knowledge. There is no twist ending and no surprise final boss. Some might find the ending anticlimactic, but I found it philosophical and intriguing. It's especially impressive considering that popular games of Avatar's era were Duck Hunt and Bubble Bobble and similar fare, which were not exactly known for their insight.


I don't think there's ever been another game quite like Avatar. If you're an old-school RPG fan like I am, then this is one that you absolutely shouldn't miss. Go and explore the frontiers of the self, and try not to lose yourself along the way.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween

Gentle Reader,

I was reminded last night that Halloween is truly the perfect holiday.

The only question now is whether I shall win several thousand dollars worth of prizes in the costume contest at the party this Friday night, or if I will be unfairly robbed of my due winnings.

Yes, my costume is that good.

Here's wishing everyone a fun holiday!

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Sunday, October 16, 2011

UPDATE - Final Fantasy IV: Golbez Edition Hack

Gentle Reader,

Is this a filler post?  Well... yes.  I've spent much of the weekend working on a research project for a client.  So, to fill the void, here are some additional screenshots from my Golbez hack of Final Fantasy IV.  See the original article for more details.


I haven't released the hack yet because there are some bugs to work out.  They don't make the game unplayable, but they cause some really nasty effects.  All I can say is, I put way too much time into this hack to just drop it.  It will be released... eventually?

Link Added 11/27/11:
Download

Link Added 11/23/11:
Progress Update #4
 
Link Added 11/13/2011:
Progress Update #3 (Video) 

Link Added 10/30/2011:
Progress Update #2

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Poem

Great-Grandpa, 1942

My grandmother's father had small, brave hands.
They decapitated chickens, churned butter to gold
and cut free the corpses of German deserters
hanged from the trees like black cocoons.
I'd like to ask him, Were you never frightened?
But of what? he would say, sounding like Grandma.
I was ordinary.  Who would notice me?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Inspired: Phantasy Star II


Phantasy Star II
Publisher:  Sega
System:  Sega Genesis
USA Release:  1990
 
I adore the aesthetics of the 16-bit era of video games.  (That's approximately 1987-1999 at the widest margins, for those too young to remember).  Graphics were 2D and simplistic then, and cartoonish by necessity, but they also had a degree of color depth, clarity, and intensity that were never imagined during earlier product generations.  The music of video games, meanwhile, had reached a level where approximations of real instruments were possible, resulting in much richer and fuller sound than ever before, but while still being unmistakably, and unapologetically, synthesized.  Games of this era look dated today, of that there is no doubt.  However, they remain playable and enjoyable to a degree that earlier efforts--from the ancient Atari systems, for example--simply do not.  The 16-bit era was the first time when what game designers had imagined was successfully translated to gamers.  It was done with a style that blew our minds back then, and with a special charm that has yet to wear thin with me.


With that said, video games were still a developing art, and so even the most brilliant designers had their share of missteps.  Controls were sometimes counterintuitive or downright unresponsive.  Menu interfaces could be awkward and ill-conceived.  Delivery of brilliant concepts was not always what it could have been.  The 16-bit era, at its low ebb, was one of those eras where gaming went through growing pains.  Where ideas of how things are done had to give way to developing technology.  And we just weren't quite there yet.


For people who enjoy RPGs and story-driven games--in other words, people like me--one of the worst ways that games show their age is in the execution of story.  Plots are thin and predictable.  Characters are flat and lack any clear motivation, and they inhabit the same cookie-cutter worlds that we've already explored a dozen times before.


It would be easy to say that Phantasy Star II is among these efforts.  Our hero Rolf, who apparently has only a first name, says little during the course of his adventures.  His seven companions, while appearing to have distinct personalities and intriguing histories, say even less.  As players move from town to town, obstacle to obstacle, battle to battle, they often have to infer why events are unfolding as they do.  I remember, back when I first played this game myself at the age of 10, asking things like:  "Why doesn't Rolf arrest Darum if he's such a dangerous man?  Oh wait, it must be because he doesn't want to put Nei in danger."  Or:  "Why are we going to planet Dezo, anyway?  Is it just because we ran out of places to explore on planet Mota?  Oh no, wait, it must be because Rolf thinks that the Mother Brain can be found there."


Normally, I would probably agree with a critical analysis of a game like Phantasy Star II.  However, I find myself giving Phantasy Star II the benefit of the doubt.  I'm sure part of this is the warm feeling of nostalgia that it gives me.  But it's more than that.  In the case of Phantasy Star II, the ambiguity isn't really a weakness.  It's actually the game's greatest storytelling strength.


Why should I work for a living?  This simple question is asked by one of the first citizens that Rolf encounters on his way, and it sums up the world of Phantasy Star II.  The Algo Star System, as we rapidly discover, is a world where people just don't have to do much.  No one has to work unless he wants to.  The weather is always perfect.  There is plenty of everything.  No one gets lost, thanks to teleportation technology.  No one even has to die, as the body can be replaced through cloning, and the contents of the mind can be stored for later retrieval.


Even our Rolf, ostensibly a government security enforcer, has precious little to do.  He apparently has a high degree of education, intelligence, and wit, at least compared to his fellow citizens, yet he proves time and again to be completely ineffectual.  His investigation into some recent troubles only begins when he is ordered to take up the case.  He seems completely bewildered when encountering a wanted felon, and can find no way to assist a city devastated by violence.  A murder happens in front of him, and his reaction is to ask, "Who will save us?"


Rolf finds himself in a reality where he has never had to think, where the good times are a given, and where the future is assured.  He has never had to question the Mother Brain supercomputer that controls everything in Algo, or doubt the puppet government that functions, though barely, under Mother Brain's watchful eye.  Rolf starts at a point of zero understanding, and even as evidence mounts that the world is not as okay as it would have one believe, there is no one to guide Rolf in developing this understanding.  It is for this reason that I don't complain about the "weak" storytelling in Phantasy Star II.  We need to be at that place of zero understanding right along with Rolf.  We need to struggle to put it all together the same way he does.  Any other approach would have missed the point.  A more direct approach would have made Rolf a mere unreliable narrator who shouts that all is well even as the reader/player knows better.  But precisely because the hand holding never starts, Phantasy Star II avoids that trap.  Instead, it remains the mysterious, baffling, and confusing world that it was meant to be.  The same world that Rolf, Nei, and all of their friends inhabit.


I don't mean to be a curmudgeon, but games like this are truly a lost art.  Nowadays, there would be no reason to make a game as cryptic as Phantasy Star II.  A mysterious story could be told in a more conventional manner.  Characters could shock the player with their reveals and betrayals, and a surprise ending could await them all.  This is how any storyteller would do it today, now that we live in a world where we are not constrained by how many bits a game can take up, or how many letters long a text box can be.  Certainly, I have not turned to Phantasy Star II's bag of tricks while designing my own game, Afterlife.  There will never be another game like this because, frankly, the tools available now are more satisfying to the storyteller.  And I guess I'm all right with that.  It's fine that we've progressed.  It's good that we have more options at our disposal.  It's all okay, because if ever we need to, we can plug in these reticent, challenging, marvelous classics, be amazed by how much was done with so little, and just get lost for a while.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

Why can't people just let other people live?

You'd think a simple question would have a simple answer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hurrah!

Gentle Reader,

This is a self-serving little post just to say that I have landed another client based on a referral from a friend and colleague.  The gentleman in question is a very established local personality and it is an honor to work with him!  Best of all... this is an honest to goodness paid assignment.  I am so thrilled!

That is all!

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy

Monday, September 5, 2011

Final Fantasy IV: Golbez Edition Hack

Gentle Reader,

This is an officially silly post that will only be of interest to those who, like me, were completely obsessed with Final Fantasy IV back in the early 90s.  (Give me a break, I was twelve years old.)

Those who have played the game will recall that the primary villian is the mysterious Golbez.  Near the end of the game, Golbez has a change of heart and decides to fight against a greater evil.  At one point, he is shown fighting the enemy as if he was one of the playable characters, even though the player never has any control over him.  I remember thinking how neat it would be if Golbez actually joined the team.  This hack-in-progress is my fan-boyish attempt to realize that dream.

Here is a quick overview of the changes that were made to the original game:
  • The worst grammatical howlers are fixed.
  • Many spell and item names are updated.
  • Rydia's item-based summon spells are much easier to obtain.
  • Rydia's Cockatrice summon is restored.
  • Rosa's Protect, Shell, and Dispel spells are restored.
  • Edward rejoins the team at one point.
  • Cid is with the party for a much longer time.
  • There is new equipment for Edward and Cid. 
  • Axe-type weapons were removed in favor of other, new items.

 Here are specs on the new Golbez character:
  • Golbez replaces Edge.  Edge remains a significant character.
  • Golbez joins at Level 50 with all Black Magic spells already learned.
  • His special ability is Dark Wave, as used by Dark Knight Cecil.
  • Golbez cannot use Dark Knight Cecil's equipment.
  • He comes equipped with Genji armors plus a new weapon.
  • Many new items for Golbez are found within the Lunar Subterrane.

Here are some screen captures from the hack:


Link Added 11/27/11:
Download

Link Added 11/23/11:
Progress Update #4

Link added 11/13/2011:
Progress Update #3 (Video)

Link added 10/30/2011:
Progress Update #2

Link added 10/16/2011:
Progress Update #1

Ever Yours,
Fauntleroy