The 2018 Gaming Expenditure Horror

MONEY

I’m sure I get round to this later and later each year. Maybe the 2025 report will be in 2028 or something. Anyway, the figures from previous years and then the 2018 Horror:

2010 – £590.32
2011 – £888.22
2012 – £834.48
2013 – £342.82
2014 – £464.92
2015 – £932.92
2016 – £964.02
2017 – £734.87
2018 – £271.60

Wait what? Less then £300? In an entire year? That’s the lowest I’ve ever spent in a year since I started recording this back in 2010, and I suspect it’s the lowest ever since I got a full time job. So what happened there, then?

Well, the main thing is that I didn’t buy any hardware. No new consoles. Last time that happened was back in 2013, and you can see that 2013 was my previous spending low tide. More than this though, I really didn’t buy very much at all in 2018.

In fact, the biggest expense was Pokémon. As in, both Let’s Go games, and a Pokéball – these totalled £110.90, not far off half my entire year’s spending.

Anyway, time to breakdown the figures.

Not really a surprise to see that in a year when I bought virtually no hardware, the hardware slice is very small.

What about which platforms I spent money on?

The first thing to notice is what is missing. No iOS, 360 or PC/Mac this year. There’s a slight drop (from 74.1% to 63.6%) for the Switch, but bear in mind that figure last year included the Switch itself! The Wii U still being there surprised me, but then I remembered I bought a second copy of Hyrule Warriors as I wanted a physical disk and my existing copy was digital.

Something to bear in mind is that I did actually get games from other platforms – but I didn’t pay anything for any of them. Some were presents, some were bought with digitial store vouchers given as presents, and quite a few were given out free from places like Humble Bundle on on giveaways on Twitter.

A final chart:

This was also a surprise, until I look into it deeper. The vast majority of the games I’ve bought in the last year were indeed downloads, but the majority of those were essentially free. Or indeed, very cheap. Plus those pesky Pokémon games skew things again too – they were both physical copies.

Previously I’ve also looked at the number of games I’ve bought. In 2016 it was 198, and in 2017 it dropped to 155. In 2018 this number fell even further to “just” 96. I also completed 86 games last year, so I’m getting close to completing more than I buy – and this is a target for 2019. Yes: I’m trying to not buy any games for as long as I can hold out, and complete more than I buy. I’ll never make a dent in the Pile of Unplayed, but at least I can try and reverse the trend, right?

It’s also worth pointing out that in 2018 I purchased my 3000th game. That’s a lot of games.

Veeam VeeamZip “Failed to process [isFileExists]” error when backing up Hyper-V

When backing up to a Synology NAS using VeeamZIP via PowerShell, the job was failing with an “isFileExists” error. Here’s the solution.

I have a Windows Server 2016 server with a number of Hyper-V virtual machines running on it, and Windows Server Backup wasn’t backing them up for reasons known only to Microsoft. Various forums and reports on Microsoft’s Technet suggest there’s a fix needed for Server 2016 which, two years after first complaints, still hasn’t been forthcoming. Everywhere seemed to suggest using something like Veeam Backup & Replication instead, so I installed that.

I only need a simple “backup the VM periodically” function, and Veeam B&R has this option in the free version in the form of VeeamZIP. This is all well and good, but it’s ad-hoc backup only – no scheduling unless you fork out for the paid versions. Luckily, Veeam themselves have a PowerShell script that you can schedule, which makes use of the Start-VBRZip command.

Sadly, it wouldn’t work for me, and it turns out it’s because I’m backing up to a Synology NAS.

If you look at the script, you’ll see this:

If I set $Directory to a location local to the server (e.g. “d:\”) then it works. Set it to the NAS (e.g. “\\synonas\share\backups”) and I get the error “Failed to process [isFileExists]”.

Looking on the NAS, the logs say the server connected – with working credentials – but no files are created. After the usual head-scratching and log searching, I realised something: The script is running with the correct credentials, but the Start-VBRZip command in it is not.

On the PowerShell command line itself, you can specify which credentials Start-VBRZip can use with the -NetworkCredentials parameter. You can read more about that here.  However, there are two steps needed to get that working:

  1. Create a set of stored credentials in the Veeam Backup & Replication GUI, using the “Manage Credentials” option.
  2. Retrieve that in the form of an array in PowerShell and pass it to Start-VBRZip.

The second step is necessary because the parameter expects an array not a string. If you have a set of credentials for (e.g.) “DOMAIN\Admin” stored in Veeam B&R, you can’t just pass -NetworkCredentials “DOMAIN\Admin”.

What you can do, however, is extract the array necessary with this command:

and then pass $cred to Start-VBRZip’s -NetworkCredentials parameter.

Only there’s another snag: the provided PowerShell script doesn’t do anything with credentials as the parameter is missing. We can fix that by adding it ourselves.

In the script, there’s a line that says “DO NOT MODIFY PAST THIS LINE”. To hell with that! Immediately after the “Ansp VeeamPSSnapin” line, add

then rewrite these lines:

to include the missing parameter:

Save the file, add it to Task Scheduler as per the Veeam instructions, and it should now work!

Was I ready to go Mac only?

Ten whole Earth years ago, on this very blog, I asked myself the question: Am I ready to go Mac only? Today, I finally answer it.

Back then, I was certainly ready to try a Mac-only lifestyle. I already owned two, but my main computer was still a PC. I looked at the things I used regularly on it that might cause an issue if I were to move over to the Apple Ecosystem completely, and eventually took the plunge and spent an absurd amount of money on a shiny new iMac.

A shiny new iMac which is still going strong today, albeit at someone else’s house as I bought a replacement a couple of years ago. Yep, I’m all Apple now.

Looking back at my original post, I thought it interesting to see how I solved the issues I predicted facing, so I’ve listed them:

Hardware

I had a Dell printer/scanner at the time, which wouldn’t work on a Mac. Or so I thought! It turned out there was a way of making it work using a Lexmark driver. Unfortunately (or fortuitously?) it actually died soon afterwards, and I bought a very similar but supported Canon device, which is still working now.

I also had a Samsung laser printer, which I gave away. It turns out I rarely needed to laser print after all, as I never replaced it. In fact, I don’t do much printing of any kind, and the Canon printer/scanner is mainly for scanning.

At the time, my phone was a T-Mobile Vario II, running Windows Mobile or CE or something which I managed to get working with the Mac (to sync various things) with some cheap third-party software. I replaced it with a Vario III, which synced in the same way, but ultimately moved to an iPhone 3GS and I’ve been iPhone’d up since. So that inconvenience went away.

The last concerns I have were with my Game Boy and Game Boy Advance homebrew devices, which used parallel connectors not usable on Macs. I replaced the latter with a USB version, and have never actually needed the former again.

Software

Outlook 2003 was my mail client of choice back in 2008, but I moved over to Mail on the Mac reasonably easily. I even managed to bring all my mail over, albeit via an import into Thunderbird first. Calendars moved to iCal, contacts to Address Book.

I coded webpages in PHP using RapidPHP on the PC, but soon moved to Dreamweaver and now, mostly, it’s WordPress anyway so I’ve managed this changeover without hassle. Dreamweaver also negated the suspected need for a SitePublisher alternative, as it does that site upload/syncing job of that too.

I used Agent!, an ancient piece of software (and I was about 3 versions old at the time!) for Usenet access back on my PC. I’d intended to move to Thunderbird on the Mac, and did for a while, but then I discovered MacPorts and got the *nix mail and news client pine working. I’d used pine ten years prior to that at university, so understood it. Sure, it’s like a trip back to the Dark Ages even compared to Agent!, but it suited me fine. More recently, however, I discovered I could actually get Agent! running on a Mac under wine, so I do that now instead.

I survived!

However, I did cheat a little. On my original iMac, I actually managed to get a complete working replica of my old PC running in Parallels. For the few times I really needed Windows, I could pop into that. In reality, I rarely did so. A few times to run some games, the odd tool, to do some coding in VB for work, or to run Access, but that was it. Over the years the frequency of using it dropped too.

On my new iMac, I installed Windows 10 in Bootcamp, and I have to admit I’ve used that more than I did Parallels previously, but in reality only to play games in Steam. There’s Steam on the Mac of course, but half my Steam games are Windows only. Again though, booting into Windows is still a pretty rare occurrence. Not least because every time I do there’s hours of updates to install.

To answer my ten year old question then: yes. I was ready.

Addendum:

In the comments on my original post, I also discovered I’d lose Corel Draw and PhotoPaint – now replaced with InDesign and Photoshop – and PictureShark (which I used to watermark images), now replaced with Star Watermark.

How to make a PICO-8 game: Part 10

The last animation

It’s time to put the final touches to our game, namely animating the player sprite. Previously I’ve shown you how to do this for the enemies, and also how to create the enemies as objects, so we’re combining those for this task.

Part 10: Player Animation

As before, we need to draw some frames of animation to use. I’ve created some additional frames in sprite slots 2, 3 and 4 to carry on from 1.

Again, it’s pretty simple but is just for illustration.

Now, we need to create the player as an object. We could have a function to house this, make_player() like we have make_enemy(), but we only need to create one player so that’s overkill. Instead, we’ll create it in one go in the _init() function, replacing the x and y we had there before:

You’ll notice I’ve put a player.draw function in there, which works just like the enemy draw function from last time.

Continue reading “How to make a PICO-8 game: Part 10”

The 2017 Gaming Expenditure Horror

Ruh-Roh

It’s that time again. When I cry my eyes out over the amount of money I’ve wasted on veedayo games in the previous year. Surely I’ve learned my lesson this year, yeah? Especially since there haven’t been any consoles I’ve ne–oh crap the Switch.

Previously on Gaming Expenditure Horror:

2010 – £590.32
2011 – £888.22
2012 – £834.48
2013 – £342.82
2014 – £464.92
2015 – £932.92
2016 – £964.02
2017 – £734.87

Hurrah! I made it! Finally, I’ve reversed the trend, and spending is on the decline. Even though I bought a Nintendo Switch (£279.85), and some stuff for it like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Special Edition (£58.21), a pair of neon joycon (£79.85), a Switch Pro Controller (£54.99) and Super Mario Odyssey (£35.14). In fact, just these Switch items account for over two thirds of the total – £508.04. With a fair few Switch eShop titles on top, it’s been a mostly Switch-spent year.

As always, let’s do some breakdowns. Starting with the hardware/software split:

Given what I said, that’s hardly a surprise.

What about which platforms I spent money on?

Again, not really a surprise. The Switch has had a knock-on effect on both the PS4 (which, compared to 2016, I’ve barely played) and the 3DS (ditto).  The Wii U has virtually disappeared, as I expected once the Switch came out, and everything else remains much the same as before. Which is to say, mostly zero.

PC and Mac are hanging on in there. I played a few more of them this year.

And the final chart:

Last year, I bucked the trend with an increase in the physical purchase percentage, after it previously decreasing year-on-year. I’m back on the trend line now though, with downloads once more taking more of my money.

Looking at how many games I bought last year – 155 – that’s a drop over last year’s 198. A large number of them were free or almost free PC and Mac games from various deals and bundles too. Unfortunately, another dropis the number of games I completed: Just 65 compared to 2016’s 110. That said, there were a lot of very long games (Zelda, Assassin’s Creed, Persona 4 Golden, Stardew Valley to name just four) last year.

Still. There’s no hardware due in 2018, so maybe there’ll be further improvements to this game purchase situation. Maybe.

Ahahaha.

How to make a PICO-8 game: Part 9

Animated

Sprites are all well and good, but if they animate they look so much better. Let’s head towards the end of this project by polishing it a bit.

Part 9: Animation

First up, we need to have some frames of animation for the enemy sprites. To make it a bit more logical on the sprite screen, I’ve moved the first frame from “slot” 2 to “slot” 17, then edited it and created three more frames of animation:

It’s nothing fancy, but you can change that if you like.

Now, when we create the enemy, we need to pass an extra parameter to the make_enemy() function – the total number of animation frames for the sprite. Of course we could hard code this into the enemy object, but lets assume we might want to reuse this function at another time for a range of objects each with a varying number of animation frames.

Currently, the function starts with this:

We’ll add “eframemax” to this:

and then set:

in the function itself. You’ll see why we had en.frame = 0 in there now!

Next, we need to add some code to change which sprite to use, changing it every so many ticks so it animates like a flickbook. We already have variables for ticks and ticksmax to help with this.

Continue reading “How to make a PICO-8 game: Part 9”

How to make a PICO-8 game: Part 8

Enemy objects

Last time, we got halfway through butchering our previously working game, leaving it in a state where it refused to even run. This time, we’ll fix that.

Part 8: Enemy Objects

Now that there are multiple enemies, and they’re all objects, we can no longer use any code that refers to the old variables of ex and ey, or any other “single enemy” legacy code. Currently, that also means that collisions no longer work.

Luckily, the function checkcol() only needs to be sent two lots of x and y values, so still works fine providing we send it the right variables, so we can leave that alone. However, we need to replace the code that calls it.

At the moment, it says this in _update():

which doesn’t work – note the ex and ey. Instead, lets call this function for each enemy, and pass that enemy’s x and y to the function. Like this:

Be extra careful with the brackets here – the foreach encloses the code in them!

Hopefully by now what this code does is clear, as it’s similar to the enemy  draw routine: It runs through each enemy in enemies{} and triggers checkcol for each.

That’s collisions sorted. Our code won’t run yet, because we still have to fix the enemy move and enemy speed increase routines.

Continue reading “How to make a PICO-8 game: Part 8”

Pokémon Gone

Everybody’s dead, Dave.

That’s it. I’m free. No more walking eggs, no more staring at my phone everywhere I go, no longer will my phone battery need charging five times a day. Pokémon Go is over.

Well, not yet, but soon. Niantic have announced that in February, Apple devices that can’t run iOS 11 will no longer be able to run Pokémon Go. Since I can’t run iOS 11, I can’t keep playing, and I’m damned if I’m buying a new phone just for one “game”.

It’s a shame, but in a way I’m glad. It’s given me a reason to stop. I’d say it’s been fun but actually, has it? Collecting all the monsters hasn’t been feasible, the gyms have been broken so they serve no purpose other than to provide me with coins, trading Pokémon never happened, and raids are impossible (and mostly pointless). I have to wonder why I was playing, and honestly, I can’t think of a single reason.

So I’ve stopped now. There’s nothing to gain from playing for another 6 or 7 weeks and then having it switched off, so why wait? It’s gone.

Goodbye Dave, Dave, Dave and Dave. And Dave. Poor Dave.