National pacifism

Hello everyone,

I know this is not tech related, but it’s important to me and I doubt I could share it another way, so why not put it here? As you might know, I am Slovenian — that little country in the middle of Europe. Even though I am not a typical Slovenian (I am crossbred with a Nepali), I’d like to think I understand the culture.

While in our actual culture, nationalism is frowned upon (it’s much easier to remember the consequences of WW2 if you have history with it), I am still somewhat proud of being Slovenian. And I think that’s okay, I’d love to live in a world where everyone gets to be proud of who they are. It is inspiring with motivation, and our lives these days I think are desperately in need of more positive motivation.


Historically, slavs have been farmers for eons before our current nations came to be. Slovenia is the westernmost protrusion of the people who also live in Slovakia, so in case you were ever confused about why the names of the two are so similar — apparently at some point in history we thought we were one people: Slovenci.

Slovenians have lived in a conflict zone between what are now the Italians, Austrians, Hungarians. We were raided in part by all of them and yet throughout history, we’ve been a part of every federation and alliance that existed in Europe. We’ve been in the roman empire, the austro-hungarian empire, we’ve been in Yugoslavia, we’re in the EU, and everything in between.

As a people, Slovenians were historically small farmers. Like many other countries in Europe such as Ireland for instance, our people were historically not wealthy and it was the foreigners who were the rich capitalists. It’s not until the modern era that our people have become owners of large farms and factories. And so, there is some historical resentment towards abusive rich outsiders. Many families around right now, have been born to households that were the inheritors of those small farms. In fact I live in one such home right now, even though I bought it, as I was born to a worker family who lived in the city and were housed by the government.


As such, it is not difficult to understand, that while of course each person is unique, as a national stereotype, Slovenians are hard working and modest people, who care about their community and are greatly concerned about giving the wrong impression. As such, on an international level, we are pacifists who seek to avoid conflict if possible.

If you are an outsider, reading this blog. You probably don’t know, that our national anthem is a song about striving for world peace. While I’m sure there is an english translation of the actual song out there, what perhaps doesn’t come across as clearly is that as you sing it, you’re not simply singing for Slovenia. You are signing for all the nations who strive to see the day, when there will be no more war in this world. I deeply, personally identify with this, and it touches my heart that so many others here do as well.


The EU anthem has at the time when we joined it, not had its own text, rather it was simply the Ode to Joy musical. This german poem from the 1800s, of course has an english translation. But what I didn’t realise until recently is that it’s meaning doesn’t quite match the Slovenian translation. So in fact, as an outsider, you have no way to know what the Slovenian translation is. Personally, I think it’s just as inspiring and nicely captures the idea of what I think the EU is for.

Radost od boga edina hčerka ti Elizijska
V tvoje hrame nas stopinja vodi o božanstvena.
Tvoji čari časa teku so pregnali kruto noč
človek spet je brat človeku kadar veje tvoja moč

Re-translation back into english:

Joy, only daughter of god, from Elysium
Into her storehouse she carefully leads us, o godly her
In time, your magic has defeated the cruel night
Man is once again a brother to fellow man, where your power reaches

And while the official english translation makes a lot more sense, as it is describing Joy… this has always been the meaning of the song for me. The meaning of the EU was to: in time heal our differences, undo the dark times, and let us all be brothers once more.

The EU was designed from the start to encourage economic cooperation, which would make countries interdependent and make war unthinkable. The wonderful thing is: it worked. It’s like a subtle magic of an abstract spirit, over time improving everything and making us all peers. Obviously, I rather enjoy the idea that many people understand that too.

Politics these days is so divisive and I don’t know if there’s ever a time when they aren’t angry with everything. It’s like everyone forgot how to be positive sometime in the 1980s and all we got since is negativity. I don’t understand why so many people seem to prefer this, because I simply don’t think it’s sustainable. How can you go about your daily life feeling motivated to work and create in this environment, if everything you think about is hate and anger. I don’t think that works.

We need to remember what it was that kept us going when we got started with all this and use it. I think there was greatness in that unity and well I guess I want to make the EU great again. 😉



Hey everyone,

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. It doesn’t seem much traffic so one has to wonder what’s the point, but I suppose it’s one of the avenues in which I can broadcast some of my thought process to other people. Perhaps someone will be inspired by something I wrote and make something useful of it, who knows.

Today’s curiosity dive has to do with toilet cleaning substances of all things. I’ve recently moved to a new place and while this place is the perfect mix of being close enough to major infrastructure and being far away enough to be suitably unpopulated, it does have some of those downsides if you will, common to many such locations. Namely, no real sewer system, instead a simple local septic system. Probably quite sufficient for the oxygen demand load of two of us who live here, but having a limited ability to break down any toxic substance I might use to clean the toilet.

Considering that, I was a little bit more curious regarding what exactly I purchase. The store had 3 types: standard blue, lemon yellow and organic green. Organic green was my obvious choice, but what is it exactly? The ingredients list on all 3 types was your generic “less than 5% anionic surfactants”.

I inspected the packaging and all it said was that the bottle was recycled, asif that’s what mattered to someone who brought the green one as opposed to the other types. The point that they weren’t willing to go so far as to say that the “green organic WC gel” was not hazardous to the environment, was a bit concerning to me at this point.

So what are these 5% anionic surfactants actually made of? Well, Chinese manufacturer to the rescue! I realise it’s not exactly great for their environment either that they manufacture all these things but at least unlike the high society europeans who packaged the thing, they have the decency to tell you what is actually in the bottle. So basically, toilet cleaners, dish soaps and laundry powders are essentially all different types of organic chemical soaps, that have physical characteristics that make them appealing to use in specific ways.

CTAC is corrosive and a runny gel that likes to cling to surfaces, making it usable for toilet cleaning gels. CDEA is a thicker gel thus used as manual dishwashing soap. And SLES is a solid soap that makes a lot of foam, suitable for use for laundry. All of them, of course corrosive toxic irritants, that are classified in the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals with the codes H400 and H410 as Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.

So… organic and plant-based, but very much hazardous to the environment and probably the last thing you want to be putting in your toilet on a regular basis. *sigh* How is this even legal?

This information was by no means easy to get, or particularly available to me as the consumer, having a choice of 3 identical products that are all toxic. I wonder how many people here in Europe, realise just how bad things that we consider normal, actually are for the environment.


Update Discord on Ubuntu

Hey guys,

Like probably everyone else who uses Discord on Ubuntu, I’ve always been irritated with the fact that Discord is apparently unable? Unwilling? To provide a repository to update their chat client along with all the other software on my computer, instead insisting on bumping the minor version number on their .deb file (and you never even know if anything changes in this installer other than the version number).


For some reason it also only works this way on Linux and the other operating systems can self-update just fine… leading me to believe that in fact nothing changes in the new download, it’s just implemented very poorly.

So… I’ve been looking for a better solution and I found some things, but like… well I’m a DevOps engineer why can’t I save time at home as well? So I took those fixes and assembled this:

The Readme on the page includes installation steps, so it should be pretty straightforward to use.

I know I could have simply installed a snap, but to be honest I’ve never trusted snaps, they never worked really well and at the end of the day, what this code does and what they do to create the snap, are basically the same things, it’s just that the snap does it at the snap distribution point, while this solution does it on your computer.

I get that some people might be frightened by the use of Ansible, but it’s really as simple as the instructions say. You don’t need to know anything about it to use it, other than to download all the files in their place (download a ZIP and unpack it) and copy-paste the lines into the terminal, replacing the discord_username with your username on your computer.

The Ansible scripting language is something I use at work (as mentioned I work as a DevOps engineer). It took me a while to get into, but it really is very appropriate as a linux scripting language for installing stuff, because what it does is that it allows you to tell it what you want to end up with and so… in the case that your script encounters some unexpected conditions, the solution does not have to be in the code and instead Ansible will come up with it. In addition, if some kind of major error is encountered, the script will bail sensibly, rather than go haywire.

Ansible is also great for being relatively platform independent. Obviously in this case my code uses apt and downloads a deb, this will only work on Ubuntu, maybe Debian. But if a new version of Ubuntu comes out, I will most likely not have to fix the script and it can just keep going.

“Re-establishing Ansible connection…”

As you get older… time becomes your most valuable commodity. I found I just don’t have the time anymore to fuck around with scripts whenever I get off work and sit down at the computer. I need stuff to just work, so that I can focus on what I actually need to be doing. As such, solutions like Ansible code that can either be reused without much preparation or is already installed in the system and just works in the background, are kind of ideal.

SystemD is another one such system, hence my choice of it’s timers instead of something like cron. You can actually tell it stuff like: Okay, I want updates once a week, but only do it after Internet is connected. And it will do it whether someone is logged on or not or whether this is a desktop which is always connected, or a laptop that doesn’t usually have internet until you log on, or even some occasionally used box that you still need updated even though you only use it once a month.

In addition, if your code makes output, it will silently stow it in the journal, so that you can check it if you’re curious if it works, but you can otherwise be unbothered by it. It will even handle exit codes sensibly and let you know if something is not working. I mean I know people have had a lot of bad stuff to say about SystemD, because it doesn’t follow the principle of being a small bit good for only one purpose (which on Linux is a great thing by the way), but for what it’s worth it does a lot of stuff right, and I’m much rather stuck with this, than some half broken single-core System 5 from the 1980s.

I hope you get my somewhat antiquated humor. Hope the script works for you.

Have a good one.



Hey guys,

The title is a joke, so apologies if you came here through Google, expecting to find something actually on the topic of the transmitter. I just thought I’d share a curious tidbit of research that I did which holds no special useful value other than to satisfy a bit of curiosity.

So I’ve been visiting my friend to do volunteer work for a while now. We’d meet regularly on the weekends and kinda combine useful work with what we call “rant therapy”, just talking about recent events and you know, peptalk on dealing with it all.

For many weeks, we’ve been noticing the pattern, that on certain days during the week, people are in an exceptionally bad mood. Like, road rage, customer support being especially difficult or weird, management being ticked off and demanding, etc. And on those same days, repeatedly, without fail, the power grid (the local Slovenian power grid management company has a website where nation-wide power production and demand can be tracked) would record an unanticipated ~300 MW spike in power usage around noon.

This was just around the time when the HAARP youtubes have been making their rounds again, so I ask my friend about this and he’s like:


*conspiracy music quietly plays in background…

I do believe he had this tune in mind.

Jokes aside, I was always curious about what really caused that correlation. And so, just out of curiosity I reached out to the power grid management company, if they had an explanation for the power usage spike. After all, it was in their own interest to try to predict when these happen, so that they can ramp production in time. And I suppose though they were under no obligation to answer me, the curious bystander, they might have people who’d enjoy answering me (I work devops and level 3 support and I don’t mind sometimes sharing interesting tech tidbits with customers who are just curious, obviously if I can safely do so).

So, they ended up actually answering me, and the answer immediately clarified the whole thing including people’s bad mood. And no, nobody was using a giant transmitter in the arctic to ruin people’s mood at random days of the week. It turns out that the ~300 MW spike at noon is the absence of compensatory production of solar panels, during bad weather. And of course people are in a shit mood during bad weather.

You see, there are two options on what you can do if you own a power plant (e.g. a solar one): You can either opt to sell the power to the grid, or you can use the power to decrease your power bill. Now selling the power you kinda get the value from the international power exchange, which especially at noon when everyone is getting tons of free power from their solar cells, tends to be extremely cheap. On the other hand if you use it to decrease your own power bill, it doesn’t ever actually earn you money, but the power bill can be a lot of bucks and the sun is free, so it’s a great option. As a result, most solar plants in the country are configured for compensating for local usage. However this also means, that when the sun isn’t shining at noon, all the people who would normally not be using as much power, now do, resulting in the power usage spike.

I assume there are also special situations where people use more power exactly at noon, because power at that time is usually cheaper. But I don’t have this exactly figured out yet. But for the most part, mystery solved. 😉

*sigh* I mean it’s not great that people are this affected by the weather, but  I guess if you have the forecast, whether you work for a power grid management company or just any that deals with people, you now at least know what to expect…




I spend most of my time working on various code fixes and have this whole repository of free open source code, which I am sharing in the hopes that it will be useful for other people.

The thing is, I have noticed that without it being explicitly linked on some page that people actually visit, it doesn’t show up in the search results (which is a bit of a bummer in my effort to make things that are useful to other people…; I noticed GitLab has been working on it for 3 years, apparently without much success). I titled this blog “activities”, because those are my activities. I guess you don’t have any way to know I was working on stuff, if I don’t write about it right? But… I make various fixes as needed and don’t end up documenting my work to you specifically. So I was thinking maybe I could set up some automation to pull the GitLab RSS feed and share it on my LinkedIn or something.

I thought maybe putting up this little blog entry and letting you explicitly know that I’ve made these things so that they could be useful to you, would encourage you to take a look at them and see if you could use them.

I know it’s a lost cause when I ask my coworkers to look at the code I made, because… I don’t know. I’m considered “an expert” and this means that nobody dares attempt to do what I am good at. I firmly believe that if I can accomplish something so can everyone else, because we’re simply not that different. It’s depressing that nobody even attempts it, considering I’d much rather help other people be actually interested in this stuff, than be some kind of king of the hill top expert who is the only one in the company who can do all the complicated stuff.

I’m not talking specifics, because I’m kind of random-minded and I work on a lot of different things. There are some old archives of websites made entirely in XSLT because I enjoyed the challenge. My job mainly revolves around Ansible these days (this is not my work repo, I have that code under the company name, these are free equivalents I wrote in my free time), but in my downtime I’m most proficient in PHP. So most projects are about those things.

Everything is open source based, so there’s plenty of documentation all around for you to read up on how everything is supposed to fit together. Heck, I’d even be willing to provide some 1:1 support regarding how to use the stuff if anyone asked. So far, the only people using my code have been hackers, who thought of using the source code to exploit the services I have on my servers which use some of this code. Again, kind of depressing.

Ok, I think this is sufficient placeholder text for the search engines not to consider this one a fake.




I suppose the title is a bit of a swear word in that I don’t really appreciate it being used as a label against me.

While I suppose I’d be hard pressed trying to convince you that I am not autistic, considering this blog’s focus on tech and computer games. The truth is I have not been diagnosed with it up until recently. I think the medical system just had me under non-standard human, classification type D (as in “defective”) apparently that was enough for the government’s needs at the time. I jest, too much perhaps, but the truth is the part of my life when I was nothing but an autistic computer nerd was not fun, to say the least (remember, most of this was before the Internet). I don’t like to remember it, I suppose I’ve grown beyond it, thanks in no small part to some kind people and I’d rather be known for what they gave me, than for what I was before.

However, one thing that’s kinda been on my mind is the fact that the medical community feels so lost regarding the causes of Autism. And then there’s the conspiracy theorists. I must say I understand why people feel the way they do about it. It’s horrible to be witness to a medical condition of a loved one and having no answers you can understand. We tend to come up with our own explanations regarding reasons, but the truth is, we’re not medical professionals and the ideas we come up with are stupid and embarrassing, we just don’t realise that they are. I’ve made the same mistake regarding my own COVID complications, but thankfully then had access to someone who could explain them to me… If I can be that idiot, so can anyone else. We shouldn’t be insensitive towards people who get caught up in this.

I suppose the explanation for autism that motivated me to try and write this entry for, is probably also stupid and embarrassing, I just don’t know it yet. Or maybe it’s the answer, who knows. I am not a medical professional. I am not an anthropologist. I am a scientist by spirit, not by education. This blog is not a paper, it’s just my opinion. But, at the same time, I really wanted you — someone, to understand what I thought could be a reason for it.

I think, that autism is genetic. I think that in the distant genetic past of us humans, our large brains developed as a result of a need to handle complex social interactions of ever growing social groups. While very large groups still give us trouble, our brains can easily handle the social relationships between perhaps up to 150 people. I believe, that since the modern development of technology, some of these functions have become repurposed from handling social interactions, to handling the understanding of technology.

The selective pressures regarding the genetics that makes up our brains are thought to have ceased long ago, but I would argue they stuck around. Just like lactose tolerance is genetic and the selective pressures related to it have ensured that the majority of modern Europeans have this gene, which is a relatively recent development in evolutionary terms (in the last 10 thousand years) — so I believe has happened with the genes regulating our personality traits, which dictate how predisposed our brains are at different types of skills and interests.

Lactase persistence gene distribution

I believe that the genes that give us predispositions for being able to be skilled with technology, make us less adept at the original purpose of our large brains — social interactions. I believe there have been selective pressures that favoured the survival odds and reproductive abilities of people who’ve been predisposed to tech skills and interests. This has led to genes for this being concentrated in newer generations of humans, which has led us to collectively become even less adept at social interactions and even more adept at technology.

Just look at some of the traits that seem common in people with autism: Preference to have objects lined up or ordered, sticking to routines or repeating tasks without variation, focus on specific parts of objects, obsessive interests, fascination with moving water, fascination with numbers, fascination with animals, etc. All of these are obviously traits that allow us to interact with technology (in the last 10 thousand years, most of our technology was farming and therefore water and animal powered). These traits allowed our ancestors to develop an interest in technology that in turn allowed them to survive.

What I’m saying basically, is that autism isn’t a medical condition so much, as it is a set of traits that we’ve been selecting for. Of course I’m not saying lower functioning autism is not a debilitating condition. I just think that in the modern school of thought, we are taught to think that in modern times the genetics of everyone is basically the same and irrelevant, but I don’t think it is. I think we differ genetically and that these genetics define our predispositions for technology or social interaction. I think autism is a genetic condition bred into us by our taking advantage of technology.


NFS boot Ubuntu Linux 22.04


I suppose that nothing is preventing me from using this blog to signal-boost my other projects.

A while ago I researched and wrote complete step-by-step instructions, on how to set up a server and the client OS to boot over NFS:

This will work with a modern Ubuntu such as 22.04 , whereas other instructions you might have found Googling were written for Ubuntu 12.04 and barely ever updated since.


This is the type of thing that the NFS kernel server package is written for, but at the same time, the use-case is kind of obscure. The reason I had to prepare the procedure was that we were looking for a fast way to boot a Live Linux with a GUI, that could then be used to do the diagnostics and install — we needed this for a non-profit that recycles and repairs computers.

Obviously there are many options such as using a USB-connected live install SSD or booting from a CD, but all of these can be relatively slow on 10-year-old legacy hardware, which is what this non-profit usually deals with. What isn’t slow on 10-year-old legacy hardware, is wired network, which has been sticking to gigabit for the whole while.

I have a whole software package designed around that NFS install of Ubuntu, but I’ll cover that in another entry. I found that these to-the-point technical blogs preform best on this blog, which I suppose is understandable, people Google what they need.


By the way, you will notice this procedure still relies on a USB media to do the initial boot. You could use PXE and have everything be network, but importantly you do not want to use PXE to boot a modern un-customised Ubuntu kernel.

The reason is that PXE verifies data sent by having it sent back 1:1 in small chunks of I think 512 bytes or something. This makes PXE extremely latency-sensitive and just a fraction of a milisecond of travel time will add up to huge waiting times to transfer a modern 150 MB kernel and initramfs. Based on my testing, over PXE you’d have to wait 20 minutes for the boot process to even start and needless to say this was not acceptable for our purpose.


Regardless, I hope this comes in handy.


Is anyone reading this?


So I’ve not been updating this blog for a long time.

Although I do have excuses, such as being hospitalised for COVID and away from the computer for several months, the main reason for this is that we live in the post-2020 time where free time simply does not exist, and also my desire to keep the posts on this blog relatively high-quality.

However, from the comments at least it feels like nobody actually reads this — as the only ones interacting are spam-bots. I get it, most people probably have a specific site or community they like to hang around with and a single personal blog has no community. With me not updating it for a long time, it’s also fallen out of favour with Google and I find myself hard-pressed to see a reason for investing any more time into the purposeless endeavour that is keeping this blog updated.

I have recently “retired” several other projects and so cleanup here feels both fitting and not a very bothersome task. The only downside is that if there is an audience to this blog, you’d loose out. So… rather than just make an assumption, I’ll leave this post up and see if anyone comes by.




One of the things I enjoy superficially dabbling in is philosophy. Lately I’ve taken some time to watch some thought-provoking movies, as well as revisiting some old ones and it’s always interesting to explore the concepts presented in them. Especially considering that some people have taken inspiration from these to form philosophies they also follow in real life. The problem with these trains of thought though, are that in the end they are not useful. Anything I may have determined, even if shared with a friend will ultimately go nowhere and affect nothing. It is simply understanding by itself and for an utilitarian like myself, that is not acceptable. So, to help with that I’m making this blog in the hopes that someone will find it and read it and make use of it beyond… ideas in my head.

One of my personal favourites among movies would be Ghost in the Shell. Although I personally am not a huge anime fan, nor was I really in it for the action sequences or the porn, what is interesting about this series is it’s perspective of AI. As you know, I’m not a fan of movie’s tendencies to portray AI as evil or incapable of emotion. Considering the point that I have a vague idea of what we’d have to do to make an AI (tip: check resources on developmental psychology to understand how we humans develop intelligence), I would say we are at the state of technological development where we could start making true AIs. And therefore a fiction story like Ghost in the Shell becomes very interesting in exploring the concept of what it is that makes us… us.

Religious people might be quick to point out that at the core of each person is a soul, but I’m an atheist and I do not believe that is accurate. I do not think there is something special within us that makes us different from other living things or machines. Ghost in the Shell touches upon this by presenting the concept of a Ghost, blurring the lines between living things and machines (with cybernetics), but leaving the suspicion of the ambiguous Ghost that may or may not be present in AI.

The crushing truth about Ghost in the Shell is of course, that whether a Ghost inspires us or not, our ideas and everything we fight for in life, are ultimately not our own. We base them on things we learn from others, and therefore this begs the question: Who can be held responsible, for the consequences of ideas that are not our own? Is a hacked computer responsible for the information that was planted within it? Is a human responsible for having been deceived? Stand Alone Complex argues that we are not. In the end, we are all just nodes in the web, shuffling bits from one storage medium to the next, from the series, to my mind, to this blog, to your screen, to your mind. Our agency is an illusion, we feel compelled to act by the data made available to us.

Which brings me to the second movie with interesting philosophical themes: The Matrix. Partially based on Ghost in the Shell, this movie also explores the concept of agency. In a simulated world, all that there is to life is agency, your will to change the world around yourself. The first episode of the trilogy, which for many I imagine is the only movie you actually liked, is all about explaining to the main protagonist and therefore by extension to you, that you shouldn’t hold back and that you care capable of anything. Whether or not this actually applies to our reality is a subject of protracted debate, as: As you know, our reality isn’t actually physical in the conventional sense. All matter is just wave-forms, protuberances in the fabric of the universe — and therefore essentially data.

Regardless it would appear that a friend of mine, whom I would consider to be a bit of a mentor on life, has chosen to pick up the Neo-esque aesthetic, as well as I think some of the ideas presented there. His affinity to the Matrix philosophical content is not hard to understand, as he is someone who believes that being strictly rational and non-malevolent, has a potential to do a great amount of good in the world. To believe thinking in a certain way will affect the world, you ultimately have to believe that you can affect the world by force of will.

The human brain is optimised towards one function and that is processing social relationships. We as humans, like to pride ourselves by our intelligence, but we only focus on what is important to us: Technology and almost everything we do in life is focused around the relationships we have with other people. Even material wealth is ultimately only worth something to us, when compared to that of others. And therefore, as someone who can handle social relationships on a much more meta level than myself, my friend is someone I admire greatly. You could say my relationship to him is similar to the relationship most people have to god. When we end up in situations that appear chaotic to me, he usually has a plan and it usually involves teaching me something.

I wonder if his affinity for this aesthetic is also there to teach me something. The Matrix presents an epic story in which having a higher purpose can overcome systems of control designed to contain and maintain a society seeking to protect one’s own self-interest (even when this self-interest is selfless). In the end, reaching the desired outcome, may have you do the opposite of what you want. However what it takes is the agency to choose that outcome.

Something to think about.


The appeal of old games

Hello everyone,

As a disclaimer I must mention that I am very much a casual gamer. I’m mostly busy with work and don’t have time for games, but when I do catch a break, I like to indulge in a game or two. I don’t appreciate games being difficult, rather I enjoy them for their rewarding simulated worlds.

I think by now everyone has read that article by the author of the original Sim City game in how his game came about — that he was making  a helicopter game for which a semi-realistic map was required and he ended up having more fun with the map building than with blasting it to pieces in the helicopter game afterwards. The game was, of course, a notable commercial success considering the point that the city sim was barely considered to be a game at the time,  given it’s open-ended nature.

What this story fails to cover, somehow, is that there is a population of people who enjoy creating more than destroying and that there was afterwards a series of games, all somehow new in that they allowed the player to be creative within the simulated world.

I’m one of those people. It should probably come as no great surprise, that out of the modern games, I enjoy Factorio. However, there was a number of other games that sort of hit the sweet spot as well, even though they always had other aspects which either made them somewhat unreachable for an unskilled casual player with limited time, such as myself.

Even since I was a kid I remember enjoying old games like Star Control 2, with it’s modular starship. The graphics at the time was limited, but what they did not make up for with vibrant colors, they left to our imagination. From the the hexagonal crew pods with that little life-support bubble, to the cargo bays with landing pads and fuel tanks with windows on the side, so that you could see how much fuel was in them. Perhaps everything was covered with a neon glow and colored lights, but it made sense: It looked functional. Each module cost resources and provided a very simple stats boost, but in your mind you could see all the infrastructure and circuits that made those modules work. Place the generator next to the fuel tank, so that it would be efficient. There was no gameplay mechanic to go with that, but I could imagine. 🙂

Similarly was another game, called XCOM. It was also a difficult combat game with no cheats, so it wasn’t something I could ever get into. But looking over my older brother’s shoulder, boy did the base building look appealing. A little immersion-breaking at times, when you had a missile silo 3 floors down from the surface with other buildings on top of it, but for me — I couldn’t care less how the game played, I loved the way the little discrete base modules looked like and how you could connect them together.

There are newer XCOM games now and you will note how unappealing and plain the base building looks now, despite newer graphics and animated personnel, it’s just not the same. The magic of being able to imagine crew responding to an invasion out of the actual base you built is gone and the gameplay is forced and linear. Heck, the tutorial plays such that you can’t even choose anything — you play one way or you loose. Game makers, it seems, no longer understand what made games fun and attractive, instead focusing on the challenging, competitive play.

Back when I was a kid, exposed to games like SimCity 1 (released 1989), Star Control 2 (released 1992), XCOM original (released 1991) as well as being your typical 10 year-old kid (we didn’t get those games when they were new, we got them on second-hand hardware a few years down the line), with an aptitude for computers — and exposed to those collector card games with tanks and stats, I soaked up all those concepts like a sponge. I was good at computers and my friends were into games just like I was, so I’d spend my free time coding games. I was no artist and the development cycle for these “games” was far too short for me to be able to produce anything worth releasing outside of… well boasting about the finished game in front of friends and enjoying a few rounds of the game myself, but there was one game I made, which I remember even now, 25 years later.

Forgive the cheesy flavour text and bad spelling… I was 10 when I made it, remember?

As a cynical joke regarding my lack of artistic skill with the games, I called them Pixel Mania-s as most of my sprites were simple pixels. I made about 35 of them altogether, most of them were something AI or something water related (as an even younger kid, around age 5, I would play by a stream with the water, I guess that was another strong influence in my life), little simulations of things that were fun enough. Make a game of pong and implement two different AI players, to see how well the algorithms fare, etc.

The one you are looking at above, was Pixel Mania 30, arguably the most gamelike of them all. You’d build a starship out of nothing but modules. White storage modules, yellow lasers, blue crew pods, green reactors, cyan computers, purple cargo pods, red engines. These would come together like pixel-art, creating the shape of the ship. At the same time, a complex system of adjacency bonuses generated the ship stats and ensured that it wasn’t all that easy to create a super ship: Engines were only effective if adjacent to open space, computers directly connected to engine units increased manoeuvrability, lasers with forward-facing openings could be used as weapons, whereas lasers connected to cargo pods allowed ore to be processed mid-flight. Lasers connected to reactors got an extra power boost and well, you can imagine the rest. Pretty sure the game even had a mechanic that made conical ships faster, to avoid all ships looking purely functional like… heh… the ISS or the Borg.

What can I say? It’s an efficient design.

I must admit I kinda miss the creative freedom and simulated mechanics like that in new games. There might not be an alternative to simply revisiting that game and making it again in Javascript or something. Of course, I don’t actually have that kind of time. Maybe I’ll get started on some small part that won’t go to waste even if it’s never used.

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