Flash! Aa-aaah! He’ll generate random words!

I’ve been reworking the code behind my random word generator, to generalize the methods of modeling the source word sets and creating the output. The first fruit of that is one tuned for Pinnacle’s new Savage Worlds Of Flash Gordon RPG (slowly trickling out for Kickstarter supporters, and being vigorously edited on their forums).

For the source file, I took every Mongo-ish name/word I could find from the original comic strips, series, and movies (all hail the concept of wikis), and added everything Pinnacle has created in their new books. They’ve done a great job of mixing their own names with the originals, IMHO.

Unfortunately, it’s still a fairly small set (285 words at the moment) with wildly divergent phonetic patterns, making it unsuitable for either trigrams or n1grams, so I kept the lessons I learned and threw away most of the code, creating a brand-new digram-based generator that preserves more flavor than the obvious implementation.

As configured, mongowords can generate at least half a million distinct words, and even at the end of the list, a fair number of them are usable. With the new code, it will be easier to merge back the full feature set from the old one, while supporting a wider range of generation techniques.

Now that that’s out of the way, back to finding errors and tyops in the new rulebooks!

Savaged Rules

As far as I can tell, the Savage Worlds RPG has never been playtested against veteran rules lawyers. Fourteen years after the first release of the core rulebook, there are still significant ambiguities caused by flavor text, inconsistent wording, and poor organization. The FAQs and forums do not clear them all up.

I suspect that the only reason the system thrives is that it’s largely taught at cons rather than learned from the book.


Half the fun is figuring out which official downloads to ignore. The current version of the Test Drive rules is the one in the Lankhmar section of the site; the only sidebar link in the Savage Worlds section that’s current is the GM Screen Tables (and it oversimplifies some rules).

No Man’s Sky: Pinky’s World

[note: Steam has a 60% off sale for Halloween. I think $24 is still a bit high, but a lot more reasonable than $60]

Out of the tiny number of people still playing No Man’s Sky on the PC, there exists an even-smaller number who have completed the main quest in Permadeath mode, and of those, a very small number of masochists who chose Raging Galaxy as their destination and ended up in Calypso.

So, for those dozen or so players, if you want to travel through a portal and visit someone’s base to either get the Steam achievement or pick up a decal, come to Pinky’s World:

Just watch out for the Bone-Stripping Acid Storms (not a euphemism).

Pinky’s World (PC, Permadeath Mode, Calypso Galaxy)
Portal Address 201103513B8C (038B:0082:0D12:0011)
Base is 3:30 due East.

(I also left a Comm Station with these instructions at the de-facto message-board portal 111111111111)


No Man’s Sky revisited

After Shamus wrote up his one-year-later look at the ambitiously flawed No Man’s Sky, I decided to take another look myself. Before I’d even consider it, though, I made sure that I had workarounds for the most crippling of its misfeatures. The Pride of Euclid mod makes it possible to travel around planets at something other than a crawl, and nmssavetool allows editing save files to fix the ridiculous inventory limitations and reduce grinding by about 80%.

With the original nmssavetool, I had some canned jq scripts to do basic useful things: add cash, add an item to inventory, and report or change the current ship/multitool seed (a purely cosmetic cheat that changes their procedurally-generated appearance to something cooler).

The author has baked all those and much more into the new version, so that you can start a new game, save once, and then upgrade yourself to be capable of playing the parts of the game you like, whether that’s exploring new star systems, fighting pirates, or questing. There’s also a Java-based GUI save editor that makes it easier to do things like reorganize your technology in the inventory grid to maximize bonuses (a feature of the game that is still nearly impossible to use legitimately).

On that note, there are now two quest chains, and they’re not nearly as fragile as they were before (although one of them is broken in 1.38…); the new mission generator gives you some short-term goals, as long as you work around its bugs. They even turned the useless portal-ish items into a direct clone of Stargate’s stargates, complete with whoosh.

I can honestly say that, with mods and save tools, it’s now a decent $15 game. Unfortunately they still charge $60 for it, so unless you see a big sale, don’t buy it. And if you buy it, get some mods and a save tool, or you’ll find the fun parts separated by tall grindy mountains; Shamus’ articles cover a lot of that, and I agree with pretty much everything he said.

Endless Sky: The Bus Driver

I’ve played through all the story content of the free, open source game Endless Sky, much of it more than once. It’s a fun little time-waster whose replay value lies largely in non-story content. Instead of worrying about the fate of the Free Worlds, the secrets of the Alphas, or the future of the Wanderers, you can just go off and become a pirate hunter. Or a pirate king. Or a merchant prince.

Or, in my latest run, a bus driver.

Step one was buying a Shuttle and paying off the mortgage as fast as possible. I paid it down at every opportunity, and didn’t worry about trashing my credit rating with missed payments.

Step two was making enough cash to buy a Bounder outright (1.6 million credits), using the profit from the used Shuttle to finance its renovation (ditch the useless turrets, convert the cargo space to bunks, and add a fuel pod).

Step three was heading into Hai space to make enough cash to sell off the Bounder and buy a Blackbird, outfitting it as the nimblest, leggiest bus in Human space (total cost ~6 million):

  • no weapons
  • Pebble Core reactor
  • LP036a Battery Pack
  • Biroo Atomic Thruster engine
  • Bondir Atomic Steering engine
  • Hai Corundum Regenerator shields
  • Hyperdrive
  • 3x Outfits Expansion
  • 3x Fuel Pod
  • 10x Bunk Room

Expected payment from a single mission is between 250,000 and 1.25 million credits, with total expenses under 3,000 credits (200 credits/jump). I’ve yet to jump into a system where I couldn’t outrun pirates long enough to jump back out before they took my shields down.

If you have room for 21+ passengers, you get offered Strike Breaker missions occasionally. They’re lucrative, but only offered 10% of the time, and often at sizes you can’t fit into a Bounder, so transporting families in Hai space is more practical in step two. In the Paradise Worlds, there’s a 10% chance of finding rich tourists, but usually heading to places where there’s not much chance of a decent return mission.

The real money is in Colonists, who show up in certain systems 20-30% of the time, but only if your ship has room for 31+ passengers. The 65-passenger capacity of the Blackbird is large enough for most of these, but some are so large (with a payout of over 2 million credits…) that I needed a second ship. Not a problem with 30 million in the bank.

Now, if I had Jump Drives, I’d build a fleet of Blackbirds and take them into Coalition space, where the passenger transport jobs get ridiculously large and profitable (400+ for some jobs, thanks to the long tail of negative binomial distributions).

Amusing random mission:

Bring 22 wealthy tourists on a fabulous journey to the wild and exotic world of Freedom in the Almaaz system. Payment is 416,000 credits.

Freedom is a pirate world. I think I just sold them all into slavery. 😄


For fun, I hacked in a Jump Drive and did enough Coalition and Wanderers missions to gain access to their ships and outfits. Sad thing is, the Blackbird config above is still the winner. There just aren’t any better low-crew, long-distance people-movers out there, and the Hai outfits I bought for it are better than the gear offered by the higher-tech civs.

Some of the ships you unlock through the story missions might be an improvement, but right now I’d rather have a fleet of Blackbirds than anything else.

Bump and Grind

Over the weekend, I made a second run through Sakura Dungeon to try to unlock a few achievements and screenshots I’d missed. This included increasing the difficulty level, but that didn’t make the fights more difficult, just more tedious, so I soon started using console cheats to buff my characters, and skipped through most fights (press “S”, then “A”) and all the dialog I’d seen in my first run (“S” again). I couldn’t bypass the puzzles, but most of them can be navigated quickly with maps; level 12/13 and level 15 are still really annoying, though.

Once the console is enabled, you can do all sorts of cheating, but the method that has the least risk of breaking the game is to use just two commands, repeated as necessary:

for i in party: i.xp=99

Setting xp=99 means that everyone in your party will level-up during the next fight (eliminating a lot of tedious grinding), and adding an elixir to your inventory will revive and heal anyone who’s down after a fight (allowing you to only return to the surface when you find a teleporter, eliminating a lot of tedious navigation through cleared floors).

Basically, even on normal mode you need to grind wandering monsters to get your level high enough to handle bosses (who will one-shot party members ~5 levels below them), so any enjoyment I got out of the simple combat system was gone well before I beat the main campaign, and I had no interest in grinding even more on “hard”, so I made sure my party was always a level or so ahead of the monsters.

I now have 34 of 37 achievements, and I’m not going to bother with the other three, because they are: grind more monsters, go through the main campaign on really-hard mode, and grind even more monsters.

The Steam global achievement page for the game says a lot about how much people liked the dungeon-crawling:

  • 20% didn’t finish level 1 (“never played the game”)
  • 25% didn’t finish level 2 (first boss)
  • 45% didn’t finish level 4 (unlock Sylvi)
  • 60% didn’t finish level 8 (unlock Yomi)
  • 73% didn’t finish level 14 (unlock Maeve)
  • 81% didn’t finish level 21 (milk for Anubis)
  • 85% didn’t finish level 27 (the main campaign)
  • 89% didn’t finish the short bonus campaign (defeat Hiriko)
  • 91% didn’t defeat the extra boss (Izanami)

That is, they didn’t. Basically, half of the people who played at all stopped around ¼ into the main campaign, and half of the remaining players dropped out by the ¾ mark. Obviously this is skewed a bit by recent purchases, but the game’s over a year old, so it should be in the ballpark.

(note that the “Burning Soul” achievement is rare not because it’s difficult, but because it’s broken unless you’re playing the 1.05 “beta”, which has never been made the official version because of Winged Cloud’s breakup with their former publishers. If you play, play 1.05)

Cheap Hunie

HuniePop and HunieCam Studio are deeply discounted in the Steam Summer Sale for another 24 hours, at $2.49 and $1.74, respectively. I found them both quite entertainingly naughty (or naughtily entertaining) games.

Mini-Review: Sakura Dungeon

WARNING: as published on Steam, Sakura Dungeon is NSFW. As augmented by the free patch, the art includes hardcore porn. It’s also on sale for $12 as part of the Steam Summer Sale, along with all the other Sakura games (all NSFW, but only about half with explicit patches).

Developer Winged Cloud is a bit of an oddball, since their only web presence is a Patreon, and everyone who used to publish their games broke up with them a while back, so there are a lot of dead links out there.

Sakura Dungeon is apparently their most ambitious title, with a full RPG dungeon-crawler layered over the standard dating-sim kinetic novel core common to their other titles. The PoV character is a fox-spirit (female) trying to take over a dungeon full of monsters (female), with the reluctant help of an adventuring knight (female). Naturally, all of them are young, busty, and cute as buttons.

(via, apparently from a pre-release copy, since the names are incorrect)

The dungeon is a strict grid, with only a few different images for each floor type. The puzzles are pretty simple and occasionally tedious, the loot is unimpressive, and the combat is straightforward turn-based point-and-click.

So why play? Because the characters are fun, the story is shallow but engaging, the girls are gorgeous, and the combat is full of Most Common Special Attacks that blow their clothing off. And not being a Japanese title, there’s no loli, no oddly-specific fetishes, and the closest it gets to non-consensual sex is “aw, c’mon, it’ll be fun”.

Why did I buy it in the first place? Because I kept seeing this picture around the net and finally found out where it came from:


I apologize for misusing genre jargon above. I’ve tended to lump all of these sorts of games together as “dating sims”, but while that may be their most visible manifestation, it refers to a set of relationship-building mechanics that are not present in all such games, and is orthogonal to the distinction between “visual novels” (where the player has choices with consequences, the old choose-your-own-adventure paperback) and “kinetic novels” (where there’s only one narrative thread, what we used to call “novels”). Most of the Winged Cloud games are kinetic novels where your choices boil down to “watch them fuck” or “don’t watch them fuck right now”.

There’s only one narrative thread in Sakura Dungeon, and you can only fail to achieve it by losing fights in the dungeon, not by making choices in the narrative. There’s no point in the story where the PoV character can choose between “take over the dungeon” and “perpetual orgy in this town full of sexy girls who worship me”. There’s also no stable management or relationship manipulation, like a raise-the-princess game or dating sim; if you catch a monster girl, she will join the party, and any improvement to her fighting ability is determined by using magic items with predictable effects (“raise agility”, “increase fire resistance”, “learn shockwave”). Who’s in your party affects only your combat ability in the RPG and some one-liners in key fights (with a few exceptions where a character is required to unlock a cutscene).

So that makes it a kinetic novel where progress is gated by an RPG/MCSA dungeon crawl, with unlockable “watch them fuck” cutscenes.

Amusing note: I’ve been playing around with the popular Ren’Py engine, swiping art assets from Sakura Dungeon to “kineticize” my old Hero meets Villain story. It ends up being about four minutes long, which makes a useful comparison to how much story is in a Winged Cloud game that takes 2-3 hours to play.

Update 2

Thanks to unrpyc and some quick regexing, it looks like there are roughly 138,000 words of text in Sakura Dungeon, making it a good-sized novel. Selecting a few at random turns up such literary gems as:

  • “I like it when people lick me all over…”
  • “If you apply magic to it correctly, it can hold its shape yet remain fluid…”
  • “I care not what I whip, only that I am whipping.”
  • “We cannot let that panda roam freely.”
  • As we step into the room, we find that we’re surrounded on all sides.
  • “Sorry, but I really want to see you in a maid outfit.”
  • “Oh… You’re one of those…”
  • The chocolate absorbs some of your mana and replenishes itself.
  • “That rabbit is going to learn a painful lesson.”
  • I can only imagine having so much attention from so many cute, luscious women…
  • “Please come back later if you would like to use our services.”
  • “It’s not a real tail.”
  • “I wonder what sort of things they have on-board for stimulation!”
  • As it slides into me, my body shudders from the sensation.
  • “Can we cuddle, at least?”
  • “We should do this again sometime!”
  • “Please don’t go wandering off by your-”

And how could I forget:

  • In the popsicle goes again.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”