Monday, February 26, 2024

Super Hard On, Fo-SHO

I originally planned this build for Leap Day, but I decided today was such a nice day that I should go ahead and get it done now. This was such a small circuit I could have done it indoors, if needed, but why pass up a beautiful sunny day and do it indoors on a cruddy one? I know, I know, it won't have that special birthday that I wanted for the circuit, but what's done is done. In any case, I've brought my total February builds up to two.

Now that this is complete I can add it to the 59 Sound I did previously and have a complete 59 Sound pedal clone. I really like the 59 Sound circuit, so I'm glad I can say I now have the complete set. The SHO is completely new to me, but very interesting. I've not had the experience of using a real one, but from what I'm experiencing with my build this is a pure boost pedal. With the control all the way down the signal passes through at about unity, and gets boosted from there. I really like that!

March is upon us at the end of the week, so I'll see what builds I have ready to go and get back out there when days like today arise. I'm sticking to the fewer builds than last year plan, because I simply can't build another 45 circuits in a year. I mean I could, but financial restraints. This year is the wind down year, where I focus more on how to use the circuits I've built than what new ones I want to build. There are currently eight builds planned, and unless something extremely enticing comes along I shouldn't be adding many more builds to the list. Also, some of the builds on the list are simply ideas, and the parts have not been prepared, so maybe not even eight builds this year. I still have a lot of parts left over, so we'll see what happens.

Friday, February 16, 2024

I Would Have Loved An SNES Crystalis Sequel!

Crystalis is one of my all time favorite games, and one of my favorite RPGs on the NES. From its beginning as God Slayer on the Nintendo Famicom, to it's transition to Crystalis, this game is simple yet amazing, and sometimes frustrating. My first introduction was sometime in the later half of the 90s when I finally acquired an NES. I was asking everyone I knew about NES games, and when I asked a kid who worked the local Dairy Queen, he said he would bring some games over for me to test that night. I remember he brought Dragon Warrior and Crystalis. He noted Crystalis was going to be hard to sell because it was his Mom's favorite game, and within the few minutes I played it I totally see why.

Those few moments left such a mark on me that I started checking every FuncoLand I could, since I couldn't afford that copy, waiting impatiently to get my hands on my own copy. Eventually I found a copy, which came with a printout giving an overview of the game, which I still have. I also printed out a walkthrough to help me beat it for the first time. I still have that too, and it's about the size of a book. I've since beat the game a handful of times, and I enjoy every minute of it. On my latest play through I used a guide from a channel on youtube that I'm quite fond of, UCanBeatVideoGames. Currently I use the original cartridge as my "play" cartridge, but I later found a complete in box copy that I only take out to look at, from time to time.

But what if Crystalis had an SNES sequel? For me the SNES is the home of some of the greatest RPGs of all time. That era was just rife with RPG perfection, again and again and again. I'm not sure how popular Crystalis was in its time, nor God Slayer for that matter, but what I do know is a lot of people really love this game. In modern days it isn't unheard of for a game to get a romhack and be completely reskinned, with a new story and all kinds of new elements. That could be nice, but I think Crystalis deserves a 16-bit version. A complete remake would be a bit too much, but if anyone out there is wanting to undertake such a project, I would love to see it!

As I said before, Crystalis was simple, only having 16 max levels. It was also frustrating as you would often need to change out your weapon and it's subitem multiple times in the same cave. I guess that's a part of Nintendo Hard; just something thrown in to add a few extra minutes of gameplay. An SNES sequel with a different story, some of the same gameplay mechanics, but this time caves where all he enemies require the same sword and subitem. The spells in Crystalis were adequate, but maybe a few more would be nice. I love that every weapon and subitem was a story item, so you had to quest to obtain them instead of checking each town's smith. Armor, shields and other items were obtained in each town, as per normal.

There's so much about Crystalis that could have easily transferred into an SNES sequel, and so much that could have been expanded upon. Would it have tarnished the original game's sparkle? Maybe, but maybe not. Regardless, it's highly unlikely to ever happen. I would really like to know more about the Famicom version and its development. If I'm being completely honest, I would love a CIB copy of God Slayer, and the GameBoy Color remake. Just to fill out my collection.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Frigid First February Fabrication

Originally I had planned an SHO clone build for this month, since it's such a small build I could do it indoors whenever I wanted. The more I researched ZVex, the more I was turned on by the 59 Sound. So naturally I started looking for a layout, which was super easy to find thanks to Dirtbox Layouts. Apart from two resistors and the BS170s, I already had everything. To solve the first problem I coupled a few resistors in series to make them the right value, and I used 2N7000s instead of BS170s. I did make one mistake in packing a 10uf instead of a 1uf electrolytic capacitor, which I didn't find out until I was outside soldering.

The day came and the sun was shining bright. The weather apps were all saying today was going to be 62 degrees, so I decided to just go ahead and get it done. I setup my little workstation on the back deck and got to work. The wind was a bit of a nemesis, but the fact I was on the opposite side from where the sun was shining made things a bit worse. I powered through thinking the sun would eventually be shining down upon me, to grace this first February build. Nope. *WOMP WOMP WOMP* After all the links and resistors were installed, just before I stared installing capacitors, the sun ran away and hid behind the clouds. The temps, coupled with the wind, plummeted.

I was this far in, so I continued to power through, until that mistake I made with the electrolytic capacitor reared its ugly head. A simple mistake, but when your fingers are nearly frozen solid it makes removing the part more difficult than it should be. I should have checked the value before installing it, but I was anxious to get this build done and tested. Live and learn! Once all the components were stuck down to the board, it was time to wire up the potentiometers. Over the course of 2023 I actually learned to love this process; I still hate wiring though. When I get to this stage I'm super excited because I know I'm just a few minutes away from a completed circuit and getting to test it out.

Once the potentiometers were installed I put it in the wonky test box, which is really more of a test tin, and quickly disassembled the workstation to get back inside. Normally I wouldn't find these temps this cold, but that wind drives it right into a person, and chills to the bone! I packed all my tools away and sat down to test the circuit. It seems to work exactly as expected. Through the Noisy Cricket it made a hell of a roar, but avid readers will know a circuit isn't done until it's passed the Kali test. That will have to wait a little while though. I'm just glad it worked at all.

Not the prettiest, but my builds usually aren't.

People who are familiar with the 59 Sound might see my pattern. The official 59 Sound is both an SHO and this circuit in one box. Since I already planned to build the SHO, I figured today was warm enough to do a bigger build, thus the 59 Sound took priority and was completed. My plan is to build the SHO clone on the 29th. This way I'll have two February builds in the books, not only that but one done on Leap Day. By the end of the month I should have a complete clone of the 59 Sound. Unless I move to a warmer climate I don't foresee doing any more February builds, but never say never. What matters is this circuit works, sounds good and it is now part of my build history in a big way. My very first February build.

Update: Kali test is complete. Circuit sounds awesome!

Monday, February 5, 2024

My Minecraft Tips

I don't talk very much about Minecraft here, but I do play quite often. Whether it's perpetually sustaining my Java world from 2012 or playing Bedrock with friends, I've learned quite a few things to help me throughout my many Minecraft adventures. I figured since I've built up my own mini empire I would pass on some tips that have helped me throughout the years, in no particular order. As Minecraft is an ever-changing game some of these tips are subject to change. Hopefully not!

Tip #1: Ender Chests

I can not tell you how often an Ender chest has saved my bacon. Since Ender chests are their own contained system, you can use them as mobile storage while you're out adventuring, and not worry about losing your stuff if you die. The key is to take one with you everywhere, and always have one at your home base. I've made multiples as backups for adventures, but also placed one in every single base that I've built. This way no matter what happens while you're out adventuring, your loot will always be safe, and accessible, from the Ender chest. This also helps with transferring items. A few of the follow tips will expand upon this, one of which will also be required.

Tip #2: Tool Loadout

When it comes to my tool loadout I almost always take five tools. One shovel, axe, sword, and two pickaxes. Why two pickaxes? Because one pickaxe is silk touch, and the other is fortune three. Naturally everything has mending and unbreaking three enchantments, as well as efficiency five on everything but the sword. The silk touch pickaxe is used primarily to collect the Ender chest, otherwise it will break down into eight obsidian. There are many other reasons for a silk touch pickaxe, but it's purely up to you as to what enchantments you place on your items.

Tip #3: Shulker Boxes

Shulker boxes can be a bit tricky for the novice to obtain, but once you do you'll be opening a completely new world for yourself. Refer to tip #1, and just fill your Ender chest with shulker boxes. Voila! Each box offers 27 slots, and the Ender chest offers 27 spaces for shulker boxes. You do the maths! Tedious? Sometimes, but if you're planning on being out in the field for extended periods of time, it's very well worth it. This also allows for you to carry shulker boxes full of food, potions, tools, etc. It also allows for a shulker box filled with firework rockets, to use with the next tip. The only limit to this is your own imagination. 

Tip #4: Elytra

Elytra are your friend, and your enemy! This is another item that might be a bit tricky to acquire within the first while of gameplay, but eventually you will obtain a pair. As with everything in Minecraft, acquiring the first one is the hardest part, after that you'll be overrun with the darn things. Trust me! I enchant each pair of Elytra with unbreaking three and mending, but even so they seem to lose durability quite quickly. This is where the enemy part comes in, as if your Elytra lose all of their durability while flying three-hundred plus blocks high, you're going to fall out of the sky. You better hope you're quick with a water bucket, or you're flying over water already. If you happen to catch them before they're out of durability, provided you've enchanted them with mending, do what I do and use your pickaxe (the fortune three one) to collect coal, red stone, or any other resource that yields experience points. It might take a while, but you will eventually refuel (so to speak) your Elytra and be back in the skies. Also, try not to fly into things, as you will take health damage.

Tip #5: Automation

Automation is also your friend! My favorite automated farm is a passive sheep farm that is super simple to make, yields quite a bit of wool, and after I sell the wool off to the villagers, earns emeralds. Nothing is for free though, as you will need to sustain a good stock of iron to make the shears for this particular automated farm. However, there are tons of other ways to automate things, go AFK and come back to glorious amounts of items you'll end up needing, or you can trade for other things you'll need.

Tip #6: Nether Portals

Since each singular block traveled in the Nether equals eight blocks in the overworld, the Nether is a great place to use as a travel hub. Much of my Java world was generated throughout many older versions of the game, causing me to go out further to find new parts of the world with each update. Many online servers use the Nether as a travel hub and make things fancy, but I just build Netherrack bridges through the lava. Then I build portals, or repair broken ones, and screenshot the coords to use later. This cuts down on Elytra usage, and time spent trying to find new parts of the world. If you're a novice, bring fire potions and take your time. If you're experienced, still bring fire potions and take your time. The Nether is an unforgiving place, so I try to spend as little time in there as possible.

Tip #7: Villagers

Villagers are a great source of items you might need, such as enchanted books, or simply emeralds. They are also customizable! You want a villager that buys wool from your AFK wool farm? Find a villager and place down a loom. When they've accepted their fate, check their options. Not what you wanted? Removing and replacing the loom without performing any trades will reset the villager's career choice. Once you've found the initial trades you like from the newly hired villager, perform trades to lock them in and rake in the emeralds. I've read some trades can now only be found in certain regions, but the same trick applies. You may also want to take some time in trying to find the lowest rate on any given trade. It's all RNG when it comes to trades, so a little bit of work could pay off in the end.

Tip #8: Make Backups

This one is twofold. When you play Minecraft, expect things to go wrong. Don't let that ruin your fun, or your immersion, but always understand part of the adventure is anything can happen. I like to keep a few extra sets of armor and tools handy, in case I happen to goof and die. It's no fun trying to get back to your death pile without having the proper equipment. That is, if you can even get back to it at all. Aside from the in-game materials, back up your game saves! Yes, they can get quite large, mine being 20gb, but a good backup of your game save could potentially cut out the need for multiple sets of armor and tools. Whichever you find easiest, however I like to back up both.

Tip #9: Enchantments

I touched upon this with my tool loadout, but armor should also be enchanted. Just like my tools (and Elytra) everything has mending and unbreaking three. I understand enchantments are hard to sort out when you're first starting out, but don't rush and use what you can find. You can combine customized villagers, enchanted books from the enchantment table, and enchanted books you'll find along your adventures to have well enchanted armor in no time. With the aforementioned enchantments my helmet is respiration three, protection four, aqua affinity. My chestplate is protection four. My leggings are swift sneak three and fire protection four. My boots are protection four, feather falling four, depth strider three, and soul speed three. Protection variants are up to you, but with the ability to put one on each piece of equipment you might as well try to have one on at least something. There are a few enchantments I don't like, such as Frost Walker and Thorns, that just seem to be more of a hindrance than a benefit. Again, it's totally up to you as to how you enchant your armor.

These are just a few things I've gathered from my years of playing Minecraft that I figured I would pass along. If you don't play Minecraft, I'll get back to the guitar pedal builds here soon, don't worry. It is February, so I have to do my builds to get this month in the books. I've added a few builds to the schedule, as I tend to do. We'll see how 2024 goes!