Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Anachronox modding

Several years ago now, I bought a budget release of an old RPG called Anachronox. After playing it through, something of an odyssey given the large amount of gameplay it provides, for some reason I ended up wanting to decompile the game logic scripts which were used to implement the gameplay. Actually, now that I think about it, it is more likely that I wanted to bypass a part of the game I just couldn't work out how to complete. In any case, one thing led to another and I ended up looking at Species' Java APE decompiler.

Now I could have easily extended his decompiler but there was no documentation about all the eccentricities of the compiled format and in order to learn enough about them to understand why his decompiler worked the way it did, I would need to have written it. So I ended up writing my own decompiler from the ground up in Python. It worked well enough, it seemed to handle all the APE constructs I could locate in all the forms I could think of and definitely handled things Species' decompiler didn't. Like nested if statements.

Having something which "worked enough", I released the source code to what served as the Anachronox modding community. By this time, several years after the game's acclaimed (but not as popular as it should have been) release, the community was pretty subdued.

But a fellow New Zealander called Laguna (who was still in high school) popped up. He did a lot of work towards making Anachronox more approachable for modders, including pushing me to look into various things. Then he faded away having graduated high school (most likely to a more thankful productive life) working a burger doodad at McDonalds from what I hear. A pity as he was an extremely skilled game modder and Anachronox wasn't the only project he worked on, another was an impressive looking Half-Life mod by the name of Battlegrounds.

Now thankfully someone else, called Creaper, is working to move the Anachronox modding support forward. Initially he started by fleshing out the modding documentation which the original game developers released and now he is submitting bug reports for the APE decompiler! In the past couple of weeks, with his help, it has been getting much more polished.

While I am focused on the decompiler, I have decided to take advantage of the impetus and release my Anachronox modding scripts and other related projects to Google project hosting:

Empirical evidence dictates that only Creaper and I will use them, but maybe eventually his efforts will bear fruit and someone might find them useful in helping develop their own modded game based on Anachronox.

Help wanted: Creaper needs hosting for the Anachrodox website (currently comes to around 5 gigabytes of space) so if you know anyone who is willing to host a game modding website for free please sing out.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Rice Pudding

Another food from my childhood that I have been craving since starting my diet is rice pudding. A dessert I remember making myself when we lived on Alford Forest Road in Ashburton.

While I remember how my brothers and I made it as children, I am a little ambivalent to cook it that way as I think it involved sweetening with large lumps of ice cream. Instead I decided to search the internet for a promising looking recipe and ended up with this one, which curiously uses an egg, something we definitely didn't do when making it. However I cut the recipe back to milk, rice, egg and raisins and sweetened it with honey, which I find I need to use very little of.

2007-04-08 Rice Pudding 81

Dietwise there are a number of reasons I can justify this. It uses less rice than I used to cook with my stir fries. It uses a lot of milk which bumps my calcium intake over the 100% RDA level. And it also usually bumps my calories up over the 2000 calorie point, something which is definitely good as it will prevent me from losing weight as fast as I am. Something my other wanton efforts at baking are no doubt more than making up for anyway.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Banana Loaf

After being well pleased by how the banana cake turned out, I felt like a loaf would be more satisfying eating. As it happened my cookbook of choice, a stained and soiled copy of the Edmonds cookbook, had a recipe which claimed to a banana loaf. And also as it happened I had several more bananas which were stinking up my apartment more every day.

This is the result, or what is left of it:

2007-04-07 Banana Loaf

At first I tore off chunks and was kind of dissatisfied by them. I had two thoughts as to what to do with the loaf. If I were making it again, I would put in raisins and broken up walnuts and make something with a deeper taste. Or I could treat it like a pudding sponge and sprinkle raisins and cinnamon over it, then soak it in milk. Since only the latter was a practical suggestion, I went with that. It was so good that I had two servings. And then I remembered to take that picture..

Since the banana flavour in the banana cake was not as strong as I would have liked, I went with more bananas than the recipe required and left them chunky. Which should explain the slimey look the loaf has in the picture :-)

If I am going to do a better job of food blogging, I need to be a bit more proactive about taking pictures. I was too slack about getting one of the iced banana cake and also here with the loaf as a sponge dessert. Like my high school reports said, "Must try harder."

Banana Cake

Having had some sort of success with the coffee cake and my diet not being followed too well, I was inspired to try and bake a banana cake. The first step was to buy some bananas and let them ripen. Once the bananas were looking kind of ripe on my fruit and veggie table *cough* I felt obligated to actually step up and bake the cake. This is how it turned out:

2007-04-05 Banana Cake

Light, well risen. I would call it a success.

However it didn't taste particularly special. It wasn't bad, just lacking something which took it beyond un-iced cake and into delicious snack territory. So I iced it with chocolate icing. And it tasted better, but I think I could do better. Next time I would probably go with a lemon butter icing. Or a chocolate icing made with something more chocolatey tasting than icing sugar and cocoa powder.

Coffee Cake

One memory I have of childhood birthdays which sticks out is eating coffee cake at my grandmother's place on Porter street in Ashburton. While I have cooked one since coming to Iceland, I didn't have all the right ingredients or any suitable baking dishes to cook it in. As a result it turned out rather.. well, misformed, but definitely still tasty.

Now being on a CRON diet I have been hankering to bake another but unable to. Since I was going to a friend's place for dinner on what I call an "off diet" day several weekends back, I offered to cook dessert.. namely coffee cake! However, the cake I initially baked didn't rise that well. I decided to bake another and ended up with two halves which hadn't risen. So I glued them together with coffee icing and then iced over the stack ending up with this:

2007-03-24 Coffee Cake

Needless to say it was rather heavy, something like five kilograms, but I was reassured that cakes were supposed to be pretty heavy. And it went down quite well, I wasn't the only one to have second helpings.

How could I do it better next time? Well, I have a suspicion that it makes a difference to follow the recipe and split the cake mix in two and bake two halves from that separately. It might rise better. And in any case I could pad it out with filling to make it seem larger. I recall the cakes I had at my childhood birthday having both raspberry jam and mock cream slathered between the two layers (the former then the latter).