Crux Eternal

I’ve finally done it. I’ve made a game.

Okay, okay. It’s just a demo for now, but it’s complete in that regard. It’s called Crux Eternal (the name is an inside joke, I’ll admit) and it’s a simple puzzle game based on the “Kakuro” or “Cross Sums” puzzles I’ve worked since I was a kid. They’re a bit like Sudoku mixed with a crossword, and they can be surprisingly difficult.

This demo version includes 15 puzzle configurations, all in the smallest size that made sense to me. There’s a timer, and the game does track your best times for each configuration. Puzzles are randomly generated to fit the pattern, so there’s some replayability, as well.

I’d certainly love to flesh out Crux Eternal into a full-fledged game. This was the first time I’d brought a Godot project (or any gamedev project, for that matter) from inception to completion, and I’d like to keep it going. I also have a few other game ideas rattling around in my head, though, so maybe I’ll work on them instead.

Anyway, you can play Crux Eternal online in your browser, or you can download local versions for Linux and Windows. The source is available over on my Gitlab, and it’s MIT-licensed.

Window of opportunity

One of the biggest problems with the world today is propaganda. And one of the biggest sources of propaganda is media. Of course, that’s something which has happened pretty much forever, but the scale of it is so much greater today. Movies push communist and other anti-human agendas. TV shows parrot progressive talking points without a hint of irony. Video games give our virtual characters a choice not between male and female—the only two biological sexes for humans—but between "Body Type A" and "Body Type B", yet never explain why only the first is allowed to be topless.

It only goes downhill from there. Rap is essentially the only genre of music that is advertised nowadays (with the minor exception of anti-American "country" pop music), while also being the only one to have no recognizable evolution in a generation. Sports leagues spent the summer of 2020 showcasing their support for a terrorist organization, and continue to promote child predators and genital mutilation. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

There’s a growing pushback among viewers, listeners, and players. Starfield’s launch was disastrous, and the game was rightly criticized by gamers for not only its antiquated graphics, but also its unrealistic demographics. The NBA is seeing its lowest TV ratings in decades. Disney is churning out bomb after bomb at the box office. And even mediocre musicians like Jason Aldean and Oliver Anthony are hitting the top of the charts solely because they’re willing to take a stand against the narrative.

Of course, the problem lies in the gatekeepers of media. Hollywood isn’t going to stop putting out woke garbage until Blackrock goes under, which isn’t happening anytime soon. AAA studios don’t care how poor the reviews are for their newest recycled PS3 franchise, because they know the games themselves are loss leaders at this point. And major sports literally have government protection for their monopolies.

Thus, we have to turn to the indie scene in every case. That’s where the innovation is. That’s where the pro-American, pro-Enlightenment, and pro-human media can be found. Indie authors are writing stories that lift us up and let us escape, instead of the same dreary racial metaphors. Indie musicians are creating tracks in every genre that bring to life the emotion that music should make us feel. Indie video games, even when they’re based on a timeless formula, show off new tricks of gameplay while also telling compelling stories.

It’s only going to get better.

The new hotness these days is AI. And that’s also the current target for the powers that be. Big business and established interests hate AI because of the potential it has. Ignore the complaints about copyright and consent. Those are red herrings. The real fear of generative AI is that it will give us a chance to create media without having to go through them. For instance, that’s why Steam, never a fan of freedom in the first place, is banning indie games which use AI content.

If a dev can use AI to cut out the time needed to hire artists, voice actors, and so on, that means so many more indie games will get past the demo and alpha stages. If an author uses an AI tool to generate story seeds or mines an LLM for dialogue inspiration, he might just finish that novel he’s been working on for years. And the tools are only getting better with each new release. Soon, much more of the media pipeline will be accessible to those of us without the means to break into the industry. Low-budget films used to be a laughingstock. In a few years, they might be indistinguishable from a Hollywood blockbuster. (Well, not exactly. You’ll be able to spot the indie movie because it’s the one with a straight white man as the protagonist.)

It’s been over seven years since I wrote Democratization of development. In that post, I argued that game development was reaching a golden age because of the availability of high-quality tools at a price affordable to the average person. That’s even more true in 2023 than it was in 2016, even if Unity has decided it no longer wants an audience. And you know what? Almost all the games I play now are indies. (The only exceptions are Nintendo’s licensed titles, which you can’t play on PC anyway.)

Let’s get other kinds of entertainment to that same level. With the free tools available now or in the near future, it’s a no-brainer. Blender, Godot, Synfig, GIMP, Inkscape, LMMS…these are only the ones I’ve used. Not one of them costs a single dollar. So the software is there. AI will add the assets for those of us without artistic talent.

Elephant in the room

That only leaves one last thing: distribution. It’s the hardest aspect, and it’s the one that doesn’t have a good solution. Patreon is a far-left wasteland little better than OnlyFans. Steam is owned by a company that uses practices deemed illegal in at least 3 countries. Crypto just isn’t the silver bullet its proponents wish it was.

This is where we, as indie creators, need to step up and let our voices be heard. Rich conservatives talk a big game about creating alternatives to woke business, but they never follow through on their promises. Rumble, for example, calls itself a haven for free speech, yet still bans many of those who seek to exercise it. And there just aren’t any right-wing or libertarian distributors out there—whether for movies, music, books, or video games—willing to seek out the indies who are desperate for a platform that respects them.

We have a moment, however. The backlash against progressivism is growing. Hollywood is crippled by its unions, and the video game industry may follow in its footsteps. Big Media is burning through cash at an unprecedented rate, and its outright hostility to its core customer base is keeping it from replenishing its coffers. If anyone with the means would take that next step, that pivotal step of reaching out to us indies and saying, "We’ll work for you," then democratization would get the boost that might just launch us ahead of the soulless corporate entertainment empire.

We’re ready. We’re waiting.

Release: Homeward From Afar (Orphans of the Stars, Book 3)

You didn’t read that wrong. This is a book release post. I know, right?

Earth is the cradle of humanity, but everyone outgrows the cradle.

The children and teens of the Innocence have seen things no one else, no matter their age, has ever lived to tell. Out of billions of humans scattered among hundreds of planets, they alone have the best knowledge of how vast the galaxy truly is. Now, it’s time to take a break, and where better than the birthplace of humanity, the center of human space?

For some, it’s a chance to return home, to see the changes time has wrought. For others, it will be a first impression they will never forget. Yet tensions are rising throughout the human worlds, and the Innocence is unwittingly fueling them. The youngest crew in history might be celebrities, but that fame also brings them into a brewing battle for hearts and minds of humans everywhere.

Homeward From Afar is the third book in my Orphans of the Stars sci-fi series, and it definitely hits the hardest of any so far. I started it in 2019, back before it was obvious that the world had gone mad. In fact, when I started writing it, I still believed it would release on Patreon! Now that the so-called elites have shown their true colors, this has become more of a private release. For now, you can only get it on Amazon in paperback or Kindle versions. (If you ask nicely, I’ll probably send you a proper EPUB in exchange for…something. I haven’t decided what yet.)

I’ve already finished the draft of Book 4, titled Time in the Sun. I’m about halfway through writing Book 5, On the Stellar Sea, but…I don’t know how much I’ll be able to finish. And the final three books in the series (Horizons Unseen, The Cradle Earth, and Suspended in a Sunbeam) probably won’t get done. I have a few notes for them, and I would love to write them. I just don’t think I have time before I enter a much longer sleep than anything the Innocence kids endured.