Days Off

Taking the two days off after daylight savings weekend (the weekend where you spring forward an hour) was a great idea. This morning, I got up, had breakfast, played some Final Fantasy Record Keeper, then fell asleep again until lunch time. So good. It hasn't been all relaxation though, the weeks of neglect from going out to hunt Pokemon have left my apartment in a little bit of disarray, so there was plenty of cleaning and vacuuming to do. I still want to hit the gym at some point today. I might have an early dinner and go late to avoid the regular Monday night rush.

The past week has been relatively quiet too. We released Shadow Wars, a puzzle/collection game, for both iOS and Android. I had a minor part in this one - the platform services integration - so I'm to blame if the cloud sync or your achievements goes wrong. It's been an interesting experience though, it has made me more aware of how terrible certain technologies are, especially how we have to work around Xcode to get our entitlements and provisioning profiles working. Because we're using Unity, it generates the Xcode project at build time, meaning we can't use Xcode's GUI to manage our provisioning or entitlements or capabilities. We end up having to script in our changes to enable iCloud, allow push notifications, add associated domains, etc. The whole process takes 20 minutes to test and debug as well. It was definitely one of the most frustrating things I've had to do, but we got there in the end. It's one of those things that you tend to do once and then forget about until the next project.

I still need to catch up on food blogging. Maybe that will be a tomorrow job. I'm not always one for completely vegetating throughout the whole day, but it's nice to not have a specific agenda and to just relax and take things at my own pace.

I should take more days off.

Edit: It started raining. I did not make it to the gym. I ended up making my own apple sauce though - it's so good!

World Famous in New Zealand

A lot of things have been happening in the last couple of months. It's been hectic, chaotic, exhilarating and draining all at once. I'm finally able to sit down and write in my blog because... well, I don't need to go out and catch Pokemon anymore - I've caught them all!

As a fan of the games, it's been interesting to see how Pokemon Go has represented the franchise, and especially its ubiquitous motto - Gotta Catch 'em All. Though the game lacks polish and usability in many places, what they have managed to do very well is - and excuse the pun - capture the core of the Pokemon games: collection. From a developer's perspective, it's been interesting looking at how particular features were implemented and how I could use that to my advantage - density and distribution, spawn points and timers, known locations and nests of particular Pokemon, and so on.

My last Pokemon was a Lapras, which I caught down by Oriental Parade at 7.59pm on Sunday 11 September 2016. It was pretty surreal, I was incredibly excited and sat in my car screaming for five minutes. The NZ Herald got wind of my story and published an article about my achievement, but incorrectly assumed that I was the first in the country to do so. Nevertheless, there were a few other media appearances - I was interviewed on Flava the radio station, and Jeremy Corbett briefly mentioned me during TV3's 7 Days show. It's been funny because I've never had this much attention in my life, and though I'm not a household name nor have I been stopped on the street, friends of friends have noticed my achievements and those friends have then told me about it, and that's awesome.

I think my friends would agree that it's no surprise that I would get this far. Pokemon has been a major part of my life, especially with the management of Psypoke, and it's no secret that all through high school, University and now at work, it's one of my favourite video game franchises. At the same time, I've still held my job, socialised with people, been to the gym (the actual lifting weights gym) and played badminton all in my regular routine, I've just squeezed a bit more Pokemon in every day so I can catch them all.

What now, then? There's four region exclusive Pokemon to catch - Kangaskhan in Australia, Farfetch'd in Asia, Mr. Mime in Europe and Tauros in North America. Generation two must surely be on the cards soon as well. I can prepare for that in advance by making sure the new evolutions are ready to go once the update drops. There's the buddy system too and I can continue levelling everything up. The opportunity to travel is exciting and a good excuse to get out of the country.

In other news, Wellington on a Plate was a blast, as usual. That will be a completely different write-up on my food blog - so much to talk about. On the whole, I thought the burgers last year were of a higher standard, but many this year were still very enjoyable. Mid-autumn festival was last Thursday and on Saturday I cooked a vegan dinner in celebration, and on Sunday I cooked a non-vegan dinner in celebration. Both turned out very well and people were well fed.

In short: there were a few very strong earthquakes centered east of New Zealand that were widely felt in Wellington on September 2; I went with Mana, Mike and Tim to Red Rocks to see the seals; I saw FFXV Kingsglaive and thought it was okay; work has been tough and I've had to put in a few more hours to get things done but the end is in sight.

We're only three months away from Christmas. The year has gone by so quickly >_<

On The Go

Pokemon Go has hit the App Store in New Zealand and the entire country is going insane. People all over the country are walking, biking and even kayaking almost aimlessly across the city to find Pokemon and claim gyms. Never before has a game like this caused such a phenomenon. It's quite endearing walking through the park and spotting other people "on the Go", with telltale swipes on mobile phones and abrupt stops while walking.

Of course I am all up in this, as are several of my workmates. We've been driving around Wellington, Porirua and Lower Hutt, looking for Pokemon up hills, in parks and by water. There have been some extremely entertaining stories of detecting nearby Pokemon from the car, at which we all either scream excitedly and yell directions for where I should drive, or I park somewhere and we frantically run in four different directions trying to locate the Pokemon in question. The game is full of glitches and the server is constantly unstable. It's incredibly frustrating sometimes. But they've captured the essence of finding and capturing Pokemon pretty damn well, and the IP itself is strong enough to carry the game through these rough patches. I hope they will iron out all the problems and release something more polished.

Things have been pretty busy, as per usual. Doomsday Clicker v1.5 is out on Android, and will soon be on iOS. This update was pretty substantial and introduces "Roomies", experimental characters that are created in your Space Base and sent to Earth to boost the performance of your bunkers and rooms. I even got to do the voices for one of the characters! The next update is going to be technically challenging for me, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do. In short, there's been some epic karaoke for Ramon's last day, hot pot and birthday parties for Phil, Vix and James. The Moustache Milk and Cookie Bus has finally made it to Wellington, and serving up some delicious cookies by Marion St. Winter has been relatively mild and we've enjoyed some brilliant sunny weather, but the days are definitely colder.

It's hard to believe that we're over halfway through the year. Wellington on a Plate starts next month (crikey!)

Lake Waikaremoana

Lake Waikaremoana marks the fourth of nine Great Walks that I've completed. Situated in the Te Ureweras, the three day version of the Great Walk circumnavigates approximately 75% of the lake. Most trampers opt to do it "forwards", starting from Onepoto and ending up near the Wanganui Hut, where they're picked up by a water taxi, but we went in reverse so that the final leg of the walk would be the uphill part, and our packs would be the lightest.

The drive there is pretty treacherous, a winding snaking gravel road a couple of hours south east of Rotorua. Mat, Tom and I started our journey from Auckland on the Thursday down SH2 and SH27 and picked up lunch at Matamata. I'd never been there before, so it was nice to see all the Lord of the Rings-related stuff there. We took away some food from the bakery and continued on to Rotorua to get supplies for the tramp. We arrived at nightfall at the Lake Waikaremoana Holiday Park. After finding our cabin, we cooked our garlic bread and steaks, and settled in for the night with Love Letter. Though it was cloudy and raining, the weekend would bring some of the clearest skies and sunniest days ever.

On Friday morning, I walked down to the lake front for an explore. The sun was out, but it was pretty cold. The ducks were on the water, quacking loudly, ignoring the hum of the water taxis buzzing to and from the holiday park. We had breakfast and packed our bags. The water taxi was due to pick us up at 1.30pm, so we had plenty of time to walk around. We visited the DoC Office and secured our bookings for the huts, and then drove down to Onepoto - mostly for the 3G coverage. We arrived back at the holiday park and took the water taxi across the lake, picking up two trampers from the Onepoto carpark. We made our way through the bush, closely following the lake perimeter, to Waiharuru hut where we stayed the night. After pasta and salmon for dinner, we played a few rounds of Love Letter, Up and Down the River, and Golf, the card game. On the way back to cabins, I paused to admire the crystal clear skies, and three meteors shot by. Amazing!

Our Saturday walk would be the longest, covering over 17km over seven hours from Waiharuru to Waiopaoa, via the Marauiti Hut and the Korokoro Campsite. Though the terrain is mostly flat, the sheer distance that we covered made this a very tiring day indeed. A lot of the ground we trekked over was still frozen, crystals of ice making the ground very solid indeed, where normally it would be soft or squishy from mud. In addition, the lake was shrouded in fog, making it quite majestic and almost eerie to look at. We took a breather at the Marauiti Hut, talking to the hunters there who had arrived by boat, and had the luxury of a massive gas cooker that was frying up some delicious sausages, bacon, eggs and hash! In the afternoon, we took a one hour detour to the stunning Korokoro Falls. The final stretch to Waiopaoa was shorter than expected, but as we reached the hut just after 5pm, we discovered that it was practically full, but thankfully we managed to squeeze in - even if I was on the floor. We played cards and Headbangers with the others there - a couple of German girls, a group of six Auckland flatmates and a lone traveller from the UK. The Aucklanders were pretty prepared, with bags of vodka, rum and whisky, and a sodastream too!

We parted ways in the morning and made our way up to the Panekire Hut. Though the walk was only four hours, it was an awful steep incline with a bad knee that I had injured on the first day. Once we got to the top though, the scenery was fantastic - a beautiful panoramic view of the lake in all its glory. We met the Housewives of Palmerston North, who had been mentioned by a couple of the hunters from the Marauiti Hut, and two of them accompanied us for an explore to the bluff. In the end, we didn't really see much and it was a bit too far and we wanted to be back for the sunset, so we ended up heading back before we'd hit the end. We watched the sun disappear over the hills of the Te Ureweras, very reminiscent of the sunsets I see at Makara - just beautiful colours and serenity away from civilisation. I ended up going to bed around 8.30pm because I was so tired - the next day would be an early start to catch the water taxi back to the holiday park at 10.30am.

We were up before the sun had risen, but it was still relatively light. We saw the sun beginning to rise but I had to start making my way down to the Onepoto carpark. The track partially follows the ridgeline to the Bluff, providing some stunning views of the fog covering the lake. As the sun rose higher and higher into the sky, the fog began to illuminate, producing some very picturesque moments. The walk was relatively easy and thanks to one of the Palmy Housewives, I had taken some Voltaren to ease the pain on my knee. We would have left Waikaremoana just before noon, hitting Rotorua for lunch around 2pm. There was a lot of traffic heading through Huntly and Rangiriri, and later on as we headed through Papakura and Takanini, but I made it back to my parents' place for dinner. Whew!

The next day, I got a haircut from my new favourite place on Dominion Road while my parents dropped their car off for some servicing. We had yum cha for lunch at Lucky Fortune in Three Kings, before heading to Jadan on Dominion Road for some groceries. I purchased a 1.5L bottle of 100 Plus - yeeeeee! So happy! I spent some time at the sauna at Les Mills New Lynn just trying to recuperate and knead out all those tight muscles, but I had to get to the airport early because I knew traffic would be a problem getting there. My flight was at 6.45pm but we ended up leaving the house at 5pm. Back in Wellington, I grabbed some KFC for dinner and picked up some supplies from Pak n Save before heading home for a well deserved rest.

What an exhausting weekend... I need another holiday.

Been a While

Things have been insanely busy, as usual. Where do I even start? So much as happened since the last blog post.

Doomsday Clicker has been performing well, and we managed to hit all our deadlines - but not without some troubles along the way. The v1.3 Android release saw a torrent of negative reviews reporting the game would not boot properly, and since we were lined up for featuring, it was of utmost priority to fix the issues. The Game Sync implementation wasn't as robust as we had initially tested, and pretty much my fault, so we scrambled to build stability around all those systems. Thankfully, things came together in the end, and we secured our featuring on Google Play and the iTunes store. I've had a lot of feedback from friends who have enjoyed the game - especially the amazing and catchy soundtrack.

In honour of its successes, the PikPok 19th birthday party was completely Doomsday Clicker themed, with an amazing volcano cake with Monkey and the Red Button on the top, and three cocktails and two shots bearing the names of some of the doomsdays you can cause in the game. The atmosphere was fantastic and it was good to see heaps of people there. There was arm wrestling - we even managed to convince Mario and Tyrone to go head to head. There was dancing and shenanigans but all in all, I think lots of people had a good time.

There was an exciting thunderstorm a few days ago, lightning illuminating the night sky just after midnight, with some heavy rain accompanying the storm. I would have counted 30 flashes of light in the five minutes I was watching, some strikes being very close to the city itself. Wellington's geography means it doesn't get many thunderstorms, so it's always such a delight to see them - as long as you're indoors and warm.

Mat was down last weekend for some 30th birthday parties. We met up with Tim for his at Spruce Goose, and afterwards Mat went for board games with that crew while I went to Phil and Will's for their flatwarming. They had moved into their new place over Anzac weekend - I helped them shift a lot of their bulky furniture and drove the truck for them. Mana and Vix rocked up with some ingredients for making mulled wine, and what a fun time that was! I didn't realise it was so simple - create your syrup first with a little bit of wine, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, orange peel, lemon peel, and any other spices or fruit you want to throw in. When the syrup is the right consistency, pour the rest of the wine in and let it warm without boiling, or the alcohol will evaporate. Easy!

Strawberry Fare's last day is tomorrow. It is truly the end of an era. They have decided to close their doors while the owners look to focusing more on their other restaurants. The past couple of weeks have seen hundreds of loyal fans trying to get the last desserts, myself and Mat included. They weren't taking any bookings, so I decided that I would try going at 11am on Sunday morning to secure my final Devil's Dream Cake. Sure enough, no one was stupid enough to have dessert for breakfast except for Mat and myself, so we enjoyed our final meal at Strawberry Fare forever. You could say that it was...a bittersweet experience.

At the start of the month, I was in Auckland for Mel and Jarrod's wedding - number four of seven this year. The weather was stunning and the location was picturesque. I was on parking warden duty, so had to be there early, but with my swanky haircut and sharp suit, I was exuding confidence and style as I greeted the guests and directed them down the driveway. The wedding was really nice, given they had only a month to plan it. Everything fell into place and it ran smoothly. The next day was Mother's Day, so we went out for yum cha to Sun World in Newmarket, and then back to my sister's to see my two nephews. They're growing up so fast, especially the little one. He's not as moody as he was the last time I saw him, so it's good to see him being more sociable and having more fun. So cute!

There's been karaoke, Andrew's 30th at Five Boroughs, NZIF shows - Eli Matthewson of Jono and Ben fame, and Taking off the Bird Suit - we had hotpot, Ghibli movie nights, Iron Giant at the Embassy, Formal Friday at work, Dianne's birthday and Vix and Tessa's flatwarming. There's been plenty of Louis Sergeant desserts, lunch at the Crab Shack and a massive seven-tiered rainbow cake for Keir's farewell. I need to remember to blog more often or I'll forget all these memories.