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iOS developer

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April 2022 Retrospective

I wrote an article this month about job opportunities for Canadian iOS developers in the post-pandemic world. It came about when I started looking for a new job at the start of 2022 and was expecting to find a dearth of Canadian iOS roles, especially for someone with my experience. But I was happily surprised to discover a bustling and competitive market in this remote-friendly world. Even with offices opening up across the United States, the demand for remote workers does not seem to have dropped at all.

The pandemic has become the great equalizer for programming jobs in a way that I did not think was possible. Companies that had previously demanded employees relocate to an office have embraced remote work at breakneck speed. If you are a developer who has not seriously considered changing jobs in the last year I highly recommend you at least take a peek at the market. I'm not saying everyone needs to quit immediately but at least open your eyes to the new opportunities that could be out there. I myself was so shocked by the companies that were willing to hire me that I quit my job in April. I plan to take a month or two off to recharge and then rejoin the workforce with renewed zeal.

The Good

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

I don't know how I slept on 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim for so long but it is easily going to be one of my favourite games of this decade. It is essentially a visual novel involving time travelling mechas and kaiju. You play the pilots of the eponymous 13 Sentinels, but each character's story occurs in a nonlinear manner. There is a real-time strategy minigame that you are forced to play every once in a while. Personally I really enjoyed that aspect of 13 Sentinels but it is incredibly disparate from the rest of the game and may put some people off if they just want to continue with the story. Luckily there is an "easy" mode for this so at worst it will eat up a bit of time.

Visual novels are not for everyone, the same can be said for the mechas versus kaiju trope. But I am a huge fan of both so 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim was firing on all cyclinders. From the first minute to the last I was completely enthralled with the game and was supremely satisfied when it ended. I would definitely recommend everyone give 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim a try.

Started reading the Wax and Wayne series

If you read this blog or follow me on Twitter you'll know how much of a fan I am of Brandon Sanderson's work. I devoured the first three books of the The Stormlight Archive before moving onto the Mistborn Era 1 trilogy, doubling back for the fourth book in The Stormlight Archive, and finally getting around to Warbreaker.

I have known about Mistborn Era 2 (colloquially known as the Wax and Wayne series) since I finished the Era 1 books. But I didn't want to read them because the tetralogy wasn't yet complete. I've already been waiting on pins and needles for every book in The Stormlight Archive. I couldn't bring myself to do that with another series. When I discovered earlier this year that the fourth book, The Lost Metal, was going to be released in November I decided that there was no longer any reason to wait. I figured I could draw out the first three books over the next seven months and finish reading them just in time for the release of the fourth.

I grossly underestimated how much I would enjoy the first two books, The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self. I figured I would read the first over a month, take a month or two break, and then read the second. I started The Alloy of Law on April 8th and finished Shadows of Self on April 23rd. 718 pages in 15 days.

The cherry on top is that I think Shadows of Self may actually be the best Brandon Sanderson novel I have read to date. The Mistborn series focuses on a small cast of characters in a much more confined space when compared to the epic nature of The Stormlight Archive. But in terms of a pure self-contained story, what happens in Shadows of Self is absolutely amazing. The arcs the characters go through is right up there with The Way of Kings.

Built Master Grade MS-07B-3 Gouf Custom Gundam

https://www.instagram.com/p/Cc9W9HTsJwq

Watched Sonic the Hedgehog 2

It is crazy to think how close we were to that "realistic" nightmare fuel Sonic in 2020. That movie seemed dead before it even released and now two years later we're firmly into some sort of Sonic Cinematic Universe after the outstanding Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Nowadays it is rare for a sequel to surpass its predecessor, but I think Sonic 2 did it in nearly every way (I'm looking at you dance scene). Ben Schwartz continues to bring the positive, comedic attitude of the Blue Blur and Idris Elba utterly killed it with his portrayal of Knuckles the Echidna. Also, let's not forget Jim Carrey's Doctor Robotnik whose insanity was cranked all the way to 11 and was all the better for it.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a film that I believe everyone can enjoy and I myself am now eagerly awaiting the third. Fingers crossed we can get Jenny Slate cast as Amy Rose for a Saperstein Parks and Recreation reunion.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of those films that you will either love or hate. I don't see how there can be any inbetween. It is so off-the-wall insane that you just have to accept what you're seeing or the logical part of your brain will think you're having some sort of stroke.

It is essentially impossible to spoil this film because the beginning and end of the story almost don't matter. The amount of character development jammed into two hours is hard to comprehend. This film has more drama and gut-wrenching emotional scenes than some best picture winners. Wikipedia describes it as a "science-fiction action film" which doesn't do it justice at all because it is so much more than that.

I truly believe that everyone should go see Everything Everywhere All at Once. Don't read up on it. Don't watch any trailers. Go in with completely no expectations and prepare to be blown away.

Steam Deck

Nine months after making my reservation I received my Steam Deck and I must say that I am thoroughly impressed. I figured it would be some gimmicky piece of hardware that I would play for a couple hours, say I was going to use a lot, and then forget about like I did with my HTC Vive. But Valve managed to exceed all of my expectations from both a hardware and software perspective.

Even though the Steam Deck is a lot bigger than the Nintendo Switch, I actually prefer the ergonomics that come from this increased size. The screen, battery, processor, even controls, all seem to be better because of this larger, fully integrated design. It is also extremely well built and feels quite rugged in your hands. Not what I was expecting from Valve's first foray into this type of hardware. For me, there really isn't anything to complain about. Obviously I wish the battery lasted longer but I understand the limitations of a portable device. We always want more power and battery but good old thermodynamics just keeps getting in the way.

But this exceptional hardware doesn't mean anything if the software can't back it up and so far I have encountered no issues. Every game I've tried has fun flawlessly and from what I've seen Valve's Proton compatibility later does a solid job emulating Windows games on Linux (which the Steam Deck runs). Even the UI for SteamOS is better than I was expecting. The shitty browser UI on desktops has been a joke ever since Steam launched. But whomever got the job of building and designing SteamOS did great work. It is a bit slower than what I'm used to on handhelds but the responsiveness of my iPhone really has poisoned my expectations. And this is something that Valve can definitely improve with updates.

The Steam Deck is so enjoyable that it is actually changing how I buy games. There is literally no reason for me to buy anything on the Nintendo Switch if it is also available on Steam. There are even some PlayStation 5 games that I'm considering buying on Steam because I love the idea of being able to play on both my gaming PC and my Steam Deck.

Vampire Survivors

After receiving my $1000 Steam Deck I obviously needed to test the upper limits of its capabilities. So I bought Vampire Survivors, a $3 pixel art, roguelike, bullet hell. Surprise, surprise, the Steam Deck handled it like a champ.

There really isn't much more to say other than my lizard brain loves "run based games" (like Hades or Into the Breach) and Vampire Survivors goal of survive for 30 minutes really works for me. Even after 12 hours I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface on its plethora of characters and power-ups.

You absolutely can't go wrong for $3 so I can easily recommend Vampire Survivors to everyone. Worst case scenario you figure you that you don't like it before 2 hours are up and can go refund a game that costs less than a cup of coffee.

The Bad

Moonshot

Moonshot is a very basic puzzle game for Apple Arcade. You control a moon that has been separated from its planet and is trying to find its way home. You drag and release on your moon to slingshot it towards the end of each level, using the gravity of other celestial bodies to your advantage. Because it is a puzzle game, more and more random obstacles are slowly placed in your way.

The main reason Moonshot is down here in "The Bad" section is because of the controls. The developers extol the simple drag and release controls, but I found them incredibly difficult to make minor adjustments using knowledge from a previously failed shot. I would make essentially the exact same shot over and over again because I was not able to make the millimetre adjustment necessary to beat the level. Eventually my finger would just happen to twitch into the perfect place and I would succeed through random chance. As the levels got more complex I was relying on more and more random chance to the point where I was just not having any fun with the game.

In the end Moonshot is one of those "empty calorie" games where you get absolutely nothing from playing. You're not really learning to get better at the game. You're just wasting time banging your head against a wall that you'll eventually make it through.

Honourable Mentions

Severance on Apple TV+

To say anything about Severance would be to spoil the surprise. Everyone should go into this show knowing absolutely nothing about the premise and have their mind blown. It is a really unique take on a very tropy sci-fi concept. I will admit that this show is not for everyone. It is a dark psychological thriller that can be a bit slow at times, but that is a part of the bizarre tension that makes the show great. It doesn't want the audience to feel good. You feel uncomfortable and even embarrassed in this truly peculiar world.

One thing I will say about Severance is that it was definitely made with a second season in mind. Don't go into this expecting all of the storylines to be wrapped up in a neat little package.

Undertale

I finally got around to playing Undertale and it feels like I must be six years too late to this indie darling. I've only ever heard people rant and rave about how amazing this game is which left me quite perplexed when I eventually beat it because Undertale is not a fun game.

Now I know the angry mob is currently gathering their pitchforks so let me extend an olive branch. I agree that Undertale has fantastic music and a charming story. I did a pacifist playthrough because I genuinely cared about a number of the characters. But the combat was frustrating at its best and boring and its worst. I never found myself looking forward to the combat because it was always so obscure. Battles would get drawn out because I was selecting the "wrong" option with no in-game mechanism to determine what I should be doing. I know this "subverted your expectations", and I can appreciate the attempt, but after the first battle that subversion didn't make anything more fun.

I don't mind the idea of failing to make the correct choice. But when the punishment for that is death and forcing the player to replay part of the game, I don't agree with that. This is why I truly believe Undertale would be a more enjoyable game if it were a visual novel. When a player makes the wrong choice, it is a softer failure that leads them to the same exit point, but they are simply experiencing something different along the way. Rather than having to restart a boss battle multiple times before finally making all of the correct choices, I would have much rather preferred the boss just took pity on me or something and low-key insulted me that way. That would have truly subverted my expectations.

Final Fantasy VI

Oh god, I just finished insulting Undertale and now I'm moving onto Final Fantasy VI. Am I going to have to hide in a cave until this blows over?

Alright, let's not try to ramble about this and just get straight to the point. I think Final Fantasy VI is a completely serviceable Final Fantasy game, especially when compared to the NES and SNES generations. The story, combat, music, and graphics, are all great for a 16-bit game. I completely understand how someone would lose their mind over this game back in 1994. But game mechanics from that generation have not aged well. That was the same year my favourite video game of all-time was released, X-COM: UFO Defense, but it has also not aged well. The Firaxis reboot is superior in nearly every way. It may not do everything the original did but it elevated the core idea of the game to another level.

The transition from cartridges to discs had the exact same effect on the Final Fantasy series. The story, combat, music, and graphics were all elevated to another level. Personally speaking I think 7, 9, 10, and 12 are all better Final Fantasy games when compared to 6.

I am probably about four hours away from beating Final Fantasy VI and I cannot imagine why I would ever replay it. It's actually put me in the mood to replay either 9 or 12 to experience a medieval style Final Fantasy game that I really enjoy.

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May Goals

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