The eight-year reconnection – Chain Factor to Universal Paperclips

Back in 2009 I was fairly obsessed with Chain Factor – a game by Frank Lantz that would later become Zynga’s Drop7. I got good enough at it to be a consistent name in the all-time ranked leaderboard, always trading top 10 scores with some other person whose user handle i can’t recall anymore, so i decided that I wanted to record a video of me doing a decent run. The run took 22 minutes, and at the time YouTube’s maximum video length was 10 minutes, so i had to find a way to edit/speed it up.

That led to me creating my first real video editing project that i eventually titled Chain Factor Chaos:

It’s a pretty rough final product execution wise, and conceptually i don’t like what I did with the first big “section” anymore (the first 3’40”), but I’m still incredibly happy with the rest of it leading to the recap transition (3’40”-9’00″ish). A part of me would love to take a second crack at it given the sort of video editing chops I have now, but a) i don’t know that I still have access to the source video anymore, and b) if it came down to it i’d rather do something new from scratch than re-hash an old project.

In any case, when I posted my blog entry that talked about the project, Frank Lantz happened to come across it and commented on it saying how much he liked it. I remember feeling very touched (and, truth be told, a little overwhelmed) that he took the time to write to me. I wrote him an email to say “you’re welcome”, and we had a brief email exchange where he gave me more nice words about it. After that exchange, that was that.

Fast forward eight years later to yesterday.

Recently, a new browser game called Universal Paperclips has made the viral rounds. It’s what some people classify as an “idler”, and it’s a game type i’ve enjoyed playing in the past, so when my brother shared it with me, I said, “sure, i’ll give it a shot.” After I finally finished the game (which ended up taking a few days), there was an end credit line that said, “(c) 2017 by Frank Lantz”.

And i was like, “i recognize that name… oh! It’s the Chain Factor guy!” It took me a moment, but even after eight years I remembered who he was, the interactions we exchanged. So i found him on twitter, and said, “hey, i just finished your new game, remember me?” and he tweeted me back and said, “Of course!”, said he still found the video amazing, and it was nice to reconnect. I told him that his game was great and that I was going to play it as part of a video game marathon for charity, and he tweeted a link to my charity page and also gave me a donation.

Such a random eight-years-apart reconnection made with a damned awesome guy. I might start using twitter more often because it definitely shouldn’t be another eight years before we interact again.


FTL Advanced Edition: Hard Mode Victory

So there’s a lot of exciting (but mostly pending) things going on with my job and with a new commission that i recently picked up, so naturally it felt like a good time to write about something completely unrelated to any of that – this past weekend i finally beat FTL: Advanced Edition on Hard mode.

FTLHardVictoryWhen Advanced Edition was released, i played it off and on (don’t look at me like that.  i did not become obsessed with the game again.  honest.  really.), getting myself familiar with the new Lanius race, the new abilities to hack and mind control, and some of the new weapons and drones in the game.  As i refamiliarized myself with the game from when i first played it a year ago and started to beat Normal Mode more consistently with the AE content, i thrust myself into Hard mode to see if i could beat it.

And yeah.  Hard mode is, well, hard.

The major differences between Hard Mode versus Normal mode are:

  • You start off with 0 scrap vs 10 scrap and scrap rewards in general are lower.
  • Enemies ships are much tougher, particularly in that there are more enemies with missile weapons and more enemies that will try to escape if their ship health reaches a critical point.
  • The Rebel Flagship’s missile weapon room and laser weapon room are now connected to the main body of the ship making it next to impossible to put those weapons out of commission.

(left: Rebel Flagship on Easy/Normal mode.  right: Rebel Flagship on Hard Mode.  Picture credits to














I experimented with a few ships that I thought would have potential to beat the game, failing pretty spectacularly most of the time but learning from all of those failures (ahem… not obsessed).  Eventually I came upon what I thought was the most likely strategy for success and started running that strategy over and over until the right circumstances from the game’s semi-randomness made me well-equipped enough to succeed.

Honestly, i was pretty surprised i was able to pull it off because I never came upon a shop that offered me a Defense II, so my only defense against missiles was Defense I – thankfully my high evasion and the occasional blast into that missile chamber helped me stay alive long enough to employ my main strategy – and also thankfully, the Flagship’s first stage hacking drone decided to hack my backup battery which had minimal impact on my ability to attack or defend.

This post documents my overall strategy and pathway to victory, particularly as it relates to taking advantage of what i feel is a little-known mind control exploit that was key for defeating the Rebel Flagship.  It’s broken into six small sections:

  • Ship Selection and General Pre-Boss Battle Strategy
  • Building and Upgrading the Ship
  • Gameplay Strategy
  • What Actually Happened in my Victory Run
  • The Mind Control Exploit
  • Defeating the Rebel Flagship

Let’s start with the Ship Selection and General Strategy.

flash game “music”

maybe this is just me, but i feel like flash game music has a hugely untapped potential.

The electronic music program in my undergrad at West Chester helped engrain in me a preference of electronic music as an interactive performance art versus a static “tape piece” that involves no live element. Not that i don’t think that tape pieces have value or their place in our modern music history, it can just be more challenging for a piece to resonate with me as both a composer or an audience member if conceived that way.

That’s really a separate discussion; i bring this up because in the past half year or so my brother has started dabbling into creating flash games and i thought it would be fun to try my hand at creating the background music. The more i would discover about some of flash’s flexibility when it comes to music handling, the more my brain shifted the musical conception away from “background music” to “interactive sound experience”.

Most flash games….