Posted on Programming

Conan Exiles — supplementary

I’ve been playing a lot of Conan Exiles lately and it’s pretty neat. But I’ve come to realize one of the best parts of a video game is making supplementary tools to aid in its play. Herein chronicles my Conan journey in that regard:

What started as a co-op session quickly descended into madness. In co-op you’re tethered to the hosting player, which can get strange. So we spun the world off into a locally hosted private server. Which proceeded to migrate from location to physical location.

The Conan world progresses as long as the server is running. Nobody has to be in it. Things happen. Possibly terrible things. As a self-described coward, that seemed somewhat less than ideal.

I didn’t want to leave it running at all times, but had no way to stop it (or more importantly) start it, once it was out of my direct control. So I wrote a c# server controller, which is also its own webserver, and exposes a page to control the server. So any of us can turn it on or off, etc. Everything worked fine until a new version of one of the mods was released. Now it updates those (and the game) as well.

Conan server control page

Now to frantically start and stop the server to see if anyone notices.

Everything was going fairly well until I hit level 60, when all of a sudden raising the level cap started to look rather alluring. But there are so many level cap mods. I couldn’t decide which to use. So instead I exacerbated the problem by making my own.  It’s called MoreLevelsPls. Now we have until level 250, scaling at approximately the same rate as prior to 60.

y ≈ ⌊86.4023x3 - 129.8326x2 + 61.0945x - 27.7356⌉

It sure seems to work.

Once you make level 60, new opportunities open up. You can make a slew of armours and weapons previously unavailable. Unfortunately, the information available on them, in game, is rather lacking. And they can be costly (in resources) to make.

Soon we were scouring the internet for information on armour and weapons – but nothing really worked the way we wanted. So I made a quick Conan data tool based on the game’s items list. It doesn’t include DLC, but what it has you can filter and, more importantly, sort.

Feel free to use it, if you like!

Posted on Programming

The Family Wishlist is finally mobile friendly

Ten years ago today (plus or minus two to five years) I made The Family Wishlist. And it’s been good. People have found it helpful.

But The Family Wishlist had a problem, one that I hoped – as all problems do – would go away if I ignored it long enough. Much to my surprise, it got worse. Worse and worse.

Or, if not worse, than at least less forgiveable.

The Family Wishlist, you see, wasn’t mobile friendly. Like, at all. But come on guys, it was 2008. Did smart phones even exist then?
It’s impossible to say. But what I can tell you is they exist now; moreover, people use them. Constantly and for everything.

So, after putting it off for ten years – through the power of procrastination – I finally did it. Or, redid it, as it were. I’ve rewritten it entirely, using my API framework (lull7) for the back-end, and react for the front-.

Also, no more ads. Who wants to see those, right? Especially on a phone, where space is minimal.

So if you and your family need to coordinate gifts this season (or any season), give it a try! I don’t know, maybe you’re running a Secret Santa or some such. It does that too. Also, family isn’t mandatory – orphans are welcome. »

Thanks Greg, it truly did need an update.

Oh, also, I switched the email system over to SES so they should now arrive more reliably.

The Family Wishlist, 2018

The Family Wishlist
Posted on Art

Wherein you make your gf an infernal box

It all started at Michael’s, as these things always do, with a box shaped like a book. You see I’d never played dungeons and dragons, but it turns out any DM worth her salt needs a way to roll her dice unobserved. The more sinister the receptacle the better.


Flowers are cool and all, but I think the accursed flesh of the damned would be more appropriate


I've always found accursed flesh to be somewhat rubbery - plastidip is great for that


Plus it's nice to paint on

Once you've painted on the pentagram and inscribed the appropriate infernal runes, it's time to raise the flesh above it. I used a glue gun.

Don't forget to paint over them again.

After spray painting the corners metalic, I sealed it with Mod Podge.

The inside should be lined with felt, the colour of freshly spilled blood.

Yes, that's a string cheese wrapper on my floor. Manipulating such dark power is dangerous, hungry work.

Posted on crafting

Frank costume

Making costumes is fun! Fun, but worrisome. What if it looks like you’re just wearing a garbage bag – what if people think you’re dressed as literal garbage?

I mean, maybe you are dressed as garbage, and that’s okay. In that case, good job! But me, I wasn’t dressing as garbage.

No, I wanted to be Frank from Donnie Darko, complete with his bunny outfit.


(Frank's the one on the right)

The most distinctive thing about Frank is his mask. Conveniently it was also the most likely point of failure. Which made it a good place to start – if it turned out terribly, I could always fall back on my garbage idea.

Making Frank’s mask

The first step was to figure out what I was making. So out came the old notebook and a trusty pen.

Frank mask sketches

Even when pencils are actually in the way, I prefer to draw in pen — it's more metal

Once the various angles were documented, it was time to commence fabrication – using a tried and true method called winging it.

But how to form the mask? I knew I’d be using polymer clay, but I wanted something to build off of – a wire-frame, if you will. I briefly considered using coat hangers, but my coats need those. Adjourning to Michael’s instead, it turns out they have something called “craft wire”, which comes in various gauges, wound in a circle. I settled on a 12 and a 14 gauge wire; 12 was coat hanger thick, and 14 slightly thinner.

After twisting the wires in place, I hot glued the joints as well.



Some wire and hot glue later

You may notice some rectangular loops – one on each side, near where the eyes would be, and one at the top. This is a rare example of planning ahead. I knew I’d need some way to keep it on my face, and decided on three-point elastic system. I wanted the connection points to be build into the framework, so I added those loops to the wire-frame.

Next, I wanted to fill it in, to give the polymer clay something to sit on. You know, so it didn’t droop through the gaps under its own weight. I wrapped the frame with aluminum foil, and used excess foil to build up mass in places like the brow and cheeks.


Next, I added mass with aluminum foil

Those lumps of grey and black in the background were how I tested and settled on making the eyes, respectively.


You can see one of the loops more clearly here


After some reading on the various polymer clay options, I settled on mixing silver and black Kato Polyclay (which I ordered from This wasn’t the most time or labour efficient solution – which is an evasive way of saying it was the worst decisions of my life.
I spent hours mixing the clay, and my hands felt a bit bruised afterward. Keep in mind that I’m a large fellow with proportionally sized hands, and admirable grip strength, if the Telus World of Science is to be believed. In short, maybe don’t do it unless you really want to.


Mixing polymer clay

This is maybe a quarter of the polymer clay I mixed.

Because I wanted the eyes to light up, I made them with Pardo Translucent Art Clay. I made a form using a ball of tinfoil rough eye shape, covered in a layer of some black polymer clay I had leftover from my Witcher costume.

I cooked it in the oven, and then pressed a layer of the Pardo Translucent over it, and cooked that (times two).


Look, it's an eye!


Once a Pardo Translucent eye was cooked, I pulled it off the form. Conveniently, they came off pretty well – although the form was mostly destroyed after the second eye. Joke’s on it, though, Frank’s mask only has two eyes.

With the eyes complete, I set about the tedious task of skinning the mask. I did this over two days.

I’m not sure if it was necessary, but during the night I stored the excess clay in the fridge, and wrapped the mask in plastic – just in case.


Skinning the mask


A little bit of dentistry

Guys, I have a confession to make. Before, when I told you I started with the mask.. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. I started with the teeth.

I hope you can forgive me.



Doing a little dentistry

It turns out the trick to successful dentistry is surface area and hot glue.

I’d originally included the roots on the teeth to provide extra surface area, and to help prevent the teeth from falling out. It turns out this had the added benefit of cool bumps above the teeth – kind of like metal gums.


Skinned and ready to cook

With the mask both skinned and toothed, it was time to cook it – and boy was I nervous.

Luckily, it almost fit in my filthy oven. There’s a bit of a flat spot on the top of one ear, and at the bottom of his chin, where it touched the back wall and the oven door, respectively. I probably should have actually measured things before hand. Oh, well – I doubt anyone else would even notice.



I put two balls of aluminum foil inside it for support

Now, you’re probably thinking but, hey, how will you see?

Now that is a great question. When I was planning the mask, I decided I didn’t care about vision. I could look down and see through the mouth, or flip it up on my head if I really needed to see something.

I didn’t plan to move around much while wearing it.

At the last minute, (probably because people kept asking) I started to worry I’d made a terrible mistake. Panicked, I poked a tiny hole near one eye to look through. It worked fairly well, though I can only see one face at a time.

Bonus, I later learned that the neck of a corona bottle fits perfectly through the mask's mouth and into my own.

Once the polymer clay was hardened, I finished it with some paint and silver leaf Rub n’ Buff. Turns out it was super difficult to paint. The acrylic just seemed to run over it. I ended up eventually cleaning it up with a bit of acetone. The Rub n’ Buff was just as cool as always, though.


A bit of acrylic, and a bunch of Rub & buff. (Don't worry that glue gun isn't plugged in)

At this point, the inside was still aluminum foil, so I covered it with craft foam. This served the dual purpose of making it easier on my face, and more importantly, making it look better.

I also added some foam padding for comfort.


Whoa comfy (Here you can see the elastic loops again)

Oh, speaking of the elastic..

It's a little big on Dayna

I put off painting the teeth for quite a while. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, and I was happy enough with the mask that I was worried about ruining it. In short, I was nervous.

I don’t have a lot of experience mixing paints, but I had a very particular colour in mind. I probably spent an hour just mixing and testing colours, trying to get that perfect shade of bone-white. (The trick was to add a bit of black.)

Eventually I got down to it, though.


teeth whitening

teeth whitening

But what if the eyes glowed?

I wanted the eyes to glow – but only sometimes. I wanted it to be sneaky.

After testing a bunch of different LEDs, I settled on white (I got them from They ended up looking a little bit blue, but that’s okay.


So I got to soldering, which I hate. I think you can see the despair in my eyes.


In order to diffuse the light, I made a sort of cup of wax paper, and melted hot glue into it. I embedded each LED into one of the globs, and then glued them into the eyes.

From there extended a long wire. Long enough to travel down my sleeve toward my hand. It ended in a switch, which allowed me to turn the eyes on and off at will, with nary a motion.

That is, if I had a sleeve.



A bunny onesie

With the mask complete, it was time to work on the bunny suit. I wanted a pretty basic onesie, loose and long-limbed. Being too lazy to even look for a pattern, I just went for it.

I found some cool fabric when I was in Victoria, though I wish I’d gotten more. It turns out I had just barely enough. The hood is actually made of scraps.


Rabbit pants

Starting the shirt

I wanted it to velcro at the front, where the white and grey fabric meet.


Almost there!

All that was left was to add the hood!

To help the hood stay in place, I used magnets to attach it to some metal on the mask’s upper-most elastic. This didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I should have used more magnets, but I left that portion until the last minute. Oh well.


The end result

With the eyes off

With the eyes on

Here it is on instagram:


Posted on Programming

Adding text to google maps markers

If you’ve ever used the Google Maps Javascript API, you’re probably aware that marker labels can only be one letter long. But sometimes you want them to say something meaningful, and often that takes more than a single character.

In case you’re looking for a way to display arbitrary strings in a Google Maps marker, good news, here’s how you can do it!

You can pass a data URL when you’re supplying an image for an marker, which is great. We can send it some SVG which includes our label text.

  1. Import your marker icon into Illustrator, or some other vector graphics software.
  2. Type in some sample text, formatted however you like.
  3. Export it as SVG.
  4. Create a function that replaces the sample text with whatever you want to display, and returns the adjusted SVG
  5. Pass that to the Google Maps API as a data URL.

// Generate a pin!
function createPin(text) {
	var svg = '...'; // Imagine there's SVG here.
	return 'data:image/svg+xml,' + svg.replace('sample-text', text);
// Create the map. Position and style it however you like
var map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById('maps_marker_text_example'), {
	center: {lat: 49.264691, lng: -123.100},
// Create the marker
var marker = new google.maps.Marker({
	map: map,
	icon: createPin('delicious burritos'), // Generate the SVG for this marker
	position: {lat: 49.2630584, lng: -123.0945}

Bam! You’re done. You’ve got map markers showing custom text.

One thing to be aware of is the <svg /> tag must include width and height attributes, otherwise weird things will happen. When I exported from Illustrator, my file had a viewBox attribute, but no width and height. So if yours is missing those, add them in.


Posted on Uncategorised

Things I’ve learned about Don’t starve together

The F key will attack, so you don’t have to try to click on a moving target, and the space key will perform the nearest action.

You definitely want a science machine and an alchemy engine at your camp.

If you find the walking cane, pick it up. It’ll let you explore a more quickly, especially on roads.

If you find Chester‘s eyebone, he’ll follow you around. Sometimes he’ll distract enemies, which can be good or bad, depending on the situation. He can get in your way, so often I’ll leave him at camp by dropping the eyebone.

A fully grown birchnut tree will give you 3 logs and 2 seeds during the Fall. You can replant the seeds, which are edible once cooked. You can tell a fully grown one by the two branches supporting its floof of leaves.

If you find gears, make a fridge (icebox). Sometimes you can find them in tumbleweeds.

With a shovel you can dig up plants and replant them elsewhere. Berries and grass will require fertilization to grow, sapplings will not. You can get manure from around a beefalo herd, or by feeding berries to pigs. Rot works too.

Plant grass on the savanna ground type to ensure it’s not overcome by disease.


manure, beefalo, birchnut tree, gears, tumbleweed, icebox,
eyebone, chester, walking cane, birchnut tree, birchnut seed, science machine, alchemy engine

If you find the pig king, you can give him meat or trinkets in exchange for gold. Not monster meat though, this guy’s health conscious. Tumbleweeds are a good place to find trinkets, and less terrifying than digging up graves.

Instead of a camp fire the first night, I like to make a torch and spend it in the safe glow of a raging forest fire. This is a good source of ashes, and more importantly charcoal. Some will be on the ground, but once the fire is good and truly out take your axe to those charred husks and harvest all the charcoal you need.


When in doubt set everything on fire

If you can’t find any rocks, you can mine petrified trees.

Picking flowers helps you regain your sanity. Also, hats.

Every so often you’ll be attacked by hounds. This is actually pretty easy to survive, at least so far as I’ve gotten. The trick is just don’t fight them. Find a herd of beefalo (preferred), or a grouping of spider nests and keep leading them through until they accidentally harm a beefalo, then collect their meat and any teeth they may have dropped. Pigs work too. If it’s night time, carry a torch.

Once you can handle the hounds, surviving the forgiving fall isn’t all that difficult. But like those elves from the hobbit always say: winter is coming.

Winter is cold, and you should start preparing in the fall. Grow your beard to stay in theme, make some ear muffs (two bunnies and a twig) or a toque (winter hat), but most importantly, make a thermal stone – or even two. Heat these by the fire at night and carry them with you during the day.

camp during winter

Smallbirds are pretty cute!

Food is scarce in the winter, and things don’t really grow. In the fall I like to plant a bunch of birchnut trees near camp, and then cut them all down right before winter. The wood is useful for those long, cold nights, and the seeds go in the fridge for meatballs, if necessary, or potential replanting.

Bunnies and spiders are still available in the Winter (but bunnies disappear in the Spring), so an infrastructure to easily collect those is helpful. This will make cooking bacon & eggs a breeze. I like to set up my camp near a bunch of bunny holes. You can place traps basically right over them. This has an added benefit that usually beefalo and bunnies both frequent the savanna land type.

Speaking of beefalo, you can shave them while they sleep. This is useful, sure, but also hilarious. Don’t be surprised if you feel bad afterward, they look so sad waking up sans fur.

Spiders drop three things that are useful – silk (web), glands, and monster meat – but are super easy and fun to catch, without endangering yourself. Just throw some traps down around one side of a nest, walk onto the webbed ground to draw them out, and run away such that they chase you into the traps. Then repeat. Be careful not to set your traps too close together, or one spider might set off a few of them. And be aware that in the evening spiders react differently – they wander around all willy-nilly and won’t chase you quite as easily. So just set some traps and retire to a safe distance. Maybe do some fishing.

too many spiders

not like this not like this not like this

In the evening frogs slink back into their ponds, so this is the perfect time to catch some fish. Head to one of the little ponds, and equip a fishing rod. Keep your cursor over the pond and click when prompted by “hook” and “reel in”.

I like to make a few drying racks to make fish jerky. It lasts a long time, and is good for regaining sanity and health.

In the winter, the ponds freeze over so you won’t be able to fish.

Once the spider nests are three-tiered, you can destroy them to collect the eggs. Just lure the spiders out as you normally would, until they refuse to play your game, then start knocking. when you attack the nest more spiders will emerge, but you can trap them as well. Repeat until you’re rich in both silk and spider eggs.

Why spider eggs, you ask? Turns out you can plant them like a tree! I like to move them close to, but not too close to, my camp.

Once you have sufficient silk, things get easier. I like to make a bird cage and a bird trap (baited with seeds). Keeping a pet bird has a few benefits. It makes you feel powerful, and provides an easy source of eggs. You can trade it cooked monster meat or bunny morsels for eggs, seemingly without limit. Once I had a nocturnal bird, but mostly you’ll have to do this during the day or in the evening.

Throw two eggs, a monster meat, and a morsel in a crock pot and you’ll end up with eggs & bacon.

A meat and three of any combination of carrots, berries, or cooked birchnuts will get you meatballs. Not as good as eggs & bacon, but they’ll do in a pinch.

Now that you have an endless supply of silk, you can make a beekeeper mask and a bug net. Catch some bees and make a bee mine of you want, but I like to destroy some beehives. Sure this is cruel, but it also provides the requisite materials to make bee boxes, which you can harvest for honey.

Bees aren’t active in the winter, but don’t let that fool you – they’ll still attack if you try to destroy a hive. In the Spring, all bees are deadly, so don’t put them too close to your camp.

Bees are cool and all, but my favourite part about the bug net is starting a flower garden. Bees like flowers, but so do butterflies. You’ve probably seen them fluttering around a flower now and then.

If you catch a butterfly, you can plant it in the ground to make a flower. Soon that flower will have its own butterfly, which you can catch to plant another flower. In this way your flower garden can explode wildly out of control, which is just the way I like it.

flower garden

Come at me, bee

Winter’s here. You have your toque, your sustainable sources of bacon & eggs. A heat stone. A whole wack of wood, and maybe some turf you’ve dug up to keep the fires going. You’re all set. Nothing bad can happen now, it’s time to hole up!

Wait. Do you hear that? What? Oh, that. Don’t worry that’s just the giant beast who wants to destroy everything you’ve ever built and possibly you yourself, should you anger it.

The good news is you’re prepared. You’ve been making gunpowder right? (nitre, rotten egg, charcoal.) You’ll need 9 of them. And ideally an ice staff.

I like to make a small camp a ways away from my main camp. A fire pit, maybe a stone pillar or two. As soon as I hear the huffing/moaning noise that signifies the coming of the deerclops I head there. Light the fire, make sure I have a few torches, and relax.

If all goes well, the deerclops shows up and destroys my decoy camp while I watch, with ever decreasing sanity, torch in hand.

If your camp is far enough away, maybe you can just head back – I don’t know. In my heart I tell myself the deerclops is too dangerous to live. Really, I just want to kill it. Imagine all I could construct with that giant, glistening eye of his.

eyebrella hat

like a nice, new hat!

Step one: freeze him with that freeze ray. Speaking of freeze ways, graveyards are a good place to dig up gems.

Step: two, drop a pile of 9 gunpowder next to him and light it up.

Did it explode? Good! He’s probably only got 200 health left, that’s nothing to a guy or gal like you. Don that log armour and get in there. Don’t forget to run away.

For the true cowards (like me) maybe lead him toward something else that will weaken him further. He’ll probably kill them all, so target someone who’s given you guff.

Let’s be honest, you probably died. That’s okay, there’s no shame in that. Welcome to the exciting wold of ghosts – it’s where I spend most of my time. Sure it’s boring, but I guess you can haunt things. Sometimes haunting flowers will turn them into evil flowers, or haunting hounds will turn them into more specialized hounds. If you see a tumbleweed, maybe it will unwrap itself – who know?



Eventually you’ll get bored of ghosting around. It’s not as fun as horror movies would have you believe. The map doesn’t even update when you go exploring. But, hey, maybe you’ve seen a touchstone around? If you do, haunt it and you’ll come back to life. Each touchstone only works once per player, but don’t worry, there are other ways to come back to life.

If you have a red gem (graves, fire hounds) you can make a lifegiving amulet. Haunting one of those will bring you back to life as well, so I like to leave some lying around camp.

Telltale hearts have to be given to you by another player, but when you’re revived your maximum health will be decreased. A booster shot will fix that.

Well guys, that’s what I’ve learned about Don’t starve together so far. I hope it saves you some trial and error.

As always, feel free to use the tool I made to aid in your survival endeavours, it looks like this.

crafting tool