By Kyle Starr

From WordPress to Gatsby

September 14, 2020

As of today, I no longer have a CMS backing Zero Counts, my analytics have been wiped away, and most of my posts have been removed from the website.

No, this is not the next catastrophic event of 2020. The internet is not slowly dissolving like a post-Thanos snap. Quite the opposite. This is self-imposed (and maybe a huge mistake), but it’s a project I’ve been meaning to take on since the beginning of quarantine. (As if I didn’t have enough to worry about this year.)

As the title states, I moved Zero Counts from a self-hosted WordPress instance hosted with DreamHost to a static site built with Gatsby.js and hosted with Netlify CDN. What does this mean? In short, Zero Counts is faster, more efficient, and better suited for SEO and accessibility.

For those unfamiliar, with WordPress, all of my posts were published with the WordPress CMS and stored in a database. When you visited the website, your device had to make several roundtrips to a server to fetch each post. However, with Gatsby, the site gets regenerated every time I make a change to the codebase, including posts. Therefore, most everything — HTML+CSS and content — is compiled into a single static application that your device fetches (generally) once from a server.

On top of that, when visiting the WordPress version of Zero Counts, upwards of 10 CSS files were downloaded into your device — including the Bootstrap CSS necessary for the grid system I used for page layout — totaling 225KB, give or take. This may or may not have been WordPress’s fault; maybe just my inexperience with PHP and Wordpress themes. With the Gatsby version of Zero Counts, I wrote a single bare minimum CSS file including a Bootstrap grid clone using CSS grid.

On the authoring side, all of the website’s code and content are stored in a single code repository that I push to GitHub. I no longer write or manage any content in a CMS (for now). Instead, I write raw Markdown files and push them straight to GitHub. (God, I love Markdown.) I can write these in an IDE like VS Code or a Markdown compatible word processor like iA Writer. Once I finish a post, I push the file to GitHub, Gatsby re-generates the HTML for zerocounts.net, and the new post appears.

I won’t go into a lengthy piece about how all of this was done. Instead, I’ll point to some resources that helped me get here:

The migration is not entirely complete. While ExitWP is a great tool, each post requires a bit of Markdown clean-up. Therefore, I’ve only ported over posts from 2019–2020 as well as any interlinked posts prior to 2019. I’ll be chipping away at the remainder of posts from 2013–2018 over time.

Zero Counts began as a Tumblr blog called The Starr List back in 2013 or so. Over time, I moved over to WordPress.com, dabbled and stumbled around in code, migrated to a self-hosted WordPress site using a stock theme, created my own child theme, and eventually moved everything into a single codebase, allowing me quickly develop locally and offer up an optimized version of Zero Counts.

It’s been a lot of work and education, and finding time is not easy. In any case, here’s to another iteration of Zero Counts. Here’s to you, old sport.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Announcement

September 03, 2020

I’ve been searching for the right words all morning. “Inevitable” certainly is one, but I think “overjoyed” feels better.

Ever since rumors began circulating about the release of these games on Switch, the hype has felt insurmountable. We’ve been stuck at home for six months due to a pandemic, clamoring for comfort content. A dose of nostalgia this heavy is certainly what the doctor ordered. (A clinically proven vaccine wouldn’t be bad either.)

While omitting Super Mario Galaxy 2 and making this collection limited until March 31st 2021 is a real bummer, it’s a thrill that this will be released in two weeks time. Tick Tock Clock is counting down.

'[Sports are] forging a trail which the games industry would be wise to follow'

August 29, 2020

Chris Plante, Polygon:

As members of the video game industry consider the power of solidarity, as video game streamers question the sustainability of their labor and the parasocial demands of their audience, as the industry-at-large considers its responsibility to the greater culture, I believe sports could and should serve as a compass.

I’m no sports nut, but this piece cracked me. And it’s made more poignant after watching the sunshine and rainbows Netflix video game docuseries ‘High Score’. Great observations by Plante.

Good Sudoku and The Grid

August 01, 2020

Brendon Bigley, writing at his new site, Wavelengths:

After playing daily for about a week after its release, I’ve noticed Good Sudoku activating the same brain-space as roguelikes in the vein of Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac. These are games meant to be played hundreds of times, and for thousands of hours. After years of playing Spelunky I immediately go into auto-pilot when starting a new run because I’ve seen so many permutations of the level generation I can’t help but feel as though surprise is unlikely. But that comfort with such a hostile environment has come from thousands of runs. I’ve died in Spelunky more times than I can count, and each death brings with it a small lesson for survival in future attempts. At this point, my head is crammed so full of strategies and techniques and possibilities that I feel more equipped than ever to survive the next run. I mean I probably won’t… but it’s nice to feel confident sometimes!!

I haven’t played Good Sudoku, nor Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac, but I know enough about vanilla sudoku and these roguelikes to understand that Bigley’s observation is striking. I’m having of those, “How didn’t I see this before?” moments.

To the uninitiated or uninterested, sudoku puzzles all look the same — a 9x9 grid with numbers sprinkled about. How many variations could there be? How is sudoku not a solved game? But the number of variations of sudoku puzzles is staggering — far more than any human could experience in their lifetime. Nigh-endless possibilities within a consistent environment. And what is the procedurally generated experience of a roguelike if not nigh-endless possibilities within a consistent environment?

Thanks to Bigley, it’s now hard to think of roguelikes and procedural generation as something made possible with today’s technology, but something conceived from a 9x9 grid.