No Time To Play

Weekly Links #36

by on Sep.16, 2014, under News

I was tempted to just skip this newsletter. Few links last week, little to say about them, and having full time work these days is not a combination conducive to creativity. (Well, and having my creativity channeled in another direction as of late.) But here I am anyway.

First thing that grabbed my eye is this tweet, itself quoting a longer conversation. And you know, maybe I’m missing some context, but are two of the world’s best game programmers arguing that programmable-pipeline OpenGL is too complicated, and software rendering is better?

Yeah, yeah, I’m biased. But next time you’re struggling to get basic stuff working properly with the “easier” modern technologies, you want to ask yourself if you really need all the fluff.

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Weekly Links #35

by on Sep.10, 2014, under News

It had to happen, I guess. This newsletter is two days late. Though considering how often I publish it one day late, it’s all relative. Been going out a lot, you see. Does me a lot of good, seeing friends and exercising.

But anyway. Last week I only found a couple of things worth sharing. One is this article about BASIC on 8-bit microcomputers, which promptly reminded me of Why Johnny Can’t Code, except more technical in nature. Having started with Basic on a Speccy myself (like every good programmer I know), no other programming environment ever felt as Zen to me as line-number Basic. Maybe Forth comes close… if you can wrap your head around it. And it still isn’t the same.

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Weekly Links #34

by on Sep.02, 2014, under News, Opinion

This is another short week. The biggest news, of course, is that the overgrown boys of gaming — you know, those who take pride in the size of their virtual, um, guns; those the big publishers still target exclusively — have crossed every imaginable limit. It’s not the first time Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency fame has taken flak for pointing out the frightening amount of misogyny in gaming. But this time one of the drooling baboons has ventured into the criminal realm, driving Ms. Sarkeesian to leave home and seek police protection from direct and credible threats.

Just to make it clear: I like games with big guns too. And I’m not above seeking a bit of eye candy every time I can. Maybe that makes me a little sexist; maybe all men are, just a little. But what this guy did? It’s not just literally against the law. It casts a dark shadow over both gaming and real men — you know, those who show a minimum of respect towards the other half of the world’s population.

If you can’t do that, then get the fuck out. Just… out. There’s no place in civilized society for violent bigots. And societal standards are already way too low as it is.

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Weekly Links #33

by on Aug.26, 2014, under News, Opinion

I’m forcing myself to write this newsletter tonight so I don’t delay it any more than it already is. A while ago I was noticing how when I have a lot of links it’s hard to write a lot about any of them, and last week seems intent on proving that. On the plus side, pretty much everything I have this time directly pertains to game development. So let me see…

The big story of last week was of course — yet again — how the glut of indie games, bundles, sales and so that marks the market these days is “killing the industry”. You know, just like it did last time. And the time before that. Always the voice of reason, The Rampant Coyote points out we’ve always had boom and bust cycles. Less charitably, Retro Remakes dismantles the complaints in an epic rant. And to be frank, I found said complaints simply incoherent. As for this argument about prices… Um, dude. Economics 101. You don’t decide the value of whatever you’re selling, the buyer does. If they think it’s not worth the price you’re asking, they won’t pay it, period. Or if they do, but they can’t afford paying that much for a game at the time. (And if you think $10 is always affordable for someone in a developed country, you don’t know how most people live. Sorry.) Would you rather prefer to make a little money, or none at all? Because the buyer sure doesn’t care how much you have invested. And they have many, many other options for entertainment.
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Weekly Links #32

by on Aug.19, 2014, under News, Opinion

I have a short week again, due to a dearth of news and not much to comment about those I do have. But then I figured out an angle for the first link of the week, and it all rolled out from there.

The Speccy Jam is, as the name suggest, a game jam where developers gather to make games that look as much as possible as if they were made for the eponymous 8-bit microcomputer. Interestingly, the games don’t have to be genuine Spectrum software — which reminded me of a friend who, seeing Spectral Dungeons and Escape From Cnossus, thought they were just excellent immitations rather than the real thing running on emulation. And you know, I can see the appeal of adopting the graphical style while doing away with some of the more annoying limitations. But then the purist in me starts yelling, “but it’s so easy to make genuine Speccy games!” And it fills me with doubt.

Anyway…

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Weekly Links #31

by on Aug.11, 2014, under Gamedev, News

I’ve no idea when my browser started supporting WebGL. It wasn’t last time I checked, but when was that? Possibly months ago… before the last OS upgrade. Oh well, that must be it.

Anyway, since it’s now working, I again tried playing with Three.js a little. Even without accelerated drivers, Mesa is a lot faster than a rendering engine in pure Javascript, and WebGL allows for some neat tricks such as fog and proper lighting. Not that it helps much.

You can use the good old WASD keys to move around. I was going for a Sentinel vibe, but failed, and cheap tricks couldn’t fill the gap. (Amusingly, using the software renderer comes closer to what I had in mind.) To top it all, I worked just as much on figuring out Three.js as I had previously on setting up various 2.5D engines from scratch. And at least this one had style.

Oh well, on to the real news.
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Weekly Links #30

by on Aug.05, 2014, under News

I don’t even know where to start. Paradoxically, it’s because of too few links this time, rather than too many. How do you tie together thematically a handful of completely different topics?

Oh well. Two weeks ago I was writing about Kickstarter projects that fail after being funded. Well, here’s a postmortem of one that succeeded. As it turns out, that takes a lot more than just enthusiasm. And money is never as much as it appears.

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Weekly Links #29

by on Jul.29, 2014, under Gamedev, News

Okay, what do I start with this time, because it’s been a fairly interesting week.

Right. I might as well mention coming up with another game since last time. Like with Attack Vector, I chose to make a 5-minute intro that looks all polished rather than a long but ugly improvisation.

Yes, it’s a visual novel, my first attempt at making one since I first heard of Ren’Py maybe eight years ago. It was inspired by some assets from Open Game Art, which turned out to be not entirely suitable for the task, but I was able to improvise. In any event, I’m much happier with the way it looks than the way it sounds, and more interactivity would be welcome, but early feedback suggests the story is compelling. So that’s reason enough to keep going. Download it here.

Anyway, on to the serious news.

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Weekly Links #28

by on Jul.21, 2014, under News

Welcome. We’re all used by now with Kickstarter projects failing even after being fully funded, and while it doesn’t seem to deter backers — people clearly understand that sh*t happens — the question remains: what should developers do once it’s clear that they won’t be able to deliver on their promises? Over on Twitter, Shamus Young has an answer, and I can’t help but agree.

That’s hardly unprecedented. At least two high-profile MMOs (Ryzom and Myst Online) went open source after failing in the market, and they hadn’t even been kickstarted, a.k.a. “already paid for in advance”. For a game that was, it’s just common sense, you know?

But there’s another excellent reason to do so.

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Weekly Links #27

by on Jul.15, 2014, under Gamedev, News

I didn’t expect to finish my game in just one more week, but here it is. Somehow, in only a few coding sessions, I managed to:

  • Add a third enemy and rebalance everything.
  • Add sound effects and music.
  • Implement the missing help/options screens.

Here’s the result. It doesn’t look much different, and it’s hardly complete; preferences aren’t saved, there’s no highscore list and there’s just one 5-minute level — which makes it more of a demo. But it feels like a product rather than an experiment, and that’s what matters.

And now, for more interesting news.

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