Hello, everyone. In just a week, Tomb of the Snake has become the most popular game on No Time To Play. Not so much on itch.io, where traffic is conspicuously thin. I’m yet to figure out exactly why. Perhaps a dearth of non-Windows gamers on the service? More experimentation is in order.
Speaking of which, for the past four days I’ve been working on my next game, and as it turns out there is such a thing as too much color. I mean, compare these two screenshots:
I don’t know about you, but between psychedelic and girly I choose the style that doesn’t hurt my eyes. Hopefully my players will agree.
Well, on to this week’s other news.
Hello, everyone! By the time you’re reading this, Tomb of the Snake is out, three days ahead of schedule — mostly because I cut one last feature, but also because it seemed fitting to announce it on my usual posting day. (That it happens to coincide with Easter in my neck of the woods is more on the awkward side.) Here’s what you’re getting:
It’s both more and less than I hoped for. It’s no big deal, certainly not perfect, but it fills an underserved niche or two, and it was a surprising amount of work for what’s in there. Get the game from itch.io, on GitHub or even here on No Time To Play. I hope you enjoy it, and remember: feedback is welcome!
Now on to the few other news I have this week.
Allow me to get philosophical for a moment.
It occurs to me that a tomato isn’t a tomato because Zeus has decreed so. We only call it a tomato because it has a particular combination of properties. Its name comes from its properties, not the other way around. So object-oriented programming has it exactly backwards…
Then again, this is the same brain bug that causes lawmakers to ban tactical knives when kitchen knives are just as dangerous, and in fact any object with a sharp edge can cut, while any object with a sharp tip can stab, regardless of what we call it or what it was built for. Think an ice pick.
On a related note, it occurs to me that a car doesn’t drive, while a triangle doesn’t draw. So writing
triangle.draw() is just nonsensical. Sure, nowadays a car can drive itself, but it’s still a transitive verb.
I sometimes make fun of Haskell, but it may well be the only programming language with a sane object system…
Did I ever tell you about my friend Sera? She’s a very geeky girl who likes videogames and anime a lot. I’ve been meaning to highlight her Let’s Play series here for a while now, but couldn’t pick a suitable video — we have very different tastes in gaming. But recently she posted this:
Now that looks like a lot of fun. Sexist fun, as Sera points out in the video, but some girls like boobs too, you know? It can be forgiven for once. So, enjoy. And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out Sera’s fundaiser. (Yes, she’s transgender, and she needs your help. Any bigoted comments will be deleted. I don’t care.)
Now on to the few gamedev news I have this week.
It occurs to me that Inform 7 was so successful because it redefined interactive fiction authoring as writing prose, while Twine’s impact was due to redefining CYOA authoring as constructing a graph. Both were revolutionary — paradigm shifts in the truest sense of the word — because they allowed authors to practice their craft in the language of the craft itself. Where by language I don’t mean the specific symbols you work with, but more generally the system of communication you employ to describe whatever is on your mind at any one time.
The world of programming at large would do well to learn from these success stories. Because while Inform 7 radically changed the way people can describe games to a computer and each other, Haskell for example merely shifted the blame.
Hello, everyone! Thanks to a couple of generous donors, No Time To Play is financially secure for the next year. (Myself not so much, but that’s another story.) Many thanks to Mark Burger and Christopher Vincelli!
In other news, I don’t have any new screenshots this week but Tomb of the Snake is also progressing nicely. Now you can actually ascend with the McGuffin and win the game, and I’m nearly done adding monsters. Should have a playable version in two weeks to one month (famous last words, I know). I’m cautiously optimistic about this one — based on feedback, people seem to like roguelikes that blend tradition with modernity, rather than going to one extreme or the other.
But on to news that aren’t about me. There are plenty this week, and half of them are only tangentially related to game development.
You know what HTML is, right? It’s the file format browsers read in order to show you pretty web pages, with all the bells and whistles you’re accustomed to. It can get quite complex, but at its most basic it nothing more than this:
Here is some bold text for your enjoyment.
Let’s look at the HTML that produces the text above. Tell me, is it
code or data?
Here is some <b>bold text</b> for your enjoyment.
It looks like data, right? After all, it’s mostly text, meant to be read by human beings. They even call these HTML documents! How could anyone think it’s code?
Well, I say it is, because it instructs your web browser to do five things in sequence:
- Display “Here is some “;
- switch to bold text;
- display “bold text”;
- switch to regular text;
- display ” to work with.”.
Does that look like programming to you yet? Maybe it’s not cryptic enough. Let’s see how the same effect could be accomplished with an older language called Troff, that they used in the mainframe era:
Here is some .B bold text .R for your enjoyment.
There you go. The exact sequence of instructions I listed above, made explicit — a big no-no nowadays, when we like to pretend computers are easy. But even if you just select the text and click “Bold” in your favorite editor, deep down you’re expressing the same thing — a little computer program.
I don’t even know how to say this, so I’ll be brief: to the few people who read this blog and want it to stay online, I need your help. As of April 1st, I won’t have enough money left to eat, let alone pay for web hosting. The former is my problem; for the latter, I could use some spare change. My costs are $14/y for the domain (paid until July) and roughly $7/mo for the hosting (which includes my Internet access).
How you can pay: all of our games have Flattr buttons on their respective pages; I sell a few of them over on Itch.io; and of course you can use PayPal directly — leave a comment below and I’ll get in touch. Thank you very much. I want No Time To Play to stay up.
In other news, as you can see I made more progress with Tomb of the Snake — right now in the way of user interface. It’s not as much as I would have liked, but I’ve been working on another long-form article (and having some very bad days, but that’s another story). Don’t worry, it’s all coming along nicely.
Now let’s see what else happened in the world of gamedev this week.
There’s a new interactive fiction magazine in town, and it’s a monthly, too. Launched in January, IFography is at issue #2 already, and it has much to say: interviews with lesser-known authors, reviews of obscure games and opinion pieces in a very personal style — a much needed breath of fresh air. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but with many of the big names in IF being academics, the prevailing discourse in the community can get… starched. The perspective of a 16-year-old whose native language isn’t English can teach the rest of us a lot.
(Yes, actually English is my 3rd language too, but I stopped thinking of it as foreign a long time ago. As for the age angle, at 16 I was playing The Hobbit on a ZX Spectrum. That was nearly 22 years ago — and many in the community started out even earlier. We desperately need younger voices.)
Between this and the recent move to revive SPAG Magazine, maybe it’s time to be optimistic about interactive fiction again.
You know strategy games, right? You start with a few units; they harvest resources with which they build buildings; those in turn make more advanced units that can engage the opposition and hopefully win. All while gathering even more resources, upgrading your settlement and so on.
If you thought Starcraft or Settlers of Catan when reading the above, you’re on the right track.
But strategy games didn’t begin with those. They didn’t even begin with Dune 2. One of the earliest such games — the first great hit — was called Hamurabi and could be played with a teletype. Yes, it was a text game, much like the original Adventure and Rogue, and almost as addictive as them. Other famous strategy games were born during that era, such as Star Trek and Trade Wars.
You’d think all of them belong in history books, but during this century a new crop of browser-based multiplayer games have been eschewing graphics again in favor of an interface some people have derisively called “playable Excel documents”. In all honesty, it’s hard to fault them when you look at OGame; at least its competitor Travian still bothers to have a map.
But the joke’s on them, because these games are enormously popular.