It’s a week with no links again, so if you don’t mind I’ll take the time to rant on a topic that’s been obsessing me for a long time now. Be warned that this is only tangentially related to games.
But first, a signal boost.
I’ve never played Glitch, but I heard of it closing down when they released their assets into the public domain (a great initiative), by virtue of hanging around with the Open Game Art crowd.
Turns out, a friend of mine seeks funding to create what she’s describing as a text-based prequel to Glitch. And while I dunno about the project, Generic Geek Girl‘s portfolio is enough of a recommendation for me. Take a look.
Now, on to the main topic for today: graphical user interfaces. Fasten your seatbelts.
Hello, everyone. After my rant about game complexity last week, it occurred to me that someone who’s been reading this blog from the start might deem me hypocritical, seeing how I once praised the manual for Master of Orion. Then again, I learned to play the game by having a friend show me the basics for a few minutes; the manual only helped clarified a few things. Same with Civilization, or the early SimCities. So you see, it’s not about games being hard. (I never came close to winning MoO, before or after reading the manual.) It’s about games being too complicated to friggin’ play, let alone have fun with, unless you’re willing to put in countless hours.
And now, on to game development news.
Hello, everyone! This week we have postmortems of two important gamedev events that happened this autumn. Having participated in one of them, and being tied by nostalgia to the other, I found the parallels especially interesting. I’m talking of course about the Procedural Generation Jam and the Interactive Fiction Competition, and I’ll get back to both of them in a moment.
But first, a personal anecdote. This weekend, I spent half a day with a particular group of old friends — a rare enough event. As it happens, we had a PS4 at the place where we met, with a healthy library of several dozen games. And because someone briefly dropped by with their 7-year-old boy, it was a no-brainer to try and find a game or two in there for him.
All right folks, let’s kick off 2015. Surprisingly enough, there have been a couple of relevant news pieces over the otherwise dead New Year’s week, and as it happens both are related to game pricing. I’ll start with a Techdirt piece illustrating just how far micropayments can go. Short version: it’s UGLY. Not that saying so will change anything as long as people keep paying to be shat on, but it’s good to keep in mind that unless you’re as big as EA, you can’t really afford to treat your customers like that. This is not good business practice; it’s just something they can afford to do. You don’t.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the fine folk at Failbetter Games took the time to explain why Fallen London is still free to play. Having played Fallen London since it was called Echo Bazaar, I can say it’s F2P done right. Or was — I gave up in the meantime, having grown tired of clicking cows.
Speaking of which.
I don’t have a newsletter for you these days, not so much for lack of gaming news that piqued my interest — though I failed to notice any — but also because a variety of personal problems have kept my mind off gaming. Besides, 50 is a nice round number for a year’s worth of newsletters, don’t you think?
So, happy holidays, and see you in 2015. Thanks for staying with me.
I was going to work on a game these days, both because change is good (I just finished writing a story) and in order to get an old promise out of the way. But sometimes things just don’t go the way we want them to. After a quote from my latest newsletter made the rounds on Twitter, I made the mistake of sharing a link to the whole thing. Given the controversial nature of what I wrote, guess it was a lucky thing that only Emily Short answered me, and her entire reaction to it was, I quote,
Fair enough. I owe you an explanation, Emily. Pun not intended at all.
It had to happen sooner or later. This week I could barely scrounge up a couple of links, and I have little to write about the most important of them. To wit, the already famous Twine has reached version 2.0 — a huge leap forward as it now runs in any modern web browser, making it available on new platforms such as Linux and Android, and more casually accessible to just about everyone.
And since we’re talking Twine, remember when the default interface for interactive fiction wasn’t hyperlinks, but a command parser? Turns out, experiments are ongoing, as Emily Short points out on her blog. But while experiments are good as a general rule, the examples in the article fail to get me excited, for reasons I’ll explain below.
For now, let’s talk a little about card games.
With all the stuff on my mind this weekend, I basically forgot to work on my newsletter at all. But better late than never.
Continuing on the topic of programming languages from last time, Shamus Young argues in The Escapist that videogames need their own programming language. And while he makes some excellent points as always, I think he’s misplacing the blame. Like here:
[The C programming language] was created in a world where software was less complex than it is today. Your typical AAA game of 2014 will be thousands of times more complex than entire operating systems of 1972. Consequently, the language is focused on saving memory and CPU cycles, and not focused on helping the coder manage terrifying levels of program complexity.
Well, see? That’s your problem right there. Modern software is insanely complex. More complex, in fact, than anything else the human species has built. No machine with moving parts ever has millions of components. NONE. It would fall apart the moment you turned it on. But in software we make it happen just because we can — the worst possible reason.
Or so we think. How many hours of your life have you lost to crashing apps, crashing operating systems, lying servers, flaky networks?
I was going to write a big rant about programming languages for this week, but I tried and it’s just not coming together. Suffice to say, people keep inventing new ones to fix what they perceive as wrong with the old ones. And invariably, the newcomers turn out to miss the point entirely. These days everyone is gushing over Go and Rust. Bwahahaha! Remember Vala? I didn’t think so. Or D, for that matter? Hint: the idea of “fixing C++” wasn’t born this decade. Heck, Java was born from the same misguided good intention. And we all know how that worked out.
Pro tip: technologies that endure are those that build on the past and work with it. Because if you keep tearing everything down and starting anew, you’re never going to make any real progress.
Hello, everyone. We had a long weekend in Romania, courtesy of December 1st falling on a Monday, and I spent it meeting with friends. In exchange for the newsletter being late, I give you a new version of RogueBot:
Yes, after going in the wrong direction for weeks, I completely redesigned the gameplay, and it’s off to a good start this time. Even with just the absolute basics in place, it feels like a game. It’s frantic. It’s challenging. (If you want an easy game, try Buzz Grid.) It requires both dexterity and planning. And it feels like there’s room for improvement, both on the player’s and the developer’s side.
In other words, a success.