No Time To Play

Weekly Links #42: Interactive Fiction edition

by on Oct.26, 2014, under News

With the Interactive Fiction Competition in full swing, it’s no surprise that people talk about IF more than usual. Enough that even jaded ol’ me can find a bunch of news worth mentioning.

I’ll start with a signal boost: Jimmy Maher, a.k.a. The Digital Antiquarian has launched a Patreon to help fund his efforts of documenting the history of narrative computer games. His isn’t just any blog either: you’ll seldom find better documented, more balanced write-ups on any popular topic like that. There’s something to be said about having an academic background, it seems.

So if you can, give Jimmy a hand. He more than deserves it.
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Weekly Links #41

by on Oct.19, 2014, under Case study, News

Having recently worked on two projects that involve voxels, I couldn’t help but notice that for an obsolete rendering technology there seem to be quite a few game engines based on them. Most are quite different from the kind of thing I do (though many seem to rely on procedural generation… why am I not surprised). But a friend just pointed me at the current Humble Indie Bundle, and it includes one project that features remarkable similarities to my own work.

Note the pseudo-3D camera (with just two degrees of freedom!) and the very small scene size — 128x128x64, probably chosen because it’s near the psychological treshold of one million voxels. It also has physics — and I don’t understand why everyone sees “voxels” and thinks “destructible environments” — plus a manual editor of the sort I recently criticized, but which may work well enough if all you’re ever making with it is tiny “3D tiles”, as the case appears to be here.

Also, why is everyone so keen on releasing their engine and toolchain before they have a solid game made with them?

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Weekly Links #40

by on Oct.12, 2014, under Miscellaneous, News

This is the second time in just a few weeks that I almost didn’t have a newsletter, so I’m going to ramble a little more than usual about the couple of topics I do have. First is that the little toy I’ve been working on is nearly ready for release (in fact I’ve been sending review copies already). And yes, I tried using the system look and feel this time, just for kicks. Looks surprisingly good.

voxeldesc-20141011

But what is VoxelDesc, exactly? It’s a voxel painting application, except instead of being mouse-driven as you might expect, everything is done via a command line backed by a powerful scripting language — Javascript for now, because that’s the default in Java 6/7. I came up with the idea after noticing how tedious other voxel editors are: you need to click your mouse, very precisely, a lot of times, in order to make the simplest object. My experience with POV-Ray suggested that a declarative, procedural approach should be a lot more effective.

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Weekly Links #39: controversy edition

by on Oct.06, 2014, under Miscellaneous, News, Opinion

Howdy, everyone! I’ve been working on a new pet project as of late, and for once it’s neither a story nor a game. Say hello to VoxelDesc, a voxel painting program that uses a command line instead of the usual click-click-click.

voxeldesc-20141005

As of this writing, it’s not nearly ready for prime time, but it’s progressing fast enough. Soon I’ll be able to see if it’s a good tool for making game art, or whatever other uses people might find for it. Stay tuned.

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Weekly Links #38

by on Sep.28, 2014, under News

Hello, everyone! For the past week, I’ve been playing a little Risk variant called Compact Conflict. It’s made in HTML5 and clocks in at under 13K minified! You can easily lose because of a little bad luck at the start, but it’s so fast and compelling I can’t be angry with it. Most remarkable is the AI (with three difficulty levels!) crammed into that tight space. I have much to learn…

compact-conflict

In the way of game development talk, Gamasutra is running a postmortem titled Creating Epic Scale Games on an Indie Budget. It’s a topic we care about here at No Time To Play, and the article gives some interesting answers. I can’t help but notice that the game in question is a 2D work in the vein of Star Control, rather than the glorious 3D-fests chock-full of FX most people think of when they hear “epic”. Do you suppose that has anything to do with the subject matter? You know my opinion.

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Weekly Links #37: Talking Business

by on Sep.21, 2014, under Miscellaneous, News, Review

I’ll start this week’s newsletter with a signal boost. Friends of mine are working on a new RPG, a steampunk mystery, and they need some funding to make it happen. Details are scarce right now, but here’s what they have to say about it:

So, check out Hounds of Londras on Indiegogo, and spread the word. Thank you very much.

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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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