No Time To Play

Weekly Links #97

by on Nov.22, 2015, under News, Review

Hello, everyone. As I was saying last time, the IFComp results were announced on Monday, and this year I was intrigued by several of the games for a change. Actually playing them hasn’t been so smooth. One is Windows-only, and I can’t be bothered to install Wine. Another has illegible gray-on-black text that also overlaps in places. (Does it perhaps expect a maximized browser window?) Yet a third runs in real time and doesn’t even pause after a screenful of text. Dear game developers: accessibility matters.

But there’s a gem or two among them — see my review of Untold Riches. I also tried Scarlet Sails, but gave up when my only available option was unacceptably stupid. Thanks for reminding me that a historical pirate’s life was short, squalid and painful.

Somewhat off-topic, right-wing military sci-fi has a tarnished reputation nowadays (which has made a lot of puppies sad, but that’s another story). Still, I used to enjoy the early Honor Harrington books when I was younger, so it was nice to hear that a Honorverse tabletop RPG is coming next year. What roleplayer hasn’t dreamed of commanding vast fleets in battle while dealing with political intrigue on the side, and even the occasional duel? Not to mention that from tabletop to videogames there’s just one step. We can expect more goodies from the franchise in the coming years.

In actual game development news, the authors of a recently Kickstarted game have published their early brainstorming process, and it’s an instructive read. Note the increasingly wacky and complicated ideas, none of which makes me want to even bother starting the game. That’s what happens when you set out to make one for the sake of it. If you don’t even care about your own driving idea as an author, how are you going to finish your creation, never mind getting your audience to give a damn?

In art, you must have something to say. Doesn’t have to be profound. It just has to matter — to you, the author. And as it turns out, most ideas that matter can be readily expressed in a non-interactive format.

I’ll end with a cool use of procedural generation, for once not to create game content, but the kind of fluff that makes the player believe they’re having an impact on the virtual world. Which, as Undertale spectacularly demonstrated in recent months, is a thing players are hungry for.

Until next time, consider what you’re giving your audience.

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5 Comments for this entry

  • Nightwrath

    Come on, man – you cannot say ‘accessibility matters’ and then complain about installing Wine. I understand if a game is available to one piece of hardware which is not mainstream, but after 30 years to say that windows is not accessible… that is taking it a bit too far πŸ™‚

    Yes, it would have been sad if there was not any way to actually play that – but you can using another software. That is not exactly rocket science.

    • Felix

      Actually, having to install a big-ass piece of software just to play one lousy game is very much an accessibility issue — never mind all the others I was complaining about. Wine was 3x bigger than Java last time I checked. And on my last computer I would have had to build it from source, an impossible task on a 7-year-old office PC. Sorry, man, but nowadays even Unity can trivially export Linux builds of a game from any host OS; there’s simply no excuse to put the burden of compatibility on the end user anymore. Doubly so in interactive fiction, where the extreme portability of games has always been a major selling point, and tools exist to support that as much as possible.

  • Nightwrath

    Wait a second… Java on my computer has 100 megs, which means wine has… 3-400 megs? We are living in an age where even the smallest memory stick is at least 1 gig… I don’t think that should be a problem anymore in 2015 :D.
    (We are not discussing video cards or ram memory here, it’s some basic disk space)

    You mention Unity and you mention you have an older PC. These 2 don’t work so well together. Even as a user – there are some compatibility issues, at least from what I have personally experienced on a computer from 2008. I can’t even dare to play newer stuff made in Unity – it basically crawls (if it works at all).

    And as a developer? You need a much better computer to actually ‘develop’ things in Unity. Not to mention that it is a bit of an overkill to use Unity on a text adventure…
    So I don’t think Unity should be at all in our discussion here πŸ™‚

    So what is left… is that you have to install a third-party FREE piece of software. Oh my, the burden πŸ™‚

    Then again it is just ‘one lousy game’. Hm, wait a second… But you did not play it yet. How would you know if it is lousy or not? Preconceptions, here I come…

    • Felix

      Three words, man: Emily Is Away. Which happens to run just fine on my clunker. As for Wine, yes, it is a burden to install something that big and cumbersome just to play a game I don’t care much about and might not like. Let me say it again: I just don’t care enough. My computer, my feelings. If that’s not enough justification, nothing will be.

  • Nightwrath

    ‘Emily is Away’ may not be the best example since that game represents the ‘blockbuster’ of interactive story from the last… many-many years πŸ™‚

    In order to understand the hype of the game – some of the most famous Twitch streamers played live it for tens of thousand of peoples (besides the coverage from mainstream gaming media). That level of unexpected marketing and success is not easy to come by, no matter how good your game is.

    ‘Emily is Away’ may also be a bit tricky in what it does, because it is not entirely text – it has a graphical presentation (very polished), it has sounds etc. It is more like hybrid. It cheats on this part, you cannot compare it straight with an adventure from the 80’s.

    And yes, the game is pretty good, but then again… it is not your typical interactive story. Plus, the technical part of it is top notch. No bugs, very polished, VERY good presentation. It is a very ‘pro’ game. From what I understand, there aren’t too many ‘pro’ interactive fiction games lately (as in – people make a living out of those games).

    Then again, if you don’t care enough anymore… maybe it is time to move on, find other things that you like besides gaming πŸ™‚

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