No Time To Play
newsletter archive

Weekly Links #58

All right, so, the bad news is my mood swings continue. The good news is, I was able to do enough work on my game again to show you a new screenshot. And all on a Sunday afternoon, too!

Okay, so the cave levels look uglier than I remember. Either I broke the old code while recovering and porting it, or else it was a case of rose-tinted glasses. But I learned a lot about procedural generation in recent years, so it's just a matter of patience. The code needs significant clean-up anyway.

As for the news this week, we only have two again: the most overused words in game titles, and an interview with Jeff Vogel.

Ah, titles. In writing and game development alike, I've heard people recommend you first finish your creation and then give it a name. And that just strikes me as bad advice. Even a temporary, working name is better than always mentioning "that game with the round thingy bouncing around a city". And having a working name can suggest theme. I've lost count of my stories that just weren't going anywhere until I realized they lacked a clear direction, and the title reflected that.

That's why I think naming your games well is important. Do you suppose most game developers are aware of that? Shamus Young made a statistic, and the lack of imagination throughout the industry is hilarious. What if famous movies were named Quest of the Hobbits, or Replicant City? (Okay, perfect counter-example: Star Wars.)

Dear marketers: your product needs a unique name. I'm not going to notice your new release Rise of the Dark Kings in-between Rise of the Black Dragon and Rise of the Dead City, especially if they're all completely unrelated. Notice how trivial it is to combine those overused words into utterly generic and forgettable titles. And if you're an indie developer, consider whether you're making a game with tanks just because it sounds kinda cool, not because you feel strongly about it...

On to my second topic for this week: I stopped reading Jeff Vogel's blog ever since he went all get-off-my-lawn a while ago, but the man still has much to say. In this interview with VentureBeat, he touches on a number of topics that apply to any kind of game, such as the quest for perfect balance being a fool's errand. I've seen online roleplays ruined by putting balance in front of fun, and it's sad. The same applies to any other kind of game, mind you -- and as he points out, all genres have been borrowing from RPGs as of late.

A game only needs to feel like a game and be fun to play. Whether it has an objective or not (SimCity, anyone? Elite?) is a detail. And the popularity of walking simulators puts into doubt even the "feels like a game" requirement. The only important thing is that you, as a game developer, have something to say. And it's in this department that most of the industry is still deficient, after decades of this new art form of ours.

But no, I don't think the world has too many roguelike 2D platformer puzzle-stealth games. Maybe too many for new developers to make a living off their work. Well, here's the trick: nobody promised you riches. Authors living by selling copies of their work is a historical accident -- a brief era that's ending. And the vast majority of artists never did make a living off their art, regardless of the exact mechanism.

Making art and making a living are orthogonal concerns. If they happen to intersect, great. But don't make art for the money, because it will show -- and you'll be disappointed. See you next week.