No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #63: off-topic edition

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.

Over at The Kernel, there's an article about plugging a 1986 Mac Plus into the modern Web, and the amount of work it takes is mindboggling. Look how casually we discard old technology, and with it entire chunks of our history. An especially poignant example after last week's similar argument about games.

On a different note, ZDNet warns about the shortage of programmers about to hit Eastern Europe, that's been an exporter of IT workers for a good while now. Trouble is, they seem to assume it's a matter of training more people, and that's just ignorant of how things are done in this part of the world. Let me tell you a story.

When I first got hired as a programmer, exactly 16 years ago, on paper I was an unskilled worker. You see, I never went to college, and Romanian law requires you to have a certificate or diploma of some sort in order for your skills to be recognized (more generally, to the Romanian administration you're not a person, you're just a piece of paper). After a while, my boss paid for an intensive web development class so I'd get that all-important document. Naturally, at the time I already knew more than the teacher, despite being a beginner. But hey, now my boss could justify paying me a decent wage for a change!

Which brings me to the other side of the problem. You see, the tax system in Romania is idiotic beyond description. They keep talking about encouraging more job creation, but then they make it difficult in every possible way. Worse, they make it horrendously expensive -- it costs a company tons of money to keep someone employed. So any employer has an incentive to hire as few people as possible and overwork them. You can imagine how well that works in the long term.

Rest assured, there are countless skilled programmers in Eastern Europe. They're just invisible to government and companies alike. Look more closely, will you? While they haven't yet moved westwards.

While we're on the subject of the big and powerful being idiots, you know how big media keeps insisting that intellectual property is all about creators making money from their work, right? Well, you'd think in that case they'd be delighted if you went to them with a proposal to re-release an old game they own and give them a cut of the sales. Turns out... they'll threaten to sue you instead. Without even bothering to check if they even DO own those rights. After all, they can always win a lawsuit by virtue of having more money than you do...

Can we please drop the pretense? Copyright, trademarks and patents aren't about money. They cost companies money -- and lead to lost culture. No, "intellectual property" is all about control: bloated publishers doing any shady thing to remain relevant in a world that doesn't need them at all anymore.

In actual game development news, Andrew "Zarf" Plotkin writes about designing alchemy into a puzzle game (his recent Hadean Lands) -- a good read for any game designer. And Richard Cobbett soundly mocks Atari for remaking Asteroids as a... real-time strategy game?! Wish it was a joke... Last but not least, there's an article over on Boing Boing about authoring Twine games as a form of therapy. That creating interactive fiction can be therapeutic isn't news to people familiar with the medium, but the article makes the issue very personal, and that's a good thing in this modern world where statistics rule and anecdotes are dismissed as irrelevant.

I'll end this week's news by letting you know that I've been reading the brand new PDF edition of Teaching and Learning with Interactive Fiction, a book about the use of the eponymous medium in academia. I won't write a review here. Suffice to say, there are good things and bad things about the book, but overall it made me see both playing and authoring in ways that had never occurred to me before. I recommend it even if you're not interested in formal education.

That's it, folks. See you next Sunday or so.