No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #66

Hello, everyone. In just a week, Tomb of the Snake has become the most popular game on No Time To Play. Not so much on, where traffic is conspicuously thin. I'm yet to figure out exactly why. Perhaps a dearth of non-Windows gamers on the service? More experimentation is in order.

Speaking of which, for the past four days I've been working on my next game, and as it turns out there is such a thing as too much color. I mean, compare these two screenshots:

I don't know about you, but between psychedelic and girly I choose the style that doesn't hurt my eyes. Hopefully my players will agree.

Well, on to this week's other news.

Continuing his rant about games that want to be movies, Shamus Young gives game developers some advice about cutscenes. And you know, I could always point at Half Life, which features "only" the most famous game intro ever -- the ur-example of interactive cutscenes. But it wasn't even the first. Released in 1995, Christminster even has you solving a minor puzzle while you're eavesdropping on the conversation the next room over. So we've literally known how to make excellent interactive cutscenes for twenty years now. Twenty. Years. What excuse do we have to still rob players of the one thing they can only find in games -- agency?

On a related note, over at the Rampant Coyote blog Jay Barnson argues that better graphics don't make better art, they only enable it -- potentially. Which is pretty much what I've been saying: don't use more advanced technology unless you really need it. Like, you're making The Matrix? Then by all means, use CGI on that scale. Otherwise, settle for less. (And I've had people tell me that the story in Matrix could have been told just fine without all those SFX. What if they're right?)

Me, I'm yet to fully explore the full potential of 2.5D techniques, and not for lack of trying. Heck, I'm yet to fully explore the potential of text-based user interfaces -- few game have, and most of those just emulate text with graphics for the sake of a little more bling. Why should I waste my talent chasing after the latest shiny toy all the time rather than making the best of simpler tools?

And because I mentioned interactive fiction, Indie-O-Rama publishes a decently-sized interview with Alexis Kennedy of Failbetter Games fame. Interesting how they talk about "more social interactive fiction". Ever heard of a MUCK or MUSH? We've had social story games for a quarter of a century now. We just abandoned text for a while to chase after increasingly shiny graphics. And they turned out to be hollow, so now we're looking back again? Well, back to the future...

Last but not least, out of several retrocomputing news this week I chose one that should be accessible to people who haven't grown up with 8-bit computers. Vintage Is the New Old writes about a new electronic music album by a Russian composer... who made it all on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum -- a machine that never had a proper sound chip, but just a beeper like the original IBM PC. And yet it's capable of that. No comment.

I leave you in the company of music until next week.