No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #68

This will be another newsletter without any screenshots. The HTML5 port of Glittering Light is coming along, but slowly, and I have nothing to show off quite yet. So I'll just jump into the news. Most relevant events this week happened in the world of interactive fiction, so that will be the main course. But first, a piece of news that's as sad as it was predictable: the Ouya console is in trouble.

I called it. I totally called it, right the moment they announced the Ouya as this new thing never before attempted. Which wasn't true: open source consoles have been around for many years now. In fact they seemed to have peaked around 2009. I even wrote an article at the time suggesting they're the way of the future.

And they weren't. Every single open source console was a total flop in the market. A terribly sad thing to a nerd like me. I'd love to own them all, and develop for them.

But nobody would play my games.

The reasons why aren't simple; a write-up on this topic would take up several newsletters. But these are the facts. The GP* series, the Pandora, the Dingoo A320 were just a few famous examples. Ever heard of them?

I didn't think so. And that's because only a few nerds with money -- a niche in a niche -- ever bought any. And nerds never have a shortage of toys to play with. (Just look at the Raspberry PI.) It's not the nerds who need catering to.

So, that's the tl;dr version. Now let's see about more cheerful news.

Right on time to report on the XYZZY Awards of last Sunday, IFography #3 is out. Not to be outdone, Emily Short just posted her April Link Assortment. And it turns out I missed some interesting articles.

On the one hand we have Andrew Plotkin writing about various world models in interactive fiction. An older article, as I said, but I can't pass it up because I wrote about that myself, and only received scorn for my efforts. Hopefully, Zarf's in-depth analysis will convince more people, because he's right: you do have to match the world model to the interaction model, otherwise you're going to waste time on a sophisticated implementation the player can't use. And players couldn't care less about technical excellence -- just what the game looks and plays like to them.

On a different note, we have a series of articles (just part 1 and part 2 for now) about accessibility in text-based games. Turns out, one of the best things you can do, at least in web browsers, is to use proper semantic markup. Which is what I've been advocating for years as a pro web developer, and nobody listened to me back then either.

Stop thinking of games or web pages as just pretty pictures, because they aren't. They're machines, with a structure, and unless you design that structure on purpose you're going to end up with a mess nobody can use.

Last but not least, in the miscellaneous news department, we have Jay Barnson addressing some misconceptions about the way guns work in the real world. Which is important for many creative types -- like writers and filmmakers -- but ever more so for game developers since 1) the vast majority of games are about shoothing stuff and 2) everyone's obsessed with realism nowadays. But few people have any real clue about firearms, and it shows.

Until next week, have fun learning new things.