No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #71

How time flies. I never noticed when the spring came to an end. It's basically summer already, and there's just one month left until my self-imposed deadline for discontinuing this newsletter. I tried to start writing regular articles again as a replacement, but that didn't quite work out, and indeed this blog might be better off lying fallow for a while. What's worse, having no passion for games anymore, or having your passion return only to see nobody else cares?

My dear handful of readers: I know you're out there. Give me a reason to keep this blog updated come July, because if I take a break it may well be for good.

Anyway, on to this week's few headlines.

I'll start with this fine rant about the way some games are sold today: piecemeal, unfinished and unplayable if they start at all without extensive patching. And that makes me so glad I'm not in the market for that kind of game, especially after all the stories I hear (from friends and strangers alike) about games where you spent more time downloading updates than playing.

Let me tell you something: I bought Machinarium last autumn. I paid 10€ for it, and for that money they gave me access to:

Sadly, the latter was the only part of the game I could enjoy, apart from the online demo, as the Linux version refused to run on either of my boxes. But I still have my download link and could try again any time I get my hands on a Mac or PC. Also the game doesn't have DRM, so I can try the Linux version I downloaded on any new machine I care to set up, until the end of time.

Dear publishers... take a hint.

On an obliquely related note, Hardcore Gaming 101 recently ran a feature on Goat Simulator, a game that started out as a parody of glitchy releases, and finished as a practical joke -- albeit one that people are playing, and paying for too. And you know what? I think it's good for games to be silly sometimes. I think it's good for games to be playful. When did we go from the pure camp of Wolf3D and Doom to the grittiness of modern shooters?

(Speaking of which, I tried to play some new text adventures, since I'm making one these days, and the uniform pretentiousness drove me away in seconds. Interactive fiction has been trying so hard to become Real, Serious Literature(TM) that it's gone down the same slippery slope literary fiction has. All this while we still praise Planetfall and Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Go figure.)

I'll end with a couple of news for nostalgic gamers. The fine folk over at World of Spectrum celebrated being back in business with an enhanced edition of The Hobbit. Not that I minded the vector graphics back in the day. In fact I would watch in fascination every time those minimal illustrations formed (did I mention my preference for minimalism?) and noticed details such as how the flood fill algorithm worked, or in what order the various parts of the drawing showed up. Still, I can only applaud the work that went into this new release. Once again those ancient 8-bit machines turn out to have more life in them than anyone thought, their designers included.

Last but not least, via @gnomeslair, we have a comparison between X-Wing and Tie Fighter. Which explains, essentially, that narrative design informs game structure, and the other way around. You can't divorce them. At least not if you want your game to feel like a whole, rather than at war with itself.

Interactive fiction has worked to solve this problem -- with ample success -- ever since Graham Nelson described the genre as a crossword puzzle at war with a narrative. When is the rest of gaming going to learn?