No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #198

Progress! After a false start and a number of mix-ups, Electric Rogue now has enemies you can fight. It's still not exactly compelling to do so, but now I can work on that more leisurely. Details as they come up.

In other news: this week, PCGamer treats us to a fast-paced history of the Civilization series (via K.D.). Note how the creators could only afford to take chances and make a never-before-tried kind of game because the graphical requirements were so low. And how already back then higher-ups were so risk-averse, even after the runaway success of the first game they still had no confidence in a sequel players were asking for. Tell me again how publishers have anything to do with the release of quality games.

More positively, note how cross-polination between games by various creators was all-important for the series, and also the change of lead designer with each installment. Yes, you do need to be familiar with the state of the art, no matter what you are working on, and a variety of perspectives is vital for creativity to thrive. So widen your horizons.

Moving on: for the second time this week, PCGamer proves they are the coolest gaming magazine from the mainstream side of the fence. Their guest this time is Emily Short, with an in-depth review of a text adventure (the parser-based kind!) that was successfully kickstarted earlier this year. Its author, Bob Bates, is a veteran who fought bravely to keep the genre commercially viable in the early 1990s, and I can't help but notice how the result sounds a lot like any of the famous graphical adventures that marked the genre's big crash towards the end of the same decade.

But hey, it's good to have them back in style, and competing with nothing less than the mammoth AAA franchises of today. Congratulations, old timers.

Still in the realm of interactive fiction: over on her own blog, Emily Short is answering a reader's letter about making commercial interactive fiction targeted at mobile devices. As it turns out, if you want to actually sell, you'll have to partner with a publisher. And if you can't or won't learn the nuts and bolts... you're going to need a partner to handle that side for you.

Even Bitsy, the simplified game-making tool I wrote about two weeks ago, now has a mini-programming interface for writing dialogs more complex than a broken record. When are people going to accept there are no magical shortcuts?

Last but not least, an article on the IGN blog argues that gamers are being suckered with cheap psychological tricks into thinking artificial difficulty is somehow a worthy challenge (via Technology and Gaming). Which puts the gamer attitude of "git good" (and I feel dirty just for typing those words) in a new light, and reminds me that adventure games authors used to think they were in a battle with the player, and expected to be outright cruel with those puzzles. Never mind how well that worked out for the genre; did it ever occur to you that as a developer you're indirectly playing your game with the player? If you can't play nicely, what does that make you other than a spoiled brat?

It's not even hard to balance difficulty well: simply err on the side of easy, because 1) you know your own game better than anyone and 2) many players will be older than you, never mind the differently-abled...

But that's enough for this week. See you!