No Time To Play
newsletter archive

Weekly Links #215


Hello, everyone. This week I set aside coding to write a couple of articles that shall remain unmentioned, because one flopped and the other is rather too technical. Point is, always make sure you have multiple outlets for your creativity, so you can switch tracks when burnout strikes. Doesn't have to be all serious work, either! Just stuff you tinker with now and then. You'll finish them one day, with patience. And what you don't finish can end up used in another project. Nothing is ever wasted!

On this note, let's see this week's gaming news.

This Tuesday, Hardcore Gaming 101 runs a two-parter on Catacombs, a more advanced Gauntlet clone from 1990 with a unique trait: it's made by the same people who will soon form Id Software, and despite being a top-down game exhibits many gameplay elements later found in their famous shooters. If nothing else, it's educational to see how the game made the transition to 3D, paving the way to the much more famous Wolfenstein. Which would soon eclipse its predecessor, together with the many sequels, to the point of obscurity.

Fortunately, historians are there to tell us about paths not taken. Enjoy!

In response to a reader's question, Emily Short writes about changing viewpoints in writing, and while the discussion revolves around interactive fiction, Emily's advice applies to any kind of prose, including for plain old books. (Epistolary novels can't help but come up.) The one part that's game-specific is about the separation between player, narrator and main character -- an issue I've seldom seen brought up outside of interactive fiction and comparative studies of Japanese versus Western roleplaying games. Perhaps because few people have such extensive knowledge of writing, gaming and programming at the same time. And seeing things as a whole is important.

A thread on the forums announces that ADRIFT 5.0, the latest version, has been open sourced and is now on GitHub! While not one of the mainstream authoring systems, ADRIFT has been used for a number of highly acclaimed text adventures, and has its own faithful community. Moreover, it's a complex piece of software with a long history and unique qualities. So this decision could prove meaningful indeed.

On Friday, with the weekend upon us, PCGamer re-runs an older article about the history of Tomb Raider. Of special interest to me is how they were making a new kind of 3D game, and the main problem they faced. And that's because the solution seems obvious to anyone who's ever made a tile-based 2D game. Also, seriously? Wasn't there a single studio back in the day where people didn't crunch like crazy? Oh wait, turns out the culprit was the same greedy publisher who at first didn't even think they had a hit on their hands, and finished by driving away not one but two teams in their hunger for more. Then we wonder why programmers never seem to learn from the past.

I've stumbled across Glorious Trainwrecks before, but didn't take a close look until meeting its founder on the Discord. How to describe the site without simply quoting their blurb... Glorious Trainwrecks is all about making games from found or trashy art and weird ideas, embracing creativity for the sake of it, and laughing at whatever comes out. It sounds a lot like what I call punk game development: do it on the cheap, do it yourself, pour your soul into it and don't worry about polish. Worry about finishing instead -- and making something memorable.

Anyway, the site itself contains the usual: news, forum, a wiki that includes a list of game-making tools, and a showcase of games, many of which seem to be team efforts, some even made during real-life events if I'm reading this right. All in all, not just a site but a solid community, it seems, that exists at least partly in meatspace. And what they do looks cool indeed.

Not bad for once. Have fun this Sunday!