No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #229


It's one of those weeks. Once again, I have to explain people that I have a really old computer, can't easily change the situation, and advice isn't helping.

"But... but... components! But... but... second-hand! But... but..."

Please stop. This is my reality. Bloat is what you need to fix. And you know your code is bloated when a game written in Python, with software rendering, works well enough on a system where C# code pushing polygons to a GPU barely crawls, if it doesn't crash outright.

Keep in mind that I live in a developed country, enjoying relative financial safety, if not comfort. Most people in the world have it worse.

You're going to say that people who can't afford a recent, powerful computer probably can't afford to buy your games, either. And if they cost $20, or $30, or $60, you're probably right. But if you're reading this, you're more likely an indie, trying to make people shell out a few bucks. Good luck getting them to do that when the minimum system requirements make their heads spin.

As as aside: dear game people, don't tell me software rendering is pointless in 2018 then turn around and complain that all games look the same. And when a software renderer runs faster than accelerated graphics because you're assuming every GPU out there is a high-end model? You've lost your way.

8-bit computers could run 3D games. Slowly, perhaps, and with limitations, but they could. And they were incredibly fun. What's your excuse?

When starting work on Sunset Flight, I estimated development time at three weeks. It took two, albeit by leaving out a planned feature. Ironic, then, how I spent the remaining week porting the game from PyGame to Love2D. Sometimes things just fit together like that.

The decision was spurred by two friends of mine who failed to run the initial implementation despite being technical people. Various hurdles prevented them; but then, what chance do other players have? Love2D is a lot easier to explain, and more popular in the first place, so more people are likely to know what it is and have the runtime already. That it was also a good pretext to learn a new framework, one that also happens to have an Android version, was just the icing on the cake.

But there's another good thing: the Love2D implementation is fully 50% faster! Not sure how much is due to LuaJIT and how much to whatever rendering backend it uses, but who cares. Fact is, the game now runs at 30FPS on my machine, and should reach the full 60 on the configuration I recommend (itself ancient). It does use three times as much RAM, but 30 megabytes is still negligible on any modern computer.

Funny how 2D games written in C#, that require hardware acceleration too, barely run on my box, if they don't crash outright. They call that performance?

I'm saving that rant for another time soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the game, and thank you for putting up with me again. Cheers.

As the week is ending, fluffy alerts me of a Gamasutra article about game development practices that can delay a release. Where do I even begin... (deep breath)

Don't you just love sarcastic passive-aggressive "I alone know the ultimate truth about How Things Should Be Done" types? I could dismantle that article line by line, but I'm too busy shipping the third release of the game I started less than a month ago. With my own original engine coded from scratch. That I also released separately. And tested myself. While also making cover art and whatnot. The one thing I didn't do was code my own tools, but that's because I could get by with ad-hoc converting the double handful of graphical assets needed for this particular title. Custom tools are definitely on the roadmap.

Work however is best for you. It will even be better for your health if you take it easy. And if you grow tired of your game before it's done? You can always reuse bits and pieces, if not resume the project later. Better than burning out so badly you never want anything to do with it again.

Remember No Man's Sky? It made a huge splash a couple of years ago, albeit in a controversial manner. Many players felt the game overpromised and underdelivered; others claimed the former had unreasonable expectations. Not being in the target audience, I only chimed in about one particular technical aspect at the time, then largely forgot about it.

Well, now that the game's creators are preparing a major update, The Guardian interviewed co-founder Sean Murray about the game's initial reception, as Gamasutra points out. And it turns out things were much worse than anyone imagined. In his own words:

“I remember getting a death threat about the fact that there were butterflies in our original trailer, and you could see them as you walked past them, but there weren’t any butterflies in the launch game. I remember thinking to myself: ‘Maybe when you’re sending a death threat about butterflies in a game, you might be the bad guy.’”

Butterflies. Just how entitled can people get? Anyone remembers Peter Molyneux's promises regarding Fable? How many death treaths did he receive over the lack of growing trees in that game? What about John Romero and his infamous Daikatana? Oh wait, if you hurl insults at your potential audience you're seen as an "alpha male" and earn respect instead...

Butterflies. At least if we were talking "social justice warriors", you could sort of see how certain privileged people could feel it's a problem before learning better. But no.

Look. Many creators are overambitious. It's pretty much an occupational hazard. And sometimes they brag about their projects much too early, having heard from marketing "experts" that they're supposed to "build an audience".

Do I need to explain how none of that can possibly justify bomb threats credible enough to involve the Scotland Yard? Because if you thought those were kiddies making harmless jokes, British authorities beg to disagree.

But... but... butterflies, dude.

Sorry for all the negativity, but such is life sometimes. See you next week.