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Weekly Links #240


Strategies were always one of my favorite game genres to play. Not so much to make, perhaps because until recently I hadn't spent much time studying how they're put together. That changed with my interpreter construction book, which includes just such a game in the way of examples, then a game jam where I entered an improved version of the same, in addition to another, more complex title in the same genre. Then it all took a backseat, as I focused on roguelikes for a while (also shooters, of all things). But this delay also let me see just how popular text-based strategies are, even my simple 8-bit attempts. And my autumnal break from game development allowed old ideas to resurface at last.

Too bad when I started coding it turned out I need more of a break. Which is fine for two reasons: one, not having any plans to release a new game until next year and two, no pressure to try and sell games anymore, as a general rule.

In the mean time, I'm still marveling at the popularity of my ZX Spectrum games in a scene populated by much more skilled creators. But you know what they say about gift horses.

On Tuesday morning, Gamasutra alerts me of Eurogamer interviewing a representative of on the 10th anniversary of the service. It blows my mind that in 2018 people still need to spend so much time explaining why DRM is bad. "But... but... Steam works!" Sure. Until they decide to pull the plug on you. At which point you'll be screwed, while the pirates (because Steam DRM was cracked long ago) won't even notice.

And gee, you mean competition in this space isn't a zero-sum game? Who'd have thought. That there's more than one way to do business. That you can do it ethically and still turn up a profit. That you don't need to be the biggest to be successful.

Last but not least, funny how I hadn't even heard of the incident they're talking about. You mean a prompt retraction and apology is the right way to handle things? Go figure.

Via OSNews we learn of a write-up about the engineering compromises which enabled the ZX Spectrum to be as cheap as it was, and find its way into millions of European households -- likely more than the C64 and Amiga together. I like how the infamous color clash is shown to have had its bright sides; even better, the text mentions how the problem was finally overcome at the start of this decade (nearly twenty years after the last Speccy rolled off the assembly line). And then we have an interview with the engineer who designed the original hardware back in the day. Wonder what he thinks of all the people who never stopped pushing the envelope, continuing to validate his design even now.

It's Friday, and K.D. points me at a Gamasutra blog post about the combat rules used in classic JRPGs. Seeing how the custom rule systems of such games are notoriously obscure, it's a unique opportunity to gain some insights. Making your own is an art, and those designed for tabletop games are generally ill-suited to computer RPGs, while those made-for-computer are seldom documented, except insofar as it helps players.

As for me, I'm pretty happy with the rule system I first put in Dungeon Romp, completed for Tomb of the Snake and polished to a shine with The Fairy's Throne. And all three are open source if you care to look, at least until my book about it is done.

Just consider what you want your game to feel like, and brush up on probability 101. The rest can come with experience.

A whole bunch of retrospectives round up this week. For one thing, Eurogamer tells us How Bioware revolutionised the RPG (via K.D.). Then we have Techraptor on Fallout 2 at the 20th anniversary (via a friend). And speaking of important dates, last week marked 25 years of Myst, as pointed out by Andrew Plotkin (via the Dragonfly BSD Digest) and by Fast Company (via K.D. again).

With that, only ten newsletters are left in 2018. Have a great autumn!