No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #246

2018-11-18

Hello, everyone! The Interactive Fiction competition ended Wednesday night, and the results were announced live on Twitch yesterday. They are now available on ifcomp.org for your perusal. And I belatedly found that issue #23 of The Spectrum Show Magazine came out earlier this month, also with a lot of material on text adventures.

Otherwise, I continued writing, if more slowly and with interruptions. This looks likely to take at least the rest of November. It would even if I hand't slowed down. But hey, at least I'm writing, unlike various friends who are actually trying to take part in the NaNoWriMo and can't seem to manage.

These are stressful times for a lot of people, it seems.

Speaking of which, this will have to be a really short editorial, because it's late morning all of a sudden and I can't think of anything else to say.

In the way of extended news, we have:


This Monday, Eurogamer discusses the realism, or lack thereof, of post-apoc games. It does so from a strict technical perspective, which is good, because if you're looking for plausible civilization you have to look elsewhere. Hint: if humans in such a world can make do with preindustrial means, then it wasn't much of an apocalypse. It just means most humans (and only humans) have vanished for some reason: the wet dream of libertarians. "All those people I don't like are gone! And I don't have to pay taxes anymore! What do you mean, I'm a dead man when the next epidemic comes around?"

It's fairly easy to extrapolate and depict the mechanical consequences of cities no longer being maintained. Heck, for the past three decades and change we've had an excellent case study in Pripyat (which the article references, unsurprisingly). Not so much to imagine how society would change and adapt. Mostly because we humans are uniquely reluctant to imagine any real alternatives to the way we've been running things throughout history, mostly changing just the paint with the march of "progress".

We need a lot more post-apoc fiction that explores the social implications for a change. And that's exactly what apocalypse fetishists dread to think of.


On Tuesday, K.D. points at an article about the making of Asteroids. Yup, the original 1979 arcade game, in all its retro glory. A fascinating insight into those days when working on a videogame involved rewiring a breadboard. But while the process was different (what with so much of the design being done upfront by necessity), it was still just as easy to end up with a game that simply couldn't be made fun... or on the contrary, with a mega-hit. And wait, you mean even back then videogames already weren't just for kids anymore? Who'd have thought.

Last but not least, it's great to learn how many other classics that are still remembered and discussed after all these years were made by the same designer. People matter, and we'd better internalize that simple idea before it's too late.


By Wednesday, Gamasutra points at a series of classic interviews (from over two decades ago!) with the creators of Space Harrier, and there's much to unpack. How engineering constraints turned a bland military shooter into the surreal fantasy we all known and love. How collision detection is a problem in 2.5D rail shooters -- one I ran into myself, and solved with a technique borrowed from 2D. How fortuitous bugs can turn into features. How the different aspects of a game can inform each other. (Changing a level to fit the music? Imagine that!) More importantly, how a design document is often just a rough draft at best, because too many creators have this obsession with a grand artistic vision disconnected from everything, then they wonder why their work falls flat.

Dear digital creators: please, please get in touch with the analog and the physical again.


Enjoy, and see you next time.