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Everything game development: news, lessons, discussion

Weekly Links #273

09 June 2019 — No Time To Play

Turns out, the No Time To Play website was in a worse state than it seemed. Hours after posting the previous newsletter, a random referral made me realize the newsletter archive was full of dead links that still pointed at the old location of various articles. So I spent half a day fixing that. And then it dawned on me just how many projects were hosted elsewhere than on the main website where they belonged. First, three tools:

Then a game, Escape From Cnossus HD, that was in the same situation. And two more that did have homepages on the site, but were sending people elsewhere to download:

Now you can get them right here. On top of that, I also made a small change to the stylesheet. The game section looks much better this way, and is easier to organize.

Don't worry, that won't delay new games for long. Got one in pre-production in fact. Older games, too, are very likely to get a brush-up at the very least.

In the way of news, this week we have an interview with Tarn Adams about Dwarf Fortress, a trio of links without comment, and the now-usual appeal for help.

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Tags: meta, roguelike, interview

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Weekly Links #268

05 May 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! As expected, my game prototype took another week to finish, or almost. I took a break before starting on a more presentable version; in the mean time, you can enjoy it in command-line glory, like the original mainframe game:

(I was going to embed the gist here, but it turns out to pull the whole damn thing, not just a nice little box with a "view more" link like any reasonable person would expect from, you know, an embed code. So hop over to GitHub to get Space Cruiser Orion. Bonus points if you get the reference. Classic sci-fi for the win!)

You'll need a Python interpreter (normally version 3, but 2 might just work), and some familiarity with the subgenre; there is extensive built-in help, but no tutorial. And it could use one, the game being quite a bit more involved than it appears at first. Which is what drew me to it in the first place, and what makes a modern port worth doing. Wish I had the energy for many of them. Speaking of which.

In the mean time, I also wrote a 700-word review of Space Trader, a now-classic mobile game that I somehow never heard of when my Palm was still new, so I'm catching up belatedly. One thing the review doesn't mention is how many other ports there are apart from the two Android versions: to iPhone, Windows and even Java. The latter works, too, so you can play pretty much anywhere.

As for the news, this week we have a chat with Julian Gollop of X-Com fame, and a piece about politics in videogames. Details after the cut.

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Tags: history, interview, game-design, politics, classics, review

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Weekly Links #267

28 April 2019 — No Time To Play

The muses are funny sometimes. Somehow over the course of last week I went from dungeon crawls, through fighting games, and all the way to space strategy games.

(Screenshot of a terminal emulator showing a game map and command line.)

Yep, that's a clone of Super Star Trek. Don't ask. Let's just say people love classic games, and there's a shortage of modern versions for this one. Even though, surprise surprise, it's a more complex game than it seems. Definitely not a toy as I expected initially. But then, that's all for the best. Instead of this being just practice for the game I really wanted to do (an older design), it will be the first part of a duology. To top it all, I seem to have come up with yet another fictional setting, this time retro sci-fi. And that in turn opens up all kinds of possibilities.

In the way of news, we have a chat about diversity and crunch with Tanya X. Short, and a bigger discussion of the line between hobbyist and indie. Both painful yet necessary these days. Details below the cut.

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Tags: indie, business, interview, retrogaming, philosophy

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Weekly Links #266: good business, bad business

21 April 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! I'll keep it short today. Even after release, Keep of the Mad Wizard keeps providing inspiration. This time in the form of an article about combat in videogames. Which in turns suggests what I should work on next. An early experiment has already fizzled out; got two more ideas to try in the coming week. Details once I have something more solid, even just a prototype.

In the mean time, let's see the news.

I had just published the previous newsletter when this crossed my Twitter feed: an in-depth explanation of how Telltale Games crashed and burned so suddenly, late last year. And damn if it doesn't sound familiar:

  1. young company does innovative work by a fresh formula;
  2. they take off slowly and do just fine for a while;
  3. one day they capture lightning in a bottle and become famous;
  4. they start dreaming big, and take investors on board;
  5. investors turn out to care about nothing except obscene profits;
  6. company burns itself down trying to satisfy them.

You know... just like every single business I ever worked for that actually meant something to me. Dear young entrepreneurs: are you ever going to learn? At all?

Go read the article for the grisly details. But gee, you mean treating your best people like shit until they leave you to become the competition is a bad idea?

In other news, someone has finally remade 8-bit classic The Sentinel, and (as reported by several sources) Jason Scott strikes again, putting up on GitHub the complete source code of Infocom text adventures. And oh, there's also Hardcore Gaming 101 covering Unreal.

Last but not least, we have the first interview with employees of ArenaNet, makers of Guild Wars, after the massive layoffs from a few months ago. Note how these were handled compared to other high-profile cases, and how the company continues to systematically reject crunch. Reads like sci-fi, doesn't it?

Until next time, be kind to yourself.

Tags: business, classics, interview

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Weekly Links #257

17 February 2019 — No Time To Play

This week is starting out strong for a change. On Sunday was published an interview with Felipe Pepe of The CRPG Book Project fame (via K.D.). And on Monday we got an article about Sega's Super Scaler technology, that powered so many arcade classics. I've only played OutRun and AfterBurner II out of them, and my favorite 2.5D game isn't among them, but I'm still in love with the style, and even created my own graphics engine to keep it alive.

Also on Monday, an indie creator shares his first year of game development in words and screenshots, and it sounds like an amazing journey. People get up to speed damn fast these days.

A much bigger story emerged as the week went on, extensively covered by numerous sources: that of Activision firing 800 Blizzard employees despite Blizzard making record profits in 2018, just because those profits were a little bit below expectations. Never mind the sheer callousness of the decision, and the way it was handled. Never mind the "I told you so". Right now I'd love to hear from those people who insist that without the big publishers we wouldn't have seen a lot of great games that made history. Tell me, how many more great games we could have seen from Blizzard, and now we never will because their corporate owner is forcing them to focus on milking cash cows instead of, ya'know, continuing to innovate?

Enjoy your capitalism. I'll be over there playing little indie games made with PICO-8.

Speaking of which: just last week I was reviewing a new fantasy console. Soon after, a post on the PICO-8 forum reminded me of this big list on GitHub. And you know... that's kind of cool actually. Making a new fantasy console has turned into a sort of hobby. One I get all too well, having created several authoring systems for interactive fiction that hardly saw any use. But at least each of mine has a unique gimmick I can explain easily. Whereas with most fantasy consoles, there's no obvious reason to use one over the others.

Which, of course, is a valuable insight in itself. Cheers!

Tags: retrogaming, arcade, rpg, interview, business, tools

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Weekly Links #253

20 January 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone. This week I can't think of anything to write an editorial about. Might as well talk about plans instead. And those don't involve any new games until summer, unless something happens along the way. Plenty of other things to do for a while:

  • redo the user interface of ASCII Mapper and release version 2.0;
  • port Electric Rogue to Python and Pygame, not so much for its own sake but to make the NoTime engine reusable as promised so long ago;
  • make a couple more tech demos based on it;
  • maybe take another shot at Deep Down in Darkness, now that I know what was wrong the first time around;
  • maybe tinker some more with Adventure Prompt and/or Ramus 2; their respective websites in particular need work.

Plenty to pick and choose from, then. It remains to be seen how much I'll actually get done.

In the way of extended news, this week we have an interview with Mike Cook about his creation Angelina, another with three leaders of GOG.com about the way they got to where they are now, and a write-up about the way game jams contribute to queer representation. Details after the cut.

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Tags: game-jam, representation, retrogaming, publishing, interview, game-design, AI

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