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Weekly Links #292

20 October 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Last time I mentioned a mysterious side project. As of this weekend, it's complete: a new port of Robots in Spring to native Linux. See the update at the bottom of that page for details; for now, let's just say it's been fun but it has to remain a diversion until further notice. Then again, great things often start out that way.

For now something else is on my radar: PROCJAM starts in less than two weeks, and I'd like to get in. My early plans for it weren't very exciting, but after some reflection it turned out I was looking at the problem from the wrong angle. Just got to pick up my work on the Eightway Engine from where it left off in August and go from there. Only in another direction.

Otherwise, not much to say this week. The game industry continues to act surprised that videogames are still political and VR is still a solution in search of a problem. Oh, a niche market of enthusiasts is well-established by now, including one or two of my friends; but they're not going to make even one manufacturer rich, let alone everyone who was expecting a revolution. Does this remind you of anything? Here's a hint: FMV in the mid-1990s. Which was a quarter century ago... in other words before most of the current crop of "experts" was even born.

Now you know why people in this line of work never seem to learn.

In the way of news, this week we have: more classic games now playable online, a neat little graphics engine for web browsers, and the closing of a retrogaming community. Details below the cut.

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Tags: retrogaming, preservation, graphics, procedural-generation, community

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Weekly Links #286

08 September 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! I've done little in the way of gamedev this week, mostly because a failed computer migration sucked up half of it and stressed me out to no end. In my defense, I'm planning a couple of articles (one on interactivity, the other on level generation in roguelikes). Meanwhile, you can enjoy a few minor updates to Buzz Grid: the game now looks closer to how it was originally supposed to, and should move more smoothly on top of that. Might try to give a similar treatment to Square Shooter as well, but no promises yet. Oh, and there's also a new project on the way, with more planned for the autumn.

Oh, about that migration. Look. I've been out of the loop for a while in regard to hardware and software. But my 10-year-old PC, running a 5-year-old operating system and apps, is giving signs of fatigue. Luckily I own a slightly newer machine, that couldn't be used for a while due to an overheating problem. Having finally fixed it, I set out to install Debian 10 and migrate all my files over.

Turns out, the overheating problem wasn't fixed. Or rather, it might have been, but for modern software seemingly being made for top-tier gaming rigs with liquid cooling. In fact, Debian 10 by itself, running in text mode, causes a Celeron CPU to run worryingly hot, as I discovered when installing it on my even older laptop. The Atom I'm on right now wouldn't stand a chance to run a graphical desktop and web browser released this year.

Fellow programmers, are you nuts?

Plenty of people are stuck with low-end computers. Older computers. Slightly defective computers. Even if we could afford buying replacements, why should we have to? No seriously, what exactly changed in the HTML5 standard recently to make a three-year-old browser obsolete? DeviantArt, I'm looking at you here. Oh, and by the way: Firefox, what exactly are you doing with all the CPU and GPU cycles you're gobbling up like a pig these days? Because you're still slow as molasses. Then you wonder why people flock to the competition.

I'm so tired.

In the way of news, this week we have a tip to help preserve Flash games a little while longer, and a retrospective of Dragon's Lair. Details under the cut.

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Tags: hardware, technology, preservation, arcade, retrogaming

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Weekly Links #281

04 August 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Work on the game picked up over the past week. It now looks better, has a title screen (and high scores), and different enemy types.

Montage of four screenshots from a videogame depicting a first-person dogfight against round spaceships, rendered in a retro, abstract style and neon colors.

Along with less visible additions such as gamepad support, this makes for everything I wanted in the initial release, apart from audio. Once that goes in, it's time to hit Publish and move on to other things for a while. No more burnout for me. At least this game has plenty of room for improvement, once I feel like working on it again. Besides, it will be open source as usual. So stay tuned!

In the way of news, this week we have:

  • some more thoughts on the slow death of Flash;
  • beginner mistakes with TCP;
  • To Pong or Not to Pong?;
  • a new interview with Al Lowe and
  • a retrospective of the Wing Commander series.

And that's about all. Details under the cut.

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Tags: news, preservation, programming, adventure, classics, interview

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As Flash dies a little more

01 August 2019 — No Time To Play

On Wednesday, we learn from Gamasutra that the latest Chrome disables Flash by default, another step towards phasing it out. And you know, it occurs to me there's something about Flash nobody has said in all these years.

Yes, it was a security and performance nightmare, not to mention a horrid design.

Yes, it was still used to create a huge chunk of Internet culture, that will now be lost to time, and that's awful. Another victim of the Digital Dark Ages to come.

But don't you dare blame the people who worked for years to reverse-engineer Adobe's technology. Efforts to clone Flash date from before Macromedia was acquired, and some of them looked promising indeed.

None of them ever got close to providing a replacement, even after parts of Flash were open sourced, and the rest publicly documented. Ask yourself how that's possible when old games whose source code was lost, with assets in ad-hoc formats, regularly get modern replacement engines that run better than the original.

Just how badly was Flash made? Just how complicated is it, really?

And then, how did we ever let ourselves be fooled into building so much on shifting sands, when we knew exactly what would happen? Hello! Old floppies and word processor files? How quickly we forget.

Meanwhile, the humble text files produced by Usenet and BBS culture will remain forever readable, by printing them out and carving them into stone if all else fails. So will anything uploaded to Archive of Our Own. Animated GIFs, too. Remember when people used to say they were obsolete because we had Flash? Guess who's having the last laugh after all.

Too bad none of that can replace an interactive medium. You know, the one thing that can only exist on a computer. And nothing remotely comparable exists today, except arguably Twine. Which also depends on a monstrous pile-up of technologies known as the modern web browser engine. Of which only two endure.

I'm tempted to just make text-based games in Lua or something and be done with it.

Tags: new-media, preservation, technology

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Weekly Links #276: archival edition

30 June 2019 — No Time To Play

We're halfway through 2019, in more than one way, and I wish there were more news to mark the moment. Well, the kind that warrants a comment anyway. Stuff keeps happening, of course, but when it's not about mainstream gameing, then it must be about often rehashed themes. Maybe I need some new sources of information. Hard to find one that's genuinely different, however, without going into obscure niches.

(To be honest, working on an unrelated website also distracted me from games. Well, partly unrelated. I keep my tabletop RPG and interactive fiction work elsewhere because, well, not sure why. Went back and forth over it many times.)

As of this week, the source code for Keep of the Mad Wizard is also available from the IFArchive. Hopefully this will benefit someone; not many people choose to share theirs in the same way. Guess one can always re-import a published game, but it's not the same thing when the original was written for Tweego and not Twine proper. Besides, this makes my intent explicit. And not many Twine games seem to use status bars, let alone RPG features.

Last but not least, I can scarcely imagine a more reliable backup. IFArchive rocks!

In the way of news, this week we have a write-up about tool reuse in games, even between very different genres, then another large archive of historical documents from the world of interactive fiction, and last an account of how No Time To Play is doing financially. Details after the cut.

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Tags: rpg, tools, history, interactive-fiction, preservation

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Weekly Links #275

23 June 2019 — No Time To Play

And... we have a donation! Another one like this, and the domain name is paid until next summer. Thank you very much, D.! I'll keep everyone informed of how that goes; in the mean time, you can keep track of the current status on the wiki. In fact, the figure should probably include book sales; will adjust next time.

In related news, I just released a new version of Escape From Cnossus HD. The most visible change is a full-screen mode, but it's not the only one, and hopefully not the last one either. Check it out! And as of Tuesday, Electric Rogue had its UI tweaked once more; now it should fit on mobile devices again, while still scaling to any screen size.

A much bigger change is the return of Buzz Grid, that I took offline in 2017 and left in limbo for almost two years. Now it's back and better than ever, with more improvements planned for the near future. You tell me how well it's aged.

Otherwise, we have a retrospective of A Final Unity, Graham Nelson's talk on opening Inform, and a guide to making Long Play videos. Details after the cut.

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Tags: meta, arcade, roguelike, adventure, interactive-fiction, preservation

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