Let a billion videogames bloom

Everything game development: news, lessons, discussion

Weekly Links #316

19 April 2020 — No Time To Play

Happy Easter, everyone! I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, my main PC suffered a hard drive failure on Tuesday. The good news is, I lost very little, and could pick up my projects from where they were. Ramus in particular is now at version 2.2 and counting. Even better, two out of three users have returned after all this time; in fact, one of them had never stopped using the original!

Oh, things won't be the same again. Ramus now requires a browser that follows standards, rather than relying on hacks to pull off various effects. And browsers like Safari or Internet Explorer still don't have a lot of features all others added long ago. Please don't ask. I'm uncomfortable enough with our over-reliance on web browsers for games and apps as it is.

That said, so far I've been doing a decent job of keeping requirements at a minimum, and the improvised scripting language added in the latest version offers a clear way forward. One that no longer depends on the moods of a library developer. It's not the most compact I could have added, nor the most friendly, but there had to be a compromise between implementation size and ease of use.

Still, years of interpreter construction practice are paying off big time right now, and I couldn't be happier.

In the way of news, this week we have a book excerpt about the making of Warcraft II, followed by a story about the origins of shareware, both the term and the practice. Details under the cut.

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Tags: interactive-fiction, programming, strategy, business

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Weekly Links #305

02 February 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! I continue to be amazed at how well the game is progressing, even as I make a point of taking it easy. This week saw a host of improvements, from the new lo-fi graphics mode for slow computers, to item generation:

Screenshot from a 3D roguelike rendered with ASCII characters that partly blend into each other.

Monsters and combat also got in towards the end of the week, but took a wrong turn, and I had to walk back on Friday's work; oh well, it happens.

Even so, people continue to have nice words about the game, even in its very early state: someone (apparently unfamiliar with roguelikes) compared it to a text adventure; a friend thought it was so cool that love and hate are actual game mechanics. And every new screenshot turns heads. Thank you all!

As for the news, there's a feature on Warcraft III to discuss, and then some points to make about the industry's boneheaded nature. Details below the cut.

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Tags: roguelike, strategy, graphics, business

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Weekly Links #304: strategy game edition

26 January 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! This week I changed speeds and worked on the game UI for a while to keep things fresh. Here's the main menu:

There's also an in-game control panel not unlike in a JRPG (if they have a specific name, please let me know). And of course cover art, that you can see on my DeviantArt.

I've also made some updates to my old tech demo Midnight Meadow, as part of the ongoing reorganization that I only mentioned briefly in the site-wide newsfeed. And then there are more plans for the Eightway Engine, to be announced later.

In the way of news, this week we philosophize about a seminal strategy game, then look briefly at some links about this and other game genres and how they relate. Details below the cut.

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Tags: game-design, philosophy, strategy, shooter, history

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Weekly Links #301

05 January 2020 — No Time To Play

Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to 2020. I took some time over the holidays to release a small text adventure called Kitty and the Sea (IFDB link); you can read more details over there, since it's technically not a No Time To Play project, but I did use it as the prompt for an article about the link between walking simulators and interactive fiction.

Minimal, abstract art depicting a cat's paw print overimposed on a seascape: seagulls gliding over the water, under a warm sun.

On a related note, my previous newsletter was unusually popular for some reason, and that factors into my plans for the months ahead. Details below the cut, along with a couple of classic game retrospectives to give 2020 a good start.

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Tags: interactive-fiction, strategy, classics, graphics, programming

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Weekly Links #296

17 November 2019 — No Time To Play

Lately I just can't seem to get a break. After securing a little funding for No Time To Play earlier this autumn, now the site's future is in doubt again as the .org top level domain was just bought by a private equity company. In other words, one of those shady investors who squeeze dry everything they touch and vanish into the night. To call them vampires would be an insult to the likes of Dracula and Lestat. Oh well, if paying for the domain name becomes untenable, it shouldn't be too hard to migrate most or all content. The question is, where? To Neocities? That's also a .org domain... Maybe to a friend of mine who offered before. Which would even allow me to keep the wiki. Oh well, I'll see.

Meanwhile, I took a break from working on games in favor of an interpreter. Again. Might end up with something for here, too. Hoping for a sequel to Tiny scripting engines for everyone, in fact. Again, it remains to be seen.

In the way of news, this week a bunch of things caught my eyes, but I have little to say about them except "go read". So without further ado, here are the links:

(You can also find all of them in the link archive for November.)

With that, only four weeks' worth of newsletters are left in 2019. Happy Blade Runner Month!

Tags: meta, news, representation, technology, strategy, indie, classics

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Weekly Links #293

27 October 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! As of this week, I have the framework for an Eightway Engine game up and running. Don't want to make too many preparations before PROCJAM, though at least some preproduction work is in order. Let's see how much of it I can do while working on something entirely different.

Otherwise, most gaming news this week appear to be of the "industry executives act surprised when fads prove to be fads" variety. Despite, I might add, all the warnings. Then again that's human beings for you: ignoring countless alarm bells and red flags until it's too late, then crying that nobody warned them.

Meanwhile, indie games continue to soar. Too bad successful developers thereof fall prey to survivor bias and start handing out terrible advice. Dear young creators: don't believe everything you hear!

Speaking of which: I continue to be impressed by the number of high-school students who get started not just making games but putting them online too, thanks to services like Itch. Even younger sometimes. And all too often, the teachers who should be first to help them fail in their duty, leaving volunteers on chat servers to pick up the slack. In the past, I've complained about some of these kids being impatient or clueless, but now I see it's often not their fault. When school and commercial products alike promote instant gratification at every turn, it's hard to blame impressionable young people for buying it.

We're all educators, and we're responsible. Let's act the part already.

Meanwhile, this week we have an interview with the creator of several classic 4X games, and a retrospective of a horror classic, as befits the season. Enjoy!

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Tags: strategy, classics, interview, business, education

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When games grow and time passes

17 September 2019 — No Time To Play

This was supposed to go in the newsletter, but it quickly ballooned into its own thing. Via the Pygame Discord server, here's a post from last week about What Happened to the Real Time Strategy Genre. I've followed trends in the area even less than the author, so let's see what they have to say:

In any case this brings us to the first thing that happened to RTS games: They innovated like crazy, created several new genres and split up into many smaller genres.

This includes things like tower defense, tower offense, more hero focused games like League of Legends, (but also some games in the the Dawn of War series) the new genre of auto chess, the tug of war genre, (still not really popular outside of StarCraft 2 mods for some reason…) survival strategy like RimWorld, idle games, blends with 4X games, non-combat RTS, Pikmin–likes, and probably more that I’m forgetting.

Which is good insight. MOBA games sprang from one Warcraft III mod. Tower defense started as an informal challenge for its direct predecessor. Idle games... maybe if you see them as offshoots of ultra-casual economic simulations like the infamous FarmVille. Either way, all these subgenres appeared because it was what people wanted to play. And as the author points out:

When you make the game that you should make, (“should” according to what’s hot right now) instead of the game that you actually would want to play, it usually doesn’t turn out that well.

Yep... I keep telling aspiring creators: write the stories you'd like to read. Make the games you'd like to play. The art you'd like to see. It's not even about setting versus following trends, but having something to say. Doesn't even have to be original. It does however need soul.

But there's one point the author misses entirely: ultimately, there's nothing wrong with gameing having some classics that remain great to play for a long time. Old books don't become automatically boring by virtue of being old. Shakespeare is still popular, too. And not always in the original form, either; we come up with updated versions all the time.

Which is exactly what people have been doing with games as of late. And just in time to rescue some of those old masterpieces from oblivion as bits rot away.

Tags: strategy, philosophy, game-design

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