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Weekly Links #282

11 August 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Today is a rare event: the 9th anniversary of No Time To Play falls on newsletter day. In fact, last time it was before I began the newsletter. Yep, we've been around for nearly a decade. How cool is that?

In the way of news, on Wednesday I released Attack Vector Zero: Cybersphere, in all the usual places:

Because I was otherwise busy, there are no other links this week, so see below for a few words about my new game.

Five years ago and change, when I first conceived of the Attack Vector series, it was supposed to have vector graphics, hence the name. It was also supposed to be a Space Harrier pastiche; somehow, it ended up using voxel graphics and an urban environment instead. That didn't work out very well at all, even after remaking that first attempt as Sunset Flight, which took me way too long; an irksome failure, in more than one way.

The idea for a prequel and/or demake arrived in the same roundabout fashion that defines all my creative process; it involved my previous experience making one for another game, Laser Sky, and some thoughts about the classic Star Raiders, whose obscure sequel is one of my all-time favorites. So this spring I started working on a bunch of visual effects that could help make a similar game while needing little code and little CPU. By modern standards, anyway; how far we've come!

It was so good to see how much people liked those early tech demos. We crave the simpler pleasures of decades past, that could entertain us without being exhausting. And somehow I managed to come up with visuals resembling an arcade game from the mid-1990s whose name escapes me now (something something Blaster); a fellow game developer had to point me at it. Add the core gameplay of the aforementioned Star Raiders II and stir well to get a literal blast from the past. Embracing technical limitations: what a concept!

The big surprise was this dead simple retro demake coming out noticeably larger than the previous game in the series with its fancy graphics engine, and that was with just the core gameplay added in! Worse, I can't and won't sustain the same work pace from even just a year ago anymore, so things now take longer. It just made sense to publish the game unfinished for now, and come back later with fresh eyes. Wouldn't even be the first time; just the first time I do it on purpose.

Hopefully you'll enjoy it even so. And hey, it's open source like all my games. You know, just in case.

With this, I'll let you enjoy the Sunday. See you next time!

Tags: meta, news, game-design, classics, technology

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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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