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Weekly Links #328

12 July 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Not much changed since last week. More abuse revelations, more resignations, and the web app I mentioned last time is now released. Beta-reading of the book is still ongoing.

So much for having a proper editorial. Apologies for yet another short edition. In my defense, we have a decent amount of links, and even things to say about one of them.

Right on my birthday, Ars Technica posts a long, detailed history of Flash from its humble beginnings to its relatively recent demise, complete with testimonies from key people. And you know... Steve Jobs may have been a jerk and the bane of good engineering, but in that infamous essay he only echoed the concerns of industry at large. Flash wasn't just proprietary, insecure and a resource hog. It was such a mess that even after key components were open-sourced, and the rest extensively documented, 3rd-party clones just couldn't come close to playing anything but the simplest animations properly. Successful preservation efforts leverage the official player, not open source implementations. No, Flash was terrible engineering even by IT's abysmal standards. And frankly? Its much vaunted ease of use was never apparent to me. Even as an authoring tool, Flash sucked. There, I said it.

In other news, we have a fan translation of Gunpei Yokoi telling the story of Game-and-Watch devices, an oral history of Spore that Gamasutra just resurfaced after nearly two years, and a scathing critique of the videogame industry. (If you're reading this on Tumblr, rememeber to click through for the links.)

There was another, but I'm not sure how to describe it briefly. Oh well, have fun this Sunday and see you next time, when I might try writing a thought or three about rekindling an old flame. Cheers!

Tags: classic, shmup, hardware, history, technology, preservation, critique

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Weekly Links #299

08 December 2019 — No Time To Play

Have you noticed how lately nobody's talking about VR anymore? Everyone goes on and on about game streaming instead. Another solution in search of a problem, that nobody wants except for corporations looking for another gimmick to sell. Makes me wonder, why the desperation? It's not like the gameing market is slowing down. On the contrary, it's booming; one of the few industries to do so lately.

Or is it? I do tend to look mostly at the indie scene, with only the occasional glance towards the mainstream. What if something's going on there that won't become obvious to most people until the crisis starts? You'd think lots of studio closures at once is business as usual in this industry, but these days there's an awful lot of them, and it's been going on for a while now.

Until I can offer more than speculation, let's look at some other trends. The big players are readying new consoles. Everyone seems to be after a slice of the board and tabletop game pie. And everyone is chasing the Chinese market. You'd think they know better: dictatorships are notoriously prone to mood swings, and never as prosperous as they seem.

But hey, if greedy bastards are in such a hurry to break their necks, who am I to get in the way?

Let's look at some news instead, also without comment as it's been the norm lately:

With that, only one newsletter is left in 2019. Kind of early this year, but that's part of the fun with the holiday break. See you next week!

Tags: business, technology, retrogaming, hardware

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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 #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.

Read more...

Tags: hardware, technology, preservation, arcade, retrogaming

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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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