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Weekly Links #259

03 March 2019 — No Time To Play

This week's editorial is an open letter to people just starting out making games.

Dear beginners,

I'm so happy you want to learn how to make games. Welcome to the club! The more, the merrier. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

So, you picked Python and Pygame as a starter kit. Excellent choices! Python makes programming fun, and Pygame brings all the tools you need right there at your fingertips.

There's just one thing: even with those, you won't be able to make much of a game on your first day. Or your first week. Or your first month. You've embarked on a multi-year journey. If that sounds like too much, sorry. There are no shortcuts.

Oh, it's not a hard journey. You're going to meet cool people, learn useful stuff, tinker with cool toys... Step by step, your dreams will take shape. Just not instantly. Have a little patience. And don't try to cheat, because you'd just be cheating yourself. This is no history test. You're not in school. This is for you.

Do yourself a favor and read the official Python tutorial first. Even if you already know another language. Doubly so if you don't! That stuff is the foundation of everything you're going to build. Make sure you understand it before moving on to the next level. You'll be surprised how many (text-based) games you can make even just with that.

Likewise with Pygame. The official documentation lists some tutorials. At least look through them. Get an idea of what's possible.

Or you can go with books. Many people swear by the Invent with Python series. See if you like them better, it can't hurt to look.

Last but not least, read example games. Make changes. See what happens. Ask questions. You'll find people to help you.

Just PLEASE take the time to do it right. Or else it will seem a lot harder.

Signed: someone who's been doing this for a while.

In the way of news, we have a capsule review of the Basic Fantasy RPG, MobyGames at 20, and more. Details after the cut.


Do you like tabletop RPGs? Let me tell you about Basic Fantasy. It's an exponent of the OSR movement (short for Old-School Revival): games that aim to recapture the tone and style of classic D&D. A solid effort, too: at 170 pages, it covers a lot of ground. The rules are simple and clear, yet familiar. No, I don't think it counts as rules-light, but kid-friendly it might just be, especially with the Beginner's Essentials booklet helping out. The core book even includes a comprehensive bestiary, but the list of spells is oddly trimmed down. Otherwise, a lot of situations are covered, and it makes for an entertaining read. And since it's open source, you can just download the PDF and give it a try. There are translations in various languages, too, and other materials, many of them fan-made. It's been around for a while, and it shows.

The problems all stem from the game's roots. Pun not intended. Like the idea of "inherently evil" races. I get why they exist: to serve as mooks the players can mow down without regrets, like the masked, dehumanized stormtroopers in Star Wars. But do you realize how problematic that sounds this side of 2010?

Then you have the conflation of race and nation, like the idea that all elves are the same and speak just one language called Elvish. That, too, exists for gameplay purposes, since a player character is only allowed to know a handful of languages, tops. It's also nearly as bad as the previous issue, and tightly related to it.

This is doubly problematic since the text also says, "Humans come in a broad variety of shapes and sizes; the Game Master must decide what sorts of Humans live in the game world." Thankfully the word "color" is deftly avoided, but seriously? "Humans are the 'standard'?" And they "learn unusually quickly"?

No wonder modern players would rather play a tiefling, half-orc, dragonborn, anything but a human. The weirder, the better.

When designing a fantasy RPG in the 21st century, beware of unfortunate implications. They can all too easily mar an otherwise excellent game.


A momentous retweet lets me know that as of this Friday MobyGames is 20. I never used the site much, but my, how that puts things in perspective: when I first got online, they were already there. Of particular interest is learning about the site's roots in the abandonware movement as a way to preserve history. There's more, of course, like yet another lesson on the importance of prototyping, or of learning to trust other people. In fact, there's a lot more. This is a long read. The site didn't take shape overnight, and went through many struggles. I especially like this bit about popularity:

People kept coming up to the booth and asking us what we were doing there. I was confused by this at first, thinking it was a put-down or an insult, but it turned out to be a gigantic complement — everyone in the gaming industry already knew about us. In other words, there was no need to advertise MobyGames because it was already an established resource for the professional gaming industry. It was a huge moment of validation.

Can't conclude this write-up without highlighting the bit about burnout. Enjoy.


Last but not least, Hardcore Gaming 101 posts a capsule review of the recently released AGD for Windows, The Digital Antiquarian writes about Scientology of all things, and Open Game Art launches a redesign competition. A great way to conclude the week. See you next time!

Tags: tabletop, rpg, review, history

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