Let a billion videogames bloom

Everything game development: news, lessons, discussion

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!


It's only Monday, and K.D. is already linking to good stuff. This time, an interview with Brian Reynolds, who created Colonization, was lead designer on Civilization II and Sid Meier's right hand for Alpha Centauri. An incredibly modest person, who only has good words for all the stars he worked with, and also admits being lucky to get into the industry when it was still relatively easy. In the way of advice, note his remark on leaving things out, but also on the importance of being able to experiment on the cheap:

Games were way cheaper to make in those days, substantially because they didn’t require as much hi-res 3D and artwork and animation and movies and voice-acting, etc, etc. So that meant it was easier to try ideas, easier to experiment, and easier to take some time “finding the fun” without going bankrupt.

Gee, you mean all the fancy new tech is not, in fact, what makes a game more fun? Who would have thought. Except all the old-timers saying it again and again.

As for writing sci-fi, yep, pretty much. Only the mega-nerds care how all those shiny toys in the story work, and the mega-nerds will never be content. Most of your audience cares what your characters can use that stuff for. And what you can actually do is doubly important in a game. So look for the fun.


On Friday, Hardcore Gaming 101 remembers Silent Hill, and the ideas expressed therein can be heard more and more often as of late:

But there’s a certain grittiness to be found in the low resolution textures, the short draw distance, and the choppy frame rate. They give it a stylized, abstract look that gets lost in later installments due to the improvements in technology.

Or on a related note:

Indeed, it’s the largely this off-kilter atmosphere that makes up the Silent Hill experience, and it consists of more than just graphical details. On a moment-by-moment basis, all you’re really is alternating wandering through towns and hallways, checking every door possible, scrambling to your next destination while occasionally killing a gruesome creature or solving a negligible puzzle. Rather, Silent Hill is all about experiencing a lucid nightmare.

Also of note are the many inspirations of the game (another common theme on this blog), all of them from other media, and how it achieves emotional impact by what it forces the player to do, even when it's obvious and not too challenging. Which is... exactly what games and only games are capable of.

And the voices that point it out are multiplying. Let's see what this brings.


On this note, I wish you a great Sunday. See you next time!

Tags: strategy, classics, interview, business, education

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