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.


We kick off the week with the making of Warcraft II, apparently a book excerpt. It’s so instructive to read how the still young and enthusiastic team at Blizzard approached the sequel, knowing not only how the original had fared, but also what the competition was doing at the time. A curious aspect is the controversy over that famous cartoony style that became the studio’s signature and helped subsequent games so much. No wonder few others learned the lesson, if even within Blizzard there was such fierce resistance to the idea.

Honestly, I get it. Taking yourself too seriously is an easy trap to fall into. Speaking of traps, I found the sequel much less accessible than the first game, and never managed to make any progress. All that added complexity. Oh well.


On Friday, The Digital Antiquarian writes about the origins of shareware. Note how the term was coined because "freeware" was trademarked. (I didn't know that!) Ironic how it ended up being used by everyone instead for precisely the same reason. Gee, you mean locking up an infinite resource is a bad idea?!

And no, that some people made a lot of money with this model, including famous names in game development, doesn't mean anyone will. Wish people understood that when they publish on Itch.io: there's no guarantee of success. Heck, lately I've taken to putting a note in the read-me of every project I offer for download, asking for donations. Can you guess how many people donated so far?

Two. Seriously, just two. My friends were infinitely more generous. In fact, you can only read these lines now thanks to them. But I did make sales of items that people could have downloaded for free. Often more sales than the same items got when they had a minimum price. And I'll take that any time over no sales.


Sadly that's all for today, so enjoy the Sunday and see you next time.

Tags: interactive-fiction, programming, strategy, business

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