Hello, everyone. In just a week, Tomb of the Snake has become the most popular game on No Time To Play. Not so much on itch.io, where traffic is conspicuously thin. I’m yet to figure out exactly why. Perhaps a dearth of non-Windows gamers on the service? More experimentation is in order.
Speaking of which, for the past four days I’ve been working on my next game, and as it turns out there is such a thing as too much color. I mean, compare these two screenshots:
I don’t know about you, but between psychedelic and girly I choose the style that doesn’t hurt my eyes. Hopefully my players will agree.
Well, on to this week’s other news.
Allow me to get philosophical for a moment.
It occurs to me that a tomato isn’t a tomato because Zeus has decreed so. We only call it a tomato because it has a particular combination of properties. Its name comes from its properties, not the other way around. So object-oriented programming has it exactly backwards…
Then again, this is the same brain bug that causes lawmakers to ban tactical knives when kitchen knives are just as dangerous, and in fact any object with a sharp edge can cut, while any object with a sharp tip can stab, regardless of what we call it or what it was built for. Think an ice pick.
On a related note, it occurs to me that a car doesn’t drive, while a triangle doesn’t draw. So writing
triangle.draw() is just nonsensical. Sure, nowadays a car can drive itself, but it’s still a transitive verb.
I sometimes make fun of Haskell, but it may well be the only programming language with a sane object system…
Hello, everyone! Thanks to a couple of generous donors, No Time To Play is financially secure for the next year. (Myself not so much, but that’s another story.) Many thanks to Mark Burger and Christopher Vincelli!
In other news, I don’t have any new screenshots this week but Tomb of the Snake is also progressing nicely. Now you can actually ascend with the McGuffin and win the game, and I’m nearly done adding monsters. Should have a playable version in two weeks to one month (famous last words, I know). I’m cautiously optimistic about this one — based on feedback, people seem to like roguelikes that blend tradition with modernity, rather than going to one extreme or the other.
But on to news that aren’t about me. There are plenty this week, and half of them are only tangentially related to game development.
It’s a week with no links again, so if you don’t mind I’ll take the time to rant on a topic that’s been obsessing me for a long time now. Be warned that this is only tangentially related to games.
But first, a signal boost.
I’ve never played Glitch, but I heard of it closing down when they released their assets into the public domain (a great initiative), by virtue of hanging around with the Open Game Art crowd.
Turns out, a friend of mine seeks funding to create what she’s describing as a text-based prequel to Glitch. And while I dunno about the project, Generic Geek Girl‘s portfolio is enough of a recommendation for me. Take a look.
Now, on to the main topic for today: graphical user interfaces. Fasten your seatbelts.
I was going to write a big rant about programming languages for this week, but I tried and it’s just not coming together. Suffice to say, people keep inventing new ones to fix what they perceive as wrong with the old ones. And invariably, the newcomers turn out to miss the point entirely. These days everyone is gushing over Go and Rust. Bwahahaha! Remember Vala? I didn’t think so. Or D, for that matter? Hint: the idea of “fixing C++” wasn’t born this decade. Heck, Java was born from the same misguided good intention. And we all know how that worked out.
Pro tip: technologies that endure are those that build on the past and work with it. Because if you keep tearing everything down and starting anew, you’re never going to make any real progress.
You know the saying, when it rains it pours. That’s the story of this newsletter, pretty much. Most weeks I scramble to find a couple links worth writing about. Today I don’t even know where to begin.
For one thing, after long months of intense development, Jason Scott officially announced The Internet Arcade and The Software Library — two huge collections of classic arcade and 8-bit computer games, respectively, playable online right inside a web page. That’s huge; while emulators and old games are available elsewhere (see World of Spectrum for an amazing collection of resources), they’re usually focused on one platform and require some amount of expertise to get running. Whereas here we have a veritable potpourri, as easily accessible as old photographs on Flickr.
You know, lately I’ve been thinking about all this crap that’s going on. Net Neutrality going bye-bye in the US — and make no mistake, that will affect the entire Internet. Mozilla, the last bastion of the open web, putting DRM in Firefox. The Heartbleed debacle. It’s a worrying trend, and partly it’s all because we, the people who actually use computers to do meaningful stuff, have made ourselves powerless. We’ve made ourselves dependent on corporate interests for most of our computing needs.
How? By demanding more and more of our computers, until out hardware and software needs could no longer be met by anyone but the richest of corporations. How many desktop CPU manufacturers are left in the world? Two: Intel and AMD. How many GPU manufacturers? Also two: ATI and nVidia. And ATI has been bought by AMD years ago.
There used to be at least a handful of each.
Over at the Rampant Coyote blog, Jay Barnson is at it again, writing an article I wish had occurred to me. Namely, about the way games trying to be art at any cost is a trap. I would add that trying to make Art on purpose doesn’t work. Indiana Jones never tried to be more than good old pulpy action fun; it only ended up having such a tremendous influence on subsequent cinema because they did what they set out to do as well as they could. Which just happened to be very, very well. Same with the Barsoom series, Conan or any other classic franchise you care to name, regardless of medium.
This is especially relevant to me, because for the past two years or so I’ve been writing a bunch of science-fiction (which is why I haven’t been so active in the game-making department), and one of the most common accusations leveled at my writing has been that it’s pulp.
So, some friends of mine were talking RPG miniatures, and someone came up with this list of papercraft resources as an alternative. My first thought was adding it to one of my link collections, but of course I lack an appropriate category. And why should I have one? No Time To Play is mostly about (making) computer games, right?
See, that’s exactly the problem with us computer heads. We’ve started forgetting why physicality is important, and what we can learn from the analog world.
For example, have you ever noticed how much papercraft is like 3D modeling? In both cases, you abstract and decompose a shape from the real world into polygons. You need to be frugal, either because of machine limitations or because there’s only so much you can do by hand. You need to recognize where you’re better off painting some details on top rather than forcing more triangles into a tight space.
Sure, the computer makes things easier. But that can be a trap.
I used to love drawing as a kid, but various causes conspired to keep me from getting any good. Then I got seriously into computers, and for sixteen years I’ve barely set pencil to paper. That finally changed two weeks ago, when a sudden bout of inspiration made me pull out my sketchbook (yes, I’d taken to carrying one with me!) and get started on a little cartoon.
No, I won’t show you right now. It will be a while until I get back up to speed. But the re-learning process itself is a story worth sharing, specifically in relationship to all the things I’ve learned and done in the mean time.
Because, you see, all the things I’ve done with computers inform my art now, and vice-versa.