Items for March 2021

Gabriel Knight Creator Jane Jensen's Successful Second Act: Erotic Novelist

Ever wanted to know what Jane Jensen was up to after Gabriel Knight and Sierra stopped being a thing? I hadn't thought of that, but Vice Magazine has us covered. It's a fascinating story, too, and it made me realize something. Just like real-time strategies didn't go anywhere but simply evolved into more focused genres like tower defense and MOBA, adventures became many little things, like room escape games, hidden object games and walking simulators. And there's nothing wrong with that, though it does betray an environment where few games can be large and ambitious anymore. But the wheel still turns.

Tags: adventure, business, history

Why Videogame Preservation Needs to Change

Once again game stores are shutting down, and once again people are discussing how we could (and should) preserve all those games. And yes, it's tricky not just due to copyrights, or new consoles coming up all the time. I hadn't even thought about issues like TV plugs! But you know... having just made yet another game port, with more on the way, I can't help but think that if even one of the platforms I make my games for survives, so will the games, even if they weren't open source, and they are. That alone is reason to port them widely. Even if we're no longer in the Tower of Babel that was the 80s computing. Oh wait. The simple, self-contained machines from back then are precisely those most easily emulated nowadays, whose games will run forever.

Tags: hardware, preservation

System Shock (at The Digital Antiquarian)

Another day, another classic game retrospective. A legendary one, even. Only this time the historian's account doesn't make me want to go and play it. On the contrary. This is a game that sounds pretentious, overwrought and tiring: the opposite of what I want from the medium. By the way, there is in fact a System Shock (fan) novel: Free Radical, by Shamus Young. And it's well worth a read. As for most people failing to notice the game is more than a shooter? There's a reason why in recent years I find myself, often enough, quoting one of my own literary characters: "a brick to the face is subtle".

Tags: classic, shooter

50 Years of Text Games - 1981: His Majesty's Ship "Impetuous"

Today I learned about a classic interactive fiction piece like no other. One of those that make one think about paths not taken, and what we're missing because of our choices. An ironic thing to say in context, come to think of it. How much more did we fail to try in the intervening four decades? I'm tempted to crack open Twine and find out, taking advantage of infinitely more powerful text processing in modern programming languages like Javascript.

Tags: classic, interactive fiction

What should I be sensitive to when western or Deadlands gaming?

This weekend the RPG.net community discusses another thorny issue. Having just completed a novella that features Native American main characters in a sci-fi setting with themes of colonization, I'm glad to have friends who can advise about issues like this. Failing that, two things help: knowing history, and remembering that people are people: a very diverse bunch, even within the same social or ethnic groups. In other words, no stereotyping. It's a good start.

Tags: tabletop, rpg, representation

La FI pour les petits

If you speak French, take a look at this article about interactive fiction for the little ones. But not text adventures! More like a device for playing interactive audiobooks that can be created with open source software. Or tabletop role-playing games for kids. Or even a new kind of gamebook for younger audiences. Yes, the genre is alive and well. And strange new avenues are being explored.

Tags: interactive fiction

50 Years of Text Games - 1980: MUD

We were all distracted last year, so we kinda forgot to celebrate 40 years since the world's first MMORPG, known as MUD. The concept has long since developed from essentially a multiplayer text adventure, through EverQuest and World of Warcraft, to whatever the cool kids are playing today. Yet MUDs still endure in their original form as well. I discovered the scene in 2009-2010 (and wrote about it), and I'm still active, at least in a subculture thereof. So this look back means a lot to me.

Tags: classic, mmo, rpg, history

Three weeks of Bonesweeper development

One developer's account of battling depression and burnout while continuing to make games. Short version: something's got to give. But also, tap into your other interests, and make something that feels fun to make. No, seriously. These days, pressure is literally killing us. From work. From money issues. From the ongoing world crisis. And we need to reclaim our lives.

Tags: making-of, case study

50 Years of Text Games - 1979: The Cave of Time

Aaron A. Reed's series just reached 1979, and with it the first modern gamebook, that started the Choose Your Own Adventure series and with it a hugely popular genre that was unsurpassed for the next fifteen years. How well I remember sitting on a train with a passage diagram like that, trying to make my own, because it was something I could imagine myself creating, long before I could code worth a damn, or at all. Likely before I could hope to own a computer. And that's just one of the things that make the medium so profoundly important.

Tags: gamebooks, history