Latest News

E3 2021 Had Big Increase in Non-Violent Games, Study Shows

Tags: case study

Publishing on itch.io Pros and Cons

Tags: interactive fiction, business

The Anti-Manifesto of No-School Roleplaying

Tags: tabletop, rpg, philosophy

A Successful Failure: The TI-99/4A Turns 40

A good retrospective of a home computer that sold pretty good after all for a cult classic; I didn't know that! Also an object lesson in how locking out 3rd-party developers leaves your machine without enough software to attract the buyers you need. Because you need them, while they can always go buy from the competition. One would think manufacturers learned as much after four decades, but no.

Tags: hardware, business, critique

In dialog with interactive fiction

My own write-up that I forgot to mention in the last newsletter.

Tags: interactive fiction, tools

[Mini-Let's Read] City of Brass 2020, or how not to do Fantasy Arabia

Another fascinating RPG.net forum thread. The title says it all. (Content Warning: Sexual assault, racism, Islamophobia.)

Tags: tabletop, rpg, representation, case study

RISUS rpg seems to be up for auction or sale

Via the RPG.net forums I just learned that the Risus RPG was put up for sale at the end of May (and snatched up ten days later). It's the end of an era for sure, no matter how well it will be handled by the new owner. Luckily it doesn't impact me: while I admire Risus as a work of art, I make videogames, for which it's completely unsuitable. Besides, the license is much too restrictive. And nowadays tiny RPGs (even business card-sized!) are commonplace. In fact I have a new favorite, and you'll hear about it soon. But until then, hats off to a pioneer.

Tags: tabletop, rpg, business

50 Years of Text Games - 1991: Trade Wars 2002

I got online way too late for the BBS era, and while alternatives like MUDs survived in the small, with tilde servers even enjoying a revival, the few BBSes I visited were already little more than museums. No wonder then that my experience with certain web-based games in 2000-something lacked essential context. One such game was Black Nova Traders, which is now deader than its illustrious ancestor. But it's still good to learn, even belatedly, where it all came from.

Tags: classic, mmo, strategy

The Making Of Alpha Protocol, An Inventive, Brilliant RPG That Was Murdered By Mass Effect

A big "don't do that" moment.

How the Designer of 'VVVVVV' and 'Dicey Dungeons' Fell in Love with 'Roblox'

A big "why should I care?" moment.

Tags: mmo, community, game design

E3 and Beyond

For lack of anything better these days, it was interesting enough to read about the birth of E3, and an object lesson on how to squander a huge opportunity (not to mention years of accumulated goodwill) in one fell swoop. Goes to show that being a jerk doesn't pay, and that people in the most innovative industry can still be out of touch with the times. As for part 2 of the article, sorry, but just no. Study after study after study failed to find any link between violence in entertainment media and in real life. Those few that did... were invariably found to be faulty or outright fraudulent. Invariably. So can we please stop with the both-siding already? Pretty please?

Tags: business, history

50 Years of Text Games - 1990: LambdaMOO

Halfway between newsletters, Aaron A. Reed writes about the history of LambdaMOO, which is funny because it had come up in conversation with my friends just the day before. LambdaMOO is one of the text-based virtual worlds I surveyed in early 2010 (more than 11 years ago), with little success, so most of my knowledge about it is theoretical. In retrospect however it's obvious why I couldn't make heads or tails of the place, nor meet any of the few remaining residents. Pro tip: those few social MU*s that survived go out of their way to help newcomers get their bearings. And while newcomers always start by exploring and playing with toys, sooner or later they'll want to meet the locals. At which point it turns out that communities need rules, and rules have to be enforced. You can't work around that, not with any kind of technology. Funny how all those spiritual successors mentioned in the article had to rediscover this simple principle again and again.

Tags: obscure, mmo, community, overview

Dragon Quest at 35 – the history of a JRPG icon

I missed this one last time, because it's way, way off the beaten path, and only found it now while searching for something else entirely. Turns out the classic JRPG Dragon Quest, that provided the template for an entire genre, will soon be 35 years old. And amazingly the series is still going strong, even though it had ups and downs over time like any other. There's something to be said about having a formula and sticking to it, you know.

Tags: classic, rpg, history

50 Years of Text Games - 1989: Monster Island

How people used to play MMORPGs when few had computers or internet.

Tags: obscure, mmo, rpg, tabletop, history

Now and Forever: The Legacy of the Star Control II Universe

Tags: classic, retrospective

In Dungeons and Dragons you can be almost anything, so why the backlash over a combat wheelchair?

Tags: tabletop, rpg, community, representation, critique

Les narramiettes (storylets) dans Twine 2

French language introduction to storylets, and how to use them in the latest version of Twine.

Tags: interactive fiction, tools, concepts

50 Years of Text Games - 1987: Plundered Hearts

(The sheer insecurity of male gamers in the 1980s. Afraid to play a female protagonist. Afraid to play an easy game. Of games marketed to a broader audience.)

Tags: interactive fiction, history

Interactive Tears: Emotions In Videogame Design And Storytelling

Tags: interactive fiction, writing

Making Games on a Pi

Tags: hardware, critique

50 Years of Text Games - 1986: Uncle Roger

Yet another unsung pioneer of interactive fiction, her strange, different work, and paths not taken in the end.

Tags: obscure, interactive fiction

Disability representation in tabletop gaming matters - here are the games doing it right

Tags: tabletop, rpg, representation

Neofeud (at HG101)

Another game I had the privilege to watch being made in real time, courtesy of the Itch.io community.

Tags: indie, adventure, retrospective

Don't Listen To Business Indies

Tags: business, critique

La liste ULTIME des outils pour concevoir vos fictions interactives et jeux vidéo textuels

"The definitive list for devising your interactive fiction and text-based videogames"; it's in French, but most tools are in English.

Tags: interactive fiction, tools, overview