Hello, everyone. I could divide this week’s links along several lines, so it’s hard to decide. Let’s start with the latest link I acquired: via @twinethreads comes the news that the word hypertext is 50 years old, and Ted Nelson’s interview answers are fascinating, especially about interactivity — my favorite topic as of late. And since I mentioned Twine, here’s an inteview with Chris Klimas, who talks briefly about the platform and the community around it.
Still in the famous names department, over at Boing Boing the one and only Anna Anthropy talks about game-making tools. See my own comments on the other blog. And because interactivity and books seem to be the key words this week, a shout-out to Chris Meadows of Teleread writing about electronic literature. Elsewhere, one of my favorite webcomic authors reminds people that imagination is the best graphics engine. If only modern games would leave anything to imagination…
Now for the business side of gaming. At The Escapist, Shamus Young explains how Spore could have been better, and his indictment of modern business stings. Along the same lines, The Daily Dot presents a survey according to which adult women are now the largest demographic in gaming. Guess who doesn’t seem to have caught on yet. And on a slightly different note, PC Gamer has a story on how GOG rescued 13 Forgotten Realms games from licensing hell. Good thing they’re persistent, eh?
Last but not least, I spent most of this week working on Bast, an experimental implementation of the programming language proposed here and here. Not that I have a need for it right now, but maybe you’ll find it inspirational. Thanks for reading, and see you next week.
It’s no coincidence that at times when I’m not working on games myself, I also can’t seem to find many links for the newsletter either, though my selection of sources doesn’t change. The human brain works in funny and obvious ways sometimes. And in fact I am working on a game these days, just the tabletop roleplaying kind. But that’s another story.
Anyway, this week I caught Emily Short reviewing… an autobiography. Specifically, that of Neil Patrick Harris. How come? Turns out, it’s written in CYOA form. What to call it? A serious game it ain’t. A regular game then… but it’s not fictional. All the open possibilities in new media, and we simply have no words for anything outside a very narrow category of computer-based entertainment.
In any event, the whole story prompted me to tweet this:
You know what gaming needs? Non-fiction games. Documentaries in game form. Coloring books and fine art albums alike.
— Felix (@felixplesoianu) July 8, 2015
and judging from the reactions, I may be onto something.
In other news, over at The Escapist, writes about the obstacles to porting games between PC and consoles. Tl;dr version: business, business, politics, players, marketing. Somehow, we keep finding ways to waste energy and potential…
Last but not least, there’s a new blog out there (started in January) covering the history of computer games from the author’s personal perspective. The latest post, about Battle Chess, discusses how fluff can be used well to make a game genuinely more interesting, lengthen the playing time and even influence the player’s objectives. A lesson most game developers never learned.
Until next time.
You know, this was supposed to be the newsletter’s last issue, but a lot of things happened since I made that decision. For one thing, I asked my readers to chime in with opinions, and my site promptly went down for eight days. Not exactly conducive to dialogue. Besides, when I made that decision, my interest and confidence in games were at an all-time low. In the mean time I started turning this blog into a book (coming soon!) and started a new one as well, with a different focus. To top it all, I’ve been writing new articles here as well.
So here’s the deal: the newsletter isn’t needed as much nowadays, but it is a good reason for me to keep up with the world of gaming. So I’m going to keep it going, just with a lot less commentary. That will free my Sundays to do more productive stuff, while still keeping the blog updated weekly. Stick around.
Now, on to this week’s news.
How time flies. I never noticed when the spring came to an end. It’s basically summer already, and there’s just one month left until my self-imposed deadline for discontinuing this newsletter. I tried to start writing regular articles again as a replacement, but that didn’t quite work out, and indeed this blog might be better off lying fallow for a while. What’s worse, having no passion for games anymore, or having your passion return only to see nobody else cares?
My dear handful of readers: I know you’re out there. Give me a reason to keep this blog updated come July, because if I take a break it may well be for good.
Anyway, on to this week’s few headlines.
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.
Another week of development, another screenshot. I did much more that isn’t easily shown, such as adding mouse support, optimizing startup times and making sure the game can run on a monochrome terminal. Amazing how little work you need to keep a game running on supposedly obsolete machines as well as the latest Mac. Of course, Python and ncurses help a lot here — but that, too, is a lesson.
Speaking of lessons, I long wanted to make a roguelike with a variety of map types in some sort of logical progression, but even with the basically unlimited RAM and CPU of a modern machine, managing all the level generators is a hassle. Unless a game is focused on exploration, it’s better off with just one type of map, made as interesting as possible. Parametrization goes a long way here.
Now on to gamedev news that aren’t about me.
All right, so, the bad news is my mood swings continue. The good news is, I was able to do enough work on my game again to show you a new screenshot. And all on a Sunday afternoon, too!
Okay, so the cave levels look uglier than I remember. Either I broke the old code while recovering and porting it, or else it was a case of rose-tinted glasses. But I learned a lot about procedural generation in recent years, so it’s just a matter of patience. The code needs significant clean-up anyway.
As for the news this week, we only have two again: the most overused words in game titles, and an interview with Jeff Vogel.
These really aren’t good days for me. Took me a week to put together less than 500 lines of code, mostly copy-pasted from elsewhere too. But persistence pays, and right now I can at least show you a couple of screenshots:
As I pointed out last time, it’s a roguelike for the Linux console, written in Python. I happen to like the language anyway, and since it comes with a curses module by default that means I can have exactly zero dependencies apart from Python itself. As for why text mode, I’m seriously bothered by the gratuitous overuse of technology these days. When text-based roguelikes require SDL or even OpenGL (wish I was kidding), something’s rotten in the state of IT. Several of my friends work in text mode at least some of the time, their reasons ranging from tradition to poor eyesight. And having done real work on remote servers over SSH, I know that making text-based user interfaces is a skill worth acquiring.
More about the game itself next week; for now, on to the links.
You know, it’s odd. Over the past year and a half, I lost my interest in games completely, yet here I am, not just continuing to write about games, but also making one again. There are three reasons for that:
- It’s an idea that’s been sitting in the back of my mind for too long, and I’d like to get it out, not unlike the story I wrote last autumn.
- For various reasons, I can’t write these days, and spare time is too precious to waste.
- I’m less burnt out on programming than usual for some reason.
So yeah. It’s too early for a screenshot, but it’s going to be a roguelike for the Linux console, written in Python/ncurses (for reasons I’ll explain in the future). And that’s a skill that can prove useful for much more than just games.
Now, on to this week’s actual links.
With all the stuff on my mind this weekend, I basically forgot to work on my newsletter at all. But better late than never.
Continuing on the topic of programming languages from last time, Shamus Young argues in The Escapist that videogames need their own programming language. And while he makes some excellent points as always, I think he’s misplacing the blame. Like here:
[The C programming language] was created in a world where software was less complex than it is today. Your typical AAA game of 2014 will be thousands of times more complex than entire operating systems of 1972. Consequently, the language is focused on saving memory and CPU cycles, and not focused on helping the coder manage terrifying levels of program complexity.
Well, see? That’s your problem right there. Modern software is insanely complex. More complex, in fact, than anything else the human species has built. No machine with moving parts ever has millions of components. NONE. It would fall apart the moment you turned it on. But in software we make it happen just because we can — the worst possible reason.
Or so we think. How many hours of your life have you lost to crashing apps, crashing operating systems, lying servers, flaky networks?