Gaaah! Almost forgot to write the newsletter on time again. Been busy, you see, with yet another coding project (still unrelated to games). Though who knows — the ability to focus on writing your game as opposed to wrangling your tools is increasingly important these days, so simplicity matters a lot. I’ll keep you informed.
This week @JuhanaIF points us at a postmortem of 80 Days that does a good job of relating the difficulties of making such a big game. And while on the topic of interactive fiction, Hardcore Gaming 101 gets around to reviewing Fallen London. A good way for me to see what has changed since I stopped playing… and what hasn’t.
Of direct interest for developers is this article on architecture in videogames. Once again it turns out that in order to make games (or, indeed, any software) it’s more important to know about the real world than programming. In this case history, geography and materials. And you know, I’m hardly an expert myself, but I find it baffling and worrying that an educated person today doesn’t know why the compass points matter when building a house. Are we so deeply invested in the myth that we have somehow “conquered nature”?
Last but not least, the Wall Street Journal is running a piece on how videogames are saving the symphony orchestra. Amusingly, they write about videogames as if we were still in 1985 (which says a lot about the kind of people they allow to make decisions in the newsrooms). But otherwise, it’s good to know that games have found yet another way into mainstream culture; I remember years ago when symphonic orchestras were arranging music from famous movies such as Star Wars or James Bond and thinking how cool that was.
Culture is culture, and that’s awesome. See you next week.
It’s our third anniversary, and things have changed in the past year.
Oh, I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom. Life has ups and downs. We’ll be better again. But I can’t help but notice how in the past few months we’ve dropped below the one post per week average. Lack of time and energy will do that. At least there hasn’t been a month without some sort of update — I’ve seen websites go utterly abandoned, and it’s sad. Especially when life continues elsewhere, and you can at least keep taking part in the conversations.
Two interesting tidbits landed in my newsfeed reader this morning. Coincidence it may be, but their juxtaposition speaks volumes. On the one hand, we have Ars Technica letting us us know that Zynga’s earnings are tanking. The other thing of course being that so are Facebook’s shares (Forbes, via Shareable).
Gee, who would have thought that seven hundred million zombies are still just zombies, whom smart investors will value accordingly? And as it turns out, even zombies can grow bored with the *Ville mania. (That right there tells exactly how fun those games are.) And you know what? Good riddance. I’m sick of being told I’m supposed to imitate abusive corporations if I want any measure of success.
The moral? You have to treat your audience with respect, and that involves offering them real value.
Every time some artist, or author, or publisher moves to a “pay what you want” or “freemium” business model, trolls inevitably show up to yell how this is never going to work, despite numerous examples to the contrary. A similar outcry could be heard a few months ago, when several high-profile MMORPGs announced moving to a free-to-play model. So I guess they’re in trouble by now?
In a word, NOPE. Ars Technica gives a quick heads-up on how Lord of the Rings Online is doing:
I’ve just discovered Raph Koster’s essay on game design (via Lost Garden), and while it’s a classic, I can’t help but think that most would-be game designers stumble long before getting to those advanced considerations. Why? Because of a few myths that endure and keep luring people into mental traps. So I decided to tackle some of them in the hope of bringing them down.
Myth #1: My ideas! My preciousss ideas!
This is the big bad wolf of myths, not just about game design but all creativity: that ideas are somehow rare, unique and valuable. Well, sorry to disappoint you: I have more ideas for games than I can shake a stick at. Most of them are probably bad; the rest are likely to end up unrecognizable when (if…) they’re going to be made into something playable. As for uniqueness, where do you think your ideas come from? The same place as mine: everything we see, hear, play, read and generally experience. Guess what, we live in the same world; our experiences are likely to overlap a lot. Speaking of which.
Programmers love to trash programming languages. The more successful a language, the more likely you are to find someone who will, happily and in excruciating detail, explain its many failings to you. One of the favorite victims nowadays appears to be Java. And while Java does have its bad points, most of the criticism appears to focus around a handful of old myths that should have been put to rest long ago.
Myth #1: Java is slow.