Is it a book? Is it a piece of software? It is a game? The second edition of Make Your Own Programming Language, that I finished writing today, has a little of all three. Most importantly, it tries to recapture the fun of making the computer follow your instructions, that forgotten quality of programming that used to lure so many people decades ago. It will soon be out to beta-readers, and then I’ll let you know.
In other news, Rock, Paper, Shotgun is running a series of articles on the future of procedural generation, specifically about spinning lore for computer role-playing games. Which would be pretty interesting, except for most roguelikes that would be overkill, while in more conventional CRPGs handcrafted characters, stories and settings are the whole point. Do games that aim to have emerging narratives even need that much detail, especially if it’s ultimately fluff?
Going forward, via Jay Barnson, here’s a Gamasutra article about Chrono Trigger’s Design Secrets, that manages to be useful even though I never played the game. And Jimmy Maher’s history of computer story games has reached the demise of Infocom; check out the quote from Marc Blank, who was stating who knows how long ago what myself and others have been blogging about all spring:
If all of a sudden you can ask any question, but there are really only three questions that are important to the story, you’re either going to spend all this time coming up with answers that don’t mean anything or you’re going to have a lot of “I don’t know that,” which is frustrating. I always suspected it was a dead end. The nice thing about the command-oriented game is that you can come up with a pretty complete vocabulary and a pretty complete set of responses. As soon as it becomes more open-ended — if I can say, “I’m hungry” or “I like blue rubber balls” — how do you respond to that?
To end on a nostalgic note, here’s a blog post about abandoned arcades, and the slow death game cabinets are sentenced to when left exposed to the elements. Thankfully, there is interest in rescuing these old machines as of late, so for the most part arcades are a bit of history we can expect to survive.
Until next time, don’t let the past be forgotten.
“Also, there’s a certain irony in developers lavishly spending more and more on scenery and then giving us less and less time to admire it.” — Shamus Young
Game Devs turning games into movies is bad enough. But it would be so much more tolerable if they weren’t so bloody awful at making movies.
A few days ago, a friend pointed me at this Kotaku article about Sid Meyer. It’s a fascinating read from end to end, but the one quote that stood out to me wasn’t about game design at all:
I asked Meier, who is 59, if he ever thinks about retirement. “I kinda feel like I am retired,” he said, laughing. “I’m doing what I wanna do — I’ve been retired for a long time. I still love making games, so I’ve really never thought of that.”
It instantly reminded me of Alex Warren’s recent write-up about living frugally. Being one of those who managed to get off the hamster wheel against all odds, it warms my heart to see more people advocating the same thing.
Remember, nothing guarantees success in life. You might as well have fun trying, so that if you fail there will be no regrets at least.
The Kotaku article also contains some very wise advice about game design (which applies to all software development, really):
“Sid’s never had to write a design document, because instead of debating with you about some new feature he wants to implement, he’ll just go home and at night he’ll implement it,” Solomon said. “And then tomorrow when he comes in he’ll say, ‘Okay, now play this new feature.’ And you’ll play, and then you can have a real conversation about the game, instead of looking at some design document.”
But that’s another story. Go read the whole thing.
So, I was reading this Edge Online interview with Cory Doctorow about videogames, when one particular answer made my eyes pop out.
I was a giant Marc Laidlaw fan when he was a novelist, and when he went off to write Half-Life I was like, well we’ve lost a great one. And my wife plays a lot of Half-Life and Portal and I came to appreciate how amazing they are at storytelling.
Marc was good enough to come and speak to some of my students when I was teaching in Seattle at the Clarion workshop. What he described as a storytelling methodology was really interesting. He said by the time you’re writing dialogue or cutscenes as a way to tell the story, you’ve already failed.