No Time To Play

Tag: rants

Weekly Links #24

by on Jun.24, 2014, under News, Opinion

I meant to work on my game some more before this week’s issue, but an impromptu trip messed up my schedule something fierce. Luckily, I’m hardly hurting for content.

I’ll start with a fascinating post-mortem. Via Gamasutra, here’s the story of a hobbyist programmer’s game that was 13 years in the making!

The story, itself told with skill and humor, covers six big problems that marked the project. Three of them are very, very familiar.
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Weekly Links #20

by on May.26, 2014, under News, Opinion

All right, this week’s links sure seemed to be more numerous before I started writing the newsletter. At least I have more to comment than usual (to compensate for all those weeks when I don’t have much to say). Ups and downs I guess… oh well, let’s get started.

I’ll start with this humorous tweet pointing out the difference between what developers thought players wanted out of a mobile game, and what they turned out to want:

I daresay this parallels the way enthusiasts thought tablets were going to replace PCs… until they tried doing actual work on tablets. Or how the baroque web design from years ago has been replaced by clean white pages that make it easy to find the one thing you went there for, most likely some piece of information. That’s the problem with techies: all too often, we forget that most people don’t give a damn about all the cool stuff we can do with our toys: they have real work to do and very little time or attention to spare. As for games… Let’s just say that when I’m playing on a tablet, I’m not going to squint at that tiny screen to admire your wonderful 3D art… the details of which won’t render well in 800×480 anyway. Doubly so if I happen to be playing on the metro, with countless distractions around.
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Never mind game design, what about user interfaces?

by on May.23, 2013, under Gamedev

anti-menu

I’ve been playing a bunch of old DOS games as of late (instead of working on a game I might add). As you might expect, they’re a mixed bag, and that’s not because of their age. But even in games that are still fun to play — and trust me, there are quite a few — I couldn’t help but notice certain problems that show up again and again. Worse, they show up before I even get to play the game proper. It makes you wonder, didn’t they play each other’s games back then?

And then I realized why these problems seemed so familiar: because I still routinely encounter them, e.g. in Flash games.

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A perfect storm in the game publishing business?

by on Mar.19, 2013, under Miscellaneous, News

Perfect storm brewing

If you’re at all interested in gaming, you must have heard by now of the SimCity debacle. Whether it was a publicity stunt, incompetence or simple disrespect for the players (after all, always-on DRM had been already reported to cause problems in beta, never mind prior experience with other titles “featuring” the same protection scheme), the entire story might have blown over as EA added more hardware and compensated their customers with a free game. But no… the rabbit hole is getting deeper by the day.

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More thoughts on portability

by on Aug.13, 2012, under Opinion

Is portability overrated? That seems to be the conclusion of my previous article, in which I ended up suggesting you’d be better off picking an older computer platform and making games for it, relying on emulation to have your work reach a wider audience. Then again, even among 8-bit micros portability may not have been a lost cause after all. As a friend pointed out (thanks, WereWolf), most computers in the 1980es were based on one of two CPUs: either the 6502 or else the Zilog Z80. And since they were typically programmed in assembly language, core game logic was theoretically quite portable. So were BASIC type-ins for that matter, for all the differences between dialects, as long as they didn’t make use of platform-specific drawing or sound code.

It may be that the secret of portability lies in the algorithms.

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Thoughts on portability

by on Aug.06, 2012, under Opinion

Sadly enough, this doesn't even show my "main" computer

Back in the days of 8-bit microcomputers, the various machines were so different from each other that porting a game often meant a complete rewrite, and the results could be quite unlike the original. Surely enough, they are called conversions instead. Despite that hurdle, many of the classics exist in an astonishing number of variants. Elite was reportedly ported to no less than 13 distinct architectures!

Granted, the relative simplicity of those old games was a factor. When 64K is all you have, complexity doesn’t have room to get out of hand. Still, in this day and age of generic hardware, plentiful resources, standard APIs and file formats you’d think we’re in a much better position to make one game available on multiple platforms, especially as we no longer have so many of them to worry about.

Yet sometimes it seems more difficult than in the past.

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Being shallow does not pay

by on Jul.28, 2012, under News

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.

Creative Commons License
Being shallow does not pay by Felix Pleșoianu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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Desktop versus browser, gaming edition

by on Jul.23, 2012, under Opinion

When I announced my first experiments with PyGame, a couple of friends asked me why I would bother to make games for the desktop. Weren’t my games designed to showcase HTML5? And aren’t casual games a better fit for the browser anyway?

They have a point. The Web browser is an ubiquitous and powerful runtime; Javascript is powerful too, as a language, and excellent for prototyping. Last but not least, a HTML5 game can be played on the same Web page where you go to read about it: there’s no download and no setup involved.

So I sat and thought about the question. Still am, in fact.

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The future of browser game graphics

by on Jul.03, 2012, under Opinion

Digital Graphics

Two weeks ago, version 12 of the Opera web browser was released with
WebGL support, which means that now all the browsers that matter can natively render 3D graphics. Great news, right? A new era of games on the Web is about to begin!

Except, you know, not.

As far as I can tell, no browser actually supports WebGL on Linux. That’s it for me right there, never mind the infamous security issues inherent in the API. Even on Windows, if I understand correctly, WebGL only runs on a few select GPUs.

Hardly a technology for the Open Web.

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Computers, games, browsers and performance

by on May.31, 2012, under Opinion

This article represents a personal opinion after reading the previous 2 posts made by Felix (see here and here): and I originally wanted to post a small comment, but as I wrote it, I realised it would become too big for just a comment.

A) Luxury and games

I think that first of all we should be aware of a basic fact which we tend to forget many times while arguing about games/engines: the fact that video games are a luxury, not a necessity.
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