No Time To Play

Tag: real life

Weekly Links #141

by on Oct.09, 2016, under Gamedev, News

What a week. First I spent three days working on a side project (that I’m not going to announce until next month). Then had to rest a little, because a three-day coding marathon is exhausting when you’re pushing 40. And then an ISP outage kept me offline for a day and a half. At least that gave me the time to put a high score table in Laser Sky, not to mention play and review a couple of games.

In news that aren’t about No Time To Play, two weeks ago Techdirt covered the case of a game developer suing Steam customers only to have their games removed from the platform. Turns out, now they are dropping the lawsuit, citing bankruptcy. Should we count the number of ways in which they had it coming?

To move from business to game design, here’s an article about the balance between gameplay and realism. But while the overall argument is sound, the chosen example betrays painful ignorance of actual history. Um, guys, you do realize firearms — even small arms — were developed centuries before the industrial era, do you? Heck, they were commonly made of bronze (otherwise an obsolete material) before steel became good enough (which just so happened to also make it good enough for steam engines). And there was a time roughly two centuries ago when, demand for guns having outpaced the still nascent industry’s ability to provide, it was common to make gun barrels by hammering spiral strips of metal around a stick until they held together. Which gave you rifling for free, but tended to end in the barrel bursting, with that flowering effect you can see in old Loony Tunes cartoons.

Funny how animators from half a century ago, who were only trying to be funny, knew their history better than people making, you know, historical videogames. And there was no Wikipedia back in the day…

Last but not least, Hardcore Gaming 101 has a feature on 80 Days, the indie smash hit from a couple of years ago. Appropriate, given the IFComp is in full swing.

And that’s really all. See you next week.

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More about diversity and representation

by on Feb.21, 2016, under Off-topic, Opinion

I wrote about representation in games before. It’s a complex problem that will take many small steps to solve, all of them partial and faulty. But we need to take those steps already, and that’s why I was happy to see one of my favorite bloggers tackle the problem again. In his article You Are the Hero, David Chart explains why representation is hard, and why you can’t always satisfy everyone.

And you know, Mr. Chart makes a couple of good points there. Like the fact that just having a “brown” character isn’t enough. Roma Gypsies may not feel represented by a Pakistani for example. But! I’ll argue that even having Roma characters isn’t specific enough — there are multiple sub-groups to consider, and going too specific may well have the opposite effect. Moreover, all too often the issue is that people from marginalized groups find nobody at all to identify with in a story: all the remotely important characters are rich straight white men. (Who solve all their problems through violence — that’s another good point Mr. Chart makes. It’s horribly unrealistic: most people hate violence, and for good reason, since in the real world it just begets more violence, and solves absolutely nothing.)

That said, I’m not at all convinced it’s so hard to write stories that appeal to a large number of social categories. I’ve read AND written books that feature rich and poor, old and young, women, people of color, sexual minorities and disabled people at the same time, with sufficient prominence, and it never once felt forced. It’s a lot easier than you think. Minorities… simply exist and are among us. You don’t need any special reason to feature them.
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Weekly Links #103

by on Jan.17, 2016, under Case study, News

Oh well. That’s what happens when you have a ton of hobbies. After several weeks of game development, I went back to writing fiction for now. But that doesn’t mean news are passing me by. This week’s most powerful story is about the struggles of a Muslim game developer, ranging from the representation of Middle Eastern people mostly as enemies to be shot, to the simple fact that traveling to conferences can be difficult these days if your name is Muhammad. See my longer comment on Tumblr. Much food for thought, in any event.

On a more cheerful note, I have a couple of very sentimental articles. First is an homage to Tetris, with interesting remarks about the author’s unique genius. Then this write-up about what happens when MMOs close down. In short: people become invested in the virtual worlds they frequent. People begin to care. Because that’s what people do. There are memories you’re leaving behind. And friends. Who are as real as the game was virtual. But somehow we’re supposed to just move on because “this is capitalism”? There has to be a better way.

Last but not least, in actual game development news, it appears there are people out there porting indie games to arcade cabinets, and it’s a fascinating trip to take. The best postmortem I’ve read in a long time, really. Especially as many of my own games want to be arcades at their core, but I never quite went the whole way with them. Someday, perhaps.

For now, have a nice week.

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Weekly Links #92

by on Oct.18, 2015, under Miscellaneous, News

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.

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Weekly Links #87

by on Sep.13, 2015, under Gamedev, Miscellaneous, News, Opinion

This will be a quick newsletter again, if not quite as short as last time. Let me start with a link I found on the last stretch, to a Rock, Paper, Shotgun roundtable discussing Kickstarter in 2015. Here’s the one paragraph that struck me:

Isn’t it fascinating though that, when it comes to less conventionally commercial games, people would rather be sold a dream than reality? You’d get more backers for a weird or cute kickstarter than you would chucking a few dollars at something existent on Itch.io, right?

And that’s funny, because I was just talking to a friend the other day (hi, Chip!) about Patreon, and how he often has to lie to himself that the less-than-epic rewards that artists sometimes come up with (and we don’t blame them, mind you) are actually worth the money he gives them. While on itch.io, most titles sell so badly that a single sale can noticeably buoy me in popularity listings. And I get that dreams look better in people’s minds than finished creations, which can’t help but have flaws. But has the absurdity of capitalism reached such heights that it’s time to fire the creators and just sell pure marketing to a public who doesn’t need the actual products anymore because they already have too much stuff?

In unrelated news, the highly successful launch of Super Mario Maker prompts Gamasutra to publish an article about the many ways hardware limitations defined the original classic, and how they can still inform its modern successors. And over at The Escapist, Shamus Young explains why your not-so-old computer suddenly can’t play the latest games anymore. A good reminder for game developers about the complexities of computer performance. No, your machine isn’t typical. There’s no such thing as a typical PC.

Last but not least, Hardcore Gaming 101 treats us to a retrospective of The Last Express, and Polygon explains how Dragon Age costumes are influenced by cosplayers. I’d heard before about creators going for cosplay-able costumes, so this is pretty cool.

But that’s all for this Sunday. See you next week.

P.S. A gentle reminder that No Time To Play is on itch.io if you want to show your support. Thank you.

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No Time To Play is five

by on Aug.11, 2015, under Miscellaneous

It says much about my state of mind this year that on the blog’s fifth anniversary I waited until evening to write a few lines. Two years ago I complained that things seemed to be looking down. Turns out, they can always get worse. For a while after that post, I didn’t work on games at all. Then I started coming back in a way, slowly and half-heartedly. Guess it showed, because basically no-one noticed my games from the past few months. More recently, finances and ISP outages alike threatened the blog itself, to the point that I decided to write a book and start a Tumblr so No Time To Play can at least survive in other forms should the worst come to pass. Sadly nobody noticed those either…

The upswing from all this? Unlike a couple of months ago, I want the blog to survive. Five years is a lot of time, and good things have accumulated here. Moreover, I do see a future for videogames now, though it’s far from the glorious VR-fest everyone else seems to dream of. If things seem slow for the moment, it’s because these days I’m working on a different kind of game, that only involves computers tangentially. But I’ll come back eventually. I always do.

What matters is that you, my readers, are still here when that happens, or else there’s no point to me plodding along. So, happy reading.

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Weekly Links #75

by on Jun.21, 2015, under News

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.

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Weekly Links #74: minority representation edition

by on Jun.14, 2015, under News, Off-topic

Funny thing: just last week I mentioned the issue of racism in games. It just happens that one of the games accused of being “too white” is recent mega-success Witcher 3. Well, a few days ago Nightwrath pointed me at this article by a man from Poland, who essentially points out that there’s more to representation than skin color. To wit:

I get it — there are no AAA games with all Brown or Black characters. I wish there were; I would eagerly play them too. But to Moosa I say: please understand that until The Witcher, there were no AAA games about Poles either. Although we’re a smaller and tighter group than you, we finally got our game. I hope that you finally get yours too. But you have no right to begrudge us ours.

And you know, maybe I’m speaking from a position of white privilege, but I simply can’t find a fault in this argument. It’s as if gay people played a game with an all-black cast and complained that all the characters are straight.

Look, all minorities need much better representation in media. But forcing the issue will just lead to bad games no-one will want to play, thus sabotaging the whole effort.

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Weekly Links #73

by on Jun.07, 2015, under News

Thought I was done gathering links for this week’s newsletter when Nightwrath pointed me at this postmortem of an indie RPG that was no less than 10 years in development. And that’s funny because this week I’ve been editing old blog posts for the book, and my first big article here begins with a handful of links to stories in the same vein. It seems people never learn: yes, you have to start small, and by that I don’t mean a smaller RPG, but a simpler game.

Oh, if you do have the fortitude to keep at it for 10 years or more, results can be wonderful. But do you?

And now for other news.

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Weekly Links #68

by on May.03, 2015, under Gamedev, News

This will be another newsletter without any screenshots. The HTML5 port of Glittering Light is coming along, but slowly, and I have nothing to show off quite yet. So I’ll just jump into the news. Most relevant events this week happened in the world of interactive fiction, so that will be the main course. But first, a piece of news that’s as sad as it was predictable: the Ouya console is in trouble.

I called it. I totally called it, right the moment they announced the Ouya as this new thing never before attempted. Which wasn’t true: open source consoles have been around for many years now. In fact they seemed to have peaked around 2009. I even wrote an article at the time suggesting they’re the way of the future.

And they weren’t. Every single open source console was a total flop in the market. A terribly sad thing to a nerd like me. I’d love to own them all, and develop for them.

But nobody would play my games.

The reasons why aren’t simple; a write-up on this topic would take up several newsletters. But these are the facts. The GP* series, the Pandora, the Dingoo A320 were just a few famous examples. Ever heard of them?

I didn’t think so. And that’s because only a few nerds with money — a niche in a niche — ever bought any. And nerds never have a shortage of toys to play with. (Just look at the Raspberry PI.) It’s not the nerds who need catering to.

So, that’s the tl;dr version. Now let’s see about more cheerful news.

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