How time flies. It feels like just a few months since I started this newsletter in order to keep the momentum going, but in fact it’s been two whole years. Well, guess it worked after all: I’m yet to miss a week, apart from the breaks I take before every Christmas, and readers actually seem to kinda like it. One new reader did complain about the new, shorter format, but the brevity makes it a lot easier for me to write all this stuff every week. Wish it wasn’t necessary.
On with the news, which aren’t nearly as many as a major anniversary edition deserves. The big one this week is that Nethack had its first new release in 10 years. Which means the world’s most famous roguelike has now been in active development for 28 years and a half! How many other games can boast comparable longevity… and for that matter enduring popularity? Thanks for the tip, @irinarempt.
Another nice thing this week is a list of resources about personal games (see my comments on Tumblr). It’s a topic you won’t see mentioned on this blog very often, mostly because our focus is on the “how” of making games, not the “why”. But the same tools that enable people from any background to make games without becoming programmers can be used by those who are programmers to make their work easier. And considering how hard it is to make games that can compete on the market in 2015 (even Undertale wasn’t as easy to make as it may seem), every little bit of help matters. So it’s definitely worth looking that way.
Let me end with yet another classic game retrospective: Lords of Midnight as seen by Hardcore Gaming 101. As usual for them, each game in the series is discussed in depth, along with ports and spiritual successors. Even if you’re a fanboy of the series (as I am), the articles might contain a surprise or two, so give them a read.
And with this, I leave you to enjoy the holidays. See you next year!
Hardly any links of interest this week so I’ll take the opportunity to toot my own horn. After various delays, the first No Time To Play book is finally out! As mentioned on the book’s page, it’s available for sale on itch.io and on Scribd, in a variety of formats and for only a couple of dollars. If you enjoy it, a signal boost would be much appreciated. Thank you.
In other news, Emily Short covers the recently concluded 2015 edition of the International Conference on Computational Creativity, and I couldn’t help but notice a couple of highlights: first, sortingh.at, a kind of interactive wizard (heh heh) to help people get started with game development, using the most suitable tools and resources for their project. If I had to nitpick, it’s too bad none of the recommendations were able to surprise me. That speaks volumes about the state of game-making tools today (a topic much more relevant to the new No Time To Play tumblr), but the service itself is fine. And because I mentioned my new tumblr, a topic even closer to its spirit is casual creators — tools that enable people to manifest their instinctive creativity quickly and easily, so that they can take joy in what they do even if the results are limited. Having used a meme generator myself to express a particular idea when I needed to, this sounds like an important concept, one that warrants more attention.
But that will take some thinking. See you around.
Hello, everyone. As I’m writing these lines, No Time To Play is down, so I can only hope you’ll get to read them soon. One of my biggest finds this week has been a CRPG Directory listing an eclectic mix of mostly retro games in the genre, along with other resources such as blogs and forums. Interestingly, among them is listed Battle for Wesnoth, and I can’t even fault them considering how many RPG elements that game has. But most intriguing to me was the first entry:
The Adventure Creation Kit is a visual tool for making RPGs in the style of old Ultima games, running in DOS. And while that style of game ultimately lies outside my sphere of interest, I couldn’t resist taking a good look at ACK. Here’s what I discovered.
And unique they are. FunhouseRL starts from the premise that you’re trapped in an evil mirror funhouse, where you have to deal with confusing reflections on top of enemies — only one kind, because it’s a 7-Day roguelike. (Also, if the Imagination attribute is used for anything, I couldn’t figure it out.)
Playing cards are popular both in the real world and on the computer. In the former case, because the components are cheap and compact (at least when stored), and the games themselves can often be played in confined spaces, such as on the train. In the latter case, because they require only static pictures for art, and little computing power.
I suspect everybody knows at least a few of the several hundred games you can play with a standard 52-card deck. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Magic: The Gathering — a single game — has thousands of cards and counting. It is also a considerable money investment. But what lays between these extremes, and how do tabletop card cames inform their computer counterparts?
This is undoubtedly no big deal for most game developers, but all my games have been mute so far. Not by choice, either. I know people who are equally good programmers, artists and musicians, but that’s hard. Those of us who are more specialized have few real options:
It’s only natural for a gamer to dream of making their own games. The good news is, the means for doing that are available to just about anyone nowadays. The bad news is, many people shy away at the thought of having to learn programming. And while that fear is completely unfounded, getting help as a beginner is of course useful.
In part one of this article, I mentioned a number of game-making tools that make game programming much, much easier than starting from scratch. This time I’m going to look at the kind that seeks to eliminate programming altogether, at least for the most part.
Making your own games is exhilarating, and surprisingly accessible considering all the work involved. But it’s still non-trivial; computer games are software, so beginners will struggle with learning enough programming, and they’re complex, so experts will struggle with juggling all the details.
This is why people have developed various pieces of software to ease game creation, ranging from the very general, that just help with the basic framework of a game, to modding tools that only allow making more content for a specific game (although the line is easily blurred, seeing how the Starcraft 2 SDK has been used to make everything from a falling blocks game, through shooters and racing games, and all the way to a full-blown MMORPG).
In the following paragraphs, I will focus on tools that cover the middle ground between those extremes.
The one thing I like the most about game development in the 21st century is that it’s possible to do it alone, like in the good old days. Developing alone means you have freedom to experiment and to do what you know is right, and as the indie market proves, that’s a good thing. But there’s a downside to it as well: you have to be good at everything. Graphics, programming, sound — it’s all on you. And it’s hard enough to become an expert at one of these things, let alone all of them.
The obvious solution, then, is to look for a co-developer. But what if you can’t find one from the beginning, or at all? In such cases, sound is usually the first victim; you simply omit it. But with graphics, it’s not that simple.
There is a gap in my videogame repertoire. Specifically, I don’t do RPGs.
Oh, I’ve played a few of the classics (Fallout 1&2, Planescape Torment, the first Ultimas) as well as the occasional MMO. Roguelikes might count as well, depending on your definition. But for the most part I’ve played RPGs in ways that only involve computers incidentally, or not at all. Namely via forums, text based virtual worlds, or simply around a table with a few friends.
You caught me; I like to read and write a lot. But even if you’re into glitzy graphics, pen&paper RPGs (a.k.a. tabletop) might hold some points of interest for you.