No Time To Play

Tag: roguelike

Weekly Links #187

by on Sep.10, 2017, under Case study, News

Hello, everyone. I didn’t have any room left in the last newsletter, but the new Escape From Cnossus has been released! It took a while, but better late than never. Even more awesome is that the original Spectrum game, along with its older brother Spectral Dungeons, can now be preordered on tape from Bumfun Gaming. The latter is only for hardcore retrogamers, of course; any profits will go to charities and/or tool developers in the scene.

In other news, Introcomp 2017 has ended, and in an unrelated but historic decision, video game writers can now be nominated for a Nebula. Last but not least, game developers might like this little case study in optimization from fluffy, my friend and frequent commenter.

And now, about the future of No Time To Play. Last week’s incident shook me. We’re still not out of the woods, though I’m staying on top of things for a change. But the magic has been broken. It’s painfully obvious how much this site has stagnated, even as the name has spread to other places. We have all this wealth of articles, news and links, all relying for presentation on a lumbering app that’s getting harder to customize as time goes by, and can’t really be trusted anymore.

We need a complete revamp… and I can’t see it. Not yet, anyway. But something has to give.

Thanks for staying with us through rocky times, past and coming.

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Weekly Links #182

by on Aug.06, 2017, under Gamedev, News

Hello, everyone. Having been away for a couple of days, I was left with few links for the week. It’s for the best, then, to announce a surprise project:

Yep, it’s a desktop port of Escape From Cnossus, an exercise in figuring out just how much to update now that all those 8-bit limitations are entirely gone. Not going to say much more right now; hopefully next week.

In other news, it’s game jam season (not that it ever ends anymore). Ludum Dare 39 took place last weekend, and while I didn’t follow, this rogue-lite for the Pico-8 is surprisingly good. But one a year is plenty enough for me.

Last but not least, Emily Short reviews Chris Crawford’s latest book — always an interesting discussion — and Konstatinos Dimopoulos continues his series of articles on medieval cities, with many lessons to take home. But the gist is: keep in mind that cities are alive, born out of the needs and dreams and day-to-day existence of people who use them for a home, temporary refuge or simply a pit stop. Treat them as the result of ongoing social processes at work, not as static artifacts born whole, and you’ll do fine.

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User interfaces in text-based games

by on Dec.18, 2016, under Case study

Maybe I write too much about text-based games, but in my defense the written word is awesome. It’s the closest you get to a digital medium without actual computers (what, with letters and words being discrete symbols by definition), and one of the most flexible as well. Communication doesn’t get more pure than a stream of symbols flowing back and forth; you can write them down on paper, ticker tape, or walls, going left or right, up or down, and even lay them out in three dimensions, as the Ancient Egyptians amply demonstrated. You do have to pick one path when reading, but hey, that’s what we call hypertext nowadays.

Early computer games, from Hamurabi (Doug Dyment, 1968) to Adventure (Will Crowther, 1976) were limited to a linear stream of text, simply because they had to run on teletypes. For the same reason, input was also limited to typing words on a keyboard. But that limitation also meant you exchanged words with the computer from equal footing — what people in the real world call a chat.

And so, a command line remained the defining way to interact with text adventures, helpers like a clickable compass rose notwithstanding. Oh, there were always a few games that tried to emulate the pick-a-choice interface popularized by gamebooks in the 1980s. But those were hardly on anyone’s radar until 2009, when Twine swooped in. At which point it became impossible to ignore all the people shouting that the emperor is naked.

(continue reading…)

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Weekly Links #127

by on Jul.03, 2016, under Gamedev, News

Hello, everyone. This week felt like very slow progress, but after a long coding session yesterday, the game ended up nearly complete:

glittering-20160702-2

Not depicted: the horrible screen flickering every time you make a move on higher zoom levels; hopefully it will go away on more powerful computers, because clearly double buffering in sdlBasic isn’t working the way I thought. But hey, it runs, and looks just fine too. Water is surprisingly nice for such a simple trick, and knowing the exact screen aspect ration enabled me to come up with a nice non-verbal HUD — the minimap is displayed on-demand like in the new online version. Speaking of which, I found a bug in the latter that made speed boosts basically useless by the time you found any. Going to upload a fix soon, along with the desktop port.

In other news, this week I found yet another HTML5 library to ease roguelike development. Unlike the competition, rl.js is a single 600-line file, and doesn’t try to include the kitchen sink. It handles input, output, tilesets — including procedural art features — and manages the map, including collisions. In other words, a focused (and very well documented) product. Only its use of the General Public License is a potential obstacle.

Still on the same topic, there’s a new roguelike review blog in town, and it might just be worth following for a fresh perspective. And speaking of perspectives, just yesterday I was pointed at an academic, yet quite readable, article on diversity in games with procedural generation. Tl;dr version: the data structures and algorithms we use, even the programming languages, encode biases and assumptions, of which we have to be aware, lest we end up conveying unintended messages.

Last but not least, the news surfaced a few days ago of the brand-new Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, which aims to future-proof certain tools and services the IF community has come to depend on. A most welcome initiative.

But I’m over my quota again. Until next week, code mindfully.

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Weekly Links #124

by on Jun.12, 2016, under Gamedev, News

Hello, everyone. Once again I have a newsletter with none of the links promised in the title (well, one — see below). At least I have a screenshot for you, after a little coding marathon yesterday:

tots-20160611

It’s all very early, of course, but the switch to graphical tiles already reveals multiple problems with the village level generator, that ASCII art was concealing. And it’s beginning to dawn on me that I won’t be able to sell this new version either, despite the fact that it will take a lot more work than expected. Not with all the free games out there looking much better. But hey, I’m learning things, and if it appeals to people other than UNIX beards for a change, it’s already a win.

Speaking of which. I’m using a Creative Commons tileset by David Gervais (via the downloads on Open Game Art). If it looks unimpressive, well, blame my relatively primitive level generation; those tiles are capable of much more. And while they look individually tiny, collectively they allow for a fairly generous game window — one that still fits on cheap laptop screens. But boy, was it tricky to think of a good window size and layout! What is it with pixel art being largely stuck in the NES era? The Super Nintendo already used tiles of 64×64 pixels a quarter of a century ago — not that tiles have to be square. But more about that in an upcoming article, if I manage to order my thoughts about it.

Until then, don’t dismiss retro graphics.

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Weekly Links #123

by on Jun.05, 2016, under Gamedev, News

Hello, everyone. After a week lost to false starts and self-doubt, I’m ready to announce that my roguelike Tomb of the Snake will be getting a graphical port for Windows and Linux, more than a year after launch. The “graphical” part is central, because it will make the game appealing to more people, and also it will keep things fresh for me. Not that I’m looking forward to designing an inventory screen from scratch, but it beats being bored.

In other news, this week Shamus Young wrote about the mistakes Doom didn’t make (that would be the new one, not the 1993 original), and the quest designers of Witcher 3 wrote about their approach. But more interesting to me is an article Nightwrath sent about a new trend in retro game aesthetics. Remember two years ago when a blogger was complaining about the supposed ugliness of early 3D games? Turns out, people actually like that look enough to revive it on a wide scale these days, introducing a whole new generation of gamers to the pleasures of using their imagination.

Once again, it turns out style matters. Do you have a favorite game aesthetic?

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Weekly Links #104

by on Jan.24, 2016, under News

It feels so good when links worth sharing appear to seek me out on their own. I’ll start with a couple of retrospectives. For once, Hardcore Gaming 101 runs a feature on a modern game, that only seeks to emulate the classics: L’Abbaye des morts. I remember it being widely discussed on the World of Spectrum forums, and never realizing it first saw life as a PC game. Fun!

On a similar note, PC Games has a postmortem of Lemmings. It’s not the first one I mention here on No Time To Play, but there’s always something new to learn, so all is well.

In unrelated news, it turns out that personal games (a topic I mention with increasing frequency) are becoming mainstream, as evidenced by this article in The Telegraph. Good news indeed. And while I stopped following the Don’t Die project some time ago, there’s the occasional interview I simply can’t miss. This one covers many of the ugly problems with the modern game industry, from the endless crunch mode that’s the normal way of life for developers, through burnout, abusive behavior online and back to the killing of creativity. Along the way, they even find the time for a jab at virtual reality, a piece of tech everybody always seems to want except for the buying public. But sure, this time it just has to catch on. Or else next time. Just like we’ve been saying for decades now.

Last but not least, I just found out about a 20-part tutorial on making your own roguelike in Java. I haven’t looked at it, but from the table of contents it looks pretty detailed. And then there’s an article about making games more accessible through visual cues and other forms of assistance. Which promptly reminded me of Cheetah’s old plead for configurable games. Because we don’t all have the same abilities, even if you don’t factor in the little issue of gamer aging.

Until next week, help combat snobbery in gaming.

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Weekly Links #80

by on Jul.26, 2015, under News

It was another of those weeks when I had to wait for the weekend to find any links at all. On the plus side, there are a whole bunch of new tabletop games listed in our annotated RPG links. Since I’ve been working on one of those, there was little else on my mind as of late.

Anyway, in the way of cool things happening, Nightwrath alerted me of someone from Reddit putting together a huge torrent of around 700 roguelikes. The really cool thing? The list includes my own Tomb of the Snake. Yaaay!

And because it’s been a while since I mentioned anything related to game development theory, Jay Barnson writes about the way better graphics lead to a look-but-don’t-touch effect.

Annoyingly enough, this is all for today, despite my best efforts. Oh well, until next week.

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Weekly Links #65

by on Apr.12, 2015, under Gamedev, News

Hello, everyone! By the time you’re reading this, Tomb of the Snake is out, three days ahead of schedule — mostly because I cut one last feature, but also because it seemed fitting to announce it on my usual posting day. (That it happens to coincide with Easter in my neck of the woods is more on the awkward side.) Here’s what you’re getting:

It’s both more and less than I hoped for. It’s no big deal, certainly not perfect, but it fills an underserved niche or two, and it was a surprising amount of work for what’s in there. Get the game from itch.io, on GitHub or even here on No Time To Play. I hope you enjoy it, and remember: feedback is welcome!

Now on to the few other news I have this week.

(continue reading…)

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Weekly Links #64

by on Apr.05, 2015, under Gamedev, Miscellaneous, News

Did I ever tell you about my friend Sera? She’s a very geeky girl who likes videogames and anime a lot. I’ve been meaning to highlight her Let’s Play series here for a while now, but couldn’t pick a suitable video — we have very different tastes in gaming. But recently she posted this:

Now that looks like a lot of fun. Sexist fun, as Sera points out in the video, but some girls like boobs too, you know? It can be forgiven for once. So, enjoy. And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out Sera’s fundaiser. (Yes, she’s transgender, and she needs your help. Any bigoted comments will be deleted. I don’t care.)

Now on to the few gamedev news I have this week.

(continue reading…)

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