No Time To Play

Tag: story

Weekly Links #66

by on Apr.19, 2015, under Gamedev, News, Off-topic

Hello, everyone. In just a week, Tomb of the Snake has become the most popular game on No Time To Play. Not so much on itch.io, where traffic is conspicuously thin. I’m yet to figure out exactly why. Perhaps a dearth of non-Windows gamers on the service? More experimentation is in order.

Speaking of which, for the past four days I’ve been working on my next game, and as it turns out there is such a thing as too much color. I mean, compare these two screenshots:

I don’t know about you, but between psychedelic and girly I choose the style that doesn’t hurt my eyes. Hopefully my players will agree.

Well, on to this week’s other news.

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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.

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Weekly Links #53

by on Jan.19, 2015, under Gamedev, News

Hello, everyone. After my rant about game complexity last week, it occurred to me that someone who’s been reading this blog from the start might deem me hypocritical, seeing how I once praised the manual for Master of Orion. Then again, I learned to play the game by having a friend show me the basics for a few minutes; the manual only helped clarified a few things. Same with Civilization, or the early SimCities. So you see, it’s not about games being hard. (I never came close to winning MoO, before or after reading the manual.) It’s about games being too complicated to friggin’ play, let alone have fun with, unless you’re willing to put in countless hours.

And now, on to game development news.

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Weekly Links #48

by on Dec.09, 2014, under News, Off-topic

I was going to write a big rant about programming languages for this week, but I tried and it’s just not coming together. Suffice to say, people keep inventing new ones to fix what they perceive as wrong with the old ones. And invariably, the newcomers turn out to miss the point entirely. These days everyone is gushing over Go and Rust. Bwahahaha! Remember Vala? I didn’t think so. Or D, for that matter? Hint: the idea of “fixing C++” wasn’t born this decade. Heck, Java was born from the same misguided good intention. And we all know how that worked out.

More recently, people are inventing a bewildering array of libraries, frameworks, preprocessors and compilers with the goal of fixing what they find wrong with Javascript. Just earlier today, someone linked to a big list of them on Twitter. Turns out, I’d never heard of most… and now it’s too late because nobody uses them anymore. Already. After less than five years. While good old jQuery is still going strong.

Pro tip: technologies that endure are those that build on the past and work with it. Because if you keep tearing everything down and starting anew, you’re never going to make any real progress.

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Weekly Links #31

by on Aug.11, 2014, under Gamedev, News

I’ve no idea when my browser started supporting WebGL. It wasn’t last time I checked, but when was that? Possibly months ago… before the last OS upgrade. Oh well, that must be it.

Anyway, since it’s now working, I again tried playing with Three.js a little. Even without accelerated drivers, Mesa is a lot faster than a rendering engine in pure Javascript, and WebGL allows for some neat tricks such as fog and proper lighting. Not that it helps much.

You can use the good old WASD keys to move around. I was going for a Sentinel vibe, but failed, and cheap tricks couldn’t fill the gap. (Amusingly, using the software renderer comes closer to what I had in mind.) To top it all, I worked just as much on figuring out Three.js as I had previously on setting up various 2.5D engines from scratch. And at least this one had style.

Oh well, on to the real news.
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Weekly Links #16

by on Apr.29, 2014, under News, Review

As if to compensate for the slow week before Easter, the gaming world returned with a vengeance to give me the most links I had since this year started. Luckily I know how to prioritize, so here we go.

The big news, of course, is that I’ve been invited to a game in the Storium beta. It’s a new web-based platform for roleplaying games, currently running a Kickstarter to fund further development. I gave it a try at the insistence of an acquaintance who’s already in love with the idea. In all honesty, I was halfway intrigued by the Kickstarter video, which makes it look like StoryNexus and phpBB met and had a child before moving on.

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Game stories, the final frontier

by on Jul.22, 2013, under Opinion

Not one month has passed since I was writing about the relationship between story and medium. Barely one week since Jay Barnson argued that in an RPG the dungeon itself has to tell a story. And here’s an interview with Rhianna Pratchett reminding us yet again about the disconnected way in which AAA games get their stories. Namely as an afterthought, tacked on to generic levels and enemies.

I’ve heard people say that Planescape Torment, a game much praised for its story, actually has a mediocre one that wouldn’t pass muster in a novel. Perhaps. But what story it does have pervades every little corner of the game, to the point that dungeon fixtures and even an entire neighborhood of the city turn out to be self-aware NPCs with little stories of their own, in which you become enmeshed as opposed to merely hearing them out.

Take any game famous for its story (of which there aren’t many at all) and you’ll probably find that it shares this same trait: the story is integral and fundamental to its entire design. That, more than some vague notion of “quality”, is what players notice and appreciate, even if they’re not aware of it. That and agency: taking part in the story as opposed to being a spectator. Which doesn’t fly even in “static” media; why do you think fan fiction is so popular?

The medium is the message, folks. Learn to see things as a whole.

Creative Commons License
Game stories, the final frontier by Felix Pleșoianu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Stories and their media

by on Jun.29, 2013, under Opinion

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.

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Two articles about stories in games

by on Aug.17, 2012, under News

Stories in games. It’s the discussion topic that never dies, probably because it’s one of the few problems in game development that’s fundamentally hard. This time we have a short article and a long one.

I’ll start with IndieGames.com’s summary of a GDC talk, which points out the most obvious culprit: game developers insisting to tell a story to the player instead of telling a story together with the player, as would befit an interactive medium. And while I’ll be the first to claim that storytelling is hard, and interactive storytelling doubly so, trying to control the experience and deliver a perfect show — both dangerous chimeras — makes it infinitely harder.

Ah, but then we get to this lengthy interview by Emily Short with a game developer who apparently gets it right for a change — and how! I haven’t played the games in question, but it sounds like they take interactive storytelling to a whole new level. It’s heady stuff, and Ms. Short seems convinced by it, which is a very good sign. There’s some good advice in there as well — on how to handle combinatorial explosion — which is equally applicable to less ambitious projects.

But mostly, I appreciate it as a show of what’s possible in this direction. We could use more encouraging examples like that.

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Still on hiatus

by on Dec.13, 2011, under News

So, the project that has kept me busy as of late has ended, poorly (making current again something I wrote over a year ago). But all my recent reading triggered something in me, and instead of going back to coding games, I started writing fiction again for the first time in years. And this time, it seems I’m onto something.

As an amusing coincidence, the issue of storytelling in games has recently resurfaced. You may have noticed Kelketek’s earlier post, but the Rampant Coyote also chimed in, even twice, not to mention this post on how improvisational theater can inform game stories. And it just happens that storytelling is the one other skill (beyond coding and art) I need in order to make serious games.

But first to get something done.

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