Hello, everyone! Despite difficulties that nearly killed the event, Ludum Dare 36 took place last weekend. My friends Chip Caramel and Jimun were at it again, and came up with their best game yet. Check this out:
Around the same time, I was briefly involved in a Tumblr conversation about the point of videogames, and the consensus is what I’ve been pointing out for years now: that games express themselves through the way they interact with players, and unless a game mechanic is front and center, what you have isn’t a game. Read for details.
On a similar note, Alexis Kennedy of Fallen London and Sunless Sea fame explains why more content won’t save your game — a write-up that starts kind of abruptly, but has a lot to say by the end. And still in the game design department, here’s the first installment in a comparative history of videogames from the perspective of inventory systems. Knowing how tricky it is to make a good one, I say that’s as useful as it is unusual.
I’ll end with a little bit of history. Remember a while ago when Jason Scott recovered the source code for the original Prince of Persia? Turns out he’s been at it again, making available previously unknown alpha and beta builds of Karateka — Jordan Mechner’s other classic. Game designers can now see how the seminal beat’em up took shape, and that’s no less important than writers being able to read the early drafts of famous novels or poems from centuries past.
On that thought, I’ll leave you enjoy the Sunday. Have a great next week.
Hello, everyone. I don’t have much patience to watch video anymore, so when something on YouTube catches my eyes these days, there’s a good reason. Via Konstantinos Dimopoulos, here’s a short documentary about the much-maligned CGA graphics the IBM PC originally launched with, and its many hidden qualities.
Speaking of retro graphics, Jay Barnson alerts his readers of the just-started Low Rez Game Jam, that challenges entrants to make a game running in just 64×64 pixels! That may seem too restrictive — less than the Game Boy — but as I pointed out in the past, creative people have been able to make do with only 16×16! What can you do with 16 times as much?
In unrelated news, the authors of 80 Days recently wrote about the decision to open source their development tool. Among various details, one thing that grabbed my eye was the idea that the story always moves forward if you don’t specify anything else. Which is not unlike how Ren’Py works, and answers one of the thorniest questions in interactive storytelling. But more of this in a future article. For now, while we’re on the topic of interactive fiction, Emily Short just posted a brief bibliography about IF history, which just so happens to include material of particular interest to regular readers of No Time To Play.
I had one more link for today, but it warrants much ampler commentary, so I’m leaving it for another write-up. Stay tuned.
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.
Having recently worked on two projects that involve voxels, I couldn’t help but notice that for an obsolete rendering technology there seem to be quite a few game engines based on them. Most are quite different from the kind of thing I do (though many seem to rely on procedural generation… why am I not surprised). But a friend just pointed me at the current Humble Indie Bundle, and it includes one project that features remarkable similarities to my own work.
Note the pseudo-3D camera (with just two degrees of freedom!) and the very small scene size — 128x128x64, probably chosen because it’s near the psychological treshold of one million voxels. It also has physics — and I don’t understand why everyone sees “voxels” and thinks “destructible environments” — plus a manual editor of the sort I recently criticized, but which may work well enough if all you’re ever making with it is tiny “3D tiles”, as the case appears to be here.
Also, why is everyone so keen on releasing their engine and toolchain before they have a solid game made with them?
This week I was supposed to rant about my work in progress some more, but I just so happen to have a bunch of links to discuss, so I’ll just show you this:
Yes, after many wasted days and a coding marathon, the basic gameplay is all in place. The game is fast, furious and fun. And I just spent entirely too much time putting together a miserable animated GIF. Don’t worry, you’re not missing much; sound isn’t in yet.
Let me tell you how I ended up with that. Read and laugh. Or weep, as the case may be.
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.
I must be getting used to this. Despite the fact that I was really busy over the weekend (the good kind of busy, mind), a good bunch of links accumulated here. It’s going to be a very visual issue, so let’s get to the point.
You know I’m a big fan of Lords of Midnight, possibly the most unique strategy game ever. More than once, I decried the fact that ever since the original ZX Spectrum release nobody quite managed another title like it — even the official sequel wasn’t as beloved. At least there’s the modern edition keeping it alive.
Well, IndieGames.com alerts us of a brand new game based on the same concept, with an Arabian Nights theme and all the goodies one would expect from a game made in 2014. See for yourselves:
Never mind playing it… wish I would have made Legions of Ashworld myself. Good work there, folks.
It doesn’t happen often that I have one overarching theme for this newsletter; usually it’s just that I discuss a single link at length. This time it’s different. Get ready for yet another big rant about 3D graphics. But not just yet.
I want to start with a little video. Via Shamus Young, here’s a fascinating viewpoint on what the mechanics of Civilization (the game) betray about the developers’ view on the actual human civilization. Too long, didn’t watch version: remember Fry’s reaction to the theme park version of history in the pilot episode of Futurama?
Incidentally, the point they make in the video is very similar to Aaron Reed’s critique of the Star Wars prequels from a few months ago: somehow, along the way, we’ve grown used to the idea that history is a preordained series of events, rather than being shaped naturally by the actions and interactions of many individuals. To the degree that we acknowledge people at all, it’s a handful of historical figures seen as demigods who did everything by themselves…
Troubling, isn’t it?
As of late, I’ve repeatedly posted links about the current generation of consoles and their woes. (Of which every generation seems to have plenty.) So it’s funny that just now a friend would point me at this older (from December 2013) video doing a first look at SteamOS.
As someone who’s been using Linux for nearly 15 years, I think I know what’s going on here. And it’s not very flattering for Valve.
March just ended, and with it another week in which gaming news were few, but big. And the biggest, of course is that the Oculus Rift virtual reality system was sold to Facebook. Which, as you might expect, angered the fans who had kickstarted the project initially. And the surprising thing here is that a lot of people didn’t understand why…
Look. When you sell me something, or give me something… when you invite me to edit Wikipedia or contribute to an open source project… Heck, even a simple comment box on a blog post creates an implicit promise. Which people will expect you to keep. It doesn’t matter that the price was fair for what they got. What matters is they don’t feel cheated. Even if no money changed hands, trust is a currency. This is doubly true for Kickstarter, where people sell promises outright. Which they sometimes break simply by failing to do what they promised. But to succeed and then sell out, after you asked people for money specifically so you won’t have to sell out? That’s the entire point of kickstarting! How did you expect people to react?!