No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #23

It seems appropriate that I'd have a week with few links again just as I have an announcement to make. I also have a game creation tool to review, and some ranting at the game industry, and that's enough for now so let's go.

The big news is that I'm returning to game development! I've been absent for a year, and I won't be long most likely, but still. Here's what I have so far:

Yep... that's a first-person shoot'em up with voxel art -- meaning the game is only rendered with voxels. I ran into difficulties right off the bat, which is why all I have now is scrolling scenery, but it's coming along nicely. No, I won't have a HTML5 version this time. Sorry.

Moving on... via comes the news of a rather unusual game creation tool called Nightmod. It piqued my curiosity enough for me to try it briefly. Here's what I learned.

The first detail that stands out is the scripting language used, which is Clojure -- a dialect of Lisp for the Java platform. Predictably, Nightmod comes as a 36-megabyte JAR file. That's fairly small in this day and age of giant software downloads, especially as it includes some art for the examples. The license, as stated on the GitHub site (you'll want to head over for the tutorial anyway) is public domain! That's incredibly generous for a project this size.

First impressions: I like the interface. In recent times, I've grown fed up with the traditional menu-and-dialog style of GUI, so I welcome any attempt to get away from it. Nightmod is simple and to the point. So is the tutorial actually, and even though my eyes glaze over the Lisp code, I could probably learn the system easily if I applied myself. But opening one of the examples in the IDE reveals a project structure more complex than the tutorial led me to believe, and what's worse, there's no way to pause the engine's main loop! That's terribly distracting, not to mention how much it slows down the system. I poke around at it a little more, but nothing springs to mind so I give up.

Ultimately, Nightmod appears to be similar to Love2D, except with a built-in IDE and, I think, a little more structure to the API. And since there aren't many tools in the space between drag-and-drop game generators and raw programming, it's worth a look.

In unrelated news, it's been nearly two months since Jay Barnson reported the cancellation of a World of Darkness MMO. Back then he opined that it was because of fundamental difficulties in making the intrigue-based gameplay work on a computer, and I agreed. But the whole story just came to light in The Guardian of all places, and it's an ugly tale of mismanagement. Trigger warning: programmers should breathe deeply before reading.

In all honesty, I've been in a Romanian game studio (which shall remain unnamed) during the development of a MMORPG (ditto), and things were even uglier if you can imagine that. As in, "fistfight ending at the hospital" ugly. Luckily I wasn't involved that time, but I wasted much of my career in web development butting my head against the same attitudes. This perpetual chasing of butterflies; insulting arrogance towards the guy doing the actual work; managers refusing to understand the very things they manage. Is that where those astronomical budgets are going nowadays? Into feeding ego-fueled inefficiencies?

Thanks, but I'll stick to the kinds of games I can make myself... and finish... and have fun doing it. Even if there's no money to be made. It's just better that way. And you know what? Plenty of people are nostalgic for that kind of game; an audience is pretty much guaranteed.

And speaking of games one can make without help, take a look at Fall: a game in under 512 bytes of Perl. Never mind the obfuscated code; look at the concept and gameplay. That's basically Flappy Bird right there, except running in a terminal emulator. If you can't design a game half as fun, what good is the latest technology?

But I ranted enough for a week. See you around.