No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #57

I shouldn't have continued this newsletter past New Year. Once again all I have for you is a couple of links, and not even a progress report, having failed to keep working on my game. At least I learned a new thing or two, but my enthusiasm truly is gone and it's time to admit it.

So here's a resolution: no matter what happens, this newsletter ends with issue #75, right before No Time To Play's fifth anniversary. There's a good chance I won't have the money to renew the domain anyway, in which case it's all moot. Sorry about that.

But for now, this week's topics are game accessibility and artificial intelligence — two things I care about despite not being very skilled in providing either.

Now, accessibility is a vast and complex topic. The word can mean many different things, and this Polygon article kind of mixes them together. But they do have a point: as I mentioned in a recent newsletter, a lot of modern games are just too hard to get into, and not as in hard to win, but as in simply getting started.

See, when you say "accessibility", most people think you mean catering to people with color blindness, hearing impairments or dyslexia. And those are definitely issues to keep in mind! (Games with full voice over and no captions, I'm looking at you.) But people can have trouble playing a game for much simpler reasons:

I'm sure you can already imagine solutions to some of the above, for example keeping text short and simple unless it's dialogue in an RPG or some such (and even then; nobody likes purple prose). For more tricky aspects, there are books, interest groups and so on. But most importantly, always remember the difference between challenge (it takes decades to master the game of Go) and simply playing (you can teach someone the game in 5 minutes). It should never be a problem for your players to figure out what they're supposed to do, or to remember which button does what — not to mention reach all of them.

On to part two. Over at Rock, Paper Shotgun, Michael Cook of Procedural Game Jam fame is starting a series of articles on artificial intelligence in games. Amusing how predictions about the future of game AI in the 2000s parallel those about general AI half a century before. Clearly, people never learn. Seriously, why do we keep trying to make computers better at what we already do well, instead of having them complement humans with their own strenghts? It wasn't so long ago that I praised a game for being just fine without any AI at all, and it's not so hard to add an absolute minimum — most game "AI" really is just smoke and mirrors, very simple rules like those governing ants. But people keep dreaming of playing chess again HAL 9000 or something...

That said, I was surprised to hear that players think an enemy is smarter simply because it takes longer to die. Something to keep in mind.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading.