No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #200: more history lessons

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our last newsletter for 2017. A disappointing edition to end a disappointing year, but sometimes it can't be helped. And hey, we've had worse. Let's get going.

To begin with: this week, after some more polishing work, I got around to making a public release of ASCII Mapper, my new tile map editor for games that have at least some basis in roguelike mechanics. And not to leave it without context, I also wrote 600 words about the whole thing.

In other news, on the 13th anniversary of KOTOR 2 (that's Knights of the Old Republic for people not versed in computer roleplaying games), Gamasutra republishes the original postmortem. Wish I could say it proved enlightening, but between the glorification of crunch — in their defense, this was a long time ago, in a faraway... no, wait — and the problems caused by overambition, something so common in the industry that they lampshade it themselves, the whole text gives the impression of one I've read many times before. Of more interest is the discussion of procedural generation applied to lightening the load of level designers, a technique that most of the industry only started noticing this side of 2010, despite PCG having been a big thing in games since at least 1980.

But hey, this is about a highly acclaimed classic in the end, and I'm sure fans will find good memories in there.

Last but not least, let's go even further back in history. Jimmy Maher, a.k.a The Digital Antiquarian, tells the story of early multiplayer online games, and it's enlightening to see how many features sold to us as novelties today were in fact a thing decades ago, when your average home computer was 8- or 16-bit (yet could still do 3D — on the CPU), hooked up to a 300-baud modem. He also points out repeatedly how back then operators weren't afraid of resetting games at regular intervals to keep them from going stale, and give newcomers a chance. Having seen what happens when you let veterans get too far ahead, with no limitation to advancement, I wish more game developers remembered that particular lesson.

Then again, Ancient Jews already knew over two thousand years ago that even the real-world economy needs to be reset every fifty years, by erasing all debts and whatnot, and look where we are now, having forgotten the real meaning of a jubilee.

Enjoy these holidays, and see you after New Year.