GameDev News for 15 January 2021

Hello, everyone! I got around to making a backup of the wiki and running maintenance after not much activity since October. Turns out it's now down to 301 pages, just about where I wanted it. There's more to do, mind: I was asked to make a dedicated book section on the site, which was my plan too for a while now, but other things always seemed more important.

Speaking of which: while games will have to take a backseat here for the rest of the winter, in March Tomb of the Snake will be 6 years old, and it would be nice to give it a third release. Can't say much otherwise, outside of the vague plans outlined before the holidays. So instead, let's see some news from the internet at large:

Last but not least, I have more extended commentary for you about the first entry in a digital archaeology project that just started and will go on for the entire years. Details after the cut.

Read more... Tags: meta, rpg, classics, critique, strategy

GameDev News for 5 January 2021

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the first newsletter of a new year. While activity is picking up nicely enough, news worth mentioning aren't any more numerous than usual. Doesn't help that I'm still not back into making games and I'm not sure when that will happen. Doubly so after the fateful decision I made and announced on Christmas day. You'll be first to know.

Meanwhile, let's see the news. Over the holidays, we've had:

  • A Switch-lookalike portable console running Ubuntu, and apparently focused on emulation, because of course. In other words, yet another product nerds like me will love the idea of, and dream of buying, but hardly anyone is actually going to. Hasn't this happened enough times before? Most people don't want Linux. They've decided so, because reasons, and nothing we do or say is ever going to change anyone's mind. We really need to refocus our efforts.
  • The long-awaited release of Ultima Ratio Regum 0.8: that epic, quixotic roguelike research project. It took five years, and it's ironic how in the end the biggest stumbling block was migrating to Python 3 and new tools. Don't you dare complain about planned obsolescence ever again if you agree with Python 2 being abandoned; you can't blame a greedy corporation on this one. Look how much effort it took to redo perfectly working software, and for what? Because nerds don't want to pay the price of popularity?
  • On a more cheerful note, we have a French language article about Texture, the interactive fiction authoring tool. Namely, a discussion of its affordances, and how they shape any games made with it.

Last but not least, see below the cut for a longer comment on a somewhat surprising topic. Cheers!

Read more... Tags: hardware, roguelikes, interactive fiction, graphics, technology, history

GameDev News for 25 December 2020

Merry Christmas, everyone! Having planned to post a newsletter on this day rather than taking a break, I hoped to make it especially good. That didn't quite work out, but enjoy anyway. Least I can do while working on things not connected to games.

Speaking of which: a word about my plans in 2021 is in order. I hope to keep going for another twelve to eighteen months; after that however, No Time To Play is winding down, most likely. While I still have faithful readers, there are only a few in a big sea of silence. With an uncertain future ahead and little to struggle for... something will need to change. Sorry about that.

In the mean time, let's see the end-of-year news.

Last but not least, last Friday The Digital Antiquarian posted a history of Lode Runner, which is also well worth a read. With that, be well these holidays, and see you next year!

Tags: meta, interview, tools, accessibility, classics, history

GameDev News for 15 December 2020

Hello, everyone! I forgot to mark the start last time, so let me at least mark the ending: as of a day ago, PROCJAM 2020 is complete, with over two hundred entries to look at. Haven't done that yet myself, so you're on your own.

This time there aren't many news of interest otherwise, so I'm gonna try to provide a little commentary:

  • First, we have a personal write-up about Experiencing a classic for the first time: DOOM (1993) (Gemini Protocol link). How ironic to see it described as a "FPS distilled to its essence" when it was later games that burdened the nascent genre with unwanted baggage. The original Doom was seminal precisely because it was so pure! That said, it's good to see people enjoy a classic like that in 2020. Gee, you mean polygon counts aren't everything? We've only been shouting that from the rooftops for years! Ten and a half in the case of No Time To Play.
  • Then comes a brief history of cyberpunk games, courtesy of Eurogamer. No prize for guessing the occasion. It includes classics, games no-one's heard about, and one entry that's as surprising as it is a perfect fit in retrospect. Glad to see people talk about the themes of cyberpunk again, as more and more of them figure out that the aesthetics were superficial and hollow.
  • Thirdly, just this morning I learned that retrogaming fans are about to get the First New Dizzy Game in 26 Years. And yes, it's designed by the Oliver Twins then implemented by people who had worked on Dizzy games before. How cool is that?

It would be nice to cap this newsletter with one last link, but I simply don't have anything. This blog will be on autopilot for a while, as I'm busy writing fiction instead. That, and it keeps getting harder to find truly worthwhile news. Something's got to change.

Meanwhile, have fun and don't stop creating beauty.

Tags: procedural generation, game jam, shooter, retrogaming, meta

GameDev News for 5 December 2020

I almost didn't write this newsletter at all. Burnout is a terrible thing. My feeble attempt to work on a very simple game lately petered out after a few days, and there hasn't been much to do with the website either. Well apart from recovering an old unfinished essay about stories in games. Been doing a lot of that lately. Could be worse. And well, preservation is important.

Speaking of which: just after posting the previous newsletter, I came across this dive into Monkey Island's source code occasioned by the game's 30th anniversary. Not much to say about that except it's worth a read.

In unrelated news, I got pointed at an older article where 80.lv asks, Is Blender Becoming An Industry Standard? Note how the predictable answer ("no, not yet") isn't due to any failings on Blender's part but to the difficulty of unseating the incumbents. Who else is not surprised.

Last but not least, The Digital Antiquarian continues the new series on videogame critique, this time with Colonization. Which was rightly called out over the years for the horribly racist and colonialist assumptions encoded in its design choices. Which doesn't make it any worse as a strategy game! It's still one of my all time favorites, gameplay-wise. That however doesn't excuse the way it engages with its subject matter... or should I say it doesn't? Read and judge for yourself.

(As an aside: note how ironic, in context, is Jimmy's casual statement that the principles of European 18th century music are somehow universal. Practitioners of Gregorian chant, never mind those of more distant traditions in space and time, might want a word.)

Before concluding, let me point out that the voting period for IFComp 2020 is now over, though winners are yet to be announced. Oh well, until next time, have fun and keep loving games.

Tags: graphics, preservation, critique

GameDev News for 25 November 2020

Hello, everyone! I'm at a loss for what to work on next. I tried revisiting some old game concepts, but nothing concrete yet. Maybe one of these:

  • A strategy and/or RPG building on the premise of Space Cruiser Orion; I have a blurb, and the seeds of a rule system, but it needs a lot more work.
  • Some sort of narrative game, since I've been more and more in a writing mood again lately. But my interactive fiction has been poorly received, so it would have to be some other genre.

Either way, for now it's just daydreaming, so let's move on. In the way of news, today we have just a couple of items:

Apart from that, we have two pieces of videogame critique:

But that's pretty much all for today, so see you next time. Cheers!

Tags: graphics, technology, history, critique

GameDev News for 15 November 2020: roguelike edition

Hello, everyone! I tried resuming work on my new roguelike this week, with little success. Instead I turned my attention to the site again, and at long last made an arcade game section. I thought there would be more links, at least, but oh well. Now I know which game genres to give more attention. And having dedicated pages for each genre I made a game in, that's a nice touch.

I also played around some with compilers and virtual machines trying to figure out some stuff, but I'm not even sure how best to sum it up. So instead, let's look at the news. Not that we have many this time:

  • First, What “Roguelike” Meant, an unusual history of the genre, starting around the time it began to be recognized as such and given a name. Expect lots of cane-waving and cries of "get off my lawn!" It's worth a read anyway for the different perspective.
  • Then, Exploring the Concept of a Terminal Roguelike “Overmap”: a clever solution for creating minimaps in a text-based roguelike that obeys a strict character grid, by using a kind of 4x zoom. Obviously that's not much, and not nearly as useful as what you can do in a graphical game. Like I did in mine, very easily, and to great effect.
  • And from Tumblr of all places, Game Design Fundamentals: Granting sight beyond sight, an illustrated write-up about how to balance your need to showcase fancy graphics against the players' need to see what's going on in the game they're trying to navigate.

Last but not least, Mark Johnson chronicles his adventures in migrating old Python 2.7 code to a newer, supported version of the language.

Imagine if civil engineers one day decided to "upgrade" every road and make them all wavy, and when carmakers complained about having to put square wheels on existing cars that were working just fine, all they'd hear was "upgrade! progress! how long should we keep backwards compatibility?"

For as long as it takes, techie. You wanted to be important, after all.

Tags: meta, roguelike, graphics, game design, programming

GameDev News for 5 November 2020

Hello, everyone! I spent the last week of October working on a new roguelike prototype in Python and Pygame, spurred by my previous research. On Friday, it was looking like this:

Early game screenshot showing a colorful roguelike display (with ASCII characters) in a graphical window.

It was coming along quite well, too, but in the mean time I burnt out, and it's hard to code these days anyway, for domestic reasons. Might as well set it aside until conditions improve.

In the way of news, as covered by HackADay and GameDev.net, last week marked a big anniversary: version 2.0 of the Pygame library was released, right on the project's 20th birthday. Too bad this milestone was marred by the official community on Discord closing down less than a week later. Long story. Suffice to say, Pygame is everywhere... but apart from a few games published by contributors to the library, there's hardly anything made with it out there, not even included in Linux distributions where it would be easy to do so. High school students who find it on their curriculum in France or the UK might rightfully ask why they have to learn how to use it instead of, you know, Processing. And that's too bad.

No, that's not why we closed down. But now I have to reconsider some things.

To end on a happier note, we have a very good write-up titled Game Engines: A False Dichotomy, which is just what it sounds like, and very interesting. But that's pretty much it this time again. Guess people were busy with politics recently instead. Oh well. Until mid-month then, and have fun!

Tags: meta, roguelike, programming, community, education, critique

GameDev News for 25 October 2020

Hello, everyone! My big porting project concluded a few days ago, yielding another couple of useful results:

Had plans to try and make a little something based on what I've learned, but needed a break first.

Anyway, on to the big news this week. Maybe you've heard how soon you'll need a Microsoft account to keep playing Minecraft. Remember when people cheered for Mojang being acquired? I hope you're still happy.

And that's all I'm going to say about it, because we have much more pleasant things to write about. Not so many comments.

  • First, A New Way To Think About Your Favorite Game’s Code, in which Frank Cifaldi and Kelsey Lewin, co-directors of the Video Game History Foundation, explain their new project, namely...
  • The Video Game Source Project. Which is great, but may I remind you that my games and many others are already open source, and could use a few mirrors. Guess it's not as fun if we want to share, is it?
  • Still in the way of videogame preservation, you might want to read La Grande Aventure: the story of the first text adventure in French, and how it ties into the early home computer scene.
  • And still about text-based games, we have a write-up on Using Game Design to Make Virtual Events More Social. That's about the recent Roguelike Celebration, by the way: an event I mentioned briefly in the previous newsletter.
  • Or if you care more about the business side of things, here's some Money for the honey! i.e. a look at Hive Time's finances and pay-what-you-want pricing. I must have mentioned this game before too, having been lucky enough to follow its development in real time.

Last but not least, these days The Digital Antiquarian covers Master of Magic, while HG101 does The Lurking Horror. And that's it for today because the newsletter has grown big enough already. Enjoy!

Tags: roguelike, interactive fiction, strategy

GameDev News for 15 October 2020: roguelike edition

Hello, everyone, and welcome to a thematic edition of the newsletter. We haven't had one in some time. See, I've spent the past couple of weeks learning a new programming language, under the guise of reviving an old rogue-lite prototype. You might have noticed my previous posts here:

That was a good opportunity to clean up and fix the original Glittering Light prototype, that only a few friends got to play so far. If you did, the main differences are:

  • the fog of war now works, and it's great to see the dungeon light up as you move around (in a terminal emulator!)
  • code is much cleaner, and makes use of advanced Python features I somehow only learned this spring.

Now to see about the native port, and hopefully next year Tomb of the Snake can get the same treatment. Meanwhile, let's see the news:

That's all for today, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. See you next time!

Tags: meta, roguelike, community, game design