GameDev News for 5 May 2021 (interactive fiction edition)

Hello, everyone! I rested for a while after releasing WireView 3D, but soon started thinking of another tool to make. After a false start, it's now coming along nicely, and should be done by mid-May. Watch the side channels until then, and for today, let's see the news.

I'll start with a question: In Dungeons and Dragons you can be almost anything, so why the backlash over a combat wheelchair? Read the article to find out, though you probably suspect. And otherwise we have some headlines from the world of interactive fiction. In reverse chronological order:

Last but not least, let me highlight this Android game I've been playing called Fateful Lore: a cute little JRPG that doesn't take itself seriously and only wants you to have fun with it. Playable in 15-minute bursts, without a map or notes, and very forgiving, this is more like running around a big backyard whacking weeds with a stick and getting chased by scary-looking bugs.

Which makes it just the thing for me. Until next time, enjoy, and see you!

Tags: meta, rpg, representation, interactive fiction, tools

GameDev News for 25 April 2021

It took some work, but I got it done in time for this newsletter. Behold, the native port of WireView 3D:

Screenshot of an application showing a futuristic aircraft rendered in wireframe 3D, with a chalkboard-like effect.

It's hosted on the companion website, like many things I made lately, but no less worthy for that. In fact, people seem to love the idea. And that's very encouraging.

Until the next cool thing to make, let's see the news, for once under the cut.

Read more... Tags: graphics, interactive fiction, tools, indie, hardware

GameDev News for 15 April 2021

Hello, everyone! After messing with old computers for most of the month so far, including a couple trips to the repair shop (one unscheduled), this week I'm finally coding again. Remember my old Stereo Imagination suite? Well, it's getting a native port, or maybe an offshoot, depending on how you look at it. Either way, it's working out great so far, and I can't wait to show you. Might take a while however.

Meanwhile, let's see what headlines are worth mentioning halfway through April:

  • You know what's scary? It's been almost three decades since videogames first got an audience rating system, and countless scientific studies later we still have to spend too much time defending the reality that videogames don't cause violence. Makes me wonder if this idea will ever die.
  • On a different note: How different can you make a Lights Out-style game? Hardcore Gaming 101 gives the answer with this retrospective of an obscure homebrew title for a doomed console. And maybe there are some lessons to learn for other game designers.
  • Even better: Never realized before that Star Fox came out in the same year as Doom. Talk about 3D shooters throwing a one-two punch, on consoles and PCs at the same time; an older material from the game's big anniversary three years ago.

Last but not least, several sources point me at this new open source, experimental, and tiny tools roundup, as its creator calls it; really more of a directory, with tags and filtering. Submissions are open, and handled promptly. Nice selection already, too, that really brings into perspective just how much we have to work with nowadays.

But that's it for today. Enjoy, and see you next time!

Tags: meta, business, game design, shooter, history, tools

GameDev News for 5 April 2021

Hello, everyone! Looks like this year I'll focus mostly on ports. The first one is a modest old game, Lost in the Jungle, that now runs natively in Linux for what it's worth. By the way: turns out I can easily and reliably build for 32-bit Linux again, so don't throw out that old PC yet!

More news to come. In the mean time, let's see the latest headlines:

  • Once again game stores are shutting down, and once again people are discussing how we could (and should) preserve all those games. And yes, it's tricky not just due to copyrights, or new consoles coming up all the time. I hadn't even thought about issues like TV plugs! But you know... having just made yet another game port, with more on the way, I can't help but think that if even one of the platforms I make my games for survives, so will the games, even if they weren't open source, and they are. That alone is reason to port them widely. Even if we're no longer in the Tower of Babel that was the 80s computing. Oh wait. The simple, self-contained machines from back then are precisely those most easily emulated nowadays, whose games will run forever.
  • Ever wanted to know what Jane Jensen was up to after Gabriel Knight and Sierra stopped being a thing? I hadn't thought of that, but Vice Magazine has us covered. It's a fascinating story, too, and it made me realize something. Just like real-time strategies didn't go anywhere but simply evolved into more focused genres like tower defense and MOBA, adventures became many little things, like room escape games, hidden object games and walking simulators. And there's nothing wrong with that, though it does betray an environment where few games can be large and ambitious anymore. But the wheel still turns.
  • On the RPG.net forums there's another excellent discussion about worldbuilding, specifically how to rationalize fantastic elements, and the consensus appears to be, don't sweat the details! It's fantasy, not hard sci-fi, that's kind of the whole point. And having recently written a novella of my own, in a new setting that runs on surrealism, I can tell you that 1) it's exactly what readers loved about it, and 2) it still has a surprising amount of internal logic. Despite being devised on the fly, or as I like to think, because of that. So yeah. Just worry about telling a good story.

Last but not least, as of a few days ago the Spring Thing 2021 games are out, and the IntFiction.org forums are abuzz with reviews. Enjoy, and see you next time!

Tags: meta, preservation, adventure, rpg, worldbuilding

GameDev News for 25 March 2021

The stress of ongoing world events must be really getting to me this time. Can't remember another 7DRL edition where not a single game caught my eye. And there aren't many news either, so let me tell you about a couple things I did:

  • First, as... not announced last time (oops), Tomb of the Snake has reached its third release, with rather more changes than expected, if nothing radical. Glad I did this anyway. And people loved it, for all the game is faulty and limited. Moral of the story: passion projects are often worth it, more than you might expect.
  • Second, I picked up the Nim programming language again, for the first time since my brief look almost four years ago. If only I knew then what I do now. But hey, it's not too late. I already ported a non-game project to it, and looking at others, so, expect news soon.

Speaking of which, let's see the actual news:

  • Last Thursday I learned about a classic interactive fiction piece like no other: His Majesty's Ship "Impetuous". It's one of those that make one think about paths not taken, and what we're missing because of our choices. An ironic thing to say in context, come to think of it. How much more did we fail to try in the intervening four decades? I'm tempted to crack open Twine and find out, taking advantage of infinitely more powerful text processing in modern programming languages like Javascript.
  • And then the next day there was another classic game retrospective. A legendary one, even: System Shock. Only this time the historian's account doesn't make me want to go and play it. On the contrary. This is a game that sounds pretentious, overwrought and tiring: the opposite of what I want from the medium. By the way, there is in fact a System Shock (fan) novel: Free Radical, by Shamus Young. And it's well worth a read. As for most people failing to notice the game is more than a shooter? There's a reason why in recent years I find myself, often enough, quoting one of my own literary characters: "a brick to the face is subtle".

On this rather sad note, take care, and see you in April.

Tags: meta, roguelike, classic, interactive fiction, shooter

GameDev News for 15 March 2021

Hello, everyone! As of this writing, the 7DRL is still ongoing for a few hours, though I haven't yet made time to look at any of the entries. It will have to wait for the next newsletter.

In other news, I spent last week resting after my last creative project, though I've done enough of that by now to hopefully move on with my other plans already.

Will let you know. For now let's see the mid-month headlines, all three of them:

  • We were all distracted last year, so we kinda forgot to celebrate 40 years since the world's first MMORPG, known as MUD. The concept has long since developed from essentially a multiplayer text adventure, through EverQuest and World of Warcraft, to whatever the cool kids are playing today. Yet MUDs still endure in their original form as well. I discovered the scene in 2009-2010 (and wrote about it), and I'm still active, at least in a subculture thereof. So this look back means a lot to me.
  • If you speak French, take a look at this article about interactive fiction for the little ones. But not text adventures! More like a device for playing interactive audiobooks that can be created with open source software. Or tabletop role-playing games for kids. Or even a new kind of gamebook for younger audiences. Yes, the genre is alive and well. And strange new avenues are being explored.
  • This weekend the RPG.net community discusses another thorny issue: What should I be sensitive to when western or Deadlands gaming? Having just completed a novella that features Native American main characters in a sci-fi setting with themes of colonization, I'm glad to have friends who can advise about issues like this. Failing that, two things help: knowing history, and remembering that people are people: a very diverse bunch, even within the same social or ethnic groups. In other words, no stereotyping. It's a good start.

Not much, then, but worth reading and talking about. Until next time!

Tags: mmo, rpg, interactive fiction, representation, meta

GameDev News for 5 March 2021

Hello, everyone! Any roguelike fans in the audience? Because the 7DRL Challenge 2021 starts tomorrow, and something worth playing always comes out of it.

Apart from that, we have fewer news today, so I added a bit more commentary than is usual as of late:

  • First, we learn about Rings of Power, a most unusual RPG from thirty years ago, that failed, sadly enough, not due to its own failings but (where have we heard this before?) for being sabotaged by the publisher. Why people still seek one out in 2021 is beyond me. Also food for thought as to ways to make our games different, if only to shake people out of their routine. They'll remember it afterwards, and that's what matters.
  • Then, Aaron A. Reed's 50 Years of Text Games series just reached 1979, and with it The Cave of Time: the first modern gamebook, that started the Choose Your Own Adventure series and with it a hugely popular genre that was unsurpassed for the next fifteen years. How well I remember sitting on a train with a passage diagram like that, trying to make my own, because it was something I could imagine myself creating, long before I could code worth a damn, or at all. Likely before I could hope to own a computer. And that's just one of the things that make the medium so profoundly important.
  • Finally, Three weeks of Bonesweeper development is one developer's account of battling depression and burnout while continuing to make games. Short version: something's got to give. But also, tap into your other interests, and make something that feels fun to make. No, seriously. These days, pressure is literally killing us. From work. From money issues. From the ongoing world crisis. And we need to reclaim our lives.

Last but not least, an interesting thread on the RPG.net forums asks about Class based RPG's with terrible choices of classes, and it brings up some interesting issues, such as virtually everyone wanting to play a Force user in Star Wars games, that I wrote about before. Not so much in the way of solutions.

But that would require an extended discussion. Maybe next time. Until then, have fun, and see you!

Tags: roguelike, rpg, interactive fiction, business, game design

GameDev News for 25 February 2021

Where did the month go?! At least there are some good news this time: I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel regarding my work-in-progress novella, and hoping to pick up games again sometime in March. Also, for once we have enough headlines that I was able to discard a couple from my usual sources, to keep this newsletter from getting even more repetitive than it already is. To wit:

  • a practical analysis of the Virtual Boy's architecture, highlighting the way certain problems with VR were already known a quarter century ago, so why do we choose to forget every lesson only to re-learn it painfully with each new generation?
  • a discussion of How to use choices when writing visual novels, that of course applies to other kinds of narrative games as well;
  • How I made Hack Grid: one developer's making-of, used as a pretext for (retro) game design discussion;
  • speaking of which, here's a very nice piece titled In Praise of Messy Design, and I couldn't agree more: my own designs are minimal out of necessity, but it's not really what I want or what my players want;
  • and then we're reminded that Before Fortnite, There Was ZZT, which is important because, in the author's words: "As a child, being able to tell your friends ‘I make video games’ is incredibly powerful."

Last but not least, Inkle Studios announces the ink version 1.0 release! A huge milestone, to be sure. I even gave the new editor a try, just for kicks. Too bad it's broken for me. Also much too cryptic anyway, even as the concept is appealing in principle.

Besides, there are plenty of tools for me to play with already, including some of my own. Well, soon as I find the energy for it, anyway. Until then, see you!

Tags: classics, tools, history, game design, interactive fiction

GameDev News for 15 February 2021

Wait, what? It's the 15th already?! Aieee! (Runs in circles, arms flailing.)

Seriously, I've got nothing in the way of an editorial this time, either. Was hoping to be done writing my novella by now, but no such luck. Made some changes to my websites, but it was mostly the other one. You get the idea.

So let's just get on with the news. This time, we have:

And now, from shooters to interactive fiction:

But that's pretty much it for today. Well, over on the LemmaSoft forums there was an interesting discussion sparked by someone asking, What do you think about VR visual novels? Which in turn prompted me to rant some more elsewhere about the so-called "indiepocalypse" that wasn't, except for people who expected to get rich quick making games.

Anyway, see you next time, hopefully with at least as much material. Have fun!

Tags: shooter, interactive fiction, meta

GameDev News for 5 February 2021

Hello, everyone! This week we have news in pairs. Like these two retrospectives from Hardcore Gaming 101, namely:

  • Metroid: Other M; Likely the most positive review of this game I've seen, mostly focusing on the gameplay. Though it touches at the story towards the end, and that's where the criticism starts. And then,
  • Quake, an article that bafflingly sings the praise of technology-driven game development, which caused so much harm to the industry. Still worth a read as usual, but why?!

Anyway, then there's Aaron A. Reed's 50 Years of Text Games project, which treats us to articles about two classics:

  • the 1974 Super Star Trek, a game I only discovered recently thanks to the sdlBasic community, and promptly created my own variation (with the serial numbers filed off);
  • the 1975 dnd, ancestor of all computer RPGs. Amazing how many things we now take for granted were born that long ago, only to be forgotten and rediscovered at great pains. But we don't want to learn, do we.

While on the topic of RPGs, this time the tabletop variety, we get an article about the top 10 most infamous such games. And also about text games, there's a new authoring tool on the scene called Donjon FI. It's browser-based, very similar to Inform 7... and all in French. How cool is that?!

But that's it for today, and without as much as an editorial. Oh well, see you next time.

Tags: tabletop, classics, rpg, shooter, history, interactive fiction