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Weekly Links #279

21 July 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! As of this Wednesday, the No Time To Play domain name is secure for another year, with some help from site co-founder Nightwrath and our friend Shoby. That means I can stop pestering you for a while.

On the minus side, my work-in-progress game has stalled. Again. I seem to suffer from burnout. Been blogging and working on my personal website instead. Reading a book. Stuff like that. Could tell you about my plans, because there's a lot of them as usual, but frankly? There are too many people selling dreams as it is.

Speaking of which: last time I mentioned joining a new social network on the rise known as Matrix. Nobody reacted. (Nobody replies to these blog posts anymore as a general rule.) In the mean time, one of two curated server lists has gone down, and the other doesn't list the one that accepted me. And we need to know about each other somehow. If a queer-friendly community of techies sounds like your speed, come over to matrix.spider.ink. Or if you prefer something more mainstream, feneas.org should be a good place, knowing who runs it.

In the mean time, let's see some news, because this week we have a few for a change: a retrospective of a classic text adventure, a generous grant extended to a major player in the field of computer graphics, and some comments on the state of tech industry journalism. Details below the cut.

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Tags: meta, social-media, interactive-fiction, graphics, business

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Weekly Links #278: social media edition

14 July 2019 — No Time To Play

This week I was forced to accept that XMPP and IRC are both goners. Unfortunately so. While a few old-timers may still be clinging to both, and there's an effort to modernize the latter, it looks to me like the future is elsewhere.

But where? Like many people these days, I have a Discord account. Could even make a No Time To Play server there if I wanted to, and rule over my own little corner of... a mall, whose owners don't care about us except as potential cash cows. Petty owners, who can't be bothered to help us fight spam and other nasties, but sure like to play favorites. No wonder their attempts to be cute just seem to annoy everyone. And then, it's a single point of failure, that routinely fails in mysterious ways for some people but not others, just when you need it the most.

Luckily we can do better. Lately I keep hearing about the Matrix protocol, whose developers recently released version 1.0 of their reference server and client software, after five years in development. We're talking a distributed chat system with a clear, open specification, that already enjoys ample support. Heck, there seem to be more server implementations than there are Mastodon clients. On the other hand, while the-federation.info tracks over 1500 Matrix hosts, only a dozen or so are widely considered stable and trustworthy. Adoption seems limited, and then only among enthusiasts of the decentralized web.

It's a chicken and egg problem, so for once I decided to be an early adopter. As of this writing I have a Matrix account, a new territory to explore. Who's with me?

In the way of news, this week I have... nothing. A vacation, health issues and a little paid work held my attention. And then, my usual news sources are at it again. When the world of sports is more interesting these days, you know it's a problem.

That said, while on the subject of social networks, let me remind you that you have many options these days. Gamemaking.social and mastodon.gamedev.place for one. Better yet, elekk.xyz, which welcomes those who play and make games in equal measure, and has an awesome moderation team on top of that. Or if you don't like Mastodon, FreeGameDev.net Social runs on Hubzilla instead (though it has ActivityPub enabled and working well), and they offer other services as well, but only for open source game developers.

Either way, you're no longer forced to use proprietary services for keeping in touch with people in the industry. So do yourself a favor and break free.

Tags: meta, social-media

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Weekly Links #277

07 July 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! During the month of June, Sunset Flight was one of the most popular games on No Time To Play. By way of contrast, I'll soon have to take it down from Itch.io for lack of interest. And speaking of interest, the recently revived Buzz Grid is also getting a lot of views. Might have something to do with the mobile support.

But most importantly, I picked up again a project started a month ago that wasn't developed enough to mention at the time:

Screenshot of a retro game mockup: two rows of neon-colored bars suggest an abstract landscape going to the horizon. Distant rows of spheres flank a crosshair.

Yep, it's a retro-styled prequel to the aforementioned Sunset Flight. It's my second shooter to get this treatment; hopefully this one will be more successful. Might take a while though, due to other projects and obligations. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Prince of Persia is 30 (as of last Sunday), and in unrelated news we learn of a new job in gamedev: cultural proofreader. Last but not least, a reminder that No Time To Play still needs your help. Details below the cut.

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Tags: news, arcade, retrogaming, classics, representation

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Weekly Links #276: archival edition

30 June 2019 — No Time To Play

We're halfway through 2019, in more than one way, and I wish there were more news to mark the moment. Well, the kind that warrants a comment anyway. Stuff keeps happening, of course, but when it's not about mainstream gameing, then it must be about often rehashed themes. Maybe I need some new sources of information. Hard to find one that's genuinely different, however, without going into obscure niches.

(To be honest, working on an unrelated website also distracted me from games. Well, partly unrelated. I keep my tabletop RPG and interactive fiction work elsewhere because, well, not sure why. Went back and forth over it many times.)

As of this week, the source code for Keep of the Mad Wizard is also available from the IFArchive. Hopefully this will benefit someone; not many people choose to share theirs in the same way. Guess one can always re-import a published game, but it's not the same thing when the original was written for Tweego and not Twine proper. Besides, this makes my intent explicit. And not many Twine games seem to use status bars, let alone RPG features.

Last but not least, I can scarcely imagine a more reliable backup. IFArchive rocks!

In the way of news, this week we have a write-up about tool reuse in games, even between very different genres, then another large archive of historical documents from the world of interactive fiction, and last an account of how No Time To Play is doing financially. Details after the cut.

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Tags: RPG, tools, history, interactive-fiction, preservation

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Weekly Links #275

23 June 2019 — No Time To Play

And... we have a donation! Another one like this, and the domain name is paid until next summer. Thank you very much, D.! I'll keep everyone informed of how that goes; in the mean time, you can keep track of the current status on the wiki. In fact, the figure should probably include book sales; will adjust next time.

In related news, I just released a new version of Escape From Cnossus HD. The most visible change is a full-screen mode, but it's not the only one, and hopefully not the last one either. Check it out! And as of Tuesday, Electric Rogue had its UI tweaked once more; now it should fit on mobile devices again, while still scaling to any screen size.

A much bigger change is the return of Buzz Grid, that I took offline in 2017 and left in limbo for almost two years. Now it's back and better than ever, with more improvements planned for the near future. You tell me how well it's aged.

Otherwise, we have a retrospective of A Final Unity, Graham Nelson's talk on opening Inform, and a guide to making Long Play videos. Details after the cut.

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Tags: meta, arcade, roguelike, adventure, interactive-fiction, preservation

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Weekly Links #274

16 June 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! The dust is starting to settle over the website, but I'm not quite done yet. Changes are just getting smaller:

  • The two editions of Sunset Flight can now be downloaded from the same place;
  • The game section as a whole was tweaked and reorganized;
  • More content originally published elsewhere was brought over to the wiki.

On a different note, two more games are now on Game Jolt as well: Space Cruiser Orion and the older Escape From Cnossus HD. The trick is picking titles that fit well and have a chance to elicit even a bit of interest; not an easy thing over there.

Plans for the immediate future involve tweaks to a number of games, and bringing back Buzz Grid, that right now only exists online as a handful of articles on the wiki. Got an idea for how to do it right. But it might take a little while, as my personal website also needs work right now.

In the way of news, we have a write-up about advergames, and a few links without comment. Also a reminder that No Time To Play still needs your help. Details below the cut.

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Tags: meta, history, interactive-fiction, rpg

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The four-letter N word

13 June 2019 — No Time To Play

Lately, people keep coming to online marketplaces and ask if it's all right to publish games that expound certain ideologies. They invariably turn out to be Nazis. They'll say so unprompted; simply wait a little. It's scary how soon they'll start with the usual spiel about "free speech" and how liberals, the big meanies, supposedly apply the four-letter N word to anyone they don't like.

Just in case it's not clear: that's a myth. The word in question has a widely accepted meaning based on ample historical precedent. Maybe you've heard of a little dance a while ago called World War II. It "only" resulted in 20 million dead, more than the population of Romania nowadays. When you wear a brown shirt with a swastika on the sleeve and do the Nazi salute? It's a safe bet that next thing we know you're going to advocate for the genocide of certain marginalized groups, like Jews, Roma, queer people, or the elderly and disabled.

It happens every single time. Funny that.

Also funny how adherents of other ideologies, like Anarchists and Communists, feel no need to ask if it's all right to publish games about their political message. Nor do people who make games about Syrian refugees, or the situation in Gaza. They also never seem to complain about being "silenced", even as mainstream media systematically vilify all these groups if they're mentioned at all.

Gameing is among the only safe places for those who have no voice, along with fan fiction and indie comics. Or so it was until three years and change ago. Now we live in a world where the creators of Wolfenstein have to defend the idea that people who want to kill others for being different should be fought by any means necessary.

Somehow, all those fictional jackboot-wearing demons and wizards with their superweapons don't scare me nearly as much as the average dudes in brown shirts with their cowlicks. The latter can all too easily kill me for real.

No, it's not all right to let them speak. Though Wormtongue might disagree.

Tags: history, politics

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Weekly Links #273

09 June 2019 — No Time To Play

Turns out, the No Time To Play website was in a worse state than it seemed. Hours after posting the previous newsletter, a random referral made me realize the newsletter archive was full of dead links that still pointed at the old location of various articles. So I spent half a day fixing that. And then it dawned on me just how many projects were hosted elsewhere than on the main website where they belonged. First, three tools:

Then a game, Escape From Cnossus HD, that was in the same situation. And two more that did have homepages on the site, but were sending people elsewhere to download:

Now you can get them right here. On top of that, I also made a small change to the stylesheet. The game section looks much better this way, and is easier to organize.

Don't worry, that won't delay new games for long. Got one in pre-production in fact. Older games, too, are very likely to get a brush-up at the very least.

In the way of news, this week we have an interview with Tarn Adams about Dwarf Fortress, a trio of links without comment, and the now-usual appeal for help.

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Tags: meta, roguelike, interview

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Weekly Links #272

02 June 2019 — No Time To Play

You'd think it's a curse or something. Not a week after a much-hyped new console was announced, its manufacturer turned out to be a trademark bully, thus promptly squandering all that goodwill they had gained. That makes two trademark bullies within a few days. And neither is a megacorp with an army of lawyers to keep busy.

People have wondered how it is even possible to trademark the use of a very common term. Um... you do realize we live in a world where dictionary words like "apple", "android" and indeed "word" are trademarked, right? Despite trademark law in many jurisdictions explicitily stating that's not allowed. But it's hardly a secret that what is legal depends on how much money one has. Just like it always did.

And you know... I've been making games as No Time To Play for almost nine years now. Recently, I became aware of a much newer Canadian outfit operating as NoTime Studios. My reaction was to reach out to them in friendship. They never answered, which left me a little worried ever since. But it's that easy not to be a jerk. Never mind how hard it is to keep coming up with unique, original names for things in a world with millions of creators and billions of works. This isn't a zero-sum game. Nobody needs to fail for someone else to succeed. We can win together.

Most of us have figured that out already. Straight white boys still don't get it.

In more cheerful news, I took the time this week to update the No Time To Play wiki, because the game section was unfinished and looked awful. The technology section was reorganized as well, giving more prominence to the programming languages most used for games here.

Otherwise, we have a retrospective of the Mattel Intellivision, and more talk of parser versus hyperlinks in interactive fiction. Last but not least, a renewed request for help. Details below the cut.

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Tags: business, hardware, history, interactive-fiction

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Weekly Links #271

26 May 2019 — No Time To Play

So the big news this week is that yet another open console has been announced, and as usual techies are excited to no end. I say techies, not the general gameing public, because the public is just going to stick with the Switch, or at most the PS4 if they're loaded. Just the way it went with the Ouya. Remember that one? How much people insisted that no no, see, this one was going to succeed where all others had failed, because... er... um... one of them has to sooner or later?

Needless to say, it didn't, and the only reason I bother to mention it is that the other big news this week was the Ouya store finally closing down for good. Yep, turns out it was still alive, to everyone's genuine surprise. The timing of these two announcements seems too close to be a coincidence. Not that it matters.

What matters is: I love open consoles. I love the idea and very much wish for one to succeed at last. Heck, ten years ago I wrote an incendiary opinion piece explaining why they were the wave of the future.

Do you need a diagram to figure out how far off the mark that prediction was?

This phenomenon puzzled me for the longest time. In retrospect, however, the reason why this keeps happening is obvious: yes, it's the nerds who love the hardware itself. The techies. The tinkerers. Those who just want a shiny new piece of electronics to fool around with and push over the limit. Those to whom the Pi is already old hat.

And we're a minority. Everyone else just wants something to play games on. Which nowadays they can easily do on a smartphone. Why do you think Nintendo has been leery of allowing Pokemon titles on any device not manufactured by them? It's the only thing that keeps the DS going. That, and the traditional loss-leader model of game consoles makes them a good value proposition.

In other words, exactly what open consoles aren't. Hint: custom devices sold in small series, even at cost, are going to be expensive. And manufacturers want to make a profit. They're, you know, businesses. It'd help if an open console became wildly popular, allowing economies of scale to drive down costs.

But then it would just be called a PC.

In the way of news, this week we have:

  • a survey about the Interactive Fiction Competition;
  • thoughts about fictional books players can read inside videogames;
  • my newest teaching project, a shoot'em up in just 200 LOC.

Sadly I have to end with a new request for financial help. See below the cut.

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Tags: interactive-fiction, rpg, worldbuilding

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