GameDev News for 25 November 2021

Hello, everyone! The annual Interactive Fiction Competition ended just a few hours after my previous newsletter and results were announced a week later.

In other news, we have a couple of headlines from the corporate world:

It's still something, especially in context. But most of us just want to make games, so here's something more useful:

Last but not least: going back to interactive fiction for a moment, The 50 Years of Text Games project is now at 2014, therefore 80 Days, the game that brought modern CYOA into the mainstream. A good write-up, but I remain unconvinced about the game and the tool it was made with. Pretty much everyone I talked to who played it remembers 80 Days as all style and no substance, and Ink was always inscrutably cryptic to me.

(Frankly, it all sounds an awful lot like Fallen London in some ways, and not just because they share an aesthetic. Unfortunately it's all the bad ways, including a lot of fever-dream fantasy that doesn't feel at all grounded, or relevant to anything that actually happens in the story.)

Oh well, see you next month, as this blog begins to wind down.

Tags: interactive fiction, business, preservation, game design, tools

GameDev News for 15 November 2021

Hello, everyone! I was reading through a software manual and almost forgot what day it was. Not that we have anything special today, just a smattering of assorted news:

  • Friday, the Digital Antiquarian writes about the time when a bunch of jackasses with no taste tried to sully the burgeoning field of videogames with disgusting filth they dared called "transgressive", and thankfully fell flat on their faces, in The Dark Eye (no connection to the famed German RPG). Look. At least Doom was fun. Rude, noisy fun that could get problematic, but still. Crucially, you were supposed to shoot demons, not philosophize about them: a message as powerful as it's simple.
  • Then we have another great post about the NFT sham, this time relevant to games.

To balance out the bad stuff, we have a couple of useful resources:

Last but not least, there's a new book out there about Unix shells called Userland, and of course it starts by comparing them to a text adventure. For once, the original Adventure, as opposed to its more famous direct successor. It's short, but good.

That's all for today, so I'll just cut this short. Enjoy, and see you next time.

Tags: history, business, graphics, tools, education

GameDev News for 5 November 2021

Hello, everyone! In-between finishing up my latest tools (which I'm now using productively), I also got around to updating Tee-Wee Editor, for the first time in 18 months:

Screenshot from a desktop text editor with a list down the left side, showing a passage from some sort of gamebook. It looks like modern Linux software.

It's not a big update, but it's an important update. Now it feels right for a change, you know? And still in the way of tooling work, I also wrote an article about my side-trip into learning to use Cython. Might as well, given what my primary programming language is.

And now for news from the world of games at large, this time below the fold.

Read more... Tags: meta, tools, history, procedural generation, interactive fiction, rpg

GameDev News for 25 October 2021

I've been on a roll lately. Shorty after my previous release, here's Scrunch Edit, a similar-yet-different outliner that nicely complements its older sibling:

Screenshot of a desktop application showing a tree of headings down the side of a text editor, along with a toolbar and other widgets. There aren't any icons.

Even better, some of the new tricks I came up with can be backported to Tee-Wee Editor, which could use another version, after much too long.

Otherwise, game-related news have been scarce at the end of October. From Game Developer Magazine we learn some game design tips out of Sid Meyer's newly published memoir (warning, long read), and in less happy news that Activision Blizzard continues to self-destruct (thankfully just a short update). Kotaku has details, but I can't be bothered to add more links.

Instead, let me highlight The Digital Antiquarian writing about Harlan Ellison and the way his most famous story was made into a videogame against all odds. What stood out to me was the editorial by Johnny L. Wilson, who reached the same conclusions about violence in videogames a quarter century before I did in this article. Funny that.

But this is it for now. Enjoy, and see you in November, when stuff is expected to happen for a change.

Tags: tools, game design, business, new media, history

GameDev News for 15 October 2021 (game history edition)

Hello, everyone! It's mid-October, and winter is coming early in the northern hemisphere. In the way of good news, plenty of people seem interested in OutNoted, though few tried it so far. Even better news: it spawned another project that I hope to announce next time.

There aren't so many links today either, but what's there is quite good. To wit:

  • In early October, HG101 covers Doom, and the introduction made me laugh out loud. There's also an in-depth comparison of the various console ports. Of course the sequels get articles of their own.
  • Then we have a French language story that makes some surprising connections: Why visual novels are in first person.
  • On a related note, there's an excellent question on the LemmaSoft forums: How do you write a plot?
  • And for its 20th anniversary, ScummVM has a massive new version, including among others Glulx support, giving it the ability to play hundreds, maybe thousands of text adventures. See also the more personal coverage from Vintage Is the New Old.
  • Last but not least, The 50 Years of Text Games project has reached 2009 and Fallen London, or Echo Bazaar as it was called at the time; I reviewed it in 2011, and played for many more years after that.

That's it for today. Not bad for these gray, gloomy times. See you around!

Tags: tools, adventure, history, writing, retrogaming

GameDev News for 5 October 2021

Hello, everyone! I've been working on yet another hare-brained scheme lately, and just happened to release a big new version yesterday. Meet OutNoted, an outline note-taking editor for the desktop:

Screenshot of a desktop application showing a tree of text notes in the main work area, along with a toolbar and other widgets. There aren't any icons.

It's hosted on the sister site, and I'll just let you take a look. But first, some news. Only a few today:

And in more positive news:

But it's time to end the first newsletter of Spooky Month. Have fun, and see you!

Tags: tools, publishing, history

GameDev News for 25 September 2021

Hello, everyone! The big news today is that I finally got around to finishing Gamebooks & Goonies. That's the ruleset for Unwanted Hero, that I've been planning to write down since early summer and only got around to recently. So far there hasn't been any feedback, but people seem interested enough.

Also in the housekeeping department, after paying the last hosting bill my PayPal is now empty, so the next one will have to come out of my pocket. No worries, I have money, but it will be a sour note on which to end the eight-year run of this newsletter.

Speaking of sour notes, let me get some bad news out of the way. Earlier this month, Clive Sinclair died, and I'm sad to see how incomplete coverage is, even from the best source. He was a pioneer in many more fields, people.

In the way of more current issues, we have an opinion piece asking game companies (and others) to Please Stop Closing Forums And Moving People To Discord. Seriously, please. It's not the same thing at all, in fact it's much worse, and won't shift your moderation issues onto somebody else, as you seem to hope.

The rest of this newsletter is under the cut, with more material about retrogaming and history in general.

Read more... Tags: meta, rpg, community, retrogaming, history

GameDev News for 15 September 2021

Hello, everyone! I've been busy with another of my websites as of late, not to mention real-life issues, so there wasn't much time to look into games. I'll keep this short. Sorry about that.

  • For one thing, HG101 covers the classic NES game Battle City, that I played so much (yes, it was a bootleg multicart plugged into a Famiclone, thank you), and then the equally classic RPG Wasteland, followed by exhaustive coverage on the entire series, including spin-offs.
  • Then we have a couple of forum threads: one ostensibly about RPGs, discusses the Medieval Stasis trope, obviously an issue for any writers / worldbuilders and not just game designers; the other illustrates how people still haven't figured out that Twine is a compiler for multiple story formats. Big communications failure right there, but I tried to point it out many times only to be brushed off. Well, fine then.
  • Last but not least, still in the interactive fiction department, Aaron A. Reed's 50 Years of Text Games series has reached 2004 and with it The Fire Tower. So I was right! There really were no walking simulators before that, in any videogame family.

But this is really all I have today. Enjoy, and see you at the end of September. Oh! One more thing: a very nice write-up about The Golden Age of Shareware CDs. It's not entirely on-topic here, but still close enough, and well worth a read. Cheers!

Tags: classics, rpg, interactive fiction

GameDev News for 5 September 2021 (classic games edition)

Hello, everyone! The latest changes to the site are working out. People are finding and (hopefully) reading the revived wiki journal. Likewise the game API guide in its new location. Still not buying the book, but one can't have them all. Oh, and ever since I mirrored my interactive fiction articles to my personal website, they're finally getting visits. Over there.

In the way of news, we learn about:

Okay, so this is a short intro, but we have to continue under the cut, for the capsule review of a tabletop RPG that wasn't planned, and then I have opinions about the retrospective of several classic text adventures.

Read more... Tags: meta, classics, game design, tabletop, rpg, interactive fiction

GameDev News for 25 August 2021

Hello, everyone! It was a busy week in the way of game-related news, though I mostly did some web design. But! A post on Mastodon prompted me to write half a page of thoughts on programming and community, specifically with regard to software forges. Yep, I'm officially posting on the wiki again, so that's something.

Next we have a couple of interactive fiction news:

  • Fundraising has started for the Interactive Fiction Competition;
  • and Robin Johnson released GrueScript, a tool for making text adventures with a hybrid parser / point&click interface.

The latter means a lot to me. It's what I tried to do with Adventure Prompt almost five years ago and failed. GrueScript is different, coming straight from the horse's mouth. Sure enough, it's already enjoying a much better reception. And it uses the kind of scripting language I described last summer, presumably also inspired by ScottKit and similar tools. Talk about having my work validated.

Otherwise, we have retrospectives of Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within and Tomb Rider. And also for retrogaming enthusiasts, two new ways they can enjoy old games:

Got to make more time for this kind of thing. Meanwhile, have fun, and see you!

Tags: meta, interactive fiction, tools, retrogaming, preservation