GameDev News for 15 June 2021

Hello, everyone! After a short detour, work resumed apace on The Unwanted Hero. It doesn't look much different however, so here's a screenshot from the end of last month that I've been sitting on:

Screenshot from a text-based RPG with a book-like user interface, showing a level-up screen with a choice of attributes to upgrade.

On the flipside, the game is proving more work than expected, so part 1 might not be ready in time for the next newsletter. Should still be done in the first days of July, so thank you for your patience.

Meanwhile, let's see other news, again under the cut.

Read more... Tags: meta, tabletop, rpg, business, representation

GameDev News for 5 June 2021

In April 2020, I revived Ramus after a 7-year hiatus. I revived it... then promptly set it aside again for another 13 months.

Thankfully Ramus still has a big fan (hi, Roger!) on top of newfound attention from unlikely corners of the internet. Even as I was in the middle of another project, Roger's thoughtful feedback gave me much to think about. And it paid off! A day-long detour turned into a flurry of activity, as I added a small but useful feature, then much-needed documentation improvements, and in the end a complete overhaul of the new scripting system. Which in turn called for that section of the manual to be redone from scratch.

It was a lot of work... yet it only took three days and a half. Ramus is just that hackable. And damn if it doesn't feel good to see the sample game look every bit as good as the original, with all the same features to be found in a much bigger system. Text even fades in nicely now, thanks to a few lines of CSS. I had no idea how easy it had become as of late!

So here it is: enjoy version 2.5, and see you soon, because now I can finally port a more complex game to Ramus, which in turn should reveal other needed improvements. They always do. All part of the fun.

Thanks for reading. Now let's see what's up in the world of game development at the start of summer. Below the cut this time, for obvious reasons.

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

GameDev News for 25 May 2021

OMG, I'm actually doing it! The Unwanted Hero is a text-based RPG with extensive randomization, and prequel of sorts to my similar game from exactly two years ago:

Screenshot from a text-based RPG with a book-like user interface, showing a battle screen.

But The Unwanted Hero has been a dream for five years now. In fact this is my fourth attempt to make it, or some such; third time definitely wasn't the charm!

Early reactions are enthusiastic, so maybe this game won't flop like its predecessor. Makes sense; there seems to be a revival of text-based RPGs, even within the interactive fiction community. Which says a lot to me, but that's a story for another write-up.

In the mean time let's see some news, starting with the briefest:

  • A big thank you to my friend David, whose generous donation (coupled with a few book sales earlier this month) ensures I can secure the domain name here for another year when the bill comes at the end of June.
  • In unrelated news, game developers will be happy to hear that SpookyGhost is now free and open source! This is a procedural animation tool with a unique approach, that should be very helpful to beginners and pros alike.

But this week we also have some news discussed in depth, so see under the cut.

Read more... Tags: text-based, rpg, graphics, tools, business, history

GameDev News for 15 May 2021

Hello, everyone! As promised last time, my new creation Tipsy Turtle is now online on the companion website (and also on Itch.io):

Screenshot of an application window showing a pattern of colored lines on a black background. At the bottom is a text box with a line of code presumably used to generate the image.

With this (as announced in the site-wide newsfeed), I could now finally put together the long-needed game graphics section. Here's to more useful resources for making games.

With only vague plans for the upcoming months, let me give you the other news instead. Sadly just two pieces today:

  • From Hardcore Gaming 101 The Legacy of the Star Control II Universe, occasioned by the upcoming re-release of the first Mass Effect.
  • And from Aaron A. Reed's 50 Years of Text Games, the 1989 title Monster Island, or how people used to play MMORPGs when few had computers or internet.

Not much then, but good stuff. Enjoy, and see you next time.

Tags: graphics, tools, mmo, rpg, history

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