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Everything game development: news, lessons, discussion

Weekly Links #314

05 April 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! The big news this week is of course Tee-Wee Editor reaching version 1.0:

To discuss an obvious change: the user interface now sports a second toolbar; I tweaked the widget layout to account for it. Makes the user interface kind of busy, which is reason enough to refrain from adding much more. Beware, young programmer: people always ask for features they don't really need. But any new feature is a burden not just on you, but them as well. Makes it that much harder to spot the stuff you actually need and then click on it. That's why people are desperate for simple software in an era when even command-line tools suffer from way too much complexity.

Three times now Tee-Wee has been praised for being much more accessible than its older cousin. Which in turn is much simpler than some of the competition.

Weren't these authoring tools supposed to let anyone make games?

In the way of news, this edition we have an interview with Jon Ingold and a retrospective of The 7th Guest, in addition to my own detailed release announcement from Itch. Details under the cut.

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Tags: interactive-fiction, interview, writing, tools, classics, adventure

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Weekly Links #312

22 March 2020 — No Time To Play

Call me flighty, but I switched tracks again this week.

In my defense, the game port I described last newsletter was a stop-gap project, meant to fill the time until something better came along. Well, something did. First published a few months ago by the IFTF, the official Twine specifications were recently finalized. It took a while longer for an idea to crystallize in my mind. This is the result:

Screenshot from a desktop text editor with a list down the left side, showing a passage from some sort of gamebook.

This is about as simple as it gets, yet it's perfectly capable of working with the story data generated by Twine. Not as friendly as the official IDE, but a lot more so than compiling source code with Tweego from the command line. And unlike either of those, Tee-Wee Editor makes authors remember to pick a story format. Currently, most people have no clue that's a thing they can do, and that causes all kinds of issues.

Besides, think of all the obscure authoring systems that could easily be implemented as story formats for Twine and compatible tools, thus becoming part of a vibrant ecosystem. It only takes awareness, and my little toy can help with that.

In the way of news, this week we're looking at one company trying to capitalize on current events in a rather transparent way, then a good handful of links with no comment. Details under the cut.

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Tags: interactive-fiction, tools, business, adventure, history, roguelike

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Weekly Links #311

15 March 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! After a meaty issue comes a thin one. It's in big part because I spent most of the week working on a desktop port of Laser Sky R, using C++ and SFML. Which is quite a bit of work because I have limited experience with the former, and none with the latter.

Mind you, it's working out. SFML proves to be just as easy to use in practice as it seemed at first sight, as it uses both OpenGL and C++ to its advantage. Maybe trying too hard to stay simple, by its lack of features that are needed in most projects, such as the ability to anchor a drawable from the center or any corner, or length and normalize operations on vectors. Both however should be easy to add. It seems to be intentional too, as even a simple framerate counter is left as an exercise to the programmer.

As for my next point: I've known C++ for years, but hadn't used it much before, preferring dynamic languages instead, not to mention something with garbage collection. But newer dialects are much better; between auto, move semantics and to_string, to mention just a few small things, the old workhorse is looking much better and turns out to be perfectly usable too. What differs from, say, Python is that C++ requires self-discipline. You have to plan out your code. It's still very flexible, allowing for a lot of freedom, but that has to happen in an orderly fashion. Which happens to suit me just fine. For prototyping I can always use something else.

In the way of news, this week we have a handful of links with only brief commentary. Details under the cut.

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Tags: programming, classics, adventure, interactive-fiction, business

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Weekly Links #306

09 February 2020 — No Time To Play

I had more screenshots to show you this week, but things precipitated, and Glittering Light 2 is now gameplay complete! So as planned initially, I released it right here and on Itch, where it quickly accumulated an impressive number of views and plays, not least due to a signal boost from Leaf on the official Twitter account. Thank you!

Montage of screenshots from a videogame, showing cover art, stats, a minimap, and a game over screen.

As noted in both places, while the game is fully playable, it's also completely silent now, so I'm not counting it as finished quite yet. Audio to come soon.

In other news, we have a retrospective of Loom, with my own comments on world building and game design lessons, then a couple of headlines with little comment. Details under the cut.

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Tags: meta, roguelike, adventure, worldbuilding, game-design

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Weekly Links #281

04 August 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Work on the game picked up over the past week. It now looks better, has a title screen (and high scores), and different enemy types.

Montage of four screenshots from a videogame depicting a first-person dogfight against round spaceships, rendered in a retro, abstract style and neon colors.

Along with less visible additions such as gamepad support, this makes for everything I wanted in the initial release, apart from audio. Once that goes in, it's time to hit Publish and move on to other things for a while. No more burnout for me. At least this game has plenty of room for improvement, once I feel like working on it again. Besides, it will be open source as usual. So stay tuned!

In the way of news, this week we have:

  • some more thoughts on the slow death of Flash;
  • beginner mistakes with TCP;
  • To Pong or Not to Pong?;
  • a new interview with Al Lowe and
  • a retrospective of the Wing Commander series.

And that's about all. Details under the cut.

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Tags: news, preservation, programming, adventure, classics, interview

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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 #255

03 February 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! It's been another week when I didn't work on games. Instead, my attention has been consumed by yet another scripting language. Or rather, a framework for making any number of them very easily, in tiny amounts of code. This is more important than it seems. For one thing, it will finally allow me to put one in Adventure Prompt, a goal that drove much of my research in recent years. And then, the radical simplicity of the system opens up opportunities I couldn't even consider before. Enter the guerilla scripting engine, that you can add to mostly any software on a whim. It's that easy.

Details soon. In the mean time, lets see what's new in the gaming world.

Not reporting, in any event. Dear game journalists, do you realize that various platforms get exclusive titles all the time? That's not a "war", it's business as usual. And the only result is that the rights holders soon discover how much money they're leaving on the table, so they back out of the exclusivity arrangement. Hopefully.

People do it all the time with Steam and nobody bats an eyelid. But enter Epic's new store, and people seem unable to think clearly all of a sudden. For some reason.

(Also, duuudes. Can you please stop with the 60FPS snobbery already? It's getting tiresome AF. And damaging.)

On a more cheerful note, Ren'Py just turned 15, and its amazing journey gives no signs of slowing down quite yet. Which fills me with joy. Maybe one of these days I'll manage to pick it up again, too.

Last but not least, this weekend Hardcore Gaming 101 covers Dune (Cryo's 1991 game), in their usual detailed manner. I'm yet to finish reading as of this writing, but it brings back all kinds of memories. Funny how the Dune game that didn't span a major, enduring genre remains the one that's fondly remembered, and amply discussed when it comes up.

With that, I'll let you enjoy the Sunday. Bye!

Tags: programming, business, adventure

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