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Weekly Links #282

11 August 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Today is a rare event: the 9th anniversary of No Time To Play falls on newsletter day. In fact, last time it was before I began the newsletter. Yep, we've been around for nearly a decade. How cool is that?

In the way of news, on Wednesday I released Attack Vector Zero: Cybersphere, in all the usual places:

Because I was otherwise busy, there are no other links this week, so see below for a few words about my new game.

Five years ago and change, when I first conceived of the Attack Vector series, it was supposed to have vector graphics, hence the name. It was also supposed to be a Space Harrier pastiche; somehow, it ended up using voxel graphics and an urban environment instead. That didn't work out very well at all, even after remaking that first attempt as Sunset Flight, which took me way too long; an irksome failure, in more than one way.

The idea for a prequel and/or demake arrived in the same roundabout fashion that defines all my creative process; it involved my previous experience making one for another game, Laser Sky, and some thoughts about the classic Star Raiders, whose obscure sequel is one of my all-time favorites. So this spring I started working on a bunch of visual effects that could help make a similar game while needing little code and little CPU. By modern standards, anyway; how far we've come!

It was so good to see how much people liked those early tech demos. We crave the simpler pleasures of decades past, that could entertain us without being exhausting. And somehow I managed to come up with visuals resembling an arcade game from the mid-1990s whose name escapes me now (something something Blaster); a fellow game developer had to point me at it. Add the core gameplay of the aforementioned Star Raiders II and stir well to get a literal blast from the past. Embracing technical limitations: what a concept!

The big surprise was this dead simple retro demake coming out noticeably larger than the previous game in the series with its fancy graphics engine, and that was with just the core gameplay added in! Worse, I can't and won't sustain the same work pace from even just a year ago anymore, so things now take longer. It just made sense to publish the game unfinished for now, and come back later with fresh eyes. Wouldn't even be the first time; just the first time I do it on purpose.

Hopefully you'll enjoy it even so. And hey, it's open source like all my games. You know, just in case.

With this, I'll let you enjoy the Sunday. See you next time!

Tags: meta, news, game-design, classics, technology

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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 #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 #268

05 May 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! As expected, my game prototype took another week to finish, or almost. I took a break before starting on a more presentable version; in the mean time, you can enjoy it in command-line glory, like the original mainframe game:

(I was going to embed the gist here, but it turns out to pull the whole damn thing, not just a nice little box with a "view more" link like any reasonable person would expect from, you know, an embed code. So hop over to GitHub to get Space Cruiser Orion. Bonus points if you get the reference. Classic sci-fi for the win!)

You'll need a Python interpreter (normally version 3, but 2 might just work), and some familiarity with the subgenre; there is extensive built-in help, but no tutorial. And it could use one, the game being quite a bit more involved than it appears at first. Which is what drew me to it in the first place, and what makes a modern port worth doing. Wish I had the energy for many of them. Speaking of which.

In the mean time, I also wrote a 700-word review of Space Trader, a now-classic mobile game that I somehow never heard of when my Palm was still new, so I'm catching up belatedly. One thing the review doesn't mention is how many other ports there are apart from the two Android versions: to iPhone, Windows and even Java. The latter works, too, so you can play pretty much anywhere.

As for the news, this week we have a chat with Julian Gollop of X-Com fame, and a piece about politics in videogames. Details after the cut.

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Tags: history, interview, game-design, politics, classics, review

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Weekly Links #266: good business, bad business

21 April 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! I'll keep it short today. Even after release, Keep of the Mad Wizard keeps providing inspiration. This time in the form of an article about combat in videogames. Which in turns suggests what I should work on next. An early experiment has already fizzled out; got two more ideas to try in the coming week. Details once I have something more solid, even just a prototype.

In the mean time, let's see the news.

I had just published the previous newsletter when this crossed my Twitter feed: an in-depth explanation of how Telltale Games crashed and burned so suddenly, late last year. And damn if it doesn't sound familiar:

  1. young company does innovative work by a fresh formula;
  2. they take off slowly and do just fine for a while;
  3. one day they capture lightning in a bottle and become famous;
  4. they start dreaming big, and take investors on board;
  5. investors turn out to care about nothing except obscene profits;
  6. company burns itself down trying to satisfy them.

You know... just like every single business I ever worked for that actually meant something to me. Dear young entrepreneurs: are you ever going to learn? At all?

Go read the article for the grisly details. But gee, you mean treating your best people like shit until they leave you to become the competition is a bad idea?

In other news, someone has finally remade 8-bit classic The Sentinel, and (as reported by several sources) Jason Scott strikes again, putting up on GitHub the complete source code of Infocom text adventures. And oh, there's also Hardcore Gaming 101 covering Unreal.

Last but not least, we have the first interview with employees of ArenaNet, makers of Guild Wars, after the massive layoffs from a few months ago. Note how these were handled compared to other high-profile cases, and how the company continues to systematically reject crunch. Reads like sci-fi, doesn't it?

Until next time, be kind to yourself.

Tags: business, classics, interview

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Weekly Links #264

07 April 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! As of right now, Keep of the Mad Wizard is on the home stretch.

(Screenshot of a computer role-playing game showing a character sheet.)

Since last time, I implemented potions, added more content, and figured out what to do for the endgame. Even added a good chunk of it, apart from the ability to solve it with spells. Also a prologue and epilogue, that give the game at least the pretense of a story. The game is coming out shorter and easier than expected, but it's not automatic, and feels balanced enough. It even requires different play styles for the three classes!

And because working on a game is great for inspiration, I wrote yet another article about CRPGs, more exactly scope versus accessibility, for player and developer alike.

In the way of news, we have the long-awaited release of Pygame 1.9.5, Itch.io's new job board, a write-up about licensed games and a retrospective of the King's Quest series. Details after the cut.

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Tags: rpg, game-design, programming, business, classics

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