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Everything game development: news, lessons, discussion

Weekly Links #308

23 February 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! This is another edition where I'll be talking more about plans than results. The promised Tkinter port of Glittering Light 2 is likely to take another week, and I don't even have an interesting screenshot. I'll be done just in time to watch the 7DRL, which was the plan all along. One must make some time to play now and then, you know.

In the way of plans, I'll probably spend the spring building up a scaffolding for Electric Rogue 2, to be completed in autumn. It worked great for the first game, and will also leave me time to prepare the new book. Might even manage to squeeze in another EightWay Engine demo featuring a trick I haven't shown off yet.

Meanwhile, it turns out I have even more to say about game genres. It seems to be a leitmotif of 2020 already, which is fine with me. Writing is easier when you have a guiding line. I've also been doing more work on the website, mostly shuffling old links around. Anything more would require some serious restructuring, and I just got it into shape. The trick is finding a way to organize ten years' worth of material such that it doesn't become overwhelming. And that requires careful thinking.

As for the news, this week we have a cursory look at SFML, and three headlines with little commentary, but still very much worth reading. Details under the cut.

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Tags: tools, graphics, retrogaming, game-design, representation

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Weekly Links #305

02 February 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! I continue to be amazed at how well the game is progressing, even as I make a point of taking it easy. This week saw a host of improvements, from the new lo-fi graphics mode for slow computers, to item generation:

Screenshot from a 3D roguelike rendered with ASCII characters that partly blend into each other.

Monsters and combat also got in towards the end of the week, but took a wrong turn, and I had to walk back on Friday's work; oh well, it happens.

Even so, people continue to have nice words about the game, even in its very early state: someone (apparently unfamiliar with roguelikes) compared it to a text adventure; a friend thought it was so cool that love and hate are actual game mechanics. And every new screenshot turns heads. Thank you all!

As for the news, there's a feature on Warcraft III to discuss, and then some points to make about the industry's boneheaded nature. Details below the cut.

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Tags: roguelike, strategy, graphics, business

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Weekly Links #303

19 January 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Soon after posting my previous newsletter, I managed to figure out what game to make, exactly, out of the three or so ideas I had for my new prototype. It's going to be a sequel to Glittering Light, that will hopefully do the concept justice for a change.

Screenshot from a roguelike game using ASCII art in 3D to depict a palace interior with red brick walls and colorful markings on the floors.

In other news, it has recently come to my attention that keypress events are deprecated in modern browsers. Had to update my venerable keyboard handler, that I've used in half a dozen games or more by now. Which also improved compatibility with Chrome and derived browsers. You can see the new one at work in Electric Rogue (also on Itch.io and Game Jolt). Enjoy!

From external sources, this week we have a write-up on the design of game verbs, vector font recommendations, and some links with little or no comment. Details below the cut.

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Tags: game-design, graphics, programming

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Weekly Links #301

05 January 2020 — No Time To Play

Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to 2020. I took some time over the holidays to release a small text adventure called Kitty and the Sea (IFDB link); you can read more details over there, since it's technically not a No Time To Play project, but I did use it as the prompt for an article about the link between walking simulators and interactive fiction.

Minimal, abstract art depicting a cat's paw print overimposed on a seascape: seagulls gliding over the water, under a warm sun.

On a related note, my previous newsletter was unusually popular for some reason, and that factors into my plans for the months ahead. Details below the cut, along with a couple of classic game retrospectives to give 2020 a good start.

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Tags: interactive-fiction, strategy, classics, graphics, programming

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Weekly Links #295

10 November 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone. I forgot my own rule this week, and posted a tabletop RPG review right here on the blog instead of the wiki with all the others. Did put the requisite links there, but it's not the same thing. And while I feel safer with new material stored as plain text, it does spread content around again just as it had settled in a new shape. Oh well.

In the way of development, I took a break from games for a few days to work on a couple of tools and also make plans. And what I'd like to do in the near future is more ports, even if not many people will play them. Some of them will find a place on the website. Maybe most. Others, not so much. Hopefully some writing will fall out of it for a change, because it's been a while. Can't promise though.

As for news, the week begins well. On Tuesday, Hardcore Gaming 101 covers Strike Commander, an offshoot of the more famous Wing Commander series. Oh, boy, here we go with the drinking game again:

  • It's yet another story of horrid crunch in the early 1990s. Can't help but think no game ever made was worth the ruined lives, let alone this relatively obscure tech demo and filler.
  • That said, you mean software rendering was already so advanced in the same era, only to be thrown away in a few short years because hardware manufacturers needed to sell their newfangled GPU boards?
  • Ha ha, there was a time when 3D modeling was considered grunt work. Oh dear. How things change.
  • What doesn't change is how tightly games are connected to the political context of when they were made. This isn't new, folks. We were just taught to accept media upholding the status quo as being somehow "apolitical". No more.
  • Wait, Freelancer took 6 frickin' years to make?! Chris Roberts really hasn't learned a thing in his decades as a game developer, has he.

Good read, right there, and not too long. Give it a few minutes of your time.

Too bad there wasn't much else worthy of note until Sunday. Oh well, enjoy what's left of the weekend, and see you next time.

Tags: shooter, classics, graphics, news, meta

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Weekly Links #292

20 October 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Last time I mentioned a mysterious side project. As of this weekend, it's complete: a new port of Robots in Spring to native Linux. See the update at the bottom of that page for details; for now, let's just say it's been fun but it has to remain a diversion until further notice. Then again, great things often start out that way.

For now something else is on my radar: PROCJAM starts in less than two weeks, and I'd like to get in. My early plans for it weren't very exciting, but after some reflection it turned out I was looking at the problem from the wrong angle. Just got to pick up my work on the Eightway Engine from where it left off in August and go from there. Only in another direction.

Otherwise, not much to say this week. The game industry continues to act surprised that videogames are still political and VR is still a solution in search of a problem. Oh, a niche market of enthusiasts is well-established by now, including one or two of my friends; but they're not going to make even one manufacturer rich, let alone everyone who was expecting a revolution. Does this remind you of anything? Here's a hint: FMV in the mid-1990s. Which was a quarter century ago... in other words before most of the current crop of "experts" was even born.

Now you know why people in this line of work never seem to learn.

In the way of news, this week we have: more classic games now playable online, a neat little graphics engine for web browsers, and the closing of a retrogaming community. Details below the cut.

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Tags: retrogaming, preservation, graphics, procedural-generation, community

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Weekly Links #285

01 September 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone. This week, the game industry is having its very own #MeToo moment, as victims of harassment and rape stand up and speak out all together. As a man, I tried to keep my mouth shut for the most part, because this is a time to let women be heard. Let me add just one thing.

We've all known for a long time that the game industry is an incredibly toxic place, and this hurts everyone. Got my own war stories that I thought were pretty damn bad. But what I'm hearing these days makes me shudder. Once again, my cynical self is left in the dust as things go off the deep end. This, folks, is how bad we've allowed things to become. Crunch and GG were part of a pattern, see. Now at last we're getting the whole picture... and it's worthy of a horror story.

Enough with the excuses. You know what to do. No more praising these men to heaven and back. No more letting it slide. If you can demand extra romance options in your favorite game, you can also demand that the people working on it are treated with respect. For that matter, call out sexism in the games themselves, because it's often a red flag. Not to mention it perpetuates incredibly damaging ideas of how real women ought to be treated. In game companies and everywhere else in society. Which these days is already crumbling as it is. And we're running out of time to fix pretty much anything. Help out already.

In recent years, I started to notice how fearfully women look at me simply because I happen to be walking behind them on the street. In broad daylight, in circulated places. And I have these monsters to thank for it. One of them I even praised repeatedly in my newsletters.

Never again.

(Edit: woke up to the news that one of the people unveiled as abusers in this scandal took his own life. Which only caused even more abuse to be heaped upon... the victims. Good going, people. You didn't learn a thing from this whole story.)

In the way of gamedev, this week we have a write-up about cultural appropriation, and an article of my own about game cameras, in addition to a new request for help.

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Tags: news, politics, representation, worldbuilding, graphics

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Weekly Links #284

25 August 2019 — No Time To Play

Talk about pent-up creativity. After the successful relaunch of ASCII Mapper, it was time to also pick up the project that made it necessary in the first place. And when I did, it took me just five days to reach this point:

(Screenshot showing four wide corridors made of glowing columns that intersect at a fountain of light. On either side of the viewport are touchscreen controls.)

That was while going through another tech demo, by the way. Which in turn required the use of a map editor, thus validating my decision to do things in this order.

Either way, I have an engine! And a new kind of in-engine editor to go with it as well. Both have been giving me new insights into the best ways to use them, and now I'm bubbling with ideas again. For now however enjoy Make-a-Maze. You can find it either on Itch.io or on Game Jolt. Updates to follow soon!

In the way of news, this week we have word from the world of interactive fiction, a few thoughts on game graphics, and a couple of links with little comment. Details after the cut.

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Tags: tools, interactive-fiction, graphics

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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 lost-angles.im. 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 #270

19 May 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! It was another week with nothing to post until Saturday. In my defense, I've been working hard on a visual edition of my game, which in turn uncovered some omissions in the prototype, so I had to go back and fix those too. Despite that, it took essentially as much time to make: another two weeks. Not bad at all, seeing how I had to make a GUI and it all took twice as much code overall.

So I give you Space Cruiser Orion. It was a bit rushed, to be ready in time for the newsletter. Still got to add sound effects and another small feature. But it's fully playable, even winnable, and doesn't it look gloriously retro?

And because this editorial is too short, let me announce that a sequel was planned from the beginning. Should be a lot easier to do, now that many details are all figured out, including a bunch of support libraries. Hopefully a few more ports, too, if this game proves popular enough, but somehow they never seem to be. Maybe some day.

In the way of news, we have a technical article about implementing game saves, and a couple of books about the implementation of classic first-person shooters. Details after the cut.

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Tags: graphics, programming, history

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Weekly Links #269

12 May 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! With the command-line prototype out of the way, it was time to tackle the game as intended. And it's been coming along remarkably well:

(Screenshot of a retro strategy game drawn in primary colors, showing an abtract galactic map.)

This despite some firsts for me, such as having a proper mouse-driven GUI in a SDL-powered title, complete with text input. Which required some custom coding, but you know what? All games used to, back in the day, and they did just fine. It's been fun to work on, and not even hard for the basics. In fact, I often have to write more code than this to get a proper GUI toolkit do what I need. And damn if it doesn't look gloriously retro. The right font also helps a lot with that part.

So it happens that a week in, the game looks poised to take no longer than the prototype did (despite already being bigger), and yield some reusable code too. Feedback has been good as well, and there's even a player's guide now. Stay tuned.

In the way of news, this week we have a big rant about an equally big coverage of the Star Citizen debacle, and a whole bunch of links for retrogaming enthusiasts. Details below the cut.

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Tags: business, game-design, interaction, graphics, philosophy

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Weekly Links #265

14 April 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! This week's big news is that I released Keep of the Mad Wizard, after exactly one month of working on it. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It remains to be seen if this will also translate into popularity. In any event, I just had my largest simultaneous release yet, with the game available in four places:

And that's not all, either. I also spent Friday preparing and releasing a second edition of Battles&Balances, the RPG rule system used in the game. It now has a proper magic system and proper support for wizards or other characters with special abilities, such as martial artists, along with other small improvements.

Now to give it cover art at last, and then a short break before the next project.

In the way of news, we have a postmortem of Das Geisterschiff, a game I last mentioned in early January. Not much to say there, it's a very enlightening read overall. Just note the bits about cutting features that don't carry their own weight, and about doing your own thing, not what you imagine a mass audience would like.

Not much else today, I'm afraid. It was one of those weeks. I'll end with this blog post about photorealism in art, which applies just as well to games as it does to animation. No, it's not just nostalgia that drives people to make them with pixel art or low-poly models.

But sure, real-time raytracing is finally here. Ask yourself what happens when even that gets old.

Tags: tabletop, rpg, postmortem, game-design, graphics

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