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Weekly Links #310

08 March 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! I started this week by taking that closer look at SFML promised last time. As the test is a success, I'm now seriously considering using it for a much-needed game port. First, however, to deal with a little side project that imposed itself on me. (Creativity works in strange ways.) Which I only started on Friday, after spending most of the week migrating old articles to join the new one above in the engine section of the website.

In unrelated news, this week I also wrote a mini-rant on Twine and community, while Emily Short shared some thoughts about the GDC cancellation, as part of her end-of-February link assortment. In the mean time, many more events of all kinds were canceled worldwide, prompting worries about the long-term effects on various industries. Gee, you mean outsourcing so much to just one country was a bad idea? Or for that matter making so much depend on a few huge annual events set up in rich countries, such that it takes ridiculous amount of money and planning to get there? And then you have all the private companies suddenly discovering the value of letting people work from home. It only took them 35 years to figure it out. Worse, it was fear that prompted the decision, after all the rational arguments were ignored.

In more cheerful news, the 7DRL Challenge took place this week. Details under the cut, along with comments on two long-form articles. Which I'm afraid makes for a very short editorial, but sometimes it can't be helped. Thank you for reading.

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Tags: meta, rpg, classics, business, hardware, roguelike, community

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Weekly Links #299

08 December 2019 — No Time To Play

Have you noticed how lately nobody's talking about VR anymore? Everyone goes on and on about game streaming instead. Another solution in search of a problem, that nobody wants except for corporations looking for another gimmick to sell. Makes me wonder, why the desperation? It's not like the gameing market is slowing down. On the contrary, it's booming; one of the few industries to do so lately.

Or is it? I do tend to look mostly at the indie scene, with only the occasional glance towards the mainstream. What if something's going on there that won't become obvious to most people until the crisis starts? You'd think lots of studio closures at once is business as usual in this industry, but these days there's an awful lot of them, and it's been going on for a while now.

Until I can offer more than speculation, let's look at some other trends. The big players are readying new consoles. Everyone seems to be after a slice of the board and tabletop game pie. And everyone is chasing the Chinese market. You'd think they know better: dictatorships are notoriously prone to mood swings, and never as prosperous as they seem.

But hey, if greedy bastards are in such a hurry to break their necks, who am I to get in the way?

Let's look at some news instead, also without comment as it's been the norm lately:

With that, only one newsletter is left in 2019. Kind of early this year, but that's part of the fun with the holiday break. See you next week!

Tags: business, technology, retrogaming, hardware

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Weekly Links #288

22 September 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Between beta-reading a friend's novel and my ongoing adventures in computer migration, I've been unable to work on my new game. Ideas, of course, keep piling up. Might finally be able to rescue an old demo and turn it into the walking simulator it was shaping up into before I was forced to stop. Between this and the new plans for Deep Down in Darkness, we're talking enough work for many months, and a corresponding amount of writing.

(Speaking of which: September is at an end; hosting bills are coming tomorrow, and I'll have to pay them out of pocket for the second time this year. Not a problem this time; by December, or next spring, things might not look so good anymore. Please read to the end of this newsletter to find out how you can help for next time... while there's still a No Time To Play website to help out with.)

Meanwhile: continuing from two weeks ago, I've been looking at the current crop of laptops in stores, and came away disgusted. Never mind that the hardware is... slippery? Can't think of a better word to use. But mainly, everything on offer seems designed for housewives who just want to browse Facebook and little else. (What do you mean, I'm not supposed to set the time myself in the BIOS? I was programming computers before you were born!) When did every PC manufacturer turn into an Apple wannabe who can't even do imitation well? Maybe top tier machines would make for decent workstations, but those cost an ARM and a leg. It's a terrible, terrible time to get a new computer. Maybe next year.

How different it felt to finally revive my old Asus Eee PC 701. Yep, I have the original model, still in working condition. And it feels real, dammit! Hefty. Reliable. Terribly slow by modern standards (no way it's going to run a modern browser), but the SSD makes for decent boot times. And there are still Linux distributions small enough that you can fit two of them (two!) on a 4-gigabyte drive, with room to spare. So this diversion was the high point of the week.

As for the news, enjoy the technical breakdown of a modern NES game, a discussion of difficulty in games and related settings, then my own write-up about game genres. Details under the cut.

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Tags: hardware, retrogaming, accessibility, game-design, philosophy

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Weekly Links #286

08 September 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! I've done little in the way of gamedev this week, mostly because a failed computer migration sucked up half of it and stressed me out to no end. In my defense, I'm planning a couple of articles (one on interactivity, the other on level generation in roguelikes). Meanwhile, you can enjoy a few minor updates to Buzz Grid: the game now looks closer to how it was originally supposed to, and should move more smoothly on top of that. Might try to give a similar treatment to Square Shooter as well, but no promises yet. Oh, and there's also a new project on the way, with more planned for the autumn.

Oh, about that migration. Look. I've been out of the loop for a while in regard to hardware and software. But my 10-year-old PC, running a 5-year-old operating system and apps, is giving signs of fatigue. Luckily I own a slightly newer machine, that couldn't be used for a while due to an overheating problem. Having finally fixed it, I set out to install Debian 10 and migrate all my files over.

Turns out, the overheating problem wasn't fixed. Or rather, it might have been, but for modern software seemingly being made for top-tier gaming rigs with liquid cooling. In fact, Debian 10 by itself, running in text mode, causes a Celeron CPU to run worryingly hot, as I discovered when installing it on my even older laptop. The Atom I'm on right now wouldn't stand a chance to run a graphical desktop and web browser released this year.

Fellow programmers, are you nuts?

Plenty of people are stuck with low-end computers. Older computers. Slightly defective computers. Even if we could afford buying replacements, why should we have to? No seriously, what exactly changed in the HTML5 standard recently to make a three-year-old browser obsolete? DeviantArt, I'm looking at you here. Oh, and by the way: Firefox, what exactly are you doing with all the CPU and GPU cycles you're gobbling up like a pig these days? Because you're still slow as molasses. Then you wonder why people flock to the competition.

I'm so tired.

In the way of news, this week we have a tip to help preserve Flash games a little while longer, and a retrospective of Dragon's Lair. Details under the cut.

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Tags: hardware, technology, preservation, arcade, retrogaming

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Weekly Links #272

02 June 2019 — No Time To Play

You'd think it's a curse or something. Not a week after a much-hyped new console was announced, its manufacturer turned out to be a trademark bully, thus promptly squandering all that goodwill they had gained. That makes two trademark bullies within a few days. And neither is a megacorp with an army of lawyers to keep busy.

People have wondered how it is even possible to trademark the use of a very common term. Um... you do realize we live in a world where dictionary words like "apple", "android" and indeed "word" are trademarked, right? Despite trademark law in many jurisdictions explicitily stating that's not allowed. But it's hardly a secret that what is legal depends on how much money one has. Just like it always did.

And you know... I've been making games as No Time To Play for almost nine years now. Recently, I became aware of a much newer Canadian outfit operating as NoTime Studios. My reaction was to reach out to them in friendship. They never answered, which left me a little worried ever since. But it's that easy not to be a jerk. Never mind how hard it is to keep coming up with unique, original names for things in a world with millions of creators and billions of works. This isn't a zero-sum game. Nobody needs to fail for someone else to succeed. We can win together.

Most of us have figured that out already. Straight white boys still don't get it.

In more cheerful news, I took the time this week to update the No Time To Play wiki, because the game section was unfinished and looked awful. The technology section was reorganized as well, giving more prominence to the programming languages most used for games here.

Otherwise, we have a retrospective of the Mattel Intellivision, and more talk of parser versus hyperlinks in interactive fiction. Last but not least, a renewed request for help. Details below the cut.

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Tags: business, hardware, history, interactive-fiction

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