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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 #283

18 August 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Those of my readers who also follow me on Mastodon already know this, but for everyone else I have a surprise: as of this week, ASCII Mapper has a desktop edition, as originally planned 20 months ago. There was no time for a proper write-up before the soft launch last evening, so for now let's just say it looks like this:

(Screenshot of a desktop application showing a network of pathways drawn in ASCII art, and assorted controls.)

and already has more features than the original web edition. More details coming soon; in the mean time, you can also get it on Itch.io and on GitHub. Development will continue as time allows.

In the way of news, this week we have a discussion of politics in games, a retrospective of Pac-Mania, and words from the world of interactive fiction. Details after the cut.

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Tags: tools, politics, retrogaming, game-design, interactive-fiction

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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 #276: archival edition

30 June 2019 — No Time To Play

We're halfway through 2019, in more than one way, and I wish there were more news to mark the moment. Well, the kind that warrants a comment anyway. Stuff keeps happening, of course, but when it's not about mainstream gameing, then it must be about often rehashed themes. Maybe I need some new sources of information. Hard to find one that's genuinely different, however, without going into obscure niches.

(To be honest, working on an unrelated website also distracted me from games. Well, partly unrelated. I keep my tabletop RPG and interactive fiction work elsewhere because, well, not sure why. Went back and forth over it many times.)

As of this week, the source code for Keep of the Mad Wizard is also available from the IFArchive. Hopefully this will benefit someone; not many people choose to share theirs in the same way. Guess one can always re-import a published game, but it's not the same thing when the original was written for Tweego and not Twine proper. Besides, this makes my intent explicit. And not many Twine games seem to use status bars, let alone RPG features.

Last but not least, I can scarcely imagine a more reliable backup. IFArchive rocks!

In the way of news, this week we have a write-up about tool reuse in games, even between very different genres, then another large archive of historical documents from the world of interactive fiction, and last an account of how No Time To Play is doing financially. Details after the cut.

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Tags: RPG, tools, history, interactive-fiction, preservation

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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 #274

16 June 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! The dust is starting to settle over the website, but I'm not quite done yet. Changes are just getting smaller:

  • The two editions of Sunset Flight can now be downloaded from the same place;
  • The game section as a whole was tweaked and reorganized;
  • More content originally published elsewhere was brought over to the wiki.

On a different note, two more games are now on Game Jolt as well: Space Cruiser Orion and the older Escape From Cnossus HD. The trick is picking titles that fit well and have a chance to elicit even a bit of interest; not an easy thing over there.

Plans for the immediate future involve tweaks to a number of games, and bringing back Buzz Grid, that right now only exists online as a handful of articles on the wiki. Got an idea for how to do it right. But it might take a little while, as my personal website also needs work right now.

In the way of news, we have a write-up about advergames, and a few links without comment. Also a reminder that No Time To Play still needs your help. Details below the cut.

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Tags: meta, history, interactive-fiction, rpg

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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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Weekly Links #271

26 May 2019 — No Time To Play

So the big news this week is that yet another open console has been announced, and as usual techies are excited to no end. I say techies, not the general gameing public, because the public is just going to stick with the Switch, or at most the PS4 if they're loaded. Just the way it went with the Ouya. Remember that one? How much people insisted that no no, see, this one was going to succeed where all others had failed, because... er... um... one of them has to sooner or later?

Needless to say, it didn't, and the only reason I bother to mention it is that the other big news this week was the Ouya store finally closing down for good. Yep, turns out it was still alive, to everyone's genuine surprise. The timing of these two announcements seems too close to be a coincidence. Not that it matters.

What matters is: I love open consoles. I love the idea and very much wish for one to succeed at last. Heck, ten years ago I wrote an incendiary opinion piece explaining why they were the wave of the future.

Do you need a diagram to figure out how far off the mark that prediction was?

This phenomenon puzzled me for the longest time. In retrospect, however, the reason why this keeps happening is obvious: yes, it's the nerds who love the hardware itself. The techies. The tinkerers. Those who just want a shiny new piece of electronics to fool around with and push over the limit. Those to whom the Pi is already old hat.

And we're a minority. Everyone else just wants something to play games on. Which nowadays they can easily do on a smartphone. Why do you think Nintendo has been leery of allowing Pokemon titles on any device not manufactured by them? It's the only thing that keeps the DS going. That, and the traditional loss-leader model of game consoles makes them a good value proposition.

In other words, exactly what open consoles aren't. Hint: custom devices sold in small series, even at cost, are going to be expensive. And manufacturers want to make a profit. They're, you know, businesses. It'd help if an open console became wildly popular, allowing economies of scale to drive down costs.

But then it would just be called a PC.

In the way of news, this week we have:

  • a survey about the Interactive Fiction Competition;
  • thoughts about fictional books players can read inside videogames;
  • my newest teaching project, a shoot'em up in just 200 LOC.

Sadly I have to end with a new request for financial help. See below the cut.

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Tags: interactive-fiction, rpg, worldbuilding

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Weekly Links #262: combating extremism edition

24 March 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! After getting last week's project out of my system, the announced follow-up fizzled out. Instead, another old idea returned with a vengeance. And this time it's coming together amazingly well:

(Screenshot of a digital gamebook presenting an encounter with three choices.)

It's just the latest incarnation of encounter-based game design, a notion I came up with almost two years ago and tried repeatedly to implement, with mixed success. Of course, two years ago I didn't have a suitable RPG rule system, or a good backstory (the high-concept one I was clinging to simply refused to come alive). Now I have all the ingredients, and can't believe how well it's shaping up.

And yes, that's SugarCube 2, though this time I'm using Tweego, not Twine.

In the way of news, this week we have some discussions on why and how to keep extremists out of gaming communities while fostering better representation. On a different note, there's a fascinating case study on procedural generation, and a reminder that No Time To Play needs your help. See below the cut.

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Tags: procedural-generation, representation, rpg, interactive-fiction

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Weekly Links #261: classic MMORPG edition

17 March 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! The big news this week is that I managed to complete a command-line port of Ramus 2:

(Screenshot of a terminal emulator showing a fragment from Roger Firth's Cloak of Darkness.)

Well, for certain values of complete. There are many more features to add. But hey, now you can play games natively on Linux and Windows. Source code is available, too. This lets me better understand the system, paving the way for other future improvements, and frankly it makes the whole thing look a bit more like a serious effort, if not exactly professional.

In related news, I started work on a gamebook using Ramus 2, because what's an interactive fiction authoring system without an original game made with it? No promises as to when it will be done, but the concept is strong and should work out.

Now, on to the week's major events. In mid-march, we have big things coming to Itch.io, EverQuest at 20, and a request for help. Details below the cut, and please read to the end. Thank you!

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Tags: indie, mmo, rpg, roguelike, tabletop, interactive-fiction

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Weekly Links #254: game accessibility edition

27 January 2019 — No Time To Play

Hey, everyone. I had little to do this week but throw myself into work, for what little it's worth. And the first thing on my plate was to finally redo the homepages for Adventure Prompt and Ramus 2. Which took some thinking, but came out damn well, and enjoyed a warm reception. Now all that's left is to make download packages for both of them. Got many more ideas, but first the basics. And then there's my latest pet project, that I'm going to announce soon, either later today or else tomorrow. Spoiler: it's yet another scripting language.

In the way of news, this week we have in-depth coverage of the French Interactive Fiction Competition (in English, natch), via fiction-interactive.fr. It's fun to try and spot the unique flavor of the French school in a very well written analysis. In unrelated news, Gamasutra has a collection of quotes on accessibility from 2018. See also the extended news below, but one in particular struck a chord with me:

"If games didn't have subtitles, I wouldn't know English today, so yeah."

Many more are good though, so be sure to skim it.

As for extended commentary, there's a detailed review of Hyper Light Drifter, new regulation regarding accessibility in games, and a now-forgotten Star Wars MMO that once meant something. Details after the cut.

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Tags: indie, game-design, accessibility, mmo, rpg, interactive-fiction

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