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Everything game development: news, lessons, discussion

Weekly Links #313

29 March 2020 — No Time To Play

Life is funny sometimes. On Friday, I had resigned myself to postponing the first release of Tee-Wee Editor. Then it turned out that remaining issues were small enough to fix on Saturday morning, with an afternoon left to throw together a homepage. You can find it at the link above, with more details about the project and this alpha release than I can fit here. Let me point out something else instead.

Quite simply, Twine isn't nearly as well-known as it might seem from the ruffled feathers it caused in the interactive fiction community. Again and again while working on this project, I found myself having to tell people what it is. Some of them have at least heard of CYOA. Others still need the acronym expanded.

Guess that explains why my interactive fiction has been consistently the least popular stuff I have on Itch.io, forcing me to remove promising creations again and again. Simply put, the genre never ceased being a niche, despite the success of high-profile games like Fallen London and 80 Days. Meanwhile, everyone's heard of roguelikes, a much more esoteric genre. Go figure.

Dear interactive fiction enthusiasts: are you content with it being the literary fiction and poetry of gameing?

In the way of news, this week we have a history of multiplayer roguelikes, that warranted ample commentary, and then a couple of classic game retrospectives. Details under the cut.

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Tags: interactive-fiction, tools, roguelike, retrogaming, classics

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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 #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 #309

01 March 2020 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! It's another week with little in the way of noteworthy headlines, but still some good news on my part. For one thing, Glittering Light 2 now has a Python port!

Screenshot from a 3D game rendered with colorful ASCII characters, and using a desktop-style GUI.

Moreover, the original edition now has improved frustum culling (backported from Python), and both support strafing. It's less useful than expected, but still good to have. Also, comparing the two editions has given me useful insights into camera angles, zoom levels, drawing distances and so on. As I expect this engine to be used for many more games, that's worth a lot.

In the way of news, this week we have the book publishing industry hilariously thinking videogames (and fantasy) are a niche, along with a few headlines with little to no commentary. Details under the cut.

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Tags: business, publishing, roguelike, rpg, news

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Weekly Links #307: roguelike edition

16 February 2020 — No Time To Play

When I released Glittering Light 2 last week, it was silent. That was a deliberate choice, to keep me from burning out at the last moment. Turned out to be a good decision, as adding audio took longer than expected... then longer still. But it worked in the end, and the game now sounds better than it has any right to. I was even able to reuse a few effects from the previous game, and just those it was missing the most, too. Too bad traffic on Itch.io petered out just before I uploaded the new version, but oh well. It's now one of my top viewed (and played) games.

Before that however, I took the time to write more words about how game genres evolve. Turns out I wasn't the only one, as you'll see below. A timely subject, because yes, it's 2020 and most people think roguelikes are normally real time. Feel free to shake your cane at kids today, some of us would rather try and keep up with the changing times.

And then at the other end of the work week I wrote a longer article that is and isn't related: What is an RPG to you? Because yes, the answer is often very personal.

As for my plans for the immediate future, there are several possibilities:

  • a Tkinter port of Glittering Light 2;
  • which in turn would pave the way for a long-planned Pygame port of Electric Rogue;
  • alternatively, some preproduction work on a sequel to the latter, for which I have a few ideas.

In the way of news, we have comments surrounding a long write-up about the definition of roguelikes as a genre. Yes, again. Details under the cut, along with the usual links without commentary.

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Tags: roguelike, game-design, philosophy, politics, worldbuilding

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Genres evolve and so does language

09 February 2020 — No Time To Play

Yesterday afternoon I got caught between two people on Discord. One thought Diablo doesn't qualify as a roguelike. The other hadn't even heard of Diablo; their idea of a roguelike was The Binding of Isaac. And if you think that's strange, consider this hilarious tweet. Of course roguelikes are supposed to be real-time! Making them turn-based? The horror!

Welcome to 2020.

Having just released a roguelike of my own (right before this year's 7DRL), this matters to me. I have nine of them now, which is a lot by any measure. And while they try to be modern in ways that matter, they also try to preserve what's good about the genre, such as turn-based gameplay and ASCII art. Trust me, I care.

But things change, folks. We can't go on clinging to the past. And it's a lot easier to give an old word new meanings than to invent new combinations of sounds all the time. Especially as the former provides much-needed continuity.

Not a trick question: when was the last time anyone literally hung up a phone? Think back. No, further back. In the days of Laurel & Hardy, when the earpiece in its resting position dangled from the hook instead of being balanced on top of it.

When did phones last have a literal hook at all?

And since I mentioned Laurel & Hardy: did you know that when talkies first came out, purists made a big fuss? People insisted that movies were supposed to be silent, as an inherently visual medium. Yes, seriously.

No prize for guessing what audiences thought about that. There's a reason why even silent movies came with music and sound effects; they just had to be performed live on stage while the movie played. A dead art now. And it was an art.

You win some, you lose some. Either way, life goes on. And that's why my latest game has ASCII art except in 3D, and turn-based gameplay except at the pace of an action-adventure. It is still enough "like Rogue" to deserve the name?

Trick question: nobody cares anymore. Move on and let people enjoy their omnidirectional shooters with procedural generation and permadeath.

Tags: roguelike, philosophy

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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 #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 #302

12 January 2020 — No Time To Play

You know, there's a reason why I'm not afraid to set projects aside: they give me something to pick up later, which is a lot easier than starting from scratch all the time. This time it's a new roguelike made with the EightWay Engine, in which I'm trying out new ways to use ASCII art. In 2.5D, no less.

Screenshot from a 3D game depicting a ruined maze-like building surrounded by trees, rendered abstractly with ASCII characters.

I can only show you a screenshot for now because I stopped to write a level generation how-to. Like the game, it was intended for the PROCJAM last November, and things didn't work out. So I'm making both of them in a new year and decade instead.

Well, the game might take a little longer, as I explore new territory in graphics, level design and gameplay at the same time. Famous last words, you might say, but it's very much in line with the original goals for No Time To Play, that I allowed myself to forget for a while, then struggled to remember.

Anyway, as for news, this week we have a book on the Doom modding community and some thoughts on AI Dungeon 2. Details below the cut.

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Tags: roguelike, classics, shooter, history, game-design

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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 #273

09 June 2019 — No Time To Play

Turns out, the No Time To Play website was in a worse state than it seemed. Hours after posting the previous newsletter, a random referral made me realize the newsletter archive was full of dead links that still pointed at the old location of various articles. So I spent half a day fixing that. And then it dawned on me just how many projects were hosted elsewhere than on the main website where they belonged. First, three tools:

Then a game, Escape From Cnossus HD, that was in the same situation. And two more that did have homepages on the site, but were sending people elsewhere to download:

Now you can get them right here. On top of that, I also made a small change to the stylesheet. The game section looks much better this way, and is easier to organize.

Don't worry, that won't delay new games for long. Got one in pre-production in fact. Older games, too, are very likely to get a brush-up at the very least.

In the way of news, this week we have an interview with Tarn Adams about Dwarf Fortress, a trio of links without comment, and the now-usual appeal for help.

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Tags: meta, roguelike, interview

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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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