Let a billion videogames bloom

Everything game development: news, lessons, discussion

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.

Read more...

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

Comments? Tweet  

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.

Read more...

Tags: meta, roguelike, adventure, worldbuilding, game-design

Comments? Tweet  

No replacing the human touch

23 January 2020 — No Time To Play

It's Thursday, and you know what they say about Thursdays.

Coming up as a surprise from one of my favorite blogs about the history of tech is The Automated Dungeon Master: from Tolkien, through D&D, then gamebooks and finally CRPGs, concluding with AI Dungeon 2; a mind-blowing overview, long-form and peppered with thoughtful insights. I'm going to quote just one paragraph from the latter part:

All of this delight, unfortunately, cost the creators of these games a great deal of time and money. In a D&D campaign, all of the richness of the world and its denizens is conjured up gratis in the minds of the players by the spoken words of the DM. In Baldur’s Gate, however, every choice, every possibility offered to the player in the name of openness had to be put there by someone. The game is, in effect, a very elaborate, lovingly illustrated and sound-tracked, flowchart. Every temple, every dungeon, every line of dialogue, every character animation, every side quest, came from the toil of artists, writers, and programmers.

Yup! And while some text adventures famously tried to fix that by treating the world like a simulation, where stuff can happen through the emergent behaviors of various elements, that too has proven faulty. Ultimately, bringing an imaginary world to life remains a titanic effort, and there's no way around it. Not even AI.

And no, procedural generation as featured in roguelikes can't create new content, but only remix what the developers have added in. Procedurally generated worlds can be later enriched by the players, as EVE Online amply demonstrated; but it's not a feasible approach in single-player games like The Elder Scrolls series, leading to what the article highlights as a problem.

Because ultimately worlds are made of people, and you can never replace people.

Learn to love.

Tags: rpg, worldbuilding, philosophy

Comments? Tweet  

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.

Read more...

Tags: news, politics, representation, worldbuilding, graphics

Comments? Tweet  

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.

Read more...

Tags: interactive-fiction, rpg, worldbuilding

Comments? Tweet