Weekly Links #284



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.

The week begins early and well: on Sunday evening / Monday morning, Chris Klimas announced on intfiction.org the official release of Chapbook, a new story format for Twine 2. I've known it was in development for a while now, but wasn't sold on it yet. May be worth a try at some point however, because it has certain qualities:

  • lightweight format, apparently based on Snowman;
  • gorgeous typography out of the box;
  • squeaky-clean markup for many common use cases;
  • some features inspired by visual novels;
  • mobile- and screen reader-friendly.

Last but not least, it already comes with ample documentation explaining how various features were picked and designed, not just how to use them; always a good sign.

That said: dear tool developers, it's not your business to "discourage save scumming". I want players to enjoy my game the way they like it. If you want to help, give me the mechanism to implement a suitable policy. Thank you.

Nothing else of note happened until Saturday, when I learned that Jeff Vogel's latest blog post apparently sparked a mini-scandal. Again. Good to see the old grump still hasn't lost his touch. And here's the trick: yes, making your own graphics takes time and/or money you might not have. Results can be less than stellar unless you're an artist or can pay one. Premade asset packs often lack just a couple of key pieces, and filling the gaps yourself doesn't work so well, not to mention it kind of defeats the point in the first place. (The dearth of complete asset packs usable as-is has consistently been the most common complaint on Open Game Art. Kenney Vleugels is famous and beloved for a reason.)

That said, the real culprit here is the snobbery of an audience the industry has conditioned for decades to think videogames are about ultra-high-polish graphics and nothing else. Style? What's that? Western audiences have had any notion of style ground down by a generation of hideous cartoons in the 1990s. Because edgy.

I'll take a game with inconsistent, faltering art that speaks to me over one with photorealistic graphics devoid of soul any day. If cynical old me can still find beauty in little things, what does it say about those who can't seem to anymore?

In more cheerful news, this week Eurogamer marks two decades of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, while PCGamer recounts how System Shock 2 almost wasn't. Enjoy, and see you next time.


Tags: tools, interactive fiction, graphics