Weekly Links #292



Hello, everyone! Last time I mentioned a mysterious side project. As of this weekend, it's complete: a new port of Robots in Spring to native Linux. See the update at the bottom of that page for details; for now, let's just say it's been fun but it has to remain a diversion until further notice. Then again, great things often start out that way.

For now something else is on my radar: PROCJAM starts in less than two weeks, and I'd like to get in. My early plans for it weren't very exciting, but after some reflection it turned out I was looking at the problem from the wrong angle. Just got to pick up my work on the Eightway Engine from where it left off in August and go from there. Only in another direction.

Otherwise, not much to say this week. The game industry continues to act surprised that videogames are still political and VR is still a solution in search of a problem. Oh, a niche market of enthusiasts is well-established by now, including one or two of my friends; but they're not going to make even one manufacturer rich, let alone everyone who was expecting a revolution. Does this remind you of anything? Here's a hint: FMV in the mid-1990s. Which was a quarter century ago... in other words before most of the current crop of "experts" was even born.

Now you know why people in this line of work never seem to learn.

In the way of news, this week we have: more classic games now playable online, a neat little graphics engine for web browsers, and the closing of a retrogaming community. Details below the cut.

Via Slashdot (thanks, Kantuck!) comes the news that the Internet Archive just added 2500 DOS games to their collection, in the largest such update since they started carrying them a few years ago. As Jason Scott himself explains in the official announcement, the biggest problem is a surprising one: many of these games are from the CD-ROM era... and designed to run straight from one, because a typical hard drive back then might have been 20 or 40 megabytes in size. So emulating them in a web browser means loading all that data in RAM over the network. (Yes, Jason, my biggest problem is lack of RAM. I can download a CD-ROM image faster than my browser renders the Internet Archive's home page. We live in different worlds.) And yes, CPU speed is a bottleneck too. Good to see someone is thinking of the many old computers still in use.

A good initiative then, doubly so as it focuses on obscure titles. May it inspire.

A timely blog post on Gamasutra points me at the Zdog pseudo-3D engine. And it's amazing. It requires a modern HTML5 browser, but uses software rendering, yet can run multiple animations on the same page without slowing down or making the fans spin harder. On my toaster of a machine, that's a goddamn miracle. My own InRelief engine needs more CPU power than that. Another thing to love is the procedural modeling API, similar to the one in Three.js (though someone apparently managed to load OBJ models into the engine if that's more your speed). In fact, I should try remaking this old tech demo from Weekly Links #31 with it, though I'm not sure how that would work out: Zdog doesn't have a proper camera. Maybe an Attack Vector style game would fit better. Could use one for the browser anyway.

Edit: unfortunately, it turns out Zdog uses orthographic projection on top of that, so it's useless for anything except small-world isometric games. Oh well.

Sad news for those of us who grew up making games in another era: the Retrogamecoding and Basicprogramming Forum, old gathering place of the Basic community, will close down in roughly two weeks as of this writing. I've known about it for a while, and even tried to register after they picked up one of my posts elsewhere. But the account confirmation e-mail never arrived (no, not even in the spam folder), so I was forced to remain a lurker. And now it's going away entirely.

For what it's worth, the sdlBasic forum is still alive, if barely, and the BaCon forum, that I joined recently, even has constant activity. These are more out there, too. So the hobby isn't dead yet. With patience, maybe we'll see the day when fashions turn again and people will once again care about a programming language designed from the ground up to be easy and fun. Until then, keep creating.

With this, I wish you a great Sunday. Until next time!


Tags: retrogaming, preservation, graphics, procedural generation, community