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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.


Towards the weekend, a post in the RogueTemple forums pointed me at a history of multiplayer roguelike games, starting from Rogue, through Moria and single-player Angband and all the way to current affairs. It's long and fascinating, what with all those maintainers succeeding each other like Doctor Who actors. A few highlights:

  • Turns out info files, that distinguish *bands from other game families, are a relatively new addition, only from the start of this century.
  • Yes, licensing is a problem, and not due to licence proliferation, but because of those licenses that butt heads despite nominally having similar goals. Or rather, one of them always butts heads with all the others, having been written from a fundamentalist mindset.
  • That said, look how easily people with different goals can help each other, simply by sharing efforts when it makes sense while going their own separate ways at other times. All it takes is goodwill.

But the part that most drew my attention was this bit about changesets:

It is very hard to pin down, along the way from 2.6.2 to 3.0.6, exactly what changes were made, and exactly when they were made. Most releases involved so many changes from the previous release as to make “diff files” not very useful, since often the diff files are as long as the code itself.

Which is why in recent years I gave up trying to use source control, for all its absence seems unimaginable today: when your tools make you afraid to fix major problems with the code because "it would make the diffs ugly"... congrats, you've just invented a robot bureaucrat. Enjoy the perpetually broken software of today.


Last but not least, this week Hardcore Gaming 101 has retrospectives of not one but two great classics: Worms and Spyro the Dragon, respectively. One I'm familiar with, albeit from the PC; the other, I never played. Either way, these write-ups are chock-full of valuable game design insights as usual. Memories, too. Oh, the joy of fragging a friend in hotseat multiplayer to the point that he bursts out "damn your minigun!"

And that's it for this Sunday. Enjoy, and see you next time!

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

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